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    Wednesday
    Apr202005

    I've Moved: Here's the New Blog!

    The new blog is up! It will be a while before everything is just exactly perfect, but it's up and running and has new content. Here's the URL: http://chessmind.powerblogs.com.

    Thanks very much to all my loyal readers, and I hope you'll join me at the new site. Don't forget to bookmark it too, and to invite all your friends for what will hopefully be an even richer journey into the blogosphere.

    Tuesday
    Apr192005

    Patience, Please

    With the university semester winding down (with LOTS of grading to do), my setting up the new blog and with a new and unexpected 4/1-related matter to address, I'm unable to engage in as much blogging as I would like at the moment.

    For those of you needing your chess fix, however, I can heartily recommending taking a look at this week's newly-released Chess Cafe columns. Noting my favorites, Nikolay Minev's "Double Mates" offers a diverse collection of tactically lively games and fragments resulting in double-check mates; Karsten Müller continues his examination of "Capablanca's Theorem" (the claim that in the endgame queen & knight are stronger than queen & bishop); and Ivan Markov presents the ten best games from Informant 91.

    That should keep everyone sated for a few hours!

    Tuesday
    Apr192005

    Of Interest on the Web

    Some or all of these may have already caught the readers' eye, but if not, here's a second chance!

    First, as I suspect almost everyone has heard, Garry Kasparov's retirement has let him escape any danger from an attack on the chessboard but not, alas, an attack from a chessboard (-wielding thug). Click here for the story and some comments by the man himself.

    Second, part two of Mig's interview with Kasparov has been posted on the ChessBase news page (part 1 can be found here, while the third and final part awaits posting).

    Finally, IM John Watson is an author whose books (particularly his solo efforts) tend to be excellent, and he's a fine book reviewer as well. After a long layoff, his latest batch of reviews for TWIC can be found here.

    Sunday
    Apr172005

    Fischer-Kovacevic

    In the comments to my "More Fun with Pachman" post, BabsonTask and a subsequent anonymous poster note that Fischer's ethically dubious assistance to Sanchez was (more than) recompensed by what happened to him in 1970, against the Yugoslavian IM Kovacevic.

    The story, according to Mike Fox and Richard James, in their The Even More Complete Chess Addict, is that Fischer has made his move, setting a trap in what is an objectively bad position, and has gone for a little walk while awaiting his opponent's move. Viktor Korchnoi and Tigran Petrosian are watching the game see the trap and discuss the solution. Petrosian's wife is there too, and as her hubby is trailing Fischer in the standings, she actually walks over to Kovacevic and whispers the solution to him! Kovacevic plays the right move and crushes Fischer, though the latter went on to win the tournament by a two point margin even so.

    As far as I know, the source of this anecdote is Korchnoi, and in light of his long-time enmity towards Petrosian, it's possible that the story is bunk. Further, while Kovacevic's 18th move was a nice one, it wasn't beyond the capacities of a strong IM, later a GM, to find such a move. In any case, here's the game:

    Fischer,Robert James - Kovacevic,Vlatko [C15]
    Rovinj/Zagreb Zagreb (8), 21.04.1970
    [Monokroussos,Dennis]

    1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 dxe4 6.Qg4 Nf6 7.Qxg7 Rg8 8.Qh6 Nbd7 9.Ne2 b6 10.Bg5 Qe7 11.Qh4 Bb7 12.Ng3 h6 13.Bd2 0-0-0 14.Be2 Nf8 15.0-0 Ng6 16.Qxh6 Rh8 17.Qg5 Rdg8 18.f3

