31 March 2015

Putin's Horse

By now everyone must have seen the Youtube video The Daily Show - Chess News Roundup (148.315 views and counting). At 187 seconds into the clip, an image flashed by so quickly that I had to rewind to make sense of it.

'We all remember that famous photo!'

Twitter.com/TheDailyShow: 'Tonight! Chess: it's more than just a crappy musical!'

30 March 2015

Battering the Gruenfeld

Continuing with the world class engine-to-engine competition TCEC Season 7, I discovered in the previous post Komodo - Stockfish Superfinal Openings, that the Gruenfeld Defense, Exchange Variation (D85) was one of only two hand-picked openings (out of 32) that had been battered +2-0=0. Since I'm an occasional Gruenfeld player myself, this is particularly worrying, and I decided to look at the two games in more depth.

Explaining a game between two engines is a nearly impossible task. If you have ever looked at a long tablebase endgame, the two sides seem to maneuver back-and-forth randomly for move after move until a decisive position appears on the board. That is how most engine-to-engine games look to me, so I'll just mention a few key positions.

The first eight moves for both sides were dictated by the organizers: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5 8.Qd2 O-O. Among GM-level players, the moves 8...Qa5 and 8...cxd4 are both more popular than 8...O-O. I don't really know why that is, but it's a sign that the Gruenfeld is not yet hopeless for Black.

Both games then followed the same path for the next few moves: 9.Rc1 Qa5 10.Nf3 Bg4 11.d5, but here they diverged. Komodo captured 11...Bxf3, while Stockfish continued developing with 11...Na6 .

The following diagrams show a few key points in both games. The left diagram for each game shows the position after move 20. The right diagram shows the move that first wins material.

The winning strategy in both games looks similar. The passed, protected d5-Pawn and the extra space give White an advantage in maneuvering. White uses the resulting initiative to attack on the various open and semi-open files. Black eventually cracks under the pressure and loses the equivalent of a Pawn. The extra material is enough to win the game.

To play through the games, see

on Chessgames.com.

29 March 2015

Google Autocompletes CIS

The three most recent posts in this 'Chess in School' series were Confusion about Facts (Does chess make you smarter?), Pedagogical Pecking Order (FIDE Trainer / Instructor), and Are {Boys/Girls Good/Bad} at Chess?. Casting about for some new angles, I used Google autocomplete to present a list of possible topics. Here are the results on three similar phrases.

The three phrases are nearly synonymous, making the results interchangeable. The keyword 'NYC' appears against all three phrases while 'New York' appears as well. One curiosity is that Google's list of proposed topics can change after a few minutes, with the lowest items in a list being the most volatile.

One program that popped up in several places is '"chess in schools" spain'. See, for example, Spain says yes to chess as game is made compulsory in schools by Malcolm Pein; 'Politicians vote to make chess a compulsory subject in Spanish schools - something your correspondent has been trying to make happen in the UK.'

The most fruitful area might be '"chess in schools" curriculum'. I'll look at that topic in a future post.

27 March 2015

More MIT Media & Millionaire Chess

I know, I know. I featured Millionaire Chess on Video Friday exactly one month ago -- on MIT Media & Millionaire Chess -- but these clips about MIT Media are so good that I can't help using one again.

MIT Millionaire Chess (4:16) • 'Today is Millionaire Monday, and it all starts right now!'

Featuring GM Maurice Ashley, GM Robert Hess, Kevin Slavin (MIT Media Lab faculty member, Playful Systems Group), Greg Borenstein (MIT Media Lab graduate student, also seen in the previous video), Adiya Niyango (chess coach), plus a host of top players & presenters. What's not to like?

The last word: 'Maurice and Greg will deploy a more advanced version of Deep View at MC2 which takes place in October 2015 at Las Vegas.'

26 March 2015

Soltis's Sites

First we had Down Memory Lane with Andy Soltis, in the March 2015 Chess Life. Then we had JP/Moon/Fischer, based on Archive.org. Now we'll have GM Soltis continuing,

You probably know the names of some of the departed: Chessville, Chess21, The Chess Oracle, Chess Dominion, Chess Chronicle, Chess Check, Wolffchess, Worldchessrating. and both Chessplanet.com and Planetchess.com.

Are those sites really 'departed'? Let's ask Archive.org for help once more.

Nine out of ten isn't too shabby. But wait, there's more: What's happened to Wolffchess.com?; '(7 years ago) We have ALL of Wolffchess.com's content on Chess.com in ...' That makes ten out of ten. All present and accounted for, Andy!

