30 November 2021

World Championship Yahoos 2021

This month's Yahoos post harks back to the previous World Championship that I covered in World Championship Yahoos (November 2018). The footnote below explaining Yahoos says, 'top-100 (or so) stories from the past month', but this month there was a change in the Google News algorithm. It still returned 100 stories, but I noticed that many were published well before the month of November. Here's the oldest, from almost eight months ago:-

Before you get too excited about that news, note the date. It is, in fact, the 'updated' date, the 'published' date was one day earlier. Oh, OK. After eliminating all stories dated before November, I ended up with 82 real Yahoos.

The chart shows the breakdown of those 82 Yahoos. Not shown are the 35 news sources that had a single story

Another unusual feature of the month was the precipitous drop in stories from Chess.com, which has been averaging around 40 stories a month for the last six months. Is this an anomaly -or- a harbinger of future Yahoo activity.

As for stories about the World Championship in Dubai, I didn't notice any in-depth stories explaining the event to the general public. I'm sure they're out there somewhere; they just weren't flagged by Google News. The best story I could find -- and it's very good -- was:-

  • 2021-11-15: Know The Challenger: Ian Nepomniachtchi (chess.com) • 'It is amazing how all contemporary world champions were born somewhere on the outskirts of the giant empire rather than in its greatest cities and chess centers, such as Moscow or Leningrad [now Saint Petersburg].'

One mainstream news source was ramping up to full coverage. The Guardian had a number of good background stories, one of them by the incomparable Leonard Barden (the Alireza Firouzja story):-

That last story, by 'Sean Ingle in Dubai', looks like continuing coverage of the Carlsen - Nepo match. In each of the last few World Championship matches, I've discovered at least one professional, non-chess journalist who provided an outsider's view of the match. Will the Guardian continue the trend?

All might not be rosy around the chess boom brought on by the events of the last two years. I noticed two stories about chess games that aren't played on chess boards. What do I mean? Consider these:-

Maybe that is rosy after all. Maybe I'm wearing smoke colored glasses and just need to replace them with rose colored glasses. I'll wait for December Yahoos before making an appointment with an optician.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]

29 November 2021

Engines Forced to Play Like Us

A few weeks ago, in a post titled TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Both Underway (November 2021), I wrote,

I certainly wouldn't want to see forced openings used in chess960. It's high time for the chess engine community to investigate a more creative solution to the problem of excessive draws in engine play.

In the traditional start position RNBQKBNR (also known in chess960 as SP518), White has 20 possible first moves. For each of those 20 moves, Black has 20 possible responses. That makes exactly 400 possible positions after one move by each side. Why not run a match in which every game starts with one of those 400 positions, a different position for each game? Since some positions obviously favor one side -- 1.a4 b5 favors White, while 1.a4 e5 favors Black -- the start positions should be played twice, colors switched. That way, no engine has an advantage because of a single dubious position.

Positions well known to current theory, like 1.e4 c5, should be played without any forced book. If 800 games are too many for a match, select the start positions randomly. A 100 game match would need 50 different start positions.

'Oh, no!', purists will say, 'Hundreds of years of experience with 1.d4 and 1.e4 along with millions of recorded games shouldn't be discarded so easily!' That's what people might say. I can't imagine that engines will raise the slightest objection. Since that idea isn't going to fly anytime soon, if ever, let's look at how the openings were chosen for the latest TCEC season.

  • 2021-05-08: Jeroen Noomen and GM Matthew Sadler announce TCEC S21 superfinal book cooperation (chessdom.com) • 'One of the key elements of TCEC is the opening book. Playing at a 3000+ ELO strength, backed by serious hardware, often leads to series of draws in direct battles. Providing imbalanced opening lines is essential to differentiating engine playing strength. Or the way the tournament organizers specify it, “We believe that a champion chess program ought to be able to perform well in a wide variety of opening systems, not merely those that it favors.” The opening book becomes increasingly important as the TCEC championship progresses and is essential in the Superfinal, where the stakes are highest. As of today, the TCEC S21 Superfinal opening book has a serious team upgrade: Jeroen Noomen and GM Matthew Saddler [sic] are teaming up!'

