31 July 2015

Shannon's Number

Published a week ago, already with 232.410 views and 855 comments, this is not your average chess video.

How many chess games are possible? (12:10) • 'Dr James Grime talking about the Shannon Number and other chess stuff.'

The last minute-and-a-half is publicity for a web service. For more about chess and math, see Chess from Wolfram MathWorld


Several chess blogs have posted about the recent announcement that AP makes one million minutes of historical footage available on YouTube. For a search on the videos, see chess : AP Archive.

30 July 2015

What's Hot on CFAA?

Of the first 2000 posts on this blog -- a milestone mentioned in Another 1000 CFAA Posts -- which have been the most popular? Blogger.com (the domain used to manage blogs on blogspot.com) started reporting statistics in May 2010, meaning that I have just over five years of numbers covering all sorts of trivia.

Since most of the ongoing traffic comes from web searches, it's not too surprising that the most popular posts have less to do with chess than with some mainstream topic. The no.1 post on my blog, with more than double the views of no.2, is Access to Referrers, where I analyzed my website's log using MS Access. No.2, with 50% more views than no.3, is Crash Course in Soviet Geography, which features a map of the USSR. No.3, the first real chess post on the list, is Magnus vs. the Hustlers, my first Video Friday post for this year. In a footnote to the post, I commented,

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.

A few days later, the clip was removed from Youtube and replaced with the message 'This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by VGTV'. Since VGTV is hardly a household name, a more productive approach might have been to add a comment to the clip's Youtube page with pertinent details.

Rounding out the top-10 (that's all blogger.com returns in its summary of stats) popular posts, the following all have similar numbers of views.

A few months ago I explored the popularity of 'Top eBay Chess Items' in a pair of Chess Collectors' Corner posts : What's Hot? and What's Not?. What will the next 1000 posts bring? Check back here in four or five years.

28 July 2015

Another 1000 CFAA Posts

Start with My 1000th CFAA Post and add another 1000 posts. What have you got?

Google image search on '2000'

As I explained in 'My 1000th Post' (April 2011), the count might be adjusted for Find Earliest Possible Post (January 2000 ?!), but who's going to pick nits?

27 July 2015

'The Chips Are Down!'

In the previous post, Deep Thought/Blue in the Early 1990s, I looked at what was happening 20+ years ago on the research side of computer chess, but what about the commercial side? One set of clues can be found in the USCF's '1995 Official Catalog', a publication apparently dating to early 1995 (*). The front cover of its 32 pages (counting the covers) is shown below.

Five of the 32 pages dealt with computer chess. The following bullets, all quoted directly from the catalog, list the products that were promoted on each of the five pages.

p.03 1995's Newest Chess Computers

  • A. Ultra-portable Topaz II
  • B. Novag Tourmaline
  • C. Kasparov Travel Champion

p.26 Chess Software

  • A. Fritz3 is killer software!
  • B. Boost your rating by studying with these instructive disks! Chessworks Unlimited offers you hundreds of data files...
  • C. Chessbase for Windows
  • D. Turn Fritz into your openings coach with Power Books!
  • E. DejaVu Chess gives you a database of 350.000 games

p.28-29 Chess Computers for Every Budget

  • A. Stiletto II
  • B. USCF Chess Academy
  • C. Excalibur improves a Legend! [Legend II]
  • D. Kasparov Travel Companion
  • E. Excalibur's travel version of Legend II. Sleek Comet goes anywhere...
  • F. Kasparov Turbo Advanced Trainer
  • G. ECO battery re-charger
  • H. Kasparov President

p.32 The Chips are Down! Novag's 2383 Action-rated Diamond and Sapphire are the Year's Best Buys!

You can now have a strong, master training partner without breaking the bank! Novag's Diamond and Sapphire are officially USCF Action-rated 2383. [...] You can be confident of their USCF 2383 rating. It comes from a 48-game USCF Computer Rating Agency event, witnessed by the public, in which human players with high, officially established USCF ratings -- from Expert to Senior Master -- took on Novag, competing for cash prizes.

