16 June 2024

An Unexplained Chess Set

For this month's Flickr favorite, I could have chosen another AI generated photo as in No Hunk-o'-Junk Here (April 2024), but none of the three candidates on the short list were particularly inspiring. I was more intrigued by the photo shown below although there was almost no information about it. The description of the photo repeated its title and added only,

Curt Schlevogt, Ingrid Collection

There were no tags offering further clues. This leads to the often asked question, 'What have we here?'.

Preciosa Chess Set 08 © Flickr user Preciosa Ornela under Creative Commons.

A little searching on the obvious keywords led to 'Desna' Decorative Glass - Preciosa Ornela (preciosa-ornela.com), where Desna is a town in the Czech Republic; Google: 'Population: 3,084 (Jan 1, 2020)'. One section of the page informed,

Chess Set • Desna Since 1847 • Curt Schlevogt, Collection Ingrid • This exclusive chess set is possible to purchase in our Glass Shop in Desna.

A suggestion to 'View More Photos' points to Decorative Glass - Desná since 1847 (flickr.com; 'We would like to introduce you to the artistic crystalware collection from PRECIOSA'). And now that we have come full circle back to Flickr, the journey ends here. We might never know if there is a story behind the set.

09 June 2024

Chess.com ARR, Takeaways, and Sound Bites

Only 180 views for a chat with the man who shepherded the greatest chess boom of all time? The most popular chess streamers probably get that much attention in the first millisecond of their latest stream. There is definitely something wrong with this picture.

Erik Allebest - From 0 to 150 million ARR - The Chess.com story (1:12:33) • '[Published on] May 12, 2024'

I thought I knew most of the important accounting and investing acronyms, but ARR had me stumped. Although there are dozens of ARR acronyms in use, I'm guessing that the right one is explained on the page What is annual recurring revenue (ARR) and how to calculate it (paddle.com):-

Annual recurring revenue is a crucial success metric for subscription companies. Learn why it’s important and how to calculate it correctly. [...; AAR] is the yearly value of revenue generated from subscriptions, contracts, and other recurring billing cycles.

The description of the video starts,

Chess.com has grown from being a simple chess service to a thriving 150 million ARR business. The company has focused on making chess accessible to everyone through services around a product that hasn’t changed in centuries. We touch on the challenges of scaling a company and the role of titles and leadership in an organization and how many times Erik wanted to give up in the process.

Wanted to give up? Say it ain't so, Erik! The rest of the video description is worth a look and covers 'Takeaways', 'Sound Bites', and 'Chapters' (important segments in the video). Someone spent time putting all of this together and received only 180 views. For a previous post on the world's most successful commercial chess enterprise, see The Rise of Chess.com (January 2023; 32,365 views).

04 June 2024

June 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

In last month's post about American chess magazines of yesteryear, May 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (May 2024), we had the Candidates stage of the World Championship on the left and American news on the right. Here we go again.

Left: '?'
Right: '"I saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas" • GM Jaan Ehlvest; Winner of the 1999 National Open'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Soviet Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, vanquisher of Mecking and then Petrosian. during a talk on the Mecking match before an exhibition at Chess City in New York. The delightful Korchnoi describes the Mecking encounter [inside]. Photo by Nigel Eddis.

Once again, the first chess content in the magazine was 'The Editor's Page - News & Views' by Burt Hochberg. His summary of the contemporary scene is again worth quoting. It started,

It will come as startling news to many that Anatoly Karpov, who turned 23 in May, has roundly defeated ex-World Champion Boris Spassky in their semifinal Candidates Match in Leningrad. Though widely expected to be Fischer's "revenge" challenger in 1975, Spassky was not everyone's choice. His compatriot Korchnoi, for example, told us in New York that despite Spassky's decisive win of the Soviet title last year, some grandmasters (including Korchnoi) recognized in Spassky's games signs that he had not yet recovered from his 1972 defeat at Fischer's hands. [...]

A few paragraphs later, Hochberg covered the other half of the semifinals.

