22 October 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, the Tours

The entire content of last week's post, Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, 'Online = Y' (October 2021), was its own summary:-

After adding the face-to-face (aka offline, aka OTB) events to [the Carlsen TMER], I tackled the online events. The results are documented in the second TMER section titled 'In preparation'.

'The Carlsen TMER' refers to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-). For this current post, I returned to Carlsen's Prelim Events 2019-21 (August 2021), where I started to explore two series of events: the 'Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour', and the 'Meltwater Champions Chess Tour'. For basic info about the results of individual events, I discovered that Chessgames.com had the most compact, albeit detailed pages. Following are links to individual pages for each event.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour

Meltwater Champions Chess Tour

The following image shows the section of the TMER that covers the first tour (individual events are coded 'MC-CT').

GM Carlsen's 'Result' for each event (5th column) is indicated, but his 'Score' (6th) is missing. Although it doesn't make much sense to enter overall WLD totals for a sequence of knockout matches, especially where the games were played at varying time controls, something should be present in those fields.

18 October 2021

CCC Changes the Guard

Back in the middle of the summer, in a fortnightly status post on the two main engine competitions, TCEC S21 Sufi Underway; CCC Still Romancing (August 2021), I observed,

The [CCC] site is seeking additional help; see 'CCC Looking for New Server Admin and Developer!' (chess.com). More info, including a job spec and application, is available via the site's Discord platform.

The Discord announcement, signed 'ChessErik' and dated July 2021, pointed to Computer Chess Admin (Developer, Engine Master for CCC) (docs.google.com), which started,

Love computers and chess engines? Chess.com is looking for someone to take over the management of the Computer Chess Championship [CCC] server administration.

The key requirements on that Google Forms page, which has since been marked '>>> Role Has Been Filled <<<', are shown in the following image.

The job spec pointed to two other Chess.com admin pages. The first was How Chess.com's 100-Person Virtual Team Works Together (chess.com; signed 'erik'), a living document. When it originally appeared in August 2017, it announced, 'This month we finally hit 100 team members', but an update dated January 2021, corrected that to:-

We hit 100 team members in 2017. At the start of 2021 we have 250+ team members, and it still feels like a close family!].

The second Chess.com admin page was About Chess.com (first published September 2010, updated frequently). It starts,

Chess.com is #1 in online chess... But who are we? Where did Chess.com come from? Where are we going? • The Beginning: Chess.com started in 2005 when two friends -- Jay and Erik (that's me!) -- decided the world needed a better chess website. We met 10 years earlier in college, where I first became addicted to chess — and Jay was the chess club president. We became friends through our shared passion for the game. [...]

The 'About' page lists Chess.com staff, including the 'CCC Tournament Director; Since August 2021'. I couldn't find an announcement about who was hired for the position, so I'll stop here.

17 October 2021

'The Hand that Guides the [blank]'

My first thought for a title was 'The Hand that Guides the Pieces', but I don't think the player(s) should be lumped together with the chess pieces. My second thought was 'The Hand that Guides the Players', but are the pieces really players? Then I thought of 'The Hand that Guides the Actors' or 'Action'. I'll leave the '[blank]' for now. Maybe I'll think of something more appropriate before I finish the post.


Blind moves © Flickr user lolo ramingo under Creative Commons.

Among the usual tags:-

composition, collage, concept, digital, chess, ...

...was 'Northcote'. What's that? The artist has two more works about chess:-

I 'faved' the second of those last month, when it lost in the final cut to the Flickr favorite featured in The Battle of Braine-l'Alleud (September 2021). Neither of those images used 'Northcote' as a tag.

The image I faved had Akira Tanaka (fr.wikipedia.org; b.1918 Osaka - d.1982 Paris, 'un artiste-peintre japonais') as a tag. Perhaps James Northcote (en.wikipedia.org; b.1746 - d.1831 London; 'a British painter') was another inspiration? Yes, that's it: see File: Chess Players by James Northcote (wikimedia.org).

Another lead for further caissart research are the 29 groups in which the image finds itself. That might serve as an inspiration for me at another time.

15 October 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, 'Online = Y'

After adding the face-to-face (aka offline, aka OTB) events to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-) -- see the post Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, 'Online = N' (October 2021) -- I tackled the online events. The results are documented in the second TMER section titled 'In preparation'.

11 October 2021

TCEC Testing Cup 9; CCC C960 Blitz Semifinal

What's happening in the world of top-class engine vs. engine competitions? I'll summarize the previous post TCEC VSOB 21, CCC C960 Blitz Championship : Both Underway (September 2021), as follows:-

TCEC: 'VSOB 21' will finally have run for more than five weeks. What's next? 'Cup9'... • CCC: The site is running a 'Chess960 Blitz Championship' with 12 engines in a multi-round all-play-all format.

Fast forward two weeks. Let's take a snapshot of the current status.

TCEC: 'VSOB 21' eventually finished after 616 games, the same number that was scheduled two weeks ago. When I looked at the schedule last week, it had been extended to 720 games, which was apparently (mercifully) reduced afterward. If I can't think of a better idea for an off-week post, I'll take a look at the 616 games. The '!cup9' plan now says,

ETA = expected soon, apologies for the delay! The plan to increase the number of participants from 32 to all participants in the Leagues has been postponed. This change would need elaborate preparatory testing (GUI brackets and byes).

The site is currently performing 'Cup 9 Testing'. For more info on the upcoming event, see TCEC Cup 9 (wiki.chessdom.org). It says:-

This page 'TCEC Cup 9' is used for engine registration, to see which engines and updates have been requested, announced and received. Deadline for updates is 15 October.

I expect the tournament will be well underway by my next report in two weeks. Since the TCEC cup events proceed quickly, it might even be finished.

CCC: In the 'Chess960 Blitz Championship', each engine played 16 games against each of the other 11 engines, for 176 games total. Stockfish, Dragon, and Lc0 finished 1-2-3. Three more engines also qualified into the 'Chess960 Blitz Semifinals' Along the way, Stockfish dropped only one full point, to Lc0.

In the semifinal, the 600 scheduled games finish within a week. At 15 games per round, the event will go 40 rounds, or 20 double rounds. I'll reserve any discussion of the games for my 'Chess960 (FRC)' blog, listed on the sidebar. Is this the first CCC chess960 event? A scan of past reports on this blog revealed nothing else, but I haven't been following the CCC since it started in 2017.

[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]

10 October 2021

U.S. Chess HOF Induction at The Muny

First, let's have some definitions: HOF = U.S. Chess Hall of Fame; The Muny (wikipedia.org):-

The St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre (commonly known as The Muny) is an amphitheatre located in St. Louis, Missouri. The theatre seats 11,000 people with about 1,500 free seats in the last nine rows that are available on a first come, first served basis

If that sounds like the recipe for a class act, it is.


2021 U.S. Chess Championships: Opening Ceremony & HOF Inductions (1:27:57) • 'Streamed live on Oct 6, 2021'

The description of the video explained,

Live from The Muny in Forest Park, GM Maurice Ashley hosts the Opening Ceremony and drawing of lots for the 2021 U.S. & U.S. Women's Chess Championships. Plus, Dr. Jeanne & Rex Sinquefield are inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.

The list of speakers is a good start on a Who's Who of U.S. chess.

0:00:40 GM Maurice Ashley, Master of Ceremonies
0:02:10 Mike Isaacson, Artistic Director and Executive Producer, The Muny
0:05:35 Shannon Bailey, Chief Curator, Hall of Fame
0:09:25 Randy Bauer, Vice President USchess
0:15:20 GM Garry Kasparov
0:24:50 Sunil Weeramantry, Vice President for Scholastic Chess, U.S. Chess Trust
0:31:00 Jeanne Sinquefield, Co-founder St. Louis Chess Club
0:46:30 Rex Sinquefield, Co-founder St. Louis Chess Club
0:53:00 Video, St. Louis Chess Club
1:06:10 Randy Sinquefield (son), President, Spectrum Studios
1:10:30 Tony Rich, Executive Director, St. Louis Chess Club
1:13:00 Drawing of pairing numbers

Great ceremony, great video. U.S. chess is in great hands.

08 October 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, 'Online = *'

In last week's post, Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, 'Online = N' (October 2021), I finished by saying,

Even though the TMER page is currently one of the messiest pieces I have posted on one of my resources, I uploaded it anyway. I'll come back to it as soon as I can.

