31 July 2009

A Total of 64 Colors

I had a hard time choosing between a shot featuring the White pieces or one featuring the Black pieces.

RGB LED Art © Flickr user DarkFokus under Creative Commons.

The description said,

These shots were illuminated by seven 5W programmable RGB LED floodlamps arranged in a semisphere above a velvet-lined table and backdrop. Each lamp can be set to 16 different colors at four intensity levels for a total of 64 colors. This second generation light puts out a much smoother, more diffuse light pattern.

What is 'second generation light'?

30 July 2009

Chess Ads III

Returning to Chess Ads I, this image shows thumbnails of ads I collected in 2002.

Here's another page on the same idea: Advertising With A Chess Theme.

28 July 2009

Fischer Overestimates His Position

The diagram shows the last position from Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 5) that I want to examine. White played 33.Rc2, and Fischer noted,

The only way to preserve winning chances. After 33.Rxb6 Rd2+ 34.Kg1 g5 35.hxg5+ {X03} (on 35.Rcc6 gxh4 36.Rxe6+ Kg5 37.Rg6+ Kh5 {X04} 38.Rxh6+ Kg4, Black has enough play on the Kingside to hold the draw; but not 35.a5? gxh4 36.a6 h3 37.a7 h2+ 38.Kh1 Ng3#) 35...hxg5 36.Rcc6 (not 36.a5? g4 37.a6 Ng5 38.a7 Nf3+ 39.Kf1 g3 40.a8=Q g2#) 36...g4 37.Rxe6+ Kg5 {X01} 38.Rh6 f4 keeps the balance {X02}.

The moves marked X0n are points where Kasparov, building on the the analysis of Dvoretsky and Huebner, disagreed with Fischer.

1961 Match (game 5)
Fischer, Robert

Reshevsky, Samuel
(After 32...Re8-d8)
[FEN "3r4/8/Rp2pkpp/5p2/P3n2P/4P3/1P4K1/2R5 w - - 0 33"]

Without repeating all of the analysis, I count four points of disagreement.

  • X01: 37...Kg5 38.Rb5 wins
  • X02: 38...f4 39.Rhg6+ wins
  • X03: 35.hxg5+ Nxg5 is 'more tenacious'
  • X04: 37...Kh5 38.a5 wins

Kasparov wrote,

'I know of no other example in which Fischer commits such a serious error of judgement in a rather clarified position', concludes Dr. Huebner. In my view both this mistake, and the oversight on the 36th move, are very typical of Fischer: he was very content with the course of the game, with the flights of imagination by the two players, and when he annotated the game he did not believe that he had reached a lost position, and did not seek confirmation of this. According to his inner conviction, the logical outcome should have been a draw! Although it must be agreed, in an endgame with an exchange advantage and a passed Pawn it is possible to find a win even without the help of a computer.

It's clear from studying the analysis that Fischer overestimated his counterplay in this endgame.

27 July 2009

Every Move Explained - A Kasparov Game

Returning to Every Move Explained, I recreated the next game in the series: 1981 Tilburg - Kasparov vs. Andersson. The index of all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series is on Improve Your Chess Game.

26 July 2009

Does 'Soviet School' Mean Botvinnik?

In Characteristics of the Soviet School, I gave Euwe's summary of the subject from his Development of Chess Style. Summarizing his points -- struggle for the initiative, fighting spirit, active defense, study of the openings, no superficial judgements -- it sounds to me like a description of Botvinnik's style. As has been pointed out many times by different people, it isn't realistic to categorize the great diversity of styles exhibited by the top Soviet players of the 1950s and 1960s (e.g. Bronstein, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky) under the single phrase 'Soviet School'. Is it really a synonym for Botvinnik's approach to chess?

Here are some excerpts from Kotov and Yudovich:

Ever since his youth Botvinnik has had a scientific approach to chess as a game demanding the most painstaking study and flights of creative imagination. He happily combines his natural talent with a tremendous capacity for work, an iron will to win, and patience. His style is now exceptionally versatile: he is equally strong in positional play and complicated positions abounding in combinational possibilities. He has studied and systematized typical positions from actual play and worked out a number of new technical methods. He is constantly enlarging his stock of effective opening lines. [...]

