Friday, December 28, 2007

Vortex and Pulverizer Each Won With White

In round 11, Vortex scored an impressive win against Variant Pulverizer. Recall that Pulverizer was originally named "Variant Shredder", which was not a name that Stephan Meyer-Kahlen, author of the Shredder chess engine, was happy about. After a few emails back and forth between Stephan, myself, and the author of Pulverizer, an agreement was worked out.

But the strong performance of Pulverizer had many people wondering if it was not really based on the Shredder code? Apparently it is not, it is just a very strong first generation Gothic Chess program.

We welcome the competition, and eagerly await to see how it will do against H.G. Muller's new Joker80 Gothic Chess program.

The Round 12 Pulverizer vs. Vortex game took an ominous turn when I noticed a disturbing trend: Vortex would frequently need to extend the time searched near the end, going over on many moves, letting white get a big lead in time. Pulverizer pressed every advantage, and when Vortex finally thought it could equalize, this proved to be an illusion.

I must say the time management code of Pulverizer is very impressive. Once it had an edge, it moved faster. When Vortex counter-attacked, it start using its surplus time very wisely, taking longer when needed, and moving quickly when obvious recaptures were mandated. In the end, it mercilessly ran the clock out on Vortex in a position that was more than advantageous for it.

Pulverizer is a very strong program, and one to watch out for in the future!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pause In The Action

Just so all of the programmers know, Round 7 was completed. We are now at the "intermission", halfway through the tournament, and programmers are working on updating their programs. I have asked the Martillo programmer to send the games along with his results, which he has not done yet. (NOTE: He sent in some games with incorrect PGN moves in the move list, so I cannot show the games until he corrects this!) I also asked him to STOP running the tournament until these games have been sent in, and until the programmers have updated their software.

Games will resume 1 week from Tuesday with the round 8 pairings.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Incidental Remark

It should be noticed, that this tournament now seems to be performed with double speed compared to the scheduled intended playing dates. I welcome this, because we all are interested in having its results more early. Thus I have to thank the organizer for this acceleration.

There is a small question left about SMIRF's games. I have tried to replay the Vortex meetings. Even when the timing is hardly to be reproduced, the occuring evaluations of SMIRF should be matching. Therefore I presume there is a small difference caused by selecting a cache size of 128MB for SMIRF instead of the intended 256MB. Even if this should be not that relevant, I suggest to chose the latter doubled value for the remaining games, it would be nice.

Thank to all involved people for making possible this GothicChess event.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Contest: Win a Free Copy of Gothic Vortex

I have decided that the ChessV versus Gothic Vortex game is so complex to analyze, that I am having a contest. Whoever anotates the game the best, as judged by me, will win a free copy of the same version of the program used in the 2007 Gothic Chess Computer World Championship.

Here is the link to the game: ChessV vs. Gothic Vortex

Grading system:

"Points" will be given for:

Tactical correctness of lines
Demonstrating relevant variations (keyword: relevant!)
Writing sytle
Strategic insights and summary of objectives

If you have never annotated a game before, read over some of the comments I have posted, and see if you can make similar remarks about the germane aspects of a given position. Since all posts will be recorded chronologically, the earliest poster will get credit for the lines/variations that might be "copied" in later posts. This should not discourage later posters since you might be able to find something wrong in their posts, or use it to build on more relevant descriptions.

You can start.... now! Good luck, and may the best annotator win!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Vortex 2.2.3 Destroys ChessV with a mate in 27

The Vortex vs. SMIRF mate in 28 was a "middlegame mate" -- SMIRF played the opening well and Vortex found a tactical strike to end the game abruptly. The Vortex vs. ChessV mate, while only mating one move faster, is much more impressive, and is appears to be tactically motivated right from the opening!

Here is a link to the complete game:

Gothic Vortex 2.2.3 vs. ChessV

1.d4 g6 2.Nh3 Nh6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Nc3 Af6? 5.Bg5! Axd4 6.Ni5! Kg8 7.Nxj7!!

At first glance, Nxj7 looks to be a blunder, since both Rxj7 and Nxj7 appear perfectly playable. But after 7...Rxj7?? white has 8. e3!! which strikes at the Archbishop with the pawn and it also reveals the Queen on d1 to strike at the Rook now on j7. With 7...Nxj7 the same type of tactic awaits, since Bxi7 will entice the Rook to move, e3 will prompt the Archbishop retreat, and as before, the Queen will have Qxj7 which will now threaten the Rook which will have moved to i8 most likely.

The game continuation was even more interesting...

7...Nxj7 8.e3 Ae6 9.Bxi7 Ac4+ 10.Cd3 Nc6 11.Bd5

ChessV is suffering from the "horizon effect" described by Dr. Hans Berliner decades ago. It cannot see how to get out of the mess, so by playing Ac4+ it will "postpone" the diaster two more plies, effectively pushing the danger out of its own principal variation. Vortex searches further and sees the danger is real.

11...Axd3+ 12.cxd3 Bxc3 13.Bxj8 Bxb2 14.Rb1 Cd6 15.Qxj7 Cxd5

You need a scorecard to try and figure out who has what...

It is now white to move, and you expect 16. Rxb2 next, having white pick up the hanging Bishop. But Vortex uncorks 16. h4!! which sets up an Archbishop mate with Aj4 and Ah6 if the threats are not dealt with immediately!

16.h4!! Bh8 17.Aj4 Cf5 18.e4 Ch5

From here the threats have finally culminated to the point of execution.


The point: Black can't recapture with the pawn or else Ah6 is checkmate!

19...Bg7 20.Bh6 Bc3 21.Qj5

Vortex had announced mate in 7 with its last move.

21...f5 22.Ai5 Kf7 23.Qxh7+ Ke6 24.Qxg6+ Bf6 25.Qxf5+ Kf7 26.Ag6+ Kg8 27.Qj5#

Another tremendous game from Gothic Vortex.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vortex vs. SMIRF, the final position

The final position: checkmate on move 28.

Vortex vs. SMIRF, black to move after Ad2!

With the white queen on d1 under attack by black's archbishop on c3, white plays Ad2! in this critical position. If black takes the white queen with the archbishop, a viscious attack begins with Bxh6+!

Vortex vs. SMIRF, view from the operator console

From lower left to upper right: The SMIRF program (on screen), Gothic Vortex (on screen), Richard Pariseau (top left) and his opponent, Vinko Rutar is crouching looking at something at the top towards the right, and Dan Heisman is turning towards the camera as the photo is being taken.

Vortex vs. SMIRF at the Main Line Chess Club

Ed Trice operating the computer for Gothic Vortex vs. SMIRF, round 2.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

One of the coolest things about Tornado...

One of my favorite things about Tornado is the cool startup screen that flashes while you wait for the program to load. Tornado is named after the horse in The Legend of Zorro, and his programmer shows this cool looking screen at startup. One of the things I did not realize that was in Tornado I found out at Thanksgiving over my parents' house. I installed Tornado on my father's computer to test the new version. I don't have speakers on my computer, but my father's system does. Apparently whenever Tornado captures an enemy piece's knight, it lets a wild horse's whinnying sound rip through your speakers in an eerie echo. It reminded me more of Ichabod Crane's encounter with the Headless Horseman's steed from Sleepy Hollow.

It has a menu to turn this off, and I guarantee it would give anyone a jolt the first time they hear it!

This new version of Tornado got revenge over TSCP Gothic with a victory as Black. What was surprising was how TSCP "developed its Rook" to j3 after pushing a pawn from j4 to j5 to j6 on consecutive moves. I have noticed this beavior before from TSCP, and it is most unusual. Even more strange, TSCP was able to "predict" some moves by Black that I thought where unlikely, namely 17...Ab4, 18...Qa5 and 19...Ng6 back to back to back. (I just wasn't looking for a combination based on moves of this sort.) It amazes me that programs that are so different occasionaly agree on subsets of their principal variations, especially those that don't seem to be likely candidates to a human.

I will post the game later, as well as some pictures.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Round 2, Zillions 2 vs. fmax4, Draw in 9 moves!

With remarkable brevity, the new version of fmax4 and Zillions 2 concluded their game in only 9 moves with a 3-fold repetition draw!

Zillions 2 vs. fmax4

With the Vortex-SMIRF game ending rather quickly, and with a new copy of fmax freshly installed, I decided to see how it would fare against Zillions. The game began in the style of the Gothic Queenside Petroff that is somewhat popular with new Gothic Chess programs. Then, fmax allowed the d5 pawn to fall, but it could have won the d4 pawn in upcoming moves with gain of tempi.

With the search not being deep enough to see the regain of the pawn, it could only see the "0" score of the repetition draw by continuing to chase the white Archbishop. Zillions 2 did not risk placing it anywhere other than on f3 and d5, so the draw was achieved on move 9!

Round 2, Vortex vs. SMIRF, 1-0

Gothic Vortex vs. SMIRF, 1-0

Tonight's Gothic Chess game featured an interesting demonstration of the fully debugged version of Vortex, coupled with its new King Safety Heuristics and extended depth searching. Click the link above to replay the game.

