30 September 2016

Antonio Banderas (Maybe) Plays Chess

From the same photographer featured in the previous edition of Flickr Friday, USA Gold!, this little discovery was mixed in with his more recent Olympiad photos.

Chess pieces by Antonio Banderas © Flickr user Andreas Kontokanis under Creative Commons.

What did Antonio Banderas have to do with the Baku Olympiad? Nothing! The timing is a coincidence: Antonio Banderas opens photo exhibition in Moscow (September 2016).

Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas took his photography work to Russia. His Women in Gold exhibition features photographs and portraits of women splashing paint in the air, wearing colourful wigs and face paint or huddled around a baby. The exhibition runs at Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum until November 3.

What does Antonio Banderas have to do with chess? Not clear, but he's played the game in two films: Celebrities, Movies, and Chess (chessmaniac.com).

Antonio Banderas (born in 1960) plays chess. In the 1995 movie, Assassins, Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas) plays chess with Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone). In the 2008 movie, The Other Man, Ralph (Antonio Banderas) plays chess with Paul (Liam Neeson).

There's a good photo in Antonio Banderas and Liam Neeson (latimes.com).

29 September 2016

Cracked Chess

I ended a recent off-the-wall CIS post (Chess In Schools), titled Baloney Makes You Smarter, with an off-the-wall link.

Google also points to Cracked.com's "5 Things You Didn't Know Could Make You Smarter: 1. Electricity to the Skull" [...] Lists definitely make you smarter.

It turns out that the Cracked.com site is full of lists and of off-the-wall observations about chess. Take this one, for example: 5 So-Called Signs Of Genius That Any Idiot Can Learn:-

3. Win a Chess Game in Just a Few Moves •. Chess is the game of geniuses. Hell, if Brain Olympics were a thing, chess would be the only event they have. It's all about strategy, anticipation, and thinking ahead, while mentally tracking the locations and abilities of 32 pieces. While the ultimate object is certainly to kill the opponent's King, the real effort goes toward systematically destroying his loyal subjects or carefully positioning yourself to stealth-murder him in the middle of their protective embrace. There's a lot of planning involved -- often, the game is over several rounds before the eventual checkmate. [...]

That's actually a good explanation of the objective of a chess game. Here's another example using chess history: The 7 Creepiest Old School Robots:-

1. The Turk •. "The Turk," an 18th century chess-playing robot that faced, and usually defeated, live opponents, is probably the most famous automaton ever. [...] But after touring the world for over 80 years, it was ultimately revealed to be at least partially a hoax -- albeit one so impressive that it managed to fool such shrewd historical figures as Napoleon, Catherine the Great and Benjamin Franklin.

I don't know whether the three historical figures mentioned at the end really witnessed the Turk, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did. After these almost-reasonable examples, the chess references start to break down. Consider this one: The 5 Creepiest Parenting Tactics Ever Attempted.

3. Man Decides to Raise His Children as Chess Prodigies Before They Are Even Born •. Laszlo Polgar, an educational psychologist from Hungary, fully believed in the idea that genius is something people learn rather than a trait they are born with, a radical viewpoint hotly contested by the docudrama 'Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2'. Laszlo decided he would test his theory on his own children by seeing if he could hone them into brilliant chess players simply by exposing them to the game at a young age and having them train constantly throughout their adolescence. Makes sense. The problem was, he didn't actually have any children. Laszlo had devised an experiment wholly dependent on a group of test subjects that didn't exist.

That one was half fact, half fantasy. (And there's nothing creepy about the Polgar family.) The next one is complete fantasy.

From 15 Wildly Misleading Movie Posters from Around the World.

'12. The Godfather -- Spain •. This Spanish poster for The Godfather was based on an early draft of the script, in which a young Michael Corleone must choose between a life of managing his family's world-renowned spaghetti restaurant and his dreams of becoming a world champion chess player.'

The piece gives credit for the poster image to 'Movie Poster DB' -- indicating it is real -- but the meaning of the chess pieces is a mystery. This next example is also fantasy and also has a movie theme: Upcoming Celebrity Sports Movies.

TITLE: Check, Mate •. STARRING: Paul Hogan •. SYNOPSIS: The city of Sydney is picked to host the annual World Series of Chess tournament, and a hermit-like crocodile wrestler, Herman Herzwazzer (Hogan), scores a ticket to the competition after winning a crocodile throwing contest. [...]

