25 March 2019

TCEC S15 Div3 Finishes; CCC7 Starts

Another Monday, another look at the top-two ongoing engine competitions. I'll summarize last week's report, TCEC S15 Div4 Finishes; Stockfish Wins CCC6, with:-

TCEC: S15 division 3 is currently underway. [...] The AI/NN engine AllieStein (Allie + Stein) was one of the two qualifying [from division 4]. • CCC6: According to reports on other sites, the site is preparing CCC7. In the meantime, it is conducting the 'Bongcloud Bonus (10|10)'.

TCEC: This week's situation is an echo of last week's: S15 division 2 is currently underway. The AI/NN engine AllieStein was one of two qualifying from division 3. With the event nearing the 3/4 mark, AllieStein is in second place.

CCC: The Bongcloud event, a thematic opening tournament using 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2 as the first moves, finished as expected. White managed to draw a few games, which determined the final ranking shown in the following diagram. Chess is a game of logic and 2.Ke2 is a weak attempt to defy that logic. All other things being equal, poor moves lead to a loss.

Chess.com issued a report on CCC6:-

The same report outlined the plan for CCC7.

The CCC7 field includes the "big four" engines of Stockfish, Lc0, Houdini and Komodo, and adds three more neural-network engines that are expected to challenge for the finals in Antifish, Leelenstein and Allie.

That makes four AI/NN engines: Lc0, Antifish, Leelenstein and, Allie. The report continued,

Stage one of CCC7 is a 24-player round-robin, where each engine will play every other engine three times as White and three times as Black. The top four engines from stage one will advance to a 100x round-robin final stage.

Four AI/NN engines, four places in the CCC7 final stage. This is an event worth watching.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

24 March 2019

Chess and Gender Lines

The last two posts in this series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) have been about a book, 'Players and Pawns' (January 2019; Gary Alan Fine), and about a drawing, Dagmar and Strange Ebbesen (February 2019; 'chess as an accessory to legend'). It's time for a video. The recent Cairns Cup provided plenty of material.

For the first time, the Saint Louis Chess Club will host the Cairns Cup, an elite level tournament for the top female players from around the world. Inspired by its mission to further promote the game of chess to women and girls, the Chess Club aptly chose the name Cairns Cup in honor of co-founder Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield’s maiden name. Fans can look forward to a chess tournament similar in style to the prestigious Sinquefield Cup with the ten best female players from around the world competing in the Chess Club’s world-renowned facility for the $150,000 prize fund.

That introduction is from 2019 Cairns Cup (uschesschamps.com; why that domain?). For the tournament results see Cairns Cup 2019 (theweekinchess.com):-

The 1st Cairns Cup was a women's tournament in Saint Louis that took place 5th to 15th February. 2019. [...] Valentina Gunina drew against her closest rival Alexandra Kosteniuk in the final round to take clear first place.

Youtube channel Saint Louis Chess Club released dozens of videos related to the event.

2019 Cairns Cup: Is Chess Sexist? (10:03) • 'Published on Feb 15, 2019'

The video's description explained,

Before the 2019 Cairns Cup, IM Tania Sachdev and WGM Jennifer Shahade discuss sexism in chess and why gender lines exist in the game,

This topic is one of the most awkward that chess has to offer and I need to gird my loins before wading further into it. In the meantime, other videos about the same event can be found via Youtube search STLChessClub query=cairns.

22 March 2019

Le Palamede

After Berliner 'Schachzeitung', where...

I discovered that various 19th century chess periodicals were available via Google Books. My first effort concentrated on 'Schachzeitung'.

...my second effort concentrated on 'Palamede'. From Di Felice, 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008':-

1778. Palamède (Le) : Revue Mensuelle des Échecs et Autres Jeux (1836–1847) Vol.1 (1836)–Vol.4 (1839); New Series Vol.1 (1842)–Vol.7 (1847). Monthly. Editors Joseph Mery and Louis Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1936–39), Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant (1842–47). Publisher Au Bureau de la Revue. Paris. France. Illus., ports., cm.21.5 x 14, and from 1842 cm.24.5 x 16.5. Magazine. General. French. Subtitle varies "Revue Mensuelle des Échecs," "Revue Mensuelle des Jeux."

La Bourdonnais' death in December 1840 was undoubtedly related to the gap between the series. All 11 volumes from the two series are available via Google Books, although the last two volumes of the first series are combined into a single PDF file. From Wikipedia's Le Palamède:-

Le Palamède was the world's first periodical devoted to the game of chess. It was founded in France in 1836 by Louis-Charles Mahé de la Bourdonnais, who is often considered to have been an unofficial world chess champion. It ceased publication in 1839, but was revived in December 1841 by Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant, who continued publishing it until the end of 1847.

The Wikipedia page uses an illlustration similar to the one I created for this post.

Left: S01V01, 1836; Right: S02V01, 1842

What does Palamede mean? From Wikipedia's Palamedes (mythology):-

In Greek mythology, Palamedes was the son of Nauplius and Clymene. He joined the Greeks in the expedition against Troy. Pausanias in his Description of Greece says that in Corinth is a Temple of Fortune in which Palamedes dedicated the dice that he had invented.

Wikipédia's page in French, Palamède (mythologie), expands on the dice theme:-

Palamède est l’inventeur mythique du jeu d’échecs, de l’arithmétique, des jeux de dés et des signaux de feu servant à transmettre un message; et Théophraste dit Palamède inventeur des lettres et des chiffres. => 'Palamède is the mythical inventor of the game of chess...'

The first time I visited the Royal Library (Koninklijke Bibliotheek; KB) in The Hague, the stack for the chess collection was open to the public. I picked up the bound copies of Palamède, flipped through them, and thought how useful it would be to have the time to examine them in depth. Afterwards the chess collection was closed to the public, but much of its content became accessible through Google Books. Will I now find the time to examine the Palamède volumes?

21 March 2019

Chess Playing Celebrities

The gist of a recent post, Celebrity Chess Players, was something like this:-

Curious about which chess players have celebrity status, I asked the oracle. It told me which celebrities play chess. [Long detour...] I still don't know which chess players have celebrity status. Maybe none of them do.

Later I went back to the oracle and asked the same question, looking this time for pictures. The oracle's first page looked like this:-

Google image search on 'chess celebrities'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '7' (from left to right).]

The last time I constructed a post on a similar visual foundation was Chess and Impressionism (September 2018). My technique worked well enough then, so I'll use it once again. As so often happens with any search on images, many of the results are from Pinterest. One page, 10 Best celebrities playing chess images (pinterest.com), provides two images -- B1 and B6 -- and three other Pinterest pages provide one each.

Those five Pinterest pages are matched by the same number from Bill Wall. B2 leads to Celebrities, Movies, and Chess 1 (chessmaniac.com), the first in a series of four pages that provide two more thumbnails in the Google composite: A3 and B5. A6 leads to the same writer and the same site in Celebrities Who Play Chess (humor). The inimitable Bill Wall also shows up in A2, which leads to Celebrities and Chess (chess.com).

A1 leads to another Chess.com page, Can You Win Our Fake Chess Celebrity Contest?, that gave me a couple of good laughs. Less of a laugh and more of a gaffe is in C5, Woody Harrelson’s major flub at World Chess Championship (besttvnews.com). I covered the Harrelson incident in a post last year, World Championship Yahoos (November 2018).

What about chess players who have celebrity status? Vishy Anand appears in A5, which leads to London Chess Classic 2013: The Celebrities Attack! (chessib.com; 'DJ Alex Zane of England and former World Chess Champion grandmaster Viswanathan Anand of India'). The same event appears in one other thumbnail, C3.

In C1, every keen chess player recognizes Magnus Carlsen, but who are those other guys? The referenced page is 10 Celebrities With Pretty Strange Hobbies, and the photo is captioned 'Red Hot Chili Peppers – Chess Masters'. Magnus doesn't get a mention, although he's conducting a small simul. Granted he was younger then, but even today does he have the same name/face recognition from the general public as do Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov?

19 March 2019

Wilhelm Hanstein, Schachzeitung

Continuing with a recent post, Berliner 'Schachzeitung', I wrote,

I discovered that various 19th century chess periodicals were available via Google Books. My first effort concentrated on 'Schachzeitung', which, according to Di Felice's 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008', was published during 26 years.

There is such an enormous amount of material in these 'Schachzeitung' volumes that I can do little more than examine an occasional curiosity. For example, the image below left shows one of the first pages in volume 5, 1850. The signature says, 'W.Hanstein'. The image on the right is the first page of his obituary. I've done so little work on this particular volume that I'm not even sure in what month the obituary was published. Based on the PDF page number (which is p.337 in the original volume) and on other visual clues, I guess it's the first page of the November 1850 issue.

