31 March 2009

Introduction to Chess960 Geometry

One of the curiosities of chess960, at least in comparing it to traditional chess (SP518), is that there are many positions where the players can castle on the first move. One such position is shown in the following diagram.


Start Position 119

Wondering how many similar chess960 positions exist, I queried my
Database of Chess960 Start Positions and discovered that there are 90 start positions where the players can castle O-O on the first move. A similar query on O-O-O determined that there are 72 positions where the players can castle O-O-O on the first move, i.e. the Rook and King start the game on the c- and d-files.

I'm the type of person who likes to know where numbers come from, and I started to wonder if the numbers 90 and 72 can be derived by logic. It turns out they can and the reasoning is not too difficult.

The first step is to notice that for any given start position of the King and two Rooks, there are five empty squares. The other pieces can only be distributed in a fixed number of ways on those five squares: one Bishop must be on a light colored square, one Bishop must be on a dark square, and the Queen and two Knights are on the other three squares. Of the five empty squares there are three squares of one color and two squares of the other, so the Bishops can be placed six different ways (3 x 2) on the five squares. After the Bishops are placed, the Queen can be placed on any one of the three remaining squares, and since it doesn't matter which of the Knights takes the last two squares, there are 18 different ways (3 x 2 x 3) to place two Bishops, one Queen, and two Knights on five empty squares.

The second step is to notice that when the King and Rook start in a position to castle O-O on the first move (King on f-file, Rook on g-file), the other Rook has five possible squares on which it can start (a-, b-, c-, d-, and e-files). When the King and Rook start in a position to castle O-O-O on the first move (Rook on c-file, King on d-file), the other Rook has four possible squares on which it can start (e-, f-, g-, and h-files).

The third step is to combine the results of the first two steps. When castling O-O on the first move, there are five ways to place the free Rook and 18 ways to place the other pieces, so there are a total of 90 possible setups (5 x 18). Similarly, when castling O-O-O on the first move, there are 72 possible setups (4 x 18). The numbers 90 and 72 match the number of positions calculated from the database.

***

After I worked out the preceding, I started to wonder how many different castling positions, i.e. unique initial positions of the King and Rooks, there are across the 960 start positions. To start thinking about this, I first worked out the following table with the help of my database. For each of the five pieces, it shows the number of positions where a particular piece starts the game on a particular file.

Table 1: Chess960 Start Positions per Piece per File

 ABCDEFGHTot
Q120120120120120120120120960
B2402402402402402402402401920
N2402402402402402402402401920
K 108168204204168108 960
R3602521921561561922523601920

For example, since the Queen can start a game with equal probability on any one of the eight files, it stands to reason that there are 120 positions (1/8 x 960) where Her Majesty starts on the a-file, on the b-file, or on any one of the other six files. Similarly, since there are two each of the Bishops and Knights, there are 240 positions where one of the Bishops (or one of the Knights) starts on the a-file, on the b-file, on the c-file, etc.

The counts are more interesting for the King and Rooks. Since the King can't start in a corner square, you might suppose that it has an equal chance of starting on the other six files (b-file, c-file, etc.). The table, however, shows otherwise. The King has the highest probability of starting the game on a center file (d- & e-files), and the least probability of starting on the b- & g-files.

The Rooks' probabilities complement the King's. The Rooks have the highest probabilty of starting on a corner square and the least probability of starting on a center file. Note that the sum of the number of start positions having a King or a Rook on a particular file is 360 for each square.

The probabilities of King and Rook starting on a particular square have some impact on chess960 opening theory. Since positions with a King starting in the center are more likely, they will arise more frequently in practical play, making them more attractive for preparatory study..

***

Getting back to my obsession with the origin of numbers, I wondered how the King and Rook probabilities might be derived. It can be no accident that there are exactly 108 positions where the King starts on the b-file.

I started by counting the number of unique King and Rook setups. My first step was to consider only the positions where the King starts on the 'Kingside' (as it's called in traditional chess), the right side of the board from White's point of view (called the 'h-side' in chess960). With the White King on e1, there are four different squares where a Rook can be placed to its left, and three different squares for a Rook to its right. This means that there are 12 different start positions (4 x 3) for a King and two Rooks when the King starts on the e-file.

The corresponding numbers for the three Kingside start squares are shown in the following table.

  • Ke1 : 4 x 3 = 12
  • Kf1 : 5 x 2 = 10
  • Kg1 : 6 x 1 = 6

This means that there are 28 (12 + 10 + 6) different placements for a King and two Rooks when the King starts on the Kingside. Since the Queenside (aka 'left side' or 'a-side') is a mirror image of the Kingside, there are 56 unique start positions (28 x 2) for the King and its castling partners.

As I already calculated that there are 18 different ways to place the other five pieces (Q/Bs/Ns), there must be 56 times 18 different start positions. Unfortunately, 56 x 18 = 1008, not 960, which is the well-known, exact number of chess960 start positions. There must be an error in the calculations.

Indeed there is an error, and it arises when the King and Rooks all start on the same color. In my earlier example, using positions where castling could happen on the first move, the King and Rook were always on adjacent squares, meaning always on different colors. In other start positions, that assumption is not necessarily true. When, for example, one Rook starts on the b-file, the King starts on the d-file, and the other Rook starts on the f-file (or h-file), the five empty squares have one square of the same color as the King/Rooks and four of the opposite color. This has an impact on how the Bishops can be placed.

One Bishop must be placed on the last square corresponding to the color of the King/Rooks, while the other Bishop has a choice of four squares. After placing the Bishops, the Queen still has a choice of three squares. This gives 12 different ways (4 x 3) to place two Bishops, one Queen, and two Knights on the five empty squares.

Of the 56 unique start positions for the King and Rooks, it's easy to determine that eight positions have those pieces 'all on the same color'. Now we have (48 x 18) + (8 x 12) ways to place the pieces, which reduces to (864 + 96) ways, which in turn reduces to 960.

***

That last quirk also explains the distribution of the Kings and Rooks in Table 1. If the King starts on the g-file, a Rook must be on the h-file. This means that the other Rook has six possible start files. Since the g-file King and h-file Rook are necessarily on different colors, there are 18 different Q/B/N setups per position of the other Rook. It follows that there are 6 x 18 = 108 different positions with King on the g-file.

Similar logic holds if the King starts on the f-file. One Rook must be on the g- or h-file, meaning the other Rook has five possible start squares. If the Rook is on the g-file, it is on a square of opposite color to the King, and we have 5 x 18 (=90) possible start positions. If the Rook is on the h-file, a square of the same color as the King, then we have 3 x 18 (=54) plus 2 x 12 (=24) possible start positions. The sum of 90 + 54 + 24 is 168, the number shown in Table 1. Ditto for the King starting on the e-file, where one Rook is on the f-, g-, or h-file, and in each case the other Rook has four possible squares.

I'm always happy when the math works!

