31 July 2012

Counting Kasparov's Notes

Last week on my World Chess Championship blog, I posted a piece titled Kasparov's Thoughts, Emotions, and Perceptions, based on Kasparov's five-book series on Modern Chess, i.e. the phrase Kasparov assigns to cover the period of his career. The second, third, and fourth volumes in the series cover his five matches with Karpov, making this work the 13th World Champion's magnum opus on the most important rivalry in chess history.

The three volumes are not lightweight works. They are each more than 400 pages long, making a total together of almost 1300 pages. As you might expect, the bulk of the material is from Kasparov's notes to the 144 games played in the five matches. Curious about the division between match annotations and other material, I noted the start page of each game in order to calculate the number of pages covering individual games. My method doesn't give a completely accurate count of pages with annotations, as it includes the sometimes lengthy text background between certain games, but it's close enough for my purposes. I can also justify that inaccurate count by assuming that the text background applies to the preceding game, making it a valuable addition to the annotations.

Of the 1300 pages in the three volumes, somewhat less than 900 cover the notes to the games, for an average of a little more than six pages per game. Which games receive the most attention? There are 20 games with ten or more pages each. Here are the top four, identifed by year of the match, game, and page count:-

1986-16 : 27 pgs
1986-18 : 18
1990-16 : 16
1986-19 : 14

In other words, game 16 of the 1986 match receives an astounding 27 pages of notes. That might set some sort of a record in chess literature. Don't confuse this game with game 16 of the 1985 match, the Sicilian with Kasparov's Black Knight dominating the board on d3. That game gets only eight pages of notes. Game 16 of the 1986 match was a Ruy Lopez with Kasparov playing White, a game full of sacrifices and other assorted complications. A closer look at this game would be a worthy subject for a followup post.

It's also worth noting that three of the four games listed above are from the 1986 match: games 16, 18, and 19. After winning game 16 to go three games up in the match, Kasparov lost three consecutive games (17 through 19), allowing Karpov to level the score. The copious notes stem from Kasparov's attempts to understand exactly what went wrong, a subject also worthy of a closer look.

In contrast to the games receiving close scrutiny, five games receive a single page of notes and 19 get two pages. All but one of these 24 games were played in the aborted 1984-85 match. For the record, and in case anyone wants to check my work, here are the counts -- total pages and number of games -- for each of the five matches:-

1984 : 181 : 48
1985 : 139 : 24
1986 : 214 : 24
1987 : 150 : 24
1990 : 195 : 24

In other words, the 1984-85 match has 181 pages covering its 48 games. Before Kasparov's latest series, most of the games from that match had never been analyzed by either of the two players and have been largely ignored by the chess world. As Kasparov writes in the 'Foreword' to the second volume,

Alas, the scandalous conclusion of the match overshadowed its rich chess content, which was not in fact professionally studied by the experts. And yet, despite the obvious mistakes, in particular by me, it was from our unlimited marathon that modern chess proceeded in a new direction. This was my first major event where I did not annotate the games. Why? The tension was so great and prolonged, and the psychological background so dark, that I had no desire to tackle this work. Besides, there was also no time - a new match was due to begin within six months. Now I am finally able to fill this gap.

Given that 900 pages cover the games, what about the other 400 pages? These are filled with material relevant to chess history. The termination and aftermath of the first match receive 30 pages. How much of this is new and how much is a rehash of Kasparov's earlier writings? A detailed analysis might be revealing. The period between the third and fourth matches, covering the 'birth of the GMA', receives 40 pages. The fourth volume has the most substantial material outside of notes to the games of the matches. There are notes to 42 games in addition to the 24 match games.

During the last few years I've hesitated about tackling the Modern Chess series. Now I'm glad I finally have.

30 July 2012

Been There with Fischer - Spassky Games

I finished Haven't Been There with Fischer - Spassky Games, including a background page (see Fischer - Spassky Games Revisited) and two game viewer pages (both 1972 and 1992). These are all available under Learn to Play Chess. For more on the series, see Been There, But Haven't Done That.

29 July 2012

Non-random Chess960

A new chapter in my chess960 odyssey started today when HarryO, aka 'the *other* chess960 blogger', challenged me to a trial game using the rules of Non-random Fischer Random. Since there is no software available to manage this adaptation, we're playing via comments to his blog post Fischer-Bronstein Chess960 Trial Project. I'll report further results on my own chess960 blog, Chess960 (FRC).