In each of his tournaments Botvinnik comes up with resourceful, smashing attacks: combinative attacks with sacrifices, often unexpected, and positional attacks, with gradual building up of pressure, the breaking of defense lines and, finally, the rout of his adversary. His brilliant sacrifices in encounters with Chekhover (1935), Tartakower (1936), Euwe (1948), and Taimanov (1952) have gone down in chess history. The examples of scintillating attacks carried out by Botvinnik are too many to enumerate. In the Amsterdam tournament of 1938 [AVRO] even Capablanca's brilliant skill could not help him to foresee the unexpected smashing attack launched by Botvinnik. [...]

Another characteristic feature of Botvinnik's style was revealed clearly at the 7th USSR Championship in 1931. We refer to his tenacity in defense, his ability to find latent defensive resources when he lands in a tight spot. True, this rarely happens, for he foresees danger in good time and takes steps to meet it properly. Still, when he does get into a tough situation he finds a way out of it more often than other players. When in trouble, Botvinnik usually defends himself by creating the utmost positional difficulties for his adversary. [...]

All the contestants in he 1948 match-tournament for the World Championship suffered defeat at the hands of Botvinnik. It is indicative of his prowess that these were not accidents resulting from unexpected complications but, primarily, strategical routs in games which were logical from beginning to end.

One of the secrets of Botvinnik's success is his opening erudition. His knowledge of openings is as diversified as it is deep. He is remarkably fertile in inventing and playing new variations. [...]

In his early period Botvinnik preferred a calm positional style of play. He negotiated combinational storms when they could not be avoided, but he was clearly less at home in them than in calm positions with a well-defined center and a maneuvering battle. It was here that Botvinnik's main feature as a sportsman revealed itself: he takes a clear, objective view of his shortcomings, even the slightest ones, and works persistently to root them out. Realizing that his weak point at that time was involved combinational positions containing numerous possibilities not subject to precise calculation, he deliberately sought such positions on every convenient occasion in order to acquire maximum experience in them.

From Soviet School of Chess, p.127. Wondering if I had seen all of the games on the list of Botvinnik's 'brilliant sacrifices', I searched for them on Chessgames.com. Here's what I found:-

Several of these games have long comment threads from the regulars at Chessgames.com.

24 July 2009

Chess Killer Tips

This video by Alexandra Kosteniuk spotlights a familiar study, but if you've never seen it before, the key move and final position will almost certainly surprise you. After that, at around two minutes into the clip, there's a sequence of chess magazines where GM Kosteniuk was featured on the cover.

Chess Killer Tip 023 (3:37) • 'Access Control. White plays and draws, 1947 Study by Chekhover.'

See also Chess Killer Tip 026; despite the introduction ('Welcome to Chess Killer Tips, brought to you by ChessQueen.com. Here's your host, Alexandra Kosteniuk'), it's narrated by Almira Skripchenko. At 2:20 into the clip, bloggers should note,

Please help spread the word about Chess Killer Tips to the world. Write about it on your blog or submit it to your favorite chess site. Then send me an email and to thank you I will send you a free gift!

For more info on the series, see New ChessKillerTips Channel on YouTube, posted at Chessblog.com.


Later: When I wrote the post, I overlooked the related site Chess Killer Tips. It's definitely worth mentioning!

23 July 2009

A 'Forced Move' That Wasn't Best

The next critical position in Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 5), is worthy of a Larry Evans style What's the Best Move? multiple choice. White played 21.Nb5. Now what's the best move?

  • 21...Qxe3
  • 21...Qd5
  • 21...Qxb2

It's not easy to choose because the variations are all tactically complicated.

1961 Match (game 5)
Fischer, Robert

Reshevsky, Samuel
(After 20...Qd8-d4(xP))
[FEN "2r1r1k1/pb5p/1pn1p1p1/5pN1/3q1n1P/P1N1Q3/1PB2PP1/2R1R1K1 w - - 0 21"]

After 21.Nb5, Fischer wrote,

Marvelously alert! After the practically forced trade of Queens, White wins the exchange because of the imminent fork on e6.

