30 July 2008

Chess Illogic

While looking for examples of fortresses, I found this page...

gauer - Game Collections

...Google ranked the linked pages ii, iii, vi, vii, and viii high on a search for 'fortress', while at least one other page has one as well. The games I looked at were middlegame positions like blocked Pawn chains rather than endgame fortresses, but I don't want to be too narrow-minded about the term.

The introduction to the collection starts, 'I have attempted to provide a few of the strategic axioms of chess (il)logic.' That's a novel way of classifying chess positions.

28 July 2008

A Fortress that Wasn't

This game, played at Corus 2007, was annotated by Anand in the March 2007 issue of Europe Echecs. The players have just captured loose Pawns on e5 and f3. Karjakin tried to set up a fortress with 33.Rc5 Qh1 34.Rc4 Qe1 35.Rf4, but Anand chipped away at the fortifications with 35...h5!

Wijk aan Zee 2007
Anand, Viswanathan

Karjakin, Sergey
(After 32...Qf1-f3(xP))
[FEN "6k1/6pp/8/4R1P1/1p5P/pP3q2/P1P5/1KN5 w - - 0 33"]

The game continued 36.gxh6 gxh6 37.Rg4+ Kf7 38.Rf4+ Kg6 39.Rg4+ Kf5 40.Rc4 h5 41.Rc5+ Kg4 42.Rc4+ Kf3 43.Rd4 Qe5 44.c3 Qh2 45.Rd3+ Ke4 46.Rd4+ Kf5 47.Nd3 Qd2. Anand gave his last move '?' and noted, 'Clearer was 47...bxc3 48.Rf4+ Kg6 49.Rf2 Qxh4 50.Kc2 Qd4 followed by the advance of the h-Pawn.' He won anyway on the 63rd move after clearing a path for the a-Pawn.

To play through the complete game see...

Sergey Karjakin vs Viswanathan Anand, Corus 2007

...on Chessgames.com.

26 July 2008

FIDE Cleans Its Rating Data

Continuing with FIDE Struggles with the Growing Popularity of Ratings, I started that post with a small anomaly in the data.

A count of players for each year:-
1997 - 22.670
1998 - 20.916
1999 - 30.204

I discovered that FIDE erroneously dropped many names from the rating list between January 1997 and January 1998, then added them back in January 1999. The number I derived was 4.329. Adding these to the 1998 count from the previous table reveals a different story.

1997 - 22.670
1998 - 25.245
1999 - 30.204

This shows 4.959 more players in 1999, or a 20% increase in the number of names from 1998 to 1999. It is a large increase by the standard of previous years, but not too unusual compared to later years. The 1999 list was the same that saw the introduction of FIDE IDs to identify players. I assumed that these observations are somehow related and started to look at the new names on the 1999 list.

When I identified players on the 1999 list who were missing from both the 1997 and 1998 lists, I found 7.636 names. Of these, 853 were titled players, including 467 IMs and GMs. Looking at those names a litle closer, I found that FIDE cleaned the format of many names between 1998 and 1999. For example, 'Akhsharumova, Anna..M' in 1998 became 'Akhsharumova, Anna M' in 1999, 'Amura, Claudia.N' became 'Amura, Claudia N.', 'Darchia, Diana' became 'Darcia, Diana', and so on.

One little mystery I encountered was GM Dimitri Anagnostopoulos (GRE). I found him for the very first time on the 1999 list with a 2450 rating, but he was missing from all previous lists. I also found 'Dimitri Agnos (GRE)' on the 1997 and 1998 lists, with a rating over 2450, but he was not on the 1999 list. Then there was 'Demetrios Agnos (ENG)', similarly rated, on lists up to 1996. Were these all the same player? If so, this highlights FIDE's need to introduce the FIDE ID to identify players uniquely.

Continuing, I also counted 2.942 players on the 1997 and 1998 lists who were missing from the 1999 list. These included Akhsharumova, Amura, etc. Subtracting this number from the 7.636 names added in 1999, gave 4.694 new players. This compares favorably with the increase of 4.959 players I calculated earlier, and is as accurate as I want to get with this exercise.

Starting in 1999, I have FIDE IDs to work with. No more messing around with names!

24 July 2008

Greenpoint Pipes

The Greenpoint Chess and Go Club has a neat gadget called the Combined Chess Feed. It's built using Yahoo Pipes, a technique I mentioned in Gadgets and Widgets. No, I don't think it's neat because they include Chess for All Ages in the feed. It's neat in spite of that. I can think of a half-dozen blogs that would be more suitable, but there's no accounting for taste.