Schachzeitung [v05; 1850], PDF p.8 & p.359

In Wilhelm Hanstein, Wikipedia informs,

Wilhelm Hanstein (3 August 1811 in Berlin – 14 October 1850 in Magdeburg) was a German chess player and writer. Hanstein was one of the Berlin Pleiades. He helped found Berliner Schachzeitung, later to become Deutsche Schachzeitung. He was a civil servant.

Those are the first three of the five sentences on the Wikipedia page. Hanstein's obituary in Schachzeitung is 13 pages long.

What does the obituary say? My knowledge of the German language isn't sufficient to translate the original text, so I turned to some aids. First I ran the initial paragraph of the PDF scan through an OCR conversion. Then I ran the OCR output text through Google Translate. Here's what I got:-

A hard blow hit us! - As in the narrower
circles of friends, so also in the common fatherland,
yes we can say in Europe and over the ocean, the
news of this loss in each of the great master,
knew the sensible poet, the deepest conscience
he egen.

To facilitate comparison, the line breaks correspond to the original German text. The paragraph makes some sense until the last line, where the phrase 'er egen' is translated as 'he egen'. In fact, 'er egen' is undoubtedly a single word where the third letter is missing from the PDF scan. For some reason, missing characters occur frequently, not only in the Schachzeitung scans, but in other scans that have nothing to do with chess. Add this to the (long) list of things that can go wrong with digitized documents. Also add 'Pleiades' to the list of topics for future Schachzeitung posts.


Later: Re 'I guess it's the first page of the November 1850 issue', if I had checked the table of contents, which is separated into months, I would have seen that the obituary was the first page of the October 1850 issue. I excluded this possibility because Hanstein died 14 October 1850. He was only 39 years old.

18 March 2019

TCEC S15 Div4 Finishes; Stockfish Wins CCC6

In last week's post on two top ongoing engine competitions, TCEC S15, CCC6 S3 : Both Underway, the title hinted that both events were just getting started.

TCEC: The first event, 'S15 - Division 4a', has already finished and 'Division 4b' is underway. • CCC6: The 200-game [final] match started two days ago and is moving quickly, with about 1/4 of the games already finished.

A week is a long time in an engine tournament and those stages have finished and morphed into other events.

TCEC: TCEC S15 division 3 is currently underway. The two top placed engines in divisions 4a and 4b all met in a playoff, from which the two top engines qualified into division 3. The AI/NN engine AllieStein (Allie + Stein) was one of the two qualifying. The TCEC also published a wrapup report on S14:-

TCEC deserves credit for setting the standard in engine competitions.

CCC: Just as in the latest TCEC final (see the February post, Stockfish Wins TCEC S14) Stockfish edged Leela in the CCC6 final match. The following chart shows the game-by-game result of the match (10 rows with 20 games per row) from the Stockfish point of view.

Stockfish score: +19-16=165 (101.5-98.5)

In the two days since the match ended, the chart is the only official record published by Chess.com. Let's hope the match PGN will also be made available.

According to reports on other sites, the site is preparing CCC7. In the meantime, it is conducting the 'Bongcloud Bonus (10|10)', where ten top engines are forced to start the game with 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2. Ugh! Which engine will achieve the most draws as White?

I'm a big fan of unorthodox openings, but attacking with the King on the second move is void of interest. Since there are so many better ideas for a thematic tournament, you have to ask what the organizers were smoking.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the main events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

17 March 2019

Stock Post

As far as I can tell, stock chess photos are mainly used to illustrate articles that have nothing to do with chess, except through an indirect reference. 'To avoid checkmating your budget, ...', stuff like that.

Close up of knight chess figure on white background © Flickr user Marco Verch under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Stock Photos / Fotos Download • Please leave a comment and add my picture to your favourites • Thanks and greetings from Cologne, Germany

The photographer also added a comment that showed more stock photos, some of them having nothing to do with chess. I added the photo to my favorites, but decided against leaving a comment. When I first started this Flickr series, I routinely added a comment to the original photo with a link to my post. I can't remember why I stopped.

15 March 2019

Berliner 'Schachzeitung'

After last week's Closing an AI/NN Chapter, I returned to last month's Down the Rabbit Hole, where I discovered that various 19th century chess periodicals were available via Google Books. My first effort concentrated on 'Schachzeitung', which, according to Di Felice's 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008', was published during 26 years:-

2321. Schachzeitung: In Monatl (1846–1871) Organization Berliner Schachgesellschaft. Vol.1 (1846)– Vol.26, no.12 (Dec 1871).

In a related post, 'On Anderssen' (February 2019), I mentioned,

So far I've collected 23 of the first 26 annual editions of Schachzeitung (1846-1871).

I eventually located the three missing volumes, meaning that Google Books has the complete series. Here is the title page and the first page of the table of contents (TOC) for the first volume. Publishing started in July 1846.

As useful as these magazines are for documenting the development of chess in the mid-19th century, they are not perfect. Some problems were introduced when the individual issues were initially published (there are very few dates to confirm the period covered) and others were introduced when the issues were bound into an annual volume (wrong dates, incorrect TOCs). Other problems arose during the scanning process (blurred or missing pages). Google supplies only minimum descriptions, sometimes wrong, to identify scanned files and only a visual check of a document can determine its true content.

Fortunately there are multiple scanned copies of many documents, gathered from different physical libraries around the world. If one scan turns out to be bad, another is often available. While I was collecting the 26 volumes of the Berliner Schachgesellschaft's 'Schachzeitung', I noted other periodicals having 'Schachzeitung' in their title. I'll cover these in another post.

14 March 2019

Celebrity Chess Players

Curious about which chess players have celebrity status, I asked the oracle. It told me which celebrities play chess. It also drew a picture for me, captured below.

Google search on 'chess celebrities'

That link goes to Chess Playing Celebrities (imdb.com), where 50 people are listed. Some of them I've never heard of, but most are bona fide celebrities. Beneath the search box displayed above is some small print that says, '(?) About this result', and that leads to Featured snippets in search - Search Console Help (support.google.com). There I learned,

When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.

So that box is called a search 'snippet'. The page also explains how page owners can prevent their content from appearing in snippets -- a copyright notice is not sufficient -- and ends with a Q&A exchange:-

Q: Is this part of Knowledge Graph? • A: No, this is a normal search result, emphasized with special layout.'

Knowledge Graph? It turns out it's the box that Google displays to the right on the first page of search results, so that you don't have to click on any of the results. Wikipedia starts its explanation of Knowledge Graph by saying,

The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google and its services to enhance its search engine's results with information gathered from a variety of sources. The information is presented to users in an infobox next to the search results.

The article goes on to complain that this particular Google feature leads to 'Declining Wikipedia article readerships'. So Wikipedia takes content from all over the web and Google takes content from Wikipedia and no one goes to the original content. Is there no honor among thieves?

Meanwhile, I still don't know which chess players have celebrity status. Maybe none of them do.

12 March 2019

A Not So Googly Gadget

A few months ago, in a post titled A Googly Gadget (October 2018) on my chess960 blog, I wrote about a Google search result called 'Your Site on Google'. Everything I wrote about it is still true and I won't repeat it here, but this week I received the same result for a search on 'chess'. The following image captures what it looks like.

Google search on 'chess'

I know that chess960 is a very small topic and I wasn't too surprised to see my site had a search presence there. Chess is a much larger topic, with thousands of relevant pages, and I'm certain that my site isn't appearing for a simple query on 'chess'. It might appear for 'origin of chess' or 'chess setup', but not for 'chess'. The most important info in the image above says,

See how your site has been showing for this query for the past 90 days and compare to the previous 90 days:
- Clicks 3
- Impressions 116
- Average position 9,7

'Average position 9,7' means that the site is shown on the first page of results. That's where you normally see big chess sites like chess.com, wikipedia.org/chess, lichess.org, etc. etc. Little sites like mine are buried many pages deep, if they show up at all. I double checked this by clicking to the second page of results, the third, etc. etc., and, as I expected, there was no trace of my pages. The results stopped at 17 pages, where I received the message,

In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 170 already displayed.

That sort of message is normally shown at the end of queries that produce only a few pages of results. Now we go from the first page ('About 262.000.000 results') to the last page ('Page 17 of about 168 results') with a few million pages ignored along the way. Have I stumbled on a temporary discrepancy or has Google changed something fundamental to its search?

11 March 2019

TCEC S15, CCC6 S3 : Both Underway

In last week's post, TCEC S14/S15 Interlude; CCC6 S2 Wrapping Up, we left the two ongoing engine-to-engine competitions both preparing for their respective next stages. What has happened since then?

