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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kate Finn

     Catherine "Kate" Belinda Finn (born December 16, 1864 (?) in Cork, died March 8, 1932 in London) was the first British Women's Chess Champion in 1904 and defended her title in 1905. 
     She was the only daughter of Eugene Finn, MD and his wife Belinda. After the death of her father she lived together with her mother, who died in 1906, in well-off conditions in the London district of Kensington, an upscale area with stately Victorian buildings and embassies. 
     Later, she lived with a younger woman, Eileen Florence Hodson Moriarty (1880-1945). She learned the game of chess from her mother, who often accompanied her to tournaments. 
     Kate Finn was a founding member of the Ladies' Chess Club, which was launched in January 1895 in London. In the following months, the club members played several friendly matches against other clubs. Four members participated in a women's tournament organized during the Chess tournament at Hastings in 1895. It was won by Lady Edith Thomas, Finn finished fourth. 
     In 1897, Finn took part in the first international women's tournament, held in London and won by Mary Rudge. There were 32 entries for the tournament, from which 20 participants were selected. After eight rounds Finn's score was 3.5-4.5 and she withdrew owing to warm weather and the tight schedule of 19 rounds in 11 days was too exhausting for her. 
     In June 1900, Finn won the B tournament at the Annual Congress of the Kent Chess Association, in which four men and two women participated; she scored 4-1. In a simultaneous exhibition of 25 boards given by Isidor Gunsberg in December 1902, Finn was the only participant to defeat the master. 
     In 1903, Wiener Schachzeitung printed one of her games from a tournament in Plymouth which she lost to Wilfred Palmer in only 10 moves. This prompted the following remark by the editor: "This rapid defeat is likely to mislead some psychologists to regard the game as a valuable contribution to the popular chapter "Inferiority of Female Intelligence." On the other hand, it must be noted that Miss Finn is well acquainted with the intricacies of chess and has excelled on many previous occasions." 
     At the 1904 British Championship in Hastings she scored 10.5 -0.5 points and finished three points ahead of the runner-up. She received a cash prize of £ 10 and a gold medal. As a result, she was featured in an article in the British Chess Magazine which was the most comprehensive report to date about a female chess player in the magazine (see page 400). 
      In 1905 she defended her title with an undefeated score of 9.5-1.5. She skipped the 1906 tournament because of a serious illness of her mother. 
     In the women's tournament as part of the international tournament in Ostend 1907 she tied for first place with Grace Curling and apparently won a later tiebreak match with one win and two draws. 
     In 1911, Finn won another international women's tournament, organized by Theodor von Scheve in San Remo. The first prize was 1.000 francs. The games are not known. 
1) Kate Finn 7.0 
2) Selma Cotton 6.0 
3) Mrs J.D. Rentoul 5.0 
4) A. Smith-Cunninghame 
5) Mrs Charlotte Tiedge 
6) Mrs Pillans J. Stevenson 
7) Countess Maria Fossati 
8) Countess d’Arlay 

     In later years, her eyesight diminished and her overall health deteriorated. However, she played in team competitions for the Imperial Chess Club in the London League until 1931. Only a small handful of her games have survived. 
     For years she played top board for the original Ladies Chess Club, which then played in the “A” Division of the London League. Here she held her own with the leading London players. Latter, she joined the Imperial Chess Club where she was a regular. She did defeat Sir George Thomas in a tournament game in 1906. 
     One of her last known appearances was in a match played on board the Union Castle passenger liner Llangibby Castle moored in Royal Albert Dock in London in 1930. Mir Sultan Khan played on top board. 
     According to Edo historical ratings her highest rating was 2095 in 1905. Finn died of bronchial pneumonia on March 8, 1932. Her roommate was Eileen Florence Hodson Moriarty (1880-1945, Wales) and her estate was valued at £6000, a tidy sum in those days. This is the equivalent of about £300,000 today (about $395,000 in US dollars). 
     The following game was one of the only two of her games that I was able to locate. It was played in the 1905 Ladies' Championship and appeared in the Manchester Guardian. Her opponent's name was not given, perhaps to save embarrassment. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Bad Pistyan 1912

