19 July 2019

Interpreting AlphaZero

From the July 2019 Chess Life, GM Andy Soltis's 'Chess To Enjoy' column, titled 'Meet General Principles : Some things never change':-

Chess To Enjoy: You must agree computers changed everything. AlphaZero was not programmed with your principles, the way engines used to. It just played gazillions of games with itself until it discovered the revolutionary truths of chess.

General Principles: Revolutionary? Here's what the book Game Changer has to say: There are 14 detectable features of AlphaZero's playing style. Number one is "AlphaZero likes to target the opponent's king." Number two is "AlphaZero likes to keep its own king out of danger."

Chess To Enjoy: Seems like I learned that the first week I played chess.

General Principles: Other discoveries are that AlphaZero likes to trade material when it has a winning advantage, it tries to control the center, and it seeks great outposts for its knights.

Chess to Enjoy: I see...

General Principles: And AlphaZero likes to sacrifice material to open attacking lines and to exchange off its opponent's most active pieces.

Chess To Enjoy: ...Well, OK...

General Principles: Then on page 129 it says, "AlphaZero may give the opponent the chance to go wrong."

Chess To Enjoy: Sounds like AlphaZero is being credited for inventing what every experienced player already knows.

It's been a while since I introduced the book by Matthew Sadler & Natasha Regan in AlphaZero Stars in 'Game Changer' (January 2019). Although I haven't read it cover-to-cover, I have read significant portions, and the topic that Soltis is gently mocking is one of the main themes of the book. In AI/NN research, the topic is called 'interpretability' : what can we learn from black box models?

Unfortunately, interpretability is not easy to understand or to execute. Wikipedia's page Explainable artificial intelligence starts,

Explainable AI (XAI), Interpretable AI, or Transparent AI refer to techniques in artificial intelligence (AI) which can be trusted and easily understood by humans. It contrasts with the concept of the "black box" in machine learning where even their designers cannot explain why the AI arrived at a specific decision.

I found a four-part PDF presentation 'ICIP 2018 Tutorial' on Interpretable Deep Learning: Towards Understanding & Explaining Deep Neural Networks (interpretable-ml.org). It answers the question 'Why Interpretability?' with five reasons:-

1) Verify that classifier works as expected
2) Understand weaknesses & improve classifier
3) Learn new things from the learning machine
4) Interpretability in the sciences
5) Compliance to legislation

The 'classifier' of a neural network (NN) is the portion of the software that makes the final decision about what the NN is seeing. Is it a cat (yes/no)? -or- What animal is in the photo (cat/dog/other)? A game playing NN has a more complicated classifier, which is the decision on what move to play next. The third item in the list ('Learn new things') above is illustrated in the ICIP tutorial by the following slide:-

The referenced game is AlphaGo, not AlphaZero, but the sentiment is familiar: 'I've never seen a human play this move.' What can we learn from AlphaZero? Probably not much beyond what is in the Sadler/Regan book, because AlphaZero has never been seen outside of DeepMind's laboratory. We might have better luck with Leela or with one of the other chess NNs that are rapidly emerging.

18 July 2019

2019 CJA Award Entries

Just like clockwork, two months after the 2019 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2019), the Chess Journalists of America have announced the 2019 Entries, i.e. nominations for the various award categories (where I used the PDF version to prepare this post). For the past few years I've concentrated on my two favorite categories, 'Best Chess Blog' and 'Best Chess Art', so I'll continue the tradition this year.

'Best Chess Blog' is not the most competitive of the CJA award categories. In several recent years there have been no entries. Last year had one entry which was a single post. This year we have a full blog, First Move Chess (which I hadn't seen before), and a single post, The Day Leela Changed Computer Chess (chess.com). As far as I can tell, the first post in the full blog is dated after the deadline for CJA entries. In past years I've been crticized for pointing out facts like that, so I'll stop here.

'Best Chess Art' has been split into two categories:-

  • 'Best Chess Art (graphic design, cartoon, other)'
  • 'Best Single Chess Magazine Cover'

Since last year's entries were predominantly magazine covers, this year I'll summarize the six entries in the first category, shown below. First observation: chess art is alive and well.

Top row:

  • Willum Morsch, "The Sinquefeld Super Trio"; ACM issue 8, p.34
  • Direct Attacking Moves; Sean Busher; CL October 2018, Front Cover
  • Infographic: On the 8th Rank; Natasha Roberts, Melinda Matthews; CL May 2019, p. 14-15

Bottom row:

  • Infographic: Chess Firsts; Natasha Roberts, Melinda Matthews; CL January 2019, p. 13
  • The Challenges of Chess Parenting; Carlotta Notaro; CL December 2018, p. 37-38
  • Chess Adventures with FM Alisa Melekhina; Val Bochkov, Melinda Matthews, Natasha Roberts; CL Kids February 2019, p. 22

The last image in the top row and the middle image in the bottom row show the first half of double-page artwork. The middle image in the top row is reminiscent of an image I flagged a few years ago in Cutting the Mustard (August 2013), as superior to the award winner that year. The two infographic entries are attributed to the same team, who are also listed against the last image.

Which entry would I vote for if I were a judge? It's hard to say. I'm not a fan of the first entry in the bottom row, which looks like a text ad for chess books, but the other five are all attractive in their own ways.

With so many categories this year, some of them highly competitive, the judges are going to have to work hard to determine the winners. We'll find out next month who those winners are, but in the meantime, chess journalism is the big winner.

16 July 2019

July 1969 'On the Cover'

Boris Spassky is perhaps best remembered by the non-chess-playing public as the Russian who lost to Bobby Fischer. This is as unfair to his record as the popular perception of Howard Staunton as the English player who ducked Paul Morphy. Spassky was a strong super-grandmaster whose greatest triumph was winning the title of World Champion in 1969.

Left: 'Boris Spassky - World Champion'
Right: 'Boris Spassky - 1966 Challenger, 1969 Champion'

Chess Life

To different people, the World Championship match looked like different things. Korchnoi, for instance, said that the match was developing in waves, and he was right —- first it was Petrosian and then Spassky and then again Petrosian who was on top, and then, when the first third was over, there was a quiet sea marking the second third of the match. At the time of this writing, they stood all even at 8-8.

That was the lead paragraph of the first article on the match:-

  • 'Observation Point' column by Miro Radojcic, 'Now or Never!'; 3 pages (w/ games 7-16)

CL carried two more feature-length articles on the match:-

  • 'O'Kelly on the Match' by Grandmaster A. O'Kelly, Chief Match Umpire; 2.5 pages (w/ games 1-6)
  • 'With the Champions : A Moscow Memoir' by Dimitrije Bjelica; 2 pages

Chess Review

Boris Spassky of Leningrad has won the title of Champion of the Chess World. He did so or at least clinched the title as we go to press with this issue, scoring 12 1/2 to 10 1/2 against former World Champion Tigran Petrosyan of Armenia. The twenty-fourth game may not be played.

That was the start of the first story in the flagship 'The World of Chess' section, titled 'New World Champion'. The magazine had another article later in the issue:-

  • 'World Championship : Middle Games', Annotated by Hans Kmoch; 4 pages (w/ games 9-16)

Earlier in the year Spassky appeared on the CL side of February 1969 'On the Cover', 'the 1968 "Oscar" for best player of the year was given to Spassky', with a link to his previous 'On the Cover' appearance. July 1969 was also not his first appearance on both covers. The October 1968 'On the Cover' listed three such double features, players who appeared on the cover of both magazines for the same month:-

Spassky, September 1966
Evans, September 1968
Larsen, October 1968

Spassky's CR photo has been seen before in the June 1968 'On the Cover'. That first time it was in black & white instead of the incongruous blue used in 1969.

NB: It's worth noting that CL's Radojcic article carried a half-page trailer titled 'Nona Keeps Her Crown', about Nona Gaprindashvili's defeat of Alla Kushnir for the Women's World Championship. Even so, half of that article was about Vera Menchik.

15 July 2019

TCEC S16 Starts; CCC9 Finishes

After a three week break from posting about the top two engine-to-engine competitions (see TCEC Not-so-Rapid Bonus; CCC9 Stage Two for the previous post), how hard will it be to catch up? To summarize that previous post:-

TCEC: The 'Rapid Bonus' is still running with Stockfish and Leela currently tied for first. • CCC: The 'Gauntlet Qualification' finished with Leela ahead of Stockfish by a significant margin. The next stage is the 'Gauntlet Quarterfinals'.

How did those events finish and what happened next?

TCEC: The 14-engine, six-round 'Rapid Bonus' (78 games per engine) finished with the following top scores:-

1) 55.5 Stockfish
2) 53.5 LCZero
3) 53.5 AllieStein
4) 48.0 Houdini

Over the next few weeks, the TCEC released two reports on its plans for the next season. The first was TCEC Season 16 – information and participants:-

TCEC Season 16 will feature a new format. It will keep the acclaimed Premier Division and Superfinal as in previous seasons, but will give more chances to starting engines to climb up the rankings. For this reason three leagues of 16 engines will be created. The event will start with a Qualification League where all newcomers will be featured, including new AB engines and Neural Networks. The top 6 of the Qualification League will promote to League 2 (also 6 will relegate), and the top 4 of League 2 will promote to League 1 (also 4 will relegate). Finally, the best placed 2 engines from League 1 will qualify for the Premier Division (also 2 will relegate).

The change of structure for TCEC is necessary due to the present rapid development of computer chess. With the new format more engines will have a chance to climb up the ranks and have a shot to enter in the elite.'

