19 November 2018

Update on Two World Champions

Before I close the series on Catching Up with Engine Competitions (October 2018), there is one more event to document. Last week's post, Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 13, was left unfinished because the Chess.com event was still running. Today the site announced Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship Blitz:-

The highest-rated chess engine of all time added another title to its resume this week as Stockfish decisively won the Chess.com Computer Chess Championship 2 [CCC 2]: Blitz Battle. The victory comes six weeks after Stockfish won the first revamped CCC: Rapid Rumble in October.

Trailing Stockfish by a large margin, the other three engine finalists finished in the order Komodo, Leela (Lc0), Houdini. The announcement carried news about the next event:-

CCC 2: Blitz Battle will conclude with some bonus games before Chess.com begins CCC 3: Rapid Redux, an all-new championship event with the 16 top engines in the world and a time control of 30 minutes per game plus five seconds increment per move.

The PGN for all three finished stages of CCC2 is available via the same Chess.com page. With TCEC S14 already underway and CCC3 promised soon, the engine to engine competitions will carry on for the next few months.


Continuing with an older unfinished series, the overview of Carlsen's career, I went back to Carlsen's PGN 2017-18 (October 2018), and concatenated the World Champion's record for 2017-18 onto the record for his entire career. The result is available in the usual place, Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-). The PGN will be added soon.

18 November 2018

2018 Carlsen - Caruana, the Venue

Was last month's Chess and Cubofuturism (October 2018) the last post in this blog's long running Flickr series? When I signed in today to survey the chess items uploaded since the 'Cubofuturism' post, I received the following message:-

Free accounts will soon be limited to 1,000 photos or videos. Flickr isn’t Flickr without the contributions and participation of our free members, and we remain committed to a vibrant free offering. If you are a free member with more than 1,000 photos or videos, you will have ample time to upgrade to Pro (for 30% off your first year) or download your photos and videos.

On top of that, of the 300+ photos newly available in the last month, only two were interesting enough to add to my favorites list. Of those two, neither was suitable for today's post. If a photo doesn't tell a bigger story, it's just an interesting photo. What to do?

Google image search on 'chess holborn college'

I decided to look at images related to the venue for the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana being played in London. All the images shown above, plus the others that I cropped out, are part of a bigger story. For the original announcement about the choice of venue, see News about 2018 Carlsen - Caruana (August 2018), on my World Chess Championship blog.

16 November 2018

GPU Benchmarks

First I got some idea about GPU Pricing in last week's post. Then I got some idea about the AI engines' operating environment in this week's post, Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 13. Both the CCCC and the TCEC offer public information about the setups they use in support of the AI/NN engines.

Computer Chess Championship (chess.com):-

GPU: 4 x Tesla V100 (64 GB GPU memory)
CPU: Intel Xeon @ 2.70GHz
RAM: 256 GB

TCEC Season 14 (chessdom.com):-

GPU: 1 x 2080 ti + 1 x 2080
CPU: Quad Core i5 2600k
RAM: 16GB DDR3-2133

I've listed only the hardware that allows a comparison of the two setups. The V100s used by CCCC were first offered by Nvidia in 2017; the 2080s used by TCEC were first offered in 2018. How do they compare? Here's a chart from the same company that provided the numbers I used in 'GPU Pricing'.

October 2018: 2080 Ti TensorFlow GPU benchmarks - 2080 Ti vs V100 vs 1080 Ti vs Titan V (lambdalabs.com) • 'The 2080 Ti comes out on top as the best GPU in 2018 for training neural nets.'

Although the 2080s don't offer the same throughput as the V100, a cost/benefit comparison improves in favor of the 2080s when you factor in the price of the GPUs. Note that these numbers are for training the NNs listed to the right of the top chart. The performance of a system running a specific chess engine with its trained weights would be different.

15 November 2018

Chess @ 538.com

At the 2018 World Championship we've had four games, all draws, and the assembled journalists search for any scrap of info that might be considered newsworthy. For me, that means looking at the journalists. I ended the previous post, World Championship Yahoos, with,

It's the second time in a month that I've used FiveThirtyEight.com as a reference. The first was Out with the Old!, about the forced retirement of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Maybe I should give that news resource a deeper look.

