26 March 2023

The Dark Side of Women's Chess

In this video GM Nakamura reads the Wall Street Journal article, How Sexual Assault Allegations Against a U.S. Chess Grandmaster Went Unaddressed for Years (wsj.com). The article was subtitled,

Numerous women have accused elite player and coach Alejandro Ramirez of misconduct. Two bodies that run chess in the U.S. allegedly knew of accusations for several years.

It started,

When former U.S. women’s chess champion Jennifer Shahade alleged on social media last month that she had been sexually assaulted by a prominent grandmaster named Alejandro Ramirez, she had no idea it would set off a broad wave of additional allegations.

Kudos to WGM Jennifer Shahade for bringing the allegations to light. Kudos to Hikaru Nakamura for using his high-profile streaming platform to inform the broader chess public.

Horrifying Chess Scandal (23:07) • '[Published on] Mar 7, 2023'

This isn't the first time we've seen this sort of behavior in the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). See also The Dilemma of Women's Chess (July 2020). On that post, Kevin Spraggett commented,

Sexism, discrimination and FIDE's "laissez-faire" attitude towards female empowerment allow for volumes to be written about what is wrong with chess, in particular, and modern society in general.

I'm not sure what GM Spraggett meant by that comment. Are there more stories like the allegations against GM Ramirez waiting in the wings?

For another serious discussion of the latest story, this one by top players GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Cristian Chirila, see Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Alejandro Ramirez (youtube.com; C-Squared Podcast #026). At one time Ramirez worked for Caruana.

The title of this post echoes the title of an earlier post The Dark Side of Scholastic Chess (October 2014). I ended that post saying, 'Sexual predators are often cunning people'. I could have added that it's too easy to pretend that nothing is happening.

24 March 2023

Ding Liren's TWIC Debut

In last week's Friday post, Ding Liren's Climb to a Title Match (March 2023), I wrote,

We interrupt this series on 'Cheating @ Chess.com' to follow an important detour. [...] Before past title matches I've used a few posts to learn something about World Champion Carlsen's challenger for a particular match.

As I pointed out in the same post, 'GM Nepomniachtchi was Carlsen's challenger in the previous title match' and one of the posts I wrote then was Nepo's TWIC Debut (June 2021). I discovered there that young Nepo was keen on youth tournaments. See, for example:-

World Youth Championships (Nepo):-
TWIC 365; 2001-11-05 : U12 16-24
TWIC 420; 2002-11-25 : U12 1-2
TWIC 469; 2003-11-03 : U14 3
TWIC 523; 2004-11-15 : U18 15-27
TWIC 560; 2005-08-01 : U16 2-3

It turns out that Ding Liren's early events -- the only tournaments he played outside China before mid-2009 -- were events in which Nepo participated. Ding's earliest tournaments match Nepo's first four 'World Youth Championships', where Ding was competing in a lower age group because he was two years younger than Nepo.

World Youth Championships (Ding):-
TWIC 365; 2001-11-05 : U10 8-12 [Caruana 17-27]
TWIC 420; 2002-11-25 : U10 1-2 [Caruana 4-8]
TWIC 469; 2003-11-03 : U12 5-7 [Caruana?]
TWIC 523; 2004-11-15 : U12 1-2 [Caruana, Wesley So 7-15]

I added the info in brackets because Ding is three months younger than Fabiano Caruana, who participated in three of the same events & age groups as Ding. Each time, the Chinese player finished higher than the American. The 2003 event is unclear ('Caruana?') because TWIC listed only the top-10% (or so) finishers in each age group.


The following composite chart is from FIDE's 'Rating Progress Chart' for both competitors in the forthcoming 2023 Nepomniachtchi - Ding Liren Title Match (m-w.com). For a more readable view of the same data, see:-

Ding Liren - Wikipedia : 'Born: 24 October 1992'
Ian Nepomniachtchi - Wikipedia : 'Born: 14 July 1990'

The data points circled in red correspond to each player's 18th birthday. Ding was listed at 2604, Nepo at 2602.

20 March 2023

TCEC S24 DivP, CCC20 Blitz Final : Both Underway

In the previous fortnightly report on the world's two leading engine vs. engine competitions, TCEC S24 L1, CCC20 Blitz Semifinals: Final Week (March 2023), both the TCEC and CCC were well into their respective seasons. Following is a summary of that report.

