30 September 2014

McFarland Chess Books

For today's blog post, I wavered between two topics: a follow-up to a recent post -or- a note on McFarland chess books. By coincidence, in today's post I received the latest McFarland chess catalog and took that as guidance, since it's only the second time I have received their catalog.

I already have a number of McFarland books that I have acquired through the years. I set out to count them and discovered six, along with a few that I have collected in PDF format.

McFarland chess books generally have three characteristics: 1) they are authoritative; 2) they are printed using high quality production techniques; and 3) they are expensive. Unfortunately, 'authoritative' doesn't necessarily mean 'good' and I have been disappointed with one or two. The table below lists the books I have, along with a number of stars to show how highly I value each one.

  Gaige, Chess Personalia
  Gelo, Chess World Championships
  Graham, Women in Chess
  Landsberger, William Steinitz
  Soltis, Soviet Chess, 1917-1991
  Soltis & McCormick, United States Chess Championship, 1845-1996

My PDF versions are all by the same author, Gino Di Felice.

  Di Felice, Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008; Chess Results (two volumes)

After acquiring the books listed above, I told myself that I would never buy another hardcopy version. The cost / benefit ratio is just too erratic. Then, this past Father's Day, I received another McFarland book as a gift. I intended to review it for this post, but I'm at a loss what to say. In a word, it's excellent.

  Forster, The Zurich Chess Club, 1809-2009

I hope to come back to this subject soon. First I have to figure out why I like the book on the Zurich Chess Club so much.

29 September 2014

TMERs: Carlsen - Anand PGN

Continuing with TMERs: Back to Carlsen - Anand, I collected the PGN for all games played by both players since the last time I updated their respective TMER (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record). The events and number of games -- using TWIC header data -- are shown below.

Top: Carlsen / Bottom: Anand

Carlsen's table doesn't show 'WCh 2013', because it's already recorded on his TMER (see 'Back to C - A' for the link). The two players have met five times since the Chennai match with a score of +1-1=3. The single game at slow time control was drawn. Next step: Add this index data to the TMERs.


Later: The last line for Anand -- '7th Grand Slam Masters, Bilbao ESP' -- should show six games instead of five.

28 September 2014

The First USCF Chessathon

In Chessathons and SuperNationals, I quoted former USCF Executive Director Al Lawrence, 'From 1992-1996, five annual U.S. Chessathons pitted the best players in the world against school kids in a giant exhibition that made national and international news.' Lawrence announced the first Chessathon in the August 1992 Chess Life (CL).

Last year in this column we set a goal of 64.000 members by June 30 -- the end of USCF's then-new, 1992 fiscal year. As of 30 April 1992, the U.S. Chess Federation already has a paid membership of 63.418 -- the highest ever in our 53-year history! [...] In ten months, total paid membership is up more than 10%. Scholastic membership has soared by 97%! USCF's junior publication, the bi-monthly School Mates, has seen its circulation rocket by 79% to more than 13.400.

THE U.S. CHESS FESTIVAL -- NEW INITIATIVES: In July the U.S. Chess Federation will stage what may be the biggest promotional event in its history -- the U.S. Chessathon. Thousands of children, many of them sponsored by corporate America, will play in a simultaneous exhibition on Saturday, 18 July, in New York City's Central Park to raise money for chess charities. Hundreds of volunteers will help.

The first page of CL's five-page feature in the November 1992 issue is shown below.

The lead paragraph started,

The U.S. Chess Festival was probably the most ambitious project ever undertaken by the USCF. Thousands of staff hours went into the planning of the various activities held 11-24 July. Spearheaded by Assistant Director Daniel Edelman and Executive Director Al Lawrence, the festivities began with the Game/10 and Game/15 Championships, which were held at Hunter College in Manhattan.

The caption under the large photo said,

Judit Polgar poses with U.S. Congressman Ben Gilman. At right, USCF Accountant Art Griggs distributes free literature during the Chessathon. At far right, Judit takes on the Raging Brooks from Adam Clayton Powell JHS.

