30 April 2018

Battering the French

In last week's post on TCEC Season 11, A Double-edged King's Indian, I selected a pair of decisive games that used the same opening :-

Stockfish had White in the odd-numbered games [...] In one pair of games -- the 29th and 30th -- Stockfish won both as White and as Black.

In only one other opening were both games decisive, the next two games in the match, the 31st and 32nd. Both engines won playing White. The opening was labelled 'French: Tarrasch, Closed', and the first eight moves were as follows:-

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bd3 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.O-O

The top portion of the following chart shows the position after 8.O-O.

The bottom portion of the chart shows the evaluations throughout both games by both engines. Stockfish playing White was finished after 36 moves, while Houdini playing White lasted until the 76th move. It's curious that the first move where the engines diverged -- 9.a4 for Stockfish and 9.Bc2 for Houdini -- had similar characteristics to the divergence in 'Double-edged King's Indian'. The Stockfish move was more aggressive than the Houdini move.

I could say more about the two games, but I'll stop here. This is the third time I've discussed TCEC game pairs where White won both games. The other two posts were Battering the Gruenfeld (March 2015), and TCEC Season 9 Superfinal Openings (December 2016).

The post for TCEC Season 9 showed two openings, a '1.d4 Slav System' and a '1.e4 French Defense'. In today's post we again see the French taking a heavy beating. Does the closed nature of the French coupled with the bad light-squared Bishop give too much of an advantage to White?

29 April 2018

2018 U.S. Championship - Hall of Fame

Like the previous post, 2018 U.S. Championship, 'Strength of the Tournament', this video is from the Saint Louis Chess Club. I thought it fit well into the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

2018 U.S. Chess Championships: Alex Onischuk's Hall of Fame Induction (3:56) • 'Published on Apr 20, 2018'

The video's description added,

Grandmaster Alex Onischuk is inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame Class of 2018 during the opening ceremony of the 2018 U.S. Championships.

Introducing Onischuk, GM Maurice Ashley says,

All of us know Alex as one of the nicest guys in chess -- one of the humblest, [most] self-effacing despite his many successes. Alex is also an Iron Man, the oldest player in the field [for the current U.S. Championship].

Given how many world class players are somewhat quirky, it's great to see a 'nice guy' being recognized by one of the greatest honors in chess. For GM Onischuk's Hall of Fame page, see Alex Onischuk (worldchesshof.org). For more about all of the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees, see Nimzowitsch and Onischuk among Chess Hall of Fame inductees (chessbase.com; February 2018).

27 April 2018

2018 U.S. Championship

With two rounds to go in the 2018 U.S. Chess Championship, Sam Shankland is 1/2-point ahead of Fabiano Caruana, who is 1/2-point ahead of Wesley So, who is 1/2-point ahead of the rest of the field. GMs Shankland and Caruana play against tournament tail-enders in their final games.

2018 U.S. Chess Championships: Strength of the Tournament (2:03) • 'Published on Apr 21, 2018'

From the Youtube channel for the Saint Louis Chess Club, where the event is currently being played:-

The players in the U.S. Chess Championship talk about the strength of the tournament this year.

For the final results, see:-

When has the U.S. Championship ever been so strong?

26 April 2018

April Yahoos

The seventh straight month of chess in the mainstream press echoed two stories from the two previous months. Two months ago we had February Yahoos:-

Most powerful man in chess accused of 'secretly funding ISIS' (yahoo.com; nypost.com)

And last month we had March Yahoos:-

US chess grandmaster Caruana wins shot at world title match (yahoo.com; Associated Press)

This month's headlines are shown in the following composite of two snippets from the Yahoo news feed.

2018-04-02: Fabiano Caruana is poised to do what no American has done since Bobby Fischer. Here's the path he took to get there (yahoo.com). The Yahoo story was just a stub leading to the real story (with the same title) by Daaim Shabazz, Fabiano Caruana is poised to do... (sfgate.com)

Whenever a glimmer of chess talent is spotted in the United States, people often ask: "Is this the next Bobby Fischer?" In the early 2000s, a diminutive, bespectacled young boy -- who by age 9 was already battling seasoned competitors in top-level sections -- had his name added to the roster of Fischer aspirants. His name is Fabiano Caruana. Fabiano, now 25, has finally earned the right to challenge reigning chess champion Magnus Carlsen for the world championship crown this November in London. On March 27, he won the 2018 Candidates Tournament in thrilling fashion

The story is not your typical account of the formative years of a young chess player. (Although it does that, too.) Its focus is more that 'His evolution makes a good case study for homeschooling and other ways of learning that enable young people to break free from the static environment of formal education in order to pursue their passions.' It turns out that the Sfgate.com story is itself a reprint of Fabiano Caruana is poised to do... (theconversation.com). The copy of the article on that site ('Academic rigour, journalistic flair') has other stories about chess -- 'You might also like' -- that seem to be be worth exploring.

