31 May 2009

The Real Rusbase

I contacted Alexey Popovsky, the owner of Rusbase, to ask how many games he has in his online archives. First he informed me that the site had moved to a new address...

RUSBASE 1920-1994
http://al20102007.narod.ru/index.html

...and then mentioned that it contained 'about 60.000 games'. I counted the number of events on the newer site and came up with 2456 events instead of the 2442 events mentioned in my post Rusbase, as counted on the older site. The other numbers I reported in that first post and in the follow-up post Events Covered by Rusbase are close enough for my purposes.

Rusbase is a wonderful piece of work. It's a pity that there is no equivalent USAbase.

29 May 2009

How Much Do You Really Know About Chess?

I've long assumed that YouTube is popular not for its user generated content (*), but for its user uploads of someone else's intellectual property. The user generated clips are, more often than not, childish, uninteresting, or simply dreadful. It's always a pleasure to find an exception.


Just a Game? (9:58) • 'A student film, directed by Sassan Tyler Panah in 2004 while he was attending USC Film School'

'We've all heard of chess. We all know it's been around for a long time, but how much do you really know about it?'

***

(*): I'm talking about filmed video clips created with a camera. The chess instruction videos, recorded from chess playing software, are often very good.

28 May 2009

Elastic Maneuvering

While reading Dvoretsky & Yusupov's 'Opening Preparation', a collection of essays by both authors as well as by others, I came across the following definition in an essay by Dolmatov titled 'Inventive Solutions to Intractable Opening Problems'.

I have become interested in a topic which no one before has investigated seriously -- the art of elastic maneuvering. Karpov practices this art excellently, as did Psakhis in his best years; whereas in Kasparov's games (for example) there are only very rare instances of it. Kasparov has always been used to executing concrete plans, whereas positional maneuvering serves no clear-cut purpose except, perhaps, one: it tests the opponent's understanding of absolutely all nuances of the position.

If neither side has any positional advantage (or if it is insufficient to bring tangible results), it is often necessary to maneuver, to move to and fro in what looks like an aimless manner, taking care not to worsen the position of your pieces. When the opponent is unable to stand up to this maneuvering and commits inaccuracies, it is possible to alter the character of the struggle abruptly by tactical means and seize the initiative. [Batsford 1994, p.73]

That particular passage had little to do with the rest of the chapter and was almost an aside. Dolmatov was Kasparov's second during the 1987 and 1990 title matches against Karpov, so he can speak with authority on the styles of both players.

I have also noticed Karpov's tendency to maneuver as Dolmatov describes, particularly against strong grandmasters who are just outside the inner circle of World Championship contenders, but I had never heard this particular term -- 'elastic maneuvering' -- nor any other term that described the technique so precisely. Petrosian was another adept at this style of play. Coming up with examples will take some additional effort, but I'll see what I can do.

For more on the series of books by Dvoretsky & Yusupov, see my previous post (appropriately) titled Dvoretsky & Yusupov.

26 May 2009

Fischer Loot Again at Auction

The Fischer material last seen on eBay end-2005 is again up for grabs to the highest bidder: BOBBY FISCHER’S CHESS LIBRARY, INCLUDING NOTEBOOKS PREPARED FOR THE 1972 WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP.

The last time these items were on eBay, I followed the auction in the About.com forum: Flash! : Fischer items relisted on eBay. The first post in that thread points to a discussion of the original auction from a few months earlier, when the description started,

Rescued from a So. Cal Flea market about 6 years ago, here are Bobby Fischer's personal items from the infamous storage locker which was sold for lack of rent payment. It is a unique opportunity for someone in the International Chess community to perserve the legacy of who many feel is the most talented chess player of all time. I have tried many times in the last few years to reach Bobby (I did meet him when we were both younger) to return these items to him, but I feel his latest stand on America would not allow him to do this.

Earlier in 2005, Fischer had been released to Iceland from detention in Japan. Here's a photo from the original eBay auction showing the manuscripts.


The description of the latest auction -- 'Estimate: $50,000 - 80,000 ' -- is similar, but not identical, to the description of the first eBay auction.

