30 September 2022

Fischer: 'That's my answer'

Continuing with the 'Fischer Friday' series, last seen in 1992 Fischer - Spassky 'Under the Weather' (September 2022), in that post I wrote,

Photo D1 is about a moment from the opening press conference that is more famous than any of the games played in the match. It shows Fischer with the letter that led to the famous spit incident.

The composite image including that photo in black & white is seen below, with 'photo D1' circled in red. Superimposed on the composite is a similar photo in color.

The eBay auction offering the color photo said,

You are bidding on an original press photo from 9/2/1992. Chess legend Bobby Fischer holds a letter from the U.S. government at a news conference in Yugoslavia. The letter said his match with Russia's Boris Spassky violates sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. Fischer spat on the letter. Photo is 8.5" x 11" in size. This photo originates from the archives of the Chicago Sun Times and Daily News, Detroit News, and Sports Magazine. Most photos have never been seen by the public.

That incident was recorded in a Sports Illustrated (SI) article by William Nack dated 14 September 1992: The Fischer King (vault.si.com; Sports Illustrated Vault).

The Fischer King • In the surreal setting of war-torn Yugoslavia, reclusive chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer emerged to meet Boris Spassky

[...] Fischer made something of a spec-tac-le [sic] of himself on the eve of the match, when he held forth at a press conference that was quite as memorable as anything [American baseball pitcher] Roger Clemens ever contrived. Few of the hundred or so members of the press in attendance had ever seen Fischer, and when he arrived, all eyes turned and followed him as he walked with his loping, ungainly gait to the front of the room, looking much as he did seven years ago—down to the balding pate and the thin beard—when an obsessed magazine writer found him in the L.A. Public Library (SI, July 29, 1985). Settling into a chair in the Hotel Maestral, Fischer studied the written questions that reporters had submitted to him and began by saying, "I'll start off with, umm, ah, some impudent questions from The New York Times [Roger Cohen]."

With traces of Brooklyn still in his voice, he read one question after another. " 'Why, after turning down so many offers to come back, did you accept this one?' That's not quite true. As I recollect, Karpov, in 1975, was the one who refused to play me under my conditions, which is basically the same conditions we are playing now.... 'Do you feel that your chess has improved over the past 20 years?' Well, we'll see.... 'If you beat Spassky, will you go on to challenge Kasparov for the world championship?' "

Here Fischer turned and pointed to the large sign behind him that announced this affair: THE WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP. "Can he read what it says behind here?" asked Fischer, to applause. " 'Are you worried by U.S. government threats over your defiance of sanctions?' " At this point he reached for his briefcase and pulled out a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department warning him that by playing the match, he risked stiff fines and 10 years in jail for violating President Bush's executive order imposing economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. "So," Fischer said, "here is my reply to their order not to defend my title here." Holding the letter in front of him, he spit on it, and added, "That's my answer."

Reporters gaped incredulously at one another. Asked if he supported the United Nations' sanctions against Yugoslavia, Fischer launched upon an attack of the U.N. for rescinding "a pretty good resolution against Israel about Zionism is racism...." He was merely warming up to the subject. " 'Do you regard yourself as an anti-Communist fighter?' First of all, we have to understand what communism is. I mean, to me, real communism, the Soviet communism, is basically a mask for Bolshevism, which is a mask for Judaism." And when asked about his being widely characterized as anti-Semitic, Fischer replied, "In the first place, this term anti-Semitism is a nonsense term, because my understanding is that the Arabs are also Semites, not only the Jews, so I don't know what that means. I'm definitely not anti-Arab."' [...]

I once did a short series on chess articles in Sports Illustrated. For the last post in that series, see Browne: 'I got this aggression that never quits' (July 2017; 'let's squeeze one more post out of the aging Sports Illustrated reports on chess'). William Nack, the author of the 1992 SI article quoted above, was also the author of the July 1985 article mentioned in the first paragraph of the 'The Fischer King' excerpt. For a link to that article plus a list of related SI articles -- including 'The Fischer King' -- see the post, Fischer: 'I'm not seeing people' (June 2017).

29 September 2022

Cheating Mania

It didn't take a crystal ball to predict that this month's Yahoos' post (see the footnote for an explanation of 'Yahoos') was going to be about Carlsen/Nakamura vs. Niemann, aka the chess cheating affair. The scandal broke three weeks ago and shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. I've already featured it twice, the second time in Talkchess Talks Current Topics (September 2022).

