Random Posts

Friday, June 15, 2018

What Happens When a Chess Player Gets Old?

     In the National Football League a player survives, on the average, only three years. The careers of top chess players last much longer, but the optimal age for success varies depending on which study you read.  Generally though it is around 35-42. After that, the chess ship begins sailing. 
     Research has shown that recall was more accurate for younger players and the older players got, the worse their recall got. This suggests that younger players have a huge advantage, but research has also shown that the accumulation of knowledge does not stop until the age of 60. So, experience also has its advantages. 
     From what I have seen of some studies, evidence seems to indicate that once you hit thirty a little improvement is possible, you can remain at your playing level in your forties, but after that you're headed for the back side of the rating curve..unless you are a Korchnoi. 
     One study done at Florida State University suggests that the processes necessary to assess basic chess relationships slows with age, even in experts.   We older players just aren't as quick on our mental feet as the kids.  My explanation has always been that my mind is like a hard drive...the information is there, but it's fragmented and there's so much of it, it takes a little longer to access.
     In a report in the Institute of Labor Economics the authors analyzed data on professional chess players and found that the relationship between age and productivity follows an inverted U: productivity at chess increases by close to 20 percent from age 15 to its peak at age 42 and smoothly declines by 11 percent until age 60. This indicates that better skills and longer experience cannot completely offset the decline in numerical and reasoning abilities. I guess that means if you're over 40 you shouldn't waste your money on chess instructional books.

chess.dom has an interesting article HERE
You might also want to read Does Mental Productivity Decline with Age? Evidence from Chess Players HERE
Age and skill effects on recalling chess positions and selecting the best move HERE

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jacob Yuchtman, Forgotten Artist

     His talent was ignored by the political machinery of the Soviet Union and his best games were not published. Whatever his “crimes” were, in 1964, Shakhmaty v SSSR held him up as an example of bad behavior by a Soviet master. 
     Being Jewish didn't help and in the 1970s he was one of the first of many players to leave the Soviet Union, first going to Israel and then West Germany before finally settling in the United States. 
     Chessmetrics puts his highest ever rating at 2622 which was on its April 1960 list. This put him in a group that included such GMs as William Lombardy, Evgeny Vasiukov, Aivars Gipslis, Lothar Schmid, Lev Aronin, Pal Benko and Nikolay Krogius. Yuchtman himself never had an international title.
     Jacob Yuchtman was born January 14, 1935 in Voronezsh, a city in central Russia about 250 miles south of Moscow. He was six years old when the Nazis invaded the USSR on June 22, 1941 without a prior declaration of war. His father enlisted in the Red Army and that was the last time his family saw him because he was killed in the war. Shortly after the Nazi invasion the rest of the family was evacuated to Tashkent where they lived for 10 years. 
     It was in Tashkent that Yuchtman learned to play chess at the age of 13. By the age of 14 he was already a First Category player (about 2000 Elo) and he won the Uzbekistan Under-20 championship in 1950. 
     In 1951 his family moved to Odessa, Ukraine and he won the 1953 Ukrainian championship in Kiev, the 1959 Ukrainian lightning championship and he finished 2nd-3rd in the 1964 Ukrainian championship. In 1956 he achieved the coveted title of "Master of Sport of the USSR.” He won the Odessa Championship in 1964, 1967, and 1969. 
     In the 26th Soviet Championship in Tbilisi, 1959, Tigran Petrosian finished first with 13.5-5.5 followed by Tal and Spassky at 12.5-6.5. Yuchtman's game with Spassky in round 11 was adjourned with Yuchtman having the better position. There had been a three fold repetition, but the rule states the game is not automatically drawn if a position occurs for the third time – one of the players, on their move turn, must claim the draw with the arbiter, and neither player had done so. In any case, after the game was adjourned the arbiter declared the game drawn. If Yuchtman would have won, Tal would have had clear second and extra half point for would have put Yuchtman in a 12th place tie with Gufeld and Bronstein. 
     Not long after this tournament, Yuchtman was invited to play in an international tournament in Yugoslavia in 1959, but a run in with officials in a tournament in Tiumen caused him to face sanctions and he was banned from playing for three years. 
     Although he was a 3-time Odessa champion, he received no official support and so left for Israel where he won the Israeli championship in 1972. In the 1974-75 season he sojourned in Germany and belonged to King Springer Frankfurt team in the Chess Bundesliga. 
     After moving to the United States he won several open tournaments, but was unable to make a living playing chess. New York players found him somewhat sullen and a little strange. 
     In the movie Searching Bobby Fischer, Yuchtman is shown as a Soviet emigre who played in Greenwich Village with a sign proclaiming you could play the one who beat world champion Mikhail Tal. 
     While in New York he turned more to playing backgammon instead of chess. In 1994 a book authored by Dr. Arkady L. Vainer with 177 of Yukhtman's games was published in Odessa and that under the title of Forgotten Artist
     The Czech Benoni in Action, by FM Asa Hoffmann and Greg Keener, relates how Hoffmann met Yuchtman at the Chess and Checker Club of New York, also known as the Flea House. Hoffmann described him as short and stocky with a smile like a Cheshire Cat, but when he was displeased with something, a dark cloud would come over his face. 
     Because there was nobody his equal at the Flea House, he moved on to The Game Room where he could play chess, Scrabble, backgammon, and gin rummy day and night. 
     The resident champion of The Game Room was master Steve Brandwein and they played countless hours of blitz with about equal results. In a 1998 Chess Life article Leonid Shamkovich described Yukhtman as able to give odds of five minutes to one not only to masters, but even a lot of GMs. Yuchtman died January 26, 1985. 
     For a good discussion of the opening used in this game, the Czech Benoni, see the article at The Chess World. In reviewing Andrew Martin's DVD on the Czech Benoni for Chessbase, Steve Giddins called it The No-theory Defense, or how to meet 1 d4 if you are over 35 years old. Giddins added, “ if you prefer to avoid well-analysed complications, and enjoy a patient, slower, manoeuvering type of game, this is an opening you would do well to check out. You don’t have to be over 35 to play the Czech Benoni, although it helps, but if you wear cardigans, believe that mobile phones should be banned on public transport, and think that the Arctic Monkeys are something you would expect to see at the zoo, than I feel sure that this is the opening for you.” 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Never Resign Until Defeat Is Certain

