31 May 2018

(No) May Yahoos

It had to happen sooner or later. After April Yahoos marked 'the seventh straight month of chess in the mainstream press', the streak ended in May. The only oblique reference to chess was a Kasparov vs. Putin story.

'Kasparov on Putin's meddling: '"I told you so".'

This story had as much to do with chess as the five stories listed beneath it:-

  • And the winner of 'American Idol' Season 16 is...
  • Kylie Jenner tweet made some investors a fortune
  • New wrinkle in Clinton email controversy
  • Sen. Rubio: 'There aren't 63 better quarterbacks'
  • Notable info missing from Meghan Markle bio

For the record, here's the Kasparov/Putin article:-

While Garry is always as entertaining as he is outspoken, this is a chess blog, not a blog for Russian politics. A few years I devoted a full post to the subject in Geopolitical Yahoos (October 2014), and I could have featured similar stories at the end of last year in November Yahoos and December Yahoos.

I like these end-month news roundups, but what to do when there are no Yahoos? Let's try Google News Search: 'q=chess'. Of the more than 100 headlines returned by the search, I picked out five stories for this post:-

  • 2018-05-10: Garry Kasparov Talks Artificial Intelligence, Deep Blue, and AlphaGo Zero (fortune.com) • 'Despite losing at chess to the IBM Deep Blue computer more than 20 years ago, Garry Kasparov is a big believer in artificial intelligence. The former world chess champion is now an author and speaker who is trying to counter some of the more alarmist beliefs over the rise of AI technologies, typically exemplified in Hollywood movies in which robots rise against their human creators.'

So I ended up anyway with another Kasparov story, this one on his third favorite subject after chess and Putin. What will the not-so-genial GM say once he realizes that AI was the enabling technology that gave Putin the power 'to meddle in American elections'?

Here are three more stories that would have made good Yahoos. All of them highlight secondary aspects of chess.

The story I would have most liked to see featured in Yahoo was the outcome of the U.S. Championship. Here's the version by Leonard Barden.

  • 2018-05-04: Chess: Sam Shankland surprise US champion ahead of Fabiano Caruana (theguardian.com) • 'Sam Shankland is the new US champion after a bravura performance where the Californian 26-year-old outscored America’s elite trio of Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura, who between them had won the previous three titles.'

May Yahoos continue in June. If not, we'll have more Google News.

29 May 2018

An 1886 Photoshopped Illustration

Earlier this month I posted about the 2018 CJA Awards Announcement, where I noted,

The [CJA's] revamped site has 'News', mainly minutes from past CJA annual meetings, an 'Awards Archive' with links to relevant material, and back issues of The Chess Journalist, which hasn't been published since 2014.

Since then I've been downloading old copies of The Chess Journalist (TCJ), wondering what chess news/wisdom could be gleaned from the publication. In preparation for a recent weekend trip, I copied seven years of TCJ (2000-2006; 28 issues) to my Kindle, then spent an hour each morning flipping through them.

The Kindle is my favorite tool for reviewing digital documents. Whenever I find a page worth further research, I can take a snapshot as a reminder that there was something interesting on the page. This is how I prepared the material for Early U.S. Ratings : A Summary and an Exercise (October 2017), which was another vacation project based on digital copies of Chess Life from the 1950s.

One of the TCJ pages I noted is shown below. It was the cover for the September 2001 issue and re-uses a well known illustration from the 19th century.

The caption says,

"The Sixteen Leading Chess Players of the World" from the July 17, 1886 issue of The Graphic. • Standing: Mackenzie, Kolisch, Winawer, Bird, de Riviere, Mason, Potter, Schallopp, L.Paulsen, G.A.MacDonnell, Gunsberg. • Seated: Blackburne, Steinitz, Zukertort, Englisch.

I'm the type of person who counts everything. If I'm culling a collection of 32 items and end up with 30 items, I'd better find two items in the deleted tray. If not, I spend time to locate the source of the error. In the case of this TCJ cover I couldn't help but notice that of the 16 'leading players' shown in the illustration, only 15 were named. Who was missing?

I found three copies of the image in my archive. The best copy showed that the 1886 original had the names and nationalities of the players listed outside the border of the image. The best associated text copied that information. Unfortunately, the names in that text didn't correspond exactly to the TCJ list. This turned out to be because two of the players in the top row were identified in the list of names for the bottom row.

