29 December 2010

2010 Women's World Championship

I added details on the 2010 FIDE Knockout Matches at Antakya (Turkey), to my page on the World Chess Championship for Women. Two players forfeited the first round. In Cramling eliminated in first round Women World Championship,
Chessvibes.com reported,
Two matches have not been played: Iweta Rajlich - Jovanka Houska and Arianne Caoili - Ju Wenjun. From the latter we know that Caoili didn’t have time to play chess in this period, but strangely enough she was paired anyway – we can only assume that a cancellation letter wasn’t received in time. About Rajlich the official website reports that she was traveling with her husband and new-born kid, but was stopped by the weather conditions.

If you've forgotten about the new format of the Women's World Championship, with matches and knockouts in alternate years, see one of my previous posts on the subject: 2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix.

22 December 2010

Zonal Cycle 2008-2009

My first task after Zonal Index Updated was to add clippings for Zonals 2008-09 to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals. Now I have one page of zonal clippings for each of the 24 World Championship cycles.

15 December 2010

Zonal Index Updated

I updated my index page for the World Championship Zonals, incorporating all of the modifications made since the previous update in 2007. I added a new column giving the 'Cycle' number for each event. This is an internal, artificial number I invented to sort the various events correctly, but it is useful enough to display on the index. The current cycle is the 25th since FIDE took responsibility for the World Championship in 1946.

There are still many errors and omissions on the page, and I have a plan to address these systematically in the coming months. This should result in more frequent updates of the index page.

08 December 2010

Dvoretsky on the World Championship

On my main blog (see Recently Spotted - Blog Carnival & Soviet School), I mentioned The Big Dvoretsky Interview on Chessvibes.com. Part 1 isn't particularly relevant to the World Championship, but the two other parts are. Dvoretsky, a world class trainer and 'the strongest IM never to make GM', touched three times on the importance of the endgame.
Part 2: Bronstein didn’t win his World Championship match against Botvinnik; it ended in a draw. Botvinnik hadn’t played for three years, he was absolutely out of training and his openings were worse at this moment than Bronstein’s openings, but still Bronstein didn’t win. Both players won five games. So Bronstein lost five games; three of those five games he lost from equal, drawn endgames. So if he had been better in endgames he would have become World Champion. Three out of five games were drawn endgames; I believe that it is quite impressive.

In 1995 grandmaster Topalov was very weak in endgames. His manager Danailov told me that he doesn’t feel confident in endgames and even avoided profitable endgames sometimes and so he would lose points in endgames, and so on. So we arranged a training session in Moscow; we worked just twelve days. After this session Topalov won the majority of tournaments which he played during the next year. He won, if I remember correctly, eighty rating points and took third place on the rating list. So, you see, he was a very strong grandmaster at this moment but even for such a level it was very important because it was his weak side.

Part 3: Tal wasn’t good in the endgame when he was young. Fortunately for him at some moment players couldn’t use it but in his second match against Botvinnik, Botvinnik used it several times.

He also touched on a subject that pops up in just about every interview I've seen for the past month.

Part 3: What is your opinion on Magnus Carlsen’s decision to withdraw from the Candidates? • You know, everybody can make any decision. I don’t know his motivation, his real reasons and so on, so it makes no sense to discuss it not with Magnus himself. On the other hand of course this decision was made because he had some problems with the modern World Championship. It’s true, there are really serious problems which are very interesting to discuss, but it’s a big topic, a separate topic, perhaps we shouldn’t do it now. For example he mentioned the great privileges of the World Champion – I absolutely agree with him. I know that Kramnik, Gelfand and some others disagree, Kasparov, Karpov. But many players agree with this position and I also agree.

On the other hand he told that the World Champion shouldn’t have any advantage, any privileges, and this is also wrong. When we play a World Championship it should be a system, not a single match or tournament, it’s a system. So everybody starts at some stage and it’s natural that some players came to the next stage by winning or keeping some results in previous stages and some of them get the right to play just because of their previous successes, it’s absolutely natural. The win of the previous World Championship is also something we can consider the win of some previous tournament, so the winner should have some privileges, but of course not so fantastic as he has now. Also in the case of Carlsen: why should he play in the Candidates, he should start in the semi-final of the Norwegian championship, because maybe some younger generation can beat him. He should also play several steps and don’t have privileges.

He got in because of rating of course... • Rating is also a previous result, it’s not ‘this set-up of competitions for this World Championship’, it’s previous results, it’s also a success like winning a previous World Championship, so it gives some privileges but not absolute privileges, like now. But it’s a topic for a serious discussion and perhaps we have no time for it. Some other problems he mentioned are also connected to modern FIDE and their policy, their strategy… In many areas he is absolutely right – FIDE is a horrible organization now but again it’s a topic for a separate discussion.

The comments on the 1951 Botvinnik - Bronstein match and the 1961 Botvinnik - Tal match are worth pursuing.

01 December 2010

Kasparov's Character

From Authors@Google: Garry Kasparov (YouTube.com), 'in conversation with Jonathan Rosenberg & Udi Manber' (2010-11-03). The 13th World Champion, when asked about the 1984 match, his first against Karpov, said,
It was a long time ago. As you remember, I was trailing badly, losing 5-0, so Karpov had to win one more game to retain the title. He couldn't win this game and eventually I won three more games. I was catching up and then the match was stopped and started again eight months later. There was a clear case of interference by Soviet officials. They believed that it would be too much pressure on Karpov to continue the [match]. I didn't like it, so the official decision made by the International Chess Federation [FIDE] stated clearly that Karpov agreed, Kasparov obeyed.

At the end of the day I won the title. The match was a great lesson for me because it probably made the ultimate mark on my character. Trailing badly, losing beyond any hope to survive, eventually surviving and beating Karpov eight months later, it was proof to me that there's no situation in your life where you have to give up. It was a very, very good lesson. So I'm grateful to Karpov who helped me to build up my character. [laughter & applause]

See also: The Sunday treat: Garry at Google (Chessbase.com).

24 November 2010

Zonal Cycle 2006-2007

After a delay of a few weeks, I returned to my index page on the World Chess Championship Zonals and added Zonals 2006-07. The next step will be to release a new index page (last updated in September 2007), including the qualifying events from the latest complete cycle, 2008-2009. That will serve as a baseline for a new round of checks and updates.

17 November 2010

Kasparov on Modern Chess

The gremlins working at my website server host decided this would be a good time to take FTP out of service, so I'm temporarily blocked from making any updates to my site. Instead of continuing with my zonal page (last seen in Zonal Cycle 2004-2005), I have to punt. Looking at the ongoing list of possible topics (a long list), I see several reviews of Kasparov's series on Modern Chess, but no one source appears to have covered them all. While I'm not a big fan of Amazon customer reviews, they'll have to do.

Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess (Amazon.com):

I started this topic in a previous post, Kasparov vs. Karpov 1975-1985, where I included the 'Sales Rank'. Although it's now called the 'Amazon Bestsellers Rank', I guess it's the same thing and have included the numbers for comparison. Revolution in the 70's has gone from #264,777 to #150,712. Way to go, Garry!

10 November 2010

Carlsen Quits (Again)

GM Magnus Carlsen's announcement that he would no longer participate in the current World Championship cycle -- Magnus Carlsen drops out of World Championship cycle (Chessbase.com) -- sent shock waves through the chess world and shivers (déja vu style) up my spine. Instead of jumping to any conclusions as to Carlsen's motives, I decided to compile a list of similar incidents. Before I could start, I discovered I had been anticipated by the Daily Dirt (the dates in square brackets '[]' are mine):-
Alekhine dodged Capablanca [>1927]. Fischer disappeared instead of playing Karpov [1975]. Or was he taking a principled stand for rigorous rules? Shirov should have played Kasparov for next to no money. Or was it Kasparov who was dodging Shirov [1998]? Kramnik dodging Kasparov's quest for a rematch, or was he trying to restore a credible cycle [2001]? Kasparov skipping the Dortmund qualifier [2002], Ponomariov and Kasparov never playing [2003], and now Carlsen and, well, Ilyumzhinov [2010]. There are a dozen more we could add. • Carlsen Bails from WCh Cycle (Chessninja.com)

'Only a dozen more?', I thought. Here's a list I came up with after about 30 minutes, mostly spent on verification:-

  • 1948: Fine [WCC match tournament]
  • 1950: Reshevsky, Fine, Euwe, Bondarevsky [Budapest CT]; for several reasons
  • 1965: Botvinnik [CM]
  • 1964: Fischer [Amsterdam IZ]
  • 1967: Fischer [Sousse IZ]
  • 1972: Fischer [Reykjavik WCC]; will he or won't he?
  • 1975: Fischer [WCC vs. Karpov]
  • 1971: Huebner [CM qf vs. Petrosian]
  • 1980: Huebner [CM f vs. Korchnoi]
  • 1985: KK1; terminated by Campomanes
  • 1986: KK3; Kasparov threatened to quit
  • 1993: Kasparov - Short; played wthout FIDE
  • 1996: Ilyumzhinov cancels Interzonal and replaces with KOs
  • 1997: Kramnik [Groningen KO]
  • 1999: Karpov [Las Vegas KO]
  • 1998: Anand [WCC vs. Kasparov, declined]
  • 1999: Anand [ditto, cancelled]
  • 2000: Anand [ditto, declined]

There's some overlap there with the Chessninja list. I could have added more from the FIDE KOs played after 2000, but I became bored with the exercise. More challenging would have been a list of cycles where there weren't any such shenanigans. For a similar overview, see my post Troubled Matches from a few years ago. Maybe it has something to do with chess players not wanting to submit to authority.

