30 October 2012

Gligoric Remembered

My post from a few months ago on GM Svetozar Gligoric, A Greater Degree of Risk, wasn't sufficient tribute to the great player who took many the measure of the World Champions. Chessbase.com did a four part series, starting with Svetozar Gligoric 1923-2012. The site continued with

"If you post a follow-up article on Gligoric, please don't make the mistake of other sites and simply copy & paste his win versus Petrosian from Rovinj-Zagreb from Wikipedia," wrote Kiril Penusliski. We asked the Macedonian art historian to select examples that better illustrate the unique Gligoric style, and he sent us some beautifully annotated games of his teacher and mentor.

'Remembering Svetozar Gligoric': Part one, Part two, Part three, featured the following games:-

  • Gligoric – Keres, URS-YUG 1958
  • Gligoric – Botvinnik, EU-chT (Men) 1965
  • Maric – Gligoric, Belgrade 1962
  • Smyslov – Gligoric, Candidates Tournament 1959
  • Bilek – Gligoric, Teeside 1972
  • Fischer – Gligoric, Varna ol (Men) fin 1962

Four wins with Black, against some of the best players in the world.

29 October 2012

Cessolis, Damiano, Vida, and More

Continuing with About to Tripod, I moved Chess Bibliography (before 1800), and added it to my page on Chess History. I had forgotten about this page, which might well be worth a closer look. How many works are included here? Which had the greatest impact on the development of the game?

28 October 2012

British Birds from Blade Runner

In this ongoing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, sometimes I see an item that just begs to be chosen. A good example is pictured below. Titled 'British Birds Chess Set Blade Runner Movie Prop', it sold for US $800, after receiving 27 bids from 12 bidders. The description started,

As a huge fan of the Blade Runner movie, I was interested in the chess set J.F. Sebastian had in his home. Here's a screen capture of the scene where you can see Roy and the chess set.

Two other photos from the auction page are shown in my composite image below.

The description continued,

A few of the birds have a few defects, including beaks that were broken off. You can see the missing pieces in the photos. I did a lot of sleuthing to find out where these were made and went through a lot of trouble importing this from the United Kingdom. These are no longer made. The original set was made by a company that is no longer in existence.

Unfortunately, the 'company that is no longer in existence' wasn't named. If you're interested, you'll have to do your own sleuthing.

26 October 2012

A Fisheye View of Chess

The short list for this edition of Flickr Friday was between two photos from San Francisco. The other choice was a spiral staircase at Mechanics' Institute Library.

Founded in 1854 to serve the vocational needs of out-of-work gold miners, the Institute today is a favorite of avid readers, writers, downtown employees, students, film lovers, chess players, and the 21st century nomadic worker who needs a quiet place to plug in a laptop and do research. (Wikipedia)

The chess shot won.

Chess Game, Market Street, San Francisco © Flickr user e.b. image under Creative Commons.

'This photo also appears in Fisheye Fanatics, Alphaholics Anonymous [Sony Alpha], and several HDR groups [High Dynamic Range imaging; see also the Mechanics' Institute photo].'

25 October 2012

Feller, Rybka, Arbiters, and More

If, like me, you have a passing interest in the administrative, organizational side of chess, then you might want to see FIDE's General Assembly 2012 Decisions. This lists the main decisions made at the 83rd FIDE Congress in September. I read through the summary document plus a number of the annexes, and while I found a few worthy of highlighting in a blog post, the most relevant was the 'Ethics Commission report'. A few years ago I wrote about this important commission in a post titled FIDE Ethics, and have been following the subject ever since.

While some of the ethics cases never reach deliberation -- 'rejected as not receivable and has to be dismissed' -- the majority are given full consideration. The most important case that reached a conclusion this year was one you might remember:-

Case 2/2011: "French Team" (complaint submitted by the French Chess Federation against Mr. Sébastien FELLER, Mr. Arnaud HAUCHARD and Mr. Cyril MARZOLO and report submitted by the FIDE Executive Director), the EC unanimously rules that:
- all submitted objections and preliminary requests have to be dismissed;
- Mr. Sébastien FELLER, Mr. Arnaud HAUCHARD and Mr. Cyril MARZOLO are responsible for the violation of par. 2.2.5 of the FIDE Code of Ethics [...]

