31 May 2011

BBC: The Master Game 1981

Now that I've worked my way through most of Sirb0b1's YouTube clips from BBC: The Master Game 1980, I'd like to move on to the following year.

Group A: Robert Byrne, Svetozar Gligoric, Vlastimil Hort, Nigel Short (15 years old!)

Group B: Jan Hein Donner, Bent Larsen, Tony Miles, Lothar Schmid


  • Short - Miles: Part 1 (displays final scores for both groups), Part 2

Most of the games are presented in a single video.

30 May 2011

The Thread of the Game

Continuing with 1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 11, I had a hard time figuring out what is going on in the diagrammed position. The notes of Capablanca and Kasparov were not particularly helpful on their own, but by considering them together and trying my own ideas, I finally grasped the thread of the game.

Of 32.Nd2, Capablanca wrote, 'This was my sealed move (*) and unquestionably the only move to keep the initiative.' It's clear that White is better. The Black Pawns are split into three islands, with the b- & d-Pawns vulnerable. The Black King is exposed to attack and White has one each of the four pieces, meaning there is lots of opportunity to rearrange the pieces into various attacking configurations. Black's own trumps are the Knight on d5 and the ownership of the c-file.

At this point there is a difference of opinion about how to continue. Black played 32...Nf8, and Capablanca noted, '32...Rc3 would have been met by Qa1', implying that Lasker's move was satisfactory. Kasparov assigned 32...Nf8 a '?!', quoted Lasker ('Better is 32...Rc3! 33.Qa1 Nf8 34.Ne4 Rc7 gaining an important tempo'), and added 'I agree: after 35.g3 White has a marked advantage, but even so not as great as in the game.' • Q: What is this 'important tempo'?

Havana 1921 (g.11)
Lasker, Em.

Capablanca, J.R.
After 32.Nf3-d2

After 32...Nf8, the game continued 33.Ne4, and Capablanca commented,

The White Knight stands now in a very commanding position. Black's game is far more difficult than appears at first glance and I believe that the only good system of defense would have to be based on ...f5, after ...h6, driving back the White Knight. (Q: Why is it so important to 'drive back the White Knight'?)

After a further 33...Qd8, White played 34.h4. Kasparov gave this a '!, preventing ...f5'. Now on 34...Rc7, comes a flurry of remarks by the two World Champions.

Capablanca: 'This might be said to be the losing move. Black had to play ...h6 in order to be ready to continue with ...f5, forcing the White Knight to withdraw.'

Kasparov: 'Playing the Rook onto the 7th rank leads to conceding the c-file.'

Capablanca: 'There is much more than meets the eye in this position. This is a crucial point in the game. Apparently there is not much on either side, yet if Black can save the game it must be done at this point, and the chances are that the only move that may save the situation is 34...h6, threatening to drive the Knight away with ...f5. The situation is most interesting and will repay study.' (Primer of Chess, p.222)

(Q: Why was 34...Rc7 'the losing move'? What's this about 'conceding the c-file'? Why the obsession about 'driving the White Knight away'; what is it threatening?)

Then White played 35.Qb3 and Capablanca noted, 'White's plan consists in getting rid of Black's powerfully posted Knight at d5, which is the key to Black's defense.' Now it all clicked: White will play Bc4 and Nc3, forcing the Knight off d5; that's why control of the c-file was so important. It was also important to kick the Knight off e4 in order to prevent it from going to c3. Once the Black Knight is gone from d5, the e-Pawn becomes vulnerable.

Only three moves have been played on each side since the diagram, but what a lot of chess knowledge was packed into those six moves. Incredible! Now if I could just figure out what was meant by that 'important tempo'...


(*) I'm almost certain that adjournment analysis was frowned on in 1921, but I need to verify this. When did adjournment became fair game for the sort of extensive analysis that disappeared when computers became too strong?

27 May 2011

Isidor Kaufmann

Isidor Kaufmann - The Chess Player © Flickr user Gandalf's Gallery under Creative Commons.

