30 August 2016

Chess Sells, Propaganda Sells

In the most recent post about 'Top eBay Chess Items', Soviet Propaganda Porcelain, I wondered,

It escapes me why this current item might also be considered propaganda. Maybe I should look into that another time.

Of the first 21 images returned by a relevant search phrase, all but two of them feature the same chess set. Even after removing the keyword 'porcelain', at least half of the images are of that set.


Google image search on 'chess soviet propaganda porcelain'

The first image (top row, left) points to a post on this blog: Soviet Propaganda Chess Set (September 2009).

Originally the set was created on Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in 1920’s by a very famous and important artist - Natalia Danko. [...] This copy was made from an original set which is located in Lomonosov Porcelain Factory Museum.

The image next to it points to A Russian propaganda porcelain chess set (liveauctioneers.com; 'Sold For £1,100').

The Communists versus the Capitalists, Capitalist King as death, Communist King as a worker, Capitalist Queen in flowing robes, Communist Bishops as effete feudal clergy, Communist Knights as black and white horses, Communist Rooks as ships, Capitalist Rooks as black and white ships, Communist Pawns as healthy workers, Capitalist workers bound in chains, the King 10 cm high, the Pawn 5 cm high.

A later copy of the famous Soviet Propaganda set, designed by Natalia and Yelena Danko in the early 1920's. Literature:
- Bloomsbury Auctions, "Fine Chess Sets and Games", Tuesday 26th October, 2004, Lot 95.
- Bloomsbury Auctions, "Fine Chess Sets and Traditional Games", Thursday, 14th April, 2005, Lot 182.
- Collen Schafroth: "The Art of Chess", Abrams, New York, page 10.

The other images link to similar explanations. But what about my question on 'Top eBay Chess Items: Soviet Propaganda Porcelain'? The best explanation I could find was a booklet titled News From a Radiant Future: Soviet Porcelain from the Collection of Craig H. and Kay A. Tuber (amazon.com).

In a 1925 article on the post-Revolutionary production of the State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad, the ceramic artist Elena Danko described the factory's wares as "news from a radiant future." This volume is a catalogue of the Art Institute of Chicago's 1992 exhibit of Soviet porcelain from the collection of Craig and Kay Tuber. The essays included in News from a Radiant Future discuss the relationship between Bolshevik propaganda and the state porcelain factory, as well as the larger tradition of Russian imperial ceramics. They also consider porcelain's connection to the Russian folk heritage and specifically to the October Revolution.

In short, any Soviet porcelain that shows Lenin, Stalin, or workers is propaganda. The eBay item featured two workers (and a dog); that makes it propaganda; and that helps it sell. Capitalism won.

29 August 2016

Korchnoi's Events 1998-99 / 2014-15

After my previous Korchnoi post, Events 1976-2000, I looked at TWIC's records starting with the year 1998, and added a summary for the years 1998-99 to my index page Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER, 1946-1977). When does Korchnoi's TMER end? Wikipedia's page, Viktor Korchnoi, says,

Korchnoi became the oldest player ever to win a national championship, when he won the 2009 Swiss championship at age 78. He won the national title again a few months after his 80th birthday in July 2011 after a playoff game with Joseph Gallagher.

Chess.com's Peter Doggers, in Viktor Korchnoi, 1931-2016 (June 2016), wrote,

Korchnoi's last recorded games were the four rapid games that he played against Wolfgang Uhlmann at the 2015 Zurich Chess Challenge. He also played two rapid games against the same opponent in 2014 in Leipzig.

His last classical games were from 2012, played in the Swiss Team Championship. At the end of that year, when he was 81, he suffered from a stroke, and later he had problems with his heart as well. He was scheduled to play in the 2013 Zurich Christmas Open, but withdrew due to health reasons.

TWIC's Mark Crowther covered the two Uhlmann matches in TWIC 1014 & 1059. By the time I wrote this post, I had located four events Korchnoi played in his last two years:-

There were undoubtedly other games. Korchnoi must have been the most active chess grandmaster in history.

28 August 2016

Does Chess.com Make You Smarter?

