24 June 2018

The Sociology/Psychology/Philosophy of Chess

Next up in the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016; last seen a month ago in Sunday Series) is a video titled 'The Psychology of Chess'. One of the comments says,

Interesting insights. I feel it should called 'The Philosophy of Chess' though.

Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy -- take your pick.

The Psychology of Chess (14:16) • 'Published on May 22, 2018'

The description starts,

This video explores the psychology of chess, especially with respect to how chess can offer us valuable life-lessons.

At 1:00 into the clip, a slide says, 'A Road-map of this video':-

1:11 - Finding a worthy opponent
2:38 - Learning to win and lose gracefully
4:25 - The trap of seeking ego-gratification through winning
5:04 - Chess as a spectator-sport
6:13 - Chess as an aesthetic event
6:54 - Discovering one's personal style
8:24 - The sting of defeat and its lessons
9:55 - Hubris Lesson #1: Underestimating your opponent
11:15 - Hubris Lesson #2: Assuming you already understand the position
12:03 - Hubris Lesson #3: Learning to see the big picture
12:47 - Final Lesson: "Love while the night still hides the withering dawn"

At 1:05, another slide says, 'Thinkers, authors and chess-players cited in this video':-

Mikhail Tal (0:22)
Erik Erikson (1:38)
Carlos Castaneda (1:50)
Rudyard Kipling (3:38)
Siegbert Tarrasch (6:30)
Josh Niesse (7:38)
Savielly Tartakower (10:23)
Emmanuel [Emanuel] Lasker (11:30)
Nightwish (13:36)

For more about the speaker in the video, see Eric Dodson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, College of Social Sciences, University of West Georgia.

22 June 2018

Analyze Your Own Images

In last week's post, Search Your Own Images, I noted 'First stop: images.google.com', fed it a few images, and finished with a test on a special image:-

After I uploaded the image, Google declared, 'Best guess for this image: donald trump chess', where the first link (from 'About results'!) was 'Does Donald Trump play chess?' (quora.com).

Second stop: How Image Recognition Works (upwork.com). After a brief, concise introduction to the technology behind image recognition, the article mentioned,

A number of APIs have recently been developed that aim to allow organizations to glean insights from images without requiring in-house computer vision or machine learning expertise.

This was followed by a list of three specific services:-

  • Google Cloud Vision
  • IBM Watson Visual Recognition
  • Clarif.ai [NB: clarifai.com?]

That first suggestion led me to Vision API - Image Content Analysis (cloud.google.com/vision), which said,

Google Cloud Vision API enables developers to understand the content of an image by encapsulating powerful machine learning models in an easy to use REST API. It quickly classifies images into thousands of categories (e.g., "sailboat", "lion", "Eiffel Tower"), detects individual objects and faces within images, and finds and reads printed words contained within images.

I fed last week's Donald Trump 3D-chess image to 'Try the API' and it returned the following analysis.

The 'Faces' tab is shown in the image -- 'Joy: Very Likely', 'Confidence 94%'. The next tab, 'Labels', told me:-

96% Indoor Games And Sports
96% Chess
94% Games
94% Board Game
81% Tabletop Game
73% Recreation
71% Chessboard

The next tab, 'Web', included (1) 'Web Entities':-

1.0731 Donald Trump
1.0593 Chess
0.7329 United States
0.7046 Three-dimensional chess
0.6912 Brilliant Chess

And (2) 'Pages with Matched Images' with dozens of links, of which the first two were:-

The 'Document' tab drew a green rectangle around the lowest of the three chessboards, with no further explanation. I suppose this is related to the service that 'reads printed words contained within images'. The 'Properties' tab returned 'Dominant Colors' and 'Crop hints', while the 'Safe search' tab was the most curious:-

Adult: Unlikely
Spoof: Very Unlikely
Medical: Very Unlikely
Violence: Very Unlikely
Racy: Possible

I would say, 'Spoof: Very likely' and I have no idea where 'Racy: Possible' comes from. As for the last tab, 'JSON', this returned a text list to import the image's attributes into another process.

Who knew there was so much information in a single photo? Google knew. Google knows everything.

21 June 2018

Breaking the 2700 Barrier

No, I'm not talking about achieving a 2700 rating. I'm talking about post no.2700 on this blog. That distinction belongs to my previous post, Chess Lions in Leuven, which makes this current post no.2701. Before I achieve a 2700 rating, I first have to reach 2300, but since I stopped playing competitive crossboard chess many years ago, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

How many players in the world are rated 2700? I blew the dust off my collection of historical rating files and counted the players for 2018. While I was doing that, I also counted them on the first international rating list in 1971 and at the start of every decade since then (1980, 1990, etc.), where the lists were all published in January of the respective year. The following chart shows the counts I recorded. For good measure, I added a similar count of 2600 players (which includes >2700).

Left: >2700 players
Right: >2600 players

On the 2700 side, the only player breaking the barrier in 1971 was a certain 'Fischer, Robert James' (USA) at 2760. Second on the list was 'Spassky, Boris V' (URS) at 2690. The two 2700-players in 1980 were 'Karpov,An.' (USR) 2725, and 'Tal' (USR) 2705. In January 2018, there were four players rated 2800+, 40 rated 2700-2799, and 211 rated 2600-2699.

The increase in world class players through the decades has not been linear. There were more 2600 players in 1971 than in 1980, and the largest increase in both rating bands took place in the decade 2000-2010.

A few years ago, in Next Short Draw: 2750 (March 2013), I was critical of GM Wesley So for manipulating his rating to break through 2700 Elo. According to his Rating Progress Chart (ratings.fide.com), he subsequently broke through 2800 in January 2017. A 2800 FIDE rating is an amazing achievement for any player. To break 2800, all I have to do is write another 100 posts.

19 June 2018

Chess Lions in Leuven

The month of June means the end of spring, the beginning of summer, and the Grand Chess Tour in Belgium. According to my report from two years ago, Chess on Belgian News (June 2016), the recent rapid/blitz tournament was the third running of the Belgian leg of the event, formally dubbed 'Your Next Move'.

Photos: Massimo Marchetti (lafamily.eu)

The large posters in the right image were placed outside the elegant Leuven City Hall. The black poster reads,

The World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) celebrates one of the world's oldest and best-loved games through vibrant, engaging exhibitions and creative programming. A not-for-profit, collecting institution situated in the heart of Saint Louis, Missouri, the WCHOF houses both the U.S. and World Chess Halls of Fame, which honor the accomplishments of the game's finest players and contributors.

The organization presents exhibitions that explore the history of the game, as well as its remarkable impact on arts and culture. These unique shows and programs are designed to appeal to both the chess novice and expert, defying expectations and enhancing knowledge of the game. Along with those of its sister organization, the Saint Louis Chess Club, the WCHOF's activities have distinguished Saint Louis as a national and international chess destination.

Mind. Art. Experience. 4652 Maryland Avenue, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA (314) 367-WCHF (9243) | worldchesshof.org

The white poster reads,

ART of CHESS 2018

Grand Chess Tour: Art of Chess 2018 is the second edition of a traveling exhibition that fulfills the global mission of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) by bringing artwork and artifacts to many of the stops of the Grand Chess Tour. This show includes highlights from the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) as well as loans from Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, Purling London, and the organizers of the events in the Grand Chess Tour. The permanent collection of the WCHOF contains trophies, photographs, score sheets, periodicals, chess sets, and other artifacts related to significant players and events from chess history. The exhibition is inspired by the WCHOF's mission and its 2018 shows.

Among the highlights of this exhibition is an exquisite Hungarian chess set adorned with pearls, amethyst, and jade. Also on view is an enlarged version of the 2013 Sinquefield Cup chess set, created by Frank Camaratta as a gift for the founders of the Saint Louis Chess Club, Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield. These are supplemented by photography from last year's Grand Chess Tour and the trophies for several of the competitions, spotlighting the historic nature of these events.

Images from left to right: [top of the poster] Magnus Carlsen Winner of the 2017 Grand Chess Tour, 2017, Photo by Lennart Ootes; • Sinquefield Cup Imperial Chessmen, 2018, Photo by Michael DeFilippo; • Fabiano Caruana After Winning the 2018 Candidates Tournament, Photo by Nick Dunaevsky, March 28, 2018. • Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame, (c) Nick Dunaevsky, official photographer of World Chess.

