30 December 2014

Chess and EEG

Going back a few weeks to my post on Chess and Meditation, I ended with 'There is more in the article worth exploring, but I'll leave that for another time.' Once in a while I actually find 'another time' and this is one of those times.

That post was based on the cover story 'Mind of the Meditator' from the November 2014 issue of Scientific American. The SciAm article mentioned,

A DOOR TO CONSCIOUSNESS: Meditation explores the nature of the mind, providing a way to study consciousness and subjective mental states from the first-person perspective of the meditator. In a collaboration with expert Buddhist meditators at Wisconsin, we have studied the brain's electrical activity using electroencephalography (EEG) during compassion meditation in which the meditators described the well-defined sense of self as becoming less fixed and permanent.

Substitute 'chess' for 'meditation', 'chess player' for 'meditator', etc., and the paragraph reads surprisingly well. In fact, it shouldn't be too surprising, because EEG experiments are occasionally made on chess players. What's EEG? In case you're as clueless as I am, the Wikipedia page Electroencephalography explains,

Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp. EEG measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain

A few years ago, GM Simon Williams posted a piece on his blog titled EEG of my Brain Whilst Playing Chess for Horizon BBC. It started,

Just over a week ago myself and Stuart Conquest took part in a fascinating study for the Horizon TV Science program. A certain Dr Amidzic and Dr Sautoy were also involved. Below is an actual EEG reading of my brain whilst I was involved in a game of chess with Stuart Conquest.

The researchers claimed to confirm that his chess 'talent is tactical, not strategic.' That in itself is interesting enough -- the blog post attracted many comments -- but there are other, more powerful uses of EEG technology. Watch the following video.

Euronews Hi-tech - Look no hands! Brainpower keeps chess in check (2:14) • 'In Berlin they have a unique way of playing chess. The player sits motionless and, as if by magic, his pieces move around the board. His brainwaves are being harnessed so he can play just by thinking about the next move.'

For more about the technology, developed by Michael Tangermann at the Berlin Institute of Technology, see Brain-Controlled Chess Game Proves Cognitive Abilities of Locked-in Patients. If this becomes commercially available, it will force the FIDE rules commission to rewrite the rule for touch-move.

29 December 2014

TMERs: Kasparov in Africa

Year end holiday weeks travel in pairs. Just like last week's post, TMERs: Kasparov's Travels Enhanced ('little time for blogging and even less for side projects'), this week's post is the product of limited resources.

My working file, Garry Kasparov's Travels During His 2014 FIDE Campaign, shows a number of extended trips by Kasparov to different regions of the world. Of particular interest is Africa, which he visited in July 2013 (before announcing his FIDE ambitions), in January-February 2014, and in May 2014.

The expert on chess in Africa must be Dr. Daaim Shabazz of The Chess Drum (thechessdrum.net). To get a better picture of Kasparov's campaigns in Africa, I assembled a list of the Drum's posts covering the same period as my working file. The list starts six months before Kasparov's formal announcement.

TMER : Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

28 December 2014

Chess Stone Lithograph

In the previous, pre-Christmas episode of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (see Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Paintings), I noted,

The month preceding Christmas is like, umm, Christmas. There are always plenty of interesting items to choose from.

While that's been true since I started the series, it's also true that the interesting items start tapering off in the last fortnight before Christmas, just like they did for this post. Besides the item pictured below, which was titled 'Michael Parkes -- String and Chess Game -- Pair, Signed, Unframed' and sold for US $890.10 'Buy It Now', I had one other item to choose from.

The other item was titled 'Original Manuscript of Robert Bobby FISCHER Grandmaster World Chess Champion' and sold for $3500, also 'Buy It Now'. Calling it a manuscript was overly generous. It was in fact a couple of games recorded by Fischer. The description noted,

Original chess notations reconstruction. Handwritten by Robert James "Bobby" Fischer (1943-2008), American chess grandmaster and the World Chess Champion, of chess matches -- Tigran Petrosian vs Ludek Pachman, 1961 Bled, Yugoslavia, and Boris Spassky vs Efim Geller, World Chess Championship 1968. Extremely rare algebraic notations by Fischer (who always used descriptive).

Since Fischer and Bjelica worked together on the book, but also TV shows in Yugoslavia –- using algebraic (not descriptive) notations -- they adapted to algebraic notation system which was common to the Yugoslav wider audience. Provenance: The manuscript was created during a joint writing of the book "Sahovski susreti stoljeca" (Chess meetings of the Century) by Fischer and Dimitrije Bjelica, jointly published in Serbian in 1973.

Why didn't I use the Fischer item? It wasn't particularly interesting visually, and Fischer has already been seen three times this year in 'Top eBay Chess Items': in Caveat Fischer - Spassky 1992, in Fischer Insecure?, and in Delucia's Chess Library.

Back to the Michael Parkes lithograph, the description added,

LIMITED EDITION STONE LITHOGRAPH • PAIR OF TWO • VERY LOW EDITION NUMBER! RARE! • Numbered: 37/160 • MATCHING NUMBERS ON SET • Safely stored in a cool, dry, temperature-controlled room • Lithograph Size: 19" x 27"

For more about Parkes ('an American-born artist living in Spain who is best known for work in the areas of fantasy art and magic realism'), see Michael Parkes on Wikipedia.

26 December 2014

Moonwhisker Chess

For the last Flickr Friday of 2014, I had plenty to choose from, including Flickr users already featured on this blog. I had a half-dozen new copies of chess paintings from Flickr user Irina, first seen in Chess on a Settle, and an arty shot of the 'Opening ceremony of the 15th European Individual Chess Championship' from Flickr user PAN Photo, first seen in Meet the Monks.

My new chess selections for these and other Flickr users can be found by following the links on the right navigation bar under 'Flickr Favorites'. A search of my previous posts, a function also found on the right navigation bar, didn't turn up any artwork on cats, so cats it will be.

Chess Cats 2 © Flickr user Moonwhiskers under Creative Commons.

Add this to two pseudo cat posts, Alice and 'The Cat in the Hat' and Chess History Cat Fight.

25 December 2014

Joyeux Noël!

Last year I had two Christmas posts: Mele Kalikimaka! (with a chain to previous years) and World Championship Chess on Christmas (because Christmas fell on WCC Wednesday). This year I'm back to a single post.

Google Images: chess santa

Have a Merry Christmas (and please drive safely)!

23 December 2014

The Phoenix of Chess?

We've seen Magnus on Yahoo: Carlsen vs. Gates, The Aftermath; we've seen Garry on Yahoo: Geopolitical Yahoos; but I can't remember ever seeing Vishy on Yahoo.

The Chess Phoenix Rises Again (huffingtonpost.com)

Top of the list, too!

Vishy Anand could be the Phoenix of Chess. Many times down, but never out. Again and again he rises up to snatch another tournament triumph, another world championship.

I'm no big fan of the Huffington Post and its clickbait headlines, but chief chess blogger Lubomir Kavalek is always worth a visit.

22 December 2014

TMERs: Kasparov's Travels Enhanced

A holiday week means little time for blogging and even less for side projects. I went back to the data from TMERs: Kasparov's Travels Extended, clicked through many of the related links, made some notes, and updated my page on Garry Kasparov's Travels During His 2014 FIDE Campaign. [TMER : Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record]

21 December 2014

FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014

Going back a year to an early post in this CIS series, 'Chess in School' Is Quantifiable, I noted,

The involvement of the world chess organization [FIDE] is fundamental to the success of the CIS program. FIDE has automatic access to its 160++ member federations.

Once a year, at FIDE's annual pow wow, we get the chance to find out what its Chess in Schools commission has been doing for the previous year. In 2014 it has been a tough act to follow. Documents from the CIS commission have been released at three separate occasions: at the announcement for the General Assembly in Tromso (GA, coinciding with the Olympiad), at the minutes of the GA in August, and at the Presidential Board (PB, Sochi) in November.

Fortunately, the documents for all three occasions are available from one point. In my post on the FIDE Journalists' Commission, FIDE's 'Principles of Chess Journalism', I explained how to find them.