The phrase 'forced trade of Queens' tells us that Fischer's choice of best move was the move he played: 21...Qxe3. The game continued 22.fxe3 Nxg2 23.Kxg2 Nd4+ 24.Be4 Bxe4+ 25.Nxe4 Nxb5 26.Nf6+ Kf7 27.Nxe8 Rxe8 28.a4 Nd6 29.Rc7+ Kf6 30.Rec1 h6 31.Rxa7 Ne4 32.Ra6 Rd8, where Fischer concluded that Black is now fighting for a draw. Kasparov pointed out that 23...Nb4+ would give Black 'more chances of saving himself than in the game'.

Fischer also mentioned 21...Qd5.

After the game we analyzed 21...Qd5 22.Qxf4 Qxb5 23.Nxe6 Qxb2 (23...Qd5 24.Nc7 Rxe1+ 25.Rxe1 Qf7 26.Ne6) 24.Qh6 with an irresistible attack: 24...Na5 (24...Rxe6 25.Rxe6 Nd4 26.Re7) 25.Bxf5 gxf5 26.Rb1, giving as a variation 25...Rxc1 26.Rxc1 gxf5 27.Rc7.

Kasparov, in turn, showed that 26...Qf6 is better than 26...gxf5 in that last variation, and concluded that the win is 'problematic'. This makes 21...Qd5 better than 21...Qxe3. For his part, Kasparov considered that Dvoretsky's 21...Qxb2 was best.

21...Qxb2 22.Nd6 Nxg2 23.Kxg2 Nd4+ 24.Be4 fxe4, leads to a double-edged game.

The sequence 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.Nxb7 fails to 26...Nc2. He also analyzed 25.Nxb7 Nf5 to an endgame where Black is not worst, and 25.Rb1 Qa2 leads to a middlegame where Black's attack is just as ferocious as White's, allowing Black to draw.

I spent a lot of time looking at 21...Qxb2, and convinced myself that Kasparov's analysis was airtight. Black gets good counterplay, making it the best of the three choices. Fischer didn't even mention it. What did he overlook?

21 July 2009

Chess Ads II

Continuing with Chess Ads I, the following image shows thumbnails of ads I collected in 2001.

Unlike the first ads I collected, I stopped throwing away the text associated with an interesting ad, and kept a copy of the ad together with a cropped copy of its principal image. Since I wasn't paying much attention to the content of the collection, I inadvertently collected many duplicates. You can see an example of both problems -- cropped copies and duplicates -- in the ads at the end of the fourth row. I'll address those problems when I finish the process of cataloging what I've already collected.

20 July 2009

Every Move Explained - Proofreading!

On top of the usual pitfalls of spelling and grammar, chess writing has an additional problem of verifying the chess content. After releasing three examples of Every Move Explained, which were in fact draft versions of what I originally released on About.com, I finally mustered enough ambition to give them each a good reading:

After being released on About.com, they went through at least two additional proofreadings before I announced their availability. Here I announced their availability before doing the last proofreading step, partly because I also needed to check consistency across the three articles. Blogging often results in sloppy writing. I hope the latest proofreading cycle didn't introduce any new errors.

19 July 2009

Characteristics of the Soviet School

After the post on Alekhine Leaves Russia, Chess for All Ages leaves Alekhine. Had he been a less successful player, would he have been considered a prototype of the Soviet school, sandwiched in the historical continuum between Chigorin and Botvinnik? Consider Bogoljubov.

What indeed was the 'Soviet School'? Here is the opinion of former World Champion Max Euwe.

First priority with the Russians is the utilization of one's resources to the utmost; hence the following characteristics:
  • Struggle for the initiative.
  • Fighting spirit; no use for the formal draw.
  • Active defense, always on the lookout for a counter-thrust. It is remarkable how many fighting games are won by Black in Russia.
  • Careful study of the openings, especially combinative offshoots of disputed variations.
  • No superficial judgements on a position based on the measuring-rod of material. Which pieces are present matters less than what they can achieve.

