30 November 2012

Fire on Board, Literally

With apologies to GM Shirov.

Chess on Fire (0:51) • 'No description available'

No description needed.

29 November 2012

Rabinovich on a 'Large Number of Fighting Units'

Even though I've already discussed 'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich in two previous posts -- A Textbook for Teaching Endgames and Rook Endings According to Rabinovich -- there is much more to say about the book. The most interesting section for the advanced player is undoubtedly chapter 8, 'Exploiting the Advantage in Endings with a Large Number of Pieces (Basic Technical Methods)'. It starts,

In practice, endings with a large number of fighting units have an importance of the first magnitude. Before we can reach a position with one or two pawns, the game necessarily must pass through a more complex endgame.

This is the sort of chapter that I would expect to find last in an endgame book, after all of the individual chapters on specific pieces in combat with each other or with Pawns. Indeed, the first five chapters are elementary mates (listed in my 'Textbook for Teaching' post), chapter 6 is titled 'Mate with Bishop + Knight', and chapter 7 is titled 'Minor Piece vs. Pawns'. Now in chapter 8 we jump from the simple to the complex, another example of the sometimes strange order that Rabinovich uses to present his material. He explains,

We consider it possible to start with the examination of endings containing a large number of fighting units, now that in previous chapters we laid out all the steps necessary for this. In this chapter we shall deal with endings defined by a superiority either in position or in force.

Next to the exploitation of such an advantage, "technique" alone is sometimes enough -- that is, knowing a few methods which have been utilized previously in similar positions. Here is a classic example of this type.

Another curiosity about the book's structure concerns the sections of chapter 8. The table of contents divides the chapter into subjects like 'Aggressively placed pieces' and 'Queenside pawn majority', to repeat the first two. These classifications, as useful as they are to understanding the theme under discussion, are nowhere to be found in the text of the chapter. The first example in the chapter, an example of aggressive pieces, starts from the diagram.

Spielmann - Rubinstein, 1909 St Petersburg

After 44.Kg3-f3

Here the author uses a key technique to understand endgames, which is also key to understanding positional play in chess. I call it 'verbal analysis', but have also seen it called 'schematic thinking', in contrast to the calculation of variations. Rabinovich starts by looking at the pieces.

First let's compare the position of the pieces. The strength of the Black pieces is self-evident. His Rook is attacking the enemy pawns, and the white rook must defend these pawns; the Black Rook occupies an active position, while White's is in a passive position. Black's King is also more active than White's: it will go to d5, where not only will it be completely safe, but it will bring pressure to bear on the d4- pawn, and in some cases on the White Rook (by ...Kc4/e4).

Then he looks at the Pawns.

Now let us turn our attention to the Pawn structure. In this regard, too, Black must be preferred. White's Pawn position is "nothing but weaknesses": all his pawns are broken up, isolated; it is true that Black's Pawn position is also not perfect: the d6-pawn is isolated, and the g-pawns are somewhat restricted by their "doubled" state. If now we proceed from formal analysis to a deeper evaluation, then White's pawn structure does not come off any better: on the contrary, we can see that the weakness of the Black d6-pawn is only apparent, since that pawn is well-enough protected by its King. Further, the position of Black's Pawns is such that White's King cannot approach them, while Black's King is threatening to invade through either e4 or c4.

What can White put up against all these advantages? Only the presence of a passed (but stymied) pawn on a3, and the faint hope that the loss of one pawn might not equal the loss of the whole game.

Only then does he look at the course of the game, which continued 44...Kd5 45.Ke2, a Pawn sacrifice. Again we have verbal analysis,

White makes skillful use of his only chance – the passed Pawn. Now it would not be good for Black to take on d4, since after the trade of Rooks the a3-Pawn acquires threatening power.

This is followed by a specific variation that must be calculated (and that I won't repeat here). The more than 30 positions in the chapter, all from grandmaster play, are filled with this weaving of positional considerations and tactical calculations, the same sort of thought process that a beginner must learn to become a good chess player. Anyone who masters this, masters chess.

27 November 2012

Openings from the ICCF Finals

I signed off last week's post on A Database for ICCF Finals promising myself to concentrate on the middlegames and endgames in this unique collection of accumulated chess knowledge. I haven't been able to develop any useful techniques to do this, because the openings keep getting in the way. Let's look at those first.