The second report was TCEC S16 starts:-

Season 16 of the Top Chess Engine Championship starts this Sunday July 14th at 15:00 CEST. A total of 18 engines will battle for six promotion spots in the newly formed Qualification Division. Among them are three Neural Networks – ScorpioNN, ChessFighterNN, and Stoofvlees. [...]

Many engines are now hopping on the Neural Network bandwagon, making full use of GPUs. Yet, the champion Lc0 has released a strong version playing on CPU only! It is not a unique engine by the TCEC criteria, but it certainly is exciting to see it perform against real competitors of 3000 ELO+ strength. Thus, Lc0 CPU enters TCEC as a promo engine in the field. It will play all games in the division, but at the end of the division all results of the engine will nullified.

Between the end of the 'Rapid Bonus' and the start of the 'S16 Qualification Division', the TCEC ran a number of exhibition events.

CCC: After Leela won the 'CCC9 Gauntlet Qualification', the following events were held:-

CCC9 Gauntlet Quarterfinals (10 engines, 14 rounds)
1) 83.0 Lc0
2) 82.0 Stockfish
3) 76.0 Leelenstein
4) 74.5 Allie

CCC9 Gauntlet Semifinals (6 engines, 40 rounds)
1) 113.5 Stockfish
2) 112.5 Leelenstein
3) 110.5 Lc0

CCC9 Gauntlet Final (200 game match)
1) 103.5 Stockfish
2)   96.5 Leelenstein

Despite the close results, it's surprising to see that Leela did not qualify for the final match. I haven't found any Chess.com reports on the series of events, but I'll be patient before looking elsewhere for the reason(s). After the 'CCC9 Final', an exhibition match was organized:-

CCC9 Gauntlet Bonus (100 game match)
1) 53.5 Lc0
2) 46.5 Stockfish

The 'Gauntlet Bonus II', a 200 game match between the same two adversaries, is currently underway and is too close to call. After it finishes in a few days, we might see CCC10, for which plans are available.

Both the TCEC and the CCC have seen significant evolutions in their organization and documentation since I started weekly posts in January. Without their archives and other online aids, I would have been unable to produce this post. Kudos to both.

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

14 July 2019

Dr.House: S3E23 "The Jerk"

Remember when Youtube was filled with short clips featuring chess scenes from movies and TV shows? Those were the days! When everyone realized that the service was in blatant disregard of international copyright law, the short clips all but disappeared. From time to time they reappear in 'official' channels. This one is from the Dr.House channel.

16 Year Old Destroys House at Chess!? | House M.D. (7:09) • 'Published on Jun 10, 2019'

The description starts on a positive note for chess:-

House plays a young chess champ in order to stress him out and reveal some of his underlying symptoms but instead seems to lose in the process. Will House be able to reclaim his dignity?

Then we learn that the scene is from 'Season 3 Episode 23 "The Jerk"':-

House meets his match in the form of Nate (Nick Lane), an obnoxious 16-year-old chess prodigy with intense head pain and behavioral issues, who manages to annoy and offend every member of the team during his course of treatment.

File this under 'Not everyone likes chess'.

07 July 2019

Tolkien Says 'Dwarves'

The title of this month's selection for Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) was 'Old ~1930 Franz Bergmann Vienna TWO DWARFS PLAYING CHESS Cold Painted Bronze'. I would have used 'TWO DWARVES PLAYING CHESS' (although with CAPS off), but according to Wiktionary's entry for Dwarf, it's not so simple:-

At first, dwarfs was the common plural in English. After J.R.R. Tolkien used dwarves in his works, that form became the standard for the plural of the mythological beings. For a non-mythological dwarf (people with dwarfism), dwarfs has remained the preferred plural form.

Whatever plural form is preferred, the piece attracted only one bidder. It sold for US $699.99 'Buy It Now'.

The description added,

I had the chance to buy a small collection of 100% antique Vienna Bronzes. They are all pre-WW2, approximately 80-100 years old. In my opinion these are all Franz Bergmann designs, some are marked with "Austria" or the typical "Jug-Mark". Others are not marked. But also the unmarked pieces are old and original Vienna Bronze pieces. But please see pics and judge yourself. This scene is unmarked.

As these are antique objects, they may show dust, wear, paint chips, patina and other imperfections. The max. height is 77 mm (3 inches). 120 mm maximum width (a bit less than 5 inches).

For another eBay chess bronze, see The Artist and the Artwork (April 2015); 'titled "Antique Austrian cold painted bronze orientalist playing chess signed Chotka", sold for US $995 after a single bid'. For another chess playing dwarf, see Chess Mardi Gras (February 2018).

27 June 2019

A Political Yahoo

Tired of Amazon Yahoos? So am I. The previous Yahoo post, May Amazon Yahoos Crumble (May 2019), wondered,

I have no idea why Amazon keeps pushing this book. [...] I won't be buying it from Amazon. Let's see how long the ads continue.

Every time I look at a book on Amazon, Yahoo follows me for days with ads for that book or for related books. That last episode continued for almost a week. The ads stopped for three weeks then came roaring back when I looked at Linder books for the recent post Chess Historians Discuss Linder. Enough already!

Fortunately, Yahoo served a legitimate -- even interesting -- chess story this month. It's shown in the following screen capture.

2019-06-01: Falklands fallout over chess game held on islands by Argentina (yahoo.com; The Telegraph). The story that starts in that snippet continues,

A decades-long rivalry over the Falkland Islands is playing out in the least likely of forums - the civil world of chess. An ugly row is brewing over a recent decision by the Argentinian Chess Federation (ACF) to host a tournament on the island and list the location as "Puerto Argentino" - the name given to the capital Stanley by Argentine troops when they occupied it for 10 weeks during the war. Staged in a hotel near a memorial of Margaret Thatcher it has prompted an uproar among the English Chess Federation (ECF), which has accused Argentina of a "diplomatic provocation", and ignited lingering tensions around the 1982 conflict.

The photo isn't from the Falkland Islands tournament; it's from the 2018 Berlin Candidates tournament. The story didn't attract many comments, but they were all pro-British, anti-Argentine, like 'Not a smart move'. FIDE quickly issued a statement.

2019-06-03: Statement of the FIDE Presidential Board (fide.com).

FIDE has received a complaint that, between September 2018 and March 2019, two tournaments and a chess match, which took place in Stanley, in the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands, were filed for consideration for FIDE rating by the Argentine Chess Federation. Federations reserve the exclusive right to submit tournaments for rating which take place in their territory. Because this was not done, and no attempt was made to seek permission or even inform the English Chess Federation, under whose purview chess in the Falkland Islands comes, the FIDE Qualification Commission will exclude these tournaments from rating.

The statement ended with a general admonishment.

FIDE urges all federations to refrain from using chess tournaments for political purposes.

It's OK to use chess players for political purposes, but keep away from tournaments.

25 June 2019

'Chess in the Movies' Checkpoint

It's time to take a checkpoint on a subject introduced in Chess Obsessed (May 2019). I wrote,

Back to that 'Chess in the Movies' page, I created it sometime around 2005. It might be worthwhile to survey images I've collected since then and, if I have enough examples, add another sub-page on the same topic.

The referenced page is Chess in the Movies, and so far, without any real effort, I found 152 photos to work through. The following composite shows the first eight (ordered according to my internal file naming convention, which is random).

Top row: (info from the text accompanying the photo)

  • 1940 The Sea Hawk ['Chess in the Movies' different scene]
  • 1958 Fraulein.
  • 1963 Il fornaretto di Venezia (aka The Scapegoat)
  • 1962. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color; Episode: The Prince and the Pauper - The Merciful Law of the King

Bottom row:

  • 1970 Flap [behind the scenes shot]
  • 1972 Rat' mal, wer heut bei uns schlaft... (aka The Swinging Pussycats)
  • 1957 The One That Got Away
  • 1970 The Passion of Anna (aka En Passion)

Out of the eight photos, six are usable. The first one on the top row, '1940 The Sea Hawk', is a repeat, and the first one on the bottom row, '1970 Flap', is a behind the scenes shot. If the percentages hold up -- which I have no way of knowing -- I have around 110 usable photos. Since a new 'Chess in the Movies' sub-page requires 24 photos, I have enough material for four new pages. That is on top of the three pages I already have.

Another aspect to consider is how I name foreign language films. I currently have both

  • La Vérité (The Truth, 1960) and
  • Brainwashed (Schachnovelle, 1961)

In the samples above, I have at least three foreign films: French, German, and Italian. Which should be the main title, the English version or the original version?

24 June 2019

TCEC Not-so-Rapid Bonus; CCC9 Stage Two

So where was I in reviewing the two ongoing engine-to-engine competitions? To summarize last week's post, More TCEC Bonus Events; CCC9 Starts:-

TCEC: The 'Champions Bonus' ended as expected. The Stockfish version that won S14 finished first, the version that won S13 finished second, and so on. The TCEC is currently running a 'Rapid Bonus' with 14 engines. • CCC: The site is currently running 'CCC9: The Gauntlet Qualification', with 12 engines, including Leela and Stockfish.

Both competitions have advanced enough that I couldn't skip a post this week.

TCEC: The 'Rapid Bonus' is still running with Stockfish and Leela currently tied for first. The event should finish later this week. The TCEC published a blow-by-blow report of season 15 with TCEC15: the 15th Top Chess Engine Championship (chessdom.com). Although the TCEC is the front runner in organizing engine-to-engine competitions, the report struggles with some basic concepts. It doesn't specify which engines run on the two configurations -- CPU & GPU -- and it speaks of ‘Shannon AB’, ‘AB conventional’, 'neural-network', and 'non-Shannon' engines. Insiders understand, outsiders don't.

