29 September 2015

The Fate of Chess Computers

From Weekly World News - Mar 14, 1989 - Page 35:-


'SOVIETS are convinced that a super-computer like the one shown here...'

Checkmate shocker! • Computer charged with murder after frying chess champ!

A Soviet super-computer has been ordered to stand trial for the murder of chess champion Nikolai Gudkov -- who was electrocuted when he touched the metal board that he and the machine were playing on!

"This was no accident -- it was cold-blooded murder," Soviet police investigator Aleut Shalnev told reporters in Moscow.

"Niko Gudkov won three straight games and the computer couldn't stand it. When the chess master reached for his knight to begin play in the fourth game, the computer sent a lethal surge of electricity to the board surface. The computer had been programmed to move its chess pieces by producing a low-level electric current.

"Gudkov was electrocuted while a gallery of hundreds watched."

The decision to put the computer on trial stunned legal experts around the world. But the Soviets are convinced that the computer had the pride and intelligence to develop a hatred for Gudkov -- and the motive and means to kill him. [...]

For more, see the original article. How did I get on this subject? It's another example from Chess Magazines on Google, somewhat more lowbrow than That's Definitely Bobby. I was amused to discover that 'Weekly World News' (1979-2007) occasionally used chess stories.

28 September 2015

Chess Engines : Pruning

Continuing with this series on Modern Chess Engines, after Advanced Evaluation we saw two high-level topics: 'Alpha-beta pruning' and 'Transposition tables'. Both of these concepts reduce the number of positions that an engine must consider in selecting its next move. Taking the second topic first and again relying on chessprogramming.wikispaces.com for a definition:-

Zobrist Hashing • A technique to transform a board position of arbitrary size into a number of a set length, with an equal distribution over all possible numbers. [...] The main purpose of Zobrist hash codes in chess programming is to get an almost unique index number for any chess position, with a very important requirement that two similar positions generate entirely different indices. These index numbers are used for faster and more space efficient hash tables or databases, e.g. transposition tables and opening books.

Pruning has an analogy in human chess, where a master player knows 'intuitively' which moves in a given position need to be considered and which moves are less important.

Pruning • A name for every heuristic that removes completely certain branches of the search tree, assuming they have no bearing to the search result. Alpha-Beta may be considered as backward pruning, because we found a refutation after searching. Forward pruning always involves some risks to overlook something, with influence on the root score.

A number of distinct pruning techniques have been developed.

Futility Pruning • Discards the moves that have no potential of raising alpha, which in turn requires some estimate of a potential value of a move. This is calculated by adding a futility margin (representing the largest conceivable positional gain) to the evaluation of the current position.

At first I didn't understand what this meant, but found a less technical explanation on rec.games.chess: Futility Cut-offs.

If you are so far behind, and the current move is not a tactical move that might win the material back, you can discard this move as a "futile" move and go to the next one. It does introduce errors.

In other words, if you sacrifice your Queen, don't bother with variations that promise no more than to regain a Pawn. Another pruning technique also has practical application.

Null Move Pruning • A method based on the Null Move Observation to reduce the search space by trying a "null" or "passing" move, then seeing if the score of the subtree search is still high enough to cause a beta cutoff. Nodes are saved by reducing the depth of the subtree under the null move.

I frequently use the null move technique in my own engine work. Skip a move, run the engine on the position (now with the other side to play), and look at the top moves. It's a great way to discover the threat(s) in a position.

27 September 2015

Man Ray Chess Set

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the last time we saw a live auction was for Affluent Gentlemen Playing Chess. One of these days I'll learn how they work in practice.

The current auction, for the item pictured below, was titled 'Man Ray chess set, Lot 222; Part of a live auction event'. With a starting price of US $10.000, the set sold for US $18.000 after receiving six bids. The bid history indicates that the auction lasted for about a minute, although I'm not sure how the times for live bids are recorded.

The description said,

LOT 222 • Seller's Estimate: USD 20,000 - 30,000 • Man Ray chess set; USA, 1962; enamel, metal inlay, wood, polished brass; 19.75 h x 39.5 w inches. • Inlaid signature and date to board 'Man Ray 1962'. Incised signature and number to king 'Man Ray 17/50'. Literature: Man Ray: Paris - LA, Tashjian, ppg. 73-75 Provenance: Private collection, Los Angeles

I don't usually link to the original auction, because the pages don't survive for long, but I'll make an exception here for the full auction: Live Auctions - Art & Design; offered by Wright; Chicago, Illinois; Sep 24. While researching the item, I discovered that there were several styles for 'Man Ray chess set'. Exactly how many would make a starting point for another post.