The first six moves for White were in its opening book, and from the database of games I see this has been played a total of 14 times in the 7,214 games of Gothic Chess I have collected. Nothing extraordinary, just common moves in familiar territory.

Things get interesting in a hurry: After 11. Bg5!? Axc3 Gothic Vortex is down a pawn, as shown in the top diagram. However, white is already castled with all of its minor pieces developed with the Archbishop well positioned. Black is uncastled and would castle directly into a pending attack if it elected to do so with the likes of ....O-O Bxh6! ixh6 weakening the pawn structure irreversibly.

After 11...Axc3 black's Archbishop is threatening the white Queen on d1 and the Chancellor on e1. It appears white will go down this new Gothic Exchange (Chancellor for Archbishop once the Queen vacates d1) but Vortex uncorks 12. Ad2!!

The Queen is not en prise since 12...Axd1?? 13. Bxh6+ ix6 14. Axh6+! would be mate if the Chancellor could not intercede with 14...Cg7. White is presented with the luxury of not having to win back The Gothic Exchange right away since the Chancellor is now pinned by the Archbishop, so black's Archbishop is captured at once, with the Chancellor coming off on the next move.

The SMIRF program saw the threats after it searched ply 10, and it wisely avoided this whole line.

12...Axd2 13. Qxd2 Kg7 was played, and now black's king is not well defended.

Vortex deployed its Chancellor, having already completed a normal development with a king that is immune from threats, then it moves its pieces ever closer to the enemy king. It views white as being better, although down a pawn the entire time.

The shocker comes with 18. Nh5+!! giving up the Knight while still down a pawn, yet showing a score of +4.85 pawns. This is shown in the second diagram. SMIRF's score drops into the negative range, and the permanent damage is done.

Vortex announces mate in 8 with 22. Be4! after only 20 seconds elapsed for that move. A flawless game by the new Gothic Vortex.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

fmax4 replaces Martillo in Gothic Chess Computer Championship

Due to technical difficulties, fmax4 has replaced the Martillo program in the 2007 Gothic Chess Computer World Championship. The Martillo programmer cites an example we have all seen at one time or another: making too many changes to the only copy of the source code, then messing something up in a drastic fashion.

While Martillo has stepped down, fmax4, a "famous descendant" of the smallest chess program on the planet (named "Max" by H.G. Muller of The Netherlands) has moved in to take its place. Max is a chess program with fewer than 2000 characters in its source code, yet it plays respectable chess at the "expert" level of about 2000 elo. At first, H.G. Muller was uncertain how fmax4 (the version that plays Gothic Chess) would perform.

But, with its round 1 win over Zillions 2, H.G. is pleased and will be supplying an updated version for the event.

Here is a link to that game:

fmax4 vs. Zillions 2

He notes that fmax4 is more of a "benchmarking tool" than an actual program. Because it deliberately lacks sophistication, more robust programs should be able to score wins against it. But those that cannot, clearly need to go back to the drawing board!

We welcome fmax4 into the event, which will be the most competitive it has been so far.

Friday, November 16, 2007

2007 Gothic Chess Computer Championship, Round 1, Game 2

Tornado vs. TSCP Gothic 64, 0-1

We get our first glimpse of the new Tornado program in this game, battling with the "speed demon", TSCP Gothic 64, the first 64-bit Gothic Chess program. We see an odd trend with the Tornado progam: 6 of its first 10 moves are with its Knights! It seems to have an aversion to prefer Knights over Bishops, but later on it does not hesitate to involve them in combinations leading to trading of some heavy pieces.

After each side has castled and black gets in 15...e5 things settle down a bit, as shown in the diagram. White's bad Bishop on the queenside is devoid of prospects, and the pawn structure soon dictates stagnation. The Tornado program makes the misinformed decision to overactivate its Rook with 20. Rg5, but then it deploys it where it can be harrassed mercilessly. TSCP Gothic then wins the exchange after a bit of "razzle dazzle": 27...Bxi4 28.Ng5 Bg2 29.Rxg2 -- not the typical Exchange methods employed in the chess world!

After some further simplication, each side seemed to grope for what was unattainable: a wrest for more material. Tornado was vastly outsearching TSCG Gothic at one point, reporting phenomenal search depths with a score showing no signs of danger.

This had me wondering: Why the unusual play so early in the game when this "powerhouse" search was obviously at its core?

My prediction is that there is some sort of bug in Tornado and we all may get stunned by this program if it can correct its unusual early round behavior. Meanwhile TSCP Gothic 64 with its 1,000,000 node per second move generator is not too shabby either!

In the end, Tornado got "sucked up" in its own overuse of time, and TSCP Gothic pulled out the win. I am curious to see how these programs will do in later rounds, as I am not sure which is the better of the two after this performance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Games of the 2007 Gothic Chess Computer Championship


SMIRF 1.69e vs. Gothic Vortex 2.2.1, 0-1

The 2007 Gothic Chess Computer Championship starts off with a series of snafus; no power in the first outlet everything was connected to, the monitor is "out of synch" and we are missing a USB cable to connect the external drive housing most of the programs. Since the SMIRF program was installed on Ed Trice's C-drive, a last minute decision was to have the Round 14 pairings moved to Round 1, and the Round 13 pairings substituted for Round 2.

The game was quick to reach an exciting position. After an unusual "Queenside Gothic Petroff" opening, we reach the first diagram with black to move:

The new version of Vortex elects to part with the Queen, 7...Qxc7!? 8. Bxc7 which begins a long sequence leading to a positional gain (the white king must capture to the second rank with no sheltering pawns) in exchange for a material loss (black loses the Queen but gains white's Archbishop for it.)

An interesting theoretical position results after 10...Cxc7 which is shown in the second position:

The question is, was the sacrifice worth it, or was it too early for such a sortie? There are still two supermajors on the board for each player (Queen + Chancellor vs. Chancellor + Archbishop) so there are plently of chances for each side to strike.

Black castles to safety, then migrates all of the forces to bear down on white's position. Then came the fireworks shown in the third position:

Black to move uncorks 24...Cxg3+!! 25. hxg3 Ai3+ 26. Ch2 Nxh2 27. Qxh2 and now has the time for the luxury of 27...Axj1, picking up the Rook before returning for the white Queen after 28. Rxd7 Rf1+!! 29. Kg2 Rf2+! 30. Kxf2 Axh2. An incredible sequence leading to a strategically won endgame that black plays to completion flawlessly.

A game well worth replaying!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Round 1 of the Gothic Chess Computer Chess Championship

Chaos Theory is a branch of mathematics that gained some popular exposure in 1993 when Michael Cricton's novel, Jurassic Park, became a summer blockbuster after its June 11 release (I was one of the few that got to see it the night before on June 10.)

I was thinking about this as item after item went wrong last night at the Main Line Chess Club in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.

1. I unpacked the computer, the monitor, the cables, the external hard drive with my 300 Gigabytes of tablebases, etc. I hooked up the monitor and computer first and.... no power! The outlet in the section of what usually is the Art Room in this Senior Center was not producing any voltage. Time to move!

2. I moved to another location in the room. Hooked the monitor and computer back up and..... "Out of Range" was displaying on the monitor. Did I mention how I hate MultiSynch monitors that lack analog controls so you can adjust them! All of this migration to solid state electronics with no external controls is becoming the trend. So now I was in "binary mode" -- the monitor was hit or miss, no middle ground.

3. It took 10 minuted to troubleshoot that one of the two videos cards in the box became unseated during the hour long drive to the club. Most likely some rough patches of road on I-95 during the construction project were to blame.

4. After having fixed this, I then realized I was missing a USB cable. I had no way to hook up my external drive, which contained all programs of the participants, plus my Gothic Chess tablebases! Ugh!

Time was running out. I had the latest copy of SMIRF installed on my C drive. It was either Vortex vs. SMIRF or the trip was wasted.

And so it was... SMIRF had the white pieces, Gothic Vortex with the black pieces...

And National Master Dan Heisman was onhand to watch an extremely interesting game.... Vortex allowing its Queen to be taken by SMIRF's Bishop on move 8!

Here is the link to the game:

SMIRF 1.69e vs. Vortex 2.2.1

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Current Releases of participating Programs

There is a new release MS-169d ready for download at for owners of a SMRF key set. It still has no opening library, but it should again be marginally improved.

It would be fine to know, which programs at which release stage are at the start now. And it would be nice to read some details on its authors ...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Correspondence Game, 1 Day Per Move

I think it makes sense to use the Discussion Board for correspondence games, not the blog. That way anyone can start a new game, and play whatever time control you want.

And, I'll pay anyone $20 cash that can beat me.

The 24 hours per move will be strictly enforced.

The discussion board link is below

Cartaphilus vs. Whoever

Good luck to whoever accepts the challenge.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Troll Alert - BlueHorseShoe = Moron

Everyone, please be mindful that the user "BlueHorseshoe" is not the Grandmaster who used to sign onto and play Gothic Chess.

