30 January 2015

Tata En Passant

Near the beginning of the interview, GM Keene mentions that he played at Wijk aan Zee more than 40 years ago, finishing equal third in the masters section.

Q: Why are you here in 2015? A: It's one of the world's greatest tournaments and has been for a long time, so it's a pleasure to come. It's great to come back after 40 years, to see how much it's grown. It's extraordinary.

He compares Wijk aan Zee to Hastings (the world's oldest ongoing tournament) and admits that the Dutch event 'is much bigger'.

Tata Steel Chess 2015 - En passant (8:19) • 'Raymond Keene'

Keene is a colorful, controversial character; see, for example, Raymond Keene on Wikipedia, especially the 'Talk' page.

29 January 2015

The Money Game

Someone at Barron's must really like chess. Last year I ran a series of posts highlighting articles from the financial publication, all of which featured chess. The last post in the series was The Game at Chestes (May 2014).

A recent edition had our favorite game on the cover -- shown on the left -- introducing a feature story titled Barron’s Roundtable: Masters of the Game, where a select group of investment wizards gave their prognostications for the coming year (see Barron's Magazine Archives : 19 January 2015 for the full article).

Once upon a time chess and money were complete strangers to each other, and a world class player would risk ending his days in poverty after pursuing the royal game as a profession. Nowadays chess can even make an appearance at the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland: Davos Billionaires Predict Low Interest Rates, Terrorism (Bloomberg.com):-

Pegasystems Inc. founder Alan Trefler became a billionaire in 2013 after his relationship management software maker surged in value. [...] Trefler was a chess prodigy in his youth. He tied for first place at the World Open Chess Championship in 1975, while studying at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he received a degree in economics and computer science. He formed Pegasystems in 1983.

A few years ago, Chessbase reported about Chess Grandmasters at the Davos conference (February 2009):-

As the World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, two chess grandmasters weighed in on the crisis that has hit the economies of industrialised nations. One was Chess World Champion Vishy Anand, the other one of the leading economic thinkers in the world, Ken Rogoff – who in his day was listed in 40th place in the world chess rankings.

Although Rogoff's playing days are long behind him, the Harvard professor of economics still finds time to pursue his former passion; see Kasparov Interviewed by Rogoff (USchess.org; videos).

27 January 2015

Titled Players and Their Ratings

After last week's look at Federations in Arrears, I inventoried older posts that analyzed FIDE ratings. Two of my favorites were

Both posts looked at titled players and their ratings. Following this idea, I created the following tables from the January 2015 rating list.

The first column lists the title (where blank means untitled players). It is followed by the number of players with that title, then the maximum, minimum, and average rating across all players with the title. The top table counts men and women together; the bottom table counts women only. Here are a few more past posts that analyzed ratings:-

Given time, I might redo one or two of these using the January 2015 list.

26 January 2015

TMERs: Kasparov Wrapup

Last week's post ended my series on Garry Kasparov's Travels During His 2014 FIDE Campaign (working file). After creating the working file with

we looked at his trips to three FIDE continents:-

What about Kasparov in Europe? Looking at the table of Kasparov's comings and goings according to the working file, we see that he made several trips to Europe, but always for isolated events. There was no campaign tour where he visited several countries on the same trip, as he did on the other continents.

I'll add this present post to the working file, then decide what to tackle (if anything) for my next TMER project.

25 January 2015

More Fischer - Spassky 1992

More Fischer - Spassky items? What can I say, except that in a typically slow post-holiday period here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, these were the most interesting auctions.

The descriptions for all three 'Autograph on Envelope' items were brief and identical.

GM Eugene Torre, personal friend and official second in the 1992 World Chess Championship of Bobby Fischer, personally obtained these original and fresh autographs from both Bobby and Boris Spassky at the conclusion of the match. GM Torre will provide the authentication document.

In the past I've been suspicious about memorabilia from the 1992 return match -- see Caveat Fischer - Spassky 1992 -- but this batch looks like the real deal. Like most people, I would take exception to calling the match '1992 World Chess Championship', but that doesn't change the value of the signatures.