24 March 2015

More FIDE Reports from Tromso

What? More documents from the August 2014 FIDE General Assembly in Tromso? So says a recent news item from FIDE, 2014 Tromso Commissions Reports (March 2015), making these reports almost eight months old! No one has ever accused FIDE of moving too quickly and this reminds us why. According to my post FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014 (CIS; December 2014),

Documents from the CIS commission have been released at three separate occasions: at the announcement for the General Assembly in Tromso (GA, coinciding with the Olympiad), at the minutes of the GA in August, and at the Presidential Board (PB) in November.

This makes four occasions, doesn't it? After looking at the documents and comparing them with my CIS post plus another post from the end of last year, FIDE's 'Principles of Chess Journalism', I determined that the new set of documents have already been released and are now (mostly) 'approved'.

While I was reviewing the March 2015 reports, I looked at a few commissions to which I had never paid much attention. What, for example, is the difference between the 'Social Action Commission' and the 'Social Project Commission'? According to FIDE's Handbook > A. Administrative Subjects > 02. Non-Elected Commissions,

2.10: Social Projects Commission (SPC) shall promote chess as a powerful tool for prevention, including areas such as: drug prevention, disease control and prison chess.


2.11: Social Action Commission (SAC) shall promote the use of chess as an aid for persons at risk from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental illnesses particularly among seniors. Overall this Commission should deal with issues related to brain aging.

Sounds like the subjects could have been handled with a single commission, but what do I know? There is undoubtedly political infighting involved.

Another unclear topic is the 'Central Board of Commission’s [sic] report'. According to the FIDE > Minutes overview, the 'CBC' report appears to be a follow-up of actions presented at the October 2013 Executive Board, making it a commission to overview other commisssions, a higher level meta-commission. FIDE might not be fast, but the group is trying to be transparent.

23 March 2015

Komodo - Stockfish Superfinal Openings

In my recent post about TCEC Season 7 I noted,

The last round 'Superfinal' between Komodo and Stockfish was a 64-game match where the adversaries played both White and Black on 32 hand picked openings. [...] The Superfinal finished in Komodo's favor +7-4=53, with White winning all decisive games.

What openings were used and how did they fare? The following tables are sorted by result and ECO code.


B30: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 g6 5.h3 Bg7 6.e5 Ng8 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.d3 Nh6
D85: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5 8.Qd2 O-O


A11: 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Bg4 4.c4 e6 5.cxd5 exd5 6.O-O Nf6 7.d3 Be7 8.Nc3 O-O
A21: 1.c4 g6 2.g3 Bg7 3.Bg2 e5 4.Nc3 d6 5.d3 f5 6.e4 Nc6 7.Nge2 Nh6 8.O-O O-O
A46: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 h6 4.Bh4 g5 5.Bg3 Ne4 6.Nbd2 Nxg3 7.hxg3 Bg7 8.c3 d6
B46: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 a6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Qd2 Qc7 8.O-O-O Bb4
C02: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3 c4 7.Be2 Bd7 8.Nbd2 Na5
D38: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Qc2 Qa5
D72: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nb6 7.Ne2 c5 8.d5 e6


A18: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.d4 b6 8.Nf3 Bb7
A20: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.O-O Be7 7.d4 e4 8.Ne5 f5
A28: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e4 Bc5 5.Nxe5 Nxe5 6.d4 Bb4 7.dxe5 Nxe4 8.Qd4 Nxc3
A34: 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc7 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.O-O e5 8.a3 f6
A48: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c3 Bg7 4.Bf4 d6 5.h3 O-O 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Be2 Qe8 8.O-O e5
A50: 1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 c6 3.Bf4 d5 4.e3 e6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.c5 Nh5 8.Bd3 O-O
A53: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.Nf3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Nh5 8.e3 Bg7
A90: 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 c6 5.Nf3 d5 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.Ne5 O-O 8.O-O b6
B03: 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.d4 d6 5.f4 dxe5 6.fxe5 Nc6 7.Be3 Bf5 8.Nc3 e6
B14: 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nxd5 6.Nf3 e6 7.d4 Bb4 8.Bd2 O-O
B32: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 b5 8.Nd5 Nce7
B40: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.O-O Be7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7
B99: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7
C00: 1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg2 d5 6.d3 Nf6 7.O-O b6 8.e5 Nd7
C11: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qd2 b6
C45: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6
C47: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Be7 8.O-O O-O
C88: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 Bb7
D00: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.Qd2 Ne4 6.Nxe4 dxe4 7.Ne5 Nd7 8.Nxd7 Qxd7
E08: 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 d5 4.Nf3 Be7 5.O-O O-O 6.d4 Nbd7 7.Qc2 c6 8.Rd1 b6
E12: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Nc3 Bb7 5.a3 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.e3 g6 8.Bb5+ c6
E18: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.d4 Be7 6.Nc3 Ne4 7.Bd2 d5 8.cxd5 exd5
E32: 1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 O-O 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Bb7 8.f3 d6

The result for the Gruenfeld (D85) is disconcerting. Perhaps it is worth a closer look.

