30 April 2009

Unclear Positions

Chess.com features a regular Q&A column by IM Andrew Martin, appropriately called 'Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin'. Martin's column for 26 April 2009 had a good question on the meaning of 'unclear position'.

Jess Patrick: Dear Andrew, With regard to the evaluation of chess positions, what, in your opinion, is meant by "unclear position"? Does it mean "One side is better, but I can't prove which one"? Maybe it means "equal but not drawish". What are your thoughts?

Andrew Martin: Dear Jess, Unclear is a word or evaluation often used by an annotator when they don't know what's going on in a position! It's used less these days now that computers have turned everyone into armchair grandmasters. I think your own evaluations above of 'unclear' are among the best I have seen.

I liked Martin's definition ('don't know what's going on in a position') even better than his interlocutor's propositions and it reminded me of a strategy I used when I first started playing correspondence chess. In those days, ECO had just been introduced, and its pages were full of positions terminating with the infinity symbol (''), meaning 'the position is unclear'. I used to steer my correspondence games toward those positions, hoping for the chance to tackle them in the game. The positions were always extremely interesting and took considerable time to sort through the various positional and tactical nuances.

One position I remember well is shown in the following diagram. It arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.O-O Bd3 8.Re1 Be7 9.Qb3 Rb8 10.Qd5 e4 11.Bb3 Nh6 12.Ng5 Ne5 13.Ne6 Qd7 14.Nxg7+ Kd8 15.Ne6+ Kc8 (ECO C74), a line known as the Siesta Variation. Why it's called that is a mystery, because the line is anything but quiet. ECO's analysis, by Radcenko, stopped at '15...Kc8∞'.

1975 Golden Knights Nq-55
Owen, L.B.

Weeks, M.
(After 15...Kd8-c8)
[FEN "1rk4r/1ppqb2p/p2pN2n/3Qn3/4p3/1BPb4/PP1P1PPP/RNB1R1K1 w - - 0 16"]

At the time of the game I was already rated master or near-master and my opponent was in the same category. As we approached the diagrammed position, I spent hours analyzing it and finally had a 'Bingo!' moment when I realized that 16.Nc5! was very strong, and possibly a refutation of Black's opening strategy. The game finished 16.Nc5 c6 (16...Qg4, seeking counterplay, is better and was the response I expected) 17.Nxd7 cxd5 18.Nxe5 dxe5 19.Bxd5 Rf8 20.b4 Kc7 21.Bxe4 Rbd8 22.Na3 1-0.

I don't think I've looked at the game since it finished, but curious about what the computer would say, I plugged the diagrammed position into a chess engine. It found 16.Nc5 almost immediately, at around 7-ply in its calculations. I imagine that the entire variation has long been abandoned.

I have a tall stack of old, pre-Chessbase Informants standing in the corner of my study. It might be interesting to go back and look for positions tagged by the annotator as '∞'. Depending on what I discover, it might even be the start of a new series of posts on this blog.

28 April 2009

Chess Engines Don't Always Get It

After I issued a chess960 challenge on SchemingMind.com, the game was assigned the start position shown in the following diagram (SP416). It's similar to SP448, which I discussed in Chess960 Twins. In both games I was assigned to play White.

Start Position 416

The difference between SP416 and SP448 is the position of the pieces on e1, f1, and g1. In SP416 the pieces occupying those squares are Q, N, & K, instead of N, K, & Q as in SP448.

Just as in the SP448 game, I decided that the King would be best placed by castling O-O-O. This would avoid pressure from the Black Bishops, which are well coordinated and aimed at the castled O-O position.

Since O-O-O requires clearing d1, e1, and f1, I then decided that the best initial development would be Nd1-c3, Nf1-g3, and e2-e3 followed by Qe1-e2. Since the Nc3 would block the Pc2, which in turn blocks the Bb1, the move c2-c4 should be played before Nd1-c3.

Putting all this together, I concluded that 1.c4 would be a good first move. It wouldn't reveal my overall plan and it would let me see my opponent's move before committing to the development plan I had in mind.

Before actually playing my first move, I checked my idea against the computer vs. computer experience at CCRL (see Advantage in Chess960 Start Positions Revisited). The 60 games starting with SP416 in the CCRL database had a combined W-L-D record of +21-29=10, giving Black an overall edge, and the most frequently used first moves were:-

18 x 1.b3
13 x 1.b4
11 x 1.c4

Of the 11 games starting 1.c4, the W-L-D record was +1-8=2, accounting for almost the entire edge in favor of Black. Gulp! Was there something wrong with the logic that led to choosing 1.c4?

I looked at the 11 games starting 1.c4, and determined that in almost every one of the CCRL games, the machine castled O-O, directly into the attack of the enemy Bishops. In the other games they didn't castle at all.

Confident that 1.c4 was a good choice, I played it. Unfortunately, my opponent declined my challenge and the game stopped there. I might never get another chance to test that specific opening plan.

