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Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I am temporarily “offline” on this Blog.  Monday night (5-19) here was a huge storm in our area which included a tornado not too far away.  As a result our house was flooded with 3 feet of water and we have been living in a hotel awaiting repairs to our house plus doing much of the work ourselves so there has been little time for chess.  I hope to resume posting after things return to something close to normal.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The a3!? Anti-Sicilian

    It has been recomended by, among others, GM Alexei Bezgodov and IM Sergei Soloviov, both of whom have written books on it. Instinct tells me all the books recommending it are balderdash because the move simply cannot be as good as 2.Nf3 or 2.Nc3 because a3 does nothing for White's center. Of course, that’s not to say it isn’t playable.     
     White plays 1.e4 c5 2.a3 with the intention of playing 3.b4, diverting Black's c-pawn from the centre and allowing White to build a strong central position with his e and d pawns. Depending on Black's 2nd move this may or may not involve sacrificing a pawn. Of course White can play the Wing Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.b4) or the Wing Gambit Delayed (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.b4) without the fanfare of 2.a3.
     I have tried 2.a3 a few times in online blitz games with pretty good results. I have not used it with the intention of playing b4 though because I’ve also tried the Wing Gambit and WG Delayed and have not gotten very good positions.
     The following online game was quite interesting. We reached what appears to be a standard Sicilian position and after a flurry of exchanges beginning at move 9 we reached a position where I had 2R’s, N and 5P’s against my opponent’s R, 2B’s and 6P’s. These positions are the kind that, in my opinion, engines don’t evaluate very well, so going over it with Houdini 2 doesn’t answer a lot of questions. In fact, while analyzing it with a couple of different engines, there were different suggestions for both of us at almost every move, but most of them seem to lead to nothing significantly better than what we actually played. Still, it seems to me that all the winning chances were Black’s but when he missed his best chance at move 37 the game was a draw. Black kept playing though hoping for a mistake which is exactly what happened. Unfortunately for him, it was his mistake and it cost him the game.

Marcel Duchamp, Chess Master

     After becoming an established artist, Marcel Duchamp turned his focus to playing chess and spent a large part of his life as a serious player. He once remarked that “while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” By most estimates, Duchamp was a player of about master strength. He competed in the 1925 French championship, reportedly scoring 50 percent, and represented France in the 1933 Olympiad (on the same team as Alekhine, the world champion). Though he was usually outclassed against the best players, occasionally he managed to hold his own, drawing a game against Vera Menchik, the women’s world champion, in 1929 and drawing with Frank Marshall in 1930.
     After moving to Greenwich Village from France in the 1940’s, he played for the Marshall Chess Club in the Metropolitan Chess League and his photograph still hangs on the club’s wall.
     By 1923, Duchamp (1887-1968) had established himself as a force in the avant-garde art communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Then, suddenly, after two decades of innovation and considerable controversy, he was reported to have quit making art in order to focus on chess. Of course, Duchamp never totally quit being an artist.
     Following a brief excursion to Buenos Aires during 1918 and 1919, where he became a self-described "chess maniac," his interest in the game grew far beyond an idle pastime. He soon made it his objective to win the French Championship. Between 1923 and 1933, chess dominated Duchamp's life as he competed in tournaments across Europe. Following several respectable performances, including a first-place finish at the Championship of Haute Normandie in 1924, he was awarded the Master title by the French Chess Federation.
     Though his objective of winning the French championship never came to pass, Duchamp succeeded in representing France in numerous tournaments and Olympiads. He published a book on endgame tactics, extensively revised a classic analysis of opening strategies by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, authored a chess column in the Paris daily newspaper Ce Soir, and became one of the most respected players of correspondence chess in the world.
     His participation in tournament play slowed dramatically after 1933, though he remained engaged with the professional chess community for the rest his life. He became a valued ambassador for the game through the various honorary positions as well as his charitable effort, the Marcel Duchamp Fund of the American Chess Foundation. His legacy also includes playing a pivotal role in introducing the theme of chess in art to a wider public through his involvement in the organization of two historic exhibitions, "The Imagery of Chess" in 1944 and "Hommage a Caissa" in 1966.
    The first exhibition dedicated entirely to his association with chess, "Marcel Duchamp: Chess Master" was conceived as an opportunity to experience Duchamp's influential career through his involvement with the game.  In addition to a selection of works by Duchamp, this exhibition also featured chess-related items by other artists, many of whom shared Duchamp's enthusiasm for the game. It presented people the opportunity to see examples of the unique chess-set designs by Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dali.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Download Free Chess Engines