29 March 2009

Moscow 1936


Chess Review, July 1936 (p.158)

28 March 2009

A Well Travelled Path

Continuing with Fischer - Euwe, OL 1960, where Euwe lost on the Black side of a Panov-Botvinnik Attack in the Caro-Kann, my first question was to ask what variations are most popular today among the world's top players against the Caro-Kann. (1.e4 c6) Chesslab.com returned 187 Caro-Kanns played since 2006 where at least one player, not necessarily White, was rated over 2700. These were distributed by year as follows:-

13 - 2009
95 - 2008
45 - 2007
34 - 2006

Since the 13 games in 2009 were played through the beginning of March, it appears that either interest in the Caro-Kann is increasing or the number of 2700+ players is increasing even faster. Of the 187 games, 170 continued 2.d4 d5, when White played as follows:-

77 - 3.e5
50 - 3.Nc3
30 - 3.exd5
15 - 3.Nd2

Every one of the 3.Nd2 games transposed back to the 3.Nc3 line after 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4. The Panov-Botvinnik Attack is currently running third in popularity, which is what I expected to see.

Here I did another search on Chesslab to find 3.exd5 games where where at least one of the players was rated over 2600. Here I found 148 games played since the beginning of 2006, all of which continued 3...cxd5. Of those, about 80% continued 4.c4 (the alternatives were 4.Bd3 and 4.Nf3) 4...Nf6 5.Nc3, as in Fischer - Euwe. Here, however, around 70% of the players chose 5...e6, 25% chose Euwe's 5...Nc6, and the rest played 5...g6.

Of the games with Euwe's 5...Nc6, 67% continued 6.Bg5, while the rest chose Fischer's 6.Nf3. Of the 6.Nf3 games, eight in total, all continued as in Euwe - Fischer with 6...Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 (two games varied with 9...Nb6) 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5. Now Euwe went wrong with 13...Nxc3, but the modern masters all played 13...Qd7 14.Nxd5+ Qxd5 15.Qxd5 (one game continued 15.Bg5+) 15...exd5. The position after 15...exd5 is shown in the following diagram.

(An improvement on...)
1960 Olympiad
Euwe, Max

Fischer, Robert
(After 15...e6-d5(xQ)
[FEN "r4b1r/p3kppp/8/3p4/8/5P2/PP3P1P/R1B1K2R w KQ - 0 16"]

Now I thought that seemed rather unusual -- six games in the last three years all jumped into an early endgame position which the players had undoubtedly prepared beforehand -- and I wondered how many games total have reached the diagrammed position. Going back to Chesslab, I searched again and was amazed to find that more than 200 games had reached the same position.

The next step would have been to determine where theory ended in this line and what the last novelty had been, but, speaking frankly, who cares? Is this how modern GMs spend their time, searching for improvements in opening variations that have already reached the endgame? If so, what happened to the creative side of chess? I'm glad that as a youth I was never interested enough in chess (or talented enough) to pursue it professionally. Ugh!

27 March 2009

When Chess Pieces Walked Tall


Giant Chess © Flickr user parodyerror under Creative Commons.

'Taken in Town Oaks, Thousand Oaks' : Places / United States / California / Thousand Oaks.

26 March 2009

Chess in Africa - CACDEC in 2008

In Chess in Africa - What Is CACDEC?, I gave an introduction to CACDEC, FIDE's Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries. In this post, I'll give excerpts from the CACDEC minutes of the most recent FIDE Congress. See 79th FIDE General Assembly Minutes and Annexes [Annex 58] for the full report.

79th FIDE Congress, 17-25 November, Congress Centre, Dresden, Germany
CACDEC MINUTES, 18 November 2008
Chairman: A. Herbert (BAR)

[...]

3. Continental President for Africa Report

FIDE Vice-President, Mr Lewis Ncube, delivered the report on behalf of Continental President Mr Buthali who was arriving after the day after the meeting.

The 2007 African Junior was successfully staged by the Malawi Association and was held at the Kamazu Academy. Mr Ncube indicated that for a recent member of FIDE Malawi had done an excellent job. The event was won by a 15 year old Egyptian with South Africa 2nd & 3rd. The Girls event saw South Africa take 1st & 2nd. Unfortunately the FIDE Arbiters Seminar that was to be run alongside the main event did not happen.

August saw the CACDEC Trainer’s Seminars take place in Gaborone, Botswana. It was led by Malaysia’s Peter Long.

Botswana expressed disappointment that the neighbours did not send participants as only 9 participants from Botswana and 1 person from Somalia attended. South Africa and Zambia cited the cost of the seminar for participants as a reason for not attending. South Africa indicated that they intended to have their own Seminar so instead of training one person they could train maybe 20.

Angola commented that they have language difficulties and would prefer a Portuguese speaking seminar.

Seychelles said it is cheaper to fly to Europe than to many parts of Africa and recommended that in the future it maybe be better to host such seminars centrally at a venue like Johannesburg.

Mozambique staged the Zone 4.3 Zonal in Maputo in July. Five 5 countries Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Mozambique & South Africa participated with SA taking 1st place.

Mr. Ncube also reported that he had made a number of successful trips which resulted in Cameroon, DR Congo, Gabon, Ghana and Sao Tome joining FIDE with Gabon and Ghana already participating in the Dresden Olympiad.

The representative from Ethiopia said that visas for African countries continue to be difficult. Also that the costs such as FIDE dues was crippling.

Mr Campomanes told the audience that we all started with nothing and that hard work is what is needed for a Federation to succeed. Mr Freeman reiterated this.

[...]

5. CACDEC Development Goals

A document was out-lining the CACDEC Development Goals for 2006-2010 was circulated.

The Chairman identified the need to update the list of CACDEC Members as there are a number of Federations who are currently not on the list that should be there as well as some who can be graduated.

This subject however is very sensitive as there can be significant financial benefits derived from being a CACDEC Federation like the 50% allocation of entry fees when staging FIDE events as opposed to 20% for Non-CACDEC Federations.

The main challenge to updating the list is the lack of a definition in the CACDEC Statues as to what qualifies a Federation for CACDEC.

This has led to arguments where countries like Bermuda and the US Virgin Islands where deemed unworthy of being CACDEC because they were viewed as wealthy when in fact their Chess was very undeveloped.

The Chairman indicated that he would prefer to see the focus on development regardless of the economic standing of the country. CACDEC was not the FIDE Financial Assistance Commission.

The other challenge is the continuing belief that the investments in CACDEC have not had any returns and it is for this reason that the CACDEC Development Goals 2006-2010 were developed.

The Chairman called on Federations to look at the CACDEC goals and work towards achieving them.

It was disappointing that there were still some CACDEC Federations with no FIDE rated players and with the rating floor was dropping to 1200 there is really no reason why all Federations should not be able to build a pool of rated players.

Of the FIDE members in America Belize was the only one that did not have rated players. However in Africa there were quite a number. The Chairman also expressed concern that many CACDEC Federations did not rate their national championships.

