30 April 2019

April Yahoos -- Much Ado About Nothing?

After last month's March Yahoos -- A Viral Story, I'm once again reduced to pecking at crumbs just like in previous months. The only chess reference I spotted while browsing mainstream news headlines is shown in the following screen capture.


What does '5 Top Dividend Kings to Buy and Hold Forever' have to do with chess? The photo's mouseover explained, 'A king chess piece on a piece of paper displaying a chart line and data points.' On the other hand, why not a chess King? Chess can sell stock market advice as well as it can sell anything. Is there a better way to illustrate the idea of a King than with a chess King? Last month I also had a Stock Post about stock photos. Stock post, stock photo, stock market -- stock advice?

I should end the post here, but there was one mainstream chess story in April that deserves a mention:-

Add this to the Yahoo subcategory 'Weird Chess News', last seen in February Amazon Yahoos. Then again, for many people any story about chess is weird.

29 April 2019

TCEC S15 Final: SF vs. Leela; CCC8 S1 at 3/4 Mark

Another Monday post on this blog means another update on two important, ongoing engine-to-engine competitions. I'll summarize last Monday's report, TCEC S15 DivP Nears Finish; CCC8 [S1] Half-Way, with a short paragraph:-

TCEC: The season 15 premier division is in the final round of play with Stockfish holding first place, Leela second, and the other engines trailing by a considerable margin. • CCC: CCC8 uses an escalation format [...] As of this writing, a little more than half of the engines have started play, and the final result is anyone's guess. The official schedule projects 1104 games total.

I'll come back to that last sentence when I give the current status of the CCC.

TCEC: The premier division finished with the same relative positions given last week, as shown in a small version of the final crosstable below. Stockfish finished two points ahead of Leela (aka LC0, LCzero), although Leela won their individual match by the score +1-0=5.

In the last event for S15, Stockfish and Leela will play a season-ending final match (aka superfinal, sufi) for the second time to determine the best engine on the planet. See Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway (February 2019) for this blog's report on the first final match, which was as close as a decisive match can be.

TCEC S15 Premier Division

Among the also-rans, the result of AI/NN engine AllieStein was the most remarkable. Starting the season in division 4, the lowest of the five divisions, it consistently finished in the top-2 for each successive division, eventually qualifying into the premier division. There it tied for 4th/5th with Houdini. It has been less than a year-and-a half since Houdini won TCEC S10, around the same time that DeepMind's AlphaZero burst into the chess world's collective consciousness. I reported on both of those events in Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish, and AlphaZero (December 2017). AlphaZero was the first AI/NN engine to compete at the level of the traditional engines; Leela was the second; and AllieStein is the third.

Before the final match, the TCEC will be holding another cup event, as announced in TCEC Cup 3 - pairings and information (chessdom.com):-

The cup holder Lc0 is going to defend its title in a race with the top 32 engines of the ongoing season. [...] The main challenger of of Lc0 will be Stockfish. It starts at the other end of the brackets and the two can meet only at the final

Before cup play starts, the TCEC is holding a couple of filler (aka bonus) events. I couldn't find much about these events and what I could find wasn't helpful, so I'll say no more.

CCC: Getting back to the summary of last week, I called it the 'Half-Way' point for the preliminary stage of CCC8. In fact, the CCC escalation format makes it difficult to pinpoint the progress of an event. The first two engines meet in a mini-match. Then a third engine enters the competition and plays the first two, then a fourth engine plays the first three, and so on. This procedure introduces all sorts of complications for the spectators. Given that 24 engines are competing, we can calculate that 276 mini-matches are played during the event. Since each match consists of four games, we get the total of 1104 games foreseen for the entire event.

As of this writing, 18 engines have started play in CCC8; the most recent was Leelenstein. Nearly 590 games have been played. That means 75% of the engines have started play, but somewhat more than half of the games have been played. Houdini and Antifish are at no.1 and no.2, unfortunately a meaningless observation. Next week's Monday post also won't provide much insight into the eventual final standing, which will qualify the top four engines into a multi-stage round robin.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

28 April 2019

Every Story Has a Beginning

What could be more natural for a series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) than a followup to last month's March Yahoos -- A Viral Story:-

A great story, which was picked up by most major news services, appeared twice in the same Yahoo news feed. The first appearance was a featured story at the top of the feed, captioned, 'Homeless refugee chess champion goes viral'.

This video is from Youtube's 'NBC News - Today' channel.

8-Year-Old Chess Champ And Homeless Refugee Gets Fairytale Ending | TODAY (7:11) • 'Published on Mar 19, 2019'

The description said,

At just 8-years-old, Tani [Tanitoluwa] Adewumi is a chess prodigy – and that’s just part of his remarkable story. The third-grader, who has been living in a homeless shelter with his family, plans to move to an apartment thanks to an incredible crowdfunding effort.

