30 January 2020

Not Mainstream Stories 2020-01

Another month drawing to an end, another month without any chess stories being picked up by the mainstream press. Last month I had Under the FIDE Flag, and this month I short listed three stories for a possible post. I couldn't decide on one alone, so I'll mention all three.

The first 'story' was more of a theme than a story. Like the 'FIDE Flag' post, it involved Iran.

The second story was about a well known chess publisher and former chess blogger: Chess Museum (2009-2011) and Chess Toast (2011-2013).

  • 2020-01-11: Prolific chess author slain (chessbase.com) • 'Chess author and publisher Bob Long has reportedly been murdered in his home in Davenport, Iowa, USA, according to local news media. ChessBase author IM Andrew Martin was a long-time friend and sent this reflection.'

The third story wasn't really about chess, but built on a theme that has been weighing heavily with the chess community for the last two years.

All three stories are worthy of a follow-up post, but given my track record with follow-ups, I wouldn't advise anyone to bet on it.

27 January 2020

TCEC PCT Handicap Events

In last week's post on the engine-vs-engine tournaments, TCEC S17 L2, CCC12 Rd.3 Underway, I neglected to mention a series of small events that took place between the TCEC Qualification League (QL) and its League 2 (L2). These were five events with names like:-

S17 - Stockfish 1pct vs L2 Test 1 [through 'Test 5']

L2 has since finished and the TCEC is running a new series with similar names:-

S17 - Stockfish 3pct vs CPU L1 Test 1 [currently 'Test 2']

What are these 'pct' events? The site's help explains:-

!pct • tcecSF 0.3%, 1%, 3% and 10% are time odds games: tcecSF has only that amount of time compared to opponent. Both main time and increment is scaled down to given %. Hash size and Move Overhead is also scaled down.

!10pct • Only 10% of thinking time: 30min+5s -> 3min+0.5s; 45min+5s -> 4.5min+0.5s; 1min+1s -> 6s+0.1s


'Time odds'; OK. 'Hash size scaled down'; OK. 'Move overhead scaled down'; what does that mean? A forum post from a few years ago, The truth about time losses (groups.google.com/forum/fishcooking; September 2017), has a long discussion of the parameter and explains:-

Basic flaw is not properly taking into account future time losses due to communication delays (the thing that Move Overhead was supposed to compensate for).

In other words, 'Move Overhead' accounts for administrative tasks involved in the engine's communications with its environment; OK. How are we supposed to interpret the results of the seven 'pct' tournaments I mentioned earlier? TBD.

26 January 2020

FIDE Drug Testing

Many people treat the subject like a joke, but as an integral aspect of The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), drug testing is taken seriously by those responsible for organized chess. Last month, on my World Championship Blog, I had a post on the World Anti-Doping Agency (see WADA Ya Know?), and this month I have a video interview with Dr. Marape Marape, Chairman of the FIDE Medical Commission (fide.com).

Interview with Dr. Marape Marape | World Blitz Ch 2019 | Day 2 (7:37) • '[Published on] Dec 30, 2019'

At about 5:30 into the clip, Dr. Marape (pronounced mah-rah-pay) says,

Chess is generally considered a low risk sport for doping. There are drugs, what I call stimulant drugs. Those are the ones that we are most interested in. Stimulant drugs include amphetamines and others that can give a player some performance advantage in terms of their ability to stay alert and to be able to concentrate for a longer period of time.

For an earlier interview on the same FIDE chess channel, see FIDE World Cup 2019. Interview with Dr. Marape Marape (youtube.com; September 2019). Elsewhere on the web, a FIDE spokesperson informs, 'Dr. Marape is from Botswana. He is also the father of a very talented young player, Naledi Marape.'

23 January 2020

I Was FIDE's 'Person of the Day'

Since its complete makeover a few months ago, FIDE's website gets no respect. Case in point: Coffee, Chess, the FIDE webpage & other Goofiness (spraggettonchess.com), where we find this informed commentary:-

The Mad, Mad World of FIDE’s Home Page • FIDE's new website has been almost universally criticized in the online chess community. For one reason or the other, such as requiring too much scrolling to find what you are looking for, unfriendly and difficult navigation, incomplete player information and ratings, too crowded with BIG images and confusing layout, too much in your face, etc.

To that I would add a severe shrinking of news about FIDE's current activities. The site appears to be on information lockdown. But all is not lost. Next to 'Top players', under 'Person of the day' you'll find a search on the 'Players database'. I entered my own last name and got this...

...That's my name, my birth year, the flag of my federation, and my last published rating; but that's not my photo. My guess is that it's The other M.Weeks (May 2006), aka 'Manuel William Weeks' of Australia. I suppose I should submit my own photo to FIDE, but how?


Later: Re 'I should submit my own photo to FIDE', how about this one? (With apologies to the great Groucho.)