For more about the artist, see Isidor Kaufmann (Izidor Kaufman, 1853 - 1921) on Wikipedia, along with another well known chess image by Kaufmann showing two players.

26 May 2011

Restraint & Overprotection

In my spare time I've been watching the clips from BBC: The Master Game 1980, and have learned quite a bit. The remarks on the following position made a definite impression on me.

BBC Master Game 1980

After 12.Kg1-h1

The following comments were made at 6:25 into the first part of the Browne - Nunn video.

Nunn: I need to continue with my counterplay. I'd like to play ...Rb8 here. It doesn't actually threaten ...b5; he's got too many pieces on it. But it does restrain him a bit. It makes it difficult for him to move his pieces away to other squares. So it looks like the best move: ...Rb8. [Nunn plays the move.]

Browne: This is a good move. I was thinking of playing f4 and then Bf3, but then he'll be able to play ...b5. I guess I'll just have to play Petrosian's move, Ra3 with the idea of possibly coming over to the Kingside with my Rook later.

I'm a big fan of the Benoni and know that the sequence ...Rb8 & ...b5 is a standard idea. What I didn't know was that it incorporates a general principle involving restraint: 'It makes it difficult for him to move his pieces away to other squares'. Browne confirms the strength of the idea in his own comment.

This restraint is the flip side of what Nimzovich called 'overprotection': when several pieces are aimed at a strong point, one of them can afford to abandon the strong point because the other pieces are still doing the job. This leaves considerable flexibility for reorganizing the overprotecting pieces in search of other opportunities. In contrast, 'restraint' reduces the flexibility of the opponent's pieces. Now that I know what to look for, I'll watch for other examples of the same idea.

24 May 2011

Eight Years of the Master Game

After writing the post The Master Game According to Burgess, I went looking for more information about the BBC series. When did it start and when did it end? By piecing together clues from different web sources I found answers to these questions and even managed to locate PGN game scores for the games that were played.

Two books were published about the events : 'The Master Game' by James & Barden (BBC, 1979), and 'The Master Game Book Two' by James & Hartston (BBC, 1981). The 1979 book covered the events from 1975, 1976, and 1977, while the 1981 book covered 1979, 1980, and 1981. There appears to have no event in 1978. A post on Chessforums.org, BBC Master Game, quoted from the first book,

The producer, Robert Toner, in his foreword writes: "I had seen many forms of television chess coverage, but none of them was satisfactory. Pieces would disappear from one square and appear in another, and only experts seemed to be able to follow a game. Also, it was so remote, I felt no involvement with the game or the players. What we needed was direct access into their thoughts, not the high-speed technical thoughts of a chess-playing mind, but thoughts put in such a way that anyone who knew the rules would be able to follow the most complicated game" (p.7) • He certainly succeeded. He also states the programmes were video taped. According to the book a million and a half people watched this programme in Britain.

In 1982, the event moved to Hamburg, and in 1983, its last year, to Bath. GM Keene, writing for the now defunct Chessville.com --

Another tragedy was the 1983 edition of the BBC Master Game. This was won by Tony Miles who dramatically defeated the then World Champion, Anatoly Karpov, in the final. Unfortunately a technicians' strike meant that this fascinating victory for the British grandmaster was never aired.

The winners for the eight events were:-
1975: William Hartston
1976: William Hartston
1977: Anatoly Karpov
1979: Bent Larsen
1980: Lothar Schmid
1981: Nigel Short
1982: Eric Lobron (the same year Karpov won the first FIDE World Cup, which used the Master Game format)
1983: Tony Miles

I've already posted about the fifth season, with links to the YouTube clips, in BBC: The Master Game 1980. Here's a big thanks to the mastermind behind Sirb0b1's Channel, for making these clips available. It's a tremendous service to the chess community.


Later: Thanks to Omega Amigo, who informed me via a comment that I had erred for 1982; see my subsequent post A 'Master Game' Lookalike for a full correction.

