30 December 2022

World Championship Columnists

Back in the mid-1990s, both Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov -- bitter rivals at the time -- wrote separate columns for the USCF's Chess Life (CL). I mentioned Karpov's column in last week's post, Wayback to Chess.net (December 2022).

I've never studied these columns, even though they might contain interesting material for my World Chess Championship site (WCC; see link on the right). Following is a table overviewing the content of both columns.

CL p. Title Notes
Kasparov, Fighting Chess, Chess Life
1993-01     6 Opening innovation see also cover
1993-02 13 Local Searchings KK5, g.11
1993-03 10 Natural Suspicions opening refutation
1993-04 14 Battle with the Viewers Spanish TV Channel 1
1993-05 10 Battle with the Viewers (cont.)
1993-06 12 Battle with the Viewers, Part III
1993-07 16 Battle with the Viewers (concluded)
1993-08 40 The Bloodless Revolution PCA; see also 'Interview with Bob Rice'
1993-09 12 Simuls in My Life
1993-10 14 Simuls in My Life (Part II) 1984 London/New York; 1985 Hamburg
1993-11 18 Simuls in My Life (Part III) 1987 Zurich; 1989 Evry
1993-12 14 Simuls in My Life (Part IV) 1992 Baden-Baden
1994-01 6 Simuls in My Life (Part V) 1992 Buenos Aires
1994-03 12 Looking Back 1993 Kasparov – Short; Opening prep; 1.e4; g.3
1994-04 18 Looking Back, Part II (cont.)
1994-05 12 Looking Back, Part III 1.d4; g.9
1994-06 12 Looking Back, Part IV GK Black; 1.e4 c5; g.2,4
Karpov, Grandmaster Musings, Chess Life
1994-10 42 The Caro-Kann
1994-11 14 Dortmund 1994
1994-12 12 Sanghi-Nagar Semi-finals
1995-01 8 Sanghi-Nagar, Part II
1995-02 12 Opening Survey: Tilburg 1994
1995-03 12 Opening Survey: Tilburg 1994, Part II
1995-04 12 Exploring the Sicilian, Part I Buenos Aires Sicilian Thematic, 1994
1995-05 34 Exploring the Sicilian, Part II (ditto)
1995-06 21 Sanghi-Nagar: The Semi-Finals Good intro; aka Finals [leading to title match]
1995-07 34 Sanghi-Nagar, Part II
1995-09 10 Linares, Part I
1995-10 16 Linares, Part II
1995-11 32 Melody Amber 4th
1996-01 36 Melody Amber, Part II
1996-02 24 Melody Amber, Part III
1996-04 20 Dos Hermanas, Part I “Before we discuss my match with Kamsky...”
1996-05 28 Dos Hermanas, Part II; Groningen, Part I
1996-06 32 Groningen, Part II see note on PCA
1996-07 38 Groningen, Part III
1996-08 26 Groningen, Part IV
1996-10 38 Melody Amber I
1996-11 38 Melody Amber II
1997-01 44 Melody Amber III
1997-02 32 Biel, Part I
1997-03 19 Biel Schachfestival, Part II
1997-05 22 Las Palmas 1996
1997-06 24 Vienna Schachfestival
1997-09 36 Dos Hermanas, 1997
1997-10 38 Dos Hermanas, Part II
1997-11 40 Biel Schachfestival, Part I
1997-12 48 Biel, Part II
1998-01 21 Biel, Part III
1998-04 73 Lausanne, 1998 Karpov - Anand; gms. 1, 2, 7, 8
1998-05 42 A Magical Weekend in Parsippany Henley, Karpov, Krush
1998-06 30 The Teams, Part II (ditto)

The table might be more appropriate incorporated into the WCC site itself, but I can always move it later. In the meantime, I'll use it as the basis for a post or two on my WCC blog.

29 December 2022

Deja Vu Yahoos

This last Yahoos post for 2022 (see the footnote for an explanation of Yahoos) had a number of surprises. The first surprise was a lead section that I had never seen before titled, 'News about chess tournament, hijab', with nine stories. This was followed by the usual collection of stories under the title 'Also in the news'.

The second surprise was that none of the nine news sources was a chess site. The nine stories were from nine different mainstream news organizations like CNN, Fox News, Reuters, and The Telegraph. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's first insert the usual analysis of news sources.

Of the 98 stories listed by Google News, 85 were for the current month. Seven sources, shown in the chart on the left, had more than one story. Since they accounted for 47 stories, that leaves 38 sources with a single story.

The two sources with 'Sports' in their name also popped up last summer in Olympiad, Business, and Political Yahoos (August 2022). This month the Sportstar (thehindu.com) stories were mostly about the National Chess Championships of India. 'Telangana Today' is another Indian source reporting on events from the Indian subcontinent.

Getting back to the surprises, three more hijab reports appeared after the special lead section, making 12 stories total from 12 different sources. Not a single one of these stories was from a chess news site. In fact, before preparing this post, I hadn't seen the story reported anywhere.

The source for one of the 12 stories was listed by Google News as '??????', meaning that a foreign character set did not survive my Yahoo filters. The original story was:-

  • 2022-12-28: Iranian Chess Grand Master Removes Hijab In Solidarity With Popular Movement (iranintl.com) • 'In solidarity with other Iranian women and for the first time, Iran’s Sara Khademalsharieh appeared with uncovered hair Monday at an international chess tournament in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Iranian state media reported Monday that Khademalsharieh had competed at the World Rapid Chess Championships without wearing the hijab which under Iran’s Islamic dress codes is compulsory.'