23 January 2015

'Nice Jacket!'

What other icebreakers could you use when first meeting this fellow? • 'Oh, do you play chess?' • 'I like your shirt!' • 'Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Steve Wozniak?' • [...]

11a TataSteelChess 170115 © Flickr user Heleen Vink under Creative Commons.

For more from the same photographer, see 77e Tata Steel Chess Tournament.

22 January 2015

Feedly Top Blogs

Continuing with Blog Maintenance, after selecting Feedly.com to manage my blogroll (do people still use that term?) I migrated the blogs I had collected on the old Google Friend Connect. Of the 60 blogs, all but five appeared on the new service.

Feedly maintains some statistics on what it considers to be the top chess blogs, of which the first nine I've captured on the left. The two blogs shown with a green plus are missing from my own list. Of the top 24 blogs suggested by Feedly, I was already following 17.

The Feedly suggestions are somewhat out of date. The late, lamented Daily Dirt has been out of action for well over three years, a fact I noted in The Dirt Bites the Dust. The last post that Feedly offers is from 2008, probably from an older version of the blog on a different platform. A few other suggested blogs are also well past their heydays, although the list is overall more helpful than misleading. I added a handful of blogs that I had previously overlooked.

Finding less popular blogs is less obvious. I have quite a few buried in my bookmarks, but I'll have to wait until I've finished sorting out the other resource on my 'Blog Maintenance' post, Diigo.com.

20 January 2015

Federations in Arrears

In a recent post, FIDE Rating Lists Restored, I quoted a new FIDE policy in treating federations which have fallen behind with their dues.

Until the arrears have been paid off, players from these Federations cannot participate in any FIDE events that are under the aegis of a) the World Championship & Olympiad Commission or Events Commission, b) Continental competitions that provide qualifiers to any of the aforesaid competitions.

This makes more sense than the old policy, which was to stop publishing ratings for all players of federations in arrears. Under the new policy, top players in each federation can put pressure on their national officials, especially if those top players have any ambition to compete in the World Championship cycle.

I started to wonder how many world class players would be inconvenienced under the new policy. The following table lists federations currently in arrears along with a count of the players in that federation and the rating of the highest rated player. The numbers are from the January 2015 rating list.

The table is sorted in descending order according to the rating of the top player. I limited the table to top ratings over 2400.

For example, the first row shows Venezuela, which has 828 FIDE rated players, where the highest rated player is GM Iturrizaga (2649). He has competed in three of the last four World Cups. The second row shows Peru, represented by GM Granda Zuniga (2640), who has been a frequent competitor in World Championship cycles going back to the 1987 Zagreb Interzonal.

The list doesn't show whether the top player is a rising talent or an old timer, perhaps inactive. It does show that FIDE's new policy has real teeth.

19 January 2015

TMERs: Kasparov in the Americas

After TMERs: Kasparov in Asia 2014, there remains one more region to cover for Garry Kasparov's Travels During His 2014 FIDE Campaign: North and South America. In fact, looking at the table in 'Kasparov's Travels', the former World Champion appears to have made only a few trips in the Americas outside of the USA, his adopted country.

In April 2014 he travelled to three countries -- My Kingston [Jamaica]; Kasparov: 'I'm quite happy that I picked up Jamaica as a destination for the first Caribbean tour. I came from Mexico and will be going to El Salvador.' In May he travelled to Puerto Rico -- Kasparov makes move for PR vote; Kasparov: 'Puerto Rico’s Chess Federation is the first local federation in which every member has a vote to decide which candidate to support for president.' The trip to Puerto Rico did not go well:-

Puerto Rico swings away from Kasparov • The America’s are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Kirsan, probably even more than originally expected. Last month the number circulating was 29-5 in Kirsan’s favor, but with bad press and rumors of heavy-handed campaigning by Kasparov’s supporters, this was always a danger to happen. Just this past Thursday Puerto Rico voted in favour of supporting Kirsan. • Monday Coffee [kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com; June 2014]