Along with GM Larry Kaufman, GM Sadler is one of the strongest human players participating actively in the world of chess engines. His entry in the Chessprogramming wiki, Matthew Sadler (chessprogramming.org), starts,

English chess grandmaster, chess writer and two-time British Chess Champion, in 1995 and 1997. In 2017, he analyzed the computer games of AlphaZero versus Stockfish, and along with Natasha Regan co-authored the book Game Changer which details the lessons that can be learnt from how AlphaZero plays chess. Since TCEC Season 14 in 2019, Matthew Sadler reports on the Superfinals of the Top Chess Engines Competition, published on TCEC and the ICGA Journal.

I finished coverage of season 14 in Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway (February 2019). A companion blog post to the Chessdom article listed the criteria for selecting TCEC S21 openings.

It relates well to a post I recently did on my chess960 blog: The Engine Iceberg Looms Larger (November 2021). I was particularly interested to learn that 'Statistics of the previous two superfinals [TCEC S19 & S20] show that a Leela book exit below +0.30 is an almost 100% certain draw.'

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not questioning the quality of the TCEC S21 preparation. If engines are forced to play like us, this appears to be an excellent approach. I'm questioning why engines are forced to play like us.

Back to the idea for 400 positions, perhaps chosen randomly, the same idea can be extended to chess960. All 960 positions start with 16 possible Pawns moves, 2-4 Knight moves (depending on whether one or both Knights start in the corner), and maximum one castling move (positions patterned '**RK****' or '*****KR*'). That makes between 18 and 21 initial moves per start position, with that quantity squared after one move by both sides.

It's been almost 25 years since IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, then reigning World Champion, in a chess match. Now the engines are rated hundreds of points higher than the best humans. Why do we continue to force the engines to start games the way we do when we are playing at our level? It shouldn't be the only test of chess skill.

28 November 2021

World Championship Social Media 2021

It's been five years since the first post in the series The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), where the next two posts were about the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin title match (m-w.com) being held at New York City:-

At that time the social media links in the second post were all run by 'World Chess' (worldchess.com). Fast forward five years to the ongoing 2021 Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi (m-w.com) at Dubai. Nowadays the official site for the match, FIDE World Championship 2021 (fideworldchampionship.com), points to a new, expanded set of social media links run by FIDE (fide.com):-

I can't possibly keep up with that flood of information, but I'll do my best.


Later: The most recent YouTube video on the 'FIDE chess' channel represents a milestone for chess in the USA.

FIDE World Championship Match - NBC Recap Game 1 (26:36) • '[Published on] Nov 28, 2021'

The description says,

The World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi are battling for the title at Dubai Expo from November 26 to December 16, 2021. Americal [sic; 'American', of course] broadcasting giant NBC is showing recaps of the games on NBCSN. We are pleased to present you with the first one of the series.

That typo is bad enough, but much worse is ignoring the world class commentator, GM Maurice Ashley. The FIDE/NBC deal was announced last summer:-

The full broadcast schedule is available on a more recent press release:-

Here GM Ashley gets the credit he deserves:-

The programs will convey the emotions and stories of the games as well as expert opinions, including commentary by Maurice Ashley, who will focus on making chess accessible for all levels of viewers. Well known as a commentator for high-profile chess events, Ashley made history in 1999 when he became the first African-American ever to be awarded the title of chess Grandmaster.

The 'NBC Recap Game 1' is really well done. This could be the best chess to appear on American television since the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match, Reykjavik (m-w.com). Let's hope the match goes the distance, maybe even into tiebreak!

