31 March 2017

PRO Chess League

From Youtube's David Pruess channel: 'I'm an International Master [IM] with 20 years of teaching experience'.

Greg Shahade Interview - PRO Chess League (39:33) • 'Interview with PRO Chess League Commissioner, Greg Shahade.'

The description continued,

We cover how [IM Shahade] measures the league's success, the first season's biggest excitement and greatest disappointment, changes for 2018, cheating, qualifying, how the league impacted his life, and more.

Plenty of thoughts for follow-up here.

30 March 2017

Chess in Concept Art

In last week's post Chess in Conceptual Art, I used Wikipedia to discover the difference between 'conceptual art' and 'concept art'. According to Wikipedia,

Concept art is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books or other media before it is put into the final product.

It turns out that most of the examples involve the design of chess sets. Of the 13 images shown below, nearly all are chess sets.

Google image search on 'chess "concept" art -site:pinterest.com'

The keyword 'concept' is in quotes to exclude images from the 'conceptual' domain. I also excluded Pinterest because the site only duplicates original images from other sources and brings little else that is useful.

The most intriguing image is in the top row, third from the left: Concept art like chess battle (deviantart.com). The attached explanation -- 'The game should be in strategy but in real time where you get to move freely but position characters in tactical situations' -- is somewhat incoherent, but the artwork stands on its own.

The leftmost image in the second row also goes to Deviantart.com (as did all of the images in the previous post, 'Chess in Conceptual Art'): Chess Concepts, 'Character ideas for a chess based game in the works.' Although not immediately obvious, the drawing also depicts a chess set; first row: Bishop, Pawn, Rook (the big thing with its knuckles on the ground), King, Queen, Knight.

Not shown above is a complete comic book, as in Thread: Chess comic (conceptart.org), 'This is the first comic I've made, an instructional comic about chess, I'd really appreciate some honest feedback and ways to improve'. One page shows castling as a move of the Queen and Rook, which is why concept art can be useful to get the bugs out early.

28 March 2017

Did He Resign?

When was the last time a chess story grabbed so many mainstream press headlines without once mentioning the name Magnus Carlsen?

World chess body chief alleges plot to oust him: TASS
Reuters - 27 Mar 2017 • 'When asked in an email exchange with Reuters if he could clarify the situation, FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman...'

The article started,

The Russian head of world chess's governing body FIDE said on Monday he was the victim of a plot to oust him but denied a report by his own organization that he had resigned. The statement on the FIDE website said Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, its president since 1995, had announced his resignation on Sunday at the end of a federation board meeting in Greece. But Russia's TASS news agency quoted Ilyumzhinov as saying: "They wanted to oust me but it didn't work. I haven't signed anything and I'm not resigning. I think there is an American hand in this, and I think it's called a set-up."

The Google News summary (captured in the image above) showed nine related stories. For example:-

I've covered Ilyumzhinov many times on my blogs. For more about the U.S. Treasury Sanctions, see Spectating the 87th FIDE Congress (December 2016). For more about the internal problems leading to the latest spate of stories, see FIDE's Finances (February 2017). For the last time World Champion Carlsen made the news, see More about 'Outliers' (earlier this month).

27 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More of the Same

After the previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More Discrepancies, what more can be learned from 'Levy & O'Connell's book (L&O) covering the first 30 years of Korchnoi's career' combined with Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1946-2015)? I started by looking at tournaments missing completely from the book's overview of his career.

The five missing events are identified in the first section of the following chart. Particularly intriguing is the '1974 New York blitz' event, which I can't recall seeing before. According to L&O, it was played in February 1974, which would have followed the match vs. Mecking played in January at Augusta GA.

The rest of the chart follows the lead from 'More Discrepancies', comparing L&O's index of opponents with its overview of events. This time I looked at events that had between seven and ten games. Almost all of the events played before the mid-1960s present a discrepancy and there are 13 additional unidentified events.