27 July 2012

Chess in Chinatown

The last episode of Video Friday was India Loves Anand, almost two months ago. Since catching up this gap would take far more time than it's worth, I looked at clips made available over the past two weeks only.

BBC News - How to raise a chess champion (4:30) • 'With age comes wisdom, the saying goes, but at an elementary school in New York's Chinatown the children are wise beyond their years when it comes to playing chess.'

The clip's description continued,

In 2011, Public School 124 took its students to compete in the second highest category at a national high school chess competition - and won. [...] The BBC's Franz Strasser visited the 'Panda Pawns' - the name for the school chess club - in New York and followed the students to this year's National Championships in Nashville, Tennessee.

There are lots of great quotes in the video, for example: 'If you walk through the hallways, you'll see that the trophies are not sports related, but they're all straight from chess', and 'We have very strong, competitive students who are backed by strong, competitive parents, who really believe that chess is good for them'. Who can argue with that?

26 July 2012

Anand Approaches an Obscure Lasker Record

In A Positional Lesson from Gelfand/Rubinstein, I translated some notes by GM Gelfand from the July 2012 issue of Europe Echecs. They were on a critical position from the game he won in the recent title match. In the same issue of EE there were no annotations by GM Anand, but there were numerous comments by his second, GM Peter Heine Nielsen. Here are Nielsen's concluding remarks, translated from the French.

It's clear that the press, for the most part, criticized this match. I think this is not justified. During his match against Kramnik in 2008, Vishy triumphed by asserting his attacking qualities. Against Topalov in 2010, there were numerous twists and turns. This time, the progress was identical to that which one sees in other sports at a high level. The two adversaries succeeded in ensuring that the rival could not show his 'best side'. [...]

I would like to address all my respect to the challenger. It was a welcome change to see that he didn't count on some manager for a fruitful harvest. He fought to force his way through the official system of qualification. He put the titleholder under maximum pressure.

Note that Vishy is the only player since Lasker to have beaten four different adversaries in a World Championship match.

'Four adversaries?', you might be wondering. Here are links to the events on my World Championship site: 2000 FIDE Knockout Matches (final vs. Shirov), 2008-09 Matches (Anand - Kramnik), 2010 Anand - Topalov, and 2012 Anand - Gelfand. If we include the 2007 Mexico City tournament, we note that Anand has won the title in three different formats: knockout, tournament, and match.

I have one quibble with Nielsen's observation. According to my page on Pre-FIDE Events, Lasker beat five opponents: Steinitz, Marshall, Tarrasch, Schlechter, and Janowski. Who will Anand's fifth opponent be?

24 July 2012

Entries for 2012 CJA Best Blog

Remember the CJA? The acronym stands for 'Chess Journalists of America' and I'm mainly interested in them because (A) they publish an online periodical dedicated to the subject of chess journalism (who could have guessed?), and (B) their annual awards include a blog category. This year I've already posted twice about the group: CJA in Transition (in April) and International Chess Journalists (in May).

I'm posting about them again because they've just published All Entries Received for Chess Journalist Awards 2012 on their main site. Although the site's home page dates the list to '20 June 2012', I know for a fact that the list wasn't visible a week ago, because I looked for it. In the category of 'Best Chess Blog', there are three entries:-

As I mentioned last year in The Last Shall Be Least, the 2011 blog award went to the first named blog, 'Broken Pawn'. A post on that blog last month, Best of the ... best? offered an inside look into the 2012 awards.

I'm guessing that the last named blog is indeed the entry, because no URLs were given and it might be instead Alexandra Kosteniuk's Chess Blog. Whichever it is, GM Kosteniuk won Chess Journalist of the Year for the 2009 CJA Awards.


On a related note, my 'In Transition' post relayed the news that 'In the near future CJA will be welcoming a new webmaster. Daniel Freeman, webmaster and co-founder of Chessgames.com, has agreed to take over as webmaster for CJA'. This past week a discussion page on Freeman's site, titled User Profile: Chessgames.com, offered some background to CG.com:-

OhioChessFan: What exactly is the relationship between Chessgames.com and 20/20 Tech?