The 2014 4th quarter Presidential Board -- Agenda (5 November) and Press Release (9 November, 'agenda included the proposals deferred from Tromso') -- had released the commission documents in the same directory as the Agenda.

From the same source, here are the three documents for CIS: Annex 30, Annex 31, and Annex 32 Let's have a summary of the three annexes.

Annex 30 is titled 'Report of Commission Chairman Ali Nihat Yazici' and dated 2014-06-24.

There have been six principal areas of activity since the last Congress in Tallinn:

1. Promotion of chess in schools through multiple means, such as the Chess and Education conference (2012) and the ongoing visits, especially by the FIDE President to many federations, the promotion of chess in schools being the main unifying factor of these visits.

2. Major sponsorship from Rosneft meant that we were able to purchase a substantial quantity of chess sets in 2012-2013 and this year sees us distributing the last of those, albeit, with no renewal of that sponsorship, we have been seriously constrained in our budget.

3. Multi-lingual web sites, launched in January 2012, to support both our chess in schools work and FIDE-CiS Student Membership (a synergistic part of the whole), are now available in 11 languages, with a 12th planned.

4. We have now produced class books and a teacher guide in several languages, including English, French and Arabic.

5. We have produced more than 100 magazines (some 800 pages, all in a choice of languages!) for our FIDE Student members.

6. The major Chess in Schools projects have proven their worth, and not only those, since several small federations have shown that good organization is more important than funding for the development of a programme.

Annex 31 is titled 'Chess in Schools Commission Meeting, Tromso' and dated 2014-08-06.

Chairman Ali Nihat Yazici opened the meeting. He thanked His Excellency Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov for having appointed him as Chairman of the Commission for a second time (2004 & 2010). He referred to the general acceptance of CiS and expressed his thanks for the help and appreciation received from federations. He went on to restate the principles behind the main approach of CiS :

• For FIDE, CiS is neither a social project, nor a program to generate Grandmasters. The CiS approach of FIDE is to focus on primary schools with the aim to introduce chess to young children to help their education.

• CiS is not a charity. It is very important that there should be a benefit for our members – the national chess federations. We are not UNICEF, UNESCO or the Red Crescent to make donations, we are FIDE, with basic aims to:
    o Access millions of children in primary schools
    o Direct the maximum number of these children towards membership of our national federations.

Annex 32 is titled 'Chess in Schools presentation to PB meeting in Sochi 2014', signed 'Kevin O’Connell - CiS Commission Chairman', and dated 2014-10-26.

At the start of the new mandate for 2014-2018, we wish to inform the PB of our main plans for this period and to seek your approval and support for them. Given the experience of the last four years, and following preliminary discussions with Commission members (past, present and future), we foresee a number of changes to the way that we implement chess in schools projects. The most important of those changes are covered in this presentation.

[The sections of the presentation are titled:-]
  • CiS100 Projects
  • 2014 Highlight - Erevan Conference
  • FIDE Schools Chess Challenge
  • ACES [Europe]
  • Further Cooperation FIDE - National Federations
  • FIDE Chess in Schools Commission
  • National Federation Structure
  • Budget 2015
  • Research
  • Better Working Relationship with TRG [Trainers' Commission]
  • Commission Composition

The three annexes provide a total of 22 pages of reading, with plenty of material for further review.

19 December 2014

Online Instructional Videos

At the end of Carlsen - Anand II, Chess Press Overview, I mentioned, 'If I really wanted to do a thorough job, I would add some of the video series on the match.' Since there was nothing compelling for today's edition of Video Friday -- last seen in World Championship Broadcast Blitzed (also about the recent match) -- I decided to look at instructional clips about game 11 of the same 2014 World Chess Championship. I had already spent some time on the game, in Carlsen - Anand, Game 11: Anand's Gamble, and felt I was familiar enough with it to judge the quality of others' comments.

I identified videos from four Youtube sources that I had seen before, all of which had a healthy number of views. The links under their names go directly to their video about the game, so you can compare for yourself:-

  • ChessNetwork; 23 Nov 2014; 72,361 views; 19:55 viewing time • Overall, a competent analysis, both positionally and tactically. See, for example, the discussion of Anand's 23...b5!: 'stunning ... shocking'. Who exactly is 'Jerry'?

  • PowerPlayChess; 23 Nov; 30,049 views; 10:48 • Presented by GM Daniel King, whose work I've referenced before, e.g. GM King on Carlsen vs. Anand II. In this clip he skips the first moves and starts the discussion at Black's move 23, 'a very creative idea'.

  • thechesswebsite; 23 Nov; 14,809 views; 16:28 • Lots of enthusiasm, but not much explanation of the ideas in the game. Of 23...b5!, 'I just don't think it's nearly as good [as another move]'.

  • kingscrusher; 24 Nov; 6,635 views; 26:11 • Made by one of the pioneers of online instructional chess videos. Of 23...b5!, 'energetic ... incredible'. Merits more views.

If I get time I'll repeat the analysis on another game and perhaps add another commentator or two.

18 December 2014

Chess and Meditation

Last month's Scientific American (November 2014) featured a cover 'The Neuroscience of Meditation' and an associated article 'Mind of the Meditator'. For an introduction see Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits on ScientificAmerican.com.

A few years ago I ran a short series on chess in SciAm that included a post about Scientific American's Chess Neuroscience, and was intrigued to see the recent article on meditation. While having exactly nothing to do with chess, the November 2014 article ties the two subjects together with the word 'neuroscience'.

Having dabbled with meditation in the past, I've often felt that the two mental states -- the meditative state and the deep pondering to find a chess move -- were similar. A sentence in SciAm supported this hypothesis.

Advanced meditators appear to acquire a level of skill that enables them to achieve a focused state of mind with less effort. These effects resemble the skill of expert musicians and athletes capable of immersing themselves in the "flow" of their performances with a minimal sense of effortful control.

That's not to say that meditation and chess playing are the same thing. The introduction to the article mentions three types of meditation.

IN BRIEF: Three common forms of meditation -- focused attention, mindfulness and compassion -- are now practiced everywhere, from hospitals to schools, and have increasingly become an object of scrutiny in scientific laboratories worldwide.

Chess playing would be an example of 'focused attention'. There is more in the article worth exploring, but I'll leave that for another time.

16 December 2014

Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Books

In my recent post on Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Paintings, I noted that there were 'plenty of interesting items to choose from'. Besides the paintings (there were two I could have used) there were a couple of books that caught my interest. Why they caught my interest I can't explain, except to provide material for another post.

The first book auction was titled 'Rare Signed 1st Edition "An Essay Toward Making The Game Of Chess Easily Learned"', subtitled 'Signed By Author, Edmund Hoyle & The Publisher, Thomas Osborne'. It sold for US $2600 after a single bid. The description said,

Extremely old & rare 1st Edition volume of "An Essay Toward Making The Game Of Chess Easily Learned". This book was printed in 1761 in London, England. Its author Edmond Hoyle was world renowned for many of his treatises on learning how to play different games. This first edition is signed by the author and by the publisher Thomas Osborne. This is because there were many pirated additions, so for many years every genuine book bore the signature of the author, Edmund Hoyle. Many times the publishers name was also signed as is the case with this edition, where you can easily see the signature of the publisher, Thomas Osborne, underneath the author's signature.

The book can be browsed on Google Books: An Essay Towards Making... It consists of 40 game fragments illustrating the opening and a few basic endgames.

The second book auction was titled '1821 v. Rare CHESS AUTOMATON KEMPELEN * The First Edition * Illustrated'. It sold somewhere between $4000 and $6500, 'Best offer accepted'. The description included a transcription of the book's title page,


followed by technical and biographical notes:-

Custom made drop down box with morocco title label to front board, original paper covered boards, lacking the upper cover, spine rubbed with loss, some light spotting and minor marking but generally in very good condition. An octavo volume, it measures approximately 23cm (9") 15cm (6cm (0.5cm (¼"). Pagination pp. [2], [5]-40 collated and complete with the half-title and 10 plates (including frontispiece).

