18 August 2017

Fun with Tags

For the second consecutive Flickr Friday, we have a black and white photo -- the previous was A Chess Wardrobe -- but what do you expect from a chess blog?

Challenge © Flickr user S Demmer under Creative Commons.

With 294 views and 12 faves ('favorites'), the photo attracts attention, but why exactly? The start of a long list of tags says,

chess, game, King Richard’s Faire, renaissance, fair, ...

In King Richard's Faire, Wikipedia informs,

King Richard’s Faire is a renaissance fair held in Carver, Massachusetts, which recreates a 16th-century marketplace, including handmade crafts, foods, musicians, singers, dancers, [...another long list of 'tags'...], and the fictional King Richard. King Richard’s Faire is the longest-running renaissance fair in New England.

Getting back to the tags on the photo, another series mentions,

..., eye contact, candid eye contact, fun with tags, ...

After telling us, 'This photo is in 23 groups', the first group is candid eye contact. When it comes to chess, players probably make more eye contact with spectators than they do with each other.


While browsing the various chess photos published on Yahoo's Flickr during the previous two weeks, I was informed, Yahoo is now part of Oath:-

Yahoo is now part of ‘Oath’, a digital and mobile media company with more than 50 brands globally (including Yahoo, HuffPost, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone and Makers), and a member of the Verizon family of companies working to shape the future of media


Yahoo and Oath plan to share some user information within the Verizon family of companies which will enable us to integrate our business, allowing us to coordinate more and improve your experiences.

Knowing that someone (or something) is spying on me won't improve my 'experiences', but there's not much I can do about it. Eye contact is better.

17 August 2017

Young Bobby and Sister Joan

Here are two photos of Bobby Fischer and his sister Joan (later Targ) that I hadn't seeen before.

Top: Chess Life, 5 October 1958; 'While Bobby's sister tells two Belgrade reporters her impressions of Europe, the U.S. Champ listens attentively to Yugoslav Master Janosevic, who met them at the airport.' (Portoroz Interzonal)

Bottom: Chess Review, February 1960; 'Fischer and fan: his sister.' (U.S. Championship; more photos ['by R. Echeverria'] of Fischer and other players on same page)

15 August 2017

Who Knows? Google Knows!

As soon as I finished last week's post on Prokopljevic's Cartoons, I performed my usual quick check on the final result to ensure that everything was OK. I was very surprised to see that the Google Adsense link was for a set of cards featuring Prokopljevic's cartoons!? (That's the ad just beneath the photo of my head.)

The related link for the ad went to Echecs: lot de 12 cartes postales 'Gens Una Sumus' de Jovan Prokopljevic (priceminister.com). Was this because the post was for Prokopljevic's cartoons -or- because I had been looking at the same Priceminister.com page earlier that day while preparing the post? When it comes to Google, who knows?

A few years ago, to help a friend who is not web savvy, I spent 30 minutes looking at web pages for robot cleaners of swimming pools. The pesky Adsense ads for robot cleaners are still following me. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" Google knows!

14 August 2017

Master Ratings and Master Titles

Between the publication of the second and third lists of USCF ratings (see the previous post in this series, USCF Rating Lists in the 1950s, for a chronology), the USCF grappled with a number of new issues provoked by the introduction of ratings. The following editorial was published in the 5 July 1951 issue of Chess Life, under the title 'Masters -- and Masters in the National Rating System'.

From letters recently received, it becomes apparent that many players are still confused regarding one phase of the National Rating System, and that they insist, despite all that has been written to the contrary, in considering that the Rating System does the one thing that it very definitely does not attempt to do.

Let us therefore repeat again, in the fond hope that this time our statement will be understood, that the National Rating System does not determine the permanent status of any chess player nor indicate how he will be ranked ultimately in the history of the game. The National Rating System does no more than indicate the current effective playing rank of a player at one particular period in his career, without regard to his achievements in past decades beyond the scope of the system and without prophesy as to his possible future attainments.

For a number of reasons which we will not catalogue at this time, there is a definite need for this current evaluation of how a player is actually performing at a given period. But the value of this current and transitory rating is sadly distorted when some misinformed chess players insist upon considering this current performance rating as conferring or withholding honorary titles. This the National Rating System does not do. and it was never intended to do. In the Rating System a player may shift from Senior Master to Expert classifications in the matter of a few years, according to his performances in current tournament play -- the fact that he may temporarily hold the classification of Master in the rating system does not actually make ham a Master in the honorary sense that the term has been applied in the past; the fact that another player, long considered a Master in the honorary sense, slips in more recent play to the Expert classification, does not deprive him of the many honors gained as a Master, nor the right to be considered as a Master in the honorary sense.

It is to be expected that even the most formidable player, if he continues to play tournament chess after his prime, will eventually lose rank in the National Rating System which can evaluate only current performances and cannot, except in a very limited sense, make exceptions for past heroics. If the recognised Master continues to play tournament chess long enough, in his final years he is almost certainly doomed to a reduction in his current performance ratings to an Expert classification. But this reduction does not actually make him any the less a Master in the honorary sense.

This was further explained by an example from baseball, showing how the performance of a great player can decline in the twilight of a career.

National Chess Ratings are merely the chess equivalent of the yearly baseball batting averages, and the confusion over them has arisen solely because some chess players insist upon considering them so much more than that.

However. since there has been so much confusion in players' minds between "Master" as an honorary title conferred for outstanding performance in the world of chess and the ”Master classification" in the National Rating System, CHESS LIFE will recommend to the annual meeting of the USCF Board of Directors at the Fort Worth meeting that the Federation create and recognize, outside of the scope of the National Rating System, an honorary classification of "Masters" in the same sense that the present FIDE titles of "International Master" [IM] and "International Grandmaster" [GM] are conferred for outstanding performances of the past as well as of the present.

CHESS LIFE will recommend specifically that the honorary rank of "Master Emeritus" be conferred upon all chess players of the USA who may be deemed to have at any time in the past earned the right to the title of "Master" before the operations of the National Rating System became effective, and whose present standings in the current performance ratings are below that of the "Master classification"; that the selection of those players entitled to such recognition be placed in the charge of a special committee qualified to judge and assess past records of tournament performance.

CHESS LIFE further will recommend that it be provided that in the future any chess player in the USA who has held a "Master classification" in the National Rating System for a period of years (exact length of tenure to be determined by the Board of Directors) automatically becomes a Master Emeritus upon dropping in the current performance ratings to a classification lower than that of "Master".

CHESS LIFE will also recommend that the Board of Directors make full provision for conferring the title of Master Emeritus upon such qualified chess players who have won recognition as "Masters' in European events and have since become Americans, whether they participate actively in tournament play in the USA or not, provided that they contribute substantially to the promotion of chess in the USA.

CHESS LIFE will further propose that the list of recognized Masters Emeriti be published in connection with the semi-annual printing of the National Ratings.

Montgomery Major

For a discussion of FIDE IM and GM titles, see Early FIDE Titles (November 2014).

13 August 2017

The Imagery of Chess, St. Louis

What's the connection between sociology and art? The Wikipedia page Sociology of art is little more than a stub that says, 'Studying the sociology of art throughout history is the study of the social history of art, how various societies contributed to the appearance of certain artists' and 'This article needs attention from an expert in Sociology.'

The phrase I've highlighted appears to be an independent topic, but only redirects to Wikipedia's History of art, a subject large enough for a college degree. The 'Sociology of art' page also points to Art in Cyberspace — Sociology of Art (sociosite.net), a huge page that starts,

The creation of works of art, their distribution and their effect on people are processes which can observed all through history. They represent a universal phenomenon of human society in action. As such they are open to sociological examination and imagination. They are the object of a sociology of art.

The connection between chess and art, while also too broad to be easily digested, can be reduced to bite-size chunks. Here's one.

Living St. Louis | The Imagery of Chess: St. Louis Artists (4:35) • 'A diverse group of St. Louis artists and musicians interpreted the game of chess for the exhibit, "The Imagery of Chess: St. Louis Artists" at the World Chess Hall of Fame.'

World Chess Hall of Fame chief curator Shannon Bailey explains,

It was inspired by the Imagery of Chess that took place in 1944 in New York City. It was arranged by three art enthusiasts and artists, Julien Levy, who owned the Julien Levy Gallery where the exhibition took place, Marcel Duchamp, who's one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries and was an avid chess player, and Max Ernst, a very famous artist.