Putting this together, I determined that TCJ's missing player was Rosenthal, who is standing between de Riviere and Mason. The information from the 'best text' gave the following list:-

J.H. Blackburne (England), W. Steinitz (U.S.), J.H. Xukertort [sic?!] (England), B. Englisch (Austria-Hungary), Captain George MacKenzie (U.S.), Baron J. de Kolisch (Austria-Hungary), S. Winawer (Germany), H. E. Bird (England), M. de Riviere (France), S Rosenthal (France), James Mason (U.S.), W. Norwood Potter (England), Emil Schallopp (Austria-Hungary), Louis Paulsen (Germany), and Rev G. A. MacDonnell (England), Isidor Gunsberg (England).

With the help of this list I located more copies of the illustration on the Web. The best is at Chess Pictures (chessbookchats.blogspot.com; June 2017), where the image is tinted and expands to a large size where the face of each player can be seen clearly. I'm no expert on photoshopped images, but the original illustration from The Graphic appears to have been made through some sort of copy/paste process combining different sources.


Later: Re that last comment -- 'I'm no expert on photoshopped images...' -- a note under The Graphic's original caption ('Leading Chess Players') says, 'A Portrait Group'. When I first saw this on a zoomed copy of the illustration, I thought I was reading it wrong because the letters are severely blurred on my copy; the legend 'A Group Portrait' would make more sense. Afterwards I realized that 'A Portrait Group' describes the creative process: made from a group of portraits.

28 May 2018

Running Leela / Acquiring Komodo

I ended last week's post, Installing Leela, with visual proof that I was up and running:-

Here's a screen capture showing the end of the first game and the start of the second.

The main page for the project, lczero.org (where LCZero = Leela Chess Zero), currently shows:-

'Number of accumulated games' = 15.200.000

Active Users
424 users in the last day have played 163117 games

This is followed by a long list of users, where I'm somewhere near the bottom:-

User Games/Day Version Engine Last Updated
rjs-dot-in 6238 10 10 2018-05-28 08:26
bemweeks1 14 10 10 2018-05-28 07:04

I don't know what 'Version 10' and 'Engine 10' mean, so I'll come back to that another day. All users on the list show the same values for those fields.

My username leads to a page listing games created by my account: User bemweeks1. Each of those games links to a separate viewer page for the game, although the pages for the earliest games say only, 'Internal error'. The entry for the most recent game looks like this:-

Id Network Created At
15213386 bf43640... 2018-05-28 07:04

It leads to the complete game score:-

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Bf5 6.Bf4 Bd6 7.Nh4 Be6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.e3 O-O 10.Bd3 Re8 11.Nf3 Bg4 12.h3 Bh5 13.Be2 c6 14.O-O Nbd7 15.Qb3 Ne4 16.Rfe1 Bxf3 17.Bxf3 Ng5 18.Bd1 Rab8 19.Qa4 a6 20.Ne2 Rbd8 21.Qb3 Qc7 22.Nf4 Ne6 23.Nxe6 Rxe6 24.Qd3 Nf6 25.Bf3 h5 26.b4 Qe7 27.Reb1 Ne4 28.Rb2 h4 29.a4 Qg5 30.b5 axb5 31.axb5 c5 32.dxc5 Nxc5 33.Qd4 b6 34.Rb4 Qf4 35.exf4 Rde8 36.Bxd5 Rf8 37.Rbb1 Rd6 38.Bxf7+ Kxf7 39.Qxd6 Kg8 40.Qxb6 Na4 41.f3 Nxb6 42.Ra6 Rb8 43.Kh2 Rb7 44.Rc1 Nd5 45.Rc5 Ne3 46.b6 Ra7 47.bxa7 Nxg2 48.Rc7 Kh7 49.Rf7 Nxf4 50.a8=Q Nh5 51.Qc8 Ng3 52.Qc7 Nh5 53.Qe5 Kg8 54.Rb7 g6 55.Ra8+

It goes without saying that the game has absolutely nothing to do with my own play. It just happens to have been played on a machine that belongs to me. As I scrolled through the moves, it looked like any other game until I came to this position.

After 34.Rb2-b4

White looks better here. The White Pawns present a better structure and White owns the open a-file. There are still plenty of moves to be played, but White should do no worse than draw. Suddenly Black played 34...Qf4, placing the Queen en prise to two pieces. Give that move '??'. I don't understand what happened here and will look into it another time.


