30 November 2008

The Enigma of Chigorin

In Chigorin and Schiffers, I quoted from the 1895 Hastings tournament book:

[Chigorin's] style of play is quite of 'the old school', brilliantly attacking and ever towards the King, perhaps best described by the simple word beautiful. He is probably the greatest master of the King's side attack and rarely plays dull games. His chief energy is thrown into the middle game rather than the opening, which he sometimes conducts with too much indifference. His analytical ability is of the very highest order, and blindfold play does not come amiss.

In Chigorin and His Contemporaries, I quoted from Kotov & Yudovich's Soviet School of Chess:

Tarrasch and the masters and critics who supported him claimed that they had formed a 'modern school', while Chigorin represented out-dated views, i.e. the old school. Steinitz and Tarrasch failed to understand the essence of creative thinking in chess, which they tried to subordinate to abstract and unreasonable principles. It is clear today that their views were erroneous and narrowed down the rich content of chess. [...] The Russian champion's creative imagination, his critical attitude towards the pronouncements of recognized authorities, his quest of the new, and, finally, his deep faith in the limitless creative possibilities of chess made his investigations a major contribution to theory.

The Soviet authors went on to give dozens of examples showing Chigorin's contribution to opening theory. In the 19th century, Chigorin was considered 'old school' and sometimes indifferent to the openings. In the mid-20th century, he was considered the forerunner of the Soviet School (the antithesis of 'old school') and a major contributor to opening theory. How to explain those opposing points of view?

I take it as a given that Kotov & Yudovich were right, while the end-19th century pundits were wrong. After all, chess theory progressed substantially during the ~60 years following Hastings 1895, and accelerated under the scrutiny of the Soviet grandmasters. Following is a graphical overview of Chigorin's openings at Hastings 1895. This is what his contemporaries 'saw' of his style.

The picture squares with the overview of Chigorin's theoretical contributions as laid out in Soviet School: Evans Gambit (as both White and Black), Two Knights Defense (Black), King's Gambit (White), and the unusual 2.Qe2 reaction to the French Defense (White). It doesn't show the ...Nc6 defense to the Queen's Gambit, but the notes to the Hastings 1895 games show that he was already recognized for that system.

29 November 2008

Chess on Blip.tv

While catching up on YouTube's chess videos for yesterday's Video Friday post -- Chess Behind Bars -- I was hoping to spotlight something on the just concluded Dresden Olympiad. I saw a number of noteworthy efforts, but nothing from the king of chess news video, Chessvibes.com. What happened to the clips of Susan Polgar's press conferences? After a little effort, I found them here...

Chessvibes.blip.tv : Episodes Archive

...Along with displaying the clip, clicking on a thumbnail provides access to the video embed code. Here's an example.

Anand - Kramnik World Championship Match (30:30) • 'Game 11 / Press Conference'

Game 11 was the last game of the match. Both players are relaxed and articulate throughout the video. A Kramnik comment on his notion of sportsmanship and fair play caught my attention: 'My motto in life is that you're responsible for the quality of your work, but you're not responsible for the result.' (~29:00). Well said, Vladimir!

28 November 2008

Chess Behind Bars

From NJN News.

Ivies vs Inmates (2:41) • 'The annual event, sponsored by John and Osa Marshall, brings together members of the Princeton University Chess Club, and inmates at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton NJ.'

More: PRINCETON: University chess team makes moves behind bars

27 November 2008

More Fischer Photos

The image below shows a batch of Fischer photos, including final bid, that sold on eBay this week.

The auction that finished with the highest closing bid ('Vintage '70 Chess Bobby Fischer Spassky Prep Game Photo'), had a scan of the photo's back that read

This is roughly the way the world's championship chess match will appear, when Bobby Fischer gets around to meeting titleholder Boris Spassky. In a previous encounter in Siegen, Germany in 1970 Fischer lost to Spassky, but few expect him to lose next time. (Please credit United Press International Photo)

The photo shows Spassky thinking about his 11th or 12th move in the last game between the two players before their 1972 title match. For the full game, see...

Boris Spassky vs Robert James Fischer, Siegen ol final 1970

...on Chessgames.com.

25 November 2008

Chess960 @ Chess Classic Mainz

You can count the number of important chess960 tournaments played annually on the thumb of one hand; take your pick which hand. In a recent post -- Chess Classic Mainz 2008 (CCM8) -- I mentioned its 2008 edition. What about previous events?

If, like me, you've never paid much attention to Chess Classic Mainz (CCM), you probably don't know the difference between the FiNet Open, the Ordix Open, and the Livingston Championship. A mixture of traditional chess and chess960, the CCM events are hard to distinguish by name and their details change from one year to the next.

Fortunately, the CCM web site carries a complete history of the event going back to CCM1 in 2001. I created the following table to identify the chess960 events that have been held each year, along with their winners. The links in the first few columns go directly to CCM pages, while the last column points to coverage by two well known and reliable news sources.

