BritBase – great source but beware…

Mr. Saunders has a done a tremendous job documenting British chess, and assembling all the games which are available. His site is generally know as BritBase, and I had reason to utilize it today.

Naively, I thought I was helping out <Phony Benoni> over at chessgames.com. Instead, it turns out that I was was the one needing help. You see, as <Phony> pointed out to me, BritBase uses “fragments” of games to complete the download-able PGN collections it publishes for each tournament.

http://www.saund.co.uk/britbase/hastings.htm

What is the point of including game fragments? Basically, to allow database software to correctly reproduce the tournament crosstables. Because, even if the game score isn’t available, often the pairing, round, date and result (or some subset) are – either from mention in some contemporaneous source or from a preserved tournament crosstable.

Here is the description from Britbase:

Unfortunately, though the files contain a game entry and result for every game played in the competition, there are still many missing and incomplete game scores. Player names and game results have been thoroughly cross-checked against printed sources and a great many corrections and additions made to results and scores as published in ChessBase’s Mega Database. This will enable you to compile accurate crosstables and statistics via standard ChessBase functions. Any chess writers or historians making use of this source are asked to show the courtesy of acknowledging Britbase as the source of their information and should if possible quote the web address.

I hate to admit it, but I didn’t scroll down to read this section on the download page – and like an idiot assumed that a complete crosstable meant all the games were present, and not just stubs of the games.

For chuckles, here is the complete (and correct afaik) crosstable for Hastings 1929/30 – containing scores for all 45 games:


Hastings 2930
?, 1929 - 1929.12.27
Ti Age Nat Score                            C V Y M T T S W M P
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
1: Capablanca, Jose Raul    40 CUB  6.5/9   X = = = 1 = 1 = 1 1 (+4 -0 =5)
2: Vidmar, Milan Sr         43 YUG  5.5/9   = X = = = = 1 1 = = (+2 -0 =7)
3: Yates, Frederick         44 ENG  5.0/9   = = X = = 1 = = 0 1 (+2 -1 =6)
4: Maroczy, Geza            58 HUN  4.5/9   = = = X = = = = = = (+0 -0 =9)
5: Thomas, George Alan      47 ENG  4.5/9   0 = = = X = 1 1 0 = (+2 -2 =5)
6: Takacs, Sandor           35 HUN  4.5/9   = = 0 = = X 0 = 1 1 (+2 -2 =5)
7: Sergeant, Edward G       47 ENG  4.5/9   0 0 = = 0 1 X 1 = 1 (+3 -3 =3)
8: Winter, William          30 ENG  4.0/9   = 0 = = 0 = 0 X 1 1 (+2 -3 =4)
9: Menchik, Vera w          22 ENG  3.5/9   0 = 1 = 1 0 = 0 X 0 (+2 -4 =3)
10: Price, Hubert Ernest    52 ENG  2.5/9   0 = 0 = = 0 0 0 1 X (+1 -5 =3)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
45 games: +11 =25 -9

Here is the crosstable for the 25 games that are fully available (20 are missing):

Hastings 2930
?, 1929 - 1929.12.27
Ti Age Nat  Score                           C V S T M Y T W M P
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
1: Capablanca, Jose Raul   40 CUB  6.5/ 9   X = 1 1 1 = = = = 1 (+4 -0 =5)
2: Vidmar, Milan Sr        43 YUG  4.0/ 6   = X 1 = = = . 1 . . (+2 -0 =4)
3: Sergeant, Edward G      47 ENG  3.0/ 6   0 0 X 0 . . 1 1 . 1 (+3 -3 =0)
4: Thomas, George Alan     47 ENG  2.5/ 5   0 = 1 X 0 . . 1 . . (+2 -2 =1)
5: Menchik, Vera w         22 ENG  2.5/ 5   0 = . 1 X 1 . 0 . . (+2 -2 =1)
6: Yates, Frederick        44 ENG  2.0/ 4   = = . . 0 X 1 . . . (+1 -1 =2)
7: Takacs, Sandor          35 HUN  2.0/ 5   = . 0 . . 0 X . = 1 (+1 -2 =2)
8: Winter, William         30 ENG  1.5/ 5   = 0 0 0 1 . . X . . (+1 -3 =1)
9: Maroczy, Geza           58 HUN  1.0/ 2   = . . . . . = . X . (+0 -0 =2)
10: Price, Hubert Ernest   52 ENG  0.0/ 3   0 . 0 . . . 0 . . X (+0 -3 =0)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
25 games: +9 =9 -7

As a wannabe historian/biographer that was a painful, but eye-opening exercise. Natural (well, natural for me) assumptions need to be checked. And I learned another valuable lesson from the many on CG willing to share their time and expertise.

PS- I have also seen game collections include positions from incomplete games, typically where a game contained a tactical or endgame position that got included in the literature of the time.

PPS- SCID can filter on number-of-ply, a parameter I’m sure to use more in the future (not just in order to find opening blunders).

Update:  Thanks to <Paint My Dragon> at CG, I have removed the titles of four of the players. Why? Well, for historical accuracy… and for fairness. The history of titles is an interesting one, and slightly contested. Today, we have an official governing body, FIDE, that confers titles like GM, IM, etc based on rated play and norms. FIDE began issuing titles in 1950, and essentially “grandfathered” certain players their titles. This includes some players who were recognized as having achieved master level play before 1950.

So, four of the participants of this tournament were members of the original 1950 FIDE “bootstrapped” title holders (bootstrapped – meaning they received their title for retroactive play).  These included two GM’s – Milan Sr Vidmar/GM, Geza Maroczy/GM, and two IM’s – George Allan Thomas/IM, Frederick Yates/IM.

Now, one could argue that presenting a crosstable with the titles is justified, on the same basis that FIDE gave the titles for quality of retroactive play. This might be considered a sign of respect. There is always, however, the caveat that the tournament might have come earlier than the player had achieved master level. That would be an argument against including the titles. But an even more compelling argument, for me, is that of fairness. The 1950 FIDE titles were only awarded to living players, and not posthumously. So, it would be unfair to accord the respect of a title only to those participants of the tournament who managed to live till 1950, and not those who didn’t, if they had the same level of play. For me that clarified the issue, and so, pre-1950 tournaments that I edit will not include titles.

The interested can find more to read here: Grandmaster Title: Early Tournament Use

(I had always thought the 1914 St. Petersburg tournament was the beginning of the title, and that the Czar was the first to confer it. Well, you can read more in the Wiki link above)

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s