22 March 2019

Le Palamede

After Berliner 'Schachzeitung', where...

I discovered that various 19th century chess periodicals were available via Google Books. My first effort concentrated on 'Schachzeitung'.

...my second effort concentrated on 'Palamede'. From Di Felice, 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008':-

1778. Palamède (Le) : Revue Mensuelle des Échecs et Autres Jeux (1836–1847) Vol.1 (1836)–Vol.4 (1839); New Series Vol.1 (1842)–Vol.7 (1847). Monthly. Editors Joseph Mery and Louis Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1936–39), Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant (1842–47). Publisher Au Bureau de la Revue. Paris. France. Illus., ports., cm.21.5 x 14, and from 1842 cm.24.5 x 16.5. Magazine. General. French. Subtitle varies "Revue Mensuelle des Échecs," "Revue Mensuelle des Jeux."

La Bourdonnais' death in December 1840 was undoubtedly related to the gap between the series. All 11 volumes from the two series are available via Google Books, although the last two volumes of the first series are combined into a single PDF file. From Wikipedia's Le Palamède:-

Le Palamède was the world's first periodical devoted to the game of chess. It was founded in France in 1836 by Louis-Charles Mahé de la Bourdonnais, who is often considered to have been an unofficial world chess champion. It ceased publication in 1839, but was revived in December 1841 by Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant, who continued publishing it until the end of 1847.

The Wikipedia page uses an illlustration similar to the one I created for this post.

Left: S01V01, 1836; Right: S02V01, 1842

What does Palamede mean? From Wikipedia's Palamedes (mythology):-

In Greek mythology, Palamedes was the son of Nauplius and Clymene. He joined the Greeks in the expedition against Troy. Pausanias in his Description of Greece says that in Corinth is a Temple of Fortune in which Palamedes dedicated the dice that he had invented.

Wikipédia's page in French, Palamède (mythologie), expands on the dice theme:-

Palamède est l’inventeur mythique du jeu d’échecs, de l’arithmétique, des jeux de dés et des signaux de feu servant à transmettre un message; et Théophraste dit Palamède inventeur des lettres et des chiffres. => 'Palamède is the mythical inventor of the game of chess...'

The first time I visited the Royal Library (Koninklijke Bibliotheek; KB) in The Hague, the stack for the chess collection was open to the public. I picked up the bound copies of Palamède, flipped through them, and thought how useful it would be to have the time to examine them in depth. Afterwards the chess collection was closed to the public, but much of its content became accessible through Google Books. Will I now find the time to examine the Palamède volumes?

21 March 2019

Chess Playing Celebrities

The gist of a recent post, Celebrity Chess Players, was something like this:-

Curious about which chess players have celebrity status, I asked the oracle. It told me which celebrities play chess. [Long detour...] I still don't know which chess players have celebrity status. Maybe none of them do.

Later I went back to the oracle and asked the same question, looking this time for pictures. The oracle's first page looked like this:-

Google image search on 'chess celebrities'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '7' (from left to right).]

The last time I constructed a post on a similar visual foundation was Chess and Impressionism (September 2018). My technique worked well enough then, so I'll use it once again. As so often happens with any search on images, many of the results are from Pinterest. One page, 10 Best celebrities playing chess images (pinterest.com), provides two images -- B1 and B6 -- and three other Pinterest pages provide one each.

Those five Pinterest pages are matched by the same number from Bill Wall. B2 leads to Celebrities, Movies, and Chess 1 (chessmaniac.com), the first in a series of four pages that provide two more thumbnails in the Google composite: A3 and B5. A6 leads to the same writer and the same site in Celebrities Who Play Chess (humor). The inimitable Bill Wall also shows up in A2, which leads to Celebrities and Chess (chess.com).

A1 leads to another Chess.com page, Can You Win Our Fake Chess Celebrity Contest?, that gave me a couple of good laughs. Less of a laugh and more of a gaffe is in C5, Woody Harrelson’s major flub at World Chess Championship (besttvnews.com). I covered the Harrelson incident in a post last year, World Championship Yahoos (November 2018).