20 January 2020

TCEC S17 L2, CCC12 Rd.3 Underway

Two weeks ago,in TCEC S17, CCC12 Both Underway, I reported on the status of the top two engine-vs-engine competitions. Here's a summary of that report:-

TCEC: The 16 AB/CPU engines in the QL [Qualification League] stage are nearing the half-way point. • CCC: CCC12 is being run using a bracket format. Four engines in rd.1 compete for two slots in the 16-engine rd.2. Half of the remaining engines will be eliminated in each round. The first match 'CCC12.1' is currently underway.

Both competitions have advanced further. Following is a snapshot of their current status.

TCEC: The QL stage finished with half of the engines qualifying into the next stage, League 2 (L2). The following chart shows the full results for the eight qualifiers.

L2 is currently underway and has reached the half-way point. The top finisher in the QL stage, Defenchess, has an excellent chance of qualifying into L1, the next stage.

CCC: CCC12 rounds 1 & 2 have finished, and the last of four matches for rd.3 is currently underway. None of the matches in rds.1 & -2 was closely contested. Houdini beat Lc0-CPU convincingly in rd.2, then lost to Lc0 (-GPU) in rd.3 by nearly the same score.

A few days ago, in Stockfish 11 (forum/fishcooking), the Stockfish team announced the 'Official release version of Stockfish 11'. For an idea about its relative playing strength, see Stockfish 11 (talkchess.com).

[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]

19 January 2020

One Bar in Bangkok

The description for this photo said,

A backlit decoration behind the counter of a bar in Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok, Thailand. Wasn't that the venue for a fictional World Chess Championship?

Backlight Decoration in a Bar © Flickr user Peter Addor under Creative Commons.

A 1984 planetary hit started like this:-

Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don't know that the city is getting
The creme de la creme of the chess world
In a show with everything but Yul Brynner

The song's chorus started like this:-

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free

With 336 views and 25 faves, the photo has something going for it. Cheers!

16 January 2020

FIDE Rating List - January 2020

Another year, another FIDE Rating List (FRL). In last year's post, FIDE Rating List - January 2019, I wrote,

The format of the file was the same as in recent years, so it was easy to add it to my database that goes back to 1971.

Ditto for this year's post, with the additional observation that the January 2020 FRL marks the 50th anniversary since the publication of the first list. The year 2020 has another special characteristic -- for the first time the number of active players is less than the number of inactive players. Here's an update to the table I've been maintaining for the past few years:-

  • 2020: >354K players; >181K marked inactive
  • 2019: >325K players; >157K marked inactive
  • [...]

For the record, the data I'm working with is from the FIDE Ratings Download:-

TXT format (01 Jan 2020, Sz: 7.88 MB)

These days there are so many FIDE rating lists that some limiting criterion is necessary, so I'll just continue with that plain vanilla FRL. As for federations, I discovered three code changes, shown at the top of the following chart. The first two lines look like a code change for the 'Democratic Republic of Congo'. The third line, LCA ('Saint Lucia'; a Caribbean island), must be a new federation. Its highest rated player is Martyr, Reginald, who was listed under TTO ('Trinidad & Tobago') in 2019.

As for the two lists in the bottom of the chart, they show (1) federations with the largest year-over-year increase in players, and (2) federations with the largest percentage increase (for federations with 100 or more players in 2019). Compare the similar charts in last year's post.

13 January 2020


VSOB stands for 'Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus'. For the last two months of 2019, the TCEC ran a series of adhoc VSOB engine-vs-engine tournaments, apparently to test an infrastructure upgrade. I reported on these events in a series of posts:-

Although I largely ignored the VSOB events while they were running, I made a mental note to look at them when they were done. Once TCEC S17 was finally underway, it was the right time to follow through. I downloaded the PGN files from the TCEC archive, loaded them into a database, and discovered that the 17 events covered 741 games. The following chart shows the number of games per event (identified by the PGN 'Event' tag) and a count of the game results ('Result' tag) for each event.

Most of the PGN game scores also included an 'Opening' tag. A quick analysis of these tags indicated that openings for individual games were chosen at random from a set of openings assigned to a specific VSOB event. The base PGN files for use in specific events appear to be recorded on the index All pages - TCEC wiki (chessdom.org).

What did this exercise prove? For me, not very much, except to satisfy my curiosity about the events themselves. I might come back to the downloaded PGN files a second time, but I'm not convinced there is anything to be learned from them.

12 January 2020

Entertaining Chess News

It's been a long time since I watched a summary of current chess news where I actually wanted to see the whole video until its end.

Famous Chess Grandmaster Loses It LIVE on Air | The Post-Mortem #05 (5:06) • '[Published on] Jan 9, 2020'

The channel description says,

The official YouTube channel of IM Levy Rozman -- "GothamChess". Tune in for education and entertainment on the 64 squares!

