31 May 2015

Mystery Painting with Dog

Back around the early days of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I posted a related piece titled Chess Art, Chinese Copies (July 2010). Although the eBay store I linked on that post now returns 'The seller User ID you entered was not found', I imagine there are many such copies in circulation.

When I saw the auction for the item pictured below -- titled '16C MEN PLAYING CHESS WHILE LARGE DOG LOOKS ON' -- I thought it was perhaps another Chinese copy, but the original doesn't appear on the reference page Tableaux Échecs - Chess Paintings (*). Copy or not, 'LARGE DOG LOOKS ON' sold for somewhat less than US $3750, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description said,

Up for purchase is this absolutely Charming Oil Painting beautifully Framed of two 16th or 17th Century Men of the Court playing Chess while a very large Hound looks on. The painting surprisingly is not signed but of such high quality that I find it perplexing not to see a noted Artist who signed this work. It is really so well done.

The background is fascinating showing a 16thC Court Cupboard, Tapestry etc. The costume and looks afforded by the Gentleman are great also the painless expression of the Hound dog just staring ahead. Please notice the hands of the chap on the left. Wonderful representation of one of the most difficult things to paint, the human hand.

This glorious scene measures approx 16" by 13" and that is the unframed measurements. The gilt frame is quite nice and sets off the 2 Gentleman and CANINE observer, and at the price I have marked, I will be quite surprised if this does not sell rather quickly. The painting has dust on it and could use a cleaning, If you do get a cleaning be prepared to see so much more of the interior backround which is not very noticeable now. Paint appears to be in very good condition.

It strangely has a metal backing to the verso covering the Canvas. I know not why. That is how this painting was purchased right out of a large Victorian Estate owned by an old College Professor in Dutchess County NY. He himself was a Chess Master but many years ago.

Remember Chess Paintings Require Dogs? They do indeed add to the overall effect.

(*) Last seen on this blog in Endless Diversion.

29 May 2015

Kasparov on 'The Stream'

I had a big choice of videos for this edition of Video Friday. I chose this video not so much for Kasparov, but for The Stream. I used to watch the show regularly but lost it when I switched service providers a few years ago.

Garry Kasparov talks chess, politics and Putin (35:46) • 'On The Stream'

See also Garry Kasparov talks... [aljazeera.com]

Former world champion Garry Kasparov gave up checkmating his opponents in chess for the maneuverings of politics. During his career as a Grandmaster he broke dozens of records, won countless matches and is considered one of the greatest chess players of all time. [...plus tweets...]

Who placed Kasparov in front of an American flag? I bet that went over well in Moscow. For a less serious look at the same subjects, see my post from last year, Geopolitical Yahoos.

28 May 2015

My Favorite Uncle

Dad was an only child and Mom had one brother, so I had exactly one uncle and one aunt. Now that uncle is gone. RIP, Uncle Art.



Dr. Arthur B. Backensto Jr., age 88, of Crown Point, IN passed away on Saturday, May 2, 2015. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Alethea "Lee"; his son, Arthur B. Backensto, III "Terry" (Kim) of Scottsdale, AZ; his daughter, Karen (Richard) Koepke of Heath, TX; one granddaughter, Amy Lee (Justin) Boyd of Melbourne, FL; and one sister, Geraldine (late Robert) Weeks of Wallingford, VT and her children. He was preceded in death by his parents, Arthur and Nina Backensto.

Art was born in Troy, New York, and attended school there, where he was president and valedictorian of his senior class. He also attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy as an NROTC V-12 student earning B.S., M.S. and PhD degrees in Metallurgical Engineering. While in college, he was a member of the honor societies Tau Beta Pi and Phi Lambda Epsilon.

His career led him to Bendix Aviation Corporation in Troy, to Alan Wood Steel Co. in Conshohocken, PA, and finally to Glidden Metals (SCM Products) in Hammond, IN. At that time, the family moved to Crown Point, IN. He worked for a total of 50 years in the field of powder metallurgy. In 2003, Art received the prestigious Fellow Award from the professional society for powder metallurgists, APMI International, recognizing his high level of expertise in the field.

He was a lifelong Presbyterian and a 50-year member of First Presbyterian Church in Crown Point, serving in many capacities while there. His interests included photography, gardening, and collecting signed baseballs and army figurines. He was an avid fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. Under his guidance, the family made many trips to Pennsylvania and one extended trip to Switzerland to celebrate their Pennsylvania Dutch heritage with other family members. He took many photographs on these trips and developed slide shows for the enjoyment of family and friends.

