The Fabulous 10s: Playing Celebrities Online

Today I played the real Roger Federer in a 5 minute game.  How do I know?  Because his name was RogerFederer and also because of the way the game went!

Aries2 vs Roger Federer  ICC 5 Minute Game  5/1/10

Sicilian Sveshnikov

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 Nxd5
8. exd5 Nb8 9. c4 Be7 10. Be2 O-O 11. O-O f5 12. c5 a6 13. cxd6 Bxd6 14.
Nxd6 Qxd6 15. Qc2 Nd7 16. Rd1 Nf6 17. Be3 Rd8 18. Rac1 f4 19. Bc5 Qd7 20.
Bb6 Re8 21. d6 e4 22. Qb3+ Qe6 23. Bc4 {Black resigns} 1-0

The defeated foe

Tennis analysis:

I smashed his return into the deep right corner; (12. c5!);  he ran after it and tried a feeble lob (18…f4) which I then smashed cross-court (21. d6) leaving him flailing.

And Over At Chess.Com

A historical brouhaha has broke out.  GM Serper wrote an instructional article on the Veresov (1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5) and up pops “Prestwich” (ostensibly from Spain, or he likes Spanish flags) who writes:

“[…] To call the opening 1 d4 d5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bg5 the Veresov is unhistorical and forms part of the legacy of Soviet intellectual imperialism. Although played earlier, this opening owes its development as part of modern chess to the “Hypermodern” players Breyer, Reti and Tartakower. The latter, a super-GM of his time, in particular deserves to have his name associated with this opening: Megabase has 19 games of his with it, the earliest played in 1922 (when Veresov – born 1912 – was probably still in short trousers) and the last in 1951. Many other strong players have a better (or equal but prior) claim than Veresov to have their name associated with this opening, notably the German IM Kurt Richter (a brilliant attacking player) who popularised the opening in the 1930s; books from that era usually called this Richter’s Opening. Megabase contains 21 of his games with it, the first in 1928. To compare, Veresov has 23 games with it in Megabase, the first in 1938. A further injustice was done to Richter by the Soviets, who named the popular Sicilian line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 after their player Rauser, yet much of the early development and testing was done by Richter.”

I don’t know how much of this is correct, but I think it’s easy to dispute the notion that Tartakower was a “super GM of his day”.  I think Tartakower was more of a coffee house player, extremely vulnerable in tournaments, who lost many one-sided games.  And is “unhistorical” a word?  I’ve heard of “Maoist Revisionism”, but this?


An ICC message I received: Protocol (23:01 10-May-10 EDT): Bill Hook, Captain of the championship Washington Plumbers team in the inaugural season of the National Chess League, winner of the first board individual gold medal in the 1980 chess Olympiad, author of Hooked on Chess, died May, 10, 2010.

I didn’t realize Bill Hook was so much into NYC coffeehouses, penny-ante gambling, and so on.  It was all revealed in his book!  I was into them… a generation or one and a half generations later!

Bill Hook and the Washington Plumbers

Click several times to enlarge.

Some classic personalities in this photo. Starting from left, masters Sam Greenlaw and Robert Eberlein helped out in key matches. Third from left, very strong master Charlie Powell scored a clutch win (figuring out immense complications in severe time trouble) vs Jack Peters in a semifinal round. Next to Charlie is team captain, BVI’s own Bill Hook. Next to Bill is one of the Meyer brothers, John Meyer. Next to John is senior master Larry Gilden with his hand in the plunger, a player with one of the highest ratings in the country in the early 1970s. As Charlie Hertan writes recalling 1972, “Senior masters were very rare in those days, and except for national tournaments like the U.S. Open or fledgling World Open, you wouldn’t expect to see more than one, sometimes two, at a weekend event. Larry Gilden was usually the top-ranked player, with a “monster” rating of about 2410.”

And for Something Different


Canadian IM Lawrence Day


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7 Responses to “The Fabulous 10s: Playing Celebrities Online”

  1. coelacanth Says:

    Help, help! I’m being oppressed by Soviet intellectual imperialism!

    Anyhoo, I dunno … the following site suggests Tartakower was a pretty good player (3d in the world at his peak):

    My take is that Tartakower was extremely talented, but somewhat too inconsistent and eccentric to hold his own with the very best. He would have been a terror in Swiss-system tournaments, I bet, by racking up huge scores against weaker players who wouldn’t know how to respond to his style. If that’s “coffeehouse,” well, then coffeehouse ain’t such a bad thing.

    This chessmetrics link provided above is precisely why I disagree with chessmetrics algorithms (whatever they are). They produce results like this! In any given year, one can *easily* name a bunch of players stronger than Tartakower! As an exercise, let’s pick a year and go ahead and refute chessmetrics. It won’t be hard. I made the mistake of clicking on the link and got brain damaged; it said that Tartakower was 2719 (what???) and Spielmann, an opponent he beat in a match, was 2716 at the time of the defeat (what???). These numbers are ridiculous and have no bearing on a 2700 of today. They don’t even make sense in historical context. Tartakower, a guy who routinely got bad positions out of the opening, was a journeyman! In that sense he was similar to Marshall – dangerous, but extremely vulnerable. Would you call Marshall, somebody who got annihilated in the Capablanca match, also a 2700?

