The Chess Handshake Challenge

by Frederic Friedel
6/24/2020 – How far away are you from the World Champion, in terms of handshakes? Have you shaken hands with someone who has shaken hands with him? How far from Boris Spassky? Capablanca? Morphy? Here's this week's challenge: try to find the shortest handshake chain from you to the most famous chess players you can think of. There's a prize for the most impressive submission.

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Please bear with me. After a somewhat lengthy introduction I will come to the point of this article, which I hope you will find interesting.

In my previous life – no wait, it was more like a few decades ago – I was a rookie journalist, producing science documentaries for national German TV. It was a lot of fun. We did many interesting pieces, met many interesting people. The head of the department was the very famous science anchor, Hoimar von Ditfurt, who was not just quickwitted and inteligent, but also blessed with a fair deal of humour. I got on extremely well with him, and we had a number of adventures together (like this fight against astrologers)

Another good friend at the time was Wolfgang Runkel, an editorial journalist who wrote for the very prestigious weekly magazine Die Zeit. He was the one who pointed me to the fact that computers were beginning to play chess. When I told Hoimar about this he commissioned me to make a documentary, and that was my entry into the world of computer chess.

With both Hoimar and Wolfgang I played a game we called the "handshake chain." This was almost two decades before the advent of actor Kevin Bacon's "Six degrees" game," which was based on a similar concept. The point was to find how many handshakes away you are from any given person. For example I was two handshakes away from the President of Germany, because I had shaken hands with someone who had shaken hands with someone who had shaken hands with the President (I use this past tense, not "had shook"). Wolfgang was one handshake away, Hoimar was zero, since he regularly fraternized with the President. In our method of counting shaking hands with someone meant your handshake distance was zero.

My contest with Wolfgang was fairly close, although he was usually the winner. Against Hoimar I did not have the ghost of a chance. He was part of German aristocracy, a well-respected Professor, son of a famous historian. He had met and broken bread with everyone of name and fame. Typically I was four handshakes away from some famous personality (e.g. Albert Einstein), while Hoimar would be just one.

That changed to some extent in 1979, when I was assigned to do a research project for GEO magazine and German TV, on the budding field of "Artificial Intelligence" (yes, at the time we still put it into inverted commas). For this I took a trip around the world – Hamburg, New York, California, Japan, India – visiting all the important Artificial Intelligence labs (and a couple of pathetically fake companies). On this trip I got to meet a number of famous people, or persons close to them.

When I got back I could challenge Hoimar: "Mao Zedong" I said to him. My score was two, since I had met Richard Nixon's brother on the trip, and Nixon had shaken hands with Mao. Naturally Hoimar, after an hour of mulling over it, came up with a one-handshake score. I could only beat him, occasionally, on US politicians (like Dwight D. Eisenhower) due to the fateful encounter with Edward Nixon. But usually, sometimes the next day, Hoimar would think of something that shortened his chain, and he drew parallel or beat me.

The Chess Handshake Chain

So now we come to the reason I am telling you all this: I want to propose a Chess Handshake Competition. How many handshakes are you away from famous players? We will assume that when two players have faced each other in a game they will have shaken hands. Say you played in a simul against Korchnoi (and conceded defeat with a handshake). Then your handshake score for Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov, and many others is one.

What is the best way to work out chains? Think of some good player you have met, and then search for his games in Mega or Big Database. If you do not have these – yes, Virginia, there still are some who do not – you can also search in the ChessBase Account, which also has a lot of other entertaining services. You can make yourself a 3-month trial account to start things off. The quickest method for searching for the opponents of a player you have personally met is by using the page players.chessbase.com, which is a very neat service in itself.

Personally, I have met a lot of strong players: Kasparov, Karpov, Korchnoi, Spassky, Euwe (whom I drove from a tournament he was visiting in Hamburg to his hotel), Botvinnik and Reshevsky (very important!). So it is tough for anyone to beat me. Here are some examples:

  • Emanuel Lasker: my handshake score is one (Reshevsky played Lasker in 1920)

  • Rubinstein, Janovsky, Drake, Fine, Capablanca, Aljechin, and many others: one, me-Rechevsky-them. Meeting Samuel was incredibly important!

  • Alan Turing: one. I met Donald Michie, who worked with Turing.

How about Steinitz? Morphy? I have got the latter down to four and still hoping for a three (or even two). The Duke of Brunswick (= Morphy + 1)? Ruy Lopez? François-André Danican Philidor? Working on them all – maybe you can help?

A small humorous interlude: I was recently discussing the chess handshake chain with a 14-year-old grandmaster. He was very impressed by my score of one to Capablanca. "I wonder what my score is," he said. "Seven? Ten?" – "Probably," I replied, "Such a pity you have never met me!" – "Tell me, Frederic," he exclaimed, "how is it possible for someone to be so dumb as me?"

