30 September 2016

Antonio Banderas (Maybe) Plays Chess

From the same photographer featured in the previous edition of Flickr Friday, USA Gold!, this little discovery was mixed in with his more recent Olympiad photos.

Chess pieces by Antonio Banderas © Flickr user Andreas Kontokanis under Creative Commons.

What did Antonio Banderas have to do with the Baku Olympiad? Nothing! The timing is a coincidence: Antonio Banderas opens photo exhibition in Moscow (September 2016).

Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas took his photography work to Russia. His Women in Gold exhibition features photographs and portraits of women splashing paint in the air, wearing colourful wigs and face paint or huddled around a baby. The exhibition runs at Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum until November 3.

What does Antonio Banderas have to do with chess? Not clear, but he's played the game in two films: Celebrities, Movies, and Chess (chessmaniac.com).

Antonio Banderas (born in 1960) plays chess. In the 1995 movie, Assassins, Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas) plays chess with Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone). In the 2008 movie, The Other Man, Ralph (Antonio Banderas) plays chess with Paul (Liam Neeson).

There's a good photo in Antonio Banderas and Liam Neeson (latimes.com).

29 September 2016

Cracked Chess

I ended a recent off-the-wall CIS post (Chess In Schools), titled Baloney Makes You Smarter, with an off-the-wall link.

Google also points to Cracked.com's "5 Things You Didn't Know Could Make You Smarter: 1. Electricity to the Skull" [...] Lists definitely make you smarter.

It turns out that the Cracked.com site is full of lists and of off-the-wall observations about chess. Take this one, for example: 5 So-Called Signs Of Genius That Any Idiot Can Learn:-

3. Win a Chess Game in Just a Few Moves •. Chess is the game of geniuses. Hell, if Brain Olympics were a thing, chess would be the only event they have. It's all about strategy, anticipation, and thinking ahead, while mentally tracking the locations and abilities of 32 pieces. While the ultimate object is certainly to kill the opponent's King, the real effort goes toward systematically destroying his loyal subjects or carefully positioning yourself to stealth-murder him in the middle of their protective embrace. There's a lot of planning involved -- often, the game is over several rounds before the eventual checkmate. [...]

That's actually a good explanation of the objective of a chess game. Here's another example using chess history: The 7 Creepiest Old School Robots:-

1. The Turk •. "The Turk," an 18th century chess-playing robot that faced, and usually defeated, live opponents, is probably the most famous automaton ever. [...] But after touring the world for over 80 years, it was ultimately revealed to be at least partially a hoax -- albeit one so impressive that it managed to fool such shrewd historical figures as Napoleon, Catherine the Great and Benjamin Franklin.

I don't know whether the three historical figures mentioned at the end really witnessed the Turk, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did. After these almost-reasonable examples, the chess references start to break down. Consider this one: The 5 Creepiest Parenting Tactics Ever Attempted.

3. Man Decides to Raise His Children as Chess Prodigies Before They Are Even Born •. Laszlo Polgar, an educational psychologist from Hungary, fully believed in the idea that genius is something people learn rather than a trait they are born with, a radical viewpoint hotly contested by the docudrama 'Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2'. Laszlo decided he would test his theory on his own children by seeing if he could hone them into brilliant chess players simply by exposing them to the game at a young age and having them train constantly throughout their adolescence. Makes sense. The problem was, he didn't actually have any children. Laszlo had devised an experiment wholly dependent on a group of test subjects that didn't exist.

That one was half fact, half fantasy. (And there's nothing creepy about the Polgar family.) The next one is complete fantasy.

From 15 Wildly Misleading Movie Posters from Around the World.

'12. The Godfather -- Spain •. This Spanish poster for The Godfather was based on an early draft of the script, in which a young Michael Corleone must choose between a life of managing his family's world-renowned spaghetti restaurant and his dreams of becoming a world champion chess player.'

The piece gives credit for the poster image to 'Movie Poster DB' -- indicating it is real -- but the meaning of the chess pieces is a mystery. This next example is also fantasy and also has a movie theme: Upcoming Celebrity Sports Movies.