2018-04-09: Russian under US sanctions refuses to resign as world chess head (yahoo.com; The Telegraph)

The eccentric Russian president of the world chess federation will not step down despite calls from his colleagues, who say the US sanctions against him have cut the organisation off from financing. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a multimillionaire ally of Vladimir Putin who has visited dictators like Bashar al-Assad and claims to have once been abducted by aliens, told The Telegraph he would not resign and would in fact seek re-election in October's vote. He has been in office since 1995.

Both the Carlsen vs. Caruana match and the FIDE vs. Ilyumzhinov turmoil will continue as evolving stories over the next few months. Will April Yahoos bring May Wahoos? [What else rhymes with 'Yahoos'?]

24 April 2018

Caruana's Rise to GM

I ended last week's post, Caruana's TWIC Debut, with:-

Two recurring events would prove to be important to Caruana's evolution as a chess player: the First Saturday tournaments in Budapest and the New York Masters.

Taking the New York Masters (newyorkmasters.com) first, after the initial TWIC report (59th New York Masters; 9 June 2003), there were 23 further TWIC reports mentioning Caruana in the event. They covered the 81st edition (11 November 2003) listing Caruana as an FM rated 2137, through the 122nd edition (19 October 2004), where the young star, now rated 2196, drew with GM Gata Kamsky, rated 2717. The official site mentions an even earlier event, the 36th edition (3 December 2002), where Caruana was an FM rated 2125.

As for the First Saturday events, after the February 2003 edition the next TWIC report was the June 2004 edition, where Caruana (rated 2140) finished the category 2 'IM' event with +4-4=2 for a 2304 performance. TWIC reported Caruana's participation in ten more of the Budapest events. Worth special mention is The Week in Chess 589 (20 February 2006):-

5) First Saturday February • The First Saturday tournaments for February 2006 start saw a GM and two IM groups along with lesser events starting February 4th. [...] Note that Fabiano Caruana is now Italian, not US as given last week.

The change of federation made him a European. Playing the February event in the GM section (apparently for the first time) as an FM rated 2409, he scored +5-5=2. The next three TWIC reports on Caruana in First Saturday events show him gaining his first, second, and third GM norms.

From Mr ‘First Saturday’ – Laszlo Nagy in Budapest (chessbase.com; February 2010):-

One day I saw [Laszlo Nagy] walking crestfallen in the corridors of the playing venue. He revealed to me what troubled him: GM Fabiano Caruana who has achieved most of his norms and titles playing at the First Saturday has related to Laszlo that a journalist in the USA teased him that First Saturday is a 'factory for norms', implying norms are easily or dishonestly achieved. I seemed to have managed to console him by pointing out that this journalist has picked on a particularly wrong target: Caruana had just made his impressive debut at Wijk aan Zee -- does that make this highly respected event also ‘a factory for norms’? Young Caruana has proved his talent time and again and paving his way through the First Saturday he reached many super tournaments up to the latest World Cup.

Fabiano Caruana at his first 1st Sat tournament in June 2004 [NB: what about the February 2003 event?] where he started as an 11-year-old FM rated 2140. At the time he was still playing under the USA flag, in the meantime, he had switched his allegiances and today plays for Italy. His current rating is 2675.

Fabiano and his family lived in Budapest for a number of years. Their main reason for settling temporarily in the Hungarian capital was his coach GM Alex Chernin who is a Budapest resident. But he combined his training sessions with playing, almost monthly, at the First Saturday, where by the following year, in May 2005 [TWIC 550], he achieved his first IM norm with 7.5/10 and a 2470 performance. His final GM norm came in the July 2007 First Saturday tournament.

From Fabiano Caruana Earns 3rd GM Norm (uschess.org; July 2007):-

Fabiano Caruana just earned his third GM norm in July's first Saturday tournament in Budapest. He also earned his first two norms in the March and April editions of the famous First Saturday tournaments, held in downtown Budapest. Fabiano has dual American-Italian citizenship and a FIDE rating of 2549. At 14 years old, he is set to beat Hikaru Nakamura's record as the youngest American GM ever!

The GM title helped Caruana gain invitations to the next level of tournaments. In January 2008, he would play in Wijk aan Zee (Corus 'C') for the first time.

