30 June 2015

Six Times U.S. Champ

Walter Browne (1949-2015) won the U.S. Chess Championships (Closed/Invitational) six times -- three times consecutively outright; 1974, 1975, 1977; and three times consecutively shared: 1980, 1981, 1983. It could have been seven times consecutively, but he failed to play in 1978, quitting the tournament just before the first round in a dispute over lighting.

The photo below appeared 40 years ago to the day. The caption on my copy is blurred, but I think it says 'AP'.

Trophy: '1975 United States Chess Champion'

The caption read,

Oberlin, Ohio, June 30 -- TWO-TIME CHAMP • Walter Browne, 26, of Berkeley, Calif., won the U.S. chess championship Saturday for the second year in a row. The board shows his final game, a draw with Kim Commons. But it was Sunday before he and other players in the nearly month-long competition in Oberlin, Ohio, knew the outcome. He played his last game a day early because of a conflicting commitment for Sunday, when the pack finished.

For an earlier photo of Browne on this blog, see Name that Player.

29 June 2015

Searching for Fritz

How can I follow-up my post on the Origin of 'Chess Engine'? Using the techniques described in Early Chess Newsgroups, I looked for early mentions of a name that has been nearly synonymous with 'chess engine' for more than 20 years: Fritz. My searches were hampered by a chronic problem producing the message, 'There was an error performing the search. Please try again later', so something might be missing. Here's a sample of what I learned:-

  • 1991-06-28: Games of the 1991 AEGON Tournament • 'E. Blokhuis - Fritz...'
  • 1991-07-19: Commercial Chess Programs • 'Fritz. Yet to be released ChessBase compatible program.'
  • 1992-03-15: Software Reviews • 'Knightstalker: the German version of this program is called "Fritz"'
  • 1992-09-30: ChessBase vs. NICBase • 'Fritz is a chess playing program the engine of which can be used within Chessbase so that at a particular time you can get an analysis of a game you are looking at in the database'
  • 1992-11-30: 7th World Computer Chess Championship / Crosstable • '5 Fritz 2 | Netherlands / Germany | 11w= 8w= 15b+ 9b+ 2w= * 3.5 *'
  • 1992-12-09: Chess computer game... which one? • 'Knightstalker 2 seems to be pretty improved. Also, news has it that Richard Lang is releasing his own PC program - it seems that his employer (Hegener & Glaser, Munich) for whom he wrote the MEPHISTO programs does a fast decline since they bought Fildelity [sic] America and lost a lot of money [...] I think it's now called Fritz II'
  • 1992-12-27: Softwares & Ratings! • 'Fritz II and Zarkov 2.6 are strong chess programs that you're unlikely to find in computer stores. [...] I supplemented my Mac with a PC is for MChess (Pro), RexChess, Zarkov, and Fritz (II)'
  • 1993-01-09: Chess Computer Ratings • 'Someone has asked for a list of chess computer ratings. [...] 28. Fritz AT 80486 (PC) 2.158'
  • 1993-01-21: pc chess programs • 'Anand reached only 70 percent against Fritz 2 on 486, recently.'
  • 1993-02-11: chess program speed • 'Fritz (=Knightstalker) [...] Fritz2 (successor of Fritz)'
  • 1993-02-15: Some chess program news • 'an informal blitz match between GM Kasparov and Fritz 2 (i486/33 4MB) ended 26:11 (+24 =4 -9) [...] newest ratings for some PC programs from the Swedish list'
  • 1993-05-05: AEGON TOURNAMENT • 'A huge number of top micros are entered, including 2 versions of Zarkov, 4 versions of the Chess Machine, Fritz II, Mephisto, MChess Pro, 3 different Saiteks, Socrates II, Chess Genius, Mephisto RISC, and many others.'
  • 1993-05-10: COMPUTERS ELO LIST • 'I post this list in accordance to the various requests of a bigger list. [...] 22 Fritz 2 486dx 50 8 8 22.1 2240; 23 Fritz 2 486dx 33 4 4 15.2 2200'
  • 1993-05-13: Aegon computer-human tournament result • 'These are the results of the 8th anual aegon computer chess tournament held in Voorburg (The Hague) The Netherlands.'
  • 1993-09-13: FritzII strength? Comments? • 'KightStalker [sic] is the US version of Fritz, the predecessor of FritzII.'
  • 1994-05-22: Kasparov (funny game, played in german television) • 'Kasparov was guest in german television (ZDF Sportstudio) and played the following game against Fritz3 running on a pentium'
  • 1994-05-30: Fritz3's performance looks a little less impressive • 'PCA Munich Blitz Tournament: I am absolutely astonished to learn tonight that the players played Fritz3 in this tournament at a computer terminal.'; M.D.Crowther

