31 December 2010

Annika at Pinocchio Park

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

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


Signing off 2010 with best wishes for 2011!

30 December 2010

Janos Kadar Chess Set

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

The description said,

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

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

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

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

28 December 2010

Blitzing Fischer

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

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

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

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

27 December 2010

Finding a Constructive Plan

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

Varna Olympiad 1962
Fischer, Robert

Unzicker, Wolfgang
After 20...Qb6-a6

Of the diagrammed position, Fischer wrote,

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

Kasparov agreed with this, and added,

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

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

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

24 December 2010

Searching for Bobby Fischer (the movie)

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

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

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

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

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

23 December 2010

Odds and Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 December 2010

The Bobby Fischer Saga (cont.)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

20 December 2010

Najdorf 6.Be2

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

After 7.Nd4-b3

On 6.Be2, he quoted Mednis,

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

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

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

The Curacao Candidates tournament preceded the Varna Olympiad.

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

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

17 December 2010

Watching Paint Dry

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

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

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

16 December 2010

Chigorin Played Correspondence Chess

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

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

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

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

14 December 2010

The Rybka Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And some time later Jiri Dufek took over the position.

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

He recorded his thoughts in a pair of Chessbase articles.

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

13 December 2010

Unzicker - Fischer, 1962 Varna

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

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

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

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

Wolfgang Unzicker vs Robert James Fischer; Varna Olympiad Final 1962

...on Chessgames.com.

10 December 2010

Karpov vs. Alzheimer

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

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

09 December 2010

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

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

Advanced Chess, Leon, Spain.

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

Complete Chess, Maastricht, Netherlands.

PAL/CSS Freestyle, Playchess.com.

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

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

07 December 2010

Recently Spotted - Blog Carnival & Soviet School

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

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


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

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

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

06 December 2010

An Olympiad Bind

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

Varna Olympiad 1962
Najdorf, Miguel

Fischer, Robert
After 11...d6-d5

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

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

Kasparov repeated this analysis and added,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

03 December 2010

Waiting for the Train

Budapest, Keleti Pályaudvar, the railway station...

Keleti Chess © Flickr user theroamincatholic under Creative Commons.

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

02 December 2010

Chess Knights?

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

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

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


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

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

30 November 2010

There's Gold in Them Thar Score Sheets!

A couple of years ago, in There's Gold in Them Thar Chess Photos!, I noted that photos of famous chess players can sell on eBay for hundreds of dollars. In this post, I note that original score sheets signed by famous chess players are also worth more than you might guess.

Unlike the items in the Photos! post, which were offered by several eBay sellers, the Score Sheets! were offered by bulkcover, last seen on this blog with Mikhail Tal in Italy. The first item in the second row isn't even a real score sheet.

Up for the auction the reconstruction of the score-sheet of the 31th Chess Championship of USSR played in Leningrad from Nov.23 till Dec.26 1963, from the game Bronstein - Polugaevsky, played in Nov.28 1963 on the fourth tour on the sixth board. (Game Nr.36). Due to unknown reason the original did not survive, so it was reconstructed by one of the arbiters of tournament for the needs of archive. No signatures.

Nevertheless, it received 5 bids and sold for US $10.50.

29 November 2010

Fischer - Najdorf, 1962 Varna

When I compared Fischer's annotations against Kasparov's for the game Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961, I expected to find only one point in the game where Tal could have changed the outcome. That was the point discussed in When Is a Blunder Not a Blunder.

For the next game in 18 Memorable Games -- Fischer - Najdorf, 1962 Varna Olympiad -- I expect to find similar. Here is the PGN, showing the annotation symbols of the two former World Champions. The game is no.40 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.69 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV.

[Event "Varna ol."]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Najdorf, M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B90"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 b5 {FIS: !?; KAS: !?} 7.Nd5 {FIS: !?; KAS: !?} 7...Bb7 {FIS: ?; KAS: ?!} 8.Nxf6+ gxf6 9.c4 {FIS: !; KAS: !?} 9...bxc4 {KAS: ?!} 10.Bxc4 Bxe4 11.O-O d5 12.Re1 {FIS: !; KAS: ?!} 12...e5 {KAS: ?} 13.Qa4+ {FIS: !; KAS: !} 13...Nd7 14.Rxe4 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 14...dxe4 15.Nf5 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 15...Bc5 16.Ng7+ {FIS: !; KAS: !} 16...Ke7 17.Nf5+ Ke8 18.Be3 Bxe3 19.fxe3 Qb6 20.Rd1 Ra7 21.Rd6 {FIS: !; KAS: !} 21...Qd8 22.Qb3 Qc7 23.Bxf7+ Kd8 24.Be6 1-0

The key sequence is 12.Re1 {FIS: !; KAS: ?!} 12...e5 {KAS: ?}, where (interpreting Kasparov's symbols) Fischer let Najdorf off the hook, Najdorf in turn missed the best continuation, and Fischer failed to flag the double error in his notes. To play through the complete game, see...

Robert James Fischer vs Miguel Najdorf; Varna Olympiad Final 1962

...on Chessgames.com.

26 November 2010

The Scene of the Crime

From PIX 11 News: 'Emerson Park in Inwood, a beautiful, quiet place where families can get a little fresh air. Last month there was a big bust here. Men were found here in the middle of the day... playing chess.'

NYPD Bust Chess Players In Manhattan Park (1:38) • 'A squad of police officers in bulletproof vests swooped into an upper Manhattan park in New York park and charged seven men with the "crime" of playing chess in an area off-limits to adults unaccompanied by a kid.'