26 April 2009

D.J. Richards, Russian Lecturer

Flipping through various books that touch on Soviet Chess, it's clear that many used D.J. Richards 'Soviet Chess' as a basic reference. This puts Richards in the ranks of chess writers who have written a major work on chess history. What other information is available about him?

Locating accurate, coherent info about a writer with the family name 'Richards' isn't straightforward. For example, Bookfinder.com has entries for D.J. Richards, David Richards, and D. Richards, all of which appear to be relevant to the author of 'Soviet Chess'.

The only other chess related work by Richards is 'Modern Chess Opening Theory' by A.S. Suetin, translated from the 1958 Russian edition by Richards and edited by P.H. [Peter Hugh] Clarke. Bookfinder.com (see Author is Suetin; Title is chess opening theory) lists editions published in 1965, 1968, 1973, 1975, 1981, and 2004.

The 'translated by' clue is important. It explains why there is so much Russian source material in 'Soviet Chess' and it opens a window on Richards' profession as lecturer in Russian at Exeter University. I'm fairly certain that non-chess titles authored or co-authored by Richards were

  • 'Russian Views of Pushkin' (not to be confused with 'Russian Views of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin'), and
  • 'Russian Critical Essays' (two volumes, one covering the XIXth century, the other the XXth century)

Others works where I'm less certain are

  • 'Ninety Advanced Russian Unseens',
  • 'Zamyatin: A Soviet Heretic', and
  • 'Penguin Book of Russian Short Stories'.

Other works which I'm fairly certain were authored by another D.(J.)Richards are

  • 'The Haunting Wind', and
  • 'Russian Rightists and the Revolution of 1905'.

Our Richards was also co-author of 'The Voice of a Giant: Essays on Seven Russian Prose Classics' and contributed one of the seven essays, specifically the essay on Lermontov's 'Hero of Our Time' (see A Hero of Our Time [Wikipedia]). In addition to the books, he authored a number of scholarly essays on Russian literature.

Following the Exeter connection reveals that Richards was an accomplished chess player. From The Western Morning News, ('has one of the oldest chess columns in the country, having carried one, almost continuously, since the 1880s') column of 24 November 2007:

This whole story of 20th century chess is told in a newly-published book entitled 'White King and Red Queen' by Daniel Johnson. [...] The book is as well-researched as it is readable, with 36 pages devoted to the bibliography and index. Interestingly, one of his two main sourcebooks, which he fully acknowledges, was Soviet Chess (Oxford 1965) by D. J. Richards, who at the time was Lecturer in Russian at Exeter University and who, between 1960 and 1967, was champion of the Exeter Club on five occasions.

The emphasis is mine. Another source is Exeter Chess Club, 100 years:

Richard Hall writes: I was at Exeter University, reading law, from 1964-1967, The University team was very strong, with myself, B.D. Dabulawicus, M.B. Sage and D.E. Brown all in the same year.

I believe I joined the Exeter City Club for only one year, 1966-67. This was predominantly so that we could enter a strong Exeter team in the National Club Championship. Brian Dabulawicus, Martyn Sage and myself joined together; A.R.B. Thomas was also a member. That year I also won the Devon Championship, beating D.J. Richards in the final, having beaten Andrew Thomas in an earlier round.

That 'A.R.B. Thomas' must be the same person as 'Andrew Thomas', who must also be the 'Right, Mr. Thomas!' mentioned in Fischer's '60 Memorable Games' (p.166), who must also be the author of the book 'Chess Techniques' (1975). The Exeter chess club of the 1960s must have been absolutely remarkable.

25 April 2009

A Negative Post on Fischer

Returning to Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 2), the circumstances leading to the abrupt termination of the match were summarized by GM Larry Evans in The Bobby Fischer That We Loved in the March 2008 Chess Life.

Their duel was to consist of 16 games, the first four in New York, the next eight in Los Angeles, and the final four in New York again. After 11 games it was tied at 5 1/2 points apiece. The 12th game was set for Saturday, but as an Orthodox Jew Reshevsky could not begin until after sundown and might last into the wee hours. So it was rescheduled for 1:30 Sunday afternoon.

However, the sponsor Jacqueline Piatigorsky planned to attend a concert by her husband, the distinguished cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, and she didn’t want to miss the game. So the starting time was advanced to 11 a.m. Bobby told the referee in no uncertain terms that he could not and would not play at such an early hour. He failed to appear and Reshevsky was declared victor of the match. Bobby sued but the case was dropped in a few years.

Writers sometimes speculate that the broken match planted the seed that later grew into Fischer's raging anti-Semitism, but this was addressed by GM Evans in Grandmaster Larry Evans On Bobby Fischer.

Will Fischer Win the Endgame of His Life? • Former Chess Life editor Larry Parr interviews five-time U. S. champion Grandmaster Larry Evans.


Parr: The Piatigorskys, the sponsors of that match, were Jewish. Could that have been the start of his anti-Semitism?

