29 July 2011

Heisman on Shindig

This post isn't an endorsement of anything mentioned below. I just liked the clip.

NM Dan Heisman on ShindigChess: Books and Puzzles (Part 1) (12:08) • 'Dan Heisman is a National Master of chess and a world renowned author of chess improvement books. In this video, he describes his 10 books and goes through his favorite puzzle.'

As for ShindigChess.com, I couldn't view it because my Adobe Flash Player isn't at the right level. Maybe I'll upgrade it later...

28 July 2011

BCM, Aljechin, Lord of the Rings, Fattorini, and a Pretty Face

Whenever I start to prepare the latest edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I'm usually presented with zero, one, or two candidate items. Zero items means I have to choose something that I normally wouldn't consider, when an unusual chess set always comes to the rescue; one item means the choice is obvious; and two items mean flipping a coin. Once in a while I'm presented with many items, as in last year's post titled White Christmas on Ebay. This current post is another White Christmas. Here are the candidate items I considered, but didn't use.

One choice involved six full year sets of the British Chess Magazine (BCM) from the 19th century, each set sold separately. The set for the year 1883 sold for US $177.50, the year 1885 for $610.00, 1886 for $356.79, 1887 for $685.00, 1888 for $861.00, and 1889 for $800.00; there was no auction for the year 1884. Why the big price swings? The year 1883 was missing one month, while 1886 was the only set not listed in 'very good' condition.

The seller of the BCM sets hit the jackpot once more with an item titled 'Aljechin - manuscript "Drei Schachpartien" 1921', which received 12 bids and sold for US $760. The description said, 'This item consists of the Text part 6 foliosheets (text on rectos only) and the Games part 4 folio sheets (text on both sides). All are original carbon copies June 1921. The textpart with the name Alexander Aljechin at the end is typed, but place and date ("Berlin Juni 1921") are an original in Aljechins typical handwriting pencilled under his name.' As almost everyone knows, Aljechin = Alekhine, the fourth World Champion and a prolific writer.

I also spotted seven 'Lord of the Rings' chess sets, each one selling for $600 or more. Even more curiously, I counted four different sets among the seven. How many distinct 'Lord of the Rings' sets are out there? I'd like to come back to this question in a future post.

The most expensive item I considered was a Fattorini chess clock. It received 31 bids from 12 different bidders and sold for GBP 2,250 ('approximately US $3,676.50', according to eBay). The White Christmas post also mentioned a clock by Fattorini & Sons, which sold for far less than the current clock.

Despite all of those excellent choices, I finally selected the item that offered the best visual presentation, pictured below. It sold on 'Best Offer' for US $1,100.

Its description said,

This listing is for a beautiful framed antique oil on canvas painting of a young woman playing a game of chess with an older gentleman and a younger man observing the match. The painting is beautifully hand painted with intricate details and initialed "F.B.". We believe the painting to have been painted by "Frederick Bacon Barwell, active 1855-1897. The canvas is in very good condition showing normal signs of age only with no chips or flaking.

I guess I'm just a sucker for a pretty face.

26 July 2011

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

If the brains behind the Streatham & Brixton blog ever decide to expand their series on Bad Book Covers to include magazine covers, then I nominate the Winter 2011 issue of the CJA's Chess Journalist, shown here.

Yes, the CJA's flagship publication has started appearing again after the untimely death last year of its former editor, John Hillery, whose photo graced the cover of the June/Sept 2010 issue of the same magazine. Both of the latest issues are available as PDFs on the index page for the The Chess Journalist (ChessJournalism.org).

Teasing aside, the CJA has been hit hard over the past two years, starting with the death of CJA President Jerry Hanken in October 2009. It's a credit to the new interim editor that the quarterly journal has been published at all, even if he was responsible for that awful cover art -- 'Cover design by Mark N. Taylor' -- with its novel use of chess pieces as teeth. I'd say it's even worse than the Ghostly Fischer Images that I spotted last year.

When it comes to chess art, be careful what you say. One of S&B's posts, Bad book covers XVII, ruffled the publisher's feathers: NEGATIVE COMMENTS ABOUT THINKERS' PRESS INC COVERS.

[Bob Long:] I've said it many times, there are strong chess players out there who know don't know jack about business, any kind of business. And for some reason they criticize the work of others. Better check that plank in your own eye bud before you start looking for the splinter in mine.

Speaking of Thinkers' Press, does anyone know what happened to its blog (thechessmuseum.blogspot.com). The most recent post was dated 3 June 2011.

