30 November 2010

There's Gold in Them Thar Score Sheets!

A couple of years ago, in There's Gold in Them Thar Chess Photos!, I noted that photos of famous chess players can sell on eBay for hundreds of dollars. In this post, I note that original score sheets signed by famous chess players are also worth more than you might guess.

Unlike the items in the Photos! post, which were offered by several eBay sellers, the Score Sheets! were offered by bulkcover, last seen on this blog with Mikhail Tal in Italy. The first item in the second row isn't even a real score sheet.

Up for the auction the reconstruction of the score-sheet of the 31th Chess Championship of USSR played in Leningrad from Nov.23 till Dec.26 1963, from the game Bronstein - Polugaevsky, played in Nov.28 1963 on the fourth tour on the sixth board. (Game Nr.36). Due to unknown reason the original did not survive, so it was reconstructed by one of the arbiters of tournament for the needs of archive. No signatures.

Nevertheless, it received 5 bids and sold for US $10.50.

29 November 2010

Fischer - Najdorf, 1962 Varna

When I compared Fischer's annotations against Kasparov's for the game Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961, I expected to find only one point in the game where Tal could have changed the outcome. That was the point discussed in When Is a Blunder Not a Blunder.

For the next game in 18 Memorable Games -- Fischer - Najdorf, 1962 Varna Olympiad -- I expect to find similar. Here is the PGN, showing the annotation symbols of the two former World Champions. The game is no.40 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.69 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV.

[Event "Varna ol."]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Najdorf, M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B90"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 b5 {FIS: !?; KAS: !?} 7.Nd5 {FIS: !?; KAS: !?} 7...Bb7 {FIS: ?; KAS: ?!} 8.Nxf6+ gxf6 9.c4 {FIS: !; KAS: !?} 9...bxc4 {KAS: ?!} 10.Bxc4 Bxe4 11.O-O d5 12.Re1 {FIS: !; KAS: ?!} 12...e5 {KAS: ?} 13.Qa4+ {FIS: !; KAS: !} 13...Nd7 14.Rxe4 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 14...dxe4 15.Nf5 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 15...Bc5 16.Ng7+ {FIS: !; KAS: !} 16...Ke7 17.Nf5+ Ke8 18.Be3 Bxe3 19.fxe3 Qb6 20.Rd1 Ra7 21.Rd6 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 21...Qd8 22.Qb3 Qc7 23.Bxf7+ Kd8 24.Be6 1-0

The key sequence is 12.Re1 {FIS: !; KAS: ?!} 12...e5 {KAS: ?}, where (interpreting Kasparov's symbols) Fischer let Najdorf off the hook, Najdorf in turn missed the best continuation, and Fischer failed to flag the double error in his notes. To play through the complete game, see...

Robert James Fischer vs Miguel Najdorf; Varna Olympiad Final 1962

...on Chessgames.com.

26 November 2010

The Scene of the Crime

From PIX 11 News: 'Emerson Park in Inwood, a beautiful, quiet place where families can get a little fresh air. Last month there was a big bust here. Men were found here in the middle of the day... playing chess.'

NYPD Bust Chess Players In Manhattan Park (1:38) • 'A squad of police officers in bulletproof vests swooped into an upper Manhattan park in New York park and charged seven men with the "crime" of playing chess in an area off-limits to adults unaccompanied by a kid.'

25 November 2010

'Modern Chess Brilliancies' in PGN

In my most recent post, Two Items on GM Larry Evans, I wasn't happy about having two games without any PGN, so I set off looking for a digital copy of the game scores from 'Modern Chess Brilliancies', first published by Evans in 1970. I found one on Ossimitz: chess-collections from books. For many reasons, this site is not one of my favorites for digital game collections, but there appeared to be nothing else.

I downloaded the ZIP, discovered that it contained a single file from 2001 in Chessbase CBV format, and converted the CBV to PGN. The PGN turned out to be full of annofritz comments, which are worse than useless, so I stripped those out, leaving just the moves of the games. I noticed that the first game in the book was out of sequence in the file, so I moved it to its logical place. Then I noticed that many of the games had been continued beyond the point where the players resigned. Someone had added Evans' comments showing how mate was inevitable by including the mating sequence as part of the game. I stripped those out too.