TITLE: Check, Mate •. STARRING: Paul Hogan •. SYNOPSIS: The city of Sydney is picked to host the annual World Series of Chess tournament, and a hermit-like crocodile wrestler, Herman Herzwazzer (Hogan), scores a ticket to the competition after winning a crocodile throwing contest. [...]

Fact or fantasy: 6 Completely Ridiculous Ways Famous Movies Paid The Bills: '5. Stanley Kubrick Paid For His First Movie By Hustling Chess Games' [...]

It's nearly impossible for a non-chess publication not to poke fun at our favorite game. Consider Find Your Perfect Board Game:-

'I am a wealthy 1920s industrialist ... Your perfect board game is: MONOPOLY' •. 'I am aroused by letters printed on wood tiles ... Your perfect board game is: SCRABBLE' •. [...] •. 'I enjoy being bored ... Your perfect board game is: CHESS'

'You know, chess would be great if people didn't take it so seriously. Taking 15 minutes between moves is just ridiculous. I play games so I'm not bored, not so I can be bored while you sit there and try to figure out if you're going to castle. Just move your pawn out there and be done with it. Get over yourselves, chess people. Computers are better than you anyway. Just have fun already.'

Yes, indeed, computers are better than us. 'Just have fun already'! Somebody at Cracked really likes chess.

27 September 2016

Buschke in Chess Life

In Shaping Chess History, I mentioned the digital collection of early Chess Life magazines (CL; 1946-1969). One of the best features of the earliest CLs was the series of Albrecht Buschke history columns titled 'Alekhine's Early Chess Career', which ran for almost three years starting at the end of 1949. In the early 1960s, Buschke was back in CL with a series of full page advertisements for chess literature. The first ad appeared in January 1961 and introduced itself with,

Having done business at 80 East 11th Street, N.Y., for over 15 years, we were pleased to greet the U.S.C.F. as our neighbor, when it moved into the same office building, a few years ago. Now that the U.S.C.F. turns its chess newspaper, CHESS LIFE, into a magazine, we would like to extend our best wishes for a prosperous and long CHESS LIFE! We are going to offer selections from our large stock of CHESS LITERATURE -- one of the largest in the world, particularly in second hand and unusual material -- on the pages of CHESS LIFE every month from now on. Every month the selection will cover a different branch of the wide field -- and what could be more appropriate than to begin with CHESS MAGAZINES which usually offer SOMETHING to EVERYBODY?

The ad for the July issue featured autographs.


It started,

Collecting material in the handwriting of famous chess masters, chess problemists and other persons of distinction in chess (such as historians and authors of chess books) has always had a particular fascination for us, especially if this material in itself was of some chessic significance. We trust other collectors share this interest with us and we are therefore offering herewith a small selection from our vast stock of chess autographs.

Here is a sample item for Capablanca.

CAPABLANCA, J. R.: A series of 4 letters -- all entirely in Capablanca's handwriting, relating to his participation in the Moscow International tournament of 1925:
1) Letter to W. P. Shipley, Habana, Oct. 4, 1925. with envelope carrying Capablanca's second signature. ... "Things have happened which make uncertain my going to Moscow" ...
2) Letter from Moscow, Nov. 5, 1925. with envelope with Russian stamps to W. P. Shipley. (... "I am apparently in good health but how well I shall make out in the coming tournament is hard to say as it is now for me extremely difficult to get down to real hard work and by the time I get to it, it may be too late." ...
3) Letter from Moscow, Nov. 24, 1925, to B. Kagan (... "As you know I do not seem able to win a game, something new to me. I have only nine more games to play and have only 5 1/2 so far. I doubt very much if I shall finish any better than sixth" ...
4) Letter from Moscow, Dec. 1, 1925, to Kagan. ("... Bogolouboff is practically sure of first place and Lasker of the second place. I have a chance to be third .. .").
Together 9 1/2 pages and 2 envelopes: ...$42.50

Only $42.50! Today each one of those items alone would sell for three figures, maybe more. I recognized another item in the ad:-

M.M. BOTVINNIK, M. EUWE, P. KERES, S. RESHEVSKY, V. SMYSLOV: Signatures of participants on specially inserted page of the Dutch book on the World Championship of 1948, WERELD-KAMPIOENSCHAP SCHAKEN 1948, by Dr. M. Euwe. Or. cloth Botvinnik's and Smyslov's signatures in Cyrillic. Only 25 copies published of this special edition deluxe of the tournament book? ... $15.00

A few years ago I posted about this in the series 'Top eBay Chess Items': Wereldkampioenschap Schaken 1948 (May 2011; 'It received 11 bids and finally sold for US $483.99'). The ads ran every month and were apparently popular with CL's readers.

