25 June 2017

'Mystery Painting' on eBay

In this long running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I try to avoid repeating featured items, but sometimes it can't be helped. If the painting pictured below looks familiar, it might be because it's been the basis for two previous posts:-

This latest appearance of the painting was titled 'Vintage C.W.Towin, Genre Oil Painting, French Cavalier Men Playing Chess'. It sold for US $455 after 33 bids from eight bidders.

The description said,

After a Google [image] search we found that this mid-20th century oil painting on stretched canvas is a very well executed copy of the famous painting “Chess Players” by the Belgian artist, Alex de Andreis (1880-1929). It depicts two French cavalier men in the middle of an intense chess match. The gentleman to the left is holding a clay pipe in one hand and stroking his beard as he contemplates the next move. His opponent is [sic] a glass of liquor and has a very confident look on his face.

The quality of this 24” by 20” oil painting is excellent and with the exception of some stable craquelar to a few areas, there are no problems or any restorations. The artist has signed the lower right hand corner “C.V.Towin”. This circa 1950s Oil Painting comes in its original 22 3/4" by 26 3/4" gilded frame.

Although the composition is the same as the variations shown in the 'Still a Mystery' post, the details are different. I found this latest variation in another recent auction C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century), 04.06.17, Sold: $153.40 (aspireauctions.com) along with the further explanation,

50. C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century) • 20" x 24" • Chess players. Oil on canvas, signed lower right, framed in carved and gessoed wooden frame, overall 23" x 27". • Condition: Slight craquelure surface, some losses to frame, otherwise very good. • Estimate: $250/500 • Sold with Premium: $153.40 • Closed: Apr 6, 2017

With each new post, the painting becomes less of a mystery. It was probably painted by Alex de Andreis (aka d'Andreis), variously identified as (take your pick):

British, 1880-1929; Belgian, 1871-1929; Belgian, 1871-1939; Belgian/British, 1880-1929

The painting was first copied by the Taber Prang Art Co. (not 'Tabor Prang' as my December 2007 post recorded) and later copied by other artists. The main mystery remaining now is -- where is the original painting?

23 June 2017

Chess Emotions Run High

At the beginning of the month I wrote a post Award Winning Chess Photos, about the 2017 Photo Contest (worldpressphoto.org). The photos below are from the same contest. I've cropped out the museum label, which started,

Sports; 2nd prize stories • Michael Hanke; Czech Republic

The photographer's description of the photo explained,

This exhibition was at the BCCC [Barcelona Center of Contemporary Culture] near where we were staying, and one of the festival sites, so we spent a good two hours looking at it. [...] This series of photos from a chess tournament caught my eye. Particularly the expression on the little boy's face - it reminded me of how James gets when he's intensely involved in a game.

The little boy's face reminds me more of a primal scream and I have to wonder if he's winning or losing.


World Press Photo © Flickr user Clare Griffiths under Creative Commons.

The museum label also had a short description of each photo (there are two in the center).

A father gives his son advice in Zdice. • The moments before the start of a new round in Zdice. • Parents and trainers watch the course of a game in Slany. • Emotions run high at a tournament in Kamenice.

'Advice in Zdice'. Does that rhyme?

22 June 2017

Sports Illustrated 'On the Cover'

On top of learning More About Thomas Emery, in that previous post I discovered that an influential American sports magazine was a source for in-depth feature articles about chess.

Here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

Back to that old question, The Graffiti Wall - Is Chess a Sport? (December 2013), if SI thinks it's a sport, then the matter is settled. The magazine has even featured chess on its cover.


Left: 'U.S Chess Champion Lisa Lane'
Right: 'Bobby's Chessboard Mastery'

7 August 1961: QUEEN OF KNIGHTS AND PAWNS • 'Once tolerated as a good-looking girl who played chess, Lisa Lane is now a champion who wants the world title' • seven page article by Robert Cantwell

Lisa Lane is an ardent and optimistic girl who won the U.S. women's chess championship soon after she learned how to play chess and now expects whatever she is involved into work out as well. If Lisa hears of a tournament that may possibly be held at some time in the future she takes it for granted that she will play in it, she naturally believes that she will win, and from that it is only a logical step for her to buy a new dress in anticipation of her victory.

