02 April 2020

April 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

Every time I see the cover of the April 1970 CL&R, with a face I don't recognize, I think it must be the U.S. Amateur Champion. The annual amateur champions were featured prominently in previous editions of Chess Life, for example, the July 1968 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'Ray Martin - American Open Champion'
Right: "Knight Moves" • 'Russians Win Olympiad; Ivanov (A.) Repeats as Novag Grand Prix Champion'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

The related story, 'Looking back on the American Open' (Santa Monica, California, November 1969) by 'Carl L. Budd, Pres. & Reed Newport, Vice-Pres. Santa Monica Bay Chess Club', reported,

When the names of the 202 entries with their ratings were posted, the large audience and players were almost all willing to concede first place and the $600 prize to the only International Master entered [a footnote added, 'Now a Grandmaster'], Walter Browne (2445) from Australia, and get on with the business of playing for the remaining $1800.

Browne lost in the third round of the eight-round event to John Davidian (2012) and never regained front-runner status. Ray Martin (2114), the eventual winner, was rated 20th overall. The report noted,

The new American Open Champion has been a member of the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club since 1948. Subsequent to that time he has won many important local titles including the California State Championship. About 10 years ago he gave up tournament chess to work evenings and adequately provide for his family. Now that things have eased a bit, he resumed tournament play last year. Prior to the American Open he won the Southern California Championship and the Ventura Marina Chess Festival in 1969.

For more about the winner, see The chess games of Raymond Martin (chessgames.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

The artwork was the most striking feature of the April 1995 cover. The writeup said,

"Knight Moves" (acrylic on handmade paper) by Ingrid Evans (photographed by Dirk Schenck) was part of an exhibition at the Stremmel Gallery in Reno, Nevada. [...] Ingrid has had numerous showings and exhibitions both here and abroad, since the 1970s. Her experience as an aerial photographer has given her a unique outlook into man's intrusion upon nature. Her current interests revolve around multi-media pieces, including, painting, printing, and diverse papermaking techniques. And yes, she is.

She is ... what exactly? According to Ingrid Evans (1929-2015; legacy.com),

In 1968, she married Larry Evans. Larry was an American chess Grandmaster as well as an International Chess Grandmaster, five time U.S. Chess champion and an author and journalist. Larry preceded Ingrid in death on November 15, 2010.

In last month's post, March 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover', I promised, 'As for the 'Castle Heights' reference, I'll come back to it next month.' The street sign on that cover -- 'Chess Dr. 4200' -- was explained in the '1994 Yearbook'. (It was assigned to 1994 because the information was 'current as of 31 December'.) The 11-page yearbook was illustrated with a multi-section article titled 'Checkmate Plaza' by Steven W. Gordon. It included a street map of the Castle Heights area and started,

Subdivisions around the country are often built along a theme, with the streets all having a common set of names. Flowers, birds, state and president names are frequently seen motifs. Other themes I've seen include aircraft companies. famous aviators, minerals, trees and a multitude of related topics. But Anchorage, Alaska, has the only subdivision with a chess theme I have seen or heard of.

When I noticed the street names on the east side of Anchorage I thought it was on a medieval theme as the first names I saw were QUEENS COURT and KNIGHTS WAY. I was amused and of course thought 'chess' but didn't really think the names would be actual chess references...

But they were indeed chess references, even 'Bisquier Dr.', i.e. GM Arthur Bisguier (RIP). As long as we're clarifying names, I should point out that the name 'Ivanov (A.)' on the CL cover meant GM Alexander Ivanov.

31 March 2020

Coronavirus Candidates

With every major sports event getting cancelled or postponed this month -- no thanks to the coronavirus Covid-19 -- you might think the Candidates tournament would have attracted considerable attention from mainstream sports broadcasting ... and you would be wrong. ESPN was the major exception.


Let's have those four stories in chronological order.

Going back even further in time, most -- if not all -- of the older ESPN chess stories had something to do with India. Take this next one, for example.

The same Susan Ninan was the writer of the four stories on the Candidates. Thanks India; thanks Vishy; and thanks Susan Ninan! Have I overlooked the autobiography?

