30 July 2020

Top Tournaments in July

This month I could have re-used the title of last month's Yahoo post, No Online Chess Yahoos (June 2020), where 'Yahoo' is a code word for chess news that has been picked up by the mainstream press. Since that is even less interesting the second time than it was the first time, I instead took a survey of news stories reported by Google News.

Of the 100 or so top stories returned by Google, half of them involved the chess press reporting about the major online tournaments. Everyone who follows chess news knows that world class online chess is prospering during the coronavirus era, because the major tournaments -- those featuring the top players -- have been followed in depth by the major chess news sites. But what about the second tier online tournaments; how do we identify them?

The June 'Chess Yahoos' post used Mark Crowther's 'The Week in Chess' (TWIC) to identify chess events of interest and I decided to use TWIC again, this time for July. Each issue of TWIC starts with a 'Contents' section that lists the tournaments in order of their relative importance, most important first. This is according to Crowther's judgement, but since he follows the chess tournament scene as closely as anyone, his judgement is a useful guide. Each TWIC 'Contents' section starts with:-

1) Introduction

This gives Crowther's overall assessment for the current issue. Here are the next five events for each TWIC issue from the month of July:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1339 - 6th July 2020
2) Chessable Masters 2020
3) FIDE Chess.com Women's Speed Chess 2020
4) Grandmaster Battle 2020
5) PNWCC Masters - World Online Open 2020
6) Ceske Budejovice Chess Festival 2020

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1340 - 13th July 2020
2) 33rd Leon Chess 2020
3) PNWCC Super Invitational 2020
4) FIDE Chess.com Women's Speed Chess 2020
5) 43rd Ikaros Chess Festival 2020
6) 40th Plunge Open 2020

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1341 - 20th July 2020
2) 53rd Biel Chess Festival 2020
3) 33rd Leon Chess 2020
4) PNWCC Super Invitational 2020
5) FIDE Chess.com Women's Speed Chess 2020
6) Polish Chess Championship 2020

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1342 - 27th July 2020
2) Legends of Chess 2020
3) 53rd Biel Chess Festival 2020
4) Polish Chess Championship 2020
5) FIDE Online Olympiad 2020
6) Paul Keres Memorial 2020

For example, TWIC1339, the first issue of the month, considered that the 'Chessable Masters 2020' was the most imprtant event of the preceding week. Ditto '33rd Leon Chess 2020' for TWIC1340. These TWIC lists don't say if an event was online or over-the-board (OTB), so we have to go deeper into TWIC to find out. I know that the 'Chessable Masters' was an online event, while the TWIC introduction for 'Leon Chess' started,

The 33rd Leon Chess tournament took place online due to the coronavirus crisis.

I also know that the '53rd Biel Chess Festival' reported in TWIC1341+ was a traditional OTB tournament. What about the other events? If I find the time, I'll survey them in another post.

28 July 2020

2020 CJA Award Entries

Two months ago we had the 2020 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2020) and now we have the award nominations. To sum them up in a word -- it looks like a 'botch'.

First, and probably least important, the nominations are on a page of the Chess Journalism (chessjournalism.org) titled 'CJA 2020 Awards'. Second, and more important, the page is split into two sections:-

  • Chess Submissions
  • US Chess Nominations

The second section is everything under the umbrella of USchess.org, a total of 43 entries. The first section is everything else, 40 entries.

Third, and most important, the USchess.org entries are laid out neatly according to the categories in the awards announcement. The other entries don't even mention to which category they apply.

Fourth, and probably important only to me, the USchess.org entries are weighted in favor of USchess.org staff. Daniel Lucas, Senior Director of Strategic Communication [US Chess], received six nominations including one for a cartoon 'idea'. John Hartmann, the Chess Life/CLO Editor since a few months ago, received seven, two of which are shared. The most prestigious is 'Chess Journalist of the Year', for which he is (apparently) the only nominee. Chess.com, which has had its fair share of awards in recent years, had less than a handful of nominations, all from the same writer.

In last year's post on the CJA (which stands for 'Chess Journalists of America'), 2019 CJA Award Entries (July 2019), I wrote,

For the past few years I've concentrated on my two favorite categories, 'Best Chess Blog' and 'Best Chess Art', so I'll continue the tradition this year.

Since I don't know which non-USchess.org entries are for which categories, I can't do the same this year. The word 'blog' appears in two entries -- Devachess Chess Blog *and* San Gabriel Valley Chess Club Website & Blog -- so those are perhaps this year's entries for 'Best Chess Blog'. As for chess art, three Chess Life covers are nominated in three different categories, but I can't differentiate their competition.

I'm not sure how to explain all of this. A breakdown in communication somewhere? A hijack? Let's blame it on the coronavirus.