The converted file is available at mark-weeks.com/cfaa/eva-mcbr.zip. I've always wanted to be able to analyze the games with the help of an engine and now I can.

23 November 2010

Two Items on GM Evans

Looking through resources at hand for info about Larry Evans (1932-2010), I came across the two items shown in the following table. On the left is the USCF rating list for events through 31 December 1951, the fourth such semi-annual list according to the April 1952 issue of Chess Review where I found it. On the right are six of Evans' own games, among the 101 selected for his 'Modern Chess Brilliancies', with links to Chessgames.com where they exist.

Evans - Bisguier, US Chp 1958

Evans - Berger, Amsterdam Izt 1964

Evans - Blackstone, 1st American Open 1965

R.Byrne - Evans, US Chp 1965

• Koehler - Evans, US National Open 1968

• Evans - Zuckerman, US Chp 1967

Throughout his career, Evans had a tremendous impact on American chess. None of today's player/writers comes close to him in stature.

22 November 2010

When Is a Blunder Not a Blunder?

The position in the diagram, from Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961 (see that post for punctuation by Fischer and Kasparov and for a link to the game on Chessgames.com), is the prelude to one of the best known opening blunders in chess history. After the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3, Tal played 6...Nf6. Fischer remarked,

Probably the losing move! Tal looked worried immediately having made it, but I'm not sure he was convinced he had really been careless. Correct is 6...a6.

and assigned the move a '?'. Kasparov gave it a '?!'. The difference in opinion between the 11th and 13th World Champions is significant and can be summed up by the question, 'At what point did Tal play the losing move?'

After 6.g2-g3

After 6...Nf6, the game continued 7.Ndb5 Qb8 8.Bf4 Ne5. Here Fischer commented

Tal took a long time on this risky reply. The alternative 8...e5 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxf6 axb5 (not 10...gxf6 11.Na3 b5 12.Nd5) 11.Bg5 gives a clear advantage.

Kasparov gave the move 8...Ne5 a '?' and remarked,

Huebner did not agree with this: 'Fischer often lacks rigourness when evaluating two options in a cheerless position; to my mind, this is the case here. The text move loses by force; after 8...e5 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxf6 axb5 11.Bg5, Black would still have had chances to offer resistance if he continues 11...Bb4 12.Bxb5 Bxc3+ 13.bxc3 d6'. [...] The weakness of White's Queenside greatly hinders the conversion of his extra Pawn.

Moreover, in the variation 10...gxf6 11.Na3 [instead of 11...b5], Black should go in for 11...Bxa3 12.bxa3 Ne7 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Qxd5 b5 with a somewhat inferior, but by no means lost position.

There followed 9.Be2 Bc5. Here Fischer added,

In the tournament book, Tal suggested the rather startling 9...Ng8, to avoid material loss. After 10.Qd4 f6 11.O-O-O a6 12.Nd6+ Bxd6 13.Qxd6 Qxd6 14.Rxd6 leads to a promising endgame.

Kasparov gave 9...Bc5 another '?', and stated that 9...Ng8, was 'Black's last chance', agreeing that 'he would at least have retained material equality'.


The preceding summary offers three candidates for 'the losing move': 6...Nf6, 8...Ne5, and 9...Bc5. Tal must have had an extremely bad day to make three mistakes in four moves. In the case of 6...Nf6, Kasparov wrote that

Tal intended the usual 6...a6 7.Bg2 Nf6, and had already written down 6..a6 on his scoresheet, but, by his own admission, 'roughly once a year it would happen that I would write down the first move of a variation, but make the second.

Nowadays the act of recording the move before playing it is against the rules, due to the rise of pocket electronic scorekeepers that display the resulting position. In 'Russian Silhouettes', Genna Sosonko also comments on this habit of Tal.

He always used to write his move before executing it on the board. [...] If he did not like the move, he would cross it out and write a new one. In his later years he used to say increasingly often, 'I even wrote the winning move on my scoresheet, but crossed it out at the last moment...' (p.28)

As for 9...Bc5, Fischer noted that the alternative 9...Ng8 allows a 'promising endgame' for White. After 14.Rxd6, the last move in the variation given by both Fischer and Kasparov, White is ready to activate his last piece with Rhd1, doubling the Rooks on the d-file. Black still has five pieces on the back rank and still needs to move a Pawn to develop the light squared Bishop. Given this significant lead in development plus the two Bishops, White's 'promising endgame' offers strong odds to achieve a win.

