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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Paulsen vs. Morphy

Who studies Paul Morphy’s games anymore?  Why would you want to?   Morphy appeared out of nowhere, dominated the chess community for a moment then disappeared.  A lot of players think Morphy was the best player ever but I wonder how many of them have actually played over a lot of his games.

If you look at Morphy’s serious games it is apparent that he was the first modern player. Most people’s initial impression is that all Morphy did was develop his pieces rapidly and had great tactical skill.  But like all champions, there was more to his skill that that. Most of his published games are flashy wins but in truth, in his day his games were generally considered conservative side compared to the old masters.

Many of his games don’t look modern.  The reason is that he did not need to play positional chess because his opponents did not understand chess as well as he did.   The result was he preferred open positions because they resulted in quick wins for him.  But a quick look at a lot of his games also showed Morphy knew how to play positional chess as well as endings.

For example in 1857 in New York Morphy achieved a position similar to those arising from Hedgehog and Najdorf positions where he played ...Kh8 , ...g5 and ...Rg8. This game was an inspiration for Bobby Fischer in his game against Garcia in Havana 1966!

Morphy often took less than an hour to make all of his moves took much more...sometimes up to 8 hours.  This was in an era before time control.  Two of his opponetns, Löwenthal and Anderssen, said Morphy was hard to defeat because even if he got into a bad position, he knew how to defend.  Anderssen once said that after one bad move against Morphy one might as well resign and went on to add, "I win my games in seventy moves but Mr. Morphy wins his in twenty, but that is only natural..."

Bobby Fischer said Morphy had enormous talent and claimed Morphy had the talent to beat any player of any era if "given time to study modern theory and ideas".  Reuben Fine disagreed, stating if we examine Morphy's record and games critically, we cannot justify such extravaganza.”  British GM Raymond Keene concurred.  View Parts 2 and 3 on Youtube

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smyslov – Botvinnik Game

      Vasily Smyslov (24 March 1921 – 27 March 2010) remains an under-appreciated player.  He was World Champion from 1957 to 1958 and a candidate eight times (1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1959, 1965, 1983, and 1985) and twice equal first in the Soviet Championship (1949, 1955). 
      In his two world championship matches against Botvinnik in which they played 69 games, Smyslov scored +18 -17 =34.  He only lost the second match because of his horrific start; he inexplicably lost the first three games and 0-3 deficit was simply too much to overcome.
     When one thinks of the greatest players of all time, Smyslov’s name rarely comes to mind but according to True Chess rankings, based on the best year results, No. 1 ranked is Fischer in 1968 with Anand at No. 2 in 2006.  Tied for third and fourth places are Kramnik (1992) and Smyslov (1976). As the site points out these rankings are based on samples too small to give accurate results.
      Ten year result rankings are: 1=Fischer 2=Capablanca 3-4=Kasparov & Kramnik 5-8=Capablanca, Botvinnik, Smyslov and Karpov.
      In their book Warriors of the Mind Keene and Divinsky considered games played between sixty-four of the strongest players in history, and rated Smyslov in ninth place. (Kasparov, Karpov, Fischer, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Lasker, Korchnoi, Spassky, Smyslov and Petrosian.
      A computer method was tried in 2006 by the Department of Computer and Information Science of  the University of Jjubljana in which they compared the player’s moves to those of a chess engine. This can’t be considered too accurate though because the engine they used was Crafty which was not the strongest. A similar project was also conducted in 2007 using Rybka 2.3.2a  Players with fewest average errors using this method were Capablanca, Kramnik, Karpov, Kasparov, Spassky, Petrosin, Lasker, Fischer, Alekhine and in tenth place, Smyslov.
     In any case, by any ranking system, Smyslov rates among the best who ever lived; a little appreciated fact these days. As for Botvinnik, he was probably one of the five best players of all time but after 1948 he was, as Botvinnik himself put it, the first among equals.

Enjoy Smyslov’s Queen sacrifice!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I had their app here so you could play a quick game right on the Blog, but I experienced some trouble with it when I tried playing a game this afternoon.  I got an opponent fairly quickly but ran into problems right away.  First I was experiencing a 10-20 second lag and running out of time.  Going directly to the site was even worse.  Not only did I experience lag problems, in several positions I could not make a move and after clicking on a piece several times, it suddenly became my opponent’s turn to move! The result was that in three games I tried to play I ended up giving my opponents several free moves so I not only was down material because I couldn’t move attacked pieces but ran out of time.  I removed the site.