27 July 2020

A Chess Monsterpiece?

In last week's post, Stockfish Wins TCEC S18; Leela Wins CCC14, I finished saying,

The CCC then conducted a series of 'Post-CCC14' matches, most of them featuring a new 'Stockfish NNUE' engine. Since I didn't have the time to look at these matches in any detail, I'll save that for the next, off-week post in the TCEC/CCC series.

A mid-July announcement from the CCC, Stockfish NNUE, Strongest Chess Engine Ever, To Compete In CCCC (chess.com), said,

Stockfish NNUE has broken new ground in computer chess by incorporating a neural network into the already incredibly powerful Stockfish chess engine. This hybrid chess monsterpiece is estimated to perform better than the current Stockfish 11 who recently defeated Leela Chess Zero in the TCEC, giving it a solid claim to being the strongest chess engine in the world.

Monsterpiece? A CCC command informs,

!nnue • NNUE (Efficiently Updatable Neural Network) is a new class of neural network based nonlinear evaluation functions originally designed for computer shogi. NNUE evaluation functions are designed to run efficiently on CPU using various acceleration techniques, including incremental computation.

Further information, including a long discussion of the new engine, is at Stockfish NN release - NNUE (talkchess.com; May 2020). It starts,

A year ago somebody ported Shogi NN called NNUE (Efficiently Updateable Neural Network backwards) to SF10 as a proof of concept.

A first CCC trial didn't go well for the newcomer. Lc0 beat Stockfish NNUE in a 200 game match by a score of +32-11=157 (110.5-89.5) at a time control of 3'+2". A second trial using the same time control added plain vanilla Stockfish to the two other engines. That trial is still underway.

Getting back to the name, why not just call the engine Neural Network Updateable Efficiently? The phrase 'backwards' often means 'bass ackwards'.

26 July 2020

The Dilemma of Women's Chess

Pay attention, because this is important. It goes well beyond The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).


Alexandra Botez shares a personal experience about sexual harassment & predatory behavior in chess (34:50) • '[Published on] Jun 23, 2020'

The title could have been 'Alexandra Botez shares a personal experience about sexual harassment & predatory behavior' -- the video isn't about just chess. The top comment of the 522 comments says,

Gotta report stuff. My daughter reported all three incidents that happened to her and in all three cases the pervert turned out to have assaulted multiple girls. By reporting it she prevented them from future assaults.

At 20:35, WFM Botez wonders, 'I'm also encouraging more girls to get into a space that I know is nasty and toxic. Is that even the right thing to do?' Therein lies a dilemma. And for all those men who question the need for women-only tournaments, there is your answer.

For more about one of the top streamers in chess see Wikipedia's Alexandra Botez. Bravo, Alexandra!

21 July 2020

July 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

In last month's edition of the ongoing series on U.S. chess 50 & 25 years ago, June 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover', I noted,

You might never guess that the first nine pages of the June 1970 [CL&R] issue covered 'The Match of the Century', which in 1970 meant the USSR versus the 'Rest of the World'.

In this month's edition, the match finally made the cover of CL&R. It also filled another nine pages of the magazine.


Left: '[Something, something] their cake, now they can eat it. Fischer (l.) and Larsen at the World Match Banquet'
Right: 'Brooklyn College Wins Amateur Team Playoff; Mikhail Botvinnik 1911-1995; Vinay Bhat: 10 Year Old Master!'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

The first article was more about Bobby Fischer than it was about the match. CL&R was, after all, an American magazine. The following quote is from 'Veni, Vidi, Vici' by Dr. Petar Trifunovic, subtitled 'After the Great Match'.

It is no exaggeration to say that Yugoslavia has become for Fischer a veritable Chess Eldorado. Everyone knows of the great successes which he had attained previously in this country. But now, after a prolonged absence from this country and from the chess arena in general, he has maintained his great tradition and, indeed, greatly enlarged it. His performance amidst a world-wide representation was anticipated with curiosity, impatience and anxiety by his numerous friends and fans here. [...]

"The Great Match" in Belgrade ended. Would Fischer stay in Yugoslavia and take part in the "Second Tournament of Peace" in Rovinj and Zagreb, or would he return home? The Yugoslav Chess Organization tried to retain him and to get him to consent to play in the tournament. But Fischer declined repeatedly to give a definitive assent.

Meanwhile, there arose the possibility of a great "blitz tournament" (in rapid chess) at Herceg Novi, a small but very attractive place for tourists on the Adriatic coast. Unexpectedly, Fischer agreed to play in this tournament. "Unexpectedly," that is, for all here. For it is understood that Fischer very seldom plays "blitz chess" and cultivates no sympathy for this sort of play. The Soviet "blitz" specialists, Grandmasters Tal, Korchnoi, Bronstein and Petrosian, and the Yugoslav "blitz" matador, Grandmaster Matulovic, were very glad to have "Bobby" participate. For all expected that Bobby would absorb some good lessons and even nice cudgelings in "blitz chess."

