21 May 2020

Breaking the 3100 Barrier

I thought I was done with the 'Breaking the Barrier' posts, last seen in Breaking the 3000 Barrier (September 2019). Then this remarkable Chess.com video surfaced this week.

The Strongest Computer Chess Engines Over Time (2:15) • '[Published on] May 20, 2020'

It appeared a few days after post no.3100 on this blog -- Businessman vs. Mother Nature -- and gave me the opportunity to doublecheck the info from Breaking the 2900 Barrier (April 2019):-

I've marked the 2900 crossover point with a red star. The engine under the star is Shredder 8.0 and the year was 2003 or thereabouts. As for 'Breaking the 3000 Barrier', the same chart points to Rybka 1.2 a few years later.

Back to the video : after IBM's Deep Blue pops to the top of the chart at 2712 in 1996, it hits 2853 in 1997. It stays at the top until Hiarcs overtakes it end-2003. Hiarcs rises to 2896 -- now don't blink or you'll miss it -- where it is immediately overtaken by Rybka at 3003 in mid-2004. Rybka breaks 3100 end-2005.

The more than 500 comments against the video (NB: right-click the embedded video for its original address) are probably worth a browse, but I'll look at those another time. As for the source of the data, a note says,

The primary data source is the SSDF list as collected from online sources and publications in the ICCA Journals (later named ICGA).

This is followed by rating derivations for Deep Blue, AlphaZero, and Leela. I'm sure the methodology is controversial, which makes it even more interesting.

18 May 2020

CCC Formats

In last week's engine post, TCEC: Stockfish Wins Cup 5, S18 Underway; CCC14?, I wrote,

During 13 seasons, the CCC has never settled into a standard format. What will CCC14 bring?

That reminded me of an earlier post, CCC13 Shapes (March 2020), where I gave myself a possible future action:-

While it might be useful to summarize all of the different CCC formats since the first season (CCC01), I'll have to limit this post to the two most recent seasons. [CCC11 (October 2019) & CCC12 (January 2020)]

The first step was to locate the different posts on this blog that gave the format for a particular CCC season. This was easy with the help of TCEC/CCC 2019 Q1-Q3 Summary (October 2019). The first two posts in that summary were dated the beginning of last year:-

2019-01-07: TCEC S14 Underway
2019-01-14: Chess.com CCC3 Underway

That means the ten months from January to October covered eight CCC seasons, from CCC3 to CCC10. I extracted relevant format info for each of those seasons. This info is not detailed enough to document the actual format used, but it's a start. Many of the posts link to Chess.com articles where the formats are described in more detail.

2019-07-29: TCEC S16 Leagues; CCC9/CCC10 • '[CCC10:] Qualification (13 engines), Quarterfinal (12), Semifinal (6), and Final (2).'

2019-06-03: TCEC S15/S16; CCC8/CCC9 • '[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'

2019-04-22: TCEC S15 DivP Nears Finish; CCC8 Half-Way • '"CCC 8: Deep Dive is live now, featuring 24 of the world's top chess engines playing at a rapid time control of 15 minutes plus a five-second increment per move." CCC8 uses an escalation format, meaning that the engines enter the competition in reverse order of strength -- last ranked starts first, first ranked last -- and play full mini-matches against each of the engines that have already started play.'

2019-03-25: TCEC S15 Div3 Finishes; CCC7 Starts • 'The [Chess.com CCC6] report outlined the plan for CCC7. [...] That makes four AI/NN engines: Lc0, Antifish, Leelenstein and, Allie. The report continued, [...] Four AI/NN engines, four places in the CCC7 final stage. This is an event worth watching.'

2019-02-18: TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6; Part 2/2 • 'CCC6 is currently underway. The rules say, "Qualifiers (5|2) - escalation, 3 rounds, 16 engines, top 8 qualify, SF, Lc0, Komodo & Houdini get buys [sic; 'byes'] • Playoffs (10|10) - 12 engines, 3 rounds, top 8 plus SF, Lc0, Komodo & Houdini, book ON • Finals (10|10) - 2 engines, 200 games, book ON"'

2019-02-11: TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6 • 'CCC5 was underway at the time of last week's 'Head Scratching' post. Stockfish emerged the winner, 2.5 points ahead of Lc0, which was 4.5 points ahead of third-placed Lc0-dev. Stockfish then played Lc0 in a 100 game match, which finished yesterday.' • 'Another command ('!CCC6') informs, "Nightbot: CCC 6: The Winter Classic; Classical (standard) games with the eight best engines. Time control: 30/10 classical; Engines: 8; Stages: 1 main, 1 final between top two engines; Stage 1 format: 4x RR (escalation); Stage 1 games: 112; Stage 1 duration: 7 days; Finals games: 100"'

2019-02-04: TCEC/CCC Head Scratching • 'The 'Stockfish Wins [CCC4]' article says, "Lc0 also managed the impressive feat of scoring dead even with Stockfish head-to-head in the tournament, at +3-3=14 in their 20 games together. Lc0 was the only engine to score a win against Stockfish in the event. These two engines began a 100-game bonus match, in progress now, which at press time Stockfish was leading comfortably at 35.5/66."' • 'The Escalation event (labeled 'CCC5') is a round robin format where the lowest rated engines play each other in the early rounds and the highest rated engines start play in the later rounds.'

2019-01-28: Stockfish, Leela et al • Chess.com issued a report on CCC3 S3 [...] along with details about CCC4. • 'CCC4 (S1?) is already underway with Stockfish in the lead.'

2019-01-21: Results: TCEC S14-P / CCC3 S3 • 'CCC3 stage three (the final stage) [has] finished play.'

2019-01-14: Chess.com CCC3 Underway • 'From now on, I'm going to call the events CCC1/CCC2/CCC3/..., unless the name changes again. Another complication, more like a detail, is that the tournaments since CCC1 have been split into three stages. Since CCC3 is currently underway, that means there have been two previous CCCs, right? No, there have been three. Here are my posts on each of the first three [CCCC, CCC1, CCC2]

2018-11-19: Update on Two World Champions • 'CCC 3: Rapid Redux, an all-new championship event with the 16 top engines in the world and a time control of 30 minutes per game plus five seconds increment per move.'

2018-10-15: Catching Up with Engine Competitions • CCC01 & CCC02

2017-12-04: Engine-to-engine, Head-to-head • 'The newcomer was Chess.com's Computer Chess Championship. The announcement, preliminary results, and final results are all stuffed into a single article, which first appeared in September, but carries the date of its last update: 2017-11-16 [CCCC]'

Like most people, I think of a 'season' as lasting three months, four seasons in a year. Then there are specific seasons that happen once a year, like a football season or a TV season. In CCC, we've seen ten seasons in less than a year and a half, 17 months to be exact. That's ten seasons, each with a different format -- makes you wonder, doesn't it.

17 May 2020

Businessman vs. Mother Nature

Two adversaries on opposite sides of a controversial issue is a common theme in chess art. This cartoon was in two Flickr groups: Global Climate Change and Saving Earth ('group/s0s').

Di00015 business-vs-nature chess playing no game illustration by frits ahlefeldt © Flickr user Frits Ahlefeldt under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Businessman playing chess with Mother Nature.

While the image in this post is certainly worth featuring, the short list for my Flickr posts seems to be shrinking gradually. Is it because artists and photographers are more concerned than ever about protecting their work -or- because Creative Commons licenses aren't well known? Earlier this week, in a post titled FIDE Newsletters++ on my World Championship blog, I was disappointed to see that the photos in FIDE’s albums on Flickr were marked '© All rights reserved'. Releasing some of FIDE's wonderful photos for limited, prescribed use would help everyone who is promoting chess.

Another issue raised by the image above is how to locate other chess images that depict the generic topic 'opposite sides of a controversial issue'. I can't think of a search query to do this. Maybe something will pop into by subconscious mind later.

15 May 2020

The FIDE Charter : Discussions

Last week's post, The FIDE Charter, was based on a long extract of the minutes for the 90th FIDE Congress, Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA), which was held at the end of February. As long as that post was, there was one piece missing, which I marked '[Discussion]'. Later I extracted five main points from the EGA discussion:-

  • New Member Federations must be a country recognized by the UN and the IOC.
  • Presidents and delegates of the Federations need to have been members of that Federation for two years.
  • The Council [is] entitled to approve the rules related to the title and rating system, while the [General Assembly] will still have the power to approve everything the Council proposes.
  • The reason for the creation of a Zonal Council: the purpose of a Zonal Council is related to the development program and budget.
  • The [current] elected bodies of FIDE will stay until the end of their term; Executive Board will be renamed as Zonal Council; current elected Commissions will be extended to two more years.