25 November 2010

'Modern Chess Brilliancies' in PGN

In my most recent post, Two Items on GM Larry Evans, I wasn't happy about having two games without any PGN, so I set off looking for a digital copy of the game scores from 'Modern Chess Brilliancies', first published by Evans in 1970. I found one on Ossimitz: chess-collections from books. For many reasons, this site is not one of my favorites for digital game collections, but there appeared to be nothing else.

I downloaded the ZIP, discovered that it contained a single file from 2001 in Chessbase CBV format, and converted the CBV to PGN. The PGN turned out to be full of annofritz comments, which are worse than useless, so I stripped those out, leaving just the moves of the games. I noticed that the first game in the book was out of sequence in the file, so I moved it to its logical place. Then I noticed that many of the games had been continued beyond the point where the players resigned. Someone had added Evans' comments showing how mate was inevitable by including the mating sequence as part of the game. I stripped those out too.

The converted file is available at mark-weeks.com/cfaa/eva-mcbr.zip. I've always wanted to be able to analyze the games with the help of an engine and now I can.

23 November 2010

Two Items on GM Evans

Looking through resources at hand for info about Larry Evans (1932-2010), I came across the two items shown in the following table. On the left is the USCF rating list for events through 31 December 1951, the fourth such semi-annual list according to the April 1952 issue of Chess Review where I found it. On the right are six of Evans' own games, among the 101 selected for his 'Modern Chess Brilliancies', with links to Chessgames.com where they exist.

Evans - Bisguier, US Chp 1958

Evans - Berger, Amsterdam Izt 1964

Evans - Blackstone, 1st American Open 1965

R.Byrne - Evans, US Chp 1965

• Koehler - Evans, US National Open 1968

• Evans - Zuckerman, US Chp 1967

Throughout his career, Evans had a tremendous impact on American chess. None of today's player/writers comes close to him in stature.

22 November 2010

When Is a Blunder Not a Blunder?

The position in the diagram, from Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961 (see that post for punctuation by Fischer and Kasparov and for a link to the game on Chessgames.com), is the prelude to one of the best known opening blunders in chess history. After the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3, Tal played 6...Nf6. Fischer remarked,

Probably the losing move! Tal looked worried immediately having made it, but I'm not sure he was convinced he had really been careless. Correct is 6...a6.

and assigned the move a '?'. Kasparov gave it a '?!'. The difference in opinion between the 11th and 13th World Champions is significant and can be summed up by the question, 'At what point did Tal play the losing move?'

After 6.g2-g3

After 6...Nf6, the game continued 7.Ndb5 Qb8 8.Bf4 Ne5. Here Fischer commented

Tal took a long time on this risky reply. The alternative 8...e5 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxf6 axb5 (not 10...gxf6 11.Na3 b5 12.Nd5) 11.Bg5 gives a clear advantage.

Kasparov gave the move 8...Ne5 a '?' and remarked,

Huebner did not agree with this: 'Fischer often lacks rigourness when evaluating two options in a cheerless position; to my mind, this is the case here. The text move loses by force; after 8...e5 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxf6 axb5 11.Bg5, Black would still have had chances to offer resistance if he continues 11...Bb4 12.Bxb5 Bxc3+ 13.bxc3 d6'. [...] The weakness of White's Queenside greatly hinders the conversion of his extra Pawn.

Moreover, in the variation 10...gxf6 11.Na3 [instead of 11...b5], Black should go in for 11...Bxa3 12.bxa3 Ne7 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Qxd5 b5 with a somewhat inferior, but by no means lost position.

There followed 9.Be2 Bc5. Here Fischer added,

In the tournament book, Tal suggested the rather startling 9...Ng8, to avoid material loss. After 10.Qd4 f6 11.O-O-O a6 12.Nd6+ Bxd6 13.Qxd6 Qxd6 14.Rxd6 leads to a promising endgame.

Kasparov gave 9...Bc5 another '?', and stated that 9...Ng8, was 'Black's last chance', agreeing that 'he would at least have retained material equality'.


The preceding summary offers three candidates for 'the losing move': 6...Nf6, 8...Ne5, and 9...Bc5. Tal must have had an extremely bad day to make three mistakes in four moves. In the case of 6...Nf6, Kasparov wrote that

Tal intended the usual 6...a6 7.Bg2 Nf6, and had already written down 6..a6 on his scoresheet, but, by his own admission, 'roughly once a year it would happen that I would write down the first move of a variation, but make the second.

Nowadays the act of recording the move before playing it is against the rules, due to the rise of pocket electronic scorekeepers that display the resulting position. In 'Russian Silhouettes', Genna Sosonko also comments on this habit of Tal.

He always used to write his move before executing it on the board. [...] If he did not like the move, he would cross it out and write a new one. In his later years he used to say increasingly often, 'I even wrote the winning move on my scoresheet, but crossed it out at the last moment...' (p.28)

As for 9...Bc5, Fischer noted that the alternative 9...Ng8 allows a 'promising endgame' for White. After 14.Rxd6, the last move in the variation given by both Fischer and Kasparov, White is ready to activate his last piece with Rhd1, doubling the Rooks on the d-file. Black still has five pieces on the back rank and still needs to move a Pawn to develop the light squared Bishop. Given this significant lead in development plus the two Bishops, White's 'promising endgame' offers strong odds to achieve a win.

