31 August 2020

TCEC S19 DivP Started; CCC15 in Brackets

Two weeks ago, the title of the post, TCEC S19 Underway; CCC in 'Pre-CCC15' (August 2020), gave the overall status of the two leading engine vs engine tournaments. The following summary gives some of the details.

TCEC: Before the start of Season 19 (S19), the TCEC announced its format; the organizers are following the same format they used in S18. A new engine 'SlowChess' won both QL and L3 by significant margins. The site is now in testing for League 2 (L2). • CCC: The 'AlphaZero Simulation Match' finished with Lc0 beating Stockfish 8, the version used in the 2017 AlphaZero - Stockfish match. After that ended, the CCC started running a series of 'Pre-CCC15' events. The name of the next event will be 'CCC15: Bullet II' and it should start this week.

In the meantime, both tournaments have completed subsequent stages.

TCEC: Losing only L2 one mini-match to 1st placed Igel, SlowChess finished 2nd to qualify for L1. There it finished 3rd, a half point short of qualification into the Premier Division (DivP). Fire and ScorpioNN qualified into DivP, which is just getting started and which will run for almost three weeks. The top two engines will qualify into the final match (aka Superfinal or Sufi).

CCC: In my previous post ('CCC in Pre-CCC15'), I noted,

A preliminary document showing the planning for CCC15 is available, but is too cryptic to understand.

It turns out that CCC15 is a straightforward bracket structure starting with a preliminary round-robin equivalent to 12-game mini-matches. That event determined the starting positions for the brackets. The structure of the first three rounds of CCC15 is shown in the following chart.

Stockfish won the preliminary event ('Round 1') by a significant margin. Since there were 17 engines, the two last-placed engines played a qualification match for the 16th place:-

CCC15.01 has been stopped on account of awfulness, and Defenchess declared the winner [over Winter].

Thus spake the arbiter: 'stopped on account of awfulness'. The 'Round 2' matches are underway and the world waits eagerly for the result of Stockfish vs. Defenchess. Will it be a whitewash?

[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]

30 August 2020

Top Tweeters

Today being the fifth Sunday of the month, I have an extra day for another post in the endlessly interesting series about The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). This video is from Youtube's Best Of Chess Channel.

The Top Chess Twitter Accounts (2:41) • '[Published on] Jul 16, 2020'

The description of the video is a list:-

The current top 15 Twitter accounts:
#1: advorkovich
#2: Kasparov63
#3: vishy64theking
#4: @Magnus Carlsen
#5: @ChessQueen

@ChessQueen is the one and only Alexandra Kosteniuk, who led the pack for a long time but has fallen behind during the past few years. For the other ten names, see the original Youtube page (right click the video for the address). This is the third time I've featured a video using this time travel bar chart technique. The first two were:-

I called it the 'time travel bar chart technique'. I wonder what the real name is. A discussion in the comments went like this:-

Q: 'what is the cause for Dvorkovich losing so many followers over the last couple years?' • A: 'I think that is Twitter cracking down and closing bots, and his account has more bot followers than other accounts.'

Why would Dvorkovich need bot followers? Since he is FIDE President, I would imagine that anyone interested in world chess would be dissecting his every word.

28 August 2020

Update on Online Chess Events

At the beginning of the summer, in No Online Chess Yahoos (June 2020), I developed a chart showing online chess events across various online play sites, based on TWIC reports ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther). For easy reference, here is the same chart.

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

As we reach the end of the summer, I developed a similar chart showing the online events over the last eight weeks.

T1339 : 'The Week in Chess 1339, 6th July 2020'

Activity for the three main sites has declined, reflecting perhaps the gradual lifting of coronavirus lockdowns or perhaps the frustration of interminable cheating scandals. Tournament activity generally increases during the summer months.

Note two changes to the names on the chart: the ICC appears for the first time and Europe-Chess has been corrected to Europe-Echecs; it is a French site, after all. Sacré bleu!

27 August 2020

Top News/Tournaments in August

At the end of last month, in a post titled Top Tournaments in July (July 2020), I took a survey of chess news stories reported by Google News and came up empty-handed for anything out of the ordinary. This current month had a number of good stories, all of them related to online chess. Here's the first:-

I mention the author because we already saw her in Coronavirus Candidates (March 2020), where I noted,

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. [2020-01-09: Q&A with Viswanathan Anand; ...] The same Susan Ninan was the writer of the four stories on the Candidates.