Wesley So won this year's Leuven YNM event. Details can be found on 2018 Your Next Move (grandchesstour.org).

18 June 2018

Where's Leela?

Where was I on the Leela series? My previous post, The Lineage of Leela (11 June 2018), was a filler. I spent my time on that post browsing the Leela forum, trying to understand more about the Leela technology. In the post before that, Understanding Leela (04 June 2018), I promised,

There are also many technical threads that discuss different configurations for the Leela client or that delve into the structure of the network(s). Let's look at those another time.'

The top of the main project page, LCZero, currently has an undated message that says,

Net has been replaced with a new bootstrap net with 50 move rule normalization and learnable batch normalization beta bias. It will likely be weaker to start but will hopefully grow stronger quickly.

What does that mean? Maybe I'd better retrace my steps, because it looks like I missed something. I'll start by looking at the links on LCZero's left sidebar (in order).

*** Getting Started: This goes to

Home · glinscott/leela-chess Wiki · GitHub

That page says, 'A.O. edited this page 11 days ago · 26 revisions; Moved to https://github.com/LeelaChessZero/lc0/wiki'

Welcome to the Leela Chess Zero wiki!

That page looks like the instructions I followed for Installing Leela (21 May 2018), so at least I'm on familiar ground.

*** Forum: This also looks familiar. The link goes to:-

LCZero - Google Groups

The top of that page says, 'This forum is for all the discussion about LCZero - https://github.com/glinscott/leela-chess'. That github.com page says,

GitHub - glinscott/leela-chess: **MOVED TO https://github.com/LeelaChessZero/leela-chess ** A chess adaption of GCP's Leela Zero

Following that link leads to:-

GitHub - LeelaChessZero/lczero: A chess adaption of GCP's Leela Zero

Note that the 'leela-chess' has redirected to 'lczero'. The main github.com page is:-

LCZero · GitHub

*** Github: This leads to the same page that I just looked at: github.com/LeelaChessZero/.

*** Networks: After more internal links -- 'Matches', 'Active Users', etc. -- there is another external link...

*** LCZero Chat: Here under #dev-log, I found the same message that is on LCZero's main page: 'Net has been replaced with a new bootstrap net [...]'. Signed, Chad - 10/06/2018.

Where's Leela? The main Github page has moved, but the rest remains as before. The chat looks to be a preliminary source of technical discussion to the forum.

17 June 2018

Impossible Backgrounds

Starting with last month's post, The Chess Waste Land, I moved the Featured Flickr Photo series from a fortnightly to a monthly schedule. This gave me plenty of images on my short list from which to choose. I chose the following.

The world of chess © Flickr user jaci XIII under Creative Commons.

The description for this image mentioned,

After: Rafal Olbinski. Chess photo is wallpaper.

Out of curiosity, I fed the image to the images.google.com service I discussed in Search Your Own Images. It told me, 'Best guess for this image: 3d chess'. One of the links for the image went to 4 Games Like 3D Chess for Linux (topbestalternatives.com), where there is a well known image of chess pieces on a sphere similar to the featured photo above.

In fact, further inspection of the two images convinced me that they were essentially the same. The other image is red instead of blue, but the same pieces are all on the same squares of the sphere. That must be the wallpaper mentioned in the description. Feeding the red image into images.google.com told me 'Best guess for this image: impossible backgrounds'. Can't argue with that.

15 June 2018

Search Your Own Images

In last week's post, An NN for Chess Images?, I used a photo from my archive and wondered,

Could a network recognize that this is not a photo? Or (without being told) that it shows dogs. My first step should probably be to make some sort of survey of what software and services are available.

First stop: images.google.com. This simple tool allows search on an image via a number of input paths. The most straightforward are:-

  • Copy and paste the URL for an image, and
  • Upload an image.

Both of these are accessed by clicking the camera icon in the search box on images.google.com. I fed it the link for the painting/photo used in 'NN for Chess Images', and it gave me three results. Two of these ('Best guess for this image') were pages about Dalmatian dogs (well done, Google!) and the third was a link to the home page for this blog, where the original post is still displayed because it is among the most recent.

The results also included a dozen thumbnails for 'Visually similar images'. None of the thumbnails showed a Dalmatian, but all of them had the same sort of pink background shown in my original photo. (Remember Chess in the Pink, April 2018?) Unfortunately, I can't give a link to the Google results, because it is based on some sort of encryption technique that probably includes details about its origin (i.e. me).

After that little experiment, I fed Google image search the link to the image used in 'Mystery Painting' on eBay (June 2017). This is a painting that pops up occasionally in different places, but where I have been unable to determine its origin. This time the Google results could find nothing more interesting about the image than that it showed a 'picture frame'. Under 'Visually similar images', the dozen thumbnails displayed different paintings in picture frames.

Given a similar image used in my original Mystery Painting (December 2007), Google determined that it showed 'edelen middeleeuwen', which another Google service translates from Dutch to 'nobles middle ages', which I translate to 'nobles from the Middle Age'. Along with a couple of links to Dutch-language pages, the thumbnails showed one more copy of my original image.

The Google image search clearly has limitations on its usefulness. As a final test I used an image which has been sitting in my 'Junk' directory for over a year, not because the image is junk, but because I didn't know what to do with it.

After I uploaded the image, Google declared, 'Best guess for this image: donald trump chess', where the first link (from 'About results'!) was Does Donald Trump play chess? (quora.com). About half of the thumbnails were variations on my uploaded image; the other half were people playing chess, including two showing Garry Kasparov. The Trump image is obviously photoshopped, where a Star Trek 3D chess set has been pasted over whatever Trump was holding in his hands.

According to a database I constructed, my collection of images (mostly) from eBay has about 20.000 examples. Since uploading a small percentage of these one-by-one would be an exercise in tedium, I'll have to find a better solution.

14 June 2018

2018 USCF USChess Executive Board Election

Has it really been three years since I last posted about U.S. chess politics? So it seems: 2015 USCF Executive Board Election (July 2015). In 2016, there were two candidates for two positions, so I didn't bother voting. In 2017, there were eight candidates for four positions. I intended to vote, but something went wrong:-

Subject: US Chess Executive Board Ballot Mailing
Sent: Saturday, July 1, 2017

Dear US Chess Voting Member, Due to an error by our mailing agent, your Executive Board Election Ballot was not mailed to you at the scheduled time. Your ballot has now been mailed to you as of Friday, June 30 via overnight or expedited mail (depending on your location). The deadline for receipt of your marked ballot is Tuesday, July 18, by 3 p.m. CDT. Full instructions for marking and returning your ballot are included in the envelope being sent to you. Our apologies for any inconvenience.

Whatever went wrong the first time became a double blunder, because I never received the second ballot either. I was reminded of this when I received the following postcard earlier this week.

The card says,

Garry and Rex have teamed up to make a difference for American Chess by organizing and supporting premier chess events. Today they have issued this joint statement: "We are pleased with our partnership with US Chess. To keep the positive momentum for Chess, We recommend and endorse the executive board members and candidates with track records of positive achievements."


REX SINQUEFIELD, Chairman Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis • Sponsor of 5 U.S. Championships; Sponsor of 5 U.S. Women's Championships; USA Olympiad Team Sponsor; Young Stars [smudge]; Sponsor Chess in the Schools, Chess in Education; Sponsor World Chess Hall of Fame; Sponsor U.S. Chess Hall of Fame

GARRY KASPAROV, Chairman Kasparov Chess Foundation • Former World Champion; USA Olympiad Team Sponsor; Women's World Team Sponsor; All-Girls National Sponsor; Young Stars -- Team USA; Sponsor Chess in the Schools, Chess in Education; Sponsor of Regional Scholastic Championships Greater NY, Greater Chicago, Greater Mid-Atlantic

This year there are four candidates for two positions. I don't follow U.S. chess politics closely enough to know why the two recommended candidates have better 'track records of positive achievements' than the other two candidates, but what's good enough for Rex Sinquefield and Garry Kasparov is good enough for me. With an American player competing for the World Championship in November, U.S. chess needs the strongest leadership possible.

Will I receive a ballot this time?


Later: Oops! Looks like I goofed. When I copied the title from the 2015 EB post to this post, I forgot that the U.S. chess federation had since changed its name from USCF to USChess. Strike one!