Africa should as a priority look at a having a Continental Youth Festival as there were the only Continent without one.

With respect to the goal that all CACDEC Federations aim to participate in the 2008 and 2010 Chess Olympiad, excellent progress has been made. For CACDEC Level 1 Federations 31 out of 36 are participating in Dresden while all 12 Federations in Level 2 were participating and 17 out of the 20 in level 3. This is a big achievement when the costs of bringing a team to the Olympiad must represent a huge percentage of a CACDEC Federation’s budget.

In concluding Mr Herbert said that the statistics for every CACDEC Federation indicating their progress with each of the goals will be compiled in January and circulated.

[...]

CACDEC DEVELOPMENTAL GOALS 2006-2010

When we say that the objective of CACDEC is to ensure that one day we have no member Federations in CACDEC, how do we define the finish line, that point at which one is no longer qualified for CACDEC?

To answer this we must consider how such Federations will look in the future compared to their reality today.

Our challenge therefore is to agree on common objective measures which clearly distinguish CACDEC from non-CACDEC, what this paper will term as developmental goals.

It is hard to believe that anyone will disagree that a Federation which has no FIDE rated or Titled players, no FIDE certified Arbiters, has never had any of its National Championships FIDE rated, no indigenous certified FIDE Instructors or Trainers, no Chess-in-Schools programme, no developmental programme for its best juniors, has never participated in an Olympiad or its Continental events in the last 10 years, that such a Federation is the extreme example of a CACDEC Federation.

Similarly, we would all agree that if in 10 years none of the above was true for the same Federation, that that Federation would have graduated form CACDEC.

By describing what a non-CACDEC Federation should be, we have in fact established objective developmental goals by which we can measure the effectiveness of our work.

And let us not lose sight of the true benefit to the chess community of such a Federation.

While the FIDE Treasurer will welcome this as one less Federation to pour CACDEC funds into, the real value is a functioning Federation which rather than being a drain on FIDE is a contributor to FIDE and its Continents. And this, through FIDE’s Accounts, can be measured as objectively as we currently measure our players each day with our ratings system.

So CACDEC must be seen as an investment in FIDE’s future to grow the market for Chess organizers, trainers and equipment producers and ultimately FIDE. An like any investment we must have an expectation on the return of that investment.

In my term as CACDEC Chairman for 2006-2010, I see development in a different light, one that has specific business goals that lead to a wider market for the sport and FIDE.

I therefore propose that the following become the CACDEC Developmental Goals 2006-2010 and that each CACDEC initiative, whether initiated at the Continental level or FIDE, be directly tied to one of them.

Failure to demonstrate how a particular project fulfils one of these goals in my opinion disqualifies it for consideration. This may put an end to some of the activities we have held dear in the past but is necessary if our efforts are not be an exercise in futility.

CACDEC DEVELOPMENTAL GOALS 2006-2010

1. All CACDEC Federations have at least 5 FIDE Rated Players by 2007 and newly affiliated Federations within two years of achieving FIDE Membership.

2. The National Championships of each CACDEC Federation is registered and FIDE Rated by the end of 2008 and each year there after.

3. All CACDEC Federations have at least one (1) active FIDE Arbiter or International Arbiter by the end of 2009.

4. All CACDEC Federations have at least one (1) indigenous FIDE certified Trainer by the end of 2010.

5. All CACDEC Federations have a chess-in-schools programme by the end of 2009.

6. All CACDEC Federations have a Junior Squad Development Programme to accelerate the development of its best juniors by the end of 2007.

7. All CACDEC Federations participate in their Continental Youth Championships for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

8. All CACDEC Federations participate in the 2008 and 2010 World Chess Olympiad.

9. Those CACDEC Federations with more than 10 active rated players and no FIDE Titled players as at July 1, 2006, produce at least 1 FIDE Titled player by 2010.

It is recognized that on the surface these goals may seem ambitious, but remember the goals are not an end in themselves, it is the process of trying to achieve them that is ultimately more valuable.

Each is measurable with a definite time frame and today, through our ratings and titles systems, we have the tools to measure them.

Allan Herbert
Chairman, CACDEC

Of particular interest are the nine development goals at the end of the report. How well are the African federations progressing to meet these goals?

24 March 2009

Comments on Chess960 Opening Theory

Since the only difference between chess960 and traditional chess is the starting position of the pieces, it's natural that discussions on chess960 tend to focus on the opening phase of the game. Here are a few recent remarks.

In Chess960 Opening Theory, Tom Chivers commented,

Of course you're right, that comparing all 960 positions to each other makes most sense. I still think that in deciding which are fair (or fair enough) for human play, then chess circa Greco might be a fair enough benchmark, but I suppose this really is a minor side issue.

The question of theory is interesting. I think 959 meaningful new theories is unlikely and indeed rather takes the point of the game away. However, I'm not unconvinced new opening principles might not be plausible. For instance: in positions where the queen starts in the corner, is it usually best to develop her via a fianchetto, by moving the a or h pawn, early or late, via the back rank, etc? Ie, do the new features of the 959 start positions also lead to new opening principles? Who knows!

The approach to chess960 opening theory using the 'Queen starts in the corner' concept seems promising and I'll cover that in a future post.

***

In Chess960 World Championships, reading_is_dangerous wrote,

Hi! I'm new to chess960, having always resisted his apparent strangeness, until I played my first move in a game I created myself on Facebook after winning another game of classical chess. I thought, "This is getting boring, choosing a certain line, playing it while hoping to stay with the book, sometimes actually checking the book..." Etc. Then I saw the option "Chess960" and I decided to give it a try at last.

The fun began right away. "Look at this position! You can do this, you could do that..." Etc. Nothing to do with any book. My mind was free to play again. Ah! The pleasure of nameless opening moves!

This is how I came to your page. I like what you do. The questions, the analysis, that's all very interesting! But don't take it too far. We (!) don't want 959 new opening books!

There's little to fear here. No one is suggesting that 959 new opening books is feasible. The math doesn't support it:

   960 opening positions
x Two sides to consider
x Several possible moves per start position
   ---
= Too much to prepare

***

A comment by Mark Crowther on opening theory in traditional chess caught my attention. The context was his wrapup report on Linares 2009.

With a few scares along the way and the advantage of a favourable tie-break Alexander Grischuk took first place from Vassily Ivanchuk by virtue of winning more games than the Ukrainian (their head to head results were two draws). In an interesting comment to Jesus Boyero in Marca he said: "The truth is that a few years ago I came to hate chess, I spent months studying the Petroff Defence and couldn't find a refutation." He seems to have recovered his enthusiasm since.

I, in fact, more or less shared the same view, there was a period where elite chess was incredibly depressing to watch. The Petroff is a terrible blow for anyone who plays 1.e4 with the idea of winning and it is lousy chess to watch. At the moment all main lines lead to well known drawish positions and black is further rewarded in that white now generally play inferior variations in order to keep some pieces on and some interest in the game.

