29 June 2012

'Who Is No.1?'

I had to jack up the volume on this one, but it was worth it.

The Prisoner On Chess II (4:53) • 'Chess clip appears in "Checkmate" (Episode 9 -- Aired: 11/24/1967) from The Prisoner.'

'It doesn't do to ask questions.' [B-B4] • 'Why were you brought here?' [N-N5] • 'That was a good move wasn't it!' • 'I know a better one' • 'Oh?' • 'Away from this place.' • 'That's impossible.' • 'For chessmen, not for me.'

24 June 2012

'Sand Is Included'

For this vacation edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I chose an item titled 'A Hand Made Glass Chess Set "Drink Stirrers Set"'. Pictured below, it sold for US $950.

The description added

The set was hand made in Romania and is drink stirrers, one side is blue accents the other gold accents. The set comes with the hand made large glass bowl to display the set. Sand is included. All in mint condition. One of a kind!

Why the sand? I'll give it some thought when I get back to the beach.

22 June 2012

Presidential Chess

I have no information about the location of this set except its tag: Washington D.C. I have no information at all about the type of set, but will look it up as soon as I can.

John Quincy Adams' Chess Set © Flickr user jamminpsu under Creative Commons.

From the same photographer, see McClellan's Chess Set.

15 June 2012

Karpov on Fischer

Karpov on Fischer - 1972 World Chess Championship - Vol 2. (17:30) • 'Game 6: 1972 World Chess Championship Match - Fischer vs Spassky'

See also: Karpov on Fischer - Volume 1 - Bobby Fischer's Quest For the Crown. Both volumes 1 & 2 moderated by GM Ron Henley.

14 June 2012

Gelfand's World Championship Career

One of my personal discoveries during the recent Anand - Gelfand match was Gelfand's My Most Memorable Games (Olms, 2005). In the Preface, Kramnik wrote,

In 1994 Boris Gelfand and I were drawn together in a quarter-final Candidates match for the FIDE world championship. That same year the Professional Chess Association (PCA) organised a parallel cycle. I (like the majority of players, however) did not see any reason not to play in both. Boris took the difficult decision not to participate in the PCA world championship, in order to concentrate on one. I remember very well how, in an article devoted to the match he had won against me, he quoted Seneca : 'The one who is everywhere is nowhere'. (p.7)

This reminded me of the important role Gelfand played during World Championship qualifications. Following are other excerpts from his book on this subject, interspersed with links to my own pages about the events.

He is capable of achieving anything. His victories in two successive Interzonal tournaments, a series of World Championship Candidate matches, as well as first prizes in prestigious tournaments such as Moscow 1992, Belgrade 1995, or Polanica Zdroj 1998 and 2000 are eloquent proof of this. (p.9)
His rise to world-class status began in 1989. At Palma de Mallorca Gelfand won the qualifying tournament for the GMA World Cup. This was a fearfully strong Open with more than 150 grandmasters. (p.12)
In 1993 Gelfand managed to achieve a unique double by winning the Interzonal, run as in 1990 under Swiss-system rules, for a second time. Once again he scored 9/13, but this time he won outright. An outstanding achievement was his fifth victory in important tournaments over Viswanathan Anand (alongside three draws and one defeat). In the Candidates matches he first defeated Michael Adams 5-3. In the spring of the same year 1994 he underlined his good form with victory in the tournament in Dos Hermanas, in southern Spain, where Anatoly Karpov, among others, finished behind him. Then followed the duel with Vladimir Kramnik. The Russian, who was then just 18 years old, was generally regarded as a future world champion, especially after Kasparov had described him as a potential successor. Although Gelfand, at the age of 26, could demonstrate a plus in experience and achievements, Kramnik was publicly regarded as slightly the favourite. Or perhaps Gelfand was being underestimated - not for the first time and not for the last. Could this be due to the fact that Boris sometimes looks like an absent-minded professor? Gelfand ultimately won 4.5-3.5. (p.13)
The man from Minsk was only two steps away from conquering the FIDE world chess throne, which had been vacant since 1993 , when Kasparov parted company with the World Chess Federation. Gelfand 's match with Anatoly Karpov took place in 1995 in the Indian town of Sanghi Nagar, where he had also played his match against Kramnik : parallel with this was the other semi-final duel, played between Salov and Kamsky. Gelfand went 2-1 ahead before his opponent, the 12th world champion in history, managed to even the scores. In the end , after losing a more or less equal bishop ending in the seventh game, Gelfand crumbled and succumbed, far too badly, 3-6. (p.13)

