28 February 2019

February Amazon Yahoos

For the third consecutive month, my Yahoo news feed served no chess news. Of celebrities and sports, there was plenty to choose from; of chess there was nothing. Is the problem perhaps an overall deterioration in the Yahoo news feed itself?

Maybe yes, maybe no, but Yahoo doesn't have a problem following me around the web to watch what I am doing. For the second consecutive month -- I documented the first in January Amazon Yahoos -- and lasting for several days, it served me an ad echoing what I had browsed on Amazon.

'Sponsored --$-- Amazon.com'

The three books shown are:-

  • 'Better Thinking, Better Chess: How a Grandmaster Finds his Moves'; Joel Benjamin
  • '300 Most Important Chess Positions'; Thomas Engqvist
  • 'Chess for Life'; Matthew Sadler, Natasha Regan

Those are certainly three noteworthy books, but I only recall looking at the last one. That was while preparing the first post of last month, 'Game Changer' Interview. As for the other two books, I've heard about them, but don't remember browsing their pages on Amazon. Did I click on the Yahoo ad to look at any of the books? Of course not. Why encourage creepy web behavior?

Since I don't have any mainstream media chess stories to fill out this post, I get to select my own. I'll start with a theme I introduced in 'January Yahoos', titled 'Weird Chess News'. What's weird for me is not necessarily weird for you, and vice versa, but as long I'm writing the post, I get to pick. Both of these stories are about chess in school and both are from Texas:-

If there was one single story this month that I would have liked to see get a wider audience, it was this one:-

  • Magnus Carlsen On The Ancient Appeal Of Chess And The Opportunities Of A More Modern Game (forbes.com; 'Guest post written by Magnus Carlsen') • GM Carlsen ended his essay saying, 'The excitement of playing a game of chess over a physical board -- feeling the tension as your opponent sits two feet in front of you, studying your every move -- cannot be beaten. Yet nothing would make me sadder than losing the essential benefits of chess because of a righteous refusal to adapt to change.'

Other events might have interested a wider audience. Without too much thought I came up with the Gibraltar Open; the Champions Showdown and the Cairns Cup (for women), both in St.Louis; and even the Stockfish - Leela TCEC match, an engine handcrafted by humans vs. a rapidly improving AI/NN challenger. Maybe we'll see some mainstream coverage of chess in March, but I'm not optimistic.

26 February 2019

'On Anderssen'

My recent post Down the Rabbit Hole mentioned,

I discovered the magazine Schachzeitung, 'von der Berliner Schachgesellschaft', Volume 1, 1846 (starts in July).

Since then I've been searching the Google Books digital collection of 19th century chess literature, looking for the most relevant files. Schachzeitung is just one example of many periodicals available.

So far I've collected 23 of the first 26 annual editions of Schachzeitung (1846-1871). My main objective is to locate information about the early, unofficial World Championships, where the German master Adolf Anderssen played a central role for many years.

Starting in 1851 Anderssen was listed on the annual cover page as one of the two editors of Schachzeitung. In fact, his name always appeared first. This lasted for nine years, but the Di Felice extract that I quoted in the 'Rabbit Hole' post doesn't even mention him.

Anderssen was also the winner of the 1851 London Tournament (London, V-VII, 1851). The 1851 edition of Schachzeitung (vol.6) has many stories on the event, but it will be some time before I'm able to understand them correctly.

One of the features of 19th century chess magazines that you don't see much in the 21st century is the importance of poems -- sometimes long poems, stretching for many pages. Shown above is a short poem from the last page of the August 1851 issue, titled 'An Anderssen'. That would have been a month or so after the 1851 London tournament ended. When I fed the OCR output, line by line, into Google Translate, it gave me the following translation.

You beat Albion for Germany
In a people's struggle, the best-humored;
You have defeated the proud island son,
And England fell in his master Staunton.

That was a fight, a glory at the right time;
Recently we were not bedded on laurel,
We were Matt before Christendom,
Since you have saved us from the checkmate.

But if your victory raises you to the hero,
Be he the dove with the green branches,
Who brings us hope and animates,
That this victory would only lead to the round

That's not too bad; the software choked only on the word 'Matt'. How would it do on a longer poem? I'll never find out unless I find a poem so compelling that I just have to know what it says. As for AI/NN translation of poetry in general, that would be a different area of research. I doubt there is much overlap with chess literature.