     If you want to improve your chess results, it is very important not to resign when you are winning - Nigel Davies. 
     Resigning is a way of ending the game unknown to weak players – Dr. Eliot Hearst 

     At lower levels it's not uncommon to see a player blunder away a piece and their opponent soon returns the favor. Or, a player to walk into a mate that his opponent doesn't see. At higher levels it's unlikely, but sometimes a miracle does happen. 
     Years ago I won a Knight at move 10 against an IM. When he realized he was going to lose a piece and stuck out his hand, which was shaking like a leaf, and for a second I thought he was reaching out to shake hands and tell me he resigned. He wasn't doing either...he was making a move and played on. He started throwing everything he had at me. I started seeing ghosts, threats that weren't real, and eventually counter-blundered and lost the piece back. That put us back on even terms and, being an IM, he eventually outplayed me. We were both so frustrated and angry with our play that neither of us felt like doing a post mortem. On the way out of the room I saw him wad up the scoresheet and toss it in the waste basket. 
    It sometimes happens that even in master play a player will resign when they shouldn't have. It's rare, but it does happen as we see in the following game. White resigned because he saw that he was in danger of getting mated and didn't see anyway out. There was a refutation of his opponent's dangerous attack; he just didn't see it. 
     Never resign as long as there is a chance the opponent can go wrong. And, before you do, look for a swindle! Usually, that means a forcing move of some kind: a check or a capture, or a threat to do so. 
     A word on forcing variations. During a game you have to make two kinds of calculations. The tactical kind where there are forced moves, captures, checks and mate threats. Calculating these positions are the easiest and sometimes you can go fairly deep. The other kind of calculating happens in positions where there aren't any forcing moves, which is most of the time. In those positions, because nothing is forced, it's more difficult to know exactly what your opponent will do. In that case, often you can only calculate two or three moves ahead, and the important thing is the correct evaluation of the position. That is why studying positional chess is just as important as working on tactics. 
     During a game you will have to perform both kinds of calculation, forced and general. But, as C.J.S. Purdy always reminded his readers, the forced kind should always be the first thing you look for because tactical opportunities can pop up anytime, even in inferior positions. 
     In the following game, white thought mate was unavoidable and resigned. But, had he looked for a forcing move instead of a defensive one, he could have saved himself. 
     In analyzing the final position GM Andy Soltis mistakenly claimed that white could have won, but Soltis overlooked the best play by both sides as white could have obtained a draw. 
     Soltis gave the position after black's 34th move in his book The Inner Game of Chess along with some very poor analysis. I enjoyed the book a lot, but I’m not sure I learned anything. As I pointed out in a post a few years ago, like all books published before engines made us all armchair Grandmasters, a lot of analysis contains overlooked tactical resources. However, just because an engine finds a resource the annotator may have missed, that doesn’t take away from the game or its instructional value. 
     In the final position when Soltis annotated it he either ignored black's best defense to prove a point or just didn't consider it. I noticed that he wrote the chapter this position was in before he wrote the chapters on Monkey Wrenches and Oversights! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Exciting Loss By Kazim Guliami