He was a true gentleman to his family and friends and will be deeply missed. The family is grateful to the staffs at Franciscan St. Anthony Health, Wittenberg Memory Care Unit and Unity Hospice. Special thanks go to nurses Sherry and Sue, the Presbyterian Church Prayer Chain, and many friends. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at First Presbyterian Church, 218 S. Court St., Crown Point, IN at 11:00 AM and visitation with the family from 10:00 AM until the time of the service. Dr. David K. Wood will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the following: First Presbyterian Church Building Fund, 218 S. Court St., Crown Point, IN 46307; American Red Cross of NWI, 791 E. 83rd Ave., Merrillville, IN 46410; or Alzheimer and Dementia Services, 922 E. Colfax Ave., South Bend, IN 46617. Arrangements have been entrusted to Geisen Funeral, Cremation & Reception Centre in Crown Point. 219-663-2500.

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Matthew 25:21

Legacy.com: Dr. Arthur B. Backensto Jr., Obituary.

26 May 2015

Keene on Petrosian

Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote many posts on Petrosian's unique style; see, for example, Index to Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice. After a more recent post, Controversial Keene, I continued to gather material written by Keene from Chessgames.com, and was pleased to find a list of recommended Petrosian games in the Raymond Keene forum (p.70).

Oct-08-04 ray keene: may i recommend the following games by petrosian. this is from memory so apologies if the references arent quite right - however they are all petrosian wins so you shd be able to track them down without too much difficulty.

I then located the same games on Chessgames.com:-

Keene's list had 19 games, so to round it out I added the game marked '*' from the Petrosian chapter that he wrote for E.G. Winter's 'World Chess Champions' (Pergamon Press, 1981). Keene also wrote the Fischer chapter in the same book. Given the animosity often displayed by Winter for Keene, it is surprising to find they once collaborated on a project. Keene discussed this in Keres vs Alekhine, 1943, another forum on Chessgames.com.

Jul-14-04 ray keene: i contributed to a book on world champions which winter compiled but this was 24 years ago when he was in his early 20's. i had no idea of his identity then and he has always been very careful to conceal himself - no pictures for example. a foto of winter wd be worth quite a bit. in fact when he contacted me to contribute to the book i mixed him up with someone much older at the bbc whom i thought to be an amateur chess historian and to whom i had given a couple of chess lessons a few years earlier!!

we had perfectly cordial relations to start with - all by post - but when i co wrote batsford chess openings with kasparov he accused us in print of only having ghost written contributions - not the real gk. since i had been with garry in moscow when he wrote his bit out by hand this annoyed me more than somewhat as it struck at the very credibility of the book. i then hit on the idea of auctioning the original gk manuscript for charity and putting it on show in the batsford offices for inspection beforehand so the handwritng could be verified - which a number of experts did. winter never forgave me for proving him wrong - he attacked me left right and centre and i used to reply. then he wrote something complaining about an article i had written, alleging it was without foundation - but i found the source for the story in one of his own books.

For Winter's version of the BCO - Kasparov story, see 'Batsford Chess Openings', the first section in Cuttings [Chesshistory.com]. The page is a long summary of the Keene - Winter feud.

Keene wrote a later book on Petrosian, titled Petrosian Vs the Elite [amazon.co.uk]. The publication date (Batsford, 2006) suggests that it contains the same games listed by Keene on Chessgames.com.

25 May 2015

Going Mobile : Responsive Design

I ended my last post, Going Mobile : The Viewport with a small dilemma.

Now I have to decide which is more important -- having mobile visitors understand at a glance the full content of a page, or having Google rank my pages as mobile-friendly.

It turns out that both are possible. The technique is called Responsive Web Design and here's how Wikipedia defines it:-

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).

Since no one comes to a chess blog to read about web design, I won't attempt to survey the many resources on the subject. One that I found particularly useful is the Responsive Design View tool in Firefox. This lets me experiment with the view of my pages the same way a mobile visitor sees them. The following image shows screen captures of the two home pages in both portrait and landscape orientation.

Mobile Views

Top row: World Chess Championship
Bottom row: Chess for All Ages (CFAA)

From this it's obvious that I can improve the look of both sites with just a few simple changes. The big Adsense banners, which serve mainly as counters, can be reduced in importance, and the CFAA logo can be reduced in size. I'll work on a different look for both pages and present the result in a future post.

24 May 2015

FIDE Chess Curriculum

Continuing with the mini-series that started with a post looking for a Chess Curriculum, the second post, S.Polgar Chess Curriculum, ended with

In my next post I'll look at No.5 in the 'Chess Curriculum' list which is (apparently) FIDE's curriculum.

