17 July 2018

Chess-books and Chess-players

There I was on vacation, reading the only book I had brought with me -- a real book, a paperback -- when suddenly the transition from one page to the next didn't make sense. Then I noticed that 20 pages were missing from the book. Since it was a work of non-fiction, I could have skipped over the missing pages and continued without missing too much, but I'm an obsessive sort of person who prefers to finish something I've started. I switched over to my laptop and started a web search for digital copies of the book. I found one at A soldier reports by William C. Westmoreland (openlibrary.org). While reading through the missing pages, I remembered that I had once written a few posts about the Open Library on this blog:-

Since that time, the Open Library has released functionality to Turn Your Website into a Library (blog.openlibrary.org; May 2018):-

Openlibrary.org has over three million books lining its digital shelves, but nothing quite beats being able to embed your favorite book directly on your personal site. Last week, with the help of volunteer Galen Mancino, we launched an embed tool which lets you add any Open Library book to your website or blog.

I quickly located an old favorite and followed the (simple) embed instructions. Here's the result...

Chess and Chess-players: Consisting of Original Stories and Sketches
by George Walker

...I added that link at the bottom just in case the embed technique doesn't work when I upload this post to my blog. In the past I transcribed a number of Walker's essays into web pages on my own site:-

I hate to think how many hours I spent on the transcription work. Nowadays I would just run the text through an OCR service. Here, for example, is Walker's preface to the book.

These sketches were first published, years since, in various magazines and journals; and are now presented in a volume, as a partial retrospect of the dark days that are gone; when the march of Chess was in its infancy.

In writing these papers, my object was to place the King of Sports before the public at large, in somewhat bolder relief, by entwining Chess with Romance: -- the union going at times terribly against the grain -- both hacks having been little used to run in double harness, and therefore not always taking the collar kindly. Reading the sheets now for press, as a whole, I observe certain undesirable repetitions of thought and phrase, occasionally ; consequent, I believe, on the confined nature of my theme -- the detached character of the essays -- and the great space of time over which their original appearance was distributed. But the book must go as it is.

"Other times, other cares." I look back with pride on the services my pen may have rendered Chess; but I write no more in the cause. A quiet observer only, now, of CHESS and CHESS PLAYERS, I find the latter fully capable of sounding their own trumpets.

Stock Exchange, 1850.

I found a few more books that are worth a future post and will address them as required.

16 July 2018

Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 12

Let's put the idea of Tracking Leela on hold and look at the final results of TCEC Season 12. At the time of the 'Tracking' post, Stockfish and Komodo had been slugging it out for two weeks with a current score of:-

+22-7=51 for Stockfish, i.e. 47.5 points of the 50.5 needed to win the match. This is with 20 games still to be played.

The last 20 games were:-

+7-2=11 in favor of Stockfish

Stockfish was officially declared the TCEC winner after the first five of those games when it reached 50.5 points. The final score after all 100 games was:-

+29-9=62 for Stockfish

That tally simplifies to 60.0-40.0, which gives Stockfish an edge of 72 Elo over Komodo, all other things being equal. All other things are not equal, since the openings were dictated by the TCEC organizers and it is impossible to say whether they favored one engine or the other. I reported the previous final match, Stockfish vs. Houdini, in Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 11 (April 2018):-

The final score in the TCEC superfinal match was +20-2=78.

Although that point tally of 59.0-41.0 was close to the Season 12 margin of victory, the number of decisive games increased from 22 to 38.

How did the chosen openings fare? Since all 50 openings were played once with each engine as White, it's possible to group openings based on their success characteristics. This is shown in the table on the left.

The first column shows the results with Stockfish as White; the second column shows Komodo with White. The first row says that there were four openings where both engines won as White. The last row says that there was one opening where both engines won as Black. I'll look at a few of those opening disasters in a future post.

Congratulations to the entire Stockfish team, who look set to dominate computer chess competitions for the foreseeable future.