Par. 2.2.5, along with other ethical sins, is defined in the FIDE Handbook, chapter Code of Ethics:-

Cheating or attempts at cheating during games and tournaments. Violent, threatening or other unseemly behavior during or in connection with a chess event.

Another case that garnered attention in the mass media is just getting underway:-

Case 2/2012: "Rybka and ICGA" (complaint by Mr Vas Rajlich and Mr Chris Whittington against the International Computer Games Association ("ICGA")) Procedural decision (preliminary request of additional information).

I last discussed this in The Rybka Affair: An Official Reaction, and am pleased to see that it is being pursued through formal channels rather than through open letters published on Chessbase.com. Another such case is

Case 10/2012: "Arbiters at the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul" (complaint submitted by the English Chess Federation against Mr Ali Nihat Yazici and against the Turkish Chess Federation), the EC unanimously rules that:
- the case against Mr Ali Nihat Yazici and against the Turkish Chess Federation concerning an assumed violation of par. 2.2.3 and 2.2.11 of the FIDE Code of Ethics has to be considered as receivable;

Another case involving Turkey:-

Case 14/2012: "Turkish young players in a European Youth Chanpionship". The EC unanimously ruled that the submitted complaint by the Turkish chess Federation is admissible.

I recall reading about the specifics of that case, but wasn't able to locate the background. If I do find more, I'll attach the information to this post. Not all of the cases dismissed as 'not receivable' are done so because they lack merit. One recent case was submitted by both sides:-

Case 9/2012: "Participation of Mr Suat Atalik in the Golden Sand tournament in Bulgaria" (communication/complaint by the Turkish Chess Federation against Mr Suat Atalik and the organisers of the tournament and complaint by Mr Suat Atalik against Mr Ali Nihat Yazici and against the Turkish Chess Federation)


Case 12/2012: "Participation of Mr Suat Atalik in a tournament in Kavala - Greece" (complaint by Mr Suat Atalik against the Turkish and the Greek Chess Federations)

The Ethics Commission offered a long opinion on this subject. It started,

Finally the EC, being requested of an advisory opinion, discussed the implications for FIDE rules of the suspension of a player following a decision of a national chess federation, a situation that was recently the object of various cases submitted to the EC.
FIDE and national chess federations are all independent entities, with their own internal legal systems, otherwise FIDE "unites national chess federations throughout the world" and "is the recognized international federation in the domain of chess", "recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the supreme body responsible for the game of chess" (1.1 FIDE Statute).

Other international sports federations expressly regulate the relationships between national and international sporting justice, the FIDE Statutes till now did not regulate the point. Without a specific regulation of the point, no limit to the respective competences can be presumed.

It's an important issue, fraught with commercial consequences, as the ongoing saga of Lance Armstrong in the cycling world should make abundantly clear.

23 October 2012

Masters of the Endgame

Before continuing with A Textbook for Teaching Endgames, I'd like to return to a post from earlier this year, Four Endgames to Know, where I built a database of endgames from books dedicated to that phase of the game. On top of letting me determine which endgames are the most frequent in instructional books, my database also told me which players' games provide the most material for endgame study. Here's the list.


For example, there are 166 games on my database where Karpov was one of the players. That doesn't mean 166 different games, because some games appeared in more than one book. The counts do not include games from Chess Informant Endgames. That resource might be useful for a similar exercise.

The first four names are at the top of the list because one book was dedicated to the games of that player. Again taking Karpov as an example, the book is 'Endgame Virtuoso Anatoly Karpov' by Karolyi & Aplin, which includes 106 endgames by the 12th World Champion. Fischer has two such books, while Seirawan is on the list because his endgame book includes many examples from his own games. Larsen appears to be on the list because he was on the losing side of many examples. Having noted that, it takes a great game to beat a great player, making his games still worthy of special attention.

I'll come back to the list above in a future post or two. Games for these players selected by more than one author would make a good start for special analysis.

22 October 2012

Chess Marches On

For my first action on About to Tripod, I moved the The March of Chess from Tripod to my own domain and added it to the index page on Chess History. My adaptation of the illustration from the inside cover of Davidson's A Short History of Chess is perhaps in retrospect a bit funky, but I've become attached to it over the years.

