31 May 2010

Count the Developing Moves

I added a tutorial titled Count the Developing Moves to my page on Improve Your Game. This is a useful technique for evaluating the progress of both players in the opening.

28 May 2010

Meet Thy Maker

'It used a RFID Board to detect the position of the pieces.'

Chess Playing Robot © Flickr user whosdadog under Creative Commons.

Tags: Maker Faire 2010 (more++): www.makerfaire.com

27 May 2010

Elegant Classical Chess Clock

What can you expect to find in Top eBay Chess Items by Price? Once in a while you find an unusual item like the Grandmaster Medal featured in the previous post. Most often you find chess sets of all descriptions, followed in frequency by rare books, followed by chess computers and chess clocks.

For this post I decided to feature the clock pictured in the following image. It received 13 bids and sold for GBP 585.00 ('approximately US $838.71', according to eBay.

The title said, 'Chess Clock Antique German Mechanism H.A.C. Wurttenberg', and the description read,

H.A.C Chess Clock • Elegant Classical Chess Clock. • Clock mechanism was made in Wurttenberg, Germany, then assembled by W.E. Tanner, Red Hill, Surrey, London. • Both clocks work and keep good accurate time. All original workings and hands etc. Workings visible as designed from viewing front of clock faces. Clocks encased in wooden surrounding frame with slight damage to both top front corners. The measurements of wooden frame / encasement stand is :- 26 cms long x 17 cms high x 8 cms wide. Each clock is 10.5 cms in diameter. Bevel edged glass faces are in excellent condition.

According to Google, 'HAC' stands for Hamburg American Clock Company, Wurttemberg, Germany. The search also led me to a Picasa page, Chess Clocks (www.dorland-chess.com), full of photos of handsome mechanical clocks.

25 May 2010

My Policy on Comments

A few months ago, the chessexpress blog posted a piece titled My policy on comments, an often overlooked aspect of blogging. The post addressed three policy points:-

  • To allow anonymous comments (or not),
  • To moderate comments (or not), and
  • To delete spam comments (or not).

The chessexpress answers were 'Yes', 'No', and 'No'. At that time my answers were 'No', 'No', and 'Yes', although I had never given the questions any real thought.

Re anonymous comments, I see no need to allow this. Many people who leave comments use a nickname or a pseudonym which makes it impossible for me or for any casual visitor to identify them. Although there is a profile attached to each identity, there is an option to hide it from view by others. These capabilities mean that all commenters can hide behind a mask of anonymity if they wish.

Re moderated comments, until recently I had never had enough comments requiring deletion to make moderation necessary. My daily routine ensures that, if necessary, a comment is deleted maximum 24 hours after it is posted.

Re deleting comments, I wouldn't leave an unsightly comment on my blog any more than I would leave garbage or other crap on the sidewalk in front of my house. On top of being unsightly, there is always a risk that a blog visitor might slip and be hurt if the comment happens to lead to some sort of malware.

Lately I've been getting more unsightly comments, to the point where I have to delete one or two daily. While I don't mind doing this, especially since it takes less than a minute, it means that the junk will accumulate anytime I am offline for an extended period of time, like on vacation.

For this reason, I've decided to moderate comments. I apologize in advance to anyone whose legitimate comment sits on the moderation queue longer than it should. I value all real comments, even those that are negative, and always read them attentively. Without comments, blogging wouldn't offer half the pleasure that it does.

24 May 2010

Every Move Explained - More Proofreading!

What's every writer's least favorite job? I imagine it's proofreading. For reasons I explained last year in Every Move Explained - Proofreading!, the Every Move Explained series is particularly prone to errors. I reviewed the most recent games...

...and discovered that the quality ranged from embarrassingly bad to surprisingly acceptable. The worst errors are writing 'White' when I mean 'Black', and vice versa. How is an automated proofreader ever going to catch that? While I was looking at the latest batch of games, I noticed some stylistic differences with earlier games in the series...

...Have these been proofread? When I make the styles consistent, I'll read them all again.

21 May 2010

BBC: The Master Game

This legendary series of TV programs was one of the best chess series ever aired in English. I once saw it while on a business trip to London and was amazed by the quality.

TV Chess - Karpov vs Spassky - Fide World Cup 1982 1st Leg (1/3) (9:13) • 'An experiment in the 1980's showing chess on television in the style of the BBC "Mastergame" series, with players own comments added to the game.'

Both Karpov and Spassky explain their moves in terms that a club player can understand; presented by Jeremy James and Bill Hartston. Game 2: TV Chess - Spassky vs Karpov - Fide World Cup 1982 2nd Leg (1/3).