The 'TMER page' means Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-). Using material from TWIC ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther), I documented two recent online series -- the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour (2020) and the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour (2020-21) -- in an extension to Carlsen's Prelim Events 2019-21 (August 2021).

Then I added relevant explanations to the TMER page itself and uploaded a new version. The 'In preparation' section is a big improvement over the previous version, but there is still much more to be done. Watch this space...

05 October 2021

October 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

In last month's post in this ongoing series, September 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (September 2021), the World Championship received a full cover 50 years ago and important coverage 25 years ago. In this month's post it's USA all the way.


Left: '?'
Right: 'We are the champions! Anjelina Belakovskaya and Alex Yermolinsky Claim National Titles!'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Walter Browne (left) and Larry Evans concentrating at the U.S. Open in Ventura, Cal. The two grandmasters scored 10-2 to share the title and prize money. See [inside] for a brief preliminary report. Photos by Burt Hochberg.

That preliminary report, titled 'Browne, Evans Top Record U.S. Open', started,

The 72nd U.S. Open, held in Ventura, California, in August, was the largest and strongest ever held. With eight international grandmasters, three international masters and a large group of masters, totaling some four hundred players, the event was unquestionably the most successful and interesting of the annual series.

Grandmasters Walter Browne of Australia and the U.S. and Larry Evans of Reno, Nevada, tied with 10 out of 12. According to tradition, the two players became co-champions, though Browne had the better tie-breaking points. The young (22) and fast-rising Browne overcame an arduous schedule of opponents, defeating front-runner William Lombardy in the decisive final round to knock the New York grandmaster into a multiple tie for 3-6 place. [...] This is the first time Browne has at least tied for first in a U.S. Open.

GM Evans has been seen many times in the 'On the Cover' series, most recently for May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (May 2021), after winning two strong open tournaments. GM Browne, who was just starting his rise to chess stardom, was last seen in July 1966 'On the Cover' (July 2016), for winning 'the first annual invitational United States Junior Chess Championship'. That might well have been the first CL/CR cover appearance in his career.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

The 'On the Cover' introduction was a full page story with color group photos of the participants in both events. The first paragraph covered the men's (unrestricted) event:-

Alex Yermolinsky of Euclid, Ohio, won the 1996 Interplay U.S. Championship, held July 12-29, at New Jersey's Parsippany Hilton. He shared that title with Alexander Shabalov in 1993. His 9-4 score was a point better than that of Gregory Kaidanov and Boris Gulko, but it was not a runaway contest. Alex was tied with Kaidanov, going into the last round. While Yermolinsky defeated Dmitry Gurevich, Kaidanov had his hopes dashed when he lost an exciting game to Lev Alburt.

The second paragraph covered the women's event:-

Anjelina Belakovskaya of Brooklyn, New York, also won by a full point margin. This is the first time she has won the Interplay U.S. Women's Championship outright, having shared the title last year with Sharon Burtman. Anna Gulko was second with a 6-3 score. Irina Levitina placed third -- and announced her retirement from chess. She is an active master bridge player, and will be representing the U.S. in upcoming international competitions.

Not to be forgotten were the sponsors of the event.

Interplay Productions, of Irvine, California, was our title sponsor, making it possible to offer a total of $90,000 in prize money for the two championships. Interplay produces much of the world's finest gaming software, including Battle Chess and the new Brainstorm line of products. Co-sponsors were the Parsippany Hilton, which provided the site and refreshments for the players, Organizer E. Steven Doyle, the New Jersey State Chess Federation, and USCF.

Later in the report, special mention was made of a special sponsor.

SILENT MOMENT • Joel Benjamin, who has played in 15 consecutive championships, was asked to say a few words about the late Craig Crenshaw, who passed away on March 22. Dr. Crenshaw, 79, was the sponsor of the Crenshaw Awards, an integral part of the championship. Dr. Crenshaw, retired physicist, was the chief scientist of the Army Materiel Command from 1962 until his retirement in 1974.

In the series I ran on USCF Awards 1979-92 (May 2021), I expected to find a USCF award to Dr. Crenshaw, but came up empty-handed. A search of the web revealed nothing either, although I didn't exhaust the possibilities. See also Obituary for Craig M. Crenshaw (Aged 79; newspapers.com), where his chess accomplishments merited a paragraph.

04 October 2021

TCEC/CCC Link Maintenance

Not having any better ideas for an off-week post on engines, I decided to update the page TCEC/CCC Links; see the tab at the top of this page (and every other page on this blog). The main changes were a few new links to Discord and to other posts on this blog.

03 October 2021

'Not a Shadow Box'

Once in a while on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I'm not sure what I'm looking at exactly. Consider the item pictured below. It was titled 'Chess (technically untitled) Assemblage, Sculpture Set Designer Art' and sold for US $1495, 'Best offer accepted'. That price is an upper limit, meaning that we don't really know what it sold for, although it most definitely was a top item.

Back to the question: 'What is it?' The item description started,

This is not a shadow box but a miniature set design by a prominent European/Dutch artist and set designer, Peter Gabrielse. This assemblage, or what we might have called a shadow box from our school days, was created by the artist, Peter Gabrielse from Holland (The Netherlands). In Dutch they are called Kijkkasten, or box sculptures. Sometimes they are referred to as peep boxes.

I know enough Dutch to understand that 'kijkkasten' is the plural of 'kijkkast', but that doesn't help much. The word 'kijkkast', literally 'watchbox' -- where watch is a verb, not a noun -- translates to many things of which the most banal is 'TV set'. That clearly is not the item in the photo, so we need to continue with its description:-

Gabrielse was born in 1937 and is still living doing his creations. He is a well known set designer of 30 years experience working for theater and TV in Europe. He decided to make these assemblages with themes. This is obviously of chess.

A quck look at the artist's site, Peter Gabrielse : Architecture / interiors in miniature, gives more examples of his work, although it doesn't help provide a term to describe them. Note that the table at the bottom center of the box holds a miniature chess set and the figures at the bottom right are chess pieces. Along with much speculation about the symbolism in the art, the item description tells us the piece is heavier than it looks and gives us an idea of its size:-

The rough hewn wooden frame is about 20" by 18" and the open part is almost a foot square. It was listed [sic; listed where?] as about five inches deep.

The wire to the left of the box is for a light at the back of the box. The best word to describe the piece might be 'diorama', but that doesn't seem completely correct either. 'Not this, not that.' Where have I heard that before?

01 October 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, 'Online = N'

In a previous post, Carlsen's TMER 2019-21 (September 2021), I added a preliminary table to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-), and wrote,

I'll use the new table to add missing data to the many blank fields, then merge it into the main table.

I started by adding data to the events marked 'Online = N', and ended up with many questions for further investigation.. The transition to online events has paralleled significant format changes to the non-online events, all of which could use an explanation on the TMER page. Take, for example, the Armageddon games in the 2019 and 2020 events held at Stavanger, Norway. All I could do for now was to note the need for an explanation.

Even though the TMER page is currently one of the messiest pieces I have posted on one of my resources, I uploaded it anyway. I'll come back to it as soon as I can.

30 September 2021

The Yahoo Database Reveals a Lawsuit

The previous post in the Yahoo series, National Yahoos (August 2021), was 'all about news sources', but this post returns to the stories themselves. 'What are Yahoos?', you ask. See the footnote at the bottom of this post for an answer.

Before getting to the stories, let's have the usual overview of the sources, shown to the left. 'Usual' means that Chess.com heads the list. The online chess juggernaut accounted for 48 stories this month, eclipsing its previous record of 46 stories reached two months ago in Three Times Yahoos (July 2021).

Only six other sources managed to have at least two stories, the lowest number since February 2021. That leaves 34 sources with a single story.

One story I expected to see on the list involved Netflix and it appeared three times. Here's the NPR version:-

According to NPR, the gist of the story goes like this:-

The Queen's Gambit on Netflix won over tens of millions of viewers last year, triggering a national run on chess sets and making an instant icon out of its fictional protagonist. And that's not all it did, according to one real-life champion. Georgian chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili -- who made history as the world's first female grandmaster -- alleges the show belittled her career and damaged her reputation with a single sentence. Gaprindashvili is now suing Netflix for defamation and invasion of privacy, according to a 25-page complaint filed in a federal district court in California on Thursday.

