30 October 2018

October Yahoos

The two Yahoo stories I spotted this month were both about the FIDE Presidential election, which I covered on my World Chess Championship blog:-

Both Yahoo stories used similar photos of outgoing FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to illustrate the headline. The logo for the Russia news agency, Interfax (wikipedia.org), is seen in the background.

2018-10-03: Global chess body elects new head amid claims of Russian meddling (yahoo.com; AFP). At the time I captured the Yahoo introduction shown above, the headline and the partial paragraph beneath the headline didn't match. The headline said that Dvorkovich had been elected. The lead said the 'federation is set to vote'. Here is the entire lead sentence and first paragraph:-

The global chess federation is set to vote for a new president on Wednesday, replacing its veteran, highly controversial Russian chief, amid allegations of undue influence exerted by Moscow. The race to head one of the world's largest sporting federations will see former Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich run against current World Chess Federation (FIDE) deputy president, Georgios Makropoulos, who is Greek, and British grandmaster Nigel Short. Whatever the result, the election will bring to an end the more than two decades-long reign of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as president of the body uniting the world's 188 national chess federations.

Now the lead paragraph on the same link says,

Batumi (Georgia) (AFP) - The global chess federation elected former Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich as its new president Wednesday, replacing a colourful but controversial chief amid allegations that Moscow was putting pressure on national federations.

I don't like online news stories that change from one moment to another. There's something sneaky, bordering on deceptive, about them. The second story was more straightforward.

2018-10-03: World chess gets first new president in two decades as Putin loyalist takes power (yahoo.com; The Telegraph).

The World Chess Federation elected a new leader today bringing to an end the colourful two-decade rule of a Russian politician who claims he was abducted by aliens. Arkady Dvorkovich, Moscow's preferred candidate, was installed as the new king of Fide after delegates from 182 nations voted at its congress in the Georgian resort city of Batumi. Mr Dvorkovich, the chief organiser of the Fifa World Cup, replaces the eccentric businessman-turned-politician Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who reigned supreme over the chess world for 23 years.

There was one other significant story that appeared on Yahoo, but which I didn't see in their headlines. It could be even more important to the development of chess than the election stories above.

2018-10-20: Meet the first American since 1972 to compete for the world chess title by Daniel Roberts. The same writer was behind two previous posts on this blog:-

Let's hope that 'November Yahoos' will be filled with stories about next month's 2018 Carlsen - Caruana match, although the often repeated 'first American since 1972 to compete for the world chess title' is a disservice to Gata Kamsky. For more on the subject, see Gata Kamsky taking objections to the claim that Caruana is the 1st American since Fischer to play for World title (reddit.com).

29 October 2018

Happy 10th Anniversary, Stockfish!

In last week's post, Talking About Chess Engines, I noted,

The two stars of the chess engine world are Stockfish and Leela. [...] Both engines are open source and both have forums where their many fans can discuss current trends. I really should spend some time on both forums to catch up with their technical developments and just might do that.

The last time I spent time on Stockfish's FishCooking forum was Stockfish in a Straitjacket? (March 2018), so I had tons of material to review. It was time well spent. One thread informed,

  • 2018-07-23: Stockfish 10th Anniversary • 'Is there any chance for next Stockfish 10 to be released 2 November 2018 as of 10 years of Stockfish first release back in 2008 and for name to be "Stockfish 10th anniversary"?'

The name of choice for the commemorative release was 'Stockfish X', but with only a few days to go, it doesn't look like anything special is going to happen. Another thread pointed to a series of graphs showing Stockfish's recent rating progress. This particular graph shows progress since the end of 2015, nearly 200 rating points.

Fishtest/wiki: Regression Tests

As I write this, Stockfish is playing the TCEC Season 13 final against Komodo and is leading +5-1=36, with another week or so to reach the match target of 100 games. The TCEC gives the engines' current respective ratings as 3519 and 3475.

The conventional wisdom is that people shouldn't play important chess games on their birthdays. I doubt that it matters much to engines.

28 October 2018

Chess and the Behavioral Sciences

We're approaching the second anniversary of the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), and I still haven't introduced what appears to be the most important work related to the subject, Players and Pawns (uchicago.edu), by Gary Alan Fine, subtitled 'How Chess Builds Community and Culture':-

A chess match seems as solitary an endeavor as there is in sports: two minds, on their own, in fierce opposition. In contrast, Gary Alan Fine argues that chess is a social duet: two players in silent dialogue who always take each other into account in their play. Surrounding that one-on-one contest is a community life that can be nearly as dramatic and intense as the across-the-board confrontation.