Spoiler alert: Fischer won the Herceg Novi blitz tournament, finishing four and a half points ahead of second place Tal. He also played in Rovinj / Zagreb, winning by two points

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

There is more than one way to reach Brooklyn, and trees do grow there. It is also the home of the appropriately named Brooklyn College, which has won the U.S. Amateur Team Playoff. Carlos H. Sevillano (left) deserves the credit for engineering Brooklyn College's successful program. Standing next to him are the members of the winning team: Joseph A. Valentin, Gennady Sagalchik, Alexander Kalikshteyn, and Yury Lapshun (photo courtesy of Brooklyn College).

While these young men prepare for their future, we pause to remember Mikhail Botvinnik, who passed away in Moscow on May 5th, at the age of 83. He is flanked by Samuel Reshevsky and Reuben Fine in this photograph, taken in 1983 by Nigel Eddis. As a three-time FIDE World Champion, his teachings and study methods have influenced generations of chessplayers, including the current FIDE World Champion Anatoly Karpov, and the current PCA World Champion Garry Kasparov.

And that influence may even extend to America's newest ten-year-old master, Vinay Bhat of San Jose, California, who is tutored by Saveley Polovets (His picture is courtesy of the Bhat family). Vinay is now the youngest person in the United States ever to achieve a master rating, beating by 33 days the record set by Jordy Mont-Reynaud last year.

Of the four players on the Brooklyn College team, Sagalchik became a GM and Lapshun an IM. Vinay Bhat also became a GM.

I don't recall any articles commemorating the 25th anniversary of Botvinnik's death. Although he was one of the strongest players of all time -- probably in the top-10 -- he was never well-liked by the general chess public.

20 July 2020

Stockfish Wins TCEC S18; Leela Wins CCC14

My previous post in the fortnightly series on the world's top engine vs. engine competitions was a summary covering nine months of previous posts: TCEC/CCC 2019-Q4 & 2020-Q1/Q2 Summary (June 2020). The last entry in that post -- TCEC S18 Sufi Underway; CCC14 on Medical Leave -- was dated four weeks ago meaning that I have to play some serious post-vacation catch up. To summarize that last post in a nutshell:-

TCEC: In the 100-game final match (aka 'Superfinal' or 'Sufi') Stockfish leads LCZero (aka Leela) by +6-3=13. [...] 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. • CCC: The CCC14 16-engine preliminary double round robin ('Round 1') finished with the usual suspects occupying the top places. An '!' command informs, '!next • Greco is battling Covid-19, so CCC14 is on hold.'

Even though I haven't posted anything on the subject in four weeks, that doesn't mean I haven't been following the progress of the two competitions. I generally look at them once a week, take a few screenshots showing their status, and note anything of particular interest. This lets me go back in time to a previous week if I need to do a followup. What has happened in the two competitions since the TCEC_S18/CCC14 post?

TCEC: The S18 Superfinal finished with Stockfish beating LCZero in the 100 game match by a score of +23-16=61. This reversed the result from the previous season that I documented in Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals (April 2020). The next event was TCEC Cup 6, which has reached the round of 16 and should finish in the next week.

CCC: CCC14 was a double-elimination event, meaning that an engine had to lose two matches to be knocked out of the competition. This also means that it is difficult to describe the evolution of the tournament linearly. For example, Stockfish beat Lc0 in their first encounter, then lost to Lc0 in their second encounter while also losing to Leelenstein. Lc0 beat Leelenstein in the 'final' match but since this was Leelenstein's first match loss, the two engines played a second 'final' match, which Lc0 also won. In both Lc0 - Leelenstein matches the standard 12 game match finished tied and was decided after a long tiebreak. (What sort of a mind does it take to invent these events?)

The CCC then conducted a series of 'Post-CCC14' matches, most of them featuring a new 'Stockfish NNUE' engine. Since I didn't have the time to look at these matches in any detail, I'll save that for the next, off-week post in the TCEC/CCC series.

[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]

19 July 2020

Flickr Series Hat Trick

What is it about chess that attracts so many artists? Maybe it's just easier to paint someone who sits patiently for hours.


Martinus Rorbye (1803-1848, Danish) A party of chess... © Flickr user jean louis mazieres under Creative Commons.

The rest of the description said,

A party of chess players outside a Turkish coffeehouse and barbershop. Copenhagen Statens Museum for Kunst.

