31 March 2020

Coronavirus Candidates

With every major sports event getting cancelled or postponed this month -- no thanks to the coronavirus Covid-19 -- you might think the Candidates tournament would have attracted considerable attention from mainstream sports broadcasting ... and you would be wrong. ESPN was the major exception.


Let's have those four stories in chronological order.

Going back even further in time, most -- if not all -- of the older ESPN chess stories had something to do with India. Take this next one, for example.

The same Susan Ninan was the writer of the four stories on the Candidates. Thanks India; thanks Vishy; and thanks Susan Ninan! Have I overlooked the autobiography?

30 March 2020

TCEC S17 DivP & CCC13 Heptagonal Underway

Two weeks ago, in TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway, I posted a progress report on the two world class engine vs. engine tournaments that just go on and on and on... Here's a summary of that report:-

TCEC: The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU called 'S17 - This is not a SuFi Bonus', with only 1-2 games scheduled per day. • CCC: The last of the three CCC13 five-engine 'pools' (aka 'pentagonals'), called 'Pool B', is currently running.

A few days later I added a correction for the TCEC portion -- 'the site issued an announcement the next day: TCEC Season 17 – Premier Division is now live! (chessdom.com)' -- with the news that 'the Premier Division kicked off'. The announcement continued,

This year the Premier Division has increased the number of participants from 8 to 10. [...] First, the audience will see all games that require CPU only. Then, the bulk of games that require GPU will be played.

Where is the Premier Division (aka DivP) now?

TCEC: The six-engine 'CPU only' section finished with Stockfish leading +6-0=14, well ahead of the other five CPU engines, only one of which could barely manage a plus score. The four GPU engines have entered the division, which will run for another week. The rules specify, 'The top 2 engines promote to the Superfinal which will be the traditional 100 games head to head clash.'

CCC: The third Pentagonal section, 'Pool B' was won by Leelenstein, well ahead of Houdini. Those two engines joined the four that had qualified from the first two pools. Before the next phase, the Heptagonal, could begin, the third-placed engines from each of the three pools ('C-A-B') met in a Triangle to determine a seventh Heptagonal competitor. Komodo, having the only plus score, won.

A few weeks ago, in CCC13 Shapes, I showed the flow diagram for the Pentagonal and Triangle sections, the first half of the overall tournament. The second half, starting with the Heptagonal, is shown below.

Stockfish is currently leading the Heptagonal, slightly ahead of Lc0 and Leelenstein. Each of the three engines won its respective qualifying Pentagonal pool. The fourth spot in the Semifinals is still up for grabs. The tournament should finish during the next 24 hours.

[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]

23 March 2020

Tablebases and Fortresses

There's an interesting thread on the Fishcooking forum: Misplayed wins, fortresses, or wrongly evaluated positions (google.com/fishcooking). It starts,

I've done an analysis of ~1M recent Fishtest LTC [Long Time Control] games, looking for those games that had a draw result, but where the evaluation was >2.0 for at least four plies. The result is ~17000 FENs that have been misplayed wins, fortresses, or wrongly evaluated positions. I think this might be interesting to have a look at, and might yield some [Stockfish evaluation] improvements.

The 17K FEN positions are in a Dropbox.com file available to everyone. I downloaded the file and pasted the first dozen positions into the Analysis board (lichess.org). I first discussed this tool in Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess (August 2018).

Of the positions I looked at, at least half were tablebase positions, thereby subject to exact solution. The rest were fortresses like the one shown below.

6k1/2p4r/1p1q2p1/rPpNp1Pn/P1P1Pp2/1KQP4/5P1R/R7 w

Because of the extra Pawn, this looks to me like a possible win for White -- play for Nb3 -or- try the exchange sacrifice on h5 -- but the engines have a remarkable talent for finding hidden resources in tough positions. More work is necessary, but first I have to develop a better tool than copy/paste into a web page.

22 March 2020

No Strings Attached

If, as they say, there's no money in chess, how do you account for Regium? 'What's Regium?' you ask. My introduction to the product was via a message on Chess.com.