Excitement in the world of chess engines: Chess.com Acquires Komodo; Launches New 'Monte Carlo' Version Similar To AlphaZero (chess.com; 24 May 2018):-

Chess.com has acquired the powerful computer chess engine Komodo, the company announced today. The acquisition of the Komodo comes with the release of an exciting new version of the engine called Komodo Monte Carlo, where moves are chosen by win probability and not traditional evaluation. The approach is similar to the probabilistic methods of the machine-learning chess projects AlphaZero and LeelaChess, which have fascinated chess players with their intuitive styles and fantastic success.

The press release went on to explain the basics of Komodo's 'Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS)'. It also announced,

Along with the software and brand, the entire Komodo team has agreed to join Chess.com. GM Larry Kaufman and his Komodo team will work with Chess.com developers to build the most insightful, powerful, and deepest-analyzing chess engine possible.

It's not clear how this will change the chess engine landscape, but Chess.com never does things lightly.

27 May 2018

Sunday Series

Another post on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), another video from the Saint Louis Chess Club. The previous video, 2018 U.S. Championship - Hall of Fame (April 2018), was the second in a row, making this one the third.

2018 U.S. Chess Championships: Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield (5:37) • 'Published on Apr 30, 2018'

The description from the Youtube channel for the Saint Louis Chess Club said,

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley talks to Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield, co-founder of the Saint Louis Chess Club, during Round 10 of the 2018 U.S. Chess Championships.

At the beginning of the clip GM Ashley elicits a smile by saying,

Half of the Sinquefield show is Dr. Jeannie Sinquefield and we would say the better half, too. Rex is crazy. She's the reasonable one in the family. You need the dreamers and you need the practical ones.

The rest of the clip is mainly about the Boy Scouts. Dr. Sinquefield says, 'I now have 170.000 boys who have earned the chess merit badge.' For more about that badge on this blog, see Chess Merit Badge (September 2011). As for her doctorate, a page for the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, Jeanne Sinquefield - Music Composition & Education, informs,

Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield received a Masters in Business Administration and a doctorate in demography from The University of Chicago.

A doctorate in demography -- I bet that not many of those have been awarded.


This post finishes the transition I mentioned at the beginning of the month in Silk Anniversary!: 'While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down'. My fortnightly rotating series...

...plus this long-running series on sociology will now continue once a month each, rotating on Sundays.

22 May 2018

Vasiukov Photo / Caruana's Career

This month the chess world lost another former Soviet star, Evgeni Vasiukov (1933-2018). I searched my archive of eBay material and found only a single item featuring him. It's still worth a post.

The description said,

Original Soviet chess press panoramic photo. Grandmaster Evgeni Vasiukov plays white against Grandmaster Mikhail Tal, 1970s. Retouched for publishing in Latvian chess magazine "Sahs".

I've cropped out the 'panoramic' aspect, which showed chess fans pressing in from all sides to watch the game, apparently played at blitz time control. For more about his career, see Evgeni Vasiukov (wikipedia.org); Soviet Championships: 'He qualified for the finals a total of eleven times.'


For the past few weeks I've been running a series to learn more about Fabiano Caruana's early career. Here is a summary of the posts.

Although I didn't plan it at the time, the four posts document a natural progression in the early career of any budding chess superstar: early steps, Grandmaster title, GM supertournaments, World Championship aspirations. If I had been more alert while putting together 'early steps', I would have included Caruana's experience in youth tournaments.

I might come back to Caruana's career for the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match later this year in London. In the meantime, here are a number of related posts on this blog -- most of them recent -- about GM Caruana.

Posts marked '(*)' are currently showing up in 'Popular Posts (Last 12 months)' at the bottom of all blog pages. This attests to Caruana's popularity.

21 May 2018

Installing Leela

After Getting to Know Leela, what happens next? Installing it might be a good start. Following the instructions from that previous post...

For more info, go to lczero.org and refer to the links in the left navigation bar.

...I clicked through 'Getting Started' and eventually got to a page of the same name: Getting Started.

To help the LCZero project get stronger by running self-play training games on your own computer, see...

First question: On which machine should I install the Leela software? I decided to install it on my WIN7 PC. That's where I do most of my writing. Since the objective of the exercise is to write a few posts about Leela, it would be easier to copy/paste material directly into a post, like this one. Unfortunately, I ran into a technical problem and after fiddling a bit decided that WIN7 was the problem. I switched to a WIN10 PC.

