25 July 2017

2017 CJA Award Entries

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

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

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


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

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

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

24 July 2017

The First USCF Rating List

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

A National Rating System Planned To Cover Local And National Events
By WILLIAM B. [sic] BYLAND
Vice-President, United States Chess Federation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCING THE RATING SYSTEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montgomery Major

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

23 July 2017

From EBTH to EBAY

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

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

The description said,

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

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

09 July 2017

Napoleon and Josephine Biscuit

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

The description said,

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

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

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

07 July 2017

No Monkey Business Here

Is this a drawing or a photo?


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

It's neither. The description said,

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

The tags said,

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

and of course,

chess board

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

06 July 2017

Browne: 'I got this aggression that never quits'

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


Sports Illustrated, 12 January 1976

The article starts,

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

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

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

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

04 July 2017

July 1967 'On the Cover'

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


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

Chess Life

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

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

Chess Review

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

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