NO AD • Many readers have commented on how much they like to read Dr. Buschke's chess book ads that appear in CHESS LIFE every month. Many feel that even though the copy is advertising it is also interesting in terms of dates, history of the game, literature of foreign countries, etc. The August [1961] issue contained no ad and we have received many inquiries as to the reason. (CHESS LIFE is probably the only publication in the world that has received complaints from its readers about the lack of advertising!) Even though Dr. Buschke supplied an ad for the August issue, somehow there was a slip-up, beyond anyone's control, and it did not appear. CHESS LIFE sincerely apologizes both to Dr. Buschke and our readers for the mistake.

The ads were back in September and continued until May 1962, although sporadically in the final months.

26 September 2016

Carlsen's TMER 2000-2016

Finishing with Carlsen's TMER 2015-16, I merged events Carlsen played since September 2014 into the master index, updated the associated PGN file, and uploaded the new resources to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-); Last updated 2016-09-26. The files include two more events played since I started the update a month ago:-

  • Chess.com Semifinal Blitz 2016 (vs.Grischuk)
  • 42nd Olympiad, Baku

The final stage of the Chess.com Blitz was announced in the past week: Carlsen - Nakamura Championship set for 27 October. This is a new event using a new, unusual format that deserves attention, perhaps in a future post. As for the chess960 games played in each stage of the event, I noted them on the master index without including them in the PGN file.


Follow-up: Chess.com's GM Blitz Battle (February 2017; on Chess960 FRC).

25 September 2016

Baloney Makes You Smarter

If, as we saw in Transfer in Chess Learning, chess doesn't make you smarter, what does? Let's ask Google.

Chocolate makes you smarter. So does exercise, running, travel, and reading.

Seven hobbies that make you smarter: '1. Play a musical instrument. • 2. Read anything. [...] • 6. Work out your brain. ('sudoku, puzzles, riddles, board games, ...') • 7. Meditate.' • Board games? Yay for chess!

Thirty killer apps: '1. Casual. 2. Fooducate. 3. Cloudswave. [...] 29. ATracker 30. Timely.' • Killer apps will make you smarter every time.

Riding centuries: 'a bicycle ride of 100 miles (160.9 km) or more within 12 hours'. That sounds the same as exercise and running.

Google autocomplete (as in Google Autocompletes CIS, March 2015): Reading makes you smarter; Exercise makes you smarter. • We knew that already, but what about these: weed, dancing, music, Mozart, beer, coffee, TV.

Google also points to Cracked.com's 5 Things You Didn't Know Could Make You Smarter: '1. Electricity to the Skull • 2. Cigarettes • 3. Dancing • 4. Being in a Terrible Mood • 5. What You're Wearing'

Lists definitely make you smarter. In short, everything makes you smarter, except maybe blogging. Or reading blogs.

23 September 2016

USA Captain Donaldson

Susan Polgar: 'It appears that we do have the official tiebreaks!' After the previous Video Friday clip, 2016 Olympiad Opening Ceremony, I wanted to feature the closing ceremony, but it was exceptionally underwhelming.

Press Conference With John Donaldson - Captain Of Team USA - Baku World Chess Olympiad 2016, Round 11 (19:50) • 'Published on Sep 13, 2016.'

The description added (probably copied from Wikipedia),

The tournament features eight out of the top ten players from the FIDE rating list published in August 2016; only former World Champion Vishwanathan Anand and Levon Aronian are missing the Olympiad. [...] The strongest team of the tournament are Russia with an average rating of 2760. [...] United States are the second strongest team with three top ten players, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, along with Ray Robson and Samuel Shankland. So and Shankland have recently proved that they are in good form after winning the Sinquefield Cup 2016 and the Biel Chess Festival 2016, respectively.

