30 June 2020

No Online Chess Yahoos

Last month, in TWIC and the Coronavirus, I wrote,

I wondered if I could somehow quantify the move to online chess. To answer that question, I developed the following chart based on recent TWIC data ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther).

That chart eventually led to another post, The Switch to Online Chess, covering an eight week period for which

[I] developed the following chart. It shows online sites that were connected to an event covered by TWIC in a specific week.

That chart is copied below.

T1323 : 'The Week in Chess 1323, 16th March 2020'

For this current post I extended the chart another eight weeks.

T1331 : 'The Week in Chess 1331, 11th May 2020'

In the T1331 chart, the three main playing sites from the T1323 chart show at least double the number of online events reported in TWIC, and there are two newcomers to the list, PlayChess and Europe-Chess. As far as I know, none of these events were reported in the mainstream press -- in other words, no new Yahoos.

Cataloging the events reported by TWIC is another matter. I'll leave that for another time.

29 June 2020

TCEC/CCC 2019-Q4 & 2020-Q1/Q2 Summary

Last year, in TCEC/CCC 2019 Q1-Q3 Summary (October 2019), 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'm going to have trouble keeping my distance from the action, so I wouldn't be surprised to come back to these events.

I didn't manage to stay away and was back with a new post a week later. The only change was to post every two weeks, tackling a related subject on the off-week. Here's a summary of the posts since then.

TCEC/CCC Off-week
TCEC Cup 4 Finals & CCC11 R1 Underway
AllieStein and Leelenstein
TCEC FRC Leagues; CCC11 R2 Underway • Chess960
'Fat Fritz' by Albert Silver
TCEC/CCC Bonus Events
More TCEC Bonuses; CCC11 Semifinal Underway
The Question of Clones
TCEC S17 Announced; Lc0 Wins CCC11
LCZero -> Lc0
TCEC S17, CCC12 Both Underway
TCEC S17 L2, CCC12 Rd.3 Underway
TCEC PCT Handicap Events
TCEC S17 L1 Underway; CCC12 Bonus Series
Stockfish vs. Leela Explained • Kingscrusher videos
TCEC S17 L1 & CCC12 Bonus Series Ongoing
Leela Evolution
TCEC S17 L1 Finished; CCC13 Announced
CCC13 Shapes
TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway
Tablebases and Fortresses
TCEC S17 DivP & CCC13 Heptagonal Underway
Deep Horizons
TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals : Leela vs Stockfish
Smerdon - Komodo Odds Match
Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals
TCEC S17 Opening Pairs
TCEC: Stockfish Wins Cup 5, S18 Underway; CCC14?
CCC Formats
TCEC S18 L3/L2/L1 Finished; CCC14?
World Champion Komodo • ICGA
TCEC S18 DivP Underway; CCC14 Started
Fat Fritz Followup
TCEC S18 Sufi Underway; CCC14 on Medical Leave

Since a summary after nine months doesn't fit well into an annual pattern, I'll produce the next summary after six months.

28 June 2020

Pog Champs (*)

This month I'm running a short series on The Switch to Online Chess, a transition that has been a natural reaction to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the planet. The theme also fits well with the much longer series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

Online chess has a natural ally in streaming, where Chess.com took the lead several years ago; see, for example, Twitch.TV/Chess (February 2018). Fast forward to the Covid-19 crisis and we learn Chess.com Launches PogChamps With Top Twitch Streamers (May 2020):-

Starting on June 5, the inaugural 2020 Chess.com PogChamps will kick off, featuring 16 of Twitch's most followed streamers. Over two weeks, top streamers like Boxbox, Voyboy, and yassuo will compete for their share of $50,000 in prizes. With so much on the line, GM Hikaru Nakamura, WFM Alexandra Botez and Chess.com's IM Danny Rensch will be providing commentary throughout the event's two weeks, with Nakamura and Botez providing lessons for each of the competitors.