The chess writer for 538.com is Oliver Roeder ('He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied game theory and political competition.'). His reports on games three and four demonstrate that he knows his chess:-

A unique feature of the reports is a graphic overiew of the match so far. Let's call it, 'How to summarize a World Championship match in 100.000 pixels or less'.

Match overview through game four (538.com)

We can easily see that Carlsen held a significant advantage in game one and that the success of the Black pieces in all games has been the main story so far. But what about that 'Biggest Blunder' in the headline for game four? Was Woody Harrelson knocking over pieces again? No, that pre-game excitement from the first game was overshadowed by a more sinister incident. The report went on to explain,

The day’s humdrum play was overshadowed by some excitement off the board, though. A chess-world controversy -- or at least what qualifies as one -- erupted. Before the game, the posh Saint Louis Chess Club posted, and quickly deleted, a YouTube video appearing to show aspects of Caruana’s pre-championship preparation sessions.

The report included a still shot of a computer screen where the image could be expanded to make everything on the screen readable. And, yes, it's the sort of information that might prove valuable to the opposition. Some of the less knowledgeable comments on the incident wondered, 'Why the fuss?' In brief, because match preparation is opening preparation, nothing more and nothing less -- how do I press for a quick advantage playing White and how do I avoid a quick knockout playing Black? A couple of old posts on this blog delved into the nuts and bolts:-

The resulting brouhaha convinced one respected chess journalist, GM Ian Rogers of Australia, to resign his job working with the American team: @GMIanRogers: Sadly parting ways with @ChessLifeOnline after a decade... (twitter.com):-

...I declined to accept edits to my round 4 World Ch'p report which would downplay responsibility of editors of the Caruana video, downplay the effect of the video on Caruana's chances, and omit the key image from the video.

On top of that, all of the videos produced by the St.Louis Chess Club disappeared from Youtube. Out of sight, out of mind? Hardly. Someone in St.Louis is guilty of an unprofessional lapse of judgement. That's the person who should resign -- not a journalist doing the job he was paid to do.

13 November 2018

World Championship Yahoos

In last month's wrapup of chess news reported by the mainstream press, October Yahoos, I wrote,

Let's hope that 'November Yahoos' will be filled with stories about next month's 2018 Carlsen - Caruana match.

No need to wait until end-November to survey the results. Under headlines like 'Trump's last-minute cancellation draws criticism' and 'Entire teams penalized after wild college football brawl', chess was the top story.

2018-11-10: The World Chess Championship Is Deadlocked After Game 2 (yahoo.com; FiveThirtyEight)

Heavy rain showers, a gentle breeze and 57 degrees [F = 14 degrees C] in London, the BBC reported this morning. The top American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana was unprepared for such weather, arriving for Game 2 of the World Chess Championship sporting a wet blazer. Never mind the sartorial dampness, however. He arrived excellently prepared for the chess.

Along with that main story, the accompanying stories were also about games one and two of the match.

2018-11-10: Chess stars draw again in world tournament (yahoo.com; AFP)

The second round of the 2018 World Chess Championship in London between three-time defending champion Magnus Carlsen and American Fabiano Caruana ended in a draw on Saturday. The two young chess stars, both under 30, have one point each after drawing their opening two games of the tournament

Almost all Yahoo stories have a comments section, and although the comments are often a mindboggling display of ignorance, sometimes they are on target. The story above continued, 'Italian prodigy Carlsen is seeking to cement his reputation as one of history's greatest chess players', and drew snorts of derision like 'Italian, Norwegian they're all the same'.

2018-11-09: World Chess Championship starts with Harrelson blunder (yahoo.com; Reuters)

World Chess Championship officials might rethink the role of ceremonial starter after Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson knocked over a king and moved the wrong pawn in a comical start to the 2018 event in London on Friday

That story gathered more than double the number of comments of the other two stories combined, stuff like:-

  • 'Why rethink? Woody was hired to alter the image a bit, and he did that. Also made the internet news, giving the competition a wider audience, if only briefly!'
  • 'The errors seems a little too convenient. He technically conceded the world championship on the first move. It's just a fun publicity stunt like announcing the wrong Miss Universe.'
  • 'Never knew Woody was a chess man.'