Do not reply to BlueHorseShoe's posts on here. Ignore him, and the moron will go away.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

SMIRF 1.69b vs. Variant Pulverizer, 0-1 in 68 moves

Some of you may recall this program was originally named "Variant Shredder." Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, the author of the chess program named Shredder, contacted Ed Trice and the programmer of "Variant Shredder" and requested another name be selected for this Gothic Chess program. The new name is "Variant Pulverizer", a much more graphic depiction of destroying an opponent!

SMIRF vs. Pulverizer

As stated before, I asked the programmers to change their code before sending me their programs. That way, nothing can be "learned" about them prior to the Gothic Chess Computer World Championship. The purpose of the tests was to see if they can run on the hardware that they will each be playing on during the event.

Pulverizer was altered radically, and the play in this game shows some very anti-positional play (reverse developing pieces with moves such as 6...Ai8, unorthodox moves that you rarely see such as placing the Queen where a Bishop could take it with 16...Qb8 to precipitate an exchange of queens). In the end, Pulverizer lived up to his name, and won the game.

SMIRF 1.69b vs. Tornado 1.0, 0-1 in 60 moves

This was an unusual game between an updated version of SMIRF and a Gothic Chess newcomer named Tornado. In speaking with the programmer of Tornado, he told me he named his program after the name of the horse owned by the legendary Spanish hero, Zorro.

SMIRF vs. Tornado

The purpose of these "warmup" games is to guarantee that the programs are able to run on the hardware being supplied for the Gothic Chess Computer World Championships. I encouraged the programmers to modify their evaluation functions to make them "weaker" than they are in reality, so that no information can be "data mined" before the start of the tournament. The Tornado programmer complied, and his changes made the program play some odd-looking moves. It was enough to overcome Germany's SMIRF program in this game. The link above will allow you to replay it one move at a time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Martillo vs. SMIRF 1.66g, 1-0 in 63

Here is a link to the game (with SMIRF 1.66g score and comments)

Martillo vs. SMIRF

The Martillo programmer has had problems getting his software to run on the hardware that will be used for the upcoming 2007 Gothic Chess Computer World Championship. Finally, this evening, he was able to get it to run. He requested a casual game to be played against SMIRF, which I did do.

The time controls were G/30 + 15 seconds per move.

I will post the complete game here tomorrow for everyone to review.

My comments on the game:

Both programs showed similar evaluations and Principal Variations for much of the opening. Castling did not appear in the P.V. for quite some time as each program moved their pieces around the board. Both were reaching roughly the same search depths, with neither really outsearching the other.

There was some odd form of "Archbishop chasing Queen" where I thought some of the moves were unusual. Martillo finished a pawn ahead as a result of the run-around. As each program moved progressively faster, it seems that Martillo was able to search 1- and 2-ply deeper, until its score grew. SMIRF's score fluctuated +/- 0.4 pawns through all of this, thinking it was +0.4 one moment, down to +0.2, then to -0.1, back up to +0.1, and back and forth, finally down -0.4

Meanwhile Martillo showed about +2.3 or better, growing to +4.3 at one point. Yet, the score never increased for Martillo, and never got worse for SMIRF. Move after move, +4 for Martillo, about -0.8 for SMIRF at that point.

Finally, towards the end, Martillo picked up the material and checkmated on move 63.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'll play someone a blog game

If someone wants to handle the graphics, I'll play someone a blog game at 1 move each day or faster.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vortex vs. SMIRF Blog Game #1

This area was where Gothic Vortex played the SMIRF Engine in a long time control game where each engine had up to 24 hours to make a move. Most moves were made much more quickly than this. SMIRF won with a checkmate in 73 moves.

You can replay the game one move at a time by clicking this link:
Vortex vs. SMIRF

[Event "One Move Per Day: Blog Game"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2007.10.07"]
[Time "00:25:48"]
[Round "Blog-Game-1"]
[White "Gothic Vortex"]
[Black "Smirf MS-168i"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Annotator "RS"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rnbqckabnr/pppppppppp/10/10/10/10/PPPPPPPPPP/RNBQCKABNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. Nh3 g6 2. d4 Nh6 3. g3 c6 4. Bf3 Na6 5. Bf4 f6 6. Be3 Qb6 7. Nc3 Qxb2 8. Cd3 Qa3 9. Ne4 Qa5 10. d5 Qxd5 11. Cxd5 Axd5 12. Bxh6+ ixh6 13. Nd6 Cxd6 14. Bxd5 Cxd5 15. Qxd5 cxd5 16. Af3 e6 17. O-O b6 18. Ah4 j5 19. Ni5 hxi5 20. Axi5+ Ke7 21. Axh7 Rj6 22. h4 Nc5 23. h5 g5 24. h6 Ba6 25. Ag6+ Kd6 26. e3 Be2 27. a4 Bf3 28. Rh2 Be4 29. Ah5 Bxc2 30. a5 Rb8 31. axb6 axb6 32. f4 Bh7 33. fxg5 fxg5 34. Af7+ Kc6 35. Rc1 g4 36. Ag5 Rj7 37. Af4 Rg8 38. Ah5 Rj8 39. Af7 Ra8 40. Rd2 j4 41. Ag5 Be4 42. Rg1 j3 43. i3 Be5 44. Ai4 b5 45. Ah5 b4 46. Axg4 d6 47. Rdd1 b3 48. Ah5 b2 49. i4 Rji8 50. Kh2 Rah8 51. Af7 Bf6 52. Axh8 Rxh8 53. i5 Ri8 54. Ri1 Bxj2 55. Rj1 Bg5 56. Rxj3 Rxi5 57. g4 Ri6 58. Rjj1 Rxh6+ 59. Ki2 Bf3 60. Rb1 Bxg4+ 61. Ki1 Ri6+ 62. Kh1 Ri2 63. Rj4 Bf5 64. Rb4 Ne4 65. Rxe4 Re2 66. Rb4 Bxb1 67. e4 Bxe4+ 68. Kg1 b1=Q+ 69. Rxb1 Be3+ 70. Kf1 Rf2+ 71. Ke1 Bxb1 72. Kd1 Bd3 73. Ke1 Rf1# 0-1

Friday, September 14, 2007

Games from the BrainKing Archive

Many games from the BrainKing Archive are now up.

Here is the collection of SMIRF games, recently completed:

My 164 games are here:

The 83 games of Rob Colanzi, aka "ChessCarpenter", the 2nd highest rated player on the site, are here:

Other players' games are not 100% loaded yet, but you can see the ones that are here:

One of my favorite:

But Andreas Kaufman gets revenge on me in the next game:


Friday, September 7, 2007

Gothic Chess activity

A lot of things seem currently to be happening at the Gothic Chess homesite. I found a lot of more actual content. Even the link to the (expensive) wooden Staunton Gothic Chess set is working now (the first time for me). Therefore I hope, that all the other links and picture references will soon be working properly, too.

Maybe it would be a good idea, to also place written Gothic Chess license conditions (not merely its costs) at an appropriate position. I do not know, whether other chess programmers might be interested in that theme, but at least I am myself. Because I am not a lawyer and I never have used a license to a patented subject before, I have no idea, which implications it would have, to publish or distribute a patented Gothic Chess aware program under a license then.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Meeting Bobby Fischer In Iceland: One Year Later

Shown here is Grandmaster Fridrik Olaffson of Iceland, then a youthful 71 years old, holding in his hand the "$20,000 Archbishop" that Bobby Fischer indentured him to retrieve, forcing him to drive across town to pick up what I had inadvertently left out of the Gothic Chess set I had given to him.

As promised, today I will disclose ALL of the events leading up to the match we had planned between Anatoly Karpov and Bobby Fischer himself... stay tuned for updates...

How it all started...

It was shortly after Garry Kasparov announced his retirement from chess on March 10, 2005, that the thought crossed my mind: "Wouldn't it be cool if I could get him to take a look at Gothic Chess?"

I called the United States Chess Federation and spoke with Joan DuBois, who I had known as the friendly woman who was in charge of the Correspondence Chess Department back in the 1980's when I used to play chess by mail. Not email, we would actualy write moves on postcards and send them to one another! Anyone, I swept one section with a perfect score one year, and she was nice enough to congratulate me on one of the result cards I would get in the mail. Joan was friendly on the phone as well, and she actually remembered my name from over 16 years ago, so I was very much impressed. While she did not know how to contact Kasparov, she knew someone who did know and she put me in touch with him.

It may have been Phil Innes, or maybe Glen Peterson, the sands of time have blurred this memory for me over 2 years later. Anyway, one of them suggested that I get in touch with Owen Williams if I wanted to reach Kasparov. Owen was Garry's Business Manager, who had an office in Florida. They did offer me some advice: Have something tangible ready for Owen, or be prepared for a "No" independent of what else followed.