I checked the historical game databases and discovered that Tal's 6...Nf6, has been played many times. In the May 2003 issue of Chess Life, GM Andy Soltis commented,

Tal gave himself two question marks for 6...Nf6??. [...] Yet it has been played dozens of times since 1961, including by Judit Polgar -- and Igor Ivanov did it twice in one year. And there are 24 examples in my database when masters failed to find 7.Ndb5!.

I suspect that one reason these blunders keep coming back is that masters are always saying that you shouldn't waste your time on traps. You should be wasting your time on loftier stuff, like theoretical novelties on the 32nd move. (p.14)

Even after the correct sequence 7.Ndb5 Qb8 8.Bf4, I found four games that followed Kasparov's 8...e5 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Na3 Bxa3. These games ended in Black's favor by a margin of +1-3=0. While this is too small a sample to draw conclusions, maybe 6...Nf6 isn't a blunder at all. Instead of giving it '??', '?', or '?!', perhaps we should give it '!?'.

19 November 2010

'Highly Concentrated'

Concentradísimo © Flickr user Adn! under Creative Commons.

Caption: 'Pensando en el próximo movimiento.' • Google: 'Thinking about the next move.'

18 November 2010

Blog -> Email -> Facebook -> Ebay

I had a small role to play in this fortnight's pick for Top eBay Chess Items by Price. Last month I received an email from an Australian correspondent who had a photo postcard

of the participants of the "Staunton" World Chess Tournament in Groningen (Netherlands) August - September 1946, signed (original signatures) by the participants, including: [names of players] I am keen to sell these items but would appreciate any suggestions as to what may be the best way to do so. I have no idea as to their worth, but assume they would have value to a collector or enthusiast. (I note your blog mentions a 1970 card was sold for $460, but I do not know if that tournament had any special significance). Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

After a bit of clicking, I realized that he was referring to my blog post 1970 Palma de Mallorca Autographs from July 2009. Except for a few odds and ends related to the World Championship, I'm not a collector, so I contacted a Facebook friend from Australia who helpfully gave the name of a dealer located down under. A few weeks later I saw the following photo on eBay bearing the title '1946 World Chess Tournament - Photo & 20 Autographs' and was sure that it was the piece mentioned by my Australian correspondent.

The description said,

A very rare collectable item of a photograph and autographs of the participants in the 1946 World Chess Tournament, Groningen, Holland. After Alekhine's death as incumbent world chess champion in 1946, the chess world entered a period of interregnum where no grandmaster could legitimately claim the title as his own. The first great post-war tournament was that at Groningen in Holland. This witnessed a mighty race between the former champion Dr Max Euwe and the chief Soviet protagonist Mikhail Botvinnik. [...]

It is interesting to note that the photo/card shows 13 standing and 8 sitting, whilst the names and signatures on the back reflect only 20 persons.

The card received 1 bid and sold for US $750. When I received the original email message, I assumed there was no way a 1946 Groningen card could be worth more than a 1970 Palma de Mallorca card with Fischer's signature. Just shows you what I know. As for the discrepancy between the 21 men shown on the card and the 20 names on the back of the card, the unidentifed person appears to be the tall, dark haired fellow standing in the back row, eighth from the left, between Szabo and Denker.

16 November 2010

Curious Curaçao Clock

No, this isn't a photo from the current focus of my analytical series, Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961. It's a photo of the same players taken at Curaçao 1962. What caught my attention wasn't the image of the two World Champions, future and former at the time of the photo. It was the clock they are using.

The clock has a wire coming out the back and two wires connected to the sides. I can't remember ever seeing a chess clock like that. The photo is from page 132 of 'Curaçao 1962' by Jan Timman. The same clock is shown on the cover of the book: Curacao 1962: The Battle of Minds that Shook the Chess World (Amazon.com; click 'see larger image'). I assume it was used to drive the clocks beneath the demonstration boards, also visible in the photo.

15 November 2010

Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961

After Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, where the last post was Using Computers to Call into Question, the next game in my series on 18 Memorable Games is Fischer - Tal, Bled 1961. It is no.32 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.65 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV. Here is the PGN with the punctuation given by Fischer and Kasparov.

[Event "Bled"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1961.??.??"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Fischer, R."]
[Black "Tal, M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B47"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3 Nf6 {FIS: '?'; KAS: '?!'} 7.Ndb5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 7...Qb8 8.Bf4 Ne5 {KAS: '?'} 9.Be2 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 9...Bc5 {KAS: '?'} 10.Bxe5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 10...Qxe5 11.f4 Qb8 12.e5 a6 13.exf6 axb5 14.fxg7 Rg8 15.Ne4 Be7 16.Qd4 Ra4 17.Nf6+ Bxf6 18.Qxf6 Qc7 19.O-O-O {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 19...Rxa2 20.Kb1 Ra6 21.Bxb5 Rb6 22.Bd3 e5 23.fxe5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 23...Rxf6 24.exf6 Qc5 25.Bxh7 Qg5 26.Bxg8 Qxf6 27.Rhf1 Qxg7 28.Bxf7+ Kd8 29.Be6 Qh6 30.Bxd7 Bxd7 31.Rf7 Qxh2 32.Rdxd7+ Ke8 33.Rde7+ Kd8 34.Rd7+ Kc8 35.Rc7+ Kd8 36.Rfd7+ Ke8 37.Rd1 b5 38.Rb7 Qh5 39.g4 Qh3 40.g5 Qf3 41.Re1+ Kf8 42.Rxb5 Kg7 43.Rb6 Qg3 44.Rd1 Qc7 45.Rdd6 Qc8 46.b3 Kf7 47.Ra6 1-0

After Tal bungled the opening with 6...Nf6, the only point of disagreement between the 11th and 13th World Champions is whether Black could have improved on the next few moves. I'll look at this in the next, and probably only, post on this game. To play through the complete game, see...