CCC: The 'Gauntlet Qualification' finished with the results shown in the following chart, where Leela finished ahead of Stockfish by a significant margin. Stockfish lost one game because of a bug handling a tablebase, but it had no impact on the final standing.

The red and green bars to the left of the chart show which engines were seeded into the next stage, the 'Gauntlet Quarterfinals'. According to CCC planning - CCC9 The Gauntlet (docs.google.com), Stockfish and Leela play at every stage. In the quarterfinal they are joined by four qualifying engines from the previous stage (the green bar in the chart) and 'strong finishers from CCC8'. Along with Stockfish and Leela, two engines will qualify into the semifinal, where they will be joined by Komodo and Houdini. Got it? The engine Dark Queen, the last to qualify from the first stage, is worth a note:-

!dq: Dark Queen is a neural network that focuses on using q-learning for its value head, still in its early development stages. It is currently trained completely on lichess games. It uses LC0 binary.

What's q-learning and how does it relate to reinforcement / deep learning? Wikipedia's Q-learning page is a typical Wikipedia science article, where you have to understand the subject to understand the article, so: Pass! (for now).

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

23 June 2019

Chess Historians Discuss Linder

The most recent post in the series on The Sociology of Chess was last month's Books on Soviet Chess History. There I wrote, 'There are 11 titles on the list, of which I have all but three'. The most intriguing of the three was Linder's 'Chess in Old Russia'. I had often encountered his name, but knew little about him.

Of 'Chess in Old Russia', I found little and will keep looking. Isaak [Isaac] Linder died in 2015, and the top pages about him are obituaries: Obituary of Isaak M. Linder (kwabc.org), for example. Also featured prominently are his books on the early World Champions. To date, there have been five translated into English, all listed on Isaak Linder: Books (amazon.com). The introductory material to 'Emanuel Lasker: Second World Chess Champion' explains the circumstances of the book's publication. Here's the start of the 'Foreword' by Andy Soltis, June 2010:-

When he began his My Great Predecessors series in 2003, Garry Kasparov adopted a literary device: After telling the story of a world champion, Kasparov quoted what the champions successors had to say about him. Kasparov said he did this because it "has become customary." Perhaps so. But it became customary only after it was used in Kings of the Chess World (2001) by Dr. Isaak Linder and Vladimir Linder. This book is arguably the finest work of chess history in more than 30 years. One of the Kings chapters has been improved and transformed into the book you are reading.

You may not be familiar with the authors because the Linders, father and son, have been published mainly in Russian and German, and only a fraction of their vast contribution to chess literature has been translated into English. Other chess historians know them for their meticulous approach to the craft. They know Isaak Linder in particular for his personal ties to some of the great figures he's written about. For example, during the memorial service for Vasily Smyslov at the Central Chess Club in Moscow in early 2010 he recalled playing Smyslov in Soviet junior events back in the 1930s. A photo survives of Dr. Linder playing Emanuel Lasker in a 1935 simul in Moscow. And he is probably the only historian to appear in a chess movie.

From the 'Publisher's Note' (Russell Enterprises):-

This book originally appeared in Russian, part of the massive historical tome published in 2001, Korolyi Shakhmatnovo Mira (Kings of the Chess World). By the time we had the pleasure of meeting with Isaak Linder and his son Vladimir in Moscow in March 2008, the original single-volume work of almost one thousand triple-column, small-font, large-format pages had been split into individual books, one for each world champion. We quickly reached an agreement with the Linders to bring out these books in what would become in English The World Chess Champion Series.

The first in the series was about Jose Raul Capablanca, the great Cuban world champion. This book on Lasker is the second in the series. With the permission and encouragement of the authors, we made some changes to the original Russian edition. The original contained a fine selection of Lasker's games. We brought in German grandmaster Karsten Mueller to provide refreshing new notes to these classic games. American grandmaster Andy Soltis, who has himself written about Lasker, contributed a new Foreword. And crosstables of minor matches played by Lasker, not included in the original edition, were also added.

From 'A Word about the Authors', Yuri Averbakh, April 2010:-

At the authors' request, I have edited a few of their recent voluminous works, and I must admit to being bowled over by the breadth of their conceptions! Very few people would be capable of taking such large swaths of chess history and recasting them into such an unusual literary form. How have they been able to put their ideas into concrete form?! Above all, because they have a system for dividing up the work. The elder takes charge of the historical approach, and the analytical duties; the son handles the literary decorations and the statistical basis of their works. As a reader, I can say that the results are a delectation for chess gourmets.

The next books in the series, also introduced by GM Soltis, were on Steinitz, Alekhine, and Euwe (although not in that order). Will there be more? The Amazon reader reviews are not particularly encouraging.

21 June 2019

Tabulating the Rabbit Hole

Last week's post, Mapping the Rabbit Hole, ended with an action:-

It's time to wrap up the series on early 19th century chess periodicals. It began with '2019-02-14: Down the Rabbit Hole • Google Books' [...] The next step, which shouldn't take much time, will be to catalog the various periodicals by year.

The following chart shows periodicals published by country and by year.

Creating that chart didn't take much time, but interpreting it is another matter. I count 25 intersections of year and country with more than a single periodical. Looking into those will take time. For starters, here are two intersections with more than two periodicals:-

1861 - UK: 3
1868 - FR: 5

The first is 'The Chess Player's Chronicle' (1861); the second is 'Le Philidorien' (1868). A quick look at the Google scans established that these are indeed duplicate copies, but I couldn't decide which versions should be used in the future.

20 June 2019

Embedded Chess Puzzles

A few days ago Chessbase.com published an article Tactical puzzles for your web site. The lead sentence said,

With the relaunch of our training site tactics.chessbase.com, it was time to renew the embeddable tactics board which you can put into your own web site.

I followed the instructions and produced a page on this blog:-

See the tab of the same name at the top of this page (as well as every page on the blog). It works fine, but the puzzles are too basic to be interesting to anyone beyond beginner. The option for 'More Difficult' goes to the Chessbase site. I looked for a similar function on other chess sites, found one on Lichess.org, and created another page:-

This 'puzzle' is just a fancy link. When you click on it, it goes directly to Lichess.org, where you can solve it. Good idea, bad execution, so I decided not to make it a tab at the top of every page. I'll keep looking for a challenging tactics trainer that works while staying on this blog.

18 June 2019

The Gamification of Chess

After Playing the FWFRCC (June 2019) -- that stands for 'FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship' and the post is on my chess960 blog -- the next time I signed into Chess.com I had to clear a half-dozen popup messages for trophies or something. I mentioned this to a friend who told me, 'That's what they call "gamification"'. I had to admit that I wasn't familiar with the concept. In Gamification, Wikipedia informs,

Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements. Gamification commonly employs game design elements to improve user engagement, organizational productivity, flow, learning, crowdsourcing, employee recruitment and evaluation, ease of use, usefulness of systems, physical exercise, traffic violations, voter apathy, and more. A collection of research on gamification shows that a majority of studies on gamification find it has positive effects on individuals. However, individual and contextual differences exist.

That paragraph was littered with more references (like '[20]') than I've ever seen in a Wikipedia introduction. The following images shows the awards (not trophies!) I won for playing the chess960 tournament.

Top row / 2nd row (left to right):-

  • Killer Queen: You delivered checkmate with a Queen!
  • Random Thoughts: Your 1st game of Chess960!
  • Mix Master: You played 10 Chess960 games [What? No '!'?]
  • Quick Knockout: You checkmated in less than 20 moves!
  • Full House: You won without losing any pieces!

The last award is from February 2019.

  • Club Member: You joined a club!

That was probably while I was working on the post TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6 (February 2019), for an ongoing weekly series about engine tournaments. The club was the 'CCCC Club' -- I forget what all the C's mean -- which has little activity.

Back to the five awards I won for playing the chess960 tournament, three of them -- Killer Queen, Quick Knockout, and Full House -- were for a single game where I checkmated my opponent on the 9th move. The other two -- Random Thoughts and Mix Master -- don't add up. My first game of Chess960? No, I've played correspondence chess960 on the site. I played ten chess960 games? No, I played five games in the tournament and haven't played on the site since.

Anyway, I'll take the awards. The 'Achievements' page where I found them lists 120 awards. I can't imagine that anyone has won all 120. What's the record for winning awards?

  • Award Monster: You have won a zillion awards!

Who would have thought you could turn playing chess into a game?

17 June 2019

More TCEC Bonus Events; CCC9 Starts

A Monday post means another look at the two world class engine-to-engine competitions that I've been following for the past few months. A week ago, in TCEC S15/S16 Bonus; CCC8/-9 Demos, the highlights were:-

TCEC: The 'S15 - Champions Bonus' is still running with about 75% of the games having been played. Leela, the winner of S15 is trailing the four versions of Stockfish that won S11 through S14. The TCEC has released a few details about S16. • CCC: The CCC is still running a series of exhibition events. The current event, dubbed 'Rapid Romp', has three engines and is also about 75% completed. Leela is trailing both Brainfish and Leelenstein, with a minus score against both adversaries.

Let's have an update on that.

TCEC: The 'Champions Bonus' ended as expected. The Stockfish version that won S14 finished first, the version that won S13 finished second, and so on. The only variance from the expected rank was Leela's fifth place finish. As winner of S15, it could reasonably have been expected to finish higher. The results for the first eight engines are shown in the following chart.

The TCEC is currently running a 'Rapid Bonus' with 14 engines. Why these engines were chosen and what the result will tell is anybody's guess. The event will finish in about a week and a half, when we should see the start of S16.