Evans: Not the start. Long before that, when he was ranting against the Jews, his mother said, "What makes you think you're so pure?" Since Reshevsky was an Orthodox Jew, I suspect that the incident solidified his feelings of persecution by the Jews. Reshevsky always got special treatment because of his religion, like not having to write down his moves after sundown on Friday or not playing on the Sabbath. It's interesting that Bobby later got his own Sabbath by joining the Worldwide Church of God.

An early example of Fischer's anti-Semitism was the often quoted 'There are too many Jews in chess', from Portrait of a Genius As a Young Chess Master by Ralph Ginzburg, in Harper's Magazine, January 1962. Equally well known was the 1984 letter he wrote to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, demanding that the entry about him be removed. Once, after buying a used copy of Frank Brady's 'Profile of a Prodigy', I opened it and a copy of the letter, reproduced below, fell out.

If you have trouble reading it, a search on the first sentence -- 'Knowing what I do about Judaism' -- will locate many transcriptions.

Fischer's hatred festered and widened during the 40 years after the Reshevsky match until the infamous moment when, during a radio call-in, he danced on the graves of his compatriots who had been murdered during the 11 September 2001 attacks on American soil: 'This is all wonderful news. It is time to finish off the U.S. once and for all', and 'The U.S. and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians for years'.


After Fischer Explains the Rules of Fischer Random and Chess and Autism, this is my third post mentioning Fischer this week. That makes one positive, one neutral, and one negative post. I should have stopped after the positive post.

24 April 2009

Michael Jackson's Chess Set

Michael Jackson's chess game © Flickr user El_Enigma under Creative Commons.

See also Michael Jackson cancels auction of personal memorabilia • 'A huge auction of Michael Jackson memorabilia scheduled for next week was cancelled on Tuesday and auctioneers agreed to return all the items to the singer.' (14 April 2009; www.vancouversun.com)

23 April 2009

Chess and Autism

Poster April is National Autism Awareness Month (that's the poster for 2009 pictured on the left), and if you spend any time reading chess blogs or chess news, you've undoubtedly encountered posts and articles about a mysterious, hypothetical relationship between chess and autism.

Since I'm about as unaware as anyone can be, I decided to look into the subject. Researching it on the web is a bit tricky due to the name of one researcher in the field -- Stella Chess, 93, Psychiatrist and Author -- recently departed.

  • autism + granny's lawn ballet • 'I suspect there is some connection between autism and chess: the lack of interest in people, the fondness for repetition, the dislike of over-stimulation.' (lizzyknowsall.blogspot.com)

  • Autistic chess champion takes on the world • 'Many children with autism face a difficult life as they struggle to communicate and understand the world. They can also be withdrawn or aggressive. But one young Queensland boy has found a way out through chess and he's not only become a smiling champion but one of the country's best chess prospects ever.' (www.abc.net.au; Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

  • The Mark of Genius: Memory, Autism, and Chess • 'with regards to Kim Peek [earlier described as 'The Real Rainman']: yes, there are chess folks like this.' (dk-transformation.blogspot.com)

  • Autistic Chess Expert Wins Horatio Alger Scholarship • 'William John Barrow, a nineteen-year-old chess Expert from Virginia, is a living example of the American dream. Despite the many hardships he has faced during his childhood and adolescence, he has from his earliest days striven to make himself a success' (www.associatedcontent.com; by Chess Life's Jonathan Hilton)

The relationship works in other ways. Here is a post from the Age of Autism, the 'Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic', where chess principles provide guidance in a difficult struggle.

  • Olmsted on Autism: The Art of Chess • 'Many years ago -- in fact, on Christmas Day, 1963 -- I received a book called The Art of Chess. [by James Mason; ...] Friends, we're playing White. And it's our move.' (www.ageofautism.com; 'Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.')

Then there's Asperger's syndrome. What's the connection? Wikipedia explains:

Autism: 'a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old.'

Asperger syndrome: '(also called Asperger's syndrome, Asperger's disorder, Asperger's or AS) is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and people with AS therefore show significant difficulties in social interaction and restricted, stereotyped patterns of behavior and interests. AS differs from other ASDs by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development.'

Autism spectrum: 'The autism spectrum, also called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or autism spectrum conditions (ASC), with the word autistic sometimes replacing autism, is a spectrum of psychological conditions characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior.'

What famous people have Asperger's Syndrome?: 'Most of the people on the following list are speculated to have Asperger's Syndrome, rather than being confirmed cases of Asperger's Syndrome.' You'll likely be surprised by some of the names on the list, which includes 'Bobby Fischer, 1943-, US chess champion' • More: Chess Incarnate Bobby Fischer on the Spectrum: 'In reading about his life and quirks it seems quite probable to me that Bobby Fischer was on the Asperger’s spectrum'.

I hope to return to the subject before National Autism Awareness Month, April 2010.

21 April 2009

Fischer Explains the Rules of Fischer Random

Fischer Describes His Fischer Random Chess Rules (audio; bobby-fischer.net):

Fischer Random is a version of chess that I developed, or invented you could say, where you shuffle the back row of the pieces, not the Pawns. The Pawns stay the same on the second rank of each player. You shuffle the back row of the pieces and each side has the identical shuffle so everything is symmetrical just like in the old chess.

