30 September 2011

Asheville Mural Project No.2

I 'mirrored' this photo so the letters on the ball player's jacket would read 'CH' instead of its mirror image. After I did this I noticed the chess board was set up incorrectly. Sometimes you can't win.

AMP Underpass 2 © Flickr user zen under Creative Commons.

While I was browsing the photographer's other AMP photos, I found the same photo I used a year ago in Chess in Asheville. Then I found both AMP chess photos combined in a single image -- AMP Asheville mural project projected -- with the ball player sitting in front of Black pieces. Somebody in Asheville likes chess.

29 September 2011

Folkestone 1933

An eBay auction for the photo shown below caught my attention when I recognized Vera Menchik standing behind the table. Was this perhaps a pre-WWII Women's World Championship? I didn't understand the title -- 'Women play CHESS ± 1930 Outremont + Schartzmann' -- so I sent a question asking if the information was on the back of the photo. The seller, located in the Netherlands, kindly attached a scan to his reply. Written in French, it said, 'Women's chess championship. From left to right Mme Lucien D Outremont and Mlle Schartzmann, champion of the tournament. Photo Meurisse.'

On my page World Chess Championship (Women) : 1927-39 Title Tournaments, I have a scanned crosstable of Folkestone 1933, an eight-player double round robin, which Menchik won with a perfect score. The scan, from Kazic's 'International Championship Chess' (Batsford 1974), mentions both D'Autremont and Schwartzmann. It appeared to be the same event recorded in the eBay photo and I decided to bid on it if there was little interest.

The photo received nine bids from six different bidders with a winning bid of US $109.50. The price jumped from $32 to the final bid in the last minute of the auction, indicating that other bidders also recognized its historical importance. While the winning bid won't make the item a candidate for my series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, it does show that there is serious interest in early women's events.

27 September 2011

Garry's Story

Is there any instructional material by GMs that can equal or exceed the quality that I highlighted in Improve Your Chess with the Master Game? It's a tall order, but in the 30 years since the BBC's legendary Master Game series aired, there must have been some other chess instruction in video format that was both exceptionally interesting and exceptionally entertaining.

Like many players, I'm constantly on the watch for any such video material that I haven't seen before. Last month I was happy to find on YouTube a series of clips taken from Kasparov's 'My Story', a set of DVDs released in 2000. The first clip in the series, on the EpicChess channel, is at

Unfortunately, the series did not seem to be complete, meaning it was probably under construction. I had the feeling I had seen the introduction on YouTube before and quickly located a similar series on the NorthernUnion channel starting with

This second version seemed to be complete, which I confirmed by watching all 36(!) parts in my spare time. The first 34 parts are each about 10 minutes long, while the last two parts are around 90 minutes each, totaling more than eight hours of viewing. Each part is chained to the next by the 'related' mechanism.

If you'd rather have your own real (and legal) copy of the same video, you can find it on Amazon.com: "kasparov my story", and elsewhere. The original set of five DVDs carried the following titles:-

Complete Set, Volumes 1-5
Part 1 - Teenage Prodigy
Part 2 - Joining the Elite
Part 3 - Rebels and Renegades
Part 4 - Hitting the Wall
Part 5 - Rite of Passage

I'll have more to say about this resource in future posts.

26 September 2011

Chess Is/Isn't a Sport

That's a wrap! Adding Chess as Sport to my page on Chess for Fun brought me to the last article to be converted on the list I developed for Where to Go From Here. What's next for my old About.com articles? After I bring Taking Inventory up to date, I'll take another look at what hasn't been converted. Anything related to the material identified in Improve Your Chess Game would be an obvious candidate.

23 September 2011

Chess Merit Badge

This video clip is from Youtube channel BSAIntComm, 'The Internal Communications Team at the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America.'

The Buzz - September 23, 2011, "Chess Merit Badge" (2:16) • 'Jerry Nash from the U.S. Chess Federation shares highlights from the recent launch of the Chess merit badge.'

For the Chess Merit Badge requirements, see Introduction to Merit Badges > Chess on Scouting.org.

22 September 2011

Capodimonte Figurines

Whenever I gather material for another post in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I try to pick something unusual. While chess playing porcelain figurines are quite common, any piece that sells for a three figure price tag is definitely unusual. The figurine pictured below was titled 'Vintage Dresden Lace; Capodimonte Figurines; Playing Chess, Mark Crown N', received 23 bids from six bidders, and sold for US $761.