This problem hasn't gone away, it's just fortunate that many of the leading players simply became bored of getting half points this way. The kind of chess you play when you use the Petroff as black is presumably not the reason why you came to love the game and get good enough to turn professional in the first place. These things go in cycles and just as this opening is not as prevailant anymore it is also possible that white will find a way to get more promising positions eventually. It is interesting that Viswanathan Anand didn't even bother trying to find an answer to Kramnik's Petroff and Ruy Lopez and simply changed to 1.d4. • Introduction to The Week in Chess, 9 March 2009 (TWIC 748)

***

Not everyone is convinced that chess has a problem with opening theory. Here's how one correspondent expressed it in a private email to me: AL wrote,

I interact with many club and tournament players and I have yet to hear anyone express a preference, or even an appreciation of, chess960. In my entire life I have only seen one live game where players try to play chess960. It appears to have been only noticed by postal players who fear 25 moves of book. There may be a chance of chess960 in postal play, but in over the board play, there is still no need of it. It's a laughable idea to anyone other than a few grandmasters with awesome memories. In the future, when less people will put the time in to even try to memorize 25 moves, there will be no need of it.

If chess960 ever becomes a popular recreational past time I will be shocked indeed. I bet you couldn't find 100 Americans now who have ever played the game. It is only of interest to the highest rated players, who would probably be just as well served challenging each other to blindfold chess.

No one is suggesting that anyone should abandon chess, so there is no argument here. Even as chess960 gains in popularity, traditional chess will always have plenty of fans. After all, contract bridge has been popular since the first half of the 20th century, but whist still has its adherents.

23 March 2009

Tutorials - It Takes Two

After a few months reflection, I decided I wasn't happy with my first two tutorials : A Chess Tutorial and A Chess Opening Tutorial. The worst of the problems was not being able to print the portion that was displayed up front.


I reworked both using standard HTML techniques...

...and the result is much better. It should also be much faster to publish the 30 or so tutorials that remain to be retrieved from archive. Sometimes simple is best.

22 March 2009

Moscow 1936 Tournament Book

In Two More Votes for Ilyin-Zhenevsky I transcribed from a page scan on Labatechess.com the biographical introduction to 'Notes of a Soviet Master' by Ilyin-Zhenevsky. By coincidence, this week I noticed another relevant page scan from Labatechess.com, this time for a book on Moscow 1936 : International Chess Tournament; 'Notes by the tournament competitors, edited by G.Levenfish; Translated from the original 1937 edition and edited by Jimmy Adams; Volume 2 in the Caissa Editions series on the world's greatest chess tournaments'.

Translator's Preface: The present volume is a translation of "Tretii Mezhdunarodnyi Shakhmatnyi Turnir Moskva 1936", published by the State Department of Physiculture and Tourism, Moscow-Leningrad 1937.

The Moscow 1936 tournament, like its predecessors of 1925 and 1935, was held, under government sponsorship, to test the strength of leading Soviet players against top-class foreign grandmasters.

It was the highly influential Chairman of the Chess section of the All-Union Council for Physical Culture, Nikolai Krylenko (1885-1938), who was the driving force behind the organization of these tournaments. Krylenko, a keen chess player and editor of the Soviet chess magazine "64", had been a Commissar for War in the first Bolshevik government, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces after the October Revolution, a public prosecutor for the revolutionary tribunals, and, by 1936, Commissar of Justice for the USSR. In 1938, he was himself arrested and executed during Stalin's purges, but his reputation was later rehabilitated and due recognition given to the great importance of his work for Soviet chess.

For many years the Soviet chess movement had been developing in virtual isolation from the rest of the chess world, and it was not until the Moscow tournaments of the '30s that the West became fully aware of the true extent of the progress of Soviet chess power.

In the 1935 Moscow tournament, which contained former world champions Lasker and Capablanca, six other foreigners and twelve Soviet players, Botvinnik's joint victory with Flohr had immediately placed him amongst the leading contenders for the world championship. Moreover, a whole new generation of young Soviets, including such names as Kan, Ragozin, Ryumin, Chekhover, Alatortsev, etc., had here produced a high quality of chess and held its own against the best.

The 1936 Moscow tournament was intended to be an even greater test for the Soviet players - a double round event with five of the leading Soviet representatives due to play against five Western grandmasters. In fact only four Western grandmasters accepted invitations: Lasker, Capablanca, Flohr, and Lilienthal. It had been hoped that the fifth would be an American (Reshevsky, Fine, or Kashdan), but, as the event clashed with the U.S.A. championship, this proved impossible and the place was filled by the Austrian champion, Eliskases.

The page that caught my attention was the book's foreward by Nikolai Krylenko.

Foreward: The collection of games of the third Moscow international tournament, offered to the reader, represents a documentary contribution to the history of the chess movement in the USSR.

The introductory article describes the course of the tournament, the shortcomings and qualities of the play of the Soviet players, and it is not necessary for us to once again dwell upon this side... In any case, one thing is clear. Soviet masters need to learn and learn. Nottingham showed the strength of Botvinnik, but grandmaster Fine's encounters, following Nottingham, with other Soviet masters in Moscow and Leningrad, despite individual reverses of Fine, for example in the game against Yudovich, showed that this professional chess player is stronger than the Soviet masters.

The recently concluded championship of Tbilisi, bringing the title of USSR champion to Levenfish, likewise was characterized, on the one hand, by a number of important achievements, particularly on the side of youth [Makogonov and others], on the other, by a number of shortcomings and failures in the play of Soviet masters.

The inference is one and the same: not to give oneself airs, but to learn. Precisely under this slogan ought to be studied the games of the third international tournament, by everyone seriously interested in the chess art of the USSR.

N.Krylenko, Moscow 1937

Besides the seller Labatechess.com, the previous Ilyin-Zhenevsky post is connected to this Krylenko post by the publisher Caissa Editions.

21 March 2009

Fischer and Euwe at the Olympiads

Continuing with Fischer - Euwe, OL 1960, I had planned to do a summary of the players' records at the different Olympiads in which they participated. It turns out it's already been done...

Fischer, Robert James
http://www.olimpbase.org/players/q8aycaol.html

Euwe, Machgielis
http://www.olimpbase.org/players/kq0ciyag.htm

...The results have everything you could ask for: individual scores, team scores, career scores, medals. The only thing I didn't see was an easy way to find other players, so I concocted a Google search...

Results 1 - 10 of about 7,060 from olimpbase.org for inurl:players.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=site%3Aolimpbase.org+inurl%3Aplayers

...Add a player's name to the search string, e.g. 'Hook', and away you go. Fantastic! Thanks, Olimpbase!

20 March 2009

Chess on an IBM 704 (1958)


Thinking Machines (4:22) • 'IBM programmer and chess player, Alex Bernstein, plays one of the first full computer chess game on the IBM 704.'

