24 October 2014

Millionaire Wrapup

John Cordisco, who played in the Under-1600 section of the Millionaire Chess Open recently held in Las Vegas, gives his thoughts on the tournament. During the video, which is more like a podcast illustrated with photos, he mentions that he's a tournament director from upstate New York. Although a bit long-winded at times, the clip manages to make a number of excellent points.

Millionaire Chess Post Mortem 2014 (45:52) • 'My thoughts concerning my experience at Millionaire Chess 2014.'

If this isn't your cup of tea, take a look at an official video from the penultimate round: Millionaire Chess Semifinals (3:20:34 running time).

23 October 2014

A $20.000 Endgame

By now, everyone knows that GM Wesley So won the Millionaire Chess Open, beating GM Ray Robson in the final round of the top section. But what about the lower sections? Thanks to Alan Lasser’s Game of the Week newsletter (GOTW; last seen on this blog in Unauthorized Psychedelic Opening Laboratory), I learned about one battle in the Under-2200 section -- that's the USCF Expert class -- where Rustam Bunyatov beat Matthew Derek Meredith in the final match for the top prize:-

Congratulations to GOTW subscriber Derek Meredith for winning second place in the under 2200 section of the Millionaire’s Open, I’m sure that $20,000 check is good consolation for losing the playoff for the $40,000 prize first prize.

The first two games of the playoff were drawn at the time limit of game/25. The next two games were at game/15; with the white pieces in the first game his position began to slip around move 21, so a few moves later he gambled on a speculative piece sac, which did not turn out well. That meant Derek had to win the second game with the Black pieces to tie up the match and send it to the five minute playoff games.

Alan called the second game 'the $20,000 endgame' and gave most of the moves, along with a few computer generated notes that flagged the main turning points. The top diagram shows the start of the endgame in Bunyatov - Meredith.

White has just lost the exchange for a Pawn and is now faced with a long battle for a draw, sufficient to win the two game mini-match. Black's plan is clear: Penetrate with the King into White's position and return the material at the right time for a winning King and Pawn endgame. White's plan is less clear: Trade off as many Pawns as possible, reducing to a drawn Rook vs. Bishop endgame. This will depend on some cooperation from Black.

Many moves later, the players reached the position shown in the bottom diagram. Both players have followed their respective plans, but Black is now faced with a critical decision, how to defend the d-Pawn. Black should play 63...Kc3, freeing the Rook for decisive action on the Kingside against the e- and h-Pawns. Instead he played 63...Rd7, tying the Rook to the d-Pawn. Here White played 64.Bd5, allowing 64...Kc3 after all. Better would have been 64.Bb5 (kicking the Rook off its best rank), with the idea 64...Rd8 65.Bc4 (stopping the Rook from reaching g8) 65...Kc3 66.Kf5 (heading for the h-Pawn). Black still must show that the win is there.

I imagine that similar dramas took place in more of the ten sections of the Millionaire Open. The GMs might get all the attention, but the amateur players share in the fun. For more about the tournament, see the TWIC report at Millionaire Chess 2014.

21 October 2014

Cascading Translations

We lost our Internet connection for close to a day -- and thanks to 'bundling', our TV connection as well -- which meant that I had some spare time to spend on something besides writing my daily blog post. On a whim I opened my copy of 'The Art of the Middle Game' by Keres and Kotov (Dover 1989), turned to the last chapter on 'The Art of Analysis' by Keres, and, with the help of an engine, started looking at Keres' analysis.

Although I intended to turn that exercise into a blog post, a curious inconsistency caught my attention. The chapter on 'Art of Analysis', at 63 pages the longest chapter in the book, has nothing to do with the middlegame. It's about the endgame. More specifically, it's about analyzing adjourned positions, which used to occur at move 40, usually after the heat of the middlegame had passed. So what's going on here?

The copyright page of the Dover book, 'Translated by H. Golombek', tells us that it was first published by Penguin Books in 1964. The same page carries a 'Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication' record (CIP; see Cataloging in Publication Program for more) that tells us the book is a translation of 'Konsten att vinna i schack'. Google translates that Swedish title as 'The trick to winning in chess', but translates other pages where the title occurs as 'The art of winning in chess'. I prefer 'The art of...'.

Other sources tell us that 'Konsten...' was published by Prisma in 1961, translated from the original Russian by Bengt Hörberg and Lars Warne. I wasn't able to determine the Russian title of the book, and suspect that it might be a collection of four separate essays, two by Keres and two by Kotov. Did Golombek work from the Russian, as he usually did, or from the Swedish?

One more point: the last section of the Dover book is an 'Index of Middle-Game Themes', with about 25 entries. Only the entry on 'Zugzwang' points to the chapter on 'The Art of Analysis'; zugzwang is most often found in endgames.