Looks like it's once again time to point out Woody Harrelson vs Garry Kasparov; "Cheers!"; Consultation (1999), Prague CZE (chessgames.com). The game started 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5, the same opening seen in another celebrity game, Boris Becker vs Garry Kasparov; CNN exhibition (2000); New York, NY (ditto).

Back to that first story, it's the second time in a month that I've used FiveThirtyEight.com as a reference. The first was Out with the Old!, about the forced retirement of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Maybe I should give that news resource a deeper look.

12 November 2018

Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 13 (and Everything Else)

In Catching Up with Engine Competitions (October 2018), I took a checkpoint on the progress of two major computer chess tournaments. What has happened in the four intervening weeks?


Stockfish beat Komodo +16-6=78 to win the TCEC Season 13 Superfinal. Only one opening resulted in a win for both engines, an Old Indian (1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 Bg4), played in games 85 and 86. For a report on the superfinal of the previous season, see Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 12 (July 2018).

In the TCEC Cup that was played before the S13 Superfinal started, Stockfish beat Houdini +1-0=7 in the final match of the knockout event. The two engines beat LC0 (Leela) and Komodo in the semifinal matches.

Details for both the Superfinal and the Cup, including PGN game scores and crosstables, are available in the TCEC Archive. The archive also covers TCEC previous seasons.


What about TCEC Season 14? It starts today: TCEC Season 14 – Let’s get ready to !boom (chessdom.com). The announcement began,

Season 14 of the Top Chess Engine Championship, the premier chess software competition, starts this Monday, November 12th, at 16:00 CET. It will involve the strongest chess programs and neural networks in the traditional division system. A total of 36 engines with ELO 3000+ will divided into five divisions and a Superfinal.

The action can be followed on TCEC - Live Computer Chess Broadcast.


Some of those 'C's stand for Chess.com. The others stand for Computer Chess Championship, as in CCC: Computer Chess Championship, which happens to be the main page for the event.

Chess.com hasn't issued any news updates since the links mentioned in my 'Catching Up' post. Stage three, the final stage of the CCCC2 blitz competition, started today. The results of stages one and two must be somewhere, although I couldn't find them. I could work out stage one for myself from the PGN file (NB: Similar format for 'ccc1/stage1', etc.):-


Four engines have reached the final stage -- Houdini, Komodo, Lc0, and Stockfish (which jumped quickly into the lead) -- the same four that reached the semifinal stage of the TCEC Cup. For an overview of the engines that competed in stage 1, here is a colorful graphic from Chess.com's most recent news item. The little green and yellow trophies show the number of TCEC/CCC(C) competitions won by the top engines.

I calculate that the games are played at the rate of about three games per hour, which means 72 games per day. With 600 games total, the event should be over some time next week.

11 November 2018

'The World Is Watching'

Today is the rest day after the first two games of the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match. For the blog's November video let's look at what's available from YouTube's World Chess channel, the organizer of the event. So far the channel offers:-

  • Opening Press Conference
  • Opening Gala
  • Game 1
  • Game 2

Here's the start of the first game, although you would never know it from the title or the description of the video.

World Chess Championship London 2018 (34:01) • 'Streamed live on Nov 9, 2018'

The description of the clip says only,

First 30 minutes of the World Chess Championship

There is no game number, no link to the official site, no explanation of why only the first 30 minutes are shown or how to watch the rest of the game. C'mon World Chess! You are supposed to be the experts in marketing chess to the entire world. You can do better than this. The banner in front of the players promises, 'The World Is Watching'. Make it happen!

