29 November 2016

World Championship Fizzle

For the first time in the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match I was all set to watch a game in its entirety. And what a game it promised to be: the last of the games at standard time control with the score tied at 5.5 for each player! After getting agreement from my wife, we had an early dinner (the games start at 20:00 our time), did the dishes, and I headed up to my attic office just in time to see the first moves on my second PC. It was another Berlin Defense -- not the sort of opening that makes for exciting games -- but I knew that Magnus can whip up complications in any opening if he so desires.

At one point I must have spent too much time looking at some new email on my first PC, because when I turned my attention back to the game, the Chess24 chat squad was already announcing that a draw had been agreed. Huh? A few moments later the official result was appended to the move list. Half an hour to play the last game of the match! I turned off the second PC, set up the first to analyze a position I was interested in, and headed down to the living room to rejoin my wife. She was watching a movie starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton, so the evening wasn't an entire loss.

Good thing I didn't realize that dream to travel to New York and watch the match live. With my luck, I would have arrived just in time for the 12th game. This morning I watched the press conference, where the players said that they understood spectators might have been disappointed by the short, bloodless draw. They also pointed out that there will be considerable compensation in having the tiebreaks, but I doubt I'll have the opportunity to watch.

Despite the lack of resolve by the players, the mainstream press continued to show the same level of interest seen in More World Championship Hubbub. Here is another composite of Yahoo News stories.

This time all four stories are filed under the Sports section.

2016-11-22: Lightning strikes at the World Chess Championship as Magnus Carlsen loses Game 8 (businessinsider.com) • 'After seven straight draws, we've finally witnessed a decisive result at the World Chess Championship. Sergey Karjakin of Russia, the challenger, claimed the first full-point on Monday against titleholder Magnus Carlsen of Norway.'

2016-11-23: The World's Best Chess Player Beat Bill Gates in 9 Moves. Here Are 3 Business Lessons (inc.com) • '1. Know who [sic] you're dealing with. 2. The devil is in the details. 3. It's important to fail.' • As derived from 9 Lessons to Learn from Bill Gates’ 9 Move Loss to Magnus Carlsen (chessimprover.com; January 2014). • My own contribution, Carlsen vs. Gates, The Aftermath (January 2014), might also be titled '8 Quips to Learn from Bill Gates'.

2016-11-26: Chess grandmasters on track for possible ‘Armageddon’ at world championship • 'The situation looked dire for reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen on Tuesday when a slew of uncharacteristic errors allowed his opponent, Sergey Karjakin, to break a seven-game tie at the World Chess Championship. [...] On Thursday, Carlsen recovered by winning Game 10 to even the score at 5-5.'

2016-11-28: Game 12 of the World Chess Championship was nothing like what chess fans were hoping for from Magnus Carlsen (businessinsider.com) • 'Chess is a game of strategy, and reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen was nothing if not strategic in Game 12 of his match against Russia's Sergey Karjakin on Monday. With the score tied at 5.5-5.5, the title-holder from Norway, with white, invited Karjakin to play the Berlin Defense, and the challenger obliged. The Berlin yet again lived up to its drawish reputation, and after a mere 30 moves and roughly 45 minutes of play, the men shook hands.' • The first substory -- 'The Strange Politics of the World Chess Championship' -- is even more interesting than the main story. It led to World Chess Has a Big Problem; While grandmasters earn millions, the sport still can’t shake ties to tyrants and a leader under U.S. sanctions (bloomberg.com).

That's not too shabby -- full reports on games 8, 10, & 12; a taste of Magnus folklore; and a basket of chess politics. After the game 12 fizzle, the tiebreaks promise plenty of sizzle.

28 November 2016

TCEC Season 9 Superfinal Week 3

One week ago, I left TCEC Season 9 Superfinal Week 2 with Stockfish leading Houdini by a score of +7-2=31. During the intervening week another 29 games have been played with a cumulative score of +5-3=21, again in favor of Stockfish. That makes an overall score of

+ 7-2=31 after week two
+ 5-3=21 week three

Five wins for Houdini is a better score than I had extrapolated after the first few days of play. How does it manage to prevail against an opponent who consistently calculates variations more deeply? The following chart shows the evaluation during the course of the game for four of the five wins, Houdini playing White each time.