26 March 2017

Chess Strategy Woodcut

I'm slowly discovering that the most efficient method of exploring The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) is through related imagery. Last month I had a couple of posts featuring Louis Wolchonok (see Chess in New York Parks for the second post) and this month I'll feature another artist who often used chess as a theme.

'Chess Strategy', Irving Amen (woodcut print)

Wikipedia's Irving Amen informs,

Irving Amen (1918–2011) was a painter, printmaker and sculptor. Born in New York City in 1918, he began drawing at the age of four. A scholarship to the Pratt Institute was awarded to him when he was fourteen years old. With Michelangelo as his idol, he spent seven years in life classes perfecting his drawing. From 1942 to 1945 he served with the Armed Forces. He headed a mural project and executed murals in the United States and Belgium.

His first exhibition in woodcut was held at the New School for Social Research and his second at the Smithsonian Institution in 1949 and also exhibited at the Artists House in Jerusalem, the Library of Congress, and the National Academy of Design. [...] His work often depicts themes of Judaism, chess, people, music, Italy and Don Quixote. In his later years he lived and worked in Boca Raton, Florida.

The image appears to be loaded with symbolism. Is it just my imagination or is the bird in the bottom center in the form of a chess King? And is the bird in the bottom right corner connected to the thinking man in the top right corner? And why call the piece 'Chess Strategy'? For another example of the same artist's use of chess, see Chess Art? Amen! (November 2011).

24 March 2017

Posing for Euros

Once again, as in Sand Dudes Play Chess (June 2015), we are confronted with the deep philosophical question, 'What is this exactly' : a statue or elaborate makeup?

Chess and the Girl © Flickr user Juan Diego under Creative Commons.

Armed with the knowledge that the 'This photo is in 1 album: Madrid', plus the only information in the description -- 'Calle del Arenal' -- we learn that the calle 'is one of the 10 streets emanating from the Puerta del Sol Square' (gomadrid.com). This leads to the discovery,

Street performers must be permanent fixtures of Puerta del Sol. You might chance on one corner a motorcycle rider floating high with his bike, and on another a human statue playing chess. Others scatter all around the square as they act out the Predator, Edward Scissorshands, and various characters, mostly from Disney.

Each one is eager to get the attention of passing tourists. Be wary about taking their pictures, however, as it isn’t free. See to it that you have at least a euro to pay afterwards. (letstalkmadrid.com)

There's even another photo of the player wearing a hat: 2014, July ' a street performer at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain (wikimedia.org); same table, same clock, different player, different position on the board. Don't forget to pay him a euro.

23 March 2017

Follow-up Closure

In my previous post, Chess in Conceptual Art, I wrote,

The upside about a category like Posts with label zFLUP (where FLUP = followup), is that it's always there when I need it. The downside is that, once in a while, I actually have to follow something up.

The downside is not just following something up, it's also about removing it from the list of things to follow up. Here are a few posts that required administrative closure.

Next step: Follow up something else.

21 March 2017

Chess in Conceptual Art

The upside about a category like Posts with label zFLUP (where FLUP = followup), is that it's always there when I need it. The downside is that, once in a while, I actually have to follow something up. Take the photo in A Lonely Knight (January 2017), for example, where the idea to followup was:-

Maybe it would help if I understood what 'conceptual art' meant.

Wikipedia says, 'not to be confused with concept art', and continues,

Conceptual art, sometimes simply called conceptualism, is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. • Conceptual art

I think I get it. The idea behind 'Lonely Knight' is romantic loss, which makes the photo conceptual. Wikipedia continues,

History: The French artist Marcel Duchamp paved the way for the conceptualists, providing them with examples of prototypically conceptual works -- the readymades, for instance.