Also appearing in the video are 'Coach Russell' (Russell Makofsky) and 'Coach Shawn' (Shawn Martinez). Tani and his coaches are all wearing blue 'PS 116 NYC' T-shirts. For another inspirational video, see 2019 U.S. Chess Championships: Tanitoluwa "Tani" Adewumi Interview, from the Youtube channel for the Saint Louis Chess Club:-

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley interviews Tani Adewumi, the New York 3rd Grade champion, during Round 10 of the U.S. Championships. Tani has an inspirational story, from a Nigerian refugee to a 1500 rating at eight years old.

The Tani story is reminiscent of the Phiona Mutesi story, last seen on this blog in Queen of Katwe Meets Queen of IMF (April 2017). I'm confident that we haven't seen the last of either story.

26 April 2019

Early American Chess Periodicals

Take a 19th-century foreign language chess periodical, extract the text using an OCR service, convert the text to English -- what have you got? I've already tried a small experiment with a poem in 'On Anderssen' (February 2019); how about trying something more important.

Shown below is the start of an article from the August 1861 (vol.16) edition of Schachzeitung, edited by M. Lange, B. Suhle, and P. Hirschfeld. See the recent post Other 'Schachzeitungen' for more about the family of publications.

OCR plus translation yielded the following (with a few corrections marked with '[ ]'):-

The chess author, who wants to write in the future a literature of his game, must be much more cumbersome periodicals let in as his predecessors did. As successor Anton Schmid's, he will be the latter, in the more than 400-page works on the literature of chess, quoted five journals, which regularly devote a part of their columns to noble games, have to multiply by a significant number.

Still, it is not too long ago that the chess charts with their crowns, horseheads and themes, with their explanatory letters and [numbers]. that seemed so strange to an earlier generation, into the columns of journals began to appear. We believe that the first sachcolumne was built in 1823 in the London Lancet and although this new, unprecedented column at that time excited by no means so much attention, as one might have previously suspected should.

The second chesscolumn appeared in 1828 in the Berlin Stafette, and this was followed in 1834 by the well-known column of Bell's Life in London, which still exists under the direction of her founder, the eccentric George Walker.

Further hints about the presently existing chess columns can be found scattered here and there in the chess newspaper, partly in a fitting, if not completely exhaustive, collection some parts of chess sketch Paul Morphy [NB: 'Paul Morphy: A Sketch from the Chess World']. From the latter see we too, that the transatlantic time sheets of our noble games much more voluminous and extensive than the widely illustrated journals of the old world.

Recently, the American [Chess Monthly] has an equally thorough, as detailed compilation of all the leaves of their land brought the chess more or less have reciprocated extensively and permanently.

We see that in all, 87 newspapers play our games, if only temporarily, were interested. Present are of course, it was only about eleven, which continued [to bring] a column over the chess; they are the following: [...]

Given the many possibilities for introducing errors...

  • in the original publication
  • by the scanning process
  • by OCR
  • by the translation
  • by the person putting everything together (that's me)

...it's surprising that the final result makes any sense at all. But it does make sense and even gives me a few leads for further posts.

25 April 2019

Fischer's Viking Chess?

Just like the other photos in my recent post, Fischer Center, Selfoss, Iceland, this photo had no information attached to it other than its location : Bobby Fischer Center.

Bobby Fischer Center in Selfoss © Flickr user John Seb Barber under Creative Commons.

What kind of a chess set is that? The bottom right of the board is stamped 'VIKINGA SKAK'. I found a description of the game at Viking-Chess (viking-chess.blogspot.com; August 2012). The blog post starts,

Viking chess is played on an unusual chessboard consisting of hexagons instead of squares, arranged in three different colours.

The pieces are the same as in traditional chess except the big one in the middle of the back rank(s), called the 'Viking'. The files are labelled 'A' through 'I' starting from White's right and the ranks are labelled '1' through '10' starting from Black's side.

Was the game something Fischer actually played? If not, what is it doing in a museum bearing his name?

23 April 2019

Fischer Center, Selfoss, Iceland

The Flickr short list that resulted in a recent post, Getting Lost, had a strong second candidate. I couldn't decide which photo to use, so I created a composite image, shown below.

Upper left corner: Bobby Fischer center in Selfoss © Flickr user John Seb Barber under Creative Commons.