From Euwe's The Development of Chess Style, p.139, Ch.8 'The Russian School: 1945 to the Present Day'.

17 July 2009

Draw, pardner!

Is this a Photoshop montage?

¡Jaque! © Flickr user Salvador P. under
Creative Commons.

Tags: Hogueras, Alicante, Plaza, MontaƱeta, Bonfire, Ajedrez, Chess.

16 July 2009

Chess Ads I

For the next few weeks I have VIP visitors (i.e. family), and on some days won't have much time for blogging. To be able to post something on those days, I'll work on my collection of chess ads. I've been collecting images of ads for over a decade, but have never taken the time to sort them out.

Here's a first batch that I collected in 1999 and 2000. There are a lot of problems with this batch. When I first started collecting the ads I often cropped out the chess image, kept it, and threw away the text. On top of that, I wasn't always meticulous about recording the origin of the ad. I hope I'll find later copies of those ads where I was more discriminating.

I've already used several of these ads elsewhere. For example, if you look carefully at the image in the fourth row located fourth from the left, you can see the image I used in Who Goes to Caesars Palace to Play Chess? and followed up in Playing Chess at Caesars Palace.

14 July 2009

Early Kasparov Annotations

While rummaging through old Informants, looking for a game that would ultimately turn into a blog post I wanted to do (see Unclear : Some Huebner Analysis for the game), I noticed Kasparov's name referenced as annotator on Informants from the late 1970s. This led to the question: What was his first annotated game in Informant (INF)? It turns out that it's this one from INF25 (covering 1978-H1)...

Garry Kasparov vs Anatoly S Lutikov, Minsk Sokolsky-mem (17) 1978

...The game is typical of Kasparov's early style, showing unrelenting aggressiveness that never leaves his opponent a single move to catch his breath and consolidate his position. Kasparov's 'Fighting Chess' (American Chess Promotions, 1983) mentions that it was the first game where Kasparov defeated a GM in one-on-one competition. Despite being unrated, he won the event +11-2=4, a half point ahead of Kupreichik, rated at 2530. Lutikov was the highest rated player in the event at 2540.

What about other early Informants? Here are more games annotated by Kasparov, listed with PGN tags:-

INF25 1978-H1:
"?","Minsk Sokolsky-mem (17)","1978.??.??","17","Kasparov Garry","Lutikov","1-0"

INF26 1978-H2:
"?","Daugavpils","1978.??.??","9","Kasparov Garry","Ivanov I","1/2-1/2"

I touched on the Ivanov game in my post on 'Premier League' and 'First League'. It was a crucial game that helped put Kasparov's career on the fastest track available.

INF27 1979-H1:
"?","Banja Luka","1979.??.??","1","Kasparov Garry","Petrosian, T.","1/2-1/2"
"?","Banja Luka","1979.??.??","2","Shibarevich, M.","Kasparov Garry","0-1"
"?","Banja Luka i","1979.??.??","8","Knezevic M","Kasparov Garry","0-1"
"?","Banja Luka","1979.??.??","5","Kasparov Garry","Marovich, D.","1-0"
"?","Banja Luka","1979.??.??","3","Kasparov Garry","Browne, W.","1-0"
"?","Banja Luka","1979.??.??","7","Kasparov Garry","Marjanovich, S.","1-0"
"?","Banja Luka","1979.??.??","4","Hernandez, R.","Kasparov Garry","0-1"
"?","Banja Luka","1979.??.??","10","Kasparov Garry","Vukich, M.","1-0"

INF28 1979-H2:
"?","Minsk","1979.??.??","3","Kasparov Garry","Yusupov, A.","1-0"
"?","Minsk","1979.??.??","9","Tseshkovsky, V.","Kasparov Garry","1/2-1/2"
"?","Moscow","1979.??.??","3","Kasparov Garry","Polugaevsky, L.","1-0"
"?","Minsk","1979.??.??","16","Kasparov Garry","Dolmatov, S.","1-0"
"t","URS","1979.??.??","8","Kasparov Garry","Butnoris A J","1-0"
"?","Moscow","1979.??.??","2","Veingold, A.","Kasparov Garry","1-0"
"?","Moscow","1979.??.??","4","Averkin, O.","Kasparov Garry","1/2-1/2"