Those points are mainly quotes from the original minutes. As far as I can tell, the 'Council' and the 'Zonal Council' are two different groups. (NB: I should have taken this analysis a step further, by checking the wording of the final, published charter on these five points, but I didn't.) While I was looking for further discussions on the charter, I discovered a 16 page PDF presentation covering the main talking points.

FIDE CHARTER : Time for change

20200228_FIDE Charter FINAL.pdf

One particularly useful slide in the presentation, titled 'THE NEW FIDE', defined the functional groups within a hierarchy:-

An organ with the highest authority in FIDE
A strategic and oversight FIDE body, with law-making and executive functions
An official FIDE representative in all external relations, manages day-to-day activities
Professional and independent organs for specific FIDE tasks
An executive and operational body that assists the President in the day-to-day management of FIDE activities (without any legislative competencies)

I hoped to find more discussion on the forums of English-speaking FIDE federations, but came up with less than I expected. First, here's a report from the American federation: USChess at FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly (uschess.org; 'USChess Executive Director Carol Meyer reports from Abu Dhabi'), including a long comment by 'Allen Priest, President, USChess'. See also a short discussion started by the same 'President, US Chess': FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly (uschess.org/forums; February 2020). An earlier thread on the same forum presented some of the main discussion points: FIDE announces extraordinary General Assembly (ditto; December 2019). That last link is only available to members of USChess.

As for the forums of other federations, most of the discussion must have been offline or through back channels away from public view. Or maybe the charter just wasn't as controversial as might have been expected.

11 May 2020

TCEC: Stockfish Wins Cup 5, S18 Underway; CCC14?

The previous report on the two world class engine-to-engine competitions that I review every two weeks marked a milestone : Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals. I ended it saying, 'The crown for top chess engine has passed firmly from the traditional, hand-crafted A/B CPU engines to the 21st-century, self-learning AI/NN GPU engines.' As for the details,

TCEC: LCZero beat Stockfish with an S17 final score of +17-12=71 (52.5-47.5). TCEC Cup 5 is well underway and has reached the semifinal stage. • CCC: Lc0 beat Stockfish with a CCC13 final score of +19-7=174 (106.0-94.0). Since CCC13 ended, the Chess.com organizers have been running a series of exhibition events.

Referring to both of those ongoing competitions, I noted,

I haven't yet seen any plans for TCEC S18 or for CCC14. I imagine they'll be available, maybe the events will even be underway, by the time of my next report in two weeks.

That 'next report' is now, so let's have an update.

TCEC: In TCEC Cup 5, Stockfish beat Komodo +2-0=1 in the first semifinal match. After four draws in the second semifinal between LCZero and AllieStein, the tiebreak rules came into force:-

In case of an equal score after these four games, tiebreakers will be played out at the end of the Cup round. Tiebreakers consist of additional game-pairs; a decisive pair of tiebreaker games decides a match.

LCZero prevailed in the second of the 'additional game-pairs'. Stockfish beat LCZero +1-0=3 in the final, while AllieStein beat Komodo +2-0=2 in the consolation match.

The following chart shows the many stages of TCEC S18. The link under the chart leads to the larger, original version.

TCEC Season 18 - TCEC wiki

The Qualification League finished with the engines Counter and Asymptote qualifying into League 3, which is currently underway. For an explanation of the color-coded stages shown in S18, follow the link under the chart for 'TCEC Season 18 Rules'.

CCC: The series of exhibition events continues. At the time of my post two weeks ago, the CCC site was running an event called 'Chesse Gambetts (5|2)', which has since disappeared from the archive. When I checked a week ago, the active event was 'Bullet Match: Stockfish Test (1|1)'. At the time of today's post, the current event is 'ECO MegaMatch! (1|1)' with 1080 games played out of 2099 scheduled (an odd number of games for a match!?).

Can the CCC continue as a viable platform for engine competition? The list of PGN files is only current through 7 March, the Discord tournament results are through 3 May, and the 'CCCC Club' is moribund. A brief Discord conversation from 4-5 May explains,

Q: When will CCC14 start? • A: The Bullet Match, will be in a day or two probably. CCC14 will be worked on during/after that. But as with CCC11, CCC12, CCC13, there will almost certainly be huge delays.

During 13 seasons, the CCC has never settled into a standard format. What will CCC14 bring?

[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]

10 May 2020

An Influential Organization

What's the most influential chess organization in the world today? No, it's not FIDE. And it's certainly not US Chess (although the Saint Louis Chess Club comes into consideration). The most influential chess organization is Chess.com. Their most recent 'State of Chess.com' video covered:-

  • Monthly Reviews
  • Coming Soon
  • Premium Arena
  • Titled Players
  • Fair Play/Proctoring
  • Q/A
  • Final Thoughts

While other organizations might have slicker online interfaces -- Lichess and Chess24 come to mind -- Chess.com is involved in organizing World Championship events. Here's a discussion of their recent activity.

State of Chess.com Quarter 1, 2020 | Host IM Danny Rensch (2:11:40) • '[Published on] Apr 28, 2020'

If two hours is more than you can spend on a single non-instructional chess video, two of its main segments are available standalone:-

Given the current push to online chess -- with substantial assistance from the coronavirus Covid-19 -- the discussions of cheating are particularly relevant.

08 May 2020

The FIDE Charter

The last post stemming from Minutes of the 90th FIDE Congress (April 2020) is on subject to which I never paid much attention while it was being drafted and discussed : the FIDE Charter. For a summary of the charter, let's first turn to Fide.com, The new FIDE Charter: What is it? (March 2020):-

One of the main decisions at the recent 90th Extraordinary General Assembly was the approval of the new FIDE Charter, that replaces the old FIDE Statutes and came into force on March 1, 2020. But what does this change implies, and why it was required?

This reform was needed because the previous FIDE Statutes were severely outdated. There was a pressing need to renew them in order to turn FIDE into a more modern, transparent, democratic and efficient institution, in full compliance with International Olympic Committee stands. The main rules of our organization have a fundamental role in making this possible, clarifying the system of FIDE rules and regulations, defining the principles of FIDE, establishing clear management structures, improving the role of the independent Elected Commissions, and updating the role of Zonal Presidents.

The following image captures the 'FIDE Charter - Table of contents'.

Since the purpose of the 90th FIDE Congress and its Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA) was to approve the charter, I extracted relevant portions from the minutes. It's perhaps too long for most people, especially those who aren't interested in chess politics, but it was the best way to force myself to read it!

90th FIDE Congress; FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly; Abu Dhabi, UAE; 28th February 2020; MINUTES

1. FIDE President address [...]

We did our best to be transparent and open in what we are doing, including the communications with the Federations and the chess players. The work on the Charter, which started a few months ago, was a very good signal of this. The proposed version of the new Charter was published and sent to all Federations, which then sent their own recommendations. [...]

One of the main items of today EGA Agenda was the changes to the FIDE Charter, which involved much work and study in order to make FIDE official documents more modern and consistent with the latest IOC practices. The draft of the new Charter has been presented to the IOC in order to receive their opinions and comments. We tried to develop a more democratic system which will allow the National Federations to play a more important role in FIDE activities. The draft of the Charter was sent to all National Federations a few months ago and all the comments received from the Federations were incorporated into the version of the Charter presented now at the EGA. The main ideas include regulating the hierarchy of documents, professional and transparent management, clear rights and responsibilities of Member Federations, fixing the commercial rights of FIDE, new system of disputes resolution. [...]

4. New FIDE Charter

Annex 2.1. is the draft of FIDE Charter, which was sent to all the Federations and was approved unanimously by the PB. [The TOC shown above is from that document.]

Mr. Dvorkovich illustrated the key points of the reform of the FIDE Charter, which were considered necessary to make FIDE a more modern, efficient and transparent democratic organization which would work in fully accordance with the IOC principles. The new structure of FIDE was clearly illustrated, focusing on the responsibilities and rights of each body of FIDE: GA, Council, President, Elected Commissions, Management Board. A clarification of the hierarchy of legal acts adopted by FIDE was also established. The role of the independent elected commissions was improved, and the role of the Zonal Presidents was updated.

Mr. Dvorkovich clarified the hierarchy of the FIDE bodies: the GA is the highest body of FIDE and can take any decision. There is a clear list of decisions that only the GA can take, including the approval of the Charter itself and of the most important regulations, including financial and electoral regulations. The GA is also the only body which can decide on the full membership of new Federations, on elections and other issues described in the Charter.

The Council is elected by the GA and adopts all other regulations not listed in the Charter and takes decisions on all strategic matters of FIDE functioning, including financial matters and tournaments. The President reports to the Council and annually to the GA and manages day-to-day activity of FIDE and represents FIDE in all its external relations.