What's good for Chess.com ... is it also good for chess? More specifically, Is Pogchamps a good way to promote chess? (chesstech.org; June 2020). On the 'Yes!' side is David Llada, 'FIDE Chief Marketing and Communications Officer'. On the 'No!' side is Stefan Löffler, 'Features editor of ChessTech'. Arbitrating the debate is GM Nakamura on his own Youtube channel.

PogChamps is an Embarrassment for Chess? (21:54) • '[Published on] Jun 13, 2020'

Objectivity is not a prerequisite. The clip currently has more than 430.000 views and nearly 2600 comments, so this isn't some flash in the pan phenomenon. Nakamura pinned a viewer comment to the top of the list:-

This whole Twitch chess boom got me to dust off my Chess.com account for the first time in like seven years.

What's my opinion? Who cares. Score another win for Chess.com.

[(*) Pog: An emote found on Twitch.tv, often used when a streamer does something cool, Urban Dictionary: Pog.]

26 June 2020

A Blockbuster Dustup

Last week's post, A Blockbuster Online Event, ended,

The announcement for the Magnus Carlsen Invitational [MCI] was blockbuster news that made the non-chess press take notice. The switch to online chess was suddenly noteworthy, especially in a coronavirus pandemic where most sports events had been cancelled or postponed. Not everyone was pleased, however, about the MCI.

My first inkling that something in the chess world was awry came while preparing a post on the top engine vs. engine competitions, Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals (April 2020). I linked a Peter Doggers report on CCC13, Leela Chess Zero Beats Stockfish 106-94 In 13th Chess.com Computer Chess Championship (chess.com), and remarked,

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.

Doggers' reports always attract comments, often well-informed, but many of them here had nothing to do with the CCC13 final. The first such comment said,

Somehow this makes the news, but Firouzja beating Carlsen in Banter Blitz final, or the Carlsen Invitational doesn't?

This received a response from another member:-

That’s because those things are on a different site, Chess24, which is competitive with Chess.com.

Somewhat later the accusations became more pointed:-

It seems the Carlsen Invitational online tournament happening right now is not chess news, since I can't find it here. That is so wrong. What are your priorities chess.com? Money it seems. For sure it is not chess; if it was, serious journalism should be about informing chess fans about the important events happening, even if you are not organizing them. On the other hand, can you be the organizer of everything? In the Carlsen Invitational Nakamura is playing, Ding is playing, Firouzja is playing, Carlsen is playing, MVL is playing, Caruana, Giri, Nepo. Not news? Shame on you.

This received a response from Chess.com staffer NM Sam Copeland:-

The event looks like fun, but we don't consider it different from our events like the Speed Chess Championship and the PRO Chess League. If we see Chess24 covering these, maybe we could reconsider coverage.

I follow chess news on both sites and their coverage is not on the same level. Chess.com reports on nearly everything that has to do with chess, while Chess24.com reports mainly on world class events featuring the top players. Whatever the relative merits of the two sites, the discussion about the MCI continued for some time.

A few weeks later, Doggers wrote another report: Magnus Carlsen Wins Magnus Carlsen Invitational (chess.com). Of more than 100 comments, the second and third said,

Great article! Wonder why there weren't earlier reports on each round? • Peter Doggers didn't use one word in this news that says 'chess24'.

And the debate was on again. Chess in the online era might be entering a golden age, but the biggest prospectors are already jostling to control the richest deposits of ore.

25 June 2020

2020 USChess Executive Board Election

Today I received my ballot for the 2020 USChess Executive Board election. The cover letter said,

Dear US Chess Voting Member,

Below is your ballot to elect three individuals to the US Chess Executive Board. The names on the ballot are listed in an order determined by a random drawing. All candidates are running for at-large positions on the US Chess Executive Board, not for any specific office. If you wish to vote for someone who is not listed, you may indicate write-in choices. Write-ins must be current US Chess members. No employee of US Chess is eligible to be a member of the Executive Board.

For the record, I copied the attached ballot to the following image...

...on which the names of the six candidates are:-

  • David Hater
  • Sean J. Manross & Bear the Chess Husky
  • David Day
  • Anjelina Belakovskaia
  • Lakshmana "Vish" Viswanath
  • Fun Fong

It's been two years since I last voted, as recorded in 2018 USChess Executive Board Election (June 2018). In 2019 there were two candidates for two positions, so why waste a postage stamp?

