29 April 2011

Cathedral Square, Christchurch

Chess, Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand 2005 © Flickr user kdewhunter under Creative Commons.

This is a nice photo of the Chess Set Available for Use, here shown actually in use. For more images of the lovely cathedral, which was badly damaged in the earthquake of 22 February earlier this year, see Christchurch Cathedral on Google Images.

28 April 2011

Tablebase 1 - Capablanca ½

The endgame in 1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 5, plus the endgame from the next game in that series (game 10 of the same match), prompted me to look at other Capablanca endgames. My favorite resource for doing that is 'Capablanca's Best Chess Endings' by Irving Chernev, containing 60 complete games with an emphasis on endgame play. Janowsky is the opponent who appears most often in the book, losing every time, but he missed a draw in Chernev's game no.24, where a few moves earlier Capablanca had overlooked a theoretical win.

In the diagrammed position, White has just captured a Pawn on b4, leaving six pieces on the board and sending the game into the domain of the endgame tablebases. The players continued 80...Bd8 81.Bc3+ Kxg6, and after a further 82.b4 Kf5 83.Kd5, Janowsky resigned. Here Chernev quotes some analysis by Cheron & Averbakh showing that, at the moment of resignation, Janowsky had a draw in hand with 83...Kf4 84.Bd4 Kf3 85.b5 Ke2 86.Kc6 Kd3 87.Bb6 Bg5 88.Kb7 Kc4 89.Ka6 Kb3 90.Bf2 Bd8 91.Be1 Ka4. This is confirmed by the tablebase.

The drawing procedure involves realizing that the main battle will be to move the b-Pawn through the critical square b6. To do this, White must have the Pawn on b5 and the King on a6, then play Ba5. This forces the Black Bishop off the a5-d8 diagonal, allowing the b-Pawn to march unhindered to the promotion square b8. The drawing sequence demonstrated by Cheron & Averbakh shows that Black has just enough time to play the King to a4, thereby preventing Ba5 and securing the draw.

New York 1916
Janowsky, D.

Capablanca, J.R.
After 80.Bd2-b4(xP)

What Chernev didn't point out, but the tablebase finds immediately, is that Capablanca's 81.Bc3+ is a mistake that throws away the win. If White plays instead 81.Be1, Black lacks an important tempo attacking the Bishop while the King travels from g6 to a4. The move 81.Bd2 also wins because it prevents the Black King from passing through f4; the extra tempo is enough to make the Black King arrive one move too late on the Queenside. Correct play is thus a close counting exercise : how many moves for White to set up the winning formation vs. how many moves for Black to prevent it.

To play through the complete game, see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs David Janowski; New York 1916

...on Chessgames.com, where one of the kibitzers also comments on the tablebase's discovery.

26 April 2011

CJA 2011 Awards

In the past few years, the group Chess Journalists of America (CJA) has fallen on hard times. CJA President Jerry Hanken died in October 2009, and CJA Editor John Hillery died in September 2010. The group's quarterly magazine, The Chess Journalist, hasn't appeared since July 2010, which was the publication date for the March 2010 issue. The last time I wrote about the CJA, 'It Speaks Volumes', was for the 2010 CJA awards, when its most prestigious award, 'Chess Journalist of the Year', was presented by default after receiving only a single nomination.

The string of bad luck hasn't stopped the CJA from continuing with its annual award program, announced on the home page of its web site, Chessjournalism.org: see also 2011 Awards Program Instructions [PDF] and Award Schedule. Worth noting is that 'Journalist of the Year' will not be awarded unless at least two entries are received. For some reason, the PDF file doesn't allow copy, so here is a snapshot of the paragraph pertaining to blogs.

If you think you have a great chess blog, here's your chance to prove it.

25 April 2011

1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 5

The first game in this mini-series on More Capablanca Annotations is game five from the 1921 Capablanca - Lasker Title Match (game 89 in Kasparov's Predecessors I), where the first four games were all drawn. In the fifth game, Lasker found himself in a difficult position and on his 16th move sacrificed the exchange for a Pawn and an attack. Of the ensuing play, Capablanca wrote,

[After 21.Kf1] The play was extremely difficult. I probably did not find the best system of defense. I can not yet tell which was the best defense here, but it is my belief that with the best play White should win.

He forced the exchange of a pair of Rooks, leaving him with Queen and Rook against Queen and Knight. A few moves later the game reached the diagrammed position.

Havana 1921 (g.5)
Lasker, Em.