22 March 2015

Mephisto Portorose 68030

One of the first posts in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price was How Much Is a Vintage Chess Computer Worth?, which featured a Fidelity Chess Challenger that sold for US $500. As I recently learned in Chess Collectors' Corner - What's Hot?, it was one of this blog's top eBay posts from 2010.

Five years later, the computer niche is just as popular -- maybe more so. Four figure US$ prices aren't uncommon, as I showed already two years ago in Top Computer Chess Items by Price. The item pictured below, titled 'Mephisto Portorose 68030 World Champion Chess Computer', subtitled 'One of the Rarest Chess Computers Ever Produced!', sold for $3977 after 42 bids from 15 bidders.

The description added,

This is, without a doubt, one of the rarest chess computers ever produced. [...] Produced in the late 1980s by Mephisto, the leaders in Chess Computers, The Portorose 68030 had an incredible 2236 ELO rating, which at the time was unheard of in the world of chess computers, and retailed for $15,000 USD. That's not a typo. In 1990, this computer sold for $15,000 US Dollars! The average price of a car in 1990 was only $9,700, to show you how rare and exclusive this computer was.

This is NOT a sold-at-retail-chess computer. You couldn't buy it in stores. This is a LIMITED EDITION COMPUTER offered by Mephisto to commemorate [Richard] Lang's World Championship-winning software. It features state-of-the-art technology for its time, including dedicated boards with upgraded processors, advanced cooling, and memory, similar to the hardware used in the Computer World Chess championship tournaments. [...] Less than 50 were originally produced!

According to my page World Chess Championship : Computer Chess, Lang won five consecutive World Microcomputer Chess Championships (WMCCC), 1986 to 1990. The 'Portorose 68030' machine must be related to the Mephisto version that won the 9th WMCCC - 1989 Portoroz.

20 March 2015

Street Art Spectators

Compare this photo with round two of the 2014 Candidates Tournament as shown in An Empty Arena. Maybe FIDE should consider decorating playing halls the way this one is decorated.

Street chess © Flickr user Jaya Ramchandani under Creative Commons.

There isn't much info about where this photo was taken. The tags say only 'IFTTT' and 'Instagram'. Wikipedia tells us that the acronym IFTTT

is a web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called "recipes", which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Craigslist. IFTTT is an abbreviation of "If This Then That" (pronounced like "gift" without the "g"). An example "recipe" might consist of sending an e-mail message if the IFTTT user tweets using a certain hashtag.

A link with the photo points to an Instagram page, which helps to tie the two tags together. As for the venue, other photos from the same photographer indicate Kerala and the Maldive Islands, which is accurate enough for me.

19 March 2015


Let's go once again Down Memory Lane with Andy Soltis, where I quoted GM Soltis from the March 2015 Chess Life (CL) saying,

More chess literature is available today than ever before, thanks to the Internet. and yet more chess literature is being lost today -- on the Internet. The vanishing content appeared on websites that are now dead.

One of his most familiar examples was a controversial site by a controversial ex-World Champion.

Other doomed sites were personal blogs. even Fischer got into the act, on a Japanese site where he posted copies of personal documents, such as his book contracts. (It shows he got a $2,000 advance for Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.) But the site died soon after Bobby did. some sites devoted to Fischer have also vanished.

By coincidence, I had been looking at this site just a few weeks earlier, while preparing a post on Fischer's Seiko Connection. The Archive.org address is home.att.ne.jp/moon/fischer/, where the entry for 2007-12-22 brings up a working index page. Unfortunately, the individual links lead mostly to other pages that contain only scanned images. Since the images are missing, the real content is minimal.

A big advantage to having a working index is that the page's text opens up new avenues for search. With that page as a guide I finally located an archive page with the two images used in the 'Seiko Connection' post. They are on a page under the Archive.org copy of geocities.jp/bobbby_a (note the 'bbb' in Bobby). Somewhat curiously, there is another *live* site at geocities.jp/bobbby_b/ (those three 'b's again), with an identical index page, but the links lead only to error messages.