So here's the deal: try and find the shortest handshake chains between yourself and famous chess players. The most impressive chain will be rewarded with a ChessBase software package signed by at least one (contemporary) World Champion. Post your results in our feedback section below. And have fun searching!




Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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juliok juliok 7/6/2020 07:05
@Frederic, well done, Fidel was the link.
The chess connection is that Fidel hosted the opening ceremonies of the 1966 Chess Olympiad in Havana, where I shook his hand.
Vramnik Vramnik 6/29/2020 09:19
I played with GM Nikolić and GM Denis Kadrić. Both occasions were simoultaneous. I also played with Dejan Marjanović on Bosna Open. He played with Nakamura. I have pictures for both these simoultaneous as proofs. And my game against Marjanovic can be found on internet.
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/27/2020 02:28
And from here, based on the information that I gave you above, you can make any number of different connections from one of these five European masters to any single one of the eight remaining experts/authors (viz., Arminio, Benavides, Busnardo, Carrera, Castiglio, Saduleto, Salvio, Scovara).

TLDR: Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Bernard-Philidor-Louis XV of France-Louis XIV of France-Queen Consort Maria Theresa-Philip IV of Spain-Greco-Philip IV of Spain-Philip III of Spain-Philip II of Spain-Boi/Ceron/Leonardo/López/Polerio
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/27/2020 02:27
YES! They did meet in person, albeit on Louis XV's deathbed---and we have the words that the dying Louis XIV told Louis XV. [Source: François Bluche: Louis XIV (Paris: Fayard, 1986), p. 890, as translated by B. Heuser in Strategy before Clausewitz: Linking Warfare and Statecraft, 1400~1830, p. 21]

And Louis XIV married Maria Theresa of Spain, who served as Queen Consort of France from 1660 to her untimely death in 1683. Maria Theresa of Spain was the daughter of Spanish King Philip IV.

So finally, the fun part. A CONTINUOUS route from today to Greco and the notable European masters of Greco's time and before Greco's time would look like this (example: me). An asterisk (*) refers to evidence of a recorded or unrecorded chess game that might have entailed a handshake. A numerical sign (#) refers to some other form of physical contact.

[1] Hearst*2 (Hearst connects to Reshevsky, #2, through a game)
[2] Reshevsky*3
[3] Lasker*4
[4] Bird*5
[5] Cochrane*6
[6] Deschapelles*7
[7] Bernard*8
[8] Philidor#9
[9] Louis XV, King of France (r. 1715~1774)#10
[10] Louis XIV, great-grandfather of Louis XV and King of France (r. 1643~1715)#11
[11] Maria Theresa of Spain (Louis XIV's Consort from 1660 to 1683)#12
[12] Philip IV of Spain (r. 1621~1665)#13
[13] Greco#14
[14] Philip IV of Spain (r. 1621~1665)---You need to double Philip IV here to keep the chain#15
[15] Philip III of Spain (r. 1598~1621)---father of Philip IV)#16
[16] Philip II of Spain (r. 1556~1598)---father of Philip III)#17
[17] Paolo Boi, Ruy López de Segura, Alfonso Ceron, Giulio Cesare Polerio, or Giovanni Leonardo di Bona/Giovanni Leonardo da Cutri---these five gentlemen played in front of Philip II of Spain (r. 1556~1598)
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/27/2020 02:26
It seems (as I had long suspected) that monarchs provide us with our key links to achieve unbroken chains of handshakes/significant contacts/chess-games-over-the-board from today into the past.

We know, for example, that Philip II (King of Spain from 1556~1598) gave valuable prizes to Leonardo and Boi for the 1574~1575 victories against Ruy López [source: MURRAY, p. 819]. Ruy López also received a golden chain from Philip II [source: MURRAY, p. 817].

Philip III (r. 1598~1621) then ascended to the Spanish throne as Philip II's son. Philip IV (r. 1621~1665) then ascended to the Spanish throne as Philip III's son. Given the father-to-son relationships here, it seems probable that the fathers would have cradled their offspring---not exactly a handshake, but close enough.

Greco (c. 1600~c. 1634) [source: HOFFMAN, p. ix~x] seems to have played chess at the court of this Spanish King Philip IV (r. 1621~1665) [source: MURRAY, p. 829]. It seems probable that Greco met the monarch in some form or another, even if we cannot say if the contact happened in the form of a handshake.

We know that Philidor served in a musical capacity under French King Louis XV (r. 1715~1774). As it turns out, at the precocious young age of eleven, Philidor personally received a prize from King Louis XV because Philidor had composed a musical piece performed in view of the monarch [source: PHILIDOR, p. 5]. Some physical contact had to take place in the prize ceremony!

