07 May 2021

USCF Awards 1990

In my current Friday series, I ended last week's post, USCF Awards 1988-89 (April 2021), saying,

Next stop in the saga of USCF Awards: 1990-91, except I haven't found a 1990 list published in CL. If I continue to come up empty-handed, I'll look at the yearbooks.

Empty-handed I am. In the first post in the series, U.S. Chess Cities of the Year (March 2021), I mentioned that my original working list of awards came from the 2013 USCF Yearbook. The following table shows the 1990 awards listed by that yearbook.

Year Award Winner(s)
1990 COMMITTEE OF THE YEAR Tournament Direction Certification Committee
1990 DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Steve Doyle
1990 KOLTANOWSKI AWARDS Gold: Arnold Denker, Helen Warren
1990 OUTSTANDING CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Roger Blaine, Lee Hyder, Russell Miller
1990 SPECIAL SERVICE AWARD Denis Barry
1990 U.S. CHESS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES Hans Berliner

What does the 1991 yearbook say about the 1990 awards? In a word: nothing! Although the USCF's first yearbook (the '1982 Chess Yearbook') appeared in the April 1983 issue of Chess Life (CL), the awards weren't added to the yearbook until 1995. They covered the previous year, 1994.

The 1990 awards that appeared in 1995 were incomplete. Two were missing:-

  • SPECIAL SERVICE AWARD
  • COMMITTEE OF THE YEAR

They must have been added to the yearbook for a later edition, but I didn't take the time to look. I'm just glad they were added.

04 May 2021

May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Just like last month's April 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (April 2021), our covers from 50 and 25 years ago feature chess in the USA on the left and artwork on the right. As usual, there's more to the two cover stories than that.


Left: ?
Right: 'Polgar Wins World Title; James Todd - What Price Victory'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

International Grandmaster Larry Evans, who has recently won both the National Open (story [elsewhere]) and the Louis Statham Masters and Experts Tourney at Lone Pine, Cal. Larry's latest book, 'Modern Chess Brilliancies', just published, will be reviewed in CL&R.

The last time we saw GM Evans in this series was May 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover' (May 2020), where Evans was a co-winner of the 1970 National Open. The report on the 1971 event 'The National Open: Evans Wins on Tiebreak' by George Koltanowski, Tournament Director, started,

Would the weather hold? Would the Lone Pine tournament, immediately following the National, hurt attendance? These and many other problems beset the spark-plug of the National Open, Harvey Presly, who is the assistant promotion manager of John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, Nevada, and a real chess fan.

It is one of the shortest and strangest tournament reports -- Did the weather hold? -- I have ever seen for a national tournament. It didn't say when it was held (7-12 March 1971, according to pre-tournament publicity) or give any kind of synopsis of the final rounds. It only said,

Larry Evans had the most Median points [whatever those were] and won the trophy (prize money was shared, each of the top seven getting $270)

It then listed only the draws/losses for five of the top seven players. For the record, the other six were Svetozar Gligoric, Walter Browne, William Martz, Jim Tarjan, John Grefe, and Roy Ervin (also top expert). You have to work out for yourself that the top scores were all 6.5-1.5. The most discussed topic in the report was the Nugget venue. On the same page, the announcement for the 1971 U.S. Junior Open (NB: not the 'Closed') received more print space.

As for Lone Pine, Koltanowski mentioned, 'The Lone Pine event may have hurt, but only slightly.' The paragraph about the cover and the two (unfavorable?) mentions by Koltanowski are the only references I could find to the first Lone Pine event in the decade long series. Why was it overlooked?

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

"What Price Victory" indeed. An empty realm. This is just one of the original oil paintings by James Todd, using chess as a theme. We hope you enjoy the spread, as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Congratulations and adulations are due Zsuzsa Polgar on her victory over Xie Jun. Xie Jun has been a fine Women's World Champion, and it is a shame that there has to be a loser. Zsuzsa, now residing in Rego Park, New York, with her husband Jack Shutzman, has already applied for American citizenship.

Congratulations and adulations are also due Garry Kasparov for his victory over Deep Blue. While not a world championship, the match certainly generated world caliber interest, which was properly reflected in all the media, for more than a week.

Brickbats and barbs to FIDE for accepting a bid from Iraq to hold the Kamsky - Karpov World Championship match in Baghdad. As a sporting event, such a match would not violate the United Nations' economic sanctions against Iraq. And our own State Department concedes that the Kamsky's can travel anywhere they want since they are still using Russian passports. However, the Treasury Department, which interprets the U.S. Sanctions against Iraq, admits that the Kamsky's may have a little problem if they try to return to this country. They may lose their "Green Card" (permanent residency) status, and any monies they might win. The USCF has asked FIDE to select another site.