Capodimonte Figurines Playing Chess

I assume that's a mirror behind the couple to show the back of the piece. The description said,

You are looking at a wonderful example of porcelain artistry at it's best!! This lovely French-looking couple dressed in Dresden Lace is playing a game of chess on an exquisite Louis XIV table. Pink porcelain roses look like they were used to catch layers of lace to make swags ~ her tiny waist is corseted ~ her hair hangs in ringlets. He is dressed in a typical 18th century outfit in beautiful dark lavender colors and gold pants. The Dresden lace can be found on the collar and sleeves of his outfit. They are seated on exquisite French chairs atop a lovely lavender and blue carpet. There are so many perfect details here, that you really have to look well or you can miss it. This must be the very top of the line Dresden Lace Capodimonte.

From what I can determine, the blue mark on the bottom of the piece ~ a crown with the letter "N" is the mark of Italian Capodimonte. I believe it is circa 1910-1950 - maybe older? • Overall, it is in lovely condition. The lace is all intact. I don't see any chips or cracks. This collector really took great care of her collection. • Measures: 10 inches wide, 6.5 inches tall, and 6.5 inches deep. This piece is quite heavy.

What makes it so valuable to collectors? I imagine the name Capodimonte has something to do with it (see Capodimonte porcelain on Wikipedia for more about the brand), but the key phrase is undoubtedly 'lovely condition, intact' etc. etc. That porcelain lace dress is easily damaged.

20 September 2011

October Chess Improvement Carnival (Here on CFAA)

Yikes! Only two weeks to go before the next blog carnival, to be hosted here on Chess for All Ages, and I haven't a clue what to do. I don't even know what to wear. Where are the blog posts I'm supposed to exhibit?

If you want to submit a post but aren't sure what's required, see the announcement for the most recent carnival at September Carnival is up! If you want to see all previous carnivals, going back to January 2011, there's a complete list at Blog Carnival - Chess Improvement Carnival, under the tab for 'Past Posts'.

Don't leave me hanging! The submission form is here: Submit an Article to a Carnival. And somebody tell me what I'm expected to wear!

19 September 2011

Quick Draw McGraw

For the penultimate post against Where to Go From Here, I added Short Draws : Issues on the Chess Table to my page titled Chess for Fun. The subject of short draws doesn't belong under anything called 'Fun', but I didn't know where else to put it.

16 September 2011

Five Hundred Favorites

A little more than three years after my first Flickr Friday post, I've reached the milestone of 500 Flickr favorites. Here's the composite page showing the most recent additions to My favorite photos and videos | Flickr.

The images that I actually used in a post (~75 or so, because I post every two weeks) should show up in this query: About 641 results : site:chessforallages.blogspot.com flickr. I don't know why it reports 641 results. After a few pages of Flickr Friday photos, it starts to return diagrams of chess positions that have nothing to do with Flickr. Now I get it -- I have a 'Flickr Favorites' widget at the bottom of the sidebar on every page. Good thing Google is smarter than I am.

15 September 2011

Spassky on Hanging Pawns

In my previous post, 'This Pawn Is Garbage', I mentioned Spassky's annotations in the tournament book of the Second Piatigorsky Cup, Santa Monica 1966, almost the only written notes I have ever seen by Spassky. A great example of his objective thinking is in a note to the first game in the book, against Petrosian, their 'first meeting after the [1966] championship match', a match which Spassky lost. Referring to the position in the diagram, Spassky wrote,

The so-called 'hanging Pawns' position was created. The shortcoming of hanging Pawns is that they present a convenient target for attack. As the exchange of men proceeds, their potential strength lessens and during the endgame they turn out, as a rule, to be weak.

That constitutes the general thinking on hanging Pawns, which experienced players learn early in their chess careers.

1966 Santa Monica
Spassky, Boris

Petrosian, Tigran
After 16...b6-c5(xP)

Spassky takes it further, noting the positive side of the Pawns, which many experienced players might not know.

The power of hanging Pawns is based precisely in their mobility, in their ability to create acute situations instantly. It should be kept in mind that the semi-open files b- and e- are a component of these hanging Pawns, which frequently serve as an excellent springboard for the development of aggressive play on the part of Black.