TCEC: S24 L1 is underway with Koivisto leading by a significant margin. Berserk is in a tie for second place. • CCC: Of the 12 engines that competed in 'CCC20 Blitz Main', six qualified into the 'CCC20 Blitz Semifinals', which is underway.

After another two weeks, both competitions are seeing the usual three engines vying for the top places. Following is the current status.

TCEC: Koivisto won S24 L1 three points ahead of Berserk, which finished a point ahead of the next three engines. Both Koivisto and Berserk promoted into the Premier Division (DivP). With two rounds completed in the eight engine, eight round tournament, they are in fourth and fifth place place, significantly behind KomodoDragon, LCZero, and Stockfish. LCZero beat Stockfish in an early game of the third round.

CCC: In the 'CCC20 Blitz Semifinals', Stockfish, Lc0, and Dragon finished in that order. Lc0 beat Dragon by 32 points in the 500-game 'Challenger Match', and is currently trailing Stockfish by 16 points after a sixth of the 500-game 'Final Match' has been played. This extrapolates to a difference of nearly 100 points when the match will have finished.

[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; Dragon = KomodoDragon]

19 March 2023

Karpov and Kasparov Play Chess in Iceland

Last month's Flickr favorite, Catsparov Chess (February 2023), confirmed a trend:-

Am I just a sucker for AI generated chess images? It appears I am.

And here we go again, even when dealing with an historical absurdity on multiple counts...

Upper left: DALL-E 2023-03-10 21.34.47 © Flickr user fdecomite under Creative Commons.

The description, which was a continuation of that cryptic title, said,

Karpov vs Kasparov play chess for the World Championship in Iceland, oil painting in the style of brothers van Eyck.

Wikipedia's page Jan van Eyck (wikipedia.org; 'before 1390 – 1441, was a painter active in Bruges [now Flemish Belgium]') informs,

He had a sister Margareta, and at least two brothers, Hubert (died 1426), with whom he probably served his apprenticeship and Lambert (active between 1431 and 1442), both also painters, but the order of their births has not been established.

If 'Flickr user fdecomite' rings a bell, then you have an excellent memory. I featured his/her work in two previous Flickr posts, of which the last was Chess Needle (January 2009).

17 March 2023

Ding Liren's Climb to a Title Match

We interrupt this series on 'Cheating @ Chess.com' to follow an important detour. The Chess.com series was previously seen in Cheating for all Ages (March 2023), where I wrote,

I'll start with a summary of past posts on this blog that dealt with various aspects of cheating. Posts marked '(*)' featured Chess.com.

Why take a detour when I was just getting started? I realized this week that the 2023 Nepomniachtchi - Ding Liren Title Match (m-w.com; FIDE: 'due to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, from April 7th to May 1st'), starts in less than a month. Before past title matches I've used a few posts to learn something about World Champion Carlsen's challenger for a particular match. Because of Carlsen's withdrawal from the cycle, in this match both players are taking the role of challenger. Here are a few earlier posts that give the background to this unusual situation:-

GM Nepomniachtchi was Carlsen's challenger in the previous title match, 2021 Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi (m-w.com; Dubai, XI-XII, 2021). In the months before the match, I created a series of posts about his career:-

The post titled 'Nepo at the World Cup' included a 'chart adapted from one of my pages [that] shows the World Championship events in which GM Nepomniachtchi has so far participated'. For this current post I did the same for Ding Liren. The codes in red delineate the different cycles.

Index of players (A-G), with links to the different events

Both Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren began their climb to the World Championship in the same event, the 2011 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Nepo qualified from the 2010 European Championship, where he finished first, and was eliminated in the third round of the World Cup by Gata Kamsky. Ding, who is two years younger than Nepo, was a nominee of then FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and was eliminated in the first round by Wesley So.

13 March 2023


In the previous off-week engine post, Chessify vs. Chessbase Engine Cloud (February 2023), I noted,

Since the beginning of the year, the off-week engine posts -- meaning those weeks that I'm not tracking TCEC/CCC -- have been looking at the Chessify engine cloud.