There are just a couple of rules. One Rook has to be to the left of the King; one Rook has to be to the right of the King; one Bishop has to be on a light colored square; and one on a dark colored square -- for each side. That's basically it.

When you castle, we don't say you're castling Kingside or Queenside. We use algebraic notation: we say you're castling a-side or h-side. Now when you castle h-side, that's like short castling. When you castle a-side, that's like long castling. Now it doesn't matter where the King and the Rook start out; after you castle you castle into the standard castling position.

It's very simple. You can learn the rules in about two minutes.

When it came to chess, Fischer usually knew what he was talking about.

20 April 2009

Opening Repertoire : Example Games

I added View Example Games to my pages on openings. The Introduction explains that the model games were all taken from 'Chess Openings: Theory and Practice' by I.A. Horowitz.

19 April 2009

D.J. Richards, 'Soviet Chess'

Starting with the first post in this series, The Soviet School, I've relied on 'Soviet Chess' by D.J. Richards in several posts without giving particulars. It's time to rectify that: 'Soviet Chess : Chess and Communism in the U.S.S.R.' by David John Richards, published in 1965 by Clarendon Press (Oxford). There are copies available via Bookfinder.com under Author is Richards, Title is Soviet Chess.

The first two chapters are the most useful, because they cover Soviet chess through the end of WWII, a period when its development was largely off the radar of Western chess publications. The Soviet federation joined FIDE in 1946, Botvinnik became World Champion in 1948, and the unrelenting progress of Soviet chess was on everyone's radar thereafter. The sections of the first two chapters, showing what Richards considered to be the major milestones, are:-

I. The Early Years of Soviet Chess, 1917-30
01 - Chess During the Revolution and Civil War
02 - The 1920 Olympiad
03 - Apolitical Chess, 1920-24, and Opposition to it
04 - The Establishment of Marxist Control and the Creation of a Mass Movement
05 - Soviet Championships of the Early Twenties
06 - The 1925 Moscow International Tournament
07 - Chess and Psychology
08 - International Chess Movements of the Twenties
09 - The Capablanca - Alekhine Match
10 - Soviet Championships of the Late Twenties
11 - Chess and Industrialization
12 - The Role of Chess in Soviet Society in the Twenties
13 - Why Chess Became so Popular in the U.S.S.R.

II. Consolidation and New Achievements, 1930-45
01 - The Organization of Soviet Chess in the Thirties
02 - Championships of the Early Thirties
03 - Botvinnik's First International Successes
04 - International Workers's Chess in the Thirties
05 - Chess among Women and Juniors
06 - Botvinnik's Victories of 1936: 'The classical land of chess'
07 - The Soviet Style of Chess
08 - A.V.R.O. 1938 and Hopes for a World Championship Match
09 - The Last Pre-War Years
10 - The War Years, 1941-5

I'm going to use those chapters to develop a timeline of Soviet chess development, similar to the timelines I used in The Botvinnik - Keres Rivalry, The World Championship Interregnum, and USSR vs. USA/GBR 1945-55. Timelines are useful tools for understanding the chronology of a historical subject and for exploring it in more depth.

18 April 2009

Chessing with the Stars

Ever wonder what Bobby Fischer was really like? I mean, what he was REALLY, REALLY LIKE, somewhere near the foundation of his being? How about Sammy Reshevsky? Now, thanks to AstroTheme.com ('Astrology: Horoscope, Natal Chart, Biography, Planets, Photo'; bio courtesy of Wikipedia), you can! Here are some excerpts.

Your sensitivity: You love nature as much as your comfort, Bobby FISCHER, you are an Epicurean willing to enjoy life’s beautiful and good things within the family "clan" or with friends who value your conviviality and your kindness.

Your intellect and your social life: You are a "free-thinker", Bobby FISCHER, and you tackle problems with a swift and efficient mind. Freedom, progress and originality are your driving forces.

Your affectivity and your seductiveness: In your chart, the Sun is in Pisces and Venus, in Aries. The spring and ingenuous fieriness of Venus in Aries resists the lucid scepticism of the Sun in Pisces. All emotions make sense and they immediately stimulate the natural enthusiasm of your Venusian sign.

Your behaviour: Psychologically speaking, your nature is powerful and self-assured. You are a leader whose strength and nobleness naturally arouse your entourage’s respect and adherence and your legitimacy is unquestioned.

Your will and your inner motivations: Psychologically speaking, your nature is adaptable and receptive, exactly the opposite of the sign of Virgo whose very essence is to analyze every detail, thus creating a definite duality between the self and the outside world: conversely, Pisces absorbs and erases all forms of differentiation they face. With Pisces, there is no opposition, no conflict and no individual reaction.

Your ability to take action: Bobby FISCHER, the way you take action is quite paradoxical: you carry out your business perfectly well when you are in a teamwork with collective goals, but you do so in your original and individualistic manner: this is your main peculiarity.