TCEC: In the 'S14/S15 Interlude' segment of the post I mentioned 'three short competitions', aka bonus events, that were conducted between the end of S14 and the start of S15:-

The first event was a 48-game three-way match that lasted a day or so. • The second event was a 240-game four-way round robin featuring the four top engines: Houdini, Komodo, Leela (LCZero), Stockfish. I couldn't find a final crosstable for the event, although the final PGN is available in the TCEC archive. • The third event was a 100-game match between Stockfish and Leela that lasted about three days.

It turned out that I was referring to an old archive, one that uses the site's old GUI. A new archive, based on the new GUI, is at tcecbeta.club/archive, under 'Seasons', and has all of the info that I was looking for last week. I added the new archive link to the 'TCEC/CCC Links' tab at the top of this page. For the S15 kickoff report from TCEC, see

The report includes a list of competitors for each stage of the new season. The first event, 'S15 - Division 4a', has already finished and 'Division 4b' is underway.

CCC: Chess.com issued a report on the current status of its CCC:-

The 200-game match started two days ago and is moving quickly, with about 1/4 of the games already finished. The two engines, Stockfish and Leela (Lc0), are running neck-and-neck.

10 March 2019

Mesmerized by Ratings

Maybe it's the music, but this video is about as mesmerizing a chess video as I've ever seen.

Top 20 Best Chess Players Ranking History, 2000-2019 (10:13) • 'Published on Feb 25, 2019'

With more than 94.000 views, 1200 likes, and 378 comments, the subject obviously hit a pleasure center. The description said,

In this video we rank the best chess players in the world according to their FIDE chess ratings from 2000-2019. This list includes famous chess players like Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov [and] Fabiano Caruana.

Of the many notable comments, I liked this one best (besides 'I still adore Mikhail Tal and Rashid Nbdshbfheqrdinov'):-

There are three types of players in this list...
1. Absolute domination
2. Longevity
3. Sudden rise and fall

Kasparov starts out at no.1. At about 1:50 (a year after his retirement) he drops off the chart completely, replaced first by Topalov, then by Anand, then Topalov again. Carlsen appears at about 3:00 and, after a brief tussle with Anand, stays there. He's been there for nine years and could easily be there for another nine.

08 March 2019

Closing an AI/NN Chapter

It's finally time to close the AI/NN series that I've been running for the last five months. It started with a look at Leela (aka LCzero, LC0).

That was interrrupted by a staged sequence of promotions that started during the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana match (London, XI, 2018), in DeepMind's backyard.

The conversation first turned to AlphaZero itself...

...then turned to a well-timed book about AlphaZero.

Finally I examined a component of the emerging engine technology that I hadn't previously understood.

Because the AI/NN chess engine evolution is destined to continue, I can follow it via two world class engine-vs-engine competitions, seen earlier this week in TCEC S14/S15; CCC6 S2. I now want to jump from the 21st century to the 19th century. The same technologies that are driving the evolution of chess engines are also opening doors into the past.

07 March 2019

Poetic Versatility

The hardest aspect of daily blogging is coming up with the inspiration for each post. Sometimes the ideas just come from elsewhere, like magic.

Greetings from Australia, Mark. - I am a chess player and published poet, who likes to be rather incognito. If you like my chess poems below, feel free to publish them on your blog or wherever. - Good wishes from Bob Cowley.

No need to embellish the poems with unnecessary verbiage. Here is the first one.

pieces dance
in changing patterns;
drama, intrigue and mystery
for those who know

Since the web is a visual medium, I needed an image. This is a suitable task for Creative Commons.

Opposing Pieces © Flickr user Kate Russell under Creative Commons.

My Australian correspondent sent three poems. Here are the other two.

Good chess players
can their clarity
at the board
pierce life's fogs
away from it?
they wonder also

Veteran chess
too old to play well?
the abyss looms -
but wait;
a lucky escape
and maybe persistence
can still find treasure

Last week, in 'On Anderssen', I used a 19th century German poem to make a point. Poetry, like photography, is amazingly versatile.

05 March 2019

March 1969 'On the Cover'

From the March 1964 'On the Cover' ('What was happening in the U.S. chess press 50 years ago?') through last month's February 1969 'On the Cover', this post marks the fifth anniversary of the monthly 'On the Cover' series.

Left: 'Shooting(?) for No.3; Tigran Petrosian Meets Boris Spassky in Moscow April 14; ?? World Championship Match Victory'
Right: 'From Knocks at Kiev to Palms at Palma'

The Chess Life photo caption is partially obscured by what must have been the mailing address label. I imagine the caption had something to do with the camera that Petrosian is holding.

Chess Life

[Burt Hochberg:] Let me describe my first impression of the World Champion. He had earlier that day bought a book of endgame studies ("2,500 Finales," by Kasparian). He was sitting at the table examining the book, flipping through the pages. He stopped, his eye caught by a position, and after studying it for a moment, his head would start bouncing from side to side, in the manner of a man listening to a rhythmic and familiar piece of music. All the while, the fore-finger of his right hand was "conducting" the "music." After a couple of minutes of this, he would frown and nod his head in approval or appreciation, and then resume flipping the pages.

Petrosian's physical appearance came as something of a surprise. Although I knew he was shorter than average, I was not expecting a man of such obvious physical power. He is rather broadly and thickly constructed, with powerful arms and hands, and an I-can-take-care-of-myself aura.

Chess Review

[Dr. Petar Trifunovich:] The Tournament at Palma de Mallorca has become an annual and has already acquired world-wide renown. It takes place at the end of November and the first half of December which sets it in line for the timely awarding of the Oscar in chess [reported in same issue]. Quite aside from that factor, however, the tournament bids to become one of the greatest and most attractive chess events of the year. And it is no exaggeration to say that, though as a tradition the tournament is hardly ancient, the chess world is so accustomed to it that it would be considered a catastrophe if the event ceased to be promulgated. [...]

Viktor Korchnoy [Korchnoi] lived up to his first name. He scored fourteen points out of a possible seventeen, eleven victories, six draws and not a single loss. His was a veritable triumph! And it was for him so much more important in that it came immediately after his defeat in the match with Spassky. His main rivals in the fight for first place, Larsen and Spassky, he eliminated in direct meetings toward the end of the tournament, in the fourteenth and fifteenth rounds.

Fifty years ago, the international chess calendar coalesced around the World Championship, just as it does today. Korchnoi's 'defeat in the match with Spassky' refers to the final match of the 1967-69 Candidates Matches ('Kiev, IX, 1968'), where he lost to Spassky +4-1=5.

04 March 2019

TCEC S14/S15 Interlude; CCC6 S2 Wrapping Up

Getting back to the top-two chess engine competitions of our time, the title of last week's post, Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway, summed up the situation well enough. What has happened in the intervening week?

TCEC: Chessdom issued reports on the results of S14:-

After the finish of S14, while S15 preparation was underway, the site conducted three short competitions. The first event was a 48-game three-way match that lasted a day or so. It finished with the result Stockfish 17.5/32, Leelenstein 16, Antifish 14.5. According to the site's Nightbot chat,

Leelenstein aka Dr. Leelenstein, aka The Doctor, is a 20x256 SE net built using games from CCRL, Sergio's 40 block variant, and T30. Novelties: TP + GGT + SGDR • AntiFish is a Neural Network [...] designed to exploit weaknesses within Stockfish. The hope is that one day AntiFish can be used to improve Stockfish itself.

The second event was a 240-game four-way round robin featuring the four top engines: Houdini, Komodo, Leela (LCZero), Stockfish. I couldn't find a final crosstable for the event, although the final PGN is available in the TCEC archive (see the 'TCEC/CCC Links' tab at the top of the page for references). This event was documented better in the archive than the preceding 48-game three-way match, which is also missing the final PGN.

The third event was a 100-game match between Stockfish and Leela that lasted about three days. I couldn't find any trace of this event in the archive, but one post-match reference in the Leela forum, Leela - Stockfish "no opening book" match results, said, 'Final result: Leela 56, Stockfish 44. Leela: +16-4=80'. What 'no opening book' means is anybody's guess. It appears to have favored Leela substantially.

The TCEC has so far issued one announcement about the new season, due to start this week:-

  • 2019-03-02: Allie+Stein, the new neural network entering TCEC S15 (chessdom.com) • 'Season 15 is about to start and one more neural network is going to enter TCEC. This is a combined project by Adam Treat and his Allie and Mark Jordan and his Leelenstein. The new engine is called Allie+Stein, a unique engine by the TCEC rules that will start its quest for top positions and climb of the ladder from Division 4'

Both AI/NN engines, Allie and Leelenstein, competed in CCC6 stage 1, with markedly different results.

CCC: As for CCC6 stage 2, the event is nearing completion with Stockfish in a comfortable lead. It will face the second placed engine in a 200-game match.

