via a comment on susan polgar’s blog, i found this interesting item

The chess set designed to help POWs escape

They may look like worn pieces of an old cardboard chess set, but these little discs contain a prisoner of war escape kit.

When prized open a white bishop from the ‘Ajax Chessmen’ reveals a tiny compass hidden inside.

And a silk map is believed to still be concealed in the cardboard tube.

Even the innocent handwritten message on the tube which contained the 32 pieces chess pieces is in code.

The chessmen sets were sent to POW camps throughout World War II by MI9 and government department CT6 to help prisoners escape their German captors.

In Colditz kits helped 316 escape attempts which saw 32 men make it all the way home.

Very few of the kits from the early 1940s still exist. This set, which does not contain a board, is being sold at Bonham’s auction house in Oxford on December 12.

‘These sets are very rare for obvious reasons,’ said Robin Lucas, Bonham’s resident expert on militaria. ‘They are not made of very durable materials so it is amazing that the pieces have survived.

‘If there was a board included it could have contained a map, or there might be a silk map still hidden within the tube. But we cannot find that out without X-raying the cardboard or breaking it open.’

It is the first time a cardboard chess set like this has come up for auction in Britain.

Mr Lucas said: ‘We know of packs of cards being sold which had different pieces of a map on the back of each card – when assembled they made a complete map.

‘There were all different kinds of escape kits smuggled in. Blankets were sent with clothes patterns drawn in invisible ink. These would become clear when soaked in water.

‘This meant prisoners could stitch together civilian clothing to wear once they had escaped.

‘Monopoly boards and the boards of other games were often used to conceal maps in – when the top was peeled away it would reveal a map underneath.’

POW camps would often have an officer in charge of the escape kit being smuggled in. They would comb parcels to find the games which contained escape aids.

Charles Fraser Smith of government department CT6 and Christopher Clayton Hutton of MI9 where each responsible for designing the methods by which escape kits could be sent to camps.

They never tampered with Red Cross parcels because of concerns the Germans would stop these reaching the prisoners if they did discover items hidden in them.

Instead they sent the games from fictitious London addresses, including buildings which had been destroyed by bombs.

Messages written on the packages and printed labels would carry clues for prisoners.

On this kit the name ‘Ajax’ alludes to the ‘Trojan Horse’. Another sign of the escape aids contained was the phrase ‘Patent applied for’ and a large full stop point.

Three kisses in the message ‘Many happy hours, all my love Dorothy xxx’ which was written on the tube, could have indicated the compass was hidden in the third piece inside.

It is not know which camp this game was sent to or how it ended up back in Britain. Bonhams is selling the set for a private seller.

They are estimated to reach up to £500, but are likely to go for much more.


the power of the chessboard

November 29, 2006

from the boylston chess blog we get this entertaining tidbit about a woman in china who used her chessboard and pieces against a rat infestation..

Chess Supercomputer Beaten Up By More Popular Computer

KATONAH, NY—IBM’s Deep Blue, the chess supercomputer that recently contended with world chess champion Gary Kasparov, was beaten up Monday by a Macintosh Performa 6400CD, one of the most popular home computers on the market.The attack occured at approximately 3 p.m., shortly after a 60 Minutes piece on Deep Blue finished taping at IBM headquarters. The Performa reportedly entered Deep Blue’s work station and pounded aggressively at the cabinet housing the chess computer’s logic board, spilled coffee on its keyboard and inserted several paper clips into its ventilation slots. Deep Blue was not badly damaged.

Deep Blue’s programmers expressed outrage over the incident. “This kind of thing makes me furious, as Deep Blue is extremely sensitive to teasing from more popular computers,” said programmer David Wembley. “Almost as sensitive as it is to Capablanca gambits.”

Added Wembley: “We are currently coding a subroutine into Deep Blue explaining to it that when you’re the best at something, other computers sometimes have difficulty with that and feel they have to take you down a notch.”

Macintosh spokesman Guy Kawasaki described the beating as “unfortunate,” but added that “when you’re as powerful and popular as the 6400, with its huge 2.4GB hard drive, lightning-quick 200MHz PowerPC 603e processor and sales topping $150 million in the past three months alone, sometimes you wind up stepping on some toes.”

Some industry observers believe the Performa’s bullying is motivated by and indicative of deep personal insecurities.

“The Performa, one of the most popular home computers in the history of the industry, has much to be proud of,” Mac World columnist and licensed therapist Mitch Gallagher said. “But for all of its success, I believe the Performa still harbors a lot of nagging self-doubt, because no matter what it does, its sales figures still always seem to lag behind those of its PC-compatible peers.”

“Sometimes,” continued Gallagher, “all the storage capacity in the world isn’t enough to make a computer feel good about itself.”

It is also rumored that things have not been going well at Apple headquarters, leading some to believe that the Performa may be under a good deal of stress. “Financial losses and layoffs at Apple have probably made the Performa feel as though its world has been turned upside-down,” Wired‘s Ted Fraschilla said. “When that happens, a computer can feel as though it has no control over its environment. This may have caused the Performa to commit what amounts to exercising control over Deep Blue.”