The elected commissions are independent, take decisions about ethics, constitutional matters, elections and verification issues. The other bodies cannot intervene in the decisions of the elected commissions. They should work in a professional way, their members should have sufficient experience to resolve those matters.

The Management Board is not an independent body. It supports the President in day-to-day activities and reports directly to the FIDE Council. It is an operational body that follows the instructions of the GA and the Council.

To ensure transparency, a vote of no confidence was introduced in the regulations. The GA can decide on no confidence regarding both the President and the Council.

In the existing version of the Statute, less than a half of the PB members were elected independently of the President. To ensure democracy, in the proposed Charter, more than 50% of the voting Council members are elected by the GA without the direct influence of the President. The Treasurer and the Secretary are also elected by secret ballots.

The GA has more powers as compared to the current Statute. It deals with all major issues, including the election, the budget and the vote of no confidence. It can overrule any decision of the President and the Council.

The abolition of proxies was established not only for the elections, but for any other matters. The Presidents and the delegates can represent only one Member Federation and should be really affiliated to their country (having citizenship or residence or working experience in the elected bodies of their Member Federation).

It was decided that the Council should consist of 15 members, working on a full-time basis. It has both executive and legislative functions, which means that all matters which are not regulated by the GA can be resolved by the Council. It defines strategic plans and policies, approves the draft of the FIDE budget, ratifies the decisions taken by the President and supervises the activities of non-elected commissions. The World Champions are invited to each Council meeting, but they do not have voting rights.

It was also decided that the President cannot serve as President for more than two terms, including the current term. The President represents FIDE officially and have the following main functions: to sign contracts, to assume obligations for FIDE, to maintain good relationships between FIDE and the National Federations.

The Management Board is a new body. Actually, it already exists, but without any formally approved functions. The new Charter clearly established its functions. It is an executive, operational and administrative body with full-time working staff with the aim of making FIDE a more efficient organization. The MB is appointed by the Council.

The independence of the Elected Commissions’ members represented another important aspect of the proposed new Charter. It was decided that they should not be elected at the same time as the FIDE President to preserve the political independence of their election. Starting from the next election, qualification requirements for the Elected Commissions’ members will be introduced.

The functions of the Ethics Commission were expanded. This body becomes now the “Ethics and Disciplinary Commission”, with seven instead of five members. The reason for this is that FIDE needs professional people who will also analyse and investigate specific matters, rather than just gather occasionally to take decisions.

A fixed hierarchy of documents was established to clarify the system of FIDE rules and regulations. There will be no other rules or regulations in FIDE. FIDE Handbook will be refreshed to have a clear set of documents regulating the activity of FIDE. It is reminded that all documents must be published on FIDE website in order to become operational.

Mr. Rivello, who could not attend the Congress due to the coronavirus epidemic in Italy, participated to the Congress through a Skype call in order to answer any eventual questions about the Charter draft. Mr. Rivello reported about the work of the Task Force charged with the drafting of the new Charter.


The EGA proceeded with the voting through the open vote system. The new Charter was approved and comes into force on March 1st, 2020. The vote results were: 112 votes in favour, 1 abstention and 1 voted against.

Of particular importance to anyone interested in top level chess is the stipulation that 'the President cannot serve as President for more than two terms'. This will avoid a recurrence of the 23-year period (1995-2018) that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov served as FIDE President. Like any other organization, chess administration needs new blood routinely to avoid becoming ossified.

05 May 2020

May 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

The previous post in the 'On the Cover' series, April 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover' (April 2020), featured the American Open, Santa Monica, California, on the CL&R side of the post. A month later we see a report on another of the top three opens in the U.S. of A.

Left: '[...]n Winners Arthur Bisguier (left) and Larry Evans', [...]rr (seated), General Manager of John Ascuaga's Nugget; (Photo: Harvey Presley)
Right: 'The Men Who Would Be King'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

In the more than six years since I've been preparing the monthly 'On the Cover' series -- the first was March 1964 'On the Cover' (March 2014) -- this is the first time I haven't been able to read a cover caption. The left of the CL&R caption was obscured by a mailing label. If it was removed, why isn't the underlying text visible? Whatever the reason, the missing words in the first line are 'National Open'. I wasn't able to determine the missing name in the second line. For more about the playing venue, see Nugget Casino Resort (wikipedia.org; 'formerly Dick Graves' Nugget and John Ascuaga's Nugget, is a hotel and casino located in Sparks, Nevada').

The tournament itself was covered in a report titled 'The National Open' by George Koltanowski. The future Dean of American Chess gushed,

The playing hall at the Nugget is one of the best yet. We had 111 participants with room for at least four times that many. A "kibitzer's room" adjacent, with lighting, tables and chairs, sets and boards enough to play a tournament, too. The air-conditioning was perfect, and even Robert Fischer would NOT be able to complain about the lighting. I am an old hand at directing all kinds of chess events; this one at the Nugget was by far the top.

As for the winners,

In the tournament proper, which was exceptionally strong, it was a rat race until the finish and the air had to clear after the last round before we knew who were the actual winners. When the dust finally did settle, Grandmasters Larry Evans of Reno and Arthur Bisguier of New York had each scored 7-1 to share top honors.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

CL returned to the two races to qualify for a World Championship title match, last seen in November 1969 & 1994 'On the Cover' (November 2019). The cover write-up started,

We know that Gata Kamsky (upper right) will play Anatoly Karpov (center) for the World Championship (administered by FIDE) title later this year, by virtue of their recent victories in Sanghi Nagar. Karpov beat Boris Gelfand 6-3, and Kamsky eliminated Valery Salov 5 1/2 - 1 1/2. We know that Kamsky is currently playing Viswanathan Anand (left) for the right to challenge Garry Kasparov (lower right) for the World Championship (administered by the PCA) even later this year. We also know that in 1996, a unification match will take place, with the following possibilities: [...]

For the scores of those matches, see 1994-96 FIDE Candidates Matches and 1994-95 PCA Candidates Matches on my personal site. As for the 'unification match', my page on the FIDE/PCA Chronology doesn't mention such a match until later in 1995. What did I miss?

04 May 2020

TCEC S17 Opening Pairs

Last week's post, Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals, gave the W-L-D score for the TCEC S17 half of the post:-

LCZero beat Stockfish with an S17 final score of +17-12=71 (52.5-47.5).

Given that the TCEC organizers force their preferred openings in every pair of games for a final, I wondered how the various openings fared. I downloaded the PGN for the 100 games in the match, processed them through a few filters and loaded the PGN headers into a database.

For all 50 opening pairs, the chart on the left shows how they fared. The column 'LWhite' shows the result when Leela had White, 'SWhite' when Stockfish had White.

The first row says that there were seven openings when both engines won as White. The second row says Leela won eight games as White when Stockfish could only draw as White in the same opening.

Leela won one opening as both White and Black. That happened in games 95 and 96, where the forced opening was 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 b6. On its first free move, Stockfish played 4.c3; Leela played 4.h4, starting one of its signature plans: the advance of a side Pawn into enemy territory.

For the other opening pairs, I tried to find the PGN in the TCEC wiki, TCEC Season 17 (wiki.chessdom.org), but failed. I finally found it at TCEC 17 superfinal opening PGN available (blogchess2016.blogspot.com), but it was too late to add the file to my database for this post. I'll try to do that some other time.

03 May 2020

Georgian Player, Regency Set

The first Sunday of the month means another post in the long-running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). Last month, in Pinheads Play Chess, I wrote,

I reckoned it would be a dry month, what with the coronavirus and all. In fact, there appeared to be more activity on eBay than I usually see in a month. Are people taking advantage of the stay-at-home orders to buy stuff online?

This month there was less than the usual activity on eBay. Since many of the stay-at-home orders went into effect mid-March, maybe my reckoning was right after all.

The item pictured below was titled 'Antique English Oil Portrait Painting Chess Player Georgian Man Regency 19th c.' It sold for somewhat under US $2500, 'Best offer accepted'.

The phrase in the title, 'Georgian Man Regency', wasn't explained in the description, which said,

A stunning English Regency era oil portrait of a gentleman playing chess, circa 1830. Unsigned but shows the work of a very skilled portrait painter. Canvas stamped Roberson Miller; National Portrait Gallery illustrates the stamp on the canvas - it was used between 1828-1839.

Condition is good and the original canvas has not been relined. Some small areas of paint loss and in painting as pictured. Craquelure and single patch present to verso. 22.75" x 19.5" framed

The word 'Regency' undoubtedly refers to the set depicted in the painting ; for more, see Regency Chess Sets (chess-museum.com). As for 'Georgian Man', Wikipedia's page Georgian era starts,

The Georgian era is a period in British history from 1714 to c.1830–37, named after the Hanoverian kings George I, George II, George III and George IV.

