30 June 2016

Mystery Card Series

While searching through hundreds of Korchnoi photos, as in Composite Korchnoi earlier this month, I was reminded of a longstanding mystery. The card shown on the left is one of a series. How many different cards were produced? When and why were they produced?

In another post, I'll see what I can find.


Follow-up: Chess Champion Trading Cards.

28 June 2016

'The Chess Burglar'

Dealing with the aftermath of an attempted break-in left me little time for chess blogging today. Let's have a photo on the theme 'chess burglar'.

The photo's caption said,

Another boost for the game of chess, along with the well-publicized Bobby Fischer, is in the offing with the release of the Tandem-Warner Bros. film "The Thief Who Came to Dinner". Ryan O'Neal starts as "the chess burglar" in the Bud Yorkin produced and directed film which also co-stars Jacqueline Bisset and Warren Oates.

I once used the same image in Chess in the Movies, where the IMDB reference leads to The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973). What's the chess connection?

Because he leaves at his thefts a calling card in the form a chess piece and a slip of paper with a chess move, [Webster McGee (Ryan O'Neal)], being coined the Chess Burglar by the media, begins a very public chess match with the Houston Post's elitist chess columnist Zukovsky, who dismisses the Chess Burglar as an amateur in every respect of the word.

The photo shows O'Neal in the act of burglarizing someone's home. Chess set or not, there's nothing cool about burglars.

27 June 2016

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977

In my previous post, Korchnoi's Career, I started a TMER series (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record) for the recently deceased GM. The one page overview of his early career shown below was headed,

TOURNAMENT AND MATCH RECORD • This record of Viktor Korchoi's tournament and match career excludes only minor Soviet events and some small international team matches. Where only the venue is given, the event is an international individual tournament.

It is taken from 'Viktor Korchnoi's Best Games' by Korchnoi himself (David McKay Company, 1978, 294 pages).

There is a nearly identical chart in 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' by Levy & O'Connell (Oxford University Press, 1979, 308 pages). Both books -- Korchnoi's and Levy/O'Connell's -- are linked by a copyright notice for 'Philidor Press'.

A British computer chess and AI games developing and trading company, founded in 1979 by David Levy and Kevin O’Connell. Philidor Software emerged from the former chess book publishing company Philidor Press Ltd., which was founded by Levy and O’Connell in about 1975. • Philidor Software (chessprogramming.wikispaces.com)

A similar overview of Korchnoi's career is in 'The World Chess Championship Korchnoi vs. Karpov : The Inside Story of the Match' by Raymond Keene (Simon & Schuster, 1978, 159 pages). It adds three events played after the publication of the other books, but before the 1978 Karpov - Korchnoi Title Match (Baguio City, VII-X, 1978).

26 June 2016

Fritz and Chesster

Continuing with Chess Software for Children, in that post I identified a couple of packages worth a further look.

Two products -- both of them engines embedded into instructional material -- came up repeatedly:
• Chessmaster, specifically the Josh Waitzkin version
• Fritz (chess), 'Fritz and Chesster'

Taking Fritz first (because I like the tonguetwisting sound of 'Fritz first'), I discovered a Youtube video featuring the product.

Let's Play: Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster for the PC: Part 1: Gameplay and Commentary (42:24) • 'Published on Jan 28, 2015'

There is a second clip from the same channel (where I also discovered the meaning of 'rhotacism'):-

I haven't watched either video to the end and will do so ASAP. The 'Software for Children' post linked to an Amazon product page for Viva Media:-

It turns out there are other Amazon pages for related products.

As you might expect from chess software bearing the name 'Fritz', there is a Chessbase connection: Chess For Kids: online and free.

Among the most popular programs by ChessBase, is the series designed to teach chess to children, "Fritz and Chesster". Until now it was only available on CD from the shop, but now you can enjoy the fun and games approach for free on the web. The colorful cartoons, with cute mini-games to teach the moves, can now be accessed from any browser, even on a mobile device.

'Fritz and Chesster' product pages for Chessbase.com can be found at Part 1, Part 2, Part 3: Chess for winners, and Part 1 Version 3. Most of these pages, along with links for the product in other languages, are listed on the index page Training / Fritz & Chesster. Maybe I'll try the French version on my French speaking granddaughters.

24 June 2016

Another Figment

The description said only, 'FIGMENT Baltimore 2016, Patterson Park', and there were no tags.