Fact or fantasy: 6 Completely Ridiculous Ways Famous Movies Paid The Bills: '5. Stanley Kubrick Paid For His First Movie By Hustling Chess Games' [...]

It's nearly impossible for a non-chess publication not to poke fun at our favorite game. Consider Find Your Perfect Board Game:-

'I am a wealthy 1920s industrialist ... Your perfect board game is: MONOPOLY' •. 'I am aroused by letters printed on wood tiles ... Your perfect board game is: SCRABBLE' •. [...] •. 'I enjoy being bored ... Your perfect board game is: CHESS'

'You know, chess would be great if people didn't take it so seriously. Taking 15 minutes between moves is just ridiculous. I play games so I'm not bored, not so I can be bored while you sit there and try to figure out if you're going to castle. Just move your pawn out there and be done with it. Get over yourselves, chess people. Computers are better than you anyway. Just have fun already.'

Yes, indeed, computers are better than us. 'Just have fun already'! Somebody at Cracked really likes chess.

27 September 2016

Buschke in Chess Life

In Shaping Chess History, I mentioned the digital collection of early Chess Life magazines (CL; 1946-1969). One of the best features of the earliest CLs was the series of Albrecht Buschke history columns titled 'Alekhine's Early Chess Career', which ran for almost three years starting at the end of 1949. In the early 1960s, Buschke was back in CL with a series of full page advertisements for chess literature. The first ad appeared in January 1961 and introduced itself with,

Having done business at 80 East 11th Street, N.Y., for over 15 years, we were pleased to greet the U.S.C.F. as our neighbor, when it moved into the same office building, a few years ago. Now that the U.S.C.F. turns its chess newspaper, CHESS LIFE, into a magazine, we would like to extend our best wishes for a prosperous and long CHESS LIFE! We are going to offer selections from our large stock of CHESS LITERATURE -- one of the largest in the world, particularly in second hand and unusual material -- on the pages of CHESS LIFE every month from now on. Every month the selection will cover a different branch of the wide field -- and what could be more appropriate than to begin with CHESS MAGAZINES which usually offer SOMETHING to EVERYBODY?

The ad for the July issue featured autographs.


It started,

Collecting material in the handwriting of famous chess masters, chess problemists and other persons of distinction in chess (such as historians and authors of chess books) has always had a particular fascination for us, especially if this material in itself was of some chessic significance. We trust other collectors share this interest with us and we are therefore offering herewith a small selection from our vast stock of chess autographs.

Here is a sample item for Capablanca.

CAPABLANCA, J. R.: A series of 4 letters -- all entirely in Capablanca's handwriting, relating to his participation in the Moscow International tournament of 1925:
1) Letter to W. P. Shipley, Habana, Oct. 4, 1925. with envelope carrying Capablanca's second signature. ... "Things have happened which make uncertain my going to Moscow" ...
2) Letter from Moscow, Nov. 5, 1925. with envelope with Russian stamps to W. P. Shipley. (... "I am apparently in good health but how well I shall make out in the coming tournament is hard to say as it is now for me extremely difficult to get down to real hard work and by the time I get to it, it may be too late." ...
3) Letter from Moscow, Nov. 24, 1925, to B. Kagan (... "As you know I do not seem able to win a game, something new to me. I have only nine more games to play and have only 5 1/2 so far. I doubt very much if I shall finish any better than sixth" ...
4) Letter from Moscow, Dec. 1, 1925, to Kagan. ("... Bogolouboff is practically sure of first place and Lasker of the second place. I have a chance to be third .. .").
Together 9 1/2 pages and 2 envelopes: ...$42.50

Only $42.50! Today each one of those items alone would sell for three figures, maybe more. I recognized another item in the ad:-

M.M. BOTVINNIK, M. EUWE, P. KERES, S. RESHEVSKY, V. SMYSLOV: Signatures of participants on specially inserted page of the Dutch book on the World Championship of 1948, WERELD-KAMPIOENSCHAP SCHAKEN 1948, by Dr. M. Euwe. Or. cloth Botvinnik's and Smyslov's signatures in Cyrillic. Only 25 copies published of this special edition deluxe of the tournament book? ... $15.00

A few years ago I posted about this in the series 'Top eBay Chess Items': Wereldkampioenschap Schaken 1948 (May 2011; 'It received 11 bids and finally sold for US $483.99'). The ads ran every month and were apparently popular with CL's readers.

