30 November 2015

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal Week 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again, congratulations to all!


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

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


Komodo eventually won the replayed game.

29 November 2015

Chess Curriculum - ChessKid/Chess.com

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

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

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

From the inventory:-

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

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

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

27 November 2015

Chess Bloopers

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

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

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

26 November 2015

Ethics in Chess Politics - Stories

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

24 November 2015

Ethics in Chess Politics - Cases

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

As I recently mentioned in The Resurrection of Agon,

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

Those new documents include two annexes of particular interest:-

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

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

Annex 52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next post: the stories behind these cases.

23 November 2015

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal Week 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 November 2015

Chess Charcoal Drawing

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

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

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

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

The description added,

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

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

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

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

20 November 2015

Petrosian's 'Dining Room'?

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

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

The caption added,

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

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

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

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

19 November 2015

The Resurrection of Agon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

17 November 2015

'Ask Marilyn'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 November 2015

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal Week 2

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

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

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

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

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 22
Stockfish - Komodo

After 63...Qd6-Qf6

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

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

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

15 November 2015

Chess Curriculum - ChessCafe/ChessEDU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 November 2015

'Taking Great Pride in Your Work'

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

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

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

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

The video's description adds,

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

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

12 November 2015

Millionaire Open II - Chess Drum

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

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

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

Regular posts preceding the event kept the conversation alive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 November 2015

Millionaire Open II - Chess Life

Last year I did a couple of random posts on the Millionaire Open in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The tournament was the cover story for the January 2015 Chess Life (CL). I also featured it in a couple of subsequent Video Friday posts.

This year I'll take a more structured look at Millionaire Open II. A full page ad first appeared in the April 2015 CL, inside the front cover.

The ad ran again in the May CL, along with details in the 'Tournament Life' (TL) section under 'Grand Prix' events. The Nevada events in the same issue included a note to 'See Grand Prix'.

USCF Junior Grand Prix!
OCT. 8-12 OR 9-12, NEVADA

2015 Millionaire Chess Open II

9SS, 40/120, SD/30 d5 for Open; 7SS, 40/90, SD/30 d5 for Under Sections. 4-Day Schedule for Under Sections, G/45 d5 for Rounds 1 – 4. Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, 3667 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109, $$1,000,000 Guaranteed Prize Fund!!! Five Main Sections: OPEN (FIDE rated & FIDE rules; GM, IM, WGM and WIM norms possible): $100,000 – 50,000 – 25,000 – 16,000 – 10,000 – 8,000 – 5,000 ea. (7th – 10th) – 3,500 ea. (11st – 20th), 2400 – 2549: 40,000 – 20,000 – 13,000 – 8,000 – 5,000, U2400: 38,000 – 19,000 – 11,000 – 7,000 – 4,000. U2200 (FIDE rated): $38,000 – 19,000 – 10,000 – 8,000 – 6,000 – 5,000 – 4,000 ea. (7th – 10th) – 3,000 ea. (11st – 20th). U2000: $36,000 – 18,000 – 9,000 – 7,000 – 5,000 – 4,000 – 3,000 ea. (7th – 10th) – 2,500 ea. (11st – 20th). U1800: $34,000 – 17,000 – 8,500 – 6,500 – 5,000 – 4,000 – 3,000 ea. (7th – 10th) – 2,500 ea. (11st – 20th). U1600: $30,000 – 16,000 – 8,000 – 6,000 – 4,000 – 3,000 – 2,500 ea. (7th – 10th) – 2,280 ea. (11st – 20th), U1400: $24,000 – 12,000 – 6,000 – 4,000, U1200: 20,000 – 10,000 – 6,000 – 4,000. Additional Unrated/Provisional Section – 3,000 – 2,000 – 1,000. $19,200 in Special Prizes, including Mixed Doubles, Upset, Tie-Break Consolation, Best Dressed categories, Top Female, Senior and Child in the five main sections . See website for list.

EF: $1,000 by 3/31, $1,250 by 6/30, $1,500 by 9/30, $2,000 after 9/30 or onsite. Unrated/Provisional players may enter in the Open or Unrated/Provisional Section only; if playing in Unrated/Provisional Section, EF: $100 by 3/31, $125 by 6/30, $150 by 9/30, $200 after 9/30.

For this event, provisionally rated players are those with less than 50 games under a single rating system (USCF, FIDE or other foreign systems). Highest rating between 12/1/2013 and the date the player registers used, but if any time after registration player’s rating exceeds the section limit by 50 points, player will be moved into the next higher section. See FAQ on tournament website for details on ratings and adjustments for section eligibility. The highest of USCF, FIDE, CFC, ECF and other foreign ratings, adjusted accordingly, will be used. Current minimum CCA ratings may also be used. Players must disclose all ratings and Federation IDs.

