31 December 2012

Objective About Fischer

I've already mentioned Joseph G. Ponterotto's 'A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer' in two short posts, where the last one was Not So Funny. It looks like the book is going to provide material for a series of posts similar to Frank Brady's 'ENDGAME' (see the series summary in Fischer's Best Games).

For good measure, I rescued from archive another old review of Fischer material -- Tales of Two Fischers (March 2005) -- and added it to my page on Chess History. It was hard enough remaining objective about Fischer when he was alive. Next month marks the fifth anniversary of his death and, given the wealth of new details on his life, it hasn't become any easier.

30 December 2012

Not So Funny

Old Woody Allen joke:-

A guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, 'Hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken.' Then the doc says, 'Why don't you turn him in?' Then the guy says, 'I would but I need the eggs!'

Not so old Bobby Fischer story:-

At the Marshall Chess Club [late 1950s], no one doubted the teenager's talent. But his prickly behavior was alienating some of the wealthy sponsors whose support he would need to rise to the top.

"Some of what he did was so outrageous it was decided maybe he had emotional problems," says [Allen] Kaufman, who attended the meeting. What to do? Board members talked about finding a psychiatrist. They considered Reuben Fine, himself one of the giants of the game. Then someone raised a question: What if therapy worked? What if treatment sapped Fischer's drive to win, depriving the United States of its first homegrown world champ?

Meeting adjourned. No one, Kaufman recalls, wanted to tamper with that finely tuned brain.

[Fischer story from Joseph G. Ponterotto's 'A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer' (first noted on this blog a few days ago in The Broken Bridge), quoting 'Life is not a board game' by Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2003.]

28 December 2012

27 December 2012

The Broken Bridge (*)

For the second time in a little more than three months, I'm on the wrong side of William W. Corasick. This time it feels like I've been hit by a truck, which is my layman's description of the flu.

Since I'm spending most of the day on my back, drifting in and out of random, incomprehensibly grey dreams, I decided to tackle the one chess gift I received on Christmas Day: 'A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer' by Joseph G. Ponterotto. Boy, was that ever a mistake! I can't remember reading a more depressing chess book. I'm almost certain that my downtrodden mood has a lot to do with my initial assessment, so I'll come back to the subject when there's more color in my life.

(*) Google translation of 'ponte rotto'.

25 December 2012

Famous Christmas Plates

This image is something I archived from eBay in 2003. The description said,

The print is an offset-lithograph printed circa 1905. The sheet measures 9 x 6 inches and is in good condition aside from being trimmed on the top edge. The image is titled "Cornered". It is inscribed "Famous Christmas Plates. 517. Black and White Christmas Plate for 1899". The print is an illustration from an early-1900's issue of the London Magazine.

Is that Father Christmas at the board?

For last year's Christmas post and links to previous years, see The True Spirit and Meaning of Christmas.

24 December 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring...

...Because they were all out having a great time at a Christmas Eve party, me included. That's why I only had time to do some routine maintenance for About to Tripod. It's hardly worth mentioning, but I'll say it anyway: naming conventions. See you tomorrow!

23 December 2012

A Chess Set Fit for the Queen of England

Every year at this time on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, it's the same thing -- lots of interesting items to choose from in the weeks before Christmas, little in the weeks after. For this last edition before Christmas, I chose to feature an item titled 'Sonnett Original Sculpture Ceramic CORGI Chess Set with Board, R&W vs.Tri. OOAK!'. Pictured below, it sold for US $2247 after receiving 27 bids from 10 bidders. The auction page received 431 page views.

The description started with a story.

You could say that it took me 20 years to make this chess set! Back in the 80's and 90's when I was selling solely at The Washington International Horse Show, I made a chess set of Corgis vs. Jack Russells. But it turned out people preferred one or the other, which does make sense. So I vowed to split the set and make two new ones, for red and white vs. tri Corgis, and for smooth coated Jack Russell terriers vs. broken coats.

I packed it away in 1992 and kept putting if off the project because of all the work involved. Early this year I started working on the tri Corgis, doing a couple of figures a month until it is finally finished! I will tackle the Jack Russell one next year, hopefully.

And what about the pieces?