Capablanca, J.R.
After 31.h2-h4

Of Black's 31...gxh4, Capablanca noted,

This was Lasker's sealed move. It was not the best. His chance to draw was to play 31...Kg6. Any other continuation should lose.

He gave no variations to support his opinion. In fact, he gave no variations in any of his ten notes to the game. Kasparov's note to 31...gxh4, quoting Lasker, is more helpful.

It is usual to attach a "?" to this move. "31...Kg6 was better. Then if 32.hxg5 Ne4 33.Qd3 Qg4+ 34.Rg2 Qh4 35.Qb1 Kg7, the Pawn at g5 falls and Black has a good position" [Lasker].

At first sight here it is indeed impossible to convert the exchange advantage: the White King is exposed, and Black's Queen and Knight dominate. And yet White has a way to gain an advantage: 36.Qd1 Kg6 37.Qf3! (threatening Qf4) 37...Nxg5 38.Qg3, with good winning chances. So that 31...Kg6 was by no means better than the move in the game.

What does the engine say? First, it favors three moves over all others, with 31...h6 a definite favorite before both the game continuation 31...gxh4, and the suggested alternative 31...Kg6. After 31...h6, White has 32.h5, and Black has no way to break the pin of the Knight. In the time I had to look at the position, I couldn't determine how White should continue, but I'll trust the judgement of Capablanca, Lasker, and Kasparov, and assume that there is an obvious winning procedure.

As for the game continuation 31...gxh4, Capablanca and Kasparov agree that after the next moves 32.Qxh4 Ng4 33.Qg5+ Kf8, Capablanca's 34.Rf5 was not the best. The move 34.Rd2 was better. Kasparov again quotes Lasker -- '34.Rd2! was very strong. 34...f6 must be played and Black's King becomes exposed to attack.' -- without adding any additional comments of his own, except to give the next move, 35.Qf4. Black's problem is that White can eventually force a Queen swap, after which the Knight is no match for the Rook with Pawns on both the Kingside and Queenside.

That leaves 31...Kg6. The engine agrees with Kasparov's analysis, except after 37.Qf3!, it attempts to improve with 37...Qe1+, instead of 37...Nxg5. This lets Black prolong the game, but the constant threat of a Queen exchange again leaves Black without a solid defense.

Now if I could only understand the procedure after 31...h6, I would understand the diagrammed position. To play through the complete game, see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs Emanuel Lasker; World Championship Match 1921 [g.5]

...on Chessgames.com. The comments there point out another curious aspect of the game: a triple repetition on Black's 34th, 36th, and 38th moves, unclaimed by either player.


Later: This appeared in Chess Improvement Carnival V: The Jedi Knight School Edition.

22 April 2011

Robot Chess Army

I've already used several robot clips for Video Friday, but this one is different.

A Monster Robot Chess Army (8:49) • 'A Monster Robot Chess Army Based On LEGO's Latest Technology.'

See also Cool Robots (CoolRobots.net) and previous robot clips on CFAA:-

This latest edition to the series reminds me of a short story I once read where all the pieces on the board come to life late at night.

21 April 2011

Prattware Pot Lids

The item shown in the image, titled 'Prattware Pot Lid FALSE MOVE Bishop Plays Chess COMICAL', was far from the the most expensive chess item sold on eBay during the preceding fortnight, but it was certainly the most unusual. It received 18 bids and sold for US $485.00.

Its description said,

I believe this is one of the harder to find Prattware pot lids. It is titled "False Move" and a man plays chess with what looks like a Bishop or some clerical man in robes. The quotes to the comical scene are "Check to your Queen, John" and John responds, "Pooh, Pooh - Your Bishop is out of his place man."

This would have been made in the Staffordshire region of England in the mid 19th century. This is a larger lid, with an old frame. The frame is just shy of 7" at about 6 7/8". So the lid is about 5 1/4" wide. This is in very nice condition with no visible chips, cracks or repair. Of course, I can't see behind the backing of the frame. It is beautifully and tightly mounted, so I don't want to disturb things. But I would think it was fine. There are no scratches or wear to the surface, just typical glaze crazing. The frame is in very nice condition too, with no chips, cracks or repair, just a bit of scuffing to high spots.

For more images related to 'Prattware pot lids', see Google Images.


When I first started this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, it was meant to be a stopgap.

For the next month or so, my time for blogging is going to be extremely limited, but I'm reluctant to stop completely. Instead, I'll concentrate on topics that don't take much effort, like photos and videos. Another area that requires minimum effort is eBay.

