30 August 2009

Post-WWII 1940s Soviet Championships

In 1st: Botvinnik, 2nd: ???, I posted a table showing the most succcessful players in the Soviet Championships of the 1930s. What would a similar table for the post-WWII 1940s show? After the war, the Soviet championships were conducted every year, rather than the pre-war rhythm of every two years. The year and number of players in each event was -- 1944: 17 (13th championship); 1945: 18; 1947: 20; 1948: 19; 1949: 20.

The 94 participants in the five events included 45 different players. Players scoring at least 50% in the events where they took part, or who took part in more than three events, are shown in the following table, along with the number of events played, the first and last year of participation, the number of games played, and the total score.

Botvinnik, Mikhail2194419453327.583.3%
Geller, Efim1194919491912.565.8%
Boleslavsky, Isaak4194419497146.565.5%
Smyslov, Vassily4194419497144.062.0%
Keres, Paul3194719495634.561.6%
Furman, Semen Abramovich2194819493722.560.8%
Bronstein, David5194419498952.559.0%
Bondarevsky, Igor3194519485431.558.3%
Kotov, Alexander4194419497040.057.1%
Flohr, Salo4194419497239.554.9%
Konstantinopolsky, Alexander2194519483519.054.3%
Tolush, Alexander4194419487037.553.6%
Rudakovsky, Iosif119451945179.052.9%
Makogonov, Vladimir Andreevich2194419473518.051.4%
Ilivitzki, Georgi119481948189.050.0%
Kholmov, Ratmir2194819493718.550.0%
Chekhover, Vitaly119451945178.550.0%
>3 Events
Lilienthal, Andor5194419498944.049.4%
Ragozin, Viacheslav5194419498940.545.5%
Alatortsev, Vladimir4194419487028.040.0%

Botvinnik again tops the list although he played in only the first two events. Of subsequent championships, Cafferty and Taimanov had this to say about him in their book on 'The Soviet Championships':

1947: Botvinnik was absent as a sign of his displeasure over the lack of good faith by the Soviet authorities in negotiating for a World Championship match-tournament. Alekhine's death in 1946 had left the throne vacant, but Zhdanov's hostile speech in September 1946, stating that Soviet culture was superior to that of the West, muddied the waters. Stalin's right-hand man called for an offensive against the West in cultural matters. Agreement could not be reached with the Soviet authorities, so FIDE had to cancel the event scheduled for 1947. (p.59)

1948: The year of 1948 saw Botvinnik abstain again, as he had recently won the world title in the match-tournament at The Hague and Moscow. In fact he was to take a three-year break, to work on his doctorate. (p.62)

Second on the list is Geller, a newcomer to the championships who first played in 1949. Another newcomer that year was Petrosian, who achieved a 39.5% result.

28 August 2009

More Chess Graffiti

Chess graffiti in Valparaiso © Flickr user green_lava under Creative Commons.

It's perhaps not as impressive as North Laines Chess Graffiti, but it's still very good.

27 August 2009

Unclear : The Process of Annotation

The gist of a previous post, titled Unclear : Some Huebner Analysis, was Huebner's comparison of two similar moves, 13.Qe2 and 13.Qe1. It generated two thought-provoking comments, both (coincidentally) from award-winning chess bloggers. Michael Goeller of The Kenilworthian, thought that the analysis was 'evidence that Huebner typically over-annotated his games', while Tom Chivers of The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog considered that it was the 'kind of minutiae Grandmasters deal in daily'.

First, I should clear up a possible misunderstanding. White's 13th move was not Huebner's only comment on the game. As with all his annotated games, he went into detail on many moves, by a quick count nearly 20 in this game. I chose the 13th move because the notes had two examples of the '∞' symbol, my focus in this current series of posts. A closer look at Huebner's notes shows that on a few other moves he went into even more detail than on the 13th move, although that move was one of the most heavily analyzed.

This leads to another point that Goeller mentioned in passing and that Chivers discussed at length: What is the purpose of annotating a game? I imagine that there are as many answers to this question as there are annotators. My own answer is that I annotate a game to document my analysis, and I analyze a game to discover why it had the result recorded at the end: a win for one side or a draw.

In the Huebner game, Goeller pointed to a key position involving an exchange sac, which eventually won. While this position is certainly important, it is only the first step in the analysis. The logical follow-up question is: How did that particular position occur on the board?