I checked the historical game databases and discovered that Tal's 6...Nf6, has been played many times. In the May 2003 issue of Chess Life, GM Andy Soltis commented,

Tal gave himself two question marks for 6...Nf6??. [...] Yet it has been played dozens of times since 1961, including by Judit Polgar -- and Igor Ivanov did it twice in one year. And there are 24 examples in my database when masters failed to find 7.Ndb5!.

I suspect that one reason these blunders keep coming back is that masters are always saying that you shouldn't waste your time on traps. You should be wasting your time on loftier stuff, like theoretical novelties on the 32nd move. (p.14)

Even after the correct sequence 7.Ndb5 Qb8 8.Bf4, I found four games that followed Kasparov's 8...e5 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Na3 Bxa3. These games ended in Black's favor by a margin of +1-3=0. While this is too small a sample to draw conclusions, maybe 6...Nf6 isn't a blunder at all. Instead of giving it '??', '?', or '?!', perhaps we should give it '!?'.

19 November 2010

'Highly Concentrated'

Concentradísimo © Flickr user Adn! under Creative Commons.

Caption: 'Pensando en el próximo movimiento.' • Google: 'Thinking about the next move.'

18 November 2010

Blog -> Email -> Facebook -> Ebay

I had a small role to play in this fortnight's pick for Top eBay Chess Items by Price. Last month I received an email from an Australian correspondent who had a photo postcard

of the participants of the "Staunton" World Chess Tournament in Groningen (Netherlands) August - September 1946, signed (original signatures) by the participants, including: [names of players] I am keen to sell these items but would appreciate any suggestions as to what may be the best way to do so. I have no idea as to their worth, but assume they would have value to a collector or enthusiast. (I note your blog mentions a 1970 card was sold for $460, but I do not know if that tournament had any special significance). Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

After a bit of clicking, I realized that he was referring to my blog post 1970 Palma de Mallorca Autographs from July 2009. Except for a few odds and ends related to the World Championship, I'm not a collector, so I contacted a Facebook friend from Australia who helpfully gave the name of a dealer located down under. A few weeks later I saw the following photo on eBay bearing the title '1946 World Chess Tournament - Photo & 20 Autographs' and was sure that it was the piece mentioned by my Australian correspondent.

The description said,

A very rare collectable item of a photograph and autographs of the participants in the 1946 World Chess Tournament, Groningen, Holland. After Alekhine's death as incumbent world chess champion in 1946, the chess world entered a period of interregnum where no grandmaster could legitimately claim the title as his own. The first great post-war tournament was that at Groningen in Holland. This witnessed a mighty race between the former champion Dr Max Euwe and the chief Soviet protagonist Mikhail Botvinnik. [...]

It is interesting to note that the photo/card shows 13 standing and 8 sitting, whilst the names and signatures on the back reflect only 20 persons.

The card received 1 bid and sold for US $750. When I received the original email message, I assumed there was no way a 1946 Groningen card could be worth more than a 1970 Palma de Mallorca card with Fischer's signature. Just shows you what I know. As for the discrepancy between the 21 men shown on the card and the 20 names on the back of the card, the unidentifed person appears to be the tall, dark haired fellow standing in the back row, eighth from the left, between Szabo and Denker.

16 November 2010

Curious Curaçao Clock

No, this isn't a photo from the current focus of my analytical series, Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961. It's a photo of the same players taken at Curaçao 1962. What caught my attention wasn't the image of the two World Champions, future and former at the time of the photo. It was the clock they are using.

The clock has a wire coming out the back and two wires connected to the sides. I can't remember ever seeing a chess clock like that. The photo is from page 132 of 'Curaçao 1962' by Jan Timman. The same clock is shown on the cover of the book: Curacao 1962: The Battle of Minds that Shook the Chess World (Amazon.com; click 'see larger image'). I assume it was used to drive the clocks beneath the demonstration boards, also visible in the photo.

15 November 2010

Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961

After Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, where the last post was Using Computers to Call into Question, the next game in my series on 18 Memorable Games is Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961. It is no.32 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.65 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV. Here is the PGN with the punctuation given by Fischer and Kasparov.