This is not the first hijab incident picked up for this series of Yahoo posts. Use the search box in the right column to see previous stories. Does that explain why the chess news sites have not reported the story -- too strong on deja vu?

There are a few more stories that I would like to mention, but I'm running out of time for this post. If I find more time, I'll continue later just like I did last month for Disappearing Yahoos (November 2022).

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


Later: Of last month's several 'Disappearing Yahoos', one reappeared:-

That last story was a minor dark spot in a fabulous month for Chess.com. Consider the following:-

For previous posts on my blogs concerning much of the above, see:-

Finally, there's one more story that fits in well with the year-end holidays, Christmas in particular:-

  • 2022-12-28: U.S. Grants Asylum to Family of Nigerian Who Became National Chess Master at 10 (fij.ng) • 'The United States has granted asylum to a Nigerian family, the Adewumis, whose son, Tanitoluwa [Tani] Adewumi, won the FIDE Master international chess title in 2021. The devoutly Christian family had moved to New York City in 2017, seeking religious asylum, after their safety was threatened by the Boko Haram terrorist group.'

Tani Adewumi has appeared several times in the Yahoo series. The first mention was March Yahoos -- A Viral Story (March 2019). As a Christmas gift, I received a copy of his book 'My Name Is Tani...and I Believe in Miracles'. I don't often review books on this blog, but I'm going to make an exception here.

26 December 2022

TCEC More Interludes; CCC19 Bullet Underway

In the previous post on the world's foremost engine vs. engine competitions, TCEC/CCC Interludes (December 2022), I could have incorporated an explanation of 'Why interludes?', but I doubt it would have been news to many chess engine fans. Following is a summary of that post.

TCEC: LCZero beat KomodoDragon +24-13=63 in the 'S23 Subfinal' for the S23 runnerup position. The site then organized another VVLTC event, the third time that VVLTC has followed a Sufi. The S23 VVLTC was followed by an SVVLTC, which was followed by 'Noomen Extra 2'; see the 'Interludes' post for an explanation of its 3+11 engine structure. • CCC: Stockfish beat Lc0 114.5-85.5 in the 'CCC19 Rapid Final'. The site then ran a series of exhibition events.

Are the interludes (aka bonuses, aka exhibitions) overtaking the seasons in importance? Let's take a snapshot of the current situation.

TCEC: Stockfish won the VVLTC, then drew the two-game SVVLTC with LCZero. KomodoDragon placed first in the top-3 section of 'Noomen Extra 2'; Ethereal placed first in the next-11 section where none of the engines won a single game against the top-3.

LCZero then won the second chess324 tournament, a half point ahead of Stockfish. The two engines drew their own mini-match and scored identically against the other six engines, except for the rofChade matches where Stockfish lost a game. See Chess324 Is a Thing (September 2022), for an earlier post on this anti-draw C960/DFRC setup variant.

The site is currently conducting '4k Testing'. What's a '4K' engine?

!4k • Engine maximum size is 4 kiB (4096 bytes), Time control: 30'+3'', Format: 6 DRRs, Book: !4kbook, Potential engines: !4ku !pygone !we4k !ice4 !sunfish

!4kbook • First DRR bookless (standard starting position), then DRRs with openings from both Noomen Extra for total of 6x DRR.

Assembler anyone? The '!4k' command also mentions, 'For draft rules see': TCEC 4k Rules (wiki.chessdom.org).

CCC: After the 'CCC19 Rapid Final', there were so many CCC exhibition events that it might be useful to list them. Lacking time for that now, I'll try to tackle the chore for the next off-week post.

The site is currently running the 'CCC19 Bullet' event. For the first time in longer than I can remember, the site has updated the event's 'Info' tab to explain its different stages. Even more amazing, the info appears to be accurate and well thought out.

The 'CCC19 Bullet Newcomers' and 'Qualifier #1' events have finished, and 'Qualifier #2' is underway. All three events counted ten engines, with the top-four qualifying into the next event. Marvin went from 'Newcomers' to 'Qualifier #2', but its quest for stardom will likely end there.

The post, 'Chess324 Is a Thing', is worth mentioning for another reason -- it was the last time I looked at CCC administrators. The reference page About Chess.com (chess.com; 'We'll have to monitor "About Chess.com" for any updates regarding CCC administration.') is now marked 'Updated: Dec 8, 2022', but Connor (Connor McMonigle) is still listed as 'CCC Tournament Director' and Andrew (Andrew Grant) is still an 'Analysis Developer'.

[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]


Later: Re this action...

CCC: After the 'CCC19 Rapid Final', there were so many CCC exhibition events that it might be useful to list them. Lacking time for that now, I'll try to tackle the chore for the next off-week post.

...I already have ideas for several off-week posts on the back burner, so I'll address the point here. Of 18 recent events, 10 were exhibitions.

Recent CCC Events

The regular season events bracketed in red correspond to the following posts:-

(A:) 2022-12-26: TCEC More Interludes; CCC19 Bullet Underway
(B:) 2022-12-12: TCEC/CCC Interludes
(C:) 2022-11-28: TCEC S23, CCC19 Rapid : Stockfish Wins Both

Reminder: In '(B:)' I asked, 'When was the last time Stockfish did not win a CCC Bullet, Blitz, or Rapid tournament?'

