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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Russians Cheated

I came across this 8-year old study. Is anybody surprised?

Did the Soviets Collude? A Statistical Analysis of Championship Chess 1940-64 by Charles C. Moul, Miami University and John V. Nye, George Mason University - Department of Economics; National Research University Higher School of Economics May 1, 2006

Abstract: We expand the set of outcomes considered by the tournament literature to include draws and use games from post-war chess tournaments to see whether strategic behavior is important in such scenarios. In particular, we examine whether players from the former Soviet Union acted as a cartel in international tournaments - intentionally drawing against one another in order to focus effort on non-Soviet opponents - to maximize the chance of some Soviet winning. Using data from international qualifying tournaments as well as USSR national tournaments, we estimate models to test for collusion. Our results are consistent with Soviet draw-collusion and inconsistent with Soviet competition. Simulations of the period's five premier international competitions (the FIDE Candidates tournaments) suggest that the observed Soviet sweep was a 75%-probability event under collusion but only a 25%-probability event had the Soviet players not colluded.   Download the paper.

Chess in the 1930's

    There was a lot going on in the world during the 1930's, but what was going on in the chess world?
     The Defense, the third novel written by Vladimir Nabokov during his emigration to Berlin, was published in 1930. For those unfamiliar with the book, the plot centers around Aleksandr Luzhin. As a boy he was unattractive, withdrawn, and an object of ridicule by his classmates. Then he learned to play chess and quickly became a great player. At a resort, he met a young girl and eventually proposed to her. Then in a competition to determine who would face the current world champion, he is pitted against Turati from Italy. Before and during the game Luzhin has a mental breakdown which climaxes when his carefully planned defense against Turati fails and the resulting game fails to produce a winner. When the game is suspended Luzhin wanders into the city in a state of complete detachment from reality. He is brought to a rest home, where he eventually recovers. His doctor convinces Luzhin's fiancée that chess was the reason for his downfall and all reminders of chess were removed from his environment. Slowly chess began to find its way back into his thoughts and he began to see his life as a chess game. Eventually, after an encounter with his old chess mentor, Luzhin realized that he must "abandon the game." He locked himself in the bathroom, climbed out of a window, and it is implied that he fell to his death, but the ending is deliberately vague.
     The character of Luzhin is based on Curt von Bardeleben, a master Nabokov knew personally. Bardeleben ended his life by jumping out of a window. The book was also influenced by the Soviet film Chess Fever which came out in 1925. The Luzhin Defence is a 2000 film starring John Turturro and Emily Watson. If you've never seen the movie and come across a copy, buy it. I found it enjoyable, even if the ending was not very good.