25 May 2009

Chess Product Reviews

Last year, in a post titled In Defense of Chess Book Reviewers,
I mentioned that I had written 'more than 40 book reviews plus a handful of product reviews', then followed up that post with The Purpose of a Book Review. Copies of my reviews can be found via index files automatically generated by About.com (links to Archive.org):-

I also maintained a graphical index of reviews: Guide Reviews for Chess Books, CDs, DVDs, Movies. I have no intention of adding this material to Links related to my About.com material.

24 May 2009

Events Covered by Rusbase

In my first post on Rusbase, I mentioned that its five parts covered 2442 events. Here's how they break down by type of event:-

787 Championships of Republics
440 National Tournaments
419 USSR Championships
262 International Tournaments
230 Championships of Clubs
186 Matches
  59 Part 1 (World Championships, Candidates, Interzonals, ...)
  35 Team Championships
  17 Match Tournaments
    7 Zonal Tournaments

It turns out that Part 1, a mixed bag of high level events, also duplicates 23 USSR Championships that are included under the heading 'USSR Championships'. If you're curious about how there could have been 419 USSR Championships, then we're on the same page. I'll look at those in a future post.

22 May 2009

Chess in Het Lage Land


Tags: Rotterdam, Maritime Museum © Flickr user Pascal \o/ - lagarde.info under Creative Commons.

More Tags: hall, entrance, giant, chess.

21 May 2009

Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 5)

Continuing with 18 Memorable Games, no.27 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.62 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV, the PGN is given below. As with other games in this series, the punctuation is from the notes of Fischer and Kasparov.

[Event "Match Los Angeles, CA USA"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1961.??.??"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Reshevsky, S."]
[Black "Fischer, R."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D42"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 c5 6.e3 Nc6 7.Bd3 Be7 8.O-O O-O 9.a3 cxd4 10.exd4 Nf6 11.Bc2 b6 12.Qd3 Bb7 13.Bg5 g6 14.Rfe1 Re8 15. h4 {KAS: '!'} 15...Rc8 16.Rac1 Nd5 {KAS: '?!'} 17.Ne4 {KAS: '!'} 17... f5 {FIS: '!?'; KAS: '!?'} 18.Nc3 {KAS: '!'} 18...Bxg5 19.Nxg5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 19...Nf4 20.Qe3 {KAS: '?!'} 20...Qxd4 21.Nb5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 21...Qxe3 {KAS: '?!'} 22.fxe3 Nxg2 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 23.Kxg2 Nd4+ {KAS: '?!'} 24.Be4 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!' } 24...Bxe4+ 25.Nxe4 Nxb5 26.Nf6+ Kf7 27.Nxe8 Rxe8 28.a4 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 28...Nd6 29.Rc7+ Kf6 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 30.Rec1 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 30...h6 31.Rxa7 Ne4 32.Ra6 Rd8 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 33.Rc2 {KAS: '?!'} 33...Rd3 34.Rxb6 Rxe3 35.a5 f4 36. Rf2 {FIS: '?'; KAS: '?'} 36...Nxf2 37.Kxf2 Re5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 38. b4 Re3 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 39.a6 Ra3 40.Rc6 {KAS: '?'} 40...g5 41. hxg5+ hxg5 42.b5 g4 43.Rc8 {KAS: '?'} 43...Kf5 44.b6 g3+ 45.Ke1 Ra1+ 46. Ke2 g2 47.Rf8+ Ke4 48.Rxf4+ Kxf4 49.b7 g1=Q 50.b8=Q+ Kf5 51.Qf8+ Ke4 52. Qa8+ Kd4 53.Qd8+ Kc4 54.Qd3+ Kc5 55.Qc3+ Kd6 56.Qd2+ Ke5 57.Qb2+ Kf5 0-1

I'm struck by the large number of moves where Fischer gave no punctuation, but where Kasparov was critical: 16...Nd5?!, 20.Qe3?!, 21...Qxe3?!, 23...Nd4+?!, 33.Rc2?!, 40.Rc6?, and 43.Rc8?. On that last move, 43.Rc8, Kasparov wrote,

Again Bobby ignores the opponent's best chance: as one can see, not only in life, but also in chess he did not wish to accept unpleasant reality.

Can one really see this from the analysis of a few chess moves? To play through the complete game, see...

Samuel Reshevsky vs Robert James Fischer, Match 1961
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1008403

...on Chessgames.com.