22 July 2008

What Was Fischer Thinking?

In my introduction to Fischer - Unzicker, Zurich 1959, I mentioned that there weren't too many differences of opinion between Fischer and Kasparov on the game. I overlooked one buried in the notes.

As Fischer noted, the position in the diagram had already appeared in one of his earlier games: Fischer - Shocron, Mar del Plata 1959, 60 Memorable Games no.6. He has just sacrificed a Pawn and the question is whether the sacrifice is sound. His analysis to the earlier game went

20...Bxg5 puts White's concept to the crucial test. After 21.Nd5! Bxc1 22.Nf6+ Kh8 23.Raxc1 Rf8 24.Qg3 Qc7 25.Qg5 Kg7, White can force a draw with 26.Nh5+, or try for more with either 26.f4 or 26.Re3.

In other words, Fischer thought he could force a draw or play for a win.

Zurich 1959
Unzicker, Wolfgang

Fischer, Robert
(After 20.g4-g5)
[FEN "3rr1k1/4bp1p/p1q1b1p1/npp1p1P1/4P3/2P1NQ2/PPB2PP1/R1B1R1K1 b - - 0 20"]

Kasparov repeated Fischer's analysis and dimissed the tries 26.f4 and 26.Re3 with

After 26...h6! he is unable to achieve any more.

In other words, Fischer's opponents also weren't obliged to play for a win. They could force the draw themselves. With this in mind, the sequence starting 20.g5 is good for no more than a draw. Since the move 26...h6 isn't particularly difficult to find, what was Fischer thinking?

Both Shocron and Unzicker continued 20...Nc4 21.Ng4 Bxg4 22.Qxg4. Shocron continued 22...Nb6 ('!' by both Fischer and Kasparov), while Unzicker played 22...f6 ('?', ditto).

20 July 2008

Slawomir Rawski of Poland?

In Who Was Numero Uno?, I noted that when FIDE IDs were initially assigned, the lowest IDs were almost always given to the top players in each national federation. I found only one exception: Slawomir Rawski of Poland (FIDE ID 1100017, rating 2237).

I'm assuming that national federations had a part in assigning the initial IDs. The job must have been too big to have all the work done by a central office.

Did the Polish federation assign FIDE IDs randomly? It appears not. After Rawski, the next 27 FIDE IDs were assigned to titled Polish players. Second on the list, ordered by FIDE ID, was GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz (1100025, 2570). Even he was not the highest rated Polish player at the time. That distinction went to GM Michal Krasenkow (1113100, 2643). Incidentally, third on the list, ordered by rating, was an untitled player named Mikhail Krasenkov (1117637, 2570). I expect that error would have been eliminated on the next official FIDE rating list, along with many duplicate names.

The rating list for January 2002 gives Rawski's birthday as 14 April 1972. Chessgames.com, on its Chess games of Slawomir Rawski, lists only two games. Other pages returned by Google aren't helpful. My first guess is that Rawski was an official of the Polish federation. My second guess is that he had a personal relationship with someone preparing the list of Polish players. Who can solve this mystery?

18 July 2008

We Sit and Meditate

RZA - WuChess Video Challenge (00:52) • 'Win Prizes!'

'"On 64 squares lined up in eight columns, we sit and meditate and calculate life problems." C'mon, gimme one!' • Rules at: www.wuchess.com/contest.

16 July 2008

Fischer - Unzicker, Zurich 1959

The next game in 18 Memorable Games is game no.10 in My 60 Memorable Games and no.53 in Predecessors IV. The PGN is given below, along with punctuation by the two World Champions. I see only one real difference of opinion, on 35...Re7.