The beginning of each game shows a similar pattern. After the mandatory book moves have been played, Houdini gives a higher evaluation to the position than does Stockfish. After more moves have been played, Stockfish's evaluation eventually catches up to Houdini's, then surpasses it as Stockfish realizes the game is lost.

Is Houdini's evaluation of an opening position more accurate than Stockfish's? To help answer that question, I would compare the results of the same openings with Stockfish playing White, but that will have to wait for another time. It's worth noting that Stockfish also won G65, i.e. playing the White side of G66. Perhaps that provides an additional clue to its evaluation of openings.

Houdini won another game not shown here, game 58 (G58). The opening of that game followed the same pattern as the other four games, but something strange happened in the middlegame. At around move 65, in a position where the center was blocked, Houdini (White) calculated that it had an advantage of a third of a Pawn, while Stockfish evaluated the position at 0.00 (dead even). The engines maintained their evaluations for another 30 moves, after which Houdini's dropped to a slight advantage for its opponent. After another 15 moves, Houdini's evaluation climbed to a half-Pawn advantage for itself, then continued to climb with Stockfish still showing 0.00. A few moves later, both engines gave a winning advantage for White. On move 144, the game was declared a win for Houdini.

It's well known that engines often have a problem evaluating blocked positions. Was this a contributing factor to the other four wins for Houdini?

While I was writing this, Houdini also won game 70. Although it's putting up a better fight than I had anticipated, I don't expect the overall match result will change in the 30 games left to be played. At a rate of four games per day, we'll find out in another week.

27 November 2016

Chess Sculpture at Auction

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we don't see many sculptures. We see plenty of smaller three-dimensional artwork -- for example, The Artist and the Artwork (April 2015; Anton Chotka), Another Capodimonte Figurine (May 2015), and Soviet Propaganda Porcelain (August 2016), during the last two years alone -- but sculptures are more common in the Flickr Friday series, most recently last month in Two More Chess Statue/Sculptures (October 2016).

When I saw the item pictured below, titled 'ANNE CHU : A Chess Player', I was sure it was a sculpture. When I read the description which mentioned 'oil on wood', I wasn't so sure any more. Whatever it is, it sold for US $10.000 after five bids at live auction, making it one of the most expensive items to be featured on 'Top eBay Chess Items'. The starting price of $8.000, followed by four bids at $500 increments, indicated that this was no ordinary auction.

The dsecription said,

ANNE CHU, A Chess Player • Estimate 10,000 - 15,000 USD • 58 by 72 by 50 in.; 147.3 by 182.9 by 127 cm. • oil on wood.

CONDITION REPORT: This work in very good and sound condition overall. All assemblage elements appear to be present and stable. There is evidence of a minor repair to the middle finger and the index finger of the left element, which were re-affixed, only visible upon close inspection.

PROVENANCE: Victoria Miro Gallery, London; Acquired from the above by the present owner • EXHIBITED: London, Victoria Miro Gallery, Anne Chu, May - June 2001.

The details about 'minor repair' convinced me again that the piece was indeed a sculpture. As for the observation of 'no ordinary auction', the seller was Sotheby’s. The company's feedback page says,

Sotheby’s has been a leader in the world of auctions for over 270 years. Now we’re offering the same legendary history, expertise, and property in an immersive environment where the eBay audience can learn about, experience, and buy art.

I couldn't remember seeing Sotheby’s on eBay. The seller's feedback listing was a modest 'sothebys (23); 90.9% positive feedback', with the earliest item going back about 18 months. The relatively low feedback rating seems to be related to shipping costs and communication problems.

Anne Chu, the artist, has a Wikipedia page and died earlier this year: New York Artist Anne Chu Has Died at 57 (artnet.com; 27 July 2016). A Google image search confirms that she was primarily a sculptor.

I've observed often in the past that total eBay listings increase as we enter the year-end holiday season. There were easily another half-dozen auctions I could have featured, but this one was head-and-shoulders above the others.

25 November 2016

World Championship Back to the Future

Let's travel in time back to an early view of the venue for the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match: FULTON FISH MARKET • CITY OF NEW YORK • DEPARTMENT OF MARKETS ('Taken on May 29, 2011').

Manhattan Waterfront Greenway © Flickr user The City Project under Creative Commons.