Two more Google News stories highlighted two of the most visible (and vocal) players of our time:-

On the Carlsen story, the headline is more accurate -- 'richest and most-watched *online* chess event ever' -- but I'm not complaining. In 'Top Tournaments in July' I identified the top five events in each weekly edition of Mark Crowther's 'The Week in Chess' (TWIC). Let's do the same for August.

1) Introduction

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1343 - 3rd August 2020
2) Legends of Chess 2020
3) 53rd Biel Chess Festival 2020
4) Polish Chess Championship 2020
5) ACP - Chessbase Knock-Out 2020
6) FIDE Online Olympiad 2020

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1344 - 10th August 2020
2) Legends of Chess 2020
3) Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final 2020
4) 7th Prague Summer Open 2020
5) 4th Irena Warakomska Memorial 2020
6) Polish Women's Championship 2020

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1345 - 17th August 2020
2) Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final 2020
3) 56th Rubinstein Memorial 2020
4) 91st ch-GER 2020
5) Barcelona August Closed Tournaments 2020
6) Santo Tirso Chess Tournament 2020

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1346 - 24th August 2020
2) Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final 2020
3) 31st Porto San Giorgio Open 2020
4) BSSZ Aranytiz 2020
5) Plzen Chess Festival 2020
6) ch-ISL 2020

The 'M.C. Chess Tour' received TWIC's top billing for the last two weeks listed above. In his introduction to TWIC 1346, Crowther wrote,

Magnus Carlsen won his tour final against Hikaru Nakamura but it was an extremely close contest settled by an Armageddon tie-break that could have gone either way. Nakamura showed that his online skills are pretty much undimmed and Carlsen clearly was very frustrated with the problems he set him. Already Chess24 have announced another longer tour starting in November and running well into 2021. I've said many times that we're not getting back to normal any time soon and we will be reliant on chess online to keep us going.

After a few words about the Armageddon format that decided the Carlsen - Nakamura match, Crowther signed off with:-

There will be more online chess from Saint Louis next month. Right now the Online Chess Olympiad is reaching its climax with some very strong players competing and the many of the usual suspects making it to the final eight next week that decides the prizes. Still plenty to look at.

It's curious that the Olympiad received top-five billing only once in August. In TWIC 1346 it was listed at no.21 out of 23 events, just behind the 'PNWCC Online Blitz - Jackpot XVIII'.

24 August 2020


Near the end of last year I posted CCC PGN (December 2019), which started,

The 'CCC PGN Archive' (see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page) hasn't been updated in over six months, and only shows events through CCC8.

While preparing that post I found a more recent archive and documented its existence in the same tab 'TCEC/CCC Links'. That second archive was only maintained another four months before it, too, stopped being updated. Recently, another attempt was made at documenting CCC PGN files via the site's Discord resource:-


the_real_greco 25/07/2020
@LILMAFYA Someone just gave me this, which has a huge number of our old PGNs (I haven't checked it for completeness).


If it's still missing anything you want (and you're still interested), let me know. You'd actually be doing me a favor if you could point out any that are missing.

See the Discord resource for the full URL of the XLSX file.

I downloaded the XLSX file, loaded it into a database, and discovered that 'huge number' meant 144 PGN files plus one 'TBA'. After doing that, I produced the chart on the left. It shows the number of PGN files per CCC season.

The XLSX data is also useful for a number of other tasks. First, it can be used to crosscheck the older archives mentioned in the original 'CCC PGN' post. Second, I can use it to catalog the CCC-live weekly snapshots that I've been taking for the last year or so. These show the name of the live event that was running at the time of the snapshot, plus events just before the live event.

I didn't have time to complete either of those two other tasks. I'll try to do that another time.

23 August 2020

Political Pundits and Pogchamps

For this edition of The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), we return to Pog Champs (June 2020). That was our sociology post of the month when the world was emerging from covid lockdown.

Hikaru on Bobby Fischer, Chess Drama, Iranian Chess Players and other issues (23:24) • '[Published on] Aug 4, 2020'

The description of the video says,

Hikaru [Nakamura] and David Pakman discuss Bobby Fischer, Chess Drama, Levon Aronian, the Iranian chess players and officials, and other controversies in chess.

