12 August 2022

Fischer - Spassky Tickets

In A Wizard or a God? (August 2022), my most recent post in the series 'Top eBay Chess Items by Price', my short list had a number of items related to the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match. Two of the items were for tickets to the match, shown below.

Top: Game 2 • Bottom: Games 1, 6, and 12

The item on the top was titled '1972 World Chess Championship PSA AUTHENTIC Ticket BOBBY FISCHER Boris Spassky', and sold for $1500.00 'Buy It Now'. The description said,

This AUTHENTICATED ticket was for match 2, which BOBBY FISCHER famously forfeited as he demanded that the TV cameras be removed. This Match 2 ticket to the 1972 World Chess Championship is AUTHENTICATED by PSA!!! Full Authentic Ticket, Authenticated by PSA!!!

This is an awesome piece of history and was such a dramatic event during the Cold War, that even movies have been made about it! This match #2 was held on July 13th, 1972 in Iceland. VERY VERY LOW POP COUNT IN PSA!!

For more about PSA pop count, see What Does POP Mean in Sports Cards? (ballcardgenius.com). The page informs,

POP is short for "population," and is used to reference the scarcity of graded cards or how many there are in existence. For instance, a POP 1 PSA 10 card would mean it’s the only one in existence. a POP 18 would mean there are 18, and so on.

The item on the bottom was titled '1972 World Chess Championship Ticket Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky - LOT'. It sold for '$390.00 or Best Offer', which appears to have been around $350. Its description said,

1972 World Chess Championship Ticket Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky - Three tickets - 1 6 12. For sale is this full issued and used tickets from the eighth game of the Bobby Fischer versus Boris Spassky World Chess Championship held in Iceland in 1972.

That description doesn't make complete sense. The second sentence says, 'full issued and used tickets from the eighth [8th] game'. Does 'full issued and used' mean the attached postage stamp and its corresponding postmark? The postmarks say, '25.VII.1972', '27.VII.1972', and '10.VIII.1972', respectively.

09 August 2022

2022 CJA Awards - Part 1

A few weeks ago we looked at 2022 CJA Award Entries (July 2022), and now we can look at the final awards. Last year I split the discussion into 'Part 1' and 'Part 2' -- see the 2022 kickoff post 2022 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2022) for background and links. NB: In case you haven't been following the series, the acronym CJA stands for Chess Journalists of America.

I haven't seen an announcement that the 2022 awards are available, but they can be found at 2022 CJA Awards Winners (chessjournalism.org). Between the time I noticed that the awards were available and the time I started to write this post, that 'Winners' page changed, so I have two copies of the list of winners. The chart below, which echoes the post '2021 Part 1', is based on the second of those lists.

The first point to notice is that the number of awards increased from 81 in 2021 to an even 100 in 2022. The second point is that the category 'Best Online and Social Media' has overtaken 'Best Print Articles' for the most awards. In the '2022 Entries' post, I predicted,

I expect we'll see many award winners listed '1st/2nd Equal' or 'Honorable Mention'.

It wasn't a tough call, because the CJA often grants multiple awards in competitive topics. This year they saw increases for each of their 'Winner', 'Co-winner', and 'Honorable Mention' awards.

Last year I counted the number of awards for different organizations, where Chess Life was at the top of the list. This year it's not so easy to make that count. Instead I counted topics with more than one award, shown on the right of the chart. There were nine topics with three or more awards and 18 topics with two awards, leaving 33 with a single award.

I'll be back later with 'Part 2' of this post. There is so much to discuss this year that I might even squeeze out a 'Part 3'.

08 August 2022

GM Sadler Tweets About TCEC

The last time I referenced GM Matthew Sadler on this blog was for the post Engines Forced to Play Like Us (November 2021). At that time I noted,

Along with GM Larry Kaufman, GM Sadler is one of the strongest human players participating actively in the world of chess engines.

It turns out that he's also a prolific Twitter user. Is there any way to focus on his tweets about the TCEC? It turns out there is:-

Nice trick. I can probably use it elsewhere as well.

07 August 2022

A Wizard or a God?