CCC: After 'Rapid Romp' (three engines; 1st: Brainfish, 2nd: Leelenstein 3rd: Leela; two points separating first and last), the demo events continued with

• Historical World Championship Replays
• Warmup II

The site is currently running 'CCC9: The Gauntlet Qualification', with 12 engines, including Leela and Stockfish. The rules say,

Qualification: 5 rounds, 12 engines
Quarterfinals: 7 rounds, 10 engines
Semifinals: 20 rounds, 6 engines
Finals: 100 rounds, 2 engines
Time control: 5m + 2s (10m+5s for the finals)

The demo event 'Historical World Championship Replays' was based on the openings from 100 games of World Championship matches, starting with the 1886 Steinitz - Zukertort match, through the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana match. The FIDE Knockout World Championships were not considered. Brainfish finished ahead of Leela +7-3=190, with Black winning as many games as White. What's Brainfish?

!brainfish: Stockfish with an opening book

For more about the Brainfish engine, use the search function to find previous posts on this blog. Like the TCEC's 'Rapid Bonus', it's not clear what the CCC's World Championship openings were supposed to prove, if anything. I imagine that most of the engine games deviated from their grandmaster stem games soon after the mandatory opening ended. The selection might be suitable for an anthology of best WCC games.

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

16 June 2019

The Original Dutch Masters

The image for this month's Featured Flickr was somewhat problematic. The upper third of the painting was dark and nearly featureless, so I cropped it out.

Adrien van der Werff 1659-1722; Chess players 1679; Schwerin Staatliches Museum (cropped) © Flickr user jean louis mazieres under Creative Commons.

The description has two long passages, one in French (titled 'Les Pays Bas: La Peinture Profane et Bourgeoise'), the other in English ('The Netherlands: Profane and Bourgeois Painting'). I couldn't locate any original source for the passages. The English appears to be a translation of the French.

Let's go through the main talking points. From Wikipedia:- Adriaen van der Werff

Adriaen van der Werff was an accomplished Dutch painter of portraits and erotic, devotional and mythological scenes. His brother, Pieter van der Werff (1661–1722), was his principal pupil and assistant.

The painting is one in a series of nearly 200 Flickr images, all attributed to the Staatliches Museum Schwerin (museum-schwerin.de/en), and all on the theme of Dutch profane and bourgeois painting. The closest text to the Flickr description appears to be Wikipedia's Dutch Golden Age painting:-

Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence. ("Dutch Masters" redirects here.)

How would a professional art restorer handle the dark area I've cropped out of the painting? For a black and white version, see van der Werff 032.jpg (wikimedia.org).

14 June 2019

Mapping the Rabbit Hole

It's time to wrap up the series on early 19th century chess periodicals. It began with:-

First I spent some time becoming familiar with the resource:-

Then I spent some time looking at early U.S. periodicals:-

I finished the series with a look at other French sources:-

There were a few posts branching from the above, mainly documenting images that I'd encountered along the way. The next step, which shouldn't take much time, will be to catalog the various periodicals by year.

13 June 2019

John Wayne Played Chess

In the previous post, More 'Brainwashed', I had four photos from the movie of that name. Once I started looking at the hundreds of photos featuring scenes from movies, I noted many other sub-themes within the movie theme. Here, for example, are four images featuring John Wayne.

Top row: 1944 The Fighting Seabees • 1962 The Longest Day (production sketch)
Bottom row: 1963 McLintock! (John Wayne & son Patrick) • 1963 McLintock!

You might think that publicity photos would be vetted to have everything as perfect as possible, but you would be wrong. In the photo bottom-right, White's Bishops and Knights are switched on their start squares. Since another still from 'McLintock!' already appears on my page Chess in the Movies (p.2), I can ignore this erroneous example.

11 June 2019

More 'Brainwashed'

In last month's post, Chess Obsessed, where I featured a photo from the movie 'Brainwashed' (1961), I noted,

Back to that 'Chess in the Movies' page, I created it sometime around 2005. It might be worthwhile to survey images I've collected since then and, if I have enough examples, add another sub-page on the same topic.

While I'm sorting through those other images, here are four more from 'Brainwashed'.

The actor Curt Jurgens, the character in the 'Chess Obsessed' photo, is seen in both photos in the top row. The actor in the bottom row, who is seen in all four photos, is Mario Adorf.

10 June 2019

TCEC S15/S16 Bonus; CCC8/-9 Demos

A week ago both world class engine-vs-engine competitions were between their marquee events. I recorded the status in, TCEC S15/S16; CCC8/CCC9. Here's a summary:-

TCEC: The last six games of the S15 superfinal finished with six draws, giving Leela a final score of +14-7=79. The superfinal conclusion was mostly overlooked or ignored by the major chess news sites. Q: What is the TCEC doing now? A: '!bonus: Featuring winners of TCEC Seasons 1 thru 15 = 14 engines (S1 and S2 had same winner). Next: Rapid bonus with engines from Div P and Div 1.' • CCC: The CCC has been running a series of exhibition events. CCC9 is in a testing stage. Perhaps by next week's post, CCC9 will already be underway.

When will TCEC S16 start? CCC9? I wish I knew. In any case, here's the current situation.

TCEC: The 'S15 - Champions Bonus' is still running with about 75% of the games having been played. Leela, the winner of S15 is trailing the four versions of Stockfish that won S11 through S14. The TCEC has released a few details about S16:-

!s16: The Season 16 divisions are 4, 3, 2, 1, and Premier. The Superfinal will probably be played before the Cup. • !div4: New entries: 1. Mystery NN, 2. A 2nd new unique neural net based engine. 3. One new classical (AB) engine.

Last week I mentioned, 'the technological evolution from traditional engines to AI/NN engines, a trend which will probably accelerate into a revolution'. How far will the two new AI/NN engines advance in S16?

CCC: The CCC is still running a series of exhibition events. In the last week, we've seen...

• CCC: Testing Updates II
• Lc0 vs Allie
• CCC Demo: King’s Gambit

...in that order. The current event, dubbed 'Rapid Romp', has three engines and is also about 75% completed. Leela is trailing both Brainfish and Leelenstein, with a minus score against both adversaries.

It's curious that the status for both TCEC and CCC shows Leela, the S15 winner, behind the other engines. A thread on the Leela forum, Leela performance so far in the Champions Bonus, explores some of the reasons for this apparent underperformance.

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

09 June 2019

Armageddon in Norway

The short list for this month's video post was awash in instructional videos featuring Armageddon games. Here's one from Youtube's PowerPlayChess channel, last seen on this blog in Top-10 Games 2018 (January 2019).

Armageddon - The two bishops of the apocalypse - Ding Liren vs So | Norway Chess 2019 (15:25) • 'Published on Jun 5, 2019'

The description says,

Grandmaster Daniel King examines the game Ding Liren vs Wesley So from the Altibox Norway Chess 2019.

A convenient link goes to Altibox Norway Chess - Regulations 2019, where we learn:-

If there’s a draw in the classical game [120 minutes on the clock with an increment of 10 seconds after move 40] then the players will move on to Armageddon after all classical games are over. White pieces will continue with white in Armageddon. With this, there will be a winner in each game due to the fact that the player with the black pieces in the Armageddon game will win if the game ends in a draw.

The time control is unusual for Armageddon games:-

White has 10 minutes and Black has 7 minutes with an increment of 3 seconds per move, starting from move 61.

The scoring is also unusual:-

Players will get following points per round:
* Victory main game: 2 points
* Loss main game: 0 points
* Draw main game & victory Armageddon: 1.5 points
* Draw main game & loss Armageddon: 0.5 points

For more about the Armageddon format, see Leonard Barden 's Chess: Armageddon divides fans while Magnus Carlsen leads again in Norway (theguardian.com). If the Armageddon experiment works, expect to see more of the same in other tournaments. If it doesn't work, future pundits will point to the Norway tournament to explain why not.

07 June 2019

19th Century Chess Culture

While looking into what came After 'Le Palamede' ...

The first French periodical doesn't even bring us to the 1851 London tournament. What publications appeared afterwards? [...] I managed to find all of the above on Google Books.

...Google kept suggesting other French chess publications from the same era. Most of the suggestions were primers about how to play chess, but one of them was more interesting: 'Bibliographie anecdotique du jeu des échecs' by Jean Gay (1864). That title translates to something like 'Anecdotal Bibliography of the Game of Chess'.

Left: Title page; Right: Table of contents (1/3)

I started to flip through it and realized that it was a catalog of chess culture in the mid-19th century. The book is organized by country. Germany ('Allemagne') takes up 19 pages, the U.S. ('Amérique') 4 pages, England ('Angleterre', i.e. Great Britain) 24 pages, while France gets a whopping 89 pages. After the countries, there are 20 other topics ('Variétes') that take up almost 70 pages.

The material for individual countries is further divided into topics like historical anecdotes, clubs, periodicals, and celebrities. It would be easy to get lost in this material, so I'll try to limit myself to another post or two out of the 300 pages.

Who was Jean Gay? Collectors exchange (chess-museum.com), says,

Jean Gay was a professional bibliographer and book seller in mid-19th century Brussels -- same as his father Jules -- who edited most of his bibliographies in Paris. In toto, the bibliography of works edited by the Gays lists 82 editions! -- a lot of them are what today would be called erotic or pornographic literature of their days

The copy of the chess book on sale carried a price of $1400. Before discovering that paragraph, I wasn't aware that 'professional bibliographer' was a career choice.