25 February 2019

Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway

TCEC: 'Stockfish wins TCEC S14' -- shouldn't that be followed by 'Ho-hum'? After all, Stockfish has won the last three TCEC seasons and we have to go back to season 10 to find a different winner. Here are the posts on this blog that signalled the TCEC winners:-

In season 14, Stockfish almost lost. As I wrote in last week's report, TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6; Part 2/2:-

The TCEC S14 final match between Stockfish and Leela has seen 72 games completed. Leela leads by one game, +9-8=55. If Leela can maintain this slim lead through the full 100 games, it will signal a major shift in chess engine dominance.

Of the next 28 games in the 100 game match, Stockfish won two games and the rest were drawn, making the final score +10-9=81 (50.5-49.5) in Stockfish's favor. That's as narrow a match win as exists in chess, much to the delight of Stockfish fans and the chagrin of Leela fans. Congratulations to both open source teams for a thrilling superfinal!

CCC: In the other major, ongoing engine competition, the 'CCC6: Winter Classic' completed stage 1. Eight engines qualified to stage 2, as shown in the following crosstable.

For a readable version of the same crosstable see the tab for 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page and follow the link for 'CCC #tournament-results'. Those eight qualifying engines were joined by the big four -- Komodo, Leela (Lc0), Stockfish, and Houdini -- for a total of 12 engines in the stage 2 'Playoffs'. Two of those engines will qualify for the 200-game final.

24 February 2019

Dagmar and Strange Ebbesen

In this ongoing series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), one of the themes I haven't explored is chess as an accessory to legend. Take the following drawing, for example.

If the drawing looks familiar, it might be because I've also used it on my page Chess Through the Artist's Eye. In fact, the image shown above is cropped to show only the principle characters, while the 'Artist's Eye' page includes the many onlookers to the left and right of the scene. That same page informs,

Brozik, Václav (Czech, 1851–1901) • 'Dagmar and Strange Ebbesen at the Chess Table' (1880?), Illustreret Tidende

The Wikipedia page, Vaclav Brozík, says,

Václav Brožík (French: Vaclav de Brozik; 6 March 1851, Tremošná - 15 April 1901 Paris) was a Czech painter who worked in the academic style.

One of the subjects of the drawing is described in another Wikipedia page, Dagmar of Bohemia:-

Dagmar of Bohemia (also known as Margaret of Bohemia; c. 1186 – 24 May 1212 in Ribe) was queen consort of Denmark as the first spouse of King Valdemar II of Denmark. She was the daughter of King Premysl I Ottokar of Bohemia and his first wife, Adelheid of Meissen.

That's all very nice, but in the words of the 11th World Champion, 'What's that got to do with chess?' The pieces of the story come together in a series of poems, Full text of "The Mermaid's Prophecy and Other Songs Relating to Queen Dagmar" (archive.org; Project Gutenberg eBook). The poems are titled...

I. King Valdemar's Wooing
II. Queen Dagmar's Arrival in Denmark
III. The Mermaid's Prophecy

...where the 'Wooing' starts in the first verses,

Valdemar King and Sir Strange bold
     At table sat one day,
So many a word 'twixt them there passed
     In amicable way.

"Hear Strange, hear! thou for a time
     Thy native land must leave;
Thou shalt away to Bohemia far
     My young bride to receive."

...After reaching Bohemia, Strange Ebbesen announces the reason for his visit and is challenged to a game...

"Hail to thee, King of Bohemian Land,
     Thou sittest a prince in state;
To you sends Valdemar, Denmark's King,
     With your daughter he would mate."


Then they bore in the playing board,
     Was wroughten all of gold;
Sir Strange should with the princess play,
     And private converse hold.

The third game they together played
     Upon that red gold board,
Sir Strange won the noble maid
     For Valdemar his lord.

...In fact, there is nothing here to confirm that the game is chess. That must be artist Brozík's imagination, but why not?

22 February 2019

Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS)

Since the answer to last week's post, AI/NN: 'Here to Stay?', is a resounding 'Yes!', it's time to learn a little more about the subject. One aspect on which I'm particularly fuzzy and which is important to understanding AlphaZero is the Monte Carlo Tree Search, aka MCTS. The following video is not specific to chess, but explains the concepts better than any other video I reviewed while working on this post.