25 September 2015

Chess Art Mada

Although there was no description for this photo, the tags said, 'Museum Plymouth'. But which Plymouth?


A game of chess © Flickr user Glamhag under Creative Commons.

With the help of the usual tools, I found a page titled It's the Spanish Art Mada!.

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery will be holding a fun family event on Saturday 27 September [2014] inspired by the Spanish Armada. [...] ‘Here Comes the Armada’ is inspired by the ‘A Royal Game’ sculpture that recently returned to the Museum and Art Gallery following 20 years on loan to Buckland Abbey.

The plaster sculpture was made in 1906 by William Reynolds-Stephens and depicts Queen Elizabeth I playing an imaginary game of chess with Phillip II of Spain. The chess pieces are shaped like galleons and the sculpture itself is a metaphor for England’s war with Spain and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

The zoomed version of the Flickr image shows the boats clearly.

24 September 2015

That's Definitely Bobby!

My previous post on LIFE photos unearthed several of Bobby Fischer where it was easy to conclude That's Not Bobby! On top of that, where are all of the famous Harry Benson photos from the 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship match?

Fortunately there's another resource that I discovered about the same time, Chess Magazines on Google (December 2008), that unearths the Benson material. Here's a LIFE article by Brad Darrach featuring five Benson photos.

LIFE Magazine - Vol. 73, No. 6

Bobby is not a nasty kid - 11 Aug 1972 - Page 40

The names Darrach and Benson will be forever associated with the 1972 match, perhaps because LIFE stopped publishing weekly at the end of that year. As Wikipedia explains,

Life magazine, stylized LIFE, was an American magazine that ran weekly from 1883 to 1972, published initially as a humor and general interest magazine. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936, solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name, and shifted it to a role as a weekly news magazine with a strong emphasis on photojournalism. [...] The weekly Life magazine published its last issue on December 29, 1972. • Life (magazine)

For more Benson material, follow the link under the photo, tick the 'Search all issues' box, and search on 'chess' plus whatever.

22 September 2015

That's Not Bobby!

Today, for the first time since the 2015 World Cup started, I found the time to watch the event on the official site, which featured the fourth round tiebreak matches. Although I found the broadcast format somewhat clumsy, I enjoyed the games, especially the last game between the two remaining Chinese GMs.

The time spent there meant less time available for today's blog post, so I went back into the blog's archive and located a post that deserved a follow-up: LIFE Photos on Google (November 2008). The link to the LIFE material has changed, but the new link is easily determined. The bulk of the photos show Bobby Fischer in some now-famous settings, along with several like this one...


'Chess Champion Bobby Fischer - Hosted by Google'

...Hey, wait a minute! That's not Bobby! The photo's caption says,

Photographer: Carl Mydans
Date taken: 1962

The same caption is given against other, indisputable photos of Fischer. If that's not Bobby -- and it certainly isn't -- who is it?

21 September 2015

Chess Engines : Advanced Evaluation

In the first post in this new series on Modern Chess Engines, I linked to a Big Techday 8 resource from which I culled eight high-level topics.

While some of these topics have been known since the early days of chess programming, others are less familiar and have subordinate topics that deserve a separate look.

Under 'Evaluation functions' is a subordinate topic 'Advanced Evaluation', that is presented around ten minutes into the associated video. That slide lists five advanced functions that are well known to all competent chess players (if you're not sure where you stand, see my page on Positional Play in Chess):-

King safety
Mobility
Pawn structure
Rook on open file
Bishop pair

The value of the Bishop pair has been calculated to be +0.5 (a half-Pawn). If this is news to you, you might want to review my post on Kaufman's Material Imbalances, part of an earlier, introductory series on Practical Evaluation. Along with those five functions are two more that are not so well known, even to very competent players:-

Piece-Square Tables
Tapered eval

Chessprogramming.wikispaces.com defines them as

Piece-Square Tables • A simple way to assign values to specific pieces on specific locations.

and

Tapered Eval • A technique used in evaluation to make a smooth transition between the phases of the game.

The concept of 'Piece-Square Tables' is easier to understand with an example or two, as in Chess Bin: Piece-Square Table. As for 'Tapered Eval', one of the first engines I used was particularly bad at this. An advantage of around +0.5 would often evaporate after the 'inferior' side castled or after Queens were exchanged.