Louis XV succeeded the famous Sun-King Louis XIV of France (r. 1638~1715). But did Louis XV (the great-grandchild of Louis XIV!) actually MEET Louis XIV (as we try to go back further in time to bridge the gap between Philidor and the older European masters)? Like---meet as in one-on-one meet, and not some event in a big room with Louis XV surrounded by a million people?
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/27/2020 02:26
[6] Alessandro Salvio (Neapolitan, c. 1575~c. 1640), opponent of Boi (1598) [source: WHYLD, p. 352; source: MURRAY, p. 817~819]

[7] Pietro Carrera (1571~1647), a chess author who knew Boi in Boi's final years [source: MURRAY, p. 818]

[8] Scovara, an opponent of Boi in 1575 [source: MURRAY, p. 824]

[9] Arminio, an opponent of Salvio in 1604 [MS H. J. Murray 64, Bodleian Oxford, "Collection of European Games", as cited in ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 1]

[10] Castigilio, an opponent of Polerio in 1575 [MS H. J. Murray 64, Bodleian Oxford, "Collection of European Games", as cited in ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 1]

[11] Busnardo, an opponent of Polerio in 1590 [MS H. J. Murray 64, Bodleian Oxford, "Collection of European Games", as cited in ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 1]

[12] Saduleto, an opponent of Polerio and Benavides in 1590 [MS H. J. Murray 64, Bodleian Oxford, "Collection of European Games", as cited in ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 1]

[13] Benavides, an opponent of Saduleto in 1590 [MS H. J. Murray 64, Bodleian Oxford, "Collection of European Games", as cited in ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 1]
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/27/2020 02:26
@Frederic

As a quick preface, I should say that we have a (slightly shaky, as we will see below) route to Greco. We can even continue on a handshake/significant contact/game-chain from Greco to many European experts/authors who lived in the 1500s and 1600s, the most notable examples of whom include:

Sources for the following information abbreviated as:
ENCYCLOPEDIA: Levy and O'Connell, Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games: Volume 1: 1485~1866 (1981)
HOFFMANN: Hoffmann, The Games of Greco (1900)
MURRAY: Murray, A History of Chess (1913)
PHILIDOR: George Allen, The Life of Philidor: Musician and Chess-Player (1865)
WHYLD: Hooper and Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess, 2nd. ed. (1992)

[1] Ruy López de Segura (Spain, c. 1530~c. 1580), loser of chess matches against Leonardo di Bona and Paolo Boi in Madrid, 1574~1575 [source: WHYLD, p. 234; and MURRAY, p. 817~819]

[2] Giovanni Leonardo di Bona [AKA Giovanni Leonardo da Cutri] (Italy, c. 1542~c. 1587), winner of chess matches in 1574~1575 against Ruy López and Alfonso Ceron of Granada---and frequent opponent of Boi [source: MURRAY, p. 817~819]

[3] Paolo Boi (Italy, 1528~1598), winner of chess matches against Ruy López and Alfonso Ceron of Granada at a time "a little later [than Leonardo's victories]"---and frequent opponent of Leonardo [source: MURRAY, p. 817~819]

[4] Ruy López's contemporary Alfonso Ceron of Granada (Spain), an opponent of Leonardo and Boi---described as a rival of López, so it seems that López likely played against Ceron [source: MURRAY, p. 817~819]

[5] Giulio Cesare Polerio (Italy, c. 1550~c. 1610), servant (sometimes described as someone who accompanied Leonardo) of Giovanni Leonardo di Bona and also a victor in chess games against Ruy López de Segura and Alfonso Ceron of Granada (1574~1575) [source: WHYLD, p. 312; source: MURRAY, p. 819]
JimNvegas JimNvegas 6/26/2020 07:35
I'm one away from Bobby Fischer. I shook hands with Spassky while he was in Las Vegas. Spassky of course shook hands with Fischer who in turn shook hands with most of the most prominent players in history. Of course I have no photo proof of such a shake so I'm not trying to claim any prize.
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/26/2020 07:43
Oh, and I gave the wrong page on the Bird writing excerpt, sorry:

H. E. Bird (writing in November 1880), "[A Slight Chess Retrospect and Explanation]," as cited by Hans Renette in H.E. Bird: A Chess Biography with 1,198 Games (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016), page 560***
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/26/2020 07:41
@Frederic: On a hunch, I wanted to see if Bird and Cochrane played each other. For a long time, I had known that no RECORDED games existed between the two (and indeed, Levy's Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games confirms this idea), but your handshake game made me wonder if Bird and Cochrane played each other in UNRECORDED games.

As it turns out, my chess historian instincts won the day again! ^^

H. E. Bird (writing in November 1880), "[A Slight Chess Retrospect and Explanation]," as cited by Hans Renette in H.E. Bird: A Chess Biography with 1,198 Games (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016), page 216: "In later years Barnes, Macdonnell, and notably Boden were my regular competitors, and some scores of delightful games took place only six years since between Cochrane and myself." Renette says that the only copy of this writing of Bird survives in the Harvard University Library. We should trust Hans!