Onsite registration until 3:30 pm, 10/8, no personal checks. Re-entry (not available in Open section): $400 from 5-Day to 4-Day schedule available by 9am, 10/9.

Rounds: 5-Day Schedule: Thu 12 and 7, Fri 11 and 6, Sat 11 and 6, Sun 11. Play-off Qualifying Round on Sunday at 6 for players tied for top 4 positions in all sections, except for Unrated/Provisional section. Rounds 8 & 9 for Open Section players not qualifying for Top 4 Play-off, Mon 11 and 6. 4-Day Schedule (not available for Open section), G/45 d5: Fri 11:30, 2, 4:30 and 7:00 (merges with 5- Day Schedule on Round 4). Play-offs to determine Top 4 in all sections (except for Unrated/Provisional section): See complete Monday schedule for semi-finals and finals for top 4 in each section on tournament website.

Additional anti-cheating policies in effect: No cell phones or other electronic devices allowed. All chess clocks and chess sets, for all sections, will be provided! Electronic notation devices will not be allowed. Security staff on site. DGT boards will be used for a limited number of top boards. Half-Point Byes: Three (3) 1/2- point byes allowed in Rounds 1 – 5 only, if requested before the start of Round 2. Zero-point byes allowed after Round 5 if requested at least an hour before the start of the round.

Free GM lectures and simuls for registered players. HR: Planet Hollywood - $116/night. Call 1-866- 317-1829. CODE: MC2015. ENTRY: https://millionairechess. com/register. For more information, including tournament policies, prize fund, schedule, registrations, FAQ, hotel information and updates please visit: https://millionairechess.com/ W. FIDE

As far as I can tell, there were no further mentions of the tournament in CL, although other events held on the same weekend were listed through the October CL. The link at the end of the TL announcement went to a page titled Millionaire Chess | Las Vegas - October 8-12, 2015 - $1,000,000 PRIZE.

09 November 2015

TCEC Season 8 Superfinal in Progress

Before I end this series on Modern Chess Engines, previously seen in Parallel Search, I should return to the tournament mentioned a few months in TCEC Season 8 - Preliminary Info. Although still in progress, the event is nearing its finish with the TCEC Season 8 Superfinal – the strongest chess match in history! [chessdom.com].

The TCEC Superfinal rules : The final match consists of 100 classical chess games with the following rules. This match is played with 50 different openings so that each engine plays both black and white of the same position. [...]

A few days before the match started, I noted in 'Parallel Search',

Once again, just as in Season 7, the two super-engines Komodo and Stockfish are playing for the title of unofficial World Computer Champion.

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

Source: tcec.chessdom.com/live

In a recent interview on NPR, 'Pawn Sacrifice' Examines Genius Of Chess Champion Bobby Fischer, GM Andy Soltis said,

There's a world championship chess tournament going on right now that hardly anybody pays attention to in the chess world because all the players in it are computers, and they're far better than we are. They make moves that we just don't understand.

GM Soltis underestimates how much attention this match is receiving. It is, after all, showing us the future of chess.

08 November 2015

A Lot of Live Auctions

When I started the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, there were no live auctions. Now they pop up every fortnight and are always good candidates for the final post. The previous live auction item was Man Ray Chess Set, and I expect there will be more.

The painting pictured below was titled 'RAMÓN MUÑOZ RUBIO, Spanish, 1867-1910, The chess players., Oil on pan... Lot 796; Part of a live auction event on Saturday, Nov 7'. It started at US $200.00 and sold for $700.00 after 17 bids.

The description said,

LOT 796; Seller's Estimate: USD 500 - 700

RAMÓN MUÑOZ RUBIO; Spanish, 1867-1910
The chess players. Signed lower right "R.M. Rubio".
Oil on panel, 13" x 10". Framed 21" x 18".

Condition Report: Trace amounts of inpaint detected under blacklight, in sky and upper right edge in the shrubbery. Slight amount of loss to board at extreme top left corner and very slight anount of surface dirt.

Wikipedia says,

Inpainting is the process of reconstructing lost or deteriorated parts of images and videos. For instance, in the museum world, in the case of a valuable painting, this task would be carried out by a skilled art conservator or art restorer. • Inpainting

Along with that is a modern equivalent.

In the digital world, inpainting (also known as image interpolation or video interpolation) refers to the application of sophisticated algorithms to replace lost or corrupted parts of the image data (mainly small regions or to remove small defects).

I imagine it limits the value of the piece.

06 November 2015

It's All About Pattern Recognition

This photo was one of many returned on a routine Flickr Friday search for chess photos. They didn't look like chess pieces to me and the only reference to chess on the page was a white tag 'chess' while the other ~20 tags ('thanjavur', 'palace', 'tamil nadu', 'sculptures', etc.) were all colored gray.

