28 July 2017

Chess Uniform Contest

'Do you know that chess is the only sport -- and one of the oldest -- that does not have a uniform?' No, I didn't know that.


St. Louis Fashion Fund to create the first ever "Chess Uniform" (7:30) • 'The McGraw Show: KTRS.com'

Featuring: Susan Sherman, Chairperson of the St. Louis Fashion Fund; Reuben Reul Riddick, fashion designer.

By the time you see this post, the event will probably be over, but for reference: Pinned! A Designer Chess Challenge.; 'Join us on August 1st for the opening ceremony of the 2017 Sinquefield Cup and the unveiling of the winning design'. Another page from the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, A Dress for Chess, informs,

Six emerging designers participating in the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator have been paired with six chess grand masters to create two chess-inspired garments -- a uniform piece and one whimsical piece.

For previous, whimsical attempts at chess fashion, see Not the Halloween Gambit (October 2013) and Dressing Up or Dressing Down? (December 2016).

27 July 2017

The Fifth Entry

In my previous post, 2017 CJA Award Entries, I noted,

The fifth entry for chess art is probably the most deserving to win an award, although it's unlikely for a number of reasons.

After writing that I discovered the artist's Wikipedia page, Jovan Prokopljevic, which says,

He was awarded the first prize, 'Best Cartoon' category, by the Chess Journalists of America in 2004.

This is confirmed on an archived CJA page, CJA 2004 Journalism Awards (chessjournalism.org; '"Try a Transfusion of Empire Chess" by Jovan Prokopljevic. Empire Chess, Summer 2003'). In my own archive I found an excellent example of Prokopljevic's work, shown below.

The image description, from a 2001 eBay auction, said,

Collection of 13 caricatures of FIDE champions (from Steinitz to Kasparov) published by Chess Informant; illustrated by J. Prokopljevic 1996. All prints on approx. 8.5" x 11" pages in color. Each caricature has name of champ and dates of title reigns. Comes in collection folder with all caricatures on front. Folder autographed by artist on inside pocket.

Several collections of Prokopljevic's cartoons have been published, but I wasn't able to catalog them in the time available for this post. I'll save that for another time, as in Chess Champion Trading Cards (July 2016).

25 July 2017

2017 CJA Award Entries

I could have written this post at the beginning of the month, but vacations being what they are, it's coming at the end. Two months after the 2017 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2017), the Chess Journalists of America have announced their 2016 CJA Awards -- Entries Received, where, in true CJA tradition, the year on the page's title was not updated from last year's page of the same name. You don't have to take my word that the page is for 2017, because the page's address says '2017entries'.

I found the page through the CJA's Facebook page, Chess Journalists of America. The relevant post mentions, 'We have record numbers of entries and organizations entering', which is informally confirmed by scrolling the page of 'Entries Received'. The category 'Best Chess Blog' also has a record number of entries -- albeit on the low side of the record -- i.e. zero entries.

But let's not dwell on the disappointing; let's focus on the upbeat. My second favorite category, 'Best Chess Art', has five entries. Four of them, shown in the following composite image, are covers.


Top row: Chess Life; September 2016, Scott Raymond; April 2017, Peter Shevenell
Bottom row: Chess Life Kids; February 2017, Alex Krivenda; April 2017, Chandler Ellison

The fifth entry for chess art is probably the most deserving to win an award, although it's unlikely for a number of reasons. The artist is not American, the publication is not Chess Life, and the name on the list of entries is misspelled 'J. Prokopljovic' instead of '[Jovan] Prokopljevic'.

The CJA award winners will be announced in a few weeks. It's more exciting than the Oscars!

24 July 2017

The First USCF Rating List

The 5 January 1950 issue of Chess Life (CL), the first issue of the new decade, announced a new USCF service.

A National Rating System Planned To Cover Local And National Events
By WILLIAM B. [sic] BYLAND
Vice-President, United States Chess Federation

For the past several years the United States Chess Federation has contemplated the adoption of a system for rating the chess players of the United States. The work involved in setting up a practical rating plan has, of necessity, been time-consuming; it was important to give consideration to rating practices used in certain other countries, as well as to examine and study original ideas proposed by American players, for we were determined that the system finally adopted would be the best obtainable, and one eminently fair to all of our country's players.

The studies and the preliminary detail have now been completed, and your Federation officers will shortly he presented with a definitive rating plan for their approval; it is, therefore, our confident hope that a national rating system will be in effect early in 1950. Full details of the final plan adopted will he published in future issues of CHESS LIFE -- but right now we can assure you of certain features of the plan -- features you have every right to expect under a fair and practical system of rating:

1) It will be a rating system designed for all chess players in the United States and will give weight to performances in club, local, and state competition. as well as in the large national tournaments.

2) It will be a completely fair system, entirely mathematical in operation, and only the player's actual performance -- not anyone's personal opinion on his chessic prowess -— will be taken into consideration.

3) It will provide the easiest possible method of -- and incentive for -- improvement and advanceent to the aspiring player.

4) Last, but not least, it will finally solve the perplexing problem of which American players can properly be dubbed "masters", a question which has certainly led to some heated controversies in the past.

We believe that such a rating system will prove extremely popular with the chess players of the United States. We feel that practically all of you are anxious to learn of your strength and standing in the national chess community (the popularity of the various correspondence rankings amply substantiates this view) and we are confident that our national rating system will meet with your instantaneous support and wholehearted cooperation.

The first rating list was published in the 20 November 1950 issue of CL.

The list was the subject of an editorial in the same issue.

INTRODUCING THE RATING SYSTEM

With this issue we introduce the long-promised and long-awaited National Rating System for U.S. chess players; and it will not be amiss to comment briefly upon certain aspects of this system which might possibly be misunderstood by readers who have had little occasion to study the many problems which confront the designers of any such system of mathematical evaluation.

We do not intend to discuss the methods whereby these rating are established, but will leave these explanations to experts more qualified to speak; instead we will content ourselves with a few more general remarks upon the system as a whole.

First, to avoid possible confusion, let us emphasize the fact that the USCF system is independent of any international designation of titles -- the fact that the two U.S. Grandmasters in our list are also FIDE International Grandmasters is a coincidence in the sense that the USCF might qualify other U.S. players, whose performance earned the rank, as U.S. Grandmasters without FIDE conferring upon them the titles of International Grandmasters.

In consequence, there immediately appears an apparent discrepancy in the fact that those players recognised by FIDE as International Masters appear upon our list variously as Senior Masters and Masters. Some might question why all the Senior Masters are not International Masters and why all the International Masters are not Senior masters. The answer lies largely in the fact that a number of U.S. players might well be qualified as International Masters, if they had had sufficient international experience and reputation; but since they have confined their talents to this country, they cannot be recognized by FIDE as International Masters whatever their ability. But we can and do recognise their standing by according them the title of Senior Master upon their performance in this country. Even such an outstanding player as C.J.S. Purdy of Australia is not an International Master. because be has not played outside of Australia in international events.

Second, to still any charge of discrimination from those who may feel certain players have been over-rated or under-rated on this list, let us emphasize now the fact that these initial ratings are based upon tournament play over a number of years and that the ratings have been established by purely mathematical formulas upon actual performance. No committee has arbitrarily decided the standings of any player upon a personal opinion of his ability. But, it is admitted, that this first list cannot be considered absolutely comprehensive for the one fact that the complete details of all tournaments played during this period were not available for computation. Therefore, it is possible that a number of players have been deprived of full recognition in this initial list, merely because the data was not made available whereby to accord them complete ratings. This will be a self-remedying fault as the clubs and association submit in proper form the required details of their various events.

Naturally enough, this first listing does not cover all USCF members, for besides those whose practice has been in inaccessable tournament records, there are many members who have never competed in any formal tournaments. These must compete in formal tournaments, whether club, state or national, in order to acquire a standing.

Montgomery Major

Major was the first editor of CL. For more about him, see Shaping Chess History (September 2016).

23 July 2017

From EBTH to EBAY

What's this? Back-to-back posts on Top eBay Chess Items by Price? That's what happens when a vacation starts at the beginning and ends at the end of the fortnightly series 'Top eBay Chess Items'.

The item pictured below was titled 'Large 19th C O/C French Genre Oil Painting, The Chess Game, Original Frame'. It sold for US $475 after 45 bids from 18 bidders.

The description said,

Hand painted on stretched canvas this 19th century, Victorian oil painting depicts an 18th century chess game between a young lady and a gentleman. They are sitting in a lavish French parlor with a parquet floor, French painted screen, and gilded hanging chandelier. This original Painting is signed in the lower right hand corner, "Jules Brenton". Although this 21-1/4" by 27-1/2" Painting has been professionally wax lined there are no in-painted restorations. The 19th century frame measures 32" by 38-1/4" and has some gesso chips, plus a rebuilt upper left hand corner and an old gold painted surface.