 MatchesOpensComputersSimulsChessBase & TWIC
2. FiNet Chess960 Women's Rapid World Championship; Kosteniuk (1st), Zhukova, Cmilyte, Lahno7. FiNet Open; Nakamura 1st4. Livingston Chess960 Computer WCC; Rybka, Shredder, Deep Sjeng, Naum CB 2008 & TWIC 717
5. FiNet Chess960 Rapid World Championship; Aronian (1st), Anand, Bacrot, Kashimdzhanov6. FiNet Open; Bologan 1st3. Livingston Chess960 Computer WCC; Shredder, Rybka, Jonny, Spike CB 2007 & TWIC 667
Clerical Medical Chess960 World Championship; Aronian - Svidler, Women, Seniors, Juniors5. FiNet Open; Bacrot 1st2. Livingston Chess960 Computer WCC; 21 programsAccording to the navbar, Chess960 simul L. Aronian, but the page says nothing about itCB 2006 & TWIC 615
FiNet Chess960 World Championship; Svidler - Almasi4. FiNet Open; Aronian 1st1. Livingston Chess960 Computer WCC; 19 Programs CB 2005 & TWIC 562
Gerling Match; Chess960 World Championship; Svidler - Aronian3. FiNet Open; Almasi 1st  CB 2004 & TWIC 509
The Final: Chess960 World Championship; Svidler - Leko2. Chess960 Open; Aronian 1st Playing Chess960 Simuls on 20 boards: Leko & SvidlerCB 2003 & TWIC 458
 1. Chess960 Open; Svidler 1st  CB 2002 & TWIC 406
Fischer Random Chess; Leko - Adams   TWIC 347
Frankfurt Chess Classic 2000; Jussupow (Yusupov) - Fritz   TWIC 294
Fischer launches Fischerandom Chess at Buenos Aires   TWIC 088

The table should serve as a good starting point for a deeper look at the events.

24 November 2008

Image Galleries

As mentioned in my last post on Links related to my About.com material, I converted a couple of image galleries:-

These were the first image galleries I created when About.com released its own gallery tool. While neither of them is particularly significant, they let me evaluate other third party tools for creating galleries.

I finally selected Jalbum. On top of the features I expect in a gallery tool, it lets me incorporate Google Adsense, the only game in town for monetizing web content.

The next step will be to see how well Jalbum handles chess diagrams. After that I'd like to see if I can use the tool to create tutorials. These generally have more text than image galleries.

23 November 2008

Chigorin and His Contemporaries

Kotov & Yudovich's Soviet School of Chess devoted the entire second chapter to Chigorin ('Founder of the Russian School'). Part factual and part propaganda, the authors' opinion of Chigorin's contribution to the Russian/Soviet School is in the following paragraphs.

Chigorin greatly influenced the development of chess in Russia. He was, first and foremost, a master of striking originality and creative force, and it was this that determined his role in the formation of the Russian and Soviet school. Chigorin's chess talent came to the fore in the period when the views formulated by Steinitz, the first world champion, and developed by the prominent grandmaster, Dr. Tarrasch, held sway throughout the chess world. Notwithstanding his high opinion of Steinitz' skill and numerous contributions to theory, Chigorin carried on a dispute with him over matters of principle for a number of years.

The 'modern school', as Steinitz and Tarrasch called it, strove above all to establish immutable laws applicable in every situation in chess. The creative process during play, as this school saw it, consisted in bringing the position on the board and the planned move into conformity with laws and rules that had been established once and for all.

Chigorin rebelled against the restriction of creative thinking by dogmatic laws, and he stood up for his views both in theory and in practice. It was necessary, Chigorin said, to take into account all the concrete features of the position, and to make a dynamic appraisal of each position and its combinational possibilities. He clearly saw that the development of chess thought and technique would eventually overthrow many old conceptions.

Tarrasch and the masters and critics who supported him claimed that they had formed a 'modern school', while Chigorin represented out-dated views, i.e. the old school. Steinitz and Tarrasch failed to understand the essence of creative thinking in chess, which they tried to subordinate to abstract and unreasonable principles. It is clear today that their views were erroneous and narrowed down the rich content of chess.

Chigorin would not reconcile himself to the efforts of the 'modern school' to emasculate creative thought in chess by fitting the entire substance of the art into the framework of rules they had invented. Laying bare the vulnerable aspects of the Steinitz and Tarrasch theories, he came forward with a number of new principles relating to strategy and tactics in all stages of the game: in a word, he presented a new understanding of chess.

The Russian champion's creative imagination, his critical attitude towards the pronouncements of recognized authorities, his quest of the new, and, finally, his deep faith in the limitless creative possibilities of chess made his investigations a major contribution to theory. (p.17)

Nowhere is it mentioned that Chigorin lost two title matches to Steinitz and only drew his match with Tarrasch after being down +5-8=4 with 10 games needed to win. This observation is not to detract from Chigorin's world class performances, but to point out that Kotov & Yudovich were not always as objective in their writing as Chigorin was in his play. See Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (1850-1908) for Chigorin's record.

