31 March 2015

Putin's Horse

By now everyone must have seen the Youtube video The Daily Show - Chess News Roundup (148.315 views and counting). At 187 seconds into the clip, an image flashed by so quickly that I had to rewind to make sense of it.


'We all remember that famous photo!'

Twitter.com/TheDailyShow: 'Tonight! Chess: it's more than just a crappy musical!'

30 March 2015

Battering the Gruenfeld

Continuing with the world class engine-to-engine competition TCEC Season 7, I discovered in the previous post Komodo - Stockfish Superfinal Openings, that the Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (D85) was one of only two hand-picked openings (out of 32) that had been battered +2-0=0. Since I'm an occasional Gruenfeld player myself, this is particularly worrying, and I decided to look at the two games in more depth.

Explaining a game between two engines is a nearly impossible task. If you have ever looked at a long tablebase endgame, the two sides seem to maneuver back-and-forth randomly for move after move until a decisive position appears on the board. That is how most engine-to-engine games look to me, so I'll just mention a few key positions.

The first eight moves for both sides were dictated by the organizers: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5 8.Qd2 O-O. Among GM-level players, the moves 8...Qa5 and 8...cxd4 are both more popular than 8...O-O. I don't really know why that is, but it's a sign that the Gruenfeld is not yet hopeless for Black.

Both games then followed the same path for the next few moves: 9.Rc1 Qa5 10.Nf3 Bg4 11.d5, but here they diverged. Komodo captured 11...Bxf3, while Stockfish continued developing with 11...Na6 .

The following diagrams show a few key points in both games. The left diagram for each game shows the position after move 20. The right diagram shows the move that first wins material.

The winning strategy in both games looks similar. The passed, protected d5-Pawn and the extra space give White an advantage in maneuvering. White uses the resulting initiative to attack on the various open and semi-open files. Black eventually cracks under the pressure and loses the equivalent of a Pawn. The extra material is enough to win the game.

To play through the games, see

on Chessgames.com.

29 March 2015

Google Autocompletes CIS

The three most recent posts in this 'Chess in School' series were Confusion about Facts (Does chess make you smarter?), Pedagogical Pecking Order (FIDE Trainer / Instructor), and Are {Boys/Girls Good/Bad} at Chess?. Casting about for some new angles, I used Google autocomplete to present a list of possible topics. Here are the results on three similar phrases.

The three phrases are nearly synonymous, making the results interchangeable. The keyword 'NYC' appears against all three phrases while 'New York' appears as well. One curiosity is that Google's list of proposed topics can change after a few minutes, with the lowest items in a list being the most volatile.

One program that popped up in several places is '"chess in schools" spain'. See, for example, Spain says yes to chess as game is made compulsory in schools by Malcolm Pein; 'Politicians vote to make chess a compulsory subject in Spanish schools - something your correspondent has been trying to make happen in the UK.'

The most fruitful area might be '"chess in schools" curriculum'. I'll look at that topic in a future post.

27 March 2015

More MIT Media & Millionaire Chess

I know, I know. I featured Millionaire Chess on Video Friday exactly one month ago -- on MIT Media & Millionaire Chess -- but these clips about MIT Media are so good that I can't help using one again.


MIT Millionaire Chess (4:16) • 'Today is Millionaire Monday, and it all starts right now!'

Featuring GM Maurice Ashley, GM Robert Hess, Kevin Slavin (MIT Media Lab faculty member, Playful Systems Group), Greg Borenstein (MIT Media Lab graduate student, also seen in the previous video) Adiya Niyango (chess coach), plus a host of top players & presenters. What's not to like?

The last word: 'Maurice and Greg will deploy a more advanced version of Deep View at MC2 which takes place in October 2015 at Las Vegas.'

26 March 2015

Soltis's Sites

First we had Down Memory Lane with Andy Soltis, in the March 2015 Chess Life. Then we had JP/Moon/Fischer, based on Archive.org. Now we'll have GM Soltis continuing,

You probably know the names of some of the departed: Chessville, Chess21, The Chess Oracle, Chess Dominion, Chess Chronicle, Chess Check, Wolffchess, Worldchessrating. and both Chessplanet.com and Planetchess.com.

Are those sites really 'departed'? Let's ask Archive.org for help once more.

Nine out of ten isn't too shabby. But wait, there's more: What's happened to Wolffchess.com?; '(7 years ago) We have ALL of Wolffchess.com's content on Chess.com in ...' That makes ten out of ten. All present and accounted for, Andy!

24 March 2015

More FIDE Reports from Tromso

What? More documents from the August 2014 FIDE General Assembly in Tromso? So says a recent news item from FIDE, 2014 Tromso Commissions Reports (March 2015), making these reports almost eight months old! No one has ever accused FIDE of moving too quickly and this reminds us why. According to my post FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014 (CIS; December 2014),

Documents from the CIS commission have been released at three separate occasions: at the announcement for the General Assembly in Tromso (GA, coinciding with the Olympiad), at the minutes of the GA in August, and at the Presidential Board (PB) in November.