These last functions are both considerations that competent players take into account intuitively, usually without knowing what the concepts are called in computer chess. Having said that, even very good players can have trouble evaluating the transition from the opening to the middlegame or from the middlegame to the endgame.

20 September 2015

Judit Polgar's Chess Palace

After a sequence of relevant diversions, it's time to return to the series on Chess Curricula, last seen a month-and-a-half ago in Pre-chess ('Teaching Chess the Easy and Fun Way with Mini-Games'). Next on Chess Curriculum Inventory is 'No.5: Chess Training Guide for Teachers and Parents' by none other than Susan Polgar.

While looking for reviews of the famous GM's training method, I discovered that her even-more-famous sister, GM Judit Polgar, has her own material, developed together with the third member of the chess sister act, Sofia Polgar. Here's a Youtube video discussing the method.


Judit Polgar's CHESSPALACE Program for the Future Education (9:40) • 'The Judit Polgar Chess Foundation for Educational Benefits has developed a new, and so far unique method. Instead of teaching chess as a sport and game the traditional way, this method goes beyond normal chess lessons.'

The clip's description explains,

Starting in 2013, Judit Polgar's skill-building chess program is officially part of Hungary's National Curriculum. The program is not about training chess players. Although it is based on the basic rules of chess, the whole subject is integrated into the regular curriculum, and helps children make better progress in their main subjects, such as math and science, and even reading, writing and arts and crafts.

For more about the method, see Chess Palace Program on the Judit Polgar site.

18 September 2015

Fischer Was the Donald Trump of 1972?!

JK: 'How many years have you been trying to get this movie made?' TM: 'It's been about ten years.'


Tobey Maguire on Playing Bobby Fischer (2:49) • 'Jimmy Kimmel Live: Tobey talks about portraying chess master Bobby Fischer in the film "Pawn Sacrifice".'

See also Tobey Maguire Learned About Chess for "Pawn Sacrifice" on the same channel.

17 September 2015

Chess Is Awesome

Maybe that should be 'Chess Is Awesome!', although some people might say, 'Chess Is Awesome?'. But don't take my word for it. That's Yahoo talking, as in...


11 sites that will teach you awesome skills • Learn practical new skills from these online hubs with free lessons from experts and contributors. -> Chess to coding.

The link went to 11 Web Sites That’ll Teach You Awesome Skills For Free, which starts,

Here are 10 sites that will get you up to speed on everything from chess to Spanish to sketching to HTML coding.

So is that 11 sites or 10 sites? I counted 11, of which no.7 was

Chesscademy.com: Become a chess master by watching videos, solving puzzles, and playing games, all free of cost.

That link went to Chesscademy - Learn How To Play Chess Online, which starts with a quick game against a computer to judge your level of skill. Note that it's Chesscademy.com, not Chessacademy.com, which used to exist, but now returns only an error message, 'The connection has timed out'. Archive.org indicates that it disappeared around ten years ago.

Yahoo might really believe that chess is awesome. A few months ago I highlighted The Phoenix of Chess, and I'm sure we haven't seen the last Yahoo post on this blog.

15 September 2015

Opening Preparation Using Engines

The August 2015 issue of Chess Life (CL) had a thought-provoking article titled 'The 7.Qf3 Taimanov Sicilian' by IM Erik Kislik. The subtitle -- 'Going deep in a line that avoids Bb5 options and keeps tension in the position' -- might scare away some people, but I found the piece interesting for two reasons: it discusses modern opening preparation using engines and it analyzes a variation that might arise in my own games (as in Time Enough for Taimanov).

IM Kislik -- where had I heard that name before? First he came up in a quote from a post earlier this year, TCEC Season 7:-

The 32 openings that will be seen in season 7’s Superfinal have been selected by IM Erik Kislik, one of the world's top (and hardest-working) opening theorists, a chess teacher, writer and advisor to grandmasters.

Then he authored an article in the April 2015 CL, titled 'The Thoresen Chess Engines Competition', the same TCEC that I had already decided was post-worthy. It was nominated for the 'Best Features Article' category in the 2015 CJA Awards, but lost out to two other articles that I discussed in Editing Matters.

Notwithstanding all of these overlaps with my own current interests, the latest piece on the '7.Qf3 Taimanov' stands on its own merits. It starts,

Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson wrote in his excellent book Chess for Zebras that the vast majority of players personally identify with "their" openings on a level that transcends the game.