I'm not sure that the 'The Chips are Down!' is the best title for a page selling computer chess products, but what do I know about marketing? Back to the catalog cover, the raven-haired woman in the near-center photo is holding a Kasparov Travel Champion. Above her to the right is a Novag Tourmaline, while on the bottom right of the page is a Topaz II. Above that ('Action-rated 2383!') is the left side of a Novag Diamond.

The long explanation on p.32 of the 'USCF 2383 rating' indicates the importance of ratings in choosing a chess computer. I'll look at ratings in my next post in this series.


(*) I have three 1995 USCF catalogs: the 'Official Catalog', the 'Summer Catalog', and the 'Holiday Catalog' (subtitled 'Biggest USCF Catalog Ever!'). The 'Official Catalog' lists 'Searching for Bobby Fischer on Video!' (p.02) as 'Available in April!'; the 'Summer Catalog' lists it (p.29) as a 'Best Seller'; the 'Holiday Catalog' lists 'Kasparov vs. Anand: The Inside Story' by GM Wolff (p.07) as 'Available in November!'.

26 July 2015

Novag Robot Adversary

After a short break from blogging, what better way to get back in the groove than a post on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. Although it's only been a few months since the previous chess computer post -- Mephisto Portorose 68030 -- an item titled 'Novag Robot Adversary chess computer - working' caught my attention.

With a starting price of US $1.00, the machine eventually sold for $1748.48 after 24 bids from eight bidders. Of the 12 photos attached to the item, I thought the following best captured its look.

The description added,

Novag Robot Adversary - in working order. The robotic arm and the inner electronics work perfectly, however the outside is not perfect: there are small scratches and spots on the metal and plastic parts of the machine. The clean plastic dust cover is missing, the power supply is a modern switching PSU replacement (see among the pictures).

The pieces are not original, they are from another computer chess set (perhaps a Mephisto). The kings and the queens are slightly taller than the original ones, therefore the robotic arm can knock them over sometimes when moving neighbouring pieces.

The magnetic piece detection mechanism under the board may needs some contact cleaning: sometimes the detection is uncertain on some fields (the black queen's place for example). If the detection fails, a discrepancy LED lit and one have to lift and put back or slightly swing the piece until the detection is done.

Though the mechanical and electronical parts are in perfect working order, the Robot may need some maintenance due its old age. The machine contains a rechargeable battery soldered on the PCB (I think it is NiCd). I assume that the battery is the original (more than 30 year old) piece, so the replacement is recommended. Also the fine mechanical parts may need some lubrication.

A few days later 'seller added the following information',

Seems like the pieces are the original ones. Someone told me that the Robot would not work with other pieces. I tried it with several other sets and it seems to be true: I am unable to place foreign pieces in the middle of the fields due the magnetic force (maybe the polarisation of the magnets is special). I talked with the same guy and we compared the sizes of the pieces and they were the same as in the original set - the king is 55 mm tall, and the shape of the pieces is the same as well.

More info came in a Q&A.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the history of your machine? Bidders will be most curious about: * How long have you owned it, * How often/much it has been used (hours/games), * And especially has the machine ever been serviced/repaired. • A: I bought it in 2005 from a second-hand dealer, therefore I know nothing about its previous history. The machine shows the signs of heavy usage as you can see on the photos. I guess I played about hundred games on it. Cannot estimate the usage in hours. I never serviced or repaired it, or even opened it.

Chess playing robots are commonplace now -- see, for example, my 2007 post Bughouse for One -- and are often the subject of a student research project. Thirty years ago, things were different.

17 July 2015

Chess with a Cardinal

For the second time in less than a week -- the first was Affluent Gentlemen Playing Chess -- I discovered a painting not listed in Tableaux ayant pour sujet les échecs.

Interior scene with a lady and gentleman playing chess with a cardinal (Roberto Raimondi) © Flickr user Long Tinh under Creative Commons.

Three times lucky?

16 July 2015

Finding an Old Error

While working on Mystery Capablanca Letter, I downloaded all of the games played between Capablanca and Alekhine to see if there were any openings similar to the mystery game. Of the 49 games I found three where the first two moves for both sides matched, but that was it.

As long as I had the games in hand I decided to calculate the overall score between the two players. The results are shown below.