I followed the instructions again (the second time went faster) and this time everything worked smoothly. After downloading and unzipping the file, I launched the client, set up a new account, and the software started automatically. Here's a screen capture showing the end of the first game and the start of the second.

'SlowMover', that's me.

20 May 2018

The Chess Waste Land

There are so many angles to today's featured photo that I hardly know where to start.

A game of chess © Flickr user Luke McKernan under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Barbara Kruger chess set, with paintings by Paula Rego, Peter Blake and Edward Hopper. The Waste Land exhibition, Turner Contemporary, Margate.

Margate: Ernst Gruenfeld won at Margate 1923 ahead of Alekhine (and others), although the tournament is not mentioned on BritBase: 1920-29 (saund.co.uk). For the next decade, BritBase: 1930-39, the site gives as Margate winners: 1935 Reshevsky, 1936 Capablanca, 1937 Fine/Keres, 1938 Alekhine, 1939 Keres. I presume the annual series ended because of WWII (1939-1945).

Waste Land exhibition: Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ (turnercontemporary.org):-

In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land sitting in the Nayland Rock shelter on Margate Sands. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work, reflecting on the fractured world in the aftermath of the First World War as well as Eliot’s own personal crisis.

For more about the poem, see Wikipedia's The Waste Land; its second part is titled 'A Game of Chess'. T.S. Eliot received a passing reference in a previous Flickr Friday post on this blog: Multi-dimensional Chess Imagery (November 2017; 'The large frame under the horseshoe is an an excerpt from T.S.Eliot's poem "East Coker" (1940), that starts "You say I am repeating / Something I have said before".')

Barbara Kruger chess set: The Margate photo is taken at an angle that captures both the chess set and an artwork featuring chess behind the set. It's not immediately obvious, because the chess set is shown from the wrong side, but the board is a photo of a boy screaming. A better view of the boy's head is at The Art Of Chess 2006 (tatintsian.com; 1/10, all sets). The chess artwork by Peter Blake shows Marcel Duchamp. Another work featuring Blake recreates the famous photo of Duchamp and model Eve Babitz.

Flickr: This current post is the follow-up to The Last Flickr Friday, where I said, 'I'll be cutting the series back to one post a month and moving it to Sunday.' It might also be the last Flickr photo: SmugMug acquires Flickr (techcrunch.com; April 2018); the article overviews the history of Flickr, 'founded in 2004 and sold to Yahoo a year later'. I hope the situation after the acquisition will continue to provide inspiration for future posts featuring chess photos.

18 May 2018

A Transformational Technology

On the 12th anniversary of this blog, Silk Anniversary! (1 May 2018), I decided to start giving less time to blogging:-

While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down; maybe go from one post per day (across my four blogs) to 5-6 posts per week.

With that in mind, I cut back my rotating Friday posts to once a month each and moved them to another day:-

So here we are, another Friday and I have nothing special to do. Before signing off completely, I'm going to spend a few Fridays looking at the impact of artificial intelligence and neural networks on the world of chess. To get started, I gathered all previous posts on the subject(s) into a new category: Showing posts with label AI/NN. It's a technology that is not only transforming chess, it's transforming nearly everything that we do.

17 May 2018

The Value of a Tempo

What's the value of the first move in chess? Most people would say it's a tempo, but there's a problem here.

Let's say that White passes on the first move. I know the rules of chess don't allow a player to say 'Pass!', so let's call it a thought experiment. If White passes, then Black has exactly the same advantage of the first move that White just had. Now here's the problem: If White gives up a tempo thereby giving Black an extra tempo, then the difference between the positions is two tempi. But White only passed on one move, so how can this be? Let's use a simple algebraic formula to illustrate this...

X - 1 = -X

... where 'X' is the value of the first move for White, '-1' is the value of the lost move, and '-X' is the value of the new situation for Black. Solving for 'X' gives X = 1/2. This means that the value of the first move is not a tempo; it's a half-tempo. QED?

A few years back I wrote a couple of posts -- One Imbalance Leads to Another (February 2013) and A Pawn Equals 200 Rating Points (ditto) -- based on GM Larry Kaufman's work. One of the observations from his work was...

  • 0.4 - Value of a tempo
  • 0.2 - Value of first move

...where a Pawn is worth 1.0. Kaufman's observation confirms the X = 1/2 calculation. Why bring this up again? While reading the September 2017 issue of Chess Life, I noticed that GM Lev Alburt gave the following diagram in his monthly column, 'Back to Basics', after the moves 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3.