By coincidence I found the same painting (and frame, which I cropped out of the image shown above) on Jules Brenton Oil Painting on Canvas of an Interior Scene (ebth.com). On that auction, which ended about two months before the eBay auction, the painting sold for $9 after 10 bids.

09 July 2017

Napoleon and Josephine Biscuit

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we often see porcelain figurines or figural groups, as in Soviet Propaganda Porcelain (August 2016), but I don't recall seeing bisque porcelain. The auction for the piece below, titled 'Napoleonic Biscuit Group of Napoleon & Josephine playing Chess, Scheibe Alsbach', said 'Sold for US $2100', but the eBay index of closed listings said it sold for $1500, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description said,

German bisque or biscuit figural group of Napoleon and Josephine playing chess. Early 20th century, marked. Nice quality, every detail well worked out.

Signature & Marks: No signature. Crossed S for Scheibe
Origin / Artist / Maker: German, Scheibe Alsbach porcelain factory
Material: Bisque porcelain, biscuit porcelain
Size: H/W/D: 20/23/13 cm or 7,87/9,05/5,12 inch.
Condition: This figural group in very good condition with a small restoration done to her left little finger. Furthermore no restorations, no cracks, no hairlines.

According to The chess games of Napoleon Bonaparte (chessgames.com; 'Number of games in database: 3'), 'Napoleon fostered a deep love for chess throughout his life'. According to Napoleon Bonaparte and Chess (chesshistory.com), 'Each of the three "Napoleon games" conveniently comes with a nice story, but nice stories are not chess history.'

07 July 2017

No Monkey Business Here

Is this a drawing or a photo?


What's My Next Move? © Flickr user Maureen Barlin under Creative Commons.

It's neither. The description said,

Street art in London, Shoreditch, June 2017. Artist?

The tags said,

London, East End, Shoreditch, street art, spray can art, painting, chimpanzee

and of course,

chess board

The position on the board is decidedly strange, but what do you expect from a chimp?

06 July 2017

Browne: 'I got this aggression that never quits'

After last week's Fischer: 'I'm not seeing people', let's squeeze one more post out of the aging Sports Illustrated (SI) reports on chess. The American magazine tends to spotlight American sports celebrities and chess is no exception.


Sports Illustrated, 12 January 1976

The article starts,

It is amazing.There he was, a child lost in the concrete anonymity of Brooklyn, solitary, restless, different. And then he cultivated a demanding friend: chess. Obsessed, he would stay up half the night replaying the games of the masters, scorning school and withdrawing deeper into himself. Distressed by his isolation, his protective, foreign-born mother introduced him to the famed Manhattan Chess Club where he became renowned for his killer instinct. A sometimes petulant prodigy, he was given to gloating about "destroying the weakies" when he won and scattering the pieces off the board when he lost.

At 16, declaring that "teachers are stupid," he quit Erasmus Hall High School and became a chess vagabond. He toured the world, winning tournament after tournament, complaining about playing conditions and accusing the Russians of conspiring against him. And then, after settling in California, he mounted an all-out assault to wrest the world chess title away from the vaunted Soviet champion.

What's that? You heard it all before? But that is the amazing thing: you have not. Though the stated facts of their careers are exactly the same, the prodigal son of Brooklyn referred to is not Grandmaster Robert James Fischer but Grandmaster Walter Shawn Browne.

For the rest of the article, see Making All the Right Moves, where the photo shown above is captioned, 'Walter Browne is briefly motionless, not the normal state for this go-go grandmaster who feels he can beat anybody at anything -- and the Russians at chess'. For more about Browne on this blog, see Six Times U.S. Champ (June 2015).

04 July 2017

July 1967 'On the Cover'

Unlike the previous edition of this series on American chess 50 years ago, June 1967 'On the Cover', which featured a crosstable on one side and Bobby Fischer on the other, this month we have two subjects which were (and still are) covered less frequently.


Left: '1967 U.S. Women's Champion'
Right: 'In Montreal, at Expo, with Care-ease.'

Chess Life

Edith Lucie Weart, left, presents the cup which she donated in 1951. 1967 U.S. Women's Champion Mrs. Gisela Gresser accepts the cup immediately following the tournament.

The winner has her own Wikipedia page: Gisela Kahn Gresser. The presenter was recently featured on a top American blog: Edith Lucie Weart (tartajubow.blogspot.com).

Chess Review

Paul Keres, as member of the Estonian delegation to Expo, the World's Fair at Montreal, played twelve clocked games simultaneously at Sir George Williams University. On the cover, he is considering his game with Max Guse and the move which he made, 24.RxP+.

In case you're wondering, the phrase 'Care-ease' used on the cover of CR mimics the pronunciation of 'Keres'. Only one game from the simultaneous exhibition has found its way into Chessgames.com; see Paul Keres (1967).

03 July 2017

Site Stats and Security

Let's have a recap of this series on site statistics:-

  • 2017-06-05: Chess Stats Year-Over-Year • 'In the past few months I've noticed a big drop in the number of daily visitors and I would like to know why.'
  • 2017-06-12: Site Stats and Adsense • 'I doubt that these Adsense issues are responsible for the decline in visitor traffic, but they don't help.'
  • 2017-06-19: Site Stats and Images • 'My server log only tells me that nearly all of the accesses were from Google.'
  • 2017-06-26: Adsense Stats Year-Over-Year • 'That makes a downward trend on the server log and an upward trend on ad impressions.'

Google Blogspot, Google Adsense, Google search. It's not hard to see the common denominator here. Google everything? While I was compiling that list of recent posts, I noted a typo on one of them and opened the post in edit. On checking the correction, I got the usual error message 'Your preview failed to load' (which has been happening for a few years already), followed by another usual error message:-

This page contains HTTP resources which may cause mixed content affecting security and user experience if blog is viewed over HTTPS.

Fix / Dismiss / Learn more

Instead of the ususal 'Dismiss', I accidentally clicked 'Fix'. Preview then showed a broken image, so I closed the edit without publishing. The post had disappeared entirely and the source of the post was marked 'DRAFT', so I again opened the post in edit to republish it. The image link had been changed from HTTP to HTTPS. I changed it back to HTTP, saved, and everything was OK (except a Google+ duplicate, which I deleted).

All that rigmarole occurs because I store the blog images on my own m-w.com domain. The 'Learn more' option on the last error message leads to Fix mixed content on your blog (support.google.com). While researching this I discovered the page HTTPS as a ranking signal (webmasters.googleblog.com; August 2014). It says,

We're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal -- affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content --while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.

Is this the reason for the drop in the number of daily visitors on my site? One of the links in that article goes to Youtube.


Google I/O 2014 - HTTPS Everywhere (45:44) • 'Published on Jun 26, 2014'

The description of the video says,

Data delivered over an unencrypted channel is insecure, untrustworthy, and trivially intercepted. We must protect the security, privacy, and integrity of our users data. In this session we will take a hands-on tour of how to make your websites secure by default: the required technology, configuration and performance best practices, how to migrate your sites to HTTPS and make them user and search friendly, and more. Your users will thank you.

That promises more work that has nothing to do with the content of the site, but I need to look into it at some time in the months ahead. In the meantime, I'll review the recent article How you can cut Google out of your life ... mostly (yahoo.com). I'm afraid it won't be so easy for webmasters.

02 July 2017

Do Cheerleaders Play Chess?

Every few months the short list for Video Friday (last seen a few days ago in Chess on Network Television) includes an episode of 'Cheerleaders in the Chess Club'. For various reasons it never gets picked for the final post, but maybe it works for this series on 'The Sociology of Chess'. You be the judge.


Cheerleaders in the Chess Club - Ep1 / S1 (10:55) • 'Published on Dec 17, 2015. Cheerleaders in the Chess Club - Episode 1 / Season 1'

The first chess sequence starts with the making of a video within this video:-

Gwen: Welcome to the Bulldog Chess Club. In today's episode we will be talking to Garth about a series of opening moves called the King's Gambit. Garth, what can you say about this exciting style of play? • Garth: Well, Gwen, the King's Gambit is not for the light of heart. Exposing your King so soon might seem risky but there's a reason why it was the third most popular opening of the 17th century. • Howard (holding cue cards): 19th century. That is a '9'! • Garth: It looks like a '7'. Some people put a line through their '7's...

That's shows more knowledge about chess than a previous Video Friday pick this month, 1.h4 h5 2.g4 g5, so we're off to a reasonable start.

In Cheerleaders in the Chess Club (TV Series 2015–), the IMDb informs, 'Country: Canada'. I'm a day late, but Happy Sesquicentennial, Canada!

30 June 2017

Chess on Network Television

It just gets better and better. A few months ago we had Chess Broadcasting Gets Professional (February 2017). Now we add network television to the mix.