03 November 2010

Zonal Cycle 2004-2005

I added Zonals 2004-05 to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals. These events qualified players into the first of three consecutive World Cups held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, at intervals of two years. This was the first hint of order in the post-unification World Championship, a regularity that FIDE failed to maintain for other events in the three cycles.

27 October 2010

Zonal Cycle 2002-2004

Continuing with zonal clippings, I added Zonals 2002-04 to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals. This was the last cycle that qualified players from the zonals directly into a World Championship knockout tournament. The next three cycles qualified them into a World Cup : same format, different status.

20 October 2010

ICCF World Championships (2010 Status)

It's time for my annual look at what's happening in the world of correspondence chess. The current status is shown in the following table, which is based on last year's post, ICCF World Championships (2009 Status). As before, the asterisk ('*') means the winner is known and the PGN game scores are available.

20 2004-Started 2004-10-25
21*2005-08Oosterom, Joop J. van (NED)
22*2007-10Dronov, Aleksandr (RUS)
23 2007-Started 2007-12-31
24 2009-Started 2009-06-10
25 2009-Started 2009-12-10
26 2010-Started 2010-06-10

What's changed? The 22nd championship has finished, while the 25th and 26th have started. I now have two final crosstables to add to my page on the World Chess Championship : Correspondence Chess.

The ICCF crosstable for the 22nd championship shows Dronov tied with Bücker, Jürgen (GER), but leading on SB tiebreak. A thread on the ICCF forum, World Championship 22 Final, confirmed that Dronov was awarded the title. The same thread has a relevant discussion on the merits of adjudication, which played a key role in determining the top finishers.

13 October 2010

18th World Computer Championship

I added the 18th World Computer Championship (WCCC) - 2010 Kanazawa to my page on Computer Chess. The official results are available on a page at ICGA Tournaments (www.grappa.univ-lille3.fr).

06 October 2010

Zonal Cycle 2001-2002

More zonal clippings: I added Zonals 2001-02 to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals. This cycle was the first to use continental qualifiers, although not consistently. It was also the first (and so far only) cycle to use qualifiers conducted via the Internet.

29 September 2010

Zonal Cycle 2000-2001

Using the same techniques as in Zonal Cycle 1998-1999, I added a set of clippings for Zonals 2000-01 to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals. Once again, the set is taken entirely from Mark Crowther's 'The Week in Chess'. Only five more cycles left to finish off the first pass through clippings!

22 September 2010

Zonal Cycle 1998-1999

Has it really been eight months since I last added a new page of zonal clippings? Looking at the date on the post for Zonal Cycle 1995-1997, it indeed seems to have been that long. Since it's high time to start another cycle, I added a first set of clippings for Zonals 1998-99 to my page on the World Chess Championship Zonals. The set is taken entirely from Mark Crowther's 'The Week in Chess'. I also expect TWIC to provide a good base for the remaining cycles.

15 September 2010

Not Larsen's Best Photo

It wasn't his best match either.

The caption said,

7/21/71 - DENVER: Bobby Fischer, New York, N.Y., (right), discusses postgame analysis after beating Bent Larsen of Denmark late 7/20 to win the semifinal candidate match for the World Chess Championship. The 28-year-old American won the semifinals, 6-0 and will play the winner of a semifinal tournament currently being played in Russia for the world title. Fischer won the last game in 40 moves. UPI TELEPHOTO DENVER

What were the odds of a 6-0 whitewash?

25 August 2010

Zonals 1984-87, 87-90, & 90-93

Over the past few months there has been so much happening with the World Championship that I almost forgot about an unfinished job last documented in the post Zonals 1978-81 & 1981-84. I added crosstables etc. from a number of Informants to the following pages on the World Chess Championship Zonals:-

There remains some info in the Informants that I haven't used yet, mainly from the lists of which tournaments were included in the rating calculations for the period covered by the Informant. These are factually so bare that there only worth is to verify when and where an event was played. I'll include these if I can't find any better sources.

18 August 2010

2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Ulan Bator

I added Ulan Bator (aka Ulaanbaatar), Mongolia to my page on the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix. Linked from that page is the official site where I noticed that the final crosstable had a column titled 'Res.' that I couldn't remember seeing before. I thought it might have something to do with tiebreak and found the following in the FIDE handbook, Regulations for the 2009-2010 Women’s FIDE Grand-Prix:
16. Closing Ceremony of each tournament: The Closing Ceremony shall take place according to schedule. The Organizer shall provide three trophies to the first three placed players. In each tournament, if two or more players tie for first place, the tie to decide the awarding of the trophies will be broken (in descending order) by 1. Direct encounter, 2. Sonneborn Berger Score, 3. Koya System

The column 'Res.' corresponds to what I understand by 'Direct encounter', i.e. the total result of games played between players having the same final score. My crosstables show the 'Sonneborn Berger' tiebreak in the 'T/B' column, while the 'Koya System' is described in another section of the handbook: Annex to the FIDE Tournament Regulations regarding tiebreaks.

The Koya System for Round Robin Tournaments • This is the number of points achieved against all opponents who have achieved 50 % or more.

The tiebreak has no effect on the calculation of Grand Prix points. It is only used to award trophies.

11 August 2010

Resources for Candidates++ and for Zonals++

Following up Database for Chess History, I decided that my first conversion would be 'Statistics for my WCC site', as documented in the post Access to Referrers. During this exercise, an interesting page titled Next world championship cycle (rybkaforum.net), popped out. I wrote,
On the referring page are some nice images giving a graphical overview of the candidate matches starting in 1965. I hadn't seen them before and suppose they are from Wikipedia or similar. Finding those made the whole exercise worthwhile; one of these days I might try to locate the original source.

It didn't take long to establish that the graphical overviews were not from Wikipedia. The following image compares one newly discovered graphic with Wikipedia's page World Chess Championship 1966.

After a little sleuth work, I located the originals on Mr. > Office > Chess History > World Championship, under the directory labelled '1964-1966'. Their creator has also published a Silverlight show at World Championship Cycles - Windows Live, using all of the material under the previous link. The crosstables are very nice work and deserve a better framework. Talk about hiding your lamp under a bushel basket!


Another resource I discovered during the same exercise, but did not include in 'Access to Referrers' was Caissa Schach Chronik - Ergebnisse und Tabellen der Geschichte, a German language site. Under the WM tab are entries covering each of the FIDE cycles, including zonals. For example, the page for the zonals played as part of the first complete FIDE cycle is here: WM 1951 Setzliste und Ergebnisse der Zonenturniere. There is lots of material here to compare with my own page on the subject, World Chess Championship Zonals.

04 August 2010

Database for Chess History

Since I'm still blocked from creating new crosstables, as I discussed in 2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Jermuk (Not!), it was time to take positive action. The Women’s Grand Prix in Ulaanbaatar will soon be finishing and I'll need to do an update when it does. After doing the necessary homework, I ordered a copy of Microsoft Access 2010, which should arrive in a few days.

While waiting, I decided to catalog my existing databases to see which would be priorities for conversion. I found around 200 databases scattered all over the personal directory of my hard drive, some pertaining to a single event, like a FIDE World Cup, some much larger. The largest databases cover the following areas.

  • Bibliography
  • Chess960
  • Notable events
  • Notable persons
  • Ratings
  • Soviet school
  • Statistics for my WCC site
  • Zonals

After I install the new database software, it will be a good time to convert the entire set of databases into a single integrated database for chess history. MS Access offers some functionality for maintaining the data on the Web, but I doubt I'll have the resources to do that. On to the redesign...

28 July 2010

Need a Program to Identify the Players?

I knew I should have waited. Just a few days after last week's post, FIDE Presidential Candidates and the World Championship, where I wrote, 'it's too early to expect details about the 2010 Candidates Event', the details started gushing. Since this blog doesn't pretend to be a news site, I'll refer to a TWIC article on the subject -- FIDE Candidates are moved to Kazan -- and come back to the subject after the crude has stopped flowing.