For more about the exhibit, see World Chess Hall Of Fame Chief Curator Shannon Bailey On New Exhibition (alivemag.com; February 2017). I once wrote about a previous exhibition with the same name, Elsewhere on the Web : The Imagery of Chess Revisited (archive.org -> chess.about.com; January 2006).

Chess and art have their closest relationship in the 32 pieces of wood, glass, or just about any other material used to make chess sets. The Imagery of Chess Revisited, one of the current exhibits at the Noguchi Museum, Long Island City (Queens), New York, is the latest look by the art world at that relationship.

The artist featured in the video, Martin Brief, mentions Yoko Ono's white chess set. I covered it in another post, Chess Sightseeing (March 2014).

11 August 2017

GM Confession Booth

Top GMs Nakamura, Svidler, Wesley So, Caruana, and Aronian confess their worst childhood sin at the chessboard. As for Carlsen, 'In Norway, kids are very well behaved'.

2017 Sinquefield Cup: Worst Behavior as a Kid? (2:05) • 'Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez talks with the 2017 Sinquefield Cup players about their worst behaviors as kids playing chess.'

Who exhibited the worst behavior? The least worst? I'll go with Nakamura ('quite a few instances') and Wesley So ('sleepless nights').

10 August 2017

Prokopljevic's Cartoons

A few weeks ago, in The Fifth Entry, I ended a post about Jovan Prokopljevic with an action.

Several collections of Prokopljevic's cartoons have been published, but I wasn't able to catalog them in the time available for this post. I'll save that for another time.

I tackled the material again today, and again ran out of time. Prokopljevic's cartoons have been published and re-published in so many different editions that I can't get a grip on them. For example, the 13 caricatures of the World Champions, shown as a collage in the 'Fifth Entry' post, have been published as postcards with the Chess Informant logo over a short game by the featured champion and in a book 'Black and White Evergreen' with Informant style annotations of famous games by the champions.

What to write about in this post? I noticed that Prokopljevic's non-chess cartoons are even more well known than his chess cartoons, because they often use political themes. The following is a good example.

Source: Serbian Cartoon Show Banned Ahead of Polls (balkaninsight.com; February 2014) • 'Serbian caricaturist Jovan Prokopljevic says his exhibition was abruptly pulled, apparently because of sensitivities about the March 16 elections.'

The article mentioned,

Prokopljevic has been as a caricaturist for his entire working life. His work includes more than 15.000 cartoons and has won him many domestic and international awards.

How many awards? According to another Serbian source, Jovan Prokopljevic awarded for the 101st time (inserbia.info; March 2013),

Architect Jovan Prokopljevic, one of the most awarded Serbian cartoonists, has recently received his 101st caricature award. Prokopljevic, full-time caricaturist at Serbia’s oldest daily Politika, has won three awards over the last month at international competitions in Iran, China, and Turkey exceeding the number of 100 international and domestic awards.

I might come back to the chess cartoons another day, but I have no reason to believe that I will be more successful.

08 August 2017

2017 CJA Awards

If it seems like only two weeks ago that I posted about the 2017 CJA Award Entries, that's because it was indeed exactly two weeks ago. The Chess Journalists of America announced their annual awards last week and the full list can be found at Prize List for 2017 CJA Awards (chessjournalism.org), along with many links to the winning material. Just as in last year's post, 2016 CJA Awards (August 2016), I'll concentrate on the four categories that interest me the most.

  • Best Book
  • Chess Journalist of the Year
  • Best Chess Art
  • Best Chess Blog

The 'Best Book' categories had three winners: two in the 'Instructional' category, by Mark Dvoretsky and Cyrus Lakdawala, and one in the 'Other' category (that's a CJA code word for chess history), published by McFarland. The 'Other' category also included an Honorable Mention, also published by McFarland. Three and a half awards for one category? Good thing I no longer maintain my page on Award Winning Chess Books.

The winner of 'Chess Journalist of the Year' was Vanessa West, with Honorable Mention to Pete Tamburro. Of the four nominees, my money was on Peter Doggers of Chess.com, who by any objective standard is head-and-shoulders above the others. I am certain that his time will come. Statements by all four nominees can be found on Nominations received for Chess Journalist of the Year (chessjournalism.org).

For 'Best Chess Art', I used four of the five nominations to illustrate the '2017 Entries' post. The winner was the entry showing the big '70', for 'Chess Life Turns 70!, Chess Life, Cover, September 2016, by Scott Raymond'. In the related photo categories, 'Best Chess Photojournalism' and 'Best Single Photo', David Llada was the winner of both.

Since there were no nominations for 'Best Chess Blog' for the second consecutive year, I should follow last year's '2016 Awards' and mention the winner of 'Best General Chess Website'. Unfortunately, there were no nominations for that category either, so I'll just stop here.

A detail I hadn't noticed until writing this post is that nominations (and winners) for the ten 'News and Features' categories were doubled: one for 'Print' and one for 'Online'. Just like chess itself, chess journalism is a growth industry. Heartfelt congratulations to all the winners!

07 August 2017

USCF Rating Lists in the 1950s

Two recent posts covered the introduction of USCF ratings in 1950:-

The second USCF rating list was published in the 5 March 1951 issue of Chess Life (CL). It was introduced by an editorial titled 'National Ratings', signed Montgomery Major, the editor of CL.

In this issue we publish the second list of National Performance Ratings, as of December 31, 1950. Before we comment upon certain of the changes in rating of individual players, it may be well to state that for the second and last time, we publish the complete list of available ratings of U.S. chess players, regardless of membership in the USCF. It was not originally our intention to do this, but the National Rating System has aroused so much interest throughout the country that we feel it is a very definite service to chess to publish once again the whole list for comparison and study.

Hereafter, however, below the rank of master we well publish only the names of USCF members. This is not an attempt at dictatorship as we have been accused illogically by certain readers, but merely the recognition of a basic principle in America that the average American expects and is willing to pay for what he receives, provided he gets value received for his money. The cost of maintaining a rating system is considerable, for it demands careful statistical computations by a trained statistician. Such expert services cannot be obtained without charge, even if the charge is a nominal one in comparison with the work accomplished. Since the members of the Federation are footing this bill with their dues, it is only just that the benefits should be exclusively theirs. And since any chess player can become a member of the Federation tor the nominal dues of $3 per year, it is obviously ridiculous to claim that this restriction of published ratings to the USCF membership works any hardship on any player. Any player, who cannot persuade himself to part with $3 for the many benefits to chess provided by the Federation, cannot be very much interested in the rating system, however much he may profess to be.

Comparison between the first list of ratings and the second list provides some interesting studies as well as a very definite illustration of the effect of the "lag" in computation of ratings. But quite possibly some readers may be confused by the apparent discrepancies, and tberefore the subject demands a few illustrative comments.

It will be noted, undoubtedly, that Isaac Kashdan has dropped from the list of senior masters to the list of masters, and that he has done this without competing in any rated event since the list as of July 31 was published. This may at first glimpse seem illogical, but it actually is a very clear example of the principle of the "lag" in computing ratings. The ratings (as of July 31, 1950) covered each player's career from 1947 through the first half of 1950, and the published rating was his highest rating in any one of these four periods.

In the case of Kashdan, 1947 was a gala year. He won the U.S. Open Championship at Corpus Christi. This bolstered up an already high past record of performance, including his second to Reshevsky in the 1946 U.S. Biennial Championship. But 1948 told a somewhat different story. Kashdan only placed second in the 1948 US. Open Championship at Baltimore, and again was second in the 1948 U.S. Biennial Championship at South Fallsburg. So, when the performances in 1947 were removed from the current computation In the listing as of December 31, Kashdan's rating then was determined by his highest scoring in 1948, 1949 or 1950 and the resultant drop in his performance rating reflected his less successful appearances in recent tournaments. It is noteworthy that if Kashdan had followed his poorer year in 1948 with a more successful performance in 1949 or 1950, due to the "lag" procedure in rating, his one bad year would not have made any appearance in the ratings. Thus the "lag" tends to protect a player against one bad season, but cannot continue to bolster up his ratings over a period at years.

As Kashdan through a series of circumstances, including illness, has not competed in any rated event since 1948, he has not had an opportunity to reestablish a senior master rating performance.

