28 February 2009

A Narrow Draw, a Narrow Win, or a Rout?

Returning once more to Keres - Fischer, CT 1959, Keres played 22.f6 in the diagrammed position. Fischer gave the move '?' and recommended 22.Red1 to 'maintain the staus quo'. Kasparov gave the move '!?', because after other moves 'the Black Rook would have quickly come into play; whereas now [after 22.f6], without risking anything, White at least creates some difficulties for his opponent.'

1959 Candidates Tournament (round 1)
Fischer, Robert

Keres, Paul
(After 21...Rh8-h6)
[FEN "5k2/5pp1/p6r/1pqN1P1p/3R4/2P5/PP4PP/2K1R3 w - - 0 22"]

The game continued 22...gxf6 23.Nf4. White is trying to keep the Black King in a box and the Black Rook out of play. Kasparov:

Fischer does not comment on this move, but Ragozin writes: 'Now the placing of the White pieces is so unfortunate that Black not only frees himself, but also creates counterplay. After 23.Ne3!, maintaining the coordination of the White pieces, the Knight would have controlled the important f5 square and the Black King would not have been as safe as it is now.' A quite correct recommendation, but again only from the standpoint of maintaining the balance.

Here Kasparov gave two variations to show that White has adequate defensive resources, and continued the verbal analysis with

After other replies, by creating threats to the Black King with 24.Rd5 and 25.Nf5 White would also have been playing 'with the draw in hand'. This confirms the correctness of Keres's gambit idea f4-f5-f6.

After 23.Ne3, Rybka suggests 23...Qg5, preventing the Knight from going to f5 and not mentioned by Kasparov. Now after both 24.Rd5 Qf4 25.Rd4 Qf2 (25...Qg5 repeats) 26.Kd1 Rg6 (26...Qxb2 27.Rd8+ draws) 27.Re2 Qg1+ 28.Kc2 Kg8, and 24.g3 f5 25.h4 Qe7 26.Kd2 Re6, Black's King finds safety and the Rook enters the game.

If that doesn't hold for White, Rybka suggests the alternative 23.g3, guarding both f4 and h4, and deferring the placement of the Knight for another move. Since 23...f5 24.Rf1 isn't attractive, Black might try 23...Kg7, when there is still fight in the position.

After 23.Nf4, the game continued 23...h4 24.Rd8+ Kg7 25.Ree8, and Black invaded with 25...Qg1+. What could have been a seesaw between White's search for draw and Black's search for a win ended in White's rout.

27 February 2009

What's Black and White and Red and Blue All Over?

There's the comformists ... and then there's the noncomformists ...

kid's chess tournament © Flickr user ninahale under Creative Commons.

The Flickr caption says, 'The Minnesota state grade-level chess tournament for kids. Not the "big one" of state, but pretty big, and they play within their grade levels.'

26 February 2009

Chess in Africa - African Zonals

Although it's not obvious from my Zonal Overview, the African continent is also represented in the table at the center of that post.

Africa first received formal recognition in the FIDE hierarchy when zone 11, the 'Afro-Mediterranean zone', was established in the mid-1970s. A few years later it was split into zone 11, the 'Mediterranean zone', and zone 12, the 'African zone'. In the early 1980s, the African zone was split into zone 12, the 'North and West African zone', and zone 13, the 'East and Central African zone'. When FIDE moved to the continental structure in the early 1990s, Africa was assigned three separate zones within the African continent.

The various African zonals and continental championships (designated as 4.0) are shown in the following table.

I haven't been able to locate details of certain events -- most notably the zonals which should have taken place before the 1990 and 1993 interzonals (cycles 15 and 16 in the table) -- and I suspect the African players were nominated by the zone presidents. I'll clarify this as soon as I can.

Note: For the previous post in the 'Chess in Africa' series, see Chess in Africa - Titled Players.

24 February 2009

How Top Players Treat the Same Chess960 Position

One of the features of the Chess Classic Mainz events is that all chess960 games played in the same round use the same start position. After collecting a number of games (see CCM PGN Game Scores), I discovered that the diagrammed position had been used in 2007, and its twin had been used in 2008. Let's look at how some of the world's leading players treated the opening through the 10th move.