This video, from the American Folklore Society, might have nothing to do with chess, but it does serve as an introduction to the author and his work.

Gary Alan Fine, "The Folklore of Small Things: Tiny Publics and Realms of Local Knowledge" (1:48:09) • 'Published on Jun 19, 2017'

The description of the video says,

Gary Alan Fine (Northwestern University and the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences), delivered the 2010 Francis Lee Utley Memorial Lecture of the AFS Fellows at the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday, October 15.

Abstract: "To understand contemporary society folklore requires a robust theory of how small groups motivate the creation and retention of tradition. The establishment, ordering, and expansion of any culture depend on groups with shared pasts and futures, that are spatially situated, and that depend on common references. Folk cultures arise from interaction scenes, linked to a field of activity. Within complex societies, specialized groups fulfill a set of instrumental tasks within a complex division of labor. As a result many group cultures are linked to the presence of knowledge specialists: experts who serve as brokers for external, lay publics. These groups constitute epistemic communities linked to focused knowledge realms, achieving essential societal ends in the absence of general knowledge."

While writing this post I only watched the introduction to the lecture. Once it's posted, I'll watch the rest. If there is anything about chess, I'll mention it in a follow-up paragraph.

26 October 2018

GPU Specifications

In Catching Up with Leela, I glossed over a technical point:-

If you're not familiar with GPUs like 'K80 / P100 / V100 / etc.', it's enough to know that they are three evolutions of graphic processors, the number crunchers that all [neural networks] rely on for their numeric intensive computations.

That might have been 'enough to know' for that post, but I wanted to know more. I eventually found Wikipedia's Nvidia Tesla:-

Nvidia Tesla is Nvidia's brand name for their products targeting stream processing or general-purpose GPU. Products use GPUs from the G80 series onward.

The evolution of GPUs starting around 2007 is laid out in a matrix of technical specs titled 'Specifications and configurations', and includes the three models mentioned in the 'Catching Up' post. To learn more about those specs I located a video.

Graphics Card Specs: The Basics (8:09) • 'Published on Aug 16, 2016'

The video's description explains,

Reviews and benchmarks are the most important thing to look at when buying a new graphics card. But if you ARE curious as to what these specs mean, here's a video!

The emphasis in the video is on gaming, but the connection with AI is clear enough. I'll look at that in my next post.

25 October 2018

Goodbye Google+, Hello Twitter

So you think Google Plus is worthless? Well, you're wrong. Five years ago, after Google forced me to use it (I forget why, but it must have had something to do with this blog), it started to serve as the archive for the blog posts from my various blogs. Shown here is a screen capture of its current look (as I see it).


The upper left link is yesterday's post from my World Chess Championship blog, Gonzo Chess Journalism; the upper right link is the previous post on this Chess for All Ages blog, From Black & White to Brown & Blue. If you scroll down a page or two, you'll see Kasparov Discusses the Showdown, the most recent post on my Chess960 (FRC) blog.

Google is planning to close its Google Plus service. I mentioned this in a recent post about another Google service, A Free Google Service?:-

As for the 'Google Privacy Policy', an incident from earlier this month revealed Google's real policy. See, for example, 'Google+ to shut down after coverup of data-exposing bug' (techcrunch.com), for one report: 'A security bug allowed third-party developers to access Google+ user profile data since 2015 until Google discovered and patched it in March, but decided not to inform the world.'

I don't know when Google Plus will close, but Google doesn't waste time when it takes action. What to do? The archive is useful whenever I have to look at a recent post on a device other than my main laptop. Since Google updates it automatically every time I publish a new post, it takes very little work to maintain. In another post earlier this month, The CCL Was Hacked, I wrote,

Along with dozens (hundreds?) of other chess related items, they [CCL on Facebook] publish posts from this blog and from my World Chess Championship blog. A couple of weeks ago my blog statistics told me that the blog feeds had stopped.

After the CCL returned to service, it took some time to get the feed working again. In brief, I stopped using my own dlvr.it account -- as described in Site Stats and Images (June 2017) -- and switched to a CCL service. Since my free dlvr.it account lets me send blog posts to only one target ('Socials' the dlvr.it service calls them), I could use it for something else. That 'something else' will be my Twitter account, which I opened in 2009 and which has been dormant ever since:-

Mark Weeks (@bemweeks) on Twitter

In effect, my Twitter account will serve as an archive. The 'View my complete profile' link in the sidebar of all my blogs currently points to my Google Plus page. That link is generated by Google's blogger.com and blogspot.com. I can't change it. What will Google use next as a profile?