An illustration of the reverse principle in the "lag" comes from the advent into the master class from the expert group of Eliot Hearst, F. S. Howard and Walter Shipman in the ratings as of December 31, 1951. These younger players began to be felt in chess as far back as 1946 and 1947, but their climb into the master class was slightly delayed by the drag effected by the lower performance points of their earlier chess career. To overcome the effect of this "lag" it was necessary for each of them by consistent performance to prove that their successes were not merely a flash in the pan. For Eliot Hearst it was the New York State Championship in September, 1950 that provided the ultimate boost into master class. for F. S. Howard it was the New Jersey State Championship.

In many cases, it will be noted that there has been no change in the rating. These players have not competed in rated events in the last half of 1950, while their peak period of performance has been since the year 1947, so no change is effected by removing the choice of 1947 from their performance rating basis. Their standings will only be effected by their performances in 1951 in tournaments yet to be played and rated.

The composite image below shows some of the highlights of the second list.

A total of 16 rating lists were published in the 1950s. Some years, e.g. 1954 through 1956, saw only a single list.

CL 1950-11-20; as of 31 July 1950
CL 1951-03-05; as of 31 December 1950
CL 1951-10-05; as of 31 July 1951
CL 1952-03-05; as of 31 December 1951
CL 1952-10-05; as of 31 July 1952
CL 1953-05-20; Spring 1953
CL 1953-12-20; Fall 1953
CL 1954-06-05; Spring 1954
CL 1955-05-05; Spring 1955
CL 1956-05-20; as of 31 December 1955 (A)
CL 1957-05-20; Spring 1957
CL 1957-08-20; as of 31 March 1957 (B)
CL 1958-03-05; as of 30 September 1957 (C)
CL 1959-02-05; as of 30 September 1958
CL 1959-08-20; as of 31 May 1959
CL 1959-12-05; as of 30 June 1959 (?; D)

(A) List No.10; 'New Classifications Adopted'
(B) 1st 1957 Supplementary List
(C) 2nd 1957 Supplementary List
(D) Supplement No.1; signed Frank R. Brady, USCF Rating Statistician

Kenneth Harkness retired mid-1959. The 1950s were the 'Harkness' decade for U.S chess ratings.

06 August 2017

A Chess Playing Priest

I can't remember doing a post for Top eBay Chess Items by Price that had nothing to with chess, so this must be a first. The item pictured below was titled 'Chess Grandmaster Reverand William Lombardy's very own Chalice' and sold for US $900.00 after one bid.

The left photo shows the chalice standing on its case. The bouquet behind it gives an idea of its size. The eBay description of the item was brief.

This chalice once belonged to Rev. William Lombardy. He is the famed chess grandmaster who trained Bobby Fischer. Lombardy was also Fischer's second in the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavik vs Boris Spassky.

The bottom of the chalice is inscribed,

To our son
Rev. William J. Lombardy
Ordained May 27, 1967
Wishing you many blessings

Love, Mother & Dad

For more about Lombardy, see William Lombardy (wikipedia.org) and The chess games of William James Lombardy (chessgames.com).

04 August 2017

A Chess Wardrobe

Holy Caissa! Not only is this photo reminiscent of a previous Flickr Friday, 'Nice Jacket!' (January 2015), it also appears to be the same fellow.

Chess Fever © Flickr user schaakbond under Creative Commons.

Flickr also informs, 'This photo is in 1 album': 2017 Condigne Dutch Open Round 1 by Alina l'Ami. The same photographer figured indirectly in yesterday's post, Fabulous Fabiano.

03 August 2017

Fabulous Fabiano

The last time I used a Yahoo headline, More about 'Outliers' (March 2017), I wrote,

Whenever chess pops up in my Yahoo News feed, I try to use it as the basis of a blog post.

In fact, that's not completely true. Since the beginning of 2016, I've accumulated Yahoo chess headlines at about the rate of one a month and have used only a few of them. Today I spotted another one, this time about Fabiano Caruana. While adding it to the collection of the others, I reviewed all of the headlines.

Which chess personality has been featured the most? Garry Kasparov is near the top of the list: twice for chess and once for his latest book on AI. The player who has received the most chess headlines is GM Caruana himself. Here's a visual list.

Here's the same list with links to the the original articles. All three are from businessinsider.com and were written by Matthew DeBord.

2016-03-12: The World Chess Champion could be an American for the first time since Bobby Fischer in 1972

It's been a very long drought for Americans when it comes to the World Chess Championship. The last American to win was, famously, Bobby Fischer in 1972. Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in Iceland, but never defended his title. It was of course a long drought before 1972: in the modern era, post-1900, there had never been a World Chess Champion from the United States, prior to Fischer, and the only players who even had a shot after him were Robert Byrne and Gata Kamsky. Norways's Magnus Carlsen, the current WCC, is actually the first player from the West since Fischer to claim the title. Starting Friday in Moscow, the next World Championship cycle is beginning, with the 2016 Candidates Tournament.

2016-04-24: One of the biggest comebacks in chess is happening right now in St. Louis

The US Chess Championship and US Women's Chess Championship are underway in St. Louis. On the women's side, 2015 champion Irina Krush is shooting for history and her 8th title, putting her just one behind Gisela Kahn Gresser, a mid-20th-century player who dominated the game in her era. Krush is currently trailing the leaders by half a point. On the men's side, the field is phenomenally strong -- possibly the "strongest ever," according to Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, who dropped by Business Insider's offices before the tournament kicked off to discuss all things chess, including his historic induction into the US Chess Hall of Fame, the first African-American to be according [sic] the honor.

2017-08-03: America's best hope for a World Chess Champion is returning to the tournament that marked his most epic victory

The Sinqufield Cup is underway at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, and once again, the world's most elite players have turned out to battle for the prize. The Cup is a stop on the Grand Chess Tour, which also includes tournaments in Paris and London and is intended to function as a sort of counterpoint to the World Chess Championship. The WCC has been won the last three times by Norway's Magnus Carlsen, who is once again the field at the Sinquefield Cup. In his first game, he's facing down American Fabiano Caruana, currently the number three player in the world -- and the number two in the US, behind Wesley So.

Credit for the photo of Caruana used in the first and third articles is given to Alina L'Ami.

01 August 2017

August 1967 'On the Cover'

Since this is not a particularly inspiring month for the regular 'On the Cover' post, what can be added?

Left: '1967 U.S. Amateur Champion'
Right: 'Quick Lessons in Quiz Tactics - Who Wins and How?'

Chess Life

Ron Lohrman Takes U.S. Amateur by Burt Hochberg • This time they thought of everything. In the first place, the Hotel Warwick, located in a beautiful section of downtown Philadelphia, is one of the better hotels in this historic city. Our own accomodations were fabulous -- although booked into a single room, we found it spacious, airy and immaculate. The hotel itself is situated in the heart of a great shopping area, close to museums, libraries, concert halls, etc. When we sat down to play the first round, however, was when we became aware of the great care and attention to detail that went into the planning of the tournament. There was plenty of space between boards, so that one wasn't sitting in a neighbor's lap; there was enough space between the long rows of tables, too, allowing easy passage to and from one's board.

Last year the U.S. Amateur was shown on CL's June issue -- June 1966 'On the Cover' -- just as it had been in 'On the Cover' for 1964 and 1965. Going back to June 1963, we find the first cover appearance of a U.S. Amateur Champion on CL (Kenneth Clayton). In the previous year, the April 1962 CL cover featured the tournament announcement.

The USCF has completed arrangements for this year's U.S. Amateur Chess Championship, to be played in Asbury Park over the weekend of May 25-26-27. The Amateur has long been one of the nation's most popular chess events, and there are indications that this year's tournament will be the largest ever.

Was the change of venue -- Asbury Park to Philadelphia -- the big news of August 1967? After all, Burt Hochberg was the editor of Chess Life, was apparently onsite to check out the facilities, and started his tournament report with kudos to the organizers.

Chess Review

Bat 1000! • For the beginning of the dog days, or into the middle of them, ye kindly editor weakens and offers you a real opportunity to improve your slugging average.

The CR cover was an illustration of the word 'humdrum'. It showed the ten positions from the issue's 'Chess Quiz' column, which was introduced with the quote I've used above. The mention of 'dog days (of summer)' and the two references to baseball ('bat 1000' and 'slugging average') indicate that editor I.A.Horowitz had more on his mind than chess. Even chess editors are human.

