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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Annoying Last Couple of Days

     The last few days have been annoying! To begin with we have been suffering through a polar vortex which has brought unusually cold weather with temperatures below zero...normal for some regions, but not us. 
     And, after making my post of January 28th I booted up my laptop only to get a blue screen. Searching the internet on another laptop hinted that the cause might be hard drive failure! There was no choice but to go out into the cold and lug the laptop over to Best Buy where the tech confirmed the problem. It cost $272 to replace the drive with a solid state drive which is nice and very fast, reinstall Windows and the antivirus. 
     After getting the laptop back, it took a whole day downloading and re-installing all the programs on the new drive. My beloved Fritz 12 was gone and I could not find the CD with the program on it anywhere. However, I was able to download and get Aquarium 12 functioning although it's not my favorite. I tried both Arena and Scid v PC and while they are good programs with lots of features, I'll relearn how to use Aquarium. Edit: After a day of copy/pasting files off the old drive and a lot of tinkering Fritz 12 is now working.
     Fortunately, I was able to mount the old hard drive in an old IOCell i-Portable external drive and salvage all my documents and photos. That's good because Best Buy wanted $150 to do it! I would recommend purchasing one of these devices if you can find one, or at least something similar! If a laptop crashes all you have to do is plug the hard drive into the IOCell i-Portable case and you can access all your documents. 
     I also noticed that for some reason games posted with Knight Vision only appear in mobile viewer mode. Why, I don't know. The problem is that notes don't appear in the games. I guess it really doesn't matter though because Knight Vision has posted a memo that Adobe Flash Player will no longer be supported at the end of 2020 and are encouraging content creators to migrate any existing Flash content. The Knight Vision viewer uses Adobe Flash and will stop working when Flash stops working! Apparently that means that next year the games in this blog disappear. Boo on Adode!  Edit: I posted a viewer that worked very well for a day or so, but then it ceased working. It appears that one needs a paid account at Chessbase for the program to function properly.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Montevideo 1938 and a Typical Alekhine Attack

     The year 1938 was the beginning of a fateful time in world history. In Europe, Germany was continuing it's strategy of persecuting the Jews and occupation in Czechoslovakia. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain went to Germany fearing another world war and after agreeing to allow Hitler could occupy Czechoslovakia declared "Peace in our time." 
     In the US, following a number of years of success a recession hit which caused unemployment to rise back to 19 percent. The US minimum hourly wage was 40 cents per hour for a 44 hour working week. 
     On September 21st the Great New England Hurricane slammed into the east coast with little or no warning and 40 foot waves hit Long Island and 63,000 people were left homeless and some 700 dead. 

     On October 30th Orson Wells dramatization of War of The Worlds radio program caused panic in the eastern United States when it was broadcast more like a news breaking story than a play. The program began with an announcement that let listeners know that it was not a real news broadcast, however many listeners missed the disclaimer. The program was broadcast without commercials and was done in a style that emulated real breaking news reports, creating a realistic feeling to the drama. The reports chronicled an alien invasion of the Eastern United States. 

     After the play had ended, newspapers reported that the broadcast had incited a mass panic in the country, stating that many believed it to be real. While it is true that some listeners were disturbed by the fake reports, there was no evidence of a mass panic taking place. In reality, not very many people had actually listened to the program and it is thought that many of the reports were made up by newspapers who had been angry that the booming business of radio was increasingly taking a large portion of their ad revenue. Fake news! 
     The second USCF-sponsored tournament for the US championship, held at the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center, New York in April, 1938. Samuel Reshevsky went undefeated and edged Reuben Fine by a half point. Fine lost two games: to Anthony Santasiere and Milton Hanauer, both of whom finished in the middle of the pack. 
     One of the major tournaments was held in Montevideo, the capital and largest city of Uruguay. The city has been described as a vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life and a thriving tech center and entrepreneurial culture and ranked eighth in Latin America on the 2013 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index. And, if you're into such things, it was also regarded as the fifth most gay-friendly metropolis in the world, first in Latin America. It is the hub of commerce and higher education in Uruguay as well as its chief port. 
     Down through the years the city has hosted a lot of tournaments, but one of the greatest was the eighth South American Chess Championship that was held from the 7th to the 25th of March in 1938.  The event was held in an elegant seaside resort Carrasco, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Montevideo. 
     Alekhine won convincingly ahead of a list of Who's Who of South American players. According to an article in Chess Review, Alekhine had made a comeback as evidenced by his regaining the World Championship in the previous year. 
     His play at Montevideo, Margate and Brighton revealed a dominance that was his during the San Remo period of his chess career. Chess Review put it like this: His opening play is certain, his middle game superb, and his end game a model of excellence, adding that Alekhine had mastered his nerves and in so doing had improved his mastery at chess. 
     Alekhine continued to show that, at 46 years of age, he was still a force to be reckoned with, but his 4th through 6th at AVRO in 1938 was an indication that the younger generation was hot on his heels. 
Pet parent - Grace Alekhine
     Alekhine and his wife could have stayed in South America or gone to the United States, but he returned to France supposedly because he wanted to fight the Nazis and we all know how that turned out. 
     After the war Alekhine was vilified and was banned from playing in tournaments outside of Spain and Portugal due to his alleged Nazi affiliation. He was stuck in Spain and Portugal while his much older wife (age 67 and in poor health) decided to remain in Paris where she died in 1957.  
     While in Spain and Portugal he played in several weak events and gave exhibitions to support himself as best he could. The strain of his circumstances lead to his dragged him down psychologically and he drank heavily. The result was his play deteriorated more and more.
     He was invited to the London “Victory” tournament in 1946, but several of the players protested, including the US representative Arnold Denker who later wrote that he regretted his decision because Alekhine had been good to him.
     The Soviets had offered him a sizable sum to play a match for the World Championship against Botvinnik, but he was found dead in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal on March 24, 1946.  To this day the exact cause of his death remains a mystery. 