Great game guys!

     The U.S. Open has a long and colorful history. Up until 1938, the tournaments were organized by the Western Chess Association and its successor, the American Chess Federation (1934–1938). Since 1939 the USCF has run the tournament. 
     Originally the tournaments were small round robins consisting of preliminaries, Consolation Finals and the Championship. Then in 1946, it was run on a Swiss System for the first time with a preliminary and various final sections. In 1947, the preliminary rounds were eliminated and it became single section. It used to be a two week event with 12 or 13 rounds, but in recent years it has deteriorated to nine rounds with multiple short schedules consisting of rapid games before merging all the sections in the last rounds which are played at “normal” time controls. 
     The Open really began growing in the 1950s and 1960s: Milwaukee 1953 (181 entries), Cleveland 1957 (184 entries), San Francisco 1961 (198 entries), Chicago 1963 (266 entries), Boston 1963 (229 entries), etc. The 1983 Open at Pasadena had 836 entries and featured Viktor Korchnoi, who had played in the last two World Championship matches. Prize money was good for the time. In 1962, the entry fee was $20, with a first prize of $1000 (over $8000 in today's dollars), second prize $500, third $300, fourth $200, fifth $100, sixth through tenth $50 and eleventh through fifteenth $25. There were also many additional small prizes. The 2016 first prize was $8000.
     By the 2000s entries were around 400 to 500 and the tournament declined in importance. And, because of the reduced length and scheduling, multiple ties for first began to appear. 
     Some of the strongest winners, many more than once, have been George Wolbrecht, Edward Lasker, Carlos Torre, Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, I.A. Horowitz, Isaac Kashdan, Arthur Bisguier, Larry Evans, Nicolas Rossolimo, Arturo Pomar, Donald Byrne, Robert Byrne, Bent Larsen, Pal Benko, Vastimil Hort, Walter Browne, Anatoly Lein, Leonid Shamkovich, Andrew Soltis, Florin Gheorghiu, Viktor Korchnoi, Yasser Seirawan, Boris Spassky, Lev Alburt and Alexander Shabalov, to name a few. 
     The 2004 event had 7 tied for first and 2007 also saw 7 players tying for first. In 2009, there were six players and 2012 and 2013 both had three tied for first place. 
     Today's game is taken from the 2011 event which was won by Aleksandr Lenderman. Lenderman (September 23, 1989) was born in Leningrad and at the age of four, his family arrived in the US. He attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn where, from 2004–2007, the team won four straight national high school titles for the school. He won the 2005 World Under-16 Championship. In 2009, he announced after completing his second year at Brooklyn College, he planned to end his studies there and become a professional chess player. That same year he tied for first in the US Open with Dmitry Gurevich, Sergey Kudrin, Alex Yermolinsky, Jacek Stopa and Jesse Kraai. He also earned his GM title in 2009. 
     The 2011 Open was a hectic affair. There was a “traditional” schedule with 3 GMs, a 4-day schedule with 8 GMs and a 6-day schedule with 6 GMs. One unusual feature of the tournament was the lack of IMs and FMs. The last three rounds merged and were played at traditional time controls. 
     Going into the last round (the 9th) the leaders with 7.0 were Lenderman and Nakamura who drew. That meant that on boards 2-5 any winners could tie for first and none of those games were drawn! 
    GM Alonzo Zapata also had 7.0, but for family reasons he had taken a last round bye which eant he also tied with the other 7.5-pointers: GM Alejandro Ramirez, GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, GM Timur Gareyev, GM Hikaru Nakamura, Tamaz Gelashvili and GM Alex Lenderman. 
     The winner of the US Open qualified for the US Championship and the two players with the best tiebreaks, Ramirez and Lenderman, played a blitz game which was won by Lenderman who, as a result, was also declared the US Open Champion. 
     One of the most exciting games of the tournament was Nakamura's 5th round win over FM Kazim Gulamali, a US Senior Master from Georgia who is best known for his phenomenal ability in Bughouse chess. The game, by the way, was played at rapid time controls. You can read an interview with Gulamali on Chess Drum.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Unknown Kasparov