TWIC's Mark Crowther referred to a Russian language article -- In the Chess World Is Coming Revolution -- which makes a fascinating read when submitted to Google's translation service, even though the sentences (like the title I just used) use a twisted grammar that requires some imagination to make sense of them. The story is a followup to a post I wrote in January -- Global Chess, Chess News Corporation, Chess Lane, and FIDE -- along with a few new twists introduced in the context of this year's FIDE election and the no-holds-barred free-for-all featuring Ilyumzhinov, Karpov, and the Russian federation.

I think I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm a fan of Russian historical novels. Since the names of the characters are never second nature to me, one of the tricks I use to follow them is to keep a list of personalities and the pages where they are mentioned. Doing similar for the 'Coming Revolution' piece, I came up with the following list, roughly grouped according to which players belong together.

  • Chess Network Company
  • David Kaplan, Chess Lane
  • Brothers Magomedov: Ziyavudine (Ziavutdin) & Mohammed (Magomed), Republic of Dagestan, Summa Telecom
  • Sodbiznesbank, VIP-Bank, CB Diamond; Andrei Kozlov, Alexei Frenkel
  • Dmitry Medvedev, Arkady Dvorkovich, Alexander Zhukov, Alexander Bach
  • FIDE Lausanne (Switzerland)
  • Ilya Levitov (co-author with Bareev of 'From London to Elista'), ST Development, Vladimir Solovyov

Combining this list with Google searches gave me a lot of background info about these same players. I'll share that info whenever I return to the broad subject of contemporary chess in 21st century Russia.

21 July 2010

FIDE Presidential Candidates and the World Championship

With the successful completion of the 2010 Anand - Topalov World Championship match, the confusing situation that I documented in Two Overlapping World Championship Cycles has finally been resolved. Where does the World Championship go from here?

Although it's too early to expect details about the 2010 Candidates Event, its qualifying event 2008-2009 Grand Prix just having finished in May this year, I had expected to have some information by now about the shape of subsequent World Championship cycles. The FIDE Calendar for the year 2011 lists 'Candidates Matches 2011; Baku, Azerbaijan /; 1-Mar-2011; 31-May-2011' (is something missing after the slash '/', like a second venue?), but there is no entry for a World Cup in December 2011 and nothing but junior events in 2012.

The last time I reported on FIDE's plans -- 2009 FIDE Executive Board : Whither the World Championship? (December 2009) -- I wrote that I had two main interests: (1) Successful completion of the two current cycles, and (2) Plans for the subsequent cycles. Assuming that the current, ongoing cycle ends in a title match sometime in 2012, what happens then? Given that we will have a FIDE election in a few months, what do the two candidates have to say about the World Championship? Here is an excerpt from Ilyumzhinov's site (onefide.com/achievements):

World Championship: A stable structure is in place for the World Championship cycles, through a system of Zonals, Continental Championships, Grand Prix, World Cup, Candidates Matches and the World Championship Match. The current system offers more opportunities for hundreds of players, around the world, to participate in high level official competitions, with prize money for all the events exceeding 7 million USD. Furthermore, it is a comprehensive system that produces the best player.

It's easy to take issue with the term 'stable structure'. Stable would mean two consecutive cycles run using the same format. FIDE hasn't yet been able to deliver a single cycle run using the structure announced at the beginning of that cycle. Here is an excerpt from Karpov's site (karpov2010.org/platform):

4.2) The World Championship. For well over a century, predating FIDE itself, the crown jewel of the chess world has been the World Championship. Few titles are as hallowed in the history of sport. Even a mainstream, non-chessplaying public that has heard little of chess in the past dozen years has an instant and profound respect and fascination with the game of chess and our champions. This invaluable mystique has been damaged greatly during the last 15 years, as attempts to randomize results and a failure to promote events has dramatically reduced the profile of world championship matches. We will lead the way toward rebuilding the World Championship aura that captivated the world when Bobby Fischer took the title in 1972 and when Karpov and Kasparov battled through five consecutive world title matches.

4.2.1) The world champion, the championship title, and the championship cycle will be promoted consistently and treated with respect. Championship events must be scheduled well in advance so that proper promotion is allowed. This is essential for any serious sponsor and for the players.

4.2.2) The world championship match, as well as the qualifying and candidates events that lead to it, must be accorded special attention and respect. This means, but is not limited to, scheduling candidates events to allow for promotion as well as for preparation and recovery by the players, and holding matches of sufficient length to produce victors who will be credible world champions.

Here it's easy to take take issue with this revisionist view of recent chess history. It's not that the World Championship's 'mystique has been damaged greatly during the last 15 years', which just happens to coincide with Ilyumzhinov's term as FIDE President. In fact, the 'damage' started in 1993 with the Kasparov - Short match. Furthermore, we don't have to go back to the 1980s with a goal of 'rebuilding the World Championship aura'. The four most recent World Championship events -- 2005 San Luis, 2006 Kramnik - Topalov, 2007 Mexico City, and 2010 Anand - Topalov -- all attracted considerable interest. As for 'scheduling candidates events to allow for promotion as well as for preparation and recovery by the players', the most glaring example was the 1998 Karpov - Anand match, where a well rested Karpov played a tired Anand who just a few days earlier had battled to success in the 1997 Groningen knockout matches.

Neither Ilyumzhinov nor Karpov seems to have any idea where the World Championship is going, so neither do I.

14 July 2010

2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Jermuk

Continuing with 2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Jermuk (Not!), where I ran into several technical problems trying to update my World Chess Championship site, I decided to barge ahead and discover if there were any other problems to be resolved. Fortunately, there was nothing too complicated and I finally succeeded in adding Jermuk 2010 to my page on the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix.

07 July 2010

2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Jermuk (Not!)

As preparation for this post I intended to add a crosstable for Jermuk 2010 to my page on the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix, but technology got the better of me. As I outlined on my main blog in a post titled How I Spent My Summer Vacation, I was forced to upgrade my laptop and ran into more than the usual number of upgrade glitches. It's been less than two months since my previous post on the prestigious series of women's events, 2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Nalchik, but it might be a while before I can do similar updates. The last successful update was documented in 2008-2009 Grand Prix, Astrakhan (an unrestricted, i.e. men's, GP event), dated 26 May 2010.

My procedure to create a crosstable is relatively straightforward. First, I collect the PGN game scores, usually from TWIC or from the official site. Then I extract the data from the PGN headers and feed it into a database. From the database I produce a formatted text crosstable which I transform into an HTML crosstable. The HTML crosstable is merged into the relevant page on my World Chess Championship (WCC) site along with explanatory notes. Then I upload the changed page and accompanying PGN to the WCC site.

The entire procedure takes less than an hour using a tool chain which has varied little since I first created the WCC site in 1997. The crosstables are nothing special to look at, but they sufficiently document the individual WCC events. I always compare my new crosstable with another version to see that it is accurate. When there are discrepancies, it is almost always due to an error in the PGN file. I correct these when I discover them and restart the tool chain.

That tool chain broke down when I tried to process the women's Jermuk event on my new laptop. First, I ran into a glitch extracting data from the PGN headers. Although I quickly discovered a workaround, I don't understand why the glitch occurred. It indicates there is a basic, underlying problem which needs further investigation.

More importantly, I ran into a major problem with the database. On my old laptop I used MS Access under Windows XP, but after checking the price of Access and the related suite under Windows 7 -- 'Microsoft Office Professional 2010 • What's included: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher • Suggested retail price: $499.99' -- I decided to give the competing OpenOffice suite a try. My initial vacation trials for the software were positive, but when I tried to use OpenOffice Database for a real job, I discovered that it was much further from MS Access than other OpenOffice software was from the corresponding MS package. I'm not yet convinced that OpenOffice Database can't do the job I need to do, but the learning curve will be steep.

On top of this I discovered that my trusty software to process PGN files is incompatible with Windows 7. While I'm sure that I can find a replacement, this will also take some time.

My first reaction to these problems was to run the tool chain on my old laptop, then transfer the new files to the new laptop. As luck would have it, I also ran into a glitch here. The network connection between my old and new laptops, which had taken considerable time to implement and which had served to transfer all of my personal files to the new laptop, suddenly decided that it didn't want to work anymore (WIN7: 'The network path was not found'). Of course, I could transfer the files using a USB flash drive, but this is getting far away from my original intention. My experience is that when multiple technical failures occur in reaching a goal, it's time to rethink the original goal.

While I'm rethinking, the crosstable and results can be found on the official site, Women GP - Jermuk. I assume they are also on other sites documenting the World Championship, like Wikipedia.

