30 April 2015

Evolution of the FIDE Knockouts

After creating the catalog of FIDE Knockout Events, with links to the pages for specific events, I gathered the games for the ten events that had played a role in the last ten World Championship cycles. Then I loaded the PGN header data for those games into a database.

The ten events include 3968 games, more or less. I haven't been consistent in how I treat first round forfeits -- sometimes there's a record of the forfeit in the event's PGN games (e.g. 1999); sometimes there isn't (e.g. 2004). After creating the database I started looking at different aspects of the data.

The following chart shows a count of the number of games played at each stage of the first round of each event. The first column is the round number (I have similar charts for the other rounds) and the second column is the game number within that round. As you would expect, the counts are identical for games 1 and 2, because each mini-match in a round consists of at least two games, with the players switching colors for the second game. The chart gives a bird's-eye view of the evolution of FIDE's regulations for the knockout tournaments.

For example, the first three events -- 1997, 1999, & 2000 -- show that slightly more than half of the 128 players had a game in the first round. This is because the top players were seeded directly into the second round, where we find 32 mini-matches for the 64 players remaining. FIDE abandoned this strategy for the 2001 knockout and afterwards.

The counts for games 3 and 4 show the number of first round matches that went into tiebreak. The counts for game 5 and afterwards show the number of matches that required further tiebreak. In 1997, a 'sudden death' portion of the match started in game 5; in 1999, it started in game 7 (after a second two-game tiebreak, as it did starting round two in 1997).

In 2001, sudden death was replaced by a single Armageddon game in game 7. This appears to have been the case through 2007. (I say 'appears', because I haven't been consistent about recording then-current regulations on the pages for the ten tournaments. This would make a useful follow-up project.)

In 2009, the format changed dramatically. The first tiebreak was a four-game match (games 3 through 6) followed by a series of two-game blitz matches. One first round match, Akobian - Tregubov, was only decided after five blitz matches, Akobian winning both games of the last match.

In 2011, the format reverted to two-game tiebreaks, with one additional tiebreak match before the Armageddon game in game 9. According to the Regulations for the World Chess Cup 2015, the same format will be used for the knockout event later this year.

There is plenty of over-the-board drama hidden behind these dry statistics, and the counts show only the first of the seven rounds in each of the ten events. I'll try to unearth some of that drama in a future post.

28 April 2015

Playing Chess with the Euro

The teaser box for this story had a cropped photo where the tops of the pieces were barely discernible. 'Is that a chess set?', I wondered. Sure enough, it was.

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis accused of being 'a time-waster, a gambler, and an amateur'

Not only is Varoufakis 'a time-waster, a gambler, an amateur'; he appears to be a chess player as well. The board even appears to be set up correctly. Has he ever played with George Osborne (already seen on this blog in No.1 Chess Bod), i.e. the Euros vs. the non-Euros?


Later: Thanks for the comment, Macauley! Can't say that I've ever Photoshopped anything, but I just found the original Magnus photo at Zimbio.com: Does Hot Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen Have a Girlfriend?

27 April 2015

What Ticks Off Engine Users? (Part II)

In our first epsiode, Ticks Off (Part I), we saw a cordial, if awkward, discussion between MacUser and Komodo Help. In fact, I cut the dialog at the point where the conversation became more pointed.

MacUser titled his next message, 'Don't sell Komodo for Macs'. Then he repeated some of the objections he had already made in Part I. Let's listen to the rest of the conversation.

MacUser: I am a very unhappy customer. Your web site leaves out some very important customer information. We pay you our money and then you tell us that Komodo does not include an interface. I would have never bought it if I knew in advance that some assembly was required. We pay for a package and you only sell us one part. The free interfaces you would have the customers use apparently do not exist, or at least the links don’t take us there. I’m not so good with computers and you guys can’t even tell me what the correct settings are. I think you guys are frauds. Especially now that I’ve had Komodo on for an hour and it finally got to 30 ply. Stockfish reaches 35 ply in two minutes. So I know you guys haven’t sold me the real thing.

MacUser ended his message with exactly the sentence that customer support never wants to hear: 'I’m going to tell all the chess players I know. At least you won’t be able to cheat them.'

Komodo Help: I have done my best to try and help you, providing you links and instructions on configuring the software. I am not sure what else I can do. We do tell customers that "Komodo just calculates moves and relies on other programs to display the chessboard." Look here: komodochess.com/installation. You are right, we sell just one part, the engine. And thousands of people are satisfied with that, along with may of the strongest Grandmasters in the world. We concentrate our efforts to make the strongest chess engine that we can, since a lot of other people already supply chess GUIs.

