31 December 2013

Chess History Cat Fight

In these final days of year-end revelry, finding the time for a serious blog post can be a tough task. I was overjoyed today when, during my weekly trek through various chess news sources, I stumbled on a no-brainer. First, there was a scholarly trashing of Chessgames.com: Chess History Content in the Digital Era: Cardinal Sins and a Cautionary Tale, by Olimpiu G. Urcan on Chesscafe.com.

It ended,

Chessgames.com exemplifies some of the worst dangers of the new El Dorado gold rush in chess over the Internet in the 2000s. A promising idea has degenerated into a project where little or no attention is paid to accuracy, and where shoddy goods are palmed off as the fruits of scholarship. It is all about what is easy and quick, with quality given nary a thought. Consequently, the site's reputation in the eyes of genuine chess lovers, connoisseurs, experts, and knowledgeable fans of the game – a reputation that was always poor for obvious reasons – has diminished at a vertiginous rate.

A decade-long failure to respect basic research methodology and ethical norms, coupled with unwise alliances with some of the most disreputable characters in the chess world, and allowing certain members to have recourse to mindless venom of the kind found on the old Google Groups chat rooms, has fatally reduced any value such a site might otherwise have had. Chessgames.com certainly remains an easy-to-access tool, but as a research tool it is not worth two cents, let alone eight cents a day. Let the reader beware.

The italics are mine. I consider myself to be a 'genuine chess lover', and a somewhat 'knowledgeable fan'. At least I did until I read the Urcan piece. Since I'm also a genuine fan of Chessgames.com, it looks like I've been deceiving myself all these years. Good thing Mr. Urcan came along to point out the error in my thinking.

A little later in my weekly chess news trek I came across related material under User Profile: chessgames.com, a forum for discussion of Chessgames.com administrative policies. Here are the first two responses, both by people with the title 'Premium Chessgames Member'. I suppose they are both unfortunate types who have paid 'eight cents a day'. (Is that all it costs? Maybe I'll join, too.)

Dec-29-13 MostlyAverageJoe: I stumbled across this: http://www.chesscafe.com/urcan/urca... and am wondering if you are aware of it and whether any response is planned...

Dec-29-13 dakgootje: Unscholarly trimmings.. swamped by drivel. Heh, drivel. Sure, if the site's only purpose was historical accuracy. If you presume all commentators ought to be chess history researchers, then the average kibitz would equate drivel indeed. (And presumably even without that presumption the average kibitz in the cafe <is>) However given that this isn't the sole reason people visit this site, the argument gets undermined quite a bit. Without wanting to do extensive scholarly standardized research, I'm fairly confident the large majority of visitors don't much mind which month of 1922 Jimbob played Sue. They played, we've got the game, and -oh wonderful- we know the year/venue. If we'd really want to, that information is probably sufficient to find a primary source.

The attack reminds me of the time Edward Winter trashed Mark Crowther in the late 1990s. Chess historians really live in the past, don't they? Must see if I can find that Winter / Crowther piece, but first there's some year-end revelry to get out of the way.


Here's wishing a healthy and prosperous 2014 -- first to all 'genuine chess lovers, connoisseurs, experts, and knowledgeable fans', then to all fellow Chessgames.com fans, and finally to the great mass of humanity who haven't forgotten that chess is just a board game!


Later: From Tim Harding's The Kibitzer, Looking Back: Chess in 1914 and 1864, undated, but I bookmarked it in January 2014.

Postscript • I concur with many of the criticisms made by ChessCafe.com colleague Olimpiu Urcan in his December column about the website chessgames.com, though I have by no means investigated it in the detail that he has. I rarely look at that site, occasionally when other sites link to it, and I have usually found it a waste of time. My own site does not link to it.

As for the so-called historical articles on the chessgames.com site, you can be pretty sure that every one will contain at least one error, probably plagiarised from a previous work of equally dubious provenance. For example, Urcan's article links to a page about the Steinitz-Gunsberg chess match of 1890-91 and Urcan suspects that chessgames.com has obtained its information from Nick Pope's much more reliable Chess Archaeology website without attribution.

However, I see that the chessgames article includes an incorrect statement that the Hungarian-born Gunsberg was a British citizen at the time of the match, "making him the first British challenger to the World Chess Championship." However, as readers of my book Eminent Victorian Chess Players will know, Gunsberg did not become a naturalized British subject until 1908. (I am absolutely certain about this, having examined the Gunsberg naturalization file at the British National Archives.) The original source of the error at chessgames.com is probably the very bad book Grandmasters of Chess by Harold Schonberg. By now, that mistake has probably been repeated in numerous other places.

My first recommendation to you is to delete chessgames.com from your favourites (if it is there) and not to follow any links to it. Secondly, if you are in need of an online chess game database, I suggest the NicBase online database which offers a free searchable database of about 1.7 million high-class games.

Chessgames.com is not at all the same species of web resource as NicBase, but each to his own.

30 December 2013

Carlsen TMER: 'Under Construction' (Not!)

After Carlsen TMER: Adding the Venues, I was finally in a position to remove the 'under construction' warning from Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-); Last updated 2013-07-15. At the same time I removed the references for each of the ~185 events listed in the TMER. This makes the page less valuable to other researchers, but I have discovered through the years that people routinely copy my work without attribution. Omitting references from the visible copy keeps a small, but important portion of the data as proof that it is my own work. 'References furnished on request', as they say.

What's next? The data shown in the 'Score' and 'Games' columns can be reconciled with the data in the associated 'PGN File'. I've never done this for any of the TMERs, but it's essentally a database manipulation. There is also some work required to advance the 'Last updated 2013-07-15' message. There was the small matter of a World Championship match in Chennai that remains to be documented. Ditto for the Anand TMER.

29 December 2013

'Chess in School' Is Quantifiable

In my first post on the subject of CIS, 'Chess in School' Is Multilevel, I pointed to FIDE's flagship brochure 'Chess in Schools - Our Global Future', pictured on the left. Although I have serious concerns about FIDE's approach, discussed in CIS Is Political, I will also admit that the involvement of the world chess organization is fundamental to the success of the CIS program. FIDE has automatic access to its 160++ member federations.

The last section of the FIDE brochure -- 'Bibliography' (p.46) -- is potentially the most valuable in establishing the worth of any CIS program. Keeping in mind that CIS Is Lucrative, value and worth are both required metrics to justify the cost of any specific program. Whatever CIS costs, the funds are only justified by a positive impact on school children. The last brochure section starts,

An annotated bibliography of more than 300 references and studies can be found on FIDE's Chess in Schools web site – cis.fide.com. It is, however, worth noting the best overview of the field and a few of the most important ones.

Ferguson, Robert (2006), Chess and Learning: An Annotated Bibliography was commissioned for the book of the 2001 Dallas conference, itself an important work: Chess and Education: Selected Essays from the Koltanowski Conference, University of Dallas at Texas, 2006. Ferguson provides brief notes about the contents of some 150 English language works.

The following bullets (rearranged slightly to preserve alphabetical order) are taken verbatim from the same section. They can serve as an anchor for any future look at specific studies.

  • Christiaen (1976), Christiaen,J. and Verhoftadt-Denève,L. (1981), Chess and cognitive development. Piagetian tests, internal school aptitude tests and school results used to evaluate outcome. The chess group outperformed the control group on all tests. The chess group had received one hour of chess instruction per week for 42 weeks (a year and a half).

  • Ferguson,R. (1983), Ferguson,R. (1994), Teaching the fourth "R" (Reasoning) through chess. Tests used were the Watson-Glaser CTA and the Torrance test of creative thinking. The chess group significantly outperformed not only the control group but also the computer group. Each group met once a week for 32 weeks.

  • Ferguson,R. (1986), Developing critical and creative thinking through chess. A four-year federally funded study to identify which activities would augment critical and creative thinking skills. Chess produced the greatest gains.

  • Ferguson,R. (1988), Development of Reasoning and Memory through Chess. The subtests for 'memory' and 'verbal reasoning' from the California Achievement Test were used. The chess group significantly outperformed the general population on 'memory' and marginally on 'verbal reasoning.' The chess group (complete beginners) received chess lessons two or three times a week (eight months).

  • Frank (1979), Frank,A. and D'Hondt,W. (1979), Frank,A. (1981), Aptitudes et apprentissage du jeu d'échecs au Zaire. Two psychometric tests were used for evaluation. The chess group performed better than the control group on both 'numerical aptitude' and 'verbal ability.' The chess group met two hours per week for one year.

  • Liptrap, J. (1998), Chess and standard test scores. The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills was used to evaluate the outcome of this large-scale study (567 students). The chess group showed statistically significant gains in reading and mathematics compared with the control group. Both groups improved over a two year period, but the chess group's improvement was approximately double that of the control group. The chess group participated in a school chess club for two years.

