30 August 2019

Playing Without a Horizon

After a few digressions for the ongoing Deepmind/AlphaZero saga (last seen a week ago in A Chess Epiphany), let's return to AlphaZero's Zeros (July 2019). After a few excerpts from Sadler & Regan's book 'Game Changer', we left GM Sadler lamenting the 0.00 evaluations offered too often by the traditional A/B (alpha/beta) engines like Stockfish. He wrote,

It’s perhaps the most irritating and obstructive thing that these otherwise fantastic engines do during analysis.

I would add that their habit of trading off many active pieces in mass exchanges is just as irritating. Could it be that the 0.00 evaluations and the mass exchanges are somehow related? Later in the same chapter, GM Sadler continues his discussion:-

The meaning of these 0.00 evaluations is something puzzling. At the point when the possibilities should be boundless, a draw by repetition is apparently the best option. However, if you attempt to take on the engine and prove it to be wrong, then you often end up losing... or discovering more repetitions.

That's a good statement of the issue, which is then illustrated by positions taken from published games between AlphaZero and Stockfish:-

We’ll examine a series of positions in which AlphaZero’s evaluation and that of Stockfish and other top engines varied significantly. In each position, we will try and understand the reason for the evaluation of both sides, attempt to assess the position (both objectively and from the human perspective) and also attempt to assess what effect the evaluation might have on subsequent play.

At this point, the book launches into a brief discussion of a key difference between the two engines : how they calculate evaluations as a single number. I covered this a few weeks ago in Winning Percentage to Centipawns.

Sadler & Regan give three examples of positions where AlphaZero has a more nuanced evaluation than the A/B engines, which all return 0.00 evaluations for their main lines. The first position resembles a typical position from the family of openings known as King's Indian Attack, where AlphaZero uses an atypical idea.

The second position is shown below. AlphaZero is playing White.


After 55.Bf2-e3

The five A/B engines used in the example all consider three lines...

55...bxa3 56.bxa3
55...Re8 56.Bf4
55...Qd7 56.Bf4

...where all of these lines result in a 0.00 evaluation. In the published game, Stockfish played 55...bxa3, which AlphaZero answered with 56.Ka2 (Sadler: 'a total shock for me'), sacrificing a Pawn. AlphaZero went on to win the game. Sadler summarizes the third (and last) example of a 0.00 position as 'another epic struggle':-

Unfortunately, there is a period in the middle in which AlphaZero seems determined to enjoy its position without taking immediate action, which makes it rather long! [...] My feeling when playing through the game was that Black was making steady progress. I felt that AlphaZero was playing well, but I felt that the main progress was due to needless concessions from Stockfish.

All three example positions are analyzed elsewhere in 'Game Changer' within the context of the full game. For me, it's obvious that AlphaZero is often playing beyond Stockfish's horizon. I regularly see the symptoms of this when a strong A/B engine plays a weaker A/B engine. The act of reducing a complicated chess position to a single number is fraught with danger.

29 August 2019

The Last Yahoo

No question mark here, as there was in The Last Sociology Post? earlier this week. The July Yahoo post, A Cheating Yahoo, was definitely the last in the monthly Yahoo series. In August, the Yahoo news feed served zero headlines relevant to chess. That makes the fifth dry month since the beginning of the year. Yahoo posts need Yahoo stories.

When this happened in the past, I used the Google chess news feed to select a story that I would have liked to see in the Yahoo feed. This month I selected

  • 2019-08-22: Russian Chess Legend Karpov Unable to Get U.S. Visa, His Friend Says (themoscowtimes.com; Reuters) • 'Russian chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov has been unable for several months to obtain a visa to travel to the United States, his friend, the owner of a chess academy in New York [GM Maxim Dlugy] who invited him to teach a summer camp there, said on Wednesday.'

The story went on to explain,

"This processing cannot be waived or expedited as it is crucial for the final decision regarding the issuance of a visa," the [Moscow] embassy's public liaison unit said in a July 2 letter to [U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney's] office. "Mr. Karpov will be notified as soon as this process is complete. Be assured that as of today, no further documents or actions are needed from Mr. Karpov," the embassy said.

Another story I would have been happy to use was:-

But wait! There's more:-

In a paper published on Monday, an international team of researchers outlined the results of a longitudinal study that gathered data on 90 chess players over their lifetimes. By looking at how these factors affect one another, they showed that more intelligent players benefited more from practice.