As for strength, you show not a single game Komodo has lost. You judge it weak but offer no proof. Komodo won the past TCEC against Stockfish since Komodo was stronger: tcec.chessdom.com/live. If you go to the Archive there, you can see Komodo and Stockfish have different reported "depths", but still Komodo won. Depth does not mean strength. You can search deeply by pruning important moves, and lose Elo. Hundreds of thousands of games by the rating sites confirm Komodo's strength,

I am sorry if outside sites have changed links. We have no control of other sites, but by using google it is pretty easy to see where things have moved. For example here is a SCID version for MAC link: download.cnet.com/Scid.

You can request a refund if you want. You will have to verify you have deleted all copies of Komodo 8, and we will have to delete your account if you choose this option.


M: I never belittled Komodo’s ability. I believe the reports are true. I’m disappointed it wouldn’t work for me. On the other hand, I do a fairly good job of representing the not-particularly-swift-with-silicon group, if I can’t figure it out, a lot of my friends aren’t going to solve it. I’m the one who complains that HIARCS isn't user friendly, I can only use half the stuff on that one. So I tried this new Scid link you just sent me and it has a pane to enter engines, but you’re going to have to help me fill it in: Name, Command, Parameters, Directory, URL, ELO. Meanwhile I lost Komodo and redownloaded so I could start from scratch..

A bit later...

M: As I read more about Scid, I see it has no editing function, so exactly how can I use Komodo with Scid? It also has it’s own data base format which then must be converted into pgns. So I guess it’s time to ask for a refund. It still looks like you guys were just pretending to sell me something.
K: I just had a friend install Scid for Mac. To install a new engine, click Tool - Analysis Engine. Then again click Tools - Analysis Engine a second time (strange, huh!). Type the path to the unzipped engine directories in the Command section. Use the OSX subdirectory and select the komodo-8-64-osx. SCID for Mac does let you setup positions under Edit - Setup Start Board (or Ctrl-Shift-S). I thought you were using Hiarcs Chess Explorer, which seems like a much more full featured product.
M: I’m happy that you seem to have come up with something that works. In the future I suggest that the actual information about how your product can be really installed be included on your web site so the consumer can see it before he pays for the product.
K: We do have actual information on our engine on our web site, including the need for a GUI. I sent you the link. Scid vs Mac is a fine choice, as is ChessX: chessx.sourceforge.net. Both are free. I personally tend to use the HIARCS Chess Explorer interface on OSX. All three programs provide configuration for loaded chess engines, allowing you to adjust threads, etc. Instructions for doing so are provided with the software, but if you are having trouble, just tell us which program you are using and we'll do our best to walk you through the process. In any case, I can assure you that Komodo works perfectly on OSX. Let us know how we can help you to get it up and running.
M: I deleted, as requested, all copies of Komodo from my computers. As of last night, my Komodo account was closed. So I am unable at this time to give Komodo another try. I did notice that your web site remains unchanged, you still take our money first before you tell us a separate GUI is required.
K: I told you we do say that on our web site, right in the instructions: komodochess.com/installation And on the top of the ordering page for Komodo 8 is say "Komodo chess engine", not "Komodo chess engine and GUI". I do not think you are reading what I send you. Also, I still see your account on the web site, so it appears the account is not closed yet.
M: I see the account is open again. When I checked last night, I didn’t get access. I’m not very good with computers, or maybe you just reopened it again, I don’t know.

The protagonists circled around each other for a few more messages. Komodo Help finally signed off.

K: Thousands of people have bought Komodo and are very happy with it. We delivered a working product and offered to help you install it giving specific instructions. You have been very unpleasant this whole time, unwilling to try what I suggested to fix your problems. You seem to dislike me.

Even though I sympathize with him, I told MacUser,

If this is a parody of the chess-engine-customer-from-hell, then it is very good. If not, then you owe Komodo an apology. Whatever the case, I'll use it as the basis of a blog post because the discussion contains useful information that is not widely known.

I'll recap that useful information in Part III. • P.S. (Under Windows) I use Arena, SCID, & Komodo, and I like them all!

26 April 2015

Chess Curriculum

Continuing with Google Autocompletes CIS, Google's most interesting suggestion was 'chess in school curriculum'. When I started looking at this phrase, Google's autocomplete suggested the further refinement 'chess curriculum pdf'. Since this promised a single, distributable document with a complete chess curriculum, it indeed sounded like a good idea. Let's look at Google's top five suggestions.