What about chess players who have celebrity status? Vishy Anand appears in A5, which leads to London Chess Classic 2013: The Celebrities Attack! (chessib.com; 'DJ Alex Zane of England and former World Chess Champion grandmaster Viswanathan Anand of India'). The same event appears in one other thumbnail, C3.

In C1, every keen chess player recognizes Magnus Carlsen, but who are those other guys? The referenced page is 10 Celebrities With Pretty Strange Hobbies, and the photo is captioned 'Red Hot Chili Peppers – Chess Masters'. Magnus doesn't get a mention, although he's conducting a small simul. Granted he was younger then, but even today does he have the same name/face recognition from the general public as do Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov?

19 March 2019

Wilhelm Hanstein, Schachzeitung

Continuing with a recent post, Berliner 'Schachzeitung', I wrote,

I discovered that various 19th century chess periodicals were available via Google Books. My first effort concentrated on 'Schachzeitung', which, according to Di Felice's 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008', was published during 26 years.

There is such an enormous amount of material in these 'Schachzeitung' volumes that I can do little more than examine an occasional curiosity. For example, the image below left shows one of the first pages in volume 5, 1850. The signature says, 'W.Hanstein'. The image on the right is the first page of his obituary. I've done so little work on this particular volume that I'm not even sure in what month the obituary was published. Based on the PDF page number (which is p.337 in the original volume) and on other visual clues, I guess it's the first page of the November 1850 issue.

Schachzeitung [v05; 1850], PDF p.8 & p.359

In Wilhelm Hanstein, Wikipedia informs,

Wilhelm Hanstein (3 August 1811 in Berlin – 14 October 1850 in Magdeburg) was a German chess player and writer. Hanstein was one of the Berlin Pleiades. He helped found Berliner Schachzeitung, later to become Deutsche Schachzeitung. He was a civil servant.

Those are the first three of the five sentences on the Wikipedia page. Hanstein's obituary in Schachzeitung is 13 pages long.

What does the obituary say? My knowledge of the German language isn't sufficient to translate the original text, so I turned to some aids. First I ran the initial paragraph of the PDF scan through an OCR conversion. Then I ran the OCR output text through Google Translate. Here's what I got:-

A hard blow hit us! - As in the narrower
circles of friends, so also in the common fatherland,
yes we can say in Europe and over the ocean, the
news of this loss in each of the great master,
knew the sensible poet, the deepest conscience
he egen.

To facilitate comparison, the line breaks correspond to the original German text. The paragraph makes some sense until the last line, where the phrase 'er egen' is translated as 'he egen'. In fact, 'er egen' is undoubtedly a single word where the third letter is missing from the PDF scan. For some reason, missing characters occur frequently, not only in the Schachzeitung scans, but in other scans that have nothing to do with chess. Add this to the (long) list of things that can go wrong with digitized documents. Also add 'Pleiades' to the list of topics for future Schachzeitung posts.


Later: Re 'I guess it's the first page of the November 1850 issue', if I had checked the table of contents, which is separated into months, I would have seen that the obituary was the first page of the October 1850 issue. I excluded this possibility because Hanstein died 14 October 1850. He was only 39 years old.

18 March 2019

TCEC S15 Div4 Finishes; Stockfish Wins CCC6

In last week's post on two top ongoing engine competitions, TCEC S15, CCC6 S3 : Both Underway, the title hinted that both events were just getting started.

TCEC: The first event, 'S15 - Division 4a', has already finished and 'Division 4b' is underway. • CCC6: The 200-game [final] match started two days ago and is moving quickly, with about 1/4 of the games already finished.

A week is a long time in an engine tournament and those stages have finished and morphed into other events.

TCEC: TCEC S15 division 3 is currently underway. The two top placed engines in divisions 4a and 4b all met in a playoff, from which the two top engines qualified into division 3. The AI/NN engine AllieStein (Allie + Stein) was one of the two qualifying. The TCEC also published a wrapup report on S14:-

TCEC deserves credit for setting the standard in engine competitions.

CCC: Just as in the latest TCEC final (see the February post, Stockfish Wins TCEC S14) Stockfish edged Leela in the CCC6 final match. The following chart shows the game-by-game result of the match (10 rows with 20 games per row) from the Stockfish point of view.