My New Blog

I have added another Blog that will contain reviews of chess books, etc.  Most are books I have owned or at least read.  One can collect a lot of chess books in 50 years!  In many cases they will be older books because 1) I have a lot of old books and 2) new does not always mean better; some of those old books were pretty good.  I know because they got a lot of players from yesteryear to Class A, Expert or even Master ratings.  View Blog

Becoming a Strong Master

      How much do you have to know to become a strong chess player? According to Russian folklore you have to know 300 chess positions to become a grandmaster, but nobody knows what exactly these positions are. Read the entire article by GM Lubosh Kavalek.

      For those that don’t know, Kavalek, is a Czech-American GM and former Czech champion (1962 and 1968). When the Soviets invaded Prague in August 1968, Kavalek was playing in a tournament in Poland and decided to defect to the West rather than return to Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia. He bought several crates of vodka with his winnings from that tournament then used them to bribe the border guards. In 1970, he moved to Washington, D.C.
       He was co-winner of the 1973 US Championship and won it outright in 1978, finishing with an undefeated 10-4 record. Also in 1978, Kavalek won a match against Ulf Andersson (at the time Andersson was a world class player) by the iscore of 6.5 to 3.5.
      Kavalek had a notable coaching career, working with IM Mark Dieson, GM Yasser Seirawan and GM Robert Huebner and was one of Fischer’s seconds when he won the World Championship. He also served as GM Nigel Short’s trainer in Short's matches against former world champion Karpov and Timman.
      From the end of 1962 until 1988 Kavalek ranked among the top 100 players in the world peaking at 2625.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More on Fred Reinfeld

Reader Paul Gottlieb called attention to the fact that Fred Reinfeld was, in addition to his writing ability, also a great player.  While it is true a lot of his books were ‘pot boilers’ as they were called in the day, his early books were excellent.  Unfortunately, Reinfeld discovered early on that there was no money in writing really good books so he started writing stuff that sold.  I have a small pdf booklet for download with a few of his games that shows he could play pretty good chess

Like the American comedian Rodney Dangerfield (November 22, 1921 – October 5, 2004) who was known for the line. "I don't get no respect! No respect, no respect at all... that's the story of my life" the same could be said of Fred Reinfeld’s play.  Reinfeld is well known to chessplayers for his books, some excellent, some not, but very few know he was also a very strong master.  Enjoy some of his games!

Psychology of a Chessplayer

       Years ago I read a book of that title by grandmaster, world champion candidate and well known psychologist, Dr. Reuben Fine.  Fine gave up chess at the height of his powers and founded the Creative Living Center in New York City.
       As a psychologist Fine wrote extensively on the psychology of chess. To him, chess was a combination of homosexual and hostile elements. The King on the chess board is "indispensable, all-important, irreplaceable, yet weak and requiring protection."  The Queen "of course, is the woman-figure. . . . The chess board as a whole may symbolize the family situation." He went on to discuss the phallic symbolism of chess and concluded that the game is an outlet for hostile feelings in which a player sees his opponent's King as his own absent or weak father and tries to kill him by checkmate’
       I’m not schooled in the field of psychology, but I personally consider that claptrap.  Add to the fact that according to Fine’s obituary in the New York Times he was married at the time of his death in 1993 and had four previous marriages that ended in divorce, it seems to me Fine was not a person I’d want to ask for advice on anything except maybe how to play chess. Fine also wrote a book on the 1972 Spassky-Fischer return match that critics called awful; Fine called it ‘the most serious’ of the match books; more of his self-deception.