21 February 2020: Join the chess revolution. • REGIUM is the world's most advanced automatic chess e-board. Now, REGIUM is the presenting partner of the Speed Chess Championship Final between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, taking place this Friday, February 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on Chess.com/TV.

REGIUM is developed by chess lovers, highly qualified engineers with more than 20 years of experience in Hi-Tech developments. They dreamed of the perfect automatic chess board since childhood, but nobody made it. For this reason, they have decided to do it themselves and develop the board of their dreams that they would like to have. Now they want you to have it too!

A few days later, in Update On REGIUM Chess (chess.com), the world's no.1 chess company issued a second opinion:-

23 February 2020: Chess.com is a company founded by chess lovers. Like you, we get excited at the prospect of bold, revolutionary innovations that will help chess evolve. Recently, Chess.com was approached by REGIUM Chess who wished to sponsor one of our events, the Speed Chess Championship Final. With that sponsorship came a mailer which many of you received just three days ago. [...]

After completing the process of due diligence that is required when partnering with a third-party product, we have continued our research and interactions with REGIUM and have not been able to verify some of the claims made by the company.

Want to see the product in action? This video gives the general idea: Regium Chess Scam, Video slowed down (youtube.com).

Never underestimate the ingenuity of chess fans. Youtube channel 'Matt P' published a working model based on an a more down-to-earth technology...

SCHEMEIUM · Automatic Chess e-Board - REGIUM Chess Scam Parody (2:43) • '[Published on] Feb 24, 2020'

...That Chess.com 'Update' mentioned above included an even later update:-

2 March 2020: The REGIUM Kickstarter campaign has been suspended.

All's well that ends well? For another angle on the story, see How a kickstarter scam shook up the chess business (perlenvombodensee.de; 'das Schachmagazin'), subtitled, 'DGT about to develop what Regium has announced':-

27 February 2020: The Regium wonderboard will remain a dream. But while the Regium campaign, a scam most likely, is going down the drain, inventors are actually working on a wonderboard elsewhere. DGT wants to develop what Regium has announced. In principle, at least.

Let's add this story to the ongoing series based on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

16 March 2020

TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway

Let's catch up with the two most important engine vs. engine tournaments, last seen two weeks ago in my post, TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced. To summarize that post,

TCEC: S17 finished the CPU qualifying stages. As for the GPU stage, there weren't enough NN engines to organize a separate league. The next scheduled event of importance was the CPU/GPU playoff for Premier Division (DivP). • CCC: The bonus events continued, with the event 'Lc0-CPU vs Komodo' just starting. The site also released plans for CCC13.

What's the current status of TCEC S17 and CCC13?

TCEC: The DivP playoff was won by Fire, ahead of KomodoMCTS. As I mentioned in the 'L1 Finished' post, 'The lack of GPU competitors appears to have left a big gap in the S17 schedule.' The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU called 'S17 - This is not a SuFi Bonus', with only 1-2 games scheduled per day. Unless I'm misunderstanding something, this event will continue until the beginning of May, meaning that my next few fortnightly reports are going to be low on new TCEC content.

CCC: I looked at the format of the new season in last week's post CCC13 Shapes. The last of the three five-engine 'pools' (aka 'pentagonals'), called 'Pool B', is currently running. The first pentagonal, 'Pool C', was won by Stockfish, well ahead of Stoofvlees; the second, 'Pool A', was won by an even larger margin by Lc0 ahead of Fire. 'C-A-B', got it?

Given that CCC seems to spend more time planning its seasons than it does executing them, it's possible that CCC13 will be finished by the time I tackle the next post in two weeks.

[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]


Later: Re that last sentence in the TCEC section...

The site is now running a 100-game match between Stockfish and LCZeroCPU [...] Unless I'm misunderstanding something, this event will continue until the beginning of May, meaning that my next few fortnightly reports are going to be low on new TCEC content.