Without going into detail, but running the risk of over-simplifying, I often find that the follow-up question leads to a recursive, backward-looking process where each key position arises from a previous key position, and where in that previous position the players had certain distinct choices. These choices can be critiqued in turn.

This process eventually runs into a forward-looking process that starts from the initial position. The players first follow opening theory and then follow common sense until a first key position arises where a player has a transition into the next phase of the game and where the choice of move is far from clear (i.e. 'unclear'). A grandmaster chooses one move, a master chooses another move, and a club player chooses yet another. An example was the 13th move in the Huebner game.

I was reminded of the two directions in this analytical process -- forward-looking and backward-looking -- by a comment in Wade's book on 'Soviet Chess' (p.82).

If I want to illustrate the difference between a grandmaster and a master, I compare Keres' book on the World Championship 1948 with Golombek's very competent work in English; Golombek follows the one thread that binds a whole game whereas Keres shows the difficulties of choice and explores.

I'll have more to say about this book in my series on the Soviet School. I'd also like to look at more Huebner annotations. It appears there is much I can learn from his method of analyzing a chess game.

25 August 2009

Explaining Dynamics with Symbols

Continuing with Early Kasparov Annotations, I picked an early game at random and tried to understand Kasparov's annotations. The game I picked from Informant 27 (Inf.27, 1979H1) is reproduced below.

Note that Informant still used Rabar codes (D32/a in this example), instead of ECO codes (E12), to classify openings. ECO codes were first introduced as a secondary code in Inf.22 (1976H2) and became the primary code in Inf.31 (1981H1). The Rabar codes were phased out for Inf.40 (1985H2).

At first I thought Kasparov's notes to the game were skimpy, but then realized that he had highlighted the most important moments while respecting Informant's space constraints (the space allocated to the game is normal for Informant). He marked three of Browne's opening moves with '?!' (4...c5, 8...Nbd7, and 12...Nh5) and through later notes indicated that this was enough for White to win. He considered his own most important subsequent moves to be 20.Bc3, 22.Bf1, 24.Nc4 and 26.c5, apparently because this kept the initiative with White.

There's no doubt about it. When it comes to explaining the dynamics of a position, Informant style annotations, based completely on symbols, can't replace a good verbal description. To play through the complete game see...

Garry Kasparov vs Walter Shawn Browne; It ( cat. 10 ) 1979

...on Chessgames.com.

23 August 2009

Soviet Chess 1941-45

Two timelines from posts in 2007 touched on the WWII period: The Botvinnik - Keres Rivalry ended, '1941-06 • Germany invades the USSR', and The World Championship Interregnum started, '1945-05 • WWII ends in Europe'. The chess events of the missing years were completely overshadowed by the events of WWII, of which a full description is in Wikipedia's Eastern Front (World War II).

As for Soviet chess during WWII, I once copied a summary from Grekov's 'Soviet Chess' in For Chess historians only. Botvinnik accounted for the same years in '100 Selected Games':-

1941: 'When the Great Patriotic War began the need for defense of the Motherland called for the application of my powers in another field.'

1943: 'From 1941 to 1943 I gave all my time to work as an engineer. During the summer I had to travel a great deal, visiting the power stations in the Urals to test high-tension insulation. During the winter I worked in the high-tension laboratory at Molotov, servicing the works of the Molotov Electricity Corporation in the repair and testing of insulations. At the beginning of 1943 I took up chess again. On Wednesdays and Saturdays I was freed from work in order to devote myself to the game.' • Mentions a master tournament in Sverdlovsk and the Moscow championship.

1944: 'At the beginning of the year I transferred to work in the Technical Department of the Ministry for Electric Power Stations, and moved with my family to Moscow.' • Mentions the 13th Soviet Championship, Moscow.

1945: Mentions the 14th Soviet Championship, Moscow, and the USSR-USA radio match.

More about the USSR post-war team matches can be found in another post from 2007, USSR vs. USA/GBR 1945-55.

21 August 2009

Pawn Mower

GM Maurice Ashley Interviewed About The Benefits of Chess (5:50) • 'Pawn Mower Helps Kids Stay Sharp Over the Summer; CBS, WTVR Richmond Channel 6 Virginia This Morning'

For more about Pawn Mower, see Pawn Mower Magazine (mauriceashleychampions.com).

20 August 2009

FIDE Historical Ratings on Olimpbase

On top of documenting every supranational team championship known to the chess world, Olimpbase has a keen interest in historical ratings. The site just announced its latest tool.