CL's cover pictured the three Polgar sisters along with the caption, "We'll Take Manhattan..."

ON THE COVER: The Polgars -- sisters Zsuzsa, Sofia, and Judit -- took Manhattan by storm during the USCF's Chessathon. It was a media blitzkrieg which resulted in almost constant public exposure for the USCF and its scholastic programs.

Other events included the Third Harvard Cup, Man vs. Machine, tournament ('Man' won 18-7) and the category 12 Samuel Reshevsky Memorial, won by GM Julio Granda Zuniga, a half point ahead of Judit Polgar, who turned 16 during the event. Online reports from the early-1990s are unusual, but I found one on rec.games.chess:- [1992-07] Chessathon.

Lawrence wasn't exaggerating when he called the Chessathon 'the biggest promotional event in [USCF] history', but he did undercount the number of them. Instead of '1992-1996, five annual U.S. Chessathons', the events continued into the 2000s.

26 September 2014

'Check, Please'

'Chess, America, I love it! It's my game. That's because Bernie Mac's a thinking man. Unfortunately, I'm playing by myself again. No one to play with.'

The Bernie Mac Shows (21:53) • '02e16: Chess Wars'

IMDB: The Bernie Mac Show: Season 2, Episode 16; Chess Wars (9 Apr. 2003).

25 September 2014

Suzanne de Wilde (1944-2014)

Suzy, my wife's best friend and a frequent dinner guest, was the long-term partner of Olivier Verroken (1955-2006). She loved telling stories and always sent postcards when she left on vacation, but there will be no more stories or cards. RIP, Suzy.

23 September 2014

A Pulitzer Poem

Before I leave Endless Discovery, I have one more post related to Chess Books in the Internet Archive. Another Flickr entry, Image from page 1434 of "Men and women of America; a biographical dictionary of contemporaries" (1910), was a photo of a gentleman who could easily have been an early 20th century chess player. The accompanying description included, 'Text Appearing After Image: Joseph Pulitzer'. So Joseph Pulitzer -- of Pulitzer Prize fame -- had something to do with chess?

Indeed he did, but only indirectly. The biographical entry after Joseph's [follow Flickr's 'View Book Page' to see the image in context] was for his nephew Walter Pulitzer, whose own entry is shown on the left.

Pulitzer was featured in three entries for Edward Winter's Chesshistory.com, September 2013 (C.N. 8319-8321), where some confusion about Pulitzer's year of birth is documented. Some sources give 1874, others give 1878 (also shown here). As Winter calculated, 'This would mean that Pulitzer was only 16 years old when Chess Harmonies was published.'

If that biographical entry were the only connection with the Internet Archive, I wouldn't mention it, but there's more. Another Flickr entry, Image from page 47 of "The literary digest" (1890), explains, 'Composed for THE Literary Digest, and Dedicated to Its Brilliant Chess-Editor and His Very Clever Corps of Solvers, By Walter Pulitzer, author of Chess Harmonies.'

Walter Pulitzer is mentioned twice on The Literary Digest page, once for the 'New Year's Problem' and once for a poem.

Love and Chess.
By Walter Pulitzer.
From The American Chess Magazine.

Come, glance o'er my shoulder with me,
As on the night silently steals.
And take in the charm of this scene,
Which the mystic fire-glow reveals.

The dearest of fair, dimpled maids.
Ensconced in a chair à l'Antique :
A table that stands just in front ;
A lover this side that can speak.

Yet, now he speaks not —- while his love
Doth play with the folds of her dress.
The cause of this strange state of things?-
They're playing together at Chess !

Yes, grave is his strong, handsome face,
But she -— with a rose in her hair --
Is pouting and fretting and shows
Quite a pretty, indiff'rent air !

Ah ! weighty the battle he fights.
Or "battles" I rather should say :
The conquest of love -— which is life ;
The clash of these crowns -- which is play.

"You feel not much interest ?" he asks,
While idly she moves with her Rook,
Which causes a blush, and "Perhaps,"
She sighs, as she gives him a look !

