30 December 2011

Almira Skripchenko's Other Game Is...

For the last video of 2011, let's look at the poker world looking at the chess world.

Almira Skripchenko's Other Game Is...Chess (7:38) • 'Almira Skripchenko has final tabled a WSOP event and the WPT Invitational, but before she became a serious poker player Skripchenko was an incredibly successful professional chess player.'

According to Google, which game gets Skripchenko more attention?

  • Skripchenko chess: 'About 226,000 results'
  • Skripchenko poker: 'About 98,600 results'
That's not the result I would have guessed.

29 December 2011

'Chess Records' by Damsky

I've already mentioned 'The Batsford Book of Chess Records' by Yakov Damsky in two recent posts -- Not Everyone Likes Chess960 and Kings of Chess Journalism -- so it's appropriate to say a bit more about the book. Even though I have another work by the same author, Kramnik's 'Life and Games', I can't say that I know much about him. Gaige's 'Chess Personalia' gives only his year of birth (1934), while Chessgames.com lists only a single game under The chess games of Iakov Damsky.

Published in 2005, 'Chess Records' never generated much of a buzz. I doubt that it's solely because of a negative review by Edward Winter, 3939. Records, where the eminent chess historian put his finger on the book's major shortcomings.

Its first defect is obvious enough: poor structure and organization (only four parts/chapters), exacerbated by inadequate indexing. Secondly, the author provides ‘information’ without, in most cases, giving any indication as to its provenance. Thirdly, he demonstrates insufficient knowledge of chess lore to tackle what would have been, even for a fine writer, a demanding project.

The title of the book is misleading. While there are indeed some legitimate records -- the type of information found in Wikipedia's List of world records in chess -- Damsky's book is more a collection of hundreds of stories arranged by a loose categorization that doesn't always make immediate sense. The style reminds me more of Assiac ('Adventures in Chess') and Chernev ('Fireside Book') than of Whyld ('Chess: The Records').

I couldn't find a list of those categories on the web, so I constructed one myself, based on the section titles assigned by Damsky. The section numbers and the descriptions in brackets (e.g. '1.1 ... [Game length]') are mine.

Part One: Games

  • 1.1 The shortest and the longest [p.9 : Game length]
  • 1.2 Where is the king going? [p.17 : King walk]
  • 1.3 The more queens, the merrier [p.25 : Queen]
  • 1.4 A heavy piece stepping lightly [p.31 : Rook]
  • 1.5 And where will you plant your hooves? [p.33 : Knight]
  • 1.6 Slow and steady [p.38 : Pawn]
  • 1.7 No one ever saw further [p.41 : Combinations]
  • 1.8 Fall of the Giants [p.46 : Refutations]
  • 1.9 Better late than never [p.47 : Castling]
  • 1.10 So many checks [p.51 : Checks]
  • 1.11 Unrealized advantage [p.52 : Failure to win]
  • 1.12 A record that will not be beaten [p.54 : Adjournments]
  • 1.13 When two do the same... [p.56 : Symmetry]

Part Two: People

  • 2.1 Chess life histories [p.59 : Intro]
  • 2.2 Meteors [p.59 : Charousek++]
  • 2.3 Ascending the heights [p.64 : Chigorin++]
  • 2.4 Ascent cut short [p.68 : Junge++]
  • 2.5 Pauses on the way [p.76 : Career interruptions]
  • 2.6 A title for all ages [p.80 : GM]
  • 2.7 Old and little [p.82 : Age extremes]
  • 2.8 Presidents have a long life [p.88 : Federations]
  • 2.9 A council of judges [p.91 : Prizes]
  • 2.10 Caissa's favourites and pariahs [p.93 : Luck]
  • 2.11 Profession: champion [p.100 : Championships]
  • 2.12 Negative distinction [p.108 : Bottom feeders]
  • 2.13 The most learned, the most eminent [p.110 : Napoleon++]
  • 2.14 Gentlemanly conduct [p.121 : Etiquette]
  • 2.15 Gens una sumus [p.123 : FIDE]
  • Part Three: Tournaments, Matches, Events
    • 3.1 In contention for the crown [p.129 : World champions]
    • 3.2 Standing out from the rest [p.134 : Longest, shortest, etc.]
    • 3.3 Prizes for back markers [p.150 : Low score, high place]
    • 3.4 Where history is made [p.152 : Scheveningen]
    • 3.5 Summit meetings [p.154 : Strong tournaments]
    • 3.6 Year after year, century after century [p.160 : Traditions]
    • 3.7 A long, long memory [p.164 : as-Suli]
    • 3.8 Sergeant major's orders [p.168 : Unusual rules]
    • 3.9 Phantoms of the chess world [p.174 : Ghost games]
    • 3.10 Defying the theory of probabilities [p.194 : Coincidences]
    • 3.11 The prized apple of beauty [p.204 : Brilliancy prizes]
    • 3.12 Second player wins [p.206 : Black wins]
    • 3.13 Vertical distances [p.211 : Astronauts]
    • 3.14 The march of progress [p.214 : Clocks, Variants]
    • 3.15 One against one [p.225 : Marathons]
    • 3.16 Unbroken runs [p.227 : Streaks]