For photos of the players, see last week's USA Gold!.

22 September 2016

Agon Presentation

Yesterday on my other chess blog I posted about World Chess Championship Buzz -- Agon, sponsors, virtual reality -- that sort of thing. The embedded video includes a presentation from the press conference that sometimes flashes by before you can comprehend it. I captured the individual slides from the presentation, combined them using the same technique (*) as in Chess Comics No.7: Punch Animated GIF (May 2014), and produced the following animation.

If, for whatever reason, it's still too hard to read, the time when each slide is presented in the video is visible at the bottom of the frame, next to the speaker icon. The last slide says, 'On sale 12 November 2016', but I'm nearly certain that should be '12 September 2016', the date of the press conference.

There are a ton of interesting ideas in the presentation. Can Agon make a success of it?

(*) See gifmaker.me.

20 September 2016

Shaping Chess History

When you've been hanging around the Internet, the Web, and Social Media for as long as I have, you eventually collect a ton of digital documents. Among the collections that I find the most useful, especially for U.S. chess history, are the PDF versions of annual editions of Chess Life and Chess Review. To date I have the following collections:-

Chess Review
1933-1951, (1952 on paper), 1953-1969
Chess Life
Chess Life & Review
Chess Life
2008-10 thru now

Add to these 25 years of paper magazines (Chess Life, 1992-01 thru now; takes up a lot more space than the PDF files) and I have a reasonable base for research into post-WWII chess history.

It's easy to collect the material; it's much harder to get a grasp on it. That's why I was pleased to see an article by Al Lawrence in the most recent Chess Life (CL, September 2016, p.20), titled 'Chess Life Turns 70!'

From its days as a four-page newspaper to the current 72-page glossy, our magazine has long been a key part of US Chess members’ chess lives.

I mentioned Lawrence in a recent post, 2016 CJA Awards (August 2016), where I noted, 'The most prestigious of the awards is undoubtedly 'Chess Journalist of the Year', won by Al Lawrence for the second time'.

The table on the left, listing all CL editors since 1946, is from the same article. A similar list is in Wikipedia's page on Chess Life, in a section subtitled 'Editors of Chess Life'.

Curiously, but not coincidentally, the CL article showed the first page of the first 1946 issue of CL, having the exact same address sticker as in the PDF file for that year. With that as a starting point, Lawrence went on to write about four of the 17 editors listed on the left: Montgomery Major (1946-1957), Fred Wren (1958-1960), Frank Brady (1961), and Burt Hochberg (1967-1979).

This overview provides much better shape to the decades of chess history recorded in CL and CR. I'm sure that I'll consult it frequently as I continue to tackle the stacks of CL/CR PDFs.


Follow-up: Buschke in Chess Life (September 2016)

19 September 2016

Carlsen's TMER 2015-16

Tired of squinting at tiny images to see Carlsen's Record 2015-16? So am I, so I added the latest working version to the end of my page on Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER, 2000-). I still have a few actions to accomplish before I can merge the updates into the main TMER:-

  • Add events Carlsen played since 2016 Bilbao, e.g. the 2016 Baku Olympiad.
  • Decide on the treatment of chess960 games, as in the 2016 Chess.com Blitz
  • Add a few missing fields, e.g. the result of the 2015 Vienna Blindfold exhibition.
  • Add the new PGN to the master file.

I should be able to accomplish that for the next post in this series.

18 September 2016

Alekhine's Brother

It was another slow fortnight here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The last time this happened, a month ago in Soviet Propaganda Porcelain, I went below my normal cutoff. This time I did the same and ended up with another early Soviet item.

Titled 'Russian Chess Yearbook - 1926, signed by Alexey Alekhine, brother of champion', the item pictured below sold for US $380 after four bids from two bidders, on a starting price of US $250. A few years ago we had 'A' Is for Alekhine's Autograph (June 2012), and now we have his brother's autograph. How much of that final price is for the book, how much for the autograph, and how much for the name Alekhine?

Left: Title page
Right: Interior page

The description expanded on the title:-

Antique Russian Chess Yearbook signed by author.
Author: Alexey Alekhine (Alexander Alekhine's brother).
Title: Chess Yearbook 1926. Selected games and review.
Published: Kharkov, 1927.
Language: Russian.
143 pages.