Since I'm not familiar with all six of the 2020 candidates, I have some research to do. I haven't been particularly impressed with the direction the U.S. federation has taken the last few years, but I can't put my finger on the reason. This looks like the right time to figure out why I'm having doubts.

22 June 2020

TCEC S18 Sufi Underway; CCC14 on Medical Leave

Two weeks ago, in this blog's fortnightly report on two top engine-vs-engine competitions, TCEC S18 DivP Underway; CCC14 Started, the title summarized the status. Here's a summary of that post that goes deeper:-

TCEC: Premier Division (DivP) has finished the second of three double round robins. The first two engines will qualify into the S18 Superfinal (SuFi). • CCC: CCC14 started with the following 'Format Information' -- This is a double-elimination event. A 16 engine 1 x DRR starts the event. DRR finishers 1-8 are seeded into the winners bracket of the event. Finishers 9-16 are seeded into the losers bracket... -- Close to 75% of the preliminary games have been played.

In the meantime, both competitions have moved into the next phase. Following is the current status.

TCEC: Premier Division (DivP) finished with Stockfish a point ahead of LCZero, which was a half-point ahead of third placed AllieStein. The following chart shows the final crosstable.

In the 100-game final match (aka 'Superfinal' or 'Sufi') Stockfish leads LCZero (aka Leela) by +6-3=13. I documented the previous Sufi in Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals (April 2020). A three point lead for Stockfish in S18 with less than a quarter of the games played does not bode well for Leela to repeat as TCEC champion. It's time for a visit to the forums to find out what's going on.

CCC: The CCC14 16-engine preliminary double round robin ('Round 1') finished with the usual suspects occupying the top places -- Lc0 (2.5 points ahead of the next place), Leelenstein (ditto), Stoofvlees (3rd/4th), Stockfish (ditto) -- followed by a complicated bracket structure designed to implement the double-elimination event. The brackets were stopped to run 'CCC14: Round 2 (Bullet Test; 1|1)' using the same engines that competed in Round 1. An '!' command informs,

!next • Greco is battling Covid-19, so CCC14 is on hold. Bullet Test is expected to continue to its conclusion in the meantime.

The entire team at Chess for All Ages (that's me, myself, and I) wishes Greco a speedy recovery. The coronavirus Covid-19 is not to be taken lightly.

[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]

21 June 2020

Dora Maar, Weeping Woman

For this month's Flickr favorite, the darkness of the photo detracted so much from its aesthetic value that I spent some time trying to improve it. The best I could do was the example on the right, which is simply the photographic negative of the original on the left.

Chess - Untitled (Cavalier) c.1936 © Flickr user B under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo starts,

Dora Maar (November 2019 – March 2020) • During the 1930s, Dora Maar’s provocative photomontages became celebrated icons of surrealism.

A web search on that first sentence returns the page Dora Maar – Exhibition at Tate Modern (tate.org.uk), which explains that the date range after her name was the period of the Tate exhibition. Her Wikipedia page, Dora Maar, starts by giving her real name and life span:-

Henriette Theodora Markovitch (22 November 1907 – 16 July 1997), known as Dora Maar, was a French photographer, painter, and poet

The Tate page goes on to say,

Her relationship with Pablo Picasso had a profound effect on both their careers. She documented the creation of his most political work, Guernica 1937. He painted her many times, including Weeping Woman 1937. Together they made a series of portraits combining experimental photographic and printmaking techniques.

For Picasso's painting of her, see The Weeping Woman, 1937 (pablopicasso.org). Its description starts,

The Weeping Woman series is regarded as a thematic continuation of the tragedy depicted in Picasso's epic painting Guernica.

The reference to Guernica includes a link to the page for 'Picasso's most famous work'.

19 June 2020

A Blockbuster Online Event

In last week's post, The Switch to Online Chess, I finished saying,

Back to the second chart above, the next issue of TWIC (TWIC1326 06-Apr-20) saw the first significant increase in the number of online events. I'll cover that in the next post in this series.'