    Part Four: Around the Chequered Board

    • 4.1 All onto one [p.234 : Intro]
    • 4.2 Conventional displays [p.235 : Simuls 1/2]
    • 4.3 Unconventional displays [p.239 : Simuls 2/2]
    • 4.4 Without a chessboard [p.251 : Blindfold]
    • 4.5 Prizes and stakes - frivolous and serious [p.263 : Unusual prizes]
    • 4.6 Hunting down the prizewinners [p.274 : Unpredictable results]
    • 4.7 Terrible vengeance [p.280 : Revenge]
    • 4.8 The bitter taste of victory [p.282 : Wins that hurt]
    • 4.9 A great sacrifice [p.284 : Living chess]
    • 4.10 A priceless book [p.285 : Literature++]
    • 4.11 Peace, perfect peace? [p.290 : Draw offers]
    • 4.12 Boundless disrespect [p.292 : Curious manners]
    • 4.13 A Swedish record breaker [p.292 : Stahlberg++]
    • 4.14 Chess mysticism and reality [p.296 : The inexplicable]

    While that list doesn't eliminate the book's shortcomings, it should help to locate a specific story. And let there be no doubt : there are some excellent stories here, even if their 'provenance' is missing and even when their authenticity is dubious. The book also contains over 200 games and game fragments. Although an overview of these would be worthwhile, I'm afraid I've already exceeded the time available for this post.

  • 27 December 2011

    Endgames Without a King

    Continuing with The Most Theoretical Endgames, there was one type of endgame I didn't mention, because it didn't fit as nicely into my schema as the others did. An example is shown in the diagram on the right. It's a 'four piece' endgame where the White King is facing three connected passed Pawns. The Black King is supposed to be occupied elsewhere on the board and isn't shown.

    This type of endgame doesn't bother human players, who can easily work without the missing King. The engine, however, goes into a panic and starts displaying inaccurate results. As far as it's concerned, the King *must* be on the board.

    Lone King vs. Three Connected Pawns

    The Convekta version of 'Comprehensive Chess Endings' (CCE) by Averbakh goes a long way to solving this problem. It imagines four possible configurations where the Black King is on the board, but otherwise occupied. I've indicated these configurations by the letters (A) through (D) in the diagram. If you merge one of the configurations on the Queenside with the position to be studied on the Kingside, the resulting position is fully satisfactory to the engine.

    Although the position might be satisfactory for an engine, it is not necessarily satisfactory for solving the endgame. Configuration (A), for example, allows the Black King to shuttle indefinitely between a8 and b7. This means the Black Pawns are never in zugzwang, a common endgame mechanism in all sorts of positions, especially when there are only Pawns.

    Configuration (B) has the disadvantage that the Black King has no legal moves. This allows Black to sacrifice its Pawns, when the game ends in stalemate.

    Configuration (C) works much better than (A) or (B). The position is in perfect equilibrium, where neither the White Pawns nor the Black King can move without disturbing the equilibrium and losing. I used (C) to study most of Averbakh's example positions with the aid of an engine. The engines are amazingly fast in analyzing these positions, sometimes calculating to depth 30 or more in a few seconds.

    Configuration (C) falls down in positions where the start position of the White King is gradually shifted to the Queenside, i.e. to the e-file, then the d-file, and finally to the c-file. In those positions, the White King has the alternative of rushing to its a- and c-Pawns, thereby helping them to promote.

    Although I didn't feed it to an engine, configuration (D) looks like a solution to that last glitch. Not only do the Black King and White Pawns prevent each other from moving, the Black King prevents its adversary from coming to the aid of its own Pawns.

    I've seen other endgames where one or both Kings were supposed to be elsewhere. Now I have a trick for working with them also.

    26 December 2011

    'Themed Chess Sets' -or- 'Theme Chess Sets'?

    I chose Themed Chess Sets, and have wondered ever since if it's correct. Google prefers 'theme' to 'themed' by almost four to one, so I'm in the minority. My examples -- Historical Themes, Animal Themes, Children's Themes, and Sport Themes -- all lead to an About.com adaptation of PriceGrabber.com, where any proceeds go to persons unknown. I might change that some day to use a bona fide chess supplier, but for now it will have to do. In the meantime, add another converted article to Been There, Done That.

    25 December 2011

    The True Spirit and Meaning of Christmas

    'Two children disillusioned with Christmas meet up with Santa and a magical white reindeer and travel with him to learn about the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.'

    'The Miracle of the White Reindeer' (1965)
    Fritz Feld and Chimp

    KiddieMatinee.com says about the film, 'that most Holy of Kiddie Matinee Grails'.


    For my own future reference:-

    23 December 2011

    Christmas Chess @ Flickr

    'Hurry up and get back in the box...' © Flickr user garlandcannon under Creative Commons.

    '...with the other chessmen, Pawns! The reindeer are arriving.'

    22 December 2011

    Kings of Chess Journalism

    I've already quoted Yakov Damsky, author of 'The Batsford Book of Chess Records' among other titles, in Not Everyone Likes Chess960. Another quote that caught my attention was 'Savielly Tartakower - a Grandmaster, the king of chess journalism at the time' (p.239), in reference to a simul he gave in 1929. As a blogger, I feel a general affinity for chess journalists and am always willing to learn from the masters of the craft. The title 'King of Chess Journalism', although entirely subjective, is a new idea for me and I started to wonder if anyone had compiled a list of such kings covering all ages. But first, let's look at Tartakower.

    I imagine that for most fans of chess history, Tartakower is better known for his play than for his writing. How strong a player was he? I turned to a chart from Elo's 'Rating of Chess Players Past and Present', where Tartakower is no.20 in the chronological list.

