30 August 2011

A Slippery Opening

Opening transpositions have a natural place in any player's repertoire, but I recently played a game which changed its name on almost every one of the initial moves. The game started 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6, shown in the following diagram. I had the Black pieces and intended to play a Nimzo-Indian, 3.Nc3 Bb4, against my opponent who was rated about 200 points above me.

He headed on another course with 3.Nf3, a common reaction. Here I've played both 3...b6 and 3...d5, but I decided to steer into a Benoni with 3...c5, a system I like but generally avoid after 3.Nc3. I expected the standard 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5, but my opponent dodged this with 4.Nc3. Although I've played this before, I don't know what it's called, assuming it even has a name. It's usually classified under ECO A32, which makes it a symmetrical English (1.c4 c5).

After the routine 4...cxd4 5.Nxd4, I continued 5...a6, tempting my opponent to steer away from my repertoire with 6.e4, which is exactly what he did. This is the same position that can be reached by 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 (ECO B41), a Sicilian with 2...e6. As noted in a post from last year, Will the Real Taimanov Please Stand Up, I recently added the 2...e6 Sicilian to my repertoire against 1.e4, where it has become my principal system of defense. I especially like its fluidity.

Although we soon reached a position that I had never seen before, I easily achieved a dynamic equality, and the game was eventually drawn by repetition after 30 moves or so. I know of a few other openings that switch between 1.d4 and 1.e4 systems, but there aren't many of them.

29 August 2011

2005 World Championship

Continuing to make progress on Where to Go From Here, I added the 2005 FIDE World Chess Championship, San Luis, Argentina, to my page on Chess History. The next two additions will be for the 2006 and 2007 World Championships.

26 August 2011

That's Entertainment!

The excitement is palpable as Daniel King and Maurice Ashley provide live commentary on an important blitz game between two leading grandmasters.

Anand - Ivanchuk, Intel Grand Prix, 1994 London (10:09) • 'Anand must win this second blitz game to stay in the match...'

To follow the game on Chessgames.com, see Viswanathan Anand vs Vassily Ivanchuk, London GP, final play off, blitz g/5(2) 1994.

25 August 2011

World Championship Chess Pins

No, I'm not talking about Bishops pinning Knights against royalty; I'm talking instead about the sort of pin pictured on the left. Its eBay title was 'FIDE Chess Match Petrosian - Fischer Argentina 1971 Pin' and when I first saw it there were a little more than two hours left for the auction with a high bid around $150. I said to myself, 'That's a lot for a pin', bookmarked it out of curiosity to see the final price, and was surprised to see it pop up on the list of items for my latest post on Top eBay Chess Items by Price.

That little pin received 22 bids from six bidders and finally sold for US $1186. The pin's description said only, 'Pretenders chess match Petrosian - Fischer, Buenos Aires, Argentina 1971', where pretenders match is the Russian equivalent of candidates match, as in World Chess Championship : 1970-72 Candidates Matches.

The astute seller of the item is well known on this blog by his eBay handle bulkcover, last seen in Chigorin Played Correspondence Chess. You can find my previous posts on his eBay activity by using the search box in the navigation column on the right. Something tells me this isn't his last mention here.

23 August 2011

And Then There Were Five Six

I've often remarked that chess and metaphysics don't mix very well; see for example the very first episode in my series titled Video Friday. There are, of course, exceptions, one of which is the recent press release for the 2011 Youth Chess Tournament for Peace (Monroi.com).

The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism is delighted to announce the launch of Youth Chess Tournaments for Peace, in Montreal, on September 7, 2011 in collaboration with MonRoi Inc. and the Canadian Chess’n Math Association. The event will coincide with the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the 2nd Global Conference on World’s Religions After 9/11, a combined initiative of McGill University and the University of Montréal.

When I first saw the announcement for the event I was immediately attracted by the poster showing nine religious symbols, a few of which were unfamiliar to me. You can see that poster here -- 2011 Youth Chess Tournament for Peace -- on USchess.org. With the help of Monroi.com I found an excellent explanation of the symbols on the Collections page of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism (CCE), under Summary Table of World Religions.

You can imagine my surprise when I started to write this post and discovered that the 'same' poster, pictured below, now shows only six religious symbols. A comparison of the latest version of the poster with the Summary Table revealed that Bahá’í, Buddhism, Native Spirituality, and Zoroastrianism were all missing from both versions, while three unidentified symbols had disappeared from the older poster. The disappearance of Buddhism was especially strange, given that the Dalai Lama, mentioned specifically in the press release, is the spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhism.

I trust that the youth tournament will fare better than the poster. For more about the tournament, as well as the '2nd Global Conference on World's Religions', see 2011 Youth Chess Tournament for Peace Home (also Monroi.com). • For more about the historically difficult relationship between chess and metaphysics, see Religion and Chess and Chess Bans Through the Ages, both by Bill Wall.