Robert James Fischer vs Mikhail Tal, Bled 1961

...on Chessgames.com.

12 November 2010

UT Dallas Chess Program

UT Dallas Chess Program (6:05) • 'The video explains the program and features members of the UT Dallas Chess Team, the program director Jim Stallings and has scenes of the UT Dallas campus.'

More: The UT Dallas Chess Program.

11 November 2010

The World Championship in the Court of Public Opinion

Everyone else is talking about Magnus Carlsen's sudden exit from the current World Championship cycle, so why shouldn't I? Yesterday, I listed a number of similar episodes on my World Chess Championship Blog (see Carlsen Quits) and a few years ago I detailed the circumstances around GM Carlsen's first exit (stage right; see Groan Prix, same blog). His latest exit was more stage left -- he's gone but far from forgotten.

In Magnus Carlsen drops out of World Championship cycle, Chessbase.com published Carlsen's letter to 'FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov & FIDE World Championship Committee'. His reasons are clear enough, if not completely consistent. At the end of that page are links to previous Chessbase articles on the 2011 candidates. The organization of the event has exposed FIDE to one of its most incompetent series of actions in recent memory (a lot to choose from there), of which someone has been keeping track on Wikipedia: World Chess Championship 2012.

For me, the most interesting aspect of Carlsen quitting has been the discussion it generated on the leading news blogs. The most informed commentators are generally found on the Daily Dirt (Chessninja.com) and, although the rhythm of new posts has tapered off dramatically over the past few months, the Carlsen episode was worthy of a new post.

A relative newcomer to the chess discussion blogs is Chessvibes.com. Lately it has been filling the commentary void left by Chessninja's frequent, lengthy absences.

As a keen observer of the World Championship, I'm interested in any informed discussion of the subject. There are dozens of knowledgeable chess fans making comments on these two blogs, covering the complete range of opinion, speculation, and historical fact. An example of opinion would be the ideal structure for a World Championship cycle; of speculation, the *real* motives behind Carlsen's announcement; and of fact, the chronological sequence of other events in the current and preceding cycles (which ended with Anand's win over Topalov a few months ago).

There's a lot to digest there, and after the dust has settled, I might attempt a summary. Those comments represent, after all, the court of public opinion in full session.

09 November 2010

More Watson on Huebner

In Using Computers to Call into Question, I quoted a John Watson review of 'World Champion Fischer' by Robert Huebner (2003): 'The core of the CD is Robert Huebner's analysis of Fischer's play, which parallels that of Alekhine in his CD that I previously criticised.' Curious about Watson's review of Huebner's previous work, I found Book Reviews by John Watson : #42, subtitled, 'Chess CDs: Coming of Age?'.

ChessBase continues to be the leader in CD chess products. Here I look briefly at 5 new examples, 3 of which I like very much, one which depends entirely upon the audience, and one which has some redeeming features, but its most important segment is in my opinion a 'pile of crap' (with a nod towards Tony Miles).

This last is Robert Huebner's 'World Champion Alekhine'. The redeeming features have to do with its biographical and historical essays. These can be informative; the one that struck me as truly unique was a review of Alekhine's tournaments, including crosstables. The photographs in this section were the real treat; they are numerous and span his career, including looks at many well-known opponents.

Unfortunately, the CD features an 'analysis' of Alekhine's play and of his writings. All you have to do is read the 'Table of Contents' (a sort of summary of 23 Alekhine games) to see how harshly and negatively Huebner assesses both. For the record, I also looked carefully at several of the heavily-annotated games, which are in the same unimaginative spirit but more boring.

Anyway, in Huebner's view of the world, Alekhine had terrible weaknesses in every single aspect of the game, including technical and psychological ones. Here's his entire summary of Alekhine's play and annotation in Game#2: 'Ruining the pawn structure - materialism; underestimating the active counterplay of the opponent - strategic deficiencies in the opening; bad positional judgment - defensive possibilities of the opponent are not exhaustively scrutinized - lack of criticism towards the own conduct of the attack.' [...]

Then we have the usual Huebner analysis that drives everyone away from his work: it seems that he's always buried in some detail so many moves and subvariations away from the original game that Kasparov himself might have trouble remembering where he was; and remarkably, the simple moves are often neglected. I'm sure that Huebner gets some sort of personal satisfaction from using untold hours (and presumably his computer) to denigrate Alekhine's play. To me, however, all this huffing and puffing reeks of snobbery and narrow-mindedness. Perhaps if it weren't so easy to do this kind of analysis and criticism, I might at least admire the 'scholarly' aspects of this work. But I'm sure that I could write the same boring critique of Huebner's own games and character (duplicating the tone would be difficult) if I wouldn't feel cheap by doing so.

To conclude, someone else may find this a brilliant, objective criticism of a World Champion's play. I myself think that Huebner's work in 'World Champion Alekhine' is unimaginative and narrow-minded. Those interested in photographs and historical information might want to give it a try.

Ouch! Although the review isn't dated, the list of titles at the top of the review shows that they were all published in 2001. Has Chessbase dared to publish any of Huebner's work since the Fischer CD in 2003?

08 November 2010

Using Computers to Call into Question

Continuing with Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, I had planned to do one more post related to The Pitfalls of Computer Analysis, but came up short. After the diagram in the 'Pitfalls' post, the game continued 21.Qxd3 Bd4+, leading to the following position.