19 May 2009

U.S. Chess on Streaming Media

Congratulations to GM Hikaru Nakamura for winning the 2009 U.S. Championship (details at the USchess.org's Nakamura 2009 U.S. Chess Champion!). Nakamura might have been the sole official winner of the 2009 event, but thanks to the video and audio magic of the web, the American chess public, participating first-hand, won in ways that were not possible a short decade ago.

A continuous stream of daily video recaps by Macauley Peterson and Jennifer Shahade is available at uschesschamps.blip.tv ('Produced by: Kevin Duggin, Chris Benson, Randy Sinquefield, Macauley Peterson'). The same clips are available individually on YouTube at SlayAndAssociates's videos.


For their role, the videomakers received a plug from another well known videomaker, the long running World Chess News, where the Krzymowska siblings interviewed Peterson on WCN Episode 250.

Want more? Listen to IM John Watson interviews Rex Sinquefield and Tony Rich and watch Game Of the Day; GM Nick De Firmian; US Champ. 2009 - Rd 6; Krush - Becerra, both at webcast.chessclub.com. See also the championship's Official Site, and the clip St. Louis Chess Club featured last year as part of this blog's Video Friday.

18 May 2009

Award Winning Books

Getting back to Links related to my About.com material, I decided to tackle resources related to chess books. The first was an update of Award Winning Chess Books. The last copy in Archive.org was dated November 2007. While I was bringing the list up to date, I discovered two copies:-

I also found a mention on chessdig.com, a site which seems to have died.

Have the Cramer Awards also died? The Joint Announcement for the 2007 Chess Journalists of America / Fred Cramer Awards Committee for Excellence in Chess Journalism mentioned,

As for the categories, the Cramer Awards Committee has not sent us the official results as of yet. Since the chief judge had some serious disagreements with Don Schultz of the Cramer Committee, he had resigned from the committee before their meeting, so cannot report with confidence what he heard.

It isn't clear if the award announced that year, for Michael Weinreb's 'The Kings of New York', was indeed a Cramer award, although I've listed it as such. There was no CJA book award for 2008, and there is no category for 2009.

17 May 2009

Rusbase

One of the resources mentioned in my first post in this series (see The Soviet School) was RUSBASE. The link I gave was to 'Part 5', which in turn links to earlier parts.

Part 1 covers World Championships, Candidates' Matches, Interzonal Tournaments, a European Team Championship, and USSR Championships (about half of them). Parts 2 through 5 are organized by Zonal Tournaments, Championships of Republics, Team Championships, International Tournaments, USSR Championships, National Tournaments, Matches, Match Tournaments, and Championships of Clubs. A quick analysis of the five index pages reveals that the site covers 2442 events, distributed by decade as follows:-

189x : 1
191x : 2
192x : 80
193x : 148
194x : 259
195x : 406
196x : 500
197x : 466
198x : 419
199x : 161

***

Another valuable resource, covering the Soviet Championships, was Graeme Cree's World, U.S., and USSR Championships (members.aol.com/graemecree). Since late last year, the site has been unavailable, displaying 'Hometown Has Been Shutdown' with the further message: 'We're sorry to inform you that as of Oct. 31, 2008, AOL® Hometown was shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.' Fortunately, the site is still available via Archive.org: Search for http://members.aol.com/graemecree/chesschamps/.

16 May 2009

Chess960 Blogging Leaves Home

I suppose it was inevitable. Since last August I've been running a weekly post on chess960. Until now, a single category -- Showing posts with label Chess960 -- to keep the posts together has been sufficient.

Now I have some ideas for the evolution of the chess960 material, ideas that don't work well with this Chess for All Ages (CFAA) blog. I've started a new blog that should make it easier to incorporate the new ideas...

Chess960 (FRC)
http://chess960frc.blogspot.com/

...I had to fudge the domain name because the simpler URL was already taken: Chess960

I could have started a new web site instead of a blog, but there's a lot more preparation to create a site than to create a blog. Blogspot.com (aka Blogger.com) is already providing enough of the basic tools to do what I have in mind and the decision to use a blog doesn't preclude expanding the blog to a site at some time in the future.

CFAA will continue as the mother ship, the center of my blogging activity.

15 May 2009

Scacchi.htm

I bet some people can identify all these clips, but I sure can't.