06 June 2019

Carving Walrus Ivory

There's a chess story getting attention this week: Lewis chessmen piece bought for £5 in 1964 could sell for £1m (theguardian.com).

A small walrus tusk warrior figure bought for £5 in 1964 -- which, for years, was stored in a household drawer -- has been revealed as a missing piece from one of the true wonders of the medieval world with a possible value of £1m.

I've often wondered whether the Lewis pieces were indeed chess pieces. First, I wanted a good photo of a complete set, but discovered that most of the available photos are replica Lewis chess sets. The British Museum has some excellent photos of the original pieces, e.g. Image gallery: The Lewis Chessmen, but the best image I found was an old illustration.

H.J.R. Murray, 'A History of Chess' (1913/1962, p.760-761)

(Left) Top row: King; Bottom rows: Queens
(Right) Top to bottom: Bishops, Knights, Rooks

Murray introduced the topic with a summary of the pieces' discovery.

The Lewis chessmen were discovered in 1831 in a sand-bank at the head of the Bay of Uig, on the west coast of the island of Lewis, one of the outer Hebrides. There is no circumstantial account of the discovery, but it appears that they were found in a small chamber of dry-built stone, resembling an oven, about 15 feet below the top of the sand-bank.

The chessmen were exhibited by Mr. Roderick Ririe at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, April 11, 1831, but before the members had raised the money to purchase them Mr. Kirkpatrick Sharpe stepped in and bought 10 of the pieces, while the remaining 67 chessmen, 19 tablemen, and a buckle were bought for the British Museum.

On the dispersion of Mr. Sharpe's collection, the Lewis chessmen, now 11 in number, Mr. Sharpe having obtained another one from Lewis, were purchased by Lord Londesborough, and at the sale of the latter's collection in 1888 they were purchased by the Society of Antiquaries for the Scottish National Museum.

All the game-pieces, as well as the buckle, are carved of walrus-ivory. The 78 chessmen comprise 8 Kings, 8 Queens, 16 Bishops, 15 Knights, 12 Rooks, and 19 Pawns, of which 2 Kings, 3 Queens, 3 Bishops, a Knight, and 2 Rooks are now at Edinburgh.

Not everyone believes that the pieces are chess pieces. Geoff Chandler explains,

At an unknown date, an unknown ship is sheltering from a storm in a bay on the Isle of Lewis. Onboard, an unknown cabin boy seizes his chance to escape from the ship, sneaks into the Captain’s cabin, steals a sack containing 128 carved walrus pieces (four chess sets) and swims ashore. [...]

That excerpt is from Not Even From Lewis, Mate (textualities.net); 'I am totally convinced the "Lewis Chessmen" are not chess pieces'. Chandler calls them 'gaming pieces'. If he's right, would they still sell for £1 million?

04 June 2019

June 1969 'On the Cover'

Is chess more for young people or for old people? Considering the cover stories of two American chess magazines 50 years ago, I might be tempted to say 'young people', but I'll stick with 'For All Ages'.

Left: 'Vlastimil Hort, Winner at Venice'
Right: 'Woman Champion'

Chess Life

Anthony Saidy wrote the tournament report corresponding to the cover story, titled 'We Open in Venice'. I already quoted it in April 1969 'On the Cover', so I'll just repeat the first paragraph.

Vlastimil Hort, 25-year-old Czech International Grandmaster, romped undefeated to an easy victory in the 3rd annual International Venice Tournament, March 5-23. The "baby" of the event took the sole lead with four straight wins, had 7 points after 8 rounds and coasted to a final tally of 11.5-3.5.

It's an elementary observation that 25 + 50 = 75. Chessbase did a story at the beginning of the year, Vlastimil Hort turns 75 - an interview (January 2019). The site has also been running a series of 'Hort stories'; see tag=Vlastimil+Hort (chessbase.com).

Chess Review

While Champion Nona Gaprindashvili and Challenger Alla Kushnir (see April issue) are battling for the world title, let's reflect for a moment on the first Wonsan World Champion of Chess (and the first woman to hold a verified master's title). Here on our cover is Miss Vera Menchik at 21 soon after she had won the world title as she appeared at Hastings in 1927. The "Vera Menchik Chess Club," a list of masters who lost to her, became quite lengthy and studded with notables.

Is it sexism that the CR cover doesn't mention Vera Menchik by name? Or was she really so little-known at the time? If so, then chess history has made giant strides since 1969. For a previous post on this blog, see More Menchik (April 2013).

03 June 2019


Through some sort of statistical fluke, last week's post, Leela Wins TCEC S15; Stockfish Wins CCC8 Finals, was a report on the season finales of the world's top two engine-to-engine competitions. The key points in that post were:-

TCEC: The S15 superfinal is effectively over. Leela leads Stockfish by seven games with six games still to be played; the current score is +14-7=73. • CCC: CCC8 finished in the order predicted last week: Stockfish, Leela, etc. The Chess.com report continued, 'The four finalists will join a field of 18 total chess engines for the next event, CCC9: The Gauntlet.'

Gazing into the blogger's crystal ball, I also made a prediction for this week's post:-

In next week's post I expect we'll have news about TCEC S16 and more details about CCC9. Since we're at a transition point for both competitions, it's a good time to decide whether I want to continue these weekly reports.

Looking first at TCEC S15/S16 and CCC8/9, what has happened during the intervening week?

TCEC: The last six games of the S15 superfinal finished with six draws, giving Leela a final score of +14-7=79. The TCEC organizers marked the occasion by publishing a report on the event that immediately preceded the superfinal, which I reported three weeks ago in Leela Wins TCEC Cup 3; CCC8 S1 99% Finished. Here are the main conclusions of the TCEC report:-

  • 2019-05-30: TCEC Cup 3 report (chessdom.com) • 'Leela confirmed that its win in TCEC Cup 2 was no fluke and it retained the title. Neural networks do finally seem to be coming through with genuine advances, at Deep Mind (Hassabis, 2019) and elsewhere, but troublingly it is not obvious why they work and when they go wrong.'

The superfinal conclusion was mostly overlooked or ignored by the major chess news sites. I found only one report:-

  • 2019-06-02: A new age in computer chess? Lc0 beats Stockfish! (chess24.com) • 'In the 15th Superfinal of the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC) – the unofficial computer chess World Championship – the self-learning Leela Chess Zero beat the previous best engine in the world, Stockfish 10.'

I expect to see a trickle of other reports in the forthcoming weeks. What is the TCEC doing now?

!bonus: TCEC ALL STARS ALLTIME CHAMPIONS BONUS; Featuring winners of TCEC Seasons 1 thru 15 = 14 engines (S1 and S2 had same winner). Next: Rapid bonus with engines from Div P and Div 1.

You might expect the bonus event to show the TCEC winners of recent seasons finishing ahead of the winners from early seasons, and that is exactly what is happening. The only surprise after 16 games for each engine is that Leela is trailing the four versions of Stockfish that won seasons 11 through 14.

CCC: Since the 'CCC8 Bonus' that I mentioned in the previous post, the CCC has been running a series of exhibition events. The results are stored in discordapp.com (see the 'further info' note below) and the data from the events is available via a little drop-down arrow on the 'live' page (ditto), but I have no idea what purpose the events served. CCC9 is in a testing stage. The plans are:-

!ccc9: Engines are 1. Stockfish 2. Lc0 3. Allie 4. Laser 5. Xiphos 6. Andscacs 7. Dark Queen Lc0 8. Rofchade 9. Wasp 10. Rubichess 11. Winter 12. Stoofvlees 13. KMC 14. Ethereal 15. Fire 16. Komodo 17. Houdini 18. Leelenstein • There will be 4 stages, qualification/quarterfinal/semifinal/finals. Opening books for all stages • TC [time control] is 5+2 for all stages except finals which is 10+5

Perhaps by next week's post, CCC9 will already be underway. That brings me to the final topic for today's post: 'it's a good time to decide whether I want to continue these weekly reports'.

Sparked by my interest in using chess engines for analysis, I've been covering the TCEC since TCEC Season 7 (March 2015). My coverage of the next few seasons was limited to the final match, but I found it increasingly difficult to understand an individual season by only looking at it every once in a while. There are many engines involved and they all have a story.

This difficulty was compounded when I added the CCC to the mix in Catching Up with Engine Competitions (October 2018). After spending too much time to catch up at the end of each TCEC/CCC tournament, I hit on the idea of catching up once a week on a regular basis, starting with TCEC S14 Underway (January 2019).

Five months later, the weekly engine post has almost been reduced to a formula. I'm happy to have been recording the technological evolution from traditional engines to AI/NN engines, a trend which will probably accelerate into a revolution. I'm also happy to note that visitor interest in these posts is about the same level as for other posts on the blog. The downside of the weekly survey is that I haven't had time to explore the AI/NN technology in more depth. The quote I used earlier ('it is not obvious why they work') confirms there is much new ground here.

What to do? I'll continue with the weekly post, but try to take an occasional detour to look at the underlying technological trends. The Leela camp is the obvious place to start, but the Stockfish camp is also keeping tabs on the competition in their usual professional way. The future is bright for chess engines.

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

02 June 2019

Cards for Chess Champions

I've seen these cards many times on eBay, but I never thought they were suitable material for Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). It just proves how little I know about collectibles.

The auction for the card on the left was titled '1888 N162 Goodwin Champions Steinitz CHESS PSA 4 VGEX (PWCC)'. It sold for US $1009 after 14 bids from 10 bidders. The card on the right, '1888 N162 Goodwin Champions Zukertort CHESS PSA 6 EXMT (PWCC)', sold for $1525 after 21 bids from 11 bidders. Both cards had a starting price of $0.99.