This is the third cover in the last four editions of 'On the Cover' to feature artwork on the 1996 CL side. The two-page spread titled 'James Todd' by Jim Todd featured nine of Todd's chess paintings, including the cover painting. It started,

My father taught me both how to play chess and how to paint. While we continued to paint to- gether through-out the time I lived at home, our chess relationship ended when the burden of his losses became too great for him to bear. Of course, I didn't know at the time that the two activities would combine to make up a significant part of my life as an artist; indeed, I didn't know as a child that painting would become my career, although 1 have devoted myself to developing my technique and exploring various media since the age of 10.

The other three stories mentioned in the 'On the Cover' paragraphs were all milestones in World Championship history. Polgar's book 'Queen of the King's Game' listed 'Jacob' Shutzman as co-author.

03 May 2021

VSOB 20; ECO_FULL

In last week's engine post, TCEC 'VSOB'; CCC 'ECO Mega-Matches' (April 2021), I gave myself an action:-

[VSOB] sounds like a good topic for an off-week post. [...] I'll look at available info for the ECO Mega-Matches when I look at VSOB. This follows the principle that opposites attract.

Last year I wrote an entire post on VSOB in VSOB PGN (January 2020; 'VSOB stands for "Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus"'). The most recent VSOB event is in the TCEC Archive at S21 - Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus 20 (tcec-chess.com/archive; PGN available from top menu bar under 'Download'). I downloaded the 76 games, loaded them into SCID, and produced the table of first moves shown in the top of the following image.


As for 'ECO Mega-Matches', the PGN is at Eco_full (mediafire.com; 'File size: 248 KB; Uploaded: 2021-04-22'). I downloaded the file, but hesitated when I saw that each PGN game had incomplete headers. Here's the first entry in the file:-

[ECO "A00"]
[Opening "Polish (Sokolsky) opening"]
1. b4 *

That caused no problem for SCID, which produced the table shown in the bottom of the image. The analysis shows that the ECO_FULL.PGN file contains 2014 ECO variations. More than half of the variations start 1.e4.

I wanted to take the analysis further, but ran out of time for this post. Will I find the time to continue? My experience on follow-ups says, 'No!'.

02 May 2021

Not for Blitz or Bullet

It's the first Sunday of a new month and that means another episode of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). As usual, I started by reviewing eBay's chess items that sold in the previous month -- April 2021 for this current post -- in descending order by price.

Chess clocks frequently appear on the initial short list for 'Top eBay Chess Items', but rarely make the final cut. Although important as a chess accessory, there's not much to add about them. The previous post featuring a clock was Double Dutch Clocks (October 2013).

The item pictured below was titled 'Rare vintage hourglass for playing chess in the USSR'. It sold for around 600 US$, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description added,

Vintage clock for playing chess. Additional flasks for quick rearrangement. The vertical clock counts down the time, the horizontal one is stopped. With a slight movement of the recruit, everything is the opposite.

The 'additional flasks' must be the two hourglasses to the left and right of the chess Knight's head. According to another photo showing a ruler, the clock mechanism on the left is 16 cm wide; the reserve holder on the right is 8 cm wide. I can't imagine that the hourglasses hold much sand.

A search for similar clocks led to How do we appreciate time? A history of chess clocks (chess.com). There I learned,

The first major chess [clock?] revolution began in 1852, when a quasi-unknown writer named Andrew Cantab wrote an article in which he argued that each player should have limited time for the entire game. Moreover, he proposed a solution: the introduction of hourglasses with sand. [...] The propaganda was successful, and the hourglass was officially introduced to a tour for the first time in 1861, at the match between Anderssen and Kolisch, in London. The agreed playing time was 24 moves in two hours.

Going back to my post Tabulating the Rabbit Hole (June 2019; 'chart shows periodicals published by country and by year'), there are plenty of potential references from 1861. That might make a compact follow-up project.

30 April 2021

USCF Awards 1988-89

Continuing with the most recent post in my current Friday series, USCF Awards 1986-87 (April 2021), let's increment that title to start a new two year cycle. The article quoted in its entirety below, 'America's Chess Community Puts Its Best Foot Forward' by Don Maddox, Chess Life Editor, appeared in the December 1988 issue of CL.

During the U.S. Open each year, the U.S. Chess Federation holds an awards luncheon, to honor members who have made significant contributions to chess. This year in Boston, the tradition was extended.

