27 February 2015

MIT Media & Millionaire Chess

Today's selection for Video Friday ties into a previous selection: Millionaire Wrapup. For more about the collaboration between MIT and the Maurice Ashley / Amy Lee project, see At work with MIT's Media Lab (millionairechess.com; February 2014).

Chess: A spectator sport (1:28) • 'BBC Click's LJ Rich met MIT researchers [e.g. Greg Borenstein, Researcher, MIT Media Lab] from who are trying to turn chess into a spectator sport like American football or poker.'

The description continued,

The group wants to make the game more accessible to the uninitiated, by presenting complex information on matches in a simple, visually appealing way and give an expert insight into the state of a game.

See also Moves to make chess more accessible to spectators (bbc.com). I'm not sure if the video embedded on the BBC page is the same or not. It always gives me the message, 'This content doesn't seem to be working'.

26 February 2015

Into the Melting Pot

Let's squeeze one more post out of the January 2015 FIDE rating list. In GM Players and Their Mobility, I developed a chart showing the number of GMs in strong federations and counting the number of federations where those GMs started their careers. While there are some surprising results there -- ENG and ISR have no foreign GMs (at least in the 15 years since FIDE started assigning FIDE IDs to individual players) -- the most interesting numbers are for the USA, which has 84 GMs from 14 different federations.

I'm the type of person who likes to check and doublecheck everything, especially numbers, and I decided to look at the USA numbers in more detail. The chart on the left shows the USA data broken down further, adding IM counts to the GM data.

The second column is the key to the table. It is extracted from the FIDE ID and shows which federation initially registered a player with FIDE. The top row shows that most of the USA players have spent their entire careers in the U.S., and accounts for most of the USA numbers. No surprise there.

The 'GM' column confirms the numbers in that previous 'Mobility' post, and shows where the other, non-USA players originally played. For example, four strong players now listed as USA originally came from Cuba and four from Georgia. As a further check and doublecheck, here is a list of the four players from Cuba. The first data item is the player's FIDE ID.

3501728; Becerra Rivero, Julio; USA; GM
3506690; Corrales Jimenez, Fidel; USA; GM
3501841; Gonzalez, Renier; USA; GM
3504387; Hernandez Carmenate, Holden; USA; GM

Before signing off for today, I'll list all of the recent posts in the rating series:-

Thanks, FIDE, for restoring the rating lists!

24 February 2015

Fischer's Seiko Connection

The most recent post on my chess960 blog, Chessmaniac Comments on Chess960, quoted a long passage from a 2002 essay by Rene Chun. It mentioned [circa 1996?],

Fischer desperately wanted the Tokyo-based watch company Seiko to manufacture his [chess960] products but couldn't generate interest.

I couldn't find anything about Fischer's Seiko connection during that time period, but I did find references from the early 2000s. For example, from Interview with Miyoko Watai by En Mafuruji (Chessbase.com, September 2004)

Q: Why did he come to Japan in 2000? A: He came to Japan to develop a new chess clock with Seiko Inc. I won't tell you what it is, it's a corporate secret. A prototype of the clock will complete in September. It may go on sale later. That clock would be used for matches of other games like "go" and "shogi" Japanese chess games.'

Miyoko Watai was 'reportedly married' (Wikipedia's phrase) to Fischer in 2004, and eventually inherited his estate. A few weeks after his arrest in Japan, Fischer wrote the following note, originally available at home.att.ne.jp/moon/fischer/.

It doesn't appear to have been transcribed elsewhere, so allow me (with some minor format changes):-

August 12, 2004
Ushiku immigration detention center lockup

To the Hattori family, owners of the Seiko group.

I am Robert James Fischer and I am unjustly and illegally prisoned(?) in the Ushiku immigration detention house. They are threatening to deport me any day to my death in the U.S.A. As you know I've been working on a chess clock project with Seiko Precision Co. in Chiba for several years now. I've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars dollars in payments to your company through the Japanese chess association. And I've given of my time and best ideas to your Seiko group. If I'm deported to the U.S.A. the project and me myself will be dead!!!

I would appreciate it if you would immediatelly [sic] become my sponsor for provisional release from the detention center here. It would make a big public impact all over the world and put heavy pressure on the immigration [sic] to accept and it would save my life because the U.S. government wants to put me in prison for 10 years and while I'm there murder me! I would be most grateful if you would accept this request. I am not exaggerating at all about what the U.S. government wants to do to me and will do to me once I am in there [sic] hands.

Thank you very much.

Robert James Fischer ("Bobby" Fischer)

What differentiated this clock from the earlier model, patented by Fischer in 1989? I doubt it's still a 'corporate secret'.

23 February 2015

FIDE ID Prefix and Federations

Continuing with FIDE Country and Federation Codes, I spent some time analyzing the 'FIDE ID', a numeric code 'used by a federation to assign individual FIDE IDs to players belonging to that federation'. First a word on how I initially determined the codes.