Paris Grand Chess Tour: How To Broadcast Chess On Television? (4:38) • 'The Paris Grand Chess Tour is being broadcast on French TV by Canal+. IM Malcolm Pein and IM Almira Skripchenko discuss the topic of broadcasting chess successfully on TV. '

See also Vivendi sponsors the Paris Grand Chess Tour (vivendi.com; June 2017):-

For the second year in a row, Vivendi sponsors and hosts the Paris Grand Chess Tour, the first stop of the most prestigious chess tournament with the world’s best players. The tournament will be shown live on Dailymotion from June 21 to 25, from 2pm to 6:30pm. The highlights will also be broadcast each day at 11:30pm on Canal+ Sport. The first three days (June 21-23) will be dedicated to “rapid” games (approximately 1 hour) and the two following days (June 24-25) to “Blitz” games (approximately 15 minutes).

The Canal+ Sport highlights don't seem to be available on the web, but we might eventually see an example.

29 June 2017

Fischer: 'I'm not seeing people'

Along with the Sports Illustrated (SI) reports on the World Championship -- documented in my recent post on another blog, Spassky: 'The Dr. Zhivago of Chess' -- I discovered another 40 or so SI articles dealing with chess. The most popular of the chess sub-topics was undoubtedly Bobby Fischer. The most unusual article about the 1970s American cultural hero appeared in the mid-1980s.


Sports Illustrated, 29 July 1985

Curiously, the person pictured on the lefthand page looks more like Tobey Maguire, who played Fischer in the movie 'Pawn Sacrifice' (2015), than it looks like Fischer himself. The 1985 article started,

About six years ago, sportscaster Dick Schaap was visiting Wilt Chamberlain in Wilt's celebrated California mansion when Schaap got the idea of trying to get in touch with his old friend Bobby Fischer. Schaap had known him since the 1950s, when Fischer was a rising chess star in New York and Schaap was a young magazine reporter assigned to cover him. So Schaap called Fischer's closest friend and confidante, Claudia Mokarow of Pasadena, and asked her to tell Bobby to contact him at Chamberlain's home. Soon afterward, Bobby rang back.

"Are you really at Wilt's house?" an astonished Bobby asked. Schaap assured him he was. "I'd really like to see that house!" "Would you like to join us for dinner?" Schaap asked. "I'd like to," Bobby Fischer said, "but I'm not seeing people."

A partial list of SI's Fischer articles is given below. It doesn't include the articles on the World Championship already given in the 'Dr. Zhivago' post. Bobby would have insisted that the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch was also a World Championship title match, but he is no longer with us and there is no need to humor him.

That last article starts,

When chess master Bobby Fischer died of renal failure in an Icelandic hospital last Thursday, at age 64, he left trailing in his thickly bearded wake a legacy as confusing and mixed as it was memorable and even magical.

Confusing, mixed, memorable, magical -- yes, that was Bobby Fischer.

27 June 2017

Deep Blue 'On the Cover'

Twenty years after IBM's Deep Blue beat World Champion Garry Kasparov, people are still talking about it, not the least among them GM Kasparov in a book released last month: Deep Thinking (amazon.com; May 2017), 'Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins' by Garry Kasparov. Two earlier books by computer chess experts covered the IBM - Kasparov match and surveyed its aftermath.


Left: Feng-hsiung Hsu, 'Behind Deep Blue'
Right: Monty Newborn, 'Beyond Deep Blue'

Behind Deep Blue (amazon.com; October 2002), 'Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion' by Feng-hsiung Hsu.

Preface: This book recounts my view of the adventure to create Deep Blue, the first computer to defeat the World Chess Champion in a serious match. I started the project in 1985. Twelve years later, the adventure ended with Deep Blue setting a major milestone in human history and forever altering our view of how we would live with the computer.
Beyond Deep Blue (amazon.com; April 2011), 'Chess in the Stratosphere' by Monty Newborn.
Preface: Thirteen years have passed since IBM’s Deep Blue stunned the world by defeating the human world chess champion at that time, Garry Kasparov. The purpose of this book is to initially reconsider Deep Blue’s achievement and then to survey subsequent milestones in the world of computer chess. Following Deep Blue’s retirement, there has been a succession of better and better chess engines, that is, computing systems programmed to play chess. [...] Each of the 21 chapters in the book — except the final one — covers a milestone of some sort. [...]

Feng-hsiung Hsu has already appeared twice in this blog:-

Monty Newborn has appeared once:-

I expect we'll be seeing more of both.

26 June 2017

Adsense Stats Year-Over-Year

A few weeks ago I started this current series of posts with an observation on my m-w.com domain, as documented in Chess Stats Year-Over-Year:-

In the past few months I've noticed a big drop in the number of daily visitors and I would like to know why.

Since it's always useful to get a confirmation of a trend from a second source, what does Google Adsense say? In the past I've noticed that the absolute numbers on my server log don't match the numbers in Adsense, but the trends should be similar, shouldn't they? Here's a chart showing Adsense stats from the first half of 2016 compared to the first half of 2017.

Although I've juggled the ad units over the 18 months covered -- as documented in the second post in this series, Site Stats and Adsense -- and although there is some noise in the 2017 portion of the chart due to the ads on my blogs, the totals are showing a definite upward trend year-over-year. That makes a downward trend on the server log and an upward trend on ad impressions.

This is not what I expected to see. How to explain this?

25 June 2017

'Mystery Painting' on eBay

In this long running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I try to avoid repeating featured items, but sometimes it can't be helped. If the painting pictured below looks familiar, it might be because it's been the basis for two previous posts:-

This latest appearance of the painting was titled 'Vintage C.W.Towin, Genre Oil Painting, French Cavalier Men Playing Chess'. It sold for US $455 after 33 bids from eight bidders.

The description said,

After a Google [image] search we found that this mid-20th century oil painting on stretched canvas is a very well executed copy of the famous painting “Chess Players” by the Belgian artist, Alex de Andreis (1880-1929). It depicts two French cavalier men in the middle of an intense chess match. The gentleman to the left is holding a clay pipe in one hand and stroking his beard as he contemplates the next move. His opponent is [sic] a glass of liquor and has a very confident look on his face.

The quality of this 24” by 20” oil painting is excellent and with the exception of some stable craquelar to a few areas, there are no problems or any restorations. The artist has signed the lower right hand corner “C.V.Towin”. This circa 1950s Oil Painting comes in its original 22 3/4" by 26 3/4" gilded frame.

Although the composition is the same as the variations shown in the 'Still a Mystery' post, the details are different. I found this latest variation in another recent auction C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century), 04.06.17, Sold: $153.40 (aspireauctions.com) along with the further explanation,

50. C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century) • 20" x 24" • Chess players. Oil on canvas, signed lower right, framed in carved and gessoed wooden frame, overall 23" x 27". • Condition: Slight craquelure surface, some losses to frame, otherwise very good. • Estimate: $250/500 • Sold with Premium: $153.40 • Closed: Apr 6, 2017

With each new post, the painting becomes less of a mystery. It was probably painted by Alex de Andreis (aka d'Andreis), variously identified as (take your pick):

British, 1880-1929; Belgian, 1871-1929; Belgian, 1871-1939; Belgian/British, 1880-1929

The painting was first copied by the Taber Prang Art Co. (not 'Tabor Prang' as my December 2007 post recorded) and later copied by other artists. The main mystery remaining now is -- where is the original painting?

23 June 2017

Chess Emotions Run High

At the beginning of the month I wrote a post Award Winning Chess Photos, about the 2017 Photo Contest (worldpressphoto.org). The photos below are from the same contest. I've cropped out the museum label, which started,

Sports; 2nd prize stories • Michael Hanke; Czech Republic

The photographer's description of the photo explained,

This exhibition was at the BCCC [Barcelona Center of Contemporary Culture] near where we were staying, and one of the festival sites, so we spent a good two hours looking at it. [...] This series of photos from a chess tournament caught my eye. Particularly the expression on the little boy's face - it reminded me of how James gets when he's intensely involved in a game.

The little boy's face reminds me more of a primal scream and I have to wonder if he's winning or losing.


World Press Photo © Flickr user Clare Griffiths under Creative Commons.

The museum label also had a short description of each photo (there are two in the center).

A father gives his son advice in Zdice. • The moments before the start of a new round in Zdice. • Parents and trainers watch the course of a game in Slany. • Emotions run high at a tournament in Kamenice.

'Advice in Zdice'. Does that rhyme?

22 June 2017

Sports Illustrated 'On the Cover'

On top of learning More About Thomas Emery, in that previous post I discovered that an influential American sports magazine was a source for in-depth feature articles about chess.

Here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

Back to that old question, The Graffiti Wall - Is Chess a Sport? (December 2013), if SI thinks it's a sport, then the matter is settled. The magazine has even featured chess on its cover.