As we know, Kasparov eventually lost -- FIDE Election: Four More Years -- with the drubbing in the Americas playing a decisive role. Was this why his presence there was so limited in comparison to TMERs: Kasparov in Africa? • TMER : Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

18 January 2015

Chess and Cognitive Training

My recent post on Chess and EEG, led me to another idea that I hadn't encountered before, that I didn't explore in the post, and that touched on this 'Chess in School' series: Cognitive Training. From the Cognitive Definition (FAQ) [learningrx.com]:-

  • Cognitive Skills: What are they?
  • Raise your hand if you need a faster, smarter brain.
  • Key categories of cognitive skills

That last bullet lists seven categories:-

  • Processing Speed
  • Auditory Processing
  • Visual Processing
  • Long-Term Memory
  • Short-Term Memory
  • Logic and Reasoning
  • Attention Skills

With the exception of 'Auditory Processing', those seven categories are all important to success at chess. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that the concept is both topical and controversial. From Can Cognitive Training Make You Smarter?: Interview with Author Dan Hurley [ScientificAmerican.com]:-

Q: You spoke to K. Anders Ericsson, who studies the development of expertise. Does he think that cognitive training increases in intelligence are irrelevant to the development of world-class expertise?

A: Ericsson believes that the benefits you get from practice apply only to the specific skill you’re practicing. [...] Ericsson has published studies suggesting that talent doesn’t matter, and that the only thing that does matter is practicing for 10,000 hours in order to become an expert. Whether you want to be a concert pianist or a world-class chess player or anything else, supposedly all you need to do is practice for 10,000 hours and then you’ll be a master.

Q: What do you think of Ericsson’s perspective?

A: Ericsson’s claims have not been supported by other researchers who have found that talent does matter, and that training in certain tasks does result in "transfer" to improvements in other abilities. Some chess grandmasters practiced for much less than 10,000 hours before they reached the top, whereas other people can practice for much more than 10,000 hours and still not make it. [...]

Recalling an earlier post on this blog, 'Chess in School' Is Mantric, one of the mantras is 'Chess Makes You Smarter'. Does it really?

16 January 2015

Africa’s First Grandmaster

The video starts,

Kenny Solomon has joined the world's chess elite. He played chess every moment he could while growing up in Mitchells Plain. Now at the age of 35, his hard work and dedication have finally been rewarded. He has been named grandmaster, the highest chess award.

For more about Solomon's childhood home, 'a largely coloured township about 32 km from the city of Cape Town -- one of South Africa's largest townships', see Mitchells Plain on Wikipedia.

Cape Town man becomes Africa’s first chess grandmaster (2:12) • 'A Cape Town man's lifelong passion for chess has finally paid off. He's become South Africa and the continent's first ever grandmaster and it all started with a game of marbles.'

A few days ago Chessbase.com ran a feature article on Solomon: Fighting the odds.

15 January 2015

Blog Maintenance

Ring out the old and ring in the new! The start of a new year is always a good time to take care of housekeeping. A year ago I documented this partially in Gone Fishing and Fishing on the River Chess. This year I have another batch of small projects to look after.

Blog reader: As important as keeping up with other blogs is to me, I've never paid much attention to the tool I use. Until now I've relied on the same blogger.com tools that I use to maintain this blog. On top of being able to follow the blogs, my blog list was available via the profile widget on the right side of all my blogs. When Google forced me to migrate to Google Plus, a process I documented in Google Is Big Brother (July 2013), I lost the blog list in the new profile. This week I lost the reader itself, rendering the blog reader tool completely useless. After a little investigation I decided to replace the tool with Feedly.com.

Bookmarks: Keeping track of web sites and their most interesting pages is another ongoing task. Lately my browser-based bookmarks have reached the point where they were becoming a burden to use. I went looking for a cloud-based bookmark tool and decided to use Diigo.com.

