31 January 2019

January Amazon Yahoos

For the second straight month -- Old December Yahoos was the first -- the Yahoo news service picked up zero chess stories from the mainstream press. There was, nevertheless, one chess-related item in my news feed.

'Sponsored --$-- Amazon.com'

In fact, it didn't appear just once. After the first sighting it appeared every time I browsed the Yahoo news feed for the next few days, occasionally popping up several times in the same feed. It's composed of links to the Amazon pages that I referenced while working on three recent posts, one for each of the three chess blogs that I maintain:-

  • Acknowledging an Important Source (World Chess Championship; January 2019) • 'Chess World Championships' by James H. Gelo

  • 'Players and Pawns' (this blog; January 2019) • 'Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture' by Gary Alan Fine

  • Chess960 Phase Zero (Chess960 FRC; November 2018) • 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960' by Gene Milener

Targeted advertising gone wild? I imagine that the infrastructure for the mechanism that enables these connections is expensive, and it's only to remind me that I once showed an interest in some books.

In 'December Yahoos' I used Google News to locate chess stories of potential interest to a wider audience. If real stories are too mundane -- news like Kramnik retires, Magnus takes Tata, or Grand Chess Tour expands -- how about featuring something like this?:-

Or this?:-

That last story would be a good candidate for an occasional series I used to run: 'Weird Chess News'. Maybe I should revive it.

29 January 2019

FIDE Election Ethics

In last week's post, FIDE's Ethics Commission 2018 (ETH), I discussed the commission's two reports to the recent FIDE Congress. I ended the post saying,

That first report is August 2018. The second report is from the 89th Congress. [September; ...] Case 5/2018 was given priority because it had an impact on the upcoming FIDE election. Several other cases opened in 2018 were also political in nature, but their impact goes beyond the scope of the present post.

Intrigued by those political cases, I went back to look at the details on ethics.fide.com, and found three cases from 2018, including 5/2018. They were summarized on the ETH site as follows:-

Case no. • Complainant • Respondent • Outcome

2/2018 • FIDE Presidential Board • K Ilyumzhinov • Guilty - 18 months ban (12 months suspended)

5/2018 • G Makropoulos • A Dvorkovich, D Cogoljevic & Serbia • Not guilty - A Dvorkovich; Guilty - D Cogoljevic & Serbia: 6 months ban

7/2018 • Mr A Dvorkovich & others • Mr G Makropoulos • Provisional measures rejected

All cases related to the FIDE Presidential election that was to be held during the same Congress. All decisions for the cases are available in more detail from the ETH website. Let's look at the highlights for each of them. The first case was against the former FIDE President.

Case no. 2/2018 – Alleged misconduct by the FIDE President following his inclusion in the OFAC Sanctions list

OFAC stands for 'Office of Foreign Assets Control', an agency of the U.S. Treasury Department. ETH marked the case 'strictly confidential'.

2. The ETH notes its ruling of 11 June 2018, issued by the Chairman of the ETH, that the proceedings concerning this matter and the contents of the case file are declared to be strictly confidential. [...]

8. The ETH notes that the Respondent was included in the OFAC Sanctions list on 25 November 2015 and remains on the list till today.

9. The ETH finds that on numerous occasions during the period March 2017 until April 2018, and whilst on the OFAC sanctions list, Mr. Ilyumzhinov acted in a manner incompatible with his duty to put the interests of FIDE above his own personal interests and in defiance of valid decisions of the FIDE Presidential Board by inter alia seeking to exercise powers which had been delegated to the FIDE Deputy-President, seeking to discredit members of the FIDE Presidential Board, making untrue or provocative public statements and refusing to resign following the closure of FIDE’s bank accounts, and in so doing created confusion and instability within FIDE and further inflicted serious reputational, operational and financial harm upon FIDE and brought FIDE and the game of chess into disrepute. [...]

11. Upon due consideration of all the statements filed and arguments advanced:

11.1 The ETH unaminously decides that Mr Ilyumzhinov is guilty of the violation of art. 2.2.3, 2.2.10 and 2.2.11 of the FIDE Code of Ethics.

11.2 The ETH holds (all members agreeing) that Mr Ilyumzhinov must receive recognition, as a strong mitigating circumstance, of the outstanding service to FIDE and the chess community over a period of 22 years, as well as his decision to put FIDE first by his decision not to partake in the 2018 FIDE Presidential elections given the fact that his name still remains on the OFAC Sanctions list.

That was the FIDE's 'trial' for Ilyumzhinov. I've covered the 'tribulations' both on this blog and on my World Championship blog:-

That first link points to previous posts on this blog. The second case, the priority 5/2018, was also shrouded in mystery.

Case no. 5/2018 - Alleged electoral irregularity in regard to the Serbian Chess Federation relating to sponsorship and substitution of delegate

1. The ETH notes the complaints received from Deputy-President Mr. Georgios Makropoulos ("the Complainant"), dated 8 September 2018, directed against a number of federations and individuals concerning alleged violations of the FIDE Code of Ethics in relation to the upcoming elections. [...]

20.2 Mr Dvorkovich is found not guilty on the complaint levelled against him under case no. 5/2018 for alleged violations of art. 2.1, 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.2.3 and 2.2.11 of the Code of Ethics on the basis of the absence of sufficient proof, at the level of the ETH’s comfortable satisfaction, of an involvement by Mr Dvorkovich or his representatives in the substitution of the delegate for the Serbian Chess Federation and the conclusion of the sponsorship contract between the Serbian Chess Federation and Mr Cogoljevic’s educational institution;

20.3 Mr Cogoljevic and the Serbian Chess Federation are found guilty of a violation of art. 2.1 of the Code of Ethics (offer and acceptance of consideration with a view of influencing election into FIDE office) on the basis that the Serbian Chess Federation permitted Mr Cogoljevic’s appointment as delegate and agreed to a casting of his vote in the FIDE elections at his discretion in exchange for the conclusion of the sponsorship contract between the Serbian Chess Federation and Mr Cogoljevic’s educational institution;

That appears to be the tip of the iceberg. A fuller story was explained in detail on Chessbase.com: Serbian delegate suspended after he "sold his vote to himself" (by Macauley Peterson). The upshot of the decision was that the Serbian federation was denied a vote during the election. The third case was even more inscrutable.

Case no. 7/2018 - Complaint against Mr Makropoulos : Alleged misuse of FIDE funds and resources and other matters related to the 2018 FIDE Elections (Application for Provisional Measures). [...]