A phrase from the description, 'Canvas stamped Roberson Miller', leads to Roberson and Miller framed paintings (rootschat.com). That makes a total of three small lessons in history, of which the most interesting for chess history is Welcome to the Chess Museum, a site apparently affiliated with Chess Collectors International (CCI).

The four figure price for a portrait by an unsigned, unknown artist reminds me of the questions I asked in The Value of Art (February 2016). Perhaps it's time to spend some effort in answering those questions.

01 May 2020

FIDE Newsletters

I've already followed up last week's post Minutes of the 90th FIDE Congress with a post on my World Chess Championship Blog: 90th FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship. In that more recent post I noted,

In the past I've been critical of FIDE communication under the Dvorkovich management, and I know I'm not alone. This is being addressed.

More specifically,

90th FIDE Congress; FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly; Abu Dhabi, UAE; 28th February 2020 • 1. FIDE President address [...; FIDE President Dvorkovich] added that FIDE needs to improve its communication practices. FIDE already counts on multiple channels of communication, but it is still not enough. One of the initiatives which will start today is the publication of the electronic FIDE Newsletter.

A few weeks after the minutes were published, FIDE in FIDE Newsletter #003 is out (April 2020) announced,

Welcome to the bi-weekly FIDE Newsletter. The coronavirus crisis conditions most of the content in our third issue: all official competitions have been halted, but the online chess activity never ceases, and in fact, it is thriving.

The first section of the newsletter was included in the announcement:-

Stay home, stay safe, stay sharp! • The UN considers the COVID-19 pandemic the most challenging crisis since the Second World War. Probably it is also the most global event ever experienced in human history, and many think that we will come through the crisis reinforced as a society. [...]

I followed the instructions under 'SUBSCRIBE YOURSELF HERE', then verified that my email address was correct by changing my subscription parameters. So far I haven't received the newsletter. After it shows up, I'll see if I can locate newsletters #001 and #002.

This isn't the first time that FIDE has communicated via a newsletter. A routine search picked up

Both are located in the subdomain that I documented in Fide.com Archive (November 2019). Are there other examples from the same time period? Going back even further in time, I have a couple of PDFs in my own archive of FIDE documents:-

  • Newsletter, Volume 2009 Number 15
  • Newsletter, Volume 2009 Number 16

I'm sure there were other numbers published in 2008/2009, but I don't have copies. Will the latest initiative to produce a FIDE newsletter last longer than the earlier initiatives? Let's hope so.

30 April 2020

The Saddest of News

Nine months after the previous Yahoo story, A Cheating Yahoo (July 2019), I thought we had seen the last of the series about chess in the mainstream news. Out of the blue, mixed in with four coronavirus stories and one 'war with Iran' speculation, was: 'World renowned chess master dies at 33'.

From Dylan Loeb McClain of The New York Times:-

  • 2020-04-04: Arianne Caoili, Chess Master, Is Dead at 33 (yahoo.com) • 'Arianne Caoili, a chess master and a prominent figure both in the chess world and in Armenia, where she lived, died Monday in Yerevan, the country’s capital. She was 33. Her husband, Levon Aronian, a grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the world, announced her death on Twitter. Caoili died two weeks after being seriously injured in a car crash.'

On that sad start to a sad month, I offer heart-felt condolences to the genial Armenian GM. He and his wife Arianne were by far the most charismatic of the many chess playing couples -- beacons of light.

I intended to use this post to write about how online chess is prospering in the coronavirus lockdown, but it hardly seems appropriate. I'll come back to that topic another time.

27 April 2020

Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals

Two weeks ago, in my report on two world class engine vs. engine competitions, the title told the full story: TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals : Leela vs Stockfish. The details were buried in the body of the report.

TCEC: LCZero is currently leading +8-6=25 in the 100-game final match, aka TCEC Superfinal. This extrapolates to a four or five point win for the full match. • CCC: In the 200-game final match, Lc0 has a 10.0 point lead over Stockfish with 40 games left to be played.

Both matches finished as expected.

TCEC: LCZero beat Stockfish with an S17 final score of +17-12=71 (52.5-47.5), just as the extrapolation predicted. The last 20 games had more decisive games than draws, +7-4=9, perhaps due to forced openings that give one side a clear advantage -- in each pair of games the engines play the same opening with colors switched.

TCEC Cup 5 is well underway and has reached the semifinal stage. Stockfish qualified to the final from the first semifinal match, and LCZero is facing Alliestein in the second match. A report for the full event is available on the TCEC wiki, TCEC Cup 5.

CCC: Lc0 beat Stockfish with a CCC13 final score of +19-7=174 (106.0-94.0). Peter Doggers of Chess.com wrote the final report, Leela Chess Zero Beats Stockfish 106-94 In 13th Chess.com Computer Chess Championship. I can't remember Doggers reporting on another CCC event, a reflection on the lack of top-level human events which have been decimated by the global coronavirus COVID-19. His report flagged some of the most interesting CCC13 games.

Since CCC13 ended, the Chess.com organizers have been running a series of exhibition events. A week ago I spotted an event called 'Post-CCC13 CPU Party'. Today I see a notice under the site's Discord announcements: 'CCC13: CPU Semifinal has been abandoned due to lame-ness'. The 'CPU Party' is missing from the archive.

I haven't yet seen any plans for TCEC S18 or for CCC14. I imagine they'll be available, maybe the events will even be underway, by the time of my next report in two weeks. Whatever happens, the crown for top chess engine has passed firmly from the traditional, hand-crafted A/B CPU engines to the 21st-century, self-learning AI/NN GPU engines. There is no reason to expect that the crown will revert anytime soon.

[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]

26 April 2020

Commercial Compilations

Magnus Carlsen against himself, Korchnoi against a cow, Anand playing cricket (sort of) -- there are some classic commercials here.

Chess Commercials Compilation | Part 1 (9:41) • '[Published on] Mar 22, 2020'

This is the first of two such compilations featuring chess. The YouTube pages list the commercials in order:-

How many different languages are there on the planet? How many languages do you have to know in order to understand these commercials? That second question makes these videos a worthy addition to the ongoing series about The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

There's much more from the same Sync Chess channel. Why 'Sync Chess'?

For the hardcore chess fans, I recommend the "Synchronized Dual Commentary" playlist, which I think is a real GAME CHANGER on YouTube – being able to see in a single video both players describing their moves in real time! It’s like watching a tennis game! Or a sitcom, because chess players have a great sense of humor!

After I finish watching the commercials, I'll watch some of that synchronized commentary. Maybe there is a silver lining to the coronavirus lockdown.

24 April 2020

Minutes of the 90th FIDE Congress

Remember the series of posts ending with FIDE's Ethics Commission 2019? In that post I wrote,

This is the fifth (and last) commission in the series that started with Spectating the 90th FIDE Congress? (February 2020).

FIDE recently published the minutes of the two most important meetings held during that Congress:-

  • 2020-03-26: 2020 Executive Board Minutes (fide.com) • 'FIDE publishes the Minutes of 2020 Executive Board meeting which was held in Abu Dhabi, UAE on February 29th.'

  • 2020-04-03: 2020 Extraordinary General Assembly Minutes (ditto) • 'FIDE publishes the Minutes of 2020 FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly which was held in Abu Dhabi, UAE on February 28th.'

The following chart extracts the table of contents (TOC) from the two documents.

That chart will serve as a reference for a couple of posts on my other chess-related blogs. Maybe I'll even discover material for another post on this blog.

20 April 2020

Smerdon - Komodo Odds Match

Everyone knows that people have no chance in a balanced game against a chess engine. Years ago, even Pawn odds given by the engines proved insufficient for an interesting game. Earlier this month, as an experiment in man-machine play, Chess.com held a match Man vs. Machine: Smerdon vs. Komodo (chess.com; Peter Doggers):-

This week Chess.com is hosting a match between Australian grandmaster David Smerdon and Komodo. The chess engine will be playing with Knight odds. The match, held in conjunction with a special anniversary issue of the "ICGA Journal" (International Computer Games Association), will consist of six games with a time control of 15 minutes and a 10-second increment per move. Smerdon plays black in every game; Komodo will be missing a Knight in the starting positions, alternating from removing it from b1 an g1.

Although some observers predicted that the machine would nevertheless prevail, the results showed that GMs know how to convert a substantial material advantage -- trade down to an endgame and convert -- Smerdon Beats Komodo 5-1 With Knight Odds (ditto):-

GM David Smerdon defeated chess engine Komodo, playing with knight odds, 5-1. The Man vs. Machine rapid match was played on Chess.com on April 10 and 11 and provided more insight into the effect of material imbalance in human vs engine play.