Large, Soft Chess © Flickr user Katie under Creative Commons.

Large, soft, and cuddly? If, like me, you've never heard of FIGMENT, the Facebook page, Figment Baltimore informs,

FIGMENT is a free, family friendly participatory art festival that happens once a year on various dates in many cities around the world!

In fact, I have heard of it -- right here on Flickr Friday -- Mobius Chess, FIGMENT Boston.

23 June 2016

Chess on Belgian News

Thursday, 16 June 2016, RTL Belgium, News at 19:00.

Les 10 meilleurs joueurs d'échec au monde sont réunis à Louvain
'The 10 best chess players in the world are gathered at Leuven'

The report begins, 'Back to Belgium with an unusual gathering in Flemish Brabant -- the 10 best chess players in the world.' Even more unusual is to see anything about chess on Belgian news. A Chessbase.com report Grand Chess Tour 2016 with two new events (February 2016) started,

Last year it was three events, in Norway, Saint Louis and London. This year Norway drops out and is replaced by two rapid+blitz events, in Paris and Brussels.

Later the report quoted a press release,

The 2016 Grand Chess Tour season will include rapid and blitz tournaments in Paris and Brussels-Leuven in addition to the Sinquefield Cup and London Chess Classic.

So where was the event held? In Brussels or in Brussels-Leuven? Short answer: neither. Long answer: in Leuven (wikipedia.org).

[Leuven (Dutch) / Louvain (French)] is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium. It is located about 25 kilometres (16 miles) east of Brussels. [...] It is the 10th largest municipality in Belgium and the fourth in Flanders.

Most non-Belgians would say, 'Where the heck is Leuven?', but everyone knows where the capital of Europe is.

21 June 2016

Two More Autographs

As long as I'm on the subject of autographs, as in ChessAutographs.com (May 2016) and My Two Encounters with Korchnoi (June 2016), I'd like to feature one more. In 'Two Encounters' I wrote,

The occasion was the 2nd SWIFT International Tournament (1986) -- Karpov, Korchnoi, Timman, Miles, eight other players -- and I was invited to the opening ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel next to Place Rogier in downtown Brussels.

For some reason totally out of character, I had the foresight to bring along a copy of Jan Timman's book 'Art of Chess Analysis'. I must have known that Timman would be playing in the tournament and would be at the opening ceremony. During the cocktail portion of the reception, I asked the Dutch GM if he would autograph the book, which he did without saying a word.

As Timman was there with his wife, I asked her if she would also sign the book. She declined, I insisted, she declined again, and I asked once more. I was probably lucky that the GM didn't just tell me to get lost, but the third time she signed it. A scanned copy of the two signatures is shown below, Timman's above his wife's.

Later I discovered a photo of the couple in the January 1986 edition of Europe Echecs. It accompanied a report on the Timman - Tal tiebreak match for the 1985 Montpellier Candidates Tournament, so I suppose the photo was taken at that time. The photographer was the same Catherine Jaeg that I featured earlier this year in Black and White Passion (February 2016). I found another photo of the couple in a post on Alexandra Kosteniuk's blog: RIP Hans Suri and Lucio Barvas (June 2013), 'Hans Suri in 1985 sitting next to Jan Timman and Timman's wife.'

Please don't get the impression that I'm an autograph collector. Along with the Korchnoi and Timman(x2) signatures, I have Karpov's autograph on 'Chess at the Top 1979-1984', which I procured at the same SWIFT tournament. His third title match against Kasparov was due to start in a few months, so I said politely, 'I hope you win against Kasparov'. He answered, 'So do I.' And that was that. No more autographs.

20 June 2016

Korchnoi's Career

In the two weeks since Viktor Korchnoi died, nearly every post on this blog has been inspired by him.

That's not to overlook two posts from my other chess blog.

Having just finished a short TMER series (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record) for GM Karjakin's Early Career, I'd like to do the same for Korchnoi. I started a similar task in 2002, so the first action is to wipe the dust off the old files and see what I have exactly.

19 June 2016

Botvinnik's Pioneer

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price we sometimes see signed manuscripts and we sometimes see chess computers, but we've never seen a signed manuscript about a chess computer. The item shown below (pages 1 & 5) was titled 'Botvinnik's Manuscript: About new working algorithm of the chess "Pioneer", 1988'. It sold for US $400 after a single bid.

That's Botvinnik's signature in the lower right corner of the last page. The description added little information.