TWIC, of course, refers to 'The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther. Re 'the second chart above', I'm repeating it here for easier reference. It shows the number of online events reported by TWIC for the online play sites over a period covering eight weeks.

According to that chart, TWIC1326 reported three events for both Chess.com and Chess24.com. One event for each site -- 'PRO Chess League 2020' and 'Banter Blitz Cup 2019' -- was another report on ongoing events that had been mentioned in the previous edition of TWIC, TWIC1325. The other events were mentioned in the introduction to TWIC1326: -

The announcement of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational which takes place from the 18th April on Chess24 will surely be the first of many major events taking place online. This is a tremendous start with 8 of the world's top players including Carlsen himself playing a Rapid Round Robin Matchplay followed by a final knockout phase. A few days later the 1st Abu Dhabi Super Blitz Challenge was announced as taking place on the 15th April on Chess.com. Magnus Carlsen plays the semi-final of the Banter Blitz on Chess24 tomorrow against Sanan Sjugirov.

In fact, both of those events were reported twice in TWIC1326 -- once for the event itself and once for the regular, weekly section titled 'Forthcoming Events and Links' -- thereby inflating the count in my chart. The introduction continued,

This week's issue has a mixture of online and computer events along with some final catching up with tournaments that took place before the international coronavirus lockdowns. In addition I give the games from the last correspondence world championship, I'll look to add a few more of the very most important events in that area too. A number of events have been moved to the back end of the year, October and beyond, I'm not even sure normal chess will be able to resume then. I think we'll see a lot of interesting events online. I'd like to see a classical tournament tried out - maybe a 6 player 10 round event - just to see the problems and new possilibities such an event might have.

The main TWIC report for the Chess.com event said,

The 1st Abu Dhabi Super Blitz Challenge takes place on 15th April. Nakamura, MVL [Vachier-Lagrave] and Grischuk are among the players already signed up. 11 round swiss followed by 8 player KO to decide the winner.

The report for the Chess24.com said,

The Magnus Carlsen Invitational [MCI] is an online tournament hosted by chess24 which takes place April 18th to May 3rd 2020. With over the board chess suspended for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus crisis this is a welcome new event. The concept is one similar to one Carlsen advocated in 2018 for the World Championship - a number of rapid games in one day rather than a single classical game.

The format is a Match Round Robin of 8 players meeting each other once over four 15 minute + 10 seconds a move games, if this mini-match is tied 2-2 there will be a single decisive Armageddon game. The top 4 will play in a knockout final stage to decide the winner. The prize fund is $250,000 and a star studded field will compete alongside Carlsen - the remaining players are yet to be announced.

The announcement for the MCI was blockbuster news that made the non-chess press take notice. The switch to online chess was suddenly noteworthy, especially in a coronavirus pandemic where most sports events had been cancelled or postponed. Not everyone was pleased, however, about the MCI. I'll cover that in my next post.

15 June 2020

Fat Fritz Followup

Near the end of last year, on an off-Monday between my fortnightly TCEC/CCC posts, I ran a short piece about 'Fat Fritz' by Albert Silver (November 2019). By coincidence I referenced it the following Monday in TCEC/CCC Bonus Events (ditto):-

After CCC11 R2, the CCC ran two matches [Stockfish, Lc0 vs. Fat Fritz]. While the results aren't particularly encouraging for Fat Fritz...

Since that time, Chessbase has continued to improve and promote the product. As the only commercial AI/NN chess engine on the market, it's worthwhile to follow its progress, so here are a series of Chessbase.com posts from the same period:-

  • 2019-11-28: Fat Fritz in the cloud (Albert Silver) • 'Have you just spent a tidy sum for graphics cards and even a powerful new computer? Well, there is an elegant way to make the hardware pay for itself. Instead of switching off the computer half the time (or more) you can make it available to other users in the ChessBase Engine Cloud. They will pay you for the privilege.'

  • 2020-01-09: Fat Fritz for the club player (Tanmay Srinath) • 'How does an ordinary club player or an ambitious lower-rated amateur makes use of this [NN] technology to improve?'