Left: 'U.S Chess Champion Lisa Lane'
Right: 'Bobby's Chessboard Mastery'

7 August 1961: QUEEN OF KNIGHTS AND PAWNS • 'Once tolerated as a good-looking girl who played chess, Lisa Lane is now a champion who wants the world title' • seven page article by Robert Cantwell

Lisa Lane is an ardent and optimistic girl who won the U.S. women's chess championship soon after she learned how to play chess and now expects whatever she is involved into work out as well. If Lisa hears of a tournament that may possibly be held at some time in the future she takes it for granted that she will play in it, she naturally believes that she will win, and from that it is only a logical step for her to buy a new dress in anticipation of her victory.

14 August 1972: HOW TO COOK A RUSSIAN GOOSE • 'First, catch a Russian -- and at long last Bobby Fischer apparently has, dominating Boris Spassky so completely that only a sharp reversal can keep the young American from becoming world champion' • four page article, also by Robert Cantwell

On summer evenings in Iceland the sun barely sinks below the horizon. There is a joke going around that Bobby Fischer demanded it set three hours earlier, but so far the Icelandic Chess Federation hasn't been able to arrange it. In any case, it is daylight most of the time, and the only real darkness in the land these days has been in the cavernous interior of Reykjavik's Exhibition Hall, where the World Championship Chess Match is going on, and possibly in the heart of Russia's Boris Spassky.

The last photo in the Lisa Lane piece looked familiar and I found it in an eBay post, Two American Champions (March 2016).

***

At no.2, behind Serena Williams (Tennis)...

7 March 2017: Sports Illustrated's best portraits of women athletes • 'In honor of International Women's Day, Sports Illustrated showcases portraits back through the years on our outstanding women athletes.'

...Photo by John G. Zimmerman.

20 June 2017

More About Thomas Emery

While working on a recent post, Thomas Emery, I was disappointed that I found so little non-chess web material about the man. I continued to look and found details about his family in a book, 'Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati' by Wendy Hart Beckman. This first passage (p.88-89) is about Emery's grandfather.

[Procter and Gamble, ca.1837] began by creating soaps and candles for Cincinnati's citizenry. Gamble made the soaps and candles, and Procter took care of administrative duties and marketing. He loaded the products up in their wheelbarrow and carted them around to the various stores to sell. Soon their business grew enough that they could move to a location on Western Row (now called Central Avenue), closer to the slaughterhouses.

They were not alone in taking advantage of the rich supply of pork fats, though. By the end of the decade, they were joined by Michael Werk from Alsace, Thomas Emery from England, and Andrew Jergens from Germany, all of whom started businesses using the abundant fats and oils of Porkopolis to make soaps and candles. Soon Cincinnati's soaps were sold throughout the state, thanks to a great extent to the canals.

Thomas Emery did not always enjoy success in his candlemaking. Born in England, he immigrated to the United States in 1832 with his wife and his son, Thomas Josephus Emery. Emery first tried his hand at selling real estate and then began dabbling in soaps and lard oil. His first attempts only landed him in bankruptcy, however. Soon enough, Thomas Emery found his niche: real estate and fatty acids.

The second passage (p.140) is about his uncle.

Thomas J. Emery married Mary Hopkins in 1866; Samuel Hannaford built their family home, the Edgecliffe, which overlooked the Ohio River. However, theirs was not to remain a happy family for long. They had two sons: Sheldon, born in 1867, and Albert, born in 1868. Albert died at the age of 16 as the result of a sledding accident, and Sheldon died at 23 from pneumonia while a student at Harvard. Thomas died in 1906, leaving his widow a lonely millionaire for 21 years. He left her his $20 million fortune with no directives as to how to spend it.

The last passage (p.141) is about his father.

Mary Emery died in 1927 at the age of 83. Tom and Mary Emery had no heirs; younger brother John was still a bachelor in his 60s, so he married a 22-year-old woman and had five children to pass on the family name and philanthropic tradition. That tradition was carried on in John J. Emery Jr., who also enjoyed success in the hotel business, building the 48-story Carew Tower (Cincinnati's tallest building at the time), the Netherland Plaza, and the Terrace Plaza hotels. He also founded Cincinnati Country Day School and held leadership roles with the Boy Scouts of America and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Meanwhile, his sister Audrey showed herself for having a flair for fashion and flings. She was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in America and married into Russian nobility not once, but twice, including the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the cousin of Nicholas, Russia's last czar.

The family relationships are shown in a family tree from Cincinnati Magazine, December 1988 (p.76).


THOMAS EMERY and wife, KEZIA BROWN.
(Born 1798 in Bedford, England; arrived in America in early 1830s; died 1857)

Chess benefactor Thomas (1896-1975) is shown farthest to the right on the second row. Two of his siblings have found their way into Wikipedia:-

His son, not shown in the family tree, died in 2004: John Joseph Emery.

John Joseph Emery, 73, died Nov. 27, 2004, in Bar Harbor. He was born March 11, 1931, in Biarritz, France, the son of Thomas and Constance (Thomas) Emery. His family came to the United States in 1940, because of the war, where they resided in Oyster Bay, Long Island. [...] His grandfather, John J. Emery, built "The Turrets", an historic cottage in Bar Harbor, in which the family lived, it is now owned by the College of the Atlantic, of which John was a big supporter.'

Since this is a chess blog and there's nothing yet about chess in this post, I'll add a few Thomas Emery chess stories that I encountered during my investigations. First here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

1960-06-06: Revival of an old Army game • 'In the annals of American sport it would be difficult to find any event so completely overshadowed as was the first annual armed forces chess tournament in Washington a fortnight ago. About the time the 12 contestants had adjusted themselves to playing in the air-conditioned basement of the USO building on Lafayette Square, the U-2-summit affair exploded, and the entire city was awash with excitement.'

Next here's a New York Times article about another event Emery sponsored.

1973-11-04: Lyman and Chess are back on TV • 'Introduced by the Gillette sports song, Shelby Lyman, the chess teacher, returned to the air yesterday, providing move-by-move analysis on Channel 13 of the first in four-game match between the champions of the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs. [...] The match is being financed by a $25,000 grant from Thomas Emery and the American Chess Foundation. Emery, a long-time chess patron, subsidized José Raul Capablanca, the Cuban who was world champion from 1921 to 1927, The foundation underwrites the United States Chess Championship and the Armed Forces Chess Championship.'

Finally, here's a story about the disposition of Emery's bequest to the Armed Forces tournament.

Honor the Intent by Don Schultz • 'The Cramer Awards for Excellence in Chess Journalism are not the only victim of the Chess-in-the-Schools new policy. An example is the income from over a million dollars of Thomas Emery donations. Emery was a close friend of many of our finest players, including Frank Marshall and Al Horowitz. He helped support master chess. He also was a member of the Marine Corps during World War I and as a result had an enduring interest in armed forces chess. He sponsored the first Armed Forces Championship in 1960, and continued to sponsor it during his lifetime. He had every expectation that income from his donations would continue to be used for master and armed forces chess promotions. But it is not. All of it is now being used for the Chess-in-the Schools New York City inner city school programs.'

Back to my first Thomas Emery post, will I find as luch about the other chess patrons mentioned there?

19 June 2017

Site Stats and Images

In a recent post, Site Stats and Adsense, I used the server log on my personal domain to look at the relative popularity of my web pages. Similar techniques can be used for images. I did this a few years ago in Photos of February (March 2015):-

One thing I've always wanted to do -- but never found the time -- is to analyze the popularity of the various images stored on the site.

I don't want to repeat that exercise here, other than to mention the most popular photo for May 2017:-


The Match That Never Was (September 2012)

The log can also be used to follow the progress of a new post by tracking its corresponding image. Let's take, for example, my first post from May 2017 that used an image -- May 1967 'On the Cover'. -- and follow the progress of that image from the moment of its creation. (Because it's the information provided by the link which is most important here, I'll give the URL of the referring page without converting it to a link.)

The first call of a new image is always from its directory. This is because I check the image after uploading it, in case it was somehow damaged in the process (it happens). I then copy the full URL and add it to my new post.

  • http://www.mark-weeks.com/cfaa/

The next call of the new image is by the mechanism that distributes it to social media. For this CFAA blog, I see five accesses by dlvr.it, where a short URL expands to the full URL of the new post plus the parameters utm_source=dlvr.it & utm_medium=facebook.

  • http://dlvr.it/P2yc0M

After this the new image starts to be displayed on a single page for the new post or on the home page of the blog, where the most recent post appears first.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2017/05/may-1967-on-cover.html
  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/

Some time later, the image is called from various content aggregators. Here's one that appears regularly...

