17 August 2018

Testing HTTPS

I ended a recent post, Activating HTTPS, with an action:-

When I click on one of my links in the top half, the next page reverts to HTTP, but I can activate HTTPS by simply changing the URL. Subsequent pages retain HTTPS unless they are loaded from a different directory. My domain host tells me I need to 'Create a 301 Redirect to Enforce your SSL certificate'.

I followed the instructions to implement this (HINT: .htaccess) and almost everything looked good. I had one issue with image files, so I decided to test using an image in a blog post.

This is a recent image found on eBay, where the description said,

A. Kindler (1833-76) German • Framed 1874 Oil Canvas Painting, 'Men Playing Chess' • Dimensions of Canvas: 28" x 22"

Now let's see if it works correctly.


Later: Indeed it did work. The image appears and is loaded with the correct 'HTTPS' transfer protocol. Once I verified that everything looked good, I went back to the previous post, 'Activating HTTPS', with the idea of corrrecting the image protocol used in that post. Before changing anything, I looked at 'Preview' and received the familiar message:-

This page contains HTTP resources which may cause mixed content affecting security and user experience if blog is viewed over HTTPS.

Fix • Dismiss • Learn more

'Fix' immediately closed the edit session. When I reopened it, I discovered that the image 'HTTP' had been changed to 'HTTPS'. When I looked at the blog post, the image was loaded with 'HTTPS'. [NB: 'Learn more' goes to Fix mixed content on your blog (support.google.com).] Of course, I'm not going back to all 2700+ old posts on this blog (plus my three other blogs) to change the image protocol. Instead, I have a number of other tasks to perform:-

  • Investigate why the security certificate (issued by Let's Encrypt 'Free SSL/TLS Certificates') is only valid for three months, to 15 October 2018.
  • Examine the impact on the site's stat logs.
  • Flag the HTTPS change to Google search.

I suspect that last part will be done automagically, but I would like to be sure.

16 August 2018

Chessgames.com (2001?-2019?)

It's been a couple of weeks since I noted the passing of the only surviving founder of Chessgames.com, Daniel Freeman (1967-2018), and since that post I've taken the time to explore the site in more depth than I usually do. Archive.org claims to have 'saved' the Chessgames.com home page more than 2000 times. Its first copy of the home page looks like the following.

'Saturday, January 26, 2002'

All players with pages on Chessgames.com have forums associated with the page. From those forums we can isolate the first comment by a Chessgames.com user:-

  • The chess games of Robert James Fischer [archive] • Dec-24-01 Sneaky: The greatest chess player of all time!
  • The chess games of Garry Kasparov [archive] • Sep-22-02 Tigranvp: I viewed the series of tapes about Gari, and they are of poor quality, though the analysis by Kasparov is outstanding. Who ever that was that interviewed Kasparov (Plaskett?) He sure looked silly trying to show up GK.
  • The chess games of Anatoly KarpovSep-30-02 skakmiv: Karpov is such a great defender! :)
  • The chess games of Magnus Carlsen [archive] • Jul-30-03 MoonlitKnight: This Norwegian child prodigy has reached 12 years and will soon be receiving his IM title. He's being trained by Norwegian GM Simen Agdestein, himself once the youngest grandmaster in the world. Carlsen (2385) will never achieve that accomplishment, but nevertheless, he's a kid to look out for.

That first item, by Sneaky, is particularly revealing because 'Sneaky' was an alternate username, a pseudonym, used by Freeman himself. In December 2001, he was undoubtedly testing the functionality by seeding the site with comments to provoke reactions from other users. Here's another example of a first forum comment, perhaps to seed a theretofore overlooked page from an important player of the past.

  • The chess games of Jose Raul CapablancaNov-09-02 Sneaky: From Fred Wilson's "Picture History of Chess" • "There have been times in my life when I came very near thinking that I could not lose even a single game. [...]

Putting all of this together, we can calculate that Chessgames.com will soon celebrate its 17th anniversary. How long can we expect it to survive? Based on recent forum comments by its numerous devotees, the future of the site is not at all certain. Freeman apparently coded and administered the core functionality of the site by himself, never spending any time on succession planning.

The site is well regarded by other key players in online chess. From Chess.com's CEO Erik Allebest, who knows a thing or two about building a world class web site: Thank You For ChessGames.com, Daniel Freeman (1967-2018).

As one of the first major chess websites on the internet, ChessGames.com made quite an impact on me. As I was diving deeper into the game as an hobbyist in the early 2000s, I spent a lot of time learning and reading on ChessGames.com. I pored over famous games and players. ChessGames.com has always captured the depth and richness of the game in a pure and traditional way.