The crosstable on the right page of the photo shows 'Final Group': Rabinovich 8.0, Ilyin-Zhenevsky 7.5, Botvinnik 6.5, followed by three other players. Since the preliminary groups associate all six players with 'Leningrad', I thought this might be the Leningrad championship, but the information given in the first chapter of Botvinnik's '100 Selected Games' doesn't match. It matches instead an event called 'N.W. Provincial Championship' listed in the table of results at the end of Botvinnik's book.

Lest there be any confusion between future World Champion Alexander Alekhine and his brother, in Alekhine Leaves Russia (July 2009), I noted,

After the first World War and the 1917 revolution, [Alexander Alekhine] played in only three tournaments before leaving his native country in 1921, at age 28.

Given that Alexey Alekhine authored the yearbook, he must also have been a strong player.

16 September 2016

USA Gold!

Here on Flickr Friday, I've already featured today's photographer -- see An Arbiter's Photos (August 2012) and Psychedelic Logo? (March 2016) -- but the photos in this composite were exactly what I was looking for to commemorate the USA's first Olympiad victory in 40 years.

First photo: U.S. Chess team © Flickr user Andreas Kontokanis
Other photos by the same photographer: GMs Caruana, Nakamura, and So

I'm guessing that the team shot is from the second round, when the U.S. beat Scotland 3.5-0.5, with GMs Shankland and Robson on 3rd & 4th boards. Standing behind the team is Captain (& IM) John Donaldson, who was last seen on this blog just a few days ago in 1966 Piatigorsky Cup, wearing his hat as chess historian.

15 September 2016

Brady CDVs

I ended the most recent post about 'Top eBay Items', Morphy CDV, with a pledge for another post:-

I searched my collection of chess images and found many more that featured CDVs, including another showing Morphy. These might be worth a future post.

Of the dozen-or-so more interesting images, several were by the well known Mathew Brady, Wikipedia's page Mathew Brady ('Mathew B. Brady's name contains a single "t"') informs,

Mathew B. Brady (1822–1896) was one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War. He studied under inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, who pioneered the daguerreotype technique in America. Brady opened his own studio in New York in 1844, and photographed Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, among other celebrities. When the Civil War started, his use of a mobile studio and darkroom enabled vivid battlefield photographs that brought home the reality of war to the public.

The Brady images below use different styles.

Left: Paul Morphy
Right: Miss Minnie Warren and Commodore Nutt

The Morphy image carried only a brief description, which said,

Paul Morphy Chess Champion by E Anthony, Brady's National Portrait Gallery. Collection LM.

I found two versions of the Warren/Nutt image, where the other had Commodore Nutt sitting. The longer description said,

Original rare carte de visite of Commodore Nutt and Miss Minnie Warren taken as the Groomsman and Bridesmaid to Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren's marriage. The image shows the midgets playing chess from a Brady negative and published by E & H.T. Anthony of New York.

On the front of the card below the image is the description and copyright: "Commodore Nutt & Miss Minnie Warren as Groomsman & Bridesmaid. Entered According to the Act of Congress in the year 1864 by E. & H.T. Anthony in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the U.S. for the So. District of New York."

There are two initials embossed in the lower right and left corner of the image, the letters EA, lower left and FB in the lower right. The embossing makes this image one of the originals done by Brady and Anthony, c.1864.

Wikipedia's page, Commodore Nutt ('George Washington Morrison Nutt; 1848–1881'), has further links for Minnie Warren et al.

13 September 2016

1966 Piatigorsky Cup

A few days after posting about the 1966 Spassky - Larsen game from the 2nd Piatigorsky Cup, I discovered the following video.

Jacqueline Piatigorsky - Chess Renaissance Woman (32:45) • 'Through her love of the game, innovative ideas, and deep involvement in chess philanthropy, Jacqueline Piatigorsky revolutionized American chess.'

The description continued,

A talented player herself, Jacqueline created the Piatigorsky Foundation in 1961. The organization soon began sponsoring chess activities on the local, regional, national, and international levels. IM John Donaldson discusses how Jacqueline's efforts transformed chess in the United States, supporting chess efforts aimed toward women, youth, and underserved populations; her organization of international grandmaster tournaments; and her assistance of top American players, including Samuel Reshevsky and Bobby Fischer.

