31 May 2012

Gelfand: 'Computers have not changed the nature of chess'

A question from the final press conference of the Anand - Gelfand title match:-

You started your chess at the end of the 1980s, a time in the USSR when people prior to the Internet world were [well informed], but then the computer came about. What's the difference you perceive between the times when there were no computers on the scene and nowadays, when computers are out there?


Thank you very much for this pertinent question. I don't think it has been given a proper and in-depth study yet. There is only a [superficial] view of the way computers have changed the world of chess and it really requires further exploration. From my perspective, the computer has changed the game in the sense that the access has become so wide and deep. The rapidness of acquiring this information certainly is uncomparable, but from my perspective again it has not changed the nature of chess, especially at this high level of playing the game. It still requires talent, commitment, ability of effort, and [willpower]. Just pushing the button will not change all of that, even if public opinion might see it otherwise.


Of course, computers have levelled the field in many ways. When I was growing up, there was a huge difference in terms of getting access to chess information, depending on where you lived. I would almost always get the latest games months after people in other countries. There was a huge gap in that sort of thing. If you were born in a city like Moscow, you had the chance to work with so many great players. If you were born in some other city you might have to travel for the same opportunities. Computers have levelled a lot of that off. Games are instantly available to everyone. Even if you're not in the same city you can play with people anywhere. We have to face it, the computer is a strong chess playing entity and working with it can be beneficial if used in the right way.

Having said that, I think you can still see that players who grew up learning chess in a certain way -- a structured framework, where concepts are explained clearly -- made better use of computers than players who didn't have that formation. Computers are a huge help to promote the game and in helping anyone improve, but it is not complete. The role of human interaction, learning from people who have been there, who can share their experience, good coaches, can definitely help you understand these concepts. In general, playing chess is about having a good understanding of the concepts. That you can not get only with computers.

The question and Gelfand's comments are according to the Russian - English interpreter.

29 May 2012

Losing with Alekhine's

With this post I'm pulling together a few loose ends. The first is Unusual 1.e4 Responses According to Khalifman, which rekindled my interest in Alekhine's Defense. I used to play it regularly until I lost a game which happens to be the first one recorded in Learn from Your Losses. The game started 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 e6 6.h3 Bh5, reaching the diagram shown below. Khalifman treats this last in his section on Alekhine's, indicating that it is the critical line.

The game I lost continued 7.O-O Be7 8.c4 Nb6 9.Nc3 O-O 10.Be3 d5 11.c5 Bxf3 12.gxf3 N6d7. I had played this successfully some years earlier, where my opponent answered 12.Bxf3 instead of 12.gxf3. The recapture with the Pawn is indeed superior, because the lead f-Pawn is a useful lever to pry open Black's position. All of the games I could find after 12.gxf3 continued 12....Nc8, leading to positions that didn't please me. After some analysis I decided to play 12....N6d7, and suffered with a constricted position for the rest of the game. Khalifman wrote,

Until the middle of the 1990s, the line [through 12....Nc8] used to be considered as the best for White. Later, in connection with the new plan that we recommend to you -- this theoretical evaluation has changed.

Khalifman's 'new plan', starting from the diagram, is 7.c4 Nb6 8.exd6 (8.O-O Be7 transposes to my game) 8...cxd6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.d5 e5 11.g4 Bg6 12.h4 h6 (better than 12...h5 ). This means that if I want to play Alekhine's again -- and I do -- I have to find satisfactory variations after both the older 12....Nc8 and the newer 12...h6.

Getting back to 'Learn from Your Losses?', there are two subsequent losses where I played the unusual 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8, instead of 2...Nd5. I've since abandoned this opening, because White gets an advantage and easy play in all variations. What did I learn from these games?

  • Don't be afraid to play theoretical lines. It's better to learn the theory (whatever the outcome) than to remain ignorant of the theory and lose.

  • Don't play inferior lines in games where the result matters.

While writing this post, I studied the variations for 12....Nc8, and am ready to try it in practical play. As for the variation ending in 12...h6, I'll tackle that another day.

28 May 2012

Tiebreaks & Quizzes

Game 12 of the Anand - Gelfand match ended in a draw, so the two players will meet one last time in a series of tiebreak games. During his commentary, GM Kramnik suggested that tiebreak games be played *before* the regular games. The purpose would be to establish draw odds for one of the players, after which the other player would be already fighting from a deficit in the first game. This was the one redeeming factor of the old system, when the champion went into the match with draw odds. Without draw odds, both players can be satisfied with a draw in each game, so short draws are acceptable when the match is even.

After the game I once again -- as in World Championship History as it Happens -- scrambled to write a post. This time I had the obvious choice to continue with Chess Quizzes for Beginners and prepared the following.

That's nine quizzes done, 27 to go. The work should go faster when the match is over.

27 May 2012

Restoring Chess Sets

For the second consecutive episode of this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I short listed an auction by a seller of chess sets who goes by the nickname Chessspy (note the three 's's). While I was reviewing successful auctions that closed during the last fortnight, I noticed a number of other auctions by the same seller, then manipulated the results to produce the image below. It shows all items sold by Chessspy going back to the beginning of April.

