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Thursday, January 31, 2013

At this stage of the game (Carlsen) is not a strong player…

      Can you believe that’s what Sveshnikov said? Carlsen won the 2013 Tata Steel with a fantastic score of 10/13 and as a result many people have been praising his play and noting the variety of ways he has won.
      Anand said of Carlsen, “Magnus is much more efficient at collecting points. He is winning every kind of position… it’s an amazing skill.”
      Against Pentala Harikrishna, he actually played the Ponziani which resulted in an even position and eventually a decisive win. What’s the last time you heard of a player of Carlsen’s caliber playing the Ponziani?!
      Some have even been comparing him to Bobby Fischer but amazingly Evgeny Sveshnikov (and Boris Gelfand) have spoken with disdain about Carlsen and other new kids on the block. Sveshnikov said of Carlsen’s openings, “He is interesting as a practical player, but… Carlsen’s weakness is above all the opening. At this stage of the game he is not a strong player. He should be outplayed in the opening, while his opponents do the opposite. The way new generation plays the opening… I would say those aren’t neither Polugaevsky nor Kasparov. They lack succession in openings. They just play chess, that’s why their chances to fight for the title are small.” What?! Sveshnikov thinks Carlsen is not a strong player?!
      He even went on to add, “I would say Magnus’s future doesn’t look so promising. He is surely a very talented player, but only those who will be making the strongest moves can become the champions. Only scientific component of chess has a chance to win nowadays. Not a single practical player has a chance of becoming the champion without scientific approach to the subject.”
      Reminds me of those guys who said Fischer didn’t have a chance against Spassky.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Houdini 1.5 vs. Cockatoo

As mentioned in a recent post, I purchased the Chess Enthusiast app for the Nook Color and its Cockatoo engine plays quite well; I can’t seem to beat it in blitz. So, I decided to play a blitz game (10 minutes) pitting it against Houdini. Certainly Houdini performing on my dual core laptop has the edge over Cockatoo on the Nook, but even then Houdini’s blitz play was not perfect. Cockatoo played rather passively and allowed Houdini to build up a strong position, but the surprise was that Houdini’s aggressive play beginning at move 34 was not quite sound. Cockatoo’s defensive abilities were not up to the task and it soon succumbed to a strong attack. When I checked the position with Naum, Fritz 12 and Fire xTreme at move 34 both agreed that 34.Qf3 kept a significant advantage and the hasty 35.Bxg6 was also not the best. Cockatoo’s losing blunder was grabbing the Q at move 37 instead of capturing the R on g3.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Do You Explain This Game?

      Taking the advice of reader Paul Gottlieb, I recently made a Nook purchase of Najdorf’s Zurich 1956 tournament book and have not been disappointed. I much prefer Najdorf’s notes to Bronstein’s! I came across the game below between Keres and Boleslavsky that seems incredible. I have been playing through the games with the help of Houdini and when I reached this game was somewhat taken aback by Boleslavsky’s play. Was this a “real” game or did Boloeslavsky throw it it?
       In a paper dated 2008 Charles C. Moul of Miami University and John V. V. Nye of George Mason University conducted a Statistical Analysis of Championship Chess 1940-78.Their goal was to “examine whether players from the former Soviet Union acted as a cartel in international all-play-all tournaments – intentionally drawing against one another in order to focus effort on non-Soviet opponents – to maximize the chance of some Soviet winning.”
       On the eve of the Zurich 1953 Candidates Reshevsky said, “This is going to be a tough tournament to win – probably the toughest of my career.” Being that the Soviets most likely did make every effort to keep him from winning the tournament, he was more right than he knew. Reshevsky was probably worn out at this tournament because he had to play a lot more 'real' games. Russians were afraid of Reshevsky.
      Dr. Reuben Fine once wrote he declined his invitation to The Hague 1948 because he did not want to play in a tournament where the Soviets threw games to each other. I’m not entirely convinced that Fine did not come to that conclusion until later in his career and thought it sounded like a plausible excuse or if he realized that after the war, his strength had simply declined and he chose not to embarrass himself. Since Keres lost his first four games against Botvinnik, suspicions are raised that Keres was forced to throw games to allow Botvinnik to win. On the other hand, Reshevsky once commented that he did not think Keres was steady enough to have ever won a world championship.
       It is strongly suspected that the Soviets cheated in Hague-Moscow 1948, Saltsjöbaden 1952, Zurich 1953, and Curaçao 1962. It is known that they passed notes as was reported in some 1953 and 1954 issues of Chess Review. I have never seen the article by Bronstein but supposedly in the Soviet chess magazine 64 he admitted that some games at Zurich were fixed and that a KGB official asked him, "Do you think we came here to play chess?"
       After round 6 Reshevsky was in lead with 4.5 pts., a half point ahead of Keres and Smyslov. At the time this game was played the Old Indian was a relatively unexplored opening and Boleslavsky’s Rook sacrifice on move 9 was a novelty that looked more like a blunder as he got nothing for it.  Najdorf could not explain it and I was thinking even GMs are not immune to the admonition about not grabbing the b-Pawn in the opening. But then I got to wondering, did Boleslavsky blatantly throw this game?