The name Marcel Duchamp is often attached to chess, as in a half-dozen posts on this blog. The most recent was Borrowing Leaves (December 2015; 'Marcel Duchamp and Larry Evans playing chess'). Getting back to 'conceptual art', what differentiates it from 'concept art'? Wikipedia again:-

Concept art is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books or other media before it is put into the final product. • Concept art

While looking for examples of 'conceptual art', I became convinced that Google was confusing the term with 'concept art'. Wrapping the keyword in quotes ("conceptual") produced a different set of examples. I eventually found an entire category on deviantart.com.

Browsing Conceptual on DeviantArt

Where have I featured that site before? Oh, yes, in Chess on Your Mind (September 2009), which turns out to be another example of conceptual art.

20 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More Discrepancies

Let's continue once again with Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015). In my previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Long Events, I identified a number of discrepancies in Levy & O'Connell's book (L&O) covering the first 30 years -- the Soviet period -- of Korchnoi's career.

Since a discrepancy can arise from a number of situations -- an error in the book, an error in my manipulation of the data, or an error in the TMER index -- each discrepancy needs to be examined further.

Of the 10 discrepancies I flagged, one occurred because Korchnoi's result in an event was recorded incorrectly in the book's summary of his career. All of the others were due to an error in the index of the book : a wrong year, a wrong venue, or a game missing completely. I learned so much from the exercise that I prepared a similar overview of the next tranche of tournaments : where Korchnoi had between 11 and 15 opponents. Once again discrepancies in the number of games are flagged in square brackets ('[]').

A new curiosity is that five events are missing completely from the book's summary, which was also the original source of my TMER. These need to be investigated separately. While working on all of this, I noticed that L&O includes the month played for many events and days played for many individual games. I'll compare these with the TMER as soon as I get a chance.

19 March 2017

Lasker's Manual Autographed

As far as I can tell, the last time I featured Em.Lasker on Top eBay Chess Items by Price was Beating Dr.Lasker in a Simul (February 2013). The item pictured below was titled 'Chess book signed by Emanuel Lasker 1932 autograph' and sold for $400, 'Best offer accepted', down from an initial asking price of $600.

The item's description said,

Hard Lasker's Chess Manual 1932; The Printing-Craft Ltd., London; 349 pages with 308 black & white illustrations. • This chess manual has long been considered one of the most significant works on chess ever written. First revised edition. Lasker's Chess Manual is presented in a unique style and has great historical significance. Typical for Lasker, the focus is on general principles that can be used in a variety of situations, rather than lengthy analysis of a single line or position. First English edition was published in 1927. • A very good copy with an extremely scarce dust jacket. Signed by Emanuel Lasker.

Lasker's Manual is an occasional source of inspiration on this blog. See, for example, Lasker on Computer Chess (April 2012), and Thinking about Chess (April 2014).

17 March 2017

Hijab Wrapup

Remember Hijab Hubris (October 2016)? Here's the final result.

Interview and Press Conference Women's World Chess Champion 2017 (13:59) • 'Congratulations to Tan Zhongyi'

For an overview of the event, see World Chess Championship (Women) : 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches.

16 March 2017

A Short History of CCL

Last year, in Chess and Social Trends (October 2016), I kicked off the ongoing 'Chess and Sociology' series with a post about a huge Facebook group.

Chess Club Live (CCL) currently accounts for about half of the traffic to this blog -- I know this because the RSS feed breaks from time to time. I'm looking forward to delve further into its mysteries and into the overall sociology that surrounds chess as a global cultural phenomenon.

The founder of the group recently shared some facts about its history, including a related video.

Michael Chukwuma Mkpadi: The story of Chess Club Live was way back in 1996 I developed a chess page I called Michael's Chess Page. This was inspired by a chess page I used to browse in 1993-95 called Steve Pribut's Chess Page.

Later I created a chess server based on the WebChess open source code, called WebChess X. It sucked big time, but I learned a lot and got a loyal devoted fan base. Then in 2007 I joined Facebook and created a page for it, calling it the Facebook Chess Club. Facebook almost sued me and told me to rename it which I did to Chess Club Live. My friend Carina Jørgensen joined it when I was about to abandon the whole idea, convinced me it was a good idea, and allowed me the use of her chess art to use to promote it and make it cool.