To see all of the photos, follow the link in the caption, then use left/right navigation. I've already mentioned the Fischer center in a post on my chess960 blog, More on the Fischer Random Cup (March 2018):-

Fischer Memorial Tour I, 'a trip to the Fischer Center in Selfoss and Fischer’s Grave nearby', included a map of Selfoss

The post included a copy of the map and a link to the center's web presence. And, yes, the 11th World Champion is buried at Selfoss. I once featured another Flickr photo in Fischer's Final Resting Place (April 2015).

22 April 2019

TCEC S15 DivP Nears Finish; CCC8 Half-Way

Let's summarize last week's post, TCEC S15 DivP Underway; Leela Wins CCC7 Final, about the status of two important, ongoing engine-vs-engine competitions:-

TCEC: Stockfish is currently leading the premier division, followed by Leela (aka LCZero, Lc0), KomodoMCTS (Monte Carlo version), and Houdini. • CCC: Leela was the surprise winner of CCC7, finishing ahead of Stockfish by a convincing margin. CCC8, nicknamed 'Deep Dive' by the organizers, is already underway.

The engines have continued slugging it out for the past week, a long time in engine play, so let's check on their current ststus.

TCEC: The season 15 premier division is in the final round of play with Stockfish holding first place, Leela second, and the other engines trailing by a considerable margin. Since the rules specify, 'The top 2 engines promote to the Superfinal', we can anticipate the same two finalists as in season 14. I reported on that match in Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway (February 2019):-

The final score [was] +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.

Will Leela fans get their revenge in S15? If past schedules are an indication of future performance, we might see TCEC Cup 3 before the Superfinal (aka final) starts. Leela won TCEC Cup 2.

As an aside, what happened to Chessdom.com? The site hasn't issued a report on TCEC since 12 March and hasn't issued a report on any other news since end-January. The subdomain tcec.chessdom.com ('TCEC - Live Chess Broadcast') is alive and ccrl.chessdom.com shows normal activity, but the rest is dead as a doornail.

CCC: Chess.com issued a report on CCC7, Lc0 Wins Computer Chess Championship, Makes History:-

The machine-learning chess engine Lc0 won the Chess.com Computer Chess Championship last weekend, making history as the first neural-network project to take the title. Lc0, which taught itself how to play chess, is now at the game's pinnacle as the champion computer engine.

The report also introduced the next competition:-

Can Lc0 defend its title in a longer time control? CCC 8: Deep Dive is live now, featuring 24 of the world's top chess engines playing at a rapid time control of 15 minutes plus a five-second increment per move.

CCC8 uses an escalation format, meaning that the engines enter the competition in reverse order of strength -- last ranked starts first, first ranked last -- and play full mini-matches against each of the engines that have already started play. As of this writing, a little more than half of the engines have started play, and the final result is anyone's guess. The official schedule projects 1104 games total.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

21 April 2019

Getting Lost

The story starts in the lower right corner. Or maybe it finishes there, since it's checkmate. Or maybe it doesn't have a beginning and an end.

Schachmatt am Schütze-Denkmal © Flickr user Erik Berndt under Creative Commons.

The artist's 'About' page says,

All pictures are hand-drawn, pencil only; but of course I like all kinds of "visual communication", given that they show wit and imagination.

It also says he lives in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. He translates the title as 'Checkmate at the Archer Monument.'

Honoured are the Fabulous Zambranos, the city's most famous son and daughter. The description for the drawing says, Also shown is the newly constructed cableway connecting the shanty towns on the surrounding hills with the rest of the city, ...and the higher technical school for fashion and clothing design "Karl Lagerfeld", at the bottom left. The building also houses 150.000 volumes of his enormous library, now made accessible to the public. • Pencil, 30 x 40 cm.

That must be the Schütze-Denkmal center-bottom, but after that I get lost. I dislike getting lost more than I dislike losing.

19 April 2019

Chess Sources for Google Books

Scans of early chess periodicals in Google Books (last discussed on this blog in Other 'Schachzeitungen') usually carry clues to the originating physical library. Many files trace their origins to the Royal Library (Koninklijke Bibliotheek; KB) in The Hague, more specifically the Chess and draughts collection (kb.nl):-

Collection history: The chess collection is based on the collections of Antonius van der Linde, Meindert Niemeijer and G.L. Gortmans. • Size: The chess and draughts collection consists of ca. 30.000 titles.

Many of the German language files are from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Muenchen, better known to English speakers as Bavarian State Library (wikipedia.org):-

The Bavarian State Library (German: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, abbreviated BSB, called Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis before 1919) in Munich is the central "Landesbibliothek", i.e. the state library of the Free State of Bavaria and one of Europe's most important universal libraries.

A few bookplates from other municipal or university libraries also appear frequently. Two of the most frequent are shown below.

