18 October 2018

Chess News from China

Everyone who follows international chess knows by now that China is a chess powerhouse: 43rd Chess Olympiad: Double gold for China! (fide.com):-

China is taking home two team gold medals from the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi! (24 September 2018)

But I doubt that everyone knows how to follow chess news in China. I certainly didn't, so I decided to try a little exercise. First I picked a few random issues from the TWIC Archive (theweekinchess.com). Then I located events labeled 'CountryCode: CHN' and noted the associated 'Website'. Then I ran the site's URL through the same Google translation service that I used in yesterday's post on my World Chess Championship Blog, In with the New!, where I featured stories about the new FIDE president from the Russian chess news site, Chess-news.ru. The next image shows the result of a site that was referenced repeatedly in TWIC.


cca.imsa.cn translated by translate.google.com

Chinese text inside images isn't translated, but everything else is. The text in the black menu bar near the top of the page says,

  • Home
  • National News Press
  • Announcement Procedure
  • HD Atlas
  • Video Center
  • Graded
  • Practical Information

The photo caption says, 'The SCO National Chess Open'. If you follow a link, the new page is automatically translated by Google. Now that I've come this far, where do I go next? I'm sure I'll think of something.

16 October 2018

Another Online Chess Database

Last year, in Reconsidering an Online Chess Database (November 2017), I wrote a long post about online opening databases:-

A few years back, faced with a technical problem, I scrambled to find a new online chess database and documented the effort in a series of posts on this blog (February/March 2014). [...] Looking again at the work I did in 2014, there was one service that was still under development, Chess-db.com. I decided to take another look at it.

Recently I discovered another candidate database on Lichess.org. Here's a screenshot showing a position that gave me some trouble while using Chess-db.com.

I was playing White. As for the sort of trouble I had, I'll save that discussion for another post. In the meantime, I'll continue exploring the functionality available on Lichess.

15 October 2018

Catching Up with Engine Competitions

Wrapping up that month-long series on World Champion Carlsen's record over the past two years, in last week's post Carlsen's PGN 2017-18, I promised,

For my next post in the Monday series, I'll return to the subject of engine-to-engine competitions. I need to catch up with two tournaments: TCEC season 13 and Chess.com's Computer Chess Championship (CCCC).

I still have some work to do on Carlsen's PGN, but I plan to do that while I'm watching the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match, which starts in less than a month. The last time I looked at engine-to-engine competitions was as part of a series on AI engines, A Leela Surprise in the Nimzo Indian (August 2018). A few days ago, in Catching Up with Leela, I mentioned,

The [Leela] journey has included three tournaments -- TCEC Seasons 12 & 13 and this year's edition of the CCCC -- of which TCEC S13 is still underway.

In fact, I originally wrote, 'of which the last two are underway'. Then while researching this current post, I discovered that the CCCC finished almost two weeks ago, indicating that it was high time for me to bring myself up-to-date. Let's first tackle the TCEC S13, which most engine aficionados would probably agree is the more important of the two events, serving as a de facto World Computer Chess Championship.

I couldn't find an official announcement for the results of the most recent stage of TCEC S13. The TCEC archive told me that the Premier Division (aka 'Division P'), finished on 2 October, and gave the following crosstable.

That means Stockfish and Komodo will be slugging it out in the final match. This will likely be a repeat of S12, which I reported in Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 12 (July 2018). In the meantime, the organizers are holding TCEC Cup 2018 brackets (chessdom.com):-

The TCEC Cup will take place right after the Premier Division and before the Superfinal, the exact dates will be announced soon. It will be a knockout championship with 32 participants divided into brackets.

The cup tournament has reached the 'OctoFinal' stage, perhaps better understood as the 'Round of 16'. Half of the quarterfinalists are already known.

As for the CCCC (shouldn't that be five 'C's, i.e. 'CCCCC' for Chess.com Computer Chess Championship?), we learned a couple of weeks ago that Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship Rapid; Lc0 Finishes 3rd (chess.com; NB: 'Lc0' means 'Leela Chess Zero', or simply 'Leela'):-

The chess engine Stockfish proved its might with a decisive victory over Houdini in the 200-game final match of the Computer Chess Championship's first event, the Rapid Rumble. Stockfish scored 120/200 in a match that was never in doubt. Houdini, which admirably proved itself superior to the other 22 engines in the tournament, could manage just four wins over Stockfish in the final 200 games. Like all stages of CCCC 1, the games were played at the rapid time control of 15+5.

A week later, in Computer Chess Championship Returns For Blitz Battle, Chess.com announced,

The Chess.com Computer Chess Championship returns with a greatly expanded field and thousands of games to determine the best blitz chess engines in the world. [...] The Computer Chess Championship Blitz Battle will consist of three stages, all held at the blitz time control of five minutes plus two seconds increment. Stage one will begin with 33 competitors before the field is winnowed down to 10 engines for stage two and a final four engines for stage three.

That must be 'CCCC 2'. Maybe the 2018 CCCC hasn't finished yet and my first 'Catching Up' post was right after all. Maybe I'd better come back to this topic another time, because my head is spinning with all of these computer chess events. They are starting to be like elevator music -- always there but doesn't demand any real attention.

14 October 2018

ChessBase India Interviews Judit Polgar

Nearly three years since ChessBase India started its video channel on Youtube, it has become one of my favorite sources of chess videos.


The story of how Judit Polgar became the strongest woman player in the world (29:33) • 'Published on Oct 10, 2018'

The video description included this inspiring paragraph:-

Why has the world seen only one female player who has been able to match her wits with the best in the business? What did Judit Polgar do that made her into such a fierce champion? In this interview with IM Sagar Shah we get to know everything about Judit's life. Right from the time she learnt chess, to how she beat Kasparov in 2002 when the Russian was on the height of his powers

For the previous post about ChessBase India on this blog, see Best Blind Players of India (August 2018).

12 October 2018

Catching Up with Leela

At the end of last week's post, Restoring Adsense, I promised,

After this short series that has little to do with chess, it's time to return to the main subject.

The main subject is chess and the topic to which I want to return is the neural network (NN) engine technology, last seen in The NNs Depart TCEC S13 (August 2018; i.e. Leela and DeusX), and A Leela Surprise in the Nimzo Indian (August 2018; video). Leela is the main player in the NN arena and I once took the time to catalog the online resources that track the progress of this remarkable creation: Finding Leela (June 2018). In the Leela forum we find a recent thread that documents the engine's early days:-

That journey has included three tournaments -- TCEC Seasons 12 & 13 and this year's edition of the CCCC -- of which the last two are TCEC S13 is still underway. Where is the project today? It needs games, lots of games:-

  • 2018-09-26: Worrying drop of contributors • 'There used to be millions of training games per day a few weeks back. Now it is barely 400.000. I remember people in this forum telling me I was stupid to worry about a drop of people who contribute to the training. I fear this is happening now'

Now 400.000 training games per day might sound like enough, but the Leela contributors are beating the bushes to get even more. Here's a recent call for assistance:-

  • 2018-09-26: HOW TO: Contribute games to Leela FOR FREE using Google Cloud and Google Colab • 'I made this post primarily to help people who were wanting to contribute to Leelas development but do not have GPUs, but this is also applicable to those who are already contributing with GPU time. [...] Through Google Cloud you can rent GPUs ranging from K80/P100/V100/etc via your browser with no processing on your end. [...] Google Colab is a similar process whereby you can utilise one of Googles K80 GPUs for free processing again via your browser.

If you're not familiar with GPUs like 'K80 / P100 / V100 / etc.', it's enough to know that they are three evolutions of graphic processors, the number crunchers that all NNs rely on for their numeric intensive computations. To supplement that forum fountain of wisdom, the Leela blog posted its own version:-

I'll certainly be looking into the mechanics of using Google Colab and Google Cloud. Maybe I'll even document my experience here, in my own blog.

11 October 2018

The CCL Was Hacked

What's the CCL? It's the Facebook group Chess Club Live. I've posted about them twice: the first time in Chess and Social Trends (October 2016), and the second time in A Short History of CCL (March 2017). Along with dozens (hundreds?) of other chess related items, they publish posts from this blog and from my World Chess Championship blog. A couple of weeks ago my blog statistics told me that the blog feeds had stopped. I contacted Michael Mkpadi, the main man behind CCL and one of those types of people who has a dozen novel ideas every day, and asked him what the problem was. He replied,

Facebook got hacked, I got hacked, my page got hacked. Now I've lost my admin rights and am trying to get Facebook to restore my page.

When I asked him what the prognosis was for CCL's return to service, he replied,

Facebook are a law to themselves, not sure I know what they'll do about that page other than keeping it in limbo for an eternity.

A few days later he messaged me that CCL was back and, sure enough, it was. Here's a screen capture I took while writing this post.