Ummm, what was that about teamwork? Here's Reshevsky.

Your sensitivity: Your sensitivity is devoid of infatuation or carelessness, Samuel RESHEVSKY; you belong to the cerebral type and, due to your needs for inner security and for freedom, you consider feelings and emotions as burdens.

Your intellect and your social life: Your thirst for learning is considerable, Samuel RESHEVSKY, and you can spend a lifetime studying languages, geography, philosophy and law, particularly. You are open-minded and you want to abolish all kinds of frontiers.

Your affectivity and your seductiveness: In your chart, the Sun is in Sagittarius and Venus, in Libra. You are pleasant, sensitive to prevailing trends and you play with passions without aggressiveness. According to the Tradition, you are a model of affectivity.

Your behaviour: Your natural energy is cut-and-dried. It may prompt you to take the driver’s seat wherever you are. Were it not for the strange feeling of sympathy you arouse, you would seem to be arrogant.

Your will and your inner motivations: Psychologically speaking, your nature is extroverted and independent, oriented towards expansion and sociability. You have the soul of a leader, energetic and active.

Your ability to take action: Samuel RESHEVSKY, your mental activity is exuberant. Ideas are buzzing at high speed and you have the ability to think of several different things and to simultaneously process them.

Are all chess players endowed with such super-human qualities? Let's take a look at some others.

On Bacrot: 'Your sensitivity: You love nature as much as your comfort, Etienne BACROT, you are an Epicurean willing to enjoy life’s beautiful and good things within the family "clan" or with friends who value your conviviality and your kindness.' • That's what was said about Fischer! In fact, the rest of the paragraph for both players is exactly the same:

You are faithful, stable, with your feet rooted in the ground and you are reliable in all circumstances. You are attached to your affective and material security. You tend to be jealous and possessive and, although your nature is quite slow, you may be short-tempered and aggressive when you feel threatened. In such cases, you display an exceptional stubbornness and fury and it becomes impossible to make you change your mind. Although you are aware that your behaviour is wrong, you stick to your line and your grudge is persistent. However, you are so sensitive to tenderness and to concrete gestures of affection that a few presents or a few caresses are enough to make you see life through rose-coloured glasses again.

Looks like I got sidetracked by computer generated twaddle while researching Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 2). I'll return to the source game for my next post in that series.

17 April 2009

A Chess Video About Chess Videos

This clip was created by the same video maker I featured in How to Make a Chess Video.

You Tube Chess Channels! (8:41) • 'some interesting chess channels on YouTube.'

Here are the YouTube channels mentioned in the video, in the same sequence as mentioned.

And here are a few more channels mentioned in the comments.

I know there are others and will look for them on a rainy day.

16 April 2009

Photogenic Spassky

No time or enthusiasm to write a daily post? Show a picture or a set of pictures.

This series shows Spassky photos offered by eBay power seller tiqu.

Lelands Sports & Americana has acquired one of the largest collections ever from the archives of the SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER. These historic vintage photos span the entire 20th century. The San Francisco Examiner was the first paper of William Randolph Hearst. Power wielding and flamboyant, the paper was his vehicle, his voice. The Examiner , coveted by the masses for its lurid sensationalism, was as important as TV istoday to popular culture.

The photo archives were the vehicle used to create this fervor, and now the ORIGINAL PHOTOS are available for sale for the very first time. Tiqu is one of the few eBay sites chosen by Leland's to sell from this glorious collection.

Mixed in with photos of Spassky from various periods, that's Spassky's wife in the upper right, Spassky with his wife in the bottom row (same wife?), and Spassky with his son bottom left.

14 April 2009

A Framework for Chess960 Opening Theory

A few weeks ago, in a post titled Comments on Chess960 Opening Theory, I noted that an 'approach to chess960 opening theory using the "Queen starts in the corner" concept seems promising'. In this post, I'll develop a framework to document that concept.

Although there are 960 different start positions, there are many similarities across those positions. For example, any start position with a Bishop on the a-file has certain characteristics in common with all other positions having a Bishop on the a-file, and those positions have the same general characteristics as positions with a Bishop starting on the h-file. The same is true for a Knight starting on the b- or g-file, for a Queen on the c- or f-file, or for any combination of piece and start squares. (Because of the differences in castling O-O vs. O-O-O, the King is more complicated, but I'll deal with that separately.)

The table below maps the start positions for each of the five pieces against each of the four types of files. Since the King can't start in the corner, that possibility is excluded. A quick count or calculation (5 x 4 - 1) reveals that there are 19 different piece/file relationships to consider.

Table 1 : Pieces and Possible Start Files


One of the problems with algebraic notation is a lack of nomenclature for files that are related by their chess board geometry. This is useful when speaking about chess principles that apply equally to the left side and right side of the board, like 'in the opening, aim to develop your Rooks on the center files', where the term 'center files' means the d- & e-files.