Unlike all previous posts in the Yahoos series, this month requires two charts to present the base statistics, shown below. On the left are the counts derived from Google News, similar to the chart in last month's Olympiad, Business, and Political Yahoos (August 2022).

On the right are counts from a special supplement, linked from the Google News results and called 'Full Coverage'. These stories were 100% about the cheating scandal. The last time we saw this type of coverage was for Queen's Gambit Mania (October 2020), another Yahoos' post that confirmed the chess boom provoked by the twin phenomena of covid confinement and Netflix.

Of the 99 stories returned by Google News, 78 were from the month of September. The seven sources in the list account for at least two of the 78 stories, leaving 32 sources with a single story.

Of the 56 results returned for the 'Full Coverage' supplement, four were from Twitter. Of the other 52 stories, five sources accounted for at least two stories, leaving 41 sources with a single story. That means mainstream news about chess is on steroids. I imagine that one of the reasons for the extensive coverage is the interest in chess fueled by the recent boom.

Back to Google News, none of the 24 Chess.com stories had anything to do with cheating; ditto for the 10 New York Times (NYT) stories. Seven of the NYT stories were titled 'Play NYT Chess Puzzle', making me wonder once again if these aren't inserts paid by the NYT. What's newsworthy about a chess puzzle?

Of the other 44 (=78-34) Google News stories, 17 were about cheating. The same two stories appeared at the top of both the Google News and the 'Full Coverage' lists. Both were published yesterday:-

The last time we saw this sort of widepread media interest in chess cheating was for the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match (m-w.com), aka Toiletgate. The 2022 scandal also descended quickly to speculative vulgarity. Chess deserves better.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]

26 September 2022

TCEC S23 Paused; 'CCC19 Blitz Main' Underway

Another fortnight has passed since our previous report on the planet's top-two, ongoing, engine vs. engine competitions: TCEC S23 L1, CCC19 Blitz - Both Underway (September 2022). Here's a summary of that report:-

TCEC: S23 L2 finished with four engines promoting. The 12-engine L1 is in the second of its four round robins. • CCC: Dragon edged Lc0 by three points in the 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' match. Later the site started a series of 'CCC19 Blitz' events. Between CCC18 and CCC19, the CCC launched an eight-engine 'Chess 324 Bonus' event.

In the two intervening weeks, both sites have progressed. The following is the latest on TCEC S23 and CCC19.

TCEC: S23 L1 finished with Ethereal and Berserk promoting into the Premier Division (DivP). Before DivP starts, the site is running 'S23 - Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus 22', with the terse !next explanation 'VSOB22 until replacement GPU'. For the previous discussion of VSOB on this blog, see Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC1, Leads CCC18 Rapid Final (August 2022). VSOB appears to be the stand-by filler when the regular schedule of TCEC events is paused.

CCC: In the previous post, 'CCC19 Blitz Underway', I also wrote, 'It's not clear what direction [the CCC] intends to take with the new season, so I'll say no more for this current post.' The site is currently running 'CCC19 Blitz: Main' with 10 engines. This was preceded by three other 'CCC19 Blitz' events: 'Newcomers' (6 engines), 'Qualifier #1' (8), and 'Qualifier #2' (8). 'Where it stops, nobody knows!'.

The site's !next command says, 'Main Event: Stockfish, Leela, Dragon, Ethereal, Slowchess, Berserk, +4 top engines from Qualifier #2.' The CCC's Club and Discord sites are both silent.

[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]

25 September 2022

'The Root of All Evil'?

In this blog's long-running monthly series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), this is the second post in a row to deal with the so-called 'root of all evil'. Last month we had Was Fischer Avaricious? (August 2022).

Who Has Won The Most Money In Chess History? (2:45) • '[Published on] Aug 25, 2022'

The description said,

The highest-earning chess players throughout history. We collected data from 1851 to now and here are the results! How do Kasparov, Carlsen, Fischer, Anand and Hikaru compare in this chess timeline of prizewinners?

The description linked to a related article: Who Is The Biggest Prizewinner In Chess History? (chess.com; Nathaniel Green). Unlike too many comments to a typical Chess.com article, some here are spot on.

'Should add Naka Twitch' and 'xQc should be in list', but later 'Nakamura is a streamer, not a chess player, so this is a meaningless comparison.'

'Did you include any of the matches versus computers that were played by Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand? Did you include the top level rapid and blitz tournaments? Did you include the Melody Amber tournaments?'

And on an unrelated, but topical point: 'Kasparov accused the computer of cheating. Funny. At that time, dishonesty meant tips from people. Now it's the other way around.'