03 March 2019

Cats Attacking Royalty

This latest edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) marks the ninth anniversary of the series. It appears that I've managed to get this far without a single post featuring cats. I imagine that's because cats and kittens playing chess are a common theme and most artwork based on the theme sells on eBay for less than $100.

A few years ago we saw The Kitten Theme (January 2016), where the kittens were only a detail in the work. A few years before that we had Moonwhisker Chess (December 2014) in the old Flickr Friday series. In the ongoing fight btween cats and dogs, neither has the upper hand on this blog.

Titled 'Nora Chease - Two Tabby Cats Playing Chess! - 19th century oil panting - 1881', the painting shown below initially listed for US $2000. It sold for between $1300 and $1500, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description of the auction repeated the title and added,

Oil painting on canvas -- Signed and dated
Frame size 27 x 32"
Canvas size 16 x 19"
In excellent condition

A Google image search on 'Nora Chease' picks up other examples of the same work, including Exquisite Nora Chease - Two Tabby Cats... (decaso.com; once listed for $2900, 'This product is no longer available') with the same picture frame. I couldn't find any biographical info about the artist, except that she was British. She also liked painting animals.

01 March 2019

MCTS Data Flow

In last week's post, Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS), I featured a video to explain the fundamental concepts of MCTS. Here's a diagram that takes the explanation several steps further. Note that it's based on AlphaGo Zero, but the concepts apply largely to AlphaZero as well.

Extracted from:
AlphaGo Zero Cheat Sheet
(applied-data.science; big PNG: 8333 x 7500)

I added the red numbers in parentheses to connect the left portion of the diagram, an inverted tree structure ('How AlphaGo Zero chooses its next move'), with the right portion, a step-by-step explanation of the left portion ('First, run the following simulation 1600 times...'). The following text is (mostly) copied from the 'cheat sheet'.

(1) Start at the root node of the tree (the current game state). Choose the action that maximizes 'Q + U'. Continue until a leaf node is reached

(2) The game state of the leaf node is passed into the neural network [NB: the tall stack of blocks; explained elsewhere on the 'cheat sheet'], which outputs predictions about two things:-
      • P - Move probabilities
      • V - Value of the state

(3) The move probabilities (P) are attached to the new feasible actions from the leaf node.

(4) Backup previous edges. Each edge that was traversed to get to the leaf node is updated.

'After 1600 simulations'

(5) The move can either be chosen:-
      • Deterministically (for competitive play)
      • Stochastically (for exploratory play)

Values like 'N', 'W', 'Q', and 'P' are explained in the notes to the diagram. After studying the diagram, I felt that I was finally starting to understand the basic concepts of MCTS. How do they work with AlphaZero? That will require further study.

28 February 2019

February Amazon Yahoos

For the third consecutive month, my Yahoo news feed served no chess news. Of celebrities and sports, there was plenty to choose from; of chess there was nothing. Is the problem perhaps an overall deterioration in the Yahoo news feed itself?

Maybe yes, maybe no, but Yahoo doesn't have a problem following me around the web to watch what I am doing. For the second consecutive month -- I documented the first in January Amazon Yahoos -- and lasting for several days, it served me an ad echoing what I had browsed on Amazon.

'Sponsored --$-- Amazon.com'

The three books shown are:-

  • 'Better Thinking, Better Chess: How a Grandmaster Finds his Moves'; Joel Benjamin
  • '300 Most Important Chess Positions'; Thomas Engqvist
  • 'Chess for Life'; Matthew Sadler, Natasha Regan

Those are certainly three noteworthy books, but I only recall looking at the last one. That was while preparing the first post of last month, 'Game Changer' Interview. As for the other two books, I've heard about them, but don't remember browsing their pages on Amazon. Did I click on the Yahoo ad to look at any of the books? Of course not. Why encourage creepy web behavior?

Since I don't have any mainstream media chess stories to fill out this post, I get to select my own. I'll start with a theme I introduced in 'January Yahoos', titled 'Weird Chess News'. What's weird for me is not necessarily weird for you, and vice versa, but as long I'm writing the post, I get to pick. Both of these stories are about chess in school and both are from Texas:-

If there was one single story this month that I would have liked to see get a wider audience, it was this one:-

  • Magnus Carlsen On The Ancient Appeal Of Chess And The Opportunities Of A More Modern Game (forbes.com; 'Guest post written by Magnus Carlsen') • GM Carlsen ended his essay saying, 'The excitement of playing a game of chess over a physical board -- feeling the tension as your opponent sits two feet in front of you, studying your every move -- cannot be beaten. Yet nothing would make me sadder than losing the essential benefits of chess because of a righteous refusal to adapt to change.'

Other events might have interested a wider audience. Without too much thought I came up with the Gibraltar Open; the Champions Showdown and the Cairns Cup (for women), both in St.Louis; and even the Stockfish - Leela TCEC match, an engine handcrafted by humans vs. a rapidly improving AI/NN challenger. Maybe we'll see some mainstream coverage of chess in March, but I'm not optimistic.

26 February 2019

'On Anderssen'

My recent post Down the Rabbit Hole mentioned,

I discovered the magazine Schachzeitung, 'von der Berliner Schachgesellschaft', Volume 1, 1846 (starts in July).

Since then I've been searching the Google Books digital collection of 19th century chess literature, looking for the most relevant files. Schachzeitung is just one example of many periodicals available.

So far I've collected 23 of the first 26 annual editions of Schachzeitung (1846-1871). My main objective is to locate information about the early, unofficial World Championships, where the German master Adolf Anderssen played a central role for many years.

Starting in 1851 Anderssen was listed on the annual cover page as one of the two editors of Schachzeitung. In fact, his name always appeared first. This lasted for nine years, but the Di Felice extract that I quoted in the 'Rabbit Hole' post doesn't even mention him.

Anderssen was also the winner of the 1851 London Tournament (London, V-VII, 1851). The 1851 edition of Schachzeitung (vol.6) has many stories on the event, but it will be some time before I'm able to understand them correctly.

One of the features of 19th century chess magazines that you don't see much in the 21st century is the importance of poems -- sometimes long poems, stretching for many pages. Shown above is a short poem from the last page of the August 1851 issue, titled 'An Anderssen'. That would have been a month or so after the 1851 London tournament ended. When I fed the OCR output, line by line, into Google Translate, it gave me the following translation.

You beat Albion for Germany
In a people's struggle, the best-humored;
You have defeated the proud island son,
And England fell in his master Staunton.

That was a fight, a glory at the right time;
Recently we were not bedded on laurel,
We were Matt before Christendom,
Since you have saved us from the checkmate.

But if your victory raises you to the hero,
Be he the dove with the green branches,
Who brings us hope and animates,
That this victory would only lead to the round

That's not too bad; the software choked only on the word 'Matt'. How would it do on a longer poem? I'll never find out unless I find a poem so compelling that I just have to know what it says. As for AI/NN translation of poetry in general, that would be a different area of research. I doubt there is much overlap with chess literature.

25 February 2019

Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway

TCEC: 'Stockfish wins TCEC S14' -- shouldn't that be followed by 'Ho-hum'? After all, Stockfish has won the last three TCEC seasons and we have to go back to season 10 to find a different winner. Here are the posts on this blog that signalled the TCEC winners:-

In season 14, Stockfish almost lost. As I wrote in last week's report, TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6; Part 2/2:-

The TCEC S14 final match between Stockfish and Leela has seen 72 games completed. Leela leads by one game, +9-8=55. If Leela can maintain this slim lead through the full 100 games, it will signal a major shift in chess engine dominance.

Of the next 28 games in the 100 game match, Stockfish won two games and the rest were drawn, making the final score +10-9=81 (50.5-49.5) in Stockfish's favor. That's as narrow a match win as exists in chess, much to the delight of Stockfish fans and the chagrin of Leela fans. Congratulations to both open source teams for a thrilling superfinal!

CCC: In the other major, ongoing engine competition, the 'CCC6: Winter Classic' completed stage 1. Eight engines qualified to stage 2, as shown in the following crosstable.

For a readable version of the same crosstable see the tab for 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page and follow the link for 'CCC #tournament-results'. Those eight qualifying engines were joined by the big four -- Komodo, Leela (Lc0), Stockfish, and Houdini -- for a total of 12 engines in the stage 2 'Playoffs'. Two of those engines will qualify for the 200-game final.

24 February 2019

Dagmar and Strange Ebbesen

In this ongoing series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), one of the themes I haven't explored is chess as an accessory to legend. Take the following drawing, for example.