[Event "Bled"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1961.??.??"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Tal, M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B47"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3 Nf6 {FIS: '?'; KAS: '?!'} 7.Ndb5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 7...Qb8 8.Bf4 Ne5 {KAS: '?'} 9.Be2 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 9...Bc5 {KAS: '?'} 10.Bxe5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 10...Qxe5 11.f4 Qb8 12.e5 a6 13.exf6 axb5 14.fxg7 Rg8 15.Ne4 Be7 16.Qd4 Ra4 17.Nf6+ Bxf6 18.Qxf6 Qc7 19.O-O-O {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 19...Rxa2 20.Kb1 Ra6 21.Bxb5 Rb6 22.Bd3 e5 23.fxe5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 23...Rxf6 24.exf6 Qc5 25.Bxh7 Qg5 26.Bxg8 Qxf6 27.Rhf1 Qxg7 28.Bxf7+ Kd8 29.Be6 Qh6 30.Bxd7 Bxd7 31.Rf7 Qxh2 32.Rdxd7+ Ke8 33.Rde7+ Kd8 34.Rd7+ Kc8 35.Rc7+ Kd8 36.Rfd7+ Ke8 37.Rd1 b5 38.Rb7 Qh5 39.g4 Qh3 40.g5 Qf3 41.Re1+ Kf8 42.Rxb5 Kg7 43.Rb6 Qg3 44.Rd1 Qc7 45.Rdd6 Qc8 46.b3 Kf7 47.Ra6 1-0

After Tal bungled the opening with 6...Nf6, the only point of disagreement between the 11th and 13th World Champions is whether Black could have improved on the next few moves. I'll look at this in the next, and probably only, post on this game. To play through the complete game, see...

Robert James Fischer vs Mikhail Tal, Bled 1961

...on Chessgames.com.

12 November 2010

UT Dallas Chess Program

UT Dallas Chess Program (6:05) • 'The video explains the program and features members of the UT Dallas Chess Team, the program director Jim Stallings and has scenes of the UT Dallas campus.'

More: The UT Dallas Chess Program.

11 November 2010

The World Championship in the Court of Public Opinion

Everyone else is talking about Magnus Carlsen's sudden exit from the current World Championship cycle, so why shouldn't I? Yesterday, I listed a number of similar episodes on my World Chess Championship Blog (see Carlsen Quits) and a few years ago I detailed the circumstances around GM Carlsen's first exit (stage right; see Groan Prix, same blog). His latest exit was more stage left -- he's gone but far from forgotten.

In Magnus Carlsen drops out of World Championship cycle, Chessbase.com published Carlsen's letter to 'FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov & FIDE World Championship Committee'. His reasons are clear enough, if not completely consistent. At the end of that page are links to previous Chessbase articles on the 2011 candidates. The organization of the event has exposed FIDE to one of its most incompetent series of actions in recent memory (a lot to choose from there), of which someone has been keeping track on Wikipedia: World Chess Championship 2012.

For me, the most interesting aspect of Carlsen quitting has been the discussion it generated on the leading news blogs. The most informed commentators are generally found on the Daily Dirt (Chessninja.com) and, although the rhythm of new posts has tapered off dramatically over the past few months, the Carlsen episode was worthy of a new post.

A relative newcomer to the chess discussion blogs is Chessvibes.com. Lately it has been filling the commentary void left by Chessninja's frequent, lengthy absences.

As a keen observer of the World Championship, I'm interested in any informed discussion of the subject. There are dozens of knowledgeable chess fans making comments on these two blogs, covering the complete range of opinion, speculation, and historical fact. An example of opinion would be the ideal structure for a World Championship cycle; of speculation, the *real* motives behind Carlsen's announcement; and of fact, the chronological sequence of other events in the current and preceding cycles (which ended with Anand's win over Topalov a few months ago).

There's a lot to digest there, and after the dust has settled, I might attempt a summary. Those comments represent, after all, the court of public opinion in full session.

