31 January 2007

The Most Infamous World Championship Game

The next game in Lasker's Moves that Matter, is the infamous last game of the 1910 Lasker - Schlechter World Championship match (game 10). On the controversy about whether Schlechter was required to win by two games to win the title, Kasparov wrote:

To all appearances, one of the points stated stated that to win the title the challenger had to gain an advantage of two points, and that if Schlechter were to win by one point (5.5-4.5) the match would be declared drawn.'

He produced no evidence to support his statement and it has been criticized as unfounded. Soltis was more prudent and took no position. In the April 2005 Chess Life (p.52), Larry Evans wrote,

'It's doubtful a two-point clause existed. Lasker set the record straight in his report to the New York Evening Post two days BEFORE the 10th game started on February 8, 1910: "The match with Schlechter is nearing its end and it appears probable that for the first time in my life I shall be the loser. If that should happen a good man will have won the world championship."'

Edward Winter, the authority on all matters related to 19th and 20th century chess history, translated a contemporary account in his February 2006 Chess Notes (C.N. 4144):

It was generally assumed that the last game would end in a draw and that Schlechter would thereby ensure victory for himself. Curiously enough, however, Lasker won, which meant that the match ended indecisively. It is very strange that Schlechter, who lost none of the first nine games, succumbed in the final one, and the assumption suggests itself that this outcome was intentional. A narrow victory by Schlechter would by no means have given him the world championship but, instead, it would have brought him a serious return match to be carried out irrespective of its financing.

The moves of the game are just as controversial. In his introduction to the game, Soltis pointed out a half-dozen moves that are worthy of detailed analysis. Kasparov wrote:

The game was ahead of its time, and the commentaries on it, even later ones, often do not sustain criticism: so complicated and deep were the variations that occurred.

To play through the complete game see...

Emanuel Lasker vs Carl Schlechter, World Championship Match 1910
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1121156

...on Chessgames.com.

29 January 2007

Spam by the Bucket

Spam needs no introduction. Everyone who uses email suffers from a deluge of it. When you have our own web domain, you suffer even more. In this post I'm going to deviate from the chess topic to document a few spam stories related to my own domain, mark-weeks.com. It's not really much of a deviation, because the most important reason for maintaining the domain is to have a place to store chess info online.

One of the resources that usually comes bundled with a domain name is the ability to associate mail boxes with it. I can invent an email address like anyname@mark-weeks.com and have mail for that address forwarded to a destination determined by the value of 'anyname'. Most of my real, non-spam email is routed to the email address provided by my ISP, which I never give to anyone.

I use this feature to assign a new email address when I create a new web resource. For example, I have one page about Kasparov's career record and another about Kramnik's record. The first page has a contact address of kasparov@mark-weeks.com, the second has kramnik@mark-weeks.com. If someone stumbles onto one of those pages and sends me an email like 'I am a big fan of yours. Please send me a copy of your book and autograph it', (a message which I've received several times), I know from the email address who is meant, and can steer the correspondent toward the desired hero.

The downside of this scheme is that spammers collect email addresses from various web resources. Having many public email addresses means being listed many times in the spammers' databases of email addresses. This means getting multiple copies of some spam messages.

For the first five years or so that I had the domain, my scheme worked nicely, and I rarely had more than 50 pieces of spam of day. This is an annoying, but manageable, number. Around the beginning of 2004, spammers started to invent email addresses like john@mark-weeks.com or mary@mark-weeks.com. I suppose they did this to impress their own clients with the number of email addresses in their databases. Most of these addresses were rubbish, but spammers aren't known for honest business practices.

Within a few months I was getting as many as 5.000 messages per day, most of them for invented email addresses. I went on vacation for a week and found close to 30.000 messages when I returned. To deal with that quantity I had to set up special handling for spam. I routed it to a spam bucket, where I would scan the message subjects once a day to see if any real messages were mixed up with the spam. This system isn't perfect. A real correspondent who forgets to enter a message subject or who uses a subject like 'Hi there' isn't going to stand out from the 50 other messages with no subject or the 100 with 'Hey there' as a subject.

In the last few years, companies like Microsoft and Yahoo have been going after the spammers in a big way. The cases have been well publicized and have had a positive impact on the number of spam messages I receive. Now an average day brings around 1.500 messages; if I go away for a week, I have only 10.000 messages to wade through when I return home.