25 December 2022

Not the Dickens Christmas Story

Q: What happens when the monthly post about The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) falls on Christmas Day? A: We use whatever we can find.

The Santa character, played by a White Rook, looks like Homer Simpson. The devil character, played by a Black Pawn, looks like a cute bug.

A Chess Story: The game between Santa and the Devil (6:24) • '[Published on] Dec 22, 2015'

The description said,

Christmas is in danger. Santa Claus must play a game of chess against the Devil to save it. Mexico 2015.

It's not really a Christmas story. The Santa character might just as well be the Easter bunny, fighting for the right to deliver Easter candy to the children of the world.

0:50 'Santa axed the Devil about his reason for being in the North Pole'.

I axed what the devil am I going to do with this? It would be interesting to know the origin of the story -- this video -or- something earlier. Maybe the best thing to do is just to stop here.

Merry Christmas to one and all! And please drive safely.


For last year's Christmas post, see Merry Christmas 2021! (December 2021; 'Fifteen years of Christmas blog posts with a chess theme...').

23 December 2022

Wayback to Chess.net

In the recent post, The SmartChess Saga (December 2022), I highlighted a SmartChess.com press release:-

An earlier press release, titled 'A Press Release by Anatoly Karpov' and dated 18 December 1996, had stated, "Statement by Anatoly Karpov: In the opening paragraphs of my January 1997 "Grandmasters Musings" column (in Chess Life), I briefly mentioned one of my recent involvements in chess on the Internet in which I appeared as a guest of Chess.net, a company of which I recently became a shareholder. [...] I would also like to mention that I am a frequent guest lecturer at the superb Internet Chess Academy (yourmove.com) created by the talented young GM Gabriel Schwartzman. [...]"

What did former World Champion Karpov say exactly? This:-

Before we begin the discussions of the games for this issue, I would like to let my readers know of a significant new development in my chess activities. I am very excited to have become a new owner of Chess.net, the leading site for interactive Internet chess. Chess.net offers interactive play. the opportunity to train with masters and grandmasters. and one of the world's strongest tournament-proven chess engines -- ROboMAN.

I joined Chess.net because I was impressed with the sophistication of the software and technology and excited by the group's com- mitment to chessplayers. The Internet will propel chess to a much higher level of world- wide participation and interest This is a very significant turning point in the history of chess.

Although I am extremely busy. I will still be able to log onto Chess.net for at least two or three hours a week from anywhere in the world. If you don't see me on one of my impromptu visits. check out the Chess News section of our web site at www.chess.net to see when I will he logged on again. Most likely I will be playing blitz games against the 20 or so grandmasters who regularly play there, but I am sure that every so often I will find the time to play a game with a committed club regular, as these are the individuals who make the club successful for all of us. Naturally, I will be broadcasting all of my events on Chess.net, and I hope to see you there.

Reading between the lines, we surmise that Karpov was guilty of divided loyalty -- SmartChess.com on one side, Chess.net on the other. Once again, the Wayback Machine on archive.org -> chess.net gives us a top-level glimpse of an early web resource, Chess.net (circa 2000).

Top: Chess.net language selection • Bottom: Home page (English)

That second menu link says,

Chess Shop (tm) • Looking for a certain chess book? Chess clock? How about a video tape from world class chess trainer Roman to hone your opening moves?

Does 'chess trainer Roman' have anything to do with the 'ROboMAN' mentioned by Karpov? I'll try to find out in a follow-up post.

19 December 2022

Chessify Setup

Every once in a while I wake up from my habitual sleepwalking and try to grasp the basics of current trends in chess engines. At the end of this post is a summary of those efforts over the past few years.

With this post I set out to bring myself up to date once again, but quickly decided that I needed to look at chess engines in the so-called cloud. My first stop was Chessify: Powerful Cloud Engines for Chess Analysis (chessify.me; 'Powerful Cloud Platform for Chess Training'). The site's home page promises a great deal:-

Top Engines: The latest versions of Stockfish (NNUE and traditional), Leela Chess Zero, and other engines available for your use. • Free Analysis: Analyze at up to 1,000 kN/s speed with Stockfish, asmFish, SugaR, Koivisto, and Berserk for FREE when you register on Chessify. • Cloud Servers: Fast & secure: up to 1 BN/s for Stockfish, 100 kN/s for LCZero, 130 MN/s for asmFish, SugaR AI, Koivisto, and Berserk.

Promises are one thing, but 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating', as they say. I set up a Chessify account, received some free time on their service, and started a new game on the LSS server, where engine use is generally allowed. I'll report on my progress in a future post.


Seven years ago I posted a long series that has already been summarized.

Following are other series plus individual posts that looked at other aspects of engines.

I expect this new cloud series will become one of the longest to date on chess engines.