  • Margulies,S. (1992), Margulies,S. (1996), The effect of chess on reading scores. The chess group (midelementary school children in the South Bronx, New York) made significant improvements in reading scores compared with the control groups (national and school district averages). The chess group met for two years.

  • McDonald, Patrick (2006?), The Benefits of Chess in Education, A Collection of Studies and Papers on Chess and Education. A very useful compilation of more than 20 papers and a guide to further resources.

  • Moura Netto, Charles (2011), Chess that Brings Freedom. This inspirational program involves 2250 prisoners in 22 Brazilian jails.

  • Nash, Damian (2011), Making Chess Attractive to Educators in the Classroom, A New Approach To Curriculum. A curriculum model that can be used to teach higher order thinking skills directly. Chess is the primary visual metaphor but chess ability is not the end product.

  • Noir, Michel (2002), Le Développement des habiletés cognitives de l'enfant par la pratique du jeu d'échecs. Noir's doctoral thesis (University of Lyon). An important source for background, information and research in France.

  • Parr, Teresa (2011), Exploring Why Chess Works. An introduction to the 2011-2014 study “Exploring the Malleability of Executive Control” funded ($1,049,094) by the U.S. Department of Education that will test the hypothesis that chess improves performance in a broad range of academic subjects. A preliminary report is expected in the autumn of 2012.

  • Romano, Barbara (2012), Does Playing Chess Improve Math Learning? Promising (And Inexpensive) Results From Italy. Yes, it does is the conclusion, especially if the child is foreign born or living in the disadvantaged South of Italy.

  • Root, Alexey W. (2006), Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators, Teacher Ideas Press, Libraries Unlimited, Westport CT. One of the first books to show the connection between accepted educational theories and chess. It includes lesson plans teachers can use, and from which they can learn the basics of the game. Since the plans meet academic goals through chess, teachers also learn that chess can be a part of reading, mathematics, science and social studies. An appendix shows how chess meets the requirements of curriculum standards.

  • Trinchero, Roberto (2012), Chess as a cognitive training ground. Six years of trials in primary schools. This document presents the results of six years (from 2005 to 2011) of trials in primary schools of different chess training strategies and a study of the relationship between chess training and improved skills and abilities of children. The results, in line with other studies, demonstrated several benefits (see also Romano above).

I couldn't find the 'annotated bibliography of more than 300 references and studies' on cis.fide.com. The page 'Documents and FAQ' points to 'Resource and Information Center', which lists some of the papers mentioned above, plus a few others. Which are the most important for a busy person who wants an introduction to the subject? The paper 'Multiple Intelligency' by Prof.Dr.Howard Gardner is marked 'MUST TO READ!!', so that looks like a good place to start.

On top of the FIDE references, a series of presentations was made during the recent 'London Chess Classic 2013': Chess and Education London Conference - Presentations. I can already imagine the title of my next post in this series: '"Chess in School" Is a Growth Industry'.

27 December 2013

They Played Chess with Kubrick

The caption said, 'Stanley Kubrick and George C. Scott playing chess on the set of Dr. Strangelove.'

via Tumblr http://ift.tt/1bFWfBT © Flickr user pds209 under Creative Commons.

See also Playing Chess With Kubrick by Jeremy Bernstein [NYbooks.com; The New York Review of Books]:-

All during the filming of 2001 we played chess whenever I was in London and every fifth game I did something unusual. Finally we reached the 25th game and it was agreed that this would decide the matter. Well into the game he made a move that I was sure was a loser. He even clutched his stomach to show how upset he was. But it was a trap and I was promptly clobbered. "You didn’t know I could act too," he remarked.

Although the photo is widely available on different sites, I couldn't find any info about its origin.


A black & white variation of this photo was featured on the cover of the January 1964 Chess Review. Inside was a smaller photo and an explanation.

It was inevitable, it seems. Stanley Kubrick was producing and directing his own screenplay: "Dr.Strangelove", and George C. Scott was co-starring, along with Peter Sellers. Kubrick and Scott discovered they both were ardent chess fans. Thereafter, there was always a chess position standing by when work was on, to which they immediately returned when time was called on the movie-making.

No photo credit was given for either photo.

26 December 2013

GM Benko's Last Column

In the December 2013 issue of Chess Life (CL), the column 'Endgame Lab / Instruction' announced,

After 45 years, GM Pal Benko has decided this is his last "Endgame Lab" column. We hope that his well-earned retirement is long and fulfilling.

A Benko column has appeared in CL for as long as I can remember. The Wikipedia page on Pal Benko informs,

Benko is a noted authority on the chess endgame. He had a column on endgames in Chess Life magazine, which is published by the United States Chess Federation, for decades: In the Arena (1972–1981), Endgame Lab (1981–2013), and chess problem column Benko's Bafflers. In 2003 he revised the classic book Basic Chess Endings, by Reuben Fine. In addition to his success as a player, Benko is a composer of endgame studies and chess problems. He was awarded the title of International Master of Chess Composition by FIDE.

I am certain that Benko's Bafflers started before 1972, a fact confirmed last year in USchess.org's 45 Years of Bafflers: A Magazine Preview:-

In the April [2012] Chess Life, arriving in your mailbox soon and available online now, Dr. Steven Dowd celebrates the 45th anniversary of GM Pal Benko's "Benko's Bafflers." [...] For a blast from the past, read Benko's first column from April 1967, available for PDF download.

GM Benko's last CL column was titled 'The Secrets of Study Composing' and started,

I am occasionally asked where I get my ideas for studies. For my last column, I thought it would be instructive to give my thoughts on this subject.

A two part article with similar content is available online from Chessbase.com: 'Pal Benko: Secrets of Study Composition', Part 1 and Part 2. Benko is one of those people who is easily taken for granted. I will miss his monthly column and would like to thank him for the many years of valuable chess instruction.

24 December 2013

Mele Kalikimaka!

Merry Christmas from me and the entire staff of Chess for All Ages (that's also me). Please drive safely!

Google Images: chess christmas -kosteniuk
(Sorry, Alexandra!)

To follow the chain of previous CFAA Christmas Greetings, see 2012's Famous Christmas Plates.

23 December 2013

Carlsen TMER: Adding the Venues

Continuing with TMERs : One Step at a Time, I added venues to the index page for Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER, 2000-). This was done by extracting the data from the 'Site' tags in the PGN file for each event (as described in Carlsen TMER: Splitting the PGN File and Linking the Record and the Games), then adding it to each event in the TMER. Afterwards I removed the venue from any event where it was duplicated. About half of the events already had a venue listed.

22 December 2013

Quarter Sawn Chess

This Christmas edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price went as I predicted in the previous edition, More Carlsen Autographs: 'plenty to choose in pre-Christmas auctions'. I could have chosen a chess set (nothing unusual there), a porcelain figural group, a pool cue, or a book, but I chose the item pictured below. It was titled 'Quarter sawn oak game table, carved chess set, & two Northwind figural arm chairs', and sold for US $2500 after two bids, making it the priciest chess item sold over the past fortnight.

The desription added,

This is a wonderful quarter sawn game table (or chess table) with a beautifully carved chess set and two oak arm chairs with Northwind faces carved on the backs. The quarter sawn oak and detailed carving on the chess pieces, and table legs and chairs is obvious in the photos. We have sold American oak antiques in our Northern California store for more than 25 years and this is one of the nicest sets we've had.

Every item in this auction was worth a separate photo, but I'll have to be content with showing the ensemble. It would have looked great next to *my* Christmas tree.

20 December 2013

Pixie and Dixie Play Chess

You've read the story -- This Taxidermied Mice Chess Set Is The COOLEST. THING. EVER. [Huffingtonpost.com] -- now see the movie.

Taxidermied Mice Chess Set (1:09) • 'A shop on Etsy.com offered chess pieces in the form of taxidermied mice. '

The Youtube 'About' section contains a full transcript of the video. It starts,

If you think the game of chess is a little lackluster, try using this set instead. A shop on Etsy.com offers chess pieces in the form of taxidermied mice. The dead rodents have a wooden stand on the bottom, where their feet are attached so they can be maneuvered across the board easily.

There's another clip at Coolest Taxidermied Mice Chess Set EVER, and yet another at the Huffingtonpost.com link given earlier. The asking price of US $450 was a bargain compared to the $3499.99 price on the last mouse set featured on this blog: Mice for Mom.

Who said, 'I hate meeces to pieces'? See the title of his post for a memory jog.

19 December 2013

Magnus Looks Like That Guy?

At the risk of ticking off many people for many reasons, I returned to Mainstream Comments on Magnus, and noted all comments of the type, 'I think he looks like ____'. Shown below are the top three faces (there were others).

Magnus Carlsen, Matt Damon
Justin Bieber, Jesse Plemons

The resemblance to Matt Damon has been pointed out before, e.g. Magnus Carlsen's cousin in America [Chessbase.com], but I'm not convinced. I don't think he looks like any of them.