This is the third time we've seen J-L. Mazieres in this blog's Flickr series. The first two were Chess Set Circa 1540 (August 2014) and The Original Dutch Masters (June 2019).

When I lived in Copenhagen, I visited the Statens Museum for Kunst on several occasions. Tak skal du have!

12 July 2020

Bloody Endgames

Want to know the truth about the 2000 Kramnik - Kasparov World Championship match?


JUGA feat. Vlad Kramnik - Endgames Bloody Endgames - U2 Chess cover | Kasparov vs Kramnik (4:39) • 'Premiered Jun 30, 2020'

The first lines of the song are...

I can't believe the move he played
3...Nf6 has not been analyzed 'til mate

...and the description of the video says,

Chess version of U2's Song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" performed by Juga. Chess Lyrics by Ex World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. Inspired by Kasparov vs Kramnik World Chess Championship 2000. Recorded at Budai Var, Budapest, June 2020

For U2's original version, see U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday (youtube.com): 45M views, 9400 comments. For more from Juga, see Bio | JUGA - Chess Artist - Official Web Site (jugamusica.com): 'Juga is a singer, songwriter and Chess Conceptual artist.'

05 July 2020

1997 Linares International

This month's post in the ongoing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), reminds me of last month's post 1982 Tbilisi Women's Interzonal (June 2020). It features a second-rate presentation of a first-rate souvenir from an historically important chess event.

The title of the auction for the item pictured below was '12 Postcards Signed by Participants - Linares Chess Tournament - Karpov's collection'. It sold for $400.00, 'Buy It Now'.

The item's description listed the 12 participants, thereby easing the task of identifying the photos.

1st row: Adams, Topalov, Kasparov, Kramnik
2nd row: Dreev, Piket, Nikolic, J.Polgar
3rd row: Gelfand, Shirov, Anand, Ivanchuk

The description continued with an account of the item's origin.

From the personal collection of A. Karpov! Karpov wasn't taking part in this tournament. He had been invited and planned to play, but couldn't. However the print run of the postcards dedicated to this tournament was already published. So the publisher just glued the photo of the newcomer on Karpov's photo.

The rest of the description, which continued 'The 14th Annual Linares Super Tournament held in 1997 was a category XVIII event' and which included a crosstable, was taken from Linares 1997 (chessgames.com). For more about the series of events, see Linares International Chess Tournament (wikipedia.org), 'sometimes described as the Wimbledon of chess'.

03 July 2020

An Unusual Week in Chess


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

In the previous post, No Online Chess Yahoos (June 2020), I presented the chart shown above and noted,

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

Since T1332 (The Week in Chess 1332, 18th May 2020) shows the largest number of events across the eight issues of TWIC in the chart, let's look at them. In any issue of TWIC, Mark Crowther generally lists the events according to his opinion of their relative importance. The first and last items in the list always look something like this:-

1) Introduction
[...]
17) Forthcoming Events and Links

The T1332 'Introduction' said,

Much online chess was announced this week. Magnus Carlsen announced a rapid series that will take place until the Autumn this starts tomorrow with the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge and that runs for the rest of May and into early June. Saint Louis dipped their toe in with a new Clutch Chess Format and an event at the end of the month, FIDE have said they want 2000 online events in the coming months.

This week we had Alexander Grischuk playing the Chessbrahs event as well as the Steinitz Memorial one after the other for a couple of days, this didn't go well. However earlier in the week Grischuk did win the very strong Play For Russia tournament beating Tomashevsky in the final. [...]

Each and every one of the events reported by TWIC were held online. Here's the complete list of events sorted by the online site where they were played:-

Place: chess.com
4) Chessbrah Invitational May 2020
5) IM Not A GM Speed Chess 2020
6) English Online Blitz 2020
7) Titled Tuesday Blitz 12th May 2020
8) FISCA Online U14 Open 2020
9) PNWCC Online Blitz - Jackpot X 2020
11) European Online Chess Championship 2020
12) Battle of the Gladiators 2020
13) Ramadan Masters 2020
14) Sukooon Resort 1st Indian Chess.com League
15) UKR vs RUS LCWL 2020

Place: chess24.com
2) FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial 2020

Place: lichess.org
3) Play for Russia 2020
16) 4NCL Online 2020

Place: Europe-Chess
10) ch-FRA Blitz Online 2020

The difference between the number of events listed above and the number in the chart are mostly due to 'Forthcoming Events and Links'. Chess.com, for example, had seven forthcoming events.

While I was preparing this post I received the July 2020 issue of Chess Life (CL). One of the feature articles -- eight pages long -- was 'Back To The Future?', subtitled 'GM Jon Tisdall returns to Chess Life to explore the explosion of online chess in 2020', which covered online events from May 2020. Will this become a regular feature in CL?