The last time we saw a painting on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) was Chess in the 'Heart of Israel' (May 2022). In that post I called art the 'spiritual roots' of the series. The painting shown below was in an eBay auction titled 'Large Lloyd Garrison Mid Century Oil Painting Chess Medieval Knights Mystic'. It sold for US $315.00 after three bids.

Since that price is below a normal cutoff point for 'Top Items by Price', how did it sneak in? It's eBay's practice to sort the top items by price plus shipping, and the shipping cost on this item was over $200. Good thing, too, otherwise I might have overlooked it.

The description said,

This is a wonderful surrealist vintage mid-century oil painting with a medieval chess theme (Game of Thrones) with knights and armor in an outworldly battle by listed artist Lloyd Garrison. I believe this dates to the 1970s.

This fantastical painting is in very good condition with no damage. There is one rough area to the frame which I have photographed and a couple of small scuffs. It is professionally framed of the period in a wood frame with gold gild and black. There are a couple of flecks to the paint and you may notice some dots or splatters, which are intentional from the artist. This displays wonderfully and is painted on board I believe. In frame measures 40" L x 28" H.

In the center of the painting a wizard is picking up a chess piece from a chessboard that extends (infinitely?) in all directions. Another painting on the same theme by the same artist can be seen at Lloyd Garrison, 20th C. American, Oil Painting Surrealism Chess Game Landscape God in Sky (liveauctioneers.com). The artist's web site, Lloyd Garrison, painting, civil war, [...], says,

My style is realistic, but my subject matter is unlimited. I love both a variety and a challenge. Revolutionary, Civil War, landscapes, still-lifes, portraits, Surrealism, Aviation, Nautical, Westerns, wildlife, and florals are a few of my specialities.

One page on the site, 'Gallery - Miscellaneous', has a couple of other paintings based on a chess theme.

05 August 2022

Cold Warriors of Chess

This blog's Fischer Friday series continues to jump from subject to subject. Last week we had Spassky's Team (July 2022) and this week we jump back to June 1972 when media coverage was building.

In previous posts, notably Bobby Fischer Day by Day (May 2022), I've cited the resource bf-1972 (blogspot.com). If it is at all a reliable guide, media interest in the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match (m-w.com) started to gather momentum during the second week in June.

Before the match started, originally scheduled for the beginning of July, the focus was on aspects of the cold war between two nuclear superpowers, the USA and the USSR.

One example flagged by 'bf-1972' is Two Kings at The Summit (newspapers.com), shown on the left, captioned 'Illustration, Dave Cross'. The cold war symbolism is unmistakable.

The accompanying 'Two Kings' article by Sandra Shevey is attributed to 'The Miami Herald; Miami, Florida; 11 June 1972, Sun; page 314'. The article was introduced with a brief reference to the geopolitical situation. It said,

Now that [U.S. President Richard] Nixon is back from Moscow, the real summit can begin: America's flamboyant Bobby Fischer facing Russia's reticent Boris Spassky for the world's chess championship in a battle that's bound to be bitter.

With passing reference to sports stars of the 1960s and 70s, it started,

Whatever Joe Namath is to football or Muhammad Ali to boxing, it all goes double for Bobby Fischer and chess. The lone idol of America's three million chess buffs, a player so good he's in a class by himself, Bobby Fischer is a walking example of what it means to have your life completely dominated by trying to corner a wooden king on a checkered board.

As June 1972 morphed into July, the media emphasis turned to the difficulties getting Fischer to play the match. See another previous post, According to Darrach, Day by Day (July 2022), for that chronology.

[On this date 50 years ago, the match score was +5-1(-1)=3, after Fischer had won the 10th game, one of his best wins in the match. The next day Spassky would win his most convincing game.]

04 August 2022

The Sunshine City of Florida

This month's 'On the Cover' post, August 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (August 2022), included a paragraph that reminded me of a few images that show up frequently on eBay. The connection is St. Petersburg FL:-

The tournament report, 'The 1972 Women's Championship' by TD Bob Braine, started with three paragraphs that could have been the introduction to a tourist guide: "The Europeans have an expression: There is a city for everybody. St. Petersburg on Florida's suncoast is for chessplayers."