Once in a while the number of spam messages shoots back up to 5.000 in a day. This happens when spammers send a batch of messages out using mark-weeks.com as the sending email address. Many people aren't aware that nothing requires them to use a real email address when they send mail. If they use an email address like just_me@invented-name.com, the message will be sent without any problem. Their correspondents won't be able to reply to the message, but they will receive it.

A few years ago I played in an email chess tournament where one of the players had entered his own email address incorrectly in his PC software. When he sent a move, his opponents would reply to the bad email address, not realizing that the reply address was incorrect. Then the messages would bounce. It took about a week for the poor fellow to understand what he had done wrong and to correct it. In the meantime his clock was ticking in all games.

Getting back to the spammers, I imagine they select the domain for the outgoing email address at random. I see my own domain being used about once a month. How do I know when it's been used? After all, the messages are being sent not to me, but to other people. When a spammer has forged my domain, I receive at least three types of response from the target email systems:

  • Challenges from spam detection systems : These are messages like 'Please confirm that your message is not spam by clicking on this link'. Spam detection systems that do this are almost as bad as the original spam. Spammers don't sign their real email addresses, so these messages are just bothering innocent people who had their email address hijacked by a spammer.

  • Error messages that say the recipient's email address doesn't exist : This makes up the majority of the bounced messages I receive, since many of the recipients' email addresses were also invented.

  • Temporary glitches for real email addresses : These are messages like 'your correspondent's mailbox is full'.

Even worse than all this is that some email systems apparently think that the message really came from my domain. I suspect that mail sent using my domain is locked out by certain receiving domains.

***

Here's a real example that hit me last week. The spammers used the following image, followed by some nonsense text. Note the low quality of the image. The product, a diet supplement that is undoubtedly worthless, is popular among spammers.


I had thousands of specific examples to choose them. The first message I saved bore 'Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender' as the subject. The original message sent by the spammer had this header...

From: "Olin Tyson" <TadzKrhubarb@mark-weeks.com>
Subject: Re: Information

...The HoodiaLife image was linked to www.hcompanyy.com. A single batch of spam uses several different domains which are randomized across the different messages. This particular domain was registered to 'paul gregoire, vanier, on, CA'. The other domains that I looked at were registered to the same person. Since everything the spammers do is forged, I imagine this is a false trail as well.

***

The end result of this is that spammers are sending tons of email from invented addresses to invented email addresses. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who finds this scenario ludicrous. While doing this they are creating a headache for countless innocent victims.

Spam will never be regulated away. The spammers are the parasites of the web. The only way to elminate them is to cut off their funding. Please don't ever buy a product or service that was offered to you through a spam link.

27 January 2007

A Rook Lift in Real Life

The story about Lasker's Rook Lift in Psychological Battle of Philosophies reminded me of one of my own games. The position shown in the diagram arose from an Alapin Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.c3).

I won't give much of my analysis, but after looking at 17.Ne4 and 17.b4, I decided to play 17.d5 instead. The tactical justification is that after 17...exd5, which my opponent played, White continues 18.Rxd5. The Rook is immune from capture because of the mate in the corner.

ICCF Email Master Class : EM/M/174
Pommrich, Rainer

Weeks, Mark
After 16...Qd6-b8
[FEN "1q1rr1k1/pb2bpp1/1pn1pn1p/8/3P4/P1N1BN2/1PQ2PPP/1B1RR1K1 w - - 0 17"]

Now after 18...Kf8 the Rook is still immune because of 19...Nxd5 20.Qh7 f5 21.Bxh6 gxh6 22.Qxh6+ Kf7 23.Bxf5 Nf4 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Rxe7 and mates, or 19...Rxd5 20.Nxd5 Nxd5 21.Qh7 f5 22.Bxh6 gxh6 23.Qxh6+ Kf7 24.Bxf5 with a win.

After looking at a lot of moves and finding nothing conclusive, I played 19.h3. The purpose was threefold: to prepare Nf3-h2-g4, bringing the Knight closer to the Black King; to defend against the battery on h2 if Black should play ...Be7-d6; and to give my King a defense against a back rank mate.

Black played 19...Qc8. Now I looked for a long time at 20.Rf5, the Rook lift, which seemed to be the logical way of continuing the attack. While I couldn't find anything wrong with it, neither could I see that it led to anything decisive. I also couldn't escape the thought that the Rook was misplaced on the fifth rank. Many of the variations were complicated lines like 20.Rf5 Na5 21.Ne5 Nc4 22.Nxf7 Kxf7 23.Bxh6 Kg8 24.Re2 Qc6 25.Rg5 Bf8 26.Bxg7 Bxg7 27.Rxg7+ Kxg7 28.Qg6+ Kf8 29.Qh6+ with perpetual check.