If 'the FIDE world chess was throne vacant since 1993', where do we place the 1993 Karpov - Timman FIDE Title Match?

FIDE had now abolished the traditional cycle of Candidates matches in favour of a World Championship knock-out tournament, which was staged for the first time in 1997 in the Dutch town of Groningen. Gelfand summoned up the energy to reach the semi-final of this exhausting mammoth tournament. There he lost a mini-match against Anand by 0.5-1.5. His earlier outstanding record of success against the Indian player was reversed and his third assault on the world title was once again brought to a standstill just a few short steps from his goal. (p.15)
His luck ran out at the knock-out World Championship in the gambler's paradise of Las Vegas and he lost, at the last sixteen stage, to the eventual title-holder, Alexander Khalifman." (p.15)
In addition to qualifying for the quarter-finals of the knock-out World Championship in Moscow, stand on the credit side. Here Gelfand lost out to the Russian, Peter Svidler - after a truly titanic struggle. In the ensuing tie-break, watched by more than a hundred spectators inside the Moscow Kremlin, determined to see the match out to the end, he saved a rook versus queen endgame. Svidler, faced by an opponent defending like a computer, felt absolutely crushed, but Boris, due to his own exhaustion, could not take advantage of the psychological advantage thus obtained and went out in the blitz-game phase of their match. He has always made it clear, that he is by no means a supporter of this lottery-like deciding phase, which has been used since the Moscow tournament, especially since it has operated alongside the time reductions introduced by FIDE. Boris has campaigned for the reintroduction of classical time controls. More than once he has spoken out in the press, vigorously and convincingly, for the withdrawal of the countless FIDE innovations. Although the new system does not suit his style of play at all, he has managed in four appearances in the knock-out World Championships to always make the last sixteen. (p.15)
At the Candidates tournament in Dortmund Boris did all he could to secure the best possible playing conditions for himself. In addition to Huzman he recruited the former Soviet national team trainer Postovsky, who had emigrated to the USA, to join 'team Gelfand'. It is probable that his defeat to Topalov in the second round broke his resolve. In this game Gelfand, next to Kasparov the greatest exponent of the Najdorf in the world, found himself playing the Caro-Kann for the first time in his life and he managed to convert a superior position into a loss. This remained for the time being his last attempt at the world title, because, as Gelfand himself said, 'Unfortu nately, FIDE organised the 2004 worldchampionship in Libya, a country where the authorities stated that players from Israel would not be admitted. A shameful act in the opinion of many chess players, spectators and organisations!' But further opportunities will occur in the future, even if the situation in the chess world remains unpredictable. (p.16)

As we know now, Gelfand's greatest successes were still to come.

12 June 2012

Olympiad Size Politics

The name Ali Nihat Yazici has already appeared several times in this blog. Two years ago, in June 2010, in a post titled Three Elections, I favored Yazici over Silvio Danailov for the presidency of the European Chess Union.

I initially favored Danailov. He has many good ideas about how to promote chess and he gets things done. Unfortunately, his chronic lack of diplomacy is a serious handicap. [...] A better choice is Ali Nihat Yazici. He also has many good ideas, he gets things done, and he knows how to get his way without using brass knuckles.

Yazici eventually lost to Danailov, but that's the way elections work. Participation means accepting an adverse result that is the will of the majority. A year and a half later, in December 2011, Yazici's name came up a couple of times in Out to Ruin FIDE?, a discussion on two lawsuits that arose from the 2010 FIDE Presidential election. According to the minutes of the 2011 Executive Board meeting at the 82nd FIDE Congress, Yazici is on record as saying 'in any democracy suing is the right of any member'.