A quiet hour was set aside on August 13 to consider the enormous gifts of time and labor, received by U.S. Chess from a cadre of dedicated and generous supporters. This year, in recognition of a lifetime of service to chess, former USCF Executive Director Gerry Dullea and Policy Board member Helen Warren were elected Life Voting Members and Delegates-at-Large.

Former USCF President Tim Redman presented the Koltanowski Gold Medal to Fidelty International President Sid Samole for financial support of chess, including contributions to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Championship. Redman also presented the U.S. Chess Distinguished Service Award to Gerry Dullea. for his contributions as Executive Director of the USCF. Other individual awards were presented to David Welsh and Fred Townsend (Special Service) and Harry Lyman (Meritorious Service).

Edgar McCormick of New Jersey received a rousing round of applause as he accepted a commemorative chess set for participating in his 35th U.S. Open.

John McCrary, the Chairman of the USCF Hall of Fame Committee, announced the induction of Hermann Helms and Arpad Elo earlier this year into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame and Museum. Tne Hall of Fame Committee was recognized as the USCF Committee of the Year. Leisure LINC, Inc., then presented the Hall of Fame with a plaque commemorating GM Arthur Bisguier's historic telecommunications simul, played July 23-24 with 48 players around the country. Three cities were honored as 1988 Chess Communities of the Year: Albuquerque, New Mexico Southfield, Michigan; and Memphis, Tennessee. All three were instrumental in this year's record-shattering scholastic championships.

In his keynote address, William Hall, coach of the New York City District 4 Royal Knights, reviewed, the remarkable history of his successful chess team and issued an invitation to U.S. Chess scholastic players to join District 4 on two scheduled return trips to the Soviet Union in 1989.

In USCF elections, David Saponara of Southern California joined the Policy Board, and several new Regional Vice Presidents assumed their posts: I -- Warren Pinches (MA); II -- Alan Kantor (NY); III -- David Mehler (MD); IV A.J. Goldsby (FL); V -- Gary Kitts (MI); VI -- Tim,Just (IL); VIII -- Mercon Weeks (A); X -- Dennis Glasscock (OK); XI -- Andy Lazarus (N.CA).

In a 6-1 vote, the USCF Policy Board reappointed Don Schultz as FIDE Delegate, unanimously affirming its confidence in his integrity and commending him for faithfully carrying out Policy Board directions. This decision was made in face of rising controversy concerning his alleged role in recent FIDE decisions.

After a thorough executive search and interview process, the Policy Board voted unanimously to appoint Al Lawrence the new USCF Executive Director, a position he had been filling in an interim capacity since March 31, 1988.

That account squares perfectly with the list of 1988 award winners carried each year in the USCF's yearbook. I could have stopped the long excerpt after the mention of 'Communities of the Year' (aka 'Cities of the Year'), but there are a few points worth making on this blog. Undoubtedly the most important is the mention of another M.Weeks, Vice President for region VIII (Mid-South). His state is listed as '(A)'. According to Mercon Weeks Obituary (tributes.com)...

Mercon was born on May 12, 1931 and passed away on Wednesday, April 14, 2010. Mercon was a resident of Mobile, Alabama.

...that state should be listed as '(AL)'. While I was looking for that clarification, I also found Homer Mercon Weeks (1899-1986; geni.com)...

Born: Buffalo, New York; Died: Lufkin, Texas; 'Chess Grand Master, Champion of Southern United States (1940), Champion of Panama, Champion of Cuba and Caribbean'.

...Hmmm. I wonder if he played Capablanca. Someone once told me that all USA Weeks are related, but I'd never heard of Mercon or Homer Mercon before writing this post.

Moving on to 1989, the following full excerpt, titled 'Harmony Prevails at USCF Awards Luncheon' and also by Don Maddox, appeared in the November 1989 CL.

Disagreement is no stranger to the annual U.S. Chess Federation Delegates' meetings. But in Chicago on Saturday, August 12, those of us at the annual Awards Luncheon took a two-hour break from the debates. As USCF President Harold Winston and Executive Director Al Lawrence recognized some of USCF's finest, we readily agreed on how much we owed to those being honored. USCF's fiftieth anniversary cake reminded us of how far we've come together.

Winston recognized two long-serving U.S. Chess volunteers with USCF's highest individual honor, the Distinguished Service Award. Receiving the DSA for a lifetime of dedication and achievement were former USCF Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President Myron Lieberman of Tempe, Arizona; and current FIDE Executive Council member Don Schultz of Highland Beach, Florida.

Lawrence presented Gold Koltanowski Awards, USCF's highest recognition of financial contributions to American chess, to two firms who have given much to chess over the years. Indeed, both corporations have come to our rescue when crucial programs were threatened by lack of funding.