       In this book on the return match Fine analyzed the games, did a psychoanalytic study of the two players, especially of Fischer, and in a self-aggrandizing fashion, attempted to correct the historical
record from 1938 to 1948 and the controversies associated with the deaths of Alekhine and several other top grandmasters. Fine thought he had a claim on being called the World Champion.
In 2001 Arnold Denker wrote regarding Fine:
‘... as a young man he was terribly mixed up and a horrible liar. That is one of the reasons my wife and I both allowed him plenty of space. He had a screwed-up youth and never really overcame his strong feelings of inferiority. Thus the bragging. My fondness for him was more a feeling of sadness.’
      Fine wrote at least nine books on psychology. He received his Ph.D in 1948 at the University of Southern California, where he was a teaching fellow. Eventually he entered private practice of psychoanalysis in New York, associated with the Elmhurst General Hospital and the Metropolitan Center for Mental Health. He also taught psychoanalysis at eight universities and was Vice-President of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, the Visiting Professor of the College of the City of New York and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. In 1961 he was Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of Amsterdam.
      Fine tried to categorize and understand the combination of characteristics that make up a chess champion.
       He played in a few tournaments after World War II, but not many and was invited to play in the 1948 World Championship tournament, but he declined to play. At different times, Fine gave different reasons for his refusal to play.  One explanation was he was studying for his PhD in psychology at the time and did not wish to take a year off to study, prepare for and play.  He also said he did not wish to play in a tournament where he had to watch the Soviet players throw games to each other to keep outsiders (namely, Fine and Reshevsky) from scoring well.
       Fine actually thought the was the best player in the world. He also claimed in private that everything that was known about the endgames was in his book, Basic Chess Endings.  After the 1938 AVRO tournament, he liked to call himself the unofficial world chess champion because he had defeated the official World Champion Alexander Alekhine 2-0 in the two games they played. Was Fine joking or did he really believe he was the ‘real’ world champion and there was nothing new to be discovered in endgame analysis?
       His last tournament was the Wertheim Memorial in 1951 where did not do too badly considering that he had not played a tournament game in three years. The results were 1.Reshevsky 2-3. Najdorf and Euwe with Fine finishing fourth.  He drew with Reshevksy and lost to Euwe and Najdorf.  Other players were: Evans, Horowitz, Robert Byrne, Guimard, O’Kelly, Bisguier, George Kramer and Shainswit.
       According to one source, Fine's clients in the psychoanalytic field included a lot of chess players. In the 1970s a lot of rich kids who were young chess masters and their parents were paying big bucks to have Reuben Fine psychoanalyze them.
       Fine theories were those of another psychoanalyst, Earnest Jones who wrote:
“Quite obviously chess is a play substitute for the art of war. The unconscious motive actuating the players is not the mere love of pugnacity characteristic of all competitive games, but the grimmer one of father-murder. The mathematical quality of the game gives chess a peculiar anal-sadistic quality. The sense of overwhelming mastery on the one side matches that of inescapable helplessness on the other. It is this anal-sadistic feature that makes the game so well adapted to gratify at the same time both the homosexual and the antagonistic aspects of the father-son contest. All agree that a combination of homosexual and hostile impulses are sublimated in chess.”
       Fine claimed there was a problem with this in that homosexuality is virtually non-existent among chess players.  Surely he knew, or at least suspected, that his contemporary fellow chess players, Weaver Adams and Anthony Santasiere were homosexuals.  He wrote,  “Observation indicates that overt homosexuality is almost unknown among chess players. Among the chess masters of the present century I have heard of only one case. This is all the more striking in that artists, with whom chess masters like to compare themselves, are so frequently homosexual.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Herbert Seidman

 Herbert Seidman (17 October 1920 – 30 August 1995) was a US Senior Master born in New York City.  Seidman, who played several times in the US Championship and was a frequent competitor in open tournaments in the New York City area,  was known for his swashbuckling-style, playing risky or sacrificial openings, and offbeat openings like the Orangutan.  Al Horowitz, editor of Chess Review magazine, once published on of Seidman’s games under the title “Sideman Seidman.” Other than that it seems not much is known of him.
The only photo I managed to find shows him when he was in the Army in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s!

In 1961, Seidman won the most games in the U.S. Championship but only finished tied for third because of his three loses.
14th US Championship; 1961/2
December 17, 1961 - January 4, 1962
New York, NY
1. Evans       x ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1  = 7.5
2. Byrne, R.   ½ x ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1  = 7.0
3. Benko       ½ ½ x 1 0 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 0  = 6.5
4. Mednis      ½ ½ 0 x 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 0 1 =  6.5
5. Seidman     ½ ½ 1 0 x 0 1 1 1 0 1 ½  = 6.5
6. Sherwin     ½ 0 0 ½ 1 x ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1  = 6.5
7. Hearst      0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ x ½ ½ 1 ½ 1  = 5.5
8. Byrne, D.   ½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ x 1 ½ ½ 1 = 5.0
9. Weinstein   ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 x 1 0 1  = 4.5
10. Turner      0 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 0 ½ 0 x ½ ½  = 4.0
11. Kramer      0 0 0 1 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ x 0  = 3.5
12. Bernstein   0 0 1 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 x =  3.0
He played on board eight in the US vs. USSR Radio Match in 1945 and lost both games to Ragosin.  Seidman was prominent in cancer research and authored or co-authored several professional research papers.
Here are the highest rated players on the first USCF rating list dated July 31, 1950:
Reuben Fine 2817
Samuel Reshevsky 2770
Alexander Kevitz 2610
Arthur W. Dake 2598
A. C. Simonson 2596
Fred Reinfeld 2593
Arnold S. Denker 2575
Isaac Kashdan 2574
I. A. Horowitz 2558
Abraham Kupchik 2538
David S. Polland 2521
George N. Treysman 2521
Larry Evans 2484
Herbert Seidman 2451