A few months ago, in FIDE/ECU Chess in Schools, I tied the lawsuits to the 'Chess in School' programs:

[There is] ongoing friction between FIDE and Kasparov: Out to Ruin FIDE? Chess politics being what it is, that conflict spilled over to the CIS programs: Official Statement by Ali Nihat Yazici, Chairman of Chess in School Commission [Fide.com; November 2011].

Yazici's name came to the forefront again this past week: Turkish Chess Federation denies arbiters from seven federations to Istanbul Olympiad [Chessvibes.com].

Some federations launched or supported court cases against FIDE and thus created financial problems for FIDE and a loss of distributable income for worldwide chess development. We believe that the damage that they thus inflicted on chess development around the world should be repaired by them reimbursing the lost funds, so that those funds can, as originally budgeted, be spent on chess development. We further believe that until that has been done, those federations should not be given any arbiter or Appeals Committee position by FIDE. [signed, Ali Nihat Yazici, President of Turkish Chess Federation]

The seven federations were the same that launched the two lawsuits mentioned in 'Out to Ruin FIDE?' As for the principle that 'in any democracy suing is the right of any member', I can only assume that FIDE is not just 'any democracy'. Is it only ironic that Yazici was one of the beneficiaries of the action that brought on the second lawsuit? A day or two later, six of the seven targeted federations reacted: Chess Olympiad in Istanbul – officials from seven countries banned [Chessbase.com].

The open letter from Mr Yazici acknowledges that nominated individuals from seven federations were excluded because of legal action taken by those federations against FIDE. This is irrelevant to the selection of the Olympiad arbiters and cannot be considered anything other than a discriminatory political act.

Since losing to Danailov, Yazici has consistently been at odds with the European Federation; see, for example, the series on Turkish Chess Federation @ nytimes.com. In this dispute he has not been above threatening lawsuits of his own, e.g. Mismanagement of ECU:

As the Turkish Chess Federation, we declare that if the statutes are changed in Aix-les-Bains, we will sue the ECU directly to cancel this change. [...] We propose to the general assembly that these three organizers should be sued by the ECU to collect their debts.

Emanuel Lasker, the second World Champion, famously said, 'On the chessboard lies and hypocrisy do not survive long'. Too bad the same doesn't apply to chess politics.

11 June 2012

Quizzes for Check and Checkmate

Completing Chess Quizzes for Beginners, I added quizzes for Check and Checkmate to my page on Learn to Play Chess. Some of the quizzes are just tricky enough that I had to stop and think while testing them. There is one position in particular that in my About.com days was the source of several emails accusing me of sloppiness in constructing the quiz. It's always easier to assume the other person is wrong than to find your own error.

10 June 2012

'A' Is for Alekhine's Autograph

For this fortnight's edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, all of the auctions on my short list were autographs. At the top of the list was an item described as 'Alekhine's letter from La Regence, 3 pages, February 6th 1922 with original envelope'. It received two bids and sold for US $2550.

Considerably less expensive was 'Bobby Fischer SIGNED Russian magazine, Framed • Signed in blue ink on a Russian magazine. Housed in wooden oak frame with glass cover.' It sold for US $725, in an unspecified manner, perhaps 'Buy-It-Now'. In the past I've seen many similar Fischer items, usually unframed and often unsold. I suspect they came from the 11th World Champion's famous storage locker. I've posted about it in the past, the last time in Fischer Loot Again at Auction. The latest autograph was at the top of a June 1964 issue of Shakmatny Bulletin.

Last on my short list was '100% Original score sheet of chess USSR Tournament played in 1970 year, from the game Karpov - Korchnoi , played in Dec 7, 1970'. It sold for US $517, after receiving five bids from two bidders. The game, won by Korchnoi, was played at the 38th USSR Championship at Riga, also won by Korchnoi.

The item I chose for this post is pictured below. Its title was 'Chess autographs tournament Bled 1931', and it sold for US $2437 after nine bids from three bidders; starting price $900.