  • http://newsblur.com/site/1749928/chess-for-all-ages

...and here's another that appears to be worth exploring:-

  • http://www.rightrelevance.com/search/articles?query=chess%20player

After more posts have been added to the blog, the original post starts to show up on pages of 'Older Posts'.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2017-05-04T17:39:00%2B02:00&max-results=7

Since I also use my m-w.com domain to store images for my other blogs, the same process applies to them. Here's the most popular image on my World Chess Championship blog for the month of May.


Che Guevara at the Havana Zonal (January 2014)

And here's the most popular image on my Chess960 (FRC) blog for the same period.


Finding Top ICC Chess960 Players (November 2013)

That last chess960 image, as simple as it is, was just as popular as the top CFAA images, even though the C960 blog gets about 10% of the traffic that CFAA gets. Why this popularity? My server log only tells me that nearly all of the accesses were from Google. For example, the first access of the month was from

  • https://www.google.com.ph/

That's pretty much normal for an investigation into site statistics. An answered question nearly always leads to new questions.

18 June 2017

The Chess Remedy?

Ever since I started this series on 'The Sociology of Chess', it seems that whenever I work up a short list for Video Friday (last seen in Kasparov Talks at Google), there's at least one clip that delves into some aspect related to sociology. This latest one starts,

The youth of this generation, particularly those in the inner cities, are suffering from a failing educational system and high amounts of addiction. Politicians, social activists, and various charity organizations have been working to stop this epidemic for [many] years. What if I told you that the answer was simple? What if I told you that the answer was chess?


Caleb Varghese: Chess - A Social and Educational Remedy (16:21) • 'Published on Jun 16, 2017'

This might not be the best presentation I've seen on the 'Chess in Schools' topic and it might contain some questionable facts, but it covers more territory than most such presentations do. Here is a list of the slides used:-

  • Originally played by warrior class and aristocracy
  • 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu
  • Strategy and tactics
  • Understanding reactions to every action
  • Chess solution to addiction?
  • A village in India
  • Playing chess improves critical thinking skills
  • Magnus Carlsen plays blindfold simul against 10 Harvard lawyers ('highest ranked chess players in the world'?)
  • Chess makes you smart
  • Extracurricular activities supplement academic studies
  • Chess evens the playing field
  • Chess promotes discipline
  • Get chess in schools
  • It's your move

For more about the context of the presentation, see English 10P Talks Reveal a Wide Range of Student Interests and Passions! (thewheatleyway.org; Old Westbury, Long Island, New York; 1 June 2017).

16 June 2017

Kasparov Talks at Google

The short list for this edition of Video Friday was eventually further shortened to two Kasparov clips. The first was a MasterClass trailer. If you have a Facebook account and if you have ever shown any interest in chess, you have probably been presented this clip more times than you can count on your fingers and toes. If not, it's here: Garry Kasparov Teaches Chess | Official Trailer (youtube.com; MasterClass). The second Kasparov clip on the short list was more interesting.


Garry Kasparov: "Deep Thinking" | Talks at Google (38:50) • 'Garry Kasparov and DeepMind’s CEO Demis Hassabis discuss Garry’s new book, his match with Deep Blue and his thoughts on the future of AI in the world of chess.'

At the beginning of the video, moderator Hassabis mentions his review of GM Kasparov's most recent book, 'Deep Thinking', where I think he means Artificial Intelligence: Chess match of the century (nature.com). Kasparov replies,

Thank you very much for your review and also for all the protection against all the tech guys who criticized me for not being an expert.

Does that mean the book is not for tech people? I'll come back to that question when I get the chance to read the book. One of the comments to the clip informs,

Demis Hassabis was once the second strongest under-14 chess player in the world (Elo 2300), behind Judit Polgar.

As for 'Talks at Google', I featured another episode a few years back in a Video Friday post titled Computer Chess 'Comedy' (July 2013), about the movie 'Computer Chess'. GM Kasparov appeared in an earlier Google talk, Garry Kasparov | Talks at Google (youtube.com; 'Uploaded on Nov 18, 2010'), when he was invited because of his own article on Diego Rasskin-Gutman's 'Chess Metaphors' in the New York Times Review of Books.

15 June 2017

Fischer and Chess Review 'On the Cover'

Earlier this month, in June 1967 'On the Cover', I asked the question

Chess Review: how many times through the years was Fischer featured?

This led to two posts where I didn't answer the question...

...but now I can give a partial answer: 15 times through the beginning of 1964.

Those 15 covers include the 12 shown above plus three marked with an asterix ('*') in the following list:-

  • 1956-01: *; see 'Bobby's First "On the Cover"'
  • 1956-12: 'Game of the Century'; 3rd Rosenwald
  • 1957-04: 'Meeting of Extremes'; match with Euwe
  • 1958-02: 'Youngest Champion'; U.S. Championship & qualification to interzonal
  • 1958-05: 'CBS had a secret'; Garry Moore and 'I've Got a Secret'; see also The Best Fischer Clip Ever (February 2008)
  • 1959-02: * (same photo as 1958-02); 'Champion Again!'; 5th Rosenwald & U.S. Championship
  • 1959-03: *; 'Composite View of U.S. Championship', (incl. same photo as 1958-02)
  • 1960-02: 'Anti-Climax'; U.S. Championship (Rosenwald Trophy), 3rd straight win
  • 1960-12: 'The USA Team'; World Team Championship, 1960 Leipzig (NB: word 'Olympiad' not used)
  • 1961-02: 'Fourth Straight Year'; the accompanying article explained, 'Known officially as the Lessing J. Rosenwald Tournament for the U.S. Chess Championship and Frank J. Marshall Trophy, 1960-1961'
  • 1962-04: 'Fischer Forges Forward'; 1962 Stockholm Interzonal
  • 1962-05: 'Fischer Lauded at the Marshall Chess Club'; winner of 1962 Stockholm Interzonal; also shown are Caroline Marshall and John W. Collins
  • 1963-02: 'Champ Fifth Time'
  • 1963-10: 'U.S. Champion Splurges in Swisses'; Western Open & N.Y. State Open
  • 1964-02: 'Study in Concentration'; U.S. Championship (+11-0=0)

With March 1964 'On the Cover' (March 2014), I started a monthly look at the covers from 50 years ago of both Chess Life and Chess Review (CR). Fischer on a subsequent CR cover was first documented in July 1965 'On the Cover' (July 2015). The 'On the Cover' series has two more years to run, after which I'll make a final tally of Fischer CR covers.

13 June 2017

Thomas Emery

One of my first posts this year, January 1967 'On the Cover', demanded a follow-up:-

'Thomas Emery Trophy', 'Thomas Emery Awards dinner' -- who was Thomas Emery and what was his connection to the American Chess Foundation?

The June 1957 issue of Chess Review (CR) carried a two page feature 'Thomas Emery: Amateur Extraordinary' by T.A. Dunst. It started,

An amateur chess player who stands off U.S. champions, assorted grandmasters, ex-world champions and the like, is certainly a rara avis. That distinction belongs to genial Thomas Emery of New 'York, who, at 62, is a man of many interests, including world travel, the study of medicine and delving into the mysterious topography of the chessboard.

When Frank Marshall in 1942 wrote My Fifty Years of Chess, summing up an international chess career and 27 years possession of the United States chess championship, the book contained a great deal more of Thomas Emery than the preface which he supplied; for the friendship between the two men was of the Damon - Pythias variety, and they spent endless hours in philosophizing and in analyzing openings, endings and middle-game intrigue.

Half about Emery's life, half about Emery's approach to chess, the article focused on his three major interests: his military career, his medical career, and his chess.


Thomas Emery, Chess Review, June 1957, p.177

Of his military career,

Emery, a native New Yorker, stems from ancestry which is about 80 per cent English. He attended tutoring school in England, where the brother of a schoolmate named Buffer became a member of the British chess team in 1910. Young Emery threw himself into chess about this time and, within a year, was taking the team player's measure.

Soon after the United States entered World War I, Emery found himself in the Officers' Training Camp at Plattsburg. Scoring 98 per cent in his studies, he was called to Washington to be commissioned a captain at the age of 21 in the Quartermaster Corps. [...] Emery turned down the captain, and enlisted in the U.S. Marines, in which organization he served with distinction. Because of his knowledge of French. he acted as interpreter. He was wounded in 1918 and later recommended for bravery. He was honorably discharged in August of 1919.

Of his medical career,

It was during World War II that Emery pursued intensive medical studies, an interest which has never flagged and which is second only to his enthusiasm for chess. He has lectured on hematology at the North Country Community Hospital in Glen Cove and, in 1943, was appointed Senior First Aid Instructor for the whole of Long Island. In this connection. Emery takes justifiable pride in the knowledge that many of his students continued in the field of nursing and medicine. Perhaps, there is a hereditary influence in all this. for Emery's grandfather. Brig.-Gen. Charles Tripler Alexander, was a surgeon under Custer and a chief-surgeon under Sherman.