Monte Carlo Tree Search (15:49) • 'Published on Mar 5, 2017'

The description explains,

This is a video I [John Levine] made for my class "CS310: Foundations of Artificial Intelligence" at the University of Strathclyde. The video has a brief description of the Monte Carlo Tree Search algorithm and includes a worked example.

The 'worked example', which starts at 3:30 into the clip, is particularly useful and helps to understand better the material that precedes it. For more about MCTS specific to chess, see Monte Carlo Tree Search (chessprogramming.org).

21 February 2019

Chessable and 'Game Changer'

Chessable appeared on my radar twice during the past month. The first time was in connection with the 'Game Changer' book; see my recent post 'Game Changer' Excerpts for my next-to-last word on that. The second time was John Hartmann's book review in the January 2019 issue of Chess Life. The Chessable portion of the review started,

Chessable is a new website/"webservice" gaining quite a bit of mindshare with tech-savvy players. Part of this has to do with its association with IM John Bartholomew, one of chess' leading streaming personalities, who also serves as Chessable's Chief Communications Officer and co-founder. Bartholomew is a big draw in the streaming/esport landscape and his involvement with the platform has undoubtedly aided in its rise to prominence.

I make no claim to being particularly tech-savvy, which is confirmed by my having never visited the Chessable site. Hartmann's mention that the site was 'free to use' meant that it was high time to rectify the oversight.

Chessable.com describes itself as 'Learn chess online: openings, tactics & more'. Since taking up chess960 I'm no longer interested in studying traditional chess openings and since tactics trainers are a dime a dozen, I wasn't sure that the site had much to offer me that was both interesting and free. Luckily for me, the '& more' portion includes endgames.

Free access to the site requires an id and a password (entry no.248 according to my system for managing passwords), undoubtedly used to track progress on the Chessable material. I quickly located the free 'Basic Endgames' course and started using the service immediately. The key to the training is in repeating the material, an exercise which I found a bit tedious after a few minutes, but which probably works for anyone who has the necessary patience. The underlying theory is explained on the page The science that makes chess learning easier (chessable.com). Like most theories about learning, I imagine there is considerable controversy here, but I'll look into that some other time.

As for the material based on the 'Game Changer' book, see The game has changed! GM Matthew Sadler on how Game Changer can benefit YOU (ditto; 31 January 2019) by Leon Watson, who is described on the About Us page as responsible for 'PR & Marketing'. That promotional page points to Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI - MoveTrainer™ Course (chessable.com). The comments include a couple of positive reviews by competent chess players who are also knowlegeable about MoveTrainer. All in all, the course looks promising.

19 February 2019

Millennial Chess?

Read it? No, Reddit. Take, for example, a post from a few months ago, Talking About Chess Engines (October 2018), where I noted,

The interest from Reddit.com is somewhat surprising, although the site shows up increasingly in chess related searches.

Recently I was talking to one of my nephews and the subject came up. I learned that he was a keen Reddit user and I made a mental note to look into it more deeply. It turns out there's an age gap involved, as the following chart shows.

Source: Google based on Distribution of Reddit users in the United States as of February 2016, by age group (statista.com)

Taking into account the three years that have elapsed since those statistics were calculated, the interest in Reddit comes mainly from the Millennial generation. That's explains why I'm not more familiar with it -- I'm from the Baby Boomer generation.

The main Reddit chess page is Chess News and Stuff, which starts, 'Join the 121k people in the r/chess community' The first time I made a note about the site was mid-2015, when a Google search on 'chess reddit' returned 'About 1.890.000 results'. Today that same search returns 'About 26.500.000 results'. Continuing with the statistics, one of the Reddit top posts made today, Chess is actually a pretty popular game, says,

Right now we have: 62,000 on chess.com 24,000 on lichess. That alone is a pretty big amount when compared to the "big" video games nowadays. According to Steam charts, we'd be in 4th place, above Rainbow Six Siege, Team Fortress 2, Warframe and many other popular games.