If the drawing looks familiar, it might be because I've also used it on my page Chess Through the Artist's Eye. In fact, the image shown above is cropped to show only the principle characters, while the 'Artist's Eye' page includes the many onlookers to the left and right of the scene. That same page informs,

Brozik, Václav (Czech, 1851–1901) • 'Dagmar and Strange Ebbesen at the Chess Table' (1880?), Illustreret Tidende

The Wikipedia page, Vaclav Brozík, says,

Václav Brožík (French: Vaclav de Brozik; 6 March 1851, Tremošná - 15 April 1901 Paris) was a Czech painter who worked in the academic style.

One of the subjects of the drawing is described in another Wikipedia page, Dagmar of Bohemia:-

Dagmar of Bohemia (also known as Margaret of Bohemia; c. 1186 – 24 May 1212 in Ribe) was queen consort of Denmark as the first spouse of King Valdemar II of Denmark. She was the daughter of King Premysl I Ottokar of Bohemia and his first wife, Adelheid of Meissen.

That's all very nice, but in the words of the 11th World Champion, 'What's that got to do with chess?' The pieces of the story come together in a series of poems, Full text of "The Mermaid's Prophecy and Other Songs Relating to Queen Dagmar" (archive.org; Project Gutenberg eBook). The poems are titled...

I. King Valdemar's Wooing
II. Queen Dagmar's Arrival in Denmark
III. The Mermaid's Prophecy

...where the 'Wooing' starts in the first verses,

Valdemar King and Sir Strange bold
     At table sat one day,
So many a word 'twixt them there passed
     In amicable way.

"Hear Strange, hear! thou for a time
     Thy native land must leave;
Thou shalt away to Bohemia far
     My young bride to receive."

...After reaching Bohemia, Strange Ebbesen announces the reason for his visit and is challenged to a game...

"Hail to thee, King of Bohemian Land,
     Thou sittest a prince in state;
To you sends Valdemar, Denmark's King,
     With your daughter he would mate."


Then they bore in the playing board,
     Was wroughten all of gold;
Sir Strange should with the princess play,
     And private converse hold.

The third game they together played
     Upon that red gold board,
Sir Strange won the noble maid
     For Valdemar his lord.

...In fact, there is nothing here to confirm that the game is chess. That must be artist Brozík's imagination, but why not?

22 February 2019

Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS)

Since the answer to last week's post, AI/NN: 'Here to Stay?', is a resounding 'Yes!', it's time to learn a little more about the subject. One aspect on which I'm particularly fuzzy and which is important to understanding AlphaZero is the Monte Carlo Tree Search, aka MCTS. The following video is not specific to chess, but explains the concepts better than any other video I reviewed while working on this post.

Monte Carlo Tree Search (15:49) • 'Published on Mar 5, 2017'

The description explains,

This is a video I [John Levine] made for my class "CS310: Foundations of Artificial Intelligence" at the University of Strathclyde. The video has a brief description of the Monte Carlo Tree Search algorithm and includes a worked example.

The 'worked example', which starts at 3:30 into the clip, is particularly useful and helps to understand better the material that precedes it. For more about MCTS specific to chess, see Monte Carlo Tree Search (chessprogramming.org).

21 February 2019

Chessable and 'Game Changer'

Chessable appeared on my radar twice during the past month. The first time was in connection with the 'Game Changer' book; see my recent post 'Game Changer' Excerpts for my next-to-last word on that. The second time was John Hartmann's book review in the January 2019 issue of Chess Life. The Chessable portion of the review started,

Chessable is a new website/"webservice" gaining quite a bit of mindshare with tech-savvy players. Part of this has to do with its association with IM John Bartholomew, one of chess' leading streaming personalities, who also serves as Chessable's Chief Communications Officer and co-founder. Bartholomew is a big draw in the streaming/esport landscape and his involvement with the platform has undoubtedly aided in its rise to prominence.

I make no claim to being particularly tech-savvy, which is confirmed by my having never visited the Chessable site. Hartmann's mention that the site was 'free to use' meant that it was high time to rectify the oversight.

Chessable.com describes itself as 'Learn chess online: openings, tactics & more'. Since taking up chess960 I'm no longer interested in studying traditional chess openings and since tactics trainers are a dime a dozen, I wasn't sure that the site had much to offer me that was both interesting and free. Luckily for me, the '& more' portion includes endgames.

Free access to the site requires an id and a password (entry no.248 according to my system for managing passwords), undoubtedly used to track progress on the Chessable material. I quickly located the free 'Basic Endgames' course and started using the service immediately. The key to the training is in repeating the material, an exercise which I found a bit tedious after a few minutes, but which probably works for anyone who has the necessary patience. The underlying theory is explained on the page The science that makes chess learning easier (chessable.com). Like most theories about learning, I imagine there is considerable controversy here, but I'll look into that some other time.

As for the material based on the 'Game Changer' book, see The game has changed! GM Matthew Sadler on how Game Changer can benefit YOU (ditto; 31 January 2019) by Leon Watson, who is described on the About Us page as responsible for 'PR & Marketing'. That promotional page points to Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI - MoveTrainer™ Course (chessable.com). The comments include a couple of positive reviews by competent chess players who are also knowlegeable about MoveTrainer. All in all, the course looks promising.

19 February 2019

Millennial Chess?

Read it? No, Reddit. Take, for example, a post from a few months ago, Talking About Chess Engines (October 2018), where I noted,

The interest from Reddit.com is somewhat surprising, although the site shows up increasingly in chess related searches.

Recently I was talking to one of my nephews and the subject came up. I learned that he was a keen Reddit user and I made a mental note to look into it more deeply. It turns out there's an age gap involved, as the following chart shows.

Source: Google based on Distribution of Reddit users in the United States as of February 2016, by age group (statista.com)

Taking into account the three years that have elapsed since those statistics were calculated, the interest in Reddit comes mainly from the Millennial generation. That's explains why I'm not more familiar with it -- I'm from the Baby Boomer generation.

The main Reddit chess page is Chess News and Stuff, which starts, 'Join the 121k people in the r/chess community' The first time I made a note about the site was mid-2015, when a Google search on 'chess reddit' returned 'About 1.890.000 results'. Today that same search returns 'About 26.500.000 results'. Continuing with the statistics, one of the Reddit top posts made today, Chess is actually a pretty popular game, says,

Right now we have: 62,000 on chess.com 24,000 on lichess. That alone is a pretty big amount when compared to the "big" video games nowadays. According to Steam charts, we'd be in 4th place, above Rainbow Six Siege, Team Fortress 2, Warframe and many other popular games.

I'm not even including the people who are playing chess over the board right now or sitting at their board studying chess books, or grinding tactics on chesstempo. Quite a few other chess websites and apps have not been counted. We may actually have 100,000 concurrent players of this beautiful game, a pretty big amount even by todays standards. Maybe less if there is a big percentage of players who remain "online" in chess.com but idle, but even 50,000 concurrent players is pretty healthy.

The post goes on to ask, 'Why is the /r/chess subreddit not as big as other games which have similar number of concurrent players?' Maybe it's a generational thing.

18 February 2019

TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6; Part 2/2

Following the TCEC and CCC computer chess competitions presents two challenges. The first challenge is to keep track of their progress without being glued 24/7 to their GUIs. I've addressed that by preparing a weekly report in the form of a Monday blog post.

The second challenge is what to call each weekly post. Last week's post was TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6, where the title summarized the content of the post. For this week's post I could use exactly the same title as last week, but that's obviously not satisfactory. Tacking on 'Part 2/2' should keep things clear.

TCEC: The TCEC S14 final match ('superfinal' aka 'sufi' in TCEC jargon) between Stockfish and Leela ('LC0' in Leela jargon, meaning 'Leela Chess Zero') has seen 72 games completed. Leela leads by one game, +9-8=55. If Leela ('she' in Leela jargon) can maintain this slim lead through the full 100 games, it will signal a major shift in chess engine dominance. The traditional alpha-beta engines with their handcrafted evaluations are quickly giving way to the AI/NN engines which work out their own evaluations from scratch.

Leela also won the preceding TCEC competition with a little help from her friends. For a final report, see TCEC Cup 2 report (chessdom.com).

CCC: Last week's 'CCC5/-6' post started with a preliminary report on the finish of CCC5:-

Stockfish then played Lc0 in a 100 game match, which finished yesterday. The result hasn't been published yet, although the PGN is available.

The result was published in a short note on the 'CCC #tournament-results' page (see the tab above this post for a collection of 'TCEC/CCC Links'):-

Ccc5 finals SF vs LCO dev 60-40

I loaded the corresponding PGN file into PGN software and determined that Stockfish (SF) beat Leela (LC0) by a score of +23-3=74. The games were played at a time control of '10|5' (chess jargon for 10' per game plus 5" per move). As for the next tournament, the 'CCC5/-6' post said,

A new event titled 'Battle of the Leelas' started with Stockfish, Komodo MCTS, and four Leela variants.

