Tuesday, August 7, 2018


So looking through an old book I found a game NOT in the databases. Not only that, the line doesn't appear to have turned up in any other games, either. AND it features an early deviation in lines that could well get played later this year in a rather important event.

Do I reveal all, or try to sell to either the Magnus or Fabi teams?

Friday, May 25, 2018

An addition to the Blog Roll

Over in the "Other Chess Sites" section I have added an entry for a series of related sites. The addition is the "Bobby Fischer Newspaper Archive". It is largely what the title says, an archive of newspaper stories about Bobby Fischer.

But it isn't just one website, it is several. Each year from 1955 onwards gets a separate site. (I don't believe any years beyond 1972 are populated yet.)

Regardless, if one wants to read old articles about Fischer, that is certainly a site to check out. Just go to the one I linked, and at the top of the page is a list of years. Click on the year of interest and then look for articles. Many articles are duplicates distributed by wire services, but they appear to be clearly labeled as such.

The site is connected with another project. I will let the interested reader figure that out for himself.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Small Miss

In a tournament game a couple of weeks back I reached the following position as White, with Black to play:
Black to move

Here Black played 1 … Kc4 and after 2 g4 the game was quickly decided. I had already seen this breakthrough during the exchanges leading up to this position, so it was easy to play.

But I believe Black had a better practical try, namely 1 … f5. Surprisingly, White has one and only one path to victory, and he can even lose if he gets very careless. I will put the solution below the fold.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

More endgame precision

Was looking around some files and stumbled upon an Anderssen-Kieseritsky rook endgame from London 1851. I then found something that surprised me. When I finally understood, I thought it might be worth sharing. The following position is from analysis following White's 53rd move. Blacked erred in playing 53 … Kf4. Had he played 53 … Kxh4 the following position would have eventually been reached:

London, 1851 (m1.2)

What surprised me when I saw this position is that Black has one and only one winning move. I thought it was either a draw to begin with, or that any reasonable move by the Black rook on the c-file would win. Not so.

I will put the rest below the fold for those that want to work it out on their own.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Simon Williams does it again.

The last time we mentioned English GM Simon Williams on this blog the Ginger GM hisownself had invented a new opening, the Bongcloud Transvestite. In his never ending quest to play the weirdest stuff, he has come up with an improvement on the old Englund Gambit (1 d4 e5?!). Here is the tweet with the evidence.

May God have mercy on our souls, for we are naught but wretched sinners all.

And please, no one mention this to Carlos.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Study

Via the Chess Unlimited twitter feed, I was directed to a reddit involving a problem posted on LiChess, apparently published in 1928 by a composer named Birnov. Here is the problem.

Birnov (1928)
White to play and draw

I saw a solution pretty quickly. Knowing that it is a composed problem means that everything on the board has a purpose, which directs one's attention to the e-pawn. So e2-e4 is likely to be involved in the solution. From there the rest is easy. But then I thought I saw a second solution. I am sad to report that I did not figure out why only one of the solutions is correct. I will post the answer below the fold.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tournament Players PROTIP #11: This one is legit

I took about five years off from playing tournament chess from 2011 until 2016. When I came back, I found that I was getting very fatigued by the end of tournaments. Part of that was that I was (at least initially) not in tournament shape, and partly that I was five years older. But it was a real problem.

It took me about 16 months before I could get through a tournament without collapsing again. Part of that was hitting on a method of energy conservation, namely STOP TRYING TO CALCULATE EVERYTHING.

In the past, I would try to work hard at the board all game long, every game. So when it was the opponent's move, I would keep calculating. But there are problems with that. Say the position is very complicated. I make a move and my opponent has five reasonable moves available, and all are complicated. Obviously I have already taken that into account before I made my move, but I can keep trying to calculate all the responses. In some sense, this is the correct thing to do. But I am not 25 anymore, and I tire more easily.

So during a hard game last June, I made my move and ... walked away from the board, thinking about nothing at all. I was already exhausted (it was the fifth round of a weekend long tourney), and I just couldn't do it anymore. I figured I would get back to work AFTER my opponent made his move, and save some energy.

I have since made this a bit of a policy, and I am finally getting through tournaments without hitting the wall at the end.

Incidentally, I mentioned this to Paul a few weeks back, and he reminded me that one of the old Soviets (Bronstein? Botvinnik? Smyslov?) had recommended something similar. Calculate variations on one's own time, and think of general considerations during the opponent's time. Also sound advice, and I was a little embarrassed because I had read it before, but had forgotten it.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Nigel Short to run for FIDE President

Various sites have announced that Nigel Short will run for FIDE President. I believe the news was broken by Nicholas Bergh in the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, and has since been confirmed many other places, including on Nigel Short's Twitter feed.

