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.

14 August 2018

American Chess Magazine

Interested in a free copy of American Chess Magazine (ACM)? Here it is, but you'll need to be a fast reader.


American Chess Magazine - Issue No.5, Winter edition (0:48) • 'Dec 27, 2017'

Similar copies of all seven issues ACM are available from the same Youtube channel. At this point in a post about an embedded video, I would normally insert an excerpt from the video's description, but for this clip there is none. Instead I'll insert the one and only comment:-

Why is this excellent magazine so overpriced? I mean it may be classy, but so is NIC [New in Chess] magazine and they are affordable. Would love to buy ACM more than once so it's a pity.

'Excellent', 'classy', and 'overpriced' are three adjectives that occur again and again in discussions about ACM. Here are a couple of reviews (with comments) to prove the point:-

In a recent post, 2018 CJA Awards, I wrote

Getting back to those two 'Special Achievement' awards that head the awards list:-
- American Chess Magazine for 'All Four Issues', and
- Peter Doggers for 'Yearlong FIDE Coverage'
Both are worthy of a follow-up post.

Now I can cross that first follow-up off the list. • P.S. 'All Four Issues' would appear to be Nos.3-6, 2017 'Summer' edition through 2018 'Spring'. For info about subscribing, see acmchess.com.

13 August 2018

Battles of the Chess NNs

The first direct confrontation of AI/NN chess engines ended with the two capturing 1st and 2nd places in a qualifying preliminary: Leela Chess Zero wins the gold medal in TCEC Div 4 (chessdom.com):-

More than 125 000 unique viewers followed the dramatic victory of Leela Chess Zero (aka Lczero or Lc0) in [Season 13] Div 4 of the Top Chess Engine Championship. After four round robins, Leela came on top of the division with 20.0/28 with 14 wins, 12 draws, and 2 losses. This was 1.5 points more than the second neural net in the event Deus X powered by Lc0, and 2 points more than the top traditional engine of the division Wasp.

Here's a copy of the final crosstable:-

As impressive as the results were, the hype surrounding the event was even more impressive. The Chessdom report continued, 'These results confirmed the dominance of the neural nets, modeled after Google subsidiary DeepMind’s Alpha Zero chess neural network.' Did everyone forget that the 'dominance of the neural nets' was in the lowest division, the first qualifying event, of the TCEC season? Since when are gold medals given in the preliminaries of any competition? If we have similar medals for divisions three, two, and one, what will they give to the overall winner of the season?

The report ended with a 'Statement by the TCEC team'. Before we get to that statement, we need to backtrack and review the sequence of events that overshadowed the event. I covered the start of that in two previous posts:-

It quickly became apparent that 'new neural network' was less than it appeared to be--

  • 2018-07-31: Statements by Deus X and Leela Chess Zero authors (chessdom.com) • 'Statement by Albert Silver, author of Deus X: DeusX is a neural network, trained by Albert Silver from unique non-Leela data, exclusively from human played games. The engine that executes this network is Lc0, developed by the Leela Chess Zero team.' • 'Statement by Leela Chess Zero team: After the initial confusion, the Lc0 team is happy to receive the statement from Albert Silver with a clarification regarding usage of the Lc0 code. The credit to the Leela Chess Zero team is now given appropriately.'

From the Leela blog (blog.lczero.org):-

The camaraderie lasted less than a week; also from the Leela blog:-

  • 2018-08-07: Statement From LCZero Core Dev Team; [Albert Silver] needed incomparably less effort relative to the effort that he reused from the LCZero project [...; He] decided to hide information both from the LCZero community (by asking TCEC administration to be secret until the very last moment), and from TCEC administration (by not sharing appropriate information about importance of the engine vs neural network weights). The team welcomes open and fair usage of the engine and tools around it, but in this case it was certainly not fair. We strongly condemn Albert’s submission which may be seen as plagiarism, and poor behavior.

Getting back to the Chessdom report that 'Leela Chess Zero wins the gold medal', the report's final statement said,

  • 2018-08-11: 'Statement by the TCEC team [...] TCEC Season 13 is an experimental season and will serve as stepping stone for further competitions. For next season fair (and practical) rules will be put in place regulating the entry of neural networks to TCEC competition'

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.