The description links to New York Architecture Images - Fulton Fish Market, which says,

South Street Seaport • As commerce moved north and west during the mid-19th century, the city's first seaport was transformed into a food supply center (the Fulton Fish Market opened in 1835). From the late 19th century through the mid 20th century, the area was largely abandoned, surviving only as a wholesale fish district and yachting dock.

In the 1960s interest in the seaport was revived as the building industry returned to lower Manhattan. After a twenty-year debate over the future of the area, Thompson and Rouse & Company redeveloped the seaport according to a formula used at Boston's Quincy Market and Baltimore's Harbor Place.

That's the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.

24 November 2016

Magnus, the Movie

My previous post, More World Championship Hubbub, had a couple of links to reviews about the full length documentary (78 minutes) by Benjamin Ree. Here's a trailer for the film.

Magnus Official Trailer 1 (2016) - Documentary (2:10) • 'Directed by: Benjamin Ree. From child prodigy to chess genius.'

And here are a couple of links to two of the web's most indispensable movie sites.

Rotten Tomatoes currently has 13 professional reviews, 11 of them positive. Although there are no audience reviews, the two on IMDb both give it six stars out of ten.


One of the comments on the original Youtube page said, 'He looks like the twins from Teen Wolf.'

Source: Ethan and Aiden | Teen Wolf Wiki

For more Magnus lookalikes, see Magnus Looks Like That Guy? (December 2013).

22 November 2016

More World Championship Hubbub

And the hits just keep on coming! A week ago, in World Championship Hubbub, I opened,

We chess players love to gripe about the lack of chess news in the mainstream press. I've seen more than a few such complaints about the ongoing 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match, but from where I'm sitting the coverage has been better than usual.

Here's more of the same, assembled from a composite of Yahoo News stories.

That makes three stories filed under the Sports section and one under Entertainment.

2016-11-18: Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin are putting an end to the 'Grandmaster draw' at the World Chess Championship (businessinsider.com) • 'After five rounds, the 2016 World Chess Championship is deadlocked. Title holder Magnus Carlsen of Norway and challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia each have 2.5 points. All games thus far have ended in draws.'

2016-11-18: Film Review: 'Magnus' (variety.com) • 'How brain-boggling a chess virtuoso is Magnus Carlsen, the 25-year-old Norwegian prodigy and reigning World Chess Champion? In the light and lively portrait-of-a-genius documentary "Magnus," Carlsen appears at Harvard University in 2013 to face off against 10 of the world’s greatest players in simultaneous games - and he does it blindfolded.'

2016-11-17: Chess aficionado says Russian hackers are targeting him (nypost.com) • 'Never mind the Sicilian defense - chess champ Magnus Carlsen needs a defense against Russian hackers. The world’s No. 1-ranked chess player has tapped Microsoft to protect data during his meticulous preparations for games against rival Sergey Karjakin - a 25-year-old prodigy from Crimea who has sworn allegiance to Vladimir Putin.'

2016-11-21: Championship chess has a draw problem (huffingtonpost.com) • 'The problem is built into the design of the game itself. If you look at the starting position on a chess board, it's obvious that there's an equilibrium. The white pieces and the black pieces mirror each other perfectly.'

I spotted another story filed under Entertainment. Because it was something of a duplicate -- partly as a review of 'Magnus' the movie and partly because of its source -- I'll mention it separately.

2016-11-20: Magnus: Portrait Of A Chess Champion (huffingtonpost.com) • 'A vivid portrait of the 25-year-old world chess champion's life, talent and dedication, the film offers a glimpse into his background. A child prodigy, Magnus' incredible mind and memory are vividly displayed.'

The two stories about draw problems both appeared before Carlsen's collapse in game eight. I doubt that we'll be seeing any more stories like those.

21 November 2016

TCEC Season 9 Superfinal Week 2

A week has passed since I posted TCEC Season 9 Superfinal Underway, at which time I noted,

In the nearly three days since the event started, the engines have played 12 complete games non-stop with Stockfish leading Houdini by +3-0=9.

Since that post, another 28 games have been played with a score of +4-2=22 for Stockfish, all of the last 13 consecutive games ending in a draw. Adding the two weeks together gives a current score of:-

+3-0= 9

A Stockfish win in game 17 provoked a genuine controversy. The final position of Queen vs. two Bishops is shown in the following diagram, Black to move.


A long thread on the Talkchess.com forum, Cursed win at TCEC, started,

Engines showing 0.00 due to 50-move rule, but position was auto-adjudicated as an M72 TB win.

