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.]


Follow-up: Crypto Chess (May 2021).

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.

14 May 2021

USCF Awards 1991

The title of this post is the logical next stop after last week's post USCF Awards 1990 (May 2021). The following table uses the same format as the table developed for the 'Awards 1990' post, with one enhancement. The top half of the table shows the awards listed in the 2013 USCF Yearbook. The bottom half, headed 'Amended', lists corrections identified for this post.

Year Award Winner(s)
1991 DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Harry Sabine, Yasser Seirawan
1991 KOLTANOWSKI AWARDS Gold: Ted Field; Silver: Neil Falconer
1991 MERITORIOUS SERVICE AWARD Imre Konig, George Leighton
1991 OUTSTANDING CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Mike Goodall, Ira Lee Riddle, Fjola Vandenburg
1991 SPECIAL SERVICE AWARD Larry Evans, Lev Alburt
1991 KOLTANOWSKI AWARDS Gold: American Chess Foundation, Ted Field (Interscope Group); Silver: Neil Falconer
1991 U.S. CHESS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES John Collins, Arthur Dake

The first mention of awards is from the May 1991 Chess Life (CL)

CHESS NOTES : Policy Board Notes • The Policy Board, which meets quarterly to oversee USCF affairs, faced a full agenda in its February 2-3 meeting in San Diego. [...] In recognition of major accomplishments, the Board gave Jack Collins the title of "Chess Teacher of the Century" and awarded GM Lev Alburt the Special Service medal for his success in finding corporate sponsorship for the World Championship in New York.

From that excerpt we learn that (1) the USCF Policy Board was responsible for selecting award winners, and (2) the awards could be decided at any time during the year. We also learn that Jack [John] Collins received the title of "[U.S.] Chess Teacher of the Century".

The second mention of awards is from the November 1991 CL. In the article '1991 U.S. Open : Lifetime of Memories', author Thomas Hailey included a section:-

KASPAROV DELIVERS • The most popular of all events held in conjunction with the Open was the Awards Luncheon held at tHe half way point in the schedule, drawing a capacity crowd of 290, the largest awards luncheon in Open history

GM Arthur Dake, who also played the last week in the Open, and "Chess Teacher of the Century" John Collins were both inducted into the Chess Hall of Fame. After the inductions and usual awards were handed out (see accompanying story), the audience came to its feet in a standing ovation for the keynote speaker — World Champion Garry Kasparov.

He told the audience the key to chess future is the growth of chess in the U.S. and the importance of chess as an educational tool and in attracting new players for the future. He said he was in Los Angeles to help raise money for the next world championship to be played in Los Angeles in 1993. He then fielded questions from the audience.

Note that Arthur Dake's name was missing from the 2013 Yearbook, an error which was introduced the first time the yearbook was published in 1995. That accounts for one line in the 'Amended' section of the table. As for 'see accompanying story', we skip ahead to the January 1992 CL. In 'An Affair To Remember' by CL Editor Glenn Petersen, we learn,

Every year at the U.S. Open, an Awards Banquet is held during the Delegate's Weekend. It is a time set aside to honor our own for their financial support, dedication, volunteerism, and career achievements.

While World Champion Garry Kasparov stole the headlines as the Keynote Speaker at the Los Angeles Awards Banquet last August, others were recognized for their contributions to chess.

The Koltanowski Medals (Gold and Silver) are awarded for financial sponsorship at the national and local levels. The Gold was awarded to the American Chess Foundation for its continuous and generous support of USCF programs, and to Ted Field (Interscope Group) for his sponsorship of the New York half of the 1990 World Championship. The Silver Koltanowski Medal was awarded to Neil Falconer for a lifetime of sponsorship in the San Francisco Bay area, in scholastic programs as well as for international competitions (most recently, the Pan-Pacific Invitational).

Another Bay area resident, Mike Goodall, was also honored. He and Ira Lee Riddle of Warminster, Pennsylvania, received Outstanding Career Achievement Awards. Distinguished Service Awards were received by GM Yasser Seirawan and Harry Sabine. Meritorious Service Awards were presented to Judge George N. Leighton and IM Imre Konig.

