30 April 2020

The Saddest of News

Nine months after the previous Yahoo story, A Cheating Yahoo (July 2019), I thought we had seen the last of the series about chess in the mainstream news. Out of the blue, mixed in with four coronavirus stories and one 'war with Iran' speculation, was: 'World renowned chess master dies at 33'.

From Dylan Loeb McClain of The New York Times:-

  • 2020-04-04: Arianne Caoili, Chess Master, Is Dead at 33 (yahoo.com) • 'Arianne Caoili, a chess master and a prominent figure both in the chess world and in Armenia, where she lived, died Monday in Yerevan, the country’s capital. She was 33. Her husband, Levon Aronian, a grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the world, announced her death on Twitter. Caoili died two weeks after being seriously injured in a car crash.'

On that sad start to a sad month, I offer heart-felt condolences to the genial Armenian GM. He and his wife Arianne were by far the most charismatic of the many chess playing couples -- beacons of light.

I intended to use this post to write about how online chess is prospering during the coronavirus lockdown, but it hardly seems appropriate. I'll come back to that topic another time.

27 April 2020

Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals

Two weeks ago, in my report on two world class engine vs. engine competitions, the title told the full story: TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals : Leela vs Stockfish. The details were buried in the body of the report.

TCEC: LCZero is currently leading +8-6=25 in the 100-game final match, aka TCEC Superfinal. This extrapolates to a four or five point win for the full match. • CCC: In the 200-game final match, Lc0 has a 10.0 point lead over Stockfish with 40 games left to be played.

Both matches finished as expected.

TCEC: LCZero beat Stockfish with an S17 final score of +17-12=71 (52.5-47.5), just as the extrapolation predicted. The last 20 games had more decisive games than draws, +7-4=9, perhaps due to forced openings that give one side a clear advantage -- in each pair of games the engines play the same opening with colors switched.

TCEC Cup 5 is well underway and has reached the semifinal stage. Stockfish qualified to the final from the first semifinal match, and LCZero is facing Alliestein in the second match. A report for the full event is available on the TCEC wiki, TCEC Cup 5.

CCC: Lc0 beat Stockfish with a CCC13 final score of +19-7=174 (106.0-94.0). Peter Doggers of Chess.com wrote the final report, Leela Chess Zero Beats Stockfish 106-94 In 13th Chess.com Computer Chess Championship. I can't remember Doggers reporting on another CCC event, a reflection on the lack of top-level human events which have been decimated by the global coronavirus COVID-19. His report flagged some of the most interesting CCC13 games.

Since CCC13 ended, the Chess.com organizers have been running a series of exhibition events. A week ago I spotted an event called 'Post-CCC13 CPU Party'. Today I see a notice under the site's Discord announcements: 'CCC13: CPU Semifinal has been abandoned due to lame-ness'. The 'CPU Party' is missing from the archive.

I haven't yet seen any plans for TCEC S18 or for CCC14. I imagine they'll be available, maybe the events will even be underway, by the time of my next report in two weeks. Whatever happens, the crown for top chess engine has passed firmly from the traditional, hand-crafted A/B CPU engines to the 21st-century, self-learning AI/NN GPU engines. There is no reason to expect that the crown will revert anytime soon.

[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]

26 April 2020

Commercial Compilations

Magnus Carlsen against himself, Korchnoi against a cow, Anand playing cricket (sort of) -- there are some classic commercials here.

Chess Commercials Compilation | Part 1 (9:41) • '[Published on] Mar 22, 2020'

This is the first of two such compilations featuring chess. The YouTube pages list the commercials in order:-

How many different languages are there on the planet? How many languages do you have to know in order to understand these commercials? That second question makes these videos a worthy addition to the ongoing series about The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

There's much more from the same Sync Chess channel. Why 'Sync Chess'?

For the hardcore chess fans, I recommend the "Synchronized Dual Commentary" playlist, which I think is a real GAME CHANGER on YouTube – being able to see in a single video both players describing their moves in real time! It’s like watching a tennis game! Or a sitcom, because chess players have a great sense of humor!

After I finish watching the commercials, I'll watch some of that synchronized commentary. Maybe there is a silver lining to the coronavirus lockdown.