While the Chessbase service deserves a deeper look, I'm going to switch my attention to another, similar service that I can use immediately without installing expensive software that I don't really need. The following screen capture shows the home page for 'Next Chess Move [NCM]: The strongest online chess calculator'.


The intoduction at the top of that page explains,

Drag pieces to configure the board and press 'Calculate Next Move'. I'll tell you what the computer player does.

Last year we briefly saw the same site in the post Stockfish Breaks All the Barriers (April 2022; 'NCM Stockfish Dev Builds). At that time I neglected to delve into the real purpose of the site.

The function to 'Calculate Next Move' begs to be used on something other than the traditional start position that appears there by default. I went back to one of the games that I'm using to try Chessify, as described in the recent post Chessify Progress Report (January 2023).

I chose a game that has progressed to a Queen and Pawn (Q+P) endgame where I have an extra Pawn. It's a difficult endgame and during the Chessify trial I've learned a lot from offline resources about Q+P endgames in general. I've steadily improved the position of my King and Queen to their maximum potential, but am now facing a decision on how to proceed. There are several possible plans, but the Chessify engines insist that all variations lead to a draw.

Back to NCM, I used the FEN function, shown below the chessboard, to enter the FEN string from the current position of my Q+P endgame. I then unleashed both Stockfish 15.1 and LCZero 0.29.0 -- separately, of course -- on that position.

My first impression was that NCM is somewhat tedious to operate. 'Calculate Next Move' thinks for about five seconds, then returns a single move that (1) needs an action to apply it to the current position, followed by (2) another action to change the 'Active Color', i.e. the side to move, before it's ready to calculate the following move. None of the remaining moves in the 'Principal Variation' (PV) are shown.

Despite that repetitive procedure, the short test worked well and I'm ready for a more extensive test on a real game (where engines are permitted). The top of the right column on the NCM home page informs,

NCM Pro $19/year • Get stronger moves from NCM's 16 CPU core and RTX 2080 GPU dedicated servers. Free trial includes ten minutes of calculation time. Paid members get unlimited calculations.

The link for 'See Details' points to Next Chess Move: About NCM Pro, where more is explained. As soon as I finish one of my Chessify test games, I'll start the NCM free trial on a new game.

The major downside to the service is obvious. It's a magnet for online chess cheaters.

12 March 2023

I Should Just Focus on the Chess

Tired of people talking about the success of Chess.com? I can't sympathize, because I don't think I'll ever get enough. A couple of months ago the featured video of the month was The Rise of Chess.com (January 2023). Consider this a follow-up post.

This Company RULES Over ENTIRE CHESS MARKET | Case Study (11:49) • '[Published on] Feb 24, 2023'

The description said only,

We have revised the payment plan for this cohort. Under this new plan, the base price is now 30,000 + GST, and the rest from your first month's salary IF you get placed through the cohort. If you do not get placed/don't apply for placements, we don't charge you the salary fee.

I had no idea what that meant, so I decided to find out. The Youtube channel, Aevy TV ('We take complex educational topics and make it super fun for you so you never forget.'), pointed to AevyTV Video Editing Cohort (aevytv.com), which said, 'The Best PLACEMENT FRIENDLY Video Editing coHORT money can buy'.

A popup on that page said, 'Glad to see you here! How can I help you?' plus 'Start chat'. I accepted the chat with the intention of starting a dialog on the topic: 'I don't know. How *can* you help me? Who are you?'. The invitation 'Start chat' led to a page Share on WhatsApp (whatsapp.com) which announced,

Aevy Ventures Private Limited • Continue to Chat

'Continue to Chat' informed,

Looks like you don't have WhatsApp installed! • Download or use WhatsApp Web

'Use WhatsApp Web' went to a page of instructions plus a QR code. [...] No thanks. I just wanted to chat so I'll skip it. In retrospect, I doubt that it would help to enjoy the very interesting video, so I'll just ignore it for now. I can always come back to it later if necessary.

That's life on the web. You land on a promising page that immediately tries to sell you something -or- tries to sign you up for a newsletter -or- wants you to download some software. That's before you even decide if the page was worth visiting in the first place.

As for the video, 'This Company Rules', I'll continue with it another time. It appears to be worth the persistence.