17 December 2013

The Graffiti Wall - Is Chess a Sport?

Getting back to the post Mainstream Comments on Magnus, the comments used were culled from over 600 comments on the two Yahoo articles (follow that link to find the original articles). Of those 600 comments, nearly 25% were an opinion on whether or not chess can be considered a sport. Of that 25%, nearly half were of the type pictured below.

The Chess Graffiti Wall

And those were the short comments. The long comments can be summarized with this one.

TWO FACTS: 1) Chess is not a sport. 2) See 1.

Of the longer, more reflective comments, one gave a link to Chess.com; 'Is Chess a Sport? Decide for yourself': Is Chess a Sport?

I might come back to the subject in a future post, but then again, I might not. The overwhelming majority of people on the street don't consider chess to be a sport.

But you knew that already, didn't you?

16 December 2013

Carlsen TMER: Linking the Record and the Games

After Carlsen TMER: Splitting the PGN File, I added the individual PGN file names to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-). Everything matched nicely and I didn't discover any real problems with the data, although there are a few minor inconsistencies to correct. As planned in TMERs : One Step at a Time, two steps remain:-

  • Adding venue to the TMER.
  • Removing the external references from the TMER.

I should be able to finish those steps the next time I work on the file. Just one hurdle: Finding time during the year end holiday season!

15 December 2013

'Chess in School' Is Lucrative

Continuing with this series of 'Chess in School' (CIS) posts -- see CIS Is Multilevel and CIS Is Political for the preceding posts -- the subject played a key role a few months ago at the 84th FIDE Congress Executive Board (EB), Tallinn, Estonia. I've already quoted heavily from the EB meeting in my post on Ethics and Cheating (see that post for references), and this being my first look at CIS inside FIDE, I'm going to quote even more heavily in this post. The subject came up in the introduction to the annual kickoff report by FIDE President Ilyumzhinov.

1. Report of the President. President K. Ilyumzhinov presented his annual report. [...] We are in a country with rich chess traditions, where a chess player, great Paul Keres is featured on a five-krone banknote. [...] The Estonians despite difficult economic conditions, they [took] several steps to promote chess, including "Chess in School" in several places. For example, GM J. Ehlvest wrote a book which should reach the table of every primary school child, and become a part of a chess curriculum.

In recent years, Rosneft has been the main sponsor of the program, where 'more than a million USD was spent'.

Last year we signed a sponsorship agreement for Chess in Schools programme with the Rosneft, where several dozens of countries were involved. Events were held in London, Beijing, Manchester, Geneva, Al Ain etc. In Al Ain together with the first World Cities Championship they organized trainers’ seminar. I would like to thank Chess in School Commission, its Chairman Ali Yazici for their great work. More than a million USD was spent for this programme. Soon we will sign several agreements on this programme with other companies.

The Chess in Schools and chess as a school subject is a top priority in the agenda for all my visits. In Lithuania, in Vilnius, as a result of my meeting in the Ministry of Education, a memorandum was signed with the Ministry of Education and their National Chess Federation to support a legal initiative for the Chess in Schools project. In Kyrgyzstan, the largest parliament faction also came forward with an initiative to introduce chess into the school curriculum. We also discussed in Geneva, together with the Neva Foundation of Timchenko Family, to organize in February 2014 a European Youth Chess Festival with the participation of UN. Deputy Secretary General, Mr. K. Tokay, will kindly provide his premises in the UN offices in Geneva for this purpose. Some private sponsors of Geneva Canton as well as authorities are ready to sponsor chess events there.

In January in Armenia, Tsakhadzor, in the 2013 1st quarter PB meeting, chess in schools was an item of the Agenda and it was an honour for us as the President of Armenia H.E. S. Sargsian reported on this issue. As a result, we organized an international Ministers of Education conference in London, at the end of January. It was attended by 190 countries. The report of the Armenian Minister of Education was one of the top and most interesting in the event. You can download it from our website. I would also like to thank the Ukrainian CF and its President V. Kapustin for their contribution to Chess in Schools programme. In Ukraine the Parliament decided to celebrate an International Day of Chess. During my personal meeting with the President H.E. V. Yanukovich, I once again heard the governmental support for chess initiatives in Ukraine.

Ilyumzhinov took full credit for signing the Rosneft sponsorship.

There are two top priorities for us today and for the next year – this is Chess in Schools programme, its continuation and promotion of chess, my maximal contribution during my visits to all countries, [...] Our second priority is interaction and collaboration with the IOC. [...] FIDE Treasurer will report on financial situation later on the Agenda. But I would like to report on the exact amounts I and my partners brought to chess events this year:
Chess in Schools for this year – 750,000 USD
Russia – 500,000 USD (Rosneft sponsorship)

He used Kalmykia as the reference for success.

Kalmykia has become the first region in 1993 where chess was introduced into school curriculum and 100% kids play chess. And for the last three years the level of academic performance of Kalmykia has been one among 5 top in Russia. And my years of joint experience of being President of Kalmykia and President of FIDE give me a right to tell my colleagues that from my personal experience, kids who play chess are doing well in school. Therefore wherever I am, I will promote chess in schools in all countries and provide good advice and support.

Later he made a startling proposition.

I have never [been] desperate to keep my position as FIDE President. If it is necessary I can resign this very moment and give my office to another candidate. I will just save my money and my time. I do not want FIDE to go back as in the 90s and have again political struggles and fights, as during last period of Campomanes’ rule. I know that there are presidential candidates who had already created their offices and started financing their campaigns. I am against such way of handling this, we should not be spending the coming year in deciding who we will vote for, for me, for Mr. Jones etc. It will damage our stability in chess movement.

Therefore when I am asked whether I will remain or not in FIDE, as this Presidential campaign means a lot of expenses for trips and other expenses. I think that this money should be spent on chess movement, Chess Federations and chess in schools programmes. As a chess family, we are one family, we have to decide everything together, inside the family. This is the lesson taught to me by Florencio Campomanes.

I want money to be kept within FIDE and not spent for the crazy presidential campaigns. I am ready to give a cheque for 1 mln USD and give it to the Treasurer Mr. Freeman for school chess development. I challenge the other candidates to follow my example. If 1 mln USD will be collected by Mr. Freeman from each of the candidates, I can then increase and spend 5 mln USD. Therefore whoever gives the most amount for school and youth chess programmes, he should be a real presidential candidate. Then we will openly see who sincerely wants to develop and help chess.

The real cost to FIDE was given in the annexes to the financial report under the heading 'Chess in Schools': -

  • 2012 actual - 50,000 Euro
  • 2013 budget - 60,000
  • 2014 budget - 108,000

The difference between the figures given by Ilyumzhinov and given in the budget led to some concerned discussion.

2. Financial report. Treasurer, Mr. N. Freeman presented his report. [...]

Mr. T. Sielicki [Deputy President, European Chess Union] asked about the CIS budget, he said that the Chairman declared that all the money would go through FIDE and not through some private sponsor or company, and the figure in the budget is 108,000, and whether this is a final figure or not in the light of the expected amounts to come to FIDE thanks to the Presidential campaign.

Mr. N. Freeman said that again the people have misunderstood. He said that the amount of 108,000 is coming from FIDE budget. If the President or Mr. A. Yazici or whoever raise more money, again it depends on a sponsor, and again this will be paid through FIDE at the end of the day. He said that all the money that FIDE received from Rosneft, was paid through FIDE. They sent it to Global Chess first because they had an agreement and Global Chess sent it to FIDE. FIDE made the payments on the instructions of CIS Chairman. So if there is more money, and let’s hope Poland can raise more money for us, all this will be paid through FIDE. It is up to a sponsor, who they want to sign an agreement with, we cannot say No to a sponsor if they want to do it in a slightly different way.

Mr. A. Yazici said he fully agreed with Mr. T. Sielicki and hoped he got the Verification Commission report. He added by saying that there are various activities under the umbrella of the programme Chess in Schools with various sponsors and sometimes President gives money for such missions. But here we mean that whatever money is for the CIS FIDE Commission, it is spent through FIDE. Therefore the Commission cannot control any other accounts used for this purpose.

Note that the only mention in the minutes of Global Chess was in relation to the CIS program. Later in the minutes came the CIS report. There were two related annexes.

5.10. Chess in Schools Commission. Mr. A. Yazici presented his report (Annex 59). Annex 23 is Commission’s report.

Mr. A. Yazici thanked the FIDE President for his support, especially mentioned in his report. He said that 49 Federations were supported with the sponsorship from Rosneft and also, we increased the number with 5 this year.