K and P ending

Here’s an interesting K and P ending.  White’s first move looks fairly obvious, but an interesting situation arises if he mistakenly plays into the drawing line 1.Ke6.

White to move and win

The only winning move.

1.Ke6 Kg7! On any other move Black would lose. 2.Kd5 Kh6 3.Kc6 Kxh5 4.Kxc7 Kg5 And this position is a draw regardless of what White plays with one exception. 

White to move and lose

If White plays 5.Kc6 he loses! e.g. 5.Kc6?? 5...h5 6.Kd6 h4 7.c4 h3 8.c5 h2 9.c6 h1Q and Black wins the Q vs. P ending.  But if White play 5.Kd7 for example, then after 5...h5 6.c4 h4 7.c5 h3 8.c6 h2 9.c7 h1Q 10.c8Q the game is drawn.

1...Kf8 2.c4
2.h6 Ke8 3.c4! (3.Kg7 Capturing the P on h7 only draws. 3...Ke7 4.Kxh7 Kf7! Other moves lose) 3...Kf8 4.c5 winning.

2...Kg8 is equally futile... 3.Ke7 h6 4.c5! This is quickest 4...c6 5.Kd7 Kf8 6.Kxc6 Ke7 7.Kb7 winning.

3.c5 Kf8
3...Kd7 also loses after 4.Kg7 with an easy win.

4.c6 h6 5.Kg6 Ke7 6.Kxh6  and wins

Two Knight Ending

      The endgame with a K+2Ns versus K+P is unusual because the by possessing extra P the K cannot be stalemated (provided the blockade on the P is lifted at the proper moment, of course) and therefore the stronger side can often force mate. There are technical requirements to win this ending known as the "Troitzky line" and it may require up to 115 moves. That’s theoretically speaking of course. Andor Lilienthal failed to win it twice in a six-year period in Norman-Lilienthal and against Smyslov. However, it has been won.  Jakob Seitz (1898-1970) the German–Argentine master once won this ending against Znosko-Borovsky. View that game.
      For several days now I have been messing around with this ending and discovered the following position in which White also has a P.   I found it is quite difficult, there being only one first move that allows White to force the win.  I also discovered a couple of other positions where there is only one move leading to a win.

White to move and win

This is the only move that will allow White to force the win. If, for example, 1.a4 f3! The only move to draw 2.a5 f2 3.a6 f1Q 4.Nc7! On any other move, White loses. 4...Qe1 5.Kd6 Qd1 6.Kc6 Qc1+ 7.Kb7 Qb1+ 8.Nab5 Qa1 9.a7 drawn.
It does not help Black to go after the P with 1...Kc3 2.Nb6 f3 3.Na4+ Kc2 4.Nb4+ Kd2 5.Nc5!  (This is the only winning move.) 5...f2 6.Ne4+ Ke2 7.Nxf2 and wins.
Again, the only winning move.
2…Kc3 3.Ng4
Capturing the P by 3.Nxc3 only draws: 3…Kb4! This is the only drawing move because now the P is lost.
3…Kb4 4.Nf2!
The only winning move.
No better is 4...Ka3 5.Nb6 Kxa2 (5...Kb4 6.Kc6 Kc3 7.Nd5+ Kc2 8.a4 wins) 6.Kc4 Kb2 7.Kb4 Ka2 8.Nc4 Kb1 9.Kc3 Ka2 10.Kc2 Ka1 11.Kb3 Kb1 12.Nd3 f2 13.Na3+ Ka1 14.Nb4 f1Q 15.Nbc2#
5.Nc7+ Kb4 6.Kd4 Ka3 7.Na6 Kxa2 8.Kc3 Ka3 9.Nc5 Ka2 10.Ncd3 Ka3 11.Nb2 Ka2 12.Nc4 Kb1 13.Kd2 Ka2 14.Kc2 Ka1 15.Kb3 Kb1 16.Nd3 f2 17.Na3+ Ka1 18.Nb4 f1Q 19.Nbc2#