I'm not even including the people who are playing chess over the board right now or sitting at their board studying chess books, or grinding tactics on chesstempo. Quite a few other chess websites and apps have not been counted. We may actually have 100,000 concurrent players of this beautiful game, a pretty big amount even by todays standards. Maybe less if there is a big percentage of players who remain "online" in chess.com but idle, but even 50,000 concurrent players is pretty healthy.

The post goes on to ask, 'Why is the /r/chess subreddit not as big as other games which have similar number of concurrent players?' Maybe it's a generational thing.

18 February 2019

TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6; Part 2/2

Following the TCEC and CCC computer chess competitions presents two challenges. The first challenge is to keep track of their progress without being glued 24/7 to their GUIs. I've addressed that by preparing a weekly report in the form of a Monday blog post.

The second challenge is what to call each weekly post. Last week's post was TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6, where the title summarized the content of the post. For this week's post I could use exactly the same title as last week, but that's obviously not satisfactory. Tacking on 'Part 2/2' should keep things clear.

TCEC: The TCEC S14 final match ('superfinal' aka 'sufi' in TCEC jargon) between Stockfish and Leela ('LC0' in Leela jargon, meaning 'Leela Chess Zero') has seen 72 games completed. Leela leads by one game, +9-8=55. If Leela ('she' in Leela jargon) can maintain this slim lead through the full 100 games, it will signal a major shift in chess engine dominance. The traditional alpha-beta engines with their handcrafted evaluations are quickly giving way to the AI/NN engines which work out their own evaluations from scratch.

Leela also won the preceding TCEC competition with a little help from her friends. For a final report, see TCEC Cup 2 report (chessdom.com).

CCC: Last week's 'CCC5/-6' post started with a preliminary report on the finish of CCC5:-

Stockfish then played Lc0 in a 100 game match, which finished yesterday. The result hasn't been published yet, although the PGN is available.

The result was published in a short note on the 'CCC #tournament-results' page (see the tab above this post for a collection of 'TCEC/CCC Links'):-

Ccc5 finals SF vs LCO dev 60-40

I loaded the corresponding PGN file into PGN software and determined that Stockfish (SF) beat Leela (LC0) by a score of +23-3=74. The games were played at a time control of '10|5' (chess jargon for 10' per game plus 5" per move). As for the next tournament, the 'CCC5/-6' post said,

A new event titled 'Battle of the Leelas' started with Stockfish, Komodo MCTS, and four Leela variants.

The final results are summarized in the following chart.

'CCC #tournament-results'

Stockfish finished fourth in the field of six, losing only one mini-match, against Antifish. I'll leave it to others more knowledgeable to interpret the complete results. I assume the six engines were chosen for a reason.

CCC6 is currently underway. The rules say,

Qualifiers (5|2) - escalation, 3 rounds, 16 engines, top 8 qualify, SF, Lc0, Komodo & Houdini get buys [sic; 'byes'] • Playoffs (10|10) - 12 engines, 3 rounds, top 8 plus SF, Lc0, Komodo & Houdini, book ON • Finals (10|10) - 2 engines, 200 games, book ON

The escalation format, where the lowest ranked engines play mini-matches against each other at the beginning and the stronger engines enter the competition at each successive stage, makes it impossible to predict which engines will eventually prevail. For a preliminary report, see CCC 6: The Winter Classic (preview).

17 February 2019

Steinitz's Gravestone

Left photo: Steinitz Grave 4 © Flickr user 4paul! under Creative Commons.

The gravestone in the left photo has a chessboard on its top and says,

Hier ruht in Frieden ['Here rests in peace']
William Steinitz
Geb. 14 Mai 1837 ['geboren']
Gest. 12 Aug 1900 ['gestorben']

The sign in the right photo says,

Grave of William Steinitz
First World Chess Champion
In memory of my ancestor
By Kurt Landsberger
Grave number 5893

The tags in the photos place the cemetary at Brooklyn, New York. The page William Steinitz, 1836-1900 (findagrave.com) identifies the place of burial as 'The Evergreens Cemetery'. Note the difference between the year of birth on the gravestone and the year on the referenced page. Wikipedia's page, Wilhelm Steinitz, says, 17 May 1836, giving a different day and year than is written on the gravestone.

15 February 2019

AI/NN: 'Here to Stay?'

Last week we took a peak at 'Game Changer' Excerpts, from the first book on AlphaZero. This week let's have a video from the Saint Louis Chess Club's Youtube channel, where a panel discusses how AlphaZero impacts the world of chess engines.