Originally I was just wanted Garry to mention Gothic Chess and in any upcoming interview he might give. My proposal was "money for mention." No commitment to play the game of Gothic Chess, no endorsement, no strategic alignment of any kind: just something simple.

So I called Owen William's number. I reached voicemail about half a dozen times before I finally spoke with him. He was very pleasant on the phone, and he had a Londoner's accent. Before I could fully describe my proposal, he did interrupt me a few times. I took this in stride and remained patient, although I could tell this was more "posturing", as if he wanted me to conclude "I am way buiser than you" or something to that effect.

Before I allowed this puerile power struggle to go too far, I interjected that I "had to go" and he immediately grew quiet. My impression was that he was stunned that somebody elected to put him off. He stammered something, and I said "I'll call you when you seem ready to acknowledge the legitimacy of my offer." and I abruptly hung up.

This was probably not "good business sense" but it may have had a psychological payoff. He called back an hour later and apologized for all of the interruptions. I simply said "Will you be able to talk tomorrow at 8 AM sharp?" Again, dead calm. He said "Yes, I'll make sure of it."

This accomplished two things.

1. I was in the driver's seat in terms of his own attempt to make me feel somehow less important with his interrupt-driven communication style. I have met countless people like this during my consulting days in Manhattan. People just love to answer their cells phones as if the caller is in dire need of information only they have, and everyone within earshot must pay homage to them by insisting the call is of greater importance than their present company. This is one reason why I never carry a cell phone.

2. I just bought myself 16 hours to think about what I wanted to offer. Fortunately, I had just sold my oversized house in an upscale Montgomery County neighborhood a few months prior and I still had some surplus from that. A quick check of the savings account and the Gothic Chess bank account and my share of the profits revealed I probably couldn't dump more than $50,000 into this project without upsetting the applecart, so I decided to put my 1981 DeLorean up for sale.

I called Owen at 8:01 and he picked up on the second ring. I told him I only had 3 minutes to go over my offer, so I needed him to let me finish uninterrupted. I spoke quickly, and said something like: "Owen, I know Garry has been inundated with requests to come back to chess, guest appearances, and things of this nature. This is what I want: Should he ever be asked a question such as 'What will you do next?' or 'What are you doing now?' I would like him to say: 'Well, I am looking at the game of Gothic Chess for the time being, which I saw at the wesbite ...' and then let him segue into whatever he wishes to say next. Notice this is no endorsement, it doesn't even say he likes the game or has any connection to it. I will pay him $75,000 if that quote makes it into the New York Times and Time Magazine."

I paused. Owen paused. Then he said: "I see. So what is this game then?"

I went on to explain it in very curt sentences, yet he still managed to find a means to interrupt. It was his turn to get in a few tugs in this tug-of-war.

He was non-commital in general. Always polite, sometimes talking at great length, he would mention this to Garry if I would put it in writing. I asked for his fax number, and he laughed, responding:

"You are telling me your offer is not too serious if you just want to fax it to me. I would expect a formalized proposal on company letterhead, signed by your Board of Trustees, at the very least."

I grew slightly ill-tempered for a moment. I said: "Owen, there is a 72 hour halo that surrounds Mr. Kasparov. Beyond this time, the media will stop the obsequious quoting of his every utterance. I want to get something to you quickly to put in front of Garry. He can make $75,000 within a 10 second window, what will your cut of this be?"

He got the point, but I was too brutal with my barbs. I could tell. He merely said "Let me get back to you on this one."

And with that, the conversation ended.

The call back...

There was no call back for 2 days. What should I do? I knew Owen was testing my "72 hour halo" remark. I began "parallel processing", trying to discover if there was any other way to reach Kasparov...

I was about to call him at noon of this second day, when the phone rang. It was Owen. Pleasant, and cheerful, I really thought he was going to accept. Then came the: "... but Mr. Kasparov has informed me that his current schedule, which includes completing his books for the On My Great Predecessors series, coupled with his intended political aspirations to unseat Vladimir Putin, leaves him with no time to verify that your quotations will make it into the media outlets you have suggested."

I remember thinking: "You could have just said 'No' and consumed much less of the atmosphere."

I politely thanked Owen for considering my offer, and I invited him to call me back whenver he felt like chatting, or if Garry ever changed his mind. Again, he was very polite, rather wordy, and signed off.

Parallel Processing

I saw Glen Peterson's AOL screen name pop up while I was waiting for Owen to call me back. I decided to pose the question to him: "How else might I get in touch with Kasparov?" He said, as an off-the-cuff remark: "Well, have you thought about approaching Karpov? I know he is friends with Grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili, who produced the "Roman Forum" chess video series. Here is his phone number..."

So I thought, "What the heck." I'll contact Roman, to see if he says that he will contact Karpov for me.

The first time I called, he answered. I had met him once back in 1990 at the Pennsylvania State Chess Championship held in Lancaster that year. I decided to use that as an icebreaker. He had his entire family with him, and he was showing up at the last minute. The hotel where the tournament was being hosted was completely booked. Now, at the time, he was very highly ranked. He was #10 in the world on the FIDE list at one point. He tried to say to the girl at the desk: "But don't you know who I am? I'm...I'm...." and she said "Sir, I am very sorry, but we just don't have a single room left."

After I explained that to him, he still did not remember. I remembered because I was there with my computer program, The Sniper, and I had my Macintosh on the desk counter and I was filling in the registration card next to his exasperated wife.

Anyway, Roman said, in his accent and deep voice: "The way to get Karpov interested is of course to mention Fischer." And he went off on a tangent, came back to his point, and finished with "So you think this you can do?"

I didn't think so, and I said: "Well, there's about 1,000 things that need to get done before I would even suggest that!"

Roman said he would contact Karpov anyway, whom he said travels a lot, and then he joked "Karpov is capitalist now!" and he laughed pretty hard at his own joke. I thought it was hilarious as well, since my earliest memories of Karpov was as the Poster Boy for the Communist Party.

So now the seed was planted... Could I possibly interest Karpov in a Gothic Chess match with Bobby Fischer? This was such a long way from my original idea, and I had maybe 1% of the cash I would need to pull this off, how could I possibly manage?

Ship Of Gold

Quite serendipitously I was reading the book Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea at this time. This was one of the greatest, most expensive, and most complex salvage operations in the history of treasure hunting. Can you imagine locating a sunken ship full of immaculate gold coins, and not having enough money to recovery the wreck? Even worse, you have other people trying to beat you to the punch, lawsuits being filed trying to stop your salvage operation, and a barrage of other things working against you.

This made my attempt to raise money for a would-be Karpov vs. Fischer Gothic Chess match seem rather trivial by comparison! And that is what motivated me to start believing it was possible.

Nothing great ever gets done without it first being believed possible.

My first idea was to borrow from the high risk takers guide to fundraising: contact casinos. After all, what could be higher risk than operating a casino? Sure, the odds are in the house's favor, but at any instant in time, EVERY casino is required to have the sum of every bet still in play available to be paid out in a vault in their basement. Furthermore, look how expensive it is to build, own, and operate a casino. One bad flick of randomness, and they teeter over an abyss.

If I would be taking the "high road" of getting respectable financiers involved, I needed a polished proposal. So, I slaved away in Photoshop, QuarkXpress, SuperPaint, and Expert Color Paint, working on computers using three different operating systems, to make the killer proposal.

But something was missing.

The Cost Recovery Model.

How was this thing going to make money?

I needed to chat with some of my people. I individually contacted my most trusted colleagues: Brian Colgan, Robert Colanzi, Len Harac, and Kevin Brosious. I made one statement to them, and asked them to focus on one goal. The statement I made was that we needed a minimum of $15 million dollars. The goal was that we must make about double this to satisfy any investors that we bring on board. I then let them each come up with a "solution", with no immediate pressure or timelines.

I received back four completely different plans, which is what I had hoped for secretly. None of the plans were satisfactory stand alone. But blended together, we might have something that could make this thing happen!

Brian's idea centered on selling out the hotel. If you have a hotel with 500 rooms, and you charge $15,000 per person for an all-expenses paid week-long trip to Iceland, you have $7.5 million dollars in revenue per week. If the event lasts a month, you basically have $30 million from "ticket sales" alone.

Rob's ideas came from merchandising. Have Fischer and Karpov signed a fixed number of items: books, promotional materials, whatever. Sell them on eBay LIVE while the match takes place. Have Fischer and Karpov pose for only one photo together. Have them sign only 10 copies of it. Let Fisher keep 1, Karpov keep 1, we keep 1, and you auction to the world the only 7 copies of a photo signed by both Fischer and Karpov. This was good once we have the match going, but it did not help us get there. Plus, it was an indeterminant amount of money (although the auction would no doubt fetch a tremendous price.)

Len offered an outsourcing/concert promoter's perspective. He said ticket sales for Rock Concerts rarely contribute to the overall bottom line, but selling overpriced soft drinks to a thirsty throng puts everybody in the black. We needed to hire a group of such promoters who would figure out what the "soft drink equivalent" for us would be, and, quite simply, "make it their problem."

