22 July 2021

July 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Last month's post on U.S. chess from 50 and 25 years ago, June 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (June 2021) was 'all about records'. This month's post is all about the World Championship.

Left: ?
Right: 'Dmitry Gurevich Dominates U.S. Masters'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Historic Scene as Fischer ponders 15th move in final game of incredible 6.0 sweep over Taimanov in their Quarter-Final Candidates Match. • Photograph by Ken Oakes, "Vancouver Sun."

For the previous post with Fischer on the cover, see December 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover' (December 2020; 'Bobby Fischer. Leading at the Interzonal!'). The headline for the first story in the July 1971 issue announced, 'Fischer Wins, 6-0!!' The full record of the Fischer's march to challenge Spassky in 1972 is at 1970-72 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Dmitry Gurevich certainly deserves a cover, for his 7-0 sweep of the U.S. Masters. The resurrection of this USCF event (and there is a commitment to hold it again in 1997) can only be viewed in a positive light. But that rich, red velvet background was too much to resist. Thus, Dmitry shares the spotlight with one of the many chess sets on display at the Chess and Chessmen Through History exhibition at the John G. White Collection, Cleveland Public Library.

The U.S. Masters was covered in a four-page story, illustrated in color. It included a box titled, 'The Invited Juniors', which presented a short history of the event:-

The U.S Masters, which of course grew from and remains part of the Midwest Masters. was a small attempt to replace the terrible loss of Lone Pine from the chess scene in 1981. When Louis Statham chose to discontinue his series of magnificent tournaments, there was a rather large hole in the American chess scene.

One of the features of Lone Pine was the fact that junior players were allowed to compete even though they were not as highly rated as adults. The Warrens attempted to continue that tradition by specifically inviting not otherwise eligible junior players. This year, there were five specifically invited juniors, and all did well.

The Chess and Chessmen exhibition (does anyone still call the pieces 'chessmen'?) was covered in another four-page illustrated story. It was connected withh the 'Seventh Bi-annual meeting of Chess Collectors International (CCI)'. The story started,

The John G. White Collection of chess opened a major exhibit on March 18, 1996, entitled Chess and Chessmen Through History. The display will be open through August 1996, and is the largest held on chess since 1975. It occupies all exhibit areas of the third floor of Main Library, 125 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.

That's all nice and dandy, but what does it have to do with the World Championship mentioned in the first paragraph? The issue's cover introduction was followed by a second section titled 'On-Off-On'

The Karpov - Kamsky match for the FIDE World Championship is now scheduled to begin no later than June 5 in Elista, Kalmykia, with a prize fund of $1,100,000. No draw odds. This match -- a necessity before Kasparov and the PCA will even consider a unification match -- has been on again, off again during the past few months, with about as much frequency as your living room light switch. After the flirtation with Baghdad, and an outcry from the FIDE member countries of Western Europe, Canada, and the United States, it would seem as though the match is on -- for real. We wish the best of luck to Gata Kamsky in his quest for the FIDE title.

The Baghdad botch was mentioned in May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (May 2021); CL: 'Brickbats and barbs to FIDE for accepting a bid from Iraq to hold the Kamsky - Karpov World Championship match in Baghdad.' An overview of the match is on 1996 Karpov - Kamsky FIDE Title Match (m-w.com). No one realized at the time that Kasparov's PCA was on the verge of collapse. See FIDE/PCA Chronology (ditto) for the full story.

19 July 2021

TCEC Prepares S21 Sufi; CCC in Romantic Mode

After a short break, let's return to the world of engine vs. engine competitions. The previous post was TCEC Prepares S21 DivP; CCC Gives Black a Chance (June 2021). Following is a summary of that post:-

TCEC: There have been no further reports from Chessdom.com since the S21 L4 results. L2, with 12 engines, was won by Pedone. L1, with 8 engines, was won by Igel. The site is currently conducting tests for its Premier Division, 'DivP' in TCEC jargon. • CCC: Are we braced for more unorthodox openings? Yes, we are. After the 'Double Bongcloud' (the junkiest of the junk openings), and the 'Hillbilly Attack', the site is now running an event called 'Mini-Match: Leela vs Dragon, Muzio Gambit', 200 games.

That info is from four weeks ago. Now let's get up to date.

TCEC: After its initial flurry of interest in TCEC, Chessdom.com continued to report zilch. DivP ran for about three weeks and finished as shown in the following chart.

The top two finishers, Stockfish and LCZero, will meet in the S21 Superfinal ('Sufi'). The next two, KomodoDragon and Stoofvlees II, duked it out in the S21 Infrafinal, won by KomodoDragon with a score of +17-5=28, making it the no.3 chess engine on the planet.

The S21 Sufi will mark the fifth consecutive Sufi match between the same two engines. For the previous match, see Stockfish Wins TCEC S20 (February 2021), where I noted,

Stockfish beat LCZero in the S20 Superfinal match +14-8=78, for a convincing final score of 53.0-47.0. The victory was clinched after 95 games. This was Stockfish's third straight victory over LCZero, as documented by the list of posts on this blog that recorded the winners [...]

For a different pair of opponents, we have to go back nearly two years to Stockfish Wins TCEC S16 (October 2019), where AllieStein was the Sufi loser. The TCEC is currently conducting 'Sufi Testing'.

CCC: The site continues to feature offbeat openings. Here is a list of events played since the previous post, where the first three were already mentioned:-

The Hillbilly Attack (10|2)
Mini-Match: Leela vs Dragon, Muzio Gambit (10|3)
The Hillbilly Attack (10|2) [NB: the second event with this name]

Testing Fischer random chess (1|1)
Romantic Openings: Danish Gambit Accepted (3|2)
Allie test 30/06/2021 (1|2)
Romantic Openings: Evans Gambit Accepted (3|2)
Romantic Openings: Urusov Gambit Accepted (5|2)

The numbers in parentheses, e.g. '(5|2)' for the Urusov Gambit, indicate the time control. For that event it means five minutes per side per game plus two seconds per move.

As for the reasons behind the two test events -- 'Testing FRC' (aka chess960) and 'Allie Test' -- mixed in with the 'Romantic Openings', your guess is as good as mine. The site is not particularly focused on communicating with the outside world.

[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]

18 July 2021

Mystery Film

What exactly are we looking at here? The title of the photo isn't particularly helpful.

We are all just Pawns in a game of chess © Flickr user Lacuna Festivals under Creative Commons.

Neither is the description.

My collaborator was a film maker and I am a visual artist. I decided to select still images from the film that I found interesting and add to the reflecting on the overall theme for the exhibition of distance and related issues of displacement and separation.

There were two names attached to the title -- Aleksandra Hewelt and Zita Holbourne -- although a search on each only establishes that the first is the film maker (Polish) and the second is the visual artist (British?). A search on both together leads back to the Flickr photo.

How about the name of the Flickr user, Lacuna Festivals. LacunaFestivals.com informs,

The Lacuna Festivals are an offshoot of The Lacuna Studios. Through the Lacuna Festivals we hope to:-
• Promote quality, contemporary (and sometimes challenging) art to communities isolated from mainland Europe which, therefore have limited access to international, contemporary arts.
• [...]

LacunaStudios.com informs,

The Lacuna Studios shall be residential studio spaces in the Canary Islands, created by and for artists, makers, designers, craftspeople, thinkers, writers, musicians, educators and students from around the world.

Back to the Flickr photo, I'm still not sure what I'm looking at -- 'still images from the film'; what film? -- but I like it.

11 July 2021

How Much Do the Artisans Get?

This month's featured video is from the Business Insider #soexpensive YouTube channel, currently with 3,843,191 views and 5,600 Comments.

Why Championship Chess Sets Are So Expensive (7:42) • '[Published on] Jul 3, 2021'

The video's description says,

An inexpensive chess set can sell for $20, but a handcrafted wooden set certified for the World Chess Championship costs $500. Much of the set's value lies in just one piece: the knight. Each knight must be carved by hand to look exactly the same. Making this one piece takes two hours, and there are fewer than 10 people trained to carve knights for the championship chess sets. So, how are these chessmen made? And why are they so expensive?

At 3:10 into the video, we see that the set is sold by Worldchess.com. A marketing email I received from the group last year informed,

Since 2013, the sets in this design have been exclusively used in the World Chess Championship matches top events.