     At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane." - Acts 26:24 

     A theory, known as the New Chronology, is closely associated with Russian theorist Anatoly Fomenko. Fomenko holds that history is many centuries shorter than is widely believed and that numerous historical documents have been fabricated and legitimate documents destroyed for political reasons. Adherents have included Garry Kasparov. 

    In a 2003 online essay, Mathematics of the Past, Kasparov said that as far back as childhood he "began to feel that there was something wrong with the dates of antiquity." Kasparov recounted how after reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire he found countless contradictions: How could ancient Romans accomplish so much without good maps? If humans were growing in stature over time, how were ancient soldiers so much stronger and larger than those of Gibbon's day? And how could they have achieved such advances in math and architecture using only Roman numerals? 
     Kasparov found his answer to those questions when he came across several books written by two mathematicians from Moscow State University: A.T. Fomenko and G.V. Nosovskij. Using modern mathematical and statistical methods, as well as astronomical computations, they discovered that ancient history was artificially extended by more than 1,000 years. 
     For his part, Kasparov could not understand why historians have ignored their work. Kasparov collaborated with the New Chronologists by writing an introduction to one of their books and giving them a gift...a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica from 1771. In a 2001 interview, when asked what was the true history of the world, Kasparov said, “I'm not trying to give any definite answer. What I'm trying to prove is that we have enough gaps, enough discrepancies, enough simple falsifications to conclude that probably this history was an invention of a later time.” 
     Adherants argue that conventional chronology of Middle Eastern and European history is flawed and that events attributed to the civilizations of the Roman Empire, Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt actually occurred during the Middle Ages. 
     The concepts are derived from the ideas of Russian scholar Nikolai Morozov (1854–1946), although work by French scholar Jean Hardouin (1646–1729) can be viewed as an earlier predecessor. However, the New Chronology is most commonly associated with Fomenko, although published works on the subject are actually a collaboration between Fomenko and several other mathematicians. The concept is most fully explained in History: Fiction or Science?, originally published in Russian. 
     According to Fomenko's claims, written history goes only as far back as AD 800 and there is almost no information about events between AD 800–1000 and most known historical events took place in AD 1000–1500. 
     The majority of scientific commentators consider New Chronology to be pseudoscientific. The theory emerged alongside other alternate histories and conspiracy literature in the period of increased freedom of speech that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. 
     According to New Chronology much of human history is a fiction assembled to serve the powerful. Things like Mesopotamians with cuneiform scripts, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greeks and Romans are all faked. 
     Since 1980 Fomenko has been the leading proponent of this revision of human history. He believes there is no reliable written record of human events before the 11th century. Most of our knowledge of earlier cultures is based on texts or copies of texts that date from after that era. 
     From that point on, historians, primarily religious scholars, fixed the dates of key events in history. In doing so, they grafted recent occurrences onto earlier dates thus creating numerous "historical duplicates." 
     According to Fomenko, the events in the New Testament precede those of the Old Testament and most of the stories are concocted. For example, Joan of Arc was a model for the biblical character Deborah and Jesus was crucified in Constantinople in 1086. Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece were fashioned by Renaissance writers and artists and the ancient Pharoahs of Egypt lasted into the 1700s. Aristotle instructed Alexander the Great, who was a Tsar of Russia in the 1400s. Early English history is a fiction based on late Medieval events.  Carbon dating and other scientific chronological methods are thoroughly corrupted. 
     According to Fromenko this is all substantiated by hard facts and logic validated by new astronomical research and statistical analysis of ancient sources. 
     Fomenko's uses statistical analysis to correlate old texts and timelines, seeking convergences and similarities that have escaped the notice of others. He harmonizes celestial data and finds that astronomical events attributed to antiquity seem to correspond to more recent recorded occurrences. 