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Critical Positions

“If you can't recognize critical positions or analyze them carefully and evaluate them correctly, then all that other knowledge is going to result in severely diminishing returns.”  NM Dan Heisman
A critical position is a point in the game where there is some sharp tactics or a key positional point that can determine the play in the remainder of the game.
It is exceedingly important to recognize these positions because in order to maintain your winning chances (or drawing chances) you have to find the best move.  Failure to do so will likely change the result to a result worse than you hoped for! These critical positions could be tactical, key endgame positions or a position where a specific positional idea must be followed.  Identifying the critical moments using a chess engine is relatively easy compared to OTB play and it is engine analysis I’m mainly concerned with here.
Basically any move that brings about a change in the position is a critical position.  In OTB games it usually happens when you run out of moves that you know in the opening.  In engine play it’s when somebody deviates from your database.  Transition from opening to middlegame and middlegame to the ending are also other critical points.
When analyzing with an engine and you run across a position where the engine evaluation jumps back and forth or you get significantly different evaluations from two engines (you DO use two engines, right?) you have a critical position and need to take special care.
After establishing the critical points, you can begin to analyze them. When using an engine, this will be positions where even they are having difficulty determining the best move and it is where human intervention is most often needed.  Unfortunately, in these positions most of us just aren’t strong enough to fathom the nuances of the position.  So, what can we do?
Giant databases can help unravel the mystery.  Perform a search by looking for pawn structure.  Of course, you will want to select the games from the highest rated players because if you don’t do that you will get thousands of useless positions from players like you and me!
The resulting search of positions will be a great value in helping you to understand the kind of structure you have reached in your game and you can play through the games the search discovered to see the plans used by strong GM’s.  This will enable you to get a better idea of which moves the engines are recommending are worth pursuing and which ones aren’t.
Very often when you reach a position where there are no tactics and positional play is called for engines sometimes have a habit of just shifting pieces back and forth without any real plan. The engine will point out the tactical moves but they are often unable to teach you anything about positional chess and strategies or explain to you why a move is bad.   This is what separates really strong CC players from the rest of us; they know junk when they see it. 
Another way to ferret out the best lines is to run shootouts from the given position with a couple of different engines.  For example, if the engines say that White has a slight advantage, but loses the majority of the games in a shootout from that position, then you will know the position is likely inferior but the defects aren’t going to show up for several moves.
I am playing a game now that is very interesting because critical points have abounded.  After much database searching and analysis with various engines I chose a plan of action involving a sacrifice that looked very promising.
Here is the position:
Should White sacrifice with 23.Nxh7

I played the sacrifice but my opponent apparently discovered an improvement that left him with what appeared to be a won game. 
Things were starting to look grim as the engines gradually showed evaluations swinging to my opponent’s favor.  Then he began relying entirely on engine recommendations in a materially unbalanced endgame position.  So far what’s been happening is the endgame database would show a win for him in about 30 moves or so but what the engines have doing is recommending the best moves according to the database for 3-4 moves then a less accurate move. The result is the database then shows the win being back to 30-32 moves away.  So a draw by the 50-move rule can’t be rule out because there is no guarantee the engine will pick the best move 30 moves in a row.  If this goes on long enough, I can draw.  Of course, there is also the possibility he will discover the win or I will make a mistake in my analysis.  Anyway, I hope to annotate this game as best as I can when it’s over because it’s one of those games where engines don’t seem to give very reliable results.  Maybe I can learn something.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Read Like a Grandmaster

What chess books do GM’s read?

