28 April 2016

Random Chess History

In my previous post, Not a Chess Historian, I started with Wikipedia's 'List of chess historians', used a random number generator to look at one name on the list, and closed with a wish to continue another time. This post being another time, I'll continue.

The second name that Random.org assigned was no.40 Jean-Michel Péchiné. Unlike the first name on the previous post, I recognized this one and the first link returned by Google, Marie Sebag – France's new wonder-girl (chessbase.com), reminded me why: 'Report and photos: Jean-Michel Péchiné of Europe Echecs'. I'm a regular reader of Europe Echecs. As for the chess history angle, Amazon.fr carries the title Les Echecs : Roi des jeux, jeu des rois by Jean-Michel Péchiné (Gallimard, 1997), which translates to 'Chess : King of games, game of kings'. Since I don't want to get bogged down in translations, I'll stop here.

The third name assigned at random was no.30 David H. Li, who is also familiar to me. He has a Wikipedia page, David H. Li, which informs that he is 'an author on Chinese history and chess'. Since Chinese chess is not one of my passions, I'll also stop here.

The fourth random name (and last for this exercise) was no.33 A. A. Macdonell. Wikipedia adds a footnote '[1]' to his name, referencing 'Murray, H.J.R. (1913), A History of Chess'. Other Wikipedia chess historians covered by the same footnote are H.F.W. Holt, Baron von der Lasa, Antonius van der Linde, A. v.Oefele, M.E.V. Savenkof, F. Strohmeyer, and William Henry Wilkinson. In fact, any pre-20th century chess historian is probably mentioned by Murray (who is himself on the Wikipedia list) and I don't know why Willard Fiske and William Jones aren't covered by the same footnote.

Macdonell -- not to be confused with Alexander McDonnell (1798–1835; 'an Irish chess master, who contested a series of six matches with the world’s leading player Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais in the summer of 1834') or George Alcock MacDonnell (1830–1899; 'an Irish clergyman as well as a chess master and writer') -- has his own Wikipedia page, Arthur Anthony Macdonell (1854–1930; 'a noted Sanskrit scholar'). In his 'History of Chess' (I have the 1962 edition), Murray mentions him nine times. For example, from 'Part I, Chess in Asia', p.44:-

The Nitisara of Kamandaki, 'a work of policy dating probably from the early centuries of our era' (Macdonell, JRAS., 118), contains an important and instructive chapter (ch. xix) of 62 slokas, which specially treats of the chaturangabala, or army. The chapter states that the army is composed of elephants, chariots, horse, and infantry; it discusses the ground most suitable for the evolutions of each of these members; it estimates a horseman as equal to three foot-soldiers, and the elephant and chariot as each equal to five horsemen. It suggests several arrangements as suitable for use in war, e.g., infantry, horse, chariots, elephants; elephants, horse, chariots, infantry; the horse in the centre, the chariots next, and the elephants on the wings.

We are, therefore, entitled to conclude that the fourfold division of the Indian army into chariots, cavalry, elephants, and infantry, was a fact well recognized already before the commencement of our era.

The same four elements -- chariots, horse, elephants, foot-soldiers -- appear as four out of the six different types of force in the board-game chaturanga. The remaining types prefigure individuals, not types of military force. The presence of the King needs no justification. The addition of the Minister or Vizier is in complete agreement with Oriental custom, and the Code of Manu (vii. 65) lays stress upon the dependence of the army on him.

The self-consistency of the nomenclature and the exactness with which it reproduces of the Indian army afford the strongest grounds for regarding chess as a conscious and deliberate attempt to represent Indian warfare in a game. That chess is a war-game is a commonplace of Indian, Muslim, and Chinese writers.

I especially like the ancient observation that 'a horseman as equal to three foot-soldiers'. As for the reference to 'Macdonell, JRAS', the acronym stands for Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London.

26 April 2016

Not a Chess Historian

A few days ago Giga Alert ('the most powerful web alerting service available'; see 'My Scrapbook' on the right sidebar, where I still use its old name 'Google Alerts'; see also Look What Google Dragged In, March 2008) flagged a reference to my name in List of chess historians | Felicity Smoak. My first reaction was: 'Really? Am I on a list of chess historians somewhere?'