New Chronology Site
A Conversation With Garry Kasparov…on politics
Remarks by Garry Kasparov at the 2017 Goldwater Institute Annual Dinner
Edward Winter Article

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Friday, June 8, 2018

Chess Engine Review

     I recently received an email from a reader wanting to know which engine they should use for analysis. So, here is a post about engines that I hope will answer the reader's question. 
     Engines make our lives easier...just load a game and let the engine work out the lines. For those that want to improve, this approach can't be recommended. For best results you have to analyze on your own and only then compare your analysis to the engine's. Even then, it won't tell you why one move is better than another unless there is an immediate tactical refutation. 
     Engines aren't concerned with anything more than what move yields the highest possible evaluation and they don't care about traps and dangerous counterplay. So, as far as humans are concerned, in a lost position the best move may not be the one with the highest engine score; it may be that there is a move that doesn't score as well, but offers the opponent more chances to go wrong. Another case where you may not want the best move is in a situation where a secondary move gives the easiest win. The recent post of the Cochrane – Mohishunder game is a good example. 
     Sometimes it can be dangerous to trust the evaluation of engines. A position evaluated at 0.00 doesn't mean it's a draw. It may mean that the chances are even, but in order to keep the balance you might have to play 10 perfect moves. Try that sometime! In other cases, it may show one side has a huge advantage, but in the long run it may not be able to win. And, in some positions the complications may be easy for an engine to see through but not a human. 
     As readers who play through the games in this blog know, I sometimes refer to Shootouts. I run Shootouts when I am not sure I believe the engine's evaluation or don't seen how the win can be accomplished. I discussed Shootouts in THIS post. As I pointed out in that post, it's not the individual moves I am interested in so much as the general direction the games took as that can be very helpful in finding a plan. 
     As far as I know, the Fritz GUI is the only program that has the Shootout feature. The newest version of the Fritz program costs about $70. I've seen some places where you can supposedly download some earlier versions for free, but it's probably illegal and dangerous, so I wouldn't do it. Fortunately, my old Fritz 12, which I found several years ago at Office Max for $20 (it was selling online for three times that), is still working and it runs Komodo and Stockfish just fine. 
     At the moment the top three rated engines on CCLRs 40/40 list are: 
1-Stockfish 9 64-bit 4CPU (3444) 
2-Komodo 12 64-bit 4CPU (3412) 
3-Houdini 6 64-bit 4CPU (3409) 