The chart in the 'Database' post already offers a number of talking points. The first is the relative success of the initial Knight moves. The move 1.Nf3 shows a 59.9% success rate for White, while 1.Nc3 shows 65.9%, almost 2/3. I can't explain the success of 1.Nf3. It leads into the same variations that one expects from the 1.d4/1.c4/1.Nf3 complex, but is apparently more successful than either of the alternatives. Perhaps it's just a statistical anomaly.

The move 1.Nc3 is easier to explain. It was used by a single competitor, Ove Ekebjaerg of Denmark; see The chess games of Ove C Ekebjaerg on Chessgames.com, where the 1.Nc3 connection has also been discovered. He played in the 9th (ended in 1983), 14th (2000), and 16th (2004) ICCF Correspondence Finals, where his best finish was second place in the 14th final, behind Tonu Oim. His overall score with 1.Nc3 in the three events was +8-1=13. The single loss was to Oim in the 9th final, which Oim also won. According to Chesslab.com, the critical line is 1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 dxe4 (or 2...d4) 3.Nce2 e5, when 4.Ng3 is more successful than 4.Nf3. It's also worth noting that when engines go head-to-head without a book, 1.Nc3 is a top candidate move; see Chess960 Opening Theory for more.

Back to the 'Database' post, I was also intrigued by the responses to 1.e4. The worst response, at least according to the ICCF statistics, is 1...e6, with a 63.1% success rate for White. The best response is 1...g6, with 51.7% for White. I would not have been surprised to see these results reversed. The stats for 1...e6 come largely from the Winawer (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3), where 27 games brought 74.0% success to White. The move 3...Nf6 was also in White's favor, with 24 games going 66.6% for White.

The number of games starting 1...g6 is probably too small to draw any conclusions. After 2.d4, the number increases with the transposition 1.d4 g6 2.e4 coming into consideration. After 2...Bg7, the stats start to skew in White's favor.

Finally, what about the 631 games starting 1.d4 Nf6? Which move, for example, shows better results for Black -- the King's Indian or the Gruenfeld? Here are the stats from the ICCF finals for the sequence 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4, followed by 2...g6 3.Nc3 (the differences in frequency from one table to the next are due to transpositions from 1.c4, etc.).

After 2.c4, the move 2...e6 brings somewhat better results than 2...g6. Similarly, after 3.Nc3 the move 3...d5 works a little better than 3...Bg7. This is not good news for players of the King's Indian, like me, but I'm sure we'll continue to play it. Statistics are, after all, only 50% of the story.

26 November 2012

The Other Side of the Herring Pool

My latest conversion for About to Tripod, titled Deschapelles : The Chess-King, starts,

The English play more chess than the French; but the latter can boast of players with whom we have never been able to cope. We love to start with an apparent paradox. Our neighbours on the other side of the herring-pool have always possessed players of so high a pitch of excellence, that they may be fairly styled phenomena; but of artists a grade lower, Britain could at any time shew six for one.

The fact is, whatever be the pursuit taken up by the French, there are among them to be found individuals capable of carrying that pursuit to an excess inappreciable by souls of less ardent temperament. The best astronomers, chemists, cooks, mathematicians, dancers, architects, and military engineers, are French. And so it is with chess; while we are content to knock under, and as veteran soldiers, keep our places quietly in the ranks.

As with the other pages in this series, I added it to the index page on Chess History.

25 November 2012

Fisching for Fischer

The last time I looked at Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I highlighted Chess Item Twins. While this current episode doesn't feature twins, it does show a couple of items that are members of the same family.

The item shown on the top, from the Bled segment of the 1959 Candidates tournament (Tal 1st, Fischer & Gligoric 5th/6th; 8 players), sold for US $766.89 after 11 bids by seven bidders. The item on the bottom, from the 1970 Rovinj/Zagreb international tournament (Fischer 1st, 2.0 points ahead of Hort, Gligoric, Smyslov, & Korchnoi, all =2nd; 18 players), sold for $636.00 after 2 bids.

Another cover from the past fortnight that I didn't show, titled 'ICELAND CHESS Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky autographes on cover', sold for $450 after two bids. Put these together with the items I pictured in my recent post on Fischer Memorabilia, and we have a real bull market in Fischer autographs.

Are all of these signatures genuine? I have no way of knowing, but I wouldn't venture into this field without examining the material by Bobby Fischer Autograph Expert Lawrence Totaro ('Fisching for Forgeries').