The codes 'PSA 4 VGEX' and 'PSA 6 EXMT' in the titles indicate their grades. There is more information about grades on, e.g., 1888 Goodwin Champions (N162) Steinitz Chess (psacard.com). The code 'PWCC' in the title is the name of the auction house.

The backs of both cards list other 'Champions' in the series. There are three chess players : the two shown here plus 'Capt. Mackenzie', George Henry Mackenzie (wikipedia.org).

31 May 2019

After 'Le Palamede'

After collecting mid-19th century chess periodicals for four countries, I had one significant gap to address. In Le Palamede (March 2019), I documented that French publication with:-

From Di Felice, 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008' [NB: The first number ('1778') is Di Felice's internal reference.]:-

1778. Palamède (Le) : Revue Mensuelle des Échecs et Autres Jeux (1836–1847)

The first French periodical doesn't even bring us to the 1851 London Tournament. What publications appeared afterwards?

1946. Régence (La) : Journal des Échecs, Rédigé par Une Société d’Amateurs (1849–1851) Vol.1, no.1 (Jan 1849)–Vol.3, no.12 (Dec 1851). Monthly. Editor Kieseritsky. Publisher Café de la Régence. Paris. France. Illus., 20 cm. Magazine. General. French.

After 1849–1851, there was a gap of several years.

1947. Régence (La) : Revue des Échecs et Autres Jeux (1856–1857) Vol.1, no.1 (Jan 15, 1856)–Vol.2, no.1 (Jan 15, 1857). Frequency unknown. Editor Arnous de Rivière. Publisher Café de la Régence. Paris. France. Diagrs., 28 cm. Magazine. General. French.

The cover pages of the two different series are shown in the following composite image. The 1856 cover is probably off-center because of a scanning problem.

Left: 1849; Right: 1856

After 1856–1857, there was another gap.

1699. Nouvelle Régence (La) : Revue Spéciale des Échecs (1860–1864) Vol.1 (1860)–Vol.5, no.4 (Apr 1864). Monthly. Editor Paul Journoud. Publisher Café de la Régence. Paris. France. Diagrs., 23 cm. Magazine. General. French. Note Vol.1 has title Régence (La): Revue Spéciale des Échecs. Replaced by Palamède Français (Le).

Paul Journoud (wikipedia.org) was to edit other publications. Wikipedia says, 'He was an editor of several chess periodicals: La Régence (1860), La Nouvelle Régence (1861–1864), Le Palamède Français (1864), and Le Sphinx (1865–1867).'

1779. Palamède Français (Le) : Revue des Échecs et des Autres Jeux de Combinaison (1864–1865) Vol.1, no.1 (Sept 1864)–Vol.2, no.15 (Nov 1865). Monthly. Editors Paul Journoud, Ladislav Maczuski. Publisher C. Lahure. Paris. France. 24 cm. Magazine. General. French. Note Replaces Nouvelle Régence (La).

Le Palamède Français started some months after its predecessor, La Nouvelle Régence, and overlapped its successor, Le Sphinx.

2528. Sphinx (Le) : Journal des Échecs (1865–1867) Vol.1, no.1 (Apr 15, 1865)–Vol.2, no.18 (Dec 15, 1867). Fortnightly, later 10 issues per year. Editor Paul Journoud. Publisher Imp. Vallée. Paris. France. Illus., cm. 22 x 13. Magazine. General. French. Note Replaced by Philidorien (Le).

The next periodical in the chain, Le Philidorien, lasted only a few months.

1828. Philidorien (Le) : Petite Encyclopédie des Échecs (1868) No.1 (Apr 1868)–no.6 (Sept 1868). Monthly. Editor C. Sanson. Publisher P. Lebrige-Duquesne. Paris. France. Magazine. General. French. Note Replaces Sphinx (Le): Journal des Échecs.

I managed to find all of the above on Google Books. I don't know whether the copies are complete or internally consistent, but I'll find out when I use them for further reference.

30 May 2019

May Amazon Yahoos Crumble

In last month's end-of-the-month Yahoo post, April Yahoos -- Much Ado About Nothing?, I wrote,

I'm once again reduced to pecking at crumbs just like in previous months. The only chess reference I spotted while browsing mainstream news headlines is shown in the following screen capture.

This month I had a stream of crumbs, shown below. They brought memories of Yahoo ghosts of blogging past:-

  • 2019-01-31: January Amazon Yahoos • 'The Yahoo news service picked up zero chess stories from the mainstream press. There was, nevertheless, one chess-related item in my news feed.'
  • 2019-02-28: February Amazon Yahoos • '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?'

Deterioration in the Yahoo news feed, probably. An unwanted -- let's call it creepy -- coupling of my Yahoo habits with my Amazon habits, definitely.

'Sponsored --$-- Amazon.com'

The reappearance of Amazon Yahoos was provoked by my work on the post:-

While I was preparing that post, I looked at one -- let me emphasize that: ONE! -- book about Morphy on Amazon. I don't remember exactly what book it was, but it was a modern edition of a 19th-century book. I spent ten seconds looking at it, said to myself 'That's interesting', and moved on to another aspect of Morphy's career. The book might have been the second one shown in the ad dated '2019-05-22', titled 'Morphy's Games of Chess, and Frère's Problem Tournament (Classic Reprint) Paperback – April 5, 2018; by Paul Charles Morphy (Author)' on Amazon.

Yes, after writing that last paragraph I'm certain that was the book I looked at, because what I found interesting was that Morphy had written a book. I hadn't known that. The same book is the third shown in the ad dated '2019-05-29'. Amazon/Yahoo showed me the first ad 3-4 times over the next day, left me alone for a week, then reappeared with the second ad. The third book in the first ad is Kasparov's 'My Great Predecessors, Part 1', and the second book in the second ad is Zenon Franco's 'Morphy: Move by Move'. Why Kasparov? Probably because there's a section about Morphy in his book. The third ad, which appeared this morning, dropped the Morphy theme and offered two books by Jeremy Silman. Why Silman? I have no idea.

Ditto for the first book in all three ads: Capablanca's 'Chess Fundamentals'. I have no idea why Amazon keeps pushing this book. I used to own a copy, gave it to someone, and now have a PDF copy. As an aside, the Amazon product page says it has 138 pages, while the last page in my PDF version is page 61. Whatever the real number of pages is, I won't be buying it from Amazon. Let's see how long the ads continue.

As another aside, I bought 'Predecessors, Part 1' with earnings from Amazon's affiliate program. At one time, around the year 2000, my earnings from that program were enough to buy a book from time to time. Nowadays if I earn five cents a year from the program it's a windfall. I could say more about the Amazon affiliate program, but today is not the right time or place.

If there is one chess story I would like to have seen in the mainstream press during the month of May, it was the first event in this year's Grand Prix series. I'll cover that soon on my World Chess Championship Blog, so I'll say no more about it here.

28 May 2019

Google Obsessed

This post should have been a follow-up to Chess Obsessed and Chess Obsessed II, but instead I got side-tracked by Google nagging me for the umpteenth time. This time it was a problem with Adsense. That's the Google service that puts ads on my pages, like this blog or my website. The latest message said,

Earnings at risk - One or more of your sites does not have an ads.txt file. Fix this now to avoid severe impact to your revenue.

Speaking honestly, there isn't much revenue to impact severely. The ads basically pay the cost of the domain ISP and serve as a check that things are running normally. No ad impressions means there's a problem somewhere and I check the numbers once a week.

The procedure to create the file is explained on the page Declare authorized sellers with ads.txt (support.google.com). I followed the instructions, so now it's up to Google to tell me if I followed them correctly.


After that detour, I still had some time to prepare Chess Obsessed III. The last photo I picked for the mini-series is shown below.

The eBay description said,

1954 Original Photo THREE DIMENSIONAL CHESS Mankato Teachers College Game; size is 8" x 10"

That's certainly a straightforward (and unusual) implementation of 3D chess. If pieces are allowed to move up and down from board to board, I can't imagine what the rules would be. The setup could also be used by two players for an eight board simul against each other. For another post on the same subject, see How About a Game of 3D-Chess? (November 2017).

27 May 2019

Leela Wins TCEC S15; Stockfish Wins CCC8 Finals

In last week's post, TCEC S15 and CCC8 Finals Both Underway, we left our two major engine-vs-engine competitions in full swing. To summarize that post:-

TCEC: With just over half of the S15 superfinal games played, Leela leads Stockfish by 27.5-24.5 (+8-5=40). • CCC: In the final stage, with about two-thirds of the games already played, the order of the four engines is Stockfish, Leela, Leelenstein, Houdini. The point spread between each successive place is almost enough to guarantee that this will be the final standing.

In the meantime, both competitions crystallized around clear winners.

TCEC: It ain't over 'til it's over, but the S15 superfinal is effectively over. Leela leads Stockfish by seven games with six games still to be played; the current score is +14-7=73. It's been more than three months since S14 ended, which I documented in Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway (February 2019; also links to TCEC winners for S10-S13): 'the final score +10-9=81 in Stockfish's favor'. Last month, in TCEC S15 DivP Underway; Leela Wins CCC7 Final (April 2019), I commented,

CCC7 marked the symbolic end of the dominance of the traditional, handcrafted, alpha-beta engines. The passing of the baton to a new generation needs to be confirmed by a TCEC victory for an AI/NN engine, but that is a question of 'when', not 'if'.

The baton has now been passed. For future TCEC/CCC competitions, I expect that more AI/NN engines will join the race and that the alpha-beta engines will struggle to maintain the pace.