The final results are summarized in the following chart.

'CCC #tournament-results'

Stockfish finished fourth in the field of six, losing only one mini-match, against Antifish. I'll leave it to others more knowledgeable to interpret the complete results. I assume the six engines were chosen for a reason.

CCC6 is currently underway. The rules say,

Qualifiers (5|2) - escalation, 3 rounds, 16 engines, top 8 qualify, SF, Lc0, Komodo & Houdini get buys [sic; 'byes'] • Playoffs (10|10) - 12 engines, 3 rounds, top 8 plus SF, Lc0, Komodo & Houdini, book ON • Finals (10|10) - 2 engines, 200 games, book ON

The escalation format, where the lowest ranked engines play mini-matches against each other at the beginning and the stronger engines enter the competition at each successive stage, makes it impossible to predict which engines will eventually prevail. For a preliminary report, see CCC 6: The Winter Classic (preview).

17 February 2019

Steinitz's Gravestone

Left photo: Steinitz Grave 4 © Flickr user 4paul! under Creative Commons.

The gravestone in the left photo has a chessboard on its top and says,

Hier ruht in Frieden ['Here rests in peace']
William Steinitz
Geb. 14 Mai 1837 ['geboren']
Gest. 12 Aug 1900 ['gestorben']

The sign in the right photo says,

Grave of William Steinitz
First World Chess Champion
In memory of my ancestor
By Kurt Landsberger
Grave number 5893

The tags in the photos place the cemetary at Brooklyn, New York. The page William Steinitz, 1836-1900 (findagrave.com) identifies the place of burial as 'The Evergreens Cemetery'. Note the difference between the year of birth on the gravestone and the year on the referenced page. Wikipedia's page, Wilhelm Steinitz, says, 17 May 1836, giving a different day and year than is written on the gravestone.

15 February 2019

AI/NN: 'Here to Stay?'

Last week we took a peak at 'Game Changer' Excerpts, from the first book on AlphaZero. This week let's have a video from the Saint Louis Chess Club's Youtube channel, where a panel discusses how AlphaZero impacts the world of chess engines.

AlphaZero: Is It Here to Stay?! (1:00:37) • 'Streamed live on Jan 26, 2019'

The video's description identifies the three participants in the discussion:-

Grandmaster Denes Boros and computer chess expert Jacob Wilkins join Ben Simon to discuss the finer details of neural-network based engines vs. the human mind.

If you follow the link to the original Youtube page (right-click the embedded video), the chat to the right of the video follows the discussion and can be scrolled independently. For more about the host, see Chess - Ben Simon Media. As for the title, 'AlphaZero: Is It Here to Stay?', is there any real doubt?

14 February 2019

Down the Rabbit Hole

In yesterday's post on my World Chess Championship blog, 1851 London (the Tournament Books), I used Google Books as a reference for the first international tournament. While I was working on the post I discovered a pair of resources on Google Books that I had previously either overlooked or underestimated: 'Related books' and 'Other editions'.

The English edition of the 1851 London tournament book leads to other English language resources on Google Books and the German edition leads to German language resources. As you might expect, those other resources lead to further resources and on and on and on.

For example, on the English side I discovered the magazine The Chess World, Volume 1, March 1865. That title in itself is not particularly useful for locating additional information about the periodical, but Di Felice's wonderful reference work 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008' says,

656. Chess World (The) : A Magazine Devoted to the Cultivation of the Game of Chess, Containing Games and Problems by the First Masters (1865– 1869) Vol.1 no.1 (Mar 1865)–Vol.4, no.12 (Mar 1869). Monthly. Publisher Trübner & Co. London. England. 23 cm. Magazine. General. English. Note Editors’ names not given; preface signed by "The editors."

On the German side I discovered the magazine Schachzeitung, 'von der Berliner Schachgesellschaft', Volume 1, 1846 (starts in July). Of this periodical Di Felice says,

2321. Schachzeitung: In Monatl (1846–1871) Organization Berliner Schachgesellschaft. Vol.1 (1846)– Vol.26, no.12 (Dec 1871). Monthly. Editors Ludwig Bledow ( July/Aug 1846), Wilhelm Hanstein and Otto von Oppen (Sept 1846–1851), Otto von Oppen and N.D. Nathan (1851–52), Otto von Oppen (1852–58), Max Lange (Dec 1858– 1864), E. von Schmidt and Johannes Minckwitz (Jan 1865–1866), Johannes Minckwitz (1867–71). Publisher Veit und Co. Berlin, later Leipzig. Germany. Illus., 21–23 cm. Magazine. General. German. Note Vol.4 (1849)–Vol.26 (1871) with title Schachzeitung der Berliner Schachgesellschaft. Continued by Deutsche Schachzeitung: Organ für das Gesamte Schachleben.

All of this taken together promises to be a huge time waster. At least I'll get a few posts out of the time spent.

12 February 2019

Kindle Best Seller

For today's post I had planned to follow up on last week's 'Game Changer' Excerpts. While writing that post I noticed a section in the book on engine evaluations of '0.00'. I think it was at the end of chapter 2, titled 'ZeroZeroZero'. I documented the entire excerpt just a few days ago by saying,

More pages are available from Google Books: Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI. The section 'Preview this book' is uninterrupted from the cover page through most of Ch.4.

Now the preview has disappeared and the page is marked 'No preview'. I've been looking into the topic of engine evaluations '0.00' for some time, but I'm not prepared to write a full post on it. I had hoped to use the half-dozen (or so) 'Game Changer' pages to launch a discussion, but that will have to wait for another day. What to do?

Since writing the 'Excerpts' post I've also noticed that the book is marked 'Best Seller' by Amazon. In fact, it's no.1, as the following screen capture shows.

Amazon Best Sellers: Best Chess

No.2 on the list, which I suppose is the previous no.1, is 'Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time' by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. For readable titles of the other books, follow the Amazon link.

All books on the Amazon list are marked 'Kindle Edition'. Does no one buy physical copies of books any more? Whatever the case, congratulations to all involved in the AlphaZero book on creating an instant hit!

11 February 2019

TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6

For the past several weeks I've been running a Monday series to track the evolution of two outstanding all-engine chess events that just keep going and going. When a tournament in either one finishes, another tournament starts almost immediately. Without a regular, periodic look at the competitions, they are difficult to follow. (For links and acronyms, see the 'TCEC/CCC Links' tab.at the top of each post on this blog.)

TCEC: Last week's post, TCEC/CCC Head Scratching, revealed a mismatch between the published records of TCEC S14 and the two participants in the S14 superfinal. How did Leela manage to qualify? I ended the discussion with:-

I checked a few other resources and couldn't find the source of the discrepancy.

As I write this, the two engines have played 37 games in the 100 game match with the score deadlocked at +6-6=25. Since the previous post, Chessdom.com has published two reports on circumstances leading up to the match:-

Neither report mentions how Leela qualified for the superfinal, so we have to turn to other sources. The Leela blog provides a hint:-

Here we find the crosstables for all S14 preliminary divisions where Leela played. This includes the mention:-

Premier division standings (Komodo MCTS results have been removed)

So we have the results counting seven engines instead of the eight shown in the TCEC archive. Why were the MCTS results removed? I'm sure the reason must be documented in several places, but I found the answer on Talkchess.com:-

  • 2019-02-09: End of Era is there: SF is finally beaten! • 'My question is why LCZero is playing the superfinal, if Komodo was second in Premier Division? It should be Stockfish vs Komodo.' => 'Because the games against Komodo MCTS were cancelled at the end (according to TCEC rules, since MCTS crashed 3 times), and Lc0 benefited from that.'

CCC: As for the other ongoing competition, CCC5 was underway at the time of last week's 'Head Scratching' post. Stockfish emerged the winner, 2.5 points ahead of Lc0, which was 4.5 points ahead of third-placed Lc0-dev. Stockfish then played Lc0 in a 100 game match, which finished yesterday. The result hasn't been published yet, although the PGN is available.

A new event titled 'Battle of the Leelas' started with Stockfish, Komodo MCTS, and four Leela variants. Thanks to some new commands in CCC chat, I located a few key resources that I hadn't seen or had overlooked:-

Another command ('!CCC6') informs,

Nightbot: CCC 6: The Winter Classic; Classical (standard) games with the eight best engines. Time control: 30/10 classical; Engines: 8; Stages: 1 main, 1 final between top two engines; Stage 1 format: 4x RR (escalation); Stage 1 games: 112; Stage 1 duration: 7 days; Finals games: 100

That's enough for this week's post. Next week we should have the score for the TCEC S14 superfinal through game 80, and find that CCC6 has started.