Obscuring the historical record might be one reason why two-thirds of the chapter on Chigorin is spent on a discussion of his contribution to opening theory. It's also worth noting that half of chapter three, on Alekhine ('Russia's Greatest Player'), is spent on the fourth World Champion's contributions to opening theory. In the 1950s, when the book was written, was it safer to write about chess openings than about facts that were contrary to the Soviet world view?

In the tournament book for Hastings 1895, both Steinitz and Tarrasch, as well as Lasker, Pillsbury, and Schiffers, each annotated several games that Chigorin played in the event. Perhaps we can glean from these notes an objective summary of how Chigorin's contemporaries viewed his contributions.

22 November 2008

If No News Is Good News...

...then old news is gold news. Or something like that. While working on Interview with Makropoulos, I read the FIDE document 78th FIDE Congress Executive Board Minutes. The minutes are from the FIDE Congress that took place in Antalya, Turkey, 14-16 November 2007. Hence 'old news'.

The first point that caught my attention was a discussion of the role of David Kaplan, who was mentioned by Makropoulos as an indirect stakeholder in Global Chess.

1. Report of the President. President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov delivered his annual report. [...] In his trips and meetings with heads of various countries he had realized that there is a necessity to have chess centres and museums in all the capitals of FIDE member countries. So he proposes to introduce the project of construction of chess centres. This is a programme of creation of a global network of chess centres, to be achieved together with an international development company, Chess Lane. The centres will be built as multi-profile buildings including chess museums, hotel, office and commercial facilities, exhibition halls and conference halls for organization of international chess tournaments and other events. They will give more jobs to our international masters and international arbiters.

It is planned that the centres will be in the shape of a tower, similar to chess pieces, with separate entrances for differing functional sectors. Leading international architects, who were selected through a tender, participated in the creation of the chess centres concept. Soon the first variants of the concept are going to be finalized and presented for discussion. The construction of such chess centres will create new possibilities for national federation activities, and eventually will provide an added impetus for popularization and development of chess in the world.

Therefore he proposes to introduce a position of FIDE Development Director, which will not be financed from the FIDE budget. A major businessman, David Kaplan, is ready to invest his own money, provide his offices in London and help with the expansion of the FIDE office in Lausanne. Mr Kaplan will prepare a report for the Singapore Presidential Board meeting. He will analyse the situation and compare FIDE against successful sports Federations who have managed to reach multimillion and even billions of USD budgets. [...] Executive Board approved the creation of the Development Department and appointment of Mr. David Kaplan as CEO of the Development Department.

The mention of chess centers in the shape of a tower received some attention in the mainstream press when it first came to light. A Rook House for Bobby? Given the current global financial climate, I doubt this project is going anywhere in a hurry, except maybe to the bottom drawer of FIDE's filing cabinet. As for Global Chess (GlobalChess?), it was also on the agenda of the Executive Board.

4. FIDE Contract with GlobalChess. Annex 6 is contract between Global Chess and FIDE to be approved by Executive Board. Annex 6a is contract on website.

Mr. Makropoulos said that we have succeeded in reaching an agreement that helps Global Chess to start marketing and try to get sponsorship for our FIDE events by working on the plans which the President introduced to FIDE several months ago. We are not going to have big money in the first years, but Global Chess need our help to set up the right mechanism in order to get sponsors for FIDE. After the first 5 years we would expect that if they succeed, then FIDE will start having very important income.

Our cooperation has resulted in a new system for the WCC cycle. This system can be better for the sponsors, who would like to promote themselves through chess. Global chess is working in this direction and we are on the right track, but if Global Chess has no final approval from the Executive Board, they cannot start serious work.

It is proposed to approve this contract. Then we can open the bidding procedure for Grand Prix and Global Chess will start working on the contracts for FIDE event.


E. van Dijk said chess has a great chance at present with Mr. Ilyumzhinov and Mr Kok working together. He asked the extent of the partnership. Can a large company come directly to FIDE? Mr. Makropoulos said yes they can come directly to FIDE, but Global Chess will be brought to the discussion, as commercial partner of FIDE. They will have the professionals to deal with the promotion of sponsors, or production, they will have to satisfy the needs, but FIDE has the events. In our contract it is said that we can also find sponsors without Global Chess. However, Global Chess will be involved, but in this situation, the percentages are changed accordingly. Normally, the situation will be vice versa. Mr. Gelfer said this is an answer for many other questions regarding our relationship. Global Chess is our commercial department.


Mr. Vega wanted to know the difference between sponsor and organiser. Mr. Makropoulos said that the organisers are the business of FIDE. Currently, Global Chess is also looking for the organisers but this is because of the good relations between us. All of us, including the President, try to do this. Organisers will come through the FIDE bidding procedure.

Mr. Borg said the Grand Prix proposals are for 6 cities and the contribution to Global Chess is zero. FIDE will receive close to 250,000 euros. Any money Global Chess receives will come from sponsorship. The President is investing and he does not expect to get his money back, but when we have a system in place and good image and communication, we will find sponsors.