24 April 2020

Minutes of the 90th FIDE Congress

Remember the series of posts ending with FIDE's Ethics Commission 2019? In that post I wrote,

This is the fifth (and last) commission in the series that started with Spectating the 90th FIDE Congress? (February 2020).

FIDE recently published the minutes of the two most important meetings held during that Congress:-

  • 2020-03-26: 2020 Executive Board Minutes (fide.com) • 'FIDE publishes the Minutes of 2020 Executive Board meeting which was held in Abu Dhabi, UAE on February 29th.'

  • 2020-04-03: 2020 Extraordinary General Assembly Minutes (ditto) • 'FIDE publishes the Minutes of 2020 FIDE Extraordinary General Assembly which was held in Abu Dhabi, UAE on February 28th.'

The following chart extracts the table of contents (TOC) from the two documents.

That chart will serve as a reference for a couple of posts on my other chess-related blogs. Maybe I'll even discover material for another post on this blog.

20 April 2020

Smerdon - Komodo Odds Match

Everyone knows that people have no chance in a balanced game against a chess engine. Years ago, even Pawn odds given by the engines proved insufficient for an interesting game. Earlier this month, as an experiment in man-machine play, Chess.com held a match Man vs. Machine: Smerdon vs. Komodo (chess.com; Peter Doggers):-

This week Chess.com is hosting a match between Australian grandmaster David Smerdon and Komodo. The chess engine will be playing with Knight odds. The match, held in conjunction with a special anniversary issue of the "ICGA Journal" (International Computer Games Association), will consist of six games with a time control of 15 minutes and a 10-second increment per move. Smerdon plays black in every game; Komodo will be missing a Knight in the starting positions, alternating from removing it from b1 an g1.

Although some observers predicted that the machine would nevertheless prevail, the results showed that GMs know how to convert a substantial material advantage -- trade down to an endgame and convert -- Smerdon Beats Komodo 5-1 With Knight Odds (ditto):-

GM David Smerdon defeated chess engine Komodo, playing with knight odds, 5-1. The Man vs. Machine rapid match was played on Chess.com on April 10 and 11 and provided more insight into the effect of material imbalance in human vs engine play.

For more about the match from the human point of view, see Man vs Machine in the Time of COVID: Komodo vs Smerdon (davidsmerdon.com). For more about the match from the engine point of view, see Komodo vs GM Smerdon knight odds match (talkchess.comforum); started by Komodo's GM Larry Kaufman in mid-March, the discussion of the match starts realtime on page six.

At what rating level for the human would the machine start to compete with an equal chance of winning? Under-2200? Under-2000? Lower?

19 April 2020

At the Cosmonaut Hotel

The best known of the chess playing astronauts was undoubtedly Greg Chamitoff, in large part because of First Earth vs. Space Chess Match Ends – Earth Wins (nasa.gov; December 2009). That story announced,

The first Earth vs. Space chess match, begun during astronaut Greg Chamitoff’s Expedition 17 stay aboard the International Space Station, is over -- and the Earth won.

Here's a more recent example.

Expedition 63 crewmembers play a game of chess © Flickr user NASA Johnson under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo said,

(April 1, 2020) - At the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 63 crewmembers Chris Cassidy of NASA (left) and Ivan Vagner (center) and Anatoly Ivanishin (right) of Roscosmos play a game of chess April 1. They are preparing to launch April 9 on the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-and-a-half month mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Andrey Shelepin/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

For more on the subject from Flickr, see Astronaut Chris Cassidy (flickr.com), and Expedition 63 (ditto). Will Expedition 64 feature a tournament?

13 April 2020

TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals : Leela vs Stockfish

I last looked at the two world class engine-vs-engine competitions a fortnight ago, in TCEC S17 DivP & CCC13 Heptagonal Underway (March 2020). Both competitions were getting close to the selection of the two top engines for the final stage. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: In Premier Division (aka DivP), the six-engine 'CPU only' section finished with Stockfish leading. The four GPU engines entered the division, which will run for another week. The top two engines promote to the final match. • CCC: Stockfish is currently leading the seven-engine Heptagonal, slightly ahead of Lc0 and Leelenstein. The fourth spot in the Semifinal is still up for grabs.