My excitement was short lived. First, I'm only on the list as a footnote, for a page I wrote about The Origin of Modern Chess, which documents the presence on the list of Thomas Hyde ('an English orientalist'). Second, the list is just a copy of Wikipedia's List of chess historians, which I already saw long ago.

That list being the basis of my blog post for today, what can I write about? The Wikipedia 'Talk' page (often a good lead for background info on a topic) says,

There is no mention at all of chess in the article on Thomas Hyde currently linked from this list. Perhaps the chess historian is another Thomas Hyde, or else the existing Thomas Hyde article needs some expansion. (April 2006)

My 'Origin of Modern Chess' page says,

The first great chess historian was Thomas Hyde (1636-1703), Oxford professor of Hebrew and Arabic. He published histories in 1689 and 1694 which traced the origin of chess from India to Persia to Arabia.

Someone matched the dates on Wikipedia's Thomas Hyde page with my paragraph and determined that it was the same person. Glad to have helped and glad to have learned something about Thomas Hyde, but that still doesn't make much of a blog post. How about looking at some of the names on the list of historians -- some of which I recognize, but many I don't -- to find out more about them?

Good idea, but of the 50 names, which ones? Using the random number generator at Random.org, I was assigned no.16 José Antonio Garzón, a name I didn't recognize. A search on Garzón turns up José Antonio Garzón Roger, which starts,

The clear evidence of the first draughts game thanks to: Mr. José Antonio Garzón Roger • In 2005, Garzón wrote an impressive history book about the new chess and the first draughts game in Valencia. The English edition of this book was, since March 2006 eagerly sold. The book "The Return of Francesch Vicent", describes how masterfully developed the first draughts game and the new powerful dama (Queen) in chess. The works of chess master Francesch Vicent confirm that.

That page is on the site Damasweb.com, managed by 'Draughts & Chess Historian: Dr. Govert Westerveld', who is also on the Wikipedia list.

That was a good exercise! I finally have a blog post and I'll continue it another time.

25 April 2016

Karjakin's Early Games

My recent post, Karjakin's GM Title, linked to a 2002 Chessbase.com 'Interview with Sergey Karjakin'. I discovered afterwards that the same interview was included in TWIC 421 as 'Leontxo Garcia Interview With Sergey Karjakin (after the fourth round)'. Other than identifying the interviewer, which Chessbase neglected to do, I wouldn't mention this duplication, but the same issue of TWIC included a link to Sergey Karjakin games collection (chess-sector.odessa.ua).

Although the domain is long gone ('Server not found'), it survives in Archive.org. I downloaded a copy of the Karjakin collection (216 games), converted the CBV file to PGN, extracted the PGN headers, loaded them into a database, and produced the following summary of the file.

The 43 games from the year 2000 are more than are available on Chessgames.com. The Chess-sector site ('editor Mikhail Golubev') promises more material of historical interest. See, for example, a report on the '78th Hastings International Chess Congress (2002-2003)'.

I am very grateful to John Saunders, who is editor-in-chief of both the famous British Chess Magazine and the BCM Online website, for his personal permission to re-publish at chess-sector.odessa.ua the following text and photograph of Sergey Karyakin [sic].

The BCM article summarized a Sunday Telegraph interview with Karjakin by Nigel Farndale.

Karyakin's other interests included acrobatics. On being asked more about this, Karyakin said that he "liked walking on his hands". Farndale's suggestion that he do this to distract opponents between moves was greeted by boyish giggles. On his chess training, Sergey reveals that his father was very strict if he didn't train properly: "He would punish me with physical exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups". He now trains for six hours a day, with three hours spent at the computer and another three spent with his coach (GM Borovikov, playing in the Challengers). Does he go to school? "Only sometimes", confesses the young grandmaster from Kramatorsk. He travels to tournaments with his coach but not his parents. Regarding his manner, Farndale describes him as possessing considerable sangfroid and unnerving composure.

On top of the Karjakin material, there is much about GM Ponomariov, who was FIDE World Champion at the time.

24 April 2016

Echoes of a Postcard

Looking at past editions of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I find autographed items featured nearly every year. Last year we had Capablanca to His Son (June 2015), and the year before Alekhine Dozes at the Board (January 2014).