23 May 2011

1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 11

The last game in this series titled More Capablanca Annotations,
was played just after the previous game, 1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 10. Capablanca was leading +2-0=8 and Lasker needed a win to retain any real hope for a favorable outcome to the match.

Just like that previous game, I had trouble assigning punctuation to Capablanca's notes, but the present game was even harder. After Black's 13th move, Capablanca wrote, 'I do not consider the system of defense adopted by Dr. Lasker in this game to be any good', without commenting on any of Lasker's preceding moves. The rest of his notes had an air of inevitability implying that the result of the game was a foregone conclusion. I weaseled out of the difficulty by using '!?' and '?!' when I couldn't decide if Capablanca meant that a move was the best of a bad lot or that something better had been overlooked. My interpretation of Capablanca's verbal comments is shown in the following game score along with Kasparov's punctuation from his first volume of 'My Great Predecessors'.

[Event "wcc"]
[Site "Havana"]
[Date "1921.??.??"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Capablanca J"]
[Black "Lasker Em"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 Be7 6.Nc3 O-O 7.Rc1 Re8 {KAS: '?!'} 8.Qc2 {KAS: '!'} 8...c6 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nd5 11.Bxe7 Rxe7 {KAS: '?!'} 12.O-O Nf8 {KAS: '?!'} 13.Rfd1 Bd7 14.e4 Nb6 {CAP: '!?'; KAS: '?!'} 15.Bf1 Rc8 16.b4 {CAP: '!'; KAS: '!'} 16...Be8 17.Qb3 {CAP: '!?'} 17...Rec7 18.a4 Ng6 19.a5 Nd7 20.e5 b6 21.Ne4 Rb8 22.Qc3 {CAP: '?!'} 22...Nf4 23.Nd6 Nd5 24.Qa3 f6 25.Nxe8 {CAP: '!'; KAS: '!'} 25...Qxe8 26.exf6 gxf6 {CAP: '!'} 27.b5 {CAP: '!'} 27...Rbc8 {KAS: '!'} 28.bxc6 Rxc6 29.Rxc6 Rxc6 30.axb6 axb6 31.Re1 {CAP: '?!'} 31...Qc8 32.Nd2 {CAP: '!'; KAS: '!'} 32...Nf8 {CAP: '!'; KAS: '?!'} 33.Ne4 {CAP: '!'} 33...Qd8 34.h4 {KAS: '!'} 34...Rc7 {CAP: '?'} 35.Qb3 {CAP: '!'} 35...Rg7 {KAS: '!'} 36.g3 Ra7 37.Bc4 Ra5 38.Nc3 {KAS: '!'} 38...Nxc3 39.Qxc3 Kf7 40.Qe3 Qd6 41.Qe4 Ra4 {CAP: '!?'; KAS: '?'} 42.Qb7+ Kg6 43.Qc8 {KAS: '?'} 43...Qb4 {KAS: '?'} 44.Rc1 {KAS: '!'} 44...Qe7 {KAS: '?!'} 45.Bd3+ {KAS: '!'} 45...Kh6 46.Rc7 Ra1+ 47.Kg2 Qd6 48.Qxf8+ {KAS: '!'} 1-0

The third and thirteenth World Champions appear to have a difference of opinion on the 14th, 32nd, and 41st moves, so I'll choose from one of those positions in my next post on this game. Again I discovered from Kasparov's notes (quoting Capablanca on his 27th move: 'the exposed position of the Black King is rather inviting') that the Cuban also included the game in his 'Primer of Chess', where his comments are more elaborate than his notes to the book of the match. Google Books has an incomplete copy of the 'Primer', so I'll try to find a complete copy or use what I can. To play through the complete game, see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs Emanuel Lasker; World Championship Match 1921 [g.11]

...on Chessgames.com.

20 May 2011

The Tonight Show with Cory Evans

Jay Leno: 'My first guest, a remarkable young boy, I read about him in the paper the other day. He's a five year old chess champion.'