Kevin comes from an aquisition/merger background. He suggested that we bundle it up as a "Propsectus" of sorts, and sell the whole thing to the highest bidder. His plan was very involved with specifics points of contact, containing both "broad and deep" levels of detail.

All good ideas, all a good start. But something was still missing from the equation.

First Contact

Months went by before I made my first pitch to the Montgomery Business Group in Ambler, Pennsylvania. They consisted of local Angel Investors who were part of other Angel groups that funded startups in the range of $500,000 to $2,000,000. By this time, I had six different models that balanced out and made a profit on the $15,000,000 ten ways till Sunday. I had run Microsfot Excel simulations with varying parameters, deliberately tanking one column to zero to measure the impact on other financial dependencies. I thought I was fully prepared.

"Where are the costs for the film crew?"

The question shot through me like a lightning bolt. Ummm....what? Did I completely overlook something? I must have turned pale. The five people flipping through the pages of my plan all stopped and looked up at me. I had to think of something quick.

"That's the good news. We're profitable without even broadcasting the event. Think of how much money we would make if we televise the whole show."

I swallowed hard. I had completely omitted this one, colossal detail. My knees went weak. I could tell by the raised eyebrows that this presentation was now sunk.

Now what was I going to do?

The questions droned on for another twenty minutes. I felt I answered them all extemely well, but it did me no good striking out at that first at-bat. Had they asked me all of those questions first, then the TV broadcast one last, things might have gone differently.

Even I could tell that I was not answering them with enthusiasm anymore, so one of them did me a favor and ended the ordeal with a "Thanks for coming" remark.

It was time to go back to the drawing board.

The Boomerang Effect

From the Montgomery Business Group, I went to the Central Pennsylvania Angel Investors, the Go Big Network, Kugarand Holdings, the Octogon Group, the Gartner Group, a few Microsoft stock millionaires, and, through some strange twist, a guy named Tony Jenson who was a sound engineer for Mark Burnett, the Executive Producer of "Survivor". Tony knew someone named Kevin Harris who knew someone who knew George Ross, who was Donald Trump's right hand man. Kevin gave me the telephone number of the guy who knew George Ross's telephone number.

So I called, talked my way into getting George Ross's number, then called him. Amazingly, there was no secretary intercepting the call, it was the man himself. I decided I would state my case as briefly as possible. "Mr. Ross, my name is Ed Trice. I invented a game similar to chess that is gradually demonstrating a level of appeal that may eventually overtake it as the preferred intellectual board game. I have a proposal to bring two World Chess Champion archrivals together that is a high risk/high reward deal. I'd like to get it in front of Mr. Trump."

The response he gave me was shocking. "You mean Karpov and Fischer?"

Apparently all of my presenting to all those different groups over the course of the prior several months had boomeranged its way into the Trump organization somehow. The deal would make it as far as "The Donald", but would he go for it? It turns out, he was interested, but he could not meet with me right away. He liked what he had seen outlined "on paper" but now he needed a complete Project Plan before he would commit 100%.

Word must have been "getting around" the chess world also. People were contacting me, and I did not know who most of these people were. Through several levels of indirection, I was put in touch with a company called Chess Masterminds.

I don't remember much about the first few conversations with the Chess Masterminds folks, except the very first conversation I had with them. I do remember that Rob Mitchell was a soft spoken, very polite southern gentleman, and Mike Cowger seemed to be a subordinate of his. I must say, Rob was very nice. Always calm, and seemingly knowledgeable regarding things that were happening in the chess world.

Rob asked me about who the match financiers were. I told him all I could say at this point was: "The persons involved are from a well known casino organization, and while the capital outlay is not in question, a detailed plan needs to be submitted before final approval would be guaranteed."

Mike Cowger, listening in on the other line, blurted out: "As long as it's not Donald Trump, we don't have a problem."

I was shocked into total silence. I did not know what to say. The silence lingered on before Rob spoke up. "I think Mike was just joking about that." Mike immediately replied: "Yes, I was kidding, I was kidding, of course."

I still didn't say anything. Rob asked: "Ed are you there?" I replied: "I'm here, but I'm about to pull the plug on you guys. Tell me why I should deal with you after that ridiculous remark."

I was livid. Why would anyone "joke" about a multi-million dollar project? After I was already bound not to disclose the identity of the Principal Financier, why would they probe to try and figure out who it was? And, being the poker player that I am, I should not have tipped my hand the way I did. Technically, I was fully compliant with the Non Disclosure Request, but I did implicity give it away.

Rob spoke at length about how Chess Masterminds was involved in a complex project that was filmed in Russia. A film crew was brought over there, it was a USA versus Russia match, there were tons of details needing coordination, and he was the Project Manager of the whole affair. It was supposedly broadcast here in the USA.

I hadn't heard about it.

Whenever Rob called, he had Mike Cowger on the other end. Every now and then he would interject something that would just seem.... well, to be nice about it.... very odd. He would go off on a tangent and would end up repeating a catch phrase of his sometimes two and three times. I got the impression he was "shooting from his hip" and didn't know what he was talking about on occasion.

Then came the "Street Chess" conversations. Apparently Chess Masterminds was working on a reality-TV show where they literally looked for street chess hustlers from town to town, and they were organizing a big blitz tournament pitting the winners against one another to crown a "Street Chess King" of sorts.

What did this have to do with me?

Rob said something like: "Well, you know how reality TV shows always seem to have some sort of twist in them? Like Survivor has a merge of the tribes and those dating shows introduce some attractive people right before someone has to be voted out, stuff like that? Well, we decided that the final match between the two players for the champion will be a Gothic Chess match, not a regular chess match. What do you think?"

At first, I was confused, and my first reaction was: "They're not going to like that." Rob said it wouldn't matter, contestants would sign some sort of contract saying that the producers of the show have the right to have them play "chess or a chess-like game" to determine the overall winner. I was still not "on board" with the idea, but I said "It will definitely let a wider audience know about Gothic Chess, for sure."

Rob said doing this before the Fischer-Karpov match would "smooth out" the transition from chess to Gothic Chess in the public's mind.

"Huh?" was all I could say. I did not see how the public would care if they have never seen Gothic Chess before Fischer dukes it out with Karpov. The "selling point" of Fischer vs. Karpov was the fact that Bobby Fischer was playing Anatoly Karpov, not the actual game I had invented. At this point in time, if Fischer played Karpov a game of checkers I think people might tune in!

Chess Mutterminds...

Over the next few weeks, I was occasionally drawn into one dull conversation after another, seemingly Rob and Mike trying to "sell me" on the Street Chess project. I didn't understand why they kept coming back to this.

Finally I said: "Look. We need a project plan to show to the Trump Organization before we get distracted by anything else. It would be an impossible task to try and coordinate two projects of this size simultaneously. When can I see your detailed plan regarding the Video Production aspect so that I can integrate it into my own plan to show to George Ross?"

I heard Rob say: "Can you hold on a second Ed?"

He must have covered the phone up, because all I heard was what sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher talking in a phone booth, underwater.

After a while, I set my phone down, walked to the upstairs refrigerator, got a protein shake out, walked downstairs, picked up the phone, and they were still muttering away.

Finally Rob said "Yeah, Mike can have that whole thing for you in a week or two."

"Great," I said, "I'll get on the phone to New York right now and set a date."

Well you might think I said I was going to come over and ransack his house by the way Cowger reacted. He was like "Don't do that... this is just an estimate... can't hold us to anything.... we won't sign this or that... blah blah blah" and Rob finally had to just cut him off.

"Mike has a few irons in the fire." he said. I asked for no elaboration, but I had to get off of the phone and get back to work.

My gut instinct: Something fishy was in the works.

Arrival of the Deal Memo...

It was not too long after, that, by some miracle, they had reached both Anatoly Karpov and Bobby Fischer. Or, so they said.

"What ?!?" was all I could say. "This is great news! How did you pull that off??"

I forget what the answer was. I was not focussed on what was being said, I was too excited. I was pacing the floor practically jumping up and down. Now it was time to get down to brass tacks. Rob said it was time for us to sign a "Deal Memo" and start framing the constructs of a contract.

"Fine, fine, send it right away."

The first version of this memo was too one-sided. Talk of money being paid to them without any delineation of responsibilities associated with this figure. I was too happy to be picky, I just worded my concerns, Rob was polite and gracious as ever, and then came iteration #2 of the deal memo.

OK, this one was much better, but the initial dollar figure had risen, no costs were tied specifically to this increased number, but it had greater accountability on their end, so it was moving in the right direction.

Finally, "Revision 3" had arrived.

If you click on the photo of that letter, you can read items #7 and #8 as follows:

7. CMM will be paid a one-time $35,000 stipend as an initial infusion of capital to be used for the general operational budget of the current project.

