06 December 2022

How Many for Carlsen? For Niemann?

For the second time in less than two months we have a REAL YAHOO, reported by Yahoo.com in person. The previous sighting was Really Big Stereotypes (October 2022; 'real Yahoo -- a mainstream news source reporting on a chess story').

Unfortunately, I bungled the screen capture and lost the top portion of the Yahoo headlines. You'll have to believe me that the top headline said, 'Nobody thought case against Fox would get this far'.

The five bottom headlines said,

- Christie's niece injured 6 cops during arrest: Officials
- Vandals open fire on power stations, knock service out
- 'Want me to strip fully naked, I'll do it': Global chess melee
- Deadline for REAL IDs fast approaching
- Trump's recent dinner represents 'alarming' shift

That third headline sits beneath a photo of Hans Niemann, the player who has quickly become one of the most recognizable personalities in chess, after GMs Carlsen and Kasparov. The headline led to this article:-

  • 2022-12-04: He's the Bad Boy of Chess. But Did He Cheat? (yahoo.com; The New York Times, David Segal and Dylan Loeb McClain) • 'The day before he beat the greatest chess player in the world, Hans Niemann was a curly-haired 19-year-old American known only to serious fans of the game and mostly as an abrasive jerk. Everyone, it seems, has a story. Like that time in June, when he’d lost in the finals of a tournament in Prague, then stood in the ballroom of the hotel where the event was held and ranted against the city and the accommodations.'

Yahoo suspended its comments for a few years because of the vile exchanges between intolerant camps on the political left and right, but they're back with a vengeance. Although a few of the commenters on this story are well informed, whether informed or not, the number of Carlsen supporters are probably balanced by the Niemann supporters.

Most commenters are just there trying to write something clever. My favorites had to do with the length of the article. For example:-

Longest chess article ever. • Raise your hand if you read the entire article. • This chess article is longer than most chess games. • Is this article available in paperback? • Wouldn't it be nice if stories of importance got this much print? • Not sure if watching chess or this article is more boring. • I wonder if they have a Readers Digest condensed version of that story. • This may just be the longest article I can remember seeing over anything this trivial.

And there were dozens more like that among the hundreds of comments the story attracted. The most recent of this blog's monthly news summaries was Disappearing Yahoos (November 2022). There I wrote,

Cheating mania continued into November. Of the 75 chess stories flagged by Google, seven focused on aspects of cheating.

I'll be back at the end of the month with the December edition. I expect to see more about the biggest chess cheating story ever.

[While preparing this post, I also returned to another recent post on the same subject, Steamin' Niemann (November 2022), that featured three videos from the legal community and added two more.]

05 December 2022

TCEC Article PDFs

Commenting on games between chess engines requires three skills: 1) Knowledge of chess, 2) Knowledge of computing, and 3) Ability to write. GM Matthew Sadler has all three. Add to that an insider's knowledge of the TCEC and it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of reporting on TCEC events.

Without much fanfare, GM Sadler has documented the TCEC Superfinal (aka Sufi) for the last ten seasons. The links to his efforts can be found on the menu bar for the TCEC 'Live Broadcast' page (see the 'TCEC / CCC Links' tab at the top of this page).

The image on the left has a list of current TCEC 'Articles'. As a bonus, articles by other TCEC insiders are also available from the same menu option.

In the few hours available for preparing this post, I wasn't able to review everything -- neither by GM Sadler nor by the others -- but what I did see was quality work. I imagine it will take many, many hours to study everything available.

Particularly interesting are insights about the TCEC culture. For example, a footnote from Sadler's most recent article says,

In TCEC lingo, a boom is understood as engine evaluation explosion away from 0.00, its opposite being a moob meaning evaluation implosion back in the general direction of 0.00. (Sufi_23, p.5)

Those are useful terms for a well known phenomenon; used in context (the italics are all mine):-

Stockfish had to hang its fishy head in shame as it moobed down to a 1.17 evaluation!

For two previous posts on this blog about Sadler:-

Now I just have to find the time to review all of the TCEC articles -or- as many as I can. First I'll load them onto my Kindle.