[Event "Zurich"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1959.??.??"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Unzicker, W."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C97"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 Bd7 13.Nf1 Rfe8 14.Ne3 g6 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.Nh2 Rad8 17.Qf3 Be6 18.Nhg4 Nxg4 19.hxg4 Qc6 20.g5 {BF: !?; GK: !?} 20...Nc4 21.Ng4 Bxg4 22.Qxg4 f6 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 23.gxf6 Bxf6 24.a4 {BF: !; GK: !} 24...Nb6 25.axb5 axb5 26.Be3 Ra8 27.Red1 Kh8 {GK: ?!} 28.b3 Bg7 29.Qh4 Bf6 30.Bg5 {BF: !; GK: !} 30...Bxg5 31.Qxg5 Rxa1 32.Rxa1 Nd7 33.Bd1 {BF: !; GK: !} 33...Nf6 34.Ra7 Qd6 35.Be2 {BF: !; GK: !} 35...Re7 {GK: ?} 36.Rxe7 Qxe7 37.Bxb5 Kg7 38.Be2 Qc7 39.Qe3 Qa5 40.g3 Qa3 {GK: ?!} 41.Kg2 Qa5 42.Qd3 Qb6 43.Qc4 Qc6 44.Bd3 Qb6 45.b4 cxb4 46.cxb4 Ng4 47.Qc5 {GK: !} 47...Qxc5 48.bxc5 Kf7 49.f4 {GK: !} 49...Ke7 50.Kf3 Nf6 51.Bb5 Ke6 52.Bc4+ Ke7 53.c6 {BF: !; GK: !} 53...Ne8 54.fxe5 {GK: !} 54...h6 55.Ke3 Nc7 56.Kd4 h5 57.Ke3 {BF: !; GK: !} 57...g5 58.Be2 h4 59.gxh4 gxh4 60.Bc4 Ne8 61.Kf4 Kd8 62.Kg4 Kc7 63.Bf7 Ng7 64.Kxh4 Kxc6 65.Kg5 1-0

To play through the complete game see...

Robert James Fischer vs Wolfgang Unzicker, Zurich 1959

...on Chessgames.com. There is a discussion on 20.g5 {BF: !?; GK: !?} and 35.Be2 {BF: !; GK: !}.

14 July 2008

A GM Endgame Mechanism

No, I'm not done with Fischer - Keres, Zurich 1959 yet. A recent post from The Chess Mind blog -- Fischer-Keres: A resignation puzzle -- answered the question why Keres resigned. It shows an endgame mechanism worth knowing.

Zurich 1959
Keres, Paul

Fischer, Robert
(After 80...Kh7-g8)
[FEN "6k1/8/6BP/5PK1/2b5/8/8/8 w - - 0 81"]

I checked the analysis with a tablebase and discovered an inaccuracy. After 81.f6 Bb3 82.Kf4 Bc4 83.Ke5, the move 83...Kh8 (lose in 15) is better than 83...Bb3 (lose in 11), which allows 84.Bf5 (win in 11) instead of 84.Kd6 (win in 15). This would only be important if a draw by the 50-move rule happened to be imminent.

12 July 2008

Who Was Numero Uno?

In Structure of the FIDE ID, I noted that 'the ID is a one to three digit numeric federation ID, followed by a five digit player ID for players within that federation'. So who was assigned number 1 ('00001') in each federation.

No one! The lowest number assigned to any player was 10 ('00010'). The following table shows which player received the first FIDE ID for the 20 federations having the most players on the 1999 list.

ARG; 2551; Campora, Daniel H.; g; 100013
AUT; 2425; Klinger, Josef; g; 1600010
CRO; 2493; Hulak, Krunoslav; g; 14500060
CZE; 2525; Smejkal, Jan; g; 300020
DEN; 2608; Hansen, Curt; g; 1400010
ENG; 2600; Nunn, John D.M.; g; 400017
ESP; 2585; Illescas Cordoba, Miguel; g; 2200015
FRA; 2613; Lautier, Joel; g; 600016
GER; 2585; Huebner, Robert Dr.; g; 4600010
HUN; 2582; Ribli, Zoltan; g; 700010
IND; 2784; Anand, Viswanathan; g; 5000017
ITA; 2461; Braga, Fernando; m; 800015
NED; 2649; Timman, Jan H; g; 1000012
POL; 2237; Rawski, Slawomir; -; 1100017
ROM; 2450; Gheorghiu, Florin; g; 1200011
RUS; 2812; Kasparov, Gary; g; 4100018
SWE; 2623; Andersson, Ulf; g; 1700014
UKR; 2714; Ivanchuk, Vassily; g; 14100010
USA; 2720; Kamsky, Gata; g; 2000024
YUG; 2571; Ljubojevic, Ljubomir; g; 900010

Who was Slawomir Rawski of Poland?

10 July 2008

Fischer Overlooks a Theoretical Draw

After looking at four positions in Fischer - Keres, Zurich 1959,
I thought it was time to move on to the next game. Then I realized I hadn't looked at the 'obvious discrepancy' 41...Be6 {BF: !; GK: ?} flagged in the original post. The position preceding the move is shown in the diagram.