He muses -— and then exclaims "Check !"
"Oh ! dear," she says, "what have I done?
And then he peers into her eyes
That are love-lit, and asks ; "Have I won?

"My monarch is lost," murmurs she,
As sweetly she hangs her fair head ;
He catches her hand -— whispers low :
"Then let me your King be instead ?"

Come, glance o'er my shoulder with me.
As on the night silently steals,
And sip of the bliss of this scene.
Which the mystic fire-glow reveals!

In fact, Pulitzer is mentioned many times in this particular volume of The Literary Digest (vol. XVI, covering the first half of 1898), and not only in the chess column. I could say more, but I'll leave it for a possible future edition of the 'Endless Discovery'.

22 September 2014

TMERs: Back to Carlsen - Anand

After compiling four partial records of Kasparov's travels during his bid for the FIDE presidency --

-- I should have enough data to put together a near-complete record and to identify exhibition games. As much as I would like to merge those partial records immediately, a forthcoming World Championship match in November demands attention. In preparation, I'd like to update the TMERs for the two players:-

First Carlsen - Anand, then Kasparov.

21 September 2014

Caveat Fischer - Spassky 1992

In this ongoing series titled Top eBay Chess Items by Price, Fischer - Spassky items aren't exactly unusual. The most recent example was 'RARE! Signed poster 1992 World Chess Championship BOBBY FISCHER/BORIS SPASSKY', which sold for US $750.00, Buy-It-Now. Note that this is from the second (non-title) match in 1992, not the title match in 1972.

The description added,

One of five I was told existing. This piece is a wonderful collectors item for any chess enthusiast. It was enlarged in pre-collapsed Russia of a photo taken by chess photographer Kevin Dyke. Its of the final check-mate move. I was given this poster as a taxi tip and had it authenticated and appraised by a auction house.

In those five sentences are at least five statements I could take issue with. Add this auction to the mini-series Caveat Fischer - Spassky.

19 September 2014

Life is like...

Even when I like an image, it doesn't necessarily mean I 'get it'.

Life is like playing chess over the belly of a crazy elephant © Flickr user Fernando Guillen under Creative Commons.

Elephants were once an integral part of chess.

The bishop's predecessor in shatranj (medieval chess) was the alfil, meaning elephant, which could leap two squares along any diagonal, and could jump over an intervening piece. • Bishop (chess) [Wikipedia]

As for 'crazy elephant', it turns out that it's also a chess variant: Crazy Elephant (chess variant).

18 September 2014

Endless Discovery

#WhyILoveChess? I can't come up with a single answer to that question.

First, there's the competitive aspect, which was the predominant reason in the #WhyILoveChess tweets. After that, there's an intellectual aspect to the game itself that has nothing to do with competition.

Chess puts my thoughts into a meditative state that few other activities are capable of doing.

Even more important than that is the intricate interconnection that chess has with the rest of human experience.

Chess is an endless maze that leads to endless discovery.

That's not bad for a game that is itself finite. A recent example: Among my favorite posts on this blog are aleatory series where I don't know what subject I'm going to tackle until I start to write. A recent post in the Flickr Friday photo series became Lasker Seen Darkly. While I was working on that I discovered Chess Books in the Internet Archive. This led to Borrowing a Chess Book, which spawned the question Fischer in the Army?

The Fischer post leads to other subjects, but at some point I have to say, 'Stop!', and move on to something else. And that 'something else' becomes a new starting point in the endless maze.

16 September 2014


While wading through Twitter on yesterday's post, Kasparov's Campaign: Twitter & Facebook, I discovered a recent Kasparov contest:-

On September 1, Garry decided to celebrate his 5,000th tweet with a fun little contest to promote chess. He offered three signed books for three of the best tweets with the hashtag #WhyILoveChess. Little did he suspect it would become an international sensation, becoming a trending topic on Twitter in 20 cities in 11 countries over the coming days. • WhyILoveChess Takes Twitter by Storm! Signed Book Winners, Kasparov.com

For all entries, see Results for #whyilovechess on Twitter.com.