30 March 2020

TCEC S17 DivP & CCC13 Heptagonal Underway

Two weeks ago, in TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway, I posted a progress report on the two world class engine vs. engine tournaments that just go on and on and on... Here's a summary of that report:-

TCEC: The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU called 'S17 - This is not a SuFi Bonus', with only 1-2 games scheduled per day. • CCC: The last of the three CCC13 five-engine 'pools' (aka 'pentagonals'), called 'Pool B', is currently running.

A few days later I added a correction for the TCEC portion -- 'the site issued an announcement the next day: TCEC Season 17 – Premier Division is now live! (chessdom.com)' -- with the news that 'the Premier Division kicked off'. The announcement continued,

This year the Premier Division has increased the number of participants from 8 to 10. [...] First, the audience will see all games that require CPU only. Then, the bulk of games that require GPU will be played.

Where is the Premier Division (aka DivP) now?

TCEC: The six-engine 'CPU only' section finished with Stockfish leading +6-0=14, well ahead of the other five CPU engines, only one of which could barely manage a plus score. The four GPU engines have entered the division, which will run for another week. The rules specify, 'The top 2 engines promote to the Superfinal which will be the traditional 100 games head to head clash.'

CCC: The third Pentagonal section, 'Pool B' was won by Leelenstein, well ahead of Houdini. Those two engines joined the four that had qualified from the first two pools. Before the next phase, the Heptagonal, could begin, the third-placed engines from each of the three pools ('C-A-B') met in a Triangle to determine a seventh Heptagonal competitor. Komodo, having the only plus score, won.

A few weeks ago, in CCC13 Shapes, I showed the flow diagram for the Pentagonal and Triangle sections, the first half of the overall tournament. The second half, starting with the Heptagonal, is shown below.

Stockfish is currently leading the Heptagonal, slightly ahead of Lc0 and Leelenstein. Each of the three engines won its respective qualifying Pentagonal pool. The fourth spot in the Semifinals is still up for grabs. The tournament should finish during the next 24 hours.

[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 March 2020

Tablebases and Fortresses

There's an interesting thread on the Fishcooking forum: Misplayed wins, fortresses, or wrongly evaluated positions (google.com/fishcooking). It starts,

I've done an analysis of ~1M recent Fishtest LTC [Long Time Control] games, looking for those games that had a draw result, but where the evaluation was >2.0 for at least four plies. The result is ~17000 FENs that have been misplayed wins, fortresses, or wrongly evaluated positions. I think this might be interesting to have a look at, and might yield some [Stockfish evaluation] improvements.

The 17K FEN positions are in a Dropbox.com file available to everyone. I downloaded the file and pasted the first dozen positions into the Analysis board (lichess.org). I first discussed this tool in Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess (August 2018).

Of the positions I looked at, at least half were tablebase positions, thereby subject to exact solution. The rest were fortresses like the one shown below.

6k1/2p4r/1p1q2p1/rPpNp1Pn/P1P1Pp2/1KQP4/5P1R/R7 w

Because of the extra Pawn, this looks to me like a possible win for White -- play for Nb3 -or- try the exchange sacrifice on h5 -- but the engines have a remarkable talent for finding hidden resources in tough positions. More work is necessary, but first I have to develop a better tool than copy/paste into a web page.

22 March 2020

No Strings Attached

If, as they say, there's no money in chess, how do you account for Regium? 'What's Regium?' you ask. My introduction to the product was via a message on Chess.com.

21 February 2020: Join the chess revolution. • REGIUM is the world's most advanced automatic chess e-board. Now, REGIUM is the presenting partner of the Speed Chess Championship Final between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, taking place this Friday, February 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on Chess.com/TV.

REGIUM is developed by chess lovers, highly qualified engineers with more than 20 years of experience in Hi-Tech developments. They dreamed of the perfect automatic chess board since childhood, but nobody made it. For this reason, they have decided to do it themselves and develop the board of their dreams that they would like to have. Now they want you to have it too!

A few days later, in Update On REGIUM Chess (chess.com), the world's no.1 chess company issued a second opinion:-

23 February 2020: Chess.com is a company founded by chess lovers. Like you, we get excited at the prospect of bold, revolutionary innovations that will help chess evolve. Recently, Chess.com was approached by REGIUM Chess who wished to sponsor one of our events, the Speed Chess Championship Final. With that sponsorship came a mailer which many of you received just three days ago. [...]

After completing the process of due diligence that is required when partnering with a third-party product, we have continued our research and interactions with REGIUM and have not been able to verify some of the claims made by the company.