Most people would accept that statement as obvious and continue with the column. We've all seen similar statements many times and accepted them without question, but it might not be so straightforward. According to Kaufman's work, White's advantage might be *only* a half-tempo.

I plugged the position after 1.e4 c5 into an engine, looked at the analysis, entered a null move for White, and looked again at the analysis. The difference between the two analyses (before and after the null move) was not a half-tempo, it was closer to a full tempo. Why is the value of a move a half-tempo at the start of a game and a full tempo later? I think it's the difference between 'having the move' and 'making a move'. Once you make a move the advantage of having the move passes to your opponent.

I'm a big fan of chess960. I've always assumed that different start positions have different values. According to the analysis above (X - 1 = -X), every position starts with the same fundamentals -- a tempo is a tempo no matter what the start position might be.

So why do some chess960 start positions seem to offer a better opportunity for White to gain an advantage? Maybe it's for the same reason that some moves in the traditional start position (as in the diagram above) offer a better opportunity than other moves. After all, 1.d4 and 1.e4 are better moves than 1.a3 and 1.h3. A move that accomplishes two objectives is better than a move that accomplishes a single objective; similarly, a move that does nothing is better than a move that makes the position worse. Just don't say, 'Pass!'.

15 May 2018

Caruana at the World Cup

In my previous post on the challenger for the current World Championship cycle, Caruana at Corus, I ended with the observation:-

Between the 2009 and 2010 Corus tournaments, there was another significant event: the 2009 World Cup.

According to my World Championship Index of players [A-G], GM Caruana has played in five World Cups. Following is a summary of his results in the seven-round knockout events.

2009 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, XI-XII, 2009.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - Bruzon Batista,L 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 4.0 - Dominguez Perez,L 2.0
Rd.3 Caruana,F 3.5 - Alekseev,Evgeny 2.5
Rd.4 Gashimov,V 3.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

2011 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, VIII-IX, 2011.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - Pridorozhni,A 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Drozdovskij,Y 0.5
Rd.3 Svidler,P 3.0 - Caruana,F 1.0

2013 World Cup; Tromso (Norway), VIII-IX, 2013.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - G.,Akash 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Yu Yangyi 0.5
Rd.3 Caruana,F 3.0 - Malakhov,V 1.0
Rd.4 Caruana,F 2.0 - Granda Zuniga,J 0.0
Rd.5 Vachier Lagrave,M 2.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

2015 World Cup; Baku (Azerbaijan), IX-X, 2015.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 2.0 - Zaibi,A 0.0
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Mamedov,Rau 0.5
Rd.3 Caruana,F 1.5 - Kovalyov,A 0.5
Rd.4 Mamedyarov,S 1.5 - Caruana,F 0.5

2017 World Cup; Tbilisi (Georgia), IX, 2017.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 2.0 - Solomon,K 0.0
Rd.2 Caruana,F 4.0 - Lenic,L 2.0
Rd.3 Najer,E 2.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

How did he qualify for the World Cup events? Another of my pages, World Chess Championship Zonals, includes links to 'Qualifying Paths' for each cycle.

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2008-2009 (C24)

h) 6 nominees of the FIDE President
122. Caruana, Fabiano (ITA)

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2010-2011 (C25)

d) From FIDE Rating List, 20 players, average 7/2010 & 1/2011:
25. F. Caruana (ITA) 2709,00 [19th on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2012-2013 (C26)

d) From FIDE Rating List, average 3/2012 up to 1/2013:
12. F. Caruana (ITA) 2775,44 [5th on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2014-2015 (C27)

d) From FIDE Rating List, average 2/2014 up to 1/2015:
09. F. Caruana (USA) 2803.66 [2nd on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2016-2017 (C28)

c) From FIDE Rating List, 18 players, average 2/2016 up to 1/2017:
08. F. Caruana (USA) 2807.91 [1st on the list]

As the official challenger in the forthcoming 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match, GM Caruana is guaranteed a place in the following cycle. Whatever the outcome of that match, I expect he will be a key participant in World Championship cycles for many years to come.

14 May 2018

Getting to Know Leela

After last week's introduction to Leela Chess Zero and the TCEC, where to go next? How about an explanatory video? In last year's introduction to AlphaZero, A New Style of Chess (December 2017), I featured Agadmator's Chess Channel on Youtube, so let's call on Agadmator again.

Artificial Intelligence Leela Zero to Become as Strong as Alpha Zero? | Only if We Help! (14:28) • 'Published on Apr 5, 2018'

The video's description explains,

Great progress has been made so far -- Leela has gone from random play to around 1800 now on average hardware in four weeks. The catch is that project relies on people running Leela on their computers so there are more matches for Leela to learn from.

For more info, go to lczero.org and refer to the links in the left navigation bar.

13 May 2018

Fabiano Streams on Twitch

A couple of months ago on Video Friday we had Magnus Streams on Youtube (March 2018). Now we have World Champion Carlsen's next challenger hosting a stream; see 2018 Carlsen - Caruana; London for more about next November's title match, including the official site, etc.

Fabiano Caruana - Titled Tuesday May 2018 (1:40:07) • 'Published on May 3, 2018'

Chess.com's own video report on Youtube is at Titled Tuesday Blitz Chess Tournament: May 2018 With Caruana and Giri:-

World championship challenger Fabiano Caruana decides to put his skills on display by playing AND streaming the May edition of the Titled Tuesday blitz chess tournament. Joining him is Anish Giri who's hungry to defeat him "on air."

For Chess.com's written report on the event, see Petrosian Wins Titled Tuesday Ahead Of Giri, Caruana. In the future I'll be featuring videos once a month on this blog. The previous, fortnightly schedule ended a few days ago with The Last Video Friday.

11 May 2018

The Last Video Friday

Unlike last Friday's post The Last Flickr Friday, this current post isn't really 'The Last Video Friday'. That distinction belongs to 2018 U.S. Championship (April 2018; 'Strength of the Tournament'). The tag count currently shows 'Video (406)', which means I have to go back many years to find the original Video Friday. I initially performed a couple of tests to understand the techniques:-

Some time after making those tests, the videos were gone. The YouTube version is now marked 'This video is unavailable', while the Google version has simply disappeared without a trace. The third post in the category was:-

  • 2007-03-16: Video Friday • 'Chess and metaphysics don't usually mix well. This video is a pleasant exception.'

By some happy quirk of fate/metaphysics, that first Video Friday post has survived intact. I don't know what the odds are of a video becoming unavailable, but based on the number witnessed via this blog, it must be fairly high.

'This video is unavailable.'

I'll still continue reviewing recent YouTube submissions on the subject of chess, but it won't be on Friday.

10 May 2018

2018 CJA Awards Announcement

Once again, the month of May means the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have announced their annual award categories. It also means that I'll have material for at least three posts on this blog. Last year we had...

...and this year I expect we'll have similar. The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the award categories for last year and for this year.

2017 2018

Too small to read? The CJA's completely revamped web site, Chess Journalism (chessjournalism.org), points to an online entry form that includes the same list of categories.

What's changed? The first four category groups for 2018 ('THE TOP FOUR', etc.) are carbon copies of the 2017 groups. When we reach 'NEWS AND FEATURES', things start to change. The category 'Best Tournament Report', which was present in 2016 but missing in 2017 (apparently an oversight), is back in 2018, and split into two: 'National / International' and 'Local / Regional'. The other categories in the group are unchanged except for a new category, 'Special Achievement'.

After 'ELECTRONIC MEDIA', where the categories haven't changed and which still includes 'Best Chess Blog', there is a new group, 'MULTIMEDIA CATEGORY'. Here the new categories are:-

  • Best Mainstream Media (one free entry to anyone)
  • Best Tournament Report
  • Best Educational Lesson
  • Best Interview

Whether you're a CJA member or not (I'm not), the CJA's revamped web site is worth a visit. It appears to have changed end-2017, but if you're nostalgic for the old site, it is still available at archive.org / chessjournalism.org.

The revamped site has 'News', mainly minutes from past CJA annual meetings, an 'Awards Archive' with links to relevant material, and back issues of The Chess Journalist, which hasn't been published since 2014. The minutes for the 2017 annual meeting explained,

PDFs of old issues of The Chess Journalists have begun to be put up online. There is also a list of issues that are missing from the White Collection in Cleveland that has been placed on line.

The earliest issue currently available is 'Chess Journalist - Spring 1977 v5 n1'. Since I've never seen an issue of the periodical dated before 2007, there is plenty here to keep me busy until the 2018 CJA Awards are announced three months from now.