14 August 1972: HOW TO COOK A RUSSIAN GOOSE • 'First, catch a Russian -- and at long last Bobby Fischer apparently has, dominating Boris Spassky so completely that only a sharp reversal can keep the young American from becoming world champion' • four page article, also by Robert Cantwell

On summer evenings in Iceland the sun barely sinks below the horizon. There is a joke going around that Bobby Fischer demanded it set three hours earlier, but so far the Icelandic Chess Federation hasn't been able to arrange it. In any case, it is daylight most of the time, and the only real darkness in the land these days has been in the cavernous interior of Reykjavik's Exhibition Hall, where the World Championship Chess Match is going on, and possibly in the heart of Russia's Boris Spassky.

The last photo in the Lisa Lane piece looked familiar and I found it in an eBay post, Two American Champions (March 2016).

20 June 2017

More About Thomas Emery

While working on a recent post, Thomas Emery, I was disappointed that I found so little non-chess web material about the man. I continued to look and found details about his family in a book, 'Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati' by Wendy Hart Beckman. This first passage (p.88-89) is about Emery's grandfather.

[Procter and Gamble, ca.1837] began by creating soaps and candles for Cincinnati's citizenry. Gamble made the soaps and candles, and Procter took care of administrative duties and marketing. He loaded the products up in their wheelbarrow and carted them around to the various stores to sell. Soon their business grew enough that they could move to a location on Western Row (now called Central Avenue), closer to the slaughterhouses.

They were not alone in taking advantage of the rich supply of pork fats, though. By the end of the decade, they were joined by Michael Werk from Alsace, Thomas Emery from England, and Andrew Jergens from Germany, all of whom started businesses using the abundant fats and oils of Porkopolis to make soaps and candles. Soon Cincinnati's soaps were sold throughout the state, thanks to a great extent to the canals.

Thomas Emery did not always enjoy success in his candlemaking. Born in England, he immigrated to the United States in 1832 with his wife and his son, Thomas Josephus Emery. Emery first tried his hand at selling real estate and then began dabbling in soaps and lard oil. His first attempts only landed him in bankruptcy, however. Soon enough, Thomas Emery found his niche: real estate and fatty acids.

The second passage (p.140) is about his uncle.

Thomas J. Emery married Mary Hopkins in 1866; Samuel Hannaford built their family home, the Edgecliffe, which overlooked the Ohio River. However, theirs was not to remain a happy family for long. They had two sons: Sheldon, born in 1867, and Albert, born in 1868. Albert died at the age of 16 as the result of a sledding accident, and Sheldon died at 23 from pneumonia while a student at Harvard. Thomas died in 1906, leaving his widow a lonely millionaire for 21 years. He left her his $20 million fortune with no directives as to how to spend it.

The last passage (p.141) is about his father.

Mary Emery died in 1927 at the age of 83. Tom and Mary Emery had no heirs; younger brother John was still a bachelor in his 60s, so he married a 22-year-old woman and had five children to pass on the family name and philanthropic tradition. That tradition was carried on in John J. Emery Jr., who also enjoyed success in the hotel business, building the 48-story Carew Tower (Cincinnati's tallest building at the time), the Netherland Plaza, and the Terrace Plaza hotels. He also founded Cincinnati Country Day School and held leadership roles with the Boy Scouts of America and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Meanwhile, his sister Audrey showed herself for having a flair for fashion and flings. She was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in America and married into Russian nobility not once, but twice, including the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the cousin of Nicholas, Russia's last czar.

The family relatioships are shown in a family tree from Cincinnati Magazine, December 1988 (p.76).


THOMAS EMERY and wife, KEZIA BROWN.
(Born 1798 in Bedford, England; arrived in America in early 1830s; died 1857)

Chess benefactor Thomas (1896-1975) is shown farthest to the right on the second row. Two of his siblings have found their way into Wikipedia:-

His son, not shown in the family tree, died in 2004: John Joseph Emery.