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.

No.2: Susan Polgar's FREE Chess Training Guide / Curriculum (chess-game-strategies.com) • Susan Polgar is one of the best known names in scholastic chess, so this looked promising. The link points to susanpolgar.blogspot.com, which in turn redirects to chessdailynews.com.

Over 225,000 copies of my "Chess Training Guide / Curriculum for Teachers and Parents" have been distributed to chess clubs, chess organizations, parents, teachers, and coaches, etc. in over 120 countries since 2006. It is available absolutely FREE. Please feel free to use it to promote chess everywhere.

The link here leads to depts.ttu.edu/spice, which gives 'The page you requested could not be found'. I tried to find another copy of the Polgar material, but failed in the time I had available. I'll come back to this another time.

No.3: Teaching Chess the Easy and Fun Way with Mini-Games. • This 84-page PDF introduces itself with

Teaching Chess the Easy and Fun Way with Mini-Games • Copyright © 2011 Innovative Educators, LLC • Authors: Kathy Price, M.A., Andre Zupans

No.4: David MacEnulty - SchoolChess.com • This 21-page PDF starts,

Think Like A King : A Curriculum Guide for Scholastic Chess • by David MacEnulty • Food for Thought Software, Inc. © 1998

No.5: Chess Lesson Plans for Teachers - AXD Faro • This six-page PDF signed 'Ali Nihat Yazici' appears to be a preliminary document from ten years ago. I last mentioned Yazici in FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014. Like No.2: Susan Polgar above, this deserves a separate look.

(To be continued...)

24 April 2015

Fischer's Final Resting Place

Robert James Fischer, 9 March 1943 - 17 January 2008

Bobby's Rest © Flickr user Andy Cross under Creative Commons.

The photo's description starts,

Laugardaelir Church, near Selfoss, South Iceland • This tiny churchyard about an hour outside of Reykjav√≠k is the final resting place of chess legend Bobby Fischer.

Even in death, Fischer did not find peace: Details of Fischer's exhumation revealed (Chessbase.com, August 2010).

23 April 2015

FIDE Knockout Events

While I was working on the previous post -- A Partial Interview, with Natalia Pogonina -- I decided to catalog the number of high-level FIDE events that used the knockout format. First there were five World Championships:-

I once summarized these in an About.com post, FIDE World Championship 2004 : Results, without knowing that 2004 Tripoli would be the last such event. After years of criticism that the format was not appropriate for determining a World Champion, FIDE introduced the World Cup as a World Championship qualifier. To date there have been five of these events, with the next scheduled for later this year.

The first of the Women's World Championships to use the knockout format was played concurrently with the unrestricted event, 2000 New Delhi. Five of these events were held as the sole means of determining the Women's World Champion.

Shortly after 2008 Nalchik, FIDE announced that the women's format would change. I documented this in Interview with Makropoulos (November 2008). In a two year cycle, the Women's World Champion would be determined in the first year by a knockout event and in the second year by a match. We are currently in the third such cycle.

For details about the cycles, see my page on the World Chess Championship for Women. When was the last time a women's cycle used the traditional Interzonal > Candidates > Match format?

The 1997 Groningen Candidates Tournament, won by Galliamova, used a double round robin format. This was followed by the 1999 Xie Jun - Galliamova Title Match. Between these events were two forfeited matches: Xie Jun - Galliamova at the candidates stage, and Xie Jun - Z.Polgar at the title stage. I've never documented these two matches on my pages and will do so ASAP.

21 April 2015

A Partial Interview

After the close of the recent Women's World Championship in Sochi, Chessbase.com published a two part Interview with Natalia Pogonina: Part 1 & Part 2. Pogonina was the runner-up in the event, losing the final round to Mariya Muzychuk. I was particularly interested in Pogonina's comments on the knockout format, which I recently discussed on my World Chess Championship Blog in A Pseudo World Championship.

The knockout format is too vulnerable to random factors to be taken seriously as a World Championship. The winner of the event deserves our full respect for achieving a major tournament victory, but doesn't deserve the title of World Champion.

One of the first questions from the Chessbase interviewer was,

Q: What do you think of the knockout format? How objective is it? Would you prefer the "men’s" system or some other approach?