Cory Evans - Chess Master (9:13) • The United States kindergarten chess champion said, 'There was over five thousand million kids in the tournament.'

Was this the article that caught Leno's attention: Game Boy : At 5, He's Won a Kiddie Chess Title and Can Probably Beat You (LAtimes.com, 7 December 1992)? Elsewhere on the web we learn that Cory is the son of IM Larry D. Evans.

19 May 2011

Pre-Raphaelite Chess

When choosing an item for this fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I always give priority to a painting or drawing, so I was happy to find the work pictured below. The title was 'Chess Victorian Oil Painting by John Ritchie 1857-1875; Pre Raphaelite Artist - Listed to GBP 42,000', where 'listed to' means the artist, not the piece on auction. Whether from fortune hunters, art lovers, or chess aficionados, the painting received 30 bids and sold for GBP 440, which eBay calculated to be 'approximately US $710.42'.

The description said,

A Game of Chess; An Original Oil Painting on Canvas by John Ritchie (fl.1857-1875).

A very fine oil painting on canvas depicting an elegant young couple playing chess in an interior by highly regarded Victorian artist and follower of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood John Ritchie. The painting is a fine example of the artist's genre work. The painting is in very fine condition, the canvas lined in the late 20th century, with some very minor losses upper right and lower right, the paint layer stable and the painting in generally very good condition, clean, attractive and ready to hang. The painting is presented in a modern Victorian style wood and gilt composite frame, the frame with losses lower left otherwise very good. The painting is signed with the artist's monogram lower right and indistinctly dated, possibly 1874.

John Ritchie was one of the committed of followers of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who worked in the sphere which orbited the small group of artists at its core. His experiments in the Pre-Raphaelite vein are extremely rare and indeed it is uncommon to find a painting in private hands. John Ritchie was a short-lived artist whose work showed great promise in the 1860s and early 1870s, a time when British art was experiencing a surge in energy as the influence of Pre-Raphaelitism permeated the younger generation of artists. His work is comparable with that of William Dyce in the late 1850s and early 1860s, with the same clarity of lighting, bright colouring and superb rendering of natural detail.

I'm not sure it's really a chess game. The board appears to be twice as long as it is wide and the woman is resting her elbow on the corner, something you never do with a chess board. If, like me, you don't have a clue what Pre-Raphaelite means, see Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood on Wikipedia.

17 May 2011

The Master Game According to Burgess

After putting together the post titled BBC: The Master Game 1980, I searched for more information about the original series itself. There is a good description of how the series was produced in The Mammoth Book of Chess by Graham Burgess (Robinson, 1997).

How to present chess well on television is no mystery. The best approach was refined and perfected in Britain by BBC2 with their Master Game series. The programmes were cheap to make and got excellent viewing figures. The series was produced as follows.

First, a knockout chess tournament was played. One of the merits of this format is that it discourages draws. Although each game was to form the basis of a half-hour programme, the time limit was similar to that used in normal tournament games. (Why not play good chess, and then show it accelerated, rather than show bad chess in real-time?)

Then the players went to the studio, were given plenty of wine and recounted their thoughts during the game. They were not allowed to cite lengthy variations, but had to describe their idea in words. A re-enactment of critical moments of the game was then filmed. What the viewer saw on screen was a large clear diagram of the board position, with any squares or pieces that were mentioned in the commentary highlighted. The two players were then shown by the side of the board, with their thoughts and commentaries dubbed in.

For club players this provided wonderful insights into how grandmasters and international masters think. The viewing figures were unusually large for the slot when the programme was broadcast -- so large that a good proportion of the viewers must have had only a rudimentary knowledge of the game. Yet they stayed tuned.

To me, this is the way forward for chess on television. The Master Game did not "try to make chess exciting", but rather portrayed the excitement of chess.

The Master Game was axed in the 1980s, and has not since been reinstated. This is apparently due to no one in a position of sufficient power at BBC2 believing in the potential for chess on television -- in spite of the evidence provided by the viewing figures.