In his 'Editorial Forward', Golombek explains his choice of the last chapter:-

Keres, adopting as always a practical point of view, has taken the subject of analysis of adjourned games, so revealing how a master's mind works and how a chess player should set about the task of analyzing any given position.

Now that I know the connection with the middlegame, I can move on to Keres' remarks.

20 October 2014

TMERs: Carlsen - Anand PGN Master

A couple of weeks ago, in TMERs: Carlsen - Anand Index, I mentioned, 'Next step: Add the games to the TMER PGN master files'. To download those ZIP files, see the links in the 'Carlsen - Anand Index' post.

(*) TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

19 October 2014

Quest for Logic

If my least favorite posts on Top eBay Chess Items by Price are about books -- like the previous post on Antonius van der Linde -- then my most favorite are about paintings. The auction for the painting shown below was titled 'Head Chess surrealism landscape fantasy original oil painting 30 x 36" Mag Raven', and fetched US $1000 after a single bid.

The description added,

This is one of my finest paintings from fantastic realism collection.
• Title: "Quest for logic"
• Size: 30 x 36", 0.75" thick. (76x71.5cm, 2cm thick)
• Technique: original oil painting on canvas.
• Painting is varnished.
• Canvas is gallery wrapped, no visible stitches on the edges. All sides are painted to match the colors of the painting. You can hang it on the wall without the frame.
• Painting is signed by artist and has certificate of authenticity with its unique number. All my artwork is catalogued.

Along with that information about the painting was a note from the artist.

My name is Mag Raven. I am a full time artist. My artwork can be found in collections all over the world. I use glazing, old masters technique (like Rembrandt or Caravaggio) so the colors of my paintings look deep and vivid.

My major inspiration is art of Zdzislaw Beksinski from his Fantastic Realism period. I love his style, ideas and expression. I also find my inspiration in old ruins, rocks, bones and cemeteries, simply things what remind of death but they can last for thousands of years. I've been painting since I could crawl. My parents knew that when I get quiet it means only one thing, that I'm painting, probably on the walls of our apartment. Lack of paper wouldn't stop me!

For more about the artist, see her eBay page mederena.

17 October 2014

'A Rook Lighthouse For Bobby' (*)

Through the years, this Flickr Friday series has featured a number of images where everyday objects look like chess pieces, but I can't remember an image where a piece became the everyday object.

Rook lighthouse © Flickr user Guido Veltmaat under Creative Commons.

The artist added,

Chess series nr.3 • A commons edit from flickr.com/photos/matthieuk where the mid-part of the tower is replaced by my Rook macro. Rocks are partly altered, water and sky replaced with fragments of own pictures.

(*) After I Like Trains - A Rook House for Bobby.

16 October 2014

A:'Playing Checkers' vs. B:'Playing Chess'

While writing my previous post, Geopolitical Yahoos, I started to wonder about the phrase 'A is playing checkers while B is playing chess'. Who are the the most popular choices for A and B? A Google search on '"playing checkers" "playing chess"' (PC/PC) brings up many sporting and political references, especially the Obama vs. Putin relationship. The same search on images brings up a number of Obama vs. Putin cartoons where the American is invariably playing checkers, the Russian playing chess.

How about adding 'Obama' to the PC/PC image search. Are there any insights to be gained there? The top composite image below shows the first page of Google results. The first of the thumbnails (top left corner) shows Obama caddying for Putin, followed by two Obama/Putin cartoons. Other images show Obama playing chess against John McCain, chess(?) against the Republicans, checkers against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, and chess against Hillary Clinton.

Obama 'chess vs. checkers'

Putin 'chess vs. checkers'

The bottom composite image is the same PC/PC search, this time substituting 'Putin' for 'Obama'. Many of the thumbnails are the same, but there is a smaller variety of other chess opponents. My favorite is in the middle of the bottom row, showing Putin in a simul against Obama who is sitting next to European leaders David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and François Hollande.

The thumbnail showing Putin stroking his chin (Top: left of the second row; Bottom: upper right corner) depicts another chess cliché often attributed to Obama vs. Putin, called the 'pigeon quote':-

[Negotiating, discussing, arguing, etc.] with [fill in the blank] is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, craps on the board, and then struts around like it won the game.

The origin of the analogy is uncertain, although it definitely predates Obama vs. Putin. Expanding the thumbnails in any of these Google image searches leads to more 'Related images', many of them having something to do with chess.

Then there are the other games. The third row of the Obama results, with two views of the same image featuring an American flag, leads to a page that says, 'When it comes to diplomacy, Russia is playing chess, Syria is playing checkers and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is playing tiddlywinks.'