Novag Industries, along with its president Peter Auge, was honored for contributions that include funding the 1988 and 1989 Novag Grand Prix of Chess, a year-long nationwide competition whose goal is to develop more interest in chess. The 1989 Novag Grand Prix offers a $30,000 prize fund. Novag Industries is respected worldwide for its excellence in the field of computer chess and its sponsorship of the Royal Game.

The Software Toolworks, of Chatsworth, California, along with its president Les Crane, received the 1989 Gold Koltanowski award for contributions including sponsorship of The Software Toolworks 1989 U.S. Invitational Championship, The Software Toolworks American Open, and the 1988 U.S. Championship. The Software Toolworks -- a generous supporter of California chess as well as nationwide programs -- produces Chessmaster 2100, the world's leading chess software program.

Outstanding Career Achievement awards were presented to Glenn Petersen, Peter Lahde, Larry Paxton, and Alina Markowski. The Meritorious Service Award was presented to Spencer Matthews of Converse College, South Carolina.

Winston recognized four cities as 1989 Chess Cities of the Year: Knoxville, Tennessee; Tempe, Arizona; Peoria, Illinois; and Seattle, Washington.

After accepting an award for the Scholastic Chess Committee as USCF Committee of the Year, Committee Chairman Mike Nolan announced the 1989 National Scholar Chessplayer Awards: 1st ($ 1,000 scholarship); Doug Enwright; 2nd ($450 scholarship), Eric Troy 3rd ($ 100 each), Ilya Gurevich, Matt Hastings, and Randy Schlegemann.

Ken Marshall reviewed The 1989 Chess Journalist Awards, introducing the other two judges, Roger Blaine and Mike Nolan. The CJA Award winners are listed [elsewhere].

Then, Hall of Fame Committee Chairman John McCrary announced the induction of chess journalist and player Al Horowitz into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame and Museum. Horowitz, one of America's most prolific chess writers, was cited for his career as a player and'for his editing of Chess Review from 1933 until 1969. Horowitz was U.S. Open Champion in 1936, 1938, and 1943.

Finally, there were three special award winners on this special 50th Anniversary occasion. First was the official "Dean of American Chess" George Koltanowski who was regrettably unable to attend because of his wife's illness. The heartfelt well wishes of USCF members everywhere go out to George and his wife, Leah. Second, former USCF President Marshall Rohland; and finally, founding USCF Director Arpad Elo, who is also the creator of our international rating system.

After receiving a special gift from the Illinois Chess Federation (two bronze replicas of the famous Chicago Art Institute lions) from Helen Warren, Elo treated the assembly to a brief expression of thanks, including an impassioned plea to put aside our differences and take advantage of new opportunities for the advancement of chess in America -- "Keep up the good work, and leave the acrimony and spitefulness behind you." Words of simple wisdom from a man.who has dedicated his life to the betterment of chess everywhere.

Here we find a number of divergences from the official yearbook record. Starting with 'Spencer Matthews of Converse College, South Carolina', winner of the Meritorious Service Award, his award is not listed in the yearbooks. An article in the Google cache, 'Californian captures chess crown' (goupstate.com; 17 July 1989), informs,

The pressure of the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship weighed from beginning to end on Alexey Rudolph. She relaxed last night, after 11 grueling days, as the champion. [...] Spencer Mathews Jr., a psychology professor at Converse and coordinator for the Spartanburg Chess Club’s tournament committee, said Spartanburg showed the world it supports the arts by holding the tournament. For example, he said, "Chess Life" magazine will publish an article about the tournament. [NB: Exact reference?]

Going back a couple of posts to USCF Awards 1984-85 (April 2021), I wondered,

The criteria for a 'Distinguished Service Award' (1985: 'the USCF's highest volunteer honor') as distinct from a 'Meritorious Service Award' is still not clear to me.

Now it's clear. A 'Distinguished Service Award' shined a spotlight on an individual who supported chess through multiple examples of service over many years. A 'Meritorious Service Award' shined a spotlight on a single, notable example of service. For the Koltanowski Award, the yearbook record says,

1989; Gold: Novag Industries, Les Crane

That could be stated more accurately as, e.g.

1989; Gold: Novag Industries, Peter Auge; Software Toolworks, Les Crane

Another small discrepancy: along with the 'four cities as 1989 Chess Cities of the Year', Lexington, Kentucky is listed in the yearbook. Finally, the three 'special award winners -- Koltanowski (1979, 1986), Rohland (1981), Elo (1979, 1988) -- had all previously received a 'Distinguished Service Award' (the first year I've indicated after each name). A second year after a name indicates a Hall of Fame induction. Where do you go from there when handing out awards?