But generalities aren't sufficient. Along with the hanging Pawns, there are other pieces on the board that require particular attention.

In the situation at hand, there is an essential shortcoming in Black's position. The Bishop is unsatisfactorily placed on b7 and Black is unable to take advantage of the b-file. Thus, the basic failing in Black's formation lies in its passiveness. Of course, White is here in a position to begin a systematic siege of Black's center.

Spassky's emphasis on activity also came through on the Garbage post. To play though the complete game, see...

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian vs Boris Spassky; Santa Monica (01) 1966

...on Chessgames.com.

13 September 2011

'This Pawn Is Garbage'

I've played through a lot of great games annotated by a lot of great players, but one player who hasn't written much is Boris Spassky. His notes, along with those of most of the other players, are in the tournament book of the Second Piatigorsky Cup, Santa Monica 1966, which Spassky won, but I can't think of another source of his annotations. For this reason, it's a pleasure (a word he often uses himself) to listen to him explaining his moves in the 1982 edition of the BBC series that I've linked in Improve Your Chess with the Master Game.

One game that made a real impression on me was Torre - Spassky, played in round 2.1 of that event (see A 'Master Game' Lookalike, Second Attempt for a direct link to the YouTube video). The critical sequence starts at 14:12 into the clip, just after Torre has played 22.Ra1-a3. The image below shows the moment at which Spassky explained the position.

Spassky: My only chance is active play. I need a lot of oxygen here. I don't like the position of my Black Rook on h8. My Rook is just defending the Pawn on h6, but this Pawn is garbage. I give up this Pawn, it doesn't matter. I must do something in the center, intending to play Nd5 or Pd5. Anyway, the first move is good, so Rhc8. • [22...Rhc8]

In other words, the Rook guarding the weak Pawn is passively placed. Giving up the Pawn liberates the Rook for active play. It sounds simple when Spassky explains it.

Torre is oblivious to Black's plan.

Torre: He's attacking my c-Pawn again, but at the moment I can take on h6. If [23...Rxc3 24.Rxc3 Rxc3 25.Rxf6] winning back the Rook, then I will be a piece up. After Rxh6, maybe he can play ...d5. It doesn't matter. I can still play Nb1. Maybe he missed it or what. His last move he played quickly. Maybe he missed this move. I'll take the Pawn on h6. • [23.Rxh6]

Commentators: Spassky will be glad to see the end of the garbage. • There's this nice little tactical point that Torre has just seen. Spassky got rid of his garbage, but it remains to be seen who pays the garbage man.

Spassky: This Pawn is garbage. Now I have some activity. I'm satisfied with my position. I play ...d5. It seems to me a very strong move. • [23...d5]

Torre: As I was planning, I play Nb1 to protect the c-Pawn. • [24.Nb1]

Spassky: Oh, I'm so active just for one Pawn. Ooh! That's a very pleasant surprise for me... Ne4. • [24...Ne4]

Torre: Now he's threatening again my c-Pawn. I play Rb3. This was my intention. • [25.Rb3]

Spassky: That's a very logical move, because in case of [25...Nxc3+ 26.Nxc3 Rxc3 27.Rxb6] White has activity. First, it's very important for me to take the f3 square. My move ...g4 seems very logical. • [25...g4]

Commentators: Now we can begin to see the idea behind Spassky's jettisoning his Pawn on h6 earlier. The Pawn on c3 is under severe attack. The a-Pawn may become weak. Now he's trying to constrain the White King to stop it escaping to f3. He certainly got a strong initiative for the Pawn.

Torre: Ooh, this is very strong. I missed this when I played Rxh6 earlier. I feel I'm worse already. This is incredible. I wish I had played Kd3 instead of taking on h6. How can I miss ...g4? It looks very simple. I miss such simple moves. Unbelievable. I think my position is almost lost already. Missing one simple move and suddenly my position is quite lost. I'll just try to keep on fighting. Maybe I should try to make an early attack on f7. Maybe this is my only chance. • [26.Rh7]

Spassky went on to win in another 20 moves. If you want to play the game, here is the game score from Master Game PGN.

