25 June 2019

'Chess in the Movies' Checkpoint

It's time to take a checkpoint on a subject introduced in Chess Obsessed (May 2019). I wrote,

Back to that 'Chess in the Movies' page, I created it sometime around 2005. It might be worthwhile to survey images I've collected since then and, if I have enough examples, add another sub-page on the same topic.

The referenced page is Chess in the Movies, and so far, without any real effort, I found 152 photos to work through. The following composite shows the first eight (ordered according to my internal file naming convention, which is random).

Top row: (info from the text accompanying the photo)

  • 1940 The Sea Hawk ['Chess in the Movies' different scene]
  • 1958 Fraulein.
  • 1963 Il fornaretto di Venezia (aka The Scapegoat)
  • 1962. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color; Episode: The Prince and the Pauper - The Merciful Law of the King

Bottom row:

  • 1970 Flap [behind the scenes shot]
  • 1972 Rat' mal, wer heut bei uns schlaft... (aka The Swinging Pussycats)
  • 1957 The One That Got Away
  • 1970 The Passion of Anna (aka En Passion)

Out of the eight photos, six are usable. The first one on the top row, '1940 The Sea Hawk', is a repeat, and the first one on the bottom row, '1970 Flap', is a behind the scenes shot. If the percentages hold up -- which I have no way of knowing -- I have around 110 usable photos. Since a new 'Chess in the Movies' sub-page requires 24 photos, I have enough material for four new pages. That is on top of the three pages I already have.

Another aspect to consider is how I name foreign language films. I currently have both

  • La Vérité (The Truth, 1960) and
  • Brainwashed (Schachnovelle, 1961)

In the samples above, I have at least three foreign films: French, German, and Italian. Which should be the main title, the English version or the original version?

24 June 2019

TCEC Not-so-Rapid Bonus; CCC9 Stage Two

So where was I in reviewing the two ongoing engine-to-engine competitions? To summarize last week's post, More TCEC Bonus Events; CCC9 Starts:-

TCEC: The 'Champions Bonus' ended as expected. The Stockfish version that won S14 finished first, the version that won S13 finished second, and so on. The TCEC is currently running a 'Rapid Bonus' with 14 engines. • CCC: The site is currently running 'CCC9: The Gauntlet Qualification', with 12 engines, including Leela and Stockfish.

Both competitions have advanced enough that I couldn't skip a post this week.

TCEC: The 'Rapid Bonus' is still running with Stockfish and Leela currently tied for first. The event should finish later this week. The TCEC published a blow-by-blow report of season 15 with TCEC15: the 15th Top Chess Engine Championship (chessdom.com). Although the TCEC is the front runner in organizing engine-to-engine competitions, the report struggles with some basic concepts. It doesn't specify which engines run on the two configurations -- CPU & GPU -- and it speaks of ‘Shannon AB’, ‘AB conventional’, 'neural-network', and 'non-Shannon' engines. Insiders understand, outsiders don't.

CCC: The 'Gauntlet Qualification' finished with the results shown in the following chart, where Leela finished ahead of Stockfish by a significant margin. Stockfish lost one game because of a bug handling a tablebase, but it had no impact on the final standing.

The red and green bars to the left of the chart show which engines were seeded into the next stage, the 'Gauntlet Quarterfinals'. According to CCC planning - CCC9 The Gauntlet (docs.google.com), Stockfish and Leela play at every stage. In the quarterfinal they are joined by four qualifying engines from the previous stage (the green bar in the chart) and 'strong finishers from CCC8'. Along with Stockfish and Leela, two engines will qualify into the semifinal, where they will be joined by Komodo and Houdini. Got it? The engine Dark Queen, the last to qualify from the first stage, is worth a note:-

!dq: Dark Queen is a neural network that focuses on using q-learning for its value head, still in its early development stages. It is currently trained completely on lichess games. It uses LC0 binary.

What's q-learning and how does it relate to reinforcement / deep learning? Wikipedia's Q-learning page is a typical Wikipedia science article, where you have to understand the subject to understand the article, so: Pass! (for now).

[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]

23 June 2019

Chess Historians Discuss Linder

The most recent post in the series on The Sociology of Chess was last month's Books on Soviet Chess History. There I wrote, 'There are 11 titles on the list, of which I have all but three'. The most intriguing of the three was Linder's 'Chess in Old Russia'. I had often encountered his name, but knew little about him.