23 April 2018

A Double-edged King's Indian

In last week's post, Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 11, I noted,

The final score in the TCEC superfinal match was +20-2=78. A 59-41% margin of victory indicates that Stockfish is about 65 Elo points ahead of Houdini

In other words, Stockfish ('S' in the following discussion) beat Houdini ('H') convincingly. As in past TCEC superfinals, the engines took turns playing both sides of opening variations dictated in advance by the organizers. Stockfish had White in the odd-numbered games, and the following table shows how the two engines fared with each color, i.e. Houdini's two wins were with the White pieces:-

S-H: +13-0=37
H-S: +  2-7=41

In one pair of games -- the 29th and 30th -- Stockfish won both as White and as Black. The opening was labelled the 'King's Indian: Mar del Plata', and the first 14 moves were fed to the engines:-

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 f5 11.f3 f4 12.Bf2 g5 13.Nd3 Nf6 14.c5 Ng6

The top diagram in the following chart shows the position where the engines started to think for themselves.

The bottom diagram shows the evaluations given to the resulting positions for the rest of the two games. On its first free move, Stockfish as White played 15.Rc1, while Houdini as White played 15.Kh1. The two moves make a sharp contrast. Stockfish's choice was offensive, while Houdini's was defensive.

For the rest of both games, Stockfish's evaluation of the position was invariably more accurate than Houdini's. Its forecast for the trend of the game came always a few moves ahead of Houdini's. If these had been human players, we could easily say that Stockfish had a better understanding of the position than Houdini.

As White, Stockfish won by breaking through on the Queenside, creating an advanced passed Pawn, and converting an endgame advantage. As Black, it won by a crushing attack on the Kingside. These are exactly the strategies that the position requires after move 14.

22 April 2018

Of Chess Men and Fishing Rods

Are we running out of items for the long-running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010)? For this current edition I had the choice of a tournament program signed by the participants, a GM scoresheet signed by the players, a set of chess magazines, and a box. Since I've already featured examples of the other items, some several times, I went with the box.

Titled 'An Early 19th Century Chess Set Box', the item pictured below sold for GBP 3356.00 ('approximately US $4,706.12'). Starting at GBP 199.99, the auction lasted a week. After five days the price reached GBP 1800, when bidding stopped. Seconds before closing the price jumped to GBP 3200, and after a few more bids ended at the price shown. The bidding history showed a total of 22 bids from 7 bidders.

The description was so vague that you might wonder why the item attracted so many bids:-

This antique chess set box I think dates to the early 19th century but possibly a little later. I am not certain what the box is made of but looks like a lacquered papier mache or composite material but not certain. The box has a lovely design of a castle with the walls having chess piece figures and symbols with chess board designs on the ends as seen in the photos. The box is really well made and quite large measuring 8.25 x 6.25 x 4 inches. Inside there are cloth linings which I think are later additions.

The lid lifts off but not sure if originally attached. Underneath there is a retailers or makers label as shown with a number 22 but with possibly another number before them and signed beneath. The box is in pretty good condition. I think there have been a few repairs in the past and new material underneath, a few minor knocks and general wear and tear with age and use.

After a little searching, I discovered that I had featured another such 'box' a few years ago in Jaques Carton Pierre Casket (March 2013). After showing another composite photo with a more detailed description than for the current item, I added, 'It would be useful to know the dimensions of the casket'. Now we know. The certificate under the lid of the current item (shown above) looked something like:-

REGISTERED No. 58,607, 5 & 6 VICTORIA, Cap. 100
Signed ____ ??? Archery
7 St.Margarets Street, Canterbury
[drawing of two gentlemen fishing]
A large assortment of Cricket-balls, Bats, Wickets, etc.

Chess men, racket balls, fishing rods, and cricket -- what's the connection?

20 April 2018

Chess in the Pink

Once again I'm faced with a Flickrless Friday (December 2017). The last time this happened, in Not so Flickrless Friday (March 2018), I explored one of the ways that artificial intelligence (AI) is used to categorize photos. Now I'll explore another way. In 'Flickrless Friday' I wrote,

I hope to have a real Flickr Friday post two weeks from now. If not, I'll explore those little colored boxes at the top of my screen capture.

The new screen capture below shows 15 'little colored boxes', where I chose to limit images to 'pink'.

flickr.com/search/?text=chess (on 'pink')

The Flickr universe of 'text=chess' photos currently returns 'View all 359,886'. Of the 15 colored boxes, two are labelled pink: 'Pale pink' (105,017 photos) and 'Pink' (9,304). I guess pale pink has a higher number of photos because it includes people's faces. Whatever the reason, my screen capture uses 'pale pink', which is why the corresponding box has a check mark.

Next to the little colored boxes are four patterned boxes, labelled in order 'Black and White', 'Shallow depth of field', 'Minimalist', and 'Patterns'. I'll save a look at those for the next 'Flickrless Friday'. In the meantime, I might try to find another source of photo sharing. Like other Yahoo services that I use from time to time, Flickr seems to be failing gradually. I've also been trying to think of a legitimate motivation to search on pink chess photos, but don't have a single good reason -- except to write a post like this one.

