28 October 2019

TCEC Cup 4 Finals & CCC11 R1 Underway

After last week's TCEC/CCC 2019 Q1-Q3 Summary, I thought about continuing to follow the two ongoing, world class engine-vs-engine tournaments. It's not like they need my attention, or that I have anything special to offer. I finally decided to continue with the series. Chess engines are in a transition phase -- will the traditional CPU A/B engines (like Stockfish) remain competitive, or will the newer GPU AI/NN engines (like Leela) become dominant? -- in the same way that chess engines started to dominate human players in the 1990s. I would like to see firsthand how the struggle between the engine technologies evolves.

The last weekly report in the series was two weeks ago: Stockfish Wins TCEC S16; CCC11 Underway. To summarize it:-

TCEC: Stockfish beat AllieStein +14-5=81 in the S16 final match, aka Superfinal. • CCC: The 'CCC11 Qualification' is underway with 12 engines competing.

What's happened in the intervening weeks?

TCEC: After starting with 32 engines, 'Cup 4' has progressed through the first four rounds -- round of 32, of 16, quarterfinal, and semifinal -- and is now playing the matches to settle 1st through 4th places. A/B engine Stockfish is playing AI/NN engine LCZero for 1st & 2nd places, while A/B engine Komodo is playing AI/NN engine AllieStein for 3rd & 4th. It might as well be a team match, the A/B engines vs. the AI/NN engines.

CCC: The following chart captures a portion of the final crosstable for the 'CCC11 Qualification' stage. Only the full results of the first six engines, Leelenstein 1st, are shown.

Chess.com issued a report on the first stage, CCC11 Qualification Finished; Bullet Testing Now. The following stage, 'CCC11 Round 1', is underway with Stockfish leading. That stage will last for another week. The live play 'Info' tab lays out the format for each stage of the competition:-

Qualification : 12 engines, 2 rounds [CCC10 places 1-3 and four others qualify]
Round 1 : 12 engines, 2 rounds [Places 1-8 advance]
Round 2 : 8 engines, 3 rounds [Places 1-6 advance]
Round 3 : 6 engines, 5 rounds [Places 1-4 advance]
Semifinal : 4 engines, 12 rounds [Places 1-2 advance]
Final : 2 engines, 75 rounds

Time control: 30|5
Opening Book: CCC MegaBook (216 openings, openings =20plies

As for my plans for this blog, instead of a weekly report on the two competitions, I'll report every two weeks. That rhythm is sufficient to follow the tournaments without having to spend too much time on them. It also allows for an occasional post on the off-week, to go a little deeper into the underlying issues. For example, why haven't the AI/NN engines, which have advanced so quickly, dominated completely?

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

27 October 2019

Ladies' Month

For this month's edition of The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), the video short list reduced to two choices:-

I couldn't decide which clip I liked better, so I looked for a third choice and found one on the channel WHYY. What is WHYY?

WHYY is the leading public media organization in the Philadelphia Region, including Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and beyond.

The video had not so many views and no comments, but popularity is not necessarily the most important consideration to develop the future of chess.

Chess Mates: Growing a Community of Girls who Play Chess (4:23) • '[Published on] Oct 11, 2019'

The description started,

Groups like the U.S. Chess Federation are trying to get more girls to not only play the game, but also stick with it. While some progress has been made, females remain significantly outnumbered. Women make up just 14 percent of all chess players. Now two-time U.S. Women's Chess Champion Jennifer Shahade is teaming up with Philadelphia nonprofit ASAP to close the gender gap locally and ultimately nationwide.

Maybe some day one of the girls in the video will grow up to be like this young lady, whose own heroine is Judit Polgar:-

For another angle on the subject, see a previous post in this same sociology series: Drawing the Gender Line (March 2019).