He underlined that the Commission is something to give children the advantage of learning chess as other school disciplines. Therefore the training of the teachers is not the same as trainers’ education. We created a new title – School Instructor and also, in 2013, following the objection of the Trainers’ Commission, we revoked the title. Now the Trainers’ Commission reconsidered their position, and CIS is saying that they need this title. So they ask the Executive Board to approve this title again. [...]

Mr. G. Boxall [FIDE Auditor & Chairman, Verification Commission] congratulated the Commission for enormous amount of work of the Commission and said in the Verification Commission Minutes say that the amount of money spent by the Commission was examined by his Commission in details. He said it was not clear in the Commission meeting, was the priorities allocated by the Commission regarding the expenditure of the money. Therefore they recommended that the Commission produces a summary of the funds use in relation to 600, 000 USD.

Mr. A. Yazici said that he did not hear till 48 hours ago, but this had been produced and provided to Mr. G. Boxall. He said that he was not feeling very good as only his Commission was asked for this. He was ready to answer for any expenditure in his Commission. He said for the future, every Commission should produce such a summary.

Mr. T. Sielicki said his question was similar to the question of Mr. G. Boxall. He said the budget of CIS is not in the budget of FIDE. He said he realised that apart from the budgeted amount, the other amounts were channelled through other bodies, like Global Chess. He said the request from the Verification Commission means that they were unable to see how these funds were distributed. He said we should post factum request a pro forma accountability report from the Commission regarding 2013, some rules for 2014. We heard from the FIDE President that Chess in Schools is the most important thing, but he also underlined and we take it for granted from him, that transparency is paramount. He disagreed with Mr. A. Yazici and said that this Commission is not like others, it is the most important and this is where most money is being spent. He said that this had to be taken in a much better way, especially that the auditors could not account for this.

Mr. N. Freeman said that Mr. T. Sielicki was mixing years and he meant 2013, when said 2014. He said that the CIS budget for last year was raised by the FIDE President himself with Rosneft. It was money purely for CIS and it was reported back to the Rosneft, and Mr. Borg can confirm this. In the FIDE office we have all the payments, and we do not know which amount was for a manual, which was for seminars, we do not know this exactly. He underlined that the monies which were written off, are the monies spent by FIDE before the Rosneft money came in. It was agreed by the Presidential Board in Al Ain. These were two pilot projects, originally they were supposed to be three, with Sweden also included. Rosneft money has nothing to do with these projects, that is why FIDE had to write them off.

Mr. A. Yazici said the comments by Mr. T. Sielicki were not correct. He said the budget was not as he said, it was raised. The money came to FIDE. He said he never spent any money, except than FIDE money, except my pocket money, which I did not invoice to FIDE, all expenses were done from the FIDE account. He said for the next year, it was not 60,000 but 108,000. If President raises more money, it will go to the FIDE budget. The question here is not straight, if the items in the summary, one by one, listed by an accountant and Treasurer, should be grouped. He said it was not a good manner, to prepare this, in advance. It would have taken us 20 minutes to prepare this. We have nothing to hide. He said he would not understand why this question in the part of Verification Commission and Chess in Schools Commission, as this was their job and we could discuss that at the meeting.

Mr. S. Danailov asked the income from Slovakia is 273 euro and from Slovenia is 289 euro, and the loan to FIDE is more than 87,000. He said when I asked this question in Yerevan PB to the Chairman of CIS, the answer was I do not remember exactly, but it was about 30 or 40,000 euro. But there is a big difference between these figures.

Mr. A. Yazici said I did not remember at the time, as we had some premium members at that time. At the end the CIS material was spent in these countries. So this money was spent by Federations, it is maybe this money came to our account. He said I am very proud to spend money on our Federations.

Executive Board accepted the Commission’s report and noted that the summary of expenses will be published on the CIS website.

While preparing this post, I couldn't find that summary of expenses on the CIS website. The minutes of the EB meeting didn't mention that the Rosneft sponsorship was ended for 2013. That info is found in the 'Chess in Schools Commission Meeting', Annex 59.

2011-2012 Rosneft sponsorship was very important to us. Our 2012 Annual Report gives details of that sponsorship and the work that we carried out with 49 federations to the end of that year.

2013 Rosneft sponsorship could not continue but the President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is working and we are hoping for good news soon.

As for Annex 23, it lists the CIS accomplishments.

Report of Commission Chairman Ali Nihat Yazici; CHESS IN SCHOOL COMMISSION; The period since the last Congress in Istanbul has been marked by a lot of hard work and several landmark events. There have been four principal areas of activity
  • The multi-lingual web sites, launched in January 2012, to support both our chess in schools work and FIDE-CIS Student Membership (a synergistic part of the whole), are now available in two more languages, 11 in all;
  • the major sponsorship from Rosneft meant that we were able to do a great deal in 2012, carrying over into this year, albeit, with no renewal of that sponsorship, we are now seriously constrained in our budget;
  • we have now produced more than 70 magazines (almost 600 pages!) for our FIDE Student members;
  • fourthly, the major Chess in Schools projects – the CIS100 modules – are showing their worth, and not only those since several small federations have shown the way to develop Student membership.
[...] CIS100 Modules – the special projects Our first two project countries, Slovakia and Slovenia, are about to commence their third year of operations. Many others look forward to their second year. We hope that budgetary constraints will not put a stop to these developments.

The projects continue to evolve, especially as they are tailored to each participating country, but the basic outlines are there for all to see in our CIS Handbook. In 2012, 1000 top quality demonstration boards and 16,000 boards and sets were manufactured and most have now been delivered to the recipient countries.

The concern of the EB members as to the disposition of the CIS funds is fully understandable. It is telling that the EB discussion revolved around the control of the sponsorship funds rather than the CIS program itself. In his introductory speech Ilyumzhinov said,

All the years my activity was transparent and open for everyone. For all these years the Board members and delegates we have not had any single corruption scandal. If in any sports Federations we always read about such scandals because of mismanagement of funds, our budget is always open, you can find it in the Internet. I thank to all FIDE Treasurers, Messrs. W. Iclicki, D. Jarrett and N. Freeman.

He is right to be proud of this, and the same standards should apply to the flagship CIS program.

13 December 2013

When Everything Is Black and White...

...you can hardly see the chess pieces.

Chess, Avignon, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, FR © Flickr user Jean-Pierre ARIBAU under Creative Commons.

This photo garnered 86 selections as a 'Favorite' and was included in seven groups. Among them were 'Shadow of a Doubt', 'Some things are better than others!', 'Still**Life - Street Photography', and 'Portfolio of People'.

12 December 2013

Ethics and Cheating

My recent post on the FIDE Journalists' Commission (see that post for links and background), was the first in a series of articles on changes brought about by the 84th FIDE Congress Executive Board, Tallinn, Estonia, in October. In this post let's look at the Ethics Commission, a subject I addressed a year ago in Feller, Rybka, Arbiters, and More.

The ground rules for the commission are set in the FIDE Handbook > A. Administrative Subjects: 01. FIDE Statutes > Chapter 08 - The Commissions of FIDE, and 09. FIDE Code of Ethics. The minutes of the Tallinn meeting noted two important evolutions of the rules.

All member federations are requested to introduce in their statutes organs and proceedings apt to prosecute breaches of the FIDE Code of Ethics at national level, in compliance with the fundamental principles of law. Unfortunately this still seems not the case for many federations.

Member federations now have also the possibility to attribute an appeal competence to the EC. [...] With the new statutes, if a member federation attributes a full appeal competence to the EC, then national decisions not appealed in front of the EC or confirmed by the EC will be recognised as directly applicable by all FIDE organs and members. For example, the ban of a player judged responsible of cheating by the competent organs of a member federation, if not appealed or if confirmed by the EC, will directly extend its effects to all FIDE members.

I've emphasized that last sentence because it is an important weapon in bringing the rampant problem of cheating under control. Before we look at the current status of anti-cheating measures, let's look at some of the major decisions of the Ethics Commission. The first concerns a case of cheating dating back to the 2010 Olympiad:-

Case n. 2/2011: "French Team" (probation period for Mr Cyril Marzolo), the EC rules that:
- Mr. Cyril Marzolo, who was sanctioned with the exclusion from the participation in all FIDE tournaments, as a player or as a member of a national delegation, for a period of 1 (one) year and 6 (six) months, with a suspension of the sanction for the last nine months, under probation, has positively concluded the period under which is behaviour was tested, in accordance with the report sent by the French Chess Federation. The probation period is concluded and the case is closed.

Another case, dating to 2011, received widespread attention at the time. Section 2.2.3 refers to 'officials who fail to perform their functions in an impartial and responsible manner':-

Case 2/2012: "Rybka and ICGA" (complaint by Mr Vas Rajlich and Mr Chris Whittington against the International Computer Games Association - "ICGA"), the EC, following the reception of additional information, rules that:
- the case, concerning an assumed violation of par. 2.2.3 of the FIDE Code of Ethics has to be considered as receivable;
- the FIDE Secretariat will communicate the decision to the parties, informing them about the EC procedural rules.