[Event "?"]
[Site "Hamburg-TV (1 h)"]
[Date "1982.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Torre E"]
[Black "Spassky B"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E13/09"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 Bb7 7.e3 g5 8.Bg3 Ne4 9.Qc2 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 d6 11.Bd3 Nxg3 12.hxg3 Nd7 13.a4 a5 14.Be4 Bxe4 15.Qxe4 Ke7 16.Qc6 Nf6 17.Nd2 Qd7 18.Qb5 Qxb5 19.cxb5 Rac8 20.Ke2 c5 21.bxc6 Rxc6 22.Ra3 Rhc8 23.Rxh6 d5 24.Nb1 Ne4 25.Rb3 g4 26.Rh7 Kf6 27.Rh6+ Ke7 28.Rh7 R8c7 29.Kd3 Nxf2+ 30.Kc2 Ne4 31.Rg7 Nxg3 32.Rxg4 Ne4 33.Rg8 Rc4 34.Ra3 Rc8 35.Rxc8 Rxc8 36.Rb3 Rg8 37.Rxb6 Rxg2+ 38.Kb3 Re2 39.Rb5 Nd6 40.Rxa5 Nc4 41.Ra7+ Kf6 42.a5 Rb2+ 43.Ka4 Rxb1 44.a6 Nxe3 45.Rb7 Ra1+ 46.Kb5 Nc4 47.Rd7 Ra5+ 0-1

The game is also available on Chessgames.com...

Eugenio Torre vs Boris Spassky; Hamburg 1982

...although there is not yet any kibitzing.

09 September 2011

I Just Had Sex Played Chess

Not 'For All Ages'!

I Just Played Chess (I Just Had Sex Parody) (2:49) • 'G-Fam Clan ft. Bryan Sapp -- TNG Produce'

Here's another one: I Just Played Chess, Lonely Island Parody; 'This is a parody of "I Just Had Sex" by Akon and Lonely Island', with a link to the original 'I Just Had Sex' on YouTube (more than 123 million views since December 2010!).

08 September 2011

1924 Olympiad Gold (sort of)

Continuing with Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the object pictured below was not the most expensive chess item sold on eBay over the past two weeks, but it was certainly the most unusual. The title was 'OLYMPIC GAMES PARIS 1924 CHESS INTERNATIONAL MACH MEDAL' (I'm sure that should be 'MATCH' instead of 'MACH') and it sold for US $565.55 after receiving eight bids from four bidders.

The description said,


Karel Skalicka (Carlos Skalicka) (1 November 1896 – 1979) was a Czech–Argentine chess master. In 1924, he won a team gold medal for Czechoslovakia (Hromádka, Schulz, Vanek, Skalicka) in the 1st unofficial Chess Olympiad in Paris. He took 3rd in group eliminations (Anatol Tshepurnoff won), and tied for 21-31st in the major tournament (Karesl Hromádka won). The final tournament (Amateur World Championship) was won by Hermanis Matisons.

That second paragraph, taken from Wikipedia's entry on Karel Skalicka. was followed by a list of Skalicka's chess exploits, also from Wikipedia. A further description of the medal said,

Real nice artistic medal plaque signed by the Scuptor Jean-Marie Delpech. • At EDGE: "CUIVRE" and Hallmark. • Golden Copper - 67mm. X 45mm. - 74.14grams. • VISIBLE CONDITION • REAL RARE MEDAL PRIZE

For more about the 1924 Olympiad, see Chess Olympiad: Paris 1924, on Olimpbase.org.

06 September 2011

Master Game PGN

Now that I've worked my way through all of the clips linked from Improve Your Chess with the Master Game, I would like to discuss some of the things I've learned, as in Restraint & Overprotection. The easiest way to do this is to work from existing digital game scores. I gathered all of the 'Master Game' PGN files I could find, added a few games that were missing, and consolidated them into a single file:-


The PGN files could still use some work -- ordering the games in the sequence they were played, standardizing names -- that sort of thing, but I'll leave the cleaning for another time or for someone else. The files are certainly usable in their current state.

05 September 2011

2006 Unification Match

Last week I converted 2005 World Championship. This week it's Games from the 2006 Unification Match. Next week it will be the 2007 Mexico City title tournament. After that I'll finish the two remaining items on my Where to Go From Here checklist, then move on to something else.