Alekhine’s Death – Edward Winter 
Alekhine's death – an unresolved mystery? - Chessbase 

     Most of the players are probably unfamiliar, but the third place finisher, Virgilio Fenoglio is almost unknown. He lost to Alekhine, Guimard and Silva Rocha. Fenoglio (February 20, 1902 – March 15, 1990) was an Argentine master and winner of 37 tournaments. He made 13 appearances in Argentine Championship between 1928–1959. 
     In international play he shared 1st with Carlos Guimard and Julio Bolbochan at Rio de Janeiro in 1938, tied for 14–15th at Mar del Plata in 1942 and finished 12th at Mar del Plata in 1943. 
     The fourth place finisher, Adhemar da Silva de Oliveira Rocha (July 2, 1908 - November 14, 1975), was a Brazilian master who won the Brazilian championship in 1941. He also played for Brazil in the 3rd unofficial Chess Olympiad at Munich 1936 and in the 8th Chess Olympiad at Buenos Aires 1939.
     He won the Rio de Janeiro State championship in the 1934, 1935 and 1937. He died on of a heart attack on November 14, 1975 while walking around downtown Rio de Janeiro. 
     Alekhine's opponent in the following game was Julio Balparda (born about 1900 – July 2, 1942) won the Uruguayan Championship three times (1929, 1934, and 1936). He played several times in the South American Chess Championship; tied for 10-12th in 1928, tied for 3rd-6th in 1934, 17th at Buenos Aires 1934/35, 15th at Mar del Plata 1936, 14th at São Paulo 1937 and 11th in this tournament. In his last international tournaments, he took 5th at Montevideo in 1941 and 10th at Aguas de Sao Pedro/São Paulo in 1941. 

1) Alekhine 13.0-2.0 
2) Guimard 11.5-3.5 
3) Fenoglio 10.5-4.5 
4) Silva Rocha 9.5-5.5 
5-6) Maderna and Grau 9.0-6.0 
7) Cruz 8.0-7.0 
8) Flores 7.5-7.5 
9) Trompowsky 7.0-8.0 
10) Alfredo Olivera 6.5-8.5 
11) Balparda 5.5-9.5 
12-14) Armando Salles Olivera, Canepa and Letelier 5.0-10.0 
15) Rotunno 4.5-10.5 
16) Bensadon 3.5-11.5 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Chess Attracts the Undesirable, the Cheap and the Complainers

     The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA or “Y”) is a worldwide organization based in Geneva, Switzerland that was founded on June 6, 1844 by Sir George Williams in London with the intention of putting Christian principles into practice by developing a healthy "body, mind, and spirit". 
     From the beginning the organization grew rapidly and ultimately became a worldwide movement with local YMCAs delivering projects and services focused on youth development through a wide variety of youth activities, including providing athletic facilities, holding classes for a wide variety of skills, promoting Christianity and doing humanitarian work. 
     One purpose of the YMCA and its counterpart, the Yong Women's Christian Association, was to provide low-cost housing in a safe Christian environment for rural young men and women journeying to the cities. It was associated with industrialization and the movement of young people to cities to work. Even back in the early 1960s quite a few tournaments were held in rickety old YMCAs and a few of us stayed right in the Y itself. The rooms were very small, but clean and they were dirt cheap ($3.00 a night); they had communal bathrooms and showers, but no food was available. 
1955 Chess Life announcement