Finally, I chickened out and played 20.Rdd1, bringing the Rook back to safety on the first rank. The game immediately became quieter and ended in a draw after 45 moves. I've always wondered how the Rook lift would have fared. Lasker had the courage to play a move that I would have probably rejected.

25 January 2007

An Amazing Coincidence

I found this yesterday, 'Written by John Knightly':-

Ten Most Common Myths About Chess!
http://www.chesscircle.net/chess-history/ten-most-common-myths-about-chess.html

1) Chess is a hard game to learn
2) Chess has been around for thousands of years
3) Chess is just a waste of time
4) To play chess you need to be a genius
5) Chess is for geeks
6) Chess has been solved by computers
7) Computers are better at chess then humans
8) Chess is a sport
9) Chess is not a sport
10) Women do not play as well as men

It looks a lot like a piece I wrote in June 2006:-

Top 10 Myths About Chess
http://chess.about.com/od/beginners/tp/aa06f17.htm

1) Chess is hard to learn
2) Chess is thousands of years old
3) Chess is a waste of time
4) You have to be smart to play chess
5) Chess is for nerds
6) Chess has been solved by computers
7) Computers play chess better than humans
8) Chess is a sport
9) Chess isn't a sport
10) Women can't play chess as well as men

The first bullet on the ChessCircle.net version reads like this:-

1) Chess is a hard game to learn : Many people will claim that chess is an extremely difficult game to play. However this is just not true. While it may not be easy it is definitely not that hard. Playing chess involves learning how to move each of the 6 types of pieces on the board. The piece with the least value has the most complicated moves. There are also rules about how to attack and defend the King. And do not forget rules about when the game ends in a draw. The one aspect of this myth that is true is that it is very difficult to learn to play chess at the level of Master.

Mine reads like this:-

1) Chess is hard to learn : Chess may not be the easiest game to learn, but it is far from the most difficult. You have to learn the moves of the six pieces, where the piece with the least value, the Pawn, has the most complicated moves. Then you have to learn the rules about attacking and defending the King, including castling. Then there are a few rules about games where neither player wins. • One aspect of this myth is true -- it is hard, very hard, to learn to play chess well. One player in a hundred achieves mastery

***

Here is another page from ChessCircle.net:-

The Best Ways to Lose at Chess
http://www.chesscircle.net/chess-strategies/the-best-ways-to-lose-at-chess.html

1) Ending your game prematurely
2) Take the first move that comes into your mind
3) Take the last move that comes into your head
4) Play with extreme confidence
5) Ignore the endgame
6) Allowing your opponent to invent new rules
7) Touching the wrong piece
8) Oops, I forgot to press my clock
9) Cheat and get caught
10) Trust in your computer

And here's mine, also written in June 2006:-

Top 10 Ways to Lose at Chess
http://chess.about.com/od/improveyourgame/tp/aa06f03.htm

1) Resign prematurely
2) Play the first move that enters your head
3) Play the last move that enters your head
4) Play overconfidently
5) Forget about the endgame
6) Let your opponent invent new rules
7) Touch the wrong piece
8) Forget to press your clock
9) Get caught cheating
10) Trust your computer's advice and analysis without question

***

Since About.com has exclusive right to my content, I'll see what they have to say about it.

23 January 2007

Psychological Battle of Philosophies

Or Philosophical Battle of Psychologies? In my recent post on Counter-combo: Tarrasch - Lasker, 1908 Match, Game 4 (which also has a link to the full game), I remarked, 'the most curious feature of the position is the Black Rook on c4.' The current diagram is the start of the sequence whereby the Rook eventually reached c4.

According to Kasparov and Soltis , the two GM player/historians who have explored the depths of Lasker's chess strength, there was in the diagrammed position a battle being waged at another level beyond the moves, a battle of philosophies. Tarrasch played 15.Qc3. Kasparov gave the move '!?', and commented:

Intending Nd4-f5 and at the same time hitting the c-Pawn. Tarrasch must have been happy with the outcome of the opening: White has a slight but enduring advantage, and chances of increasing it without any risk. For example, 15...Nf8 (15...Nf6?! 16.e5) 16.Nd4! and 16...g6 noticeably weakens the King's defenses. Lasker realized perfectly well that his only chance of avoiding a prolonged and gruelling defense was to dislodge Tarrasch from his confident state. To do this he had to create something unusual, contrary to all the positional rules and standards of chess wisdom!