12 August 2018

CJA Multimedia Winners

Once again it's time to pick a featured video for the current month on this blog. After reviewing the clips published since the previous video post, Interviews in Black and White (July 2018), I ended up with a dozen candidates on the short list. Unfortunately, every one of them had a small defect that precluded me from using it. Fortunately, I had a second list of great videos put together for the 2018 CJA Awards. Here are the four first place winners from the CJA's 'Multimedia' category:-

Although the last of the four was my favorite, I already featured it last year in How About a Game of 3D-Chess? (November 2017). Let's go with my second favorite.


AlphaZero vs Stockfish Chess Match Highlights by IM Danny Rensch (17:28) • 'Published on Dec 11, 2017'

The description explained,

IM Danny Rensch summarizes the "top 5 moments" from the AlphaZero vs Stockfish chess match in a single video that shows the critical, most interesting moment and ideas from each game.

The same description points to IM Rensch's 'Full Review' for each of the five games.

10 August 2018

Activating HTTPS

Last year in Site Stats and Security (July 2017), I noted,

HTTPS as a ranking signal • Is this the reason for the drop in the number of daily visitors on my site? [...] That promises more work that has nothing to do with the content of the site, but I need to look into it at some time in the months ahead.

It turns out that the site already has HTTPS security (SSL) enabled.

Top: https://www.mark-weeks.com/

Bottom: Firefox 'More Information'

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'll look at that in another post.

09 August 2018

2018 CJA Awards

A little more than a month after I posted about the 2018 CJA Award Entries, the Chess Journalists of America announced their award winners in Awards (chessjournalism.org). Before you click (or tap) that link, take a deep breath! The page is unusually clumsy.

The top of the page still mentions, 'CJA Award Entries accepted until June 18th!', as does every other page on the site. The awards themselves are listed in reverse order. They start with a couple of 'Special Achievement' awards and end with 'Chess Journalist of the Year'. Within different categories, any 'Honorable Mention' awards appear before 'First Place' awards. It's impossible to copy/paste from the list; instead you have to click a winner, view the CJA award certificate, and copy the relevant text from there. I could go on (no links to the original work) but what's the point? The CJA might not care enough about their awards to spend time on how they are presented, but other people -- the award winners? -- certainly do.

I'm going to follow last year's post, 2017 CJA Awards (August 2017), and mention four awards:-

  • Chess Journalist of the Year
  • Best Book
  • Best Chess Art
  • Best Chess Blog

The Journalist of the Year award went to Mike Klein. As far as I can tell, this is the third time he has won the most prestigious of the CJA Awards. I covered the two previous occasions in 2012's Best Chess Blog, Chess Journalist, Chess Art (August 2012) and 2015 CJA Awards (August 2015). To hear him talk about his craft, follow the links in USchess in Podcasts (June 2018). Here is a copy of his 2018 certificate.

In the 'Top Book' category, Lev Alburt and Jon Crumiller won the award for 'Best Book - Instruction' for their 'World Chess Championship: Carlsen v. Karjakin'. Tim Harding won 'Best Book - Other' for 'British Chess Literature to 1914: A Handbook for Historians'. How does an Irish national writing on a British topic win an American award? Because publisher McFarland, who submitted the nomination, is located in North Carolina.

My post on '2018 Award Entries' showed four of the five entries for 'Best Chess Art', plus a link to the fifth. The winner was Paul Dickinson for his two-page Chess Life (CL) cover. Of the two 'Honorable Mentions', one deserved it, one didn't. Pasting chess pieces into the background of an ordinary drawing is not a noteworthy example of chess art -- what is acceptable for a cover, can be bad for an award.

For my favorite category, 'Best Chess Blog', the winner was not a blog, but a single blog post: Playing The Quintessential American Tournament: The 2017 World Open (chess.com) by Sam Copeland. Follow that link for another link to all of his blog posts. I would guess that Chess.com's 'Top Bloggers' is also a good source for other blogs and blog posts of merit. A 'Best Chess Blog' winner of yesteryear, John Hartmann (2015; see the link above), won 'Best Chess Column' for his CL 'Looks at Books'.