For more about the match from the human point of view, see Man vs Machine in the Time of COVID: Komodo vs Smerdon (davidsmerdon.com). For more about the match from the engine point of view, see Komodo vs GM Smerdon knight odds match (talkchess.comforum); started by Komodo's GM Larry Kaufman in mid-March, the discussion of the match starts realtime on page six.

At what rating level for the human would the machine start to compete with an equal chance of winning? Under-2200? Under-2000? Lower?

19 April 2020

At the Cosmonaut Hotel

The best known of the chess playing astronauts was undoubtedly Greg Chamitoff, in large part because of First Earth vs. Space Chess Match Ends – Earth Wins (nasa.gov; December 2009). That story announced,

The first Earth vs. Space chess match, begun during astronaut Greg Chamitoff’s Expedition 17 stay aboard the International Space Station, is over -- and the Earth won.

Here's a more recent example.

Expedition 63 crewmembers play a game of chess © Flickr user NASA Johnson under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo said,

(April 1, 2020) - At the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 63 crewmembers Chris Cassidy of NASA (left) and Ivan Vagner (center) and Anatoly Ivanishin (right) of Roscosmos play a game of chess April 1. They are preparing to launch April 9 on the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-and-a-half month mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Andrey Shelepin/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

For more on the subject from Flickr, see Astronaut Chris Cassidy (flickr.com), and Expedition 63 (ditto). Will Expedition 64 feature a tournament?

13 April 2020

TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals : Leela vs Stockfish

I last looked at the two world class engine-vs-engine competitions a fortnight ago, in TCEC S17 DivP & CCC13 Heptagonal Underway (March 2020). Both competitions were getting close to the selection of the two top engines for the final stage. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: In Premier Division (aka DivP), the six-engine 'CPU only' section finished with Stockfish leading. The four GPU engines entered the division, which will run for another week. The top two engines promote to the final match. • CCC: Stockfish is currently leading the seven-engine Heptagonal, slightly ahead of Lc0 and Leelenstein. The fourth spot in the Semifinal is still up for grabs.

When those events finished, the same pair of engines had qualified into both final matches, which are now well underway. Let's have an overview of the current status.

TCEC: The diagram shows the results for the first five engines in the Premier Division. LCZero finished 0.5 points ahead of Stockfish, which finished 2.0 points ahead of third place Alliestein.

LCZero is currently leading +8-6=25 in the 100-game final match, aka TCEC Superfinal. This extrapolates to a four or five point win for the full match.

CCC: In the Heptagonal, the fourth spot for the Semifinal went to Komodo. In the Semifinal, Lc0 finished 4.0 points ahead of Stockfish, which was just 0.5 points ahead of third place Leelenstein. Komodo was the only engine to finish with a minus score. In the 200-game final match, Lc0 has a 10.0 point lead over Stockfish with 40 games left to be played.

Both the TCEC and the CCC final matches will have finished by the time of my next post. Leela is on course to win 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]

12 April 2020

GM Anand on the Lockdown

As I prepared the short list for this month's video feature, I found two themes repeated again and again. By coincidence, they echoed the two words in the title of last month's news highlights: Coronavirus Candidates (March 2020). I'll look at the 'Coronavirus' side in this post, then look at the 'Candidates' side on my World Championship blog.

Another theme that cropped up repeatedly was 'streaming'. People confined to home; what are they going to do; they're going to stream.

Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand Plays Online Chess Amid Coronavirus Lockdown (5:56) • '[Published on] Apr 12, 2020'

The description said,

Chess Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand is trying to keep himself busy during the ongoing lockdown by playing the game of Chess online. He also asked people to be patient and trust each other and the government as mistakes are imperative to happen considering the novelty of the crisis. He also urged everyone to maintain physical distance and follow government advisories.

At the time of the video, GM Anand was hunkered down in Germany. He explained why that country has had more success than most countries fighting Covid-19.

10 April 2020


He fought a long, tough battle against a pair of dangerous illnesses, but the coronavirus was one adversary too many.

'On a des mots pour dire une peine légère, mais les grandes douleurs ne savent que se taire.' - Sénèque

'Light pains are repressed; great pains are mute.' - Seneca

06 April 2020

Deep Horizons

A couple of weeks ago, I had a post about Tablebases and Fortresses (March 2020), two types of positions that create problems for chess engines. These were collected on the Fishcooking forum.

Another, smaller set of positions can be found on the Talkchess forum, in a thread titled Hard-Talkchess-2020 set, final release (talkchess.com). These are difficult ('Hard') positions where the choice of best variation lies beyond the current computational limits of the best engines.

1B1K1k2/4N2p/3pP1pP/6p1/p7/3N2b1/2r2p2/8 w

This Lichess diagram shows the first position in the set. The key move is 1.Nc6. Although I didn't analyze it with an engine, it looks like the Black King is destined to be chased around the board after e6-e7-e8Q.

For more about the EPD format of the 'Talkchess 2020 set', see Extended Position Description (chessprogramming.org). For those of us currently under coronavirus confinement, the positions in this and the previous 'TBs & Fortresses' post might help to pass the time.

05 April 2020

Pinheads Play Chess

But we knew that already. Before I started creating the short list of auctions for this month's edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I reckoned it would be a dry month, what with the coronavirus and all. In fact, there appeared to be more activity on eBay than I usually see in a month. Are people taking advantage of the stay-at-home orders to buy stuff online?

The item pictured below was titled '"Chess Game" oil painting by Ann Krasner'. It sold for 'US $1,350.00 or Best Offer'. (So which was it?)

The description was terse:-

"Chess Game" by Ann Krasner
Oil painting on canvas
Size: 18 inch x 36 inch
Not framed
Signed by artist

That was accompanied by a brief biography about the artist, excerpted below. Note the source. For the complete bio, see Ann Krasner (artnet.com).

Ann Krasner was born on January 17, 1967 in Moscow, USSR. She grew up among people interested in science, music, photography, ballet and theater. As a child, she was chosen to study in the Bolshoy Theater Ballet Studio, Moscow Musical School in the class of piano and musical theory, and started her general education in Advanced Experimental Math/Physics School for gifted children.

Ann’s work now resides in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Art and the Springfield Art Museum and she has had exhibitions in major museums across the country, including, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Springfield Museum, Carnegie Art Museum, Laguna Art Museum, and San Diego Museum of Art, just to name a few. (Source: ArtNet)

The painting reminds me of the scene in 'Men in Black' where the gun-selling extraterrestial's head grows back. Maybe I should have titled this post 'Extraterrestials Play Chess'.

02 April 2020

April 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

Every time I see the cover of the April 1970 CL&R, with a face I don't recognize, I think it must be the U.S. Amateur Champion. The annual amateur champions were featured prominently in previous editions of Chess Life, for example, the July 1968 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'Ray Martin - American Open Champion'
Right: "Knight Moves" • 'Russians Win Olympiad; Ivanov (A.) Repeats as Novag Grand Prix Champion'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

The related story, 'Looking back on the American Open' (Santa Monica, California, November 1969) by 'Carl L. Budd, Pres. & Reed Newport, Vice-Pres. Santa Monica Bay Chess Club', reported,

When the names of the 202 entries with their ratings were posted, the large audience and players were almost all willing to concede first place and the $600 prize to the only International Master entered [a footnote added, 'Now a Grandmaster'], Walter Browne (2445) from Australia, and get on with the business of playing for the remaining $1800.

Browne lost in the third round of the eight-round event to John Davidian (2012) and never regained front-runner status. Ray Martin (2114), the eventual winner, was rated 20th overall. The report noted,

The new American Open Champion has been a member of the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club since 1948. Subsequent to that time he has won many important local titles including the California State Championship. About 10 years ago he gave up tournament chess to work evenings and adequately provide for his family. Now that things have eased a bit, he resumed tournament play last year. Prior to the American Open he won the Southern California Championship and the Ventura Marina Chess Festival in 1969.

For more about the winner, see The chess games of Raymond Martin (chessgames.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

The artwork was the most striking feature of the April 1995 cover. The writeup said,

"Knight Moves" (acrylic on handmade paper) by Ingrid Evans (photographed by Dirk Schenck) was part of an exhibition at the Stremmel Gallery in Reno, Nevada. [...] Ingrid has had numerous showings and exhibitions both here and abroad, since the 1970s. Her experience as an aerial photographer has given her a unique outlook into man's intrusion upon nature. Her current interests revolve around multi-media pieces, including, painting, printing, and diverse papermaking techniques. And yes, she is.

She is ... what exactly? According to Ingrid Evans (1929-2015; legacy.com),

In 1968, she married Larry Evans. Larry was an American chess Grandmaster as well as an International Chess Grandmaster, five time U.S. Chess champion and an author and journalist. Larry preceded Ingrid in death on November 15, 2010.