Robert Willis (1800-1875), polymath, engineer and architectural historian. Willis was Jacksonian Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Here he was noted for his unique blend of mathematics, natural philosophy, and -- an enduring passion -- animal mechanism.' He specialized in the study of mechanism, extending the earlier researches of Kempelen into speaking machines, 'he furnished practical experiments which analysed and imitated mechanically the human vowel sounds'. 'In 1820 he went with his sister Mary to London's Spring Gardens to scrutinise Wolfgang von Kempelen's (1734-1804) automaton chess player. Having established that there was room for an adult to lurk within, mimicking machine intelligence, he published in 1821 an expose which Edgar Allan Poe passed off as his own in 1836'. (ODNB). An interesting and curious book, it is one of the great rarities of both chess and automaton literature.

The book can also be browsed on Google Books: An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player... It contains a number of 'plates' showing the construction of the automaton.

The bookplate of the Google copy ('Ex libris Silas W. Howland') is shown on the left. I've seen the same bookplate and source ('Harvard College Library') stamped on other antiquarian chess books available on Google Books.

15 December 2014

TMER Working Files

After last week's post, Kasparov's Travels Extended, I realized that its working file, m-w.com/about/misc/aa14l08x.htm, was structurally weak. Besides lacking a title to identify it in any web references, it was an orphan page not integrated with any other material on the site. Ditto for the other files in the same directory.

To fix this, I added an appropriate header and footer, then moved it to my page on Chess History. Ditto for the other files in the same directory. They can all be found in the section called 'TMER++ Working Files'.

Since I hate breaking links on active pages, I replaced the original m-w.com/about/misc pages with redirects to the new pages. This might create some issues with browsers, but I'll deal with that if it happens.

14 December 2014

Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Paintings

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the month preceding Christmas is like, umm, Christmas. Just as with last year's Quarter Sawn Chess (December 2013), there are always plenty of interesting items to choose from. In a recent post, American Pastimes, I mentioned that 'my most favorite posts are about paintings', and for this current post I had two to choose from.

The item pictured below, titled 'Margaret Dovaston (British, 1884-1955) The Chess Game', sold for US $3250 after receiving 7 bids from two bidders. The starting price was $2000 with a seller's estimate of $4000-6000.

The description added,

12 x 16 inches (30.5 x 40.6 cm) • Margaret Dovaston received her artistic training under Thomas William Cole (b.1857), the still-life artist and headmaster of the Ealing Art School and Arthur S. Cope (1857-1940), the famous portrait artist. She specialized in portrait and genre painting and was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and Royal Society of British Artists.

Dovaston exhibited her first work at the Academy in 1908 and received three medals during her lifetime. She was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1910 and in 1911 was elected a member of the N.B.A. Dovaston's art continued the tradition of 19th century genre painting well into the 20th century, and with it the meticulous technique which characterized it.

For more works by the same artist, see a Google image search on Margaret Dovaston.

12 December 2014

Chess in Bavaria

Just as in Chess Pumpkins from a year ago, the colors of autumn complement the black and white of chess.

Freiluft-Schach im Herbst © Flickr user Ulrich Berens under Creative Commons.

The German title translates to 'Outdoor Chess in Autumn'. The photo's EXIF data pins it to Bad Woerishofen, Bavaria.

11 December 2014

DIY Chess Set

Seen on Doonesbury...

'Six new arcs? Who starts six new story arcs on a Sunday?'

Doonesbury; Sunday, 7 December 2014

...What are 'story arcs'?...

A story arc is an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books, comic strips, boardgames, video games, and films with each episode following a narrative arc. On a television program, for example, the story would unfold over many episodes • Story arc [Wikipedia]

...Anything here that can be applied to blogging? Continuity of posts is, after all, an ongoing challenge.

While looking into story arcs for nonfiction, I discovered the site Instructables.com, a DIY resource that includes chess: Instructables.com/howto/chess/. There's nothing to do with playing, but lots to do with making your own chess set. Anyone looking for an inexpensive Christmas gift idea?

09 December 2014

Carlsen - Anand II, Chess Press Overview

Just like last year's Carlsen - Anand, Chess Press Overview (2013), let's have one more post about the this year's edition (2014) of the World Championship title match.

  Chessbase Chess.com
  Ilyumzhinov, Putin meet, discuss Sochi matchWCh Sochi: personalities, players and seconds Garry Kasparov On The World Championship
07 Nov: Sochi Opening: Anand draws white for game one Anand To Start World Championship Match With White Pieces
08 Nov: Sochi WCh G1: Climbing back up Mount Olympus Game 1 Carlsen-Anand World Championship: Draw
09 Nov: World Championship 02: Carlsen strikes first Magnus Carlsen Wins Game 2 In Sochi World Championship
10 Nov: Sochi WCh G2: A day to remember  
11 Nov: Sochi G3: Anand strikes back – with a vengeance!Sochi WCh G3: The Tiger roars Vishy Anand Wins Game 3, Levels Score In Sochi World Championship
12 Nov: Sochi G4: Level game ends in Draw Carlsen-Anand World Championship Game 4: Draw
13 Nov: Who will win the match?  
14 Nov: Sochi G5: A few palpitations, but no heart attack Carlsen-Anand World Championship Game 5: Another Draw
15 Nov: Sochi G6: Carlsen won, Anand missed big chance Magnus Carlsen Wins Dramatic Game 6 In Sochi World Championship
16 Nov: Chess blindness of the Champions  
17 Nov: Sochi G7: Unbreakable Anand Anand Holds Draw In 2nd-Longest World Championship Game Ever
18 Nov: Sochi G8: An easy draw for Carlsen Anand Gets Nothing From Opening, Short Draw In Game 8
19 Nov:    
20 Nov: Sochi G9: A quick draw tightens the noose Lifeless Draw in Game 9 Of Carlsen-Anand
21 Nov: Sochi G10: Unrealized opportunities Magnus Carlsen Holds As Black In Game 10, Maintains Lead In Sochi
22 Nov:    
23 Nov: Sochi G11: In dramatic finale, Carlsen retains title Carlsen Wins, Defends World Championship Title In 11th Game
25 Nov: World Championship Sochi: Closing Ceremony Wrapping Up The World Championship
  Carlsen interview after the matchKasparov: The quality of the games was not so highCarlsen analyzes the World Championship (1/2)(2/2) An Interview With Ilya Merenzon, Organizer of Carlsen-Anand

If I really wanted to do a thorough job, I would add some of the video series on the match. Good idea! I might just do that...

08 December 2014

TMERs: Kasparov's Travels Extended

Continuing with the previous post in this series, TMERs: Kasparov's Travels, I merged the links from my post on Kasparov's Campaign Site with the links from Chessbase and Youtube. Then I created an external page on my main site (m-w.com) to store the combined results: Kasparov's Travels During His 2014 FIDE Campaign.

Next step: Identify which of Kasparov's campaign destinations included a simul or other chess exhibition. Before doing that, I could merge the links from Kasparov's Campaign: Twitter & Facebook, but I'm not sure they add new info to the overall picture.

07 December 2014

Chess Stereotypes

The 'Chess in School' series has been bouncing from topic to topic for months now -- probably because it's such a big subject -- and although I should try to get it back on some sort of plan, that will have to wait until another time. The previous post, about 'Scholastic Club Starter Kits', was buried inside Carlsen - Anand, Game 11 (the final game of that historic match), and this post will change course again to chess stereotypes, specifically On the Danger of Chess Stereotyping by WIM Alexey Root and GM Denes Boros [uschess.org, aka Chess Life Online].

Alexey Root: When I was 15, I walked into an unfamiliar chess club at the same time as a male college student who I did not know. The student was asked by another club member, "Is that your girlfriend?" I was upset at the assumption that I was not a chess player.

What's the scholastic angle?

Denes Boros: I also make assumptions about chess players, especially children. In Hungary, where I am from, FIDE ratings are the best indicator of playing strength. So a young player without a high FIDE rating would usually be an easy win for me.