A few years after CR's 1957 article, the cover of the May 1960 issue of Chess Review featured a photo of the 'Thomas Emery Armed Forces Chess Trophy'. Inside the magazine announced,

On the occasion of the first tournament for the Thomas Emery Armed Forces Chess Awards, scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. from May 15th to May 21st, the American Chess Foundation salutes:
The Selected Finalists: [12 players named]
Mr. Thomas Emery, distinguished American, internationally-famous chess player and generous patron of the Awards.
The Department of Defense.
The United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) and its affiliated agencies.
The NAVY TIMES for its Special Award.
Mr. I.S. Turover for his Special Award.
-and-
Colonel John D. Matheson, Chairman of the ACF-USCF Joint Committee for Armed Forces Chess, for his magnificent direction of the project, together with those associated with him on the Committee: Col. E.B. Ely; Thomas Emery; Dr. Eliot Hearst; Sgt. Bob Karch ; I.S. Turover and Sidney Wallach.

For more about the series of tournaments, see Wikipedia's United States Armed Forces Chess. Emery is mentioned only once, in passing. The 1957 CR article included three scores of games by Emery: draws with Bisguier and Euwe, and a win against Menchik. It also mentioned three amateur chess players who made their names in other fields.

This brief sketch of an amateur who plays chess in the tradition of Henry T. Buckle, the historian, Moritz Rosenthal, the pianist, and Charles Schwab, the steel king, would not be complete without a word about his wife, Constance. [...]

Does this mean more follow-up posts ahead?

12 June 2017

Site Stats and Adsense

In last week's post, Chess Stats Year-Over-Year, I investigated a drop in my site's visitor statistics:-

Those numbers show an increase from to 2015 to 2016 on the old server, then a decrease from 2016 to 2017 on the transfer to the new server. The last number, 'recs/page', indicates that something might have changed in the server mechanism that delivers pages. I'll investigate those numbers in another post.

While I was looking at those numbers, I encountered a few anomalies that raised new questions. I flagged those to my server provider and will wait for a response before I go much further. In the meantime, I noticed a new problem regarding Google Adsense. Here's a screen capture showing the top and bottom of a typical page on my CFAA site.


Improve Your Middle Game (Part 1 - Patterns)

What's the point? I last discussed the top ad ('Luxury Cruises' in this example) in

I last discussed the bottom ads in

The top ad doesn't blend well into the rest of the page. Google ads should be unobtrusive, but this one dominates the content. I should either move it or eliminate it entirely.

The bottom ads are simply wrong. That 'Matched Content' link from January shows a few Google ads mixed with image links to my own pages. All we see in the page pictured above are a couple of Google ads with links to my content missing completely. The problem occurs on a number of my pages, while other pages show the ads and internal links correctly. As far as I can tell, the ad code on all pages is identical. I'll see if this is a temporary error before carrying it any further.

I doubt that these Adsense issues are responsible for the decline in visitor traffic, but they don't help. In any case, I'm spending too much time on them, which is a distraction from the content itself.

11 June 2017

Dube and Chotka

Sometimes the series of posts on Top eBay Chess Items by Price are more about price than they are about chess and this is one of those times. The item pictured below was titled 'Dube oil on canvas Still Life with Chess Piece and Coffee Pot' and sold at live auction for US $8500 after 36 bids. The seller's estimate had been US $2000-4000.

The description said,

Dube (Duilio or Dulie Dube Barnabe; Italian, 1914-1961), 'Still Life with Chess Pieces', oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, signed Barnabe lower right,

Dube, an Italian-French painter and graphic artist, received his artistic education from Giorgio Morandi in Bologna. He lived and worked since 1946 in Paris where he was strongly influenced by the work of Picasso.

Framed in a silver leaf frame with several liners measuring 46 x 53 inches. Condition Report: In generally good condition with a few superficial scratches and minor planar distortion.

Of the several names appearing in the description, a search on 'artist barnabe' returned the best results. A related image search indicates that chess was not a recurring theme in his work.

***

More Chotka: A previous post in 'Top eBay Chess Items', The Artist and the Artwork (April 2015), featured a painted bronze by Anton Chotka. Over the past fortnight a similar work appeared on eBay and sold for $1300, 'Best offer accepted', on an asking price of $4999.99. A link on the auction page points to another, similar Chotka item on Sothebys.com:-

Estimate: 3000-5000 EUR; Lot sold: 7750 EUR (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)

I have no idea why the price for different, similar Chotka pieces varies so much. My 'Artist / Artwork' post showed uncertainty about Chotka's life span. Sotheby's gave 'Anton Chotka, 1878-1928'.

09 June 2017

Light Mummies Play Chess

There's not much chess in this picture, but I couldn't shake the question: How did the photographer do it?


That's the Spirit © Flickr user Levi Turman under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Light drawing at an outdoor chess table. Unfortunately there is a very bright light on the nearby trail, I'll want to bring a ND filter next time so I can paint slower.

Light drawing? ND filter? That raises more questions than it answers. The photographer's 'Groups' page points to Strobist.com | Flickr, which might offer further clues for the clueless, like me. For more unusual chess partners, see Big Dummies (February 2010) and Sand Dudes (June 2015), playing chess, of course.

08 June 2017

Young Bobby in Chess Life

My previous post, Young Bobby's First 'On the Cover', was about the January 1956 issue of Chess Review. When was Fischer first featured on the cover of Chess Life (CL)? In the early years of its existence, CL was published as a small newspaper twice a month, with eight pages per issue. There were few photos other than the likenesses of columnists or imagery on ads. The first half of 1956 used only a half-dozen photos, none showing Fischer. CL's first four photos of young Bobby are shown below.

Top left: CL 1956-07-20

'U.S. JUNIOR CHAMPION! Bobby Fischer (right) of Brooklyn in the process of defeating veteran Samuel Sklaroff of Philadelphia at the U.S. Amateur Championship in Asbury Park. Bobby is only 13 years old but shows strong indications of becoming a master.' • What does the U.S. Amateur Championship (May 1956) have to do with the U.S. Junior Championship (July 1956)? Fischer's victory in the U.S. Junior was announced on the same page as the photo, which was undoubtedly the most recent photo available.

Top right: CL 1956-08-20

'U.S. Junior Champion Bobby Fischer of Brooklyn, 13, poses for the cameraman of "The Oklahoman" before the start of the U.S. Open. Bobby stole the show at Oklahoma City, appeared twice on television, played like a master, finished in 8th place on tie-breaking points, scored 8.5-3.5 without losing a single game.'

Bottom left: CL 1956-12-05

'STUDY IN TENSION. Bobby Fischer fidgets, bites his nails and squirms in general when in trouble. Here, in the last round, facing acute time pressure (See the clock -- 12 is the deadline) and a very critical position, he falls into a characteristic pose. (Photography and comments by Dr. Harold Sussman)' • Sussman also wrote the full page report on the tournament, the 3rd Rosenwald, New York, October 1956. This was the tournament where Fischer beat Donald Byrne in the 'Game of the Century' and finished +2-4=5. The left half of the photo, cropped at Fischer's elbow, was reused in later issues of Chess Life.

Bottom right: CL 1957-09-05

'At the U.S. Open Championship -- Photography by Marshall Rohland. [...] Champion-to-be Bobby Fischer gets set to play Edmar Mednis in the eighth round.' • Fischer won the game. His final score was +8-0=4 at the event held in Cleveland, August 1957.

The tournament report started, 'At 14 years, Bobby Fischer, Erasmus High student of Brooklyn, becomes the youngest master to win the U.S. Open title, as in 1956 he was the youngest player to win the U.S. Junior title. Fischer scored 10-2 in a games-won tie with U.S. Champion Arthur Bisguier but gained the title on adjusted tie-breaking points, with Bisguier placing second.'

Chess Life shifted to magazine format in January 1961, with Fischer biographer Frank Brady as editor. The first cover featured a photo of Fischer playing Reshevsky in the 1960-61 U.S. Championship.

06 June 2017

Young Bobby's First 'On the Cover'

In this month's 'On the Cover' (see June 1967 'On the Cover'), I wondered,

As for Chess Review, how many times through the years was Fischer featured? In the previous month he was pictured twice for the May 1967 'On the Cover'.

While I can't yet answer that question, other than to say 'a lot!', I can point to the first Chess Review (CR) cover that featured Fischer. It's shown below, bearing the date January 1956.

That's Bobby inside the rectangle of tables, top left corner, facing left. A full page story inside carried the same title as the cover photo: 'Small Time Big Time'; I have to admit that I don't understand what it means. The introduction to the story said,

ON THE COVER: Small Time Big Time • MOSTLY, it is the big time masters who put on simultaneous exhibitions. So we present with pleasure this (cover) picture and story offered by Joseph Brooks of the Yorktown Chess Club and manager of the Youth Group there. (The picture on this page, which gives a better close-up of Bobby Fischer, is by Virginia Williamson. And the event was recounted fulsomely in the New York Times, also.)

