29 December 2007

The Big Soviet Championships

Time to do a little pruning. Three of the 58 Soviet Championships had considerably more players than the others (number of players and link to Graeme Cree's pages):-

I excluded any player from my master list who did not advance beyond the quarterfinal in 1929, who finished lower than 26th place (8.0/13) in 1967, or lower than 22nd place (6.0/11) in 1991. Of the approximately 304 players who competed in a Soviet Championship, 91 played only in the 6th, 35th, or 58th event. Of those, 71 finished below the cutoff. This accounts for many of the more obscure names.

27 December 2007

Jiggly Ads

Like most people, I hate popup ads. After popups, the ads I dislike most are jiggly ads. Those are the ads that jiggle rapidly left and right, up and down, never stopping. They are designed to attract your attention with their frenzy, which they do. They also make you wonder how any advertiser could be so desperate for attention.

While I was browsing About Chess a few days ago, I had two jiggly ads on the same page. I captured them in the following screen snapshot.


The top ad said, 'You are the 999,999th visitor: Congratulations you WON!'; the lower ad said, 'This is not a joke. You are the 10,000th visitor.' How I could be both the 999,999th visitor and the 10,000th visitor is a mystery, especially considering that both ads pointed to the same page on the freelotto.com domain.

Thinking about it a little more, I hate one type of ad worse than popups and jigglies : Flash ads that hang my browser. They are so annoying that I now run with Flash disabled. I don't miss it or the ads at all.

I appreciate that the ads keep web content free. Do the ad services really believe that all web users are indiscriminating morons?

25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Tip: In some countries the main Christmas celebration is on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. If you promise to call someone overseas for Christmas, make sure you know on what day they celebrate. I made that mistake once. I called on the 25th and the immediate reaction was, 'Why didn't you call on Christmas?'

23 December 2007

Early Soviet Women's Championships

From 'Soviet Women in Chess' by Elizaveta Bikova; see Soviet Women Players for more info.

Chp01 1927 (Rubtsova; p.12)
Chp02 1931 (Rubtsova; p.21)
Chp03 1934 (Bluket, O.Semenova; p.28, photo)
Chp04 1936 (O.Semenova; p.47)
Chp05 1937 (Rubtsova; p.49)
Chp06 1945 (Belova; p.77)
Chp07 1947 (Bikova; p.83)
Chp08 1948 (Bikova; p.92)
Chp09 1949 (Rubtsova; p.105)
Chp10 1950 (Bikova; p.120)
Chp11 1951 (Zvorikina; p.133)
Chp12 1952 (Rudenko; p.148)
Chp13 1953 (Zvorikina; p.161)
Chp14 1954 (Volpert; p.181)
Chp15 1955 (Borisenko; p.204)
Chp16 1956 (Zvorikina; p.219)

21 December 2007

The End of Video Friday?

Has the YouTube search broken down? I used to be able search on 'chess' and sort on 'date added'. The results would go as far back as I wanted to look, which was usually two weeks. Now the function stops giving valid results on the fourth page. Here's an example:-


There should be many results returned between '4 days ago' & '6 days ago', and between '1 week ago' & '2 weeks ago'. I saw the same problem two weeks ago (with different videos of course) and hoped that it was just temporary.

Like many (most?) Google services, YouTube has no way to provide feedback. Looks like I'm out of luck.

***

Later: Google search to the rescue...

Results for chess site:youtube.com
http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=chess+site%3Ayoutube.com&hl=en

...It also has certain glitches, but they are less irritating than the YouTube problems.

19 December 2007

Opening Symmetry [D40]

I encountered the diagrammed position while working on this month's Every Move Explained, 1907 Lodz - Rotlewi vs. Rubinstein. It occurs after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.e3 Nc6, although a different move order was used in the Rubinstein game.

Now Rotlewi played 6.dxc5. In 'Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces: 100 Selected Games', Kmoch criticized this, suggesting 6.Bd3 as 'best'. Kmoch's notes to the game are not particularly helpful, and I'm not sure he was right about this move.