     At one tournament I played in we were informed that unless you had a car, the only place to eat was at the Walgreen drug store's lunch counter down the street. 
     At the beginning the YMCA combined preaching in the streets and the distribution of religious tracts with a social ministry. Philanthropists saw them as places for wholesome recreation that would preserve youth from the temptations of alcohol, gambling, and prostitution and that would promote good citizenship. In 1997 the World Council of YMCAs changed their mission: they determined to place more focus on gender equality, sustainable development, war and peace, fair distribution, and the challenges of globalization, racism, and HIV/AIDS. Today local Ys offer swimming, gyms, basketball, etc. 
     According to an article published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on June 11, 1928, the Central YMCA in Brooklyn banned the playing of chess and checkers by members and they had removed the sets, locked away the tables, locked the lounge room and members were even forbidden to play on their own sets. However, the Y continued to permit dancing, movies, pool playing and boxing.
     One YMCA official stated the reason for the ban was that “chess attracts an undesirable element” and “members stand around with their hats on while watching a closely contested game and sometimes smoke, both of which are forbidden.” 
     Chess players alleged that the reasons were financial. Chess and checker playing members paid an annual membership fee in order to use the facilities for a chess club whereas the prize fight followers, dancers and pool players paid “regularly, frequently and largely for each game played or prize fight or dance attended.” The checker players didn't complain, but the chess players wrote a letter of protest to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
     The YMCA answered the allegations by claiming that the chess and checkers room had been closed for the summer months “just like a lot of other activities due to the summer cutting down of supervisory personnel and in all probability it would be opened again in the fall.” The reason given for banning playing with personal sets was that there wasn't any place to set up a board and play. Some guy named Carroll N. Gibney, the educational secretary, also added that many of the players “can't play chess anyhow”, but complain “just because they can't have their own way.” 

Things have not changed much:
West Vancouver chess players defy Park Royal ban
Chess Players Ticketed by NYPD for Using Inwood Hill Park Chess Tables
San Francisco's Downtown Chess Players Relocate to Yerba Buena Gardens

Friday, January 25, 2019

Server Site Updates

     I have pretty much given up playing correspondence and server chess, but out of curiosity just to see what was happening with them I decided to visit some of my old haunts. 

Queen Alice 
     This used to be one of my favorite sites, but I quit several years ago because the site was having a lot of problems; the server went down and I had a couple of tournaments that got wiped out and the site owner appeared to have abandoned the site. Also, there was almost no forum activity although they used to be quite active. 
     A peek at the site today showed the site owner had last posted back in June 2018 that the data center had experienced a power failure that took the server off line for about 8 hours. Also, the posts on feature requests and help and support go unanswered by the owner. The other discussion forums remain pretty much dead. 
     Three tournaments were available for my class (Master), but they were nowhere near being filled and who knows how long they have been waiting? There were a dozen open invites where players were awaiting the acceptance of their challenge. 
     Statistically a total of 26 members were on the site within the last 5 minutes, 586 members were within the last 24 hours and 826 members within the last week. Apparently the site is fairly active (but only for lower rated players) despite the absentee ownership. Queen Alice is free. 

     This was my all time favorite site and I had a lot of fun playing there.  The forum discussions were especially friendly and lively. It's owned by British player Tryfon Gavriel, aka Kingscrusher on Youtube. 
     You can play free, but the site's resources are extremely limited to free members. To unlock all the site's feature, of which there are many, costs a very reasonable $28.50 per year. 
     I quit playing there several years ago when after renewing my membership with a credit card we checked into a hotel in New Jersey only to find my credit card had been locked by the card company and we had to pay cash for the room. 
     A call to the credit card company revealed that my credit card had been used in Germany to purchase some science fiction video games and some sex toys. Fortunately, I didn't have to pay for them, but had to be issued a new credit card. Obvioulsy the site had some security issues...at least at that time.  If joining Chessworld I would suggest using Pay Pal, or if your credit card is like mine, there is a feature that allows you to generate a temporary number with a spending limit and a two month expiration date. 
     Plenty of games and tournaments are available, but forum activity seems nowhere near as great as it was when I was active several years ago. This is still a good site at a reasonable cost for serious CC players who are interested in a ton of features such as: analysis boards and other in-game tools, rating graphs and detailed opening stats, in-game chat and message goodies, All-Play-All tournaments, Knockouts, Teams, Simuls and Pyramids, a variety of time limits, puzzles, tips, videos and annotations and more. 
     On Chessworld most people play under a user name and in one particularly amusing incident I had an opponent who was absolutely convinced that I was the well known U.S. correspondence player J. Franklin Campbell. 

   Quarterly membership is $8.00 per month and yearly membership is $49.00. Membership entitles you to: unlimited number of games, protection against lags and problematic players, invitations priority where your invitations will be shown first, no advertisements, faster response, 80 (!) vacation days per year, the ability to create a team, the ability to edit your chessboard, real time and correspondence tournaments and the download of training software. 
     Forum activity is practically nil and playing a limited number of real time and correspondence chess requires registration. 
     Years ago there was an imposter posing as Iranian GM Amir Bagheri on Chessword who got kicked off the site. About the same time there was also a forum that was supposedly Bagheri's, but I was suspicious.  Somehow this imposter got involved with Chesshere and I remember posting a few comments on their forum when I received an e-mail from "Bagheri" asking me to become involved with the site as a moderator. It was painfully obvious that "Bagheri" wasn't the real GM! He was eventually kicked off the site.