At about 20 minutes into the clip, the lecture turns to the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup. Along with other anecdotes, IM Donaldson mentions the tournament book.

In the contract the players received, there was a condition that all players must annotate both games. [...] On many moves you'll have both grandmasters annotating the game. There could be big differences of opinion and it makes for very interesting reading to have two strong players look at the games.

Two players didn't annotate all of their games. One was Donner, who annotated all but one game that was such a horrible, painful loss that he couldn't bear to see it again [Donner - Ivkov, round 17]. One other player only chose to annotate one game, because he thought he only played one good game in the tournament. That was Bobby Fischer.

The game was Fischer - Najdorf from round 16, which also appeared in Fischer's 'My 60 Memorable Games', along with Portisch - Fischer from the same tournament. A third player declined to annotate all of his games : Reshevsky annotated only six games, including two of his losses.

For more about the exhibit, see Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer (worldchesshof.org)

12 September 2016

Carlsen's Record 2015-16

Continuing with Carlsen's Events 2015-16, I started with the events listed in that post. To each event I then added World Champion Carlsen's final standing, W-L-D record, and TWIC reference. The results are shown below.

Too small to read? For the next step I'll include PGN info and add the data to my page on Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-).

11 September 2016

Transfer in Chess Learning

Continuing with 'Chess in Primary Schools' Studied, my previous post -- Does Chess.com Make You Smarter? -- looked at Chess.com's take on the recent English study and ended with

Chess.com isn't the only chess organization looking at the EEF study: more about that in my next post.

I imagined that Chess in Schools & Communities (CSC; chessinschools.co.uk) would have something to say about the study, but as of today there is only an 'EEF Project' link in their left navigation bar that goes directly to the relevant EEF page (see that first 'Studied' post for subject matter background including links).

Richard James, another expert on English school chess, weighed in with two posts on Chessimprover.com:-

Perhaps you saw the recent headlines here in the UK. It's now official that chess doesn't make kids smarter. [...] While there is much that is excellent about CSC, there has always, it seems to me, been a conflict between two very different aims which would involve approaching chess in very different ways: chess as a non-competitive learning tool and chess as a competitive activity, and they've been trying to do both at the same time instead of just concentrating on one aim.
I've always been sceptical about the research concerning chess making kids smarter. Apart from whether or not 'making kids smarter', whatever that means, is as desirable an aim as it sounds (I think it's not) I have two problems...

Add to this a brief discussion on the English Chess Forum -- Chess and schools (ecforum.org.uk) -- which points to another brief discussion, where we learn,

Stewart Reuben: 'Malcolm Pein says the CSC will give a response in due course. He feels the results were disappointing but the methodology flawed.'

Perhaps the best general take on the controversy is from several years ago in a non-English publication: Do Music Lessons Make You Smarter? (scientificamerican.com; March 2013).

Practice makes progress, if not perfection, for most things in life. Generally, practicing a skill -- be it basketball, chess or the tuba -- mostly makes you better at whatever it was you practiced. Even related areas do not benefit much. [...] That said, some learning does transfer from one skill to another. [...] But experts have long debated the effects of any of these or others on general intellect. That is, does engaging in these optional activities really build the brain in any fundamental way?

Keyword: 'transfer', as in 'The learning would indeed transfer to a broad set of other tasks and people would consider the activity particularly worthwhile.' Most criticisms of the EEF study amount to tacit support of the concept of transfer. Who is going to study that?

09 September 2016

2016 Olympiad Opening Ceremony

Here's a short version.

Baku Chess Olympiad Opening Ceremony (11:07) • 'The 42nd Chess Olympiad was opened with a solemn but highly entertaining ceremony, held at the Baku National Gymnastics Arena. Players, captains and delegates of the 176 participating federations filled the National Gymnastics Arena to enjoy a wonderful evening. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, declared the 42nd Chess Olympiad open. Former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik and Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan joined the Chief Arbiter Faik Gasanov on stage for the drawing of colors.'