Employees laid off in recent months include key members of the Performa’s development team, programmers the PC had known all its life.

If the Performa is involved in more misbehavior, the Federal Trade Commission may mandate a recall. Apple has urged the FTC that such an action would only make things worse for the Performa instead of better.

The last thing Performa needs right now is to be told that it is a bad computer,” Apple president Gilbert Amelio said. “A recall would in effect do that. We are sure that Performa owners will be pleased in the future by the performance of their PC, both in its ability to perform assigned tasks and in how it gets along with other machines.”

Howard Stern, Redux

November 29, 2006

a while back i made a post concerning howard stern and chess, and thought it would be a one time deal.. well, i was wrong.. chessnovice comes through once again and reports on howard stern talking about the kramnik blunder.. here is the link to the audio clip, but take a visit to chessnovice and read his write up..

Ivanchuk Leading Chess Championship in Cuba

Havana, Nov 28 (ACN) Grand Master (GM) Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine 2,714 ELO points), is leading the Capablanca in Memoriam Chess Tournament,  in full swing at Havana’s Riviera Hotel.

On Monday, Ivanchuk defeated Cuban GM Jesus Nogueiras (2,554 ELO, black pieces) in 52 moves. The match was a lesson in positioning until halfway through when the imagination and creativity of the Ukrainian led him to victory in the match and an increase in his tournament lead, Granma daily reported.

In another closely watched match, GM Evgueny Bareev (2,683), playing with the white pieces, gave Cuban GM Leinier Dominguez (2,655) his first loss in 58 moves. The Russian moved into third place in the tournament.

Cuba’s GM Lazaro Bruzon (2,648) saved face for the locals by defeating GM Kamil Miton (2,638) of Poland in 43 moves.

At the end of Monday’s play, the tournament standings are as follows: Ivanchuk 5 points; Miton 4; Bareev 3.5; Leinier and Bruzon 3, Noguerias 2.5.

On Tuesday, Kamil plays Bareev; Leinier faces Ivanchuk and Noguerias vs. Bruzon. (C.W.)

Early risers growing wiser with chess

The Sherwood Gazette

Looking for a new ploy to get the kids out of bed in the morning?

Parents at Sherwood’s elementary schools have found one. Chess.

On any given Friday at 7 a.m. in the Hopkins Elementary library, around 40 students gather around tables and set up cloth chess boards on the floor. A parent volunteer gives a brief lesson on technique, and then the games begin.

“Chess is very helpful with math skills and critical thinking,” according to Kevin Henry, who serves on Sherwood’s school board and volunteers with Hopkins’ chess club. “It also teaches patience.”

With 42 members and growing, Hopkins chess club continues to grow, but it isn’t alone. Each of the district’s schools has a club, and at the high school level, students are eligible to play in state and regional tournaments.

Hopkins’ chess club starts in October each school year, and meets through spring break. Along with Henry, parent volunteer Penny Harper, teacher Paul Stecher and high school student Michael Riches also help the group.

“My philosophy is, if they want to show up and learn, we’ll teach them,” Henry said. “We are all here to learn, and to teach each other.”

Next January, 10 students from Hopkins’ chess club will be chosen to play in the second annual Jack Weeks Cup Chess Tournament against teams from Middleton and Archer Glen Elementary schools. The following week, the team will participate in the Regional Chess for Success tournament against elementary schools from Tigard, Tualatin, and Sherwood for the opportunity to compete in the State Tournament.


November 28, 2006

J’adoube.. i took over all the same material sans the lone two comments i received.. the new address is

Both sites will have the same content.. just spreading the love around!!

Oh how the mighty have fallen

November 28, 2006

if youre reading this blog, you are a chess fan, and by now youve heard about the kramnik-fritz match, and how kramnik made suce a preschool blunder.. far be it from me to have a scheudenfreud moment, but its good to see that even the world champion screws up big.. confessions of a chess novice, which is a blog by a “regular” chess player, has good sum up of what happened and what it means for the patzers of the world..

The Homeless Chess Guy

November 28, 2006

ive seen this guy in several cities in the usa and around the world.. some homeless dude who instead of just “asking” for change sets up a board and will play a blitz game for a dollar or two or five (or whatever the currency is in that country) and if he wins he keeps it.. well a blog called chess for blood has an interesting write up of such a meeting and here is a pic.. thought it was worth passing along..

What I want to know is if or TWIC will post the PGN’S!!!!!

Bulgarian Minister Awards Prison Chess Tournament Winners

Politics: 23 November 2006, Thursday.

Bulgaria’s Justice Minister Georgi Petkanov awarded Thursday the winners in the first national chess tournament for prisoners.

Inmates received their awards in the Sofia prison.

Varna Prison inmates took first place in the team contest with 11 points, the second place was for the Burgas prisoners, who won 9 points. Sofia prison residents scored third with only half a point behind.

In individual games the first place winner was again from the Varna Prison, Lyubomir Stoyanov.

The winners were awarded with television sets and sports equipment.

Inmates from all the prisons asked the Minister if they will be cut a few months off their sentences if they win a first place in the tournament. Petkanov said he would dwell on the question.