10 February 2019

Always Interesting Aronian

For this month's featured video, I had a choice of good clips about AlphaZero, last seen on this blog in 'Game Changer' Excerpts. I went instead with one of the many interesting interviews made available during the 2019 Gibraltar Chess Festival, aka GibChess.

The Beauty of Chess: A Levon Aronian Interview (23:50) • 'Published on Jan 24, 2019'

The description said only,

Tania Sachdev talks to Armenian chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian about his life in chess.

About two minutes into the clip, the following exchange takes place:-

Q: There has been a shift in the chess calendar of the really elite players in the world. There was a time when this was a very decided calendar. You played amongst each other in these closed events. We see more and more elite players participating in open events like Gibraltar. What do you think is the reason for that?

A: The elite players are tired of playing against each other. We want some excitement. We want to face other players. We want to see what it feels like to play sompe riskier openings, to try to win more with Black. That's why the elite players like to play in open tournaments. We normally get accused of 'They all play against each other', but that's not our design. We like to be open and that's why tournaments like Gibraltar and Isle of Man are something that we look forward to.

Other topics are:-

How to prepare for opens? How to decide what tournaments to play? How important is the World Championship? The Candidates tournament? What about Magnus Carlsen? The change at the top in FIDE? Chess in Armenia? [More++]

GM Aronian did not succeed in repeating his victory at 2018 Gibraltar. He finished 6.5-3.5, two points behind the winner GM Artemiev. For more videos from the same channel see GibChess - YouTube.

08 February 2019

'Game Changer' Excerpts

We saw the press release, AlphaZero Stars in 'Game Changer', including an excerpt from the book. We've seen the authors, where the most recent was 'Game Changer' Interview. Now we'd like to see the book. That excerpt from New in Chess is mainly 'Ch.4 - How AlphaZero thinks', plus a few pages from 'Part III - Themes in AlphaZero’s play' (Ch.6-13).

More pages are available from Google Books: Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI. The section 'Preview this book' is uninterrupted from the cover page through most of Ch.4.

Another reliable source is Amazon.com: Game Changer - Paperback. The 'Look Inside' feature warns, 'This view is of the Kindle edition (2019) from New in Chess', and stops near the beginning of Ch.2.

All of this is sufficient to prove that you don't have to be an expert in AI or NN to appreciate the book; Ch.4 explains everything you need to know. You do, however, need to be a competent chess player. The book is not for beginners.

07 February 2019

Google+ Sunsets

Toward the end of last year, in Goodbye Google+, Hello Twitter (October 2018), I wrote,

I don't know when Google Plus will close, but Google doesn't waste time when it takes action.

The official notification arrived this week in the form of an email:-

Date: 01-Feb-19
Subject: Your personal Google+ account is going away
From: "Google+ Team"

You've received this email because you have a consumer (personal) Google+ account or you manage a Google+ page. In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers' expectations. [...]

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

The message included a few useful links like the following:-

Sunsetting! What an ugly use of a beautiful concept. 'Google+ Team', lift your heads away from whatever mobile device you use and look at the natural world around you. It is far more awesome than your contrived technology.

I also received a notice from Blogger.com -- that's the backend product that I use to maintain my blogs -- with info specific to the blogs:-

  • 2019-01-30: An update on Google+ and Blogger • 'Google+ Profile: In March 2019, Blogger will revert to only having Blogger profiles. Users that have selected a G+ profile in the past will appear as unknown authors until they next login to Blogger and supply a new display name and avatar.'

As far as I can tell, that's the only part of the shutdown that I need to watch. That leaves me plenty of time to enjoy a real sunset.

05 February 2019

February 1969 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, what appeared on the covers of the two leading American chess magazines?

Left: '1968 Player of the Year'
Right: 'Phantom of the Squares'

Chess Life

To conclude the Mallorca story, it should be added the 1968 "Oscar" for best player of the year was given to Spassky. A special international jury voted for the ten best players of the year: 1. Spassky, 2. Korchnoi, 3. Larsen, 4. Petrosian, 5. Fischer, 6. Tal, 7. Portisch, 8. Smyslov, 9. Keres, 10. Bronstein.

Last year, in May 1968 'On the Cover', we had a more informative excerpt: 'The first "Chess Oscar" is a story worth repeating. From the May 1968 CR...'

Chess Review

Our cover illustration this month is a photograph by Vincent C. Vesce, designed to represent the spirit of chess. It was exhibited some years ago.

Spassky last appeared on the cover for the June 1968 'On the Cover'; CR: 'Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union is leading the prospective challengers in the elimination matches'. We will be seeing more of him as a result of the 1969 Spassky - Petrosian Title Match, 'Moscow, IV-VI, 1969'.

As for Vincent C. Vesce, a search on 'chess' doesn't ring many bells. A search on 'photographer' leads to Vincent C. Vesce, Technical Director of Harmon Colors, 'He was an outstanding amateur photographer whose work in this field was recognized by his being named an Associate of the Photographic Society of America.' I wouldn't have guessed that the CR cover was a photograph.

04 February 2019

TCEC/CCC Head Scratching

Last week's post in this series about ongoing engine tournaments, Stockfish, Leela et al, saw both main tournaments in mid-event. Let's have an update.

TCEC: TCEC Cup 2 finished while I was working on this post and Chessdom.com was quick to post the results: First major title for a Neural Network in chess: LC0 wins TCEC Cup; the post includes an image showing the event's brackets. For a reaction from the Leela forum, see Leela wins TCEC Cup.

The Season 14 Superfinal match starts today between Stockfish and Leela (LCZero). But hang on ... Two weeks ago in Results: TCEC S14-P / CCC3 S3, I reported,

The TCEC 'epic final match' didn't materialize. Komodo finished a half-point ahead of LCZero and Houdini, setting up another superfinal match between Stockfish and Komodo. This pairing echoes TCEC S12 and S13, where Stockfish won both superfinal matches.

The post included a copy of the S14-P crosstable, which is still in the TCEC archive, labelled 'Crosstable for TCEC Season 14 - Division P'. That Chessdom post 'First major title' said,

Lc0 did not have a direct match against Stockfish in the TCEC Cup this year. However, it defeated in the final Houdini - a version that has won the TCEC Championship and that eliminated Stockfish at the semi-final. At its own semi-final Lc0 defeated another multiple times TCEC champion -- Komodo -- thus confirming that the second place in the Premier Division was a deserved one.

I checked a few other resources and couldn't find the source of the discrepancy, so I'll come back to it later. In the meantime, see TCEC Season 12 - the 12th Top Chess Engine Championship for a recap of TCEC S12, 'the second in a new series of analytical articles on past TCEC events'.

CCC: In the previous post, we left Chess.com's engine event in the middle of CCC4. For the final result, see Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship Bullet; 'Escalation' Next (chess.com). The Escalation event (labeled 'CCC5') is a round robin format where the lowest rated engines play each other in the early rounds and the highest rated engines start play in the later rounds. The 'Stockfish Wins [CCC4]' article says,

Lc0 also managed the impressive feat of scoring dead even with Stockfish head-to-head in the tournament, at +3-3=14 in their 20 games together. Lc0 was the only engine to score a win against Stockfish in the event. These two engines began a 100-game bonus match, in progress now, which at press time Stockfish was leading comfortably at 35.5/66.

The article includes links to resources for the results of recent CCC events. I'll look at them more closely at the same time I resolve the TCEC S14 Superfinal discrepancy. It appears that checking on these competitions once a week is not enough.


To save a few minutes each time I catch up with the TCEC/CCC, I collected the most important links and recorded them in a blog page, TCEC/CCC Links. The same link appears at the top of each post on this blog after 'Home, M-W.com, etc'. For a few less frequently used forum resources, see Talking About Chess Engines (October 2018).

03 February 2019

Abstraction of an Abstraction

There are at least two things I've learned in the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). The first, as stated in last month's Listen to a Painting, is:-

You might expect that there would be a big choice of interesting items from the Christmas / Hanukkah period, and you would be right.
The second is:-
You might expect that there would be a small choice of interesting items after the holiday period, and you also would be right.

Fortunately, it only takes one auction to make a post. The item pictured below was titled 'Zev Daniel Harris painting abstract expressionism 1960's Italy chess modernist'. The winning bid was US $791.99 after 15 bids from eight bidders.

Top: Complete watercolor
Bottom: Central portion

The work was part of the Samuel Collection ('based in United States').

Moving and liquidation sale has now started. Thousands of works of art, jewelry, artifacts etc to be sold off with no reserve and tiny opening bid. Some items I paid thousands for but will still start bidding at 12 dollars for assured immediate sale. No returns offered. All liquidation sales final.

The rest of the description was a mixture of auction terms and the appearance of the item.