Who would have guessed? And with that coda, the Chess for All Ages Yahoo team bids, 'Sayonara!'

27 August 2019

GM Pal Benko

On hearing the news of Pal Benko's death, my first reaction was to create a small tribute like the recent Four Faces of Tal. The only problem was -- I didn't have four photos to use. Fortunately, I had one very good photo saved in 2010.

The eBay description said,

Vintage 8 x 10, rare photo of USA chess champion Paul Benko, hand signed photo, in the XVII world-wide chess olimpiad in "La Havana Cuba" October 1966, Hotel Havana Libre Cuba.

In mint condition. this photo and others in this auction come from the state of Rodolfo Santovenia, a Cuban journalist and chess lover, from the "Bohemia" magazine in the 40s and 50s and 60s. This photos have been in storage about 50 years, but all are in mint condition.

Why 'Paul' Benko? Because that's how he signed his name on the American flag, followed by 'Cuba 1966'. For tributes to Benko from chess news sites, both of which hit my news reader at about the same time, see:-

For tributes from two chess organizations that played an important role in his career, see:-

I was disappointed with the headline in the only mainstream media report that crossed my radar:-

Stepping aside for Fischer in 1970 was far from Benko's major achievement. I'm sure other mainstream media reports will follow, hopefully with a more objective focus.

As for this blog, Benko has probably appeared in more 'On the Cover' posts than any other player. The most recent was April 1969 'On the Cover' (April 2019). For another angle, see GM Benko's Last Column (December 2013). GM Benko was a giant in American chess.

26 August 2019

TCEC S16 L1 Wrapping Up; CCC10 S1 Underway

Last week's post, TCEC S16 L1; CCC10 GPU Blues Continue, had news about three separate world class engine-to-engine tournaments:-

TCEC 'League 1' is still running and CCC10 is still on hold. The ICGA held its 'official' World Championship.

I've been following the first two of those organizers for the last six months:-

TCEC: 'League 1' is about half way through its schedule of 120 games. • CCC: A half-dozen small tournaments have been run publicly since a week ago. The CCC10 delay was attributed to 'GPU breakage, cable loss, and multiple rounds of testing'.

Let's have an update on those same two.

TCEC: 'League 1' is almost finished. Stoofvlees has a 2.5 point lead over three engines tied for 2nd through 4th places.

CCC: After more small tournaments, three of them 'trillion-node' events (I couldn't find an explanation of the name), 'CCC10 Qualification' is finally underway with 13 engines. The info page specifies four stages:-

  • Qualification (10|3): 13 engines, 3 rounds [CCC9 places 1-3 and four others qualify]
  • Quarterfinals (10|3): 10 engines, 7 rounds [Six engines advance]
  • Semifinals (10|3): 6 engines, 20 rounds [Two engines advance]
  • Finals (10|3): 2 engines, 100 rounds

The first stage is already more than one-third completed and should finish this week.

[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]

25 August 2019

The Last Sociology Post? (*)

From Youtube's ESPN channel, where we learn, 'Chess boxing [chessboxing] is a philosophy'.


What is chess boxing, and how did it become a sport? | The Ocho (7:34) • 'Published on Aug 7, 2019'

What can we learn from the description? It said,

Chess boxing inventor Iepe Rubingh explains the origins and rules of his quirky sport, which was inspired in part by a comic.

Quick takes:-

  • That chess boxing had an inventor.
  • That the name Iepe Rubingh is indeed the correct spelling (it's a Dutch name).
  • That the philosophy/sport was inspired by a comic.

That second bullet is confirmed by the Wikipedia page Iepe Rubingh. That page points to Froid Equateur, which confirms the third bullet.

(*) The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). For another angle on the same subject, see Ilyumzhinov as a Chess Boxer (March 2008).

23 August 2019

A Chess Epiphany

Last week's post, The Value of Deep Learning, featured a Wired.com article by Gary Marcus, titled 'DeepMind's Losses and the Future of Artificial Intelligence'. This week I discovered another article appearing this month in the same source, Inside DeepMind's epic mission to solve science's trickiest problem (wired.co.uk), written by Greg Williams. The subtitle explains,

DeepMind's AI has beaten chess grandmasters and Go champions. But founder and CEO Demis Hassabis now has his sights set on bigger, real-world problems that could change lives. First up: protein folding.