In last month's post, March 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover', I promised, 'As for the 'Castle Heights' reference, I'll come back to it next month.' The street sign on that cover -- 'Chess Dr. 4200' -- was explained in the '1994 Yearbook'. (It was assigned to 1994 because the information was 'current as of 31 December'.) The 11-page yearbook was illustrated with a multi-section article titled 'Checkmate Plaza' by Steven W. Gordon. It included a street map of the Castle Heights area and started,

Subdivisions around the country are often built along a theme, with the streets all having a common set of names. Flowers, birds, state and president names are frequently seen motifs. Other themes I've seen include aircraft companies. famous aviators, minerals, trees and a multitude of related topics. But Anchorage, Alaska, has the only subdivision with a chess theme I have seen or heard of.

When I noticed the street names on the east side of Anchorage I thought it was on a medieval theme as the first names I saw were QUEENS COURT and KNIGHTS WAY. I was amused and of course thought 'chess' but didn't really think the names would be actual chess references...

But they were indeed chess references, even 'Bisquier Dr.', i.e. GM Arthur Bisguier (RIP). As long as we're clarifying names, I should point out that the name 'Ivanov (A.)' on the CL cover meant GM Alexander Ivanov.

31 March 2020

Coronavirus Candidates

With every major sports event getting cancelled or postponed this month -- no thanks to the coronavirus Covid-19 -- you might think the Candidates tournament would have attracted considerable attention from mainstream sports broadcasting ... and you would be wrong. ESPN was the major exception.


Let's have those four stories in chronological order.

Going back even further in time, most -- if not all -- of the older ESPN chess stories had something to do with India. Take this next one, for example.

The same Susan Ninan was the writer of the four stories on the Candidates. Thanks India; thanks Vishy; and thanks Susan Ninan! Have I overlooked the autobiography?

30 March 2020

TCEC S17 DivP & CCC13 Heptagonal Underway

Two weeks ago, in TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway, I posted a progress report on the two world class engine vs. engine tournaments that just go on and on and on... Here's a summary of that report:-

TCEC: The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU called 'S17 - This is not a SuFi Bonus', with only 1-2 games scheduled per day. • CCC: The last of the three CCC13 five-engine 'pools' (aka 'pentagonals'), called 'Pool B', is currently running.

A few days later I added a correction for the TCEC portion -- 'the site issued an announcement the next day: TCEC Season 17 – Premier Division is now live! (chessdom.com)' -- with the news that 'the Premier Division kicked off'. The announcement continued,

This year the Premier Division has increased the number of participants from 8 to 10. [...] First, the audience will see all games that require CPU only. Then, the bulk of games that require GPU will be played.

Where is the Premier Division (aka DivP) now?

TCEC: The six-engine 'CPU only' section finished with Stockfish leading +6-0=14, well ahead of the other five CPU engines, only one of which could barely manage a plus score. The four GPU engines have entered the division, which will run for another week. The rules specify, 'The top 2 engines promote to the Superfinal which will be the traditional 100 games head to head clash.'

CCC: The third Pentagonal section, 'Pool B' was won by Leelenstein, well ahead of Houdini. Those two engines joined the four that had qualified from the first two pools. Before the next phase, the Heptagonal, could begin, the third-placed engines from each of the three pools ('C-A-B') met in a Triangle to determine a seventh Heptagonal competitor. Komodo, having the only plus score, won.

A few weeks ago, in CCC13 Shapes, I showed the flow diagram for the Pentagonal and Triangle sections, the first half of the overall tournament. The second half, starting with the Heptagonal, is shown below.

Stockfish is currently leading the Heptagonal, slightly ahead of Lc0 and Leelenstein. Each of the three engines won its respective qualifying Pentagonal pool. The fourth spot in the Semifinals is still up for grabs. The tournament should finish during the next 24 hours.

[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 March 2020

Tablebases and Fortresses

There's an interesting thread on the Fishcooking forum: Misplayed wins, fortresses, or wrongly evaluated positions (google.com/fishcooking). It starts,

I've done an analysis of ~1M recent Fishtest LTC [Long Time Control] games, looking for those games that had a draw result, but where the evaluation was >2.0 for at least four plies. The result is ~17000 FENs that have been misplayed wins, fortresses, or wrongly evaluated positions. I think this might be interesting to have a look at, and might yield some [Stockfish evaluation] improvements.

The 17K FEN positions are in a Dropbox.com file available to everyone. I downloaded the file and pasted the first dozen positions into the Analysis board (lichess.org). I first discussed this tool in Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess (August 2018).

Of the positions I looked at, at least half were tablebase positions, thereby subject to exact solution. The rest were fortresses like the one shown below.

6k1/2p4r/1p1q2p1/rPpNp1Pn/P1P1Pp2/1KQP4/5P1R/R7 w

Because of the extra Pawn, this looks to me like a possible win for White -- play for Nb3 -or- try the exchange sacrifice on h5 -- but the engines have a remarkable talent for finding hidden resources in tough positions. More work is necessary, but first I have to develop a better tool than copy/paste into a web page.

22 March 2020

No Strings Attached

If, as they say, there's no money in chess, how do you account for Regium? 'What's Regium?' you ask. My introduction to the product was via a message on Chess.com.

21 February 2020: Join the chess revolution. • REGIUM is the world's most advanced automatic chess e-board. Now, REGIUM is the presenting partner of the Speed Chess Championship Final between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, taking place this Friday, February 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on Chess.com/TV.

REGIUM is developed by chess lovers, highly qualified engineers with more than 20 years of experience in Hi-Tech developments. They dreamed of the perfect automatic chess board since childhood, but nobody made it. For this reason, they have decided to do it themselves and develop the board of their dreams that they would like to have. Now they want you to have it too!

A few days later, in Update On REGIUM Chess (chess.com), the world's no.1 chess company issued a second opinion:-

23 February 2020: Chess.com is a company founded by chess lovers. Like you, we get excited at the prospect of bold, revolutionary innovations that will help chess evolve. Recently, Chess.com was approached by REGIUM Chess who wished to sponsor one of our events, the Speed Chess Championship Final. With that sponsorship came a mailer which many of you received just three days ago. [...]

After completing the process of due diligence that is required when partnering with a third-party product, we have continued our research and interactions with REGIUM and have not been able to verify some of the claims made by the company.

Want to see the product in action? This video gives the general idea: Regium Chess Scam, Video slowed down (youtube.com).

Never underestimate the ingenuity of chess fans. Youtube channel 'Matt P' published a working model based on an a more down-to-earth technology...

SCHEMEIUM · Automatic Chess e-Board - REGIUM Chess Scam Parody (2:43) • '[Published on] Feb 24, 2020'

...That Chess.com 'Update' mentioned above included an even later update:-

2 March 2020: The REGIUM Kickstarter campaign has been suspended.

All's well that ends well? For another angle on the story, see How a kickstarter scam shook up the chess business (perlenvombodensee.de; 'das Schachmagazin'), subtitled, 'DGT about to develop what Regium has announced':-

27 February 2020: The Regium wonderboard will remain a dream. But while the Regium campaign, a scam most likely, is going down the drain, inventors are actually working on a wonderboard elsewhere. DGT wants to develop what Regium has announced. In principle, at least.

Let's add this story to the ongoing series based on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

16 March 2020

TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway

Let's catch up with the two most important engine vs. engine tournaments, last seen two weeks ago in my post, TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced. To summarize that post,

TCEC: S17 finished the CPU qualifying stages. As for the GPU stage, there weren't enough NN engines to organize a separate league. The next scheduled event of importance was the CPU/GPU playoff for Premier Division (DivP). • CCC: The bonus events continued, with the event 'Lc0-CPU vs Komodo' just starting. The site also released plans for CCC13.

What's the current status of TCEC S17 and CCC13?

TCEC: The DivP playoff was won by Fire, ahead of KomodoMCTS. As I mentioned in the 'L1 Finished' post, 'The lack of GPU competitors appears to have left a big gap in the S17 schedule.' The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU called 'S17 - This is not a SuFi Bonus', with only 1-2 games scheduled per day. Unless I'm misunderstanding something, this event will continue until the beginning of May, meaning that my next few fortnightly reports are going to be low on new TCEC content.

CCC: I looked at the format of the new season in last week's post CCC13 Shapes. The last of the three five-engine 'pools' (aka 'pentagonals'), called 'Pool B', is currently running. The first pentagonal, 'Pool C', was won by Stockfish, well ahead of Stoofvlees; the second, 'Pool A', was won by an even larger margin by Lc0 ahead of Fire. 'C-A-B', got it?

Given that CCC seems to spend more time planning its seasons than it does executing them, it's possible that CCC13 will be finished by the time I tackle the next post in two weeks.