    Hard to read, isn't it? So is the original chart because it spans two pages. A two centimeter gap at the year 1915 makes it difficult to follow the arcs that cross that point. That's why I made a larger version of the same image, eliminating the annoying gap: 'Lifetime Ratings, Selected Grandmasters' as calculated by Elo.

    From this we see that Tartakower reached his peak around 1923, when there were six players ranked higher: Capablanca, Lasker, Alekhine, Nimzovitch, Rubinstein, and Maroczy, in that order; and the same number ranked lower: Marshall, Vidmar, Euwe (just starting his career), Tarrasch (near the end of his career), Mieses, and Janowski. That places Tartakower in the top-10 for that period.

    The only resource that I know equivalent to Elo's is Chessmetrics, where we find the Chessmetrics Player Profile: Saviely Tartakower. In the past I've been critical of the Chessmetrics methodology, as in Calculating Collusion, because it draws too many conclusions on skimpy data, but it still manages to paint pretty pictures. On the 'Ratings only' section of the Tartakower page, he jumps from no.44 in the world on the September 1941 list (rating 2586) to no.10 in the world on the January 1946 list (rating 2688), despite being inactive between those months, as were most players.

    The Elo table lists a few names of less-known players -- Schallopp, Mason, Stoltz, Barcza, and Pomar -- and it might be worthwhile to research them. Add to that a post on Damsky, on Tartakower, and on other 'Kings of Chess Journalism', and I might have a little series in the making.

    20 December 2011

    The Most Theoretical Endgames

    In What's What in Endgames, I introduced a table showing the number of positions with specific numbers of pieces in the Convekta version of 'Comprehensive Chess Endings' (CCE) by Averbakh. For example, there are 1020 positions in CCE with exactly six pieces. This next post identifies which types of positions occur most frequently.

    Starting with positions having four pieces, the most discussed endgames in CCE are (1) Pawn vs. Pawn, and (2) Rook vs. Pawn. Both occur often enough in practice, with R vs. P arising from R+P vs. R+P, after the weak side sacrifices its Rook for the enemy Pawn, then races to promote its own Pawn.

    With five pieces, there are five configurations that receive a more extensive treatment than the others: (1) Two Pawns vs. Pawn, (2) Queen & Pawn vs. Queen, (3) Bishop & Pawn vs. Knight (or N & P vs. B), (4) Queen vs. Rook & Pawn, (5) Rook & Pawn vs. Rook.

    With six pieces, there are only three configurations that have received extra attention: (1) Two Pawns vs. Two Pawns, (2) Rook & Two Pawns vs. Rook, (3) Rook vs. Three Pawns.

    Endgames with six pieces are the limit of published tablebases, so the seven piece configurations still require some real analysis. One configuration has received more attention than the others: (1) Queen & Pawn vs. Rook & Two Pawns; while three others are relatively well researched: (2) Bishop & Two Pawns vs. Knight & Pawn (or N & 2P vs. B & P), (3) Rook & Two Pawns vs. Rook & Pawn, (4) Three Pawns vs. Two Pawns,

    As for eight pieces, one configurations has received for more attention than the others: (1) Three Pawns vs. Three Pawns; with two others getting somewhat more attention than the rest of the pack: (2) Rook & Two Pawns vs. Rook & Two Pawns, and (3) Rook & Two Pawns vs. Bishop & Two Pawns,

    Experienced players have grappled with almost all of the above configurations. Less frequently seen are R vs. 3P, Q & P vs. R & 2P, and R & 2 Ps vs. B & 2Ps. It might be useful to know why these are worth special study, but that will have to wait for another time.

    19 December 2011

    2004 Kramnik - Leko

    Continuing with Been There, Done That, I added the 2004 Dannemann World Championship Match : Kramnik - Leko to my page on Chess History. In retrospect, it was an extraordinary period in World Championship history. We had both FIDE and non-FIDE title events in 2004, a FIDE tournament in 2005, a unification match in 2006, another tournament in 2007, and the definitive title match in 2008.

    18 December 2011

    Batman Plays Chess with the Joker

    I suppose it was inevitable. Earlier this year I cut back on blogging -- see How I Spent My Free Day (Warning! Contains chess960 content!) -- but my fingers invariably got itchy on my day off. I decided that I could at least use the day for a light post on an easy topic, something like Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The preparation here is algorithmic: (1) Look at all higher priced eBay items sold over the past two weeks. (2) Pick one. (3) Write about it. (4) Wait two weeks and repeat.

    When I started this series, step (1) had a built-in control mechanism. The search on 'Completed Items' only returned items completed, whether sold or not, over the past two weeks. A few months ago I noticed that the search was displaying completed items from as long as two months earlier. Why the change? I turned to eBay's 'Community' for help, specifically its 'Discussion Boards'.

    I'm not a big fan of forums because most posts are from people bitching and moaning about whatever disturbs them. They're sort of like blogs with multiple authors. Ebay has one of the biggest groups of bitchers and moaners that I've ever encountered, most of them on the selling side. Reading the comments, you would think that the main objective of the auction site was to make life miserable for people who want to sell stuff, the worst part of it being that there is nowhere else for them to go.

    After wading through dozens of threads complaining about everything, I found one from October that explained the search on completed items, Attention Collectibles Sellers: More Completed Items History.

    Attention Collectibles Sellers, Completed Items Search will now return more history for items that were listed in the Collectibles category.
    • 90 days of history for completed sold items in Collectibles
    • 45 days of history for completed unsold items in Collectibles
    • 15 days of history for completed items listed outside the Collectibles category

    This was immediately followed by several complaints, including this non-sequitur:-


    (sic) I don't know enough about eBay to say what constitutes the 'Collectibles category', but it apparently includes tons of chess sets. It doesn't include items like those I mentioned in DVDs as Cheap as Dirt, which have disappeared from the search on completed items.