Bled 1961
Fischer, Robert

Gligoric, Svetozar
After 21...Bg7-d4+

Here Kasparov continues analysis by Boleslavsky and Huebner, demonstrating that 22.Rf2 was stronger than Gligoric's 22.Kg2, to which Kasparov assigned a '?'. After 22.Rf2, the engine shows other variations not mentioned by Kasparov, but they all lead to the same type of game. White gets a Bishop and two Pawns for a Rook, giving him a comfortable edge. There isn't much more to be said for the position except that most players would prefer White and Black would ultimately be satisfied with a draw.

I've mentioned Huebner several times in this series on Fischer & Kasparov, mainly because Kasparov draws frequently on the German's comments. Since I've never investigated the source of Huebner's analysis, a digression is in order. Chessville.com offers World Champion Fischer by GM Robert Huebner, a 'ChessBase Monograph on CD, 2003', reviewed by Prof. Nagesh Havanur.

Although Huebner is prominently mentioned as the author of this CD, his role here is limited to writing a summary of Fischer's style and and work on various positions from My 60 Memorable Games. It is noteworthy that Kasparov has also made use of Huebner's path-breaking analysis in this CD for his authoritative work on Fischer, My Great Predecessors Part IV. However, Huebner's general conclusions on Fischer's play tend to be philosophical abstractions and do not have intrinsic merit.

John Watson Book Review #55, among other titles, also looked at World Champion Fischer; Robert Huebner; ChessBase 2003:

The core of the CD is Robert Huebner's analysis of Fischer's play, which parallels that of Alekhine in his CD that I previously criticised. I'm not fond of this one for the same reason, but since many people thought that I was unfair in that earlier case (probably true), I'll let him speak more for himself:
It is for this reason that I have decided to turn my attention to Fischer's famous game collection, "My Sixty Memorable Games". Most critics deem Fischer's comments to be entirely devoid of errors, and each and every one of his observations is accepted as gospel truth. I was plagued by the desire to find out whether this reputation is indeed justified.

It seems to me as if Fischer does not try to fathom the finer points of quiet positions with the same amount of care and attention that he gives to any number of tactical positions. When analyzing complex positions Fischer occasionally lacks the will to probe deeply, and contents himself with incomplete structural explanations and vague judgments. This deficiency is particularly obvious in some endgames. The selection of games for his book also reveals this trait. To my taste, there are too many games in this collection where no real struggle ensues. The opponents are pushed from the board without offering resistance, often after making serious errors in the opening; there is hardly any interesting material for analysis.
[...] The problem, I think, is that almost anyone, given time and a few computer engines, would be able to call into question almost any game or set of annotations by any player, perhaps not with the positional judgment of a Huebner but adequately enough. I don't see this as particularly interesting to anyone beyond the one doing the analysing (to whom it admittedly must be fascinating) and a small minority of players who don't want to do their own investigations and would rather read such technical criticisms than enjoy the unadulterated games of Fischer or a New in Chess Magazine.

If I substitute the name 'Kasparov' for 'Huebner', then Watson's summary judgement -- 'almost anyone, given time and a few computer engines, would be able to call into question almost any game or set of annotations by any player' -- points in the same direction that I find myself going with these posts on My Great Predecessors. There is an inherently unsatisfying quality about using a computer to critique work that was done without the aid of a computer. To then use this critique to form judgements about a person's psychology can easily be misleading and ultimately sinister.

05 November 2010


Ostrale 10 © Flickr user febelix under Creative Commons.

What's Ostrale? My guess is this: Ostrale´010.

OSTRALE commenced in 2007 as a local initiative and has ever since achieved a broad reach within a short period of time. The exhibition represents the whole spectrum of contemporary art in an interdisciplinary way. Hundreds of national and international artists are invited to take part in the festival, which takes place at a meaningful architectural and historic industrial venue.

Dresden in particular has reached worldwide recognition, being known as "Florence of the Elbe". However, with OSTRALE the city has gained the potential to set a cultural and touristic antipole to its baroque history and to develop a historical generative, contemporary perspective to the classical exhibition format. Thus, today Dresden can expand its international significance in relation to "modernity".

For more Flickr photos, most unrelated to chess, see search/?q=Ostrale.

04 November 2010

A Game Between Apollo and Mercury

Unlike the previous two posts on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (see White Christmas on Ebay for the most recent), the last two weeks presented slim pickings. The most unusual item, titled 'Hieronymus Vida, "Scacchia Ludus", 1547', received 10 bids and finally sold for US $860. The book's description read,

Marci Hieronymi Vidae Cremonensis Albae Episcopi Opera. Apud Seb. Gryphium, Lugduni (Lyons) 1547. • 360 pages. Contemporary limp vellum binding. 12,5 * 8 cm. • Bibliography: vdL II 259. L/N 4556. • Remarks: VG • Weight (Grams): 105

I recognize Bibliography: vdL as a reference to Antonius van der Linde and L/N must mean the 'Van der Linde - Niemeijeriana' collection in The Hague. A page on Vida and 'Scacchia Ludus' at Marco Gerolamo Vida describes the work as 'a game between Apollo and Mercury, in the presence of all the other Gods of Olimpus, during the celebration of the marriage between Ocean and Earth.' There is a translation by Oliver Goldsmith at Vida's Game of Chess

ARMIES of box that sportively engage
And mimic real battles in their rage,
Pleased I recount; how, smit with glory's charms,
Two mighty Monarchs met in adverse arms,

etc. etc.

