31 December 2010

Annika at Pinocchio Park

Checkmate - Collodi, Pinocchio Park © Flickr user Bjørn Giesenbauer under Creative Commons.

Visit Pinocchio Park in Collodi: 'Pinocchio Park was opened in 1956, not as a customary theme park but as a journey through the fairytale.' • Carlo Collodi: 'Carlo Lorenzini (November 24, 1826 – October 26, 1890), better known by the pen name Carlo Collodi, was an Italian children's writer known for the world-renowned fairy tale novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio.'


Signing off 2010 with best wishes for 2011!

30 December 2010

Janos Kadar Chess Set

For the last edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price in 2010, I didn't choose the most expensive item of the previous fortnight, although it's one of the most interesting. The title of the chess set shown in the composite photo was 'Chess Set of Hungarian Communist Leader János Kadar'. It attracted 61 bids, finally selling for US $731.

The description said,

This chess set of historical value was given to Hungary's communist leader János Kádár in 1983 by Husak Gustav, the communist dictator of Czechoslovakia. The set was carved in wood by the Czech artist J.Vanek in 1980, in a modernist neo-cubist style, signed by the artist on the side of the box.

Communist leader J.Kádár was known as being a quite skillful chess player and supporter of the chess movement, this is the very reason of this kind of present. An evidence of this is that he was even immortalized on a huge fresco in the Hungarian House of Parliament, playing chess in his early years, theme of a widely disputed controversy nowadays, whether it should be removed or not.

Provenance: shortly after his death in 1989, his widow put up on charity auctions most of the large number of the official presents he got through his long dictatorship, from 1956 till the collapse of communism in Hungary, in 1989. The set comprises from the 32 pieces and an inlayed box with red lining. King 11 cm, Queen 10 cm, Pawn 5,5 cm.

For more about Kádár, see Wikipedia's János Kádár.

28 December 2010

Blitzing Fischer

Get ready for a Bobby Fischer media blitz. This is my sixth consecutive post on this blog about Fischer and it's no coincidence. Since receiving an advance copy of ENDGAME by Frank Brady (Crown Publishers), I've been immersed once again in details about the 11th World Champion's unusual career. (For more about the book, see my recent post The Bobby Fischer Saga.) I've already spotted one review on another blog that I follow regularly -- Definitive Book on Bobby Fischer (jimwestonchess.blogspot.com) -- and there are certainly more to come. The back cover of the advance copy promises,

National print attention • National and local NPR [National Public Radio] • Author events and interviews from New York • Frank Brady audio podcast and Bobby Fischer timeline available for online promotion • Outreach to chess, gaming, psychology, and technology bloggers
plus much more. When I was writing for About.com, I posted three reviews of books on Fischer

and summmarized my opinion about his complex personality in an introduction to the two reviews from March 2005: Tales of Two Fischers. Long after that I summarized my opinion of book reviews in two posts on this blog: In Defense of Chess Book Reviewers and The Purpose of a Book Review. Those previous efforts make it easy to be specific about what I'm looking for in Dr. Brady's latest book.

First, given the great mass of material that is already available, what can one say about Bobby Fischer that hasn't been said? Even detailed computer analysis of Fischer's games has been undertaken by Kasparov in 'Predecessors IV'. Second, what can Frank Brady say about Bobby Fischer that he hasn't said in 'Profile of a Prodigy'? I'll need at least another week to finish reading the book and organize my thoughts. In the meantime I have ideas for related posts on my two other blogs -- Chess960 (FRC) and the World Chess Championship -- both linked in the right sidebar.

27 December 2010

Finding a Constructive Plan

The diagram shows the critical position in Unzicker - Fischer, 1962 Varna. Unzicker played 21.h3 and the game continued 21...Rc8 22.Rfe1 h6! 23.Kh2 Bg5 24.g3? Qa7! 25.Kg2 Ra2 26.Kf1 Rxc3!, when White resigned. The punctuation in that sequence was given by both Fischer and Kasparov. White's woes stem from a loose Pawn position quickly penetrated by Black's line pieces. The moves 21.h3 and 24.g3 both weakened White's second rank and left the White King unprotected, leading to disaster.