12 June 2018

USchess in Podcasts

Starting with the April 2018 issue, Chess Life (CL) has a new online feature, 'Cover Stories with Chess Life'. These are presented as a podcast interview with the author conducted by CL's editor, Daniel Lucas. The first talk was with FM Mike Klein of Chess.com, who wrote the cover story introduced on the left ('cover art by Paul Dickinson'). That first podcast, plus the two podcasts conducted for the May and June issues of CL (with Al Lawrence and GM Ian Rogers), can be found on Podcast Archives (uschess.org).

I'm a big fan of podcasts, and after The Week in Podcasts (February 2018), this is the second time this year I've posted about them. Maybe that's because I also like listening to the radio while I'm doing something else. Having said that, I have a couple of problems with the podcast format in general.

The first problem is that podcasts require concentration. I can't concentrate on a second task -- like writing a blog post -- while I'm listening to a podcast.

Driving also requires some concentration, as does manual work like painting a room, but listening to music at the same time takes no concentration. Listening to a talk show or a news program occasionally requires concentration ('Wait a moment. What did they just say?'), but my focus can shift rapidly because the primary task, like driving, doesn't always require full concentration.

I simply can't do two simultaneous tasks that both require near-full concentration. Why not just concentrate on the podcast? Because listening to a podcast is not like watching a video. Unlike a video, a podcast doesn't engage my eyes, which means that my visual attention is constantly wandering to something else. A transcript might be useful.

The second problem is that podcasts are difficult to quote, although here I have the same problem with videos. If I want to introduce a short quote from an audio source into a blog post, I have to listen to the audio and write what I think I'm hearing, then iterate the process several times to make sure the quote is accurate.

What if I could automatically create a transcript of the quote and then verify it's correctness? I know the technology exists, but what tools are available? For more about the technology, see Wikipedia's Natural-language processing:-

Natural-language processing (NLP) is an area of computer science and artificial intelligence concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages, in particular how to program computers to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data.

For more about available speech-to-text tools, I'll have to make a survey and actually try some of them.

11 June 2018

The Lineage of Leela

And AlphaGo Master begat AlphaGo Zero, and AlphaGo Zero begat AlphaZero, and AlphaZero begat Leela -- at least according to The Lineage of AlphaZero (January 2018) and Understanding Leela (June 2018). And behind all of this begetting was David Silver of Google's DeepMind.

Deepmind AlphaZero - Mastering Games Without Human Knowledge (42:29) • 'Published on Jan 29, 2018'

From Youtube's 'The Artificial Intelligence Channel'

2017 NIPS Keynote by DeepMind's David Silver. Dr. Silver leads the reinforcement learning research group at DeepMind and is lead researcher on AlphaGo. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1997 with the Addison-Wesley award. • Recorded: December 6th, 2017

If you're as out of the loop as I am, you might like to know that NIPS is shorthand for 'Conference and Workshop on Neural Information Processing Systems'.

10 June 2018

A Smashing Game

Have you ever felt like smashing your chess set with a hammer? How about smashing your board? These guys did and they weren't even angry -- maybe just a little mad.

What's inside a Magic Chess Board? (7:26) • 'Published on May 13, 2018'

The description started,

You've never seen a chess board like this - It plays against you! We have to figure out how this thing works!

And it ended,

WARNING: Cutting things open is dangerous. We do not recommend you try what we do! [...] Remember our motto "We cut things open so you don't have to", so we do not recommend you try anything we do.

The board is from Square Off ('Connecting the world on a telerobotic chessboard').

08 June 2018

An NN for Chess Images?

After getting my introduction to AI in It's Much More than Chess, can I make any practical use of the knowledge? I'm already following the chess playing aspect -- as in Understanding Leela -- but there must be other angles involving chess.

In yesterday's post Chess in The Graphic, I mentioned my archive of chess images. Maybe I could do something with that? For starters, how about building and training an NN to tell the difference between a photo and a drawing; and maybe throw in a scanned text as a third possibility. Take the following image as an example.

The accompanying text says,

This is a fantastic 20"x24" hand painted, unstretched oil on canvas. The painting depicts two dalmation dogs playing chess. The oil is unsigned.

Could a network recognize that this is not a photo? Or (without being told) that it shows dogs. My first step should probably be to make some sort of survey of what software and services are available.

07 June 2018

Chess in The Graphic

In a post from last week, An 1886 Photoshopped Illustration, I featured,

"The Sixteen Leading Chess Players of the World" from the July 17, 1886 issue of The Graphic. [...] I found three copies of the image in my archive. The best copy showed that the 1886 original had the names and nationalities of the players listed outside the border of the image. The best associated text copied that information.

While I was browsing the archive I found nearly a dozen other images from The Graphic. Here are four of them.

Legend (UL = Upper Left, etc.):-

  • UL: 1890-08-23 - 'The International Chess Congress - Some of the Chief Members of the Liverpool Chess Club'
  • UR: 1883-02-10 - 'Chess with Living Pieces - A Match at the Guildhall, Winchester'
  • LL: 1883-05-19 - 'A Military Chess Tournament with Living Pieces - Capture of the Bishop'
  • LR: 1883-10-27 - 'A Chess Tournament with Living Pieces at Brighton'

The fellow in the foreground of the first image is J.H.Blackburne, apparently conducting a blindfold simul. As for the three 'Living Pieces' images, I hope my legend is correct, because I discovered some contradictory text attached to the different images.

I could have resolved these discrepancies with digital copies of the original issues of The Graphic. Here, for example, is a link to the British Newspaper Archive ('in partnership with the British Library') showing the issue containing the image from '1886 Photoshopped Illustration': Results | From 17th Jul 1886 | The Graphic. It's a subscription site and I didn't want to pay just to resolve some minor issues, so I'll leave that for a time when I have more serious research to do.

05 June 2018

June 1968 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago the covers of the two leading American chess magazines featured the nation's premier open tournament and the world's premier qualifying tournament. For the previous month's covers, see May 1968 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'Maroon Bells, Colorado; See back cover for U.S.Open details'
Right: 'Spassky: 1966 Challenger on His Way Back?'

Chess Life

[Back page ad] 69th Annual U.S. Open Chess Championship • Twelve Rounds -- In the West Village Conference Center • Snowmass-at-Aspen, Colo. -- August 11-23 • Tournament Director: International Master George Koltanowski • Assistant Tournament Director: Col. Paul Webb • $4500 Guaranteed prize fund • 1st Prize $1250 plus trophy [...] • Entry Fee: $25 plus USCF membership if not currently a member

The first time on this blog that we saw the venue of the U.S. Open was July 1964 'On the Cover' ('On to Boston!'). This was followed by 'On the Cover' for May 1965 ('A Caribbean Chess Holiday!'), and May 1967 (Atlanta). In 1966, the cover for the Open was usurped by other tournaments.

Chess Review

Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union is leading the prospective challengers in the elimination matches.

The magazine continued, 'The first round of Challengers Matches has probably ended.' Of the four quarterfinal matches for the 1967-69 Candidates Matches, Larsen - Portisch (+2-2=3 each) was still unfinished at the time the June issue was published.

04 June 2018

Understanding Leela

I ended my previous post Running Leela, with an action:-

Suddenly Black played 34...Qf4, placing the Queen en prise to two pieces. Give that move '??'. I don't understand what happened here and will look into it another time.

First stop: LCZero - Google Groups is an active discussion group where the participants are keen Leela fans with varying knowledge. It didn't take long to find a thread -- What is going on here? (May 29) -- which started with the same question I was asking:-

The above game contains a lot of seemingly absurd moves. Does anybody know why this is happening?

The answer had two parts:-

Training games have randomly selected moves to enable learning. If you want to analyse games played between networks please look for them here: lczero.org/matches.

So training games are the first step in the Leela heirarchy; matches are a second step. Got it. The same post pointed to another introductory resource: leela-chess/wiki/FAQ (github.com).

[Self-play training games] are how Leela Chess Zero trains herself. They are played with extra randomness turned on so it can discover new good (and bad) moves. This means the quality of these games is lower than the match games.