Start Position 034
(Twin: Start Position 919)


6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Karjakin,S. - Mamedyarov,S.
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nb6 3.Bb3 Nc6 4.c3 g6 5.O-O Bg7 6.d3 O-O 7.Nd2 Kh8 8.Nc4 Nxc4 9.Bxc4 Na5 10.Bb5 a6

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Shirov,A. - Gashimov,V.
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nb6 4.b3 Bc5 5.Nd5 Nxc4 6.bxc4 O-O 7.Nb3 b6 8. O-O f5 9.Nxc5 bxc5 10.f4 fxe4

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Kamsky,G. - Naiditsch,A.
1.d4 d5 2.Nd3 Nc6 3.b3 g6 4.Nd2 Bg7 5.e3 e5 6.dxe5 Nxe5 7.h4 h5 8.Nxe5 Bxe5 9.Bxe5 Rxe5 10.b4 c6

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Sargissian,G. - Volokitin,A.
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qd2 e6 5.c4 b6 6.Nc3 h5 7.b3 h4 8.h3 d6 9.Nd3 N8e7 10.Be2 Ng6

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Almasi,Z. - Balogh,C.
1.e4 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Ne2 e5 4.Nbc3 g6 5.Nd5 Bg7 6.Nec3 N8e7 7.Bc4 d6 8. Qf3 Nxd5 9.Nxd5 Nd4 10.Bxd4 cxd4

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Gyimesi,Z. - Grischuk,A.
1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.e4 b6 4.Nc3 d6 5.b3 Nd7 6.N1e2 e6 7.g3 h5 8.h4 Ne7 9.Bg2 a6 10.O-O Nf6

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Lysyi,I. - Akopian,V.
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 b6 3.a3 Ne7 4.Bc4 c6 5.Ba2 Ng6 6.Qf3 Qf6 7.Qxf6 gxf6 8. N1e2 h5 9.Ng3 Na6 10.Nf5 Nc7

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Bacrot,E. - Jussupow,A.
1.d4 b6 2.e4 e6 3.Nd2 d5 4.e5 c5 5.c3 Bb7 6.f4 Ne7 7.Nf3 Ba6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.Qa4 Qc8 10.b4 c4

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Sasikiran,K. - Sumets,A.
1.d4 d5 2.Nd2 Nd6 3.b3 e6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O b6 7.c4 Nd7 8.Nd3 Ne4 9.cxd5 exd5 10.b4 Bd6

6.FiNet Open; Chess Classic Mainz; 2007.8.16; Rd.5
Bischoff,K. - Pentala,H.
1.d4 d5 2.Nd3 Nd7 3.b3 b6 4.c4 e6 5.Nd2 g6 6.e3 Bg7 7.Qc2 O-O 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Rc1 c6 10.Be2 Nd6


SP919 RKBRQNNB: (like SP034, but with pieces in reverse order)

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Najer, E. - Nakamura, H.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 g6 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Rxd8 Qxd8 6.Bd2 Ne6 7. O-O-O f6 8.Ne3 Bd7 9.Nd5 Qe8 10.Be3 b6

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Kasimdzhanov, R. - Movsesian, S.
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Ne6 3.Be5 Nh6 4.h3 a5 5.Nf3 a4 6.g4 Ra6 7.Ne3 f6 8.Bg3 Qb5 9.Qd2 g5 10.h4 Rb6

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Bareev, E. - Arutinian, D.
1.g3 g6 2.d4 f5 3.Nf3 d6 4.b3 Nf6 5.Bb2 c6 6.N1d2 N8d7 7.e4 Nxe4 8.Nxe4 fxe4 9.Qxe4 Nf6 10.Qe2 Bg4

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Hracek, Z. - Eljanov, P.
1.e4 e5 2.Ne3 g6 3.Ne2 Ne7 4.f4 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxd5 Rxd5 7.g3 Rd8 8.d3 Bg4 9.fxe5 Qxe5 10.Qb4 Bc8

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Sasikiran, K. - Markowski, T.
1.d4 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Nd2 Bf5 4.f3 Qc6 5.e4 Bg6 6.Ne2 Ne6 7.Nc3 Nxd4 8.Nb3 Nxb3 9.axb3 e6 10.g4 O-O

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Vaganjan, R. - Almasi, Z.
1.e4 e5 2.g3 g6 3.f4 d6 4.Nf3 Ne6 5.d3 Ne7 6.Qf2 a5 7.fxe5 dxe5 8.Ne3 a4 9.Bd2 a3 10.b3 f5