If you think the illustration is straightforward, it's not. Earlier this year, in Davidson's Mismatch I discovered that the years shown on the illustration are mostly wrong and don't match the information given in the book itself.

21 October 2012

Drink Red Wine, Play Better Chess

What was it exactly that Alekhine used to drink?

From Yahoo! Health:-

Boost your brain: Resveratrol may also be the key to keeping your memory sharp, says Philippe Marambaud, PhD, a senior research scientist at New York's Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders.

The compound has been shown to hamper the formation of beta-amyloid protein, a key ingredient in the plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. Marambaud suggests flexing your noodle by doing crossword puzzles and brain teasers for an hour then cooling down with a glass of wine.

For more, see 8 Reasons To Love Red Wine.

19 October 2012

Feet on the Floor and Focus

Chess For Success (Portland, Oregon): 'Helping Children Succeed One Move at a Time.'

Phillip Margolin, Founder & Board Member, Chess for Success (4:30) • 'Comcast Newsmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington is hosted by veteran journalist Ken Ackerman. It features informational discussions with local, state and federal elected officials as well as community, non-profit, education and civic leaders.'

'In order to figure out the right move, you have to sit with your feet on the floor, you have to focus all of your attention on the board, you can't be talking or looking around, and then you have to figure out what to do with each move, what the consequences will be, you have to compare and contrast, and then you check your result once you decide what move to make. That's what an elementary school kid has to do to read a book with comprehesion, solve math problems, or basically do anything in school that involves problem solving.'

18 October 2012

A Textbook for Teaching Endgames

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a keen interest in chess960. While I leave most of my thoughts on that topic to my chess960 blog (see links in the sidebar to the main page and to the most recent post), once in a while the subject is compelling enough to mention here.

Freed from the need to analyze opening variations to the 15th move, my focus naturally turned to other aspects of chess. Since Fischer's creation presents a much richer set of middlegame considerations, the common denominator across traditional chess and chess960 is the endgame. There is absolutely no difference between endgame theory for chess960 and for its historical predecessor.

Ever since my post on A Brief History of Endgame Theory, I've been on the lookout for the authors and titles mentioned. One work that keeps crossing my radar is worthy of being deemed a 'classic'.

The first endgame guide in Russian appeared during the Soviet era. This was I. Rabinovich's work Endshpil (first edition 1927, second edition 1938).

As luck would have it, the book is bring reprinted.

'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich, 'Translated and Revised from the 1938 Edition'; Mongoose Press; October 2012; 523 pages. • 'An old Soviet quip has it that Western amateurs "play the opening like grandmasters, the middlegame like experts, and the endgame like beginners". Soviet-trained players would fearlessly steer the game toward the final phase, confident of their superior endgame skill. Ilya Rabinovich’s Russian Endgame Manual is a major reason for this.' [Publisher's site] • 312 diagrams, figurine algebraic notation.

In this post I'll set the context and in another post I'll look at an example or two from the book. The 'Editor’s Preface' informs,

Ilya Rabinovich's classic endgame manual was first published in the Soviet Union in 1927 and reissued in 1938 under the title of The Endgame. We present here a "translated and revised" edition, meaning that we gladly accepted Jim Marfia's excellent translation of the 1938 Russian text and then made slight alterations to the voice, to make the final result sound more natural to the mind's ear in our less formal times, yet without changing the meaning of any statement.

Although this work was conceived as a teaching aid for group lessons, the individual student can make good use of everything in it (except for the foreword). The book you are holding truly constitutes a complete course on the endgame, assuming little about the reader's knowledge of the final phase of the game but taking the student to a high level of understanding.

For this edition, we have dispensed with the more complex aspects of the author's discussion of the theory of "corresponding squares", which we consider to be of diminishing value in these times of increasingly fast time controls and sudden-death play. On the other hand, for the reader's convenience we have added many new diagrams for the exercises and alternative positions.

The author's 'Foreword', expanding on the concept of the teaching aid, says,

This work is conceived chiefly as a method for advising instructors and teachers in group learning settings. Since the instructor must deal not only with skilled chessplayers but also with beginners, this book focuses on both elementary and complex endings, as well as on endings with middlegame features. In laying out the elementary themes, special attention is paid to the methodical side of the question, and in our treatment of more complex endings, to the illustration of the latest discoveries and, where possible, to a fuller elaboration of the theme.