    This change makes the task of finding a suitable item a little more difficult, because I have to wade through more pages of completed items. Oops! Looks like I'm complaining about eBay now. I better stop before it takes complete control of my spirit...


    The most unusual item of the past two weeks is pictured on the left. Its title said, 'Batman #23 CGC 6.0 Classic Joker Cover. Robin. Alfred Story. Chess Board Cover'. It received one bid and sold for US $750.

    I'm not ashamed to admit that I have no idea what 'CGC 6.0' means. At the top of the image you can see that it says 'CGC Universal Grade' over a large '6.0'. At the bottom of the image you can see that there is some kind of blurring, probably caused by a clear plastic cover protecting the comic. Wikipedia has a Comics Guaranty page explaining the concept. The top of that page warns, 'Editing of this article by new or unregistered users is currently disabled due to vandalism', which tells me that the grading procedure is not infallible.

    Chess is a fairly common theme in the world of comic books. The artwork is often similar to that shown on the Batman cover, where a superhero battles a villain by manipulating 'real people' on a chess board. In this example, the real people include a miniature Joker and Batman, which must have something to do with the story. The description of the item added,

    Cream to off-white pages. Joker cover and story!! Alfred backup story by Don Cameron. Dick Sprand artwork (story and cover). Sharp looking Fine copy from mid-1944. The 2011 Overstreet price in grade (6.0) is $820.00. The CGC case is clean.

    Years ago I watched a late night talk show where one of the last guests was a comic book collector. At one point the host held up one of the guest's comics to the camera and asked him, 'How much is this worth?' The guest replied, 'Oh, it's priceless!' Without missing a beat the host shot back, 'The sticker on the back says "$50". I could give you ten bucks for it right now and that would be the end of the discussion.' The guest turned a deep shade of red and the show switched to a commercial. The $750 paid for the Batman comic doesn't render it priceless, but it's not pocket change either.

    16 December 2011

    World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum

    Featuring: Susan Barrett, Director; Rex Sinquefield, Sponsor; Charlie Dooley, St.Louis County Executive; Shannon Bailey, Vice President, Exhibitions & Curatorial Affairs; Larry List, Curator, Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection; and Dr. George Dean, Collector ('over 1000 chess sets and chess items from 100 different countries').

    World Chess Hall of Fame - Opening Ceremony (5:44) • 'The World Chess Hall of Fame reopened in Saint Louis in September 2011.'

    For more info, visit WorldChessHof.org.

    15 December 2011

    Out to Ruin FIDE?

    In yesterday's summary of the recent Executive Board meeting at the 82nd FIDE Congress, 2011 FIDE Executive Board : Whither the World Championship?, I mentioned a 'discussion of two lawsuits that have cost FIDE heavily'. The remarks were made during Ilyumzhinov's Report of the President. Here they are as reported in the minutes of the meeting.

    Speaking about problems which FIDE is facing, I would like to draw your attention to a law suit, initiated by English Chess Federation and Georgia. I just want to mention that we have a necessity to amend the FIDE Statutes, regarding the place of settling legal disputes -– CAS of Lausanne. When I was in Tbilisi in summer for the opening of the European Women’s Chess Championship and also festivities to celebrate birthdays of two great chess players, Nona Gaprindashvili and Maya Chiburdanidze, I spoke to the President of the Georgian Chess Federation and I asked them why they sued FIDE and during the negotiations I clearly understood that this process has nothing to do with technical or sporting aspect of FIDE’s activities. I was told that I should make an agreement with Kasparov and President of Georgia. This is a pure politically cooked suit, and this has to be solved in another legal institution, and not in Sports arbitration. Mr. Makropoulos will speak in detail about this.

    We had a suit against Karpov and Kasparov, in CAS of Lausanne, last September. Kasparov found sponsors in the US, who paid all expenses for this suit. You know that the meeting was also had political background and aims. And we did win the court case, but we all together lost more than 1 million USD. We all make money for chess and in one month we spend for the lawyers this amount of money. This is cash we are talking about, we could have spent this money for chess in schools or our development programmes. Now if England and Georgia do not revoke this suite, we will spend another million in legal expenses, and the 1 million USD which we would receive for chess in schools, but it would be spent for our lawyers in Lausanne.

    The first lawsuit mentioned in that excerpt, the one initiated by the ECF and the country of Georgia, was chronologically the second. Since there is no explanation of what the lawsuit involves, let's turn to the Streatham & Brixton blog for a summary: Independent and accountable.

    The case revolves around the appointment of extra FIDE Vice-Presidents, which, it is alleged, is unconstitutional. • It is being paid for by Garry Kasparov - or so it is suggested, and at any rate will not, it is claimed, cost (or risk) the ECF a penny • Kasparov (or whoever it may be) is not able to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne because the complainant needs to be a federation affiliated to FIDE, and hence, presumably via Nigel Short and/or CJ de Mooi, it's been agreed that the ECF should do it.

    The second lawsuit mentioned, stemming from Karpov's 2010 bid for the FIDE presidency, was discussed later in the minutes of the Executive Board, during the Financial report.

    Mr. Freeman [FIDE Treasurer] said [...] You can see that in the last year accounts that FIDE made a very small loss and that is despite us having legal fees more than was expected. When he did the budget he was not sure regarding the Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad, and he did not budget for all the income, and legal fees were very high.