Varna Olympiad 1962
Fischer, Robert

Unzicker, Wolfgang
After 20...Qb6-a6

Of the diagrammed position, Fischer wrote,

It's hard for White to hit upon a constructive plan. At Curacao 1962, Tal played against me 21.Rad1 Rc8 22.Nc1 b4 23.Nd3 bxc3 24.bxc3 and now 24...Rxc3 wins outright. If 25.Nxe5 dxe5 26.Qxe5 Bb4 27.Qxc3 Qxf1+.

Kasparov agreed with this, and added,

Of course, White had to give up dreams of an advantage long ago, but also his problems should not be exaggerated. Forty years later Huebner nevertheless found a constructive plan -- 21.g3!, leaving the h3-square for the King and intending to meet ...Bg5 with h2-h4, while if 21...Qa8 22.Qxa8 Rfxa8 then 23.Kg2 -- 24.Kf3 with a probable draw.

After 21.g3, which is also the machine's first choice, Black has better ideas than trading Queens with 21...Qa8. For example, Fischer's next move in the game, 21...Rc8, looks just as good here. It threatens 22...b4, and if 22.Kg2, Black can continue 22...Rcc4, with various themes on the a- and c-files. One variation the machine points out is 23.Rxa4 bxa4 24.Ra1 h5 25.Nc1 Rc5 26.Qd3 Qb7 27.Rxa4 Qxb2+ 28.Ne2 Rxc3 29.Ra8+ Kh7 30.Qxc3 Qxe2+ 31.Kg1 Bg5 32.Ra3 Qxe4, giving up the exchange for a couple of Pawns and play against the other, overextended Pawns.

It's useless to go into too much detail here. Playing through Fischer's short wins is often an exercise in frustration. You wonder how he would have played against better defense and feel deprived at not being able to see the logical outcome of his own deeply conceived plans.

24 December 2010

Searching for Bobby Fischer (the movie)

Have some free time over the Christmas holidays and want to see a film classic? How about 'Searching for Bobby Fischer'? This clip's description said,

Josh Waitzkin is just a typical American boy interested in baseball when one day he challenges his father at chess and wins. Showing unusual precocity at the outdoor matches at Washington Square in New York City, he quickly makes friends with a hustler named Vinnie who teaches him speed chess. Josh's parents hire a renowned chess coach, Bruce, who teaches Josh the usefulness of measured planning. Along the way Josh becomes tired of Bruce's system and chess in general and purposely throws a match, leaving the prospects of winning a national championship in serious jeopardy.

There's even some vintage 1972 Fischer footage at the beginning.

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) Part 1 (14:07) • 'Starring: Max Pomeranc, Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley & Laurence Fishburne.'

All parts: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8.

23 December 2010

Odds and Ends

Now that we're heading into the Christmas season, you know what that means: less time for blogging. When time is limited, a good starting point is routine maintenance, which in my case means first updating 'Events on the Agenda' on the sidebar.

While doing that I came across a list of Women's Grand Prix events tacked onto the end of FIDE's announcement Women's Grand Prix in Nalchik, 25 Apr - 8 May 2010. That particular event came and went long ago, but the last event on the list hasn't -- 'The 6th Grand Prix will take place in Santiago, Chile, on 27th October – 9th November 2010.' -- and I have no record of any further announcements on the subject. The FIDE Calendar 2010 still lists the original dates and venue. As for the FIDE Calendar 2011, it lists four events in a forthcoming 'Women's FIDE Grand Prix Series'.

If you're wondering what FIDE's long term plans are for the World Championship, the same 2011 calendar lists 'World Cup 2011; Khanty Mansiysk, Russia'. This would be the first event in the next cycle of which the format is currently unknown. If wishes were fishes, I would ask that the 2011 World Cup be followed by a series of Candidate matches, with those followed by a real World Championship match. That would bring us back to the sort of cycle we had before Ilyumzhinov eliminated the Interzonals and started tinkering with World Championship knockouts.

After updating 'Events' I added a new ad to a January 2010 post on Chess Ads - Paul Masson. I managed to overlook it while writing the original post and this makes me wonder if I haven't overlooked others. The series of George Koltanowski solving tourneys was a high point for chess sponsorship in the U.S.