The manuscript is dedicated to the creation of the "Pioneer" chess program. Five pages.

The page Pioneer (chessprogramming.wikispaces.com) informs,

Pioneer was a Soviet Artificial Intelligence project headed by Mikhail Botvinnik with the aim to develop a chess program to model a chess master's mind, also used as general purpose planning tool to solve economical problems in the Soviet Union. [...] The name Pioneer was chosen in 1977, when the program was invited to play the WCCC 1977 in Toronto. However, Pioneer was never completed in a way that it could play a game of chess in public under tournament conditions.

The page also mentions,

Controversy: Botvinnik published abilities of Pioneer and its successor CC Sapiens on selected positions, but they never played a complete game of chess in public. For his publication Three Positions, Botvinnik was heavily criticized by Hans Berliner and his old chess rival David Bronstein.

Could this manuscript change the public perception of Botvinnik's Pioneer? Given that the project was terminated in 1990, I doubt it.

17 June 2016

'When We Were Kings' (*)

Yesterday's post, Korchnoi's Complaints, featured some of the bizarre events surrounding the 1978 Karpov - Korchnoi title match. Today's post features contemporary AP news footage from the same event.

Karpov vs Korchnoi (14:02) • 'The 1978 World Chess Championship'

The match principals are all there, as are visual reminders of the many stories that percolate through various historical accounts of the match. There is some confusion about the match score -- (10:40) 'Korchnoi seemed safe when he went into a 4-1 lead' -- and the clip ends with the match unfinished. The last story is about Karpov's official car crashing into a pine tree one night, but 'Karpov wasn't in the car'.

Last words: 'Chess may be a game that even young children can excel at, but when you're playing for the world title, it's quite clearly a man's game. Baguio has proved it.'

(*) When we were Kings Index: 'A series of posts dedicated to chess in the 1970s' from the Streatham & Brixton blog.

16 June 2016

Korchnoi's Complaints

In a recent post on my World Championship blog, Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016), I remarked,

A post about [Korchnoi] on this WCC blog is mandatory, but also problematic. Mandatory because of his long record of participation in WCC events, problematic because of the often controversial nature of his participation.

The most significant act of Korchnoi's controversial life occurred away from the board. In Korchnoi's Defection, I noted,

The 1976 defection separated Korchnoi's life into two parts: before defecting and after defecting. The book 'Chess Is My Life' recounts the before period. He later wrote a second book 'Persona Non Grata (formerly titled "Anti-Chess")' recounting the after period (Thinker's Press 1981).

That description of 'Persona Non Grata' isn't entirely accurate. First, the book's focus is more the 1978 Karpov - Korchnoi Title Match in the Philippines than any other events of that period. Second, although the book's author is listed as 'Viktor Kortchnoi [sic] with Lenny Cavallaro', it is more 'Lenny Cavallaro with Viktor Korchnoi'.

The book uses typesetting to identify its different voices: Cavallaro's voice is in a standard typeface; Korchnoi's voice is in quoted italics; other voices are in standard quotes. Here is an example from Ch.5 'The Situation Intensifies'.

'Persona Non Grata' p.38-39

The first paragraph is the continuation of a letter by Viktor Baturinsky, the chief of Karpov's delegation; the next three paragraphs are commentary by Cavallaro; the rest is a mixture of Baturinsky and Korchnoi.

The most important portions of the book are where Korchnoi speaks. Cavallaro often interjects his opinion as an outside observer, while the thoughts and actions of the other personalities involved in the match are well documented elsewhere. Korchnoi's observations are unique and original. Here is an example from the same chapter, p.45-46, using the same typeface conventions as the book.

In the Soviet press after the match was over, Karpov expressed a strange opinion about this game [the 11th: his first loss]: "I can't explain what happened. I felt excellent, but played badly." Well, from a chess point of view, Kortchnoi has already observed that everything turns out favorably for Karpov when half the game is recorded in his notebook, but if he has to work it out for himself from the first move -- that's another matter altogether.

But Karpov wasn't hinting at this to his readers. He was suggesting that his psychologist was sitting in the 7th row, unable to help him. It soon became apparent that Zukhar's primary function was not so much to distract Kortchnoi (which he certainly did do, at least initially) as to lend some sort of support to the Champion.

The surprise factor here is that Viktor's psychologist, Dr. Berginer from Israel, had arrived in time for the 11th game! Unrecognized, he calmly took a seat in the 5th row.