The last time I featured a similar video in a post (also in the series 'Sociology of Chess') was Top Tweeters (August 2020). I called it the 'time travel bar chart technique'. Watch what happens starting 1:30 into the clip.

23 September 2022

1992 Fischer - Spassky 'Under the Weather'

This post could have been the next in the 'under the weather' series, last seen in Not the 'Under the Weather' Channel (November 2021), but I've found that keeping busy is a good medicine for a bad cold. That and lots of sleep.

Instead I'll continue the 'Fischer Friday' series, seen last week in FS 1972 + 20 = FS 1992 (September 2022). In that post I wrote,

I don't have much in my photo archive about the 1992 [Fischer - Spassky] match. The following composite image shows the wirephotos that I found. These are black-and-white photos, although there are also many color photos documenting the match.

For color photos, let's return to a technique last seen in The Sociology of Chess in Images (September 2021), shown in the following composite image.

Google image search on '1992 Fischer Spassky'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'F' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '8' (from left to right).]

Unlike all of the previous posts using the chessboard naming scheme, this latest post combines the first two pages returned in the Google image search. More photos means more fun, and more fun means more to talk about.

The first thumbnail (A1) leads to a page dated May 2011, Fischer - Spassky 1992 (chess.com; IM Silman), which opens with a question worthy of a FAQ about the match: How good were the games?:-

In Andrew Soltis' book BOBBY FISCHER REDISCOVERED, page 278, he states (regarding the rematch in 1992 with Spassky), "In fact the match games were of a fairly high quality particularly when compared with Kasparov’s championship matches of 1993, 1995 and 2000, for example." Kasparov has ridiculed the quality of play in this match while Soltis who featured the 1st and 11th Svefi [sic; Sveti] Stefan games in his book felt otherwise. Your opinion?

The thumbnails with a yellow border (A2, A4, and B3) lead to Youtube videos. The Youtube channels aren't given.

Some of the photos appear so often that they might well be iconic. Consider, for example, A5, B2, and D5. Photo E1 appears to be the same scene, but has a different tint and angle; Spassky's French flag is visible and Fischer's U.S. flag is not. Photos E5 and F6 are also the same. The match poster is seen in B7 and F2.

Several photos are not from 1992. Photo C4 is from the 1972 match, although it illustrates a game from 1992. Photo C6 is from a game played before 1972 (Siegen 1970, I think).

Photo D1 is about a moment from the opening press conference that is more famous than any of the games played in the match. It shows Fischer with the letter that led to the famous spit incident. I remember that my parents, who were not at all interested in chess, asked me about that incident. I answered that chess players were basically harmless. They weren't convinced.

19 September 2022

Talkchess Talks Current Topics

The buzz in the chess world has been dominated for the last two weeks by the Carlsen/Nakamura vs. Niemann affair. Finding it impossible to ignore, I documented it in the post Chess Players Behaving Very, Very Badly (September 2022). Talkchess members discussed the technical possibilities for cheating in two related threads:-

  • 2022-12-06: Carlsen withdrawal after loss to Niemann (talkchess.com; lkaufman) • 'I am posting here to ask those who are technologically knowledgeable how they would go about getting computer help in an event where the players are "wanded" for electronic devices, where spectators are barred (for Covid reasons), and where everyone is on camera during the games.'
  • 2022-12-13: Chess Cheating Hackathon! (talkchess.com) • 'I wanted to see if anyone had ideas on how to best circumvent the present cheating protocols being used at the [Sinquefield] Cup at the moment.'

That first Talkchess thread was initiated by GM Larry Kaufman, who has appeared recently on this blog in two unrelated posts:-

Another Talkchess thread pointed to a different Kaufman interview, apparently more recent than the one featured in the Chessbase video.

Interview with world-class expert, Larry Kaufman (44:12) • '[Published on] Sep 15, 2022'

The description said,

A warm, semi-technical interview covering an overview of chess engine development from 1960 to the present day. Larry goes on to describe Komodo Dragon's unique approach which can give a practical edge in human v human competitions!

The related YouTube channel, 'Carl Bicknell', has a few other videos related to chess engines. Unlike many engine enthusiasts, he's also a competent, expert level player.

18 September 2022

World Champion Petrosian Chess 'School'

Chess is so popular in Armenia that the title of this photo, 'Chess School Yerevan', doesn't tell us much. Yerevan is the capital of Armenia.

The Chess School Yerevan © Flickr user mcfarlandmo under Creative Commons.