Labels: The labels listed on the right of this blog are important to maintain continuity of the content and to locate an old post vaguely remembered. I had three separate labels for endgames -- 'Endgame TB' (24, the number of posts with that label), 'Endgames' (49), and 'Fortress' (7) -- where 'TB' stands for 'Tablebase'. I consolidated these into 'Endgames' (73). You can see from the numbers that there was already some overlap across the three labels.

If I think it's worth noting, I'll report on the progress of those first two items.

13 January 2015

FIDE Rating Lists Restored

Hallelujah! For years I've been looking at the first FIDE rating list of every New Year -- the January list -- and complaining that the data is crippled. Why crippled? Because FIDE policy has been to use the lists as an incentive to keep national federations up to date with their dues. No payment of dues, no players from that federation on the rating list, even if it hurts all users of the lists, including other, fully paid-up federations.

Last year, in my post on Federations Large and Small (February 2014), I noticed that Ecuador (ECU) was missing from the list, but that

A search for 'ECU' on ratings.fide.com lists the players without their standard ratings, but with their rapid and blitz ratings. Silly, no? But that's FIDE.

Last month, FIDE announced a New Policy towards Federations in Arrears:-

The new policy, which comes into immediate effect, is that on 31st December the Treasurer lists on the FIDE website those countries that are deemed to be over six months in arrears. Until the arrears have been paid off, players from these Federations cannot participate in any FIDE events that are under the aegis of
a) the World Championship & Olympiad Commission or Events Commission,
b) Continental competitions that provide qualifiers to any of the aforesaid competitions.

As promised, on 31 December FIDE listed the names of twenty-five Federations in Arrears, including Ecuador. Contrary to what I expected to see, most of the 25 federations were present on the January 2014 rating list.

The table on the left shows which federations were missing a year ago and present this year (or vice versa), including a count of rated players in the federation. Now that I have more reliable data to work with, look for a series of related posts over the next weeks.

12 January 2015

TMERs: Kasparov in Asia 2014

After the two Asian trips covered in TMERs: Kasparov in Asia 2013, Kasparov's FIDE Campaign ran into trouble. In January 2014, NYTimes.com reported,

Kasparov and Leong [representing Asia for Kasparov] negotiated a deal in which Leong would help Kasparov’s presidential run in exchange for $500,000, according to a draft contract reviewed by The New York Times. Kasparov also agreed, after his election, to open a new federation office in Singapore, to be run by Leong, for which he would be paid an undisclosed amount. • Kasparov’s Moves in Run for Chess Office Raise Ethical Concerns

A few days later, Chessbase.com reported on Kasparov's behalf,

The story began last weekend, when a draft contract between Garry Kasparov, who is running for FIDE President, and his running mate Ignatius Leong were leaked. It was suggested that large sums of money were passing to Leong in return for votes in the presidential election. Now Kasparov has replied to the accusations in an unprecedented way: by publishing the full text of the final contract. • Contractgate? The Kasparov-Leong agreement; 'final version of the Agreement signed on September 5th [2013]'

The agreement overshadowed future contact with Asia. Kasparov made two more trips to the region.


2014-04-22: Grandmaster Kasparov still has everything to play for • 'Mr Kasparov was in the capital [Canberra, Australia] on Monday [21 April] to push his own presidency ambitions - for the World Chess Federation (FIDE) - and to attend the ACT's 52nd Doeberl Cup at the Woden Tradies.'