The bookplate on the left is related to the G.A. Pfeiffer chess collection (nypl.org):-

Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer (1872-1953) was an American businessman and philanthropist. He was originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa where he was born and educated. His occupational field was pharmaceuticals. Pfeiffer was at the same time a serious collector of chessmen and chess related material. He donated his entire collection of chessmen to the Metropolitan of Art in New York (1952/53). He also donated over a hundred chess books to the N. Y. Public Library which now make up the Frank J. Marshall Collection of Chess books. Among his donations to the N.Y.P.L. were 7 scrap books which contained manuscript material on chess and on famous chessmasters.

Frank J. Marshall's book 'Marshall's Best Games of Chess' was dedicated to Pfeiffer as 'A True and Valued Friend', and there are numerous other tributes to Pfeiffer's support of the Marshall Chess Club in New York. As for the collection of chess sets, Carving Out a Collection (metmuseum.org) says,

The Metropolitan [Museum of Art] owes its reputation as a world-class repository of chess sets to the beneficence of Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer.

The bookplate on the right connects Silas W. Howland to the Harvard College library. A page on Chessgames.com, The chess games of Silas W Howland gives his obituary (plus one game, a simul win over Capablanca). Another page on the same site, The chess games of Charles A Gilberg, attributes the Howland / Harvard collection to Gilberg. For more about the subject, see Chess Libraries in America (jstor.org) by Albrecht Buschke, Princeton University Library Chronicle, 1941.

18 April 2019

Chess on the USA - Mexico Border

From the 15 April 1911 issue of Judge Magazine.

"Your Move"
Signed 'Grant E. Hamilton'

The cartoon shows Uncle Sam playing with an orderly formation of troops against a man labelled 'Mexico' playing with a rabble. Behind Uncle Sam are smokestacks and oil rigs. Behind Mexico is a cactus.

Judge Magazine (wikipedia.org):-

Judge was a weekly satirical magazine published in the United States from 1881 to 1947. It was launched by artists who had seceded from its rival Puck. The founders included cartoonist James Albert Wales, dime novels publisher Frank Tousey and author George H. Jessop.

Mexican Revolution (wikipedia.org):-

The Mexican Revolution, also known as the Mexican Civil War, was a major armed struggle, lasting roughly from 1910 to 1920, that radically transformed Mexican culture and government.

Fast forward 100 years: the tension on the USA - Mexico border remains palpable.

16 April 2019

Breaking the 2900 Barrier

Nearly five months ago, in Breaking the 2800 Barrier (December 2018), I predicted,

I'll be back in another 100 posts to write 'Breaking the 2900 Barrier'. It promises to be a short post.

Post no.2900 was Other 'Schachzeitungen', so here I am, as promised. It turns out that it's not going to be such a short post after all.

According to Comparison of top chess players throughout history (wikipedia.org), Magnus Carlsen achieved the highest chess rating of all time, when he reached 2882 in May 2014. He's currently rated at 2845, still world no.1 but a long way from the elusive 2900. Some day he or another super-talented player might reach 2900, although it's anybody's guess when that will happen, if ever.

For 2900 ratings, we have to turn to the world of chess engines. Here is a relevant chart signed Luke Muehlhauser and dated 2011.

Historical chess engines' estimated ELO ratings (PDF)

I've marked the 2900 crossover point with a red star. The engine under the star is Shredder 8.0 and the year was 2003 or thereabouts. As for 'Breaking the 3000 Barrier', the same chart points to Rybka 1.2 a few years later. Looks like I won't have to write the 3000 post at all.

15 April 2019

TCEC S15 DivP Underway; Leela Wins CCC7 Final

Before looking at the current status of the world's top two engine competitions, let's summarize last week's report. From TCEC S15 Div1 Finishes; CCC7 Final Starts:-

TCEC: KomodoMCTS and AllieStein finished 1st and 2nd in division 1 to qualify into the premier division with six other engines. • CCC: The four first placed engines are currently in a final where Leela leads by a comfortable margin, AntiFish trails by a considerable margin, and the two other engines [Stockfish & Leelenstein] are fighting for 2nd/3rd places.

TCEC: Last week I wrote, 'I'm slowly realizing that the TCEC preliminary divisions take about a week to play from start to finish.' The premier division has been underway since then and is currently less than half finished. The event's info page says,

Division Premier consists of the 6 engines that qualified from previous Season plus the top 2 engines from Division 1. It is a 3x double round robin (168 games). The top 2 engines promote to the Superfinal and the bottom 2 engines are relegated to Division 1.'

The preceding divisions were all '2x double RR (112 games)'. Stockfish is currently leading the premier division, followed by Leela (aka LCZero, Lc0), KomodoMCTS (Monte Carlo version), and Houdini.