The Awards Banquet also gave USCF members a chance to meet, greet, and honor the most recent Hall of Fame inductees, GM Arthur Dake and John Collins. Special Service Awards were granted to GM Lev Alburt and GM Larry Evans. Last but not least, an award was presented to Jerry Hanken and Paul Shannon, representing the Southern California Chess Association, for organizing the 1991 U.S. Open in Los Angeles.

The paragraph on the Koltanowski awards accounts for the other line in the 'Amended' section of the table. Back to the list of awards and award winners, I was totally or mostly unfamiliar with more than half of the winners. For which exploits did they receive awards from the USCF? Thanks to the web and to Google, I now know why. If I find the time, I'll attach my findings to this post. As for 'USCF Awards 1992', there's always a next year.

10 May 2021

TCEC S21 Starts; CCC 'Eco Mini-Matches'

Two weeks ago we had secondary events running in both world class, ongoing engine vs. engine competitions. I reported the situation in TCEC 'VSOB'; CCC 'ECO Mega-Matches' (April 2021), summarized here:-

TCEC: KomodoDragon won 'Swiss 1' with 15.5 points out of 22 games. After 'Swiss 1', the site conducted tests. '!next' says, 'Now !VSOB 20 Stockfish-LCZero and QL/L4/L3 testing, will switch between these occasionally...' • CCC: 'They came, they played, they left ... they're bots.' The site is currently running 'Eco Mega-Match 2 (part 2)'.

A week ago we had an off-week post looking at two of those events -- one TCEC, one CCC -- in more depth: VSOB 20; ECO_FULL (May 2021). What's the situation today?

TCEC: Apparently, 'QL/L4/L3 testing' has just ended. An article dated yesterday, TCEC S21 starts today (chessdom.com), started by saying,

Season 21 of the Top Chess Engine Championship starts today at 17:00 UTC. A total of 46 engines will embark on a quest for glory in the most prestigious computer chess event.

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.

CCC: 'Eco Mega-Match 2' finished with the following results:-

  • Part 1 (2012 games): Stockfish 52.8% - Lc0 47.2%
  • Part 2 (ditto): Stockfish 52.0% - Lc0 48.0%

The site is currently running a series of matches, each one with the title 'Eco Mini-Match'. The results of the first two matches were:-

  • Stockfish Classic vs Leela (800 games): Lc0 55.9% - Stockfish Classic 44.1%
  • Dragon vs Stockfish Classic (795 games): Dragon 55.7% - Stockfish Classic 44.3%

Stockfish Classic is the pre-NNUE version of Stockfish; Dragon's full name is Komodo Dragon (or KomodoDragon). A third match is underway, titled 'Eco Mini-Match: Leela vs Dragon', pitting the winners of those two mini-matches against each other. Only in computer chess can an 800 game match masquerade as a 'mini-match'.

[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]

09 May 2021

The $64.000 Question

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. I finally chose a video that explained the evolution of that popularity. It's a story that will never get old.

A New Era Of Chess - How Did A Medieval Game Conquer Twitch? (11:41) • '[Published on] Apr 20, 2021'

The description of the clip said,

Hikaru Nakamura, Alexandra & Andrea Botez, Anna Cramling, Andrew Tang -- these may not be the names you typically associate with esports.

We've seen all of those names on this blog, except Andrew Tang. I'll let Wikipedia make the introduction; Andrew Tang (wikipedia.org):-

Andrew Tang (born November 29, 1999) is an American chess player. He was awarded the title Grandmaster by FIDE in 2018. He is known online for his bullet, hyperbullet, and ultrabullet (one-minute, 30-second, and 15-second chess, respectively) skills, even playing blindfolded, and is a popular streamer.

The first comment, by the channel itself, Akshon Esports, asks,

How do you foresee the chess scene evolving in the future as it becomes increasingly incorporated into the world of streaming and esports?

That could well be the $64.000 question.

07 May 2021

USCF Awards 1990

In my current Friday series, I ended last week's post, USCF Awards 1988-89 (April 2021), saying,

Next stop in the saga of USCF Awards: 1990-91, except I haven't found a 1990 list published in CL. If I continue to come up empty-handed, I'll look at the yearbooks.