The comments to the article (no need to be a USCF member to read it, but required to comment) provide more examples.

'Race is also a big factor and there are countless examples of underestimating a player because of it.' • 'Players' games are often affected by the knowledge of the rating of the opponent.' • 'Several of my students have defeated much higher rated players who used inferior openings and tactics against them looking for the "easy" win.'

The authors conclude, 'We hope to continue our collaboration with a scholarly article on this same topic for the Journal of Chess Research.' I touched on the journal some time ago in one post appropriately titled Journal of Chess Research, then in another titled The Riddles of Chess. It's time to return for a follow-up look.

05 December 2014

World Championship Broadcast Blitzed

The choices for this fortnight's Flickr Friday were once again dominated by the recently concluded Carlsen - Anand title match. I had a half-dozen good videos to choose from and went with another clip derived from the official video broadcast each round. This one is a bit more highbrow than the previous Beavis and Butthead at Sochi.

10x Faster Rd 11 (FINAL) (9:07) • 'World Chess Championship 2014, Carlsen vs Anand'

I like the way the board in the upper right corner constantly shows the current position and clocks. The board on the bottom right was used by the commentators.

04 December 2014

FIDE's 'Principles of Chess Journalism'

What's your favorite FIDE Commission? In my case it must be the commissions I reported on a year ago: the FIDE Journalists' Commission and the Ethics and Cheating Commissions.

That's why I was disappointed to discover a few months ago that when the FIDE General Assembly Derailed during the Tromso Olympiad, the various commission reports were not released. That's also why I was pleased to learn that the 2014 4th quarter Presidential Board -- Agenda (5 November) and Press Release (9 November, 'agenda included the proposals deferred from Tromso') -- had released the commission documents in the same directory as the Agenda; see, for example Annex_49.pdf for the 'Journalists Commission (CCJ) Minutes, Tromso, Norway, 6 August 2014'. In brief:-

The Chairman Georgios Makropoulos greeted the participants and opened the meeting. He explained that the Commission was created in order to help the professional journalists with coverage of the tournaments, travel and accommodation.
1. The first item of the Agenda - Principles of Chess Journalism was discussed.
2. Website of the Commission
3. and 4. were discussed jointly. Organizers of FIDE events should provide free accommodation for some of CCJ accredited journalists and significant discount for another group of journalists.
5. Problems of Women events media coverage

The web site currently looks like this:-

FIDE Chess Journalists Commission [journalists.fide.com]

As for the 'first item of the Agenda - Principles of Chess Journalism', a 'final version' document was embedded in Annex 49. Here are the main sections:-

1. Respecting Human Rights
2. Truth and accuracy
3. Objectivity and impartiality
4. Fairness / Fair Play
5. Independence
6. Originality and respect for intellectual property
7. Responsibility

How does this compare with broader Principles of Journalism (journalism.org)?:-

1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
2. Its first loyalty is to citizens
3. Its essence is a discipline of verification
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional
9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience

I get the distinct impression that FIDE's Principles are designed more to shield chess officials from criticism than they are to aid chess journalists in their reporting on chess events and chess players. (A suivre...)

02 December 2014

December 1964 'On the Cover'

As I round out the monthly look at chess in the USA for 1964, I can't help but notice that Chess Life had only 20 pages in December 1964 vs. an average of more than 26 for the preceding 11 months. Was this because 'The USCF's annual rating list will appear in the January issue'? Chess Review continued with a steady 36 pages per issue.

Left: 'Happy Chess in '65'
Right: 'Coming Back?'

Chess Life

[No additional info]

Chess Review

"Is Botvinnik really invincible? No, indeed: no man is. Botvinnik is not invincible, but he plays as if he were", wrote the late Fred Reinfeld. And, though his statement applied to the period of the '20's through the '40's, it came to life again in October of 1964, during the Moscow Team Matches.

Although no source was given for the images on the Chess Life cover, they appear to have been taken from Jerzy Gizycki's 'A History of Chess'. The large woodcut, subtitled 'from an Italian treatise of 1493', can be found on p.19 of the English edition (Abbey Library, London, 1972, 'first published in 1960 in Polish'). The smaller illustrations, by S. Luckiewicz, are from the book's title page for each chapter.

As for my question from November 1964 'On the Cover',

Let's see when our two magazines report on the 1964 Olympiad.

CL had three pages on the event, including games. CR had a column on the preliminaries, illustrated with a photo from the 1963 Petrosian - Botvinnik World Championship match.

01 December 2014

TMERs: Kasparov's Travels

Now that the Carlsen - Anand II title match is fading into history, it's time for TMERs: Back to Kasparov, specifically 'Kasparov's travels during his bid for the FIDE presidency'. I combined the tables from August 2014:-

to create the following table; entries link to (C)hessbase & (Y)outube.

[Later: After adding additional entries, I moved the table to an external page: Kasparov's Travels During His 2014 FIDE Campaign.]

Some of the Youtube entries are not really in chronological order, but I'll fix those as I continue to work on the project.

30 November 2014

'Museum Worthy' Photo

In this continuing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we often see that photos can fetch a nice price, as in the previous post $65 per Square Inch of Photo, and more often see that autographed photos can fetch twice a nice price.

A case in point is the composite image shown on the left. Titled 'Nottingham 1936 Chess Photo - Signed by Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker & More!', it sold for somewhere between $4000 and $6500, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description started, 'Being offered is perhaps the most important and most prized piece of chess history in existence! What you see before you is the official Nottingham 1936 International Chess Tournament Photo signed by ALL 15 participants as well as tournament organizer J.N. Derbyshire.'

It continued,

According to the unofficial Chessmetrics ratings, the tournament was (as of March 2005) one of only five tournaments in history that had the top eight players in the world playing, and was (in terms of the leading players playing) the third strongest in history. All of the top twelve players on Chessmetrics' August 1936 rating list competed in the tournament except for numbers nine and ten (Andor Lilienthal and Paul Keres). The event is also notable for being Lasker's last major event, and for Botvinnik achieving the first Soviet success outside the Soviet Union."

The photo itself is roughly 6"x8" and is in excellent condition. It has been stored in a thick, UV resistant display case that wonderfully displays both sides of the piece. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a museum worthy piece that would be the crown jewel of even the most discriminating of chess memorabilia collections.

For the previous autographed item in 'Top eBay Chess Items', see Staunton and the First World Junior Championship.

28 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand II : the Venue

This fortnight's edition of Flickr Friday didn't turn up anything as compelling as the previous edition's Magnus Street Art. Let's have instead a stand-in image showing the Sochi Media Center, the venue for the recently concluded World Championship match.

Top: Postcard

Bottom: 'You Are Here' from en.sochimediacenter.ru

Europe Echecs reported that the playing area was empty for the first round, when tickets cost 60 €, and far from full for the second round, when tickets became free.

27 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand: Winner's Interview

A few days after successfully defending his title against Viswanathan Anand, World Champion Magnus Carlsen granted an interview to FIDE Press Officer Anastasiya Karlovich.

Interview with Magnus Carlsen (14:26) • 'After Winning World Chess Championship 2014'

Although Carlsen looks and sounds ill in the interview, he mustered the energy to give a frank account of his thoughts during the match. When asked, 'Which top players were helping you in this match?', he answered,

'Peter Heine Nielsen was here [in Sochi]' and Garry Kasparov was 'regularly in contact with Peter Heine'. Jon Ludvig Hammer, Laurent Fressinet, and Michael Adams 'were helping from home'.

Fressinet was Carlsen's opponent in the now famous video Too weak, too slow! (Youtube.com). As for 'Name three players who might be your opponents in two years',

The most obvious candidates are Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, and Alexander Grischuk.

For the corresponding interview between Carlsen and Karlovich from last year's match, see Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen interview 25.11.2013, also on Youtube.