30 June 2010

A Pre-Match Interview with Anand

My previous post, Two Post-Match Interviews with Anand, featured two video interviews with the World Champion. At about the same time Chessbase.com ran a three part series on an interview conducted in December 2009 by Jaideep Unudurti. • The Delhi Interview with Viswanathan Anand: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Here are some excerpts that are particularly relevant to World Championship matches.

On Psychology:

Q: You are going [to Sofia] expecting a state of war?

A: I'm going to go there expecting anything. You have to be prepared for everything. I'm not expecting bad, I'm not expecting good. World championships are traditionally about bad-mouthing your opponent a few months before, press interviews, stuff we have seen for several matches already. That simply comes with the territory. Beyond that I don't want to focus on whether its going to be dirty or its going to be clean. We will be ready for anything but there are good rules and I expect FIDE to uphold them.

Q: Have you ever used psychological tricks?

A: No. This match I have to get ready and get ready for lot of these things. It is clear that the kind of match, where things are quiet, it's not going to be that sort of a thing. I have to get ready for it. Myself, I don't feel like I'm doing it, but always the question is to ask your opponent (smiles). It is my experience that in these areas you can start to see psychological tricks even when there are none. Because the tension in a match is so high that inevitably you feel that everything is being directed against you and vice versa. Matches are very special in that sense, they become very personal. I have no doubt that at the end of the match if you ask, both of us will say 'Yes, the other side did something'.

Q: Have people used psychological tricks against you?

A: Sure. Kasparov and the slamming door. In fact that is the only thing I really think I should have stopped at some point. For a while Karpov was trying to come late every game and try to get his time back on the clock. Couple of things like that. I've experienced it a few times. I would say the peak of these was the Fischer era, the Cold War era and the Kasparov - Karpov matches. I think subsequent generations generally let go of it. With Kramnik, we had a go at each other in the press. Before the match you get ready for it. Basically I didn't expect every day some door slamming or things like that (in Bonn).

On Opening Preparation: (See also my post on World Championship Opening Preparation in 2010.)

Q: For a match of this magnitude it would take 6-8 months of lead-time?

A: I think here again work expands to fill the time. If you have more time you can chortle away. You have to get the right discipline. When the match comes you stop worrying about whether you done enough and get on with what you have done. You can always feel incomplete and work more. I think there it depends on how much time you have for these things. In the 90s and so on match experience counted for more. And maybe having played earlier matches counted for more as you tended to have a lot of background material. A bank of ideas you used then. That you had for the match, didn't get to use and carried over. For instance, Kasparov when he was playing Short or me, he had notebooks full of ideas that he could draw on. Nowadays that cushion is vanishing much faster. Almost all the variations played in matches people soon explore in tournaments and catch up.

Q: For every game you have to remember all the openings, all the variations. Is your memory infallible or do you have black-outs occasionally?

A: You have lapses for sure. It's funny, you may remember every single thing. But if you don't remember that you remember that is also a problem. There are quite a lot of players who remember every single detail of their preparation but they are not sure that they remember. And the effect is the same as not remembering. Or not having analyzed. With the volume of information that is growing, that is clearly a challenge. It is something you have to keep a grip on. It is really the amount of information that is out there. A computer allows you to generate a hell of a lot of work and lots and lots of analysis. Then to remember all your conclusions very efficiently is a good part of what I would call peaking before the match.

Q: You don't have to memorize it, you just have to look at it, like a photographic effect?

A: Well, you try to remember what is important. It should make sense to you. It should fall into a picture. If it's like an exam and you remember this answer, this answer and this answer and the teacher has changed one or two details. It has got to fall into some sort of picture. What you can't remember you should be able to work out very easily. It is a mix between understanding, familiarity and memory. The junction of all three. You can't hope to remember everything either but clearly forcing yourself to do all the work at the board is suicidal in these circumstances.

On Match Length: (See also my post on Intermediate Scores as a Match Predictor.)

Q: You have played a 20 game match. Now it's down to 12 games. What are your thoughts on that?

A: I find it hard to imagine how people once upon a time played even 24 games. Not to speak of the ones which went to 32 and 48. I find them completely absurd. In our modern era that you can spend 4 months on something - it's beyond belief. I think, already, 12 games is the maximum. It shouldn't get any longer. In that era, especially between two Soviet opponents, they didn't really have to worry about spectators. Then again, interest in their country was very high so they managed. Nowadays to get two teams and put them in a city for months on end doesn't make sense to me. [...] Also with the amount of computers involved in preparation, to play 24 games I think is madness. So in our modern era we should be trying to make it shorter. 8 games is pushing it, for already the effect of one defeat becomes much higher. You fall a little bit behind and suddenly there are only so many games you can reverse it. You don't want a situation where one early game sets the course too strongly. So maybe 12 is an ideal compromise. I don't feel it should go any longer.

On Tiebreaks:

Q: The one important difference is that earlier the champion retained the title in the event of a tie. The challenger had to at least win one game more. Now you have rapid tiebreaks. How have the dynamics changed?

A: I think this system is fairer. Essentially the old system kept perpetuating itself on the basis that it was once unfair for the challenger so he should be compensated when he is champion. Almost all the privileges you could justify this way.

On the Schism:

Q: You mentioned the era of chaos [1993 to 2006]. Do you have any regrets that the bulk of your playing years was in this era?

A: No, it doesn't get you anywhere. In the years of chaos, I got onto other things, I had some good years. I got on with enjoying chess. In a non-clichéd way I think that's what really it's all about. Maybe that's why my desire in 2007 was so strong. In 2005 also I was motivated but it doesn't always have to happen ia the first instance. But in 2007 I was very motivated and I had a very good year. Maybe there was some pent-up hunger and you just leave it at that. I wouldn't say I never resented it. Maybe in 2002 I resented it a bit. But at some point it stops being an issue, you get used to it and you move on. Maybe a year or so it bothered me. [...] Between 2002 and 2005 there was no real chance to play for the title. Even before, 1995 to 1999 there wasn't a convenient way. Groningen – but you had Karpov with all these ridiculous privileges. So there was some time you lost. It pushed me. The second time I became world champion I was 37, which is late. It's just the way it is. I wouldn't say I am a late bloomer. Clearly I came very close to the world title at a much earlier age. That was simply the way it worked out. I became world champion at 30 which isn't too late.


Also relevant is commentary from Chessninja.com's They Give Interviews: Anand.

09 June 2010

Two Post-Match Interviews with Anand

From EuropeEchecs:-

Anand's Exclusive Interview (6:22) • 'The World Championship after the game'

Live Indian TV Show (7:41) • 'Anand answers by telephone on air!'

02 June 2010

2008-2009 Grand Prix, the Players

I added the 25 players who participated in the 2008-2009 Grand Prix to the Index of Players for all World Championship events. One player, Yannick Pelletier of Switzerland, was initially slated to participate but was dropped for organizational reasons. Although I didn't include him on the 'Index of Players', I'm not sure this is consistent with other events where players were unable to participate, notably the World Championship Knockout tournaments.

FIDE has added the overall results to the official page, FIDE Grand Prix 2008-2009 - Standings (grandprix.fide.com). On that page, many of the players, e.g. Radjabov, are listed with three events played rather than four. I'm not sure why that is. The FIDE announcement, Final FIDE Grand Prix Standings (www.fide.com), shows the same but includes a spreadsheet for download. If I find the time, I'll examine it to determine the reason for the discrepancy.

26 May 2010

2008-2009 Grand Prix, Astrakhan

I added the crosstable and PGN for Astrakhan 2010 (official site) to my page on the 2008-2009 Grand Prix. Although the overall results for the six events haven't been posted to the FIDE page -- FIDE Grand Prix 2008-2009 - Standings -- tentative results are available on the Wikipedia page, FIDE Grand Prix 2008-2010.

I'll add the players to my Index of Players as soon as I get a chance. Because of the many changes that occurred during the two years it took to play the event, I have to do a little research first.

19 May 2010

2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Nalchik

I added a crosstable for Nalchik 2010 to my page on the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix. The official site of the event, the third of six in the Women's Grand Prix series, is Women GP - Nalchik.

12 May 2010

What a Match!

I added the crosstable and PGN game scores to my page on the 2010 Anand - Topalov title match. What a fantastic match it was! Everyone associated with it in any way -- the organizers, the officials, the commentators, the journalists / bloggers, and, especially, the players and their teams -- deserves a warm congratulations and a hearty handshake.

Special congratulations to World Champion Viswanathan Anand! To overcome such an incredibly strong player as Topalov is no small achievement. And a special handshake to GM Veselin Topalov who showed that he is a superb fighter and one of the great champions.

My only regret about this match is that it did not reach the tiebreak phase. It would have been a special treat to watch these two masters of the chess struggle go head to head at increasingly faster time controls. Now we have to wait at least two years for the next match, Anand vs. ???, to see more chess at this rarefied level.

