Saturday, February 06, 2016

What a Crockett VII

Exit Crockett.

Do read, as suggested, his own statement, for its entertainment value alone. Among the various nonsenses, we can find one comment at least which I think I can endorse without qualification:
It hardly needs saying that I cannot remain in post as Controller of the Grand Prix or be eligible for any of the Grand Prix section prizes while these allegations are being made.
It hardly does.

But as we know, this is not a situation that dates from 27 January, when the first in this series of pieces was published. It dates from October 26, 2015 when Mr Crockett was first named in the English Chess Forum thread which put the controversy in the public domain.

Mr Crockett was put in post after that time. I can't find any official notification of the appointment: it's not in the latest board minutes, for instance, nor can I find any specific notice on the ECF website. Given the circumstances - given that the controversy was already public - it surely was a most remarkable appointment. For precisely the reason that Mr Crockett gives.

[Entirely anonymous comments will not be accepted on this series of articles.]

[What a Crockett index]

Friday, February 05, 2016

Les Chesseurs Britanniques de Paris: Part 2 The Opposition

The first part of this series introduced the British Chess Club of Paris that was founded in 1926. It remained active until the declaration of war in 1939 brought the curtain down on much chess activity both at home and on the continent (a story told in several episodes starting here), until things got back to some kind of normality after the defeat of the Axis in 1945. The last reference that we have found to the BCCP in the British and French chess press was in 1938.

Perhaps it is worth noting however, that just as the war didn't bring a complete halt to British homeland chess, it appeared to stagger on in France too. So, although the Paris championship was suspended in 1939, by 1942 it was contested again, with Henri Reyss - who we mentioned last time as a BCCP member - playing in 43 and 44 (the latter in May, Paris was liberated in late August). The championship of France was suspended in 39, resumed in 1940, and Reyss played in the 1941 edition, and finished 3rd in 1942. Otherwise le Championnat de France went right through, only suspended again in November 44 consequent on the disruption of the Liberation. (Thanks to Heritage des Echecs Francais for all that).    

Back with the BCCP, in the decade before the war: one of its first steps, in late 1926, was to affiliate to the French Chess Federation, and in this episode we will look at the Club's impact on the Parisian chess scene, in which it played its part - with moderate success.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

What a Crockett VI

I was pleased to read this.

What precisely it means may not be entirely clear, but I'd hope to be reading it right if I assume that somebody will finally be looking into the curious case of Stephen Crockett - which, when all is said and done, is all these pieces have been asking for.

I'd also hope that from here on, suspicious sequences of results will be reviewed as a matter of course, as proposed in that same English Chess Forum thread that first brought to my attention the name of Stephen Crockett.

This would be a vast improvement over the previous system of looking the other way, not to mention the recently-adopted procedure of responding to complaints by making the individual complained about controller of the Grand Prix.

That appointment kind of complicates things a bit, but still, better something than nothing and better late than never.

That said, if only somebody had done this five years ago. It might have saved an awful lot of fuss and bother later on.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

What a Crockett V

Congratulations to Stephen Crockett

who has returned to the circuit and picked up second prize in the Nottingham Rapidplay, under-135 section

outpacing twenty higher-graded players to do so.

[Crockett I, II, III, IV]
[Entirely anonymous comments will not be accepted on this series of articles.]

Monday, February 01, 2016

Chess goes to the Movies: Two Classics

Before I get going, may I issue a quick reminder to some of our readers that we have a deal.

That said, here’s the From Russia With Love chess scene. As usual with movie-chess there are problems - demo board operators shouting, players moving the pieces with one hand and pressing the clock with the other, Kronsteen’s announcement of check (you really really want MacAdams to respond with a Milesian "Ah yes, so it is") - but wouldn’t it be great if "International Grandmasters Championship Match Finals" (ahem) really were played in venues like this one?

Second on our Double Bill, The Thomas Crown Affair. This may or may not be based on a real game - the continuity is all over the shop so it’s impossible to tell - but it certainly doesn’t feel  as authentic as the Bond clip.