     My System by Nimzovich was published. Not many know that the book was originally a series of five brochures published from 1925 to 1927. The book was important because it introduced many new concepts to followers of the modern school of thought. The book is divided into three parts: The Elements, Positional Play, and Illustrative Games. The Elements include discussion of the center, open files, 7th and 8th ranks, passed pawns, pins, discovered checks, exchanging and pawn play. The section on Positional Play is based on the elements taught in the first part. In it, Nimzovich tells how to play for a positional advantage. In particular, he argues that the center can be effectively controlled using pieces instead of pawns. This concept is now widely accepted and is one of the fundamental principles of hypermodernism. Illustrative Games contains fifty of Nimzovich's annotated games.
     The 3rd Chess Olympiad, organized by the FIDE and comprising an open and women's tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game took place between July 13 and July 27, 1930, in Hamburg, Germany.
     Poland (Rubinstein, Tartakower, Przepiórka, Makarczyk, Frydman) won followed by Hungary (Maróczy, Takács, Vajda, Havasi, Steiner E.) then Germany (Ahues, Sämisch, Carls, Richter, Wagner), Austria, and Czechoslovakia with the United States (Kashdan, Marshall, Phillips, Steiner H., Anderson) finishing in 6th place.
     The 2nd Women's World Chess Championship also took place during the 3rd Chess Olympiad in Hamburg. The tournament was played as a double round-robin tournament. Vera Menchik successfully defended her title. The final results were Menchik, Paula Wolf-Kalmar, W. Henschel, Katarina Beskow and Agnes Stevenson.
     San Remo 1930 was the first international tournament held in the famous San Remo casino. Sixteen chess masters from Europe and the Americas, including the World Champion, played from 16 January to 4 February 1930. The games were played in the casino during the day, and in the evening the playing hall was used for dancing. Alexander Alekhine dominated the field with a score of 14 out of 15, 3.5 points ahead of second place Aaron Nimzovich. Rubinstein, Bogoljubow and Fredrick Yates took the next places.
     Ken "Top Hat" Smith, US Senior Master, author, Smith-Mora Gambit fame and Texas legend in chess and poker was born in 1930.
     Mona May Karff (1908-1998), born in Russia, moved to the United States in the 1930s and dominated women’s chess during the 1940s and 50s, winning four consecutive U.S. Open titles among many other honors. She was one of the first to be named a Woman International Master when FIDE established the title in 1950.
     Known as the “Little Capablanca,” Isaac Kashdan was considered one of the world’s best chess players in the 1920s and 1930s. Though the Great Depression hampered his career, he boasted an impressive international record, winning at Berlin, Stockholm, and Gyor in 1930, tying for first at Mexico City in 1932, and finishing second at Frankfurt 1930, New York 1931, Hastings 1931-32, Pasadena 1932, and Syracuse 1934. He also won two U.S. Opens and was a constant presence on Olympiad teams. His nine medals in five Olympiads are an all-time best among American players. Kashdan was considered one of the top five players in the world during the early 1930s, including a No. 2 ranking between 1932 and 1934.
     Frank Marshall's skills were declining and in 1936 he turned over his U.S. Champion title to Samuel Reshevsky. Marshall presided as "honorary vice-president” over the Marshall Chess Club, which had become the meeting place of the top U.S. players who lived in New York.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Botvinnik vs. Bronstein 1951 World Champioship Match