3. The ETH notes the application for urgent provisional measures incorporated in the Complaint, namely for the immediate provisional suspension of Mr Makropoulos ("the Respondent") as FIDE Deputy President, for the purposes of avoiding any interference with the proposed investigation into an alleged misuse of FIDE resources and funds for Mr Makropoulos’ election campaign and to protect FIDE against any undue spending of money ("the Application"). [...]

7. In the result, the ETH unanimously decides that the Application for Provisional measures falls to be dismissed.

In other words, the Dvorkovich ticket tried to have Makropoulos removed from his position as FIDE Deputy President before the election. The Ethics Commission saw the ruse for what it was and squashed it.

28 January 2019

Stockfish, Leela et al

Looking at last week's post on chess engine tournaments, Results: TCEC S14-P / CCC3 S3, a few current trends are clear:-

  • Stockfish is the dominant engine today.
  • The top three engines over the past several years -- Stockfish, Komodo, Houdini -- have been joined by Leela (aka LCZero or LC0).
  • The near-term battle for overall engine dominance will be fought between Stockfish and Leela.

By 'current trends', I mean the situation as we roll over from 2018 into 2019. Before I get further into a discussion of those three bullets, let's take a snapshot of today's situation at the ongoing engine competitions.


TCEC: The TCEC Cup 2 event is in the 'OctoFinal' (Round of 16) stage.

CCC: Chess.com issued a report on CCC3 S3, Stockfish Wins Rapid Computer Championship Over Lc0; Bullet Chess Next, along with details about CCC4. I found no mention of the results of the 'Stockfish vs. Antifish (Lc0)' match that was running a week ago, but can work them out from the PGN if necessary. CCC4 (S1?) is already underway with Stockfish in the lead.


Back to those 'current trends', the battles between Stockfish and Leela promise to be the center of attention during 2019. In the TCEC S14 Premier ('P') division, Stockfish won their minimatch with +1-0=5. In the CCC3 stage 3 ('S3') event, Stockfish won +7-4=37, after drawing Leela in S1 with +0-0=4 and beating it in S2 with +6-0=6.

In TCEC S14-P, Leela outperformed its rating by +341 points. The other engines underperformed. Will Leela's rapid improvement continue? The TCEC and CCC events will provide the answer.

27 January 2019

'Players and Pawns'

Since starting this series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), I've struggled with one glaring problem -- I know almost nothing about sociology. Even worse, I belong to that group of people who question if it's even a science. A few months ago, in Chess and the Behavioral Sciences (October 2018), I featured a video by a recognized expert who has published many works on different aspects of sociology. This was accompanied by an admission of failure on my part:-

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'.

What's stopped me from delving into the book is the fear that it might be completely over my head, filled with jargon accessible only to specialists.

Chess jargon is one thing; scientific jargon is another. The softer the science, the more vulnearable it is to jargon. Is there another science as soft as sociology? How can I determine whether or not the book is accessible to a novice like me?

One approach is to gather as many available excerpts as possible, spend some time with them, then decide whether it is worth the time to investigate the book at a deeper level. Without too much trouble, I located three sources of extensive excerpts for Fine's 'Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture':-

In the book's introduction, titled 'First Moves', the author writes,

This book has two distinctions, neither of which may prove to be much of a recommendation. First, this is the first volume that claims the sociology of chess as its subject matter. My goal is not to psychoanalyze chess players, to examine the politics of chess, or to critique the literature on chess, but to see chess as a system -- actually several systems -- of activity: a social world with history, rules, practices, emotions, status, power, organization, and boundaries. By "social world" I refer to a community that is meaningful for its participants, that provides a social order, and that permits a sense of self and a public identity. [...]

The second distinction is that this book is arguably written by the weakest player who has ever spent years analyzing the world of chess: a patzer among patzers, a fish in a school of sharks, a committed pencil pusher but not a dedicated wood pusher. As the head of Boston's Boylston Chess Club explained to me, "A tournament player is a chess player. Someone who plays with his family or on long vacation trips is not a chess player." To be a chess player is to participate in the chess community. By this measure, I am not a chess player but at best a tourist.

That's certainly accessible. So was the rest of what I read. Near the end of the book, in a chapter titled 'Acknowledgments', I learned that 'Portions of this manuscript have appeared in other forms':-

Gary Alan Fine, "Time to Play: The Temporal Organization of Chess Competition," Time & Society 21(2012): 395-416;

Gary Alan Fine, "Sticky Cultures: Memory Publics and Communal Pasts in Competitive Chess," Cultural Sociology 7 (2013); 395-414;

Antony J. Puddephatt and Gary Alan Fine, 'Chess as Art, Science, and Sport," in 'A Companion to Sport', ed. David Andrews and Ben Carrington (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2013), 390-404; and

Gary Alan Fine, 'The Mind, the Body, and the Soul of Chess; American Journal of Play 6 (2014): 321-44.

I found several of those references available in full on the web. If they are as accessible as what I've already seen -- and I have no reason to believe they're not -- I'll order a copy of the book. Expect more about that in a future post.

25 January 2019

AlphaZero Stars in 'Game Changer'

'This book will help to spark a new era of creativity in chess' • One of the things they probably teach you in journalism school is never to copy a press release verbatim. I've never set foot in a journalism school, but it's a bit of advice I picked up somewhere while churning out thousands of blog posts about chess.

When I received a press release on a subject that everyone is talking about and that just happened to fit in with a series that I'm working on (last seen a week ago in Throwing the Book at AlphaZero), I was tempted to break the rule. Here's what the start of the press release looked like.

And here's a copy of that first paragraph.

The highly anticipated book Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI will be released on Friday, January 25, at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. Game Changer reveals how the self-learning artificial intelligence system AlphaZero thinks and how this has changed what we understand about chess.

The last paragraph says,

The authors: Matthew Sadler (1974) is a Grandmaster who twice won the British Championship and was awarded an individual Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympiad. He has authored several highly acclaimed books on chess and has been writing the famous 'Sadler on Books' column for New In Chess magazine for many years. Natasha Regan is a Women’s International Master from England who achieved a degree in mathematics from Cambridge University.

To order a copy of the book or to peak inside, see Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI (newinchess.com). I bet it will be *the* chess bestseller of 2019, and we're not even finished with January.

With those two quoted paragraphs -- the first and the last -- I'll come back in a couple of weeks and see how many other people ignored the first rule of press releases. I'm making another bet that it will be a lot.