CCC: CCC8 finished in the order predicted last week: Stockfish, Leela, etc. A final report on the event, Stockfish Strikes Back, Tops Lc0 In Computer Chess Championship (chess.com), said,

Lc0 defeated Stockfish in their head-to-head match, four wins to three. Lc0 also won its head-to-head matches with the other two finalists. But Stockfish performed better in the four-engine round-robin to take back the title by beating up on the two weaker engines.

The Chess.com report continued,

The four finalists will join a field of 18 total chess engines for the next event, CCC9: The Gauntlet, which will begin after the CCC8 bonus games (live now). CCC9 will try a new format with four stages of increasingly powerful engines. Strong engines will be seeded into stages two and three, but will still play in the preliminary rounds to challenge a varied field, including some new entrants to the Computer Chess Championship.

In the meantime, the CCC8 Bonus also finished, won by Brainfish. The following chart shows the final crosstables for the two CCC8 events that finished during the past week.

Top: CCC8 Final; Bottom: CCC8 Bonus

In next week's post I expect we'll have news about TCEC S16 and more details about CCC9. Since we're at a transition point for both competitions, it's a good time to decide whether I want to continue these weekly reports.

[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. • Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

26 May 2019

Books on Soviet Chess History

I couldn't find an appropriate video for this month's edition of The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), but I had a good backup idea. While I was preparing last week's post Chess Obsessed II ('The phrase "chess obsessed" once referred to an entire nation.'), I discovered a post on the English Chess Forum, Books on Soviet Chess (ecforum.org.uk; June 2013):-

Could someone personally recommend a publication on the history of Soviet Chess?

Along with literary luminaries like Leonard Barden, Tim Harding, and Richard James, forum members suggested about a dozen titles. I assembled the following list:-

  • Averbakh, 'Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes'
  • Cafferty & Taimanov, 'Soviet Chess'
  • Eales, 'Chess: 'The History Of A Game'
  • Johnston, 'White King and Red Queen'
  • Kotov & Yudovich, 'The Soviet School of Chess'
  • Linder, 'Chess in Old Russia'
  • Richards, 'Soviet Chess'
  • Soltis, 'Soviet Chess 1917-1991'
  • Sosonko, 'Russian Silhouettes'
  • Spanier, 'Total Chess'
  • Wade, 'Soviet Chess'

More accurately, there are 11 titles on the list, of which I have all but three. A title that wasn't on the list, because it was published in September 2013, is:-

  • Hudson, 'Storming Fortresses: A Political History Of Chess In The Soviet Union, 1917-1948'

It's available as a PDF from a number of sources, and lately I've been reading it to expand my knowledge of Soviet chess history. Its abstract starts,

From the end of the Second World War through the demise of USSR, Soviet chess players dominated world chess. Not only did they control the world champion title after 1948 (except for the Fischer interlude), they also monopolized all other areas of international chess competition. When the Soviets captured the world title in 1948, this was the culmination of a long, carefully cultivated program to foster a chess community in the Soviet Union. The rationale for this initiative, which engaged the attention of the highest levels of the Soviet state, had deep ideological roots.

This dissertation explores the social/political history of chess in the Soviet Union, particularly its utility to Party and State. The story of Soviet chess begins in the Civil War, when chess was enlisted as a training tool for military recruits. After the Bolshevik victory, a very similar rationale was used to promote chess as an instrument for training Party cadre in the burgeoning Communist Party. The same attributes desired in soldiers were also desired in Party activists, and chess was seen as a tool for nurturing these attributes.

Out of curiosity I ran a search on the general subject and came up with the following.

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

In the middle of that screen capture ('B5') is another title that deserves to be on the list:-

  • Gulko, Popov, Felshtinsky, & Korchnoi, 'The KGB Plays Chess: The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown'

Since I've read that one as well, I'll spend some time to locate the three other titles that I haven't read.

24 May 2019

D.W.Fiske Bio

Some of what we know about Paul Morphy's heyday, the period from 1857 to 1859, is due to the work of Daniel Willard Fiske. Last year he was the subject of a post on this blog in:-

Fiske returned over the past week in two posts:-

The 'Images' post was based on Fiske's book 'Chess Tales & Chess Miscellanies'. The book starts with a one page biography of Fiske, dated January 1912.

[Readers of "Chess Tales" who are not familiar with the career of the author may be interested in the following biographical note.]

Daniel Willard Fiske was born in Ellisburgh, N.Y., November 11, 1831, and died in Frankfort-on-the-Main, September 17th, 1904. He was educated at Cazenovia Seminary and at Hamilton College, but left the latter institution before graduation to go abroad and study the Scandinavian languages. He passed two years at the University of Upsala, Sweden, and returned to New York in 1852, taking a place in the Astor Library, where he remained until 1859. He was General Secretary of the American Geographical Society, 1859-60.

In 1857 the American Chess Monthly was founded, which he edited in conjunction with Paul Morphy, 1857-60; and compiled the "Book of the First American Chess Congress," held in New York, 1857. He had been connected with the United States Legation, Copenhagen, 1850-51; and became Attaché to the United States Legation, Vienna, 1861-62, under Motley. Later he was connected with the Syracuse Daily Journal, and in 1867 was on the staff of the Hartford Courant.

In 1868 he traveled abroad, visiting Egypt and Palestine, when he received a call to be Professor of North-European languages, and Librarian, at Cornell University. He was an ardent member of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity. Iceland he visited in 1879. His marriage to Miss Jennie McGraw occurred in 1880. In 1883 he resigned his offices at Cornell and took up his permanent residence in Florence, Italy.

Mr. Fiske's miscellaneous writings were numerous and varied, and reprints of the more important will appear later. His valuable book collections, which were presented to the Cornell University Library, related to Dante, to Tetrarch, to Icelandic History and Literature, and to the Rhaeto-Romanic language. Besides the great collections which have enriched Cornell University, that institution has also received from his estate a fund for the uses and purposes of the Library, of more than half a million dollars.

A similar, expanded biography can be found in 'Willard Fiske, Life and Correspondence: A Biographical Study' (1925) by Horatio Stevens White. The book also compresses the path of Fiske's life into a single page, titled 'Chronological Outlines', shown below.

It is curious that Morphy's heyday coincided with the period in Fiske's life where his main interest was chess, 'Chess Monthly, 1857-60 (1852-61)'. I've always had a special interest in Fiske, because he was associated with my alma mater, Cornell University. It is also curious that he lived/worked in Hartford CT, Copenhagen, and Frankfurt, three cities where I've lived and worked. What provoked him to lose interest in chess?

23 May 2019

Chess Obsessed II

What rhymes with chess? Bless, dress, guess, mess, press, stress -- Yes! Bless this mess? Those are one syllable words. There are even more two syllable words that rhyme, but the word that interests me for this post is 'obsess', as in last week's Chess Obsessed. The motivation for that post was simple:-

I found a half-dozen recent eBay photos from roughly the same period as the item in the 'Hyde' post, couldn't decide which I liked best, and chose the one that I knew most about.

For this post I chose another photo from the same batch, this time on a subject that I would like to know more about.

The description said,

Russia USSR real photo card 1960s Soviet chess club. Boys pioneers. Photo card by Amursky, 1960s. Size 14.5 * 9.7 cm

What would I like to know more about? Chess in the Soviet Pioneer clubs. I started with a reliable source about which I blogged ten years ago:-

Although the word 'Pioneers' doesn't appear in the index of 'Soviet Chess', the phrase 'junior chess' does, and chapter five is titled 'Chess among Women and Juniors'. First, a digression : the relevant passage on junior chess (p.59-60) is immediately preceded by an important fact about Soviet women's chess that is worth keeping in mind:-

From 1938, although republic and city championships continued as before, championships of the U.S.S.R. for women were dropped from the calendar as it was hoped that women would compete in the men's championship. This policy proved misguided, however, as the difference in standard between the sexes was too great, and after the end of the Second World War separate championships for women were again instituted.

Back to junior chess, the chapter continues:-

During the [1930s] the number of schoolboys enrolled in the chess organization increased enormously. In the previous decade, although isolated clubs, most notably in Leningrad, and a few senior players had taken an interest in the younger generation, the general attitude towards enrolling juniors in the chess movement was far from favourable. Later, however, chess clubs were started at Pioneer Houses and often in schools. (The game was never taught as part of the school curriculum.) This work took such rapid root that almost 100,000 school-children competed in the qualifying tournaments for the All-Union junior championships of 1934 and 1936.

Many present-day Soviet grandmasters received instruction in the chess clubs of Pioneer Houses, which remain still the chief centres for junior chess today. Smyslov and Averbakh, for example, were taught at the Pioneer House in Moscow, Taimanov and Spassky in the Leningrad Pioneer House and Bronstein at a similar institution in Kiev. Petrosyan and Nona Gaprindashvili both learnt the game in the Tbilisi Pioneer groups.

One of the dangers facing Western masters visiting the Soviet Union since the mid thirties has been a simultaneous display against Russian schoolboys. The first foreign masters to experience their strength were Lasker, Spielmann and Liliental at the time of the 1935 Moscow tournament, but the most striking result, from the schoolboys' point of view, was a display given in 1951 by the English master Wade, who against thirty Moscow young pioneers scored ten draws and twenty losses.

Poor Bob Wade -- he scored +0-20=10 in a simul against children. The phrase 'chess obsessed' once referred to an entire nation.