19 April 2018

Berlin Candidates - Chess Press Overview

As the chess world gears up for what must be the most anticipated World Championship match since 2013 Carlsen - Anand, let's have one last look at the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament. The following table links to the daily reports from two respected names in chess news: Chessbase.com and Chess.com.

Rd. Chessbase Chess.com
  What you need to knowCandidates: Opening moves FIDE Publishes Candidates' Tournament Pairings
R1 Candidates come out swinging Caruana, Mamedyarov, Kramnik Win
R2 Grischuk wins against So Grischuk Bounces Back
R3 Kramnik wins brilliancy Kramnik Beats Aronian In Brilliant Style
R4 Caruana and Aronian score Aronian, Caruana Win In Incredible Round 4
R5 Candidates trials and tribulations Grischuk Thrills Again
R6   Mamedyarov Catches Caruana
R7 Caruana beats Aronian to take lead Caruana Sole Leader Halfway Through Tournament
R8 Grischuk edges Kramnik to start second half Grischuk Outwits Kramnik
R9 Caruana misses victory, Kramnik loses again Karjakin Prolongs Kramnik's Misery
R10 Draw at the top Aronian Hangs Mate Against Kramnik
R11 Karjakin's last chance Caruana Leads, Aronian Suffers
R12 Drama, drama! Karjakin takes the lead! Tournament Wide Open As Karjakin Beats Caruana
R13 The final fourCandidates tiebreak scenarios Caruana Beats Aronian, Leads Before Final Round
R14 Caruana wins!First American challenger since Fischer Caruana Wins FIDE Candidates' Tournament
    Caruana: 'I Think My Chances Are About 50-50'

The headlines in the table already give a sense of the tension and excitement that surrounded the tournament. Next stop: the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match.

17 April 2018

Caruana's TWIC Debut

In the recent post, Carlsen's Next Challenger, I ended with an action:-

There's much more to be said about the next challenger to World Champion Carlsen. I'll explore [Fabiano] Caruana's early career in a short series of posts.

I don't know why I used the phrase 'short series'. As with any young star, there are so many different angles to be investigated that a diligent researcher could make a career out of it. First, here are some useful links for future reference:-

The Wikipedia page gives some basic information about Caruana, including his citizenship:-

Fabiano Luigi Caruana (born July 30, 1992) is an Italian-American chess grandmaster. A chess prodigy, he became a grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 11 months and 20 days -- the youngest grandmaster in the history of both Italy and the United States at the time. [...] Caruana possesses dual citizenship of both Italy and the United States, so he has the option of FIDE affiliation with either the Italian Chess Federation or the United States Chess Federation. Caruana played for Italy from 2005 to 2015. On May 12, 2015 the USCF announced that he would be changing federations, to play for the USA.

Wikipedia's coverage of Caruana's career starts in 2007:-

In July, Caruana won the "First Saturday" GM tournament in Budapest with 7 points out of 9 games. He obtained his final GM norm and at age 14 years, 11 months and 20 days, became the youngest grandmaster of both the United States and Italy.

For earlier events, I turned to Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess (TWIC). The first mention I found was from 2001, when Caruana was nine years old.

The Week in Chess 365 (5 November 2001)

There were no games by Caruana in TWIC365. I found the first games in TWIC383 and TWIC409, although Caruana was not mentioned in the related tournament reports. Both games are missing from Chessgames.com, as are his other games in TWIC409.

[Event "US Amateur Team East"]
[Site "Parsipanny USA"]
[Date "2002.02.16"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Milovanovic,Dragan"]
[Black "Caruana,F"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[BlackElo "2032"]
[EventDate "2002.02.16"]
[ECO "A48"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Bd3 O-O 5.O-O d5 6.Nbd2 Nbd7 7.c3 b6 8. e4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Bb7 10.Re1 Re8 11.Bf4 Rc8 12.Qa4 a6 13.Rad1 b5 14.Qc2 Nd5 15.Bg3 c6 16.h4 c5 17.dxc5 Nxc5 18.Nxc5 Rxc5 19.Qb1 Qb6 20.h5 Bxc3 21.hxg6 hxg6 22.bxc3 Nxc3 23.Qb4 Nxd1 24.Rxd1 Bxf3 25.gxf3 Rd8 26.Be2 Rxd1+ 27.Bxd1 Rc1 28.Qd2 Qc5 29.Kg2 a5 30.Bf4 Rc4 31.Be3 Qd6 32.Bb3 Rh4 33.Qxa5 Qd7 34.Kf1 Qd3+ 35.Kg2 Qd7 1/2-1/2