  • 2020-03-05: Fat Fritz 1.1 update and a small gift (Albert Silver) • 'As promised in the announcement of the release of Fat Fritz, the first update to the neural network [NN] has been released, stronger and more mature, and with it comes the brand new smaller and faster Fat Fritz for CPU [NN] which will produce quality play even on a pure CPU setup.'

  • 2020-03-27: Fat Fritz: strong, creative, original (Stephan Oliver Platz) • 'The Fat Fritz engine of the Fritz 17 program is currently number 1 on the CCRL ELO list and has a positive score against all tested programs.'

  • 2020-06-14: Running Leela and Fat Fritz on your notebook (WIM Evelyn Zhu; 15 Comments) • 'In order to unleash the full power of the NN algorithms, we must use some kind of GPU accelerator device. The problem is that a compact laptop often can’t sustain the running NN engines and will crash. Here is a super elegant solution to this problem!'

A few notes to the above -- 'The CCRL ELO list' can be found at CCRL Blitz - Index. Fat Fritz is currently at no.2 behind Lc0, but ahead of no.3 Leelenstein (NB: also color-coded 'commercial' by CCRL). • The last Chessbase.com post is the only article that attracted comments, meaning the topic hit a nerve with the engine community.

For some reason, Fat Fritz doesn't compete in the TCEC or CCC competitions. Leelenstein does compete and is consistently one of the top engines.

14 June 2020

Online Arbiters

Since I'm posting a series about The Switch to Online Chess, the following seemed a natural choice for this month's featured video.

Workshop for arbiters in online chess events (2:05:58) • 'Streamed live on Jun 10, 2020'

The description starts,

Hosts - IA Laurent Freyd, Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters' Commission and IA Tomasz Delega, Chairman of the ECU Arbiters' Council. • The hosts will share about online events and best practices to help arbiters fulfilling their role in the new context of online chess events.

That introduction is followed by a list of bullets like 'What's the role of the arbiter in online tournaments?' The workshop is centered on a presentation that starts around 10:50 into the clip. Although I couldn't find a separate copy of the presentation, I found a mention of the event on the subdomain for FIDE Arbiters' Commission (fide.com). It said,

The FIDE Arbiters` Commission wants to thanks everyone who attended the workshop on Wednesday, June 10th. It was obviously a challenge but it became a great success, with a lot of interaction among the participants in the chat and questions raised. At one point, there were 467 participants online from almost all Federations.

The video lives on Youtube's FIDE chess channel.

12 June 2020

The Switch to Online Chess

Last week, in The Collapse of OTB Chess, I wrote,

Now that I've started looking into the data behind 'TWIC and the Coronavirus', I'll make a short series out of it.

The post was based on the following chart, which I include again to reference the relevant numbers of TWIC ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther) and their issue dates.

The chess events reported in TWIC always carry a 'Place:' tag that documents where the events were played. Using the same eight issues of TWIC, I scanned the 'Place:' tag, searching for online sites, and developed the following chart. It shows online sites that were connected to an event covered by TWIC in a specific week.

T1323 : 'The Week in Chess 1323, 16th March 2020'

The chart shows three online play sites, plus 'TCEC-chess.com', an online engine vs. engine site. I've been following that site on this blog for the last few years, where the most recent post was TCEC S18 DivP Underway; CCC14 Started (June 2020). In the past Crowther didn't often report on computer events, so their inclusion was already a sign of the changing times.

The first TWIC issue in both charts (TWIC1323 16-Mar-20) carried reports on two online events, one played on Chess.com, the other on Chess24.com. Both were events that had started months earlier.

PRO Chess League 2020 • The PRO Chess League takes place 7th January to 5th May 2020. The Group stages finished last. The top 4 teams in each division will played off over two rounds, the final four will now play for the title. It seems unlikely they will do this in May in Norway due to the Coronavirus.

Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup 2019 • Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup takes place 25th September [2019] to some time in 2020.