Criminal plays chess with law enforcement is a bit of a cliche now, but it perhaps was less so back in the late 60s when the film came out. In any event Faye Dunaway’s character (Vicki Anderson) isn’t actually police and she is, as you’ll have noticed, a woman which makes it a little different.

With McQueen’s unorthodox resignation, it’s hard to watch this scene and not see the influence on The Manic Street Preachers video which came out five years ago.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What a Crockett IV

Considering the question of the 26-losses-and-a-draw sequence suffered by Stephen Crockett, whose curious playing record we have been looking at this past week, it occurred to me that we have a precedent in a story many chess players learn soon after they learn the moves. It's described on Wikipedia as the "wheat and chessboard" problem. I'm sure most readers know how it goes.

Sometimes it ends well, sometimes it doesn't.

Now in our current example, nobody is calling for anybody's execution, while controller of the Grand Prix isn't quite "a high-ranking advisor", but let us perform our own version of the problem, just to get ourselves a starting-point figure to work with.

It is, as I say, a starting-point figure, no more than that, so to obtain it, I've taken it that we wish to calculate the probability of a random player1 obtaining such a score in a twenty-seven game sequence2 against evenly-matched opponents.3 I've neglected the question of colours and I've chosen to estimate the probability of each result as follows:

Win 40% Draw 20% Loss 40%.

Obviously the reader is welcome to employ different values and thereby obtain a different result.

A different result, that is, from 1.37 billion to one.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What a Crockett III

In the previous two pieces in this series we've been looking with scepticism at the playing record of Stephen Crockett, four-time Grand Prix champion and winner of numerous tournaments, recently retired from the circuit after questions were asked about the integrity of his results, yet nevertheless recently made controller of the very same Grand Prix.

It's only fair to observe that, following his own announcement of his retirement, he's made some effort, on his Facebook page, to provide an explanation of some of the more remarkable features of his record and to rebut charges of sandbagging. This is recorded in comments he himself has made to this posting. For the convenience of readers I have provided copies of these comments at the foot of this piece.

Mr Crockett plays down the possibility of sandbagging by observing that there is no meaningful financial incentive, in amateur circuit chess, in fixing one's own results to one's disadvantage.
The first thing to understand about the idea of 'sandbagging' is that chess would be one of the most pointless sports/games to do it in on the whole- as regrettably there just isn't any significant money to be made in it apart from at the top level (in the UK at least). The only way anyone could get a significant financial advantage from losing games on purpose would be if given one off bungs to lose a game (not common as there's no gambling on chess apart from at the very top), or for someone who was in the 'second tier'- i.e. a very strong/titled player who would struggle to win much in tournaments with super Grand Masters but could hope to take home a sizeable pot from being eligible for a grade restricted but still extremely strong- stars barred type tournament.
This is no doubt the case, although at the same time, it's not an argument that applies to a player of Mr Crockett's real or apparent strength. The point that follows, however, addresses his situation more directly.
Some people talk about graded sections lower down in chess and wonder if people may want to lose on purpose to keep in a lower section than they should do- but that's largely a red herring- there simply isn't any money in it (the costs of entering to and travelling to tournaments usually outweigh the prize money even if one is lucky enough to win the section not to mention the costs associated with all the fruitless trips you'd end up making while losing games!)- the only occasional time I could see this happening is if someone enters ay 2 or 3 local/big events which do have decent money on offer in a year and doesn't otherwise play a lot and could easily lose a few league games to 'manage' their grade.
This is the same argument as in the preceding passage - "there simply isn't any money in it" - and it's as true as it's irrelevant. Why would the motive of an amateur who cheats necessarily be money? Moreover, if our only motive is money, why would we play in the first place, since "there simply isn't any money in it"?

In reality people have all sorts of motivations for trying to win, be they some kind of glory, self-satisfaction, the admiration of others and many other things. Where those motivations exist for winning, they exist also for cheating. People do, in fact, cheat in amateur as well as professional competitions.

So if you see no reason for cheating, other than money, then you are really not looking very hard. As a rebuttal it doesn't even make it out of the starting gate.

The major part of Mr Crockett's explanation is more serious.