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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thinking of Retiring!

    I have 8 games left on LSS where I have been playing for the last 5 years and am giving serious thought to retiring after these games are completed. The reason is that I am tiring of playing draw after draw with engines. I’ve put some work into preparing opening books and testing out different engines, but in long games there doesn’t appear to be much difference between Houdini, Stockfish and Critter and I’m not good enough to guide games into positions that engines don’t play well. The result is that despite my best efforts I’m only +5 there.
      I have also thought about playing on one or other of the servers I’ve played on in the past, but it seems that all sites have a whole lot more engine users than they are willing to admit, so that’s out.
      OTB tournaments are out, too. To tell the truth, for quite a few years now I’ve found myself “chessed out” after about an hour and not wanting to play anymore. There’s an informal meeting of chess players at a local coffee shop on Saturday afternoons and a couple players aren’t bad. The last guy I played was an older gentleman who was tactically very wily and it took be an hour and a half, but after avoiding a lot of his clever traps, I finally managed to nip him in a R and P ending. He said his rating back in the 1970’s was around 2000, but he doesn’t play anymore.  A couple of players were in the 1600-1700 range twenty-some years ago. I don’t visit the place much because it always seems like there’s something else to do on Saturday afternoon and you never know if a chess player is going to show up or not and I don't like sitting there all by myself drinking a $1.90 cup of coffee then driving back home. 
      Since beginning to play chess in 1959, I gave found my interest in it waxed and waned over the years, including a couple of 10-12 year periods where I did not even look at a chess set. Now my interest is waning again and I have decided it’s time to put the pieces back in the box and I am even toying with the idea that it’s time to cease blogging and do something else with my spare time. Since beginning this blog in March of 2010 after my first one got hacked, Tartajubow on Chess II has had 1037 posts and 0ver 200,000 views while my other two blogs averaged between 10,000 to 12,000 views, so all-in-all it has been pretty successful and I have had fun blogging, but maybe it’s time to quit.
      If I don’t make any more posts, thanks for visiting; if I do make more posts, disregard this post.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween Gambit Revisited

      I have posted on this gambit before, but recently came across this interesting game between two fairly highly rated CC players. Although the Halloween Gambit is generally considered bad (and nearly losing for white), it is tricky to meet over the board and as I stated in the earlier post, if the large number of short wins for White means anything, this gambit looks like something blitz players or club players might want to give a try...there's nothing to lose but the game. That makes the fact that the following game even more interesting.

New Chess Server

      The Amateur Chess Organization, headquartered in Prievidza , Slovakia, is an organization for amateur chess players up to 2400 ELO. This organization, with no ties to FIDE, claims to exclusively represent the interests of amateur chess players. They sponsor the World Amateur Championship where all players below 2400 rating are allowed to participate.
      Actually the organization began in 2011, but their server is now in Beta. On the server they offer Live Chess where the time control ranges between one minute and 3 hours and Online Chess (correspondence chess) with time controls ranging between 1 to 14 days per move. The Glicko-Rating-System is used.
      They also sponsor OTB events and offer an interesting concept called “Couch Surfing.” Players offer their home to players all over the world. The idea is if you would like to take part in a tournament in another country, but you don’t have enough money for accommodations, you can stay in somebody’s home. These days I’m not so sure that would be a good idea on the part of either party, but you never know.
      Currently the site does not appear to show a lot of activity. i.e. the forums are mostly empty and because I did not want to register on yet another chess site, I can’t tell you how much activity there is in the games section, but for anyone that’s interested, you can sign up HERE.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chess Auctions

     The Lund Academy website says they “promote the training and playing of young chess talents through support grom academy members and sponsors, and benefits from chess book auctions and chess stores.” I don’t know about all of that but their site has a lot of interesting stuff up for auction: Bibliographies, Biographies, Compositions, Endgames, Game collections, General works, Jubilee and Programs, Magazines, Openings and Middle game, Tournaments and Matches and more.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Edith Price and The Gambit