Later: Re the comment in the main post...

Five years ago, after Google forced me to use Google+ (I forget why, but it must have had something to do with this blog), it started to serve as the archive for the blog posts from my various blogs.

...I scrolled to the bottom of my Google+ archive and found the earliest:-

The second post was:-

That post said,

I realized that Blogger.com, the service that maintains this blog, was trying to force me to upgrade to Google Plus (whatever that entails). I had seen similar messages before, always presented at a bad time, like when I had something more urgent to do. This time, since I was completely blocked, I was forced to follow through with the upgrade, finally receiving the message, 'You are now using a Google+ profile on your blogs'.

What Google wants, Google gets. So why was Google+ such a flop?

23 October 2018

From Black & White to Brown & Blue

Start with a Google image search on 'chess fischer'; select a few black & white photos; feed them to a colorizing service. You get something like the composite image shown below.

Colorize Black and White Photos – Algorithmia

The header for that page (on algorithmia.com) says,

Colorize Photos • Use Deep Learning to Automatically Colorize Black and White Photos

A little later, the page says,

We're excited to introduce cloud hosted deep learning models on Algorithmia. The Colorful Image Colorization microservice is a computer vision algorithm trained on a million images from the Imagenet dataset.

Does the Imagenet dataset consist mainly of brown & blue photos? The USA and USSR flags in the photo on the bottom right might be the reason why that image shows a few other colors.

22 October 2018

Talking About Chess Engines

While working on last week's post, Catching Up with Engine Competitions, ...

My head is spinning with all of these computer chess events. They are starting to be like elevator music -- always there but doesn't demand any real attention.

...I started to wonder, 'What are the engine experts saying about these recent tournaments and about other events?' The two stars of the chess engine world are Stockfish and Leela -- Stockfish because it is winning everything in sight, Leela because it is based on an emerging technology and is improving rapidly. Both engines are open source and both have forums where their many fans can discuss current trends:-

  • FishCooking (groups.google.com/forum/fishcooking)
  • LCZero (groups.google.com/forum/lczero)

I really should spend some time on both forums to catch up with their technical developments and just might do that. In the meantime, using a relevant search, I identified a few other online forum resources and looked for recent conversations. Google gave me a logo-laden 'Related search':-

Google search on 'stockfish leela tcec'

Here are a few conversations in descending order of what I estimate to be the site's interest in the subject:-

The interest from Reddit.com is somewhat surprising, although the site shows up increasingly in chess related searches. Why so little interest from Chess.com? Perhaps they see their own CCCC tournament as a rival to the TCEC. Note also their interest in the ICGA 'World Championship', which gets little attention these days from the engine community.

On a related subject, following up my post Chess Programming Wiki (July 2018), the resource is now available at Chessprogramming Wiki (chessprogramming.org). I won't adjust any of my previous links to the site, because it's enough to know that the destination pages are available.

21 October 2018

Chess and Cubofuturism

How is a chess player connected to the chess board? Most people would probably say through the head, but this painting suggests that there are also connections through the chest and through the hands.

Chess player by Otto Möller (1921) © Flickr user Marcel under Creative Commons.

The description added the hashtags --

#art #chess #berlin #painting

-- and linked to an Instagram page with a nearly identical title and description, Marcel on Instagram: “Chess player...". For more than a million chess images from Instagram, see #chess hashtag on Instagram. The introduction to a German Wikipedia page, Otto Möller (painter), translates to:-

Otto Möller (1883-1964) was a German painter, graphic artist and drawing teacher. In his work Möller went through various styles, such as Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubofuturism and New Objectivity. His reputation he achieved as a representative of the Berlin November Group and Expressionist of the second generation.

I'm not sure what Cubofuturism means, but the painting certainly reminds me of the Google image search on 'chess cubism' that I used in Chess and Art Movements (December 2017).

19 October 2018

A Free Google Service?

Last week, in Catching Up with Leela, I wrote,

I'll certainly be looking into the mechanics of using Google Colab and Google Cloud. Maybe I'll even document my experience here, in my own blog.

Following the link, 'HOW TO: Contribute games to Leela FOR FREE', I arrived at Compute Engine : Google Cloud, clicked 'TRY IT FREE', and continued to Try Cloud Platform for Free. After checking the boxes for...

Step 1 of 2 : 'Terms of service' and 'Email updates'

...I received 'Step 2 of 2', which I captured in the following image.