The FAQ should be a good place to start the next time I have a question. Back to the discussion group, how to discover the most relevant threads? I started by looking at recent threads with a high number of responses. Here a few entry level examples:-

  • Delayed gratification, 50-moves rule, discounted rewards, and an exercise (May 21; 73 posts by 14 authors) • 'There are earlier discussions on the LCZero group about Leela Zero aimlessly moving about in a won position, apparently constrained only by the 50-move rule to preserve its anticipation of a win. I don’t like this behaviour, but I have seen it defended by appeal to Zero Knowledge principles; a win is a win and we don’t care for elegance. I like to make a point here, backed by higher authority, that we should care for elegance and that it is appropriate to favour quicker gratification'

  • Super weird match from training games (May 26; 38 posts by 7 authors) • 'lczero.org/game/14801114; Super good start, but from move 29 and anything beyond, this looks like solid randomness.' • 'I wanted to reply that training games are irrelevant, but yeah this doesn't look right. It almost looks like both sides were trying not to win.'

  • Ideas to increase the interest in developing Leela Zero among the general public (May 31; 20 posts by 16 authors) • 'I have been following Leela Zero project for a couple on months now. I am a chess player with little knowledge in AI. I have noticed the number of training games per day is going down, which is going to make the development even slower.'

There are also many technical threads that discuss different configurations for the Leela client or that delve into the structure of the network(s). Let's look at those another time.

03 June 2018

Caveat eBay Digital Documents

Starting with the previous edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I switched the long-running series (first post March 2010) from a fortnightly to a monthly schedule. Since that previous post -- Chess Art, Paris 1925 -- appeared at the beginning of May, I had eBay auctions from the entire month of May to choose from. Did that mean I had double the number of interesting items on my short list? Not exactly.

Of course, there are always auctions for collector chess sets or chess computers, but they have to be especially unusual to catch my attention. In a decidedly uninspiring month, the item pictured below grabbed the lion's share of that attention. Titled 'Chess Life and Review - 2 disk DVD collection Chess Software', subtitled 'Brand New', it sold for US $582.04 ('+$19.60 shipping'), Buy-It-Now.

Back in 2012/2013 I downloaded these documents from the web and they have since served as inspiration for many posts on this blog. See, for example, the most recent 'On the Cover', for May 1968; the 2017 series on Early U.S. Ratings; or an overview of the CL/CR digital copies, Shaping Chess History (September 2016). The description of the item pictured above started,

A must have item for any serious chess historian or chess collector! This 2 DVD collection contains digital reproductions of every issue of...

In fact, there is no need for me to copy the description, because you can find it yourself on Amazon.com (where the DVDs currently sell for $43.94) and USCFsales.com ($39.95). Just use the key phrases from the quote I've given. All three descriptions also use the sentence...

Here is your chance to get 42 years worth of Chess Magazines at a cost of less than $1.00 per year!

...which is obviously not true for the eBay item. The seller of that item has more than 100 'Neutral' or 'Negative' feedback comments, some of which mention that an item sold on eBay was shipped using Amazon Prime. Like many once-interesting web ideas, eBay eventually evolved into a giant swamp. The chess DVDs just add to the widespread muck.

By coincidence, while I was preparing the recent post, An 1886 Photoshopped Illustration, where I mentioned that 'I've been downloading old copies of The Chess Journalist (TCJ)', I noticed that the December 2006 issue of the TCJ credited the existence of the scanned CL/CRs to Tim Tobiason. He seems to have been a colorful character in several ways, but this isn't the time or place to repeat stories that can be found elsewhere on the web. It is his misfortune that while the original magazines are protected by copyright, his scans aren't protected by a second copyright because they don't represent creative work.


Later: Re that last paragraph...

He seems to have been a colorful character in several ways, but this isn't the time or place to repeat stories that can be found elsewhere on the web.

...the Armchair Warrior found both the time and the place: Tim Tobiason - A Colorful Chess Character (xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com).

01 June 2018

It's Much More than Chess

Thanks to a post I wrote at the end of last year, The Constellation of AlphaZero (December 2017), I became curious to know more about the technology used in AlphaZero:-

The excerpt I copied from the paper also talks about parameters. It ends, 'The updated parameters are used in subsequent games of self-play.' I wonder if I can find out more about those parameters. I'd also like to know how all of this was used in the match that crushed Stockfish.

This led me to a series of courses on Coursera called Deep Learning (coursera.org):-

In five courses, you will learn the foundations of Deep Learning, understand how to build neural networks, and learn how to lead successful machine learning projects. You will learn about Convolutional networks, RNNs, LSTM, Adam, Dropout, BatchNorm, Xavier/He initialization, and more. You will work on case studies from health care, autonomous driving, sign language reading, music generation, and natural language processing. You will master not only the theory, but also see how it is applied in industry. You will practice all these ideas in Python and in TensorFlow, which we will teach.

I had already taken a bitcoin/blockchain course on the same site and knew that their material was reliable. It took me about five months to work through the five courses, which were titled:-

Neural Networks and Deep Learning
Improving Deep Neural Networks: Hyperparameter tuning...
Structuring Machine Learning Projects
Convolutional Neural Networks
Sequence Models

One of the big advantages of Coursera is that the courses can be audited for free. Although all material for the courses -- videos, quizzes, programming assignments, and forums -- is available at no cost, the quizzes aren't graded without payment and there is no certificate issued for completing a course. Not having done any programming in more than 20 years, I was concerned that my skills were out of date, but there was plenty of support offered for both Python and TensorFlow (Keras is also used) and I had no trouble completing the assignments. This was partly due to the cookie-cutter structure of the exercises and to forum discussions by previous students that shed sufficient light on the knottiest problems. It also helped to know some math, particularly linear algebra and calculus.

The courses are the work of Andrew Ng (wikipedia.org) and his company, Deeplearning.ai. After noting a few weeks ago that AI and all it entails is A Transformational Technology (May 2018), I'm glad I understand the subject much better than I did six months ago.

A key question I had going into this endeavor was 'Why is AI taking off now?' People have been talking about it for decades, but it was always just around the corner. What changed to make it reality?

An important driver has been 'big data'. We now have so much digital data with huge portions of it correctly cataloged and labeled that we have the means to explore digital relationships that were inaccessible in the past.

We also have algorithms to process big data that, not so long ago, were unknown or undeveloped. Most modern AI is based on the same set of related algorithms. Computing hardware has progressed in parallel with the development of those algorithms allowing for their practical implementation. The necessary support for vectorization in both processors and software development tools was previously missing.

Finally, the impetus for capturing big data and developing big tools is big money. AI first revolutionized the commercial endeavor of selling ads and is now gradually creeping into every commercial activity on the planet.

31 May 2018

(No) May Yahoos

It had to happen sooner or later. After April Yahoos marked 'the seventh straight month of chess in the mainstream press', the streak ended in May. The only oblique reference to chess was a Kasparov vs. Putin story.

'Kasparov on Putin's meddling: '"I told you so".'

This story had as much to do with chess as the five stories listed beneath it:-

  • And the winner of 'American Idol' Season 16 is...
  • Kylie Jenner tweet made some investors a fortune
  • New wrinkle in Clinton email controversy
  • Sen. Rubio: 'There aren't 63 better quarterbacks'
  • Notable info missing from Meghan Markle bio

For the record, here's the Kasparov/Putin article:-

While Garry is always as entertaining as he is outspoken, this is a chess blog, not a blog for Russian politics. A few years I devoted a full post to the subject in Geopolitical Yahoos (October 2014), and I could have featured similar stories at the end of last year in November Yahoos and December Yahoos.

I like these end-month news roundups, but what to do when there are no Yahoos? Let's try Google News Search: 'q=chess'. Of the more than 100 headlines returned by the search, I picked out five stories for this post:-

  • 2018-05-10: Garry Kasparov Talks Artificial Intelligence, Deep Blue, and AlphaGo Zero (fortune.com) • 'Despite losing at chess to the IBM Deep Blue computer more than 20 years ago, Garry Kasparov is a big believer in artificial intelligence. The former world chess champion is now an author and speaker who is trying to counter some of the more alarmist beliefs over the rise of AI technologies, typically exemplified in Hollywood movies in which robots rise against their human creators.'

So I ended up anyway with another Kasparov story, this one on his third favorite subject after chess and Putin. What will the not-so-genial GM say once he realizes that AI was the enabling technology that gave Putin the power 'to meddle in American elections'?