Soltis gave the move no symbol, but commented:

There is something to be said for 15.f4 to stop anything landing on e5. Then 15...a6 16.Nc3 Re6 is a small edge for White. But 15.Qc3 makes a threat, 16.Qxc7 and, more importantly, it prepares 16.Nd4 -- 17.Nf5 and 16.Re3 -- 17.Rg3, a simple attacking plan that allows Tarrasch to exploit his spatial edge with "principled" moves as in the Schlechter game. [See The 'Grand Formation' of the Steinitz Defense.] What makes this stage of the game remarkable is the way Lasker finds a way to turn his opponent's attention away from that plan. Today's players, in more complex but equally difficult defensive positions, would look for other ways to change the subject -- by sacrificing a Pawn or the Exchange, or even getting into time trouble in the hopes that their opponent would feel the need to play quickly.

Lasker played 15...Re5.

World Championship Match (g.4)
New York 1908

Lasker, Emanuel

Tarrasch, Siegbert
After 14...Re8-e7(xB)
[FEN "r2q2k1/pppnrpp1/3p3p/1N6/3QP3/8/PPP2PPP/3RR1K1 w - - 0 15"]

Both Kasparov (KAS) and Soltis (SOL) assigned 15...Re5 a '!'. (KAS: 'A brilliant way of defending the c-Pawn.')

SOL: 'Reti bestowed two exclamation points on this move which he called "as original as it is bold". Why was it original? Because when Rooks are lifted in middlegames they generally go the third rank. On the second there are too many Pawns to obstruct them and on the fourth or beyond the Rook is vulnerable. And that's the point. With 15...Re5 Black adds a new element to the game, the possibility that the Rook will be trapped. Tarrasch, who felt every constricted position contains the germ of its defeat, was being challenged.

The game continued 16.Nd4 Rc5

KAS: !; 'Of course, from the purely positional viewpoint this move is very dangerous: the stray Rook may cause Black significant problems. But, firstly, 16...Nc5 17.f3 leaves White all the advantages of his position, and secondly, the impudent behaviour of the Rook is bound to upset the opponent's composure.'
SOL: !; '"Any player in Lasker's place would [play 16...Re8]", wrote U.U.Gorniak, in a Russian book on defense. "However, Lasker puts a wager on Tarrasch's exceptional stubbornness of his dogma of 'correct' play". Correct play would likely mean 16...Nc5 here, and then 17.f3 g6 to keep the Knight off f5. Lasker preferred 16...Rc5 "so as to draw the brunt of the attack"'.

17.Qb3 Nb6 18.f4

KAS: 'Cutting off the Rook's retreat. Many commentators criticized this move, saying that "Tarrasch was inflenced by Lasker's psychological thinking," and recommending 18.Re3 or 18.Nf5. But Mark Dvoretsky's evaluation is closer to the truth: "By advancing his Pawn to f4, White takes control of the e5 and g5 squares, and prepares to cramp the opponent by 19.Qf3 -- 20.b3 -- 21.c4. From the fact that Tarrasch lost the game, it by no means follows that all his decisions were incorrect."'

We know from the further course of the game that Tarrasch only cracked under the psychological pressure on his 24th move. This was a remarkable position in a remarkable game, explained by two remarkable annotators.

21 January 2007

Game of the Month

Starting with the issue of December 2006, the 'Game of the Month' is back in Europe-Echecs. The latest incarnation of the famous column is by Artur Yusupov (Gaige's spelling; EE's is 'Youssoupov'; some sources use 'J' instead of 'Y'; good luck on Web searches). A quick check of documents at hand turned up the following history of the column:-

Fine, ?
Euwe, Chess Review, ? < 1952-53 < ?
Gligoric, Chess Review / Chess Life, 1966-1980s
Gligoric, Europe-Echecs, 1980s-1990
Rohde, Chess Life, 1992-2006
Yusupov, 2006-

That leaves lots of blanks to be filled in, but it's a start.

19 January 2007

'Psychology in Chess'

Today I found a used copy of Krogius's classic at the local chess shop Marchand.be. I've bid on this book several times on eBay, only to be outbid each time. Why didn't I bid more? Because everything has its value, and I didn't want to pay THAT much.