The article is much more about protein folding than it is about chess, but it has a long chess anecdote that I had seen elsewhere. I located the first version in Sadler & Regan's book 'Game Changer', in its 'Introduction by Demis Hassabis'. It starts, 'Far from being just a game, chess has always been a part of me.' The 'Game Changer' version of the anecdote goes like this:-

One particular moment would end up having a big impact on the direction I would take for the rest of my life. I was 11 years old and in the middle of a gruelling eight hour match with a veteran Danish master at a big international tournament in Liechtenstein. We had reached a highly unusual endgame, which I had never seen before -- I only had my queen, and my far more experienced opponent had a rook, bishop and knight. He was ahead in material but if I could just keep his king in check with my queen, I could force a draw. Hours rolled by as he pushed his pieces around trying to outmaneuver me, and the vast playing hall slowly emptied as everyone else finished their games. Then suddenly, after dozens of moves of not making any progress, he finally somehow managed to trap my king, with checkmate seemingly forced on his next move. Exhausted and shocked, I resigned.

Immediately he stood up, perplexed. He laughed as he dramatically gestured that I could have secured a draw if only I had sacrificed my queen, to achieve a stalemate. At the last moment he had just tried a final cheap trick, and it had worked! I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. The next day I reflected over what had happened, and as I looked out over the packed hall filled with brilliant minds, I vividly remember wondering, what if all this incredible collective mental effort being expended could instead somehow be channelled into something beyond games, perhaps an important area of science or medicine, what might it be possible to achieve?

That epiphany marked the beginning of the end of my professional chess career, but also sowed the initial seeds for what would eventually become DeepMind, the artificial intelligence (AI) research company I co-founded in 2010.

The Wired.co.uk version ends with a slightly different conclusion:-

Hassabis recalls that, at that moment, he had an epiphany: he questioned the purpose of the brilliant minds in the room competing with each other to win a zero-sum game. He would go on to play the game at the highest level, captaining his university team, and still talks of his continued love of complex games, but the experience led to him channeling his energy into something beyond games. “The reason that I could not become a professional chess player, he says. “Is that it didn't feel productive enough somehow.”

The first version ('incredible collective mental effort'), presumably written by Hassabis himself, is kinder to chess players than the second version ('brilliant minds competing to win a zero-sum game') by a professional writer. The sentiment that professional chess is somehow a waste of talent is often expressed by people who don't play or like the game.

Would Demis Hassabis have been more useful to society as a professional chess player? Certainly not. Would Bobby Fischer have been more useful as something other than a chess professional? Probably not. Garry Kasparov? He is the rare player who has also excelled in a field other than chess after retiring. Magnus Carlsen? It's too early to say.

The discussion invariably comes around to the chess-in-school programs. Is their purpose to expand the ranks of professional players? To expand the pool of keen chess fans? To accelerate the development of young, bright minds? Maybe all of the above -or- maybe something else. I have the questions, not the answers.

22 August 2019

Tal with Other Players

After posting Four Faces of Tal a few weeks ago, I had so many photos left over that I decided to create another composite image before moving on.

I needed help to identify the man standing in the middle of the photo on the bottom right. The photo's description said that he is Alexander Nikitin, Kasparov's trainer.

20 August 2019

Not for Chess Historians

Rummaging through old issues of Chess Life, looking for background stories about the 1970s Fischer boom, I noticed the following book review.


Chess Life, July 1974, p.470

The review continued,

Writing about chess is abundant; more has been written about this game than about all other games combined. One of the reasons is that chess players often find it necessary to write in order, one might say, to support their habit. But of the less than one hundred grandmasters in the world today, very few indeed can express themselves in words with any grace or style or wit. That, after all, is not what we expect from grandmasters. The attitude of a few of them -- that their ability to make a high proportion of correct decisions over the chess board and create beauty under competitive conditions gives them a kind of magic credit card with which they can buy acceptance in other fields of art -- is both absurd and arrogant.

Thus started a positive review of the book 'Grandmasters of Chess' by Harold Schonberg. The reviewer, Burt Hochberg, was the editor of Chess Life from 1966 to 1979, and happens to be one of my favorite chess writers. Schonberg's book, in contrast, doesn't have a good reputation among chess historians. I didn't have to go far to find an example. A post on this blog, Chess History Cat Fight (December 2013), quotes Tim Harding calling it a 'very bad book'.