8. CMM, in good faith, will be responsible for obtaining initial player contracts and maintaining player participation but will not be held liable if the participants, for whatever reason, failed to agree of perform. The players who have initially agreed to participate are Mr. Robert James Fischer and Mr. Anatoly Karpov. In case of default by the above named participant, alternate players will be sought by CMM and agreed upon by GCF.

Two things should jump right out at you.


THEY WANT $35,000.

Now, look closely at the date on this deal memo. It is January 5, 2006. This date would come back to haunt them, big time. You see, it was a little more than one month later that I found out from Anatoly Karpov that he never heard of Rob Mitchell or Mike Cowger, had no offer from Chess Masterminds, and was unaware of the game of Gothic Chess.

How was it then, that Chess Masterminds had the agreement of Karpov, let along Fischer????

But, we are getting ahead of ourselves... on with the Trump story...

Dropping Dead on the Drop Dead Date

As we got closer and closer to the Cowger deadline, something very unusual was happening. Mike Cowger grew more nervous with each phone call. I asked him, rather casually, "How are things going?", and he snapped back "What do you mean by that?" I answered, "Well, I mean, how is the process you are undertaking to provide me with details to present to the Trump organization proceeding, given that we will have to meet with them very soon?"

He hung up.

I took that as a sign things were not going well. Less than one minute later, I got a call from Rob Mitchell. "Hi Ed, this is Rob. Mike wanted me to tell you that your last sentence you said to him was garbled, and then, somehow, the phone got cut off."

I replied: "That's a load of crap."

Rob tried to downplay my remark, and was spinning some sort of story, and I just wasn't buying what he was selling. I cut him off, mid-sentence, and said: "It's Monday. We're due in New York on Thursday. What hotel did you book your reservations with?"

If this was a Saturday afternoon cartoon, you would hear crickets chirping.

I forget what he said, but I do remember that he did not have a hotel booked. I said "Well you must be on a very early flight then to make it into midtown Manhattan by 10 AM. What flight are you taking?"

No flight was booked.

"Rob, you guys are going to be present to discuss all of the costs Mike has carefully researched for the Video Project, right?"

He said he would call me back.

He did keep his word on that. And, it only took about 15 minutes for the two of them to get their story straight.

Cowger spoke first.

"I have a deposition to give on Thursday, and ..."

OK, and this point, I was livid. "You have a deposition scheduled the same day we have to present to Trump and you're telling me this less than 72 hours before our presentation?"

Cowger said "Yes, somehow I got the dates mixed up."

I said: "Dude, you get notices for depositions well in advance. I know, I had to give one for a dispute over my patent rights. I had about 2 months' notice. You expect me to believe you just remembered this now?"

This time Rob Mitchell answered for the stammering Mike Cowger: "He does have to do what he said Ed, I can assure you of that."

I decided to call their bluff.

"OK, that's fine, email me what you have so far for the presentation, I'll finish the rest."

More crickets. More uncomfortable silence. My suspicions were confirmed. These clowns had nothing.

Rob was first to break the silence. "I think it's too big to email." I can just imagine Cowger must have been thinking "Good answer!" when I replied: "OK, well what software program did you use to make the file, and how big is it?"

I was listening to another dial tone. Amazing how telephone communication breaks down when you ask these guys some poignant questions. As expected, my phone was ringing within 20 seconds, with the familiar battle cry: "Garbled message, then disconnect, blah blah blah."

"OK, I think I may get my head cut off for this, I will try and push the meeting back. What day CAN you make it up to New York?"

They'd call me back. Great. I'm cancelling on Trump, they're going to talk amongst themselves and figure out how they are going to provide a detailed accounting of the production costs to run an international broadcast for the Fischer-Karpov Gothic Chess match, and they haven't even started it yet. I was not even sure if I could get the Donald to reschedule. It took me many tries to get this meeting established. Time to eat some New York crowburger, for sure.

I spoke to Mr. Ross the next day after failing to reach him that day. I spoke very, very briefly. I merely stated: "Thursday has become logistically impossible. I am open for other dates." His reply....

"Thursday is looking bad also. The next Monday at 11:30 would be best. Can you swing that?"

I was thinking "Hell yeah!" but I said: "That is the best date and time for us. Sure thing."

I called the Chess Masterminds back. I was extremely curt in my manner. I said:

"Monday, 11:30, New York, or it's going to be somebody's funeral. We understand each other?"

Rob, polite as always, answered: "Well that is good news that they did not totally cancel on you. Sure, we can do Monday."

I said: "Mike? I want to hear from you that this will be a done deal by Monday."

Mike's reply surprised me. "I'm not saying anything. I work for Rob."

I was thinking... "O-----K, what the hell did that mean?"

I left them with one final remark: "Call me only if there is a problem. See you Monday." Of course, they called.... they called...

Wire us $30,000 and we'll be there

They called Thursday night. Mike spoke up. No hello, no pleasantries exchanged. Just this: "So far all of our costs and research for this has set us back as least $30,000 of that $35,000 we had budgetted for. And we realize you are going to make millions out of this deal, so if you want us in New York by Monday morning, we need that $30,000 wired to us tonight or tomorrow."

I could not stop laughing.

"Yeah~~~~~ right!" was all I could say.

Rob Mitchell said: "Well what's wrong with that number?" You know, I think he actually believed he was making a legitimate request. I said "Rob, out of the blue, you're tagging me with this ridiculous sum? I haven't seen ANY of your work, I have no idea you guys are even going to be there on Monday, and you expect me to pay? We talked about having Trump make this allocation, when did this become my responsibility?"

Rob was more than a little defensive. "We've done all of this work..."

"What work???" I said angrily. "What have you done except filled up most of my phone calls with bullshit and nonsense?"

Rob went into this excessive diatribe about the cost of researching a project like this. Hello? They were doing the COST part of the COST/BENEFIT analysis, how could they have burned through the equivalent of $30,000? Is their research valued at $2500/day? And where is it? What was I to be in receipt of in exchange for $30,000? Had he forgtotten that one of the objectives of the New York visit was to get such an allocation so we could all breath a little easier? It wasn't long before I got to the bottom of it all.

Enter, Titus Keiningham

The Trump meeting was postponed for a second time. That basically sunk the ship in my mind. My calls to George Ross were being unanswered. I couldn't even get through to apologize. In the meantime, I got a call from someone who identified himself as Titus Keiningham.

One of the first things I heard him say is: "I'm on the phone here with my partner, Mike..." and I rudely interrupted with "Not Cowger!!!"

I heard two sets of laughter echoing on the phone. "No, no, no...." I was assured, "Mike Carnes. He works with me here in Tennessee." I found out later that Titus knew Mike Cowger, and knew of his incompetence. For the time being, Titus went on to describe some of his projects, like the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Games, the European Figure Skating Championship, managing tours for Country Music Celebs, the list was quite impressive. I was just so relieved that his partner was not Mike Cowger that I did not tune in to everything.

He explained that he got several calls from Mike Cowger, asking for deatails and estimates for the Fischer-Karpov project.

"What?" I was incredulous!

Apparently Cowger had no clue how to estimate the scope of such a project, so he called Titus, someone who had actually done a great deal of video production work for them before. In fact, they still owed Titus over $50,000, mostly from that USA-USSR match that Rob Mitchell was touting as "his project", and Titus speculated this may have been the source of the $30,000 request.

Titus recounted how Cowger was calling him, repeatedly, asking for more details, more data to put into a plan for estimating the project scope and breadth. Basically, he would not leave Titus alone. Finally, Titus called him on the carpet and said: "OK, I'll give you some more info, but who is it you are doing this for that it's so important?"

Cowger was backed into a corner, and he had to give up my name. So Titus used Google to do a search on "Ed Trice" and he found my contact information easily enough.

I liked talking to Titus. He spoke quickly about things he was very knowledgeable on, and he was obviously a "Type A" go-getter kind of personality. And, he did not seem pushy. He was very respectful in his word choice. He kept saying "Yes sir" and "Ok sir" and I finally had to say to him: "Titus, you sound like you are talking to my dad. Please don't call me sir." And, true to a Hollywood sitcom punchline, he said: "Sure thing sir."

Titus understood the opportunity. He let me know what his schedule would be like, and we set up a time and date to have an informal gathering between himself, Mike Carnes, and I. I suggested that we also include National Master Dan Heisman in on the initial meeting. I would run into Dan at his Main Line Chess Club now and then. Dan was aware of the Fischer-Karpov project because previously I had asked him if he would care to be a commentator on the match. Dan was skeptical that the match would ever take place, as most people were, but he was enthusiastic about the prospects, and he offered his initial acceptance.

The Meeting With Dan Heisman

I picked up Titus and Mike Carnes at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Dan's house wasn't that far of a drive from there, so we went out to lunch, chatted some chess, then returned back to his house to talk business.

As is typical with the initial steps taken in any important business meeting, we took turns orating our own resumes. Dan was the experienced National Master with many book titles and other accolades to his name, Titus and Mike were the expert Video Crew and Production Managers, I was, of course, the inventor of the game and the match organizer.