26 November 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, Chess24 Profile

The two previous posts in the Carlsen TMER series -- that's Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-) (m-w.com) if you're just joining us -- were:-

It turns out there's a gold mine of TMER material under those two posts, material which I haven't sorted out yet. On top of that, I'm scrambling to catch up with the World Championship match that started this week and would like to follow some of the games. I started to process the ton of available info in a post on my WCC blog:-

For this week's TMER post, I'll simply reference GM Carlsen's Chess24 profile.

MagzyBogues's profile | chess24.com

Carlsen's last game played on the site is dated 'Mar 27, 2021', which doesn't square with other info I've collected. Watch this space?

22 November 2021

TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Still Underway

In the world of first class chess engines, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The title of the previous post, TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Both Underway (November 2021), serves just as well for the current post. Following is a summary of the previous post.

TCEC: The TCEC launched into 'Swiss 2', which is still in the first of 11 rounds. Each round consists of two games between paired engines with colors reversed in the second game. The 44 engines will be battling each other for the next month. • CCC: The CCC started a 'CCC 16 Rapid' tournament with four stages. The tournament is currently between the Main event and the Semifinals. Each stage is designed to last a week.

Two weeks later, both events are still chugging along.

TCEC: The 'Swiss 2' event is now in the sixth of 11 rounds, the mid-point for the tournament. Stockfish is a half-point ahead of the pack, with five engines tied for second.

CCC: The Semifinals saw Stockfish, Lc0, and Dragon finish well ahead of three other engines, although Dragon was also eliminated. With less than 50 games remaining in the 300-game final match, Stockfish is close to clinching victory over Lc0. The site's '!next' command is promising a 'CCC16 Bullet' event.

That's not much of a post, even by my lax standards. Let's throw in some color.

Google image search on 'stockfish lczero'

It's still not much of a post. Good thing we have a FIDE World Championship match starting this week : fideworldchampionship.com. Who is more dominant : Stockfish over the other engines or Magnus Carlsen over the other humans?

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero; Dragon = KomodoDragon]

21 November 2021

For Blacker Blacks and Whiter Whites

How could anyone not like the colors in this photo?

Your Move © Flickr user Brentonbythesea under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Patrons playing chess after breakfast. Yolk, Manzanita, Oregon.

What about those colors? Additional info for the photo said, 'This photo is in 60 groups', of which the six featured groups had something to with iPhone. On top of that, 'This photo is in 16 albums' featured one called Topaz Software. Bingo! The site Topaz Labs: AI Image Quality Software (topazlabs.com), informs,

Get better image quality. Not every photo or video requires exceptional image quality. For the ones that do, Topaz AI image enhancement software helps you achieve impossibly good results.

Is there AI that detects when the Kings and Queens are set up on the wrong squares in a photo? Apparently not.

19 November 2021

Not the 'Under the Weather' Channel

Has it really been nearly two years since I was last Under the Weather (January 2020)? Because that post was on my World Chess Championship Blog, I used a photo of World Champion Magnus Carlsen looking not at his best.

This time I could have used one of a dozen similar photos of other world class players, but that's too easy. Instead I'll continue with the current TMER series (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record), where the previous post was Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, Chess24 (November 2021). I signed off saying,

It's obvious from the structure of the deal that the transaction was a takeover of Chess24 by Play Magnus. In the article we learn, 'On our 5th birthday [Carlsen] took on Peter Svidler in a match, and last Friday he played his first Banter Blitz.' That mention of Carlsen and 'Banter Blitz' is worth further exploration for the TMER, but I'll save that for another post.

The following video isn't quite what I had in mind for that other post, but it's a step in the right direction.

Carlsen vs. Svidler chess24 Birthday Banter Blitz (47:50) • '[Published on] Feb 26, 2019'

The video description says,

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and eight-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler play a first to five points blitz match to celebrate Chess24's 5th birthday! The players' thoughts are combined in this video (in left and right audio channels).

Then it adds, 'For the separate videos and more check out': Magnus Carlsen stars in birthday extravaganza (chess24.com). The 'first to five points blitz match' lasted six games. No bonus credit for guessing who won.