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Mchedlishvili, M. - Motylev, A.
1.e4 e5 2.Ne3 g6 3.g3 d6 4.Ne2 f5 5.d3 Nf6 6.a4 fxe4 7.dxe4 a5 8.Nc3 Qf7 9.b3 Ng4 10.f3 Nxe3

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Naiditsch, A. - Nepomniachtchi, I.
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 Ng6 4.g3 Bf5 5.Ne3 Be4 6.Ne5 Nxf4 7. gxf4 Bxh1 8.Qxh1 Ne4 9.Qe1 g5 10.f3 gxf4

7.FiNet Chess960 Open; Mainz; 2008.08.01; Rd.8
Stevic, H. - Kazhgaleyev, M.
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 Ne6 4.Bg3 Nf6 5.h3 b6 6.Be5 Bb7 7.g4 h5 8.Ne3 hxg4 9.hxg4 Ne4 10.Bxh8 Qxh8

23 February 2009

Beginner's Material

My About.com beginner's material went through two iterations. The first cut had all diagrams and explanations on one page (single page). The second cut had a separate page per diagram (multi page). Here is the original material on Archive.org for the rules of chess.

Here is the material for what I call 'The Tools of Chess'. With the exception of draws, these concepts aren't rules, but they are fundamental to understanding and enjoying the game.

For the rewritten version, I'll use the single page format. It's more friendly for the visitor; there is less clicking and printing is easier.

22 February 2009

Fizkultura i Sport Black Books Revisited

Returning to Fizkultura i Sport Black Books, I succeeded in finding all 16 titles on the list. The following table gives basic information about each player.

Furman, Semen19881920-19781948-1977!
Gipslis, Aivars19871937-20001950-1985!
Gufeld, Eduard19851936-20021954-1985!
Kholmov, Ratmir19821925-20061945-1970!
Konstantinopolsky, Alexander19851910-19901928-1966 
Lilienthal, Andor1989b.19111930-1965!
Makogonov, Vladimir19901904-19931923-1975Y
Mikenas, Vladas19871910-19921930-1978!
Nezhmetdinov, Rashid19871912-19741936-1973 
Panov, Vasily19861906-19731928-1953!
Ragozin, Viacheslav19841908-19621927-1959!
Romanovsky, Peter19841892-19641908-1948!
Simagin, Vladimir19811919-19681935-1968!
Suetin, Alexey19871926-20011947-1984!
Tolush, Alexander19831910-19691935-1965!
Zaitsev, Alexander19861936-19711953-1971!

TMR: Years covered by Tournament & Match Record in book's appendix. O: Player mentioned in Oxford Companion? (! = black book also mentioned).

Same names ordered by TMR:-
1908-1948 Romanovsky, Peter
1923-1975 Makogonov, Vladimir
1927-1959 Ragozin, Viacheslav
1928-1953 Panov, Vasily
1928-1966 Konstantinopolsky, Alexander
1930-1965 Lilienthal, Andor
1930-1978 Mikenas, Vladas
1935-1965 Tolush, Alexander
1935-1968 Simagin, Vladimir
1936-1973 Nezhmetdinov, Rashid
1945-1970 Kholmov, Ratmir
1947-1984 Suetin, Alexey
1948-1977 Furman, Semen
1950-1985 Gipslis, Aivars
1953-1971 Zaitsev, Alexander
1954-1985 Gufeld, Eduard

21 February 2009

A Razor Sharp Variation

Continuing with Keres - Fischer, CT 1959, after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 (Fischer's favorite Najdorf variation) 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.O-O-O Nbd7, the 'bait' in Fischer Takes the Bait was 10.Be2 b5 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12.e5 Bb7, reaching the diagrammed position.

1959 Candidates Tournament (round 1)
Fischer, Robert

Keres, Paul
(After 12...Bc8-b7)
[FEN "r3k2r/1bq1bppp/p2ppn2/1p2P3/3N1P2/2N2Q2/PPP1B1PP/2KR3R w kq - 0 13"]

Keres played the surprising 13.exf6, sacrificing the Queen. Fischer again took the bait with 13...Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxf6 15.Bxa8 d5 (trapping the Bishop behind enemy lines) 16.Bxd5 Bxd4 17.Rxd4 exd5.

Here Fischer wrote nothing about White's next move 18.Nxd5, but Kasparov mentioned an important alternative.