"Can’t find a good book to move past the pre-war level of chess understanding? Listen to this. David Bronstein wrote a great book about the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament. What makes it great is absolute disregard to theorizing. He takes all the games from a super strong tournament – uses no selection criteria – so no bias towards the author’s agenda is there - and just invites you to watch ‘em play. If I had to name one single book that helped me with my problems, not once but many times throughout my chess career, I’d know which one it is.”

“Fischer and Larsen wrote two of the greatest books of the late 1960’s – the collection of their games. These two books gave me a picture of true greatness when I was struggling with my chess in the mid-1970’s, trying to establish my identity as a chessplayer for many years to come.” GM Alex Yermolinsky

In reviewing the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament IM Jeremy Silman wrote, “Recently I asked Yasser Seirawan to give me a list of his favorite few chess books. His top three appear to be: the 1960 Tal-Botvinnik match book by Tal, Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and Bronstein's book on the Zurich 1953 Tournament (mentioned with reverence)…I give my two-cent's worth about Bronstein's masterpiece also.

It seems that everyone and his uncle has conspired to write thousands of tournament books, so what makes this one stand out? Aside from the impressive list of players (in order of their final score: Smyslov, Bronstein, Keres, Reshevsky, Petrosian, Geller, Najdorf, Kotov, Taimanov, Averbakh, Boleslavsky, Szabo, Gligoric, Euwe, and Stahlberg), what makes this a book for the ages is, quite simply, the amazing notes. Bronstein's interesting prose, his highly instructive explanations of plans and ideas, his witty stories and his fantastic variations begin on page one and continue through all 210 games.

Deep strategic explanations of the King's Indian, Nimzo-Indian and Sicilian abound. The personalities of these chess legends are soaked into every page. Magical combinations take our breath away and profound endgames keep our attention glued to every move. If you combine all these things with an exciting battle for first place (it almost feels like you're at the tournament watching the event take place), you might begin to realize just how special this book really is.

I could go on and on, but it's best just to say this: if you don't buy and read this fantastic book you will be doing yourself a great injustice. Get it, hold it, sniff it, rub it on top of your head, place it under your pillow; this is simply the greatest tournament book ever written and it deserves to be in every self-respecting chess library.”
Partial preview  

Fischer needs no introduction but today’s players may not be fully aware of Larsen’s achievements. Larsen was known for his imaginative and unorthodox style of play and he was the first western player to pose a serious challenge to the Soviet Union's dominance of chess. Bent Larsen is one of the outstanding figures of post-war chess, with top-level tournament victories spanning five decades. His outstanding fighting qualities have made him a great favorite with the chess public and even in the latter stages of his career he remained capable of sweeping victories over world-class opposition. Larsen died Sept 11, 2010.

Starting in the mid-1960s, Larsen enjoyed a very successful run in major tournaments around the world, and he and Fischer became the two strongest players outside the Soviet Union. Larsen played in a lot of strong events, at least as many as any other top player, and repeatedly finished ahead of the top Soviet players. Somewhat unusual for the late 1960s, Larsen, as one of the world's top players, often entered large open tournaments run on the Swiss system, and had plenty of success.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tahl at His Best

The following game was played in 1962 in the preliminaries of the world team championship and was the first game all year where Tahl felt satisfied with his play. 

His opponent, Dieter Mohrlok (November, 1938 – March 2010), was a prominent West German master of the era who was awarded the IM title in 1969. He was also the European Champion in correspondence chess.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