I have added a link on the left under Favorite Sites and Blogs where you can download free engines from ChessOK. The engines available are:

Houdini 2.0
Deep Rybka 4
Houdini  1.5a
Stockfish 2.11
Critter 1.1.37
Spark 1.0
WildCat 8.0
SOS 11.99
Zchess 2.22
Gromit 3.0
Ufim 8.2
Mustang 4.97
GreKo 8.2
Kaissa2 1.8a
Adamant 1.7
Booot 5.1.0
Eeyore 1.52 (32 & 64bit)
Zeus 1.29
Arics 0.95a
Anechka 0.08
Patriot 2006
AlChess 1.5b
OBender 3.2.4x
Counter 1.2
Strelka 2.0B
Belka 1.8.20
Ifrit 4.4
Bison 9.11
Uralochka 1.1b
Marginal 0.1
Chess 3
Woodpecker 2
Gull 1.2

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fischer Random Chess

     Chess960 (or Fischer Random Chess) was invented and advocated by former world champion Bobby Fischer who publicly introduced it in 1996 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The idea is that it renders the prospect of obtaining an advantage through the memorization of opening lines impracticable and compels players to rely on their talent and creativity.
     Randomizing the main pieces had long been known as Shuffle Chess; however, Chess960 introduces restrictions that preserve the game’s nature by retaining bishops of opposite colors and the right to castle for both sides. Shuffle Chess wasn’t new; it was suggested as early as 1792.     
     Fischer started work on his new version of chess after his 1992 return match with Boris Spassky with the goal of eliminating the importance of opening preparation. This was, in part, the result of his belief that the Russians (to be politically correct these days, “Soviets”) fixed all international games. Actually, the Russians (Soviets) were not the only ones who fixed games; there are plenty of examples by players from every other country. Anyway, in games where the starting position is random it would be impossible to fix every move because it would be too difficult to memorize. These days even an average player can have a lot of opening knowledge but it comes to naught once they are out of theory but that’s not the case in GM chess which is the circle Fischer moved in.     
     Another reason for Fischer’s desire to implement RFC was his desire to eliminate prearranged games. Of course, being Fischer, he also had other reasons why FRC was better than conventional chess. He thought it was healthier! He pointed out that due to such long hours in front of the computer screen many top players today, such as Anand and Kramnik, wear thick glasses. Who wants to look like a bespectacled nerd when you can look like this?
     Yet another reason to play FRC: all of the study necessary to play conventional chess made it hard work, and he had gotten into chess in order to avoid work.     
     I know you are all dying to know my opinion of FRC, so it is:  When I get to the place where I am a walking encyclopedia of openings, can recall hundreds, if not thousands of master games, have in memory thousands of “chunks” of positions, have a knowledge of endings that will enable me, like Fine, to bash out a book on them in 6 months and my rating is up around 2700, or maybe 2800, I might be interested in FRC. Until then conventional chess suits me just fine.     