That hack wasn't just the CCL: Facebook just had its worst hack ever -- and it could get worse (cnn.com; 4 October 2018).

On Sunday, September 16, engineers at Facebook detected some unusual activity on the social media platform's networks. It was an attack, the biggest security breach in Facebook's history. And it would take the company 11 more days to stop it. Now, almost a week since the public was first told of the attack, we still barely know anything about what happened.

It's a dangerous world out there. Even online chess clubs have to keep looking over their shoulders.

10 October 2018

Chess Informant R+2P vs. R+P

After the previous post on Reuben Fine's 'Basic Chess Endings' (BCE), Fine 1 - Tablebase ½, what's next for R+2P vs. R+P endgames? Chess Informant (CI) comes to mind with both the 'Encyclopaedia [Encyclopedia] of Chess Endings' (ECE) and the endgame section of the 'Informant' periodical.

Some years ago I discussed both products in Chess Informant Endgames (March 2012), which included a copy of the table of contents for the ECE volume on Rook endings The structure of that volume's chapter devoted to R+2P:R+P is shown below (p.162).

The short left branch ('5/a') of the upside-down tree is for endgames with no passed Pawn. The branch below it (the 'middle' branch) is for endgames where the stronger side has one passed Pawn, while the right branch shows endgames with two passed Pawns. Both of those long branches are divided into sections where the side with two Pawns has connected, disconnected, or doubled Pawns. Those sections are further divided into subsections according to the relationship with the opponent's lone Pawn. It looks simple enough, but it took me some time to understand the symbols. The same system was adopted in Informant 39 (1985H1) and thereafter.

08 October 2018

Carlsen's PGN 2017-18

In last week's post, Carlsen's TMER 2017-18, I promised,

I still have a few actions to accomplish before I can merge the updates into the main TMER. [...] I'll try to finish these for my next post.

I accomplished about half the work, which mainly involved preparing and checking the PGN for individual events. I updated the page on my site, Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-), with the info. On the way, I made two decisions for naming conventions on the PGN files. Here are examples of both:-

  • B8X-CHCM: 2018-01 PRO League Group Stage 2018; Chess.com
  • B8B!BAER: 2018-02 Fischer Random Rapid/Blitz 2018; Baerum

The first shows an example of league play ('X'), which usually spans several months. The second is an example of a PGN file containing only chess960 games ('!'). For one event I have no games: the Third Annual Lichess Meetup and Hackathon (lichess.org; February 2018). Carlsen played the event impromptu and it seems the games were not recorded. If they surface, I'll add them.

For my next post in the Monday series, I'll return to the subject of engine-to-engine competitions, last seen in A Leela Surprise in the Nimzo Indian (August 2018). I need to catch up with two tournaments: TCEC season 13 and Chess.com's Computer Chess Championship (CCCC).

07 October 2018

'Ain't No Luck in Chess'

October's selection for Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), was titled '100 Bullets #45 p.4 - Chess in Prison - 2003 art by Eduardo Risso'. It sold for $500.00, 'Buy It Now'.

The description simply repeated the title and added,

Size: 11.5" x 17" page mounted 15 1/4 x 20 3/4 matting

The dialog on the page -- between an old guy and a young guy -- goes like this:-

Nice move, young blood. You been learnin' something finally.

Uh-huh. I been studyin' yo' ass, old head. How many games we play?

Hun'red.

An' how many I won?

You ain't.

So maybe it's time I got lucky.

Lucky? Ain't no f**king luck in chess, loop. Either you got the skills an' the patience to outmaneuver an' anticipate yo' opponent...

...Or you ain't. Checkmate. One-oh-one to none.

And the last frame signs off with the old guy saying,

Yo' loopy loop...

In Eduardo Risso, Wikipedia informs,

Eduardo Risso (born 23 November 1959) is an Argentine comics artist. In the United States he is best known for his work with writer Brian Azzarello on the Vertigo title 100 Bullets, while in Argentina and Europe he is noted for his collaborations with Ricardo Barreiro and Carlos Trillo. He has received much acclaim for his work

That reference to 100 Bullets leads to another Wikipedia page,

100 Bullets is an American comic book published by DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint. Written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Eduardo Risso, the comic book ran for 100 issues and won the Eisner Award and Harvey Award.

Chess has had a long relationship with comic art. For previous posts, see Chess Comics No.7: Punch Animated GIF (May 2014), and No More Yahoos? (February 2016).

05 October 2018

Restoring Adsense

Continuing a saga started with migrating my site to secure pages, Verifying HTTPS (August 2018):-

One casualty of the migration was Google Adsense. The ads are missing, e.g. on the index page for the World Chess Championship, and the browser warns of mixed content. The code that calls an ad currently uses 'HTTP'. If I want the ads back I'll need to change the code on all pages, but it might be better to replace Adsense with something else in that space.

First I had to catch up with the latest announcements from Google:-

Then I had to solve a number of technical problems involving batch transfer using FTP. The result is shown below, where the ad is a generic place-filler to 'Download PDF - Free'.


Index : World Chess Championship

Re 'it might be better to replace Adsense with something else', that's still possible, but replace it with what? In the meantime, while restoring Adsense, I added the functionality to load the ads asynchronously. I'm not sure what difference it makes, but I'm sure I'll find out.

After this short series that has little to do with chess, it's time to return to the main subject. There are still a number of issues involving Google, but none of them are urgent (until Google decides otherwise).

04 October 2018

Fine 1 - Tablebase ½

Let's go back to Chess and Impressionism (September 2018), where I wrote,

After my first idea for today's post ran into trouble when I ran out of time (a follow-up to last week's 'A Remarkable Tool', if you're curious) [...] I'll try to return to 'A Remarkable Tool' in another post.

In the post A Remarkable Tool, I aimed Lichess's seven piece tablebase at an endgame of the type R+2P vs. R+P. After documenting some flawed analysis, I then tackled the same class of endgame in Reuben Fine's 'Basic Chess Endings' (BCE). Fine's analysis was 100% accurate on every position I looked at until I 'ran out of time'. Continuing with Fine during the next session, I discovered the following position. (Use the link under the diagram to follow the analysis on Lichess.)

BCE no.363

Lichess: 8/8/6p1/R5K1/4k2P/8/p7/r7 w - - 0 1

Fine wrote,

To blockade the Pawn with the [defending] Rook is less favorable. It is relatively best to have the Rook behind the Pawn. In that event, the defender draws if his King can find a haven behind the Pawns, but loses if he cannot. As a rule the King can find a safe spot only if the two remaining Pawns are on the same file.

No.363 (Steinitz - Gunsberg, 9th match game, 1890-91) is typical. Against the threat of the removal of the Black Rook with check White is defenseless, for on 1.Kh6 g5! compels him to expose his King.

Fine's logic looks straightforward, but there is a neat twist hidden in the position. After 2.Ra4+ (the only move) 2...Kd5 3.Ra5+ (ditto) 3...Kc6, the move 4.hxg5 is an error. White should sacrifice a second Pawn with 4.Ra3 (4.Ra8 leads to the same idea), entering a Rook endgame two Pawns down, where the extra Pawns are a- & h-Pawns. This is known to be drawish.

Indeed, after 4...gxh4, White has a series of forced moves that lead to a draw: 5.Rc3+ Kd5 6.Rc2 Ke4 7.Kh5 Kf3. Now follows, for example, 8.Rb2 h3 9.Kh4 (forced) 9...h2 10.Rxh2. Black can try other attacks, but White always has a counterattack. After rejecting 1.Kh6, Fine continued,

Consequently the only hope lies in driving the Black King as far away from the K-side as possible, giving up the Rook for the RP, and taking one's chances on the ensuing R vs. P ending. This stratagem is bound to be unsuccessful here because the Black King is too near.

He gave 1.Ra4+ Kd5 2.Ra5+ Kc6 3.Ra6+, and Black wins. He again overlooked 3.Kh6, which after 3...g5, reaches the same position as in the line after 1.Kh6.

None of this is meant to belittle Fine. BCE was a landmark chess book and much of the analysis has withstood the test of time. This post is meant instead to demonstrate the kind of subtleties that are available in the common R+2P vs. R+P endgames.

02 October 2018

October 1968 'On the Cover'

I started last month's September 1968 'On the Cover', by asking,

In this blog's monthly 'On the Cover' series, when was the last time the same chess personality featured on the covers of both American chess magazines 50 years ago? It turns out that it was exactly two years ago, in September 1966, when Spassky was so honored. [...] This month, 50 years ago, Larry Evans became the first person to appear solo on the cover of both magazines.

To merit that honor, GM Evans had become U.S. Champion for the third time. This month's covers from 50 years ago featured the U.S. Open Champion, Bent Larsen of Denmark. The last time we saw him in this series was November 1967 'On the Cover', when Chess Review used the same photo (and as I noted, already for at least the second time).