Lots of links in the video description; lots of comments like 'Super well explained and very entertaining! I hope you get more views in the future.' Gata Kamsky, FFL?

06 January 2020

TCEC S17, CCC12 Both Underway

This post marks a full year since I started regularly following the two major engine-vs-engine competitions: TCEC S14 Underway (January 2019), and Chess.com CCC3 Underway (ditto). To summarize the most recent post, TCEC S17 Announced; Lc0 Wins CCC11 (December 2019):-

TCEC: The site progressed to 'Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus 12' [VSOB 12] and announced firm plans, including rules, for S17. • CCC: The CCC11 Final match ended with Lc0 beating Stockfish, +13-9=128.

Since then, both the TCEC and the CCC have started new seasons.

TCEC: After marking more time with VSOBs through 'VSOB 16', S17 started with a Qualification League (QL). The rules (see the post 'S17 Announced' for links) specified:-

The way to Div P: Season 17 will have two competitions, depending on what hardware the engines need: CPU and GPU. • 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 NN/GPU competition will have just League 1 (invitational, 16 participants max).

The 16 AB/CPU engines in the QL stage are nearing the half-way point. At least half of the engines are still in a position to qualify into 'League 2'.

CCC: In contrast to the nearly two months between the end of TCEC 'Cup 4' and the start of TCEC S17, CCC12 started less than two weeks after CCC11 finished. It uses a format not seen in any of the previous CCC seasons:-

18-engine single elimination; 200 games per match; Time control: 1|1; Opening Book: CCC12 Book (100 openings)

The brackets for the first two rounds are shown in the following diagram.

The first match 'CCC12.1: RubiChess vs. Winter' is currently underway with Rubi already having a decisive advantage.

[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]

05 January 2020

Endorsements for Asuncion

In the nearly ten years that I've been running the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I can't remember another article of clothing. The item pictured below, titled 'Magnus Carlsen's 2018 World Chess Championship Jacket', sold for US $4450 after 35 bids from 11 bidders.

The photo on the left shows 'simonsen vogtwiig' [vogt wiig] and 'ARCTIC' on the two pockets, plus 'VG' on the sleeve. The hidden sleeve says, 'PLAY MAGNUS'. The description added,

Package includes the original suit jacket and trousers worn by Magnus when he won the 2018 World Championship against Fabiano Caruana! All proceeds will be donated to Chess of Asuncion, a Paraguayan project which transforms wood waste into chess pieces and boards for low-income schools.

For more about the auction, see Magnus Carlsen World Chess Championship jacket auction (chess24.com). For more about the match -- that's the one where they used that weird logo and played twelve straight draws -- see my page 2018 Carlsen - Caruana.

02 January 2020

January 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

Yesterday we started a new decade, as did CL&R 50 years ago. CL reached mid-decade 25 years ago.

Left: 'Announcing the Second International Endgame and Problem Composing Contest of the United States'
Right: 'Kamsky defeats Short in Linares'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

These 3-move mates were composed especially for this important occasion by Pal Benko. Each diagram represents one of the digits in "1970," the year of our new problem tournament. Complete contest details and solutions to the above problems will be found [in 'Benko's Bafflers'].

The First International Composing Contest was announced in the first ever 'Benko's Bafflers' column, April 1967. I covered Benko's CL columns in GM Benko's Last Column (December 2013).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Graphic artist Bob Marzewski created the cover as one of his early experiments with 3D computer modelling. Using a Macintosh with StrataVision, "View Into a Pawn" was first built as a wire frame model and provides a beautiful example of ray-tracing. Textures, lighting and a camera were added and positioned in the scene. The computer was then instructed to take a picture of the scene and required eighteen hours to generate the final image. CL Art Director Jami Anson used our new DTP equipment to produce the matching type.

Bob Marzewski created "View Into a Pawn" in 1990 in his 15th year as a physics teacher. He has since changed careers, following his interest in computers and design into a career as a graphic artist. Bob currently works as a 3D Computer Modeler for Internet Shopping Network in Silicon Valley.

The cover might well represent a chessic crystal ball, with an eye toward the future, and the future of American chess might well be represented by young Gata Kamsky, who routed Nigel Short in the Professional Chess Association's latest series of challenger matches.

The 1994 Kamsky - Short PCA semifinal match was also mentioned in November 1969 & 1994 'On the Cover'. For the score of the match, see 1994-95 PCA Candidates Matches. The cover description continued,

YOU'LL NOTICE A CHANGE! • USCF's Chess Life has moved into the 20th Century by virtue of a bequest from the late William L Mink, Jr., of Las Vegas. 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. We're not married to any particular typeface or layout.

What a world of difference between the 1970 and 1995 covers.