What does that have to do with 'Pog Champs'? A recent announcement, Chess.com Announces The Next Pogchamps (chess.com; July/August 2020), explains,

Chess.com is announcing the second edition of Pogchamps, the critically-acclaimed Twitch streamer chess tournament featuring some of the most well-known content creators in the world. [...] In preparation for this Pogchamps, top streamers have already begun their training with coaches, including political pundit David Pakman, League of Legends star Gripex90 and others.

Political pundit Pakman has his own Youtube channel: David Pakman Show. Comparing his '962K subscribers' with GMHikaru's '347K subscribers' gives one side of the story, but the clip embedded above has more than 125K views, which would be a decent number even for Pakman.

Why are the two thirty-somethings talking to each other? See The Endgame With David Pakman - A Beginner's Chess Lesson for a Pogchamp (youtube.com; GMHikaru), 'Hikaru gives Pogchamp2 Player David Pakman a beginner chess lesson'. It's called training, but as we all know, there's more to chess than two armies fighting on 64 squares.

17 August 2020

TCEC S19 Underway; CCC in 'Pre-CCC15'

Let's start by summarizing this blog's previous report on the world's top two engine vs. engine competitions. The title of that post was Alliestein Wins TCEC Cup 6; CCC Tests 'Stockfish NNUE', and its summary is:-

TCEC: In Cup 6, the AI/NN engines dominated. Alliestein beat Stockfish in the semifinal round, then beat LCZero for the cup title. S19 should start with the Qualification League in the next week • CCC: The CCC announced 'AlphaZero Match Will Be Replicated In Computer Chess Champs' (chess.com). [...] The match should start and finish during the next week.

Both of the 'should start' predictions held true. Following is the current status.

TCEC: Before the start of Season 19 (S19), the TCEC announced its format:-

!next • Now QL, then L3, then testing for L2+L1 including also Stockfish (NNUE) as test opponent, then L2, L1, DivP, Sufi.

It's cryptic, but if you know that QL = Qualification League and L3 = League 3, etc., you understand that the organizers are following the same format they used in S18. An engine with the oxymoronic name 'SlowChess Blitz Classic 2.26' won both QL and L3 by significant margins. The site is now in 'testing for L2+L1'.

CCC: The 'AlphaZero Simulation Match' finished with Lc0 beating Stockfish 8, which was the version of Stockfish used in the 2017 AlphaZero - Stockfish match. Nowhere could I find a W-L-D count of the 200 games from the match and I didn't feel like counting them myself, so here's Chess.com's display of the match.

Stockfish won five games, while Lc0 won a lot more than that. A back of the envelope calculation using the final score of plus-64 yields +69-5=126. A follow-on match Komodo vs. Stockfish 8 was won by the Dragon with a score of plus-30. After that match ended, the CCC started running a series of 'Pre-CCC15' events. A preliminary document showing the planning for CCC15 is available, but is too cryptic to understand. The name will be 'CCC 15: Bullet II' and it should start this week.

[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]

16 August 2020

Capablanca Street, West Miami

A few months ago, in April 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover' (April 2020), I quoted from the 1994 USCF Yearbook: 'Anchorage, Alaska, has the only subdivision with a chess theme I have seen or heard of.' This photo isn't quite a subdivision, but it still has a story.

Jose Raul Capablanca Street Sign, West Miami © Flickr user Phillip Pessar under Creative Commons.

The description informed,

He was a Cuban world chess champion.

Since you're reading this post on this blog, you undoubtedly know that already. More interesting is 'Why name a Miami street after Capablanca?' From Miami-Dade Legislative Item, File Number: 062148 (miamidade.gov; July 2006):-

WHEREAS, this Board has conducted a public hearing to consider codesignating and urging the City of West Miami to codesignate SW 16th Street from SW 57th Avenue to SW 62nd Avenue as Jose Raul Capablanca Street; and
WHEREAS, Jose Raul Capablanca was born in Havana, Cuba on November 19, 1888; he was educated in the United States and studied engineering at Columbia University; and
WHEREAS, Jose Raul Capablanca learned chess at the age of 4 by watching his father play and in 1901, at the age of 12, he beat Corzo, the Cuban champion; and
WHEREAS, this Board would like to honor the memory of Jose Raul Capablanca with this codesignation, since he is a legend in the Cuban community and still revered as the superstar he was in his day; and

To make the change after ten 'WHEREAS'es, 'The Clerk of the Board is hereby directed to transmit a certified copy of this resolution to the':-

  • City Commission of West Miami,
  • Public Works Department,
  • United States Postal Service,
  • Traffic Signals and Signs Division of the Public Works Department
  • Land Development Division of the Public Works Department,
  • Miami-Dade Police Department, and
  • Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department

I bet they don't change street names too often.