Left: 'Bent Larsen : U.S. Open and Canadian Open Champion'
Right: 'A New U.S. Champ'

Chess Life

The Chess Life (CL) report, 'Mike's Peak' by George Koltanowski (Tournament Director) was unusual. While browsing the issue of CL the first time, I failed to notice that it was indeed the tournament report. It started,

Whoever arranged the 69th Annual U.S. Open Chess Championship deserves a special medal! Snowmass-at-Aspen sounded very intriguing. The great question was ... HOW DOES ONE GET THERE? Easy, just get to Aspen and from there you take a shuttle bus.

After rambling through numerous anecdotes of the same sort, the report finally reached a list of winners. It continued,

Bent Larsen took first prize and the championship trophy with great ease, scoring ten wins and only two draws (with Pal Benko and Robert Byrne). He was unruffled all the time, and only the game with James Sherwin seemed to cause him some annoyance.

Chess Review

The Chess Review report was more straightforward.

United States Open • Bent Larsen of Denmark imparted a definitely international flavor to the U.S. Open, and also won it. (Can we use him on our Olympiad team?) He was held to draws only by Pal Benko of New York and Robert Byrne of Indianapolis and thus scored 11-1. Benko, not so long ago from Hungary, and Walter Shawn Browne, who has applied for Australian citizenship, further flavored the Open internationally by tying for second and third at 9 1/2 - 2 1/2. Byrne, Larry Kaufman of Silver Spring, Maryland, and Dr. Anthony Saidy of Los Angeles tied for fourth, fifth and sixth at 9-3.

Canadian Open • Larsen also scored a near sweep in the Canadian Open at Toronto. Fifteen-year-old Ken Rogoff of Rochester, New York, staged a sensation by nicking him for a draw. But Larsen went on to win (more details, next issue).

CL carried another report, 'Observation Point' by Miro Radojcic, subtitled 'The Match That Never Was'. TMTNW? Exactly six years ago day for day, in Another Fictitious Match (October 2012), I posted a short series about another TMTNW, the 1975 Karpov - Fischer title match: 1975 Fischer forfeits to Karpov.

In October 1968, Radojcic would not have been discussing that 1975 match. He was talking about 1968 Spassky - Larsen, played in May 1968 at Malmo, Sweden, one of the semifinal matches in the series of 1967-69 Candidates Matches, eventually won by Spassky. TMTNW here meant Larsen starting the match with three straight losses to Spassky. Larsen was not a match player, he was a tournament player, and 1968 was the best tournament year of his career.

01 October 2018

Carlsen's TMER 2017-18

Continuing with Carlsen's Record 2017-18, I improved the table displayed in that post and added it at the end of my page about Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-). I still have a few actions to accomplish before I can merge the updates into the main TMER:-

  • Complete the 2018 Sinquefield Cup and check for any events GM Carlsen played since that event.
  • Add missing data.
  • Isolate the chess960 games.
  • Add the new PGN to the master file.

I'll try to finish these for my next post.

30 September 2018

The Sociology of Chess960

Move over chess -- make some space for chess960! I ended last month's post on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) with,

In nearly every post about the 'The Sociology of Chess', ChessBase India has at one candidate on the video short list, usually several candidates. I'm sure we'll see one of them again.

I could have followed-up that post, Best Blind Players of India, with one of a dozen videos about the impact of Indian chess, but this month another topic beckons.

On one of my other blogs, 'Chess960 (FRC)', where the 'FRC' stands for 'Fischer Random Chess', I documented an exhibition event from last month, Champions Showdown, St. Louis:-

Twenty games times five matches means 100 games of chess960 played by some of the best chess players in the world.

Here's a video from the sponsor of the event, the Saint Louis Chess Club, where the players discuss some high level aspects of Fischer's greatest invention.


2018 Champions Showdown: Thoughts on Chess960 (3:19) • 'Published on Sep 13, 2018'

The description said simply,

The players express their feelings on the chess960 variant before their chess960 matches. (USChessChamps.com)

In the three minute clip, GM Maurice Ashley asks three questions:-

0:00 'What is it that makes chess960 so much fun?'
1:00 'What are the special challenges of playing chess960?'
2:00 'Is chess960 the future?'

Before signing off, I have a quibble with the description. In Top 10 Myths About Chess960 (May 2012), myth number two is 'It's a variant of traditional chess'. It's not a variant; it's an evolution. Traditional chess is a subset of chess960.

28 September 2018

Google Adsense in 2018

Now that I've caught up with the Google Search Console and Google Search Coverage, I can continue with the topic introduced in the 'Search Console' post:-

Before fixing the Adsense problem, I decided to catch up on the many Google notices I've received since the beginning of the year, at least a half-dozen significant emails from Google.

It turns out that more than a few of those emails had to do with Adsense, which is Google's service for matching advertisers to web pages. In March 2018, I received an email titled, 'Introducing the new AdSense Auto ads'. It said,

If you’re looking to increase your revenue potential and save time, we have a solution for you. We’ve brought the power of machine learning to AdSense Auto ads - a new way to place ads automatically on your site. Auto ads balance revenue and user experience by delivering the right ad at the right time to your visitors. You can use Auto ads independently or with your existing Google ads. Google scans the pages on your site, finds potential ad placements, and shows new ads when they’re likely to perform well and provide a good user experience.

I've never associated ads with 'a good user experience' -- it's generally the exact opposite -- but I'm always interested in whatever Google has to say on a subject. The email pointed to an Adsense resource that said, 'Auto ads use machine learning to make smart ad placement decisions on your behalf.' It started by asking what sort of ads I want and gave me a choice of six:-

In-page ads:
* Text & display ads : A simple way to get banner ads on your page. Google will choose the size, placement, and style of ads you show.
* In-feed ads : Native ads that flow naturally inside a feed (for example, a list of articles or products) offering a great user experience. [*]
* In-article ads : Native ads that fit seamlessly in between the paragraphs of your pages for an enhanced reading experience.
* Matched content : Native ads that combine ads with content recommendations from your site, designed to increase overall user engagement. [*]

Overlay ads:
* Anchor ads : Mobile ads that stick to the edge of the user's screen and are easily dismissible
* Vignette ads : Full-screen mobile ads that appear in between page loads on your site, also easily dismissible.'

The two that I've marked '*' are 'Currently only available for mobile.' For more about the functionality, see Ad code implementation : About Auto ads (support.google.com/adsense). That page carries a couple of illustrations that look like the following.

'The following examples show you how a page with an existing ad unit might look before and after Auto ads have been set up:'

Right, got it. The ads will take up half of the display. I'll pass on that. In July I received another, related email titled, 'Could your ads work better with your content?' It said,

Native ads match the look and feel of your site, flow with your content and unlock new revenue potential.

The email pointed to another Adsense resource that asked, 'What type of ad would you like to create?' Along with good old 'Text & display ads', which is what I've used since starting with Adsense, it offered three choices, along with the following help:-

The right side of the image above shows 'In-article' and 'Matched content' ads. I've used matched content ads for nearly two years and posted about them in Mixed 'Matched Content' (January 2017). Once again, I'll pass on the others.

All of these choices might be too heavy for me, but if I needed ad revenue to provide additional income, I would certainly try them. I'm sure many sites are happy with the possibilities.

27 September 2018

A Year of Yahoos!

No, not really. For last month's question, A Year of Yahoos?, I calculated,

That makes this month's August Yahoos the 11th straight month of Yahoos.

This month should be September Yahoos, but there were no Yahoos for the month, meaning that no chess stories were picked up by mainstream news and featured in Yahoo News for the current month. What to do?

Luckily, I have a convenient fallback -- last seen in July Yahoos (July 2018) -- which is to switch to Google News. Their service returns the headlines for 100 chess stories that they judge to have been significant over the past month. I started to select a couple of Google News stories and ended up with the following list:-

That first link is from St. Louis Public Radio and so are the rest, proving once again that St. Louis has a strong claim to be the USA's chess capital. I first looked for stories to complement a recent post on my chess960 blog, Champions Showdown, St. Louis (chess960frc.blogspot.com), found the two listed above, and then noticed that there were other good stories from the same source. The publication dates and the 'On Chess' titles indicate that the stories are from a weekly series.

***

In the absence of September Yahoos, I created a new category, Showing posts with label Yahoos, and added relevant posts. I expected to find about 20-25 old posts and was surprised to discover double that number. I could have added Flickr posts to the new category -- Flickr is, after all, a service of Yahoo -- but decided against it as this would have meant hundreds more posts, most of them having nothing to do with chess news.