Monday, May 5, 2014

Larry Evans

   Larry Evans (March 22, 1932 – November 15, 2010), grandmaster, author, and journalist was awarded the IM titlein 1952 and the GM title in 1957. In 1956 U.S. State Department appointed him a "chess ambassador".
    Evans won or shared the U.S. Championship five times and the U.S. Open Championship four times. He wrote a long-running syndicated column and wrote or co-wrote more than twenty books on chess. Evans, born in Manhattan, learned much about the game by playing for ten cents an hour on 42nd Street in New York City.
    At age 14, he tied for 4th–5th place in the Marshall Chess Club championship and the next year he won it outright, becoming the youngest Marshall champion at that time. He also finished equal second in the U.S. Junior Championship. At 16, he played in the 1948 U.S. Championship, tying for eighth place at 11½–7½. Evans tied with Arthur Bisguier for first place in the U.S. Junior Chess Championship of 1949.
     By age 18, he had won a New York State championship as well as a gold medal in the Dubrovnik 1950 Chess Olympiad. 1951, he first won the U.S. Championship, ahead of Samuel Reshevsky and won his second championship the following year by winning a title match against Herman Steiner. He won the national championship three additional times: in 1961–62, 1967–68, and 1980.
    Evans performed well in many U.S. events during the 1960s and 1970s, but his trips abroad to international tournaments were infrequent and less successful. He won the U.S. Open Championship in 1951, 1952, 1954 and tied with Walter Browne in 1971. He also won the first Lone Pine tournament in 1971.
     In the 1960s, Evans moved to Reno when he discovered he had another talent: counting cards. According to Frank Brady, “He had a memory that he built up from chess. He could memorize cards, and he wasn’t making any money from chess in those days. Nobody was. He made a lot of money and he kept getting banned from casino to casino.”
     His best foreign results included two wins at the Canadian Open Championship, 1956 in Montreal, and 1966 in Kingston, Ontario. He tied for first-second in the 1975 Portimão, Portugal International and for second-third with World Champion Tigran Petrosian, behind Jan Hein Donner, in Venice, 1967. However, his first, and what ultimately proved to be his only, chance in the World Chess Championship cycle ended with a disappointing 14th place (10/23) in the 1964 Amsterdam Interzonal.
     Regarding his style, Evans was willing to take risks in open tournaments against weaker players but that did not work as well against the best players. Evans was closely associated with Bobby Fischer in his quest for the world title and was Fischer's second for the Candidates matches leading up to the World Chess Championship 1972 against Boris Spassky. As a result of a disagreement, he did not serve as Fischer’s second during the actual championship match. At his peak in 1968 he was rated 2631. By the age of eighteen he published David Bronstein's Best Games of Chess, 1944–1949 and the Vienna International Tournament, 1922.
     His book New Ideas in Chess was published in 1958 and wrote or co-wrote more than 20 books on chess. He is probably best known for his contribution to Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games in which he wrote the introductions to each of the games and for convincing Fischer to publish the book he had initially been reluctant to do so.
     Evans began his career in chess journalism during the 1960s, helping to found the American Chess Quarterly and was an editor of Chess Digest during the 1960s and 1970s. For over thirty years, until 2006, he wrote a very popular question-and-answer column for Chess Life. He also wrote Evans on Chess which appeared in more than fifty separate newspapers throughout the United States. Evans also contributed a large amount of material to the Chessmaster computer game. He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1994. Many of Evans’ book received wide acclaim, but chess journalist, Edward Winter found and published many errors contained in his writings.
     On Monday, November 15, 2010, at approximately 3 p.m. Evans died at Washoe Hospital in Reno, Nevada, from complications following a gall bladder operation.
Washoe Hospital

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Blitz Engine Test Tournament and Gull 3

     While it can hardly be considered scientific, I recently held a small engine tournament at 6 minutes per game between my most used engines and was surprised at the results.

     I don’t know much about Gull 3 x64, released April 17, 2014, but decided to try it out in a match against the winner of the tournament. Gull only runs on 2 CPU’s so my match pairing it against Critter running on 4 CPU’s is not fair, but still the final result was surprising in that Gull won +2 -1 =7.
     On a more reliable level chessengines blog shows the following results: Houdini 4 wins 3 Super League Season 5/2014 - Jurek Chess Engines Rating 2014.04.21_JCER_Season5_SuperLeague

Gull 3 can be downloaded at Sourceforge.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Two Queens Weren’t Enough

This game is just weird! As Tartakower described it, “…White, after winning a Q for a R, cannot prevent subsequent losses; later on even with two Q’s against a Black’s four pieces he cannot escape defeat.” The game is not perfect. In fact it is chocked full of errors, but they just make the game all the more interesting. And, we shouldn’t be too hard on the players because sitting at home going over it with Houdini is a whole lot easier sitting at the board and trying to figure things out.