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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Latest On Chess Engines

     There are many engine rating lists out there, but my personal preference is the CCLR (Computer Chess Rating Lists) list. Another good site is CEGT (Chess Engines Grand Tournament). In any case, here’s a look at some of the top rated engines these days. Also, some links to terminology that may be helpful. 
     I think the only reason anyone would use any engine other than Stockfish, which is still the one to beat, is someone who plays high level correspondence chess and needs a second opinion from an engine that evaluates positions differently or else somebody who just likes to tinker with engines.  Looking at both of the rating lists reveals that all the engines have a poor record against Stockfish.

Fischer Timing 
Enhanced Forward Pruning 
Generating legal moves efficiently 
Alpha-beta Pruning 
Principal Variation Search
Rotated Bitboards


Stockfish is based on another open source chess engine named Glaurung. It features aggressive pruning and late move reductions.
Suger Xpro 
SugaR is derived from Stockfish, and supports up to 128 cores. The SugaR engine defaults to one search thread, therefore it’s recommended to inspect Threads UCI parameter to make sure it matches the total number of CPU cores.
Ethereal is an open source engine influenced by Stockfish, MadChess, and Crafty. One reviewer called its play dynamic and profound and said its style reminded him of a coffeehouse player.
It uses magic bitboard to speed up the attack calculations. It applies a principal variation search with transposition table inside an iterative framework. In order to make the engine more powerful and efficient, about 200 evaluation features were optimized with 750,000 positions. 
Booot determines sliding piece attacks with rotated bitboards, and lazy SMP, PVS with search enhancements like late move reductions, null move pruning, and internal iterative deepening. 
This is an engine that utilizes bitboards with ERLEF mapping. It also uses sliding piece attacks. Laser Chess For more information on this engine visit HERE.
An engine that applies magic bitboards to determine sliding piece attacks and features Syzygy Bases, PDEP bitboards and Lazy SMP. 

Fire used to be open source but later became a closed Windows executable, available for new Intel processors. It features magic bitboards, Syzygy tablebases, configurable hash, and multiPV. 
I don’t have much information on this engine, but you can visit the site for full details.  
Schooner uses alpha-beta search, late move reductions, principle search window (PVS), and single hash entry. 
Equinox has taken ideas from open source engines like Stockfish, Crafty, and Ippolit. 
The engine features null move pruning, forward pruning, principal variation search, parallel search with up to 8 threads, blockage detection in the endgames, and supports Gaviota tablebases. 
Hannibal incorporates ideas from earlier engines (Twisted Logic and Learning). It has a good understanding of material imbalances and has excellent endgame knowledge. It understands fortresses, trapped pieces and will sacrifice material for the initiative when conducting a K-side attack. Interesting is that it is tuned for the Fischer time control. 

Komodo was derived from an older search engine, Doch. It has a different positional style as it relies on evaluation, instead of depth. The engine supports up to 64 cores, Syzygy endgame tablebase, and Fischer random chess. Kodomo lets you save engine’s analysis of a position so you can check it later and resume analysis. You can also control how the engine makes long-term sacrifices of P-structure. 
Houdini is known for its positional style, ability to defend strongly, tenacity indifficult positions and ability to escape with a draw. To date, it has won 3 seasons of Top Chess Engine Championship. 
Deep Shredder 
Shredder is a commercial chess engine built in 1993 that has won more than 20 titles. Deep Shredder is the multiprocessor version of Shredder and comes with a graphical user interface and is compatible with other UCI engines. It’s ultra-fast and highly intelligent. In selecting moves, most engines use brute force (they try to see everything for many moves ahead), but today programs today don't evaluate as many positions as possible; they try to “understand” a position and cut out moves that don’t seem to fit. Shredder's play is extremely solid positionally and some say it is human like. 
This engine has been around for years. For all the particular see HERE.  
The latest version has been tuned deeply, especially in terms of passing pawns and mobility, and several search enhancements have been introduced, like lazy symmetric multiprocessing, forward pruning, and NUMA awareness.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Vladimir Simagin

     GM Lubomir Kavalek told the story of how on the night of August 21, 1968 his wife met Simagin pacing back and forth in the lobby of a hotel in Polanica Zdroj, repeating:”Stupid people, stupid people, stupid people.” Simagin explained to her that Soviet tanks had invaded Czechoclovakia overnight. 
     The Rubinstein memorial in the spa town of Polanica Zdroj, which is only about 20 miles from the border where the Soviets crossed, continued.  But, because of the confusion of the times many of the games were not published and the arbiter planned to publish them later, but on a train journey home someone stole his briefcase and the games were lost to posterity. Trying to find complete information on the tournament is therefore impossible. 
     Kavalek wrote that after the invasion, Smyslov remained silent while Simagin, who had been Smyslov’s second during his world championship matches, was exhausted and distressed. 