The excerpt is from the Burgess chapter 'Chess in the Media' (p.447). I'll have more about the BBC series in a future post.

16 May 2011

Capablanca's Endgame Sense

The sort of verbal analysis I used in Capablanca's Positional Sense, is helpful in the endgame when precise calculation of all variations for many moves ahead is beyond human capacity. Later in that same game -- 1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 10 -- I highlighted a possible divergence between Capablanca and Kasparov in the evaluation of a specific position: '44.Ke2 {CAP: '!?'; KAS: '?'}'.

While I was looking at that I spotted a couple of other points worth noting. First, there is a discrepancy in the moves of the game given by Capablanca and given by Kasparov. The Cuban's book on the match and his Primer both give the move 41.Ne3, while Kasparov gives 41.Nc3. The next few moves are the same in all sources, the lines reconverge with 43.Nd1, and I couldn't see any significant deviations into sidelines, so I don't think the difference is too important.

More important is the evaluation of the position in the first diagram. Kasparov assigns the next two moves a '!', 43.Nd1! (setting a trap) and 43...Rb1! (avoiding the trap), where the trap is 43...Nb4 44.Rd2 Rb1 45.Nb2 Rxb2 46.Rxb2 Nd3+ 47.Ke2 Nxb2 48.Kd2. The trap is also given by Capablanca. The engine disagrees with this, pointing out that by playing 45...Nc6, instead of 45...Rxb2, Blacks wins a Pawn and keeps the superior position. By a significant margin the engine prefers several moves over 43.Nd1, for example 43.h4, where White avoids the immediate loss of a Pawn and carries on with the grim defense. As no one has given alternatives to 43.Nd1, this merits further analysis.

After 43.Nd1 Rb1, we arrive at the position where Lasker played 44.Ke2. Kasparov wrote,

Finally White blunders a Pawn. Of course, more tenacious was 44.Ke1 Na5 45.Kd2 Rxb3 46.Rxb3 Nxb3+ 47.Kc3 "with drawing chances in view of the insignificant amount of material remaining on the board", (Panov) although objectively this Knight endgame a Pawn down is also lost (Knight endgames being like Pawn endgames).

In his notes to the match, Capablanca commented on 44.Ke2, 'Not a mistake, but played deliberately. White had no way to protect his b-Pawn', and in his Primer gave the same variation up to 46...Nxb3+. He concluded that 'there would have resulted a rather difficult Knight ending, which should nevertheless be won for Black.'

The second diagram shows the position after 46...Nxb3+ in the variation given by both Kasparov ('this Knight endgame a Pawn down is also lost') and Capablanca ('a rather difficult Knight ending, which should nevertheless be won for Black'). The difference between the game's 44.Ke2, and the suggested 44.Ke1, is that the Rooks stayed on the board in the game. In 'Endgame Strategy', Shereshevsky wrote,

[White] should have aimed for the exchange of Rooks, since in the Knight ending Black would have encountered certain technical difficulties, in view of the limited number of Pawns. Correct was 44.Ke1, with drawing chances.

Is the second diagram a draw or a win for Black? I spent some time analyzing the position and failed to find a definite path to victory, so this also merits further analysis. The simplest chess positions can sometimes be the most difficult to understand.

13 May 2011

Bishop Pair?

Or maybe they're Siamese twins, or Hindu deities.

Twins © Flickr user 1llustr4t0r under Creative Commons.

The caption said, 'Part of mural at Northcote Telstra Exchange, Melbourne.'

12 May 2011

BBC: The Master Game 1980

Judging from the number of views I get on a post from a year ago -- BBC: The Master Game -- featuring a pair of Karpov - Spassky games from the 1982 Master Game series, there is a lot of interest in these videos. Since that post, many more clips from the BBC series have been uploaded to Youtube. How many? I decided to spend some time finding out.