Thanks to Google I found a similar photo on Wikipedia's page Tigran Petrosian Chess House. The page starts,

Tigran Petrosian Chess House, officially the Central House of Chess-player named after Tigran Petrosian, is the center of the sport of chess in Yerevan, Armenia. It was opened in 1970. In 1984, it was renamed after the former world chess champion Tigran Petrosian.

The same photo is on another Wikipedia page Chess in Armenia. Since I've already referenced that page in Armenian Candidates (March 2016), specifically for 'Teaching of chess in schools', I'll stop here.

16 September 2022

FS 1972 + 20 = FS 1992

For the last few months I've been running a Fischer Friday series, focused on the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match (m-w.com). Now it's time to change the subject, if only for a few weeks. Twenty years to the day after Spassky resigned the 1972 match, a new match began:-

Unfortunately, I don't have much in my photo archive about the 1992 match. The following composite image shows the wirephotos that I found. These are black-and-white photos, although there are also many color photos documenting the match.

That composite is inspired by a pair of posts I've been using as an illustrated guide to the 1972 match:-

In the top line of the composite image, the first two photos are from game one of the 1992 match. The last two photos show Zita Rajcsanyi [Rajcsany], plus the start of the eighth game.

The first photo in the bottom line shows Fischer meeting Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. It is followed by a photo from the 30th (and last) game plus two photos of Fischer wearing a wreath marked 'The World Chess Champion'. The last three photos have the same date.


It's a good time to take a checkpoint on the Fischer Friday series to date. Posts marked '(*)' were not part of the series, but are nevertheless relevant.

Also worth noting are three related resources, the first two of which are valuable external references.

I plan to come back to the 1972 match, but first I'll spend a few posts exploring the 1992 rematch.

12 September 2022

TCEC S23 L1, CCC19 Blitz - Both Underway

The summer season is traditionally a slow season for chess, but the world's two foremost engine vs. engine competitions keep chugging along at the same speed as during the other seasons. Let's start our fortnightly post with a summary of the previous post, TCEC S23 Leagues Underway; CCC Rudderless? (August 2022):-

TCEC: S23 QL has finished and L2 is just getting started. • CCC: Stockfish beat Lc0 in the 300 game 'CCC18 Rapid Final', after which the site launched a 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' 300-game consolation match between Dragon and Lc0. The CCC has deviated from the sequence of events seen in CCC16 and CCC17. Has it undergone some sort of administrative shake-up?

Two weeks can be a long time in engine competitions. What has happened since that previous post?

TCEC: S23 L2 finished with four engines promoting. The 12-engine L1 is in the second of its four round robins with Minic having the best chance of the four L2 engines to promote to the next stage, the Premier Division.

CCC: Dragon edged Lc0 by three points in the 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' match. Later the site started a series of 'CCC19 Blitz' events. It's not clear what direction it intends to take with the new season, so I'll say no more for this current post.

Between CCC18 and CCC19, the CCC launched an eight-engine 'Chess 324 Bonus' event. It was won by Stockfish with a four point lead over second place Dragon, which finished eight ponts ahead of third place Ethereal. Lc0 finished fifth, a point better than an even score. The bonus event was followed by an 'Chess 324 In-house [whatever that means] Final' match between Dragon and Ethereal. Dragon won by 21 points, without losing a single game. For more about the two events, plus some speculation on the administrative shake-up I noted two weeks ago, see last week's post Chess324 Is a Thing (September 2022).

[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]

11 September 2022

Chess Players with Class

After all the anti-social behavior documented in the recent post, Chess Players Behaving Very, Very Badly (September 2022), it's easy to forget that there are still role models in the game. GM Anand is one of the classiest.

How Vishy is changing the Landscape of Chess in India | WACA Chess (4:52) • '[Published on] Sep 8, 2022'

The description said,

Vishy Anand became the first Indian Grandmaster and because of him, India has a big talent pool, representing India on the world stage. Vishy Anand reacts to his AV [?] where a small journey of his was displayed to the audience at the WACA felicitation program in Bangalore.

What's WACA? A page from nearly two years ago, Viswanathan Anand launches WACA Chess Fellowships to mentor India's chess champions (thebridge.in), explains,

WestBridge Capital, under the umbrella of its public charitable trust, WestBridge Charitable Foundation, is set to launch a chess fellowship program, in partnership with Chess Maestro and former World Champion, Grand Master (GM) Viswanathan Anand, establishing the WestBridge-Anand Chess Academy (WACA).