Thanks to some previous work I did, FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014, it wasn't hard to locate FIDE's suggested curriculum. The relevant link is behind a banner on the FIDE home page.

The subdomain, cis.fide.com, in turn leads to Teaching Materials, where the first resources listed are 'Kulac - Teacher's Guide - Year 1',

This is the first English translation of the book by Dr Olgun Kulac that is used by more than 49.000 teachers in Turkish schools. It is the cornerstone of a series which includes several class books.

and 'Kulac - Class Book - Year 1',

This is the English translation. This is the class book used by the first year students (age 6-7-8).

'Kulac - Class Book - Year 2' is also listed, but

This is the Turkish language version. An English translation will follow when the translation of Class Book Year 1 has been completed. We are also awaiting the Teacher's Guide for Year 2.

Now that I've rounded up the five curricula (curriculums) identified in my initial post, there are two more that deserve a look: (1) from the Kasparov Chess Foundation and (2) from Chess Cafe.

22 May 2015

Chess at Clandon Park

The caption said, 'Following the fire at Clandon Park, I've found a few more photos in old albums. Presumably this was destroyed.'

Clandon Park 15 September 1991 © Flickr user Paul Appleyard under Creative Commons.

For more about the fire, see Clandon Park House fire: Investigation 'will take time' [bbc.com/news]. For more about the painting, see nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1441467, where we learn

The Hon. Edward Onslow (1758-1829), John FitzWilliam, 8th Viscount FitzWilliam (1752–1830) and George Augustus Herbert, 11th Earl of Pembroke (1759-1827) playing chess; Daniel Gardner (Kendal 1750 – London 1805).

For more about the artist, see Daniel Gardner [Wikipedia].

21 May 2015

The Engines' Value of Castling

While archiving old support files on my hard drive, I found a strange PGN file and a related spreadsheet. 'What were those for?', I wondered, and used the files' datestamps to relate them to an unfinished post, The Value of Castling (August 2013). That post included a useful summary:-

1.0 - Value of castling : Where '1.0' is the well-known value of a Pawn. Ever since encountering that statement by GM Kaufman, I've wondered if there was any way to verify it. I've also wondered about the value of castling O-O as opposed to O-O-O. Armed with the three variations at the beginning of this post, I can plug the resulting positions into an engine and record the results.

Those three variations had afterwards expanded to 16, all of them using different paths to reach the position shown in the following diagram.

1.e4 e5

The 16 variations lead to different combinations of castling in the diagram -- (1) Both sides [i.e. wings: Kingside O-O & Queenside O-O-O] possible, (2) No O-O possible, (3) No O-O-O, and (4) Neither side possible -- for both White and Black. For example, the variation 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Rg1 Ng8 4.Rh1 Nf6 5.Ng1 Ng8 leads to the diagram with White unable to castle O-O, but with Black retaining the option of castling to either side.

After constructing the 16 variations, I ran three engines -- Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish -- on each of the resulting positions and recorded their evaluations after 15 ply had been reached. None of these engines is the most recent version -- I acquired all of them in the period 2013-2014 -- but that isn't important for this exercise.

The results are shown in the following table. White's four castling options are in rows 3 to 6, Black's are in columns B to E. Values are rounded off to a single decimal place. I know it's hard to read, but that's life. The many data points -- 16 variations x 3 engines -- handled manually mean there is potential for error. On top of that, 15 ply for Stockfish is perhaps not enough. If I ever redo the table, I'll make it more readable.

As an example to explain the data, cell B3 shows the results after the normal 1.e4 e5. The cell says,

H:0.1, K:0.2, S:0.3

meaning 'H' (Houdini) evaluated the position at 0.1, 'K' at 0.2, and 'S' at 0.3. Cell E3 shows the results where White retains both castling options, but Black has neither.

H:0.8, K:0.6, S:1.2

The results here are somewhat less than the hypothetical '1.0 - Value of castling', but are significantly greater than most of the other cells. Only cell E5, which is like E3 where White has lost the O-O-O option, comes close.

Note that four cells -- B4, D4, B6, & D6 -- contain '(*)'. This is to flag an anomaly I encountered during my investigation. Before, I explain it, let's make a brief detour.

I use all three engines in my chess research and have often noticed that they treat triple repetition differently. Houdini declares a repetition (value 0.00) after both moves of a pair repeat a position. That means if a move, e.g. 30.Nf3, repeats a position for White the repetition is confirmed if Black's next move, e.g. 30...Nf6, also repeats the position. Komodo and Stockfish declare a repetition after a single move repeats the position. Using the same example, they would assign a value of 0.00 to 30.Nf3, and stop calculating the line.