In the tournament book Ragozin recommended 18.Re1+ Kf8 19.Re5 'as the most advantageous for White', giving the variation 19...h5 20.Rexd5 Kg8 21.Rd7 Qc6 22.Ne4. But after 20...g6 Black successfully defends: 21.Rd7 Qc6 22.Ne4 Kg7 23.Ng5 Rf8. And the immediate 19...g6 20.Nxd5 Qc6 followed by 21...Kg7 is even better.

The idea 18.Re1+ Kf8 19.Re5 was tested in many subsequent games. Although Kasparov's 20...Qc6 was never played, the similar 20...Qd6 was tried in Richardson - Zagorovsky, 7th World Correspondence Championship, in the mid-1970s. Zagorovsky won.

Fischer also dismissed 13.Qg3 (instead of 13.exf6) with 13...dxe5 14.fxe5 Nd7 15.Qxg7 Qxe5, and 'Black stands better'. After 14...Nd7, the critical moves are 15.Bxb5 and 15.Bf3. Both moves were successfully employed by Juan Morgado in the 1970s and 1980s at the highest levels of correspondence chess, including the 10th World Correspondence Championship, where Morgado finished second. Correspondence chess is often the ultimate testing ground for razor sharp variations.

20 February 2009

Inside the Marshall (Club, not Opening)

Never been inside the Marshall Chess Club in New York City? Neither have I.

Don't throw pieces at the Marshall (2:03) • 'Skittles room at the Marshall Chess Club NYC'

Is that Lizzy of LizzyKnowsAll?


The YouTube 'Embed' code now comes with a 'Customize' button. You can add a border, change colors, and delay cookies. Why would you want to delay cookies? Beats me. I read the page Enabling delayed cookies for embedded videos, and still don't understand. It's an insider thing.

19 February 2009

Chess in Africa - Titled Players

Of the African players counted in Chess in Africa - Rated Players, 7 are GMs, 60 are IMs, 2 are WGMs, and 17 are WIMs. The names of all GMs and of IMs above an arbitrary cutoff are listed in the following table.

The first six GMs are all listed as active players. The second and third GMs are a little more than 20 years old. GM Ahmed Adly won the 2007 World Junior Championship.

17 February 2009

Chess960 Engines

The CCRL 404FRC : Pure list (www.computerchess.org.uk) is a list of chess960 engines used in the CCRL trials. I compared this to the list of engines in Arena Downloads (www.playwitharena.com), and found two CCRL engines that are distributed with Arena free of charge: Hermann 2.4 and Spike 1.2. I downloaded both, installed them in Arena, and gave them a test drive. They worked without a hitch. Now I have two chess960 sparring partners.

16 February 2009

Player Profiles

I converted a few profiles that I wrote last June and July in preparation for the World Chess Championship - 2008 Matches.

See also: 2009 Topalov - Kamsky Links. • I count nearly 250 players worthy of a profile.

It would be interesting to see how many chess players are currently covered by Wikipedia.


The latest news from About.com shows that they are no more immune to the global economic downturn than anyone else: About.com Cutting 10% Of Staff, Pay Cuts For Guides. I'm not sure about the ethics behind publishing confidential internal memos, but they certainly look legitimate.

15 February 2009

4th Soviet Championship (1925)

Motivated by the photo in my post on Nikolai Krylenko, I searched various sources for more Soviet chess images from the 1920s. The Fizkultura i Sport Black Books were one resource at hand, and I found the following photo in the black book on Romanovsky. It shows the participants in the 1925 Soviet championship.

Source: Peter Romanovsky (Fizkultura i Sport; 1984), p.72

Front row (left to right): Vilner, Levenfish, (Rokhlin), Gothilf, Rabinovich, Bogoljubow, Ilyin Zhenevsky, Dus Chotimirsky, Romanovsky, Sergeev, Nenarokov, Verlinsky, Rabinovich. Back row: Freiman, Sozin, (Ereteev), Grigoriev, Zubarev, Selezniev, Kaspersky, Kutuzov, (Weinstein / Vainshtein). Missing: Kubbel. • The names in parentheses were not participants in the 1925 championship -- the 4th, held in Leningrad -- and I'm not sure if my transliteration is correct.