INF28 appears to be the first where Kasparov was listed with a rating, 2595, plus an IM title. Subsequent Informants had even more Kasparov annotations. INF29: x 18 games, INF30: x 13, INF31: x 11, and INF32: x 24. The same early Informants listed the pair 'Kasparov, Sakarov' annotating a few games: INF26: x 8, INF28: x 3, INF29: x 2, INF30: x 2, INF31: x 3, and INF32: x 9 (also 'Kasparov, Akopov' x 2). I drew a blank with Sakarov and Akopov. Were they early trainers?

INF32 (1981-H2) included the 1981 USSR championship, where Kasparov tied for first place with Psakhis. That was about the same time I first became aware of Kasparov and I remember spending several hours playing through all of his games from the event. They were simply amazing.

Why mention all of this? I can think of one or two promising directions to take the idea further.

13 July 2009

Every Move Explained - A Fischer Game

Continuing with Every Move Explained, I recreated the third game in the series: 1960 Leipzig - Letelier vs. Fischer. The index of all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series is on Improve Your Chess Game.

12 July 2009

Alekhine Leaves Russia

It's clear from my post on Alekhine's Record in Russia that Alekhine's development as a chess player faced serious obstacles in the years before he left Russia. After the first World War and the 1917 revolution, he played in only three tournaments before leaving his native country in 1921, at age 28. After leaving Russia, never to return, he played three important tournaments in 1921, four in 1922, and three in 1923, before playing a single event in 1924, the great New York tournament, where he finished third behind Lasker and Capablanca.

It's ironic that Alekhine left Russia at the same time the Soviet Union was making its first tiny steps toward eventual domination of international chess (see The Father of Soviet Chess?). In Soviet School of Chess, Kotov & Yudovich only mention Alekhine's departure in hindsight.

During the last years of his life he was keenly aware of his separation from his native land. He realized he had made a great mistake in leaving it in 1921. This realization added torment and tragedy to his last years. He died in Portugal in 1946, in poverty and loneliness,

Whether he would have lived as long had he remained in the USSR is open to speculation. As I mentioned in Chigorin and His Contemporaries, discussing the same book,

It's also worth noting that half of chapter three, on Alekhine ('Russia's Greatest Player'), is spent on the fourth World Champion's contributions to opening theory. In the 1950s, when the book was written, was it safer to write about chess openings than about facts that were contrary to the Soviet world view?

Kasparov, in My Great Predecessors I, noted that Alekhine received permission to leave Russia at the same time that Capablanca was playing Lasker in their 1921 World Championship match. In his book Alexander Alekhine, Kotov noted that Capablanca's victory over Lasker, combined with Alekhine's first place finishes, also in 1921, at Triberg, Budapest, and The Hague marked the Russian as Capablanca's main challenger. Kotov wrote,

Alas, fortune had prepared a blow against [Alekhine]. At the London international tournament [1922] Capablanca was in splendid form. The 34-year-old champion was at the height of his powers, and at the zenith of his successes. [...] How could anyone compete in those days with the brilliant envoy from Cuba? The world champion won game after game in London, drawing further and further away from his rivals. [...] It is true that, in this tournament as well, [Alekhine] was able to leave the other challengers behind, but neither on results, nor in quality of play, could he compare himself with the World Champion.

Alekhine's drive to procure and win a match against the Cuban goes beyond the objectives of my series on the Soviet School. Again, we can only speculate whether he would have had the opportunity to play Capablanca had he remained in Russia, but I tend to think that, given Capablanca's financial conditions, the match would not have taken place.

Of the 100 games in Alekhine's own book, My Best Games of Chess 1908-1923, 53 are from the period where he lived in Russia. Three of the 53 are correspondence games from 1908-09, when he was developing into a strong master. How many of his correspondence games are on record?

10 July 2009

The King of Pop Teaches the Game of Kings

Mary Hart (Entertainment Tonight, Wikipedia): 'At an age when most parents are playing Candyland or Chutes & Ladders with their kids, Michael is teaching his son the game of chess.'