    You all know what this court case was about – five federations together with Karpov2010 campaign sued FIDE that we illegally accepted nominations for Kirsan’s ticket. The CAS first of all decided that Karpov2010 is not an entity to join so the suit was brought by the five federations and result was that the only ticket that had an illegal nomination was from one of the federations who was suing us. That does not help. We are attempting to try and recoup the costs. 65% of the CAS costs were awarded to us and small extra sum on top of that, but none of our legal costs. This case is in the CAS at present and we are waiting to see the outcome.

    You will be glad to hear that the view of the five federations is that they themselves cannot afford to pay but that FIDE is a big organisation which is rich and can raise the amount by putting a levy on all FIDE federations to pay the cost. In this case they seem to be trying to get the Greeks to pay for the Germans! We do not know if we will get some of the money back until the case is finished. The amount of nearly one million USD was spent on lawyers. We hope that expenses in respect of the second case will not reach this level. And you will see in the budget for 2012, which is ready and will be brought in later, that contingency for legal fees is included. We hope that Kasparov will stop continuously to sue us, but we cannot judge this in advance.

    The CAS decision is recorded in a September 2010 document on Chessvibes.com, ARBITRAL AWARD delivered by COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT [PDF], and names the five federations: 'national chess federations of France, Germany, Switzerland, the Ukraine and the United States'. The cost of the lawsuits is recorded in an annex distributed as part of the minutes. Legal Costs of EUR 900,321 in 2010 (vs. EUR 83,711 in 2009) was the largest item in Total Expenses of EUR 2,249,975 in 2010 (EUR 1,462,544 in 2009). A Euro (EUR) is currently worth about USD 1.30. Continuing with the minutes:-

    Mr. Yazici [Vice President] thanked Mr. Freeman for efforts to balance the account under the situation. He said that we have applied for recovery of costs, but asked whether there is a plan B against these federations who sued us as this money would have been used for the benefit of chess.

    Mr. Freeman said we should wait and see the outcome in the CAS and then it is up to FIDE to decide if we wish to take any further action.

    Mr. Hamers [Zone 1.1 President] asked Mr. Freeman about the legal fees and said that in the Verification Commission we talked about this. We see an enormous amount of money without specification. He said former legal cases were much less. We asked for specifications and justification of expenses. Verification Commission will look into this after the Congress. It is difficult to make a judgement as we do not know the details.

    Mr. Freeman said that as he had said in Verification Commission the White and Case were acting very aggressively and that the CAS has never seen so much documentation. White and Case were flooding the CAS with documentation and the trouble is that CAS is arbitration court for sports and it is not like a court in any country, they are not used to this type of behaviour. We have professional Swiss lawyers, they are good, they had to take time, and there were also lawyers from other countries. This also damages FIDE professionally as well considering the time spent by FIDE staff on this. This is why we should consider the amount of hours spent on the case. Mr. Boxall knows the figure and he will require the additional info, he will receive it, and the bills were inflated by White and Case’s assertions that had to be responded to and not by FIDE. I understand that Karpov2010 guaranteed the federations concerned that they would not suffer. Now it is said that they cannot afford the guaranteed costs. It is easy for FIDE to claim its money from its federations, this is what they are saying. He advised Mr. Hamers to speak to the suing federations, so the question should be to them, not to FIDE. We presume that they were discussing the subject with White and Case on a regular basis.


    Mr. Makropoulos [Deputy President] proposed to publish this on the website. He said Mr. Hamers is right to raise such concerns as FIDE won the case. He said FIDE should stop asking expenses from these federations, but some of the federations do not learn their lessons, but then we will win again and maybe this is the only solution. he was informed that Mr. Kapustin said that FIDE should reserve more money in the budget as bigger legal cases are coming. He said he had personal discussions with the only person who is really worried, which is Mr. Azmaiparashvili. The others do not worry at all about the amount of money spent.

    Mr. Gelfer [Vice President] said he has been talking about this in the last 5 years insisting that we should change the system and predicting that we will win cases and lose money. Not only that this can be left on the air, we mean here 50% of the FIDE budget. He thinks that we have very good and honest lawyers but still that if we think like a businessman, it is an enormous amount. Kasparov is planning some more law cases, what we can do, we are planning to change the Statutes that such cases should go to civil system where we have a prospect of not spending so much. CAS has a different approach, and they do not know that we have no money to spend on court cases. We will never get money back from CAS.

    The discussion moved to the newer lawsuit.

    Mr. Azmaiparashvili [Vice President] said that thank you Mr. Makropoulos mentioned me and this is true that many people are worrying that FIDE is spending huge amount of money on court cases which can be used in proper way to develop chess. But what I want to say and I am talking about the current court case, right now with FIDE, where English and Georgian Federations are in the court. I am saying that 14 federations approximately sent to FIDE letters asking FIDE to correct the mistake and to defend the statutes and nobody was planning to go to the court and force FIDE to spend money, but unfortunately FIDE did not react and did not correct their mistake and my federation felt insulted, but if FIDE any day is ready to correct the mistake, then we intend not to spend so much money for the lawyer. I was sorry that Mr. President mentioned the discussion with Mr. Giorgadze, I was not present and I have no information about this discussion and the President of my country is mentioned. And we have an independent country, democratic country, and the President is not involved in our federation’s politics.