That single Netflix sentence, also according to NPR, was:-

"The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that's not unique in Russia. There's Nona Gaprindashvili, but she's the female world champion and has never faced men."

I recall that when I heard that line while watching the Netflix episode, I assumed it meant that she 'never faced men' during a World Championship event, which is true. My page, World Chess Championship : Index of Women Players, says she played in 19 different events for the Women's World Chess Championship. According to a post on my World Championship blog, Women's World Championship Stalwarts (August 2020), that is the highest number of participations achieved to date, equalled only by another Georgian player, Maia Chiburdanidze.

Maybe I'm too close to the subject. The Netflix phrase 'never faced men' wasn't limited to the context of World Championship events. The NPR story goes on to give a detailed account of the background to the complaint. I'm sure the story will reappear when it's finally settled, certainly in the chess press if not the mainstream press.

One event where I was surprised to see multiple mentions concerned chess960. All four stories were from chess sources. Here's one:-

Chessbase News is nearly always on the list of top sources for any given month and was runner-up for September. Another frequent source is the Financial Times, which placed third for the month. One of the four FT stories was also about chess960, although you wouldn't guess that from the title:-

I already hinted at FT's influence in the 'Three Times Yahoos' post, where the 'third "Times" source was the Financial Times'. I should have mentioned that the FT writer is none other than Leonard Barden, perhaps the greatest chess journalist of all time. His previous FT columns, one per week, are available via ft.com/search?q=chess.

I'll close this Yahoo post with a real Yahoo. Its origin is a press release:-

Believe it or not, the story is about garbage collection. Don't take my word for it; it's all detailed in the press release, along with a quote by 'Chess.com CEO Erik Allebest', better known as simply Erik by the millions of Chess.com members.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]

28 September 2021

A Century of Follow-ups

After making a non-trivial change to a recent post, I decided to tackle the category of posts that could use a follow-up. For the record, here's a list of the posts I changed:-

The non-trivial change was to that last post, where I documented the position on the board, with Napoleon to move. The last time I worked on follow-ups was for Follow-up Closure (March 2017; 'Next step: Follow up something else'). If I keep to the same rhythm, I will have exhausted the current list of follow-ups in about 110 years.

27 September 2021

TCEC VSOB 21, CCC C960 Blitz Championship : Both Underway

The previous post on our two ongoing, world class, engine vs engine competitions, TCEC VSOB 21, CCC Blitz 2021 : Both Still Underway (September 2021), can be summarized as follows:-

TCEC: The site is still running 'VSOB 21'. The schedule says it will run until the first week in October. • CCC: The six top engines in the 'Blitz Championship 2021' qualified into the semifinals, where the two top engines qualified into the finals, which was convincingly won by Stockfish over Lc0.

That post paralleled the post before that. What can be said about the current status of the two competitions?

TCEC: The summary of the previous post accurately describes the current situation. Given that the first 'VSOB 21' game was played on 28 August, the event will finally have run for more than five weeks. I mentioned the previous VSOB (numbered 'VSOB 20', i.e. 'Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus') in TCEC 'VSOB'; CCC 'ECO Mega-Matches' (April 2021). It ran for less than five days.

What's next? The TCEC crystal ball says, '!Cup9', with the further info:-

Plans to increase the number of participants from 32 to all(?) participants in the Leagues. This change would need testing (GUI brackets and byes).

The TCEC cup events use a knockout format based on mini-matches. For the previous cup event, see TCEC Cup 8, CCC Rapid 2021 : Semifinals Both Underway (March 2021).

CCC: The CCC is currently running a 'Chess960 Blitz Championship' with 12 engines in a multi-round all-play-all format. The event will continue until the end of next week, after which the CCC '!next' command says, 'Chess960 Blitz Semifinals'. That is the first update to the '!next' command since the end of April. Can we expect more information about the format of the event? Lesser miracles have been known to happen.

[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 September 2021

The Sociology of Chess in Images

One of the most important posts in this series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) was Chess as an Institution (January 2017), which featured an embedded Youtube video. At some time after I posted it, the video disappeared. For this post I set out to find a replacement video, was quickly successful, then added a link to the 'Institution' post.

Still having some time on my hands and mindful that the fifth anniversary of the 'Sociology' series was approaching, I created the image below. Then I analyzed it image by image using a technique last seen in Books on Soviet Chess History (May 2019).


Google image search on 'chess sociology'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '8' (from left to right).]

Most of the small thumbnail images have nothing to do with chess, but use the game to illustrate a particular sociological theme. For example, the first thumbnail (A1) leads to An Overview of Game Theory in Sociology (thoughtco.com), where chess gets a single, passing mention because a 'player must look ahead'.

The second thumbnail (A2) leads to the same post titled 'Sociology of Chess' mentioned in the first paragraph above. The third thumbnail (A3) is for a resource that I introduced in 'Players and Pawns' (January 2019), Gary Alan Fine's 'Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture', an important book that I still haven't read.

Two of the thumbnails are for sites that specialize in stock images. I went one step further to search for all chess images on each site:-

As for search results that really have something to do with both sociology *and* chess, three references were repeated in separate results. The first two are for a PDFs, where the titles can be used to locate the papers.

A5/B2: 'The Sociological Paradox of Chess: The transclass distinction of the game of kings' by Krzysztof Olechnicki • 'Abstract: The article deals with the sociological paradox of chess. On the one hand, this game gives people who belong to its social world a kind of desirable distinction, but on the other hand this distinction is not connected with the class position. In Pierre Bourdieu’s terms, if we treat chess as part of the sports field, then class distinction should be interconnected with it. [...]'

C4/C6: 'Chess: The Preface to a Technical Resource for Sociology' by Michael W. Raphael • 'Abstract/Description: The metaphorical applications of chess to life date back prior to the thirteenth century and are still operating in modern narratives across many disciplines. The definition of "chess" varies across these narratives - some of which are problematic for moving beyond the mere "chess" metaphor. [...]'

The third repeated result, from a well known and respected chess site, is an issue that arises repeatedly. See, for example, an earlier post on this blog, Chess and Gender Lines (March 2019).

B3/B7: The gender gap in top-level chess (chess24.com; by chess24 staff)

Finally, here are a couple of titles where the connection to chess is obvious, but the connection to sociology is less obvious, at least for me.

C5: 'A Philosophy of Chess - A Sociological Allegory; Parallelisms Between the Game of Chess and Our Larger Human Affairs' by Dale Lancaster

C8: 'Progressive Tactics - 1002 Progressively Challenging Chess Tactics' by Dave Couture

Why is it that browsing image results is often more productive than browsing text results?

24 September 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21

After posting last week's Carlsen's Banter Blitz Events 2019-21 (September 2021), I felt confident that I understood the data well enough to proceed with the next step. I added a new 'In Preparation' table with the new data for 2019-21 to the end of Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-; 'Last updated 2018-11-26'). I'll use the new table to add missing data to the many blank fields, then merge it into the main table. For a previous post in this series, Carlsen's Events 2019-21 (August 2021), I calculated,

[Carlsen's] games were spread across 77 different events, of which 34 were played face-to-face and 43 online.

The new table lists 75 events. The two 'missing' events were in fact single events -- one face-to-face and one online-- that started and finished in a different year. They were thereby each counted as two separate events.

23 September 2021

Take 'Pine Box Trail' to 'Chess Cemetery'

In this month's Flickr post, Classical Does Not Apply (September 2021), I gave myself a follow-up:-

Did the artist decide that cemeteries and death are not a good marketing tactic? I have a photo of a chess cemetery somewhere, but I'll tackle that another time.

It turned out to be an unused Flickr favorite from nearly a decade ago.


Chess Cemetery © Flickr user Devon Christopher Adams under Creative Commons.

The description says,

Chess Cemetery in Greene County, Pennsylvania. A mid-1800s family cemetery on top of a hill near Ryerson Station State Park. While there are many Chess family members buried here, there are also a few GRIM family members related to the Brothers Grimm.

While I was working on this, I discovered that the Flickr info is incorporated in the photo's EXIF data, at least for downloaded photos. That could be useful some day. For more photos from a related series by the same photographer, see Devon Christopher Adams's photos (flickr.com; &text=chess). Back to the photo above, the sign on the left says,

Chess Cemetery ->
Pine Box Trail ->

The large sign says,

Ryerson Station State Park
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The colored portion of the large sign says, 'DCNR - Pennsylvania State Parks'. Another discovery for this post was a poem, 'Cemetery Chess' by Sandy McIntosh. Copies of the poem are available on the web by using the obvious search terms.