Getting back to GM Soltis, the document he mentions was titled, '"Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" contract dated October 21, 1965.(13 pages)'. It turns out there is a fully functional copy of jp/moon/fischer (who is Moon?) at crashrecovery.org/..., with a working link that returns the entire BFTC contract. Some of the last links on that page go to crashrecovery.org/bobbby_a, giving the distinct impression that someone is trying very hard to keep *Bobbby's* site alive. Why bother? Other than the connection with its historical chess personality, the tasteless, offensive site has little of real interest to anyone other than a psychiatrist.

As long as we're discussing the dead site of the 11th World Champion, let's look at the dead site of the 13th's. Near the end of his column GM Soltis wrote,

You have to wonder about the demise of KasparovChess. It was the best chess site on the web when Garry Kasparov launched it 15 years ago. In addition to showcasing his own views and analysis, it provided an outlet for articles by unknowns. [...] Kasparov predicted a bright future for his site. "Frankly speaking, KasparovChess has no competitors at the moment, as this is a really new form of entertainment in the world of chess," he said. With solid financial backing and Kasparov’s expertise, his prediction should have panned out. But KasparovChess began shutting down in late 2002 after it ran out of cash.

When asked about kasparovchess.com, Archive.org says only, 'Sorry. This URL has been excluded from the Wayback Machine.' On my page World Chess Championship : 2002-04 Unification, I have a few copies of kc.com articles (used with permission), but phrases from these articles lead only to my copies. Looks like kc.com is gone forever. Sorry, Andy, it was indeed a great site!

17 March 2015

Chess Collectors' Corner - What's Not?

Let's continue with Chess Collectors' Corner - What's Hot?, where I looked at five years of Top eBay Chess Items by Price and answered the question,

There is tremendous interest in certain 'Top eBay Items', and wondered, 'Which ones?'

In contrast to those dozen-or-so items, some posts in the eBay series get very few views. For each of the five years I identified two posts with the lowest number of views since the post was created. The following composite image shows the focus of those unloved posts.

Top row: (left to right)

Bottom row:

Why are these posts so unloved? I imagine that they don't strike any chords in web searches. Either people don't often look for those types of items -or- the keywords in the posts don't resonate with the terms that people use in searches.

Popularity, of course, is always relative. The two posts from 2014 have received more than double the number of views of the posts from 2010, even though the earlier posts have been sitting on the blog for around four years longer. Or maybe there's just a steady interest in, say, 'Chess and the Killer Klowns'.

16 March 2015

Engine Insights

In the first post of this series, Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish, I mentioned 'Tartajubow On Chess' as a source for ideas on correspondence play and engines. Starting almost three years ago, here are a selection of relevant posts that have proved useful for further insights.

  • 2012-04: The Best Chess Engine for Correspondence Play is... • 'Different engines have different weaknesses but we won't know when one is spitting out a better move than another. Of course, no engine will give the correct answer every time.'

  • 2013-05: Engine Strengths & Weaknesses • 'While surfing some engine forums recently I compiled a list of attributes for various engines. Here is a brief summary of other people's opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the more popular engines.'

  • 2013-09: Chess Engine "Styles" • 'After prowling forums dealing with chess engines, I have come up with a general consensus of the strengths and weaknesses of various engines which are summarized below.'

  • 2014-04: Which Analysis Engine? • 'I found this question asked on a forum and the one of the "engine experts" gave his opinion which was based on the number of engines being used (I assume when using Aquarium's IDeA). What I found interesting was his evaluation of the strengths of the engines.'

  • 2014-07: Thoughts on Study and CC Play and Engines • 'Whose Games to Study? Alekhine's, Capablanca's or those of Carlsen and Aronian? In the recent edition of Chess Life magazine, GM Andy Soltis in his column Chess To Enjoy, made the following observation: "Chess combinations have a way of being repeated... This is why studying great tactical battles of the past is so useful."' • On my chess960 blog I also found GM Soltis's July column useful: It's Not Unusual and Clinging to the Past.

  • 2014-09: More Thoughts on Correspondence Chess • 'I ran into a friend the other day who asked me if I was still playing chess and I told him just correspondence and the discussion, of course, got around to CC these days and engine use. Like many, he didn't see the point of letting my engine play against the other guy's engine.'

  • 2014-09: Advanced Chess aka Server Play As It Is Played These Days • 'I was recently reading a post on a chess engine blog which sent me to a page that gave hints on using a chess engine in server play.'

  • 2014-12: Some Interesting Chess Articles • 'The CCLA Server site has some articles that make interesting reading.'