Executive Board approved the contract with Global Chess. The signing of the contract took place, On behalf of FIDE, Messrs Makropoulos and Freeman, on behalf of Global Chess, Mr. Borg. Mr. Makropoulos thanked Mr. Ilyumzhinov who is investing his money into Global Chess. It is his baby and he does the best that he can do for this organisation.

Going back a few months to a post titled The Cone of Silence, I wondered what was meant by 'the disastrous handling of the World Chess Tournament in Mexico City'. The topic was mentioned by the Executive Board.

34. World Championship Tournament 2007. Mr. Makropoulos said the President could not attend the event, following his doctor’s restriction on his travel. We held a Board meeting at the same time and several members of the Board stayed for the whole duration of the Championship. It was a good tournament, but due to the political problems, between Governor and the Mayor, there were financial problems. The players were happy, the hotel and the tournament hall were adequate. The weak point was the Internet. Geoffrey Borg did his best but we did not succeed to reach the point we planned. He referred to the contract with Global Chess which means the control of the Internet in all big events of FIDE will be under their direction.


Mr. Vega said there were serious problems in the government of Mexico as it changed 3 months before the start of the Championship. It negatively affected the financial side. He congratulated Mr. Makropoulos and the whole team for a great job in cooperating with the Organisers in this event.

Executive Board approved the report.

There were also a few details regarding the recent Anand - Kramnik match.

36. World Chess Championship Cycle 2007-2009. Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos informed the members that it is a cycle which includes 3 matches, namely Kramnik - Anand, Topalov with the World Cup winner 2007 and in 2009 there will be another match for the title between Kramnik - Anand match winner and the winner of the Topalov - World Cup match.


Also, Mr. Filipowicz asked if FIDE established dates for the matches. Mr. Makropoulos said we established the period, September, but Anand has obligations in September with the Grand Slam and he has signed his contract. The dates are announced and he is asking to move the dates to October. This is another point for the discussion. Mr. Makropoulos said the Organisers of top tournaments are actually aware that FIDE keeps September for the World Championship in our calendar. The organisers should see and maybe adjust. We will try to solve this problem.

The main idea is first to organise Kramnik - Anand and then the Topalov match. This is the preferred order in order to maximise publicity.

Lately, FIDE's track record of following through its schedule of events has not been impressive. The brouhaha surrounding the Topalov - Kamsky match has only settled down in the last few days, and there is a new furor building over the Doha Grand Prix. By all appearances this is business as usual.

37. Women’s World Chess Championship 2008. The event shall be held in San Luis, Argentina. Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos said the decision was made in Mexico at the Presidential Board meeting. We had two good proposals, from Argentina and Kazakhstan. The Argentinian offer was financially better. Berik Balgabaev had a difficult job to inform Kazakhstan but we will try to organise other events in Kazakhtsan. The most likely dates are in May. The contract is prepared. Our experience with San Luis is very positive, so we believe everything will be alright.


Mr. Makropoulos said that the contract will be signed with the Governor of San Luis Dr. Saa. Argentina has also won the bid for World Junior 2009. The Federation has several proposals and ideas about events. A meeting can be held to discuss all these proposals. [...] Mr. Quinteros said they are ready to sign the contract in the middle of December, around 10th December 2007. There is also an idea is to organise a World Chess Circuit in 2010, which is the bicentenary year for Argentina. The event will consist of six different tournaments and players will play open tournaments for all categories, from January to December. Each tournament will have ten rounds and it is proposed to have different venues in Argentina. They requested the patronage of FIDE, the prize fund is 150,000 USD for each tournament and 20% of the total amount shall be paid to FIDE. The top Grandmasters are not targeted, in order not to clash with the FIDE Grand Prix.

Executive Board granted the patronage of FIDE to the World Chess Circuit. Executive Board accepted the report of the Women’s World Championship.

I bet dollars to donuts that the World Chess Circuit doesn't see the light of day any faster than a 'Rook House for Bobby'.

In FIDE's defense, the Executive Board minutes show that FIDE insiders are aware of their shortcomings and know what the external chess world is saying about them. The minutes depict FIDE as an outdated amateur organization struggling to perform in a modern world where professionalism is expected. Could this also be true of the national chess federations, which, like FIDE, seem to have more than their fair share of organizational mishaps?

21 November 2008

The Russian Team at Dresden

Looks to me like Kramnik, Grischuk, and Morozevich. Has Kramnik gained weight?

3029270317 © Flickr user 'The Closet Grandmaster' under Creative Commons.

The Closet Grandmaster has long been one of my favorite blogs. For more in their Flickr series, see Dresden Olympiad 2008 (Set). • More Olympiad photos are linked via About 1,000 Photos from Dresden Olympiad on Fide.com.


Later: Another set of 2008 Olympiad photos (not to mention 2006) is available on Shaun's Public Gallery, courtesy Shaun Press of chessexpress.