[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]


Later: Re that last sentence in the TCEC section...

The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU [...] Unless I'm misunderstanding something, this event will continue until the beginning of May, meaning that my next few fortnightly reports are going to be low on new TCEC content.

...the site issued an announcement the next day: TCEC Season 17 – Premier Division is now live! (chessdom.com). It said,

The key stages of [TCEC S17] are now live at the official website of the competition. The Premier Division kicked off with a game between the current Grand Champion Stockfish and the newcomer to the division Ethereal.

The announcement included details about the sequence of games to be played. For more about the whys and wherefores of the pause, see Speaking of TCEC, what is all this then? (talkchess.com), including a snapshot of the TCEC archive index.

15 March 2020

Café Life in Montparnasse

This is the third example of chess art on this blog from Gandalf's Gallery of Flickr. For the previous example, see Attention to Detail (January 2018; Gustav Wentzel, 1859 - 1927).

Henri Hayden - Chess Players (1913) © Flickr user Gandalf's Gallery under Creative Commons.

The description started,

Set in the Café La Rotonde, this work encapsulates the internationalism and tolerance that pervaded café life in Montparnasse. The game of chess is central to the composition. A battle of intellect and strategies, chess may be seen as a metaphor for the anxieties felt by many concerning the arrival of so many foreign artists in Paris.

For the rest of the description, see the 'Lot Essay' in Henri Hayden (1883-1970), Les joueurs d'échecs (christies.com; 'Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, London, 6 February 2020'). The lot listing also mentions,

Price realised: GBP 1,139,250
Estimate: GBP 300,000 - GBP 500,000

For more about the artist, see Wikipedia's Henri Hayden. For more chess items from Gandalf's Gallery, see Search results for chess (gandalfsgallery.blogspot.com).

09 March 2020

CCC13 Shapes

In last week's engine post, TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced, I noted,

CCC: The site has released plans for CCC13 in the form of a spreadsheet and a graphic. The format is like nothing we've seen before and will take more time to study than I have today.

While it might be useful to summarize all of the different CCC formats since the first season (CCC01), I'll have to limit this post to the two most recent seasons. In TCEC Cup 4 Finals & CCC11 R1 Underway (October 2019), I listed the CCC11 'format for each stage of the competition':-

Qualification : 12 engines, 2 rounds [CCC10 places 1-3 and four others qualify] • Round 1 : 12 engines, 2 rounds [Places 1-8 advance] • Round 2 : 8 engines, 3 rounds [Places 1-6 advance] • Round 3 : 6 engines, 5 rounds [Places 1-4 advance] • Semifinal : 4 engines, 12 rounds [Places 1-2 advance] • Final : 2 engines, 75 rounds

CCC12 used a more straightforward knockout format; from TCEC S17, CCC12 Both Underway (January 2020):-

[CCC12] uses a format not seen in any of the previous CCC seasons • 18-engine single elimination; 200 games per match

The chart below, which is the left half of the CCC graphic mentioned above, shows the CCC13 qualification phases.

The related CCC spreadsheet includes an introduction with some important numbers:-

CCC13: 'Shapes' • Engines: 15 • Games: 2504 • Total time: 35.9 days

As for the event itself, first there will be three co-equal preliminary stages (A, B, C):-

Pentagonal: Five engines each; 20 rounds; Top two advance to 'Heptagonal'; Third place to 'Triangular'; Openings: Popular Chess.com openings (6 ply)

This will be followed by an intermediate stage to give one third place finisher a second chance:-

Triangular: Three engines; 50 rounds; Winner advances to 'Heptagonal'; Openings: Gambit Book

The six qualifiers from the three 'Pentagonal' round robins join the winner of the 'Triangular' round robin:-

Heptagonal: Seven engines; 12 rounds; Top four advance to 'Semifinal'; Openings: Gambit plus Popular book

Two engines will qualify from the 'Semifinal' to the 'Final' 200 game match. It's not clear how the 15 engines were distributed over the three 'Pentagonal' events, but Lc0 , Leelenstein , and Stockfish are playing in the A, B, and C groups, respectively.

08 March 2020

Youngest GMs

According to this Chess.com video, the earliest of the youngest GMs -- starting with Botvinnik & Reshevsky -- were in the original group of GMs nominated by FIDE (1950). The first GM under-20 was Boris Spassky (1955), followed by Bobby Fischer (1958). Fischer's record was finally bested by Judit Polgar (1992), after which a new 'youngest' becomes a more frequent occurrence.

The Youngest Chess Grandmasters Of All Time (2:11) • '[Published on] Feb 27, 2020'

The first comment points to The Youngest Chess Grandmasters In History (chess.com; Published: Mar 22, 2019, Updated: Feb 27, 2020). For a similar video, also from Chess.com, see The Most Followed Chess Streamers Over Time.

06 March 2020

FIDE's Ethics Commission 2019

I ended last week's post FIDE's Media and Fair Play Commissions 2019, saying, 'I'll leave the Ethics Commission for another post.' This is the fifth (and last) commission in the series that started with Spectating the 90th FIDE Congress? (February 2020). It's by far the best organized and most informative of those five commissions.

In last year's post, FIDE's Ethics Commission 2018 (January 2019), I displayed a portion of an online table showing the commission's decisions. Below is a similar snapshot from the current page. It starts with the last two decisions in 2018, both related to the 2018 election and both of which were eventually marked 'Complaint thereafter withdrawn'. The columns in the table were explained in the 2018 post.


Following the links provided in the 'Spectating?' post, we find the commission's most recent report in Annex 5.7 of the General Assembly announcement. Unlike many other annexes that I've reviewed, it's actually signed and dated. It starts,

Report to FIDE Executive Board
Abu Dhabi, February 2020

On top of various administrative details, the report classifies cases according to their disposition:-

Complaints ruled non-admissible prior to registration
Cases withdrawn or discontinued
Decided cases
Pending cases
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

'Decided cases' are the same as those shown in the table above. The same web site that documents the decisions offers procedural rules and guidelines for deciding a case. In the six years that I've been following the Ethics Commission, it has handled some of the most controversial issues in FIDE. What will 2020 deliver?

03 March 2020

March 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

Two months ago, in the January 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover', I quoted a couple of paragraphs from the 1995 'Contents' page:-

YOU'LL NOTICE A CHANGE! [...] Now CL is being produced in New Windsor [NY] on state-of-the-art desktop technology that eliminates the need for producing old-fashioned mechanical boards. Instead, we now ship the magazine to our printer on disk. We'll learn how to use the equipment even better with experience, of course. And you can expect more changes in the coming months.

Yes, I indeed noticed a change starting with the cover on that January 1995 issue of CL. Previous covers used a single photo. The covers for last month, February 1995, and this month used multiple photos.

Left: 'Lajos Portisch, Winner at Hastings'
Right (clockwise from left): 'Gulko Outruns Competition for Interplay Title' • 'Sagalchik Qualifies for GM Title' • 'Curdo Takes His 500th Victory Lap'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

'Hastings Report' by Dave Daniels • Hungarian Grandmaster Lajos Portisch, playing his customarily steady chess, won the Premier section of the 45th annual Hastings Christmas Congress (29 December - 8 January) with a score of 7-2, half a point ahead of West German Wolfgang Unzicker. Svetozar Gligoric of Yugoslavia was third with 6-3, while former World Champion Vassily Smyslov of the Soviet Union, and the young Dutch player, Jan Timman, tied for fourth with 5.5-3.5.

I have a small problem with the CL&R cover. I've seen many photos of GM Portisch and no matter how much I stretch my imagination, the cover photo doesn't look like him. Maybe it's the hair.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Meet me at the corner of Chess and 43rd Street. You can do that in Anchorage, Alaska. And Steve Gordon's pictoral essay on Castle Heights will be the Yearbook theme in next month's issue. For now, the street sign serves as a guidepost for organized chess, indicating its varied nature and appeal:

Gennady Sagalchik (upper right) earned his final Grandmaster norm in Linares, Mexico; Boris Gulko (left) won the U.S. Interplay Championship; John Curdo (lower right) made the record books by winning his 500th tournament!

The U.S. Interplay Championship was also featured on last month's February 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'. As for the 'Castle Heights' reference, I'll come back to it next month.

02 March 2020

TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced

Another Monday, another look at the two world class engine-vs-engine events I've been following every two weeks. To summarize the previous post, TCEC S17 L1 & CCC12 Bonus Series Ongoing:-

TCEC: S17 L1 is still underway and has reached the second of its two double round robins. • CCC: The site continues with bonus events -- another half-dozen events have been played since the previous report.

Today's post has more news than that previous post.

TCEC: S17 L1 finished with the results shown in the following crosstable.