04 December 2022

Cold Painted Cats

After so many years of posts inspired by Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), various themes eventually repeat. The item pictured below was titled 'Austrian cold painted cats playing chess by Bergman', and sold for GBP 625.00 ('approximately US $763.50'), 'Best offer accepted'. Ranked between two items of similar value, the real final price was probably around $740.

We've seen cats, as in Cats Attacking Royalty (March 2019), and we've seen bronzes, as in Foxy Chess (July 2022; 'Fritz Bermann'). Why bronzes? Because the phrase 'cold painted' is shorthand to the experts for 'cold painted bronze'.

The description simply repeated the title and added 'with mark to back of chair'. The seller had a web site with an artist's page Franz Xavier Bergman. It said,

Born in 1861 in Vienna, Austria, he initially inherited a bronze factory from his father and later opened his own foundry. Bergman died in 1936 in Vienna, Bergman produced many patina- and cold-painted bronze sculptures of erotic figures, animals, Orientalist scenes, and mythological creatures. Bronzes cast in the Bergman foundry are normally stamped with a capital 'B' that is placed in a twin handled vase. He signed many of the erotic works produced by his foundry with the pseudonym Nam Greb.

At the end of the 'Foxy Chess' post, which featured a 'Fritz Bermann Vienna Austria Cold Painted Bronze', I noted,

The foxes also had a 'Jug-Mark' with a 'B' in the center. Fritz Bermann and Franz Bergmann, both of Vienna, both making chess bronzes -- I should look deeper into it, but not today; maybe next time.

This post is the 'next time' and I don't want to kick the can down the road again. Let's assume that 'twin handled vase' and 'jug', both with a capital 'B', refer to the same mark. It follows that 'Franz [Xavier] Bergman' (one 'n') and 'Franz Bergmann' (two 'n's) both refer to the same person.

That leaves Fritz Bermann. Here I found several examples of an 'FBW' mark standing for 'Fritz Bermann Wien [i.e. Vienna]'. That means Franz Bergman and Fritz Bermann, both of Vienna, were two different artists. As for 'cold painted bronze', there are enough explanations on the web that I don't have to repeat any of them. Ignorance is no longer an option.

02 December 2022

The SmartChess Saga

Last week's Friday post, Wayback to Smartchess (November 2022), discussed a trailblazer among chess-on-the-web sites. I noted, 'The first issue of 'SmartChess Online' was dated August 1997 and the last was dated August/September 2003, a total of 45 issues.'

The first item in the August 1997 issue was titled 'Publisher's Message by International Grandmaster Ron Henley'. Largely editorial, it was to become a regular column in future issues, appearing more often than not. In it GM Henley gave his thoughts on topical issues related to chess, to video publishing, and to the internet in general. The first such column started,

Dear Readers: It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the premier issue of SmartChess Online - a new FREE monthly magazine brought to you by R&D (Chess) Publishing's World Wide Web Chess Superstore.

In 1993, my good friends Anatoly Karpov, Paul Hodges and I set a mission for ourselves. We laid the foundations of a chess resource that would provide the world's chessplayers with a high-quality, one-stop chess educational and shopping experience. To this end, we have worked with people of exceptional and varied talents, resulting in the launch of this all-new version of our popular World Wide Web site.

With this monumental step forward the World Wide Web Chess Superstore clearly establishes itself as the world's leading Internet-based chess retailer. The introduction of this version of our World Wide Web site (which replaces the one that many tens of thousands of visitors have frequented since its inception in 1995), marks only the completion of an intermediate phase of our overall plans for our World Wide Web presence.

That earlier version of SmartChess is presumably lost, having predated the introduction of Archive.org and the Wayback Machine. The Henley column continued,

For your convenience, this new version of our site contains a dynamic, illustrated chess catalog, featuring online shopping capabilities and a powerful catalog search engine. To protect the privacy of our valued customers, transactions on this Web site are safeguarded by the use of state of the art encryption and secure server technology.