Getting back to the four cells (B4 etc.) Houdini calculated a negative value in all four, indicating that Black has the advantage. Komodo and Stockfish both assigned value 0.00, because they noticed that White could repeat a previous position and stopped there. A particularly surprising example is cell B6, 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2 Nf6 3.Ke1 Ng8, where White has lost both castling options, while Black retains them. K & S saw that White could play 4.Ke2(!), repeating the position, and then stopped without giving Black the chance to play something other than 4...Nf6.

In all of these '(*)' situations, I recorded the first non-zero value given by the engine to its second or third choice. Even with this tweak, Komodo still gave near-equality to White.

What does all of this show? First, that castling is indeed a valuable weapon to possess. Second, that O-O is valued significantly higher than O-O-O. It might be useful to extend this investigation to the full family of chess960 start positions, but that will have to wait for another time.

19 May 2015

The USCF Awards

At the same time I posted about the 2015 CJA Awards Announcement, I intended to mention the USCF Awards, but ran out of time. Good thing, too, because the USCF's annual awards deserve a full post at least once on this blog.

The awards are determined during the second quarter of each year at the USCF Executive Board meeting. I found a summary of all awards in the 2013 USCF Yearbook, added the awards for 2014 & 2015, loaded the lists into a database, and ran some simple queries.

The first two awards -- the 'Distinguished Service Award' and the 'Koltanowski Award' -- were made in 1979, and a 'Meritorious Services Award' was added the following year. The number of awards has grown since then to around 20 in recent years, although not all awards are made in every year.

The winners of the awards are the movers and shakers of American over-the-board chess. The Koltanowski Award (sometimes called the 'Koltanowski Medal') is made to an individual or organization offering outstanding financial support to U.S. chess, with the Sinquefields receiving several awards in recent years.

1979 Gold: Bill Church, Jacqueline Piatigorsky, Louis Statham
1980 Gold: Thomas Emery, Lessing Rosenwald
1981 Gold: Fred Cramer; Silver: Howard Gaba, Fred Gruenberg, Al Hansen
1982 Gold: Rea Hayes; Silver: Nobert Leopoldi
1983 Silver: Stephen Jones, Don Richardson, John Rykowski, Ralph Slottow
1984 Gold: Jose Cuchi; Silver: M. Vacheron
1985 Gold: Frank Normali; Silver: R. W. Twombly
1986 Gold: Shelby Lyman, NCR Corporation; Silver: Fanueil Adams, Jr., Paul Arnold Associates, Equitable Life Assurance, Prudential Insurance
1987 Gold: Frank Samford
1988 Gold: Sid Samole
1989 Gold: Novag Industries, Les Crane
1990 Gold: Arnold Denker, Helen Warren
1991 Gold: Ted Field; Silver: Neil Falconer
1992 Gold: Banker’s Trust
1994 Silver: Dr. Martin Katahn
1995 Gold: Interplay Productions, Brian Fargo
1996 Gold: Saitek Industries, Ltd.; Silver: Zamagias Properties
1997 Gold: Interplay Productions; Silver: Novag Industries, Wizards of the Coast
1998 Gold: Chess In the Schools; Silver: Internet Chess Club
2000 Gold: The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD); Silver: The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD)
2001 Gold: The Seattle Chess Foundation
2002 Gold: Floyd and Bernice Sarisohn, Dato Tan Chin Nam
2003 Gold: Dr. Martin (Dick) Katahn; Gold: Tennessee Tech University
2004 Gold: Kasparov Chess Foundation
2005 Gold: Al Blowers (from HB Foundation)
2006 Gold: America’s Foundation for Chess
2007 Gold: Frank K. Berry
2008 Gold: Hanon Russell
2009 Gold: Rex Sinquefield
2011 Gold: Rex Sinquefield; Silver: Doyle Engelen, Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.
2012 Gold: Rex Sinquefield, Jeanne Sinquefield
2013 Gold: Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis; Gold: Garry Kasparov and the Kasparov Chess Foundation; Silver: Trophies Plus
2014 Gold: Bill Goichberg and the Continental Chess Association
2015 Gold: Frank Berry; Silver: Amy Lee

As with most of the USCF's activities, the growth of online chess has been largely overlooked. The ICC received a silver Koltanowski award in 1998. For a list of the 2014 awards, see Brownsville Recognized as Chess City of the Year [FULL AWARDS LIST] on the USCF's USchess.org.