'The IBM 704, a digital computer that has performed one billion calculations in a single day. The chess playing program is given to the 704 on a reel of magnetic tape. It examines 2800 positions in eight minutes.'

19 March 2009

Chess in Africa - What Is CACDEC?

In Chess in Africa - Today's Concerns, I mentioned CACDEC, an acronym for Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries. The FIDE Handbook has a section B04: CACDEC Statutes which explains, 'The aim of the Committee shall be to promote chess in the chess developing countries.' The statutes also lists 68 CACDEC federations by level:-

  • Level 1: Federations with technical and financial needs;
  • Level 2: Federations with some technical level but with financial needs; and
  • Level 3: Federations with technical needs.

Certain advantages of CACDEC membership are mentioned in FIDE Handbook section A03: Financial Regulations.

7. Entry Fees for Participation: [in the World Team Championship, Olympiad, etc...] 7.3 The entry fees must be paid to FIDE at the time the participant (participating team) is entered for the competition. Twenty per cent (20%) of the entry fees for FIDE events (except World Individual Championship, World Cup and Olympiad) will go to the credit of the organizing federation (50% in case of CACDEC federations).

10. Invoices to Federations: [...] 10.2 CACDEC countries in level 1 and 2 will have FIDE tournaments fees, title fees, rating fees and entry fees to World events offset up to the amount of the annual membership fee.

16. Olympiad: [...] 16.5 All federations, except CACDEC members, shall pay a minimum of USD 25 per day for each official member of the team. Criteria shall be established to decide whether additional federations can be eligible for exemption.

Curious about the FIDE budget, I assembled a page on FIDE Income, Expenses, and CACDEC Expenses for 2007. It shows total FIDE expenses of EUR 1.438.515 in 2007, with CACDEC expenses of EUR 102.792.

Shortly after the recent Presidential Board Meeting 1st Quarter 2009 'approved the new structure for FIDE Commissions and Committees the details of which will be announced on the FIDE website', FIDE confirmed in Appointment of New Commission Chairmen that CACDEC would continue as a commission.

17 March 2009

Lasker's Table of Opening Values

The table pictured below is from the summary of the chapter on openings in Dr. Emanuel Lasker's 'Manual of Chess'.


Lasker wrote,

To fix the exchange value of the Pawns and pieces and the move, in order to decide whether we may sacrifice a Pawn for so many moves gained in development and similar questions, the table will be found to be a fairly accurate guide.

These are, of course only estimates based on experience. The numbers given are only approximate. But even though the position is complicated, they can still be of service in helping to determine whether one may venture upon sacrificing a piece for two Pawns, and in elucidating similar thorny problems.

Since chess960 is only an expansion of the start position used in traditional chess, can we consider how Lasker's values -- or any other system that tries to weigh opening variations objectively -- apply to the 959 other start positions? The main factors are the value of time, the value of center vs. side Pawns, and the value of specific pieces.

Lasker's complete chapter summary and table can be found on books.google.com: Lasker's Manual of Chess By Emanuel Lasker (p.107).

16 March 2009

More Beginner's Material

Continuing with Beginner's Material, after 'How to Play' and 'Basic Concepts', my original Essentials included series on each of the three phases of the game.

These were grouped under Essentials as

I also wrote a few articles that supplemented the material above.

I'll drag all of the above out of Archive.org over the next few weeks.

15 March 2009

Two More Votes for Ilyin-Zhenevsky

In The Father of Soviet Chess?, I presented a good reason to award the 'father' title to Ilyin-Zhenevsky. It turns out I'm not alone.

Labatechess.com has several scanned pages from Notes of a Soviet Master by Ilyin-Genevsky, including the book's introduction titled 'A Short Biography of the Author'. Note the phrase (Cafferty's?) 'founding father of Soviet chess'.

Alexandr Ilyin-Genevsky (or Ilyin-Zhenevsky), patronymic Fyodorovich, is the founding father of Soviet chess. Born in 1894, died in 1941 from a Nazi bombing raid near Leningrad, he took part in the St.Petersburg on 1910 while still a schoolboy. Expelled from school in 1912 for pro-Bolshevik activity, he went abroad to Geneva to complete his education. He fought in the First World War, suffered from shell-shock, and had to learn how to play chess all over again from scratch!

In charge of various newspapers from 1917 onwards, he had the idea of bringing education and culture to the new Red Army by linking chess with with the literacy campaign. He organized the first Soviet Championship, won by Alekhine, in 1920. Continuing his editorial work, he was active in chess organization and play, and gained world fame in 1925 by beating the reigning world champion Capablanca by a counter-attack from a dubious position.

Later on he was sent abroad on diplomatic work, and as the Soviet political representative in Prague was instrumental in breaking the self-imposed boycott of Soviet chess by arranging for Flohr to come to the USSR to play Botvinnik in a match.

Ilyin-Genevsky's brother, Fyodor Fyodorovich Raskolnikov, (1892-1939), had the distinction of being referred to by Alekhine in his little booklet 'Das Schachleben in Sowjet-Russland' published by Kagan in 1921.

For many years Ilyin was editor of the chess magazine 'Shakmatny Listok' and wrote many articles on chess theory and organization. He is best known in theory for his contributions to the Ruy Lopez and the Dutch Defense.

Ilyin-Zhenevsky or Ilyin-Genevsky? Google currently gives a slight edge to 'chess Ilyin-Genevsky', with 1,690 pages over 1,310. Gaige uses 'Ilyin-Zhenevsky'; Hooper & Whyld use 'Ilyin-Genevsky'. Since I usually defer to Gaige on spelling, I'll go with 'Ilyin-Zhenevsky'.

14 March 2009

Forthcoming FIDE History?

At the risk of losing many of the millions upon millions of people who follow this blog, I'll add one more post to the mini-series I started with FIDE: 'Many Discussions on the Way Forward' and Chess in Africa - Today's Concerns, based on excerpts from the 79th FIDE General Assembly Minutes and Annexes. This last post on the 79th General Assembly is an excerpt from 'Annex 40: Report of the PR and Marketing Director'. For various reasons that I won't go into here, the entire document is worth reading for anyone interested in chess promotion, but the last section is particularly interesting to amateur chess historians like me.

3. FIDE History: In 2009, FIDE will have the 95th [should be 85th] anniversary of its establishment and in 2010, we will have new elections in the Congress. These are good opportunities to come forward with a book of FIDE History written and edited by the PR Director and published by one of the leading publishing houses in the world.

FIDE is probably the only international sport association that does not have a book of its history. However, it can be very important for contributing to the reputation of the organization, to increase its pride in the eyes of the audience and the chess players, etc. It is not an easy task to write FIDE history. Even those who had been involved in doing a part of FIDE history like e.g. Hon. President Florencio Campomanes, have been struggling with the task for years.