When those events finished, the same pair of engines had qualified into both final matches, which are now well underway. Let's have an overview of the current status.

TCEC: The diagram shows the results for the first five engines in the Premier Division. LCZero finished 0.5 points ahead of Stockfish, which finished 2.0 points ahead of third place Alliestein.

LCZero is currently leading +8-6=25 in the 100-game final match, aka TCEC Superfinal. This extrapolates to a four or five point win for the full match.

CCC: In the Heptagonal, the fourth spot for the Semifinal went to Komodo. In the Semifinal, Lc0 finished 4.0 points ahead of Stockfish, which was just 0.5 points ahead of third place Leelenstein. Komodo was the only engine to finish with a minus score. In the 200-game final match, Lc0 has a 10.0 point lead over Stockfish with 40 games left to be played.

Both the TCEC and the CCC final matches will have finished by the time of my next post. Leela is on course to win both.

[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]

12 April 2020

GM Anand on the Lockdown

As I prepared the short list for this month's video feature, I found two themes repeated again and again. By coincidence, they echoed the two words in the title of last month's news highlights: Coronavirus Candidates (March 2020). I'll look at the 'Coronavirus' side in this post, then look at the 'Candidates' side on my World Championship blog.

Another theme that cropped up repeatedly was 'streaming'. People confined to home; what are they going to do; they're going to stream.

Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand Plays Online Chess Amid Coronavirus Lockdown (5:56) • '[Published on] Apr 12, 2020'

The description said,

Chess Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand is trying to keep himself busy during the ongoing lockdown by playing the game of Chess online. He also asked people to be patient and trust each other and the government as mistakes are imperative to happen considering the novelty of the crisis. He also urged everyone to maintain physical distance and follow government advisories.

At the time of the video, GM Anand was hunkered down in Germany. He explained why that country has had more success than most countries fighting Covid-19.

10 April 2020


He fought a long, tough battle against a pair of dangerous illnesses, but the coronavirus was one adversary too many.

'On a des mots pour dire une peine légère, mais les grandes douleurs ne savent que se taire.' - Sénèque

'Light pains are repressed; great pains are mute.' - Seneca


Nicolas Paques (May 2019)

06 April 2020

Deep Horizons

A couple of weeks ago, I had a post about Tablebases and Fortresses (March 2020), two types of positions that create problems for chess engines. These were collected on the Fishcooking forum.

Another, smaller set of positions can be found on the Talkchess forum, in a thread titled Hard-Talkchess-2020 set, final release (talkchess.com). These are difficult ('Hard') positions where the choice of best variation lies beyond the current computational limits of the best engines.

1B1K1k2/4N2p/3pP1pP/6p1/p7/3N2b1/2r2p2/8 w

This Lichess diagram shows the first position in the set. The key move is 1.Nc6. Although I didn't analyze it with an engine, it looks like the Black King is destined to be chased around the board after e6-e7-e8Q.

For more about the EPD format of the 'Talkchess 2020 set', see Extended Position Description (chessprogramming.org). For those of us currently under coronavirus confinement, the positions in this and the previous 'TBs & Fortresses' post might help to pass the time.

05 April 2020

Pinheads Play Chess

But we knew that already. Before I started creating the short list of auctions for this month's edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I reckoned it would be a dry month, what with the coronavirus and all. In fact, there appeared to be more activity on eBay than I usually see in a month. Are people taking advantage of the stay-at-home orders to buy stuff online?

The item pictured below was titled '"Chess Game" oil painting by Ann Krasner'. It sold for 'US $1,350.00 or Best Offer'. (So which was it?)

The description was terse:-

"Chess Game" by Ann Krasner
Oil painting on canvas
Size: 18 inch x 36 inch
Not framed
Signed by artist

That was accompanied by a brief biography about the artist, excerpted below. Note the source. For the complete bio, see Ann Krasner (artnet.com).