Google image search on 'site:chessforallages.blogspot.com flickr'

The screen capture shows a few of the many images I've used from Flickr. Note that the layout of the Google image search results has changed since the last time I used the same technique, in Chess and Impressionism.

With the 2018 Olympiad currently underway, a FIDE presidential election next week, and a World Championship match next month, I hope we get some serious 'October Yahoos'. If not, there are plenty of alternative mainstream news sources.

25 September 2018

Carlsen / Caruana Record 2017-18

I started last week's post, Karpov Talks Carlsen - Caruana, stating,

With only 50 days remaining before the start of the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match, I'd like to start running a weekly post about the match.

Yesterday's post, Carlsen's Record 2017-18, gave me the raw material for a comparison of the two players' records against each other over the last two years. It makes a total of 15 games.

For another, larger view of the same data, see >2016: Carlsen - Caruana (chessgames.com). How did the players score against each other? The data gives us the means to look at the record according to the time control (slow games vs. fast):-

  • Slow: +2-0=7 in favor of Carlsen
  • Fast: +3-1=2 (ditto)

If we take the 12 match games to be played at slow time control, Carlsen has the edge. If we take the tiebreak at fast time control, Carlsen also has the edge. It appears that Caruana is facing an uphill battle to become World Champion. This is confirmed by the lifetime record of the two players against each other (also chessgames.com):-

Classical games: Magnus Carlsen beat Fabiano Caruana 10 to 5, with 18 draws.
Only rapid/exhibition games: Magnus Carlsen beat Fabiano Caruana 13 to 6, with 4 draws.

As for openings, the Chessgames.com data shows that both players are comfortable in all sorts of systems. 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Nf3, irregular openings -- anything is possible.

24 September 2018

Carlsen's Record 2017-18

After the previous posts, Carlsen's Events 2017-18 and Carlsen's Chess.com Events 2017-18, I prepared the data I had collected into a format similar to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-; Last updated 2016-09-26). The result, including TWIC references, is shown in the following chart.

It's not easy to read, but is only an intermediate version and serves to introduce a few discussion points. Since I addressed the same issues two years -- see Carlsen's Record 2015-16 (September 2016) and Carlsen's TMER 2015-16 (ditto) -- I only have to follow the precedents set then:-

  • Multi stage events, e.g. 2017 PRO League -> different events
  • Different time controls, e.g. 2017 Carlsen - Ding Showdown -> separate scores in notes
  • Chess960 (Fischer Random) -> mention in notes

Some multi stage events are shown in the table with a small '+' after the TWIC reference. These were all Chess.com events which were played over a period of several months and are covered by multiple TWICs.

23 September 2018

Medieval Figures Analyze Modern Theory

For this month's edition of Flickr (Not) Friday, I had a tough choice among another intriguing example of an AI chess image (as in Not so Flickrless Friday earlier this year), an unidentified chess set priced in the stratosphere, or a series of images like the one shown below. For the other choices see 'Flickr Favorites' in the right sidebar (although you might have to scroll if you're reading this long after the date of the post.)


Alphonso teaches Bronstein © Flickr user Sofia Eulgem under Creative Commons.

The full title of the Flickr image is 'Alphonso teaches Bronstein, Nicolas Sphicas, Museum of Byzantine Culture, 27/6/2018-2/9/2018; Thessaloniki, Greece', and is one of several images with the same title. One paragraph of the the description says,

The artist is inspired by the medieval figures of the “Book of Games” (Libro de ajedrez, dados, y tablas, 1283) by Alphonso X called the Wise (1221-1284), King of Castile and Leon. The abstract figures are mobilized so as to illustrate the “King’s Indian opening”. It is an opening studied by David Bronstein, a leading chess player of 20th century, which influenced even world chess champions.

The paragraph is from the page “Alphonso teaches Bronstein!” (mbp.gr), where 'mbp' means Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki. The page continues,

In the world of Nicolas Sphicas the medieval figures, whose garments reflect the stylish Northern gothic styles, are depicted analyzing the modern chess theory.

The Alphonso X painings were part of my earliest introduction to chess art and to chess history on the web. I wonder how they've evolved through the years.

21 September 2018

Google Search Coverage

I ended last week's post, Google Search Console ('to catch up on the many Google notices I've received since the beginning of the year'), on hold:-

The 'Performance' page for the old HTTP version of my site confirmed a large drop in search traffic since 2018-08-17. This should have been balanced by a corresponding increase in search traffic for the new HTTPS version, but Google told me 'Oops, you don't have access to this property'. After procuring the access, I received the message 'Processing data, please check again in a few days'.

A few days later, I received another email from Google:-

To: Owner of https://www.mark-weeks.com/ • Google systems confirm that on Sep 13, 2018 we started collecting Google Search impressions for your website in Search Console. This means that pages from your website are now appearing in Google search results for some queries. Here’s how you can monitor your site’s performance in search using Search Console.

The message pointed to a console resource called 'Coverage' that showed me how many of my pages were included in Google's search engine results. Here are the current charts for both the old and new versions of the site.

The rectangles at the top of each display say 'Error' (in red), 'Valid with warnings', 'Valid' (both white), and 'Excluded' (gray). Why are some pages on the old HTTP version marked 'Valid'? More importantly, why are other pages on the new HTTPS version marked 'Excluded'? The 'Excluded' pages fall into two categories:-

  • 'Duplicate without user-selected canonical'
  • 'Crawled - currently not indexed'

The Google help page, Index Coverage Status report (support.google.com), explains,

Duplicate page without canonical tag: This page has duplicates, none of which is marked canonical. We think this page is not the canonical one. You should explicitly mark the canonical for this page. (We're working on a tool to show you which page was selected as canonical, but we're not quite there yet.)

and

Crawled - currently not indexed: The page was crawled by Google, but not indexed. It may or may not be indexed in the future; no need to resubmit this URL for crawling.

What does 'canonical' mean? From Consolidate duplicate URLs:-

If you have a single page accessible by multiple URLs, or different pages with similar content (for example, a page with both a mobile and a desktop version), Google sees these as duplicate versions of the same page. Google will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.

For my site this refers to small pages that show some aspect of a position, like a chess trap, where all of the pages are structured similarly. The pages marked 'Crawled - not indexed' are of the same type. It's not really a problem, although my obsession with a topic that has nothing to do with chess might be a problem. In my next post I'll move on to another topic.

20 September 2018

Chess and Impressionism

After my first idea for today's post ran into trouble when I ran out of time (a follow-up to last week's A Remarkable Tool, if you're curious), I flipped back to last year's Chess and Art Movements (December 2017; 'chess cubism'), where I wrote,

With so many recognized art periods, there is plenty of source material here. I'll come back to the subject the next time I'm looking for an idea for my daily post.

When it comes to art movements, impressionism is one of the best known.


Google image search on 'chess impressionism'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '6' (from left to right).]

That's an interesting collage of images, but they don't all seem to be about chess. Take A4, for example, which leads to From Man Ray’s chess set to DalĂ­’s Arabian nights, subtitled, '11 fascinating works for under £100,000 -- offered across three different sales of Impressionist & Modern Art during 20th Century at Christie’s London'. The A4 image ('1. Touched by the finger of Bonnard') happens to be the first image on that page. Further down is '10. Surrealist chess', also shown in B2, a Man Ray chess set in a double image, with the chess set on the left:-

Chess became a passion and a ritual for Man Ray after his rooftop encounter with chess fanatic Marcel Duchamp in New York in 1924. The pair, who were great friends, would often play throughout the night, believing that games allowed them to explore the repressed desires of the unconscious. Man Ray designed his first chess set in 1920, with found objects from his studio. [...] Man Ray perceived the chessboard as a surrealist object.

What about the C2 image -- what does a photo of Mikhail Tal have to do with impressionism? The title of the source page explains, Tal Memorial in Museum of Russian Impressionism (gamesmaven.io/chessdailynews), where the Tal Memorial is a world-class chess tournament.

As for the real chess images in the Google collage, A1 is found on The Progressive Era : Art. Unfortunately, neither the artist nor the work is identified and my attempts to identify them turned up nothing.

A2 is the first of four images from Pinterest, a resource which used to be nearly worthless for instructional value, where links only led to pages with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of poorly identified images. The A2 image (also seen in B3) leads to The Chess Players - Sir John Lavery 1929 Impressionism Tate Gallery, London, UK.

A3 leads to an even more informative page: Alexandru Ciucurencu (Romanian, Post-Impressionism, 1903–1977). Here the work is identifed as 'The Chess Players', oil on cardboard, 61 x 91 cm, Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania.

I could continue to walk through more of the images returned by Google, but I'll stop here. I'll try to return to 'A Remarkable Tool' in another post.