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stan Vaughn

      Stan Vaughan, a Life Master with the USCF whose rating briefly peaked at over 2300, was born in Murray, Kentucky in 1956. He was recognized as an outstanding student of American history and as member of the Kentucky Junior Historical Society  drafted a legislative bill which was passed by the Kentucky legislature leading to the preservation of historic covered bridges. He once served as a community church as a minister.
      He has run for congress, been a formidable correspondence chess player, heads the World Chess Federation, Inc. and is a Grandmaster with the World Correspondence Chess Federation (WCCF). And that’s just to name a few of his “accomplishments.”
      Vaughn learned to play chess while in high school in 1975 and in 1980 was the gold medal winner representing the United States at the International Student Games and became American Chess Association national champion the same year. According to Vaughn, his rise eclipsed those of Morphy and Fischer. 
      Vaughn writes that in 1982 he set the world record for number of blindfold simultaneous games played and in February, 2012 he set a Guinness World Record of 110 blindfold simultaneous chess game wins.
      Vaughn received a Masters in Business Administration and earned a PhD in Accounting, is an expert in cryptanalyst which led to his being noted for having solved two of the most important previously unsolved ciphers in the world and in 1986 he was the national Trivial Pursuit Champion. In 1988 he set a world record for the most simultaneous correspondence chess games, playing 1300 games at one time and in 2004 set the world record for over the board simultaneous games, playing 730 games at one time. In 1988 Vaughn won the US National Correspondence Chess Championship of the Chess Connection (TCC) followed by two Mensa World correspondence Chess Championships in 1989 and in 1995. He won the 3rd, 4th, and 5th World Correspondence Chess Federation Championships, being title holder from 1995-2007. Las Vegas mayors have proclaimed 'Stan Vaughan Days' numerous times in recognizing these achievements as well as those as a chess coach, having coached numerous individual and team scholastic chess champions during the 1980's and 1990's.
      I could go on about his achievements, but that’s probably more than enough.
      Stan is also a politician for real. He has run for congress on the Independent American Party platform in Nevada.
      His name is mainly associated with the World Chess Federation. According to their website, “The World Chess Federation, Inc. is a charitable domestic non – profit organization established in 1992 by Undefeated World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer and later in 1996 incorporated to its present status in the State of Nevada. WCF is devoted exclusively to supporting the educational, cultural and recreational value of the game of chess” and “WCF’s most visible activity is organizing The World Chess Championship.” WCF awards organizational titles, including World Arbitrator and sanctions worldwide chess tournaments run by chess tournament organizers who agree to run their events in accordance with WCF rules and regulations. 
      They also calculate ratings and award titles for achievement in competitive play: WCF World Grand Master, WCF World Master. Here is, according to their website, an abbreviated history of the organization:

1988 – Grandmaster Stan Vaughan, Frank Metz and Kon Grivainis created World Correspondence Chess Federation. 1992 – FIDE President Campomanes signed over the rights to the World Chess Champion title to Bobby Fisher. 1992 – Under WCF banner Bobby Fischer played and defeated Boris Spassky for the World Chess Champion title in former Yugoslavia. Bobby Fischer renounced FIDE and turned over his title to WCF. 1994 – Bobby Fischer retired from chess as an Undefeated World Champion. Stan Vaughan became the successor to the above title. 1996 – WCF was incorporated in State of Nevada, USA. 2008 – Bobby Fischer dies. 2009 – After 17 years of litigation WCF was awarded the worldwide rights to “The World Chess Federation”, “The World Chess Champion” title and the rights for the service mark “The World Chess Championship” and “The World Chess Federation Hall of Fame”. 2009 – present – WCF successfully organizes and runs WCF Championship, Candidate and Qualifying tournaments in Las Vegas, Nevada.
      WCF Top Live ELO Ratings 1-Stan Vaughan 3902 USA WCF Grand Master 2-Bobby Fischer (deceased 2008) 2897 Iceland WCF Grand Master 3-Vassily Ivanchuk 2845 Ukraine 4-Boris Spassky 2805 France WCF Grand Master 5-Gata Kamsky 2786 USA 6-Emil Sutkovsky 2741 Israel 7-Le Quang Liem 2735 Vietnam 8-Anna Muzychuk 2678 Slovenia 9-Krishnan Sasikiran 2614 India 10.-Ron Gross 2581 USA WCF World Master 11-Baadur Jobava 2560 Georgia 12-Francisco Metz (deceased 2007) 2500 Mexico WCF World Master 13-Robert Robey 2435 USA 14-Andrew Hammond 2378 England 15.-Chad Gauvin 2221 USA 16-Alexander Stamnov 2201 Serbia .
      Vaughn writes, “Fischer retired undefeated and declined to defend the title in 1994, at which time as the challenger and American Chess Association champion titleholder, I became WCF champion and defended the title successfully in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 (also that year Garry Kasparov declined in writing on October 29, 2008 to challenge me for the WCF).” In 2008 Varuzhan Akobian defaulted rather than violate terms of a non-compete contract with FIDE which prohibited him from competing for the world title which is owned by World Chess Federation.
      Chess Life of the 1990s carried ads for his tournaments, sanctioned by his organization. It has been said Vaughn has a long history of organizing tournaments with the same name as official USCF sanctioned events.
      Vaughn also authored Paul Morphy: Confederate Spy. “Few people realize the key role played by world chess champion Paul Morphy throughout the American Civil War. Written by modern world chess champion Stan Vaughan, Paul Morphy: Confederate Spy offers intricate insights into the international intrigues entered into by the young Morphy as he plays his way into the hearts of foes and friends alike. Travel with Morphy and live through the actual chess matches played with Spanish royalty, French aristocrats, and more as the young diplomat gathers information and assistance for the Confederacy. A true page-turner.”

Vaughn’s most recent endeavor is sainthood for Bobby Fischer.

Visit the WCF Website

Me vs. ChessEnthusiast

      ChessEnthusiast  is a Nook Chess App I bought a few weeks ago for a dollar.  After downloading it I found I had the same problems that the reviewers had in that it wouldn't move...it just sat there and did nothing.  I changed engines and tweaked the time controls and that's when I discovered I have an app on my Nook that I can't beat! 
      It has a lot of features but the main thing is the engines, “Shitoku+” and “Cockatoo” (sound nasty, don't they?).  I could not find either engine listed when I Googled them and when analyzing the below game with Houdini on the Fritz interface I noticed that the Cockatoo engine played not too differently from Houdini.  It makes me think the app's engines may be plagarized and renamed, but I don't know.  You can read a complete review of the app on my book review blog.  Here's a game I played against it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kotov’s Best Game

One of my all time favorite books is Bronstein's Zurich 1953. It has all the amazing games played by the world’s best players of the day who were fighting for a chance to play a match for the World Championship and Bronstein, also a participant, offers brilliant annotations and insights. What more could you ask for? One of his observations: "Exclamation marks are deserved not only for beautiful sacrifices but also by the crucial links in a consistent strategical plan."


Averbakh at Saltsjobaden 1952

Playing through some games from this book I came across (again) what was probably Alexander Kotov’s best known game. The middlegame maneuvering is pretty murky and analyst disagree with the engines as to how much of an advantage White actually has in the position up to about move 20. If you have not seen this game before, here it is for your enjoyment. If you have seen it, enjoy it again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Enjoyed this game!

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The Disappearance of David A. Mitchell