Edward Winter has about two dozen references to Schonberg on Chesshistory.com, many of them appearing in a 'Chess Note', then repackaged into a feature article. Winter's primary reproach is Schonberg's own repackaging of dubious material, although the note on '4857. Spielmann’s longevity' is much ado about an obvious typo that was corrected in subsequent editions of the book. The site's last word is probably a sentence from the review of William Hartston's The Kings of Chess (1985), where Winter writes,

[Hartston's] book does not claim to be a work of original research. It aims at the same popular end of the market as did Schonberg’s Grandmasters of Chess, but is much superior since it makes better use of better secondary sources.

Back to Hochberg:-

It has been said that the distinction between literature and journalism is becoming blurred. Harold C. Schonberg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning senior music critic of The New York Times, who describes himself as a journalist, confirms that comment in "Grandmasters of Chess." This very handsome book is a contribution to the literature, not the journalism, of chess.

And later:-

Those who have done little or no reading in chess history will find "Grandmasters of Chess" a treasury of discoveries. The author has done his research well and has unearthed a number of fascinating quotations. [...] Nothing in "Grandmasters of Chess" is new -- no startling revelations, no controversial theories -- just solid history, biography, and dozens of good stories. Nor is anything left out. In fact, the thoroughness with which Schonberg illuminates everyone who was anyone in chess is remarkable. It is a tribute to his journalistic flair that he is able to sum up a character and his achievements so succinctly.

I have a copy of Schonberg's book, the Fontana 1975 paperback edition. In the past I've started it several times, but never read more than a few pages. Perhaps this is because the material looked too familiar, perhaps because of opinions like the two chess historians I quoted above, both of whom I admire and respect.

I decided to give the book another chance and was glad I did. I'm always looking for tips about writing style and Schonberg was a master stylist. It's a great read. I haven't finished the book, but can confirm that there is dubious material and I even managed to spot a few gaffes. I imagine that almost every page contains at least one story or 'fact' worth further investigation. Maybe I'll read it a second time with the idea of doing just that. One of the best lessons of chess is to think for yourself.

19 August 2019

TCEC S16 L1; CCC10 GPU Blues Continue

The title of last week's post on the world's top engine-vs-engine competitions, TCEC S16 L1; CCC9/-10 GPU Blues, could just as well serve as the title for this week's post. Here's a summary of last week's status:-

TCEC: 'League 2' finished and 'League 1' started. • CCC: CCC10 is on hold. The filler tournament running now is 'CCC Bonus: Waiting On The GPU'.

This week, TCEC 'League 1' is still running and CCC10 is still on hold. Let's fill in some of the details.

TCEC: 'League 1' is about half way through its schedule of 120 games and should be nearing completion for next week's post on this blog. In a previous post, TCEC S16 Starts; CCC9 Finishes (mid-July 2019), I quoted the rules:-

The best placed two engines from League 1 will qualify for the Premier Division (also two will relegate).

Stoofvlees currently has a 1.5 point lead over five engines that are grouped within a half point of each other.

CCC: The following chart shows a half-dozen small tournaments that the CCC has run publicly since a week ago. The name under the white line ('Waiting On The GPU') was running exactly a week ago; the name at the top ('Resetting') is running now. A few of the events between those two ('GPU Server Test', 'CCC10 Settings Verification') were apparently used for testing modifications.

So what happened? A post on the LCzero forum dated almost two weeks ago, CCC10 Qualifications have official started!, gives a sequence of events:-

Aug 7: At the moment there seems to be an issue at CCC with LC0. She forfeited her games against Stovflees and no further games were played. • Aug 9: Issue still persists. No further LC0 games. Does anyone know whats going on?? • Aug 9: It seems [LC0] 42850 is such a hardware intensive network that it destroyed the GPUs!

A few days ago, Chess.com released an announcement, CCC10 Starts Now!:-

After GPU breakage, cable loss, and multiple rounds of testing... CCC10 is back!

Like previous announcements, this might have been overly optimistic. The situation reminds me of an old adage:-

There are no technical solutions to management problems. There are only management solutions to technical problems.

Or something like that. Talking about management problems, the ICGA held its 'official' World Championship last week: World Computer Chess Championship 2019 (icga.org; see the home page for more news). Did anyone notice?