21 May 2019

Images of Morphy

In last week's post, Paul Morphy, Annotator, I mentioned the book 'Chess Tales & Chess Miscellanies' by Daniel Willard Fiske (1912). Fiske died in 1904, and the publication of 'Chess Tales' was the work of its editor, Horatio S. White. My copy of the Google Books scan shows both White's bookplate and his handwritten inscription ('Literary Executor for the Willard Fiske Estate'). The book is a collection of about 30 reprints, mainly from Chess Monthly (see another post from earlier this month, Five Volumes of 'Chess Monthly') plus a few other sources. The book's 'Introduction' explains its genesis.

The chapter titled 'Paul Morphy' contains six pages with images of Morphy. I collected these into a single composite image, shown below.

All of the image pages were captioned. Top row, left to right:-

(Signed: 'Yours, dear Fiske, Paul Morphy')
Frontispiece to Volume III of the Chess Monthly, 1859

By Courtesy of the Manhattan Chess Club, New York

From the Collection of Eugene B. Cook

Bottom row, left to right:-

By Lequesne
From the Collection of the late John Boyd Thacher,
of Albany, New York


By Courtesy of the Manhattan Chess Club
New York. From the Original in the Club Room

All of these images can be found elsewhere. Take, for example, the image in the center of the top row ('PLAYERS AT THE FIRST AMERICAN CHESS CONGRESS'), attributed to Matthew Brady. From 'Paul Morphy: Pride and Sorrow of Chess' by David Lawson (2010, p.77):-

During the time of the Congress, Matthew Brady, the well-known photographer, took several pictures of Morphy, singly and with other members of the Congress, and it was announced in the Chess Monthly of July 1858 that there would be published

"a lithographic Picture embracing Likenesses of about Twenty of the most eminent Chess Players in the United States—the same being an exact Copy of the group as arranged and Photographed by Mr. Brady of New York. In the foreground is represented the figures of Messrs. Morphy and Paulsen in the act of playing their memorable Match, with Judge Meek of Alabama as Arbitrator and the rear is made up of leading Chess Players watching with intense interest the progress of the Game."

The photo to the right of the top row is also attributed to Brady. The bust was mentioned in the 'Paul Morphy, Annotator' post (Fiske: 'the bust of Morphy constitutes the best likeness obtainable -- all those appearing in books are caricatures'). The last image in the bottom row was painted by Charles Loring Elliott (wikipedia.org; 1812–1868). For more images of Morphy, see Visions of Morphy (chess.com; batgirl; March 2016).

20 May 2019

TCEC S15 and CCC8 Finals Both Underway

A week ago, in Leela Wins TCEC Cup 3; CCC8 S1 99% Finished, we left both of our two world class engine-to-engine competitions with their final stages just getting underway. Here's a recap of that post:-

TCEC: The S15 superfinal started [between Leela and Stockfish] and the score is currently tied at +1-1=11. • CCC: The CCC8 qualifying stage finished in the order -- Stockfish, Leela, Leelenstein, Antifish, Houdini, Komodo -- no tiebreaks required. Leelenstein beat Antifish for the second qualifying spot in the Leela family.

What is the current status of the two tournaments?

TCEC: With just over half of the S15 superfinal games played, Leela leads Stockfish by 27.5-24.5 (+8-5=40). At one point, Leela led by five points.

CCC: Here's a portion of the final crosstable from the CCC8 qualifying stage, showing how the first 12 engines (out of 24 engines total) fared against each other.

In the final stage, with about two-thirds of the games already played, the order of the four engines is Stockfish, Leela, Leelenstein, Houdini. The point spread between each successive place is almost enough to guarantee that this will be the final standing.

[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. • Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

19 May 2019

The Real Caravaggio?

For this month's edition of Flickr photos, I had a good choice of interesting photos, one of which was a photo of a painting. I decided to use the painting, because I couldn't remember having seen it before.

Joueurs d'échecs, Le Caravage, 1610 © Flickr user Pierre under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo/painting pointed out (in French) that the chess board is positioned incorrectly, with the corner square white *not* on right. I had a bigger problem with the chess board -- it looks too modern and the slight tilt downward to the right is wrong. I have a plastic folding board in the same colors that looks very much like the board in the painting. This is undoubtedly a coincidence and the similiarity is my imagination playing tricks on me, but it still annoyed me.

Using an image search on 'chess caravaggio' (the artist's name in English), I located a half-dozen copies of the painting, one version of which had a different chess board. The others all had the same funny-looking board seen in the Flickr photo. There were other differences between the two versions, enough to convince me that they were two different paintings.

The Flickr description gives 'Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia' as a source. The white patch on the right side might be from a flash and is even more visible in the original (I've cropped out the painting's frame). Which version is hanging in Venice?

17 May 2019

Paul Morphy, Annotator

In a recent post on this blog, Paul Morphy, Editor, I looked at the first two volumes of 'Chess Monthly' and wondered whether Morphy wrote the notes to the games. Here's a summary of the post:-

The bottom entry (1858) lists four Morphy games starting on p.15. [...] The first game, Paulsen - Morphy (p.15), is the famous game where Morphy sacrificed his Queen for a Bishop. It has a page and a half of notes. The other three Morphy games have a half-page of notes. [...; Fiske:] "The Book of the [1st American Chess] Congress will hardly be ready before Spring. ... The notes to the games will be chiefly by Mr. Morphy." [...] Were the notes to the Morphy games taken from the draft of the book? [...] Next stop: The Book of the 1st American Chess Congress.

I already had a copy of the book, downloaded from the Open Library when I was working on the post Fiske's 'Chess in Iceland' (July 2018). That copy turned out to be problematic when I was using it in my Kindle. The pages were dark yellow and slow to load, so I located a better copy in Google Books. The title page was preceded by a colored chess problem, as shown in the following image.

Title: 'The Book of the First American Chess Congress' Author: Daniel Willard Fiske, MA; Published: New York, Rudd & Carlton, 1859. The subtitle says,

Containing the proceedings of that celebrated assemblage, held in New York, in the year 1857, with the papers read in its sessions, the games played in the grand tournament, and the stratagems entered in the problem tournay; together with sketches of the history of chess in the old and new worlds.

The book's dedication says,

To Paul Morphy, the hero of that American tournament whose story is here told, and the conqueror upon the traditionary battle fields of Europe, I dedicate this book with every sentiment of esteem and friendship.

The book's preface mentions,

To my kind and distinguished friend, Mr. PAUL MORPHY, the reader is under obligations for comments to several of the games in the Grand Tournament.

Long story short: Morphy wrote the notes to 'several' of the games in the book. While I was working on this, I also learned more about the games in 'Chess Monthly'. The following is from another of Fiske's chess books, 'Chess Tales & Chess Miscellanies' (1912), as a long note to the chapter titled 'Paul Morphy'. The note was titled 'Morphy as a Chess Editor' and attributed to the Times Democrat, New Orleans, March 10, 1901, p. 15:-

From some unknown cause, but undoubtedly as a fact, there seems to have obtained a fairly general belief among the chess fraternity, and especially the editorial section thereof, that Paul Morphy merely lent the use of his name, without substantial editorial work, to the two chess periodicals with which he was connected during his career; namely, the American Chess Monthly during 1858, 1859, and 1860, and the column in the New York Ledger appearing in 1859-1860. In part refutation, at least, of this current idea, we think the following excerpt from a letter written under date of February 5, 1901, from Prof. Daniel Willard Fiske, then at Florence, Italy, to Mr. Will H. Lyons, the well-known chess bibliopole of Newport, Ky., will prove interesting to our readers. It will be recollected that Professor Fiske was Morphy's associate in the editorship of the Chess Monthly. He observes:

"I was very much interested in Mr. Buck's account of Paul Morphy. He errs, however, when he states that Mr. Morphy contributed very little to the Chess Monthly while his name was upon the title-page. During the course of the second, third, and fourth volumes, a large part, possibly the greater part, of the games were selected and annotated by him. His annotations, for their clearness, their firmness, their gentlemanliness, and their terse, accurate English, have not, I think, ever been equalled. They well deserve republication. Unfortunately the indexes do not enable anyone to ascertain with which games Mr. Morphy had to do. My own copy has his initials attached to the games he annotated.

If possible, I will endeavor to have sent you from Paris three large photographs (front view, three-quarters view, side view) of the bust of Mr. Morphy in the Café de la Régence. They are not very satisfactory, partly because the light under which they were taken was so placed as to give a gray appearance to the hair. On the whole, the bust of Morphy constitutes the best likeness obtainable -- all those appearing in books are caricatures."

We confess that we ourselves were not aware that so large a proportion of the games and annotations that enrich the specially splendid 1858, 1859, and 1860 volumes of the Chess Monthly were due to Paul Morphy, but there can be no questioning the accuracy and reliability of Professor Fiske's statements in the matter. It would surely be a boon to possessors of that already valuable periodical, and a marked increase in its chess value to all lovers of the game, if he would furnish for publication, from his set of the Chess Monthly, the data indicating the games selected and annotated by the King of Chess-Kings. We should be only too pleased to give the matter place in our column.

It may be remarked in this connection that, as far as concerns the chess department in the New York Ledger of 1859-1860, aside from the fact that the entire series of at least the earlier half of the games and annotations bear unmistakable marks of Morphy's handiwork, we have personal knowledge that he expended much labor on that particular portion of the column. But the clouds of a mighty oncoming conflict on the bloody fields of the Civil War were already sweeping over the sons of the North and South alike, and small wonder that Morphy was compelled to commit the latter part of the volume to the capable hands of his friend, Fuller, of New York. This is a his- torical fact too well known to need repetition or discussion.

[Paul Morphy died at New Orleans, July 10, 1884.]

In that passage there is much for further research. For this post, I'll stop here.