02 November 2010

Will the Real Taimanov Please Stand Up

After recently taking an interest in the Sicilian Taimanov System -- 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 -- I ordered the book 'Sicilian Defense: Taimanov System' by Mark Taimanov. Imagine my confusion when the book arrived and I read in the 'Introduction',

The starting position 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5. Nc3 a6 can lead to various lines of play, each with its own strategy -- the Scheveningen System, the Paulsen System or the Taimanov System -- and in most cases it is Black who makes the choice (correspondingly 6...d6, 6...Qc7, and 6...Nge7).

Thus it is characteristic of the Taimanov System to avoid development of the Queen on c7 and Knight on f6 (both features of the Paulsen System) in favor of the mobilizing and flexible maneuvre ...Nge7. As will be seen from further analysis, this difference is important and gives the game an original strategic theme.

Never having understood that the Taimanov System included only ...Nge7, I looked for confirmation elsewhere. From the 'Introduction' to 'The Taimanov Sicilian' by Graham Burgess:-

Kan, Paulsen and Taimanov: All three of these names have some relevance to the subject-matter of this book.

'Kan' is the simplest to deal with: it refers to 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6. This can easily transpose to lines discussed in this book, but the name is generally reserved for those lines where Black does not play an early ...Nc6, or that could not arise naturally via a 4...Nc6 move-order.

'Paulsen' is trickier to define. It is sometimes taken to mean the same thing as the Kan, but is often used, particularly in German and Russian chess literature, to refer to lines with ...a6, ...Nc6 and ...Qc7. Taimanov himself calls this the Paulsen, reserving his own name for the less popular treatment with ...a6, ...Nc6 and ...Nge7. This policy has the serious drawback of leaving 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 [DIAGRAM] as a nameless variation.

In this book, as is common in English-language chess literature, the 'Taimanov Variation' refers to the diagram position above. I believe Mark Taimanov deserves this honour, even if he does not wish to claim it himself, considering that he has played the position several hundred times over the last 40 years. To distinguish between the ...Nge7 and ...Qc7 treatments, I use the terms 'Pure Taimanov' and 'Paulsen' respectively.

ECO, with its avoidance of names, leaves the field open. In List of chess openings - Wikipedia, I found B41-B43 'Kan Variation' and B45-B49 'Taimanov Variation'. In Chess Archaeology - B20-B59, I found B41-B43 'Paulsen' and B45-B49 'Barnes'. Is that Thomas Wilson Barnes (1825-1874)? Maybe it's a generational thing.

01 November 2010

The Pitfalls of Computer Analysis

In the first post on Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, I highlighted the sequence starting 17...c5, based on the different evaluations of the two GMs: Fischer: '!' & Kasparov: '?!'. Since Kasparov called 20...d3, 'The key moment of the game', I wasn't too far off the mark. The resulting position is shown in the following diagram. Note that Black has already sacrificed one Pawn and is now sacrificing a second Pawn to create complications.

Bled 1961
Fischer, Robert

Gligoric, Svetozar
After 20...d4-d3

Gligoric played 21.Qxd3, and Fischer commented, 'A double-edged game would result from 21.Bxd3 Bd4+ 22.Kh1 Nxg3+ 23.Nxg3 Qxd6 24.Qc2 Bh3'. Kasparov, undoubtedly using the best hardware and software of the time, zeroed in on that comment and criticized Fischer of 'ignoring' 24.Qd2. He gave '24...g5?! 25.Qg2 Bd7 26.f4 Rxf4 27.Rxf4 Qxf4 28.Rf1 Qe3 29.Bf5, with a powerful attack on the light squares'. Jumping ahead a few years, my software prefers Fischer's 24.Qc2, and improves on Kasparov's analysis with 24.Qd2 g5 25.Qg2 Kh8. This takes the force out of 26.f4, by removing the King from the g-file.

Now I have to return to comments from Some Truths Cannot Be Proven?, where I expressed my doubts about this type of computer analysis. What's more interesting -- the move as played in competition (by Gligoric), the analysis without computers (by Fischer), or the progressive deepening of the position with the help of computers (by Kasparov)? I suspect a professional player would favor the first, a trainer the second, and a correspondence player the third. The problem with that third option is that it will never be finished.

29 October 2010

How To Use Rybka?!

'While Rybka 2.2n2 serves as a basic computer chess program for beginners, Rybka 3 has an extensive database that can analyze opening game moves in near infinite permutations.' The corresponding section of the video shows a chess960 position.

How To Use Rybka (1:53) • 'Rybka is a chess-playing computer software engine created by an MIT-trained computer scientist. If you have Windows, you can play this top-ranked chess program.'

Howcast's Channel: Youtube.com/user/Howcast.

28 October 2010

La Fin de la Quête Chirurgicale

Illustration: Guy Froment • From: 'La Fin de la Quête Chirurgicale ou ... Quand Pierre Mendes da Costa Raccroche les Gants' (Bruxelles 2010, p.40)

Les mains dans l'environnement du chirurgien

See also: Eméritat du Prof. Pierre Mendes da Costa : séance scientifique (22/10/2010) - CHU Brugmann.

26 October 2010

Three Fischer Games Uncensored

In my previous post, Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, I happened to notice that the Chessgames.com page on that particular rivalry -- Robert James Fischer beat Svetozar Gligoric (+7-4=8) -- mentioned three training games played in 1992. I finished the post with one of my typical promises, 'I don't recall ever seeing the training games, so I'll look at those in a separate post.' This is one promise I'll fulfill ASAP. I didn't have to look far. The source was revealed in comments to the first of the three games: Svetozar Gligoric vs Robert James Fischer (1992).