18 May 2015

Going Mobile : The Viewport

I have more topics for the series last seen in Label 'Engines', but before I continue with those, I would like to make a detour to take a closer look at Going Mobile. I signed off that post with

It's clear that I have to address the issue of 'mobile-friendly'. In a future post I'll look at what sort of work is involved. First stop: setting the 'mobile viewport'.

A page on developers.google.com, Configure the Viewport, told me to add 'a meta viewport' in the HEAD section of my pages and gave a specific syntax:-

<meta name=viewport content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

I added this for my WCC index page, loaded it into a test directory, and used the resource Mobile SEO - The tool and optimization guide [feedthebot.com] to compare the results. I first tried Google's 'Mobile-Friendly Test' (see the 'Going Mobile' post for a link), but it failed to render the Adsense code. The following image shows the results given by feedthebot.com.

For me, it's no contest. I would much rather have visitors see the full content of the page (shown on the left) than see only the introduction to the page (shown on the right). Given the full content they know they can zoom in to see more content. The intro alone might leave them scratching their heads and wondering what, if anything, they should do next.

Case closed? Maybe, but first I returned to Google's 'Mobile-Friendly Test' and fed it the address of my test page. It told me,

Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.

This was exactly the message I wanted to see. Now I have to decide which is more important -- having mobile visitors understand at a glance the full content of a page, or having Google rank my pages as mobile-friendly. I'll think about this choice for the next few days. In the meantime, the developers.google.com link I gave earlier contains many more 'Rules' on how to optimize a page for mobile.

17 May 2015

Third All-Russian Masters' Tournament

Once in a while on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I find an item that reminds me how little I know about chess history. The photo shown below, from an auction titled, 'III Russian Chess Tournament - Collection of games of the tournament. 1904', sold for US $950 after receiving two bids. The event was the Russian championship of its time.

Akiba Rubinstein is sitting in the leftmost chair facing Salwe. The other seated players are identified as Chigorin, Yurevich, O.Bernstein, and Duz-Khotimirsky. The description for the auction added,

Tournament book with a report on the tournament, a group photo, individual photos, and pictures of Kiev. M.I. Chigorin edited commentary on the games. M.I. Chigorin Publishing house: Shakhmatnoe Obozrenie (Chess Review). The book is in the original hardcover and it contains:
- All of the games (Kiev, 1903, Chigorin took home 1st place) with round descriptions.
- An introductory article containing the tournament program and regulations.

The last time, Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908), the father of the Russian chess school and one of the best chess players of his time, triumphed at a large-scale tournament.

For more about the event, see Kiev 1903 chess tournament [Wikipedia], which informs,

The 3rd All-Russian Masters' Tournament took place in the rooms of the Kiev Chess Society in the Popov Building at No. 29 Kreshchatyk in Kiev on September 1–26, 1903.

The last time Chigorin was featured on this blog was in 1890 Chigorin - Gunsberg (February 2012).

15 May 2015

Trending: Youngest U.S. Masters

The other day I turned on the TV to watch the BBC World News and was surprised to see a chess story about Carissa Yip, 11 years old. I took this as a sign for this current edition of Video Friday. Just a few weeks ago I featured Youngest GM in U.S. History.

Girl, 11, is youngest US chess master - BBC News (2:45) • Channel: LEADING TV; Aka: The Weather Channel (?)

For the text report, see Girl, 11, is youngest US chess master [bbc.com/news].

14 May 2015

2015 CJA Awards Announcement, Offline

It happens every spring, when the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) wake up from their winter hibernation and announce their annual awards. Don't make the mistake of looking for the announcement on their web site, Chess Journalists of America, which hasn't been updated since January.

The awards announcement arrived in the May Chess Life (CL), which is only fitting, since CL contributors generally walk off with the lion's share of awards. You aren't a member of the USCF and don't have a copy of CL? I've reproduced the list of categories to the left.

Once again, 'Best Chess Blog' is at the bottom of the list, but at least it's there. Good thing, too, because it gives me the opportunity to write two easy posts -- one to announce the award process (mysteriously titled Chess History Archive last year) and one to announce the awards themselves (as in 2014 CJA Awards).

Last year the blog award went to The Kenilworthian by Michael Goeller, that blog's third time on the podium (not second, as I reported at the time). Since Michael put away his blogger's quill a few weeks after the awards were announced -- see The End of Chess Blogging -- the field is more open this year.

How to enter? The procedure is described in this month's CL article '2015 Chess Journalism of America Awards' By Joshua Anderson.