14 February 2009

Fischer Takes the Bait

The 1959 Candidates Tournament, which started in September at Bled (then Yugoslavia, now Slovenia), was Fischer's third event featuring Soviet opposition. In August 1958 he had drawn against four Soviet opponents at the Portoroz Interzonal, and in May 1959 he had drawn with Tal and beaten Keres at Zurich. At Bled, Fischer, 16 years old, again faced Keres, 43, in the first round of the grueling eight player, 28 round event.

The photo below is from that first round game. Fischer has just played 9...Nbd7, and Keres is about to play 10.Be2, a move which Fischer called an 'innovation' and 'dubious', and which Kasparov assigned '!?'.

Source: Russians versus Fischer (p.29)

Mikenas explained the innovation (also in 'Russians versus Fischer'):

Before the tournament, on a fishing trip, Keres and I hit on an interesting variation in the Sicilian Defense, involving a Queen sacrifice. To celebrate our success, it was against Fischer that we decided to do our 'fishing' in these uncharted waters. The 'fish' went for the bait.

See Keres - Fischer, CT 1959 for my introduction to the game, including a link to Chessgames.com. Fischer included four games against Keres in 60 Memorable Games: the Zurich game (last discussed in Fischer Overlooks a Theoretical Draw), the current game, and two games from the 1962 Candidates Tournament.

13 February 2009

Malled at Chess

Chess at the Mall © Flickr user LAArt under Creative Commons.

A comment points to Flickr group street chess. This in turn points to Duveltje's schaakweb.

12 February 2009

Chess in Africa - Rated Players

In my first post on Africa, Chess in Africa - FIDE Members, I listed 54 African countries and indicated whether they were currently FIDE members or had been members a few years ago (2005). Of those 54 countries, the 24 with rated players on the January 2009 rating list are listed in the following table, along with a count of the rated players. The estimated current population is given for comparison.

South AfricaRSA12248.8
Sao Tome and PrincipeSTP10.2

The 30 countries without rated players are noted in the following list, sorted by descending population. The data in parentheses shows the FIDE federation code (if known), whether the federation was listed as a member in 2005 and/or 2009, and the population: Democratic Republic of the Congo (2009 : 66.5m), Tanzania (TAN - 2005 : 40.2m), Cote d'Ivoire (CIV - 2005 : 20.2m), Cameroon (CAM - 2005/09 : 18.5m), Burkina Faso (15.3m), Malawi (MAW - 2005/09 : 13.9m), Niger (13.3m), Senegal (SEN - 2005 : 12.9m), Mali (MLI - 2005 : 12.3m), Chad (CHD - 2005 : 10.1m), Guinea (9.8m), Burundi (BUR - 2005/09 : 8.7m), Benin (BEN - 2005 : 8.5m), Sierra Leone (2009 : 6.3m), Togo (TOG - 2005 : 5.9m), Eritrea (5.5m), Central African Republic (4.4m), Republic of the Congo (3.9m), Mauritania (MTN - 2005 : 3.4m), Liberia (3.3m), Lesotho (2.1m), Gambia (GAM - 2005 : 1.7m), Gabon (2009 : 1.5m), Guinea-Bissau (1.5m), Swaziland (1.1m), Comoros (0.7m), Equitorial Guinea (0.6m), Djibouti (DJI - 2005 : 0.5m), Cape Verde (0.4m), Western Sahara (0.4m).


10 February 2009

Chess960 Twins

In Undefended Pawns in Chess960 Start Positions, I introduced the term 'twin',

Two start positions (SPs) which are the mirror image of each other; the pieces in one twin (running from the a- to the h-file) are in the same sequence as the other twin (running from the h- to the a-file).

and explained why I thought twins were worthy of special scrutiny:

They present exactly the same opportunities for the initial development of the pieces. Only when castling becomes possible do they start to take on individual characteristics.

In Chess960 Opening Theory, I used a familiar example of twins when I compared SP518 (RNBQKBNR, the start position for traditional chess) with SP534 (RNBKQBNR, the same as SP518 with the King and Queen switched). The concept of twins means that the same positional factors applying to one SP also apply to its twin. It reduces the number of truly distinct start positions from 960 to 480.

The following diagram is an example of 'twin thinking' suggested by a recent game of mine. I had White in a game starting with the position in the top diagram (SP448). At first glance, I was tempted to castle O-O. The Queen has only to move off the back rank, perhaps along the a7-g1 diagonal, and castling O-O is possible. Castling O-O-O takes the same amount of preparation, since both Knights only have to leave the back rank, but it is not yet clear which development of the Knights will be best.

