31 December 2015

More Rummaging

There's more to

Rummaging through 30-year-old chess magazines looking for details on zonals

than the sort of chess history in FIDE's Cradle. There's also art. This cover from the July 1984 issue of Europe Echecs reminded me of the Knights Errant, a group of early chess bloggers who believed that chess was all about tactics, tactics, tactics.

Sancho Panza Counting the Kibitzers, Roland Partos

The artist was the older brother of IM Charles Partos, and was himself a keen chess player. Who are the kibitzers that Sancho Panza is counting? Don Quixote? No, the trees to the right are full of faces.

29 December 2015

Borrowing Leaves

Yes, the holiday week continues and, no, I don't have enough time for blogging. Today I'll borrow a leaf from Felican Kristnaskon! (Merry Christmas!), which borrowed a leaf from Top eBay Chess Items by Price.

While I was working on the Christmas post, I looked at eBay auctions that never make the cut in 'Top Chess Items' and particularly liked the photo shown below. Titled '1957 Vintage MARCEL DUCHAMP LARRY EVANS Chess Photo Art 16x20 ~ PHILIPPE HALSMAN', it sold for nearly US $110, Buy-It-Now.

I don't normally use watermarked photos -- this one is marked 'Finephoto' (the name of the eBay seller) in the lower left -- but the subject, the quality of the photo, and the additional information convinced me to break this rule. The description ('Print Specifications') added,

Photographer: Philippe Halsman (Latvia born American, 1906 - 1979) - internationally renowned portrait and fashion photographer, one of the most important and influential photographers from the 1940's through the 1970's.
Subject: Marcel Duchamp and Larry Evans playing chess.
Date Of Negative: 1957
Type Of Print: Authentic Vintage Sheet Fed Photogravure (from original image - authorized by Philippe Halsman)
Date Of Print: 1972
Original Issue: Bound sheet fed photogravure compilation.
Paper: Medium weight, clay coat - satin/matte finish.
Print Origin: Italy
Approximate Image Size Inches: 8.75 x 10.25 inches
Mount Board Size Inches: 20 x 16 inches
Mount Board Color: White
Print Border: No - full bleed print.
Condition Grade: Extra Fine ++
Verso: Professionally dry mounted with Bienfang archival materials onto sturdy 4ply museum mat board.

One of the most significant photographic artists of the 20th century, Halsman has had numerous exhibitions of his work and his iconic portrait images are held in important collections and museums throughout the world. In 1958 Halsman was listed in Popular Photography magazine's "World's Ten Greatest Photographers" along with Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Ernst Haas, Yousuf Karsh, Gjon Mili, and Eugene Smith. In 1975 he received the Life Achievement in Photography Award from the American Society of Magazine photographers.


Marcel Duchamp and Larry Evans weren't exactly unknowns either. All of that taken together makes a concise introduction to collecting vintage chess photos.

28 December 2015

Evaluation Anomalies - Engines Behaving Badly

After the previous post, Evaluation Anomaly - Mass Exchange, there are still a number of games to be examined in TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies. In this post, I'll take a quick look at two more. (As in the previous posts, see TCEC Archive Mode to play through the complete games using TCEC's helpful game viewer.)

The diagram below shows positions from two games, both with Stockfish playing White and Komodo playing Black. The top row shows two positions from game 44 and the bottom row shows two positions from game 52.

In game 44, after 61.Bf2, reaching the first diagrammed position, Stockfish evaluated the position at wv=0.33 (a third of a Pawn in its favor). Komodo played 61...Rd5, with a value of wv=0.00 (dead equal). Stockfish played 62.g6+ (wv=0.33), to which Komodo replied 62...Ke7 (wv=-0.41), reaching the second position. Note that Komodo's evaluation of the position has dropped suddenly to a negative value (i.e. in Black's favor).

The game continued for another 30 moves with White giving itself an advantage of wv=0.33 and Black giving itself an advantage of around wv=-0.40. At move 90, Black's evaluation quickly dropped to zero (wv=0.00), and ten moves later White's evaluation did the same.

What happened here? It's easy for a human to see that after 62.g6+, the position is completely blocked. Neither player can break through without incurring a serious disadvantage. The game continued for another 50 moves before being declared a draw, with both engines recognizing the inevitable draw 10-20 moves before the 50th move was reached.

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 44

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 52

In game 52, Stockfish played 43.Raa1 reaching the first position in the bottom row and giving itself an advantage of wv=0.65. Komodo played 43...Qd2, with a similar evaluation of wv=0.62. Both engines consider the position to be nearly two-thirds of a Pawn in White's favor, which should give good winning chances.

The next few moves were 44.Qxd2 (wv=0.81) 44...exd2 (wv=0.03) 45.Red1 (wv=0.81) 45...Re2 (wv=0.00) 46.h3 (wv=0.00) 46...Ra8 (wv=0.00), reaching the second position in the bottom row. The advantage of two-thirds of a Pawn has evaporated and both engines consider the position to be completely equal, although it took White a few additional moves to realize it.

What happened here? In the first diagram, both engines saw that White will win a Pawn -- losing the a-Pawn in exchange for Black's d/e-Pawns. That leaves White a healthy Pawn ahead, right? No, unfortunately for White, the 'healthy' extra Pawn is an advantage of f/g/h-Pawns for White vs. g/h-Pawns for Black. With both Kings placed behind their Pawns, an experienced human player knows that the Rook and Pawn endgame is a draw. It took the engines a few more moves to see that.

In both games discussed here, the engines continued to move their pieces hither and thither for many moves before the draw was declared. Good human players would have agreed a draw as soon as boredom set in.

27 December 2015

Chess Curriculum - Summary

It's been nine months since I first got the idea from Google -- Google Autocompletes CIS (29 March 2015) -- to look at what constitutes a

The initial survey included that kickoff post plus the following posts:-

From that I derived:-

Then I looked at each curriculum in turn:-

If I were a relatively novice player looking for a comprehensive course to teach others, I would follow the ChessKid/Chess.com curriculum. As an experienced player looking for a structured approach where I supply the details, I would follow the Susan Polgar curriculum. The main FIDE curriculum ('Age 7-9') might also fill a niche somewhere. As for the others, I found them limited in their approach. Although I don't plan to take this series any further, I might come back to it from time to time. I realize that I've only scratched the surface.

25 December 2015

Felican Kristnaskon!

Carrying on the CFAA Christmas greeting tradition (last seen in 2014's Joyeux Noël!) and borrowing a leaf from Top eBay Chess Items by Price, here is the first (and perhaps last) annual 'Top eBay Chess Christmas Items by Price'.

Left to right, top to bottom (taken from the items' descriptions):-

  • Chess Lyrics A Collection of Chess Problems by A.F. Mackenzie 1887-1905. Edited by Alain C. White. Published by J.H. Graham New York 1905. Hardback, 476pp with 282 compositions. This is the 1st book edited by White in the Christmas Series and is signed by A.C. White! Two page memoriam by A. C. White after solutions at end for A.F. Mackenzie (October 6, 1861 - June 23, 1905) He passed when the book was going to press. Very scarce book!

  • J. Juchli's Schachprobleme. Edited & published by Alain C. White of New York and Dr. M. Henneberger of Bern 1908. Text completely in German. Hardback, 93pp. 54 compositions with annotated solutions. Probably not part of the Christmas series? A scarce book.

  • Chess Lyrics by A.F. Mackenzie. Edited by A.C. White. New York, 1905. Number 1 in the A.C. White series. Scarce.

  • Chuck Berry CHESS 1714 Run Rudolph Run and Merry Christmas Baby

  • A signed copy of Les Mille et un Mats Inverses By Alain C. White. Published by Numa Preti, Paris 1907. Two volumes, both completely in French. The first volume inscribed, "G. Dobbs Presented by Alain C. White Xmas 1907" and with tipped in insert "Avec les Meilleurs Voeux de Noel. Alain C. White 1907." Volume I, hardback, unnumbered pages with 1001 compositions. Volume II, hardback 231pp with Introduction, solutions and composers. Very scarce set.

  • Disney Chess Collection NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Set of 24 Figure; Produced: Tomy Tec

And remember: Drive safely!

24 December 2015

Bobby's Big Hands

Three months ago I ran a couple of posts about Bobby Fischer photos from LIFE magazine: That's Not Bobby! and That's Definitely Bobby!. To round out the series, here is a composite photo that I've been saving for the right moment.

Source: Chess Champion Bobby Fischer

GM Seirawan talking about GM Byrne talking about Fischer:-

He had these very big hands and the pieces just danced as they moved about the board.

From An afternoon chat with Yasser - Part I (This Week's Chess Safari).

22 December 2015

FIDE's Cradle

Rummaging through 30-year-old chess magazines looking for details on Zonals 1984-1987, I discovered a small photo filler (Europe Echecs 1986-02 p.4) captioned,

Mairie du 9e arrondissement de Paris ou furent signés, en 1924, les statuts constitutifs de la F.I.D.E. Le berceau n'a pas changé.