24 January 2019

FIDE's Ethics Commission 2018

After last week's post on FIDE's 'Anti-Cheating' / 'Fair Play' Commission 2018, I have one more topic to address before I close Spectating the 89th FIDE Congress (December 2018). The Ethics Commission is one of the most important commissions in FIDE and demands more effort than I can give it, but that's never stopped me in the past.

Last year's post, FIDE's Ethics Commission 2017 (January 2018), focused on three areas of concern: Cheating, Bulgaria, and the Kovalyov case. The cheating cases will continue for as long as chess is played in important competitions; the Bulgaria case is still pending; and the Kovalyov case never advanced further than the complaint stage. The decisions for all cases are recorded on the commission's web site, from which I took the following snapshot. The first three columns show the 'Case number', the 'Complainant', and the 'Respondent'. The last show the 'Outcome' and a link to a full report on the decision.

FIDE Ethics Commission : ethics.fide.com

The minutes of the 2018 General Assembly record the outcome of elections that were held after the main election for FIDE President.

4.3. Number of appointed Vice Presidents. • Mr. Dvorkovich informed the meeting that he wished to appoint 5 Vice Presidents. The meeting was then adjourned for the Continental elections during which time the nominees for elected Vice-Presidents, Constitutional Commission, Ethics Commission, and Verification Commission presented their nominations to the FIDE Secretariat.

The minutes also record the outcome of the election for the Ethics Commission.

4.8. Election of the Ethics Commission Chairman and members. • The Ethics Commission shall consist of five members with, if possible, a legal background. They shall be nominated by FIDE President, [by] a Continental President, or by a Federation. The General Assembly will first elect the Chairman and then elect the other four members. Any losing candidate for Chairman can become a candidate for membership. No two members should be from the same Federation.

Nominations for Ethics Commission Chairman: Mr. Francois Strydom (RSA) elected unopposed. • First round: [...] No one passed the first vote. • Second round: [...] So the elected members are: Mr. R. M. Dongre (IND), Ms. Ruth Haring (USA), Mr. Rajesh Joshi (NEP), Ms. Yolander Persaud (GUY).

As for the report of the Ethics Commission, it was delivered in two parts; see the 'Spectating' post to find links leading to supplementary material provided by FIDE. The reports of the Ethics Commission are written and structured better than most of the other documents issued by FIDE. I'm only going to give the structure here.

Annex 22 • FIDE Ethics Commission; Report to FIDE General Assembly; Batumi, October 2018

Reporting period; 'primarily its activities since the meeting of the Executive Board in Antalya in October 2017'
Ethics@fide.com website
Review of the Code of Ethics and Procedural Rules
EC advisory opinion on FIDE’s proposed Live Moves broadcasting policy
Complaints of discrimination within federations
Concluded cases
Pending cases
List of bans imposed during term (2014 – 2018)
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)
General assessment of EC’s work during term (2014 – 2018)
Note of gratitude

That first report is August 2018. The second report is from the 89th Congress.

Annex 66 • Supplementary report (minutes) • 'The present minutes deal with the activity and decisions of the EC at the Batumi Congress on 28 & 30 September 2018.'

Open meeting, 28 September 2018
Hearing in case 5/2018
Closed meeting, 30 September 2018

Case 5/2018 was given priority because it had an impact on the upcoming FIDE election. Several other cases opened in 2018 were also political in nature, but their impact goes beyond the scope of the present post.

22 January 2019

'The Game of Life' or 'The Chess-Players'

Just like last week's Postcards from 1935 Moscow, the inspiration for this post was the most recent update on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). The item pictured below illustrated an auction titled 'Antique Art Book The Game of Life or The Chess-Players 1837 Godey's Publisher', and sold for US $76.00 after two bids.

That price is nowhere near the typical range for 'Top Chess Items by Price', and the drawing is in worse condition than similar examples of the same artwork that probably everyone has seen by now. Why choose it for a blog post? The title page for the 'Antique Art Book' said,

The Game of Life
The Chess-Players,
A drawing by Moritz Retzsch

Explained, according to hints from himself,
C. Borr. Von Miltitz

With additional remarks on the allegory.

Re-published for the Warren Street Chapel
Weeks, Jordan and Co. no.121, Washington Street.

There's the main reason for my interest -- the publisher, 'Weeks, Jordan and Co.', might be a distant relative -- but there's much more to the story than that. After a full page for the drawing, the text of the book continues with the explanation of the drawing by 'C. Borr. Von Miltitz'. It starts,

The name of our gifted artist, distinguished alike with the graver and the pencil, has been, for so many years, honored both at home and abroad, as that of an effective and picturesque Poet; it has so often brought before us whatever is gentlest and loveliest, as well as whatever is terrible and awful, that we have become accustomed, at last, to associate it in our minds, with all that is beautiful and sublime.

The same text is available on the web in different formats and is the introduction to an allegory centered on chess. Later we learn,

It is Satan, the Spirit of Darkness, playing With Man for his Soul. The scene is chosen with a sort of mysterious reference to the whole idea that is to be expressed. The very architecture intimates the presence of that dark Being to whose sphere belongs all that is horrible, confounding and seductive.

Again, there's more to the story than that, but I'll continue with it another time.

21 January 2019

Results: TCEC S14-P / CCC3 S3

In this series on active engine tournaments, the two previous posts saw important competitions nearing key milestones:-

  • 2019-01-07: TCEC S14 Underway • 'The Premier Division is being played at TCEC - Live, where Stockfish, LCZero [aka LC0, aka Leela], and Komodo are currently placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, followed by Houdini and KomodoMCTS in 4th and 5th of the eight engines. If this trend continues, we will see an epic final match between Stockfish, the world's best AB (alpha/beta) engine, and LCZero, the world's best *active* NN (neural network) engine.'

  • 2019-01-14: Chess.com CCC3 Underway • 'Started Jan. 6; Expected duration: 14 days • Since that refers to CCC3 stage three, I'll come back to the event in a week. If all goes according to schedule, I should be able to report on the winner.'

Both the TCEC S14 Premier Division and CCC3 stage three (the final stage) have finished play. The results are shown in the following charts.

The TCEC 'epic final match' didn't materialize. Komodo finished a half-point ahead of LCZero and Houdini, setting up another superfinal match between Stockfish and Komodo. This pairing echoes TCEC S12 and S13, where Stockfish won both superfinal matches.