     This was one of the most controversial and exciting matches in world championship history. Was Bronstein forced to throw the match, and if he was, did Botvinnik know about it?
     David Bronstein was born in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine in 1924 and showed early promise, debuting in the 1939 Ukrainian Championship at age 15. A year later, his strong 2nd behind Isaac Boleslavsky in the 1940 Ukrainian Championship earned him the Soviet national master title. Four years later he qualified for the USSR Championship (1944), where he finished 15th and notched his first career victory over Mikhail Botvinnik.
     He continued to improve but his performance against the best was not strong enough to achieve the Soviet grandmaster title. FIDE still invited him with six other Soviets to the Saltsjöbaden Interzonal (1948). Surprisingly, Bronstein won and was immediately awarded the Soviet grandmaster title. He continued this excellent form and went on to tie Boleslavsky for 1st in the Budapest Candidates (1950), and won the subsequent playoff match thereby earning the right to face title holder Mikhail Botvinnik in a world championship match. Botvinnik had played no chess in public since he had won the FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948), but he studied thoroughly by annotating every game Bronstein had played since the start of the Saltsjöbaden Interzonal. Beginning in January 1951, Botvinnik began compiling a notebook filled with his latest ideas in all the openings he thought might figure prominently in the match. Bronstein claimed that Botvinnik hadn't played since 1948 "because he did not want to reveal his opening secrets." Botvinnik finalized his preparation just days before the match with two secret training games against Viacheslav Ragozin.
     Match conditions declared the winner would be the first to score 12 1/2 points from a maximum of 24 games, with the champion retaining his title in the event of a drawn match. The time control was 40 moves in 2 1/2 hours, and 16 moves an hour thereafter, with an adjournment to the following day after five hours of play.
     According to FIDE rules, the winner would receive $5,000 and the loser $3,000, but Andrew Soltis maintains that Botvinnik and Bronstein actually got considerably less than this. If the champion lost, he had the right to play the new champion and the winner of the next three year candidates cycle in a three player match tournament for the title. The games were played in Moscow's Tchaikovsky Concert Hall under the direction of arbiter Karel Opocensky and controller Gideon Stahlberg. The seconds were Ragozin and Salomon Flohr for Botvinnik, and Alexander Konstantinopolsky for Bronstein.
     Bronstein was an energetic player in contrast to the 'scientific' Botvinnik, the patriarch of  Soviet chess. Bronstein opened the match with the Dutch Defense. Botvinnik considered himself an expert on the Dutch, and had not prepared for it. Botvinnik suspected that Bronstein meant to "force me to fight against my 'own' systems," a ploy he dismissed as "naive." After scoring +0 -1 =2 in three attempts with the Dutch, Bronstein abandoned it after game 9.
     By game 22, Bronstein led by a point and needed only to win once or draw twice in the last two games in order to unseat Botvinnik, but Botvinnik responded with one of his best games of the match. Describing the final move of the 23rd game Botvinnik wrote, "Bronstein needed forty minutes to convince himself of the inevitability of defeat."
     There has been suspicion regarding Bronstein sudden resignation in that game where he was a pawn ahead. Botvinnik had two bishops and Bronstein had two knights but Bronstein's pawns were doubled or isolated and weak. Botvinnik's pawns were solid. As it turned out Bronstein did have a lost position; his pawns were going to fall.
     The controversy stems from the fact that Bronstein was ahead in material and not clearly lost but still resigned. Who would do that in such an important game? It was likely because Bronstein knew he was lost and Botvinnik was the strongest endgame player in the world so there was little point in playing on.
     Bronstein could still have become champion by winning the final game, but after pressing with the white pieces for 22 moves, he appeared to be without winning chances and accepted Botvinnik's draw offer.
     Years later, Botvinnik and Bronstein spoke in less than friendly terms about the match. Bronstein complained that "When the 24th game was finished, many journalists came to the stage and asked Botvinnik to hold a press conference. The Champion agreed but 'forgot' to invite me to attend." Botvinnik accused Bronstein of "outrageous" behavior: "He would make a move and quickly go behind the stage, then... suddenly dart out and disappear again. In the auditorium there was laughter, and this hindered my playing."
     Bronstein has controversially hinted that there was government pressure on him to lose the match. In a 1993 interview he explained that "There was no direct pressure... But... there was the psychological pressure of the environment..." in part caused by his father's "several years in prison" and what he labeled "the marked preference for the institutional Botvinnik." Bronstein concluded that "it seemed to me (emphasis mine) that winning could seriously harm me, which does not mean that I deliberately lost."
     Some say Soviet authorities pressured Bronstein to lose in order to keep Botvinnik, a favorite of the Communist Party leadership, on the throne. Luis Rentero, organizer of the Linares tournaments, says Bronstein once told Bobby Fischer after Fischer lost to Spassky, "They forced me to lose an entire match to Botvinnik, and I didn't cry." Years later in an interview Bronstein denied having said it, but eventually conceded that he may have said something to that effect, but too much time had passed.
     In the introduction to his book "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" he writes: "I have been asked many, many times if I was obliged to lose the 23rd game and if there was a conspiracy against me to stop me from taking Botvinnik's title. A lot of nonsense has been written about this. The only thing that I am prepared to say about all this controversy is that I was subjected to strong psychological pressure from various origins and it was entirely up to me to yield to that pressure or not." To which his co-author Tom Furstenberg writes: "Of course David succumbed to that pressure, albeit not voluntarily. However nobody, not even David himself, knows what went on subconsciously in his mind."
     The truth is that Bronstein was not nearly as strong as Botvinnik. The only major tournament that Bronstein ever won was the 1950 Candidates tournament; it was the tournament of his life and he was never again a serious contender for the world championship.  Interestingly, Chessmetrics profile on Bronstein shows:

#1 world rank for 19 different months between June 1950 and December 1951. After that his rating starts falling off. 
His highest rating was 2792 in June 1951 and his best performance rating was at the 1955 Interzonal when he scored 15-5 for a 2813 performance rating. 
During the 1960's his rating averaged in the 2700 range.     
     Some historians claim that Bronstein simply "choked" and was unable to bring home the point (or half-point) when he needed to. This could explain Bronstein's vague claim he was coerced; he simply did not want to admit that he just couldn't score when he needed to. There is an interesting article on 'choking' under pressure on Chessdotcom.
     Botvinnik was a hard line Communist, or at least he claimed to be. During that period everyone had to at least make the profession in order to prosper but Bronstein once referred to Botvinnik as a "good communist." Is it true, or was Bronstein just showing his contempt for Botvinnik? Botvinnik's role in Soviet chess even today is not clearly understood and he was generally disliked by the other Soviet grandmasters.  Huffington Post article on Botvinnik by GM Lubosh Kavalek.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Curt Brasket, Legendary Minnesota Master

     Curt Justin Brasket (December 7, 1932 – January 24, 2014) was an American master and US National Junior Chess Champion. He was also a sixteen-time state champion for his home state of Minnesota, and a FIDE Master. In 2013 he was granted the Outstanding Career Achievement Award by the US Chess Federation.
     Brasket was born in Tracy, Minnesota in December 1932. The sixth of eight children, he became interested in chess at age 13 after finding a book on the game – though he had at the time been looking for a book on checkers. He attended the University of Minnesota and Saint John's University, graduating with degrees in French and mathematics. Upon graduation, Brasket enlisted in the US Army and was sent to Japan for a two-year tour. He returned and was given an honorable discharge, after which he started a career as computer programmer for Unisys. Brasket married in 1963 and moved to Bloomington, Minnesota. He had three daughters.
     In 1952 at age 20, Brasket entered and won the US Junior Chess Championship held in Omaha. During the 1970s he competed in a number of Lone Pine International tournaments, occasionally defeating grandmasters such as Walter Browne, Arnold Denker and Larry Evans. His peak FIDE rating was 2375 in January 1978, and in 1983 he was awarded the FIDE Master title. Between 1991 and his final tournament in 2011, Brasket competed in 583 tournaments. In 2013 he received the US Chess Federation Outstanding Career Achievement Award.
      In the late 70's he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. After three years in a VA Home in Minneapolis, Brasket died in his sleep on January 24, 2014 at the age of 81. Four of his siblings had previously died, and he was survived by his wife. He was described by Sean Nagle, the incumbent Minnesota State Champion at the time of his death, as "a truly towering figure in Minnesota chess".

Obituary: Curt Brasket, king of chess

Star Tribune Obituary

In the following game he trounces IM Dr. Anthony Saidy with a surprising R-sac on move 25.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Some Interesting Chess Articles

The CCLA Server site has some articles that make interesting reading.

Chess on the Server-Unless you’ve been living in a mountain cave or on a remote island for the last twenty years, you already know advanced chess allows players to use chess engines to assist them in selecting moves in live games. Those who promote advanced chess apparently feel the need to justify it, even going so far as to claim advanced chess titles and ratings are comparable to titles and ratings awarded prior to 1980 (i.e., before computers). They shroud “centaur” chess in mystique...Read more

Humans Are On The Verge Of Losing One Of Their Last Big Advantages Over Computers-...it used to be that a human aided by a computer could still beat a computer by itself. Increasingly that's no longer so. Computers are getting so fast and good that humans still lose out despite the significant advantages a computer/human team ("centaur"). Read more

Choosing a chess engine-Three chess programs today dominate the scene, with new versions supplanting each other in the computer rating lists. Currently Komodo is leading, and conveniently is released as a brand-new ChessBase engine. But is it really the one that ambitious chess players should use (or switch to)? Read more

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Amazon's Lack of Customer Service


My wife has been dealing with Amazon over a defective Kindle since August! I have no idea how many times they have exchanged e-mails and Amazon representatives have called her at home to 'discuss' the problem.
     In spite of the discussions, which actually have been having her repeat the problem over and over again along with the Amazon representative expressing sorrow over the problem and the solemn promise to resolve it, it seems nobody at Amazon has the desire or the authority to fix the problem. What's also exasperating is that after every e-mail or phone conversation she gets an e-mail from Amazon apologizing for the inconvenience and saying they hoped the issue has been resolved to her satisfaction.
     Her frustration in dealing with representatives lead to some detective work on her part. She tracked down the e-mail of the president of Amazon (Jeff Bezos) and sent him an e-mail detailing the problems she has had. On 12-10 she got an e-mail from somebody (not the president, but from yet another Amazon flunky) saying they would call her to discuss the problem and try resolve it...sounds familiar.  They never called.
     How many times do they have to discuss it? How hard is it to resolve a problem with a Kindle that quit working? You replace it. It seems like even an idiot could figure that out.
     Because their service is so poor, I was going to cancel my Amazon seller's account on my book review page...I don't make that much money on it anyway.  But guess what?  You can't cancel by signing in to your account and hitting a 'cancel my account button' or something...you have to notify them by phone or e-mail. 