If your French isn't any better than mine, the photo showed the city hall of the Paris 9th district where the FIDE statutes were signed in 1924 ('the cradle hasn't changed'). There was no need to scan the photo, because better shots are available on the web (and the building still hasn't changed).

Source: Mairie du 9e arrondissement de Paris
or 9e arrondissement de Paris

Wondering if anyone had already documented this bit of chess history trivia, I discovered a series of three more recent articles, also from Europe Echecs -- see Paris 1924 Création de la FIDE (1), (2), (3) -- signed Georges Bertola.

That's the same Bertola I featured a few years back in Early Chess Magazines, and that makes an easy blog post for a busy holiday season. Not bad for a half hour of rummaging, plus I found plenty of info about the zonal cycle I was researching.


In part (1) of the series, Bertola says that FIDE was born on Sunday, 21 July 1924. Kazic's 'International Championship Chess : a Complete Record of FIDE Events' says, 20 July 1924. The page on International Chess Day [Wikipedia] says,

The international chess day is celebrated annually on July 20, the day the International Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded, in 1924.

Did Bertola get it wrong? But he knew it was a Sunday...


Later: ...Bertola got something wrong. According to the page for July 1924 (infoplease.com/calendar), 21 July 1924 was a Monday.

21 December 2015

Evaluation Anomaly - Mass Exchange

I learned so much from the exercise in Evaluation Anomaly - Long Combination that I decided to repeat it on another position from TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies. This time I chose game 18, Stockfish - Komodo.

The composite chart below shows four key positions from the game. I don't expect anyone to follow the moves mentally, but the game can be played on TCEC - Archive Mode, using the same instructions given in 'Long Combination'. All of the key move metrics are shown in the helpful interface used there.

The first position shows the game after the initial eight moves of the opening variation imposed on the engines. Stockfish's next move as White was 9.Bb3, which it evaluated as wv=0.17. Komodo's move as Black was 9...h6, with a value of wv=0.23. Note that both 'wv' values are close to the 0.20 predicted for the initial start position. For the other positions, I'll use a sum of the values from a White-Black move pair (0.17 + 0.23 = 0.40 here) to compare the evaluations through the game.

The game continued 10.Nf1 Re8 11.a4 b5 12.Ng3 Bd7 13.Bd2 b4 14.a5 Rb8 15.h3 bxc3 16.bxc3 Qc8 17.Bc2 Rb2, then 18.Qc1 (wv=0.54) and 18...Qb8 (wv=0.37), reaching the second position. Here the combined wv is 0.91, more than double the value in our first position. This was followed by 19.Nf5 Qb7 20.Ne3 Qb8 21.Nh4 Ne7 22.Nc4 Rb7 23.d4 Ng6.

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 18

The third diagram shows the position after 24.Nxg6 (wv=0.67) 24...fxg6 (wv=0.56), with a combined wv of 1.23. This is the highest evaluation reached in the game, which continued 25.Be3 Kh7 26.Qd2 Be6 27.Bd3 Bxc4 28.Bxc4 Nxe4 29.Qd3 c6 30.d5 cxd5 31.Bxd5 Nc5 32.Bxc5 Bxc5.

The next two moves -- 33.Bxb7 (wv=0.27) 33...Qxb7 (wv=0.09) -- reach the fourth diagram and involve an exchange sacrifice, where Black has one Pawn as compensation. The combined value of wv=0.36 is substantially below the combined wv from the third diagram.

What happened between the third and fourth diagrammed positions to cause such a dramatic decline in the evaluation? In the third position, a pair of Knights has just been exchanged, but all of the other pieces are still on the board. In the fourth position, three pieces remain for each side. Between the two positions, half of the pieces were swapped off. Although exchange sacrifices can be tricky to evaluate, the position in the fourth diagram looks harder to win for White than to draw for Black -- the Bishop is well placed for defense -- and the evaluation proves to be accurate.

The conclusion is that the evaluation in the third position is overly optimistic. Using the same calculation explained at the end of the post on 'Evaluation Anomalies', the ~0.60 advantage for White gives a 67% chance of winning the game. The third position might simply be in the 33% of positions that are more difficult to win. We are, after all, dealing with probabilities here. Only after more pieces are exchanged do we start to see the eventual outcome.

20 December 2015

1978 USSR Championship

In 2014 I featured four items with multiple autographs on Top eBay Chess Items by Price:-

In 2015, with the year nearly over, this is the first. Titled 'Russian Chess: Program of 46 USSR Chess Championship signed by all participants', it sold for US $415 after 50 bids from five bidders.

The description added,

Program of the 46 USSR Chess Championship among men (Major League) autographed by all participants:
Garry Kasparov, Efim Geller, [...], Vitaly Tseshkovsky

Tbilisi, Chess Palace, 2-27 December 1978; Language: Russian; 16 pages.

For a crosstable of the event, see 46th USSR Chess Championship, 1978.

18 December 2015

Mobius Chess

The caption explained,

A large suspended steel mobius strip covered by a grid of side glow fibre optic.

And it changes color.

Top photo: FIGMENT Boston 2015 © Flickr user AnubisAbyss under Creative Commons.

No more back rank mates!

17 December 2015

Magnus Tweeted...

... and the world listened.

Chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen: 'Bobby Fischer is my dream opponent'
(CNN.com; Twitter: #AskMagnus)

What does the small print say?

MC: "Usually a salad or an omelet to get some energy. Something that's not too heavy." • MC: "I think there are many cultural reasons. Chess has generally [been a man's game and thus more men start playing chess -- so the numbers are much greater.]

Those were the answers, but what were the questions?

Q: What do you eat before a match? • Q: Why do men dominate chess, and what should be done about it?

Don't miss the other questions, like 'Who do you consider your strongest opponent in the next few years?' (Spoiler alert: GM Aronian)


I resisted the temptation to title this post 'Magnus Is Awesome', as in my previous post in the Yahoo series, Propaganda Is Awesome. P.S. The CNN photo slideshow of Magnus's career is worth the price of admission.

15 December 2015

Iconic Is Awesome

Iconic this, iconic that. These days, everywhere you look, something is 'iconic'. What about chess?

Google image search on 'chess "iconic"'

[Why the quotes around '>>>"iconic"<<<' in my search term? When I didn't quote the word, I received a whole page of results for chess plus the word 'famous'. Sometimes you have to tell Google that you want exactly what you wrote, not what Google thinks you want.]

First row: sandwiched between iconic Bobby Fischer and iconic Marcel Duchamp are four photos of an iconic chess set, which also appears in the middle of the second row. Maybe iconic doesn't mean 'widely recognized and well-established', because I couldn't remember seeing it before. The link on the first image goes to Iconic Buildings Become Pawns in Skyline Chess. Now I get it.

Second row: sandwiched between similar shots of the iconic chess scene from the iconic film 'Det Sjunde Inseglet' are iconic 'Samuel Reshevsky, age 8, defeating several chess masters at once in France, 1920', followed by our iconic chess set, followed by 'Baby Arthur recreates iconic movie scenes', i.e. the 'Seventh Seal' again.

Third row: starts with 'Chess Knight angry horse iconic', followed by 'a new chess set that is currently being used at the World Chess Championship Candidates Tournament in London' ('beautifully iconic and simple'), followed by 'Vaclav Touzimsky's iconic picture, a Soviet tank crashes into a building in the town of Liberec' (*), followed by an illustration for 'Famous Business Leaders' on AchieveIconic.com, followed by iconic Tobey Maguire ('Hollywood to bring iconic US-Sovyet chess standoff to silver screen').

Fourth row (not shown): more of the same.

(*) What does a Soviet/Sovyet tank have to do with chess? For the long answer, see Huffington: Chess in the Time of War [Chessbase.com, after GM Kavalek].

14 December 2015

Evaluation Anomaly - Long Combination

I ended the post on TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies with the desire to 'take a closer look at one or two of these games to determine why the engine(s) failed'. The first game of the six I flagged was played in round eight, so I started there. To play through the game and to examine all of the engine evaluations, see TCEC - Top Chess Engine Championship - Archive Mode, Season 8 - 2015.08.21, Superfinal - 2015.11.06, game 8.

Annotating a game between good engines -- the two best chess engines in the world -- is almost hopeless. The calculations are (nearly) error free, the variations are razor sharp, and the plans are incredibly deep, making the whole game incomprehensible to the human analyst. Having said that, I'll give it a try anyway, hoping to learn something from the exercise.

The evaluation anomaly started at move 16, the first position shown in the following composite diagram. White has sacrificed a Pawn, getting the open g-file against the Black King as compensation. White (Stockfish) played 16.Be2, threatening a discovered attack on the Black Queen. The TCEC statistics show that White expected 16...Re8 in response, and gave the position a value of 0.29. Black (Komodo) played instead 16...Ne7, with a value of wv=0.40.