09 November 2010

More Watson on Huebner

In Using Computers to Call into Question, I quoted a John Watson review of 'World Champion Fischer' by Robert Huebner (2003): 'The core of the CD is Robert Huebner's analysis of Fischer's play, which parallels that of Alekhine in his CD that I previously criticised.' Curious about Watson's review of Huebner's previous work, I found Book Reviews by John Watson : #42, subtitled, 'Chess CDs: Coming of Age?'.

ChessBase continues to be the leader in CD chess products. Here I look briefly at 5 new examples, 3 of which I like very much, one which depends entirely upon the audience, and one which has some redeeming features, but its most important segment is in my opinion a 'pile of crap' (with a nod towards Tony Miles).

This last is Robert Huebner's 'World Champion Alekhine'. The redeeming features have to do with its biographical and historical essays. These can be informative; the one that struck me as truly unique was a review of Alekhine's tournaments, including crosstables. The photographs in this section were the real treat; they are numerous and span his career, including looks at many well-known opponents.

Unfortunately, the CD features an 'analysis' of Alekhine's play and of his writings. All you have to do is read the 'Table of Contents' (a sort of summary of 23 Alekhine games) to see how harshly and negatively Huebner assesses both. For the record, I also looked carefully at several of the heavily-annotated games, which are in the same unimaginative spirit but more boring.

Anyway, in Huebner's view of the world, Alekhine had terrible weaknesses in every single aspect of the game, including technical and psychological ones. Here's his entire summary of Alekhine's play and annotation in Game#2: 'Ruining the pawn structure - materialism; underestimating the active counterplay of the opponent - strategic deficiencies in the opening; bad positional judgment - defensive possibilities of the opponent are not exhaustively scrutinized - lack of criticism towards the own conduct of the attack.' [...]

Then we have the usual Huebner analysis that drives everyone away from his work: it seems that he's always buried in some detail so many moves and subvariations away from the original game that Kasparov himself might have trouble remembering where he was; and remarkably, the simple moves are often neglected. I'm sure that Huebner gets some sort of personal satisfaction from using untold hours (and presumably his computer) to denigrate Alekhine's play. To me, however, all this huffing and puffing reeks of snobbery and narrow-mindedness. Perhaps if it weren't so easy to do this kind of analysis and criticism, I might at least admire the 'scholarly' aspects of this work. But I'm sure that I could write the same boring critique of Huebner's own games and character (duplicating the tone would be difficult) if I wouldn't feel cheap by doing so.

To conclude, someone else may find this a brilliant, objective criticism of a World Champion's play. I myself think that Huebner's work in 'World Champion Alekhine' is unimaginative and narrow-minded. Those interested in photographs and historical information might want to give it a try.

Ouch! Although the review isn't dated, the list of titles at the top of the review shows that they were all published in 2001. Has Chessbase dared to publish any of Huebner's work since the Fischer CD in 2003?

08 November 2010

Using Computers to Call into Question

Continuing with Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, I had planned to do one more post related to The Pitfalls of Computer Analysis, but came up short. After the diagram in the 'Pitfalls' post, the game continued 21.Qxd3 Bd4+, leading to the following position.

Bled 1961
Fischer, Robert

Gligoric, Svetozar
After 21...Bg7-d4+

Here Kasparov continues analysis by Boleslavsky and Huebner, demonstrating that 22.Rf2 was stronger than Gligoric's 22.Kg2, to which Kasparov assigned a '?'. After 22.Rf2, the engine shows other variations not mentioned by Kasparov, but they all lead to the same type of game. White gets a Bishop and two Pawns for a Rook, giving him a comfortable edge. There isn't much more to be said for the position except that most players would prefer White and Black would ultimately be satisfied with a draw.

I've mentioned Huebner several times in this series on Fischer & Kasparov, mainly because Kasparov draws frequently on the German's comments. Since I've never investigated the source of Huebner's analysis, a digression is in order. Chessville.com offers World Champion Fischer by GM Robert Huebner, a 'ChessBase Monograph on CD, 2003', reviewed by Prof. Nagesh Havanur.

Although Huebner is prominently mentioned as the author of this CD, his role here is limited to writing a summary of Fischer's style and and work on various positions from My 60 Memorable Games. It is noteworthy that Kasparov has also made use of Huebner's path-breaking analysis in this CD for his authoritative work on Fischer, My Great Predecessors Part IV. However, Huebner's general conclusions on Fischer's play tend to be philosophical abstractions and do not have intrinsic merit.