21 September 2021

2021 CJA Awards - Part 2

A month has passed since I posted 2021 CJA Awards - Part 1 (August 2021), so Part 2 is long overdue. Part 1 looked at the different classifications of the awards made by the CJA (Chess Journalists of America).

In this follow-up post I'll mention the awards to which I pay particular attention. This is in line with last year's post, 2020 CJA Awards - Part 2 (October 2020), where I featured four specific awards:-

  • Chess Journalist of the Year
  • Best Chess Book
  • Best Chess Art
  • Best Chess Blog

The most prestigious of the awards, Chess Journalist of the Year, went to Chess Life/CLO Editor John Hartmann for the second consecutive year. Hartmann also won an award for 'Best Humorous Contribution' (a piece titled, 'In Praise of Descriptive Notation').

Just like last year, there were three winners for 'Best Chess Book'in different subcategories. They were:-

  • Best Book - Instruction; Joel Benjamin; 'World Champion Chess for Juniors' (New in Chess)
  • Best Book - Other; Andrey Terekhov; 'The Life & Games of Vasily Smyslov' (Russell Enterprises)
  • Best Self-Published Book; Carsten Hansen; 'The Carlsen Variation - A New Anti-Sicilian to Rattle Your Opponents'

In another post from earlier this year, 2021 CJA Award Entries (July 2021), I predicted,

A sure winner is the Chess Life [CL] cover for August 2020, titled 'New Chess Boom'. It was nominated in two categories : 'Best Art' and 'Best Single Chess Magazine Cover'.

The cover is pictured below. It won an award in both categories for which it was nominated.

In 'Best Art', the illustration by Neil Jamieson and Frankie Butler won outright, and in 'Best Magazine Cover' it won an honorable mention. The winner in the best cover category was 'Inside Strategies' from the June 2020 edition of Chess Life Kids.

One of the intriguing aspects of this piece is its structural resemblance to images of the Hindu god Vishnu rising out of the ocean of cause / effect. Here the ocean is represented by chess pieces. The CL introduction ignored any metaphysical interpretation and said simply,

This month’s cover by Neil Jamieson features a lot of faces you might recognize, and some that you may not know ... unless you’re a dedicated Twitch fan! ART DIRECTION BY FRANKIE BUTLER

The award for 'Best Online Blog' had two co-winners. They were:-

  • Ray Linville; Learning with Each Game; Chess.com
  • Dana Mackenzie; Dana Blogs Chess

This was Linville's second consecutive win. Congratulations to the winners in all categories, not just the four I've mentioned here. The chess world might not pay much attention to the CJA or their awards, but chess writers do.

I had a few other resources I wanted to look at, like the winning cover from Chess Life Kids, but USchess.org is currently returning a 'Site under maintenance' error message. I'll come back to that as soon as I can.

20 September 2021

TCEC VSOB Opening Tools

In the previous post on engine competitions, TCEC VSOB 21, CCC Blitz 2021 : Both Still Underway (September 2021), I copied a couple of the TCEC !Commands. Here's the second of them:-

!vsob1 • Before you submit a VSOB opening you can check if it is completely busted at
   https://www.chessdb.cn/queryc_en/
or (if it is more of a fantasy opening) at
   https://lichess.org/analysis/standard/

TCEC VSOB = Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus. Let's turn those two URLs into clickable links for further investigation.

1) Chess Cloud Database Query Interface (chessdb.cn). Its 'Info & Help' page explains,

Chess Cloud Database (aka "CDB") is a massive chess knowledge database, including an opening book and endgame tablebases. In contrast to traditional opening book building from game results, CDB is built entirely from analyzing individual moves using chess engines while overcoming their problems such as aggressive pruning and blind spots. CDB attempts to explore and define new chess opening theories, currently it includes most of the popular opening lines and yet still refining the results.

Further references to the endgame tablebases use the acronym 'EGTB'.

2) Analysis board (lichess.org). It also incorporates a tablebase, which I discussed a few years ago in Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess (August 2018). I've used it many times since and it's a great tool. For completeness, I should mention another tablebase tool released recently: Chess.com Announces New Tablebase Feature (chess.com).

I started this post with the intention of examining the use of these tools for opening analysis, not for endgame tablebases. Unfortunately, I found nothing worth reporting for opening analysis. Good openings respect chess logic; bad openings don't. It really is that simple, as the tools consistently confirm. Maybe if I give it more time, something unusual will appear.

19 September 2021

The Battle of Braine-l'Alleud

Belgians like to point out that the battle of Waterloo was not fought at Waterloo; it was fought at Braine-l'Alleud. Chess historians like to point out that the chess games attributed to Napoleon are undoubtedly specious. I like to point out interesting chess images that I find on Flickr. Here's the latest.


Napoleon Loses a Match © Flickr user Stuart Rankin under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo adds,

Detail of a painting of a chess match between a cardinal and Napoleon, which Napoleon seems to have lost.

The full painting is also available on Flickr at Check, Napoleon and the Cardinal. The description there adds,

Check • Napoleon and the Cardinal • Oil on Panel • 29 x 38 ½ in • Undated • 1931.391.150 • On display in: McKee Room • Another of Vibert’s very detailed re-creations of historical episodes, Check depicts an event from the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. [...]

That description is originally from The Haggin Museum - Collections: Art: Jehan-Georges Vibert: Check (208.92.96.159). A more recent version of the page is at Check - Haggin Museum (hagginmuseum.org).

For more about Napoleon and chess, see Napoleon Bonaparte and Chess (chesshistory.com; Edward Winter). Did I say 'more about'? Make that 'all about'. I referenced the same page in Napoleon and Josephine Biscuit (July 2017).

***

Later: The detail on the high resolution copy of the Flickr photo is enough to work out the position on the board. Napoleon (playing White, on move) is in trouble.


FEN: 6k1/1p4pp/2p5/p1P3n1/P1K3P1/1PN4P/8/8 w
(lichess.org)

Thanks to AL for sharing this discovery.

17 September 2021

Carlsen's Banter Blitz Events 2019-21

After a three week break, let's return to updating Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-; TMER: 'Last updated 2018-11-26.'), previously seen in Carlsen's Prelim Events 2019-21 (August 2021). In that post I wrote,

Since we arrived at this point by following TWIC data ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther), let's continue with TWIC's stories. Crowther introduces each edition of TWIC with a summary of the top tournaments, explaining how they fit into the overall chess scene at that moment in time. Any event in which Carlsen participates is automatically a top tournament.

Along with the 'Prelim Events', there was another series of online events where I need to catch up, because I wasn't paying sufficient attention when they were played. Here is a list of 'Chess24 Banter Blitz' events played during the last few years, as reported by TWIC.

It looks like a long list, but in fact it includes two events which took place over a period of time. [NB: 'Ct' is the number of Carlsen games on the PGN file associated with the TWIC report. 'MaxOfPGN' is the highest date on those games.]

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1301 14th October 2019
4) Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup 2019

The Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup takes place 25th September until probably some time in December. 3 minute blitz games where the players have to talk while playing. Very strong with World Champion Magnus Carlsen already through to the second round.

The number in front of the parenthesis is the rank accorded by TWIC. That first report was pre-covid, pre-pandemic. The final TWIC report came a month into the global lockdowns provoked by the pandemic.

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1328 20th April 2020
3) Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup 2019

Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup took place 25th September 2019 to April 15th 2020. 128 players started the knockout event which has reached the quarter final stages. Time control 3 minutes a game.

Quarter Final Pairings:
Carlsen 9-1 Grandelius,
Sjugirov 8.5-5.5 Robson,
Firouzja 8.5-2.5 Meier,
Narayanan 8.5-6.5 Iturrizaga.

Semi-Finals:
Carlsen 9-0 Sjugirov, and
Firouzja 9-6 Narayanan.

The final between Carlsen and Firouzja took place Wednesday 15th April 2020 at 6pm BST. Firouzja won the match 8.5-7.5 and was behind only once in the match (after game 12) when he allowed checkmate when he expected to win on time but he immediately followed this setback with two consecutive wins, Carlsen leveled things up once again but then lost the final game 16 and thus lost the match. Carlsen was constantly berating himself throughout the match for his oversights.

