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 was my favorite of the four, 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.