Note that in the bottom left corner my name is filled in although I haven't entered it anywhere. Because of the time I spend working on my blogs, I'm normally signed in to Google's Blogger.com, but I would still like to know where the page got my name. Above my name, in red, the page says, 'Business name is required'. Further down (not shown here) the page displays my cell phone number and the email address I use for Google correspondence. Below that it says, 'How you pay : Monthly automatic payments', and adds

This service can only be used for business or commercial reasons. You are responsible for assessing and reporting VAT [value added tax].

Since I'm planning to use the service to run the Leela engine, this has nothing to do with a business. It looks like I'm out of luck. If I had continued, I would have been required to enter a credit card number under 'Payment method'. Back to the image shown above, the blue box on the right says,

No autocharge after free trial ends • We ask you for your credit card to make sure you are not a robot. You won’t be charged unless you manually upgrade to a paid account.

I'm obviously dealing with a robot that has my name, my phone number (how? why?), and my email address, and it is concerned that I might also be a robot? Further down, a disclaimer says,

The personal information you provide here will be added to your payments profile. It will be stored securely and treated in accordance with the Google Privacy Policy.

Where is my 'payments profile' and how do I verify its accuracy? As for the 'Google Privacy Policy', an incident from earlier this month revealed Google's real policy. See, for example, Google+ to shut down after coverup of data-exposing bug (techcrunch.com), for one report:-

A security bug allowed third-party developers to access Google+ user profile data since 2015 until Google discovered and patched it in March, but decided not to inform the world.

Now Google wants my credit card number. Sorry, Leela project, I can't use this 'free' service. A person's data has considerable value. Ask Facebook.

18 October 2018

Chess News from China

Everyone who follows international chess knows by now that China is a chess powerhouse: 43rd Chess Olympiad: Double gold for China! (fide.com):-

China is taking home two team gold medals from the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi! (24 September 2018)

But I doubt that everyone knows how to follow chess news in China. I certainly didn't, so I decided to try a little exercise. First I picked a few random issues from the TWIC Archive (theweekinchess.com). Then I located events labeled 'CountryCode: CHN' and noted the associated 'Website'. Then I ran the site's URL through the same Google translation service that I used in yesterday's post on my World Chess Championship Blog, In with the New!, where I featured stories about the new FIDE president from the Russian chess news site, Chess-news.ru. The next image shows the result of a site that was referenced repeatedly in TWIC.

cca.imsa.cn translated by translate.google.com

Chinese text inside images isn't translated, but everything else is. The text in the black menu bar near the top of the page says,

  • Home
  • National News Press
  • Announcement Procedure
  • HD Atlas
  • Video Center
  • Graded
  • Practical Information

The photo caption says, 'The SCO National Chess Open'. If you follow a link, the new page is automatically translated by Google. Now that I've come this far, where do I go next? I'm sure I'll think of something.

16 October 2018

Another Online Chess Database

Last year, in Reconsidering an Online Chess Database (November 2017), I wrote a long post about online opening databases:-

A few years back, faced with a technical problem, I scrambled to find a new online chess database and documented the effort in a series of posts on this blog (February/March 2014). [...] Looking again at the work I did in 2014, there was one service that was still under development, Chess-db.com. I decided to take another look at it.

Recently I discovered another candidate database on Lichess.org. Here's a screenshot showing a position that gave me some trouble while using Chess-db.com.

I was playing White. As for the sort of trouble I had, I'll save that discussion for another post. In the meantime, I'll continue exploring the functionality available on Lichess.

15 October 2018

Catching Up with Engine Competitions

Wrapping up that month-long series on World Champion Carlsen's record over the past two years, in last week's post Carlsen's PGN 2017-18, I promised,

For my next post in the Monday series, I'll return to the subject of engine-to-engine competitions. I need to catch up with two tournaments: TCEC season 13 and Chess.com's Computer Chess Championship (CCCC).

I still have some work to do on Carlsen's PGN, but I plan to do that while I'm watching the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match, which starts in less than a month. The last time I looked at engine-to-engine competitions was as part of a series on AI engines, A Leela Surprise in the Nimzo Indian (August 2018). A few days ago, in Catching Up with Leela, I mentioned,

The [Leela] journey has included three tournaments -- TCEC Seasons 12 & 13 and this year's edition of the CCCC -- of which TCEC S13 is still underway.

In fact, I originally wrote, 'of which the last two are underway'. Then while researching this current post, I discovered that the CCCC finished almost two weeks ago, indicating that it was high time for me to bring myself up-to-date. Let's first tackle the TCEC S13, which most engine aficionados would probably agree is the more important of the two events, serving as a de facto World Computer Chess Championship.

I couldn't find an official announcement for the results of the most recent stage of TCEC S13. The TCEC archive told me that the Premier Division (aka 'Division P'), finished on 2 October, and gave the following crosstable.