For each side I've made a detailed King and Queen. The Bishops are Corgis in glasses sitting on a stack of chess book and poring over their computers. The Knights both have hobby horses and the Rooks are either cottages or townhouses. The Pawns are all puppies, each doing something different that puppies do. For the limited amount of pictures I wasn't able to show all the small details, but they are there!

On the four corners of the wooden chess board I've put sculpted Corgi faces (two red & white and two tri-color) and some decorative ceramic leaves. The entire set of chess pieces has been hand sculpted by me from ceramic clay. There are no molds involved, each piece is one-of-a-kind. Needless to say, I am never going to do another Corgi chess set!

Each piece was sculpted, dried and painted in detail. They then went through two high temperature kiln firings which gave them a permanent glazed finish. I have put felt on the bottom of each piece. Measurements: the standard chess board is 20" square, and is square on it is 2" square. The King on each side is a little over 3 1/2" in height.

For more about the artiest, see BarbieSonnett.com.

21 December 2012

Green and Cream Vinyl Rollup

The photo's description explained,

This guy was sitting alone, but with a chess board all set up for a new game. I don't know if he was expecting a friend to show up, or whether it was a tacit invitation to anyone who might wander by, and decide that a friendly game of chess would be a great way to spend the afternoon.

I have a set and board identical to those shown in the photo.

New York Public Library, Nov 2012 © Flickr user Ed Yourdon under Creative Commons.

See also Ed Yourdon's photostream / Tags / chess.

20 December 2012

Where Did This Come From?

MW Archive Date: 2000-04-12
(That's all I know!)

18 December 2012

17 December 2012

Light and Lustre

In a few weeks I'll look at the statistics for Anand's TMER and Kasparov's TMER to decide if it's worth converting any of the other TMER pages from the Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records portion of my World Championship site. While working on the two TMERs, I noticed another page that I had overlooked when planning About to Tripod. It's now available on The Light and Lustre of Chess : Paolo Boi and Leonardo de Cutri, linked once again from Chess History.

16 December 2012

Newtown Was America's Wake-up Call

[No chess post today. This is one of the moments when an insignificant board game is nothing more than that.]


Fellow Americans, it's time to end the madness. Our children are being slaughtered before our eyes. This is not what the founding fathers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution:-

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

It's time to decide what those wise men meant, given the technology of their time, and to adapt their meaning to the technology of our time. Then it's time to use Article Five of the same Constitution to effect that change.


On Facebook, people are requesting, 'Please place 20 stars on your wall in honor of the 20 little angels that were sent to Heaven today.'

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

It's the least I can do.

14 December 2012

Up for a Grammy?

Remember Stephanie De-Sykes and Life's Too Short for Chess? This song is even better!

ANDY HARDINGER CHESS! (3:09) • 'What about a game of chess?'

How many words in the English language end with '-ness'? The song could go on for years! Example:-

A lot of players are full of cluelessness. CHESS! ♪
This board game requires some combativeness. CHESS! ♪

etc. etc. ♫ What does 'a corky game' mean?

13 December 2012

Engine Evaluation

A couple of paths converged recently to give me a fresh perspective on an old topic: chess engine evaluation of specific positions. The first path was on using the engines to evaluate positions in various games. In several games the engines kept producing evaluations that didn't look right to me. The positions were all of the type having complicated material tradeoffs on the board -- Pawns vs. pieces, Rooks vs. minor pieces with Pawns on one side or the other, Queens vs. pieces -- that sort of thing. An engine would tell me the position was worth +1.0 for White or -2.0 for Black, where instinct told me that the evaluation might possibly be way off.

The second path was on engine evaluation of start positions in chess960. I won't go into detail here, because I know it's an esoteric subject that doesn't interest many people, so I'll just point to a post on my chess960 blog where I documented my findings: Twin Research. The upshot is that different engines play into the same variations, but the variations seem not to be the best. Is this because the engines are flawed or because there is something wrong with the chess960 start positions?

I realized that I didn't know much about the subject of material evaluation, engine or otherwise. I did, however, remember an article from Chess Life by Larry Kaufman. I found it in the March 1999 issue: 'The Evaluation of Material Imbalances' by IM Larry Kaufman. The then-IM is now a GM and the article is available on the Web on Dan Heisman's site: 'reprinted with Larry's permission'. I have more to say about the subject, but right now I have to help the girls decorate the Christmas tree. I'll come back to this another time.