Will the same be true of the forthcoming Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi (m-w.com; Dubai, XI-XII, 2021) title match? We'll find out in a few short months.

As for Business Insider, we last saw them on this blog in Fabulous Fabiano (August 2017; 'All three [stories] are from businessinsider.com and were written by Matthew DeBord'). At 6:35 into the video we see a fake photo of Kasparov playing Fischer. For some reason, Business Insider has a tendancy to use fake photos. A few years I managed to do a couple of posts on the subject:-

For another take on the video, see GMHikaru's Youtube commentary, $500 Chess Set vs $1,000,000 Chess Piece, currently with 383,978 views and 814 Comments. For the previous monthly video featuring GM Hikaru Nakamura on this blog, see The Responsibility of Fame (February 2021) : 'It's been six months since a pair of previous Naka videos were turned into posts ... so it's high time for another.'

04 July 2021

Steinitz Cabinet Cards

Make that Steinitz and Zukertort cabinet cards, as in Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). The basic information for the two cards shown below, both from the same seller was:-

Left: 'Vintage World Chess Champion Wilhelm Steinitz Cabinet Card Photograph c. 1890s'; Ended: May 2021; Sold for US $681.00; 13 bids from six bidders

Right: 'Vintage Chess Player Wilhelm Steinitz Johannes Zukertort Cabinet Card c. 1890s'; Ended: Jun 2021; Sold for US $864.00; 23 bids from eight bidders

The images on both cards are well known. In fact, I found no other copies of the image on the right. More common is a similar image with Zukertort facing the camera and Steinitz studying the board.

The description of both cards added only the dimensions:-

Left: Approximate dimensions: 4.25” W x 6.5” H. • Back of card (handwritten): 'William Steinitz, Chess player; Champion of the world for 25 years; New Yorker but lived in Upper Montclair (N.J.)'

Right: Approximate dimensions: 4” W x 6.5” H. Cabinet card appears to have been trimmed on left side.

I have another copy of the image on the left. The eBay description for that card said,

An extremely rare cabinet photograph of William Steinitz (1836-1900); Chess champion of the world, 1866-1894. by Benj. Falk (New York). c.1880. Image measures approx. 4 x 6 1/2 inches. Very good condition.

What's a cabinet card? The Wikipedia page Cabinet card starts,

The cabinet card was a style of photograph which was widely used for photographic portraiture after 1870. It consisted of a thin photograph mounted on a card typically measuring 108 by 165 mm (4+1/4 by 6+1/2 inches). [...] The carte de visite [NB: CDV] was displaced by the larger cabinet card in the 1880s.

A few years ago I did a couple of posts on chess CDVs, where the more recent was Brady CDVs (September 2016).

29 June 2021

Speculative Yahoos

Last month's Yahoo post, Business Yahoos (May 2021; see the footnote below for an explanation of Yahoos), spawned a follow-up post, Crypto Chess (May 2021):-

It's great to see chess get new sponsors.

The sponsorship trend continued in June. Before I discuss the current month, let's set the scene.

Once again we had nine sources with two or more stories in the top-100 stories flagged by Google News for the month of June. That was the fourth straight month with nine sources in that position -- number nine, number nine, number nine -- along with 38 sources having a single story.

The chart on the left lists those nine sources along with the number of stories from the source. By another coincidence, Chess.com alone accounted for 38 stories.

Of the other four sources with more than two stories, there's a newcomer: Sportstar. That turns out to be one of the major mainstream news sources in India: Sportstar: Sports News (sportstar.thehindu.com). The site even has 'Chess' listed on its top navigation bar, sandwiched between 'Tennis' and 'Motorsport': Live Chess scores and updates (ditto; first 'Editor's Pick' from 2017?!).

Three of the four Sportstar stories were about Indian players in the 'Goldmoney Asian Rapid Chess'. The Goldmoney event figured in a half-dozen stories from various sources, like this one:-

What's Goldmoney? Its home page, Goldmoney.com, says,

The World’s Most Trusted Name in Precious Metals • Goldmoney is the easiest way to purchase physical gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bullion online. We safeguard nearly $3 billion of assets for clients in 125 countries.

Speculating in precious metals is one way to make a small fortune. Another way is by starting with a large fortune and speculating in anything (that's an old investing joke). A non-chess online service that also appeared in its fair share of news stories was Superbet. Here's one example:-

  • 2021-06-17: On Chess: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Wins Superbet Chess Classic (stlpublicradio.org) • 'With a dominating performance that included three wins in a row, world no.5 Grandmaster Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan won the 2021 Superbet Chess Classic, the first leg in the 2021 Grand Chess Tour circuit.'

What's Superbet? One source, Superbet - Company Profile & Funding (crunchbase.com), says,

Superbet is an online gaming company in Romania. Founded in 2008, Superbet is the first Romanian company to be awarded for two consecutive years at the Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference (CEEGC) with the Supreme Trophy: The Best Sports Betting Operator in Central and Eastern Europe.

As for Yahoos from previous months, the Netflix series 'Queen's Gambit' appeared tangentially in only one story, which was the basis of both stories attributed to CNN:-

  • 2021-06-19: This woman is a chess champion. And she's blind (cnn.com) • 'Jessica Lauser is relentless on the chess board. She plays quickly, applying constant pressure on her opponents. She attacks constantly, not unlike the Beth Harmon character from the Netflix television series, "The Queen's Gambit."'

The recent phenomenon of the chess streamers appeared in a number stories from Chess.com, while the recent crypto events also received a few mentions. The most unusual was from a crypto news source:-

  • 2021-06-22: Chess Tournaments, Tech Giants And $100,000 In Bitcoin (bitcoinmagazine.com) • 'On May 29, the world’s top 16 chess players competed in the FTX Crypto Cup. Hundreds of thousands of fans tuned in to Chess24.com, Twitch, YouTube and the Champions Chess Tour website to watch their favorite players duke it out in the nine-day event. [...] Thanks to cryptocurrency derivatives exchange FTX and its CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, the tournament’s $220,000 prize was supplemented by 2.1825 BTC, split among the winners.'

Near the end of the long, well-researched article, we learn,

When asked why he did it, Bankman-Fried [said], "For the same reason you’re writing this article. There’s a large overlap between the audiences interested in crypto and in chess, and this gave us a chance to help bring the two worlds together." The FTX Crypto cup may have been the first major crossover between chess and bitcoin, but it likely won’t be the last.

Goldmoney, Superbet, FTX Crypto. Are those flashes in the chess world -or- names that we will encounter again?

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

28 June 2021

TCEC/CCC 2021-H1 Summary

Six months after the previous summary of posts about the world's two leading engine vs. engine competitions, TCEC/CCC 2020-H2 Summary (December 2020), it's time for another summary. As usual, the first column lists the fortnightly posts on the current status; the second column lists off-week posts on related topics that I wanted to explore in more depth. The last, blank space on the right is a space filler for this current post.

TCEC/CCC Off-week
TCEC S20 Reaches DivP; CCC Testing
CCC Hardware Upgrade
TCEC S20 Sufi Underway; CCC Back in the Saddle
Engine Scaling
Stockfish Wins TCEC S20; CCC 'Rapid 2021' Underway
Correspondence Chess in the 2020s
TCEC Side Events; CCC 'Rapid 2021' Nearing Semifinal
The Transformation of Fat Fritz
TCEC Cup 8, CCC Rapid 2021 : Semifinals Both Underway
The Condemnation of Fat Fritz
TCEC FRC3, CCC Rapid 2021 : Both Finals Underway
TCEC/CCC HTTP '!Command's
TCEC 'Swiss 1', CCC 'Streamer Bots Battle' : Both Underway
Chess.com Streamer Bots
TCEC 'Swiss 1', CCC 'Bots: Top Players...' : Both Underway
Komodo Personalities
TCEC 'VSOB'; CCC 'ECO Mega-Matches'
TCEC S21 Starts; CCC 'ECO Mini-Matches'
The Return of Chessdom News
TCEC S21 L4 Underway; CCC Opening 'Specials'
TCEC S21 L2 Underway; CCC Unorthodox Opening
CCC No-castling Events
TCEC Prepares S21 DivP; CCC Gives Black a Chance

Seeing the titles of all the posts in the left column, shows that the TCEC runs like clockwork. The CCC hasn't run a structured, multi-phase competition in more than three months. What will the next six months bring for the CCC?

