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?