15 July 2018

Interviews in Black and White

Has it already been a month since the last video featured on this blog, A Smashing Game (June 2018)? That video wasn't too serious, but the next video is.

Deep into the Mind of a Chess Grandmaster - Documentary (15:42) • 'Published on Jun 25, 2018'

The description says,

What does it take to become a chess grandmaster? Who better to ask how it's done than those who have already made it to the very top of the chess world? iChess sat down with FIDE Masters, International Masters and Grandmasters from all around the world and asked them the big questions: How does one get better at chess? What does it take to go from patzer to chess grandmaster? How much does natural talent play a part over simple hard work? Let's dive into the mind of a chess grandmaster. [...]

iChess talked with GM Judit Polgar, GM Nigel Short, GM Susan Polgar, GM Daniel Naroditsky, GM Sam Shankland, GM Aleksandr Lenderman, GM Nadya Kosintseva, FM Alisa Melekhina, GM Mihail Marin, GM Liem Le Quang, IM Irina Bulmaga, GM Irina Krush, GM Axel Delorme, GM Bryan Smith, GM Ivan Sokolov, GM Arkadij Naiditsch, GM Damian Lemos, GM Simon Williams, GM Romain Edouard and GM Francisco Vallejo Pons. Sit back and enjoy the advice from the very best players and coaches in the world in this iChess documentary.

Looking back at previous video posts, I see this is the first from the iChess.net channel, although the service was mentioned in A Short History of CCL (March 2017). The topics covered by the current video are:-

00:10 Nature vs. Nurture?
02:15 How did you learn chess?
04:35 What was your playing style when you first learned?
06:10 Was there a turning point in your career?
07:30 What is your study routine in preparing for tournaments?
09:30 What else do you do to prepare for tournaments?
11:15 Understanding vs. Memorization?
12:50 Who is your favorite chess player and why?

One of the last slides in the video says,

15:00 Excerpts taken from chess master interviews from our iChess.net Master Method series. For more information see ichess.net/method.

That last URL redirects to Master Method | iChess.NET shop. Note that, like all chess services mentioned on this blog, I have no commercial interest in the iChess site. The following people, mentioned in the credits, do have an interest:-

Directed by Frederick Lansky & FM William Stewart
Produced by Casey Ratcliff and the iChess team

I always like to mention names because I never know if I'll search for them again some day.

05 July 2018

2018 CJA Award Entries

Subsequent to my recent post, 2018 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2018), the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have listed entries for the awards on their page Chess Journalism | Entries. The page is a bit of a mishmash -- it groups the entries according to the means by which they were submitted -- but all entries are combined in an Excel file that heads the page.

In my favorite category, 'Best Chess Blog', there is one entry which is in fact a single post rather than an entire blog. Last year there were no entries at all, and no award since 2015, so we can be thankful for small things. In my second favorite category, 'Best Chess Art', there are five entries, of which the four CL/CK covers are shown below.

Top row: CL October 2017, David Chesnutt; CL December 2017, Lorelei; CK December 2017, Elif Balta Parks
Bottom row: CL April 2018, Paul Dickinson
(CL: Chess Life, CK: Chess Life Kids)

The entry in the bottom row is a two-page cover, and reminds me of the technique I flagged recently in An 1886 Photoshopped Illustration (May 2018). The fifth entry in the category, 'Chestoons Drawn by Brian Berger - NW Chess', can be found via NWC Magazine Back Issues.

Many of the other categories have ten or more entries. The top of every page on the CJA site currently says,

Anyone can nominate and people are encouraged to nominate their own work. Quite often this is the only way to gain meaningful recognition for hard work and is not a conflict of interest. Nominations are not votes, but the way to make the judges aware of quality work. Only judges get to vote on the entries

The winners will probably be announced at the 'Annual Workshop and Business Meeting', probably in early August. The report of last year's meeting, 2017 Minutes (chessjournalism.org), doesn't mention when or where it was held.