It worked because we grew and then I decided to make something of permanent value we ought to share, but allow people to share on our page. We first shared content with Onlinechesslesson.net now iChess. They posted on our page and then we invited other pages and content creators.

I developed a chess RSS news feed for Chess Club Live using ideas invented by Aaron Swartz, then later created a social media network Social Chess Club Live. The founder of Lichess, Thibault Duplessis, saw it and agreed to allow me to integrate Lichess on every page, so they became our chess server widget. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here's the video on Vimeo.com.

Team Chess Club Live from Chess Club Live on Vimeo.

For more about the origins of CCL, see A story of Chess Tech (facebook.com/ChessClubLive; 3 November 2015). [Will this link work for non-Facebook visitors? I'll find out as soon as it is posted...]


Later: Re 'Will this link work', the video plays along with a message: 'To see more from Chess Club Live on Facebook, log in or create an account'. There are no other links.

14 March 2017

More about 'Outliers'

Whenever chess pops up in my Yahoo News feed, I try to use it as the basis of a blog post. The last time this happened was for Last World Championship Hubbub (December 2016). The latest occasion wasn't a chess article, but used chess as an introduction.

The 10,000-hour rule is wrong and perpetuates a cruel myth

That Yahoo stub page leads to the full article with the same title, The 10,000-hour rule is wrong... (businessinsider.com), which is attributed to Slate.com. The Yahoo caption expanded to

Sports - Business Insider • The 10,000-hour rule is wrong and perpetuates a cruel myth: A decade ago, Magnus Carlsen, who at the time was only 13 years old, created a sensation in the chess world when he defeated former world champion Anatoly Karpov at a chess tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the next day played then-top-rated Garry Kasparov -- who is widely regarded as the best chess player of all time -- to a draw. Carlsen's subsequent rise to chess stardom was meteoric: grandmaster status later in 2004; a share of first place in the Norwegian Chess Championship in 2006; youngest player ever to reach World No. 1 in 2010; and highest-rated player in history in 2012.

What makes someone rise to the top in music, games, sports, business, or science? In the late 1800s, Francis Galton -- founder of the scientific study of intelligence and a cousin of Charles Darwin -- analyzed the genealogical records of hundreds of scholars, artists, musicians, and other professionals and found that greatness tends to run in families.

Fast forward to the 1990s, where the prevailing view became 'prolonged effort, not innate talent, explained differences between experts and novices'. But there's a catch. For chess,

The number of hours of deliberate practice to first reach "master" status (a very high level of skill) ranged from 728 hours to 16,120 hours. This means that one player needed 22 times as much deliberate practice as another player to become a master.

This implies,

So, deliberate practice did not explain all, nearly all, or even most of the performance variation in these fields. In concrete terms, what this evidence means is that racking up a lot of deliberate practice is no guarantee that you'll become an expert. Other factors matter.

These other factors are age at starting the activity and genetic inequality. That second factor is the main point of the article, which concludes,

If we acknowledge that people differ in what they have to contribute, then we have an argument for a society in which all human beings are entitled to a life that includes access to decent housing, healthcare, and education, simply because they are human. Our abilities might not be identical, and our needs surely differ, but our basic human rights are universal.

Getting back to Magnus Carlsen, it's not clear why a discussion on 'differences between experts and novices' has any real relevance to his level. Perhaps it would be more useful to look at differences between experts and world-class practitioners. Maybe Dilbert was right after all: Dilbert on Mastering Chess (February 2013).

13 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Long Events

Continuing with Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015), in my previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Major Events, I wrote

The 'On Paper' post (also used in 'Three Views') would appear to be the most promising area for further analysis.

That post was Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 on Paper (January 2017). In that post I started to analyze the content of 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' by Levy & O'Connell by scanning the index of opponents.

According to a preliminary analysis, the book has 1663 games played against 486 opponents. I'll delve further into this record for my next post.