27 June 2021

'Chess for Freedom'

It might have been because I was asleep at the time, but I don't remember seeing any mention of this conference in the usual places where I go for chess news. Maybe it was because the title of the conference doesn't really describe its purpose. Whatever the reason, it's a fitting subject for this month's post on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

"Chess for Freedom" Online Conference (2:15:31) • 'Streamed live on May 11, 2021'

Although the video's still is a giveaway, the description of the video is also evasive regarding its subject:-

The "Chess for Freedom" project, launched by FIDE and the Cook County Sheriff's Office (Chicago, USA), kicks off on May 11. The Online Conference will feature FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, the 12th World Chess Champion Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, and Tom Dart, Cook County Sheriff, among other distinguished guest speakers

Only at the project's home page, Chess For Freedom Project, do we discover its purpose:-

The International Chess Federation is pleased to invite you to take part in the first event of the Chess for Freedom programme, organized together with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (Chicago, USA). The project, aimed at the introduction of chess as a tool for education and social inclusion in prisons of different countries, is carried out under the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov’s patronage.

The same page has advice to keep in mind when tackling the subject:-

IMPORTANT: Members of the media will get an opportunity to ask questions to the players and the officials during the press conference. However, please note that it is considered inappropriate to ask the team members any questions concerning their imprisonment and, following the instructions of the authorities, we would like to request from you the commitment to not ask about things like the reason for their imprisonment, or how much time they are serving.'

For a previous post on the same topic in the 'Sociology of Chess' series, see 'Chess Behind Bars' (October 2017).

25 June 2021

Nepo Interviews

In last week's post, Nepo at the World Cup (June 2021), I commented on GM Nepomniachtchi's Wikipedia page:-

I discovered that his Wikipedia page is only an outline of his career and reads like an incomplete laundry list. Perhaps his Russian language Wikipedia page was better constructed. After running the Russian page through Google translate, I decided, 'No', it wasn't much better, but it had links to other Russian language resources that might prove to be more comprehensive.

In this post, I'll use Google Translate to excerpt from a couple of Russian language interviews. The first link has no date, but a list of Russian champions indicates that the most recent championship was in 2010, where Nepo won. The first excerpts are from the interview Champion of Russia Yan Nepomniachtchi: I defeated star fever (archive.org -> sovsport.ru):-

It was phenomenal! In the deadly battle of Armageddon, a blitz game where White must win, Ian Nepomniachtchi wins the title of champion of Russia and throws himself into the arms of a charming blonde [his 'girlfriend Yana'; ...]

Q: About five years ago, chess experts said that three new talents appeared in the world, three contenders for the title of world champion: Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi, but then there was talk that you dropped out of this race. But your performance this year proves otherwise. • A: Of course, even then it was flattering to hear what a gifted guy I am, laughs Jan. It didn't do me any good. All victories were too easy for me, without any effort I smashed my peers. At this age, it is difficult to control character. I was going through a long and lingering star fever. But, having matured, [I] defeated her. And now I began to work harder on myself, the results came. During the time that I was marking time, Carlsen and Karjakin went into a solid lead. Especially Magnus. Now it will be difficult for me to catch up, but I have a desire to play chess and play well.

The second interview, Nepomniachtchi: I would like to meet the expression "I see a goal - I see no obstacles" (chesspro.ru; November 2013), was after the 2013 World Cup, Tromso (Norway), where he was eliminated in the first round by Wei Yi:-

One of the strongest Russian grandmasters, a representative of the stellar generation of the 90s, Yan Nepomniachtchi, shared the first place at the Superfinal of the Russian Championship and only lost the title of Russian champion in a tie-break to Peter Svidler. [...]

Q: I have heard the opinion that you play stronger when, in a good way, you are afraid of the one who is sitting opposite. Did the underestimation of the opponent not affect the game in the World Cup? • A: There was no underestimation, rather, there was an overestimation. I thought that in the first round I could get a more "tourist" opponent. But it turned out that I did not approach the second game in an optimal state, in an amicable way, I had to make a draw and win a tie-break. But I decided to fight, we both played rather weakly, at some point I blundered rudely and got a hopeless endgame. And as Leko said: "The World Cup is such a tournament in which I lost one game and that's it - Voyage, voyage!" After this game, I even thought to quit chess ...

Q: Probably, this has come to mind more than once throughout your career? • A: No, it just didn’t come to that much, and even now the idea arose out of emotion - nevertheless, the blow was quite heavy. Firstly, I was serious about this tournament, and secondly, I clearly understood how I had to act, but in the end I did everything differently myself. [...]

Q: Many people say that the World Cup is absolutely a lottery tournament. As already mentioned: one mistake - and you go home. So is there any point in making a serious bet on him and trying to predict something? • A: It is difficult to predict, but one can and should try to perform as best as possible, after all, the World Cup gives an opportunity to get into the Candidates Tournament. And I think that this strategy was quite suitable for me - making draws in the classics and winning in rapid. My recent performances make it possible to consider that rapid is now my strong point. Another thing is that just a rapid tournament and a rapid tie-break tournament are, as they say in Odessa, two big differences. In a knockout, each game is played with such tension, with which, probably, only the decisive game for first place takes place in Swiss, so fatigue builds up faster. Therefore, it seems reasonable not to give all the best in the classics and keep the strength for a tie-break.

Q: Perhaps, the people already call it the Grischuk-Andreikin system ... • A: Yes, but the fact of the matter is that this strategy really works. One can only envy how competently Dima [Andreikin, who lost in the final match to Kramnik] implemented it.

Q: Are you saying that it is universal? After all, you and Andreikin have completely different styles of play. • A: Styles are different, but more importantly, we both play fast. I am not a fan of making quick draws with White, but for the sake of an important goal, you can suffer. In a knockout, unlike other systems, there is no value of a separate victory, only the next round is important. Andreikin reached the final, which means he is a fine fellow, no matter how many games he won in the classics.

Further comments on Carlsen are also relevant. The interview was held before the first match with Anand, but let's close this post with a video.

Interview with FIDE Candidates winner Ian Nepomniachtchi (7:15) • '[Published on] Apr 26, 2021'

See also this video interview from a few days before Nepomniachtchi won the right to challenge the World Champion: Magnus Carlsen on Ian Nepomniachtchi.

22 June 2021

Key Moments in Video

In last week's post on my chess960 blog, An Underused Resource (June 2021), I discovered an aspect of Google search results that I hadn't noticed before:-

I had never seen 'key moments in this video' before and will take a closer look on my main blog.

It seems Google first released the functionality in the second half of 2019 for mobile search. It was later expanded to desktop search. The 'key moments' are particularly well adapted to tutorials. Here are several examples using chess as the subject.

Google search on "chess tutorial"

The screen snapshot shows the first video expanded with the next three collapsed. How are the 'key moments' generated? In the first, expanded example, titled 'How To Play Chess', the text...

From 00:13 'CHESS', From 00:24 'SETUP', etc.

...is taken from text displayed in the video. Clicking on the text jumps to the corresponding point in the video.

The second, collapsed video expands to show '10 key moments in this video' that are partially displayed along with a horizontal slider bar. The text is taken from spoken dialog in the video. Why those ten key moments were used, out of all the other spoken commentary, isn't clear.

The last, collapsed video is by IM Eric Rosen. Here the key moments are taken from a 'Chapters' list in the video's description. In my 'Underused Resource' post, I closed saying,

The 'key moments' here aren't really key; I would prefer the start times of each of the live games, but I'm not sure it's possible to do that.

Looks like it's possible by adding a 'Chapters' list.

21 June 2021

TCEC Prepares S21 DivP; CCC Gives Black a Chance

What's new in the world of the two highest level chess engine competitions? To know what's new, we first have to know what's old. Here's a summary of the previous post in the series, TCEC S21 L2 Underway; CCC Unorthodox Openings (June 2021):-

TCEC: Chessdom.com issued two reports on L4. Minic won L3, a half point ahead of Booot. L2 has finished a quarter of the scheduled games. • CCC: After the thematic events, the site continued with 'Belgian Stew', with randomly selected openings; and 'Saragossa', starting 1.c3. The site is currently running a 'Double Bongcloud' event. After that we should probably brace for more unorthodox openings.

That was then. What about now?

