17 January 2019

FIDE's 'Anti-Cheating' / 'Fair Play' Commission 2018

Let's go back to last month's post on Spectating the 89th FIDE Congress, which took place in Batumi, Georgia, October 2018. One of the most important FIDE commissions guiding chess in the 21st century is undoubtedly the group responsible for overseeing the increasing use of computers to cheat. We last looked at the group's activities in FIDE's Anti-Cheating Commission 2017 (January 2018). The minutes of the General Assembly (GA; follow the 'Spectating' post for links to all source material) inform that the group's name has changed:-

Fair Play Commission – formerly Anti-Cheating Commission

The minutes also inform that the commission released three documents during the Congress:-

7.19. Fair Play Commission.
Annex 24 is Anti-Cheating Protection Measures.
Annex 25 is Anti-Cheating Regulations.
Annex 53 is Commission’s minutes from Batumi.

The most logical way of examining those documents is by taking them in reverse order. First here are the key points from the commission’s report of its meeting:-

Annex 53; Anti-Cheating Commission; Minutes of the ACC Meeting; Batumi, 29 September 2018

In attendance for ACC: Israel Gelfer (Chair), Yuri Garrett (Secretary) [...] The Chair opened the meeting at 9.10 am and briefly illustrated the history and work of the Commission. He also illustrated the reasons behind the proposed change of name of the Commission. Upon ending his prolusion [introduction] he gave the floor to the Secretary.

The Secretary presented to the audience the two documents that are put to the attention of the GA, i.e. the AC [Anti-Cheating] Regulations and the AC Protection Measures. He also stressed that the anti-cheating effort is not, primarily, a regulatory effort but rather a cultural shift: cheating should not only be prosecuted but rather prevented. [...]

Finally, the Secretary stressed, yet again and in the name of ACC, that
i) ACC is lacking proper financial support from Fide;
ii) three key tools still need to be implemented: the Commission Web Site, the On-line repository and the Screening Tool; and
iii) the number of the members of the ACC should be increased to 15, with 5 Councillors (in addition to Chair and Secretary). The two extra Councillors are justified in the light of the heavy duty that is entrusted to the Commission.

We already saw the first two of those last bullets ('i' & 'ii') in the post on 'FIDE's ACC 2017', so it's easy to conclude that FIDE doesn't give the commission a high priority. This is confirmed by the composition of the commission, which was included in the recent announcement, FIDE Commissions (fide.com), and which, besides a new chairperson, shows 5 councillors and 10 members, the same as any other commission.

The next document released in Batumi covered 'Regulations'. Here is an outline of its structure:-

Annex 25; Anti-Cheating Regulations; Draft: Version 27/06/2018

I. Purpose, Guiding principles, Definitions
1. These regulations deal with the investigation of suspected cheating incidents.
2. “Cheating” in these regulations means:
i) the deliberate use of electronic devices (Art. 11.3.2 FIDE Laws of Chess) or other sources of information or advice (Art. 11.3.1 FIDE Laws of Chess) during a game; or
ii) the manipulation of chess competitions such as, including but not limited to, result manipulation, sandbagging, match fixing, rating fraud, false identity, and deliberate participation in fictitious tournaments or games.

II. Jurisdiction
1. The Anti-Cheating Commission (ACC) has jurisdiction in all cheating-related matters, including false accusations. People subject to ACC jurisdiction include players, supporting persons and team captains. [...]
2. All FIDE-rated over the board games are subject to ACC jurisdiction. [...]

III. Complaints and Investigations
A. Triggering an investigation
B. Complaints

IV. Investigation Procedure
V. Manifestly Unfounded Accusations
VI. Procedural Rules
VII. Sanctions

The last released document covered 'Measures'. Here is its outline:-

Annex 24; Anti-Cheating Protection Measures

Section 1 – Levels of protection (A) Events that require maximum levels of protection: FIDE Level 1 events
(B) Events that require increased levels of protection: FIDE Level 2 events
(C) Events for which standard levels of protection may suffice: FIDE Level 3 events

Section 2 – Prevention
Tournament organizers shall adopt one of the three levels of the AC Protection Measures: standard protection, increased protection, or maximum protection. These levels of protection are to correspond with the three types of tournaments identified in Section 1.

Section 3 – Different standards of AC Protection Measures
1) Standard protection - to apply to tournaments identified in Section 1 (C).
2) Increased protection - to apply to tournaments identified in Section 1 (B).
3) Maximum protection - to apply to tournaments identified in Section 1 (A).