05 May 2010

FIDE Ethics Commission Judgement 04/06

I added the July 2007 statement of the FIDE Ethics Commission to my page on the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match. The section titled 'CHRONOLOGY OF THE FACTS' is an excellent, objective, third-party account of the events that came to be known as Toiletgate.

The original document published by the Ethics Commission can be found on Fide.com's Judgements by the FIDE Ethics Commission (29 August 2007) under the link 'Judgement 04/06'. A translation of Topalov's interview with a Spanish newspaper, the source of one of Kramnik's two complaints, is on Chessbase.com's Topalov: Kramnik will never admit that he cheated... (19 December 2006).

28 April 2010

Zonals 1978-81 & 1981-84

Continuing with More Zonal Resources, where I discovered that I had overlooked Informants as a source of clippings, I added events from four Informants to my pages on World Chess Championship : Zonals:-

Together with the first batch, these new clippings cover somewhat less than half of the new Informant references I have at hand. I'll tackle the rest as soon as I can.

21 April 2010

Anand - Topalov News Sites

Since the opening ceremony for the Anand - Topalov match takes place today, it's a good time to post a note on useful news sources for the match. First, there is the official site Anand-Topalov.com. Unfortunately, my reservations as to the site's impartiality and fairness that I expressed shortly after the site first opened (see Holding Your Breath) haven't decreased.

A glance at the site's home page reveals two news items -- 'Communication from the Organizing Committee' and 'Official answer of the Bulgarian Chess Federation' (BCF; I've circled the items with an oval) -- related to Anand's travel difficulties and his subsequent request for a postponement. Both items are negative responses by Bulgarian officials to Anand's request. The request itself is buried as an attachment to the BCF document.

A more balanced site would have presented one news item on Anand's struggle with the volcano's impact on travel followed by one with statements from match responsibles. Furthermore, both responses by the Bulgarians are as unaccommodating as they can be without being openly hostile. There is absolutely no sympathy shown to Anand for his travel situation, a case of force majeure that stranded many thousands of travelers around the globe and affected millions more. The Organizing Committee said,

This chess event has exceptional meaning not only for the chess community all over the world but also for Bulgaria as a country. Therefore the whole organization of this event is under the direct leadership of the Bulgarian Prime Minister - Mr. Boyko Borisov who is also the Chairman of the Organizing Committee.

There is not a word about the 'exceptional meaning' to Anand, who is World Champion and one of two central persons in this drama. Are Bulgarians such hard-hearted people that they react to Anand's trials without any note of sympathy? I don't think so. There are many ways to say 'No!' without being nasty about it.

If the official site continues with its unofficial bias, where can we go for unbiased news? Another site with strong ties to the Bulgarians is Chessdom.com. They frequently have news from Bulgaria before other sites, are less overtly biased, and have an index page with links to all stories related to the match:-

The site hasn't learned that good journalism requires reports to be dated, but we can always hope. A few other important news sites often have index pages related to major chess events, which are presently missing for the latest match (I'll add them if they become available).

Those last two are particularly interesting because they always have tons of comments by the game's keenest fans. Besides the main chess news sites, many good chess blogs will have informed commentary on all aspects of the match. The blogs I follow are listed on my Blogger Profile, also linked as About Me on the top right corner of all pages on this blog.

With all of that ace reporting to look forward to, it should be a real spectacle. Enjoy the match!

14 April 2010

More Zonal Resources

Thanks to a couple of tips from Massimiliano Orsi, a correspondent from Italy with an interest in the zonals, I added a few new images to my pages of zonal clippings. The first tip was for:-

The second tip was a reference to zonals in an Informant from the 1980s. I realized that although I had already noted many zonal references in old Informants, I had never checked them against my list of clippings. After developing the appropriate database query, I identified Informant references for missing clippings in an early cycle:-

I'll follow this up with subsequent cycles. It's always great to discover that other people are interested in the zonals!

31 March 2010

Holding Your Breath

I added the URL of the official site to my page on 2010 Anand - Topalov. Here are some of the most important regulations from the FIDE Handbook: 10. Rules & Regulations for the FIDE World Championship Match (FWCM) 2010.
2. Schedule

2.1 Match System: The World Chess Championship Match Anand - Topalov will consist of 12 games and if necessary, tie-break games.

3.4 Drawing of colors

3.4.1 The draw for colors will be conducted during the opening ceremony. The colors shall be reversed after game 6. (The player getting the white color in game 1 shall play game 7 with the black color).

3.4.2 For tie-break games, there shall be a separate drawing of lots conducted by the Chief Arbiter of the match.

3.5 Time control

3.5.1 The time control for each game shall be: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting after move 61 has been made.

3.5.2 The games shall be played using the electronic clocks and boards approved by FIDE.

3.6 Conditions of victory / Replacements

3.6.1 The WCM shall be played over a maximum of twelve (12) games and the winner of the match shall be the first player to score 6.5 points or more. A tie shall be broken according to Article 3.7 below. If the winner scores 6.5 points in less than 12 games then the organizer can re-schedule the Closing Ceremony for an earlier date.

3.6.2 If a player refuses to participate in the World Championship Match, he will be replaced as follows: GM Vladimir Kramnik replaces the World champion Vishy Anand and GM Gata Kamsky replaces challenger GM Veselin Topalov. In case any or both players refuse to participate when invited, the rating list of January 2010 will be used to determine their replacements.

3.7 Tie-breaks

3.7.1.a If the scores are level after the regular twelve (12) games, after a new drawing of colors, four (4) tie-break games shall be played. The games shall be played using the electronic clock starting with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move

3.7.1.b All tie-break games shall be played according to the following: 1. Play is governed by the World Championship Technical Regulations (annex 1), which apply with the exceptions mentioned below in (2), (3) and (4). [...]

3.7.2 If the scores are level after the games in Article 3.7.1a, then, after a new drawing of colors, a match of 2 games shall be played with a time control of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment after each move. In case of a level score, another 2-game match will be played to determine a winner. If still there is no winner after 5 such matches (total 10 games), one sudden-death game will be played as described below in Article 3.7.3.

3.7.3 If the score is still level after five matches as described in Article 3.7.2, the players shall play a one sudden death game. The player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the color. The player with the white pieces shall receive 5 minutes, the player with the black pieces shall receive 4 minutes whereupon, after the 60th move, both players shall receive an increment of 3 seconds from move 61. In case of a draw the player with the black pieces is declared the winner.

13. Prize Fund

13.1 The prize fund of the match, provided by the organizer, should be a minimum of 1,000,000 (one million) euros, net of any applicable taxes. The prize fund will be divided . 60% for the winner and 40% to the loser if the FWCM ends within the 12 regular games. In case the winner is decided by tie-break games, the winner shall receive 55% and the loser 45%.

13.2 The organizer shall pay to FIDE an amount of 20% over and above the total prize fund, net of any applicable taxes.

13.3 If the match is played in the country of one of the players, then the opponent shall receive 100,000 (one hundred thousand) euros from the Prize Fund. The balance of the Prize Fund shall then be shared in accordance to Article 13.1 above.

How much is the prize fund? From the official site, Veselin Topalov: Interview by Yuri Vasiliev for Sport Express:-

Q: I read, that that prize fund sets a record for all World Chess Championship matches, barring the so called 'rematch of the 20th century', Fischer - Spassky [1992], where 5.000.000 US$ were at stake.

A: The prize fund in our match is 2 million Euro – about 3 million US$ - but if Anand would have made even a minor attempt, it could easily go over 5 million. India is a vast market and Anand is very popular in his homeland. But the World Champion preferred that someone else does all the work and even play the victim. 'Well, you see, I prefer not to play in Bulgaria, but there are no other options.' We were prepared to play in India half the games or even the whole match, but Anand didn't make even the slightest effort to arrange anything about this. Even 3 million US$ aren't bad at all, if we remember Kasparov being ready to play his matches – against Shirov, Ponomariov or Kasimdzhanov – for a mere 1 million and no sponsor was found for any of them.

Topalov has been widely criticized for those remarks about Anand and they are certainly inappropriate on the official site. I would have thought that after Kasparov's record with the GMA, PCA, WCC, and Braingames (am I missing any?), top chess players had learned that they should stick to playing, not organizing.

The last World Championship match where Topalov was involved, the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match, aka Toiletgate, left chess with a nasty stench. Let's hope that the Anand - Topalov leaves us holding our collective breath in suspense, not our noses in disgust.

24 March 2010

Botvinnik Rules

Throughout 'My Great Predecessors II', Kasparov was critical of limitations placed on Soviet players in the qualifying cycles of the 1950s and 1960s. He wrote the following in the chapter on Botvinnnik (p.186; I've left out details about individual circumstances).
[In 1958] there began a spell of bad luck and vexing failures in Bronstein's career. The cause of this was largely the Botvinnik initiated limit on the representatives from one country (i.e. the USSR) in the Candidates tournaments: not more than five out of eight were allowed.