The entries for 1993-02-15 and 1994-05-22 indicate that Kasparov was routinely hired to promote important milestones in the evolution of Fritz. Using my page Garry Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1973-) as a reference, here's what I found:-
1992-12 Match vs. Fritz 2, Cologne • +26-11=3 (?)
1994-05 Intel Express Challenge (Blitz), Munich • 1-2/18, +12-4=1
1994-05 Intel Express Challenge (Blitz) - Playoff vs. Fritz, Munich • +3-0=2
1995-12 Match vs. Fritz4, London • +1-0=1
1999-03 Simul and Rapidplay (15') vs. Fritz, CeBit, Hannover • S:? F:+0-0=2
2003-11 X3D Match w/ Fritz, New York USA • +1-1=2

From this I would guess that Fritz4 was released end-1995, a conjecture I'll leave for another time. Other keywords for further research: Aegon, ChessBase (& other databases), World Computer Championship, Computer Ratings.

28 June 2015

Baffled by 'Wot Not'

Sometimes the items featured here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price aren't at all something that interests me, but if it's related to chess, it gets its moment of glory. For this current post I would rather have featured an Irving Amen woodcut. Since the artist appeared a few years ago in Chess Art? Amen!, I went for a couple of dollhouse items.

The item on the left, titled 'Vintage EUGENE KUPJACK Georgian SILVER Dollhouse MINIATURE CHESS BOARD SET', sold for US $558.88 after 24 bids from five bidders. The item on the right, titled 'ANTIQUE NAPOLEONIC MINIATURE CARVED WOT NOT PRISONER WAR DOLL HOUSE CHESS TABLE', sold for US $600.00 after a single bid.

As for the descriptions...

Left: Selling a nice collection of hand crafted silver dollhouse miniature accessories made by the worlds foremost miniaturist, Eugene Kupjack. They are circa 1770s with a Georgian period style and design -- all solid silver with original rhodium plating to preserve the bright finish. This is an 18th cent. chess board set -- comes with a wooden checkerboard pattern game board and 31 chess pieces (1 missing, replaced with a little cup) the playing pieces include Knights on horseback. One set is tinted a copper color. All complete and intact with no excessive wear or damages -- some of the pieces were glued to the board and are still attached, others are loose. The game board is about 1 1/2" x 1 1/4". Cant find the EK mark. Great for a period dollhouse miniature diorama or room.

Right: Superb & Highly Intricate Napoleonic Miniature "Wot Not". Wonderful Chess table, early 19th Century prisoner of war work miniature, ingeniously turned & carved from used camp soup & mutton bones with beautiful, pierced fret work panel doors all in perfect miniature & beautiful from any angle. Outstanding craftsmanship & incredibly intricate. The skill, patience & man hours required to create such an item from such humble materials is truly breathtaking. The entire piece is pegged & fixed by hand to ensure the pieces remain in position & they are still here to this day. The fret work pierced centre door opens & closes perfectly. The pierced, reticulated design, is again highly complex & intricate. Original finish throughout & a particularly fine, early example. 6 cm tall x 4.2 cm wide.

...Challenged by metric conversions? Then I guess you're not a dollhouse collector either (1" = 2.5 cm). As for the meaning of 'Wot Not', I'm baffled.

26 June 2015

Trustworthy Videos?

For this edition of Video Friday, I had a good selection for my short list, but my first picks fizzled.

  • Chess: A Growing Force for a Changing World, Adarsh Jayakumar, TEDxCornell, started well, but the speaker's message just didn't work for me.

  • BBC - How to Play Chess Properly, with Short changing his Knight to a unicorn and Kasparov trying to change his Rook to the same, had some good moments, but was spoiled at the end when someone added an inappropriate message regarding 9/11.

  • Play Like Tal - Sunday Chess TV, with GM Simon Willams explaining one of Tal's best games from his first match against Botvinnik, was obviously taken from another (unattributed) source.

My next choice was the following clip.

Hungarian chess teacher eyes world record (0:55) • 'A chess teacher in Budapest is hoping to win the world record for playing the most games simultaneously'

By coincidence, I had just read Gone missing from the Streatham & Brixton blog, which starts, 'Who's Brigitta Sinka?', and then raises some interesting questions. If you can't trust 'an 87-year-old grandmother', who can you trust?


Later: That was a great choice for a post titled 'Trustworthy Videos?'. When I run the embedded clip, it tells me,

This video contains content from AFP who has blocked it from display on this website.
AFP is Agence France Presse. I should have titled the post 'Untrustworthy Videos'.