Chess Rhapsody #4 (3:39) • luciote/scacchi

The originals appear to be here: Citazioni scacchistiche nei media.

***

Later: What happened to no.1, 2, and 3? They're here:-

Bravo!

14 May 2009

Unclear : 1977 Korchnoi - Spassky

In the post Unclear Positions, I wrote,

I have a tall stack of old, pre-Chessbase Informants standing in the corner of my study. It might be interesting to go back and look for positions tagged by the annotator as '∞'. Depending on what I discover, it might even be the start of a new series of posts on this blog.

A typical Informant from that period had 600-700 games, so the first problem is 'Where to start?' I decided that fertile ground would be games having something to do with the World Chess Championship, a subject that I'm always eager to learn more about.

For my first post in the series I tackled the Korchnoi - Spassky 1976-78 Candidates Final Matches played November-December 1977, in Belgrade. Of the 18 games in Informant 24 (INF), 16 were annotated by Michael Stean and the other two by Raymond Keene. Both players served as Korchnoi's seconds during the match. In the notes I found eight positions marked '∞', all but one of which were in unplayed variations. The exception followed from this diagram.

1977 Candidates Final Match (game 7)
Spassky, Boris

Korchnoi, Viktor
(After 18...Nc5-e6)
[FEN "r2r2k1/1b3pp1/1p1qnb1p/pP1p4/3N2B1/2N1P3/P4PPP/2RQR1K1 w - - 0 19"]

The game continued 19.Bxe6 (INF [Stean]: '!?') 19...fxe6. Now on 20.Nc6 (INF: '!'), we reach the mysterious 'unclear (∞)' position. After 20...Bxc6 21.bxc6, as in the game, the tactical point is 21...Qxc6 22.Ne4 Qd7 23.Nxf6+ gxf6 24.Qd4.

Spassky tried 21...Bxc3 and lost to a brilliant series of tactical blows where both players had Pawns on the seventh rank. After 21...Qb4 (INF: '!?'), Stean gave 22.a3 Qxa3 23.c7 Rdc8 24.Nb5 'with compensation'. Rybka prefers 21...Qxc6.

To play through the complete game see...

Viktor Korchnoi vs Boris Spassky, Belgrade cm f 1977
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1082385

...on Chessgames.com.

12 May 2009

Chess960 PGN

Unfortunately, PGN for chess960 isn't as 'portable' as the 'P' in PGN would indicate. In this post I'll compare PGN formats from different sources. The first example is a bare bones PGN file that I created from scratch. I selected the start position (SP) using the dice technique described in A Database of Chess960 Start Positions, and used the same SP in the other examples where I had the possibility to do so.

In this and the following examples, I've stripped out nonessential header tags like players' ratings and nationalities. The minimum chess960 tag set is the standard PGN seven tag roster plus the [SetUp] and [FEN] tags. I'm not sure why the [SetUp] is required -- the [FEN] tag should be enough to trigger a nonstandard position -- but I believe the PGN standard calls for it. My personal preference is to document the SP in the [Annotator] tag, which is the only extraneous tag here.

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "W"]
[Black "B"]
[Result "*"]
[Annotator "SP579"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "bqrnkrnb/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/BQRNKRNB w KQkq - 0 1"]

*

Next is a PGN file produced by Arena, an engine interface I described in Chess960 Engines. It defaults to the last engine I had loaded, Rybka 2.2, even though it's not chess960 compliant.

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2009.05.12"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Mark"]
[Black "Rybka 2.2 32 bit"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "nbrknqbr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/NBRKNQBR w KQkq - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "0"]

*

The next example is from Chess Classic Mainz 2008 (CCM8).

[Event "CCM8 - FiNet Chess960 Women's Wch"]
[Site "Mainz"]
[Date "2008.07.29"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Kosteniuk, Alexandra"]
[Black "Cmilyte, Viktorija"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[Annotator "Chess Tigers"]
[Variant "chess 960"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "bnrbkrqn/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/BNRBKRQN w FCfc - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "143"]

{SP 353} 1. c4 c5 2. Ng3 e6 3. e3 b6 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Nge4 Be7 6. Nb5 O-O-O [...]