If you don't speak engine jargon, 'M72 TB' translates to a tablebase mate in 72. In other words, both engines abandoned the game as a draw because the mate will take longer than 50 moves to achieve, but the organizers adjudicated it as a win for Stockfish, playing White. Whether you think it should be scored as a win or as a draw, the final position is bad news for fans of the Sicilian Dragon, in particular this variation:-

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.O-O-O Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.h4 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5

The other game where the same line was played, Houdini as White, also ended in a win for the first player. At the end of the 'Underway' post, I extrapolated the score at that time to a crushing win for Stockfish:-

We're looking at something like a +25-0=75 final score, where isolated wins for Houdini will be the exception.

While the end result won't be that one-sided, adding the current score (+7-2=31) to a new extrapolation for the unplayed games (+10-3=47) gives a final score of +17-5=78 in favor of Stockfish. With 60 games still to be played at the rate of four games per day, we're looking at another two weeks of TCEC season 9.

20 November 2016

World Championship Sociology

If The Sociology of Chess is 'the study of social behaviour or society', what can we learn from the World Championship match currently taking place in New York City? In my previous post Chess on 'CBS This Morning', the latest in a long running series of chess videos that I call Video Friday, I mentioned that 'I had plenty of clips about the ongoing Carlsen - Karjakin match to choose from'.

Many of those videos are single game analyses by top players of the ins-and-outs, the twists-and-turns as a game progresses from the standard start position to one of three possible results. Many of them are highlights from the live broadcasts produced while a game is being played. Many of them are interviews of the key people involved in the match, including the two main protagonists themselves.

Surprisingly few of those videos show the spectators, the everyday people whose collective interest makes the event worth playing and worth broadcasting. I went back through the dozens of videos I looked at before selecting 'CBS This Morning' and found only a handful worth mentioning for this current post. Here's a screen capture from one of them. It starts with interviews of people milling about outside the match venue, then switches to the crowd of spectators.

Russian and Norwegian battle for world chess crown
(youtube.com; AFP news agency)

The scene shown could be taken from almost any event where people get together. Until the camera pans around to the wall they are watching, there is absolutely nothing in the photo that indicates these people are following a chess game.

The following embedded clip shows the tailend of the second game. It fell on a Saturday and was the most heavily attended game of the six that have been played so far.

Carlsen - Karjakin, 2016. The 2nd game, after the press-conference. (2:19) • 'New York 2016. World chess championship (for www.chess-news.ru).'

The scene takes place in the same room shown in the previous photo. Reports said that free tickets for use in any game were distributed by the organizers, and that many were used for the second game. Nearly three weeks ago, when I was preparing a post about World Championship Broadcasting, I looked at ticket prices and noticed that game two was already sold out.

Not shown are the tens-of-thousands of spectators -- I doubt that it reached hundreds-of-thousands -- who were watching the game online at the same time. I have no idea how I would measure or portray that interest. I'll think about doing that for the next post in this series on chess sociology.

18 November 2016

Chess on 'CBS This Morning'

For this edition of Video Friday, I had plenty of clips about the ongoing Carlsen - Karjakin match to choose from. This video produced by CBS This Morning was one of the most professional.

Chess grandmasters seek world championship title (5:23) • 'Over the next few weeks at the World Chess Championship, defending champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway will face Sergey Karjakin of Russia. Vladimir Duthiers spoke to Carlsen about his journey.'

For links to archived copies of the live broadasts from the first rounds, see the previous post on my World Championship blog, Carlsen - Karjakin, the First Week.

17 November 2016

World Championship Notes and News

That makes two consecutive posts -- World Championship Hubbub (on this blog) and Carlsen - Karjakin, the First Week (on my World Chess Championship blog) -- where I managed not to use most of the material I collected during the days leading up to the big match. First, let's look at the broadcast team located in New York, using the official video from game one.

Left to right:
Sergey Fayfer, World Chess Digital Director;
Knut Skeie Solberg, Host;
Peter Doggers, Director of Content for Chess.com;
GM Judit Polgar
Kaja Marie Snare, Agon’s ace world championship reporter

The members of the team have different levels of understanding about chess and chess history. Host Solberg occasionally asks some very basic questions, like 'Can you explain castling?'. Digital Director Fayfer said,

If we look back at the 1972 World Championship where Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky played, the broadcast was literally from a peephole. People were watching this fantastic match through a not-so-great quality broadcast.