John Watson Book Review #55, among other titles, also looked at World Champion Fischer; Robert Huebner; ChessBase 2003:

The core of the CD is Robert Huebner's analysis of Fischer's play, which parallels that of Alekhine in his CD that I previously criticised. I'm not fond of this one for the same reason, but since many people thought that I was unfair in that earlier case (probably true), I'll let him speak more for himself:
It is for this reason that I have decided to turn my attention to Fischer's famous game collection, "My Sixty Memorable Games". Most critics deem Fischer's comments to be entirely devoid of errors, and each and every one of his observations is accepted as gospel truth. I was plagued by the desire to find out whether this reputation is indeed justified.

It seems to me as if Fischer does not try to fathom the finer points of quiet positions with the same amount of care and attention that he gives to any number of tactical positions. When analyzing complex positions Fischer occasionally lacks the will to probe deeply, and contents himself with incomplete structural explanations and vague judgments. This deficiency is particularly obvious in some endgames. The selection of games for his book also reveals this trait. To my taste, there are too many games in this collection where no real struggle ensues. The opponents are pushed from the board without offering resistance, often after making serious errors in the opening; there is hardly any interesting material for analysis.
[...] The problem, I think, is that almost anyone, given time and a few computer engines, would be able to call into question almost any game or set of annotations by any player, perhaps not with the positional judgment of a Huebner but adequately enough. I don't see this as particularly interesting to anyone beyond the one doing the analysing (to whom it admittedly must be fascinating) and a small minority of players who don't want to do their own investigations and would rather read such technical criticisms than enjoy the unadulterated games of Fischer or a New in Chess Magazine.

If I substitute the name 'Kasparov' for 'Huebner', then Watson's summary judgement -- 'almost anyone, given time and a few computer engines, would be able to call into question almost any game or set of annotations by any player' -- points in the same direction that I find myself going with these posts on My Great Predecessors. There is an inherently unsatisfying quality about using a computer to critique work that was done without the aid of a computer. To then use this critique to form judgements about a person's psychology can easily be misleading and ultimately sinister.

05 November 2010


Ostrale 10 © Flickr user febelix under Creative Commons.

What's Ostrale? My guess is this: Ostrale´010.

OSTRALE commenced in 2007 as a local initiative and has ever since achieved a broad reach within a short period of time. The exhibition represents the whole spectrum of contemporary art in an interdisciplinary way. Hundreds of national and international artists are invited to take part in the festival, which takes place at a meaningful architectural and historic industrial venue.

Dresden in particular has reached worldwide recognition, being known as "Florence of the Elbe". However, with OSTRALE the city has gained the potential to set a cultural and touristic antipole to its baroque history and to develop a historical generative, contemporary perspective to the classical exhibition format. Thus, today Dresden can expand its international significance in relation to "modernity".

For more Flickr photos, most unrelated to chess, see search/?q=Ostrale.

04 November 2010

A Game Between Apollo and Mercury

Unlike the previous two posts on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (see White Christmas on Ebay for the most recent), the last two weeks presented slim pickings. The most unusual item, titled 'Hieronymus Vida, "Scacchia Ludus", 1547', received 10 bids and finally sold for US $860. The book's description read,

Marci Hieronymi Vidae Cremonensis Albae Episcopi Opera. Apud Seb. Gryphium, Lugduni (Lyons) 1547. • 360 pages. Contemporary limp vellum binding. 12,5 * 8 cm. • Bibliography: vdL II 259. L/N 4556. • Remarks: VG • Weight (Grams): 105

I recognize Bibliography: vdL as a reference to Antonius van der Linde and L/N must mean the 'Van der Linde - Niemeijeriana' collection in The Hague. A page on Vida and 'Scacchia Ludus' at Marco Gerolamo Vida describes the work as 'a game between Apollo and Mercury, in the presence of all the other Gods of Olimpus, during the celebration of the marriage between Ocean and Earth.' There is a translation by Oliver Goldsmith at Vida's Game of Chess

ARMIES of box that sportively engage
And mimic real battles in their rage,
Pleased I recount; how, smit with glory's charms,
Two mighty Monarchs met in adverse arms,

etc. etc.