21 October 2019

TCEC/CCC 2019 Q1-Q3 Summary

In last week's post, Stockfish Wins TCEC S16; CCC11 Underway, about the ongoing series following two world class engine-vs-engine tournaments, I promised,

After following the TCEC & the CCC for nine months, and with both events transitioning to new seasons, this looks like a good time to end the blog's coverage. I'll produce a summary of those nine months for my next post.

In fact, I included that paragraph in my last *two* posts, so it's time to make good on the promise. Starting (by coincidence) at the beginning of the year:-

It's been an enjoyable experience documenting the evolution of the two competitions. The TCEC version is better organized than the CCC version, but the CCC has its place, partly in confirming the results of the TCEC. As I wrote in last week's post, after listing the overall winners of the various events:-

Neither the traditional A/B engines (represented by Stockfish), nor the more recent AI/NN engines (Leela & Leelenstein) can claim dominance.

It might seem inevitable that the AI/NN engines eventually dominate the A/B engines, but I'm not yet convinced. I'm going to have trouble keeping my distance from the action, so I wouldn't be surprised to come back to these events.

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

20 October 2019

Checkmate Visual Impairment!

According to Wikipedia's page on Visual impairment,

As of 2015 there were 940 million people with some degree of vision loss. 246 million had low vision and 39 million were blind. The majority of people with poor vision are in the developing world and are over the age of 50 years.


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of visual impairment is either preventable or curable with treatment.

What does this have to do with chess? Nothing and everything...

Checkmate disability! © Flickr user IAPB/VISION 2020 under Creative Commons.

...The description explained the reason for the photo:-

Photo uploaded from the #VisionFirst! Photo Competition (iapb.org; International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness) held for World Sight Day 2019.

And also gave details on its origin:-

Submitted by: Dany Devassy
Country: India
Organisation: Chaithanya Eye Institute, Palarivattom, Kochi, Ernakulam
Category: Amateur
Caption: "Checkmate disability!"

For another chess related photo from the same competition, see "Insightful comradeship made over blacks and whites" (flickr.com). For all photos from the competition, see #VisionFirst Photo Competition (ditto). For the terms of the competition, see photocomp.iapb.org. For another take on blind chess, see Best Blind Players of India (August 2018).

14 October 2019

Stockfish Wins TCEC S16; CCC11 Underway

In last week's post TCEC S16 Final Widens; CCC10 Bonuses on the two foremost engine-vs-engine tournaments, I decided,

After following the TCEC & the CCC for nine months, and with both events transitioning to new seasons, this looks like a good time to end the blog's coverage. I'll produce a summary of those nine months for my next post.

I jumped the gun with that decision. Here's a summary of the rest of that post:-

TCEC: Stockfish now has an eight point lead over AllieStein. This extrapolates to a 56-44 match win for Stockfish. • CCC: No plans for CCC11 have been announced.

Two significant evolutions took place during the week. Both signal a logical break in my ongoing series on engine tournaments.

TCEC: Stockfish beat AllieStein by a final score of 54.5-45.5, more specifically +14-5=81.

CCC: Chess.com announced, CCC11 Starts Now!: 'Title says it all. So head over to chess.com/ccc and join the fun.'

The announcement continued, 'CCC11 format is available here', with a link to a document on docs.google.com/spreadsheets. When I tried to access the document, I received the message 'Access Denied: You need permission', so I'm out of luck. The 'CCC11 Qualification' is already underway with 12 engines competing.

What about that summary of the past nine months? I'll have that in my next post. In the meantime, here's a reminder of other winners during the past few months:-

In a nutshell, recent winners were -- TCEC S15: Leela; S16: Stockfish • CCC8: Stockfish; CCC9: Stockfish; CCC10: Leelenstein. Neither the traditional A/B engines (represented by Stockfish), nor the more recent AI/NN engines (Leela & Leelenstein) can claim dominance.

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

13 October 2019

'How Is This Not a Thing Yet?'

