31 January 2012

The Vanishing 1.P-K4 Prophecy

An ad for the 'World Amateur Team & U.S. Amateur Team East ' in the most recent issues of Chess Life reminds us that the year 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship match. (It also marks the 20th anniversary of their return match, but I'll save that for later in the year.) The ad reproduced a prophetic image ('But, Boris, what if he doesn't play 1.P-K4?') from the June 1972 Chess Life, pictured below.

On its content page the 1972 magazine explained,

A commission drawing marvelously executed by Bob Walker, a New York commercial artist. The likenesses of Spassky, Kosygin and Brezhnev have been magnificently captured.

As is so often the case, the chessboard was less 'magnificently captured'. Note also the CL cover price, $0.85, and compare that with the December 2011 CL, which had a cover price of $3.95. How well does that track inflation over the 40 year period?

30 January 2012

Been There, Done That with Solitaire Chess

Wikipedia confirms that the word Monday 'is derived from Old English Mōnandæg and Middle English Monenday, which means "moon day"'. On this blog it also means Been There, Done That, so I added Getting the Most out of Solitaire Chess to my page Improve Your Chess Game.

29 January 2012

Google's Blogger Buzz

Keeping up with chess news already places demands on my time, but I also try to keep up with the underlying blogging technology. That means looking at Blogger.com's Blogger Buzz ('The Official Buzz from Blogger at Google') at least once a week. Here are posts from the last six months that I considered important enough to make special note.

+1 button, handling copyright, Favicon, Lightbox, dynamic views, Analytics support, AdSense, Google+, threaded commenting. That's a lot to take in at one go.

Noting these evolutions is one thing; incorporating them on my own blogs is another. I'd like to start with Favicon by re-using the icon from my site World Chess Championship on my blog of the same name. First glitch: 'Please use a square image that's less than 100KB', but my logo is 83x100 and the site where I found the original -- Chess Graphics, WCC logo, Cowderoy.com -- is long gone. Fortunately, that home page redirects to Chess Graphics at Chessgraphics.net. What Favicon should I use for my two other blogs?

27 January 2012

Shirov on Shirov - Kramnik 1998

Shirov won the match, but Kramnik collected the prize money and a few years later even got the opportunity to play Kasparov, winning the World Champion title. After quitting FIDE, Kasparov turned the chess world on its head in more ways than one.

Kramnik Vs. Shirov - Final Game (1/2) (16:52) • 'Alexei Shirov gives a first-hand account of his 1998 clash in Cazorla, Spain with Vladimir Kramnik - in a match held to decide who would become the official challenger to World Champion Garry Kasparov.'

I'd never seen the clip before, but I guess that it's an excerpt from Shirov! (Shirov-Kramnik 1998) - GM Alexei Shirov on Chessvideo.com. Who's the fellow presenting it? He's obviously a good player, but I don't recognize him.

26 January 2012

Chess Makes a Statement

But what's the statement?

The caption read,

4/17/72 -- Attica, NY : Some of the inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility play chess -- but with unseen opponents. This photograph by Cornell Capa is part of a photographic essay he produced for the McKay Commission, which is investigating the September 1971 uprising at the state prison. The commission made public Capa's report 4/17, as it resumed public hearings in New York. (UPI)

For more about the uprising, see Attica Prison Riot (Wikipedia).

24 January 2012

My Most Popular Posts

The end of this week is the deadline for submitting material to Blog Carnivals Continue, and after racking my brain (a horrible phrase that refers to the medieval torture instrument 'the rack') for a favorite post I'm still clueless. I couldn't even decide which of my three blogs to choose from. While my chess960 blog gets less traffic than the other two, it includes material that, for me at least, is more interesting than the other two blogs.

What to do? Let the blogs' visitors decide. For each of my blogs, these are the most popular posts of all time according to the stats in Blogger.com.

Chess for All Ages

I can't be absolutely certain, but I suspect that popular posts get that way because they are near the top of the results for searches on their subjects. The post on 'Soviet Geography' is popular because people are looking for historical maps of the Soviet Union; 'Big Bang Chess' is popular because people search for exactly that; and 'CFAA' is popular because CFAA means something that I am unfamilar with (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?).

World Chess Championship Blog

Here's a real mystery: I have no real idea why the 'FIDE EB' is so popular. It has had more visits than the top three CFAA posts combined, even though the WCC blog gets a quarter of the traffic that CFAA gets. The post on 'Historical Ratings' is popular because there is a natural interest; I also get a lot of email on the subject. 'Qualifiers' is popular because people search for the list on a current World Cup without specifying which year they want.