I found it curious that Capablanca lost three games with White during the 1927 Alekhine - Capablanca Title Match: the 1st, 11th, and 21st games. That happened to equal the margin of loss (+6-3=25).

That link leads to my page on the match that says, 'Before the match, the score between the two opponents was +4-1=5 in favor of Capablanca', although the table shows +5-0-7. Ahem! I'd better change that page pronto.

14 July 2015

Mystery Capablanca Letter

In my most recent eBay post, Affluent Gentlemen Playing Chess, I mentioned,

I had the choice between featuring a Capablanca scoresheet or a painting. Since I had a Capablanca item a month ago in 'Capablanca to His Son', I went with the painting.

The Capablanca auction, titled '1909 Juan Raul Capablanca Cuban Chess Champion Signed Chess Sheet' (Juan!), sold for close to US $2000, 'Best offer accepted'. The description added nothing of importance.

The scoresheet is pictured below. Curious as to what the game might be, I transcribed it.

(Click for a larger version)

My transcription of the game, possibly with errors on my part, is given below.

[Event "1909 Game?"]
[Site "Capablanca Letter on Ebay"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "W"]
[Black "B"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Qd4 11.f4 Bc5 12.Rf1 Bb6 13.c3 Qd6 14. b4 Nb7 15.Qa4 Bd7 16.Na3 O-O 17.Nac4 Qc7 18.Nxd7 Nxd7 19.Qc2 Rfe8 20. a4 a5 21.Rb1 Rad8 22.Qb3 Ba7 23.Ba3 axb4 24.cxb4 c5 25.b5 Na5 26.Nxa5 Qxa5 27.Bb2 Nb6 28.Qc3 Qxc3 29.Bxc3 Nxa4 30.Be5 Bb8 31.b6 Re6 32.Bc7 Rf8 33.Bd1 Bxc7 34.bxc7 Rb6 35.Ra1 Nb2 36.Bg4 Rc6 37.c8=Q Rfxc8 38. Bxc8 Rxc8 39.Ke2 Rd8 40.g3 Kh7 41.f5 Nc4 42.Ra2 Rd5 43.g4 Ne5 44.Rf4 Nd3 45.Rf1 Ne5 46.Ra4 c4 47.h3 Nf3 48.Rxc4 Rxd2+ 49.Ke3 Ra2 50.Rd1 Ng5 51.Rd8 Ra3+ 52.Ke2 Ra2+ 53.Ke3 Ra3+ 54.Kd2 g6 55.f6 e3+ 56.Ke2 Ne6 57.Rd7 g5 58.Rxf7+ Kg6 59.Re7 Kxf6 60.Rxe6+ Kxe6 61.Re4+ Kd5 62. Rxe3 Rxe3+ 63.Kxe3 Ke5 0-1

The letter mentions Alekhine and 1909, but the first games between Capablanca and Alekhine date to St.Petersburg 1913. I also couldn't find the game in a historical database, so I don't know who the players were. I don't understand Spanish well enough to decipher Capablanca's brief introduction.

As for the game itself, it appears to be between two good players. White has the advantage throughout much of the middlegame, then stumbles in the endgame, and resigns in a theoretically drawn position.

13 July 2015

Deep Thought/Blue in the Early 1990s

I signed off Computer Chess in the Early 1990s with,

Twenty years ago people still had a fighting chance against a chess playing machine, but that would soon change.

Let's develop an early chronology of the machine that would eventually dethrone the reigning World Champion. From the rec.games.chess newsgroups:-