Another case invoking section 2.2.3 occurred at the 2012 Olympiad:-

Case n. 10/2012: "Arbiters at the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul" (complaint submitted by the English Chess Federation against Mr Ali Nihat Yazici and a the Turkish Chess Federation), the EC rules that:
- Mr Ali Nihat Yazici is responsible for the violation of par. 2.2.3 of the FIDE Code of Ethics and has to be sanctioned with a warning.

The Turkish federation often appears in ethics cases. Here's one they initiated, although I'm not sure what the original complaint was. I imagine that it has something to do with journalistic standards:-

Case n. 15/2012: "Turkish Chess Federation against Mr. Daaim Shabazz" (complaint by the Turkish Chess Federation against Mr. Daaim Shabazz), the EC rules that: - the case has to be rejected as not receivable and has to be dismissed.

Now here are two accusations of cheating, both of which received considerable attention in the chess world. The details can be found by searching on the obvious keywords:-

Case n. 2/2013: "German Chess Federation against Mr. Falko Bindrich" (report of the German Chess Federation against Mr. Falko Bindrich), the EC rules that:
- the case, as it has been submitted by the German Chess Federations, does not concern an assumed violation of the FIDE Code of Ethics, therefore has to be rejected as not receivable and has to be dismissed.

The German federation was the plaintiff in both cases:-

Case n. 6/2013: "Mr. Andrei Istratescu against Mr. Jens Kotainy, Mr. Falko Bindrich and Mr. Leon Mons; German Chess Federation against Mr. Kotainy" (complaint of Mr. Andrei Istratescu against Mr. Jens Kotainy, Mr. Falko Bindrich and Mr. Leon Mons report of the German Chess Federation against Mr. Falko Bindrich), the EC rules that:
- the case against Mr. Leon Mons has to be rejected as not receivable and has to be dismissed;
- the case against Mr. Falko Bindrich has to be considered as receivable, but has to be rejected, given that there is no evidence of a violation of par. 2.2.5 of the FIDE Code of Ethics;
- the cases against Mr. Jens Kotainy, for an assumed violation of par. 2.2.5 of the FIDE Code of Ethics, have to be considered as receivable; the FIDE Secretariat will communicate the decision to the parties, informing them about the EC procedural rules.

A new 'Anti-Cheating Committee' met (for the first time?) in Tallin. Here is an excerpt from their minutes:-

A draft paper on the topic of Anti-Cheating issues was presented to the meeting. This paper was drawn up in consultation with the ACP members from a meeting in Paris on the 2-3 October 2013. Attending this meeting were: Israel Gelfer (FIDE), Ken Regan (ACP), Laurent Freyd (ACP), Yuri Garrett (ACP), Konstantin Landa (ACP)

Professor Ken Regan gave a presentation on the statistical methods used to detect suspected cheating. A copy of the presentation can be found at

Shaun Press was appointed secretary of the committee. The chairman of the committee intends to meet with the Arbiters Commission to discuss changes in the role of the arbiters in the area of anti-cheating methods. The ACC also hopes to have input into the design of that new Arbiter reporting form.

How does the 'Anti-Cheating Committee' relate to the 'Ethics Commission'?:-

The work has just started. This is not going to be the [body] to accuse or go to the court. We will build a structure and make recommendations that the case should be brought to the Ethics Commission. When we finish the work and in one stage, we will consult [the Ethics Commission], there will be cooperation between the two bodies.

A recent, well-known case of suspected cheating reappeared this past week: Borislav Ivanov is back — "device found" but still no evidence, and Official statement on the Ivanov story [both links Chessvibes.com]. It is in everyone's interest to treat the topic rationally; see also No more cheating in chess! Cheat = ban for life [Facebook.com], including an update on Tallinn, Shaun Press: Below is a draft set of proposals from the FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee...

10 December 2013

Mainstream Comments on Magnus

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a pair of Carlsen articles on sports.yahoo.com: Mainstream Press and More Mainstream Press (see those posts for background and links to the originals). One of the features of Yahoo articles is the comments section. Often there are thousands of comments, especially on political themes, but I was happy to see hundreds on each of the chess articles.

I collected a few comments for this post. First, the inevitable jokes...

  • As a kid I was always getting into trouble. My father finally got weary and decided to put a stop to it. My punishment? I had to sit and watch him and his friend play chess.
  • It would be cool if he was half Czech and half Australian. Checkmate!
  • I heard chess players make terrible lovers, cuz they can take forever making their next move.
  • Justin Bieber + IBM Deep Blue + Mr. Potato Head = Magnus Carlsen

Next, the 'Not Everyone Likes Chess' department...

  • Yea, a model will turn chess around... You know those riveting matches where each move has the crowd on edge...
  • In the immortal words of Buck Henry on Saturday Night Live in its heyday, "I get so excited sometimes, I almost make a noise".
  • I got a chess set as a kid. Found it was more fun to shoot the pieces off the picnic table with my BB gun.
  • I stopped playing in chess tournaments when I realized I didn't like chess players very much. That's their real problem, when it comes to popularity. The top players are not ambassadors of the game, but egotistical narcissists.
  • I've always thought that great chess champions, with their obviously brilliant minds, ought to be doing something with those gifts to benefit mankind, rather than playing a game.

Then there are the inevitable comparisons to the 13th World Champion...

  • I doubt if he could beat Kasparov. That Russian is the best chess player who ever lived.
  • Chess needs a charismatic personality to help grow the game again. Garry Kasparov started the outgoing chess personality and needs someone to take over after his retirement.
  • I remember Garry Kasparov was a classy guy, and had this old-school film noir charisma. Carlsen is a chilled out, likeable guy, and the sport of chess will benefit from his success.
  • Not impressed until he faces Deep Blue and doesn't storm off crying, like the other guy did. Beat a robot and you ARE champion... of the universe. To me that day sticks in my mind as the one argument someone can have that machines are superior.

And the 11th World Champion...

  • Chess needs a new face desperately -- nobody since Bobby Fischer or Alex P. Keaton on a Family Ties episode when he solved the cold war thru a game of chess.
  • I wish that these chess matches would be featured on TV as was during the Fischer / Spassky match. With so many stations you would think that at least one would be dedicated to chess.
  • I hope he does for chess what Fischer did for chess in the 70's. Every once in a while a champion stirs the imagination of the people and chess becomes king.

And comments on his name...

  • What kind of parents stick their son with the name Magnus?
  • Dudes named Magnus win strongest man competitions not chess matches. If someone doesn't stop him we are all doomed.
  • Dang, Magnus is a cool name.

Some comments defy classification...

  • Why is it that Armenians never get their stories told. Time and time and time again, the Armenians are the best at chess...
  • I'm sure I want to party with this guy, he must be a wild man.
  • How does one even become a professional chess player? That just seems so foreign to me.
  • It's probably a matter of time before he starts playing professional poker. Chess has its limits as an income generator.

The headline of the second Yahoo article said, 'Chess champion could revolutionize the sport'. Someone asked the same question I had asked...

  • I like chess and play occasionally, but I do not know how chess can be revolutionized.

While someone else guessed the real reason for all of the media atttention...

  • And he has a great PR team.

There were a few more themes worth noting, but I'll save those for another time.

09 December 2013

Carlsen TMER: Splitting the PGN File

Continuing with TMERs : One Step at a Time and finishing Carlsen TMER: Polishing the PGN, I split the large PGN file into separate files for each event and uploaded them to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-), TMER, 'Last updated 2013-07-15 (under construction)'.

The ZIP file contains 169 PGN files for individual events and a TXT index file suitable for loading into a database. For early events represented by a game or two -- where it isn't certain which games apply to which events -- I combined them into a YYX-MISC file

I know the split file is less useful to many people, but given the right tools it isn't difficult to recombine the small files into one large file. The small files make the project easier to maintain and provide a name to attach notes to individual events. Next step: Add the file names to the TMER.

08 December 2013

More Carlsen Autographs

For this edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I was hoping to have plenty to choose in pre-Christmas auctions, but it looks like I'll have to wait until next time. Not having much to choose from, except for chess sets, I returned to the idea from the last two 'Top eBay Chess Items' posts -- Anand - Carlsen Autographs and Carlsen - Anand, Signed Board -- this time looking for memorabilia related only to the new World Champion. What did I find? Autographs! ... as shown in the following composite image.

Three of the four boards, all listed by the same seller, are positioned with a dark square in the right corner. They are all folding boards where the signature avoids the fold. The board that fetched the best price was sold just before the title match in Chennai (see my previous post Carlsen - Anand, Chess Press for an overview of the match), while the other boards were sold after Carlsen became World Champion. There are two more signed boards on offer as I write this, plus a board signed together with Levon Aronian.