Michael Jackson & a 3 year old Prince Michael play chess (2:19) • 'Michael Jackson playing chess with his oldest son in 2000... it is too cute! Paris is there too!'

The set looks like the same one pictured in my April post on Michael Jackson's Chess Set. • Prince Michael (holding a Rook): 'Daddy, we should live in a castle like this.' Papa Michael: 'I know, I love that castle. Could we all fit in there?' Prince: 'Uh, uh, we can't.' Papa: 'Can I fit in there?' Prince: 'Uh, uh, you can't either.' Papa: 'That castle's too small. We need a bigger castle than that.'

09 July 2009

Unclear : Some Huebner Analysis

For the next example of Unclear Positions, I looked for a game from the 1980 Korchnoi - Huebner Candidates Final, hoping to find notes by either Korchnoi or Huebner. Although all the games from the match were included in Informant 30, they were anotated by Matanovic rather than by the players. Like many analysts, Matanovic did not use the '∞' (unclear) symbol in his notes.

There were no other games annotated by Korchnoi (did he ever write for Informant?), but there was a single game annotated by Huebner, and it had several instances of the requisite '∞' symbol. Two of them stemmed from analysis of the position shown in the diagram.

Huebner's Informant annotations were always deep, often on a par with the notes that players like me produce today using software like Fritz. Huebner did his work before computers were used for that sort of thing. I'm sure of this because the current game was played when the Apple II was at its peak popularity. Around that time I bet a friend that, although I had never played against his Apple II chess program, I could checkmate it in less than 20 moves. I won the bet.

1980 Tilburg (Inf. 30/270)
Kavalek, Lubomir

Huebner, Robert
(After 12...Bf8-e7)
[FEN "r2qk2r/2pbbppp/p4n2/1p2R3/3N4/1P6/1PP2PPP/RNBQ2K1 w kq - 0 13"]

Huebner played 13.Qe2, adding to the pin on the Black Bishop and preventing White from castling O-O. His notes to the move investigated the alternative 13.Qe1 with the same idea. I would play 13.Qe2 without giving it much thought, but that's the difference between a world class grandmaster and a run-of-the-mill master. After 13.Qe1, Huebner gave

  • 13...Kf8 14.Nf5 (14.Bg5 Bd6 15.Re2 Bxh2+) 14...Bxf5 15.Rxf5 Qd7 16.Rf3 Bd6 , and

  • 13...c5!? 14.Rxc5 (14.Nf3 Bg4 with the idea 15...Ra7) 14...O-O 15.Re5 Bd6 16.Re2 Bg4 17.f3 Bc5 18.c3

In other words, he rejected 13.Qe1, because the variations were less clear than his game continuation. After 13.Qe2, the game continued 13...c5. Here Huebner gave 13...Ng4 14.Rd5 O-O 15.Nc6, and 13...Kf8 14.Bg5. After the further 14.Nf3, he gave 14.Rxc5 O-O 15.Nc6 (15.Re5 Bd6 16.Re3 Ng4 with advantage to Black) 15...Bxc6 16.Rxc6 Re8 with compensation for the material.

Note how the game variations parallel the variations in the note to 13.Qe1. This is the mark of a diligent analyst, investigating the difference between two very similar moves. To play through the complete game see...

Robert Huebner vs Lubomir Kavalek, 4th Interpolis 1980

...on Chessgames.com. Although there is no kibitzing on the game, it is worthy of attention. Why else would Huebner have chosen to annotate it?

07 July 2009

Elastic Maneuvering III

Finding examples of elastic maneuvering by Karpov (see Elastic Maneuvering II) isn't trivial. The games aren't often included in volumes of 'Best Games', and when they are, they have been chosen for some other reason than the maneuvering sequences.

In Karpov's 'Chess Is My Life', I found a game against Portisch that seems to fit the bill. If you want to play through it, it's also on Chessgames.com: Anatoli Karpov vs Lajos Portisch, It, Milan 1975. I'll use a double diagram to illustrate the maneuvering sequence.

Between the first and second diagrams, White has played 15 moves, Black has played 16. It's hard to see what Black has accomplished in that time. The Black Pawn structure has changed by only one move, and the pieces are in positions that could have been reached four moves after the first diagram.

After 17.Bc3-a5(xN)

After 32...Be8-c6

The changes in the White position are more pronounced. The Pawns have advanced on both sides of the board, while the pieces have also made at least four moves. Karpov's co-author, Roshal, wrote,

No one has yet succeeded in utilizing at the same time all the space on the chess board. But the one who is closer than anyone to solving this extra-difficult problem obtains the greatest successes. An example of such a utilization of the majority of squares on the chess board is provided by the second match game between Karpov and Portisch in Milan.

With each new move the White pieces took control of more and more space. Dangers threatened the Black position from all sides. Threats followed one after another. Portisch went completely onto the defensive, and had not the opportunity even for a second to draw breath and take his bearings. Is it surprising that in such a situation he should suddenly stumble into a combinational trap, set for him by Karpov?

Where's the trap? After 32...Bc6, shown in the second diagram, the game continued 33.b4 cxb4 34.axb4 Be8 35.Rd2 Rb6 36.Qd4. Now Portisch played 36...Qe5?, and Karpov answered 37.Qxb6!, forcing the win of a Pawn.

All that maneuvering to win a Pawn? Yes, and it was sufficient to win against one of the best players in the world at that time.

06 July 2009

Every Move Explained - A Petrosian Game

Continuing with Every Move Explained, I recreated the second game in the series: 1961 Bled - Petrosian vs. Pachman. The index of all games in this series is on Improve Your Chess Game.

05 July 2009

Alekhine's Record in Russia

After Chigorin (1850-1908; see also Chigorin Wrapup), the most influential player contributing to the development of the Soviet school was Alekhine (1892-1946). The following chart shows Alekhine's tournament and match record through the year he left the Soviet Union (Russia).

The chart is a composite of the records given in Kotov's 'Alexander Alekhine' (R.H.M. Press, 1975, p.216) and Winter's 'World Chess Champions' (Pergamon Press, 1981, p.137; chapter on Alekhine by Cafferty). Winter/Cafferty omits the tournaments 1907 Moscow and 1909 Moscow ii, while Kotov omits the matches 1913 vs. Capablanca and 1916 vs. Evenssohn.

03 July 2009

Maryhill Museum of Art

'A 1957 exhibit curated by the museum’s director Clifford Dolph led to the creation of this permanent exhibit of chess sets. Today there are about 100 sets of these sculptures in miniature, representing the many countries, cultures and periods in which chess has been played.' - Maryhill Museum of Art : Exhibits

Chess Sets at Maryhill Museum © Flickr user ::michelleprovince:: under Creative Commons.

For more Flickr photos of sets from the Maryhill Museum, see Chess Pieces, by the same photographer. • See also Chess Sets From the Maryhill Museum of Art (cocjournal.blogspot.com).

02 July 2009

My Four EB Votes

How should I vote in the USCF Executive Board (EB) election? There are two well known U.S. chess personalities battling each other in this election -- Bill Goichberg and Susan Polgar -- and they clearly don't like each other.

I've read Susan Polgar's First Amended Complaint, (16 March 2009) detailing her problem with the USCF, and am not convinced. Where she sees a conspiracy to defame her, I can imagine other plausible reasons to explain the actions of the people she names. Whatever the reasons, the complaint will somehow be resolved by the legal system and has become tangential to the EB election.

I've also read her editorial The Dirty Hidden Truth : The 2009 USCF Executive Board Elections, (Chessville.com, dated by Google: 15 Jun 2009), where in her typical style she hurls accusations like 'these chess politicians have spread the most outrageous and vicious rumors and lies', 'they even stooped so low as to use my children', 'these people spewed out the disgustingly offensive rumor that my husband and I were child abusers', 'there were countless remarks and postings telling my husband and me to go "back to where we came from"', and 'some called me a "whore", "bitch" and worse, with words that are not appropriate to print'.

It all sounds terrible and I can't help but be sympathetic, except that the identities of 'these chess politicians' etc. are never revealed and I am left to assume that she means the sitting members of the EB. As a counterbalance to this, I follow the chess discussion groups closely, including the members-only 'USCF Issues' forum and I can't remember ever seeing a single one of these 'countless' posts or accusations.

The Chessville.com editorial points to another Polgar opinion piece with the same title -- The Dirty Hidden Truth, (Chesscafe.com, Google: 6 Jun 2009) -- where she notes the growing popularity of chess in the U.S., asks 'So why hasn’t all this helped the growth of organized chess in this country and the USCF?', and concludes, 'The answer is the ugliest and dirtiest 8-letter word: POLITICS!'.

For me, this is the root of Polgar's current woes. The word 'politics' doesn't imply ugliness and dirt. It is a standard mechanism at the heart of normal human relations for regulating the opposing objectives of a diverse group of people.

Like many good chess players, Polgar has shown herself to be particularly inept at politics. In 2007 she was elected to the EB with an overwhelming number of votes. Her husband Paul Truong was elected with her, along with Randy Bauer, a candidate whom she had supported throughout a campaign that was just as nasty and vitriolic as the current 2009 campaign. Add to these three the sympathetic support of then EB-member Joel Channing, and Polgar had four of seven votes with a mandate to effect real change in the USCF and in U.S. chess.

How did she use this mandate? Her first action was to accept the bogus title of 'Chairman', even though it had no definition in the USCF's bylaws. She left the real title of 'President' to Goichberg. This showed that she could be politically manipulated by her least attractive quality, her vanity.

Shortly thereafter, she reacted to the Mottershead report and the subsequent (inevitable?) Sloan lawsuit, which accused the entire EB equally, by forcing the EB to split into two camps : the Polgar/Truong camp and the others. The 4-3 mandate became a 2-5 minority. The possibility of her effecting real change in the USCF was over and, since then, the split has cascaded into a series of lawsuits that threatens to bankrupt the USCF and to tarnish Polgar's reputation. In either of these scenarios, U.S. chess loses.


Back to the question of how to vote. Polgar's Chessville.com editorial says, 'I will vote for ... 1. IM Blas Lugo, 2. Dr. Mikhail Korenman, 3. Dr. Eric Hecht.' At one time, she seemed to support another candidate, Mike Nietman, but she now says,

I will not vote for a fourth candidate. I will not vote for anyone who will irresponsibly advocate more legal battles which without a doubt will destroy and bankrupt this federation. I will also not vote for anyone who will advocate alienating and dividing various membership groups instead of uniting everyone, as well as putting their personal and political interest before chess and the USCF.

This appears to be in response to Nietman's USCF Executive Board Candidate Statement for June,

While not a lawyer and not privy to the Executive Board discussions of each case, from what I’ve read and heard from respected sources USCF has a strong position in each case. In my opinion at this time settling would be a mistake. Of course that means additional funds used to pay lawyers but then again, settling would incur a cost too. We need to find the truth in these issues and the only way to obtain that is to continue defending the lawsuits.

Goichberg has declared support for four candidates (see Executive Board Candidates 2009) : 'Jim Berry, Ruth Haring, and Mike Atkins as well as myself, Bill Goichberg'. To their great advantage, the Goichberg candidates participate in and contribute to the USCF forums and discussions. This is in contrast to the Polgar candidates, who have been mostly invisible throughout the 2009 EB campaign, with the exception of Polgar's own statements of support.

Unfortunately, I have a problem with Goichberg's own candidacy. He is too close to the current litigation and, like Polgar, has appeared too eager to solve political problems through the legal system. After the USCF delegates refused to recall Paul Truong as an EB member in 2008, was it really necessary to attempt the same through the Illinois lawsuit, filed end-2008? Why not just prepare a better case for the 2009 delegates' meeting?

There is, however, a more important consideration. Goichberg is responsible for leading the USCF into its current mess and he should be given the chance to lead it out. My votes: Atkins, Berry, Haring, and Goichberg. I hope they will have more challenging work than to preside over the disintegration of the USCF.