     In 1948 Edith Price won the British Ladies Championship at the age of 76, the oldest player ever to win a national championship. She won the British Women’s Championship 5 times (1922, 1923, 1924, 1928, and 1948). She played in her first Ladies Championship in 1912, finishing second and almost took the title in 1920 and 1921, when she narrowly missed out in the playoffs, after tying for first. She took sixth at London 1927 (the first Women's World Chess Championship) and took second at Folkestone 1933 (the fourth Women's World Chess Championship), both won by Vera Menchik. She was the woman's world chess championship challenger in 1927 and 1933.
      In 1898 she founded the Gambit Chess Room for men only except for waitresses. The club was open every day except for two days in 1940 when it was bombed during a Nazi raid. It was located on Budge Row in London.  You can view a 1946 video of the Gambit Room HERE.
      According to Leonard Barden there were normally around 30 people there, 50 at lunchtime, and Kriegspiel was popular. The policy used to be no female customers, but this was relaxed by the mid-forties and Barden remembered playing Eileen Tranmer in a tournament game in the basement, which was reserved for serious chess. It was also the site of the Britain v USSR 1946 radio match.
      The high point of the Gambit week was the Saturday 'Gambit Guinea'. I find British money rather confusing but I think a Guinea is a value a little over one pound rather than a coin or note. Anyway a Guinea was the first prize in lightning tournaments played at ten seconds per move with the timing done by striking a cup with a spoon. These events came to be quite strong with several British championship players and strong amateurs taking part.
      Eventually The Gambit was demolished by developers who built the headquarters of Legal and General; the building was regarded as an architectural eyesore and eventually was itself rebuilt and as a result Budge Row no longer exists.
      Google lists a book about her at $42!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kasparov For President

     I assume everyone knows that Garry Kasparov announced his run at the FIDE presidency a couple of weeks ago. Kasparov’s Facebook page describes him as a Russian pro-democracy activist and former world chess champion.
      Kasparov founded the Humanity Foundation a Free Choice group of Russian freedom advocates with the stated purpose of working for fair, democratic elections in Russia. He retired from chess in 2005 to devote himself fulltime to writing and human rights advocacy and as an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kasparov created the United Civil Front, a social movement with a mission to prevent Russia from returning to totalitarianism. He is a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and various other news publications.
      He is the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation’s International Council, a nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights globally, with an expertise in the Americas. The Humanity Foundation BD was incorporated in 2005, and opened its offices in New York in August of 2006. His Kasparov Chess Foundation promotes chess in education.

  Kasparov's Official Site

      Kasparov plans to unseat 18-year incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the election that takes place in August 2014. Kasparov sees FIDE as a social network that can be used to create communication for millions and millions of chess fans and he wants to use FIDE to” elevate chess from the grassroots level, to spread the game in education and as a cultural touchstone as well as a successful commercial sport.”  Kasparov’s platform has six points:

1. Serve and support the national federations. FIDE should provide for its members instead of being supported by them.
2. Increase the FIDE budget by 100% in the next two years via corporate sponsorship. He wants to use a professional marketing approach that will make chess and FIDE attractive to corporate and public sponsors.
3. Universal rating system and expansion of online services: include every game of chess played on the planet, from world championship matches to online blitz.
4. FIDE will provide benefits to the huge base of chessplayers by offering services to the federations such as online news and training, a social media platform, direct support for organizers and journalists, and assistance with fundraising and finding sponsorship.
5. Develop the next generation of chessplayers around the world by promoting and establishing chess-in-education programs. Having chess be included in the school.
6. Review FIDE regulations to protect the integrity of chess by collaborate with players and organizers on a common-sense implementation of the zero-tolerance rule that will preserve dignity and professionalism. This will be accomplished by taking steps to test, and implement strong anti-cheating measures, including severe penalties for violators as well as the adoption of anti-short-draw rules.