     There are two key elements in engine analysis: search and evaluation. Search is the way that the engine prunes the tree of analysis. Pruning is necessary because because with each ply the number of possible moves grows exponentially and so some moves have to be trimmed in order to obtain greater search depth. Evaluation is the set of criteria used by the engine to evaluate a position. 
     The main difference between engines is in their evaluation function. Stockfish seems to be best in the endgame and in spotting very deep tactics. Komodo is best at evaluating middlegame positions accurately once the tactics are resolved. Houdini is the best at blitz and at seeing tactics quickly. This explains why the very best correspondence players use different engines and often look at moves that aren't in the engine's top choices. 
     One nice feature of Chess Assistant is that you can refer to its list of all legal moves and tell it which ones you want it to analyze.   I don't know of any other program that has this feature. In order to analyze a specific move with other programs you have to play it then let the engine do its analysis. In some positions that can be very time consuming. 
     Stockfish is very aggressive in the way that it prunes its analysis, so it can search very deep but as it goes forward, it searches fewer plies. This is advantageous in the endgame and in some sharp tactical positions, but it can be a disadvantage in other positions. 
    Because Komodo's consultant, Larry Kaufman, was a Grandmaster its evaluation is the most positionally accurate. This is important when there is a material imbalance or the position is closed. It's also the best engine for playing the opening when out of book early. The engine is slightly slower than either Stockfish or Houdini and it seems to need longer analysis time than do the other two. 
     Houdini best for tactics, Stockfish for endgames and whenever great depth is required. Komodo has the best sense for relative piece values, I think. Both Houdini and Stockfish overvalue the Queen.  
     Houdini is a tactical whiz that tends to do best on the various tactical test sets that some engine experts have put together, and it spots tactics fairly quickly. One important point has to be made concerning Houdini's evaluation numbers. They are designed to predict the outcome. 
     A half Pawn advantage gives a 50 percent chance of winning. A one Pawn advantage gives an 80 percent chance of winning. And, a three Pawn advantage will win 99 percent of the time. There is one caveat though...those odds are against an equal opponent at blitz time control. Your results may be different!
     The question is, which engine is best? It depends. Any engine will point out our tactical mistakes, even second tier engines like Crafty and Fritz. But, if you are doing serious analytical work or the position is very complicated you need all three because each one of these engines has their strengths and weaknesses.
     Houdini and Komodo will cost you, but for most of us the free versions will do just fine. The free Houdini 1.5 can be downloaded from the Houdini site HERE. Komodo 9 can be downloaded free on the Komodo site HERE. Stockfish 9 can be downloaded HERE
     In the following game the position after black's 14th move is quite interesting. Caruana gave his 15th move two "!!" and in his notes wrote that no engine would find it. That was four years ago and out of curiosity I analyzed the position with Stockfish 9, Komodo 10 and Houdini 1.5, giving each engine five minutes.
     The results confirm that, as mentioned, an evaluation of 0.00 doesn't always mean a draw and sometimes that from the human perspective, there may be a more promising move than the engine's recommendation. 

Top two moves: 
Stockfish: 15.Na4 (0.16) and 15.Nd6 (0.00) 
Komodo 15.Na4 (0.01) and 15.Nd6 (0.00) 
Houdini 15.Nd6 (0.07) and  15.Na4 (0.06) 

After 15.g4: 
Stockfish (-0.07), Komodo 10 (-0.08), Houdini (-0.13) 

    Clearly, there's not much difference between the engines' top two choices and Caruana's move, but his move gives white more practical chances. Kingscrusher (real name Tryfon Gavriel, owner of www.chessworld.net and FIDE Candidate Master) analyzes the game. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lucas Anderson Chess Videos

     While surfing Youtube the other day I came across a series of well done instructional and historic chess videos by Lucas Anderson. Instructional videos (usually running 40-45 minutes) include the discussion of many openings such as the Slav Defense, Alekhine's Defense, the Ruy Lopez and the King's Indian, etc. There are videos on all facets of the middlegame and endings. Also very entertaining are the videos, some of which are one to two hours, on the lives of players like Fischer, Spassky, Alekhine, Nimzovich and others, complete with analyzed games. Visit site

Moheschunder Bannerjee and John Cochrane

     Reader Takchess called to my attention the virtually unknown Indian player Moheschunder Bannerjee who played many games against John Cochrane between 1848 and 1860. 
      Chessgames.com lists his won/lost record at +127 -283 =39. The Edo Historical Ratings site assigns him a rating of 2371 in 1849 to 2460 in 1857. The site also says that he was also known as The Brahmin and Mahesh Chandra Banerji. 
      For further information on this amazing player I refer the reader to the following sites: 

     The first thing one notices when looking at the list of games played between the two is the openings; Giuoco Piano, Petrov, King's Indian Attack, Reti System, Ruy Lopez, King's Indian, Pirc, Evans, King's Gambit Accepted. All either popular openings of the day or thoroughly modern ones. 
     John Cochrane is little known today. Chessmetrics assigns him ratings only between the years 1843 to 1846 when he was ranked number one in the world with a 2571 rating. 