The video clip featured above is from ChessBase India, another classy Indian resource.

09 September 2022

Fischer - Spassky Zeitgeist

Last week's post in the Fischer Friday series, Benson Called Bobby (September 2022), was about the 21st and final game of the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match (m-w.com):-

Brad Darrach described the transition from the 10th World Champion to the 11th in his usual colorful style.

A more straightforward account of the end of the match can be found in the book I introduced in an earlier post, GM Svetozar Gligoric, Player/Journalist (August 2022):-

Gligoric's book 'Fischer v Spassky: The Chess Match of the Century' (Fontana, 1972), contains good accounts of the off-board happenings between games.

The only artwork in the book consists of two uncaptioned, unattributed sketches of the pensive chess warriors inserted after the historic 21st game.

Left: Robert Fischer • Right: Boris Spassky

The artwork is followed by two pages summarizing the zeitgeist of the match. Titled, 'In Retrospect', it starts,

Among the world champions since the war, Boris Spassky has distinguished himself. During a relatively short period of five years he came victorious out of personal duels with a most exquisite group of contemporary grandmasters -- Keres, Geller, Tal, Larsen, Korchnoi and Petrosian. No other world champion could boast such an impressive list of triumphs in matches.

At the same time, Robert Fischer was growing alongside him into another chess giant who, with his general results and high percentages, outclassed the achievements not only of his contemporaries, but of any individual in the whole history of world chess.

Years had to go by, and many difficulties had to be overcome, until the match between these two players in their prime became reality, the match which every chess enthusiast considered as the most wishful chess event of our century. By happy coincidence -- after a quarter of a century of supremacy by one country -- it was also the first clash at the top in the spirit of healthy sporting rivalry between the best representatives of two different parts of the world.

All that gives a clue to the unexpected chess fever which overwhelmed continents during those two months in Reykjavik. The match opened a new, unforeseen chapter in the history of this noble game, which has existed modestly for more than one thousand years, only now to be discovered, by a good part of mankind as the best game ever invented by the human mind.

The last page in the book has a single paragraph:-

The American grandmaster Robert Byrne played in the very strong Alekhine Memorial Tournament in Moscow in November / December 1971. He was asked for his opinion on the result of the Fischer-Spassky match and was widely quoted in the Soviet press as follows:-

"Fischer will win by 12 1/2 to 8 1/2 and will be World Champion for the next twelve years!"

GM Byrne's prediction about the final score was right on the mark. Who could have known that his prediction about the length of Fischer's reign was far-fetched fantasy?

08 September 2022

Chess Players Behaving Very, Very Badly

The game:-

The players:-

Plus thousands of comments from chess fans.


Later: The reactions:-

Advantage? [TBD]

05 September 2022

Chess324 Is a Thing

The most recent post on my chess960 blog, TCEC DFRC1 (August 2022), mentioned a new idea in the specialized world of chess engines:-

'!chess324 • A subset of DFRC where the Kings and the Rooks are at the usual starting position. Since castling is standard, this allows all engines to play.' For more about that definition, see Chess324 (talkchess.com; lkaufman, aka Larry Kaufman of Komodo++ fame).

That Talkchess thread ran its course and eventually died out, then came roaring back with a follow-up post by the same lkaufman: Re: Chess324 (talkchess.com):-

Chess324 now being used in CCC tournament! Dragon currently in first place (8 player multiple round robin), but it's early. Plenty of decisive games already, as hoped, though none yet between engines in the top half.

One of the ensuing discussions concerned the relative performances of three setup strategies -- chess960 (FRC), DFRC, and chess324 -- for reducing draws. Another was a substandard performance by Leela:-

Current working theory -- the [Leela] bad performance so far would be because we submitted an untested branch which ended up having a pretty bad bug. Whether that's actually why Leela has performed so poorly remains to be seen, but it's the most probable explanation, considering the analysis I was running on the side during games with a known good version. The playing Leela was updated to a fixed version around game 154.

At this point a CCC insider ('AndrewGrant') pointed out,

The mid-event "update", was actually a mid-event "revert one commit", so I felt happy to do it. Not a super serious event, so no harm done really by having some buggyness.

Grant is a well known personality in chess engines. His page, Andrew Grant (chessprogramming.org), says,

An American computer science and mathematics major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is author of the UCI compliant open source chess engine Ethereal, first officially released in June 2016, and the distributed SPRT testing framework for chess engines, OpenBench.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, OpenBench was featured in an August CCC event called, 'OpenBench Interlude #1'. Can we conclude from this that Andrew Grant has taken over responsibility for the CCC, at least temporarily? The following image displays what Chess.com, the owner/sponsor of CCC, has to say about the current(?) CCC TD and his apparent(?) successor.