The short version: 20/20 Technologies is a web development company gave birth to a chess site that soon became 100 times bigger than the company from which it was born. Daniel Freeman, the former vice-president of 20/20 Technologies, is now the CEO of Chessgames.

A more detailed version is this: 20/20 Technologies is one of the first web development companies, founded in 1995 by Daniel Freeman and Lee Cummings. In 2001 we were commissioned by Albert Artidiello to create a chess site. Albert had limited-funding but big dreams, so in the early years (2002, 2003) 20/20 agreed to do extensive work on Chessgames in exchange for a stake in the website's business (which at the time was zero, as there wasn't even such a thing as a premium membership, and the advertising didn't even cover the hosting fees.)

For a while it seemed like a really fun side-project but not a business per se. But then, around 2004-2005, the site launched its premium membership and turned profitable. At that stage, Chessgames was capable of actually paying for its development work, hiring GM commentators, etc. Chessgames could have gone to any web development company in the world at that point, but obviously it was in everybody's best interest to keep working with 20/20 Technologies. In gratitude for all they've done, Chessgames continues to put a link to 20/20 Technologies at the bottom of every page.

Let's hope the CJA site evolves to the same level of quality that we've come to expect from CG.com.

23 July 2012

Haven't Been There with Fischer - Spassky Games

Next on the list for Been There, But Haven't Done That is Fischer - Spassky Games Revisited. This conversion turned out to be not as simple as in last week's Been There with Al Horowitz. I ran out of time, wrote this post to document the project, and will return to it ASAP.

22 July 2012

Red and Yellow Speed Wheels Included

Top eBay Chess Items by Price isn't just about chess. Sometimes it's about beer steins, as in Stein, Mettlach (not Leonid). Other times it's about skateboards, as in the item pictured on the left.

The title said, 'Mullen Chess Freestyle Skateboard 1985, used but in excellent condition!', and the description gave a few details about the skateboard's origin:-

Year: 1985
Company: Powell Peralta
Skater: Rodney Mullen
Artist: Vernon Courtlandt Johnson

If, like me, you're completely ignorant about skateboard culture, those keywords should be enough to place the item in historical context. It received 18 bids from eight bidders and sold for US $1000. The description continued,

Trucks: Tracker, rear is painted black, front is unpainted and silver. Base & riser pads are red. • Wheels: OJII Freestyle, speed wheels 57M/Santa cruz 97A, two are red, two are yellow. • Dimensions: 27 5/8" L x 7 5/8" W x 3 ¾" H

Skateboard is for sale: "As is", wear is minor as skateboard was hardly ridden. There are no previously drilled holes on nose/tail/rails; the only originally drilled holes are for truck mounting. Minor wear to nose and tail, graphic in good condition with minor cracks to decks surfaces.

Completely ignorant or not, you have to admit it's an original design.


Later (it's not a 'skateboard', it's a 'deck'!): A few months later, the item on the left crossed my eBay radar. The description said, 'Up for sale is an Original Powell Peralta Rodney Mullen "Chess" deck, in good condition for it's age. The deck was originally set up as a complete, it had grip tape on the top that has been removed, the main graphic has scrapes and scratches as can be seen in the photo's. The deck hasn't been drilled for any hardware apart for trucks.' With a completely different color scheme, it sold for US $620 after nine bids.


Even later: In how many colors was this thing sold? All the colors of the rainbow?

These decks appeared on eBay from the same seller a few days apart. They both sold for US $1500 after one bid, apparently to different bidders. The descriptions of the items were similar, both starting with 'POWELL PERALTA Rodney Mullen Chess. I cannot believe I am selling this one either ... I know I will never find another one. The deck is 100% authentic and NOT a reissue', then differing in the details. Here is the description for the 'deck' on the left:-

The deck is in great condition.
The deck is a silver dip.
The deck is 7 ply with a fat tail dragon, very rare, very old.
The deck has ZERO warp and is straight as an arrow.
The deck shows no signs of being ridden or gripped.
Please see pictures of "carpet surfing" wear, they tell the whole story.
The deck is NOT marked with a "2" or a "C"'.

The 'deck' on the right was '7 ply with gold oval dragon'. The dragon was a 'Powell Peralta' logo on the bottom of the deck.