Want to see the product in action? This video gives the general idea: Regium Chess Scam, Video slowed down (youtube.com).

Never underestimate the ingenuity of chess fans. Youtube channel 'Matt P' published a working model based on an a more down-to-earth technology...

SCHEMEIUM · Automatic Chess e-Board - REGIUM Chess Scam Parody (2:43) • '[Published on] Feb 24, 2020'

...That Chess.com 'Update' mentioned above included an even later update:-

2 March 2020: The REGIUM Kickstarter campaign has been suspended.

All's well that ends well? For another angle on the story, see How a kickstarter scam shook up the chess business (perlenvombodensee.de; 'das Schachmagazin'), subtitled, 'DGT about to develop what Regium has announced':-

27 February 2020: The Regium wonderboard will remain a dream. But while the Regium campaign, a scam most likely, is going down the drain, inventors are actually working on a wonderboard elsewhere. DGT wants to develop what Regium has announced. In principle, at least.

Let's add this story to the ongoing series based on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

16 March 2020

TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway

Let's catch up with the two most important engine vs. engine tournaments, last seen two weeks ago in my post, TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced. To summarize that post,

TCEC: S17 finished the CPU qualifying stages. As for the GPU stage, there weren't enough NN engines to organize a separate league. The next scheduled event of importance was the CPU/GPU playoff for Premier Division (DivP). • CCC: The bonus events continued, with the event 'Lc0-CPU vs Komodo' just starting. The site also released plans for CCC13.

What's the current status of TCEC S17 and CCC13?

TCEC: The DivP playoff was won by Fire, ahead of KomodoMCTS. As I mentioned in the 'L1 Finished' post, 'The lack of GPU competitors appears to have left a big gap in the S17 schedule.' The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU called 'S17 - This is not a SuFi Bonus', with only 1-2 games scheduled per day. Unless I'm misunderstanding something, this event will continue until the beginning of May, meaning that my next few fortnightly reports are going to be low on new TCEC content.

CCC: I looked at the format of the new season in last week's post CCC13 Shapes. The last of the three five-engine 'pools' (aka 'pentagonals'), called 'Pool B', is currently running. The first pentagonal, 'Pool C', was won by Stockfish, well ahead of Stoofvlees; the second, 'Pool A', was won by an even larger margin by Lc0 ahead of Fire. 'C-A-B', got it?

Given that CCC seems to spend more time planning its seasons than it does executing them, it's possible that CCC13 will be finished by the time I tackle the next post in two weeks.

[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]


Later: Re that last sentence in the TCEC section...

The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU [...] Unless I'm misunderstanding something, this event will continue until the beginning of May, meaning that my next few fortnightly reports are going to be low on new TCEC content.

...the site issued an announcement the next day: TCEC Season 17 – Premier Division is now live! (chessdom.com). It said,

The key stages of [TCEC S17] are now live at the official website of the competition. The Premier Division kicked off with a game between the current Grand Champion Stockfish and the newcomer to the division Ethereal.

The announcement included details about the sequence of games to be played. For more about the whys and wherefores of the pause, see Speaking of TCEC, what is all this then? (talkchess.com), including a snapshot of the TCEC archive index.

15 March 2020

Café Life in Montparnasse

This is the third example of chess art on this blog from Gandalf's Gallery of Flickr. For the previous example, see Attention to Detail (January 2018; Gustav Wentzel, 1859 - 1927).

Henri Hayden - Chess Players (1913) © Flickr user Gandalf's Gallery under Creative Commons.

The description started,

Set in the Café La Rotonde, this work encapsulates the internationalism and tolerance that pervaded café life in Montparnasse. The game of chess is central to the composition. A battle of intellect and strategies, chess may be seen as a metaphor for the anxieties felt by many concerning the arrival of so many foreign artists in Paris.

For the rest of the description, see the 'Lot Essay' in Henri Hayden (1883-1970), Les joueurs d'échecs (christies.com; 'Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, London, 6 February 2020'). The lot listing also mentions,

Price realised: GBP 1,139,250
Estimate: GBP 300,000 - GBP 500,000

For more about the artist, see Wikipedia's Henri Hayden. For more chess items from Gandalf's Gallery, see Search results for chess (gandalfsgallery.blogspot.com).