If you've ever wondered about GM Caruana's nationality, he explained it during the 'Opening Press Conference'. In response to the question,

You have changed nationality a couple of times. Do you feel American or Italian or what do you feel?

he said,

I never changed nationalities. I had dual nationality from birth. I changed federations when I was 13. I was a kid, I was living in Europe, and this was mainly to get back to my roots -- my mother is Italian. When I changed back to the U.S. I was in my 20s. This was a personal decision and I feel connected to both countries. I would like to represent both, but only one is possible. I live in the United States and represent the U.S. now. I feel very much an American, but I cherish my Italian roots.

In case you're wondering, the official site is london2018.worldchess.com. The first two games both ended in draws. Good luck to both players!

09 November 2018

GPU Pricing

Let's say I want to buy one of those machines featured in my previous post, GPU Configurations. How much money will I have to shake out of the piggy bank?

The 'Lambda Blade' link I referenced leads to another page Blade : Customize. There are three configurations, shown below, where the model in the previous post is the 'Basic' version.

The pricing for the three models is:-

Basic • $20,788.00
Premium • $25,852.00
Max • $51,958.00
also: Customize

In other words, I can buy a new car or I can buy a 'Deep Learning' rig. I'm sure my wife would prefer a new car.

The 'Customize' option starts with the 'Premium' model and allows to add/subtract options to determine a final price. The numbers are consistent. If I decrease 'GPUs' and 'Memory' to arrive at the 'Basic' model, the price is the same for that model.

What exactly are the technical tradeoffs for the different prices? I'll look at that in another post.

08 November 2018

Match Tales from the Twittersphere

The much anticipated 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match starts tomorrow and journalistic protocol requires at least a perfunctory nod. What is Twitter saying about it?

On top of writing about the match itself, the Twitter angle gives me the chance to try another of the Algorithmia (AI?) services that I first used in From Black & White to Brown & Blue (October 2018). The particular service is Retrieve Tweets With Keyword (algorithmia.com). I fed it the three keywords 'chess carlsen caruana' and it spit out text examples of the 500 most recent tweets/retweets on the subject, in reverse chronological order, the earliest from yesterday. The 'retweets' aspect means that the same tweets are repeated over-and-over-and-over, most of which are a link to a source other than Twitter.

Of all the standalone tweets that I looked at, the most interesting is shown below. I initially tried to use the tweet embedded directly into this post, but the dimensions of the photo broke the blog container. I couldn't see a way to fix this quickly, so I resorted to a screen capture and shrank it.


As for linked articles, the Twittersphere gave me three from Chess.com:-

Of the non-chess sources flagged by Twitter, another handful appeared over-and-over-and-over:-

As for the oldest of the 500 tweets/retweets, the distinction goes to another article from Chess.com:-

As interesting as the Algorithmia exercise was, I could have saved a lot of time with a straight Twitter query:-


Next time I'll just do that.

06 November 2018

Chess in Antarctica

That's the South Pole in the crosshairs on the map of Antarctica. The word 'McMurdo' is to its left.

May 1964, Source unknown

The accompanying newspaper clipping said,

CHESS ON ICE • Static Stops Play

A chess tournament between Christchurch [New Zealand] players and Americans at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, had to be adjourned with 10 games only half-way through when radio conditions deteriorated yesterday afternoon.

The play was tapped out on teleprinters in the communications room at the American base at Harewood and on teleprinters at McMurdo Station. But as the sun sank lower the radio frequency had to be changed, and difficulties at the Antarctic end began to slow up the games. The Americans suggested an adjournment to Sunday, June 14.

"It's a bit hard to tell," said Mr. A. S. Hollander, president of the Canterbury Chess Club, "but it looks as if we are leading." Chess is one of the very few ways in which the winter population of McMurdo Sound can participate in the life of the outside world, and Mr. Hollander thinks the Americans would like to play a lot more chess in future. "I'm sure there'll be a return match at least," he said.

My guess is that the photo was taken on the New Zealand side of the radio match. Why are there two boards in front of each player?

05 November 2018

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

In last week's post, Happy 10th Anniversary, Stockfish!, I noted,

The name of choice for the commemorative release was 'Stockfish X', but with only a few days to go, it doesn't look like anything special is going to happen.