20 July 2012

Where's Jude?

The sign says,

U.S. Chess Master
Jude Acers
World Chess Table
$5.00 Lesson Games
Private Lessons

The last line is covered by a thermos.

NOLA Chess © Flickr user fran001@yahoo.com under Creative Commons.

NOLA is New Orleans, Louisiana, of course.

19 July 2012

A Positional Lesson from Gelfand/Rubinstein

Now, Where Was I? Oh, yes, there was that small matter of a World Championship match -- in Moscow, of all places. The July 2012 issue of Europe Echecs featured game seven of the match annotated by GM Gelfand. That was, as we all know, the game he won. There are several positions I could use for instruction, but I chose the position shown in the diagram.

Gelfand - Anand, 2012 Match, g.7

After 15...Qd8-b8

Gelfand gave Anand's last move '!?' and (translating from the French) commented,

A strategically risky solution. After 15...Bf4, Black would have practically equalized. [...] Black has placed White before a complex choice : either attack with 16.Bxf6 leaving Black the Bishop pair and control of the center, or follow a line of play against the 'weak' Queenside Bishop with 16.Bg3. I decided for the second solution which is closer to my chess thinking, much influenced by the examples of Rubinstein, my favorite player from the past.

The Israeli grandmaster chose 16.Bg3, which he also assigned '!?', and discussed 16.Bxf6!? in a note which concluded that 'White keeps a dangerous initiative'. The game continued 16...Rc8 17.Qe2 Bxg3 18.hxg3. Here Gelfand gave a long note without any concrete variations. He wrote,

In this position the engine gives advantage to White. That's why numerous commentators have evaluated it badly. Despite the apparent simplicity, Black must defend with precision against several strategic ideas for White:

- double the Rooks on the c-file;
- introduce the Nf3 on e5;
- attack with the Pawns on the Queenside by a3 and b4;
- attempt to activate the Kingside with the advance of the Pawns f4 and g4-g5.

The Bishop on b7 plays a considerable role in the problems confronting Black. It remains out of play for the entire game, which will lead to defeat! Other than that, playing for the attack by recapturing 18.fxg3 is not convincing because it ruins the structure of the White Pawns, without giving any real chances.

Black played 18...Qd6, where Gelfand gave another long note showing why 18...Rc7 is inadequate. Chess is so much more than the calculation of variations. To play through the complete game, see Boris Gelfand vs Viswanathan Anand, World Chess Championship 2012 (g.7) on Chessgames.com.

17 July 2012

Catching Up with Chess News

Even though I don't cover chess news on this blog, I still take a keen interest in it. I follow Chessbase, Chessdom, and Chessvibes almost daily through their RSS feeds, and at least once a week I look at the sites to make sure I haven't overlooked anything. Catching up after a vacation is never a trivial task, and as I mentioned in Now, Where Was I?, is always a priority.

The best single source of unbiased news is undoubtedly Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess, where his weekly 'Introduction' is the best summary of the weeks' activities available anywhere. Let's look at the intros for the past month or so.

2012-06-18: TWIC 919

Magnus Carlsen again won the Tal Memorial after a thrilling final round. Fabiano Caruana was leading by half a point and only needed a draw to take the title. Caruana got caught out in the opening and in spite of Aronian's struggles with his own form he was defeated. After Radjabov drew with Hikaru Nakamura the winner of the game between Carlsen and Luke McShane would take the title. McShane had an excellent tournament after losses in the first two rounds but he went seriously wrong in time trouble and Carlsen won and took the title. The event contained a lot of fighting chess, quite a lot of time trouble and all viewable with commentary in Russian and English.

I have to say the Russians now have shown us all how presentation of top class tournaments should look if money is practically no object. I for one have learned a lot from watching the players on video, nevermind the commentary, which in the case of this event the English one was by Ian Rogers and was both informative and instructive.

Anatoly Karpov defeated Yasser Seirawan in the blitz portion of their match which somewhat surprised me as Karpov's clock handling has been poor for years and Yasser suddenly decided to join him and that alone I believe cost him the match. In fact live coverage of chess events in general has shown that almost anything is possible if you have an opponent who thinks he can make lots of moves in only seconds. I would also suggest Alexander Grischuk find time to watch the archive of his play in the Tal Memorial and watch himself dump about 2 points through incomprehensible clock handling.