"Allow me", Viktor writes, "to put forward my own views -- the views of an amateur and in some respects, an experimental subject of psychology and para-psychology. There is no question that hypnosis exists and is a huge force in itself. A few years ago, there were published reports in the press about experiments in the Soviet Union. It was suggested to some people that they were famous artists and although they had never picked up a brush before, they had created very acceptable paintings! A couple of years ago, Tal took part in a similar experiment. It was suggested to his opponent, a chess player of very average ability, that he was the brilliant 19th century champion, Paul Morphy. The encounter began with Tal's partner demanding a fee! Then the game itself started and it required an immense effort on the part of the real former World Champion to finally outplay this newly-revealed genius.

Hypnotism! Here we are in uncharted waters.

"It was precisely such a link that existed between Zukhar and Karpov -- a link which according to FIDE rules (point 5) is illegal.

"Such a link requires total consent, mutual trust, and understanding between doctor and patient. The closer the doctor is (physically) to his patient, the more durable the link. It is very important to reinforce it at times during the game -- say, by visual or some other contact.

"Is support possible at a distance, from outside one's field of vision, even a one-way link? This so-called telepathy is already known from the realms of para-psychology. So far it is a scientific or, rather, a military secret. The super-powers -- the USA and the USSR -- take this matter very seriously, and are reluctant to publish opinions or results. To extrapolate further, a Soviet court sentenced the dissident, Sharansky, to 13 years in prison for allegedly passing secret informa-tion to American intelligence about Soviet advanced scientific achievements in the field of electronics -- and parapsychology!

"And if such a force exists, the FIDE rules are powerless!

For more about the strange events surrounding the 1978 Karpov - Korchnoi match, see my other pages: Highlights and Yogurt, Parapsychology, Ananda Marga, ....

14 June 2016

Korchnoi Tributes

Soon after GM Korchnoi died last week, tributes from his fans and admirers -- many of them influential chess personalities in their own right -- started rolling across the web in waves of genuine sympathy. Here is a selection of pages I bookmarked.

  • 2016-06-06: Viktor Korchnoi 1931 - 2016 (theweekinchess.com; TWIC) • 'Korchnoi had one of the longest professional careers of any chess player and achieved his greatest successes in his forties.'

  • 2016-06-06: “Greatest fighter” Viktor Korchnoi dies at 85 (chess24.com) • 'Viktor Korchnoi, many people’s choice as the greatest player not to have won the World Championship, has passed away at the age of 85. Nicknamed “Viktor the Terrible” for his legendary fighting spirit, Korchnoi won the USSR Championship four times before defecting from the Soviet Union, fought three matches that would have given him the world title and won games against all the World Champions from Botvinnik to Kasparov.'

  • 2016-06-06: Viktor Korchnoi dies at 85 (chessbase.com; Frederic Friedel) • 'He was one of the truly great chess players, a legend. He played in three matches that produced the World Champion, but in each case lost to Anatoly Karpov. It made him the strongest player never to have won the title. In 1976 he defected from the Soviet Union and took up residence in Switzerland, where he continued to be active into his eighties in spite of a stroke. Now he has gone and leaves a grieving chess community.'

  • 2016-06-06: Chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi dies in Switzerland (swissinfo.ch) • 'Russian-born Swiss chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, who defected to the West in 1976 and settled in Switzerland two years later, has died at his home in Wohlen, canton Aargau. He was 85.'

  • 2016-06-06: Viktor Korchnoi passes away (chessdom.com) • 'The chess world lost a player, the legend will remain forever. Viktor Korchnoi has passed away in the hospital in Switzerland.'

  • 2016-06-06: Viktor Korchnoi, 1931-2016 (chess.com; Peter Doggers) • 'Today Viktor Korchnoi died at the age of 85 in a hospital in Wohlen, Switzerland. Korchnoi had been ill for some time and was hospitalized last week after suffering from internal bleeding,'

  • 2016-06-07: Viktor Korchnoi 1931-2016 (fide.com; Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, FIDE President) • 'On behalf of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and me personally, I wish to express our deepest condolences in connection with the passing away of Victor Korchnoi - one of the most renowned chess players on this planet...'

  • 2016-06-07: Garry Kasparov On Viktor Korchnoi (chess.com) • 'His longevity as a top-level player and his fighting spirit were such that it was easy to hope that he might trick Death himself in a rook endgame and live forever!'

