29 April 2008

Morphy Invariably Played the French 3.exd5

While working on my latest 'Every Move Explained, 1969 Sarajevo - Kovacs vs Korchnoi, I discovered a mention by Tarrasch that Morphy 'invariably adopted' the Exchange Variation of the French Defense, 3.exd5.

Since I'm always intrigued by logical inconsistencies, I decided to investigate. I found 10 Morphy games that started 1.e4 e6, followed by 2.d4, the only move played by Morphy. Six games continued 2...d5 (Anderssen played 2...g6?!), when Morphy played 3.exd5. Here's a PGN-compatible opening tree showing game counts for each move.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 {x10} 2...d5 {x6} (2...g6 {x2}) (2...c5 {x1}) (2...c6 {x1}) 3.exd5 {x6} 3...exd5 {x6} 4.Nf3 {x6} 4...Nf6 {x3} (4...Bd6 {x2}) (4...Be6 {x1}) 5.Bd3 {x3} 5...Bd6 {x4} (5...Be6 {x2}) 6.O-O {x4} 6...O-O {x4} 7. Nc3 {x4} 7...c6 {x2} (7...c5 {x1}) (7...Bg4 {x1}) 8.Bg5 {x2} 8...h6 {x1} ( 8...Bg4 {x1}) 9.Bh4 {x1} 9...Bg4 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nbd7 *

The main line is from Morphy's 1958 match against Loewenthal.

[Event "London m"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "1858.07.19"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Morphy,Paul"]
[Black "Loewenthal, Johann Jacob"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Eco "C01"]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 Bd6 6.0-0 0-0 7.Nc3 c6 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 Bg4 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nbd7 12.Bf5 Qc7 13.Rae1 Rae8 14.Re3 Bf4 15.Re2 Rxe2 16.Nxe2 Bd6 17.Bxd7 Nxd7 18.Ng3 Re8 19.Nf5 Nf8 20.Bg3 Bxg3 21.fxg3 Re4 22.c3 Nh7 23.h4 h5 24.c4 Nf6 25.Nxg7 Ng4 26.Nxh5 Rxd4 27.Nf6+ Nxf6 28.Qxf6 Rxc4 29.Rf5 Rg4 30.Re5 Qc8 31.Re7 Qf8 32.Qe5 Qg7 33.Re8+ Kh7 34.Qh5+ 1-0

27 April 2008

Chessbase.com on Kasparov

For the past few months I've been using my weekend post as an excuse to work on background material on the Soviet School, along with a related digression on Ratings. This weekend I'll make a one time digression for the greatest Soviet player of all time.

While putting together Catching Up with Kasparov (chess.about.com), one of my intermediate tools was a working file with links to Chessbase.com articles on Kasparov covering the period 2003-2008. Since the Chessbase material might be useful to other researchers, I created a support page called Chessbase.com posts on Kasparov (www.mark-weeks.com). The large number of excerpts bumps into copyright law, but I'll take the chance that it's acceptable.

25 April 2008

Stapler Takes Staple Puller

Topalov and SG bank (0:31) • 'Topalov advertising SG bank '

Language? Bulgarian, I guess.

23 April 2008

I Hope They Mean Iceland

Google Adsense displayed this ad...

...on my post titled Fischer's Superficial Plan.

21 April 2008

CJA Blog Award

Attention all chess bloggers! The Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have announced their 2008 Journalism Awards. A new category in 2008 is

13. Best Blog: Open to online chess blogs. Send URLs of three best blog entries. Blogs judged on visual appeal, content, and ability to draw constructive comments from readers.

Visual appeal? Content? Ability to draw constructive comments? Three strikes and I'm out! Maybe next year...

Don't let my failure stop you. There are plenty of good chess blogs that deserve to be considered for the award.

19 April 2008

Elo's Untitled GMs

Commenting on FIDE's first award of GM titles, limited to players living in 1950, Elo wrote ('The Rating of Chess Players Past and Present', 4.23),

Death came too soon for some of the strongest players in history, who remain unrecognized by the international titles carried by other players, often weaker, sometimes even older as well. But objective data were not available in 1950 for any titling, normal or posthumous. Subsequently, however, the data have been developed, in the study reported [later in the book], and the reader may now examine the roster of the untitled dead. Listed below are 24 great players, contemporaries of those on the first GM roster, who surely would carry GM titles had the current regulations been effective during their careers.