In stark contrast to this, many world class chess historians have been antagonistic to Chessgames.com since its creation. I documented one particularly vicious attack in Chess History Cat Fight (December 2013), and I could cite more examples. If chess grandmasters treated amateur players the way acknowledged chess historians treat amateur historians, no one would support the GMs. I suspect that nearly all published chess historians work mainly on their own and don't understand the nature of community, crowdsourced work. How many of them contribute to Wikipedia?

Daniel Freeman understood community work and he built a chess site that proved it. If the site eventually collapses because he is no longer behind it, I doubt that anyone else will be able to improve on his vision.

14 August 2018

American Chess Magazine

Interested in a free copy of American Chess Magazine (ACM)? Here it is, but you'll need to be a fast reader.

American Chess Magazine - Issue No.5, Winter edition (0:48) • 'Dec 27, 2017'

Similar copies of all seven issues ACM are available from the same Youtube channel. At this point in a post about an embedded video, I would normally insert an excerpt from the video's description, but for this clip there is none. Instead I'll insert the one and only comment:-

Why is this excellent magazine so overpriced? I mean it may be classy, but so is NIC [New in Chess] magazine and they are affordable. Would love to buy ACM more than once so it's a pity.

'Excellent', 'classy', and 'overpriced' are three adjectives that occur again and again in discussions about ACM. Here are a couple of reviews (with comments) to prove the point:-

In a recent post, 2018 CJA Awards, I wrote

Getting back to those two 'Special Achievement' awards that head the awards list:-
- American Chess Magazine for 'All Four Issues', and
- Peter Doggers for 'Yearlong FIDE Coverage'
Both are worthy of a follow-up post.

Now I can cross that first follow-up off the list. • P.S. 'All Four Issues' would appear to be Nos.3-6, 2017 'Summer' edition through 2018 'Spring'. For info about subscribing, see acmchess.com.

13 August 2018

Battles of the Chess NNs

The first direct confrontation of AI/NN chess engines ended with the two capturing 1st and 2nd places in a qualifying preliminary: Leela Chess Zero wins the gold medal in TCEC Div 4 (chessdom.com):-

More than 125 000 unique viewers followed the dramatic victory of Leela Chess Zero (aka Lczero or Lc0) in [Season 13] Div 4 of the Top Chess Engine Championship. After four round robins, Leela came on top of the division with 20.0/28 with 14 wins, 12 draws, and 2 losses. This was 1.5 points more than the second neural net in the event Deus X powered by Lc0, and 2 points more than the top traditional engine of the division Wasp.

Here's a copy of the final crosstable:-

As impressive as the results were, the hype surrounding the event was even more impressive. The Chessdom report continued, 'These results confirmed the dominance of the neural nets, modeled after Google subsidiary DeepMind’s Alpha Zero chess neural network.' Did everyone forget that the 'dominance of the neural nets' was in the lowest division, the first qualifying event, of the TCEC season? Since when are gold medals given in the preliminaries of any competition? If we have similar medals for divisions three, two, and one, what will they give to the overall winner of the season?

The report ended with a 'Statement by the TCEC team'. Before we get to that statement, we need to backtrack and review the sequence of events that overshadowed the event. I covered the start of that in two previous posts:-

It quickly became apparent that 'new neural network' was less than it appeared to be--

  • 2018-07-31: Statements by Deus X and Leela Chess Zero authors (chessdom.com) • 'Statement by Albert Silver, author of Deus X: DeusX is a neural network, trained by Albert Silver from unique non-Leela data, exclusively from human played games. The engine that executes this network is Lc0, developed by the Leela Chess Zero team.' • 'Statement by Leela Chess Zero team: After the initial confusion, the Lc0 team is happy to receive the statement from Albert Silver with a clarification regarding usage of the Lc0 code. The credit to the Leela Chess Zero team is now given appropriately.'

From the Leela blog (blog.lczero.org):-

The camaraderie lasted less than a week; also from the Leela blog:-

  • 2018-08-07: Statement From LCZero Core Dev Team; [Albert Silver] needed incomparably less effort relative to the effort that he reused from the LCZero project [...; He] decided to hide information both from the LCZero community (by asking TCEC administration to be secret until the very last moment), and from TCEC administration (by not sharing appropriate information about importance of the engine vs neural network weights). The team welcomes open and fair usage of the engine and tools around it, but in this case it was certainly not fair. We strongly condemn Albert’s submission which may be seen as plagiarism, and poor behavior.

Getting back to the Chessdom report that 'Leela Chess Zero wins the gold medal', the report's final statement said,

  • 2018-08-11: 'Statement by the TCEC team [...] TCEC Season 13 is an experimental season and will serve as stepping stone for further competitions. For next season fair (and practical) rules will be put in place regulating the entry of neural networks to TCEC competition'

Both Leela and DeusX qualified from TCEC S13 division four to division three, another quadruple round robin with eight engines competing. As I write this, that event has reached the second stage. The engine Ethereal has a large lead over six engines (including the two NNs) which are bunched together, vying for the second qualifying place into division two.