     Cochrane was born in 1798 and died on March 2, 1878. He was a Scottish chess and lawyer. As a youth Cochrane was a midshipman in the Royal Navy, and is said to have served aboard HMS Bellerophon when the ship transported Napoleon Bonaparte to Britain in 1815. The down-sizing of the Navy after the end of the Napoleonic Wars made promotion prospects poor, and Cochrane switched to a career as a barrister, (lawyer). 
     While studying law, he became a very strong chess player and published a book on the game, which also included some analysis on the King's Gambit. After a long tour in India, Cochrane had accumulated a lot of leave and he spent 1841 to 1843 in the UK. Naturally he spent a lot of time at the top London chess clubs where he beat almost everyone including Pierre de Saint-Amant, who was France's strongest player. 
     However, the rising star of British chess was Howard Staunton. Staunton and Cochrane played at least 120 games on level terms, of which Staunton won about twice as many as Cochrane. Just before Cochrane's return to India, Staunton began to give him the odds of Pawn and move and in these games their scores were equal. Staunton described Cochrane as the "Father of the English Chess School.” 
     Cochrane then returned to India, where he became known as the "Father of the Calcutta Bar" (association of barristers) and a leading member of the Calcutta Chess Club. Cochrane sent games to the UK for publication. His two main opponents were Moheschunder Bannerjee and Saumchurn Guttack. I was unable to locate any information on Guttack except for his mention in an Illustrated London News article which states that he and Moheschunder Bannerjee were both known for their “modern” style of play. 
     When he returned to the UK for good, Cochrane continued to practice law part-time, mainly in important cases that arose in India, and wrote articles and books about the law. By this time he was too old for serious chess competition but played many casual games with strong players. Most of the games were 15-minute affairs and his main opponent was the veteran Johann Lowenthal. 
     By that time Cochrane was going deaf by this time and his comments on the play were often loud enough to be heard by players and amuse bystanders. Cochrane was known for sacrificing pieces and always attacking. 
     When I “anno-Fritzed” the following game the first impression after seeing all the moves where Stockfish suggested improvements was that it wasn't especially well played.  And, then after spending a couple of hours (!) playing over the game and exploring various possibilities I discovered that the game was rife with complications! 
     Bannerjee set some devilish traps and Cochrane was astute enough to sidestep them. In spite of the engine's evaluations in this game, I am not sure that between humans things are so clear cut. Stockfish's opinion aside, this was a fantastic game. 
     It's a pity that Moheschunder Bannerjee did not accompany Cochrane back to Great Britain in 1841. If he had the chess world would not have been forced to wait until 1929 when Sultan Kahn to show up. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Really Big Chess Book