2650 Steinitz, Wilhelm; Bohemia (1836-1900)
2570 Charousek, Rudolph; Bohemia/Hungary (1873-1900)
2530 Walbrodt, Carl A; Holland/Germany (1871-1902)
2530 Mason, James; Ireland/USA (1849-1905)
2630 Pillsbury, Harry N.; United States (1872-1906)
2600 Chigorin, Mikhail; Russia (1850-1908)
2600 Schlechter, Carl; Austria (1874-1918)
2520 Marco, Georg; Austria (1863-1923)
2570 Blackburne, Joseph H.; England (1841-1924)
2530 Burn, Amos; England (1848-1925)
2570 Teichmann, Richard; Germany (1868-1925)
2570 Janowsky, David; Poland/France (1868-1927)
2550 Reti, Richard; Hungary/Czech. (1889-1929)
2560 Gunsberg, Isidor; Hungary/England (1854-1930)
2610 Tarrasch, Siegbert; Germany (1862-1934)
2615 Nimzovitch, Aaron; Russia/Denmark (1886-1935)
2720 Lasker, Emanuel; Germany/England (1868-1941)
2725 Capablanca, Jose R,; Cuba (1888-1942)
2530 Rabinovitch, Ilya L.; Russia (1891-1942)
2560 Spielmann, Rudolph; Austria (1883-1942)
2570 Marshall, Frank J.; United States (1877-1944)
2520 Petrov, Vladimir; Latvia/USSR (1907-1945)
2690 Alekhine, Alexander; Russia/France (1892-1946)
2530 Sultan Khan, Mir; Pakistan (1905-1966)

I've added the five-year average that Elo calculated for each player. The list is sorted using Elo's order, according to year of death. There are several names on the list who are not usually thought of as GMs. Elo continued,

An all time list of 197 untitled greats appears [in an appendix]. It includes 45 players who held five-year averages over 2500 and another 87 over 2400, meeting today's GM and IM requirements.

I counted 47 players with GM ratings, but I'm not motivated enough to investigate the discrepancy. The 23 players with ratings over 2500 who were not on Elo's list of GMs were as follows.

2690* Morphy, Paul; United States (1837-1884)
2600* von der Lasa, Tassilo; Germany (1818-1899)
2600   Anderssen, Adolph; Germany (1818-1879)
2600   Zukertort, Johannes H.; Poland/England (1842-1888)
2570   Kolisch, Ignatz; Hungary/Austria (1837-1889)
2570   Neumann, Gustav R; Germany (1838-1881)
2560* Junge, Klaus; Chile/Germany (1924-1945)
2560   Mackenzie, George H.; Scotland/USA (1837-1891)
2550* Dubois, Serafino; Italy (1817-1899)
2550   Paulsen, Louis; Germany (1833-1891)
2540   Weiss, Max; Hungary/Austria (1857-1927)
2530* Petrov, Alexander; Russia (1794-1867)
2530   Winawer, Simon; Poland (1838-1920)
2520* Staunton, Howard; England (1810-1874)
2520* Harrwitz, Daniel; Germany/France (1823-1884)
2520   Forgacs, Leu; Hungary (1881-1930)
2520   Englisch, Berthold; Austria (1851-1897)
2520   Lipke, Paul; Germany (1870-1955)
2510* Löwenthal, Johann J.; Hungary/England (1810-1876)
2510   Mattison, Hermann; Latvia (1894-1932)
2510   Ryumin, Nikolai N.; Russia (1905-1942)
2510   von Bardeleben, Curt; Germany (1861-1924)
2510   Lipschuetz, Samuel; Hungary/USA (1863-1905)

They are sorted by descending rating. Elo added the '*' to indicate that 'Data covers period of active play'.

17 April 2008

Fischer's Superficial Plan

The first clash in Fischer - Keres, Zurich 1959, happened at the diagrammed position. White played 16.Ne3, which Kasparov gave '!'. Fischer wrote, 'Black already has difficulties. On 16...Nxd4 17.Nxd4 exd4 18.Nf5 Rfe8 19.Bg5', and noted that 16...Nb4? is bad because of 17.Bb1 Bxe4?? 18.Bxe4 Nxe4 19.a3 Nc6 20.Nd5.