TCEC: There have been no further reports from Chessdom.com since the L4 (League 4) results. L2, with 12 engines, was won by Pedone, 1.5 points ahead of Nemorino, the top engine in a field of five separated by a single point. L1, with 8 engines, was won by Igel, 0.5 points ahead of Ethereal which was 1.5 points ahead of the other engines.

The site is currently conducting tests for its Premier Division, 'DivP' in TCEC jargon. The top two DivP engines will meet in the S21 final match, 'Superfinal' or 'Sufi' in TCEC jargon.

CCC: Are we braced for more unorthodox openings? Yes, we are. After the 'Double Bongcloud' event -- does anyone care about the results? (I sure don't) -- the site ran an event called 'The Hillbilly Attack', 504 games starting 1.e4 c6 2.Bc4. For more about the variation, see The Birth and Development of the Hillbilly Attack (chess.com) by GM Simon Williams.

Why don't I care about the 'Double Bongcloud' (1.e4 e5 2.Ke2 Ke7)? Because it's an artificial construction that will only occur by force or by collusion between the two opponents. Any player of the Black pieces possessing free will would continue with some logical developing move after 2.Ke2. It could be the junkiest of the junk openings. In contrast, 'The Hillbilly Attack' has some theoretical interest. Being rooted in the Caro Kann (1.e4 c6), it's a legitimate attempt to explore one of the major defenses to 1.e4.

The site is now running an event called 'Mini-Match: Leela vs Dragon, Muzio Gambit', 200 games starting 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O gxf3. That last move, 5...gxf3, doesn't appear to be part of the forced moves, but I'd like to see anyone not accept the Knight sacrifice. While I was writing this paragraph, a revealing exchange scrolled through the chat:-

PG: I just realised that White never won a game in this tournament. • PL: People at Chess.com got tired of White always winning in engine games so they picked openings that give Black an advantage.

Anyone interested in a course on chess logic? Maybe the CCC should investigate White giving various odds to Black. It might even advance chess theory in ways we can't imagine.

[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]

20 June 2021

Chess Pieces in Family Photos

How do you display a chess set without a chess board?

Sea mammals, Aztec-themed, Movie stars, Flintstones, Mariners vs. Yankees chess sets © Flickr user Frank Fujimoto under Creative Commons.

The title of the photo describes the five chess sets in the photo, top to bottom. The description 'Movie stars' might better be 'Comic actors/actresses' -- i.e. Charlie Chaplin, Mae West(?), Marx brothers, W.C.Fields, Laurel & Hardy, Keystone cops(?) -- from the golden era of Hollywood.

The subtitle of the photo says, 'Maryhill Museum, Goldendale, WA'. There are two more photos on the photographer's page with multiple sets each. The museum was last seen on this blog in More from Maryhill (August 2009). The Maryhill displays all use the same order for the pieces:-

Kings in the center; next to each King, its corresponding Queen, Bishops, Knights, Rooks, and Pawns -- in that order.

Largest to smallest. That's pretty much the same as the traditional start position.

18 June 2021

Nepo at the World Cup

In last week's post, Nepo as a 'Young Star' (June 2021), I covered the period when Ian Nepomniachtchi was earning his FIDE titles. While working on that, I discovered that his Wikipedia page is only an outline of his career and reads like an incomplete laundry list.

Perhaps his Russian language Wikipedia page was better constructed. After running the Russian page through Google translate, I decided, 'No', it wasn't much better, but it had links to other Russian language resources that might prove to be more comprehensive. The following paragraph is from Biography of Ian Nepomniachtchi (ruchess.ru; July 2020), translated by Google:-

In recent years, Nepomniachtchi has been working together with the famous theorist grandmaster Vladimir Potkin, who in 2011 replaced his ward as the European champion. The tandem of Nepomniachtchi and Potkin, which began with Ian's victory in the 2008 Aeroflot Open, has repeatedly proved its effectiveness. 2010 was a triumphant year for Nepomniachtchi: he successfully performed in all tournaments in which he took part, won the European Championship, and then in the Major League and the Superfinal of the Russian Championship, showed excellent results in team competitions. That year, Ian met the expectations of coaches and fans, declaring himself as a great chess player capable of high achievements.

None of those sources mentioned that the 2010 European Championship was a qualifier for the 2011 World Cup, which was itself a qualifier for the subsequent candidates tournament in London. The following chart adapted from one of my pages shows the World Championship events in which GM Nepomniachtchi has so far participated:-

Index of players (N-S), with links to the different events

I added the codes in red to differentiate the five cycles. Nepomniachtchi qualified for the 2011 and 2015 World Cups by a good finish in a European Championship. He qualified for the 2017 and 2019 World Cups by a high rating. According to my page Zonal Qualifiers 2012-2013 (C26) [NB: TWIC 967 data is wrong], he qualified for the 2013 World Cup by rating, but The chess games of Ian Nepomniachtchi (chessgames.com), says,

In May 2013, he placed =1st (8th on tiebreaker) in the European Championship (2013), the result qualifying him to play in the World Cup (2013).

That appears to be correct. I'll have to look at this in more depth at another time.

In World Cup play, Nepomniachtchi has not been particularly successful. In 2013 he was eliminated in the 1st round (of seven) by Wei Yi, and in 2019 he was eliminated in the 4th round by Yu Yangyi. In the other years he was eliminated in the 3rd round by Kamsky (2011), Nakamura (2015), and Jobava (2017).

GM Nepomniachtchi qualified into the 2020 Candidates Tournament via the 2019 Grand Prix. There he finished a point behind GM Grischuk, but three points ahead of third place GM Vachier-Lagrave.

14 June 2021

CCC No-castling Events

For my previous off-week engine post, CCC PGN IV (May 2021), I set myself a task:-

To locate the PGN for the five [CCC] events. [...] Locating the PGN turned out to be fairly trivial.

Now what? I decided it might be useful to look at a no-castling event, where the engines are prohibited from castling to either side. This is an idea that GM Kramnik and others have floated to counter the growing corpus of opening theory. The supporters of the no-castling idea are generally anti-chess960 and since I'm a keen proponent of chess960, it might be worthwhile to check out the competition.

I located a post from early last year, TCEC S17 L1 Underway; CCC12 Bonus Series (February 2020), where I wrote,

After the event ended, the CCC ran a series of bonus matches including a round robin using 'No-Castling' rules. The current tournament, a six-engine affair titled 'A February Event', ends in a few days.

While scrolling back through the CCC archive to locate the PGN, I found three other 'no castling' events. Here is a summary of the four events in chronological order, where the date is for the first game in the event:-

  • 2020-01-25: 'CCC12 Bonus: No-Castling'
  • 2020-09-18: 'No-Castle II'
  • 2021-04-03: 'To Castle Or Not To Castle'
  • 2021-04-04: 'To Castle Or Not To Castle II'

All four events use the same technique to force a no-castling position. For each Rook-Knight pair on the back rank of the traditional start position they develop the Knight to its third rank, then move the Rook to the square vacated by the Knight, then return the Rook and Knight to their original start squares. This means that after eight move pairs (16-ply), the traditional start position is reached for the second time. Because the Rooks have moved, castling is no longer possible.

That sequence complicates the initial analysis, where I use SCID. A search on the repeated position (White's 9th move) returns the initial position (White's 1st move) where White develops a Knight to its third rank. Only after White's first real move (1.e4, 1.d4, etc.) does the search return real results. It turned out that not being able to calculate the frequency of the first real move was not important. The operators of the events had forced White's first real move, meaning that the engines were initially on their own for Black's first real move (1...e5, 1...d5, etc.)

For the 'No-Castle II' event, I encountered a number of irregularities. The first game in the PGN file is a standard Nimzo-Indian, where White castles on the fourth move (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 O-O). Only after that game does the event switch to no-castling. Later in the file, a monster game with '[PlyCount "489"]' makes SCID skid to a halt.

As for the last two events, 'To Castle Or Not To Castle', these force a different no-castling strategy. White moves the Knights back and forth for the first few moves, leaving the castling options intact, while Black loses the option(s) as described above. For the first few games on the file, Black loses only the O-O option, leaving O-O-O intact. I didn't check whether the same no-castling strategy applied throughtout the two matches, or whether the 'O-O / O-O-O' options are turned off using other sequences.

That's not much of an analysis for this post, but I ran out of time to do more. I might come back to the subject another time. At least I verified that the CCC PGN files are accessible for further investigation and work as advertised.