  • 2015-01: Even Engines Need Time to Think • '33 running games. That's how many my opponent had going and quite often he replied to my move within a few minutes so he was effectively playing at a blitz pace in most of his games.'

That last link brings us full circle to my initial post 'Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish', where I used the same quote. Thanks, Tartajubow!


15 March 2015

Are Boys Good at Chess?

That title makes about as much sense as the provocative headline on a Scientific American article, Are Girls Bad at Chess? [ScientificAmerican.com, April 2014], subtitled 'Of course not -- but stereotypes can have a real effect on performance.'

For the boys, we can confidently say, 'Some are good and some are mediocre, but most don't have a clue how to play'. For the girls, in its lead paragraph the SciAm piece informs,

One of the most talked about findings in psychology today is "stereotype threat" – a phenomenon in which a person experiences anxiety because of the fear of confirming a negative stereotype. Research has shown that stereotype threat can lead people to perform worse than expected. For example, women make more mistakes on a math test after being reminded of the stereotype that men are better at math.

That sounds like what used to be called a 'self fulfilling prophecy'. Perhaps it's the real danger behind Chess Stereotypes.

As for the question, 'Are People Bad at Chess?', most chess engines, if they could talk, would say, 'Yes, they're very bad'. And people still continue playing.

13 March 2015

Not Your Average Chess Video

After four days, 1.279.354 views and 6.105 comments (and counting)?

This piece takes that piece, but that piece then takes mine.
I can't lose my rook while I'm lagging way behind!
I'll play safe and wait for an opportunity.
I won't let that cheeky monkey make a monkey out of me!

Then 'Wait, Mark! Don't take it! That monkey's set a trap!'

How To Beat A Monkey At Chess (4:54) • 'Ever wanted to see Markiplier. MatPat, and The Completionist sing about how they plan to beat a monkey at chess?'

Anyone named Mark must be OK: Markiplier [Wikipedia].

Mark Edward Fischbach (born June 28, 1989), known by his YouTube handle Markiplier, is an American actor, voice actor, comedian, internet personality, video game commentator and philanthropist.

Not to mention the millennial behind 'the 71st most subscribed channel on YouTube'. See also How To Beat A Monkey At Chess - Bloopers!

12 March 2015

Down Memory Lane with Andy Soltis

Whenever I have a new issue of Chess Life (CL) in my hands, one of the first pages I turn to is GM Andy Soltis's 'Chess to Enjoy' column. A mix of chess news, chess history, chess trivia, and chess gossip, it is currently categorized by CL as 'Entertainment'. Entertaining it certainly is. This month's CL had the following headline.

Where Have You Gone NextGreatChessWebsite.com?

The column started,

More chess literature is available today than ever before, thanks to the Internet. and yet more chess literature is being lost today -- on the Internet. The vanishing content appeared on websites that are now dead. Whether they succumbed to lack of readers, money, ideas or energy, the sites have gone to that great server in the sky.

This was followed by a list of ten chess sites ('You probably know the names of some of the departed'), then the observation,

Several of them were launched in the 1990s, before the Internet became the place serious chess players started their day. Others began in the halcyon days around 2000-2005, when it seemed that every four-digit-rated player was blogging. Still others first got our attention and clicks in the last few years.

GM Soltis has never been known as an early adopter of trends -- his column was the last piece of CL real estate to switch from descriptive to algebraic notation (January 2002; I just checked) -- and he is around five years early on the 'halcyon days' of blogging, but let's not quibble. He asks a good question and makes a valid point.

Even though I witnessed the births of both the Internet and the Web, I didn't recognize all of his ten domains ('Chess Check' ?) and there was at least one typo ('Wollfchess'). I did verify that most of the sites for which he pines are still available in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. For example, Soltis mentions,

It’s not just writing that we’ve lost, but a lot of good games. For example, Vladimir Kramnik was world champion when he gave an eight-board simultaneous exhibition through the site Chess21.com in September 2005. Kramnik won six games and drew two. But the games, like the rest of the site’s content, seem to have vanished.

With the help of that precise time frame, I found this after a minute or two at Online simultaneous display with World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik on Chess21 (dated 2005-09-16), and saved the game scores for my page on Vladimir Kramnik's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1984-; 'Last updated 2005-05-03', but what's the rush?).

It might be useful to come back to Soltis's list on another occasion, especially when I have no particular ideas for a post that day. Which is most days...

10 March 2015

Chess Collectors' Corner - What's Hot?

Five years ago I started a temporary series called Top eBay Chess Items by Price. Although its objective was purely practical...