For the official report, see Firouzja beats Carlsen to win the Banter Blitz Cup (chess24.com; April 2020; by Colin McGourty). The next 'Banter Blitz' event took place six months later, when the world was starting to emerge from the pandemic. It was covered in two TWIC reports.

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1352 5th October 2020
3) Chess24 Banter Series 2020

The chess24 Banter Series tookplace 1st to 29th September 2020. Magnus Carlsen has reached the final where he will play Wesley So. There were two places available in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour starting later in the year and a $36,000 prize fund. Magnus Carlsen defeated Wesley So 5.5-3.5 in the final.

A more recent event was announced without Carlsen: Banter Blitz Cup returns! Now with a golden Tour ticket at stake (chess24.com; May 2021; by Leon Watson). That announcement started,

It was the event that sparked a summer of incredible online chess - just as the world went into lockdown. In a sensational showdown, Alireza Firouzja announced himself with an 8.5:7.5 win over World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. One year on and the Banter Blitz Cup 2021 is back. The event will return on June 4 bigger, and better, than ever before - and with a Spanish flavour!

Since Carlsen declined to participate in the 2021 event, the current post stops here.

16 September 2021

Ida Chose Newburgh

On the first day of the month, travelling alone, I flew into Newark NJ, with ultimate destination Vermont. The Boeing 787, at no more than 25% passenger capacity, arrived a few minutes before noon. Deplaning proceeded quickly, the passport control area was nearly empty (no one asked for my carefully prepared covid documents), the baggage arrived about 30 minutes after landing, and I took the AirTrain shuttle to pick up my rental car.

After going through the formalities at the rental car office, I located my vehicle (Texas license plates), texted my wife back home that I was in the car on my way to VT, and drove off on the first leg of the five hour trip. The air was moist, like a light fog without the foggy atmosphere. Thirty minutes later the rain started, lightly at first, then heavier and heavier.

I arrived at New York State and took I-87 North, the New York Thruway. Both northbound lanes were clogged with traffic driving 50 MPH (80 KPH), windshield wipers at near maximum. At the last exit before the initial, ticket-distributing toll booths, I decided that I didn't want to drive four more hours in a heavy rain and didn't want to exit I-87 in the middle of nowhere to look for a hotel in the rain. I had arrived at Newark from Brussels, and my internal clock was six hours ahead of local time. At the last possible minute, I took that last exit before the toll and arrived in Newburgh NY. It was my first time there.

Most serious American chess players older than a certain age know that Newburgh was once the home of the U.S. Chess Federation, the 'USCF' as it was known at the time. I stopped at the first hotel I found, a well known chain that has seen better days. Fortunately, there were still rooms available.

I settled into the assigned room and switched on the TV to get news about the weather. My cell phone had no network, so I needed a conventional news source. Unfortunately, the TV was dark with no power and after checking that it wasn't a problem with cables, I headed back to the hotel reception with the TV remote control in hand.

The receptionist told me that it was undoubtedly a problem with the remote, maybe batteries, and promised to meet me at the room in a few minutes with a new remote. When she arrived, the second remote worked no better that the first. She looked at the TV and said, 'All of our TVs are Samsung, but that's not a Samsung. It must be one of the new models that were just installed. Let's go back to reception and I'll give you the right remote.' Back at reception she rummaged around in a drawer, then said, 'I'm sorry. I can't find the remote for that model TV. I'll have to give you a different room.' Fortunately, the second room was next to the first, so baggage transfer was easy.

Since it was around 10 PM on my internal clock, I left the hotel to have dinner, American fast food style. When I returned I noticed that the room key card, shown on the left, had a chess motif. That was the second reminder about chess, which gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Caissa was whispering in my ear.

I switched on the TV and cycled through the 30 or so stations. Many of them carried the message 'No Signal', but I finally determined that the rain had arrived with Ida, the hurricane that had ripped through Louisiana a few days earlier, then headed north. Although much weaker, it was still a force to be feared. Here's a sample headline from the next day: Ida flooding leads to 400 Newark flight cancellations (cnbc.com).

I woke up in the early hours the next day, switched on the TV again, and learned that Ida had been responsible for many deaths in the Newark / NYC area. The two cities are side-by-side and on the Newark AirTrain, you have an impressive view of the Manhattan skyline.

Many of the dead were trapped by flooding in basement apartments. Apparently no one had anticipated that the rain would arrive in such force.

At the break of dawn I continued my trip, taking a different travel route. Instead of continuing north on I-87, I headed east on I-84, which also passes next to Newburgh. I got off I-84 onto the Taconic State Parkway, a four lane divided highway heading north. After a few miles on the TSP, the road was blocked by a car marked 'New York State Police'. It forced all traffic onto an exit leading to a two lane highway. A few miles later, that road was also blocked, leading to a two lane country road somewhere in Dutchess County NY.

It was a detour on top of a detour, both caused by flooding from Ida. I still had no cell phone network and had opted out of GPS for the rental car. I knew all the routes I was going to take and at around $20 a day, who needs GPS? The authorities had no time to install detour signs and I was pretty much lost. One thing I hate more than losing is getting lost. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I had had the foresight to pack a map of NY state. I was able to determine my compass bearings from shadows & such. Every time I had a choice, I chose north to VT.

At one point I ran into a highway that was marked East/West although it appeared to be running North/South at that point. Which direction was heading true North -- East or West? Fortunately (that's two in a row!), there was a convenience store at the intersection of the two highways. I cautiously approached a fellow sitting in his car (you have to be cautious when approaching strangers in the U.S.; they might be armed), was happy to learn that he was a local resident, and determined that the easterly direction would take me to Route 22. That's a two lane highway that runs North / South on the NY state border and was guaranteed to take me to VT.

I enjoyed the rest of the trip with beautiful weather, travelling through isolated country villages. A few hours later I reached Hoosick NY, where I crossed the border into VT. I arrived at my destination well before my noon deadline.

I don't know why I felt compelled to write this post, but so I did. If you stopped reading somewhere along the way, I won't take it personally. On my next trip to VT, I'll try to spend more time in Newburgh.

14 September 2021

September 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Going back a month to August 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (August 2021), I wrote,

Last month's 'On the Cover' composite photo, covering the months July 1971 & 1996, showed a World Championship encounter on the left and an important U.S. tournament on the right. A month later, the focus was switched.

Copy that to the current month, where we once again have 'a World Championship encounter on the left and an important U.S. tournament on the right'. Then change 'important U.S. *tournament*' to 'important U.S. *event*' and the switcheroo is complete.


Left: '?'
Right: '1996 U.S. Interplay CHESSathon'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Fischer and Larsen during the fifth game of the sensational match at Temple Buell College, Denver. The games appear [inside]. Photo by Dave Cornwell.

Although Fischer's score in the match is obscured by a mailing label on the cover, the story inside -- 'Fischer Does It Again, 6-0!!' by Burt Hochberg -- sets the record straight. The story started,

Bobby Fischer continues to astound. Since he was a boy, he has amazed the chess world with his exploits: U.S. Champion at 14 (the youngest ever), International Grandmaster at 15 (the youngest ever), a world championship contender before he was out of his teens, already the subject of a number of books and hundreds of articles in dozens of magazines in many languages, and the object of an adulation unequalled since the time of Morphy -- indeed, he seems to possess the same kind of charisma that made popular heroes of Willy Mays, Muhammad. Ali, Van Cliburn, Leonard Bernstein.

His critics -- those who claim that his demands for great sums of money and for "impossible" playing conditions are symptoms of his "fear of the Russians" -- are now silent. Bobby has come through as no one had dared hope. Defeating Soviet Grandmaster Mark Taimanov by 6-0 was glorious enough (though that result had the virtue of credibility). But one might have expected Larsen to go home with at least a balm for his wounds. But Fischer -- merciless, pitiless -- rolled over the great Danish grandmaster as the sea over a sand-castle and with the same impersonality.

The running story, Fischer - Taimanov then Fischer - Larsen, is documented on my page 1970-72 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

The 1996 CHESSathon was an outstanding success by any standard -- attendance, games played, money raised for charity, fun(!) -- and we're going to do it again, next year at the same place. Playing aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid was a tremendous experience for the hundreds of children who participated. The Sea-Air-Space Museum, below deck, provided a perfect opportunity for a day-long, family outing. Our thanks go out to the scores of coaches, teachers, masters, and parents (and kids!) who made our fifth CHESSathon the best yet.