More than a year ago we prepared the spreadsheet file with compilation of all available, historical Elo ratings. Today we have something much better - the very special tool for fast and easy browsing of all historical lists and legible, comfortable player cards documenting all past ratings, placings, spellings and other data.

See History of Elo ratings 1970-2001 for a more detailed explanation. Nice work, Olimpbase!

18 August 2009

Jake Is Not Dead

While doing the sorting++ preparation I mentioned in Chess Ads V, I found the 1942 ad pictured below.

The ad was for Felt & Terrant Comptometers. It read,

Jake is not dead. • Jake is thinking. • Jake is thinking about his next move. • Jake knows there are a lot of possible moves (mostly bad) in a game of chess. But Jake does not know how many. Shall we tell him? Hey, Jake! Get a pencil. Write down "1", Then write five hundred zeros after it. That's how many possible moves there are in a game of chess!

We know from experience that, ordinarily, a lot of people would write to us and say, "Out with it! How did you arrive at this figure? So we will answer them right now.

Dear Reader, We didn't arrive at it. We got it out of a book. We don't know how the mathematician who wrote the book arrived at it. But he is an expert mathematician, and we trust him. We are experts, too, but on a different kind of figure work. Our kind is the figure work connected with business and industry [...]

The number 10^500 is much exaggerated, even by advertising standards, and I hope that comptometers (a forerunner of computers?) were more accurate than the anonymous 'expert mathematician' who derived the number.

But nitpicking aside, that's a great chess ad!

17 August 2009

Year End Pause on Old Material

I made some minor corrections to the Every Move Explained series, including a link at the end of each article to the index for the complete series on Improve Your Chess Game. We're entering the end-of-year period, when according to all the stats I follow, interest in chess generally increases. That will coincide with the anniversary when I started recovering my About.com material from archive -- see All My Material ... Gone Forever ... Not! and Posts with label About.com -- so I'm not going to add anything new.

Now it's time to let the search engines do their job. This will give me a chance to measure interest in the material, without having to account for extraneous factors.

16 August 2009

N. Grekov, 'Soviet Chess'

The table of contents of a non-fiction book is usually a valuable clue to the structure of its subject as seen by the book's author, a published, hence de-facto, subject matter expert. In my post on D.J. Richards, 'Soviet Chess', I listed the contents of two key chapters in that book, covering the 1920s and 1930s.

This current post does the same for Nicolai Grekov's 'Soviet Chess', published in 1949 by Chess Review. Used copies are available from Bookfinder.com via Author is Grekov; Title is Soviet Chess. More than half of the book's chapters, which are listed in the following table, cover the 1930s. The comments in brackets ('[]') are mine,

01 - The Origins of Chess in Russia
02 - Petroff and His Contemporaries
03 - The Age of Tchigorin [Chigorin]
04 - The Formative Period [Alekhine; 1899-1925]
05 - 1st International Tournament, Moscow, 1925
06 - The New Generation of Russian Masters [5th-8th All-Union Championships, 1927/-29/-31/-33]
07 - The Visits of Flohr and Euwe [Botvinnik - Flohr 1933-34, Leningrad 1934]
08 - 9th All-Union Championship, Leningrad, 1934
09 - 2nd International Tournament, Moscow, 1935
10 - 3rd International Tournament, Moscow, 1936
11 - Botvinnik's Triumph at Nottingham, 1936
12 - Minor Events, 1936-1937 [the category system, titles, women]
13 - 10th All-Union Championship, Tiflis, 1937
14 - Other Events, 1937-1938 [Levenfish - Botvinnik 1937; R.Fine visit; Ragozin]
15 - AVRO Tournament, 1938
16 - Training Tournament, Moscow and Leningrad, 1939
17 - 11th All-Union Championship, Leningrad, 1939
18 - Matches, 1940; 12th All-Union Championship, Moscow, 1940
19 - Absolute Championship Match-Tournament, Moscow, 1941
20 - Tournaments, 1941-1942 [WWII takes its toll]
21 - Tournaments, 1943 [Moscow, Sverdlovsk, Moscow Championship]
22 - 13th All-Union Championship, Moscow, 1944

The phrase 'All-Union Championship' is synonymous with 'Soviet Championship'.

14 August 2009

More from Maryhill

Following up a recent post Maryhill Museum of Art, this photo is also tagged 'Maryhill Museum'. (In fact, it was tagged 'Maryhill Meseum', but I dislike tagging obvious mistakes with 'sic', unless I'm tagging tags.)

Aug 1st 2009 422 © Flickr user Ernest Hawkes under Creative Commons.