In the Interzonal tournament in Portoroz 1958 there were six qualifiers, but the four Soviet grandmasters were fighting for only three places (since Smyslov and Keres were already in the list of Candidates), and willingly or not they were forced to play keeping an eye on one another. Both [Bronstein] and Averbakh missed out by half a step.

He was to suffer an even crueller stroke of fate at the Interzonal in Amsterdam 1964, where five Soviet grandmasters were fighting for the same three places. Another to suffer was Stein, who fell victim to the 'Botvinnik rule' for the second consecutive time.

It was effectively on account of this unjust restriction that two such splendid players as Bronstein and Stein missed out on the battle for the World Championship. Their replacements in the Candidates events were not of equivalent strength and it is clear that, with their participation, things at the top of chess could have turned out differently.

Alas, few now remember these human dramas. But meanwhile they reflected the unnatural situation that existed in chess in the 1950s and 1960s, when many of the best grandmasters, occupying most of the places in the world's top 30, had no opportunity to participate fully in the World Championship qualifying cycle -- for the only reason that they were Soviets.

Some will retort: but with this limit, fighting spirit was strengthened and only the very best made it to the top -- that is by the laws of Darwinism, the strongest survived. But just think how much nervous energy it cost these world-class stars to battle among themselves for the right to squeeze through the eye of a needle. And how it must have been to recognize that you are stronger and have occupied a higher place, but it is another player who will go through. Were not these unhealed spiritual wounds one of the causes of the untimely death of Leonid Stein?

(That last sentence deserves special attention, but it takes me too far from the subject at hand; this is not the right place to address it.) In the same chapter (p.215) Kasparov linked the 'Botvinnik rule' with the right to a return match.

In 1956, soon after Smyslov's second victory in the Candidates tournament, an event occurred that was to have a strong influence on the entire modern history of chess: FIDE granted the World Champion the right to a return match. The decision was adopted together with the aforementioned 'Botvinnik rule', and also not without the participation of [Botvinnik] (I should remind you that his friend Ragozin was a FIDE Vice-President).

Although earlier, in the late 1940s, in his plan for the contesting of the World Championship, he had rejected the idea of the return match, since 'it's organization would disturb the periodicity of the system, and in the interests of chess this must not be allowed', and he had gained the right for a defeated champion to play a match-tournament with the champion and the challenger three years later (this FIDE rule operated in the 1951 and 1954 matches).

The inescapable conclusion is that Botvinnik was behind both the limitation on Soviet players and the return match because these rules gave him better chances to retain his World Championship title. While I have no particular argument with this conclusion, I still wonder to what extent the 'Botvinnik rule' was a consequence of other federations' fears of Soviet collusion, as described in Collusion and Consequences. Perhaps it wasn't really a 'Botvinnik rule', but rather Botvinnik seeing personal advantage in a rule favored by the other chess federations.

In 'Predecessors IV' Kasparov dismissed the idea that Soviet collusion was responsible for Fischer's mediocre showing at Curacao in 1962. 'At that moment Bobby was not yet ready to win such a tournament -- irrespective of whether or not there was such a pact. Averbakh: "If Fischer could have beaten the Soviet grandmasters, as was to happen later in the early 1970s, no amount of draws would have been able to stop him."' (p.300). In other words, to win against collusion, a player had to be significantly better than the Soviet opposition. Tightly contested tournaments would always favor the Soviet bloc.

FIDE implemented matches to eliminate collusion in the Candidate tournaments. Was the primary objective of the earlier 'Botvinnik rule' to eliminate collusion in Interzonals rather than to favor Botvinnik?

17 March 2010

St.Patrick's Day = Maintenance

Today I corrected a number of minor errors which I discovered recently. In the crosstable for the 1959 Yugoslavia Candidates Tournament, I placed Gligoric before Fischer, because the Serb had a better tiebreak than the American (though unofficial). After doing this, I noticed that the 1962 Curacao Candidates Tournament was missing tiebreak completely, so I started a new TODO list.

In the story Vincenzio the Venetian, I mentioned that the name 'Retszch', as spelled in the source, should in fact be 'Retzsch'. Now the page will be found in any search on 'Retzsch'.

After that, I made various PGN corrections brought to made my attention over the past few years. They can be found by looking for the date of this post in Index of /chess/pgn. Thanks to everyone who flagged the PGN errors.

10 March 2010

The Threat of Collusion

In a previous post on the 1952 Interzonal, Collusion and Consequences, I speculated about qualification into the subsequent Candidates event: 'I'm not sure why Reshevsky and Euwe were seeded into the 1953 Candidates Tournament, although it makes sense that it was because of their participation in the 1948 FIDE Title Tournament, won by Botvinnik.' After a little more investigation, I determined that this was indeed the case and then documented the various reasons for qualification on the pages for that cycle: 1952 Saltsjobaden Interzonal and 1953 Zurich Candidates.

As for any collusion in the 1953 Candidates Tournament, I found the following in Chess Review, November 1953 (p.323):

[Reshevsky] entered the tournament not at all certain that the nine man Russian "syndicate" would be overly concerned with "bourgeois" standards of sportsmanship. At Saltsjobaden there had been undeniable collusion by the Russians in a move to freeze out Western competitors. Might not the same tactics be repeated at some critical stage in the present struggle if it became expedient to throw collective support to the Soviet candidate whose prospects had crystallized above those of his fellow Russians? Regarding this possibility, the Australian Chess World remarked in a pre-tournament issue that "we fear the Russians would put patriotism above the canons of sport, as at Saltsjobaden, and make things a bit easier for the top Russian."

While Chess Review has no evidence that such collusion was either planned or practiced in Switzerland, the ever-present threat operated as a mental hazard that could not but adversely affect the play of the Western group. An indication of the peculiar Russian mentality on this point is seen in the intransigent attitude of Ragozin, official spokesman for the Russian delegation, during an interview with the American journalist and master, George Koltanowski. When George started to ask a question beginning, "If a non-Russian were to win this tournament..." Ragozin brusquely interrupted: "Nyet! Never! Impossible!"

Why players of the calibre of Reshevsky, Najdorf, Gligoric and so forth should be ruled out summarily is difficult to see, even if we grant the undoubted capabilities of the Russian stars. Was Ragozin merely voicing a personal opinion as to the probable outcome? Or was he expounding an official a priori dogma that no non-Communist will ever be alowed to win a challengers' tournament if the Russians, by hook or by crook, can possibly prevent it?

Another ugly (and rather astonishing) blot on the tourney, according to information received from one of Chess Review's observers on the scene was the unabashed consultation by the Russian contingent -- "flagrant coaching from the sidelines ... and tips passed from one Russian player to another during games".

Despite the lack of 'evidence that such collusion was either planned or practiced', the threat was as strong as the execution, at least for the editors of Chess Review. The article went on to mention that Reshevsky played the event without a second, which certainly didn't improve his chances of succeeding.

03 March 2010

Cumulative Scores

In Chigorin Stumbles at Hastings 1895, I developed a new database query that generated a table showing the round-by-round progress of the leaders at Hastings 1895. It's a useful tool to identify the critical games in a round-robin (all-play-all) event.

I liked the concept so much that I used it to generate a similar table -- I call it a 'Cumulative Score' -- for each of the following World Championship events...

...i.e. the first FIDE World Championship and the five candidate events covered by the study that I criticized in Calculating Collusion.

The cumulative score for the 1948 FIDE title event, where play was divided between The Hague and Moscow, is shown on the left. The three character codes at the top of the table are abbreviations for the five players who participated in the event: Botvinnik, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, and Smyslov; the blank cells (e.g. Botvinnik in Rd.1) show who had the bye in a round; and the dark horizontal lines show the end of each round-robin stage and the beginning of the next.

The 1948 event didn't appear to be particularly suspenseful. Botvinnik took the lead during the first stage, never relinquished it, and was assured of first place after the 22nd round. There was, however, a tight battle for second place, where Reshevsky missed his chance by losing in the 24th round (to Botvinnik).

A cumulative score is useful for understanding first person narratives like that by Keres in 'Grandmaster of Chess - The Complete Games of Paul Keres' (p.295). It started,

In the spring of 1948 I went to Holland in order to contest, at long last, the highest chess title in the world. For various reasons Fine declined to participate and so this left five of us to embark on this momentous conflict. From the very first rounds a fierce struggle developed and this continued right to the very last games. I began the tournament with two wins, against Euwe and Smyslov, but then lost in the ensuing rounds against Reshevsky and Botvinnik and at the end of the first tour I stood equal with Smyslov in third and fourth places.