GM Aronian is also featured in the two photos shown in the bottom row of my composite image. Coincidence? Probably not, because they were both listed by the same seller of the signed boards. Signed photos of Carlsen playing other top grandmasters fetched much less.

06 December 2013

Carlsen's Post-Match Interview

After posting the Carlsen - Anand, Wrapup on my World Chess Championship Blog a few days ago, I planned to move on to another topic, but this interview is so good -- how could I not use it? More than 39.000 views and counting...

Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen interview 25.11.2013 (14:32) • 'Exclusive interview to ChessTV after winning the championship match against Viswanathan Anand in Chennai, India. '

The description added:-

  • Interviewer: Anastasiya Karlovich, FIDE Press Officer
  • Production: ChessTV

Congratulations to everyone involved in this match. It is destined to go down in chess history as a high mark for chess.

05 December 2013

FIDE Journalists' Commission (A suivre...)

As the great match in Chennai fades into history (see Carlsen - Anand, Wrapup for my personal closure on the subject) where does this blog go next? I didn't have to look far for an answer. At about the same time the match started, FIDE released the 84th FIDE Congress Executive Board Minutes and Annexes (NB: the page also points to documents for past years).

FIDE is publishing the Minutes and Annexes of the Executive Board meeting that was held in Tallinn, Estonia, 7-8 October 2013.

There are many chess topics in the FIDE PDF documents that I've written about before -- the World Championship (plus qualifying events), ethics, chess in schools, lawsuits, and chess in Africa, to name a few of the most important -- but there is one topic of interest to me as a blogger. I wrote about it last year after the 83rd FIDE Congress: the FIDE Journalists' Commission. Here's what the latest minutes said on the subject.

5.18 Journalists’ Commission. • Mr. G. Makropoulos presented his report (Annex 70).

He said that the Commission was established in Istanbul General Assembly. They started working, with the main aim to help journalists who attend FIDE events, to obtain discounts in hotels etc. Second aim is to create one pool of journalists, accredited with FIDE, who are aware with international Code of Ethics, try to educate some journalists. Now it is difficult as anyone who can write in Internet, calls himself a journalist. There should be lines drawn for everyone who writes about chess events. The report contains analysis and proposals.

The four-page annex is too long to quote in entirety, so I'll just present the main talking points.

Annex 70 • Minutes; Commission of Chess Journalists; Tallinn, Estonia; 5 October 2013


1) Ethical. Development and implementation of professional standards regarding chess journalists, especially the standards of journalistic ethics and principles. we should follow or make the rules in accordance with Status of Journalists and journalism ethics: IFJ principles [see below]

2) Communicative. Creating opportunities for communication and exchange of information between Commission and chess journalists (journalists, who write about chess, photo-reporters) from different countries, as well as communication between journalists and organizers of chess events. [...]

3) Informative. Opening and operating the Commission's website. [...]

4) Organizational. a. Development of database of chess journalists and chess websites. • b. Development of Chess Journalist ID card (20 euro per years) which simplifies the process of participation in the respective events (accreditation to FIDE events for ID card holders for 1 year). [...] • c. Development of common rules of accreditation for all FIDE events.

5) Legal. Providing informative legal support to the chess journalists, especially in the field of copyright (by informing them how to protect their rights and by helping to protect chess journalists from plagiarism and copyright infringement etc). [...]

6) Controlling. Control and prevention of violations in Media, helping in protection of FIDE copyrights, chess journalists copyrights during and after FIDE and other chess events (by reporting and correcting mistakes, sending letters). [...]

7) Encouraging. The Awards program for chess journalists (for FIDE events only) (both as a submitter and as a Judge for members). [...]

8) Improving. Finding the ways to improve the work of the press centre for FIDE events [...]

The IFJ link given under '1) Ethical' is incorrect. The correct link is Status of Journalists and journalism ethics: IFJ principles. As for the rest, it's a mixed bag. A suivre...

03 December 2013

Carlsen - Anand, Chess Press Overview

Let's have one more post on the great match, this one a summary of the events in Chennai as seen by two stalwarts of the online chess press. I chose to use these two sites because of their frequent use of photos and videos.

  Chessbase Chessvibes
08 Nov: WCh Chennai: Opening Ceremony Carlsen to Start With White in Chennai
09 Nov: Chennai G1: Anand holds Carlsen to 16-move draw It's on! First game, Carlsen-Anand, drawn quickly
10 Nov: Chennai G2: Two minor victories? Anand-Carlsen: game 2, a Caro-Kann, drawn in 25 moves
12 Nov: Chennai G3: A thrilling battle as Anand close to win Game 3, Carlsen-Anand, drawn after 51 moves
13 Nov: Chennai G4: Carlsen presses Anand in epic battle Anand-Carlsen: game 4, a Berlin Ending, drawn after 64 moves
15 Nov: Chennai G5: Carlsen draws first blood Carlsen Beats Anand in World Championship Game 5
16 Nov: Chennai G6: Carlsen wins second straight Carlsen Beats Anand Again, Leads 4-2 in Chennai
18 Nov: Chennai G7: A toothless draw Anand-Carlsen game 7 drawn in 32 moves
19 Nov: Chennai G8: Anand plays Berlin against Carlsen Carlsen-Anand, game 8, drawn in 33 moves
21 Nov: Chennai G9: Magnus .44 beats battling Anand Carlsen close to world title after Anand blunders in game 9
22 Nov: Magnus Carlsen is the new World Champion! Magnus Carlsen World Champion of Chess
25 Nov: The king is crowned Carlsen Crowned World Champion (After Enjoying Some Football & Basketball)

Both sites published much more material on the match. See also the Chessbase Tag=World Championship 2013, although there is good material that is not mentioned under the tag.

The future of the Chessvibes site is unclear. It's been two months since the announcement of the deal with Chess.com -- I mentioned it on Chess.com(?) Interviews Kasparov -- but Chessvibes.com continues as before. It's entirely possible that the links will stop working at any moment.

02 December 2013

Carlsen TMER: Polishing the PGN

Not much to report today. I continued with TMERs : One Step at a Time with the goal of removing the 'under construction' label from the Carlsen TMER ('Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record'). This involved the first two steps listed in that previous post:-

  • Normalizing the large PGN file.
  • Splitting that file into PGN files for each event.

It turned out that the first step had already been done, so I worked on the second step. I created just over 100 files covering 924 Carlsen games through the end of 2008. I'll finish the step the next time I take it up.

01 December 2013

'Chess in School' Is Political

In my previous post on the subject, 'Chess in School' Is Multilevel, I promised to look at the FIDE booklet, 'Chess in Schools - Our Global Future' (see the 'Multilevel' post for a link and an introduction).

The booklet, a marketing document for FIDE's CIS program, starts badly. Page one, building on the unfortunate personality cult that permeates all FIDE online material, is headlined, 'Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov, b. 1962; President of FIDE 1995-; President of Kalmykia, Russian Federation 1993-2010' -- this over a picture that could be subtitled 'Big Brother is watching you over the chessboard'. It goes on to quote Ilyumzhinov, '17 years ago, I signed a decree to develop chess in the schools of Kalmykia.' Then this:-

100% of Kalmykia school children can play chess. This has played well for their school results. According to the Russian Ministry of Education, for the last two years we have been keeping 1st place in school results of children among 85 Russian regions.

Andrey Fursenko, Russian Minister of Education became interested in our phenomenon and sent specialists to Kalmykia to find out the key to this success. They stated in the end, that it was the introduction of chess in schools that had brought such good results.

Anyone wanting to verify this claim is quickly going to discover the Wikipedia page on Kalmykia.

From 1993 to 2010, the Head of the Republic was Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov. He is also the president of the world chess organization FIDE. Much of his fortune he has been spending in promoting chess in Kalmykia — where chess is compulsory in all primary schools — and also overseas, with Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, hosting many international tournaments.

In the late 1990s, there were allegations that the Ilyumzhinov government was spending much government money on projects to do with chess. These were published in Sovietskaya Kalmykia, the opposition newspaper in Elista. Larisa Yudina, the journalist who investigated these accusations, was kidnapped and murdered in 1998. Two men, Sergei Vaskin and Tyurbi Boskomdzhiv, who worked in the local civil service, were charged with her murder, one of them having been a former presidential bodyguard. After prolonged investigations by the Russian authorities, both men were found guilty and jailed, but there was no evidence that Ilyumzhinov was in any way responsible.

It's a fact of life that people are judged by the company they keep. Ilyumzhinov has sought the company of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and of Syrian leader Bachar Assad, all totalitarian dictators who are/were pariahs in the international community. I can't think of a single meeting with any respected, democratically elected leader. On top of these terrestrial contacts, the FIDE President is proud of his alleged extraterrestrial contacts; see Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Aliens by Edward Winter for documented evidence.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is free to meet with whomever he wishes to meet, and FIDE officials are free to use his likeness wherever it suits them. That is their business. I, for my part, am free to judge his actions according to my personal standards, and I don't want my children or grandchildren to come into contact with this man or with any program that he has designed. I also don't want any part of their school system to be modelled after any program designed for a totalitarian society.