On page 95 of the same book, Renette says, "As with Bird's countless encounters with Boden and Cochrane[,] these games were played for pleasure and not for any stakes. It is a shame that these chess friends did not pay much attention to preserving the games. None of the games between Bird and Cochrane have survived."

Assuming the veracity of Bird's testimony as recounted by Renette, we can shorten our handshake routes to Philidor (by removing Staunton), i.e.:

Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Bernard-Philidor
(or in your case, Frederic, just remove the Hearst)

PS: I did some faulty copy-pasting on my last post. It should be:

"[A] Bonin-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Bernard-Philidor or [B] Hearst (videotaped game)-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Bernard-Philidor are my handshake routes to Philidor."
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/26/2020 07:12
@Frederic

[A] Bonin-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Morphy-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Lewis-Bernard-Philidor or [B] Hearst (videotaped game)-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Morphy-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Lewis-Bernard-Philidor are my handshake routes to Philidor. Of course, I have the T-shirt route/handshake with Susan Polgar that I mentioned too. @Frederic, I am trying to figure out a provable route to at least one European master from the 1500s. I will get back to you on that one.

@MeisterZinger: "An amusing variation on this might be to look for HN numbers starting with people you've actually scored against, rather than shaking hands after you get mashed."

If we are going to play variations on this game, we might as well try the tournament one (you outrank someone who outranks someone else, and so forth). I once outranked Fabiano Caruana in a tournament, and of course, Caruana outranked Carlsen in the 2014 Sinquefield Cup (among other tournament activities, I imagine---but I don't know much about modern chess history).

http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?200008293500
Me: 1st place, Caruana: tie for 12th~20th place
A cheesy route, no doubt---but even in 2000, Caruana had a higher ELO than I did, LOL.

@asahoffmann

Asa Hoffmann's record of meeting literally just about everyone needs no further introduction here! I nominate him to get the prize!
MeisterZinger MeisterZinger 6/26/2020 02:02
Thanks, FF! This tool is a bit incomplete -- for example, it omits Larry Christiansen's famous 12-move(!!) brevity against Karpov, which is how I get my HN=1 for the latter (although I only drew Larry, and that in a simul) -- but it's an excellent start.

Incidentally, I suspect I can claim an odd twofer: best HN to a world champion combined with HN to someone who set off an atomic bomb! And not just any atomic bomb, but the first one ever; Joseph McKibben, "the man who pushed the button" (threw a switch, actually, but button sounds better) for the Trinity test, was an occasional professional contact a long time ago, and his daughter and my wife's sister were childhood friends. I'm not sure I ever shook Joe's hand, but mutual colleagues certainly did, so HN=1 for both.
NathanB0001 NathanB0001 6/26/2020 01:20
There's no getting around it--I suck at chess, though I still enjoy it very much! I've also never played a tournament game. I have played in my local chess club (where I was one of the weakest players) in past years, and I play online, where my rapid rating has fallen from a "lofty" (for me!) 1500 down to 1250 or so, thanks to a very bad period of depression that is now on the mend.

The "handshake" game appeals to me as a (useless) form of genuine amusement, and I have made some very impressive chains. In my series, I usually use the word "steps" and instead of a "handshake" I usually just say "met."

So in the interest of getting creative while not *really* meeting the requirements of this post, I present this chain for the amusement of Chessbase readers!

I have an aunt who is a Member of Parliament in a rural riding here in Canada, and in that capacity she once met...their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall! So I am two steps removed from Prince Charles.

Prince Charles has a good relationship with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has met FIDE's former president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the latter's role as the former governor of the Russian republic of Kalmykia. The reason for the Dalai Lama's trips there was to bless a number of Buddhist temples in Elista.

Altogether, then, it is four steps from me to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Ilyumzhinov, of course, has met Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, and Anatoly Smyslov, making me five steps removed from each of those world champions.

Smyslov played Bovinnik, who in turn played Lasker, who played the first recognized world champion, Wilhelm Steinitz. Steinitz played Adolph Anderssen, who played Howard Staunton, the originator of the most famous and beautiful style of chess pieces. Altogether, then, it's 8 steps from me to Steinitz and 10 to Staunton. Well, that was fun!
asahoffmann asahoffmann 6/26/2020 12:32
Dear Frederic,
I have "met" every world champion from Euwe to Carlsen. I also met Bronstein, Geller, Korchnoi and Averbakh.
In the US, I played Fischer (hundreds of blitz games), Reshevsky, Fine, Lombardy, Bisguier, Evans, Benko, Larsen and Anand. I also played Rossolimo, Kupchik, Horowitz, Kevitz and Kmoch.
I've played many players who were born in the 19th Century, among them Edward Lasker, Harold M. Phillips, I.S. Turover, and Herman Helms.
My list of more modern players is too long to mention but I have played every strong player who ever visited New York in the last 60 years. I think anyone who can beat my record would be 100 years old! I am busy writing my memoirs.
Best of luck,
FM Asa Hoffmann
Michael Jones Michael Jones 6/25/2020 09:47
I'm not sure how many people in this discussion are also familiar with cricket, but even if you aren't you may nonetheless be interested in these articles which I wrote on the same concept:

https://www.news18.com/cricketnext/blogs/michael-jones/six-degrees-of-separation-from-tendulkar-3-14263-747750.html
https://www.news18.com/cricketnext/blogs/michael-jones/sachin-tendulkar-kevin-bacon-and-paul-erdos-14263-747813.html
Michael Jones Michael Jones 6/25/2020 09:40
>Say you played in a simul against Korchnoi (and conceded defeat with a handshake).

I did indeed - at the London Chess Classic in 2009 - and yes, he absolutely crushed me. I also (very briefly) met Anand, at the Melody Amber tournament in 2008. We didn't shake hands, but he was kind enough to sign an autograph for me - does that count? (He probably remembers the day more for what happened later: a stunning queen sacrifice to beat Kramnik)

As to win chains, unfortunately the programme doesn't work for me directly because it can't differentiate between me (I doubt I have any games in its database) and other players with the same name. However, I once beat Conor Murphy (then aged 11, but already rated over 150 ECF) in a rapidplay game; he's now an IM and came joint first at Hastings in 2018-19, so he gives me fairly short win chains to most top players.

Outside of chess, I once shook hands with my local MP, who went on to become a government minister and has no doubt shaken hands with most leading politicians in the UK, who in turn have shaken hands with other world leaders.
DavidFriedman DavidFriedman 6/25/2020 04:25
This is a very interesting discussion, Frederic!

To summarize my previous posts and organize by some of the methods listed below, if I start my chain with a tournament game win, I can reach at least one WC in three steps: I beat FM Carl Boor, who beat GM Shabalov, who beat Ponomariov.

If I start my chain with a tournament game ending in a draw, I can reach at least eight WCs in four steps (and the steps after my draw are all wins): I drew with IM Emory Tate, who beat GM Leonid Yudasin. Yudasin beat GM Judit Polgar, who beat Kasparov, Karpov, Anand, Kramnik, Topalov, Ponomariov, Khalifman, and Kasimjanov.

If I start my chain with any tournament game, I can reach the following WCs in two steps: I played against GM Yermolinsky, who played against Khalifman, Kasimjanov, and Topalov; I also played against GM Wojtkiewicz, who played Kasparov.

If I start my chain with any tournament game, I can reach the following 11 WCs in three steps: I played IM Jay Bonin, who played GM Reshevsky, who played Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, and Karpov.

If I start my chain with players who I have shook hands with at a simul, lecture or lesson, I can reach Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, and Karpov in two via GM Bisguier, who faced all of those WCs in tournament games. I can reach Kasparov, Karpov, and Kramnik in two via GM Kaidanov, who faced all of those WCs in tournament games. I can also reach Tal, Spassky, and Karpov in two via GM Lein, who faced all of those WCs in tournament games.
Frederic Frederic 6/25/2020 03:44
Frederic Frederic Just now
Thanks @HubertKnott (Hayoung Wong), that gives me a handshake number of 7 to François-André Danican Philidor: Me - Reshevsky - Lasker - Bird - Staunton - Cochrane - Deschapelles - Bernard - Philidor. Now I'll try to extend it to Gioachino Greco (who as far as I can see only played against someone named NN) and Ruy López de Segura.
In the meantime I think I know how Juliok is linked to Mao, Che and Mandela: Julio used to hang out with Fidel!? Castro definitely met Mao and Che, and now I find https://www.thenational.scot/resources/images/5755970.jpg
anthonyy anthonyy 6/25/2020 09:51
even with wins, these chains are incredibly short :
when I was rated 2250, I beat someone who beat someone who beat Karpov (in 1972, not when Karpov was 5 years old).
And I need only one more player to reach Carlsen (but with a game he lost when he was only 2100).
Phillidor Phillidor 6/25/2020 09:08
Not an easy task, covering the whole chain. I tried the other way round, starting from Phillidor, von Brühl, Conway, Morphy, etc., but then realised there were actually two different Conways.

I was also thinking about drawing chains (I drew master candidate Karnar, he drew WC Karpov; or I drew GM Lenic, he drew many a top GM) or losing / winning chains, but that's another story.