That sent me scurrying off to skim the book, where I found the discussion in chapter two, 'Psycho-Logics', under the section header 'Identity'. That brief diversion reminded me that I'd already featured GM Rowson in a post about Rowson's 'Three Types of Theory' on my chess960 blog -- yet another overlap of interests.

There are so many such statements in Kislik's one-page article that I would probably end up copying the whole thing here. In the interest of 'fair use', I'll just mention a few more. Second paragraph:-

One of the most widely disputed questions in modern chess is "What should we analyze?"

If that's the same as the question "What opening repertoire should I play?", then I wholeheartedly agree. If not, then I don't understand the question. Third paragraph:-

My proposal is simple: we should create one sample main line for almost all sensible Black tries and try to analyze it out as best we can, assuming a line isn’t so obviously better for White that it is not worth looking at.

Yes, that sounds like repertoire again. I could excerpt similar statements from the rest of the article, but it's an exercise where everyone can benefit individually. The article concludes with five pages of analysis on the Taimanov variation that provoked it, which I'll study when I actually need it in one of my own corrspondence games.

I'll be on the lookout for more work by Kislik. His Wikipedia page, Erik Kislik, is today little more than a collection of links to external references, but that might easily change.

14 September 2015

Modern Chess Engines

There was more material in my most recent Video Friday post, How Stockfish Works, than perhaps meets the eye. The presentation that ran in the background ('Modern Chess Engines' by Daylen Yan with support from Tord Romstad; cover page shown here) is available in entirety at Big Techday 8 - How do modern chess engines work?, from which I extracted a sequential list of topics from the titles of the slides.

Around 28 minutes into the video is a slide titled 'Recap' that lists eight high-level topics:-

Minimax
Negamax
Evaluation functions
Alpha-beta pruning
Transposition tables
Quiescence search
Search selectivity
Bitboards

While some of these topics have been known since the early days of chess programming -- esp. minimax and alpha-beta -- others are less familiar and have subordinate topics that deserve a separate look. I'll cover them in a series of posts that might bring me closer to the elusive goal: Overcoming the Operators.

13 September 2015

More Tweezer Chess

Unlike the previous edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, where I vaguely recalled that I had already featured Surreal Chess, for this current edition I was certain that I had featured the item pictured below. Titled 'House Of Faberge Chess Set Egg', it sold for somewhat less than US $1200, 'Best offer accepted'.

It turned out that I was half right. In Chess Sets, 'Never Been Used', I featured a 'Faberge Imperial Chess Set', which is not the same as the egg, even though the full set sold for about the same as the egg alone.

Left to right, top to bottom:-

  • Egg closed
  • Egg open, revealing set
  • Tweezers being removed from top of shell
  • Tweezers being used to play

The description said,

The Franklin Mint "Imperial Jeweled Egg" Chess Set. The top lifts off to reveal a chess board, and a drawer at the base opens to miniature chess pieces. All pieces are accounted for. The display case is also included in the purchase.

By comparison, the item in the first post on Tweezer Chess was a bargain.

11 September 2015

Chess @ Burning Man

There are always plenty of interesting things to see and do at Burning Man. This composite image is just a small sample.

Album: Burning Man 2015

Photo upper right: Check out the King's attire © Flickr user Tinkertech under Creative Commons.

Follow the photo link to see the entire album of over 200 photos.

10 September 2015

Pinterest for Chess

A few days ago, my post about Other Shareaholic Services, quoted Shareaholic,

Based on our Social Media Traffic Report, Pinterest drives more traffic to sites than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit combined!

Driving traffic to my own site isn't one of my highest priorities and until now I hadn't paid much attention to Pinterest. Maybe it was time to look into it. Although a query on 'site:pinterest.com chess' pointed to all sorts of interesting pages, the site insisted that I sign in before going any further. Another day, another password, another email confirmation; I now have well over 200 login IDs, most of which I rarely use. Such is life on the web.

The Pinterest page on Wikipedia informs,

Pinterest is a web and mobile application company, which operates an eponymous photo sharing website. Registration is required for use. The site was founded by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp. It is managed by Cold Brew Labs and funded by a small group of entrepreneurs and investors. Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann summarized the company as a "catalog of ideas," rather than as a social network, that inspires users to "go out and do that thing."