Later in 2010, after writing a post on '50 Great Blogs', I received word of a similar list called 'Top Computer Chess Blogs'. Most of them have nothing to do with computer chess and more than a handful wouldn't be consider 'top blogs' by any objective source, but they're still worth looking at.

Finally, I made a small addition involving Brad Darrach and Edward Winter to my most recent post, The Bobby Fischer Saga (cont.). It's a link to an atypical article by Winter, full of his usual venom but lacking in the detailed dissection for which he is so highly regarded. I liked Darrach's book when I read it a few years ago, although I was more impressed by the prose than by the content. It looks like I should reread it and pay more attention to the content.

21 December 2010

The Bobby Fischer Saga (cont.)

There's been a spate of new Bobby Fischer material over the past few months, the most recent being the announcement of ENDGAME by Frank Brady (Crown Publishers). Subtitled 'Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness', the book will be hitting stores in February 2011.

Dr. Frank Brady is best known as the author of Profile of a Prodigy (Amazon.com), the biography that followed Bobby from his birth in Chicago in 1943 to his capture of the World Championship in 1972. To get a preview of Brady's new book, see Endgame by Frank Brady - Excerpt (Scribd.com).

Less pleasant is A Psychological Autopsy of Bobby Fischer by Joseph G. Ponterotto (Miller-McCune.com, where the essay is currently listed as no.2 under 'Most Viewed'), subtitled 'Chess player Bobby Fischer’s tortured life illustrates why promising young talents deserve better support programs.' Pulling together many odd facts about Fischer, it appears to be the prelude to another book.

Providing a detailed differential diagnosis of Bobby Fischer would require a much longer treatment of the topic than is possible here. I do provide such an expanded consideration in a book-length project in progress. For present purposes, suffice it to say that I believe Bobby did not meet all the necessary criteria to reach diagnoses of schizophrenia or Asperger’s Disorder. The evidence is stronger for paranoid personality disorder, which the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) says “may be first apparent in childhood and adolescence with solitariness, poor peer relationships, social anxiety, underachievement in school, hypersensitivity, peculiar thoughts and language, and idiosyncratic fantasies.

'Bobby Fischer vs. the Rest of the World' was the title of an infamous 1974 book by Brad Darrach, who also wrote a series of articles on Fischer for Life magazine. 'Bobby Fischer Against the World' is the title of a documentary accepted for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival: A sad Portland-at-Sundance note: Karen Schmeer's last film. For more about the film, see its Facebook page.

And finally, going back a few months, Chessmoso reposted articles originally written for the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper: The Bobby Fischer saga continues and New twist on Jinky and Joey case. The 'Bobby Fischer saga' might never end.


Later: I wanted to link the mention of Brad Darrach's book to a recent essay by Edward Winter on Darrach but was unable to locate it on the Chesshistory.com site. Afterwards it occurred to me that the article had been published on Chessbase.com: Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (52), 'In 1975 Bobby Fischer filed a $20,000,000 libel suit over a book by Brad Darrach on the 1972 Spassky v Fischer world title match in Iceland. What were the rights and wrongs of the affair?'.

20 December 2010

Najdorf 6.Be2

Before tackling the main question in Unzicker - Fischer, 1962 Varna, I decided to address Kasparov's notes on the opening. He first commented on the sequence 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 (diagram) in his notes to the game Geller - Fischer, 1962 Curacao (2nd round), Predecessors II (p.308).

After 7.Nd4-b3

On 6.Be2, he quoted Mednis,

A deceptively quiet continuation, introduced by Smyslov and worked into a powerful weapon by Geller. White simply continues his development and is neutral about the Najdorf: neither trying to refute it nor being afraid.

I've also adopted the move when meeting the Najdorf. The games are generally fluid and don't result in the same sort of computer friendly tactics seen in other Najdorf continuations like 6.Bg5 and 6.Be3. Here are Kasparov's notes, abridged where I've used square brackets '[]'.