The story continued,

The astonished members of the oldest American Chess Club -- the Manhattan Chess Club of Central Park South of New York City -- witnessed the most unusual and unique chess exhibition, November 26. Bobby Fischer, age 12, the chess prodigy of the Manhattan Chess Club, played simultaneously twelve members of the Youth Group (age 7 to 12) of the Yorktown Chess Club. Bobby won all games, eliminating the first opponent in 50 minutes and the last one in two hours and twenty minutes.

Chess is recognized as the foremost game of intellectual skill -- it is most cosmopolitan of all games and it develops the mind to face occasions as they arise, it demands foresight, brilliancy and resource. Up to now, it was considered a game for adults, and the occasional appearance of a child player was an exception to the general rule.

A year ago, the Yorktown Chess Club sponsored the first known Youth Group. The membership has rapidly grown, and there are now 86 active children between the ages of 7 and 12 who meet regularly once a week to receive instructions and to play regular tournament games. It was 12 youths of this unusual group that Bobby Fischer played, opening the door to chess to the youth of America.

The next paragraph shows why it's useful to be bilingual in both algebraic and descriptive chess notation.

Bobby Fischer, who played White, opened on 12 boards with 1.P-K4, followed by 2.N-KB3 and 3.B-B4. The Yorktowners who were expecting Bobby to play the Queen's or King's Gambit were caught by surprise and five of them made the error of replying with 1...P-K4, 2...N-QB3 (which is good) and 3...N-KB3 (instead of 3...B-B4).

That naturally gave Bobby five winning games as he promptly followed with 4.K-KNS and then NxP. From that point on, however, the youngsters got real busy, setting up the strongest defense possible and fighting to the bitter end.

The other seven players put up good opening resistance to the middle game. Bobby played a strong offensive game with his Pawns and basically used the technique praised by the famous Steiner. He received from the Manhattan Chess Club a watch with an inscription and a check from the Yorktown Chess Club.

After more details about the exhibition, CR attached a coda to the Brooks story.

Not told in the foregoing story is one of interest. Bobby Fischer is a Brooklyn product, lives not too far from the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Field. When Dr, Harold Sussman started to teach chess to his own son, he collected a group of youngsters for livelier interest in learning competitively. Brightest light of the group was -- you guessed it -- Bobby Fischer!

A few years ago, in Young Bobby Punched the Wrong Clock (November 2013), I noted an early story about Fischer from the February 1956 issue of Chess Life (CL). The 20 May 1956 issue of CL contained the 'tenth national chess rating list'. One entry was

Fischer, Bobby (Brooklyn NY) ... 1726

On the next rating list, a year later, he was listed in the MASTERS section at 2231. 'Bobby' had changed to 'Robt. J'.

05 June 2017

Chess Stats Year-Over-Year

Last week I used my Monday post to finish with Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977 (Crosstables; 'it's time to move to another project'), and now I'm going to take a few weeks to look at statistics on my main site m-w.com (linked on the right). In the past few months I've noticed a big drop in the number of daily visitors and I would like to know why.

Since chess has a seasonal bias -- peak interest in the winter, trough in the summer -- the best way to analyze a trend is with a year-over-year comparison. Normally I would compare stats reports from the same month in two consecutive years, but this is infeasible right now. The stats reporting package on my server host has changed twice in the last two years, as documented in two posts:-

That second post explains the main use of stats.

I look at the overall stats once a day to make sure that everything is working correctly and to identify any anomalies as quickly as possible. After watching the stats for a while, I get used to certain recurring patterns in the numbers and know intuitively when something is off.

Since something is definitely off, I need to analyze the server log files from this year and last year. While I'm at it, I'll go back one more year to identify any bias introduced by the transfer to a new host server last year. I extracted my monthly archive log files for May 2015 and May 2016, then downloaded the daily files for May 2017 and concatenated them into a single month. Here are the first numbers I derived:-

Logs:-
2015-05: 374144 recs, 27504 HTML, 13.6 recs/page
2016-05: 434545 recs, 31724 HTML, 13.7
2017-05: 268142 recs, 23124 HTML, 11.6

Those numbers show an increase from to 2015 to 2016 on the old server, then a decrease from 2016 to 2017 on the transfer to the new server. The last number, 'recs/page', indicates that something might have changed in the server mechanism that delivers pages. I'll investigate those numbers in another post.

04 June 2017

Award Winning Chess Photos

Maybe I made a mistake calling this series The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). Maybe I should have called it instead 'The Imagery of Chess'. The most recent post was a video:-

Before that were posts on art and on photography, of which the last were:-

Now let's get back to photography. This post is inspired by the 2017 Photo Contest (worldpressphoto.org), where chess featured in 'Sports, second prize stories': Youth Chess Tournaments; Michael Hanke, Czech Republic.

Michael Hanke was born in Kladno, Czech Republic, in 1972. His photographic career began when he was 40 years old, however, only one year later, he began to receive prestigious awards for his work, both at regional level (Czech Press Photo) and international level (Sony World Photography Awards, International Photographer of the Year). From the very beginning of his career, he has dedicated his work to the humanistic and social black-and-white documentary photography, focusing on long-term projects.

For more photos, see the photographer's personal site at Michael Hanke Photography : Youth Chess Tournaments.


Google image search on
'site:michaelhanke.photography chess'

02 June 2017

1.h4 h5 2.g4 g5

With 419.113 views and 12.161 likes, this sketch from Studio C (youtube.com; BYUTV) must be funny, right? After all, the 'C' in 'Studio C' stands for comedy.


A Chess Player Prodigy (4:49) • 'Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Even a chess playing prodigy?? Well get ready to sweep up the floors cause your jaw is going to DROP!'

To see the 1.760 comments, use the usual trick of right-click on the video. Those numbers are all very impressive, but I have a problem: I couldn't muster as much as a chuckle. The 'BYU' in BYUTV stands for Brigham Young University, so it must be a generational difference. Maybe I'll have better luck with the non-chess sketches on the 'Studio C' channel.

01 June 2017

June 1967 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, for the second time in three months (the April 1967 'On the Cover' was the first), Chess Life used a crosstable on its cover with the promise of a future article. As for Chess Review, how many times through the years was Fischer featured? In the previous month he was pictured twice for the May 1967 'On the Cover'.


Left: 'Sarajevo 1967'
Right: 'Pause to Reflect'

Chess Life

GM Byrne, left, explaining the game of chess to Savon, center, and USSR Champion Stein. Byrne later treated Stein to another lesson over the board, accounting for Stein's only loss of the tournament. • A full report on this important tournament will appear in July's Chess Life.

Chess Review

On the Cover • Rumor has it, most strongly from Soviet sources, that Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer will not play in the Interzonal this year at Tunis. Those so stating may be indulging in wishful thinking. But, if Fischer plans not to play, it's time for him to pause and reflect!

He has expressed the thought that, in the "good old days," it was simple: the would-be challenger of the World Champion just put up the cash and got his chance. Now he must compete over three years in ill-paying affairs.

Actually, the FIDE program to qualify a challenger is laborious as others than Fischer can attest. Former World Champion Botvinnik has denounced this labor and strain and refuses to descend to participation in it.* The program does repay by meager prizes as Fischer is not alone in protesting. Many grandmasters stay out to earn lusher prizes in other tournaments while FIDE candidates grind their way through the program. And the program does take time: a zonal tournament near to home, the distant interzonal of some twenty-odd rounds, a good month expended; and then three more (at least for the ultimate challenger) distant and grueling contests in the challenger round. A lot of time and strain and little reward, truly.

Fischer has also vented the thought that, if he can build up a good enough reputation and perhaps defeat the top Soviet players, especially in matches, the Soviet will be brought by pressure of public opinion to concede his right to a match for the world title. And he is thinking again that, if he puts up the lure of a purse...

Here is the time to pause to reflect. In the old days, the champion bit when a purse was tempting enough -- but seldom when the challenger was the most formidable. Lasker never got a return match with Capablanca not even though he won the great New York Tournament of 1924, nor a match with Alekhine. Capa never got a rematch with Alekhine who took on his "cousin" Bogulyubov repeatedly, instead. And the Soviet players, well subsidized by the government, are not so susceptible to cash lures. And the Soviet has repeatedly stressed that it considers the FIDE program the only legitimate route for a challenger. Reshevsky vainly pressed for matches for years. He even gained the title, Champion of the West, but could not get a match even with a lesser Soviet light. And he even outscored Botvinnik personally 2.5-1.5 in the International Team Tournament. Fischer should meditate on how the Soviet coolly ignored Reshevsky's claims.

The FIDE program does have some drawbacks as we can see by now. But it does guarantee any would-be challenger -- if he's the good-enough player -- a match for the world title. It is worth some present sacrifice, after all, to have that chance. If Fischer doesn't play at Tunis, he forfeits it. Pause to reflect!