20 November 2008

LIFE Photos on Google

Google recently announced LIFE photo archive hosted by Google, 'Search millions of historic photos'. As you might expect, there are a few chess photos.

Results 1 - 20 of about 200 for chess source:life.

For some reason, the many LIFE photos from the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match are missing. Here are two I'd never seen before: American chess champion Robert J. Fischer playing pinball and eating cotton candy.

18 November 2008

Chess960 on Chesscube.com

In my previous post on chess960 (see Lesson in Chess960 Opening Patterns), Tom Chivers commented that Chesscube.com offers crossboard chess960 play. Lately I've been hearing a lot about Chesscube and have been meaning to check it out, so I acted on the latest nudge and registered with the online play server.

A recent post on the site's inhouse blog (see Scaling up ChessCube) pegs the intro of the chess960 service to mid-September, making it fairly new. Except for a popup titled 'About Chess960' and numerous pointers to Wikipedia's page, there isn't much on the site about chess960 itself. After explaining the rules of the variant, the popup finishes, 'simply castle by picking up the king and putting it on top of the rook - the ChessCube interface will then move the rook and king to their final squares'. I'm glad I read that before playing. It's not intuitive.

The blog introduction says, 'ChessCube CEO Mark Levitt, shares his team's experiences in building an Internet Chess Business', while the profile places Levitt at 'Cape Town : Western Cape : South Africa'. The Chesscube.com domain registrant is listed as AvSoft cc, also of South Africa.

17 November 2008

More about Chess History

Continuing with Links related to my About.com material, I extracted the last articles that I classify under chess history.

The About.com material was stored using different proprietary templates. The first two articles in the above list, as well as the articles I extracted over the past two weeks, were stored using the profile template. The last three articles were stored using a less rigid format that I'll call the weekly template. The template determines the look of the extracted article, which in turn retains characteristics of the original template.

Two other About.com templates are the image gallery and tutorial templates. These are more challenging to duplicate because they are image based and require software that handles images correctly. I've been looking into available software and think I've identified a package. I'll present the results for the next post in this series.

16 November 2008

Emanuel Schiffers (Emmanuel Shiffers)

Continuing with my post on Chigorin and Schiffers, Kotov & Yudovich covered Emanuel Schiffers at the end of their first chapter ('Early History'), after Petrov and Jaenisch (with mention of Shumov, Urusov, and Mikhailov), in Soviet School of Chess. Chigorin was the subject of the entire second chapter ('Founder of the Russian School').

Emmanuel Shiffers (1850-1904), 'Russia's chess teacher', as enthusiasts of the game called him, did a great deal to popularize chess in Russia.

A prominent international master with substantial tournament achievements to his credit, Shiffers realized the social and cultural significance of chess and worked untiringly to unite the country's lovers of chess and to elaborate problems of theory and instruction. He wrote many articles on chess and also a textbook.

Shiffers was the first in Russia to deliver a course of public lectures on chess theory. The lectures, given in the hall of the St.Petersburg Chess Association in 1889, aroused great interest. 'The public lectures on chess theory delivered last year by our noted player, E.S. Shiffers, were an outstanding event', the magazine Shakmaty (Chess) declared in 1890. 'They were attended by almost 100 persons, who listened to the lecturer with pleasure. ... These lectures, the first experiment of the kind in Russia, enjoyed a big and deserved success.'

Due credit must be given Shiffers as a teacher who trained a number of gifted players, chief among them Mikhail Chigorin. (p.15)

Note the two variations in spelling the name. 'Schiffers' appears to be the preferred spelling, but according to Google, it's a close call between 'Emanuel' and 'Emmanuel'.

Schiffers made several other brief appearances in Soviet School. Here is an excerpt from a section titled 'The Middle Game : Systematization of Typical Positions':

Soviet players are studying various typical positions in openings of all kinds. This work cannot, of course, be considered finished; on the contrary, it is still in the initial stage, for only an insignificant percentage of the infinite number of middle game positions has been studied so far. Soviet masters are on the right track, and they are continuing their daily systematization and study of various positions.

There have been comments in chess publications abroad to the effect that this reduces interest in chess, by substituting 'drill' for creative thought.

That view is fundamentally incorrect, as Shiffers pointed out many years ago in his Chess Self-Taught. He said, 'As to the opinion that the study of theory is detrimental to originality in play, it is sufficient to recall that although in any field of knowledge the duplicated discovery of truths that are already known may be highly interesting and instructive, it is capable of consuming too much time.' (p.104)

The passage is a good example of chess as science, as opposed to chess as sport or chess as art. Schiffers also figured in the chapter on 'Chess Literature', where it mentions that he edited a journal known as Shakmaty Zhurnal (p.116). Later, we learn that

The life of a chess master in tsarist Russia was no bed of roses. Even the best Russian players of that time, Chigorin and Shiffers, had a hard time making ends meet; they were dependent on the whims of rich patrons and were unable to develop their gifts to the full. (p.284)

More information on Schiffers can be found in the the stalwarts of web information Wikipedia.org (Emanuel Schiffers) and Chessgames.com (Emmanuel Schiffers).