Using the January 2015 rating list as a reference, for each player I noted the federation (aka country) and extracted the federation prefix from the player's FIDE ID. Then I built a table of all combinations of federation and FIDE ID prefix, of which I found 855 pairs. Then I noted which prefix had the highest count for a given federation. That is the prefix shown on my page of federation codes.

After creating the base data, I checked duplicate prefixes. For example, I found that both 'SRB' (Serbia) and 'MNE' (Montenegro) were assigned the prefix '9'. When I looked at all prefixes used in those federations (column 'FedID' in the image on the left), I discovered that MNE had a second frequent prefix ('165'). I assumed that players from MNE were once administered by SRB, but had since been split off. Ditto for 'RSA' (South Africa) and 'LES' (Lesotho).

Another duplicate prefix ('100') is found for 'UGA' (Uganda) and 'TAN' (Tanzania). Here I discovered that UGA has more players than TAN and assumed that UGA is handling the player registrations for both federations, so no change to my table is necessary. I found a similar relationship for 'EGY' (Egypt) and 'GAB' (Gabon), although the political connection is less obvious.

One curious duplicate was 'USA' (United States) and 'CAM' (Cambodia). There is only one rated player listed for CAM, who turns out to be 'Truong, H. Paul', Susan Polgar's husband. Indeed, the Fide.com page, Transfers in 2014, lists '2001390 Truong, H. Paul CAM USA', where USA is the former federation.

After applying these changes plus a few other corrections, I updated my page FIDE Country and Federation Codes (unofficial). For anyone who has managed to read this far, a few other anomalies might be worth mentioning.

Along with the FIDE IDs listed on my 'unofficial' page, there are more than two dozen other prefix codes in use. Most of these are additional codes for a single country, where I imagine the task of assigning new codes has been split geographically within the country. For example, 'IND' (India) has four additional prefixes in use:-

India, 'Prefix', 'No.Players'
IND, 250, 3892
IND, 350, 3329
IND, 450, 1502
IND, 466, 2591

Do old codes also disappear? Going back a few years, when I first looked at the FIDE ID for the January 1999 rating list (see Structure of the FIDE ID), I found 148 different federations. I dragged the file out my archive, recreated the data for the 148 federations, and compared it to the 2015 list. I found prefixes for five federations missing from the 2015 data:-

'Federation', 'Prefix', 'No.Players in 1999'
GUY, 83, 1
MAU, 89, 1
GAM, 95, 2
MLI, 96, 8
SEN, 109, 3

What happened to this data? That question will have to wait for a rainy day.

22 February 2015

A One Person Bidding War

After a short pause, Top eBay Chess Items by Price returns to the artwork category last seen in Chess of the Gentry and Military. The painting below, titled 'Carlo Canevari Oil on Board of Chess Game Lot 1251', subtitled 'Part of a live auction event on Sunday, Feb 15', sold for US $2200 after 16 bids from a single bidder.

Not understanding what could trigger that bidding scenario, I looked at the bidding history. The period covered by the bidding lasted less than a minute with the bid starting at $1000, incrementing by $100 every few seconds, and ending at the price shown. It must be a bidding strategy peculiar to live auctions.

The description was also unusual. About the art itself, it added only

Seller's Estimate: USD 300.00 - 600.00 • 12" x 8.25" including frame. Signed lower right: Carlo Canevari.

followed by detailed payment and shipping instructions. Another auction, from Christies.com, informs, 'Carlo Canevari (Italian, 1922-1996)'. Is that a porthole near the top of the painting?

20 February 2015

You Think This Is Art?

789 views, 20 faves; I Think This Is Art! AWARD

model: benjamin benedek (stella models) // outfit: selina rottmann // hair and make-up: julian burlacu © Flickr user whythedarkdays under Creative Commons.

Tags: chess, fashion, concept, mirror, loneliness

19 February 2015

Inaccurate Data on the Rating List

Now that we have FIDE Rating Lists Restored, let's return to Other FIDE Titles (February 2013) and create an overview similar to Titled Players and Their Continents.

The results are shown on the left, where the continents are numbered:-
1: Europe,
2: Americas,
3: Asia, and
4: Africa

Continent '0' was explained in the post on 'Titled Players and Their Continents'. As for the titles themselves, they are

International Arbiter
FIDE Arbiter

FIDE Instructor
National Instructor
Developmental Instructor

FIDE Senior Trainer
FIDE Trainer

International Organizer

All of the categories have more titleholders today than they did two years ago, except for FST, where I previously counted 103. Something is wrong here, so lets do a quick analysis...

FIDE's online list, FIDE Senior Trainer (FST), currently has 150 names compared to the 102 shown in my chart. Similarly, the FIDE page for International Arbiter (IA) lists almost 1900 names compared to my 760. Conclusion: the FIDE rating list is out of sync with the titles awarded.

Indeed, the 'FIDE Chess Profile' for the first name on FIDE's list of 150 FSTs, Aagaard, Jacob, does not show that he is an FST. The profile for the second name, Abramovic, Bosko, says 'FIDE Senior Trainer (2013)'.

...Looks like my numbers are worthless. Sorry about that!