    Mr. Makropoulos said that there was a letter from Silvio [Danailov; Continental President for Europe], but there are no signatures or no stamps from other federations. But we saw that two federations go against us. The main point is that let’s say FIDE wins the case, that what we should correct the mistakes. You were also nominated as one of the Vice Presidents outside of the Statutes, and always General Assembly makes a decision, and it is a respected decision. And this is practice for 30 years. So the question is if we win and we spend the half of million and should we recover the costs from these two federations or not. This is a risk and this is what everyone is worried about.

    Mr. Yazici said that in any democracy suing is the right of any member. I cannot understand why one is trying to defend oneself more than necessary. But when we come to the point of Mr. Azmaiparashvili, I did not know that FIDE received such a proposal. If Georgia and England are ready to withdraw the suit case, I am ready to resign on the spot. We do not care for the titles. Maybe there are some who can resign but then the two federations have to cover all

    The FIDE President gave a historical recourse to the relations between Kasparov and FIDE, and between Kasparov and himself. He said that unfortunately the main aim of Mr. Kasparov is to ruin FIDE, not help FIDE.


    Mr. Danailov said with all my respect to the speech of K. Ilyumzhinov, he said not only he but many other people share a lot of negative opinion of Mr. Kasparov, but he wants to share his personal experience, but he is not here to defend Mr. Kasparov. He said that Mr. Kasparov joined ECU and helped them a lot, they created a special Chess in Schools project, they invested 100,000 euro to this Commission, we met all together two officials in UNESCO. He thanked Mr. Tornaritis for arranging the meeting. And recently there was an important presentation before MPs in European Parliament. He is grateful for the support of Mr. Kasparov. He said we have to appreciate this. And this was done by Mr. Kasparov for free. I think that for FIDE instead of making war, we should find some ways to use his name as he can be very useful for the world of chess.

    This was followed by a discussion on a possible settlement: 'if two Vice Presidents resign, then the case will be dropped'.

    Mr. Al Hitmi [Honorary Vice President] said why FIDE is at defensive side. I know at the democratic organisation, General Assembly has a final power to nominate any number of Vice Presidents, this is the choice of the people. I suggest that I will do it by myself. FIDE should sue these people and ask for paying for damaging our reputation. I will do it myself in my capacity as Vice President. We should teach them if they do not honour our General Assembly.

    Is Kasparov behind the English / Georgian suit or not? If he is, it makes me wonder if this was his real reason for supporting Karpov's bid for the FIDE Presidency last year. Whether Karpov won or not, there was bound to be material for a potential lawsuit against FIDE. Or two lawsuits.

    13 December 2011

    What's What in Endgames

    Continuing with A Brief History of Endgame Theory, where I reproduced the preface to Averbakh's 'Comprehensive Chess Endings' (CCE), an advantage in having this work in digital format (see Averbakh's Convekta for details) is being able to analyze the critical points of endgame research. For example, the following table shows the number of positions in CCE with a certain number of pieces.

    4- :    412
    5   : 1404
    6   : 1020
    7   :   487
    8   :   222
    9+ :   599

    In other words, CCE has 412 positions with four pieces or less, 1404 with exactly five pieces, and 599 with nine pieces or more. As I mentioned in the Convekta post, CCE has 'over 4100 examples in total', while the number of positions in the table totals over 4400. Why the difference? The reason is that many CCE examples consist of a key, numbered diagram to illustrate a main theme. These are followed by text descriptions that shift a piece, perhaps the Black King, to different squares in order to illustrate variations on the main theme. In the book, only the numbered diagram is counted as a position, while in the digital file each shifted position is also counted once.

    When the Convekta version of CCE was released, tablebases covered five-piece endgames. A few years later the first six-piece tablebase became available, and a seven-piece version is in the works today. GM Pal Benko's column 'Endgame Lab' in the December 2011 issue of Chess Life had this to say (p.48).

    Progress with the Seven-Piece Database : The six-piece endgame database, a marvel in its own right, is now in danger of being overtaken exponentially by the arrival of a seven-piece database.

    This month I am providing a short review of recent endgame database progress. The remarkable six-man database, now in the public domain (available at www.k4it.de), has even shown a record 243-move win. The team of Americans Mark Bourzutschky and Russian Yakov Konoval have worked together to aim for even higher peaks. As early as 2006, among other interesting records, they reported an unbelievable 517(!)-move win in a King, Queen, Knight versus King, Rook, Bishop, and Knight seven-man endgame. But these are positions without Pawns -- very rare in real games.

    Their newest article (in EG 2011) presents piece and Pawn endgames too. Much more challenging for optimal play because of possible Pawn promotions and en passant moves, these endings are much more useful for practical players. Bourzutschky and Konoval gladly answered me and provided some analysis for Chess Life readers.


    I asked them about their future plans. "We are not sure whether we even want to generate all the seven-man endgames, because many will not be interesting but still take up a lot of space. Better analysis of the databases generated so far, and moving to interesting eight-man endgames may be more relevant."

    While I don't agree that the six-piece tablebase is 'in danger' of anything, the backend of chess is in danger of losing its mystery. But what can you do? That's progress. Over 60% of the CCE positions are already subject to exact solution and their numbers will increase in a few years.

    12 December 2011

    Chess for Free, Chess for Fun

    Next on the list for Been There, Done That is Chess for Free, which I added to my page on Chess for Fun. The references are somewhat dated, but the ideas aren't, and it would be a good candidate for a complete rewrite.

    09 December 2011

    1824 Edinburgh - London

    4-year chess © Flickr user piglicker under Creative Commons.