The next is an engine vs. engine game from CCRL 404FRC : Downloads and Statistics,

[Event "CCRL 404FRC"]
[Site "CCRL"]
[Date "2006.09.21"]
[Round "1.1.867"]
[White "Loop 10.32f"]
[Black "Fruit 2.2.1"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[Opening "BQRNKRNB"]
[PlyCount "151"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "bqrnkrnb/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/BQRNKRNB w FCfc -"]

1. b4 {+0.11/13 10s} Nf6 {+0.10/13 11s} 2. Bxf6 {+0.31/13 18s} exf6 [...]

The last example is from SchemingMind.com, an online play site that I've mentioned in several posts.

[Event "Chess960: Pyramid challenge from Apocalypse"]
[Site "SchemingMind.com"]
[Date "2007.09.20"]
[Round "-"]
[White "Apocalypse"]
[Black "Chess Tiger"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Variant "fischerandom"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "bqrnkrnb/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/BQRNKRNB w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. b4 b5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Bxf6 gxf6 4. c5 Nc6 5. e3 e6 6. d4 f5 7. Ne2 Rg8 8. h3 Ne7 [...]

The most important difference across the various files is in the [FEN] tag. The 'KQkq' designation taken from traditional chess has been replaced by 'FCfc' in two examples. 'F/f' and 'C/c' are the files where the Rooks start, as described in X-FEN (Wikipedia).

The distinction between 'KQkq' and 'FCfc' (or 'HAha' etc.) is not important at the start of the game. It would be important if the FEN string described a position later in a game where one of the Rooks had crossed over to the other side of the King. In this case, 'Kk' (or similar) would not be sufficient to indicate which of the two Rooks could castle O-O.

Another difference is the use of the [Variant] tag. The Arena and CCRL examples omit it, the CCM example uses 'chess 960', and the SchemingMind (SM) example uses 'fischerandom'. I can imagine that 'chess960', 'fischerrandom', and 'FRC' are also in use on other chess960 services.

Finally, I like the way the numbered SP '{SP 353}' has been embedded as a comment in the CCM example. The Arena and SM examples don't document the SP, while CCRL uses the [Opening] tag to give the same information that is already available in the [FEN] tag.

11 May 2009

Pulling a Few Pages Together

The pages that I released over the last six weeks, linked in these posts,...

...didn't hang together very well, so I improved the navigation between the pages.

10 May 2009

Andrew Soltis, 'Soviet Chess 1917-1991'

When my first post in this series (see The Soviet School) listed my resources at hand, I expected to locate and procure many more. Unless I've missed something, there aren't many more references available in English. The first important addition to the resources was Soviet Chess 1917-1991 by Andrew Soltis (Amazon.com). This 478 page hardcover book -- Amazon calls it 'library binding' -- was published by McFarland in 1999.

The McFarlandPub.com product page describes the book as follows.

This large and magnificent work of art is both an interpretive history of Soviet chess from the Bolshevik Revolution to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 and a record of the most interesting games played. The text traces the phenomenal growth of chess from the days of the revolution to the devastation of World War II, and then from the Golden Age of Soviet-dominated chess in the 1950s to the challenge of Bobby Fischer and the quest to find his Soviet match.

Included are 249 games, each with a diagram; most are annotated and many have never before been published outside the Soviet Union. The text is augmented by photographs and includes 63 tournament and match scoretables. Also included are a bibliography, an appendix of records achieved in Soviet national championships, two indexes of openings, and an index of players and opponents.

The book won the 2000 Cramer Award in the historical category. There are two good reviews available on the web:

I'm nearing the end of a first pass through the book and should have more to say in future posts.

09 May 2009

The Best Choice or a Positional Mistake?

Continuing with Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 2), in the diagrammed position, White has sacrificed a Pawn for better development, the initiative, and pressure against Black's castled King. Reshevsky played 16...e6, and Fischer commented,

The best choice in a difficult position. Up to here we had both played briskly, but now Reshevsky began to consume time on the clock. After 16...Nd7 17.O-O-O Ne5 18.Qe2, Black's game is lifeless. White has 19.h3 and 19.Bd4 in the offing.

Kasparov disagreed.