  • 1989-03-30: Challange Match • M Valvo: 'Now that my match with Deep Thought is winding down...'; Michael Valvo [Wikipedia]
  • 1989-11-01: Kasparov visits Harvard • 'An IBM rep announced that some of the Deep Thought team was going to be working for IBM on a 1 billion moves/sec machine, to challenge Kasparov, who said that when computers got strong enough for him to worry about, he'd take the time to find a way to deal with them - as for now, they're not a threat to the world champion.'
  • 1989-12-14: Levy - Deep Thought (game 4) • 'In the final game, Deep Thought easily defeated David levy to win the match 4-0.'
  • 1990-02-03: Karpov over DT • 'GM Karpov beat Deep Thought tonight at Harvard University in a game with time controls one hour per side.'
  • 1990-10-17: Feng's (Deep Thought) article in Scientific American
  • 1990-11-18: ACM computer chess chp • '21st North American Computer Chess Championship; 1 Deep Thought 4.0; 2 Mephisto 4.0'
  • 1991-03-19: DT2 in Hannover • '"Deep Thought 2 vs. 7 German GMs" at Cebit in Hannover'
  • 1991-11-21: ACM CCC Albuquerque 11/17-11/20 Final Round Comments & Standings • '22nd ACM Computer Chess Championship ... 1 DEEP THOUGHT'
  • 1992-12-12: IBM Deep Blue • '"IBM Deep Blue" will be presented to the world in Copenhagen, Denmark, in February 24-27, 1993' • 1995-01-22: Old Deep Blue News -- since we're all parched • Feng-Hsiung Hsu - 7 Mar 1993: 'Some time in late 1992, IBM Denmark talked with us about arranging chess exhibition matches, possibly in conjunction with IBM Sweden.'
  • 1993-08-22: Deep Blue/J. Polgar • 'IBM's newest chess-playing computer, Deep Blue, scored its biggest victory yet, defeating the world's top-ranked woman chess player in an informal match.'
  • 1993-08-23: Judit Polgar at IBM T. J. Watson • Feng-Hsiung Hsu: 'Danny Edelman of USCF contacted us back in March about a potential match with Judit Polgar.'
  • 1994-02-06: GM Orlov plays Deep Blue? • 'Georgi Orlov of Seattle played an arranged six-game match with Deep Blue.'
  • 1995-05-30: Fritz Wins World Championships! All games from 8WCCC • 'Final Standings: 1 Fritz (4/5, 5/6): Fritz won the title on the playoff versus Star Socrates; 2 Star Socrates (4/5, 4/6); 3-5 Deep Blue Prototype, Frenchess, Junior (3.5/5)'
  • 1995-12-06: Deep Blue vs. Robert Byrne • 'Yesterday, at supercomputing, Deep blue defeated GM Robert Byrne in a mini-match 3.5-.5 they are playing four more games today.'

The first Kasparov - Deep Blue match took place in February 1996.

12 July 2015

Affluent Gentlemen Playing Chess

For this episode of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I had the choice between featuring a Capablanca scoresheet or a painting. Since I had a Capablanca item a month ago in Capablanca to His Son, I went with the painting. The item pictured below, titled 'GEO FOX OIL ON CANVAS OF CHESS PLAYERS Lot 6; Part of a live auction event', started at US $250.00 and eventually sold for US $600.00 after 13 bids.

The description added,

LOT 6 : Seller's Estimate: USD 1,000 - 1,500 • George Fox (BRITISH, 1876 - 1916) oil painting on board depicting two affluent gentleman playing chess in an interior setting. Signed to lower right. Verso of canvas stamped 'PREPARED BY C. RROBERSON & CO.' Mounted in a gilt wooden frame. Measures approx. 12" height x 16" width + 3" frame (30cm x 41cm + 8cm). Total weight approx. 3.5 kilograms.

The painting is missing from Tableaux ayant pour sujet les échecs, indicating that it is not very well known. Just as in a recent post, A One Person Bidding War, the 13 bids were all from a single bidder. I now understand this to be characteristic of a live eBay auction. The bids were undoubtedly entered by the auction house.

10 July 2015

A Chess Player's Best Friends?

From YouTube's 'Yoko Chess' channel...

Official Yoko's Chess Game Trailer (1:03) • 'Free to Download for iOS devices from the App Store...'

...You might have also heard about the game as Yoko Ono Releases Chess App With Dogs as Pieces (although this clip mentions a price). See also Yoko Chess | The Official Website for Yoko's Chess Game. • NB: This is not an endorsement! I just like dogs.

09 July 2015

2015 USCF Executive Board Election

Two years ago I discussed the 2013 USCF Executive Board Election, and last year, with two candidates for two positions, the election was a non-event. This year the candidates were announced some months ago in 2015 Executive Board election candidates (uschess.org; January 2015; USCF membership required to view the original post):-

The following individuals submitted nomination petitions for the 2015 Executive Board election: Randy Bauer, Anjelina Belakovskaia, Charles D. Unruh. Regrettably, Mr. Unruh's submitted petitions fell short of the requirements of Article VI Section 4 of the USCF Bylaws. Therefore, the Election Committee announces that two candidates have qualified for the 2015 USCF Executive Board election.