About Chess.com (chess.com; 'Updated: Aug 26, 2022')

The LinkedIn page for 'Connor' confirms the end date: 'CCC Tournament Director; Chess.com; Jul 2021 - Aug 2022'. Will this personnel change be confirmed by a Chess.com announcement? I don't recall this being done the last time, so my guess is that we'll have to monitor 'About Chess.com' for any updates regarding CCC administration. See CCC Changes the Guard (October 2021), for the previous transition. Thanks, Connor, for a job well done.

04 September 2022

The Spanish Forger Liked Chess

While I was compiling the short list for this month's edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), eBay proposed other chess items under the heading 'Similar sponsored items'. I looked at several that reminded me of an old post titled, Chess Art, Chinese Copies (July 2010).

The item pictured below was titled, 'The Spanish Forger - museum piece old master oil panel - medieval chess players'. It sold for US $2725 after a single bid. Before I get into the details of the piece sold at auction, I'll mention a couple of references for the question, 'What's the difference between a forgery and a copy?':-

  • Fakes vs copies (deccanherald.com; 'Vienna : Museum of Art Fakes') • 'Copy: A copy of an existing work without the reference that it is original. [...] Fake/forgery: A copy of an existing work with the wrong reference it is original.'
  • Why forgeries, fakes and counterfeits aren’t the same thing (gbgplc.com; 'We are GBG, global specialists in digital identity.') • 'On the face of it, forgery and counterfeit are synonyms for fake -- but they're not actually the same thing, especially when you’re talking about falsified identity documents. [...] 1. Forgery: a genuine document that has been unlawfully altered; 2. Counterfeit: a copy of a genuine document; 3. Fake: an identity document that isn't officially produced or recognised'

I knew that intuitively, but it's always a good idea to get confirmation from an expert. Here's a copy of the item sold via eBay.

The description said,

A beautiful antique oil painting, depicting "The Chess Players" By the Spanish Forger. Two other paintings with chess players by the Spanish Forger are known, both are in museum collections. • Univ. of Pennsylvania, LJS MS 33 • NY, Columbia Univ., Plimpton Add. MS 18

Those last two 'MS' references are for the two other chess paintings by the Spanish Forger, easily found using the obvious keywords. The description incorporated a *copy* (attributed!) to Spanish Forger (wikipedia.org). The Wikipedia page starts,

The Spanish Forger (French: Le Faussaire espagnol) is the name given to an unidentified individual who, in the late 19th to early 20th century, created a large number of forgeries of medieval miniatures.

The eBay text copied from Wikipedia was followed by more details about the piece.

Origin: France • Provenance: Private Collection (Paris, France) • Age: 19th century (Buy with confidence, 100 % money back guaranty!) • Signature: The Spanish forger never signed his work • Material: Oil on panel • Measurements: Approx 14 X 9.8 inch wide tall (35 X 25 cm) • Condition: Good, little signs of age but not disturbing, and I guarantee that the painting is stable; there is absolutly no wood worm inside.

Best takeaway from this post? For me, it's the existence of the 'Vienna Museum of Art Fakes': a whole museum just for fakes.

02 September 2022

Benson Called Bobby

Yesterday's post, September 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (September 2022), fell on an important anniversary in chess history:-

The date of today's post, 1 September, marks 50 years since the historic match ended.

The historic match, as many online chess resources have been reminding us for the past two months, was the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match (m-w.com).The subtitle for that page says, 'Reykjavik, VII-VIII, 1972'; perhaps it should say, 'VII-IX'.

One of the early posts in this Fischer Friday series was Legends of the 1972 Match (June 2022; links to scans of Petursson cards) It featured a full color Halldor Petursson poster, a large copy of the first black & white ('B&W') card in the well known series so often used to illustrate write-ups of the 1972 match.

The following image shows another full color Petursson poster, a large copy of the last card (no.18) in the B&W series. The numbering of the cards, found on the back of each card, makes me wonder whether they are ordered in chronological sequence.

My narrative about the card in the 'Legends' post...

The scan, taken from the original eBay auction, isn't particularly good, but I would need a large scanner to do better. [...] In creating the image shown above, I started with the color portion of the poster and appended the English legend.