...the site issued an announcement the next day: TCEC Season 17 – Premier Division is now live! (chessdom.com). It said,

The key stages of [TCEC S17] are now live at the official website of the competition. The Premier Division kicked off with a game between the current Grand Champion Stockfish and the newcomer to the division Ethereal.

The announcement included details about the sequence of games to be played. For more about the whys and wherefores of the pause, see Speaking of TCEC, what is all this then? (talkchess.com), including a snapshot of the TCEC archive index.

15 March 2020

Café Life in Montparnasse

This is the third example of chess art on this blog from Gandalf's Gallery of Flickr. For the previous example, see Attention to Detail (January 2018; Gustav Wentzel, 1859 - 1927).

Henri Hayden - Chess Players (1913) © Flickr user Gandalf's Gallery under Creative Commons.

The description started,

Set in the Café La Rotonde, this work encapsulates the internationalism and tolerance that pervaded café life in Montparnasse. The game of chess is central to the composition. A battle of intellect and strategies, chess may be seen as a metaphor for the anxieties felt by many concerning the arrival of so many foreign artists in Paris.

For the rest of the description, see the 'Lot Essay' in Henri Hayden (1883-1970), Les joueurs d'échecs (christies.com; 'Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, London, 6 February 2020'). The lot listing also mentions,

Price realised: GBP 1,139,250
Estimate: GBP 300,000 - GBP 500,000

For more about the artist, see Wikipedia's Henri Hayden. For more chess items from Gandalf's Gallery, see Search results for chess (gandalfsgallery.blogspot.com).

09 March 2020

CCC13 Shapes

In last week's engine post, TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced, I noted,

CCC: The site has released plans for CCC13 in the form of a spreadsheet and a graphic. The format is like nothing we've seen before and will take more time to study than I have today.

While it might be useful to summarize all of the different CCC formats since the first season (CCC01), I'll have to limit this post to the two most recent seasons. In TCEC Cup 4 Finals & CCC11 R1 Underway (October 2019), I listed the CCC11 '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

CCC12 used a more straightforward knockout format; from TCEC S17, CCC12 Both Underway (January 2020):-

[CCC12] uses a format not seen in any of the previous CCC seasons • 18-engine single elimination; 200 games per match

The chart below, which is the left half of the CCC graphic mentioned above, shows the CCC13 qualification phases.

The related CCC spreadsheet includes an introduction with some important numbers:-

CCC13: 'Shapes' • Engines: 15 • Games: 2504 • Total time: 35.9 days

As for the event itself, first there will be three co-equal preliminary stages (A, B, C):-

Pentagonal: Five engines each; 20 rounds; Top two advance to 'Heptagonal'; Third place to 'Triangular'; Openings: Popular Chess.com openings (6 ply)

This will be followed by an intermediate stage to give one third place finisher a second chance:-

Triangular: Three engines; 50 rounds; Winner advances to 'Heptagonal'; Openings: Gambit Book

The six qualifiers from the three 'Pentagonal' round robins join the winner of the 'Triangular' round robin:-

Heptagonal: Seven engines; 12 rounds; Top four advance to 'Semifinal'; Openings: Gambit plus Popular book

Two engines will qualify from the 'Semifinal' to the 'Final' 200 game match. It's not clear how the 15 engines were distributed over the three 'Pentagonal' events, but Lc0 , Leelenstein , and Stockfish are playing in the A, B, and C groups, respectively.

08 March 2020

Youngest GMs

According to this Chess.com video, the earliest of the youngest GMs -- starting with Botvinnik & Reshevsky -- were in the original group of GMs nominated by FIDE (1950). The first GM under-20 was Boris Spassky (1955), followed by Bobby Fischer (1958). Fischer's record was finally bested by Judit Polgar (1992), after which a new 'youngest' becomes a more frequent occurrence.

The Youngest Chess Grandmasters Of All Time (2:11) • '[Published on] Feb 27, 2020'

The first comment points to The Youngest Chess Grandmasters In History (chess.com; Published: Mar 22, 2019, Updated: Feb 27, 2020). For a similar video, also from Chess.com, see The Most Followed Chess Streamers Over Time.