All three would-be candidates made an appearance later in the thread. Two weeks into the thread, we learned,

Boyd Reed is mounting a write-in campaign. He is well respected and energetic, so he stands a real chance.

Reed made an appearance a few days later, responding to the question,

How does one run a "write-in" campaign?

He answered,

One runs a write-in campaign for the EB the same way one might run a write-in campaign for any other elected position - by contacting voters directly. Meeting people directly, emails, phone calls, Internet discussion and direct mail would be my tools of choice. It is correct that write-in candidates do not get candidate statements in Chess Life. Nor do they appear on the printed ballot. But if it gets more people energized and sufficiently interested to register and vote, the Federation benefits.

Former USCF President Bill Goichberg, a long-time chess insider, weighed in on his website with an opinion piece, The 2015 USCF Executive Board Election (checkmate.us). He recommended,

There are two Executive Board seats to be filled this year, and two candidates on the ballot, Randy Bauer and Anjelina Belakovskaia. Another candidate, Boyd Reed, is campaigning for write-in votes. • I recommend voting for Randy Bauer and writing in Boyd Reed.

As for my vote, I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. Bauer will undoubtedly be re-elected and voters who feel strongly will choose between Belakovskaia and Reed. Since that's fine with me, I won't waste a stamp on returning the ballot.

The results will be announced next month.

07 July 2015

A Different French Connection

On the short list for my most recent Flickr Friday post, The Travelling Chess Statue, was the photo shown below.

Chess, Lorna Simpson, 2013 © Flickr user trevor.patt under Creative Commons.

Trick photography featuring a chess game isn't unusual -- see Photoshopped Chess (January 2014) for another example -- and having nothing else to say about the photo, I passed it by. Before signing off from blogging for the day I browsed through my recent Flickr favorites and discovered a second, similar photo: March 8, 2015, MCA, Chicago. Lorna Simpson’s three-channel video installation Chess (2012). So there was a story here and the common link was 'Lorna Simpson'. A web search showed that the photos were related to a video: Lorna Simpson (2013) on Vimeo.

Whether for still or moving picture productions, Lorna Simpson (b.1960) uses her camera as catalyst to question identity and gender, genres and history, race and class, fact and fiction, memory and meanings. Assumptions of photographic “truth” are challenged and qualified -- indeed redirected -- by the images she creates that are inseparable from the texts she writes to accompany them, by the soundings she chooses for videos, or by her pairings of vintage photographs with newly made renderings. The Jeu de Paume presents Lorna Simpson’s first large-scale exhibition in Europe beginning with her earliest photo-text pieces of the 1980s through her newest video installation, Chess, 2013, which makes its debut in Paris.

The Jeu de Paume reference leads to Lorna Simpson - Jeu de Paume (jeudepaume.org)

Lorna Simpson from 28 May 2013 until 01 September 2013 Concorde, Paris • For her first European exhibition, the Jeu de Paume presents thirty years of Lorna Simpson’s work. For this Afro-American artist, born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960, the synthesis between image and text is profound and intimate. [...] Lorna Simpson became known in the 1980s and 90s for her photographs and films that shook up the conventions of gender, identity, culture and memory.

Old timers might remember that the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume (wikipedia.org), once housed the world's greatest collection of impressionist works, a collection that moved in the 1980s to the Musée d'Orsay (ditto). Now it is an 'arts center for modern and postmodern photography and media' and undoubtedly a prestigious place for an artist to exhibit.

Getting back to Lorna Simpson's work, I wonder how she created the film. That investigation will have to wait for another time.

06 July 2015

Computer Chess in the Early 1990s

When it comes to chess history, it takes some discipline to stay on topic. A simple exercise like Searching for Fritz invaribly leads to other subjects, which lead to others, and before you know it, there's no more time left for the original topic. I try to keep this under control by making a note on the side-topic, then coming back to it when I'm done with the first.