For group study, we recommend the study of separate endgame themes in the following order. First, study the first five chapters. Then, proceeding to the following chapters, we recommend that you rely on the "concentric" method of teaching them – that is, first acquaint your audience only with the basic positions in each chapter, delaying a deeper study of the given theme to the second ring. The toughest questions (chapters 9 and 14 – Rook and Pawn endings, for example) we recommend that you divide up into three concentric rings. [...]

In putting together this book, the author also kept in mind those who study endings on their own, and those wishing to refresh or touch up their endgame knowledge. It is precisely for the sake of this rather large group of people, who seek to improve their skills by self-instruction, that this book includes a considerable number of examples as well as explanatory games.

The recommendation to 'study the first five chapters' means the following topics:-

1. The Simplest Mates
2. King and Pawn vs. King
3. Queen vs. Pawn (or Pawns)
4. King, Minor Piece, and Pawn vs. King (and Pawn)
5. Mate with Bishop and Knight

In a followup post I'll explore the ring concept. Is there any chess player below GM level who doesn't need to work on Rook and Pawn endings?

16 October 2012

Blue Ribbon Chess Books 2011

It's that time of year again, when I update my running list of Award Winning Chess Books. There were two repeat winners in 2011. John Nunn won his fourth award for as many titles, although one award was shared with another author. Jeremy Silman won his fifth award for a third title; his book on Pal Benko, co-authored with the American-Hungarian GM, won three awards in 2004.

For the equivalent post on last year's awards, see Blue Ribbon Chess Books 2010. As I mentioned in that post, it would make more sense to update the list of awards immediately after the ChessCafe award has been announced in February, but I can't seem to shake the habit of looking at the awards just before the year-end holiday shopping season.

15 October 2012

About to Tripod

The post on server log reports, Most 'HTTP 404' Are External Errors, brought to an end my four year project to convert my About.com material to my own site. It is somehow fitting that this coincides with the end of About.com as a subsidiary of the New York Times, documented in my recent post Answers About Ask.

For my next trick, I will move to the same platform miscellaneous material predating the About.com work. The work is currently at Tripod.com on a page titled Chess History on the Web : Support material. The 16 bullets of interest there point to various articles related to chess history.

  • A Short History of Chess by Henry A. Davidson : Illustration from inside cover (2012-10-22)
  • Chess Downloads : compiled by Lee Holder
  • Chess Bibliography (before 1800) (2012-10-29)
  • Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2012-12-10)
  • Kramnik's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2013-01-14)
  • Staunton's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record
  • Anand's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2012-12-03)
  • Karpov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1960-1984) (2013-01-21)
  • Karpov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1985-) (2013-01-28)
  • Portrait of La Bourdonnais (2012-11-12)
  • Chess Informant's Chess Is Chess : Screen shots
  • Chess Informant's Chess Is Chess : Statistics (2012-11-19)
  • The Game is Afoot : In Memory of Terry Crandall
  • Deschapelles : The Chess-King (2012-11-26)
  • Ponomariov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record
  • La Bourdonnais annotates Philidor++

I don't intend to move everything. For the 19th century articles on the early French champions -- Deschapelles and La Bourdonnais (x2) -- I'll move those that are in English. For the Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records (TMER) -- Anand, Karpov (x2), Kasparov, Kramnik, Ponomariov, and Staunton -- I'll move two or three and use my stats to determine if there is any real interest in them. For the rest, I'll decide case by case.

The work I did on A Magnus Carlsen Game Collection rekindled my interest in the TMER data, but I don't know what equivalent material is currently available elsewhere on the web. Maybe the idea is already covered adequately. Whatever the situation, it looks like my Mondays are still going to be busy for the next few months.


Added later:-

  • The Light and Lustre of Chess : Paolo Boi and Leonardo de Cutri (2012-12-17)

More to come?

14 October 2012

Four Figure Chess Sets

For this continuing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I like to feature items other than chess sets, but for this current episode there was absolutely nothing else to highlight. I even dove beneath my normal cutoff price of US $500 and found zilch. What to do? Chess sets it will be, but with a twist. Here are the top selling chess sets from the last three months of closed eBay auctions.