The one big question on the minds of Titus and Mike was: "So what is this Gothic Chess game all about?"

Dan was actually the first to chime in, and he could not have given a better explanation. He recounted, from his own experience, the conundrum facing the high percentage of draws that gradually creeps into the tourament player's experience the higher up your rating goes. Most games feature 50% or more of the move count being in just Rook and Pawn endgames. That is: Half of your game contains many of the other pieces, but half is reduced to just these remnant few. So, to get really good in chess, you had to be a maestro of Rook and Pawn endings.

This necessary evil tends to stifle the interest of the purely creative players, or, sadly, if you do not advocate this study, your rating reaches a plateau and never goes higher.

Not so in Gothic Chess. In Gothic Chess, even though there are more pieces on the board, the game tends to be played more quickly (in terms of total number of moves). So, a game lasting 40 moves in Gothic Chess would be considered rather long, with most ending on move 35 or sooner. In chess, by move 40 you are ready to begin your long and dreadful Rook and Pawn ending!

I made a few remarks about the new tactical possibilities that the Archbishop and Chancellor introduce, as well as the strategic mystery associated with the value of the pieces. For example, should you trade your Queen if you could win your opponent's Archbishop and Knight? Is a Rook and pawn able to overpower an Archbishop? Which is better, Queen or Chancellor plus one pawn? Rook and Archbishop or Chancellor and Bishop? The possibilities go on and on...

They both understood the potential attraction for the new game.

Dan Heisman was able to talk at length about Gothic Chess, which left me pleasantly surprised. I was used to Dan being quiet and somewhat reserved when speaking about the game. You see, Dan has a radio program where he hosts a "call-in" show, and occasionally when Gothic Chess comes up during that broadcast, he has to make sure the "true blue" regular chess players don't feel like their feathers are being too ruffled. So, he keeps the disucssions "short and sweet" for the most part, which I understand, and agree with. So hearing him elaborate on some of my fundamental precepts in front of Titus and Mike Carnes brought an inward smile to my face.

Dan's house was undergoing some renovation work at the time, so occasionally he had to excuse himself and address some pressing matter for a minute or two. During one of these "sidebar sessions", Titus disclosed some more information about CMM that made me regret getting involved with Calger and Mitchell.

At the end of the day though, it was more than apparent that Titus and "the second Mike" were the people to be dealing with, not CMM. But still, I did not rush to any actions. I wanted to see how this all played out. I asked Titus what his "plan" would be. He stated it very clearly.

1. Attempt to contact Karpov first.
2. If Karpov seemed interested, send him a preliminary contract.
3. Contact Fischer.

And we could go from there.

I gave Titus the go ahead.

The Contract That Wasn't A Contract But Was A Contract

For the first time I felt I was truly part of a "parallel processing" function. Titus was getting back to me with updates. He got some information about an address for Karpov, Karpov's secretary's cell phone, all kinds of good stuff. In the mean time, the Trump door closed, but another one opened. I had been talking to someone with some contacts at the MGM Grand Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, owners of the Bellagio, the richest casino in the desert.

I allowed CMM to continue spinning its wheels and offering excuses that rivaled "the dog ate my homework" metaphor. I didn't tell them anything about the meeting with Titus, no matter how many times they asked.

I did continually say to them: "You definitely have Fischer and Karpov on board with this, right?"

They always said "Yes" to this.

Then finally, Titus delivered the bomb.


While I must admit I was not 100% shocked because I had a feeling this was going on, I just could not get my mind to wrap around the monumental level of B.S. these guys where shovelling. It made those earth movers on The Discovery Channel with the 10 foot high tire diameters look like Tonka trucks by comparison.

I called them. True to form, Mitchel answered, with Cowger in the background.

"Guess who I heard from today?" I said, very energetically.

"Who?" they said almost in perfect unison.

"Anatoly Karpov."

I paused for effect. Then I allowed them to remain uncomfortable in the silence.

"I said, Anatoly Karpov."

Rob was the first one to break the eerie silence. "Well, what did he have to say?" was all he could spit out.

I said "He never heard of Gothic Chess."

I sooooooo wanted to elaborate on it, and rub it in their faces, by why bother when simplicty does all the work for you?

Cowger tried to speak. It was hilarious.

"Well, we spoke through his secretary, who has been known not to deliver messages."

After I stopped laughing I said:

"That's a good feature in a secretary isn't it? But I just have three questions for you. One. How the hell could you possibly know that? Two. If you did know that, how the hell could you assume she contacted Karpov and then tell me Karpov wanted to play? Three. What are you going to do after I beat the shit out of the both of you?"

I made sure they heard the dial tone first.

So, the CMM "contract" wasn't a contract at all. It didn't exist. The whole thing was a charade to bilk me out of $30,000 which would go towards paying off Titus.

I called Titus back. I said to him: "You are now the Project Lead. CMM is out. Tell me, what next?"

And without a pause, came his answer.

Titus told me to work up some informal contract, that was not a contract, that had no "teeth in it", so that we could get the players interested in the concept of thet match. If we could get them both to sign it, we could reassure the Match Financiers.

Oh yeah. I had to firm up the new commitment. We had dipped down to $9,000,000 and we would need another $6,000,000 for the prize fund and a few million to put on the show.

Time for another trip to Vegas.

So I sent a writeup to Titus, which he Fedex's to Karpov, and on March 10, 2006, Karpov signed the preliminary agreement to play.

The Vegas Meetings: A Trip To The Twilight Zone

For the first time I am feeling real pressure. We had one large financier back out at the time that Karpov has already signed on for the $14,000,000 prize fund. We were $5,000,000 short of this amount at this exact moment in time.

Plus, Titus had convinced me to up it to an even "$5,000,000 for the loser" which means were were $6,000,000 in the hole.

The door opens on the top floor of this amazing casino, and out walks a babe of amazing beauty. She said something. She could have been telling me a wrecking ball just hit the building and it was about to fall down, I would not have understood.

I did what any many would do when she starting walking away from me, I followed her.

As soon as she went through the doorway, she vanished like a wisp of smoke. A moment later I was in the grip of one of the firmest handshakes I ever had to endure.

He was all of maybe 25 years old, about 6'2, had "G.Q." looks, a cigar in his hand, an ornate crystal flask with some rare brandy or whiskey of some kind on his huge horseshoe shaped desk, and the lad could not stop smiling.

Nor could he stop talking about himself and "his climb" to the top as VP of This-That-And-The-Other-Thing.

I noticed the golden name plackard on his desk had the same last name of the owner of the casino.

Nepotism is a great substitute for hard work.

Just as if on Hollywood Cue, he would "buzz" his secretary, and is she would strut, a perfect "Jessica Rabbit" strut, and we both would forget what we were talking about until the moment she was gone again.

"What was I saying?" he said to me.

"Fischer. Helioport. Here in Vegas."

"Oh yes, that's right. You see, what we can do is, secretly fly Fischer from Iceland to here. We can keep him under all kinds of hotel security. Let me tell you, the Marines could land outside our revolving doors, and they ain't getting to where we don't want them!"

He congratualted himself by relighting his cigar and smiling as he puffed a smoke ring.

I tried to explain to him.

"But you don't understand. Bobby Fischer is a fugitive, a wanted criminal, here in the USA. If you try to fly him into this country, a squadron of F-14s will escort your craft to the nearest landing strip and Fischer will be behind bars before you can say snake eyes."

He looked at me. The smile faded. His eyes shift left, right, left. It's like he is looking for his car keys on his desk.

He immediately stands up, puts the cigar down, snaps his fingers, gives me an "I got it!", complete with an idex finger practically in my face...

...and he recounts another hairbrained scheme to have the thing on an Indian Reservation, which is technically not US Territory...

The only good thing was I had two of the best non-Montecristo cigars I had ever smoked in my life, I got to have two meals in Vegas with this gorgeous secretary sitting directly across from me, and they gave me $5,000 in chips to play in their casino.

But this guy was not the guy to talk to. He's too young, too inexperienced, and if it's not the remote control to the TV, he's out of his league.

I didn't get the money commitment at this meeting. He didn't have the authority to allocate it.

I felt like saying "Then why am I talking to you?" but instead, out came:

"Who do you suggest I present to in order to affirm our commitment to the players."

He'd get back to me.

And that was that.

Fishing for Fischer

Titus had good news when I got back. He had talked to Fridrik Olafsson on the phone. Fridrik thinks Bobby might be interested. I tried to sound enthusiastic, and I was, but Titus must have sensed something was up.

"I don't know, I must be tired from the Vegas trip," I said.

"How'd it go?" Titus asked.

"I met the greenest kid ever spawned to sit at a desk in the business world" was all I could think of at the time.

Titus laughed pretty hard.

"You'll have to tell me about it sometime, but I am backlogged with edits I have to get done, so we will have to talk later."

Thankfully Titus pulled the plug on the conversation for me.

I dragged myself up to the computer and logged on to get my email. I had 116 new messages.

Open, read, delete. Open, read, type response, next.