An interesting feature of this position is the skirmish over the capture d4xc5 (or ...d5xc4). Both players are reluctant to develop the King's Bishop before that capture, because the recapture loses a tempo. This means they are both playing a double waiting game: (1) delaying the Bishop's development until the opponent has captured, and (2) delaying the capture until the opponent's Bishop has developed.

Depending on whether one or both players lose the tempo, the same positions can be played reversed. If White loses a tempo, but Black doesn't, then the players essentially switch colors, White playing Black and Black playing White. If both players lose a tempo (or neither player loses a tempo) they continue playing the colors they started with. I saw no examples where Black loses a tempo, but White doesn't, but I didn't look very hard.


After the recapture on c4 (c5), the opponent typically plays ...a6 and ...b5 (...a3 and ...b4), when the Bishop typically retreats Bd3 (Bd6). I found a half dozen examples of these ideas in my old copy of 'ECO D'. One position was duplicated in two different notes -- once with White on move and once with Black on move (where only White had lost the tempo) -- but the annotator gave different evaluations to the same position. This can easily happen because the positions are hard to recognize as identical when the colors are switched.

ECO gave 6.a3 as the standard move in the diagram, with 6...a6 as a popular response. Now White already has trouble finding a good waiting move. Once White accepts losing the tempo with, for example, Bd3 and Bxc4, Black has an easier time finding waiting moves. It is as though White were penalized for having the first move!

One way to avoid losing a tempo is to first play c4xd5 (...c5xd4), before moving the King's Bishop. This leads to an isolated d-Pawn for one side where the opponent has played e3 (...e6) instead of g3 as in the Rubinstein Varation of the Tarrasch Defense. Then a different set of problems arise which I didn't have time to investigate. Of course, the opponent can also answer ...Nxd5 (Nxd4), avoiding the isolated Pawn and leading to a different type of game.

Symmetrical positions have a reputation for being boring, but, like many reputations, it is probably undeserved. It is certainly undeserved for the D40 variation.

17 December 2007

The Interregnum According to Fine

First person accounts of the World Championship Interregnum, the period between Alekhine's death in 1946 and Botvinnik's tournament victory in 1948, provide informed insight into the events of that period. In 'The World's Great Chess Games', Reuben Fine wrote an account in chapter 9, 'A Brief Interlude (1946-1948)'.

When the war ended in 1945, Alekhine was still technically champion. Nevertheless, there was little doubt that almost any of his younger rivals, Botvinnik, Keres, or Fine, could have defeated him. During the war the unsettled circumstances enabled him to sidestep a match. But what would happen now, with the return to normalcy?
Despite his extraordinary chess genius, Alekhine was not an especially admirable human being. During the war he had even stooped to write a series of anti-Semitic articles for the Nazis (he had chosen to stay on in Nazi Europe), arguing that only the "Aryan" spirit could save chess. When international chess resumed with the Hastings tournament at the end of 1945, he was boycotted by his fellow masters.
In this situation I proposed that the remaining six participants in the AVRO tournament of 1938 play a tournament to decide the title. While the others were agreeable, Botvinnik objected on the grounds that politics should not be allowed to interfere with chess (a noble principle, had it been followed). Instead Botvinnik, in a politically astute maneuver, challenged Alekhine to a match, which the champion hastily accepted. It was scheduled for London in the summer of 1946.
Shortly before the match was to take place, Alekhine suddenly died, thereby creating an unprecedented situation, since the title had passed from one champion to another uninterruptedly since Steinitz had defeated Anderssen in 1866. Again a natural solution suggested itself with a tournament composed of the surviving AVRO contingent. Unexpectedly Smyslov replaced Flohr, who by that time had become a Soviet citizen, and so he was no longer free to speak for himself. At the U.S.-U.S.S.R. match in Moscow in 1946, agreements were drawn up among all parties concerned; the tournament was to be played in Holland in the spring of 1947.
As might have been expected politics did enter the picture. A Dutch newspaper published the charge, later often repeated, that the Soviet players would throw their games to one another in order to allow a Soviet master to become world champion. (This danger was in fact so persistent that the FIDE later changed the rules to substitute matches for tournaments, so that the danger might be avoided.) The Soviet government, knowing full well what the answer would be, then demanded that the Dutch government censor its newspapers. When the Dutch refused, the Soviets, in retaliation, withdrew from the tournament.
Legally there were various possibilities. Euwe might have reclaimed the title, as the last official champion before Alekhine. Or Keres and Fine could have been declared co-champions on the basis of their joint victory in the AVRO tournament. Or Euwe, Fine, and Reshevsky might have played a three-cornered tournament to decide the championship. Or the free world might have chosen a champion, and the communist world left to choose its own; then the two could have met for the world championship.
Unfortunately for the Western masters the Soviet political organization was stronger than that of the West. The U.S. Chess Federation was a meaningless paper organization, generally antagonistic to the needs of its masters. The Dutch Chess Federation did not choose to act. The FIDE was impotent.
The result was a rescheduling of the tournament for the following year, with the vital difference that now half was to be played in Holland, half in the U.S.S.R. Dissatisfied with this arrangement and the general tenor of the event, I withdrew. (Incidentally, there was no real financial compensation offered to any of the Western players, who, unlike their Soviet counterparts, were totally unsubsidized.)
Five masters took part in the 1948 tournament. Botvinnik, playing in brilliant style, carried off first prize.