What's the name of the painting and who's the artist? Maybe there's a clue here: Flickr.com: chess Maryhill.

13 August 2009

Chess Ads V

In Chess Ads IV, why did I say it would be the last post in the series, when it clearly wasn't? Instead, this current post will be the last in the series, but it's not a quick post to satisfy my daily requirement of at least one post. I took the time to retrieve all ads I collected from 2004 through 2007 (the image shows 2005), in preparation for the next step.

The next step will be to sort the approximately 500 ads, eliminate the duplicates, and prepare the best example of each for a new image gallery. I suppose it will end up looking something like Chess in the Movies, and will incorporate around 200 ads when done..

While I was working on the ads, I realized I had enough material for other image galleries -- magazine covers (especially comics), industrial arts, and product designs to name a few -- along with ads related to chess products. The ads I collected for this current series are for non-chess products and services. It's remarkable how many different companies have decided that chess made a good prop for promoting their wares.

11 August 2009

2009 CJA Awards

The Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have announced their 2009 awards (see their page 2009 Awards Announcement plus my previous post Entries for 2009 CJA Awards, with links to the entries). Alexandra Kosteniuk won the Chess Journalist of the Year award for her many contributions to chess journalism. The chess blogosphere was represented by GM Kosteniuk's several blogs and by UTB/TSC Chess (utbchess.blogspot.com; the UTB/TSC acronym stands for University of Texas at Brownsville / Texas Southmost College), which won a 'Local Interest' award in the category for 'Best Chess Web Site'. Congratulations to all of this year's CJA winners!

10 August 2009

Every Move Explained - A Keres Game

For the next in the series on Every Move Explained, I recreated the sixth game: 1937 Margate - Thomas vs. Keres. The index of all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series is on Improve Your Chess Game.

09 August 2009

1st: Botvinnik, 2nd: ???

Over my last few posts, especially Does 'Soviet School' Mean Botvinnik?, I've been focusing on Botvinnik as the first of the great Soviet players, a historical successor to Chigorin and Alekhine, whose styles were formed in the pre-Soviet era. The Soviet chess era can be split naturally into two histories: the pre-WWII era (before 1941) and the post-Alekhine era (after 1945), when the Soviet Union joined FIDE and contributed to the development of the modern World Championship.

Since the post-Alekhine era is the better known of the two histories (and I intend to examine certain aspects in future posts), what can be said about the pre-WWII era? D.J. Richards pointed out various important milestones in the timeline of the 1930s (see my post on D.J. Richards, 'Soviet Chess'), while another source would be the Soviet championships of that decade. The first question that comes to mind is: 'Who were Botvinnik's chief Soviet rivals of the 1930s?'

I dusted off my database of Soviet championships (see Players in the USSR Championships and the subsequent Notes), concentrated on the six Soviet championships of the 1930s, and devoloped some statistics to determine the most successful players. The year and number of players in each event is given in the following list -- 1931: 18, 1933: 20, 1934: 20, 1937: 20, 1939: 18, and 1940: 20.

The year 1933 was somewhat problematic to analyze, because the record of games is incomplete. Rusbase, for example, in 8th Championship of USSR - Leningrad 16.8-9.9.1933 has only '74 games of 190' played, but since I'm only interested in the final scores, the crosstable was sufficient to make the stats.

I determined that the 116 competitors in the six events covered 48 different players. Players scoring at least 50% in the events where they took part are shown in the following table, along with the number of events played, the first and last year of participation, the number of games played, and the total score. Botvinnik, for example, played in four of the six events, where the first in my survey was in 1931 (he also competed in 1927 and 1929, which are not covered here) and the last was in 1940; he scored 51.5 points in 72 games, for an overall scoring percentage of 71.5%:-

Botvinnik, Mikhail4193119407251.571.5%
Smyslov, Vassily1194019401913.068.4%
Keres, Paul1194019401912.063.2%
Boleslavsky, Isaak1194019401911.560.5%
Bondarevsky, Igor3193719405533.060.0%
Riumin, Nikolay Nikolaevich3193119345532.559.1%
Belavenets, Sergey Vesevolodovi3193419395532.058.2%
Bohatirchuk, Fedor Parfenovich3193119345532.058.2%
Alatortsev, Vladimir4193119377443.058.1%
Lilienthal, Andor2193719403822.057.9%
Makogonov, Vladimir Andreevich4193419407442.557.4%
Rabinovich, Ilya Leontievich4193319397441.556.1%
Levenfish, Grigory5193319409351.555.4%
Lisitsin, Georgy61931194011059.554.1%
Ragozin, Viacheslav4193419407439.553.4%
Chekhover, Vitaly4193319397439.553.4%
Verlinsky, Boris2193119333619.052.8%
Konstantinopolsky, Alexander2193719403820.052.6%
Rauzer, Vsevolod4193119377438.552.0%
Veresov, Gavriil2193419403819.551.3%
Yudovich, Mikhail5193119399146.551.1%
Kan, Ilia Abramovich5193119399146.050.5%
Kotov, Alexander2193919403618.050.0%