23 November 2012

Chess with Mirror Sunglasses

After Korchnoi in his 1977 Candidates Final match vs. Spassky (or was it the 1978 title match vs. Karpov).

Downtown, Denver, CO, USA © Flickr user C Thomas Anderson under Creative Commons.

I cropped this to highlight the sunglasses. The original (see link) was submitted to the 'Global Photojournalism; Politics, News, Protest, and Culture group'. For more chess images from the group, see search group on 'chess'.

22 November 2012

'Not a Sane Bone in His Body'

The current issue of Cornell Alumni Magazine has a feature article titled Good Sport by Brad Herzog, writing about sports journalist Jeremy Schaap. That's the same Schaap who gained notoriety in the chess world when Bobby Fischer was released from Japan to Iceland in 2005. I once used the video footage in a post appropriately titled Fischer and Schaap. Curious to discover if the encounter had made any impression on Schaap, I read the article expecting at best a passing reference to chess and Fischer. I was surprised to find that the subject was used as the final scene for the three page feature.

One of Schaap’s proudest moments came when he pursued a story that his father had first covered decades earlier. Dick Schaap had met chess player Bobby Fischer in 1958, when the fourteen-year-old prodigy won the U.S. national championship. Schaap later took him to ballgames, played tennis with him, even served as the master of ceremonies for Bobby Fischer Day after Fischer defeated Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky in an iconic Cold War confrontation in Iceland.

Dick Schaap, perhaps even a better known sports journalist than his son, died in 2001, but the story continued.

In 2004, Fischer was arrested for a passport violation in Japan, but he avoided deportation when Iceland offered him honorary citizenship the following year. Having tracked his movements since long before his father passed away, Schaap convinced his ESPN bosses that an interview with Fischer was a once-in-a-generation opportunity. They agreed, and he made it to Reykjavik in time to watch Fischer’s flight arrive.

The video I embedded in my 'Fischer and Schaap' post has since been removed, but it was easy to find another on YouTube: The Strange Life of Bobby Fischer. It shows highlights from Fischer's press conference given the day after his arrival in Iceland. The key moment in the clip was recounted by Herzog. I've abridged it slightly here:-

"Your father was Dick Schaap?" Fischer responded suddenly. "He rapped me very hard. He said that I don't have a sane bone in my body. I didn't forget that."

"I don't think he meant it literally," said Schaap.

Fischer then embarked on a diatribe, recalling how Dick Schaap had been "kind of like a father figure," and then later, "like a typical Jewish snake, he had the most vicious things to say about me."

"I have to object—" said Schaap.

"Did you read what he said in that article?" asked Fischer, his voice rising.

"I'm not sure if I read it, but I know that he said it," Schaap replied, then added: "Honestly, I don't know that you've done much here today really to disprove anything he said."

As Schaap turned and walked out, the camera was on Fischer's face, rendered speechless and close to tears. I wondered about the original source of the 'doesn't have a sane bone' comment and set out looking for it. I didn't find it, but I did find a longer video with much more Fischer footage.

Bobby Fischer - ESPN SportsCenter (13:01)

It shows many of the moments where the lives of Dick Schaap and Bobby Fischer came together. Herzog closed his article on Jeremy Schaap by noting,

A few months later, for his feature report on "Finding Bobby Fischer," shown both on ESPN and ABC's "World News Tonight," he received an Emmy. It was called the Dick Schaap Outstanding Writing Award.

I suppose the 'ESPN SportsCenter' clip embedded above was the same that won the Emmy. Now if I could just find the source of the 'sane bone' comment. It obviously weighed heavily on Fischer's spirit.


Later: 'Jim West On Chess' to the rescue: Schaap's Article on Fischer has the entire piece.

'Whatever Happened to Bobby Fischer? : Our Peripatetic Reporter Pursues an Old Friend' by Dick Schaap • 'Take the avarice of Monopoly, the complexity of chess, the loneliness of solitaire, the frustrations of a maze, and the absurdity of an eyeball bender, mix well and you'll have a hint of the new game I have invented. The game is called "In Search of Bobby Fischer." [...] I will continue to play this game, to pursue the former world chess champion, because I genuinely like Bobby Fischer. He possesses two classic virtues: He is never dull, and he does not have a sane bone in his body. I'll let you know when I find him. Don't hold your breath.'