The foregoing is bad enough, but there is a second problem with the FIDE 'Chess in Schools' booklet. Ilyumzhinov has announced his intention to run again for the office of FIDE President when his current term expires next year. His opponent will be former World Champion Garry Kasparov. Although Kasparov has done much for the 'Chess in Schools' concept, his efforts are never given credit. The only mention of his name is a trivial anecdote in the section on Turkey.

Two pages of the booklet are used to describe the 'Chess in Schools' endorsement by the European Parliament, an action which came about because of Kasparov's work together with Silvio Danailov, the current President of the European Chess Union. Their efforts are never given credit. In contrast, the efforts of former World Champion Viswanathan Anand are given two full pages plus various other references.

If the 'Chess in Schools' program is to succeed, it should not be used as a battleground for FIDE's internal politics. To do so will insure its failure.

Despite these shortcomings, there is much in the FIDE booklet that is valuable. I'll cover the positive aspects in another post.

29 November 2013

Chess Pumpkins

Here's (half of) a rare chess set you won't find in anyone's collection.

Chess at the Keene Pumpkin Festival © Flickr user kkfea under Creative Commons.

From Wikipedia:-

The Keene Pumpkin Festival (a.k.a. Pumpkin Fest or P-Fest amongst teens) is a yearly celebration held in Keene, New Hampshire, United States, before Halloween. Each year, Keene residents and citizens from around the area attempt to amass the largest number of lit jack-o'-lanterns in one place, trying to meet or beat the world record (which they have held for many years). • Pumpkin Fest

For another photo from the same photographer, see Pumpkins.

28 November 2013

Chess and the 'Nerd Dollar'

I had a 'Hallelujah!' moment at the end of the recent post on Carlsen - Anand, More Mainstream Press. I asked the question, 'Why the media excitement about Carlsen?', and got the answer 'It's all about the "nerd dollar"!'. I should have realized that before. After all, it's money -- not sex, not love -- that makes the world go round.

That helped me sleep better for one night, but then I started to wonder: What exactly is the 'nerd dollar'? A web search on that term plus 'chess' returns only my 'More Mainstream Press' blog post and the article I quoted there. Widening the search by removing the word 'chess' returns a laundry list of pages that shed no light on the subject. An image search, shown below, is more useful. The fellow who appears twice in the top line (as well as the small image in the bottom line) is a poster boy for the concept. Those are nerd dollars he holds in his hands.

Google Image search on 'nerd dollar'

If you want to get to the heart of the concept, 'marketing to nerds' is a better path to follow. For example, 5 Simple Tips for Marketing to Nerds ('Nerds, geeks, eggheads and wonks are an influential audience'), lists,

  • 'Share your passion.' [That would be chess.]
  • 'Find your niche.' [Chess again.]
  • 'Hone your voice.' [Shout 'CHESS!']
  • 'Grow organically.' [What's that got to do with chess?]
  • 'Be inclusive.' [Chess960?]

If you're bothered by any negative connotations attached to nerds, geeks, etc., see my essay, Top 10 Myths About Chess. Myth no.5 is

Chess is for nerds • In fact, this isn't a myth, since chess is for everyone. It is for nerds, geeks, eggheads, and boffins, as much as it is for anyone else. People who need to call other people unpleasant names should better say, 'chess is only for nerds', but this is decidedly false. Even if it were true, so what? Smart, awkward, quirky people have made more contributions to the advancement of humanity than have the rest. If they want to play chess, that's their business.

And their business can be a frugal one. 'Who said, "The best things in life are free"? Whoever said it could have been talking about chess.' (From Chess for Free; 'You don't have to be a cheapskate to enjoy chess, but you don't have to be a millionaire either.')

26 November 2013

Carlsen - Anand, More Mainstream Press

Last week we saw Anand - Carlsen, Mainstream Press ('Model is greatest ever, but not in modeling'); this week it's a tidal wave of mainstream articles about the new World Champion. The latest chess piece from Yahoo.com muscled its way into the highbrow company of 'Kim K. charity move slammed' and 'Bowling tries a new look'.

Unlike 'Model is greatest ever', the headline and caption...

Chess champion could revolutionize the sport • Magnus Carlsen earned the title of world chess champion at age 22, as well as a massive payday. His mass-marketing appeal.

...actually had something to do with the content. Don't take my word for it, read the article yourself: Chess has a handsome, charismatic new star in world champion Magnus Carlsen [sports.yahoo.com]. In case you're still mystified about the reason for the media excitement, here's a clue from the article:-

With the "nerd dollar" one of the most powerful forces in modern marketing, Carlsen's combination of charisma and supreme strategic intelligence looks certain to pocket him some serious cash, as well as lead to a surge in popularity for his game of choice.

It's all about the 'nerd dollar'!

25 November 2013

TMERs : One Step at a Time

Sometimes my daily blog post is more a note to myself than a piece of general interest. These are usually categorized in Posts with label About.com, an ongoing project I started five years ago. This year I used the blog to track my progress on two 'Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record' (TMER) projects:-

I summarized the first TMER project in

then updated the second TMER over the next two months:-

  • 2013-09-09: In a Class by Himself • Last year, as part of my 'About to Tripod' project, I revived my page on 'Anand's TMER (1983-)', and recorded the milestone [on this blog]. The TMER page is currently flagged 'Last updated 2004-06-05', so it's high time to bring it up to date.
  • 2013-09-16: Anand's TMER 2004-2008 • Continuing with 'In a Class by Himself', a small project to update my page on 'Anand's TMER (1983-; last updated 2004-06-05)', I collected all subsequent games from events played through the end of 2008 that were included in The Week in Chess (TWIC).
  • 2013-09-23: Anand's TMER 2009-2013 • Last week I constructed an index for 'Anand's TMER 2004-2008', and this week I did the same for events he played up to the date of this post.
  • 2013-09-30: Anand's TMER PGN • Continuing with 'Anand's TMER' -- last seen in 2004-2008 and 2009-2013 -- I extracted, combined, and sorted the PGN for the events falling in the nine++ years 2004-2013.
  • 2013-10-07: Anand's W-L-D Record 2004-2008 • After creating Anand's TMER PGN' for the years 2004 to 2013, I started adding the events, including W-L-D (win, loss, draw) data, to the TMER index page. I managed to work through 2008 before running out of time.
  • 2013-10-14: Anand's W-L-D Record 2009-2013 • Continuing with 'Anand's W-L-D Record 2004-2008', I picked up where I left off and brought the W-L-D (win, loss, draw) data up to date through Anand's most recent tournament, the Tal Memorial, held at Moscow in June.
  • 2013-10-21: Anand's Game Scores 2004-2013 • After compiling the data for 'Anand's W-L-D Record 2009-2013', I uploaded the PGN game scores to the 'Chess for All Ages' web site.
  • 2013-10-28: Anand's TMER 1983-2013 • That's a wrap! After uploading 'Anand's Game Scores 2004-2013', I updated 'Viswanathan Anand's TMER (1983-)'. The TMER index now includes W-L-D data for all events through 2013.

Now I would like to remove the 'under construction' label from the Carlsen TMER. That means:-

  • Normalizing the large PGN file.
  • Splitting that file into PGN files for each event.
  • Documenting the separate PGN files on the TMER.
  • Adding venue to the TMER.
  • Removing the external references from the TMER.

There also remains some cleanup work for the Anand TMER -- the 'Games' count in the last column is not consistent over the old and new sections (not to mention other minor inconsistencies) -- but one step at a time. The first step was to load the Carlsen TMER and the corresponding PGN index into a database for further analysis.

24 November 2013

Carlsen - Anand, Signed Board

It was slim pickings for this edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The only item that was even a little out of the ordinary was titled 'Capablanca & Alekhine Chess World Champion Signed Autograph Stamp 1939'; it sold for US $1499.99, 'Buy It Now'. Since I wasn't certain of its origin ('Historic document autograph. National tournament 1939 with 46 signeds of all chess man who participated in this event'; NB: it was a cover, not a 'stamp'), I decided to look elsewhere.

The Carlsen - Anand World Championship match ended just two days ago, so I followed the same path as my previous post about 'Top eBay Chess Items', Anand - Carlsen Autographs, and looked for Carlsen - Anand items (Carlsen won the match, so he gets top billing from now on). Once again the top item from the last two weeks was an autographed item, pictured below. It was titled 'RARE signed chess set with Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsens [sic] autographs - mint cond' and sold for US $249.99 on a single bid.