The short description said only,

You are bidding on an authentic card of the Bled 1931 chess tournament, with the 14 autographs of all the participants. More info about the tournament on: Bled 1931 chess tournament.

The seller later added,

You are bidding on an authentic card of the Bled 1931 chess tournament, with 14 or 15? autographs of the participants. Asztalos I could not find but Hans Kmoch is also there.

The second thumbnail from the left shows the back of the card, while the remaining thumbnails show details of the signatures. Alekhine's autograph is discernible in the fourth thumbnail : the largest of the signatures, sloping upwards, starting 'AA'.

08 June 2012

Another Harry Potter Post

This was one of 700 images that popped up on a Flickr search this week because they all had the same sentence 'Entering the second soundstage you pass some of the giant chess pieces from the first movie.' More info from the blurb:-

Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter • A great day out for every fan of the boy wizard. The Making of Harry Potter studio tour, covering 150,000 square foot, on two soundstages opened on the 31st March 2012, with stars galore at the red carpet launch at the Leavesden Studios where all eight movies were produced. The home for many film productions, including several James Bond features, before a relatively new production company arrived there to make a film about a young boy who on his 11th birthday discovers he is a wizard.

As far as I can tell, this photo shows the pieces.

The Making of Harry Potter © Flickr user Dave Catchpole under Creative Commons.

Another photo captured the text accompanying the pieces.

THE CHESS PIECES • As one of the charms protecting the Philosopher's stone these wizard chessmen were one of director Chris Columbus' favourite elements, and were featured in an iconic scene in the first film. The statues seen here are the original sculptures, many of which were rigged by the special effects team to move by radio control, and even explode.

'They were standing on the edge of a huge chessboard, behind the black chessmen, which were all taller than they were and carved from what looked like black stone.' - J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

'Exit through the Gift Shop.'

07 June 2012

Anand's Draw Offer

If the position in the diagram below looks familiar, it's because you followed the recent 2012 Anand - Gelfand World Championship match. Game 12 was the last game at standard time controls in a match tied at +1-1=9. After capturing a Bishop on e7, Anand offered a draw even though he had a Pawn more and a large time advantage on the clock. Gelfand accepted the draw and went on to lose the match in rapidplay tiebreaks. Anand's draw offer left the spectators bewildered. Here's how Chessbase.com described it.

Though his winning chances were minimal, to be fair, his opponent was down to sixteen minutes to make eighteen moves, and it was entirely riskless to press on and see what happened. Vishy’s justification in the post-game conference was that it was equal and simplified, but that is hardly the question. The real question is: where was the harm in playing on? The only certainty is that he will not win if he does not even try. [...] When the players finally shook hands, Kramnik, expert commentator of the day at the official site, was fairly shocked. • World Championship G12 – Draw in 22 moves

I was watching Kramnik's commentary at the time of the draw offer and agree that he was 'fairly shocked', even annoyed, as were most post-game commentators. No one, however, explained how White should continue, which left me curious about the likely conclusion to the endgame. The diagram shows the position which would have occurred had Black played the automatic recapture of the Bishop.

Anand - Gelfand, 2012 WCC match, game 12

After 22...Kxe7 (not played)

Chessgames.com's live, written coverage of the game is available on its site. The moment when the draw was agreed is on page 19 of the commentary: Viswanathan Anand vs Boris Gelfand (2012). Despite heavy criticism of the game and the match, there was no concrete analysis of the final position. The only clue I could find was 'Shipov gives a sharp line explaining Anand's draw'. As luck would have it, Shipov's Russian analysis is translated on DanaMackenzie.com: Anand – Gelfand Game 12: The Battle Continues.

22.Bxe7 and here Anand somewhat unexpectedly OFFERED A DRAW, which Gelfand quickly accepted. A possible continuation was 22...Kxe7 23.Nd2 a4 24.Rc7+ Kf8! 25.b4 a3! and Black’s counterplay is not bad. What can I say? It’s easy to understand the champion’s decision. One can’t say that playing for a win in the final position would be free of risk. Quite the opposite!

