30 June 2020

No Online Chess Yahoos

Last month, in TWIC and the Coronavirus, I wrote,

I wondered if I could somehow quantify the move to online chess. To answer that question, I developed the following chart based on recent TWIC data ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther).

That chart eventually led to another post, The Switch to Online Chess, covering an eight week period for which

[I] developed the following chart. It shows online sites that were connected to an event covered by TWIC in a specific week.

That chart is copied below.

T1323 : 'The Week in Chess 1323, 16th March 2020'

For this current post I extended the chart another eight weeks.

T1331 : 'The Week in Chess 1331, 11th May 2020'

The three main playing sites in the T1323 chart have at least double the number of online events reported in TWIC, and there are two newcomers to the list, PlayChess and Europe-Chess. As far as I know, none of these events were reported in the mainstream press -- in other words, no new Yahoos.

Cataloging the events reported by TWIC is another matter. I'll leave that for another time.

29 June 2020

TCEC/CCC 2019-Q4 & 2020-Q1/Q2 Summary

Last year, in TCEC/CCC 2019 Q1-Q3 Summary (October 2019), I decided,

After following the TCEC & the CCC for nine months, and with both events transitioning to new seasons, this looks like a good time to end the blog's coverage. [...] I'm going to have trouble keeping my distance from the action, so I wouldn't be surprised to come back to these events.

I didn't manage to stay away and was back with a new post a week later. The only change was to post every two weeks, tackling a related subject on the off-week. Here's a summary of the posts since then.

TCEC/CCC Off-week
TCEC Cup 4 Finals & CCC11 R1 Underway
AllieStein and Leelenstein
TCEC FRC Leagues; CCC11 R2 Underway • Chess960
'Fat Fritz' by Albert Silver
TCEC/CCC Bonus Events
More TCEC Bonuses; CCC11 Semifinal Underway
The Question of Clones
TCEC S17 Announced; Lc0 Wins CCC11
LCZero -> Lc0
TCEC S17, CCC12 Both Underway
TCEC S17 L2, CCC12 Rd.3 Underway
TCEC PCT Handicap Events
TCEC S17 L1 Underway; CCC12 Bonus Series
Stockfish vs. Leela Explained • Kingscrusher videos
TCEC S17 L1 & CCC12 Bonus Series Ongoing
Leela Evolution
TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced
CCC13 Shapes
TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway
Tablebases and Fortresses
TCEC S17 DivP & CCC13 Heptagonal Underway
Deep Horizons
TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals : Leela vs Stockfish
Smerdon - Komodo Odds Match
Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals
TCEC S17 Opening Pairs
TCEC: Stockfish Wins Cup 5, S18 Underway; CCC14?
CCC Formats
TCEC S18 L3/L2/L1 Finished; CCC14?
World Champion Komodo • ICGA
TCEC S18 DivP Underway; CCC14 Started
Fat Fritz Followup
TCEC S18 Sufi Underway; CCC14 on Medical Leave

Since a summary after nine months doesn't fit well into an annual pattern, I'll produce the next summary after six months.

28 June 2020

Pog Champs (*)

This month I'm running a short series on The Switch to Online Chess, a transition that has been a natural reaction to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the planet. The theme also fits well with the much longer series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

Online chess has a natural ally in streaming, where Chess.com took the lead several years ago; see, for example, Twitch.TV/Chess (February 2018). Fast forward to the Covid-19 crisis and we learn Chess.com Launches PogChamps With Top Twitch Streamers (May 2020):-

Starting on June 5, the inaugural 2020 Chess.com PogChamps will kick off, featuring 16 of Twitch's most followed streamers. Over two weeks, top streamers like Boxbox, Voyboy, and yassuo will compete for their share of $50,000 in prizes. With so much on the line, GM Hikaru Nakamura, WFM Alexandra Botez and Chess.com's IM Danny Rensch will be providing commentary throughout the event's two weeks, with Nakamura and Botez providing lessons for each of the competitors.