18 December 2022

Chess on Orion's Belt

We've seen the StarryKnight once before in Chess Nebula (January 2014; Europe-Echecs '55th Anniversary'). In that post I neglected to take the idea further, so let's rectify that. The chess connection has been observed frequently, as in Best of AOP: The Horsehead Nebula (caelumobservatory.com; Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, University of Arizona; AOP: 'Advanced Observing Program', Kitt Peak):-

Chess, anyone? This is the most famous example of a dark nebula, that is, an opaque cloud of dust that obscures a bright nebula behind it. The Horsehead is about a lightyear across, and about 1200 lightyears away. It is backlit by IC 434, a red cloud of energized hydrogen which is illuminated by Alnitak (Zeta Orionis), one of the belt stars of Orion the Hunter.

When I was a child, Orion was my favorite constellation, because it was so easily recognizable by its belt. I imagine many people say the same.

Horsehead Nebula in Orion © Flickr user StarryEarth under Creative Commons.

The description said,

The Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33, B33) is a cool, dark gas cloud located about 1500 light-years from Earth, south of the extreme left end of the belt of Orion constellation.

It is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex and is approximately 3.5 light-years across. This dark nebula, characteristically shaped like the piece of a chess horse, is visible by contrast as it appears ahead of the reddish emission nebula IC 434.

The nebula was discovered photographically in the late 19th century by Williamina Fleming at the Harvard College Observatory, although it was not included in a catalog until 1919 by Edward Emerson Barnard.

Image obtained with the TTT1 telescope with L, Halfa, OIII and g filters.

The first sentence of that description leads to 122 Horsehead Nebula Stock Photos (dreamstime.com). For the second sentence, see Orion molecular cloud complex (wikipedia.org; 'The Orion complex is one of the most active regions of nearby stellar formation visible in the night sky, and is home to both protoplanetary discs and very young stars.'). For the third sentence, see Williamina Fleming (wikipedia.org). The page starts,

Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (1857–1911) was a Scottish-American astronomer. She was a single mother, hired by the director of the Harvard College Observatory to help in the photographic classification of stellar spectra.

The fourth sentence does not compute. If, like me, astronomy leaves your head spinning, see 'It looks like the chess Knight!' (November 2008). The original Flickr page is still there after all these years.

16 December 2022

Paul Azzurro, Chess Video Producer

In last week's Friday post, Shirov's SmartChess Videos (December 2022), I finished saying,

We also learn from the page [on ichess.net] that the videos were 'Originally Produced by Paul Azzurro'. That might be worth additional investigation but I've run out of time for this post.

Let's pick up this week where I left off last week. First stop:-

  • Paul Azzurro (youtube.com/@Chessdvds; a few other Youtube URLs point to the same page) • 'Chessondvd.com worlds largest producer of chess on dvd over 300 to choose from.'

The YouTube 'About' page says,

Demos on Chessdvds that are offered at our website, that include lessons on openings middle game and endgame, game collection, opening repertoire, chess tactics, chess strategy, chess for absolute beginners, and much more.

A 'Links' section on the page lists only www.chessondvd.com, which returns the message, 'We’re having trouble finding that site.' Removing the 'www' leaves 'chessondvd.com', which redirects to our second stop:-

  • Chessvideo.com (subtitled 'TagLine Here'). • The 'Categories' are similar to those seen in last week's 'SmartChess Videos' post.

Last stops:-

  • Paul Azzurro Archives (ichess.net; 'production-house/paul-azzurro') • 'Showing 195 results'; with various sorts.
  • Paul Azzurro (vimeo.com) • 488 videos
  • Chess Dvds | Shop Chess Videos | Tactics (chessondemand.com) • More amateurish than the other sites I've listed. It looks like something I would do.
  • OnlineChessLessons.net (domain captioned in last week's Shirov video) • Redirects to iChess.net.

I tried to look at a few of the Vimeo clips, but each time I received the message 'Video is not rated. Log in to watch.' The 250 logon IDs (plus password) that I've accumulated through the years doesn't include Vimeo, so I had to say, 'Bye for now'. And that's how I'll close this post. Paul Azzurro was (is?) a major force in the world of chess videos.

12 December 2022

TCEC/CCC Interludes

In my previous fortnightly post on the two most important engine vs. engine tournaments, TCEC S23, CCC19 Rapid : Stockfish Wins Both (November 2022), I was premature in calling Stockfish the CCC winner. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: Stockfish beat LCZero +27-10=63 to win its sixth straight 'Superfinal'. The site is currently conducting a 100-game 'Subfinal', where LCzero has already clinched victory over KomodoDragon. • CCC: In the 'CCC19 Rapid Semifinal', Stockfish, Lc0, and Dragon finished 1-2-3, with the other three engines as distant also-rans. LC0 beat Dragon by three points in the 200-game 'Challenger' match and is currently trailing Stockfish in the 200-game 'Final' match.

Despite being premature, I wasn't wrong. Following is the current status of both sites.

TCEC: LCZero beat KomodoDragon +24-13=63 in the 'Subfinal' for S23 bragging rights as runnerup. The site then organized another VVLTC event. This is the third time that VVLTC has followed soon after a Sufi. See TCEC Stockfish Wins S21; CCC Romance Continues (August 2021) and TCEC Cup 10 Underway; Stockfish Wins CCC17 Bullet (May 2022) for the S21 and S22 equivalents. The S23 VVLTC was followed by an SVVLTC event. The TCEC !commands explain,

!vvltc • Very very long time control tournament with 6h+1min. Stockfish, KomodoDragon and LCZero. 2x DRR (12 games, 6 openings).