Of 'Chess in Old Russia', I found little and will keep looking. Isaak [Isaac] Linder died in 2015, and the top pages about him are obituaries: Obituary of Isaak M. Linder (kwabc.org), for example. Also featured prominently are his books on the early World Champions. To date, there have been five translated into English, all listed on Isaak Linder: Books (amazon.com). The introductory material to 'Emanuel Lasker: Second World Chess Champion' explains the circumstances of the book's publication. Here's the start of the 'Foreword' by Andy Soltis, June 2010:-

When he began his My Great Predecessors series in 2003, Garry Kasparov adopted a literary device: After telling the story of a world champion, Kasparov quoted what the champions successors had to say about him. Kasparov said he did this because it "has become customary." Perhaps so. But it became customary only after it was used in Kings of the Chess World (2001) by Dr. Isaak Linder and Vladimir Linder. This book is arguably the finest work of chess history in more than 30 years. One of the Kings chapters has been improved and transformed into the book you are reading.

You may not be familiar with the authors because the Linders, father and son, have been published mainly in Russian and German, and only a fraction of their vast contribution to chess literature has been translated into English. Other chess historians know them for their meticulous approach to the craft. They know Isaak Linder in particular for his personal ties to some of the great figures he's written about. For example, during the memorial service for Vasily Smyslov at the Central Chess Club in Moscow in early 2010 he recalled playing Smyslov in Soviet junior events back in the 1930s. A photo survives of Dr. Linder playing Emanuel Lasker in a 1935 simul in Moscow. And he is probably the only historian to appear in a chess movie.

From the 'Publisher's Note' (Russell Enterprises):-

This book originally appeared in Russian, part of the massive historical tome published in 2001, Korolyi Shakhmatnovo Mira (Kings of the Chess World). By the time we had the pleasure of meeting with Isaak Linder and his son Vladimir in Moscow in March 2008, the original single-volume work of almost one thousand triple-column, small-font, large-format pages had been split into individual books, one for each world champion. We quickly reached an agreement with the Linders to bring out these books in what would become in English The World Chess Champion Series.

The first in the series was about Jose Raul Capablanca, the great Cuban world champion. This book on Lasker is the second in the series. With the permission and encouragement of the authors, we made some changes to the original Russian edition. The original contained a fine selection of Lasker's games. We brought in German grandmaster Karsten Mueller to provide refreshing new notes to these classic games. American grandmaster Andy Soltis, who has himself written about Lasker, contributed a new Foreword. And crosstables of minor matches played by Lasker, not included in the original edition, were also added.

From 'A Word about the Authors', Yuri Averbakh, April 2010:-

At the authors' request, I have edited a few of their recent voluminous works, and I must admit to being bowled over by the breadth of their conceptions! Very few people would be capable of taking such large swaths of chess history and recasting them into such an unusual literary form. How have they been able to put their ideas into concrete form?! Above all, because they have a system for dividing up the work. The elder takes charge of the historical approach, and the analytical duties; the son handles the literary decorations and the statistical basis of their works. As a reader, I can say that the results are a delectation for chess gourmets.

The next books in the series, also introduced by GM Soltis, were on Steinitz, Alekhine, and Euwe (although not in that order). Will there be more? The Amazon reader reviews are not particularly encouraging.

21 June 2019

Tabulating the Rabbit Hole

Last week's post, Mapping the Rabbit Hole, ended with an action:-

It's time to wrap up the series on early 19th century chess periodicals. It began with '2019-02-14: Down the Rabbit Hole • Google Books' [...] The next step, which shouldn't take much time, will be to catalog the various periodicals by year.

The following chart shows periodicals published by country and by year.

Creating that chart didn't take much time, but interpreting it is another matter. I count 25 intersections of year and country with more than a single periodical. Looking into those will take time. For starters, here are two intersections with more than two periodicals:-

1861 - UK: 3
1868 - FR: 5

The first is 'The Chess Player's Chronicle' (1861); the second is 'Le Philidorien' (1868). A quick look at the Google scans established that these are indeed duplicate copies, but I couldn't decide which versions should be used in the future.

20 June 2019

Embedded Chess Puzzles

A few days ago Chessbase.com published an article Tactical puzzles for your web site. The lead sentence said,

With the relaunch of our training site tactics.chessbase.com, it was time to renew the embeddable tactics board which you can put into your own web site.

I followed the instructions and produced a page on this blog:-

See the tab of the same name at the top of this page (as well as every page on the blog). It works fine, but the puzzles are too basic to be interesting to anyone beyond beginner. The option for 'More Difficult' goes to the Chessbase site. I looked for a similar function on other chess sites, found one on Lichess.org, and created another page:-

This 'puzzle' is just a fancy link. When you click on it, it goes directly to Lichess.org, where you can solve it. Good idea, bad execution, so I decided not to make it a tab at the top of every page. I'll keep looking for a challenging tactics trainer that works while staying on this blog.