The item that caught my attention for this current post is shown in the upper left. Its title was 'Antique Jaques Barleycorn Chess Set, #23 in Pattern Book. The ONLY known #23', subtitled 'Assessed & discussed by Alan Dewey (CHESSSPY)'. It sold for US $2000, after receiving 9 bids from 5 bidders.

Two weeks ago it was the next item, 'Antique Jaques "Anderssen" Drop-Jaw Chess Set (1860-65) w/lined Victorian case', that caught my attention. It's not that Jaques sets are particularly unusual in eBay listings -- the current list of closed auctions has 31 items -- it's rather that the descriptions of Chessspy's items indicate an expert on the subject. For example, the description of the antique Jaques barleycorn set started,

JAQUES BONE BARLEYCORN WITH 5" KINGS in accordance with JAQUES PATTERN BOOK SET STYLE #23 as identified by Professor Sir Alan Fersht

The set has been assessed by master turner & chess researcher, Alan Dewey, with recourse to the important research about Jaques non-Staunton sets by Professor Sir Alan Fersht, whose research publications and website were used with his kind and express permission.

This is the last Jaques non-Staunton bone set I intend to auction. My study of these interesting and valuable sets is finished and I am parting with all but one of the sets I acquired during that study. As I said in the auction for #17/18, I thought long and hard about this, because for research and greed reasons I am tempted to keep all my Jaques sets and try and put together a collection of sets to match each set on each page of the famous Jaques Pattern Book.

For more about the seller and his work, see Chessspy.com: 'My CHESSSPY website has articles about antique & vintage chess sets, plus the restoration process and some how-to videos plus albums of photographs -- a lot of stuff I have gathered and learned in my 25 years of working with chess sets.' Also worth noting: Chessspy on YouTube.


Later: Received a series of email messages related to this post. I can't pretend to be an expert on this historically important subject, so I'll just reproduce the most important points.

Subject: thank you
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2012 10:57 PM

A client brought your review of my EBay auctions to my attention today, and I wish to thank you for the positive assessment of my work. I should point out that I send out short notices whenever website content has been updated. You might wish to subscribe to these? The signup form is on the CONTACT ME page of my website: it's a big blue swirly button inscribed with "Click here to receive email updates". You click that button and then follow the instructions. - Best regards, Alan Dewey

Twitter @alandewey


A thing which might interest you is my article on the origin of the Staunton pattern chess piece design. I discovered that symbols very similar to the Jaques pieces were in use from 1818 in books so it seems that Jaques simply adopted these symbols which were well known to players of that time to represent on their sets for club players (who were their intended target), not the other way around (books adopting Staunton symbols) as had been thought previously: Staunton Chess Set Design [PDF]

The article above was expanded into a credible piece of research by my wife Milissa Ellison who is the brains behind the 'chessspy' team. I had originally only had this piece of photographic jiggery pokery done for me by my friend Jon Crumiller which shows the essence of the idea: picasaweb.google.com/chessspy/SymbolsFrom1820Book

You might find my stuff a little 'set' oriented but there are a few things which I had thought to publish on and haven't done anything with, for example the book Alice in Wonderland has been illustrated by over a hundred different artists some of whom seem to have used a set they owned (or had access to) in their illustrations. Teniel is the first (and some say best) who seems to have used a St George pattern set as his base for the figures. Mervyn Peake 1954 seems to have used a fairly elaborate Indian style set and others Regence and so on. This all requires a lot of research but there are a lot of 'Alice' fans out there.

I am also interested in the possibility of tracking down the personal set styles owned by some of the 'greats' of chess. Howard Staunton himself took a large St George set with him to play in Paris (1841?). Other continental and American masters of the mid to late 19th c seemed to favour the Regence style (which was very popular). It is difficult to be sure in the period before photography became popular as the artists employed to sketch players at the board were often not chess players themselves and only briefly drew in the set which might be on the table as a setting.

Staunton pattern sets don't seem to have been adopted for congress play much before about 1900 and I'm sure chess clubs kept their 'old style' sets for general play for many years. Would a player take his new prized and expensive set to a congress or would he use his old set? The Staunton pattern wasn't insisted on for use until about 1934 so some places must have still allowed other designs otherwise why legislate?


I have an email list into which people may register themselves. I send a quick note out whenever I have new website content or a new EBay auction. Our primary purpose with EBay auctions is to gain a wide audience, so as to increase awareness of my research & restoration business. Also I wish people to know that that these things -- chess sets, games, various Victoriana -- CAN be restored. Thus they do not have to sit around in deplorable condition, to be consigned to the rubbish bin within a generation or two.

Lastly I am trying to raise awareness of the turning trade as it was practiced by the bulk of the Victorian turners, viz. in the production of useful rather than strictly ornamental objects. This trade is rapidly dying. I discuss this issue here: chessspy.com/notes.htm

It is for these reasons that I also am teaching turning classes. Right now I am gearing up for a beginner's class, in which I am taking four beginners and teaching them in two days (!) to make their own chess sets, carved knights and all. Description here, entitled Beginners' Challenge: chessspy.com/classes.htm

Posted with permission.