Chess960 (FRC)

There's no mystery here. These three posts correspond to common topics of interest related to chess960. If my stats are any indicator, interest in chess960 is increasing slowly but steadily.

22 January 2012

Canadian Caissart

In this fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I'm always happy to discover artwork where the subject is chess. Examples are few and far between. The auction for the painting pictured below was titled 'Ghitta Caiserman Roth Canadian / Quebec oil painting mid century chess game' and sold 'Best Offer' for $500.

The description said,

Ghitta Caiserman Roth (1923-2005) • Easily one of the nicest pieces she did • Oil on masonite approx 10"x 8" with original painted frame 16 3/4"x 14 3/4" • Signed lower front right • Tag to back • Title to back chess game • No paint loss, frame in used condition.

For more about the artist, see Ghitta Caiserman-Roth on Earthartgallery.com.

20 January 2012

Print Your Own 3D Chess Set

That's not 'Build Your Own', 'Carve Your Own', or 'Assemble Your Own'; it's 'Print Your Own'. If you're thinking 'So what!', don't forget it's in three dimensions. A 3D printer is no longer the stuff of science fiction.

The Replicator with Chess Set © Flickr user makerbot under Creative Commons.

For more about this modern miracle, see MakerBot Industries, 'the cutting edge of extrusion technology'.

19 January 2012

The Wikipedia Blackout

As I noted in yesterday's post, New Zonal Clippings for C19 on my World Championship Blog, the one day Wikipedia blackout forced me to put off some minor web research. After flashing the target page for a split second, the following screen appeared.

The text reads,

Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge • For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia. Learn more.

The 'Learn more' link went to SOPA and PIPA - Learn more. There's no question that Wikipedia is a positive force in the world, but it's not lily white either. A post on the The Chess Museum -- A SAD REVELATION -- caught my attention when it appeared last year.

I was looking up something about Jackson Whipps Showalter and Pillsbury (H N) to confirm a thought I had about winning the US championship and then defending the title. Well, Wikipedia had the information because it was copied directly from Hooper & Whyld's book (I was double checking)! Directly. No paraphrasing, no parsing, no mention (except under references [and that doesn't given them a license to "lift"]). This is wrong.

Yes, it is wrong, and I've seen other examples of the same thing. Anonymous contributors hand-in-hand with self-policing makes a bad marriage. Wikipedia should get its own act in order before it starts complaining about forthcoming legislation designed to protect the original content creators. They deserve more respect and a better deal than Wikipedia is giving them.

17 January 2012

The Rybka Affair: An Official Reaction

Back in July 2011, I ran two posts on the Rybka disqualification from the World Computer Chess Championships: The Rybka Affair (on my WCC blog) and The Rybka Affair (on YouTube) on this blog. The disqualification was based on a report:-

Rybka Investigation and Summary of Findings for the ICGA
Mark Lefler, Robert Hyatt, Harvey Williamson and ICGA panel members; 12 May 2011

You can find the full report on the web by searching on its title. The heart of that document is its second section:-

  • 2. Investigation
  • 2.1 Executable file analysis
  • 2.2 Sudden Strength Increase
  • 2.3 Statements by Vasik Rajlich
  • 2.4 Comparisons with other programs

After the Rybka team, the main target of the accusations was certainly Chessbase. After taking six months to investigate the original complaint, the German software company issued its position in a four part series titled 'A Gross Miscarriage of Justice in Computer Chess' by Dr. Søren Riis:-

  • Part One: Summary • Introduction • History of Rybka • The ICGA’s investigation and outcome

  • Part Two: A paradigm shift in computer chess • How to succeed in programming without really trying • On the matter of "plagiarism" • Playing similarity testing of computer chess programs • What defines an original program?

  • Part Three: Evaluation: a tale of two programs • Feature Overlap: garbage in, garbage out • Dots amazing: the case of the errant ‘0.0’

  • Part Four: Piece-Square Tables: sound and fury signifying something • Dr. Hyatt’s explanation • Variations in C-Sharp • The small window of opportunity argument • The ICGA’s problematic handling of the case • A subjective view of what really went down

A week later Chessbase posted on the immediate reaction to its report

In contrast to the legions of hot heads blowing hot air on this subject -- from both sides -- Albert Vasse of DGT, offered an objective approach.

I suggest you take the case to the FIDE Ethics Commission. The FIDE code of ethics is applicable to the ICGA, as an affiliated organisation to FIDE. The Ethics Commission can investigate and rule on any complaint that is brought to [their] attention.