One of the problems is that the historic documentation is incomplete and spread in different places (the Hague, Elista, Moscow, some national federations, Athens, etc.), have not been collected or are written in the newspapers of the time of the different events like Congresses, etc. Thus, we write not only a synopsis for the book but we have to set up a small group of researchers (university students, journalists) who go into the libraries and dig out the past, make interviews-discussions with those who have been involved in FIDE matters and may know a lot of those (J. Averbah, B. Spassky, A. Filipowicz, F. Campomanes, etc.).

In my judgement, the FIDE History book would be a real sensation on the market and the budget needed for it can be reduced if the book is published by an international book house which can cover the author royalty and the distribution.

The project will be presented to the Presidential Board for approval as a separate item for the PR and Marketing Directorate.

Peter Rajcsanyi
Public Relations and Marketing Director

While collecting information about the World Championship, the Women's World Championship, and the Zonals, I've spent a fair amount of time studying FIDE's public documents, mainly at The Hague, and I agree that it's not a trivial exercise. It would be great to see FIDE follow through with this project, even if not in the ambitious timeframe mentioned by Rajcsanyi.

13 March 2009

The Muscleman and His Skeleton


PhotonQ-Deep Blue Brain © Flickr user PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE under Creative Commons.

The caption said, 'Here is a chess player...thinking... can you see him...and his thoughts ?!?...' • Wikipedia said, 'Body Worlds has been accused of perpetuating 'conservative' gender representations. This article [see link] notes that male plastinates were presented in 'heroic' 'manly' roles, including The Rearing Horse and Rider , The Muscleman and his Skeleton, The Fencer, The Runner, and The Chess Player, while female plastinates were shown in terms of beauty, passivity or reproduction...' (see Body Worlds).

12 March 2009

Chess in Africa - Today's Concerns

My previous post in this series, Chess in Africa - Early FIDE Initiatives, mentioned efforts in the 1970s to bring the African continent into FIDE. The most recent FIDE Congress, held during the Dresden Olympiad in November last year, brought to light issues that face African chess today. One issue involved the Olympiad itself. [Numbered paragraphs and quoted passages are from the 79th FIDE General Assembly Minutes and Annexes.]

11.5. 79th FIDE Congress and 38th Chess Olympiad 2008: Mr. Buthali raised the visa issue of African teams. Africa teams met serious challengers. There had been delay in communication from their side, but FIDE should consider the prevailing situation and there was some degree of insensitivity. Visa requirements were very strict sometimes, Olympiad is supposed to be all inclusive. He was disappointed as we have a team of inspectors from FIDE who report to Presidential Board and this should have been picked up by them.

Mr. Gelfer said the visa problem is something which the General Assembly cannot solve, it should be solved on a higher level.

I can't imagine what 'higher level' could be invoked for visa issues, which are a recurring problem. They played a role at the World Championship knockouts in both Las Vegas 1999 and Tripoli 2004. In 1999, the USCF wasn't in a position to offer assistance in procuring American visas, except to point to the relevant regulations, and I imagine most national federations would be equally helpless.

Another issue is a direct result of an emerging FIDE policy. It arose during a discussion of the brand new Women's Grand Prix.

11.12.3. Grand Prix 2008-2009: [...] Annex 77 is a proposal of UAE, for the Women’s World Championship, for 2010, 2012, 2014. They are ready to organise a World Club Cup and open a new FIDE office in Abu Dhabi. They nominated Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahid to the new post of CEO Commercial Affairs.

The President said he had discussed women’s chess with Dr Fahid and he agreed that he could organise these events and there will be no problem with visas etc. Next year he will open a new office in Abu Dhabi and he will cover all expenses. No money from FIDE is required. [...]

Mr. Buthali said he had a query regarding the FIDE office in Abu Dhabi. He was concerned how far we should go with satellite offices and how they would operate. Should we have an office in Africa, we need to be guided.

The President said the aim is to open 165 offices, one in each Federation.

Mr Makropoulos said it is a good idea, but he agreed with Mr Buthali. We need to control the situation and we should have a proposal to show how we control these offices for the next Presidential Board meeting.

A FIDE office for each federation does indeed sound like a good idea until we realize that many of the smaller federations have trouble paying their dues. How can they be expected to support an office? There's more to chess than the World Championship, and one of FIDE's strengths is the attention it pays to all levels of chess competition.

11.22. World Youth Championships U-8, U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16 and U-18 2011: Deadline for bids is 31st May 2009. Only African and American Federations will be permitted to bid. General Assembly approved that 4 year cycle of bidding by Continents be implemented from 2011. European federations can bid every other year, whilst the other Continents can bid in the intervening years.

I'm not sure where FIDE is going with this. It again sounds good to rotate various championships through the four FIDE continents -- Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas -- but interest levels in chess and budget constraints are not allocated evenly throughout the world. Consider the current Grand Prix cycle, where it looks like all six events will have taken place in ex-Soviet republics, assuming they are held at all.

11.41. 2011 All Africa Games: The event will be organised in Zambia from 7 to 31st August 2011. Chess has 11 medals. It is intended that Zambia will also bid for the Continental Championships.

Annex 71 has details on the 2011 All Africa Games, along with the list of sports, where chess is one of 26 disciplines including karate, badminton, tennis, and basketball. Who said chess isn't a sport?

A Continental Meeting for Africa also took place during the Olympiad. The minutes are in annex 72 and its appendix, the 'African Chess Union Report'.

15. Report of African Continental President: Continental President for Africa Dabilani Buthali presented his report. The Continental Meeting had discussed preparation for various events, as well as restructuring. In 2009 there will be the inaugural African Youth Championship. General Assembly approved the report of the Continental President including the draft CACDEC budget.

Among the many challenges facing Africa that I gleaned from the minutes were financial (fees, arrears, CACDEC budget), political (role of federations in the continental group, profile/image, expectations), and organizational (individual, youth, junior, and team championships). There is no mention of a women's championship and the sole reference to women in the entire report is a reminder of a '2007 Executive Board decision that 20 percent of CACDEC budget be spent on enhancing the capacity of women'.

I'll look at CACDEC in the next post in this 'Chess in Africa' series. Of particular concern is the inability of continent officials to spend CACDEC funds that have been allocated to Africa.

10 March 2009

Chess960 Rules Formalized by FIDE?

Near the beginning of January, the ACP posted an item on The FIDE Laws of Chess 2009: 'The English text is the authentic version of the Laws of Chess, which was adopted at the 77th FIDE Congress in Dresden (Germany), November 2008, coming into force on 1 July 2009.'

Two points were still open. The first was the new FIDE rule on arrival times.

Article 6.7 will be discussed in the next meeting of the Presidential Board.

6.7 Any player who arrives at the chessboard more than one hour after the scheduled start of the session shall lose the game unless the rules of the competition specify or the arbiter decides otherwise.

Proposed change 1: 6.7 Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the start of the session shall lose the game, unless the arbiter decides otherwise. Thus the default time is 0 minutes. The rules of a competition may specify a different default time.