     Kavalek described Simagin as a philosopher who believed that violence has no place in our lives and it is best to leave it on the chessboard and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia had broken his heart. It can't happen in the United States...or can it? Read an article at Ammo.com HERE.

     Vladimir Simagin (June 21, 1919 – September 25, 1968) was a Russian GM who won the Moscow City Championship in 1947, 1956 and 1959 and who made many significant contributions to the openings. He was much admired as both a player and teacher. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and the GM title in 1962. He was also an IM in correspondence play and won the Soviet correspondence championship in 1964. 
     As a high school student he was often among the winners of junior tournaments.  His play was distinguished by originality and he was always experimenting and taking risks with the result that mistakes were common. Friends often asked why he played opening variations that no one else played, but he consistently followed his own path. Nevertheless, many of his ideas turned out to be feasible and soon became popular.  At the same time, his tournament success increased. 
     He was awarded the title of Soviet Master at the age of 24 in 1944 for his fine showing in the Moscow City Championship. In the mid-1940s his success in the city championships can be assessed by the fact that players like Smyslov, Bondarevsky, Kotov, Lilienthal, Ragozin, Alatortsev and Panov were participating. 

     He died of a heart attack at the early age of 49 while playing in a tournament in Kislovodsk which is in the North Caucasus region of Russia. The tournament was won by Geller who scored 10.0-5.0. At the time of his demise, Simagin’s score was +4 -4 =3, so his 5.5-5.5 score with four unplayed games placed him in a tie for 13th-14th places out of 15. 
     The following game attracted a lot of interest because of Simagin’s ingenious and play. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Keres Barks Up The Wrong Tree

     Zurich 1953, the Candidates Tournament for the 1954 World Championship is famous for the strength of the players and the high quality of the games. 
     Two well known books on it were written by David Bronstein and Miguel Najdorf. It later came out that Bronstein didn’t actually write "his" book, he only contributed analysis and everything else was written by Boris Vainshtein. I always preferred Najdorf’s book, but it’s rather harder to come by. There is also a scarce third book written in 1979 by National Master Jim Marfia of Michigan.   Marfia’s typewritten book concentrates less on variations and more on verbal descriptions of what was happening in the games. 
     Smylov finished first and only suffered one defeat (to Kotov) which is an incredible feat given the strength of the tournament which contained the best 15 players in the world at the time. 
     Bronstein, Keres and Reshevsky tied for second. Bronstein suffered only two losses (to Geller and Szabo). Keres lost both of his games to Smyslov, one to Bronstein and one to Averbakh. His critical game against Smyslov in the 24th round is given here and it was also one of the most exciting. Reshevsky lost one game to Keres, both games to Smyslov and one game to Kotov. 
     The Keres - Smyslov game from round 24 demonstrates the danger of trying to force the issue by playing for a win instead of just playing the best moves. It also illustrates a point that was unknown to masters of the Romantic Era. In those days when offered a piece they took it, but sometimes it's best to just say no. 
     In this game, when Keres offered him a Rook, Smyslov pondered a long time and finally decided against accepting it.  As a result, Keres paid a steep price. The game also illustrates the point that even two dangerous looking Rooks on the h-file may not constitute a sufficient attacking force if they are not backed up by other pieces.
     This game was included in the book The World’s Greatest Chess Games by Burgess, Nunn and Emms where it received a rating of only 9 points out of a possible 15, meaning that while it was a great game, it did not receive high marks based on their criteria of quality and brilliance by both players, instructive value and historical significance. 
     Of the game itself, Keres wrote that it was an important game for him because if he had succeeded in winning he would have lead the tournament and felt he would then have had “every chance of emerging with final victory.” Consequently, he believed he should not have done as he had so often in the past and played so risky and “staked everything on one card.” 
     He offered Smyslov an extremely complicated piece sacrifice which, had it been accepted, would have subjected him to a very virulent attack. But, after long thought Smyslov declined, coolly defended and handed Keres what he (Keres) described as “an ignominious defeat” that not only threw away first place, but dropped him back to fourth place. 
    The game was played in the 24th round when Keres was a half point behind Smyslov. Keres was due for a bye in the next round. If they drew, Keres would either be a half point back or a full point depending on how Smyslov did in his 25th round game against Reshevsky. 
     This explains Keres’ decision of going for broke; he needed to win and so on move 19 he offered the Rook. By playing it safe, sidestepping the tactics and emphasizing his positional advantage, Smyslov forced his opponent to prove he could mate Smyslov’s King; he couldn’t and so lost a critical game. Against a lesser player, Keres' attack might have succeeded.
     For the record, when Smyslov met Reshevsky in the next round (round 25), Reshevsky was a half point behind Smyslov with one more game to play. As a draw would not have helped Reshevsky, like Keres, he was forced to play for a win. Reshevsky was outplayed in a maneuvering game and so made a last ditch effort by introducing complications. But, Smyslov was careful, avoided all the danger and prevailed in the ending. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Pierre Saint-Amant

     Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant (September 12, 1800 – October 29, 1872) was a leading French master and an editor of the chess periodical Le Palamede. But chess wasn’t Saint-Amant’s only accomplishment. At various times he was a wine merchant, a clerk, an actor, an explorer, a diplomat. 
     Saint-Amant may or may not have been the first unofficial world champion. He refused a match against Jozsef Szen (1805- 1857) of Hungary who was one of world's top ten players for most of his playing career. He also never played the Russian Alexander Petrov (1794 – 1867), the first great Russian master. 
     He lost a match to John Cochrane (1798 – 1878), the leading Scottish master, in 1842 by a score of +4 -6 =1). Cochrane spent a long tour of duty in India and when he returned to the UK and beat everyone except Howard Staunton. Cochrane also helped Staunton prepare for his match against Saint-Amant, which established Staunton as the world's leading player. 

     In 1843 Howard Staunton was considered the strongest player in England and he and Saint-Amant played a match in London which was won by Saint Amant (+3 -2 =1). A second match was payed in November at the Cafe de la Regence which was won by Staunton who scored +11 -6 =4. His victory lead to the popular opinion that he was the strongest player in the world. 
     Saint-Amant became a government clerk in Paris and eventually served as the secretary to the governor of French Guiana from 1819 to 1821 and was fired after he protested against the slave trade that existed in that colony. 
     Next he worked as a journalist and actor before becoming a successful wine merchant. He was a captain in the French National Guard during the 1848 revolution. The French militia which existed from 1789 until 1872 was separate from the French Army and existed both for policing and as a military reserve.
     The Tuileries Palace was a royal and imperial palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine. It was the usual Parisian residence of most French monarchs, from Henry IV to Napoleon III, until it was burned by the Paris Commune in 1871. Saint-Amant played a big role in saving it from being burned by a mob ans as a reward was made its Governor for a few months.
     His Travels to California in 1850-1851, published in Paris in 1854, described his sailing on the Atlantic, crossing the Isthmus of Panama, sailing the Pacific and arrival in San Francisco. While serving as a diplomat in California he visited Oregon and his map of the Oregon Territory is scarce today, but at the time was considered the most comprehensive and important work son California published in French. He appears to have played no chess while in California, or if he did, no games survive. 
Saint-Amant's map