Here White saw a future combination and prepared it with 17.Qd2, while its evaluation shot up to wv=1.05. Now something went wrong with the TCEC stats. Black played the expected 17...Ng6, protecting the g-file, but the stats show wv=0.00, indicating equality. That can't be right, so I'll just ignore it. The game continued 18.h3 (wv=0.94), protecting the h-Pawn with the Rook and finally threatening the discovered attack on the Queen, 18...Qa5 (wv=0.37), reaching the position in the second diagram.

Here White unleashed the planned combination, sacrificing the Knight with 19.Nh4. The game continued 19...Nxh4 20.Rxg7+ Kxg7 21.Rg3+ (discovering another attack on the Black Queen) 21...Qg5 22.Rxg5+ hxg5 23.Qxg5+ Ng6, reaching the third diagram.

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 8

In the third diagram, White has a Queen and a Pawn against two Rooks and a Knight. Normally this would be better for Black, but the combination isn't finished yet. White played 24.h4 (wv=0.94), threatening to attack the pinned Knight. Play continued 24...f6 (wv=0.43, Black's evaluation is consistent with its opinion from before the combination started), 25.Qg3 Kh7 26.h5 Ne7 27.Qxd6 Rf7 28.Bd3 Ng8 29.e5+ f5 30.d5 Re7 31.Qd8 exd5 32.f4 b6, reaching the last diagram.

After 32...b6 (wv=0.11), White has two ways to repair the material deficit. It chose 33.Qxd5 (wv=0.81), followed by 33...Rb8 34.Qd8 Kh8 35.Bxf5 Bxf5 36.Qxb8. After the last capture, the material is a Queen and three Pawns against Rook, Bishop, and Knight (Q+3P:R+B+N). White gave the position wv=0.72, while Black, after 36...Kh7, gave it wv=0.12.

The game continued for another 40+ moves. White was unable to break Black's defense and the game ended 'Draw by adjudication: TCEC draw rule', both sides evaluating the position at wv=0.00.

What happened to the advantage of wv=1.05 that White calculated for 17.Qd2? Of course, I can't say for sure, but the combination initiated with 19.Nh4 wasn't completed until 36.Qxb8. That's 18 moves, around 36 ply, deep. The evaluation of the resulting material imbalance (Q+3P:R+B+N) is itself a complex task. Maybe it's simply an engine example of 'long analysis, wrong analysis'.

13 December 2015

Chess Curriculum - ChessKid/Chess.com II

After the recap and video in the previous post, Chess Curriculum - ChessKid/Chess.com, let's look at the curriculum itself. The first document, Introduction.pdf, has two parts:-

  • Welcome & Introduction
  • Table of Contents (TOC, detailed)

The 'Welcome' tells us who should benefit most from this material:-

We keep the language simple. However, while we believe children with a fourth- or fifth-grade reading level could work through this curriculum on their own, the most practical application of this curriculum is instructor-guided, and in many cases we recommend a classroom format. Most lessons are designed to be delivered in an hour – with optional worksheets to assign for independent learning.

The TOC outlines five sections with four lessons per section. The sections are structured as follows:-

  • Section 1 – Starting Out: The Basics of Chess
  • Section 2 – The Basics of Playing, the "Phases" of Chess & the Opening
  • Section 3 – Tactics, Tactics & More Tactics
  • Section 4 – Endgame Play: Passed Pawns, Technique & King Play
  • Section 5 – Positional Chess, Planning & Advanced Piece Play

Each lesson contains three types of document : the material to be covered, an 'Instructor's Guide', and worksheets (plus answers). From the 'Welcome & Introduction' again:-

The Instructor's Guides furnish lesson plans, provide practical advice, and even suggest ways to keep the experience fun! They also describe the "when and how" to allow for "mini-game" and "worksheet" practice during class. We strongly recommend that coaches (whether teaching in groups or privately) review the lessons in their entirety first, grasping the "big picture" goal of that lesson and all its parts, before teaching their student(s).

For example, the first lesson in Section 1 is:-

  • Lesson 1 - Meet the Players: King, Knight & Pawn

Its nine pages consist of the lesson material (three pages), 'Instructor Handout' (three pages), and three worksheets (one page each). The last section covers these four lessons:-

  • Lesson 17 - The Fundamentals of Positional Chess
  • Lesson 18 - Learning to Play with the "Little Guys"
  • Lesson 19 - Bad Pieces & Other Advanced Piece Play
  • Lesson 20 - Playing "Tournament Level" Chess Games & Planning

The last of the 22 documents, Summary.pdf, tells us,

Whether you are a chess coach just building your school program or club, an experienced chess teacher seeking new material and ideas, or simply a "chess kid" who had the work ethic and discipline to self-tutor your way through our curriculum – you should be proud of yourself! [...]

If you worked your way through our curriculum, solved every worksheet, played each mini-game, and took your time on the more difficult lessons, then we have fulfilled our promise to take you from a beginner's knowledge of chess to an experienced scholastic player's understanding of the game. (That's about 1300-1450 by the United States Chess Federation's rating system.)

Since my first post on this critical aspect of 'Chess in School' series, I've covered a half-dozen (or so) chess curriculums (curricula). The ChessKid/Chess.com offering is one of the most comprehensive. In my next post, I'll summarize my findings from all of the previous posts taken together.

11 December 2015

Nakamura on the Grand Chess Tour

This week's selections for Video Friday were dominated by the London Chess Classic, aka the Grand Chess Tour. By coincidence, the first clip I watched was relevant to my post from a few days ago, Propaganda Is Awesome, where I learned that

The London event is hugely important because it represents the culmination of the the first serious effort to bring all the best chess players in the world together for a big-money contest that can signal a challenge to the World Championship cycle, which commences early next year with the Candidates Tournament.

Would GM Nakamura have anything to say about the London event being 'the most important chess tournament in decades'?

London Chess Classic 2015: Hikaru Nakamura (2:57) • 'Hikaru Nakamura on playing against Levon Aronian and (not) playing on his birthday.'

About 40 seconds into the clip, Peter Doggers of Chess.com asks,

Q: In the virtual standings of the Grand Chess Tour, you're actually on top. Do you feel you're getting some extra pressure? • A: I think if there wasn't this tournament coming up in March, maybe I would be feeling a lot of pressure to win this. The Candidate's Tournament is coming up in March and it's a thousand times more important than the London Chess Classic or the Grand Chess Tour. It really doesn't bother me, because it's just preparation for that. I'm warming up.

So much for propaganda.

10 December 2015

FIDE Anti-Cheating Guidelines

A few days after my recent post on the 2014 adoption of the FIDE Anti-Cheating Proposal, I discovered news about the document in 2015 ACP General Assembly and Poll. This included the '2. ACP Poll: Anti-Cheating Committee' and a mention that 'You can find the Anti-Cheating Guidelines here', which led to the FIDE Handbook:-

A. Administrative Subjects
09. FIDE Code of Ethics
11. Anti-Cheating Guidelines

As far as I can tell (what's subject 10?), the guidelines were published before summer 2015 and incorporate the same document approved near the end of 2014.

I've already discussed the most recent FIDE Congress, Abu Dhabi, September 2015, in several previous posts -- see, for example, The Resurrection of Agon (on this blog) and Whither the World Championship? (on my WCC blog) -- and the Anti-Cheating Guidelines also played an important role at Abu Dhabi. Here are selected bullets from the document 'FIDE Congress, Abu Dhabi, Executive Board, 7-8 September 2015, Minutes':-

5.3. Arbiters' Commission. • The Commission’s next project is to train the arbiters in anti-cheating regulations, in cooperation with the ACC. This will be mainly done by Internet seminars, so arbiters become familiar with the regulations and trained permanently on the Internet, to minimise the expenses.

5.7. Constitutional Commission. • The Executive Board approved the report of the Commission, included the indications concerning the appointment and functioning of Ethics Commission’s investigative chambers on cheating cases. The Executive Board, on the other hand, bearing in mind the technicalities of the subject of the report, recommends to organise a joint meeting of the chairmen of the Constitutional Commission, Ethics Commission, Anti-cheating Committee, with the presence of the FIDE officials, if available, aimed to finalise the publication and dissemination of a consolidated text on FIDE rules concerning anti-cheating.

5.20. Online Commission. • Mr. Stubenvoll said QC [Qualification Commission] in its meeting was against the proposal to have ratings for these online matches and the main reasons that we are not against the idea, the idea is very good but there are not current regulations and we have to be careful to avoid cheating and that the main principles.

5.21.1. FIDE World Cup 2015. • The event shall be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, 10 September – 5 October 2015. Mr. Makropoulos said everything was prepared there. The Anti-Cheating Committee is ready. Ms. Tsedenova has visited recently and checked all facilities.