What's good for Chess.com ... is it also good for chess? More specifically, Is Pogchamps a good way to promote chess? (chesstech.org; June 2020). On the 'Yes!' side is David Llada, 'FIDE Chief Marketing and Communications Officer'. On the 'No!' side is Stefan Löffler, 'Features editor of ChessTech'. Arbitrating the debate is GM Nakamura on his own Youtube channel.

PogChamps is an Embarrassment for Chess? (21:54) • '[Published on] Jun 13, 2020'

Objectivity is not a prerequisite. The clip currently has more than 430.000 views and nearly 2600 comments, so this isn't some flash in the pan phenomenon. Nakamura pinned a viewer comment to the top of the list:-

This whole Twitch chess boom got me to dust off my Chess.com account for the first time in like seven years.

What's my opinion? Who cares. Score another win for Chess.com.

[(*) Pog: An emote found on Twitch.tv, often used when a streamer does something cool, Urban Dictionary: Pog.]

26 June 2020

A Blockbuster Dustup

Last week's post, A Blockbuster Online Event, ended,

The announcement for the Magnus Carlsen Invitational [MCI] was blockbuster news that made the non-chess press take notice. The switch to online chess was suddenly noteworthy, especially in a coronavirus pandemic where most sports events had been cancelled or postponed. Not everyone was pleased, however, about the MCI.

My first inkling that something in the chess world was awry came while preparing a post on the top engine vs. engine competitions, Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals (April 2020). I linked a Peter Doggers report on CCC13, Leela Chess Zero Beats Stockfish 106-94 In 13th Chess.com Computer Chess Championship (chess.com), and remarked,

I can't remember Doggers reporting on another CCC event, a reflection on the lack of top-level human events which have been decimated by the global coronavirus COVID-19.

Doggers' reports always attract comments, often well-informed, but many of them here had nothing to do with the CCC13 final. The first such comment said,

Somehow this makes the news, but Firouzja beating Carlsen in Banter Blitz final, or the Carlsen Invitational doesn't?

This received a response from another member:-

That’s because those things are on a different site, Chess24, which is competitive with Chess.com.

Somewhat later the accusations became more pointed:-

It seems the Carlsen Invitational online tournament happening right now is not chess news, since I can't find it here. That is so wrong. What are your priorities chess.com? Money it seems. For sure it is not chess; if it was, serious journalism should be about informing chess fans about the important events happening, even if you are not organizing them. On the other hand, can you be the organizer of everything? In the Carlsen Invitational Nakamura is playing, Ding is playing, Firouzja is playing, Carlsen is playing, MVL is playing, Caruana, Giri, Nepo. Not news? Shame on you.

This received a response from Chess.com staffer NM Sam Copeland:-

The event looks like fun, but we don't consider it different from our events like the Speed Chess Championship and the PRO Chess League. If we see Chess24 covering these, maybe we could reconsider coverage.

I follow chess news on both sites and their coverage is not on the same level. Chess.com reports on nearly everything that has to do with chess, while Chess24.com reports mainly on world class events featuring the top players. Whatever the relative merits of the two sites, the discussion about the MCI continued for some time.

A few weeks later, Doggers wrote another report: Magnus Carlsen Wins Magnus Carlsen Invitational (chess.com). Of more than 100 comments, the second and third said,

Great article! Wonder why there weren't earlier reports on each round? • Peter Doggers didn't use one word in this news that says 'chess24'.

And the debate was on again. Chess in the online era might be entering a golden age, but the biggest prospectors are already jostling to control the richest deposits of ore.

25 June 2020

2020 USChess Executive Board Election

Today I received my ballot for the 2020 USChess Executive Board election. The cover letter said,

Dear US Chess Voting Member,

Below is your ballot to elect three individuals to the US Chess Executive Board. The names on the ballot are listed in an order determined by a random drawing. All candidates are running for at-large positions on the US Chess Executive Board, not for any specific office. If you wish to vote for someone who is not listed, you may indicate write-in choices. Write-ins must be current US Chess members. No employee of US Chess is eligible to be a member of the Executive Board.

For the record, I copied the attached ballot to the following image...