From left to right, top to bottom, with final selling price and auction title:-

  • $6000 : Extraordinary, Fantastic, Murano Glass, Large, Italy, Jews/Catholics Chess Set
  • $5200 : Important Pewter, Gold & Silver Napoleonic Chess set
  • $3800 : Antique Chinese jade stone figural chess set hand carved Asian w case board 32 p
  • $2912 : Antique Jaques Staunton boxed chess set. Very rare pre1860 example.
  • $2800 : Rare Antique 1900's Chinese Ox Bone Chess Set Signed 6" Kings!
  • $2500 : New stunning CAS Iberia King Arthur Chess Set - Table and Base $3700+
  • $2500 : Vintage 1970's Pierre Cardin Chess set Eames mod modern panton mid century era
  • $2500 : Vintage old crow decanter chess set~full set of 32~ sealed~ in original boxes

When the price I list doesn't match the price shown in the screen snapshot, it is generally a 'best offer' price. There were nearly 50 chess sets during the three month period that sold for $1000 or more.

12 October 2012

A Servant of the Secret Fire

This chess set appears to be the same set shown in Lord of the Rings, Trilogy Edition. Although the present example is unpainted, what a contrast in artistic quality the two photos make.

You Shall Not Pass!!! © Flickr user Cyril-Rana!! under Creative Commons.

The photographer wrote,

I love chess, but the biggest problem of playing it, is that I always end up taking photos of it rather taking part in it. I just love my Lord of the Rings chess set. Spent the whole evening clicking, tinkering with the lighting in my mini DIY studio.

I was already the tenth person to add the photo to my favorites, even though it had been uploaded less than a day earlier.

11 October 2012

Carlsen Plays Everything

After constructing A Magnus Carlsen Game Collection, my first task was to get a feel for the opening systems used by the Norwegian GM. I started by taking his games as White. I noted the frequency of his first moves, then noted the responses by his opponents to those moves. I repeated this for the second move, the third move, and so on, until I reached a point where there were only a handful of moves in the current variation. You might think of this as creating a tree of opening variations based on his repertoire. Then I did the same for his games as Black.

What did I learn from this exercise? Not much, really. Carlsen plays everything. If a move is sound he plays it. If, in whatever position, there are several sound continuations, he plays them all. He must be an extremely challenging opponent to prepare for, because he's likely to play anything.

I even found a few games where Carlsen played moves that are considered less than sound. For example, here are three games where he opened 1.a3 (Anderssen's Opening) as White.

The links are to the corresponding games on Chessgames.com, usually with commentary. Here's a game from a few months ago where he played 1.a4.

One of the Chessgames kibitzers to that game quoted Chessvibes:-

Carlsen starting his game against Radjabov with 1.a4 had a little history. During the previous World Blitz Championship, in Moscow, November 2010, Radjabov had said to Carlsen: "Everyone is getting tired. You might as well start with 1.a4 and you can still beat them."

Carlsen won that game with 1.a4. Maybe Radjabov should have suggested 1.g4. What are the rest of us mere mortals supposed to make of this?

09 October 2012

A Magnus Carlsen Game Collection

After working with historical game collections to write Another Fictitious Match and 1946 Alekhine - Botvinnik, I got the urge to look at the opening repertoire of a modern player. GM Carlsen seemed like a good choice. Although I've played through many of his games, I've never developed an appreciation for the opening systems he prefers. Looking at his games in more depth might teach me a thing or two.

I found a good collection of 1395 of his games at Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen Fansite - Games, loaded it into a database, and discovered that it stopped in January 2011, with the 73rd Tata Steel GMA group at Wijk aan Zee. To bring the games up to date, I first looked at Carlsen, Magnus PGN Chess Games FIDE on ratings.fide.com, and downloaded files for the events I was missing.

The FIDE files turned out to be problematic. They were not all in the same text format, some were missing mandatory PGN header tags, and there was junk prepended to one file. On top of that, the files had games for players other than Carlsen and some files were incomplete for him. Instead of struggling with those files, I decided my time would be better spent extracting the games from TWIC downloads. TWIC files are big and somewhat cumbersome, but they are always consistent and accurate.