If Fischer thought that Schaap 'rapped me very hard', he must have heard the quote from a third party. See the JWOC link for the rest. Thanks, Jim!

20 November 2012

A Database for ICCF Finals

Last week on my World Championship Blog, I brought my page about correspondence championships up to date; see ICCF 20th to 24th WCCC Finals (PGN) for details. What to do next with these potentially instructive games? I combined the games for all 24 finals into a single database and loaded it into SCID. The software gave me the following breakdown of initial moves (1st move, 1.e4 responses, 1.d4 responses):-

When I first added the crosstables for the 1st through 14th championships, I analyzed the game scores and posted the results in Chess History on the Web (2001 no.24) : Correspondence Chess. I could do a similar analysis again, but I'd rather look at middlegames and endgames. How to do that? I'll post here as soon as I figure it out.

19 November 2012

'Chess Is Chess' by Chess Informant

Continuing with About to Tripod, I added Chess Informant's Chess Is Chess : Statistics to my page on Chess History. Published in 2000, the CI material is a good summary of chess history through the end of the first millenium.

18 November 2012


Do you recognize these chess quotes, translated into Esperanto?

  • La peonojn estas la animo de la ludo.

  • Mi nur volas fari, iam, estas nur ludi ŝakon.

  • Antaŭ la fino ludo, la dioj metis la mezo ludo.

  • Kiam vi vidas bonan movon, serĉi pli bonan unu.

  • Mi ne kredas je psikologio. Mi kredas bonan movojn.

  • Multaj fariĝis ŝako sinjoroj, neniu iĝis la mastro de ŝako.

  • Ŝako, kiel amo, kiel muziko, havas la povon por fari viroj feliĉa.

  • Ne ĉiuj artistoj estas ajedrecistas, sed ĉiuj ajedrecistas estas artistoj.

  • La gajnanto de la ludo estas la ludanto kiu faras la sekvan-al-lasta eraro.

  • De ŝako ĝi diris ke la vivo ne estas sufiĉa tempo por tio, sed tio estas la kulpo de la vivo, ne ŝako.

Google Translate: English -> Esperanto.

16 November 2012

Chairman, FIDE Trainers' Commission

World Youth Chess Championship - Adrian Mikhalchishin (16:26) • 'An Introduction to the 2012 World Youth Chess Championship'

GM Mikhalchishin is Chairman of the FIDE Trainers' Commission; official site trainers.fide.com.

15 November 2012

Rook Endings According to Rabinovich

In A Textbook for Teaching Endgames, I introduced 'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich and quoted from the author's 'Foreword':-

First, study the first five chapters Then, proceeding to the following chapters, we recommend that you rely on the "concentric" method of teaching them – that is, first acquaint your audience only with the basic positions in each chapter, delaying a deeper study of the given theme to the second ring. The toughest questions (chapters 9 and 14 – [Pawn and Rook] endings, for example) we recommend that you divide up into three concentric rings.

The ring concept, although intriguing, is largely self-explanatory. Looking at the topics for the chapter on Rook Endings, I would expect to find the same in any similar book. The order is definitely unusual; most books start with Rook vs Pawns (and no Rook).

337 CHAPTER 14: Rook Endings
337 A Rook + Rook Pawn vs Rook [Examples 197-213]
361 B Rook + non-Rook Pawn vs Rook
362 a) Black's King stands in front of the Pawn
369 b) Black's King is driven away from the Pawn
393 c) Black's King is behind the Pawn [Examples 214-253]
404 C Rook + two Pawns vs Pawn
404 a) Connected Pawns
409 b) Disconnected Pawns [Examples 254-273]
417 D Rook vs Pawns
417 a) Single Pawn
426 b) Rook vs two Pawns
436 c) Rook vs three Pawns [Examples 274-296]
441 E Rook + Pawn vs Rook + Pawn
447 F Rook + two Pawns vs Rook + Pawn
453 G Rook endings with a large number of Pawns

471 CHAPTER 15 Queen vs Rook (or Rook + Pawns)

I've included the starting page numbers for each section to give an idea how much material is available for that topic. The 134 pages for the chapter are roughly 25% of the book's 523 pages. If that seems like a large book, it's partly because there is ample white space on each page.