In traditional chess (SP518), the generic names for files aren't particularly useful in the opening, but become more useful in the endgame. The complications created by the presence of a 'Rook Pawn', a phrase taken from the older descriptive notation and referring to Pawns on the a- or h-files, are one well known example, as in 'Bishop of the wrong color vs. Rook Pawn', but there is no real equivalent for positions with Pawns on the b- or g-files -or- on the c- or f-files.

In chess960 the concept of related files is more important in the opening. A discussion of positions where 'Queen starts in the corner' refers to the entry (or cell) in the table which is the intersection of the row for the Queen and the column for the a/h files. I've marked it '(!)' in the following version of the same table.

Table 2 : Pieces and Specific Start Files

K-  (*)
Q(!)  (*)
B  (*) 
N (*)  

The cells marked '(*)' represent starting positions where the pieces have the same considerations as in traditional chess (SP518). For example, a Knight starting on b1 (represented by cell 'N:b/g' in the table) is developed most often to c3, less often to d2, and least often to a3 -- ditto for the other Knights. The cell 'B:c/f' offers the choice between developing a Bishop on its 'long' diagonal (d2, e3, f4, g5, h6 for a Bishop on c1) or on its short 'diagonal' (b2, a3), where the development to b2 is a 'fianchetto'.

Chess players learn the '(*)' concepts early in their education and come to know intuitively the trade-offs when developing those pieces. This is one reason why other chess960 positions look strange and why they can, at first glance, seem unharmonious.

Each of the elements of non-SP518 start positions, like Q:a/h (Queen in the corner), can be characterized using similar reasoning, then documented. An anomaly that I pointed out in a previous post (see 'Table: Chess960 Start Positions per Piece per File' in Introduction to Chess960 Geometry) is that there are more positions with R:b/g than there are with R:d/e.

In future posts I'll discuss the non-traditional positions, pieces, and start files, with examples from real games.

12 April 2009

Easter Sunday

The corresponding full moon appeared on Thursday. Going downstairs early that morning, well before sunrise, I noticed a bright light on the horizon. It was the full moon setting, only the top half visible. It was exceptionally beautiful and reminded me of other astronomical phenomena I've witnessed : a thin crescent moon clinging to the side of the Eiffel Tower just before dawn, a full eclipse of the sun (twice), a bright red sunrise completely filling the sky on my first trans-Atlantic flight, a meteor (meteorite?) shower, and best of all, an aurora borealis.

11 April 2009

Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 2)

I thought I had one more post to make for Fischer - Euwe, OL 1960, but it turns out that the sequence starting 32.Rb5 is relatively straightforward. Kasparov pointed out a quicker win for Fischer and a better defense for Euwe than given by Fischer in a note. Both lines are 'find the fastest win' variations that can be difficult for human players to see but that computers find quickly.

Moving to the next game in 18 Memorable Games, it's no.26 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.61 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV. The PGN is given below, along with punctuation from the notes of both Fischer and Kasparov.

[Event "Match"]
[Site "New York"]
[Date "1961.??.??"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Reshevsky, S."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B72"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Be2 O-O 8. f4 d6 9.Nb3 Be6 10.g4 {KAS: !?} 10...d5 11.f5 Bc8 12.exd5 Nb4 13.Bf3 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 13...gxf5 14.a3 fxg4 15.Bg2 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 15...Na6 16. Qd3 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 16...e6 {KAS: ?} 17.O-O-O Nxd5 18.h3 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 18...g3 19.Rhg1 Qd6 {FIS: !; KAS: ?!} 20.Bxd5 exd5 21.Nxd5 {FIS: ?; KAS: ?!} 21...Kh8 22.Bf4 Qg6 23.Qd2 {KAS: ?!} 23...Bxh3 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 24.Rxg3 Bg4 25.Rh1 Rfe8 26.Ne3 Qe4 {FIS: ?; KAS: ?} 27.Qh2 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 27...Be6 28.Rxg7 {FIS: !; KAS: !?} 28...Kxg7 29. Qh6+ Kg8 30.Rg1+ Qg6 31.Rxg6+ fxg6 32.Nd4 Rad8 33.Be5 Rd7 34.Nxe6 Rxe6 35. Ng4 Rf7 36.Qg5 Rf1+ 37.Kd2 h5 38.Qd8+ 1-0

Except for 16...e6 and 19...Qd6, there is not much difference of opinion in the notes of the two World Champions on this game. To play through it, see...

Robert James Fischer vs Samuel Reshevsky, Match 1961

...on Chessgames.com.

10 April 2009

Thinking Inside the Box

Film Try #1/Chess © Flickr user purplepick under Creative Commons.

Chess teaches you (choose one):-

  • To think inside the box
  • To think outside the box
  • Both
  • Neither

See also Photos from the Bilbao Grand Prix Slam.

09 April 2009

Blogging SuperNationals IV

The last time the U.S. SuperNationals were held, in 2005, chess blogging was still a hobby practiced by a few keen bloggers, many of whom have since abandoned their blogs for other pursuits, not necessarily related to chess. This time, the combined scholastic event for elementary, junior high, and high school competitors drew over 5200 young players, plus their coaches and parents, to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, and the bloggers covered the gathering in force.