Here are three more stories that would have made good Yahoos. All of them highlight secondary aspects of chess.

The story I would have most liked to see featured in Yahoo was the outcome of the U.S. Championship. Here's the version by Leonard Barden.

  • 2018-05-04: Chess: Sam Shankland surprise US champion ahead of Fabiano Caruana (theguardian.com) • 'Sam Shankland is the new US champion after a bravura performance where the Californian 26-year-old outscored America’s elite trio of Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura, who between them had won the previous three titles.'

May Yahoos continue in June. If not, we'll have more Google News.

29 May 2018

An 1886 Photoshopped Illustration

Earlier this month I posted about the 2018 CJA Awards Announcement, where I noted,

The [CJA's] revamped site has 'News', mainly minutes from past CJA annual meetings, an 'Awards Archive' with links to relevant material, and back issues of The Chess Journalist, which hasn't been published since 2014.

Since then I've been downloading old copies of The Chess Journalist (TCJ), wondering what chess news/wisdom could be gleaned from the publication. In preparation for a recent weekend trip, I copied seven years of TCJ (2000-2006; 28 issues) to my Kindle, then spent an hour each morning flipping through them.

The Kindle is my favorite tool for reviewing digital documents. Whenever I find a page worth further research, I can take a snapshot as a reminder that there was something interesting on the page. This is how I prepared the material for Early U.S. Ratings : A Summary and an Exercise (October 2017), which was another vacation project based on digital copies of Chess Life from the 1950s.

One of the TCJ pages I noted is shown below. It was the cover for the September 2001 issue and re-uses a well known illustration from the 19th century.

The caption says,

"The Sixteen Leading Chess Players of the World" from the July 17, 1886 issue of The Graphic. • Standing: Mackenzie, Kolisch, Winawer, Bird, de Riviere, Mason, Potter, Schallopp, L.Paulsen, G.A.MacDonnell, Gunsberg. • Seated: Blackburne, Steinitz, Zukertort, Englisch.

I'm the type of person who counts everything. If I'm culling a collection of 32 items and end up with 30 items, I'd better find two items in the deleted tray. If not, I spend time to locate the source of the error. In the case of this TCJ cover I couldn't help but notice that of the 16 'leading players' shown in the illustration, only 15 were named. Who was missing?

I found three copies of the image in my archive. The best copy showed that the 1886 original had the names and nationalities of the players listed outside the border of the image. The best associated text copied that information. Unfortunately, the names in that text didn't correspond exactly to the TCJ list. This turned out to be because two of the players in the top row were identified in the list of names for the bottom row.

Putting this together, I determined that TCJ's missing player was Rosenthal, who is standing between de Riviere and Mason. The information from the 'best text' gave the following list:-

J.H. Blackburne (England), W. Steinitz (U.S.), J.H. Xukertort [sic?!] (England), B. Englisch (Austria-Hungary), Captain George MacKenzie (U.S.), Baron J. de Kolisch (Austria-Hungary), S. Winawer (Germany), H. E. Bird (England), M. de Riviere (France), S Rosenthal (France), James Mason (U.S.), W. Norwood Potter (England), Emil Schallopp (Austria-Hungary), Louis Paulsen (Germany), and Rev G. A. MacDonnell (England), Isidor Gunsberg (England).

With the help of this list I located more copies of the illustration on the Web. The best is at Chess Pictures (chessbookchats.blogspot.com; June 2017), where the image is tinted and expands to a large size where the face of each player can be seen clearly. I'm no expert on photoshopped images, but the original illustration from The Graphic appears to have been made through some sort of copy/paste process combining different sources.


Later: Re that last comment -- 'I'm no expert on photoshopped images...' -- a note under The Graphic's original caption ('Leading Chess Players') says, 'A Portrait Group'. When I first saw this on a zoomed copy of the illustration, I thought I was reading it wrong because the letters are severely blurred on my copy; the legend 'A Group Portrait' would make more sense. Afterwards I realized that 'A Portrait Group' describes the creative process: made from a group of portraits.

28 May 2018

Running Leela / Acquiring Komodo

I ended last week's post, Installing Leela, with visual proof that I was up and running:-

Here's a screen capture showing the end of the first game and the start of the second.

The main page for the project, lczero.org (where LCZero = Leela Chess Zero), currently shows:-

'Number of accumulated games' = 15.200.000

Active Users
424 users in the last day have played 163117 games

This is followed by a long list of users, where I'm somewhere near the bottom:-

User Games/Day Version Engine Last Updated
rjs-dot-in 6238 10 10 2018-05-28 08:26
bemweeks1 14 10 10 2018-05-28 07:04

I don't know what 'Version 10' and 'Engine 10' mean, so I'll come back to that another day. All users on the list show the same values for those fields.

My username leads to a page listing games created by my account: User bemweeks1. Each of those games links to a separate viewer page for the game, although the pages for the earliest games say only, 'Internal error'. The entry for the most recent game looks like this:-

Id Network Created At
15213386 bf43640... 2018-05-28 07:04

It leads to the complete game score:-

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Bf5 6.Bf4 Bd6 7.Nh4 Be6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.e3 O-O 10.Bd3 Re8 11.Nf3 Bg4 12.h3 Bh5 13.Be2 c6 14.O-O Nbd7 15.Qb3 Ne4 16.Rfe1 Bxf3 17.Bxf3 Ng5 18.Bd1 Rab8 19.Qa4 a6 20.Ne2 Rbd8 21.Qb3 Qc7 22.Nf4 Ne6 23.Nxe6 Rxe6 24.Qd3 Nf6 25.Bf3 h5 26.b4 Qe7 27.Reb1 Ne4 28.Rb2 h4 29.a4 Qg5 30.b5 axb5 31.axb5 c5 32.dxc5 Nxc5 33.Qd4 b6 34.Rb4 Qf4 35.exf4 Rde8 36.Bxd5 Rf8 37.Rbb1 Rd6 38.Bxf7+ Kxf7 39.Qxd6 Kg8 40.Qxb6 Na4 41.f3 Nxb6 42.Ra6 Rb8 43.Kh2 Rb7 44.Rc1 Nd5 45.Rc5 Ne3 46.b6 Ra7 47.bxa7 Nxg2 48.Rc7 Kh7 49.Rf7 Nxf4 50.a8=Q Nh5 51.Qc8 Ng3 52.Qc7 Nh5 53.Qe5 Kg8 54.Rb7 g6 55.Ra8+

It goes without saying that the game has absolutely nothing to do with my own play. It just happens to have been played on a machine that belongs to me. As I scrolled through the moves, it looked like any other game until I came to this position.

After 34.Rb2-b4

White looks better here. The White Pawns present a better structure and White owns the open a-file. There are still plenty of moves to be played, but White should do no worse than draw. Suddenly Black played 34...Qf4, placing the Queen en prise to two pieces. Give that move '??'. I don't understand what happened here and will look into it another time.


Excitement in the world of chess engines: Chess.com Acquires Komodo; Launches New 'Monte Carlo' Version Similar To AlphaZero (chess.com; 24 May 2018):-

Chess.com has acquired the powerful computer chess engine Komodo, the company announced today. The acquisition of the Komodo comes with the release of an exciting new version of the engine called Komodo Monte Carlo, where moves are chosen by win probability and not traditional evaluation. The approach is similar to the probabilistic methods of the machine-learning chess projects AlphaZero and LeelaChess, which have fascinated chess players with their intuitive styles and fantastic success.

The press release went on to explain the basics of Komodo's 'Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS)'. It also announced,

Along with the software and brand, the entire Komodo team has agreed to join Chess.com. GM Larry Kaufman and his Komodo team will work with Chess.com developers to build the most insightful, powerful, and deepest-analyzing chess engine possible.

It's not clear how this will change the chess engine landscape, but Chess.com never does things lightly.

27 May 2018

Sunday Series

Another post on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), another video from the Saint Louis Chess Club. The previous video, 2018 U.S. Championship - Hall of Fame (April 2018), was the second in a row, making this one the third.

2018 U.S. Chess Championships: Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield (5:37) • 'Published on Apr 30, 2018'

The description from the Youtube channel for the Saint Louis Chess Club said,

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley talks to Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield, co-founder of the Saint Louis Chess Club, during Round 10 of the 2018 U.S. Chess Championships.