Overview: Signed as shown. Original watercolor on thick paper. With the right frame this will look great. You set the price. No reserve! I'm starting bids at 12 dollars. Paid a fortune. Famous artist.

Condition: Just needs a nice frame. Artist cut out parts of paper. Sheet is irregular in shape. A few razor cuts or slices. A few wrinkles on edges. Few white spots of wear. Mild scuffs. Signed front and back. Painted in Italy 1960's.

Measurements: Sheet size 13 by 40 inches. Unframed.

As for 'famous artist', the page Zev Daniel Harris (askart.com) informs,

Zev Daniel Harris (1914 - 1987) was active/lived in New York, California, Italy, Hungary. Zev Harris is known for abstraction, fantasy architect, sculptor.

The artist executed other works with a chess theme. Chess is a ready subject because it is, after all, already an abstraction.

01 February 2019

'Game Changer' Interview

Summing up last week's post, AlphaZero Stars in 'Game Changer', I quoted from the press release for the book:-

The highly anticipated book Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI will be released on Friday, January 25, at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament.

On the same day, the Youtube channel 'Tata Steel Chess' released an interview with one of the book's authors.

Natasha Regan - Co-author Game Changer (5:37) • 'Published on Jan 25, 2019'

Without having read the book, what can be said about it that hasn't already been said? For starters, it's not the first effort by the same team: Chess For Life, Sadler and Regan (matthewsadler.me.uk).

Winner of the [English Chess Federation] 'Book of the Year' prize 2016; "Sadler and Regan have between them written an important and original book"

According to Regan, 'We thought that we could do the same type of book for AlphaZero.' The authors approached DeepMind's Demis Hassabis and one thing led to the next and to the next and to the next...

31 January 2019

January Amazon Yahoos

For the second straight month -- Old December Yahoos was the first -- the Yahoo news service picked up zero chess stories from the mainstream press. There was, nevertheless, one chess-related item in my news feed.

'Sponsored --$-- Amazon.com'

In fact, it didn't appear just once. After the first sighting it appeared every time I browsed the Yahoo news feed for the next few days, occasionally popping up several times in the same feed. It's composed of links to the Amazon pages that I referenced while working on three recent posts, one for each of the three chess blogs that I maintain:-

  • Acknowledging an Important Source (World Chess Championship; January 2019) • 'Chess World Championships' by James H. Gelo

  • 'Players and Pawns' (this blog; January 2019) • 'Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture' by Gary Alan Fine

  • Chess960 Phase Zero (Chess960 FRC; November 2018) • 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960' by Gene Milener

Targeted advertising gone wild? I imagine that the infrastructure for the mechanism that enables these connections is expensive, and it's only to remind me that I once showed an interest in some books.

In 'December Yahoos' I used Google News to locate chess stories of potential interest to a wider audience. If real stories are too mundane -- news like Kramnik retires, Magnus takes Tata, or Grand Chess Tour expands -- how about featuring something like this?:-

Or this?:-

That last story would be a good candidate for an occasional series I used to run: 'Weird Chess News'. Maybe I should revive it.

29 January 2019

FIDE Election Ethics

In last week's post, FIDE's Ethics Commission 2018 (ETH), I discussed the commission's two reports to the recent FIDE Congress. I ended the post saying,

That first report is August 2018. The second report is from the 89th Congress. [September; ...] Case 5/2018 was given priority because it had an impact on the upcoming FIDE election. Several other cases opened in 2018 were also political in nature, but their impact goes beyond the scope of the present post.

Intrigued by those political cases, I went back to look at the details on ethics.fide.com, and found three cases from 2018, including 5/2018. They were summarized on the ETH site as follows:-

Case no. • Complainant • Respondent • Outcome

2/2018 • FIDE Presidential Board • K Ilyumzhinov • Guilty - 18 months ban (12 months suspended)

5/2018 • G Makropoulos • A Dvorkovich, D Cogoljevic & Serbia • Not guilty - A Dvorkovich; Guilty - D Cogoljevic & Serbia: 6 months ban

7/2018 • Mr A Dvorkovich & others • Mr G Makropoulos • Provisional measures rejected

All cases related to the FIDE Presidential election that was to be held during the same Congress. All decisions for the cases are available in more detail from the ETH website. Let's look at the highlights for each of them. The first case was against the former FIDE President.

Case no. 2/2018 – Alleged misconduct by the FIDE President following his inclusion in the OFAC Sanctions list

OFAC stands for 'Office of Foreign Assets Control', an agency of the U.S. Treasury Department. ETH marked the case 'strictly confidential'.

2. The ETH notes its ruling of 11 June 2018, issued by the Chairman of the ETH, that the proceedings concerning this matter and the contents of the case file are declared to be strictly confidential. [...]

8. The ETH notes that the Respondent was included in the OFAC Sanctions list on 25 November 2015 and remains on the list till today.

9. The ETH finds that on numerous occasions during the period March 2017 until April 2018, and whilst on the OFAC sanctions list, Mr. Ilyumzhinov acted in a manner incompatible with his duty to put the interests of FIDE above his own personal interests and in defiance of valid decisions of the FIDE Presidential Board by inter alia seeking to exercise powers which had been delegated to the FIDE Deputy-President, seeking to discredit members of the FIDE Presidential Board, making untrue or provocative public statements and refusing to resign following the closure of FIDE’s bank accounts, and in so doing created confusion and instability within FIDE and further inflicted serious reputational, operational and financial harm upon FIDE and brought FIDE and the game of chess into disrepute. [...]

11. Upon due consideration of all the statements filed and arguments advanced:

11.1 The ETH unaminously decides that Mr Ilyumzhinov is guilty of the violation of art. 2.2.3, 2.2.10 and 2.2.11 of the FIDE Code of Ethics.

11.2 The ETH holds (all members agreeing) that Mr Ilyumzhinov must receive recognition, as a strong mitigating circumstance, of the outstanding service to FIDE and the chess community over a period of 22 years, as well as his decision to put FIDE first by his decision not to partake in the 2018 FIDE Presidential elections given the fact that his name still remains on the OFAC Sanctions list.

That was the FIDE's 'trial' for Ilyumzhinov. I've covered the 'tribulations' both on this blog and on my World Championship blog:-

That first link points to previous posts on this blog. The second case, the priority 5/2018, was also shrouded in mystery.

Case no. 5/2018 - Alleged electoral irregularity in regard to the Serbian Chess Federation relating to sponsorship and substitution of delegate

1. The ETH notes the complaints received from Deputy-President Mr. Georgios Makropoulos ("the Complainant"), dated 8 September 2018, directed against a number of federations and individuals concerning alleged violations of the FIDE Code of Ethics in relation to the upcoming elections. [...]

20.2 Mr Dvorkovich is found not guilty on the complaint levelled against him under case no. 5/2018 for alleged violations of art. 2.1, 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.2.3 and 2.2.11 of the Code of Ethics on the basis of the absence of sufficient proof, at the level of the ETH’s comfortable satisfaction, of an involvement by Mr Dvorkovich or his representatives in the substitution of the delegate for the Serbian Chess Federation and the conclusion of the sponsorship contract between the Serbian Chess Federation and Mr Cogoljevic’s educational institution;

20.3 Mr Cogoljevic and the Serbian Chess Federation are found guilty of a violation of art. 2.1 of the Code of Ethics (offer and acceptance of consideration with a view of influencing election into FIDE office) on the basis that the Serbian Chess Federation permitted Mr Cogoljevic’s appointment as delegate and agreed to a casting of his vote in the FIDE elections at his discretion in exchange for the conclusion of the sponsorship contract between the Serbian Chess Federation and Mr Cogoljevic’s educational institution;

That appears to be the tip of the iceberg. A fuller story was explained in detail on Chessbase.com: Serbian delegate suspended after he "sold his vote to himself" (by Macauley Peterson). The upshot of the decision was that the Serbian federation was denied a vote during the election. The third case was even more inscrutable.

Case no. 7/2018 - Complaint against Mr Makropoulos : Alleged misuse of FIDE funds and resources and other matters related to the 2018 FIDE Elections (Application for Provisional Measures). [...]

3. The ETH notes the application for urgent provisional measures incorporated in the Complaint, namely for the immediate provisional suspension of Mr Makropoulos ("the Respondent") as FIDE Deputy President, for the purposes of avoiding any interference with the proposed investigation into an alleged misuse of FIDE resources and funds for Mr Makropoulos’ election campaign and to protect FIDE against any undue spending of money ("the Application"). [...]

7. In the result, the ETH unanimously decides that the Application for Provisional measures falls to be dismissed.

In other words, the Dvorkovich ticket tried to have Makropoulos removed from his position as FIDE Deputy President before the election. The Ethics Commission saw the ruse for what it was and squashed it.