And nothing did happen. Let's continue with the Stockfish forum, FishCooking -- first seen on this blog three years ago in Chess Engines : FishCooking (October 2015) -- and look at some of the recent posts that attracted discussion from the Stockfish community *and* that provide some insight into the group's working methods. First up are a couple of forum posts about selecting a version for the TCEC final match, which is currently underway and nearing its conclusion.

  • 2018-10-20: Executable for TCEC superfinal? • 'Apparently we haven't submitted an update to play in the TCEC Superfinal yet. I suspect it is too late now, but perhaps the senior devs could prepare one or comment on whether the e.g. abrok one should be used and contact TCEC?'

  • 2018-10-21: Request for binary for TCEC superfinal • Marco Costalba: 'We have few hours left before TCEC deadline is met to provide a binary for the superfinal. We would need a fast binary of the current master within this evening (European time) and I will send to TCEC people. If not, we will fallback on current TCEC binary. If someone has a better idea, please share it.'

The open source nature of Stockfish development presents many challenges.

  • 2018-10-17: Discussion for optimizing methodology • 'SF has been able to progress with the same 7(?) year old recipe and without doubt still is, but in my opinion with some adjustments in accordance to its current situation and needs it can be helped tremendously'

A technical issue related to evaluation has been under investigation for months.

  • 2018-10-03: First results of contempt tests • 'Actually on STC it seems that optimal contempt value is somewhere between 30 and 70. I will try to build the same diagram for LTC and if it shows the same stuff then we can probably conclude that for TCEC divP optimal value of contempt will be much higher than default 21 - closer to 50 because field there is much weaker than SF9, in fact, every single engine there is weaker than SF9.'

As those excerpts show, the forum members use so many acronyms and so much jargon that they might easily dissuade casual chess engine fans from trying to understand what they are discussing. Here are a few terms that are worth knowing. These first two acronyms I covered in a recent post titled Catching Up with Engine Competitions (October 2018):-

CCCC = Chess.com Computer Chess Championship
TCEC = Top [formerly 'Thoresen'] Chess Engines Competition

The next two acronyms are used throughout the forum. If you don't know what they mean, there will be many discussions that you won't understand. The terms are key elements of a testing strategy that starts with STC games and, if no problems are discovered, continues with LTC games.

STC = Short time control
LTC = Long time control

This next term is not specific to chess.

SPRT = Sequential Probability Ratio Test

It is a type of statistical analysis that is explained in Wikipedia's Sequential probability ratio test. The next acronym stems from a web domain that is used for administration, e.g. Stockfish Development Versions.

ABROK = abrok.eu

The word 'contempt' in the last thread listed above is a current topic of experimentation. In Contempt Factor (chessprogramming.org), the wiki defines it as:-

The Contempt Factor reflects the estimated superiority/inferiority of the program over its opponent. The Contempt factor is assigned as draw score to avoid (early) draws against apparently weaker opponents, or to prefer draws versus stronger opponents otherwise.

In other words, even if the evaluation shows a small advantage for the opponent, treat it as equality (a 0.00 evaluation). The typical debate is about what numerical value should be used. If it's too large, you risk losing drawn games; if too small, you draw games that you might win.

Another thread that has been running for nearly too years points to a useful tool for understanding Stockfish evaluations.

  • 2017-01-22: "Stockfish Evaluation Guide" tool • 'I developed tool where you can investigate each part of Stockfish static evaluation function. It is standalone single HTML page with javascript. Every evaluation term is rewritten in single small javascript function. You can setup any position with FEN or by moving pieces on chessboard and see how evaluation is computed and what is result and if possible to attach score to individal squares it is visualized on chessboard.'

The thread eventually points to Main evaluation (hxim.github.io). If I had the time, I would definitely take a closer look at it. I could say the same for many of the threads in the FishCooking forum.

04 November 2018

Elegant 19th Century Austrians

For this November edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), my first choice would have been a painting titled 'Charles Schreiber, 1845-1903 French, "A Game of Chess" Oil'. Then I realized that it was exactly the same item that I featured three months ago in Chess with Two Cardinals (August 2018) -- same title, same description. This time the painting sold for US $1500 after one bid.