Annex A
The following technical equipment is recommended for cheating prevention, according to the level of the tournament and to local laws:

This outline omits most of the detail, like definitions for event levels. For example, 'FIDE Level 1 events' are defined as:-

Official FIDE events as defined by the FIDE Events Commission or FIDE World Championship and Olympiad Commission; Round-robins with an average rating of 2600 or more (2400 for Women’s events); Events with prize funds in excess of EUR 100,000.

How does all of this work in practice? One example would be 2018 Batumi Chess Olympiad: Anti cheating Measures and Procedures (fide.com; September 2018).


Later: I forgot to mention that the articles of the 'FIDE Laws of Chess' mentioned in 'Annex 25; Anti-Cheating Regulations' can be found in Fide Laws of Chess (fide.com; 'taking effect from 1 January 2018'). The relevant section is 'Article 11: The conduct of the players'.

15 January 2019

Postcards from 1935 Moscow

I'm swamped with other projects and have no time for a post requiring any significant amount of work. I spotted a set of five postcards on eBay, some of which I had seen before individually. What caught my attention was additional information about the cards, for example:-

Ultra Rare Vintage USSR postcard 1925s Edit MOOSH Emanuel Lasker CHESS Mikhailov

USSR; 1925s; Size: 14.8 x 10 cm; Circulation: 20 000; Artist: Mikhailov

Unfortunately, the scans were not very good, but when I checked my archive I found the same set of five cards from 2006. Those scans were much better.

Left: Riumin
Others: Flohr, Botvinnik, Lasker, Capablanca

The back of the Riumin card said (in Russian), 'Riumin,N.N.; Artist: Mikhailov,V.V.', gave some additional info about the card's origin, and confirmed the circulation ('tirage'). The cryptic word 'MOOSH' in the description is a direct transliteration of the Russian word 'MOCCX', but I have no idea what it means.

As for the date, which is not indicated on the card, it must be from the Moscow 1935 chess tournament (wikipedia.org). The four players I've indicated in the caption as 'Others' finished in the first four places, with Flohr and Botvinnik tied for 1st/2nd. Riumin finished further down in the crosstable with an even score.

Are there similar cards for any of the other 15 players who participated in the event? I'll add a note if I find any.

14 January 2019

Chess.com CCC3 Underway

For last week's post in this series, TCEC S14 Underway, I noted,

When we last visited the TCEC and the CCCC, both events had just finished their most recent seasons and were preparing to embark on new seasons. [...] For my next post in this series, I'll check on the current status of the CCCC.

Whenever I post an update on the CCC/CCCC, my first challenge is to remember the tournament situation the last time I looked at it. Then I have to figure out what has happened since then. One complication is that the name has changed several times. First there was 'CCCC'; then there was 'CCCC 1'; then there was 'CCC 2'. From now on, I'm going to call the events CCC1/CCC2/CCC3/..., unless the name changes again. Another complication, more like a detail, is that the tournaments since CCC1 have been split into three stages.

Since CCC3 is currently underway, that means there have been two previous CCCs, right? No, there have been three. Here are my posts on each of the first three:-

As for CCC3, Chess.com has issued intermediate reports on the first two stages:-

The INFO tab on on the live page, Computer Chess Championship (also chess.com), currently says,

Started Jan. 6; Expected duration: 14 days

Since that refers to CCC3 stage three, I'll come back to the event in a week. If all goes according to schedule, I should be able to report on the winner.

13 January 2019

Top-10 Games 2018

This January is the 13th for this blog and I can't remember ever doing a post featuring a 'top' list for the preceding year. Let's start with a video from Youtube's PowerPlayChess channel.

Top 10 Chess Games 2018 (10:58) • 'Published on Dec 24, 2018'

The description of the video said,

Daniel King shows his selection of top 10 games in 2018.

This was followed by dozens of links to other PowerPlayChess resources. As usual, right-click the video (or do the equivalent on other devices) to see all of the links. The last time we saw this particular channel on the blog was Patreon Chess (February 2018; 'Daniel King is creating chess videos'). For the videos featuring the 10 individual games, see the playlist Top 10 Games of 2018.

