30 September 2021

The Yahoo Database Reveals a Lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 September 2021

A Century of Follow-ups

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

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

27 September 2021

TCEC VSOB 21, CCC C960 Blitz Championship : Both Underway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

26 September 2021

The Sociology of Chess in Images

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 September 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21

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

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

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

23 September 2021

Take 'Pine Box Trail' to 'Chess Cemetery'

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

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

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


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

The description says,

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

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

Chess Cemetery ->
Pine Box Trail ->

The large sign says,

Ryerson Station State Park
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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

21 September 2021

2021 CJA Awards - Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 September 2021

TCEC VSOB Opening Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 September 2021

The Battle of Braine-l'Alleud

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


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

The description of the photo adds,

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

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

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

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

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

***

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


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

Thanks to AL for sharing this discovery.

17 September 2021

Carlsen's Banter Blitz Events 2019-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 September 2021

Ida Chose Newburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 September 2021

September 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

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

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

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


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

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

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

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

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

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

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

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 September 2021

TCEC VSOB 21, CCC Blitz 2021 : Both Still Underway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • NB: Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

12 September 2021

Chess Variants Explained

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

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

The post then informed,

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

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


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

The video's description starts,

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

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

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

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

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

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

05 September 2021

Classical Does Not Apply

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

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

The description said,

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

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

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

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

...appeared in 2021 as...

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

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

***

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