15 September 2014

Kasparov's Campaign: Twitter & Facebook

Continuing with Garry Kasparov's travels during his unsuccessful bid for the FIDE presidency, in the most recent post I looked at news from his Campaign Site. The last two resources listed in Kasparov TMER: Next Steps were Twitter (Teamkasparov) and Facebook (Kasparov2014).

I can't comment on the usefulness of these resources to Kasparov's campaign while it was in full swing, but I can comment on their usefulness to the historical record of the campaign. In a phrase: not particularly useful. Both resources are mainly for sharing links, photos, and an occasional video -- interspersed with (largely) repetitive campaign messages. All this serves as a vehicle for gathering (largely) light comments in the form of 'Retweets' and 'Likes'. New, original content is (largely) absent. For example, here are links to a relevant June event:-


  • Jun 19: Lawmakers' strategic moves at Congressional Chess Tournament: http://videoshare.politico.com/ …
  • Jun 18: Kasparov will join a bipartisan Congressional Chess Tournament with the Congressional Chess Caucus this morning! http://www.washingtontimes.com/ …


  • June 18: Congressional Chess Tournament [photos]

There are other relevant pages on both Twitter and Facebook -- like Kasparov's personal pages -- but I didn't spend much time on them while preparing today's post. Twitter limits the number of past tweets it displays (to around 500?), making it even less useful to the historical record. Following are a few more Facebook Kasparov2014 posts I noted:-

  • February 5: "My visit to Nigeria has yielded positive results in many ways."
  • May 1: Photo report of Garry Kasparov's campaign for FIDE presidency.
  • May 5: Already on the move again in Africa!
  • May 6: Garry handing over a cheque to Tan Dri Ramli Ngah Talib...

As for Twitter Teamkasparov tweets, I used the same technique already seen in Chessbase.com posts on Kasparov, and created an external page, Twitter.com tweets by Teamkasparov.

14 September 2014

Chessathons and SuperNationals

Ask and you shall receive? A few months ago, in The USCF in Numbers (June 2014), I noted two spurts of chess growth in the U.S., one in the 1970s and one in the 1990s. The first was due to Fischer, but 'As for the growth in the 1990s and the subsequent decline, I have no ready explanation.'

Some time afterward, I learned that the 1990s saw The Start of the Scholastic Boom (July 2014), and quoted an insider saying, '"I would like to think that stability at the top had something to do with the growth. Executive Director Al Lawrence's philosophy was simple: In order for the USCF to promote chess, you first have to promote the USCF."'

The current issue of Chess Life (CL) -- September 2014, starting p.20 -- has a ten page cover story by the same Al Lawrence, titled 'OUR DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY; Celebrating 75 years of the USCF through the covers of Chess Life'. It summarizes the USCF's history decade by decade. The page covering the 1990s is pictured above. It starts,

1989-1998 • At the peak: From 1992-1996, five annual U.S. Chessathons pitted the best players in the world against school kids in a giant exhibition that made national and international news. The 1994 U.S. Chessathon alone captured 450,000 onsite spectators, since it was held in the main room of Grand Central Station. In 1996, the event moved atop the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City’s Harbor.

USCF celebrated its 50th year under President Harold Winston, a guiding partner to your reporter when I took over as executive director in 1988. Scholastic chess boomed. Corporate sponsorship climbed. Book and equipment income rocketed.

After giving credit to then CL editor Glenn Petersen, to staff in the USCF's HQ, to Max Dlugy ('USCF’s first grandmaster president'), to Garry Kasparov, to the 1990 Olympiad silver medal winners, and to Gata Kamsky ('the youngest U.S. champion since Fischer'), the page finished,

All this teamwork outside and inside the office over two decades brought USCF dividends. In 10 years, membership went up by 34,000 members to more than 85,000, smashing the Bobby Fischer record of 59,000. I had worked for USCF for 15 years.