Proposed change 2: 6.7 Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the start of the session shall lose the game.

The second was a new section on chess960.

The Presidential Board will decide whether it will be included.

G. Chess960 Rules

G1 Before a Chess960 game a starting position is randomly set up, subject to certain rules. After this, the game is played in the same way as standard chess. In particular, pieces and pawns have their normal moves, and each player's objective is to checkmate the opponent's king.

G2 Starting position requirements

The starting position for Chess960 must meet certain rules. White pawns are placed on the second rank as in regular chess. All remaining white pieces are placed randomly on the first rank, but with the following restrictions:
  • The king is placed somewhere between the two rooks.
  • The bishops are placed on opposite-colored squares.
  • The black pieces are placed equal-and-opposite to the white pieces.
The starting position can be generated before the game either by a computer program or using dice, coin, cards, etc.

G3 Chess960 Castling Rules

Chess960 allows each player to castle once per game, a move by potentially both the king and rook in a single move. However, a few interpretations of standard chess games rules are needed for castling, because the standard rules presume initial locations of the rook and king that are often not applicable in Chess960.
How to castle

Proposal 1: In Chess960, depending on the pre-castling position on the castling king and rook, the castling manoeuvre is performed by one of these four methods:
  • Double-move castling: By on one turn making a move with the king and a move with the rook.
  • Transposition castling: By transposing the position of the king and the rook.
  • King-move-only castling: By making only a move with the king.
  • Rook-move-only castling: By making only a move with the rook.
Proposal 2: When castling on a physical board with a human player, it is recommended that the king be moved outside the playing surface next to his final position, the rook then be moved from its starting to ending position, and then the king be placed on his final square.

After castling, the rook and king's final positions are exactly the same positions as they would be in standard chess.

This part could be added to clarify things:

Thus, after c-side castling (notated as O-O-O and known as queen-side castling in orthodox chess), the King is on the c-square (c1 for White and c8 for Black) and the Rook is on the d-square (d1 for White and d8 for Black). After g-side castling (notated as O-O and known as king-side castling in orthodox chess), the King is on the g-square (g1 for White and g8 for Black) and the Rook is on the f-square (f1 for White and f8 for Black).

Notes:

To avoid any misunderstanding, it may be useful to state "I am about to castle" before castling.

In some starting positions, the king or rook (but not both) do not move during castling.

In some starting positions, castling can take place as early as the first move.

All the squares between the king's initial and final squares (including the final square), and all of the squares between the rook's initial and final squares (including the final square), must be vacant except for the king and castling rook.

In some starting positions, some squares can stay filled during castling that would have to be vacant in standard chess. For example, after c-side castling (O-O-O), it's possible for to have a, b, and/or e still filled, and after g-side castling (O-O), it's possible to have e and/or h filled.

I'm not sure why there should be particular concern for a 'misunderstanding', unless it's the possible application of the touch-move rule.

***

The PB meeting finished a few days ago. According to Presidential Board Meeting 1st Quarter 2009, the group 'approved changes in the Laws of Chess including that the default time would be zero unless otherwise specified in the regulations of the tournament'. There was no mention of chess960.

08 March 2009

The Father of Soviet Chess?

Who can be considered the Father of Soviet Chess: Chigorin?, Alekhine?, Botvinnik?, someone else? 'Success', as they say, 'has many fathers':-

Organized Soviet chess, supported by the State, found its beginnings in Moscow in the early days of 1920. Up to this time chess had been regarded, by most of those Bolshevik authorities who considered the game at all, as simply a bourgeois pastime with no real significance in the new society. The change in the official attitude to the game was brought about in the first instance almost entirely by the enthusiasm of Ilyin-Zhenevsky.

A.F. Ilyin-Zhenevsky (1894-1941) joined the Bolshevik party and engaged in revolutionary activity while still at school. After the October Revolution he held a series of important posts in the Soviet government and the Communist party. Dedicated to both chess and communism, he saw that each could help to promote the other. He played a leading part in organizing the All-Russian Chess Olympiad [1920] and was one of the first to put forward a Marxist program for chess.

Early in 1920, Ilyin-Zhenevsky was appointed chief commissar at the Headquarters of the General Reservists Organization (Vsevobuch) in Moscow. This organization had been set up shortly after the October revolution to provide elementary physical and military training before conscription into the Red Guard and, later, the Red Army. Local Vsevobuch commissariats were set up throughout the country and military sports clubs were establushed under the aegis of Vsevobuch in factories and railway centers. This was the beginning of the Soviet state-controlled physical culture movement.

In his memoirs Ilyin-Zhenevsky records how he hit on the idea of including chess in the pre-conscription training program, which was then being drawn up. [long quote from I-Z's memoirs] Ilyin-Zhenevsky's enthusiasm found support in the persons of N.I. Podvoisky, the over-all head of Vsevobuch, and of V.N. Russo, who was then head of Vsevobuch in the Moscow district. Consequently Vsevobuch chess in Moscow developed very rapidly.

Source: D.J. Richards, 'Soviet Chess', p.10

Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky (Ilyin-Genevsky) is identified in my post on the 4th Soviet Championship (1925). This allows another identification in my post on Nikolai Krylenko, where he is sitting first row, second from the right, between Krylenko and Ragozin.

07 March 2009

Fischer - Euwe, OL 1960

The next game in 18 Memorable Games is game no.20 in My 60 Memorable Games and no.58 in Predecessors IV. The PGN is given below, along with punctuation from the notes of both Fischer and Kasparov.

[Event "14th Olympiad (Final)"]
[Site "Leipzig"]
[Date "1960.??.??"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Euwe, M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B13"]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 {BF: !?} 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 {GK: !} 8...Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 {GK: !} 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11. Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ {GK: !} 12...Ke7 13.Qxb5 Nxc3 {GK: ?!} 14.bxc3 Qd7 15.Rb1 {BF: !; GK: !} 15...Rd8 {BF: ?; GK: ?} 16.Be3 Qxb5 17.Rxb5 Rd7 18. Ke2 f6 19.Rd1 {BF: !; GK: !} 19...Rxd1 20.Kxd1 Kd7 21.Rb8 {BF: !; GK: !} 21...Kc6 22.Bxa7 g5 23.a4 Bg7 24.Rb6+ {GK: !} 24...Kd5 25.Rb7 Bf8 26.Rb8 Bg7 27.Rb5+ Kc6 28.Rb6+ Kd5 29.a5 f5 30.Bb8 {GK: !} 30...Rc8 31.a6 Rxc3 32.Rb5+ {GK: ?!} 32...Kc4 {GK: ?} 33.Rb7 {GK: !} 33...Bd4 34.Rc7+ Kd3 35. Rxc3+ Kxc3 36.Be5 {GK: !} 1-0

There aren't many sequences with a difference of opinion. Kasparov repeats all of Fischer's punctuation, except on 6...Bg4, which he called 'the main reply'. Kasparov also points to 13...Nxc3 as the move that landed Euwe in trouble. Worth a closer look is the sequence starting 32.Rb5+.