There was, of course, no broadcast in 1972. Some filming was done, but most of the material has never been released. The Norwegians -- Solberg and Snare -- are blatantly biased toward countryman Carlsen, usually referring to one player as 'Magnus' and the other as 'Karjakin'. Even with these flaws the format seems to be successful and the broadcasting team works well together, largely thanks to GM Polgar; see Queen of NY: Judit Polgar talks about analysing the match (chessbase.com):-

Q: Why do you think you were chosen as commentator for the World Chess Championship? • A: I think in the last ten years or so chess commentary has become more interesting and entertaining than ever. More and more strong players are happy to explain the games and events to an audience of chess amateurs to help them to understand and enjoy the games much better. Why the organizers chose me is a question for Agon (smiles). However, while I will be a new face as a commentator I am a well-known personality in the world of chess.

On this blog she has already been featured twice this year: Polgar Global Chess Festival (February 2016) and Nearly Two Decades Later (May 2016; about 'Chess Kids' 1996, a documentary). GM Polgar performs best when she exchanges ideas with another master level chess player. The segment from game one where she discussed the evolution of chess with GM Rogoff (formerly with the IMF, now with Harvard) was one of the highlights.

Back to the material I've collected, the world's best chess journalists have been working double-time.

On top of the material collected in the 'Hubbub' post, the non-chess press has also produced some noteworthy articles.

As for social media, I couldn't possibly begin to collect all of the material flying around the web, but some people are more ambitious. This next resource is maintained by Eric van Reem, formerly a member of GM Anand's World Championship team.

  • 2016-11-06: Here I go again... (chessintweets.com); 'Having a two-year break from world championship blogging was actually quite nice, but let’s go on with the blog!'

The two year wait since we last saw a World Championship match has everyone raring to go.

15 November 2016

World Championship Hubbub

We chess players love to gripe about the lack of chess news in the mainstream press. I've seen more than a few such complaints about the ongoing 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match, but from where I'm sitting the coverage has been better than usual.

My primary sources for mainstream news of all kind are Yahoo News and Yahoo Finance. I start my day by browsing the headlines and reading any stories that interest me. I'm always pleased to see a chess story and usually bookmark it for possible use in a blog post. Examples from this year include Chess @ Yahoo Finance (May 2016; 'Inside the high-stress world of pro chess') and More on Chess and Alzheimer's (July 2016)

In the last week I've bookmarked four stories (more if you count any story that repeats the following day). The following composite image shows their Yahoo News index headlines in chronological order.

It's interesting to note that the stories are carried under a number of sections : Technology, Sports, World, and Sports again. This underscores one of the attractions of chess -- it has an impact on many aspects of everyday life.

As for the stories themselves, I'll summarize each one. One of the current quirks of Yahoo News is that the headline link first goes to a Yahoo stub page which does little more than provide a link to the original story on another source. I'll skip the stub and will provide the link to the original story.

2016-11-07: Microsoft to Protect 'Mozart of Chess' From Russian Hackers (pcmag.com) • 'The name Magnus Carlsen may not mean anything to you, unless of course you're a chess fan. The 25-year-old Norwegian is the reigning World Chess Champion, achieved after becoming a chess grandmaster at the age of 13. But while he is a prodigy and has been dubbed the "Mozart of chess," he also has a problem and has called upon Microsoft to help solve it.'

2016-11-09: Chess lawsuit set for moves in federal court on Thursday (seattletimes.com, after the Associated Press) • 'NEW YORK (AP) -- Arguments over a lawsuit aimed at restricting who can instantly reveal moves at the World Chess Championship will be heard on Thursday, a day before the games begin. A federal court judge set the hearing to decide whether to block some websites from immediately relaying players' moves when they begin Friday in New York.'

2016-11-11: Magnus Carlsen defends his title as chess champion (cbsnews.com; the first day of the match) • 'The game requires stamina, endurance, and strategy. It’s now routinely taught in schools around the world. At the championship level, the objective isn’t just winning -- it’s demolishing your opponent. Magnus Carlsen is the best in the world, and starting Friday, he will defend that title at the World Chess Championship in New York City.'