    Won by the
    Edinburgh Chess Club
    from the
    London Chess Club
    in the
    Match at Chess
    Begun 23 April 1824,
    Ended 31 July 1828.

    For an account of the match by the Edinburgh Chess Club, see Edinburgh - London Correspondence Chess Match. To play through the games, see 1824 Edinburgh Chess Club vs London Chess Club on Chessgames.com.

    08 December 2011

    Ask Kasparov

    A couple of months ago, the Internet Chess Club (ICC) invited chess fans to ask Kasparov questions via its Facebook page.

    Ask Kasparov - the verdict is in! We asked for questions for us to put to Garry Kasparov, and ICC was overwhelmed by your response! There was many interesting questions to be asked of the former world champion - so many that we decided we would extend the winners to 9 instead of 5. Later in the week, we will publish Kasparov's answers, but for now, find below a list of the winner's and their question.

    You can find the questions on another ICC Facebook page, Album: Wall Photos. The interview took place just after a blitz match between Kasparov and Short during the 2011 edition of Your Next Move in Belgium. I don't think the interview was ever transcribed to print, but a video recording is available on the ICC at 25:30 into ICC ChessFM presents GM Alexei Yermolinsky's Game Of the Day - Kasparov - Short Match. The recording is at times hard to follow because of background noise, but it is classic Kasparov. Here are some of the highlights, abridged and paraphrased.

    Q: Any plans to come out of retirement? A: No. • Q: Current goals? A: Introducing chess in educational systems around the world.

    Q: Best game you played and lost? A: Game 18, 1986 London/Leningrad match with Karpov, spoiled by three blunders just before time control. • Q: Best game played very well? A: Games 24 & 16 in 1985 match with Karpov; 1999 game with Topalov; 1983 game with Portisch; mentions new book 'Garry Kasparov's Chess Career'. • Q: Most memorable tournament? A: Linares 1992 & 1993, Wijk aan Zee 1999.

    Q: How to improve the image of chess? A: Just tell the facts: played all over the world, used as an educational tool, used for advertising purposes, used in movies. Don't do it like FIDE leadership, e.g. through association with aliens.

    Q: Impact of chess software? A: Players have more and more of a geometrical mentality; look at positions the way computers do. People rely too much on engines; 'most players are following computer lines'. Vast amount of information available now.

    Q: Will new time format for the championships or chess960 or advanced chess concepts help to promote the image of chess? A: 'I think we could definitely experiment within the same rules. The devastating thing is just trying to change the basic rules, like changing the moves or trying to change the game outcome, like eliminating draws.'

    Q: How will Internet affect clubs? A: 'Physical contact is still very important.' Comes back to the teaching aspect.

    Q: What is the right method of teaching chess to 4-6 years old children? A: 'I'm a chess player, not a professional teacher.' Talks about linking chess to the cultural icons that attract young children.

    Q: Still active in Russian politics? A: Yes.

    I'll cover Kasparov's comments on chess960 on my blog for that subject (see the sidebar).

    06 December 2011

    A Brief History of Endgame Theory

    Continuing with Averbakh's Convekta, Averbakh's 'Preface to the First Edition' on the DVD presents a short history of endgame theory.

    Out of the vast amount of literature on chess, the number of works devoted to the endgame is relatively small. The point is that the development of endgame theory has taken a rather different path to that of the opening and the middlegame. The reason for this is rooted in the very history of modern chess.

    The origin of chess theory dates from the 16th and 17th centuries,' when the predominant style was that of the Italian School, typified by sharp gambit openings and swift attacks on the king. Often a game then would simply not reach the endgame, but would conclude in the middlegame, or even the opening, when the enemy king, under a hail of spectacular blows, normally involving sacrifices, would be mated. The endgame was regarded as a tedious, uninteresting phase of the game, so that the playing of it was marked by a lack of inspiration, and elementary mistakes and oversights were committed.

    The deeper understanding of chess gradually led to the development of the technique of positional play and defence. It became more difficult to conclude the game in the good old style, and more and more often a game would extend into the endgame. An advantage of one 'worthless' pawn in the endgame often proved decisive, since this pawn would inexorably advance and triumphantly promote to a queen. "Pawns are the soul of chess" -- this saying of the celebrated French player of the 18th century Andre Philidor shows in the best way possible the growing role of the pawn. And it is no accident that Philidor, who was the first to formulate the principles of positional play, analyzed a number of endings which have not lost their importance right up to the present time.

    The number of theoretical researches on the endgame grew, but it was a long time before any generalizing works, encompassing all types of endings, were to appear. This state of affairs was furthered by another factor. There are different tasks facing researchers into the opening and the endgame. While it will sometimes be impossible (and also unnecessary) to give an exhaustive analysis of some opening system or variation, things are different with regard to the endgame. Here what is often required is a mathematically exact analysis, taking account of all possibilities, without exception, and leading to strictly defined conclusions. While in a game even between two top-class players, who have made a deep study of opening theory and have a mastery of middlegame techniques, the practical or creative element nevertheless predominates, in many endgame positions exact knowledge is of paramount importance.

    A generalizing work, devoted entirely to endings, was Berger's book Theorie und Praxis der Endspiele. The first edition appeared in 1890, and the second, which was considerably enlarged, in 1922. This edition is regarded as a classic. A significant role in the creation of endgame theory has also been played by the works of Cheron, Euwe, Fine, Gawlikowski and other analysts.