It turned out I could have played Albin Planinc about 10 years ago in an unknown league tournament if it wasn't for some rather less important school's obligations. Instead my friend played him and it turned out he was one of Planinc's last opponents. He could be one of the younger players to have chances for a good result in a handshake contest.
Frederic Frederic 6/25/2020 08:07
@MeisterZinger: "An amusing variation on this might be to look for HN numbers starting with people you've actually scored against, rather than shaking hands after you get mashed. "

Boy have I a surprise for you MZ! https://players.chessbase.com/de/winchain. This was built by Fabian and works out winchains: A beat B who beat C who beat D etc. It works it out automatically for you and in fact shows the games that led to your winchain. For Fabian the winchain to Carlsen is 3! Fabian Brinkmann beat Liubka Genova, who beat Tatjana Georgieva Plachkinova who beat Magnus Carlsen. That happened in the Nordic Championship in Bergen, on August 10, 2001, when Magnus was ten years old and had a 2084 rating. Tatjana was 2190 and won after Magnus erred on move 37 (taking the c-pawn with his queen and not his bishop -- remember that, Maggi? Bet he does). All this research took me less than a minute to conduct. After I had entered Fabian - Carlsen the program found the chain in reasonable time: 125 ms after processing 55,558 candidate players.
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 07:19
[1] Bonin-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Morphy-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Lewis
[2] Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Morphy-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Lewis (but a well-documented videotaped one!)
[3] Polgar-Fischer (of course, there exists the famous photo of them at a chessboard)
[4] Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Bernard-Philidor (see below)
[5] I should also mention that I have a 2015 (five years ago) bill of sale (both the original and a scanned PDF) signed by the late chess history bookseller Dale Brandreth. I came to his house to pick up some books and we took a photograph together. Brandreth offered me a game, but at the time, I declined because I knew that I already had a Hearst-based route to Fischer and Morphy. (In 2015, I already lived as a veteran of the hunt for a Morphy Number of four.) Brandreth and I probably shook hands. He told me that he never met Max Euwe, but Brandreth did get to talk to Euwe on the phone. Of course, Brandeth also told me a story about how he found himself accidentally drowning up to his neck in chess books (a garage accident). When Brandreth told this story to Lothar Schmid, the German grandmaster said, "What a way to go!" (Apparently, Schmid did not mind the idea of literally dying under a pile of chess books.)
Cajunmaster Cajunmaster 6/25/2020 06:10
An example: I have beaten Polugaevsky (in a simul) who had beaten Lilienthal who beat both Lasker and Capablanca.
Cajunmaster Cajunmaster 6/25/2020 05:58
Meeting chessplayers socially is nice, playing them and looking for chains based on games or, even better, wins is a more interesting challenge. To make it accessible to the masses, simul games are acceptable!
DavidFriedman DavidFriedman 6/25/2020 05:38
Regarding IM Jay Bonin, who is mentioned below, I lost to him in a Marshall CC tourney in 2019, so that is another route through which I can connect to Reshevsky (and thus Fischer and every other WC who Reshevsky played, which includes Botvinnik, Smyslov, Alekhine, Euwe, and Capablanca). The Bonin-Reshevsky connection through the WCs Reshevsky played means that I am within four of Lasker. Also, my Kasparov number is two via GM Wojtkiewicz, who I lost a tournament game to in the early 2000s; "Wojo" played a pair of rapid games versus Kasparov in Iceland. My Karpov, Kramnik and Anand numbers are two via GM Kaidanov, who I met in Ohio shortly after he emigrated to the United States. Of course, that means I can also reach Topalov in three (I can also reach Topalov in two via GM Yermolinsky). I can also reach Fischer in two steps via GM Ben Finegold, who I have faced in several tournament games; GM Finegold's father played Fischer in the 1960s. Regarding the FIDE WCs during the split title era, I can reach Khalifman and Kasimjanov in two via Yermolinsky. I can reach Ponomariov in three via Anand (through Kaidanov), among other ways. Thus, I can reach Lasker in no less than four, and every other WC since him in three or less. I realize that others who are older and/or more well traveled than I am may be able to top my numbers, but if there is a prize in the under 50 years of age and conducting all of my handshakes within the U.S., then I may have a shot at winning :)
Claudioarrau Claudioarrau 6/25/2020 04:49
I once attended a lecture by Anatoly Karpov and joined the rest of the audience in a hearty round of applause when he entered and when he finished. Admittedly, this is not the same as giving a world champion a hearty handshake. But, if it counts for anything, I was in the same room as people who did, and remains a memory I will always treasure.
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 04:25
Oh, whoops, I'm NM Hayoung Wong ^^ Forgot to say that---
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 04:03
TLDR: If you accept the testimony given here, then we have a handshake route that looks like this (I used myself as an example, but all of you can use your routes too):

Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Bernard-Philidor

Please note that we do not have a recorded Deschapelles-Bernard game (only Deschapelles's testimony as recorded by Walker in a secondary source), but we have a recorded Bernard (in consultation with Carlier) game with Philidor---again with the caveat that the Bernard/Carlier-Philidor game comes down to us in a technically secondary (56 years after the supposedly original game!) form.
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 04:03
This comment by Walker turns out to hold the key in our investigations. We know that Bernard and Carlier actually played a game in consultation against Philidor in 1780 (at pawn and move odds), and the game actually survives (but not in a really contemporary form)! The game (and some necessary background information) turns up on pages 388~393 of the 1836 edition of Le Palamède: revue mensuelle des échecs. For all you purists out there, the book technically counts as a secondary source, since the Le Palamède writer merely tells us that the score of the game comes from "Un contemporain de ce grand maître" (a contemporary of the great master). For people who just want the game translated into English, see page 9 of the abovementioned Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games. If you actually trust online databases (I generally don't), then you can find the chessgames source.