[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]

18 August 2019

The Last Flickr Photo

More precisely: the last Flickr photo on this blog is the inevitable conclusion to The Last Flickr Friday (May 2018). Of 100 Creative Commons photos on Flickr over the past month, I added three to my Flickr Favorites. This was my favorite of the favorites.


Schach-Figuren am Ufer der Mosel in Ernst © Flickr user Janko Hoener under Creative Commons.

The photographer translates the photo's title as:-

Chess pieces at the bank of River Moselle in Ernst, Germany.

Compared to the 100 Creative Commons photos on Flickr, there were almost 1250 fully copyrighted photos on the same service for the same month. That means I can't use them without requesting permission in writing to the photographer and waiting for a response (that might never come). A blog post isn't important enough to waste that kind of time.

Why would any photographer -- except perhaps a professional with an established reputation to maintain -- not want wide, attributed distribution of his/her work? I don't know, but copyright means just that, the right to copy, and there is no 'fair use' to invoke here. Thank you, Creative Commons!, and thanks to the many photographers who use it to distribute their work.

And so the pieces go back into the box waiting for the next game. Chess games are free; they can't be copyrighted.

16 August 2019

The Value of Deep Learning

Let's take a break from DeepMind's AlphaZero, seen last week in 'Game Changer' PGN, and consider AlphaZero's underlying technology. The motivation is an article that appeared this week, DeepMind's Losses and the Future of Artificial Intelligence (wired.com) by Gary Marcus. It starts,

Alphabet’s DeepMind lost $572 million last year. What does it mean? DeepMind, likely the world’s largest research-focused artificial intelligence operation, is losing a lot of money fast, more than $1 billion in the past three years. DeepMind also has more than $1 billion in debt due in the next 12 months. Does this mean that AI is falling apart?

Author Marcus asks several important questions, of which one touches on chess. Here's the question:-

Is DeepMind on the right track scientifically?

It's a good question, although I suspect it's one of those questions that seven wise men couldn't answer. Here's the chess connection:-

DeepMind has been putting most of its eggs in one basket, a technique known as deep reinforcement learning. That technique combines deep learning, primarily used for recognizing patterns, with reinforcement learning, geared around learning based on reward signals, such as a score in a game or victory or defeat in a game like chess. [...] The trouble is, the technique is very specific to narrow circumstances

While working on posts for this blog, I frequently rely on services like OCR and language translation that have improved considerably over the last five years, mostly thanks to the same technology that was used to develop AlphaZero. How do we put a value on those services?

15 August 2019

2019 CJA Awards - Part 2

I ended 2019 CJA Awards - Part 1 with a promise:-

I'll be back in a few days with the post that I intended for today.

Taking the lead from last year's post, 2018 CJA Awards (August 2018), I'll mention four awards:-

  • Chess Journalist of the Year
  • Best Chess Book
  • Best Chess Art
  • Best Chess Blog

'Chess Journalist of the Year' went to the incomparable Al Lawrence. It's only been three years since he last won the same award, which I covered in 2016 CJA Awards (August 2016):-

The most prestigious of the awards is undoubtedly 'Chess Journalist of the Year', won by Al Lawrence for the second time; the year 2000 was the first (see Chess Life, November 2000).

'Best Chess Book' had two winners:-

  • Instruction: GM Joel Benjamin; Better Thinking, Better Chess
  • Other: GM Andrew Soltis; Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, and Korchnoi: A Chess Multibiography with 207 Games

Last year's 'Best Chess Art' is now split into two categories:-

  • Best Chess Art: Val Bochkov, Melinda Matthews, Natasha Roberts; Chess Adventures with FM Alisa Melekhina, Chess Life Kids, February 2019
  • Best Single Chess Magazine Cover: Joe Jennings, Frankie Butler; Timur Flies High, Chess Life, November 2018

The category 'Best Chess Art' had two honorable mentions, one for Carlotta Notaro and one for Willum Morsch. The artwork behind all three awards can be seen in my previous post 2019 CJA Award Entries (July 2019).

That 'Entries' post also mentioned two candidates for 'Best Chess Blog'. The CJA award went to First Move Chess by John Henderson. In the 'Entries' post I wrote, 'As far as I can tell, the first post in the full blog is dated after the deadline for CJA entries.' This was an error on my part, perhaps provoked by a lack of obvious navigation tools on the blog. The first post appears to have been Advantage Anand (August 2017). Old timers like me can remember Henderson's 'Scotsman' column stretching back to the early days of the web. The chess blogosphere is markedly enhanced by his presence.