A second glance convinced me that castling O-O was dangerous. The enemy Bishops are already aimed at that side of the board and can be quickly supported by both Knights, the g- & h-Pawns, and the heavy pieces behind those Pawns. I decided to castle O-O-O and achieved this on the fifth move. My opponent failed to take any special action for castling, realized after my O-O-O that his O-O was too dangerous, got caught with the King in the center, and had a lost game after 20 moves.

Chess960 Twins
Top: Start Position 448

Bottom: Start Position 703

The position in the bottom diagram (SP703) is the twin of SP448. Now castling O-O-O is dangerous for the same reasons as O-O in the top diagram: the enemy Bishops would be aimed at the castled King, and the a- & b-Pawns, supported by the Knights and by the heavy pieces, would present a potent attacking force. The players should consider castling O-O, even though three pieces must first be developed: the two Knights and the Bishop on the g-file.

For each of the 960 different SPs, I documented its twin on my page about Chess960 [Fischer Random Chess] Start Positions.

09 February 2009

A Chess Opening Tutorial

Two months after converting my first Chess Tutorial, on a positional principle titled Maximize the Usefulness of Your Moves, I completed a second, Opening Tutorial : Sicilian Defense - 2...e6 Variations. The total time to convert it was about two hours.

I have 13 more opening tutorials plus another 20 tutorials on other subjects. I picked the Sicilian 2...e6 subject because I'm adding the line to my repertoire and wanted to see how useful it is. Since I'm no longer bound About.com constraints on article size, it can definitely be improved.

08 February 2009

Nikolai Krylenko

Another batch of Soviet era chess photos from bulkcover appeared on eBay this week. Among them was this historically significant photo.

The item -- Press Photo, Chess Tournament Berlin 1927, Russian Team -- was described as 'Press photo done much later in 1960s- or 70s. Soviet VCSPS team at chess tournament in Berlin, Germany in 1927 at meeting with N.Krylenko. Sized about 23.9 x 16.4 cm. Retouched for the publishing in press.' It sold for US $57.00.

For more about Krylenko, seated in the middle of the first row, see Wikipedia's entry on Nikolai Krylenko. I discovered that VCSPS stands for 'All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions', but was unable to find anything about the Berlin 1927 event.


Later: With the help of the black book on Viacheslav Ragozin (see Fizkultura i Sport Black Books), I determined that the player seated in the first row on the right is Ragozin. On p.4 of the black book there is a 1939 photo where Ragozin's head is positioned exactly the same way as in the photo above; it's uncanny. The second event in the 'Tournament and Match' table at the end of the book is Berlin 1927, where Ragozin finished 1st (+8-0=1).

The black books should also help me identify one or two other players in the Krylenko photo. I'll leave that discussion for a new post.


Even Later: More on the Berlin 1927 event:-

In 1926 the Soviet chess organization joined the Worker's Chess International, which had been founded in Hamburg three years earlier. Worker's chess clubs had grown up in the early years of the [20th] century in several European countries, most notably in Germany, Austria, [etc.] The first attempts to establish international ties had been made by the German clubs just after the end of the First World War. The Soviet authorities had received a letter from the German union in the summer of 1920 but were not in a position to take any action. At the height of its activity the Chess International numbered 20,000 members, excluding the U.S.S.R. During the twenties it organized a number of events, the most important of which was an international tournament in Berlin in April 1927, when the first prize was won by Ilyin-Zhenevsky. • D.J. Richards, 'Soviet Chess', p.32

The result 'first prize was won by Ilyin-Zhenevsky' doesn't square with my previous comment that 'Ragozin finished 1st'. Tiebreaker needed; best of three?

07 February 2009

Adventures with Arena & Rybka

A week after my Arena / Rybka Analytical Upgrade, I continue to be happy with my choice. Rybka is everything I expected it to be. It's fast, super strong, and an excellent assistant for chopping through complex tactical positions.

Arena appears to have been conceived for running engine vs. engine tournaments, although it's also useful for playing against a specific engine. It's somewhat less useful for general analysis. Its handling of PGN files is clumsy and its display of variations is difficult to take in at a glance. It more than compensates for these drawbacks with an excellent interface to the internals of the engine while it's running. I especially like being able to review the previous iterations as the software calculates deeper and deeper.