Oct-08-10 TheFocus: I and parisattack submitted these three training games. Originally they appeared in Bobby Fischer Uncensored by David DeLucia. [...] There were ten games in all. Each player White 5 times. In his next book, perhaps DeLucia will release the other seven.

The best summary of 'Fischer Uncensored' that I could find is in the June 2009 archive of Chess Notes by Edward Winter.

6189. Bobby Fischer Uncensored: One of the most extraordinary of all chess books has just been published: Bobby Fischer Uncensored by David and Alessandra DeLucia (Darien, 2009). A richly-illustrated 394-page hardback of supreme quality, it presents hundreds of items from David DeLucia’s collection of Fischer material, including photographs, game-scores, correspondence, contracts, books and ephemera. [...]

A page from Dutch bookseller Van Stockum, Bobby Fischer Uncensored - DeLucia, D. & A. DeLucia, appears to be taken from the book's introduction.

When Bobby Fischer died on January 17, 2008 I decided to write a book on him, similar to my prior books on my chess library, which would encompass only Fischer items from my collection. Altough my chess collection has evolved in many ways over the past 25 years, I have always had a keen interest in certain players like Morphy, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Fischer. Today, the collection houses close to 4000 items from these five great chess masters, the vast majority of which are signed by, written by or were personal possessions of these extraordinary players. The Fischer collection consists of approximately 1600 items, excluding books written on him, which span his entire life.
That page also links to scanned photos from the book. A few other references worth mentioning are:

I mentioned the training match itself in a recent post on my chess960 blog, The Rampant Expansion of Theory.

Gligoric: [In preparation for his 1992 match with Spassky], Bobby asked if I could play a training match with him. At first I didn’t want to, but I had to give in to his wishes. He was panicking about how theory had developed during his twenty-year absence from chess. That was why he came up with his own version of chess, where the starting position would be determined by the drawing of lots. And he began to torment me with persistent requests to write a book about it.

These training games were indirectly related to the creation of chess960. Who could have guessed?

25 October 2010

Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961

In the game I discussed previously -- Improving on Fischer, Geller, and Kasparov? -- Fischer overlooked the best continuation and the outcome was clear. Chess GMs play so well that games between them often turn on a single move. That might also be the case in the next game. No.30 in Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and no.64 in Kasparov's Predecessors IV, here is the PGN with Fischer's and Kasparov's punctuation.

[Event "Bled"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1961.??.??"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Gligoric, S."]
[Black "Fischer, R."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E98"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Nd3 f5 11.exf5 Nxf5 12.f3 Nf6 13.Nf2 Nd4 14.Nfe4 Nh5 {KAS: '?!'} 15.Bg5 Qd7 16.g3 {KAS: '!'} 16...h6 17.Be3 c5 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '?!'} 18.Bxd4 {KAS: '!'} 18...exd4 19.Nb5 a6 {KAS: '!'} 20.Nbxd6 d3 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 21.Qxd3 {KAS: '?!'} 21...Bd4+ 22.Kg2 {KAS: '?'} 22...Nxg3 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 23.Nxc8 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!?'} 23...Nxf1 24.Nb6 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 24...Qc7 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 25.Rxf1 Qxb6 26.b4 {FIS: '!'; KAS: '!'} 26...Qxb4 27.Rb1 Qa5 28.Nxc5 {KAS: '!'} 28...Qxc5 29.Qxg6+ Bg7 30.Rxb7 Qd4 31.Bd3 Rf4 32.Qe6+ Kh8 33.Qg6 1/2-1/2

The key sequence in the game appears to be the moves starting 17...c5, where the 11th and 13th World Champions differ on the evaluation {FIS: '!'; KAS: '?!'}, due to missed opportunities on White's 21st & 22nd moves.

After Fischer - Gligoric, CT 1959, this is their second game in my series titled 18 Memorable Games. Gligoric was one of three players in 60 Memorable Games to be featured in four games. The other two were Keres and Reshevsky, while Petrosian and Tal were both featured in three games.

Chessgames.com notes that Robert James Fischer beat Svetozar Gligoric 7 to 4, with 8 draws (+7-4=8). If we exclude three 'training' games played in 1992, the score was (+6-4=6), and we see why GM Gligoric was considered one of the best players in the world in the 1960s. To play through the current game, see...

Svetozar Gligoric vs Robert James Fischer, Bled 1961

...on Chessgames.com. I don't recall ever seeing the training games, so I'll look at those in a separate post.

22 October 2010

Kasparov Passes the Salt

Chess Diner © Flickr user Mikey Angels under Creative Commons.

Caption: 'Inspired completely by this joke by the late, great Tommy Cooper: "So I was having dinner with Garry Kasparov and there was a checkered tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt."'

21 October 2010

White Christmas on Ebay

Maybe it's me, or maybe it's because we're approaching the Christmas season, but my series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price is starting to assume a life of its own. In my previous post, Wiener Werkstaette Postcards, I remarked that I had found more items to choose from than ever before. For this post, I can say the same. Here are a few of the items I considered.

  • Chess - Essais sur les echecs by Grondijs -SIGNED- # 5/10 • Bid history: 9 bids, Winning bid: US $965.00; 'Essais sur les echecs by Harrie Grondijs. It is SIGNED, of course, and is # 5 of only 10 copies printed. Again, Mr. Grondijs' fascination with the Chapais manuscript is evident. This was published in 2009 with 32 + vii + 523pp. The 32 pp. are an introduction by the famed French collector, Jean Mennerat and comments by Mr. Grondijs. The remaining pages are the reprint of the Chapais manuscript.' • See also my previous post Saavedra and Grondijs.