The description said,

This is an unused chess set. Signed by Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen on the tournament Arctic Securities Chess Stars Rapid 2010 in Kristiansund - Norway. The chess set has been stored in my closet since then.

It's a pity that the seller misspelled Carlsen's name in the title (or left off the possessive apostrophe). The item didn't appear in my search on 'Carlsen', and this in a period of intense interest in the Norwegian grandmaster. The board could have sold for much more, even though it had nothing to do with the great match. In the coming months I expect to see a flurry of auction items related to the match.

22 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen Last Game Press Conference

The great match ended just a few moments ago. Since the previous edition of Video Friday covered the Anand - Carlsen Opening Ceremony, it's a fitting coincidence that this edition marks the end of the match.

Game 10 - Post Match Press Conference with Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen (26:36) • 'Magnus Carlsen drew game 10 to win the FIDE World Championship 2013 by beating Viswanathan Anand and joins elite list of World Champions.'

In the coming weeks and months, much will be written about the games in Chennai. For now, I would just like to offer congratulations to GM Carlsen on his becoming World Champion and thanks to GM Anand for having been such a worthy titleholder all these years. A new chapter in the ongoing evolution of chess starts today.

21 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, A Critical Blunder

The glass wall separating the players from the spectators mirrors the moment of resignation in game nine of the World Championship match in Chennai. Vishy Anand's loss to Magnus Carlsen gave the Norwegian a 3-0 lead with three games left to play in the 12 game match. The odds of Anand now winning three consecutive games are astronomical.

Game 9 - Viswanthan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen [Youtube.com]

A week ago, when I posted Anand - Carlsen, Missed Opportunity?, the match was tied after four drawn games. Most observers are expecting a quick, match-winning draw in the tenth game, when Carlsen has the White pieces.

19 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, Mainstream Press

While scrolling Yahoo news, my eye saw the caption header, 'Model is greatest ever, but not in modeling', before it saw the photo. My first reaction was 'that guy looks familiar', then I did a double take when I recognized GM Carlsen. The caption said,

Magnus Carlsen has what every superstar has: endorsement deals, a growing bank balance, and millions of fans. Transcendent skills.

I'm not usually interested in stories about models, but I had to read this one.

The full article, titled Magnus Carlsen brings new style to the world of competitive chess [sports.yahoo.com], had a lead similar to the caption.

Magnus Carlsen has everything you might expect of a superstar athlete: a modeling contract, endorsement deals, a dedicated female fan club, a growing bank balance and millions of fans watching his every move.

Who said the mainstream press isn't interested in chess? Don't overlook the article's many comments.

18 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, the Edge

A few months ago, in The Carlsen Saga, I left unanswered The Carlsen Question, 'What makes him so good?'. If you've been paying attention to his World Championship match with Anand, one answer has been repeated over and over by the commentators: 'He's in good physical shape and he wears his opponents down in the endgame'.

That's an easy hypothesis to test; just look at his results in games at standard time control and see how they compare to his opponents' efforts. Since I already had reliable data in Anand's TMER and Carlsen's TMER (*), I decided to compare his results for this year against Anand's.

It turns out that the two antagonists played together in three tournaments in 2013. Those events are listed in the following chart along with their results, Carlsen on the first line for each event, Anand on the second. For example, in Wijk aan Zee, Carlsen finished first with a +7-0=6 score, while Anand finished third with +4-1=8. Both players finished lower in the two other events, Carlsen finishing higher than Anand each time.

The bottom of the chart shows the number of moves they made in the three events. Each player contested 31 games. Carlsen made an average of 48.7 moves per game, while Anand made 39.6. In other words, Carlsen's games were almost 25% longer than Anand's.

I wouldn't say that this little test is absolutely conclusive, but it does confirm what the pundits are saying. Carlsen plays longer games than his opponents.

(*) TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

17 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, and Kasparov

Several reports from the early rounds of the World Championship chess match in Chennai mentioned the presence of former World Champion Garry Kasparov. For example, Kasparov stays silent observer as Anand, Carlsen draw again [livemint.com]:-

A day after Garry Kasparov arrived in Chennai and spoke at length about his visit to the ongoing world chess title match, the former world champion on Tuesday turned completely silent and surprisingly refused to comment on the third drawn game between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, in which the Indian grandmaster appeared to have missed winning chances.

After having completely ignored Kasparov, the organizers of the world chess title match made amends by treating him as a guest on Tuesday. He was seen escorted to the playing hall by D.V. Sundar, vice-president of the World Chess Federation, capping speculation that Kasparov might have to stand in a queue to obtain a ticket. Oddly, he distanced himself from the media thereafter.

It turns out there is a lot more to this story than meets the eye. I learned much from another report, this one by Jaideep Unudurti, Despite trying a hand in Russian politics, Garry Kasparov seems to miss chess [indiatimes.com]:-

Kasparov times these interventions well. He has an uncanny instinct of positioning himself in a media storm. Before and during the visit the players and organizers were inundated with questions on how Kasparov was going to be treated and so on. Like a persistent ghost of Christmas past, he turned up last year as well in Moscow for the Anand - Gelfand world championship match. He held court during game six and let forth with a volley of criticism. "As for Vishy, I think he's just sliding downhill" is a representative example.

Anand had told me after the match, "Kasparov was in complete overdrive. And he always comes up with eminently quotable statements which makes them much worse." Boris Gelfand, the challenger then, too got plenty of abuse from Kasparov, who called him the weakest challenger ever. What he didn't reveal was he had offered his help to Gelfand before the match. [...]

The bespectacled, balding Gelfand, nicknamed The Professor, however is a very decent man. He refused pointblank, thus provoking Kasparov's volcanic ire. How could anyone turn him down? Gelfand refused. No thank you, I have my own team. As Gelfand later said, "I invited people who wanted to help me and be with me to the end, not people who just wanted to hurt Anand".

Gelfand knew exactly why Gazza had descended from the heavens, brandishing his thunderbolts. "As far as I know, Anand refused to help support him and Karpov in the battle for the FIDE presidency. He thought that after he had helped Anand against Topalov, Anand would now support him." In the 2010 match against Topalov, Garry had Skyped Anand a few times with some inputs. Kasparov considered these favours which he hoped to cash in later. Anand showed no inclination to help Kasparov install his one-time rival Karpov on the FIDE throne.

On top of that Anand story, there is another, similar story in the same source concerning Carlsen. Now we know that Kasparov has a complicated history with both Anand and Carlsen. Having followed the ex-World Champion's career since his first match with Karpov in 1984, I'm not surprised. He has had a complicated history with (just about) every opponent he faced at the top.

Given that Kasparov has announced his intention to run for FIDE President, these past relationships could come back to haunt him. It does him no good to have the Indian and Norwegian chess federations -- not to mention another 80 or so federations whose vote he needs -- oppose his candidacy. Has Kasparov finally learned that success in politics requires compromise? If so, the lesson has taken him a long time to master.

15 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, the Venue

The photo shows the venue -- both the city and the hotel -- of the big chess match.

Chennai © Flickr user VinTN under Creative Commons.

The Hyatt Regency Chennai is the large building to the right on the horizon.

14 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, Missed Opportunity?

Magnus Carlsen pushes out his chest and bites his lip just seconds before stealing a Pawn with 18...Bxa2!, against Vishy Anand. The move reminded informed observers of Bobby Fischer's famous blunder in the first game of his 1972 match against Boris Spassky. Many chess fans were already comparing 1972 Fischer - Spassky with 2013 Anand - Carlsen.

Game 4 - Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen [Youtube.com]

Athough the Bishop move gave the advantage to Carlsen, the game was eventually drawn. For the full game, see Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen; Anand-Carlsen World Championship (2013; g.4) on Chessgames.com. For more of Carlsen's games behind the Berlin Wall, see Player: Magnus Carlsen; Opening: Ruy Lopez (C67), also on Chessgames.com.

12 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, Pregame Photos

Just before the start of game three of the World Championship match in Chennai, the players study the board while photographers press against the other side of the glass wall.

See also Anand - Carlsen Autographs, my previous post on the match.

11 November 2013

Carlsen's ICC Games

The type of summary I made on Anand - Carlsen Openings is only possible because the games between the two players have been collected into one place. As for GM Carlsen, my last post on his career, Early Carlsen Games, mentioned that 'the collection now has 1674 games'.

While that number certainly covers more games than anyone can study in detail, it represents only a fraction of the games that Carlsen has played until now. The following graphic, showing results from his time on the Internet Chess Club (ICC), says that he played more than 8000 games on ICC.

The first line in the display, labeled 'Wild', includes the three games listed in Carlsen Played Chess960. What about the other games? Are they worth collecting and preserving? Given the fervor that stimulates chess historians to discover obscure games by the great players of the past, Carlsen's games are certainly worth collecting. But who will/can do it? Along with the question of ownership, to which ICC has a claim, there are other factors to be considered. A suivre?