In addition to the regular features and guest contributions in SmartChess Online (presented by some of the world's best chessplayers) we will be constantly expanding the frequently visited chess education resources that are archived on our site. In the near future, we will bring you analysis, updates and reports from the most important chess events from around the world.

SmartChess Online will also include interviews of chess stars and penetrating reviews of the many chess products that are now available to the consumer. We will strive to incorporate the latest technological developments available for the dissemination of chess information and instructional material as the World Wide Web Chess Superstore blazes the trail into the Twenty-First Century.

Regards, Ron

The mention of GM Karpov was not accidental. He was one of the magnets intended to draw visitors to the site. An earlier press release, titled 'A Press Release by Anatoly Karpov' and dated 18 December 1996, had stated,

Statement by Anatoly Karpov: In the opening paragraphs of my January 1997 "Grandmasters Musings" column (in Chess Life), I briefly mentioned one of my recent involvements in chess on the Internet in which I appeared as a guest of chess.net, a company of which I recently became a shareholder. Elsewhere [in that issue of CL], FM David Gertler reported on my recent "Internet Match" sponsored by PT Finland. I would also like to mention that I am a frequent guest lecturer at the superb Internet Chess Academy (www.yourmove.com) created by the talented young GM Gabriel Schwartzman.

However, I would like to take a brief aside to clarify my primary "business status" on the Internet with my fellow Chess Life readers. I am on the Board of Directors and part owner of R&D (Chess) Publishing and its subsidiary the World Wide Web Chess Superstore - a chess retailer and chess publisher with a strong Web presence, that serves customers in (currently) 57 countries. I have had a long and mutually rewarding relationship with R&D (Chess) Publishing which is based in New Jersey. Its President is Chess Life columnist GM Ron Henley - my good friend and chief trainer.

Our Web site at www.smartchess.com is in fact my one and only Official Home Page, and this company also acts as my only official agent in the USA regarding chess publishing matters. Any inference otherwise can be considered inaccurate. I have not revealed my association with the World Wide Web Chess Superstore before in my Chess Life column, as my fellow Directors and I considered this to be an inappropriate forum for the dissemination of this information. Although I am heavily in favor of promoting our wonderful sport and interacting with chess enthusiasts all across the world via the Internet, I felt it necessary to dispel any possible misconceptions about my primary "Internet chess persona."

Transmitted to GM Ron Henley by Anatoly Karpov and posted by GM Ron Henley and submitted to Chess Life.

[signed] GM Anatoly Karpov, GM Ron Henley

Karpov's active involvement with the site lasted about six months and was usually documented in an issue's 'Publisher's Message'. At the same time Karpov's participation was decreasing, that of another, younger link to Soviet chess was increasing. The February 1998 issue of SmartChess announced,

Press Release - 26th February 1998: Superstar GM Alexei Shirov signs contract with WWW Chess Superstore to make a series of instructional chess videos!

The World Wide Web Chess Superstore is pleased to announce that the Latvian-born Spanish GM Alexei Shirov has signed a contract that will bring him to the United States in June 1998 in order to film a series of instructional chess videos hosted by GM Ron Henley.

The twenty-five year old Shirov is rated 2710 ELO on the January 1998 Rating List and is ranked at #8 in the World. Shirov - a brilliant tactician - is famous for his dynamic, sharp and imaginative style of play, and has built a substantial fan base for himself in online chess play. [...]

The May-June 1998 issue of SmartChess included the following promotional material.

The same issue of SmartChess announced that Shirov had beaten Kramnik, thereby earning him the chance to play Kasparov for glory and big bucks. For more about that match, see my page World Chess Championship : 1998-99 World Chess Council and more (m-w.com); 'Kasparov seeks a title match', 'The World Chess Council', 'Shirov beats Kramnik', etc. The SmartChess partnership with Shirov was eventually limited to a series of his videos.

Henley's last 'Publisher's Message' appeared in the May/June 2001 issue of SmartChess. In it he mentioned,

Over the years many people have approached me about giving them private lessons. For the most part I have resisted, due primarily to lack of time. However, helping others to improve, understand and appreciate chess is something I thoroughly enjoy doing. As my life has now become more organized and focused, I now have TIME to teach a strictly limited number of private students.