Here are links to the clips for the 1980 series, all from YouTube - Sirb0b1's Channel. The presenters are Jeremy James and Bill Hartston. Two of the videos, marked with '(*)', display crosstables for groups A and B, with four players each. The winners of the two groups met in a final.

Group A: Walter Browne, Vlastimil Hort, John Nunn, Helmut Pfleger

Group B: Robert Byrne, Victor Korchnoi, Lothar Schmid, Michael Stean


I didn't double check all of the links, so if you find an error please let me know via a comment or an email (address on my profile).


Later: This appeared in Here It Is: Sixth Chess Improvement Blog Carnivàle!.

10 May 2011

Drifting vs. Maneuvering

A few months ago, in a post titled Learn from Your Engines?, I discovered that I lost a game because I had been slowly outplayed over the course of twenty moves. A comment to the post called this phenomenon 'drifting', where 'the evaluation will slowly drift from equal to lost for one side'. That is indeed what happened in my game.

A few years ago, I started a series of posts on the theme of Elastic Maneuvering. While I never succeeded in defining this concept, it's clear that there is a direct connection between drifting and maneuvering. One side maneuvers while the other drifts until a once equal position is no longer equal.


Returning to the theme of Learn from Your Engines?, I went back to my post Learn from Your Losses?, and selected another game for analysis by Houdini. This time the game was Weeks - Miettinen, a Closed Lopez, Worrall Attack, played in the same correspondence event as the game from the Engines? post.

The first diagram shows the position just after Black, who was rated about 100 points above me, offered a draw. I declined the offer, because it was the second (quarterfinal) stage of a multi-stage qualification event and I needed a win to have any chance to qualify for the semifinal stage. As things turned out, I ended up with my worst result ever in a correspondence tournament, finishing +1-4=1, where my only win was a forfeit.

Even if the game hadn't been important for qualification, I would have declined anyway. Most of the pieces are still on the board, and if I'm going to accept a draw in this sort of position, I might as well not play at all. Black's b-Pawn has become detached from rest of the Black Pawns and White has chances to win it. As compensation, Black has the Bishop pair, but the closed center renders them less effective.

The second diagram shows the position where Houdini says I went astray. After some maneuvering White has captured the b-Pawn, but the capturing Knight is caught in an awkward network of pins and potential pins. White's problem is to extricate the piece without exposing the King to attack. After considerable analysis and still unsure what to do, I continued 50.Bh4, underestimating the strength of 50...g5, which gave Black a winning game only five moves later.

Houdini indicates that 50.Kg2 is a better move. Defensively, the King strengthens the White squares on the exposed Kingside and prepares to counter any raids by the Black Queen. Offensively, it prepares a subsequent Qh3 as an offer to swap Queens, thereby removing the most dangerous pin on the b3-Knight. Houdini's move requires more analysis than I can give it for this blog post, but White is not going to end up with a lost position after five more moves.

09 May 2011

Capablanca's Positional Sense

Continuing with 1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 10, I've remarked several times on the lightweight nature of Capablanca's notes to his games. When he does add notes to a move, they are long on positional considerations and short on variations. Here is a good example of his notes to the critical turning point of the game, starting from the diagram.


Probably White's first mistake. He wants to take a good defensive position, but he should instead have counter-attacked with Na4 and Rc5.

23...Rd5 24.Rxd5 cxd5

Black has now the open file and his Queenside Pawn position is very solid, while White has a weak d-Pawn. The apparently weak Black a-Pawn is not actually weak because White has no way to attack it.

Note that White has three Pawn islands to Black's two.

Havana 1921 (g.10)
Capablanca, J.R.

Lasker, Em.
After 22...Rf8-d8

25.Qd2 Nf5 26.b3

In order to free the Queen from the defense of the b-Pawn and also to prevent Rc4 at any stage.


In order to prevent g4 at a later stage. Also to make a demonstration on the Kingside, prepatory to further operations on the other side.


Weak, but White wants to be ready to play g4.


To tie up White's King side. Later on it will be seen that White is compelled to play g4 and thus further weaken his game.