That means Stockfish and Komodo will be slugging it out in the final match. This will likely be a repeat of S12, which I reported in Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 12 (July 2018). In the meantime, the organizers are holding TCEC Cup 2018 brackets (chessdom.com):-

The TCEC Cup will take place right after the Premier Division and before the Superfinal, the exact dates will be announced soon. It will be a knockout championship with 32 participants divided into brackets.

The cup tournament has reached the 'OctoFinal' stage, perhaps better understood as the 'Round of 16'. Half of the quarterfinalists are already known.

As for the CCCC (shouldn't that be five 'C's, i.e. 'CCCCC' for Chess.com Computer Chess Championship?), we learned a couple of weeks ago that Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship Rapid; Lc0 Finishes 3rd (chess.com; NB: 'Lc0' means 'Leela Chess Zero', or simply 'Leela'):-

The chess engine Stockfish proved its might with a decisive victory over Houdini in the 200-game final match of the Computer Chess Championship's first event, the Rapid Rumble. Stockfish scored 120/200 in a match that was never in doubt. Houdini, which admirably proved itself superior to the other 22 engines in the tournament, could manage just four wins over Stockfish in the final 200 games. Like all stages of CCCC 1, the games were played at the rapid time control of 15+5.

A week later, in Computer Chess Championship Returns For Blitz Battle, Chess.com announced,

The Chess.com Computer Chess Championship returns with a greatly expanded field and thousands of games to determine the best blitz chess engines in the world. [...] The Computer Chess Championship Blitz Battle will consist of three stages, all held at the blitz time control of five minutes plus two seconds increment. Stage one will begin with 33 competitors before the field is winnowed down to 10 engines for stage two and a final four engines for stage three.

That must be 'CCCC 2'. Maybe the 2018 CCCC hasn't finished yet and my first 'Catching Up' post was right after all. Maybe I'd better come back to this topic another time, because my head is spinning with all of these computer chess events. They are starting to be like elevator music -- always there but doesn't demand any real attention.


Later: Re 'I discovered that the CCCC finished almost two weeks ago', for some reason I had missed (or ignored) all of Chess.com's intermediate reports on the event. Here they are, in chronological order, ending with the report already linked above:-

As a further reference, here are the first and last values of the '[Date]' tags stored in the PGN files for each of the three stages.

  • Stage 1: 2018-08-31 to 2018-09-16
  • Stage 2: 2018-09-17 to 2018-09-25
  • Stage 3: 2018-09-25 to 2018-10-01

This event was the first to show that an AI/NN engine could compete against the best of the traditional engines in a neutral setting.

14 October 2018

ChessBase India Interviews Judit Polgar

Nearly three years since ChessBase India started its video channel on Youtube, it has become one of my favorite sources of chess videos.

The story of how Judit Polgar became the strongest woman player in the world (29:33) • 'Published on Oct 10, 2018'

The video description included this inspiring paragraph:-

Why has the world seen only one female player who has been able to match her wits with the best in the business? What did Judit Polgar do that made her into such a fierce champion? In this interview with IM Sagar Shah we get to know everything about Judit's life. Right from the time she learnt chess, to how she beat Kasparov in 2002 when the Russian was on the height of his powers

For the previous post about ChessBase India on this blog, see Best Blind Players of India (August 2018).

12 October 2018

Catching Up with Leela

At the end of last week's post, Restoring Adsense, I promised,

After this short series that has little to do with chess, it's time to return to the main subject.

The main subject is chess and the topic to which I want to return is the neural network (NN) engine technology, last seen in The NNs Depart TCEC S13 (August 2018; i.e. Leela and DeusX), and A Leela Surprise in the Nimzo Indian (August 2018; video). Leela is the main player in the NN arena and I once took the time to catalog the online resources that track the progress of this remarkable creation: Finding Leela (June 2018). In the Leela forum we find a recent thread that documents the engine's early days:-

That journey has included three tournaments -- TCEC Seasons 12 & 13 and this year's edition of the CCCC -- of which the last two are TCEC S13 is still underway. Where is the project today? It needs games, lots of games:-

  • 2018-09-26: Worrying drop of contributors • 'There used to be millions of training games per day a few weeks back. Now it is barely 400.000. I remember people in this forum telling me I was stupid to worry about a drop of people who contribute to the training. I fear this is happening now'

Now 400.000 training games per day might sound like enough, but the Leela contributors are beating the bushes to get even more. Here's a recent call for assistance:-

  • 2018-09-26: HOW TO: Contribute games to Leela FOR FREE using Google Cloud and Google Colab • 'I made this post primarily to help people who were wanting to contribute to Leelas development but do not have GPUs, but this is also applicable to those who are already contributing with GPU time. [...] Through Google Cloud you can rent GPUs ranging from K80/P100/V100/etc via your browser with no processing on your end. [...] Google Colab is a similar process whereby you can utilise one of Googles K80 GPUs for free processing again via your browser.