18 September 2018

Karpov Talks Carlsen - Caruana

With only 50 days remaining before the start of the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match, I'd like to start running a weekly post about the match. This video appeared on my short list for the most recent monthly post about new chess clips on Youtube -- Things That Chess Players Don't Say -- but I passed on it because of its many technical flaws. Having said that, when a former World Champion and one of the greatest players of all time talks about chess, I'm willing to give it a second try.


Live Stream: Anatoly Karpov on Magnus Carlsen vs Fabiano Caruana (51:49) • 'Streamed live on Aug 18, 2018'

The description said,

Big news: Anatoly Karpov is in the iChess studio, recording his very own Master Method course! Be sure to subscribe to our channel and follow us on social media to get the latest news and updates as the course gets developed and brought to release very soon.

Karpov is joined by his long-time friend Grandmaster Ron Henley. Aside from being a strong player in his own right, Ron acted as second, analyst and trainer for Karpov in many of his matches in the 1990s. Ron also trained 7-time US Women’s Champion, GM Irina Krush.

Karpov, like most of us, is looking forward to the World Chess Championship match later this year between current champ Magnus Carlsen, and the challenger, Fabiano Caruana. In this stream, Karpov will be looking at games from both players and seeing how their play styles contrast from each other, giving us an interesting preview of what we can look forward to in November.

For the two games presented by GM Karpov, both won by Black, see:-

on Chessgames.com.

17 September 2018

Carlsen's Chess.com Events 2017-18

Continuing with Carlsen's Events 2017-18, in that post:-

[I discovered] 556 games by the reigning World Champion. [...] The corresponding TWIC search for the 2015-16 update located *only* 282 Carlsen games. Why the large increase? It appears that many of the games played in 2017-18 were for Chess.com online events. The world's leading website for chess started organizing events at the highest level in 2016.

The following chart lists Chess.com events where Carlsen participated.

The year/month shown in the first column is when the event started, because a multi-stage online event can take many months to reach its final stage. Although the table lists 13 events, one was not an online event (IoM Masters) and the other 12 reduce to four separate competitions:-

  • 2016.10 chess.com Blitz Final
  • 2017.02 PRO League (2017)
  • 2017.10 chess.com Speed matches
  • 2018.01 PRO League (2018)

Those four events include 209 games.

16 September 2018

Things That Chess Players Don't Say

'Why are you upset? It's just a chess game!'


Things you should NEVER say to a chess player (5:49) • 'Published on Aug 16, 2018'

In case you had any doubts, the description informs,

This is a parody video. Please don't take it seriously. It does not reflect the actual opinion of the authors ... most of the time

See also Things beginner chess players say, from the same channel. While neither of the videos is really funny, they both ring true and some of us will recognize ourselves.

14 September 2018

Google Search Console

Over the past month, I've been spending some time each week to bring my web site in line with current trends -- see Verifying HTTPS and Image Directory Thumbnails. In the 'Verifying' post, I wrote,

One casualty of the migration was Google Adsense. The ads are missing, e.g. on the index page for the World Chess Championship, and the browser warns of mixed content. The code that calls an ad currently uses 'HTTP'. If I want the ads back I'll need to change the code on all pages, but it might be better to replace Adsense with something else in that space.

All things considered, I was happy with the results of the migration to HTTPS. What will Google force me to do next to keep the site operational?

Before fixing the Adsense problem, I decided to catch up on the many Google notices I've received since the beginning of the year, at least a half-dozen significant emails from Google. The company is very good at communicating with its 'publishers' (the Google term for web sites that display ads), but the information is more for commercial sites than for hobbyist sites like mine.

At the beginning of the year I received an email titled 'Introducing the new Search Console [for m-w.com]'. It said,

Search Console is introducing a redesigned product to help you manage your presence on Google Search. The new Search Console was rebuilt from the ground up to provide the tools and insights that site owners and SEOs have been asking for. You can now confirm which of your pages are indexed and get information on how to fix indexing errors. You can also monitor your performance on Google Search with 16-months of data (to enable year-over-year comparisons).

There is far more information available through the Google Search Console than I can possibly use. The 'Performance' page for the old HTTP version of my site confirmed a large drop in search traffic since 2018-08-17.

This should have been balanced by a corresponding increase in search traffic for the new HTTPS version, but Google told me 'Oops, you don't have access to this property'. After procuring the access, I received the message 'Processing data, please check again in a few days'. Aye aye, sir! [To be continued]

13 September 2018

A Remarkable Tool

In my previous post, An Important Seven-piece Endgame, I discussed endgames of the type R+2P vs. R+P as given in 'Rook Endings' by Levenfish and Smyslov. I ended the discussion with:-

Despite the supposed simplicity of the other examples, I discovered a number of inaccuracies in their analysis. I'll discuss one or two of them in a future post.

Unlike the era of Levenfish and Smyslov (L&S), these endgames are now completely transparent thanks to the use of tablebases (TB). Consider the position in the top diagram below (Furman - Kopaev, event/year not specified). The TB gives 1.g5 as the only move, which is also the first move that L&S give. They wrote,

A strong move, opening up the White King's path to h5. It also makes it more difficult for Black's Pawn to advance.

Both sources agree that White has a won game and give 1...h5 as the best continuation for Black. L&S first examine 2.Rh6, where White wins the h-Pawn by force: 2...Rb2+ 3.Kg3 Rb3+ 4.Kf2 Rb2+ 5.Ke1 Ke3 6.Kd1 Kd3 7.Kc1 Rh2 8.Rxh5. The poor positions of the White Rook and King allow Black to draw with 8...Kc3 9.Kd1 Kd3 10.Ke1 Ke3 11.Kf1 Kf3 12.Kg1 Rg2+ 13.Kh1 Kf2 forcing perpetual check. (To follow the analysis in this post on Lichess, use the link below the diagrams.)


Lichess: 8/7p/5R2/8/4k1PP/1r6/6K1/8 w - - 0 1

The bottom diagram shows the position after the correct move 2.gxh6 (e.p.), followed by 2...Rb7 3.Kg3 Ke5. L&S now give the incorrect 4.Rg6, followed by 4...Kf5 5.Rg5+ Kf6 6.Kg4 Ra7 7.Kh5 Rf7 8.Rg6+ Ke7. Here Black can draw with 8...Kf5 9.Rg7 Kf6.

After 8...Ke7, L&S duplicate their error by giving 9.Rg7 Kf8, where 9...Kf6 leads to the same position (and the same draw) after 9...Kf6 in the previous paragraph. Instead of 9.Rg7, the continuation 9.Ra6 Rf8 10.h7 would win.

Back to the bottom diagram, instead of a draw with 4.Rg6, the TB says White should play 4.Rf8 Rh7 5.Kg4 Rxh6 6.Kg5, with mate in 64(!). This allows two conclusions: (1) the TB is a remarkable tool, and (2) not all Rook & a-/h-Pawn endings are drawn.

11 September 2018

An Important Seven-piece Endgame

Continuing with the Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess (August 2018), I first looked at endgames of Q+2P vs. Q+P in A Flawed Seven-piece Study (ditto):-

The next section in Averbakh's book covers Q+2P:Q+P where the strong side has a passed Pawn. I fed all six examples to the Lichess tablebase and discovered that Averbakh's analysis was correct on five of them.

I then turned my attention to R+2P:R+P. Before tackling Averbakh, I decided to return to 'Rook Endings' by Levenfish and Smyslov, previously seen on this blog in Levenfish's Rook Endings (January 2011) and The Bridge, the Diversion, and the Best Defense (November 2011). The authors introduced the section titled 'Rook and Two v. Rook and One' with:-

This section is of great practical interest, as endings of this type, quite naturally, arise very often: as when one player has won a pawn during the game but at the same time most of the pawns have been exchanged off. As is clear from previous chapters, a R + P v. R ending is by no means always won for the superior side. The situation becomes more complicated with the addition of an extra pawn on each side, as this allows for new resources both for the attack and for the defence.

For example, the superior side can sometimes reduce to an ending with two far advanced connected pawns against a rook, whilst the defending side can sometimes reduce to an ending with rook v. far advanced pawn. Sometimes the defending side manages to transpose into a drawn ending with R + 2P v. R of the type analysed in Chapter 3.

No less important is the fact that, in analysing more complex rook endings, positions with two pawns v. one pawn can come up. Only if these positions are correctly appraised can the correct way to solving the more complex endings be found. But up till now endings with R + 2P v. R + P have been very poorly dealt with in chess literature.

The section is separated into positions having similar characteristics in their Pawn structure. The first diagrams in the section are of the type that is easiest to assess.

When the pawns are opposite each other and the superior side does not have a passed pawn, the result is usually a draw.

For example, the first position is shown in the following diagram.

White can make no progress: 1.Rh6 Ra4 2.Rh7+ Kf6 3.Rh6+ Kf7 4.Re6 Rb4 5.Kg5 Ra4 6.e5 Ra5. The position after the third move repeats the position after the first move, probably to show two different tries by White.