Why will White be compelled to play g4? The moves take us too far from the starting diagram, but once the Black Rook gets to its 8th rank, the White King on h2 will be excluded from the play. What long range vision Capablanca had!

06 May 2011

Big Bang Chess

Remember 'Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Chess'? How could these guys possibly improve on that?

The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon's Three Person Chess (1:54) • 'Sheldon explains to Leonard how he made three person chess work.'

More: Sheldon, Leonard, and Howard play three person chess complete with catapults, gorillas, transporters, golf carts, time machines, beekeepers, popes and jetpacks.

05 May 2011

Wereldkampioenschap Schaken 1948

In this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I don't often choose a book. One reason is that chess books don't sell as often as you might think in the same price range as sought-after chess sets or chess computers. Another reason is that the images accompanying a book usually aren't at all interesting. The book I've chosen for this fortnight's post is an exception.

Its title said, 'CHESS; The Hague - Moscow 1948', obviously referring to the 1948 FIDE World Championship Title Tournament, won by Botvinnik. It received 11 bids and finally sold for US $483.99. What made the book particularly valuable was that it was signed by all five participants, as shown in the following photo.

The description of the book said,

Wereld - Kampioenschap Schaken Lochem 1948; ed by Max Euwe; 252 p; publishers gilt cloth; original dustjacket; 26 x 18 cm; with 12 full page photos; printed on special thick paper; with original signatures of all five participants (Botvinnik, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, Smyslov); book in mint condition.

I happen to have a copy of the book for which I paid a lot less than $483.99. That's partly because my copy isn't in mint condition and largely because it doesn't have any signatures. The signature page shown above has been inserted between pages four and five of the original book. It's also worth mentioning that my copy has a different dusk jacket -- mine is colored -- and a different cover, beige instead of the eBay item's blue. It's useful to know that it has '12 full page photos'. I never counted them.

03 May 2011

Me, Myself, and I

On vacations I always take along two books to read: one chess book and one non-chess book. For my most recent vacation, I selected Kasparov's 'How Life Imitates Chess'. Whether or not you've read the book, here's a pop quiz for you. The book is about (select one):-

a) Kasparov
b) Life
c) Chess
d) All of the above

Before I read the book, and based on a few reviews around the time it was published, I would have guessed (b), it's about life. Going by the author & title, many people would choose (d), it's about all of the above. In fact, the correct answer is (a), it's about Kasparov, i.e. Kasparov's favorite word is 'I', with 'me', 'my', and 'mine' as runners-up.

I was reminded of this while re-reading Sosonko's 'Russian Silhouettes', where the Russian / Dutch GM mentions the "'I', 'I', 'I', with which every second sentence of Kasparov begins". Here are some examples from 'Imitates' of first sentences in key chapters.

Preface: 'On 11 October 2007, I gave a presentation...' • Opening Gambit (the introduction): 'I was a teenage chess star...' • Chapter 1: 'When I first played for the chess World Championship...' [...] • Endgame: (after the last chapter): 'On 10 March 2005, I played my last professional game of chess...'

Once you come to terms with that, the book is excellent. And, yes, there is also a fair amount of c) 'Chess' in the book. Recommended.


Here's another quote from Sosonko's book, where Botvinnik is speaking:

With whom would I like to remain on a desert island, Karpov or Kasparov? I would say this: I now have quite good relations with Karpov. But if I had to choose between Karpov the champion and Kasparov the champion, I would prefer to remain alone on this desert island.

In other words, 'This island ain't big enough for the both of us.' Which World Champion had the smallest ego?

02 May 2011

1921 Capablanca - Lasker, Game 10

The second game in this mini-series on More Capablanca Annotations is game ten from the 1921 Capablanca - Lasker Title Match and game 90 in Kasparov's Predecessors I. With the score +1-0=4 in Capablanca's favor after Game 5, there were four more draws. Game ten was a classic endgame that is quoted in many books specializing on that phase of the game. Years ago, when I first played through it, I was amazed at how Lasker's position crumbled in the face of Capablanca's lengthy maneuvers.