Fritz led to many topics which are worthy of a post, but right now I'm going to concentrate on two: the Aegon tournaments and rating lists. What was Aegon? The page Aegon Tournaments [chessprogramming.wikispaces.com] explains,

The Aegon Man-Machine Tournaments, were initiated and organized by members of the CSVN, Cock de Gorter et al., and hosted by the Aegon insurance company in The Hague, the Netherlands. An equal number of human players and computer chess programs were playing six (1986 seven, 1989 five) rounds of a swiss system, with the constraint of man playing machines only. The Aegon tournament started almost with local chess players and anti-computer chess specialists. Later more and more International Masters and Grandmasters were invited, with increasing costs for the sponsor. Apparently due to the 1997 Kasparov versus Deep Blue match, the 1997 Tournament was the last edition.

A related table lists 12 events played from 1986 to 1997. Here is a sample of the many posts from the rec.games.chess (rgc) newsgroups:-

  • 1990-05-25: Aegon Tournament 1990; Hitech best overall • 'Hitech wins International Chess Tournament; beats former World Candidate [David Bronstein]' by Hans Berliner
  • 1993-05-05: AEGON TOURNAMENT [1993] • '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.'
  • 1997-04-10: Aegon Tournament • 'Below is the press release announcing the 12th Aegon tournament.'
  • 1997-04-11: AEGON 1997 breakdown of opponents • 'THE PROGRAMMES [e.g. Fritz] ... The GM's [e.g. Bronstein]'
  • 1997-11-01: AEGON tournament disappears, do we let this happen? • 'I talked with Cock de Gorter and he confirmed that there will be NO 13th Aegon tournament next year.' by Ed Schroder [Rebel]

The concept of rating lists doesn't require much of an introduction. I started by looking for references to the SSDF [chessprogramming... again] list where,

The SSDF - Svenska schackdatorföreningen, the Swedish Chess Computer Association, is an organization that tests computer chess software by playing chess programs against one another and producing a rating list.

Some early rgc references:-

  • 1992-08-15: Computer Ratings/Versions • 'SSDF is an association of computer chess enthusisiasts, some of which help update the list by playing computer v computer matches.'
  • 1993-10-01: SSDF-Computer List • 'Here is the SSDF-Computer List from 6/93 (taken from German magazine 'Computer, Schach und Spiele' 3/93).'

That first link starts with a discussion of Computer Chess Reports [chessprogramming...], which largely predates rgc:-

An American computer chess periodical published quarterly from 1985 until 1996 by Computer Chess Digest Incorporated associated with ICD Corporation, as successor of the annual Computer Chess Digest, released in 1983 and 1984. Computer Chess Digest was primary edited by Enrique Irazoqui, CCR by Robert Sostack and from 1987 by Larry Kaufman.

From all of the above I noted other topics worthy of a future post. Twenty years ago people still had a fighting chance against a chess playing machine, but that would soon change.

05 July 2015

Chess Curriculum - Short Versions

I ended my previous post, Chess Curriculum Inventory, saying,

That makes four posts, seven resources, eight documents. What chess wisdom do the documents contain? I'll look at that in my next post.

Two of those eight documents stand out because of their brevity:-

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

No.4: CURRICULUM FOR BEGINNERS AND INTERMEDIATES, Highland Park Scholastic Chess • Jerry Neugarten • 36 pages • HighlandParkCurriculum.pdf

Is it possible to teach chess with so little guidance? Let's look at what the two contain. The 'Think Like A King' curriculum, copyright 1998, starts,

About the Author • Six years ago David MacEnulty became the first full-time New York City public school teacher to teach chess as an academic subject. Working in a large elementary school in the South Bronx, his team has won first place trophies at the New York City Scholastic Chess Tournament for four consecutive years, and is one of the top five elementary chess teams in the nation. From 1994 to 1997, his students won more than 500 individual and team trophies.

The table of contents lists 12 chapters, called 'phases'.