25 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 11: Anand's Gamble

While it often happens that a single chess move throws away a game, it's not often that one move throws away an entire match, and even less often that a World Championship title evaporates at the same time. That is exactly what happened in game 11 of the Carlsen - Anand II match in Sochi (see Carlsen - Anand, Game 11 and Match for some background).

The diagram shows the position after Carlsen's 26th move. Until this point the game had been a tense Berlin variation in the Spanish Opening (aka Ruy Lopez) with the typical characteristics of the so-called Berlin Wall: no Queens, two Knights and a Bishop for White versus two Bishops and a Knight for Black, and a healthy 4-3 Pawn structure for White on the Kingside versus a crippled 4-3 structure for Black on the Queenside.

A few moves earlier, Black had succeeded in breaking open the Queenside, creating open lines and new targets for the remaining pieces. White's last move plans to bring his King into the center and Anand now went into a 22 minute think, his longest of the game.

Carlsen - Anand (game 11)

After 26.Kg3-f3

While Anand was thinking, the two commentators -- GM Peter Svidler and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi -- both superstrong, 2700+ Russian players, looked at many possibilities in this dynamic position. The main lines they discussed began 26...Be7, 26...Rdb8, and 26...Bg7, in rough order of preference.

After Anand played 26...Rdb8, they immediately launched into a discussion of 27.Rb1 Rb4, sacrificing the exchange.

IN: 'This is just strange. Why should we give an exchange for some shadowy compensation?' • PS: 'It might be playable, but Black has no actual need to do this. [They look at a few moves.] Is this a winning attempt?' • IN: 'It's not a losing attempt, at least. Since we're not losing on the spot we can try it. In this position, Black can never be worse.' • PS: 'That's a large statement. I'm not sure I agree with that. [More moves] It looks interesting for Black, I have to say. Black now has everything under control, but it's a whole exchange. It's a risky way to continue.' • IN: 'I don't think this is going to happen.'

Carlsen played 27.Ke4, 'allowing 27...Rb3', according to Svidler. Nepomniachtchi replied, 'That's a bold decision.' While they were looking at ...Rb3 and other ideas, Anand's 27...Rb4, appeared on the board. Talk about bold decisions!

IN: 'Wow!' • PS: 'This is now very exciting. And we have a bit of an answer to the question we discussed earlier: Vishy does not feel like leaving everything until game 12. Black's position was not worse. He did not have to do that.' • IN: 'Do you really think it's the best moment to sacrifice?' • PS: 'It's a surprising moment, I have to say. You take, because you can't really not take. Magnus took about 20 seconds to take it. [...] This is a bit of a strange moment for the sacrifice. It was hanging in the air, the idea to play ...Rb4.' • IN: 'I think Vishy could wait for a better moment.'

As we all know, Anand's idea didn't work and he resigned less than 20 moves later, thereby abandoning the match.

PS: 'Congratulations to Magnus for winning the title. This has been a very dramatic game. There is definitely some cause for regret for Vishy here.' [...] • IN: 'Vishy went for some really unnecessary plan, with a completely unclear exchange sacrifice, and it just turned out that it was bad for him. [...] A strange decision took place today. I can't say if this exchange sacrifice was based on a miscalculation or some misunderstanding. I don't believe that Vishy can misunderstand chess. Even slightly.' • PS: 'The only explanation is that he felt he must be doing something. He can't wait. He can't continue making normal quiet moves improving his position slightly. He finally settled on Rb8-b4, which backfired badly.'

At his press conference, Anand said,

I evaluated [the normal continuations] as equal. I can't say why I suddenly decided to go for the exchange sac. It was a bad gamble and I was punished. [...] Earlier I was still playing objectively. When we got to move 27 I took a nervous decision.

For the full game, see Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand; Carlsen - Anand World Championship 2014 (game 11) on Chessgames.com.

24 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 11 and Match

Argh! It was just as I feared in Carlsen - Anand, Game 11.

If [Carlsen] wins, the match will be over and I will have missed all the excitement!

By the time I was able to sneak away from the dinner party and watch the game, it was all over. Carlsen had won game and match. No more World Championship games for two full years!

When I finally returned home, I watched the game video from start to finish, but knowing the outcome spoiled the suspense.

FIDE World Championship Match - Press Conference Carlsen - Game 11 (19:09) • 'With the win in Game 11, Magnus Carlsen became World Chess Champion and retained his title against challenger Viswanathan Anand.'

GM Anand was gracious in defeat: FIDE World Championship Match - Press Conference Anand - Game 11. 'It was a bad gamble and I was punished.'

Congratulations, GM Carlsen! The entire chess world is looking to you as their leader for the coming years.

23 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 11

Argh! It's Sunday today, game 11 of the big match, and just like for Anand - Carlsen, Game 3, my wife has arranged a social engagement for the entire afternoon! That means I won't be able to see the game until it's over?!

That also means the Beavis and Butthead at Sochi post will be sitting at the top of the blog's home page for another full day. It's already been there for two days, so enough's enough! What to do? How about a quick detour back to the 'Chess in School' series, last seen in The Dark Side of Scholastic Chess...

Seen on Uscfsales.com, Scholastic Club Starter Kit - For 10 Members - With Competition Pro Clocks, 'Everything needed to get your scholastic chess club up and running'.

This is not an endorsement. I didn't know there were such kits until I saw the ad, noted it as an FYI to myself, and know absolutely nothing else about the package. If you have some experience in this area, I would love to hear your comments below.

Back to Carlsen - Anand II, Carlsen has White today. If he wins, the match will be over and I will have missed all the excitement! Hope the afternoon that my wife has planned is worth it...

21 November 2014

Beavis and Butthead at Sochi

For the previous post on my World Chess Championship blog, Carlsen - Anand II, the Second Week, I wrote,

If I were responsible for the match, what would I change? Not much, with the possible exception of the press conference.

but this isn't quite what I had in mind.

The Most Exciting Chess Q&A Ever (3:10) • 'Featuring Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen'

The questions are from the press conference held after game eight. P.S. In case there's any doubt, I have only the greatest respect for both players.

20 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand II : Rumblings

Game nine of the Carlsen - Anand World Championship match in Sochi ended in a short draw, which gave me extra time to look into other matters. Going back to the Pre-match Press Conference, who was that fellow sitting to the right of the match stakeholders? Introduced as 'the organizer of the tournament, Ilya Merenzon', this was the first time I had become aware of him.

The first article I discovered was on Chess-news.ru, Agon Company Currently Belongs to Ilya Merenzon; Paulson No Longer Interested:-

Merenzon told us that the mysterious Agon company, which possesses the rights of conducting World Chess Championships and other major chess events, is currently being owned by him.

The last time I posted about Agon, Paulson, et al was Chess Leaks Like a Sieve (February 2014), a collection of unhappy stories that I thought could only get better.

The second article I discovered about Merenzon was on Livemint.com ('A financial daily covering stocks, commodities, companies and the economy'), Fide yet to get World Chess Championship prize fund, 'Fide has been mired in controversy ever since it awarded rights to manage the championship to a little-known firm, Agon':-

Sochi (Russia): It is inconceivable that the Russian organizers of the ongoing world chess championship won't pay Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand their match fees, but a top official on Friday revealed that the world chess federation hadn't yet received in its bank account the event's prize fund of €1 million. [...] Andrew Paulson, the founder of Agon, who until about a year ago was the principal promoter of the sport and described himself as the chief executive of world chess, has sold the firm to an associate, Ilya Merenzon, for £1. [...] Into his shoes has stepped in Merenzon, and his first task is to stump up €1 million -- the statutory minimum prize fund for the ongoing world chess title match.

Did I say this unhappy story that could only get better? Now I'm sure of it.

18 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : Carlsen's Blunder

After Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : The Opening, the players eventually reached the position shown in the diagram. In fact, they reached the position twice. After 23...a5, White spent two moves shuttling the light-squared Bishop to d1 and back to c2, while Black marked time moving the Rook to d8 and back.

After 23...a6-a5 & 25...Rd8-g8

On the second appearance of the position, Carlsen played a move which will be remembered for as long as World Championship matches are discussed.