The Chess Journalists of America once again sends out a call for nominations to our annual Chess Journalists of America (CJA) chess journalism awards. The CJA awards recognize the best in all facets of chess journalism, print and online. The best chess articles, columns, photojournalism, layout, and online writing are honored within their respective categories. Recognized annually by their peers, the public, and members of CJA, the prestigious awards showcase American works published in English between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015. [...]

Interested parties can also contact CJA Awards Committee Chairman Joshua Anderson at [email address]. Our CJA President Frank Niro will announce the awards first at the annual CJA meeting (during the U.S. Open), followed shortly by a complete listing on the CJA website. Submissions must be made by June 15, 2015. Submissions (except the book category) are to be made electronically to the awards chairman via e-mail. Please include where entry was published, category entry should be placed in, date published, and who should receive the reward. Submissions can be paid for via PayPal or with a check made out to CJA and sent to CJA Awards c/o Joshua Anderson, [postal address].

Note the 31 May 2015 cutoff date. For the two missing addresses, see last year's announcement 2014 CJA Awards Program. There's still time to write the winning blog post!

12 May 2015

Going Mobile?

The message I received from Adsense at the beginning of the month was simple -- 'Your site's mobile-friendliness is now considered as a Google Search ranking signal' -- but what did it mean to me as a content creator for the web? A search on 'google mobile friendliness' led me to Google's Mobile-Friendly Test, where I gave it the address of this blog: chessforallages.blogspot.com. Google told me,

Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.

Ditto for my other blogs. No surprise here, because blogspot.com is a Google service. When I gave it the address of my World Chess Championship site, the result was not so good.

Page appears not mobile-friendly:-
Text too small to read
Links too close together
Mobile viewport not set

Ditto for my 'Chess for All Ages' instructional pages. What to do? The 'Not mobile-friendly' message included a section titled 'Make this page mobile-friendly', where the sub-section 'I built this site myself' led to Mobile SEO.

Let's make sure your site shows up in search results. In these sections, learn to configure your site for multiple devices, help search engines understand your configuration, and avoid common mistakes along the way.

Now I was looking at a big chunk of work and what the heck did 'Mobile viewport not set' mean? Before tackling this, I decided to see how much traffic I'm getting from mobile devices. The data on my m-w.com server log includes a field called 'user agent', which gives me information about the browsers used by visitors to the site.

With the help of User agent [Wikipedia], I developed the table shown on the left. It's based on data from a selected period in April this year and shows the first part of the user agent that supposedly gives 'Details of the system in which the browser is running'.

The complete table counts a total of nearly 30.000 pages (HTML files) served during the selected period. While the combined iPad and iPhone counts are only 8% of the total, the term 'Safari' appears in 45% of the total, as does 'Apple'.

After this analysis it's clear that I have to address the issue of 'mobile-friendly'. In a future post I'll look at what sort of work is involved. First stop: setting the 'mobile viewport'.

11 May 2015

Label 'Engines'

My recent series on chess engines has already gone farther than I expected when doing the first post three months ago, making this a good time to take stock of the situation. Here are the posts in chronological order.

Although I've been filing those posts in the category Posts with label MW's CC games, most of them have nothing to do with my own games. I created a new category Posts with label Engines and populated it with appropriate material. Note that I use the same label on my 'Chess960 (FRC)' blog; see Chess960 posts with label Engines.

10 May 2015

S.Polgar Chess Curriculum

Having ended Chess Curriculum, my latest post in the 'Chess in School' series with '(To be continued...)', let's continue. The first open point was

No.2: Susan Polgar's FREE Chess Training Guide / Curriculum [...] 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.

In fact I had already found a page titled Susan Polgar Foundation Training Program for Teachers (chessmaine.net), with a document titled 'Chess Training Program for Teachers'.

SPF_Training_Program_for_Teachers.pdf • 62 pages; dated 5 September 2006

It starts:-

Lesson 1
Lesson goals:
• Excite kids about the fun game of chess
• Relate the cool history of chess
• Incorporate chess with education: Learning about India and Persia
• Incorporate chess with education: Learning about the chess board and its coordinates
Who invented chess and why?
Talk about India / Persia – connects to Geography
Tell the story of "seed".