2014-05-07:- Kasparov's Visit to Malaysia • 'On 23 April 2014, Garry Kasparov ... flew into a grand welcome in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia'


2014-06-11:- Garry Kasparov Returns to Macau • 'Kasparov was the guest of honour at the 15th ASEAN+ Age Group Chess Championships held in Macao from 3-11 June 2014'

The ongoing story of the FIDE election including highlights of the Kasparov campaign, in Asia and elsewhere, can be found on ecforum.org.uk: Kasparov vs Ilyumzhinov: the FIDE Presidency battle begins. • TMER : Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

11 January 2015

Chess of the Gentry and Military

This current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price makes three in a row for the artwork subcategory. After Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Paintings and Chess Stone Lithograph, we now have the painting shown below. Titled 'James de V. Aylward Oil on Board Chess Players 1905', it sold for around $610, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description added,

A very fine detailed oil on board painting in very good condition, beautifully framed in a gilded frame. The painting is of a pair of high society men playing chess, whilst a third looks on. It is set in an opulent Georgian setting around 1800 period. Despite its small size, the detail is superb, with a painstaking eye for every aspect of the room and its contents. The painting is signed J. D. AYLWARD and dated 1905.

James Devine Aylward, also known as James de V. Aylward, was a British artist who exhibited between 1895 and 1917. Not very much appears to be known of him, but most of his work tends to concentrate on the late 18th and early 19th Century period. His subjects are also generally gentry or military. He is registered as living in Liverpool in 1895 (he exhibited 33 pictures at the Walker Art Gallery) and London (9 in the Royal Academy and 15 at Royal Institute of Oil Painters) in 1897. A great example of subject painting.

Size painting: 20 x 15 cm • Size Frame: 38 x 33 x 4.5 cm • Weight: 1520g

A search on 'chess aylward' picks up a second chess painting by the same artist.

09 January 2015

Find Your Inner Peace

Among a dozen or so images of the style pictured below I had trouble choosing one that was representative of all, so I created a composite image.

Photo upper right:
Der innere Frieden beim Schachspielen © Flickr user Mathias Schneider under Creative Commons.

Each individual image has the same title, which the artist/photographer translates as 'Find your inner peace by playing with chess figures'. Substitute 'pieces' for 'figures' and we get 'Find your inner peace by playing with chess pieces'. I don't know what that means, but it might have something to do with Chess and Meditation. Find your inner pieces?

08 January 2015

A Face Across the Board

From the January 2015 issue of Chess Life, 'Faces Across the Board' column by Al Lawrence, special 'Goes International!' edition...

...The writeup says,

Prodigious chess blogger since 1997 • From 2002 to 2008, Mark worked as chess guide for About.com, producing a widely read feature article every week. A Cornell math and computer science grad, he’s "semi-retired" from managing behemothic corporate databases. Now Mark writes his popular and frequently updated "Chess for All Ages" site (chessforallages.blogspot.com), appropriately subtitled: "My place to say things about chess that I can’t say in the other places where I say things about chess." His always-interesting chess cornucopia of blogs and columns attracts "about 4,000 visitors a day" and covers everything from the world championship to scholastic starter kits.

In the interest of accuracy -- as in How Reliable Am I? -- I've been creating web content since 1997. According to an early post on this blog, My Introduction to Blogging, I started blogging in 2003. How long will I continue? Until it is no longer fun!

06 January 2015

January 1965 'On the Cover'

A new year means new bound editions of Chess Life and Chess Review from 50 years ago.

Left: 'See you at the NATIONAL OPEN!'
Right: 'Armed Forces Champions'

Chess Life

The young lady is Patricia Johnson, a dancer in the fifth edition of the fabulous Lido de Paris Revue, now in its fifteenth smash month at the Stardust Hotel. In case you needed it, we've provided you with just ONE MORE reason to play in the USCF's great new NATIONAL OPEN, February 7-13.

Does sex sell chess? Sex sells anything ('in case you needed it').

Chess Review

The Air Force team retained the Thomas Emery Armed Forces Championship Trophy with 18.5 points, followed by the Army with 17.5 and the Sea Services with 15.0. Top individual honors went to Lieut. Donato Rivera, Jr., of Chanute AFB in Illinois on a tie-breaking basis after he and Army Pvt. Bruce Albertson had registered the same 7.5-1.5 game score. [...]

The December 1964 'On the Cover' mentioned,

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'?