After an hour of that, I hit the sack.

Titus called back. I didn't know what time it was. It was 9:30 PM. I thought it was about 3 in the morning, I was so sluggish. I had been asleep all of 2 hours.

More Fischer news. Fridrik asked when we could come to Iceland to discuss things with Bobby.

"Say that again."

Now I was awake.

All Titus had to do was tell Fridrik that Karpov already signed the contract. Now Bobby was "reacting." It was 1975 all over again. Titus was chatting up a storm over the phone, I was mostly saying "Yeah, yeah.... uh-huh... sure.... yes... yes" to whatever was in his stream of consciousness discussion.

When I woke up the next morning, I was unclear if this was dreamt or real. In checking my email, I rediscovered that it was reality.

Show Me The Money

It was now the beginning of May. Fischer communications had been pouring in from Olafsson. I raised $4,000,000 but we still needed $2,000,000 for the prize fund and about $6,000,000 to put on a World Class show.

Either I had a firm resolve one day, or I was just sick of all the back-and-forth, and I decided to call one of the investors on the carpet.

I said: "Look, I understand you put in $500,000 to the project, but if we don't raise another $6,000,000 by Friday I am calling the whole thing off...... Why? ...... I put 18 months of my life into this thing and we're not there yet.... Oh?...... Oh really?.... . Yes, I can do that...... yes...... OK. Done. Thank you."

Wow, I would have my $6,000,000 in 2 days. He was not the biggest investor but he had some people who were interested, and he is sure he can get the money in short order.

He just needed to see the financials again.

OK. The deal was, we would be given $15,000,000 but we would have to pay back $22,500,000 within 10 months, start to finish, come hell or high water.

The match financiers did not want a "percentage of the profits." They did not want anything except pure green.

So how were we going to guarantee this kind of return?

The answer: By licensing the broadcast, mostly.

Titus had all kinds of contacts with TV stations and people who knew people, not just people who knew people who knew people who knew people.

The average hour of edited footage we would provide would be sold to networks for about $700,000. We thought with a 12 game match we would have 12 hours of footage, one hour per game, with lots of those "biography channel" style documentaries: we'd show the town, the country, travel hotspots, info about the birth places of the players, interview people who knew them... blah blah blah, and have 4 hours of stuff covering the opening and closing ceremonies and additional items of interest.

16 hours of footage, worth 1,120,000,000 if a TV station bought the whole deal. Get more than 20 stations to carry the whole thing, and we are all in the gravy. Let them run hour-long segments, or half-hour segments, whatever they wanted. Sell sound bytes and "blips" to news stations around the world.

So how would the TV stations to be able to afford shelling out this kind of money?

Commercials. People don't realize this, but the commerical segments that run during Prime Time viewing can fetch upwards of $4,000,000 per hour. Even on "back channel" shows, $1,000,000 per hour is not uncommon. So, the stations would clear at least $300,000 per hour when showcasing the Fischer-Kaprov match, probably even more since it would be "big news."

We did the math. Then we added "super-rich" deals, like buying a ticket to see the event live for about $15,000 per person. It would cover one week's worth of expenses, everything paid for, travel, hotel, meals, spa treatements, the bar, you name it. How many hotel rooms could we book for this unique event. No more than 500, so there is another $7.5 million in gross receivables for this alone.

Everything was looking pretty good. It was time to get the money in motion.

[more to come]

Thanks to Titus Keingham and Robert Colanzi for contributing to the creative content of this article.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blog was offline June 5 - June 26

It is very difficult to get "support" for these blogs. I know the blog was placed offline somehow, either by accident or by some "hack" of some sort. After 1 week of trying, I gave up, and was going to just make a new blog and try and copy the posts. Then, I decided to try with the Blogger support "ladder" again, and I talked and talked and talked, until finally, somebody said they received a "bunch of emails" saying we had "inappropriate content".

I do not see anything "inappropriate" on our blog, do you?

Anyway, our blog was "locked" for some weeks now, but as you can see, I finally won via many petitions, and we are back now.

They would not say who sent in the emails, probably some of the Gothic Chess "haters" who sense we are gradually taking over the chess world :)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Which Icons do exist for C and A ?

Well, there indeed are different interpretations, which symbols should represent Chancellor and Archbishop. The SMIRF GUI still is using the pictures beside. But of course, there are other proposals, at least those used by Gothic Vortex. Maybe it could be interesting to get related explanations, why some are preferred.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Favorite piece

Out of the 3 doubled power pieces (Queen, Chancellor, and Archbishop), which one is your favorite piece, and why? My favorite is the Archbishop, because it can checkmate by itself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

another position

I have another position, white to move, and mate in 2. The key for the pieces are WK- White King, WC- White Chancellor, WA- White Archbishop, BK- Black King, BQ- Black Queen, and BC- Black Chancellor. The coordinates for the pieces are WK- H1, WC- I4, WA- H6, BK- J8, BQ- I7, and BC-H8. I have found 7 solutions to this puzzle. See if you can find them all. Good luck!

interesting facts about Gothic Chess

Here are some interesting facts about Gothic Chess that you can't say about regular chess. There are four pieces that move like knights, 4 pieces that move like bishops, and four pieces that move like rooks. In Gothic Chess, you have a quadruple battery on a file. In regular chess, the most you can do is a triple battery, unless you get more rooks or queens with pawn promotions. In Gothic Chess, you can have a triple battery on a diagonal. In regular chess, the most you can do is double battery on a diagonal, unless you get more bishops or queens with pawn promotions. In a closed position, the queen is not the most powerful piece, the Archbishop is. Tell me what you think.

position, mate in 2

I am going to give you a position where it is white to move, and mate in 2. I am going to give you the amount of pieces, and their coordinates, and you figure out the puzzle from there. The Key for each piece is WK- White King, WC- White Chancellor, BK- Black King, and BC- Black Chancellor.

WK-F5, WC-G6
BK- J8, BC- I7

Lets see who can figure it out. Good luck

Can you checkmate in 3 with the Archbishop?

The Archbishop moves like a Bishop or Knight on any turn. This unique piece is very powerful. With white to move, can you checkmate the black King in 3 moves from this position?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Gothic Bughouse

Who here likes to play bughouse with Gothic Chess. I have played a few times, but I would like to play it more than that. It is intense, and awesome. Tell me what you think.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Fischer vs. Karpov match

You gave me authoring priviledges here in the blog and maybe after this post you will regret it but here goes anyway! OK it's been a while since the whole Karpov vs. Fischer or Fischer vs. Karpov match in Gothic Chess has been discussed. You know lots of people said bad things about this whole thing. Stuff like 'there's no way this is gonna happen' and 'this is all a stunt for publicity' and 'nobody can recover all of that money so it's all a bunch of bull'.

So how do you respond to all of this? We know you were on the radio and talked about it but you still left a lot of questions unanswered.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Where in the world are you?

So tell us all, where are you from?

Ed Trice
Philadelphia, PA

What are the Gothic Chess pieces worth?

I am sure most people would agree that a Queen (Rook + Bishop) is stronger than a Chancellor (Rook + Knight) which is stronger than an Archbishop (Bishop + Knight), but when exchanging a mix of pieces, how do you evaluate them? I know the standard reply "it depends" can be painted with a wide brush stroke here, but let's foresake that approach and come up with some opinions of what a list of generally accepted values could be.

For example, in 8x8 chess, we have...

pawn = 1.0
knight = 3.0
bishop = 3.0
rook = 5.0
queen = 9.0 a standard, with some other rules thrown in, such as:

Add 0.5 pawns to the side with a bishop pair.
Subtract 1 pawn if you trade an active Bishop + Knight in the opening for your opponent's Rook + Pawn


Here are some things to think about before you toss out some numbers of your own.

Is a Queen >, <, or = a Chancellor + Pawn?
Is a Chancellor >, <, or = an Archbishop + Pawn?
Is an Archbishop + Knight >, <, or = a Queen?

Is an Archbishop + Rook >, <, or = a Chancellor + Bishop?
Is an Archishop >, <, or = a Rook + Pawn?

Is a Queen + Pawn >, <, or = an Archbishop + Bishop?

Some tough questions to ponder!

Guess the Incredible Move -- Position #1

The position shown here is white to move after 8...d4 by black. Click on the picture for the full-size board.

Can you guess the incredible next move by white and offer an analysis of the interesting tactic that followed?

Gothic Chess "Blog", by popular demand

I must admit, it took me a little while to get around to it, but here it is, finally, the Gothic Chess Blog. Many of the (former) discussion board posters grew tired of the "spammers" posting endlessly on there. Even while the discussion board was "under lockdown", some of them had "sleeper" accounts that they reactivated to continue posting the ridiculous ads to sites I would not visit even with rubber gloves on...

Anyway, today starts a new day, so blog away!

I will integrate the blog link to the main site some time today, making it easier to access.

Feel free to post any "non-spam" material that is relevant to Gothic Chess, and I'll do my best to comment (where required) or otherwise offer any insights.