  2. coelacanth Says:

    Hmmm … ever read “Moneyball?”

    No…. what is it?

  3. Dannibals Says:

    Tartakower was basically the Mark Hebden of his day. Makes non-grandmasters look like putzes but completely inconsistent against the top guys.

    American players wouldn’t get this reference. We could get “Kamran Shirazi” or “Emory Tate.”

  4. Phil Adams Says:

    Great blog Mark!

    In the 1920s the general opinion (as can be seen from the magazines of the time, plus the invitations lists to the top events) was that there was a tiny elite group of three: Alekhine, Capablanca and (still) Emanuel Lasker, who were clearly a class above the next group, which included Nimzowitsch, Bogoljubow, Spielmann,Tartakower, Vidmar and Reti of the then younger generation, and the slightly older Maroczy, Marshall and perhaps Janowski. If the term “super-GMs” had been in use at that time, these were surely the ones who would have been regarded in that category.

    It is undeniable that there was a certain lack of solidity and consistency about Tartakower, but he was a great talent, and later a major influence on Bronstein.

    Mark, I notice in an earlier blog item that you were dismissive of the credentials of Arnold Denker for the GM title; I think you should reconsider. He won a very strong US Championship in 1944 and you only have to look at his performance in the great Groningen 1946 event to see that he was of GM class. See

    Regarding Soviet “intellectual imperialm”, this is a well known phenomenon. During the Cold War period the Russians claimed to pioneered all sorts of scientific inventions and this extended to the chess openings! It is revealing to compare the nomencature of an edition of Modern Chess Openings from say the 1940s with an equivalent book in Russian from the 1950s.

    I’m OK with the “Benko Gambit” although Benko wasn’t the first but he was by far the strongest and elucidated the gambit versus top opposition. I’m OK with “The Veresov” because I think Veresov would have utterly destroyed Richter in a hypothetical match (although Richter had more games in the database and they were not too far apart in time). In short, if the second was much stronger than the first and they are not too far apart in time, some latitude is permitted!
    As for Denker’s Groningen 1946, I looked at the crosstable. Besides a big upset win over Szabo, his wins were versus journeymen Guimard and O’Kelly and a very old Ossip Bernstein. This was a surprisingly weak field of 20 players. Denker did a lot for chess (altriusm, donations) and this, I think, was the main factor in his (I presume) honorary GM title. The Groningen result, placing middle out of 20, I would guesstimate at being about 2450 tops. Of course, in those days, things were a lot more qualitative.

  5. Phil Adams Says:

    Thanks for the considered reply Mark. First, apologies for the typos in my last note. Well, we’ll have to agree to differ I guess. I do get the impression that on the whole you tend to underestimate the strength of these old guys! I look at Groningen 1946 and see a pretty strong event, the first such after WW2. All the players Denker faced barring Lundin, Kottnauer, Steiner and Christoffel were, or became, GMs, and I think he performed creditably in that company; draws with Botvinnik and Smyslov are not to be sneezed at, and he should have beaten Euwe! In the USA he could never really cope with Reshevsky (who could in those days?), but he had around 50% against Fine out of 7-8 games, including a great win in the decisive game of the 1944 US Championship. His book of best games is a good read by the way.

    Richter vs Veresov? We’ll never know, and it’s not very easy to compare, since Veresov rarely played outside the USSR, whereas Richter was able to play in some international events, drawing once with Alekhine and beating Keres for instance.

    Well, best wishes, and happy blogging!

    Did you play over McKelvie – Denker (another blog post)? Do you think Tartakower was 2700-plus?
    Chess was very unscientific and if we had to describe most guys, it would be “hit or miss” – many good players of the day being hopelessly lost after the opening stage. In the Groningen tournament, Ossip Bernstein (while probably a nice guy) was nowhere near GM strength.

  6. Dannibals Says:

    Richter didn’t really even invent the Richter-Rauzer. He just wanted to play e5 like a maniac. Rauzer actually came up with the Qd2 0-0 and make black’s life in the Classical Sicilian hell idea which is why 6. Bg5! is usually called the Rauzer. Hell the entire Classical Sicilian is often just called the Rauzer as his idea so dominates the theory of it. He also did most of the work on the Yugoslav Attack. The Sicilian would be a much scarier place for black if he hadn’t starved to death during the Siege of Leningrad.

    Rauzer has a rightful spot as the first bust in the great hall of Sicilian bashers which contains Tal, Kuprechik, Andrei Sokolov, Shirov, Larry C, Nunn, and many others.

    Also, I used Mark Hebden in comparison to Tartakower as Shirazi and Tate are just maniacal psychotic attackers. The ginger Tate is probably Simon Williams, though Williams is stronger than Tate ever was and has done notable things like mate Ivan Sokolov on the board as black while falling down drunk, 55 minutes late, and moving instantly.

    Mating a world-class GM trumps the Canadian IM who fell asleep drunk at the board and when woken up urinated on the board. Postscript: didn’t England (as a collective society) invent “beat up a Ginger” day? Is Simon afraid? I wonder who invented that day, John Nunn?

  7. gossip Says:

    LOL. I like the chess/tennis game. That’s hilarious!

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