After 16...Nxd4 17.Nxd4 exd4 18.Nf5, Kasparov corrected an attempted Huebner improvement starting 18...g6 and concluded that 'Black is still a long way from equalizing'. He thought 16...exd4 17.Nf5 d5 was 'more interesting', although White 'retains some advantage'.

Zurich 1959
Keres, Paul

Fischer, Robert
(After 15...Na5-c6)
[FEN "2r2rk1/1bq1bppp/p1np1n2/1p2p3/3PP3/3B1N1P/PP3PP1/R1BQRNK1 w - - 0 16"]

The game continued 16...Rfe8 17.Nf5, which Fischer gave a '?: A superficial plan. Correct is 17.d5 Nb4 (17...Nb8 18.a4) 18.Bb1 a5 [MW - The Knight had no retreat.] 19.Qe2! Nd7 (19...Qb6 20.Nf5) 20.Bd2 Qb6 21.a3 Na6 22.b4 -- 23.Bd3 with a bind'. In My 60 Memorable Games, Fischer pointed out almost two dozen binds. I once cataloged some of them in a tutorial called Bobby's Binds.

Kasparov repeated Fischer's analysis and added, 'But in his
youth Bobby did not like closing the position and maneuvering for a long time behind Pawn chains, but preferred active piece play, often giving his opponents the opportunity to free themselves.'

After 17...Bf8 18.Bg5 Nd7 19.Rc1 19.Rc1 Qb8 20.Bb1 Nxd4 21.N3xd4, Keres committed a tactical error. I'll pick up there next time.

15 April 2008

What Have They Done to My Hair?

About.com is introducing a new look for their network of topics. The chess site is due for change soon. One of the changes is a bigger picture for the guides...

...I've had gray hair since I was 30. What will my wife say? My friends? My parents?

13 April 2008

It's Official: 180 GMs by 1978

It turns out that a couple of Wikipedians -- Quale and Voorlandt -- have been building a list of all grandmasters...

List of chess grandmasters

...I took a snapshot of the Wikipedia table and loaded it into my database for comparison. The Wiki list has 1253 names including the year the title was granted (missing for 153 entries) and the birthdate of the player. Since the list includes the five 'titles' granted in 1914, a more accurate count would be 1248 names.

How does the Wiki list compare to Elo's list? In It's Official: 179 GMs by 1978, I came up with 179 names. The Wiki list has 183 names. Why the difference? After accounting for discrepancies in spelling and year of birth, I narrowed it to four names...

Year GM title awarded, name:-
1977 Ivanovic, Bozidar
1977 Nikolic, Stanimir
1972 Platonov, Igor
1976 Razuvaev, Yuri

...and used Gaige as a referee. Gaige confirmed the GM awards for the years 1976-77, but listed no GM title for Platonov. This looks like an error in Wikipedia. Razuvaev's 1976 title is an error by Elo, who listed the player as having won the IM title in 1976; Gaige says he won it in 1973. As for the two titles Wikipedia lists as awarded in 1977, I assume this is a problem of definition between the year a title was won in competition and the year it was formally granted by FIDE. Elo's list is 'as of January 1978'.

11 April 2008

A Chess Pathfinder

TBS Pathfinders Award for Education - Orrin Hudson (6:00) • 'Orrin Hudson was awarded the TBS Pathfinders award for teaching young people to use their mind and make smart decisions using the game of chess to teach the game of life.'

For some reason, there were many Orrin Hudson clips loaded on YouTube around the same time as this one. • Related: TBS Pathfinders and BeSomeone.org

09 April 2008

Fischer, Keres, Evans, Alekhine, Winter, and Plisetsky

In his introduction ('Meat and potatos') to Fischer - Keres, Zurich 1959, Larry Evans gave us two interesting points for further investigation. The first is a quote:

Alekhine said, in his prime, that to wrest a point from him it was necessary to win the same game three times: once at the beginning, once in the middle, once at the end. No less a tribute may be paid to Keres.

Having a hazy memory that it was Bogoljubow who said that, I set off on a web search. Chessbase.com had a recent piece by Edward Winter, Unsolved Chess Mysteries (26), where he criticized Evans for the quote, and attributed it to Tartakower.