!svvltc • Starting position very very long time control tournament with 6h+1min. Stockfish - LCZero and reverse (2 games).

The SVVLTC was followed by the 'TCEC Noomen Extra 2' event. The !commands again:-

!noomenextra2 (or !noomen) • TCEC Noomen Extra 2 bonus is a gauntlet of the current top 3 engines (Stockfish, Leela and KomodoDragon) vs the next 11 - Igel, Seer, ScorpioNN, Ethereal, Revenge, RubiChess, Koivisto, Berserk, SlowChess, Stoofvlees, rofChade - from TCEC Season 23 at TC 30+3 with a special book by Jeroen Noomen. Book: !booknoomen

!booknoomen • Four short openings selected by Jeroen Noomen. a) 1.e4 g6 b) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 c) 1.e4 c5 d) 1.e4 c6

The objective of that last event is not clear to me.

CCC: Stockfish beat Lc0 114.5-85.5 in the 'CCC19 Rapid Final'. The site then ran a series of exhibition events. The most important was the 'CCC19 Rapid Alt Final' (note the 'Alt'), where Stockfish beat Dragon 119.5-80.5. In the previous post I asked,

What's next for the site? My guess is 'CCC19 Bullet'.

The site's !commands inform:-

!next • TBD; Testing for CCC20 Bullet? New engine additions? Your recommendations? Super GM openings?

If this is right, there will be no 'CCC19 Bullet' -- not that it matters. When was the last time Stockfish did not win a CCC Bullet, Blitz, or Rapid tournament?

[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 December 2022

Chess Clock Restoration

Here's a type of chess video you don't see every day.

Vintage chess clock restoration (11:21) • '[Published on] Dec 10, 2022'

The description (right click the embedded video for a link) started,

This chess clock was made in 1950`s in Russia. My client wanted me to make it nicer, because it was meant to be birthday present for young and talented chess player. This kind of works are not about the money, but the joy, restoring something different.

It continued with a list of 'My favorite tools' including links to Amzn.to (a link shortener for Amazon.com). The first of the nearly 250 comments was by the videomaker, who said,

To be clear, the original finish was faux wood, it was not veneered.

Many of the comments were about the 'wood', so it must have been an important detail. The restoration concentrated on the clock case, not on the two clock mechanisms.

09 December 2022

Shirov's SmartChess Videos

In last week's post, The SmartChess Saga (December 2022), I wrote,

Karpov's active involvement with the [SmartChess] site lasted about six months and was usually documented in an issue's 'Publisher's Message'. At the same time Karpov's participation was decreasing, that of another, younger link to Soviet chess was increasing. The February 1998 issue of SmartChess announced, "Press Release - 26th February 1998: Superstar GM Alexei Shirov signs contract with WWW Chess Superstore to make a series of instructional chess videos!"

I've already featured a couple of Karpov's SmartChess videos on my World Championship Blog, most recently in the post Boris the 10th and Bobby the 11th (December 2022). Here's one of the Shirov videos.

Shirov crushes Karpov: Ultimate Chess Battle - Amber 1998 (King's Indian Defense) (17:22) • '[Published on] Jul 12, 2012'

More accurate would be to say here's half of one of the Shirov videos. The clip is truncated just at the point where Shirov starts to gain an advantage against Karpov.

The screen capture on the left shows the categories of 'Chess Videos' listed on the SmartChess Catalog (archive.org -> smartchess.com). The Archive.org page is from 2005, making it one of the last versions of the catalog.

The first in the list is '_Garry Kasparov - My Story' (circled in red). The five titles available there correspond to the titles I listed in two posts -- Garry's Story (September 2011) and Garry's Games (October 2011).

The 'Shirov Collection' (also in red) expands to offer 'Shirov! (Best Endgames Vol.1)' for $33.95, 'Shirov! (Best Games - The Complete Set, Volumes 1-5)' for $139.00 [single volumes also are listed], and 'Shirov! (Shirov - Kramnik 1998)' for $39.95. I once discussed the third title in the list in a post Shirov on Shirov - Kramnik 1998 (January 2012).

Many of the videos featured in those old posts are no longer available on Youtube. They might have migrated to another channel or been removed for copyright infringement. The description on the Shirov video embedded above started,

Karpov begins with 1.d4 and Shirov responds with the double-edged King's Indian Defense. Karpov employs his preferred Fianchetto system and Shirov also goes with his pet line, the Panno Variation with 6...Nc6, 7...a6, 8...Rb8 -- intending to initiate counterplay on the Queenside before White is able to complete development and commence operations in the center.

The description also pointed to Shirov's Best Games and End Games - 6 Volume Set (ichess.net). The page summarizes all six videos in the set, where we learn that the 1998 Karpov game is part of 'Shirov’s Best Games: Volume 5'. Its 'Overview' mentions,

These DVDs were originally released in 1997, 1998 and 2000 for $25.99 each, but you can own the entire 6 discs set in digital form for only $17.95.

We also learn from the page that the videos were 'Originally Produced by Paul Azzurro'. That might be worth additional investigation but I've run out of time for this post.

06 December 2022

How Many for Carlsen? For Niemann?

For the second time in less than two months we have a REAL YAHOO, reported by Yahoo.com in person. The previous sighting was Really Big Stereotypes (October 2022; 'real Yahoo -- a mainstream news source reporting on a chess story').