Since Lasker was the first great player to play according to his opponent's style, the book is relevant to my current series of posts on Lasker's Moves that Matter. Krogius quotes Lasker (p.6) saying, 'A game of chess is a contest in which a variety of factors apply, therefore it is extremely important to know the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. For instance, Maroczy's games show that he defends cautiously and only attacks when forced to do so; the games of Janowski show that he may have a won position in his grasp ten times, but as he is reluctant to finish the game he is bound to lose it in the end. We can see that much can be obtained from the attentive study of the adversary's games.'

Later in the book (p.177), Krogius presents a study of Lasker's games against nine strong opponents. In his first game against these players, he scored only 50% (+2-2=5). In later games against the same players he scored 42 out of 63, or 67%. Thus, concluded Krogius, 'it was very important for Lasker to study his opponent through direct contact'.

It promises to be a good book for reading without a chess board. A Chessville article, My Chess Psychology Bookshelf by Rick Kennedy, has a list of the chapter titles.

17 January 2007

Counter-combo: Tarrasch - Lasker, 1908 Match, Game 4

After a long break from the series Lasker's Moves that Matter, I'd like to continue with the game discussed in The 'Grand Formation' of the Steinitz Defense). Looking at the diagram, the most curious feature of the position is the Black Rook on c4. Before explaining how it got there, let's see what happened to it. In short, Tarrasch played a combination, which was refuted by Lasker's counter-combination. Why did Tarrasch play a bad combination? Kasparov (KAS) first offered Reti's explanation

In Reti's opinion, "White is now positionally outplayed. He has, as against the threat 24...c5, no defence form a positional point of view. Therefore he attempts to create one by means of a combination, which, as is usual with all combinations resorted to in a state of mere desperation, does not get home."

And then declared it to be misleading.

It is from such components, influenced by the result of the game and the accompanying impressions, that chess mythology is created! What cause is there for desperation? After all, even the crude 24.e5 24...dxe5 25.Rxe5 retains some advantage. And if one is hoping for more, it is easy to find against ...c7-c5 a "defense from the positional point of view", and not just one!

Tarrasch's incorrect combination started with the move 24.Re3.

World Championship Match (g.4)
New York 1908

Lasker, Emanuel

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 23...Re8-d8)
[FEN "3r2k1/1pp2pp1/1n1p1q1p/8/pPrNPP2/2P2QP1/P6P/3RR1K1 w - - 0 24"]

Kasparov gave the move 24.Re3 a '?', and analyzed three other moves -- 24.Qe3!?, 24.Rb1!?, 24.Rd3!? -- plus his preferred move 24.a3!, suggested by Tarrasch.

In my opinion, this prophylaxis is the best -- the Rook at c4 is stalemated, and in the event of24...c5?! 25.Nb5 cxb4 26.cxb4, the d-Pawn is extremely weak and White has a clear advantage. Incidentally, Tarrasch himself explained his error rather simply: "Up til now I had conducted the game irreproachably, but here I was seized by the unfortunate idea of a Rook sacrifice, which in view of time-trouble I was unable to calculate properly."

Soltis (SOL), who gave the move '?!', agreed that there is more than one good alternative in the position, but preferred another move.

Here is where White begins to go very wrong. His position is fundamentally sound despite 22.b4. But he must deal with a tactical annoyance: 24...c5. There are at least three good ways of doing that: 24.a3, 24.Qe3, and 24.Rb1 (The best job of discouraging 24...c5 by 25.bxc5 dxc5 26.e5.) But it was the student Makariev who found a way to both meet ...c5 and advance White's reorganization plan: 24.Rd3. Then 24...c5 25.bxc5 dxc5 26.Nb5 protects everything and leaves Black's c4-Rook in limbo. If instead 25...Rxc5 Black is in big trouble on the b-file after 26.Rb1.

The game continued 24...c5 25.Nb5.

KAS: ?; Driven by a passionate desire to punish his opponent for his violation of the chess laws, Tarrasch "goes off the rails"! Later he lamented: "If I hadn't been so carried away by the idea of a Rook sacrifice, I would have played 25.Nc2 cxb4 26.Nxb4 with a good game thanks to the attack on the d-Pawn." Also suitable was Richard Teichmann's recommendation 25.bxc5! Rxc5 (25...dxc5? 26.e5 or 26.Nb5) 26.Rb1 Nc4 27.Rd3 and 28.Nc2, 29.Ne3, 30.Nd5 with equal chances.
SOL: ?; Tarrasch's nerves failed him in this match. He held the advantage through much of the second game and was roughly even until two moves before he resigned. Here he pins his chances on a combination.'