The four players who competed in more championships than Botvinnik -- Lisitsin (all 6 events), plus Kan, Levenfish, and Yudovich (5 each) -- are all shown in the table. Eight players, including Botvinnik, played in four events, while seven played in three.

After Botvinnik, the three most successful players played in their first Soviet championship in 1940, marking them as future rivals in the post-WWII, post-Alekhine era. The rest of the names in the table are also worthy of special attention.

07 August 2009

Shatranj Ke Khilari

Satyajit Ray's "Shatranj Ke Khilari" (The Chess Players) (9:31) • 'with subtitles, Part 1'

'Mirzad Sajjad Ali is giving check. This is the King of the White army and the Black Queen is about to launch an attack on him. "Mir Sahib, save your King." If the King is lost the game is over.'

06 August 2009

18 Memorable Months

Although I started the series on 18 Memorable Games a year and a half ago, I've only now reached the mid-point. There are simply too many other interesting chess topics to cover. Here are links to the first posts for each of the first nine games.

Next on the list: 1961 Bled, Fischer - Geller.

04 August 2009

Chess Ads IV

For this last post in the series I started with Chess Ads I (my VIP visitors leave soon), the next image shows thumbnails of ads I collected in 2003.

I'll continue to work on ads I collected from 2004 through 2009 whenever I lack time for a meatier post.

03 August 2009

Every Move Explained - A Tal Game

Continuing with Every Move Explained, I recreated the fifth game in the series: 1962 Varna Olympiad - Tal vs. Mohrlok. The index of all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series is on Improve Your Chess Game.

02 August 2009

More Botvinnik Appreciations

Q: What was the source of Botvinnik's great chess strength?

My Great Predecessors II (2003):

Kasparov: 'Botvinnik was undoubtedly one of the greatest champions, a genuine innovator who created an entire era in chess. His style was one of deep strategy, based on serious opening and psychological preparation, fine technique, and accurately regulated positional and combinative decisions. [His] scientific approach enabled him to create an unprecedented system of preparation for competitions, including fundamental opening research, a systematic study of opponents' styles, and a rigorous analysis of his own games, with their obligatory publication, so that he could be criticized by others.' (p.111)

Smyslov: 'Botvinnik undoubtedly adhered to the classical views on chess. He was a worthy successor to his great predecessors -- Lasker, Capablanca, and Alekhine. One could observe a clear strategic idea in his play. By character he was a researcher, and at the basis of his approach to chess lay a quest for truth. In the years when computers did not yet exist, Botvinnik's deep analyses anticipated that direction of modern chess, which makes wide use of the accumulation and generalisation of information with the help of computer technology.' (p.262)

World's Greatest Chess Games (1976):

Fine: 'Botvinnik's style is hard to grasp at first sight. But a closer study reveals a very consistent thread -- he always seeks out the most complicated position. If a move leads to a good fight he is for it. For this reason he sticks to certain openings which he knows to perfection. A curious feature of his style is that he often plays better with Black than with White; this is because he avoids easy drawing lines with Black and accepts involved defensive positions which other masters sidestep.' (p.265)

Development of Chess Style (1968):

Euwe: 'Botvinnik's aim is always to seize the initiative. He is a remarkably deep combination player who can think out and compare long sequences of moves; but he is also an excellent position player, a good defender, and a great master of the endgame. Remembering that Botvinnik is also very much at home in the domain of the openings, it is no exaggeration to say that Botvinnik is the most versatile champion in the history of chess.' (p.140)

Meet the Masters (1945):

Euwe: 'Though Botvinnik is primarily a position player, and though his construction of the game differs vastly from Alekhine's, his play reveals in his discernment of attacking chances, the greatest possible resemblance to the brilliant style of the world champion.' (p.170)

In answer to the question, 'who were the greatest champions', it is rare for lesser players to mention Botvinnik.