Pogonina answered,

A: Men have a rather interesting scheme with the World Cup being the knockout event. Getting rid of the knockout tournament altogether doesn’t look like a good idea to me. A system when there is the World Cup, the Grand Prix series, the Candidates tournament and the World Championship match is very attractive. The only drawback is that it is very complicated and costly. This time FIDE had trouble finding sponsors for the Women’s Championship, so they had to postpone the event. If we adopt a more expensive system, wouldn’t there be even more potential problems? This is what bothers me. If FIDE manages to attract additional funding, I guess it will be interesting to universalize the systems. If not, then maybe we should just keep the current system.

Knockout is a very specific format. Two-game matches are a real challenge. Sometimes even top-tier rating favorites are eliminated in the very first rounds. Lose one game, fail to strike back, and you are out. There is barely any room for mistakes. You have to be prepared very well and have nerves of steel to prosper under such a system. Let me repeat my statement: I would love to play under the “men’s” system, but at the moment this doesn't seems realistic to implement.

I took two discussion points from this. The first is the assumption about 'additional funding' needed. A more obvious fix would be to have the winner of the knockout format seeded as the challenger into a subsequent title match. This would require no additional tournaments. Perhaps 'FIDE had trouble finding sponsors' for the Sochi event precisely because of the dubious reputation of the knockout format as a World Championship tournament.

The second discussion point is the observation that 'top-tier rating favorites [can be] eliminated in the very first rounds'. This implies that the format favors lower ranked players, who would have little chance of becoming World Championship in a fixed match. It is perhaps for this very reason that the format endures. There are more lower ranked players than there are top players -- Hou Yifan is currently in a class by herself -- so any political decisions that favor the majority will choose the knockout format. Is the World Championship really a place for democratic considerations?

As for the interview itself, I found it curious that the relationship between Peter Zhdanov, the interviewer, and Pogonina was not disclosed in the introduction. Not everyone can be expected to know that they are married. I was happy to discover in the comments that other readers agree with me, e.g.

There is nothing wrong publishing an interview between a husband and wife. There IS something wrong with not disclosing that the interview is between husband and wife. It's not up to us to decide what that information means, but it violates journalistic integrity to hide it from the readers.

Zhdanov commented in Part 2,

I don't quite get what my marital status has to do with the quality of the interview. I mean, it's not a secret. It is on the Wikipedia. As someone mentioned already, the bio does say that I am Natalia's manager and editor of her site. I have read quite a few interviews with Natalia; most of them had more softball questions than this one. Also, I happen to know her well as person, so I don't really know what "tough" questions I could ask her. Some ridiculous insinuations which have nothing to do with reality?

Although Zhdanov might not understand the importance of an upfront declaration, Chessbase.com should. And one more point: There is no '"men’s" system' or '"men’s" scheme' to the World Championship. As the Regulations for the World Chess Cup 2015 clearly state,

3.1. Qualifiers - There are 128 qualifiers (in order of priority): World Champion + four (4) semi-finalists from the World Cup 2013, Women's World Champion, World Junior U-20 Champions 2013 & 2014, [...]

The World Cup is the next qualifying event leading to the title of (unrestricted) World Champion. The Women's World Champion is a restricted title like the Junior World Champion. Has everyone already forgotten that ten years ago Judit Polgar played in the 2005 San Luis World Chess Championship?

20 April 2015

What Ticks Off Engine Users? (Part I)

Before I get back to What Makes the Engines Tick?, I would like to share an email exchange sent to me by a frequent visitor to this blog. It seems he took a liking to Komodo after learning that the engine had won TCEC Season 7. It also seems that he is somewhat inexperienced in the world of chess engines and was struggling with the engine's software from the beginning.

[Used with permission of my correspondent, whom I'll call MacUser. The messages from the Komodo side are copied without the knowledge of Komodochess.com, although I can't imagine it's a problem if it spares them further discussions of this type.]

MacUser to Komodo Help: Can you walk me through this? I just spent $60 on something that doesn’t run without an engine. I was unable to download an engine from Arena, which says it is not available for Mac. I’m not good with computers. The help video did not run for me. I am very unhappy.

That's already a bad start. MacUser has confused the engine he bought from Komodo with the GUI he needs to operate the engine.