For the next month or so, my time for blogging is going to be extremely limited, but I'm reluctant to stop completely. Instead, I'll concentrate on topics that don't take much effort, like photos and videos. Another area that requires minimum effort is eBay.

...I learned so much about chess collecting -- NB: Standard disclaimer: I'm *not* a collector myself -- that the series continued every two weeks with a new eBay item culled from the previous fortnight. In a post a few days ago, Photos of February, I was reminded that there is tremendous interest in certain 'Top eBay Items', and wondered, 'Which ones?'

To answer that question I opened my Blogspot.com statistics on Posts with label eBay, scraped all of the data for the 165 posts from the screen, loaded the numbers into a database, and ran some queries on page views. After the 'Top Items' post itself, the blog's most popular eBay post predates the start of the series.

It wouldn't be fair to compare a post from 2011 with a post from 2014. A post which has been on the blog for years will normally have received more views than a recent post. In the interest of keeping an 'apples to apples' comparison, I grouped the posts by year and looked at the top posts for each year. Here are the top posts from 2010 in order of popularity.

That last ANRI post has received nearly two-and-a-half times the number of views as the next post from 2010, which was about chess clocks. It's clear from this first batch of stats that chess sets are the overwhelming favorite among chess collectors, with chess computers running a distant second.

In fact, collecting chess books is certainly more popular than collecting chess computers, but there are obvious reasons why a search for a specific book occurs less frequently. My stats, after all, are directly related to the number of times that people initiate a search on a specific chess item, where my post was one of the results that attracted a click.

Total page views for all posts from 2011 are about 25% less than posts from 2010. These two posts are considerably more popular than other posts from 2011. I know from watching my weekly stats that the popularity of the 'Engine Block' post is a result of searches on 'engine block furniture'. Who could have guessed?

Once again, these two posts have received about 50% more views than the next posts on the list. For reasons of confidentiality and privacy, I don't usually mention the name of the seller when I'm describing an auction. I made an exception for the post on 'Restoring Sets', which was about eBay member Chessspy, an expert on the subject.

Only a single post from 2013? Yes, because it has received three times more views than the next item on the list.

Last year's posts haven't had enough time to establish a trend, but these two are the current frontrunners.

Ditto for this year's posts. I'll be continuing the series for the forseeable future, so perhaps we'll see nother summary some day. Fascinating hobby, chess collecting, isn't it?

09 March 2015

TCEC Season 7

After that little detour for FIDE Federation Codes (Unofficial!), let's return to the main subject of engines, specifically Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish. The biggest event for engines is undoubtedly the Thoresen Chess Engines Competition (TCEC).

TCEC season 7 finished at the end of last year with the announcement Komodo is the new TCEC Grand Champion. Detailed results for the multi-stage tournament are at TCEC Archive, where the 'News' button leads to TCEC @ Facebook.com. I located Facebook posts for the results of each stage and built the following table.

This composite image shows the crosstables for stages two through four.

The last round 'Superfinal' between Komodo and Stockfish was a 64-game match where the adversaries played both White and Black on 32 hand picked openings. A note in the TCEC Archive explains,

The 32 openings that will be seen in season 7’s Superfinal have been selected by IM Erik Kislik, one of the world’s top (and hardest-working) opening theorists, a chess teacher, writer and advisor to grandmasters. After a lively email exchange during last season we agreed in principle that the Superfinal’s openings should be carefully hand-selected and well diversified by “pawn structures”.

The Superfinal finished in Komodo's favor +7-4=53, with White winning all decisive games. How does the TCEC stack up against the 'official' world computer championship? As I discovered last year, in Guardian of the WCCC, some experts consider the TCEC to be the 'De-facto World Computer Chess Championship'. My page on the World Chess Championship : Computer Chess lists Junior as the winner of the two most recent WCCC tournaments in 2011 & 2013. Junior was eliminated in stage 3 of TCEC season 7, finishing well behind the four engines that qualified to stage 4.

An International Computer Games Association (ICGA) page at icga.leidenuniv.nl offers '2015 ICGA Tournament Rules and Event Information' (browser warning: 'This Connection is Untrusted : The certificate is not trusted because no issuer chain was provided.'). The document starts,

The 21th World Computer Chess Championship will take place from June 29 – July 5, 2015 in Leiden, the Netherlands, in the Snellius building of the Leiden University. We are grateful to LIACS and the Boerhaave Museum that they have offered to sponsor and organize five events in cooperation with the ICGA, viz. the 21th WCCC, the 5th WCSC, the 2015 World Computer Chess Blitz Championship, the Computer Olympiad, and the 14th Advances in Computer Games Conference (ACG2015).