At the beginning of the clip GM Ashley elicits a smile by saying,

Half of the Sinquefield show is Dr. Jeannie Sinquefield and we would say the better half, too. Rex is crazy. She's the reasonable one in the family. You need the dreamers and you need the practical ones.

The rest of the clip is mainly about the Boy Scouts. Dr. Sinquefield says, 'I now have 170.000 boys who have earned the chess merit badge.' For more about that badge on this blog, see Chess Merit Badge (September 2011). As for her doctorate, a page for the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, Jeanne Sinquefield - Music Composition & Education, informs,

Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield received a Masters in Business Administration and a doctorate in demography from The University of Chicago.

A doctorate in demography -- I bet that not many of those have been awarded.


This post finishes the transition I mentioned at the beginning of the month in Silk Anniversary!: 'While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down'. My fortnightly rotating series...

...plus this long-running series on sociology will now continue once a month each, rotating on Sundays.

22 May 2018

Vasiukov Photo / Caruana's Career

This month the chess world lost another former Soviet star, Evgeni Vasiukov (1933-2018). I searched my archive of eBay material and found only a single item featuring him. It's still worth a post.

The description said,

Original Soviet chess press panoramic photo. Grandmaster Evgeni Vasiukov plays white against Grandmaster Mikhail Tal, 1970s. Retouched for publishing in Latvian chess magazine "Sahs".

I've cropped out the 'panoramic' aspect, which showed chess fans pressing in from all sides to watch the game, apparently played at blitz time control. For more about his career, see Evgeni Vasiukov (wikipedia.org); Soviet Championships: 'He qualified for the finals a total of eleven times.'


For the past few weeks I've been running a series to learn more about Fabiano Caruana's early career. Here is a summary of the posts.

Although I didn't plan it at the time, the four posts document a natural progression in the early career of any budding chess superstar: early steps, Grandmaster title, GM supertournaments, World Championship aspirations. If I had been more alert while putting together 'early steps', I would have included Caruana's experience in youth tournaments.

I might come back to Caruana's career for the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match later this year in London. In the meantime, here are a number of related posts on this blog -- most of them recent -- about GM Caruana.

Posts marked '(*)' are currently showing up in 'Popular Posts (Last 12 months)' at the bottom of all blog pages. This attests to Caruana's popularity.

21 May 2018

Installing Leela

After Getting to Know Leela, what happens next? Installing it might be a good start. Following the instructions from that previous post...

For more info, go to lczero.org and refer to the links in the left navigation bar.

...I clicked through 'Getting Started' and eventually got to a page of the same name: Getting Started.

To help the LCZero project get stronger by running self-play training games on your own computer, see...

First question: On which machine should I install the Leela software? I decided to install it on my WIN7 PC. That's where I do most of my writing. Since the objective of the exercise is to write a few posts about Leela, it would be easier to copy/paste material directly into a post, like this one. Unfortunately, I ran into a technical problem and after fiddling a bit decided that WIN7 was the problem. I switched to a WIN10 PC.

I followed the instructions again (the second time went faster) and this time everything worked smoothly. After downloading and unzipping the file, I launched the client, set up a new account, and the software started automatically. Here's a screen capture showing the end of the first game and the start of the second.

'SlowMover', that's me.

20 May 2018

The Chess Waste Land

There are so many angles to today's featured photo that I hardly know where to start.

A game of chess © Flickr user Luke McKernan under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Barbara Kruger chess set, with paintings by Paula Rego, Peter Blake and Edward Hopper. The Waste Land exhibition, Turner Contemporary, Margate.

Margate: Ernst Gruenfeld won at Margate 1923 ahead of Alekhine (and others), although the tournament is not mentioned on BritBase: 1920-29 (saund.co.uk). For the next decade, BritBase: 1930-39, the site gives as Margate winners: 1935 Reshevsky, 1936 Capablanca, 1937 Fine/Keres, 1938 Alekhine, 1939 Keres. I presume the annual series ended because of WWII (1939-1945).

Waste Land exhibition: Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ (turnercontemporary.org):-

In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land sitting in the Nayland Rock shelter on Margate Sands. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work, reflecting on the fractured world in the aftermath of the First World War as well as Eliot’s own personal crisis.

For more about the poem, see Wikipedia's The Waste Land; its second part is titled 'A Game of Chess'. T.S. Eliot received a passing reference in a previous Flickr Friday post on this blog: Multi-dimensional Chess Imagery (November 2017; 'The large frame under the horseshoe is an an excerpt from T.S.Eliot's poem "East Coker" (1940), that starts "You say I am repeating / Something I have said before".')

Barbara Kruger chess set: The Margate photo is taken at an angle that captures both the chess set and an artwork featuring chess behind the set. It's not immediately obvious, because the chess set is shown from the wrong side, but the board is a photo of a boy screaming. A better view of the boy's head is at The Art Of Chess 2006 (tatintsian.com; 1/10, all sets). The chess artwork by Peter Blake shows Marcel Duchamp. Another work featuring Blake recreates the famous photo of Duchamp and model Eve Babitz.

Flickr: This current post is the follow-up to The Last Flickr Friday, where I said, 'I'll be cutting the series back to one post a month and moving it to Sunday.' It might also be the last Flickr photo: SmugMug acquires Flickr (techcrunch.com; April 2018); the article overviews the history of Flickr, 'founded in 2004 and sold to Yahoo a year later'. I hope the situation after the acquisition will continue to provide inspiration for future posts featuring chess photos.

18 May 2018

A Transformational Technology

On the 12th anniversary of this blog, Silk Anniversary! (1 May 2018), I decided to start giving less time to blogging:-

While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down; maybe go from one post per day (across my four blogs) to 5-6 posts per week.

With that in mind, I cut back my rotating Friday posts to once a month each and moved them to another day:-

So here we are, another Friday and I have nothing special to do. Before signing off completely, I'm going to spend a few Fridays looking at the impact of artificial intelligence and neural networks on the world of chess. To get started, I gathered all previous posts on the subject(s) into a new category: Showing posts with label AI/NN. It's a technology that is not only transforming chess, it's transforming nearly everything that we do.

17 May 2018

The Value of a Tempo

What's the value of the first move in chess? Most people would say it's a tempo, but there's a problem here.

Let's say that White passes on the first move. I know the rules of chess don't allow a player to say 'Pass!', so let's call it a thought experiment. If White passes, then Black has exactly the same advantage of the first move that White just had. Now here's the problem: If White gives up a tempo thereby giving Black an extra tempo, then the difference between the positions is two tempi. But White only passed on one move, so how can this be? Let's use a simple algebraic formula to illustrate this...

X - 1 = -X

... where 'X' is the value of the first move for White, '-1' is the value of the lost move, and '-X' is the value of the new situation for Black. Solving for 'X' gives X = 1/2. This means that the value of the first move is not a tempo; it's a half-tempo. QED?

A few years back I wrote a couple of posts -- One Imbalance Leads to Another (February 2013) and A Pawn Equals 200 Rating Points (ditto) -- based on GM Larry Kaufman's work. One of the observations from his work was...

  • 0.4 - Value of a tempo
  • 0.2 - Value of first move

...where a Pawn is worth 1.0. Kaufman's observation confirms the X = 1/2 calculation. Why bring this up again? While reading the September 2017 issue of Chess Life, I noticed that GM Lev Alburt gave the following diagram in his monthly column, 'Back to Basics', after the moves 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3.

Most people would accept that statement as obvious and continue with the column. We've all seen similar statements many times and accepted them without question, but it might not be so straightforward. According to Kaufman's work, White's advantage might be *only* a half-tempo.

I plugged the position after 1.e4 c5 into an engine, looked at the analysis, entered a null move for White, and looked again at the analysis. The difference between the two analyses (before and after the null move) was not a half-tempo, it was closer to a full tempo. Why is the value of a move a half-tempo at the start of a game and a full tempo later? I think it's the difference between 'having the move' and 'making a move'. Once you make a move the advantage of having the move passes to your opponent.

I'm a big fan of chess960. I've always assumed that different start positions have different values. According to the analysis above (X - 1 = -X), every position starts with the same fundamentals -- a tempo is a tempo no matter what the start position might be.