I've written about that body in the past (see FIDE Ethics) If either side pursues Vasse's suggestion, it would be the most important case the Ethics Commission has considered to date. The ICGA plans to issue a detailed response to the Chessbase report and I'll come back to the subject after it has been released.

15 January 2012

Blog Carnivals Continue

It turns out that the last of 2011's monthly blog carnivals, Happy Birthday, Carnival!, wasn't the last of all time. The tradition continues on Robert Pearson's Chess Blog with Submit to the Chess Blogging Carnival: The Best Of!

Find the "best of" ever posts in your blog, other people's blogs or even articles from the big non-blog chess sites (just this once). I'm talking back to the dawn of the Web, or even before. January 27 is the deadline for submissions, and the first post is scheduled for February 1. Now get those links coming!

With three chess blogs and over 1500 posts on those blogs, I should be able to find something of my own to contribute. How do those guys with hundreds of suits in their wardrobe decide what to wear?

13 January 2012

Chess Sells Beer?

When you can't get enough football...

Miller Lite Chess Hospital (0:30) • 'The Champagne of Bottled Beers'

Advertising slogans of beer > Miller Beer: 'It's Miller time!' • 'Tastes great, less filling' • 'Everything you always wanted in a beer. And less.' • 'If you've got the time, we've got the beer'

12 January 2012

Steve Jobs and Chess

Although I was never a huge fan of Steve Jobs, seeing in him as much P.T.Barnum as technological visionary, I could only admire his string of product successes in recent years. Whatever one might think of him, he was one of the most brilliant personalities of our time and his exploits will be remembered long after his premature death last year.

For Christmas, I received a copy of his biography by Walter Isaacson (Thanks, Mom!) and, working through it a short section or two at a time, have read a quarter of the 600 pages. I like biographies and Isaacson's book is one of the most readable examples I can remember. Jobs never struck me as the type of person who would be interested in chess -- I imagine him to have been in the 'waste of time' camp -- so I was suprised to find a reference early in the book (p.35).

[Jobs] and Kottke enjoyed playing a nineteenth-century German variant of chess called Kriegspiel, in which the players sit back-to-back; each has his own board and pieces and cannot see those of his opponent. A moderator informs them if a move they want to make is legal or illegal, and they have to try to figure out where their opponent's pieces are. "The wildest game I played with them was during a lashing rainstorm sitting by the fireside," recalled Holmes, who served as moderator. "They were tripping on acid. They were moving so fast I could barely keep up with them."

Kottke and Holmes were important enough to Jobs' early development to be listed in the three page cast of characters at the beginning of the book.

DANIEL KOTTKE. Jobs's closest friend at Reed [College], fellow pilgrim to India, early Apple employee. • ELIZABETH HOLMES. Daniel Kottke’s girlfriend at Reed and early Apple employee.

As much as I liked seeing the kriegspiel story, it rang slightly false. I can't imagine that anyone could play a decent game of chess while doing LSD. Kriegspiel, being a game of limited information (that I've never played), must be an order of magnitude more difficult. Whatever the truth, it's a good story. Are there any other stories involving Jobs and chess?

10 January 2012

Mystery Notation

I received the image on the left from a correspondent who asked, 'I would like to know what notation is used for this game, played in 1836 at Paris'. After you realize that Black (Noirs) moves first and the ranks are numbered from Black's side of the board, it's not hard to work out the game score (giving White the first move):-

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 Ne4 8.Qb3 c6 9.Bd3 O-O 10.Ne2 dxc4 11.Bxc4 b5 12.Bd3 Bf5 13.Qc2 Re8 14.O-O Bg6 15.Nf4 Nd6 16.Nxg6 hxg6 17.Bf4 Na6 18.Rfe1 Qd7 19.a4 Nc7 20.Bxd6 Qxd6 21.Rxe8+ Rxe8 22.axb5 cxb5 23.Rxa7 Re1+ 24.Bf1 Qc6 25.Qd2 Rb1 26.Qd3 Rc1 27.Ra3 Nd5 28.Qf3 f6 29.Qd3 Nf4 30.d5 Qxd5 31.Qxd5+ Nxd5 *

Unfortunately, that still doesn't tell you what notation was used. Any ideas?

09 January 2012

Walking Through a Chess Game

Sometimes I wish I hadn't Been There, Done That. An example is Walk Through Korchnoi - Kasparov, Olympiad, Lucerne 1982, which I added to my page on Improve Your Chess Game. I created only two pages using the same Walk Through style, based on an About.com technique called step-by-step. The software allowed a maximum of 10 steps, each with a single diagram.

After completing the two pages, I determined that the notes between the diagrams were too difficult to follow without having a board at hand. Later on I switched to the Every Move Explained style (also found under Improve Your Game). That technique worked much better.