22 August 2011

Introduction to FIDE Zones

Continuing with Where to Go From Here?, I converted an article titled Introduction to FIDE Zones and added it to my page on Chess History. The article, which was originally a piece I wrote on vacation using FIDE rating data, uses info and stats from 2005, rendering it somewhat out of date. Bringing it up to date would make a simple project at some time in the future.

19 August 2011

Meditation on the Bishop Pair

His next bold move © Flickr user Chain of Wolves under Creative Commons.

I have no idea where this was taken. The only clues in the tags were 'Architecture' and 'Spain'.

18 August 2011

Spraggett on Smirnov

A day after posting the latest pick for my fortnightly Video Friday series, More GM Instruction, in one of those strange coincidences that occur so often in the blogosphere, I noticed that the same video was spotlighted on GM Spraggett's blog in a post titled Commercializing chess instruction. While I had chosen the video as the best of the previous fortnight's weak offerings and had ignored the blatant marketing by GM Smirnov at the end of the clip, Spraggett pounced on that marketing as the clip's main message. He's right about that, but carried it farther.

I don't want to criticize Smirnov's efforts to promote chess -- my god, there are so many worse 2nd-rate books, videos and DVDs out there -- but it seems to me that something has been lost along the path that Smirnov started on years ago...

Take a look at this free video that Smirnov has put on Youtube. Although it is filled with useful advice for beginners, it is also filled with cheesey contradictions. For example, Smirnov advises players not to play 'dubious' openings like the Kings Gambit (!), the Center counter (1.e4 e5 2.d4) and the Bird's Opening (1.f4) -- "and stuff like that" as Smirnov puts it. But later on in this video lesson, he suggests that a good way to avoid your opponent's computer preparation against your Kings Indian is to play the Dutch (1.d4 f5)! Go figure that one out!

These comments immediately got me thinking. I had watched the video twice, and although there was nothing revolutionary about its content, I thought it contained a few tips aimed at average club players rather than 'useful advice for beginners'. I was also puzzled by the classification of the Dutch Defense as a dubious opening. After all, Botvinnik used to play it against GM-level opponents in important games. I wasn't aware that, in the 50+ years since Botvinnik's heyday, opening theory had relegated the Dutch to the trash pile.

I watched the video again. Here is the rest of Smirnov's advice after 'Don't play dubious openings':-

Q: How can you detect whether a given opening is good or not? • A: Detect how many players over 2600 rating play this opening.

Q: You are playing a game and your opponent is making his opening moves very quickly. He is obviously using his pre-game preparation. What should you do then? • A: You should not be afraid of an opponent's preparation in strategic positions, but you should break his preparation ASAP in tactical positions.

Q: You have prepared for a game and are ready to play against your opponent's opening. When the game begins, an opponent suddenly plays something totally unexpected. It is obvious that he has prepared this line especially against you. What should you do then? • A: You should not play your usual opening, but turn to something new as soon as possible. Maybe you will play the line you are not well versed in. However, you should not be afraid of it, because your opponent won't know it either.

I'm sure this advice isn't aimed at beginners. They have no idea what distinguishes a 2600 player from a 1600 player; couldn't tell the difference between a strategic position, a tactical position, and a hole in the ground; and would never imagine that players actually prepare specific openings against specific opponents. GM Spragget travels in more elite chess circles than I do and apparently considers any player with a rating less than 2000 to be a beginner. I set the cutoff around a thousand points lower.

As for the classification of the Dutch as a dubious opening, I decided to follow GM Smirnov's advice to 'Detect how many players over 2600 rating play this opening'. This is a technique that I use for my own repertoire -- mainly to keep track of recent theoretical developments -- so I already have the tools. As of mid-2011, I counted over 30 games where a 2600+ player conducted the Black side of 1.d4 f5, and in 2010, over 40. These counts don't include any games where Black chose another move order to avoid the Staunton Gambit (2.e4). This compares to less than a dozen 2600+ games with the King's Gambit in 2010 and 2011 combined, and an equivalent number with Bird's Opening (most of those with GM Nakamura playing White).

The Kevin Spraggett page on Chessgames.com tells us that after the King's Indian and the Queen's Pawn Game, the Dutch is his third favorite defense against 1.d4. The most recent of the games were played in 2008, all of them draws, so the opening was not a youthful indiscretion abandoned after a catastrophic loss. Why is Spraggett so down on the Dutch? It's a mystery to me.


Later: This post appeared in the Hebden Bridge Chess Club's Chess Improvement Carnival: September Edition.