Geller - Fischer, 1962 Curacao: 7...Be7 ('The most accurate move order. The alternative of those years was 7...Be6 [...]') 8.O-O O-O ('Again the most accurate, although 8...Be6 9.f4 Qc7 is also played, not fearing 10.a4 [as in three games from the Karpov - Polugaevsky 1974 match; Kasparov gives three more alternatives to White's 10th from his own games]') 9.Be3 ('Currently the subtle 9.Kh1 is also in vogue, while Geller at the end of his career tried 9.Re1 with the idea of 9...Be6 10.Bf1 [...]') 9...Qc7?! ('The first steps in the theory of this variation: without f2-f4 having been played yet it is rather too early to determine the position of the Queen! 9...Be6 is correct, for example 10.a4 [...]. Later both Geller and his protege Karpov adopted 10.Qd2 [...]. 10.Nd5!? Nbd7 11.Qd3 Bxd5 12.exd5 gradually became the modern tabiya.' 10.a4.

The Curacao Candidates tournament preceded the Varna Olympiad.

Unzicker - Fischer, 1962 Varna: 7...Be6 ('Later it was established that 7...Be7! is more accurate. This, in particular, is what Fischer played against Geller in Stockholm and on Curacao.') 8.O-O ('The slightly premature Bishop sortie to e6 can be called into question by the energetic 8.f4 Qc7 9.g4') 8...Nbd7 9.f4 Qc7 10.f5 'The main plan at that time. By the mid-1970s White had switched to} 10.a4 Be7 11.Kh1!? (one of Geller's many ideas) -- this is a tabiya of the 1974 Candidates match Karpov - Polugaevsky.') 10...Bc4 11.a4 Be7 11...Rc8? [...] Black should keep his Rook on a8, so that after the typical ...b5 and the en passant capture a5xb6, the a6-Pawn is not hanging.') 12.Be3 ('In the following decade 12.Bg5 O-O appeared [...]') 12...O-O 13.a5 b5 14.axb6 Nxb6 ('A tabiya of 1962 -- and the entire decade! Bobby upheld it against both Tal and Geller on Curacao.')

Kasparov also covered the variation in Predecessors V (p.232), when he discussed the 1974 Karpov - Polugaevsky match.

17 December 2010

Watching Paint Dry

Twenty-eight different shots of 1.e3...

e.g. top row left: Luke v Dougie - Game 1 © Flickr user djnisbet under Creative Commons.

...I don't get it. Do you?

16 December 2010

Chigorin Played Correspondence Chess

You might expect eBay to have more items on offer during the runup to Christmas, and so it seems to be. In my fortnightly look at Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I saw some ferocious bidding on the same chess sets and other chess items that I've featured in the past, but one unique auction stood out from the rest.

The card pictured on the left was titled 'Russia Correspondence Chess Card M.Chigorin Signed 1901'. Although the starting price was only US $49.99, the card received 22 bids and ultimately sold for $1136. The description said,

The stationery postcard of the 7th Russian correspondence chess tournament. Posted from Gatchina in March 11, 1901 by famous Russian chess master Mikhail Chigorin, addressed to Vladimir Brzheski in St.Petersburg. There is no doubt authentic handwriting and signature of Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908) leading Russian chess player of those days.

If the game lasted 40 moves, which is average for a game of chess, you can calculate yourself what the entire set of cards would be worth. Perhaps by sheer coincidence, perhaps not, the seller was the same bulkcover who was behind another recent post: There's Gold in Them Thar Score Sheets!. When bulkcover is involved, there's gold in them thar everything related to chess.

14 December 2010

The Rybka Book

While researching the different computer assisted events listed in Chess of the Future -or- Chess of the Past?, the subject of engine oriented opening books appeared repeatedly. Normally, this isn't something I spend much time on. I would rather analyze the first few moves of a new chess960 position than the 25th move of a topical Najdorf variation. But since I play a dozen or so correspondence games per year using the traditional start position, I have to pay some attention to the evolution of opening books, engine or otherwise.

The computer assisted events use only the traditional start position, so prepared opening books play a key role. The dominant book is the Rybka book, just as the dominant engine is Rybka itself. The Rybka book played a role in the most recent World Championship match, Anand - Topalov, Sofia 2010, in the person of Jiri Dufek, who worked as one of Topalov's seconds. Given that Topalov lost the match, it's not certain whether Dufek's contribution was altogether positive, but we'll find out for sure if he remains on Topalov's team for the forthcoming candidate matches. I did a series on the subject of opening preparation earlier this year,

followed by a couple of short posts on the Sofia match, so the Rybka angle merits a seat at the table.