[Event "New York State-ch"]
[Site "Kerhonkson USA"]
[Date "2002.08.31"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Simon,Jerry C"]
[Black "Caruana,F"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[BlackElo "2040"]
[EventDate "2002.08.31"]
[ECO "D90"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Qb3 Nxc3 7.bxc3 O-O 8.Ba3 Nd7 9.Rd1 b6 10.e3 Bb7 11.Be2 Re8 12.O-O e6 13.c4 Qc8 14. Rfe1 e5 15.c5 bxc5 16.dxc5 Bc6 17.Bc4 Re7 18.e4 Rb8 19.Qe3 Nf6 20.Nd2 Rd7 21.f3 Qd8 22.Qe2 Nh5 23.g3 Qg5 24.Nf1 Nf4 1/2-1/2

In the second half of 2002, mentions of Caruana in TWIC began to accelerate. Following are excerpts from the next five.

The Week in Chess 405 (12 August 2002)

9) US Open • The US Open took place July 27th - August 4th 2002 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Gennadi Zaitshik and Eugeniy Najer finished on 8/9. No games available.

Final Round 9 Standings:
1 Zaitshik, Gennadi GM 2578 8.0 46.5
50 Caruana, Fabiano 2024 6.5 34.0
525 players

The Week in Chess 420 (25 November 2002)

9) World Youth Chess Championships • The 2002 World Youth Chess Championships took place in Heraklio, Greece, November 15th-24th 2002. 802 young chessplayers (categories under 18, 16, 14, 12, 10 for boys and girls) from 71 countries played including some of the strongest junior chessplayers of the world. I give the games from sections with significant numbers of rated players. [...]

Boys Under 10
Safarli Eltaj AZE 2210 9,5
Ding Liren CHN 0 9,5
Caruana Fabiano USA 2102 8

The Week in Chess 432 (17 February 2003)

9) First Saturday February • There were two 11 player IM groups and two FM events in Budapest as part of First Saturday February. David Berczes won the IMA event, Laszlo Gonda the IMB. ------------------------------------------------------ FSIMA Feb Budapest (HUN), 1-13 ii 2003 cat. II (2288) ------------------------------------------------------ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 ------------------------------------------------------ 1. Berczes, David 2261 * 0 = 1 1 1 = = 1 1 0 6.5 [...] 10. Caruana, Fabiano f 2134 0 = 1 0 = 0 0 0 1 * = 3.5 11. Schneider, Attila m 2302 1 = 0 0 = = 0 0 0 = * 3.0 ------------------------------------------------------

The Week in Chess 448 (9 June 2003)

10) 59th New York Masters • Jaan Ehlvest won the 59th New York Masters on 3rd June 2003. News John Fernandez. ----------------------------------------------------- 59th New York Masters Action (USA), 3 vi 2003 ----------------------------------------------------- 1. Ehlvest, Jaan EST g 2587 +11 + 4 + 6 = 3 3.5 [...] 14. Caruana, Fabiano USA f 2165 - 5 - 9 -13 = 0.5 15. Rosenberg, Evan USA 2155 --- --- --- =11 0.5

The Week in Chess 464 (29 September 2003)

8) Marshall CC v Mechanic's Institute • John Fernandez reports: On Sunday, September 28th, two world famous chess clubs, the Marshall Chess Club and the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club squared off despite being separated by 2600 miles (4150km), in what will hopefully be the first in a series of distance matches between the famous New York City and San Francisco clubs.

This match pitted four of New York's best players under the age of 16 versus four of Northern California's best and brightest. The games were played at a Game 90 + 30 second increment over the Internet Chess Club [ICC].

In four very exciting games, the Marshall Chess Club won the match with the score of 3 wins to 1 loss. [...] On board three, FM Fabiano Caruana chose the Two Knights variation of the Caro Kann Defense versus Drake Wang. In a shocking blunder, Wang hung mate in one on move 9, although it must be admitted that his position was probably already quite critical. [...]

On top of the World Youth Championships and the strong USA-style opens, two recurring events would prove to be important to Caruana's evolution as a chess player: the First Saturday tournaments in Budapest and the New York Masters.

16 April 2018

Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 11

In last week's post, Back to the Future with Chess Engines, I wrote,

A total of 63 of the 100 games have been played, with the current score in favor of Stockfish +14-1=48 (38.0/63 = 60.3%). Extrapolating this over the remaining games indicates that Stockfish will reach the requisite 50.5 points after 84 games, and that the final score will be +22-2=76 (60.0/100).