AlphaZero: Is It Here to Stay?! (1:00:37) • 'Streamed live on Jan 26, 2019'

The video's description identifies the three participants in the discussion:-

Grandmaster Denes Boros and computer chess expert Jacob Wilkins join Ben Simon to discuss the finer details of neural-network based engines vs. the human mind.

If you follow the link to the original Youtube page (right-click the embedded video), the chat to the right of the video follows the discussion and can be scrolled independently. For more about the host, see Chess - Ben Simon Media. As for the title, 'AlphaZero: Is It Here to Stay?', is there any real doubt?

14 February 2019

Down the Rabbit Hole

In yesterday's post on my World Chess Championship blog, 1851 London (the Tournament Books), I used Google Books as a reference for the first international tournament. While I was working on the post I discovered a pair of resources on Google Books that I had previously either overlooked or underestimated: 'Related books' and 'Other editions'.

The English edition of the 1851 London tournament book leads to other English language resources on Google Books and the German edition leads to German language resources. As you might expect, those other resources lead to further resources and on and on and on.

For example, on the English side I discovered the magazine The Chess World, Volume 1, March 1865. That title in itself is not particularly useful for locating additional information about the periodical, but Di Felice's wonderful reference work 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008' says,

656. Chess World (The) : A Magazine Devoted to the Cultivation of the Game of Chess, Containing Games and Problems by the First Masters (1865– 1869) Vol.1 no.1 (Mar 1865)–Vol.4, no.12 (Mar 1869). Monthly. Publisher Trübner & Co. London. England. 23 cm. Magazine. General. English. Note Editors’ names not given; preface signed by "The editors."

On the German side I discovered the magazine Schachzeitung, 'von der Berliner Schachgesellschaft', Volume 1, 1846 (starts in July). Of this periodical Di Felice says,

2321. Schachzeitung: In Monatl (1846–1871) Organization Berliner Schachgesellschaft. Vol.1 (1846)– Vol.26, no.12 (Dec 1871). Monthly. Editors Ludwig Bledow ( July/Aug 1846), Wilhelm Hanstein and Otto von Oppen (Sept 1846–1851), Otto von Oppen and N.D. Nathan (1851–52), Otto von Oppen (1852–58), Max Lange (Dec 1858– 1864), E. von Schmidt and Johannes Minckwitz (Jan 1865–1866), Johannes Minckwitz (1867–71). Publisher Veit und Co. Berlin, later Leipzig. Germany. Illus., 21–23 cm. Magazine. General. German. Note Vol.4 (1849)–Vol.26 (1871) with title Schachzeitung der Berliner Schachgesellschaft. Continued by Deutsche Schachzeitung: Organ für das Gesamte Schachleben.

All of this taken together promises to be a huge time waster. At least I'll get a few posts out of the time spent.

12 February 2019

Kindle Best Seller

For today's post I had planned to follow up on last week's 'Game Changer' Excerpts. While writing that post I noticed a section in the book on engine evaluations of '0.00'. I think it was at the end of chapter 2, titled 'ZeroZeroZero'. I documented the entire excerpt just a few days ago by saying,

More pages are available from Google Books: Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI. The section 'Preview this book' is uninterrupted from the cover page through most of Ch.4.

Now the preview has disappeared and the page is marked 'No preview'. I've been looking into the topic of engine evaluations '0.00' for some time, but I'm not prepared to write a full post on it. I had hoped to use the half-dozen (or so) 'Game Changer' pages to launch a discussion, but that will have to wait for another day. What to do?

Since writing the 'Excerpts' post I've also noticed that the book is marked 'Best Seller' by Amazon. In fact, it's no.1, as the following screen capture shows.

Amazon Best Sellers: Best Chess

No.2 on the list, which I suppose is the previous no.1, is 'Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time' by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. For readable titles of the other books, follow the Amazon link.

All books on the Amazon list are marked 'Kindle Edition'. Does no one buy physical copies of books any more? Whatever the case, congratulations to all involved in the AlphaZero book on creating an instant hit!