CCC: Leela was the surprise winner of CCC7, finishing ahead of Stockfish by a convincing margin. As for last week's comment, 'Stockfish & Leelenstein are fighting for 2nd/3rd places', Stockfish soon surged ahead of its AI/NN rival and the four engines maintained their relative positions until the end.

The following chart shows the final score as published by the CCC organizers. At the bottom I've added my own W-L-D analysis. Leela beat Stockfish in their individual 100-game match and finished with a better percentage against the other two engines.

(Image can be expanded by 50%)

Stockfish won all previous CCC events. Two facts make CCC7 noteworthy:-

1) Stockfish was the only non-AI/NN engine to qualify for the final.
2) It was bested in the final by its main AI/NN competitor.

CCC7 marked the symbolic end of the dominance of the traditional, handcrafted, alpha-beta engines. The passing of the baton to a new generation needs to be confirmed by a TCEC victory for an AI/NN engine, but that is a question of 'when', not 'if'.

CCC8, nicknamed 'Deep Dive' by the organizers, is already underway. The rules say,

Format: 4xRR each engine plays the others 2x as white and 2x as black. • No opening book. • Top 4 engines advance to final, only two can be from a single, or shared, code-base. • Time control: 15m + 5s

Note the phrase 'only two [engines] can be from a single, or shared, code-base'. Of the four engines in the CCC7 final, two started life as clones of Leela. While this in no way detracts from the significance of Leela's win, it does call into question the diversity of the final. The TCEC rules governing AI/NN diversity are as follows:-

For the purpose of TCEC a participant is considered a neural network (NN) engine if it generally requires the use of GPU and consists of at least the following 3 parts:
   1. The code for training the neural network
   2. The neural network (and weights file) itself
   3. The engine that executes this network
It is the parts 2 and 3 that will actually be a playing combination at TCEC. Part 1 is used in preparation. • Uniqueness: For an NN engine to be unique in the TCEC context, at least two of the three defining parts mentioned above have to be unique. • Eligibility for participation: A NN engine is eligible for participation in TCEC if it is considered unique by the Uniqueness definition above.

It has only been a year since the AI/NN engines burst into engine-to-engine competitions. The organizers of these events are still grappling with the complications introduced by their appearance. A year from now what will be the rules governing their participation?

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

14 April 2019

Chess for Cheapskates

I once wrote an About.com piece, Chess for Free, subtitled,

You don't have to be a cheapskate to enjoy chess, but you don't have to be a millionaire either.

This video proves the point.

DIY How to Make Chess in 2 Minutes - School Life Hacks (3:00) • 'Published on Apr 14, 2019'

The description simply repeated the title of the video and added,

Using simple school tools.

One comment said, '2 minutes... hmmm'. It's probably more like 20 minutes, plus the time to gather or buy the materials, but it's still an impressive concept.

12 April 2019

Other 'Schachzeitungen'

In a recent post, Berliner 'Schachzeitung' (March 2019), I wrote,

While I was collecting the 26 volumes of the Berliner Schachgesellschaft's 'Schachzeitung', I noted other periodicals having 'Schachzeitung' in their title. I'll cover these in another post.

I created the following chart to keep track of the different publications. It shows which periodicals were published in which years.

The codes in the first line identfy three different periodicals:-

• SZ = Schachzeitung

• DSZ = Deutsche Schachzeitung. The code 'V00' covers a period that overlaps with SZ. The '?' for 1879 means that I was unable to locate a copy in Google Books. Since I was getting further away from the initial scope of the search, I stopped here without spending much time on it.

• NBS = Neue Berliner Schachzeitung

The numbers in the second line are references to Di Felice's 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008'. The references are expanded below.

I gave information from Di Felice for SZ in the 'Berliner Schachzeitung' post. Here is the corresponding info for the others:-

789. Deutsche Schachzeitung (1846–1848) Vol.1, no.1 (1846)–Vol.3, no.3 (1848). Bi-monthly. Editor Herrmann Hirschbach. Publisher G. Brauns. Leipzig. Germany. Diagrs., tables, 23 cm. Magazine. General. German. Note No longer published.

790. Deutsche Schachzeitung : Organ für das Gesamte Schachleben (1872–1988) Vol.27, no.1 (Jan 1872)–Vol.137, no.12 (Dec 1988). Monthly. Editors Johannes Minckwitz and Adolf Anderssen (1872–76), Constantin Schwede and Adolf Anderssen (12/1876–78), Johannes Minckwitz (01/1879–12/1886), [...]. Publisher Veit & Co, later W. De Gruyter & Co. Leipzig, later Berlin. Germany. Illus., ports., 24 cm. Magazine. General. German. Note Continues Schachzeitung: In Monatl, with the same numbering.