15 November 2008

October 2008 Chess Events

I removed a number of events from the sidebar list of 'Events on the Agenda'. The last few months have been extraordinarily rich in top class chess events. For the record, here's what I removed:-

These were all events that I was interested in following. I checked for events to add, but came up empty handed. As for events still on the agenda, it's unlikely that the Topalov - Kamsky challengers match will start on 2008-11-26 as originally scheduled.


2008-11-19: 'FIDE is pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached for organisation of the Challenger Match between Topalov and Kamsky. There has been full agreement between FIDE and the players regarding all aspects of the Match. The Match will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, from 16th to 28th February, 2009 with a prize fund of USD 250,000 which will be shared equally by the players.'

14 November 2008

1978 Karpov - Korchnoi

'Throughout the 1960s, the Soviet KGB made remarkable advances with their paranormal research. As the initial stages of their program focused on microwave energy, the latter included psychic mind control. Some conspiracy theorists believe the 1978 world chess match was a testing ground for this newly discovered mind manipulation.'

Mind Control and the 1978 World Chess Match (6:45) • 'Was the 1978 world Chess Match a KGB proving ground for mind control?'

From: ParanormalTV.

13 November 2008

Disagreeing with What Is Not Said

Continuing with the game I last looked at in The 'Fischer Attack', a few moves later the players reached the position shown in the diagram. Black played 15...gxf6, and Fischer remarked,

The best chance is 15...bxc3! 16.Ne4 Qb4 17.Qg4 Bxf6 18.Nxf6+ Kh8 19.Qh4 h6 20.Ng4, threatening 21.Nxh6 with a strong attack.

Commenting on 15...gxf6, Kasparov noted,

The first, but already decisive mistake -- to lose in a sharp Sicilian, in contrast to the 'Spanish torture', Black does not have to make many mistakes. However, Fischer does not attach any mark to this move, regarding Black's position as already bad.

In Kasparov's view, this means that there is a distinct difference between '15...gxf6 (best is 15...bxc3!)' and '15...gxf6? (best is 15...bxc3!)'. The first indicates that Black was already lost, but had a variation to push off the loss; the second indicates that Black was not already lost. It's not an obvious distinction to make based on a single missing '?'.

1959 Candidates Tournament (round 10)
Benko, Pal

Fischer, Robert
(After 15.Bg5-f6(xN))
[FEN "r1b2rk1/p3bppp/4pB2/n1q1p3/1p3P2/1BN3N1/PPP3PP/R2Q1R1K b - - 0 15"]

After making this remark, Kasparov repeated Fischer's variation from 15...bxc3! through 'threatening 21.Nxh6 with a strong attack', and added

Huebner categorically disagrees with such an evaluation of the position after 20...cxb2. Here are the variations with a few refinements...

I won't give Huebner's variations. It's sufficient to say they show that Black had good play after 15...bxc3!, and it's curious that Fischer had nothing to say about 20...cxb2. On the other hand, can we 'disagree' with what is not said?

11 November 2008

Lesson in Chess960 Opening Patterns

My second game of chess960 was even shorter than the first (see Chess960? I'm Hooked!). From the diagrammed start position, my opponent blundered a Pawn on the 5th move and then let his clock run out.

Start Position 900

Here's the game, again courtesy of SchemingMind.com:

[Event "Chess960"]
[Site "SchemingMind.com"]
[Date "2008.09.26"]
[Round "-"]
[White "honky"]
[Black "bemweeks"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rbbkqrnn/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RBBKQRNN w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.d4 d5 2.c3 Nf6 3.f3 c5 4.Qd2 Qc6 5.Nh3 Bxh2 0-1

What did I learn from this game? That the opening patterns we learn playing traditional chess -- developing the Knights to c3/f3 (c6/f6), the choice between long diagonal or fianchetto for the Bishops, the weakness of f2/f7 -- are supplanted by other patterns in chess960. Not paying attention to these new patterns can easily result in blunders like losing a Pawn on the 5th move.

09 November 2008

Chigorin and Schiffers

Two of the most striking aspects of Chigorin's career (see Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (1850-1908)) were the relatively advanced age at which he started playing international chess, and the many matches against his compatriot Emanuel Schiffers. What place does Schiffers hold in the development of the Soviet School?

Both Chigorin and Schiffers played in the great 1895 Hastings tournament. Chigorin finished 2nd, a half point behind Pillsbury, whom he defeated in their individual game. Schiffers finished 6th in the 22 player field, behind Lasker, Tarrasch, and Steinitz, placing him in the ranks of the world's top players of the time. The tournament book provided verbal portraits of the competitors.