...is just as true for the current card. The English language legend on this card says,

The last Scene: Coronation and Banquet of the Century.
From left to right:
1. Efim Geller: Grand Master. Spassky's Second.
2. Nikolai Krogius: Grand Master. Spassky's Second.
3. Boris Spassky: Ex-World Chess Champion.
4. Bobby Fischer: The present World Chess Champion. Follows Napoleon's The Great Example.
5. Lothar Schmid: Principal Arbiter. "Master of Silence".
6. Saemundur Palsson: Bobby's Body-guard and best Friend in Iceland.
7. Gudmundur Arnlaugsson: Assistant Arbiter.
8. Rev. William Lombardy: Grand Master. Bobby's Second.
9. Dr. Max Euwe: President of FIDE. World Chess Champion 1935-1937.
10. Thorvaldur Gudmundsson: "Mine Host".
11. Harry Golombek: Vice President of FIDE. "The Solid Support".
12. Fred Cramer: Bobby's "Agent-Spokesman-Escort".
13. Gudmundur G. Thorarinsson: The "still-worried" President of the Icelandic Chess Federation.
14. Fridrik Olafsson: Grand Master. "M.I.P." in Icelandic Chess Life.
15. Chester Fox (bottom): The "still" Desperate Film Producer on his own".
GENS UNA SUMUS: We are One Race.
SKAKSAMBAND ISLANDS: Icelandic Chess Federation.
FIDE: Federation Internationale Des Echecs: International Chess Federation.

A resource I've frequently relied on for the Fischer Friday series is 'Bobby Fischer vs. the Rest of the World' by Brad Darrach. See, for example, According to Darrach, Day by Day (July 2022). Darrach described the transition from the 10th World Champion to the 11th in his usual colorful style:-

And then one day, after seven successive draws, the score stood Bobby 11 1/2, Spassky 8 1/2. For the first time Bobby could finish the match with a single victory. "He'll be gunning for this one," [GM Robert] Byrne said. "He won't want to back into the title with another draw."

At 3 A.M. on Friday, September 1, 1972, Spassky lay in bed and stared into the drab reverse twilight of a northern dawn. In the twenty-first game, Bobby had fooled him in the opening and in irritation Spassky had sealed a move that left him less chance of drawing than Bobby had of winning. A careless fluff had cost him his last hope of leaving a stain on Bobby's triumph and a doubt in Bobby's mind. Now all he could do was go down fighting. And yet ... did he really want to let that arrogant Bobby rip off his scalp on the stage of the playing hall while thousands cheered? Spassky decided that for his own sake and for the sake of his country he must make a more carefully managed exit.

At 1 P.M., Harry Benson [photographer for Life magazine] dropped by the Saga [Hotel]. To his surprise he saw Spassky stride out of the elevator, Krogius at his heels. When he saw Benson, Spassky broke into a big smile and casually handed him the news beat of the summer.

"Hello, Hahrry! There is new world champion! I have just resigned."

Benson's face fell. "I'm sorry to hear that, Boris."

"Don't be sorry," Spassky said. "It is sporting event and" -- he shrugged -- "I lost. Bobby is new champion. So! Now I must have walk." And off he went.

Benson called Bobby. "Congratulations! You're the world champion."

"Yeeaah?" Bobby was pleased but suspicious. "How ya know?"

"Spassky resigned. He told me so himself."

"Ya sure?"

When Lombardy arrived, Bobby was still hunched over the analysis board, eyes blazing. "How do I know it's not a trick to make me stop workin' so he'll win? Tell Schmid I demand to see Spassky's resignation in writing!"

At 2:25, Schmid was beside himself. Almost half an hour after game time, Bobby had not shown up to claim his victory. Schmid had refused to make Spassky come to the playing hall and write the word "resigned" on his score sheet -- was Bobby taking his revenge?

At 2:30, Bobby burst onstage, looking surly-shy.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Schmid announced in a sweat of relief, "Mr. Spassky has resigned it by telephone at 12:50 o'clock."

Loud applause. Bobby winced and half looked up from the score sheet he was signing.

"Mr. Fischer," Schmid continued, "has won this game ... and he is therefore the winner of the match."

Thunderous ovation. Bobby scowled as if he wished they would all go away. The ovation faltered, then swelled into rhythmic clapping and stamping. Hastily, as if afraid all those people were coming after him, Bobby bolted through the curtain and was gone. Applause subsided into exclamations of incredulous exasperation. "You mean," an American visitor asked, "this is how it ends?"

This was how it began, the reign of King Bobby.