Decision making leads to conflict. When Don Schultz became president in 1996, I left, but not before USCF approved the first scholastic "SuperNational," a mega-event that now regularly draws at least 5,000 K-12 players to Nashville, Tennessee.

Chessathons and SuperNationals? Decision making and conflict? Receive and you shall ask for more.

12 September 2014

Better than Chess on TV

What could be better than chess on TV? The sort of coverage shown in the following live stream...

Sinquefield Cup 2014 - Round 1 (4:08:54) • 'Streamed live on Aug 27, 2014'

...To skip the starting countdown, jump to 14:40 in the clip. Other rounds from the event are available on the same Youtube channel: Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

11 September 2014

Fischer in the Army?

Getting back to Borrowing a Chess Book, while I had Truzzi's 'Chess in Literature' on loan, I noted a curious Fischer story. The book's Introduction starts,

In 1959, while in basic training in the United States Army at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, I and another draftee were killing time in our barracks between harassments when he -- I now recall only that his last name was Schultz -- asked me if I played chess. I replied that I did, but that my game was quite poor. He told me that he had a high rating, but that playing with me would pass the time. I agreed so we played, Private Schultz devoting his more serious efforts to simultaneously writing a letter to a relative back home. [...]

About a week later, Private Schultz and I were visiting the U.S.O center. To our mutual surprise, the recently drafted chess prodigy -- and now [1974] World Champion -- Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer came in. Schultz seized the opportunity to ask Fischer for the honor of a game (rumor had it that Fischer's time in basic training was largely spent playing chess with officers at the post, so we were very surprised to see him). Fischer kindly agreed to the match while I looked on. To my amazement, Fischer proceeded to write a letter while playing Schultz in much the same manner that Schultz had done with me. And Schultz was no more offended than I had been.

Nice story, but as far as I could remember Fischer never did military service. Not being an expert on him, I turned to someone who is -- from Frank Brady's 'Profile of a Prodigy' (Dover, 1973), chapter IX, p.79:-

The question of Fischer’s potential military service was an acute one, since as a “1-A” candidate, he was scheduled to undergo his physical examination at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station on Whitehall Street in New York, and at that particular time it was believed that he might play in the Interzonal at Amsterdam [1964]. I had a few talks with Fischer on life in the military and related some of my brief experiences. Fischer is as patriotic as anyone I know but at that stage, two years in the army was the last thing he wanted.

Harold M. Phillips, past president of the U.S. Chess Federation, had been a member of a local draft board for years and I called him to see if he could suggest a way that Bobby could qualify for a temporary deferment until after the Interzonal was completed. He suggested that I contact General George B. Hershey, head of the Selective Service Bureau, and, to my surprise, Hershey was quite cooperative, though not particularly hopeful.

“A temporary deferment, on almost any grounds, is usually an easy matter to secure from a local board,” Hershey told me “but eventually Fischer will probably be drafted.” He suggested I send an appeal to Fischer’s local board and then wait until they contacted him.

There was one other way a deferment could be secured: if Bobby entered college. Alfred Landa, then Assistant to the President of the New School for Social Research assured me that Fischer would not only be allowed to matriculate into the college but he would be given a scholarship. When I relayed this to Bobby, he thought long and hard. His experience with schools was still distasteful. He negated the idea.

Eventually, Bobby took his physical examination and was rejected for reasons that have never been made public. Perhaps the local board decided that this young American would be much more valuable sitting across a chess board in the capitals of the world than he would be toting a bazooka through a Vietnamese jungle. Whatever the reason, Fischer never served in the military.

I didn't have to type that excerpt, because I found it in a Chesstalk.info forum thread titled Bobby Fischer’s 1964 Simul at Hart House, where there is an alternative reason for Fischer not being called into military service. Whatever the reason, how could Truzzi have met Fischer 'in the United States Army at Fort Jackson in South Carolina'? In 1959, Fischer would have been only 16 years old.