Another article, appearing in the same issue, said,

International Grandmaster Ron Henley Available for Private Chess Lessons • MY CURRENT CLASS OF STUDENTS IS COMPLETE • Available (Manhattan, NY Only) for private lessons • Fee $100 per hour (2 hour minimum) [...]

It was to be Henley's final involvement with SmartChess Online. The site continued with less interesting material and updates ceased two years later. The final issues had little content.

Many editions of GM Henley's 'Publisher's Message' discussed his efforts to make a success of both SmartChess and its associated 'WWW Chess Superstore'. Its fate mirrored that of many early web sites in other sectors: so much promise, so much hope, so little to finally show for it.

[This post is only an outline setting a few chronological boundaries. There is much more to the story, in particular the progress of teenage Irina Krush and, later, pre-teen Hikaru Nakamura.]

01 December 2022

December 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

For the last time this year, here's our monthly look at American chess magazines from 50 and 25 years ago. For the previous post, see November 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (November 2022).

Left: '?'
Right: 'Another Title for Arthur Bisguier'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

U.S. Armed Forces Champion Lt. (j.g.) Zacarias S. Chavez (right) with one of his prizes. At left is Cmdr. L. Randall Rogers, who directed the tournament. Story [inside]. (ALNS Photo.)

The story inside was titled '13th Armed Forces Championship Won By Lt. Chavez'. It started,

Lieutenant (j.g.) Zacarias S. Chavez of the U.S. Naval Coast Guard has won the 13th U.S. Armed Forces Championship. The tournament was held in the Hall of Flags at the American Legion's Washington office building. Lt. Chavez's score was 9-1 in the individual championship. Seaman Joseph Bradford was second, Electronic Technician (Radar) Charles Lawton was third, and Lt. (j.g.) Scott Liddell was fourth.

Completing the domination of this event by the Sea Services, their team scored 30 1/2 points to take team event and the Emery Team Trophy, presented in honor of Thomas Emery. Honorary Chair- man of the American Chess Foundation. Last year's winner, the Air Force, was second with 28 1/2.

The anonymous report ended,

The tournament is sponsored by the American Chess Foundation in cooperation with the U. S. Chess Federation, the American Legion, the U.S.O., and the U.S. Department of Defense. The tournament director was Commander L. Randall Rogers, a Navy chaplain.

Aside from occasional mentions about other Armed Forces championships, there's not much about Zacarias Chavez on the web. Google Books offers an excerpt from 'The Steward and the Captain's Daughter' by Ray L. Burdeos (p.92):-

But there were always those few "die-hard" chess players who would hang around the locker room and enjoy more of the challenges of the game. And we pride ourselves on having a highly rated Filipino chess player, a coastie, by the name of Zacarias Chavez.

The player placing second has numerous mentions, for example, The chess games of Joseph Bradford (chessgames.com), where in a brief bio we learn,

He was awarded the IM title in 2007. Bradford won the 1978 U.S. Open Championship.

For the previous 'On the Cover' featuring the U.S. Armed Forces championship, see January 1969 'On the Cover' (January 2019). As for Emery, see Thomas Emery (June 2017) and More About Thomas Emery (ditto).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

It started in 1947 when he captained the 1946 CCNY team to the Pan-American Championship. That's when he got his first cover (Chess Review, February 1947). And he hasn't stopped. Two U.S. Junior Open titles (1948, 1949), a U.S. Championship (1954), four U.S. Opens (1950, 1956, 1957 with Fischer, 1959), numerous National Open titles (1970 with Evans, 1974, 1978, 1984 equal with Walter Browne) one U.S. Class (1985 with Benjamin, Brian Hartman), one World Open (1979, seven-way tie), and now, two U.S. Senior titles (1989, 1997) -- all of which explains why Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier has made the cover of either Chess Review, Chess Life & Review, or Chess Life, at least once in each decade.