31 July 2017

The First USCF Rating System

In last week's post, The First USCF Rating List, I reproduced two Chess Life (CL) articles introducing the first USCF rating system, along with the first page of the rating list. That first list, published in the 20 November 1950 issue of CL, was accompanied by a more detailed explanation of how ratings were calculated. The article was titled,

National Rating System by William M. Byland
USCF Vice President in Charge of Rating Statistics

The first of Byland's articles said,

In this series of [four] articles we will attempt to explain the operation of the National Rating System adopted by the USCF Board of Directors at Detroit last July. In selecting a rating system to fit the needs of American chess players, we have been guided by four basic principles:

1. Universality • Our system is universal in its application, and covers all types of competition: national, regional, state, city, and club tournaments. At present, only tournament competition entitles a player to a rating. We are working on plans to include team and individual matches, and hope to have this phase of the system in effect in 1951.

2. Mathematical Operation • Our system is completely mathematical in operation, without bias or prejudice, and its mathematical correctness has been attested by several leading actuaries in the United States and Canada. Because the system registers a player's failures as well as his successes, we now have an accurate yardstick for determining the relative playing strength of United States players, based not on reputation or self-claim, but upon cold performance facts.

3. No Barriers to Progress • Our system has no artificial harriers to impede a player's progress. It is based on the principle that only his actual performance record should determine his classification, and no bars are set up to prevent a player's rapid progress from being reflected in his current rating -- he is not required to progress laboriously upward from class to class.

4. No Premium for Inactivity • Our system, on the contrary, encourages activity on the part of all players, but does not, thereby, render tournament participation a hardship. In order to be rated, a player must participate in at least one rated tournament every three years.

Rating lists will be published twice each year: as of July 31 and December 31. Our first rating list, as of July 31, 1950, appears in this issue, and covers 2306 players; on future lists, only ratings of USCF members below the Master class will be published, and the names of inactive players (those who have not participated in a rated tournament for three years) will be omitted. Also in this issue is a listing of the 582 tournaments, covering a 30-year period, used in determining the current ratings of the players on the list. This tournament roll makes no pretensions to completeness, and contains only those tournaments whose cross-tables of play were published and readily available. It is interesting to note how the yearly list of tournaments has expanded since 1921. and the increasing publicity these events have received over the years (in which field CHESS LIFE has been an undoubted pioneer). For the long labor of compilation and computation involved in these listings. which furnish an invaluable base for future ratings, we are deeply indebted to Rating Statistician Kenneth Harkness.

(To be continued)

The article preceded a list of the tournaments included in the rating calculation, which dated back almost 30 years. The start of the list is shown below, where the last column is an average rating for the event.


Because they take too much space for a blog post, I won't reproduce the other three articles in the Byland series. They covered the following topics:-

CL, 5 December 1950
* How a Player's Average Rating is Computed
* How Performance Ratings are Computed

CL, 20 December 1950
* Computation of Performance Ratings for Round Robin Tournaments
* Computation of Performance Ratings for Swiss System Tournaments

CL, 5 January 1951
* Special Provisions of Rating System

That fourth article (5 January 1951) was accompanied by a CL editorial.


Enough has been written by hasty as well as thoughtful critics to indicate that a good many features of the new National Rating System have not been properly understood nor correctly evaluated. We have therefore asked Mr. Byland to prepare an article for an early issue in which the more important points of misconception can be stated and clarified. But it might not be amiss at this time to repeat a few salient points without awaiting for Mr. Byland's more complete statement.

First. because of the fact that not all tournament scores were available in sufficient detail for analysis, certain players (particularly in certain sections of the country) suffered from some injustice in the compilation of their initial performance ratings. We are aware of this fact, which will be self-remedying in time as more recent tournament reports are received in fuller detail from more tournaments. It was a fault that could not he removed from the first compilation.

Second, it must be remembered that these performance ratings do not pretend a permanence for all time, nor do they evaluate a player's total record over the years. Unlike FIDE master titles, these ratings are based solely upon recent performance and in no case represent an honorary degree for past performance. Therefore, there are a number of players whose best years of tournament performance occurred before the period covered by the ratings. Their present standing. therefore, does not indicate (nor can it) the exalted position they would have held if this system had been in operation some twenty or thirty years ago. For example. Dr. Edward Lasker's present performance rating is a very modest one compared with what it would have been if these ratings were based upon performances some thirty years ago.

Third, it must also be remembered that these ratings are based exclusively upon performance in American events. For that reason, such outstanding players as USCF Vice President Hans Kmoch and UCSF Life Director George Koltanowski are excluded. Their notable performances abroad have no bearing upon performance ratings in a national system.

Fourth. the national ratings do not pretend to evaluate ability or potential talent comparatively -- they merely record results of actual performance mathematically as a convenient yardstick to settle a number of disputes as to precedence. Such a standard is essential (even in chess heavens like the USSR which has a very elaborate system of rating) and are common to a number of other sports besides chess.

Finally, let us repeat once again since a number of readers seem to have misinterpreted previous statements Any tournament with two USCF members in the entry which is five or more rounds and not a speed or restricted move tournament is eligible for rating. BUT future rating lists will only contain the names of USCF members. The USCF will of necessity keep record of all ratings, but we will publish only those of members in good standing whose dues are supporting the cost of such an elaborate and exhaustive system.

Montgomery Major

Although the theory behind the rating calculations has evolved through the years, and the name of the organization has changed from USCF to USchess, the rating system remains as the nucleus of the services offered by the U.S. chess federation.

30 July 2017

Physics or Metaphysics?

Sometimes it seems that almost any subject works in the context of this series on 'The Sociology of Chess'. Take this video, for example.

"Physics and Chess" by Richard Feynman (2:41) • 'Physicist Richard Feynman introduces a strange and exciting analogy between chess and physics.'

For a transcript of the monologue, see Feynman: Using chess to explain science (chessbase.com). It starts,

One way that's kind of a fun analogy to try to get some idea of what we're doing here to try to understand nature is to imagine that the gods are playing some great game like chess. Let's say a chess game. And you don't know the rules of the game, but you're allowed to look at the board from time to time, in a little corner, perhaps. And from these observations, you try to figure out what the rules are of the game, what the rules [are] of the pieces moving.

Is this physics or metaphysics?

28 July 2017

Chess Uniform Contest

'Do you know that chess is the only sport -- and one of the oldest -- that does not have a uniform?' No, I didn't know that.

St. Louis Fashion Fund to create the first ever "Chess Uniform" (7:30) • 'The McGraw Show: KTRS.com'

Featuring: Susan Sherman, Chairperson of the St. Louis Fashion Fund; Reuben Reul Riddick, fashion designer.

By the time you see this post, the event will probably be over, but for reference: Pinned! A Designer Chess Challenge.; 'Join us on August 1st for the opening ceremony of the 2017 Sinquefield Cup and the unveiling of the winning design'. Another page from the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, A Dress for Chess, informs,

Six emerging designers participating in the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator have been paired with six chess grand masters to create two chess-inspired garments -- a uniform piece and one whimsical piece.

For previous, whimsical attempts at chess fashion, see Not the Halloween Gambit (October 2013) and Dressing Up or Dressing Down? (December 2016).

27 July 2017

The Fifth Entry

In my previous post, 2017 CJA Award Entries, I noted,

The fifth entry for chess art is probably the most deserving to win an award, although it's unlikely for a number of reasons.

After writing that I discovered the artist's Wikipedia page, Jovan Prokopljevic, which says,

He was awarded the first prize, 'Best Cartoon' category, by the Chess Journalists of America in 2004.

This is confirmed on an archived CJA page, CJA 2004 Journalism Awards (chessjournalism.org; '"Try a Transfusion of Empire Chess" by Jovan Prokopljevic. Empire Chess, Summer 2003'). In my own archive I found an excellent example of Prokopljevic's work, shown below.

The image description, from a 2001 eBay auction, said,

Collection of 13 caricatures of FIDE champions (from Steinitz to Kasparov) published by Chess Informant; illustrated by J. Prokopljevic 1996. All prints on approx. 8.5" x 11" pages in color. Each caricature has name of champ and dates of title reigns. Comes in collection folder with all caricatures on front. Folder autographed by artist on inside pocket.

Several collections of Prokopljevic's cartoons have been published, but I wasn't able to catalog them in the time available for this post. I'll save that for another time, as in Chess Champion Trading Cards (July 2016).