Tchigorin, Michael I., 44 at the time of the tournament, was born on 31 October 1850. He was educated at Gatchino, near St.Petersburg, and entered the government administration.
In his younger days chess was to him an amusement only, and it was not until he was nearly 30 years of age that we find him coming to the front, when, in 1880, he beat Schiffers his teacher, who was then the acknowledged champion of Russia, as also others of Russian chess fame. He founded the St.Petersburg Chess Club, and has worthily shone as its president.
His style of play is quite of 'the old school', brilliantly attacking and ever towards the King, perhaps best described by the simple word beautiful. He is probably the greatest master of the King's side attack and rarely plays dull games. His chief energy is thrown into the middle game rather than the opening, which he sometimes conducts with too much indifference. His analytical ability is of the very highest order, and blindfold play does not come amiss.
In difficult positions Tchigorin gets very excited, and at times seems quite fierce, sitting at the board with his black hair brushedback, splendid bright eyes, and flushed face looking as if he could see right through the table. When calm, however, he is decidedly handsome, and calculated to beget confidence.
We have spelt this expert's name as he spells it himself when using English characters.

The sketch goes on to mention his chief successes: 1881 Berlin, 1883 London, 1889 New York, 1895 Hastings, plus the drawn matches with Gunsberg (1890) and Tarrasch (1893). The judgement of his play belonging to 'the old school' is at odds with his standing as forerunner of the Soviet School.

Schiffers, Emanuel G.A., 45 at the time of the tournament, was born of German parents on 4 May 1850, at St.Petersburg, where he was educated, attending there the Classical Gymnasium till 1867, and, continuing his studies in the Physical and Mathematical faculty till 1871, became [a] private tutor. In appearance he is rather formidable, tall and somewhat massive framed, with a fine crop of curly iron-grey hair surmounting a massive well-set head, an intelligent but kindly countenance, and a general appearance of stability and robust manhood. And with all this he is in manner both gentle and refined, with plenty of true wit.
Chess seems to have been taken up at about fifteen, and at twenty he played with decided success against Tschournoff and others, whilst about 1875 he made good practice with Winawer. He came to know Tchigorin in 1873 and used to play him at the odds of a Knight, but two years later the latter attained first-class strength, and in 1880 he beat Schiffers, depriving him of his proud position as the leading player of Russia, though he may justly still claim the second place.
He has won matches against Tchigorin, Mitropolsky, Wainstein, Jankowitsch, Chardin, and Alapin, two against each of the last three. Since 1880 however he has lost two or three matches against Tchigorin, but has otherwise held his own against all comers and has won many prizes in handicaps.

For sketches on all 22 competitors in the event, plus photos from the book, see Hastings 1895 - The Contestants at blog.chess.com. In the pre-inflation era of ratings, Elo assigned Chigorin a peak five year rating of 2600, while pegging Schiffers at 2490. By comparison, Elo assigned 2725 to Capablanca and 2690 to Alekhine. I'll look at more material about Schiffers in my next article in this series.

08 November 2008

Howard's Chess Survey Results

I've already seen this in a number of places (e.g. Results 1 - 10 of about 17 for "Players learned the moves at a median age"), but it deserves maximum exposure. Howard made waves back in 2005 with another study announcing Men better at chess:

The battle of the sexes has spilled over into chess. In a novel approach to testing gender differences in achievement, an Australian researcher has compared the past three decades of male and female international chess results to see if gender differences have diminished with changes in society. But the results of the study, by Dr Robert Howard from the University of New South Wales, may ruffle some female feathers. Despite changes in what society expects of women, access to opportunities to succeed intellectually, and other factors, women don't do as well in chess as men.

When I first saw the announcement for the latest study, I wondered if it would be used to pursue the conclusions of the previous study. It appears my concerns were groundless.


Subject: Chess survey results
Date: Thursday, November 6, 2008, 6:58 AM
From: Robert Howard

Dear Chessplayer,

Thank you for your participation in my FIDE study. A summary of the preliminary results is below and a link to a detailed report on the study is given further down.

Robert Howard


Thanks to everyone who took part in this survey. Here are the preliminary results. The sample consist of 581 players to date, with five grandmasters, 25 international masters, 67 FIDE masters, two woman's grandmasters, two woman's international masters, and two woman's FIDE masters. The results are only preliminary, however.

Some highlights:

Players learned the moves at a median age of eight years old (masters about two years younger). The median age of starting serious play and taking part in the first rated tournament is 14, 12 for masters. Most players have had coaching. Players average around five or six hours of chess study a week, but the range is huge (0 to 60 hours). Number of hours of study of chess material is a factor in expertise level but only a relatively minor one.

Most players firmly believe in natural talent for chess and most believe that top ten players have some special traits, that few really can reach that level. However, many believe that a lot of study and practice can take a player a long way. Some believe that almost everyone can get to FIDE master with enough practice and study.

Views on what natural talent for chess consists of vary, but some common ideas are good spatial ability, high IQ, good memory, creativity, high motivation, a strong will to win, control over emotions, and psychological hardiness.