So why do some chess960 start positions seem to offer a better opportunity for White to gain an advantage? Maybe it's for the same reason that some moves in the traditional start position (as in the diagram above) offer a better opportunity than other moves. After all, 1.d4 and 1.e4 are better moves than 1.a3 and 1.h3. A move that accomplishes two objectives is better than a move that accomplishes a single objective; similarly, a move that does nothing is better than a move that makes the position worse. Just don't say, 'Pass!'.

15 May 2018

Caruana at the World Cup

In my previous post on the challenger for the current World Championship cycle, Caruana at Corus, I ended with the observation:-

Between the 2009 and 2010 Corus tournaments, there was another significant event: the 2009 World Cup.

According to my World Championship Index of players [A-G], GM Caruana has played in five World Cups. Following is a summary of his results in the seven-round knockout events.

2009 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, XI-XII, 2009.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - Bruzon Batista,L 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 4.0 - Dominguez Perez,L 2.0
Rd.3 Caruana,F 3.5 - Alekseev,Evgeny 2.5
Rd.4 Gashimov,V 3.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

2011 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, VIII-IX, 2011.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - Pridorozhni,A 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Drozdovskij,Y 0.5
Rd.3 Svidler,P 3.0 - Caruana,F 1.0

2013 World Cup; Tromso (Norway), VIII-IX, 2013.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - G.,Akash 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Yu Yangyi 0.5
Rd.3 Caruana,F 3.0 - Malakhov,V 1.0
Rd.4 Caruana,F 2.0 - Granda Zuniga,J 0.0
Rd.5 Vachier Lagrave,M 2.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

2015 World Cup; Baku (Azerbaijan), IX-X, 2015.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 2.0 - Zaibi,A 0.0
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Mamedov,Rau 0.5
Rd.3 Caruana,F 1.5 - Kovalyov,A 0.5
Rd.4 Mamedyarov,S 1.5 - Caruana,F 0.5

2017 World Cup; Tbilisi (Georgia), IX, 2017.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 2.0 - Solomon,K 0.0
Rd.2 Caruana,F 4.0 - Lenic,L 2.0
Rd.3 Najer,E 2.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

How did he qualify for the World Cup events? Another of my pages, World Chess Championship Zonals, includes links to 'Qualifying Paths' for each cycle.

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2008-2009 (C24)

h) 6 nominees of the FIDE President
122. Caruana, Fabiano (ITA)

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2010-2011 (C25)

d) From FIDE Rating List, 20 players, average 7/2010 & 1/2011:
25. F. Caruana (ITA) 2709,00 [19th on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2012-2013 (C26)

d) From FIDE Rating List, average 3/2012 up to 1/2013:
12. F. Caruana (ITA) 2775,44 [5th on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2014-2015 (C27)

d) From FIDE Rating List, average 2/2014 up to 1/2015:
09. F. Caruana (USA) 2803.66 [2nd on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2016-2017 (C28)

c) From FIDE Rating List, 18 players, average 2/2016 up to 1/2017:
08. F. Caruana (USA) 2807.91 [1st on the list]

As the official challenger in the forthcoming 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match, GM Caruana is guaranteed a place in the following cycle. Whatever the outcome of that match, I expect he will be a key participant in World Championship cycles for many years to come.

14 May 2018

Getting to Know Leela

After last week's introduction to Leela Chess Zero and the TCEC, where to go next? How about an explanatory video? In last year's introduction to AlphaZero, A New Style of Chess (December 2017), I featured Agadmator's Chess Channel on Youtube, so let's call on Agadmator again.

Artificial Intelligence Leela Zero to Become as Strong as Alpha Zero? | Only if We Help! (14:28) • 'Published on Apr 5, 2018'

The video's description explains,

Great progress has been made so far -- Leela has gone from random play to around 1800 now on average hardware in four weeks. The catch is that project relies on people running Leela on their computers so there are more matches for Leela to learn from.

For more info, go to lczero.org and refer to the links in the left navigation bar.

13 May 2018

Fabiano Streams on Twitch

A couple of months ago on Video Friday we had Magnus Streams on Youtube (March 2018). Now we have World Champion Carlsen's next challenger hosting a stream; see 2018 Carlsen - Caruana; London for more about next November's title match, including the official site, etc.

Fabiano Caruana - Titled Tuesday May 2018 (1:40:07) • 'Published on May 3, 2018'

Chess.com's own video report on Youtube is at Titled Tuesday Blitz Chess Tournament: May 2018 With Caruana and Giri:-

World championship challenger Fabiano Caruana decides to put his skills on display by playing AND streaming the May edition of the Titled Tuesday blitz chess tournament. Joining him is Anish Giri who's hungry to defeat him "on air."

For Chess.com's written report on the event, see Petrosian Wins Titled Tuesday Ahead Of Giri, Caruana. In the future I'll be featuring videos once a month on this blog. The previous, fortnightly schedule ended a few days ago with The Last Video Friday.

11 May 2018

The Last Video Friday

Unlike last Friday's post The Last Flickr Friday, this current post isn't really 'The Last Video Friday'. That distinction belongs to 2018 U.S. Championship (April 2018; 'Strength of the Tournament'). The tag count currently shows 'Video (406)', which means I have to go back many years to find the original Video Friday. I initially performed a couple of tests to understand the techniques:-

Some time after making those tests, the videos were gone. The YouTube version is now marked 'This video is unavailable', while the Google version has simply disappeared without a trace. The third post in the category was:-

  • 2007-03-16: Video Friday • 'Chess and metaphysics don't usually mix well. This video is a pleasant exception.'

By some happy quirk of fate/metaphysics, that first Video Friday post has survived intact. I don't know what the odds are of a video becoming unavailable, but based on the number witnessed via this blog, it must be fairly high.

'This video is unavailable.'

I'll still continue reviewing recent YouTube submissions on the subject of chess, but it won't be on Friday.

10 May 2018

2018 CJA Awards Announcement

Once again, the month of May means the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have announced their annual award categories. It also means that I'll have material for at least three posts on this blog. Last year we had...

...and this year I expect we'll have similar. The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the award categories for last year and for this year.

2017 2018

Too small to read? The CJA's completely revamped web site, Chess Journalism (chessjournalism.org), points to an online entry form that includes the same list of categories.

What's changed? The first four category groups for 2018 ('THE TOP FOUR', etc.) are carbon copies of the 2017 groups. When we reach 'NEWS AND FEATURES', things start to change. The category 'Best Tournament Report', which was present in 2016 but missing in 2017 (apparently an oversight), is back in 2018, and split into two: 'National / International' and 'Local / Regional'. The other categories in the group are unchanged except for a new category, 'Special Achievement'.

After 'ELECTRONIC MEDIA', where the categories haven't changed and which still includes 'Best Chess Blog', there is a new group, 'MULTIMEDIA CATEGORY'. Here the new categories are:-

  • Best Mainstream Media (one free entry to anyone)
  • Best Tournament Report
  • Best Educational Lesson
  • Best Interview

Whether you're a CJA member or not (I'm not), the CJA's revamped web site is worth a visit. It appears to have changed end-2017, but if you're nostalgic for the old site, it is still available at archive.org / chessjournalism.org.

The revamped site has 'News', mainly minutes from past CJA annual meetings, an 'Awards Archive' with links to relevant material, and back issues of The Chess Journalist, which hasn't been published since 2014. The minutes for the 2017 annual meeting explained,

PDFs of old issues of The Chess Journalists have begun to be put up online. There is also a list of issues that are missing from the White Collection in Cleveland that has been placed on line.

The earliest issue currently available is 'Chess Journalist - Spring 1977 v5 n1'. Since I've never seen an issue of the periodical dated before 2007, there is plenty here to keep me busy until the 2018 CJA Awards are announced three months from now.

08 May 2018

Caruana at Corus

Continuing with our look at TWIC's coverage (from Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess) of Fabiano Caruana's career, I covered his early steps in Caruana's TWIC Debut (April 2018), and his next steps in Caruana's Rise to GM (ditto). I ended that last post with:-

The GM title helped Caruana gain invitations to the next level of tournaments. In January 2008, he would play in Wijk aan Zee (Corus 'C') for the first time.

The following composite image shows GM Caruana's performance at Wijk aan Zee in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He won the C-event easily in 2008, won the B-event with considerable luck in 2009, and finished +1-3=9 at the A-event in 2010, three points behind winner Magnus Carlsen.