25 July 2017

2017 CJA Award Entries

I could have written this post at the beginning of the month, but vacations being what they are, it's coming at the end. Two months after the 2017 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2017), the Chess Journalists of America have announced their 2016 CJA Awards -- Entries Received, where, in true CJA tradition, the year on the page's title was not updated from last year's page of the same name. You don't have to take my word that the page is for 2017, because the page's address says '2017entries'.

I found the page through the CJA's Facebook page, Chess Journalists of America. The relevant post mentions, 'We have record numbers of entries and organizations entering', which is informally confirmed by scrolling the page of 'Entries Received'. The category 'Best Chess Blog' also has a record number of entries -- albeit on the low side of the record -- i.e. zero entries.

But let's not dwell on the disappointing; let's focus on the upbeat. My second favorite category, 'Best Chess Art', has five entries. Four of them, shown in the following composite image, are covers.

Top row: Chess Life; September 2016, Scott Raymond; April 2017, Peter Shevenell
Bottom row: Chess Life Kids; February 2017, Alex Krivenda; April 2017, Chandler Ellison

The fifth entry for chess art is probably the most deserving to win an award, although it's unlikely for a number of reasons. The artist is not American, the publication is not Chess Life, and the name on the list of entries is misspelled 'J. Prokopljovic' instead of '[Jovan] Prokopljevic'.

The CJA award winners will be announced in a few weeks. It's more exciting than the Oscars!

24 July 2017

The First USCF Rating List

The 5 January 1950 issue of Chess Life (CL), the first issue of the new decade, announced a new USCF service.

A National Rating System Planned To Cover Local And National Events
Vice-President, United States Chess Federation

For the past several years the United States Chess Federation has contemplated the adoption of a system for rating the chess players of the United States. The work involved in setting up a practical rating plan has, of necessity, been time-consuming; it was important to give consideration to rating practices used in certain other countries, as well as to examine and study original ideas proposed by American players, for we were determined that the system finally adopted would be the best obtainable, and one eminently fair to all of our country's players.

The studies and the preliminary detail have now been completed, and your Federation officers will shortly he presented with a definitive rating plan for their approval; it is, therefore, our confident hope that a national rating system will be in effect early in 1950. Full details of the final plan adopted will he published in future issues of CHESS LIFE -- but right now we can assure you of certain features of the plan -- features you have every right to expect under a fair and practical system of rating:

1) It will be a rating system designed for all chess players in the United States and will give weight to performances in club, local, and state competition. as well as in the large national tournaments.

2) It will be a completely fair system, entirely mathematical in operation, and only the player's actual performance -- not anyone's personal opinion on his chessic prowess -— will be taken into consideration.

3) It will provide the easiest possible method of -- and incentive for -- improvement and advanceent to the aspiring player.

4) Last, but not least, it will finally solve the perplexing problem of which American players can properly be dubbed "masters", a question which has certainly led to some heated controversies in the past.

We believe that such a rating system will prove extremely popular with the chess players of the United States. We feel that practically all of you are anxious to learn of your strength and standing in the national chess community (the popularity of the various correspondence rankings amply substantiates this view) and we are confident that our national rating system will meet with your instantaneous support and wholehearted cooperation.

The first rating list was published in the 20 November 1950 issue of CL.

The list was the subject of an editorial in the same issue.


With this issue we introduce the long-promised and long-awaited National Rating System for U.S. chess players; and it will not be amiss to comment briefly upon certain aspects of this system which might possibly be misunderstood by readers who have had little occasion to study the many problems which confront the designers of any such system of mathematical evaluation.

We do not intend to discuss the methods whereby these rating are established, but will leave these explanations to experts more qualified to speak; instead we will content ourselves with a few more general remarks upon the system as a whole.

First, to avoid possible confusion, let us emphasize the fact that the USCF system is independent of any international designation of titles -- the fact that the two U.S. Grandmasters in our list are also FIDE International Grandmasters is a coincidence in the sense that the USCF might qualify other U.S. players, whose performance earned the rank, as U.S. Grandmasters without FIDE conferring upon them the titles of International Grandmasters.

In consequence, there immediately appears an apparent discrepancy in the fact that those players recognised by FIDE as International Masters appear upon our list variously as Senior Masters and Masters. Some might question why all the Senior Masters are not International Masters and why all the International Masters are not Senior masters. The answer lies largely in the fact that a number of U.S. players might well be qualified as International Masters, if they had had sufficient international experience and reputation; but since they have confined their talents to this country, they cannot be recognized by FIDE as International Masters whatever their ability. But we can and do recognise their standing by according them the title of Senior Master upon their performance in this country. Even such an outstanding player as C.J.S. Purdy of Australia is not an International Master. because be has not played outside of Australia in international events.

Second, to still any charge of discrimination from those who may feel certain players have been over-rated or under-rated on this list, let us emphasize now the fact that these initial ratings are based upon tournament play over a number of years and that the ratings have been established by purely mathematical formulas upon actual performance. No committee has arbitrarily decided the standings of any player upon a personal opinion of his ability. But, it is admitted, that this first list cannot be considered absolutely comprehensive for the one fact that the complete details of all tournaments played during this period were not available for computation. Therefore, it is possible that a number of players have been deprived of full recognition in this initial list, merely because the data was not made available whereby to accord them complete ratings. This will be a self-remedying fault as the clubs and association submit in proper form the required details of their various events.

Naturally enough, this first listing does not cover all USCF members, for besides those whose practice has been in inaccessable tournament records, there are many members who have never competed in any formal tournaments. These must compete in formal tournaments, whether club, state or national, in order to acquire a standing.

Montgomery Major

Major was the first editor of CL. For more about him, see Shaping Chess History (September 2016).

23 July 2017


What's this? Back-to-back posts on Top eBay Chess Items by Price? That's what happens when a vacation starts at the beginning and ends at the end of the fortnightly series 'Top eBay Chess Items'.

The item pictured below was titled 'Large 19th C O/C French Genre Oil Painting, The Chess Game, Original Frame'. It sold for US $475 after 45 bids from 18 bidders.

The description said,

Hand painted on stretched canvas this 19th century, Victorian oil painting depicts an 18th century chess game between a young lady and a gentleman. They are sitting in a lavish French parlor with a parquet floor, French painted screen, and gilded hanging chandelier. This original Painting is signed in the lower right hand corner, "Jules Brenton". Although this 21-1/4" by 27-1/2" Painting has been professionally wax lined there are no in-painted restorations. The 19th century frame measures 32" by 38-1/4" and has some gesso chips, plus a rebuilt upper left hand corner and an old gold painted surface.

By coincidence I found the same painting (and frame, which I cropped out of the image shown above) on Jules Brenton Oil Painting on Canvas of an Interior Scene (ebth.com). On that auction, which ended about two months before the eBay auction, the painting sold for $9 after 10 bids.

09 July 2017

Napoleon and Josephine Biscuit

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we often see porcelain figurines or figural groups, as in Soviet Propaganda Porcelain (August 2016), but I don't recall seeing bisque porcelain. The auction for the piece below, titled 'Napoleonic Biscuit Group of Napoleon & Josephine playing Chess, Scheibe Alsbach', said 'Sold for US $2100', but the eBay index of closed listings said it sold for $1500, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description said,

German bisque or biscuit figural group of Napoleon and Josephine playing chess. Early 20th century, marked. Nice quality, every detail well worked out.

Signature & Marks: No signature. Crossed S for Scheibe
Origin / Artist / Maker: German, Scheibe Alsbach porcelain factory
Material: Bisque porcelain, biscuit porcelain
Size: H/W/D: 20/23/13 cm or 7,87/9,05/5,12 inch.
Condition: This figural group in very good condition with a small restoration done to her left little finger. Furthermore no restorations, no cracks, no hairlines.

According to The chess games of Napoleon Bonaparte (chessgames.com; 'Number of games in database: 3'), 'Napoleon fostered a deep love for chess throughout his life'. According to Napoleon Bonaparte and Chess (chesshistory.com), 'Each of the three "Napoleon games" conveniently comes with a nice story, but nice stories are not chess history.'

07 July 2017

No Monkey Business Here

Is this a drawing or a photo?

What's My Next Move? © Flickr user Maureen Barlin under Creative Commons.

It's neither. The description said,

Street art in London, Shoreditch, June 2017. Artist?

The tags said,

London, East End, Shoreditch, street art, spray can art, painting, chimpanzee

and of course,

chess board

The position on the board is decidedly strange, but what do you expect from a chimp?