Chess Hotel 
     A real time site where you can play as either a guest or create a free account.  The site offers both regular chess in real time at a various time limits as well as Fischer Random (chess960). If you want to register you will receive a free account that keeps your games and statistics. My experience there was that the players were mostly beginners. Generally speaking, I would say this is a good site for lower rated players. 

Instant Chess 
     If you want a quick game against a random opponent as a guest, usually lower rated, this is a good site for a quick couple of games, but they have a limit on how many games you can play per day. 
     You can sign up for a free account with either e-mail or Facebook. Subscriptions for unlimited play is $7.99 per month which like Chesshere seems pricey. Their Facebook page shows almost 200,000 likes and over 200,000 followers.  

     If I were serious about chess this is THE site. I haven't played there for a long time even though it's a sign on option on my Fritz program. 
     You can play instantly as a guest without registration and you can test the site (with some restrictions) free for 90 days; after that the cost is $39.60 per year or you can pay $3.96 per month. Full membership offers too many features to mention and costs $56.63 per year which can also be be paid monthly. 

     For US and Canadian players I can highly recommend the Correspondence Chess League of America. 
     This was the first postal chess site I joined as a kid nearly 60 years ago!! I was only a member for a couple of years before switching over to Chess Review, but rejoined in 2001 for 2-3 years and played by post card. I don't think they were offering server play yet, so in about 2004 I switched to server play. 
     The CCLA offers a large selection of server, email and postal chess tournaments and publish the award-winning, quarterly Chess Correspondent magazine. 
     The CCLA traditionally has a low drop-out rate so you are able to play most of your games to completion. I might add that while there I experienced very few games where I suspected engine use.  It appeared that many of the players were also OTB players and because of that, their correspondence ratings were strikingly close to their correspondence ratings.  
     Regular CCLA membership is open to residents of the United States, its possessions and Canada. Residents of other countries may become associate members and participate in server and email events, but may not vote, hold elected office, enter CCLA postal events or enter ICCF events through CCLA. 
     A printed Chess Correspondent is included in regular membership dues, only available to residents of the U.S., its possessions and Canada. An electronic version of the magazine (sent as .pdf Adobe Acrobat email attachment) at a reduced rate and available to everyone. Dues start as low as $12 per year. 
     They offer many tournaments at a nominal entry fee per event. Sample of The Chess Correspondent.

Red Hot Pawn 
     You can sign up for free. I used this site to play a few casual against friends about 15 years ago and the site appears to have changed drastically since those days. 
     It appears that the site is very active and if you are interested in forum discussions on everything...chess, politics, religion, sports or just about anything else, it's an interesting place. 
     I remember one interesting situation that came up at work back in those days. The entire engineering department was struggling with a thorny math problem when I took a chance and posted the problem in the Science forum. Within 15 minutes somebody posted the answer, complete with explanation!

Lechenicher SchachServer 
     This German site is owned by Dr. Ortwin Paetzold and is FREE although they do offer a Premium Membership for about $20 per year. 
     Premium membership offers 10 additional games, the possibility to move to further membership levels with even more games, adding notes to games invisible to others, using conditional moves, access to the site even if the maximum number of players is reached (I've never had this happen).
     Tournament offerings cover a full range: 40days/10 moves time control, rapid tournaments with a 10days+1day/move control, Open Tournaments without rating restrictions and two-game matches. These are engine assisted tournaments! 
     Be aware that in these events where everybody is using an engine it will be almost impossible to gain (or lose!) any rating points. Since joining about 10 years ago my score is +73 -63 =203 and my rating has not fluctuated more than a few points. 
      I joined its predecessor, IECG which conducted email tournaments, at my CCLA rating. Unaware that IECG had no rules against engine use in my first tournament I scored two draws in six games and lost 100 rating points! 
     If you do NOT want to play using engines then they also offer no engine tournaments and Chess-960 events. Forum activity is nil except for asking questions. 

     I have been a Life Member of the USCF since the days when a life membership costs $100.  In 1969, Al Horowitz sold his wonderful Chess Review to the USCF and they took over correspondence chess.  
     Sometime around the early 1990s I entered a couple of postal tournaments, but by that time engine use had proliferated to the point that correspondence chess was ruined.  
     At some point I became convinced something was wrong and took a look at my games with Chessmaster and confirmed that at least 10 opponents were clearly using the program!  Disgusted, I resigned all my games and never played there again.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Day The World Became A Less Smelly Place