I always end these CJA award posts with a hearty, heartfelt 'Congratulations to all winners!'. This year is no exception. If you're interested in the current and planned activities of the CJA, see 2018 Meeting Minutes, although where and when it was held is a minor mystery.

Getting back to those two 'Special Achievement' awards that head the awards list:-

  • American Chess Magazine for 'All Four Issues', and
  • Peter Doggers for 'Yearlong FIDE Coverage'

Both are worthy of a follow-up post.

07 August 2018

August 1968 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, what did the two leading American chess magazines choose for their cover material?


Left: 'U.S.Junior Co-Champions Greg DeFotis and Norman Weinstein (Story next month)'
Right: 'Home Talent'

Just like last month's July 1968 'On the Cover', we'll use this blog's built-in time travel machine to examine CL's 'story next month'.

Chess Life

Norman Weinstein, a seventeen-year-old student at M.I.T., and Gregory DeFotis, a sixteen-year-old high school student from Chicago, tied for first place in the third annual United States Junior Championship. Both players went through the tournament with undefeated 5-2 scores and were declared co-champions. The tournament, an eight-player invitational round robin held under the auspices of the U. S. Chess Federation in cooperation with the Piatigorsky Foundation, was played July 15-22 in New York City.

For the 1967 U.S.Junior Champion, see September 1967 'On the Cover'.

Chess Review

After many pictures from abroad, we are turning to home talent. Here is another view of Arthur B. Bisguier, besides the cover, at simultaneous in Lubbock, Texas. He regained his oft-won Manhattan Chess Club Championship and topped the Great Plains Open in Lubbock. • Photos by Elata Ely, Avalanche Journal

CR's 'home talent' meant more than might be obvious. The CR masthead for August 1968 listed:-

  • Edited & Published by: I.A. Horowitz
  • Executive Editor: Jack Straley Battell
  • Managing Editor: Arthur B. Bisguier

Bisguier was first listed as 'Managing Editor' in March 1967. Before that he was one of several 'Contributing Editors'. For his previous cover appearance in this blog's monthly series, see the CR side of November 1966 'On the Cover'.

06 August 2018

'Deus X' [DeusX] by Albert Silver

In last week's post, Grobbing and Gaming, I tried to find more about DeusX, a new neural network (NN) engine announced for TCEC Season 13:-

The only relevant info I found was in the LCZero forum: What the heck is DeusX?. That question went unanswered, except for speculation about 'the internet majors' (like Google) and Shay Bushinsky (of Deep Junior fame).

While I was working on that post, the answer appeared elsewhere: Deus X – the Neural Network by Albert Silver powered by Leela Chess Zero (chessdom.com). Here's an embedded version of the video introduced on that page.


Deus X, the chess engine (interview) (26:53) • 'Published on Jul 30, 2018'

The description of the clip says,

Deus X, the chess engine by Albert Silver, is a new neural network that will be debuting this season in TCEC. Here is an interview with the author presenting his Neural Network.

The event, a quadruple round robin, can be followed on TCEC - Live Mode and is currently in the third stage. LCZero, Wasp, and DeusX are placed 1-2-3, within 1.5 points of each other. The rest of the field is 3.5 points behind DeusX. I'll have a longer report for my next post in the series.

05 August 2018

Chess with Two Cardinals

Last month in this long running series, Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I nearly threw in the towel. In A Problematic Month on eBay, I wrote,

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?

This month my short list had only one item, but it was not short on quality. Pictured below, it was titled 'Charles Schreiber, (1845-1903, French), "A Game of Chess", Oil on [canvas] Lot 160'; subtitled 'Part of a live auction event on Tuesday, Jul 17'; and sold for US $3250 after 20 bids.

The description said,

Seller's Estimate: USD 700 - 900; Charles Schreiber (1845-1903 French); "A Game of Chess"; Oil on canvas laid to canvas; Signed lower left: Ch. Schreiber, titled on the frame plaque; 15" H x 18" W

Condition Report • Visual: Generally good condition. Craquelure scattered throughout. A small spot of paint loss lower right.; Blacklight: Touch-up scattered throughout, including a 2" scattered line in the center and a .5" x 1.5" area lower left; Frame: 29" H x 32" W x 3.5" D.

