23 January 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 on Paper

After that month-long digression for the Google portion of Engines, (Google), Korchnoi (December 2016), let's return to the Korchnoi portion. I last worked on it for Korchnoi's Events 2008-15 (November 2016), where I left Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) in an unfinished state. The TMER consists of four sections:-

To continue, I decided to look at the games from 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' by Levy & O'Connell (Oxford University Press, 1979, 308 pages). The book has 288 pages of partially annotated game scores in chronological order, followed by 46 pages of crosstables. The games are cross-referenced by an index of openings and an index of opponents. A sample from the first page of opponents is shown in the following image.

I scanned the nine page index of opponents, ran the scans through an OCR converter, and loaded the results into a database. According to a preliminary analysis, the book has 1663 games played against 486 opponents. I'll delve further into this record for my next post.

22 January 2017

Which Is the Original?

'Hmm, that looks familiar', I thought when I saw the painting below. It was one of very few items that popped up for this current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price. Titled '19thC The Chess Game, Antique O/C Genre Oil Painting, Original Frame, NR', it sold for US $1525 after 59 bids from 23 bidders. But where had I seen it before?

The description started,

If you recognize this painting from a previous listing, you are correct. We sold it and when it was pulled to be shipped, it was accidentally damaged by us. We had two small tears professionally in-painted and have re-listed this auction once again with no reserve!

The previous eBay listing was in November 2016, when the same item sold for US $360 after 38 bids from 17 bidders. The description for both listings said,

Hand painted on stretched canvas, this original 19th century oil painting measures 14” by 17”. It depicts two gentlemen playing a game of chess. The man on the left has a smug look on his face and the man on the right knows he is about to lose the game. The style of the table and the large pewter covered pitcher suggests that this unsigned painting is German. In our black-light photographs you can see two small in-painted restorations to one of the man's hands and under the table. This circa 1880s oil painting comes in its original 17 ½” by 20 ½” painted frame, which has some edge wear.

The 'Top eBay Chess Items' post covering that period was Chess Sculpture at Auction (November 2016; 'sold for US $10.000 after five bids at live auction'), and I'm sure I didn't look at items in the $360 range. Where had I seen the painting before?

After a little searching, I found nearly the same painting in an earlier 'Top eBay Chess Items' post, Who's Really Winning? (March 2012; 'finally selling for US $742'). The frame was different (you'll have to accept my word on that) and there was much more on the wall behind the players, but it was the same composition as the current painting. I like the latest version better.

20 January 2017

A Lonely Knight

Who hasn't been there?

Losin' You © Flickr user Oliver Symens under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Feel free to use this image for any commercial or non-commercial purposes as long as you provide an attribution link to symensphotographie.me.

Done. Among tags like 'Funny', 'Lonely', 'Sad', and 'Love Sick', was 'Conceptual'. What does it mean? From Wikipedia:-

Conceptual photography is a type of photography that illustrates an idea. There have been illustrative photographs made since the medium's invention, for example in the earliest staged photographs, such as Hippolyte Bayard's 'Self Portrait as a Drowned Man' (1840). However, the term 'Conceptual Photography' derives from 'Conceptual Art' a movement of the late 1960s. Today the term is used to describe either a methodology or a genre. • Conceptual photography

I'm not sure that really explains anything. Maybe it would help if I understood what 'conceptual art' meant.

19 January 2017

The Lower Rating Band

After counting the number of players on the FIDE Rating List - January 2017, what more can I say about it? First, let's list the national federations that had the largest increase in number of players. While I'm at it, let's just do the same sort of chart that I used in last year's post, FRL - January 2016. That's the top half of the table shown below,

Left: Increase in players; Right: New federations

The 'new federations' include a couple that had their codes changed, Lebanon and Singapore.


FIDE Online Arena (FOA) Titles

FOA, which stands for 'FIDE Online Arena', is a column on the January 2017 FRL that must have been introduced in the past year. The bottom half of the table shows the values stored for FOA, which are obviously titles corresponding to the traditional GM, IM, etc.

Left: Rating ranges for FOA titles; Right: Count of FOA titles by federation

The FOA home page, FIDE Online Arena (aka arena.myfide.net), explains,

FIDE titles for the Lower Rating Band • In order to support the players' private online gaming and the active local chess communities, the top players of which have not reached the traditional Master level, FIDE announces the new Arena titles for the average amateur performance between 1100 and 2000 Elo points. These titles can be achieved online by the members of FIDE Online Arena, and obtained by direct Paypal payment without any application from the player's National Federation.

The titles of Arena Grand Master, Arena International Master, Arena FIDE master and Arena Candidate Master are the same for men and women, they are registered on the player's profile card on FIDE website, and are recognised to be used also for over the board tournament participation.

A page with the same name, FIDE Titles for the Lower Rating Band, leads to FIDE's 'Handbook :: B. Permanent Commissions', FIDE Titles for the Lower Rating Band. As for the statement that the titles 'are recognised to be used also for over the board tournament participation', what does that mean exactly? The 'Lower Rating Band' could be the name of a rock group.