      It was Kasparov himself that initiated the split in chess in 1993, by creating the PCA (Professional Chess Association). Ilymzhinov took over FIDE in 1995 and successfully reunified the world title in 2006 but he has failed to raise corporate sponsorship.
      The question Kasparov and election watchers are asking is, “If he gets elected, will he be more successful in maintaining gains than he was with Intel, IBM, Microsoft, GMA, PCA or any of the other organizations he lured into chess or helped create?” Good question. I suspect much of the problem lies with Kasparov whose personality has been known to rub people the wrong way.
      I don’t know about the rest of the world’s chess federations, but in the US things are run by a bunch of good old boys who like a status quo. Throw in the fact that FIDE likes to throw money around come election time (who is NOT guilty of this?) and I don’t think Kasparov has much of a chance.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Greatest Feat in Chess History

     According to an article in ChessVibes Borislav Ivanov has decided to quit chess because of all the cheating accusations and after the humiliation of being asked to remove his shoes at a tournament in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Yes, I think it’s humiliating. Just think of search procedures at an airport…remove your shoes and belt and stand spread-eagled in the x-ray machine. I got singled out twice for closer examination going to Florida earlier this year. The first time was because I forgot to remove my baseball cap in the x-ray machine and that resulted in being called aside for some personal attention from the security gourds. The second time was because I forgot to put my clear plastic bag of shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, etc. in the x-ray tray with my wallet, belt, keys and watch. The security gourd got all excited and called his supervisor who had a lot of questions. I was a little irritated, but then realized I’m glad they are so thorough; who wants to get hijacked or blown up? It’s just a shame that chess has come to this but nobody wants to lose to Houdini in a tournament.
      GM Maxim Dlugy claimed that Ivanov was possibly cheating with his feet. Getting moves from a device in his shoe is somehow possible I suppose, but wouldn’t he still need an assistant? Without an assistant, he would have to have incredibly dexterous toes. Anyway, I gave this a lot of thought and decided it would have been better to plant the device in his butt crack. If any input from him was required he could just do butt crunches which seems easier than using your toes.
      I really don’t know what to make of this. It seems pretty clear that Ivanov had a very high matchup rate with engines in some of his games, and apparently tried to avoid suspicion by losing games to much lower rated players on occasion. While the evidence against him is circumstantial it is still admissible as proof of cheating. Circumstantial evidence is described as “Information and testimony presented by a party in a civil or criminal action that permit conclusions that indirectly establish the existence or nonexistence of a fact or event that the party seeks to prove.” Much scientific evidence (evidence that is produced from scientific tests or studies) is circumstantial because it requires a jury to make a connection between the circumstance and the fact in issue. In Ivanov’s case the scientific evidence would be the matchup rate against Houdini in many of his games.
      So the guy probably did cheat in a lot of games and is now apparently out of chess, but what fascinates me, like everyone else, is how did he do it?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A ‘Real’ GM tries Correspondence Chess