The chart for CCC3 S3 is not complete. I started preparing this post while the last game -- LC0 vs. Komodo -- was underway. When it finished in a draw, I immediately captured the results (minus the last game, just in case) and waited for the final update (with the last game). After some time I left my office, but when I came back the results for CCC3 S3 had disappeared and the next event was already underway. I don't know where Chess.com keeps its CCC archives, assuming they even exist.

What's next on the agenda for the TCEC and for the CCC? The TCEC is running a cup tournament that starts today; see TCEC Cup 2 brackets and rules (chessdom.com), for details. The CCC is running a four-day match, 'Stockfish vs. Antifish (Lc0)'. The CCC chat explained,

AntiFish is a neural network trained off of Leela (ID 32425) with a focus on policy that is designed to exploit weaknesses within Stockfish.

After that match, it's anyone's guess what comes next in the CCC.

20 January 2019

Chess Variants Are Everywhere

The Chess.com forum, Chess960 and Other Variants, used to be one of my favorite sources for new developments about chess960. These days the forum is less about chess960 and more about the other variants, with new threads mainly signalling the start of a game using some weird variant. When one of those variants popped up on Flickr, I used the opportunity to investigate it.

Chess on an Infinite Plane © Flickr user QyiQ23607 Pisano under Creative Commons.

The description said,

This image was created by Cardin Knowles, and is a representation of the game "Chess on an Infinite Plane".

This was followed by a link to a recent game in the chess960 forum: Chess on an Infinite Plane (Naviary vs. captaintugwash), where the first post in that thread copies the rules of the variant. It turns out that the Cardin Knowles mentioned in the description and the Naviary playing White in the linked game are one and the same person: Cardin Knowles (Naviary) - Chess Profile (chess.com).

As for the variant, it's important enough to earn a page on Wikipedia, Infinite chess (wikipedia.org), and on the main site for chess variants, Chess on an Infinite Plane (chessvariants.com). On top of that, the Flickr page links to Flickr groups that go beyond chess, like:-

Back to the Flickr image, the piece in the four corners protected by a shield of Pawns is called a 'Hawk', which happens to be everything I know about infinite chess.

18 January 2019

Throwing the Book at AlphaZero

In last week's post, AlphaZero Match Conditions, I quoted from the Talkchess.com thread that dissected last month's update on AlphaZero, appropriately titled Alphazero news (p.20):-

by Laskos >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:23 pm • 'I don't remember what Cerebellum book lines are chosen by what UI, but using for SF8 a regular polyglot opening book like the small, but good BookX.bin and with Lc0 [Leela] without any book in Cutechess-Cli, I did get very varied openings. And a decrease of Lc0 strength of at least 50 Elo points compared to just playing from Initial Board position, but at short time controls. I think in Cutechess-Cli one has a random seed for a .bin book, but I don't remember well now.'

My immediate problem was to understand exactly what the knowledgeable Laskos was saying:-

Since that entire dialog is riddled with chess engine jargon, I'll come back to it in another post.

I picked eight terms from the paragraph that fall into my definition of 'jargon':-

Cerebellum, UI, SF8, polyglot opening book, BookX.bin, Lc0 [Leela], Cutechess-Cli, Elo points

Four of those terms are obvious enough that even I can understand them -- Elo points, Lc0 [Leela], SF8, UI -- but I needed help with the other four. My first stop was Opening Book (chessprogramming.org), which starts, 'Chess programs often look up the positions at the beginning of the game in an Opening Book', and gives three formats for the books:-

ABK - Arena's book format; BIN - PolyGlot book fomat; CTG - ChessBase book format

That explained two more terms -- 'polyglot opening book' and 'BookX.bin' -- about which more info is available from the same Chessprogramming wiki on its PolyGlot page (same source):-

An adapter that allows UCI engines to use interfaces and GUIs supporting the "Chess Engine Communication Protocol".

That left two terms to be explained -- Cerebellum and Cutechess-Cli. The first is related to Brainfish, the opening book that DeepMind let Stockfish use in the matches with AlphaZero. The introduction to Brainfish (same source as the two previous links) explains,

A Stockfish based chess engine introduced by Thomas Zipproth in July 2016, which contains a spin-off of the engine independent Cerebellum library, which keeps a self generated, persistent tree of minimaxed, deeply analyzed chess positions, used as playing or opening book with one or two best moves per node available but without score information. The initial Brainfish release of July 2016 consists of about 4.4 million positions, containing the most frequently played positions from engine games, human games, and some positions of rating list.

As for the last term, the software resides at Cutechess (github.com), which explains,

Cute Chess is a graphical user interface, command-line interface [CLI] and a library for playing chess.

Why bother learning about all of this? It goes to the heart of a point I covered in a post last year, Stockfish in a Straitjacket? (March 2018; 'four factors that could have hurt Stockfish's performance'), i.e. 'No opening book'. Even when Stockfish was allowed access to Brainfish, it got clobbered by AlphaZero, although by a less convincing margin.

A new question arises from this discussion. Given that AlphaZero has been trained only on games arising from the traditional start position (RNBQKBNR), how much of its strength is due to its familiarity with that position? How well does it play given a random chess960 start position? Even more importantly, how well does it play given a random position from a game between two chess masters?

The answer to these questions might determine how valuable a tool AlphaZero is for general chess analysis. I assume that achieving its great strength doesn't require it to be trained over millions of instances of an unfamiliar position.

17 January 2019

FIDE's 'Anti-Cheating' / 'Fair Play' Commission 2018

Let's go back to last month's post on Spectating the 89th FIDE Congress, which took place in Batumi, Georgia, October 2018. One of the most important FIDE commissions guiding chess in the 21st century is undoubtedly the group responsible for overseeing the increasing use of computers to cheat. We last looked at the group's activities in FIDE's Anti-Cheating Commission 2017 (January 2018). The minutes of the General Assembly (GA; follow the 'Spectating' post for links to all source material) inform that the group's name has changed:-

Fair Play Commission – formerly Anti-Cheating Commission

The minutes also inform that the commission released three documents during the Congress:-

7.19. Fair Play Commission.
Annex 24 is Anti-Cheating Protection Measures.
Annex 25 is Anti-Cheating Regulations.
Annex 53 is Commission’s minutes from Batumi.

The most logical way of examining those documents is by taking them in reverse order. First here are the key points from the commission’s report of its meeting:-

Annex 53; Anti-Cheating Commission; Minutes of the ACC Meeting; Batumi, 29 September 2018

In attendance for ACC: Israel Gelfer (Chair), Yuri Garrett (Secretary) [...] The Chair opened the meeting at 9.10 am and briefly illustrated the history and work of the Commission. He also illustrated the reasons behind the proposed change of name of the Commission. Upon ending his prolusion [introduction] he gave the floor to the Secretary.