09 September 2014

September 1964 'On the Cover'

Both of this month's 'On the Cover' subjects were introduced in covers from preceding months.

Left: 'U.S. Open Champion'
Right: 'U.S. Student Team Fourth'

Chess Life

Pal Benko, International Grandmaster from New York City, finished a full point ahead of the field in the 65th Annual United States Open Championship, played at the Sheraton-Plaza Hotel in Boston on August 16-29.

The announcement for the 1964 U.S. Open featured in Chess Life's July 1964 'On the Cover'.

Chess Review

The Soviet Union carried off the World Title in the Student Team Championship, held in Crakow, Poland. The team composed of B.Pele, G.Chodos, W.Sawon, E.Mnacakanian, G.Anoczin, and A.Kapengut scored 31 1/2 points out of a possible 44 in the finals. Czechoslavakia scored 29 1/2, Hungary 29, and the United States 28.

The U.S team was introduced in Chess Review's August 1964 'On the Cover'. The Soviet team includes a couple of names that I don't recognize, especially their first board, who is mentioned again beating the USA's first board Lombardy. Olimpbase (see August 1964 'On the Cover' for the link) says,

First place, and hence the proud title of World Master, was deservedly gained by the team of the Soviet Union. Several changes had been made in the team since last year. Anoshin and Kapengut were newcomers. At the first chessboard Pelc was comparatively weak, but the excellent achievements of Chodos and Mnacakanjan — who, by scoring 10 points in 11 games, obtained the best individual result of the entire championship - as well as those of Anoshin and Savon were sufficient for the team as a whole to gain the highest title of World Master.

'Pelc' is no more familiar than 'Pele'. The Statistics section of the Olimpbase coverage lists 'Pelts, Roman', a name that I finally recognize.

08 September 2014

Kasparov's Campaign Site

Continuing with Kasparov TMER (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record), first we had Transition from 1970s to 2010s, jumping into the recent FIDE presidential election. This was followed by Kasparov's Campaign on Video. Now let's add reports from Kasparov2014.com, Home > Campaign trail > News:-

The coverage of the African visits is more complete than the two preceding posts.

07 September 2014

Chess Cameo

After a short break from blogging, the next post is a return to Top eBay Chess Items by Price, last seen two weeks ago in Chess Chaperones. As luck would have it, I had a number of interesting items to choose from:-

  • 2013 Sinquefield Cup Commemorative Chess Set ('comes with a Certificate of Authenticity that was hand-signed by all four of the participants in the match'); sold for US $950.00 after receiving 34 bids from 10 bidders
  • BRENTANO'S CHESS MONTHLY. New York, 1881-82. Complete run; US $736.00, 7 bids, two bidders
  • Cuban Presidential Invitation Signed By Significant Chess Masters Capablanca; $500.00, Best offer accepted; 'an official invitation to the international chess championship for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Cuba, this is an official invitation to the inauguration at the presidential palace. Each player received an invitation, this is the personal invitation of Erich Eliskases, and was signed by all the major players present [...] including Larry Evans, Edward Lasker, [...] This tournament was dedicated to Jose Raul Capablanca .
  • 2 Photographs of David Oistrakh and Louis Persinger Playing Chess US $487.00, 30 bids, eight bidders; I'm sure I saw one of the photos in Chess Life many years ago

Visually more interesting than any of those was the item pictured below. Titled '20C Antique Villeroy Boch Mettlach Phanolith Cameo Plaque Children Playing Chess', it sold for US $499.99 after a single bid.

The description mainly echoed the title,

This is a wonderful Early 20C Antique Villeroy Boch Mettlach Phanolith Cameo Plaque Children Playing Chess. Measure 14" 10 3/4". Very good condition.

As for 'Villeroy Boch Mettlach Phanolith', Wikipedia tells us,

Phanolith is a kind of porcelain that combines the characteristics and benefits of jasperware and pâte-sur-pâte. It was developed at Villeroy & Boch in Mettlach, Saarland, Germany, at the end of the nineteenth century.

For more, see Phanolith.