25 July 2011

Every Move Explained - A Korchnoi Game

With the addition of 1969 Sarajevo - Kovacs vs Korchnoi to the page on Improve Your Chess Game, I've reached the last game of the Every Move Explained series. The only task that remains is to proofread the last three games.

22 July 2011

Art Mirrors Art

Wikipedia: George Goodwin Kilburne (1839-1924); 'an English genre painter specialising in accurately drawn interiors with figures'.

George Goodwin Kilburne - A Game of Chess (1888) © Flickr user Cea under Creative Commons.

The Flickr image is part of a set titled 'Art Mirrors Art'. Note the round mirror above the chess table.

21 July 2011

When Breaking News Is Not

Wonder of wonders! Before the bidding period had even closed, About.com's chess guide announced the award of the venue for next year's World Championship match to India.

Anand-Gelfand Match to be Held in Chennai

Despite a comment on the post that questioned the validity of the information, the About.com news has been unchanged for three full days, so the guide either doesn't know or doesn't care.

The 2012 World Chess Championship will be held in Chennai, giving something of a home-field advantage to reigning champion Viswanathan Anand. It is the first time a championship match will be held in India, though the country has previously hosted Candidates and semi-final matches before. The match is still scheduled to take place in April or May of next year.

As a former chess guide at About.com, I both know and care, and it always pains me to see this sort of misinformation posted on chess news sites. How could such a mistake occur? By misreading a sloppy post at Chessbase.com -- Breaking news: World Championship 2012 in Chennai. The Chessbase post, dated 13 July 2011, is a copy of a press release issued by the Chennai organizers, who give the definite impression that the FIDE decision has already been made.

The selection of venue would normally be announced on Fide.com before being available elsewhere, but all we have so far is a passing mention in the latest episode of that interminably boring series on the comings and goings of the FIDE President: Visit to India.

India nominates Chennai to host the Anand-Gelfand match. This was announced yesterday afternoon in Chennai by the FIDE President and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu State Mme J. Jayalalithaa. It is known that Chennai is planning to spend for a match 200 million rupees (approximately $ 4.5 million). It should be noted that by now FIDE has already received a bid from the Russian Chess Federation.

The bidding procedure was announced at the end of March -- FIDE World Championship Match 2012 - Bidding procedure and Regulations -- including the deadline, 'the bidding process will close on 30 June 2011', and the further stipulation that 'FIDE will inform the bidding parties of the results within 20 days after the deadline. The final contract with the successful bidder shall be signed within 10 days afterwards.' The deadline was later extended -- 2nd Quarter FIDE Presidential Board Meeting at Al Ain, UAE -- 'The closing dates for bids for the World Championship Match 2012 and the Women’s World Championship Match 2011 were extended to July 31st and June 15th respectively.' There has still been no news on the women’s match.

In case you're confused by the About.com statement that '[India] has previously hosted candidates and semi-final matches', the semifinal and final matches of the 1994-96 FIDE Candidates Matches were held in Sanghi Nagar, and rounds 1-6 of the 2000 FIDE Knockout Matches took place in New Delhi. The final match, round 7, was held in Tehran, where Anand defeated Shirov for his first World Championship title.

While I expect that the 2012 match will indeed be held in India, I would certainly not be disappointed to have it awarded to Russia. It's heartening to see two of the four 'BRIC' countries in the bidding. Given the increased chess activity in China, all we need now is a sign of chess life in Brazil.

19 July 2011

Juggling Fast and Slow Together

By Jove, I think I've got it! One of my ongoing headaches with correspondence chess is juggling games with different time controls. Since I use my email inbox to manage my correspondence games, I've configured the different services to send me an email each time an opponent moves, including the last move. I treat the messages more-or-less in order; the oldest messages get tackled first. When I've had enough of looking at a particular game, I move on to the next email, and repeat the process until I've looked at all my games. Then I again start with the oldest message, cycling through the games once more.

The problem with this procedure is that different correspondent chess servers use different time increments. On a server that adds one day per move, games proceed at a faster pace than on a server that adds four days per move. That means the messages for games played at one move per day arrive more often and are usually near the end of the queue. But those are exactly the games that require higher priority, because I have only one day (on average) to study them.

The solution is to cycle through all of the fast games and then cycle through all of the slow games. In other words, I treat the fast games (1-2 days per move) as one pool, and the slow games (3+ days per move) as another pool. The decisions on -- (1) how much time to take for a particular move and (2) whether I'm ready to move in a particular game -- are taken separately for each pool. Furthermore, if my time for correspondence chess happens to be limited, I spend it on the fast games.