A few days later Chessdom.com confirmed, Stockfish convincingly wins TCEC Season 11:-

Stockfish is the winner of the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC) Season 11. The open source engine by Marco Costalba, Joona Kiiski, Gary Linscott and a huge community of contributors, defeated last year’s champion Houdini and crowned itself the new Grand Champion of the competition.

This is the third title for Stockfish, after the victories in Season 6 and Season 9. However, this time Stockfish created history by winning the title in a one of a kind landslide victory. After 85 games Stockfish had the necessary 50.5 points (18 victories, 65 draws, and only two losses), with 15 games to spare the title was in the hands of the open source engine.

Yesterday the last game was played and the results were posted pronto in TCEC Season 11 final standings (chessdom.com):-

Final standings of TCEC Season 11. The top six engines enter the Premier Division of Season 12, the next six engines enter the First division, etc. The fourth division of Season 12 will be entirely invitational.

1. Stockfish – Grand Champion of TCEC S11
2. Houdini – silver medal
3. Komodo – bronze medal
4. Fire
[30 engines]

At the same time, the organizers announced TCEC Season 12 – participants and information (ditto):-

The Top Chess Engine Championship Season 12 is going to start in the second half of April 2018, a few hours after the last game of the Stockfish – Houdini S11 match. It will once again be a division system with 32 engines of relative strength 3000+ ELO, all taking place on a high end 44 cores machine in search of ever stronger and better chess.

That last announcement included 'TCEC Season 12 rules changes'. The most important was:-

The reduced time controls and number of games will allow for four seasons per year and leave time for an extra event (hint: NN engines).

Four seasons per year is almost guaranteed to reduce human interest in the competition, but the introduction of 'NN engines' (Neural Network, aka AI engines) might bring many people back. The final score in the TCEC superfinal match was +20-2=78. A 59-41% margin of victory indicates that Stockfish is about 65 Elo points ahead of Houdini.

15 April 2018

Chess and Community Service

After two posts featuring videos on the recent Candidates tournament in Berlin (the latest was Berlin Candidates - Background), the ongoing series about The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) returns to the theme of community service.

A simple plan for the brilliance of chess (2:38) • 'Published on Mar 30, 2018'

Found on Youtube's WPRI channel ('the source for Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts local news, weather, community, and sports'), the description of the video said,

A local man who fought his way out of poverty wants to give something back to the community.

The related page with a transcript of the broadcast is at A simple plan for the brilliance of chess (wpri.com). It starts,

FALL RIVER, MA. (WPRI) - The game of chess can conjure up its own set of stereotypes. James Medeiros, who struggled with "a lot of horror" as a teenager, doesn't seem to fit any of them. "I just love this game," he said, while contemplating a move on a three-thousand pound chess table. "I don't think I ran into this game as a coincidence. I believe I ran into it for a reason and here I am." He made the move with his bishop, and he also made the table that sits firmly in the Bennie Costa Plaza housing complex in Fall River. Before Medeiros carved chess pieces and built colorful chess tables, he was a mental health worker in a psychiatric hospital.

For another example in this series of chess and community service, see 'Chess Behind Bars' (October 2017).

13 April 2018

Interview Videos : Carlsen's Next Challenger

For the third consecutive edition of Video Friday, I picked a video involving Fabiano Caruana. Last month we had Game and Mistake of the Day and Berlin Candidates - Final Press Conference, and here we have the genial new challenger on the day after his tournament win.

Fabiano Caruana on winning the 2018 Candidates' Tournament (20:31) • 'Published on Mar 30, 2018'

The description of the clip (on YouTube's ChesscomNews channel) says,

A day after winning the FIDE Candidates' Tournament, Fabiano Caruana sat down with Chess.com and told about his preparation, the tournament itself and about his upcoming match with Magnus Carlsen.

GM Caruana talks about his training camp, opening preparation, the critical rounds 2-4, the pressure of leading the tournament, his best & worst games of the event, recovering from a loss, his second (Rustam Kasimdzhanov), the tournament organization, the tiebreak rules, and the forthcoming title match with World Champion Carlsen (chances 'about 50-50'). The sweatshirt he's wearing is publicity for the 'chess capital of the USA': St.Louis.

12 April 2018

Carlsen's Next Challenger

It's been two weeks already, but the news is far from becoming old. On one of my other blogs, in Berlin Candidates - Third Week, I wrote,

Yesterday the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament finished with a clear winner, no tiebreaks necessary. Congratulations to Fabiano Caruana on earning the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen next November in a title match.

Two years ago, after Sergey Karjakin won the 2016 Moscow Candidate's Tournament, I worked on a series of posts to learn more about him:-

Now I'd like to do something similar for GM Caruana. Since he's an English-speaking Westerner, his career has been covered more closely by the Western press than Karjakin's career at a similar point.