     British FM Jimmy Adams must have set some sort of record with his monster chess book Gyula Breyer: The Chess Revolutionary. It's 877 pages!! The Kindle edition sells for $37.99 and the hardcover edition for $21.37 
     Adams is a prolific chess author who has written, translated and compiled a wide range of books on openings, historical tournaments and legendary players. His books include Johannes Zukertort, Artist of the Chessboard and Mikhail Chigorin, The Creative Genius
     Adams began his chess career at the age of 11 when he joined a local chess club in Islington, North London. He soon became a London Junior Champion but then played relatively little chess throughout the rest of the sixties, apart from in 1967, when he traveled widely and enjoyed tournament successes at home and abroad. 
     He returned to chess during the Fischer Era and in the London Amateur Championship he scored a 100 percent! And, in 1976, he played for the strong London Central YMCA team and came third to Bronstein and Taimanov in a 15-minute tournament held at the club. 
     Playing at home and abroad throughout the 1970s, his rating was 2300+ and at the same time he was a prolific contributor to the British Chess Magazine. In 1979, he won the Metropolitan Club Championship and for the next ten years competed successfully on top board for that club against many titled players – after which he stopped playing chess altogether. 
    Adams is best known as an author/translator/compiler of books on openings, historical tournaments and a number of Soviet GMs . He also worked as an editor for Pergamon Press which was subsequently taken over by Everyman. He then served as an adviser to Batsford, for whom he has helped publish well over a hundred chess titles, including best games collections of Fischer, Lasker, Petrosian, Gligoric, Najdorf and Judit Polgar. 
     For many years he also taught chess in various schools throughout the London area. He edited the English magazine Chess for nineteen years, until stepping down in 2010. He currently contributes to New in Chess
     His book on Breyer features articles, columns and fragments from newspapers, magazines and books, most of which appear in English for the first time.  There are 240 of his games, many annotated by Breyer himself. There is a 35 page pdf excerpt available from New In Chess HERE. You can also read the Google preview HERE
     Gyula Breyer (April 30, 1893 – November 9, 1921), a leading Hypermodern, won the Hungarian championship in 1912. His promising career was cut short by heart disease when he died in 1921 at the age of 28 in Bratislava, Slovakia where he was buried. He was exhumed in 1987 and reburied in Budapest. 
     You can access Reti's Modern Ideas In Chess as presented by Open Chess Books, a project by Degenerate Metrics HERE. Open Chess books also has Capablanca's Chess Fundamentals available HERE.

Monday, June 4, 2018

An Unheralded Master, Herman Voigt

    The other day I ran across an interesting digital copy of a book titled Chess in Philadelphia: a brief history of the game in Philadelphia on Google that was published in 1898. While browsing through book I discovered a player from Philadelphia who defeated Pillsbury and Steinitz in simuls and held Lasher to draw before blundering it away on move 81 and losing. He also defeated J.H. Blackburne in a game played at the Franklin Chess Club in 1889. 
     Looking him up on Chessmetrics I discovered that he had been assigned a rating of 2656 on the January 1899 list which placed him at number 15 in the world, a position he held 8 different months between the June 1898 rating list and the August 1900 rating list. 
    Herman G. Voigt of Philadelphia was one of the country's best players for over 40 years, but his many responsibilities prevented him from entering any of the international tournaments held in the US during his playing days. 
    According to player/chess journalist Walter Penn Shipley, it was widely known among friends that as a rapid and skittles player Voigt had few equals.  He possessed an uncanny positional judgment and played with imagination and ingenuity.
    Described as a large man with a vigorous physique until later years when he suffered from serious heart problems, he was known for his pleasing personality and happy disposition which made him extremely popular among local players. Whenever he entered the Franklin Chess Club it was always accompanied by the greeting, “Here comes the boss player; he can beat anybody in the room.”
     Voigt won the Philadelphia city championship five times: 1891, 1892, 1897, 1898 and 1909. Between the years 1898 and 1911 he played for the US in various cable matches against Great Britain, scoring +3 -2 =5. In these matches he defeated T.F. Lawrence who for many years held the the city of London championship and drew with British champions J.H. Blackburne and H.E. Atkins.
     Voigt's father was born in Germany, but came to the US and became a citizen, but later returned to Germany where Voigt was born in Grimmitschau on July 16, 1857. When Voigt was around 14 years old his father brought the family back to the US. So, although Voigt was born in Germany, his parents were naturalized citizens and he was thus considered a US citizen. They located in Philadelphia in February, 1871.
     As an adult Voigt was a successful building contractor. If you remember, when World War One began the US economy was in a recession, but beginning in 1914, a 44 month economic boom ensued when Europeans began purchasing US goods and when the US entered the war in 1917 massive spending was unleashed.  Not everybody benefitted from the economic boom.  Like many other contractors Voigt was caught with a lot of unfinished contracts and rapidly rising material and labor costs.  As a result he was forced to voluntarily declare bankruptcy. 
     Around that time he began developing heart problems. Shipley noted that for several years after the failure of his business and with his heart problems, friends realized that the end was near for Voigt. He died at the age of 64 on February 12, 1922.  He was survived by his wife, two daughters, two brothers and three sisters.