Komodo Help: I would be glad to help. SCID vs Mac is a free and good chess GUI and database that runs on the Mac: scid-vs-mac. If you have any other chess GUIs for your Mac, I can try and help you install Komodo in them. If not, try downloading the program at the link above, and then we can go over how to install the engine.
M: Failure. I accessed the Scid page but the download is not operating at this time, I get the "cannot connect to server" message. In the meantime I have been trying to upload it into the HIARCS GUI but there is no setting there for "Lmr", the threads cannot be adjusted, and your guidance for table base settings is inadequate on this GUI.
K: I know J. has the Hiarcs GUI on his Mac. I will let him respond, but I know Komodo 8 does work in the Mac. I unfortunately do not have a Mac, but I am sure J. can help you. It sounds like you at least got the Komodo engine installed in the Hiarcs interface. In the mean time, here is an online manual for Hiarcs Chess Explorer: Explorer.html. In the Engine Preferences section (Preferences - Engine Preferences - Configure engine), it shows a dialog box with a scroll bar on the right edge. Perhaps you have to scroll that down to see the remaining engine settings lke Lmr, Syzygy settings and Threads?
M: The Komodo on the HIARCS GUI is not running well, much slower and weaker than the HIARCS, it hasn’t got over 21 ply yet. Maybe I don’t have the settings right, I have the i7, 3.4GHz.
K: Here is a video showing how to change engine settings in Hiarcs: PC Chess Explorer - Managing engines.
M: [Message missing]
K: Ah, so you at least got it running. Good. With an i7, which has 4 "cores", you should set the number of "Threads", which is an engine setting, to 4. The default is "1", so you will want to increase that. Of course if you are running two engines at a time to do analysis, you should select 2 Thread for each, so they both have the same amount of hardware available. Are you trying to play games between the engines, or just analyzing games? • Note you cannot really directly compare search depth between programs, since some programs (like Stockfish) reduce the search a lot, while other like Komodo extend critical lines a lot. A better comparison is the length of the principal variation displayed. As for strength, on the same hardware, Komodo 8 is about 230 (or more) Elo stronger than Hiarcs 14. Several rating lists show this like CCRL and CEGT.
M: The click they make on the video to configure the engine has no effect on Komodo. It has no effect on the HIARCS programs either. I can make adjustments to the engines in "section preferences". "Got it running" but plys in the 20s are a joke, we live in a 40 ply world. I am convinced my installation is a failure.
M: I finally found the engine configuration tab. Komodo was default set at one thread. I have changed that to your recommended four. The HIARCS programs are set at eight threads. Komodo still seems to be slow. I don’t have this set right yet, do I?
K: In the TCEC (which many consider the [world] championship), Komodo was searching to depths of typically 27 or 28. Komodo won season 7 against the "higher depth" Stockfish. But as I said, compare PV length and you will see Komodo searches much deeper that its iteration depth.
K: I do not know why Hiarcs is using eight. There is something called hyperthreading which uses two threads per CPU core. We do not think this helps Komodo. Just match threads to actual cores for Komodo. If you have two i7 chips in your machine, then eight threads would be right. You can contact Mark Uniacke at Hiarcs.com to see what he recommends for Hiarcs.
K: I checked Wikipedia here: List of Intel Core i7 microprocessors. I see most i7 processors have 4 cores, but there are a few with 6 and one version with 8. I thought they all had 4, but I see I was wrong. What is the name and number of your cpu chip and we can look up the correct number of threads to use?
M: I have no idea where to find the name and number of the CPU chip. All it says on "about this Mac" is Intel core i7. There is a tab on the HIARCS interface that has configurations including the thread. If you go to the HIARCS "preferences" section and click "engines", you can set the hash table size there. Of course, I don’t know the correct setting for that either.

Will MacUser finally succeed in installing Komodo? Find out in Part II of What Ticks Off Engine Users? (coming soon to this blog!).

19 April 2015

The Anonymous Artist

After a pause from blogging for the last week, I'll resume with a new post in the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. In the previous post, The Artist and the Artwork, I wondered,

In the chess world we often devote as much time to the careers of outstanding players as we do to their specific games. In the art world, is it only the value of the art work that matters?

Given the number of times that the artist is unknown, I would have to answer 'Yes!'. The item pictured below, titled 'Early 20th Century French Original Oil on Copper "Ladies Playing Chess" Elegant', sold for US $417 after receiving 33 bids from 10 bidders.

The description listed a few more attributes of the piece.

Medium: Oil on Copper
Age: Circa 1900-1949
Listed Artist: Unknown
Painting Size: 16" x 12"
Frame Size: 21" x 17"
Signature: Unsigned
Condition: Great
Frame: Antique wood frame
Subject: French ladies playing chess
Style: Traditional

The copper is in great condition. There is no signature on the art. It comes with a beautiful gold wood frame.