     The year 1912 produced a lot of interesting news. The Republic of China was announced to be established, German geophysicist Alfred Wegener first presented his theory of continental drift, Italy made a surprise attack on the Ottoman port of Beirut, when the cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi and the gunboat Volturno bombard the harbor, killing 97 sailors and civilians, the Italians became the first to use airships in war when two dirigibles dropped bombs on Turkish troops encamped at Janzur, from an altitude of 6,000 feet.
     On April 11th the Titanic made her last call at Queenstown in Ireland. On April 14-15, it struck an iceberg and sank with the loss of between 1,517 and 1,636 lives. The wreck would not be discovered on the sea floor until 1985. 

     In May the Olympic Games open in Stockholm. In October the First Balkan War began when Montenegro declared war against the Ottoman Empire and a few days later Italy and the Ottoman Empire signed a treaty ending the Italo-Turkish War. On December 3rd, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia (the Balkan League) signed an armistice with the Ottoman Empire, temporarily halting the First Balkan War. The armistice was to expire on February 3, 1913 and hostilities would resume. 
     In the United States, in January, New Mexico became the 47th state and in February, Arizona also became a state. Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from a flying airplane and the Girl Scouts were founded. The Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, sent a gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to be planted in Washington, DC. to symbolize the friendship between the two countries. Every year the Cherry Blossom Festival has been held in Washington. 
     In April, two baseball stadiums opened: Tiger Stadium in Detroit and Fenway Park in Boston. About three weeks later the Detroit Tigers went on strike to protest the suspension of Ty Cobb. A replacement team recruited from the coaching staff and local colleges was fielded to avoid a forfeiture to the Philadelphia Athletics, but the result was a lopsided loss. 
     The Republican National Convention nominated incumbent President William Howard Taft. On July 19th, a meteorite with an estimated mass of over 400 ponds exploded over the town of Holbrook in Navajo County, Arizona causing thousands of pieces of debris to rain down on the town. 
     Dissident Republicans formed the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, and nominated former President Theodore Roosevelt as their presidential candidate. While campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in mid-October, former President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by saloon keeper John Schrank. With a fresh flesh wound and the bullet still in him, Roosevelt delivered his scheduled speech. After finishing his speech, he went to the hospital, where it was deduced that if he had not had his speech in his breast pocket when he was shot, he most likely would have died. 
     The Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Giants in extra innings to win the 1912 World Series and on October 30, Vice President James S. Sherman died in office just days prior to the 1912 presidential election. Woodrow Wilson won a landslide victory over Teddy Roosevelt and President Taft, who finished third. 
     In chess, 1912 was the year Stepan Levitsky fell victim to Frank Marshall's famous Queen sacrifice in Breslau. In Opatija, Croatia, Spielmann crushed everybody and finished first by 3-5 points ahead of Reti and at Pistyan, a small resort northeast of Bratislava, Rubinstein scored on of his greatest triumphs. Despite making two quick draws at the end, he was still first by 2.5 points. The venue was Grand Hotel Royal in Pistyan, then part of Austria-Hungary, known today as Piestany in Slovakia. Photos from Edward Winter.

1) Rubinstein 14.0 
2) Spielmann 11.5 
3) Marshall 10.5 
4-6) Schlechter,Duras and Teichmann 10.0 
7-8) Balla and Breyer 9.5 
 9-11) Alapin, Sterk and Salwe 9.0 
2) Lowcki 8.0 
13-14) Barasz and Yates 6.0 
15-16) Hromadka and Cohn 5.5 
17) Leonhardt 5.5 
18) Johner 4.5 

    One of the more instructive games from the tournament was Rubinstein's win over Spielmann. 

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