30 November 2021

World Championship Yahoos 2021

This month's Yahoos post harks back to the previous World Championship that I covered in World Championship Yahoos (November 2018). The footnote below explaining Yahoos says, 'top-100 (or so) stories from the past month', but this month there was a change in the Google News algorithm. It still returned 100 stories, but I noticed that many were published well before the month of November. Here's the oldest, from almost eight months ago:-

Before you get too excited about that news, note the date. It is, in fact, the 'updated' date, the 'published' date was one day earlier. Oh, OK. After eliminating all stories dated before November, I ended up with 82 real Yahoos.

The chart shows the breakdown of those 82 Yahoos. Not shown are the 35 news sources that had a single story

Another unusual feature of the month was the precipitous drop in stories from Chess.com, which has been averaging around 40 stories a month for the last six months. Is this an anomaly -or- a harbinger of future Yahoo activity?

As for stories about the World Championship in Dubai, I didn't notice any in-depth stories explaining the event to the general public. I'm sure they're out there somewhere; they just weren't flagged by Google News. The best story I could find -- and it's very good -- was:-

  • 2021-11-15: Know The Challenger: Ian Nepomniachtchi (chess.com) • 'It is amazing how all contemporary world champions were born somewhere on the outskirts of the giant empire rather than in its greatest cities and chess centers, such as Moscow or Leningrad [now Saint Petersburg].'

One mainstream news source was ramping up to full coverage. The Guardian had a number of good background stories, one of them by the incomparable Leonard Barden (the Alireza Firouzja story):-

That last story, by 'Sean Ingle in Dubai', looks like continuing coverage of the Carlsen - Nepo match. In each of the last few World Championship matches, I've discovered at least one professional, non-chess journalist who provided an outsider's view of the match. Will the Guardian continue the trend?

All might not be rosy around the chess boom brought on by the events of the last two years. I noticed two stories about chess games that aren't played on chess boards. What do I mean? Consider these:-

Maybe that is rosy after all. Maybe I'm wearing smoke colored glasses and just need to replace them with rose colored glasses. I'll wait for December Yahoos before making an appointment with an optician.

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

29 November 2021

Engines Forced to Play Like Us

A few weeks ago, in a post titled TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Both Underway (November 2021), I wrote,

I certainly wouldn't want to see forced openings used in chess960. It's high time for the chess engine community to investigate a more creative solution to the problem of excessive draws in engine play.

In the traditional start position RNBQKBNR (also known in chess960 as SP518), White has 20 possible first moves. For each of those 20 moves, Black has 20 possible responses. That makes exactly 400 possible positions after one move by each side. Why not run a match in which every game starts with one of those 400 positions, a different position for each game? Since some positions obviously favor one side -- 1.a4 b5 favors White, while 1.a4 e5 favors Black -- the start positions should be played twice, colors switched. That way, no engine has an advantage because of a single dubious position.

Positions well known to current theory, like 1.e4 c5, should be played without any forced book. If 800 games are too many for a match, select the start positions randomly. A 100 game match would need 50 different start positions.

'Oh, no!', purists will say, 'Hundreds of years of experience with 1.d4 and 1.e4 along with millions of recorded games shouldn't be discarded so easily!' That's what people might say. I can't imagine that engines will raise the slightest objection. Since that idea isn't going to fly anytime soon, if ever, let's look at how the openings were chosen for the latest TCEC season.

  • 2021-05-08: Jeroen Noomen and GM Matthew Sadler announce TCEC S21 superfinal book cooperation (chessdom.com) • 'One of the key elements of TCEC is the opening book. Playing at a 3000+ ELO strength, backed by serious hardware, often leads to series of draws in direct battles. Providing imbalanced opening lines is essential to differentiating engine playing strength. Or the way the tournament organizers specify it, “We believe that a champion chess program ought to be able to perform well in a wide variety of opening systems, not merely those that it favors.” The opening book becomes increasingly important as the TCEC championship progresses and is essential in the Superfinal, where the stakes are highest. As of today, the TCEC S21 Superfinal opening book has a serious team upgrade: Jeroen Noomen and GM Matthew Saddler [sic] are teaming up!'

Along with GM Larry Kaufman, GM Sadler is one of the strongest human players participating actively in the world of chess engines. His entry in the Chessprogramming wiki, Matthew Sadler (chessprogramming.org), starts,

English chess grandmaster, chess writer and two-time British Chess Champion, in 1995 and 1997. In 2017, he analyzed the computer games of AlphaZero versus Stockfish, and along with Natasha Regan co-authored the book Game Changer which details the lessons that can be learnt from how AlphaZero plays chess. Since TCEC Season 14 in 2019, Matthew Sadler reports on the Superfinals of the Top Chess Engines Competition, published on TCEC and the ICGA Journal.

I finished coverage of season 14 in Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway (February 2019). A companion blog post to the Chessdom article listed the criteria for selecting TCEC S21 openings.