* Botvinnik of course rankles under a special grievance: the FIDE deprived him of his right to a return match for his former title.

That CR editorial has some noteworthy statements. • 'Rumor has it, most strongly from Soviet sources': How could the Soviets know what Fischer was planning to do? • 'Botvinnik has denounced this labor and strain and refuses to descend to participation in it': Didn't he help design the qualification system? • 'Lasker never got a return match with Capablanca': Did he seek one? • '[Reshevsky] gained the title, Champion of the West': Was this the 1952 match with Najdorf? • '[Reshevsky] outscored Botvinnik personally 2.5-1.5 in the International Team Tournament': What tournament was this? (Chessgames.com says, Classical games: Mikhail Botvinnik beat Samuel Reshevsky 5 to 2, with 7 draws.) • Plenty of follow-ups here!

30 May 2017

Chess.com Is Ten!

A few months ago I received a comment on a post from May 2008, Chess Networking. Often when I get a comment on an old post, it's from a spammer hoping that no one is monitoring the blog's comment procedure. In those cases I just flag the comment as spam, which automatically prevents it from being seen by anyone else. This new comment was legitimate:-

Where can I find an updated version of excellent The Rise of Internet Chess? Thanks. FP

That page also dates back to another era, May 2007, exactly ten years ago. It triggered a question in my mind: what 'Internet Chess' advances over the past ten years would I mention in an updated article? My first idea was to document the history of Chess.com, which (coincidentally) also started around the time I wrote 'Rise of Internet Chess', but what could I say? Then I saw the following video.


Chess.com's 10-Year Anniversary Live Show Replay (59:14) • 'Published on 19 May 2017 • IM Danny Rensch plays host for Chess.com's Co-Founders, Erik [Allebest] and Jay [Severson], as they relive the "story" of Chess.com, recapping it's best and worst moments along the way to becoming the world's largest chess website and community in the world.'

At one point IM Rensch mentions, 'Wednesday was the official ten year anniversary', marking 17 May as the site's birthday. Happy anniversary, Chess.com! You've had a great ride and a profound impact on chess around the globe. May your next ten years be just as exciting.

29 May 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Crosstables

I ended my previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, One Table, with an action:-

Merging the two tables left one last set of cross references to be noted: "L&O also has nearly 50 pages of crosstables covering major events. These could be flagged in the TMER." I'll take care of that on my next post, which should be a wrapup for this stage of the series on 'Korchnoi's Career'.

For the meaning of the acronyms, L&O and TMER, see the 'One Table' post. It turned out that the crosstables, of which I matched 175 against the TMER, were in nearly one-to-one correspondence with the L&O game data used to create this portion of the TMER. I noted a few minor discrepancies:-

Crosstable without TMER:-
• 1952 USSR Team Chp., Odessa
• 1976 Leningrad, Spartakiad

TMER without crosstable:-
• 1957 Armenian Chp. (hors concours)

The crosstables also give Korchnoi's final score for many events which were missing this info, e.g. the '1948 USSR Junior Chp., 1/2-final, Tallinn', where he scored +6-1=4 and finished first. Some day I might add add those results to the TMER, but for now it's time to move to another project.

28 May 2017

$13.31 Per Half-Move

We don't see many signed scoresheets here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. One reason is that I don't find many scoresheets that are worth three figures. Another is that they aren't particularly appealing visually. A few years ago we had Mystery Capablanca Letter (July 2015), which was a scoresheet in the context of a letter. Some time before that we had The Great Pretenders (April 2012), from the 1974 Karpov - Polugaevsky candidates match. The item pictured below was titled 'USSR Chess 1975 year score-sheet Karpov Tal TOURNAMENT Russia Spartakiada'. It sold for US $479, 'Buy It Now'.

The description said,

The courses of party are written down by Karpov's hand. RARE Russia soviet greatest Russia Chess 1975 year form scoresheet autograph signed by Anatoly Karpov and Michail Tal. 100% original scoresheet of Chess USSR Tournament played in 1975 year, from the game Karpov - Tal, played in July 23, 1975.

For 'courses of party', read 'moves of the game'. The rest of the paragraph is self-explanatory, although the game was Tal - Karpov, rather than Karpov - Tal. I suppose the scoresheet headers, written in red, were prepared by an arbiter before the game. Next to the players' names are the teams they represented: Latvia and Leningrad. Karpov's signature (at the bottom of the Wh!te column) matches an autograph on a book I own, mentioned in Two More Autographs (June 2016).

For the complete game, see Mikhail Tal vs Anatoly Karpov; Riga ch-Latvia (1975) on Chessgames.com, although I'll go with the item seller's mention of 'Spartakiad', rather than Chessgames.com's 'Riga ch-Latvia'. The game lasted only 18 moves, thereby valuing the scoresheet at nearly $27 per move (or exactly $13.31 per half-move).

26 May 2017

Chess Clones

We've all seen photos of someone playing chess against himself -- in my case I've seen dozens -- but playing chess against two copies of oneself? That's different. This photo was captioned,

Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Conservatives battle for control on a three-player chess board.

Since "all politics is local" and I'm not in that locality, I won't touch the political ramifications.


Election battleground © Flickr user Edward Webb under Creative Commons.

More relevant to me is the next statement in the caption,

This was taken in 2010 and only now uploaded due to overexposing my blue shirted clone, who is looking better after some editing.

I've highlighted the word in italics: clone. The photo is in four groups all titled using the same word -- 'Clone meets clone', 'My very own clone', etc. -- so now I know the name of the technique. As for 'three-player chess', Wikipedia has a page on the subject, appropriately titled Three-player chess. The page says,

Three-player chess variants (as well as other three-player games) are the hardest to design fairly, since the imbalance created when two players gang up against one is usually too great for the defending player to withstand.

The same must be true for politics.

25 May 2017

Not the Rossolimo Sicilian

Last summer, the August 1966 'On the Cover' (August 2016) post on this blog featured GM Nicolas Rossolimo on the Chess Review side. I ended the post saying, 'As for GM Rossolimo, he deserves a post of his own.' It's time to make good on that promise.

The Wikipedia page Nicolas Rossolimo provides basic information about his life and career. It starts,

Nicolas Rossolimo (February 28, 1910, Kiev – July 24, 1975, New York) was an American-French-Greek-Russian chess Grandmaster. After acquiring Greek citizenship in 1929, he was able to emigrate that year to France, and was many times chess champion of Paris. In 1952 he emigrated to the United States, and won the 1955 U.S. Open Chess Championship. He was a resident of New York City until his death.

A French language page, Rossolimo Nicolas (heritageechecsfra.free.fr; 'Heritage des Echecs Français') provides more detail about his personal life: 'biographical elements furnished by Alexander Rossolimo, his son'. One of the recurring stories about Rossolimo is that he drove a taxi cab to make a living (bellhop and busboy are also mentioned) and Edward Winter's Chess Notes for February 2015 has an item '9108. Nicolas Rossolimo' with a complete copy of a long 1958 New York Times article on the subject. Some years later the same newspaper published his obituary: Nicolas Rossolimo, 65, Is Dead; Grandmaster Ran Chess Studio (nytimes.com; July 1975; 'one of the country's 12 grandmasters of chess').

A few years ago I wrote a post, Friendly Chess Players (July 2013), which mentioned Rossolimo.

GM Averbakh divides great players into six groups. [...] Group five - the artists. For them it is important not just to win, but to win elegantly, and to create works of art. • Simagin, Rossolimo.

By coincidence, I found two 1975 appreciations from Chess Life & Review (CL&R), both written after his death, expanding on this idea.

Nick Rossolimo was a chess artist. He won innumerable prizes for beautiful and brilliant games, which gave him greater satisfaction than winning tournaments in an ordinary way. It was his feeling, often expressed, that what distinguishes a grandmaster from ordinary players is his creative imagination. In Rossolimo's case, he was not satisfied to create beauty only in competitive situations, but he also composed many endgame studies, all of which are characterized by high technical polish and simple beauty. • CL&R September (p.571)

and

Rossolimo's chess style was purely classical, and he relied on his own opening variations. Always searching for beauty and brilliant combinations, he won numerous brilliancy prizes. Nick considered chess first of all an art. He once wrote: "What am I supposed to do? Trade in my romantic, combinative style for 'today's style' and become a hunter of points at any price? No, I will not do so. I will fight for the art of chess. I will not become a monster." He even suggested that points be awarded according to the artistic merit of a game, rather than for its result, so that the loser of a game may earn credit if his play was creative. • CL&R October (p.647) by Pal Benko

The Chessgames.com page, Nicolas Rossolimo, lists a number of his 'Notable Games', including his most famous game, Rossolimo - Reissmann, 1967 Puerto Rico.