25 June 2015

Origin of PGN

Anyone who collects computerized chess games knows the importance of Portable Game Notation (PGN). In The Rise of Internet Chess, I included it as the third major topic:-

It may seem unusual to include PGN in an account of Internet chess. The moves of a chess game are easy to digitalize, and the Internet made the data easy to transfer. Before PGN, every chess software vendor had a different way of encoding chess data. PGN, developed in 1993 by Steven J. Edwards, was discussed and disseminated via rec.games.chess (rgc). It became an immediate success because, as a readable text format, it satisfied the needs of people as well as of computers.

My recent post, Early Chess Newsgroups, motivated me to take another look at the birth of PGN, 'developed in 1993 by Steven J. Edwards'. The work started in 1992, and is documented in a series of rgc posts written by Edwards himself. The PGN development was preceded by work on other aspects of chess transmission by digital encoding. • New and improved SAN Kit chess source kit available (September 1992):-

The SAN Kit is designed to help chess software efforts by providing common routines for move notation I/O, move generation, move execution, and various useful position manipulation services. [...] Acronyms:

SAN: Standard Algebraic Notation. This is a notational system for recording chess moves based upon the FIDE Laws of Chess used worldwide. It is the same as FAN (Figurine Algebraic Notation) except that ASCII piece letters are substituted for piece figurines. [...]

FEN: Forsyth-Edwards Notation. While SAN is used for universal move representation, FEN is used to describe a position. It is based on the 19th century Forsyth system used in the United Kingdom with some extensions of my own for giving extra information about a position. This extra information includes: the active color, the castling availability (if any), the en passant target square (if any), the count of halfmoves since the last irreversible move, and the fullmove number. [...]

ICC: Intermachine Chess Communication. This is a standard for linking various chess software programs together. It is both a language and a communication protocol that will allow simplified communication among chessplaying programs, chess position repositories, chess opening libraries, and human interface systems. Using SAN and FEN, the ICC standard will be both easily readable by humans and machines. [...]

The PGN work followed shortly. It coincided with the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch, aka FS II. • PGN: FS II games 1..23 in proposed ASCII portable format (November 1992):-

The SAN Kit currently has source code support for both SAN (Standard Algebraic Notation) representing chess moves and FEN (Forsyth-Edwards Notation) representing chess positions. The current direction of the work is towards developing a standard, portable representation for entire games (and lists of games). Unless someone comes up with something better, I'm going to call this yet to be fully developed scheme PGN (Portable Game Notation). There are four main goals for the PGN design:

1) The design should be reasonably complete [...]
2) The design should be truly portable [...]
3) The design should be intelligible by humans without extensive training in deciphering [...]
4) The design should be intelligible by computer programs without extensive coding effort [...]

The following list in PGN gives the first twenty three games of the Fischer-Spassky II match.

Those 23 games were given in a format remarkably similar to the PGN used today. The most important difference was the lack of a '[Result]' tag. Here are two more rgc posts by Edwards from the end of 1992, documenting the progress of the standard.

Over the next months, Edwards and other rgc users provided files of games in PGN format. A formal specification was issued at the end of the following year.

Discussions of the standard continued until the end of the year. In 1994 PGN use increased dramatically, making it the dominant method of transmitting chess game scores. I'll cover that evolution in a future post.

23 June 2015

Early Chess Newsgroups

In a recent post, Early Chess on the Web, I documented some methods for finding 1990s(++) web pages. Then in Origin of 'Chess Engine', I extended one of those methods to answer a 1990s-era question. One more method should be documented : finding 1990s forum-style discussions, i.e. navigating the newsgroups. The history of those early forums is described in Wikipedia under Usenet Newsgroup and Google Groups.

Like other early Internet archives, some unknown percentage of the original content has been lost, but the remainder provides answers to basic research questions. The grandfather of the chess newsgroups is rec.games.chess (rgc). The earliest post I can find is from


I would like to have a source for chess programs. Please e-mail if you have an accesss to a public domain one. • Chess programs wanted (December 1986).

In 1995, rgc was split into four newsgroups, named 'rec.games.chess.*'. The main newsgroup was


Then when do people move to rec.games.chess.misc? -- Update you .newsrc file or check you site. The rec.games.chess.* hierarchy is up and flowing! • The split has been approved (June 1995)

The three other newsgroups created at the same time were:-

Of the alternative newsgroups, I've already used the most important in the 'Origin of Chess Engine' post, aka gnu.chess. The earliest surviving post here is


At S.C.'s request, I have updated the /u/emacs/gnuchess.tar.Z file on prep to his current version ftp'd from venera.isi.edu. • gnu chess updated (December 1988)

And that's pretty much everything it takes to start exploring the newsgroups. I'll be using these tools in a few future posts related to the history of chess computing.