John Joseph Emery, 73, died Nov. 27, 2004, in Bar Harbor. He was born March 11, 1931, in Biarritz, France, the son of Thomas and Constance (Thomas) Emery. His family came to the United States in 1940, because of the war, where they resided in Oyster Bay, Long Island. [...] His grandfather, John J. Emery, built "The Turrets", an historic cottage in Bar Harbor, in which the family lived, it is now owned by the College of the Atlantic, of which John was a big supporter.'

Since this is a chess blog and there's nothing yet about chess in this post, I'll add a few Thomas Emery chess stories that I encountered during my investigations. First here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

1960-06-06: Revival of an old Army game • 'In the annals of American sport it would be difficult to find any event so completely overshadowed as was the first annual armed forces chess tournament in Washington a fortnight ago. About the time the 12 contestants had adjusted themselves to playing in the air-conditioned basement of the USO building on Lafayette Square, the U-2-summit affair exploded, and the entire city was awash with excitement.'

Next here's a New York Times article about another event Emery sponsored.

1973-11-04: Lyman and Chess are back on TV • 'Introduced by the Gillette sports song, Shelby Lyman, the chess teacher, returned to the air yesterday, providing move-by-move analysis on Channel 13 of the first in four-game match between the champions of the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs. [...] The match is being financed by a $25,000 grant from Thomas Emery and the American Chess Foundation. Emery, a long-time chess patron, subsidized José Raul Capablanca, the Cuban who was world champion from 1921 to 1927, The foundation underwrites the United States Chess Championship and the Armed Forces Chess Championship.'

Finally, here's a story about the disposition of Emery's bequest to the Armed Forces tournament.

Honor the Intent by Don Schultz • 'The Cramer Awards for Excellence in Chess Journalism are not the only victim of the Chess-in-the-Schools new policy. An example is the income from over a million dollars of Thomas Emery donations. Emery was a close friend of many of our finest players, including Frank Marshall and Al Horowitz. He helped support master chess. He also was a member of the Marine Corps during World War I and as a result had an enduring interest in armed forces chess. He sponsored the first Armed Forces Championship in 1960, and continued to sponsor it during his lifetime. He had every expectation that income from his donations would continue to be used for master and armed forces chess promotions. But it is not. All of it is now being used for the Chess-in-the Schools New York City inner city school programs.'

Back to my first Thomas Emery post, will I find as luch about the other chess patrons mentioned there?

19 June 2017

Site Stats and Images

In a recent post, Site Stats and Adsense, I used the server log on my personal domain to look at the relative popularity of my web pages. Similar techniques can be used for images. I did this a few years ago in Photos of February (March 2015):-

One thing I've always wanted to do -- but never found the time -- is to analyze the popularity of the various images stored on the site.

I don't want to repeat that exercise here, other than to mention the most popular photo for May 2017:-


The Match That Never Was (September 2012)

The log can also be used to follow the progress of a new post by tracking its corresponding image. Let's take, for example, my first post from May 2017 that used an image -- May 1967 'On the Cover'. -- and follow the progress of that image from the moment of its creation. (Because it's the information provided by the link which is most important here, I'll give the URL of the referring page without converting it to a link.)

The first call of a new image is always from its directory. This is because I check the image after uploading it, in case it was somehow damaged in the process (it happens). I then copy the full URL and add it to my new post.

  • http://www.mark-weeks.com/cfaa/

The next call of the new image is by the mechanism that distributes it to social media. For this CFAA blog, I see five accesses by dlvr.it, where a short URL expands to the full URL of the new post plus the parameters utm_source=dlvr.it & utm_medium=facebook.

  • http://dlvr.it/P2yc0M

After this the new image starts to be displayed on a single page for the new post or on the home page of the blog, where the most recent post appears first.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2017/05/may-1967-on-cover.html
  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/

Some time later, the image is called from various content aggregators. Here's one that appears regularly...