Despite the supposed simplicity of the other examples, I discovered a number of inaccuracies in their analysis. I'll discuss one or two of them in a future post.

10 September 2018

Carlsen's Events 2017-18

With a World Championship match due to start in less than two months, it's a good time to return to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 'Last updated 2016-09-26'). I'll follow the same pattern used in the previous cycle of updates that started two years ago with Carlsen's Events 2015-16 (September 2016).

Since the last event on the TMER is currently '2016-09 42nd Olympiad, Baku AZE', I searched all issues of TWIC following that Olympiad and discovered 564 'Carlsen' games. Eight of those were played by Magnus's father, leaving 556 games by the reigning World Champion.

The following table shows the main events that Carlsen played in the last two years along with a count of games for each event. Because of limited space, the table isn't complete, e.g. events that included both rapid and blitz show only a count for the rapid games.

The corresponding TWIC search for the 2015-16 update located *only* 282 Carlsen games. Why the large increase? It appears that many of the games played in 2017-18 were for Chess.com online events. The world's leading website for chess started organizing events at the highest level in 2016.

09 September 2018

The Imagery of Chess, New York 1944

Continuing this blog's eight-and-a-half year series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), in the previous post, Chess with Two Cardinals (August 2018), I wrote,

This month my short list had only one item, but it was not short on quality.

This month I had well over a half dozen items on the short list and it was even longer on quality. The item pictured below relates to The Imagery of Chess, St. Louis (August 2017). Titled 'Marcel Duchamp, Max / Imagery of Chess A Group Exhibition of Paintings Sculpture', it sold for US $500.00, 'Best offer accepted'.

The auction listing included an uncommonly detailed description of the item on sale:-

The Imagery of Chess: A Group Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, Newly Designed Chessmen, Music and Miscellany
Author: Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst
Publication: New York: Julien Levy Gallery, 1944
Binding: Single sheet
Condition: Fine

Description: A wonderful -- and uncommon -- piece of chess ephemera, the original announcement for the December 1944-January 1945 exhibition, which was both published and hosted by the formidable Julien Levy Gallery of New York. Marcel Duchamp, widely known as a passionate, highly accomplished chess player in his own right, designed the layout for the announcement and Max Ernst illustrated the title page, with its bright-red chessmen.

The announcement is made up of a thick single sheet, folded into fourths. On the first verso is a manifesto called "On Designing Chessmen", calling for the improved design of chess pieces over the French and the Staunton sets. And, opposite this, is the list of the 32 contributing artists in the show, the number 32 having been chosen by Duchamp to match the number of chess pieces on the board.

Included among the 32 artists are Andre Breton, John Cage, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Arshile Gorky, Man Ray, Robert Motherwell, Isamu Noguchi, Yves Tanguy, etc. And finally, on the last verso is an artistic, fanciful image of a chess set called "Brotherhood of sister squares" by Marcel Duchamp and "End game" by V. Halberstadt. And below this, an announcement that "GEORGE KOLTANOWSKI World Champion of Blindfold Chess will play blindfolded 5 simultaneous games against Alfred Barr, Jr., Max Ernst, Frederick Kiesler, Julien Levy, Dorothea Tanning and Dr. Gregory Zilboorg -- Admission by Invitation Only -- MARCEL DUCHAMP referee".

The show ran from Dec. 12th 1944 thru Jan. 31st 1945 and the announcement is in pristine condition. Crisp and bright and fresh as the day it was issued almost 75 years ago. In fact, this copy is from Julien Levy's estate in Bridgewater, CT.

On the page 'On Designing Chessmen', an unnamed writer said,

The standard chess sets now in use, the FRENCH set and the STAUNTON, are both somewhat confusing in the similarity and intricacy of their forms. In the French set for example, the Bishop is a little Queen and the pawn a little Bishop. Cannot a new set be designed, that is, without a too radical departure from the traditional figures, at once more harmonious and more agreeable to the touch and to the sight, and above all, more adequate to the role the figure has to play in the struggle? Thus, at any moment of the drama its optical aspect would represent (by the shape of the actors) a clear incisive image of its inner conflicts. In the complicated modern game the figures should inspire the player instead of confusing him.. They should whisper to him at the right moment: "Move now to QB4. ... Break through the center. ... Pin the Knight. ... Let me win a piece. ... We can exchange Queens, the pawn will be metamorphosed into a new Queen. ... to mate the King.

And they should never make a MISTAKE.

For another example of Duchamp connecting the world of chess with the vastly larger world of art, see, A Six-Figure Chess Item at Auction (November 2017).

07 September 2018

Image Directory Thumbnails

While I was working on the series about image recognition, last seen in Chess Piece Recognition (July 2018), I decided it would be a good idea to have a tool that could display the contents of an online image directory using thumbnails instead of file names. Using the search term 'directory index thumbnails', I eventually located gfwilliams/ThinGallery (github.com; 'A single-file web gallery. Uses EXIF thumbnails to quickly display thumbnails for a directory with no server-side code').

I followed the instructions and uploaded a copy of a GALLERY file to the directory I use for this blog. The results are shown below.


m-w.com/cfaa/gallery.htm

The result isn't perfect. The thumbnails take a few minutes to load and the result is only for JPG images (NB: also PNG), but it's still better than nothing.

To understand the correlation between my convention for image names and the corresponding post, note that the image in the upper left is from Tablebase 1 - Botvinnik 0 (September 2007). I hope I don't get a flood of complaints for possible copyright violation.

06 September 2018

September 1968 'On the Cover'

In this blog's monthly 'On the Cover' series, when was the last time the same chess personality featured on the covers of both American chess magazines 50 years ago? It turns out that it was exactly two years ago, in September 1966 'On the Cover', when Spassky was so honored. A few months before that, in May 1966 'On the Cover', Petrosian was similarly honored.

This month, 50 years ago, Larry Evans became the first person to appear solo on the cover of both magazines. The captions on the following photos explain the circumstances.


Left: 'U.S. Champion Larry Evans'
Right: 'Three Time Champ'

Chess Life

The 1968 United States Championship, a 12-man invitational round-robin, was won handily by the second-best player in the country. Larry Evans, a sometime New Yorker (he prefers the west coast), landed on top of this truncated field by dint of what can only be described as accurate plodding. He accepted gambits, grabbed pawns, capitalized on his opponents' errors (there were plenty) and in general was content to let his renowned technique do all the work.

Chess Review

Larry Evans of New York won the United States Championship for the third time. He did so by effectively tacking down just the points needed till his last-round draw with Arthur B. Bisguier secured his first in the standings. It was Evans' play which was most impressive throughout the toumament.

GM Evans also appeared in the series for the November 1966 'On the Cover', as a member of the U.S. Olympiad team ('Evans, Addison, Benko, Fischer, Rossolimo, R. Byrne, and Team Captain D. Byrne'). For one of his many other mentions on this blog, see Borrowing Leaves (December 2015), playing chess with Marcel Duchamp.

For a less flattering portrayal of this month's featured American, see Edward Winter's The Facts about Larry Evans (chesshistory.com). It's hard to reconcile that Evans the player and Evans the writer were the same person.

28 August 2018

A Year of Yahoos?

It might seem like a year of Yahoos, but the current monthly series of chess in the mainstream press, last seen in July Yahoos, started with October Yahoos (October 2017). That makes this month's August Yahoos the 11th straight month of Yahoos.

2018-08-10: 9-Year-Old Chess Prodigy Will Be Allowed To Remain In U.K. (yahoo.com). The Yahoo stub pointed to the original story from NPR.org, which started

The United Kingdom has decided to allow a 9-year-old chess prodigy to remain in the country, after his father's work visa expired and his family faced deportation back to India. Shreyas Royal is "very delighted" with the news, his father tells NPR by email. Shreyas has lived in the U.K. since he was 3 and has played chess since he was 5. Now, within his age bracket, he is the top chess player in England and one of the top 10 globally.

For the BBC version of the same story, see Shreyas Royal: Child chess prodigy's family can stay in UK (bbc.com).

2018-08-17: Kevin Love on LeBron James: ‘He’s playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers’ (yahoo.com). This second Yahoo is hardly worth mentioning -- the only mention of chess (or of checkers) is the headline -- but it gives me the opportunity to point to another old post, A:'Playing Checkers' vs. B:'Playing Chess' (October 2014).

27 August 2018

A Leela Surprise in the Nimzo Indian

In this series on AI engines, I closed the previous post, The NNs Depart TCEC S13, with,

For many observers, the main interest in TCEC's lower divisions was the participation of the two NNs, Leela and DeusX. Once both engines were eliminated, interest shifted to which engine will finish first for the season.