The Rybka book is sold by both Chessbase and ChessOK (formerly Convekta), and while the book itself appears to be the same, the technical implementation isn't and may only be used with other products sold by the respective companies. I'll quote Chessbase marketing pages as examples in this post, because Chessbase has done a better job of recording its history and there are more pages. If we go back a couple of years, we find Jeroen Noomen doing the Jiri Dufek job.

A couple of years earlier there is a record of the first Rybka book.

Along with details about opening book creation, the interview includes a brief mention of chess960, showing why engines are not particularly strong in chess960 openings.

Q: What do you think about Fischer random chess? A: Interesting experiment, but not exactly my cup of tea! One of the organizers of the Mainz tournament asked me to come to the FRC tournament that is being held, adding ‘don’t worry, you need not take your opening books with you’. So from move one the calculating starts, very boring for me!

Sometime after the release of the Rybka 3 book, Noomen left the Rybka team.

  • 2009-05-19: Rybka wins 17th World Computer Chess Championship, Resumé by Rybka author Vasik Rajlich • Opening book: Nick Carlin handled our opening book, taking advantage of material previously published by Jeroen Noomen, and did really well. All of our book positions were equal or better, and all were complex and offered plenty of winning chances.

    Nick is from the new breed of computer chess opening authors, who rely on systematic, automated methods and on statistical analysis. He uses all of the available resources, from Jeroen's work to Playchess games to Aquarium editing tools to Polyglot. For this event, he made algorithmic innovations in the area of sharpening the book exit points – his aim was to drop Rybka off into rich positions with plenty of winning chances, and to prevent opposing authors from doing the opposite. Judging by the games, these methods work quite well.

    Unfortunately, Nick has decided to take an extended break from computer chess after these events, as the time required to stay on top of everything is just too high for him. Jeroen is also still taking a break after his last book release and has started to apply his skills to the stock market – hopefully he will soon be rich and will then return to what is best in life. All of this should underline just how much work is involved in the book preparation. The responsibility is high, as one mistake can spoil an entire event and wipe out the work of everyone on the team. Modern opening theory is simply a huge load and we will have to think about how to handle it.

And some time later Jiri Dufek took over the position.

  • 2010-05-31: Rybka 4 is here – and stronger than ever • As for the opening book – Jiri Dufek is the author of the Rybka 4 opening book. He's been using Lukas' cluster to analyze and test and this book is much deeper and more accurate than every book which is publicly available right now. Note however that this book will be 'objective' – Jiri's goal has been to find the truth, rather than to find variations which suit Rybka. This is an intentional decision by our team. Our goal is to create objective analysis tools. This is what users want, and it also simplifies Jiri's life somewhat, as he doesn't have to worry about things like how Rybka is evolving.

He recorded his thoughts in a pair of Chessbase articles.

All of this confirms my personal decision to leave engine oriented opening books to the experts. Whether the calculating starts on move one or on move 25, it's all the same for me. I'd rather chew my food myself.

13 December 2010

Unzicker - Fischer, 1962 Varna

Continuing with 18 Memorable Games, since the only point of disagreement between Fischer and Kasparov in the game Fischer - Najdorf, 1962 Varna was covered in An Olympiad Bind, I'll move on. The next game -- Unzicker - Fischer, 1962 Varna Olympiad -- is no.42 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.70 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV. Like the Najdorf game from the same event, Fischer won in lesss than 30 moves. Here's the PGN with punctuation by both Fischer and Kasparov.

[Event "Varna ol."]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Unzicker, W."]
[Black "Fischer, R."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B92"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 {KAS: '?!'} 8.O-O Nbd7 9.f4 Qc7 10.f5 Bc4 11.a4 Be7 12.Be3 O-O 13.a5 b5 {KAS: '!'} 14.axb6 Nxb6 15.Bxb6 {FIS: '?'; KAS: '?!'} 15...Qxb6+ 16.Kh1 Bb5 {FIS: '!'} 17.Bxb5 axb5 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.Qxd5 Ra4 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 20.c3 Qa6 21.h3 {KAS: '?'} 21...Rc8 22.Rfe1 h6 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 23.Kh2 Bg5 24.g3 {FIS: '?'; KAS: '?'} 24...Qa7 {FIS: '!': KAS: '!'} 25.Kg2 Ra2 26.Kf1 {KAS: '?'} 26...Rxc3 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 0-1

The key point of disagreement is 21.h3 {KAS: '?'}. Could Unzicker have saved the game at that point or not? To play through the complete game, see...