  • http://newsblur.com/site/1749928/chess-for-all-ages

...and here's another that appears to be worth exploring:-

  • http://www.rightrelevance.com/search/articles?query=chess%20player

After more posts have been added to the blog, the original post starts to show up on pages of 'Older Posts'.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2017-05-04T17:39:00%2B02:00&max-results=7

Since I also use my m-w.com domain to store images for my other blogs, the same process applies to them. Here's the most popular image on my World Chess Championship blog for the month of May.


Che Guevara at the Havana Zonal (January 2014)

And here's the most popular image on my Chess960 (FRC) blog for the same period.


Finding Top ICC Chess960 Players (November 2013)

That last chess960 image, as simple as it is, was just as popular as the top CFAA images, even though the C960 blog gets about 10% of the traffic that CFAA gets. Why this popularity? My server log only tells me that nearly all of the access were from Google. For example, the first access of the month was from

  • https://www.google.com.ph/

That's pretty much normal for an investigation into site statistics. An answered question nearly always leads to new questions.

18 June 2017

The Chess Remedy?

Ever since I started this series on 'The Sociology of Chess', it seems that whenever I work up a short list for Video Friday (last seen in Kasparov Talks at Google), there's at least one clip that delves into some aspect related to sociology. This latest one starts,

The youth of this generation, particularly those in the inner cities, are suffering from a failing educational system and high amounts of addiction. Politicians, social activists, and various charity organizations have been working to stop this epidemic for [many] years. What if I told you that the answer was simple? What if I told you that the answer was chess?


Caleb Varghese: Chess - A Social and Educational Remedy (16:21) • 'Published on Jun 16, 2017'

This might not be the best presentation I've seen on the 'Chess in Schools' topic and it might contain some questionable facts, but it covers more territory than most such presentations do. Here is a list of the slides used:-

  • Originally played by warrior class and aristocracy
  • 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu
  • Strategy and tactics
  • Understanding reactions to every action
  • Chess solution to addiction?
  • A village in India
  • Playing chess improves critical thinking skills
  • Magnus Carlsen plays blindfold simul against 10 Harvard lawyers ('highest ranked chess players in the world'?)
  • Chess makes you smart
  • Extracurricular activities supplement academic studies
  • Chess evens the playing field
  • Chess promotes discipline
  • Get chess in schools
  • It's your move

For more about the context of the presentation, see English 10P Talks Reveal a Wide Range of Student Interests and Passions! (thewheatleyway.org; Old Westbury, Long Island, New York; 1 June 2017).

16 June 2017

Kasparov Talks at Google

The short list for this edition of Video Friday was eventually further shortened to two Kasparov clips. The first was a MasterClass trailer. If you have a Facebook account and if you have ever shown any interest in chess, you have probably been presented this clip more times than you can count on your fingers and toes. If not, it's here: Garry Kasparov Teaches Chess | Official Trailer (youtube.com; MasterClass). The second Kasparov clip on the short list was more interesting.


Garry Kasparov: "Deep Thinking" | Talks at Google (38:50) • 'Garry Kasparov and DeepMind’s CEO Demis Hassabis discuss Garry’s new book, his match with Deep Blue and his thoughts on the future of AI in the world of chess.'

At the beginning of the video, moderator Hassabis mentions his review of GM Kasparov's most recent book, 'Deep Thinking', where I think he means Artificial Intelligence: Chess match of the century (nature.com). Kasparov replies,

Thank you very much for your review and also for all the protection against all the tech guys who criticized me for not being an expert.

Does that mean the book is not for tech people? I'll come back to that question when I get the chance to read the book. One of the comments to the clip informs,

Demis Hassabis was once the second strongest under-14 chess player in the world (Elo 2300), behind Judit Polgar.

As for 'Talks at Google', I featured another episode a few years back in a Video Friday post titled Computer Chess 'Comedy' (July 2013), about the movie 'Computer Chess'. GM Kasparov appeared in an earlier Google talk, Garry Kasparov | Talks at Google (youtube.com; 'Uploaded on Nov 18, 2010'), when he was invited because of his own article on Diego Rasskin-Gutman's 'Chess Metaphors' in the New York Times Review of Books.