I imagine that splitting the material 'into three concentric rings' means a few examples from each section for the first ring, with the rest of the material through section 'F' for the second ring. Section 'G', which necessarily builds on all of the preceding material, would be the third ring, supplemented with the examples at the end of each major section. The examples, presented with solutions, are exercises to test your knowledge of the basic material. Here is a sample page from section 'B'.

Section 'G' examines 12 endgames.

  • Capablanca – Tartakower; New York 1924
  • Kashdan – Alekhine; Folkestone 1933
  • Levenfish – Lisitsyn; Moscow 1935
  • Lasker – Levenfish; Moscow 1925
  • Eliskases – Levenfish; Moscow 1936
  • Alekhine – Capablanca; World Championship (34); Buenos Aires 1927
  • Flohr – Ragozin; Moscow 1936
  • Capablanca – Yates; Hastings 1930
  • Duras – Capablanca; New York 1913
  • Alekhine – Euwe; World Championship (27); Netherlands 1935
  • Lasker – Eliskases; Moscow 1936
  • Rabinovich – Levenfish; Moscow 1935

Many of these are familiar endgame examples, even classics, and half of the games are from the three pre-WWII Moscow tournaments. This underscores the book's main weakness: the material is severely dated and has been rehashed in more recent endgame books. Having said that, I can't think of any reason not to use the Rabinovich work as an introductory text. Has anyone checked its analysis against a tablebase?

13 November 2012

The Innocent Morality

On the way to writing the post that eventually became Top eBay Chess Item Twins, I had several other eBay auctions short-listed. The most intriguing was titled '1496 Welsh John of Wales INCUNABLE / CHESS Origin / Welsh / Incunabula Venice', subtitled '1st printed book describing game of CHESS'. It sold for US $4999 on a single bid. The description said,

John of Wales, OFM (Wales, 13th century - Paris 1285), a.k.a. John Waleys and Johannes Guallensis, was a Franciscan theologian who wrote several well-received Latin works, primarily preaching aids, in Oxford and Paris in the late-thirteenth century. This book has somewhat recently gained great fame as being the first printed book to describe the game of chess. I find no other incunable editions for sale worldwide, but do find a 2011 auction of an incunable edition of this title selling for 12,000 EUROS!

Main author: Johannes Guallensis / John of Wales
Title: Communiloquium [...]
Published: Venetiis [Venècia] : Giorgius Arrivabene, 30 juliol, 1496
Language: Latin

I decided to check the phrase 'recently gained great fame as being the first printed book to describe the game of chess'. The book is described in Murray's 'History of Chess' (1913) in the section 'Chess in Europe', where he divided early European chess literature into two categories: 'Didactic Literature' and 'The Moralities'. The Communiloquium was grouped with the earliest of the moralities, of which he examined a dozen manuscripts. Murray paraphrased the chess portion of the work starting,

The world resembles a chess-board which is chequered white and black, the colours showing the two conditions of life and death, or praise and blame. The chessmen are men of the world who have a common birth, occupy different stations and hold different titles in this life, who contend together, and finally have a common fate which levels all ranks. The King often lies under the other pieces in the bag.

Using that paragraph as a start point, you can find the entire passage copied elsewhere on the web. Murray called it 'the Innocent Morality, leaving the question of authorship open'. Of the many variations he examined, some he attributed to Pope Innocent III (1163-1216), others to Johannes Gallensis (John of Waleys). He had much more to say about the work, starting with 'neither authorship can be accepted in the present form'.

A different, later work by Jacobus de Cessolis -- see my related page Chess Bibliography (before 1800) for years -- is the best known of the moralities. There are even more variations in existence than there are of the earlier work.

12 November 2012

Portrait of La Bourdonnais

After the brief interlude for Nothing Much to See Here, I continued with About to Tripod and added Portrait of La Bourdonnais to my page on Chess History. 'Portrait' is one of my favorite player sketches. It starts,

A change comes over the Régence, and the noise reaches its climax, as if the elements of confusion in the caldron had received their final stirabout. What portly form do we see making its way through the crowd, at this, the eleventh hour? Fifty persons accost him at once, all eager to wind up the evening with one more game; -- all shouting, and laughing, and screaming, with the peculiar and prodigious gesticulations of La belle France, rising many octaves above concert pitch. The crash is terrific.