25...cxb4 26.Rxd6?. (KAS: 'That "desperate" combination referred to earlier; the more sober 26.cxb4 26...Rxb4 27.Nc3 Rc8 28.Red3 Rc6 29.a3 Rb3 30.Ne2 would still have retained possibilities of a defence.') 26...Rxd6 27.e5 Rxf4. (KAS: And here is the refutation. Moreover, by the irony of fate the fatal blow is struck by the abhorrent "hooligan" Rook!) 28.gxf4 (Also bad is 28.Qxf4 Rd1+ 29.Kg2 Qxf4 30.gxf4 Nd5) 28...Qg6+ 29.Kh1 Qb1+ and Tarrasch resigned on his 42nd move.

To play through the complete game see...

Siegbert Tarrasch vs Emanuel Lasker, World Championship Match 1908
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1241476

...on Chessgames.com.

15 January 2007

Counting Noses

In Blog Trapping++, I wrote, 'I'll have to compare the BCC blogroll with my database of [chess] blogs'. I did this, adding nine blogs to my master list. All but one had posts in the month of December. My database now has 120 blogs active between 1 July 2006 and 1 January 2007. Of those 120 blogs, 92 had at least one post in December. These are all English language blogs.

There are a total of 256 blog domain names (like chessforallages.blogspot.com) on the database. About a dozen of these are non-English language blogs, a few are duplicate names, and the rest have either disappeared or have not been updated in the last six months.

How do I know when an inactive blog is reactivated? I don't. I trust that someone maintaining an active blog will post a welcome back message or refer to one of the newest posts in a dialog. No blog is an island.

13 January 2007

Q: Is the KID dead? • A: Definitely not.

The second of the two questions in Is the KID dead? was, 'Who else besides Kasimdzhanov (currently FIDE 2672) plays it at the 2650+ level?' To answer this I used the Position Search at www.chesslab.com.

I asked ChessLab to return all games in 2006 starting 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6, by players rated 2600 or better. There are a few quirks of its search to keep in mind. At the time I asked the question the ChessLab database was up-to-date through November 2006, meaning I missed one month of games. Also, its search on rating returns all games where at least one player was rated 2600, not necessarily the player of the Black pieces. Most importantly, the search can't pick up relevant games where one of the first moves is other than those I searched on. The KID is a fluid opening and transpositions to it are possible by many different move orders.

The search returned 353 games with the position through 2...g6, and matching my other criteria. Of those, 302 continued 3.Nc3, and 126 continued 3...d5, the Gruenfeld Defense. The 174 that continued 3...Bg7 are real KIDs. If I had wanted a more precise count, which I didn't, I could have done a search from this position. The Gruenfeld is another opening that has been declared dead.

For the record, of the 174 KIDs, 160 continued 4.e4, with 151 of those 4...d6. At that point the games started to diferentiate into many different variations: 74 5.Nf3, 31 5.f3, 18 5.Be2, 10 5.Bd3, 12 5.h3, 5 5.Nge2, and 2 5.f4.

Of the 174 games that reached 3...Bg7, 51 had the player of the Black pieces rated above 2650. These broke down by player as follows: Bologan 12; Radjabov 10; Smirin 6; Morozevich 5; J.Polgar, Mamedyarov, and Kasimdzhanov, 3 each; Volokitin 2; Van Wely, Svidler, Najer, Motylev, Ivanchuk, Areshchenko, and Almasi, 1 each.

I was pleased to see a few world top-10 players in the list. The KID isn't dead. It's alive and kicking.

11 January 2007

Kramnik Had a Win

Sometimes your words come back to bite you. Writing for About.com on the 2006 Kramnik - Fritz match (The Last Man - Machine Match?), I said, 'At no point was Fritz in any real danger of losing a game.' A couple of blog posts -- Karsten Müller on the 1st match game Kramnik-Deep Fritz (www.chessvibes.com) and Counter-consensus on Kramnik vs. Deep Fritz (www.kenilworthchessclub.org) -- warned me that I was probably wrong.