I found multiple copies of two different scenes. Here are two from postcards.

Top: 'Tourists Playing Checkers, Chess, and Dominoes in St. Petersburg, Florida. "The Sunshine City."'

Bottom: 'St. Petersburg, Florida, "The Sunshine City" • Chess-Players, Waterfront Park'

I have a full scale scan of the top postcard, which clearly shows that all of the games are checkers. One of the auctions dated the card to 1928, another to 1934.

The bottom postcard shows chess. A black-and-white copy was a wirephoto with the following info:-

Original wire press photo • Size : 6" x 8" • Date : 1920s or early 30s • Place : St Petersburg, Florida • Condition : good, many creases, lower right corner folded • Text attached to the photo : Chess expert shows 'em how. Maurice S. Kuhns, of Chicago (with cane) President of the National Chess Federation of America, gives demonstration of his uncanny ability underneath a shady rubber tree at St Petersburg, the sunshine city of Florida, where he is spending the winter.

Was it a small simul? The color copy was the postcard:-

Published by Asheville Post Card Co., Asheville. N. C. Made in U.S.A. Card is part of the "Beautiful Florida Series"

In St. Petersburg, Florida, Wikipedia informs, 'As of the 2020 census, the population was 258,308, making it the fifth-most populous city in Florida [...] the city was named after Saint Petersburg, Russia'. That makes the chess connection even stronger.

02 August 2022

August 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

Last month's post on the top U.S. chess magazine of 50 and 25 years ago, July 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (July 2022), featured the U.S. Championship on the left. A month later we have the U.S. Women's Championship on the left.

Left: '1972 United States Women's Championship'
Right: 'Najdorf 1910-1997'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Co-winners of the 1972 Women's Championship: Marilyn Braun, left, and Eva Aronson, right. Between them is Mrs. C. Bette Wimbish, Vice-Mayor of St. Petersburg. Photo by St. Petersburg Times and Evening Independent.

The tournament report, 'The 1972 Women's Championship' by TD Bob Braine, started with three paragraphs that could have been the introduction to a tourist guide:-

The Europeans have an expression: There is a city for everybody. St. Petersburg on Florida's suncoast is for chessplayers. It is a modern, clean, peaceful and dignified city. Its inhabitants are friendly, courteous, elderly and unhurried. The cost of living, particularly for essentials, is very low and the lifestyle is leisurely. Shopping is well within a four block radius of downtown and great sightseeing at Busch Gardens is an hour away, Disneyland two hours. "St. Pete" is a mecca for fishermen and boat enthusiasts. It is a city designed for enjoyment. [...]

Then it got back to the main subject:-

The pre-tournament favorite was the nine-time champion, Mrs. Gisela Gresser, but even after a few rounds it was apparent that this was going to be a tight tussle. Five of the eleven players were newcomers to this event and when their initial nervousness wore off we noticed that each one was a stylist. It's a new era in women's chess.

The St. Petersburg Times, which covered the tournament daily, took a lively interest in Mrs. Eva Aronson who is a resident of the city. The newswriters, an easygoing, friendly group, received each of her victories with jubilation and the one time she lost a game we had to console the newspaper staff. [...]

Her co-champion, Mrs. Marilyn Braun (formerly Koput) of Milwaukee, is an attractive young woman with an ideal chess playing disposition. She is serious about her game and should go far in the chess world. She was the only player to go undefeated and from the beginning spectators were aware of her self-confidence.

And what about the other championship that was taking place 50 years ago? A one page story, 'The Match: Fischer Leading!' by Burt Hochberg, gave the raw game scores for the first six games, where the sixth game had been played on 23 July.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Miguel Najdorf, who once promoted himself as Champion of the Western Hemisphere, has died at the age of 87, while visiting in Spain. His claim was not without merit. After WWII, he was probably one of the four strongest players outside the Soviet Union.

And while he wasn't the first to play it, he was certainly responsible for popularizing the variation of the Sicilian Defense which bears his name. The cover photograph is by Bill Hook, taken in 1992.