25 May 2012

The Chess Players (1929)

Both of these paintings have the same title ('The Chess Players') and were painted in the same year (1929).

Left: By John Lavery (1856-1941) © Flickr user BoFransson, CC.
Right: By William Roberts (1895-1980) © Flickr user Cea., CC.
[CC = under Creative Commons]

I can't decide which I prefer. Click an artist's name to see a larger version.

24 May 2012

World Championship History as it Happens

Every day it's the same routine. I spend the morning doing whatever has to be done for that day. When the Anand - Gelfand match starts at 13:00 local time, I watch the game until it ends a few hours later. I try to work on something else at the same time, but the commentary is usually so compelling that I end up dropping whatever else to watch it. Then I scramble to find something to post on this blog.

Today the tenth game ended in a draw, leaving only two games to be played. The match is tied at five all (+1-1=8) so we are guaranteed to see the last two games, when anything can happen. A recurring criticism of the match is that it is too short, but how long should it be? While working on the post Anand - Gelfand, Petrosian - Botvinnik, from my World Championship blog, I found a relevant quote.

Botvinnik wrote that it was only possible to play 16-18 games at full strength in a world championship match. As to the question of why the rules specified 24 games, the only answer was 'Tradition!'. In his last years, the Patriarch understood this as 'a sign of respect to the players of the past'. • From Karpov's 'Foreword' to 'Botvinnik - Petrosian : The 1963 World Chess Championship Match' by Botvinnik (p.7)

Two years ago, during the 2010 Anand - Topalov match, I tackled the question of optimum match length in Intermediate Scores as a Match Predictor. Although I can't say how statistically significant the numbers were, the results showed that the winners of a 24-game match were never losing at the 12, 14, or 16-game stage. Tied matches were a different story. The answer to 'How many games?' depends on your point of view. The fans want as many as possible, as long as they are interesting. The players want enough to show a just outcome. The organizers want no more than their budgets -- whether time or money -- can support.

After today's game I started to look at ideas for this post. First I considered a piece on Alekhine's Defense, as suggested in my previous post on Unusual 1.e4 Responses According to Khalifman. This was too big a topic to prepare in an hour or two. Then I gathered notes for a post on the earliest Informants. Although I found sufficient material, none of it was compelling enough to stand on its own. Making a coherent post out of the hodgepodge again seemed too big a task.

One of my mottos in blogging is 'When there are no other ideas, show a picture'. I started looking through my stash of chess related images and found a couple of cartoons by Halldór Pétursson on the 1977 Spassky - Hort Candidates match. He's the same Icelandic artist well known for his cartoons of the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match. I once documented the 1972 series in a post titled Halldor Petursson Cartoons.

I have no idea who are the two other gentlemen in the image on the right. At least this post ended in a subject related to the World Championship and gave me some opportunities to link to various odds and ends.

22 May 2012

Unusual 1.e4 Responses According to Khalifman

In Openings According to Khalifman, I assembled 'a summary of the theory covered by each volume, as determined by following the site's Anand Chess Books Collection on the series "Opening for White According to Anand"'. Digging further, I found on the web a preface and an index of variations for all 13 volumes. This is the minimum information a potential buyer needs to determine whether a particular volume covers his own interests.

In fact, I found a preface for all 13 volumes except one : volume five, covering rare responses to 1.e4. To fill that gap, here it is in entirety.

You are now holding in your hands the fifth volume of our series "Opening for White According to Anand - 1.e4". This book is devoted to openings (to put it mildly) rather exotic. In fact, most of the chess professionals consider the systems that we have analyzed in this volume as simply incorrect. It is maybe the Alekhine Defence, which can be spared such definite evaluation, but this would be probably only due to the reputation of this outstanding chess genius.

It is hardly worth denying that Black would eventually fail to equalize after moves like 1...a6, or 1...b6. Nevertheless the chess players, belonging to the older generations, definitely remember the famous game Karpov - Miles (Skara 1980) 1.e4 a6 2.d4 b5 and, no, not 1-0 after 20 moves, but just the opposite -- after 15 moves Black was already slightly better, after 25 moves Miles was clearly dominant and White resigned on move 46. Naturally, all that does not prove that the opening 1.e4 a6 is quite correct, but still it clarifies that neither the win, nor the opening advantage is irrevocably guaranteed even to the best players in the world. White needs some precise knowledge and energetic play to maintain his advantage in these somewhat inferior openings.

This small introduction should tell you that the author has had serious problems collecting practical examples (according to Anand) and elsewhere at a really high level, in the process of writing this volume. The present theoretical material was not of much help either, because all these openings had never been analyzed thoroughly. It became necessary to systematize the available material and to give precise recommendations to White after the numerous orders of moves that Black had at his disposal in these rare openings.

I am not so optimistic about the eventual evaluation, which this book might deserve by my colleagues –- grandmasters. It would hardly be as superb as the reviews of the previous volumes. Moreover, some of them might even pay no attention to it and that would be easily understandable. White presently has so many problems to solve, for example in the Marshall Counterattack, or in the Sicilian Sveshnikov, so why bother about the fine points of the Owen’s Defence (1.e4 b6), which is being played so seldom anyway?