After browsing the document, I suspected that it was some sort of teachers' guide to be used together with another document that filled in the blanks. For example, given 'Relate the cool history of chess', the other document would have some details about that cool history. For this post I set off to find that other document and quickly discovered Susan Polgar Global Chess Daily News and Information - FREE Training Chess Guide for Parents and Teachers (chessdailynews.com):-

chess-training-guide.pdf • 65 pages; dated 19 April 2014

It starts:-

Lesson 1
Lesson goals:
• Excite kids about the fun game of chess
• Relate the cool history of chess
[same as above]

So there is no other document and I had the Polgar curriculum in hand the whole time. The three additional pages in the April 2014 version are a discussion about castling. Apologies to anyone who expected more from today's post. In my next post I'll look at No.5 in the 'Chess Curriculum' list which is (apparently) FIDE's curriculum.

08 May 2015

2015 World Team Championship

We already saw this photographer last year in Meet the Monks. He takes great photos, offers them 'Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs' under Creative Commons, then ruins them with intrusive watermarks.

Center bottom photo:
World Team Chess Championship 2015 in Tsaghkadzor © Flickr user PAN Photo under Creative Commons.

This time I avoided the esthetic problem with a composite image. The linked photo was uploaded to Flickr on 23 April 2015 and the event was held 18-29 April, so I guess that the opening ceremony is shown.

07 May 2015

Business Insider Chess

I still don't get it. Why would anyone want to paste the head of Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on to a photo of Magnus Carlsen, as in Playing Chess with the Euro? During the 2013 World Championship match I gave the offending site, BusinessInsider.com, a 'prize for bonehead chess reporting' in Anand - Carlsen, One Day to Go, but since then I have bookmarked several articles that were much bettter than your average mainstream news site normally serves up for chess. Just last month, we had

Sample paragraph from that last link:-

Carlsen has made chess about ten thousands times as popular as it was before he came along. Take nothing away from the previous generation, but the 24-year-old Norwegian has been electrifying for what [many?] had come to thought of as slow, boring game that computers played better than humans.

Yes, it's missing a word -- and similar glitches can be found in the other chess articles -- but there is a real excitement for the game that shines through brightly. The writer of these pieces, and many more, is Matthew DeBord, whose Twitter feed @mattdebord says,

Transportation Editor at Business Insider, covering cars, planes, boats, bikes, and anything else that moves us around. Also chess at times.

As for the domain, Wikipedia informs,

Business Insider is an American business and technology news website launched in February 2009 and based in New York City. Founded by DoubleClick Founder and former CEO Kevin P. Ryan, it is the overarching brand where Silicon Alley Insider and Clusterstock appear.

Yes, I like it, but getting back to 'Chess with the Euro', what does that Yanis/Magnus photo have to do with anything?

05 May 2015

May 1965 'On the Cover'

For the fourth time since the beginning of 1965, the first National Open was featured on the cover of a monthly chess magazine: see 'On the Cover' for January 1965, February 1965, and April 1965. The Chess Life cover also featured a repeat theme; last year we saw the U.S. Open, Boston, for the July 1964 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'A Caribbean Chess Holiday!'
Right: 'Fun Chess'

Chess Life

1965 U.S. Open Chess Championship; Director: IM George Koltanowski; Playing site: Students Center, U. of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Chess Review

Emma Walker has just thrown a Bishop and an Options symbol; and, strangely enough, everyone looks pleased. Fun Chess was tried at the Stardust during the National Open. Others on cover (left to right): Herman Estrada, Art Gamlin, Joanne Estrada, and Meryl Gamlin. At Vegas Fun Chess dice and rules are packaged by the Nevada Dice Co. in an attractive plastic case. [Rules...]

The thing Emma Walker is holding in her left hand is called a 'dice cage'. I probably should know what game it's normally used for, but I don't.

04 May 2015

What Ticks Off Engine Users? (Part III)

In 'What Ticks Off Engine Users?' Part I, we saw an inexperienced chess engine user ('MacUser') struggling to use Komodo, one of the world's top chess engines. Despite the support of an experienced Komodo Help team, we saw in Part II that MacUser finally concluded that he was unable to use the product.

I noted at the end of Part II, 'the discussion contains useful information that is not widely known', so let's recap that information. At the beginning of the discussion between MacUser and Komodo Help, I had already noted,

MacUser has confused the engine he bought from Komodo with the GUI he needs to operate the engine.

Chess engines are largely in the realm of the hobbyist, and it's already obvious that MacUser is not a hobbyist. When Komodo Help asks later,

K: Are you trying to play games between the engines, or just analyzing games?

We can assume that MacUser is 'just analyzing games', where he is already over his head. He has apparently been using a standalone Hiarcs setup where the GUI and the engine are integrated, and has never realized that they can be separate components. There is a helpful article at Serverchess.com, Advanced Chess - Hints to Get Started, that begins,

Players new to the world of engine-assisted play are often puzzled to find no published "how to" articles. Unlike traditional chess, there are no teaching sites, instruction books or recommended reading lists, not even suggestions on what equipment to purchase or how to use it in "advanced chess".