For the short list of the two best videos, see Best Chess Game of the year 2018 on the same channel. Before this video appeared, I had already noted two other resources featuring lists of '2018 Top-10 Games':-

And as long as we're looking at '2018 Top-10' lists, here are two more:-

These days, every year is a great year for chess.

11 January 2019

AlphaZero Match Conditions

Last week's post, Insights on AlphaZero, featuring comments on Talkchess.com by DeepMind's Matthew Lai, ended with the remark,

by matthewlai >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:13 pm • [DeepMind] decided to release games from the start position and TCEC positions as the main result of the chess part of the paper because start position is more scientifically pure (they were actually playing the game of chess, not a game that's just like chess except you are forced to start from these positions), and from TCEC openings we show that we can play well even in openings that it wouldn't normally play.'

The context of that statement is best understood through a couple of DeepMind's published papers. The following chart is from the paper published in Science magazine, 'A general reinforcement learning algorithm...' by David Silver et al; see last month's post AlphaZero Is Back! (December 2018) for a link to the paper.

Fig. 2. Comparison with specialized programs.

The extended caption to the chart (the portions relevant to chess) explained,

(A) Tournament evaluation of AlphaZero in chess, shogi, and Go in matches against, respectively, Stockfish, Elmo, and the previously published version of AlphaGo Zero that was trained for 3 days. In the top bar, AlphaZero plays white; in the bottom bar, AlphaZero plays black. Each bar shows the results from AlphaZero’s perspective:win (W; green), draw (D; gray), or loss (L; red).

(B) Scalability of AlphaZero with thinking time compared with Stockfish and Elmo. Stockfish and Elmo always receive full time (3 hours per game plus 15 s per move); time for AlphaZero is scaled down as indicated.

(C) Extra evaluations of AlphaZero in chess against the most recent version of Stockfish at the time of writing and against Stockfish with a strong opening book. [...]

(D) Average result of chess matches starting from different opening positions, either common human positions or the 2016 TCEC world championship opening positions [...]

A further explanation was provided in the 'Supplementary Materials' referenced at the end of the paper.

Match conditions • We measured the head-to-head performance of AlphaZero in matches against each of the above opponents. Three types of match were played: starting from the initial board position (the default configuration, unless otherwise specified); starting from human opening positions; or starting from the 2016 TCEC opening positions.

The majority of matches for chess, shogi and Go used the 2016 TCEC superfinal time controls: 3 hours of main thinking time, plus 15 additional seconds of thinking time for each move. We also investigated asymmetric time controls, where the opponent received 3 hours of main thinking time but AlphaZero received only a fraction of this time. [...]

Matches consisted of 1,000 games, except for the human openings (200 games as black and 200 games as white from each opening) and the 2016 TCEC openings (50 games as black and 50 games as white from each of the 50 openings). The human opening positions were chosen as those played more than 100,000 times in an online database: 365Chess.com

Now that we're up to speed on match conditions, let's look more closely at the impact of an opening book. I'm a big fan of chess960 and was struck by a curious comment in the matthewlai quote that opened this post:-

[The] start position is more scientifically pure (they were actually playing the game of chess, not a game that's just like chess except you are forced to start from these positions)

The context was pre-selected opening variations that arise from the traditional start position (RNBQKBNR), but the comment could just as easily apply to any of the 959 other chess960 start positions. I'll try to come back at some time to the chess960 aspect. That quote, which was addressing the use of Brainfish and the entirety of which can be found in the 'Insights' post, provoked another Q&A dialog:-

by matthewlai >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:51 pm • Q: I don't remember what Cerebellum book lines are chosen by what UI, but using for SF8 a regular polyglot opening book like the small, but good BookX.bin and with Lc0 [Leela] without any book in Cutechess-Cli, I did get very varied openings. And a decrease of Lc0 strength of at least 50 Elo points compared to just playing from Initial Board position, but at short time controls. I think in Cutechess-Cli one has a random seed for a .bin book, but I don't remember well now. • A: It's true, there are many books that we could have chosen from. The problem is there wasn't one that we thought everyone will be happy with, and we do have a lot of "critics" (in quotes because they aren't the useful kind of critics) who will probably go into any book we choose, find a line that they think is bad using whatever their preferred analysis method is on the day, and say we deliberately chose that book because it's bad.

In the end we settled on Brainfish book just because it's actually generated by Stockfish, so it's about as "pure" as it gets. I do believe that opening book will help quite a bit at short time control, since "intuitive play" is what AZ/Lc0 are good at. Though at the time controls we played with, SF does make some very reasonable opening moves (at least when it would still be in most books), and I'm not sure if it would have made a lot of difference.