Copper and frame: Brilliant! Artist: Who cares? It's still worth $400...

10 April 2015

Youngest GM in U.S. History

From FOX Sports Live with Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade, Tony Rich, and more.

Sam Sevian: America’s Youngest Chess Grandmaster (4:37) • 'Sam Sevian made history this past November in becoming the youngest Grandmaster in US history at just 13 years old.'

Sevian: 'It's hard to explain chess to someone who doesn't play, because it's like explaining the beauty of music to someone who is deaf.' • Seirawan: 'Anyone who plays competitive chess at such an elite level as Sam aspires to be World Champion. That's it, full stop. That's the Mount Everest'

09 April 2015

Keene on 1993 & 2000 WCCs

Continuing with Controversial Keene, here are a few more statements on everyone's favorite chess topic -- the World Championship -- where GM Keene had a front row seat in three matches. Re the 1993 Kasparov - Short PCA Match, a knowledgeable Chessgames.com member asked a direct question, received a direct answer, and followed up with another direct question.

kpage=27 (July 2004): WMD: Considering the turmoil in the chess world over the last decade, and with the benefit of hindsight, do you now regret the Kasparov-Short breakaway in 1993, and your part in the sorry saga of the PCA?

ray keene: 1993 - absolutely the right thing to do - and there was a flourishing world championship cycle which grew out of it culminating in kaspy v anand in 1995. after that and only after that something went wrong - i suspect it may have had something to do with tensions between different sponsoring computer companies ibm microsoft intel but i was not privy to what precisely occurred.

WMD: I suppose we must be thankful it lasted all of two years. In NIC 2/99, Kasparov was asked 'What was you biggest mistake?' He replied: 'The PCA. That was stupid. I should have played this match against Short in Manchester and then express my demands to FIDE.'

Keene replied,

ray keene: yes that remark of kasparovs has always puzzled me!! • 1 it wasnt just up to him - short had a say too! • 2 kasparov seemed to have completely forgotten all about the successful wcc cycle and the grand prix tournaments all sponsored by intel. in my opinion it was losing intel which was the mistake and only gazza knows how that was achieved. [...]

GOLDEN AGE FOR CHESS - about to clock off for the night - one last thing - i believe the period from 1993 to 1995 was in fact a golden age for chess - the wcc match in london attracted huge publicity - both channel 4 tv and bbc made an immense number of programmes about it - from that time date the daily chess columns in the times the telegraph and the independent - a wcc cycle grew out of the intel sponsorship and grand prix knockouts were held all around the world eg moscow london - twice - and i think paris.

channel 4 seemed committed to coverage and then -- but something @#$%* off intel. interest in chess continued with kasparovs two ibm sponsored matches v deep blue 1996 and 1997 - the pr was enormous but the upshot was that the world as a whole was led to believe that the championship was no longer so important since a machine had defeated the best human. this -combined later with 9/11 has made it very hard to drum up former levels of chess sponsorship.

and added,

kpage=28: ray keene: i wanted to add a point about the events of the wcc between kasparov and short in 1993. this was 11 years ago and some of our younger members may not even recall precisely what happened. the roots of the troubles went back even further to 1985 - almost two decades ago - when fide president campomanes stopped the first kasparov - karpov challenge - WITHOUT RESULT. it was the perception of many of us in the chess community at that time - some now sadly dead - ricardo calvo for instance - as well as im david levy - lincoln lucena - larry evans gm... david goodman im... and many federations as well that campomanes was corrupt and that something had to be done.

an attempt to unseat him electorally failed in 1986 - not least because the host country paid air fares for any nation that promised campomanes their vote. it will be recalled that this was another fide event which banned israel from competing. i think our actions and perceptions were vindicated when a filipino court recently convicted campomanes of corruption. nobody expects a man of his age - almost 80 - to serve his jail sentence - but the principle is clear, campomanes was officially corrupt and condemned by a court from his own country. any who followed the events of the bidding process for 1993 will see that fides own rules were flagrantly ignored when the match was originally awarded to manchester. this led to the joke - whats the difference between campomanes and the british empire - answer - britannia rules the waves but campo waives the rules!