About the third stage he wrote,

I came to within 1.5 points of Botvinnik and now everything hung on our individual encounter. In the event of a win I would come to within half a point of the leader and the issue of the tournament would be once again wide open.

This deciding encounter had a most complicated and exciting course and constituted a stiff test for the nerves of both players. Out of a complicated middlegame I succeeded in evolving a position of the most promising kind. Then, however, I failed to utilize my opportunities to the best advantage and the scales tipped over in Botvinnik's favor. Then there ensued a whole series of inaccuracies committed by both sides and when the game was eventually adjourned a double Rook endgame with an extra Pawn for Botvinnik had arisen.

When play was resumed Botvinnik did not find the best line and a Rook ending resulted that should have been easily drawn. But the vicissitudes of the game were by no means ended. Both sides conducted the game imprecisely and it was I who made the last mistake. By the time the second adjournment came Botvinnik had an easily won position and I suffered a bitter defeat. With this win Botvinnik had in practice ensured for himself victory in the tournament since with only eight more games to be played he already had a lead of 2.5 points.

The cumulative score indicates that this was the game played in round 15. Keres' description of its 'vicissitudes' is hard to reconcile with conspiracy theorists who claim he was under orders to let Botvinnik win the tournament. Keres' account also shows that the event was more suspenseful than the crosstable alone would indicate.

24 February 2010

Calculating Collusion

Continuing with the series on Soviet collusion in the 1950s and 1960s (see the previous post Solutions to Collusion), in 2006 Charles C. Moul and John V. Nye, both university professors in economics, published a study of the subject: Did the Soviets Collude? A Statistical Analysis of Championship Chess 1940-64.
Abstract: We expand the set of outcomes considered by the tournament literature to include draws and use games from post-war chess tournaments to see whether strategic behavior is important in such scenarios. In particular, we examine whether players from the former Soviet Union acted as a cartel in international tournaments - intentionally drawing against one another in order to focus effort on non-Soviet opponents - to maximize the chance of some Soviet winning. Using data from international qualifying tournaments as well as USSR national tournaments, we estimate models to test for collusion. Our results are consistent with Soviet draw-collusion and inconsistent with Soviet competition. Simulations of the period's five premier international competitions (the FIDE Candidates tournaments) suggest that the observed Soviet sweep was a 75%-probability event under collusion but only a 25%-probability event had the Soviet players not colluded.

Of the five Candidate Tournaments in the study -- Budapest 1950 through Curacao 1962 -- the Curacao event has always received the most attention, largely due to Fischer's public accusation of Soviet cheating. It was, however, the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament where collusion, if it occurred, caused the most damage to the chances of the non-Soviet players, Reshevsky in particular. Moul and Nye's findings for the event are summarized in the following table.

Focusing on the line for Reshevsky, the authors wrote, 'Our calculations indicate that he had a 27% chance of winning a fair tournament. With collusion, his chances fell to 8%.' As convincing as these numbers might be, the result is flawed, relying, as it did, on the Sonas Chessmetric historical ratings. On several occasions in the past I've taken issue with Sonas's results when they failed the test of common sense. This is another case.

The last column in the table ('No cartel: % win') is based on the 'Rating' column, as calculated by Sonas. The top three ratings are Reshevsky (2780.99), Smyslov (2764.92), and Najdorf (2753.04), which is the first red flag (the six digit accuracy is also suspicious, but I won't dwell on it). The authors infer from these ratings that 'Retroactive grading has shown that Reshevsky was the favorite going into the 1953 Candidates' tournament.' While he was certainly one of the favorites, I can't imagine that many chess historians, after examination of the games between the two players (Vasily Smyslov vs. Samuel Reshevsky, Chessgames.com), where the post-WWII results give a +4-0=9 advantage to Smyslov, would argue that Reshevsky was stronger than Smyslov in 1953.

The second red flag concerns four players bunched within a range of three rating points -- Bronstein (2723.87), Boleslavsky (2722.33), Stahlberg (2721.93), and Keres (2721.02) -- implying that Stahlberg was the equal of Bronstein, Boleslavsky, and Keres. A look at the historical record shows that Bronstein drew a title match with Botvinnik in 1951, that Boleslavsky drew a playoff match with Bronstein after the 1950 Candidates, losing only in tiebreak, and that Keres finished tied with Reshevsky in the 1948 title tournament. Stahlberg finished behind Bronstein and Boleslavsky in the 1948 Interzonal (Keres was exempt) and behind all three in the 1950 Candidates; had a lifetime negative score against each of the three; and finished 15th and dead last in the 1953 Candidates, 3.5 points behind second-to-last Euwe (Bronstein and Keres finished tied with Reshevsky for 2nd-4th). Stahlberg was an excellent player, one of the West's best at that time ('among the world's best ten for a few years around 1950', according to Hooper & Whyld), but he was not at the same level as the three Soviets.

Why are the Sonas calculations so misleading? My theory is that they fail to account for the Soviet era social barrier ('Iron Curtain', anyone?) between Soviet players and Western players. Soviet players rarely played in Western events and Western players were even rarer participants in Soviet events. The two groups played in different, almost separate chess universes. A comparison of their performances requires a calibration of the separate calculations, using the few events where they actually met. It is as though the Soviets were measured with a meterstick, the Westerners measured with a yardstick, and no one bothered to check that the meterstick and the yardstick were the same length. I also suspect that Sonas overlooked many Soviet events. Moul and Nye wrote,

[The Sonas] rating does require a minimum number of observed games to construct. Games without Sonas chess-ratings for both players are dropped from the sample. While this leads to the omission of a few Interzonal games, the vast majority of dropped games are from URS championships. These omissions will presumably drive up the average observed skill of Soviet players in URS championships, and thereby make our comparison to FIDE events even more compelling.

I have a problem with that last sentence. Because the 'dropped games' would be predominantly wins by the better players, and the kept games predominantly draws between players of equivalent ability, I would presume exactly the opposite. Near the start of their paper, the authors wrote,

For the purposes of econometric analysis, chess has numerous advantages which are not common in other sports. [...] Most important of all is that there exists a rating system which is a precise and accurate reflection of the performances of players and which is an excellent indicator of the relative strengths of players.

This prerequisite was not delivered by the Sonas system. There might have been collusion among the Soviet players, but it is not shown by this study.

17 February 2010

More Zonal Clippings

I added a number of clippings for zonal tournaments. The first, for a Canadian championship, was sent to me via email. This sort of correspondence is always appreciated, thanks very much!

The rest are screen captures from the Rusbase page on Soviet era Zonal Tournaments.

My next step on the zonal project will be to create pages for clippings on cycles after 1993-96. I expect to find many of the crosstables already on the web.

10 February 2010

Solutions to Collusion

The previous post, Collusion and Consequences, discussed pre-arranged games at the 1952 Saltsjobaden Interzonal. A few months after the tournament ended, an editorial in Chess Review (March 1953; 'edited and published by I.A. Horowitz'; p.65), presented a Western point of view on the Soviet collusion. I initially planned to give excerpts, but the document makes a number of points relevant to the early evolution of the World Championship, so I give it in entirety.
Syndicate Chess

Russian chess is an instrument of Russian national policy. The government supports an elaborate program of chess activities. Clubs and leagues are organized: competition is subsidized. Chess is taught in the grade schools, with various phases, such as mating with King, Bishop, and Knight, a required subject in each grade. Players are encouraged and, if successful, they are suitably rewarded. In return for this paternal interest, Russian masters must produce. They must win every trophy, title, match, and tournament in sight. They have to show the world that, although the game of chess is one of the two or three things which they have not invented, the Russians, nonetheless, are its most capable exponents.

By and large, this activity has been of benefit to chess. For example, a large number of great players have been developed. The Kremlin cannot supply an individual with talent. But, once they see he has it, they make it possible for him to realize his chess potentialities.

The government, however, is not selfless in its policies. What it wants is for its players to bring it an unbroken string of international successes. The game of chess itself is only a Pawn. The best interests of chess will be sacrificed any time that the bureaucrats in charge of it see the slightest gain in doing so.

The Russian players are good. Very good. They are sometimes not in form. But, when they meet Western players, they are always at their best.

They are soldiers in a war; they are the standard-bearers of Soviet culture. Any time a Russian master is permitted to show his face in the international arena, he must be at concert pitch. He is bound to be in the pink, physically and mentally. He is certain to be armed with all the latest weapons, both offensive and defensive, of opening analysis.