Detective Chess

Detective Chess is a logic puzzle that sounds simple enough, but can be quite challenging.  Five pieces are placed on a board – you are told what squares they are on, but not which one is on which square. You have to deduce the position of each from the number of times certain squares are attacked. There’s only one solution.
The puzzle
The solution

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cores and Hash

   Configuring the number of cores and hash size is important in getting the best analysis results from your engine.
     For infinite analysis you need to use the maximum hash; typically that would be half of the computer's RAM. If your PC has 2048 MB RAM, then your maximum hash size is 1024 MB. Fortunately on my laptop when I load Stockfish 5, Komodo 8 or Houdini 2 (the only engines I use) into my Fritz 12 program it automatically tells me the maximum RAM I can use is 2560.
     If you want to play an engine tournament at blitz (5 minutes) then 128MB for each engine is enough because reading a large hash file at blitz time control is counter-productive. For longer engine matches 256MB hash for each engine is OK. The shorter the time-control for a game, the less you will gain from a large hashtable.
     The hash table is used to keep track of positions it's already analyzed along with the evaluations. The engine may run into the same position several times and the positions in the hash table allows it to look up the previous values. So, normally hash tables should be as large as possible. But, you have to make sure that the hashtable isn’t so big that the computer starts constantly shuffling blocks of data between internal memory (RAM) and the hard drive. An indicator that this is what is happening is if you hear the hard drive whirring. Usually when you specify hash size it will be the power of two: 32MB, 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1024MB and 2048MB.
     Usually, engines are not good with openings so it's best to use opening books and don't rely on engine evaluations up to about the 15th move.
     Generally, it's better to analyze on one core for 30 minutes than on two cores for 15 minutes. You might think analyzing with 2 or 3 cores would be 2 or 3 times better than analyzing with one but that's not the case. Adding another core doesn't mean you double the effeciency of the analysis. The percentage of efficieny diminishes with every core you add because the cores can often try to work simultaneously on the analysis. What that means is for analysis, it's better to have one powerful core than two weaker ones. At least that's true for Infinite Analysis. If you are using Aquarium IDeA analysis, the more cores the better. Personally I don't use IDeA in Aquarium. It's probably better than Infinite Analysis, but I just never had the gumption to learn how to use it properly. ChessOK article on getting the most out of IDeA.
     Engines are not designed to work in infinite mode. They are made to slug it out against other engines in a head to head matches at fast time controls. So, when you use them for Infinite Analysis, you aren't using them as designed. In Infinite Analysis there is a horizon that engines can't pass because of the pruning and evaluations will usually not change once the engine hits a depth of around 30-32 plies. Here's a brief explanation of what you see in the engine analysis window.

+0.61 means white is better by 6/10th of a Pawn
d=26 means engine has searched to a depth of 26 plies (13 moves). Note...after 38 minutes it was at a depth of 27 plies and was still showing 26...b5 as the best move. The evaluation changed to +0.68. This analysis was conducted using only one core on a quad core laptop. It's not likely there would be much to be gained by letting the engine analyze any longer.

Time: It has been analyzing for 22 minutes and 20 seconds
b5 (1/25) means that the engine is currently looking at b5 which is one of 25 legal moves.
1515 kN/s is the number of nodes searched (a node is one position). Higher = better.
Main Line: Displays the best moves. Here the top two choices are 26...b5 and 26...e5.