That excerpt for '5.20. Online Commission' doesn't make any sense to me and would be worth a separate look, both for its anti-cheating direction and for its current status re online play. The two most important anti-cheating commission/committee reports from the minutes referred to annexes, excerpts from which I incorporate here.

5.16. Ethics Commission. • Annex 52 is Minutes of the meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Annex 52: Anti-Cheating • In terms of the FIDE Statutes, independent Investigatory Chambers may be appointed by the Presidential Board and charged to investigate and submit motivated reports to the Ethics Commission on specific cases or typologies of cases. The Presidential Board in Abu Dhabi will be asked to approve separate Investigatory Chambers for three specific cheating cases as well as a standing Anti-Cheating Investigatory Chamber. As a consequence, the Ethics Commission expects to receive at least three cheating-related cases for decision in the very near future. Of course everyone agrees that the nature of these cases calls for expeditious judging.

5.19. Anti-Cheating Committee. • Annex 46 is Minutes of the meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Annex 46: The Anti-Cheating Committee (ACC), the FIDE successor of the ACP/FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee, was set up following a decision by the Presidential Board held in Sochi on 8-9 November 2014. Nominations to the Committee have been finalized in December and the Committee started operation on January 1, 2015. Originally it was FIDE’s intention to grant the Committee a Commission status but the lack of a quorum on the final day of the FIDE General Assembly at Tromso caused FIDE lawyers to call for prudence.

Annex 46 also included the following bulleted paragraphs.

  • Ongoing investigations.
  • Computer-assisted fraud detection system and Internet-Based Screening Tool. ['hindered by substantial technical difficulties']
  • Developing a [web] site.
  • Tournament inspections.
  • Hindering external communication. ['hinder fraudulent transmissions during chess events']
  • Improving procedures.
  • AC Compliance form.
  • AC Guideline awareness.
  • Transmission delay.
  • From Guidelines to Regulations.
  • RCF Proposal. [Russian Chess Federation; see Annex 53]

There's so much more that I could discuss here, that I don't know where to start. Add to that the 2015 World Cup that was ongoing at the time of the FIDE Congress -- Unprecedented Anti-Cheating Measures At Baku World Cup (Chess.com) -- and it's clear that I have to come back to this subject another time.

The ACP Poll that I mentioned in the first paragraph asked 'How do you rate' various aspects of the anti-cheating program ('ACP’s involvement', 'the Anti-Cheating Guidelines', etc.). At this point I would answer 'Good' or 'Very good' to all aspects. But, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

08 December 2015

Propaganda Is Awesome

The Yahoo headline said, 'The most important chess tournament in decades is happening right now in London', and the link went to BusinessInsider.com. As you can see for yourself, the lead said,

The London Chess Classic is underway in England and will continue until Dec. 13. This is one of the chess world's premier events, usually attracting all

Attracting all the what? Mosquitos? No, the article continued,

attracting all the top players, but this year it's extra-special.

Why is it extra-special?

That's because it's the culmination of the Chess Grand Tour, a brand-new, high-level $1-million series of tournaments.

Oh, right, I had forgotten about the Grand Tour. Thanks for reminding me. What about the Candidates Tournaments of 2012 and 2014 -- weren't they extra-special?

The London event is hugely important because it represents the culmination of the the first serious effort to bring all the best chess players in the world together for a big-money contest that can signal a challenge to the World Championship cycle, which commences early next year with the Candidates Tournament. The winner of that event will face Carlsen to battle for the World Championship. The past two times around, it's been won by former World Champ Vishy Anand of India, who's also in the Grand Chess Tour field.

In fact, Anand won the last Candidates Tournament in 2014. Carlsen won in 2012, giving him the right to challenge Anand. But we soon learn that facts aren't the strong point of this article.

Many chess experts and observers consider the World Championship, as it's currently managed by chess's governing body, FIDE, to be a deeply corrupt affair that's controlled by the Russian chess elite and cronies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

We do? It is? In my previous post on the source, Business Insider Chess (May 2015), I mentioned that it was no longer in contention for the 'prize for bonehead chess reporting'. Maybe I spoke too quickly.

For the previous post on Yahoo's chess reporting, see Chess Is Awesome. If we're going to serve propaganda, let's keep it positive.

07 December 2015

TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies

After the TCEC Season 8 Superfinal ended (see Week 4 for a wrapup), I stepped through all 100 games looking for examples of misleading evaluations. These are games where at least one of the engines seems to have misevaluated the position. Thanks to the TCEC Archive Mode page, it's easy to review the games in quick succession.

I found 32 games (there's that number again!) where one side or the other evaluated the position as a strong possibility of a win, but the game eventually ended in a draw. I whittled that number down to six and made the following composite chart. It shows the TCEC evaluation graph for each of the six games.

For example, the first graph (game 8, Stockfish - Komodo) shows that around move 20, White evaluated the position to be +1.20 in its favor, while Black evaluated the position at +0.40 for White. The game eventually petered out to a draw.

The third graph shows the infamous game 22 (Stockfish had White in all even-numbered games) discussed in my post on Week 2, where White apparently blundered a certain win. The sixth graph shows the same game I used in my post on Week 3, where I noted,

White starting with an advantage of ~0.60 Pawns in the opening, eventually dropping to 0.00 in the endgame.

Many games followed that same pattern, although with different evaluations in the opening, some with only the ~0.20 advantage predicted by theory for the traditional start position.

A previous post in this series, Chess Engines - Advanced Evaluation, discussed the components of the evaluation function. We also know that A Pawn Equals 200 Rating Points (February 2013), thereby allowing us to use the calculated evaluation to predict the probability of a win. In game 8, the +1.20 advantage equates to an 80% chance of a win, but the game was nevertheless drawn. In another post I'll take a closer look at one or two of these games to determine why the engine(s) failed.

06 December 2015

Culling a Collection

This current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price started badly. As I was working my way down the list of top items, selecting recently sold items for my short list, I realized that there were fewer items than usual. On top of that, the items were mostly chess sets. While I'll feature a chess set from time to time, there is more to chess collecting than sets.

When I reached my price cutoff point faster than usual, with almost nothing on my short list, I went back to see if the item on the previous edition, Chess Charcoal Drawing, was listed. Sure enough, it was missing. Then I noticed that the results page carried a notice near the top, 'All > Toys & Hobbies > Games'. Somehow my usual query had been altered to restrict items to the referenced category. I eliminated the restriction and again had a full list that I could work with.

I noticed long ago that eBay is constantly changing the look-and-feel of its web interface, usually catering to the needs of mobile users. It became so annoying that a few years ago I stopped using the auction service except for the 'Top Chess Items' series. If eBay doesn't want laptop customers, that's their choice.

Back to my short list, it was now longer than usual. While analyzing the items I had flagged, I realized they were almost all for books and signed documents, all from the same seller. The following image shows the top items from that seller; left to right, top to bottom, the items are for Chigorin, Ruy Lopez, Em.Lasker, Philidor, Staunton, and Lasker again. There were many more after this.

I looked at the seller's feedback and noticed that one of the first items was for 'Bobby Fischer Uncensored – Limited paperback edition'. The item's description started,

In 2009, I published Bobby Fischer Uncensored. At the suggestion of a friend I had a small number of books printed in paperback. It is the only time I ever did it. I still have a few copies left that I am now offering. Here is what Edward Winter had to say about the book when it was published:

"One of the most extraordinary of all chess books has just been published: Bobby Fischer Uncensored by David and Alessandra DeLucia (Darien, 2009). A richly-illustrated 394-page hardback of supreme quality, it presents hundreds of items from David DeLucia’s collection of Fischer material, including photographs, game-scores, correspondence, contracts, books and ephemera."

I've featured DeLucia’s collection several times on this blog, including Three Fischer Games Uncensored (October 2010). Looks like the world's top chess collector is/was selling a portion of his collection.

04 December 2015

Trafalgar Magic

With 860 views, 55 faves, 135 comments, and counting -- something is happening here. It's an entry in a contest, Contest #45 "Games & Sports" (other chess entries, too),

The fun of Games and Sports is what we're looking for in this challenge. Do you have a favorite sport? Or an old game tucked away in a closet or attic that would make unique art? Maybe some childhood game brings back special memories for you. Or maybe you even have a child or grandchild's game that could be turned into spectacular art.

and the numbers must be other contestants checking out the competition.

Checkmate © Flickr user abstractartangel77 under Creative Commons.

Despite its originality, the piece looked vaguely familiar. Then it hit me: Giant Chess in Trafalgar Square. The real magic is in the original.

