04 October 2022

October 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

In last month's post September 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (September 2022), I struggled to include the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match:-

CL&R couldn't yet report the final result of the match. [...] The date of today's post, 1 September, marks 50 years since the historic match ended. [...] We'll come back to the end of the 1972 match for the October 'On the Cover' post.

So here we are.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Joel Benjamin: The New Interplay U.S. Champion! INTERPLAY™'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

The World Champion!! Bobby Fischer visiting a farm near Reykjavik during the match. Photo is by Harry Benson, courtesy LIFE Magazine, © Time Inc.

Brad Darrach, author of 'Bobby Fischer vs. the Rest of the World', tells the following story in Ch.11 'Iron Logic Meets Sculptured Frenzy':-

The next day at about 5 P.M., Benson and I took Bobby to the country to shoot some photographs. All the way out he was surly and silent. About ten miles from Reykjavik we saw a field of sturdy little Icelandic horses that ran after the car, their blond manes streaming in the sun.

"Hey, they're pretty!" Bobby said. "Can you pet them? Will they bite?"

We pulled off the road and Bobby waded through deep grass to the fence. Fourteen horses trotted up boldly, bumping each other aside in their eagerness to sniff this interesting visitor. Bobby, delighted, broke into big smiles as the horses thrust their soft muzzles into his hands. Then he jumped back.

"Hey! They're drooling on my best coat!"

He took off his precious leather jacket from Argentina and gave it to me to hold. Benson asked him to go into the field and let the horses gather around him.

"Think it's safe?" he asked anxiously. "I got this far. I don't want to die before I get all that money."

We reassured him and separated the barbed wire. The horses veered away at first, but when Bobby sat on a tussock they came back and stood around him in a rough circle. The attention pleased Bobby, who seemed happier with these animals than we had ever seen him with people. He began to talk to them, and they listened.

One of the horses, bolder than the rest, leaned forward as if to kiss Bobby's cheek. Instead, very gently, the horse nipped his earlobe.

Bobby jerked back in terror. "He bit me! Did you see that? Wow! Lemme outa here!" He hurried back to the fence. The horses watched him with gentle eyes.

"This is dangerous, y'know?" he went on. "They got dirty teeth. I could get blood poisoning from a thing like that!"

I've long thought the CL&R cover photo was one of the horse series, but the animals in the background are sheep, not horses. Another famous Benson / Fischer photo shows Bobby being nuzzled in the face by a horse. He is wearing the same clothes as in the cover photo, so maybe I was right all along.

Back to the October 1972 issue, an introduction by editor Burt Hochberg proclaimed, 'Bobby Does It!!'. It was followed by an eight-page writeup by, 'The Match: Bobby's Show', by Robert Byrne. We will see more of the match in the coming months.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Our Interplay Champions!
• Joel Benjamin - U.S. Champion
• Esther Epstein - U.S. Women's Champion
• Tal Shaked - U.S. Junior Champion (World Junior Champion)

A two page, unsigned story titled, '1997 U.S. Interplay Championships', started,

Grandmaster Joel Benjamin, 33, of New York City, is the new Interplay U.S. Champion, by virtue of his victory over GM Larry Christiansen in the championship match. Joel scored +3-0=4 in the round-robin preliminary, +2-0=1 in his semi-final match against GM Gregory Kaidanov, and +2-1=3 against Christiansen, for an overall record of +7-1=8. He earned $10,000 and the Championship ring, designed by Heraldica Imports.

In a departure from the regular round robin format, the 16 players were divided into two separate sections, with the top two from each section advancing to match play. [...]

Somewhat curiously, the same introduction was repeated on the second page of the story. For an introduction to Interplay, see last year's October 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (October 2021; 'Not to be forgotten were the sponsors of the event.').

03 October 2022

Breaking the 3500 Barrier

Another seven-plus months, another 100 posts. Yesterday's post, Chess and Italian Design (October 2022), was no.3500 on this blog. That means it's time for a follow-up to Breaking the 3400 Barrier (February 2022). If you haven't seen the series before, the number 3400 also refers to a chess rating. We had to abandon humanity at Breaking the 2900 Barrier (April 2019), because according to the accepted rating agencies, no one has ever achieved that level.

Not too long after the 'Breaking 3400' post, I had another off-week engine post, Stockfish Breaks All the Barriers (April 2022). There I wrote,

I'll come back to this current post if I ever need to do a 'Breaking 3500' post.

So here we are. Believe it or not, a 3500 rating means we're approaching the current limit for engines. In the 'Breaking 3400' post I noted,

The ratings for [TCEC] S18 were considerably higher than for S19 and subsequent TCEC seasons. Not knowing how to resolve this problem, I turned to another source for engine ratings, the CCRL.

Looking at that page CCRL Home (computerchess.org.uk/ccrl) again, I see there are two lists:-

  • CCRL Blitz (1; Stockfish 15 64-bit 8CPU; 3745 rating)
  • CCRL 40/15 (1; Stockfish 14 64-bit 4CPU; 3534)

The difference between a 37xx rating and a 35xx rating corresponds to the drop from TCEC S18 [37xx] to TCEC S19 [35xx]. I suppose that TCEC switched CCRL rating lists between S18 (finishing in July 2020) and S19 (October 2020). Or something like that.

That July-October 2020 time frame happened to coincide with the introduction of Stockfish NNUE, which saw a dramatic increase in the Fish's rating. If it wasn't rated 3500 before that period, it certainly was after. If I ever do a 'Breaking 3600' post, I now have two CCRL rating lists to consult, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. At the end of the 'Breaking 3400' post, I mentioned,

'Magnus Carlsen targets all-time rating record of 2900' (theguardian.com; Leonard Barden; January 2022). When I come back in 6-7 months for 'Breaking the 3500 Barrier', I'll check the World Champion's progress.

Reports last month proclaimed, e.g. Magnus Carlsen breaks 2900 barrier in Julius Baer Generation Cup win (chess24.com; Leon Watson). The article started,

Magnus Carlsen is the Julius Baer Generation Cup champion and the first player to break the 2900 Tour Rating after crushing the "Indian Iceman" Arjun Erigaisi in today’s final.

Given that Chess24.com is a defacto Magnus Carlsen fan club and that the record involved a '2900 Tour Rating' -- whatever that is -- the whole thing looks suspicious. TBD: Review for 'Breaking the 3600 Barrier'.

02 October 2022

Chess and Italian Design

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), when you say 'chess table', you mean something like the item featured in Chess with Rare Woods (February 2017). The item pictured below was titled 'Aldo Tura 1950, Three Nesting Tables Goatskin, Decorated with Chess Figures'. It sold for US $700.00, 'Buy It Now'.

The description said,

Set of three nesting tables, Aldo Tura, Italy, 1950. In high lacquered goatskin, the wooden frame covered with tobacco brown dyed parchment. Decorated with different golden chess figures.

Measurement biggest table: depth 12 inch, width 20 inch, height 16 inch. 70+ years old. Has some wear.

Who was Aldo Tura? The page Aldo Tura (artnet.com; Italian, 1909–1963) explained,

Aldo Tura was an Italian furniture designer best known for his mid-century tables and lamps. Combining his interest in Art Deco and Art Nouveau with low-slung minimalist design of the 1940s and 50s, he often utilized unusual materials like parchment, egg shell, and goatskin, frequently employing wheels and casters in his designs.

Born in 1909, Tura began manufacturing his signature furniture in the 1930s, focusing on limited production of handcrafted designs produced within the confines of traditional craftsmanship. Tura died 1963, and has earned the moniker "the master of parchment" for his use of the material.

It turns out that he designed a number of tables with a chess motif. See Tura Chess - For Sale on 1stDibs (1stdibs.com) for examples. A section of that page titled, 'Aldo Tura Biography and Important Works', starts, 'One of the most enigmatic and polarizing figures to emerge in Italian design...'

30 September 2022

Fischer: 'That's my answer'

Continuing with the 'Fischer Friday' series, last seen in 1992 Fischer - Spassky 'Under the Weather' (September 2022), in that post I wrote,

Photo D1 is about a moment from the opening press conference that is more famous than any of the games played in the match. It shows Fischer with the letter that led to the famous spit incident.

The composite image including that photo in black & white is seen below, with 'photo D1' circled in red. Superimposed on the composite is a similar photo in color.

The eBay auction offering the color photo said,

You are bidding on an original press photo from 9/2/1992. Chess legend Bobby Fischer holds a letter from the U.S. government at a news conference in Yugoslavia. The letter said his match with Russia's Boris Spassky violates sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. Fischer spat on the letter. Photo is 8.5" x 11" in size. This photo originates from the archives of the Chicago Sun Times and Daily News, Detroit News, and Sports Magazine. Most photos have never been seen by the public.

That incident was recorded in a Sports Illustrated (SI) article by William Nack dated 14 September 1992: The Fischer King (vault.si.com; Sports Illustrated Vault).

The Fischer King • In the surreal setting of war-torn Yugoslavia, reclusive chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer emerged to meet Boris Spassky

[...] Fischer made something of a spec-tac-le [sic] of himself on the eve of the match, when he held forth at a press conference that was quite as memorable as anything [American baseball pitcher] Roger Clemens ever contrived. Few of the hundred or so members of the press in attendance had ever seen Fischer, and when he arrived, all eyes turned and followed him as he walked with his loping, ungainly gait to the front of the room, looking much as he did seven years ago—down to the balding pate and the thin beard—when an obsessed magazine writer found him in the L.A. Public Library (SI, July 29, 1985). Settling into a chair in the Hotel Maestral, Fischer studied the written questions that reporters had submitted to him and began by saying, "I'll start off with, umm, ah, some impudent questions from The New York Times [Roger Cohen]."

With traces of Brooklyn still in his voice, he read one question after another. " 'Why, after turning down so many offers to come back, did you accept this one?' That's not quite true. As I recollect, Karpov, in 1975, was the one who refused to play me under my conditions, which is basically the same conditions we are playing now.... 'Do you feel that your chess has improved over the past 20 years?' Well, we'll see.... 'If you beat Spassky, will you go on to challenge Kasparov for the world championship?' "

Here Fischer turned and pointed to the large sign behind him that announced this affair: THE WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP. "Can he read what it says behind here?" asked Fischer, to applause. " 'Are you worried by U.S. government threats over your defiance of sanctions?' " At this point he reached for his briefcase and pulled out a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department warning him that by playing the match, he risked stiff fines and 10 years in jail for violating President Bush's executive order imposing economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. "So," Fischer said, "here is my reply to their order not to defend my title here." Holding the letter in front of him, he spit on it, and added, "That's my answer."

Reporters gaped incredulously at one another. Asked if he supported the United Nations' sanctions against Yugoslavia, Fischer launched upon an attack of the U.N. for rescinding "a pretty good resolution against Israel about Zionism is racism...." He was merely warming up to the subject. " 'Do you regard yourself as an anti-Communist fighter?' First of all, we have to understand what communism is. I mean, to me, real communism, the Soviet communism, is basically a mask for Bolshevism, which is a mask for Judaism." And when asked about his being widely characterized as anti-Semitic, Fischer replied, "In the first place, this term anti-Semitism is a nonsense term, because my understanding is that the Arabs are also Semites, not only the Jews, so I don't know what that means. I'm definitely not anti-Arab."' [...]

I once did a short series on chess articles in Sports Illustrated. For the last post in that series, see Browne: 'I got this aggression that never quits' (July 2017; 'let's squeeze one more post out of the aging Sports Illustrated reports on chess'). William Nack, the author of the 1992 SI article quoted above, was also the author of the July 1985 article mentioned in the first paragraph. For a link to that article plus a list of related SI articles -- including 'The Fischer King' -- see the post, Fischer: 'I'm not seeing people' (June 2017).

29 September 2022

Cheating Mania

It didn't take a crystal ball to predict that this month's Yahoos' post (see the footnote for an explanation of 'Yahoos') was going to be about Carlsen/Nakamura vs. Niemann, aka the chess cheating affair. The scandal broke three weeks ago and shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. I've already featured it twice, the second time in Talkchess Talks Current Topics (September 2022).

Unlike all previous posts in the Yahoos series, this month requires two charts to present the base statistics, shown below. On the left are the counts derived from Google News, similar to the chart in last month's Olympiad, Business, and Political Yahoos (August 2022).

On the right are counts from a special supplement, linked from the Google News results and called 'Full Coverage'. These stories were 100% about the cheating scandal. The last time we saw this type of coverage was for Queen's Gambit Mania (October 2020), another Yahoos' post that confirmed the chess boom provoked by the twin phenomena of covid confinement and Netflix.

Of the 99 stories returned by Google News, 78 were from the month of September. The seven sources in the list account for at least two of the 78 stories, leaving 32 sources with a single story.

Of the 56 results returned for the 'Full Coverage' supplement, four were from Twitter. Of the other 52 stories, five sources accounted for at least two stories, leaving 41 sources with a single story. That means mainstream news about chess is on steroids. I imagine that one of the reasons for the extensive coverage is the interest in chess fueled by the recent boom.

Back to Google News, none of the 24 Chess.com stories had anything to do with cheating; ditto for the 10 New York Times (NYT) stories. Seven of the NYT stories were titled 'Play NYT Chess Puzzle', making me wonder once again if these aren't inserts paid by the NYT. What's newsworthy about a chess puzzle?

Of the other 44 (=78-34) Google News stories, 17 were about cheating. The same two stories appeared at the top of both the Google News and the 'Full Coverage' lists. Both were published yesterday:-

The last time we saw this sort of widepread media interest in chess cheating was for the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match (m-w.com), aka Toiletgate. The 2022 scandal also descended quickly to speculative vulgarity. Chess deserves better.

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

26 September 2022

TCEC S23 Paused; 'CCC19 Blitz Main' Underway

Another fortnight has passed since our previous report on the planet's top-two, ongoing, engine vs. engine competitions: TCEC S23 L1, CCC19 Blitz - Both Underway (September 2022). Here's a summary of that report:-

TCEC: S23 L2 finished with four engines promoting. The 12-engine L1 is in the second of its four round robins. • CCC: Dragon edged Lc0 by three points in the 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' match. Later the site started a series of 'CCC19 Blitz' events. Between CCC18 and CCC19, the CCC launched an eight-engine 'Chess 324 Bonus' event.

In the two intervening weeks, both sites have progressed. The following is the latest on TCEC S23 and CCC19.

TCEC: S23 L1 finished with Ethereal and Berserk promoting into the Premier Division (DivP). Before DivP starts, the site is running 'S23 - Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus 22', with the terse !next explanation 'VSOB22 until replacement GPU'. For the previous discussion of VSOB on this blog, see Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC1, Leads CCC18 Rapid Final (August 2022). VSOB appears to be the stand-by filler when the regular schedule of TCEC events is paused.

CCC: In the previous post, 'CCC19 Blitz Underway', I also wrote, 'It's not clear what direction [the CCC] intends to take with the new season, so I'll say no more for this current post.' The site is currently running 'CCC19 Blitz: Main' with 10 engines. This was preceded by three other 'CCC19 Blitz' events: 'Newcomers' (6 engines), 'Qualifier #1' (8), and 'Qualifier #2' (8). 'Where it stops, nobody knows!'.

The site's !next command says, 'Main Event: Stockfish, Leela, Dragon, Ethereal, Slowchess, Berserk, +4 top engines from Qualifier #2.' The CCC's Club and Discord sites are both silent.

[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]

25 September 2022

'The Root of All Evil'?

In this blog's long-running monthly series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), this is the second post in a row to deal with the so-called 'root of all evil'. Last month we had Was Fischer Avaricious? (August 2022).

Who Has Won The Most Money In Chess History? (2:45) • '[Published on] Aug 25, 2022'

The description said,

The highest-earning chess players throughout history. We collected data from 1851 to now and here are the results! How do Kasparov, Carlsen, Fischer, Anand and Hikaru compare in this chess timeline of prizewinners?

The description linked to a related article: Who Is The Biggest Prizewinner In Chess History? (chess.com; Nathaniel Green). Unlike too many comments to a typical Chess.com article, some here are spot on.

'Should add Naka Twitch' and 'xQc should be in list', but later 'Nakamura is a streamer, not a chess player, so this is a meaningless comparison.'

'Did you include any of the matches versus computers that were played by Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand? Did you include the top level rapid and blitz tournaments? Did you include the Melody Amber tournaments?'

And on an unrelated, but topical point: 'Kasparov accused the computer of cheating. Funny. At that time, dishonesty meant tips from people. Now it's the other way around.'

The last time I featured a similar video in a post (also in the series 'Sociology of Chess') was Top Tweeters (August 2020). I called it the 'time travel bar chart technique'. Watch what happens starting 1:30 into the clip.