22 June 2015

Origin of 'Chess Engine'

Let's take a break from the 'Going Mobile' posts, last seen in Going Mobile : CFAA Site, and return to the topic of chess engines, last seen in Label 'Engines' (May 2015). Ever since I wrote that post, I've been wondering about the phrase 'chess engine', as opposed to 'chess computer', 'chess program', or 'chess software'. How long has the term 'chess engine' been in use?

In another recent post, Early Chess on the Web, I mentioned a resource that might let me answer this question: 'The rec.games.chess newsgroups help fill in the blanks.' It didn't take long to locate the earliest mention of 'chess engine' in rec.games.chess:-

I've always figured that I'd use gnuchess for the chess engine -- but I don't have an interface description for gnuchessr. • Need gchessr interface description (October 1991)

Since the term 'gnuchess' isn't exactly a household word, here's what Wikipedia has to say:-

GNU Chess is a free software chess engine which plays a full game of chess against a human being or other computer program. The goal of GNU Chess is to serve as a basis for research. It has been used in numerous research contexts. [...] The first version of GNU Chess was written by Stuart Cracraft. Having started in 1984 in collaboration with Richard Stallman prior to his founding of the GNU project, GNU Chess became one of the first parts of GNU. • GNU Chess

It turns out that gnuchess had its own newsgroup, one that was also active in the early days of the Internet. The query Topic search results for engine AND before:1992/01/01 in gnu.chess returns five posts, of which only two are for 'chess engine', the post mentioned above and this one:-

I suggested he turn it in to a chesstool clone, and use gnuchessn as the chess engine. • Chesstool interface (May 1991)

From this I can say with some confidence that the term 'chess engine', as opposed to 'chess interface', dates back to 1991. As for 'chesstool', I have no idea what it means, and will save that topic for another time.

21 June 2015

Chess Curriculum Inventory

I ended my previous Chess in School post, 'Chess Curriculum No.6', saying,

Now that I have six different examples of a chess curriculum, it's time to compare them. That will be a separate exercise.

Following is an inventory of the documents identified in each of four previous posts, using the following structure:-

Title • Author • Number of pages • Filename

Chess Curriculum (26 April 2015)

No.1: ChessKid.com Curriculum - Welcome & Introduction • Daniel Rensch, Co-Director of Content and Professional Relations • 12 pages (Introduction.pdf) • ChessKid_Curriculum.zip (-> Directory:ChessKid_Curriculum -> 5 Subdirectories = 22 PDF documents)

No.2: Teaching Chess the Easy and Fun Way with Mini-Games • Kathy Price, Andre E. Zupans • 84 pages • Randolph-TeachingChesstheEasyFunWaywithMiniGames.pdf

No.3: Think Like A King - A Curriculum Guide for Scholastic Chess • David MacEnulty • 21 pages • school chess curriculum guide.pdf

Not mentioned in the original post:- Highland Park / PDF:-
No.4: CURRICULUM FOR BEGINNERS AND INTERMEDIATES, Highland Park Scholastic Chess • Jerry Neugarten • 36 pages • HighlandParkCurriculum.pdf

[For further investigation:-
Chess Training Program for Teachers • Susan Polgar • 62 pages • SPF_Training_Program_for_Teachers.pdf
Chess Lesson Plans for Teachers • FIDE • 6 pages • chess_lesson_plans_for_teachers.pdf ]

S.Polgar Chess Curriculum (10 May 2015)

No.5: Chess Training Guide for Teachers and Parents • Susan Polgar • 65 pages • chess-training-guide.pdf

FIDE Chess Curriculum (24 May 2015)

No.6: Kulac Teacher Guide • Olgun Kulac • 169 pages • kutgen2014_03.pdf

No.7: ELEMENTARY LEVEL - CHESS CLASS BOOK • Olgun Kulac • 176 pages • kuy1_2014_en.pdf

Chess Curriculum No.6 (07 June 2015; ChessCafe / ChessEDU)

No.8: ChessEdu.org - White Belt Chess Curriculum • Mark C. Donlan • 208 pages • curriculum_wbv2.pdf

That makes four posts, seven (not six) resources, eight documents. What chess wisdom do the documents contain? I'll look at that in my next post.

19 June 2015

Sand Dudes Play Chess

This photo's EXIF data points to El Cerro, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. So what is that, anyway, a sand sculpture?

Chess players © Flickr user re_p_g_c under Creative Commons.