What's its business model? Wikipedia again:-

Pinterest also allows businesses to create pages aimed at promoting their companies online. Such pages can serve as a "virtual storefront". In one case study of a fashion website, users visiting from Pinterest spent $180 compared to $85 spent from users coming from Facebook. These users spent less time on the company's website, choosing instead to browse from the company's pinboard. [...] Globally, the site is most popular with women. In 2012, a report found that 83% of the global users were women.

I like to post regularly about chess art -- 'caissart' I call it -- and Pinterest offers much. Here's a screen shot of a query on 'chess art', showing other users' Boards.

What about chess quotes? The first quote Pinterest serves is:-

The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment. - Bruce Lee

That's not bad. How about the second?

You can tell somebody the rules of chess, but that doesn’t make them a chess player and certainly not a master. They need to play in order to develop a full understanding of the strategies that can be deployed.

Associated links lead back to the web source of the quote. Maybe it's time to look a bit more at this site.

08 September 2015

FIDE's Journalist Commission 2015

Continuing with Spectating the 86th FIDE Congress, after looking at FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2015, second on the list is

21. Journalists Commission proposals.

The last time we looked at this commission was in FIDE's 'Principles of Chess Journalism' (December 2014). What's new this time?

Annex 21 -- 'Proposals of Journalist Commission' (not signed, not dated) -- can best be summarized by the image shown on the left. If the proposals of the commission ever see the light of day, it could turn out to be the most important tool a chess journalist has, after the passport.

The proposals start with benefits of the card.

1. FIDE Accredited Journalists • The Commission proposes introduction of FIDE accreditation for journalists who would hold the license card. The Commission will provide benefits for the holders of the license card:
- FIDE Accredited Journalists are automatically accredited for free in all FIDE events. The organizers cannot reject accreditation of the holders of the license card of FIDE journalist.
- Access to the press center equipped with all necessary facilities for the work of journalists
[...]

That sounds good to me! Where do I sign up?

License cards can be issued to:
- Journalists, writers, editors, publishers or photographers with published articles or media materials in chess (in magazines, newspapers, internet)
- Journalists working with newspapers and/or chess websites, columnists, contributors and photographers associated with media
- Holders of the members card of any other international journalistic organization
- On condition that applicant accepts and will adhere to the principles of chess journalism and pays the membership fee

Three things should be mandatory for the applicant:
1) availability of publications,
2) accepting the principles of chess journalism and
3) paying the membership fee
The membership fee is 40 euro for two years

Oh well, I guess it doesn't apply to me after all. I don't mind paying the fee, but the rest is a stretch. What else is the commission proposing?

2. Web support for the organizers of FIDE events • In cooperation with the FIDE Events Commission, we will work together with the organizers of FIDE events to prepare proper internet presentation, in order to help the work of the journalists. We will propose the obligatory inclusion of following sections/categories:
- Regulations (which are very often missing and nearly impossible to find)
- About the host city/country
[...]

3. Proposals for inclusion in the bidding procedure: • Proposing to FIDE Presidential Board the following amendments in the regulations concerning the bidding procedure and regulations of each FIDE event listed below. Each bid shall contain the following particulars as minimum. Free accommodation and full board for accredited FIDE journalists during FIDE events as per:
- FIDE Grand Prix - 9 days
- FIDE Women Grand Prix - 6 days
[...]

4. Press Officer in FIDE events • FIDE Press Officer in coordination with the FIDE Journalists Commission is proposing to FIDE President the Press Officer for official FIDE events - World Events. FIDE Press Officer is coordinating and instructing the event's Press Officer in preparing the website's content and press releases.
[...]

I especially like the part about 'free accommodation and full board for accredited FIDE journalists during FIDE events'. If these proposals get past the FIDE Presidential Board and are accepted by applicants to a bidding procedure, chess journalism might actually become attractive.

07 September 2015

Other Shareaholic Services

Before moving on from EU cookie regulations (see Fighting Cookies with Cookies) I looked at other functionality offered by the Shareaholic platform. The function that piqued my interest the most involved Floated Share Buttons, and it was surprisingly easy to add them to my Mark Weeks Homepage. The results are also shown below. They're not bad, but I see no compelling reason to add them to other pages on my site.

What else does Shareaholic offer? I found two services that might apply to my site. The first service was:-

Shareable Images • Based on our Social Media Traffic Report, Pinterest drives more traffic to sites than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit combined! The Shareable Images feature allows site owners to automatically add Pinterest share buttons to their images.