    When I read the above headline it immediately brought to mind a snide comment by the late James R. Schroeder who said of the passing of a national master and chess writer that he died 50 years too late. But, in 1994, that's how IM William Hartston described the sad moment at the end of the annual Hastings Congress when, just as the congress was ending, it was announced William Ritson-Morry had passed away at the age of 83 after a fall at his home, he was referring to cigars that Ritson-Morry smoked. He had been a “stalwart supporter of Hastings as player, controller, organizer and fairy godfather for almost as long as anyone could remember.”
     Ritson-Morry (September 5, 1910 - January 8, 1994) was British Correspondence Champion in 1942 and was responsible for conceiving the idea of a World Junior Championship. The first such event was held in Birmingham, England in 1951. 
     Hartston described him as “a strange old bird, with a taste in foul-smelling cigars that demanded either anosmia or a strong stomach of anyone staying long enough to listen to his unending stream of anecdotes.” Hartston did not mention it, but it was also said of him that he was “not reluctant to break wind in public when the need arose in him.” Reminds me of a former co-worker who said you should never be embarrassed by natural bodily sounds. As a three pack a day smoker, coughing, retching, gagging and spitting hawkers in the wastebasket, belching and letting one rip never bothered him in the least. 
     Not easy to get along with, Ritson-Morry was disliked by some and was described as being cantankerous if something happened to upset his schedule or if he ran in to a No Smoking sign. But, nobody could deny his love of chess and that his efforts and expertise contributed greatly to the development of the game in Britain. It was also said he never let facts spoil a good story and he seemed to lead others to add embellishments to his own exploits. 
     Ritson-Morry also had a criminal past. In the late 1930s he was a solicitor and invested clients’ money without their knowledge or consent in a speculative property development. He was convinced that the development would make a large profit and he would be able to replace the clients’ money and take the profit for himself. Unfortunately for Ritson Morry, with the outbreak of the Second World War the development collapsed and he lost all the money which he was unable to repay. As soon as his clients became aware of the situation they contacted the police and he was charged with the fraudulent conversion of more than £3,000. 
     And, in July of 1945, he was charged with four counts of using clients' money to indulge in dog racing. In court, Ritson-Morry conducted his own defense and addressing the jury, he contended that he had had no intention to defraud any of the parties. He lost the case and was disbarred and sentenced to 18 months in jail. 
     In 1954 he sued the editor of Chess magazine, B.H. Wood, for criminal libel. Wood had written a letter to a chess official stating that if Ritson-Morry was in the new Welsh Chess Union, Wood was out. He he referred to Ritson-Morry as “this ex-gaolbird.” The court ruled that Wood was entitled to give his reasons for withdrawing from the WCU and, furthermore, the statement was true. It was ruled that the case should never have been brought and awarded Wood costs not exceeding £100. 
     In the early 1970s, a relative died and left him about three acres of land outside Birmingham. He estimated the value of the land at about £2,500 and was pleasantly surprised when a local property developer who, after inspecting the land, offered him £7,500 per acre. He used the money to finance a Birmingham International and provided a donation to the Hastings tournament of 1974 which was needed to keep the traditional event alive. Taxes claimed the rest and once again he was bankrupt for the second time, the first being in 1943. 
     He was often seen playing in tournaments with a radio against his ear as he listened to cricket matches and as he got older and began serving as tournament director, he would be found asleep at the director's table with a cigar in his mouth. 
     As a player his best result was in the British Championships in 1936 where he shared second place and in 1951 when he shared third. Never one of be unduly bothered positional play, he claimed, “God gave us pieces for the purpose of attacking the opponent.” 
     A good example of his tactical abilities is seen in the following game. The Yorkshire Chess Club has details of Ritson-Morry's opponent HERE

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Chess Murder Mystery

     Chichibu is a city of over 63,000 people in Japan and in 1987 there were mysterious murders that left the population frightened. 
     The first incident occurred on June 14, 1986 when a 22-year old female victim named Kiyko Tsuki was found near the forested region of the city. During the day it was a popular place for children to play and fly kites. On a Saturday morning two mothers were preparing a picnic while their children played in the park when the two children came running back to them screaming, crying and frightened. Upon investigation by the parents, a body was found and the police called. The girl's body had her arms entwined to form an "X" and her legs were crossed and she had a black Rook in her hand. The autopsy showed the cause of death to have been asphyxiation. 