     After his stay in California, he started his long journey home. Most likely he returned the same way he came, by ship and crossing the Isthmus of Panama, a journey that normally took 6 weeks or more. If he went around Cape Horn travel time was usually 6-7 months. That’s amazing today. It’s somewhat less than 2,600 from San Francisco to New York and you can fly it in less than 5 hours today. Even on Amtrak the train trip takes about 67 hours, including a 5 hour layover in Chicago. He arrived in New York in the fall of 1852. 
     While in New York he drew a match against Charles Stanley (1819 – 1901), an Englishman who emigrated from London to New York in 1845 to work in the British Consulate. At the time Cochrane was the US Champion and the match was tied 4-4 with no draws. 
     Saint-Amant was back in Paris in 1858 when Paul Morphy made his first visit to France. He admitted that Morphy was the better player. They played some private games, only one game, which Morphy won, has been recorded and preserved. It was a consultation game in which Saint-Amant had a partner. 
     In 1861 Saint-Amant retired to Algeria and died there in 1872 after being thrown from his carriage. He died the day of the accident at his chateau near Algiers; he was 73 years old. A magazine of the day described him as a man of simple and modest nature combined with a great deal of varied learning and a wise and enlightened administrator. He was buried in the Cemetery of Birmandries in Algeria. 
     It’s difficult to to judge how good Saint-Amant really was by today’s standards, but Chessmetrics puts his rating between the years 1843 and 1846 in the mid-2500s placing him just behind Howard Staunton who was rated about 100 point higher. 
     His opponent in the following game was George Walker (1802 – 1879). Walker was an author and chess organizer who did a great deal to promote chess. He founded both the Westminster Chess Club in 1831 and the St. Georges Club in 1834 and as an author wrote about the game in his chess columns in The Lancet and Bell's Life. 
     The Lancet, founded in 1823, is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal that is among the world's oldest, most prestigious, and best known general medical journals. 
     Bell's Life was founded in London in 1822 and was a weekly 4-page sheet containing general news and sports, but gravitated mainly to sports in later years. It initially made its reputation covering prize-fighting but became known for reliable coverage of a range of sports such as cricket, angling, sailing and even chess. However, it was particularly known for its reports on horse-racing, publishing up to date information on schedules and results. Today it is best known as a racing paper. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Frank Parr's Immortal Game

    Like all chess players, British master Frank Parr (December 17, 1918 – December 28, 2003) had his immortal game. He was British Boys’ Champion in 1953 and when you look at the list of Hastings winners you’ll see some of the truly great names in the history of chess: Rubinstein, Euwe, Tartakower, Alekhine, Marshall, Capablanca, Flohr, Fine, Reshevsky, Szabo, Keres, Korchnoi, Gligoric, Tal, Spassky, Larsen and Bronstein, just to name a few.
     The list of winners also contains the name of Frank Parr who won the 1939-40 tournament. It was the last tournament to be played at Hastings until after the war and it wasn’t very strong because most of the strongest British players were stranded in Buenos Aires after the Olympiad. The result was that the annual Hastings tournament ended up being a national event. Parr was drafted in 1939 and was playing in uniform. This was his only Hastings Premier appearance although he played in many Challengers' sections up to 2002/3. 
     Parr was the British correspondence chess champion in 1948 (with Gabriel Wood), 1949 (with H. Israel) and won it outright in 1950 and 1956. Parr played in 25 British Chess Championships from 1936 to 1991 with his best result being in 1956 when he scored a draw and a loss in the first two rounds then won eight games in a row before drawing in the last round to finish with a 9-3 score. Unfortunately, that was only good enough to finish in second place a half point behind C.H.O’D. Alexander even though he beat Alexander in their individual game. 
     Before retirement he worked as a messenger at the London Stock Exchange and beside chess his main hobby was gardening, football (soccer) and cricket. After a long illness Parr died on the opening day of the Hastings International Congress. In Parr’s memory the British Federation for Correspondence Chess introduced a Frank Parr Memorial Tournament in 2005. Held alongside it was the David Parr Memorial, dedicated to Frank's eldest son, another fine chess player who also died in 2003. 
     Known for his aggressive style and alertness to tactical possibilities, the below game captured the attention of the chess world and he annotated it for an issue of British Chess Magazine. He even had a tapestry made up of one of the game's key positions, which he hung on the wall of his living room. Reinfeld and Chernev, in their Fireside Book of Chess, stated that in their opinion the game could considered the finest attacking game of all time. 
    Parr’s play in the game was, as far as I can tell, above reproach. After gaining an advantage out of the opening he whips up an attack seemingly out of nowhere. This was Parr’s immortal game. 
    His opponent was George Wheatcroft (October 9, 1905 – December 2, 1987). Wheatcroft was British Correspondence Champion in 1935 and a strong blindfold player. He was President of the BCF from 1953 to 1956. Educated at New College, Oxford, he was Professor of English Law and acknowledged as a standard authority on tax law. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

DogEared Games

     I received a request from DogEared Games, developers of strategically colorful games, asking if I would mention them on this blog. 
     According to the site it is traditional chess variant using a colored board. Each player gets two parts to their turn; in the first part, they must finish their move on whichever color their opponent last moved to. In the second part, they must move a different piece and finish on a different color, which their opponent must then copy. 
     It won a 'Family and Education' award from Imagination Gaming, was nominated for an award from Mensa in Deutschland and the 2nd World Championships will be held as part of the Mind Sports Olympiad in London in August. It is available as a free download as a mobile app. 
     In addition to a website, the have a Facebook page and are on Youtube. If you enjoy chess variants or are looking for something different then you might want to check them out.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Tartajubow Chess Clock