20 May 2010

World Championship Opening Preparation in 2010

As a coda to World Championship Opening Preparation - Summary, or perhaps as the start of a new column '1x' in that post (i.e. the decade beginning 2010), a pair of recent articles from Chessbase.com featured Anand discussing his preparation from the just-finished match with Topalov: Anand's helpers in Sofia, Part One and Part Two. Also worth mentioning are related posts from two respected news blogs -- Carlsen, Giri, Kasparov and Kramnik all helped Anand (Chessvibes.com) and Anand was First in Seconds (Chessninja.com) -- spiced with comments from knowledgeable fans.

18 May 2010

That's the CNC!

A month and a half ago I asked, What's the CNC?, and was politely informed that it stands for

Chess News Corporation. It's a joint venture between FIDE and other parties to commercialize some of FIDE's IP.

I had already blogged on the topic at the beginning of the year -- Global Chess, Chess News Corporation, Chess Lane, and FIDE -- but failed to make the connection with the acronym. According to Google, the site Chess Network (Chessnc.com) went live about the same time the Anand - Topalov match started, 21 April. Looking at it now, the site also went dormant the same day the last game of the match was played, 11 May. Every page on the site currently carries the same title, 'Chess Network', and appears in the Google search results with the same description...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent sollicitudin, metus eu condimentum facilisis, nisl nisl dignissim

...whatever that means. The content is also somewhat thin: lots of photos plus Anand - Topalov game analysis by GM Efstratios Grivas, downloadable as Word documents. Giving the benefit of the doubt, all of this might be just a stub. In David Kaplan's revolution in chess, Chessbase.com quoted Kaplan, 'CEO for Development in FIDE', saying,

We plan to pass all the rights on chess information to Chess News Corporation (CNC) -- a company created with FIDE’s support. The reason is simple; free data broadcasting, which is not always precise and correct, will never help the development of interest towards chess and its commercial success.

and later

I hope that modern chess is on the brink of a revolution. For four years FIDE and a number of companies have been conducting a research. There are about 40 people working on projects: psychologists, specialists in marketing, PR professionals. The product is not on the market yet. It will happen only in September/October 2010. I hope we can give a new impulse to our beloved game. If we don’t succeed in rebranding chess in the next five years, no one will manage to do it in the next 50.

In September/October 2010, we can already look forward to the Olympiad and the FIDE election. Now we can add a fully operational CNC, or was Kaplan talking about something else?

17 May 2010

Every Move Explained - A Rubinstein Game

This week's Every Move Explained game, 1907 Lodz - Rotlewi vs. Rubinstein, was played a century before last week's game, 2007 Barcelona - Krasenkow vs. Nakamura, but is just as beautiful. The index of all games in the series can be found at Improve Your Chess Game.

14 May 2010

World Champion Medal

I can't decide if Anand is wearing a chess tie or not. What do you think? (Follow the Flickr.com link for larger photos.)

Viswanathan and Aruna Anand © Flickr user Georgios Souleidis under Creative Commons.

The medal says, 'WINNER'. For more photos in the same series, see World Chess Championship Sofia 2010.

13 May 2010

Grandmaster Medal

For this next edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I found a number of interesting items worthy of attention. Since I would like to highlight only one at a time, I chose the item that is least likely to appear anytime in the near future. That item, whose front and back are pictured below, was described as an 'International Grandmaster FIDE relief chess medal for title holders, early type from 1952'. It received 32 bids, finally selling for US $765.

The address of the seller's web site, www.chessbookshop.com, is visible to the left of the ribbon and corresponds to his eBay seller id: chessbookshop. On those pages we learn that the proprietor is Karel Mokry, who himself earned the GM title in 1984. In the description of the item, he explained the provenance of the medal that he was putting up for auction.

We are listing a collection of circa 50 chess pins, badges, medals etc that were formerly owned by Czech GM Miroslav Filip. The collection includes many uncommon items that almost do not appear in the market like various Olympic badges/medals, badges of International Grandmaster and International Master, FIDE Award for participation in 10 Olympiads etc.

Miroslav Filip (1928-2009), Czech GM, the best Czechoslovak player in 1950s, one of world's best chess players around 1960, World Championship Candidate 1956 and 1962. Multiple Czechoslovak chess champion. He played in 12 olympiads, 194 olympic games in all, with the overall result (+62 =104 -28). Miroslav Filip is also well known as an arbiter (Karpov - Korchnoi, Baguio 1978, women world championships etc).

The item description also gave a detailed description of the medal and its history.