From 1947 to 1997. The amazing thing is, the older he gets, the better-looking he gets ...

For more related to that last sentence, see GM Bisguier, Catalog Model (April 2017).

29 November 2022

Disappearing Yahoos

Last month's Yahoos post, Chess960 Mania (October 2022; see the footnote for an explanation of Yahoos), raised a number of questions of vital interest to the global chess community:-

The Niemann lawsuit; the NYT puzzles; AICF pest control; will Google's 'Full Coverage' become a mainstay of chess news? There's plenty to look forward to in next month's Yahoos post.

First let's look at the numbers. Of the 100 chess stories returned by Google, 75 were for the current month, 25 for previous months.

Of the 48 different sources for the 75 current month stories, there were six sources that accounted for two stories or more. They are shown in the chart on the left.

Chess.com once again acccounted for the most stories, more than the combined total of the other five sources on the chart. For the third time in four months, Chessbase.com was runner-up, although its name changed to echo its domain name.

Now let's look at the questions from last month's Yahoos post. I promise that the discussion will be brief.

The Niemann lawsuit: Nada. Nothing. Disappeared.

The NYT puzzles: Ditto.

AICF pest control: Ditto.

Google's 'Full Coverage': Ditto.

So much for that. I'm still digesting the stories that Google did highlight, but have to run now. I'll be back later.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]


Later: We saw Google's 'Full Coverage' in two recent Yahoos posts:-

  • Cheating Mania (September 2022).
  • 'Chess960 Mania' (October 2022), linked in the first paragraph of the original post above.

Cheating mania continued into November. Of the 75 chess stories flagged by Google, seven focused on aspects of cheating. My favorite was this one; it has a great lead and its storyline just keeps getting better:-

Of the two chess960 stories in November, my favorite was this one, although with a caveat:-

The caveat? Chess960 doesn't at all diminish the engine's advantage. The machines will still crush the best players in the world. Instead, it curbs their use in preparing for a specific opening : if you don't know what the start position will be, you can't prepare for it. Despite that clarification, kudos to Popular Science for introducing chess960 to a wider public.

Of the other stories I could mention, the one that gives the most mileage is this one:-

It's packed with recommendations for different categories:-

Film & Television, YouTube & Twitch, Books & Literature, [...]

While 'Everything You Need To Know' is maybe a stretch, 'A Great Number of Things You Need To Know', isn't. See anything missing? Add a comment. There are already some excellent suggestions.

28 November 2022

TCEC S23, CCC19 Rapid : Stockfish Wins Both

The previous report on the globe's top engine vs. engine ongoing tournaments was TCEC S23 Sufi, CCC19 Rapid : Nearing the Finish (November 2022). Here's a summary of that report.

TCEC: After 83 games in the S23 Sufi ('Superfinal'), Stockfish leads LCZero +19-6=58. It needs only 2.5 more points to clinch its sixth straight Sufi. • CCC: In the 'CCC19 Rapid Semifinal', Stockfish, Lc0, and Dragon (1-2-3 in that order) -- are in the lead for the 'Challenger' (2-3) and 'Final' (1-?) matches.

Stockfish won both events by significant margins. The rest of this post gives a few details.

TCEC: Stockfish beat LCZero +27-10=63 to win its sixth straight Superfinal (Sufi). The site is currently conducting a 100 game 'Subfinal', where LCzero has already clinched victory over KomodoDragon. Plans for season 24 (S24) are already available on the site's Wiki.

(Blue links are available pages; red links are TBD.)

CCC: In the 'CCC19 Rapid Semifinal', Stockfish, Lc0, and Dragon finished 1-2-3, with the other three engines as distant also-rans. LC0 beat Dragon by three points in the 200-game 'Challenger' match and is currently trailing Stockfish in the 200-game 'Final' match. The really dumb money is on LC0. The only unknown is the margin of victory.

What's next for the site? My guess is 'CCC19 Bullet', but the !next command says 'Bonus Events!'. We'll find out soon enough.

[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; Dragon = KomodoDragon]