I found another, similar painting by the artist, titled 'The Next Move'. For other works, see Charles Baptiste Schreiber (artnet.com). For some reason that escapes me, chess playing clerics were once a popular subject; see also Chess with a Cardinal (July 2015) on this blog.

02 August 2018

Daniel Freeman (1967-2018)

'Daniel Freeman was the co-founder of Chessgames.com (with Alberto A Artidiello) and the chief programmer and webmaster for Chessgames.com.' • The chess games of Daniel Freeman (chessgames.com)

RIP Daniel Freeman and thanks for providing a place where amateur chess historians from all over the globe could meet and share their passion for chess history. You did your job well and you were a true visionary of chess on the web.

31 July 2018

July Yahoos

It's that time of the month again, when we look at the chess stories that the Yahoo news aggregator dragged in over the previous month. Just like last month's June Yahoos, the July pickings are slim, but not invisible.

2018-07-13: Kentucky governor under fire after saying black kids playing chess 'not something you necessarily would have thought of' (yahoo.com). That's the Yahoo version of the story, which is just a stub -- a place to catch the comments that Yahoo is known for. For this story, there were 195 'reactions', as Yahoo likes to call its comment section.

2018-07-13: Kentucky governor under fire [...]' (thehill.com). That's the original version of the story. It started,

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is facing scrutiny after he appeared in a promotional video in which he seemed surprised that black schoolchildren play chess. In the video, which featured a chess club at a predominantly black middle school in Louisville, Ky., Bevin says the club is "not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town."

There are 100 ways to react positively to the kids' interest in chess. The governor's reaction isn't one of them.

2018-07-26: Marsh & McLennan's (MMC) Q2 Earnings Miss, Revenue in Line (finance.yahoo.com). The second screen capture above is a story that has nothing to do with chess, but I couldn't remember seeing anything like the stock chess image used to illustrate it. A King knocking over another King can be used to illustrate many ideas. An earnings miss -- 'Marsh & McLennan's Q2 results suffered from a rise in expense that outpaced revenue growth' -- stretches the imagination.

For the past few months I've been adding Google News chess stories to supplement the skimpy Yahoo offerings. On top of the July GM supertournaments -- Biel and Dortmund -- I thought these were noteworthy:-

Getting back to that story about the Kentucky governor, here are some of the 195 'reactions':-

  • 'One of the chess players should challenge Bevin to a game of chess and see how he makes out.'
  • 'I'm surprised anyone in Kentucky would play chess.'
  • 'This is one of the reasons why many African Americans, even with conservative views, don't support the Republican Party.'
  • 'And if you look closely enough, you can actually see some of the natives on this side of town using laptop PCs.'
  • 'Yo, Governor, some black folks are astronauts, some are doctors, dentists, and the list goes on.'
  • 'When people make comments like this, my response is usually, "You need to get out of the house more."'
  • 'People don't realize how little time their Congressmen spend mingling in the districts and communities that voted for them.'
  • 'Q: What's the state flower of Kentucky? A: The satellite dish.'
  • 'The TelePrompter: Never leave home without it.'
  • 'And guess what: they may grow up and run for President.'

Don't misunderstand me; I have relatives in Kentucky. Unfortunately, many other comments were overtly racist. Maybe the chess rule 'White always moves first' needs to be reviewed.

30 July 2018

Grobbing and Gaming

A couple of weeks ago, when I reported that Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 12, I wrote,

There were four openings where both engines won as White. [...] There was one opening where both engines won as Black.

I covered the first case last week in Four Fatal Openings, and I intended to cover the second case this week. When I started to gather the details about the opening where Black won both games, I was disappointed.

Games 45-46 (23.1-23.2)

A00: Grob: 1...d5
1.g4 d5
S-K: 2.e3 h5
K-S: 2.h3 h5

Two of the most sophisticated chess engines in the world running on one of the most powerful platforms available anywhere, only to show that the Grob is a lemon? I understand why the openings have to be dictated to the engines and I appreciate that two decisive games (1-0 & 0-1) give the same total score as two drawn games (1/2-1/2 & 1/2-1/2), but there must be better ways to prevent the engines from exchanging all of their pieces while following 25 moves of rock-solid theory. What's to prevent the organizers from dictating the moves 1.a4 a5 2. h4 h5, followed by four Rook lifts? Nothing. Just like there is nothing to prevent me from losing interest in artificial, uninteresting games.