03 July 2018

July 1968 'On the Cover'

Once again we take a brief look at the covers of the two leading American chess magazines from 50 years ago. For last month's post, see June 1968 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'U.S. Amateur Co-Champions Stephen Jones, left, and R. Michael Shahade. (Full report next month.)'
Right: 'Chess on Display'

Chess Life

Using the Chess for All Ages time travel machine, we skip forward to the August 1968 CL to take an excerpt from the 'full report'.

One hundred and ninety-seven happy warriors fought it out for the U.S.Amateur title in the congenial surroundings of Philadelphia's Warwick hotel over Memorial Day Week -end. When the last pawn was queened and the final king toppled, a hometown boy and a transient Texan emerged as co-holders of the 1968 United States Amateur Championship. Stephen Jones of Austin, Texas (but now at Princeton) and Michael Shahade of Philadelphia each scored 6 1/2 - 1/2 in the seven-round event.

Jones first attracted national attention during the 1962 U.S. Open at San Antonio, where he scored eight wins out of his first nine games. [...] Steve summed up the attraction of the U.S. Amateur for many players when he said with a broad grin, "My only chance at a national title!"

Mike Shahade is known best in Philadelphia chess circles, and his performance in this tournament shows the world how strong chess can be in the Quaker City. [...]

The chess games of Michael Shahade (chessgames.com) confirms, 'He is the father of Gregory Shahade and Jennifer Shahade', and has links to his offspring's own CG pages. For more about the other co-winner, see Jones, Stephen (chess.com) by Bill Wall.

Chess Review

The display of chess sets held at the Brooklyn Museum, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum, continues through September. We have shown pictures of a few of the sets (April and May). These give, however, but a meager idea of the total exhibition. A trip to see it will be well worth while.

The exhibition was also featured on the CR side of April 1968 'On the Cover', where I quoted,

The Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are collaborating in displaying one of the most important collections of chessmen and boards in existence. "Chess: East and West, Past and Present" will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum, April 2 to October 1. The sets have been loaned to the Brooklyn Museum by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mostly from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection.

Since the CR side of March 1968 'On the Cover' also featured a chess set, that makes three CR covers out of seven for 1968.

02 July 2018

Tracking Leela

After the previous post, Finding Leela, I now know where to look to keep up with Leela's progress. It helped to make a mental map of the Leela process. In my own non-technical words, this is the process:-

Some people download the client and run Leela locally to generate training games. These games are uploaded somewhere.

Leela NN processes the training games to improve itself. Every so often a new 'net' is produced.

Other people run different versions of the net ('the nets') against each other to measure progress. They also run the nets against other engines. These people are trying to determine just how strong Leela really is.

Somebody ('the developers') follows all of the above to improve different aspects of the Leela development chain.

Sometime soon:-

Someone has to decide what version of Leela will run in the next TCEC season.

I found relevant explanations of the process on various Leela support pages, specifically on the LeelaChessZero/lc0 Wiki:-

The numbers in parentheses map to the different steps of the process:-

(01) 'Getting-Started - Download and run Leela Chess Zero if you want to contribute or play games.'

(01) 'See recent self-play training games - Scroll to "Active Users", pick someone, then pick a game. These 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.'

(03) 'The self-play games your client creates are used by the central server to improve the neural net. This process is called training (many people call the process of running the client to produce self-play games training, but in machine learning these games are only the input data for the actual training process). Some machine learning terms: [...]'

(01) 'See recent test match games - Click on the first row, first column, then pick a game. These games are played between recent versions of the engine to measure progress. They are blitz games played with 800 playouts (around 1 second) per move.'

(02) 'Current strength of Leela Chess Zero'

As for TCEC Season 12, at the time of last week's 'Finding Leela' post, the score in the final match was:-

+8-4=28 in favor of Stockfish

Since then another 40 games have been played, the score in these was:-

+14-3=23 idem, with ten Stockfish wins since the last Komodo win

Summing the scores over the two weeks gives a current score of +22-7=51 for Stockfish, i.e. 47.5 points of the 50.5 needed to win the match. This is with 20 games still to be played. With TCEC Season 13 due to start soon after the end of the Season 12 final, someone will have to make a decision about the Leela version even sooner than that.