This makes four occasions, doesn't it? After looking at the documents and comparing them with my CIS post plus another post from the end of last year, FIDE's 'Principles of Chess Journalism', I determined that the new set of documents have already been released and are now (mostly) 'approved'.

While I was reviewing the March 2015 reports, I looked at a few commissions to which I had never paid much attention. What, for example, is the difference between the 'Social Action Commission' and the 'Social Project Commission'? According to FIDE's Handbook > A. Administrative Subjects > 02. Non-Elected Commissions,

2.10: Social Projects Commission (SPC) shall promote chess as a powerful tool for prevention, including areas such as: drug prevention, disease control and prison chess.

and

2.11: Social Action Commission (SAC) shall promote the use of chess as an aid for persons at risk from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental illnesses particularly among seniors. Overall this Commission should deal with issues related to brain aging.

Sounds like the subjects could have been handled with a single commission, but what do I know? There is undoubtedly political infighting involved.

Another unclear topic is the 'Central Board of Commission’s [sic] report'. According to the FIDE > Minutes overview, the 'CBC' report appears to be a follow-up of actions presented at the October 2013 Executive Board, making it a commission to overview other commisssions, a higher level meta-commission. FIDE might not be fast, but the group is trying to be transparent.

23 March 2015

Komodo - Stockfish Superfinal Openings

In my recent post about TCEC Season 7 I noted,

The last round 'Superfinal' between Komodo and Stockfish was a 64-game match where the adversaries played both White and Black on 32 hand picked openings. [...] The Superfinal finished in Komodo's favor +7-4=53, with White winning all decisive games.

What openings were used and how did they fare? The following tables are sorted by result and ECO code.

+2-0=0

B30: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 g6 5.h3 Bg7 6.e5 Ng8 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.d3 Nh6
D85: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5 8.Qd2 O-O

+1-0=1

A11: 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Bg4 4.c4 e6 5.cxd5 exd5 6.O-O Nf6 7.d3 Be7 8.Nc3 O-O
A21: 1.c4 g6 2.g3 Bg7 3.Bg2 e5 4.Nc3 d6 5.d3 f5 6.e4 Nc6 7.Nge2 Nh6 8.O-O O-O
A46: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 h6 4.Bh4 g5 5.Bg3 Ne4 6.Nbd2 Nxg3 7.hxg3 Bg7 8.c3 d6
B46: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 a6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Qd2 Qc7 8.O-O-O Bb4
C02: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3 c4 7.Be2 Bd7 8.Nbd2 Na5
D38: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Qc2 Qa5
D72: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nb6 7.Ne2 c5 8.d5 e6

+0-0=2

A18: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.d4 b6 8.Nf3 Bb7
A20: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.O-O Be7 7.d4 e4 8.Ne5 f5
A28: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e4 Bc5 5.Nxe5 Nxe5 6.d4 Bb4 7.dxe5 Nxe4 8.Qd4 Nxc3
A34: 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc7 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.O-O e5 8.a3 f6
A48: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c3 Bg7 4.Bf4 d6 5.h3 O-O 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Be2 Qe8 8.O-O e5
A50: 1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 c6 3.Bf4 d5 4.e3 e6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.c5 Nh5 8.Bd3 O-O
A53: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.Nf3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Nh5 8.e3 Bg7
A90: 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 c6 5.Nf3 d5 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.Ne5 O-O 8.O-O b6
B03: 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.d4 d6 5.f4 dxe5 6.fxe5 Nc6 7.Be3 Bf5 8.Nc3 e6
B14: 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nxd5 6.Nf3 e6 7.d4 Bb4 8.Bd2 O-O
B32: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 b5 8.Nd5 Nce7
B40: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.O-O Be7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7
B99: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7
C00: 1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg2 d5 6.d3 Nf6 7.O-O b6 8.e5 Nd7
C11: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qd2 b6
C45: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6
C47: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Be7 8.O-O O-O
C88: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 Bb7
D00: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.Qd2 Ne4 6.Nxe4 dxe4 7.Ne5 Nd7 8.Nxd7 Qxd7
E08: 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 d5 4.Nf3 Be7 5.O-O O-O 6.d4 Nbd7 7.Qc2 c6 8.Rd1 b6
E12: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Nc3 Bb7 5.a3 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.e3 g6 8.Bb5+ c6
E18: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.d4 Be7 6.Nc3 Ne4 7.Bd2 d5 8.cxd5 exd5
E32: 1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 O-O 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Bb7 8.f3 d6

The result for the Gruenfeld (D85) is disconcerting. Perhaps it is worth a closer look.