On this blog, the first post about him appears to have been The Class of 1990 (October 2009):-

I created the following chart, showing the FIDE ratings [the young stars] attained at equivalent ages. It's a little rough because the rating updates don't coincide with birthdays, but I think it gives a good idea of how the players progressed.

On my World Chess Championship blog, the first non-trivial post was Gelfand and His Colleagues (November 2012):-

Q: And what about Caruana? • A: I played with him last at Wijk aan Zee, and it was after this that he made his big leap forward, so it is not easy for me to summarise him today. It seems to me that he also has incredible concentration. He is calculating variations the whole time, like a kind of computer, with a sort of enhanced processor. No, I really have no idea. He has great confidence, you can feel it. [...]

Of course, there's much more to be said about the next challenger to World Champion Carlsen. I'll explore Caruana's early career in a short series of posts.

10 April 2018

April 1968 'On the Cover'

Last month's post, March 1968 'On the Cover', was the start of the fifth year of the ongoing series. That makes this current post the 50th to feature covers from the top two American chess magazines of 50 years ago.

Left: 'Hans Berliner, World Correspondence Chess Champion' (Photo by W.A.Graham)
Right: 'At the Brooklyn Museum'

Chess Life

'The World Correspondence Chess Champion' by Hans Berliner, World Correspondence Champion • On January 31, 1968 play in the [5th] Individual World Correspondence Chess Championship officially came to an end. After almost three years of combat, 17 competitors from nine different countries ceased play in the round-robin contest, and the ten games still remaining unfinished were submitted for adjudication.

I have a page showing a crosstable of the event: World Chess Championship : 5th ICCF Correspondence Finals. Berliner scored +12-0=4 to finish three points ahead of the runner-up. When Berliner died in January last year, I took a snapshot of his Chess Hall of Fame entry in Hans Berliner (1929-2017). The one page Chess Life (CL) article by Berliner quoted above was followed by the first of a short series of CL articles titled 'The Lure of Correspondence Chess' by Hans Berliner. That first article featured the game Yakov Estrin vs Hans Berliner; 5th CC World Ch Final 1965 (chessgames.com), one of the best known games in correspondence chess.

Chess Review

The Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are collaborating in displaying one of the most important collections of chessmen and boards in existence. "Chess: East and West, Past and Present" will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum, April 2 to October 1. The sets have been loaned to the Brooklyn Museum by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mostly from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection. New Yorker Pfeiffer was a devoted collector of chessmen, keenly interested in the game, its meaning and history.

This marked the second consecutive month that Chess Review featured a chess set on its cover. For more about the Pfeiffer collection, see Chess: East and West, Past and Present. A Selection from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection (metmuseum.org).

09 April 2018

Back to the Future with Chess Engines

I last looked at the TCEC Season 11 two weeks ago in Two Championship Qualifying Events, where I noted,'Stockfish and Houdini are headed for the final stage, barring a catastrophic breakdown of either engine.'

A few days later Chessdom.com announced, TCEC Superfinal Stockfish – Houdini starts at 17:30 CET. The announcement included the logo shown on the left, where the top left corner says, 'Chessdom - partner; Chess Arena - sponsor', and the small print at the bottom points to tcec.chessdom.com. The tournament can be followed on that subdomain at TCEC - Live Mode. The announcement confirmed,

Stockfish, the open source engine by Marco Costalba, Joona Kiiski, Gary Linscott and a huge community of contributors, has convincingly won TCEC Premier Division. Stockfish collected 61,0/84 points to secure the gold medal and the right to challenge the current champion Houdini for the TCEC Grand Champion title.

As I write this, the two engines have been slugging it out for a week and a half. A total of 63 of the 100 games have been played, with the current score in favor of Stockfish +14-1=48 (38.0/63 = 60.3%). Extrapolating this over the remaining games indicates that Stockfish will reach the requisite 50.5 points after 84 games, and that the final score will be +22-2=76 (60.0/100).

What happens after that? The TCEC announcement informs, 'As TCEC is now a continuous divisions system, Season 12 is going to start right after the Superfinal.' [NB: The trend in chess events these days is that the word 'Superfinal' is used in place of 'Final'. When did this trend start?]

As for this blog, I'm going to continue the series of posts last mentioned in:-

Since then I've looked at chess engines from a generation ago in:-

  • 2018-02-08: Kasparov vs. Hsu • 'Deep Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov; IBM Man-Machine (1997), New York, NY USA'

and from the modern era in:-

  • 2018-03-08: Stockfish in a Straitjacket? • 'Houdini won TCEC Season 10 at the same time that AlphaZero appeared on the scene. [Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish] are the top three chess engines in the world, of roughly equal strength, but AlphaZero had apparently crushed [Stockfish] in a match.'