As I mentioned way back when in Where I Play, my main chess competition is via email servers. I decided to put my new toys to a practical test and joined a tournament on Playchess.de: ACL-M116. (NB: Playchess.de shouldn't be confused with Playchess.com, the Chessbase online site for crossboard play.) Unlike many online email servers, the site allows players to use engines in its Advanced Chess League (ACL) tournaments.

As for other sites where I play, I've stopped using the ICCF server. Its high cost per event and its policy of requiring players to join a national federation make it a more expensive option than the free IECG server. The IECG players are just as good as those in the ICCF, and many excellent players compete on both services. It's generally assumed that most players on both services use engines, so why should I pay extra to play the same opponents using the same engines?

Lately, my results have been less satisfactory on IECG, and my rating has declined 200 points over the past few years. Opponents rated 400-500 points lower than me have been offering stiff competition even though they seem to spend little time on their moves. I've had several recent games where an opponent's strong reply typically came only a few hours after I sent my move, and where I had to work hard for a draw. I compared these games with Rybka's analysis and found that most of my opponents' moves matched Rybka's top suggestion. If I allowed Rybka to run longer on the exceptions, I bet I'd see close to 100% matching moves.

Now that I know why my results have been off, I can do something about it. First I have a general problem to solve: What is the best anti-engine strategy for use against a specific machine?

06 February 2009

Which World Champion?

Which reigning World Champion would you rather watch on TV: Anand or Kosteniuk, Kosteniuk or Anand?

Chess Queen Kosteniuk (3:56) • 'World [Women's] Chess Champion and Chess Queen Alexandra Kosteniuk on Fox TV, 25 January 2009.'

You say you wanted Anand? Here you go: Vishy Shares His Expertise with Indian Managers.

05 February 2009

Chess in Africa - FIDE Members

Working on another project, unrelated to chess, I had to increase my knowledge of African geography. What better way to do that than by relating it to chess? Using my post on Crash Course in Soviet Geography as an example, I constructed the following map and table. I'll connect this introduction to populations and rating data in a future post.

Starting with Egypt, the table moves counterclockwise around the coast of Africa, with short detours for the islands. After reaching Sudan, it lists the landlocked countries left-to-right, top-to-bottom starting with Mali.

Western Sahara   
Cape Verde   
Sierra Leone  *
Cote d'Ivoire (i.e.Ivory Coast)CIV* 
Equitorial Guinea   
Sao Tome and PrincipeSTP**
Gabon  *
Congo (Republic of the)   
Congo (Democratic Republic of the)  *
South AfricaRSA**
Burkina Faso   
Central African Republic   

The columns titled 'Fed'/'05' are a list of FIDE federation codes from an About.com article I wrote in June 2005: Introduction to World Chess Federation (FIDE) Zones (link to Archive.org). I presume that the countries were FIDE members at that time.

The column titled '09' is a current (2009) list of member federations on the FIDE page for Africa. Ten countries listed as FIDE members in 2005 are no longer members in 2009, while three countries have become FIDE members since 2005. I assume that FIDE's 'Congo' is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


03 February 2009

CCM PGN Game Scores

At the same I worked on posts related to Chess Classic Mainz -- e.g. Chess960 @ Chess Classic Mainz -- I collected all the PGN I could find that was scattered throughout the Chesstigers.de site. Here's a table of the events that I've collected so far, along with a count of the games. The names of the events are from the original files, along with a few tweaks to maintain minimum consistency.

2003:CCM03 Chess960 Open55
2003:CCM03 Chess960 Simul - Leko20
2003:CCM03 Chess960 Simul - Svidler20
2003:Chess Classic8
2004:CCM4 - FiNet Open66
2004:CCM4 - Gerling Match (Chess960 WCh)8
2005:1. Livingston Chess960 Computer World Championship63
2006:CCM6 - 2. Chess960 Computer Wch90
2006:CCM6 - 5. FiNet Open87
2006:CCM6 - Chess960 Simultan19
2006:CCM6 - Chess960 Wch (Juniors)14
2006:CCM6 - Chess960 Wch (Women)8
2006:CCM6 - Clerical Medical Chess960 Wch8
2006:CCM6 - Livingston 'Man versus Machine'4
2006:CCM6 - Tiebreak Chess960 Wch (Seniors)2
2007:1. Mini-FiNet Open60
2007:6. FiNet Open109
2007:FiNet Chess960 Rapid World Championship22
2007:Livingston Chess960 Computer World Championship21
2008:CCM8 - 7. FiNet Chess960 Open108
2008:CCM8 - Livingston Chess960 Computer Wch34
2008:FiNet Chess960 Women's Rapid World Championship16

Several of the 2005 events are missing. They should be on Chess Classic Mainz 2005: all games in pgn-format, but they aren't. There is, however, an explanation of some PGN differences on that page. Chess960 PGN formats are not standardized and need special handling. I'll cover that topic in a future post.