S17 L1: Top 8 of the 16 engines competing

What happens next? According to the announced rules, TCEC S17 – detailed information (chessdom.com; December 2019), S17 has just finished the CPU qualifying stages:-

The AB/CPU competition will start with a Qualification league (invitational, variable number of participants), League 2 (16 participants) and League 1 (16 participants). Promotions in the AB (Minimax, aka "traditional") Leagues go as in Season 16.

The rules go on to explain the GPU stage, followed by a playoff:-

The NeuralNetwork/GPU [NN] competition will have just League 1 (invitational, 16 participants max). As the number of engines in both competitions differ, so will the resulting qualification spots for the playoff. 4 engines from the respective Leagues 1 of CPU and 2 engines from the GPU will enter the playoff to determine which 4 engines qualify to be promoted to the Premier Division [DivP].

It appears that there weren't enough NN engines to organize a separate league. In TCEC Season 17 Engines (wiki.chessdom.org), the TCEC wiki, under 'Playoff for DivP', lists the first four L1 engines shown in the table above -- indicating that rofChade edged Xiphos on tiebreak -- plus two NN engines. The same wiki page, under 'GPU engines competition', lists nothing except the same two NN engines. This is confirmed by an info command:-

!next • Now CPU engine update tests/bonus as filler. Next GPU engine test. Then playoff for DivP.

The site is currently running 'S17 - Fix update test and filler 3', which is scheduled to continue for another three weeks. The lack of GPU competitors appears to have left a big gap in the S17 schedule.

CCC: The bonus events continue. They included an event titled 'Non-Gambits' (2 x GPU; 4 x CPU; the GPUs trounced the CPUs) and another titled 'CPU MegaGambits'. The current event, titled 'Lc0-CPU vs Komodo', is just starting and is too early to call.

The site has released plans for CCC13 in the form of a spreadsheet and a graphic. The format is like nothing we've seen before and will take more time to study than I have today.

[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]

01 March 2020

Niue in Chess

In the ten years that I've been running the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I've featured only a handful of coins. The previous post on the topic was Armenia Olympiad Gold (August 2014).

The title of the auction for the item shown below was '2018 Niue Chess Antiqued Silver Coin 2oz COA with REAL MINI CHESS PIECES'. The coin sold for US $598 'Buy It Now'. This is the second straight month that an auction for the coin was on my short list, and the photo of the coin's face (upper left) was taken from a previous auction.

The bottom photo shows the tiny pieces set up on the back of the coin. The auction description listed the coin's attributes:-

Country: Niue •. Year: 2018 •. Face value: 5 Dollars •. Metal: Silver 999. •. Weight (g): 62.2 (2oz) •. Size (mm): 63 •. Quality: ANTIQUE •. Mintage (pcs): 500 •. Certificate COA: Yes •. Box: Yes

The description from the January auction described the appearance of the coin:-

2018 Niue Island Chess Set Antique 2oz. 999 round by ArtMint. •. The reverse of the coin features the wonderful and colored image of a Chessboard surrounded by beautiful decorative elements. The coin comes with the 32 pieces to play the game. The obverse of the coin presents the image of the Queen piece [NB: It's a King] beside the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the inscriptions: “NIUE ISLAND” -- the issuing country, “5 DOLLARS” -- the face value, “ELIZABETH II” -- the name of the Queen, “Ag 999” -- the fineness of the Silver, “2018” -- the year of issue and “2oz” -- the weight of the coin.

Where is Niue? Wikipedia's Niue page says,

Niue is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) northeast of New Zealand, east of Tonga, south of Samoa, and west of the Cook Islands. Niue's land area is about 261 square kilometres (101 sq mi) and its population, predominantly Polynesian, was about 1,600 in 2016.

Also worth noting: 'Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands.' The population has diminished by about two-thirds since the 1950s.

28 February 2020

FIDE's Media and Fair Play Commissions 2019

Continuing with last week's post on FIDE Commissions 2020, there are three more commissions I want to follow up. All were identified in another recent post, Spectating the 90th FIDE Congress?, along with references to the previous post on each:-

  • 2019-01-10: FIDE's Journalist Commission 2018
  • 2019-01-17: FIDE's 'Anti-Cheating' / 'Fair Play' Commission 2018
  • 2019-01-24: FIDE's Ethics Commission 2018

Taking them in order, in FIDE's Journalist Commission 2018 (January 2019), I summarized,

The future of the CCJ [Commission of Chess Journalists] is not clear. [...] Later this year, when I report on the 90th Congress, perhaps there will be nothing to say on the topic.

And so it is -- the commission has disappeared into the sunset. It leaves a legacy with 09. Media Regulations (handbook.fide.com), which now might never be maintained. As for FIDE's 'Anti-Cheating' / 'Fair Play' Commission 2018 (January 2019), I noted in that post,

One of the most important FIDE commissions guiding chess in the 21st century is undoubtedly the group responsible for overseeing the increasing use of computers to cheat.

The 'Spectating' post mentioned 'Annex 5.9 Fair Play Commission report (FPL)'. The report's introduction says, 'Activities in which the Commission was engaged for 2019 including any major achievements'.

On top of being unsigned and undated, the report doesn't mention the name of its issuing commission. It doesn't even use the term 'Fair Play' anywhere in the document. It starts with a section headed 'The investigation of ongoing cases', then lists four cases without any further details (just 'confidential Excel file is attached'). The last section, titled 'Feedback on what can be done differently to improve the effectiveness of the commission in its service to FIDE', says,

The very urgent question on screening tool is not yet solved yet. Financial and organisational question with prof. Kenneth Reagan [sic: 'Regan'] are not settled yet. So de facto the statistical analysis as such is not yet considered as reliable proof and thus more evidence are needed, for example, confession (as in Rausis case). Such a situation puts the work of the whole Commission on the edge.

I'll interpret that last phrase as 'on the edge' of the cliff. It looks like we can't expect much from this commission in the future. Good thing they didn't waste resources creating a web site.

I'll leave the Ethics Commission for another post.

27 February 2020

Echoes of Past Yahoos

This month's first echo goes back to May Amazon Yahoos Crumble (May 2019), where I documented an emerging trend:-

An unwanted -- let's call it creepy -- coupling of my Yahoo habits with my Amazon habits.

The latest Yahoo ad is pictured below. Half blank, it's simpler than previous ads of the same type.

'Ad         Amazon.com'

The link behind the ad led to Amazon 'Movies & TV': Queen Of Katwe, subtitled 'Madina Nalwanga (Actor), David Oyelowo (Actor), Mira Nair (Director)'. Curiously, when I bookmarked that link, I got a much longer text for the link -- everything you wanted to know about the film (without mentioning Disney):-

Amazon.com: Queen Of Katwe: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o, Martin Kabanza, Taryn Kyaze, Ivan Jacobo, Nicolas Levesque, Ronald Ssemaganda, Ethan Nazario Lubega, Nikita Waligwa, Mira Nair, Screenplay by William Wheeler, Based On The Book By Tim Crothers: Movies & TV

The Katwe story is a minor recurring theme on this blog, last seen in Every Story Has a Beginning (April 2019). What triggered the ad? While writing last weekend's post, FIDE's Social Commission 2019, I took a brief look at A Knight Without a Castle: A Story of Resilience and Hope, a recent book by Robert Katende. The author was a major character in the Katwe story and was played in the movie by David Oyelowo. • The Katwe connection: Amazon => Yahoo => Amazon; QED.

[I haven't seen the Katwe movie yet. I recorded the French version early last year, but my wife erased it before I got the chance to see it. I resisted the temptation to erase one of her recordings. Marital harmony often hinges on ceding the last word.]

Tragically, the Katwe story figured in one of the topics I selected for a possible post on 'Mainstream Stories 2020-02'. The story was:-

This month's second echo goes back to last month's Not Mainstream Stories 2020-01 (January 2020):-

The third echo is also from Iran and goes back to Under the FIDE Flag (December 2019). To summarize the relevant headlines from that post:-

2019-12-27: Iran’s Alireza Firouzja, 16, bypasses ban on playing Israelis (theguardian.com; Leonard Barden) • 2019-12-29: Iranian Chess Player Who Refused To Play For His Country Wins Silver Medal At World Championship (rferl.org)

The latest story from February was:-

  • 2020-02-21: Alireza Firouzja wins first major title at age of 16 (theguardian.com; Leonard Barden; NB: URL doesn't match headline?!) • 'The chess world’s rising star Alireza Firouzja, aged 16 and exiled from Iran, won his first major trophy last night when he defeated India’s Vidit Gujrathi, 2-0 in a speed play-off in the Prague Masters.'

Iran's loss is the world's gain. As for Leonard Barden, recently retired, he would make another worthy story from February, but that requires an entire post.