NO AD • Many readers have commented on how much they like to read Dr. Buschke's chess book ads that appear in CHESS LIFE every month. Many feel that even though the copy is advertising it is also interesting in terms of dates, history of the game, literature of foreign countries, etc. The August [1961] issue contained no ad and we have received many inquiries as to the reason. (CHESS LIFE is probably the only publication in the world that has received complaints from its readers about the lack of advertising!) Even though Dr. Buschke supplied an ad for the August issue, somehow there was a slip-up, beyond anyone's control, and it did not appear. CHESS LIFE sincerely apologizes both to Dr. Buschke and our readers for the mistake.

The ads were back in September and continued until May 1962, although sporadically in the final months.

26 September 2016

Carlsen's TMER 2000-2016

Finishing with Carlsen's TMER 2015-16, I merged events Carlsen played since September 2014 into the master index, updated the associated PGN file, and uploaded the new resources to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-); Last updated 2016-09-26. The files include two more events played since I started the update a month ago:-

  • Chess.com Semifinal Blitz 2016 (vs.Grischuk)
  • 42nd Olympiad, Baku

The final stage of the Chess.com Blitz was announced in the past week: Carlsen - Nakamura Championship set for 27 October. This is a new event using a new, unusual format that deserves attention, perhaps in a future post. As for the chess960 games played in each stage of the event, I noted them on the master index without including them in the PGN file.

25 September 2016

Baloney Makes You Smarter

If, as we saw in Transfer in Chess Learning, chess doesn't make you smarter, what does? Let's ask Google.

Chocolate makes you smarter. So does exercise, running, travel, and reading.

Seven hobbies that make you smarter: '1. Play a musical instrument. • 2. Read anything. [...] • 6. Work out your brain. ('sudoku, puzzles, riddles, board games, ...') • 7. Meditate.' • Board games? Yay for chess!

Thirty killer apps: '1. Casual. 2. Fooducate. 3. Cloudswave. [...] 29. ATracker 30. Timely.' • Killer apps will make you smarter every time.

Riding centuries: 'a bicycle ride of 100 miles (160.9 km) or more within 12 hours'. That sounds the same as exercise and running.

Google autocomplete (as in Google Autocompletes CIS, March 2015): Reading makes you smarter; Exercise makes you smarter. • We knew that already, but what about these: weed, dancing, music, Mozart, beer, coffee, TV.

Google also points to Cracked.com's 5 Things You Didn't Know Could Make You Smarter: '1. Electricity to the Skull • 2. Cigarettes • 3. Dancing • 4. Being in a Terrible Mood • 5. What You're Wearing'

Lists definitely make you smarter. In short, everything makes you smarter, except maybe blogging. Or reading blogs.

23 September 2016

USA Captain Donaldson

Susan Polgar: 'It appears that we do have the official tiebreaks!' After the previous Video Friday clip, 2016 Olympiad Opening Ceremony, I wanted to feature the closing ceremony, but it was exceptionally underwhelming.

Press Conference With John Donaldson - Captain Of Team USA - Baku World Chess Olympiad 2016, Round 11 (19:50) • 'Published on Sep 13, 2016.'

The description added (probably copied from Wikipedia),

The tournament features eight out of the top ten players from the FIDE rating list published in August 2016; only former World Champion Vishwanathan Anand and Levon Aronian are missing the Olympiad. [...] The strongest team of the tournament are Russia with an average rating of 2760. [...] United States are the second strongest team with three top ten players, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, along with Ray Robson and Samuel Shankland. So and Shankland have recently proved that they are in good form after winning the Sinquefield Cup 2016 and the Biel Chess Festival 2016, respectively.

For photos of the players, see last week's USA Gold!.

22 September 2016

Agon Presentation

Yesterday on my other chess blog I posted about World Chess Championship Buzz -- Agon, sponsors, virtual reality -- that sort of thing. The embedded video includes a presentation from the press conference that sometimes flashes by before you can comprehend it. I captured the individual slides from the presentation, combined them using the same technique (*) as in Chess Comics No.7: Punch Animated GIF (May 2014), and produced the following animation.

If, for whatever reason, it's still too hard to read, the time when each slide is presented in the video is visible at the bottom of the frame, next to the speaker icon. The last slide says, 'On sale 12 November 2016', but I'm nearly certain that should be '12 September 2016', the date of the press conference.

There are a ton of interesting ideas in the presentation. Can Agon make a success of it?

(*) See gifmaker.me.