     Earlier that day, the police had taken a report of a twenty year old girl who claimed to have been kidnapped and held hostage by a masked man. According to her, he approached her while she was returning home from work at around 10 PM. The girl also claims she was held hostage along with another girl throughout the night and a masked man had asked them several questions.
     Asked how had she escaped, she said the man had drugged her with and when she awoke, she was close to the forested region, holding a white Rook. She identified the body as the girl who had been held hostage with her the night before.
    Two days later on June 19th the body of Ryotro Satoru, a male, was discovered near a school as two workers were heading for work. They recognized him and called police. He was lying on the ground with his arms and legs crossed in the same manner as the first victim and he had a black Pwn in his hand. The cause of death was drowning. 
     That same day the police received a call from a worker who claimed he had been kidnapped along with his friend the night before. He told police that around 11 PM he and his friend were walking back home after work when a masked man appeared and, at gunpoint, ordered them to accompany him. The man then drugged the two men until they lost consciousness. 
     During the morning they were interrogated by the masked man, and after many questions, he left the worker unconscious and when he woke up he was near the road leading to the mine and in his hand was a white Pawn. 
     According to the witness the masked man asked questions about how many children I had, what their names were, if he believed in God, if he went to church, if he loved his wife and children and if he was happy. Some questions were about his childhood and what he expected for his future. They were the same questions that had been asked of the first woman. 
     Another body was found on June 22nd in a nearby mine, Takao Susumi, a 27 year old male. He was naked with his arms and legs crossed and a black Knight in his hand. The victim didn't work in the mines, but was a security guard in Chichibu. There didn't seem to be another person held hostage and he had died of hypothermia. 
     On June 26th, police took the report of the abduction of Nayami Fumiko, twenty-six years old, who was approached on the night June 24th. She was returning home from work when a masked man approached her and put a knife to her back. She was instructed not to make a sound and the man put something on her face that made her faint. When she regained consciousness she was tied to a chair with a cloth over her face and male voice asked her several questions which were the same as all the other victims. 
     After questioning her the man drugged her and when she regained consciousness, she was close to her place of work, lying among the trees near the road. Hanging from her neck was a necklace with a white Knight dangling from it. Police searched the area, but no clue was found. 
     Two victims were found on June 30th. Hanako Junko, age 23, and Mayumi Yuri, 30. They were found on the main road of the city lying together on the side of the highway. Unlike the other victims, their arms were open and their legs were over each other. In the left hand of one was a black Bishop and a black Queen was in the hand of the other victim. Both had died of asphyxiation. There were no clues, no witnesses, nothing. 
     That same morning at the police station a woman reported that her daughter had been abducted while playing on the porch. The mother had been knitting in another room when she heard a scream and running to the window, she a man with the girl in his arms. She ran after the man and saw him get into a car and drive out of sight. 
     The car was found that afternoon near school a school with the girl inside. She was unconscious but uninjured. There was a bracelet with a white Bishop on her left wrist and a white Queen in her right hand. This lead to a tree day long investigation by nearly the entire police force, but nothing was found. 
     On July 4th, a young man was found unconscious near a gas station leading to the mine. He was taken to a hospital, but regained consciousness before arriving. He told police he had been kidnapped the night before while returning alone from a party at the home of his friends. He was riding his bike when he saw a man staggering in the road. He decided to stop to help the man who appeared to be drunk and when he got off the bike the man grabbed him. All that the boy could see was a white mask and he then fainted. When he awoke, he was tied to a chair and his abductor asked him the same questions all the others had been asked then he was drugged unconscious. While at the hospital doctors had removed a small white King that had been lodged in his neck! 
     Once again days of searching turned up nothing and no further reports of murders or abductions of a similar nature were filed. Finally, on August 12, 1987 the case was filed on indefinitely as a cold case. A cold case is defined as a crime that has not yet been fully solved and is not the subject of a recent criminal investigation, but for which new information could emerge from new witness testimony, re-examined archives, new or retained material evidence, as well as fresh activities of the suspect. 
     The murders generated many rumors and several people claimed to be the killer, who was named by the townspeople as "Chesu at Kira" (Chess Killer). None of them were actually the killer. Copycat crimes, dozens of false alarms and urban legends sprang up in Chichibu and the surrounding regions. Supposedly the case resulted in several similar murders in many parts of the world and so the Japanese government decided to bury the case. 
     The killer has never been caught and since 1986 tales of the murders have been used to scare children from straying too far into the woods.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Gumby Chess

     The following animation reminds me of Gumby, an American clay animation character centered on a green clay humanoid character created and modeled by Art Clokey. 
     Gumby has been the subject of two television series, a feature-length film and other media. Since the original series aired, Gumby has become a famous example of stop-motion clay animation and an influential cultural icon, spawning tributes, parodies and merchandising. 
     Clay animation or claymation, sometimes plasticine animation, is one of many forms of stop motion animation. Each animated piece, either character or background, is made of a malleable substance, usually plasticine clay.
     Traditional animation is produced by recording each frame, or still picture, on film or digital media and then playing the recorded frames back in rapid succession. These and other moving images create the illusion of motion by playing back at over ten to twelve frames per second. 
     Each object or character is sculpted from clay or plasticine, usually around a wire skeleton called an armature, and then arranged on the set, where it is photographed once before being slightly moved by hand to prepare it for the next shot, and so on until the animator has achieved the desired amount of film.
     A consistent shooting environment is needed to maintain the illusion of continuity: objects must be consistently placed and lit, and work must proceed in a calm environment. The process is extremely laborious. Shooting a 30-minute movie requires making approximately 21,600 stops to change the figures for the frames. The object must not be altered by accident, slight smudges, dirt, hair, or dust. 
     This is an animation using clay of the game Roesch - Willi Schlage (Hamburg, 1910)...used and modified by Stanley Kubrick for 2001: Space Odyssey.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Einstellung Effect