But remember, even in his time, Deschapelles had a reputation for exaggerating or outright lying. Perigal (as cited on page 102 of Captain Crawley's Whist: Its Theory and Practice) described Deschapelles as "the greatest liar in France." This comment hardly inspires confidence. Still, Walker has this to say on page 45 of the abovementioned Chess and Chess-Players Book: "At first reflection, it would appear ridiculous to say the greatest chess player of the age had acquired his skill in four days; but M. Deschapelles asserts it as a fact, and we are therefore bound to believe it."

Fraser's magazine (Volume XIX, January to June, 1839) describes the "sceptre of chess" as passing from Philidor to Bernard, Cartier, and Deschapelles. The same piece also gives a few Lewis-Deschapelles games. See the March 1839 entry beginning on pages 310~315.
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 04:02
…But from the moment I saw the "Joseph Wilson" vs. Lewis game in the chessgames.com database, I grew suspicious, given the slipshod nature of internet databases. And of course, my intuition proved the internet databases wrong. I consulted my copy of Volume 1 (1485~1866) of Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games and looked up the entry on Lewis. Sure enough, on page 498 of that book, the "Wilson" opponent of Lewis turns up as "H. Wilson," not the "J. Wilson" who served as Philidor's opponent. Further and presumably final confirmation also turns up on page 879 in Harold James Ruthven Murray's A History of Chess (1913). Murray says the following on footnote 2 of the page: "In 1815, Harry Wilson, who was playing even with Lewis in 1819, had played with De la Bourdonnais, giving him the odds of the Knight. De la Bourdonnais' life is given in Deutsches Wochenschach, 1912, 1~7, with portrait." I do not have a copy of Deutsches Wochenschach (presumably the work that Murray cites), but we should probably trust Murray here. We DO NOT have, as far as I can tell, a route of handshakes (through published games) from us to Philidor.

On the other hand, in the world of unrecorded games, we seem to have a few routes. One such example comes from George Walker's "Chess and Chess-Players: Consisting of Original Stories and Sketches" (London: Charles J. Skeet, 1850). On page 45, Walker has this to say about Deschapelles (1780~1847):

"I acquired chess," said he to us, in the presence of fifty amateurs, "in four days! I learned the moves, played with Bernard, who had succeeded Philidor as the sovereign of the board; lost the first day, the second, the third, and beat him even-handed on the fourth [. . .]."
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 04:02
P.S. The post below appears to exist for the benefit of everyone, particularly Frederic. Frederic has opened the question as to whether he has a handshake route to Philidor.

Several years ago, I tried to approach the Morphy Number problem (now effectively the handshake problem) by seeing if any people among us today could find a way to reach Philidor. I am sorry to say that we do not have a direct handshake route among RECORDED games, but otherwise, we appear to have ways of reaching Philidor.

If you simply clicked around the website chessgames.com, you would think that you could do a route of recorded games---but such a route would happen in the slimmest way possible. One sample route would look like the following. To make the route faster, you can probably delete Morphy, as Bird technically played Staunton (and presumably shook Staunton's hand!) in a consultation game that featured Staunton and Barnes on one side and Bird, Owen, and T. I. Hampton on the other side in April 1858 (as cited by Boden's The Field [24 April 1858 and 1 May 1858] and Bird's Modern Chess, pages 153~154, all of which turn up in page 73 in Rennette's McFarland monograph on Bird):

Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Staunton-Cochrane-Lewis-"Joseph Wilson"-Philidor
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 04:01
[3] In early 1998, I took an intermediate chess class with Susan Polgar when she still worked out of Forest Hills. Our class of intermediate students played an unrated four-game-Swiss tournament among ourselves, although I do not remember the time control (probably around G/10). Ms. Polgar gently poked fun at me for my first game (against a student named Regina) in which I retreated my attacked Black Queen from f5 to h7 (behind a wall of pawns on f7, g7, and h6---alongside my castled King on g8). in Ms. Polgar's eyes, the h7 square seemed decidedly strange for a retreating Black Queen. I easily won the tournament 4-0, and Ms. Polgar gave me the chance to choose a prize. I chose a Polgar Chess Authority T-shirt that I still wear for my pajamas even today (stop making fun of me for not growing in 22 years!). The shirt looks immaculate for 22 years of age, and Ms. Polgar most assuredly shook my hand to congratulate me for the tournament sweep.