11 December 2012

Capablanca and Alekhine on Rabinovich

It turns out that my favorable treatment of 'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich...

...is in good company:-

Ilya Rabinovich (1891-1942) has a rare, probably unique, distinction: he wrote a book, Endshpil (two editions, published in 1927 and 1938), which was hailed as 'excellent' by both Capablanca and Alekhine.

From 7873. 'Excellent' on Chesshistory.com.

10 December 2012

Kasparov's TMER

In About to Tripod, I decided to move at least two of my resources for Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records (TMER) to my own site. Last week I started with Anand's TMER. This week it's Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record. As usual, I also added the link to my index page on Chess History.

09 December 2012

Snap-On Chess

Do good things come in twos? The previous edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price featured a pair of Fischer autographed tournament covers in Fisching for Fischer, while before that we had Top Chess Item Twins. The current edition is composed of two auctions for a 'Snap-On Tools Drueke Chess Set', both auctions closing during the last fortnight. The first set sold for US $600.00 after 11 bids, while a few days later the second sold for US $565.55 after 17 bids. The composite image below shows the set stored in its tool set box with each of the three drawers opened to show the pieces.

The first auction explained,

This is a very rare Drueke chess set. These were made for Snap-On as a special sales award. These could not be bought, only won by dealers in a year long sales contest. The chess pieces themselves are the unique part of this chess set. They are made of the same metal that Snap-On uses to make their sockets and wrenches. The pieces are nickel/chrome plated just as the sockets and wrenches are. One set of pieces is chrome, and the other set is gold chrome plated.

Heavy weight, shiny pieces -- beautiful! The base of each piece has Snap-On engraved with the part number that the particular chess piece was made out of. For example the Knight has Snap-On 5/8 S9706KFUA, a specialty socket; the Bishop has Snap-On SX3, a 1/2 drive 3 inch extension, etc. The pieces are stored in a miniature, black, Snap-On tool box replica -- very neat! The board is full size 21 inches x 21 inches, hand made DRUEKE, with Snap-On laser engraved on two ends of the border.

Both auctions mentioned that the 'set has never been used'. It was obviously made to be admired.

07 December 2012

'Fusing Music, Chess, and Martial Arts'

It says right there, 'The Game of Chess Is Like a Sword'.

hip hop art © Flickr user starfive under Creative Commons.

The Hip Hop Chess Federation even has a Hip Hop Chess Federation Blog: 'the worlds first non-profit fusing music, chess and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and non-violence'.

06 December 2012

Endgames with Equivalent Piece (and Pawns)

Contrary to the old saying, not all Rook endgames are drawn. So says the chart shown below, which is drawn from A Database for ICCF Finals. The statistics are from ICCF World Championships, where the players are top-notch, motivated, and have ample time to explore the subtleties of every position that arises during a game. Games were counted if the material was present for at least six half-moves.

The numbers show the count of endgames with different pieces in contest with a piece of the same value, both sides having Pawns. For example, from a total of 2704 games in the database, there were 16 Queen and Pawn (Q+P) endgames with the same number of Pawns on both sides (=0). There were 17 Q+P endgames with an advantage of a single extra Pawn for White (+1), and 9 with an extra Pawn for Black (-1). The rest of the numbers should explain themselves.

What does this table show? Not much, I'm afraid. The counts are too small to draw any real conclusions, but they give a few directions for further investigation.

04 December 2012

Increasing Draws in ICCF Finals

Are engines destroying correspondence chess? General opinion says, 'yes', but what are the facts? One useful metric would be the percentage of drawn games in events at the highest level, the World Chess Championship : Correspondence Chess. Since engines are the great equalizer, at least tactically, you might expect the percentage of draws to be increasing.

The following graph, taken from A Database for ICCF Finals that I created a few weeks ago, confirms that trend. The stacked bars show the percentage of wins for White (yellow), wins for Black (red), and draws (blue), starting with the 1st WCCC in 1950, through the 24th, completed recently. The years correspond to the start of each event.

