30 July 2010

Chess Playing Robots Don't Like Magnets

I've run chess robot clips before (use the search box on the right), but never an animation.

Robot plays chess (0:35) • 'From: Sunarts3d.com; Country: Taiwan'

Prefer to see the real thing?: AAAI Chess Montage • What do robot developers do for kicks?: Computer Scientists Taunt Chess-playing Robotic Arm.

29 July 2010

Casanova Y Estorach

On the list of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, you often see paintings offered for thousands of dollars, but rarely do you see one of them sell. A recent exception is shown in the image below. The item, titled '1895 "The Chess Players" Antonio Casanova Y Estorach', received 1 bid for US $4500.

The painting's description said,

Fabulous original oil painting on board entitled "The Chess Players" by Antonio Casanova Y Estorach (Spanish 1847-1896). Signed top left "A. Casanova Y Estorach", and "Paris 1895". Framed in gilt wood frame. Old paper labels on back referring to title and previous owners name.

I found no Wikipedia entry for the artist in English, but there is one in Spanish: Antonio Casanova y Estorach. A scanned document displayed along with images of the painting further described the artist:

Exhibited in Paris and Madrid and won tremendous reknown for his rich coloring and exquisite draughtsmanship. Casanova's superb composition and charming choice of subject brought him worldwide fame and at his death he was estimated to be one of the wealthiest Spaniards of his day.

For more images of the artist's work, see Antoni Casanova Estorach on YouTube.

27 July 2010

Let's Make a Deal

From Eljanov wins final FIDE GP, Radjabov qualifies for Candidates (chessvibes.com):-

Round 11: This round saw another Azeri derby: Radjabov versus Mamedyarov. It was an important game, since Radjabov’s win regained his chances to qualify for the Candidates matches. In the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez White got a small advantage and then developed a strong initiative following Black’s unsuccessful queen maneuver on the 19th move. The game transposed to a queen ending with a remote passed pawn for White. Black was short on time and committed the decisive error on the 38th move. Mamedyarov resigned immediately due to inevitable loss of the kingside pawns.

From comments to Airport Delay Dortmund Blogging (chessninja.com):-

Thomas | July 25, 2010 10:27 AM : Some people (including GMs Yemelin and Eljanov) had speculated that Radjabov - Mamedyarov 1-0, Astrakhan GP [Grand Prix], was a "deal" - but that's another story, helping to secure spots in the candidates event for BOTH players.

Thomas | July 25, 2010 12:59 PM : On Radjabov - Mamedyarov: I wouldn't have brought this up if two respectable GMs, both present in Astrakhan, hadn't done so before (in the German magazine "Schach"). As I said it was a win-win situation for both players, AND the game was rather strange.

The game doesn't look strange to me -- Teimour Radjabov vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov; FIDE Grand Prix 2010 (chessgames.com) -- but the accusation is nevertheless disturbing. How was it theoretically possible?

FACT: Radjabov and Mamedyarov are both Azerbaijani. Astrakhan was the last of six Grand Prix events to determine two qualifers to the candidates event, Aronian having already grabbed the first qualifying spot. One player would qualify from the Grand Prix to the candidates, with Radjabov in an excellent position and Mamedyarov in a hopeless position. If, however, Mamedyarov finishes ahead of Radjabov at Astrakhan, Radjabov's chances are severely diminished. (This can all be verified on my page 2008-2009 Grand Prix.)

FACT: The candidates event is currently scheduled for 2011 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (This is up-in-the-air for now, but it wasn't at the time the game was played.) The organizers have the right to nominate one player for the event.

SPECULATION: Radjabov would be the first choice of the organizers, Mamedyarov the second choice. Instead, the organizers of the candidates event exert sufficient influence to parlay their one nomination into two.

I am certainly not saying that this actually happened and I sincerely hope that it didn't happen. The possibility that it might have happened is disturbing enough. How to prevent similar scenarios from occurring in the future? Don't award the organization of an event in a qualifying cycle until the previous events have completed, especially if the organizers have the possibility to nominate a participant.

26 July 2010

23 July 2010

Chess at the Oakland Riots 2010

Left: This Man Set Up a Chess Match in the Middle of the Intersection, Oakland Riots, 2010 © Flickr user Thomas Hawk
Right: Chess © Flickr user mirnanda

From Justice, Interrupted - A Report from the Frontlines of the Oakland Riots:

The scene downtown was quite surreal at. Masked and bandana-d anarchists mingled with Oakland residents. There was a New Orleans-style jazz band and another group of musicians playing Tabla drums. In the center of Broadway and 14th, two men were quietly playing chess in the street. Yet back on 13th, the police commander was directing the riot squad to advance; an "unlawful assembly" had been declared and anyone who remained on the premises was to be arrested.

For the full story: BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant [Wikipedia]. • Both photos under Creative Commons.

22 July 2010

Scid's HTML Export

Following up Diagram Testing, Testing, 1-2-3 and Scid @ Mark's, this is a test of Scid's HTML Export function, where a game score is exported for display on a web page. The Scid help page says,

Scid can export games to an HTML file. For diagrams to appear, you will need the diagram images (distributed with Scid in the directory "bitmaps/") to be in a subdirectory bitmaps/ under the directory the HTML file is in.

The result looks like this:-

The function uses a common technique where the board is an 8x8 table and each square uses a GIF graphic representing a specific piece of a specific color on a square of a specific color. This gives me the option to design another style of board & pieces. It would be very useful to have a parameter pointing to a permanent 'bitmaps' directory.

Unfortunately, the game header is not particularly attractive and there is not much I can do about it except change the HTML after the fact. The annotations appear as untranslated NAG codes (Numeric Annotation Glyph; the '$201' at the end of the first line of moves represents the Scid symbol for 'Insert Diagram'), because I selected that as an option. I could have specified that they be translated.

There is also a function for HTML with JavaScript Export, to play through a game using the browser. I might try that some other time, but first I have to decide how I want to handle diagrams.

20 July 2010

Chess Art, Chinese Copies

Spotted on eBay, well known chess paintings ranging in price from $49.99 to $199.99 ('Buy It Now or Best Offer')...

...From Member id countryarts : results found for chess.

19 July 2010

Names Are Sometimes Important

Continuing with Where to Go From Here?, I added Checkmates with Names to my page on Learn to Play Chess. Someone once asked if they could reprint this article. Following About.com's policy on reprints, I referred him to the appropriate procedure. Just like the other times I did this, I never heard about the matter again. Now I would just say, 'Go ahead (and thanks for asking!)'.

16 July 2010

1993 Kasparov - Short on BBC

Peter Snow: 'Welcome to the start of the BBC's coverage of the World Chess Championship and a right royal battle it promises to be.'

TV Chess : Kasparov vs Short : World Title Match Preview (1/3) (9:53) • 'BBC Program which previewed the "World Chess Championship" title match in 1993 between Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short.'

Presents the origins of the World Championship schism including FIDE's competing Karpov - Timman match; with Bill Hartston, David Norwood, Dominic Lawson, and Florencio Campomanes.

15 July 2010

Chess Sets, 'Never Been Used'

Continuing with Top eBay Chess Items by Price, of the 50 highest priced chess items listed on eBay over the past two weeks, only one sold (not counting two items for the Chess record company): 'Faberge Imperial Chess Set -- Carved Onyx and Jasper'. It received one bid for US $1,150.

The description said,

Gold Vermeil--24 karat gold electroplate on solid sterling silver with rubies, emeralds, sapphires, cultured pearls, amethysts, tourmalines, aquamarines, citrines, garnets and jade. The Faberge Imperial Chess Set, the only chess set ever created by Igor Carl Faberge, was produced by the Franklin Mint in a edition permanently limited to 1,500 sets world-wide. [...] The chess set has been on display in my house for 23 years and has never been used. The chess pieces have been removed from the case twice; once when examined on receipt in 1986 and once when photographed. The case is constructed of solid rosewood with an inlaid marble playing board. The marble top contains some cracks not visible in the photos.