The item below was titled 'RAUL CAPABLANCA AKIBA RUBINSTEIN SIGNED AUTOGRAPH World Chess Championship' and sold for US $899.99 Buy-It-Now. The mention of 'World Chess Championship' and the subtitle 'OTHER FAMOUS CHESS PLAYERS APPEAR ON THE DOCUMENT' indicate that the seller wasn't a specialist in chess history.

The description only repeated the auction title and added short bios for 'Akiba Kiwelowicz Rubinstein' and 'José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera', both probably copied from Wikipedia. The item shows 13 autographs on the left plus a legend in the upper right. The lower right mentions Bad Kissingen 1928.

The numbered signatures -- from Kostich [who did not play in the event], Nimzowitsch, Tarrasch, Euwe, Marshall; Yates, Reti, Mieses, Tartakower, Spielmann, Capablanca, Bogoljubov, and Rubinstein -- account for all 12 players. The numbers on the left all use the same ink as the corresponding signature, indicating that they were not added afterwards.

A few years ago I had another post about 1928 Bad Kissingen (July 2014), where I featured an eBay photo. The photo in that post and the signatures on this current post echo a postcard shown on 4465. Bad Kissingen, 1928 (chesshistory.com; July 2006).

22 April 2016

Moscow Chess Museum

I think this was one of the clips shown during breaks of the live broadcast for a recent World Championship. The guide is Dmitry Oleynikov, 'Supervisor of Chess Museum'.


Chess Museum in Moscow (5:22) • 'A glance on the fantastic insides of Russian Chess Federation Museum in Moscow (Gogolevsky Boulevard 14)'

At first I thought it was shown during the 2012 Anand - Gelfand match in Moscow, but a Peter Doggers' article, Russia's First Chess Museum Opens in Moscow (chess.com), is dated 28 September 2014, more than two years after that match. Was it for the second Carlsen - Anand match?

21 April 2016

Bye, S&B!

I started this post with the intention of updating my Diigo bookmarks (last seen in Chessgames.com and the Odd Lie; February 2015), but after adding around 1000 links collected during 2015, I ran into the well-known writers' wall, aka writers' block. What to say next?

How about a piece on the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog, which recently provided further, unwelcome evidence that the chess blogosphere continues to shrink. A 'GOODBYE AND THANKS' notice in its navigation bar informs,

This blog has ceased publication. The entry for 11 March 2016 was our final posting. Thanks to everybody who read, wrote for and commented on the blog during the nine and a half years of its existence.

I appreciate a blog that takes the time to say goodbye. So many just stop posting without any thought for their loyal readers who are left to wonder whether something has gone seriously wrong. As for why the blog stopped, that's no one's business but its own, and a post on the English Chess Forum, The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog (ecforum.org.uk), gives no explanation.

Has it really been nine and a half years? In 2006, as part of my responsibilities for About.com, I was running my own forum, where one day a fellow named Tom Chivers stopped by to tell us that he had started a new blog. I don't remember seeing his First Post, (November 2006; 'It's the news the chess world has been waiting for'), but I do remember the second post, Puzzle, because I thought it had one of the worst chess diagrams I had ever seen, like a bad scan from an old, wrinkled newspaper. I eventually came to tolerate the diagrams and to like the blog, as many other people must have done, because it grew into a team of regular writers and soon won an award as best British blog.

My Diigo links return 90 S&B posts that I've bookmarked since 2013 -- the earliest is Absolutely fatuous (September 2013; 'hard to know exactly what to say about Andrew Paulson') -- and that doesn't include the many earlier S&B posts saved before I started trying to make sense of my bookmarks.

Thanks, S&B! Thanks for the many informative, thought-provoking posts that did exactly what a blog is supposed to do: Supplement the bigger stories reported by the mainstream chess news services, with the smaller stories and personal reflections that make chess the wonderful hobby that it is.

19 April 2016

Contest With No Prize No.3

I thought this post would be 'Contest With No Prize No.4', but after A Contest With No Prize (September 2012) and Another Contest With No Prize (May 2013), I couldn't find another post in the series. The rules are the same as before.

The following image is a screen capture of high ranked images from a Google image search on 'chess' plus one other word. What is the other word?

The first comment with the correct answer receives absolutely nothing.

Hint: Unauthorized Opening Laboratory (May 2014).