A different Flickr photo of a similar subject (with better lighting), signed Arnie Rose, tells us,

At first glance, I thought this was a very impressive sand sculpture, but then the figures moved, ever-so-slightly. The entire set is covered in a sand finish and the two "actors" are also covered in a sand-based make-up of some sort.

The box on the ground is for 'Tips'. Knights before Bishops?

18 June 2015

Early Web Chess History and Graphics

It's all very nice and all, knowing how to discover sites about Early Chess on the Web, but what real value does it have? One good example is from my page on C17: Zonal Qualifiers 1995-1997, where I managed to locate a copy of the 'Regulations for the 1997/8 World Championship', which in turn let me determine how the different participants qualifed for the event.

With creative use of Archive.org's asterisk ('*') feature, it's easy to find related pages on the same domain. For example, GM Ian Rogers' report on Events of Day 1 / Round 1 starts,

The first day of FIDE's new World Championship in Groningen saw most of the top seeds struggling to show their superiority, with the spectators treated to a full quotient of hard-fought, high-level games.

Another good example is just browsing the many early web sites that have long since disappeared. Like many people, I'm particularly interested in images related to chess. In an early incarnation of Archive.org, most images on an archived page weren't displayed, but this has long since been remedied.

I found ('rediscovered') an early version of the Diaz Cartoons, which are now featured on Chessvibes.com. Another page which I hadn't seen before is La galerie des dessins et caricatures de Eric Petit

These low resolution drawings and cartoons are free for use on the web. (Mention the author Eric Petit. A link to this gallery would be appreciated.)

Thanks, Eric. Will do!

SportsVerlag designs No.4

I was particularly happy to rediscover Alan Cowderoy's Chess Graphics 'a collection devoted to all aspects of chess graphics', a wonderful site on its own for browsing. If the image in the upper right corner looks familiar, I chose it as the logo for my site on the World Chess Championship back in 1997. For more about the early days of chess on the web, see my page on The Rise of Internet Chess.

16 June 2015

Early Chess on the Web

In recent months I've twice used Archive.org as the source for posts related to historical web sites -- Soltis's Sites and Chesscafe.com 2015 -- i.e. 'ancient' chess on the web. Since I'm using the same resource for a series of posts on my World Championship blog -- where Zonal Qualifiers C17 (1997 Groningen) is the latest example -- this post is a summary of the technique I use for the basic research.

An Archive.org search starts with an early chess directory. One of the first was Chess-space.com, for which two domains were used:-

The given date is the earliest for which Archive.org currently has a record of the domain. An important general directory was Yahoo.com:-

The best early chess-specific directory was probably Chessopolis.com. Here is its list of other chess directories (which has links to the various Chessopolis categories on a sidebar) for research in new directions:-

Another comprehensive source was About.com, originally known as Miningco.com. Along with the other categories from the period 2002-2008, I maintained the last two links given here, which are lists of other chess directories:-

The directories help locate specific chess resources of a certain period which can be explored for info related to a research topic. It should be understood that the pre-2000 record is particularly incomplete and spotty, both for Archive.org and for the various chess directories. The rec.games.chess 'newsgroups' help fill in the blanks. Here is an example of a search related to 1997 Groningen.

These links taken together are just a starting point and provide uncountable useful directions for further exploration. Happy hunting!

15 June 2015

Going Mobile : CFAA Site

After Going Mobile : WCC Zonals, the next step in this little project was to tackle my Chess for All Ages site (CFAA; see the link on the sidebar). Of my various chess sites, this is the one that is most likely to be of interest to a mobile user.

Since it was already clear to me that the table-based CFAA site would require extensive redesign to be 'mobile-friendly', I limited the global change to setting the viewport. The update to the titles can wait for a future change. When I ran the updated 'Welcome' page -- one of the simplest page pages on the site -- through the Google test on m-w.com/aboutcom, I received the expected 'Not mobile-friendly' message:-

Page appears not mobile-friendly
- Content wider than screen
- Links too close together

A previous post, Going Mobile : Responsive Design, had predicted the result. From that post I also knew the remedy:-

It's obvious that I can improve the look of both sites with just a few simple changes. The big Adsense banners, which serve mainly as counters, can be reduced in importance, and the CFAA logo can be reduced in size. I'll work on a different look for both pages and present the result in a future post.

Although I have a few ideas for a different look, I haven't yet hit on a satisfactory solution. What to do next?

14 June 2015

Capablanca to His Son

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, Capablanca autographs aren't exactly a novelty. Last year we saw Capablanca Letters++, and a few years earlier Capablanca Signs His Feet. Why feature another? Because it was the *only* item over the past fortnight that made my short list.