Meanwhile, this book is addressed not only to grandmasters and even least of all to them. Many less experienced players have encountered opponents at club level who solve their opening problems once and for all, by avoiding the endless complicated lines of the Ruy Lopez, or the Sicilian Defence and instead respond to 1.e4 with 1...Nc6 (1...b6, 1...a6, 1...Nf6) and take care only about all immediate refutation attempts? The author has written this book for these particular players with the hope that it might be really useful for them. I would not venture to guarantee you winning your games with White, but you are going to have the opening advantage -- be sure about that!

I never knew that 1...Nc6 & 1...Nf6 were considered to be on the same level as 1...b6 & 1...a6. I used to be successful with 1...Nf6 until I ran into a problem with a critical variation. That was in the time before computer analysis. Perhaps I should look at it again.

21 May 2012

Chess Quizzes for Beginners

Instead of spending my chess time today converting my About.com material, I spent it watching the archived video from game seven of the Anand - Gelfand match, which I missed yesterday, followed by the live broadcast from game eight. Both games were decisive: game seven won by Gelfand, game eight by Anand. Knowing the result of game seven while watching it detracted very little from the overall experience; I still enjoyed it immensely. I learned a lot from GM Leko's detailed analysis and was reminded that the outcome of a game between world class players is seldom certain while in progress.

That last point was brought home even more remarkably in the eighth game. I had Chessdom.com's live analysis, which is text based, open in another tab at the same time the live broadcast was playing. While Leko and GM Nepomniachtchi were still forecasting a slightly better game for Gelfand playing Black, Chessdom had already recorded his resignation. It seemed that everyone except Anand overlooked the Queen trap. With four games to go the match is tied again and I expect we'll hear no more about overcautious play and short draws.

While watching the games, I took some time to drag two of my About.com pages out of archive and prepare them for conversion. Both were part of a series titled 'Chess Quizzes for Beginners':-

Each page links to another 18 pages, which I haven't had time to convert and which don't all work properly on Archive.org. For now, I'll leave those pages hidden on the main site -- also named 'Chess for All Ages' -- and will come back to them next time. I'll sign this post Been There, But Haven't Done That [Redux].

20 May 2012

Korchnoi Busted

The latest episode of the Full English Breakfast (see FEB in May for links and whatnot), featured the recent Aronian - Kramnik match: no.21 - The Big Boys. The image accompanying the audio clip (do people still call them podcasts?) pictured the heads of the 'big boys' immortalized as bronze busts. The credit accompanying the image led to the home page of Bertrand Freiesleben, sculptor of köpfe. The photos accompanying the home page included the following image, which I've captured for posterity.

Korchnoi contemplating the bust of Kortchnoi

Although I found nothing more about the Korchnoi / Kortchnoi seance on the Freiesleben site, Google will lead you to various accounts after you supply the appropriate keywords. The Kramnik seance, which made the cover of NIC, is documented on the sculptor's site: Titelstory "New in Chess": Weltmeister Kramnik trifft Bildhauer Freiesleben ['World Champion Kramnik meets sculptor Freiesleben'].

18 May 2012

When Does the Game Start?

As you might expect, portions of the live broadcasts from the 2012 Anand - Gelfand match have been made available on Youtube. I watched the first four games on the official site, which prompted some reminiscing about World Championship Chess on TV, then missed all but the first few minutes of the fifth game, mainly because I first had other things to do and the game ended so quickly.

I was happy to see the start of that broadcast appear on my short list for this current episode of my Video Friday series. As in the first four games, the fifth featured host Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam of New in Chess. This time he was accompanied by GM Joel Lautier, who discussed the opening of the game.

Anand - Gelfand FIDE World Chess Championship 2012 Game 5 Part 1 (14:30) • 'Excerpts from the video broadcast'

At around 11:45 into the clip, ten Geuzendam mentions Lautier's involvement with Kramnik.

Q: You've also been involved in preparations for World Championship matches. People are often guessing how deep things go. How deep do things go these days? Is it possible to give an indication of what's going on behind the scenes?

A: Opening preparation has become extremely important. It started with Fischer and then Kasparov certainly strengthened that trend. With the advent of computers it's become critical, because you can analyze so many positions now with a computer. In a way it's even levelled the difference between players, because if you analyze for weeks with a computer then an average grandmaster can product high quality analysis as long as he's methodical and does a good job.

There's a tremendous amount of opening preparation that's been going on over the last 15 years. The difficulty is not to find new ideas. The difficulty is to remember all that you're preparing. The amount of variations is so huge. Obviously your oponent will keep trying to put you off track by playing some offbeat move at some point to get you out of your preparation. The pressure to remember the theory is enormous during games.

A recurring theme in the commentaries for all games has been guessing when each player starts to make original moves. When does the home preparation end and when does the real game start? Since each player can only guess about his opponent, I doubt that anyone knows for sure. • See also Part 2 of the same broadcast.