The Tartajubow chess clock
     A few weeks back I posted about how I made my first chess set. In those days I didn’t know where you could buy chess books, sets or clocks. My main source of information was the encyclopedias at the library and Hoyles book of games. 
     Sometime in the late 1950s I wrote a letter to the chess columnist of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, David Robb, asking for information on where to buy books and equipment and he referred me to the USCF.  Robb was mentioned in a 1956 issue of Chess magazine as being the editor of "one of America's greatest chess columns."  Today you can't find any information on him.
     I do remember finding a real set at the Ben Franklin Five and Dime (aka “the dime store”). To see an incredible array of stuff they offer visit the website of the store in Oberlin, Ohio, venue of the 1975 US Championship. The set had a three inch King and the pieces were hollow and light as a feather. After filling them with plaster of Paris and gluing felt on the bottom they were usable though. 
     After reading about chess clocks somewhere, I constructed my own using an Erector set, two old alarm clocks and a wooden dowel. The clock didn’t have flags, but the rule was that if a white space was visible between the minute hand and the 12 o’clock mark the time limit had been exceeded. 
     The closest thing on the market with a similar start/stop push rod was the Sutton Coldfield by the publisher of Chess Magazine, B.H.Wood. As you can see, it was push lever action and is composed of two alarm clocks. 
Sutton Coldfield

     My clock wasn’t nearly as beautiful as this Dutch Koopman clock, but for me and a couple of friends, it served the purpose. The Koopmans were produced in Dordrecht from the 1940s till the end of the 1990s. 
the Koopman
You might want to visit the Chess Museum’s website and browse their fantastic collection. It’s too late, but the site notes that Mikhail Tal's chess set, owned by his heirs, was for sale for $108,362 or 95,000 Euros.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Mateusz Bartel Scores a Knockout

   In the following game black takes too many chances and white executes a typical N-sac in the Sicilian that gives him a lasting attack. However, black fights back into the game only to miss his opportunity in a mutual time scramble and the result was a nail-biting finish. 
     The game was played in the 2015 European Individual Championship. The event was the sixteenth in the annual series of European continental championships that were first staged in 2000. The top 23 places qualified for the World Cup 2015 and 250 players competed. This event, an 11 round Swiss, was held February 24 to March 8 in the Jerusalem Ramada Hotel in Israel. 
     Round one saw nearly half of the top boards drawn and in round 2 over half the top twenty boards were drawn. After three rounds five players had 3-0 scores while 37 players had 2.5. 
     After round four only Anton Korobov had 4-0 and maintained the lead until he lost to Nepomniachtchi in round 6 which dropped him back into a tie for fifth. Nepomniachtchi’s win tied him for first with 5.0 with Bartel, Sargissian and Motylev. 
     By round 7 there was a nine-way for first and a pack of 21 players were a half point back. In round 8 Nepomniachtchi defeated David Howell to take the sole lead with 6.5-1.5. 
     In round 9 Nepomniachtchi lost the lead when he was defeated by Navara, who was joined in the lead by Evgeniy Najer and Anton Korobov with scores of 7.0-2.0. Eleven players were half point behind them. 
     In round ten, Najer moved into the sole lead when he beat Korobov. In the last round Najer took the event with outright first place after he drew his game with Khismatullin. The top scores were: 

1) Evgeny Najer 8.5-2.5 
2-4) David Navara, Mateusz Bartel and Denis Khismatullin 8.0-3.0 
There were 22 players with 7.5-3.5. Nepomniachtchi finished with 7.0-4.0.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Victor Soultanbeieff