18 June 2019

The Gamification of Chess

After Playing the FWFRCC (June 2019) -- that stands for 'FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship' and the post is on my chess960 blog -- the next time I signed into Chess.com I had to clear a half-dozen popup messages for trophies or something. I mentioned this to a friend who told me, 'That's what they call "gamification"'. I had to admit that I wasn't familiar with the concept. In Gamification, Wikipedia informs,

Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements. Gamification commonly employs game design elements to improve user engagement, organizational productivity, flow, learning, crowdsourcing, employee recruitment and evaluation, ease of use, usefulness of systems, physical exercise, traffic violations, voter apathy, and more. A collection of research on gamification shows that a majority of studies on gamification find it has positive effects on individuals. However, individual and contextual differences exist.

That paragraph was littered with more references (like '[20]') than I've ever seen in a Wikipedia introduction. The following images shows the awards (not trophies!) I won for playing the chess960 tournament.

Top row / 2nd row (left to right):-

  • Killer Queen: You delivered checkmate with a Queen!
  • Random Thoughts: Your 1st game of Chess960!
  • Mix Master: You played 10 Chess960 games [What? No '!'?]
  • Quick Knockout: You checkmated in less than 20 moves!
  • Full House: You won without losing any pieces!

The last award is from February 2019.

  • Club Member: You joined a club!

That was probably while I was working on the post TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6 (February 2019), for an ongoing weekly series about engine tournaments. The club was the 'CCCC Club' -- I forget what all the C's mean -- which has little activity.

Back to the five awards I won for playing the chess960 tournament, three of them -- Killer Queen, Quick Knockout, and Full House -- were for a single game where I checkmated my opponent on the 9th move. The other two -- Random Thoughts and Mix Master -- don't add up. My first game of Chess960? No, I've played correspondence chess960 on the site. I played ten chess960 games? No, I played five games in the tournament and haven't played on the site since.

Anyway, I'll take the awards. The 'Achievements' page where I found them lists 120 awards. I can't imagine that anyone has won all 120. What's the record for winning awards?

  • Award Monster: You have won a zillion awards!

Who would have thought you could turn playing chess into a game?

17 June 2019

More TCEC Bonus Events; CCC9 Starts

A Monday post means another look at the two world class engine-to-engine competitions that I've been following for the past few months. A week ago, in TCEC S15/S16 Bonus; CCC8/-9 Demos, the highlights were:-

TCEC: The 'S15 - Champions Bonus' is still running with about 75% of the games having been played. Leela, the winner of S15 is trailing the four versions of Stockfish that won S11 through S14. The TCEC has released a few details about S16. • CCC: The CCC is still running a series of exhibition events. The current event, dubbed 'Rapid Romp', has three engines and is also about 75% completed. Leela is trailing both Brainfish and Leelenstein, with a minus score against both adversaries.

Let's have an update on that.

TCEC: The 'Champions Bonus' ended as expected. The Stockfish version that won S14 finished first, the version that won S13 finished second, and so on. The only variance from the expected rank was Leela's fifth place finish. As winner of S15, it could reasonably have been expected to finish higher. The results for the first eight engines are shown in the following chart.

The TCEC is currently running a 'Rapid Bonus' with 14 engines. Why these engines were chosen and what the result will tell is anybody's guess. The event will finish in about a week and a half, when we should see the start of S16.

CCC: After 'Rapid Romp' (three engines; 1st: Brainfish, 2nd: Leelenstein 3rd: Leela; two points separating first and last), the demo events continued with

• Historical World Championship Replays
• Warmup II

The site is currently running 'CCC9: The Gauntlet Qualification', with 12 engines, including Leela and Stockfish. The rules say,

Qualification: 5 rounds, 12 engines
Quarterfinals: 7 rounds, 10 engines
Semifinals: 20 rounds, 6 engines
Finals: 100 rounds, 2 engines
Time control: 5m + 2s (10m+5s for the finals)

The demo event 'Historical World Championship Replays' was based on the openings from 100 games of World Championship matches, starting with the 1886 Steinitz - Zukertort match, through the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana match. The FIDE Knockout World Championships were not considered. Brainfish finished ahead of Leela +7-3=190, with Black winning as many games as White. What's Brainfish?

!brainfish: Stockfish with an opening book

For more about the Brainfish engine, use the search function to find previous posts on this blog. Like the TCEC's 'Rapid Bonus', it's not clear what the CCC's World Championship openings were supposed to prove, if anything. I imagine that most of the engine games deviated from their grandmaster stem games soon after the mandatory opening ended. The selection might be suitable for an anthology of best WCC games.

[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]