17 May 2012

The Man Who Put Chess on Television

After posting the reminiscences about World Championship Chess on TV, I went back to learn more about Shelby Lyman, the original promoter of chess on TV. The first interesting article that popped out was from People magazine, October 1986. I was unaware that Lyman had continued with his broadcasts after the 1972 match:-

Thanks to Lyman, the finale of the Karpov - Kasparov contest will be played out this week and next over 120 public TV stations. His show, which may comprise the two funkiest and intellectually demanding hours on TV, is taped at tiny WNYE-TV in Brooklyn, with a colorful cast ranging from 8-year-old, World Under-10 champ Jeff Sarwer to International Grandmaster Edmar Mednis, 49. Lyman has been doing chess shows ever since he covered the Bobby Fischer - Boris Spassky battle move-by-move for PBS in 1972. • Knightly Newsman Shelby Lyman Makes Chess a TV Spectator Sport

Because the broadcast seemed so natural in 1972, when chess fever swept across the 50 states, the audacity of Lyman's performance could only be understood in retrospect. From the Houston Chronicle, September 2002:-

How's this for must-see television? A chess match between two geniuses. The match itself wouldn't be shown. Instead, a 35-year-old sociology professor and chess master who had never appeared on television, never watched television, never cared about television, would replay the moves on an oversize demonstration board in an Albany, N.Y., studio - 2,500 miles from the match site. That's the leap public broadcasting took 30 years ago this summer, when WNET in New York aired the world championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland. • All the right moves / Fischer-Spassky chess match 30 years ago put Shelby Lyman on the board

Lyman, of course, was not the only person involved in the series of broadcasts. From Chessbase.com, January 2003, by Rudy Chelminski:-

If someone had called [Fred] Waitzkin's attention to the article I wrote for the American magazine Wired in October, 2001, he would have been able to trace the epochal show not to Lyman but to a gangly, affable young television executive named Mike Chase. Son of a playwright and a theater specialist himself, Chase at the time was Director of Operations for the New York City TV network of SUNY, State University of New York. He was also an ardent chess amateur and a member of the Marshall Chess Club. • The man behind the Fischer-Spassky show [see also the links at the end of the article]

Chelminski's account doesn't square completely with Lyman's recollections. From NYTimes.com, January 2008:-

Q: How did you get involved in the coverage? A: As I remember it, I was giving chess lessons to Mike Chase, who had a very important job with PBS then, who ran the facilities for half a dozen stations. He was very enamored by chess and he was very excited by the teaching I did. One day I suggested, with the Fischer-Spassky match coming up, would it be possible to put something on PBS. Between the two of us, we got this thing going. • Fischer’s Epochal Match, Shelby Lyman’s Star Turn

There's much more detail about the ground-breaking broadcasts in each of the articles I've cited. As for Lyman today, he carries on popularizing chess in a regular column: Shelby Lyman site:dispatch.com.

15 May 2012

Openings According to Khalifman

In a recent post, Time Enough for Taimanov, I became frustrated with a particular bit of research and wrote,

While preparing this post, I spent some time looking for the relevant [Sicilian 2...e6 Taimanov / Paulsen] volume in Khalifman's series on the 'Opening for [blank] according to [blank]'. After some effort, I located it in volume 9 of the 'Opening for White according to Anand'. I might have overlooked an obvious resource, but it appears this series is not well documented anywhere. I'll come back to it in the future.

Afterward I learned from Chessmix.com that the Sicilian 2...e6 system spans volumes 8 & 9. Here is a summary of the theory covered by each volume, as determined by following the site's Anand Chess Books Collection on the series 'Opening for White According to Anand'.

  • 01: 'various rare openings after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3, but the focus is on the Petroff Defense and the Ruy Lopez without 3...a6'
  • 02: 'Ruy Lopez'
  • 03: 'Caro-Kann'
  • 04: '1.e4 d6, or 1.e4 g6'
  • 05: '1.e4 with 1...Nc6, 1...b6, 1...a6, 1...Nf6'
  • 06: '1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 de4, 3...Nf6 and other moves'
  • 07: '1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4'
  • 08: '[Sicilian] seldom played lines on move two for Black; 2…a6; rarely played lines after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4; Paulsen - Kann [Kan] system, 2...e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6'
  • 09: 'variations arising after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6, especially the Kalashnikov; 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6'
  • 10: 'Sveshnikov (Chelyabinsk)'
  • 11: 'Dragon'
  • 12: '1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6'
  • 13: 'Najdorf / Scheveningen'

The same site also has a Kramnik Chess Books Collection. Unfortunately, it's not complete and since I'm not a 1.d4 player, I decided not to spend time assembling a similar summary from another source. Because it's a single volume, the 'Opening for Black According to Karpov' offers no such difficulty. Volume one of the Anand series starts,

This publication is a logical sequel of the five volume study "Opening for White according to Kramnik - 1.Nf3". However I am fully aware that my current undertaking requires even more effort and responsibility than the previous one.

A little later it quotes volume one of the Kramnik series, giving the raison d'être for the work.

Take as your ideal model someone of today's leading grandmasters, whose style is akin to yourself and whose successes you admire. Then try to build your opening repertoire according to his.