We've seen the cover once before on this blog in Chessathons and SuperNationals (September 2014). From an article in CL I quoted,

From 1992-1996, five annual U.S. Chessathons pitted the best players in the world against school kids in a giant exhibition that made national and international news.

So the plan in 1996 was 'we're going to do it again, next year at the same place', but it turned out that 1996 saw the last of the five Chessathons. What happened to the sixth and did this have anything to do with the scholastic boom of the 1990s?

Another significant story was runnerup for CL's 'ON THE COVER' introduction.

KARPOV IS TOUGH • While our coverage this issue goes through Game Five, the K-K match (Karpov-Kamsky) is over with the resilient Anatoly Karpov emerging victorious by a score of 10.5 - 7.5. Our website (uschess.org) took over 40,000 "hits" each game, and over 100,000 "hits" each playing day, according to the Webmaster, Gary Prince. It wasn't easy, but thanks to the efforts of Christophe Bouton, who provided USCF with updates every 20 minutes, our staff was able to get the job done.

Special thanks go to Art Bisguier, Ron Burnett, Eric Johnson, and Brian Bugbee, who provided instant, on-line analysis for the casual player. Gabriel Schwartzman continued in the same vein with his post-game analysis, and Walter Browne provided meatier analysis for the veterans. All deserve a round of applause.

KAMSKY IS TOO! • But don't stop clapping; give it up for Gata Kamsky. He was half of one of the most hard-fought world championship matches in recent years. Thank you, Gata!

If Kamsky had won, would the 1996 cover have still featured the CHESSathon? It's curious that three U.S. chess booms were 25 years apart: the Fischer boom, the scholastic boom, and the current pandemic boom.

13 September 2021

TCEC VSOB 21, CCC Blitz 2021 : Both Still Underway

The title of the previous report about two ongoing, world class, engine vs. engine tournaments, TCEC VSOB 21, CCC Blitz 2021 : Both Underway (August 2021), needs only a minor modification for this current report. The situation two weeks ago is summarized here:-

TCEC: The site is currently running 'S21 - Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus', aka 'VSOB 21'. The schedule says it will run for at least another month. • CCC: The site is currently running 'CCC Blitz Championship 2021'.

Both events have been chugging steadily along since then. Here's the current situation:-

TCEC: The site is still running 'VSOB 21'. The schedule says it will run until the first week in October. In the meantime, let's record these '!command' messages for posterity:-

!vsob • If you want to submit an opening to potentially be included in a future VSOB, see pinned messages in #bonus-arena in !discord for format and current openings.

!vsob1 • Before you submit a VSOB opening you can check if it is completely busted at
    https://www.chessdb.cn/queryc_en/
or (if it is more of a fantasy opening) at
    https://lichess.org/analysis/standard/

Along with oodles of crappy opening suggestions -- 1.e4 c6 2.Qh5, to select one particularly dreadful variation; there are many more, equally dreadful -- the !discord #bonus-arena has one idea with some merit:-

GM Sadler suggested that future VSOB openings could be classified into three categories: crazy, offbeat, theoretical. He even offered to the the [sic; 'to do the'?] classification himself. I think one of the ideas is to have the possibility to use the crazy openings in a separate VSOB event. To do one crazy VSOB event, and one another more clean one.

As for the VSOB1 busted / fantasy dichotomy, I'll look at those resources in an off-week post.

CCC: The six top engines in the 'Blitz Championship 2021' qualified into the semifinals, where the two top engines qualified into the finals, which was convincingly won by Stockfish over Lc0 in a 300-game match. The engines that placed 3rd/4th in the semifinals are currently playing a 300-game 'Runners-up' match, where Dragon has a substantial lead over Allie after one-third of the match has been played.

[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 September 2021

Chess Variants Explained

Variants, variants, who's interested in variants? A year ago we saw A Cascade of Chess Variants (September 2020). That post featured a video where:-

Chess.com hosts a round-table discussion with GM Vladimir Kramnik, IM Danny Rensch and researchers of Deepmind discussing their latest paper in which AlphaZero explores chess variants.

The post then informed,

Chess.com also released software to play many of the variants: 'AlphaZero (And Other!) Chess Variants Now Available For Everyone'.

In the last month we've seen a video series on 'How to Play Variants', including my favorite variant (that is not really a variant). Here it is.


How to play Fischer Random (Chess960) (1:17) • '[Published on] Aug 20, 2021'

The video's description starts,

Learn the rules to the chess variant Fischer Random (also called Chess960), quickly and concisely. This video has no distractions, just the rules.

There was, however, one distraction. While discussing castling, the video says,

You must always use the Rook that started the game closest to the side you wish to castle.

I'm not sure what that means or which rule it's meant to clarify. Maybe it's something like, e.g., 'The Rook to the left of the King is used to castle to the left', etc.

The following screen capture from the Youtube channel, Triple S Games, shows many of the variants in the channel's series. Chess960 is in the second row.

The red 'X's are for games other than chess. Scrolling down the Triple S page reveals more chess variants. I've often wondered how one of the variants in the capture, 'Crazyhouse Chess' (top row; third from the left), is played. Now I know.

05 September 2021

Classical Does Not Apply

Of the many types of items that appear in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), my favorite is artwork. One of the reasons it's my favorite is the wide -- dare I say infinite? -- range of expression that art offers to artists. Last month we saw a classical item in eBay Deja Vu (August 2021), and this month we see the call-it-anything-but-classical item pictured below.

What style is it? According to its title, 'Mirror Chess Original Handmade Oil Painting Gothic Fantasy Surrealism 30 x 36', it's gothic-fantasy-surrealism, and it sold for '$3,500.00 or Best Offer'.

The description said,

About the painting This is one of my paintings from Fantastic Realism Collection.
• Title: Mirror Chess.
• Size: 30" x 36", 0.75" thick. (91.5 x 76cm, 1.5cm thick)
• Technique: original, varnished oil painting on canvas
• 100% hand painted unique painting, one of its kind, not a copy or reproduction, my own idea.
• Canvas is gallery wrapped, no visible stitches on the edges. All sides are painted to match the colors of the painting. You can hang it on the wall with or without the frame. You will have to put two hooks in your wall because of the panel on the back of the painting.
• Signature initials MR is hidden within the painting. My artist pseudonym is Mag Raven.
• It has certificate of authenticity (COA) with its unique number. All my artwork is catalogued.
• This painting took over 40 hours to finish. Each layer of paint has to dry out before I can continue painting. It makes entire process longer.

'Mag Raven'. Where have I heard that name before? It might have been the post Quest for Logic (October 2014), but it's hard to accept that the name stuck with me for seven years. There must have been some reinforcing along the way.

The 'Quest for Logic' post included a note from the artist which was similar to a 'From the artist' section of the description for this current post. One difference worth noting is that the 2014 sentence...

I also find my inspiration in old ruins, rocks, bones and cemeteries, simply things what remind of death but they can last for thousands of years.

...appeared in 2021 as...

I'm also inspired by old ruins, rocks and bones, simply things what remind us about inevitable end but they can last for millions of years.

Did the artist decide that cemeteries and death are not a good marketing tactic? I have a photo of a chess cemetery somewhere, but I'll tackle that another time.

***

Follow-up: Take 'Pine Box Trail' to 'Chess Cemetery' (September 2021).

31 August 2021

National Yahoos

Last month's Yahoo post, Three Times Yahoos (July 2021; see the footnote for an explanation of Yahoos), was as much about chess news sources as it was about news stories. This month's post is all about news sources.

Let's start off with the usual look at the sources. Just like last month, and the month before, and the month before that, Chess.com heads the list (yawn!), followed this month by a dozen sources with at least two stories each. That leaves 31 sources with a single story.

The feature that struck me most about this month's list was the number of news sources that I didn't recognize : Insidethegames.biz, Inquirer.net, VnExpress International, and Sportskeeda. I decided to focus this post on those sources.