      On Dec 27, 1883 David A. Mitchell was born in Philadelphia and was briefly one of the country’s most prominent chess writers. Brief because sometime in June 1926, at age 42 he vanished and was never seen again. Newspapers of the day said he had been mentally ill and possibly committed suicide, but that was speculation because his body was never found. 
      He wrote two beginners’ books, Mitchell’s Guide to the Game of Chess and another book titled simply Chess. Mitchell’s Guide to the Game of Chess contained what may be some of the worst advice ever handed down: ‘When in doubt, move the King’.  Edward Lasker revised it in 1941.
      In January 1926 the Bulletin magazine wrote, "David A. Mitchell, former chess editor of the Philadelphia Ledger, who has been residing in New England for his health, has moved to Bermuda, where, on Harrington Sound, he finds the climate very mild and expects to spend the winter there."
       Not long after that newspapers reported Mitchell had mysteriously disappeared. Mitchell had returned home from Bermuda in March and on the night of his disappearance on a Sunday he gave his neighbor a check for $25, saying it was all he had and he would not need any more. The Philadelphia] Ledger reported, “Northport, Me., June 2 –David A. Mitchell, formerly of Philadelphia, and author of several books on chess, has been missing from his summer home on Temple Heights here since Sunday night. A searching party was organized by Sheriff Frank D. Littlefield today after a note was found at the house.”
      In the June 3, 1926 edition The Philadelphia Inquirer  carried the following article: "BELFAST, Me., June 2 – Sheriff Frank A. Littlefield and a posse searched the woods on Mount Percival, Northport, Maine, for David A. Mitchell, a Philadelphia newspaper man, who has for the past few years occupied a home near the mountain. Mitchell was last seen Sunday night when he told callers at his home it was the last time they would ever see him and that he was suffering mentally. He had talked of hearing beautiful but mysterious music, and on a card found on his desk was written, 'If he don’t stop that machine I’ll go insane.' Mitchell spent the past winter in Bermuda, returning in March to Northport, and is said to be despondent over the death of his mother a few weeks ago. He has one brother, William L. Mitchell, of Philadelphia. While his house was in perfect order, he took none of his belongings and it is feared he may have drowned himself in Penobscot Bay."
      And that's all that is known about what happened to him.  I was unable to locate any of his games, but did find this problem:
Mitchell, David Andrew
Good Companion, Nov 1918

#2  5 + 5
1.Rxe5 Nxe5 2.Qd4 e6 3.Qh4#
1.Qc8 Qb8 2.Qxb8 Nxe3 3.Qh8#
1.Bc8 e6 2.Rexe5 Ke7 3.Qc7+ Ke8 4.Qd7+ Kf8 5.Qd8#
1.Bg6 e6 2.Rexe5 Nxe5 3.Qc7 Nxg6 4.Qd8+ Ne7 5.Qh8#
1.Bxg4 e6 2.Rhxe5 Ke7 3.Qc8 f5 4.Rxe6+ Kf7 5.Qe8#
1.Bc2 e6 2.Rexe5 Ne3 3.Ra5+ Ke7 4.Qc7+ Kf8 5.Qd8#
1.Bd3 e6 2.Rexe5 Ne3 3.Ra5+ Ke7 4.Qc7+ Ke8 5.Ra8#
1.Bb1 e6 2.Rexe5 Ke7 3.Qc7+ Ke8 4.Rxe6+ fxe6 5.Bg6+ Kf8 6.Qc5#
1.Rh6+ Kg5 2.Rxe5 Nf6+ 3.Kh8 Nh5 4.Qe3+ Nf4 5.Kg7 e6 6.Qg3#
1.Bd7 e6 2.Rhxe5 Nxe5 3.Rxe5 Ke7 4.Qc7 f5 5.Ba4+ Kf8 6.Qg7#
1...Qxc3 2.Rf5#