2016-11-13: Here’s what to expect at the World Chess Championship (nypost.com; by GM Andy Soltis) • 'Bobby Fischer wouldn’t recognize the world championship chess being played at the Fulton Market Building this month. Champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, Sergey Karjakin, play longer, more intense games than in Fischer’s era. They calculate better and err less often than players of the past.'

For the last two of those main stories, Yahoo had additional links to other stories. Here are the headlines, which should be enough to locate the original article:-

  • Chess star Karyakin: symbol of geopolitical divides -- AFP
  • Norwegian, Russian to square off in World Chess Championship -- Associated Press
  • World Chess Championship becomes a celebrity affair in New York -- New York Post
  • Even the world chess champion can't escape the spectre of Donald Trump -- The Huffington Post

There might be some robotics involved in allocating those additional stories, because I noticed the following when seeing a headline story for a second time:-

  • La Crosse chef set to compete in World Food Championships -- WQOW Eau Claire

All in all, it doesn't equal the media attention given to the 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship match, but I'm not complaining!


I also used the 'Hubbub' idea in a recent post drawn from Yahoo News reports on the Women's World Championship: Hijab Hubbub (October 2016).

14 November 2016

TCEC Season 9 Superfinal Underway

Let's put Korchnoi's Events aside for a few months and look at the two World Championship matches currently being held. For the more important of the two matches, the human version, I'll refer to my World Championship Blog, where the most recent post was World Championship Bullying, and where I'll be tracking the event on at least a weekly basis.

For the stronger of the two matches, the engine version, I'll mention my previous post Carlsen, TCEC, Karjakin, Korchnoi (October 2016), where the TCEC acronym is the bit I'm interested in now. By coincidence, the human and engine matches both started at the same time, and the next day Chessdom.com (the official site for the engine match) reported Carlsen – Karjakin game 1 draw:-

Stockfish 8 and Houdini 5 also draw in game 1 • Together with the highest individual event in the chess calendar -- the World Championship -- started also the highest event for computer chess, the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC). In the Superfinal of Season 9 Stockfish and Houdini started their 100 game match with a draw.

In the nearly three days since the event started, the engines have played 12 complete games non-stop with Stockfish leading Houdini by +3-0=9. How does one engine with a rating slightly over 3200 Elo beat an engine with a rating slightly under 3200? Like this...

tcec.chessdom.com/live -> Archive -> Season 9 Superfinal game 5

...The graph in the top left ('Depth') shows that Stockfish (playing White) consistently searches variations to a greater depth than does Houdini. This means that Stockfish finds any winning path first ('Evaluation', top right), partly because it goes into endgame lookups faster than its opponent ('Tablebase hits', bottom right). As for the graph in the bottom left ('Speed'), Houdini appears to be faster, but that doesn't matter (whatever it means).

The two other games that Stockfish has won -- games 7 and 9 -- show similar patterns. The bottom line is that a deeper search translates into an advantage. Does Houdini have a chance to win the match? The available evidence indicates that, no, it doesn't. We're looking at something like a +25-0=75 final score, where isolated wins for Houdini will be the exception.

13 November 2016

Focused on the Game?

After doing this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price for so long, I have to admit that I have least favorite categories of item and most favorite categories. An example of a least favorite category would be the previous post in the series, Another Dollhouse Chess Table, and a most favorite would be a painting, like the one shown below.

This particular painting was titled 'Fine Large 19th Century English Ladies Game of Chess Antique Oil Painting Signed' and subtitled 'Circa 1850 - signed indistinctly'. It sold for GBP 577.67 ('approximately US $727.11') after 26 bids from 13 bidders.

The description expanded on the title:-

A Game of Chess, circa 1850. Large English School work - signed indistinctly R*** James and Edmund W***. Fine large 19th Century scene of a game of chess, oil on canvas, signed.

Beautiful work of a game of chess between two ladies and a gentleman. Beautifully painted and interesting scene with one lady focused on the game at hand and the other more interested in the gentleman.

Some surface issues and marks as seen. Antique frame. Measurements: 37" x 31" framed.

The chess set in the painting looks like the one in A Barleycorn Chess Set (October 2011). As for the two ladies -- one focused on the game and the other on the gentleman -- it's not clear where the gentleman is focused.

11 November 2016

License to Checkmate

'The name is Bondarevsky, Igor Bondarevsky.' • Seen on the streets of Virginia, a state 'for lovers'.