06 July 2017

Browne: 'I got this aggression that never quits'

After last week's Fischer: 'I'm not seeing people', let's squeeze one more post out of the aging Sports Illustrated (SI) reports on chess. The American magazine tends to spotlight American sports celebrities and chess is no exception.

Sports Illustrated, 12 January 1976

The article starts,

It is amazing.There he was, a child lost in the concrete anonymity of Brooklyn, solitary, restless, different. And then he cultivated a demanding friend: chess. Obsessed, he would stay up half the night replaying the games of the masters, scorning school and withdrawing deeper into himself. Distressed by his isolation, his protective, foreign-born mother introduced him to the famed Manhattan Chess Club where he became renowned for his killer instinct. A sometimes petulant prodigy, he was given to gloating about "destroying the weakies" when he won and scattering the pieces off the board when he lost.

At 16, declaring that "teachers are stupid," he quit Erasmus Hall High School and became a chess vagabond. He toured the world, winning tournament after tournament, complaining about playing conditions and accusing the Russians of conspiring against him. And then, after settling in California, he mounted an all-out assault to wrest the world chess title away from the vaunted Soviet champion.

What's that? You heard it all before? But that is the amazing thing: you have not. Though the stated facts of their careers are exactly the same, the prodigal son of Brooklyn referred to is not Grandmaster Robert James Fischer but Grandmaster Walter Shawn Browne.

For the rest of the article, see Making All the Right Moves, where the photo shown above is captioned, 'Walter Browne is briefly motionless, not the normal state for this go-go grandmaster who feels he can beat anybody at anything -- and the Russians at chess'. For more about Browne on this blog, see Six Times U.S. Champ (June 2015).

04 July 2017

July 1967 'On the Cover'

Unlike the previous edition of this series on American chess 50 years ago, June 1967 'On the Cover', which featured a crosstable on one side and Bobby Fischer on the other, this month we have two subjects which were (and still are) covered less frequently.

Left: '1967 U.S. Women's Champion'
Right: 'In Montreal, at Expo, with Care-ease.'

Chess Life

Edith Lucie Weart, left, presents the cup which she donated in 1951. 1967 U.S. Women's Champion Mrs. Gisela Gresser accepts the cup immediately following the tournament.

The winner has her own Wikipedia page: Gisela Kahn Gresser. The presenter was recently featured on a top American blog: Edith Lucie Weart (tartajubow.blogspot.com).

Chess Review

Paul Keres, as member of the Estonian delegation to Expo, the World's Fair at Montreal, played twelve clocked games simultaneously at Sir George Williams University. On the cover, he is considering his game with Max Guse and the move which he made, 24.RxP+.

In case you're wondering, the phrase 'Care-ease' used on the cover of CR mimics the pronunciation of 'Keres'. Only one game from the simultaneous exhibition has found its way into Chessgames.com; see Paul Keres (1967).

03 July 2017

Site Stats and Security

Let's have a recap of this series on site statistics:-

  • 2017-06-05: Chess Stats Year-Over-Year • 'In the past few months I've noticed a big drop in the number of daily visitors and I would like to know why.'
  • 2017-06-12: Site Stats and Adsense • 'I doubt that these Adsense issues are responsible for the decline in visitor traffic, but they don't help.'
  • 2017-06-19: Site Stats and Images • 'My server log only tells me that nearly all of the accesses were from Google.'
  • 2017-06-26: Adsense Stats Year-Over-Year • 'That makes a downward trend on the server log and an upward trend on ad impressions.'

Google Blogspot, Google Adsense, Google search. It's not hard to see the common denominator here. Google everything? While I was compiling that list of recent posts, I noted a typo on one of them and opened the post in edit. On checking the correction, I got the usual error message 'Your preview failed to load' (which has been happening for a few years already), followed by another usual error message:-

This page contains HTTP resources which may cause mixed content affecting security and user experience if blog is viewed over HTTPS.

Fix / Dismiss / Learn more

Instead of the ususal 'Dismiss', I accidentally clicked 'Fix'. Preview then showed a broken image, so I closed the edit without publishing. The post had disappeared entirely and the source of the post was marked 'DRAFT', so I again opened the post in edit to republish it. The image link had been changed from HTTP to HTTPS. I changed it back to HTTP, saved, and everything was OK (except a Google+ duplicate, which I deleted).

All that rigmarole occurs because I store the blog images on my own m-w.com domain. The 'Learn more' option on the last error message leads to Fix mixed content on your blog (support.google.com). While researching this I discovered the page HTTPS as a ranking signal (webmasters.googleblog.com; August 2014). It says,

We're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal -- affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content --while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.

Is this the reason for the drop in the number of daily visitors on my site? One of the links in that article goes to Youtube.

Google I/O 2014 - HTTPS Everywhere (45:44) • 'Published on Jun 26, 2014'

The description of the video says,

Data delivered over an unencrypted channel is insecure, untrustworthy, and trivially intercepted. We must protect the security, privacy, and integrity of our users data. In this session we will take a hands-on tour of how to make your websites secure by default: the required technology, configuration and performance best practices, how to migrate your sites to HTTPS and make them user and search friendly, and more. Your users will thank you.

That promises more work that has nothing to do with the content of the site, but I need to look into it at some time in the months ahead. In the meantime, I'll review the recent article How you can cut Google out of your life ... mostly (yahoo.com). I'm afraid it won't be so easy for webmasters.

02 July 2017

Do Cheerleaders Play Chess?

Every few months the short list for Video Friday (last seen a few days ago in Chess on Network Television) includes an episode of 'Cheerleaders in the Chess Club'. For various reasons it never gets picked for the final post, but maybe it works for this series on 'The Sociology of Chess'. You be the judge.

Cheerleaders in the Chess Club - Ep1 / S1 (10:55) • 'Published on Dec 17, 2015. Cheerleaders in the Chess Club - Episode 1 / Season 1'

The first chess sequence starts with the making of a video within this video:-

Gwen: Welcome to the Bulldog Chess Club. In today's episode we will be talking to Garth about a series of opening moves called the King's Gambit. Garth, what can you say about this exciting style of play? • Garth: Well, Gwen, the King's Gambit is not for the light of heart. Exposing your King so soon might seem risky but there's a reason why it was the third most popular opening of the 17th century. • Howard (holding cue cards): 19th century. That is a '9'! • Garth: It looks like a '7'. Some people put a line through their '7's...

That's shows more knowledge about chess than a previous Video Friday pick this month, 1.h4 h5 2.g4 g5, so we're off to a reasonable start.

In Cheerleaders in the Chess Club (TV Series 2015–), the IMDb informs, 'Country: Canada'. I'm a day late, but Happy Sesquicentennial, Canada!

30 June 2017

Chess on Network Television

It just gets better and better. A few months ago we had Chess Broadcasting Gets Professional (February 2017). Now we add network television to the mix.

Paris Grand Chess Tour: How To Broadcast Chess On Television? (4:38) • 'The Paris Grand Chess Tour is being broadcast on French TV by Canal+. IM Malcolm Pein and IM Almira Skripchenko discuss the topic of broadcasting chess successfully on TV. '

See also Vivendi sponsors the Paris Grand Chess Tour (vivendi.com; June 2017):-

For the second year in a row, Vivendi sponsors and hosts the Paris Grand Chess Tour, the first stop of the most prestigious chess tournament with the world’s best players. The tournament will be shown live on Dailymotion from June 21 to 25, from 2pm to 6:30pm. The highlights will also be broadcast each day at 11:30pm on Canal+ Sport. The first three days (June 21-23) will be dedicated to “rapid” games (approximately 1 hour) and the two following days (June 24-25) to “Blitz” games (approximately 15 minutes).

The Canal+ Sport highlights don't seem to be available on the web, but we might eventually see an example.

29 June 2017

Fischer: 'I'm not seeing people'

Along with the Sports Illustrated (SI) reports on the World Championship -- documented in my recent post on another blog, Spassky: 'The Dr. Zhivago of Chess' -- I discovered another 40 or so SI articles dealing with chess. The most popular of the chess sub-topics was undoubtedly Bobby Fischer. The most unusual article about the 1970s American cultural hero appeared in the mid-1980s.