The official site for the tournament was SuperNationals IV and the de-facto official blog was the USCF's Chess Life Online (CLO). Most relevant posts can be found in the April 2009 archive, which I just linked, although it's worth checking the March archive as well.

On CLO, you can get a good feel for the ambience of the SuperNationals from Macauley Peterson's video posts -- Tornadoes and an Astronaut, Coaches Interviews, and Kosteniuk on 100 Wins -- as well as from Mark Schein's posts on A Parent's Perspective, This Time Supersized : Part I and Part II.

The event was covered by all the blogs where you would expect to find coverage, including Chessninja.com (see Nashville Gone Wild), largely because of the Kasparov angle. The former World Champion was the most notable of the numerous chess luminaries who made a guest appearance. Chessninja.com aggregated its posts into a single tag, Results tagged “Supernationals”, as did several other well known blogs with an emphasis on scholastic chess: susanpolgar.blogspot.com, scholasticchess.blogspot.com, and fpawn.blogspot.com.

A search on the usual search terms picks up a large number of posts by other blogs like Super Nationals - The Morning After (castlingqueenside.blogspot.com), SuperNationals on Fox17 News (jimwestonchess.blogspot.com), super nationals coming soon (lizzyknowsall.blogspot.com), and Supernationals 2009 (gettingto2000.blogspot.com), just to mention a few of those blogs that are favorites of mine.

Will the SuperNationals be held in 2013? Given the logistical complications, it's anyone's guess.

07 April 2009

Chess Tiger

Two months ago, in my post on CCM PGN Game Scores, I listed the Chess Classic Mainz (CCM) PGN game scores available from the CCM site on Chesstigers.de, and mentioned that several of the 2005 events were missing. Now I can report that, as of two weeks ago, they are no longer missing.

Thumbnail of Gandalf_Jussupow_medium.jpg Mike Rosa, aka Chess Tiger on the SchemingMind.com correspondence server as well as being a CCM insider, sent me an email with the missing games attached. Scheming Mind, in addition to chess and chess960, features many other chess variants from the well known to the hopelessly obscure. His Scheming Mind photo, shown reduced to the left looks a lot like GM Artur Jussupow in full wizard garb, and indeed, Mike informs that he is Jussupow's 'Co-Trainer for Chess960 and Traditional Chess'. [NB: Jussupow is better known to English speaking chess players as Yusupov, although you'll find web pages under any variation of the names '{J/Y}-u-{s/ss}-upo-{v/w}', thereby rivalling Korchnoi, Kortchnoi, Korschnoi, etc. as World Champion for difficulty in name transliteration.]

After forwarding the games, Mike left a flurry of comments on some of my other chess960 blog posts. On Chess960 @ CCM9, he noted that an 'English site for the CCM9 will follow soon!' It can now be found at Chess Classic Mainz 2009 (CCM9) 27. Juli - 2. August, along with info on the many chess and chess960 events like the forthcoming 6. Stadtwerke Mainz Chess960 Rapid World Championship with GMs Aronian, Bologan, Nakamura, and Movsesian.

On Chess960 Rules Formalized by FIDE?, he confirmed that 'FIDE added Chess960 to their "Laws Of Chess"' and gave a Chesstigers.de link to a PDF copy of the laws. I couldn't find the file on Fide.com.

Against Comments on Chess960 Opening Theory, he linked to the
W|NC|A Rating Library, which he called the 'Chess960 World Ranking'. The top five players are currently Ivanchuk (2818), Anand and Kamsky (both 2815), Aronian (2800), and Nakamura (2777). Aronian, several times winner of the Chess960 Rapid World Championship, is only 4th?

And on Chess960 World Championships, he noted 'Being a Chess Tiger and a member of the Chess Classic Team I can probably help you (all) to learn a little bit more about the so called "Chess Classic (Mainz)".' He followed this with an outline of CCM events since 1994.

Thanks, Mike!

06 April 2009

Step Through the Openings

Before I could continue adding More Beginner's Material, especially on the openings, I needed a simple mechanism to Step Through the Openings. It's available under Learn to Play Chess on My About.com Material.

05 April 2009

Moscow 1925, 1935, and 1936

It's obvious from the titles of my two previous posts -- Moscow 1936 Tournament Book and Moscow 1936 [photo] -- that they were both about the Moscow 1936 tournament. Why two posts? The LabateChess.com introduction to the tournament book, at Moscow 1936 : International Chess Tournament, also linked in that first post, says,

The third Moscow international chess tournament in 1936 had an impressive field of participants, including two former world champions (Jose Raul Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker) and one future world champion (Mikhail Botvinnik). The tournament took place at the Hall of Columns in Moscow, Russia from May 14th to June 8th, 1936.