  • Twiss 1st Edition Chess 1787 Benjamin Franklin Essay • Sold For: US $950.00; 'Twiss, Richard. "Chess" First Edition. G.G.J. & J. Robinson and T. & J. Egerton, 1787. An interesting and entertaining collection that comprises a "Compilation of all the anecdotes and quotations that could be found relative to the game of chess; with an account of all the chess-books which could be procured." Notably contains the first appearance of Benjamin Franklin's "final and possible greatest contribution to Chess; his essay on "The Morals of Chess," in book format! The actual first appearance of this essay was first published in the December 1786 issue of "The Columbian Magazine."'

  • Antique c1890 Federation Chess Clock: Fattorini & Sons • Bid history: 30 bids, Winning bid: GBP 585.00 (Approximately US $927.52)

  • Mens 1910's Zenith Vintage Watch Dial w/ Chess Figures • Bid history: 43 bids, Winning bid: US $865.00 • This item was very similar to the watch I featured in Time Is on My Side. The biggest differences were that here it was marked 'Zenith' instead of 'Tissot', and the small dial to count seconds was positioned at 6 o'clock instead of 9.

  • Novag Diablo Chess Computer • Bid history: 21 bids, Winning bid: US $813.00; '1991 Novag Diablo chess computer great condition, the unit works and looks great.'

Instead of those items, where I could have worked with any one, I chose Chess - Christmas Series - Roi Accule - HC - 1905 - Rebound. It received 10 bids and sold for US $814.00.

Like many players, I'm not particularly interested in chess problems (in contrast to endgame studies, which I find fascinating), but I've seen references to Alain White's work so many times that curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to know a little more about who he was and why his 'Christmas Series' is so popular for collectors.

The description said,

Roi Acculé Aux Angles par Alain C. White. Published in 1905 as a HC as far as I know. This copy has been re-bound and the cover material (not the cardboard) of the original covers was attached to the new covers. Thus, the front cover and back cover and most of the spine material has been glued professionally to the new covers. Quoting from Ken Whyld, supposedly 200 copies only were printed. xi + 224pp.

The second Christmas Series book published although in the check list published by Ken Whyld, it says this is the truly 1st Christmas Series book, although Chess Lyrics is considered elsewhere to be the 1st issue. He says that Chess Lyrics took three years to finish, maybe that is why. This is a stubby little book that weighs a pound or so!

According to Great Chess Composers, by Bill Wall,

Alain Campbell White (1880-1951) was an American problem composer and chess patron. For 32 years, from 1905 to 1936, he published the Christmas series of chess problems. He did more than any other player to promote worldwide interest in chess problems.

The German version of Wikipedia has a page on White -- Alain Campbell White -- with links to other resources, including a Czech language page (Chessbookshop.com) on the A. C. White Christmas Series, listing 44 different titles.

What does 'Roi Acculé Aux Angles' mean in English? Although I speak some French, I'm not sure how to translate it. Google Translate says it means 'King Cornered In Angles', a literal translation that doesn't make a lot of sense. One page I looked at described the book as '200 direct mates featuring a cornered Black King'. At $814 for the book, that's more than $4 per mate. I'm still not sure why White is so popular with collectors. I'll report back here if I ever find out.

19 October 2010

From the Mark-Weeks.com Team

A few days ago I received this email...

Subject: Report
From: Automatic Email Delivery Software
To: wcc@mark-weeks.com
Date: Saturday, October 16, 2010, 2:06 PM

Dear user wcc@mark-weeks.com,

Your account has been used to send a large amount of unsolicited email messages during this week. Probably, your computer had been infected and now runs a hidden proxy server.

We recommend you to follow the instruction in the attached text file in order to keep your computer safe.

Best wishes,
The mark-weeks.com team.

...The email address wcc@mark-weeks.com is the contact address I use on my World Chess Championship site. It is an alias for another mailbox and is never used to send mail of any type. As for the mark-weeks.com team, it consists of me, myself, and I. All three of us agreed that the email message was some kind of a fraud. The exact kind of fraud wasn't too difficult to determine...

-----Inline Attachment Follows-----

***************** VIRUS REMOVED *****************

An attachment has been removed because it contained a virus.

***************** VIRUS REMOVED *****************

Virus name: [W32/Sality.AD]
Virus scanner: [Authentium]
Attachment name: [wcc@mark-weeks.com]
Attachment type: [application/octet-stream]

...While I'm on the subject of egregious attempts to infect my system with malware, almost every day I get hundreds of hits on my server looking for files that have something do with PHP, for example:-

  • GET //~/admin/config/config.inc.php?p=phpinfo(); HTTP/1.1
  • GET //mysqladmin/config/config.inc.php?p=phpinfo(); HTTP/1.1
  • GET //phpMyAdmin-2.2.3/config/config.inc.php?p=phpinfo(); HTTP/1.1

I shudder to think what would happen if the perpetrators actually found such a file. Would my site become a command & control center for an Elbonian botnet?


In case you came to this post looking for something that had to do with chess, I don't want you to leave disappointed. While I was looking at the server stats, I noticed traffic from a domain I had never seen before: 14th WMCCC, Gunadarma University, Jakarta, Indonesia, October 8-15, 1996. That particular page has all sorts of info on the 14th WMCCC (World Microcomputer Chess Championship) and I assume the other pages in the domain are equally detailed. The index page is at Chessprogramming.wikispaces.com/Tournaments.