TCEC season 7 generated considerable interest in the chess world. Will the 21st WCCC generate similar interest?

08 March 2015

Star Trek Chess

It was slim pickings for this current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price. My short list had only one item: 'Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess ~ 1st US Edition ~ 1959 Hardcover'; it listed for $550 and sold for $450, 'Best offer accepted'.

New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959: First Edition, First Printing as stated. In Near Fine condition, in a Very Good dust jacket with $2.95 intact. Pages lightly toned, light offsetting to end papers. Previous owner details in ink on front free end paper. Cloth shows light edge wear. The dust jacket shows foxing, sunning and edge wear, with a chip at the top of the front panel and a short closed tear to the rear. A lovely copy overall of this scarce chess title.

A sought-after item with 253 views, it was visually unattractive. Time to return to Chess Set Brands and Character Families, where I discovered that 'eBay has built-in categories for chess sets'. Given the recent death of Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), a post on Star Trek sets would be appropriate. Unfortunately, eBay no longer offers the built-in filters for brands and families, so I constructed my own composite view from the top six items of the past three months.

Given that the series on 'Top eBay Chess Items' is approaching its fifth anniversary, it's coincidental that the second post in the series was Peter Ganine and Star Trek, featuring a photo of Nimoy's Spock with the 3-D version of the set. Another post, Chess Sets, 'Never Been Used', mentioned three varieties of Star Trek set: a 25th Anniversary set, a 3-D set, and an 'Official Next Generation' set. Are there others?

06 March 2015

Super Bowl Chess

The description for this photo said,

Captured on the fly from the NBC broadcast of Katy Perry's halftime show during the 2015 Super Bowl. The imagery of the entire show was fantastical. In this segment, based on Perry’s "Dark Horse" song, the theme (apart from her costume) was chessmen on a chessboard; the chess pieces' faceted design resulted in the cubist polygons of my image.

Given all the noise around this year's halftime show, this was the first time I heard that chess played a role.

Katy goes cubistic, 2/01/15 © Flickr user John E. Branch Jr. under Creative Commons.

The chess sequence starts at 1:50 into this Youtube clip: Super Bowl - Katy Perry - Halftime Show Performance 2015 - ORIGINAL.

05 March 2015

Photos of February

Last month the stats for my m-w.com domain (links to specific resources are on the right) showed an unexpected jump that lasted about a week, with page views nearly doubling during that time. At the end of the month I downloaded the domain's log file, plugged it into my log analysis database, and started looking for a reason for the jump. I didn't need to look at the entire week in question. The first day of the jump showed that a search spider was collecting pages for something, so I assumed that the other big days were similar.

While I was in the log, I also looked at a few other things. One useful analysis concerns 'page not found' errors, as in Most 'HTTP 404' Are External Errors. Based on my log analyses, I could write a tutorial on the techniques that hackers use to explore a site's vulnerabilities.

One thing I've always wanted to do -- but never found the time -- is to analyze the popularity of the various images stored on the site. This blog, for example, has all of its images stored in a single directory, '/CFAA/', making it easy to count and compare the number of times that different images are accessed.

The most popular image in the month of February was used in Titled Players and Their Continents, not too surprising given that it was one of the first posts of that month. Since nine of the top ten images were also posted in February, I eliminated those from consideration along with a few images from end-January. That left the following images as the most popular, meaning that the corresponding blog post was also relatively popular.


Magnus Looks Like That Guy?

My server log doesn't tell me why this post is so popular. The referring page is nearly always some national variation of www.google.com, like google.bg or google.co.uk, with no additional info.


Chess in Africa - FIDE Members

The popularity of this image was no surprise to me. The post often appears on the list of most popular posts for a given week, with people searching for a map of Africa.


'A Holy Grail to Cookie Jar Collectors'

This post/image and most of the following are from my ongoing eBay series. I'm approaching the fifth anniversary of this series (?!) and plan to write a post about it in the next week or so.


Engine Block Chess


Lord of the Rings, Trilogy Edition


King Kong vs. Godzilla

This is from another post that frequently appears in the list of top posts for a week. There appear to be many people who are fascinated by these two monsters.


Capodimonte Figurines

What else can I say? There's no accounting for taste.

03 March 2015

March 1965 'On the Cover'

Last month's February 1965 'On the Cover' showed George Koltanowski on the cover of Chess Life. This month we find him on Chess Review.