16 August 2011

The Last Shall Be Least

The Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have just announced their annual awards -- see 2011 Awards Committee Report [PDF format] -- and the award for Chess Journalist of the Year went to ... (drum roll) ... no one. As I reported last year in 'It Speaks Volumes', the 2010 award went by default to the only entry, so this year the group decided not to risk repeating the scenario. As the Chief Judge explained,

No matter how you see it, one individual should not be allowed to win the most coveted of all CJA Award categories on the basis of the fact that they are the only one person who submitted a package for consideration of that award. I want to once more clarify, I am adamant that last year's winner was more than deserving and certainly had my vote. But this is the scenario which I do not want to run into: Jane/Joe Doe submits a package for consideration for the CJotY award which has crappy or even below mediocre entries on their own individual merits. They are the only individual who submitted an entry for that award category. Now no matter how you vote or for all that who votes, this individual is guaranteed the award. [...]

This year within the award guidelines/rules I clearly embedded the text that closed the loophole. There were no entries for that category, had we received an entry I would have mailed their check back.

So zero entries are better than a single entry? If, like me, you somehow missed the publication of entries, they are listed at CJA Awards Committee Receives 2011 Entries (CJAawards.org). This is the second year that most of the entries have been available online, allowing anyone interested in chess journalism to measure the competition.

Besides the Journalist of the Year award, I'm most interested in the art and blog awards. The 2011 Best Chess Art Award went for the cover of the March 2011 issue Northwest Chess. Since I didn't find the winning cover particularly attractive -- it reminded me of art for your living room available 'Buy It Now' on eBay -- on the left I'm reproducing instead one of the two runners-up. Titled 'Irina's Nirvana', it appeared on the October 2010 cover of Chess Life, after IM Irina Krush won the U.S. Women's Championship: 'Design by Shirley Szymanek (www.dog4design.co.uk)'.

As for the '2011 Best Chess Blog Award', what can I say? Listed last, in the 'New Media' categories after both 'Best [USCF] State Chapter Website Award' and 'Best General Chess Website Award', the best blog award went to Broken Pawn. Runner-up was Chessvine.com, the only other entry in the blog category. This was one of five categories with only two entries, but even these fared better than the '2011 CJA Best Regular Newspaper Local Interest Chess Column Award', with a single entry.

In the months leading up to the award announcement, Broken Pawn posted a series on the whole CJA submission process: Higher Education, A second second chance, Fool me once..., Second best, and Birthday wishes for a lazy day. The first post I've listed includes the following gem:-

Maybe I’ll get some publicity for my blog, but I’m thinking I’ve shortchanged the colleges, Who’s Who book publishers, and Chamber of Commerce dinner organizers. These are people who know there’s a lot of 'stupid' money out there and they are just trying to get in ahead of the Chess Journalists of America!

The chess blogs might get little respect, but they remain gracious; from Chessvine.com's CJA Awards 2011 - Best Chess Blog ...Broken Pawn: 'The Chess Journalists of America awards have been announced and I'm once again a FAAAR second banana to a very good blog', then questioned the lack of competition, 'Why aren't these brilliant bloggers competing against one another?' Whatever the reason, congratulations to all of the winners!

15 August 2011

Problems, Puzzles, and Studies

After Taking Inventory, my next task is to finish the conversions identified in Where to Go From Here. I added Chess Problems, Puzzles, and Studies to my page on Improve Your Chess Game. The glossary references in Problems, Puzzles, Studies and the link box at the end of the page currently lead offsite to Archive.org, giving me even more ideas for future conversions.

12 August 2011

More GM Instruction

Professional Opening Preparation (8:49) • 'I've realized how it is important to be well prepared in an opening stage. When you play against a strong opponent, an opening preparation exerts strong influence on the final result.'

GM Igor Smirnov:- 'Here is my first advice to you: Don't play dubious openings', e.g. the King's Gambit, Bird's Opening, 'and other stuff like that'. • This advice goes against the principles of many amateur players, but don't forget that the title is 'Professional Opening Preparation'.

11 August 2011

Ivory and Wedgwood

For this next edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, a couple of chess sets sold for far more than I normally see, even by the norms of this series. A set described as

Jaques Staunton chess set. It is early, mid 19th century? The Kings are 4 3/8" Of the very finest material, they are well marked and have had no repairs.
sold 'Best Offer' for US $9500. Why so expensive? The key phrase is 'the very finest material', meaning ivory, which is a prohibited material on eBay. Another item, described as
A Wedgwood chess set! The chess set was on display at the United Kingdom pavilion at Disney in Florida for over 10 years.

sold 'Buy It Now' for $6100. Since the set had no board, this comes to a little over $190 per piece.

The painting pictured below, titled 'BEAUTIFUL ANTIQUE LARGE OIL PAINTING - OLD CHESS PLAYER', also sold 'Best Offer' for $1,500.