1961 Match (game 2)
Reshevsky, Samuel

Fischer, Robert
(After 16.Qd1-d3)
[FEN "r1bq1rk1/pp2ppbp/n4n2/3P4/6p1/PNNQB3/1PP3BP/R3K2R b KQ - 0 16"]

The 13th World Champion wrote,

Played after a long think: Sammy was trying to find his way in an unfamiliar situation. In Fischer's opinion, [16...e6] is 'the best choice in a difficult position', but in my view it is a positional mistake: the opening of the center can only be to White's advantage.

After the slow 16...Nd7 17.h3! Ne5 18.Qe2 g3 19.Bf4 Ng6 20.Bxg3 or 16...Nc7 17.O-O-O Nce8 18.h3 g3 19.Ne2 Nd6 20.Nxg3 Bd7 21.Nd4!, Black also fails to solve all his problems.

Apparently the best way out was 16...Qd6! 17.O-O-O, and now not 17...Bd7 (the source game: Nei - Pitskaar, Tallinn 1951), after which Fischer was probably planning 18.h3!, but 17...Nh5 18.h3 Nf4, exchanging one of the powerful White Bishops.

where the last variation was taken from a game played in 1997. Disagreeing with Kasparov's chess sense is obviously a doubtful business, but White's 18.h3 doesn't look forced. Why not 16...Qd6 17.O-O-O Nh5 18.Ne4? If 18...Qg6, then 19.Rhf1, or 18...Qc7 19.d6 exd6 20.Rhf1, in both cases preventing the Knight from getting to f4. If 18...Bf5, then 19.Nxd6 Bxd3 20.Nxb7.

After 16...e6, the game continued 17.O-O-O Nxd5 18.h3 g3 19.Rhg1, reaching another position where the opinions of Fischer and Kasparov again diverge. I'll cover that in a future post.

***

Later: Re 'another position where the opinions of Fischer and Kasparov again diverge [and] I'll cover that in a future post', I'm not sure what to say. Fischer gave Reshevsky's 19....Qd6 a '!', while Kasparov gave it '?!'. Kasparov, however, didn't show that Black had a better move, while the game continuation presented White with certain problems. Perhaps Kasparov's '?!' is a typo. Otherwise I don't understand it.

08 May 2009

Chess under the Cherry Trees


Kungstr√§dg√•rden Chess Match © Flickr user Mark Vitullo under Creative Commons.

You'd think the guys who play in the park would know how to set up the pieces correctly. Searching on 'Stockholm cherry trees' brings up more images.

07 May 2009

More on the USCF Election

Continuing with Update on the USCF Election, the May 2009 issue of Chess Life contained the second batch of USCF Executive Board Candidate Statements. In addition to the sites for the three candidates I linked in the previous post, the statements point to sites for two more candidates.

Goichberg's site has a link titled 'ILLINOIS ACTION: WHY POLGAR & TRUONG SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM THE BOARD' that leads to a USCF PDF, and has another link titled 'EXHIBITS RELATING TO ILLINOIS ACTION' (which doesn't work properly, because of an incorrect file name; follow the next link 'OTHER LAWSUITS' to find the correct name). These PDFs contain photocopies of the original complaint (plus supporting documents) against Polgar and Truong. Legal beagles interested in those documents might also be interested in Goichberg's link to 'OTHER LAWSUITS INVOLVING USCF', where each case is documented with further relevant legal material. • To be continued...

05 May 2009

Pyramids and Dropouts

One of the attractions of chess960 is that the real thinking starts from the first move of a game, rather than from the end of a player's prepared opening repertoire. A drawback is that, to consider the idiosyncracies of the assigned start position, more thinking time is required on the first move of the game.

Correspondence (aka turn-based) play fits very well with chess960 because it allows ample time to consider the first move. SchemingMind.com is a correspondence chess site that, in addition to standard chess play, offers many chess variants, chess960 included.

Scheming Mind has two tournament formats that are unlike the round robin or Swiss formats found on most correspondence (and crossboard) play sites. The first format is an informal event that the site calls Chess Pyramids. [NB: Although most SchemingMind.com pages are available to members only, membership is free. If you are not a member and want to follow the links, just sign up first!]

Pyramids are continuous competitions where players challenge each other, the results of these matches will determine what level of the pyramid they are on. There is usually a single pyramid leader (less frequently 2-3 players on top level), then - the lower the level, the more players. Therefore the pyramid shape and competition name.

The second format is a more structured event called Dropout Tournaments.