Metal, probably combination of silver and silver gilt. Medal average 27 mm, size with a ribbon ca 27 x 75 mm. This medal was not for sale, just the title holders were awarded it. Title International Grandmaster has an official status since 1950 when FIDE awarded the title to first 27 players. This is an early type of the award - the medal was issued in 1952 - GM Filip was awarded in 1955 as the first Czechoslovak player (except Duras who was one of first 27 holders and got it in 1950 for his play between 1900-1914).

I read somewhere that between 1950-1987 were awarded about 300 players by GM title, then I estimate that some 50-100 players were awarded by GM title between 1950-1960. I do not remember any offer of such a medal on ebay or anywhere, it was probably issued in small edition and is quite scarce.

The author of the medal is a well-known Huguenin company of Le Locle, Switzerland (by the way, there is currently several tens of products listed on ebay manufactured by this company). The company was founded by Huguenin brothers in 1868 and they are still active - their actual name is Faude & Huguenin.

There are two hallmarks on the back of the medal. One is at the bottom under the year 1952 (picture 4) where is stated HUGUENIN, fineness 0.750 in a frame and probably Huguenin's mark - it looks like joined letters HF. The second hallmark is on a piece of metal that connects the medal with a ribbon and shows again the letters (HF?) and fineness now is 0.925.

The hallmarks can mean that the medal is made from a noble metal - it can be a common medal silvered and gilt, or combination of silver and silver gilt and I cannot exclude combination of silver and gold. I am not an expert - I pictured details of the hallmarks and will let it on you.

I believe that GM Mokry has overestimated the number of players who were awarded the GM title between 1950 and 1960, and will calculate the exact number as soon as I find time.

11 May 2010

Intermediate Scores as a Match Predictor

For this post I had planned to highlight a remark by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk for Anand - Topalov 2010, Game 8, (Chessdom.com). Commenting on 25...Kc6, she wrote,

Black is in a very difficult position. To tell you the truth, although the match of such players are always awaiting with big interest and enthusiasm, the strategy for this kind of matches nowadays are rather uninteresting. Players, like Anand or Topalov, or even Kramnik are trying to minimize their risk and play positions with a small plus for White and try to hold a draw in boring and slightly worse endgames.

A match is not a tournament, even if you win with the score +1 it's enough to get the title. This makes players play differently, not in an open and exciting style they usually play in tournament, but rather in very academical and unrisky ways.

Then I discovered that I had been pre-empted by The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog in How long is a piece of string?, where Tom Chivers asked, 'How long should a World Championship match be?' It's a question which has been much debated among chess fans in recent years as matches have been progressively shortened.

GM Kosteniuk's remark raises a number of issues, one of which is Chivers' question. While thinking about it, I started to wonder about the longer, 24 game World Championship matches of the past. How good a predictor of the final result was the intermediate score at game 12, 14, and 16 in those matches?

I gathered the data for 16 matches from my World Championship site (see the sidebar for a link) and loaded it into a database table. After a little manipulation, the following picture emerged.

For each match, it shows the intermediate result after games 12, 14, and 16, together with the final result. For example, the first two lines show that in the 1951 match, Botvinnik led Bronstein by a full point after games 12, 14, and 16 (games 13 through 16 were all drawn), while the match ended in a draw.

It's curious that in none of the 16 matches was the eventual winner behind at any one of the three intermediate stages. The closest match was the 1969 Spassky - Petrosian match, which was equal at all three points (once again, games 13 through 16 were all drawn).

One point worth keeping in mind is that, for all of these matches (except perhaps 1993 Karpov - Timman?), the reigning champion retained the title in case of a drawn match. That meant that he was effectively ahead by one game whenever the intermediate result was tied. The ongoing Anand - Topalov match (the 12th and last regular game will be played starting within one hour) will use tiebreak games in case of a draw.

10 May 2010

07 May 2010

Karpov - Kasparov (Moscow 1985, Game 16)

This is one of the most famous World Championship games of all time. Kasparov won in fine style, the match initiative passed to him, Karpov never regained it, and Kasparov won the title for the first time.

Historical Chess Game: Kasparov - Karpov: WCC 1985 Game 16 (1/3) (9:54) • 'A TV program analysing a historical landmark game from the 1985 World Chess Championship.'

Commentators: Bill Hartston and Michael Stean.

06 May 2010

FIDE Ethics

While working on the post FIDE Ethics Commission Judgement 04/06 for my World Chess Championship blog, I became curious about the origin and powers of the FIDE Ethics Commission itself. The commission is defined in the FIDE Handbook, Administrative Subjects, Chapter 8. - The commissions, or the delegates, of FIDE.

Ethics Commission (ETH) 1- Objectives: The Ethic Commission shall consider any alleged breaches of FIDE code of ethics as specified in the Statutes. 2- Membership : 2.1 The ETH shall consist of five members [...] 3- Proceedings: 3.1 The members of the ETH shall elect Chairman and a Secretary from within themselves upon their election by the GA. [...]