Wolfgang Unzicker vs Robert James Fischer; Varna Olympiad Final 1962

...on Chessgames.com.

10 December 2010

Karpov vs. Alzheimer

Can Chess Checkmate Alzheimer's? (2:15) • 'Russian chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov pits his skills against French rival Joel Lautier.'

'It's all part of a scientific experiment to determine if intellectual work can help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. The researchers want to test the theory that the brain will stay healthy longer if kept engaged with mental and physical exercise.' • More chess news clips with transcripts: english.ntdtv.com (New Tang Dynasty Television).

09 December 2010

Chess of the Future -or- Chess of the Past?

Presenting a probably incomplete history of computer assisted events, stemming from my post on Kasparov's Character, inspired by Authors@Google: Garry Kasparov (YouTube.com) and The Chess Master and the Computer by Garry Kasparov (NYbooks.com). See also 'Computer assistance at the highest level' By Frederic Friedel on The Sunday treat: Garry at Google.

Advanced Chess, Leon, Spain.

  • 1998-06: Kasparov - Topalov
  • 1999-06: Anand - Karpov
  • 2000-06: Anand (KO 1/4)
  • 2001-06: Anand (KO 1/4)
  • 2002-06: Kramnik - Anand (see Kramnik on Advanced Chess and Fritz on Chessbase.com)

Complete Chess, Maastricht, Netherlands.

PAL/CSS Freestyle, Playchess.com.

For some reason, Chessbase.com never reported on the results of the last two events. I found them on Computerschach.de.

PAL/CSS, or at least the PAL side of it, appears to have morphed into Infinity Chess at Freestyle-chess.com; see 'Tournaments' for more about the PAL/CSS series. The outfit organized, or tried to organize, one or more events around end-2008 or begin-2009, but I haven't been able to locate full results: the Infinitychess.com domain is no longer active.

07 December 2010

Recently Spotted - Blog Carnival & Soviet School

It's been a while since anyone has attempted a blog carnival. Here's a new one from the blog Confessions of a Chess Novice (chessconfessions.blogspot.com). A few years ago it was one of my favorite blogs, but then the rate of new posts declined. It looks like Blue Devil Knight is finally back.

I hope the events are hosted on a stable blog. Half of the events in the previous carnival, documented under one of my category labels on the right, were hosted on resources that no longer exist.


Like many chess players, I'm fascinated by the Soviet school, the subject of another of my category labels. Chessvibes.com recently ran a three part series titled 'The Big Dvoretsky Interview', which touches on the subject peripherally.

At about the same time, Chess-players.org (the ACP) posted an interview with Dvoretsky's co-author.

Several of their books have been re-published under different titles. I posted about the confusion a few years ago -- Dvoretsky & Yusupov -- in an effort to avoid buying the same work twice.

06 December 2010

An Olympiad Bind

As I predicted in Fischer - Najdorf, 1962 Varna, the position in the diagram turned out to be the critical position in the game. The game continued 12.Re1 e5 and, as happens so often in chess, there is a monumental battle hidden beneath those two moves.

Varna Olympiad 1962
Najdorf, Miguel

Fischer, Robert
After 11...d6-d5

Both Kasparov and the computer believe that 12.Bb3 is better than Fischer's 12.Re1. Fischer chose an attacking move over a defensive move, a choice upheld by some fundamental conviction that this was the best way to overwhelm his opponent. The problem with 12.Re1 is that it allows 12...Bxg2, a desperado blow that muddies the waters by exposing White's King to a counterattack. Fischer rejected this move and explained in a comment that

12...Bxg2 13.Kxg2 dxc4 14.Qf3 Nd7 15.Nf5 Rg8+ 16.Kh1 e5 17.Be3 [produces] a winning bind despite the two Pawn deficit.

Kasparov repeated this analysis and added,

However, in the opinion of Dr. Huebner, after 17...Rc8 18.Rad1 Qc7 19.Rd5 Qc6 20.Red1 Rc7 21.Kh2 Qb7, Black's defenses are solid.