1948 World Chess Championship

      This tournament played to determine a new World Champion because Alekhine had died in 1946. The tournament marked the passing of control of the championship title to FIDE and not the title holder. Botvinnik won the five-player championship tournament, beginning the era of Soviet domination that would last over twenty years. The tournament was played partly in The Hague and partly in Moscow.
       FIDE found it very difficult to organize because problems with money and travel so soon after the end of World War 2 prevented many countries from sending representatives. The result was rumors and speculation ran rampant.
       1938 AVRO tournament was used as the basis for the 1948 Championship Tournament. FIDE decided that the other six participants at AVRO would play a quadruple round robin. The players were Euwe, Botvinnik, Keres, Flohr (now from the USSR), Fine and Reshevsky. The Soviet Union chose to replace the fading Flohr with a young player who had emerged during the war years and was obviously stronger named Vassily Smyslov. Reuben Fine elected not to play and there was a proposal that he should be replaced with Miguel Najdorf but in the end the tournament was played with only five players: Euwe, Smyslov, Keres, Botvinnik, and Reshevsky
       Before the tournament, Botvinnik was considered the favorite because of his victory at Groningen 1946 and his pre-war results. Keres and Reshevsky were veterans of international competition and although Euwe was the former world champion, he had played poorly since Groningen. Smyslov was not well known in the West, as he had only appeared in two international competitions: a third place finish at Groningen and shared second at Warsaw 1947.
       The Soviets brought a large contingent of about twenty-one including the players Botvinnik, Keres, and Smyslov; their seconds Ragosin, Tolush and Alatortsev. Also included in the gaggle of the Soviet contingent were Bondarevsky, Flohr and Lilienthal as correspondents and member of the adjudication committee, Kotov. The leader of the group was Postnikov, a private doctor from Moscow and Botvinnik's wife and young daughter. On the other hand, the US delegation consisted of one person: Reshevsky. Dutch player Lodewijk Prins was gotten at last moment to be his second. Former world Champion Euwe’s second was Theo van Scheltinga.
       Botvinnik won the tournament convincingly with 14 points out of 20. He also had a plus score against all the other players. Smyslov came second with 11 points, just ahead of Keres and Reshevsky on 10½. Former champion Euwe was in bad form, and finished last with 4 out of 20.
       There was some controversy when Paul Keres lost his first four games against Botvinnik raising suspicions that Keres was forced to throw games to allow Botvinnik to win the Championship. Chess historian Taylor Kingston investigated all the available evidence and arguments, and concluded that Soviet chess officials gave Keres strong hints that he should not hinder Botvinnik's attempt to win the World Championship. Supposedly Botvinnik discovered this about half-way through the tournament and protested so strongly that he angered Soviet officials. In later years Samuel Reshevsky stated his opinion that Keres’ play was not steady enough to have ever won the world championship.
Read about the controversy HERE and HERE.

AVRO 1938

      The AVRO tournament was held in the Netherlands in 1938 and sponsored by the Dutch broadcasting company AVRO. The event was a double round-robin with the eight players generally regarded as the strongest in the world.  They were: Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Botvinnik, Keres, Fine, Reshevsky and Flohr.
      Keres and Fine tied for first place with Keres winning on tiebreak by virtue of his 1.5-0.5 score against Fine in their individual games. Capablanca, who had only lost 26 tournament games over a span of 29 years, lost four games in this event. He had suffered a mild stroke during this tournament and his ill health was largely responsible for this poor performance.
       The tournament was organized in the hope that it would provide a challenger to Alekhine, but it was not an official Candidates Tournament, and World War II dashed any hopes of a championship match for years to come. However, when FIDE organized its 1948 match tournament for the world title after Alekhine's death in 1946 it invited the AVRO participants (Capablanca had died) with the exception of Flohr who was replaced by Smyslov. Fine refused to participate claiming professional duties, but later revealed he had no desire to watch the Russians throw games to each other in an attempt to keep outsiders out of the running.
        The tournament was played in ten Dutch cities.  Each round the players had to make the trip to the next city and most rounds were played in the evening. On those days, the players did not get a hot meal! Adjourned games were resumed in Amsterdam’s Krasnapolsky Hotel. Obviously these conditions favored the young players and fatigue probably had an impact on the play of the two oldest players (Capablanca at 50 and Alekhine at 46) as evidenced by the fact that the youngest, Keres at 22 and second youngest, Fine at 24 tied for first.
        When Keres won, church bells were ringing and schoolchildren got a day off in Estonia. World champion Alekhine didn’t show much enthusiasm because he really did not want to play anuone but Botvinnik.
        In a speech at the opening ceremonies, Alekhine stated that there were rumors circulating that the winner of this event would have preference in a title match.  In his contract with the organizers it was written that he agreed to play the winner under conditions to be stipulated later.
        However, Alekhine pointed out that he retained the right to first play others and the contract had not created new rights or preferences.  So he placed himself on record that a strong tournament was not the deciding factor in selecting a challenger.  At the time, political conditions in Czechoslovakia made a match with Flohr impossible and Alekhine stated he felt free to accept a challenge from any recognized master.  He further stated that if, after the tournament, its winner should challenge him and the organizers of such a challenge would base it on the conditions of previous matches, he would accept the challenge.  He went on to reiterate that the winner should not think he had any preference and he also stated he had the right to refuse to play in any country where public opinion was against him.  He added that he did not have any particular country in mind.