Since they are modern soldiers, they have lots of service troops. In the World Championship tournament, the Russian representatives -- Botvinnik, Keres, Smyslov -- arrived at The Hague attended by a large contingent of auxiliaries. It included, among others, a doctor, a cook, and a most impressive panel of eminent analysts. Such kibitzers as Kotov, Flohr, Bondarevsky, Alatortsev, Lilienthal, Tolush, and Ragozin worked on the adjourned positions. Or, if Euwe or Reshevsky, the non-Russian competitors, found an innovation in an opening, they would devote themselves to finding its refutation.

The Soviet grandmasters also have an additional advantage. Russia controls the meetings of the FIDE -- the Federation Internationale des Echecs. It has the titleholder, plus a disproportionate number of the world's leading players. Thus, it needs the other countries less than it itself is needed. It has a strong position, and no false scruples stop it from making the most of it. Then, in the second place, most Western chess federations are chronically short of funds. Consequently, there are times when they may neglect to send representatives to meetings. Moscow, on the other hand, fills its entire quota of delegates. So do its assorted satellites. What is more, the Western nations (such of them as do attend) cast their ballots as individuals. The communist states always vote as a bloc. They are therefore able to dictate the time and place, conditions and even the composition of any tournaments which have a bearing on the World Championship.

In themselves, none of the above actions are culpable. In fact, some are even meritorious. It is clearly good for chess to have strong, brilliant players and to have them playing profound, exciting and beautiful games. Insofar as Russian policy produces such players and such games, all of us who love chess are their very grateful debtors.

Alas -- let us face it. We expect a successful football coach or big-league baseball manager to make use of every angle, edge, percentage, or advantage. One or two are even known to occasionally push their weight around. We are not used to anyone treating chess as if it were of a similar importance. If the Russians choose to do so, they are strictly within their rights. We have no right to begrudge them their successes.

Still -- we can't help feeling worried.

Some time later in the year, a large tournament will be held [1953 Zurich Candidates]: its winner will then play Botvinnik for the title. A small number of Westerners and nine -- nine -- Russians will be the competitors.

We are worried by this tournament.

We want it to be won by the best player in it. Or, at any rate, the one who is playing best at the time. We hope that this will be Reshevsky. It it happens otherwise -- if another player wins it -- we will not feel too tragic. We are ready to salute him -- no matter who he is, no matter what his nation -- provide that he wins it fairly.

The Russians have a different attitude. They do not care who wins -- or even how he wins -- just so long as he's a Russian!

But each Russian player is an agent of his state. He is thus allied in a common purpose with the others. This is supposed to be a tournament of individuals. Each player in a tournament is supposed to play his best against each of the others. Then, and only then, is it possible to tell which one is the best among them. But the nine Russians in it form a unit of their own (and the Hungarian, Szabo, may be counted on this, too). They play as a team: a syndicate.

Just how this works was shown in the recent Interzonal tournament at Saltsjobaden [1952]. In it were five Russian competitors. Their own Soviet periodicals have always heaped scorn on so-called "grandmaster draws". In their own all-Russian tournaments, they go in for an aggressive, battle-royal type of chess. At Saltsjobaden, however, such games did not suit their purpose. The members of the Russian syndicate, when they came to play each other, calmly called each game a draw, after 16 to 22 moves!

In this coming tournament, the Russian group will constitute more than three-fifths of the entries. Each of them will play about three-fifths of his games against his team mates. The way in which he plays these games will be determined by what suits Soviet interests. If after several rounds, it seems that no Western player has a chance to win the tournament, we may get an honest contest. If, on the other hand, it should turn into a duel between Sammy Reshevsky, and, say, Vasily Smyslov, we are sure that no Russian will venture to beat Smyslov and thus make him lose the prize.

In this observation, we have mentioned but one hazard. There are others. For example, in a gruelling tournament, a day of rest is an incalculable asset. And, in such a duel as we have suggested, we can be sure that Reshevsky would have to work to the utmost against every opponent, Westerner or Soviet. Whereas, if Smyslov should have rigged games or even routine draws, he would be freed of the strain of tournament tension and resting through the majority of his games. As freshness and alertness count so heavily in chess, this factor cannot be disregarded.

We are casting no aspersions. In the Soviet ideology, the state is paramount. If the Kremlin, for some reason, wants to win a prize at chess, it is then the player's duty to help it get it. If this requires winning, he has to try to win. If it requires losing, he must do his best to lose. According to Soviet lights, he is doing nothing bad. In fact, if he did not do so -- he would then be anti-social. When we hint that Russian players may throw games to one another, we are saying nothing slanderous. Rather we are paying them a compliment. We are saying that Soviet chess players are very good Soviet citizens.

Our sense of ethics is different. A tournament which is rigged fills the Western chess lover with nausea.

Our game has always cut across national boundaries. It should continue to do so. If the Russian chess players play as chess players, then it's proper to have nine, or even more, in a tournament. If they play as Russians, it is a dangerous thing to have even two of them.

We think that the sensible thing is to have two tournaments: one for Western players and another for the Soviets. Let the winners play each other -- and the winner meet Botvinnik.

We are sure the Russians won't agree. We will have to reconcile ourselves to playing the tournament on their terms.

In that case, all we can hope is that unpleasantness can be avoided. That a Russian will get such an early that his allies will feel it safe to play fair and scrupulous chess. Or -- even better -- that some Western player, some Samson like Reshevsky, gets into an inspired streak and wins, in spite of all the machinations of the Soviet Philistines.

Despite a dubious premise or two (I'm not sure that chess was taught systematically in Soviet elementary schools) and an unsubstantiated charge of game throwing ('if it requires losing, he must do his best to lose'), I think it makes a good case that the chess board was not a level playing field for Reshevsky. By introducing matches instead of round robin tournaments, the imbalance was solved satisfactorily for the Candidates. It was solved less satisfactorily for the Interzonals by limiting the number of Soviet players advancing to the Candidates. This led to unforeseen consequences for the Soviets.

03 February 2010

Collusion and Consequences

One of the small tasks in last week's post about Catching up on Maintenance was to review the earliest Interzonals. This led me to an interesting report from the November 1952 issue of Chess Review (p.323) concerning the 1952 Saltsjobaden Interzonal Tournament, which was the qualifier for the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament:
Soviet entrants made a clean sweep of the top five places, which qualified them to take part in the World Championship Candidates Tournament of 1953 to determine the next challenger for the world title. Seeded in this coming event are Samuel Reshevsky of the USA, Dr. Max Euwe of Holland, and the first five players in the Candidates' tournament of 1950 -- D.Bronstein, I.Boleslavsky, V.Smyslov, and P.Keres, all of Russia, and M.Najdorf of Argentina.

A noteworthy circumstance in the Saltsjobaden affair was the pacific attitude of the Russian players toward one another. All games among them were drawn! Kotov, for example, who fell with fury upon most of his non-Russian rivals, was content to play the shortest possible "grandmaster draws" with his compatriots: vs. Averbach, 20 moves; vs. Geller, 15 moves; vs. Petrosian, 15 moves; vs. Taimanov, 17 moves. Since Kotov proved to be the class of the tournament, a sterner attitude on his part toward the other Russians might well have enabled an "outsider" to squeeze into the charmed circle of qualifiers.

The two-tiered Soviet dominance is highlighted in the following portion of the 1952 Saltsjobaden page that I just referenced.

Of the ten games played between Soviet opponents, only Taimanov - Averbakh was longer than 22 moves. This apparent collusion had a number of consequences. The Chess Review report continued with the following news item.

Our Stockholm correspondent, Z. Nilsson, reports that a FIDE committee meeting in February [1953] may add to the World Championship Candidates Tournament qualifiers from the Saltsjobaden event. Four contenders tied for the fifth and last qualifying place and though Averbach qualified on S.B. points, the tiebreak was extremely minute [numbers are shown on my page]. The fact, moreover, that Averbach's place completed an all-Russian qualification and puts nine Russians to three non-Russians in the Candidates Tournament, very likely was considered.

I'm not sure why Reshevsky and Euwe were seeded into the 1953 Candidates Tournament, although it makes sense that it was because of their participation in the 1948 FIDE Title Tournament, won by Botvinnik. Chess Review added an item about Reshevsky.

Hermann Helms reports in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that Samuel Reshevsky, declaring the 9-3 setup in favor of Russians is inequitable, is unwilling to play in the 1953 World Championship Candidates Tournament for which he is seeded. He is willing to meet any of the leading Russians in straight match play, as he has done with Najdorf and Gligoric, but his challenge to Paul Keres, the Soviet Champion, has brought no reply so far. It hardly seems possible that the addition of three Candidates (one from Communist Hungary) will alter Reshevsky's stand.

I suspect that the 1952 Interzonal and 1953 Candidates Tournament were the origin of later FIDE rules that limited the number of Soviet players advancing from an Interzonal to a Candidates event. With the goal of documenting the findings on my various pages specific to the results of these events, this is worth further investigation and I'll spend a few future posts on the subject.