     Einstellung refers to a person's predisposition to solve a given problem in a specific manner even though better or more appropriate methods of solving the problem exist. 
     Every day we solve problems, but how do we know if our solutions are any good? What if there is a much better solution that we haven’t thought of yet? We don’t have a clear solution to every problem; we all have unknown unknowns. But even known knowns may not work for a certain problem and the Einstellung effect may occur, preventing us from considering all the available solutions. 
     The Einstellung effect occurs when preexisting knowledge impedes one’s ability to reach the best solution. We become unable to consider other solutions when we think we already have a one, even though it may not be the best or even accurate. It leaves us cognitively incapable of differentiating between a previous experience and the current problem. 
     Einstellung is a German word that translates to setting, mindset, or attitude. The brain attempts to work efficiently by referring to past solutions without giving the current problem much though. We apply previous methods to a seemingly similar problem instead of evaluating the problem on its own terms. This effect presents across disciplines and skill levels. 
     The classic experiment used to validate this effect was conducted by Abraham Luchins in 1942...SEE HERE 
    Another experiment involved analyzing chess players and their eye movements. There were two groups of players: the first with a suboptimal solution on the board along with an optimal solution and the other group just the optimal solution. The group with the suboptimal solutions continued to look at squares relating to the found solution even though they mentioned they were actively looking for a better one. Their eyes became fixated on the known solution. The Einstellung effect prevented them from viewing the board with an unbiased view even though they were intentionally trying to do so. 
     It seems that once we gain experience, the more likely we are to fall under its influence and fail to evaluate each problem on it own merits. We need to ask what is the fundamental difference with this problem and evaluate it without bias. In other words, we need to prevent our brains from going on autopilot. It’s not a lack of knowledge that leads to errors but the initial ideas formed from previous experience.
     The Einstellung effect also presents itself as confirmation bias, where we ignore results that don’t support our preconceived beliefs. Our brains can sabotage our ability to come up with new ideas. 
     Chessbase published an excellent two part article that address the Einstellung Effect as it involves chessplayers. 


Friday, January 18, 2019

The Amazing Shipiro Brothers

     Harry Shapiro (1914-2014) accompanied his father, a freelance French horn player, to gigs across Boston, carrying his father’s instrument and sitting in the pit next to him. That was the start of his musical career that included more than six decades of involvement with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 
     From 1937 to 1976, he was a horn player. When his performing days ended he began working backstage as the orchestra's assistant personnel manager, transportation manager and later in other roles. Shipiro also was responsible for hiring players and helping to build the orchestras of the Boston Ballet and the Opera Company of Boston and later the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. Well into his 70s, in the 1990s, he began traveling in the winter season to Miami, where he consulted for another professional training orchestra, the New World Symphony. 
     His brother, Oscar, didn't quite make it to the century mark, dying of cancer on New Year's Day, 2002, at the age of 92. He had one of the longest careers in the history of American chess. Known for his sharp attacking style and courteous manner away from it, his career spanned eight decades. 
     The amazing thing about Shipiro was that he was active tournament player until just a few months before his death and he had the record for being the oldest player ever to attain a Master's rating which he did in 1983 at the age of 74. 
     Born in Boston in 1909, the son of a recent Russian immigrant, Shapiro developed an early love of chess and music and played the violin. In 1939, Shipiro won the Massachusetts state championship and went on to win many local tournaments. Throughout his career and he was a fixture at area tournaments and even played in Europe and the Caribbean. 
     During the Great Depression he took a job as a technician with Western Union and went to Washington D.C. a month after Pearl Harbor for what was supposed to be a three month assignment but remained there for the rest of his life. 
     Shipiro first won the Washington, D.C. championship in 1946, repeated in 1948 and 48 years later he scored 3-1 in the 1994 D.C. Open in 1994, and as the highest scoring resident he once again won the city title. 
     In the 1950s, Shapiro began dealing in antiquarian music scores and manuscripts as a sideline, eventually building a separate career as a dealer of antique chess- and music-related material. He became a noted expert on Niccolo Paganini and was a guest of the city of Genoa, Italy, at the 1982 bicentennial of the famed violinist's birth. Never married, Oscar was survived by his brother. 
     The following game from the 1949 U.S. Open is interesting for its interesting finish. His opponent finished 5.0-7.0. The top scores were: 

1) Weaver Adams 9.5-2.5 
2-4) Isaac Kashdan, George Kramer and Olaf Ulvestad 9.0-3.0 
5-8) Arthur Bisguier, Max Pavey, Albert Pinkus and Robert Steinmeyer 8.5-3.5
9-11) Edgar McCormick, Oscar Shapiro and Glenn E Hartleb 8.0-4.0 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

