26 November 2023

World Chess Championship for Prisoners

This month's post in the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) offers a few surprises:-

  • 1st surprise: There is an 'Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners'.
  • 2nd surprise: The tournament is sponsored by FIDE.
  • 3rd surprise: The most recent tournament was the third such event.

4th surprise: The event was broadcast online. Here is the video covering the final round.

3rd FIDE Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners - Final (2:15:47) • 'Streamed live on Oct 13, 2023'

The description explains,

The 3rd Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners will be broadcast on the FIDE Youtube channel with live commentary by WGM Almira Skripchenko, IM Michael Rahal, and WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili. They will be joined by special guests – FIDE officials, government officers, members of the penitentiary administration and policymakers, who will share the best practices of introducing chess to inmates, as well as former convicts who will be talking about their own experiences and the positive impact of the game on prisoners.

At 12:40 into the video, we learn that the event is 'Running on Chess.com'. The responsible FIDE site is Chess For Freedom Project (chessforfreedom.fide.com), where there are videos for previous rounds. Under 'News' we learn:-

  • 2023-10-13: Mongolia and India win Intercontinental Championship for Prisoners (ditto) • 'Teams of India and Mongolia became the champions of the third Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners, the event organized by FIDE and the Cook County (Chicago, IL, USA) Sheriff’s Office, after winning the final matches in youth and women’s sections of the biggest-ever chess event among correctional facilities.

Unlike most tournament reports, the men's event received only second billing in the article:-

The team of Pune prison (India) clinched the title in the men’s tournament of the Intercontinental Online Championship for Prisoners 2023 after beating El Salvador in the final.

You might expect that the games are not the level of quality you normally find for championship events. The commentator and the video broadcaster do a good job of keeping things interesting. Congratulations to the winners and to everyone else who made it happen!

19 November 2023

AI Chess Comics

I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to see more 'AI generated chess images' in the monthly featured Flickr post. The previous post featuring such images was Karpov and Kasparov Play Chess in Iceland (March 2023). Forget chess images; a giant leap forward is 'AI generated chess comics'.

Alice and the Chess Queen 5 © Flickr user Joerg Kantel under Creative Commons.

The series of six composite images -- OK, comics, of which this is no.5 -- had two tags:-

  • 'Alice', and
  • 'AI Comic Factory'

'Alice' is a recurring theme in chess art. See, for example, There's Something About Alice (October 2010). To understand 'AI Comic Factory', it helps to have visited the home page AI Comic Factory (aicomicfactory.com; 'AI Comic Book Generator Online Free'). There we learn,

Create stunning comics without drawing skills using our cutting-edge AI Comic Generator. Bring Your comic dreams to life with AI creativity.

With that in mind, the description for the the image makes more sense:-

AI Comic Factory • Style: Franco-Belgian

Prompt 1: The chess queen and little girl Alice running a red-white bricked road through a beautiful landscape with a river and a village in the background.

Prompt 2: Human-sized middle-aged chess queen, made from ivory, full body, wearing a red crown. little girl Alice, blue eyes, long blonde hair with pigtails, blue coat, white apron.

You sometimes hear it said, 'Everyone has a book in them'. Maybe there's a comic as well.

16 November 2023

November 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover'

Last month's 'On the Cover' -- see October 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (October 2023) -- was a mixture of U.S. and world events from 50 and 25 years ago. This month is focused on the most prestigious of the U.S. championships, the U.S Closed and the U.S. Open.

By some odd coincidence, if a 25 year separation in time can be called a coincidence, the venues for both events had special meaning for their long, respective histories. See details below.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Hawaiian Portrait of a GM'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

U.S. Co-Champions Lubomir Kavalek (standing) and John Grefe. Story and games [inside].

The story inside was titled 'Kavalek and Grefe Tie in U.S. Championship' by Burt Hochberg. It started,

The 22nd United States Championship, the most prestigious invitational event in the country, was held in El Paso, Texas, September 9-27.

That simple sentence hardly does justice to the true significance of the event -- for the first time ever, the U.S. Championship tournament was not held in New York State (in fact, only once was it held outside of New York City: South Fallsburg, N.Y., 1948). The energy and dedication exhibited by the El Paso Jaycees and the El Paso Chess Club fully justified the opinion held by the USCF. administration that it was both possible and desirable to cultivate organizational interest in this event outside of New York.

The Jaycees, the El Paso Chess Club and its President, Dr. Fred Sorensen, are to be heartily congratulated, not only for their fine and important accomplishment but also for proving that such a significant tournament, which almost "belonged" to New York City, could be successfully held elsewhere. It's a good portent for the future of the U.S. Championship.

And what about the winners? The report continued,

Another significant property of this tournament was the excellent performances of four of the six newcomers to the championship. Lubomir Kavalek, in his second try, was considered the favorite, along with Walter Browne. [...] Kavalek, now on his way to U.S. citizenship, can be justly proud of his result, tying for first without a loss. [...]

But the real surprise was the great performance of John Grefe of California, who had to beat Benko in the last round (and did) to be sure of a tie for first place. Playing sharply and accurately, with an excellent command of the opening repertoire and dynamic sure-footedness in the middle game, Grefe won eight games, more than anyone else, and lost only to Kavalek.

At the time, Grefe was untitled internationally. This was the first U.S. (Closed) Championship since Fischer won the World Championship in 1972.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Winning two major events back-to-back is not an easy task, but Boris Gulko from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, was more than up to the challenge. And so was Steven Seward, a portraitist from Cleveland, Ohio.

Winning the Saitek U.S. Masters outright, and tying with Judit Polgar in the Cardoza U.S. Open, is what prompted Boris to hint that he might change his name to Boris Hawaiivich. See [inside].

As we go to press, we must report that the World Championship Tournament, originally slated for Las Vegas, November 29 through December 27, has been postponed as a result of an agreement reached by Anatoly Karpov and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Karpov had threatened to file for an injunction to halt the event, as he believed that holding the event every year was in direct violation of the agreement he signed last year with FIDE - which also called for the World Champion to be entered into the second round rather than the finals.

By delaying the event until January, Karpov will have held his title for a full year before entering into the knockout tournament. And technically, it will be the "second" year of a two-year cycle. The two had originally agreed to an early January date, but that was in conflict with Wijk aan Zee. The new dates are still being negotiated.

And finally, the U.S. has taken second place in the World Chess Olympiad, held in Elista, Kalmykia. The event ended October 12, 1998, with the Russian A team taking the gold by scoring an uncharacteristic 3.5-0.5 victory over the Netherlands in the final round to surge past the U.S., which could only tie China in the final round.

There is much to unpack here. (1) Gulko in Hawaii: Gulko Wins Hawaii Event As a Prologue to the Open (nytimes.com; Robert Byrne). (2) World Championship in Las Vegas: for the previous news, see the link in the first paragraph for last month's 'On the Cover', i.e. 'October 1973 & 1998' ('FIDE World Championship tournament [...] Las Vegas will be the venue'). (3) Olympiad news: see next month's CL.

The report inside was titled 'Judit Polgar and Boris Gulko Split Cardoza U.S. Open Honors' by Jerry Hanken. It started,

It was a warm, breezy evening on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The bright colors of Hawaiian clothing and the sweet smell of the flowers woven into leis around the necks of many of the 306 participants gave a deceptive air of laid-back relaxation to one of the most pleasant of U.S. Opens.

Deceptive, because the last round of the 99th U.S. Open Chess Championship was about to begin. This was the real money round, and no quick draws were anticipated. Yes, it is true that money was not the major attraction of this restful nine days in what is arguably the prettiest state of the 50, but there were ten grandmasters, all professional players, and each wanted a part of the $22,000 prize fund put up by the Hawaii Chess Federation and the USCF.

Theoretically, all ten had a crack at a good payday. Add that to the swimming, surfing, sunning, and volcano watching and other joys of the Big Island, and the potential for a vacation with pay (something grandmasters just don't get) loomed large.

For GM Gulko's previous cover appearance, see January 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (January 2023; 'World Team Championship; U.S. Snags Silver in Lucerne 1997'). With the 1998 Olympiad on the horizon, we might see him again next month.

12 November 2023

Real Magnus Dissects AI Magnus

Of the dozen videos on this month's short list for featured video, a third of them were from Youtube's Chess.com channel. All of them would have been a good selection for the post, but this video edged out the others. I liked the idea behind it : indirectly getting Magnus to talk about himself.

Can AI Replace Magnus Carlsen? (5:51) • '[Published on] Nov 10, 2023'

The question posed by the title -- 'Can AI Replace...' -- doesn't refer to playing chess; it refers to talking about himself. The description explained,

We asked the Opera AI to respond as Magnus Carlsen, and then asked the REAL Magnus Carlsen if those answers were correct. How well does Artificial Intelligence REALLY know Magnus? You be the judge!

Good idea, good execution. Kudos to Chess.com for bringing the idea to reality.

As is seen so often in the monthly featured video, a large part of what makes an enjoyable video is in the comments. Ex: 'Magnus "I have no rivals" Carlsen' -or- 'This kind of interview should be done with other grandmasters as well ... Anand, Anish, Nakamura.' -or- 'Glad to see Magnus combed his hair for the interview.'

05 November 2023

Chess Rookie Card

We've seen sports cards several times in the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), most recently in the post Cards for Chess Champions (June 2019). All of the auctions have been for very old cards like the 1888 Steinitz and Zukertort cards in that 'Chess Champions' series.

The item pictured below was titled 'Hikaru Nakamura #390 American Chess Equipment Ultimate Card Auto'. It sold for around $500, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description said,

2001 Hikaru Nakamura #329 GM USA American Chess Equipment Ultimate Chess Card Auto - NM - Rare. This is an extremely rare American Chess Equipment card. The card is hand-numbered and signed by Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura.'

I suppose that the difference between the numbers in the title (#390) and in the description (#329) is due to an earlier auction being copied. 'Auto' undoubtedly means 'Autographed' and 'NM' probably means 'Near Mint'. The back of the card says,

International Master born in Hirakata City, Japan, on December 9,1987. He moved to the US at the age of two and played his first tournament at the age of seven. Within three years, Hikaru achieved the title of National Master at the age of 10 years and 79 days, becoming the youngest American to do so and setting a record that still stands today. Hikaru earned the FIDE International Master title in February 2001. Among his many successes in 2001 are victories in the National High School Championship and the U.S. Junior Invitational Championship. Hikaru resides in White Plains, N.Y.

Following that info is a game score for:-

Stripunsky - Nakamura, Land of the Sky Open, Asheville NC, 1999.

That game is not among the ten games currently listed for Alexander Stripunsky vs. Hikaru Nakamura (chessgames.com; covering 1998 - 2012). The bottom of the card back says,

Photo by Paul Truong • 12/15/01
American Chess Equipment / Ultimate Chess Card

The web site is still active at American Chess Equipment (amchesseq.com; 'One-stop-shop for scholastic chess products'). That page informs,

SERVING THE CHESS COMMUNITY SINCE 1982 • American Chess Equipment (ACE) is excited to team up with the WE Games brand to bring you the best in chess. We are honored to be trusted by thousands of chess organizations across the US for over 30 years.

I found an archived page from 2002 American Chess Equipment : The Ultimate Chess Card (archive.org -> amchesseq.com), that listed four cards -- Seirawan, Denker, Krush, Nakamura -- and further informed,

This new product, The Ultimate Chess Card was created to allow you to collect and enjoy finding out about your favorite chess players. The series will soon contain all the stars of the chess world and many of the most famous games in chess history. Some of the cards will be Signature Limited Edition Collector Cards (Rookie cards) that have been personally signed by the chess star. These cards will increase in value over the years since there will only be 999 numbered cards produced. Other cards by the same chess star will contain facts and figures about the chess personality.

The four cards, plus a card for GM Susan Polgar, appear to have been sold until early 2005. As for the original price, another page informed,

To protect our wholesale customers, this price list is protected by a password system.

The price was certainly far less than the '$500 Best offer accepted' given for the auction. A web search on 'Ultimate Chess Card' leads nowhere.

31 October 2023

Yahoos Masquerading as Yahoos

Masquerading? Yes, it's Halloween today. The end of another month means another post about chess news being reported in the mainstream press, aka Yahoos (see the footnote for more info). Before looking at the stories, let's have the usual statistics.

This month Google News returned exactly 100 stories. One story was almost a year old -- at least according to the date assigned by Google -- an anomaly not seen before in this series of posts on Yahoos.

Looking at the story, an announcement for a tournament in Florida, there is no mention of a year. The story may very well have been reused from 2022 for 2023, perhaps leading to an error in Google News.

Of the other 99 stories, news sources with more than one story are listed in the chart above. Just like every other month, Chess.com tops the list, this time with fewer stories than the other eight sources combined. The last time this happened was World Championship Yahoos 2023 (April 2023).

The eight top news sources taken together accounted for 54 stories, leaving 45 stories from sources with a single story. Another statistic worth noting: real Yahoo sources taken together -- like Yahoo Entertainment, Yahoo News, etc. -- accounted for four stories, making them top Yahoo stories in disguise. I'll come back to them later when I have the time to sift through all of the stories.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]


Later: Re 'real Yahoo sources taken together [...] accounted for four stories', I discovered that only one of the stories was really about chess (e.g. 'geopolitical chess game' is not a chess story) and the one story was a minor article about 'high schools chess teams' [sic]. Wondering if I had previously overlooked combining different Yahoo sources, I looked at the three previous monthly Yahoo posts, and discovered only one Yahoo sourced story. It was a press release that exists in two different versions:-

Getting back to the chart in the first section of this post, there is one new name: 'English Chess Federation'. The more compelling of the two stories is:-

  • 2023-10-31: ECF Manager for Accessible Chess (englishchess.org.uk) • 'to support chess colleagues with various forms of impairment, be it blindness/visual impairment, deafness, wheelchair bound, special needs-related, or other impairments.'

Of the other top seven sources, let's look at a handful of Chess.com offerings, all of which are more about chess culture than about chess play. The site has a such a large team of chess journalists that I'll follow my usual practice of identifying the author of a story:-

Of other stories from other sources, one in particular enhances the above list:-

Before I close this post, here are a few more stories that I found noteworthy:-

If you're looking for news about chess events, the story of the month was the FIDE Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man. Since it was ongoing as of the date of this post, I'll wait and include it in next month's post about Yahoos.

29 October 2023

An 'Amazing Chess Club'?

You might think that in the seven years I've been running a monthly series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), there would have been several posts about chess clubs. I went back nearly five years and couldn't find a single example. This video, from ChessBase India, might well be the first.

The Most Amazing Chess Club You Will See | A Special Guided Tour (10:19) • '[Published on] Sep 17, 2023'

Where is the 'Most Amazing Chess Club' located? The description of the video informs,

Ilya Merenzon, the CEO of World Chess, gives us a special tour of the club in Berlin. Take a look around how everything in the club is designed for chess players and lovers.

Ilya Merenzon has been seen more than once on both of my main chess blogs. Here are the most recent posts:-

The club, located at Unter den Linden 26-30, Berlin, has a web site at World Chess Club Berlin (worldchessclubberlin.com): 'Open from Tuesday to Sunday. [...] The club does not require a membership.'