16 January 2017

Mixed 'Matched Content'

After last week's post on 101 Pages with 'Matched Content', I decided I didn't like the combination of Google's matched links and Google's ad at the bottom of each page. The visual impact is captured below in the top part of the composite diagram. What to do?

In the parameters for its matched content, Google offers the possibility of including ads in place of internal links. The most obvious solution was to activate that option and eliminate the standalone ad. I did this on one page to take a look at it. It took some time for the change to ripple through Google's system, but the result is shown in the bottom part of the diagram.

It turns out that Google always replaces three matched links with ads, and those three are always in the same position. Each link includes the name of the destination domain, and ads are marked 'Ad' to the left of that name.

In my example, one ad is in English ('Highest Dividends'), one is in Dutch ('Paardenverzekering'), and one is in French ('Jouez à ...'), but such is life in bilingual Belgium. I decided that this treatment looked better than the previous iteration and applied the same change to the other 100 pages that had matched content.

15 January 2017

Chess as an Institution

After the long yearend holiday break, let's return to The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), last seen in FIDE's Social Commissions. I spent part of my holiday watching a series of lectures on the Youtube UCBerkeley channel, titled Sociology 101 (that link is a playlist). The lecturer is Ann Swidler (wikipedia.org), and the syllabus can be found at Introduction to Sociology (PDF).

On top of learning a tremendous amount about sociology, I was further rewarded for the time spent by discovering a long discussion of chess in the third lecture. It reminded me of a quote, 'Chess is the Drosophila of Cognitive Science', that I covered in a previous post, The Drosophila of Unattributed Quotes (February 2010).

Sociology 101 - Lecture 3 (50:28) • 'Published on Sep 5, 2012 : Introduction to Sociology'

The lecture starts with a continuation of the second, previous lecture, which is summarized in an overhead slide...

The Individual and Society
- Dual nature of the self
- Paradox of modern individualism

...It then moves to a new topic, 'Institutions and Identities', with another overhead slide...

The Mystery of Institutions
- Created by human beings
- Constrain and regulate human activity

- Appear enduring, permanent, fixed
- Can be gradually transformed

...The chess portion is the first detailed discussion in the next slide...

Components of Institutions
- Rules or Recipes that define the institution (cognitive)
- Sanctions -- rewards and punishments -- that enforce the rules (regulative)
- Purposes that justify (and guide) institutional choices
- Moral codes (normative)

...where I'll quote Prof. Swidler's accompanying remarks.

I'm going to take a couple of institutions and talk about how these things work. First, rules are recipes that define the institution, the cognitive, cultural element. I'm going to talk about something -- I don't know if it is an institution -- but it helps you see the way human beings create things that have rules and then treat the rules as permanent. Think about something like chess (or any game: it could be football, basketball, bridge, ... [describes the physical aspects of chess]). It's obviously some medieval-type game originally. There are a set of rules that make chess 'chess'.

You don't have to play chess. If you're five years old, you can say 'I want to move the big piece to that far corner and I'm going to do it'. You can do that. You can throw the pieces on the floor when you don't win, but then it's not chess. Or you could use the pieces and play checkers [describes checkers]. When you constitute something as 'chess' you do it by creating a set of rules about what chess *is* and that's what makes it chess.

After a talk about 'marriage' as an institution -- 'You constitute something as marriage' -- Prof. Swidler returns to chess.

If you play chess, there is actually a group somewhere that regulates the rules about chess is. You can't play official chess if you don't play according to the rules. Even if you played it informally, certain rules would determine that the thing actually was chess. Again, it's humanly created, but the rules make it what it is.

If someone walked in -- this is the cultural cognitive part -- and said, 'That's not chess, it's mah jongg!', you would say, 'No, it's not mah jongg; there are no tiles. This is chess; we're playing chess.' The person who actually thought it was mah jongg wouldn't just have an opinion that it was mah jongg, he'd be wrong. It's not mah jongg (or bridge, or golf); it's *chess*. And that is a cultural cognitive definition. You don't have to care about chess; you don't have to love chess; you don't have to 'believe' in chess; it's just chess.

Let me make one more point. Chess not only creates rules about what playing chess is and what the board should look like, what pieces [there are] so you can't suddenly say I want to have 45 pieces, and have every square on the board filled, for example. It wouldn't be chess.

It also creates certain 'roles'. You could even say it creates certain 'people', if you want to think of the chess pieces as people. To constitute chess, you also create pieces that have certain moves they can make. You constitute Kings and Queens [describes the moves] and Knights [ditto]. To constitute chess is also to constitute a bunch of social roles.

The discussion returns to marriage and the role of 'husband'. The previous slide, 'Components of Institutions', under 'Rules or Recipes that define the institution' included a couple of sub-bullets that summarize the chess discussion.

  • Rules that make it what it is (what makes chess)
  • Roles defined by the rules (e.g. Pawn, Knight, Bishop, etc.)

One Youtube commenter wrote, 'It's pretty confusing toward the end when she talks about chess.' For me, it was pretty helpful.