In Carlsen's TWIC Debut, I once traced the Norwegian's first mention in TWIC to April 2001. I didn't need to go back this far, so I only examined TWIC files back to mid-2010. This gave me 167 recent Carlsen games. The total of 1562 game compared favorably with the 1427 games currently in the Magnus Carlsen collection on Chessgames.com. Why the difference? I'll leave that question to a more diligent researcher. As for my new collection, I'll take a closer look at GM Carlsen's repertoire in another post.


February 2013: I eventually created a usable version of the file suitable for distribution: carlsen.zip. For more info about the creation of the file, see Carlsen TMER PGN.

08 October 2012

Most 'HTTP 404' Are External Errors

The last action on Monday, Monday is to determine:-

  • Are there errors being reported on the server log files?

The last time I looked at stats for the site was for a post on my World Chess Championship Blog, Anand - Gelfand Wrapup, and the last general stats were for Google Likes Me Why Exactly. For the month of September, my server recorded close to 2200 'not found' (HTTP 404) errors. Most of the errors were outside of my control, with many of those related to hackers probing the site for security weaknesses.

I found a few errors that could be fixed easily and made the necessary changes. One of those was a 'page not found' problem and the rest were isolated 'image not found' errors. I also found a few errors on subjects I wasn't familar with. The most frequent were looking for files with names like

  • apple-touch-icon.png

but there were also a fair number of requests for

  • crossdomain.xml

If you're interested, a web search will give you more info on what these files are used for. Another broken link that appeared a few times came from Bridgebase.com, Cheating at Chess Is Bridge next? The page they wanted was 1978 Karpov - Korchnoi Title Match : Highlights, but someone mistyped the address.

What's next on the agenda for Mondays? I'll start by looking at Chess History on the Web : Support material.

07 October 2012

The Shrinking Blogosphere?

What was I trying to do when I wrote the post about William W. Corasick? Oh, yes, it was a followup to Blog Business, the last time I updated the list of blogs I follow. These are listed under my profile Blogger: User Profile: Mark Weeks. First, and most important, I updated the TWIC feed for the news site:-

Then I deleted feeds which haven't been updated for a long time:-

Another blog which disappeared completely was:-

This last one was surprising because twice in recent years it was put forward for the CJA best blog award: 'It Speaks Volumes' (2010) and The Last Shall Be Least (2011). Another escapee to Twitter?

After deleting those ten blogs, I added three blogs that were on my list of blogs to watch. According to Blogger.com I started the exercise with 66 blogs on my list. Deleting ten and adding three brought the total to 59, which matches the new number on Blogger.com. I'm always happy when the math works.

05 October 2012

'One Billion Clever People'

Speech by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at "Chess and Education" Conference [Part 1/2] (4:40) • 'Ilyumzhinov opens FIDE CiS Conference in Istanbul on the 30th August 2012'

Part 1 is more about FIDE during Ilyumzhinov's reign than it is about 'Chess in School'; for more about the program itself, see Part 2. For more videos from the conference, see cisfide - YouTube.

04 October 2012

1946 Alekhine - Botvinnik

Let's set the historical stage for Another Fictitious Match, the 1946 match that never was between Alexander Alekhine (b.1892) and Mikhail Botvinnik (b.1911). In connection with the Birth of the FIDE World Chess Championship, I once wrote,

When the war broke out in 1939, Alekhine had been negotiating a title match with Mikhail Botvinnik to be played in Moscow. In early 1946 Botvinnik renewed his challenge, and the British Federation agreed to host the match. It notified Alekhine of its decision in March, but he never received it. He died the day the proposal was sent. The stage was set for FIDE, inactive since 1939. The organization, along with the crown jewel of chess, the World Championship, was to be rebuilt.

Chessbase.com provided more detail in Alekhine's death – an unresolved mystery?.

In 1946 Alekhine was invited to play in a tournament in London, but under pressure from American players (Reuben Fine, Arnold Denker and others) because of his wartime record the invitation was withdrawn. He resumed negotiations with FIDE for a match against Botvinnik, which was to take place in England under the auspices of the British Chess Federation. The BCF confirmed that an agreement had been met and arrangements made in a telegram delivered to Alekhine on March 23, 1946. [...]