My routes, therefore, do not seem impressive:
[1] Bonin-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Morphy-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Lewis
[2] Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Morphy-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Lewis (but a well-documented videotaped one!)
[3] Polgar-Fischer (of course, there exists the famous photo of them at a chessboard)
[4] Hearst-Reshevsky-Lasker-Bird-Staunton-Cochrane-Deschapelles-Bernard-Philidor (see below)
HubertKnott HubertKnott 6/25/2020 04:01
[1] You can find me on chess-dot-com (username: HubertKnott) as a National Master in Chess. I can see that this thread has become a variation of the "Morphy Number" game. I feel pretty sure that I shook hands with Jay Bonin in c. 2001 in Queens for an unrated G/15 tournament that served as a fundraiser for an ill patient/chess-player. My father later told me that he didn't like the fact that he had to address the check to the person under surgery at the time, and not the American Cancer Society (as the ill patient/chess-player supposedly wanted donations through the American Cancer Society). I lost badly with White, and I remember that Jay Bonin made fun of me for trying to record the moves for a G/15. Bonin played Reshevsky in the New York 1982 5th Annual CCA Summer International (9~18 July, 10 Round Swiss, 70 players). I do not have a primary source, but the game turns up on page 359 of Samuel Reshevsky: A Compendium of 1768 Games with Diagrams, Crosstables, Some Annotations, and Indexes (Stephen W. Gordon through McFarland and Company).

[2] I cannot really do better than the above---except in one very fun way. I actually played a game with the late Eliot Hearst (met him at a Stuyvesant High School alumni association gathering, and I almost definitely shook his hand), and even better---I had the entire game videotaped with sound (we said our moves out loud in Algebraic Notation as we made our moves, just in case people could not see the pieces move in the video) from start to finish! ^^ And Hearst definitely shook hands with Reshevsky---their game actually turns up in the New York Times archive (11 October 1956)!
sharkbite sharkbite 6/25/2020 03:51
@Juliok I can well remember you and your scraggly red beard showing up to my high school along Luis Suarez to promote chess. But no. We didn't shake hands. Oh well.
sharkbite sharkbite 6/25/2020 03:40
Sorry but not sorry. I've got better things to do like checking out the latest Agadmator YouTube video.
MeisterZinger MeisterZinger 6/25/2020 02:49
HN=1 for all world champions from Capa to Kaspy, other than Alekhine, by way of getting squashed in a simul game with Miguel Najdorf in 1971. HN=2 for lots of ancient luminaries by way of Najdorf having played Spielmann and Tartakower, and probably others. Also HN=1 for Anand and Topalov, as I played Larry Christiansen in a simul, somehow holding a pawn-down rook ending. No HN=1 for Kramnik or Carlsen that I have been able to find.

An amusing variation on this might be to look for HN numbers starting with people you've actually scored against, rather than shaking hands after you get mashed.
Rambus Rambus 6/25/2020 01:55
I've shaken hands with Karpov (getting his autograph during a candidates match with Timman) and Kasparov twice (before commencing & upon resigning a simultaneous game). But never with a reigning world champion.
MeisterZinger MeisterZinger 6/25/2020 01:33
Highbee: Those handshakes between Spassky and Capablanca at Havana 1962 must have been amazing to see, since Capablanca had been dead for twenty years at that time ...
soulblazer soulblazer 6/25/2020 12:16
1: Magnus Carlsen: I shook hand with Magnus when I met him for the "Play Magnus Challenge".
1: Alexandre Lesiège: I shook hand with Alexandre a few times in my life.
2: Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Ruslan Ponomariov : via Magnus
4: Robert James Fisher : via Alexandre Lesiège - Kevin Spraggett - Abe Yanofsky - Bobby Fisher
5: Josée Raul Capablanca : via Alexandre Lesiège - Kevin Spraggett - Abe Yanofsky - Maurice Fox - José Raul Capablanca
Highbee Highbee 6/25/2020 12:16
IM Femi Balogun played GM Magnus Carlsen(current world champion)in the 2017 FIDE world cup Tilibisi, round 1, They shook hands
Carlsen defeated Anatoly Karpov at the Reykjavic Rapid in 2004, they shook hands. Anatoly Karpov played Boris Spassky e.g. Porto vecchio 2006 in France, and a warm handshake took place. Boris Spassky battled Jose Raul Capablanca in many games at Havana 1962 and many handshake occurred. So when I shake my friend (untreated player) who played IM Femi Balogun at Iwo 2020 tournament a local tournament, I have successfully created a chess handshake chain with the above world champion and many more. In short I'm just three handshake away from Carlsen (the most famous player I know) and six handshakes away from Capablanca, my favourite.😇