For more about the subject, see my previous post The Engines' Value of Castling (May 2015). Using a different opening trick, I worked out that the value of castling is roughly equivalent to a Pawn. It might be worthwhile to repeat the experiment with the same trick used in the two 'To Castle Or Not To Castle' events.

13 June 2021

The Tornelo Online Platform

Earlier this month on my World Chess Championship blog, I reported in A New Cycle Is Coping Nicely (June 2021) that 'FIDE has already issued reports on two of the Continental qualifiers'. Quoting Fide.com:-

"The European Hybrid Qualification Tournament for the FIDE World Cup took place from May 24-30 on Tornelo online platform." • "The American Hybrid World Cup Qualifier was an 8-group (16 players in each) knockout tournament taking place from May 22-29. All the games were played online on Tornelo platform from designated venues"

I couldn't recall having encountered Tornelo before and made a mental note to learn more. Thanks to this month's featured video I can check off that mental note. The following video is from YouTube's Tornelo channel.

Business of Chess Events (1:08:39) • '[Published on] Jun 7, 2021'

The clip has no description and no comments, which makes me wonder how people are supposed to find it. The channel's description says,

Tornelo is a a Web-Control Centre for online, hybrid and OTB chess events. We support organisers and arbiters to fully control each step through the full lifecycle of an event: planning to completion. We are an event management system and game server all-in-one.

The FIDE calendar currently lists more than a dozen events that will use the 'Tornelo Platform', many of them youth events. The home page home.tornelo.com says,

We are proud to be the Official Tournament Management Platform of the European Chess Union – the peak body for 54 countries in Europe.

In last month's video post, The $64.000 Question (May 2021), I wrote,

There were so many great videos to choose from this month that I almost had to flip a coin. If this is because of the increased popularity of chess during the covid pandemic, then let's hope it has staying power.

On this month's short list I had 50% more clips than last month. Let the good times roll...

11 June 2021

Nepo as a 'Young Star'

After doing the legwork documented in Nepo's TWIC Debut (June 2021; 'TWIC 310, dated 16 October 2000'), I set out to learn when the young Nepomniachtchi had earned his FIDE titles. Of the resources mentioned in the kickoff post, Carlsen's 2021 Challenger (May 2021), the most informative source was The chess games of Ian Nepomniachtchi (chessgames.com), under 'Title norms':-

Nepomniachtchi's first IM norm came from his 6/9 result at the Aeroflot Open B event in February 2003. His second IM norm came with his result at the tournament in Bled, Slovenia in July 2003. His third IM norm resulted from his requisite 4/9 result at the Aeroflot Open (2004) on 26 February 2004. He thereby became an International Master at the age of 13 years 7 months and 12 days.

He won his first GM norm with his 10/13 at the Corus Group C (2007). His second came from his result at the European Championship (2007) in April 2007. His third GM norm resulted from his his excellent 7/11 result at the World Youth Stars (2007) which had its last round on 27 May 2007. As his rating was [already] well above 2500, he became a grandmaster at the age of 16 years 9 months and 17 days.

Since my investigation for 'TWIC Debut' had stopped with TWIC 649 (16 April 2007, 8th Individual European Chess Championships), I extended it another year to include the last of his GM norms. I discovered that the 2007 World Youth Stars was the fifth in a series, and that Nepomniachtchi had played in all previous editions of the event. Here are the TWIC references for the five events:-

  • TWIC 458; 2003-08-18 : Young Stars of the World
  • TWIC 504; 2004-07-05 : Young Stars of the World
  • TWIC 551; 2005-05-30 : Young Stars of the World
  • TWIC 602; 2006-05-22 : 4th Young Stars of the World
  • TWIC 655; 2007-05-28 : Somov Memorial Kirishi ['V International Chess Tournament "World's Youth Stars"']

Using those references, I created the following composite image showing the TWIC crosstables for all five events.

Larger examples of the crosstables can be found on Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess (TWIC).

07 June 2021

TCEC S21 L2 Underway; CCC Unorthodox Openings

Two weeks ago, in TCEC S21 L4 Underway; CCC Opening 'Specials' (May 2021), I wrote, 'The TCEC is vrooming in high gear; the CCC is stuck in second gear'. Two weeks later, copy that. The situation last time can be summarized as:-

TCEC: The Qualification League [QL] results were announced in Chessdom.com. League 4 [L4] should finish in the next day or so, although the top four engines have an insurmountable lead over the next group. • CCC: The site launched into a series of events based on specific openings. The first was 'Caro-Kann Special' with four engines.

The current situation of the world's leading engine vs. engine ongoing competitions is an evolution of that summary.

TCEC: Chessdom.com issued two reports on L4:-

Minic won L3, a half point ahead of Booot. L2 has finished a quarter of the scheduled games. Only one of the L3 qualifiers is currently in the L2 top-4, but it is too early to make predictions. One of the minor changes introduced for S21 is a 'DE' value displayed with an engine's score; e.g. Minic's current L2 score is '4.5 [0]', where '[0]' is its current 'DE' value. The !commands explain,

!de • Direct Encounter is a tiebreak calculated from games between engines that have same amount of points. See !tiebreak

!tiebreak • For all Leagues, Playoff and Premier Division the tiebreak order is 1: Direct encounter [...]

L2 should finish this week

CCC: In the most recent off-week engine post, CCC PGN IV (May 2021), I looked at 'Sicilian Najdorf Special', the last of the five events using a specific [thematic] opening. After the thematic events, the site continued with 'Belgian Stew', 900 games starting with what appear to be randomly selected openings; and 'Saragossa', 300 games starting, 1.c3.

The site is currently running a 'Double Bongcloud' event starting, 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2 Ke7. The 392 games should finish this week. After that we should probably brace for more unorthodox openings.

[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]

06 June 2021

A Flawed Top Item

This month's post for Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), is flawed for a number of reasons. Before I get to the flaws, let's have the particulars. The item pictured below, titled 'Vintage Signed, Framed & Matted "Kings Chess" Collotype by Virginia Dan', sold for 'US $329.99 or Best Offer'.

The description repeated the info in the title and added,

#375 of 375; Frame - 33" x 39.5"; Artwork - 20.5" x 27.5"; COA by Gala Publications; Very Good - Excellent Condition

I had a half-dozen other items on the month's short list, but this was the most interesting visually. There was one other painting by an unknown artist showing two monks playing chess, a visual cliché in the world of chess art. Another item was much pricier, but could easily have been a fake.

I chose this item despite its flaws. The most visible flaw is the reflection of the lights in the top center. Normally I would have cropped out the matting, but here it helps to recognize the extraneous reflection for what it is.

Another flaw is the low price. Normally this would have been under the cutoff point for the short list. The position of the item was higher in the list because it added a '$214.57 shipping estimate'. On top of that, the price said, 'US $329.99 or Best Offer' -- so which is it? And if it's the best offer, why not state exactly what the offer was? I know I've mentioned this annoyance in previous posts about 'Top Chess Items' and I'm sure I'll mention it again. The eBay strategy apparently favors its sellers by keeping their buyers in the dark.

Those nitpicks aside, the image is the best I've seen for this particular work. I saved an earlier eBay example where the dominant color was deep red. Its description was nevertheless more informative:-

This wonderful, signed print called *King Chest* is from an edition limited to 850 worldwide and presented by the Beverly Hills Gallery in 1981. The print is 28 by 21 and is handsomely framed and matted in a 36 by 29 inch frame.

This important piece is signed by American artist Virginia Dan. Born in 1922, Dan made a name for herself in the art world, where her works are referred as *living paintings.* This treasure comes with a certificate of authenticity from Beverly Hills Galleries and a pamphlet on Dan and her art.

The certificate lists the medium as *Colltype* and says that the original plate has been *defaced*. This certificate lists the price in 1982 as 375 dollars. Due to light reflections, our pictures do not do this marvelous piece justice. A rare picture, this would make a great gift for any chess enthusiast or art collector.

So what's the real name of the work -- "Kings Chess" as in the most recent eBay auction or "King Chest" as in the earlier auction. I pass, although I'm partial to "Kings Chess", especially because another difference between the two descriptions is "Collotype" vs. "Colltype", where "Collotype" is correct. The Wikipedia page Collotype says,

Collotype is a dichromate-based photographic process invented by Alphonse Poitevin in 1855 to print images in a wide variety of tones without the need for halftone screens. The majority of collotypes were produced between the 1870s and 1920s.