Unfortunately, I bungled the screen capture and lost the top portion of the Yahoo headlines. You'll have to believe me that the top headline said, 'Nobody thought case against Fox would get this far'.

The five bottom headlines said,

- Christie's niece injured 6 cops during arrest: Officials
- Vandals open fire on power stations, knock service out
- 'Want me to strip fully naked, I'll do it': Global chess melee
- Deadline for REAL IDs fast approaching
- Trump's recent dinner represents 'alarming' shift

That third headline sits beneath a photo of Hans Niemann, the player who has quickly become one of the most recognizable personalities in chess, after GMs Carlsen and Kasparov. The headline led to this article:-

  • 2022-12-04: He's the Bad Boy of Chess. But Did He Cheat? (yahoo.com; The New York Times, David Segal and Dylan Loeb McClain) • 'The day before he beat the greatest chess player in the world, Hans Niemann was a curly-haired 19-year-old American known only to serious fans of the game and mostly as an abrasive jerk. Everyone, it seems, has a story. Like that time in June, when he’d lost in the finals of a tournament in Prague, then stood in the ballroom of the hotel where the event was held and ranted against the city and the accommodations.'

Yahoo suspended its comments for a few years because of the vile exchanges between intolerant camps on the political left and right, but they're back with a vengeance. Although a few of the commenters on this story are well informed, whether informed or not, the number of Carlsen supporters are probably balanced by the Niemann supporters.

Most commenters are just there trying to write something clever. My favorites had to do with the length of the article. For example:-

Longest chess article ever. • Raise your hand if you read the entire article. • This chess article is longer than most chess games. • Is this article available in paperback? • Wouldn't it be nice if stories of importance got this much print? • Not sure if watching chess or this article is more boring. • I wonder if they have a Readers Digest condensed version of that story. • This may just be the longest article I can remember seeing over anything this trivial.

And there were dozens more like that among the hundreds of comments the story attracted. The most recent of this blog's monthly news summaries was Disappearing Yahoos (November 2022). There I wrote,

Cheating mania continued into November. Of the 75 chess stories flagged by Google, seven focused on aspects of cheating.

I'll be back at the end of the month with the December edition. I expect to see more about the biggest chess cheating story ever.

[While preparing this post, I also returned to another recent post on the same subject, Steamin' Niemann (November 2022), that featured three videos from the legal community and added two more.]

05 December 2022

TCEC Article PDFs

Commenting on games between chess engines requires three skills: 1) Knowledge of chess, 2) Knowledge of computing, and 3) Ability to write. GM Matthew Sadler has all three. Add to that an insider's knowledge of the TCEC and it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of reporting on TCEC events.

Without much fanfare, GM Sadler has documented the TCEC Superfinal (aka Sufi) for the last ten seasons. The links to his efforts can be found on the menu bar for the TCEC 'Live Broadcast' page (see the 'TCEC / CCC Links' tab at the top of this page).

The image on the left has a list of current TCEC 'Articles'. As a bonus, articles by other TCEC insiders are also available from the same menu option.

In the few hours available for preparing this post, I wasn't able to review everything -- neither by GM Sadler nor by the others -- but what I did see was quality work. I imagine it will take many, many hours to study everything available.

Particularly interesting are insights about the TCEC culture. For example, a footnote from Sadler's most recent article says,

In TCEC lingo, a boom is understood as engine evaluation explosion away from 0.00, its opposite being a moob meaning evaluation implosion back in the general direction of 0.00. (Sufi_23, p.5)

Those are useful terms for a well known phenomenon; used in context (the italics are all mine):-

Stockfish had to hang its fishy head in shame as it moobed down to a 1.17 evaluation!

For two previous posts on this blog about Sadler:-

Now I just have to find the time to review all of the TCEC articles -or- as many as I can. First I'll load them onto my Kindle.

04 December 2022

Cold Painted Cats

After so many years of posts inspired by Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), various themes eventually repeat. The item pictured below was titled 'Austrian cold painted cats playing chess by Bergman', and sold for GBP 625.00 ('approximately US $763.50'), 'Best offer accepted'. Ranked between two items of similar value, the real final price was probably around $740.

We've seen cats, as in Cats Attacking Royalty (March 2019), and we've seen bronzes, as in Foxy Chess (July 2022; 'Fritz Bermann'). Why bronzes? Because the phrase 'cold painted' is shorthand to the experts for 'cold painted bronze'.

The description simply repeated the title and added 'with mark to back of chair'. The seller had a web site with an artist's page Franz Xavier Bergman. It said,

Born in 1861 in Vienna, Austria, he initially inherited a bronze factory from his father and later opened his own foundry. Bergman died in 1936 in Vienna, Bergman produced many patina- and cold-painted bronze sculptures of erotic figures, animals, Orientalist scenes, and mythological creatures. Bronzes cast in the Bergman foundry are normally stamped with a capital 'B' that is placed in a twin handled vase. He signed many of the erotic works produced by his foundry with the pseudonym Nam Greb.

At the end of the 'Foxy Chess' post, which featured a 'Fritz Bermann Vienna Austria Cold Painted Bronze', I noted,

The foxes also had a 'Jug-Mark' with a 'B' in the center. Fritz Bermann and Franz Bergmann, both of Vienna, both making chess bronzes -- I should look deeper into it, but not today; maybe next time.