Unattributed quotes are a recurring object of Winter's wrath and Evans is one of his favorite whipping boys. When, in his introduction to the Chessbase piece, he says, 'Our recommendation is to dispense with any publication or website which offers "chess quotes" without indicating where and when the statements in question were purportedly made', does he mean that we should dispense with '60 Memorable Games' because of a few dubious quotes? Fischer seems not to have attached much importance to this. Given the choice between a few unattributed quotes with some didactic value -or- a narrow-minded adherence to scholarship, most players would dispense with the scholarship.

The second point by Evans is an observation:

And it is likely that as a result of this victory Fischer came to be regarded as a serious contender by the leading Soviet Grandmasters -- this was the first time he had defeated one.

The thought is repeated almost verbatim in 'Russians vs. Fischer' by Plisetsky and Voronkov: 'Fischer's first victory over one of the Soviet giants! It was, possibly, after this victory that the American began to be regarded as a serious rival of the Soviet chessplayers.'

Plisetsky was Kasparov's assistant in the making of the Predecessors series. One of the faults of the series is an over-reliance on material from other sources, often unattributed. Winter has also criticized Kasparov for this, a serious failing in a book purporting to be a history. Also worth noting is that 'Russians vs. Fischer' lacks a bibliography, another fault of the first three Predecessors books. The Fischer volume was the first to include one.

07 April 2008

Audience Profiles

Last week I ran into an interesting gadget hosted by Quantcast.com: chess.about.com - Web Site Audience Profiles from Quantcast. It estimates the number of visitors that sites receive and calculates visitor profiles.

The description of chess.about.com (aka About Chess) reads, 'This destination reaches approximately 33,435 U.S. monthly uniques. The destination appeals to a more educated, slightly male slanted following. The typical visitor plays games on playtoad.com, visits mobygames.com, and buys from msdn.com.' The 'Audience Composition' is 75% 'Passers-By' and 25% 'Regulars', where the 'Regulars' account for 44% of total visits.

Twenty other sites are listed under 'Similar Audience', of which 18 are immediately recognizable as chess sites, the exceptions being eudesign.com and dwheeler.com. Clicking on 'Find reports' at the top of the page returns the same list of '20 websites with similar audiences to Chess.about.com' along with the site's description. Some examples are:

  • 'Chessville.com US Reach: 9,030 Not Quantified No Advertising This site reaches approximately 9,030 U.S. monthly uniques. The site attracts a primarily older, heavily male crowd.'

  • 'Chesscafe.com US Reach: 9,062 Not Quantified No Advertising This site reaches approximately 9,062 U.S. monthly uniques. The site is popular among a mostly male, 60-100k HH income bracket, mostly Caucasian, primarily older audience.'

  • 'Uschess.org US Reach: 35,027 Not Quantified Accepts Advertising This site reaches approximately 35,027 U.S. monthly uniques. The site appeals to a primarily male, more educated group.'

Compared to other statistical info I know about the site, some of Quantcast.com's stats are accurate, some aren't. Take it only with a grain of salt and don't forget that there is more to the Web than 'U.S. monthly uniques'!

05 April 2008

It's Official: 179 GMs by 1978

Continuing with Titled Players, Sizing the Data, the next step is to compare FIDE's 1974 data with Elo's 1978 data. To keep the numbers manageable, I'll limit myself to looking at GMs only. The goal of this exercise, after all, is to determine how many chess grandmasters there have been since the beginning of recorded history.

1974:   91 GMs
1978: 178 GMs

Keeping in mind that the Elo's 1978 data was a list of all titleholders, the difference of 87 GMs would be partly due to inactive GMs no longer on FIDE's 1974 list, and partly due to GMs minted after 1974.

First test: Are all of the 1974 GMs present and accounted for in 1978? To answer this question I created an ID for each player consisting of the first five characters of the player's last name concatenated with the player's birth year. Fischer, for example, is 'Fisch1943'. There are some unusual constructions like 'Tal, 1936', but my database has no trouble handling them.

Of the 91 GMs in 1974, I found all of them in 1978, with the exception of three. Using Gaige to resolve the discrepancies, I determined that two were because of an error in the birth year on the FIDE list. The third (Hecht, Hans-Joachim) was an error on ELO's list; Hecht was incorrectly identified as receiving an IM title in 1973, when it was the GM title he received that year. End result: I confirmed that there were 91 GMs in 1974, and that Elo should have listed 179.