For a longer version, see Opening Ceremony of 42nd World Chess Olympiad (1:11:15).

08 September 2016

1966 Olympiad, USSR Winners

Whoever invented live chess on the web gave us both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it used to be nearly impossible to witness world class events while they were happening -- you had to be there. A curse because it can be a time waster second to nothing -- except blogging in my case.

While watching round six of the Baku Chess Olympiad (that link is to the official site), I suddenly realized that it was getting late and I hadn't started my daily blog post. Even worse, I hadn't decided what to write about. What to do?

I searched my archive of chess images on the key word 'olympiad' and found about 350 candidate images. Many of these weren't interesting on their own -- pictures of coins, medals, lapel pins, that sort of thing -- and the best of the bunch I had already used earlier this year: 1966 Olympiad, USSR & USA. The best of the rest is shown below.

The auction description said,

Up for auction is this ORIGINAL Photo, which shows the WINNER of the XVII CHESS OLYMPIAD in Cuba - World CHESS CHAMPION Tigran PETROSIAN from Soviet Union (Armenia), dated November 1966. This VINTAGE PHOTO measures app. 8" x 10" inches and is still in GOOD condition: some edge and margin wear.

The description went on to copy some basic information about Petrosian, probably from Wikipedia. The other players in the photo were not mentioned. I'll overlook that the auction seller didn't understand that the Olympiad is a team event -- we can't expect everyone to be up to snuff on chess history -- because the photo was his/her contribution to the field.

The Havana Olympiad took place 50 years ago and I expect we'll come back to it later this year for an 'On the Cover' post (that link is to the September 1966 edition). In the meantime, see the 'USSR & USA' post for an identification of the players and a link to Olimpbase. The 1966 event might have been the most iconic Olympiad in history; after all, Iconic Is Awesome (December 2015).

06 September 2016

1966 Spassky - Larsen

Last week's post, September 1966 'On the Cover', harked back to the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup, won by Spassky despite a strong second-half surge by Fischer. According to the Chess Life report I quoted, 'Spassky was rarely in danger of losing a game'. Thanks to the tournament book, where

Most games were annotated by both players. World Champion Petrosian annotated every game he played in the event; ditto for his title challenger of a few months earlier, Spassky.

we know that isn't true. For three consecutive rounds -- Rd.4: W vs. Larsen, Rd.5: B vs. Portisch, Rd.6: W vs. Najdorf -- Spassky got into trouble and narrowly escaped losing each game. I decided to take a closer look at the Larsen game, because the Dane was a tough opponent, one of those players who makes his opponent earn every half-point.

The diagram below shows four critical positions from that game. In the first position, Spassky played 24.Bb3, and wrote 'The beginning of an incorrect plan after which White loses his advantage. The correct continuation was 24.Bf3'. Larsen agreed that 'the Bishop might be better off on the other diagonal'. The problem with White's move is that the Bishop will be shut out of play on b3.

This is shown in the second position, where Larsen played 28...d5!. The point is that the move 29.Rc6, forking two undefended Pawns, is countered by 29...Re4! 30.Rxe4 dxe4. Spassky, who calculated that the move was only good for a draw (29.Rb4 also draws), was looking for more and played 29.Rd4. He later wrote,

Black's chances appear more favorable after my move. The chief shortcomings of White's position are passiveness, the absence of counterplay, and the unsatisfactory position of the King.

Black was now somewhat better.

Spassky - Larsen, 1966 Piatigorsky Cup, Rd.4

The game was adjourned in the third position. Both players noted that White had a draw with 41.axb5+ axb5 42.Bxc4 dxc4, but Spassky sealed 41.Rc8+, and noted,

After the text Black's chances for a win become quite real.

When the game was continued, White's position steadily worsened, eventually reaching the fourth position. Note that White's Bishop has no moves and keeps the White King confined to the first rank, where it is subject to back rank mates. Both players agreed that 55...f5 would win for Black, but Larsen instead played 55...Kc7, and wrote,

After the text move White can probably hold the game.

The word 'probably' leaves the door open and I'm not convinced that Black played the best moves, but the game was drawn after 80 moves. To play through the entire game or to download the PGN, see...