That's all very nice, but I doubt that visitors to my site will find much reason to share images that feature chess positions. The second service was:-

Affiliate Links • Generate revenue by automatically appending merchant codes to product links on your pages with no change to the reader's experience.

My experience with affiliate programs is that they are more trouble than they are worth, plus the explanation was not clear about what the service really offers. I might try it out of curiosity, but that can wait for another day.

For my next Monday post, I'll return to the theme of chess engines, last seen in Early Computer Chess Ratings. The recent video I featured, How Stockfish Works, promises much new material.

06 September 2015

FIDE's 'Chess in Schools'(++) 2015

A few days ago, in Spectating the 86th FIDE Congress, one of the areas I chose for follow-up was

In connection with the 'Chess in School' series [...] are two related topics:-
13. Trainers’ Commission report.
17. Chess in Schools Commission report.

I last discussed these two FIDE commissions in The Trainers’ Tree (June 2015) and FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014 (December 2014). In a short, preliminary post like this one, I can't do more than outline the reports and leave further investigation to anyone who is interested.

Annex 13 -- FIDE Trainers’ Commission (TRG); June 20th, 2015 -- lists four main topics:-

1. New TRG Titles
2. TRG Academies
3. FIDE/TRG Awards 2014
4. Problems between FIDE Commissions’ Regulations

No.2 consists of applications from prospective academies; no.3 I already covered in 'Trainers’ Tree'; and no.4 is about the presence of trainers during youth events.

Annex 17 -- Report of Commission Chairman Kevin O’Connell (Chess in Schools Commission) -- starts with 'Our mission' and 'The main areas of activity since the last Congress in Tromso'. Those main activities include 'New diplomas for FIDE School Chess Teacher (FSCT) and FIDE School Chess Leader (FSCL)', which was news to me. After that, the report launches into its primary focus, current projects.

The development of chess in schools is a two-way process, with the Commission learning from developments around the world and then sharing that information to facilitate the programmes in other countries.

1. Promotion – 110+ federations visited & Chess in Schools – Our Global Future
2. Global sponsorship of FIDE-CiS
3. Multilingual web sites
4. Class and Teacher books
5. Magazines
6. FIDE Student Membership
7. Teacher Training
8. Documents & Statistics

No.5 is another project I hadn't noticed before. More is available on the commission's website: FIDE Student Magazine, with sample magazines in seven languages. I would like to look at that another time, but first I have to wrap up the mini-series last seen in Chess Curriculum - Pre-chess.

04 September 2015

How Stockfish Works

From TNG Technology Consulting GmbH.


How do modern chess engines work? (56:25) • 'Speaker: Daylen Yang, University of California at Berkeley'

The description tells us more about the speaker.

Daylen Yang joined Stockfish open source project in 2010. He is the developer of the Stockfish for Mac app and has played various roles for the project team. He is currently studying electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley and is interning at Facebook this summer.

Early in the clip, the speaker shows a slide that says, '1997 Deep Blue; Defeated Kasparov 3.5-2.5; Specialized hardware; Typical depth of 6-8, sometimes reached depth 20' where depth equals 'half-moves' i.e. ply. This sounds low to me and is worth double-checking.

All in all, the clip is perhaps too technical and the sound is problematic, but it outlines several topics for further investigation.

03 September 2015

Spectating the 86th FIDE Congress

The 86th FIDE Congress is currently in session and, as with all FIDE Congresses, the various working documents offer plenty of insight into FIDE's operations and activities. Here are a few topics that I've been following on this blog. I'll look at them more closely in future posts.

In connection with the 'Chess in School' series, specifically Pedagogical Pecking Order and The Trainers’ Tree, are two related topics (the numbered bullets correspond to FIDE's numbering from an advance announcement, Executive Board Agenda and Annexes):-

13. Trainers’ Commission report.
17. Chess in Schools Commission report.

As a follow-up to FIDE's 'Principles of Chess Journalism':-

21. Journalists’ Commission proposals.

As an introduction to a nascent project, first seen in 2015 a Zonal Year, where I noted, 'FIDE Online Arena will provide three qualifiers for the World Cup 2015':-

22. Agenda for the Online Commission's meeting.
23. Proposal for conducting over the board tournaments in FIDE Online Arena.
24. Proposal for awarding winners of FIDE Official Online Championships with accommodation to the relevant over the board FIDE Official Competitions.