01 July 2018

A Problematic Month on eBay

This is the second time that I considered the previous full month of auctions for Top eBay Chess Items by Price. Last month, in Caveat eBay Digital Documents, I wrote,

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.

This month I had a workable short list, but there was something wrong with each of the auctions. Take the following four items as an example.

The item in the upper left was titled 'Straight Up Chess Board - Red Cherry Series with Checkered Bronze Frame' and was from a seller with an impeccable reputation. It was listed in eBay's index of items by descending price at around US$ 1000 ('Buy It Now'), but this was $249 for the item and $744 shipping (to Belgium, where I live). When did eBay start including shipping in showing the price of closed auctions? And how did the shipping cost reach such an exaggerated amount?

The item in the upper right was titled 'A Mongolian Polychromed Wood Figural Chess Set 2-3/4 h x 13 w x 5-1/2 inches' and sold for US $4400 after 29 bids at live auction ('Seller's Estimate: USD 400-600'). Although the auction was dated the last day of June, the eBay detail page was marked 'The listing you’re looking for is no longer available', meaning that I had only the description of the item as information.

The item in the lower left was titled 'Antique 19th C. Gentleman Playing Chess? Oil on Board Painting'. The artwork was so dark that even after several iterations of increasing its brightness and contrast, I still couldn't tell if the 'Gentleman' was playing chess. At US $300 ('Buy It Now'), it was also the least expensive item on the short list.

The lower right shows a 'Franklin Mint 1982 Royal Houses of Britain Heraldic Chess Set NO BOARD'. It sold for around $425 ('Best offer accepted'). I can't really say why I chose this for the short list over dozens of other collector sets that were candidates for 'Top eBay Chess Items'. Maybe I didn't believe it was a chess set. The arrangement of the chess pieces is particularly uninspired.

If I have another month of auctions like these I might have to stop the eBay series. Where does one go these days for better quality auctions?

29 June 2018

The Limits of Image Recognition

For the last two posts in this series on image recognition, I used an image which was topical, but little more, to try two Google services.

Shown below is an image I saved from eBay earlier this year. The eBay description said,

FRANK MARSHALL SIGNED LIMITED EDITION MY FIFTY YEARS OF CHESS • Hardcover. 8vo. Horowitz & Harkness. 1942. Vi, 242 pgs. First Edition/First Printing. Signed by Frank Marshall on the limitation page. #2 of a signed limited edition of 500. Illustrated with black and white photos. No DJ. Bound in red cloth with gilt titles. Light rub present to the spine. Previous owner's bookplate on the reverse of the front board. Text is clean and free of marks, binding tight and solid, boards clean with no wear present. The autobiography of one the great American tournament chess players who would later on lend his name to the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.”

The main reason I had saved it was because of a pair of posts from last year:-

That first post included a quote from an article by T.A. Dunst:-

When Frank Marshall in 1942 wrote My Fifty Years of Chess, summing up an international chess career and 27 years possession of the United States chess championship, the book contained a great deal more of Thomas Emery than the preface which he supplied.

Could image recognition tell me anything new about Emery's preface?

I fed the top half of the image, the photograph, to images.google.com. It told me,

No other sizes of this image found.
Best guess for this image: photograph

It also suggested 'Visually similar images', all of which were black and white photos, and none of which had anything to do with chess. Then I fed the entire image, a full page of the book, to cloud.google.com/vision. It told me 'Labels':-

93% Text
70% Font
69% History
54% Black And White

It also told me 'Web Entities':-

0.6106 Font
0.5742 White

In other words, it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. What about the 'Document' analysis on the text portion of the page? It gave me a decent equivalent of OCR analysis, but the output was in Unicode format. Since this would have taken me some effort to convert, I ran the text portion of the image through my normal OCR conversion service, which gave me the following:-

The world needs no introduction to Frank James Marshall, our great American Chess Master, who has played all over the world and achieved successes unparalleled in history.