08 May 2018

Caruana at Corus

Continuing with our look at TWIC's coverage (from Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess) of Fabiano Caruana's career, I covered his early steps in Caruana's TWIC Debut (April 2018), and his next steps in Caruana's Rise to GM (ditto). I ended that last post with:-

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.

The following composite image shows GM Caruana's performance at Wijk aan Zee in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He won the C-event easily in 2008, won the B-event with considerable luck in 2009, and finished +1-3=9 at the A-event in 2010, three points behind winner Magnus Carlsen.

Source: TWIC 690, 742, 795

For the corresponding reports from Chessbase.com, see:-

Between the 2009 and 2010 Corus tournaments, there was another significant event: the 2009 World Cup.

07 May 2018

Leela Chess Zero

Now that I've finished with TCEC Season 11 (see last week's Battering the French for the final post), where should I go next? The first post in this current series on engines, Back to the Future with Chess Engines (April 2018), promised a look at the future. What could be more futuristic than AI? In the middle of last month, the TCEC organizers announced Leela Chess Zero enters TCEC Season 12 (chessdom.com).

Leela Chess Zero (LC0), an open source adaptation of DeepMind’s recent Alpha Zero artificial intelligence demonstration project, will compete in TCEC’s Season 12. In so doing it will become the first chess-playing neural net in history to publicly challenge traditional human chess programming.

Leela was placed into the lowest of the TCEC qualifying events, Division 4. Based on its poor performance, it might be at risk of being dropped for future TCEC seasons. Here's a crosstable of the event.

TCEC Season 12, Division 4

Ouch! I better not waste any time. For the next few weeks in this series I'll look at Leela and its technology.

06 May 2018

Chess Art, Paris 1925

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), we've had A Six-Figure Chess Item at Auction (November 2017; 'Marcel Duchamp : Pocket Chess Set'), and A Seven-Figure Chess Item at Auction (also November 2017; 'The Chess Players' by William Roberts). A five-figure item might seem commmonplace, but there were only three others listed in the 'Six-Figure' post.

The item pictured below was titled 'Frantisek Zdenek Eberl, French/Czech (1887-1962), Chess Players, oil', and subtitled 'Part of a live auction event on Thursday, Apr 26'. The winning bid was US $38,000 after 20 bids.

The description repeated the information in the title and added,

Seller's Estimate: USD 6,000 - 8,000.
Oil on canvas, signed "F.Z. Eberl" and dated "Paris 25" lower left.
Inscribed "Salon d'Automne" and "d'Office" on the reverse.
41 x 28 1/2 inches.

Provenance: Ancienne Maison P. Ferret, L. Helvig, Successeur, Paris, France; Private Collection, New Jersey.
Exhibitions: Salon d'Automne (1925), Paris, France.

Wikipedia's page on the artist, François Zdenek Eberl, says,

François Zdenek Eberl (1887-1962) was a Czech-born painter who worked mainly in Paris, France. At his prime, his name was included among those of fellow painters and personal friends Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and Maurice de Vlaminck. [...] Drawing inspiration from the folklore of Paris, his preference was to paint the street scenes and nightclubs as he observed them.

How does that fit into Chess and Art Movements (December 2017)?

04 May 2018

The Last Flickr Friday

Other than a few tags -- Tallinn, Estonia, Sculpture -- and a link to Wikipedia's page on Paul Keres, this photo had no information about the setting. It appears to be an exterior wall plaque, perhaps on the house where Keres lived.

Paul Kerese © Flickr user Alan under Creative Commons.

The plaque says,

Paul Kerese
Nimeline Malamaje

Given 'Nimeline Malamaje', Google Translate says it's Estonian and turns it into 'Nickname Malamaje'. That information leads nowhere, so we are free to use our imagination.


In the previous Flickr Friday post, Chess in the Pink, I wrote,

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'll be cutting the series back to one post a month -- it's been every two weeks since the first post: Flickr Friday (August 2008) -- and moving it to Sunday.

03 May 2018

May 1968 'On the Cover'

Last month's 'On the Cover', April 1968, featured a correspondence chess champion and a chess set. This month the series returns to the same two world class crossboard players who appeared in the November 1967 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'National Open Champion Pal Benko' (Details next month)
Right: 'Oscar'

Chess Life; 'Details next month' means we go back 50 years less a month to find out what happened in the tournament. From the June 1968 CL:-

At Lake Tahoe, Nevada, from March 24 to 29, 111 competitors took part in the National Open Tournament. When it was all over, International Grandmaster Pal Benko had the first prize of $1250 in his pocket. The tournament director and principle organizer, Ken Jones of Reno, is a lover of chess and philosophy. He has decided not to direct next year's event, a decision no doubt prompted by several misunderstandings and ensuing disputes during the tournament.