Since I can't escape today's post by just listing ideas for future posts, let's look at one annex in particular:-

29. Report from the Continental President of Americas, J. Vega.

As I noted in FIDE Election: Four More Years, Jorge Vega, the president of FIDE America, played a key role in last year's election between Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Garry Kasparov. His thoughts on that election are an important part of the historical record. The annex 29 report incorporates several documents that quote Vega.

From 'REPORT 2014 • Jorge Vega, Continental President':-

2014 was an election year as we all know, Mr. Ilyumzhinov aspired to be re-elected FIDE president. His opponent was Ex-World Champion Garry Kasparov who proved to be a formidable opponent. The final result, 110 to 61 votes, can give a false impression of the difficult and hard battle whereby it was difficult to tell who would win the election.

As in previous elections, America being the continent with the least number of federations, was the cornerstone of Iljumzhinov’s victory, handing him the highest number of votes per continent followed by Europe, Asia and Africa. Victory always gives a sense of satisfaction that compensates for the doubts or the sufferings during the campaign. It was demonstrated that the attacks by some of the members from the Kasparov camp lacked veracity and were ignorant to the reality of America. In the end they were embarrassed, but we must recognize Mr. Kasparov never attacked America’s position, but the attacks came from second and third less significant parties.

Also of interest from the same document are Vega's thoughts on the financial state of world class chess.

From a global point of view the scenario is not very optimistic. We face an economic crisis generated by the fall in the price of oil together with the difficulties facing Russia. The fall in oil prices will affect the budgets of oil producing countries and adjustments will be made. The majority of the venues of important events in FIDE are in oil producing countries so it should not surprise us that there will be cut backs which will affect FIDE income.

The economic situation in Russia is also of concern due to the devaluation of the rouble by 50%. We all know that many of FIDE main events are held in the Russian Federation especially the Grand Prix and the reduction or cancellation of this will affect FIDE income.

The same themes appear in 'Minutes of the CCA General Assembly; Cali, Colombia - 2nd July 2015 • Presentation of president’s reports'; NB: CCA here stands for 'Confederation of Chess for America', not to be confused with the same acronym used for the 'Continental Chess Association', an organizer of high-level tournaments in the USA.

I am going to insist that we preserve the unity in America at all cost, we must make a differentiation between adversary and enemy, adversaries are those who in principle had a different position to the American block with reference to the candidacy of Kirsan, they deserve all our respect, but they have stop being adversaries after the elections, they deserve our respect, we must have an open relationship that must be respected. Enemies are those who try to sabotage the unity in America, speading rumors, lies and any sorts of untruths, basically it is based on personal ambitions, those are the ones we have to combat and are the enemies, America is powerful due to the unity it commands, we can say that the American block guaranties 24/26 votes at elections, if this disappears we will then be considered as in other continents where different groups supports the same candidate for president, but lacks unity.

[...]

The world is in a financial crisis, specifically with the drop in oil prices, consequently the budgets of nations have been cut, ofcourse the fall in oil prices has hit very hard in Russia, and the ruble has lost value, as a consecunce this will affect the events in FIDE because many of the events are held in the Russian Republics, or in countries that produce oil.

There is much more to the annex than these excerpts, most of it local to FIDE's American continents.

01 September 2015

September 1965 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, our two 'On the Cover' American chess magazines featured recurring, contrapuntal themes of the mid-1960s: Fischer on the one side and the World Championship on the other.


Left: 'Fischer Returns'
Right: 'World Championship Challengers Round - Quarter Finals Bracket B'

Chess Life

'Fischer Returns' by J.F.Reinhardt • At 8 PM on Wednesday, August 25, Robert J. Fischer's chess clock began ticking for the first time in more than a year and a half.

As we saw in July 1965 'On the Cover', 'Fischer Returns' was also the subtitle on the CR cover that month. The sole photo illustrating the Reinhardt article on the Capablanca Memorial was used in a post on this blog two years ago, Goichberg as Fischer's 'Gopher'.

Chess Review

Mikhail Tal of the Soviet Union outpointed Bent Larsen of Denmark by 5.5-4.5 and will therefore meet his compatriot Boris Spassky on the final match to determine who will play Tigran Petrosian next year for the world crown. Larsen was the last non-Russian to be eliminated [...]

No, he wasn't. Tal wasn't Russian, either; he was Latvian. At the height of the Cold War, Soviets = Russians = Communists.