The Russian Championship Higher League is as usual pretty strong and Peter Svidler plays David Navara in Prague this week but we learned there will be no Kings tournament in Medias due to the economy. I can't be the only one who is thinking that the loss of a tournament might be the least of our worries as this economic crisis shows no sign of ending.

2012-06-25: TWIC 920

This week was much quieter than many recent weeks. The cancellation of the Kings tournament in Bazna has left a bit of a hole. It left the Cez Trophy taking the headlines with Peter Svidler beating David Navara 3-1 in an interesting match. The Russian Higher League is a deep field of very strong players, the leadings players Ian Nepomniachtchi and Dmitry Jakovenko are well off the pace with a couple of rounds to go.

Of special interest in the same number was '8) FIDE Women's Grand Prix Kazan 2012', because I need to add the event to my page on the 2011-2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix.

The 4th Women's Grand Prix took place in Kazan 9th-23rd June 2012. Anna Muzychuk and Indian player Humpy Koneru shared first on 7.5/11. According to the regulations of Grand Prix in the case of any tie in any tournament, the Grand Prix ranking points and prize money are split equally. Women's World Chess Champion Hou Yifan was the top seed and finished half a point back on 7 points after defeating long time leader Elina Danielian who lost her last three games. Hou finished level with Viktorija Cmilyte. This was a recovery for Hou. She had travelled directly from a very tough Danzhou tournament where she finished last and not surprisingly had a rough start to the tournament.

2012-07-02: TWIC 921

The Russia vs China Match leads thing off this week with Dmitry Jakovenko being Russia's top player. However both he and Ian Nepomniachtchi had failed in the Higher League competition earlier in the week. The best Russians will all be in Astana later in the week to play in the World Rapid and Blitz starring Magnus Carlsen who extended his lead in the July FIDE rating list released this week. The Higher League saw Dmitry Andreikin, long time leader 16 year old Daniil Dubov (lost to Alekseev in the final round) and Nikita Vitiugov all finished on 7.5 points. The 40th Greek Team Championship sees the in form Fabiano Caruana, Gata Kamsky, Judit Polgar and David Navara star. There is however plenty of other chess to look at too.

2012-07-09: TWIC 922

The Astana World Rapid and Blitz Championship has been very interesting so far. Magnus Carlsen (who will now play the Biel tournament starting on the 22nd July after being recruited at the last minute following the collapse of the Kings tournament) looked a certain winner of the rapid event after two days but, not for the first time, he had a sudden decline in his form. Not than the winner Sergey Karjakin's score was anything other than huge. The blitz tournament is being led by Alexander Grischuk.

I'm not sure that 3 minutes plus 2 seconds per move is anyone's idea of a perfect blitz time control if you at least want to see some chess. Personally if you want a classic blitz shootout then 5 minutes and no increment would be better. If you want a lot better standard of blitz chess then 5 minutes plus 10 seconds per move is the one. 3 minutes plus 2 seconds per move is the worst of all worlds for me. Nevertheless I have pretty much no complaints about the coverage, video, a commentary in 2 languages and good gamescores and it has proved entertaining. I always get caught out, suddenly the summer season of professional and amateur chess is upon us. I've got a good selection of what I hope are the stronger tournaments.

2012-07-16: TWIC 923

So much chess this week. Alexander Grischuk won the World Blitz, Dortmund, Science Park Amsterdam events are on now as are team and international opens. Details of the FIDE Grand Prix's announced. A marathon session, I need to go to bed!

While the World Rapid and Blitz Championships look like natural additions to my World Championship site (see the sidebar for a link), I'm going to pass for now. I'm sure Wikipedia will take up the slack.

16 July 2012

Been There with Al Horowitz

Continuing with Now, Where Was I?, I did a similar exercise for converting my About.com material, previously outlined in Been There, But Haven't Done That. First I took note of where I'd left off before vacation...