06 March 2020

FIDE's Ethics Commission 2019

I ended last week's post FIDE's Media and Fair Play Commissions 2019, saying, 'I'll leave the Ethics Commission for another post.' This is the fifth (and last) commission in the series that started with Spectating the 90th FIDE Congress? (February 2020). It's by far the best organized and most informative of those five commissions.

In last year's post, FIDE's Ethics Commission 2018 (January 2019), I displayed a portion of an online table showing the commission's decisions. Below is a similar snapshot from the current page. It starts with the last two decisions in 2018, both related to the 2018 election and both of which were eventually marked 'Complaint thereafter withdrawn'. The columns in the table were explained in the 2018 post.


Following the links provided in the 'Spectating?' post, we find the commission's most recent report in Annex 5.7 of the General Assembly announcement. Unlike many other annexes that I've reviewed, it's actually signed and dated. It starts,

Report to FIDE Executive Board
Abu Dhabi, February 2020

On top of various administrative details, the report classifies cases according to their disposition:-

Complaints ruled non-admissible prior to registration
Cases withdrawn or discontinued
Decided cases
Pending cases
Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

'Decided cases' are the same as those shown in the table above. The same web site that documents the decisions offers procedural rules and guidelines for deciding a case. In the six years that I've been following the Ethics Commission, it has handled some of the most controversial issues in FIDE. What will 2020 deliver?

03 March 2020

March 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

Two months ago, in the January 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover', I quoted a couple of paragraphs from the 1995 'Contents' page:-

YOU'LL NOTICE A CHANGE! [...] Now CL is being produced in New Windsor [NY] on state-of-the-art desktop technology that eliminates the need for producing old-fashioned mechanical boards. Instead, we now ship the magazine to our printer on disk. We'll learn how to use the equipment even better with experience, of course. And you can expect more changes in the coming months.

Yes, I indeed noticed a change starting with the cover on that January 1995 issue of CL. Previous covers used a single photo. The covers for last month, February 1995, and this month used multiple photos.

Left: 'Lajos Portisch, Winner at Hastings'
Right (clockwise from left): 'Gulko Outruns Competition for Interplay Title' • 'Sagalchik Qualifies for GM Title' • 'Curdo Takes His 500th Victory Lap'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

'Hastings Report' by Dave Daniels • Hungarian Grandmaster Lajos Portisch, playing his customarily steady chess, won the Premier section of the 45th annual Hastings Christmas Congress (29 December - 8 January) with a score of 7-2, half a point ahead of West German Wolfgang Unzicker. Svetozar Gligoric of Yugoslavia was third with 6-3, while former World Champion Vassily Smyslov of the Soviet Union, and the young Dutch player, Jan Timman, tied for fourth with 5.5-3.5.

I have a small problem with the CL&R cover. I've seen many photos of GM Portisch and no matter how much I stretch my imagination, the cover photo doesn't look like him. Maybe it's the hair.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Meet me at the corner of Chess and 43rd Street. You can do that in Anchorage, Alaska. And Steve Gordon's pictoral essay on Castle Heights will be the Yearbook theme in next month's issue. For now, the street sign serves as a guidepost for organized chess, indicating its varied nature and appeal:

Gennady Sagalchik (upper right) earned his final Grandmaster norm in Linares, Mexico; Boris Gulko (left) won the U.S. Interplay Championship; John Curdo (lower right) made the record books by winning his 500th tournament!

The U.S. Interplay Championship was also featured on last month's February 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'. As for the 'Castle Heights' reference, I'll come back to it next month.

02 March 2020

TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced

Another Monday, another look at the two world class engine-vs-engine events I've been following every two weeks. To summarize the previous post, TCEC S17 L1 & CCC12 Bonus Series Ongoing:-

TCEC: S17 L1 is still underway and has reached the second of its two double round robins. • CCC: The site continues with bonus events -- another half-dozen events have been played since the previous report.