This post is the 'next time' and I don't want to kick the can down the road again. Let's assume that 'twin handled vase' and 'jug', both with a capital 'B', refer to the same mark. It follows that 'Franz [Xavier] Bergman' (one 'n') and 'Franz Bergmann' (two 'n's) both refer to the same person.

That leaves Fritz Bermann. Here I found several examples of an 'FBW' mark standing for 'Fritz Bermann Wien [i.e. Vienna]'. That means Franz Bergman and Fritz Bermann, both of Vienna, were two different artists. As for 'cold painted bronze', there are enough explanations on the web that I don't have to repeat any of them. Ignorance is no longer an option.

02 December 2022

The SmartChess Saga

Last week's Friday post, Wayback to Smartchess (November 2022), discussed a trailblazer among chess-on-the-web sites. I noted, 'The first issue of 'SmartChess Online' was dated August 1997 and the last was dated August/September 2003, a total of 45 issues.'

The first item in the August 1997 issue was titled 'Publisher's Message by International Grandmaster Ron Henley'. Largely editorial, it was to become a regular column in future issues, appearing more often than not. In it GM Henley gave his thoughts on topical issues related to chess, to video publishing, and to the internet in general. The first such column started,

Dear Readers: It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the premier issue of SmartChess Online - a new FREE monthly magazine brought to you by R&D (Chess) Publishing's World Wide Web Chess Superstore.

In 1993, my good friends Anatoly Karpov, Paul Hodges and I set a mission for ourselves. We laid the foundations of a chess resource that would provide the world's chessplayers with a high-quality, one-stop chess educational and shopping experience. To this end, we have worked with people of exceptional and varied talents, resulting in the launch of this all-new version of our popular World Wide Web site.

With this monumental step forward the World Wide Web Chess Superstore clearly establishes itself as the world's leading Internet-based chess retailer. The introduction of this version of our World Wide Web site (which replaces the one that many tens of thousands of visitors have frequented since its inception in 1995), marks only the completion of an intermediate phase of our overall plans for our World Wide Web presence.

That earlier version of SmartChess is presumably lost, having predated the introduction of Archive.org and the Wayback Machine. The Henley column continued,

For your convenience, this new version of our site contains a dynamic, illustrated chess catalog, featuring online shopping capabilities and a powerful catalog search engine. To protect the privacy of our valued customers, transactions on this Web site are safeguarded by the use of state of the art encryption and secure server technology.

In addition to the regular features and guest contributions in SmartChess Online (presented by some of the world's best chessplayers) we will be constantly expanding the frequently visited chess education resources that are archived on our site. In the near future, we will bring you analysis, updates and reports from the most important chess events from around the world.

SmartChess Online will also include interviews of chess stars and penetrating reviews of the many chess products that are now available to the consumer. We will strive to incorporate the latest technological developments available for the dissemination of chess information and instructional material as the World Wide Web Chess Superstore blazes the trail into the Twenty-First Century.

Regards, Ron

The mention of GM Karpov was not accidental. He was one of the magnets intended to draw visitors to the site. An earlier press release, titled 'A Press Release by Anatoly Karpov' and dated 18 December 1996, had stated,

Statement by Anatoly Karpov: In the opening paragraphs of my January 1997 "Grandmasters Musings" column (in Chess Life), I briefly mentioned one of my recent involvements in chess on the Internet in which I appeared as a guest of chess.net, a company of which I recently became a shareholder. Elsewhere [in that issue of CL], FM David Gertler reported on my recent "Internet Match" sponsored by PT Finland. I would also like to mention that I am a frequent guest lecturer at the superb Internet Chess Academy (www.yourmove.com) created by the talented young GM Gabriel Schwartzman.

However, I would like to take a brief aside to clarify my primary "business status" on the Internet with my fellow Chess Life readers. I am on the Board of Directors and part owner of R&D (Chess) Publishing and its subsidiary the World Wide Web Chess Superstore - a chess retailer and chess publisher with a strong Web presence, that serves customers in (currently) 57 countries. I have had a long and mutually rewarding relationship with R&D (Chess) Publishing which is based in New Jersey. Its President is Chess Life columnist GM Ron Henley - my good friend and chief trainer.

Our Web site at www.smartchess.com is in fact my one and only Official Home Page, and this company also acts as my only official agent in the USA regarding chess publishing matters. Any inference otherwise can be considered inaccurate. I have not revealed my association with the World Wide Web Chess Superstore before in my Chess Life column, as my fellow Directors and I considered this to be an inappropriate forum for the dissemination of this information. Although I am heavily in favor of promoting our wonderful sport and interacting with chess enthusiasts all across the world via the Internet, I felt it necessary to dispel any possible misconceptions about my primary "Internet chess persona."

Transmitted to GM Ron Henley by Anatoly Karpov and posted by GM Ron Henley and submitted to Chess Life.

[signed] GM Anatoly Karpov, GM Ron Henley

Karpov's active involvement with the site lasted about six months and was usually documented in an issue's 'Publisher's Message'. At the same time Karpov's participation was decreasing, that of another, younger link to Soviet chess was increasing. The February 1998 issue of SmartChess announced,

Press Release - 26th February 1998: Superstar GM Alexei Shirov signs contract with WWW Chess Superstore to make a series of instructional chess videos!