I don't usually editorialize on the Club blog, as firstly the Club does not really have an official viewpoint on anything, and secondly we have no way of really establishing such a viewpoint other than unanimous acclimation. So I will put my personal editorial viewpoint of this announcement immediately beneath the fold.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Back in the Saddle

Sorry for the absence in recent months. My desktop computer died and took all my passwords with it. I am only now getting everything back into reasonable working order. I hope to resume blogging shortly.

However, here is something that will more than make up for it. Back in the early 1990s, Christopher Chabris, Timothy Hanke, and Patrick Wolff created and edited the American Chess Journal, "a unique quality paperback book/magazine hybrid featuring the best chess analysis, writing, and illustration in the world." Think of it as something like a precursor to American Chess Magazine.

I remember hearing about this at that time, but I never saw a copy, which may explain why they only published three issues, one in 1992, one in 1993, and a final issue in 1995. Fortunately for us, Christopher Chabris has made pdfs of those three issues available for free. He has also included several other articles that did not make the magazine, or that were published by their authors elsewhere. This can all be found at this link:

American Chess Journal, the Best Chess Analysis, Writing, and Illustration

But that's not all! The publishing house (that I presume they created) for the Journal, H3 Publications, also published a couple of books, Kasparov versus Anand: The Inside Story by two-time U.S. Champion Patrick Wolff and Man versus Machine: Kasparov versus Deep Blue by David Goodman and Raymond Keene, which have also been made available via pdf. Those can be downloaded from this link.

I have not looked at the books yet, but I have started reading the American Chess Journal issues. I hope to write more about them later, but for now I will say that the first two issues had high quality content, and I highly recommend them, especially as they are free.

Thank you Professor Chabris for making these available.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tukmakov, Lost in Translation

After a particularly horrific showing at the Southern Class Championship in Orlando last weekend (very ably run by the Continental Chess Association, and where my otherwise very good play was undone by 3 unforced errors), I received a bye for round 4, and had time to peruse vendor Thad Roger's extensive selection of books on offer.  Thad is an American Chess Institution, I should add, so checking out his stuff is obligatory!

My eye was caught by GM Tukmakov's Modern Chess Preparation.  I already own his Risk & Bluff in Chess, but had only read a few games because I have been focused on endgames.

As I flipped through MCP, I noticed that he kept referring to "MF", as in "MF thinks the position is equal" and other such comments.

Of course, my immediate reaction was "MF? WTF?"

Not said out loud, of course- I subscribe to the notion that curse words are a sign of a weak mind trying to express itself forcefully, but it made me laugh and wonder at the same time.  Is MF another GM?  I could not think of an engine by those initials, but maybe there is one out there somewhere.

I investigated further, and at the beginning of the book, Tukmakov explains that "MF" means "Metal Friend".  Whew!

That said, one would get the impression that none of the translators or editors have ever seen an American movie.  And yes, just typing that, with all the unspoken innuendo about American culture, gives me pause...freedom is many things, but classy isn't necessarily one of them.

Even so, I consider this to be a rather awkward and funny translation and editorial gaffe, and below New In Chess's normal standards.  And I love NIC like a groupie.

Of course, when I got home, I checked Risk & Bluff, and on page 11 he writes "As in my previous books, I call him my Silicon Friend, or SF".

Translator revisionist history, I think!

Digging deeper, it seems that the first book (MCP) was written in 2012 and translated by Colin McGourty, while the second was translated by Steve Giddins.  Lesson learned, I suppose!

Monday, January 22, 2018

More on Jacqueline Piatigorsky [UPDATED]

I spent some time this evening looking through Edward Winter's Chess Notes to see if he had published anything on Spassky's vodka story or if he had anything on the details of the contracts for the publication of the tournament book for the Second Piatigorsky Cup. Sadly, he had nothing on either, as best I can determine.

However, being Edward Winter's Chess Notes, the site has vast amounts of interesting stories. Of the items that caught my eye this time, he has a long series of items on Jacqueline and Gregor Piatigorsky, including some outtakes from her autobiography. I probably will not find what I'm looking for in that book, but I will try anyway.

Second, and unrelated to anything else, I found his glowing review of Alexander Alekhine’s Chess Games, 1902-1946 by Leonard M. Skinner and Robert G.P. Verhoeven (McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, 1998). The book is large and expensive, so sadly I won't be buying it anytime soon. But this line from Winter made me laugh:
There are over two hundred French Defence games, and the database buccaneers will not be slow to plunder the book’s treasures.
UPDATE: Jacqueline Piatigorsky's memoir arrived. Jump in the Waves has a chapter devoted to chess promotion, but that includes a wide range of activities, including various chess-in-the-schools programs. So I did not learn anything about the nature of the contracts for the Second Piatigorsky Tournament book.