Today's post has more news than that previous post.

TCEC: S17 L1 finished with the results shown in the following crosstable.

S17 L1: Top 8 of the 16 engines competing

What happens next? According to the announced rules, TCEC S17 – detailed information (chessdom.com; December 2019), S17 has just finished the CPU qualifying stages:-

The AB/CPU competition will start with a Qualification league (invitational, variable number of participants), League 2 (16 participants) and League 1 (16 participants). Promotions in the AB (Minimax, aka "traditional") Leagues go as in Season 16.

The rules go on to explain the GPU stage, followed by a playoff:-

The NeuralNetwork/GPU [NN] competition will have just League 1 (invitational, 16 participants max). As the number of engines in both competitions differ, so will the resulting qualification spots for the playoff. 4 engines from the respective Leagues 1 of CPU and 2 engines from the GPU will enter the playoff to determine which 4 engines qualify to be promoted to the Premier Division [DivP].

It appears that there weren't enough NN engines to organize a separate league. In TCEC Season 17 Engines (wiki.chessdom.org), the TCEC wiki, under 'Playoff for DivP', lists the first four L1 engines shown in the table above -- indicating that rofChade edged Xiphos on tiebreak -- plus two NN engines. The same wiki page, under 'GPU engines competition', lists nothing except the same two NN engines. This is confirmed by an info command:-

!next • Now CPU engine update tests/bonus as filler. Next GPU engine test. Then playoff for DivP.

The site is currently running 'S17 - Fix update test and filler 3', which is scheduled to continue for another three weeks. The lack of GPU competitors appears to have left a big gap in the S17 schedule.

CCC: The bonus events continue. They included an event titled 'Non-Gambits' (2 x GPU; 4 x CPU; the GPUs trounced the CPUs) and another titled 'CPU MegaGambits'. The current event, titled 'Lc0-CPU vs Komodo', is just starting and is too early to call.

The site has released plans for CCC13 in the form of a spreadsheet and a graphic. The format is like nothing we've seen before and will take more time to study than I have today.

[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]

01 March 2020

Niue in Chess

In the ten years that I've been running the series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I've featured only a handful of coins. The previous post on the topic was Armenia Olympiad Gold (August 2014).

The title of the auction for the item shown below was '2018 Niue Chess Antiqued Silver Coin 2oz COA with REAL MINI CHESS PIECES'. The coin sold for US $598 'Buy It Now'. This is the second straight month that an auction for the coin was on my short list, and the photo of the coin's face (upper left) was taken from a previous auction.

The bottom photo shows the tiny pieces set up on the back of the coin. The auction description listed the coin's attributes:-

Country: Niue •. Year: 2018 •. Face value: 5 Dollars •. Metal: Silver 999. •. Weight (g): 62.2 (2oz) •. Size (mm): 63 •. Quality: ANTIQUE •. Mintage (pcs): 500 •. Certificate COA: Yes •. Box: Yes

The description from the January auction described the appearance of the coin:-

2018 Niue Island Chess Set Antique 2oz. 999 round by ArtMint. •. The reverse of the coin features the wonderful and colored image of a Chessboard surrounded by beautiful decorative elements. The coin comes with the 32 pieces to play the game. The obverse of the coin presents the image of the Queen piece [NB: It's a King] beside the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the inscriptions: “NIUE ISLAND” -- the issuing country, “5 DOLLARS” -- the face value, “ELIZABETH II” -- the name of the Queen, “Ag 999” -- the fineness of the Silver, “2018” -- the year of issue and “2oz” -- the weight of the coin.

Where is Niue? Wikipedia's Niue page says,

Niue is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) northeast of New Zealand, east of Tonga, south of Samoa, and west of the Cook Islands. Niue's land area is about 261 square kilometres (101 sq mi) and its population, predominantly Polynesian, was about 1,600 in 2016.

Also worth noting: 'Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands.' The population has diminished by about two-thirds since the 1950s.