A: Beginning Curriculum
01 Pre-Chess Skills
02 Basic Moves & Rules
03 The King
04 Special Moves
05 The Value of Pieces
06 Beginning Tactics
07 Opening Principles

B: Advanced Curriculum
08 Strategic Thinking - Getting Beyond the Basics
09 Creating Opportunities
10 More Checkmates
11 Endgame Strategies
12 Specific Openings

How is it possible to cover all of this in a few pages? It turns out that the document is marketing material for related software. Another section of the document, titled 'Basic Equipment & Teaching Materials', informs,

Food for Thought Software’s Think Like a King™ School Chess Software System was designed specifically for schools, to provide the necessary Educational, Motivational and Management tools for a successful chess program.

If I had realized that at the beginning of my survey, I might not have included the document on my short list. But there it is and I'll leave any further investigation for another time. The Highland Park curriculum, dated 2010, starts,

This curriculum dates to 1995, when I began teaching chess. It began as a list of topics to be taught in a sequence that I thought made sense. Over the years I fleshed it out and added new sections. This year Phillip Yontez, one of our coaches, gave it a careful edit, added some additional sections and improved the diagrams. We have tried to keep it as short as possible while still covering the basics. Combined with game reviews, it contains enough material for approximately fifty 45-minute lessons aimed at grades K-8, sufficient to fill a school year for a club meeting twice a week. - Jerry Neugarten

The table of contents lists five chapters.

The rules of the game and a few basics (5 pages)
Basic strategy (5)
Basic tactics (11)
The endgame (10)
Playing in tournaments (3)

Once again, 34 pages are not enough to cover chess in any depth, and we quickly see that the document is a list of topics to be covered in a certain order. The two longest chapters consist mainly of diagrams giving examples in basic tactics and endgames. This is obviously not a standalone document, but is more of an outline to be supplemented by other material. It assumes that the instructor is already fairly knowledgeable about how to play chess.

While reviewing the two documents, one curiosity caught my attention. Food for Thought Software, the company behind MacEnulty's 'Think Like A King', is listed with a PO box in Highland Park IL. Is there a connection with Neugarten's Highland Park Scholastic Chess or is this just a coincidence?

03 July 2015

The Travelling Chess Statue

The first time we saw this statue of Jan Karski playing chess, Chess and the Polish Underground, it was located in Washington, DC. Here it is located in New York, NY.

Chess in front of the Polish Consulate © Flickr user Nano Anderson under Creative Commons.

Maybe the statues are twins.

02 July 2015

July 1965 'On the Cover'

What? No cover for Chess Life? Like the April 1965 'On the Cover', the cover of CL looks more like the first page of a newspaper. Including front and back covers, the issue had only 20 pages, of which three and a half were 'How the Chess Openings Got Their Names' by John W. Collins.

Left: 'Tal, Larsen Win'
Right: 'Fischer Returns'

Chess Life

Only three of the original eight challengers are still in the running for a match with World Champion Tigran Petrosian. Ex-champion Mikhail Tal and Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen have won their quarter-final matches and will soon play one another to determine which of them will advance to the final match of the Candidates' series -- against Boris Spassky.

Chess Review

Robert J. Fischer played 21 United Nations Chess Club members and 5 other experts in a simultaneous in June at the U.N. [...] On the cover, Fischer is interviewed by Joan Parr of CBS-TV.

'The Unknown Bobby Fischer' by IM John Donaldson & IM Eric Tangborn (International Chess Enterprises, 1999) has more about the U.N. event.

Simul at the United Nations, 1965 One of Bobby's more unusual exhibitions was held at the Church Center of the United Nations on May 21, 1965. Results for the event are contradictory. Chess Review has Bobby facing 26 players with a score of 23 wins plus losses to Vladimir Vakula of the USSR and club secretary Luis Loayza of Peru and a draw with Evgeny Zhukov of the USSR. Chess Life and Zhukov have it +18=1-2. Neither of these may be right, as the two games from the event which have surfaced are both draws! It doesn't make things any clearer to know that Chess Life gives Ivan Grischenko, not Vakula, as a winner.

The event was sponsored by games manufacturer TAG, Inc., and its newly designed Manchurian chess tables and chessmen were used. From the look of the photo published on page 196 of the July 1965 issue of Chess Review, Bobby must have finished the exhibition with an aching back: the tables were less than two feet off the ground! His eyes might also have been sore -- the Manchurian pieces were definitely not based on the Staunton design.

Re 'Fischer Returns', had he left?