The upshot of this is that my time for reflection is used more efficiently and there is less 'panic' (for lack of a better word) during those periods when I have a lot of games to consider. Why didn't I think of this when I started playing on the faster servers?

18 July 2011

Improve Your Chess with the Master Game

I'll take a short break from converting the Every Move Explained series, of which the most recent example was Every Move Explained - A Karpov Game, in order to implement an idea suggested by a reader of this blog. L.N. wrote,

I really enjoy your web site. It contains a lot of useful information, especially the Move by Move Explained section. As a suggestion, you may want to list the TV Series -- The Master Game -- that you outline in your blog. That would be a great addition.

The posts on the The Master Game do indeed work well with the other material on my page titled Improve Your Chess Game. First, here are links to a couple of posts explaining the format of the BBC series that ran from 1975 to 1982.

Now, here are links to a series of posts that organize the YouTube videos for a single Master Game season into sequence.

Perhaps clips for the years prior to 1980 will emerge some day, but we already have a lot of material worth viewing. Thanks again to the YouTube power users who have been uploading this historic chess material. And thanks to L.N. for the idea.


Later: Here's another post to a series titled 'Bill Hartston Speaks',

from the Streatham & Brixton blog.


Even later: I added a file for download

with PGN game scores for all of the Master Game seasons, including those without videos on YouTube. Perhaps someday the other seasons will become available.


Also: This post appeared in the Summer Of (Chess) Love blog carnival.

15 July 2011

The Rybka Affair (on YouTube)

I'm using this clip as a followup to a recent post on my World Chess Championship Blog: The Rybka Affair.

Another Conversation with Vasik Rajlich (32:36) • 'Nelson Hernandez interviews Vasik Rajlich regarding the allegation that the (all or part) Rybka chess engine code was stolen the Fruit chess engine source.'

Rajlich appears at 4:25 into the clip.

Before we start I'd like to make a short statement about these ICGA allegations. First, I did not wrongly omit anything from our entry form, nor did I break any other tournament rules. I did not list Fruit on the entry form because there is no direct game playing Fruit code in Rybka. Rybka uses a different board representation than Fruit and uses a different structure of search routines, so this should be quite clear. Now it's true that I did take a number of things from Fruit which are above the level of source code. This is something that I discussed many times, something which is perfectly normal practice, and it's not something which is asked about on the entry form. Second, Rybka 1 was already disassembled and published back in 2006. Everything about Rybka 1 has been completely transparent for 4 1/2 years or so. [...]

Rajlich has a confrontational approach to public relations that might have played a central role in this saga of alleged plagiarism. Perhaps he should hire a publicist.

14 July 2011

Brutalism in Chess

My fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price frequently features chess sets, of which the most recent was Political Chess. The auction for the set pictured below was titled '1960s BRUTALIST Mid Century Modern Bronze CHESS SET', received 29 bids from 11 bidders, and finally sold for US $1048.

The set reminded me of my post Statue or Sculpture? from a few days ago, where here we have 32 miniature statues (or sculptures). The description said,

Wonderful vintage 1960s era artisan hand crafted bronze Brutalist modernist chess set. Tallest piece is approx 4.75" tall. Each piece is an individual work of art, each piece is different with none matching. No board with this set. Fresh from a fine old Denver estate.

What exactly does 'brutalist' mean? Wikipedia was less helpful than usual; from Brutalist architecture:-

Characteristics: Brutalist buildings usually are formed with striking repetitive angular geometries, and, where concrete is used, often revealing the texture of the wooden forms used for the in-situ casting. Although concrete is the material most widely associated with Brutalist architecture, not all Brutalist buildings are formed from concrete. Instead, a building may achieve its Brutalist quality through a rough, blocky appearance, and the expression of its structural materials, forms, and (in some cases) services on its exterior.

It's hard to see the relationship between chess sets and massive buildings that are essentially big slabs of concrete. Furthermore, there is no Wikipedia entry for 'brutalist art', while other web sources mainly focus on the architectural aspects of brutalism. The best explanation I got was visual -- Google Images on 'brutalist art' -- where mixed in with photos of massive buildings are a few sculptures. To coin a phrase, brutalism is in the eye of the beholder.

12 July 2011

Odd Man Out

Once again it's election time at the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF). Four candidates are vying for three places on the USCF's Executive Board (EB), each place for a three year term. The candidates were announced in February -- Candidates Set for Executive Board Election (USchess.org, the USCF's official site) -- Sevan Muradian, Mike Nietman, Allen Priest, & Gary Walters. Even if you don't recognize any of the names, you can find their statements in recent issues of Chess Life.