11 February 2019

TCEC S14 Final, CCC5/-6

For the past several weeks I've been running a Monday series to track the evolution of two outstanding all-engine chess events that just keep going and going. When a tournament in either one finishes, another tournament starts almost immediately. Without a regular, periodic look at the competitions, they are difficult to follow. (For links and acronyms, see the 'TCEC/CCC Links' tab.at the top of each post on this blog.)

TCEC: Last week's post, TCEC/CCC Head Scratching, revealed a mismatch between the published records of TCEC S14 and the two participants in the S14 superfinal. How did Leela manage to qualify? I ended the discussion with:-

I checked a few other resources and couldn't find the source of the discrepancy.

As I write this, the two engines have played 37 games in the 100 game match with the score deadlocked at +6-6=25. Since the previous post, Chessdom.com has published two reports on circumstances leading up to the match:-

Neither report mentions how Leela qualified for the superfinal, so we have to turn to other sources. The Leela blog provides a hint:-

Here we find the crosstables for all S14 preliminary divisions where Leela played. This includes the mention:-

Premier division standings (Komodo MCTS results have been removed)

So we have the results counting seven engines instead of the eight shown in the TCEC archive. Why were the MCTS results removed? I'm sure the reason must be documented in several places, but I found the answer on Talkchess.com:-

  • 2019-02-09: End of Era is there: SF is finally beaten! • 'My question is why LCZero is playing the superfinal, if Komodo was second in Premier Division? It should be Stockfish vs Komodo.' => 'Because the games against Komodo MCTS were cancelled at the end (according to TCEC rules, since MCTS crashed 3 times), and Lc0 benefited from that.'

CCC: As for the other ongoing competition, CCC5 was underway at the time of last week's 'Head Scratching' post. Stockfish emerged the winner, 2.5 points ahead of Lc0, which was 4.5 points ahead of third-placed Lc0-dev. Stockfish then played Lc0 in a 100 game match, which finished yesterday. The result hasn't been published yet, although the PGN is available.

A new event titled 'Battle of the Leelas' started with Stockfish, Komodo MCTS, and four Leela variants. Thanks to some new commands in CCC chat, I located a few key resources that I hadn't seen or had overlooked:-

Another command ('!CCC6') informs,

Nightbot: CCC 6: The Winter Classic; Classical (standard) games with the eight best engines. Time control: 30/10 classical; Engines: 8; Stages: 1 main, 1 final between top two engines; Stage 1 format: 4x RR (escalation); Stage 1 games: 112; Stage 1 duration: 7 days; Finals games: 100

That's enough for this week's post. Next week we should have the score for the TCEC S14 superfinal through game 80, and find that CCC6 has started.

10 February 2019

Always Interesting Aronian

For this month's featured video, I had a choice of good clips about AlphaZero, last seen on this blog in 'Game Changer' Excerpts. I went instead with one of the many interesting interviews made available during the 2019 Gibraltar Chess Festival, aka GibChess.

The Beauty of Chess: A Levon Aronian Interview (23:50) • 'Published on Jan 24, 2019'

The description said only,

Tania Sachdev talks to Armenian chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian about his life in chess.

About two minutes into the clip, the following exchange takes place:-

Q: There has been a shift in the chess calendar of the really elite players in the world. There was a time when this was a very decided calendar. You played amongst each other in these closed events. We see more and more elite players participating in open events like Gibraltar. What do you think is the reason for that?

A: The elite players are tired of playing against each other. We want some excitement. We want to face other players. We want to see what it feels like to play sompe riskier openings, to try to win more with Black. That's why the elite players like to play in open tournaments. We normally get accused of 'They all play against each other', but that's not our design. We like to be open and that's why tournaments like Gibraltar and Isle of Man are something that we look forward to.

Other topics are:-

How to prepare for opens? How to decide what tournaments to play? How important is the World Championship? The Candidates tournament? What about Magnus Carlsen? The change at the top in FIDE? Chess in Armenia? [More++]

GM Aronian did not succeed in repeating his victory at 2018 Gibraltar. He finished 6.5-3.5, two points behind the winner GM Artemiev. For more videos from the same channel see GibChess - YouTube.

08 February 2019

'Game Changer' Excerpts

We saw the press release, AlphaZero Stars in 'Game Changer', including an excerpt from the book. We've seen the authors, where the most recent was 'Game Changer' Interview. Now we'd like to see the book. That excerpt from New in Chess is mainly 'Ch.4 - How AlphaZero thinks', plus a few pages from 'Part III - Themes in AlphaZero’s play' (Ch.6-13).