Source: TWIC 690, 742, 795

For the corresponding reports from Chessbase.com, see:-

Between the 2009 and 2010 Corus tournaments, there was another significant event: the 2009 World Cup.

07 May 2018

Leela Chess Zero

Now that I've finished with TCEC Season 11 (see last week's Battering the French for the final post), where should I go next? The first post in this current series on engines, Back to the Future with Chess Engines (April 2018), promised a look at the future. What could be more futuristic than AI? In the middle of last month, the TCEC organizers announced Leela Chess Zero enters TCEC Season 12 (chessdom.com).

Leela Chess Zero (LC0), an open source adaptation of DeepMind’s recent Alpha Zero artificial intelligence demonstration project, will compete in TCEC’s Season 12. In so doing it will become the first chess-playing neural net in history to publicly challenge traditional human chess programming.

Leela was placed into the lowest of the TCEC qualifying events, Division 4. Based on its poor performance, it might be at risk of being dropped for future TCEC seasons. Here's a crosstable of the event.

TCEC Season 12, Division 4

Ouch! I better not waste any time. For the next few weeks in this series I'll look at Leela and its technology.

06 May 2018

Chess Art, Paris 1925

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), we've had A Six-Figure Chess Item at Auction (November 2017; 'Marcel Duchamp : Pocket Chess Set'), and A Seven-Figure Chess Item at Auction (also November 2017; 'The Chess Players' by William Roberts). A five-figure item might seem commmonplace, but there were only three others listed in the 'Six-Figure' post.

The item pictured below was titled 'Frantisek Zdenek Eberl, French/Czech (1887-1962), Chess Players, oil', and subtitled 'Part of a live auction event on Thursday, Apr 26'. The winning bid was US $38,000 after 20 bids.

The description repeated the information in the title and added,

Seller's Estimate: USD 6,000 - 8,000.
Oil on canvas, signed "F.Z. Eberl" and dated "Paris 25" lower left.
Inscribed "Salon d'Automne" and "d'Office" on the reverse.
41 x 28 1/2 inches.

Provenance: Ancienne Maison P. Ferret, L. Helvig, Successeur, Paris, France; Private Collection, New Jersey.
Exhibitions: Salon d'Automne (1925), Paris, France.

Wikipedia's page on the artist, François Zdenek Eberl, says,

François Zdenek Eberl (1887-1962) was a Czech-born painter who worked mainly in Paris, France. At his prime, his name was included among those of fellow painters and personal friends Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and Maurice de Vlaminck. [...] Drawing inspiration from the folklore of Paris, his preference was to paint the street scenes and nightclubs as he observed them.

How does that fit into Chess and Art Movements (December 2017)?

04 May 2018

The Last Flickr Friday

Other than a few tags -- Tallinn, Estonia, Sculpture -- and a link to Wikipedia's page on Paul Keres, this photo had no information about the setting. It appears to be an exterior wall plaque, perhaps on the house where Keres lived.

Paul Kerese © Flickr user Alan under Creative Commons.

The plaque says,

Paul Kerese
Nimeline Malamaje

Given 'Nimeline Malamaje', Google Translate says it's Estonian and turns it into 'Nickname Malamaje'. That information leads nowhere, so we are free to use our imagination.


In the previous Flickr Friday post, Chess in the Pink, I wrote,

I might try to find another source of photo sharing. Like other Yahoo services that I use from time to time, Flickr seems to be failing gradually.

I'll be cutting the series back to one post a month -- it's been every two weeks since the first post: Flickr Friday (August 2008) -- and moving it to Sunday.

03 May 2018

May 1968 'On the Cover'

Last month's 'On the Cover', April 1968, featured a correspondence chess champion and a chess set. This month the series returns to the same two world class crossboard players who appeared in the November 1967 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'National Open Champion Pal Benko' (Details next month)
Right: 'Oscar'

Chess Life; 'Details next month' means we go back 50 years less a month to find out what happened in the tournament. From the June 1968 CL:-

At Lake Tahoe, Nevada, from March 24 to 29, 111 competitors took part in the National Open Tournament. When it was all over, International Grandmaster Pal Benko had the first prize of $1250 in his pocket. The tournament director and principle organizer, Ken Jones of Reno, is a lover of chess and philosophy. He has decided not to direct next year's event, a decision no doubt prompted by several misunderstandings and ensuing disputes during the tournament.

Chess Review

It fell to Bent Larsen of Denmark to win the first "Chess Oscar" this year at the tournament at Palma de Majorca. Larsen and the trophy therefore appear on our front cover this month, and the first part of Dr. Petar Trifunovich's account of Palma de Majorca carries the story in some detail. Does Larsen, who happened to win when and where the tournament organizers dreamed up the scheme of nominating and electing the "Player of the Year," merit that award? Petar gives some ponderable cons to rate against the Dane's four straight victories.

The first 'Chess Oscar' is a story worth repeating. From the May 1968 CR (p.156):-

Palma de Mallorca (*), Recounted by Dr. Petar Trifunovich, Part I

The '(*)' signalled an editorial footnote on the use of Majorca vs. Mallorca: 'Dr.Trifunovich prefers to go to "L".' Was there an unstated problem here? Let's continue with the main story:-

First "Chess Oscar" • As Palma was the last chess event for 1967, the organizers hit upon the great idea of proclaiming "the best chessplayer of the year." Along with the proclamation goes a "Chess Oscar" after the long established custom of filmdom. For chess, this is a (more modest) silver cup. This idea introduces a bit of change and enlivening into the humdrum routine of chess life.

For this purpose, a jury was constituted of chess journalists accredited by the tournament: Puig Laborda and Eduardo de Perez of Spain; Harry de Graaf of Holland; Silvain Zinser of France; and Deimitry Bjelica of Yugoslavia. They voted for Bent Larsen of Denmark as the best player in 1967 on the strength of his first-place victories in the Capablanca Memorial at Havana, the Winnipeg International (a tie with Klaus Darga of West Germany), the Interzonal at Sousse and the International Tournament at Palma de Mallorca.

The decision of course has no official significance -- rates perhaps somewhat less than the "grandmasterships" conferred by the Czar of Russia at St. Petersburg in 1914 -- for it was brought about without the collaboration or agreement of the FIDE. It is a one-sided declaration of the journalists who happened to collect at one tournament. And, in fact, one notable chess reporter present, Grandmaster Kotov, did not support the declaration.

Indeed, the objectivity of this decision may be questioned. The Chess Oscar may, first, be unduly apt to be awarded to the winner of the concurrent tournament. Second, the jury gave no explanation as to why Robert J. Fischer, for instance, surely a possible rival, was excluded. Surely, all aspirants and all results ought to be taken into consideration, both the positive and the negative. Here is a brief resume, which this commentator offers as possibly incomplete, speaking without full documentation.

Larsen shared third and fourth with Yefim Geller at Monaco; and, what is quite important, he was not only outscored but also beaten by Fischer. At Dundee in Ireland, Larsen split second and third with Fredrik Olafsson of Iceland, and behind Svetozar Gligorich of Yugoslavia. At Winnipeg, Larsen shared first with Darga. True, Larsen's great victories at Havana, Sousse and Palma are clean as a raindrop. But Fischer had first places exclusively: at Skopje and Monaco, he had no consort; and, even when dismissed from the Interzonal at Sousse, he led undefeated.

At the least, a decision between these two chess giants does not come easily. But the jury left us with no explanation. And what would have happened if the jury had designated someone else, someone not among the participants at Palma? "Oscar" certainly could not have been handed over!

That excerpt is perhaps too long-winded for this blog post, but it *was* the first 'Chess Oscar'.

01 May 2018

Silk Anniversary!

That's what Wikipedia's page on Wedding anniversary suggests for the 12th. The first post on this blog was Another head? (1 May 2006) After one year of blogging, in M'aidez, M'aidez (1 May 2007), I wrote,

It's been exactly one year to the day since I started this blog and it has become an addiction. I need help in stopping. Lots of other chess bloggers seem to be able to stop without any problem. Why can't I?

Eleven years later I'm still wondering how to stop. While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down; maybe go from one post per day (across my four blogs) to 5-6 posts per week. Past experience says that this won't last long. I always manage to fill the newfound free time with chess or with blogging. I'm drawn to the two activities like a moth to a flame.

Smooth as silk?