03 December 2015

FIDE Anti-Cheating Proposal

I ended a recent post, Ethics in Chess Politics - Stories (November 2015), with a brief discussion of an alleged cheating case from earlier this year:-

'Case 3/2015: Complaint by Michaela Sandu against Natalia Zhukova and 14 other players' [...] A proper look at this case should discuss the evolving relationship between the Ethics Commission and the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee. I'll save that for another time.

That evolving relationship is not so easy to pin down, at least not for an outsider. In June 2014, the FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee released a proposal ('Annex 34'; see FIDE > Minutes, '2014 Tromso Commissions Reports' for copies of FIDE working documents) in preparation for the FIDE Congress at Tromso.

The document was discussed during the General Assembly at that Congress (August 2014), where the minutes tell us,

5.5. Anti-Cheating Committee • The Anti-Cheating Commission was formed because FIDE was faced with much criticism about cheating, particularly in youth competitions. We spoke to many Commissions and we agreed with them. There are points that are particularly important: Firstly, there are two organs that undertake these matters, there is an investigation chamber which will take the details and decide whether it should go to the Ethics Commissions for sentencing. [...]

There is Ken Regan’s technical system which finds out cases where the player who usually plays at 2200 rating finds out that the same player suddenly plays at 2900 level. I believe the statistics prove this enough for conviction. Our lawyer and Mr. Rivello did not accept this and said we needed more evidence. [Discussion] On the final day, Mr. Israel Gelfer asked to confirm that the report was approved. Mr. Nigel Freeman replied in the negative as there was no quorum and despite the absence of objections, the vote is needed.

I discussed the lack of a quorum in a post from last year, FIDE General Assembly Derailed (October 2014). After the same Congress, the Anti-Cheating Committee (ACC) released minutes of its own meeting ('Annex 73'; 'FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee Meeting, - 8 August 2014, Tromso, Norway'), with an attachment containing an updated proposal. FIDE doesn't use a document control system, but this version can be identified by its 'Section 1 - Commission Structure', which was Section 5 in the previous version.

Later FIDE issued a Press Release: 2014 4th quarter FIDE PB, saying

2014 4th quarter FIDE Presidential Board meeting; 8 November 2014; Sochi, Russia [...] The Presidential Board approved the new proposal of the Anti-cheating Commission and accordingly the new permanent Commission is now established and will start working immediately.

In fact, the lack of a quorum prevented FIDE from establishing a new permanent commission, so that action is awaiting final approval. As for the ACC document, it will have a tremendous impact on how high level tournaments are run and deserves a separate look.

01 December 2015

December 1965 'On the Cover'

Just a few months after Pal Benko's double billing in the August 1965 'On the Cover' -- for a tied first place in the U.S. Open and a clear first in the Eastern Open -- he was back again. But hang on: didn't we already see the 'first American Open' earlier this year? No, that was the first National Open, seen in May 1965 'On the Cover'. The year 1965 was a year of firsts.

Left: 'First American Open Champion'
Right: 'Caissic Fabulous Stroebeck...has another Chess Feature to be noted...It put out the only known Chess Money'

Chess Life

The first American Open, played at the Del Mar Club in Santa Monica, California drew an impressive entry of 124 players on November 25-28. Winner, with an unequalled 7-1, was Grandmaster Pal Benko who thus climaxed a string of victories in California tournaments before returning east for the United States Championship. Benko led the tournament all the way, yielding draws only to Larry Evans and Dr. Anthony Saidy. Among Benko's victims were Dr. Erich Marchand, Irving Rivise, Ray Martin, and Tibor Weinberger.

Chess Review

Those of our readers who have also read from that fascinating chess raconteur Irving Cheney or simply from long-past issues of CHESS REVIEW will know of chess-fabled Stroebeck. Here then is another item of Stroebeckiana. This, Professor M. S. Zitzman of West Chester, Pennsylvania, tells us, is the only "chess money" ever printed. The faces of the notes appear on the cover, the reverse below. Those of you who can read German and have good magnifying glasses may follow the inscriptions. Our interest lies in the chess designs of this unique currency, which may not get you on even a blacked-out subway train but does carry happy connotations for chess spielers, fans and kibitzers.

A game showing a loss by M. Zitzman was on page 377 of the same issue of CR. Chessgames.com has a page for Manfred Zitzman 'of Reading, Pennsylvania'.


Later: 'When Black Is White':

Several readers, including one all the way from South Africa, A.R.Goldstein, have commented on the colors of the squares of the Stroebeck boards (December 1965). The lower right-hand squares on the cover are dark colored. The fact. is that, while to a chessplayer the boards are wrong, to a printer, photo-engraver and to most publishers, they are not. So also for bookbinders. They regard the color of the paper or of the binding of a book as "neutral" and so "White." It is certain that the engraver and printer of currency, say of a greenback, would regard that green as "White."

Chess Review, March 1966

30 November 2015

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal Week 4

In the previous post, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal Week 3, we left Komodo and Stockfish, our cyberchess warriors, with an 'overall score of +5-1=69'. During the intervening week, Komodo added +3-1=16 to the score, bringing the total to +8-2=85 after 95 games.

A little later Chessdom.com announced, Komodo is triple champion, wins the Top Chess Engine Championship 2015! (*), adding, 'Komodo secured the victory with score 50.5 – 44.5'. The rules stipulated,

If the match is theoretically won for one side before game 100, the match will still continue until all 100 games have been played.

so the two engines slugged it out for another +1-0=4, Komodo scoring the lone decisive point. This was an epic match, worthy of inclusion in the long list of such matches stretching back to 1834 Labourdonnais - McDonnell and including the five 1980s-1990 Kasparov - Karpov clashes. It was a real treat for me to switch on my second laptop at any time of the day or night and watch the two antagonists tirelessly clubbing each other with ideas and moves that I can't pretend to understand.

Congratulations to everyone involved in producing this unique event. The live event page, tcec.chessdom.com/live, lists under 'About TCEC',

Special thanks: Martin Thoresen, Marit Thoresen, Paolo Casaschi, Matthias Gemuh and Jeremy Bernstein.

with an additional 'Thank you' to a long list of individuals:-

Marit Thoresen, Anton Mihailov, Paolo Casaschi, Matthias Gemuh, Jeremy Bernstein, Ivan Anev, GM Ioannis Papadopoulos, FM Dennis Monokroussos, Santiago Méndez, Peter Petrov, Nelson Hernandez, Adam Hair, Mark Uniacke, Amir Ban, Miguel Ballicora, Roberto Munter, Robert Houdart, Lukas Cimiotti, Don Dailey, Mark Lefler, Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, Ubaldo Andrea Farina, Marco Costalba, Gary Linscott, Jon Dart, Raimund Heid, L-Å Lander (LaRzZa), Tord Romstad, Giancarlo Delli Colli, Richard Pijl, Ben-Hur Carlos Vieira Langoni Junior, Vadim Demichev, Johannes Zwanzger, Robert Hyatt, Onno Garms, Daniel Shawul, Engin Uestuen, Jim Ablett, Izak Pretorius, Sam Hamilton, Edsel Apostol, Martijn Grimme, Hans van der Zijden, Andrei Olsen, Dean Ellis, Eivind Skifjeld, Paul Frigge, Jon Erik Braenden, Kevin Plant, Frederic Labertit, Alcides Schulz, James I. Hymas, Julien Marcel, Dan Schmidt, Enrico Fagiuoli, Jeffrey Hall, Edwin Meiners, Bill Rust, Bram Mourik, Øystein Schønning-Johansen, Brian Richardson, Kim Burcham, John Rood and everyone who has donated to support TCEC.

(*) At some point, probably between Season 7 and Season 8, TCEC came to mean 'Top Chess Engine Championship' rather than the name 'Thoresen CEC' used in previous competitions. Whatever the name, a footnote to the tcec.chessdom.com/live page adds, 'TCEC is powered by pgn4web and cutechess-cli'.

Once again, congratulations to all!


A curiosity of the last week was game 83, which was played twice. Komodo was winning the game, which was restarted after the TCEC server crashed. The moment was captured and recorded in chat accompanied by the following image.

'Ray Fowler: Here is the position of 83a at the server crash. Notice that the bishops were gone:


Komodo eventually won the replayed game.

29 November 2015

Chess Curriculum - ChessKid/Chess.com

As so often happens, the first shall be last, and the series within a series that started with Chess Curriculum Inventory (June 2015), ends with the first item on the initial short list. From the first post in the series, Chess Curriculum (April 2015) :-

No.1: ChessKid.com's Curriculum! • ChessKid.com is a spinoff of Chess.com and the download link leads directly to that site. The downloaded ZIP file creates five sections with a total of 20 lessons. The introduction says,

With the ChessKid.com Curriculum we set out to create an original, creative and extremely "kid friendly" way of learning the game of chess! While acquiring knowledge of the rules, basic fundamentals, as well as advanced strategies and tactics – coaches and beginning chess players alike will enjoy working through these lessons.