If you're not familiar with GPUs like 'K80 / P100 / V100 / etc.', it's enough to know that they are three evolutions of graphic processors, the number crunchers that all NNs rely on for their numeric intensive computations. To supplement that forum fountain of wisdom, the Leela blog posted its own version:-

I'll certainly be looking into the mechanics of using Google Colab and Google Cloud. Maybe I'll even document my experience here, in my own blog.

11 October 2018

The CCL Was Hacked

What's the CCL? It's the Facebook group Chess Club Live. I've posted about them twice: the first time in Chess and Social Trends (October 2016), and the second time in A Short History of CCL (March 2017). Along with dozens (hundreds?) of other chess related items, they publish posts from this blog and from my World Chess Championship blog. A couple of weeks ago my blog statistics told me that the blog feeds had stopped. I contacted Michael Mkpadi, the main man behind CCL and one of those types of people who has a dozen novel ideas every day, and asked him what the problem was. He replied,

Facebook got hacked, I got hacked, my page got hacked. Now I've lost my admin rights and am trying to get Facebook to restore my page.

When I asked him what the prognosis was for CCL's return to service, he replied,

Facebook are a law to themselves, not sure I know what they'll do about that page other than keeping it in limbo for an eternity.

A few days later he messaged me that CCL was back and, sure enough, it was. Here's a screen capture I took while writing this post.

That hack wasn't just the CCL: Facebook just had its worst hack ever -- and it could get worse (cnn.com; 4 October 2018).

On Sunday, September 16, engineers at Facebook detected some unusual activity on the social media platform's networks. It was an attack, the biggest security breach in Facebook's history. And it would take the company 11 more days to stop it. Now, almost a week since the public was first told of the attack, we still barely know anything about what happened.

It's a dangerous world out there. Even online chess clubs have to keep looking over their shoulders.

10 October 2018

Chess Informant R+2P vs. R+P

After the previous post on Reuben Fine's 'Basic Chess Endings' (BCE), Fine 1 - Tablebase ½, what's next for R+2P vs. R+P endgames? Chess Informant (CI) comes to mind with both the 'Encyclopaedia [Encyclopedia] of Chess Endings' (ECE) and the endgame section of the 'Informant' periodical.

Some years ago I discussed both products in Chess Informant Endgames (March 2012), which included a copy of the table of contents for the ECE volume on Rook endings The structure of that volume's chapter devoted to R+2P:R+P is shown below (p.162).

The short left branch ('5/a') of the upside-down tree is for endgames with no passed Pawn. The branch below it (the 'middle' branch) is for endgames where the stronger side has one passed Pawn, while the right branch shows endgames with two passed Pawns. Both of those long branches are divided into sections where the side with two Pawns has connected, disconnected, or doubled Pawns. Those sections are further divided into subsections according to the relationship with the opponent's lone Pawn. It looks simple enough, but it took me some time to understand the symbols. The same system was adopted in Informant 39 (1985H1) and thereafter.

08 October 2018

Carlsen's PGN 2017-18

In last week's post, Carlsen's TMER 2017-18, I promised,

I still have a few actions to accomplish before I can merge the updates into the main TMER. [...] I'll try to finish these for my next post.

I accomplished about half the work, which mainly involved preparing and checking the PGN for individual events. I updated the page on my site, Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-), with the info. On the way, I made two decisions for naming conventions on the PGN files. Here are examples of both:-

  • B8X-CHCM: 2018-01 PRO League Group Stage 2018; Chess.com
  • B8B!BAER: 2018-02 Fischer Random Rapid/Blitz 2018; Baerum

The first shows an example of league play ('X'), which usually spans several months. The second is an example of a PGN file containing only chess960 games ('!'). For one event I have no games: the Third Annual Lichess Meetup and Hackathon (lichess.org; February 2018). Carlsen played the event impromptu and it seems the games were not recorded. If they surface, I'll add them.

For my next post in the Monday series, I'll return to the subject of engine-to-engine competitions, last seen in A Leela Surprise in the Nimzo Indian (August 2018). I need to catch up with two tournaments: TCEC season 13 and Chess.com's Computer Chess Championship (CCCC).