10 August 2020

Stockfish NNUE = +90 Elo

According to my notes, it's been three months since I last visited the main chess engine forums (see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page). What have the engine mavens been discussing since then? In a word, or rather in an acronym, the conversations have been dominated by 'NNUE'. That observation fits well with the last two posts in this blog's TCEC/CCC series:-

NNUE is shaping up to be the most important advance in computer chess since Alphazero and its offshoot Leela. What is it and how does it work? In NNUE (chessprogramming.org), the wiki explains,

A Neural Network architecture intended to replace the evaluation of Shogi, chess and other board game playing alpha-beta searchers running on a CPU.

Typical of many technical wikis, you have to understand the subject to understand the wiki page. One reference goes to NNUE accessible explanation (talkchess.com) with a good number of talking points including a pointer to a technical paper at arxiv.org, which is never easy reading. A couple of Stockfish-specific discussions are at:-

The official Stockfish fork lives at nodchip/Stockfish: UCI chess engine (github.com). A recent Fishcooking post, NNUE evaluation merged in master, informed,

If 'Use NNUE = false', NNUE is never used. If 'Use NNUE = true', the NNUE eval is used if the material imbalance (including Pawns) is not more than around 2.5 Pawns, else the classic eval. For greater material imbalance the double speed of classic eval outweights [the] more accurate NNUE eval. Probably in such clear cases subtle positional factors play only a minor role.

Gary Linscott, who played a key role in both Stockfish and Leela, said, 'Congratulations! Seeing a +90 Elo patch that replaces the entire eval seems almost unreal.' I hope some kind, understanding soul will eventually produce something like 'NNUE for Dummies'. There is a lot to keep track of here.

09 August 2020

Chess Movie 2020

By coincidence, before I saw this trailer I had just seen the report John Leguizamo Stars in Directorial Debut Critical Thinking: Watch Powerful Trailer for Chess Drama (people.com), subtitled,

Based on a true story, Critical Thinking follows John Leguizamo as a Miami high school teacher leading his underserved students to the National Chess Championship.

'Available On Demand on Sept. 4'; I expect we'll hear more about the movie as the release date approaches.

Critical Thinking Trailer (2020) John Leguizamo, Chess Drama Movie (2:24) • '[Published on] Aug 6, 2020'

The description of the trailer didn't have much to say, but the comments did. Here are a few I particularly liked.

When the teacher came in to teach chess class that was my nap time. • You had me at 'Chess Drama Movie'. • Is this like 'Sister Act' but with a chess board? • I've seen this movie so many times. The only difference is that instead of dance, baseball, singing or football they have chess as their talent of choice. • On the lines of 'Queen of Katwe' and 'Endgame' • It’s like a dance movie but with chess. • So they basically copied from FAHIM?

The reference to FAHIM had me scratching my head but Wikipedia (in French) came to the rescue: Fahim (film; with Gérard Depardieu). It starts,

Fahim est un film français réalisé par Pierre-François Martin-Laval, sorti en 2019. Il s'agit d'un film biographique sur le joueur d'échecs franco-bengladais Fahim Mohammad.

...or as Google translates it...

Fahim is a French film directed by Pierre-François Martin-Laval, released in 2019. It is a biographical film about the Franco-Bengladian chess player Fahim Mohammad.

If you change 'Bengladian' to 'Bangladeshi', it makes more sense. That makes two movies I have to watch.

04 August 2020

August 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover'

Going back 50 and 25 years, this month's covers celebrate two tournaments that were open to the amateur player. For the previous U.S. Amateur cover, 50 years ago, see July 1968 'On the Cover' (July 2018; co-champions Jones and Shahade). Last month's post July 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover' (July 2020), saw the playoff winners of the 1995 'Amateur Team' tournaments.

Is there a connection between the U.S. Amateur tournament and the U.S. Amateur Team tournament? The most recent USCF Yearbook I have is the 2017 edition. It lists U.S. Amateur champions through 1991, followed by East and West champions starting 1992. It also lists annual U.S. Amateur Team champions starting 1971, with the first mention of East/West versions starting 1984. (NB: A summary of the team names would make a great article.)