  • 2016-06-07: Viktor Korchnoi, Chess Giant Who Drew Soviet Ire, Dies at 85 (nytimes.com)

  • 2016-06-08: Kasparov pays tribute to Korchnoi (chessbase.com) • 'At age 85, and seriously enfeebled as any could see even in photos or videos, one would think Viktor Korchnoi's death would be no great shock, and yet it was. The reason is that he had long seemed living proof age was only a number, not a reality. In print and online everywhere, players are writing tributes and testimonies. Here is Garry Kasparov's, one of his biggest admirers.'

  • 2016-06-09: Peter Svidler on Viktor Korchnoi (chess24.com) • 'In the introduction to his latest Banter Blitz session, Peter Svidler paid tribute to Viktor Korchnoi, who died this week at the age of 85. Peter recalls winning their first game, but falling victim to Korchnoi’s famously sharp tongue afterwards.'

From chess-news.ru, in English, with links to other articles on the same site:-

From the same source in Russian (via Google Translate):-

Surveys, like this current post:-

  • 2016-06-07: Korchnoi Around the Web (thechessmind.net)
  • 2016-06-11: Paying homage to Viktor (chessbase.com) • 'All over the world, obituaries, eulogies, tributes and testimonies have been written on behalf of a legend whose longevity and passion were an inspiration even for world champions. Here are some of the words that have been said by players such as Anand, Short, and Nakamura, as well as special tributes sent by Judit Polgar, Kavalek, Speelman, Benko, and more...'

In all these tributes, one voice is conspicuously missing, the most influential voice of all : the voice of the current World Champion. Where's Magnus?

13 June 2016

GM Karjakin's Early Career

Promises, promises. For the last couple of months I've been exploring GM Karjakin's early career with the goal of creating a reference page for his entire career. It started when he won the 2016 Candidates Tournament in Moscow.

  • 2016-03-28: The Winner and New Challenger • 'As for this blog, I'll suspend the Monday-Monday series on 'PGN Files for Book Reviews', and will instead develop a Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER) for Karjakin.'

At that time I didn't know much more about him than was presented in a little cartoon on an official site, Worldchess.com.

Since then I've learned much about his career through 2009 (or thereabouts).

While I was working through these posts, it occurred to me that it would be more consistent with my other TMERs to wait for the outcome of the forthcoming 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin title match, scheduled for New York in November. In the meantime I'll switch the Monday-Monday focus to another topic.


Later: A list of all TMERs is on my index page for Chess History.

12 June 2016

Chess Software for Children

It's been four months since writing Connecting Children with Chess (February 2016):-

In my next post for the 'Chess in School' series, I'll look at chess software for children, in the same spirit as I did for Chess Curriculum (December 2015).

Although 'my next post' came and went many times, the topic has been on my mind ever since. The subject of the 'Connecting' post was:-

  • Chessity 'Learn and improve your chess | Gaming your chess training'

At first glance the site doesn't appear to offer anything specific for children, so I kept looking. Two products -- both of them engines embedded into instructional material -- came up repeatedly. Here are the relevant Wikipedia links:-

  • Chessmaster, specifically the Josh Waitzkin version: 'October 2007: The current version, Chessmaster XI, was released for PC (titled Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition) [...] It includes numerous tutorials by IM Joshua Waitzkin for players of all skill levels.'

  • Fritz (chess), 'Fritz and Chesster is a series of introductory chess programs based on the Fritz engine. Each program provides basic tutorials and games based on one aspect of chess, allowing children to learn the basic rules easily without overwhelming them with too many options at once.'

For more info, including more than 100 reviews each, here are the Amazon links:-

As with its parent site, Chess.com, the elephant in this space is:-

Back to the software, those were older products than I was expecting to find, so I need to take time to look into them. I'll come back to the subject, hopefully sooner than four months from now.

10 June 2016

Composite Korchnoi

Today being Flickr Friday on CFAA, I should do a post on the most interesting 'Creative Commons' chess photo uploaded to Flickr over the last two weeks. Unfortunately, there was little of interest to choose from. Fortunately, this week has been defacto Korchnoi week on CFAA, giving me a second subject for this post. Here is a composite image of 21 Korchnoi photos.

Search: Korchnoi • Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The penultimate photo in the second row also appeared in a composite image for a previous Flickr Friday, Chess at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof (October 2014). It stands out as the best thumbnail in today's composite.