Boris Spassky vs Bent Larsen; Second Piatigorsky Cup (1966)

...on Chessgames.com. CG tells us,

Classical games: Boris Spassky beat Bent Larsen 19 to 6, with 17 draws

including +4-1=3 in the semifinal of the 1967-69 Candidates Matches.

05 September 2016

Carlsen's Events 2015-16

The 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match starts in about two months, making this a good time to update my page on Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 'Last updated 2014-10-06'). I combed through about 100 editions of Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess, and located 282 games that Carlsen played since the last update. The following table summarizes the most important events, with the number of games shown in the last column.

Carlsen is also playing in the 2016 Olympiad, which is due to finish next week. I'll add those games when the full event is available. This digression to update the Carlsen TMER leaves a number of pending series to be reopened when the time is right.

Most of the older series are finished, except for one that I marked with '(*)'.

That last entry is for the previous series on the Carlsen TMER, bringing us full circle.

04 September 2016

Morphy CDV

Another post for Top eBay Chess Items by Price, another Morphy item. It's only been a few weeks since we had Morphy Stereoview (July 2016), and now we have the item pictured below.

Titled 'Vintage CDV Paul Charles Morphy American chess player photo by Appelton', it had a starting price of US $19.99 and finally sold for $519.00 after 12 bids from five bidders. The item's description carried no more information other than a copy of Wikipedia's Morphy page.

What's a CDV? The eBay page CDV Photos: What are they? (Buying Guides > Photographic Images > Vintage & Antique (Pre-1940) > CDVs) says,

Those three letters are an acronym for the French carte de visite or visiting card. This style of antique photography took over in popularity from the daguerreotype or ambrotype of the 1840s and 1850s. Though they provided lovely images, the dag and ambro were easily damaged and not suitable to tuck into an album or a letter to a friend. The Civil War era of the 1860s, however, saw a wide acceptance of the cdv, the invention of either Adolph Disderi in 1854 or Louis Dodero in 1851.

The cdv photograph belongs to the group known as card photographs because the albumen print (a mixture of egg whites, sodium chloride, and silver nitrate) was mounted on paper cards. The size of a cdv is 2 1/4" x 4 1/4".

The back of the Morphy CDV carries a signature (that doesn't match the signature on the 'Stereoview' item) and the printed identification,

443 & 445 Broadway N.Y.

I searched my collection of chess images and found many more that featured CDVs, including another showing Morphy. These might be worth a future post.


Follow-up: Brady CDVs (September 2016).

02 September 2016

Uig, Isle of Lewis

You've seen the movie: Lewis Demisemiseptcentennial (March 2008). You've read the story: The Lewis Pieces at Hilton Head (December 2008) Are you ready for the photo shoot?

Lewis Day 2-18 © Flickr user Alexandra Stevenson under Creative Commons.

The movie explained, 'On 21 April 2006, a carved oak chessman was placed on the machair near Ardroil Sands, Uig, Isle of Lewis. [...] Carving: Stephen Hayward'.

01 September 2016

September 1966 'On the Cover'

In last month's 'On the Cover', I boldly forecast,

I predict that next month's 'On the Cover' will feature the Piatigorsky Cup for both magazines.

And so it is.

Left: '(no caption)'; Spassky - Unzicker
Right: 'Piatigorsky Cup Tournament'; Petrosian - Spassky, Reshevsky - Fischer

Chess Life

SPASSKY TAKES CUP • Fisher [sic] Surge Half Point Short • Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union, playing with unshakable consistency throughout, went undefeated through eighteen grueling rounds of play to capture the Second Piatigorsky Cup Tournament, held in Santa Monica, California July 17 to August 15. Although Spassky was rarely in danger of losing a game, he did have to withstand a dramatic challenge by U.S. Champion Robert J. Fischer, who came from far behind to tie for first place with two rounds remaining.

Chess Review

2nd PIATIGORSKY CUP TOURNAMENT • Spassky First, Undefeated; Fischer Stages Sensational Rally, Cops Second

The tournament book for 1966 Santa Monica is one of my all-time favorites, largely because most games were annotated by both players. World Champion Petrosian annotated every game he played in the event; ditto for his title challenger of a few months earlier, Spassky.