Instead of the cardinals for a second time, I picked the painting shown below. Titled 'A Game of Chess Antique Genre Oil Painting Josef Morgan (Austrian, 1839–1898)', subtitled 'Attributed to Morgan - Signed with Initials - Inscribed', it sold for GBP 620.00 ('approximately US $803.71', according to eBay) after receiving 37 bids from 14 bidders.

The description added little to the information given in the title:-

A very fine 19th century genre painting depicting an elegantly dressed couple playing chess in an interior which is presumably the work of Austrian artist Josef Morgan (Austrian, 1839–1898).

The frame (not shown here) carried a small plaque, 'J. Morgan 1894'. Another variant of the name is Jozef Belohlawek Morgan. Whatever the artist's real identity might be, we have another reminder that Chess Paintings Require Dogs (April 2011).

02 November 2018

GPU Configurations

In my previous post, GPU Specifications, I closed with:-

The emphasis in the video is on gaming, but the connection with AI is clear enough. I'll look at that in my next post.

This led me to a page, Deep Learning Server - 8x GPUs (lambdalabs.com), about a specific product, called the 'Lambda Blade'. The essence of the product is captured in the following image, the physical machine on the left, its component list on the right.

The essence of the 'What's Inside' column is repeated below. The small print in the image lists options for upgrading this basic configuration.

OS: Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic)
GPUs: 8 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
CPUs: 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2650 (12 cores, 30M Cache, 2.20 GHz)

This basic introduction leads to a 'Customize' page, which I'll look at in my next post.

01 November 2018

November 1968 'On the Cover'

Chess magazine covers aren't reserved exclusively for World Champions and top grandmasters. Sometimes they feature prominent members of the B-team. Here we have two of them for the same month.

Left: 'I.S. Turover, "The Great Chess Lover"'
Right: 'Artist in Chess'

Chess Life

Last month's October 1968 'On the Cover', featured a report by TD George Koltanowski on the 1968 U.S. Open. This month's cover led to a continuation of that report.

Attending the U.S. Open at Snowmass from the start to the bitter end was none other than the "Grand old Man" (if I said "young" I would be more correct), I.S. Turover of Washington, D.C. The septuagenarian was in the thick of things, no matter at what time the games were adjourned in the evening or continued in the morning. And when the masters assembled at the special dinner given by I.S., we heard wonderful tales of the chess past from E. Schuyler Jackson of New York and from I.S. himself. Here's one of them:

The tale, omitted here, was a story about Turover meeting Alekhine and his wife.

I.S. Turover was born in the same city as M. Najdorf, in [Warsaw] Poland, and came to New York in 1912, where he played in his first tournament in 1913. At 17, he won the Championship of Washington, D.C. He won it altogether three times, gaining permanent possession of the Washington Post Trophy, retiring undefeated in 1928!

In business, he started as a jack-of-all-trades, and then started making good in the lumber business. Although he was blessed with success, he never forgot his great love: chess. Though well known in all charitable and civic circles as a great donor and supporter, he also supports chess. Only recently he participated in the sponsorship of Bobby Fischer's trip to the Natanya [Netanya] tournament in Israel, and he accompanied Bobby to the event.

Chess Review

Marcel Duchamp died at 81 last October 1st, in Paris. In the art world, he became the "stormy petrel," much as Nimzovich had been in chess, taking a leading part in rebellion against established conventions and beliefs and in promoting the skeptical school of Dadaism. As of today, however, he holds a revered place as a prophet of and leader in most or the recent experiments in art forms. In consequence, his obituaries have been impressive and featured as front-page news in the papers.

Most of the obituaries carry Duchamp's half-serious statement that he gave up painting for chess. In chess, he was a quiet and genial figure, playing a strong game and active mainly in New York state chess circles and in the London Terrace Chess Club in New York city. Duchamp was a Frenchman, became an American citizen; but, in art and in chess, he was truly international. • Photo by courtesy of the New York Times

This Chess Review would be the first issue of the last 12 months of the publication's existence.