Insidethegames.biz: Wikipedia's Inside the Games starts, 'An Olympic news website edited by the British sports journalist Duncan Mackay.' All four stories were about the European Individual Championship. Here's one:-

Inquirer.net: 'Philippine news for Filipinos'. Thr most recognizable of the three stories was:-

VnExpress International: VN = Vietnam, as in:-

Sportskeeda: Wikipedia's Sportskeeda says, 'An Indian sports and esports news website, founded in 2009.' The two stories were only peripherally about chess, e.g.:-

That makes four news sources from four different countries where the English language is widely used. There's one more source which has been well known to keen chess fans since the mid-2010s.

World Chess (worldchess.com): This resource, aka news source, was first seen on my World Chess Championship blog in 2015 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship? (December 2015), and last seen on this blog in The World Was Watching (July 2019). The most interesting August Yahoo was:-

The youngster's name was Abrahim Djumanazarov of Uzbekistan. The greatest female player of all time knows a thing or two about prodigies.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]

30 August 2021

TCEC VSOB 21, CCC Blitz 2021 : Both Underway

What's new since the previous post about the world's two most visible, ongoing, engine vs. engine chess events, TCEC Stockfish Wins S21; CCC Romance Continues (August 2021)? Before I answer that question, let's have a summary of that previous post:-

TCEC: Stockfish beat LCZero in the S21 Sufi by a score of +19-7=74 (56.0-44.0). After the Sufi, the TCEC ran a series of bonus matches and is currently running a three-engine 'VVLTC Bonus'. • CCC: The site continues to run thematic events based on romantic openings: two dubious openings in two weeks.

The report on the current situation will be almost as short as that summary.

TCEC: After the 'VVLTC Bonus', the site ran an event called 'LCZeroCPU vs DivP'. Translating one level of jargon, that means the CPU version of LCZero, which normally runs on GPUs, against the engines that competed in the S21 Premier Division, the qualifying event for the S21 Sufi. To translate the next level of jargon -- CPU, GPU, S21, Sufi -- you're on your own. Seven of the eight DivP engines competed; missing was AllieStein. LCZeroCPU lost all but one of the eight-game mini-matches, achieving +2-1=5 against Ethereal.

The site is currently running 'S21 - Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus', aka 'VSOB 21'. The schedule says it will run for at least another month. For my previous post on the subject, see VSOB 20; ECO_FULL (May 2021).

CCC: The site is currently running 'CCC Blitz Championship 2021'. This is the first serious event since I reported on TCEC FRC3, CCC Rapid 2021 : Both Finals Underway (March 2021). The 'Info' tab for the event lists the 16 engines participating followed by the rules for the 'CCC Rapid 2021' event. Maybe I'll learn more for the next post, but the odds are not in my favor.

[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]

27 August 2021

Carlsen's Prelim Events 2019-21

I closed the previous post in this series, Carlsen's Online Events 2019-21 (August 2021), saying,

Also worth noting are the 10 'Prelim' events played on chess24.com. I could say more about [these], but I'll save that for another time.

The following table is an extract of the same info shown in the 'Online Events' post. Here we see only the 'Prelim' events and the eventual final event, into which GM Carlsen qualified each time. The 'Ct' is the number of games that Carlsen played in the event.


Site: chess24.com

Behind each of those 20 events is a story. Since we arrived at this point by following TWIC data ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther), let's continue with TWIC's stories. Crowther introduces each edition of TWIC with a summary of the top tournaments, explaining how they fit into the overall chess scene at that moment in time. Any event in which Carlsen participates is automatically a top tournament, meaning we have potentially 2 x 20 TWIC stories to choose from.

For this post, I'll look briefly at two TWIC stories. The first event on the list was played a month into the worldwide lockdowns provoked by covid-19.

TWIC 1328, 20th April 2020, Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2020 • Invitational 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 second event on the list was played a month later.

TWIC 1333, 25th May 2020, Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge 2020 • The Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge online chess tournament takes place on Chess24, 19th May to 6th June 2020. The event is part of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour and the winner will qualify for the finals in August.

There are two phases, a 12 player all-play-all followed by a mini-match knockout system for the top 8 finishers. Players: Carlsen, Ding Liren, Nakamura, Grischuk, Aronian, Duda, Dubov, Wei Yi, Wesley So, Yu Yangyi, Karjakin and Firouzja.

Two stories down, 18 to go. I'll need all of them when I start to update Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-).

***

Later: Re 'Two stories down, 18 to go', here are eight more, plus a bonus story about the first series final. I've flagged meta-info about the series in italics. [NB: In the chart displayed on the original post, I missed one event discused in TWIC1337 & TWIC1339. I've included it below.] Let's start with the third event of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1337 22nd June 2020, Chessable Masters 2020 • The Chessable Masters takes place 20th June to 5th July 2020. This is part of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour. The event follows on from the Lindores Abbey Challenge and has a very similar format -- the only tweak is the group stage where the players are split into two groups of 6 rather than play in one group of 12. This means an extra day of play before the knockout phase with groups A and B alternating for the first four days to produce 4 qualifiers each. The field is again very strong with the top 6 in the world competing along with previous finalists Dubov and Nakamura.

The fourth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1342 27th July 2020, Legends of Chess 2020 • The Legends of Chess is the final online qualifier for the Magnus Carlsen tour final in August and takes place July 21st to August 5th 2020. The event has returned to the Match Round Robin format they used in the first Magnus Carlsen Invitational. That is there are 10 players and they play a one day match against each of their rivals for a point in the standing.

The Legends name has been translated into inviting former world chess champions Viswanthan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, former championship challengers Peter Leko and Boris Gelfand along with 8 time Russian Champion Peter Svidler and Vasyl Ivanchuk. Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren qualified as the top four finishers in the Chessable Masters.

Play starts at 3pm BST. 21st-29th July is the Match Round Robin stage from which four players qualify for the semi-finals which take place after the only rest day (July 30th) July 31st-August 2nd. The final then takes place August 3rd-5th. The time control is a rapid 15 minutes plus 10 seconds a move. The venue is the chess24 Playzone.

The final of the series also deserves a special mention:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1346 24th August 2020, Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final 2020 • 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.

The format of the final itself proved to be quite brutal with rapid and blitz taking it out of the players in the long term. The seven set final was supposed to be long enough to produce a clear winner, instead it felt rather unfair to whoever lost because it had been impossible to separate the two players.

I thought in general Chess24 got it mostly right in the formats they chose, some people didn't like things like Rook vs Rook in the Armageddon (you could simply de clare this drawn after a couple of ply if you really wanted) -- but the whole idea of Armageddon is clock based and its aim is to break a tie, not to be particularly edifying or even satisfactory -- we've had years of experience of ghastly goings on in these finishes yet they're still used. It had to end and end it did in Carlsen's favour.

[...]

The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final took place Sunday 9th to Thursday 20th August 2020. Magnus Carlsen won the final of the event by the closest possible margin against Hikaru Nakamura. On a thrilling final day Carlsen won an Armageddon tie-break. Before that Nakamura came from behind in the rapid and Carlsen had to win the second blitz game to stay in the event. Because Carlsen had the best record in the events he got to choose the colours in the final Armageddon game, he chose black and draw odds and did indeed draw quite comfortably.

A new series, the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, started a few months later.

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1359 23rd November 2020, Champions Chess Tour Skilling Open 2020 • The Skilling Open takes place on Chess24 Sun 22nd Nov to Mon 30th Nov 2020 with play starting at 17:00 each day. This is the first event of the new Champions Chess Tour that takes place over the next year. The event is a 16 player rapid tournament in two phases. An all-play-all which will reduce the field to 8 players followed by series of knockout matches.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Wesley So, Vidit Gujrathi, Peter Svidler, Teimour Radjabov, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Hikaru Nakamura, Le Quang Liem Sergey Karjakin, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, David Anton Guijarro and Alireza Firouzja.

Second event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1364 28th December 2020, Airthings Masters 2020 • The Airthings Masters is the second event of the online Champions Chess Tour and takes place 26th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021. The event is one of three "Majors" on the tour which means the winner will qualify for the tour final.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Daniil Dubov, Teimour Radjabov, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Pentala Harikrishna and David Anton Guijarro. An initial 12 player all-play-all qualifies the leading players for the final 8 player knockout phase.