Fortunately, today's post was saved by the announcement, TCEC Season 13 - the advance of the NNs (chessdom.com):-

Season 13 of the Top Chess Engine Championship is going to start this August 3rd. A total of 32 engines will compete for the title in the premier computer chess event. [...] For the first time ever the TCEC competition is going to see two NN engines competing. This will be Leela Chess Zero and DeusX. [...] The traditional chess engines will once again run on a 44 cores computer. The NN engines will be provided with 2 x GTX 1080 Ti GPU hardware. According to experts in the TCEC chat, this is approximately 35% of the power that Google supplied to Alpha Zero.

There are two terms here that I didn't understand: 'DeusX' and 'GTX 1080 Ti'. The first term is a mystery. After combing the resources used in Tracking Leela ('After the previous post, Finding Leela, I now know where to look to keep up with Leela's progress.'), the only relevant info I found was in the LCZero forum: What the heck is DeusX?. That question went unanswered, except for speculation about 'the internet majors' (like Google) and Shay Bushinsky (of Deep Junior fame). The second term led to answers like the following image.


GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Graphics Cards
(nvidia.com)

The fine print there says,

The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is NVIDIA's new flagship gaming GPU, based on the NVIDIA Pascal architecture. The latest addition to the ultimate gaming platform, this card is packed with extreme gaming horsepower, next-gen 11 Gbps GDDR5X memory, and a massive 11 GB frame buffer. #GameReady.' [...] GeForce GTX 10 Series graphics cards are powered by Pascal to deliver up to 3X the performance of previous-generation graphics cards, plus breakthrough gaming technologies and VR experiences.

That inevitably leads to more questions, but I'll just wait for the start of TCEC Season 13 before getting too far ahead of myself.

29 July 2018

Fiske's 'Chess in Iceland'

In this monthly series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), many of the posts -- like last month's The Sociology/Psychology/Philosophy of Chess (June 2018) -- have featured videos. Thanks to a recent post on Chess-books and Chess-players, which introduced the Open Library, I found several books relevant to the sociology of chess. Take, for example, Chess in Iceland and in Icelandic Literature, with Historical Notes on Other Table-games by Willard Fiske (openlibrary.org). A handful of posts on this blog have mentioned Fiske in passing, but no more; for example:-

  • Best of Batgirl (October 2013); 'Paul Morphy by Willard Fiske'; and
  • Davidson's Mismatch (April 2012); 'hard to accept Fiske's theory that the game was introduced [to Scandinavia] more or less directly from the East'

Wikipedia's page, Willard Fiske, informs,

Daniel Willard Fiske (1831–1904) was an American librarian and scholar, born at Ellisburg, New York. [...] Upon the opening of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York [1865], Fiske was named university librarian and professor in 1868. He made a reputation as an authority on the Northern European languages, and Icelandic language and culture in particular. [...] Fiske donated thousands of volumes to Cornell including a 1536 edition of the Divine Comedy that he purchased in April 1892 and directed to be sent directly to Cornell.

More about the 'Fiske Icelandic Collection' can be found at Icelandic and Old Norse History and Culture, 'unrivaled in its resources for the study of the medieval Nordic world'.

Getting back to Fiske's 'Chess in Iceland', a couple of excerpts from the first chapter set the tone for the rest of the book.

The island of Iceland is an anomaly and a marvel -- an anomaly in its natural history, for almost everywhere in its domain we find the living fierceness of volcanic heat coping with the death-like desolation of Arctic cold; and a marvel in its political history, which exhibits the spectacle of a pagan people, at an age preceding the morning of modern civilization on the mainland of Europe, building up, without any aid from the jurisprudence or polity of Rome, a complex but consistent code of laws, and a remarkable system of self-government, in which both the rights of the individual and the general good of the community were cautiously cared for. [...]