08 January 2012

Ruy Lopez in Italian

My series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price is sometimes about comic books, as in Batman Plays Chess with the Joker, and sometimes about more serious works. The eBay item that I've captured in the composite image below was titled '1584 RUY LOPEZ Scacchi FAMOUS RENAISSANCE CHESS MANUAL BOOK Rare 1ST ITALIAN ed', received 37 bids from 20 different bidders, and sold for US $4250. The price more than doubled during the last day of the seven day auction.

The long description of the item pulled together details about the book's origin,

Printed by Cornelio Arrivabene, Venice, 1584. FIRST ITALIAN EDITION. Text in Italian (translated from Spanish by Giovanni Domenico Tarsia). Illustrated with woodcuts of the chess pieces and the chessboard. "C'est la seule édition italienne de ce livre fort rare." (Olschki, Choix de Livres Anciens, 320)

its impact,

López's influential Libro de la invención liberal y arte del juego del axedrez, first published in Spanish in Alcala de Henares in 1561 (that edition is now exceedingly rare!), was one of the earliest chess instruction manuals ever written, and the first major chess book since the 1512 work by Pedro Damiano. López decided to write his own chess manual after finding Damiano's book unsatisfactory. Being the first translation of Lopez's book into a foreign language, and the first edition printed outside Spain, this 1584 Italian edition was crucial in making the work popular in Italy (then an emerging chess power in Renaissance Europe) - and in the entire Europe.

its author,

López de Segura (ca.1530-1580) was born in Zafra near Badajoz, probably of Marrano Jewish descent, and he studied and lived in Salamanca. Considered by many to be the first world chess champion, as he won the first modern chess tournament in Madrid, he was certainly one of the leading players of his day. In 1559-60 he went to Rome to attend an ecclesiastical conference, and whilst there, he defeated all the best players, including Leonardo di Bona. In 1561 he proposed the 50-move rule to claim a draw and introduced the word 'gambit' (particularly, in relation to the Damiano Gambit). It was an important time in the development of the game in Europe when Kings, Popes and gentlemen become patrons of chess players and organised chess competitions at court. In 1574-75 King Philip II of Spain organised a tournament and invited all the top Italian players, though this time López de Segura lost to Leonardo da Curtie and Paolo Boi, though impressing the King by playing a simultaneous blindfold tournament.

and its physical presentation.

Quarto (dimensions of leaves: 20 cm x 14½ cm). Bound in 18th-century reverse vellum (reusing a Hebrew manuscript), with a hand-written title to spine. Pagination: [viii], 214, [2] pp. Signatures: A-Z4 *4 Aa-Dd4. Collated and COMPLETE. Printed in Italic letter with some use of Roman type. Illustrated with seven small woodcut figures of chess board and pieces in text, as well as a woodcut printer's device to title-page, numerous elegant historiated and foliated woodcut initials, head and tail-pieces. Dedicatory Epistle by the translator on leaves A2r-A4r. Colophon and register on leaf Dd4r (verso blank).

I found the 'seven small woodcut figures of chess board and pieces', also pictured with the item, especially attractive. You can see the Knight and the Rook in the bottom row of my composite.

06 January 2012

Wobbling in the Early Morning Light

For the first Flickr Friday of 2012, I had the uninspiring choice of a Chess Cemetery, a Chess Bathroom, and a wobble chess set.

Chess set (Tulsa 2011) © Flickr user woodleywonderworks under Creative Commons.

Find more of the ever popular wobble chess set on Google Images.

05 January 2012

Early Chess Magazines

Starting in February 2008 and continuing for almost two and a half years, Europe Echecs ran a monthly column by Georges Bertola under the heading '50 Ans d'Europe-Echecs' (50 Years of 'Europe-Echecs'). Each month featured a few pages on an early chess magazine. Here is the introduction to the first column, translated loosely from the French:-

In January 2009, 'Europe Echecs' will celebrate its 50th anniversary! While waiting for this event, the Swiss chronicler and collector Georges Bertola presents, each month, one magazine which marked the evolution of the game. This friend of 'Europe Echecs' has naturally chosen to start the chronicle by tracing the genesis of 'Le Palamède', the first [chess] magazine in history, created in 1836 by La Bourdonnais and Méry.

It makes a good follow-up to my recent post on the Kings of Chess Journalism.