09 June 2016

Korchnoi's Defection

In the previous post, My Two Encounters with Korchnoi, I mentioned GM Korchnoi's defection from the USSR in 1976. I was reminded of this again while searching my image archive for a good photo of Korchnoi.

[Searching text files for references to Korchnoi isn't straightforward, because there are so many different spellings of his surname. I was most successful searching on 'kor', which also brings up much non-Korchnoi material.]

The text description associated with the photo shown below said, 'An original 8 x 11 press photograph of Russian chess player Viktor Korchnoi from 27 July 1976.' The original wire service caption attached to the side of the photo was obscured by some sort of a printer's sticker, but along with the date a few words are still visible: 'IBM tournament', 'ministry sources', 'Korchnoi', 'UPI'. The photo was intended to illustrate the news of Korchnoi's defection.

Strangely enough, the photo isn't a typical image of Korchnoi and almost looks like someone else. Perhaps he was tired that day or perhaps it's been altered somehow. The arrows on the side of his head indicate how the photo was to be cropped for publication.

In the 'Encounters with Korchnoi' post I also mentioned Korchnoi's book 'Chess Is My Life : Autobiography and Games' (Batsford 1977). On page 120, he wrote,

In July [1976] I played in the IBM tournament in Amsterdam. As usual in recent times, I found it hard going, was often in time trouble, and with difficulty shared first place with [British GM Tony] Miles.

Even then I was firmly convinced that it was now that I should stay behind in the West. I had decided to break with the Soviet Union, but for the moment, with the approach of the Candidates' Matches, the authorities were still interested in me, and I could still travel and collect as many valuables as possible -- in the West. I sent my archives off to Amsterdam, particularly precious letters from friends, and no less memorable ones from my enemies.

But I was no longer able to keep silent. A week before the end of the tournament I gave an interview to a correspondent of the 'France Presse' agency. I talked about the reasons for Spassky's poor play in the Interzonal Tournament.

Here he mentioned both the official harrassment of Spassky and the refusal of the Soviet Union to participate in the 1976 Olympiad in Israel. He called it 'the traditional policy of the Russian-Soviet State, the policy of anti-Semitism'.

In giving this interview, I had used my right of being a free man; from this time, although I had never essentially bothered with politics, I had become a 'dissident', and an open one. While I had been in the Soviet Union, I had utilized all legal possibilities to show the Soviet people, using chess as an example, what was really going on in our country -- how it appeared in the press, and how it was in reality. From now on, if I were in the Soviet Union, there was no way I could be of use to people. With a clear conscience I took the decision -- to remain in the West, now and for ever.

On the last official day of my stay in Holland, I should have appeared in the USSR embassy in the Hague with a report on the recently concluded tournament, at seven o'clock in the evening. But at half past five I finished a simultaneous display in the Hague, and went off to friends in Amsterdam. The following day, in a police station in Amsterdam, I asked for political asylum in Holland.

I am not the first, and will not be the last, to seek a release from the far from creative atmosphere inside the Soviet Union, and to resort to running away. [...]

The 1976 defection separated Korchnoi's life into two parts: before defecting and after defecting. The book 'Chess Is My Life' recounts the before period. He later wrote a second book 'Persona Non Grata (formerly titled "Anti-Chess")' recounting the after period (Thinker's Press 1981).

07 June 2016

My Two Encounters with Korchnoi

Yesterday GM Viktor Korchnoi passed away. I'll leave it to his world class opponents and to the professional journalists to relate his enormous importance to the chess world. Instead I would like to relate two small, personal stories about him.

The occasion was the 2nd SWIFT International Tournament (1986) -- Karpov, Korchnoi, Timman, Miles, eight other players -- and I was invited to the opening ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel next to Place Rogier in downtown Brussels. A good friend of mine, a non-chessplayer, was working as a consultant at SWIFT, the well known operator of a network for financial transfers, and knew about my lifelong interest in chess. He asked me if I was interested in attending the ceremony and we met there along with a SWIFT colleague of his, a Russian named Slava.

I recall that Bessel Kok, one of SWIFT's founders, made a wonderful introductory speech in three languages -- English, Dutch, and French (maybe it was four languages: German as well) -- where he said that SWIFT and chess were a good match. They were both young and dynamic; they were both international; and they both relied on technology.