Delving further, I counted 215 events, of which 111 (about half) had more than five games. Of these events, 33 had more than 15 games. These events are shown in the following table.

The second column ('Venue') is the code used by Levy & O'Connell (L&O). The third column ('Ct') is the number of games I identified from their book's index. The last column is the name of the event used in the TMER, which also lists Korchnoi's final score in W-L-D format. That final score allows a quick calculation of the number of games played by Korchnoi. In events where that doesn't match the 'Ct' column, I've flagged the discrepancy in square brackets ('[]'). For example, in the 1954 Bucharest tournament I counted 16 games in the L&O book, but the TMER gives Korchnoi a final score of +10-1=6.

Since a discrepancy can arise from a number of situations -- an error in the book, an error in my manipulation of the data, or an error in the TMER index -- each discrepancy needs to be examined further. I looked at the last one, the 1977 match vs Spassky and discovered that one game in the book used a different code to identify the venue. This little exercise gave me some additional confidence to continue with the data.

12 March 2017

Branching Investigations

For my previous Flickr Friday post, Kitchen Sicilian, I had a choice between two equally worthy photos. Good thing that I'm running this series on chess and sociology, because it gives me the chance to use the other photo. On top of being a great scene, the photo shown below brings the social implications of chess in the USSR/Russia into the mix.

Yekaterinburg chess players © Flickr user Dmitry Kostin under Creative Commons.

In my previous post in this series, Correlating Chess with the 'Real World', I wrote

Another avenue to explore the connections between chess and society is video.

As is often the case when I start exploring some aspect of chess, the investigation branches into other areas, which themselves branch off. Sounds like chess itself, doesn't it?

10 March 2017

Kitchen Sicilian

Pick any 8-by-8 pattern on an infinitely sized checkerboard. Add a complete set of chess pieces using the traditional start position. What have you got? Something like this...

Kitchen Table Chess Design © Flickr user Lex McKee under Creative Commons.

...The description explained,

This innovative table design caught my attention in Dorchester today. Not sure where you'd put your pizza or steak, but you've got to admire great design!

How would you describe the position of White's Queen Rook? It's neither on a1 nor a2 and it's half off the board.

For another Flickr Friday look at tabletop chessboards, see Kasparov Passes the Salt (October 2010).


Later: For some reason, this post has attracted about five times the number of visits that a post on this blog normally receives. I suspect that -- because of the title ('Kitchen Sicilian') -- some visitors are expecting information about Italian cooking. Chess players recognize immediately what non-chess players would never realize: that the word 'Sicilian' refers to the formation of the chess pieces in the photo.

09 March 2017

Blog Search Tool

Note to followers of all Blogspot.com blogs, like this one. Recently the blog search tool has been much improved. The search result used to be presented in a search result box that appeared at the top of the page. It displayed maximum four results per box and each link had to be opened individually to see its content. This was clumsy and inconvenient.

Now the results are presented in a page similar to other aggregated content, like the 'LABELS' links in the right navigation bar. The results can be scrolled and searched further by using a browser search tool. For example, the search Posts sorted by date for query "marshall" returns Frank Marshall, Marshall Chess Club, USCF President Marshall Rohland, opening variations like the Marshall Gambit, etc. etc. Posts sorted by relevance for query "averbakh" returns various posts where the omnipresent Soviet GM gets a mention. The default is 'sorted by relevance'.

On this blog, the search tool is also located on the right navigation bar, although placement is the blog author's choice. I tend to place blog tools in the order that I use them most.

07 March 2017

March 1967 'On the Cover'

As 'On the Cover' moves into its fourth year of looking back at American chess 50 years ago (see March 1964 'On the Cover', March 2014, for the first post) we find both chess magazines featuring amateur events.