02 November 2010

Will the Real Taimanov Please Stand Up

After recently taking an interest in the Sicilian Taimanov System -- 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 -- I ordered the book 'Sicilian Defense: Taimanov System' by Mark Taimanov. Imagine my confusion when the book arrived and I read in the 'Introduction',

The starting position 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5. Nc3 a6 can lead to various lines of play, each with its own strategy -- the Scheveningen System, the Paulsen System or the Taimanov System -- and in most cases it is Black who makes the choice (correspondingly 6...d6, 6...Qc7, and 6...Nge7).

Thus it is characteristic of the Taimanov System to avoid development of the Queen on c7 and Knight on f6 (both features of the Paulsen System) in favor of the mobilizing and flexible maneuvre ...Nge7. As will be seen from further analysis, this difference is important and gives the game an original strategic theme.

Never having understood that the Taimanov System included only ...Nge7, I looked for confirmation elsewhere. From the 'Introduction' to 'The Taimanov Sicilian' by Graham Burgess:-

Kan, Paulsen and Taimanov: All three of these names have some relevance to the subject-matter of this book.

'Kan' is the simplest to deal with: it refers to 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6. This can easily transpose to lines discussed in this book, but the name is generally reserved for those lines where Black does not play an early ...Nc6, or that could not arise naturally via a 4...Nc6 move-order.

'Paulsen' is trickier to define. It is sometimes taken to mean the same thing as the Kan, but is often used, particularly in German and Russian chess literature, to refer to lines with ...a6, ...Nc6 and ...Qc7. Taimanov himself calls this the Paulsen, reserving his own name for the less popular treatment with ...a6, ...Nc6 and ...Nge7. This policy has the serious drawback of leaving 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 [DIAGRAM] as a nameless variation.

In this book, as is common in English-language chess literature, the 'Taimanov Variation' refers to the diagram position above. I believe Mark Taimanov deserves this honour, even if he does not wish to claim it himself, considering that he has played the position several hundred times over the last 40 years. To distinguish between the ...Nge7 and ...Qc7 treatments, I use the terms 'Pure Taimanov' and 'Paulsen' respectively.

ECO, with its avoidance of names, leaves the field open. In List of chess openings - Wikipedia, I found B41-B43 'Kan Variation' and B45-B49 'Taimanov Variation'. In Chess Archaeology - B20-B59, I found B41-B43 'Paulsen' and B45-B49 'Barnes'. Is that Thomas Wilson Barnes (1825-1874)? Maybe it's a generational thing.

01 November 2010

The Pitfalls of Computer Analysis

In the first post on Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, I highlighted the sequence starting 17...c5, based on the different evaluations of the two GMs: Fischer: '!' & Kasparov: '?!'. Since Kasparov called 20...d3, 'The key moment of the game', I wasn't too far off the mark. The resulting position is shown in the following diagram. Note that Black has already sacrificed one Pawn and is now sacrificing a second Pawn to create complications.

Bled 1961
Fischer, Robert

Gligoric, Svetozar
After 20...d4-d3

Gligoric played 21.Qxd3, and Fischer commented, 'A double-edged game would result from 21.Bxd3 Bd4+ 22.Kh1 Nxg3+ 23.Nxg3 Qxd6 24.Qc2 Bh3'. Kasparov, undoubtedly using the best hardware and software of the time, zeroed in on that comment and criticized Fischer of 'ignoring' 24.Qd2. He gave '24...g5?! 25.Qg2 Bd7 26.f4 Rxf4 27.Rxf4 Qxf4 28.Rf1 Qe3 29.Bf5, with a powerful attack on the light squares'. Jumping ahead a few years, my software prefers Fischer's 24.Qc2, and improves on Kasparov's analysis with 24.Qd2 g5 25.Qg2 Kh8. This takes the force out of 26.f4, by removing the King from the g-file.

Now I have to return to comments from Some Truths Cannot Be Proven?, where I expressed my doubts about this type of computer analysis. What's more interesting -- the move as played in competition (by Gligoric), the analysis without computers (by Fischer), or the progressive deepening of the position with the help of computers (by Kasparov)? I suspect a professional player would favor the first, a trainer the second, and a correspondence player the third. The problem with that third option is that it will never be finished.