Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Value of Old Material 2

If a chess player wants to improve, then an excellent thing to invest in is a chess magazine or periodical. Finding the right one for each players needs and tastes can be quite challenging, and there is no universally good publication. A regional magazine is always good to subscribe to. This will give news about players and events that are familiar to you, and you'll be contributing to the local cause. Then there are the premier publications, such as New in Chess and Chess Informant. I used to really like New in Chess, but I have not enjoyed their format, or material recently .Informator is somewhat heavy, but has a wealth of great material for someone prepared to work. There are also online sites nowadays where chess can be followed in magazine format, such as Chessbase, or Chess24. I do visit these sites regularly, but I've always been more a fan of printed materials.

I grew up in England and so my local magazine was the British Chess Magazine. I have bought this over the years, but I started by going to my local library which stocked the BCM in their periodicals section. The material was diverse and their was anecdotal, and opinion pieces, as well as tournament reports and game analysis. I was never really too much into problems, though the BCM had an excellent section on these compositions, but I enjoyed the endgame studies which was written for a long time by the great British composer Charles Bent, and was then taken over by another great composer, John Beasley (I was looking at the BCM much during Bent's time). These writers would bring the whole world of study composition alive with stories of composition tournaments, cooks, and portraits of great chess study composers. I was looking through an old BCM (January 1978) and saw this great endgame study, reminding me a little of a study I showed a few weeks ago.

White to play and draw
I saw this and immediately thought about the Bron composition and leaving my opponent with 2 knights. However, this study involves a different technique to draw, which I'll post in a few days time.

In the same January 1978 BCM, the English chess historian Ken Whyld looked at some ratings data that has been created by Sir Richard Clarke who among other things in his notable life, devised the English ratings system in the 1950's. Clarke used data to rate players retroactively so as to compare players strengths from different era's. Whyld then used this rating data to try to formulate a list of the greatest tournaments from 1862-1960 (in modern times, Jeff Sonas has done similar work on his site chessmetrics). Whyld ranked the following tournaments as the strongest up to 1960:

Above FIDE Category 15 (average rating 2625+):

AVRO 1938
World Ch Tournament 1948
Budapest Candidates 1950
Zurich Candidates 1953

FIDE Catoegory 15 (average rating 2601-2625):

St Petersburg 1895-6
New York 1927
Garmisch 1937
USSR Absolute Ch 1941
Amsterdam Candidates 1956
Bled Candidates 1959

These were the 10 strongest according to Whyld, who actually listed the top 100 tournaments up to 1960. He did mention some notable omissions from the list, such as Carlsbad 1911. London 1922 and Hastings 1895, writing "The method of classification is rather against events with large numbers of competitors and weakish tails." We all might have our favourite tournaments in chess history, but the parlour games of comparing them seems to have been around for a long time! Sonas, for instance uses other formula to classify tournaments, and for him, Hastings is the third strongest of the nineteenth century, only behind Vienna 1882 and London 1883, though he gives Hastings a higher FIDE category than both that would put it in Whyld's top 10!

(My Australian friends might be interested in a reported win for Australian David Parr at the Guernsey Chess Festival in October 1977. Parr came equal 1st while another Aussie, Max Fuller was in the group half a point back. No games of Parr or Fuller were published in this magazine, but I'll keep searching for bits of interest to Australians)

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