The Secretary presented to the audience the two documents that are put to the attention of the GA, i.e. the AC [Anti-Cheating] Regulations and the AC Protection Measures. He also stressed that the anti-cheating effort is not, primarily, a regulatory effort but rather a cultural shift: cheating should not only be prosecuted but rather prevented. [...]

Finally, the Secretary stressed, yet again and in the name of ACC, that
i) ACC is lacking proper financial support from Fide;
ii) three key tools still need to be implemented: the Commission Web Site, the On-line repository and the Screening Tool; and
iii) the number of the members of the ACC should be increased to 15, with 5 Councillors (in addition to Chair and Secretary). The two extra Councillors are justified in the light of the heavy duty that is entrusted to the Commission.

We already saw the first two of those last bullets ('i' & 'ii') in the post on 'FIDE's ACC 2017', so it's easy to conclude that FIDE doesn't give the commission a high priority. This is confirmed by the composition of the commission, which was included in the recent announcement, FIDE Commissions (fide.com), and which, besides a new chairperson, shows 5 councillors and 10 members, the same as any other commission.

The next document released in Batumi covered 'Regulations'. Here is an outline of its structure:-

Annex 25; Anti-Cheating Regulations; Draft: Version 27/06/2018

I. Purpose, Guiding principles, Definitions
1. These regulations deal with the investigation of suspected cheating incidents.
2. “Cheating” in these regulations means:
i) the deliberate use of electronic devices (Art. 11.3.2 FIDE Laws of Chess) or other sources of information or advice (Art. 11.3.1 FIDE Laws of Chess) during a game; or
ii) the manipulation of chess competitions such as, including but not limited to, result manipulation, sandbagging, match fixing, rating fraud, false identity, and deliberate participation in fictitious tournaments or games.

II. Jurisdiction
1. The Anti-Cheating Commission (ACC) has jurisdiction in all cheating-related matters, including false accusations. People subject to ACC jurisdiction include players, supporting persons and team captains. [...]
2. All FIDE-rated over the board games are subject to ACC jurisdiction. [...]

III. Complaints and Investigations
A. Triggering an investigation
B. Complaints

IV. Investigation Procedure
V. Manifestly Unfounded Accusations
VI. Procedural Rules
VII. Sanctions

The last released document covered 'Measures'. Here is its outline:-

Annex 24; Anti-Cheating Protection Measures

Section 1 – Levels of protection (A) Events that require maximum levels of protection: FIDE Level 1 events
(B) Events that require increased levels of protection: FIDE Level 2 events
(C) Events for which standard levels of protection may suffice: FIDE Level 3 events

Section 2 – Prevention
Tournament organizers shall adopt one of the three levels of the AC Protection Measures: standard protection, increased protection, or maximum protection. These levels of protection are to correspond with the three types of tournaments identified in Section 1.

Section 3 – Different standards of AC Protection Measures
1) Standard protection - to apply to tournaments identified in Section 1 (C).
2) Increased protection - to apply to tournaments identified in Section 1 (B).
3) Maximum protection - to apply to tournaments identified in Section 1 (A).

Annex A
The following technical equipment is recommended for cheating prevention, according to the level of the tournament and to local laws:

This outline omits most of the detail, like definitions for event levels. For example, 'FIDE Level 1 events' are defined as:-

Official FIDE events as defined by the FIDE Events Commission or FIDE World Championship and Olympiad Commission; Round-robins with an average rating of 2600 or more (2400 for Women’s events); Events with prize funds in excess of EUR 100,000.

How does all of this work in practice? One example would be 2018 Batumi Chess Olympiad: Anti cheating Measures and Procedures (fide.com; September 2018).


Later: I forgot to mention that the articles of the 'FIDE Laws of Chess' mentioned in 'Annex 25; Anti-Cheating Regulations' can be found in Fide Laws of Chess (fide.com; 'taking effect from 1 January 2018'). The relevant section is 'Article 11: The conduct of the players'.

15 January 2019

Postcards from 1935 Moscow

I'm swamped with other projects and have no time for a post requiring any significant amount of work. I spotted a set of five postcards on eBay, some of which I had seen before individually. What caught my attention was additional information about the cards, for example:-

Ultra Rare Vintage USSR postcard 1925s Edit MOOSH Emanuel Lasker CHESS Mikhailov

USSR; 1925s; Size: 14.8 x 10 cm; Circulation: 20 000; Artist: Mikhailov

Unfortunately, the scans were not very good, but when I checked my archive I found the same set of five cards from 2006. Those scans were much better.

Left: Riumin
Others: Flohr, Botvinnik, Lasker, Capablanca

The back of the Riumin card said (in Russian), 'Riumin,N.N.; Artist: Mikhailov,V.V.', gave some additional info about the card's origin, and confirmed the circulation ('tirage'). The cryptic word 'MOOSH' in the description is a direct transliteration of the Russian word 'MOCCX', but I have no idea what it means.

As for the date, which is not indicated on the card, it must be from the Moscow 1935 chess tournament (wikipedia.org). The four players I've indicated in the caption as 'Others' finished in the first four places, with Flohr and Botvinnik tied for 1st/2nd. Riumin finished further down in the crosstable with an even score.

Are there similar cards for any of the other 15 players who participated in the event? I'll add a note if I find any.

14 January 2019

Chess.com CCC3 Underway

For last week's post in this series, TCEC S14 Underway, I noted,

When we last visited the TCEC and the CCCC, both events had just finished their most recent seasons and were preparing to embark on new seasons. [...] For my next post in this series, I'll check on the current status of the CCCC.

Whenever I post an update on the CCC/CCCC, my first challenge is to remember the tournament situation the last time I looked at it. Then I have to figure out what has happened since then. One complication is that the name has changed several times. First there was 'CCCC'; then there was 'CCCC 1'; then there was 'CCC 2'. From now on, I'm going to call the events CCC1/CCC2/CCC3/..., unless the name changes again. Another complication, more like a detail, is that the tournaments since CCC1 have been split into three stages.