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Improving

      Trying to improve involves a lot of pain and anguish. I knew one player many years ago who was about 1700, but in a couple of years became a master then gave up chess and has not played to this day. He told me the difficulty of keeping his rating above 2200 was just too much work! Let’s face it. Assuming you don’t have natural talent, becoming good requires hard work! GMs (and aspiring GMs) spend at 6-8 hours a day studying. Some parents spend a small fortune on coaches and in some cases even move to other countries so their kids can become GMs. Of course, most of us will never go to those lengths, but it illustrates the point that hard work and a singleness of mind to dedicate yourself to winning is a prerequisite to improvement. Most of us don’t have it. I know I don’t. At some point I quit studying (and improving) because it got to be too much like work and I already had a job that required 8-10 hours a day without throwing in even more work.
      I knew that ‘retired’ master since he was a kid rated 1200; he used to hitch rides to tournaments with me, so I got to know his study habits. How did he do it? First, all of his spare time was devoted to studying chess. He was an expert on the openings he played. Not gambits! He knew the openings he played very well, including the plans involved for different lines. He knew basic endings and played over tons of games. That was pretty much it. I don’t know how he was tactically because from what I saw he never got into tactical positions too much and his positional play meant he usually had solid positions that were not prone to a lot of fireworks.
      Most of us have studied books on openings, middlegame strategy, tactics and endings, but still don’t improve much, so what’s missing? Could it be because we don’t play over a lot of games with the idea of absorbing them? I watched players browsing at a bookseller’s stall once just to see what people were looking at. Masters looked at game collections and tournament books (a relic of the past it seems) while lower rated players fondled the books on openings and the middlegame. At the club level it seems to me that if you have a decent opening knowledge that should be sufficient. It does not have to be ultra-sophisticated though because tactical skill, strategy and endgame knowledge will sooner or later come into play.
      One rather odd thing I heard was don’t play against weaker players. The reasoning was that pretty soon you will start to play like they do and you will get careless, thinking anything wins, even if it’s on a subconscious level. It creates bad habits. Maybe there is something to that…just try to get a really good player to play skittles against you. Most of the time they won’t. Not because the game won’t be interesting for them, but because they don’t want to start playing crappy chess! Playing against stronger players is a must if improvement is the goal.
      There are no shortcuts; the more knowledge you have of all facets of the game, the better you will be. US Senior Master Mark Buckley said that when he decided to improve, he determined to study all the areas of the game he did not like. He knew it was not going to be fun, but how else was he going to learn things like how to play endings for example?
      Most of us have disorganized study habits. I’m not sure exactly how to overcome that one! But for most of us our study, if you can call it that, means browsing through our latest book purchase, listening to some videos or clicking through some games in the database. It’s enjoyable, but you don’t actually learn anything. When we study we have to work. You have to ask yourself questions. You have to stop and try to understand what you are studying. And when it comes to playing over games you should try to guess the moves before looking at them. That’s not my idea…one of the greatest chess teachers of all time, CJS Purdy, said it. US Senior Master Ken Smith said it. A bunch of other masters have said it, too.
      The importance of studying strategy: These days almost everybody is into tactics and that is the first thing you have to look for before every move because it does not matter how ‘good’ your position is because if you blunder tactically it’s all over. However, tactics are not available on every move. For most of the game a sound tactical blow won’t be possible. So, once you determine there is no combination available, what are you going to do? You will employ strategy to create plans, stop opponent's plans, provoke weaknesses, prepare an attack, etc.
      Many coaches do not recommend training with an engine. They say you should train using a real set. But using a computer is so convenient; no rearranging the pieces all the time and no losing track of the position. The main reason for this recommendation though is probably because positions look different on a real board than they do on a computer screen. The claim is GMs and strong players, when they study, use an actual board. Computers are used, but it is for the purpose of information gathering. I am not sure I agree with this because it doesn’t square with a report by Kenneth A. Kiewra, Ph.D. & Thomas O'Connor, Ph.D. of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
      According to their report all the young masters began playing chess between 3 and 9 and these kids averaged devoting about 20 hours per week for eight years before attaining the rank of master. That translates into about 8,000 of practice to reach master. In addition, almost all of them studied with coaches and relied heavily on computers both to examine games in databases and to play against them. Most of them are also heavy into internet play. Then there is the matter of coaching. Most of them began to study under titled coaches within about two years after learning the moves.
      People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents - Andrew Carnegie. The majority of these kids focused on chess to the near exclusion of other interests. One parent said his kid was “sort of one dimensional” and had no interests outside of chess. The report stated most of them watched less than one hour of television a day; the national average is four.
      It appears these days that computers are essential for real improvement. One story has it that somebody mentioned to GM William Lombardy that he had a million game database and Lombardy just laughed and asked how many of those games had he actually played over. The point Lombardy missed was it was not the size of the database that mattered; nobody is going to play over a million games. The point of the database is to research games for openings, middlegame and endgame themes. I’ll bet Lombardy did the same thing in is playing days but instead of a computer, he probably used index cards. There are many more chess prodigies than ever before, and they mature at a more rapid pace and much of it is because of the tremendous amount of information they can retrieve from databases.
      Human positional intuition is not perfect and computers can sometimes not only find opening innovations, but will actually violate what seems to be positional rules by what the Soviets used to like to call ‘concrete analysis.’ Younger players who grew up with computers seem to accept this; older players are less accepting. Concrete analysis and calculation of variations is now the way GMs play and they often play what were once described as anti-positional moves. I noticed this phenomenon when I first played over the games in Shirov’s Fire on Board.
      When asked how many moves ahead he can think, Kasparov replied that it depended on the position stating, "Normally, I would calculate three to five moves," he said. "You don't need more.... But I can go much deeper if it is required." He noted that in a position involving forced moves it's possible to look ahead as many as 12 or 14 moves."
       One major difference between the way masters and GMs and the rest of us think is they try to refute their moves rather than finding ways to support it. In deciding on a move to make, players mentally plan the consequences of each move and psychological research has shown amateurs are more likely to convince themselves that bad moves will work out in their favor. Amateurs focus more on opponent’s moves that will benefit their plans and ignore moves that lead to their refutation. On the other hand, masters tended to try and find moves that would weaken their position. Strong players think about what their opponents will do much more in an attempt to falsify their own hypotheses.
       The process of hypothesis testing 'falsification' is often held as the principle that separates scientific and non-scientific thinking and is the best way to test a hypothesis. But cognitive research has shown that, in reality, many people find falsification difficult. Scientists have revealed that even they spend a great deal of their time searching for results that would bolster their theories. Trinity College Dublin psychologist Ruth Byrne speculated that the ability to falsify is somehow linked to the vast database of knowledge that experts such as GMs have accumulated. She said, "People who know their area are more likely to look for ways that things can go wrong for them."
      It looks like Orison Swett Marden was right when he wrote, “There is an infinite difference between mediocrity and superiority.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