...Then I looked at the remaining projects in Haven't Done That. The next few projects fall into two categories: game viewers & glossary. After wondering if there was any real interest in the game viewers, I checked my stats for the two sets of conversions that I had already done:-

Although the counts for individual games were nothing to boast about, the totals over all games were encouraging, especially for the traps. While looking at the numbers I noticed that there was a third set of games that weren't linked from anything else:-

A little more snooping revealed that this was the same I.A.Horowitz project scheduled next for Haven't Done That, already converted more than three years ago and recorded in Opening Repertoire : Example Games on this blog. For some reason, I had never included it in my index pages. I added it to Learn to Play Chess, along with a related article.

15 July 2012

Now, Where Was I?

The first blog post after annual vacation is never easy; see 2011's Moving on after Vacation for a summary of the reasons why. This year I took a full month off, an unusually long time by my standards, but with the intention of blogging at half-speed or so. Unfortunately, reality didn't match plans. For the first two weeks I had time to write, but a very poor Internet connection. For the second two weeks, I had a great Internet connection, but little time to write. Was Caissa trying to tell me something?

When I finally returned home, my first task was to recall what interested me back in mid-June. Following is a list of posts that might merit a follow-up. It excludes ongoing series like Flickr Friday -- last seen in Paul Morphy, 1837-1884, one of the few vacation posts I managed to finish -- which are relatively easy to pick up where I left off.

Why the gap in April? I was also on vacation for half of that month, with the same challenges as now. Having put this summary together, I think I'll spend some time catching up on chess news. Whatever happened with the Ali Nihat Yazici story? How about Shelby Lyman and the 40th anniversary of the start of the match that transformed chess?

13 July 2012

The Biggest Open in the World

The US Chess Scoop on the 2012 World Open (3:03) • 'Features tournament winners GMs Ivan Sokolov (the champ on tiebreak) and four-time US Chess Champion Alexander Shabalov.'

Shabalov: 'Of course it's exciting. It's the World Open, the biggest open in the world.' The blurb also tells us,

We also talked to GMs Yury Shulman, Sam Shankland, US Women's Champion Irina Krush, James Black, and norm-earner Luke-Harmon Vellotti. Extreme Chess Champ Elliott Liu also has a special message for Marc Arnold, who earned a GM norm.

Official site: World Open Chess Tournament.

08 July 2012

Capablanca Signs His Feet

Vacation continues and, as in 'Sand Is Included', about the only thing I've had time to work on is Top eBay Chess Items by Price. Of the items I had to choose from, the most unusual was 'Cleveland Public Library Chess Collection Catalog - 2 volumes' (dated 1964), which sold for US $1,200. Unfortunately, the associated image was completely uninspiring, especially to someone with a vacation mindset.

I chose instead an item titled '1935 Original SIGNED Photo Capablanca Chess Champion player visit CUBAN CLUB', pictured below. Originally listed for '$1800.00 or Best Offer', it sold for US $800, which I imagine was 'Best Offer'.

The description added,

Genuine 1935 photo of the Cuban world master Capablanca signed dedicated in La Habana Cuba. One [On?] visit to the Cuban chess club. Note on the photo is present also a frame of Capablanca on the wall playing chess. Great photo! Unique piece and extremely rare. Size 5 x 7 inches. Gelantin silver. Excellent condition. A very rare piece and unique, from a private collection of photos about Capablanca.

Capablanca is seated center. The start of his signature is located on his feet.


Later: The same photo appeared on Edward Winter's Chesshistory.com: 7727. Capablanca photograph (the link points to '7726. Botvinnik and the musicians', so just scroll down; that's the way Winter's links work), with a request for more information.

06 July 2012

Paul Morphy, 1837-1884

The photo's caption says,

Chess master and prominent Louisiana lawyer. He is one of the two people who ever memorized the complete Louisiana book of codes and laws. As you can see fans still bring chess pieces from time to time to leave at his tomb.

The inscriptions on the tomb list the occupants and their life spans. Chess player Paul is listed first. Why is the list headed 'A.D. 1817', twenty years before the birth of the first occupant?

Paul Morphy © Flickr user cliff1066 under Creative Commons.

Another page, Paul Morphy’s Grave, shows a well known postcard picturing the tomb, 'topped by a likeness of a chess knight', although it appears to be a misidentification. Morphy's real tomb looks more like the second in line behind the 'chess knight'. For more about Morphy’s death, see Batgirl's Paul Morphy: The Endgame.