Empty-handed I am. In the first post in the series, U.S. Chess Cities of the Year (March 2021), I mentioned that my original working list of awards came from the 2013 USCF Yearbook. The following table shows the 1990 awards listed by that yearbook.

Year Award Winner(s)
1990 COMMITTEE OF THE YEAR Tournament Direction Certification Committee
1990 KOLTANOWSKI AWARDS Gold: Arnold Denker, Helen Warren
1990 OUTSTANDING CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Roger Blaine, Lee Hyder, Russell Miller

What does the 1991 yearbook say about the 1990 awards? In a word: nothing! Although the USCF's first yearbook (the '1982 Chess Yearbook') appeared in the April 1983 issue of Chess Life (CL), the awards weren't added to the yearbook until 1995. They covered the previous year, 1994.

The 1990 awards that appeared in 1995 were incomplete. Two were missing:-


They must have been added to the yearbook for a later edition, but I didn't take the time to look. I'm just glad they were added.

04 May 2021

May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Just like last month's April 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (April 2021), our covers from 50 and 25 years ago feature chess in the USA on the left and artwork on the right. As usual, there's more to the two cover stories than that.

Left: ?
Right: 'Polgar Wins World Title; James Todd - What Price Victory'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

International Grandmaster Larry Evans, who has recently won both the National Open (story [elsewhere]) and the Louis Statham Masters and Experts Tourney at Lone Pine, Cal. Larry's latest book, 'Modern Chess Brilliancies', just published, will be reviewed in CL&R.

The last time we saw GM Evans in this series was May 1970 & 1995 'On the Cover' (May 2020), where Evans was a co-winner of the 1970 National Open. The report on the 1971 event 'The National Open: Evans Wins on Tiebreak' by George Koltanowski, Tournament Director, started,

Would the weather hold? Would the Lone Pine tournament, immediately following the National, hurt attendance? These and many other problems beset the spark-plug of the National Open, Harvey Presly, who is the assistant promotion manager of John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, Nevada, and a real chess fan.

It is one of the shortest and strangest tournament reports -- Did the weather hold? -- I have ever seen for a national tournament. It didn't say when it was held (7-12 March 1971, according to pre-tournament publicity) or give any kind of synopsis of the final rounds. It only said,

Larry Evans had the most Median points [whatever those were] and won the trophy (prize money was shared, each of the top seven getting $270)

It then listed only the draws/losses for five of the top seven players. For the record, the other six were Svetozar Gligoric, Walter Browne, William Martz, Jim Tarjan, John Grefe, and Roy Ervin (also top expert). You have to work out for yourself that the top scores were all 6.5-1.5. The most discussed topic in the report was the Nugget venue. On the same page, the announcement for the 1971 U.S. Junior Open (NB: not the 'Closed') received more print space.

As for Lone Pine, Koltanowski mentioned, 'The Lone Pine event may have hurt, but only slightly.' The paragraph about the cover and the two (unfavorable?) mentions by Koltanowski are the only references I could find to the first Lone Pine event in the decade long series. Why was it overlooked?

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

"What Price Victory" indeed. An empty realm. This is just one of the original oil paintings by James Todd, using chess as a theme. We hope you enjoy the spread, as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Congratulations and adulations are due Zsuzsa Polgar on her victory over Xie Jun. Xie Jun has been a fine Women's World Champion, and it is a shame that there has to be a loser. Zsuzsa, now residing in Rego Park, New York, with her husband Jack Shutzman, has already applied for American citizenship.

Congratulations and adulations are also due Garry Kasparov for his victory over Deep Blue. While not a world championship, the match certainly generated world caliber interest, which was properly reflected in all the media, for more than a week.

Brickbats and barbs to FIDE for accepting a bid from Iraq to hold the Kamsky - Karpov World Championship match in Baghdad. As a sporting event, such a match would not violate the United Nations' economic sanctions against Iraq. And our own State Department concedes that the Kamsky's can travel anywhere they want since they are still using Russian passports. However, the Treasury Department, which interprets the U.S. Sanctions against Iraq, admits that the Kamsky's may have a little problem if they try to return to this country. They may lose their "Green Card" (permanent residency) status, and any monies they might win. The USCF has asked FIDE to select another site.