That last sentence pointed to a footnote...

However, his surprising loss to Keres in the last round, allowing the Soviet master to finish in a tie for third with Reshevsky, looked very suspicious.

...adding another twist to the Botvinnik-Keres controversy. Who, if anyone, threw games to whom?

***

The book's title page (Dover 1983) says 'Edited by Reuben Fine'. It's not clear why he wasn't given full credit as the author.

15 December 2007

Players in the USSR Championships (Notes)

I checked the player counts from Players in the USSR Championships against Cafferty and Taimanov (C&T). They match for most of the 58 events. Here are a few notes.

***

9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf1
9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf2
8 USSR Chp06 1929 qf3
5 USSR Chp06 1929 qf4 • C&T mention that 36 contestants participated. My numbers total 31 and I assume that the four quarterfinal events had nine players each. • Graeme Cree's page, 6th USSR Championship, Odessa 1929, has the same crosstables as C&T, who omit the quarterfinals.

20 USSR Chp12 1940 • The 1941 Absolute Championship is missing, but should be included.

20 USSR Chp28 1961 (1961-01/02)
21 USSR Chp29 1961 (1961-11/12) • There were two events in 1961 because the Soviet federation wanted to shift the event from the beginning of the year, where it conflicted with other events, to the end of the year.

95 USSR Chp35 1967 • C&T say, 'the experiment of a Swiss system for 130 players over 13 rounds was tried' and 'although 130 players started out in Kharkov, there was a gradual falling by the wayside', then list four players with partial scores. The final scores of the other 126 players are given. • Graeme Cree's page, 35th USSR Championship, Kharkov 1967 copies the list of 126 players from C&T.

***

A few more pages to include on any webliography:-
Wikipedia: Category: Soviet chess players
Glenn Giffen: Zonals in USSR, CIS and Asia

13 December 2007

Informant: 'We have lived to be 100'

This had me puzzled when I first saw it...

Subject: Chess Informant News
From: "Chess Informant"
Date:Wed, 12 Dec 2007 04:36:00 -0500 (EST)

Dear Chess Friend,

We have lived to be 100. Please check us at www.sahovski.com or buy at http://www.sahovski.co.yu/products/ci/...

Chess Greetings
Chess Informant Team

...100 employees? Matanovic 100 years old? Then I saw this on that second link...


...Congratulations, Chess Informant!

11 December 2007

Double Exchange Sacrifice

After so many examples of Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, the next move in the diagrammed position is not hard to see. Black played 25...Rxe4. Petrosian wrote:

Why did Black sacrifice the exchange so 'light-heartedly'? Because he got for his Rook, in addition to a minor piece, a Pawn. 'Ceteris paribus' a minor piece plus a Pawn are good compensation for a Rook. Black has two Bishops now. His light squared Bishop is particularly strong, while the White Rooks have no operational freedom. It is quite clear that Black will strengthen his position and increase the pressure.