07 October 2018

'Ain't No Luck in Chess'

October's selection for Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), was titled '100 Bullets #45 p.4 - Chess in Prison - 2003 art by Eduardo Risso'. It sold for $500.00, 'Buy It Now'.

The description simply repeated the title and added,

Size: 11.5" x 17" page mounted 15 1/4 x 20 3/4 matting

The dialog on the page -- between an old guy and a young guy -- goes like this:-

Nice move, young blood. You been learnin' something finally.

Uh-huh. I been studyin' yo' ass, old head. How many games we play?


An' how many I won?

You ain't.

So maybe it's time I got lucky.

Lucky? Ain't no f**king luck in chess, loop. Either you got the skills an' the patience to outmaneuver an' anticipate yo' opponent...

...Or you ain't. Checkmate. One-oh-one to none.

And the last frame signs off with the old guy saying,

Yo' loopy loop...

In Eduardo Risso, Wikipedia informs,

Eduardo Risso (born 23 November 1959) is an Argentine comics artist. In the United States he is best known for his work with writer Brian Azzarello on the Vertigo title 100 Bullets, while in Argentina and Europe he is noted for his collaborations with Ricardo Barreiro and Carlos Trillo. He has received much acclaim for his work

That reference to 100 Bullets leads to another Wikipedia page,

100 Bullets is an American comic book published by DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint. Written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Eduardo Risso, the comic book ran for 100 issues and won the Eisner Award and Harvey Award.

Chess has had a long relationship with comic art. For previous posts, see Chess Comics No.7: Punch Animated GIF (May 2014), and No More Yahoos? (February 2016).

05 October 2018

Restoring Adsense

Continuing a saga started with migrating my site to secure pages, Verifying HTTPS (August 2018):-

One casualty of the migration was Google Adsense. The ads are missing, e.g. on the index page for the World Chess Championship, and the browser warns of mixed content. The code that calls an ad currently uses 'HTTP'. If I want the ads back I'll need to change the code on all pages, but it might be better to replace Adsense with something else in that space.

First I had to catch up with the latest announcements from Google:-

Then I had to solve a number of technical problems involving batch transfer using FTP. The result is shown below, where the ad is a generic place-filler to 'Download PDF - Free'.

Index : World Chess Championship

Re 'it might be better to replace Adsense with something else', that's still possible, but replace it with what? In the meantime, while restoring Adsense, I added the functionality to load the ads asynchronously. I'm not sure what difference it makes, but I'm sure I'll find out.

After this short series that has little to do with chess, it's time to return to the main subject. There are still a number of issues involving Google, but none of them are urgent (until Google decides otherwise).

04 October 2018

Fine 1 - Tablebase ½

Let's go back to Chess and Impressionism (September 2018), where I wrote,

After my first idea for today's post ran into trouble when I ran out of time (a follow-up to last week's 'A Remarkable Tool', if you're curious) [...] I'll try to return to 'A Remarkable Tool' in another post.

In the post A Remarkable Tool, I aimed Lichess's seven piece tablebase at an endgame of the type R+2P vs. R+P. After documenting some flawed analysis, I then tackled the same class of endgame in Reuben Fine's 'Basic Chess Endings' (BCE). Fine's analysis was 100% accurate on every position I looked at until I 'ran out of time'. Continuing with Fine during the next session, I discovered the following position. (Use the link under the diagram to follow the analysis on Lichess.)

BCE no.363

Lichess: 8/8/6p1/R5K1/4k2P/8/p7/r7 w - - 0 1

Fine wrote,

To blockade the Pawn with the [defending] Rook is less favorable. It is relatively best to have the Rook behind the Pawn. In that event, the defender draws if his King can find a haven behind the Pawns, but loses if he cannot. As a rule the King can find a safe spot only if the two remaining Pawns are on the same file.

No.363 (Steinitz - Gunsberg, 9th match game, 1890-91) is typical. Against the threat of the removal of the Black Rook with check White is defenseless, for on 1.Kh6 g5! compels him to expose his King.

Fine's logic looks straightforward, but there is a neat twist hidden in the position. After 2.Ra4+ (the only move) 2...Kd5 3.Ra5+ (ditto) 3...Kc6, the move 4.hxg5 is an error. White should sacrifice a second Pawn with 4.Ra3 (4.Ra8 leads to the same idea), entering a Rook endgame two Pawns down, where the extra Pawns are a- & h-Pawns. This is known to be drawish.