There is another, similar piece by the same artist where the player with his back to the artist is sitting on the right. An eBay auction for that work informed,

This is a limited edition signed and numbered serigraph by famous California artist, Virginia Dan. Virginia Dan was very popular in the 1970's and 80's. Her realism is spectacular! No one captures the expressions on a face like Virginia Dan.

"Chess Players" is her most famous composition of all her pieces and has been SOLD OUT for years! This piece is number 19/350 (a very low number), and measures approximately 30" x 20" (framed) with a silver molding and a teal blue matt that matches the piece and has plexi-glass protecting the piece.

For more about the artist, see Virginia Dan Biography & Works of Art (qart.com; b.1922-d.2014).

04 June 2021

Nepo's TWIC Debut

Continuing with Carlsen's 2021 Challenger (May 2021) the subject is, of course, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. His earliest mention in Mark Crowther's 'The Week in Chess' was TWIC 310, dated 16 October 2000. The young Nepomniachtchi appears to have had a definite liking for youth tournaments. Here are the events he played as reported by TWIC along with his final placing.

European Youth Championships:-
TWIC 310; 2000-10-16 : U10 1 (i.e. 1st)
TWIC 357; 2001-09-10 : U12 1-4
TWIC 414; 2002-10-14 : U12 1
TWIC 465; 2003-10-06 : U14 3-6
TWIC 568; 2005-09-26 : U18 11-18

World Youth Championships:-
TWIC 365; 2001-11-05 : U12 16-24
TWIC 420; 2002-11-25 : U12 1-2
TWIC 469; 2003-11-03 : U14 3
TWIC 523; 2004-11-15 : U18 15-27
TWIC 560; 2005-08-01 : U16 2-3

Russian Junior Championships:-
TWIC 384; 2002-03-18 : U20 11-19
TWIC 493; 2004-04-19 : U18 1
TWIC 540; 2005-03-14 : U20 8-9
TWIC 592; 2006-03-13 : U20 3-5

The date in the second column is the TWIC publication date. I expected to find considerable variation in the spelling of his name, but the only divergence was TWIC 365, which used 'Nepomniaschii'.

01 June 2021

June 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Continuing with the series that kicks off a new month on this blog, last seen in May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (May 2021), this month's post is all about records. If the cover on the left looks familiar, it might be because we saw it a few years ago in Early U.S. High School Championships (May 2017), where I noted, 'In 1973, Larry Christiansen, a future three-time U.S champion, repeated his 1971 success.'

Left: ?
Right: 'U.S. Amateur Teams: West & Midwest Set New Records; Robert Smeltzer Sets Annual Record! 2,266 Games'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Larry Christiansen of Riverside, California, the first Junior High School student ever to win the National High School Championship. Full story next month.

Using the CFAA time travel machine, we skip ahead to the July 1971 issue of CL&R where we find a three page report by William [Bill] Goichberg titled 'Christiansen, Stuyvestant [sic, 'Stuyvesant'] High School Win National Titles'. It started,

537 students from 26 states and Puerto Rico competed in the 3rd Annual National High School Championship, played in New York April 2-4. There were 334 players in the Championship Section and a new high of 203 players in the Novice Section, open to all rated below 1400 or unrated. Overall attendance declined by 15 players from last year's 552, a not too discouraging figure in this recession year which saw disappointing turnouts in the Midwest, Eastern, Western, and Southern High School Championships. National representation actually continued to improve -- although the number of states was identical to last year, more players came from greater distances.

After a round by round account of the tournament, we learn that Christiansen attained a 7-0 score, while Robert Gruchacz was the only player a half point behind going into the final round. The Goichberg report continued,

With White against Gruchacz, Christiansen quickly established a strong position and the half-point he needed was agreed upon. The first junior high student to win the Championship, Christiansen was a Class B player two years ago and an A player at last year's Nationals (placing 21st).

Christiansen was in 9th grade at the time of winning the event.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

We thought it was a misprint when we saw the Most Active list in the Yearbook. We even checked it twice. Robert deserves whatever recognition we can give him. However, if a medal were involved, it would most deservedly go to his wife!

That was the editor's note to a full page article about Robert Smeltzer's accomplishment. The bulk of the article was a short chess autobiography by Smeltzer. It started,

I spent my early childhood and school years in the small quiet town of Wakarusa, Indiana (pop. 1200). Wakarusa is located in the far north part of the state close to Elkhart and South Bend.

The centerpiece of the article was a 'Letter of Appreciation':-

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dallas Chess Club for the excellent space provided to play my match and tournament games. I especially thank Hugh West for being my match director, Luis Salinas for assisting at times and George Tolliver for the incentive prize fund he sponsored.

Some of the many club members who played making it possible for me to complete 2266 USCF rated chess games in 1995 are: [...] Many of these players spent long hours playing 10 to 14 game matches in 1 day. We had many grueling difficult games many of which went the full 30 minute time limit. I enjoyed 1995 as a good year of chess. I am looking forward to many more good years of chess. I hope all of you chess players have a good year in 1996.

Thank You,
Robert W. Smeltzer
19 March 1996

A March 1996 thread in rec.games.chess.misc, Most Games Played in USCF? (groups.google.com), apparently posted before the CL article, discussed the complications around Smeltzer's record. For more about rgc/rgcm, see Early Chess Newsgroups (June 2015).

31 May 2021


In the previous post on engine vs. engine tournaments, TCEC S21 L4 Underway; CCC Opening 'Specials' (May 2021), I wrote,

After the three [CCC] events titled 'Eco Mini-Match', the site launched into a series of events based on specific openings. The first was 'Caro-Kann Special' with four engines -- Stockfish, Lc0, Dragon, Stockfish Classic (finishing in that order) -- in a round robin of 30 game mini-matches using a blitz time control. [...] At some point in my long, undistinguished chess career, I've played all five openings that have been explored to date. It might be useful to examine the results, but first I have to locate the PGN for the five events.

Locating the PGN turned out to be fairly trivial. Here is the sequence I used for 'Sicilian Najdorf Special':-

  1. Switch to the event to be downloaded (using the inverted triangle to the right of the current event name)
  2. Select the 'PGN download' icon to the right of the game displayed.
  3. Select the 'Event' tab.
  4. Click the 'PGN download' icon.

On that last step, I received no feedback that anything had happened, but the file was indeed downloaded to my usual target directory. I opened it with SCID and discovered that it contained 300 games, all starting with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6. SCID reported the frequency of sixth moves by White as shown in the following chart.

Since the moves most played are currently the most popular for human players, I suspect that the engines are being guided by humans. The PGN for the first game in the file showed 'book' through White's sixth move (6.h4). The last game in the file showed 'book' through White's 16th move. Ugh! It would be far more interesting to let the engines play the variations without being guided at every step by players who might have ratings 1500 points less than the engines. (The 'Info' tab for the Najdorf event indicates the engines' average rating is around 3500).

The last time I looked at the topic of this post was CCC PGN III (September 2020). The CCC appears to have standardized its method of making PGN files available, which is certainly a welcome development. The Najdorf 'Info' tab points to the same 'Mystery Engine' PGN that I mentioned in Stockfish Wins TCEC Cup 7; CCC GPUs Back (November 2020). The current method for accessing CCC PGN files might go back at least that far.

30 May 2021

Crypto Chess

A few days ago, in Business Yahoos (May 2021), I featured a couple of press releases from PRNewswire.com. At the time I noted,

The crypto tournament ['Powered by Coinbase'] merits a separate post and I'll come back to it as soon as I can. In fact, there were two such tournaments announced during the past month.

The first of those tournaments, which is nearing the final stage, was announced in a post by Leon Watson of Chessable.com (a Play Magnus subsidiary), that also reads like a press release:-

  • 2021-05-17: FTX Crypto Cup: The world’s FIRST bitcoin chess tournament (championschesstour.com) • 'The FTX Crypto Cup is organised by Play Magnus Group, a global leader in the chess industry, and FTX, a leading cryptocurrency exchange. FTX has also entered into a long-term agreement with Play Magnus Group to become its Official Cryptocurrency Exchange Partner.'