Let's finish the current series with a video. The following is from YouTube's kingscrusher, who says,

My name is Tryfon Gavriel, I run www.chessworld.net. FIDE Candidate Master, British Regional Master. Reached peak ECF rating of 212 (equivalent to about 2350 USCF) in July 2014, and 216 rapid (within rank top 50).

He has also been one of Leela's biggest supporters since the engine first appeared on the scene. Of his many Leela videos, this one has the highest view count.


A remarkable top secret chess opening discovery! Leela Chess 395 vs Gull 3 - Nimzo Indian (5:56) • 'Published on Jul 2, 2018'

The video's description starts,

Game quality tags: amazing, awesome, astonishing, brilliant, classic, crushing, dynamic, elegant, exceptional, excellent, exciting, fabulous, famous, fantastic, [...]

For Kingscrusher's source of inspiration on recent Leela games, see a post in the Leela forum, More Leela games needed (for commenting).

26 August 2018

Best Blind Players of India

We've already seen a video from ChessBase India (January 2018) in our long-running series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). For the previous post in the series, Fiske's 'Chess in Iceland' (July 2018), I featured a book ('The island of Iceland is an anomaly and a marvel') and in this post I'll feature another video, again from ChessBase India.


What chess means to the best blind players of India (10:33) • 'Published on Jul 20, 2018' [International Chess Day]

The clip is at times difficult to understand, but the message from the players is clear. Chess has helped them reach levels of personal achievement that would have been difficult without the game. The description idientifies the players:-

The national visually challenged team is present in Sofia, Bulgaria for the World Team Championship 2018. We ask the players Kishan Gangolli, Soundarya Kumar Pradhan, Ashvin Makwana, Aryan Joshi and Subhendu Patra about what chess means to them. We also have Charudatta Jadhav in the video, the IBCA and AICFB president who has played a key role to spread blind chess in the country.

IBCA is the International Braille Chess Association (ibca-info.org):-

FIDE is the apex body for chess amongst the sighted. Similarly the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) is the apex body of chess for the blind and visually impaired and is in turn affiliated to FIDE. The main purpose of IBCA is to promote chess for the blind and visually impaired across the globe.

AICFB is the All India Chess Federation for the Blind (aicfb.org):-

The AICFB is affiliated to the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA), and through this affiliation has been able to integrate India with the rest of the blind chess playing world. AICFB is also affiliated to All India Chess Federation (AICF) which is recognized by Government of India.

According to Chess-results.com, the event was the 'VIII IBCA World Team Chess Championship for blind and visually impaired, Bulgaria, Sofia 20-31.07.2018' The India team finished 8th out of 16 teams:-

In nearly every post about the 'The Sociology of Chess', ChessBase India has at one candidate on the video short list, usually several candidates. I'm sure we'll see one of them again.

24 August 2018

Verifying HTTPS

I hope this is my last post about migrating my web site to HTTPS. In the previous post, Testing HTTPS, I wrote,

I have a number of other tasks to perform:-
(A) Investigate why the security certificate (issued by Let's Encrypt 'Free SSL/TLS Certificates') is only valid for three months, to 15 October 2018.
(B) Examine the impact on the site's stat logs.
(C) Flag the HTTPS change to Google search.

(A) Certificate: From How It Works - Let's Encrypt - Free SSL/TLS Certificates:-

The objective of Let’s Encrypt and the ACME protocol is to make it possible to set up an HTTPS server and have it automatically obtain a browser-trusted certificate, without any human intervention. This is accomplished by running a certificate management agent on the web server. [...] There are two steps to this process. First, the agent proves to the CA that the web server controls a domain. Then, the agent can request, renew, and revoke certificates for that domain.

The key word there is 'renew'. I'll come back to the subject in mid-October, and I hope it won't require a blog post.

(B) Stats: The first thing I noticed was the size of the daily logs, which started getting larger the day I activated HTTPS across the site. Is this related or just a coincidence? When I examined the log file for that day I saw some files logged twice -- once with a 301 redirect code and a small file size followed by a 200 code and a large file size -- indicating that a redirect had occurred. My own activity ('Testing HTTPS') was traceable, which gave me an anchor point. The stat summaries showed a huge number of 301 redirects, which were negligible in previous months. Will this decline over time, as external requests include the HTTPS, or will it be constant? Since the files are aggregated by month, it will take a few months to see the effect.

(C) Google search: I was happy to see that Google search results include the HTTPS, outlined in red in the following image.


Google search: 'site:mark-weeks.com'

One casualty of the migration was Google Adsense. The ads are missing, e.g. on the index page for the World Chess Championship, and the browser warns of mixed content. The code that calls an ad currently uses 'HTTP'. If I want the ads back I'll need to change the code on all pages, but it might be better to replace Adsense with something else in that space.

All things considered, I was happy with the results of the migration to HTTPS. What will Google force me to do next to keep the site operational?

23 August 2018

A Flawed Seven-piece Study

In my previous post Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess, I noted the 'first free 7-piece tablebase' and took the service for a test drive. The example that I used was from Averbakh's book on Queen endgames, specifically a section with four positions of the type Q+2P:Q+P where there are no passed Pawns. I ended the post saying,

I'll continue to look at other Q+2P:Q+P endgames and will post anything unusual that I find. I'll also look at other endgame sources to investigate the accuracy of their analysis.

The next section in Averbakh's book covers Q+2P:Q+P where the strong side has a passed Pawn. I fed all six examples to the Lichess tablebase and discovered that Averbakh's analysis was correct on five of them. The exception was a study by F.Prokop, shown in the top diagram, Black to move.

The study continued 1...Qb2+ 2.Kc5! (a temporary Queen sacrifice) 2...Qe5+(*) 3.Kc4 Qf4+(*) 4.Kd3 Qd6+(*) 5.Kxe3, arriving at the bottom diagram. Here the Averbakh/Prokop analysis continued with three candidate moves, all of which lead to a win for White. The most interesting for me is 5...Qg3+ 6.Qf3 Qg1+ 7.Kf4 Qh2+ 8.Kg4 Qg1+ 9.Kh3 Qxg7 10.Qa8+ Kf7 11.Qb7+ Kf6 12.Qxg7+ Kxg7 13.Kg4, because it shows a common theme in Q+P:Q endgames. The strong side trades Queens to arrive in a position with K+P:K, where the Kings are far apart and distant opposition plays a leading role. A similar idea is behind 2.Kc5!.

In the bottom diagram, the tablebase indicates a fourth move, 5...Qh6+, which it says is the only move leading to a draw. It appears that Black has a perpetual check with this move. The variations branch off into so many sub-variations, that it is impossible to follow all of the key moves. I'll just have to trust the tablebase on this.

In the main variation starting 1...Qb2+, what do the asterisks '(*)' mean? They identify moves that the tablebase indicates are the only move leading to a draw; other moves lose. The tablebase also says that there is an alternate solution in the diagrammed position: 1...Qe6+ also draws.

In a footnote, Averbakh indicated that the top diagram was in fact an intermediate position in Prokop's study, because the previous moves were flawed. With so many branching variations in Queen endgames, it's not surprising that both the original analysis and the subsequent correction were flawed.

21 August 2018

Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess

Almost since its beginning, this blog has taken an interest in chess tablebase technology, where endgames with a limited number of pieces are solved perfectly. The latest news opens an entirely new channel of investigation: 7-piece Syzygy tablebases are complete (lichess.org; 'Use the world's first free 7-piece tablebase on Lichess!'). The announcement started,

Congratulations to Bojun Guo (aka noobpwnftw) and Ronald de Man (aka syzygy) for completing the first free 7-piece tablebase and generously sharing it with the world! Lichess now provides online access on the analysis board and in studies, practice against tablebases, a public API, and a mirror for downloading the full tablebase files.

For the accompanying discussion, see General Chess Discussion / 7-piece Syzygy tablebases, with more links to other resources.

Six-piece tablebases are useful but somewhat limited. When we exclude the two Kings that are present in every position, we are left with four pieces, which are not sufficient for evaluating many positions where the stronger side has the advantage of a Pawn. Six-piece tablebases are most interesting for positions with unbalanced material, like R+P:B+P. With seven-piece tablebases, we suddenly have a tool for examining positions like R+2P:R+P, which are notoriously difficult to analyze.

Lately I've been interested in Queen endgames, because their outcomes -- win or draw? -- are difficult to predict during a game. Their analysis often goes beyond the horizons of current engine technology. Here's a simpler, well-known 19th century position from Averbakh's book on Queen endgames. It shows the Lichess interface.