    Victor Soultanbeieff (November 11, 1895 – February 9, 1972) was born in the Ukraine and though he learned to play chess rather late into his teens, his improvement was rapid and he became known as a brilliant attacking player.
     In 1914 he won the city championship of Yekaterinoslav, his home town, but soon found himself spending three years in the trenches in World War I. After the war was over he again won the city championship in 1918. Then came the Russian Revolution and he was back in the army serving in the Imperial Russian Army under the commanding general of the anti-Bolshevik White Army in Southern Russia, General Pyotr Wrangel. 
     After his side lost the civil war in 1920, Wrangel, who had lost half of his standing army, organized a mass evacuation on the shores of the Black Sea and gave every officer, soldier, and civilian the choice to evacuate and go with him into the unknown, or remain in Russia and face the wrath of the Red Army. The White forces evacuated from the Crimea in 1920 in remnants of the Russian Imperial Navy that became known as Wrangel's fleet. And, that’s how Soultanbeieff ended up in Gallipoli in southern Italy. 
     At the end of 1921 he sought asylum in Belgium and after a short stay in Brussels he moved to Liege, where he would stay for the rest of his life. In civilian life he became an industrial chemist. 
     In 1923 he participated for the first time in the Belgian Chess Championship and finished 4eth, but impressed everyone with his play. He would go on to play in 22 Belgian championships and win it five times: 1932 tied with Dyner, 1934, 1943, 1957, and 1961. 
     As he had to combine chess with his work, his international play was limited. He became a national master in 1931 and International Arbiter in 1964. Soultanbeieff played a few short matches, drawing a match against Arthur Dunkelblum in 1932 and George Koltanowski in 1935. In 1946 he lost a match to Paul Devos. 
     Soultanbeieff was a gifted correspondence player, but here too he did not devote much time to the endeavor.  He started playing in correspondence tournaments when he was still in Russia and played 1st board for Belgium in the first correspondence chess Olympiad, scoring 3 points out of six. Another notable result was a drawn match against Aleksandras Machtas, future champion of Lithuania. 
     Soultanbeieff also wrote a chess column for various local newspapers and collaborated with many outstanding chess periodicals like Shakmati Listock (later Shakhmaty v SSSR), l'Échiquier Belge and Échec et Mat. He wrote a book on the world championship match between Capablanca and Alekhine. He also commented the games of the Ostend 1936 tournament for the tournament book and published a collection of his own games under the title Guide pratique du jeu des combinaisons, which was later reprinted as le Maître de l'attaque. Chessmetrics estimates his rating in the mid-1930s to have been in the mid-2400s. 
     One of Soultanbeieff's best known games is probably the one he played against Defosse given in the Chandler Cornered article HERE.
     His opponent, Arthur Dunkelblum (23 April 1906 – 27 January 1979,) was a Polish-born Belgian chess master. Arthur Dunkelblum was born in Cracow (Kraków-Podgórze), Austria-Hungary. He played for Belgium in eleven Chess Olympiads: 1928, 1933, 1937, 1950, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1966, and 1968. He had good results in minor European tournaments, but never managed to win the Belgian championship. 

     Dunkelblum is frequently given as the name of the player who lost two of the most frequently published games featuring George Koltanowski...see Edward Winter’s post
     The following game was played in the Belgian resort of Spa which is 22 miles southeast of Liege and is one of Belgium's main tourist cities famous for its several natural mineral springs. Marcel Barzin of Belgium actually played under his pseudonym of Varlin. Soultanbeieff (Russia), Sapira (Romania) and Dunkelblum (Poland) were all immigrants. 

1-2) Fritz Saemisch and Sir George Thomas 8.5
3) Emanuel Sapira 8.0 

4) Savielly Tartakower 7.0 
5-7) Arthur Dunkelblum, Massimiliano Romih, Massimiliano and Victor Soultanbeieff 6.0 
8) Jacques Davidson 5.0 
9) Georges Koltanowski 4.5 
10) Andre Tackels 3.0 
11) Marcel Barzin 2.5 
12) Marcel Lenglez 1.0

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Budding Morphy Nipped In The Bud