At any one time there are dozens of sets available on eBay from the Franklin Mint. With only a little effort I came up with the following list of distinct sets.

  • Battle of Waterloo
  • Camelot
  • Civil War Chess Set
  • Coca Cola Chess
  • Emperors of the Orient
  • FIDE Professional Wooden Chess Set
  • Great Crusaders
  • Great North American Ducks
  • Greek & Roman Gods
  • Guardians of the Fortress (two of these were listed as 'Lord of the Rings')
  • King Tut Chess Set
  • Looney Tunes
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Nigri Roman Empire
  • Raj Chess Set
  • Royal Houses of Britain Heraldic Chess Set
  • Sportsman Trophy Chess Set
  • Star Trek: 25th Anniversary
  • Star Trek: 3-D
  • Star Trek: Official Next Generation Chess Set

There are undoubtedly more. To have been sold at three different times, the Star Trek chess sets must have been particularly popular. I have already described another set in a post titled Peter Ganine and Star Trek.

The Franklin Mint of the late 20th century had a spotty reputation. The phrase 'never been used', mentioned in the description above, is seen in many of the eBay auctions.

13 July 2010


A frequent commentator at both Chessninja.com and Chessvibes.com is mishanp (both of those links retrieve posts where he has left comments), who often quotes from translated Russian sources. It turns out that he has his own blog dedicated to similar interviews: Chess in Translation, 'Russian chess news and interviews in English'. An example:

The Norwegian’s successes really are impressive, but nevertheless they've been achieved mainly against the lower half of the table. So that if we talk about matches against, say, Anand or myself, I'm not sure that Carlsen will be the favourite. But in a tournament his chances are greater – his flexible, malleable style adjusts well to different types of opponents. In that you can see the influence of Kasparov who also, on top of everything else, was capable of "cutting down the tail-enders".

From Kramnik on competing with Carlsen (chessintranslation.com).

12 July 2010

Can't Get There From Here

Continuing with Where to Go From Here?, I added 60 Memorable Fischer Moments to the page about Chess History. There are currently two versions of the Fischer saga. The first is a complete draft version from my notes. The second is an incomplete finished version from copies found in Archive.org.

The reason for the two versions is that I initially loaded a skeleton created offline (the draft version), then completed it using About.com's online content management tools. Those tools split the 60 Fischer bullets into six pages of ten bullets each (to generate more advertising revenue). Archive.org only picked up two of the six pages (the finished version). It was one of the few times I used the online tools to complete an article rather than write everything offline. I should have known better.

09 July 2010

Rainbow Chess

'View of the chess boards in Place Émilie Gamelin'

Chess in the Park © Flickr user dle_wynpa under Creative Commons.

Place Émilie Gamelin, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

08 July 2010

Scid @ Mark's

As I mentioned in Diagram Testing, Testing, 1-2-3, I rely on two types of chess software: (1) to manage chess games and (2) to manage chess engines. While I appreciate that most good programs that do (1) also do (2), I like to keep the functions separate. This lets me work on the notes to a move without interfering with an engine that is calculating a different move.

I recently had good reason to evaluate Scid: A Free Chess Database App. I looked at it a few years ago without being convinced that it could do a better job than the software I was using at the time. This time I came to the conclusion that it was the best alternative.

My requirements are relatively simple. I need to enter moves, variations, and comments in PGN files. I prefer PGN files, which are formatted text files, over proprietary formats because the files can also be manipulated using software that understands text. This is useful for making summaries of PGN headers, for making bulk changes to comments, and for managing transpositions. I also need software that understands the concept of a null move, i.e. where one side skips a move. This is important for threat analysis and for managing games in progress.

Scid handles both PGN files and null moves without too many limitations. I was able to incorporate it into my preferred method of analyzing a chess game without making too many concessions. The package has a few quirks and booby traps that require constant vigilance, but none of these are so serious that I can't work.