So whom to vote for? My first idea was to vote for the two who were elected for one year in a 2010 special election, Nietman & Walters. That would give them the chance to go the distance. When I started to research the other two, I concluded that both had strong chess backgrounds and complementary day time jobs: Muradian in marketing and Priest in accounting.

Muradian is a controversial personality. USCF past President Bill Goichberg recommended against him in a page on his own site -- THE MURADIAN CANDIDACY (Checkmate.us) -- with sordid tales of misplaced trust, spoofing, hacking, and conflict of interest. These are the sort of accusations that are often levelled against candidates in USCF elections and I prefer to ignore them by concentrating on the positive. Bill Goichberg has done a lot for U.S. chess, is undoubtedly a future U.S. Chess Hall of Famer, and deserves everyone's respect. Even so, his view of chess dates to the 1960s, he is in the twilight of his career, and it is time for fresh ideas.

Having decided to vote for Muradian and Priest meant I had to eliminate either Nietman or Walters. After all, they both won last year by default as the only suitable candidates (see Three Elections) and I had never given them proper scrutiny. I selected the man who impressed me more, marked my ballot, and sent it by priority airmail.

With Goichberg against him, Muradian doesn't have much chance of winning a place on the EB, but he has my vote. To find out more about him, see The Official USCF Executive Board Campaign Website for Sevan A. Muradian and North American Chess Association.

11 July 2011

Every Move Explained - A Karpov Game

Following Every Move Explained - A Spassky Game, I added 1982 Turin - Karpov vs Ljubojevic to the Every Move Explained series. The index for the series can be found on Improve Your Chess Game.

08 July 2011

Statue or Sculpture?

Continuing with our series of chess playing statues -- see Calgary's "Winner" for the previous statue -- this one is located at Clark Alumni House, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On second thought, it's more likely a sculpture than a statue.

The Chess Players © Flickr user Librarienne under Creative Commons.

The plaque behind the statue/sculpture reads,

Edmund W. Whiting
8/2/18 - 9/28/75
Bronze cast in 1994
Gift of the family

According to other sources, Edmund Whiting served as chair of the art department at Coe College.

07 July 2011

BBC: The Master Game 1982

I'm nearing the last of Sirb0b1's YouTube clips for BBC: The Master Game 1981, so it's time to move on to 1982.

Group A: Andras Adorjan, Larry Christiansen, Hans-Joachim Hecht, Nigel Short

Group B: Walter Browne, Raymond Keene, Eric Lobron, Miguel Quinteros


What a wealth of chess knowledge is encapsulated in these clips. It's no wonder they maintain their popularity almost 30 years after being recorded and broadcast.

05 July 2011

A Legend in His Own Mind

While doing a routine Google search on 'chess', I noticed Chess for All Ages (CFAA) was the last result on the first page. Up there with the big boys like Chess.com and Wikipedia chess, had I made it or what? I took a screen snapshot to memorialize the occasion.

Then I noticed that CFAA was at no.11 on the first page of search results, where I normally see only 10 results per page. Then I remembered that I had signed on earlier to Google to record some stats. I signed off, did the same search on 'chess', and -- POOF! -- the CFAA result had disappeared. I signed in again, redid the search, and CFAA was back at no.11.

In the old days, meaning last week, Google used to show results 'Results from Your Social Network', or whatever, at the end of the first page of results when I was signed in. I wish they -- you do know who 'they' are, don't you? -- would stop trying to tailor search results to match my expectations. How can they realistically have any idea what I want to see? And, yes, I do know the URL of my own blog; thanks anyway, Google.

This little episode reminded me of a post from a few years back, My 15 Minutes of Fame. Oh, to relive that glorious past!

04 July 2011

Every Move Explained - A Spassky Game

Last week, in Moving on after Vacation, I decided to continue converting my About.com material. What better way to start than by completing the Every Move Explained series, last seen in Every Move Explained - A Rubinstein Game. I started with 1960 Leningrad - Spassky vs. Bronstein, and added it to the index of all games on Improve Your Chess Game. Now I have only two games left to do in that particular series.

01 July 2011

The Actual Retail Price Is...

What do you bid for that chess set?

Huge Chess Set (2:11) • 'Huge chess set up for bids on the Price is Right with Drew Carey setting a bad example.'

What's the bad example? 'If your friend beats you at chess, you can pick up one of the pieces and hit him with it.'