    I was looking at the LSS rating list the other day and noticed there was one OTB GM who played very briefly on LSS, GM Alex Fier. He appears to have entered three tournaments, won one game on a forfeit, drew 6 and either resigned or forfeited 18 games. Guess this type of chess wasn’t for him. That’s too bad because it would have been interesting to see how a real GM would have done in today’s correspondence chess world.
      Also, while perusing the rating list, I noticed a lot of correspondence names I recognized but not one was a recognizable OTB name. Out of curiosity, I checked to see what the top 40 players with LSS had for OTB and ICCF ratings. What I discovered was that on LSS, 21 had ICCF ratings that were, for the most part, near their LSS ratings. But…what about OTB ratings with FIDE? Most players were inactive OTB or were unrated. Four had low master ratings, four had Expert ratings (2000-2199), five were rated in the 1900’s and one top-rated LSS player who had no ICCF rating was rated 1661 with FIDE.
      After returning to chess in 2004 after a vey long absence I joined the CCLA with a rating of around 2060 and quickly discovered many (but not all) players around the master level were using engines even though it is not allowed. That’s what prompted me to play on LSS; at least there is no doubt. It’s a different kind of chess and I have not mastered winning consistently using an engine. Obviously, those guys in the top 40 know something more about how to use them to win than I do.
      So, exactly what does it take to reach 2400 on ICCF or LSS. It’s hard to say because top CC players don’t say much about how they manage to beat all the other guys who are also using an engine. According to one article I recently read, it can be done.
      First be prepared to spend a lot of time because ICCF tournaments can take a couple of years. Actually this isn’t much different than it was back in the days of post cards, but in this age we are used to things moving along at a faster pace.
      You will need to know a fair bit about computer software, you will need an opening repertoire program so you can stay organized, check transpositions, discover promising lines, find novelties and it must be kept up to date. 
      Many players on ICCF specialize in anti-computer strategies by steering for solid positions where they won't need to calculate a lot and one side has a slight positional advantage that can be utilized in the ending, so you will need to be something of an expert in knowing which positions are likely to lead to a won ending. You will play a lot of long games.
      Good hardware is helpful. The better the hardware the more positions you are capable of analyzing. Two cores minimum; 4 cores is better and more than that even greater. You will need Houdini 3, Fritz 13 or Aquarium and an opening software program like Bookup.
      They say that opening preparation will make up half of your strength on ICCF so you download all the archived games from ICCF and LSS. After that you use the backsolving feature on Bookup. I have never owned this so know nothing about it. Anyway, after you have enough games backsolved (apparently to find winning lines) then you start analyzing, or rather, the engine does. The author recommended using Aquarium’s IDeA analysis, but that’s a program of which I am not fond. Other programs, like DPA in Fritz, should also work. The author also suggested using both Fritz 13 and Aquarium IDeA running at the same time so that if Fritz (the faster engine) found a strong move, you can instruct Aquarium to analyze it in IDeA. At least I think that's what he was saying; I’m no computer guru and remember you need to know a fair bit about how to use your programs.
      It is also recommended that you download all the tablebases your computer will handle. There is also a program called FinalGen that’s available for free download that will supposedly allow you to generate your own endgame tablebases of up to seven pieces. It will take 30 minutes to 3 hours to solve a position.  I downloaded it once just to play around with it, got bored waiting on it, decided it wasn't needed and deleted it.
      It is also recommended that you always play to win. As to how many games to play, one tournament at a time is the recommended number. I see it quite often on LSS that some players have 20, 30 or more games running at a time. When your opponent is on line a little green light is next to his name and I have seen some players stay online for a long time. They are likely running through their games spending a minute or two on it then playing whatever the engine suggests. I like playing them because they are the easiest to beat because engines don’t play their best moves that way. Tournaments should be selected so that you are playing against opponents with the highest rating available. That is, don’t play in open tournaments where you will meet lower rated players because a loss would be disastrous to your rating.
      Be prepared to face opening novelties from highly rated players. How do you find novelties? One recommendation is to join Chess Publishing for $19.50 a year and analyze, analyze and then when you’re done, analyze some more.
      All this sounds like a lot of tedious work so I probably won’t reach 2400 any time soon. ICCF offers GM, SIM and IM titles.  I think they should have one other title that would reflect the level of my ability...BM.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fritz 12 vs. ChessOK 2011

I have been using Fritz 12 for quite some time and back in March (I think it was) bought ChessOK 2011 because I was interested in using IDeA for analysis. As it turned out, I didn’t like ChessOK 2011…too klutzy for my taste and and not user friendly. So, after the old laptop’s motherboard crapped out and I bought a new one with Windows 8 I dug out the Fritz 12 CD and installed it on the new laptop and it works fine. Yesterday I searched through my old e-mails and found the download link and serial number for ChessOK 2011 and downloaded it. Why would I do that if I don’t like the program anyway? Because I paid for it. After the download was complete, I installed it, or rather tried to. Got a message that it won’t run, apparently because I’m using Windows 8. All I can say is Fritz 12 does, but ChessOK 2011 won’t…