From the inventory:-

No.1: ChessKid.com Curriculum - Welcome & Introduction • Daniel Rensch, Co-Director of Content and Professional Relations • 12 pages (Introduction.pdf) • ChessKid_Curriculum.zip (-> Directory:ChessKid_Curriculum -> 5 Subdirectories = 22 PDF documents)

The last curriculum to be considered is also the most extensive. While I take the time to look through it in more depth, here's a recent video showing its author in an entertaining attempt to solve chess puzzles live.

23 Chess Puzzles In 23 Minutes (36:44) • 'IM Daniel Rensch tries to solve 23 daily Chess.com puzzles in 23 minutes -- can he beat the clock?'

27 November 2015

Chess Bloopers

Many of these clips are classics and it's a real treat finding them all in a single video.

Hilarious Chess Moments Collection (13:56) • 'Kasparov, Carlsen, Anand, Ivanchuk, Svidler, Karpov, Spassky, Korchnoi, Grischuk...'

12.730 views and counting -- everyone loves this stuff. What's not to like?

26 November 2015

Ethics in Chess Politics - Stories

My previous post, Ethics in Chess Politics - Cases, listed nine recent cases considered by the FIDE Ethics Commission, all involving chess politics in some form. In this post, I'll look at the original stories behind those cases.


'Case 5/2014: Complaint of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov against Ignatius Leong and Garry Kasparov regarding agreements' and 'Case 7/2014: Complaint of the Philippines and Kenya Chess Federations against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov'

Both stories received widespread coverage during last year's FIDE presidential election. The decision of the Ethics Committee on the first (Case 5/2014: 'Respondents found guilty of breach of par 2.1 of FIDE Code of Ethics') received considerable coverage this year. For example, Peter Doggers' Chess.com report, Kasparov, Leong Found Guilty Of Breaching FIDE Code Of Ethics (September 2015), gave a summary of the entire affair which broke early in 2014.

The story behind the second decision (Case 7/2014: 'Respondent found to be not guilty and case dismissed') is not so obvious. A post on Kasparov2014.com, Kasparov's campaign site, blandly titled Open Letter from Continental Candidates, helps make the connection.

The complaint to the FIDE Ethics Commission regarding the Agon scandal submitted by Githinji Hinga of Kenya and Prospero Pichay of Philippines is attached herewith.

An accompanying attachment, Agon-Complaint-6-June-2014.pdf, now gives a '404 Not Found' message, but there are plenty of web reports from last year. See, for example, another Chess.com report by Peter Doggers titled, Leaked Agreement Between Ilyumzhinov & Paulson Suggests Conflict of Interest (January 2014).


'Case 8/2014: Complaint by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov against Garry Kasparov regarding an unsigned / proposed agreement for the support of the Salvadorian Chess Federation' and 'Case 10/2014: Complaint of Garry Kasparov against Margaret Murphy, Darcy Lima and Bharat Singh regarding alleged irregularities in Electoral Commission'

These two cases received less coverage from the chess press, but were also related to the 2014 FIDE election. The first (Case 8/2014: 'complaint withdrawn by Mr Ilyumzhinov') is mentioned on the English Chess Forum in a long thread titled Kasparov vs Ilyumzhinov: the FIDE Presidency battle begins (page 48, May 2014).

The corruption scandals escalate with another breaking story of Kasparov via Mig Greengard allegedly trying to buy the votes of Latin American countries (specific mention is made of El Salvador) for $30,000 each.

The second (Case 10/2014: 'complaint held to be not admissible') was reported on Chess.com by Mike Klein in Delegate Issues Deepen for FIDE Elections (July 2014), referencing the three FIDE representatives listed on the complaint.

Every federation gets exactly one vote at the 85th FIDE Congress, but who exactly gets to represent each federation is not as simple as it seems. The battle to select or recognize certain delegates represents a back-channel method for each candidate to improve his chances of election.


'Case 13/2014: Complaint of European Chess Federation against S Danailov, V Sakotic and S Stoisavljenic' and 'Case 14/2014: Complaint of Montenegro Chess Federation against V Sakotic and S Stoisavljenic'

The next two cases involved the 2013 European Youth Championships in Montenegro. In Organization of EYCC in Budva broke the law, authorities said (March 2014), Chessdom.com reported,

Montenegro Directorate of Youth and Sport, a government body, inspected the documents and accounts of 13 sport federations and 7 clubs. The inspection found that the Montenegro Chess Federation broke the law during the organization of 2013 European Youth Chess Championships in Budva, "Sahovska Hronika" quoted the Montenegrin News Agency MINA.

The report mentioned European Chess Union (ECU) President Silvio Danailov and Montenegro Chess Federation President (also ECU Executive Director) Vladimir Sakotic. ECU Secretary General was Sava Stoisavljevic. Since both cases had the same status -- 'complaint held admissible and respondents appealed to CAS; appeal pending' -- there's not much more to be said at this time.


'Case 4/2015: Complaint by K Georgiev, S Stoichkov and M Stoynev against Bulgarian Chess Federation' and 'Case 5/2015: Complaint by Bulgarian Chess Federation against Z Azmaiparashvili and T Tsorbatzoglou'

Two more ethics cases involve the Bulgarian Chess Federation. The first (Case 4/2015: 'complaint held admissible and matter awaits exchange of statements regarding the merits') was reported by Chessdom.com: Bulgarian Chess Federation in deep trouble, investigation by the Chief prosecutor announced at a press conference (June 2015); and Chess.com: Bulgarian Chess Federation Bans Whistleblowers, Danailov To Run For FIDE President (June 2015).

Last Thursday, Chess.com reported on a recent press conference where the Bulgarian Chess Federation was accused of fraud and corruption by GM Kiril Georgiev, Metodi Stoinev and Simeon Stoichkov. On Friday, during a management board meeting, all three were banned from the federation.

The second (Case 5/2015: 'decision regarding admissibility held over until outcome of CAS appeal in case 13/2014 [as above]') is on Danailov's web site, Danailov-for-president.com: BCF complaint vs. Zurab Azmaiparashvili and Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou regarding flagrant violations of the FIDE Code of Ethics (July 2015).

Bulgarian Chess Federation sent to FIDE Ethics Commission complaint vs. current ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili and ECU Secretary General Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou regarding flagrant violations of the FIDE Code of Ethics.

The CAS appeal was reported by Chess.com: More Clashes Between FIDE, Silvio Danailov (May 2015).

Danailov has appealed to a ruling from the FIDE Ethics Commission at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. In the fall of 2014, the Ethics Commission had received complaints from the European Chess Union (under a new administration since August 2014) and the Montenegro Chess Federation concerning the organization of the 2013 European Youth Chess Championship in Budva, Montenegro. [...] The Ethics Commission "has neither direct nor indirect (extended) jurisdiction to resolve on the issues raised in the complaints, it has no instruments to adjudicate on them..."

The CAS is generally the last stop in FIDE legal matters.


'Case 3/2015: Complaint by Michaela Sandu against Natalia Zhukova and 14 other players'

The final 'political' case is a twist on the typical charge of cheating and is in process (Case 3/2015: 'for false accusations of cheating -- matter awaits appointment of Investigatory Chamber'). In Chess championship rocked by thinly-veiled allegations of cheating (June 2015), Malcolm Pein of Telegraph.co.uk reported,

The European Women’s Championship at Chakvi in Georgia was marred by some thinly-veiled allegations of cheating made against the early leader WGM Mihaela Sandu of Romania, who started the tournament with five straight wins.

A proper look at this case should discuss the evolving relationship between the Ethics Commission and the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee. I'll save that for another time.

24 November 2015

Ethics in Chess Politics - Cases

The topic of ethics -- or lack of it -- is a growth industry. Everywhere you look someone is accusing someone else of some sort of ethical slip and international chess is no exception. In the nearly two years since I last looked at the FIDE Ethics Commission in Ethics and Cheating (December 2013), the commission has not stood still.

As I recently mentioned in The Resurrection of Agon,

A few months ago I prepared a short series on Spectating the 86th FIDE Congress (September 2015), with closer looks at two topics of particular interest: Chess in Schools and the Journalist Commission. FIDE has just released a new batch of documents.

Those new documents include two annexes of particular interest:-

46. Minutes of Anti-Cheating Committee.
52. Minutes of Ethics Commission.

For some reason Annex 52, covering 23 cases involving ethical accusations, has been released as a scanned document. It starts like this...

Annex 52

...In order to make some sense of its terse, legalistic content, I'll start by transcribing (that's a fancy term that means running OCR software) its summaries of the most interesting cases. Then in another post I'll match those cases back to reports that documented the original ethical question. These cases are often reported in the chess press without a follow-up, which some might consider an ethical lapse in itself.