Averbakh Q-endings (no.234) / Horwitz and Kling, 1851

White to move
Lichess: 5qk1/7p/8/6K1/8/7P/6P1/Q7 w - - 0 1

The key move is 1.Qa2+. The Queen climbs a ladder on the a1-h8 & a2-g8 diagonals to force a won K+P endgame. For more about Averbakh, see Averbakh's R+P vs. B+P Endgames (September 2017).

I'll continue to look at other Q+2P:Q+P endgames and will post anything unusual that I find. I'll also look at other endgame sources to investigate the accuracy of their analysis. In the meantime, I'd like to give a big thanks to Stefan Meyer-Kahlen for the resource that I've been using for the last ten years or so: All 6 men chess endgame databases available online (shredderchess.com).

20 August 2018

The NNs Depart TCEC S13

In last week's post, Battles of the Chess NNs, for this blog's current series on the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC), I signed off with:-

Both Leela and DeusX qualified from TCEC S13 division four to division three, another quadruple round robin with eight engines competing. As I write this, that event has reached the second stage. The engine Ethereal has a large lead over six engines (including the two NNs) which are bunched together, vying for the second qualifying place into division two.

A few days later the organizers announced, Ethereal chess engine wins the gold at TCEC Div 3:-

Ethereal, the chess engine by Andrew Grant, is the winner of TCEC Div 3. After three months of rapid development, Ethereal came stronger than ever and outwitted the competition in the division finishing 22,5/28 -- full 6,5 points ahead of competition.

Here's a copy of the final crosstable:-

What about that tie for 2nd/3rd? Both Leela (lc0) and Arasan finished with 16.0/28, Leela having the better SB. The second NN, DeusX, finished in fifth place with a minus score, 13.5. The announcement continued,

The second qualification spot was highly contested through the division. Pedone was off to a good start, but somewhere in the second half of the event it lost the advantage and was overcome by Arasan. Fixes in the cooling and power usage of the GPUs helped Leela lift off after round 20. It managed to get an impressive 5,5/6 after the GPU fix, but later could not defeat Arasan in the direct match. Arasan, with better tiebreak over Leela, climbs back to the division where it competed last season.

The TCEC rules specify,

Tiebreaks • If necessary, tiebreaks can be used to determine advancement. For all Divisions (not the Superfinal), the first tiebreak criteria is the "crash" tiebreak, meaning that if an engine has crashed once or more during the Division, it will fail qualification versus another engine that has not crashed if both of them has the same amount of points. In case of still being tied, then the direct encounter between the tied engines decides. The next criterion is the greatest number of wins, then the greatest number of wins with black. The Sonneborn-Berger is the next criteria. If they are still tied, then the tournament organizers will decide which engine gets the promotion.

I gather from this explanation that the '"crash" tiebreak' played no role. Since the minimatch between the two engines ('direct encounter') was +1-0=3 in Arasan's favor, it qualified into division two. Some Leela supporters hoped that both engines might go through, but what good are rules if they're not enforced?

For many observers, the main interest in TCEC's lower divisions was the participation of the two NNs, Leela and DeusX. Once both engines were eliminated, interest shifted to which engine will finish first for the season. Most bets are undoubtedly on Stockfish to win for the third consecutive time.

19 August 2018

Pictures at a Simul

Here's Susan Polgar doing what she does best -- promoting chess.


Photo top left: SusanPolgarCP11 © Flickr user 4paul! under Creative Commons.

For more information, see Chess Lecture and Simul Series at Chess and Checkers House (centralpark.com):-

Learn techniques from world-renowned chess experts. Then put your new skills to the test against a grandmaster while they challenge 30 participants – simultaneously! This program is FREE. Space is limited. Participation is first come, first served. No groups, please. Ages 6+, prior experience required.

[Previous post in the Flickr series: Chess Engines for All Ages (July 2018).]

17 August 2018

Testing HTTPS

I ended a recent post, Activating HTTPS, with an action:-

When I click on one of my links in the top half, the next page reverts to HTTP, but I can activate HTTPS by simply changing the URL. Subsequent pages retain HTTPS unless they are loaded from a different directory. My domain host tells me I need to 'Create a 301 Redirect to Enforce your SSL certificate'.

I followed the instructions to implement this (HINT: .htaccess) and almost everything looked good. I had one issue with image files, so I decided to test using an image in a blog post.

This is a recent image found on eBay, where the description said,

A. Kindler (1833-76) German • Framed 1874 Oil Canvas Painting, 'Men Playing Chess' • Dimensions of Canvas: 28" x 22"

Now let's see if it works correctly.

***

Later: Indeed it did work. The image appears and is loaded with the correct 'HTTPS' transfer protocol. Once I verified that everything looked good, I went back to the previous post, 'Activating HTTPS', with the idea of corrrecting the image protocol used in that post. Before changing anything, I looked at 'Preview' and received the familiar message:-

This page contains HTTP resources which may cause mixed content affecting security and user experience if blog is viewed over HTTPS.

Fix • Dismiss • Learn more

'Fix' immediately closed the edit session. When I reopened it, I discovered that the image 'HTTP' had been changed to 'HTTPS'. When I looked at the blog post, the image was loaded with 'HTTPS'. [NB: 'Learn more' goes to Fix mixed content on your blog (support.google.com).] Of course, I'm not going back to all 2700+ old posts on this blog (plus my three other blogs) to change the image protocol. Instead, I have a number of other tasks to perform:-

  • Investigate why the security certificate (issued by Let's Encrypt 'Free SSL/TLS Certificates') is only valid for three months, to 15 October 2018.
  • Examine the impact on the site's stat logs.
  • Flag the HTTPS change to Google search.

I suspect that last part will be done automagically, but I would like to be sure.

16 August 2018

Chessgames.com (2001?-2019?)

It's been a couple of weeks since I noted the passing of the only surviving founder of Chessgames.com, Daniel Freeman (1967-2018), and since that post I've taken the time to explore the site in more depth than I usually do. Archive.org claims to have 'saved' the Chessgames.com home page more than 2000 times. Its first copy of the home page looks like the following.


'Saturday, January 26, 2002'

All players with pages on Chessgames.com have forums associated with the page. From those forums we can isolate the first comment by a Chessgames.com user:-

  • The chess games of Robert James Fischer [archive] • Dec-24-01 Sneaky: The greatest chess player of all time!
  • The chess games of Garry Kasparov [archive] • Sep-22-02 Tigranvp: I viewed the series of tapes about Gari, and they are of poor quality, though the analysis by Kasparov is outstanding. Who ever that was that interviewed Kasparov (Plaskett?) He sure looked silly trying to show up GK.
  • The chess games of Anatoly KarpovSep-30-02 skakmiv: Karpov is such a great defender! :)
  • The chess games of Magnus Carlsen [archive] • Jul-30-03 MoonlitKnight: This Norwegian child prodigy has reached 12 years and will soon be receiving his IM title. He's being trained by Norwegian GM Simen Agdestein, himself once the youngest grandmaster in the world. Carlsen (2385) will never achieve that accomplishment, but nevertheless, he's a kid to look out for.

That first item, by Sneaky, is particularly revealing because 'Sneaky' was an alternate username, a pseudonym, used by Freeman himself. In December 2001, he was undoubtedly testing the functionality by seeding the site with comments to provoke reactions from other users. Here's another example of a first forum comment, perhaps to seed a theretofore overlooked page from an important player of the past.

  • The chess games of Jose Raul CapablancaNov-09-02 Sneaky: From Fred Wilson's "Picture History of Chess" • "There have been times in my life when I came very near thinking that I could not lose even a single game. [...]

Putting all of this together, we can calculate that Chessgames.com will soon celebrate its 17th anniversary. How long can we expect it to survive? Based on recent forum comments by its numerous devotees, the future of the site is not at all certain. Freeman apparently coded and administered the core functionality of the site by himself, never spending any time on succession planning.

The site is well regarded by other key players in online chess. From Chess.com's CEO Erik Allebest, who knows a thing or two about building a world class web site: Thank You For ChessGames.com, Daniel Freeman (1967-2018).

As one of the first major chess websites on the internet, ChessGames.com made quite an impact on me. As I was diving deeper into the game as an hobbyist in the early 2000s, I spent a lot of time learning and reading on ChessGames.com. I pored over famous games and players. ChessGames.com has always captured the depth and richness of the game in a pure and traditional way.

In stark contrast to this, many world class chess historians have been antagonistic to Chessgames.com since its creation. I documented one particularly vicious attack in Chess History Cat Fight (December 2013), and I could cite more examples. If chess grandmasters treated amateur players the way acknowledged chess historians treat amateur historians, no one would support the GMs. I suspect that nearly all published chess historians work mainly on their own and don't understand the nature of community, crowdsourced work. How many of them contribute to Wikipedia?

Daniel Freeman understood community work and he built a chess site that proved it. If the site eventually collapses because he is no longer behind it, I doubt that anyone else will be able to improve on his vision.