With World Championship qualifying events like the World Cup (finished a week ago) and the Grand Swiss (happening now), my short list for this month's featured video had more quality clips than I've seen in a long time. Too bad I'm a sucker for the offbeat. From Youtube's channel 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon':-

Jack White and Jimmy Fallon Play Grape Chess (1:17) • '[Published on] Sep 26, 2019'

The description said only,

Jack White and Jimmy take an intense game of chess to a whole new level.

The video has attracted nearly 250 comments. For example:-

'I mean do I really have to say it? Jack White should play chess with Jack Black.' • 'Did you know Jack White and Jack Black are actually really good friends?' • 'Whoever the writer is on Fallon who every so often comes up with these ridiculous and random sketches, props to you my friend.' • 'Grape Chess... How is this not a thing yet?' • 'Berries, the most royal and lovely of fruits, should have been the edible of choice.'

If you're wondering who Jack White is, see Wikipedia's Jack White ('an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer'). If you're wondering who Jimmy Fallon is, you're on your own.

07 October 2019

TCEC S16 Final Widens; CCC10 Bonuses

In last week's post on two important engine-vs-engine tournaments, the title summarized the status: TCEC S16 Final Underway; Leelenstein Wins CCC10. More specifically,

TCEC: After 22 games in the 100-game final match, Stockfish has a two point lead over AllieStein. • CCC: Leelenstein beat Stockfish by a score of +19-15=166 in the CCC10 final. No plans for CCC11 have been announced.

The intervening week has seen no substantial change in either tournament. Here's the current status:-

TCEC: After 64 games in the 100-game final match, Stockfish now has an eight point lead over AllieStein. This extrapolates to a 56-44 match win for Stockfish, which has been the victor in the last six decisive games.

CCC: Still no plans for CCC11 have been announced, although a planning spreadsheet is available via the server's !Commands. Last week I neglected to mention that, following the CCC10 final, a 'Bonus' event had been played and that a 'Bonus III' event was underway. What happened to 'Bonus II' is anyone's guess.

After following the TCEC & the CCC for nine months, and with both events transitioning to new seasons, this looks like a good time to end the blog's coverage. I'll produce a summary of those nine months for my next post.

[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. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

06 October 2019

Easton Chess Press

To blog or not to blog. In The End of Daily Blogging (September 2019), I wrote,

Sunday: I've been rotating monthly through eBay, Youtube, Flickr, and sociology. These are all subjects that expand on some random, chess-related topic, where I always learn something new. I'll continue with some of these until I finally close the blog.

The eBay series is Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) and -- today being the first Sunday of the month -- by force of habit I scrolled through eBay's closed items for September looking for a subject worthy of a blog post. Of the half-dozen items that made my short list, four were for autographs. I rejected three of those autographed items because they weren't visually interesting or were similar to other posts on this blog. Here are their titles and selling price:-

  • '1958 PRODIGY BOBY FISCHER & 15 Grandmasters Signed Portoroz Chess World Champion'; US $2,314.00
  • 'Original document SIGNED by CAPABLANCA chess moves world champion 1929 Autograph'; US $400.00
  • 'ICELAND CHESS Bobby Fischer vs. Spassky match - Fischers autograph'; US $400.00

The fourth item was something new for me:-

  • 'Easton Press - Burgess Mammoth Chess, Karpov and Kasparov (Signed 1st editions)'; US $650.00

The following composite image of the item shows the books on the left and the autographs on the right (Kasparov top, Karpov bottom).

The description of the eBay item listed the full titles:-

* Anatoly Karpov - Karpov on Karpov: Memoirs of a World Chess Champion (Signed First Edition 1991)
* Gary Kasparov - How Life Imitates Chess (Signed First Edition 2007)
* Graham Burgess - Mammoth Book of Chess (First edition 2010)

After long excerpts from reviews of each book, the description continued,

Easton Press books are bound in genuine premium leather and come with moire fabric end-sheets and a permanent satin ribbon page marker. The spines of these luxurious books are accented in 22-karat gold and are hubbed with traditional raised rings. Each unique binding is decorated with a deeply inlaid design of 22-karat gold. The page ends are gilded in 22-karat gold for beauty and protection against dust and humidity. Easton Press Books are also printed on archival-quality acid-neutral paper that is Smyth-sewn for strength and durability. • Condition: Near mint, no nameplates.

