02 August 2021

TCEC S21 Sufi Underway; CCC Still Romancing

For the previous report on this blog concerning two world class, ongoing engine vs. engine tournaments, see TCEC Prepares S21 Sufi; CCC in Romantic Mode (July 2021). Here is a summary of that post:-

TCEC: The top two Premier Division ('DivP') finishers, Stockfish and LCZero, will meet in the S21 Superfinal ('Sufi'). This will mark the fifth consecutive Sufi match between the same two engines. • CCC: The site continues to feature offbeat openings.

For the current report, continue reading.

TCEC: The S21 Sufi is currently at 72 games played. Stockfish leads LCZero by a score of +13-6=53. Extrapolating this to the full 100 games projects a win for Stockfish by +18-8=74, which has already won the three previous Sufis against the same opponent. The match should finish during the next week.

CCC: The site continues to run multi-engine, multi-round-robin blitz/bullet tournaments based on thematic 'romantic openings'. Here is a list of thematic events seen since the last post, when the first in the list was then underway. The last in the list is now underway. The initial forced moves for the event are in parentheses.

Urusov Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4)
Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3)
Stafford Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nc6)
Calabrese Countergambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 f5)

The site is seeking additional help; see CCC Looking for New Server Admin and Developer! (chess.com). More info, including a job spec and application, is available via the site's Discord platform.

[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 August 2021

eBay Deja Vu

I've been doing the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) for so long that I sometimes can't remember if I'm about to repeat an item that was featured years earlier. A case in point is the painting pictured below. I had the distinct feeling that I'd seen the item before, but a couple of searches on my blog returned nothing.

Adding to the tricks on my memory was the discovery that the painting was listed on eBay as having been sold twice in July by the same seller -- once mid-month and once end-month -- without any mention of difficulties arising from the first sale, like non-payment. The title of both auctions was '19thC Antique Juan Gonzales 18thC Palace Interior, Chess Game Oil Painting, NR'.

The first time the painting was listed it sold for US $730 after 16 bids from 9 bidders; the second time it sold for US $660 after 27 bids from 14 bidders. The winning bid on the first auction was submitted three seconds before the auction ended and it was the only bid by the winning bidder. The second auction started a day after the first auction ended. The description of both auctions said,

This auction is for a 19th century, Victorian oil painting by the Spanish/Peruvian artist, Juan Antonio Gonzales (1842-1914). It depicts a detailed, 18th century palace room with a Cardinal and several aristocrats enjoying a game of chess. This opulent, marble room is decorated with statues, architectural accents and paintings. Signed in the lower left-hand corner Juan Antonio Gonzales this original oil painting is in very good condition.

The canvas has been professionally re-lined and, under the blacklight, we did find a couple of small, invisibly in-painted restorations. Executed on 19” by 27” stretched canvas, this 19th century painting comes in an antique, 21” by 20½” frame, which has been repainted gold and does have some edge wear.

Even after discovering that the painting had been listed twice, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen it before, especially the distinctive white bust over the fireplace behind the players. A search on the artist's name ('Gonzalez' also works) revealed several copies of the work. The most important listing was Juan Antonio Gonzales, Peruvian, 1822-1914 (christies.com). It said,

Property from a Massachusetts estate • A competative [sic] game of chess • Price realised USD 4,375 • Estimate USD 1,500 - USD 2,000 • Closed: 17 Dec 2010

If the phrase 'original oil painting' in the eBay description was accurate, the painting must have been the same as in the Christie's auction. Someone lost money on the eBay auction.

Back to the first paragraph and my concern about repeating a featured item, I don't have that problem with the item in the March 2010 post, an Alcoa chess set from Austin Enterprises. I see that same chess set every time I look at 'Top eBay Chess Items'. For this post, I found 21 of the Alcoa sets sold in the last three months.

29 July 2021

Three Times Yahoos

After last month's Yahoos post, Speculative Yahoos (June 2021; see the footnote below for an explanation of the term), Google News changed its format. Previous posts in the series were based on a title/subtitle combination for each story, but for the month of July, Google returned only the title.

For my homemade database software, this change didn't present much of a challenge. I simply inserted a blank line as subtitle. The downside is that for searches on relevant keywords, e.g. 'Netflix' or 'streamer', less data means fewer hits.

Taking a look at the news sources, Chess.com alone accounts for 46 stories. That number eclipses the 38 stories from last month, which was already the largest number of stories for any month.

What to make of this? Are there fewer chess stories from non-chess sources or is there some other, more benign explanation? The other eight sources with two or more stories account for 23 stories total, leaving 31 stories from sources with a single story.

The count of sources shows three sources with 'Times' in the name of the source. Let's use that observation to sample the non-chess sources. First, here are the stories from the New York Times (NYT):-

Where's the third? That second story, 'Dark Side of Chess' by Ivan Nechepurenko and Misha Friedman, accounted for two Google references. The NYT loves to tell me that 'You’ve reached your limit of free articles', but I can usually manage to find a way to read the story. The 'dark side' -- focusing on Sergei Karjakin and Abhimanyu Mishra -- is a long exposé about how young chess talents *really* earn their GM titles. The NYT story quoted a former World Championship challenger (1993):-

'We have a dog called Pasquales,' said Nigel Short, the vice president of FIDE. 'I believe it is possible that if I went to the effort, I think I could get my dog a grandmaster’s title.'

The reason for the tattletale gossip was a widely reported story that appeared in both chess and non-chess sources, e.g. Abhimanyu Mishra Becomes Youngest Grandmaster In Chess History (chess.com). He thereby grabbed the record from Karjakin, who later became a World Championship challenger himself (2016).

Another 'Times' source had three stories. All of them featured Indian teenagers:-

The third 'Times' source was the Financial Times:-

Of the 100 total number of chess stories for the month, 17 were about the World Cup. Of those, 13 were from Chess.com. The site consistently reported on the main chess event of the month. Is that the reason for the record 46 stories from that source? If so, let's hope that the other sources catch up in August, when the World Cup reaches its final round.

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

27 July 2021

2021 CJA Award Entries

It's been two months since I posted about the 2021 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2021), so it's time to look at the entries. In last year's post, 2020 CJA Award Entries (July 2020), I was critical of the entry process, mainly because the list of entries -- as far as I could see -- was disorganized and hard to understand.

The CJA appears to have learned from that unfortunate exercise and has improved the presentation of the entries by an order of magnitude. There are two pages listing the entries:-

That first link, 'Awards Entry List', is particularly useful. Every single entry is associated with a link leading to an online, digital copy of the entry, using drive.google.com where there is no online copy available directly from its source. I didn't count the number of entries, but there might well be over 100, enough chess literature to keep the most ardent enthusiast occupied for months to come.

In the category 'Best Online Blog', there are four entries. This might be the most competitive year for the blog category in the 15+ years (I've lost track) that I've been following the CJA awards. A sure winner is the Chess Life cover for August 2020, titled 'New Chess Boom'. It was nominated in two categories : 'Best Art' and 'Best Single Chess Magazine Cover'.

The award winners will be announced in early August. I'll follow up this current post as soon after that as I can.

26 July 2021

Stockfish vs. ChessBase

Near the end of the post The Condemnation of Fat Fritz (March 2021), I wrote,

This controversy could go on for months, maybe years.

The latest salvo in the dispute was documented last week in Our lawsuit against ChessBase (stockfishchess.org). The blog post started,

The Stockfish project strongly believes in free and open-source software and data. Collaboration is what made this engine the strongest chess engine in the world. We license our software using the GNU General Public License, Version 3 (GPL) with the intent to guarantee all chess enthusiasts the freedom to use, share and change all versions of the program. Unfortunately, not everybody shares this vision of openness. We have come to realize that ChessBase concealed from their customers Stockfish as the true origin of key parts of their products. [...]

The basis for the lawsuit goes back to March.

In the past four months, we, supported by a certified copyright and media law attorney in Germany, went through a long process to enforce our license. Even though we had our first successes, leading to a recall of the Fat Fritz 2 DVD and the termination of the sales of Houdini 6, we were unable to finalize our dispute out of court. Due to Chessbase’s repeated license violations, leading developers of Stockfish have terminated their GPL license with ChessBase permanently. However, ChessBase is ignoring the fact that they no longer have the right to distribute Stockfish, modified or unmodified, as part of their products.

The complaint continues,

Thus, to enforce the consequences of the license termination, we have filed a lawsuit.

What do chess fans think? Unfortunately, Talkchess.com is currrently returning '403 Forbidden; You don't have permission to access...' messages, so I'll come back to that forum another time. For a discussion of the issues by the wider world, see Our lawsuit against ChessBase (hacker-news.news). It appears the case will be decided in German courts.

25 July 2021

Historical Chess Sets

You might think that chess sets would be an important component in The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), but the facts say otherwise. I scrolled through the relevant posts from last few years of this blog and could't find a single example.

Gulag chess set (1:00) • '[Published on] Jun 27, 2021'

The description of the video said only,

Series of videos about the CFR Chess Museum's exhibits.

The acronym CFR stands for 'Chess Federation of Russia' and we find related videos on the YouTube channel, CFR Chess Federation of Russia. A snippet of that is shown here:-

The relevant videos are duplicated -- once with Russian text, once with English text -- and the English language Gulag clip is shown in the last thumbnail in the top row. The five videos shown are:-

  • Space chess set
  • Chess set of the besieged Leningrad
  • Gulag chess set
  • "Victrix" chess set
  • "Fish tooth" chess set

There are more after these, all lasting about a minute. Why were these sets chosen? The title page of the Gulag video says,

A special page of chess history belongs to chess sets made in prisons and camps, the Gulag institutions among them.

My guess is that the sets were chosen because of their importance to chess history. Russian chess history alone would be reason enough.

22 July 2021

July 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Last month's post on U.S. chess from 50 and 25 years ago, June 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (June 2021) was 'all about records'. This month's post is all about the World Championship.

Left: ?
Right: 'Dmitry Gurevich Dominates U.S. Masters'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Historic Scene as Fischer ponders 15th move in final game of incredible 6.0 sweep over Taimanov in their Quarter-Final Candidates Match. • Photograph by Ken Oakes, "Vancouver Sun."

For the previous post with Fischer on the cover, see December 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover' (December 2020; 'Bobby Fischer. Leading at the Interzonal!'). The headline for the first story in the July 1971 issue announced, 'Fischer Wins, 6-0!!' The full record of the Fischer's march to challenge Spassky in 1972 is at 1970-72 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Dmitry Gurevich certainly deserves a cover, for his 7-0 sweep of the U.S. Masters. The resurrection of this USCF event (and there is a commitment to hold it again in 1997) can only be viewed in a positive light. But that rich, red velvet background was too much to resist. Thus, Dmitry shares the spotlight with one of the many chess sets on display at the Chess and Chessmen Through History exhibition at the John G. White Collection, Cleveland Public Library.

The U.S. Masters was covered in a four-page story, illustrated in color. It included a box titled, 'The Invited Juniors', which presented a short history of the event:-

The U.S Masters, which of course grew from and remains part of the Midwest Masters. was a small attempt to replace the terrible loss of Lone Pine from the chess scene in 1981. When Louis Statham chose to discontinue his series of magnificent tournaments, there was a rather large hole in the American chess scene.

One of the features of Lone Pine was the fact that junior players were allowed to compete even though they were not as highly rated as adults. The Warrens attempted to continue that tradition by specifically inviting not otherwise eligible junior players. This year, there were five specifically invited juniors, and all did well.

The Chess and Chessmen exhibition (does anyone still call the pieces 'chessmen'?) was covered in another four-page illustrated story. It was connected withh the 'Seventh Bi-annual meeting of Chess Collectors International (CCI)'. The story started,

The John G. White Collection of chess opened a major exhibit on March 18, 1996, entitled Chess and Chessmen Through History. The display will be open through August 1996, and is the largest held on chess since 1975. It occupies all exhibit areas of the third floor of Main Library, 125 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.

That's all nice and dandy, but what does it have to do with the World Championship mentioned in the first paragraph? The issue's cover introduction was followed by a second section titled 'On-Off-On'

The Karpov - Kamsky match for the FIDE World Championship is now scheduled to begin no later than June 5 in Elista, Kalmykia, with a prize fund of $1,100,000. No draw odds. This match -- a necessity before Kasparov and the PCA will even consider a unification match -- has been on again, off again during the past few months, with about as much frequency as your living room light switch. After the flirtation with Baghdad, and an outcry from the FIDE member countries of Western Europe, Canada, and the United States, it would seem as though the match is on -- for real. We wish the best of luck to Gata Kamsky in his quest for the FIDE title.

The Baghdad botch was mentioned in May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (May 2021); CL: 'Brickbats and barbs to FIDE for accepting a bid from Iraq to hold the Kamsky - Karpov World Championship match in Baghdad.' An overview of the match is on 1996 Karpov - Kamsky FIDE Title Match (m-w.com). No one realized at the time that Kasparov's PCA was on the verge of collapse. See FIDE/PCA Chronology (ditto) for the full story.