More pages are available from Google Books: Game Changer: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI. The section 'Preview this book' is uninterrupted from the cover page through most of Ch.4.

Another reliable source is Amazon.com: Game Changer - Paperback. The 'Look Inside' feature warns, 'This view is of the Kindle edition (2019) from New in Chess', and stops near the beginning of Ch.2.

All of this is sufficient to prove that you don't have to be an expert in AI or NN to appreciate the book; Ch.4 explains everything you need to know. You do, however, need to be a competent chess player. The book is not for beginners.

07 February 2019

Google+ Sunsets

Toward the end of last year, in Goodbye Google+, Hello Twitter (October 2018), I wrote,

I don't know when Google Plus will close, but Google doesn't waste time when it takes action.

The official notification arrived this week in the form of an email:-

Date: 01-Feb-19
Subject: Your personal Google+ account is going away
From: "Google+ Team"

You've received this email because you have a consumer (personal) Google+ account or you manage a Google+ page. In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers' expectations. [...]

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

The message included a few useful links like the following:-

Sunsetting! What an ugly use of a beautiful concept. 'Google+ Team', lift your heads away from whatever mobile device you use and look at the natural world around you. It is far more awesome than your contrived technology.

I also received a notice from Blogger.com -- that's the backend product that I use to maintain my blogs -- with info specific to the blogs:-

  • 2019-01-30: An update on Google+ and Blogger • 'Google+ Profile: In March 2019, Blogger will revert to only having Blogger profiles. Users that have selected a G+ profile in the past will appear as unknown authors until they next login to Blogger and supply a new display name and avatar.'

As far as I can tell, that's the only part of the shutdown that I need to watch. That leaves me plenty of time to enjoy a real sunset.

05 February 2019

February 1969 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, what appeared on the covers of the two leading American chess magazines?

Left: '1968 Player of the Year'
Right: 'Phantom of the Squares'

Chess Life

To conclude the Mallorca story, it should be added the 1968 "Oscar" for best player of the year was given to Spassky. A special international jury voted for the ten best players of the year: 1. Spassky, 2. Korchnoi, 3. Larsen, 4. Petrosian, 5. Fischer, 6. Tal, 7. Portisch, 8. Smyslov, 9. Keres, 10. Bronstein.

Last year, in May 1968 'On the Cover', we had a more informative excerpt: 'The first "Chess Oscar" is a story worth repeating. From the May 1968 CR...'

Chess Review

Our cover illustration this month is a photograph by Vincent C. Vesce, designed to represent the spirit of chess. It was exhibited some years ago.

Spassky last appeared on the cover for the June 1968 'On the Cover'; CR: 'Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union is leading the prospective challengers in the elimination matches'. We will be seeing more of him as a result of the 1969 Spassky - Petrosian Title Match, 'Moscow, IV-VI, 1969'.

As for Vincent C. Vesce, a search on 'chess' doesn't ring many bells. A search on 'photographer' leads to Vincent C. Vesce, Technical Director of Harmon Colors, 'He was an outstanding amateur photographer whose work in this field was recognized by his being named an Associate of the Photographic Society of America.' I wouldn't have guessed that the CR cover was a photograph.

04 February 2019

TCEC/CCC Head Scratching

Last week's post in this series about ongoing engine tournaments, Stockfish, Leela et al, saw both main tournaments in mid-event. Let's have an update.

TCEC: TCEC Cup 2 finished while I was working on this post and Chessdom.com was quick to post the results: First major title for a Neural Network in chess: LC0 wins TCEC Cup; the post includes an image showing the event's brackets. For a reaction from the Leela forum, see Leela wins TCEC Cup.

The Season 14 Superfinal match starts today between Stockfish and Leela (LCZero). But hang on ... Two weeks ago in Results: TCEC S14-P / CCC3 S3, I reported,

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 post included a copy of the S14-P crosstable, which is still in the TCEC archive, labelled 'Crosstable for TCEC Season 14 - Division P'. That Chessdom post 'First major title' said,

Lc0 did not have a direct match against Stockfish in the TCEC Cup this year. However, it defeated in the final Houdini - a version that has won the TCEC Championship and that eliminated Stockfish at the semi-final. At its own semi-final Lc0 defeated another multiple times TCEC champion -- Komodo -- thus confirming that the second place in the Premier Division was a deserved one.