For me the most interesting cases are those that involve some sort of political angle. For example, here is closure of an infamous case involving computer chess that I looked at last month in The Rybka - ICGA Ethics Judgement. Annex 52 informs,

Case 2/2012: Complaint of Mr V Rajlich and C Whittington against International Computer Games Association (ICGA) regarding alleged ethical breaches during internal disciplinary procedure -- Respondent found guilty and sanctioned with a warning (judgment prepared by Roberto Rivello).

Here are other famous, infamous, and not-so-famous cases involving chess politics.

Case 5/2014: Complaint of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov against Ignatius Leong and Garry Kasparov regarding agreements for cooperation in the FIDE elections and the payment of consideration in exchange for written pledges or proxies -- Respondents found guilty of breach of par 2.1 of FIDE Code of Ethics; procedure for sanctioning pending.

Case 7/2014: Complaint of the Philippines and Kenya Chess Federations against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov alleging the FIDE President no longer inspires the necessary confidence or has become unworthy of trust -- Respondent found to be not guilty and case dismissed.

Case 8/2014: Complaint by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov against Garry Kasparov regarding an unsigned / proposed agreement for the support of the Salvadorian Chess Federation of Mr Kasparov in the FIDE elections and chess development in El Salvador -- complaint withdrawn by Mr Ilyumzhinov.

Case 10/2014: Complaint of Garry Kasparov against Margaret Murphy, Darcy Lima and Bharat Singh regarding alleged irregularities in Electoral Commission -- complaint held to be not admissible.

Case 13/2014: Complaint of European Chess Federation against S Danailov, V Sakotic and S Stoisavljevic regarding the organisation of the 2013 European Youth Championships in Montenegro -- complaint held admissible and respondents appealed to CAS; appeal pending.

Case 14/2014: Complaint of Montenegro Chess Federation against V Sakotic and S Stoisavljevic regarding the organisation of the 2013 European Youth Championships in Montenegro -- complaint held admissible and respondents appealed to CAS; appeal pending.

Case 3/2015: Complaint by Michaela Sandu against Natalia Zhukova and 14 other players for false accusations of cheating -- matter awaits appointment of Investigatory Chamber.

Case 4/2015: Complaint by K Georgiev, S Stoichkov and M Stoynev against Bulgarian Chess Federation for failure of fundamental justice in internal disciplinary proceedings -- complaint held admissible and matter awaits exchange of statements regarding the merits.

Case 5/2015: Complaint by Bulgarian Chess Federation against Z Azmaiparashvili and T Tsorbatzoglou (ECU) for alleged interference in BCF's affairs -- decision regarding admissibility held over until outcome of CAS appeal in case 13/2014.

Next post: the stories behind these cases.

23 November 2015

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal Week 3

My first post about the TCEC Season 8 Superfinal in Progress closed with the comment, 'It is, after all, showing us the future of chess.' My second post, Superfinal Week 2, noted that the then-current score, with Komodo leading Stockfish, was '+4-1=41, with 54 more games to be played'.

During the intervening week, another 29 games have been played, with a score of +1-0=28, the sole win again for Komodo. That gives an overall score of +5-1=69. At this point it's safe to conclude that the future of chess is a snoozefest.

What's going on? The following composite chart shows some basic TCEC statistics from game 74, although it could have been taken from almost any of the drawn games.

Top: Evaluation, Time usage, Depth
Bottom: Speed, Tablebase hits

The first graph ('Evaluation') shows White starting with an advantage of ~0.60 Pawns in the opening, eventually dropping to 0.00 in the endgame. The third graph ('Depth') shows the principal variation ('PV' in chess engine jargon) consistently at ~40 ply, i.e. 20 moves for each player. The fifth graph ('TB hits') shows the number of times an engine reached a six-piece position that can be looked up in a tablebase. TB hits were registered before move 10 was reached in this game.

In other words, the pattern of a typical game is start with a position that favors White, trade off most of the pieces, reach a known draw. How much of this is caused by the choice of opening? The 'Opening Book' tab on the TCEC Archive Mode page informs,

Stage 1 will be bookless: every engine will compete from the starting position. We’re not worried about repetitive openings; with a good mix of engines we don’t expect that to be much of a problem.

Stage 2 [...] will have a double round-robin format, but this time we will use a two-move book

Stage 3, the qualifying round for the Superfinal, will revert to the format we’ve used in recent seasons: an eight-move book

Superfinal [...] will use 50 positions selected by our guest IM Erik Kislik, of which 33 are his own and the remaining 17 are made by [Nelson Hernandez, aka Cato].

This season, as you can see, we’ve decided to cover more numbers on the roulette table. Bookless, short-book, medium-book advocates should all be satisfied that their cause is at least being represented and that the responsibility for selecting these positions is distributed among multiple individuals, thus mitigating possible biases.

For the superfinal, possible opening biases have been 'mitigated', except perhaps the bias of the experts doing the selection. Chess engine competitions, whether man-machine or engine-to-engine, have always been skewed by the unseen human hands creating the engine's opening book. Isn't there another way? How about offering the engine an incentive to take a risk that a human wouldn't take.

22 November 2015

Chess Charcoal Drawing

In the previous edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, titled A Lot of Live Auctions, I noted,

When I started the series on 'Top eBay Chess Items', there were no live auctions. Now they pop up every fortnight and are always good candidates for the final post.

I could have said the same for the present auction. I had two live auction candidates on my short list and picked the item pictured below because it looked less commercial.

The eBay auction was titled 'Russian Charcoal Drawing -– Children Playing Chess Lot 422; Part of a live auction event'. It sold for US $1750 after 21 bids starting at $400.

The description added,

Russian charcoal drawing on paper of six children gathered in a field, two of the children are playing chess; signed lower left in Cyrillic script; in excellent condition with no rips, tears, foxing, staining or visible repairs. 26 in. high x 28 in. wide. • Seller's Estimate: USD 800 - 1,200

Out of curiosity I clicked through to the eBay page, About Live Auctions, where I learned,

We’re opening the doors of traditional auction houses, giving global shoppers a new way to bid on world-class art and collectibles. This is the classic auction house experience, with an innovative twist.

I should have looked into that when I first encountered live auctions.

20 November 2015

Petrosian's 'Dining Room'?

I can't explain why I like this photo. Because it's a tribute to a former World Champion? Because it looks like a typical chess club of yesteryear? Because it's perfect for a serious tournament? All of the above? Something else? Like I said, I can't explain it.

Tigran Petrosian Chess House, Yerevan © Flickr user Rob Schofield under Creative Commons.

The caption added,

House of Chess Players, Yerevan
Architect: Zhanna Meshcheryakova
Built: 1970

On top of typical tags like Yerevan, Armenia, Russian, and architecture, the photo had more tags like modernist, concrete, and brutalist. A Flickr search on tags=brutalist+chess brings up a few related photos by the same photographer, who carries a '[PRO]' designation next to his name. His personal site, Rob Schofield Photography, has a category titled 'Brutalist/Social Housing' that explains the subject, although the photos there are far less charming than the Flickr chess photos. A few years ago, I did an eBay post, Brutalism in Chess, which might be worth exploring some day.

While I was preparing this current post, I discovered that Flickr tags could be combined on search, like tags=petrosian+chess. More interesting than that search is tags=art+chess, which delivers all sorts of ideas for Caissart-style posts.

My previous Flickr post, It's All About Pattern Recognition, introduced the subject of gray & white tags. For this current photo, the Flickr robots suggested that the photo be tagged 'dining room'.

19 November 2015

The Resurrection of Agon

A few months ago I prepared a short series on Spectating the 86th FIDE Congress (September 2015), with closer looks at two topics of particular interest: Chess in Schools and the Journalist Commission. FIDE has just released a new batch of documents -- 86th FIDE Congress: Executive Board Minutes and Annexes (November 2015) -- where a cursory inspection shows the first 30 annexes were available in September and the rest are new.

One of the most interesting documents for me is 'Annex 54: Report by Ilya Merenzon, CEO of AGON Limited'. While this will eventually become fodder for the next edition of Whither the World Championship?, one section is relevant on a broader level.

2. The Financial Times and Chess • We have agreed that the Financial Times will publish an annual section called ‘Chess and Business’. The first installment will be published on October 8, 2015, a day before opening of the Rapid and Blitz Championship. The section will have 4 pages of interviews and editorials about chess and how it affects global culture. Until chess, the newspaper had only one section dedicated to sport - it was Formula 1.

Presence in the Financial Times is really good for chess, as the elite audience of over 1 million people who read the Financial Times see that chess is a major part of the global business life. It’s also good for sponsors who support chess and can place advertisements in a section dedicated to the sport they support and love. Once the first installment is published, we’ll send it to all members of the Presidential Board.

The rest of us will have to make do with the headlines.

The annual section for 2015 is available on the web at ft.com > reports > Chess. Its introduction 'IN THIS REPORT' explains, 'The latest technological revolution has provided big online opportunities for players, fans and businesses, as the worldwide web proves to be a natural home for the venerable game.'