Inside was a two page (anonymous?) article, 'Miguel Najdorf 1910-1997'. It started,

A living legend is no more. Miguel Najdorf died on July 4, while visiting in Spain. Born on April 15, 1910, he was 87. He was a fixture at almost every world championship match for the past 25 years, holding court in the press room, analyzing, playing blitz, and just enjoying the moment. Exuberant is how Arthur Bisguier described him. His love for the game may be matched, but it will never be surpassed.

Perhaps the first mention of Najdorf in the west came after the 1935 Olympiad held in Warsaw, where he scored 9-2-6 (70.6%). It was enough to get him invited to his first international tournament, the Hungarian Championship, in June of 1936. The following is reprinted from The Chess Review, August, 1936: 'The Hungarian Championship tournament' by Lajos Steiner [...]

Half of the 1997 article was a copy of the 1936 article, but it also included a box 'Najdorf and the Najdorf' by IM Elliot Winslow. 'As White, he distinctly favored 1.d4, with a secondary interest in the English/Reti complexes; 1.e4 was far less common.'

A month later the September issue of CL included a six page tournament report '1997 Najdorf Memorial' by GM Patrick Wolff. It started with a four paragraph summary of Najdorf's career (and a one paragraph summary of GM Wolff's impending retirement from chess.).

I once had the opportunity to review Najdorf: Life and Games (archive.org -> chess.about.com) by Tomasz Lissowski, Adrian Mikhalchishin and Miguel Najdorf (Batsford/Sterling, April 2005); see also Two Books about World Chess Championship Candidates (ditto; 'Two of the world's best players [Najdorf and Adorjan] annotate their games in completely different ways.') My conclusion: 'A good book on all counts!' ... and a great player on all counts.

01 August 2022

Stockfish Wins TCEC FRC5, Leads CCC18 Rapid Semifinal

The previous post on the world's two foremost, ongoing engine vs. engine competitions, Stockfish Wins TCEC Swiss 3 and CCC17 Blitz (July 2022), covered two fortnights of engine action. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: Stockfish won 'Swiss 3' a half point ahead of LCZero, which was two points ahead of Berserk. KomodoDragon finished in fourth place, a half point behind Berserk and a half point ahead of the next five engines. After a 'Stockfish Simul', the site ran FRC5, which reached the four engine 'Final League' stage (with KomodoDragon missing). • CCC: In the 'CCC17 Blitz' semifinal stage, Stockfish finished well ahead of Dragon and Lc0. The other three engines had substantial minus scores. In the challenger match, Lc0 beat Dragon, earning the right to challenge Stockfish. In the final match, Stockfish beat Lc0, to win the 'CCC17 Blitz' tournament. The site then conducted the 'CCC18 Rapid' Qualification stage, starting the CCC's cycle of Rapid, Bullet, and Blitz tournaments starts again.

This current post covers the single fortnight that has passed since then.

TCEC: This past weekend I covered the FRC5 event on my chess960 blog in a post cryptically titled TCEC C960 FRC5 (July 2022). Stockfish beat LCZero in the final match.

The site is currently conducting 'DFRC 1'. I couldn't find the event on the TCEC wiki. The !dfrc command informs,

Double Fischer random chess: The same as Fischer random chess, except the White and Black starting positions do not necessarily mirror each other. Double FRC has 921,600 (960*960) possible starting positions.

The !dfrc1 command informs,

26 participants (FRC5 + Bagatur), Swiss format, games from starting positions, 11 rounds, and 30min+3s TC. Estimated duration: 12 days.

LCZero is currently ahead of Stockfish and KomodoDragon. The three engines have not (yet) played the same number of games. Like FRC5, I'll cover the event on my chess960 blog, where I post twice a month.

CCC: From the 'CCC18 Rapid' Qualification stage, Rofchade, Seer, and Revenge promoted into the Main stage, where they joined nine other engines. Rofchade missed promoting into the Semifinal stage by a half point. Leading that stage -- you guessed it -- are Stockfish, Dragon, and LC0, already by a comfortable margin over the other three engines, although the stage is only at the end of the first round robin.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero; Dragon = KomodoDragon]