Khalifman discussed the series in an interview published on Chessintranslation.com: Khalifman: "Anand’s a genius. He emanates light".

Q: Both of your series of books – "Opening for White according to Anand" and "Opening for White according to Kramnik" have quite a specific title and purpose. Why did you decide in favour of exactly those two chess players?

A: Firstly, no-one can argue that Anand and Kramnik aren't very serious and significant figures in the chess world. On the other hand, if a chess player at the level of candidate master starts to play the opening "according to Kasparov", then either I'll have to deceive him, because it'll be the opening according to someone else, or he'll simply get lost in the wilds of opening variations and complications and there'll be nothing but trouble. Therefore it was exactly because there's some sort of healthy positional basis to the opening repertoire of Anand and Kramnik that I chose them as models.

I doubt that many people have acquired all books in these series. To help choose the relevant volumes, it would be useful to have reference scans of the table of contents for each book. I found scans for different volumes, but not for the entire series in one place.

14 May 2012

Been There, But Haven't Done That

Continuing with Been There, Done That at Last, I took another (last?) look at my About.com archives to see if there remains any more material which might be converted. I came up with the following list:-

It's a real mixed bag, half of which I'll probably reject on a second, longer look. I also looked at the stats for material already converted and, while there were no real surprises, I noticed that the section on traps -- Chess Traps : View Full Games -- received more than its fair share of visits. These pages are implemented somewhat primitively, so I'll see if I can improve their overall structure.

13 May 2012

Mice for Mom

Of all the items I considered for this current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the only one that looked suitable for a Mother's Day gift is pictured below. Titled 'Wee Forest Folk - Complete chess set', it sold for US $3499.99, receiving one bid the fourth time it was listed.

The description said only,

WFF Wee Forest Folk - complete chess set - amethyst and green sets. Never displayed. Out of boxes only for pictures. Pieces will be shipped INSIDE of the chess board box inside their slots. Total of 32 mice. Mint condition.

For more on WFF, see Wee Forest Folk. And 'Happy Mother's Day!' to all you Moms out there.

11 May 2012

Endless Diversion

As you would expect, this is also one of hundreds of paintings to be found on the excellent page Tableaux Échecs - Chess Paintings.

Repose - A Game of Chess - Henry Siddons Mowbray © Flickr user BoFransson under Creative Commons.

See also Wikipedia's Henry Siddons Mowbray (American, 1858-1928). Following the image also led me to chess @ Tumblr, which is, like chess, another endless diversion.

10 May 2012

Time Enough for Taimanov

Even though I spend more and more of my chess time on chess960, like most players I still enjoy preparing traditional chess openings. For the last few years my focus has been on the Sicilian ...e6 openings. I wrote about it once in Will the Real Taimanov Please Stand Up, where I mentioned Taimanov's book 'Sicilian Defense: Taimanov System'. Since then I've discovered that he also wrote the bulk of the B4x chapter in both the first and second editions of ECO volume B, and that half of his book 'Winning with the Sicilian' also deals with ...e6 systems.

I've evolved to the Sicilian ...e6 complex because of its connection with the Scheveningen (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 or 2....d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6), which I've played for years, and the Najdorf (2...d6 & 5...a6, followed by ...e6 in many lines), which I've played for decades. The Paulsen/Taimanov ...e6 complex suits my style because it is less theoretical than the others -- some Najdorf theory goes to 30 moves -- meaning there is more scope for creativity, and because Black usually survives into an endgame where there is always hope of taking the full point. Along with the Taimanov references, I've collected three other books published in the 2000s that treat the system:-

  • 'The Taimanov Sicilian', by FM Graham Burgess (2000)
  • 'The Safest Sicilian: A Black Repertoire with 1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6' by GM Alexander Delchev & IM Semko Semkov (2006)
  • 'The Taimanov Sicilian' by IM James Rizzitano (2006)

While preparing this post, I spent some time looking for the relevant volume in Khalifman's series on the 'Opening for [blank] according to [blank]'. After some effort, I located it in volume 9 of the 'Opening for White according to Anand'. I might have overlooked an obvious resource, but it appears this series is not well documented anywhere. I'll come back to it in the future.

The introduction to Taimanov's 'Winning with the Sicilian' starts with the following excellent paragraph by the author.

One cannot just consider the role and significance of the opening stage of a game in the modern chess struggle in isolation. Experience has shown that the results of the opening battle, with one of the sides winning even a small positional or material advantage in the early stages, can be transformed by the pure technical equipment of the skilled chessplayer to be a determining influence on the whole course of subsequent events, carrying on into the middlegame, and at times, the endgame. Figuratively speaking, the opening is the seed, the shoots of which grow on every part of the chessboard and yield the harvest in complete dependence on the original groundwork.

I didn't transcribe that excerpt myself. I found it on a WordPress post titled My Friend The Sicilian, where you can read the rest yourself. The title of that post also happens to be the title of Taimanov's introduction, although you would never guess it from the page at etarn.com, where the entire excerpt is unattributed. Time enough to copy but no time to give the source?