The second tournament will be played next month:-

  • 2021-05-20: CryptoChamps Chess Tournament Powered by Coinbase is June 12-13 (prnewswire.com; 'News provided by Chess.com') • 'Star personalities from the world of cryptocurrencies will play in a charity chess tournament. A $25,000 prize fund powered by Coinbase will be donated to charity institutions chosen by each of the participants, with donations made entirely in cryptocurrency.'

Entirely by coincidence, a few days before those announcements I posted Four Faces of Crypto Currency (May 2021), with a quality stock photo of chess pieces mingling with crypto coins. Strictly speaking, it wasn't entirely a coincidence. I've been following the crypto evolution for nearly six years on another of my blogs, Bitcoins and Blockchains. I decided early on that It's for Speculating, Not Buying Stuff (October 2015), a conclusion that has been reinforced through the years.

It's great to see chess get new sponsors. There has long been an implicit relationship between chess and poker, with some crossover between top-level players in both domains. Chess promoters need to be careful that they don't get too caught up in online gambling. I don't see how that would work out well for anyone.

28 May 2021

Carlsen's 2021 Challenger

In last week's Friday post, USCF Awards 1979-92 (May 2021), I wrote,

That makes this post a good point to pause the series on 'USCF Awards' and move on to a different topic best handled by a series of posts.

The topic I had in mind was to take a closer look at Ian Nepomniachtchi, the winner of the 2020 Candidates Tournament; Yekaterinburg (Russia). Three years I did the same for Fabiano Caruana in a series of posts that are useful as a structural reference:-

  • 2018-04-12: Carlsen's Next Challenger
  • 2018-05-22: Caruana's Career • Summary of all posts: 'document a natural progression in the early career of any budding chess superstar: early steps, Grandmaster title, GM supertournaments, World Championship aspirations.'

Three other, basic references are useful to understanding GM Nepomniachtchi's career:-

To those I'll add my own record of World Championship events:-

The Wikipedia date of birth (14 July 1990) reminds me of an ancient post, The Class of 1990 (October 2009), where I used FIDE ratings to track the early progress of GM Carlsen and three other young chess geniuses. GM Nepomniachtchi should be added to the list.

In case anyone thinks Nepomniachtchi will be a pushover for World Champion Carlsen, their record of games in head-to-head combat says otherwise -- Classical games: Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Magnus Carlsen 4 to 1, with 6 draws (chessgames.com). The full story is:-

Including rapid/exhibition games: Magnus Carlsen beat Ian Nepomniachtchi 21 to 14, with 38 draws. • Only rapid/exhibition games: Magnus Carlsen beat Ian Nepomniachtchi 20 to 10, with 32 draws.

Whether classical, rapid, or blitz games finally decide, the forthcoming title match 2021 Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi, Dubai, XI-XII, 2021, might prove to be the toughest of Carlsen's five title matches so far.

27 May 2021

Business Yahoos

The last post of the month not falling into a regularly scheduled series means it's time for a Yahoo post. What's a Yahoo post? See the footnote at the end of this current post for a brief explanation.

Last month we concentrated on Guardian Yahoos (April 2021), where the name was taken because The Guardian had 'the best showing I've seen by a non-chess source'.

On the left is the start of the summary of the past month's sources for the top-100 stories flagged by Google News. In addition to the nine sources shown with two or more stories each, there were 45 other sources with a single story.

As usual, Chess.com heads the list, this time with a little more than one third of the stories. A list of the headlines from the Chess.com stories would make a respectable summary of all chess news for the month, but then they wouldn't be Yahoos. I still might do such a list if I ever figure out a simple way to convert from the Google News style of presenting the relative date of a story -- e.g. '11 hours ago' or '22 days ago' -- to a real date.

Of the nine sources shown, the first four are top sources of chess news, followed by The Guardian, followed by four sources of mainstream news. Let's start with the two stories from PRNewswire, where 'PR' is an acronym for 'press release':-

The Kasparov story was picked up by a few other sources. I might come back to it if it doesn't fizzle as fast as many Kasparov stories. Garry has a habit of grabbing the microphone from other chess personalities who happen to be in the spotlight. This time it looks like a reaction to the boom brought on by the twin phenomena of (1) the interest in online chess during the covid pandemic, and (2) the interest in the Netflix release of 'Queen's Gambit'.

The crypto tournament merits a separate post and I'll come back to it as soon as I can. In fact, there were two such tournaments announced during the past month.

As for Netflix and its adaptation of 'The Queen's Gambit', it appears to have run its course. I found only one story in May:-

Before signing off this post, I looked at the last source in the list, where its full name is 'Wisconsin Public Radio News'. In fact, the two references were on the same topic:-

  • 2021-05-26: Milwaukee Resident Starts Neighborhood Chess Club (wpr.org) • 'A new chess club has formed in Milwaukee after a Bay View resident tried to find a community chess club for her 14-year-old son and posted online to find others who wanted to play. We talk with her about her passion for chess and what the new club has to offer.'

Good for her. How many titled chess players have started a local chess club? Not many, I imagine.

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

25 May 2021

2021 CJA Awards Announcement

A year ago, I penned (moused? cursored?) a new slogan: '"If it's May, it's CJA" ... awards, that is.' Today is the last day in May where I have no other topic planned, so once again, 'It's CJA'. Last year I ended up with with five posts on the CJA (Chess Journalists of America) awards:-

Why the month of May? Because that's the month when the forthcoming awards are announced in Chess Life, usually before they appear anywhere else. This year the May 2021 issue of CL carried the usual full page announcement.

The seven categories and their corresponding awards for 2021 are shown below on the right. Next to them, on the left, is the related announcement from 2020. This allows for a bird's eye comparison of the two years. If you're interested in specific awards for 2021, you would be better off viewing the list of awards on ChessJournalism.org ('Supporting journalists and their love of chess since 1980'), where you'll also find instructions for submitting your own entries.

2020 2021

One feature of the 2020 announcement that is missing in 2021 is the use of yellow to color-code new awards. In 2021, the color yellow is used to footnote award categories, e.g. 'JUNIOR (Under 18)'. Since the highlighting of new awards helps to track the process, I compared the two years and came up with the following lists. The upper case entries are categories; mixed case entries are awards.

- Best Review
- Best Online Review

At first I thought the 2020 award had disappeared. Then I noticed that it had been renamed and placed elsewhere in the 'ONLINE' list. I don't understand why the CJA continues to differentiate between 'PRINT' and 'ONLINE' awards. In the early days of the web it made sense to encourage the fledgling, often inexperienced, chess writers on the web. Nowadays those writers are mainstream, having assumed the role of the traditional writers. Continuing to account for a superfluous top-level class must place an additional burden on the judges, especially since some of the best writing -- Chess Life is a good example -- is available in both mediums.

The following awards are new in 2021. Note again the 'PRINT'/'ONLINE' overlap for 'Mainstream Publication'.

BEST PRINT ARTICLES (Open only to publications)
- Best Coverage by Mainstream Publication (free entry)
- Best Overall Website Small Organization (website for group of less than 500)
- Best Coverage by Mainstream Publication (free entry)
- Best Twitch Channel
- Best Instagram Feed
- Best State Chapter Website

In addition to that last 'State Chapter Website' award, I found two (duplicate) awards with a similar name in the same category. That makes three Cramer awards for 'State Website'. If you run a state website, this year could be your best shot at winning a CJA award.

- Best Overall State Website
- Best Overall State Website

I'll end this post with my usual final sentence: 'If you're a CJA member (I'm not), good luck!'

24 May 2021

TCEC S21 L4 Underway; CCC Opening 'Specials'

This blog's previous post on the world of first class engine vs. engine events, TCEC S21 Starts; CCC 'Eco Mini-Matches' (May 2021), could have been subtitled 'TCEC Vrooming in High Gear; CCC Stuck in Second Gear'. Here is a summary of that post:-

TCEC: An article dated yesterday, 'TCEC S21 starts today' (chessdom.com), opened with 'Season 21 of the Top Chess Engine Championship starts today...' The secondary news in that article is that Chessdom.com is back with a new look and a new attempt at keeping up-to-date. • CCC: The site is currently running a series of matches, each one with the title 'Eco Mini-Match'. Only in computer chess can an 800 game match masquerade as a 'mini-match'.

I covered the announcement that 'Chessdom.com is back' in last week's post, The Return of Chessdom News (May 2021). Where appropriate, I'll mention their coverage in future posts.