The Chessvibes.com post had analysis by GM Karsten Mueller, while the Kenilworthchessclub.org post pointed to analysis by GM Yasser Seirawan in his ChessBase report, Seirawan on Kramnik vs Deep Fritz game one. The analysis starts with the diagrammed position. Kramnik played 30.a4 and followed up with 31.h3. According to the GM analysts, this was the wrong plan.

Bonn 2006, Match Game 1
Deep Fritz (Computer)

Kramnik, Vladimir
(After 29.Bb2-d4)
[FEN "8/5pkp/1p6/3Npp2/3b4/6P1/P3PPKP/8 w - - 0 30"]

Seirawan gave the straightforward variation 30.e3 Bc5 31.Kf3, threatening to win with Ke2, Kd3, Kc4, and then Kb5 or a4. His analysis continued 31...f6, the only move he considered, followed by 32.Ke2 Kf7 33.Kd3 Ke6 34.Kc4.

Mueller used a different move order, but arrived at the position 31...b5 32.Ke2 by transposition. Now he considered 32...e4 and 32...Kg6. The upshot of the analysis is that White wins the b-Pawn, while Black's attempt to find counterplay by raiding the Kingside falls short. The move 32...Kf8 loses to 33.Nc7.

I looked at another possibility: 31...Kf8, when 32.Nf6 doesn't work because of 32...Ke7 33.Nxh7 f6. White can complicate with 34.g4, but after 34...fxg4+ 35.Kxg4 Kf7, the Knight is still trapped. The straightforward 32.Ke2 also fails to 32...Ke8 33.Kd3 Kd7 34.Kc4 Kc6. Best is 32.g4; if 32...fxg4+ 33.Kxg4, Black's e-Pawn is in danger and White wins.

While I'm convinced that Kramnik had a win, I'm still not convinced that people have any chance against the best machines. Just to stay in the game they have to match the computer at playing near-perfect tactical chess, then have to outplay it with near-perfect positional chess. Kramnik, the best shot we have at beating a computer these days, tripped on both tactical and strategic lines. The next time that he plays Fritz, or that some other top GM plays another computer, the machines will have made a little more progress. There is no evidence that they have reached maximum strength.

To play through the complete game see...

Vladimir Kramnik vs Deep Fritz (Computer) 2006
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1440787

...on Chessgames.com.

09 January 2007

Fortress • Karpov - Mestel, London 1982

The position in the diagram is from game 28 in Karpov's 'Chess at the Top'. Karpov played 28.g5!, and commented, 'An important move! Although the Pawn is placed on a black square (with the opponent having a black-squared Bishop), by cutting off the Black King it assists the creation of mating threats. Had Black succeeded in playing ...g5 and securing control of the 7th rank, his position would have become impregnable, or, as usually called, a "fortress".'

The game continued 28...d5 29.Rb8+ Kg7 30.Re8 Bc3+ 31.Kd1 Bd4 32.Rf3 Rf7 33.Rxf7+ Kxf7 and Mestel resigned on his 40th move.

London 1982
Mestel, Jonathan

Karpov, Anatoly
(After 27...Rc3-c7)
[FEN "6k1/p1r5/3pp1p1/4b3/6P1/8/P1PK1R2/1R6 w - - 0 28"]

Karpov's positional understanding is light years ahead of mine. How on earth did he see that with the White Pawn on g5 the position is won, but with the Black Pawn on g5 it is drawn? Amazing!

To play through the complete game see...

Anatoli Karpov vs Andrew Jonathan Mestel, 5, London P&D 1982
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1068306

...on Chessgames.com.

07 January 2007

Chess Isn't Just for Children

I often say, 'Chess isn't just for children'...

Jennifer Shahade, Author, Chess Bitch, U.S. Women's Chess Champion 2002, 2004
http://www.gothamist.com/archives/2006/12/28/jennifer_shahad.php

'Chess can learn a lot from poker. First, chess media and sponsors should emphasize its glamorous aspects: worldwide traveling, parties, and escape from real world responsibilities.'

...Parties? Escape from real world responsibilities? Maybe it is for children after all.

05 January 2007

Blog Trapping++

While working on this month's 'Blog Tripping' post for About Chess (URL not yet available), I encountered two blogs that had been hijacked. Both were on the blogspot.com domain and had not been updated for a few months. The first link went to a shopping site. I forget where the second went; it triggered a virus warning which forced me to close the page immediately and run a scan on my disk. I'm not going to repeat the exercise.