    The first endgame guide in Russian appeared during the Soviet era. This was I. Rabinovich's work Endshpil (first edition 1927, second edition 1938). In 1956 Lisitsin's book Zaklyuchitelnaya chast shakhmatnoy partii ('The concluding part of the chess game') was published. In our country a study of the endgame has been made by a number of top-class players. In the first instance we must give the names of Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Bondarevsky, Kholmov, Krogius, Rauzer, Grigoriev, Kasparian, Kopayev, Chekhover, I. Rabinovich, Sozin, Lisitsin, Khenkin and Dvoryetsky. Each of these has made his contribution to the development of endgame theory.

    The history continues in Kotov and Yudovich's Soviet School of Chess, in a section of the chapter titled 'Main Features of the Soviet School'.

    THE END-GAME: This was once the Achilles' heel of Soviet masters -- even as late as 1939, when, in a training tournament, Grandmaster Flohr won many encounters from them thanks to his excellent endgame technique. Our players tackled this problem with characteristic Soviet determination and energy. Their studies, which included the entire backlog of endgame analyses, assumed broad scope and revealed subtleties which theoreticians had never noticed before.

    An outstanding endgame analyst was N.D.Grigoriev, whose work in this field may weel be called classical. Valuable contributions have been made by Averbakh, Chekhover, Kasparyan, Keres, Khachaturov, Kopayev, Levenfush, Maizelis, Rabinovich, Romanovsky, and Zek.

    The authors go on to mention specific endgame themes: R+fh vs. R; R+2P vs. R+P; B+a vs. a; 2N vs. Ps; Q+P vs. Q; 'the so-called nine squares problem in Rook endgames and the opposition on neighboring files' [MW:?]; B vs. BOC; B vs. N; and R+Ps vs. N+Ps.

    A group of endgame theoreticians headed by Averbakh have prepared a sort of encyclopedia of endings which sums up the experience of major tournaments and matches of recent years and presents many original analyses. The endgame investigations by Soviet analysts disclose the essence of positions taken from tournament games or such as are of practical importance. This approach differs fundamentally from that of analyses dealing with variations whose correlation of forces is hardly to be met in practice.

    In a subsequent post I'll map Kotov and Yudovich's summaries onto Averbakh's 'encyclopedia of endings'.

    05 December 2011

    Been There, Done That with Gambits

    Moving right along with Been There, Done That, I added Guide to Chess Gambits Part 1 and Part 2 to the Advanced Beginner section of Learn to Play Chess. At the time I wrote the articles, I experimented with gambits on the servers and had nearly a 100% success rate, although my opponents weren't particularly strong players.

    02 December 2011

    Computer Chess History

    Various web pages date this clip, titled 'Endgame: Challenging the Masters', to no later than 2005, but I hadn't seen it before. The end credit is for the Computer History Museum.

    Deep Blue beats G. Kasparov 1997 (6:07) • 'Kasparov was the World Chess Champion, the best there was. In 1997, he made history facing IBM's Deep Blue in a chess contest, where the computer won.'

    For the full story, see Computer History Museum - Chess Exhibit: 'This on-line exhibition contains documents, images, artifacts, oral histories, moving images and software related to computer chess from 1945 to 1997.' The video, one of three on the subject, is filed under 'Defeating the World Chess Champion : Moving Images'.

    01 December 2011

    DVDs as Cheap as Dirt

    In the past I've remarked that as we approach the Christmas season, the number of Top eBay Chess Items by Price increases dramatically, then tapers off as the holiday season comes to an end. It's strange then, that three weeks before Christmas, I would have so few items to choose from. I could only find two auctions -- for items other than chess sets -- that closed during the past fortnight. One was a Capablanca letter that sold 'Best Offer' for US $1500:-

    Original signed handwritten letter by World Chess Champion Jose Capablanca. Written March 21st, 1927, on letterhead of the Manhattan Square Hotel, during the New York 1927 Tournament, which was being held there, and while he was World Champion. Capablanca won the tournament comfortably with 14 points, ahead of Alekhine who had 11 1/2.

    The other had a title that said, '215 CHESSBASE FRITZ TRAINER DVD CHESS COLLECTION LOT'. It sold 'Best Offer' for US $499.99. In fact, on the previous day the same item also sold 'Best Offer' for US $450.00. It's currently listed again for US $499.99. The description said,

    This 215 DVD series is the entire collection of Fritz Trainers that includes openings, middle games, endgames, player careers, topical surveys, strategies, tactics, psychology, all related to the game of chess. This is the ultimate collection that is a must for any die hard serious tournament player. The DVDs require some format of a Chessbase reader such as Chessbase, Fritz, or Rybka. If you don't have any of these there's a free version of Chessbase Light that you can download off the internet that will play these DVDs with full function. This includes a few French and German titles as well. Total there are 202 English titles and 13 French and German titles.

    The complete collection comes you onto a brand new Seagate 500GB 2.5" Expansion Portable External Hard Drive with a 1 year warranty included.

    So what's going on here? My guess is that digital copies of the DVDs have been downloaded from the web, collected onto the Seagate 500GB HD, and offered to anyone willing to put up $500 for pirate copies of Chessbase software. This is another example of the ubiquitous phenomenon I first noticed a few years ago in Chess Torrents.

    Given that the Seagate HD currently sells for about $70, the seller is making an easy $400 per auction. I have no idea how much Chessbase pays the GMs featured on the DVDs, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's in that ballpark. You can get more info about the various Fritz Trainer DVD titles on the Training page at Chessbase-shop.com.