     There is another caveat you must be aware of here. When I stopped the analysis and inserted it into the position and then went all the way to the end, it showed black had a nearly 3-Pawn advantage. What happened? When I stopped the analysis it ended at a point where the engine was considering an inferior move for white at some point. The way to make sure you have the correct analysis is to go all the way to the end and then step backwards through it until you find the bad move that caused the sudden shift.
     The way top level correspondence players manage to win against engines is because most engines on our 'ordinary' computers get blind somewhere around 30 plies; most of them have invested in some heavy duty equipment dedicated to their chess. Also, engines prune out a gazillion moves that upon deeper examination might yield a win. How do you find those moves? I can't say. If I could, I'd be one of the top rated players on ICCF. It's a trade secret the top rated CC players keep to themselves.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lembit Oll

    Lembit Oll, an Estonian GM who was preparing to take part in a qualifying competition for the world championship match in Las Vegas, Nevada, tragically ended his life on Sunday, May 17, 1999, when he plunged from a window of apartment in Tallinn. Born on April 23, 1966, he was only 33. He was buried at Metsakalmistu cemetery in Tallinn, not too far away from the grave of Paul Keres.
     Oll was ranked number 42 in the world at the time. He was a world-class player, rated well above 2600, with a classical style but yet he seemed especially at home in extremely sharp opening variations.
     Oll had been a promising junior, becoming champion of Estonia in 1982 and junior champion of the Soviet Union in 1984. He also won multiple European and World junior championships. FIDE awarded him the IM title in 1983 and the GM title in 1990. He regularly played for Estonia in the chess olympics and European team championships. Early 1998 he reached his highest position on the FIDE ranking list: 2655. He played his last tournament in 1999 in Nova Gorica, sharing second place.
     At the time of his death the USCF, as far as I know, did not report anything about it. He just disappeared. It was only much later that details of his tragic death surfaced. Apparently his decision was ignited by possibly financial difficulties or more likely his recent divorce and separation from his two sons which caused him to fall into severe depression. His death was a loss to the chess world.
     The following game against Mikhail Ulibin was played in the 1989 USSR Championship. The opening was a sharp line of the Winawer French, going into a subvariation that had recently become popular at GM level. Thanks in part to a brilliant idea of Oll’s first demonstrated in this game, it didn't last long. Mikhail Ulibin is a Soviet GM and silver medalist in the World Junior Championship of 1991. He played in the Soviet Union Junior Chess Championships of 1984, 1985 (3rd place),1986,1987,and 1988 where he tied for first with Gata Kamsky.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fritz 12 Activated

    I posted awhile back about my laptop crash and how the repair wiped out several programs including my favorite Fritz 12. I had the disk to reinstall the program but the activation code was lost when our house flooded in May. I sent an e-mail explaining what happened to Chessbase, who are notorious for their lack of customer support, and requested an activation code. Steffen Giehring replied that they would not supply me with a "free" Fritz and suggested I go on line and buy an updated version. I pointed out to him that it's not "free" because I paid for the program. I also advised him that I have Aquarium on my laptop and it works fine, so I don't really need to use Fritz, but it was my preferred analysis program. Of course Giehring never replied because he doesn't give a rat's butt.
     This morning I had an epiphany. We have an old, rarely used desktop computer downstairs that survived the flood that has Fritz 12 on it. I fired up Fritz and under options clicked on activate and guess what? There was the code I was looking for, so I was able to activate Fritz on my laptop.

Idiot Combinations

  In his book, Reassess Your Chess, Jeremy Silman mentions something he calls idiot combinations. An idiot combination is when you play a flashy series of moves not because of their great strength but because they are pretty and you look good doing it. I'd change that to read 'you think you look good doing it.' He gave an example of a Q sac. Your opponent has four replies. Three lose but the fourth refutes it. His advice is to always expect your opponent to find the best move. One day I finally figured that out; if I can see something, so can my my opponent! You have to ignore the fancy Q-sac and play something else. Another type is the one he demonstrated in this famous Alekhine vs. Junge encounter from Warsaw, 1942.