1601. Neue Berliner Schachzeitung (1864–1871) Vol.1, no.1 (Jan 1864)–Vol.8 (Nov/Dec 1871). Monthly. Editors Adolf Anderssen and G.R. Neumann (Vol.1-4), Adolf Anderssen and Johannes Hermann Zukertort (Vol.5-8). Publisher J. Springer. Berlin. Germany. Illus., 23 cm. Magazine. General. German. Note No longer published.

In addition to these offshoots of 'Berliner Schachzeitung', I found three other publications from the same period with 'Schachzeitung' in their titles. The info from Di Felice is as follows:-

2792. Wiener Schach-Zeitung (1855) Vol.1, no.1 (Jan 1855)–no.9 (Sept 1855). Monthly. Editor Ernest Falkbeer. Publisher A.A. Wenedikt (no.1-6), M. Auer (no.7-9). Wien. Austria. Illus.22 cm. Magazine. General. German. Note No longer published.

2358. Schweizerische Schachzeitung (1857–1860) Vol.1, no.1 (1857)–Vol.2, no.21 (1858); New Series Vol.3, no.1 (Sept 5, 1859)–Vol.3 (1860). Frequency and Publisher unknown. Editor Friedrich Capräz. Chur. Switzerland. Magazine. General. German. Note No longer published.

For the third publication, Österreichische Schachzeitung, I found no entry in Di Felice. There are four volumes on Google Books, 1872-1875.

11 April 2019

The Turk

Who hasn't seen a picture of 'The Turk', that 19th century chess playing machine that had a strong chess player hidden inside it to take on all comers? I was reminded of this while working on the recent post Chess Player’s Chronicle : Frequency. The first annual volume was prefaced by a full page illustration of the Turk and by a 16-page article on the subject.

I wondered whether the illustration and the article had found their way into the literature. First, here's an overview of Turk images using the technique last seen in Chess Playing Celebrities (March 2019).

Google image search on 'chess turk'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '7' (from left to right).]

A colorized version of the illustration from 'Chess Player’s Chronicle' (CPC), with similar shading, is in B3. It leads to How a Phony 18th Century Chess Robot Fooled the World (history.com). A black & white version, with a different background, is in A5. It leads to The Turk (wikipedia.org). The Wikipedia caption says,

A copper engraving of the Turk, showing the open cabinets and working parts. A ruler at bottom right provides scale. Kempelen was a skilled engraver and may have produced this image himself.

The CPC version doesn't include the ruler. The anonymous CPC article, 'The Automaton Chess Player', started,

The art of constructing figures to imitate, by means of mechanism, the actions of living beings, appears to have been carried to great perfection by the ancients. In Herodotus we find allusions to what are considered to have been Automata amongst the Egyptians; and have positive testimony that, from the celebrated statue of Memnon, and even from its pedestal, after this wonder of Ancient Egypt was overthrown, beautiful sounds were emitted at the rising and the setting of the sun. Amongst the Greeks and Romans, artificial puppets, called Neurospasti, which could run round a table, moving their heads, eyes and hands, were common.

When I submitted the first clause of the paragraph to Google search, it returned only a handful of references to various editions of the first CPC volume. Has the article not been reproduced elsewhere? This is a pity, because it is well written by someone who knew the subject. The same is true of many of the literary articles in the first volumes of the CPC.

09 April 2019

Chess Comics No.8 : Mystery Comic

While I was preparing the recent post on JLA Chess Comics I searched my archive of chess images on the keyword 'comic'. The search returned more than 500 images, many of them having nothing to do with comics except as an unimportant word in the description.

I spent an enjoyable hour researching the more unusual images, but ran into a brick wall with the image shown below. It's from a 2004 eBay auction for which I have nothing more than the description 'Chess #1 Comics Comic VF+ NM'.

'Chess #1 Comics'

The keyword 'chess comics' isn't very useful for locating a specific comic. I turned to the Google service I described in last year's post Search Your Own Images (June 2018), and fed it a copy of the image. It told me,

No other sizes of this image found. Possible related search: picture frame

Fair enough. The black border looks something like a picture frame. I cropped it out and fed the image to the service a second time. This time it said,

No other sizes of this image found. Possible related search: illustration

Now I was facing the brick wall. What to do? Document the problem in a blog post. What to title the post? Let's continue the series last seen in Chess Comics No.7: Punch Animated GIF (May 2014). Maybe something will turn up.