In the chronicles, the romances, the poetic productions of Iceland there are many allusions to chess. Certain of the romancers do not hesitate to put allusions to chess, or some similar game, into the mouth of all-father Odin himself. Archaeologists, who have made the island's antiquities an object of their research, travellers who have visited the country, and various native authors themselves are all agreed in the assertion that the game has been, for several centuries, esteemed and practiced in the land of the Geysers.

The Icelandic chess-nomenclature indicates -- as will he more particularly noted hereafter -- that a knowledge of the sport reached the island, at a very early day, by way of Great Britain, while the variations introduced into its practice -- such as giving different values to different sorts of checkmate -- show that it soon became a favorite winter-evening diversion in the farmsteads of the Northern land. From one of the best-known books of travel in Iceland, published in the last century, and the more trustworthy because its authors were natives of the soil they traversed, we are able to glean some particulars relative to the peculiarities of the Icelandic game.

Fiske was working on the book at the time of his death and it's not clear how much was left undone. At nearly 400 pages, it's a scholarly work along the same lines as H.J.R. Murray's 'History of Chess'.

27 July 2018

Chess Piece Recognition

After that digression for kudos to the Chess Programming Wiki (CPW), let's return to the series last seen The Limits of Image Recognition (June 2018). A problem particular to computer chess is to recognize the relevant portions of a chess board. CPW has a page on Piece Recognition, which it defines as

Piece Recognition, (Chess Board or Chess Position Recognition) • The ability of dedicated chess computers or chess playing robots to automatically recognize all the pieces on a chessboard, or in computer vision to convert an image of a real chessboard with pieces, or a chess diagram into a machine readable format specifying a chess position, such as Forsyth-Edwards Notation (FEN) or Extended Position Description (EPD).

Computer Vision • Piece recognition is an interesting topic in computer vision, machine learning and pattern recognition using one or more cameras along with digital image processing and object recognition, more recently supported by deep learning techniques as demonstrated by Daylen Yang with his Chess ID project.

We've already seen Daylen Yang on this blog in How Stockfish Works (September 2015; 'Daylen Yang, University of California at Berkeley'). That video introduced a long series which meandered through different topics until Chess Engine Summary (January 2016).

The CPW page on piece recognition points to a Daylen Yang article, Building Chess ID (medium.com; January 2016). Here is a summary of its main points, all taken from that article.

The first step to identifying chess pieces from a picture of a board is to detect the board and segment it into 64 little squares. [...] The next step is to identify the chess piece on each of the 64 squares.

Deep convolutional neural networks like GoogLeNet are pretty good at image recognition. What we can do is take a neural network that’s been trained on the ImageNet dataset and fine-tune it with our own data and labels. This process is called transfer learning. For this to work, though, I would need a ton of data: images of chess pieces along with their labels.

The pieces and their labels are '10,000+ images' structured something like the following chart.

The 'Chess ID' article continues,

With data in hand, it was time to train. Using the Caffe deep learning framework and starting with a pre-trained AlexNet (winner, ILSVRC 2012), the fine-tuned neural network was achieving 99% accuracy on the test set in no time. [...] I’ve made the data and the final model available on GitHub, so you can train your own models or deploy your own server.

The GitHub page is GitHub - daylen/chess-id: Board localization and piece recognition. Kudos to Daylen Yang for applying deep learning techniques to a small but important application involving chess.

26 July 2018

Chess Greetings

'♫ Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you! ♫' • The heat wave that dictated my previous post, A Chess Board Is a Stage, continues unabated, which gives me another chance to use those cheesy HTML symbols for music. In the 'Stage' post, I wrote,

I started to analyze my archive of chess images. One of the by-products of that analysis was to catalog series of related images.

For this current post I identified a series of ~20 chess images from eBay auctions in May 2010, all conducted by the same seller. Most of the images were for greeting cards, of which nearly a dozen used the 'Happy Birthday' theme.


The frame on the bottom right shows a typical image before I processed it. The image contains two cards and is rotated 90 degrees, as were most of the other images in the series. Only the bottom card is a 'Happy Birthday' greeting, although the top card showing the chimp playing chess is interesting in its own way. In the post that kicked off this series on my archive of chess images, An NN for Chess Images? (June 2018), I asked,

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.