Since CCC3 is currently underway, that means there have been two previous CCCs, right? No, there have been three. Here are my posts on each of the first three:-

As for CCC3, Chess.com has issued intermediate reports on the first two stages:-

The INFO tab on on the live page, Computer Chess Championship (also chess.com), currently says,

Started Jan. 6; Expected duration: 14 days

Since that refers to CCC3 stage three, I'll come back to the event in a week. If all goes according to schedule, I should be able to report on the winner.

13 January 2019

Top-10 Games 2018

This January is the 13th for this blog and I can't remember ever doing a post featuring a 'top' list for the preceding year. Let's start with a video from Youtube's PowerPlayChess channel.

Top 10 Chess Games 2018 (10:58) • 'Published on Dec 24, 2018'

The description of the video said,

Daniel King shows his selection of top 10 games in 2018.

This was followed by dozens of links to other PowerPlayChess resources. As usual, right-click the video (or do the equivalent on other devices) to see all of the links. The last time we saw this particular channel on the blog was Patreon Chess (February 2018; 'Daniel King is creating chess videos'). For the videos featuring the 10 individual games, see the playlist Top 10 Games of 2018.

For the short list of the two best videos, see Best Chess Game of the year 2018 on the same channel. Before this video appeared, I had already noted two other resources featuring lists of '2018 Top-10 Games':-

And as long as we're looking at '2018 Top-10' lists, here are two more:-

These days, every year is a great year for chess.

11 January 2019

AlphaZero Match Conditions

Last week's post, Insights on AlphaZero, featuring comments on Talkchess.com by DeepMind's Matthew Lai, ended with the remark,

by matthewlai >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:13 pm • [DeepMind] decided to release games from the start position and TCEC positions as the main result of the chess part of the paper because start position is more scientifically pure (they were actually playing the game of chess, not a game that's just like chess except you are forced to start from these positions), and from TCEC openings we show that we can play well even in openings that it wouldn't normally play.'

The context of that statement is best understood through a couple of DeepMind's published papers. The following chart is from the paper published in Science magazine, 'A general reinforcement learning algorithm...' by David Silver et al; see last month's post AlphaZero Is Back! (December 2018) for a link to the paper.

Fig. 2. Comparison with specialized programs.

The extended caption to the chart (the portions relevant to chess) explained,

(A) Tournament evaluation of AlphaZero in chess, shogi, and Go in matches against, respectively, Stockfish, Elmo, and the previously published version of AlphaGo Zero that was trained for 3 days. In the top bar, AlphaZero plays white; in the bottom bar, AlphaZero plays black. Each bar shows the results from AlphaZero’s perspective:win (W; green), draw (D; gray), or loss (L; red).

(B) Scalability of AlphaZero with thinking time compared with Stockfish and Elmo. Stockfish and Elmo always receive full time (3 hours per game plus 15 s per move); time for AlphaZero is scaled down as indicated.

(C) Extra evaluations of AlphaZero in chess against the most recent version of Stockfish at the time of writing and against Stockfish with a strong opening book. [...]

(D) Average result of chess matches starting from different opening positions, either common human positions or the 2016 TCEC world championship opening positions [...]

A further explanation was provided in the 'Supplementary Materials' referenced at the end of the paper.

Match conditions • We measured the head-to-head performance of AlphaZero in matches against each of the above opponents. Three types of match were played: starting from the initial board position (the default configuration, unless otherwise specified); starting from human opening positions; or starting from the 2016 TCEC opening positions.

The majority of matches for chess, shogi and Go used the 2016 TCEC superfinal time controls: 3 hours of main thinking time, plus 15 additional seconds of thinking time for each move. We also investigated asymmetric time controls, where the opponent received 3 hours of main thinking time but AlphaZero received only a fraction of this time. [...]

Matches consisted of 1,000 games, except for the human openings (200 games as black and 200 games as white from each opening) and the 2016 TCEC openings (50 games as black and 50 games as white from each of the 50 openings). The human opening positions were chosen as those played more than 100,000 times in an online database: 365Chess.com

Now that we're up to speed on match conditions, let's look more closely at the impact of an opening book. I'm a big fan of chess960 and was struck by a curious comment in the matthewlai quote that opened this post:-

[The] start position is more scientifically pure (they were actually playing the game of chess, not a game that's just like chess except you are forced to start from these positions)

The context was pre-selected opening variations that arise from the traditional start position (RNBQKBNR), but the comment could just as easily apply to any of the 959 other chess960 start positions. I'll try to come back at some time to the chess960 aspect. That quote, which was addressing the use of Brainfish and the entirety of which can be found in the 'Insights' post, provoked another Q&A dialog:-

by matthewlai >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:51 pm • Q: I don't remember what Cerebellum book lines are chosen by what UI, but using for SF8 a regular polyglot opening book like the small, but good BookX.bin and with Lc0 [Leela] without any book in Cutechess-Cli, I did get very varied openings. And a decrease of Lc0 strength of at least 50 Elo points compared to just playing from Initial Board position, but at short time controls. I think in Cutechess-Cli one has a random seed for a .bin book, but I don't remember well now. • A: It's true, there are many books that we could have chosen from. The problem is there wasn't one that we thought everyone will be happy with, and we do have a lot of "critics" (in quotes because they aren't the useful kind of critics) who will probably go into any book we choose, find a line that they think is bad using whatever their preferred analysis method is on the day, and say we deliberately chose that book because it's bad.

In the end we settled on Brainfish book just because it's actually generated by Stockfish, so it's about as "pure" as it gets. I do believe that opening book will help quite a bit at short time control, since "intuitive play" is what AZ/Lc0 are good at. Though at the time controls we played with, SF does make some very reasonable opening moves (at least when it would still be in most books), and I'm not sure if it would have made a lot of difference.

Since that entire dialog is riddled with chess engine jargon, I'll come back to it in another post.

10 January 2019

FIDE's Journalist Commission 2018

Of all the topics flagged in Spectating the 89th FIDE Congress (December 2018), the one I like best is following the chess journalists. After the 88th Congress we had FIDE's Journalist Commission 2017 (December 2017), and this year we have annex 58 to the 89th Congress, titled:-

Commission of Chess Journalists (CCJ) meeting
30th September 2018

The chairman was FIDE's outgoing Deputy President, G. Makropoulos (GRE), and the secretary was A. Karlovych [Karlovich; both spellings are used in the document] (UKR). Also present were 17 journalists representing 13 federations, including three attendees from both Iran and Norway. The first order of business was:-

1. The Secretary gave a brief report of the activities in the previous year.

The main accomplishment was 'Media Regulations for the FIDE events are completed and included in FIDE Handbook (Section C.09.)', i.e. Handbook :: C. General Rules and Recommendations for Tournaments :: 09. Media Regulations. This appears to be a straightforward copy of the document discussed at the 2017 meeting, typos and all ('FIDE Wolrd Cup'). The minutes also noted,

The number of FIDE accredited journalists with FIDE Membership Cards is nearing 50. The Commission should work to increase the number. Iran is the national chess federation with the most FIDE accredited journalists. The number of journalists accredited by the Organizers of the Chess Olympiad is around 150.