The solid mix of Western and Soviet competitors were to play a double round-robin, consisting of eighteen total games. Capablanca, nine years removed from being the world champion, was alone in first place at the halfway mark. A point and a half behind him were Botvinnik, Lasker, and Viacheslav Ragozin. The only player to keep within reasonable distance of the leader was Botvinnik, but he eventually finished a full point behind the tournament champion, Capablanca.

This tournament book was written by one of the participants, Gregory Levenfish and later translated to English by Jimmy Adams. The seventh round game between Capablanca and Botvinnik was an instant classic (link to Kevin Marchese's Rookhouse.com).

The phrase 'third Moscow international chess tournament' means that the event followed the Moscow 1925 and Moscow 1935 tournaments. Crosstables for the three tournaments, which were all seminal events in the development of Soviet chess, are available at WorldChessLinks.net.

I've already touched on the tournaments at least twice in

Other resources of special note are

All three events featured World Champions Lasker, Capablanca, and Botvinnik, although Botvinnik had only a minor role in 1925.

04 April 2009

Update on the USCF Election

In my first post on the 2009 USCF Executive Board election (see Odd Year Means USCF Election, I listed the lawsuits facing the U.S. federation, along with reports from New York Times' chess columnist Dylan Loeb McClain. The Executive Director of the USCF, Bill Hall, recently provided an update on the suits.

McClain also reported on partial closure of two lawsuits.

  • 2009-01-14: A Lawsuit Against Chess Officials Lingers on • 'A lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the United States Chess Federation, its officials and members of the federation has largely been dismissed. But, in a decision on Dec. 29, Judge J. Curtis Joyner, the presiding judge in the case, let stand potential charges of libel and conspiracy against Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, two members of the board who are married.' (gambit.blogs.nytimes.com)

  • 2009-02-20: Some Claims in Lawsuit Against Federation Are Dismissed; Others Are Still Pending • 'Some claims in a Texas lawsuit against the United States Chess Federation, some of its officials and other members of the federation have been dismissed, but other claims remain. The lawsuit by Susan Polgar, a member of the federation’s board, arose out of a dispute that began in 2007 when Samuel H. Sloan, a former member of the board, filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan accusing Ms. Polgar and her husband, Paul Truong, who is also on the board, of posting nasty remarks on the Internet in Mr. Sloan’s name'(gambit.blogs.nytimes.com)

In my second post on the election (see USCF Election Means Odd Year), I gave some background on the election and listed the 11 candidates who filed to run. The USCF published the first round of Executive Board Candidate Statements (uschess.org) in the April 2009 issue of Chess Life. The online statements are available only to USCF members and, although I haven't been able to find a public copy, links to sites for three candidates are open to the public.

While no one is talking openly about slates, it appears that the Polgar/Truong faction of the Executive Board favors four candidates over the others.

  • 11 candidates for the next EB election (susanpolgar.blogspot.com) • 'Anonymous said... Nietman is not a bad choice. Lugo and Korenman are also good choices. I would like to know more about Haring and Hecht.'• 'Bookie said... Here are my choices by order of competence: 1. Lugo 2. Korenman 3. Nietman 4. Hecht [...]' • 'Anonymous said... [...] Here is the best way to vote. Eric Hecht. Mikhail Korenman. Blas Lugo. Mike Nietman [...]' • 'Anonymous said... I've eliminated Lafferty and Mottershead [...] Goichberg and Jim Berry [...] Sam Sloan [...] Ruth Haring [...] The remaining candidates are: Mike Nietman. Mikhail Korenman. Blas Lugo. Eric Hecht.' • 'Chewy said... I should add that my vote for Hecht, Lugo and Korenman are solid. Rock Solid. The only other one to consider pass would be Nietman.'

Anonymous comments, often petty, mean, and insulting, appear frequently in Susan Polgar's blog. • To be continued...

03 April 2009

The Playing Field Tilts Ever More

Played in the days when people still had a chance in a chess game against machines, this incident offers several reasons why man - machine matches aren't on a level playing field.

Fritz vs. GM Tiviakov (3:40) • 'A game from the 2000 Chess Dutch Championship.'

The clip's description explains,

This game was exciting, complicated and very gruelling. The Russian star who lives in Holland embarked on a long positional battle which swayed back and forth for a while. But slowly Tiviakov outplayed the machine, won a pawn, and worked up the final attack. It should have been a great victory, except that all the manoeuvering had wasted too much time.

In the final time control Tiviakov had only minutes on the clock and was in danger of actually losing. Frans Morsch offered him a draw, which Sergei declined. A few moves later, with the seconds ticking away from his clock, he offered Fritz a draw, which Frans immediatly accepted.

For the rest of the description see part 1 (which has voice in Dutch).

For more, see parts 2, 3, and 4 (voices in English).

It makes as much sense allowing computers in human chess competitions as it does allowing bicycles in foot races.

02 April 2009

Chess in Africa - Summary

I'll wrap up the Chess in Africa series with a summary of previous posts.

And I'll reserve the right to return to the subject later. There's a lot left to be said here.