Not to know the potentate who enters with noise exceeding that of drum and trumpet, were indeed to prove yourself unknown. The new-comer is De la Bourdonnais, since the retirement of Deschapelles, the acknowledged first chess-player in the world.

Someone once said it sounds more like a rock star than a chess player. The sketch is the last piece of a series titled Excerpt from The Café de la Régence, by a Chess-player [Part 1/7], from Fraser's Magazine, Vol. XXII, July to December, 1840.

11 November 2012

Top eBay Chess Item Twins

In this ongoing series for Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I've seen items relisted after a lapse because the first buyer never paid, but I can't recall seeing the same item sold twice in the same fortnight. The painting pictured below, from an auction titled 'Amazing French Antique Oil Painting Playing Chess', sold on 1 November for US $950 after receiving one bid. Four days later it sold again for $1600, this time with the words 'Gold Frame' appended to the title. There was no more information about the second sale, e.g. time or bids. Was there some kind of error on eBay's part?

The first description said,

Gorgeous 19th. Century Continental oil painting on canvas, interior scene, depicting a man and woman playing chess. 19th century Period Frame. The Painting Professionally restored and is in Excellent Condition. Everything we sell is 100% Authentic

The second said,

Gorgeous 19th. Century French oil painting on canvas, interior scene, depicting a man and woman playing chess. 19th century Period Frame. Everything we sell is 100% Authentic

The seller was the same in both cases. On top of the two sales here, I'm sure I've seen the item before, perhaps many times, although I can't say for sure if it was sold.

09 November 2012

Caissart Graffiti

Some folks say graffiti is art, others say it's vandalism.

Dr Chess 87 © Flickr user Akbar Sim under Creative Commons.

Waldorpstraat, Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands.

08 November 2012

Candidate Karpov's Endgame Technique

Combining Masters of the Endgame, where I identified a number of players well known for their superior endgame play, with Endgame Storyboard, where I worked out a technique for discussing endgames on this blog, the image below is a slight adaptation of the one I used in the 'Storyboard' post. The game is the fourth from a 1974 Candidates Match and can be found on Chessgames.com at Anatoly Karpov vs Lev Polugaevsky; Moscow cqf 1974.

On top of the references in the 'Masters of the Endgame' post, I found the game annotated in collections by Botvinnik, R.Byrne, and Mednis. The differences in the notes of the three GMs convinced me that this game was not as straightforward as I thought at first.

Looking at the first and last positions in the storyboard, everyone agrees that Polugaevsky was better after 22...Rxe6, while Karpov was winning after 45...Re5. In fact, he was already winning after 41.b5, the sealed move, where Botvinnik commented, 'The adjournment analysis of this position can not have brought Black any comfort.' What happened in the ~20 moves after 22...Rxe6?

After 25...Be3, Karpov's 26.Bxe3 was given a '?' by the two Americans. Mednis noted, 'Rather incomprehensible from as fine a strategist as Karpov'. Botvinnik agreed with the others that 26.Bxg4 was 'probably better' than the move played, but gave Karpov the benefit of the doubt, saying, 'Karpov does not want to part with his Bishop, which protects his e-Pawn so effectively.' Karpov was known for his stubborn defense of inferior positions, often converting them to draws or even wins.

The tide began to turn with 30.Rd3. Here Black played 30...g5, the start of a series of inferior moves. Mednis tried to show that Black had a forced win of a Pawn, but the engines do not confirm his analysis. After 31.h3 h5 32.Nd5, Black went awry with 32...Nxd5, when 33.Rxd5 left the Black Kingside Pawns vulnerable and initiated a plan of advancing the White Queenside Pawns.

Polugaevsky's last chance was after 36.R1d4. He played 36...f6, hemming in his own Rook and missing the chance to stop White's advance with 36...b6. Karpov didn't give Black a second chance and played 37.a5. I often see this type of Pawn move in Karpov's games, where he both furthers his own plan and blocks his opponent's best defense.

It took only a few weak moves by Polugaevsky to give Karpov his first win in the Candidate series on the way to becoming World Champion. The eighth game in the same match was given by several commentators as another example of Karpov's endgame prowess.

06 November 2012

It's Silly Season in Chess Life

Today is an election day in the United States and, not entirely by coincidence, the November Chess Life arrived in the mail box. The lead article was 'The Politics of Chess Players' by Alexander Robinson. The subtitle noted,

As we elect a U.S. president this month, one writer asks, "Do conservatives play chess differently than liberals?"