Several months later the forum discussion centered on the 2004 Kramnik - Leko match.

kpage=69: iron maiden: < i feared before the start that there might be just one decisive game.> So did I. But already nearly half of the games are decisive, compared with just two out of fifteen in Kasparov - Kramnik. I don't think it was boring even when Kramnik was leading; we saw a lot of fight from both players in the fourth and fifth games.

ray keene: it depends if kramnik curls up and dies like kaspy did last time against him or whether he comes out fighting. what struck me aout the london match was that garrys downfall seemed to be connected to a desire to analyse to victory in advance. if he cdnt do this and his prep some how got upset he seemed to be creatively maimed. here kramnik is doing the same thing - he seems to be relying on heavy openings anlysis and when it doesnt produce the desired goods he falls apart. game 8 was a clear and obvious example - just look at the times - of leko being "caught" in opening prep that in fact didnt work.

the other interesting thing is that kramnik as white is a natural d4 player. he used d4 against kaspy and won the match. in the intervening 4 years he has convinced himself that d4 doesnt work and has switched to e4 to ginger up his play - the result - zilchissimo. leko used to be e4 but has won a d4 game and a fine game it was. in london 2000 kaspy used e4 most of the time - got nowhere. kramnik used d4 and won 2 games. so over the past 23 world title games 1e4 is minus two while 1 d4 is plus three. the grunfeld nimzo and qgd have all lost one for black while the petroff and marshall have both stymied white. one of the very encouraging things from this match is that black has won two games. after london 2000 i thought that black might never ever win another game in a wcc match!

Keene's stream-of-consciousness writing style is sometimes difficult to follow -- he says that he writes faster when he leaves CAPS off -- but I've resisted the temptation to apply more than minimum edits to his material. There is much more on the forum.

07 April 2015

Controversial Keene

Let's return to Chessgames.com and the Odd Lie, last seen in Wesley So & Kenneth Rogoff. At the time of my 'Odd Lie' post, the last 'Most Kibitzing' entry on CG.com's Chess Statistics page was Raymond Keene. The English GM has since dropped off the list and been replaced by The Biographer Bistro, where the first entry (June 2011) explains,

This forum is for discussing chess history, especially in the context of improving the biographies that appear on most of our player pages. We dubbed it a "bistro" to emphasize the relaxed environment. This is not an exclusive club for Chessgames biographers or "serious historians" only. Everybody is invited to stop by to discuss chess history, ask questions, share knowledge, or even joke around.

Although that would be a fitting subject for a post on this blog, today I'll limit myself to the page on Keene. It starts (November 2003),

GM Raymond Keene is now better known as an author and businessman, but he had a powerful positional style based on Nimzowitsch combined with a tactician's eye for combinations.

then quickly switches to Keene's controversial history. Why controversial? A recent Announcement from the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog offers a summary (but note its date before jumping to conclusions on its purport). While some of Keene's alleged 'transgressions' stretch back more than 30 years, many are more recent, and there is no mention in the S&B post of his most controversial actions -- his role in the 1993 Kasparov - Short PCA Title Match and its aftermath. Back to Keene's CG.com page, the not-so-gentle GM walks on stage in June 2004.

Hi and greetings from member ray keene. thank you to all those who have looked at and enjoyed my games both wins and losses. however - having been alerted to the existence of this wonderful site i must say that some readers give far too much credence to jealous rivals - failed chess businessmen looking for someone to blame - people to whom i have had on occasion to refuse a job and embittered players who have peformed less well than they wanted and prefer to blame anyone but themselves!

His presence explains the popularity of the kibitzing page. For the next 10+ years, Keene chats with both fans and detractors, bringing to mind Em. Lasker's famous dictum that 'a fighter is a target as well as a shot'. While the conversation meanders through many topics of little interest to the chess player, it occasionally stops to focus on some aspect of chess history where Keene played a role. Some examples from the 5% of the (occasionally edited) material that I had time to read:-

kpage=48: shirov definitely turned down a match with kasparov because he did not like the money. personally i think this was not the best move. many people wd seize the chance for a match v kasparov even if there were no prize fund at all. any way this was shirovs decision and once he turned it down kasparov - rightly or wrongly - regarded his obligations to shirov as completed. i can assure you that kasparov was not avoiding shirov - his lifetime score against him is massive and kasparov has never lost.

kpage=52: [Fischer: "Stein is completely lost"] keene - stein was indeed me [...] i was very happy with my position but then someone informed me that bobby fischer was watching my game and i became very nervous and offered a draw!

kpage=61: prof richard eales the author of the history of chess and former head of the history dept at the university of kent canterbury [...] and married to my sister dr jacqueline eales

Earlier I was reminded that Keene's sister played a larger role in chess than being married to the author of 'Chess: The History of a Game'.

kpage=1: For some time I have seen postings concerning the dispute between David Levy and Ray Keene. I have read these with interest, since as many readers will know, I was married to David for 17 years and I am Ray 's sister. [...] Dr Jacqueline Eales, formerly Dr Jacqueline Levy

How many dimensions does chess have? Not nearly as many as its history. Perhaps not even as many as GM Keene.