The game continued 26.Bxe4 Bxe4 27.Nc2 d5 28.Nd4 b4 29.cxb4 axb4 30.a4 Qa7 31.Qf2 Rc8 32.b3 Bf8 33.Nb5 Qa6 34.Qe2 Qb6+ 35.Kf1.

Bucharest 1953
Petrosian, Tigran

Troianescu, Octavio
(After 25.Nc2-e3)
[FEN "3r2k1/1q3pb1/2bpp1pp/pp6/2r1PP2/P1P1N1P1/1P1RQ1BP/4R1K1 b - - 0 25"]

I don't like to give long sequences of moves on Web pages, because few people are able to visualize the resulting position. If you have trouble following, see the usual Chessgames.com link at the end of this post. For the same reason, I won't give any of Petrosian's analysis on those moves.

Black's next move is really extraordinary -- 35...Rc3 -- sacrificing another exchange. White picks up another Pawn, making the compensation two Bishops and two Pawns for the two sacrificed Rooks. Add to this Black's advanced connected passed Pawns plus White's exposed King and it is clear that Black is winning. A few moves later White gave back an exchange, but the game was already lost.

To play through the complete game see...

Octavio Troianescu vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Bucharest 1953
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1106236

...on Chessgames.com.

09 December 2007

Players in the USSR Championships

I cleaned up my file of games from the Soviet championships, eliminating 2000 duplicate games which had crept in from somewhere. I also fixed a problem with a database query, which was counting only players with the White pieces. Since several of the events are incomplete, 20 players in those events are only represented by games where they played the Black pieces.

The following table shows the number of players in each of the 58 championships. I already know that at least one of these counts is wrong ('USSR Chp35 1967'). Now I can use the table as a check against other sources of info on these championships.

16 USSR Chp01 1920
13 USSR Chp02 1923
18 USSR Chp03 1924
20 USSR Chp04 1925
21 USSR Chp05 1927
  9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf1
  9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf2
  8 USSR Chp06 1929 qf3
  5 USSR Chp06 1929 qf4
18 USSR Chp07 1931
20 USSR Chp08 1933
20 USSR Chp09 1934
20 USSR Chp10 1937
18 USSR Chp11 1939
20 USSR Chp12 1940
17 USSR Chp13 1944
18 USSR Chp14 1945
20 USSR Chp15 1947
19 USSR Chp16 1948
20 USSR Chp17 1949
18 USSR Chp18 1950
18 USSR Chp19 1951
20 USSR Chp20 1952
20 USSR Chp21 1954
20 USSR Chp22 1955
18 USSR Chp23 1956
22 USSR Chp24 1957
19 USSR Chp25 1958
20 USSR Chp26 1959
20 USSR Chp27 1960
20 USSR Chp28 1961
21 USSR Chp29 1961
20 USSR Chp30 1962
20 USSR Chp31 1963
20 USSR Chp32 1964
20 USSR Chp33 1965
21 USSR Chp34 1966
95 USSR Chp35 1967
20 USSR Chp36 1968
23 USSR Chp37 1969
22 USSR Chp38 1970
22 USSR Chp39 1971
22 USSR Chp40 1972
18 USSR Chp41 1973
16 USSR Chp42 1974
16 USSR Chp43 1975
18 USSR Chp44 1976
16 USSR Chp45 1977
18 USSR Chp46 1978
18 USSR Chp47 1979
18 USSR Chp48 1980
18 USSR Chp49 1981
16 USSR Chp50 1983
18 USSR Chp51 1984
20 USSR Chp52 1985
18 USSR Chp53 1986
18 USSR Chp54 1987
18 USSR Chp55 1988
16 USSR Chp56 1989
14 USSR Chp57 1990
64 USSR Chp58 1991

07 December 2007

Why Y'All Playing Checkers with a Chess Set?