Not being a collector, I've learned a lot by posting on objects about which I had little knowledge. On top of that, my stats tell me that the posts in the series make up half of my top-10 posts of all time. Since it looks like many people, probably chess collectors, are interested in this sort of thing, I'll continue the series until I run out of interesting items on which to comment.

19 April 2011

My 1000th CFAA Post

Blogger: Dashboard tells me that this is my 1000th post for this blog, which is some sort of milestone. It's taken me almost five years to reach this number, so it's a safe bet that I won't be seeing 10.000 posts. A year ago today, in a post titled Apples to Apples, I did a comparison of my five distinct chess resources, along with a follow-up in Adsense and Sensibility. The results are in the following graphic, with an explanation in that Apples post.

It's a good time to make another comparison, especially since I haven't added anything to the About.com material since September 2010: About Face to Fischer (and Larsen). Here are similar numbers for the six most recent full months, again using the most popular resource as a baseline for the others.

The resource m-w.com/chess (my World Chess Championship site) itself showed a 10% increase in page views over the previous period, indicating that all resources are trending up.


In reality, the post that you are currently reading is only number 999. My 'oldest' post was a test of the earliest acceptable blog date, which is 1/1/2000. Just now I tried changing the date on that post and discovered that 'The post date must be between Jan. 1, 1970 and Dec. 31, 9999'. When I set it to 'Jan. 1, 1970', the year didn't appear in the Blog Archive, so I restored the date to 'Jan. 1, 2000', where the year does appear in the archive. My next post will be the real number 1000.

18 April 2011

More Capablanca Annotations

My post titled A Capablanca Brilliancy Dissected was the last in the series on Capablanca's Games 'To be studied very carefully'. After researching and writing that series, I'm convinced that when the Cuban World Champion recommended that his moves 'be studied very carefully', he wanted to avoid annotating them himself. It was his equivalent of saying 'the following moves are a matter of technique', where his technique was impeccable and worth studying. When I launched this latest series of posts in More Capablanca, I mentioned a second source of Capablanca's notes.

I'll compare Capablanca's annotations to his 1921 match with Lasker against the notes for games from that match selected by Kasparov for Predecessors I: games 5, 10, & 11. Kasparov seems to have overlooked that Capablanca wrote notes to the games, and since their annotation styles are opposite -- minimal for Capablanca, detailed for Kasparov -- I might learn a thing or two.

When I did a similar exercise for Fischer and Kasparov, 18 Memorable Games, Full Circle, it was easy to compare the notes of the two because Kasparov often incorporated Fischer's comments in full. To locate differences of opinion required comparing punctuation and identifying obvious discrepancies, e.g. Kasparov's '?!' vs. Fischer's '!'. Comparing Capablanca's notes to Kasparov's proved to be more difficult because (1) Capablanca didn't use punctuation, and (2) Kasparov never referred to Capablanca's notes.

My source for Capablanca's notes is 'World's Championship Matches, 1921 and 1927' (Dover 1977; see the book's page on Amazon.com for details), ostensibly by Capablanca, but according to the copyright page, 'an unabridged republication' of two books published in the 1920s, one by Capablanca, one by Yates and W.Winter. I'll tackle game five of the 1921 match in my next post.

08 April 2011

Octopus Takes Rook

There wasn't much information attached to this photo.

Hastings March 2011 © Flickr user nogbad the bad under Creative Commons.

Another Flickr photo -- Crazy Chess Octopus -- marked 'All Rights Reserved' meaning I couldn't use it, said,

Metal sculptor, Leigh Dyer who welded the Radiator Arts' Crazy Bikes also created these fantastic pieces that live in the Chess Square, George Street, Hastings Old Town.

and linked to metal-sculpture.blogspot.com, 'Contemporary metal art by metal sculptor Leigh Dyer'.

07 April 2011

Chess Paintings Require Dogs

The last time I featured a painting in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, was more than six months ago, in Cavaliers or Conquistadors?, because they just don't appear very often. The title of this particular image was '19C LADY GENT CHESS PLAY PAINTING BESSON LISTED FRENCH', and although I thought I had seen it before, the 7 bids and winning bid of US $550 convinced me that I must be mistaken.

The description said,

Finest quality! CLASSICAL late 19th Century genre painting of a Lady and a Gent playing chess outdoor by well listed French artist Faustin Besson (1821-1882) signed by artist in LR. • Media: Oil on beveled oak board, nice antique frame, size: 8 by 6 inches, the painting framed is about 14 by 12 inches, in pretty good antique shape. No restoration, clean and beautiful! The painting may have just a few very minor rim nicks and scratches - nothing to disturb the beauty!