The World Wide Web Chess Superstore is pleased to announce that the Latvian-born Spanish GM Alexei Shirov has signed a contract that will bring him to the United States in June 1998 in order to film a series of instructional chess videos hosted by GM Ron Henley.

The twenty-five year old Shirov is rated 2710 ELO on the January 1998 Rating List and is ranked at #8 in the World. Shirov - a brilliant tactician - is famous for his dynamic, sharp and imaginative style of play, and has built a substantial fan base for himself in online chess play. [...]

The May-June 1998 issue of SmartChess included the following promotional material.

The same issue of SmartChess announced that Shirov had beaten Kramnik, thereby earning him the chance to play Kasparov for glory and big bucks. For more about that match, see my page World Chess Championship : 1998-99 World Chess Council and more (m-w.com); 'Kasparov seeks a title match', 'The World Chess Council', 'Shirov beats Kramnik', etc. The SmartChess partnership with Shirov was eventually limited to a series of his videos.

Henley's last 'Publisher's Message' appeared in the May/June 2001 issue of SmartChess. In it he mentioned,

Over the years many people have approached me about giving them private lessons. For the most part I have resisted, due primarily to lack of time. However, helping others to improve, understand and appreciate chess is something I thoroughly enjoy doing. As my life has now become more organized and focused, I now have TIME to teach a strictly limited number of private students.

Another article, appearing in the same issue, said,

International Grandmaster Ron Henley Available for Private Chess Lessons • MY CURRENT CLASS OF STUDENTS IS COMPLETE • Available (Manhattan, NY Only) for private lessons • Fee $100 per hour (2 hour minimum) [...]

It was to be Henley's final involvement with SmartChess Online. The site continued with less interesting material and updates ceased two years later. The final issues had little content.

Many editions of GM Henley's 'Publisher's Message' discussed his efforts to make a success of both SmartChess and its associated 'WWW Chess Superstore'. Its fate mirrored that of many early web sites in other sectors: so much promise, so much hope, so little to finally show for it.

[This post is only an outline setting a few chronological boundaries. There is much more to the story, in particular the progress of teenage Irina Krush and, later, pre-teen Hikaru Nakamura.]

01 December 2022

December 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

For the last time this year, here's our monthly look at American chess magazines from 50 and 25 years ago. For the previous post, see November 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (November 2022).

Left: '?'
Right: 'Another Title for Arthur Bisguier'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

U.S. Armed Forces Champion Lt. (j.g.) Zacarias S. Chavez (right) with one of his prizes. At left is Cmdr. L. Randall Rogers, who directed the tournament. Story [inside]. (ALNS Photo.)

The story inside was titled '13th Armed Forces Championship Won By Lt. Chavez'. It started,

Lieutenant (j.g.) Zacarias S. Chavez of the U.S. Naval Coast Guard has won the 13th U.S. Armed Forces Championship. The tournament was held in the Hall of Flags at the American Legion's Washington office building. Lt. Chavez's score was 9-1 in the individual championship. Seaman Joseph Bradford was second, Electronic Technician (Radar) Charles Lawton was third, and Lt. (j.g.) Scott Liddell was fourth.

Completing the domination of this event by the Sea Services, their team scored 30 1/2 points to take team event and the Emery Team Trophy, presented in honor of Thomas Emery. Honorary Chair- man of the American Chess Foundation. Last year's winner, the Air Force, was second with 28 1/2.

The anonymous report ended,

The tournament is sponsored by the American Chess Foundation in cooperation with the U. S. Chess Federation, the American Legion, the U.S.O., and the U.S. Department of Defense. The tournament director was Commander L. Randall Rogers, a Navy chaplain.

Aside from occasional mentions about other Armed Forces championships, there's not much about Zacarias Chavez on the web. Google Books offers an excerpt from 'The Steward and the Captain's Daughter' by Ray L. Burdeos (p.92):-

But there were always those few "die-hard" chess players who would hang around the locker room and enjoy more of the challenges of the game. And we pride ourselves on having a highly rated Filipino chess player, a coastie, by the name of Zacarias Chavez.

The player placing second has numerous mentions, for example, The chess games of Joseph Bradford (chessgames.com), where in a brief bio we learn,

He was awarded the IM title in 2007. Bradford won the 1978 U.S. Open Championship.

For the previous 'On the Cover' featuring the U.S. Armed Forces championship, see January 1969 'On the Cover' (January 2019). As for Emery, see Thomas Emery (June 2017) and More About Thomas Emery (ditto).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

It started in 1947 when he captained the 1946 CCNY team to the Pan-American Championship. That's when he got his first cover (Chess Review, February 1947). And he hasn't stopped. Two U.S. Junior Open titles (1948, 1949), a U.S. Championship (1954), four U.S. Opens (1950, 1956, 1957 with Fischer, 1959), numerous National Open titles (1970 with Evans, 1974, 1978, 1984 equal with Walter Browne) one U.S. Class (1985 with Benjamin, Brian Hartman), one World Open (1979, seven-way tie), and now, two U.S. Senior titles (1989, 1997) -- all of which explains why Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier has made the cover of either Chess Review, Chess Life & Review, or Chess Life, at least once in each decade.

From 1947 to 1997. The amazing thing is, the older he gets, the better-looking he gets ...

For more related to that last sentence, see GM Bisguier, Catalog Model (April 2017).