I have not read the entire book, yet, but will soon. The memoir is short, and perusing a few random chapters it seems well-written and interesting. How many people do you know of that were raised in one of Talleyrand's old palaces?

Spassky Quotes, and a Dash of Dvoretsky's Wisdom

Today I came across a memorable quote from Spassky. It contains easily remembered maxims about a certain kind of middle game, and I will return to it shortly.

The quote reminded my of the following. In the Introduction to Mikhail Shereshevsky's Endgame Strategy, the author recounts the following:
Dvoryetsky considers it essential to know the classics, to analyze complicated practical rather than theoretical endings, and to find general rules and principles of play in complex endings. And in theoretical endings it is sufficient to know whether the ending is won or drawn, and to have a rough impression of the plan of play.
I find these sentences striking for their utility - they lay out a straightforward guide to endgame study. The very last sentence has been updated somewhat in Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. In time he seemed to believe precise positions did need to be known, though hardly an endless amount. The reason why is obvious: adjournments disappeared in the computer era. One can no longer look at a reference manual after five hours of play, the knowledge has to be "at your mental finger tips" during the game or it's useless. However he still believed in knowing general rules, including such things as whether an ending is actually won or drawn, as a guide for approaching endings.

And the first sentence can almost be generalized to include Dvoretsky's methods of training in middle games as well, from what I have seen and understand of his work. (Dvoretsky adds substantial psychological work to his training methods as well.)

Which gets me back to Spassky's quote, which concerns hanging pawns.
The shortcoming of hanging pawns is that they present a convenient target for attack. As the exchange of men proceeds, their potential strength lessens and during the endgame they turn out, as a rule, to be weak.
The power of hanging pawns is based precisely in their mobility, in their ability to create acute situations instantly.*
To get the most out of this, one really needs to study examples, that much is clear. But the truth is that most of use don't really study that much, either because of time constraints or because we prefer play to study.

But knowing the maxims can still help! They guide thoughts and planning, providing a useful shortcut even if you haven't worked through dozens of examples. Knowing general rules and principles, including a "rough impression of play", helps. And Spassky's rules on hanging pawns are particularly good. Why? Because they give more explanation than the quotes I recall seeing in the past, which usually state that hanging pawns are strong when they are mobile and weak when they are pinned down.

Okay, but WHY are they strong when mobile? Here Spassky is helpful: Their mobility allows them "to create acute situations instantly" by advancing! So if the pawns can move, the side with the pawns can create a crisis at the time of his choosing. The opponent must step carefully to avoid getting blasted on every move. Now THAT makes sense. Better still, Spassky's quote is shorter than the explanation I just gave. Perfect!

And how do hanging pawns become weak? The long winded explanation is that first, hanging pawns provide an easily defined target for the enemy. "What should I do? Oh, I'll attack Those Hanging pawns Over There!"** Second, as pieces are exchanged, the ability of the pawns to create an immediate crisis goes down - fewer pieces reduces the chances of the pieces "tripping over each other" and means fewer calculations for the opponent. And finally, in an endgame the possession of hanging pawns likely means having one more pawn island than the opponent, and that is generally a bad thing. Spassky's quote is, again, pithier.

Implied in all of this is that positions with hanging pawns require a lot of calculation all the time, especially if you haven't studied them much beforehand. If you don't like endless calculations, perhaps avoid openings where hanging pawns may occur.

So these maxims, longer than the old advice about hanging pawns, aren't that much longer, are still easy to remember, and tell you why the hanging pawns are strong or weak in specific terms. Commit them to memory, and make use of them soon.

* I have broken the quote into two parts to be more easily remembered. More can be read about the source in the previous post.

** THOTs can kill, people. Avoid THOTs unless you want to live on the wild side.

The Second Piatigorsky Cup, and Sourcing Spassky

[WARNING: This post is long and rambling. But now that I've written it I'm going to post it.]

In the post that will follow this one I feature a couple of quotes by Spassky that I came across online today. The problem with the quotes is that the online sources did not tell me the original source.

So I tried to remember which books Spassky had written, with some help from Amazon. I knew that Spassky hadn't written many books, mostly contributions to a few opening surveys. But I thought that he may have contributed to a book called How to Open a Chess Game, which had seven co-authors. I had to look this up on Amazon because I don't own a copy, to my regret. Spassky had not contributed to that book.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Spassky Story: When did this happen?