In my previous 'chess in schools' (CIS) post, 'Chess in Primary Schools' Studied, I promised to 'take a closer look at the EEF study', where EEF stands for the U.K. based Education Endowment Foundation. First, here's a recent video from Chess.com's Youtube channel.


Does Chess Make Kids Smarter? With GM Ian Rogers (3:06) • 'Renowned chess journalist and grandmaster Ian Rogers gives his two cents on the recent UK study that suggests chess does not improve math skills among kids.'

This links to another Chess.com video, ChessCenter: Does Chess Make You Smarter?, where the title covers a few minutes of discussion between IM Daniel Rensch and WFM Alexandra Botez starting at 6:20 into the clip. The commentators ask viewers to leave a comment on the survey question 'Do you think chess makes you smarter?'. (I recently featured the series in a Video Friday post, Chess.com's ChessCenter, June 2016).

GM Rogers penned a corresponding article on Chess.com, titled School Chess Fails PR Test, where he started,

Boris Gelfand’s musings in a recent interview on the benefits of children playing chess for its own sake - “Only a fraction will play professionally, but the rest will acquire the skill of strategic planning and the habit of thinking, taking responsibility for their actions and respecting their opponent; very useful skills.” - has proven remarkably prescient.

The original Gelfand interview can be found at Gelfand on missing the Baku Olympiad (chess24.com; 2 July 2016). As if all that weren't enough, Chess.com has another comments-only forum post, Playing chess doesn't make your children any smarter, study finds, which starts with a copy of the Telegraph article (13 July) that I referenced in my previous post. Of course, Chess.com isn't the only chess organization looking at the EEF study: more about that in my next post.

26 August 2016

Chess with Walkie-Talkies

When was the last time you needed a drone to see the whole chess board?


Chess pieces are substituted by tractors in Spain (2:46) • 'In the small town of Hinojosa in the centre of Spain, 32 chess pieces took their position to begin the game on Saturday, August 20. But this time the figures were replaced by heavy agronomy machinery.'

The description continued,

This is the second time the inhabitants of Hinojosa have celebrated the event. Organisers say the chess game is an opportunity to vindicate agricultural labour and a call for youngsters to move to the countryside. Local farmer, Andres Lazaro, said the game also pays tribute to the effort of those who stay in the town to work the land. The tractors moved over a 25,000 square metres board sketched in the land. The game was played by two young adults on a regular chess board, but the players used a walkie talkie to give orders to move the tractors over the land.

Kasparov and Timman once played a game using forklifts, but this goes one step further.

25 August 2016

Murky, Murkier, Murkiest

I ended my previous post, 2016 CJA Awards, with an action:-

As for winner of the best eBook, 'True Origins of Chess: Ancient Greece', that deserves a separate post.

Amazon.com's page for the book, 'The True Origins of Chess: Ancient Greece-Yes, India-No' by Dr. Gerald Levitt, has a 'Look inside' popup that inclodes an excerpt from floridaCHESS (Autumn 2014, p.24). Titled 'Pettia and Chess in Ancient Greece' and also by Dr. Levitt, it says,

As there is no factual evidence yet discovered that delineates the actual evolution of chess, we are forced to use circumstantial evidence. supposition, and imagination to develop a reasonable explanation as to how and where chess arose in history. The evidence used in the past was that the earliest written or illustrated references we had to the game of Chaturanga, came from India in the 6th century, A.D. This concept of the origins of chess has been accepted and I wholeheartedly agree that that idea is correct but I also believe it is not complete. Chataranga had to come from a forerunner. It seems so logical that the game evolved. But from where? And when?

His 'From where? And when?' is based on a tract titled,

An Inquiry into the Antient [sic] Greek Game supposed to have been Invented by Palemedes. Antecedent to the Siege of Troy. With Reasons for Believing the Same lo Have Been Known from Remote Antiquity In China, and Progressively Improved into the Chinese Indian, Persian. and European Chess (London 1801)

Levitt surmised,

I thought the author (later identified as being James Christie, founder of Christie's Auction House in London) had presented a logical but perhaps somewhat fanciful argument for the origins of chess having not sprung up out of nothingness from the Indian Chataranga, the accepted view at the time, but instead to have been birthed in earlier cultures, specifically Ancient Greece. Christie speculated that an earlier culture most likely led to the Greeks developing these earlier games into Pettia, the Greek game of pebbles. I feel that India deserved the credit that it had been the source leading to our modern game of chess through Chataranga [...] But the question still lingered, "Where did chataranga come from?"