Are the AI chess engines like AlphaZero destined to overcome the traditional, hand-crafted engines like Stockfish? Or is it all a smoke-and-mirrors show?

08 April 2018

Morphy Stereoview, London

For this edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the item pictured below was the least expensive on the short list for the previous fortnight, but the most interesting for me, because it ties in to a previous post. Titled 'Rare c.1850s stereoview US/New Orleans Chess Prodigy Paul Morphy', it sold for US $425, Buy-It-Now.

The description said,

For sale is an exceedingly scarce photographic stereoview of US/New Orleans chess prodigy, Paul Morphy, playing Hungarian champion and President of the St. James Chess Club, Johann Löwenthal.

Stereoview was made by the London Stereoscope Company in circa 1858, and bears the company's blind stamp in the lower left hand corner. Some wear and fading, but the image is otherwise clear and in good condition. It bears the story of Morphy's ascent from the Louisiana backwoods as a young teen to the top of the chess ranks. Morphy is widely considered to be the best player of his era and the unofficial world champion. He defeated (usually very easily) most of the major players in Europe, and is considered by some to be the greatest prodigy of all time. This is a photo of his 1858 match versus Löwenthal, which he won handily. Scarce.

More accurately, the company's stamp in the corner said 'The London Stereoscopic Company, 54 Cheapside'. As for 'Morphy's ascent from the Louisiana backwoods', I'll transcribe the back of the card in full, not because it adds to the Morphy record, but because it doesn't appear to have been transcribed before.

Mr. Paul Morphy, the Great American Chess Player -and- M. Löwenthal, President of the St. James's Chess Club

Paul Morphy was born in New Orleans, on the 22nd of June, 1837, his Mother was of French and his Father of Spanish origin; Paul's earlier years were passed at the Jefferson Academy in the place of his birth ; in 1850 he became a student at St Joseph's College, Spring Hill, near Mobile, Alabama; he graduated from this institution in high standing in 1854, but remained another year as resident graduate, since that time he has devoted himself to the study of the law.

Paul's parents were fond of chess, and he was initiated by them at the age of ten. In May 1850, M. Lowenthal the distinguished Hungarian passed through New Orleans; on the 22nd and 25th of that month he played with Paul, (at that time not 13 years of age,) in the presence of a large number of amateurs, the first game was drawn, the second and third were won by the invincible young Philidor.

It was with great prestige that Paul Murphy arrived in New York on the 5th of October, to take part in the first Congress of the American Chess Association, and he overthrew, either in the grand tournament or in side play, one after another of those men who had long been looked up to as the magnates of the American Chess world; since then Mr Morphy has visited England and added widely to his fame by the conquest of Messrs. Lowenthal and Boden, defeating the former (in a match for £100 a side) at the rate of 3 games to 1, and the latter in the proportion of 5 to 1.

At Birmingham on the 27th August, 1858, Mr. Morphy contested 8 games, without the aid of chess board or men. against 8 members of the British Chess Association. with the unparalleled result of his having won 6„ drawn 1, and lost 1 of the 8 played, a performance which Lord Lyttelton pronounced the most wonderful thing he had ever witnessed. At a grand banquet given to Mr. Morphy in Paris, a marble bust of him was crowned with laurels amidst the loudest acclamations. On April 25th, 1859, Mr. Morphy played simultaneously 5 of the most renowned players of the St. James's Chess Club; the game at the 1st table was won by Mr. Morphy, at the 2nd it was drawn, at the 3rd it was won by Mr. Barnes, at the 4th it was won by Mr. Morphy, at the 5th it was drawn.

The stereoview establishes the place of the scenes shown in an earlier post, Morphy, Loewenthal, Young Man, and Lady (November 2011), to London.

06 April 2018

Chess by the Campfire

All photos subtitled 'Victoria Range. Grampians National Park. Victoria. [Australia]'

Photo top left: Campfire and Moon © Flickr user Ed Dunens under Creative Commons.

Campfire and moon and chess game in progress. Other photos: 'Pondering', 'The Move', and 'The Reply'.

01 April 2018

Berlin Candidates - Background

When it comes to this blog's series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), the World Championship gets special mention. Just after starting the series I featured World Championship Sociology (ditto) and World Championship Social Media (December 2016). A couple of weeks ago, for the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament, we had The Capablanca Cocktail. One theme stands out from these examples: I like background. Here's a video with plenty of it.

Vlog #30: Candidates Tournament (9:22) • 'Published on Mar 30, 2018'

Shown in the initial frame above are Lennart Ootes (also mentioned in the 'Cocktail' post), vlogger Fiona Steil-Antoni (wikipedia.org), and photographer David Llada (chessdom.com; recent interview).