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
2021-01-04:
TCEC S20 Reaches DivP; CCC Testing
2021-01-11:
CCC Hardware Upgrade
2021-01-18:
TCEC S20 Sufi Underway; CCC Back in the Saddle
2021-01-25:
Engine Scaling
2021-02-01:
Stockfish Wins TCEC S20; CCC 'Rapid 2021' Underway
2021-02-08:
Correspondence Chess in the 2020s
2021-02-15:
TCEC Side Events; CCC 'Rapid 2021' Nearing Semifinal
2021-02-22:
The Transformation of Fat Fritz
2021-03-01:
TCEC Cup 8, CCC Rapid 2021 : Semifinals Both Underway
2021-03-08:
The Condemnation of Fat Fritz
2021-03-15:
TCEC FRC3, CCC Rapid 2021 : Both Finals Underway
2021-03-22:
TCEC/CCC HTTP '!Command's
2021-03-29:
TCEC 'Swiss 1', CCC 'Streamer Bots Battle' : Both Underway
2021-04-05:
Chess.com Streamer Bots
2021-04-12:
TCEC 'Swiss 1', CCC 'Bots: Top Players...' : Both Underway
2021-04-19:
Komodo Personalities
2021-04-26:
TCEC 'VSOB'; CCC 'ECO Mega-Matches'
2021-05-03:
VSOB 20; ECO_FULL
2021-05-10:
TCEC S21 Starts; CCC 'ECO Mini-Matches'
2021-05-17:
The Return of Chessdom News
2021-05-24:
TCEC S21 L4 Underway; CCC Opening 'Specials'
2021-05-31:
CCC PGN IV
2021-06-07:
TCEC S21 L2 Underway; CCC Unorthodox Opening
2021-06-14:
CCC No-castling Events
2021-06-21:
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).