Add to this multiple scenes in a larger image plus rotated images, and the specification for the NN is starting to get more complicated.

24 July 2018

A Chess Board Is a Stage

'♫ We're having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave ♫' • I've already used that lead on my chess960 blog -- see DGT960 Chess Clock (July 2010) -- where I embedded a video to avoid having to do too much work. Eight years later, in similar circumstances, let's have some caissart.

Last month, in An NN for Chess Images (June 2018), I started to analyze my archive of chess images. One of the by-products of that analysis was to catalog series of related images. For example, here is a subset of 12 related images that appeared on eBay in 2006.

The description said,

Game of Chess, Set of Drawings, Mixed Media • They all are pen and ink and black tea drawings on handmade paper. This collection of drawings is a result of my fascination by the game itself, its history. It is also a result of my love of history, art and literature and resentment to any war. This large body of work is constantly growing, despite of the fact that many of the drawings were sold during the years.

Chess is more than a game. A chess board resembles a stage. Chess pieces are symbolic of medieval royal court and army. Performances are played by certain rules. The game is so ancient, it possesses philosophical, poetic, and theatrical qualities.

Each drawing represents, not illustrates, a certain chess rule. "At all stages the player should plan ahead." "Two armies are mirror images of one another." [...]

The technique of drawing with black tea as a water based color is unique. It gives all shades of rich gold and brown I was looking for this project. This set was originally intended to be for a library or a study. The works are framed with this in mind.

The technique is archival. Several pieces from this set were published in a Naked Punch edition (London, 2006), with an anti-war article.

The 'plan ahead' rule is shown in the bottom right image. The drawings are all signed 'M.K.', but my notes don't identify the artist any further. Perhaps Naked Punch has further information.

23 July 2018

Four Fatal Openings

In my previous post in this series on chess engines, Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 12, I noted,

The openings were dictated by the TCEC organizers [...] Since all 50 openings were played once with each engine as White, it's possible to group openings based on their success characteristics. [In the table I developed:] There were four openings where both engines won as White.

The following set of diagrams show the final move dictated by the organizers in the four fatal opening sequences.

For each of those four variations, the following paragraphs give the opening ECO code and name assigned by the organizers, the opening moves that were dictated, and the first independent moves played by the engines -- Stockfish (S) & Komodo (K) -- through the move where they diverged.

Games 51-52 (26.1-26.2)

B78: Sicilian: Dragon, Yugoslav, Main Line, 12.h4 Nc4
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.O-O-O Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.h4 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 (diagram)
S-K: 14.Qd3
K-S: 14.h5

Games 55-56 (28.1-28.2)

C57: Two Knights: Traxler, 5.Bxf7+
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5.Bxf7+ Ke7 (diagram)
S-K: 6.Bc4 Qe8 7.Nc3
K-S: 6.Bc4 Qe8 7.c3

Games 89-90 (45.1-45.2)

A56: Benoni: Czech, 5.e4 Be7 6.g3 O-O 7.Bg2
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e5 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 Be7 6.g3 O-O 7.Bg2 (diagram)
S-K: 7...a6
K-S: 7...Na6

Games 95-96 (48.1-48.2)

B06: Modern: 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 5.Qd2 b5 6.f3 Nd7 7.h4 (diagram)
S-K: 7...h5 8.Nh3
K-S: 7...h5 8.a4

This is only the starting point for a real analysis. What characteristics of the diagrammed positions proved to be fatal to the losing engines? I'll leave this question for another time.

22 July 2018

Chess Engines for All Ages

Here's a relic from the early days of personal computing.


Chesmac, Finnish chess program, Design Museum, Helsinki, November 2017 © Flickr user hugovk under Creative Commons.

I've cropped out the museum's description on the left. It said,

Chesmac (1979)

Story: Created by Raimo Suonio as a project in his own spare time, the Chesmac chess game was Finland's first-ever commercial computer game. In 1979, Suonio happened to be in between jobs and he developed Chesmac for his own amusement in a little over a month for the Telmac, a Finnish kit-built computer of the late 1970s that didn't have much computing power. Although Suonio was not a professional game designer, he had the designer's curiosity to see if the Telmac TMC-1800 could manage the operations needed in a game of chess. It did, very slowly, but still. A classic was born.