As we all know 50 years later, 'the reign of King Bobby' was the least productive in chess history. Except for a few games against a weak computer in 1977, Fischer didn't play another published game until 20 years later, the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch, Sveti Stefan/Belgrade (m-w.com). I'll add a post or two about that match to this Fischer Friday series.

01 September 2022

September 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

In last month's post, August 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (August 2022), the most recent in this blog's long running series about American chess magazines 50 and 25 years ago, I asked and answered,

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.

Jumping ahead a month to its September 1972 issue, CL&R couldn't yet report the final result of the match. The five page lead story, 'The Match' by Robert Byrne ('in Reykjavik covering the match for a New York newspaper and for CL&R'), had annotations for the first five games and raw game scores through game 14, which was played on 15 August.

The date of today's post, 1 September, marks 50 years since the historic match ended. In his book that appeared in 1974 -- see the post Spassky's Team (July 2022), for more about the book -- GM Byrne wrote an introduction to the last game, which started on 31 August. He said,

After seven draws in a row [Fischer won the 13th game], Bobby finally broke through to take the 21st game and the match. One of the most important opening innovations he produced in the match came this time in a variation of the Sicilian Defense he had never before shown any liking for. It cashiers one of the chief attacks available to White, Black obtaining a small but clear advantage.

However, just when Bobby seemed to be succeeding in the struggle, Boris came up with a finely-judged Exchange sacrifice which should have left little question about the draw. Unfortunately for him, he then blundered monstrously, throwing away the fruits of his intrepid defense and going down to defeat.

Spassky's resignation by telephone [the next day] disappointed the fans, who wanted to see the endgame technique the old and new champions took for granted. At the final banquet, Fischer was still going over the variations resulting from Spassky's sealed move, 41 B-Q7, pointing out the various desperate traps still at White's disposal. Thus ended "The Match of the Century."

We'll come back to the end of the 1972 match for the October 'On the Cover' post. For this current post, let's return to our U.S. chess magazines from Septembers of yesteryear.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Diary of a World Champion (Trophy: "86 Memorial Day Open - Unrated")'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

1972 U.S. Amateur Champion Ed Vano of Highland, Indiana. Tournament story [inside].

The corresponding tournament report 'Vano Wins U.S. Amateur' was unsigned, but we can guess that it was written by one of the TDs listed at the end: 'Tournament Directors were Bill Goichberg, Larry King, Bob Moran, and Phil Newman.' The report started,

255 players competed in the 22nd Annual United States Amateur Championship, played in New York City over the Memorial Day weekend. There were 148 in Group One, open to all non-Masters, and 107 in Group Two, open to all under 1800 or unrated.

12th-ranked Edward Vano (2050) of Highland, Indiana, a former Master, topped Group One on tiebreak to take the national title. Matching Vano's 6-1 score were George F. Miller III (2117) of Syracuse, N.Y. and Joseph Weldon (2044) of New York City, who placed 2nd and 3rd respectively.

In those days, CL&R gave a full cover to the winner of the U.S. Amateur. A year ago, in August 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (August 2021), we saw that the 1971 winner was Clarence Kalenian.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

So who knew? Perhaps his mother knew, when she sent in the cover photo, back in 1986. Perhaps Dr. Aspis had an inkling back in 1991. Or maybe Leon Haft of the Marshall Chess Club could have predicted it when the lad won the U.S. Cadet Championship in 1992.

Earning a Samford Fellowship in 1996 might have been an indication of future achievements; U.S. Junior Championships in 1995 and 1997 didn't cloud the waters. But who knew Tal Shaked would join a long line of successful Americans who have won the World Junior Championship?

Anyone who has met the young man, that's who. Not by dint of style or playing strength, but because one could not hope for a better role model for today's youth. It had to happen because we all wanted it to happen.

I think his mother knew. Even back in 1986.

The tournament was summarized in a full page photo story, titled 'Player of the Month : Tal Shaked':-

Tal Shaked was awarded the title of World Junior Champion in Zagan. Poland. on tiebreaks over Vigen Mirumian. Both finished with scores of 9.5-3.5 The event was held July 13-28. Tal joins a long line of distinguished winners of this prestigious title. Tal is definitely our Player of the Month!

Incorporated into the story, titled 'Diary of a World Junior Champion', was a list of nearly 20 highlights of his young career. For his later years, see Tal Shaked (wikipedia.org). Another Wikipedia page, World Junior Chess Championship, informs that the only American player to win the same title after 1997 was Jeffery Xiong in 2016.