With nine award categories and more than 40 subcategories, I've only mentioned a small fraction of the many CJA awards. Congratulations to all winners!

13 August 2019

2019 CJA Awards - Part 1

For this post I intended to follow up last month's post on 2019 CJA Award Entries. Last week the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) published their annual list of awards at Awards 2019 (chessjournalism.org).

The intended post would have looked something like last year's 2018 CJA Awards (August 2018), with a short write-up about the winners in my favorite categories and congratulations to all winners. Unfortunately, the list of 2019 awards is so long and so unstructured that I was compelled to load it into a database to understand it.

Due to a number of technical obstacles that presented themselves along the way, what should normally have been a 5-10 minute task turned into a two hour chore, and I finally ran out of time. While I can't yet say much about specific awards, I can say that there are 64 awards total, categorized as follows:-

43 First Place
20 Honorable Mention
   1 ?

That single '?' is in fact a nearly blank award where only the 'Nominator' is listed. Perhaps there are only 63 awards.

While creating the database, I noticed a few other anomalies. One article, 'The 2019 Denver Open - Chess Life Online May 18, 2019' by IM John Watson, received two first place awards -- one for 'Best Analysis - online', and one for 'Best Tournament Report - State/Local - online'. Another category, 'Best Photojournalism Article', had two first place winners.

I'll be back in a few days with the post that I intended for today.

***

Later: A day after I posted the above, the CJA distributed an email with its list of winners in a more structured format. There's not much to gain by comparing the email to my database, but it did confirm the two separate awards for the same article by IM Watson and a 'tie' in the photojournalism category.

12 August 2019

TCEC S16 L1; CCC9/-10 GPU Blues

In last week's post on the world's top-2 engine tournaments, TCEC S16 L2; CCC9/-10 Endless Bonuses, one event was well underway and the other was marking time. Which was which?

TCEC: 'League 2' is underway and has completed the first of the two round-robins. • CCC: The current tournament, the 'CCC Bonus: CPU Showdown' with five engines, is almost finished.

After a week, the comparison 'well underway' vs. 'marking time' still holds true.

TCEC: 'League 2' finished and 'League 1' started. The following chart shows the top half of the final 'League 2' crosstable.

CCC: A month ago I wrapped up reporting on CCC9 in TCEC S16 Starts; CCC9 Finishes (July 2019). In that post I noted,

It's surprising to see that Leela did not qualify for the [CCC9] 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)

Last week Chess.com issued a final report in Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship As Neural Networks Play Catch-Up. It summarized CCC9 with:-

Stockfish won CCC9 over Leelenstein, a neural-network chess engine based on Lc0, the leading machine-learning chess project. The champion engine triumphed in the blitz time control of CCC9, beating 17 other engines in a "gauntlet" format.

There was no mention of Leela, other than passing references like 'based on Lc0' in that paragraph. The report gave further details about CCC10:-

Stockfish now looks to defend its title in 'CCC10: Double Digits', an 18-engine tournament played in four rounds. CCC10 is now in progress. The first three rounds of CCC10 will all be played at a time control of 10 minutes plus a three-second increment, on the border between blitz and rapid. The two-engine finals of CCC10 will be 400 games split up among three blitz and rapid time controls to determine the champion.

The declaration that 'CCC10 is now in progress' may have been premature. A few days later, in GPU and CCC10 Status Update, we learned,

I've just been told not to expect the GPU machine to be ready until early next week. That means CCC10 is on hold. Super disappointing, I know, but there's nothing to be done.

That explains the steady stream of bonus events running only CPU engines. Since the GPU engines are the cutting edge of computer chess technology, occasional glitches are to be expected. The filler tournament running now is 'CCC Bonus: Waiting On The GPU'.

[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]

11 August 2019

Mainly for Mathletes?

Some people have way too much time on their hands. I'm talking about the people behind the 129.536 views that this video has notched to date.


30 Weird Chess Algorithms : Elo World (42:35) • 'Published on Jul 15, 2019'

The description explains,

An intricate and lengthy account of several different computer chess topics from my SIGBOVIK 2019 papers. We conduct a tournament of fools with a pile of different weird chess algorithms, ostensibly to quantify how well my other weird program to play color- and piece-blind chess performs. On the way we "learn" about mirrors, arithmetic encoding, perversions of game tree search, spicy oils, and hats.