Did you know that: Chesmac was a piece of utopia in its day. A machine that could think strategically with its own artificial intelligence. Issued on C-cassette, Chesmac was also a commercial success. An astounding 104 of them were sold from Rains Suonio's new place of work, the Topdata firm. This was a respectable figure in Finland in the 1970s and 1980s. Ironically enough, Suonio, the designer of the game, still hasn't become interested in chess.

Lead Designer: Raimo Suonio
Released by: Raimo Suonio / Topdata
Platform: Telmac TMC-1800
Format: C-cassette
Genre: Problem-solving game / single player

The screen says '37-35', which must be Chesmac notation for 'c7-c5'. Did the machine discover the Sicilian (1.e4 c5) on its own?

20 July 2018

Chess Programming Wiki

After the recent post, The Limits of Image Recognition (June 2018), I planned to do a followup post on image recognition involving chess boards and chess pieces, but I ran into a problem. The first page suggested by Google, Piece Recognition (chessprogramming.wikispaces.com), displayed a message, 'It's time to say farewell'.

I've used the Chess Programming wiki resource many times, including links from this blog -- see, for example, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977 (June 2016) -- and it would be a real loss to see it go. What is happening to it?

A page with the same title as the message, It's time for us to say farewell (blog.wikispaces.com), explains,

Wikispaces was founded in 2005 and has since been used by educators, companies and individuals across the globe. Unfortunately, the time has come where we have had to make the difficult business decision to end the Wikispaces service.

A chart on the same page displays the schedule.

As for the Chess Programming home page, chessprogramming - home, it says,

Announcement: Due to Wikispaces Site Closure, announced on February 12, 2018, Chess Programming Wiki, ends here on September 30, 2018, and we have been and are currently still working on converting to MediaWiki syntax including revisiting links and on moving efficiently to its new host at www.chessprogramming.org.

The page is signed,

Thanks for visiting our site. We hope you like the work we have done. Mark Lefler and the rest of the CPW team

Thank you, CPW team! I wish you the greatest success in converting your fantastic site.

19 July 2018

Chess Superfinals

Near the end of last year, in Engine-to-engine, Head-to-head (December 2017), I wrote,

One of these days I hope someone explains to me the difference between a superfinal and a final.

The question has been in the back of my mind ever since, so I decided to find out when the term 'superfinal' was first used for chess. I started by searching back issues of Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess, and quickly discovered that the terms 'superfinal' & 'super final' are used interchangeably; the search technique I used covered both. My search went back almost 20 years to TWIC 200:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 200 - 7th September 1998 by Mark Crowther

I could have gone back to the first TWIC, but during Crowther's early years he did not cover events as comprehensively as he does today. The first mention of 'superfinal' that I found was for the 2000 Miguel Najdorf Chess Festival. Crowther covered it in TWICs 305-308 and TWIC 322:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 308 - 2nd October 2000 by Mark Crowther
THE WEEK IN CHESS 322 - 8th January 2001 by Mark Crowther

An excerpt from that last referenced TWIC is shown below.

The next reference to 'superfinal', excluding a few minor events, was TWIC 499:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 499 31st May 2004 by Mark Crowther

The TWIC coverage of the event, the 57th Russian Championship Qualifiers, is shown above. Somewhat curiously, Crowther didn't use the term 'superfinal' when he reported on the main event later in the year. Other reports did use it, e.g. Super Final R11: Kasparov wins title by 1.5 points (chessbase.com; November 2004). Crowther only started using the term for the 58th Russian Championship (TWIC 580, December 2005).

None of this explains the difference between a superfinal and a final (I suspect it's a marketing ploy). There is also no guarantee that these usages were the first, although the Russian Championships are probably the reason why 'superfinal' gained wider use. The 57th Russian Championship (2004) was memorable for a number of other reasons. I'll cover those in a follow-up post.

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.

G.W.
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 as 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."

THOMAS EMERY
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 25.270.000.000 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.