08 April 2019

TCEC S15 Div1 Finishes; CCC7 Final Starts

Continuing with weekly coverage of two ongoing engine-vs-engine tournaments, a week ago the status was: TCEC S15 Div2 Finishes; CCC7 Nears Final. I can summarize that post with:-

TCEC: S15 [season 15] division 1 is currently underway; the AI/NN engine AllieStein was one of two qualifying from division 2. • CCC: Komodo has just entered the tournament, the first of the four top seeds to do so. [...] It's possible we'll see two AI/NN engines in the [four-player] final.

Let's check the status after another week has passed.

TCEC: I'm slowly realizing that the TCEC preliminary divisions take about a week to play from start to finish. KomodoMCTS and AllieStein finished 1st and 2nd in division 1 to qualify into the premier division with six other engines. The premier division, including the two S14 finalists, Stockfish and Leela (LC0), has just started. The engines finishing in the first two places will qualify for the S15 final (aka superfinal or 'sufi').

CCC: The preliminary event 'Blitz Bonanza' finished with a surprise result. Although Stockfish finished first, it was ahead of three AI/NN engines -- Leelenstein, Leela, and AntiFish -- in that order. Former elite-class engines Houdini and Komodo only finished behind those four. The following crosstable shows how the top engines fared against each other. There were 24 engines in the event.

The four first placed engines are currently in a final where Leela leads by a comfortable margin, AntiFish trails by a considerable margin, and the two other engines are fighting for 2nd/3rd places. Will this trend continue until the end?

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

07 April 2019

JLA Chess Comics

The last time we saw a comic book on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) was Batman Plays Chess with the Joker (December 2011). According to my post, that comic 'received one bid and sold for US $750'.

The item pictured below was titled 'Justice League of America #1 CGC VG+ 4.5; OW-W; classic chess cover!'. It sold for around US $1300, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description simply repeated the title, so we have to look elsewhere for further information. My 'Batman/Joker' post explained the meaning of the cryptic 'CGC VG+ 4.5', which is a system for grading comics. The balloon on the comic cover says,

I've got this game rigged so that everytime Flash makes a move, a member of the Justice League disappears from the face of the earth!

More about the comic can be found at:-

Two subsequent Justice League covers featured chess (also from dc.fandom.com):-

The cover for no.61 is similar to no.1, and the page informs, 'The cover art is an homage to the cover of Justice League of America #1 (1960).' Why is no.178 dated 1980 but no.61 is dated 1992? Because the first is from a volume titled 'Justice League of America'; the second volume is titled 'Justice League America'.

05 April 2019

Chess Player’s Chronicle : Frequency

In last week's post, Chess Player’s Chronicle (CPC), I found an apparent discrepancy between Di Felice's book 'Chess Periodicals' and the copies of CPC on Google Books:-

Di Felice's description says, 'Monthly', but this seems not to describe the real frequency. The first three volumes (S01V01-V03) are composed of a series of 16-page publications, numbering around 26 per volume.

After finishing that post I continued to check the frequency of publication for subsequent volumes. The following chart shows what I found.

The left column, the year of the volume, is followed by the series/volume, the number of issues in the volume, and the number of pages per issue. That last value, number of pages, can vary for individual issues in a volume, but holds for most of them.

Di Felice's description of the frequency, 'Monthly', is true for most volumes. It differs for the three volumes that I checked in the previous post; for S01V08 (1847), where the issues appeared weekly; for S02V04 (1856), the last volume of the second series; and for S03V04 (1862), the last volume of the third series.

For the first three and the last of those irregular volumes -- S01V01, S01V02, S01V03, & S03V04 -- I haven't been able to pin the issues to specific time periods, because their content offers too few dates. If I discover anything, I'll add a note to this post.

I appreciate that most people reading this post are not interested in any of the above. The information might, however, help others who are interested in exploring the early issues of the CPC.

04 April 2019

Blogger Profile

In the antepenultimate act of the Google+ saga, Goodbye Google+, Hello Twitter (October 2018), I learned that the failed social network was closing and moved any relevant dependence elsewhere. In the penultimate act, Google+ Sunsets (February 2019), I learned how the service was going to close and established one further dependency:-

I also received a notice from Blogger.com -- '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.

For the last act I need to re-examine the Blogger profile. My blogs switched to using the profile earlier this week and after I entered some missing data it looked as shown in the following image.

The left box shows the portion of the profile that is displayed on each page for my various blogs. The right box shows the profile itself. That's all fairly routine, except for the 'Gender' tag. I didn't like the way it blared 'MALE' in uppercase, so I deleted it. Most people know that 'Mark' must be a guy.