'Why y'all playing checkers with a chess set?' • 'Cuz we ain't got no checkers.' • 'But chess is a better game! You don't know how to play chess, do you?' • So?' • 'So nothing, man. Look I'll teach you!'


Chess scene (3:34) • D'Angelo explains chess, and life.

***

Later: Same clip, different accent...

The Wire: A New Hope
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ1L9lgbJIw

...Which one is the original? I prefer the first version I posted.

05 December 2007

Positional Sacrifices Aren't Just to Draw

Until now, all of the examples of Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice have been sacrifices to achieve a draw, at times with some winning chances. Petrosian also gave examples of sacrifices to achieve the win.

Looking at the diagrammed position, Black is better. The move that many players would choose without much thought is 19...h6. Petrosian played the surprising 19...Rxe4 instead. If White now captures on e4, the Black light-squared Bishop will be unopposed on the long diagonal, when the opening of the Kingside with ...h6 will be even stronger.

White played 20.c4, which is also surprising until you notice 21.Nc3, threatening to capture the Rook with the Knight, when the Rook can't retreat to b4. Now the idea 20...h6, is even stronger than a move earlier.

USSR School Championship 1946
Petrosian, Tigran

Dunaev, Vladimir
(After 19.b2-b3)
[FEN "4k2r/2qnbppp/p1bpp3/P1p3P1/Nr2PP2/1P2BB2/2PQ3P/R4RK1 b k - 0 19"]

White continued 21.g6, and Petrosian commented

This move is bad; my opponent was young and inexperienced. He should have played 21.Nc3 Rxe3 22.Qxe3 hxg5 23.fxg5 Ne5 24.Bxc6+ Qxc6, although Black would be more than compensated for the exchange.

The game continued 21...f5 22.Nc3 Nf6 23.Bxe4 fxe4 24.Rad1 (Better is 24.f5, 'fighting for the square d5'.) 24...d5 25.cxd5 exd5 and Black soon won.

To play through the complete game see...

Dunaev vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, USSR 1946
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1106130

...on Chessgames.com.

03 December 2007

Mystery Painting

The image shows one of the first chess related paintings that I found on the Web. This particular example was copied from eBay in 1998. I have seen the same painting a half dozen times, but have never seen it attributed to a particular artist. It is never much better quality than shown here.


The auction said, 'There is a Tabor Prang Art Co. label on the back which says the title is "Chessplayers".' Can anyone help?

01 December 2007

Soviet Players in Hooper & Whyld

Continuing the hunt for biographical data in resources at hand, as in Soviet Players on Chessgames.com a few weeks ago, I checked my list of 359 names against 'The Oxford Companion to Chess' by Hooper and Whyld. This is one of the three reference books I keep closer to my desk than other chess books in my library. The others are Murray's History and Gaige's Personalia. If you've never seen the OC2C, as I call it, the book is organized like an encyclopedia, with aphabetical entries (from 'Abbazia Defence' to 'zwischenzug') and information behind each entry proportional to its importance. Capablanca merits 2 3/4 pages, the early World Women's Champions only 2-3 lines.

I have the OC2C paperback edition from 1996 and I noted a few special problems with it. First, I use it so much that the binding is breaking and pages are starting to detach. More importantly, the choice of which players have been included is somewhat arbitrary. There is no mention of the criteria used for inclusion and it appears that the authors had to guess which upcoming players would be good bets for the long term. Not too surprisingly, British players are over-represented in all time frames. Staunton gets a little more space than Em.Lasker.

I found OC2C entries for 138 names, of which 14 were only referenced in another entry. For example, 'P.Kondratyev' isn't listed under his own name. He is listed under 'Kondratiyev Variation, 1186 in the FRENCH DEFENCE, an idea of the Soviet player Pavel Evseyevich Kondratiyev (1924-1984)'. The number 1186 is a reference to an appendix on opening lines where the moves are given. The Kondratiyev Variation is 4.Bd3 in the Winawer.

A research topic for the future would be to determine who is listed in Hooper and Whyld but missing on my list. I noticed entries for Alexander Goldin and Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, both of whom are now candidates for inclusion.