Fischer made a memorable comment on the position after his 15th move: 'Horrible as White's Pawn structure may be, Black can't exploit it because he'll be unable to develop his Kingside normally. It's the little quirks like this that make life difficult for a chess machine.' A search on the phrase -- "make life difficult for a chess machine" -- returns pages where other players have noted it.

To play through the complete game, see...

Robert James Fischer vs Max Euwe, Leipzig Olympiad Final 1960
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1008400

...on Chessgames.com.

06 March 2009

GM Shipov on Topalov - Kamsky


Topalov-Kamsky 1/2 Sofia 2009 #1 (7:56) • 'GM Shipov comments: game 1, World Chess Challenge Sofia 2009 - Veselin Topalov vs Gata Kamsky'

Links to similar commentary for all games in the match:-

It's not clear if GM Shipov has given authorization to use his name. At the beginning of the clip the young woman mentions a dot.com address, but after listening several times, I can't understand what she says.

05 March 2009

Chess in Africa - Early FIDE Initiatives

My previous post in this series -- Chess in Africa - African Zonals -- mentioned the establishment of the FIDE's zone 12, the 'African zone', in the 1970s. By a happy coincidence, I have at hand Informants (INF) from the 1970s, many of which included an appendix covering FIDE affairs. That gave me a chance to look at early FIDE initiatives on chess in Africa.

FIDE's Jubilee Celebration in Penang: The Bureau discussed certain steps for promoting chess in those countries where this game is insufficiently developed. A financial fund for this purpose is planned. The President of FIDE announced that at the beginning of 1975 he will make a tour of African countries. Other grandmasters are also scheduled to tour other parts of the world. • INF-18 (1974-H2) p.294

The President of FIDE at the time was Max Euwe and his report appeared in the next Informant.

'Chess in Africa' by Max Euwe: My African tour at the beginning of this year had quite a different character than previous visits to other continents. The reason is obvious. To a certain extent chess is already developed in other continents, while in Africa one has to start from the bottom, from scratch. However, before continuing, let me first state that when speaking about Africa in this article, I have in mind the central part of the continent. So I exclude South Africa, Rhodesia, and the northern part of Africa. • INF-19 (1975-H1) p.278

Euwe's full report was around 1500 words long. Reacting to Euwe's ground breaking trip, FIDE established a new group.

FIDE Central Committee Meeting (Oosterbeek, 27-30 September 1975); Assistance to Chess - Developing Countries: A standing FIDE Commission has been established for helping chess -- developing countries. The commssion approved the creation of an Information Exchange located at [...]. The Central Committee proclaimed 1977 as the International Chess Promotion Year for Chess-Developing Countries. • INF-20 (1975-H2) p.287

Euwe's initiative coincided with a knotty political problem.

The Decisions of the FIDE Congress in Haifa (46th Congress, 6-9 November 1976): The previous FIDE Congress in Nice in 1974 had decided "to exclude the chess federations of Rhodesia and South Africa temporarily from official FIDE competitions until the situation has cleared in such a way that there is no discrimination in chess any more". [...] With a large majority and to the sound of applause, the General Assembly approved the request for South Africa's reinstatement in FIDE.

[...]

The Commission for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries has drawn up a programme for further work and appealed to the developed federations to support the Commission with funds. The Commission appealed to the developing countries to communicate to the Commission their needs. • INF-22 (1976-H2) p.317

That last paragraph is an early reference to CACDEC, now known as the Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries.

A new FIDE zone 12 was created, the African Zone, with the following member federations: Algeria, Gambia, Ghana, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Seychelles, Tunisia, Uganda, Zaire, and Zambia. • INF-26 (1978-H2) p.294

The first African zonal took place at Tripoli, Libya, in 1981. A long report (in French) on the event, plus comments, is at Premier Zonal Africain ou l'Histoire d'un Titre de MI.

03 March 2009

Chess960 @ CCM9

2009 CCM Teaser In January, in a post on the Chess960 World Championships, I wrote, 'I'm crossing my fingers that CCM [Chess Classic Mainz], especially its chess960 events, will survive the current global economic slowdown. Are we sure to see a 2009 edition?'

There was no need to worry, since the 2009 edition had already been announced a few days earlier in 15.Weltmeister Viswanthan Anand: Fischer ist der Größte ['15th World Champion Viswanthan Anand: Fischer is the greatest']. The 'teaser' in the upper left corner of this post gives the dates: 27 July to 2 August 2009.

The page carrying the announcement is in German, but we have Google Language Tools to help with that. It looks like there's a contest for Best Chess960 Game in the works. Details will be announced 9 March, the day that Fischer would have turned 66.

02 March 2009

This Post Will NOT Interest You!

Continuing with My Introduction to Blogging, I created a page to Search Archive.org for Blog Posts. Unfortunately, the pages are not necessarily in the archives.

First, the data in Archive.org is now over a year old, so a page created afterwards won't be found. Second, About.com changed the file names for blog posts in 2007-Q4. Posts archived before then would be found using the older (short, numeric) names. Posts archived afterwards would be found using the newer (long, descriptive) names. My new page searches on the long, descriptive names. A search on the short names will follow.

I warned you that it wouldn't be interesting!

***

Later: I added a search on the short names. There are 879 chess.about.com blog posts in the table, making it a big page. Many (most?) of the links to Archive.org return nothing, but I see no rhyme or reason why certain posts are affected and not others.

P.S. Just like this post, the page is no more interesting than it was before!

01 March 2009

The Soviet Category System

Around the middle of last year, in response to a post on The Soviet Grandmaster Title, ejh commented, 'Have you written anything about, or are you aware of any source that explains, precisely what constituted a first category or second category player? One sees these terms frequently but it's much harder finding out exactly what they mean!' Indeed it is, but I can finally answer the question. The March 2009 issue of Europe Echecs features a series of articles on Russian chess, including interviews with GMs Dorfman, Kramnik, and Vaisser, all of whom have settled down in France.

The introduction to the Dorfman interview explains, 'Like every beginner he started by passing the first selection : the five categories of the famous Soviet pyramid. It was the first hurdle to clear before contemplating a professional career.' Here's Dorfman discussing his youth:

There were two theory courses of two hours each week, and on Sunday we played separate tournaments according to our category. Everything was free. There were no opens. There were only closed tournaments, bringing together 10 to 12 players. We had to achieve the equivalent of a norm and repeat the performance at least once to pass to the next level. There were beginners, then 5th category, 4th, 3rd, etc. The level of 1st category was more or less equivalent to a current classification of 2000 Elo. After that one could become a Candidate Master, which corresponded to a current Elo of around 2200. As for the Master category, it was 2400, maybe more.

I'm not a professional translator. If I were, I would try to negotiate a deal to produce Europe Echecs in English. Every month's issue is a treat.