Dropout tournaments are a hybrid between the Swiss and the Knockout format. Three dropout tournaments are held annually on SchemingMind, in Standard Chess, Chess960 and chess variants. These tournaments usually last for up to two years, and the winners of these tournaments are considered to be the site champions in their specialty. Scoring: For each game, players will be assigned MALUS-Points (MP) as follows - win: 0MP, draw: 1MP, loss: 3MP. Points are added over all rounds. Elimination: After each round, players with scores equal or greater than the dropout threshold are eliminated from the tournament (the dropout threshold is normally six, but may vary for specialized tournaments).

The first dropout tournament started in 2006 and finished in 2008. The winner of both the first (2006) and second (2007) dropout tournaments was a Canadian player nicknamed doodledandy. Here are crosstables for the two events.

Scheming Mind is ably managed by Austin Lockwood, who has given me permission to present games from the site championships on this blog. The first game is between the eventual winner of the 2006 event and the player I featured in an earlier post titled Chess Tiger, after his nickname.


Start Position 361

The full game score is given below. I've appended a few notes for players who have never played through a chess960 position.

[Event "2006 Chess960 Dropout Tournament, Round 4"]
[Site "SchemingMind.com"]
[Date "2006.12.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "doodledandy"]
[Black "Chess Tiger"]
[Result "1-0"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "nrkbbrqn/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/NRKBBRQN w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.f4 f5 2.Ng3 Ng6 3.d3 Nb6 4.Bd2 d6 5.e4 e6 6.Nb3 Ba4 7.Be2 Ra8 8.O-O-O Bxb3 9.cxb3 Kb8 10.Kb1 fxe4 11.dxe4 e5 12.f5 Nf4 13.Bxf4 exf4 14.Nh5 g5 15.fxg6 hxg6 16.Nxf4 Bf6 17.Bg4 Qh7 18.Ne6 Rf7 19.Qe3 1-0

The most salient features of the diagrammed start position are the Knights in the corners and the Bishops on the center files. It's not completely clear which side will be more suitable for the castled Kings. Castling O-O-O can be prepared quickly, but the King is not in any immediate danger and castling O-O might eventually be feasible.

1.f4 f5: When a Rook starts on a center file (the c- to f-files), the advance of its corresponding Pawn is often a natural move. In this position, the advance of the f-Pawn opens diagonals for the Queen and a Bishop, just like the move 1.e4 (1...e5) in traditional chess. The Pawn on a7, en prise after the first move, is protected by the tactic 2...Nb6 and 3...Ra8.

2.Ng3 Ng6: When a Knight starts in the corner, a jump to b3 (b6, g3, g6) is a natural move. Within a few moves, both players will develop the other Knight to the b-file.

3.d3 & 4.Bd2: White prepares e2-e4.

6...Ba4 & 7...Ra8: It's not clear what plan Black has in mind here. Perhaps he was assuming an exchange ...Bxb3 would be answered by axb3. Then the Black a-Pawn, supported by the Rook, will get play on the a-file.

8.O-O-O, 9.cxb3, & 10.Kb1: White counteracts Black's plan by recapturing with the c-Pawn and using the c-file to mount an attack on the Black King. The Rook on a8 will be out of the game for a long time.

At this point the game looks like it could have evolved from the traditional start position, when well known middle game principles apply.

04 May 2009

My Policy on Comment Spam

This blog isn't struggling under the burden of too many comments. The 'Edit Posts' pages shows a total of 18 comments against the last 50 posts, a few of which were my own response to someone else's comment. The blog also doesn't get many spam comments. These are comments that have nothing to do with the subject of the post against which they've been entered.

It's surprising then that one recent post -- Chess Engines Don't Always Get It -- received two comments, both of them spam. Both comments at least had something to do with chess, and are in the category of what I call 'good spam', so I left them alone. A comment that has nothing to do with chess, like selling furniture (which I once received), gets deleted as soon as I see it. The URLs which the two comments were intended to promote were...

2009 U.S. Championship Information
http://www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Championship-2009

YourChess.net
http://www.yourchess.net

...The first is the official site for the U.S. Championship and the second is a portal of RSS feeds. Both links are definitely worth a visit. Having said that, it's hard to believe that the time taken to post either of these comments will result in any sort of comparable return.