The description repeated the title and added,

Size 30 by 46" (frame 35 by 51"). No holes. Condition is visible on the photos.

with no further information. Considering the condition -- the spots look like ghosts of leopards -- and the price, I suppose that the buyer recognized the artist and picked up a bargain. The piece is certainly nicely drawn.


Later: By coincidence, I found the same painting listed in an auction catalog...

Percy Ernst Renowitsky (GERMAN, 1867 - ?). Depicts an older clergyman in his quarters playing a game of chess against himself. Measures 30 1/4" height x 46 1/4" width + 2 5/8" matte & frame.(Pre-sale estimate $2000-$3000)

...along with a detail showing the signature: P.E.Renowitsky, Berlin. Then it got weirder. A search on "clergyman in his quarters playing a game of chess" picked up a number of references. The first result said,

Georg Hausdorf (GERMAN, 1888 - 1959). Depicts an older clergyman in his quarters playing a game of chess against himself. Signed in lower right. Measures 30 1/4" height x 46 1/4" width + 2 5/8" matte & frame.

It went on to explain the cause of the damage: 'This painting was recovered from one of these art burnings during the war in Germany. The painting was recovered with some fire damage.' So who was the artist, Renowitsky or Hausdorf?

09 August 2011

The Game of Lasting Smoothness

Since it's been almost two years since I last brought my collection of chess ads up to date -- last mentioned in Chess Ads V -- I decided to do some work on them. It took me so long to go through the backlog that I didn't have time for a real post today. Here's an interesting ad, probably from the 1970s.

The fine print says,

Kodel • An Eastman Polyester Fiber • With Kodel it's always a one-sided contest in the game of lasting smoothness. Whatever your move, you'll make the right one every time in these winning slacks.
Is the zebra skin also an Eastman polyester fiber?

08 August 2011

Taking Inventory

Now that I've finished converting the Every Move Explained series -- see Last Proofreading? for links to the final pages -- it's time to move on. In preparation for the next round of conversions, I inventoried all of the articles converted so far and added links for each to the appropriate index of feature articles:-

The links to the converted articles are marked '(M-W.COM)'. This will let me see at a glance which articles are candidates for future conversion.

05 August 2011

Lord of the Rings, Trilogy Edition

Following up More Lord of the Rings, where I counted more than 20 different LOTR chess sets, the following is one of a few dozen LOTR images on Flickr.com that are available through Creative Commons.

Lord of the Rings Chess © Flickr user nechbi under Creative Commons.

The set appears to be the Trilogy Edition, sold by 'Character Options' according to Amazon.co.uk. If you count the pieces, you'll see that there are 35, which corresponds to other info available about the set. I wonder how that number works with the normal 32 pieces found in most sets.

04 August 2011

More Lord of the Rings

The most recent post in my series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, titled BCM, Aljechin, Lord of the Rings, Fattorini, and a Pretty Face, mentioned,

I also spotted seven 'Lord of the Rings' chess sets, each one selling for $600 or more. Even more curiously, I counted four different sets among the seven. How many distinct 'Lord of the Rings' sets are out there? I'd like to come back to this question in a future post.

It turns out that four different Lord of the Rings (LOTR) sets is nothing unusual. A page on CollectTolkien.com, Archives: The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings Chess Sets, has photos for 17 different sets. Even that count isn't exact. One set, in painted and unpainted versions, is counted twice, while another set in two versions is counted only once. Yet another set is counted once while other sources inform that there are three distinct versions.

Without too much effort, I also located three sets not listed on CollectTolkien.com. The set pictured below is from 1979 Tolkien Enterprises Chess Set.

Something tells me that I'll be coming back to these sets after I've researched them a bit more.

02 August 2011

A 'Master Game' Lookalike, Second Attempt

While collecting the posts that went into Improve Your Chess with the Master Game, I discovered that the links no longer worked properly for A 'Master Game' Lookalike. That post collected clips related to the 1982 FIDE World Cup, all of which now return messages like

"TV Chess - Karpov vs Spassk..." • This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants, including: The Golf Channel, The Golf Channel, The Golf Channel [...]

As it happens, the same series was recently added to YouTube by Sirb0b1. Here are links to those clips.

Group A: Bouaziz, Karpov, Nunn, Seirawan

Group B: Lobron, Spassky, Timman, Torre


Let's hope that Sirb0b1 stays away from trouble with the Golf Channel.

01 August 2011

Every Move Explained - Last Proofreading?

We're having some work done in the house this week, so there's not much time for chess or for writing. The free time I had today was spent proofreading the last three games in the Every Move Explained series:-

I found fewer errors than I expected, so perhaps my mind wasn't sufficiently focused. As I mentioned in Every Move Explained - More Proofreading!, a proofreader's job is never done. One thing I am sure of -- these are all great games.