     Known for his brilliant attacks and his prowess in blindfold play, James A. Leonard, was born in Ireland on November 6, 1841, but grew up in New York City. He learned to play chess at the age of 16 or 17 and began drawing attention to himself at about the time Morphy was fading away. 
     Leonard’s hangout was the Morphy Chess Rooms in New York, on the south-eastern corner of Broadway and Fourth Street. After defeating a number of the country's best players, Leonard was touted as the “New Morphy.” 
     Almost all of his games were played in New York. In what appears to be the one exception, he did go to Philadelphia to play a match against Philadelphia city champions William Dwight (1831-1888) who was to become a general in the Union Army during the Civil War. 
     Dwight was in the process of moving to Philadelphia for his business and when the Civil War broke he took a commission as a Captain on May 14, 1861, lieutenant colonel less than a month later and then a few days after that, to full colonel on July 1, 1861. 
     As commanding officer of 70th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Dwight led his regiment during the Battle of Williamsburg, where he was seriously wounded on May 5, 1862, along with losing half of his command. Left for dead on the battlefield, Dwight was found by Confederate forces and held as a prisoner of war until his eventual release in a prisoner exchange November 15, 1862. In recognition of his gallantry on the field, Dwight was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and saw action in several battle until the end of the war. Following the war, Dwight went into the railroad business with his brother in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
     Leonard was leading the match by a score of +6 –3 =2 and with him needing only one more win, the match was left unfinished when Leonard returned to New York complaining that he had been the victim of double dealing by the Philadelphians. 
     When he got to Philadelphia, Leonard was badly treated by the local club and in a day before chess clocks, he bitterly complained of his opponent’s slow play. Leonard wrote, "If any of your readers ever had the misfortune to meet a slow antagonist, he can appreciate the agony a poor sinner must undergo who is compelled to sit motionless for 64 minutes awaiting his adversary’s move. Imagine the slowest player you ever met, and then one ten times as slow, and then you will have a remote idea of Mr. Dwight’s style of play.” At one point Dwight took three hours to make two moves. 
     At the outbreak of the Civil War, Leonard enlisted in the Union Army in Company F., 88th New York Volunteers, an Irish regiment on February 1, 1862. By May 31, he was fighting in the battle of Fair Oaks in Virginia where he was captured. By late September, 1862 he was dead before reaching his 21st birthday, having succumbed to dysentery while being held prisoner in Annapolis, Maryland. Leonard’s mother had received word of his capture and was on her way to visit him, but he died before she arrived. 
Union wounded just before the hospital was overrun by Confederates

     There were a whole host of diseases during the Civil War and the wort was dysentery. It accounted for around 45,000 deaths in the Union army and 50,000 deaths in the Confederate army. It spread rapidly through both armies primarily because of a lack of sanitation practices and contaminated water. 
     Civil War medicine was not advanced enough to connect a lack of hygiene with disease. For example, during a typical surgery cleanliness was an afterthought with surgeons using the same tools continuously on patient after patient. They might wipe them off on their apron, but they were never cleaned or sanitized. Even the importance of placing a latrine downstream and away from the clean water supply was unknown. The foul water would lead to water contamination which lead to the development and spread of the disease.
     Dysentery is an intestinal inflammation that causes severe diarrhea, usually characterized by mucus or blood in the feces. Left untreated, the disease can lead to rapid loss of fluids, dehydration, and eventually death.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

An Impressive Win By Bronstein

Bronstein vs. Shamkovich
     As mentioned in a previous post, there I an excellent article on Bronstein at Chessbase that gives a lot of insight to the bitter man that was almost world champion. Still, he was a top-ranked player for 30 years and was one of the greatest thinkers and innovators in the history of chess. 
     Bronstein pioneered the King’s Indian Defense, transforming it from an unknown and discredited defense into one of the most popular and dynamic openings. The was one of the first who wanted to speed up play with faster time limits and in 1973 introduced the idea of adding a time increment for each move made. 
     Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953 is a must own and is a great book and Bronstein is credited with being the author. It was something of a letdown to discover he only contributed analyses and that the rest of the book was written by Boris Vainshtein. Edward Winter has an interesting post on Bronstein which you can read HERE. It’s post 4753. 
     Vainshtein (May 19, 1907 – December 18, 1993) was from the Ukraine and was sometimes known as "Ferzberi.”  He grew up in Ukraine and Uzbekistan and moved to Moscow in 1935. Vainshtein was a high-ranking Soviet NKVD and chess official and a good player, now best remembered as a friend and supporter of David Bronstein. He also authored a number of chess books himself. For more details on his NKVD activity you can read the article The Phantom of Beria in the Moscow Times.
     After David Bronstein moved to Moscow he played in many of the city’s championships. In 1947 he tied for first with Ravinsky and Simagin who won the playoff with Bronstein finishing second. Bronstein successfully made attempts at winning the city championship in 1953 and 1957, both times by a two point margin. 
     He only finished third in 1969, then in 1961 he tied for first with Leonid Shamkovich. The genial Shamkovich (born June 1923) in Rostov-on-Don was never one of the Russian elite, but he was twice champion of the Russian Federation and qualified for the USSR championships six times. 
     In 1974 the Soviet authorities allowed him to leave for Israel but he soon settled in the US. He passed away on April 22, 2005. He defeated Shamkovich in the 1961 playoff match +2 -1 =3. The 1962 championship was an open and Averbakh and Vasyukov shared first a point ahead of Bronstein, Barcza, Lilienthal an Shamkovich. 
     I was unable to locate any games from the Bronstein-Shamkovich match in 1961, but did discover their individual game from the championship tournament and an exciting one it was. Bonstein’s mating attack with reduced material is quite impressive.