Left: 'On the Move'
Right: 'Chess on Ch.11'

Chess Life

Craig Huneke, a 13-year old player who was the youngest entrant in the Oklahoma Open last December, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold V. Huneke of Norman, Okla. Craig is one of hundreds of school children who now regularly play in USCF tournaments throughout the country. Watch out for the masters of the future -- they're already playing in the tournaments of today! • Photo by Norman "Transcript"

In CL's January rating list (see January 1965 'On the Cover'), 'Huneke, C. (Cal.)' was listed at 1786.

Chess Review

On the cover of TV Prevue of the Chicago Sun-Times, the chessic display of George Koltanowski (in color) appeared, January 10-16, announcing 30 weeks of Chess on Channel 11. We learn from the publication that George is host of a weekly TV program, 10 PM Thursdays. He recounts chess history: "the story of Caissa, chess goddess invented by the Germans, who decides the way a player's luck will run", discussion of stamps commemorating Capablanca and the slating of a match between Mikhail Botvinnik and Alexander Alekhine in 1946 just before the latter died are samples.

He gives instruction on chess, spiced with anecdotes. In some programs, he deals with his specialty, blindfold chess, playing it against 13-year old David Moore (not blindfolded). And he concludes each program with a problem to be solved by the viewers and answered at the next session.

Look alive! If the program is not coming your way, it may come -- especially if you ask for it in TV offices. We presume it's now on tape which can be run in your neighborhood.

According to Wikipedia, George Koltanowski was 61 years old at the time of his TV show. He was one of the great American chess promoters of all time and featured in another post, Chess Ads - Paul Masson.

02 March 2015

FIDE Federation Codes (Unofficial!)

Just one more crack at FIDE Country and Federation Codes, I promise! I compared my list to Chessgames.com's 3-letter FIDE Country Codes, found a few discrepancies, made the necessary changes, and updated my page on FIDE Country and Federation Codes (unofficial).

Note the word 'unofficial' in the title, followed by the warning 'In process & preliminary! Use with caution!!' This page has no official connection to FIDE and exists only because FIDE hasn't recognized the need to do the same.

For my next post in this blog's Monday series, I'll return to engine operators, last seen in Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish. There's plenty to be said there.

01 March 2015

Pedagogical Pecking Order

A recent post on this blog, Inaccurate Data on the Rating List, listed eight FIDE titles awarded for organizational activities. After I wrote the post, I started to wonder what those titles mean. What, for example, is the difference between an instructor and a trainer?

I didn't have to look too hard for an answer. The Fide.com page Handbook :: B. Permanent Commissions has a chapter, 07. Regulations for the Titles of Trainers. Here we find a simple answer to my simple question.

1. Trainers’ Titles
1.1. FIDE & TRG recognise the following titles (in descending order of expertise):
1.1.1. FIDE Senior Trainer (FST)
1.1.2. FIDE Trainer (FT)
1.1.3. FIDE Instructor (FI)
1.1.4. National Instructor (NI)
1.1.5. Developmental Instructor (DI)

A little further down there is an explanation of the quailifications for the four titles through FIDE Trainer (FT). The highest title, FST, requires 'a ballot among the five TRG Board members', where TRG stands for 'FIDE Trainers' Commission'.

1.2.6. Evaluation Tables Highest FIDE or National Rating (strength). Counts 20% on final title: FIDE titles. Evaluation according to the Lecturer. Counts 10% on final title: Attendance. Evaluation according to the Lecturer. Counts 10% on final title: Bibliography - Published Material. Evaluation according to the Lecturer. Counts 10% on final title: Experience as noted in the CV. Counts 20% on final title: Written Exams. Counts 30% on final title. According to the total result of the previous evaluation tables, the titles are awarded as following [...]

I couldn't find a list of 'five TRG Board members', but I suppose it means the first five positions on the page for Trainers' Commission (TRG). What sort of title could I hope to get? Giving myself the number of points indicated for the first two categories and an average score (50%) for the last four categories... 160 0 50 50 100 150

...I get 510 points! That puts me in the NI range. Assuming I could overcome my natural laziness and achieve a full score (100%) for the last four categories, I would get an additional 350 points. The new total of 860 points would put me just into the FT range. In reality, I think I would have trouble getting even 50% in the categories for 'Bibliography' and 'Experience', meaning that the highest title to which I could realistically aspire would be FI.

As for the three other titles, IA and FA are described in 06. Regulations for the Titles of Arbiters, and IO is described in 09. Regulations on Seminars & Title Award for Organizers. Those titles are most certainly out of reach for me.