The latest converted page is linked from Chess History, but perhaps it should be added to a second index page. It is, after all, more about chess instruction than about chess history.

02 September 2011

Distant Cousins?

It's probably just me, but I see a lot of similarities between this image and the previous image on Flickr Friday, Meditation on the Bishop Pair.

Ajedrez, Escultura © Flickr user Jose Betancur under Creative Commons.

Unlike the other photo, which provided no hint where it was taken, this photo had a good clue in the tag 'cartagena'. The tag group had one other photo, of a cathedral, which Google locates in Cartagena, Spain. By deduction, this is a chess sculpture in the same town of Cartagena.


Later:A few years after posting this, I found a photo of the same sculpture on another Flickr.com page: Chess players. The photo's tags indicated Cartagena, Colombia. This post's original Flickr link returns 'Page Not Found', although the user is still there. An image search on 'chess cartagena colombia' returns more photos of the same sculpture. As for my remark 'one other photo, of a cathedral, which Google locates in Cartagena, Spain', this was obviously incorrect.

01 September 2011

Simple Positions, Pretty Geometries

In my latest post, A Slippery Opening, I commented on the opening from one of my recent games; in this post I'll give one of my recent chess960 endgames. I had Black in the diagram shown below.

When I first reached the position in my analysis I quickly concluded that, with two extra Pawns, Black wins easily. Black forces White to sacrifice the Bishop for one of the Pawns and wins with the other Pawn. After I played into the variation and received my opponent's reply, I looked at the position a second time and realized the position was not as straightforward as I had initially thought. If White can sacrifice the Bishop for the d-Pawn, the promotion square for the h-Pawn is not the color of Black's Bishop, so Black can't win.

Black to move

After 1.Bf6

After a more rigorous analysis I determined that the position is nevertheless won for Black. The d-Pawn must pass through two squares controlled by White's Bishop -- d2 and d4 -- where Black uses simple maneuvers of his own Bishop to shoo the enemy Bishop off the diagonal.

When we reached the diagram I played 1...Bb4, and the game continued 2.Kf5 Bc3 (first Bishop opposition) 3.Bg5 d4 4.Ke4 d3 5.Ke3 Be1 6.Kf3 Kc3 7.Kg4 Kc2 8.Bf4 Bd2 (second Bishop opposition). White resigned here because of 9.Bd6 Bc1 10.Bb4 Bb2, and with 11...Bc3, Black clears a diagonal for the last time. During the game I was more concerned with 2.Kh6, picking up the second Pawn. Here I calculated a maneuver resembling what happened in the game: 2...Bc3 3.Bg5 d4 4.Kxh7 d3 (I'll come back to this position in a moment) 5.Bf4 Kb3 6.Kg6 Kc2 7.Kf5 Bd2 8.Bd6 Bc1 9.Bb4 Bb2 10.Be1 Bc3.

After the game, I started to wonder how far my opponent was from achieving a draw. After 4.Kxh7 d3, the d-Pawn has only one Black square to cross and the King on h7 is too far from the action. On what squares would the White King have to stand in order to draw?

Since there are only five pieces on the board, a tablebase can answer that question. It turns out that if the White King is on g6 instead of h7, White to move draws, while Black to move wins the same way as in the game. Ditto for King on f7. The sequence to achieve the draw from g6 is 1.Kf5 Kb3 2.Ke4 Kc2 3.Kd5 (only move) 3...Bd2 4.Be7 Bh6 5.Bb4 (only move) 5...Bg7 6.Kc4. The White King arrives on c4 just in time to prevent the Black Bishop from moving to c3. This raised another question.

Since the White King started on g6, which is four moves from c4, why does the same result hold for the King starting on f7, which is only three moves from c4? Even with Black to move, White should have enough time to reach c4. The reason is that Black has a different winning sequence: 1...Kd5 (or 1...Kd4; other moves only draw) 2.Ke7 Ke4 3.Kd7 (not 3.Kd6; do you see why?) 3...Kf3 4.Kd6 Bd4 5.Bd2 Ke2 6.Bb4 Bf2 7.Ke5 Be1. Black had just enough time to oppose Bishops on the other side of the Pawn, where the White King can't help.

Sometimes the simplest positions contain the prettiest geometries.