I once looked into this subject while writing an introductory survey titled, The Origin of Chess. It says, 'India - Chaturanga: It is not surprising that the earliest evidence of chess is also the murkiest.' Levitt's book promises to make the subject even murkier.

23 August 2016

2016 CJA Awards

In a follow-up to last month's post on this blog, 2016 CJA Award Entries, the Chess Journalists of America have released their Prize List for 2016 CJA Awards. True to form, the group's 2016 announcement is a copy-paste of last year's announcement where someone twice neglected to change the year (also the date?) in the introduction:-

[The CJA Awards Committee] has provided the following list of awards for the 2015 competition for best chess journalism, as announced at the annual CJA meeting on 7 August 2015.

I'd like to follow my own lead from last year's post, 2015 CJA Awards (August 2015), and list 'the four awards to which I pay the most attention'...

  • Best Book (paper-printed only)
  • Chess Journalist of the Year
  • Best Chess Art
  • Best Chess Blog

...but there's a hitch: the award structure isn't the same. The book award is now three awards...

  • Best Book - Instructional (paper copy) -- 'Is Your Move Safe?' by NM Dan Heisman - Mongoose Press
  • Best Book - Other (paper copy) -- 'Jose Raul Capablanca: A Chess Biography' by Miguel A. Sanchez - McFarland Pubishing
  • Best Electronic Book -- 'The True Origins of Chess: Ancient Greece - Yes, India - No!' by Dr. Gerald M. Levitt

...which compensates for the disappearance of 'Best Chess Blog', with nary a trace in the awards list.

The most prestigious of the awards is undoubtedly 'Chess Journalist of the Year', won by Al Lawrence for the second time; the year 2000 was the first (see Chess Life, November 2000). Lawrence has already made several appearances in this blog; see The Start of the Scholastic Boom (July 2014) and Chessathons and SuperNationals (September 2014) for starters.

The award for 'Best Chess Art' went to 'The Chess Game' by Yael Maimon. Repeating here the composite image from July's 'Award Entries' post, the winning work is shown in the top left. An 'Honorable Mention' went to the work next to it, 'Walter Browne' by Scotty Phillips.

Since the purpose of this post is to showcase the 'Best Chess Blog', which was dropped from the awards, I'll mention 'Best General Chess Website' instead. The award went to The Oklahoma Chess Foundation (ocfchess.org). As for winner of the best eBook (why the separate category?), 'True Origins of Chess: Ancient Greece', that deserves a separate post.

Congratulations to all 2016 CJA prize winners!

22 August 2016

Korchnoi's Events 1976-2000

After that brief detour for Going Mobile : Responsive Ads, let's return to Korchnoi's Events 1977-1996. The original PGN file I used for that 1977-1996 post appears to have been from the 1990s UPITT collection and was named KORCH2PG.ZIP. It contained a file called FILE_ID.DIZ (what did a DIZ extension mean?) which informed:-

Expanded Viktor Korchnoi Collection:
3995 Games, from W. G. Sanderse.
Replaces KORCH-PG.ZIP

After I worked on that file, I found a second ZIP file in my own archive, originally from GM Khalifman's GMchess.com site. It was a good chess site for its time, but seems to have disappeared in 2007; it lives on at Archive.org: /web/*/gmchess.com. The original file contained 3832 Korchnoi games, of which 2282 were from the years 1976 to 2001. I added a summary of the file's contents for that period to my page on Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1946-1977), aka 'Korchnoi's TMER'.

Although the GMchess file is better organized than the UPITT file, it's not perfect. The following table shows the summary of Brussels events from the 1980s.

As I recounted in My Two Encounters with Korchnoi (June 2016), I witnessed many of these events and am certain that the three events for 1986 were in fact two events; ditto for 1987. That leaves me with some work to merge and correct the two sources -- UPITT 1977-1996 & GMchess 1976-2000 -- plus add events Korchnoi played after 2000.