I downloaded the page source for both sites (right-click on the link) and saw that the original chess blog pages had been changed substantially. The shopping page had text related to a mortgage company and yielded no obvious clue how it was redirected to another domain. The virus page contained portions of the original chess blog along with an encoded javascript function.

How were these blogs hijacked? A Google search on 'blog hijack' led to a few pages which indicated password theft and pointed to more information on the Google Blogger Forum.

***

A post titled The chess blogging boom (susanpolgar.blogspot.com) caught my eye because it showed some typical confusion about counts on Google searches. A comment by DG (boylston-chess-club.blogspot.com) corrected the misunderstanding and continued, 'I would estimate that there are about 250-350 active chess blogs (where active = at least one post in the last 30 days).'

This number seemed high to me. I typically count about 75 blogs updated in the previous month plus another 40 active in the past six months. Since DG usually knows what he is talking about, I'll have to compare the BCC blogroll with my database of blogs. I haven't done this since end-May. One difference might be that I track only English language blogs.

***

The last point today is a follow-up to Software for Chess Blogs. This page...

ChessImager - Add images to your blog the easy way
http://www.eddins.net/steve/chess/chessimager

...describes the parameters to control the appearance of the diagrams.

03 January 2007

Q: Is the KID dead? • A: Not sure.

The first of the two questions in Is the KID dead? was 'What were the two Kasparov - Kramnik games?' According to the games on Chesslab, Kramnik beat Kasparov 13 times. Six of these were blitz games, and at least two were rapidplay. If the event to celebrate Korchnoi's 70th birthday was rapidplay, then add another win.

Four of the 13 games were KIDs, including one blitz game and one rapidplay game. The two standard time control games were played at Linares 1994 and Novgorod 1997.

[Event "Linares"]
[Site "Linares"]
[Date "1994.??.??"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Kasparov, Garik"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.d5 Nbd7 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 Nh5 11.h4 g4 12.Nh2 Nxg3 13.fxg3 h5 14.O-O f5 15.exf5 Nc5 16.b4 e4 17.Rc1 Nd3 18.Bxd3 exd3 19.f6 Rxf6 20.Qxd3 Qf8 21.Nb5 Bf5 22.Rxf5 Rxf5 23.Nxc7 Rc8 24.Ne6 Qf6 25.Nf1 Re5 26.Rd1 Qf5 27.Qxf5 Rxf5 28.c5 Bf8 29.Ne3 Rf6 30.Nc4 dxc5 31.b5 Bh6 32.Re1 Re8 33.Re5 Re7 34.Rxh5 Ref7 35.Kh2 Bc1 36.Re5 Rf1 37.Re4 Rd1 38.Rxg4+ Kh7 39.Ne5 Re7 40.Nf8+ 1-0

[Event "It (cat.19)"]
[Site "Novgorod (Russia)"]
[Date "1997.??.??"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Kramnik Vladimir (RUS)"]
[Black "Kasparov Gary (RUS)"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Nh5 10.Re1 Nf4 11.Bf1 a5 12.bxa5 Rxa5 13.Nd2 c5 14.a4 Ra6 15. Ra3 g5 16.g3 Nh3+ 17.Bxh3 Bxh3 18.Qh5 Qd7 19.Qxg5 h6 20.Qe3 f5 21.Qe2 f4 22.Nb5 Kh7 23.gxf4 exf4 24.Kh1 Bg4 25.Nf3 Ng6 26.Rg1 Bxf3+ 27.Qxf3 Ne5 28.Qh5 Qf7 29.Qh3 Nxc4 30.Rf3 Be5 31.Nc7 Rxa4 32.Bxf4 1-0

To play through the complete games see...

Vladimir Kramnik vs Garry Kasparov, Linares GM tournament 1994
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1070706

Vladimir Kramnik vs Garry Kasparov, It (cat.19) 1997
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1070932

...on Chessgames.com, which returns 14 wins for Kramnik over Kasparov. A couple of CG.com comments on the 1997 game are relevant: 'King's Indian, Kramnik: 3 wins, Kasparov: 5 wins, 1 draw' and 'one of [the] last Kings Indians played by Kasparov'.

[At first the CG.com Java viewer wasn't working. At the bottom of each game is a small tool to choose the Java viewer. I clicked 'set' on the default and it worked. I installed IE 7.0 a few weeks ago and assume the problem was related to that. Will I have to set it each time?]