  • 1836: 'Le Palamède' (2008-02 p.68)
  • 1841: 'Chess Player's Chronicle' (2008-04 p.66)
  • 1846: 'Deutsche Schachzeitung' (2008-05 p.66)
  • 1857: 'The Chess Monthly' by Morphy (2008-06 p.64)
  • 1867: 'La Stratégie' by Durand and Préti (2008-07 p.64)
  • 1876: 'Shakmatnyi Listok' by Chigorin (2008-09 p.66)
  • 1879: 'The Chess Monthly' by Zukertort (2008-10 p.66)
  • 1885: 'International Chess Magazine' by Steinitz (2008-11 p.66)
  • 1898: 'Wiener Schachzeitung' by Marco (2008-12 p.66)
  • 1904: 'Lasker Chess Magazine' (2009-01 p.88)
  • 1898: 'Der Schachfreund' by Alapine (2009-02 p.66)
  • 1908: 'The Chess Weekly' by Napier (2009-03 p.64)
  • 1912: 'The Capablanca Magazine' (2009-04 p.64)
  • 1906: 'The Chess Amateur' (2009-05 p.64)
  • 1889: 'Deutsches Wochenschach' (2009-06 p.64)
  • 1904: 'American Chess Bulletin' (2009-07 p.64)
  • 1900: 'La Revue d'Echecs' by Goossens (2009-09 p.64)
  • 1889: 'Baltische Schachblatter' (2009-10 p.64)
  • 1906: 'Casopis Ceskych Sachistu' (2010-01 p.67)
  • 1894: 'Tijdskrift för Schack' by the brothers Collijn (2010-02 p.64)
  • 1893: 'Tijdschrift van den Nederlandschen Schaakbond' (2010-03 p.62)
  • 1900: 'La Revue Suisse d'Echecs' (2010-04 p.62)
  • 1911: 'L'Italia Scacchistica' by Rosselli del Turco (2010-05 p.62)
  • 1913: 'Der Schachwart' by Lasker (2010-07 p.64)

The number in bold is the first year of the magazine's publication. The number in parentheses is the year, month, and page of the EE issue featuring that publication.

NB: The first periodical in the list is available on Google Books: Palamède: revue mensuelle des échecs.

03 January 2012

Tablebase Monster

Endgame Tuesday, anyone? Endgames Without a King was my seventh consecutive Tuesday post about endgames (excluding one off-topic post which was too important to be ignored), and this post continues the series.

The following diagram is the conclusion of an interesting endgame with Rook and a-/b-Pawns vs. Rook and g-/h-Pawns (R+ab:R+gh) that a friend sent me for analysis. White had a slight advantage in the Pawn race, where several plausible variations resulted in positions like the diagram.

If you had to guess the outcome, you would probably say 'Draw!' In fact, the position is a mate in 92 moves for White.

White to move and ?

Just as I did in Simple Positions, Pretty Geometries, I like to shift the pieces around in tablebase positions to see what effect small differences have on the evaluation. For example, if you remove the Black Pawn, the position becomes a mate in 55.

If, instead, you shift the Black King to g7, it's mate in 93. On h7, it's mate in 82. On e7, d7, or c7, it's a draw. The diagrammed position is apparently smack dab on the edge of theory: if the White Pawn is on a5, or the Black Pawn on h4, it's also a draw. I didn't follow the tablebase analysis on any of these permutations, but I did follow the original mate in 92.

White first spends 30 moves reaching a position where the White and Black Pawns each advance one square. This requires the White King to defend its Pawn. Then White lets his King get checked across the board to capture the Black Pawn; that takes 10 moves. In this first phase, White can offer Queen swaps, because the resulting Pawn endgame is a win.

After winning the Pawn, White takes 20 moves getting checked back to a8, where Black runs out of checks. Finally, White forces a position with the King on c8, the Queen on c6, and the Black King on h7, where any further checks by the Black Queen allow a cross check forcing a Queen swap. Then it's easy.

As my friend commented in his newsletter (see Alan Lasser’s Game of the Week for some of his earlier issues), 'Over the board, those mates in 92 are hard to find!'

02 January 2012

Been There, Done That with Rating Calculations

One of the first articles I converted from my About.com material was an introduction to

one of several topics mentioned in a post titled More about Chess History. This was far from my last word on the subject, so I converted three later articles:-

These don't make as much sense in the Chess History category as that first piece, but I'll deal with that some other time. For now, I can check off another bullet in Been There, Done That.

01 January 2012

Happy MMXII!

MMXII rotated 180° is IIXWW. Flipped, it's WWXII.


Just like the New Year celebration, my New Year's posts have been all over the map recently. A year ago the 2011 post was on my chess960 blog and two years ago the 2010 post was on 31 December 2009. I have to go back to 2009 to find a normal post. In 2012, let's have a normal year! (Whatever that means).