What's SIGBOVIK? It's The Association for Computational Heresy (sigbovik.org), named after Harry Quokka Bovik. And what about those SIGBOVIK 2019 papers? They're here: tom7 / papers / chess (tom7.org). After that, you're on your own.

09 August 2019

'Game Changer' PGN

Continuing with AlphaZero's Zeros (July 2019), about Sadler & Regan's book 'Game Changer', digging deeper into the book requires the corresponding PGN file. In Chapter 2, titled 'ZeroZeroZero', Sadler wrote,

At the beginning of 2018, I was invited to the DeepMind offices at St Pancras in London to study 210 games from the newest series of matches between Stockfish and AlphaZero. [...] I was provided with two files: a file of 110 games played without an opening book from the starting position, and a file of 100 games starting from various pre-determined opening positions (the positions used in the 2016 TCEC World Championship). The games in each file were grouped by colour so that I first played through AlphaZero’s Black games, and then its White games.

Last December, DeepMind released two files:-

  • alphazero_vs_stockfish.pgn
  • alphazero_vs_stockfish_tcec_positions.pgn

The game counts in each file match the numbers that Sadler gives, meaning that we're probably looking at the same files. Maybe I should say, 'almost the same files', because the two AZ_vs_SF PGN files are not grouped by color as Sadler describes. Where Sadler gives a game number, I also noticed differences.

Another PGN resource is available from newinchess.com (NIC). The product page, Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI, says, 'You can download all the games from the book as a PGN-file.' Although the first game in the book -- Kaissa - Chaos, World Computer Championship, Stockholm 1974 -- is missing from the NIC file, the next games in the book match the file. As a bonus, the 'Annotator' tags in the NIC file, e.g.:-

[Annotator "17293012532641473451"]

match the 'Round' tags in the AZ_vs_SF files, e.g.:-

[Round "17293012532641473451"]

This provides a cross-reference between the two sets of files. I'll use these files for further explorations.

06 August 2019

1946 Groningen Participants

While working on an unrelated project involving my photo archive, I discovered a group photo picturing the participants of the 1946 Groningen. Many of the participants were familiar, but there were a few I didn't know. Had anyone identified everyone in the photo?


Google image search on 'chess 1946 groningen' (expanded)

A Google image search returned two versions of the photo, of which the second expanded to 6425. Groningen, 1946 (chesshistory.com; December 2009). All of the participants are identified here, including the tournament director Hans Kmoch.

The tournament has a unique place in chess history, because it was the first event in the long list that I include in the index of World Chess Championship Zonals. Although not a zonal, it was designated as a title tournament qualifier by FIDE.

The format of the Google image search results is also worth a mention. The thumbnails previously expanded to a horizontal row in the middle of the page. Now they expand to a vertical column on the right of the page. The column scrolls independently from the thumbnail display, meaning that more information can be attached to the image.

The photo and list of participants figured in an earlier post on this blog: Blog -> Email -> Facebook -> Ebay (November 2010). A few months after I wrote that post, the item reappeared on eBay. [Later: In fact, the second appearance of the item had some signatures in different places. Ergo: not the same item!]

05 August 2019

TCEC S16 L2; CCC9/-10 Endless Bonuses

To summarize last week's post, TCEC S16 Leagues; CCC9/CCC10,

TCEC: The 'Qualification League' finished and 'League 2' was to start soon. • CCC: The CCC9 'Gauntlet Bonus III' was still running. Some of the details for CCC10 are available from planning documents.

A week later, what is happening with the two foremost engine-vs-engine tournaments?

TCEC: 'League 2' is underway and has completed the first of the two round-robins. I recorded the rules a few weeks ago in TCEC S16 Starts; CCC9 Finishes, where I noted, 'The top 4 of League 2 will promote to League 1 (also 4 will relegate)'. Two NN engines, Stoofvlees and ScorpioNN, have good chances to promote.

CCC: The 'Gauntlet Bonus III' finally finished with Terminator ahead of Stockfish and Lc0. The last two of the five engines were Leelenstein and Turbofish. Since this is the third post mentioning the event, a crosstable is appropriate.

The chat commands explain that the first and last engines are variants of two other participants in the event.

!terminator : Lc0 using jhorthos net
!turbofish : Stockfish running with contempt value 100

The current tournament, the 'CCC [CCC9?] Bonus: CPU Showdown' with five engines, is almost finished. Stockfish has an insurmountable lead; LC0 CPU is firmly in the basement.