The next issue of TWIC (TWIC1324 23-Mar-20) announced the shift to online play:-

Introduction • The FIDE Candidates are being led by Ian Nepomniachtchi with 4.5/6 going into the second rest day. The event has been interesting, no-one is playing really great chess but it's been gripping so far. Sadly the Coronavirus emergency is just getting worse, most chess events are being cancelled and I personally believe there's now less than a 50% chance of this Candidates tournament being finished without a long postponement.

TWIC will obviously have far less chess to cover in the coming weeks. I suspect I'll end up covering more computer chess (TCEC Premier League this week) and more online events. Note that the College Final Four in the States is going to use the Internet and arbiters to run their event. This will be a very interesting experiment to follow on 4th-5th April. I expect a postponed top class event to try something similar at some point in the coming months. I wish everyone well. Stay safe.

On top of the two online events in TWIC1323, the issue mentioned two more events on Chess.com:-

PNWCC Online Blitz - Jackpot II 2020 • The PNWCC Online Blitz - Jackpot II tournament took place on March 21st. Full details next week. 1st GM Lazaro Bruzon 9/11 half a point clear of Yaroslav Zherebukh, Kamil Dragun, Andrey Baryshpolets, and Zoran Jovanovic who all scored 8.5/11.

Forthcoming Events and Links • Note that most of these events will not take place now. The College Final Four [USA] will take place on the Internet [Chess.com].

The next issue of TWIC (TWIC1325 30-Mar-20) was back to the two events in TWIC1323 : 'PRO Chess League 2020' and 'Banter Blitz Cup 2019'. I've already covered that issue in the post titled 'Collapse of OTB Chess'. A previous post on this blog, Coronavirus Candidates (March 2020), covered the collapse of the last world class OTB chess event, the 2020 Candidates tournament played at Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Back to the second chart above, the next issue of TWIC (TWIC1326 06-Apr-20) saw the first significant increase in the number of online events. I'll cover that in the next post in this series.

08 June 2020

TCEC S18 DivP Underway; CCC14 Started

This blog's previous report -- TCEC S18 L3/L2/L1 Finished; CCC14? (May 2020) -- on the two most watched engine vs. engine competitions was fairly routine:-

TCEC: The TCEC has progressed rapidly through three stages of season 18. • CCC: The CCC has been running a gigantic match between two top engines, cycling through the entirety of Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO).

What has happened during the intervening fortnight?

TCEC: Premier Division (DivP) started two weeks ago and has finished the second of three double round robins, meaning it has another week to run. The first two engines will qualify into the S18 Superfinal (SuFi). Two points currently separate 1st and 4th places : Stockfish is a point ahead of LCZero, which leads Stoofvlees by a half point, ahead of AllieStein by another half point. The other four engines have negative scores.

CCC: CCC14 started with the following 'Format Information' (DRR = Double Round Robin):-

All games are 15' + 5". This is a double-elimination event. A 16 engine 1 x DRR starts the event. All 1 x DRR games are bookless. All other games in the event use a one-ply book.

DRR finishers 1-8 are seeded into the winners bracket of the event. Finishers 9-16 are seeded into the losers bracket. Being seeded into the losers bracket counts as an "elimination". Each bracket match is 12 games unless tiebreaks are required -- i.e. games are played until an engine achieves a +1.5 score. Losing a bracket match counts as an "elimination".

Close to 75% of the preliminary games have been played, with Lc0 and Leelenstein in 1st and 2nd places. Stockfish lost its individual match to both engines and is currently languishing in 7th place.

[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]

07 June 2020

1982 Tbilisi Women's Interzonal

In the ongoing series about Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), tournament programs signed by the participants appear frequently. As far as I can remember this is the first program for a top women's event.

The item pictured below was titled 'Chess Programme Signed by Participants World Chess Championship Women Interzonal'. It sold for US $790, 'Best offer accepted'.

Top row: Savereide, Muresan (1st in tournament), Fischdick, Liu Shelan (3rd); Bottom row [1st image:] Akhmilovskaya, Levitina (2nd), Veroci-Petronic, Gurieli; [2nd image:] Gaprindashvili, Semenova, Lematchko.