Chess Review

It fell to Bent Larsen of Denmark to win the first "Chess Oscar" this year at the tournament at Palma de Majorca. Larsen and the trophy therefore appear on our front cover this month, and the first part of Dr. Petar Trifunovich's account of Palma de Majorca carries the story in some detail. Does Larsen, who happened to win when and where the tournament organizers dreamed up the scheme of nominating and electing the "Player of the Year," merit that award? Petar gives some ponderable cons to rate against the Dane's four straight victories.

The first 'Chess Oscar' is a story worth repeating. From the May 1968 CR (p.156):-

Palma de Mallorca (*), Recounted by Dr. Petar Trifunovich, Part I

The '(*)' signalled an editorial footnote on the use of Majorca vs. Mallorca: 'Dr.Trifunovich prefers to go to "L".' Was there an unstated problem here? Let's continue with the main story:-

First "Chess Oscar" • As Palma was the last chess event for 1967, the organizers hit upon the great idea of proclaiming "the best chessplayer of the year." Along with the proclamation goes a "Chess Oscar" after the long established custom of filmdom. For chess, this is a (more modest) silver cup. This idea introduces a bit of change and enlivening into the humdrum routine of chess life.

For this purpose, a jury was constituted of chess journalists accredited by the tournament: Puig Laborda and Eduardo de Perez of Spain; Harry de Graaf of Holland; Silvain Zinser of France; and Deimitry Bjelica of Yugoslavia. They voted for Bent Larsen of Denmark as the best player in 1967 on the strength of his first-place victories in the Capablanca Memorial at Havana, the Winnipeg International (a tie with Klaus Darga of West Germany), the Interzonal at Sousse and the International Tournament at Palma de Mallorca.

The decision of course has no official significance -- rates perhaps somewhat less than the "grandmasterships" conferred by the Czar of Russia at St. Petersburg in 1914 -- for it was brought about without the collaboration or agreement of the FIDE. It is a one-sided declaration of the journalists who happened to collect at one tournament. And, in fact, one notable chess reporter present, Grandmaster Kotov, did not support the declaration.

Indeed, the objectivity of this decision may be questioned. The Chess Oscar may, first, be unduly apt to be awarded to the winner of the concurrent tournament. Second, the jury gave no explanation as to why Robert J. Fischer, for instance, surely a possible rival, was excluded. Surely, all aspirants and all results ought to be taken into consideration, both the positive and the negative. Here is a brief resume, which this commentator offers as possibly incomplete, speaking without full documentation.

Larsen shared third and fourth with Yefim Geller at Monaco; and, what is quite important, he was not only outscored but also beaten by Fischer. At Dundee in Ireland, Larsen split second and third with Fredrik Olafsson of Iceland, and behind Svetozar Gligorich of Yugoslavia. At Winnipeg, Larsen shared first with Darga. True, Larsen's great victories at Havana, Sousse and Palma are clean as a raindrop. But Fischer had first places exclusively: at Skopje and Monaco, he had no consort; and, even when dismissed from the Interzonal at Sousse, he led undefeated.

At the least, a decision between these two chess giants does not come easily. But the jury left us with no explanation. And what would have happened if the jury had designated someone else, someone not among the participants at Palma? "Oscar" certainly could not have been handed over!

That excerpt is perhaps too long-winded for this blog post, but it *was* the first 'Chess Oscar'.

01 May 2018

Silk Anniversary!

That's what Wikipedia's page on Wedding anniversary suggests for the 12th. The first post on this blog was Another head? (1 May 2006) After one year of blogging, in M'aidez, M'aidez (1 May 2007), I wrote,

It's been exactly one year to the day since I started this blog and it has become an addiction. I need help in stopping. Lots of other chess bloggers seem to be able to stop without any problem. Why can't I?

Eleven years later I'm still wondering how to stop. While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down; maybe go from one post per day (across my four blogs) to 5-6 posts per week. Past experience says that this won't last long. I always manage to fill the newfound free time with chess or with blogging. I'm drawn to the two activities like a moth to a flame.

Smooth as silk?