02 February 2009

Keres - Fischer, CT 1959

The next game in 18 Memorable Games is game no.14 in My 60 Memorable Games and no.55 in Predecessors IV. The PGN is given below, along with punctuation from the notes of Fischer and Kasparov.

[Event "Candidates Tournament"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1959.??.??"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Keres, P."]
[Black "Fischer, R."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B99"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.O-O-O Nbd7 10.Be2 {GK: !?} 10...b5 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12.e5 {BF: !?; GK: !} 12...Bb7 13.exf6 {BF: !?; GK: !} 13...Bxf3 14.Bxf3 14...Bxf6 {GK: !} 15.Bxa8 d5 16.Bxd5 Bxd4 17.Rxd4 exd5 18.Nxd5 Qc5 19.Re1+ Kf8 20.c3 20...h5 {BF: !; GK: !} 21.f5 {GK: !?} 21...Rh6 {BF: !; GK: !} 22.f6 {BF: ?; GK: !?} 22...gxf6 {GK: !} 23.Nf4 {GK: ?!} 23...h4 24.Rd8+ {BF: ?; GK: ?!} 24...Kg7 25.Ree8 {GK: ?} 25...Qg1+ 26.Kd2 Qf2+ 27.Ne2 27...Rg6 {GK: !} 28.g3 28...f5 {GK: !} 29.Rg8+ Kf6 30.Rxg6+ fxg6 31.gxh4 31...Qxh2 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 32.Rd4 {BF: !; GK: !} 32...Qh1 33.Kc2 {GK: !} 33...Ke5 34.a4 Qf1 35.Nc1 {GK: !} 35...Qf2+ 36.Kb3 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 36...bxa4+ 37.Ka3 Qc2 38.Nd3+ Kf6 39.Nc5 39...Qc1 {BF: !; GK: !} 40.Rxa4 Qe3 41.Nxa6 {BF: ?; GK: ?!} 41...f4 42.Rd4 42...Kf5 {BF: !; GK: !} 43.Nb4 43...Qe7 {BF: !; GK: !} 44.Kb3 Qxh4 45.Nd3 g5 46.c4 Qg3 47.c5 f3 48.Kc4 f2 49.Nxf2 Qxf2 50.c6 Qxb2 51.Kc5 Qc3+ 52.Kd5 g4 53.Rc4 Qe5# 0-1

Sequences with a difference of opinion and therefore worth a closer look are:

  • 12.e5 {BF: !?; GK: !}, 13.exf6 {BF: !?; GK: !}, 14...Bxf6 {GK: !}
  • 21.f5 {GK: !?}, 22.f6 {BF: ?; GK: !?}, 22...gxf6 {GK: !}, 23.Nf4 {GK: ?!}, 24.Rd8+ {BF: ?; GK: ?!}, 25.Ree8 {GK: ?}
  • 27...Rg6 {GK: !}, 28...f5 {GK: !}
  • 33.Kc2 {GK: !}, 35.Nc1 {GK: !}

To play through the complete game, along with lots of interesting comments, see...

Paul Keres vs Robert James Fischer, Bled ct 1959

...on Chessgames.com.

01 February 2009

Chigorin Wrapup

I had planned to wrap up this series on Chigorin with a summary of the 1890 Chigorin - Gunsberg match, using the same format I developed for 1893 Tarrasch - Chigorin (Anatomy). I ran into a snag when I realized that, although I have copies of the game scores, I have no record of the sequence in which they were played (and no way of knowing if my game scores are complete or accurate). There appears to be nothing on the web except for the final result of the match. The summary will have to wait until I have access to contemporary sources.

Here's a summary of my posts on Chigorin, including comments on special techniques used within the post.

Next stop in my look at the Soviet School: Alekhine.