The description said,

Chess programme signed by 12 participants plus Chiburdanidze and Gaprindashvili. • World Chess Championship (Women); 1982 Tbilisi Interzonal Tournament. • Size approx: 145 x 200 mm (5.7" x 7.9") • From the personal collection of Grandmaster E. Ubilava. • Condition is good.

The description also listed the names of the 14 players who signed the program, although all 15 Interzonal participants were pictured. I've shown only two of the four double pages that had photos of the participants, including the three top finishers.

Some of the info in the description, like the spelling of names, appears to have been taken from my page 1982 Tbilisi Interzonal Tournament. The three photos in the bottom row, second image, were the top finishers of the earlier 1982 Bad Kissingen Interzonal Tournament.

The three top finishers from the two Interzonals were seeded into the 1983-84 Candidates Matches. They were joined by Ioseliani, the runner-up in the 1980-81 Candidates Matches, and Alexandria, the loser (by a tied score) of the 1981 Chiburdanidze - Alexandria Title Match.

The quarterfinal round of the 1983-84 Candidates Matches saw only three matches. Lematchko didn't play and Alexandria started with a semifinal match. That circumstance deserves a mention and an explanation on the 1983-84 CM page.

05 June 2020

The Collapse of OTB Chess (*)

Last month, in TWIC and the Coronavirus (May 2020), I wrote,

The Covid coronavirus lockdowns started mid-March. That means TWIC1323 (16-Mar-20) might serve as some kind of a baseline reference. Note how the subsequent TWIC files decrease in size for both the game file and the news file. The ratio also decreases, perhaps reflecting the size of the events being reported, i.e. events with a small number of elite players. The numbers start to increase at the beginning of May.

Of course, this is all speculation that needs to be confirmed by reviewing individual TWIC files. Maybe I'll do that another time.

For once, I managed to follow up an action. The following chart shows statistics for eight issues of TWIC ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther). The first line is the baseline reference (TWIC1323 16-Mar-20) that I identified in the original post.

The fields 'EvntCt' and 'GameCt' show the number of events and games reported in an issue of TWIC. Since the first event in any TWIC issue is always 'Introduction' and the last is always 'Forthcoming Events and Links', the 'EvntCt' is two more than the real number of events.

The last gasp for OTB chess was apparently documented in TWIC1325 (30-Mar-20). The 11 events were a mixed bag:-

  1. Introduction
  2. FIDE Candidates Tournament 2020
  3. 224th-225th YMCA Winter A and B 2020
  4. 4th New Chess Brains Tournament 2020
  5. 52nd Belgrade WGM 2020
  6. RADNICKICHESS GM Round Robin 2020
  7. TCEC Season 17 2020
  8. Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup 2019
  9. TCh-CZE 2019-20
  10. Active Team Events
  11. Forthcoming Events and Links

That issue, The Week in Chess 1325 - 30th March 2020 (theweekinchess.com), included the last four games of the cancelled Candidates tournament. In his 'Introduction' Mark Crowther wrote,

When the Candidates can be resumed and whether it will be in time for the World Championship match to take place as scheduled at the end of the year are questions that don't particularly interest me right now, I simply want this Coronavirus crisis to go away. Even if the Candidates and World Championship Match happen this year I wonder when mass participation international opens can realistically take place.

The immediate future of chess is online. There is bound to be much less chess in TWIC in the coming few months, I will use the time to improve the website and the program routines I use to produce the magazine. Most of all I'll try and stay safe. I wish everyone out there good health.

More than a third of the 341 games were from the 'YMCA Winter' event (Warsaw POL; Crowther: 'could not be completed due to the coronavirus') and none were from the 'New Chess Brains' tournament (Hamburg GER; 'I'm still looking for the games').

Now that I've started looking into the data behind 'TWIC and the Coronavirus', I'll make a short series out of it. I'll also return to TWIC Data Through the Years (May 2020), where I wrote,

These numbers in the charts raise more questions than they answer. Will I find time for further investigations?

I know that most people are only interested in the games distributed each week by TWIC. The series is also a trove of higher level data about chess since the mid-1990s.