  • 26.Kd2?? Followed by Anand's equally outrageous 26...a4??; the move 26...Nxe5 should win easily

During the press conference, both players said they saw their own blunder just after playing the move and punching the clock. Asked, 'Did this blunder influence your game afterwards?', they replied,

Carlsen: For me, my play wasn't that confident. I didn't feel that I found the right setup. So, yes, I guess it affected me to some extent. • Anand: Given the way I played the rest of the game, probably.

The diagrammed position is complicated and full of dynamics. What should Carlsen have played instead? During the press conference he mentioned,

  • 26.Kd1, indicating the same continuation as in the game, 26...a4 27.Ke2; here Black has the much better move 26...Nf8, when White loses the Pawn on g2.

Captures on g6 and h6 are problematic for various reasons.

  • 26.Rxh6? Nxe5
  • 26.Bxg6?! Rxg6
  • 26.Bxh6!? walks into a pin on the h-file; Black can continue 26...Kc8 or 26...Ka6, with the threat 27...Ne7, and good counterplay against White's Kingside Pawns

What did the commentators suggest? On the first occurrence of the position, they looked at 24.Bxh6. Then when the position was repeated for move 26, they decided to take a break. During the break the blunders occurred, and because the live video feed was also turned off, the reactions of the two players were not recorded. Let's call it 'the infamous seven minute gap'.

What do the engines suggest? A couple of non-committal moves, like Carlsen's first choice, 24.Bd1 (26.Bd1), score well.

  • 26.Rg3 and 26.Bd2

Perhaps the best move is more concrete and committal. It closes the diagonal to Black's Bishop, protects the Rook on g4, and puts the ball back in Black's court.

  • 26.f3, followed by Anand's 26...a4, or maybe a Knight move (26...Ne7, 26...Nf8).

While I was preparing this post, I didn't have time to see what the GM annotators have suggested. Along with the double blunder, the position will likely be discussed for as long as people are interested in chess.

17 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : The Opening

I was intrigued by game six of the Carlsen - Anand match, not so much for the double blunder, but for the opening. I've played the variation several times for Black and was curious to see how my treatment compared to the World Champions' treatment.

The game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3, reaching the position shown in the top diagram. The first anomaly is here in this well known position. For some reason, my opponents have never played 5.c4 against me and I only know the diagrammed position thanks to a transposition starting with 1.d4. I documented it a few years ago in A Slippery Opening

The second anomaly is in Anand's next move, 6...Bb4. Here I've only played 6...Qc7, with a 50% success rate, winning as many games as I've lost, mostly against higher rated opponents.

After Anand's 6...Bb4, the game continued 7.Qd3 Nc6 8.Nxc6 dxc6, reaching the position shown in the bottom diagram. I checked this sequence on Chesslab.com and learned that, among the 2700+ crowd, the main alternatives to 7.Qd3 are 7.Qf3 and 7.Bd3, with 7.Bd2 and 7.e5 coming into consideration.

After 7.Qd3, Anand's 7...Nc6 is less popular than the alternatives, 7...Qc7 and 7...d5. The move 7...Nc6 is nearly always followed by 8.Nxc6 dxc6. This allows the Queen exchange either by 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8, as in the game, or by 9.e5, with a Black-initiated swap on d3.

I'm not sure why Anand went into this line. The Queen exchange seems to favor Carlsen's penchant for long endgames where he is slightly better. As things turned out, this is exactly the kind of game that was played, with Carlsen eventually winning. For the full game, see Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand; Carlsen - Anand World Championship 2014 (game 6) on Chessgames.com.

16 November 2014

$65 per Square Inch of Photo

For the last two editions of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, where the most recent post was American Pastimes, we've had paintings. Now it's time to have a photo. Titled 'Vintage Photo 1940s Military Men Play Chess Game Smoke Pipe snapshot gay int', the image shown below sold for -- hold on to your hat -- US $1312.87 after receiving 17 bids from three bidders.

In the last five minutes of bidding, two bidders increased the price from $283.21 to the final bid. The losing bidder, who had been the first to bid on the photo at $7.50, must have wanted it badly, but not as badly as the winning bidder.

The description said only,

Original vintage 1940s snapshot. I found this in a old album. It measures 5 X 4 inches.

That comes to over $65 per square inch of photo. What makes the photo so special? I have no idea, unless the phrase 'gay int' -- apparently meaning 'gay interest' according to other auctions by the same seller -- has something to do with it.

The player on the left is holding his finger on the Rook, which signals that he hasn't yet completed his move. Many players do that when they first learn the touch-move rule.

14 November 2014

Magnus Street Art

Game five of the Carlsen - Anand II title match has just ended in a draw and the commentators think Magnus was lucky to escape. He didn't seem particularly concerned in the press conference. Whatever the case, the Norwegian will now have two consecutive games with the White pieces.

Magnus Carlsen © Flickr user svennevenn under Creative Commons.

The image of Magnus, minus the crown, is from one of his G-Star Raw posters. The art is signed 'La Staa' and a tag says 'Bergen'. Must be from Norway.

13 November 2014

The Evolution of Titles and Ratings

Continuing with Titles, Elo, and Ratings, when Arpad Elo wrote his book 'The Rating of Chess Players Past and Present' (Batsford 1978), he noted four major milestones.

  • 1950: Introduction of titles; GM/IM titles assigned retroactively

  • 1957: Titles awarded based on performance ('norms')

  • 1970: Introduction of international ratings

  • 1976: Norm calculations based on ratings

To document those four milestones, I added excerpts from 'Rating of Chess Players' to my page on FIDE Titles.

11 November 2014

Anand - Carlsen, Game 3

Despite what I said in my previous post (see Fischer's IM/GM Titles) about game two of the Carlsen - Anand match -- that I'm spending too much time watching the games -- I wasn't able to watch the third game, except for one glimpse at the beginning of the game and another after two hours. Today is a public holiday in Belgium and my wife had other ideas about how to spend the day.

When I finally had time to watch later, the game was already over but I was pleased to see that Anand had won. (I don't have a favorite in this match and would be happy if either player won. Most important is to have a good match.)

How had he won? I located the PGN for the game and loaded it into an engine. It didn't take an engine to tell me that Black was totally busted when Carlsen resigned on move 34. Where was the game's most critical moment?

After move 20, White looked to have an edge, with a well protected passed Pawn on c7. Playing over the next few moves convinced me that White's advantage was already close to decisive, so I went back to the position after move 10. Here White also looked better, with a space advantage and active pieces. It looked like Anand had caught Carlsen in the opening, probably as the result of superior preparation.

Who had varied first from game one? It was Carlsen. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4, he played 2...e6 instead of 2...g6, then transposed into a Queen's Gambit with 3.Nf3 d5. Anand set the further course of the game with 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4

I switched over to Chesslab.com and discovered that the position through 15.Nb5 had been played in seven games, after which the players followed a 2013 Aronian - Adams game. Anand was the first to vary from that game with 20.fxe4. A screen capture from the official site for the match, sochi2014.fide.com, shows the thinking times for that critical stretch. Carlsen spent more than 30 minutes on his 17th move.

Anand's play also slowed down at the same point. What were the two players thinking about? I wish I knew.

For the full game, see Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen; Carlsen - Anand World Championship 2014 (game 3) on Chessgames.com.

10 November 2014

Titles, Elo, and Ratings

When you think 'chess ratings', you probably think about Arpad Elo, the father of the FIDE rating system. When you think 'Elo', you might also think about chess titles, because Elo's rating system had a profound impact on the awarding of titles.

I added Elo's own summary of early title regulations to my page on FIDE Titles (see Fischer's IM/GM Titles for the previous post about that page). Then I extracted the following chart from the same source.

Elo, 'The Rating of Chess Players Past and Present', p.69

It shows the evolution of FIDE's title and rating systems from 1950, when the first titles were awarded, to 1977, when Elo's book (Batsford 1978) was under preparation. For another look at Elo's work in the context of titles, see my 2008 post Titled Players, Sizing the Data.