Stockfish score: +19-16=165 (101.5-98.5)

In the two days since the match ended, the chart is the only official record published by Chess.com. Let's hope the match PGN will also be made available.

According to reports on other sites, the site is preparing CCC7. In the meantime, it is conducting the 'Bongcloud Bonus (10|10)', where ten top engines are forced to start the game with 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2. Ugh! Which engine will achieve the most most draws as White?

I'm a big fan of unorthodox openings, but attacking with the King on the second move is void of interest. Since there are so many better ideas for a thematic tournament, you have to ask what the organizers were smoking.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the main events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

17 March 2019

Stock Post

As far as I can tell, stock chess photos are mainly used to illustrate articles that have nothing to do with chess, except through an indirect reference. 'To avoid checkmating your budget, ...', stuff like that.

Close up of knight chess figure on white background © Flickr user Marco Verch under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Stock Photos / Fotos Download • Please leave a comment and add my picture to your favourites • Thanks and greetings from Cologne, Germany

The photographer also added a comment that showed more stock photos, some of them having nothing to do with chess. I added the photo to my favorites, but decided against leaving a comment. When I first started this Flickr series, I routinely added a comment to the original photo with a link to my post. I can't remember why I stopped.

15 March 2019

Berliner 'Schachzeitung'

After last week's Closing an AI/NN Chapter, I returned to last month's Down the Rabbit Hole, where I discovered that various 19th century chess periodicals were available via Google Books. My first effort concentrated on 'Schachzeitung', which, according to Di Felice's 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008', was published during 26 years:-

2321. Schachzeitung: In Monatl (1846–1871) Organization Berliner Schachgesellschaft. Vol.1 (1846)– Vol.26, no.12 (Dec 1871).

In a related post, 'On Anderssen' (February 2019), I mentioned,

So far I've collected 23 of the first 26 annual editions of Schachzeitung (1846-1871).

I eventually located the three missing volumes, meaning that Google Books has the complete series. Here is the title page and the first page of the table of contents (TOC) for the first volume. Publishing started in July 1846.

As useful as these magazines are for documenting the development of chess in the mid-19th century, they are not perfect. Some problems were introduced when the individual issues were initially published (there are very few dates to confirm the period covered) and others were introduced when the issues were bound into an annual volume (wrong dates, incorrect TOCs). Other problems arose during the scanning process (blurred or missing pages). Google supplies only minimum descriptions, sometimes wrong, to identify scanned files and only a visual check of a document can determine its true content.

Fortunately there are multiple scanned copies of many documents, gathered from different physical libraries around the world. If one scan turns out to be bad, another is often available. While I was collecting the 26 volumes of the Berliner Schachgesellschaft's 'Schachzeitung', I noted other periodicals having 'Schachzeitung' in their title. I'll cover these in another post.

14 March 2019

Celebrity Chess Players

Curious about which chess players have celebrity status, I asked the oracle. It told me which celebrities play chess. It also drew a picture for me, captured below.

Google search on 'chess celebrities'

That link goes to Chess Playing Celebrities (imdb.com), where 50 people are listed. Some of them I've never heard of, but most are bona fide celebrities. Beneath the search box displayed above is some small print that says, '(?) About this result', and that leads to Featured snippets in search - Search Console Help (support.google.com). There I learned,

When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.

So that box is called a search 'snippet'. The page also explains how page owners can prevent their content from appearing in snippets -- a copyright notice is not sufficient -- and ends with a Q&A exchange:-

Q: Is this part of Knowledge Graph? • A: No, this is a normal search result, emphasized with special layout.'

Knowledge Graph? It turns out it's the box that Google displays to the right on the first page of search results, so that you don't have to click on any of the results. Wikipedia starts its explanation of Knowledge Graph by saying,

The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google and its services to enhance its search engine's results with information gathered from a variety of sources. The information is presented to users in an infobox next to the search results.

The article goes on to complain that this particular Google feature leads to 'Declining Wikipedia article readerships'. So Wikipedia takes content from all over the web and Google takes content from Wikipedia and no one goes to the original content. Is there no honor among thieves?

Meanwhile, I still don't know which chess players have celebrity status. Maybe none of them do.