The code of ethics is described in another chapter of the same section in the Handbook: Chapter 10. FIDE Code of Ethics

1. Introduction 1.1 The game and concept of chess is based on the assumption that everyone involved / concerned observe existing rules and regulations and attaches the greatest importance to fair play and good sportsmanship. 1.2 It is impossible to define exactly and in all circumstances the standard of conduct expected from all parties involved in FIDE tournaments and events, or to list all sets which would amount to a breach of the Code of Ethics and lead to disciplinary sanctions. In most cases common sense will tell the participants the standards of behavior that are required. [...]

In that last link are two important annexes: Annex 1: Procedural Rules and Annex 2: Guidelines to the Interpretation of FIDE Code of Ethics. The Ethics Commission took a giant step forward at the 2006 Turin Olympiad, with the election of Roberto Rivello as the Chairman of the Commission. He subsequently penned an article for Chessbase.com -- How the FIDE Ethics Commission (EC) works (11 May 2007) -- with a particular emphasis on procedure.

Probably the former EC Chairmen were not lawyers and did not consider this point as a very important one. I was informed that, in the past, the Chairman used to decide case by case the proceeding internal rules, without expressing them in an explicit form. In practice there were no written rules and no hearings. This was not so uncommon. The same happened in many other sporting Federations till recent years. Today is much less common: sport justice is becoming more and more important.

In any case, I am a jurist. I am Judge in Italy, with jurisdiction on criminal cases, I am Professor of International Law and International Organization at the University of Turin, I organize with UNICRI – a UN organ – a LL’M Master on International Criminal Law and International Criminal Justice. It is my work, and for me rules are very important: I believe it is not possible to take fair decisions without any previous proceeding rules, even in the sportive Justice.

Chess players, organizers, and officials have often sought redress through open letters published on the main chess news sites, often quickly forgotten. The Ethics Commission provides a formal means of seeking real justice.

04 May 2010

Searching for Amand - Topalon

The diagram below shows the number of page views (PVs) my World Chess Championship site (see link on the sidebar to the right) received each day during the month of April 2010. The sharp rise in PVs on 24 April corresponds to the first game of the Anand - Topalov World Championship match. The site gets more visitors every time a World Championship is held and I've often wondered where they come from. Since creating the simple database I described in Log Wallowing, I'm better equipped to do a detailed analysis.

The first statistic I noticed was that my page on the 2010 Anand - Topalov match was indeed the main target of the increased traffic. Already the second most popular page on the site for March 2010, it received seven times more traffic in April and surpassed the site's home page with almost four times as many PVs.

Where is all the extra traffic coming from? In a word: Google. Of the 175 referring sites that sent traffic directly to the Anand - Topalov page, 116 of them were Google domains. Those domains accounted for more than 90% of the traffic to my page on the match.

Google.com accounted for one-third of the referring traffic, which was three times more than runner-up Google.co.in, itself more than double third place Google.co.uk. The Google UK traffic was equivalent to internal references from other pages on my own site. Rounding out the top-10 referrers were Google Germany, Hungary, Canada, Spain, Croatia ('.hr'; I had to look it up), and the Netherlands.

Taking the many Google domains together, most of the referring pages were search results. The exceptions were mostly translations, like 'translate.google.fr'. Of the searches, about two-thirds used the search term 'Anand', and somewhat fewer used the term 'Topalov'. Most searches that used one name also used the other. The exceptions were language specific or typos: Topalow, Topolov, Topalpw, Tapalov, Topoalov, Topalev, Topolav, Topalv, Topalon, etc. 'Anand' is a little easier for people to remember: Anad, Annand, Annad, Andn, Amand, etc.

Around one-third of the searches used neither name. Most of these were some variation of 'World Chess Championship 2010'. Nearly 200 of these added the word 'Turkey', probably looking for one of the restricted championships instead of the title match.

The majority of the visitors who arrived at my site looked at the Anand - Topalov page and then moved offsite. My page, which isn't a news page, links to the official site, so I hope that many visitors went there. About 20% of the visitors looked at more of my pages on the World Championship and perhaps a few of them will come back some day. After all, if you like chess, you have to love the World Chess Championship.

03 May 2010

Every Move Explained - An Alekhine Game

Almost nine months after my Year End Pause on Old Material, and after convincing myself with What's Popular, What's Not that it's worth investing a little more time, I'm ready to continue with the next in the series titled Every Move Explained. I recreated the game 1927 New York - Alekhine vs. Marshall and added it to the index of all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series on Improve Your Chess Game.