Next stop in the saga of USCF Awards: 1990-91, except I haven't found a 1990 list published in CL. If I continue to come up empty-handed, I'll look at the yearbooks.

29 April 2021

Guardian Yahoos

'Yahoos' is ('Yahoos' are?) the code word on this blog for chess in the mainstream press. Since the beginning of the year I've been summarizing the results of a month's worth of Google News, last seen in The Yahoos' Database Flags Cheating (March 2021).

The summary starts with a small chart like the one shown on the left. It shows all sources that had at least two stories reported by Google News. In April, I counted 101 stories from 51 sources, of which nine sources had more than two stories.

Just as in the three previous months, Chess.com topped the list -- this time with more stories than the next eight sources combined. Of their 32 stories, exactly 1/4 were about the recently concluded Candidates tournament. See yesterday's post on my World Chess Championship Blog, Yekaterinburg Candidates - Fourth Week, (April 2021; WCCB) for round-by-round reporting from Chess.com.

Number two on the list, Chessbase News, also figured in my WCCB post. Of the seven stories from that source, I expected to see a number of reports on the Candidates. There was only a single report, a peripheral story about Wang Hao's retirement after the event ended.

Number three, The Guardian, is the best showing I've seen by a non-chess source. Three of their five stories were by the incomparable Leonard Barden, perhaps the greatest chess journalist of all time:-

When I saw the first headline ('Guildford meet match in Euro Club Cup'), I thought it was a football/soccer report using a chess metaphor. After reading further, I finally understood:-

Guildford’s grandmaster quintet, led by the UK’s No 1, Michael Adams, were effectively England under a different name, plus a Bulgarian reserve.

As for the two non-Barden Guardian stories, they were in effect non-chess stories. Where the first headline says ‘mental chess’, read ‘blindfold chess’:-

The last source in my chart, The Standard, isn't immediately identifiable, unlike the other sources. It turns out it's the 'Standard Group PLC', aka standardmedia.co.ke operating out of Kenya. The two stories are both classified as 'Sports / Unique-sports'. I like that on all counts.

26 April 2021

TCEC 'VSOB'; CCC 'ECO Mega-Matches'

Let's see; where were we the last time I looked at the two world class, ongoing chess engine events? To summarize my previous post, TCEC 'Swiss 1', CCC 'Bots: Top Players...' Both Underway (April 2021):-

TCEC: 'Swiss 1' is still running and should finish later this week. LCZero and KomodoDragon are currently tied for 1st/2nd. What's next? The site's '!s21' command says, 'TCEC S21 [...] estimated to start mid/late April'. • CCC: Chess.com Streamer Bots (April 2021) finished roughly in the order predicted by their estimated ratings. The site is currently running a similar event called 'Chess.com Bots: Top Players, Personalities, Streamers' with 20 bots participating. The '!next' command says that a 'Komodo personalities match' is waiting in the wings.

TCEC: KomodoDragon won 'Swiss 1' with 15.5 points out of 22 games. That was a half point ahead of Stockfish and LCZero, which finished two points ahead of the best of the 35 other engines. The results of one engine were shown in red, with strikes through most of its values -- 'Koivisto 4.29' with 10.0 points in a tie for places 29-34 -- apparently brought to the woodshed after three crashes. The event's wiki page, TCEC Swiss 1 (wiki.chessdom.org), gives no further information.

After 'Swiss 1', the site conducted tests : 'Koivisto Testing', 'Booot Testing', and is currently conducting 'QL L4 L3 Testing' ['L' here means 'League', as in S21 League]. The '!next' command says, 'Now !VSOB 20 Stockfish-LCZero and QL/L4/L3 testing, will switch between these occasionally...' For the previous post mentioning VSOB (Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus), see Stockfish Wins TCEC S19; CCC15 Still Halted (October 2020). For the next post mentioning VSOB, that sounds like a good topic for an off-week post.

CCC: Referring to the summmary for the previous post (above), it turns out that 'Chess.com Bots: Top Players, Personalities, ...' and 'Komodo personalities match' were one and the same. I discussed their evolution in the previous off-week post, Komodo Personalities, (April 2021), and have nothing to add here. They came, they played, they left ... they're bots.

The site is currently running 'Eco Mega-Match 2 (part 2)'. This follows, you guessed it, 'Eco Mega-Match 2 (part 1)'. Part 2 should finish this week. What can we expect after that? The '!next' command says,

Rating events with Igel, Rubi, Stoof and more. Eco-mini-matches with Leela, Dragon, SF Classic.

I'll look at available info for the ECO Mega-Matches when I look at VSOB. This follows the principle that opposites attract.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]