28 December 2017

December Yahoos

In last month's November Yahoos, I wondered, 'Will a Yahoo chess story turn up in December?' As the month continued, there were at least three stories grabbing headlines.

Note the four different classifications:
Technology, Lifestyle, World, Sports

2017-12-06: Google's AlphaGo AI can teach itself to master games like chess (yahoo.com; Engadget)

Google's DeepMind team has already advanced its AlphaGo AI to dominate Go without human input, but now the system is clever enough to master other board games without intervention. Researchers have developed a more generalized system for AlphaGo Zero that can train itself to achieve "superhuman" skill in chess, Shogi (a Japanese classic) and other game types knowing only the rules, all within less than a day. It doesn't need example games or other references.

I addressed this evolving subject in two posts -- Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish, and AlphaZero and The Constellation of AlphaZero -- and I'm sure there will be more. Will it ultimately result in chess being solved?

2017-12-20: People Think The New World Chess Championship Logo Is 'Pawnographic' (yahoo.com; HuffPost)

The World Chess Championship logo for next year’s match is raising eyebrows with folks online. World Chess this week unveiled promotional artwork for its November 2018 title event in London. It included this image of two people around a chessboard, which some wags have dubbed "pawnographic".

I also addressed this in several posts -- the last two were A Collection of Chess Logos and Dirty Mind Games -- and I hope this is the last I see of it. The logo doesn't deserve a long shelf life.

The last two stories are related to a previous story from 'November Yahoos'. Was it wishful thinking?:-

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli chess players could make history by participating in a tournament in Saudi Arabia after the international chess governing body on Tuesday said it was pushing to allow it to happen.

Of course it was wishful thinking. What was everyone expecting? In December we learned,

2017-12-24: Chess federation says Israel excluded from Saudi-hosted match (yahoo.com; Reuters)

ATHENS (Reuters) - Israeli players have been denied visas to participate in a speed chess championship hosted by Saudi Arabia this week, a vice president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) said on Sunday. Seven Israeli players had requested visas for the tournament on Dec. 26-30. It would have marked the first time Saudi Arabia had publicly hosted Israelis as the Gulf state does not recognize Israel and there are no formal ties between them

This was followed by a second Yahoo story on the same tournament.

2017-12-27: Saudi chess PR gambit checked by controversies (yahoo.com; AFP)

Dubai (AFP) - Saudi Arabia brushed aside rulings from top clerics to host a big money chess tournament, but the gambit to improve the kingdom's image has been jolted by regional powerplays. [...] But a refusal to give Israeli players visas, doubts whether Iranians and Qataris will come, and a no-show over Saudi Arabia's record on women's rights have all cast their shadows.

That 'no-show over women's rights' received widespread attention. I saw it on three different network news stations, each one mentioning Anna Muzychuk by name.

2017-12-27: Chess champion to miss Saudi Arabia tournament over women's rights (yahoo.com; The Guardian)

A two-time world chess champion has said she will not defend her titles at a tournament held in Saudi Arabia because of the way the kingdom treats women as "secondary creatures". Anna Muzychuk, of Ukraine, turned down the chance to travel to the event despite modest signs of reform in the kingdom under the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Why did FIDE award the event to a country with such a spotty score on relations, international and otherwise? For the answer we have to go back to a report on my other chess blog, 2017 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship (November 2017). I didn't cover it at the time, but the section of the minutes titled 'FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2017' mentioned that no bids were received. The Saudi bid must have come in shortly after the Congress ended. If you were in FIDE's shoes, what would you do -- cancel the tournament or accept the bid? -- knowing that cancelling the tournament would give FIDE an operating loss for the year 2017.

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