Of 41...Be6, Fischer wrote, 'Sacrificing a second Pawn for counterplay on the open c-file. On 41...Ke5 42.Ra7 keeps Black tied up.' Kasparov disagreed,

Fischer attached an exclamation mark to the move in the game, but after it White could have won. Therefore the correct move was 41...Bf5! 42.Bxf5 Kxf5 43.Rxd6 Ke5 44.Rb6 d3 45.Rxb5+ Kd6! 46.Rb4 (46.Rb3 Re2+ 47.Kf1 Re3!) 46...Re2+ 47.Kf1 Kc5 (Huebner), when Black saves himself in the Rook ending.

The passed d-Pawn generates enough counterplay to save Black.

Zurich 1959
Keres, Paul

Fischer, Robert
(After 41.Ke2-f2)
[FEN "8/3br2p/R2p1k2/1p6/3p1p2/5P1P/PP3KP1/1B6 b - - 0 41"]

Kasparov offered the following variations and comments after 47...Kc5:

  • 48.Rb7 Rc2! (with the threat 49...Rc1+ 50.Kf2 d2) 49.Rc7+ (49.Rd7 Kc4) 49...Kd4 50.Rxh7 Rc1+ 51.Kf2 Rc2+; or

  • 48.Rxf4 Rxb2 (again threatening 49...Rb1+ 50.Kf2 d2) 49.Ke1 Rxg2 50.a4 Ra2 and the limit of White's dreams is a theoretically drawn endgame with f-and h-Pawns; or

  • 48.Rb3 Kc4 with a draw.

  • Huebner's move 48.a3? even loses after 48...Re3! 49.Re4 d2 50.Rxe3 50...fxe3! [MW: Is 50...d1=Q+ 51.Re1 a fortress?] 51.Ke2 Kc4.

I especially liked the phrase 'the limit of White's dreams' to describe the theoretical draw.

08 July 2008

Rummaging Through the Picture Box

When there's no time for a real post, what do you do?

Guardassone, Alessandro
Autoritratto della seconda metà del 1800.
[Google translation: 'Selfportrait from the second half of 1800.']

06 July 2008

Structure of the FIDE ID

As I mentioned in FIDE Struggles with the Growing Popularity of Ratings, the FIDE ID first appears in the historical rating data for January 1999. The structure of the ID is a one to three digit numeric federation ID, followed by a five digit player ID for players within that federation. For example, my own code 2003740 can be read as 20 for the USA, followed by 03740 for my player ID within all American players.

The first rating list with FIDE IDs had 148 different federations. The codes were assigned as shown in the following table, first sorted by federation alpha code, then by federation numeric ID. The two tables show only the first and last 10 codes for each sort. The third column is the count of players for the federation on the 1999 list.


The 1999 rating list also had four players without properly formatted FIDE IDs. They are shown here with their federation code and 'FIDE ID':-
- FIE; 19; Krasser, Margit
- FIE; 27; Shkrabi, Eric
- IBS; 28; Wassin, S.
- IBS; 20; Zsiltzova, L.

I'll look at this another time.

04 July 2008

Sam Sloan, Up Front and Personal

Sam (& "Princess" Sandra Kimura) Sloan (1:00:08) • 'Conversation with Harold Hudson Channer - Taped 06-19-08'

'Samuel Howard Sloan (b. September 7, 1944), also known as M. Ismail Sloan, is an American author and former securities trader. He is also involved in chess [...]'

02 July 2008

About.com's Redesign

It's official. I can talk about it. Yesterday About.com switched 100% to its new design. The new home page of the chess site is shown in the following screen shot.

What does the 'switched 100%' mean? In June 2007 -- that's right, over a year ago -- the company began converting individual sites to the new design. It started as a trickle, with one or two sites, then ended in May with the conversion of the remaining 50% of the sites that hadn't already been done.

When sites were converted, however, they didn't run only with the new design. Half of the visitors saw the new design, half saw the old design. If you have no idea what the old design looked like, you can see a sample screen shot of the chess site in an old post, Targeted Advertising for Chess, although it's not the home page. About.com staff called it an A/B test. Most other people called it confusing.

Now everyone sees the same design. The photo of me is the same one I use on this blog. My wife took it. Considering I'm not particularly photogenic, she did a good job.