Although Scid is marketed as a 'Chess Database App', I haven't yet needed to use it that way. Here I also have a preferred method of working and will try the database functions on a real game as soon as I get the opportunity.

06 July 2010

Diagram Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

Continuing with How I Spent My Summer Vacation, any aspiring chess player and/or chess writer needs chess software. I rely on two programs: (1) to manage chess games and (2) to manage chess engines. Until my old laptop started coughing and wheezing, I was happy with (1) the first version of Chessbase Light (CB4?, 1998) and (2) Arena (see Adventures with Arena & Rybka for more about the engines). On my new laptop I quickly discovered that the old version of CBLight no longer worked under Windows 7, while Arena worked without problems. What to do about CBLight?

The most important functions I need to manage chess games are entering moves & variations, entering comments, and creating diagrams. I also have some need to manage databases of games, but as I become increasingly enchanted by chess960, this requirement is becoming less important. After trying a handful of packages, I settled on Scid. It handles chess moves, variations, and comments well enough (although with several annoying quirks), but what about diagrams?

I worked out an appropriate board size, piece style, and color, but what does it looks like in practice? Here is the first diagram I used on this blog, from a post titled C.J.S. Purdy's Correspondence Skullduggery:

Old Version

And here is the same position created using Scid:

New Version

It looks good on my draft HTML page, but how will it look on Blogspot.com?


Later: The new image size is smaller by 10 pixels on each side, but the border for the notation coordinates is a bit too wide. The most important factor is whether the diagram interferes with grasping the position. In this respect, I think it's satisfactory. • One important difference: the old version is a GIF, while the new version is a JPG. GIFs usually look better with line art, but I couldn't get the image software to work correctly. More work needed...


Even later: Here are JPG and GIF versions...



...The JPG version shows distortions around the pieces, the Black Bishop in particular, and the file size is about 60% larger than the GIF. In the future I'll use the GIF version.

02 July 2010

Chess Wallpaper

There is a big collection of chess images here.

2010 Beautiful Chess Topics Wallpaper (9:58) • 'These are my favorite Wallpaper on Chess Topics.'


First time for everything: After I created the post and played the embedded clip for the first time, I saw a message that appears at the beginning, also for the first time.

This video contains content from Sony Music Entertainment. It is restricted from playback on certain sites. Watch on YouTube.

It turns out that I only see it on my local copy of the post, before copying to Blogger.com.

01 July 2010

Time Is on My Side

Not every item found in Top eBay Chess Items by Price is really about chess. Chess pieces and boards are used to embellish just about any item you can think of and many items you never would have dreamed of.

The auction for watch pictured on the left, titled 'Mens 1920 CHARLES TISSOT Vintage Watch w/ CHESS FIGURES' (pre-owned), received 25 bids and sold for US $900.00. Its description started

TISSOT • UNIQUE AND RARE EXAMPLE OF TIMEPIECE, VERY BEAUTIFUL VINTAGE WATCH CA 1920’s, VERY BEAUTIFUL MECHANICAL WORK • This auction is for vintage timepiece example ca 1920’s gents watch that features DIAL with CHESS FIGURES and CHESS FIELD and 2-x double signed HIGH GRADE MOVEMENT. It was made by the Watch Company of Charles-Félicien Tissot, made in Switzerland.

followed by a history of the Tissot company and a detailed description of the watch:

This timepiece features a DIAL with CHESS FIGURES and CHESS FIELD is in excellent condition. This dial features a 12 hour outer track border with red enameled Arabic numerals, black enameled main Arabic numerals with RED 12, steel Breguet-style hands and a seconds dial with 60 second outer chapter and “sweep” steel seconds hand. Signed TISSOT – ANTIMAGNETIQUE in black enameled lettering below the RED 12 and WHITE CHESS FIGURE. The new dial has been professionally updated, and now is in excellent condition. [...]

How much of the final price was for the Tissot name itself? An expert in watches could probably tell you.