The January 1965 CL had 28 pages, of which almost half were given to the rating list. Fischer at 2734 was the highest rated of 21 Senior Masters (>2400), who were followed by around 110 Masters (>2200), followed by around 6000 other rated players.

Another continuing item from December,

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.

CL continued with three pages of feature articles on the event, while CR finally weighed in with a five page report.

05 January 2015

TMERs: Kasparov in Asia 2013

Continuing with Garry Kasparov's Travels During His 2014 FIDE Campaign, the previous post, TMERs: Kasparov in Africa, covered Kasparov's three trips to Africa. He also made several trips to Asia. Here is an outline of his two trips in 2013.


2013-11-11: Kasparov In Chennai. But Not Awaited • 'Garry Kasparov as promised earlier came to Chennai to visit 3rd and 4th games of the world title match. Livemint.com reports the 13th world champion and FIDE president candidate was ignored - he was met only by the workers of Hyatt Regency Hotel. Kasparov arrived with his wife without an official invitation, just as a "chess tourist."'

2013-11-16: Campaign Trip Begins in Jakarta • 'The first tour of the campaign is in Asia and the first stop was Indonesia. Afterward, Garry heads to Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Macau, and Hong Kong.'

2013-11-16: SCF Awards Night 2013 • 'Kasparov was the guest of honor at the Singapore Chess Federation Annual Dinner'

2013-11-24: Kasparov Visits Singapore and Thailand • 'Kasparov and running mate Ignatius Leong arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, on the 19th November'

2013-11-20: Chess legend Kasparov makes winning move • 'Prior to the Philippines, he had been to Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. From here, he will fly today to Macau and Hong Kong to cap his Asian visit.'

2013-12-05: Kasparov and Leong Well Received in Macau and Hong Kong • 'The legend and Ignatius arrived on 20th November from a flight from Manila. [...] On 21st November, our Delegate KK Chan escorted the King, Garry Kasparov, and Ignatius Leong, by ferry from Macau to Hong Kong.'


2014-01-04: Kasparov Reaches Out in Korea • 'invitation to Kasparov to visit Korea on 26-28 December'

2014-01-01: Chess legend Kasparov delighted with Omani hospitality • 'Muscat: Russian chess legend Garry Kasparov, who landed in Muscat late on Monday night on a private visit, said he is delighted to be in the Sultanate'

In my next post, I'll cover Kasparov's trips in the first half of 2014. • TMER : Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

04 January 2015

London Chess and Education Conference 2014

Three videos in one week on this blog? Yes, because it couldn't be helped. First we had Chess and EEG, because 'brainwaves being harnessed' was too good to ignore. Then we had Magnus vs. the Hustlers, because how can you have a Video Friday without a video. Now we have the clip shown below, because today the 'Chess in School' series, last seen in FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014, is at bat.

A year ago I posted 'Chess in School' Is Sociable, featuring a clip from the 'London Chess and Education Conference 2013'. The current video is about the recently concluded 2014 edition of the same event. That's the 'LCEC' in the video's title.

KVDC LCEC 2014 Malcolm Pein opening conference (5:53) • 'Published on Dec 26, 2014'

For more information, including links to the conference home page and to other videos from the 2014 event, see the 'Sociable' post mentioned above. The links are exactly the same.

02 January 2015

Magnus vs. the Hustlers

This clip looks to be a few years old, but I had never seen it before. Magnus said,

Espen [Agdestein; FM; FIDE 2372] is not a bad player, but he got completely crushed. I needed to restore the honor of Norwegians.

Original source unknown.

Magnus Carlsen Destroys NY Street Chess Hustlers (1:47) • 'They had no idea who he was.'


Later: In a comment to this post, Macauley Peterson of chess24.com gave details on the original source of the Youtube clip. He also provided two links:-

Although it's been less than a day since I posted the link to the video, the post has received more than ten times the views I normally get on the first day of a new post. I'm baffled!

01 January 2015

Happy 2015!


After spending last year on my World Championship Blog, the annual New Year's greeting returns to its spiritual home. Best wishes to all!