    Black's position is beautifully coordinated for a kingside attack, and if White doesn't do anything special Black will roll him off the board. White's last move is a nice try: he's hoping to shut down the Bb7's diagonal (pre-f3, Black threatened, among other things, some combination of ...Nh4, ...e3 and ...N/Bxg2) and to open the f-file for his own use. 18...e3! This keeps the f-file closed, and now, despite the two pawn deficit, Black's attack is unstoppable. [18...Nh4 looks crushing: the queen moves away, and then 19...exf3 destroys the White kingside. However: 19.fxe4! Rxg5 20.Bxg5 puts a stop to Black's attack, and after 20...Nf5 (forced) 21.Nh5 Rg8 22.Bxf6 Qf8 23.Rf4 Ne3 24.Ng3 the position is unclear.; 18...exf3? 19.Bxf3 is clearly better for White, as Black has serious problems along the f-file.] 19.Bxe3 Nf8! 20.Qb5 Nd5 Not just hitting e3 and c3, but cutting the white queen off from the kingside. 21.Kf2 a6 22.Qd3 Rxh2 23.Rh1 Qh4 24.Rxh2 Qxh2 25.Nf1 Rxg2+ 26.Ke1 Qh4+ 27.Kd2 Ng6 28.Re1 Ngf4 29.Bxf4 Nxf4 30.Qe3 Rf2

    Black is threatening 31...Nxe2 32.Rxe2 Rxf1, 31...Ng2 and 31...Bxf3 - too much! 0-1

    Sunday
    Apr172005

    I Was Right!

    In my post "Naming and Contingency", I wrote the following:

    "To take a relatively recent and prominent example [of an unjustly named variation], the ...Qb6xb2 line in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf deserved to be named after Bobby Fischer if any variation did, but apparently it came to be known as the "Poisoned Pawn Variation" when some journalist during the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match asked about the opening and was told that Fischer had snatched a poisoned pawn."

    Victor Reppert commented to say that this story was mistaken: "The term 'poisoned pawn variation' was around long before 1972. I'm old enough to know." I replied in sackcloth and ashes, attempting to blame Edmar Mednis's book How to Beat Bobby Fischer, but reporting that a friend's search came up empty.

    It turns out that I was right the first time; my mistake was only having my friend look at game 61 in the Mednis book (Spassky-Fischer, game 11 from their 1972 match). I subsequently recalled that Fischer lost on the White side of the variation to Geller in 1967, and then went in search of a local copy of the book to see what Mednis said in his notes to that game. Voila:

    "There is no knowledgeable chess person who does not give Fischer full credit for making 7...Q-N3 [DM: That's 7...Qb6 for the descriptive notation-illiterate out there. While algebraic notation is vastly superior to descriptive, it does behoove at least Americans to be "bilingual," as there are many outstanding, inexpensive old chess books - many published by Dover - whose only "flaw" is that they are written in descriptive. Reading it will most likely be transparent to you in a week or two, and meanwhile you'll have acquired some great books dirt cheap.] playable. After a few brief sorties in the middle 1950s, Black's debacle in Keres-Fuderer, Goteberg 1955, dissipated all confidence and interest in it.

    "Until 1961, that is, when Fischer resurrected it against Parma at Bled. His never-ending stream of contributions and discoveries, analytical and practical, have clearly imparted his name to 7...Q-N3. Yet what is its name? Unaccountabley, for over 15 years it had no name, just something like 7...Q-N3.

    "This changed, for the worse at that, in the summer of 1972 when in the 7th match game against Spassky, Bobby played 7...Q-N3. Immediately after 8...QxP [DM: 8...Qxb2] the phones rang at the Marshall Chess Club in New York: various radio, TV, and newspaper people wanted know what call the variation. A reply that it had no name obviously wasn't satisfactory. So someone (let him remain nameless) after some seconds of contemplation (media people are in a hurry) came up with "Poisoned Pawn Variation." And that's what it is called today.

    "What a horrible appellation! It utterly slights the real discoverer, and is also inaccurate for there is no clear proof that the QNP [DM: b-pawn] is actually poison. It may be too late to do anything about it (the power of the media, etc.), yet I propose the following accurate, understandable short name: 'Fischer's QNP.'" (Edmar Mednis, How to Beat Bobby Fischer (New York: Bantam Books, 1975), p. 201 [paragraph breaks added].)

    Mednis was a friend of Bobby's, possibly there at the time of the aforementioned phone call(s), and writing less than two years after the fact (the first edition of the book came out in 1974); Victor, are you sure you're right? Maybe it was sometimes jokingly called the "Poisoned Pawn," but not in any sort of official way pre-1972. In any event, I'm glad I remembered the Mednis book correctly, even 17+ years after I last went through it; as for the truth of the matter, I'll have to defer to my elders and those with pre-1972 volumes featuring the variation.