Eventual grandmasters take a median 390 FIDE-rated games from rating list entry to gain the title. Most players do not play anywhere near enough rated games in their careers to have a realistic chance of becoming a grandmaster. About two thirds of those who do play over 900 games actually succeed in becoming a grandmaster. However, those who play over 740 games without becoming a grandmaster on average seem to strike an impassable barrier at around 2400 level.

Analysis of rating data of players who played over 900 FIDE-rated games show that eventual top ten players indeed are identifiable from list entry. They get on the rating list much younger on average, get the grandmaster title much younger and much faster, and rise in the ratings much faster than other grandmasters.

Most believe that playing rated games and studying are equally important in developing skill.

The full article is below.


07 November 2008

'It looks like the chess Knight!'

come il cavallo degli scacchi! © Flickr user ecatoncheires under Creative Commons.

'This photo is for sure a genuine Ace of Spades ♠.' For more, see items matching chess in the Ace of Spades ♠ pool, although 'looks like the chess Knight' is missing from the search results.

06 November 2008

Meet Alessia

Born 2 November 2008

Call me 'Papi'! Is she a future Belgian Women's Champion?

04 November 2008

Chess960 Game Explorer

This weekend I received a private message on SchemingMind.com from member heuschrecke. He mentioned having written a short essay for ICCF Amici about playing chess960 via correspondence server. Although I couldn't find a copy of the article online, he was kind enough to forward it via email. The gist of it is that

Decades of intense and thourough analysis, and millions of games were needed to develop current opening theory in standard chess. Imagine then, how long it would take to develop opening theory in the other 959 different chess960 positions?

The article goes on to mention a resource on Scheming Mind called the Game Explorer, which features a section on chess960 openings. The purpose of the resource is to address the task of developing opening theory in the 'other 959 different chess960 positions'. It shows moves that have been tried on Scheming Mind, but the annotations covering the first 100 start positions are only available to full members of the service.

For more about Scheming Mind and the ICCF, see Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess), on the ICCF Forum.

03 November 2008

02 November 2008

Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (1850-1908)

Chigorin's record of principal tournaments and matches, extracted from the Oxford Companion to Chess (p.77):-

1878 Match vs. Schiffers (+7-3=0)
1878 Match vs. Schiffers (+6-7=1)
1879 Match vs. Schiffers (+7-4=2)
1880 Match vs. Schiffers (+7-1=3)
1880 Match vs. Alapin (+7-3=0)
1881 Berlin, 3rd-4th w/ Winawer after Blackburne & Zukertort
1883 London, 4th after Zukertort, Steinitz, & Blackburne
1886-7 Telegraph match St.Petersburg - London (+2-0=0)
1889 WCC match vs. Steinitz (+6-10=1)
1889 New York, 1st-2nd w/ Weiss
1890 Match vs. Gunsberg (+9-9=5)
1890-1 Telegraph match vs. Steinitz (+2-0=0)
1892 WCC match vs. Steinitz (+8-10=5)
1893 Match vs. Tarrasch (+9-9=4)
1895 Match vs. Schiffers (+7-3=3)
1895 Hastings, 2nd after Pillsbury (+14-3=4)
1896 Budapest, 1st-2nd w/ Charousek (+7-2=3; playoff +3-1=0)
1897 Match vs. Schiffers (+7-1=6)
1898 Cologne, 2nd-4th w/ Charousek & Cohn after Burn
1901 Monte Carlo, 3rd-4th w/ Scheve after Janowski & Schlechter
1906 Lodz (4 players), 2nd after Rubinstein (+5-3=1)
1907 Carlsbad, 'failed badly'

1899 1st All-Russia tnmt, 1st
1900-1 2nd All-Russia tnmt, 1st
1903 3rd All-Russia tnmt, 1st
1906 Match vs. Salwe (winner of 4th All-Russia tnmt; +7-5=3)

In Predecessors IV, Kasparov used the term 'candidate' loosely when referring to two of Chigorin's non-title matches. He called the 1890 Match vs. Gunsberg a 'final candidates match' (p.75), and of the 1893 Match vs. Tarrasch wrote, '[Tarrasch] challenged the recent 'number one' candidate Chigorin to a match' (p.88). While I'm on the subject of candidate events, chess historian Jan van Reek writes,

[1889 New York, the 6th American Chess Congress] can be regarded as the first candidates' tournament. The winner had the obligation to start a match against Steinitz within a month. "Both masters [Chigorin & Weiss] expressed the desire not to be compelled to play a championship match". The Committee decided to cancel the event. [...] The third prize winner Gunsberg was interested in a match against Steinitz in New York. First Gunsberg drew a match against Chigorin in Havana at the beginning of 1890 (11½-11½). Then his challenge was accepted by Steinitz. (see New York 1889 and 1924)

During the early years of the World Championship, there were so many unofficial candidate events that it would be worth documenting them on my page World Chess Championship : Pre-FIDE Events. Watch that space...

01 November 2008

Admin Updates

For the record, I made a few administrative updates. These are mostly of interest to me, but someone else might find something useful.

The collection of gaffes might be of general interest.