09 November 2014

Fischer's IM/GM Titles

It happens every World Championship match. I spend so much time watching the games that I have no time left for blog posts. Today Carlsen beat Anand in game two, putting him one game ahead after the draw in game one. The Norwegian also came close to beating the Indian in the first game, making the current match situation grim for Anand.

The end of the second game meant it was time to complete a backburner project. I updated my new page on FIDE Titles (see Early FIDE Titles for the introduction), adding clippings that document the award of Fischer's IM and GM titles in 1958.

At the same time I located those two clippings, I discovered the article shown on the left. From the column 'Games by USCF Members' by John W. Collins, it appeared in the edition of Chess Life dated 20 April 1958.

Collins was Fischer's teacher, mentor, and friend. How could he call his protegé 'Grandmaster Fischer' five months before he was awarded the title for his performance at the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal? Did he confuse the IM title awarded in February 1958 with the GM title awarded in September?

No, Collins didn't confuse anything. The first clue is in the term 'USCF Grandmaster'. The second clue is in the sentence,

The Terrific Teenager earned his title by winning the U.S. Junior, U.S. Open, New Jersey Open, and the U.S. Championship.

The USCF's 'National Chess Ratings: First 1957 Supplementary List' (August 1957) showed Fischer in the middle of the Master class ('2200-2399') at 2298. The 'Second 1957 Supplementary List' (March 1958) listed him as a Grandmaster ('2600 points up') at 2626. What about the Senior Master class ('2400-2599')? Fischer skipped it completely.

There are FIDE grandmasters and, once upon a time, there were USCF grandmasters. Fischer was both.

07 November 2014

GM King on Carlsen vs. Anand II

Today is the opening ceremony for Carlsen - Anand II, and tomorrow the first game. Let's look at GM Daniel King's match preview.

World Chess Championship 2014: Carlsen vs Anand Preview (9:07) • 'Daniel King previews the World Championship Match 2014 between Carlsen and Anand in Sochi.'

For GM King's preview of the 2013 match, Carlsen - Anand I, see GM King on Anand vs. Carlsen.

06 November 2014

Early FIDE Titles

A few weeks ago on my World Chess Championship Blog, after uploading the latest Zonal Index Update I decided to look into FIDE's early efforts to award titles like GM and IM. My first stop was Marcel Berman's four-part memoirs, 'Mes Souvenirs des Congrès de 1946 à 1958' (My Memories of [FIDE] Congresses), published during 1960 and 1961 in the FIDE Review.

Berman's accounts cover the high points of 13 consecutive postwar FIDE Congresses, when the federation laid the groundwork for world class chess initiatives that are still in force today. I collected paragraphs discussing FIDE titles (all in French) into a single page in my World Chess Championship Zonal directory, under the name FIDE Titles.

The new page is only an outline, but it does indicate where further research might bear fruit. I have a few other clippings to add to the Berman material and will do so as time and priorities allow.

04 November 2014

November 1964 'On the Cover'

These days, when you receive a monthly chess magazine -- whether paper or electronic -- that says, for example, October 1964 'On the Cover', you get it at the beginning of October. Fifty years ago, the chronology wasn't so obvious. When, for example, were the following November 1964 covers received?

Left: 'Festival of Chess'
Right: 'Leads U.S. Team Again'

Chess Life

A festival that featured living chess pieces was held in Sukhumi, USSR, to mark the end of the World Challengers Tournament for Women, played there in October. (Sovfoto)

Chess Review

Samuel Reshevsky is scheduled to play first board for the U.S. team in the Olympiad in Israel this month. Pal Benko will defend second board.

CL: I have a page on the 'Challengers Tournament' at World Chess Championship (Women) : 1964 Candidates Tournament (missing playoff info and PGN; is it time to fix?). The event finished at the beginning of October. The lead story in the November 1964 issue of CL, about the Armed Forces Championship, says that it finished 13 November.

CR: Samuel Reshevsky... Pal Benko... i.e. no Fischer. Does everyone remember the story? Olimpbase.org has a page on the event at 16th Chess Olympiad: Tel Aviv 1964, which started at the beginning of November and ended the same month. The first news page in that issue of CR, titled 'The World of Chess', covered 15 recent events. None of the reports said when the event took place. Let's see when our two magazines report on the 1964 Olympiad. (A suivre)

03 November 2014

TMERs: Back to Kasparov

For my previous post on TMERs, Carlsen - Anand Missing Fields, I made some mass updates to the records for both players. For this post, I checked the data on Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-) and made several smaller, targeted updates.

I'm at the point where I wanted to be for Carlsen - Anand II, the World Championship match that starts later this week. While the match is being played, I'll probably use these Monday posts to take a look at various aspects of the match. When I run out of topics, I'll return to the Kasparov TMER, suspended for TMERs: Back to Carlsen - Anand, and continue with 'Kasparov's travels during his bid for the FIDE presidency'.

02 November 2014

American Pastimes

In my previous post for this fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, titled Quest for Logic, I mentioned that my most favorite posts are about paintings. It's even more of a treat to have two consecutive posts featuring paintings.

The item pictured below, titled 'LOUIS CHARLES MOELLER, (American, 1855-1930), THE CHESS GAME, oil on canvas', subtitled 'Part of a live auction event on Sunday, Oct 26', sold for US $6500 after receiving 12 bids from a single bidder. The bidding history shows the bidder increasing his bids from a 'Starting Price' of US $2250 to the winning bid over a timeframe of less than a minute. Someone really wanted that painting.

Why not just set the starting price to the minimum acceptable bid? Knowing nothing about eBay live auctions, I can't answer that question.

The description added,

LOT 77; Seller's Estimate: USD 3000 - 5000

THE CHESS GAME; oil on canvas; signed Louis Moeller, l.r.; 18 x 24 1/4 in. (25 x 31 in.); bears Brockton Arts Center, Brockton, Massachusetts label, verso

Exhibitions: "American Pastimes", Brockton Arts Center, Brockton, Massachusetts, January 27 - April 17, 1977.

For more about the artist, see Wikipedia's entry on Louis Moeller.

31 October 2014

Chess at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof

For this edition of Flickr Friday, we have a composite photo: GMs Ponomariov, Korchnoi, Kasparov, Spassky, and Karpov. All were World Champions (Ponomariov via FIDE KO in 2002) or World Champion caliber (Korchnoi, who came within one game of winning the title in 1978).

Spassky photo:
The legendary Grandmaster Boris Spassky at work © Flickr user Jürg Vollmer under Creative Commons.

The description added, 'Chess simultaneous exhibition in Zürich Main Station (2009).' For more about the event, see Zurich: A chance to meet the World Champions on Chessbase.com:-

They will all be there, for the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich. The festivities, which include a Jubilee Open, will see Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov playing a Champions Rapid. They are joined by Garry Kasparov for a Champions Simul against 200 opponents.

The event was also covered in the book The Zurich Chess Club, 1809-2009 by Richard Forster, which I mentioned in a recent post on McFarland Chess Books.

30 October 2014

FIDE General Assembly Derailed

Every year I look forward to the minutes of FIDE's annual pow-wow, where the delegates of the national federations get together to discuss and debate the issues facing the chess world. The documents give me the opportunity to study and understand the mechanisms that drive the world's most important chess organization. The package was released this week in 85th FIDE Congress: General Assembly Minutes and Annexes, with minutes titled 'FIDE Congress; Tromso, Norway; General Assembly; 11-14 August 2014'.

On opening the file containing the annexes, I was disappointed to find only 14 documents, compared to the 76 that were in the corresponding 2013 package. My first thought was 'FIDE is hiding something this year', but this would be out of character for a group that has generally gone out of its way to communicate with its members. My second thought was 'Something went wrong during the meeting', so I started to read the minutes hoping to discover the details. And there it was: the agenda had been hopelessly derailed.

The agenda, announced end-June (see 85th FIDE Congress: General Assembly Agenda and Annexes), was divided into four parts:-

  • Section A: Elections.
  • Section B: Administrative matters.
  • Section C: Commissions.
  • Section D: FIDE Meetings, Tournaments and Matches.