Indeed, after 4...gxh4, White has a series of forced moves that lead to a draw: 5.Rc3+ Kd5 6.Rc2 Ke4 7.Kh5 Kf3. Now follows, for example, 8.Rb2 h3 9.Kh4 (forced) 9...h2 10.Rxh2. Black can try other attacks, but White always has a counterattack. After rejecting 1.Kh6, Fine continued,

Consequently the only hope lies in driving the Black King as far away from the K-side as possible, giving up the Rook for the RP, and taking one's chances on the ensuing R vs. P ending. This stratagem is bound to be unsuccessful here because the Black King is too near.

He gave 1.Ra4+ Kd5 2.Ra5+ Kc6 3.Ra6+, and Black wins. He again overlooked 3.Kh6, which after 3...g5, reaches the same position as in the line after 1.Kh6.

None of this is meant to belittle Fine. BCE was a landmark chess book and much of the analysis has withstood the test of time. This post is meant instead to demonstrate the kind of subtleties that are available in the common R+2P vs. R+P endgames.

02 October 2018

October 1968 'On the Cover'

I started last month's September 1968 'On the Cover', by asking,

In this blog's monthly 'On the Cover' series, when was the last time the same chess personality featured on the covers of both American chess magazines 50 years ago? It turns out that it was exactly two years ago, in September 1966, when Spassky was so honored. [...] This month, 50 years ago, Larry Evans became the first person to appear solo on the cover of both magazines.

To merit that honor, GM Evans had become U.S. Champion for the third time. This month's covers from 50 years ago featured the U.S. Open Champion, Bent Larsen of Denmark. The last time we saw him in this series was November 1967 'On the Cover', when Chess Review used the same photo (and as I noted, already for at least the second time).

Left: 'Bent Larsen : U.S. Open and Canadian Open Champion'
Right: 'A New U.S. Champ'

Chess Life

The Chess Life (CL) report, 'Mike's Peak' by George Koltanowski (Tournament Director) was unusual. While browsing the issue of CL the first time, I failed to notice that it was indeed the tournament report. It started,

Whoever arranged the 69th Annual U.S. Open Chess Championship deserves a special medal! Snowmass-at-Aspen sounded very intriguing. The great question was ... HOW DOES ONE GET THERE? Easy, just get to Aspen and from there you take a shuttle bus.

After rambling through numerous anecdotes of the same sort, the report finally reached a list of winners. It continued,

Bent Larsen took first prize and the championship trophy with great ease, scoring ten wins and only two draws (with Pal Benko and Robert Byrne). He was unruffled all the time, and only the game with James Sherwin seemed to cause him some annoyance.

Chess Review

The Chess Review report was more straightforward.

United States Open • Bent Larsen of Denmark imparted a definitely international flavor to the U.S. Open, and also won it. (Can we use him on our Olympiad team?) He was held to draws only by Pal Benko of New York and Robert Byrne of Indianapolis and thus scored 11-1. Benko, not so long ago from Hungary, and Walter Shawn Browne, who has applied for Australian citizenship, further flavored the Open internationally by tying for second and third at 9 1/2 - 2 1/2. Byrne, Larry Kaufman of Silver Spring, Maryland, and Dr. Anthony Saidy of Los Angeles tied for fourth, fifth and sixth at 9-3.

Canadian Open • Larsen also scored a near sweep in the Canadian Open at Toronto. Fifteen-year-old Ken Rogoff of Rochester, New York, staged a sensation by nicking him for a draw. But Larsen went on to win (more details, next issue).

CL carried another report, 'Observation Point' by Miro Radojcic, subtitled 'The Match That Never Was'. TMTNW? Exactly six years ago day for day, in Another Fictitious Match (October 2012), I posted a short series about another TMTNW, the 1975 Karpov - Fischer title match: 1975 Fischer forfeits to Karpov.

In October 1968, Radojcic would not have been discussing that 1975 match. He was talking about 1968 Spassky - Larsen, played in May 1968 at Malmo, Sweden, one of the semifinal matches in the series of 1967-69 Candidates Matches, eventually won by Spassky. TMTNW here meant Larsen starting the match with three straight losses to Spassky. Larsen was not a match player, he was a tournament player, and 1968 was the best tournament year of his career.

01 October 2018

Carlsen's TMER 2017-18

Continuing with Carlsen's Record 2017-18, I improved the table displayed in that post and added it at the end of my page about Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-). I still have a few actions to accomplish before I can merge the updates into the main TMER:-

  • Complete the 2018 Sinquefield Cup and check for any events GM Carlsen played since that event.
  • Add missing data.
  • Isolate the chess960 games.
  • Add the new PGN to the master file.

I'll try to finish these for my next post.