TCEC: The S21 Rules (wiki.chessdom.org) for the two lowest leagues say,

Qualification League: [QL] 'The top 8 engines promote to League 4.' • League 4: [L4] 'The bottom 4 engines relegate and the top 4 promote to League 3.'

The QL results were announced in:-

L4 should finish in the next day or so, although the top four engines have an insurmountable lead over the next group. Three of those top four are engines that promoted from QL.

CCC: After the three events titled 'Eco Mini-Match', the site launched into a series of events based on specific openings. The first was 'Caro-Kann Special' with four engines -- Stockfish, Lc0, Dragon, Stockfish Classic (finishing in that order) -- in a round robin of 30 game mini-matches using a blitz time control. Subsequent 'Specials' varied the format using different openings. The current event, just getting underway, is 'Sicilian Najdorf Special' with six engines using a rapid time control.

At some point in my long, undistinguished chess career, I've played all five openings that have been explored to date. It might be useful to examine the results, but first I have to locate the PGN for the five events.

[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]

23 May 2021

Holmes vs. Moriarty, 2011

If you've never wondered why chess appears so often in movies, it's because you know why. It's the potential for symbolism. First you have two intelligent people in direct, intellectual combat. They manipulate six different pieces -- including a symbol for feminism and a symbol for the little guy -- where all six convey a different message. Then there are check, mate, and stalemate, each representing different phases of combat. Add to that circumstances surrounding the game -- a friendly game, an extended match, a game for life or death -- and there is room for boundless interpretations of real life situations.

Most competent chess players, club players and stronger, understand the symbolism, but what about the rest of the world? That's where this video plays a role.

Someone Had to Explain the Chess Scene in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (23:04) • '[Published on] Apr 22, 2021'

Along with links to a dozen different resources, the description says,

Playing a board game while stopping the bad guy is a really superfluous flex, Sherlock.

What does 'flex' mean in this context? According to one source, Definition of Flex (dictionary.com), one meaning is '[Slang] to boast or brag; show off'. OK, that makes sense. I get it.

The game used in the movie is the well known Bent Larsen vs Tigran Petrosian; Second Piatigorsky Cup (1966), Santa Monica, CA (chessgames.com), featuring a Queen sacrifice. Petrosian was World Champion at the time and Larsen was one of the best players outside the Iron Curtain.

For more about the movie, see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (wikipedia.org; 'the 12th highest-grossing film of 2011 worldwide'), and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - 2011 (imdb.com). The IMDb summary says,

Detective Sherlock Holmes is on the trail of criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, who is carrying out a string of random crimes across Europe.

Both pages reference chess only once. That in itself is symbolic.

21 May 2021

USCF Awards 1979-92

According to the laws of nature, this post should have been titled 'USCF Awards 1992'. Just like the recent post 'USCF Awards 1990' (see link below), I could find no evidence that the awards were announced that year and would have been forced to fall back on subsequent yearbook compilations.

That makes this post a good point to pause the series on 'USCF Awards' and move on to a different topic best handled by a series of posts. A summary of the posts in the award series is shown below. I like summaries because they make my work easier if and when I ever come back to the topic.

While I was wandering through the various issues raised by that series of posts, I noted a couple of anomalies. The first anomaly is pictured below.

Source: Doyle's Scrapbook #1 - Toms River Chess Club [PDF p.12]

'Doyle' is Steve Doyle who himself received a Distinguished Service Award in 1990. The certificate says,

'1977 Distinguished Service Award
Toms River Chess Club
in recognition of participation in the
USCF Builder membership drive and National Chess Day'

The Distinguished Service Award represented by the certificate predates the start of the USCF awards by two years. The second anomaly is from the August 1978 Chess Life, which announced,

1979 Yearbook in Preparation • The 1979 USCF Yearbook is planned for December of this year.

This contradicts something I said in 'USCF Awards 1990', where I wrote, 'the USCF's first yearbook (the "1982 Chess Yearbook") appeared in the April 1983 issue of Chess Life. I have more to say about these anomalies, but I'm out of time for today.

18 May 2021

Queen's Gambit and the Pandemania(c)

Last year, in a post titled Queen's Gambit Staying Power (November 2020), I wrote,

The Netflix series appeared unexpectedly on my radar at one other time during the past month. Near the beginning of the month, one of my pages zoomed to first on the 'Top 10 Pages' for my domain, eclipsing the perennial leader, 'Index to the World Chess Championship' (m-w.com).

The new leader, a page I wrote in 2006, titled 'Top 10 Myths About Chess' (ditto; 'People say the darnedest things about chess'), is frequently in the top-10, but rarely leads it. At first I was baffled, but then I noticed the last myth was: '10. Women can't play chess as well as men'

Six months later, I can quantify that. The following chart shows the number of page views for each month starting 2020-01 (January 2020) through 2021-04 (April 2021).

Monthly page views on mark-weeks.com

X-axis: '1' = 2020-01, '13' = 2021-01.

That simple chart has an equally simple legend:-

As I've noted many times, the last time in Chess Stats Year-Over-Year (June 2017):-

Since chess has a seasonal bias -- peak interest in the winter, trough in the summer -- the best way to analyze a trend is with a year-over-year comparison.

That trend is partly visible in the green counts (WCC). The interest in chess brought on by the coronavirus pandemic blew a hole in the seasonal observation and it remains to be seen if the trend will reappear in the future.

The small uptick in blue pages (Myths) for 2020-03/-04 is probably due to visitors landing on another myth: '1. Chess is hard to learn'. The blue pages skyrocket in 2020-10/-11, then gradually come back to normal levels.

As for the green pages (WCC), there is a small uptick at the start of the pandemic, then a return to a normal seasonal pattern. The uptick in green for 2021-03/-04 is probably due to interest in the 2020 Candidates Tournament; Yekaterinburg (Russia).

What will the future bring? We'll have a good idea when the next World Championship title match, 2021 Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi; Dubai, XI-XII, 2021, starts near the end of the year.

17 May 2021

The Return of Chessdom News

Chessdom.org has long served as the mother ship for TCEC support -- see, for example, the TCEC Wiki (also via the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page). At one time Chessdom.com served as an equivalent function for TCEC news.

In early 2019, Chessdom stopped being one of the 'go-to' sites for chess news and started limiting itself to specialty topics like news about TCEC. The last time I referenced Chessdom as a news source was over a year ago, in TCEC S17 Paused; CCC13 Underway (March 2020). That was mid-March, around the same time the coronavirus pandemic started to slow down the entire planet. Coincidence?

In last week's post, TCEC S21 Starts; CCC 'Eco Mini-Matches' (May 2021), I noted,

An article dated yesterday, 'TCEC S21 starts today' (chessdom.com), started by saying, 'Season 21 of the Top Chess Engine Championship starts today...' The secondary news in that article is that Chessdom.com is back with a new look and a new attempt at keeping up-to-date. I'll look at the site more closely in an off-week post.

Chessdom.com TCEC S21 articles 'by Sergio' started appearing last month:-

That was before the general announcement:-

The link to see subsequent articles is All posts tagged "TCEC" (chessdom.com). I added the same to the reference tab 'TCEC/CCC Links'.

16 May 2021

Four Faces of Crypto Currency

Looking for stock photos of chess pieces mingled with crypto coins? This Flickr resource is a good place to start.

Bird's eye view of the physical crypto currency coins surrounded by chess pieces © Flickr user Ivan Radic under Creative Commons.

That title doubles as a description of the photo. The four coins shown represent (left to right):-

Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Bitcoin.

How do I know that? For years I've been following the bitcoin phenomenon on my blog Bitcoins and Blockchains. It's mostly dormant now, but I might wake it up at any time.

I found a seller of the physical coins shown in the photo at Bitcoin munt (goud) cryptocurrency munten set 5-delig in fluwelen opbergdoos (bol.com). That Dutch title translates to 'Bitcoin coin (gold) cryptocurrency coin set 5-piece in velvet storage box'.

Five pieces? What's the fifth? It's Dashcoin, a crypto currency that I'm not sure I've encountered before.

For more stock photos from the same photographer, see Ivan Radic's photos; Search: chess (flickr.com). As the text on the Creative Commons (CC) link explains, the photo shown is marked 'Some rights reserved'. See the CC page for an explanation of what that means exactly.