There are many points in the game worthy of examination, but I'm particularly interested in differences of opinion between Capablanca and Kasparov. As I mentioned in 'More Capablanca Annotations',

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.

The only way to overcome point (1) was to assign punctuation according to Capablanca's notes. I came up with the following, shown along with Kasparov's punctuation.

[Event "wcc"]
[Site "Havana"]
[Date "1921.??.??"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Lasker Em"]
[Black "Capablanca J"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 O-O 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.Qc2 c5 {KAS: '!'} 8.Rd1 Qa5 9.Bd3 h6 10.Bh4 cxd4 11.exd4 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Nb6 13.Bb3 Bd7 14.O-O Rac8 15.Ne5 Bb5 {CAP: '!'} 16.Rfe1 Nbd5 17.Bxd5 {KAS: '?'} 17...Nxd5 18.Bxe7 Nxe7 19.Qb3 Bc6 20.Nxc6 bxc6 21.Re5 Qb6 22.Qc2 Rfd8 23.Ne2 {CAP: '?'; KAS: '?'} 23...Rd5 {KAS: '!'} 24.Rxd5 cxd5 25.Qd2 Nf5 26.b3 {KAS: '?!'} 26...h5 {CAP: '!'} 27.h3 {CAP: '?'; KAS: '?'} 27...h4 {CAP: '!'; KAS: '!'} 28.Qd3 Rc6 29.Kf1 g6 30.Qb1 Qb4 31.Kg1 {CAP: '?!'} 31...a5 {KAS: '!'} 32.Qb2 a4 {CAP: '!'} 33.Qd2 Qxd2 34.Rxd2 axb3 35.axb3 Rb6 {CAP: '!'; KAS: '!'} 36.Rd3 Ra6 {KAS: '!'} 37.g4 hxg3 38.fxg3 Ra2 39.Nc3 Rc2 40.Nd1 Ne7 41.Nc3 Rc1+ 42.Kf2 Nc6 43.Nd1 {KAS: '!'} 43...Rb1 {KAS: '!'} 44.Ke2 {CAP: '!?'; KAS: '?'} 44...Rxb3 {KAS: '!'} 45.Ke3 Rb4 {KAS: '!'} 46.Nc3 Ne7 47.Ne2 Nf5+ 48.Kf2 g5 49.g4 Nd6 50.Ng1 Ne4+ 51.Kf1 Rb1+ 52.Kg2 Rb2+ 53.Kf1 Rf2+ 54.Ke1 Ra2 55.Kf1 Kg7 56.Re3 Kg6 57.Rd3 f6 58.Re3 Kf7 59.Rd3 Ke7 60.Re3 Kd6 61.Rd3 Rf2+ 62.Ke1 Rg2 63.Kf1 Ra2 64.Re3 e5 {CAP: '!'} 65.Rd3 exd4 66.Rxd4 Kc5 67.Rd1 d4 68.Rc1+ Kd5 0-1

Since the punctuation of the two World Champions compares fairly well, I think my approach is usable, and since the only real difference of opinion is on 44.Ke2, I'll look at that move in another post.

While looking at Kasparov's notes, I was surprised that he quoted Capablanca a few times, which contradicts my point (2) above. Moreover, although the quotes were not in the Cuban's notes to the 1921 match, they sounded familiar to me. A web search on one of the quotes ('against one of the strongest players the world has ever seen') revealed that Capablanca also annotated the game in his 'Primer of Chess', which I read long ago and which was likely my introduction to the game.

Against Capablanca's notes to 54...Ra2, I also found a familiar phrase -- 'All these moves have a meaning. The student should carefully study them' -- the same key phrase behind my series on Capablanca's Games 'To be studied very carefully'. To play through the complete game, see...

Emanuel Lasker vs Jose Raul Capablanca; World Championship Match 1921 [g.10]

...on Chessgames.com.