08 May 2012

International Chess Journalists

Before starting today's post, I should follow up my recent post CJA in Transition, where I mentioned,

Awards: '[Ramon] Hernandez has resigned as chair of the CJA Awards Committee and Chief Awards Judge. [...] Stay tuned to [the CJA] website for additional information on the Annual CJA Award competitions.'

Although there is no further info to be found on the CJA website, the May 2012 Chess Life (CL) had a full page on '2011 Chess Journalism of America Awards' by Joshua Anderson. You need to be a USCF member to access the online version of CL, so I'll copy the most important info here:-

Submissions must be received by June 15, 2012. [...] CJA is online at http://chessjournalism.org; for additional information on the awards or in joining CJA, please contact CJA Awards Committee Chairman Joshua Anderson at [email address removed] or visit www.cjaawards.org. Our CJA President Al Lawrence and I look forward to seeing you -- the CJA members -- at our annual meeting (held concurrently with meetings at the USCF U.S. Open) this Summer 2012.

That cjaawards.org address leads to a page that says only, 'For additional information on the Annual CJA Awards Competition please visit the Chess Journalists of America'. The associated link points back to the CJA website, which, as I mentioned in my previous paragraph, has no further info. The unmistakable message is that the CJA is primarily a sock puppet for the USCF, tasked with recognizing CL contributors.

As far as I can tell without doing a full comparison, the 2011 award categories are the same as last year and can be found on the page CJA Awards. Last year's awards are titled '2011 Awards', the same year as in the title of this year's CL announcement. That, unfortunately, is typical of the CJA. And, yes, the 'Best Chess Blog' category is still last on the list, but at least it's present.


While I was writing the original 'In Transition' post, I wondered if there are any international groups for chess journalism. I had a hazy recollection of a group active some years ago, but couldn't remember the acronym. A group called the International Association of Chess Journalists (Association Internationale des Journalistes d'Echecs, AIJE) looked promising, but going further required a userid/password and there was no other info to be found. After the AIJE, I found another International Association of Chess Journalists, this time 'AIPE', where the acronym stands for Association Internationale de la Presse Echiquéenne. French spelling can be just as obtuse as English spelling, and some sources, like Chess.com's Chessopedia, give 'Echiqueene' (one 'n'), as in

The Association Internationale de la Presse Echiqueene (AIPE) was the International Association of Chess Press. It was an organization of chess journalists founded in 1967 by Jordi Puig of Barcelona, Spain. AIPE awarded the Chess Oscars from 1967 (first won by Bent Larsen) to 1988 (won by Kasparov for the 7th time in a row) to the outstanding male and female players of the year. AIPE dissolved in 1989. The Chess Oscar was revived in 1995 (won by Kasparov). • AIPE

Note the translation of the French to 'International Association of Chess Press' instead of 'Chess Journalists'. No wonder the group folded in 1989; nobody knew what to call it. Other sources say the AIPE was founded by Jorge Puig, rather than Jordi Puig.

The group is mentioned several times in the indispensable reference Chess Periodicals: An Annotated International Bibliography, 1836-2008 by Gino Di Felice (where the spelling 'Échiquéenne' and the translation 'Chess Journalists' are used).

AIPE Chess News [Association Internationale de la Presse Échiquéenne] (1977–1982) Vol.1, no.1 (1977)–Vol.6, no.22/24 (Dec 10, 1982). Irregular. Editors Kevin O’Connell, later Thorbjorn Rosenlund. Woodford Green (Essex), later Viby. England, later Denmark. 21 cm. Bulletin. General. English. Note Later with title Chess News / AIPE. Later incorporated in International Players Chess News (The). Resumed by? World Chess Review: Official Publication of the International Association of Chess Journalists (AIPE).

International Players Chess News (The) [Players Chess Association] (1983–1985) Vol.4, no.2 (Jan 10, 1983)–Vol.5, no.13 (Dec 26, 1983) [= No.38-63]; [PCN. Theory and Analysis] No.64 (Jan 9, 1984)–no.89 (Jan 7, 1985). Bi-weekly. Los Angeles, CA. USA. 38 cm. Bulletin. General. English. Note Incorporating AIPE Chess News. From vol.4, no.10 [= no.47 (May 16, 1983)] with subtitle “Official Publication of the Committee on Publications of F.I.D.E., the World Chess Organization.” From no.84 (Oct 29, 1984) with subtitle “Games and Events.” Continues Players Chess News (The), with the same numbering. Continued by PCN: International Players Chess News: Theory and Analysis.

World Chess Review : Official Publication of the International Association of Chess Journalists (AIPE) (1988?–?) Fortnightly. Editor Timothy Hanke (in 1988?). Publisher World Chess Review. Cambridge, MA. USA. 28 cm. Bulletin. General. English. Note Supersedes? AIPE Chess News.

It's a coincidence that the alphabetical order of the publications coincides with the chronological order, but so it is.

07 May 2012

Been There, Done That at Last

My last action for Been There, Done That was to record the links of the recently converted articles in the index of Feature Articles:-

Next, I'll run through those three pages one more time to see if there's anything else worth addressing.