This is a dangerous topic for a chess magazine, since chess is by all appearances a nonpolitical occupation. The author explains,

I've always noticed that a great number of chess players are political, and many were happy to answer when asked if they were "very/somewhat Liberal/Conservative/ "Centrist"? With chess not being particularly popular in America compared to many Socialist/Leftist European and Asian countries (from everything I've heard and observed,) one might expect that Liberal (LP) chess players would signifigantly outnumber Conservatives (CP), but I found this not to be true. One possible explanation for this evenness is, in my opinion, a certain "Libertarian" strain among chess players as, unfortunately, many of the best players do fit the stereotypically shy personality.

Note the definitions of 'LP' and 'CP'. They are important to understand the rest. Note also the spelling of the word 'signifigantly' and the non-sequitur in the last sentence. Was this article edited? The bulk of it consisted of 20 bullets titled 'DATA'. Here are the first three.

• First, I must make the point that questions like whether "CPs are more 'aggressive' or 'sympathetic' than LPs" are, in my view, inapplicable to chess. The point of chess is to capture your opponent's king and protect your own in the most effective way you can, so "aggressiveness" is good, no matter what "kind" of player one is. However:

• CPs play more speed chess than LPs, who tend to play more 20+ minute games.

• CPs tend to look to exploit an opponent's weakness, while LPs tend to create plans and list concepts like "balance/ imbalance" more than do CPs.

The other 17 bullets are more of the same, although some are considerably wordier. My favorite is

• CPs tend to use the tactic of "pinning" to paralyze his/her opponent's pieces while LPs use more so-called "skewer/x-ray" tactics to force opponents to uncover their back-rank pieces.

From the first of the 'CONCLUSIONS', which follow the 'DATA', we learn,

In all the above categories, the differences between CPs and LPs became more pronounced as their rating/skill level increased.

So masters and experts pin or skewer as a result of their political convictions, not on the tactical requirements of the position. That's simply rubbish.

I'm not familiar with the author, Alexander Robinson, and there is no information on his background or credentials. He mentions 'a bachelor's degree in psychology' and 'players I met locally in New York City', but for all I can tell, the name is a pseudonym. Anonymous articles shouldn't be published in Chess Life, especially when they are as silly as this one is.

05 November 2012

Nothing Much to See Here

Last week, while working on Cessolis, Damiano, Vida, and More, I learned a useful technique for slimming down the size of HTML tables. This week I applied the technique to a number of bloated pages, e.g. the last table in Chess Ratings. Next week I'll continue with About to Tripod.

04 November 2012

Searching for Chess

While I had my database software open to investigate Correspondence Chess Ratings and Chess960, it seemed like a good time to investigate an October upsurge in interest in my About.com instructional material. Just like the last time I looked into a similar phenomenon, documented in Google Likes Me Why Exactly?, I found nothing particularly noteworthy; a rising tide lifts all boats. Since the same 'A:' pages that I highlighted in 'Google Likes Me' popped up again, I decided to complete the unfinished action that I noted:-

The next logical step would be to see what searches returned those particular pages, but that will have to wait for another time.

Here are my top five pages returned by Google search in October, along with the most frequent search strings used.

My chess equipment page wasn't in the earlier 'Google Likes Me' list. This gives me a clue about the reason for the upsurge : chess is increasing in popularity.

02 November 2012

One Day in New York

Russ Makofsky: 'Greenwich Village is known as the chess capital of the world.' • Justus Williams: 'When I was in third grade, my Mom wanted me to pick up an activity. Instead of choosing basketball, she wanted me to try something different, so she put me in a chess program. That's how I got started.' • Voice-over: 'With the success of his game, Justus has been named one of the fifty most influential African-Americans in the U.S.'.

New York City's Chess Scene (4:43) • 'New York is home to more than 70% of America's chess playing population, and the game is an integral part of the city's street culture.'

For the rest of the BBC series, see Episode 16 - New York City’s chess scene.

01 November 2012

Endgame Storyboard

An experiment to integrate a storyboard view of an endgame with its associated commentary, a la Four Endgames to Know.


22...Rxe6: Bla bla bla.

26...Nxe3: Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla.

30.Rd3: Bla?

36.R1d4: Bla bla bla.

41.b5 (s): The sealed move. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla.

45...Re5: And the rest is a matter of technique.