...on which the names of the six candidates are:-

  • David Hater
  • Sean J. Manross & Bear the Chess Husky
  • David Day
  • Anjelina Belakovskaia
  • Lakshmana "Vish" Viswanath
  • Fun Fong

It's been two years since I last voted, as recorded in 2018 USChess Executive Board Election (June 2018). In 2019 there were two candidates for two positions, so why waste a postage stamp?

Since I'm not familiar with all six of the 2020 candidates, I have some research to do. I haven't been particularly impressed with the direction the U.S. federation has taken the last few years, but I can't put my finger on the reason. This looks like the right time to figure out why I'm having doubts.

22 June 2020

TCEC S18 Sufi Underway; CCC14 on Medical Leave

Two weeks ago, in this blog's fortnightly report on two top engine-vs-engine competitions, TCEC S18 DivP Underway; CCC14 Started, the title summarized the status. Here's a summary of that post that goes deeper:-

TCEC: Premier Division (DivP) has finished the second of three double round robins. The first two engines will qualify into the S18 Superfinal (SuFi). • CCC: CCC14 started with the following 'Format Information' -- This is a double-elimination event. A 16 engine 1 x DRR starts the event. DRR finishers 1-8 are seeded into the winners bracket of the event. Finishers 9-16 are seeded into the losers bracket... -- Close to 75% of the preliminary games have been played.

In the meantime, both competitions have moved into the next phase. Following is the current status.

TCEC: Premier Division (DivP) finished with Stockfish a point ahead of LCZero, which was a half-point ahead of third placed AllieStein. The following chart shows the final crosstable.

In the 100-game final match (aka 'Superfinal' or 'Sufi') Stockfish leads LCZero (aka Leela) by +6-3=13. I documented the previous Sufi in Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals (April 2020). A three point lead for Stockfish in S18 with less than a quarter of the games played does not bode well for Leela to repeat as TCEC champion. It's time for a visit to the forums to find out what's going on.

CCC: The 16-engine preliminary double round robin ('Round 1') finished with the usual suspects occupying the top places -- Lc0 (2.5 points ahead of the next place), Leelenstein (ditto), Stoofvlees (3rd/4th), Stockfish (ditto) -- followed by a complicated bracket structure designed to implement the double-elimination event. The brackets were stopped to run 'CCC14: Round 2 (Bullet Test; 1|1)' using the same engines that competed in Round 1. An '!' command informs,

!next • Greco is battling Covid-19, so CCC14 is on hold. Bullet Test is expected to continue to its conclusion in the meantime.

The entire team at Chess for All Ages (that's me, myself, and I) wishes Greco a speedy recovery. The coronavirus Covid-19 is not to be taken lightly.

[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]

21 June 2020

Dora Maar, Weeping Woman

For this month's Flickr favorite, the darkness of the photo detracted so much from its aesthetic value that I spent some time trying to improve it. The best I could do was the example on the right, which is simply the photographic negative of the original on the left.

Chess - Untitled (Cavalier) c.1936 © Flickr user B under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo starts,

Dora Maar (November 2019 – March 2020) • During the 1930s, Dora Maar’s provocative photomontages became celebrated icons of surrealism.

A web search on that first sentence returns the page Dora Maar – Exhibition at Tate Modern (tate.org.uk), which explains that the date range after her name was the period of the Tate exhibition. Her Wikipedia page, Dora Maar, starts by giving her real name and life span:-

Henriette Theodora Markovitch (22 November 1907 – 16 July 1997), known as Dora Maar, was a French photographer, painter, and poet

The Tate page goes on to say,

Her relationship with Pablo Picasso had a profound effect on both their careers. She documented the creation of his most political work, Guernica 1937. He painted her many times, including Weeping Woman 1937. Together they made a series of portraits combining experimental photographic and printmaking techniques.

For Picasso's painting of her, see The Weeping Woman, 1937 (pablopicasso.org). Its description starts,

The Weeping Woman series is regarded as a thematic continuation of the tragedy depicted in Picasso's epic painting Guernica.

The reference to Guernica includes a link to the page for 'Picasso's most famous work'.