The second order of business was:-

2. The Secretary informed about the Subcommittee decisions on FIDE Journalists awards for the year 2017.

In a nutshell:-

  • Best chess news website : ChessBase
  • Best national chess federation website : Turkey
  • For the year 2016, two television houses : NTV (Russia) and NRK (Norway).

The third order of business was:-

3. Miscellaneous

This amounted to a dozen suggestions by participants, e.g. 'the media is a key to securing the sponsorship and therefore it is important to introduce more journalists to chess', 'sponsors expect x3-5 of investment returned through media exposure', and 'regular journalists do not want just the games results -- we should be able to prepare attractive content for news agencies'.

The future of the CCJ is not clear. In last month's post on FIDE Commissions 2018, I speculated that the group's name was changing to 'Media Commission'. Neither group is mentioned in the 'Commissions' section of the FIDE Directory, (fide.com), or in a recent announcement about the composition of FIDE Commissions (ditto). The handbook section of A. Administrative Subjects :: 02. Non-Elected Commissions, lists 'Media Commission (MSM)', but there is no further information. Later this year, when I report on the 90th Congress, perhaps there will be nothing to say on the topic.

08 January 2019

FIDE Rating List - January 2019

Nearly a year after the post FIDE Rating List - January 2018, it's once again time to take a snapshot of the FIDE rating system. Following the instructions on Download FRL January 2019 (fide.com), I chose the file:-

Download STANDARD rating list
TXT format (31 Dec 2018, Sz: 7.23 MB)

The format of the file was the same as in recent years, so it was easy to add it to my database that goes back to 1971. In last year's 'FRL - Jan 2018', I developed a small table showing the growth of the rating list over five years. Here is a continuation of that table for the current year:-

  • 2019: >325K players; >157K marked inactive
  • 2018: >296K players; >134K marked inactive
  • [...]

Based on these numbers, I predict that in 2020, the number of inactive players will be more than half of the total number. Is this a problem? I don't think so, because all inactive players are potentially active supporters of the game. I am just one example and, yes, I'm Still There After All These Years (January 2016).

What about federations? On last year's rating list I counted 187 different federation codes. This year I count 189. The two new codes are shown in the chart below. For the circumstances involving Bulgaria (BUL), see Some Numbers for Rating Activity (January 2018). The code 'CAF' stands for Central African Republic, which must be a new federation.

The other tables in the chart below are inspired by the same 'Activity' post. The big table on the left shows which federations had the largest increase in number of players. The corresponding table on the right shows which federations -- from those with 100 or more players -- had the largest percentage increase. More than half of the first ten federations on the right represent African countries.

Note the presence of Iran (IRI) on both lists. It is fifth in absolute numbers on the left, with an increase of 20.9% on the right. Other federations showing on both lists are Malaysia (MAS) and Kazakhstan (KAZ).

07 January 2019

TCEC S14 Underway

After spending the last few weeks reviewing man vs. machine matches in the 1980s and 90s...

...let's return to competitions from the 2010s. When we last visited the TCEC and the CCCC, both events had just finished their most recent seasons and were preparing to embark on new seasons:-

  • 2018-11-12: Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 13 (and Everything Else) • 'What about TCEC Season 14? It starts today!' • 'CCC / CCCC / CCCCC; Some of those 'C's stand for Chess.com. The others stand for Computer Chess Championship.'

  • 2018-11-19: Update on Two World Champions • 'Stockfish decisively won the Chess.com CCC2' • 'the engine to engine competitions will carry on for the next few months'

Taking TCEC Season 14 first, the first four divisions have finished and the Premier Division is underway. The following chart summarizes the results of the first four divisions.

TCEC - Top Chess Engine Championship - Archive

LCZero (aka Leela) and KomodoMCTS finished 1st/2nd in Divisions 1, 2, and 3, sometimes by a wide margin over the other engines. The Premier Division is being played at TCEC - Live, where Stockfish, LCZero, and Komodo are currently placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, followed by Houdini and KomodoMCTS in 4th and 5th of the eight engines. If this trend continues, we will see an epic final match between Stockfish, the world's best AB (alpha/beta) engine, and LCZero, the world's best *active* NN (neural network) engine.

For my next post in this series, I'll check on the current status of the CCCC.

06 January 2019

Listen to a Painting?

It's the first post of the new year here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. You might expect that there would be a big choice of interesting items from the Christmas / Hanukkah period, and you would be right.

The item pictured below was titled 'Masterful Russian painting of a man playing chess - Oil on Canvas - Monogrammed', where 'monogrammed' means 'signed'. Initially listed for $1550, it sold for $500 'Best offer accepted'.

The description added,

Monogrammed in Cyrillic letters 'R' and 'Sche' plus '98'. Masterful painting of a European man playing chess in the corner of a cafe. SLL. Measures 15" by 15 3/4" framed to 20" by 21". In excellent condition; absolutely stunning artwork.

There's not much more I can say about the piece, except to ask what 'SLL' means. The page What does SLL stand for? (thefreedictionary.com), lists 20 possibilities, none of which seems plausible. Maybe 'Stop Look Listen'? 'Stop' and 'Look' I can understand, but 'Listen' is a stretch.

04 January 2019

Insights on AlphaZero

In last week's post, Talking About AlphaZero, I noted:-

The most detailed discussion was on neutral ground (talkchess.com) with participants from the Stockfish & Leela communities, from DeepMind, and from other (mostly) knowledgeable experts.