Leon Poliakoff

      Poliakoff passed away at 6:30 on the evening of May 31, 2011 in Bonham, Texas at the age of 82 after a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s. He was born on November 15, 1928 in San Antonio, Texas. Poliakoff was married on September 13, 1958, and had five children.
      From 1950-1952, he was a U.S. Army Sergeant and Medic and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and bravery in the Korean War. Following this, he served as a dentist for 36 years in Bonham, Texas until his retirement in 1994. Poliakoff also served as the president of the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill for Fannin, Grayson, and Cook Counties in Texas, he was a master chess player and had a lifelong passion for the game. He also wrote articles for Chess Life Magazine and played postal chess.
      His most notable quote was, “Before Prof. Elo stamped numbers on our foreheads, people played to win tournaments or place as high as they could in the standings or simply win as many games they could. Forget ratings. Play to win and let others figure out how good you are.” and "Who says chess isn't fun at any speed?"
       In the 1947 US Open, won by Isaac Kashdan ahead of Anthony Santasiere and Abe Yanofksy, Poliakoff finished 52nd with +5 -6 =2 . The following wild game was played in the 1954 US Open which was won by Larry Evans on tiebreaks over Pomar. Robert Steinmeyer and Arthur Bisguier tied for 3rd and 4th. Poliakoff finished 44th with +5 -4 =3. 
       By 2002, at age 73, his rating had dropped to 1999. But, looking at that list I noticed a number of players in their 70s who had long lost their master ratings, but it was a tribute to their stamina that they were still playing.
       On the 2003 USCF correspondence rating list Poliakoff was ranked 89th at 2248. In the Preliminary of the Second US Correspondence Championship of 2003, he was rated 2229 and +4 -0 =2 to take f1rst place in the section. He did not do as well in the finals, scoring +0 -2 =6 ti finish tied for 5th to 7th. In the 14th USCCC he scored +9 -2 =0 and finished 3rd.

Enjoy the slugfest!

Crazy Game

Over the years I’ve played many offhand games against my opponent in this game.  He has not played OTB in quite a few years but I think he was rated ~1700, maybe 1800.  I got tired playing my usual Torre Attack against him and decided to try something else and it turned out to be a crazy game, but it was a lot of fun.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Attention Left Handed People

For all you left handed chess players, there is now a special Left Handed Chess Set available. The difference in Left Handed Chess lies in the way you can move your pieces. Each piece in these Chess Sets can be accessed, lifted and re-positioned using the left hand!

And…Burger King offers a Left Handed Whopper! As the servers of America's favorite burger, Burger King is introducing the left-handed whopper to give Americans another chance to have it their way. The burger will still feature the lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup and 4-ounce meat patty, but the condiments have been rotated 180 degrees, skewing the weight to the left. The change will prevent the condiments from falling out the right side of the bun when held in the left hand.