Checkmate © Flickr user Eli Christman under Creative Commons.

The round sticker next to the license plate says, ChampionshipChess.net, where the motto is, 'We "teach children" while others "teach chess".'


While we're on the subject of 007, do you remember this scene?

James Bond On Chess (2:26) • 'From Russia With Love (1963)'

'My congratulations, sir. A brilliant coup!'

10 November 2016

A Chess Allegory

My previous post, Election Special ('May the best woman win!'), turned out to be more special than I could ever have imagined. No one can predict the outcome of an election and the world will have to live with U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Eliminating Hillary from the election special gives us the following.

Google Image search on 'chess donald trump'

Again we have strange images associated with strange stories and again the '4D Chess' metaphor dominates the others. Another strange story involving chess and Donald J. Trump is Dumping on Bronx kids, Donald style by David MacEnulty (medium.com). That's the same MacEnulty of Knights of the South Bronx (wikipedia.org) fame:-

'Knights of the South Bronx' is a 2005 television film about a teacher who helps students at a tough inner-city school to succeed by teaching them to play chess. The movie is based on the true story of David MacEnulty who taught schoolchildren of the Bronx Community Elementary School 70 to play at competition level, eventually winning New York City and the New York State Chess Championships.

The same story found in 'Dumping, Donald style' is an anecdote related in Trump boasts about his philanthropy, but his giving falls short of his words (washingtonpost.com):-

At times, Trump seemed to make light of others' expectations about his generosity. In 1997, for instance, he was "principal for a day" at a public school in an impoverished area of the Bronx. The chess team was holding a bake sale, Hot & Crusty danishes and croissants. They were $5,000 short of what they needed to travel to a tournament.

Trump had brought something to wow them. "He handed them a fake million-dollar bill," said David MacEnulty, a teacher and the chess team's coach. The team's parent volunteers were thrilled. Then disappointment. Trump then gave them $200 in real money and drove away in a limousine. Why just $200? "I have no idea," MacEnulty said. "He was about the most clueless person I’ve ever seen in that regard."

The happy ending, he said, was that a woman read about Trump’s gift in the New York Times, called the school and donated the $5,000. "I am ashamed to be the same species as this man," MacEnulty recalled her saying.

Will this story serve as an allegory for the Donald J. Trump presidency? We'll know long before his four-year term is over.

08 November 2016

Election Special

With the USA voting today, it seems that everywhere I look someone is running an 'election special'. Why shouldn't I?

Google Image search on 'chess hillary trump'

The strangest of the many strange pages linked from that search -- many of which have little to do with chess -- is probably Trump Is Playing 4D Chess (knowyourmeme.com), i.e.

He’s playing 4D chess on a 3D chessboard against people playing 2D chess.

It doesn't make any sense, but neither do many of the election sights and sounds we've seen and heard over the last year and a half. May the best woman win!

07 November 2016

Korchnoi's Events 2008-15

Continuing with Korchnoi's Events 2006-07 (and TCEC 2016), I added the last eight years of Korchnoi's career to my page on Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015). There are no games from 2013 and only a handful of exhibition games from 2014-2015, meaning that Korchnoi's career effectively ended in September 2012 with a couple of games played for the Swiss team championship.

The chart on the left shows the number of games I collected from TWIC files starting at the beginning of 1998. For the record, it totals 1206 games from around 150 events.

The TWIC files provide the data for the fourth major section of the Korchnoi TMER. The first games in the TWIC section are from the 1998 Anibal Open, Linares, in TWIC 168, i.e.

THE WEEK IN CHESS 168 - 26th January 1998 by Mark Crowther

Crowther's writeup said,

3) Linares Open Tournament • A strong international open took place in Linares Spain. Sergei Tiviakov took clear first with 8/9 ahead of Tony Miles, Stanislav Savchenko, Karen Movsziszian, Georgy Timoshenko, Karen Asrian, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Gennady Kuzmin on 7.5. The field also included Viktor Korchnoi, Vladimir Epishin and Valeri Filippov in the 186 participants.

Korchnoi finished the event, [although] at one stage it looked as though he might withdraw after a most distressing loss in round four where it [looked] as if Korchnoi became distracted at his opponents unwillingness to resign and [he] contrived to lose.

Notwithstanding the many 'Crowtherisms' that pepper his written work -- [I've tried to fix a few] -- Mark Crowther provides a first class service. Thanks, Mark!