I have paperback copies of all three books and I never would have guessed that they might be treated like 'Moby Dick' or 'The Great Gatsby'. The Kasparov book, although worth reading, is not one of his best. I once blogged about it in Me, Myself, and I (May 2011). I found another description of the eBay item on Signed by Garry Kasparov "How Life Imitates Chess" Easton Press Signed First Edition (veryfinebooks.com), where it is offered for $295.00:-

Personally signed by Garry Kasparov directly onto a limitation page. Condition: As New - Still sealed in the original shrink-wrap from Easton Press. The condition is of the highest quality.

Easton Press. Norwalk, CT. 2007. Garry Kasparov "How Life Imitates Chess: Making The Right Moves, From The Board To The Boardroom". Signed Limited First Edition. Limited to only 1,350 signed and numbered copies. Full genuine leather. Certificate of Authenticity from Easton Press guarantees the signature.

I had to look up the meaning of 'limitation page', which is also called a 'signature page' and which refers to numbered copies of a limited edition. Like I said at the beginning of this post, when it comes to the Sunday series, 'I always learn something new'. Next stop: Youtube.

01 October 2019

October 1969 'On the Cover'

Even though I announced The End of Daily Blogging two weeks ago, there is another ongoing, monthly series on this blog that needs to be closed separately. The first post in the 'On the Cover' series, March 1964 'On the Cover' (March 2014), asked, 'What was happening in the U.S. chess press 50 years ago?' I've been answering the same question monthly for over five-and-a-half years. This current post, pegged to October 1969, is the logical end of the series.

Left: 'The Benko Family : 3-week-old Palma, Giselle and Pal, Triple Crown Champion'
Right: 'Message of Progress'

Chess Life

It's been only a month since I took a special look at GM Benko in Pal Benko 'On the Cover' (September 2019). Fifty years ago we learned that he had become a family man. Although there was nothing in that month's publication related to the cover, there was an article by Benko on an emerging variation that would eventually bear his name: the 'Benko Gambit'.

BENONI COUNTERGAMBIT CONTINUED by Pal Benko • After my last victories with this gambit, I was asked why I never use the opening in international tournaments if I was so convinced it was good for Black. I had, in fact, played it against International Master Vukic at Sarajevo 1967 with success. In my most recent European tour following the 1968 U.S. Open, I played it twice against International Masters. In my next report, perhaps you will see how this opening fares against Grandmasters!

Chess Review

Many people will recognize I.A. (Al) Horowitz in the cover photo. The October 1969 issue of CR carried a note from its editor/publisher.

MESSAGE of PROGRESS • Dear Chessplayer: Happy days! I have good news for you. CHESS REVIEW as a periodical and its auxiliary operations, Postal Chess, the sale of books and equipment and news of chess, are being acquired by the U.S. Chess Federation. In the pages of CHESS LIFE, the official organ of the USCF, will appear the results of postal competitions and the other outstanding features of CHESS REVIEW together with the notable writings of CHESS LIFE.

Key personnel of the Review, including Jack Straley Battell and Al Horowitz, will join CHESS LIFE in what purports to be the biggest, greatest and the best periodical in all the world. The interests of subscribers, customers and postalites of CHESS REVIEW will be well secured. Through an amalgam, to be known as CHESS LIFE AND REVIEW, a new dynamic force in the royal game will dominate the American scene. Those who get both magazines now should notify us so that the subscriptions may be adjusted accordingly.

Cordially yours,

And so ended one of the most important chapters in American chess journalism. Chess Review had been published continually since January 1933. And so ends this series on American chess in the 1960s.