(*) OTB Chess = 'Over the Board'

02 June 2020

June 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

What was happening in the chess world 50 and 25 years ago? In 1970, CL&R featured the winner of a national tournament for the third straight month. You might never guess that the first nine pages of the June 1970 issue covered 'The Match of the Century', which in 1970 meant the USSR versus the 'Rest of the World'.

Left: 'National High School Champion'
Right: 'Silver Anniversary for the Amateur Teams; Hal Stone's Secret Life'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

The Second Annual National High School Championship, played April 3-5 at the McAlpin Hotel in New York, was by far the largest rated tournament ever held in the U.S. 552 students from 26 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico competed -- an increase of about 50% over last year's turnout of 370. With the Continental Intercollegiate drawing 157 additional players, a grand total of 709 were playing concurrently at the same location, a figure that smashes the previous high for rated events, 492 players at the 1969-70 Greater New York Chess Congress.

We saw the first National High School Championship a year ago in May 1969 'On the Cover'. Robert Newbold, the winner of the 1970 event, was also featured in Early U.S. High School Championships (May 2017), where I found a mention of him in 1977.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Hal Stone. 1911-1994, enjoyed a 30 year relationship with the New York Daily News as an illustrator. His historical works, commissioned by the government, are on permanent display at the U.S. Army War College in Washington, D.C. At the time of his death, he was putting the finishing touches on a mural at the Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation, depicting the entire history of the Jewish people from biblical times to the creation of the State of Israel.

Hal Stone was the professional name for Harry Smilkstein, whose oil painting "White to Play and Win" graces our cover. Harry, as a life-long chess enthusiast, was one of the founders of the Max Pavey Chess Club back in 1954.

The rest of the Hal Stone story is available online. Follow the instructions in US Chess CL Archive (November 2019) to find the June 1995 issue.

01 June 2020

World Champion Komodo

Which engine is the current World Computer Champion? If you follow the TCEC, you might say Leela Chess Zero, as in Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals (April 2020). But, no, if you go to my page World Chess Championship : Computer Chess, you'll see that winner of the last four championships was Komodo. The full picture of the last 20 years is captured in the following image from that page.

I documented the latest WCCC tournament in 25th World Computer Championship [ICGA] (May 2020) on my World Chess Championship Blog. In fact, the event was held in August 2019, but I forgot about it until earlier this year.

In the 'Candidates Tournament' (aka 'Premier Division') for TCEC S17 (Season 17), Komodo finished a strong fourth after Leela, Stockfish, and AllieStein. Some observers consider the correct name for the 'ICGA World Computer Championship' is simply 'ICGA Computer Championship'. The ICGA event has been declining in importance over the last ten years. That's why my Computer Chess page groups the events as...

Full pages
ZIP files only
Blog posts

...indicating that I've attached less documentation to recent events. Other observers feel otherwise. Some recent discussions on the Talkchess.com forum have been:-

Two members of the Komodo team -- Larry Kaufman ('lkaufman') and Mark Lefler ('mjlef') -- participate regularly in the Talkchess discussions; Don Dailey, a third member of the team, died in 2013. Other ICGA WCCC participants of yesteryear -- Robert Hyatt ('bob'; author of Cray Blitz and Crafty) and Ed Schroder ('Rebel'; also the name of his engine) -- appear frequently on Talkchess. In the first thread linked above ('WCCC vs TCEC'), Hyatt wrote,

The ACM events have become pretty much irrelevant, NOT because of the Rybka controversy. NOT because of the ACM leadership. But because of the evolution of world-wide computing. Makes no sense to travel and take two weeks, spend thousands of dollars on travel, hotels and food, when you can compete from your recliner in your living room, and not miss a single day of work.

Where Hyatt writes 'ACM', think 'ICGA'. For 'Rybka controversy', see The Rybka Affair: An Official Reaction (January 2012), and The Rybka - ICGA Ethics Judgement (October 2015) on this blog. He underestimates the importance of the Rybka affair to the rest of the chess world. The Rybka punishment was worse than the crime.