And what about the TCEC 2016 (Thoresen Chess Engines Competition) half of the previous post? The TCEC Facebook page now says,

The Superfinal preparations need a few more days and the games are expected to start after 9 November.
The 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship starts 11 November, so there will be plenty of quality chess material for the next month or so.

06 November 2016

The Sociology of Chess

Before embarking on a series about Chess and Social Trends, I should know something about sociology, a subject I've managed to avoid for most of my life. Wikipedia's page on Sociology says,

Sociology is the study of social behaviour or society, including its origins, development, organization, networks, and institutions. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, disorder, and change.

How about some imagery to go along with that? I searched my file of chess images and came up with a set of related words -- associated, association, social, socialize, society -- of which the most frequent images were similar to the one shown below.

'The Irish Chess Association at Belfast'

This particular image was a half-page engraving from an 1886 issue of the weekly newspaper 'The Illustrated London News'. It shows Burn and Blackburne at a chess table in front of other members of the association. For the next few posts in the series, I'll present other images as I take the time to explore the subject.

04 November 2016

Carlsen - Karjakin 2013

The start of the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match a week from today makes this a timely video, even if the game was played more than three years ago.

GM Magnus Carlsen vs GM Sergey Karjakin (7:52) • 'Chess Blitz Tal Memorial Rd.6'

To follow the game at your own speed, see Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin; Tal Memorial -- Blitz, 2013 (chessgames.com).


Later: The video embedded above went missing no more than a week after I posted it. I found the identical clip on another channel: GM Magnus Carlsen vs GM Sergey Karjakin Chess Blitz Tal Memorial Round 6. It was undoubtedly the source of my original choice.

03 November 2016

Alekhine 1914-1920

What is unusual about the following image? You might recognize it as two pages from the table of contents to Alekhine's 'Best Games : 1908-1923' (David McKay, 1965). Unusual is the gap between 1914 Mannheim and 1920 Moscow. This is the period covered by my previous posts in this Alekhine series, the most recent based on Albrecht Buschke's Alekhine in Soviet Land.

Of the games listed in chronological order under 'CHAPTER XI. LOCAL TOURNAMENTS...', no.32-45 were all played before WWI broke out in 1914. According to Alekhine, no.46 was played in 1916 and no.52 in 1919. Chessgames.com has individual pages for most of those last seven games:-

The 'Summary of Results' in Alekhine's 'Best Games' also lists nothing between 1914 Mannheim and 1920 Moscow. The English version of Kotov's 'Alexander Alekhine' (R.H.M. Press, 1975) lists three events in that period -- 1916, 1918, 1919 -- all in Moscow; the Russian version (Fizkultura i Sport, 1982) lists the same. These references might be useful as I continue with Buschke's Chess Life series.

01 November 2016

November 1966 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago the covers of the two major American chess magazines featured tournments that continue today.

Left: 'Our Men in Havana'
Right: 'New Emperor'

Chess Life

[Pictured:] Evans, Addison, Benko, Fischer, Rossolimo, R. Byrne, and Team Captain D. Byrne • U.S. TEAM FINISHES AHEAD OF FIFTY COUNTRIES IN XVII CHESS OLYMPICS • Final Standings, Premier Section: Soviet Union 39 1/2, United States 34 1/2, Hungary 33 1/2 [...] • Special in our next issue: Detailed report by Larry Evans • Cover photo furnished by Nicolas Rossolimo

Chess Review

New Emperor? Well, what else to call Arthur B. Bisguier, winner of the "Empire City (under any other name, New York would smell the same) Open"? He was clear winner at 5.5-0.5, ahead of Pal Benko, Dr. Karl Burger, Asa Hoffman and James Sherwin, who tied for second place at 5.0-1.0.

The 2016 Olympiad that took place a few months ago in Baku, Azerbaijan was the 42nd in the series. For more about the 1966 Olympiad, see 17th Chess Olympiad: Havana 1966 (olimpbase.org).

As for the Empire City Open, its web site, EmpireCityOpen.com, announces, '35th Empire City Open; December 27-29, 2016'. In 1966, the 'Tournament Life' section of the September Chess Life indicated that the event was organized by the USCF. In 2016, it is one of the Continental Chess Association (CCA) tournaments. Is the 1966 event counted in the current series?