Second test: How to account for the increase of 88 GMs from 1974 to 1978? This is easy to answer because Elo's list included the year that a player earned the title. End result: the 1974 list omitted 34 inactive GMs, while there were 54 names added during the years 1974-1977.

Incidentally, for anyone not familiar with the story, the first titled players were nominated by FIDE in 1950. Of the 27 GMs, nine were still active in 1974.

03 April 2008

Fischer - Keres, Zurich 1959

The second game in 18 Memorable Games is game no.8 in My 60 Memorable Games and no.54 in Predecessors IV. The PGN is given below, along with punctuation by the two World Champions. There are 23 moves with BF punctuation and 32 with GK. Although the comments are mostly in agreement, there are a couple of obvious discrepancies: 38...f4 {BF: !?; GK: ?!} and 41...Be6 {BF: !; GK: ?}.

This looks like one of those games that could take months to get through the many interesting twists and turns. I'll take it one twist or turn at a time.

[Event "?"]
[Site "Zurich"]
[Date "1959.??.??"]
[Round "12"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Keres, P."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C99"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Bb7 14.Nf1 Rac8 15. Bd3 Nc6 16.Ne3 {GK: !} 16...Rfe8 {GK: ?!} 17.Nf5 {BF: ?; GK: ?!} 17...Bf8 18.Bg5 Nd7 19.Rc1 Qb8 20.Bb1 Nxd4 21.N3xd4 Rxc1 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 22. Bxc1 exd4 23.Nh6+ {BF: !; GK: !} 23...gxh6 24.Qg4+ Kh8 25.Qxd7 Bd5 {BF: !; GK: !} 26.Qf5 {GK: ?} 26...Re5 {BF: !; GK: !} 27.Qf3 f5 {BF: !; GK: !} 28.Bf4 {GK: !} 28...Re8 {GK: ?!} 29.Qh5 {BF: !} 29...Bxe4 30. f3 Bc6 31.Rc1 {BF: !; GK: !} 31...Bd7 32.Bxh6 Re6 {BF: !; GK: !} 33. Bxf8 Qxf8 34.Qh4 {BF: !; GK: !} 34...Qf6 35.Qxf6+ Rxf6 36.Kf2 {BF: ?; GK: ?!} 36...Kg7 {BF: !; GK: !} 37.Rc7 Rf7 38.Ke2 f4 {BF: !?; GK: ?!} 39.Ra7 Kf6 40.Rxa6 Re7+ 41.Kf2 Be6 {BF: !; GK: ?} 42. Rxd6 Ke5 43.Rc6 {GK: !} 43...Bd5 44.Rh6 {GK: !} 44...Rc7 45.Rh5+ Kd6 46. Rh6+ Ke5 47.Rh5+ Kd6 48.Rf5 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 48...Rc1 49.Bd3 Rd1 50.Ke2 Rg1 51.Kf2 Rd1 52.Ke2 Rg1 53.Rg5 Bxa2 {BF: ?} 54.Bxb5 Rb1 55.Kd3 h6 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 56.Rh5 Rxb2 57.Kxd4 Rxg2 58.Rxh6+ Ke7 59.Ke4 Rg5 60.Ba6 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 60...Bf7 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 61.Bc8 {BF: !; GK: !} 61...Rg6 62. Rh7 Kf8 63.Bg4 Rg7 {GK: ?!} 64.Rh6 {GK: !} 64...Rg6 {GK: ?} 65.Rxg6 {BF: !; GK: !} 65...Bxg6+ 66.Kxf4 Kg7 67.Kg5 {BF: !; GK: !} 67...Bd3 68.f4 Be4 69.h4 Bd3 70.h5 Be4 71.h6+ Kh8 72.Bf5 Bd5 73.Bg6 Be6 74.Kf6 Bc4 75. Kg5 Be6 76.Bh5 {GK: !} 76...Kh7 77.Bg4 {BF: !; GK: !} 77...Bc4 78.f5 Bf7 79.Bh5 Bc4 80.Bg6+ Kg8 81.f6 1-0

To play through the complete game see...

Robert James Fischer vs Paul Keres, Zurich 1959

...on Chessgames.com.

01 April 2008

Chess and Peanuts

Looking to buy chess content or to read something new about chess? The Yahoo article Writing for peanuts and loving it mentions three resources that all have some chess content.

Those hits are on Google search. The resources themselves should offer other possibilities.