What the world may not know, however, is that our Frank would probably have done even better in chess tournaments if he had not always been so eager to play for a win. An artist of the chess board, he always played to win so long as there was the remotest possibility of succeeding. As a result, he lost many a game which he could have drawn if he had not set out with that idea in mind.

It has been my privilege to have known Frank over a period of twenty years and to have worked with him during that time. No finer sportsman than Frank Marshall ever sat down to a chess board, nor could anybody hope to have a better friend.

Of this one can be certain: Marshall's name will live to eternity. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "Age cannot wither him, nor custom stale his infinite variety."

New York, 1942.

In fact, I had to correct a few conversion errors in the above text, passages which were rendered perfectly by the Google service. I fed Emery's first sentence to the normal Google search and it gave me a link to a digital copy of the book in Google books. That means Google couldn't match the photo in the book, but it could match the text. This post might not have much to do with image recognition, but it at least has something to do with Marshall and Emery.

28 June 2018

June Yahoos

In contrast to last month's (No) May Yahoos, -- 'May Yahoos continue in June. If not, we'll have more Google News.' -- Yahoo chess stories for the month of June were a mixed bag.

2018-06-11: When it comes to the international chess game, Trump is a master (yahoo.com). That's the Yahoo version of the first headline, which continued, 'When Fisher made that move'... Any time a chess story mentions 'Fisher' in place of 'Fischer', it loses me immediately. As so often happens with Yahoo stories, it was just a stub leading to the original.

2018-06-11: When it comes to the international chess game, Trump is a master (thehill.com)

Bishop to e6. That was the name of the 17th move in what is commonly referred to as “The Game of the Century” when, on Oct. 17, 1956, 13-year-old Bobby Fischer beat chess master Donald Byrne, 26, and turned the chess world upside down. Fischer’s move offered a sacrifice of his queen, which Byrne accepted, but then Fischer followed with a series of planned, precise attack moves ultimately leading to a checkmate.

When Fisher made that move, those familiar with chess who were stuck in conventional paradigms, common strategies and established protocols gasped in horror as they clearly realized the young prodigy had lost his mind, his nerve, or both.

Sigh. 'Fisher' again, but at least there were references to 'Fischer' before the blunder, meaning that it was probably a typo. The rest of the article is a mangled metaphor, along the lines of:-

Since he has taken office, President Trump not only has metaphorically translated Fischer’s insightful, creative boldness into his foreign policy, he has done so in cascading tiles of fresh, previously unimaginable moves.

If you're interested in further speculation about Trump's ability to play chess, see last week's post Analyze Your Own Images. If you're interested in speculation about the events surrounding the referenced chess game, see Donald Byrne vs Robert James Fischer; "The Game of the Century"; Third Rosenwald Trophy (1956), New York (chessgames.com).

For the second headline, let's skip the Yahoo stub and jump directly to the real story. It echoes another Yahoo story that I used twice on my World Chess Championship blog: Hijab Hubbub (October 2016), and Hijab Hubris (ditto).

2018-06-13: Chess player pulls out of championship over Iran's rules. In 2016, the story's protagonist was Nazi Paikidze, the reigning U.S. Women's Champion at the time. This time it's an Indian player. Conscience knows no national boundaries.

A female Indian chess player said Wednesday she has decided to not participate in an Asian championship being held in Iran next month because she could not comply with an Iranian rule requiring women participants to wear a headscarf. Soumya Swaminathan, a former world junior girls champion, said she found the Iranian law to be in direct violation of her rights and the only way to protest that was to not go to Iran. The Asian Nations Cup Chess Championship is scheduled to be held in Hamadan, Iran.

The next story isn't a chess story at all, but it uses a chess image which I liked and which appears in the headline shown above. It's a stock photo from Getty Images showing stacked coins that resemble a chess piece. If the title of the story is any guide, it's a chess King. Even more challenging would be coins stacked to resemble a chess Knight.