With the exception of total page views per day, I don't track stats on this blog, and I have no intention of doing so. Looking at the stats for other blogs, I reckon that most individual posts get no more than a few dozen page views total. Only a page view on the post itself displays the comment. Views of the blog's home page or of a particular category show that there are comments against the blog, when the visitor has to click through the link to see the comments. I never do this and I doubt that many other people do.

The comment promoting YourChess.net also requested a reciprocal link. I used to accept reciprocal links for my World Championship site -- and when I first started the site I even asked for a few links -- but I quickly discovered that they aren't worth the trouble. They result in a trickle of visitors, have no measurable impact on the search engines, and require regular attention to determine that the linked site is still active. Site owners have pestered me for months requesting a link, but no one has ever informed me that their site is no longer active. A broken link is a nuisance for me and for my visitors, not for the owner of the site that disappeared.

My policy is simple -- no reciprocal links -- blogs or otherwise. If I really like the site or the blog, I'll either link it without being asked or I'll mention it in a post. If it doesn't do anything special for me, I won't link it, and no amount of pestering will change that.

03 May 2009

Russian to English Translators

For those of us who don't understand Russian, knowledge of the Soviet school would be difficult to acquire without the efforts of a handful of professional Russian to English translators. I already mentioned one world class translator in my post on D.J. Richards, Russian Lecturer, although most of Richards' efforts were not related to chess. The grandmaster of chess translators is undoubtedly Ken Neat (the links are to his author pages on Bookfinder.com).

  • Kenneth P. Neat and Ken Neat • books by Botvinnik, Karpov, Averbakh, and many others; his contribution to Kasparov's 'Predecessors' series isn't even mentioned on Bookfinder.

Neat also has a page on Chessgames.com (see Kenneth P Neat), where we learn that 'Kenneth Philip Neat was born in 1944 in York, England' and has a current FIDE rating of 2270. Other world class translators are

  • Bernard Cafferty • his own books plus books by Botvinnik, Geller, and Kotov's 'Play Like a Grand Master' series.
  • Harry Golombek • Keres three volumes published as 'Grandmaster of Chess', and 'The Art of the Middle Game' by Keres and Kotov.

In addition to the translations, both have authored titles under their own names and earned reputations as accomplished players. Their Chessgames.com pages are at Bernard Cafferty and Harry Golombek. Here are names of more translators that I first noted from volumes at hand, plus examples of their work.

  • Jimmy Adams • Caissa Editions 'Moscow 1935' (with Sarah Hurst) and 'Moscow 1936', Karpov's 'Caro Kann : Closed System'.
  • Todd Bludeau • 'Karpov on Karpov : A Memoir of a Chess World Champion'.
  • Philip J. Booth • '200 Open Games' by David Bronstein.
  • Malcolm Gesthuysen • opening books, 'Training for the Tournament Player' by Mark Dvoretsky.
  • Eric Schiller • Kasparov's 'Fighting chess'.
  • John Sugden • opening books, including 'Opening Preparation' by Dvoretsky; also 'Improve Your Chess Results' by Vladimir Zak.
  • Howard Turner • 'Secrets of Chess Training' by Dvoretsky.
  • Sarah J. Young • 'Positional Play' by Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov

The many titles by Dvoretsky translated by different names is a result of the several reprints of Dvoretsky's work. I surveyed these a few years ago in Dvoretsky & Yusupov. Missing from Bookfinder.com are:

  • Theodore Reich • translated 'Soviet Chess' by Nikolai Grekov, an early (1949) introduction to the subject for English speakers.
  • Hanon Russell • books by Karpov, Tal.

It's a mystery to me why one of the best known books on its subject, the 'Soviet School of Chess' by Kotov and Yudovich, carries no mention of its translator.

02 May 2009

Openings from Fischer - Reshevsky 1961

Continuing with Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 2), the following diagram shows the openings used during the match.


Games 1, 2, and 7 were won by White, game 5 by Black.

01 May 2009

Smart Guy

'T.J., out to prove how good he is at strategizing, decides to go up against the school's supercomputer in a very challenging chess showdown.'


Smart Guy Season 2 Episode 11 (5:45) • 'T.J. Versus the Machine (part 1)', 10 December 1997

'C'mon Munchkin, what you got?' • 'I got your Rook!'