Left: 'Independence Hall, Philadelphia; Come to the U.S. Amateur'
Right: 'Young Scholars'

Chess Life

HISTORIC PHILADELPHIA INVITES YOU TO PLAY IN 1967 U.S. AMATEUR by E. B. Edmondson • Philadelphia has never been the same since young Ben Franklin arrived in town. As his varied interests grew, and as the United States gained its independence, so did the city grow as he transformed It into the cultural center of the Western Hemisphere. Ben Franklin loved chess, and the game still thrives in this city which was the site of the New World's earliest chess activity. It seems most appropriate that the U.S. Amateur, which has taken its place as one of the nation's foremost chess events, should be held this May 27-30 in Philadelphia's Warwick Hotel.

Chess Review

New York. Described by the USCF as a "record-shattering event," the 1966-7 Greater New York Scholastic Championships drew an amazing horde of 614 youngsters from more than 200 metropolitan schools. Heretofore the largest crowd at an American chess meet had numbered 265. Sal Matera, a Junior at Brooklyn Prep, won the Greater New York High School title for the second straight year when he nosed out Norman Weinstein of the Bronx High School of Science after each had scored 7.5-0.5 in the field of 301 players. [...] Some of the youngest chess scholars are movingly caught in this photo by Edward Lasker.

Fortunately, there was a viewable, black-and-white copy of Ed.Lasker's photo accompanying the article. For CR's previous attempt at a color cover photo, see December 1966 'On the Cover' (December 2016) with its 'funky green cover'.

06 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Major Events

After the previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1976-2000, Major Events, I again used the Chessmetrics.com data (see that post for a link) to add months to events played during the first 30 years of Korchnoi's career. I supplemented that data with similar info from Cafferty and Taimanov's 'The Soviet Championships' and from my own WCC site (see right sidebar).

I then loaded 'the whole kit and kaboodle' (does anyone still use that expression?) to Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015). This is the fourth iteration on the Soviet period of Korchnoi's TMER:-

The 'On Paper' post (also used in 'Three Views') would appear to be the most promising area for further analysis.

05 March 2017

Paved with Questions

After a short break from chess blogging, what better way to jump back in than a post on Top eBay Chess Items by Price? In my single previous post about jewelry with a chess theme, The Value of Jewelry (March 2016), I confessed,

I have to admit that I don't understand the price at all.

Ditto for the current item, which was titled, '10K Yellow Gold Real Diamond King Chess Piece Pendant Men's Pave Charm 0.40 CT'. It sold for $479.99 'Buy-It-Now', and mentioned,

List price: $1,530.00; 2 available / 1 sold

Is a list price of more than three times the final price a sales trick?

Left: Front / Right: Back

The description said,

This exclusive eye-catching genuine diamond 3D Chess King piece pendant is crafted in real 10K yellow gold & shimmering white diamonds, ensuring sparkle from every angle. Radiant with 0.40 ct. t.w. of genuine diamonds, this pendant is buffed to a polished luster. Custom pendant has well built frame, with caged back for durability. The diamonds are securely held between the gold mounting in a pave setting with prongs, making the overall appearance larger and lustrous. White diamond studded bail to complete the custom look,

The bail of this pendant will fit up-to 7mm wide chain. This beautiful chess piece charm has custom feel & look to it, making a bold fashion statement. These are all 100% genuine brilliant round diamonds. All the diamonds are matching throughout. Great size men's pendant. This pendant is 4.10 grams and 1.70" in length. [0.45" in width]

Back to the title, what is a 'Pave Charm'?

The pavé setting, pronounced "pa-vay," comes from the French word "to pave," as in paved with diamonds. By closely setting small diamonds together with minimal visibility of the tiny metal beads or prongs holding the stones in place, the effect is one of continuous sparkle.

For more about 'pa-vay', see 16 Awesome Engagement Ring Styles You Need to Learn About (diamonds.pro). Interesting: Diamonds.pro. Is there a Chess.pro? Entering the address returns, 'Congratulations! Chess.pro is available for sale!'

Domain Name: chess.pro
Price: $4,999.00

Once again, 'I have to admit that I don't understand the price at all.'