That introduction led to a long thread titled Alphazero news. The contributor from the DeepMind team was Matthew Lai, whom we have already seen twice on this blog:-

Let's eavesdrop on some of Matthew Lai's thoughts about AlphaZero. The 'Q's were from various members of the Talkchess community.

by matthewlai >> Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:18 am • Q: Do you have an opinion on whether AlphaZero would beat the latest version of Stockfish? • A: I don't think it would be really useful for me to speculate on that. Suffice to say, AlphaZero today is not the same as AlphaZero in the paper either.


by matthewlai >> Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:20 pm • Q: Is most of the code for Alphazero Python code, or is the pseudocode transcribed from a different language like C++? • A: AlphaZero is mostly in C++. Network training code is in Python (Tensorflow). Network inference is through C++ Tensorflow API.


by matthewlai >> Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:17 am • Q: Does this mean Giraffe will get some updates in the future ? • A: Afraid not! AlphaZero is taking up all my time these days, and it's a very exciting project with lots of uncharted territory ahead :). AlphaZero is basically what I ever wanted Giraffe to become... and then a lot more. I have never been this excited about computer chess my whole life.

Many of Lai's comments were about technical details arising from the pseudocode that was released with the paper in Science magazine. He also referred to the architecture of the neural network.

by matthewlai >> Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:45 am • Q: Could you divulge the size of the network file that A0 used ? • A: The details are in supplementary materials -- 'Architecture: Apart from the representation of positions and actions described above, AlphaZero uses the same network architecture as AlphaGo Zero, briefly recapitulated here. The neural network consists of a "body" followed by both policy and value "heads". The body consists of a rectified batch-normalized convolutional layer followed by 19 residual blocks. [...]'

What about DeepMind's commercial intentions?

by matthewlai >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 3:20 am • Q: Are there any plans in the pipeline to commercialize AlphaZero? • A: Cannot talk about anything unannounced unfortunately!


by matthewlai >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:50 am • Q: Has DeepMind used the services of any past or present GMs or IMs while creating A0? • A: There wasn't one for AlphaZero during development of this Science version, but we did have GM Matthew Sadler look at the games in the paper and to pick the ones he thought was most interesting. We also collaborated with him later on the World Chess Championship commentary, and their upcoming book. We obviously learned a few things about AlphaZero in the process.

The longest discussion was about the use of opening books during the tests against Stockfish. It is too detailed and too technical to repeat here, although I might attempt to summarize it in another post. The timestamp on the following message locates the full discussion.

by matthewlai >> Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:13 pm • Q: I have a question, that came up while I was greedily digging through the papers. One number seems to be very odd to me: In the match against Stockfish [SF] with opening book Brainfish, when AlphaZero [AZ] play black, it gets ~2/4 % wins against SF8/SF9, but ~18% wins when playing against the supposedly stronger Brainfish [BF]?! [...] • A: It's hard to say and I don't want to speculate much beyond what we have data to support, but my guess (and I can very well be wrong) is that there's much less diversity when SF uses the BF opening book. We already didn't have a lot of diversity from start position, but start position at least has several variations that are roughly equal and both AZ and SF have enough non-determinism (through multi-threaded scheduling mostly) that we still got reasonably diverse games.

With the BF games we took out most of SF's non-determinism, and it's possible that SF just ends up playing a line that's not very good often, or something like that. In fact, we found that as we explained in the paper, if we force AZ to play some sub-optimal moves (in its opinion) to enforce diversity, we win even more games! I realise there's a lot of hand-waving here, but there are just too many possibilities.

I don't remember the number of games played, but it was more than high enough that the result is statistically significant. We decided to release games from the start position and TCEC positions as the main result of the chess part of the paper because start position is more scientifically pure (they were actually playing the game of chess, not a game that's just like chess except you are forced to start from these positions), and from TCEC openings we show that we can play well even in openings that it wouldn't normally play.

One chart, showing the progress of traditional engines ('Alphazero news', p.38), also caught my attention. The dates on the x-axis run from 2005-02 through 2018-12. The numbers on the y-axis go from 2700 to 3500. Where will ratings go with the NN engines?

Top programs' ratings over time


The link under the chart leads to a magnified version. Getting back to Matthew Lai, at one point he mentioned,

I am the only person on the team familiar with conventional chess engines.

That makes his insights into AlphaZero's development and test processes particularly valuable.


Later: I should have mentioned the signature that is appended to every matthewlai comment:-

Disclosure: I work for DeepMind on the AlphaZero project, but everything I say here is personal opinion and does not reflect the views of DeepMind / Alphabet.

Google, DeepMind, Alphabet. Does it take a PhD in high-tech organization charts to understand their relationship?

03 January 2019

January 1969 'On the Cover'

After last month's Christmas-y post, December 1968 'On the Cover', we return to the main theme of the two main American chess magazines fifty years ago.

Left: 'Armed Forces Champion PFC Charles W. Powell (left) and second and third place winners [Michael] Senkiewicz and [Walter R.] Cunningham, with American Chess Foundation Executive Director Sidney Wallach.'
Right: 'Is this the year of the champion?'

Chess Life

PFC Charles W. Powell is the 1968 Armed Forces Worldwide Chess Champion. He scored 11-1 in the annual tournament which was played during October in The American Legion Hall of Flags, Washington, D.C. Powell's only loss was to the Air Force's S/SGT. Roy H. Hoppe, in a contest which earned the Brilliancy Award for Hoppe.

The last time we saw an 'Armed Forces Champion' on the cover was the CR side of January 1967 OTC. The post ended with a question:-

'Thomas Emery Trophy', 'Thomas Emery Awards dinner' -- who was Thomas Emery and what was his connection to the American Chess Foundation?'

I answered that question a few months later in a pair of posts that were later summarized in an unrelated topic: The Limits of Image Recognition (June 2018); 'The main reason I had saved [the image] was because of a pair of posts from last year: ... Thomas Emery'.

Chess Review

'Game of the Month' by Svetozar Gligorich [Gligoric] • After Spassky qualified last year, the rumors were stronger than ever that, this time, the Challenger would have an easy job of taking the title from Petrosyan. Such opinions are based on the Champion's -- if not poor -- then certainly unimpressive form in several successive tournaments the while Spassky was producing incredible victories over some most dangerous rivals.

Though many are aware of the fact that Petrosyan has never tended to impress, that he came to the top with his fantastically realistic approach and that his strength is slow in motion but hard to resist, especially in the long run, the simplified view that Petrosyan is in a clear decline has so overtaken some minds that they are dismissing him as a possible world champion for the future.

We have to go back to the same point in the previous World Championship cycle to find the spotlight on Petrosian -- July 1966 OTC; 'After the "January 1966 OTC", at least one of the two main chess magazines featured the 1966 Petrosian - Spassky Title Match on its monthly cover.' The reigning World Champion appeared in a shared CR cover later in the year -- September 1966 OTC; 'Piatigorsky Cup Tournament; Petrosian - Spassky, Reshevsky - Fischer'