Third event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1370 8th February 2021, Champions Chess Tour Opera Euro Rapid 2021 • The Opera Euro Rapid takes place Sat 6th Feb to Sun 14th Feb 2021. The online event hosted by Chess24 is part of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. This is a regular tour tournament so there are only points and prizes available, not a place in the tour final. 16 players start the event competing in a three day Round Robin which will reduce the field to 8. Then in the knockout phase three rounds of mini-matches will produce a winner.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Daniil Dubov, Teimour Radjabov, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Sam Shankland and Matthias Bluebaum.

Fourth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1375 15th March 2021, Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2021 • The Magnus Carlsen Invitational is the second major on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. This online event takes place on Chess24 13th-24th March. The format has been tweaked for this major, the field has been increased from 12 to 16, in the first major 8 of the 12 players made it through to the second phase and this lead to a lot of caution being rewarded.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Wesley So, Teimour Radjabov, Alireza Firouzja, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Daniil Dubov, Jorden van Foreest, David Anton Plus two qualifiers Alan Pichot and Nils Grandelius.

Fifth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1381 26th April 2021, New in Chess Classic 2021 • The New In Chess Classic is the fifth event of the Champions Chess Tour the online rapid series hosted by Chess24. The event takes place 24th April to May 2nd. The rounds start later than any event so far to try and avoid a clash with the Candidates, they start at 6pm BST.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Levon Aronian, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Teimour Radjabov, Quang Liem Le, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Alireza Firouzja, Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Gawain C B Jones, Aryan Tari, Johan-Sebastian Christiansen and R Praggnanandhaa.

Sixth event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1385 24th May 2021, FTX Crypto Cup 2021 • The FTX Crypto Cup is part of the online Champions Chess Tour and takes place 23rd to 31st May 2021. This is the last Major - that is an event where the winner qualifies directly for the tour final in late September - although there are 3 more standard events and the leading players in the tour standings will qualify for the finals too. The top 10 players in the world all compete making this the strongest event on the tour so far. 16 players in the preliminaries will play a round robin to produce 8 qualifiers for the second knockout stage.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Liren Ding, Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Daniil Dubov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Teimour Radjabov, Peter Svidler, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Alireza Firouzja and Alan Pichot.

Seventh event:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 1390 28th June 2021, Goldmoney Asian Rapid 2021 • The Goldmoney Asian Rapid takes place Sat 26th Jun to Sun 4th Jul 2021. This is the latest event of the Champions Chess Tour and features a number of Asian qualifiers and invitees. Goldmoney is an online company that facilitates the purchase of precious metals.

Players: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Alireza Firouzja, Vidit Gujrathi, Ding Liren, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Vladimir Artemiev, Saleh Salem, Hou Yifan, Arjun Erigaisi, Adhiban Baskaran, Gukesh D, Daniil Dubov and Peter Svidler. Play starts significantly earlier than most of the events on the tour so far, 12pm BST.

More events in the series were played after the cutoff point for this edition of the TMER. For more information, see Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2021.

24 August 2021

2021 CJA Awards - Part 1

After the previous posts on the 2021 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2021) and the 2021 CJA Award Entries (July 2021), it's time to close the series with a look at the winners. Last year (see the 'Announcement' post for links to the 2020 posts), I split the discussion between a look at the award process and a look at the awards themselves. I'll do the same this year, although for a different reason.

The CJA -- 'Chess Journalists of America', if you haven't heard of the group before -- has a list of winners on their own site: 2021 CJA Award Winners (chessjournalism.org). The list includes a link to download a structured (CSV) version of the file. Most people interested in the CSV version would use it to create a spreadsheet, but I used it to create a database. The database allows me to look at the awards in different ways, as shown in the three charts below.

The chart in the upper left ('Category') corresponds to the categories shown in the 'Announcement' post. The chart in the lower left ('Award') shows the various types of award scattered across the categories. The three blank awards are Cramer Awards for an entry under 'Best State...'.

The chart on the right ('Org') counts which chess publications -- the CJA title is 'Media/Publisher/Source' -- won one or more awards. The 14 blank 'Orgs' are a mixed bag, e.g. writers who work independently. The well known Dan Heisman is listed three times with a blank org: 2 x Winner, and 1 x Honorable Mention.

I trust that the numbers in the three charts add up the same, 81 awards total. I'll come back to the subject in another post to look at my favorite awards.

23 August 2021

Talkchess Is/Isn't Talking

A month ago, in a post titled Stockfish vs. ChessBase (July 2021), I noted,

Talkchess.com is currrently returning '403 Forbidden; You don't have permission to access...' messages, so I'll come back to that forum another time.

I went back to the Talkchess forum once a week while preparing my weekly TCEC/CCC post and had the same message every time. For this post I decided to look into it more deeply. Talkchess is useful because it's the GOTO site for informed commentary on all aspects of computer chess. Other sites and forums might have more detailed info on a particular topic, but Talkchess is where the engine experts hang out to discuss with other experts.

The first obstacle was how to go deeper. The '403 Forbidden' message prevented me from looking at previous messages on the forum where someone might have already discussed and maybe solved the problem. Thanks to the Google search 'site' keyword and the Google cache, I was able to access a smattering of relevant information.

Suddenly, while I was preparing this post, the 403 messages stopped and I started receiving original pages from the site. Then, just as suddenly, the 403 messages reappeared and I was once again in the dark. The following links are a mixture of Google cache and Talkchess.com.

Forbidden (talkchess.com; May 2020) • 'Why can we not reach talkchess.com from Germany? I get this message : "Forbidden; You don't have permission to access /forum3/viewforum.php on this server."

Polish users cut off from TalkChess (ditto; July 2020) • 'I have a friend in Poland who is not able to access CCC. I remember that there was some European access problem a while back. Maybe it did not get fixed for Poland.'

And so on. It appears to be Talkchess policy that certain users are blocked. I couldn't find an explanation of why that is.

The recommended workaround was to use a VPN. Among other solutions, this is available in the Opera browser. I haven't tried this, because I ran out of time for working on this post. Maybe I'll tackle it later if I really, really need Talkchess. I can live without it for now.

[NB: Even when the original pages are visible, they seem to be lacking a corresponding CSS file to render them more readable. While it would be nice to have the CSS, too, I'd rather address one problem at a time.]

22 August 2021

Chess Isn't Rigged!

For this month's edition in the long-running series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), let's revisit a recent post, Three Times Yahoos (July 2021). One of those 'Times' was the the New York Times (NYT). I wrote,

'Dark Side of Chess' by Ivan Nechepurenko and Misha Friedman, accounted for two Google references. [...] The 'dark side' -- focusing on Sergei Karjakin and Abhimanyu Mishra -- is a long exposé about how young chess talents *really* earn their GM titles.

On his 'More GMHikaru' Youtube channel, GM Hikaru Nakamura read the entire NYT article, interspersed with his own comments on the Nechepurenko / Friedman insinuations. When it comes to chess, the not-so-genial GM generally knows what he is talking about and isn't afraid to point out where a writer got it wrong.


Chess Drama - It's About the Cheque, Mate (48:25) • '[Published on] Jul 14, 2021'

Nearly two weeks after that dissection, GM Nakamura, a five-time U.S. champion, tackled the same subject on his 'GMHikaru' channel in Yes, Top Level Classical Chess Is Rigged (Youtube.com). Why two Youtube channels? I don't know and it's of no concern to me. For a previous Nakamura effort using the same read-and-comment format, see How Much Do the Artisans Get? (July 2021).

P.S. Don't be misled by the video's 'Chess Is Rigged' title. It doesn't mean exactly what it says.

20 August 2021

Carlsen's Online Events 2019-21

In my previous post about GM Carlsen's games that were played during the last three years, Carlsen's Events 2019-21 (August 2021), I wrote,

A total of 1455 Carlsen games (in 95 TWIC files). Those games were spread across 77 different events, of which 34 were played face-to-face and 43 online. Here is an overview of the 34 events played in the traditional way. [...] I'll discuss the online events in my next post.'

Here is a list of the 43 online events, in chronological order.

The online games were played on three sites, listed below. The numbers in parentheses are the count of games and the count of events on that site.

  • chess24.com (679/31)
  • lichess.org (321/10)
  • chess.com (82/2)

The last time I conducted this exercise, Carlsen's online games were played exclusively on Chess.com; see Carlsen's Chess.com Events 2017-18 (September 2018), for details. Also worth noting are the 10 'Prelim' events played on chess24.com. I could say more about these observations, but I'll save that for another time.