Since that entire dialog is riddled with chess engine jargon, I'll come back to it in another post.

10 January 2019

FIDE's Journalist Commission 2018

Of all the topics flagged in Spectating the 89th FIDE Congress (December 2018), the one I like best is following the chess journalists. After the 88th Congress we had FIDE's Journalist Commission 2017 (December 2017), and this year we have annex 58 to the 89th Congress, titled:-

Commission of Chess Journalists (CCJ) meeting
30th September 2018

The chairman was FIDE's outgoing Deputy President, G. Makropoulos (GRE), and the secretary was A. Karlovych [Karlovich; both spellings are used in the document] (UKR). Also present were 17 journalists representing 13 federations, including three attendees from both Iran and Norway. The first order of business was:-

1. The Secretary gave a brief report of the activities in the previous year.

The main accomplishment was 'Media Regulations for the FIDE events are completed and included in FIDE Handbook (Section C.09.)', i.e. Handbook :: C. General Rules and Recommendations for Tournaments :: 09. Media Regulations. This appears to be a straightforward copy of the document discussed at the 2017 meeting, typos and all ('FIDE Wolrd Cup'). The minutes also noted,

The number of FIDE accredited journalists with FIDE Membership Cards is nearing 50. The Commission should work to increase the number. Iran is the national chess federation with the most FIDE accredited journalists. The number of journalists accredited by the Organizers of the Chess Olympiad is around 150.

The second order of business was:-

2. The Secretary informed about the Subcommittee decisions on FIDE Journalists awards for the year 2017.

In a nutshell:-

  • Best chess news website : ChessBase
  • Best national chess federation website : Turkey
  • For the year 2016, two television houses : NTV (Russia) and NRK (Norway).

The third order of business was:-

3. Miscellaneous

This amounted to a dozen suggestions by participants, e.g. 'the media is a key to securing the sponsorship and therefore it is important to introduce more journalists to chess', 'sponsors expect x3-5 of investment returned through media exposure', and 'regular journalists do not want just the games results -- we should be able to prepare attractive content for news agencies'.

The future of the CCJ is not clear. In last month's post on FIDE Commissions 2018, I speculated that the group's name was changing to 'Media Commission'. Neither group is mentioned in the 'Commissions' section of the FIDE Directory, (fide.com), or in a recent announcement about the composition of FIDE Commissions (ditto). The handbook section of A. Administrative Subjects :: 02. Non-Elected Commissions, lists 'Media Commission (MSM)', but there is no further information. Later this year, when I report on the 90th Congress, perhaps there will be nothing to say on the topic.

08 January 2019

FIDE Rating List - January 2019

Nearly a year after the post FIDE Rating List - January 2018, it's once again time to take a snapshot of the FIDE rating system. Following the instructions on Download FRL January 2019 (fide.com), I chose the file:-

Download STANDARD rating list
TXT format (31 Dec 2018, Sz: 7.23 MB)

The format of the file was the same as in recent years, so it was easy to add it to my database that goes back to 1971. In last year's 'FRL - Jan 2018', I developed a small table showing the growth of the rating list over five years. Here is a continuation of that table for the current year:-

  • 2019: >325K players; >157K marked inactive
  • 2018: >296K players; >134K marked inactive
  • [...]

Based on these numbers, I predict that in 2020, the number of inactive players will be more than half of the total number. Is this a problem? I don't think so, because all inactive players are potentially active supporters of the game. I am just one example and, yes, I'm Still There After All These Years (January 2016).

What about federations? On last year's rating list I counted 187 different federation codes. This year I count 189. The two new codes are shown in the chart below. For the circumstances involving Bulgaria (BUL), see Some Numbers for Rating Activity (January 2018). The code 'CAF' stands for Central African Republic, which must be a new federation.

The other tables in the chart below are inspired by the same 'Activity' post. The big table on the left shows which federations had the largest increase in number of players. The corresponding table on the right shows which federations -- from those with 100 or more players -- had the largest percentage increase. More than half of the first ten federations on the right represent African countries.

Note the presence of Iran (IRI) on both lists. It is fifth in absolute numbers on the left, with an increase of 20.9% on the right. Other federations showing on both lists are Malaysia (MAS) and Kazakhstan (KAZ).