The game just completed must be considered disappointing for Anand. In the opening he achieved a promising position and an hour time advantage -- what more could you possibly want? Gelfand held himself together like a champion with a fine sense of psychology. He correctly returned the extra pawn, and then provoked his opponent, tempted him with another pawn sacrifice, seized the initiative and escaped with only a mild scare.

Which assessment is correct, Chessbase.com's 'entirely riskless to press on', or Shipov's 'One can’t say that playing for a win in the final position would be free of risk. Quite the opposite'? I fed the position to an engine, which offered the same continuation given by Shipov, minus the '!'. After 25...a3, it suggested 26.Nc4, when in all subsequent continuations White must give up the extra Pawn, leaving him with no winning chances. The problem with White's position is the isolated Pawn on d3. Black has sufficient pressure to keep White tied up defending it. If White's King were on f1 instead of g1, White would have better chances.

Objectively then, the position is a draw. Anand must have determined the same and decided that he had better chances in the forthcoming tiebreak games. Are world class players obliged to reveal their thinking to the public by playing the game out? If so, the rules should mandate it. This is easily done by eliminating the draw offer as a valid variation. You can't blame the players for using the legitimate tools at their disposal.

05 June 2012

A Collection of Chess Pins

Remember my post on World Championship Chess Pins? No, I'd almost forgotten about it as well when I received an email from one of the losing bidders on the item. He even sent me attachments to prove that he was a serious collector and that he had bid on the Fischer - Petrosian souvenir.

What to do with that sort of natural enthusiasm on a chess subject? I asked him if he would share some photos of his collection with visitors to this blog. The photos are on the left, much reduced in size.

The top photo is a collection of federation pins, where you can see several FIDE pins to the left of the fourth row. The five similar pins on the top row each represent a different chess piece. The other two photos are of pins from French chess clubs.

My collector correspondent says he has 12 drawers like the three shown, holding more than 450 pins collected to date. He'll be exhibiting his collection in July at the Festival d'Esbarres, a tournament in the Bourgogne region of France.

I get far more mail about my posts on eBay auctions than I get on other topics. I suspect there's a need for an online resource where chess collectors can communicate with each other. Although I'm not a collector myself, I'm always glad to hear from collectors and to relate their stories.

04 June 2012

Quizzes for Notation, Setup, and Moves

Continuing with Tiebreaks & Quizzes, I returned to Chess Quizzes for Beginners and converted the remaining quizzes for the series on 'Notation, Setup, and Moves'.

Since that series was complete, I added it -- Notation, Setup, and Moves -- to my page on Learn to Play Chess.

03 June 2012

'Politicians Who Know Nothing about Chess Know about Kasparov'

Since posting about FIDE/ECU Chess in Schools, I've learned that the ultimate responsibility for the European initiative lies with one of the European Parliament's standing committees: Culture and Education (CULT). The committees's support of chess was cemented in a lobbying effort reported by TWIC in Kasparov and Danailov visit European Parliament on 15th Feb. Following is a photo from that visit showing Kasparov and MEPs of the CULT committee together with assistants.

Members of the CULT Committee (to the immediate left and right of Kasparov): Marco Scurria (MEP Italy), Heinz K. Becker (MEP Austria), Garry Kasparov, Milan Zver (MEP Slovenia), NN, Santiago Fisas Ayxela (MEP Spain), Piotr Borys (MEP Poland),

Chessbase later reported on the February visit with Strasbourg: Getting chess into schools Europe-wide. The approved text of the initiative, officially known as WD50.2011, can be found in a Chessvibes report from March: Chess in schools program endorsed by EU Parliament.

01 June 2012

India Loves Anand

Let's have one last clip from the Anand - Gelfand match, this time from the winner's home country.

The match was very even: Viswanathan Anand (3:58) • 'India's chess legend won his fifth world title by beating Boris Gelfand in a tie-breaker on Wednesday.'

About IBNLive: 'Latest Politics, India, World, Sports news and entertainment news clips and shows from CNN-IBN.'