The following game is one of my own early efforts at creating an idiot combination. I have several games in my database where I played similar sacrifices around the time this game was played which seems rather odd. In any case, in this game against an college student from Kansas who at the time was rated near 2000 OTB and later went on to become state champion, I went for complications instead of being content with just playing solid chess. The game got really complicated and neither of us were up to the challenge. At the end, even though I was theoretically lost, I should have played on. I have vague recollections of sitting in my apartment staring at the final position and being disappointed that my 'brilliancy' had failed, so in a fit of discouragement decided to resign.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

1975 Eastern Open

     It's rare...this is one of the few tournaments where all of my games scores have survived (+2 -2 =1). Back in these days the Eastern Open was a major tournament with a lot of strong players participating especially since it was held in Washington DC, right downtown as I recall.
     Round one saw me winning with a nice speculative sacrifice (Nxf7) to dig out my opponent's uncastled King. In round 2 I lost quickly (in 20 moves) when my opponent (playing white) discombobulated me with 1.c3 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Qa4+. I was doing OK, but was overconfident because of his opening choice and at move 16 played a completely unsound sacrifice. Round 3 was the loss featured in this post. Round 4 was a draw; I thought I was better the whole game, but just couldn't find a win. In the last round, as white, I faced the Ruy Lopez Marshall Attack and got an inferior position, but my opponent mishandled the ending which gave me an even score for the tournament. Unfortunately I don't remember who was playing as far as big names were concerned, but what I do remember was the hotel, not the name of it, but the experience. 
     They had a counter for breakfast and sandwiches. When you sat down there was no waitress, just the guy behind the counter who did the cooking.  He never acknowledged you. You shouted out what you wanted, "Black coffee, scrambled eggs and toast." for example, if that's what you wanted for breakfast. Pretty soon it would appear. There was also a Chinese restaurant.
     What I remember most was my last game finished early Sunday evening so rather than spend another night and leave Monday morning what with the traffic and all, I decided to check out Sunday evening. The desk clerk told me to see the guy outside about getting my car which the hotel had parked in a garage someplace. So, I went outside and told the guy I wanted my car and he said I could not get it until Monday morning; the parking garage was closed. I explained that I was checked out of the hotel and had no place to go and I needed my car. I ended up sitting on the sidewalk with my suitcase for about an hour while waiting for someone to come and retrieve my car. I was never exactly sure of what was going on, but the guy kept telling me not to worry. Finally some guy pulled up with my car; he had a bad attitude.
     Then, trying to find my out of downtown, I kept seeing the big green sign to the road I wanted, but kept missing it because of all the one way streets. After several tries, I gave up and decided that if I just drove north, then at some point I would be out of the city and able to better get my bearings to the Interstate. That turned out not to be the case! I ended up driving through mile after mile of residential streets with a 25 mile per hour speed limit. Then the street I was on dead ended at a river and the only way across was a ferry and it was closed until Monday morning! To this day I have no idea where I was, but I ended up driving east and eventually hit an entrance ramp to I-495 and got out of town.  It was late, I was tired, angry and frustrated and just wished I had never played in the Eastern Open.

Heinrich Wolf

     Austrian Heinrich Wolf was born on October 20th 1875. He died in December 1943 at the age of 68 years and 2 months old, a victim of the Nazis. Wolf was a much better player than he has ever received credit for.

1879 - tied for 5-7th in Berlin (Géza Maróczy won).
1900 - tied for 7-10th in Munich (the 12th DSB Congress, Maroczy, Carl Schlechter and Harry Pillsbury won).
1902 - tied for 5-7th in the Monte Carlo chess tournament (Maroczy won), tied for 5-6th in Hannover (13th DSB–Congress, Dawid Janowski won), and won, jointly with Janowski, in Vienna (Pentagonal). Hannover was his best result with (according to Chessmetrics) a performance rating of 2692. Wolf drew a match with Ossip Bernstein (+1 –1 =6).
1903 - took 7th in Monte Carlo (Siegbert Tarrasch won).