I was looking at Boris Spassky quotes earlier today (another post will follow with the why), and came across the following anecdote, which I traced to a ChessBase article about the 2008 M-TEL Tournament.
Some positive news came from Sofia with the arrival of Boris Spassky. The legendary GM went straight into the commentary studio and started to entertain the public. “The best tournament that I have ever played in was in 1950”, he said. “It was great – a waiter came to you during the game, and you could order anything you wanted to drink (even some vodka, if you liked). Pity, there are no longer tournaments organized in this manner…” – ”But didn't anyone protest against this?” asked someone in the public. “Oh, yes, and it was the strongest player of the event, Vasily Smislov.” Spassky kept on pleasing the audience with his colorful memories, excellent chess and witty remarks with short pauses.
I had mis-remembered Spassky's birth year, thinking he had been born in 1939 or 1940, so I wondered about that. Surely a ten or eleven year-old wasn't ordering vodka? Of course, re-reading it, he doesn't claim he had vodka, but still I looked it up, and he was born January 30, 1937. But still!

So I looked in my database, and the earliest game I found between Spassky and Smyslov (a reasonable but not fool-proof way of finding tournaments they both played in) showed that they most likely first met in a tournament held in Bucharest, in 1953. That was the tournament in which Spassky earned his IM title, and at the age of 16 organizers might have even been comfortable offering him vodka. (I have no idea what the customs were in the Soviet Union, from which Spassky hailed, or in Romania, where the tournament was held.) All the other tournaments they played in during the 1950s were much to formal for this to have occurred: everything from Soviet Team Tournaments to a Candidates Tournament. Most of the rest of the tournaments they played in together through the years also seem to meet that condition. Even the 1962 Capablanca Memorial in Cuba was likely too serious for that.

Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone else might have any ideas about when this tournament may have taken place. I can't find anything else about the conditions of the Bucharest tournament, which was VERY strong. I guess I'll try Edward Winter's site.

PS One site I saw listed the tournament participants and the national flags for some of them. Weirdly, it gave the CURRENT national flags. So Petrosian, for example, is listed as being from Armenia. Armenia was never an independent country during his lifetime, and he should have been shown with a Soviet flag.      / pedantry

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Gary Sanders Story

The Autumn edition of Florida Chess (the Florida Chess Association quarterly publication) contained a couple of articles about the death of Gary Sanders, who was the state chess champion on several occasions. I though I'd share the only story of Mr. Sanders I have.

Back in 1986 or 1987, I played in a tournament at the old Sheraton-Twin Towers Hotel. These days the hotel is known as the Doubletree By Hilton at the Entrance to Universal Orlando and sits across of Universal Studios Orlando. Back then, it looked like this


and sat across Kirkman Road from a vast empty lot - which explains why it went into bankruptcy.

The tournament was most likely either the Region IV Championships held in June of 1986 or the $6,000 Southern Open held in January of 1987. It didn't occur to my 18 year-old self that I might be interested in the locations of these tournaments over 30 years later, or perhaps I just assumed I would remember.

It was probably the $6,000 Southern Open. I say that because the vast prize fund attracted not one but TWO internationally titled players to the region. And before you laugh at the vast sum comment, realize that $6,000 would translate into roughly $13,300 dollars today, which is in line with the $15,000 guaranteed that the Continental Chess Association is offering the 16th annual Southern Class Championships in March, and that will attract more than two internationally titled players! (To be fair, there are a lot more internationally titled players now than there were then, and many live here. Back then it was only a mostly-retired Arnold Denker.)

If my old Chess Life Magazines were more easily accessible, I'd dig them out and confirm which tournament it was.

The two titled players were IM Boris Kogan out of Georgia, and GM Roman Dzindzichashvili, out of a different Georgia entirely. Meeting them on the field of honor, as some dead players from the Nineteenth Century might put it, were many of Florida's strongest players, including Gary Sanders.

I'm fairly certain that Sanders was the highest rated actual Floridian at that time. Perhaps someone else can confirm this. Maybe Miles Ardaman was as strong. But if not the strongest player in the state, Sanders was certainly close to it. And there I saw him put on quite a show in speed chess.

Between rounds he had set up shop at a table either in or near the main playing hall, and had started playing speed chess against whoever wanted to play him. Eventually he was trashing other masters while giving time odds of five-minutes-to-three-minutes, and eventually five-to-two. Remember, this is with the old mechanical clocks, with actual hanging flags and everything, no increment, no delay, and no pretense of precision in those last few second. It was quite a sight to watch as a 1600 rated 18 year-old.

At some point this action caught the eye of Roman Dzindzichashvili. Dzindzi was a fantastic speed player, and I have read that he was also a gambling man. So naturally, he sat down to play Sanders. As I recall Dzindzi was giving Sanders time odds of either five-to-three or even five-to-two. And off they went! The rumor in the playing hall the next day was that the two of them stayed up all night playing blitz games, quite likely for money. I never heard who came out ahead, nor can I even confirm that the all-nighter took place. But lots of people in the playing hall believed it! And I can still see Dzindzi hunched over the board in his black leather jacket facing off against the immensity that was Gary Sanders.

Now I'm wondering if anyone else that was there can remember any of this, and perhaps confirm some of the rumored late night activities.