Thanjavur Palace Museum and Art Gallery © Flickr user RealIndia.in under Creative Commons.

Flickr 'Help' explained,

Tags are keywords that make photos easier to find in Flickr search. The ones you add will show up in dark gray. Flickr’s friendly robots will try to help out by adding some for you; these will appear with just a gray outline.

An additional page explained,

Flickr’s image recognition uses pattern recognition to analyze the contents of images to determine the most appropriate tags to help you and others find your images using search. The process is fully automated, so no humans are ever involved in tagging your images. [...] Distinguish between tags you add and tags Flickr adds: Tags you add show up in dark gray.

Pattern recognition software thinks these are chess pieces? Can't argue with pattern recognition!

05 November 2015

The Ponterotto Connection

When did Fischer succumb to mental illness? In my most recent Video Friday post, Revisionist Chess History, I quoted Tobey Maguire talking about his recent film 'Pawn Sacrifice' and its portrayal of Bobby Fischer. In response to the statement 'I didn't know that Bobby Fischer had this mental illness', Maguire said,

It's fascinating that somebody can be so exceptional at something, particularly a game of strategy that seems to require a sound mind that can reason well, but yet be stricken with seeming-like mental illness. It seems he was paranoid, delusional.

As I said in the same post, I have a big problem with this statement because

I don't recall anyone saying that about Fischer until long after he became World Champion, long after the events in the film.

There's little doubt that there was something wrong with Fischer as he grew older. My question is whether we can say that Fischer suffered from 'mental illness' already as a teenager or as a young man. Strange? Yes. Quirky? Yes. Mentally ill? There's a big leap being made here.

I haven't seen the movie yet and I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to see it soon. My own impressions are based on the impressions of others. Let's look at the first film reviews listed in my post Some Numbers for 'Pawn Sacrifice'.

"What Hollywood may have been looking for in this story was to show the young kid from Brooklyn taking on the Soviet empire and having this great, glorious win," said [Dale Johnson of MICA Entertainment]. "At the same time, the true story was that he was having this deep struggle in somewhat of a descent into madness as he was ascending to brilliance. We had to stay true to that story." • Tobey Maguire moves through chess king Bobby Fischer's checkered life in 'Pawn Sacrifice' [latimes.com]
The movie depicts Fischer’s peculiarities—his anti-Semitism (even though he himself was Jewish), his devotion to the Worldwide Church of God and its radio evangelism, his mood swings and bitter rages, and his increasingly paranoid obsession with conspiracies against him—and suggests that they veered toward mental illness. • Bobby Fischer and the Difficulty of Making Movies About Geniuses [newyorker.com]
Maguire is no cavorting Klaus Kinski when it comes to portraying a man decidedly off his rocker. His peculiar brand of psychosis is a nonchalant petulance, handling international fame and geopolitical pressures with, literally, a paper bag over his head and a penchant for phone dissection. • Pawn Sacrifice: Portrait of the Egomaniac as a Young Man [cornellsun.com]

The phrases are similar -- 'descent into madness', 'veered toward mental illness', 'decidedly off his rocker' -- and convince me that there is indeed a problem, some sort of a bias, with this movie. Why should this be?

While sorting through available material on the making of 'Pawn Sacrifice', I found New Major Motion Picture Owes Its Historical Accuracy to Fordham Education Professor [fordham.edu].

Psychologist Joseph G. Ponterotto, PhD, [...] is the historical consultant on a new major motion picture, Pawn Sacrifice, a drama about enigmatic world chess champion Bobby Fischer and his struggles to walk the fine line between genius and madness. [...] Ponterotto, whose 2012 book A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer is the definitive psychological profile of the late chess prodigy, worked closely with [co-producer Gail Katz] to review the script for historical accuracy and to write dialogue that captures Fischer’s personality.

I reviewed Ponterotto's book nearly three years ago in a post titled Fischer Psychobiography, and introduced the review with 'I can't remember reading a more depressing chess book.' I found two chapters particularly unsettling -- 'Ch.8 - THE PARALLEL LIVES AND MENTAL ILLNESSES OF PAUL MORPHY AND BOBBY FISCHER' and 'Ch.9 - ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GENIUS AND MADNESS - ARE CHESS MASTERS MORE VULNERABLE TO MENTAL ILLNESS?' -- and I addressed these later in a post titled Chess Madness.

I'll reserve my final opinion until I've seen the movie, but I'm not hopeful. In his book, Ponterotto wrote, 'Writing a psychological focused life story of an individual recently deceased is a sensitive task' (p.6). Can we depend on Hollywood to be equally sensitive?