The eBay listing was titled 'Cuba World Chess Champion Capablanca Signed Autograph Book', subtitled 'dedicated book to his son Raul'. It sold for around $1000, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description added only,

Book (GLORIAS DEL TABLERO) signed by Capablanca dedicated to his son Raul.

plus some biographical info about Capablanca copied from Wikipedia. The real Wikipedia page tells us,

In December 1921, shortly after becoming World Champion, Capablanca married Gloria Simoni Betancourt. They had a son, José Raúl Jr., in 1923 and a daughter, Gloria, in 1925. According to Capablanca's second wife, Olga, his first marriage broke down fairly soon, and he and Gloria had affairs. • José Raúl Capablanca

Various web references tell us that Glorias del tablero : "Capablanca" was authored by Jose A. Gelabert, ex-president of the Havana chess club, and published at Havana in 1924.

12 June 2015

Fake Off Chess Battle

This clip's description added,

The next-generation talent show returns with cutting-edge acts joining the Fake Off community, weaving iconic pop culture moments into groundbreaking performances. "Faking" themes from the Wild West to '90s nostalgia, the teams mix theater, acrobatics, aerial stunts and illusion into spectacles that dare to make history by re-imagining it.

A couple of the comments noted, 'Q: Can someone tell me the song they used? A: It's a dubstep mix of the "Figaro" song from the opera "Barber of Seville"'

Fake Off - Chess Battle Comes To Life (Academy Of Villains) (3:20) • 'The Academy Of Villains go to war against each other as they interpret games of strategy.'

Need help getting up to speed on that?

Fake Off [Wikipedia]: 'Fake Off is a reality competition where groups of performers recreate and re-imagine moments from pop culture in spectacular 90-second routines.(e.g. movies, event, tv show etc.) The teams use a diverse range of stage disciples including Black Light Theatre, Projection Mapping, Puppetry and Dance. The term "Faking" is used to describe the act of recreating an iconic moment.'

Academy Of Villains [academyofvillains.com]: Established in 2009, Academy of Villains is a theatrical dance company known for story-telling, incredibly intense choreography, and jaw-dropping stunts.Their mission is to inspire others by fusing dance with the notion of magic.

Dubstep [Wikipedia]: 'Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London, England. It emerged in the late 1990s as a development within a lineage of related styles such as 2-step garage, broken beat, drum and bass, jungle, dub and reggae.'

'Here we go, faking games of strategy...'

11 June 2015

Chesscafe.com 2015

Last year, in Chesscafe.com (July 2014), I reported on significant downtime at the site bearing that name. Now the site is down again. From On Hiatus:-

We would like to thank those who have supported ChessCafe with a purchase of product and subsequent membership. However, subscriptions have fallen just shy of what is needed to maintain our stable of great columnists. Therefore, we are taking a three-month hiatus from posting new content.

Since no one stops when they're 'just shy' of a goal, and since 'subscriptions' aren't likely to increase without new content, it appears that ChessCafe's business model -- content fueling online sales -- has fallen on hard times. Is the site another victim of Chess.com's runaway success? Let's go back to an early version.

Archive.org, December 1996

The page continued,

Welcome to The Chess Cafe, and to the Chess Cafe Boutique of Selected Chess Items Here for your education and entertainment, Russell Enterprises, Inc. presents a carefully chosen selection of materials of interest to the international chess community. New material will be presented every Wednesday, so check back frequently.

Special inclusions are "The Kibitzer", an exclusive column by Tim Harding, "Dutch Treat", a current issue column by Hans Ree, and our monthly Chronicles and Game taken from the 1996 International Chess Calendar in our What's New section.

We welcome your comments, suggestions, contributions - you may use our on-line Contact Form to reach us directly. Enjoy browsing!

Will this be another example of Soltis's Sites?

09 June 2015

The Trainers’ Tree

It must be the competitive nature of chess that leads to so many awards being made for various niche activities. Last month we saw the 2015 CJA Awards Announcement and the USCF Awards. Now we have the FIDE Trainer Awards 2014 [fide.com], where we learn that 'The FIDE Trainers’ Commission (TRG) is pleased to announce the seventh FIDE Trainer Awards Results for 2014.'

The announcement also tells us, 'The winner of each of the six categories will receive a diploma and the following trophy, made by the famous Ukrainian artist Volodymyr Odrehivskyj'. I've copied a photo of the trophy, called The Tree of Chess, to the left.