12 August 2018

CJA Multimedia Winners

Once again it's time to pick a featured video for the current month on this blog. After reviewing the clips published since the previous video post, Interviews in Black and White (July 2018), I ended up with a dozen candidates on the short list. Unfortunately, every one of them had a small defect that precluded me from using it. Fortunately, I had a second list of great videos put together for the 2018 CJA Awards. Here are the four first place winners from the CJA's 'Multimedia' category:-

Although the last of the four was my favorite, I already featured it last year in How About a Game of 3D-Chess? (November 2017). Let's go with my second favorite.

AlphaZero vs Stockfish Chess Match Highlights by IM Danny Rensch (17:28) • 'Published on Dec 11, 2017'

The description explained,

IM Danny Rensch summarizes the "top 5 moments" from the AlphaZero vs Stockfish chess match in a single video that shows the critical, most interesting moment and ideas from each game.

The same description points to IM Rensch's 'Full Review' for each of the five games.

10 August 2018

Activating HTTPS

Last year in Site Stats and Security (July 2017), I noted,

HTTPS as a ranking signal • Is this the reason for the drop in the number of daily visitors on my site? [...] That promises more work that has nothing to do with the content of the site, but I need to look into it at some time in the months ahead.

It turns out that the site already has HTTPS security (SSL) enabled.

Top: https://www.mark-weeks.com/

Bottom: Firefox 'More Information'

When I click on one of my links in the top half, the next page reverts to HTTP, but I can activate HTTPS by simply changing the URL. Subsequent pages retain HTTPS unless they are loaded from a different directory.

My domain host tells me I need to 'Create a 301 Redirect to Enforce your SSL certificate'. I'll look at that in another post.

09 August 2018

2018 CJA Awards

A little more than a month after I posted about the 2018 CJA Award Entries, the Chess Journalists of America announced their award winners in Awards (chessjournalism.org). Before you click (or tap) that link, take a deep breath! The page is unusually clumsy.

The top of the page still mentions, 'CJA Award Entries accepted until June 18th!', as does every other page on the site. The awards themselves are listed in reverse order. They start with a couple of 'Special Achievement' awards and end with 'Chess Journalist of the Year'. Within different categories, any 'Honorable Mention' awards appear before 'First Place' awards. It's impossible to copy/paste from the list; instead you have to click a winner, view the CJA award certificate, and copy the relevant text from there. I could go on (no links to the original work) but what's the point? The CJA might not care enough about their awards to spend time on how they are presented, but other people -- the award winners? -- certainly do.

I'm going to follow last year's post, 2017 CJA Awards (August 2017), and mention four awards:-

  • Chess Journalist of the Year
  • Best Book
  • Best Chess Art
  • Best Chess Blog

The Journalist of the Year award went to Mike Klein. As far as I can tell, this is the third time he has won the most prestigious of the CJA Awards. I covered the two previous occasions in 2012's Best Chess Blog, Chess Journalist, Chess Art (August 2012) and 2015 CJA Awards (August 2015). To hear him talk about his craft, follow the links in USchess in Podcasts (June 2018). Here is a copy of his 2018 certificate.

In the 'Top Book' category, Lev Alburt and Jon Crumiller won the award for 'Best Book - Instruction' for their 'World Chess Championship: Carlsen v. Karjakin'. Tim Harding won 'Best Book - Other' for 'British Chess Literature to 1914: A Handbook for Historians'. How does an Irish national writing on a British topic win an American award? Because publisher McFarland, who submitted the nomination, is located in North Carolina.

My post on '2018 Award Entries' showed four of the five entries for 'Best Chess Art', plus a link to the fifth. The winner was Paul Dickinson for his two-page Chess Life (CL) cover. Of the two 'Honorable Mentions', one deserved it, one didn't. Pasting chess pieces into the background of an ordinary drawing is not a noteworthy example of chess art -- what is acceptable for a cover, can be bad for an award.

For my favorite category, 'Best Chess Blog', the winner was not a blog, but a single blog post: Playing The Quintessential American Tournament: The 2017 World Open (chess.com) by Sam Copeland. Follow that link for another link to all of his blog posts. I would guess that Chess.com's 'Top Bloggers' is also a good source for other blogs and blog posts of merit. A 'Best Chess Blog' winner of yesteryear, John Hartmann (2015; see the link above), won 'Best Chess Column' for his CL 'Looks at Books'.

I always end these CJA award posts with a hearty, heartfelt 'Congratulations to all winners!'. This year is no exception. If you're interested in the current and planned activities of the CJA, see 2018 Meeting Minutes, although where and when it was held is a minor mystery.

Getting back to those two 'Special Achievement' awards that head the awards list:-

  • American Chess Magazine for 'All Four Issues', and
  • Peter Doggers for 'Yearlong FIDE Coverage'

Both are worthy of a follow-up post.