The Incredible Mrs. Gilbert

      Mrs. John W. Gilbert is known for her long announced mates; 21 and 35 moves! Beyond those chess curiosities, Ellen Gilbert was a very strong player. Not a very strong female player, but a very strong player, period.
      When she passed away in 1900, The British Chess Magazine published her obituary. “We much regret to record the death of Mrs. Gilbert, of Hartford, Conn., U.S.A., who was formerly the Lady Chess Champion of America for nearly 25 years, and certainly the most prominent Lady chess player in the world. Unfortunately, on searching the back numbers of magazines of that period, we can find no record of her performances when she was a member of the Queen's Chess Club, at Hartford, in the sixties. Afterwards, however, she developed into a most formidable correspondence player, and when in the British and American correspondence tourney, she was paired with Mr. Gossip, she defeated him by a clean score of four games, announcing in one of them a mate in 21 moves, and in another of 35 moves, which proved to be correct. In commemoration of this victory, she was presented with a handsome gold watch.”
      In the September 1, 1877 issue, the Scientific American published an article on her: “Believing that a likeness of Mrs. J. W. Gilbert, of Hartford, Ct., would possess great interest to all lovers of chess in America, we take especial pleasure in gracing our gallery of this week with her portrait. Wishing to avoid a plurality, or, as in the case of Morphy, a confusion of likenesses with but little resemblance in common, we acknowledge an international compliment, and reproduce from the Westminster Papers a picture which we are assured is a faithful likeness of the acknowledged Queen of Chess. Mrs. Gilbert is generally admitted to be the most accomplished lady chess player living, and as a successful player of games by correspondence has achieved a world-wide reputation. The specimens of her play which we give this week surpass anything recorded from actual play, for brilliancy of problematical termination, that has yet come under our notice.”
      Ellen E. Gilbert (April 30, 1837 – February 12, 1900) became famous for her match victory against George H. D. Gossip who had won the 1873–74 correspondence tournament of the Chess-Players Chronicle. Gossip was thought by some to be the strongest correspondence player in the world, but Mrs. Gilbert, playing first board for the United States in an 1879 correspondence match against England, won all four games against him, thereby enabling the US team to win the match.
       She caused a sensation in the chess world by announcing mates in 21 moves and 35 moves in two of their games. As a result of her victory she was hailed as "The Queen of Chess", and poems and at least one chess problem (with the pieces in the shape of a "Q") were composed in her honor.  Steinitz analyzed her games and confirmed the accuracy of her analyses and Gossip dedicated his book Theory of the Chess Openings to her. Unfortunately, this proved to be the high point and end of her chess career.
     She played one move in a "circulating game" in 1883. Her obituary mentioned loss of sight in late years so that is a likely explanation of why she was never heard from again.
      She was born in Leverett, Massachusetts, on April 30, 1837. Her father was a physician and amateur naturalist. She took a teaching position in Hartford, Connecticut, and continued to teach for a number of years at the South School of that city, until she met and married John W. Gilbert, a local builder and chess enthusiast.
      There were a few ladies’ chess clubs at the time and it would have been considered scandalous for a woman to been seen in a typical ‘gentlemen’s’ smoke-filled chess club of the day. Mrs. Gilbert and her husband established a "Queen's Chess Club" in Hartford during the 1860's that catered to both men and women.
      Mrs. Gilbert's chess prowess was stunted by social convention and family obligations so she turned to correspondence play. Her earliest experience in correspondence play was captaining a consultation team from Hartford for an 1870 telegraph match against Springfield, Massachusetts. She won both of her games. Five years later Mrs. Gilbert was involved in a consultation game by electronic correspondence.
      By then there was a new device, called a "telephone," that was being installed in a few homes in Hartford, and Mrs. Gilbert, along with John G. Belden, the chess editor of the Hartford Times, and two other local players were invited to use the private line of a local doctor for a game. In a January 19, 1878 newspaper column it was described as an event where "A good deal of fun, besides chess, was indulged.” The game was unfinished.
       When the chess column in the New York Clipper celebrated its "Millennium", there were two guest contributors of games: Louis Paulsen and Mrs. Gilbert. Her win over South Carolina champion Isaac E. Orchard featured detailed notes possibly based on her comments although the column doesn't identify the annotator. Both this win and her win over an opponent named Hotchkin, annotated by Zuckertort, showed she was also well versed in opening theory.
      In 1877 Mrs. Gilbert twice defeated the Canadian player A. Hood who had won the Canadian Correspondence Champion of 1875. In both of the games against Hood, Mrs. Gilbert announced mates; one in eleven moves, the other in twelve.
      It was curious that she was able to accomplish so many announced mates. In a correspondence game against an opponent given as “Mr. Berry of Massachusetts” in 1874 she announced mate in nineteen moves but it turned out she was wrong. She later corrected herself; it was a mate in eighteen.
      All of that was a prelude to the great International Postal Card Match of 1878 between the United States and Great Britain. The chess editor and organizer of the match, chess editor of the Hartford Times, invited Mrs. Gilbert to play for the American team and that was the event in which she crushed Gossip in all four games. This appears to have been the end of her career. She did not participate in any more matches or tournaments and passed away on February 12, 1900.