Correspondence of Alekhine, shortly before his untimely demise, mentioned that he felt he was being followed! Alexander Alekhine's initials were AA, so that would put him at the top of any list! Alekhine died within a day or two of the British Chess Federation voting to hold the Botvinnik - Alekhine match... so, if there was an assassin then he had to move quickly since Alekhine was about to go to England!"

After writing the 'Fictitious Match' post, I created openings for a 24 game match between the two players, using the technique described in that post. These are based on the recorded games of the two players through 1946. I was surprised how similar their opening repertoires were; for example, both played variations on the Dutch Defense (1.d4 f5). The table is in PGN format to facilitate extending the openings to longer games.

( 1.-- {AA-MB} )
( {01} 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 )
( {02} 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ )
( {03} 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d5 )
( {04} 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 c5 )
( {05} 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Nf6 )
( {06} 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 )
( {07} 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Ne2 dxe4 )
( {08} 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 )
( {09} 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 )
( {10} 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 )
( {11} 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.e3 Nf6 4.-- )
( {12} 1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 {also 01-03} 2...e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 )
( 1.-- {MB-AA} )
( {01} 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 O-O )
( {02} 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 Ne4 )
( {03} 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 )
( {04} 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 )
( {05} 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.e3 e6 )
( {06} 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Bb4+ 4.-- )
( {07} 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 )
( {08} 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nd5 Nf6 )
( {09} 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.d4 c5 )
( {10} 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4 3.e3 Nc6 4.exd4 Nxd4 )
( {11} 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4 exd4 )
( {12} 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 c5 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 )

The two games with '--' show a point where there was no corresponding game in that collection. For an example with Alekhine as White, in game 11 after 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.e3 Nf6, the position was never reached in Alekhine's collection. At this point a different method of choosing White's fourth move is required. Both players were prolific writers and left a large body of annotated games -- of other players as well as their own -- which would provide a rich resource for further investigation.

What's the point of this fabrication? For me it was an exercise in matching the opening repertoires of two players using databases of their games. Note that, unlike the equally fictional 1975 Fischer - Karpov match, the two players did in fact play each other. Chessgames.com informs that they met three times over the board: Mikhail Botvinnik beat Alexander Alekhine 1 to 0, with 2 draws.

02 October 2012

Another Fictitious Match

In The Match That Never Was (TMTNW) My Version, a personal look at a fictitious 1975 Fischer - Karpov match, I wrote,

I had both 'Bobby Fischer's Chess Games' by Robert Wade and Kevin O'Connell (Doubleday, 1972) and 'Karpov’s Collected Games' by David Levy (RHM Press, 1975), so it was easy to compare the repertoires of the two players. The job might be tougher today with the same collections available in electronic format.

Later I started to wonder, 'Would it really be tougher with the same collections available in electronic format?' I decided to do an exercise, using a fictitious 1946 Alekhine - Botvinnik match as an example.

I already had databases for both players, downloaded some years ago from GM Khalifman's GMchess.com. I saved the historical player databases from that site because at the time they seemed cleaner than similar databases from other sites. I don't believe that the files are still available on the site.

The Alekhine database had 950 games, with the last game from 1946, the year the fourth World Champion died. The Botvinnik database had 918 games, of which 371 were played before 1947, the year I used as a cutoff for examples from Botvinnik's repertoire.

I loaded the two databases into SCID, a good tool for this sort of analysis, and separated them into games with White and games with Black for each player. SCID also gave me quick overviews of the first moves for both player, as shown in the following table. Alekhine's games are on top.

Assuming a 24-game match, I can use the numbers in the table to determine frequencies of first moves for both players, then iterate the process to derive the opening for each game. If I find the time to do this, I'll report on the results in a subsequent post.

01 October 2012

Last Inconsistencies

Continuing with The Last Refuge and Hobgoblins and Small Minds, I cleaned up a few dozen more inconsistencies, the bulk of which were introduced at the time of the 'Hobgoblins' post. Since the rest of the inconsistencies are invisible to the visitor, I'll close this little exercise and move on to the last bullet from Monday, Monday

  • Are there errors being reported on the server log files?

The log for the month of September is now available, which should let me catch any new errors introduced since the 'Monday, Monday' exercise started.