2018-06-22: 5 Top Dividend Kings to Buy and Hold Forever (fool.com)

Let's suppose there had been '(No) June Yahoos'. What chess stories would I have used instead? Of the 100 or so headlines from Google News, I would have selected two stories about the three top American players, all of whom have reached the Candidate stage of the World Championship:-

I would have supplemented those with a story about a future Candidate for the World Championship.

  • 2018-06-25: Indian boy becomes world's second-youngest chess grandmaster (cnn.com; 'Praggnanandhaa missed out on the title of the youngest grandmaster ever by just three months -- a distinction that is instead held by Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine, who achieved the honor in 2002 aged 12 years and seven months.')

There are never enough stories in the mainstream press about world class chess players.

26 June 2018

How Many Pawns for a Rook?

The diagram below shows an endgame position I reached in a recent chess960 game. I was playing White and although it looks like I'm down boatloads of material, I'm about to recover some of it. Looking at the material on the board, it's one of the most unbalanced positions I've ever encountered.

After 26...Rg8-c8

The game continued 27.Rxg6+ Rc6 28.Rxc6+ Kxc6 29.Qg6+. Here I was expecting 29...Kb7 30.Qxg7+, when White has a Queen and six Pawns against a Queen and Rook. The game was a correspondence game where engines were permitted and I had spent considerable time studying this position before deciding to play the line. The further variations went beyond the horizon of the engines I was using, so I was on my own to make an evaluation.

  • First observation: Black is going to recover at least one Pawn, maybe two.
  • Second observation: The White Pawns are too far back to present an immediate threat to Black.
  • Third observation: The Black King has no cover and is exposed to long sequences of checks by the White Queen.

All in all, it promised to be an interesting endgame where any result was possible. After 29.Qg6+, my opponent played 29...Kb5, and offered a draw. I realized that as long as he didn't play ...Kb7, White has nothing more than a perpetual check by the Queen on the 5th and 6th ranks. I reluctantly agreed to the draw and moved on to my other games.

25 June 2018

Finding Leela

In my previous post, Where's Leela?, I identified four resources for tracking Leela's progress:-

  • LCZero (lczero.org; the hub for *all* relevant links)
  • Forum (groups.google.com/forum/lczero)
  • Github (github.com/LeelaChessZero/)
  • Chat (discord.gg/pKujYxD)

It seems other people have been asking the same questions that I asked and there is now a fifth resource:-

  • Blog (blog.lczero.org)

The first blog post was The Way Forward (18 June 2018), with the following main topics:-

A brief history of Leela Chess Zero
Bugs and self play
TCEC Season 13
LCZero, LC0 and the test pipeline

Back to the forum, a few weeks ago in Understanding Leela, I tried to locate the areas that Leela followers considered to be hot topics:-

How to discover the most relevant threads? I started by looking at recent threads with a high number of responses.

Here are a few more recent threads that generated a discussion:-

The WCCC is the World Computer Chess Championship, run by the International Computer Games Association (ICGA). I have a page on the history of the ICGA championships, World Championship : Computer Chess. These days, a better competition to determine the strongest chess engine in the world is the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC). I discussed the most recent winner in Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 11 (April 2018), where I noted,

Stockfish - Houdini: 'The final score in the TCEC superfinal match was +20-2=78.'

In one of my first posts on the AI newcomer, Leela Chess Zero (May 2018), I noted its participation in season 12:-

Leela was placed into the lowest of the TCEC qualifying events, Division 4.

As shown in the crosstable that accompanied that post, Leela finished last in the division by a wide margin. Season 12 has now progressed to the final stage, where Stockfish and Komodo have already completed 40 games with the score +8-4=28 in favor of Stockfish. Extrapolating this result to the 100 games planned for the match means that Stockfish will win by something like +20-10=70. The action and chat can still be followed at TCEC - Live Mode, although this currently redirects to a new (temporary?) domain with a redesigned interface. I'll come back to season 12 when it's over.

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.