US Open 1956

     Sometime in 1956 I was home from school sick and while watching television there was a movie in which two men in prison were playing chess and for some reason it looked fascinating. Using an encyclopedia, I cut out chess pieces from some red and yellow cards from some sort of a board game, put clay on the bottom and a red and black checker board completed the set. All that was left was to learn the moves from the encyclopedia and I was off and running. 
My first chess set

     Other things were happening. There was the Suez Crisis, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act for the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways, Fidel Castro landed in Cuba and started a revolution. The big news was Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, sang Heartbreak Hotel and went on to a great career. 
     Unknown to me was what was happening in the world of my new found game. A favorite television show of my parents was You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx. One program featured Isaac Kashdan who was partnered with Tony Curtis' mother, Helen Schwartz. Marx kept referring to Kashdan as Mr. Ash Can; they didn't win any money.   I probably saw the show, but don't remember it. 

     On February 5, 1956, Savielly Tartakower died in Paris at the age of 68 and Julius du Mont died in Hastings at the age of 74. On July 16, 1956, Karel Hromadka died in Prague at the age of 69. Dr. Walter R. Lovegrove, California's best player in the 19th and early 20th century died in San Francisco at the age of 86 on July 18. 1956. Lajos Asztalos died in Budapest on November 1st.
     British champ C.H.O'D. Alexander was invited to a tournament in Moscow; the British Foreign Office wouldn't let go because he knew too many government secrets, probably as a result of his World War II code work at Bletchley Park. Harry Golombek was the British representative although he, too, had worked at Bletchley Park. Golombek failed to win a single game and finished last with a 2.5-12.5 score. 
     1956 was the year Fischer started making headlines; it was the year he defeated Donald Byrne in the “Game of the Century,” but before that there were other Fischer accomplishments. 
     The January issue of Chess Review, had Fischer on the cover giving a simul at the Manhattan Chess Club against kids from the Yorktown Chess Club. The twelve year old Fischer had just won the class B (1600-1799) prize of the first Greater New York City Open in January. William Lombardy (6.0-1.0) won the tournament on tie breaks over Dr. Ariel Mengarini. Fischer scored +5 -2 =0 and tied for 5th-7th with Anthony Saidy and E.S. Jackson, Jr. which was pretty good company. 
     Clearly in the Greater New York City Open Fischer was better than his rating would have indicated and on the August 1956 list his rating was 2349, making him the youngest US mater ever at the age of 13 years and 5 months old. Just the month before his Master's rating was published Fischer had taken first place in the US Junior Championship, scoring +8 -1 =1. 
     In August, Fischer tied for 4th-8th with Anthony Saidy, Attilio Di Camillo, Edmar Mednis and Stephan Popel in the US Open in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Fischer won 5 games, lost none and drew seven. He defeated A.M. Swank, Dr. Peter Lapiken, Dale Ruth, Dr. Orest Popovych and Jeremiah F Donovan. He drew with Henry Gross, C. Fred Tears, Brian Owens, Anthony Santasiere, Kenneth Smith, Wilmer Stevens and Stephan A Popel. Most old timers will recognize most of these names and most of them were solid masters. 
     After this tournament Fischer's rating had climbed to 2375 and he was ranked number 25 in the US. It was this tournament that produced Fischer's first published game, his win over Lapiken and for the first time he was interviewed on a local television program. At 13, he was the youngest player in the event.  
     In the tournament Bisguier was upset in the third round by Donald Fischheimer of Chicago and when the last round arrived the scores were: 

Bisguier 9.0 
Sherwin 8.5 
Steinmeyer 8.0 
Saidy 8.0 
Di Camillo 8.0 
Mednis 8.0 
Ivan Theodorovich 8.0 
Edgar McCormick 8.0 

   The last round pairings left the outcome wide open. The final round results were: 

Bisguier drew with Mednis (which allowed Sherwin to catch him, but Bisguier had superior tiebreaks) 
Sherwin defeated McCormick 
Steimeyer defeated Theodorovich 
Saidy drew with Di Camillo 

1-2) Arthur Bisguier and James T. Sherwin 9.5 
3) Robert Steinmeyer 9.0 
4-8) Anthony Saidy, Attilio Di Camillo, Edmar Mednis, Stephan Popel and Bobby Fischer 8.5 
9-15) Ivan Theodorovich, Anthony Santasiere, Orest Popovych, Henry Gross, Raymond Martin, Edgar McCormick and Paul Brandts 8.0 
16-24) Daniel Fischheimer, Jack O'Keefe, Derwin Kerr, Charles Crittenden, Brian Owens, Kenneth Smith, Geza Fuster, Joaquin Medina and John Hudson 7.5 

    The following game was won by New York Master Paul Brandts who won the first New York State Senior Championship. His opponent was Washington, DC Expert Glenn Hartleb who used to pal around with the nefarious Norman T. Whitaker. Hartleb was killed in in 1961 in a car accident under somewhat mysterious circumstances while traveling with Whitaker.