The latest event had more than 70% draws (101 out of 136 games) plus less than 10% wins for Black (12 games). If the trend continues, we'll eventually see some yellow, no red, and a lot of blue.

03 December 2012

Anand's TMER

Next on the list for About to Tripod are the player career pages found on my World Chess Championship site. I call them Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records (TMER). The first conversion is for the current World Champion, Anand's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record, also linked from my index page on Chess History.

02 December 2012

FIDE Journalists' Commission

In 2012 FIDE General Assembly : Whither the World Championship?, I excerpted from the minutes of FIDE President Ilyumzhinov's annual report to the FIDE minions. Another topic of specific interest to bloggers in general, and to me specifically, came near the end of Ilyumzhinov's report.

Our Agenda is very big, therefore let me shortly comment on several other issues. I have been approached on several occasions regarding the refusal to issue an accreditation to one Russian journalist, and there even open letters in this respect. I addressed the Head of the Organising Committee with a request to carefully consider this issue and I would appreciate Ali's [Nihat Yazici] comments on this.

On one hand, we should not interfere with the media members to carry out their work which is very necessary for us, we should not veto to a profession, but on the other hand, it is necessary to regularize the process of accrediting those who are real professional journalists, who do not disseminate speculations and information which has not been checked, and those who are aware of professional ethics.

Therefore I task Mr. Georgios Makropoulos and M. Khodarkovsky to create a special commission, comprising, first of all, journalists. And, to close the topic, I request that this journalist be issued an accreditation badge.

Later, in the section titled '16. Events Commission', is another mention of the subject.

Journalists' Commission. Mr. Makropoulos said that there are bloggers who claim they are journalists, if they open a website. We want all the people who want to act as chess journalists, to be registered within FIDE, they will have a right to be accredited in all FIDE events, they should decide the basic principles that should be followed. FIDE will try with the Organisers to arrange their facilities, hotel discounts etc.

FIDE President mentioned Mr. Makropoulos and M. Khodarkovsky who have worked as professional journalists and Ms. A. Karlovich, as for the second woman, Mr. Makropoulos proposed Ms. Marinello, and we will try to do the job of registering media members.

General Assembly approved the proposal of Mr. Makropoulos.

This reminded me that while working on my first post for the topic, 83rd FIDE Congress, I had transcribed further remarks by Makropoulos; see 2012 FIDE Congress - EB Meeting Part 1 [Youtube.com] at 22:55 into the clip.

Kirsan asked me to prepare a proposal. He wants to create a new commission for journalists -- facing the problems that we have many times -- in order to register officially journalists, because we don't know who are journalists and who are not really journalists in the chess world. Because the truth it is not journalists everyone who is writing something in a web site. We want also that these people who are working on the web sites and who are writing about chess somehow to have some recognition by FIDE, as people who are working as chess journalists.

So we have on the one hand all journalists that they are registered with their official associations of journalists in their own countries or international associations because of course all these people they should be automatically registered [to report on important events(?)]. And we have many others who cannot provide any official recognition that they are journalists but they are working on many web sites in the world or in chess magazines.

We will try to organize all these people, register them within FIDE. We will try to provide help for them for their work, facilities during the events, special discounts, if it is possible, for their hotels and accommodation and at the same time we would like that these people by themselves to create a minimum understanding of principles how they should work, because most of them they never have been real journalists, they never have finished any school, journalist or university, and we know how many problems there are. How many times just because they don't like somebody they can insult him and nothing is going on. I'm not talking about insulting [me(?)], insulting everybody, officials of federations.

So we would like somehow to bring these people, speak with them, decide what is the correct way to go with this effort of being a chess journalist. And at the same time to help them, to make sure that they will have the right support, they will be always accreditated [sic] and if we can also help them to get better discounts, let's say, for traveling and hotels, then we'll do our best. So this is the idea, so we would like that the Board here will accept the creation of these three commissions -- the two that Nigel [Freeman] proposed -- so we fully recommend to the [General] Assembly and Kirsan he will present the names of the chairmen and members of these commissions. Is there any comment here?

I'll wait and see what FIDE proposes before passing judgement on the idea. And, no, I haven't forgotten Larisa Yudina.