This is the third cover in the last four editions of 'On the Cover' to feature artwork on the 1996 CL side. The two-page spread titled 'James Todd' by Jim Todd featured nine of Todd's chess paintings, including the cover painting. It started,

My father taught me both how to play chess and how to paint. While we continued to paint to- gether through-out the time I lived at home, our chess relationship ended when the burden of his losses became too great for him to bear. Of course, I didn't know at the time that the two activities would combine to make up a significant part of my life as an artist; indeed, I didn't know as a child that painting would become my career, although 1 have devoted myself to developing my technique and exploring various media since the age of 10.

The other three stories mentioned in the 'On the Cover' paragraphs were all milestones in World Championship history. Polgar's book 'Queen of the King's Game' listed 'Jacob' Shutzman as co-author.

03 May 2021


In last week's engine post, TCEC 'VSOB'; CCC 'ECO Mega-Matches' (April 2021), I gave myself an action:-

[VSOB] sounds like a good topic for an off-week post. [...] I'll look at available info for the ECO Mega-Matches when I look at VSOB. This follows the principle that opposites attract.

Last year I wrote an entire post on VSOB in VSOB PGN (January 2020; 'VSOB stands for "Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus"'). The most recent VSOB event is in the TCEC Archive at S21 - Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus 20 (tcec-chess.com/archive; PGN available from top menu bar under 'Download'). I downloaded the 76 games, loaded them into SCID, and produced the table of first moves shown in the top of the following image.

As for 'ECO Mega-Matches', the PGN is at Eco_full (mediafire.com; 'File size: 248 KB; Uploaded: 2021-04-22'). I downloaded the file, but hesitated when I saw that each PGN game had incomplete headers. Here's the first entry in the file:-

[ECO "A00"]
[Opening "Polish (Sokolsky) opening"]
1. b4 *

That caused no problem for SCID, which produced the table shown in the bottom of the image. The analysis shows that the ECO_FULL.PGN file contains 2014 ECO variations. More than half of the variations start 1.e4.

I wanted to take the analysis further, but ran out of time for this post. Will I find the time to continue? My experience on follow-ups says, 'No!'.

02 May 2021

Not for Blitz or Bullet

It's the first Sunday of a new month and that means another episode of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010). As usual, I started by reviewing eBay's chess items that sold in the previous month -- April 2021 for this current post -- in descending order by price.

Chess clocks frequently appear on the initial short list for 'Top eBay Chess Items', but rarely make the final cut. Although important as a chess accessory, there's not much to add about them. The previous post featuring a clock was Double Dutch Clocks (October 2013).

The item pictured below was titled 'Rare vintage hourglass for playing chess in the USSR'. It sold for around 600 US$, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description added,

Vintage clock for playing chess. Additional flasks for quick rearrangement. The vertical clock counts down the time, the horizontal one is stopped. With a slight movement of the recruit, everything is the opposite.

The 'additional flasks' must be the two hourglasses to the left and right of the chess Knight's head. According to another photo showing a ruler, the clock mechanism on the left is 16 cm wide; the reserve holder on the right is 8 cm wide. I can't imagine that the hourglasses hold much sand.

A search for similar clocks led to How do we appreciate time? A history of chess clocks (chess.com). There I learned,

The first major chess [clock?] revolution began in 1852, when a quasi-unknown writer named Andrew Cantab wrote an article in which he argued that each player should have limited time for the entire game. Moreover, he proposed a solution: the introduction of hourglasses with sand. [...] The propaganda was successful, and the hourglass was officially introduced to a tour for the first time in 1861, at the match between Anderssen and Kolisch, in London. The agreed playing time was 24 moves in two hours.

Going back to my post Tabulating the Rabbit Hole (June 2019; 'chart shows periodicals published by country and by year'), there are plenty of potential references from 1861. That might make a compact follow-up project.