I also recall standing at the reception (champagne? everything was first class that day) chatting with my friend and with Slava about chess. Korchnoi was standing nearby chatting to someone else, when Slava went over to him and said something. Korchnoi looked startled, hurried away, and hid behind a pillar in the reception room.

'What did you say to him, Slava?' • 'I told him how much I admired his play.'

A minute or two later Korchnoi came back to our group, said something to Slava in Russian, and hurried off again.

'What did he say to you, Slava?' • 'He said, "You should know better than to go up to another Russian who is a complete stranger and start talking in Russian."'

I understood that in the ten years since his defection from the USSR, Korchnoi had been constantly vigilant about Soviet security.

During the next two weeks I managed on several occasions to get away from work and from personal responsibilities to visit the tournament and watch the games.

On one of the last days of the event I wandered out of the spectator area into the lobby and saw Korchnoi standing there alone, smoking a cigarette. I hurried over to the chess book seller on the side of the lobby and bought the first book I could find about him.

I went back to where Korchnoi was standing -- fortunately he was still there -- and asked him for his autograph. I'm glad he dated it (3 April 1986), because it tells me that it was the tenth round, when he drew with Black against Timman.

On top of getting Korchnoi's autograph, I also got a great book. May the great man rest in peace.

06 June 2016

Karjakin's Federation Change

In last week's post, Karjakin's/Carlsen's Olympiad Records, I noted

Karjakin has played three times for the Ukraine and three times for Russia.

The corresponding Olimpbase charts show that the change of federation took place between the 2008 and 2010 Olympiads. Wikipedia's page, Sergey Karjakin, confirms,

Personal life: On July 25, 2009, by the decree of the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, Karjakin adopted Russian citizenship. Later that year he transferred chess federations from Ukraine to Russia, in order to get sponsorship and better coaching. He lives in Moscow since 2009. [...] Karjakin considers himself Russian rather than Ukrainian, and supports the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea (from Ukraine) and Vladimir Putin.

The sequence of events is documented in a series of reports by Chessdom.com. The first report was Karjakin to play for Russia by [Ukrainian] GM Mikhail Golubev for Chess Today (16 April 2009):-

Yesterday Yury Vasilyev included in his ChessPro report from Nalchik the unofficial news that Sergey Karjakin will play for Russia in the near future. Afterwards I spoke with Sergey's father Alexander who confirmed that it is not a secret, and such transfer is their intention. Alexander said that they have nothing against Ukraine, and they are grateful to everyone who helped them in the past.

The story continued the next day with Sergey Karjakin moves to Moscow, changes to Russia Chess Federation (17 April 2009):-

GM Dmitry Komarov spoke with Sergey’s father Alexander Karjakin. "Our family has filed documents to obtain Russian citizenship" – Alexander Karjakin confirmed for newspaper Fakti – "This was Sergey’s solution. We do not have any issues with Ukraine. Here we did everything possible, but unfortunately it is not enough for Sergey to fulfill his dream and become a world champion."

The year 2009 was Karjakin's year of big changes. A few months later, Sergey Karjakin and Kateryna Dolzhikova get married (26 July 2009):-

Karjakin and Dolzhikova become one of the strongest chess couples • The 19 years old Ukrainian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin married the 20 years old WGM Kateryna Dolzhikova

At nearly the same time it was confirmed that Sergey Karjakin takes Russian citizenship (1 August 2009):-

At the beginning of 2009 Karjakin decided to move to Russia and join the Russian Chess Federation. A few months later he filed the documents for the federation change. The official decision is a fact, Sergey Karjakin is now player and citizen of Russia. The document was signed on July 25th personally by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

As for the marriage, later that month the newlyweds gave interviews during the Jermuk leg of the 2008-2009 Grand Prix: Interview with WIM Katya Dolzhikova and with GM Sergey Karjakin. Dolzhikova's older sister, Olga, a WGM herself, lives in and plays for Norway. For more about her, see another Chessdom.com article WGM Olga Dolzhikova: Magnus will win the match easily (November 2013). Karjakin's marriage to Katya ended in divorce a few years later. That same Personal life section of Karjakin's Wikipedia page informs,

Karjakin married Galiya Kamalova in May 2014, and a son was born in late 2015. He was previously married to Ukrainian Woman Grandmaster [WIM?] Kateryna Dolzhikova.