[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]

04 August 2019

Not a Coincidence

This series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) often features curious items. Once in a while it also features a curious auction. A few years ago, in Something Smells Fishy (January 2016), I noted,

This series isn't just about pricey chess auctions. It's also about eBay.

A curious auction isn't necessarily suspicious; it can be curious for any one of a number of reasons. Case in point: last year I posted about The Imagery of Chess, New York 1944 (September 2018), a 'single sheet' that sold for US $500, 'Best offer accepted'. The exact same auction -- different title, same photos, same description -- appeared last month. This time it sold for US $550, again 'Best offer accepted'. Was this the original buyer flipping an item for a small profit? The original seller with more than one copy of the item on his hands? Only the second seller knows for sure.

A few years before the 'Fishy' post, in Top eBay Chess Item Twins (November 2012), I noted,

I've seen items relisted after a lapse because the first buyer never paid, but I can't recall seeing the same item sold twice in the same fortnight.

While preparing this current post I noticed an item, obviously one-of-a-kind, sold twice in two days. Titled 'Signed By Famous Actor & Historical Chess Fever Jose R Capablanca JR Feb 11 1909', it sold for US $500.00, 'Best offer accepted'. A day later it sold for US $650.00, also 'Best offer accepted'.

The description said,

Signed by famous actor and chess player Jose R Capablanca. Post card he wrote and sent while on US chess tour from Memphis to New Orleans on February 11 1909, only four days prior to his New Orleans simultaneous exhibition tour of February 15 1909. Many flaws but this is the real deal.

Feedback to the seller from the second buyer said, 'Beware of this seller. I paid for the item and was strung along.' What will the first buyer say?

02 August 2019

Winning Percentage to Centipawns

Before continuing with last week's post, AlphaZero's Zeros, on the problem with 0.00 evaluations in traditional A/B chess engines, one point needs clarification. NN engines like AlphaZero don't use centipawn evaluations of a position; they calculate the probability of a win from the position using a scale of 100% (a certain win) to 0% (a certain loss).

When engine competitions like TCEC/CCC (see the tab at the top of the page) compare the thinking of the engines, how do they handle the A/B and NN results? I don't know what AlphaZero would do, since it's never competed in a tournament setting, but Leela converts its winning percentage to a centipawn evaluation. Both the TCEC and the CCC explain the conversion with identical language:-

!formula • Leela's conversion from win pct to centipawns: cp = 290.680623072 * math.tan(3.096181612 * (feval - 0.5))

That formula was recently tweaked. The result is documented on Technical Explanation of Leela Chess Zero (github.com/LeelaChessZero):-

How does Lc0 calculate the cp eval? • Lc0 uses an average expected score Q in the range [-1,1]. This expected score is converted to a traditional centipawn (cp) eval using this formula: cp = 111.714640912 * tan(1.5620688421 * Q)

How were those numbers derived? Another page on the same GitHub resource explains the process in detail: Recalibrate centipawn formula.

01 August 2019

August 1969 'On the Cover'

Last month, in July 1969 'On the Cover', we saw the Soviet World Champion from 50 years ago. This month we see two of the top American players from the same era.


Left: 'Sammy Reshevsky - Winner at Netanya' (Drawing by Bob Brandreth)
Right: 'And Still Champion!'

Chess Life

America's Sammy Reshevsky, the 58-year-old veteran of the event, won the eighth annual international tournament at Netanya, Israel, May 14-30. Reshevsky seized the lead in round two and notched seven wins and six draws to win going away, for a final score of 10-3.

Reshevsky was last seen in this series for the January 1968 'On the Cover'. The August 1969 cover story on Netanya was written by Anthony Saidy. 'Drawing by Bob Brandreth', where have we seen that before? It was for a CL story on Bent Larsen in the December 1968 'On the Cover'.

Chess Review

As with the woman's world championship, we hope to have a fuller story of the U. S. Women's championship soon. For the moment, however, we can only report that Mrs. G. K. (Peggy) Gresser performed with that skill and distinction which marked her winning the title eight times before so that, despite the handicap of one early loss, she is again our undisputed national champion.

Gresser featured on the CL side of July 1967 'On the Cover', as the '1967 U.S. Women's Champion'. As for the 'fuller stories', they never appeared in Chess Review.