06 May 2012

A Chess Popularity Contest

Are you looking for a chess topic to write about, but are stuck for an idea? Before you give up completely, take a look at Wikipedia's WikiProject Chess/Popular pages, with statistics on page views for Wikipedia's numerous chess pages.

The current version lists stats from March 2012 on 1500 pages, including 'Views per day', 'Assessment', and 'Importance'. Three of the top five pages are only tangentially related to chess (e.g. no.1 'Benjamin Franklin'), as reflected in their 'Importance = Bottom' (speaking chessically I assume). The first of the real chess pages is the topic 'chess' itself (>5000 views per day), followed by 'Bobby Fischer' (>2600) and the 'Elo rating system' (>1800).

Curious about the data, I scraped the page and dumped the results into a database. My first query was a look at 'Assessment' and 'Importance'. The 'Assessment' field shows seven different values: FA (4), GA (14), B (72), C (217), Start (774), Stub (379), & List (40); the number in parentheses is a count of how often the value appeared on the page.

The value 'FA' means featured content and applies to four pages: 'Chess', 'The Turk', 'First-move advantage in chess', & 'George H. D. Gossip'. What's Featured content?

Represents the best that Wikipedia has to offer. These are the articles, pictures, and other contributions that showcase the polished result of the collaborative efforts that drive Wikipedia. All featured content undergoes a thorough review process to ensure that it meets the highest standards and can serve as the best example of our end goals. A small bronze star in the top right corner of a page indicates that the content is featured.

The featured content Gossip page received an average 16 views per day, about what you would expect for a page marked 'Low Importance'. The 'Importance' field shows five different values: Top (50), High (163), Mid (512), Low (717), & Bottom (58). Somewhat curiously, Fischer, Kasparov, and Anand, three of the four world class players falling in the top-15 pages by views are all ranked 'Top Importance', while Carlsen, the fourth player, is only rated 'High' despite his world no.1 ranking. How often is 'Importance' updated? Not too often, it would appear.

04 May 2012

Highbrow or Lowbrow?

Take your pick...


Galleri Magnus Karlsson - A Game of Chess (1:02) • 'Marcel Dzama, A Game of Chess, 2011'



HH-TV Sport Chess Napolean vs. The Mechanical Turk (1:37) • 'Horrible Histories CBBC'

...Or maybe it's the other way around?!

03 May 2012

Learn from Your Draws

A brief item on Chesshistory.com,

A remark by Walter Browne in an interview with Mary Lasher on page 10 of Inside Chess, 10 February 1988: 'My motto is: when you win you earn, when you lose you learn.' (7621. Motto)

made me wonder, 'What about a draw? Do you earn or do you learn?' The logical answer is you half earn and you half learn. GM Browne, a six-time U.S. Champion, had more opportunities to earn at chess than I could ever dream about, while I have more to learn about the game than he could ever imagine.

The topic is more than a one sentence poem, because the difference between a win and a draw is frequently the difference between success and failure. I recently finished a nine-player correspondence event where the first two players qualified into the final stage of a four stage qualifying event. I finished +2-0=6 ('plus two'), which was good enough for a shared 3rd/4th. The two players who qualified for the final finished 'plus four' and 'plus three'. If I had managed to win one of my drawn games, I might have qualified on tiebreak.

A few years ago I wrote a post titled Learn from Your Losses, and followed it up with another titled Two Types of Losses. This eventually led to further analysis in Learn from Your Engines and Drifting vs. Maneuvering. I concluded that I had a tendency to drift in equal, unclear positions and that my drifting was the prelude to a loss. Since realizing that weakness, I've managed to avoid drifting to the point where I lose much less frequently. Can I learn something similar from my draws?

First observation: the categorization of draws is more complicated than in 'Two Types of Losses'. Draws with White and draws with Black have to be mapped against draws against a much higher rated opponent, against a much lower rated opponent, and against an equal opponent. Within these boundaries there are four kinds of draws:-

  • Short draws
  • Long draws with equal chances for both sides throughout
  • Draws where I battle back from an inferior position
  • Draws where my opponent battles back from an inferior position

I rarely play short draws, but when I do, they are always as Black against a much higher rated opponent who offers a draw in a dead-even position or forces a triple repetition. Of the six draws in the event that I recently finished, four were long draws with equal chances throughout and two were draws where my opponents battled back. I was never in real trouble in any of the games.

The two games where my opponents battled back from an inferior position would be the best candidates for finding a win. In both games I was a Pawn ahead, but the games eventually ended in theoretical draws where there was too little material to seek complications. This analysis tells me that I need to pay more attention in not allowing Pawns to be exchanged unnecessarily.

A handful of games in a single tournament is not a large sample, so it might be worth extending the analysis to events from the last few years. I wouldn't be surprised to find a similar pattern.

01 May 2012

FEB in May

Almost certain that I had already written about the first of May, I found a post from 2007, M'aidez, M'aidez. That post reminded me that today is the anniversary of this blog, so Happy Birthday, CFAA!

What to write about on a day when I have no time to write? How about a plug for The Full English Breakfast [TheFeb.com]. If you've never listened to it, you're missing something completely different. • Facebook.com: TheFEB.