One reason for this is that the field is constantly evolving. What was true yesterday is no longer true today and what is true today will not be true tomorrow. Another reason is that chess engine hobbyists are not as interested in writing as they are in tinkering with their engine setups. The 'Advanced Chess' article tries to plug this gap, largely succeeds, and offers a list of GUIs (with links): Arena, Aquarium, Chessbase, Chessbase Reader, ChessPad, SCID, and Tarrasch.

Unfortunately, most of these are not available to MacUser, whose choice is severely limited. After learning that he is forced to use a GUI, MacUser struggles to install an engine.

M: 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.

The phrase 'upload it into the GUI' suggests that MacUser is not familiar with the file system on his Mac and he later struggles with the same concept in Scid. As for the engine configuration parameters, we can assume that MacUser is clueless. Komodo Help seems to have made the same assumption.

K: Perhaps you have to scroll down to see the remaining engine settings lke LMR, Syzygy settings and Threads?

As for the values of the parameters, later there is another interesting exchange. The first is on the setting of threads. It leads to a discussion of ply.

M: Komodo on the HIARCS GUI is not running well, much slower and weaker than the HIARCS, it hasn’t got over 21 ply yet.

K: With an i7, which has 4 "cores", you should set the number of "threads", which is an engine setting, to 4. [...] 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.

It's safe to assume that MacUser has no idea why cores and threads are important. As for the importance of ply, he first notes, 'plys in the 20s are a joke, we live in a 40 ply world' (an assumption also made in the 'Advanced Chess' article referenced above), then continues,

M: 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.

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. [...] 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.

Let's recap those steps: (1) choosing a GUI, (2) adding an engine to the GUI, (3) configuring the engine, (4) understanding engine metrics. Is it any wonder that MacUser ultimately abandoned his quest to use a new chess engine?

03 May 2015

Another Capodimonte Figurine

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the name 'Capodimonte' has already been seen once before, in Capodimonte Figurines (September 2011). Although I had other items on the short list for this current post, I decided to use Capodimonte again, because the style of the current figurine was so different.

Titled 'Capodimonte Sculpture The Chess Players by Luciano Cazzola, Made in Italy', the piece pictured below was originally listed for US $599.99. It sold for around $475, 'Best offer accepted'

In contrast to The Anonymous Artist, the item featured in my previous post for the 'Top eBay Items' series, the description here carried detailed info about the artist.

For sale is a genuine porcelain Capodimonte figurine, called "The Chess Players", made by a famous Italian artist named Luciano Cazzola. It is in excellent condition, free of any chips, cracks and/or repairs.

About the artist, born in Venice, orphaned at 10 yrs old, and raised in a religious school after that. In his 20s, his talents blossomed as he showed a keen interest in the art form known as Capodimonte porcelain. Capodimonte figures show intricate detailed craftsmanship, of extremely high quality and uniqueness, which to this day is desired worldwide. Many pieces take years to develop. He teamed up with a famous painter, Sergio Traforetti, and a few years later with designer, Lino Gobbi, and in 1980, they formed Porcellane Principe.

I wrote to their company and received correspondence back from Sergio Traforetti, confirming that this piece is indeed one sculpted by Luciano Cazzola and hand painted by Mr. Traforetti, and that it would sell between $1,300 and $1,600 in USD. This may very well be the only one in the United States, and few around the world.

The Capodimonte art form dates back centuries in age. The name Capodimonte, means "top of the mountain", appropriate since the first pieces were produced in a hilltop factory established by King Charles VII, back around 1759.

The sculpture is 16" long by 12" deep and 10-1/2" tall.

Cazzola's most famous piece appears to be Capodimonte Last Supper Statue in Porcelain by Luciano Cazzola (marianland.com), which currently sells for $14.675. That makes the chess piece a real bargain.

01 May 2015

Short Goes Viral

What did he say and when did he say it? Sky News interviews former World Champion challenger, GM Short.

Chess Grandmaster: Women Are Worse Players Than Men (4:53) • 'Chess grandmaster Nigel Short has been crtiticised for appearing to say that women are not as well suited to the game as men'

8938 views, 70 comments, and counting. Yes, people are interested in this topic. Here's more from Sky.com: Men Just Better At Some Things, Says Chess Champ.

For a point-by-point rebuttal, see Chess girls respond to GM Short, also on Youtube: 'Whoever said that, they need to shush it, cuz my Daddy's gonna get you!'