06 April 2015

What Makes the Engines Tick?

I started with a post on Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish and eventually reached Battering the Gruenfeld. Now I'd like to look a little deeper into the engines' internals. The best explanations that I've seen are found at chessprogramming.wikispaces.com, from which I took the following introductions.


A chess engine by Robert Houdart, which appeared in 2010 as closed source engine, free for non-commercial use. [...] According to its author, Houdini 3 applies a accelerated principal variation search, also dubbed "Smart" Fail-High. If a different move becomes best at very high search depths at the root, re-searches to determine its exact score and the new principal variation are done faster due to a reduced search depth, presumably in conjunction with extensions along the PV.


A chess engine by primary author Don Dailey and, since October 2013, by Mark Lefler, supported by chess advisor and evaluation expert and Don's long time collaborator Larry Kaufman. Komodo appeared in January 2010 derived from Don's former engine Doch. It uses bitboards as internal board representation, and has a sophisticated search and a knowledge based, balanced evaluation.


A UCI compatible open source chess engine developed by Tord Romstad, Marco Costalba, and Joona Kiiski. Marco forked the project from version 2.1 of Tord's strong engine Glaurung, first announced by Marco in November 8, 2008 [1] . Starting out among the top twenty engines, it has quickly climbed in strength. The name "Stockfish" reflects the ancestry of the engine.

Now I have some serious reading to do. I'll come back to the subject when I understand more.

05 April 2015

The Artist and the Artwork

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I try not to feature the same object twice, but similar items come frequently into consideration, especially when there was little else of interest during the preceding fortnight. The item pictured below, titled 'Antique Austrian cold painted bronze orientalist playing chess signed Chotka', sold for US $995 after a single bid.

The description added,

A very beautiful antique Austrian cold painted bronze signed Chokta [sic], two Arab men playing chess on the bench over on an oriental rug with delicate design and colors. 9 1/2" x 6 1/2" x 5".

I featured Chotka a few years ago in Anton Chotka 18??-19?? (August 2013), where I mentioned,

I couldn't find much about Chotka on the web, and there is some disagreement on his life span.

Although that is still true, I would replace 'some disagreement' by 'considerable disagreement'. In the chess world we often devote as much time to the careers of outstanding players as we do to their specific games. In the art world, is it only the value of the art work that matters? Perhaps Chotka just wasn't important enough for basic research about his career.

03 April 2015

Chess @ Post Memes

'How Chess Was Invented' (top to bottom, left to right):-

- BK: 'The castle has fallen!'
- [The White King (WK) waits for the Black King (BK) to enter]
- BK: 'Your reign is over, Sour King!'
- WK: 'Nevah!'
- BK: 'Crap'

How Chess Was Invented © Flickr user Post Memes under Creative Commons.

No, I don't get it either. A related link, postmemes.com/how-chess-was-invented, explains exactly zip. The domain name at the bottom of the comic leads to Things in Squares: thingsinsquares.com/chess, but that doesn't help either. Looks like you had to be there.

02 April 2015

April 1965 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago My Fair Lady won eight awards at the 37th Academy Awards. What were U.S chess publications reporting?

Left: 'XXXII Soviet Championship'
Right: 'The Winning Move'

Chess Life

As reported in out last issue, the XXXIInd Soviet Championship, played in Kiev, was won by Viktor Korchnoi. This month we feature a selection of games from this event, many of them notable for sharp tactical play in the openings and early middle game. The caricatures of Korchnoi and Bronstein are taken from the Soviet tournament bulletins.

To play through the two featured cover games, see

on Chessgames.com.

Chess Review

'Twas a Black Knight for Samuel Reshevsky's opponent when Sam made his winning move! The cover photo may be a posed one; and the caption someone's idea of a gag, but Reshevsky did make just enough winning moves to regain a National First ranking by winning the First National Chess Open Championship (distinct from the U.S. Open and the regular U.S. Championship) held at Las Vegas, Nevada.

Two months earlier, Reshevsky figured in another photo from the same event on a Chess Life cover; see February 1965 'On the Cover'. What was the gag caption? 'The Winning Move'?