Friday, February 15, 2019

No Chess Today

Take a break and enjoy watching the Swedish jazz musician Gunhild Carling do her thing. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tearing Down A Tattered Ensign

     When I grew up almost all chess literature was in descriptive notation and that’s the way I recorded my games. And, because I learned chess mostly by reading books, I used "Kt" for Knight because that’s the way it appeared in books. I didn’t know there was another way to do it...namely using an "N" for the Knight. My games were recorded thus: 

1.P-K4 P-K4 
2.Kt-KB3 Kt-QB3 
3.B-Kt5 etc. 

    And, it was many years before I changed. But, I wasn’t alone. Looking at the letters to the editor in the January 1944 issue of Chess Review, there was a debate raging over whether or not the Knight should be recorded as Kt or N. Here is just a sampling of the letters published: 

John P. Scott of California wrote, “I think the only reason N isn’t used...is because enough courageous pioneers have not raised their voice in protest against an outmoded custom. I raise mine now! N for Knight!” 

A.W. Liger of Massachusetts said, “Since chess is a logical game, any shortening of notation is also logical...including clarity, time, ink saving, paper saving, reduction of eye strain.” But not all wanted change. 

C. Rosenfeld of Texas asked, “Would you tear down the tattered ensign Kt? Many an eye has danced to see that banner a-flutter on fields wet with heroes’ blood, where fought the glorious armies of Morphy, Pillsbury, Marshall, Lasker, Capablanca, Horowitz and others of the host of the mighty.” and added, “Chess is as much tradtion as a game. Let us keep all the lore and trappings.” 

G. Englehardt of Connecticut said, “This chess is an old game. Let’s keep it a-going as it is. The Kt has been used for hundreds of years; why change?” 

     Chess Review editor Al Horowitz issued a rather long reply, “Readers have expressed themselves fully and with much freedom on this subject. Those who prefer N believe that the use of this symbol...prevents typographical errors, makes it easier to read and write game scores, avoids confusion between King and Knight (pieces or squares) and other reasons. For these and other reason, 121 readers voted for N.” 

     “Opposed were 29 readers who voted to retain Kt. Main reason given: that a change would be breaking tradition. Secondary reason: that confusion would exist if two symbols if two symbols were used in publication.” 

     Horowitz then went on to explain, “To the editors of Chess Review, the arguments of the large majority in favor of N seem logical and convincing. The contrary argument that two symbols would cause confusion bears some weight, but a simple announcement would acquaint readers accustomed to Kt with the change and enable them to readily follow game scores...It is our belief and experience that most chess players in this country use the symbol N in their own recording. Practically all postal players use N. Some magazines and newspaper columnists have long since adopted N. However, most books are published with the symbol Kt, although at least one (Comparative Chess by Frank J. Marshall) has used the letter N.” 

     “As to tradition, some readers seem to be under a misapprehension in this respect. The traditional name of the piece would not be changed in any way. The Knight would remain a Knight, it would not be referred to as Nite. It is merely a symbol...” 

    “No iconoclasts, the Editors...have no desire to break tradition just to see the pieces fly. It should be realized that descriptive notation has been changed many times in the past, that tradition in this respect is one of constant change.”

    Horowitz then devoted a couple of paragraphs chronicling the changes in descriptive notation. He then concluded, “Prior commitments prevent the immediate adoption of the symbol N by Chess Review. However, when serials now appearing in the magazine are completed, the change will be made. Announcement will appear at that time.” 
     Chess games appearing in newspapers and magazines of the day were a mixed bag; the West Virginia Chess Bulletin used N while the New York Times used Kt. The Australian magazine Check! used N as did Purdy's Chess World, but The Australasian Chess Review preferred Kt as did the British Chess Magazine.  Eventually we all, in the words of C. Rosenfeld, tore down the tattered ensign Kt.
     Later there was to be another big brouhaha when publications switched over to algebraic notation, but by that time I had become owner of a number of European chess books that used it, so it was no mystery. The only problem was that when I began recording my games they were often a mix of both descriptive and algebraic, but I eventually got it straight. 
     While on the subject of recording games, Viktor Korchnoi recorded his games in what appears to be Martian: