22 February 2021

The Transformation of Fat Fritz

For the past few years, whenever there was a controversy in the world of chess engines, Fat Fritz was somewhere nearby. Last year I posted Fat Fritz Followup (June 2020; 'For some reason, Fat Fritz doesn't compete in the TCEC or CCC competitions.'), and this year we have a couple of marketing articles on Chessbase.com:-

  • 2021-02-09: Fat Fritz 2.0 - The new number one • 'Fat Fritz 2.0 is the successor to the revolutionary Fat Fritz, which was based on the famous AlphaZero algorithms. Using a new Japanese AI technology that achieves optimal performance on regular computer processors (CPUs – no expensive graphic card required) it combines the best of both worlds: a massive new neural network, trained by Albert Silver with the original Fat Fritz, while learning from the surgical precision of Stockfish’s legendary search.'

  • 2021-02-11: Fat Fritz 2: The Best of Both Worlds (by Albert Silver) • 'In a field that many thought had seen its final major upheaval with AlphaZero, Japanese programmers have now introduced a new neural network technology that reaches peak performance on just a regular CPU. First implemented in chess in Stockfish 12, now it powers the new Fat Fritz 2, a neural network twice its size, which takes it to the next level – vast chess knowledge paired with lightning speed. This is arguably the strongest entity that has ever played chess'

The new Japanese AI/NN technology is, of course, NNUE, already the subject of many posts on this blog. Here is a related video from ChessBase India.

Fat Fritz 2 - is it the strongest chess engine in the world? | ft. Albert Silver + Frederic Friedel (1:38:46) • 'Streamed live on Feb 15, 2021'

The description of the video says,

Fat Fritz is one of the strongest chess engines in the world. What are its features, why is it better than the rest of the engines? IM Sagar Shah speaks with Albert Silver, the founder of the engine and tries to understand its features.

For another, earlier video from the Chessbase mother ship -- but with only 10% of the views garnered by the CB India video -- see Interview with Albert Silver : His journey to Fat Fritz 2.0. So where's the controversy? Let's start with the word 'founder' in that video description, then I'll carry it further in another post.

21 February 2021

Forcing Me to Think

One of the design principles behind this blog is maximum one illustration per post. Sometimes I bend the rule, as in Queen's Gambit Mosaic - Chess Symbols (December 2020), but I usually respect it because it forces me think about which image works best for a post.

This month I had two images for my Flickr series, both from sources that I've featured before. The first was from Gandalf's Gallery, last seen in Café Life in Montparnasse (March 2020). It was a good choice because it echoed another post, Hands and Heads Not from Wood (September 2012), where I copied an eBay description that said,

Antique and more than probably unique carved wood figures depicting Jewish "Chess Players" (Schachspieler) made after a work of the 19th century famous Jewish artist Isidor Kaufmann.

Now on Flickr was the original painting. I decided not to use it because it's a common chess image that is seen frequently in different settings. Instead I chose to feature the following image.

Modern Art : The Renewal of Forms © Flickr user jean louis mazieres under Creative Commons.

J-L. Mazieres was last seen in Flickr Series Hat Trick (July 2020). The description of his newest example of chess art says,

Max Oppenheimer 1885-1954; Le match d'échecs (The chess match) 1925-1930; Wien Musée Léopold

For more about the artist, see Max Oppenheimer (Carolus chess). As for the phrase that I've chosen as the title of the artwork, 'The Renewal of Forms', this repeats a technique seen in an earlier post inspired by Mazieres -- The Original Dutch Masters (June 2019) -- with two long passages, one in French ('Art Moderne : Le Renouvellement des Formes'), the other in English. Why was this passage chosen for the Oppenheimer painting? That is a mystery to be tackled another time.

Neither Gandalf's Gallery, nor J-L. Mazieres specializes in chess art. The artworks that appear under their Flickr names represent diverse subjects and themes. That is undoubtedly another aspect of the same mystery : why chess?

15 February 2021

TCEC Side Events; CCC 'Rapid 2021' Nearing Semifinal

The previous fortnightly report on the two world class engine vs. engine competitions, Stockfish Wins TCEC S20; CCC 'Rapid 2021' Underway, was the first report in months to see both sites in full swing. The situation at that time can be summarized as:-

TCEC: Stockfish beat LCZero in the S20 Superfinal match +14-8=78. Now that S20 is finished, we can expect a few side events over the next weeks. • CCC: Overview of the 'CCC Rapid 2021' events that have run since the previous report: 'Qualifiers', 'NNUE League', 'Main League'. Next event: 'NN vs Classic'.

The TCEC is currently in intermission, while the CCC is narrowing the field from ten engines to six engines in its effort to choose two engines for a final match.

TCEC: The site is running a series of bonus events mingled with test events. The most important of the bonus events was 'Legacy Top Bonus', won by Stockfish 'Classical', well ahead of seven CPU engines. The test events included four 'Swiss Test' tournaments, each having 42 versions of Stockfish, with events and engines configured using varying conditions. The plans for upcoming events call for '!Cup8, !FRC3, !Swiss1', in that order. The 'Swiss1' event will be the first of its kind.

CCC: What's happening in the 'Rapid 2021'? In the 'Main League' the five first engines, dominated by Stockfish 'Classic', qualified into the subsequent event, 'NN vs Classic'. As explained in that previous report, 'Underway', they were joined by five other engines. Although six of the engines will qualify into the semifinal event, the 'Elite Round', only the last two places remain uncertain.

[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]

14 February 2021

The Responsibility of Fame

Like him or hate him, GM Hikaru Nakamura is here to stay. Every month I prepare a short list of videos to feature on this blog, and every month at least one of his clips makes that list. It's been six months since a pair of previous Naka videos were turned into posts-- Pogchamps (June 2020) and Political Pundits and Pogchamps (August 2020) -- so it's high time for another. The question posed in the video's title was motivated by a report from GM Carlsen's chum Tarjei Svensen: Carlsen & Nakamura missing in 2021 Grand Chess Tour field (chess24.com).

Is Hikaru Retiring From Chess? (18:57) • '[Published on] Jan 21, 2021'

The answer was streamed on the GMHikaru Youtube channel. The clip's description said,

Hikaru talks about the Grand Chess Tour, why he and Magnus are not playing and what the chess calendar looks like throughout the rest of the year.

As you might guess, one of the main reasons is covid uncertainty, but another is GM Nakamura's increasing online popularity and the parallel responsibility to his fans and sponsors. Like any other sporting celebrity, he has to take advantage of the circumstances while he's still in demand. Fame is often fleeting.

08 February 2021

Correspondence Chess in the 2020s

A couple of recent posts on the Talkchess forum raised questions about the current impact of engines on correspondence chess:-

The earlier thread was started by GM Larry Kaufman, a chess engine heavyweight who has been mentioned many time on this blog (see the search box on the right). The later thread was started by someone who admits to 'very little knowledge in the correspondence chess world'.

The bottom line is that top players all use equivalent hardware & software. They play draws against each other and are 'top players' because they have an advantage over players with lesser hardware and/or software.

Any decent club player, let's say 1500 Elo or more, having sufficient means and technical knowhow could build an engine platform comparable to those used in the TCEC/CCC (see Stockfish Wins TCEC S20; CCC 'Rapid 2021' Underway, for the latest post in a long-running series on this blog). That player would immediately become one of the best correspondence players in the world.

Why don't more people do so? Probably because they have more challenging uses for their time and money. As for the problem of too many correspondence draws, the problem has been building for years. I did an analysis more than eight years ago, Increasing Draws in ICCF Finals (December 2012), and concluded,

If the trend continues, we'll eventually see some yellow [1-0], no red [0-1], and a lot of blue [1/2].

And that's where we are today. Correspondence chess is all about mechanical results that lead to meaningless ratings and meaningless titles.

So why do I play? To learn more about chess -- to take apart a game in progress and understand what makes it tick, like an auto mechanic takes an engine apart to understand its internals. I've been doing it for decades and I have no plans to stop.

How do I take a game apart? That would be a good topic for another post.

07 February 2021

Not Typical of This Artist

In this long-running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), it's been nine months since we last saw a painting. The most recent post was Georgian Player, Regency Set (May 2020).

The item pictured below was titled, 'A Game of Chess Original Oil Painting by Vernon Ward (British, 1905–1985)', subtitled, 'Superb Signed Original - Similar Listed to 3,750 GBP'. It sold for GBP 770.00 ('Approximately US $1,056.86', according to eBay) after 50 bids from 24 bidders.

The description repeated the info from the title and added,

Signed lower right. • There are two paintings by this artist in the British National Art Collection. • Painting - 33cm x 43cm • Frame - 50cm x 57cm • Condition: In very fine condition. The canvas not lined, torn, patched or repaired. Clean, most attractive, well framed and ready to hang.

The section 'Artist Information' was almost a straight copy/paste from Vernon Ward (wikipedia.org). It started,

Vernon Ward was a 20th-century English painter and commercial artist noted for his works of flowers, birds and Edwardian subjects and who lived for most of his life in Hampstead in London. He was born in Hampstead, the son of an art dealer, educated at St Joseph's Roman Catholic school in Highgate and trained at the Slade School of Art in London under Henry Tonks, Wilson Steer and Sir Walter Russell.

The original Wikipedia article gave the artists's full name as 'Vernon Beauvoir Ward', while the painting was signed 'J.V. de Beauvoir Ward'. For a book about his art, see Vernon Ward: Child of the Edwardian era (amazon.com) by Josephine Walpole. The chess art is not typical of Ward's other work.

02 February 2021

February 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Just like the previous post, January 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (January 2021), international chess was in the U.S. chess spotlight so many years ago.

Left: ? (*)
Right: 'Kostabi's World at the Top of the World'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Folke Rogard, who will be 73 this July 6, has just retired as President of FIDE. See Fred Cramer's tribute to him on page 64. Photo by Friedel an Haack, Siegen.

Titled '"Folke Rogard of FIDE; The World Chess Federation Comes of Age" by Fred Cramer, Vice-President of FIDE, Zone V', that page 64 story [a chess player's favorite number] started,

Sunday night we relaxed in the comfortable leather of the small lobby, in that same corner where all those high transactions cleared, but now we were alone. Saturday night the Bundesprasident himself had honored some 500 of us at Siegerlandhalle; we heard a symphony orchestra, gave Keres the Hamilton-Russell cup, gorged ourselves on the world's best sausage and beer, and saw skyrockets splatter the West German sky, terminal tribute to three weeks of Olympiad and FIDE Congress. Today they all left, except us two.

This was the lobby of the Kaisergarten, yes, but it was also the Danielli in Venice, the Bristol in Lugano, and all those that went before. For it was his custom, at each FIDE Congress, to settle himself each evening in just that spot, with vacant chairs adjacent, immersed in a newspaper and, after a decent interval, with a scotch and soda at hand. And there, if your seniority, or your nerve, or the urgency of your problem were sufficient, you could approach Folke Rogard, President of FIDE, and he would listen. Listen he would, and ask questions, and talk, his voice almost inaudibly low. And you might get to understand something of FIDE and to know a bit about the man of FIDE, and to admire him.

It continued with a question, 'What got you into it? Why *you*?', for which the answer covered four broad topics:-

  • FIDE Before Rogard
  • Rogard Before FIDE
  • Solution of the Crisis [post-WWII cold war tensions]
  • A Friend of Ours

For more about Rogard, see Folke Rogard (1899–1973; wikipedia.org). For more about Fred Cramer, see his obituary Fred Cramer, Chess Official, 76 (nytimes.com). Dated April 1989, it started,

Fred Cramer, a former United States and international chess official who was Bobby Fischer's manager in a 1972 match with Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union, died of cancer Tuesday. He was 76 years old and lived in Mequon. Mr. Cramer was president of the United States Chess Federation from 1960 to 1963. He later served as vice president of the International Chess Federation.

Cramer mentioned that Rogard's favorite game was Gedeon Barcza vs Gosta Stoltz; Stockholm Interzonal 1952 (chessgames.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Mark Kostabi, of Kostabi World, paid a visit to the Intel PCA World Championship and was properly inspired to create this month's cover. I say "properly inspired" because the PCA, through its diligent efforts and choice of venue, generated a tremendous amount of publicity for the royal game, during the 18-game match.

Inside the issue, CL coverage continued with the recently concluded 1995 Kasparov - Anand PCA Title Match. The 15 pages, headed 'Intel PCA World Championship, Part III', started with a smaller version of the cover illustration captioned, 'Mark Kostabi Grandmasters, 1995 64" x 48"', then explained,

Mark Kostabi is one of the world's most controversial artists because he broadcasts that he neither paints his own paintings nor conceives many of their ideas. Generally, they are designed by hired idea people, executed by painting assistants, titled by poets, approved by committees, and finally signed by...

[With this Issue we wrap up our game-by-game analysis by Larry Christiansen, Patrick Wolff, and John Fedorowicz. and immediately jump into a different perspective of the match Leonid Shamkovich and Vadim Kaminsky provide an overview of the openings used in Kasparov - Anand. And within this section, the art of Mark Kostabi is featured, along with some biographical tidbits. The analysis by Wolff in this issue and the last is from his new book. "Kasparov - Anand The Inside Story" published by H3 Publications. [GAPJ

The analysis included eight more Kostabi illustrations, each attached to a small piece of the Kostabi biography. A fuller biography, Mark Kostabi (wikipedia.org), starts,

Kostabi was born in Los Angeles on November 27, 1960, to Estonian immigrants Kaljo and Rita Kostabi. He was raised in Whittier, California and studied drawing and painting at California State University, Fullerton. In 1982 he moved to New York and by 1984 he became a prominent figure of the East Village art scene, winning the "Proliferation Prize" from the East Village Eye for being in more art exhibitions than any other New York artist.

For a different view of Kostabi, see Con Artist (2009; imdb.com). To find a copy of GM Wolff's book, see Author is wolff; Title is kasparov anand


(*) Re 'Left: ?' in the caption of the two covers, first seen in the 'January 1971 & 1996' post, all CL&R scans for 1971 have the bottom portion of the cover obscured in red. This will persist into 1972. Was explanatory text covered here or was only the mailing label hidden? I'll look at this some other time. For more about the CL++ scans, see US Chess CL Archive (November 2019).