Sports Illustrated, 29 July 1985

Curiously, the person pictured on the lefthand page looks more like Tobey Maguire, who played Fischer in the movie 'Pawn Sacrifice' (2015), than it looks like Fischer himself. The 1985 article started,

About six years ago, sportscaster Dick Schaap was visiting Wilt Chamberlain in Wilt's celebrated California mansion when Schaap got the idea of trying to get in touch with his old friend Bobby Fischer. Schaap had known him since the 1950s, when Fischer was a rising chess star in New York and Schaap was a young magazine reporter assigned to cover him. So Schaap called Fischer's closest friend and confidante, Claudia Mokarow of Pasadena, and asked her to tell Bobby to contact him at Chamberlain's home. Soon afterward, Bobby rang back.

"Are you really at Wilt's house?" an astonished Bobby asked. Schaap assured him he was. "I'd really like to see that house!" "Would you like to join us for dinner?" Schaap asked. "I'd like to," Bobby Fischer said, "but I'm not seeing people."

A partial list of SI's Fischer articles is given below. It doesn't include the articles on the World Championship already given in the 'Dr. Zhivago' post. Bobby would have insisted that the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch was also a World Championship title match, but he is no longer with us and there is no need to humor him.

That last article starts,

When chess master Bobby Fischer died of renal failure in an Icelandic hospital last Thursday, at age 64, he left trailing in his thickly bearded wake a legacy as confusing and mixed as it was memorable and even magical.

Confusing, mixed, memorable, magical -- yes, that was Bobby Fischer.

27 June 2017

Deep Blue 'On the Cover'

Twenty years after IBM's Deep Blue beat World Champion Garry Kasparov, people are still talking about it, not the least among them GM Kasparov in a book released last month: Deep Thinking (amazon.com; May 2017), 'Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins' by Garry Kasparov. Two earlier books by computer chess experts covered the IBM - Kasparov match and surveyed its aftermath.

Left: Feng-hsiung Hsu, 'Behind Deep Blue'
Right: Monty Newborn, 'Beyond Deep Blue'

Behind Deep Blue (amazon.com; October 2002), 'Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion' by Feng-hsiung Hsu.

Preface: This book recounts my view of the adventure to create Deep Blue, the first computer to defeat the World Chess Champion in a serious match. I started the project in 1985. Twelve years later, the adventure ended with Deep Blue setting a major milestone in human history and forever altering our view of how we would live with the computer.
Beyond Deep Blue (amazon.com; April 2011), 'Chess in the Stratosphere' by Monty Newborn.
Preface: Thirteen years have passed since IBM’s Deep Blue stunned the world by defeating the human world chess champion at that time, Garry Kasparov. The purpose of this book is to initially reconsider Deep Blue’s achievement and then to survey subsequent milestones in the world of computer chess. Following Deep Blue’s retirement, there has been a succession of better and better chess engines, that is, computing systems programmed to play chess. [...] Each of the 21 chapters in the book — except the final one — covers a milestone of some sort. [...]

Feng-hsiung Hsu has already appeared twice in this blog:-

Monty Newborn has appeared once:-

I expect we'll be seeing more of both.

26 June 2017

Adsense Stats Year-Over-Year

A few weeks ago I started this current series of posts with an observation on my m-w.com domain, as documented in Chess Stats Year-Over-Year:-

In the past few months I've noticed a big drop in the number of daily visitors and I would like to know why.

Since it's always useful to get a confirmation of a trend from a second source, what does Google Adsense say? In the past I've noticed that the absolute numbers on my server log don't match the numbers in Adsense, but the trends should be similar, shouldn't they? Here's a chart showing Adsense stats from the first half of 2016 compared to the first half of 2017.

Although I've juggled the ad units over the 18 months covered -- as documented in the second post in this series, Site Stats and Adsense -- and although there is some noise in the 2017 portion of the chart due to the ads on my blogs, the totals are showing a definite upward trend year-over-year. That makes a downward trend on the server log and an upward trend on ad impressions.

This is not what I expected to see. How to explain this?

25 June 2017

'Mystery Painting' on eBay

In this long running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I try to avoid repeating featured items, but sometimes it can't be helped. If the painting pictured below looks familiar, it might be because it's been the basis for two previous posts:-

This latest appearance of the painting was titled 'Vintage C.W.Towin, Genre Oil Painting, French Cavalier Men Playing Chess'. It sold for US $455 after 33 bids from eight bidders.

The description said,

After a Google [image] search we found that this mid-20th century oil painting on stretched canvas is a very well executed copy of the famous painting “Chess Players” by the Belgian artist, Alex de Andreis (1880-1929). It depicts two French cavalier men in the middle of an intense chess match. The gentleman to the left is holding a clay pipe in one hand and stroking his beard as he contemplates the next move. His opponent is [sic] a glass of liquor and has a very confident look on his face.

The quality of this 24” by 20” oil painting is excellent and with the exception of some stable craquelar to a few areas, there are no problems or any restorations. The artist has signed the lower right hand corner “C.V.Towin”. This circa 1950s Oil Painting comes in its original 22 3/4" by 26 3/4" gilded frame.

Although the composition is the same as the variations shown in the 'Still a Mystery' post, the details are different. I found this latest variation in another recent auction C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century), 04.06.17, Sold: $153.40 (aspireauctions.com) along with the further explanation,

50. C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century) • 20" x 24" • Chess players. Oil on canvas, signed lower right, framed in carved and gessoed wooden frame, overall 23" x 27". • Condition: Slight craquelure surface, some losses to frame, otherwise very good. • Estimate: $250/500 • Sold with Premium: $153.40 • Closed: Apr 6, 2017

With each new post, the painting becomes less of a mystery. It was probably painted by Alex de Andreis (aka d'Andreis), variously identified as (take your pick):

British, 1880-1929; Belgian, 1871-1929; Belgian, 1871-1939; Belgian/British, 1880-1929

The painting was first copied by the Taber Prang Art Co. (not 'Tabor Prang' as my December 2007 post recorded) and later copied by other artists. The main mystery remaining now is -- where is the original painting?

23 June 2017

Chess Emotions Run High

At the beginning of the month I wrote a post Award Winning Chess Photos, about the 2017 Photo Contest (worldpressphoto.org). The photos below are from the same contest. I've cropped out the museum label, which started,

Sports; 2nd prize stories • Michael Hanke; Czech Republic

The photographer's description of the photo explained,

This exhibition was at the BCCC [Barcelona Center of Contemporary Culture] near where we were staying, and one of the festival sites, so we spent a good two hours looking at it. [...] This series of photos from a chess tournament caught my eye. Particularly the expression on the little boy's face - it reminded me of how James gets when he's intensely involved in a game.

The little boy's face reminds me more of a primal scream and I have to wonder if he's winning or losing.

World Press Photo © Flickr user Clare Griffiths under Creative Commons.

The museum label also had a short description of each photo (there are two in the center).

A father gives his son advice in Zdice. • The moments before the start of a new round in Zdice. • Parents and trainers watch the course of a game in Slany. • Emotions run high at a tournament in Kamenice.

'Advice in Zdice'. Does that rhyme?

22 June 2017

Sports Illustrated 'On the Cover'

On top of learning More About Thomas Emery, in that previous post I discovered that an influential American sports magazine was a source for in-depth feature articles about chess.

Here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

Back to that old question, The Graffiti Wall - Is Chess a Sport? (December 2013), if SI thinks it's a sport, then the matter is settled. The magazine has even featured chess on its cover.

Left: 'U.S Chess Champion Lisa Lane'
Right: 'Bobby's Chessboard Mastery'

7 August 1961: QUEEN OF KNIGHTS AND PAWNS • 'Once tolerated as a good-looking girl who played chess, Lisa Lane is now a champion who wants the world title' • seven page article by Robert Cantwell

Lisa Lane is an ardent and optimistic girl who won the U.S. women's chess championship soon after she learned how to play chess and now expects whatever she is involved into work out as well. If Lisa hears of a tournament that may possibly be held at some time in the future she takes it for granted that she will play in it, she naturally believes that she will win, and from that it is only a logical step for her to buy a new dress in anticipation of her victory.

14 August 1972: HOW TO COOK A RUSSIAN GOOSE • 'First, catch a Russian -- and at long last Bobby Fischer apparently has, dominating Boris Spassky so completely that only a sharp reversal can keep the young American from becoming world champion' • four page article, also by Robert Cantwell

On summer evenings in Iceland the sun barely sinks below the horizon. There is a joke going around that Bobby Fischer demanded it set three hours earlier, but so far the Icelandic Chess Federation hasn't been able to arrange it. In any case, it is daylight most of the time, and the only real darkness in the land these days has been in the cavernous interior of Reykjavik's Exhibition Hall, where the World Championship Chess Match is going on, and possibly in the heart of Russia's Boris Spassky.