Besides five categories of trainer -- Men, Women, Juniors, Special Achievement, and Education (more explanation needed on those last two) -- there is an Isaac Boleslavsky award for Author and a Hall of Fame award. The winners of the author award to date have been

Aagaard Jacob (DEN), 2011; Bosch Jeroen (NED), 2012; Dvoretsky Mark (RUS), 2010; Grivas Efstratios (GRE), 2009; Jussupow Artur (GER), 2008; Mikhalchishin Adrian (SLO), 2014; Sosonko Genna (NED), 2013

For 2014, the 'Rest of the Nominees (in voted order)' were: S.Palatnik (USA), V.Tukmakov (UKR), M.Krasenkow (POL), A.Kuzmin (RUS). The winners of the Hall of Fame (HOF) award have been

Boleslavsky Issac (URS), 2008; Bondarevsky Igor (URS), 2009; Borisenko Georg (URS), 2012; Botvinnik Mikhail (URS), 2008; Bykhovsky Anatoly (RUS), 2009; Chebanenko Vyachaslev (MOL), 2010; Collins Jack (USA), 2011; Dementiev Oleg (URS), 2013; Evans Larry (USA), 2014; Furman Sumeon (URS), 2009; Geller Efim (URS), 2008; Gurgenidze Bukhuti (GEO), 2008; Kapengut Albert (USA), 2013; Kart Viktor (UKR), 2008; Koblenz Aleksandr (LAT), 2010; Krnic Zdenko (SRB), 2012; Kupreichik Viktor (BLR), 2012; Lombardy William (USA), 2014; Maric Rudolf (YUG), 2013; Nikitin Aleksandr (RUS), 2008; Panchenko Alexandr (RUS), 2014; Podgaets Mikhail (UKR), 2011; Razuvaev Yuri (RUS), 2011; Samarian Sergiu (ROM), 2008; Shamkovich Leonid (USA), 2011; Simkin Yuri (UKR), 2013; Zaitsev Igor (RUS), 2010;

For 2014, the 'Rest' were: V.Zheliandinov (URS), A.Cherepkov (URS), Y.Zakharov (URS), B.Katalymov (KAZ), M.Trosman (USA). Given minimum three awards per year, we can assume the rest will receive their HOF awards in the next few years.

I was surprised to see so many Americans in the HOF list -- Collins, Evans, Kapengut, Lombardy, and Shamkovich -- not all of them known for chess training. Perhaps this is an indication that the awards are sometimes given for political reasons. This is FIDE, after all.

08 June 2015

Going Mobile : WCC Zonals

Although I ended the previous post on the subject, Going Mobile : WCC Site, with the promise 'More tests to follow...', my first action was to make the same changes -- title & viewport -- on my zonal pages. There are currently around 40 pages in this topic, which is stored in its own directory.

The 'mobile-friendly' tests on the updated pages were not encouraging. The index page, World Chess Championship Zonals, received a rating of 'Not mobile-friendly' (see google.com/ webmasters/ ...wcc-zonl), as did the most recent page on a single cycle, C26: Zonals 2012-2013. Only the associated page, C26: Zonal Qualifiers, merited the welcome message, 'Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.' It was time to dig a little deeper.

Going back to the updates for 'WCC Site', I had noted that the three index pages, while all having a similar structure, don't all pass the mobile-friendly test. After a few simple tests, I discovered that the table-based structure was itself the issue. In brief, mobile devices don't display tables very well. Large tables must be scrolled both horizontally and vertically, which requires two hands, but mobile users often work with a single hand. In fact, on top of the small screen, this is one of the most important constraints in mobile design -- mobile users don't want to use two hands -- which is why the pinch and zoom operations to navigate a non-mobile page get thumbs-down on the mobile-friendly tests.

The next set of mobile updates will be for my About.com material. Since these pages also use a table-based structure, I'm not expecting much joy.

07 June 2015

Chess Curriculum No.6

I ended the post on the FIDE Chess Curriculum with a further action,

Now that I've rounded up the five curricula (curriculums) identified in my initial post, there are two more that deserve a look: (1) from the Kasparov Chess Foundation and (2) from Chess Cafe.

The curriculum from the Kasparov Chess Foundation is described under the 'Programs' tab.

KCF Curriculum Program: KCF’s curriculum program provides public, private, and home schoolers with instructional books to help them master the game. The three-volume book set is in use by more than 3,500 schools, across all 50 states, as well as in a number of foreign countries.

Ordering instructions are under an 'Order Our Books' link on every page. The three books are currently offered for $49.90 plaus shipping, except 'For schools that wish to receive a complimentary set of three books...'. The three books are also available elsewhere, for example, Teaching Chess Step by Step, 'The Kasparov Chess Foundation (three-volume Series) by Igor Khmelnitsky, Michael Khodarkovsky and Michael Zadorozny' [russell-enterprises.com]. Since I'm not a school and I don't want to shell out $60 for an unknown product when there are so many alternatives available, I'll move on.