03 November 2015

November 1965 'On the Cover'

Chess isn't just about the professional level, as in Bobby Fischer and the Capablanca Memorial featured in October 1965 'On the Cover' It's also about the amateur level, as in these two U.S. chess magazine covers from 50 years ago.

Left: 'Armed Forces Chess'
Right: 'Knight of the Golden West'

Chess Life

Air Force Retains Armed Forces Crown : For the third straight year the U.S. Air Force won the Armed Forces Championship played in Washington D.C. The five Air Force players scored 28 points in the nine rounds of play to retain custody of the Thomas Emery championship trophy. The individual champion, not decided until the very last moment, is Airman David M. Lees...

Chess Review

Golden Knights Champion Doe : Raymond E.A. Doe has won the 11th annual Golden Knights Postal Chess Championship. He began play in the tournament in 1957...

What presence do those amateur champions of yesteryear have on the web today? A search on the Armed Forces champion leads to David Lees on Chessgames.com. Oops! Wrong David Lees...

I knew of David Lees as U.S. Armed Forces champ, and for years followed a David Lees in the BCM and CHESS, always assuming it was two different people. Why no mention in the bio above of that British connection?

...The person we want is David Michael Lees.

In 1993, he published The Chess Games of David Lees.

A similar exercise on 'Raymond Doe' leads to Golden Knights (chess) on Wikipedia. Both players present and accounted for -- I'm impressed!

02 November 2015

Chess Engines : Parallel Search

One of the messages I took away from FishCooking (the previous post in this series on 'Chess Engines') was the importance of Parallel Search [chessprogramming.wiki...] on multiple processors. In another post in the series, Bitboards, I surmised,

Not all of the engines' strength can be attributed to software. In parallel with algorithmic discoveries, computer hardware has also been advancing rapidly. Not only are processors smaller and faster, they are also more versatile. [...] Was it a coincidence that the mid-2000s spurt in computer chess happened with the introduction of 64-bit processors?

I could have asked the same question about multiple processors. From Multi-core processor [Wikipedia]:-

Processors were originally developed with only one core. In the mid 1980s Rockwell International manufactured versions of the 6502 with two 6502 cores on one chip, sharing the chip's pins on alternate clock phases. Other multi-core processors were developed in the early 2000s by Intel, AMD and others.

The improvement in performance gained by the use of a multi-core processor depends very much on the software algorithms used and their implementation. [...] The parallelization of software is a significant ongoing topic of research.

The italics are mine. TCEC Season 8 has reached the final stage (for background, see my previous post Preliminary Info), and a recent FishCooking post, Machine setup for finals, informs that the multi-core configuration is

2 x 12 core Intel Xeon E5-2690v3 @ 3100 MHz, 256 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD - Martin Thoresen (Operator)

Once again, just as in Season 7, the two super-engines Komodo and Stockfish are playing for the title of unofficial World Computer Champion. The engines tied all six games played between them in the qualifying stage 3, where Komodo finished 1.5 points ahead of Stockfish. As we saw in the 'FishCooking' post, Stockfish lost a few games on time, apparently due to a fault in its implementation of parallel search. Will the Season 8 final show that the open source team has solved these problems?

01 November 2015

Chess Curriculum - FIDE II

In Chess Curriculum - FIDE I, I identified three offerings from the FIDE page Class Materials and Work Books. How to choose among the three? FIDE says,

We do not make any particular recommendation - you are free to choose and use them free of charge. They do, however, fall roughly into the following age categories:-

(NB: I've added some notes, '• ...', to the titles.)

  • Age 6-7: Chess: The First Year of Study • The suggested catalog reference (is this the correct term?) explains, 'The textbook “Chess: The First Year of Study” is an introductory course of chess for kindergarteners and was created as a project of Chess in Schools.'

  • Age 7-9: Elementary Level Chess Class Book (Kulac) • Starts with an introduction to FIDE.

  • Age 9+: Welcome to Planet Chess! • The introduction starts, 'This course teaches you all you need to know about how the pieces move and the rules of the game, so that you can get full enjoyment from playing chess.'

In the 'Age 6-7' entry, I noticed a number of technical errors probably due to translation. Page 18 says, 'Complete the sentence. Chess is a game for two ????????', i.e. eight boxes for the word 'players'; the two other statements have the same problem. In the associated workbook, page 7 says, 'Find the 8 ranks', when it means 'files'. There are undoubtedly other errors. Both books need better proofreading.

The 'Age 9+' entry is the simplest of the three. There is almost nothing beyond an explanation of the rules of the game. Is this the first part of a work in progress?

The 'Age 7-9' entry is a full introduction to chess for children. It was the first curriculum offered by FIDE, is more comprehensive than the other two, and appears technically robust on first reading. If I had to choose one of the three entries for further work, I would pick this one.