The last photo in the Lisa Lane piece looked familiar and I found it in an eBay post, Two American Champions (March 2016).


At no.2, behind Serena Williams (Tennis)...

7 March 2017: Sports Illustrated's best portraits of women athletes • 'In honor of International Women's Day, Sports Illustrated showcases portraits back through the years on our outstanding women athletes.'

...Photo by John G. Zimmerman.

20 June 2017

More About Thomas Emery

While working on a recent post, Thomas Emery, I was disappointed that I found so little non-chess web material about the man. I continued to look and found details about his family in a book, 'Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati' by Wendy Hart Beckman. This first passage (p.88-89) is about Emery's grandfather.

[Procter and Gamble, ca.1837] began by creating soaps and candles for Cincinnati's citizenry. Gamble made the soaps and candles, and Procter took care of administrative duties and marketing. He loaded the products up in their wheelbarrow and carted them around to the various stores to sell. Soon their business grew enough that they could move to a location on Western Row (now called Central Avenue), closer to the slaughterhouses.

They were not alone in taking advantage of the rich supply of pork fats, though. By the end of the decade, they were joined by Michael Werk from Alsace, Thomas Emery from England, and Andrew Jergens from Germany, all of whom started businesses using the abundant fats and oils of Porkopolis to make soaps and candles. Soon Cincinnati's soaps were sold throughout the state, thanks to a great extent to the canals.

Thomas Emery did not always enjoy success in his candlemaking. Born in England, he immigrated to the United States in 1832 with his wife and his son, Thomas Josephus Emery. Emery first tried his hand at selling real estate and then began dabbling in soaps and lard oil. His first attempts only landed him in bankruptcy, however. Soon enough, Thomas Emery found his niche: real estate and fatty acids.

The second passage (p.140) is about his uncle.

Thomas J. Emery married Mary Hopkins in 1866; Samuel Hannaford built their family home, the Edgecliffe, which overlooked the Ohio River. However, theirs was not to remain a happy family for long. They had two sons: Sheldon, born in 1867, and Albert, born in 1868. Albert died at the age of 16 as the result of a sledding accident, and Sheldon died at 23 from pneumonia while a student at Harvard. Thomas died in 1906, leaving his widow a lonely millionaire for 21 years. He left her his $20 million fortune with no directives as to how to spend it.

The last passage (p.141) is about his father.

Mary Emery died in 1927 at the age of 83. Tom and Mary Emery had no heirs; younger brother John was still a bachelor in his 60s, so he married a 22-year-old woman and had five children to pass on the family name and philanthropic tradition. That tradition was carried on in John J. Emery Jr., who also enjoyed success in the hotel business, building the 48-story Carew Tower (Cincinnati's tallest building at the time), the Netherland Plaza, and the Terrace Plaza hotels. He also founded Cincinnati Country Day School and held leadership roles with the Boy Scouts of America and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Meanwhile, his sister Audrey showed herself for having a flair for fashion and flings. She was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in America and married into Russian nobility not once, but twice, including the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the cousin of Nicholas, Russia's last czar.

The family relationships are shown in a family tree from Cincinnati Magazine, December 1988 (p.76).

(Born 1798 in Bedford, England; arrived in America in early 1830s; died 1857)

Chess benefactor Thomas (1896-1975) is shown farthest to the right on the second row. Two of his siblings have found their way into Wikipedia:-

His son, not shown in the family tree, died in 2004: John Joseph Emery.

John Joseph Emery, 73, died Nov. 27, 2004, in Bar Harbor. He was born March 11, 1931, in Biarritz, France, the son of Thomas and Constance (Thomas) Emery. His family came to the United States in 1940, because of the war, where they resided in Oyster Bay, Long Island. [...] His grandfather, John J. Emery, built "The Turrets", an historic cottage in Bar Harbor, in which the family lived, it is now owned by the College of the Atlantic, of which John was a big supporter.'

Since this is a chess blog and there's nothing yet about chess in this post, I'll add a few Thomas Emery chess stories that I encountered during my investigations. First here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

1960-06-06: Revival of an old Army game • 'In the annals of American sport it would be difficult to find any event so completely overshadowed as was the first annual armed forces chess tournament in Washington a fortnight ago. About the time the 12 contestants had adjusted themselves to playing in the air-conditioned basement of the USO building on Lafayette Square, the U-2-summit affair exploded, and the entire city was awash with excitement.'

Next here's a New York Times article about another event Emery sponsored.

1973-11-04: Lyman and Chess are back on TV • 'Introduced by the Gillette sports song, Shelby Lyman, the chess teacher, returned to the air yesterday, providing move-by-move analysis on Channel 13 of the first in four-game match between the champions of the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs. [...] The match is being financed by a $25,000 grant from Thomas Emery and the American Chess Foundation. Emery, a long-time chess patron, subsidized José Raul Capablanca, the Cuban who was world champion from 1921 to 1927, The foundation underwrites the United States Chess Championship and the Armed Forces Chess Championship.'

Finally, here's a story about the disposition of Emery's bequest to the Armed Forces tournament.

Honor the Intent by Don Schultz • 'The Cramer Awards for Excellence in Chess Journalism are not the only victim of the Chess-in-the-Schools new policy. An example is the income from over a million dollars of Thomas Emery donations. Emery was a close friend of many of our finest players, including Frank Marshall and Al Horowitz. He helped support master chess. He also was a member of the Marine Corps during World War I and as a result had an enduring interest in armed forces chess. He sponsored the first Armed Forces Championship in 1960, and continued to sponsor it during his lifetime. He had every expectation that income from his donations would continue to be used for master and armed forces chess promotions. But it is not. All of it is now being used for the Chess-in-the Schools New York City inner city school programs.'

Back to my first Thomas Emery post, will I find as luch about the other chess patrons mentioned there?

19 June 2017

Site Stats and Images

In a recent post, Site Stats and Adsense, I used the server log on my personal domain to look at the relative popularity of my web pages. Similar techniques can be used for images. I did this a few years ago in Photos of February (March 2015):-

One thing I've always wanted to do -- but never found the time -- is to analyze the popularity of the various images stored on the site.

I don't want to repeat that exercise here, other than to mention the most popular photo for May 2017:-

The Match That Never Was (September 2012)

The log can also be used to follow the progress of a new post by tracking its corresponding image. Let's take, for example, my first post from May 2017 that used an image -- May 1967 'On the Cover'. -- and follow the progress of that image from the moment of its creation. (Because it's the information provided by the link which is most important here, I'll give the URL of the referring page without converting it to a link.)

The first call of a new image is always from its directory. This is because I check the image after uploading it, in case it was somehow damaged in the process (it happens). I then copy the full URL and add it to my new post.

  • http://www.mark-weeks.com/cfaa/

The next call of the new image is by the mechanism that distributes it to social media. For this CFAA blog, I see five accesses by dlvr.it, where a short URL expands to the full URL of the new post plus the parameters utm_source=dlvr.it & utm_medium=facebook.

  • http://dlvr.it/P2yc0M

After this the new image starts to be displayed on a single page for the new post or on the home page of the blog, where the most recent post appears first.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2017/05/may-1967-on-cover.html
  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/

Some time later, the image is called from various content aggregators. Here's one that appears regularly...

  • http://newsblur.com/site/1749928/chess-for-all-ages

...and here's another that appears to be worth exploring:-

  • http://www.rightrelevance.com/search/articles?query=chess%20player

After more posts have been added to the blog, the original post starts to show up on pages of 'Older Posts'.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2017-05-04T17:39:00%2B02:00&max-results=7

Since I also use my m-w.com domain to store images for my other blogs, the same process applies to them. Here's the most popular image on my World Chess Championship blog for the month of May.

Che Guevara at the Havana Zonal (January 2014)

And here's the most popular image on my Chess960 (FRC) blog for the same period.

Finding Top ICC Chess960 Players (November 2013)

That last chess960 image, as simple as it is, was just as popular as the top CFAA images, even though the C960 blog gets about 10% of the traffic that CFAA gets. Why this popularity? My server log only tells me that nearly all of the accesses were from Google. For example, the first access of the month was from

  • https://www.google.com.ph/

That's pretty much normal for an investigation into site statistics. An answered question nearly always leads to new questions.