The 11 articles are only available via a paywall. I'm not an FT subscriber, but I might have a trial subscription by the time you read this post. In the meantime, a typically British review is available online at Hip To Be Square (KingpinChess.net).

Back to Annex 54, there's a second section of general interest.

6. Media site • Sponsors have been demanding digital presence within chess, it was their absolute requirement. To address the issue, Agon (in cooperation with FIDE) has developed a media and chess broadcasting site, www.worldchess.com, which will feature exclusive broadcasts, ratings, events (all federations will have a capability to add their events and sell tickets and publicize their events globally).

That domain, worldchess.com, has been active for a few months now and the Agon report to FIDE informs, 'Dylan Loeb MacClain [sic], chief chess reporter for the New York Times, is the WorldChess.com's editor-in-chief'. One of the site's contributors is The Chess Mind blog, as in This Week's World Chess Column: In Praise of Amateur Players.

After a promising launch in 2012, Agon stumbled badly. How will it fare during its second life?


For another recent post about Agon, see 2016 Candidates, Moscow.

17 November 2015

'Ask Marilyn'

From Marilyn vos Savant's Parade.com column of 14 November, Double Standards Among Chess Players...

'A.C. in Brooklyn, New York, writes: • I recently played a game of chess against a woman in my chess club, and she defeated me in front of many of her girlfriends. As you probably know, the object of the game is to trap the opponent’s King so that it cannot escape -- this is known as "checkmating" the King or simply "mating" the King.

'As my opponent was closing in on my King, I started to feel very embarrassed. I was in a helpless position. Then she did it -- she moved her Queen up against my King, executing the "mating." I was blushing in embarrassment when she declared, "Checkmate," and I conceded defeat in front of her cheering friends.

'One of her friends said, "Her female piece, her Queen, executed the mating... Oh, yes!" Again, I felt very embarrassed. I also felt as if all women had defeated me. Do you have any thoughts about this?'

...This would make a suitable question for the final exam of 'Chess Journalism 101'.

Q: Write a one page essay on whether you think this story is true. Explain your reasoning.

For more about the author see, Marilyn vos Savant [Wikipedia], 'known for having the highest recorded IQ according to the Guinness Book of Records'.

16 November 2015

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal Week 2

A week ago in TCEC Season 8 Superfinal in Progress, I noted

Komodo won the first game of the match and currently leads +2-0=14, with an average of five games played per day.

Since then the world's top two engines, Komodo and Stockfish, have played another 30 games with a result of +2-1=27 in Komodo's favor. Komodo scored both of its wins with Black, bringing the total score of the match to +4-1=41, with 54 more games to be played.

The week's most memorable game was undoubtedly no.22, where Stockfish seemed to throw away a huge advantage with White in the following position.

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 22
Stockfish - Komodo

After 63...Qd6-Qf6

The position was discussed at length in the FishCooking forum (see my recent post Chess Engines : FishCooking for background), especially From +26.13 to 0.00 in two moves (11 November).

What happened in game 22 of the final? Stockfish's evaluation was steeply raising, until at move 62 it evaluated its position as +26.13. Komodo agreed to a degree by evaluating it at +4.22. Then two moves later both evals had dropped to 0.00, and it ended in draw. Rather unusual, I would say.

The post included a link to the original game, TCEC Archive game 22, where the moves and evaluations are preserved for posterity. The incident just goes to show -- in case there is any doubt -- that even the strongest chess engines in the world can have trouble coping with the depths of chess.

15 November 2015

Chess Curriculum - ChessCafe/ChessEDU

Continuing with Chess Curriculum Inventory, after Chess Curriculum - FIDE II, we come to the last title identified in the preliminary survey, described in Chess Curriculum No.6 (June 2015). The title page says, 'ChessEdu.org, White Belt Chess Curriculum, by Mark C. Donlan', introducing the 'ChessEdu.org Belt System' as a series of colored belts: white, blue, purple, brown, black, and red. The belts are defined at the beginning of the document, e.g.

White Belt • The white belt signifies the beginning of the students journey to chess mastery. The student will learn the basics of chess along with the following material:
1) knows the number of squares on the chessboard.
2) knows the number of light squares.
3) knows the number of dark squares.
4) knows to place the board so that there is a light square on the right.
5) knows the definition of ranks.
48) knows which direction the pieces move in a diagram.
49) knows how to name each square in algebraic notation.
Blue Belt • A blue belt signifies that the student knows the basic rules and is ready to progress from beginner to novice level. At this level the student will learn the following material:
1) abides by the touch-move rule.
2) knows what a "fork" is.
3) knows what a "pin" is.
4) knows what a "skewer" is.

And so on. I start to stumble on the requirements for the brown belt -- 'Alekhine's Gun', 'Anastasia's mate', etc. -- although my rating should qualify me for the black belt. The red belt is reserved for players with the FIDE titles GM & IM. The white belt curriculum covers the Chessboard and the Chessmen, developed with a series of puzzles like the following from page 28.

Early credit is given to a trio of heavyweights in chess education.

The ChessEdu.org belt system is based on the adult Brazilian Jiujitsu belt system with inspiration from Pandolfini's Diagnostic Chess Checklist, ChessCafe.com January 2014, and input from NM Dan Heisman, NM Bruce Pandolfini, and GM Karsten Mueller.

In case there is any doubt, the system is for classroom use.

Introduction • The ChessEdu.org curriculum is designed to use chess as a tool for teaching problem-solving, creative thinking, and abstract reasoning in a classroom setting, be it in a public or private school, home school or other institution, or for personal use.

While the entire document appears to hold together very well, I have some doubts about the concept. First, a 200 page document that introduces only the board and pieces risks serious overkill. I can understand a belt system for a martial art where beginners might easily hurt themselves, but we're talking about a board game here.

Second, before embarking on the white belt program I would like some assurance that material for the subsequent belts -- at least the next two -- is available. I could find no mention of these on the Chessedu.org site. That site is anchored to Chesscafe.com, which 'has fallen on hard times' according to a post titled Chesscafe.com 2015 that I wrote earlier this year. How much of an 'ongoing concern' are we dealing with here?

13 November 2015

'Taking Great Pride in Your Work'

For a still photo of the finished sculpture and a report on the event,

Today AKQA and the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity celebrated the 10th year of the annual Future Lions competition around the theme "Make Your Move". The contest was founded in 2005 and for the past decade has challenged student creatives to connect an audience to a brand in a way that wasn't possible three years ago.

see AKQA Announces Winners of 2015 Future Lions, Advertising Age.

Giant Chess Pieces by Sculpture Studios (13:29) • 'Large chess pieces created for AKQA, for the Future Lions 2015 event in Cannes, France.'

The video's description adds,

Carved from polystyrene / styrofoam, moulded and cast in glass fibre. Airbrushed and artworked to resemble white marble. Project included two Knights, two Pawns, and a lion centre piece as the King.

For more about the studio that created the pieces, see SculptureStudios.co.uk. If you're a Pink Floyd fan, see the Youtube clip Resurrection of the Division Bell from the same studio.

12 November 2015

Millionaire Open II - Chess Drum

Every so often a chess blog latches on to a topic and gives it a personalized coverage to a depth that you just don't see anywhere else. We saw this last month in Some Numbers for 'Pawn Sacrifice', where a long series of posts by Jim West On Chess tracked the film over more than five years.

In my previous post, Millionaire Open II - Chess Life, I gave some basic information about this unique event, including when it took place: 8-12 October 2015. (Unlike most chess tournaments, the final day fell on a Monday.) For more about the tournament -- much more -- I'll hand the microphone to The Chess Drum. After the site/blog covered the 2014 Millionaire Open in depth, it turned its attention to the 2015 event.

The Drum's coverage began with a series on various qualifying tournaments.

Regular posts preceding the event kept the conversation alive.

Much of the ongoing excitement can be found in the comments to the main post about the event. The subsequent posts provide a wrapup.

If that coverage isn't enough, there is even more on official resources flagged in the tournament's 'Agenda':-

Everyone is asking if there will be a third Millionaire Open. The Drum's last post, 'Reflections', concluded,

The chess community should heap effusive praise onto Amy and Maurice for their effort. While not perfect, there were great takeaways from the event and certainly lessons learned. GM Maurice Ashley continues to be a lead innovator in chess and is not afraid to try new ideas. This means MC3 will be stronger… if it should happen.

It will only happen if there is a grassroots support. No longer can you watch from the sidelines and expect chess to have its day in the spotlight. The current investment model is unsustainable and if another model is not found, we can go back to playing in weekend tournaments where the total prize fund may be $2,000. Let’s ride the wave of this chess renaissance. Let’s make MC3 happen!

It just confirms what we already know: Money makes the world go round.