There were a few other data fields that needed attention. I located my profile photo in the archive that Google+ prepared for me before closing down. After adding it to Blogger, I also added it to my Twitter account, Mark Weeks (@bemweeks), which is my index acrosss all of my chess blogs. While I was adding the profile photo to Twitter, I also added a header photo, the same lightning photo I used on Google+.

The Blogger profile offered a few other data fields that were unusual -- 'Show sites I follow', 'Wishlist URL', 'Random question' -- but they either didn't work as I expected (maybe they are obsolete) or weren't particularly useful. I'll keep them in mind for some other time.

02 April 2019

April 1969 'On the Cover'

In last month's March 1969 'On the Cover', we saw two top Soviet players. This month we see two top American players.

Left: 'Anthony Saidy Acquires International Master Title at Venice' (Photo: Art Zeller; 'Story next month')
Right: 'Winner at Malaga'

Chess Life; 'Story next month' was in fact 'story in two months', so we skip ahead two months then go back 50 years. From the June 1969 CL, 'We Open in Venice' by Anthony Saidy:-

Vlastimil Hort, 25-year-old Czech International Grandmaster, romped undefeated to an easy victory in the 3rd annual International Venice Tournament, March 5-23. The "baby" of the event took the sole lead with four straight wins, had 7 points after 8 rounds and coasted to a final tally of 11 1/2 - 3 1/2.

U.S. stars Pal Benko and Anthony Saidy were bunched in a mammoth tie for second-seventh places with Grandmaster M. Taimanov (USSR), "ex"-Grandmaster K. Robatsch (Austria), IGM L. Lengyel (Hungary) and IM S. Tatai (Italy), two points behind the winner. The result gave Saidy the FIDE title of International Master. Trailing were Yugoslav IGMs M. Matulovic and B. Ivkov and W. German IGM W. Unzicker.

Chess Review

In a recent international tournament, at Malaga, Spain, Pal Benko won first place, or at least shared it with Borislav Ivkov, 11 - 3. Levente Lengyel, Garcia A. Medina and Arturo Pomar were next with 9 1/2 - 4 1/2. And Junior World Champion Julio Kaplan of Puerto Rico was sixth, 8 1/2 - 5 1/2.

Both photos had been used for previous covers. We saw the same photo of Saidy, flipped on the vertical axis, in the January 1968 'On the Cover' (January 2018). When was the last time you saw a chess board with 'black on right' on the cover of a major chess magazine?.

The Benko photo was seen in the April 1967 'On the Cover' (April 2017). The last time he appeared on either cover was the May 1968 'On the Cover' (May 2018).

Back to the Chess Life quote, what did the phrase '"ex"-Grandmaster K. Robatsch' mean? Later in the same article, we find:-

[Benko] was playing in his fifth international event in as many months and was understandably not in his usual fighting mood, taking several peaceful draws. What's more, he faced another tournament in Monte Carlo only a week later. (He was pressed into the Venice event at a late hour, as was Matulovic, in an effort to qualify it as a FIDE "1A" tournament. The effort just failed, for lack of another IGM, because Robatsch's title had lapsed.)

I always thought FIDE titles were for life.

01 April 2019

TCEC S15 Div2 Finishes; CCC7 Nears Final

A week has passed since my last report on the two engine competitions that keep going and going 24/7. I'll summarize last week's report, TCEC S15 Div3 Finishes; CCC7 Starts, with a couple of sentences on each competition:-

TCEC: This week's situation is an echo of last week's: S15 division 2 is currently underway. The AI/NN engine AllieStein was one of two qualifying from division 3. • CCC6/7: Chess.com issued a report on CCC6, which also outlined the plan for CCC7. The event has four AI/NN engines, four places in the CCC7 final stage.

What's happened since then?

TCEC: For the third straight week, I can issue a nearly identical report; only the division numbers have changed: S15 division 1 is currently underway; the AI/NN engine AllieStein was one of two qualifying from division 2. It is also one of the leaders in division 1, although the top engines are bunched closely together.

The TCEC archive includes an S15 event called 'Side Bonus DivP dev vs Div4 dev', which finished sometime last week. I couldn't find any writeup about the event explaining its name, which probably means that development versions of top-ranked engines played low-ranked engines. The crosstable indicates that the event was largely unstructured.

CCC: CCC7 is an escalation event where the strongest engines start playing after the lower-seeded engines have all played each other. This makes it difficult to predict the eventual winner(s). Komodo has just entered the tournament, the first of the four top seeds to do so. Leelenstein was leading at the time, followed by Antifish. Both are AI/NN engines. The top four engines -- Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish plus AI/NN engine Leela (LC0) -- will have to pass this barrier to qualify into the four-engine final. It's possible we'll see two AI/NN engines in the final.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]