The curriculum from Chess Cafe ('Download a free curriculum at Chessedu.org') points to ChessEDU, where we learn,

The ChessEdu.org curriculum is designed to use chess as a tool for teaching problem-solving, creative thinking, and abstract reasoning in a classroom setting, be it in a public or private school, home school or other institution, or for personal use.

The 'Curriculum' tab asks for an email address plus basic info, then informs, 'Your message was sent successfully. Thanks. The link to the file(s) has been emailed to you.' The email carries the further message, 'Here is the download for ChessEdu.org White Belt Curriculum that you requested.'

Now that I have six different examples of a chess curriculum, it's time to compare them. That will be a separate exercise.

05 June 2015

Chess Board, 11 x 6

There is just enough info for this photo to determine that it is the photographer's own painting.

Three Men Playing Chess © Flickr user Michael Pracht under Creative Commons.

See, for example, Paintings by Michael Pracht, also on Flickr.com.

04 June 2015

Photos of Suetin

Think of a Soviet GM -- any GM from the Soviet era. I bet you didn't think of GM Alexey Suetin (Aleksei; 1926-2001), seen just a few days ago in June 1965 'On the Cover'. I realized he was one of the least known Soviet GMs when I looked for a photo of him on the web and found next to nothing. Such is the fate of Soviet GMs who never advanced to the Interzonal stage of a World Championship. I searched my archive of eBay images and found three photos, one of which is shown below.

The auction's description said,

Original vintage 5" x 7" (approx) promotional photo... Spanish chess champion Arturo Pomar and Russian champion Alexei Suetin in "VII Capablanca in Memoriam" La Havana Cuba 1969... In good condition, considering its age. This photo and items in this auction come from the state of Rodolfo Santovenia, a Cuban journalist and chess lover... Worked in "Bohemia", leading Cuban magazine from 1950's to 1970's... Some of thee photos have been in storage about 40 to 50 years, but all are in mint condition. Some notation on verso by the owner with date.

Other posts on this blog where Suetin played a role:-

The Fizkultura i Sport black book has a dozen photos of Suetin, including another shot from the tournament in Havana. Back to the photo shown above, that looks like J.H.Donner leaning on the table. For a crosstable of the tournament, where Suetin shared first, see Havana 1969 [thechesslibrary.com].

02 June 2015

June 1965 'On the Cover'

In 2015, how many knowledgeable chess fans would recognize these two chess personalities from 50 years ago?

Left: 'U.S. Amateur Champion'
Right: 'New Old Russian Luminary'

Chess Life

The new United States Amateur Chess Champion is Frank Street, a 20-year-old Expert from Washington, D.C. Street posted a score of 6.5-0.5 to finish on top of a record-smashing field of 242 players at New York's Henry Hudson Hotel over the Memorial Day weekend.

The CL U.S. Amateur cover echoes the theme from a year earlier: June 1964 'On the Cover'. Inside the magazine we learn, 'The 1965 Amateur had the largest turnout of any weekend tournament in the U.S. so far. The previous record (224) was established at the Eastern Open in Washington D.C. in 1963.'

Chess Review

Alexander Suetin of the USSR, long a grandmaster annotator, has just won the FIDE grandmaster title at Sarajevo as Dr. Petar Trifunovich relates in our July issue.

For more about Suetin, see Alexey Suetin [Wikipedia].

01 June 2015

Going Mobile : WCC Site

Continuing with Going Mobile : The Viewport, I made the required changes to almost 450 pages on my site for the World Chess Championship. As long as I was making a global change -- the first since Bye, Bye, About.com! -- I also changed the title on all pages.

The old titles had info about the site first, followed by info about the page, e.g. 'World Chess Championship : Index'. This worked in the days before tabbed browsers, when the title of the page was the title displayed for the window. With more modern browsers, the title is displayed on the tab and is often truncated when there are many tabs. Showing info about the page first, e.g. 'Index : World Chess Championship', means the titles on the tabs are more likely to be different when there are several tabs open for the same site. The new page headers look something like this:-

[TITLE]Index : World Chess Championship[/TITLE]
[meta name=viewport content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1"]

After making the changes, I checked some of the pages using Google's 'Mobile-Friendly Test' (mentioned in the 'Going Mobile' post). My 'Index' page still produced the message

Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.

as did most of the other pages I checked, but the two other index pages, FIDE Events 1948-1990 and Pre-FIDE Events, produced a different message,

Page appears not mobile-friendly
- Content wider than screen
- Links too close together

Since those two pages are structured the same as the main 'Index' page, there's more to this than meets the eye (there always is!). More tests to follow...