In Odessa, USSR, the Korchnoi-Petrosian semifinal match came to an abrupt end when Petrosian resigned the match on account of illness with the score 3-1 against him. Five games were played, with only one draw among them, a stark contrast with the 1971 match between these rivals. Svetozar Gligoric analyzes this match in our July issue. [NB: Yes!]

After news about various U.S. championships, Hochberg ended his summary with a quote from GM Korchnoi's four page report on the match.

Quotation of the month: "Despite the objective difficulty of the position, I continued to play quietly and confidently, as though all was well, as though I, and not my opponent, was winning. As I later learned, this manner of play really drove Mecking mad!" -- V. Korchnoi

The full title of the Korchnoi report was 'The Korchnoi - Mecking Match' by Viktor Korchnoi. Echoing the 'Quotation of the month', it started,

There were many critical moments in my match with Mecking. A lot of mistakes were made and in fact there was not a single error-free game. My opponent has learned to set up his game rather well strategically and his tactical skill was always up to par. However, owing to his character disposition he was not capable of consistent play through the match. At difficult moments I succeeded in saving bad positions and even scoring important points by means of stubborn defense unforeseen by my opponent. Here are three fragments from the match which were turning points in the overall struggle.

For the results of all the matches mentioned here, see 1973-75 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

It was a three-way tie for first place in Las Vegas, at the National Open, and Jaan Ehlvest took home the Edmondson Cup on tiebreaks. It was the third time that Jaan tied for top honors, but this was the first time he won the Cup, edging out Ilya Smirin and Gregory Kaidanov. Almost 1,000 players journeyed to Las Vegas to compete over the board, and to enjoy the ambiance of the Riviera Hotel and Casino, enhanced by the organizing skills of Al Losoff and a skilled staff. Coverage, provided by Edmar Mednis, begins [inside].

And yes, one could say one saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas... • Cover photo by Brian Killigrew.

The four-page, illustrated tournament report 'National Open: More Excitement and Fun' by GM Edmar Mednis started,

The 1999 National Open was held from March 19-21 at its luxurious home, Riviera Hotel & Casino, on the famous "Strip" in Las Vegas. Chief organizer Alan ("Al") Losoff had again put together a fantastic festival of competitive chess and pure enjoyment. Players were guaranteed a lot more money than last year ($50,000 vs. $42,000), with the actual payout being $53,350.

The turnout was an impressive 986, with 260 (including 27 GMs) in the Open section, 347 in the Reserve section (under 2000), 340 in the Booster section (under 1600), and 39 in the Unrated section. The larger guaranteed prizes meant that all section winners received more for their successful efforts. The three winners in the Open each made $4000, the two in the Reserve got $2500 each, and the two in the Booster each pocketed $1200. The schedule was two rounds per day, the time limit was 40/2, 20/1, SD/30, and an unlimited number of half-point buys [sic] were available.

And in case you're as clueless about the cover as I was ... Q: What means 'I saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas'? • A: That must be Ehlvest Presley. • Q: Is that a hound dog's name?

02 June 2024

Everybody Loves Morphy

A couple of months ago in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), the post of the month was Morphy Unpublished (April 2024). There I wrote,

On this blog's long running series 'Top eBay Chess Items', Morphy items are not unusual. Having said that, it's been a few years since the previous post on Morphy.

And here we are again. The item pictured below was titled '1860 Sage Token No. 3 Paul Morphy Chess King Harrwitz & Staunton Copper Plated', and carried the note 'AU Details, copper plate white metal'. It sold for US $2225.00 after 34 bids from eight bidders. After a starting price of $0.99, in the last hour of the auction the price rose almost 50% from $1501.

The description started by echoing the title,

1860 Sage Historical Token No. 3, AU Details, copper plate white metal.

Then quoted most of the token's inscription,

[Front:] Paul Morphy, The American Chess King. [Back:] He Has Beaten Harrwitz In Chess Playing And Staunton In Courtesy • No. 3 Aug. 8. [Sage's Odds and Ends]

Then added,

Sage's Historical Tokens (150-250).

I couldn't find much about the tokens, although I didn't look very hard. The page A.B. Sage Series | Coin Census Population Report | NGC (ngccoin.com; NGC Census : US Tokens & Medals : A.B. Sage Series), mentions the Morphy token twice.