In addition [after 12...Bxg2 13.Kxg2 dxc4 14.Qf3], Black has the stronger 14...Ra7! 15.Be3 Rd7 16.Rad1 Qc8, when White may not have sufficient compensation for the sacrificed material. 'Fischer once again overestimates the strength of his attack', Huebner sums up, 'and fails to explore the defensive potential of the enemy position.'

I subjected this analysis to the engine stress test and discovered a number of points.

  • First, the two lines given by Kasparov are the two fundamental defenses at Black's disposition. The move 14...Nd7 brings the Knight into play, retaining the Rook for future action, while the moves 14...Ra7 & 15...Rd7 bring the Rook into play, retaining the Knight. Black has time to do one or the other immediately, but can't do both.

  • Second, at every point in the play, Black has the zwischenzug ...Rg8+. This brings the Rook into play on a natural square and forces the choice on White of escaping the check by Kf1, Kh1, or Kh2; the relative tradeoffs of these three moves are not easy to calculate. Fischer introduced this resource in his analysis with 15...Rg8+ 16.Kh1, while Kasparov / Huebner avoided it. The computer wants to play the Rook move at almost every point where it has the option.

  • Third, Fischer stopped his analysis at 17.Be3, avoiding many of the subtleties in the variation, while Kasparov / Huebner continued. In their first line, at the point where 'Black's defenses are solid', White has the surprising 22.Bh6, where the engine gives White a large plus in its evaluation. In their second line, White has 16.Rac1 instead of 16.Rad1, when Black is still struggling to coordinate his pieces and find safety for his King. I could easily turn Huebner's words on him with, 'Huebner once again underestimates the strength of his attack, and fails to explore the offensive potential of his own position', but that would be introducing an unwarranted generalization.

The point that impressed me the most in the time I spent on this game was that Fischer summed up his position with the phrase 'winning bind', and left it at that. Kasparov / Huebner attempted to show by calculation of variations that Black has defensive resources, and while they succeeded in doing that, they didn't refute Fischer's claim of a 'winning bind'. The word 'bind' is a positional concept that is best tackled by verbal analysis -- explaining 'Why is there a bind?' and 'What can be done to break the bind?' -- rather than by a nonverbal calculation of variations. I once wrote about this in Chess Tutorial : Bobby's Binds, now available only on Archive.org:-

Binds are fairly common in chess. We don't often see them in master games because good players prefer to avoid getting into binds and will even sacrifice a Pawn to steer away from them. To find good examples of binds, we have to look at the notes to master level games. One excellent source for examples is Bobby Fischer's 'My 60 Memorable Games'.

Binds are an area where computer analysis is not always helpful, where the master sees easily what the engine never sees. It is a chess equivalent of not being able to see the forest because of the trees.


Later: One of the posts featured in Chess improvement blog carnival #1!, a good start for a new blog carnival.

03 December 2010

Waiting for the Train

Budapest, Keleti Pályaudvar, the railway station...

Keleti Chess © Flickr user theroamincatholic under Creative Commons.

...'The old-timers sit behind the table and people waiting for their train can come and play a few moves with them. It seemed a pretty serious business.'

02 December 2010

Chess Knights?

Continuing with my fortnightly survey of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, taken from top selling eBay chess items over the past two weeks (last seen in Blog -> Email -> Facebook -> Ebay), the title for the collection shown on the left said 'STERLING SILVER JEWELED CHESS KNIGHTS STATUE FIGURINES'. The description said (sic),

From the estate of a well beloved collector of museum quality artifacts from arround the world comes a rare collection of four Beautiful vintage Sterling Silver knights statues / figurines with jeweled pierced bases possibly expensive chess pieces.

From left to right: 1 ~ Knight with banner , sheild, and sword with faux glass stone prong set jeweled base. Measures 7.0" tall from base to banner tip. base measures 1.75" by 1.75". Staute measures by itself 4.0" tall. Has polished stone insert face with crown. Hallmarked " Sterling " Silver, " 925 ", and Germany".


Condition: DNA ID / As with all silver of age there is tarnish and will polish beautifully! May at one time been part of very expensive chess piece set but are being offered for there beauty. Because of age and thiese item are from an estate they are being sold as is and as shown.

The item sold for US $1350, apparently on 'Best Offer'. Do they look like chess Knights to you?