Ann Krasner was born on January 17, 1967 in Moscow, USSR. She grew up among people interested in science, music, photography, ballet and theater. As a child, she was chosen to study in the Bolshoy Theater Ballet Studio, Moscow Musical School in the class of piano and musical theory, and started her general education in Advanced Experimental Math/Physics School for gifted children.

Ann’s work now resides in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Art and the Springfield Art Museum and she has had exhibitions in major museums across the country, including, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Springfield Museum, Carnegie Art Museum, Laguna Art Museum, and San Diego Museum of Art, just to name a few. (Source: ArtNet)

The painting reminds me of the scene in 'Men in Black' where the gun-selling extraterrestial's head grows back. Maybe I should have titled this post 'Extraterrestials Play Chess'.

02 April 2020

April 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

Every time I see the cover of the April 1970 CL&R, with a face I don't recognize, I think it must be the U.S. Amateur Champion. The annual amateur champions were featured prominently in previous editions of Chess Life, for example, the July 1968 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'Ray Martin - American Open Champion'
Right: "Knight Moves" • 'Russians Win Olympiad; Ivanov (A.) Repeats as Novag Grand Prix Champion'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

The related story, 'Looking back on the American Open' (Santa Monica, California, November 1969) by 'Carl L. Budd, Pres. & Reed Newport, Vice-Pres. Santa Monica Bay Chess Club', reported,

When the names of the 202 entries with their ratings were posted, the large audience and players were almost all willing to concede first place and the $600 prize to the only International Master entered [a footnote added, 'Now a Grandmaster'], Walter Browne (2445) from Australia, and get on with the business of playing for the remaining $1800.

Browne lost in the third round of the eight-round event to John Davidian (2012) and never regained front-runner status. Ray Martin (2114), the eventual winner, was rated 20th overall. The report noted,

The new American Open Champion has been a member of the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club since 1948. Subsequent to that time he has won many important local titles including the California State Championship. About 10 years ago he gave up tournament chess to work evenings and adequately provide for his family. Now that things have eased a bit, he resumed tournament play last year. Prior to the American Open he won the Southern California Championship and the Ventura Marina Chess Festival in 1969.

For more about the winner, see The chess games of Raymond Martin (chessgames.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

The artwork was the most striking feature of the April 1995 cover. The writeup said,

"Knight Moves" (acrylic on handmade paper) by Ingrid Evans (photographed by Dirk Schenck) was part of an exhibition at the Stremmel Gallery in Reno, Nevada. [...] Ingrid has had numerous showings and exhibitions both here and abroad, since the 1970s. Her experience as an aerial photographer has given her a unique outlook into man's intrusion upon nature. Her current interests revolve around multi-media pieces, including, painting, printing, and diverse papermaking techniques. And yes, she is.

She is ... what exactly? According to Ingrid Evans (1929-2015; legacy.com),

In 1968, she married Larry Evans. Larry was an American chess Grandmaster as well as an International Chess Grandmaster, five time U.S. Chess champion and an author and journalist. Larry preceded Ingrid in death on November 15, 2010.

In last month's post, March 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover', I promised, 'As for the 'Castle Heights' reference, I'll come back to it next month.' The street sign on that cover -- 'Chess Dr. 4200' -- was explained in the '1994 Yearbook'. (It was assigned to 1994 because the information was 'current as of 31 December'.) The 11-page yearbook was illustrated with a multi-section article titled 'Checkmate Plaza' by Steven W. Gordon. It included a street map of the Castle Heights area and started,

Subdivisions around the country are often built along a theme, with the streets all having a common set of names. Flowers, birds, state and president names are frequently seen motifs. Other themes I've seen include aircraft companies. famous aviators, minerals, trees and a multitude of related topics. But Anchorage, Alaska, has the only subdivision with a chess theme I have seen or heard of.

When I noticed the street names on the east side of Anchorage I thought it was on a medieval theme as the first names I saw were QUEENS COURT and KNIGHTS WAY. I was amused and of course thought 'chess' but didn't really think the names would be actual chess references...

But they were indeed chess references, even 'Bisquier Dr.', i.e. GM Arthur Bisguier (RIP). As long as we're clarifying names, I should point out that the name 'Ivanov (A.)' on the CL cover meant GM Alexander Ivanov.