On the first day, after a heated exchange involving the two presidential candidates during the discussion of the 'Financial Report' -- Kasparov: 'If elected I will give $10.000.000' (or something like that), Ilyumzhinov: 'I will give $20.000.000' -- the meeting steered into its main attraction, 'Section A: Elections'. Since I've already commented on that in FIDE Election: Four More Years (spoiler alert: Ilyumzhinov won), let's pick up the minutes some time later:-

The meeting was then adjourned for the Continental elections during which time the nominees for elected Vice-Presidents, Constitutional Commission, Ethics Commission and Verification Commission were to present their nominations to the FIDE Secretariat.

The General Assembly was resumed on the 12th of August.

Mr. Georgios Makropoulos said: One of the Continents yesterday did not organize its assembly, so because of our Statutes and Regulations to proceed with the rest of the elections we will have to await the results of this Continent. So the elections will be tomorrow. Now we have two possibilities here. One is that we continue with our Agenda and we deal with the other points of the Agenda. The second is we should break and continue the Assembly tomorrow. [...] We are not going to make decisions and we suspend the session afterwards and we come tomorrow.

There were no objections. The meeting was suspended.

The third day was spent on the remaining elections and other appointments. One of the most important was, 'Mr. Nigel Freeman was re-appointed as FIDE Executive Director for a term of four years.' Then came the fourth and last day.

The session of 14th of the August. Mr. Nigel Freeman chaired the meeting.

No quorum.

Mr. Israel Gelfer remarked that next time we should start the Agenda from the bottom, because after elections delegates do not show up at the meetings. [...]

In the afternoon, after the break a roll call was made to see if the quorum existed. No quorum.

Mr. Herman Hamers said because there is no quorum, it means that we can’t make any decisions. [...]

As there was no quorum the rest of the Agenda could not be approved.

No quorum, no agenda, no decisions, no annexes, nothing for me to write about. What to do? Let's have a home movie showing highlights from the first day of the General Assembly. It starts with Kasparov presenting himself as the Croatian delegate and ends (I think) with the results of the presidential election having been announced.

FIDE President Elections (9:02) • 'Tromso, 11.08.2014'

What's happening at 1:30 into the clip? According to the minutes,

Cote d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast] delegate Mr. Essoh Jean Mathieu Claude Essis tried to usurp the floor, but FIDE Treasurer proceeded to present his financial report.

After that, Kasparov launches into the '$10.000.000' offer, followed by Ilyumzhinov's offer(s). As for the continent that 'did not organize its assembly', it was Africa. After witnessing the performance of the Ivory Coast delegate during the General Assembly, it's easy to imagine what happened at the continental level.

28 October 2014

Big Money Chess 'On the Cover'

Anyone who has been around top level chess for the last ten years can't help but have noticed the similarities between the recent Millionaire Open (already seen on this blog in Millionaire Wrapup) and the HB Global Challenge of May 2005. Maurice Ashley, big money, a new sponsor, and, as Mark Crowther's TWIC put it, 'American razzmatazz', all gave a strong feeling of déja vu. Borrowing from my monthly 'On the Cover' series, let's go back exactly ten years and take a second look at the HB Global Challenge.

Left: 'Show Me the Money : The Richest Chess Open Ever' (Cover: Sherie Wallace)
Right: 'Launching HB Global' (Cover: Kathleen Merz)

Chess Life October 2004

$500.000 Guaranteed: The biggest Open money in chess ever! by Kalev Pehme • Declaring that a new era is dawning in the world of chess, backers have announced a new tournament to be held in 2005 that is expected to reach new plateaus in several key areas. Called the HB Global Chess Challenge, the event has the largest prize fund ever for an open chess event: $500.000 guaranteed. A new record for participation is anticipated as well, with thousands of players from around the world traveling to the U.S. heartland for the event.

Chess Life August 2005

The HB Gobal Chess challenge by GM Maurice Ashley • [Won by GM Zviad Izoria] The question on everyone's lips is, "So what about next year?" I wish I knew.

While GM Ashley hasn't been seen on any recent covers of Chess Life -- he was pre-empted by 'New World Champion' Magnus Carlsen when the Millionaire Open was announced in the February 2014 issue -- the USCF first carried the announcement in December 2013, Millionaire Chess Comes to Vegas 2014 (USchess.org):-

GM Maurice Ashley just announced a ground-breaking event, set for October 2014 Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, the "Millionaire Chess Open." The event will feature a million dollars in guaranteed prizes including a $100,000 first prize in the Open section and $40,000 in various "Under sections." [...] Maurice says on the website, "That's right: a million dollars absolutely guaranteed! No other Open tournament in the long and storied history of chess has ever come close to guaranteeing that kind of prize money. The Millionaire Chess Open will be the first, and it will signal a new era in prizes and recognition for players at all levels."

October 2004: 'a new era is dawning'; December 2013: 'a new era in prizes and recognition'. New era or same old, same old? 'The question on everyone's lips is, "So what about next year?"'

27 October 2014

TMERs: Carlsen - Anand Missing Fields (*)

After the update of the PGN file in last week's Carlsen - Anand PGN Master, I returned to the Carlsen - Anand Index. I loaded the two indexes into a database to do crosschecks between related fields, then added data missing from one field but present (in a less friendly format) in another:-

Neither of the updated fields is complete for all events, but it gives me a base to identify data that is really missing.

(*) = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

26 October 2014

The Dark Side of Scholastic Chess

While preparing the previous post in this 'Chess in School' series, The First of the USCF Supernationals, I tried to discover what had become of the winners of that 1997 event. This led me to a name that is infamously associated with the scholastic movement: Robert M. Snyder.

Years ago, when writing for About.com, I was contacted by Snyder to review his series of 'Chess for Juniors' books. That email correspondence was lost when my PC failed later, but it was no more noteworthy than similar correspondence I had with many other chess authors. That review lives on thanks to Archive.org: Book reviews : 'Chess for Juniors' series by Robert M. Snyder.

(February 2005) If you look at the list of current chess bestsellers at Amazon.com, you can't help but notice that two books by the same author rank first (Chess for Juniors by Robert M. Snyder) and third (Unbeatable Chess Lessons for Juniors). Only the perennial favorite Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, first published in 1966, prevents Snyder from capturing the top two spots.

Nearly two years later, after requests from parents demanding that I remove the review and after consultation with my editorial supervisor, I posted a followup: Elsewhere on the Web : A Cautionary Chess Tale.

During the first week of January, a top-selling chess author pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault on a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. Robert Snyder, 52, a resident of Fort Collins, Colorado, was the owner of the Chess for Juniors club and the author of the popular book 'Chess for Juniors' and its sequels. The former chess teacher had been accused of sexually assaulting several of his students.

This was not the end of Snyder's legal troubles. In Robert Michael Snyder, Wikipedia informs,

Snyder has been arrested and convicted for multiple sexual assaults involving children dating back to 1983. He was featured on America's Most Wanted after fleeing Colorado while still on supervised probation in 2008. He was found in Belize, and on March 30, 2010 after pleading guilty was given an open (up to life) sentence.

If the Snyder affair was an isolated case, I would leave it alone, but similar stories surface regularly enough that the subject can't be ignored. Sexual predators are often cunning people, making scholastic chess their natural target for two reasons.

24 October 2014

Millionaire Wrapup

John Cordisco, who played in the Under-1600 section of the Millionaire Chess Open recently held in Las Vegas, gives his thoughts on the tournament. During the video, which is more like a podcast illustrated with photos, he mentions that he's a tournament director from upstate New York. Although a bit long-winded at times, the clip manages to make a number of excellent points.

Millionaire Chess Post Mortem 2014 (45:52) • 'My thoughts concerning my experience at Millionaire Chess 2014.'

If this isn't your cup of tea, take a look at an official video from the penultimate round: Millionaire Chess Semifinals (3:20:34 running time).