1 Keres ** 1½ ½½ ½½ 1½ ½½ 1½ ½½ 8½
2 Fine 0½ ** 1½ 10 10 11 ½½ 1½ 8
3 Botvinnik ½½ 0½ ** ½0 1½ 1½ ½1 ½½ 7½
4 Euwe ½½ 01 ½1 ** 0½ 0½ 01 1½ 7
5 Reshevsky 0½ 01 0½ 1½ ** ½½ ½½ 1½ 7
6 Alekhine ½½ 00 0½ 1½ ½½ ** ½1 ½1 7
7 Capablanca 0½ ½½ ½0 10 ½½ ½0 ** ½1 6
8 Flohr ½½ 0½ ½½ 0½ 0½ ½0 ½0 ** 4½

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Show No Fear

Do not fear your opponent: Suboptimal changes of a prevention strategy when facing stronger opponents.  By Fernandez Slezak, Diego Sigman, Mariano Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Oct 17 , 2011

The time spent making a decision and its quality define a widely studied trade-off. Some models suggest that the time spent is set to optimize reward, as verified empirically in simple-decision making experiments.
However…adjustment of the speed–accuracy trade-off may not be optimal. Specifically…theory shows that people can be set in a… mode, where focus is on seeking …to win), or in a prevention mode, focusing…(on) not to lose). In promotion, people are eager to take risks increasing speed and decreasing accuracy. In prevention, strategic vigilance increases, decreasing speed and improving accuracy.
When time and accuracy have to be compromised, one can ask which of these 2 strategies optimizes reward, leading to optimal performance. This is investigated here in a unique experimental environment. Decision making is studied in rapid-chess (180 seconds per game)…In different games, players face strong and weak opponents.
It was observed that (a) players adopt a more conservative strategy when facing strong opponents, with slower and more accurate moves, and (b) this strategy is suboptimal: Players increase their winning likelihood against strong opponents using the policy they adopt when confronting opponents with similar strength.

Fax Chess

International correspondence chess play by ‘snail mail’ (i.e. using post cards) was difficult in the old days.  I remember using something from the US Post Office called ‘Air Mail Sheets.’  I think they cost $0.25 each - not cheap by the standards of those days - but they were still cheaper than regular air mail postage.  They were 8.5” x 11” single blue sheets of flimsy paper.  You wrote on one side then folded it up and addressed it.  Things worked pretty good but I particularly remember two ICCF games.  One against an opponent who worked on a pipe line north of the Arctic Circle in Canada; he got mail about once a week, weather permitting.  We agreed to a draw after about one year of play and 10-12 moves.  Then there was the opponent from Siberia; I sent him my first move and never heard anything until I got a letter from the TD a couple of months later informing me I had lost on a time forfeit.  My complaints went unanswered by the East German TD.
Then in the 1990’s the fax machine started coming into prominence and the ICCF became aware of the need to adapt to this technological change.  At the ICCF Congress in Scotland in 1994 delegates were informed of the necessity of taking advantage of the technological evolution in order to avoid the decline in interest in international chess.  It started with two experimental GM fax tournaments in September, 1994 as a test to draft rules and see what problems might develop.  Of course in those days very few people had faxes or computers.
Joop van Oosterrom, the Dutch billionaire and chess enthusiast, came to the rescue.  Van Oosterom was a strong CC player himself and was the 18th World Champion in Correspondence Chess. His achievement was criticized because at the time he had hired GM Jeroen Piket as his personal secretary. Earlier, van Oosterom had had two Dutch International Masters on his payroll whose job was to analyze his correspondence games. Van Oosterom (or somebody playing moves for him) also won the 21st World Championship Final in Correspondence Chess, being the actual Champion of ICCF.   For many years he staged the annual Melody Amber tournaments in Monaco where world-class GM’s played rapid and blindfold games.
It was van Oosterom’s generosity that aided this chess-by-fax experiment; he provided each participant in these experimental tournaments with their own personal fax machine.  The results were pretty impressive because in the second section some of the games were completed in a matter of weeks and a player from Scotland named George Pyrich became the very first player in the history of chess to obtain an International Master title by playing fax chess
In 1995 the decision was made to organize more fax only tournaments along with some e-mail tournaments.  These began on January 1, 1996 and eventually they began offering fax/e-mail tournaments for all players provided the players agreed.