Left: 'Charles Weldon, U.S. Amateur Champion'
Right: 'Fred Gruenberg "retires"; Hodgson wins National Open'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Weldon Sweeps U.S. Amateur • Former USCF Master and Wisconsin champion Charles Weldon, now living in New York City, ran off six straight wins to capture the 20th Annual United States Amateur Championship, played May 29-31 at Chicago's Shoreland Hotel. Held in the Midwest for the first time, the tournament continued as one of the nation's most popular with 195 entrants -- 92 in Group 1, open to all non-Masters, and 103 in Group 2, open to all under 1800 or Unrated.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

He Put the FUN Back Into Chess by Jerry Hanken • The National Open is one of the few "must play in" events in American chess. In 1965 the legendary late USCF president and executive director Ed Edmondson established the tournament as part of the then "triple crown" of national events (along with the U.S. Open and the American Open).

After a five paragraph summary of the tournament's history, the report continued,

The 1995 National Open top section was won on tiebreak by British GM Julian Hodgson who was awarded the prestigious Edmondson Cup. Julian was only a deceptive No. 14 on the wallchart, as his FIDE rating of 2585 was used. (He had no published USCF rating.)

The 2017 USCF Yearbook lists the winners of the 1965 National Open, the first in the series, as Robert Byrne and Samuel Reshevsky. That first event was featured in the January 1965 'On the Cover' (January 2015), as well as for the following month.

03 August 2020

Alliestein Wins TCEC Cup 6; CCC Tests 'Stockfish NNUE'

The previous post on the world's top two engine-vs-engine competitions announced the most recent winners of both: Stockfish Wins TCEC S18; Leela Wins CCC14 (July 2020). Here's a summary of the final rounds:-

TCEC: The S18 Superfinal finished with Stockfish beating LCZero in the 100 game match by a score of +23-16=61. • CCC: CCC14 was a double-elimination event, meaning that an engine had to lose two matches to be knocked out of the competition. 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. The CCC then conducted a series of 'Post-CCC14' matches, most of them featuring a new 'Stockfish NNUE' engine.

I discussed 'Stockfish NNUE' in last week's post A Chess Monsterpiece (July 2020), and noted, 'Lc0 beat Stockfish NNUE in a 200 game match [...] A second trial is still underway.' What else has happened in the last two weeks?

TCEC: In Cup 6, the AI/NN engines dominated. Alliestein beat Stockfish in the semifinal round, then beat LCZero for the cup title. Stockfish beat Fire for third place. S19 kicked off with various flavors of Stockfish against various flavors of LCZeroCPU, followed by other forms of testing. S19 should start with the Qualification League in the next week.

CCC: In an event called 'More Chesse-Play', consisting of three closely contested 200 game matches, Lc0 beat both Stockfish-NNUE (+1) and Stockfish (+5), while Stockfish-NNUE beat Stockfish (+1). After a few more Stockfish-NNUE matches, where it clobbered weaker engines, the CCC announced AlphaZero Match Will Be Replicated In Computer Chess Champs (chess.com):-

While Chess.com can't bring AlphaZero out of hiding, we will be replicating the full AlphaZero vs. Stockfish 8 match in the Chess.com Computer Chess Championship. The open-source Leela Chess Zero will be standing in for AlphaZero. Anyone who has seen Leela's recent games could be forgiven for mistaking her for AlphaZero.

The match should start and finish during the next week. The current version of the underdog is Stockfish 11.

[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]

02 August 2020

Strange Adventures on eBay

After two consecutive posts featuring multiple photos of modern players, last seen in 1997 Linares International (July 2020), the long-running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), returns with an item that is more artistic. It's also a chess comic, a category for which I have a special fondness.

The item pictured below was titled 'Strange Adventures #35 CGC 8.5 OW-W DC-1953 Chess Cover'. It sold for US $643.93 after 26 bids from 12 bidders.

The caption on the bottom right says,

Captain Comet becomes a human Pawn on - "The Cosmic Chessboard!"

The pieces in the glass cases are named Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Earth. The description added only the mysterious phrase, 'Tied for Highest Graded Copy.' This probably refers to the 'CGC 8.5' mentioned in the title. For more about the CGC classification, see a previous post in the 'Top eBay Chess Items' series, JLA Chess Comics (April 2019).