1904 - tied for 8-9th in Coburg (14th DSB–Congress, Curt von Bardeleben, Schlechter and Rudolf Swiderski won), and tied for 4-5th in Vienna (Schlechter won).
1905 - took 10th in Ostend (Maroczy won), tied for 7-10th in Barmen (Janowski and Maroczy won), and took 2nd, behind Schlechter, in Vienna.
1906 - tied for 6-7th in Nuremberg (15th DSB–Congress, Frank Marshall won).
1907 - tied for 9-11th in Vienna (Jacques Mieses won), and took 10th in the Carlsbad 1907 chess tournament (Akiba Rubinstein won). 1908, he tied for 9-12th in Düsseldorf (16th DSB–Congress, Marshall won). According to Chessmetrics Wolf's rating peaked this year at 2660 which placed him at #11 in the world.

1908 - Emanuel Lasker engaged Simon Alapin and Wolf as seconds (first introduction of seconds in world championship play) for the WCC match against Tarrasch, held in Düsseldorf and Munich.

After World War I, he tied for 6-7th at Piešťany (Pistyan) 1922 (Efim Bogoljubow won), tied for 8-10th at Teplice-Šanov (Teplitz-Schönau) 1922 (Richard Réti and Rudolf Spielmann won), and took 3rd at Vienna 1922 (Rubinstein won), took 14th in the Carlsbad 1923 chess tournament (Alexander Alekhine, Bogoljubov and Maroczy won), and tied for 12-13th at Maehrisch-Ostrau Ostrava 1923 (Emanuel Lasker won).

Once Rubinstein was winning against Wolf but then let him get back into the game before eventually winning. When asked why it happened, Rubinstein replied that against Wolf he won when he wanted to, not when Wolf wanted him to.

For a complete list of chess players who died in the Holocaust see HERE and HERE.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Antique Clock Sites

     I have never played a game using a modern digital clock. I always used an analog clock; the ones equipped with a "flag" (a Dutch invention) that falls to indicate the moment the player's time has expired.  A major drawback of the mechanical clocks was the accuracy of when the flag fell.  Also additional time cannot easily be added for more complex time controls. But, in those days things were simpler; there weren't any complex time controls like exist today. At the beginning of the game you added an extra minute to the time (this was probably unofficial, but the idea was to make up for any mechanical problems or something like that) and when the flag fell, the game was lost. Simple.
     In 1973, to address the issues with analog clocks, Bruce Cheney, a Cornell University Electrical Engineering student and chess player, created the first digital chess clock as a project for an undergraduate EE course. It was crude compared to the products on the market many years later. For example, the display was done with red LEDs. LEDs require significant power, and as a result, the clock had to be plugged into a wall outlet. The high cost of LEDs at the time meant that only one set of digits could be displayed, that of the player whose turn it was to move. This meant that each player's time had to be multiplexed to the display when their time was running.
     A chess clock that was patented in 1975 was developed by Joseph Meshi and became the first commercially available digital chess clock. Digital clocks resulted in a wave of experimentation with more varied time controls, some quite complex. One particularly notable development was proposed by Bobby Fischer, who in 1988 filed for U.S. Patent 4,884,255 (awarded in 1989) for a new type of digital chess clock. Fischer's digital clock gave each player a fixed period of time at the start of the game and then added a small amount after each move. In this way, the players would never be desperately short of time, but games could also be completed more quickly, doing away with the need for adjournments. 
     On March 10, 1994, a patent application was filed by inventors Frank A. Camaratta, Jr. of Huntsville, AL, and Wllliam Goichberg of Salisbury Mills, NY for a game timer which employed a delay feature. It provided a delay between the time the button is pressed and the time that the clock actually begins to count down. The benefit is, it reduces the likelihood that a player with an advantage will lose solely because of the expiration of time.
     To be honest, I prefer the simple analog clock. All these new digital clocks and time controls give me a headache just thinking about them. That said, when it come to encounters between the world's elite players, I do like the idea of eliminating adjournments. It seems wrong to decide a game between the best players in the world based on blitz games, but I suppose it's no more wrong than losing in a time scramble or adjourning and letting a gaggle of seconds analyze all night. At least the results in blitz are the results of a players own thoughts.
     Anyway, there was something about being in a tournament room and hearing the quiet ticking of a whole bunch of chess clocks that was relaxing. I'd rather use any of these clocks

than these:

Carolus Chess has an interesting history of the chess clock.
Dorland's Antique Set and Clocks is another interesting site.