I checked a few other resources and couldn't find the source of the discrepancy, so I'll come back to it later. In the meantime, see TCEC Season 12 - the 12th Top Chess Engine Championship for a recap of TCEC S12, 'the second in a new series of analytical articles on past TCEC events'.

CCC: In the previous post, we left Chess.com's engine event in the middle of CCC4. For the final result, see Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship Bullet; 'Escalation' Next (chess.com). The Escalation event (labeled 'CCC5') is a round robin format where the lowest rated engines play each other in the early rounds and the highest rated engines start play in the later rounds. The 'Stockfish Wins [CCC4]' article says,

Lc0 also managed the impressive feat of scoring dead even with Stockfish head-to-head in the tournament, at +3-3=14 in their 20 games together. Lc0 was the only engine to score a win against Stockfish in the event. These two engines began a 100-game bonus match, in progress now, which at press time Stockfish was leading comfortably at 35.5/66.

The article includes links to resources for the results of recent CCC events. I'll look at them more closely at the same time I resolve the TCEC S14 Superfinal discrepancy. It appears that checking on these competitions once a week is not enough.


To save a few minutes each time I catch up with the TCEC/CCC, I collected the most important links and recorded them in a blog page, TCEC/CCC Links. The same link appears at the top of each post on this blog after 'Home, M-W.com, etc'. For a few less frequently used forum resources, see Talking About Chess Engines (October 2018).

03 February 2019

Abstraction of an Abstraction

There are at least two things I've learned in the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). The first, as stated in last month's Listen to a Painting, is:-

You might expect that there would be a big choice of interesting items from the Christmas / Hanukkah period, and you would be right.
The second is:-
You might expect that there would be a small choice of interesting items after the holiday period, and you also would be right.

Fortunately, it only takes one auction to make a post. The item pictured below was titled 'Zev Daniel Harris painting abstract expressionism 1960's Italy chess modernist'. The winning bid was US $791.99 after 15 bids from eight bidders.

Top: Complete watercolor
Bottom: Central portion

The work was part of the Samuel Collection ('based in United States').

Moving and liquidation sale has now started. Thousands of works of art, jewelry, artifacts etc to be sold off with no reserve and tiny opening bid. Some items I paid thousands for but will still start bidding at 12 dollars for assured immediate sale. No returns offered. All liquidation sales final.

The rest of the description was a mixture of auction terms and the appearance of the item.

Overview: Signed as shown. Original watercolor on thick paper. With the right frame this will look great. You set the price. No reserve! I'm starting bids at 12 dollars. Paid a fortune. Famous artist.

Condition: Just needs a nice frame. Artist cut out parts of paper. Sheet is irregular in shape. A few razor cuts or slices. A few wrinkles on edges. Few white spots of wear. Mild scuffs. Signed front and back. Painted in Italy 1960's.

Measurements: Sheet size 13 by 40 inches. Unframed.

As for 'famous artist', the page Zev Daniel Harris (askart.com) informs,

Zev Daniel Harris (1914 - 1987) was active/lived in New York, California, Italy, Hungary. Zev Harris is known for abstraction, fantasy architect, sculptor.

The artist executed other works with a chess theme. Chess is a ready subject because it is, after all, already an abstraction.

01 February 2019

'Game Changer' Interview

Summing up last week's post, AlphaZero Stars in 'Game Changer', I quoted from the press release for the book:-

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.

On the same day, the Youtube channel 'Tata Steel Chess' released an interview with one of the book's authors.

Natasha Regan - Co-author Game Changer (5:37) • 'Published on Jan 25, 2019'

Without having read the book, what can be said about it that hasn't already been said? For starters, it's not the first effort by the same team: Chess For Life, Sadler and Regan (matthewsadler.me.uk).

Winner of the [English Chess Federation] 'Book of the Year' prize 2016; "Sadler and Regan have between them written an important and original book"

According to Regan, 'We thought that we could do the same type of book for AlphaZero.' The authors approached DeepMind's Demis Hassabis and one thing led to the next and to the next and to the next...