Given the ongoing strife between the Ukraine and Russia, Karjakin's transfer from the Ukraine to Russia is not viewed favorably by the Western media. I once wrote a post on Ukrainian Chess Players, and know that the political realities of the region are difficult to fathom. The real world is not reducible to black and white, nor to good and evil.

05 June 2016

A Compact Problem

This must be the first time on Top eBay Chess Items by Price that I have to admit I don't really understand what the item is. The title said, 'Silver enamel compact "Marie Antoinette play move chess with Papa Vatican"', which starts reasonably before it descends into gibberish.

I'll give the seller the benefit of the doubt and assume that English is not his/her mother tongue. I'll also assume that Google Translate plus copy/paste from other auctions both played a role in preparing the writeup for this auction. Some more astute collectors knew exactly what the item was because it sold for US $820.18 after 12 bids from four bidders.

The box looks large in the photo because there is nothing to compare it with, like a coin or a paperclip. I'll resist the natural temptation to edit the description and will just copy it from the original.

This is a beautiful genuine antique rare. Before 1900 natural & original fantastic powder screen. SILVER ENAMEL COMPACT. Ultra rare antique & unreconstituted this compact is stamp 935 case inside gold plated ... Weight : 106.50 gr. ... Diameter are : 7.5 cm x 5.5 cm. TOP QUALITY !!!

NATURAL & GENUINE ANTIQUE. ABSOLUTELY NO RETURN !!! PLEASE ASK ALL QUESTIONS BEFORE BIDDING !!! Beautiful color, wonderful condition. Dimension & Measure : 3 x 2.5 inch. The closing latch clips over a small post that has a blue stone in it (see pics). A very nice little compact.

Aucun accident à signaler sur cette belle pièce.

That last line ('No blemishes to point out on this beautiful object.') tells us that the seller is a native French speaker. The title is better understood as "Marie Antoinette plays chess with the Vatican Pope", although it could be a lesser cleric with a less noteworthy representative of European nobility. As for the key word 'compact', Wikipedia informs,

A compact (also powder box and powder case) is a cosmetic product. It is usually a small round metal case and contains two or more of the following: a mirror, pressed or loose face powder with a gauze sifter and a powder puff. • Compact (cosmetics)

As for the meaning of 'gauze sifter', I'll just leave it as a small mystery.

03 June 2016

Chess.com's ChessCenter

Weekly chess shows come and go; remember WorldChessNews.com, aka Chesstv.eu (last episode 3 June 2013)? Here's a more recent series that I hadn't watched yet: ChessCenter on Chess.com. This recent episode is dated 26 May 2016.

ChessCenter: Chess In Culture (21:12) • 'Chess is all over pop culture lately, with an upcoming Disney movie revolving around a young chess player, and a chess scene featured in the Captain America blockbuster.'

The description continued,

Politics and chess clash again this week as Levon Aronian gets embroiled in a Twitter discussion about the role of women in chess. And don’t miss what could be the best move of the week in a while as GM Robert Hess and IM Danny Rensch break it all down for you.

For the full list of all videos in the series, see chess.com/video/library?author=ChessCenter.

02 June 2016

June 1966 'On the Cover'

For the third year running we have the U.S. Amateur Champion on the cover of Chess Life (CL; see June 1965 'On the Cover' for last year's), and for the third month running we have the 1966 World Championship on the cover of CL/CR (see May 1966 'On the Cover' for last month's).

Left: 'U.S. Amateur Champion Thomas Lux'
Right: 'Pyrotechnics in the Championship Match'

Chess Life

The 1966 United States Amateur Champion is Thomas J. Lux of San Diego, California, now serving in the Navy and stationed at Camden, New Jersey. Lux won all seven of his games to pace a field of 216 players at the Henry Hudson Hotel in New York, May 27-30

Photo credit: 'Official U.S.Navy Photograph by R.A.Bradshaw, PHI, USN'. The June 1966 CL carried the full crosstable with all 216 participants. That must have been a lot of work for a record of only marginal interest.

Chess Review

World Champion Tigran Petrosyan of the U.S.S.R., specifically of Armenia, is leading in the match with Challenger Boris Spassky of the U.S.S.R., specifically of Leningrad, by 9 to 8 as we go to press.

CL had already called the winner on its May 1966 cover. As for the CR June 1966 cover, it shows game 10 of the match. To play through that game, see Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian vs Boris Spassky; World Championship Match (1966), specifically of Chessgames.com.