For more by the same artist, see About 5,590 results : Faustin Besson.

05 April 2011

Another Larry Disappears

I've been a follower, if not a fan, of Larry Parr for as long as I've been following chess on the Internet, and was saddened to learn of his recent death: Larry Parr 1946-2011 (Chessninja.com). Editor of Chess Life (CL) from 1985 to 1988, Parr was an excellent writer and had an insider's knowledge of USCF politics and personalities. His last article for CL was an obituary for his good friend Larry Evans, The Grandmaster Who Did It His Way (USchess.org):

GM Evans was arguably the most versatile figure in American chess history. If Siegbert Tarrasch enjoyed the title, Praeceptor Germaniae, then Larry Evans was the Chess Teacher of America.

Through sheer force of habit, I visit rec.games.chess (rgc) once in a while to catch up on any interesting discussions. Today I found The rumor of my death is somewhat exaggerated or premature, signed parrthenon@cs.com. Parrthenon is an rgc nickname for Parr, but the post turned out to be the sort of tasteless joke that has turned rgc into a colossal waste of bandwidth.

Parr's occasional posts were one of the main reasons I kept returning to rgc. Although there will be no more from Parrthenon, his legacy lives on in the rgc archives:-

While preparing this post I encountered a few of Parrthenon's rgc posts that I had enjoyed in the past.

There are many more. Thanks, Larry! RIP.

04 April 2011

A Capablanca Brilliancy Dissected

The second game in my series titled More Capablanca, which is the second and last series on Capablanca's Games 'To be studied very carefully', is Corzo - Capablanca, Havana 1913, an eight player, double round robin. The game is mentioned in the book World Chess Champions (Pergamon 1981), where E.G.Winter both served as editor and wrote the chapter on Capablanca.

For the first time in his life [Capablanca] lost two games in the same event (to Janowsky and Marshall). He was placed second, half a point behind the United States champion, but won the brilliancy prize for his magnificent first-round victory over his old rival Corzo. He then wrote Torneo Internacional de la Habana 1913, annotating all fifty-six games played. (p.56)

Of his 10th move, Capablanca wrote, 'With this move Black obtains the attack [...] From now on there are a series of brilliant moves which should be very carefully studied.' As with many brilliancies, it took some cooperation from the opponent. To illustrate this, I'll use a double diagram starting with White's 15th move. White played 15.Bd4, and Capablanca commented, 'Excellent, for eight moves at least, White plays perfectly in a most difficult position.' He answered 15...g5, awarded himself a '!', and mentioned that the move was 'The only way to keep up the attack and obtain the upper hand'.

The engine, for its part, calculates that instead of 15.Bd4, both 15.Bc1 and 15.Bd3 are stronger. The move 15.Bc1 pins the Knight on the e-file, protects the b-Pawn, and stops ...g5. A sample variation is 15...c6 16.Bd3 cxd5 17.cxd5 Rc8 18.h3, where both White and Black have trouble activating the Kingside Rook, and Black has no attack on the e-file. After 15.Bd4, the game continued 15...g5!, bringing the Rook into the attack, then 16.Bxg7+ Rxg7 17.Nd4 Bd7 18.f5 Qe5 19.Qd3 Re8 20.Ne6+ fxe6 21.fxe6 Rxe6! 22.dxe6 Bc6, reached the second diagram.

In the position from the lower diagram, White played 23.Qf3+, and found himself in trouble after 23...Qf4!. Here the engine diverges again, suggesting 23.b4. With that move, White protects the b-Pawn and threatens b4-b5, winning the Knight. Black avoids the worst with 23...Qf4 24.Qd4 Nf6 25.Qb2 Be4 26.g3 Qe5 27.Qxe5 dxe5 28.Bg2 Bxg2 29.Kxg2 e4, but ends up with only one Pawn for the exchange and a struggle for a draw.

When Capablanca advised us that his moves should be 'be studied very carefully', little did he imagine that we would one day have mechanical GMs capable of understanding and improving the moves of both players. To play through the complete game, see...

Juan Corzo vs Jose Raul Capablanca; Havana 1913

...on Chessgames.com.

01 April 2011

The Most Instructive Chess Video of All Time

'First, I just want to show you how awesome this plant is...'

Scholars Mate Preventing + How to do the move (7:21) • 'How to get checkmate in 4 moves.'

'...Don't do this if the person goes to, like, some chess camp or has, like, this chess class.'