It relates well to a post I recently did on my chess960 blog: The Engine Iceberg Looms Larger (November 2021). I was particularly interested to learn that 'Statistics of the previous two superfinals [TCEC S19 & S20] show that a Leela book exit below +0.30 is an almost 100% certain draw.'

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not questioning the quality of the TCEC S21 preparation. If engines are forced to play like us, this appears to be an excellent approach. I'm questioning why engines are forced to play like us.

Back to the idea for 400 positions, perhaps chosen randomly, the same idea can be extended to chess960. All 960 positions start with 16 possible Pawns moves, 2-4 Knight moves (depending on whether one or both Knights start in the corner), and maximum one castling move (positions patterned '**RK****' or '*****KR*'). That makes between 18 and 21 initial moves per start position, with that quantity squared after one move by both sides.

It's been almost 25 years since IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, then reigning World Champion, in a chess match. Now the engines are rated hundreds of points higher than the best humans. Why do we continue to force the engines to start games the way we do when we are playing at our level? It shouldn't be the only test of chess skill.

28 November 2021

World Championship Social Media 2021

It's been five years since the first post in the series The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), where the next two posts were about the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin title match (m-w.com) being held at New York City:-

At that time the social media links in the second post were all run by 'World Chess' (worldchess.com). Fast forward five years to the ongoing 2021 Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi (m-w.com) at Dubai. Nowadays the official site for the match, FIDE World Championship 2021 (fideworldchampionship.com), points to a new, expanded set of social media links run by FIDE (fide.com):-

I can't possibly keep up with that flood of information, but I'll do my best.


Later: The most recent YouTube video on the 'FIDE chess' channel represents a milestone for chess in the USA.

FIDE World Championship Match - NBC Recap Game 1 (26:36) • '[Published on] Nov 28, 2021'

The description says,

The World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi are battling for the title at Dubai Expo from November 26 to December 16, 2021. Americal [sic; 'American', of course] broadcasting giant NBC is showing recaps of the games on NBCSN. We are pleased to present you with the first one of the series.

That typo is bad enough, but much worse is ignoring the world class commentator, GM Maurice Ashley. The FIDE/NBC deal was announced last summer:-

The full broadcast schedule is available on a more recent press release:-

Here GM Ashley gets the credit he deserves:-

The programs will convey the emotions and stories of the games as well as expert opinions, including commentary by Maurice Ashley, who will focus on making chess accessible for all levels of viewers. Well known as a commentator for high-profile chess events, Ashley made history in 1999 when he became the first African-American ever to be awarded the title of chess Grandmaster.

The 'NBC Recap Game 1' is really well done. This could be the best chess to appear on American television since the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match, Reykjavik (m-w.com). Let's hope the match goes the distance, maybe even into tiebreak!

26 November 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, Chess24 Profile

The two previous posts in the Carlsen TMER series -- that's Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (m-w.com) if you're just joining us -- were:-

It turns out there's a gold mine of TMER material under those two posts, material which I haven't sorted out yet. On top of that, I'm scrambling to catch up with the World Championship match that started this week and would like to follow some of the games. I started to process the ton of available info in a post on my WCC blog:-

For this week's TMER post, I'll simply reference GM Carlsen's Chess24 profile.

MagzyBogues's profile | chess24.com

Carlsen's last game played on the site is dated 'Mar 27, 2021', which doesn't square with other info I've collected. Watch this space?

22 November 2021

TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Still Underway

In the world of first class chess engines, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The title of the previous post, TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Both Underway (November 2021), serves just as well for the current post. Following is a summary of the previous post.

TCEC: The TCEC launched into 'Swiss 2', which is still in the first of 11 rounds. Each round consists of two games between paired engines with colors reversed in the second game. The 44 engines will be battling each other for the next month. • CCC: The CCC started a 'CCC 16 Rapid' tournament with four stages. The tournament is currently between the Main event and the Semifinals. Each stage is designed to last a week.

Two weeks later, both events are still chugging along.

TCEC: The 'Swiss 2' event is now in the sixth of 11 rounds, the mid-point for the tournament. Stockfish is a half-point ahead of the pack, with five engines tied for second.

CCC: The Semifinals saw Stockfish, Lc0, and Dragon finish well ahead of three other engines, although Dragon was also eliminated. With less than 50 games remaining in the 300-game final match, Stockfish is close to clinching victory over Lc0. The site's '!next' command is promising a 'CCC16 Bullet' event.

That's not much of a post, even by my lax standards. Let's throw in some color.

Google image search on 'stockfish lczero'

It's still not much of a post. Good thing we have a FIDE World Championship match starting this week : fideworldchampionship.com. Who is more dominant : Stockfish over the other engines or Magnus Carlsen over the other humans?

[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; Dragon = KomodoDragon]

21 November 2021

For Blacker Blacks and Whiter Whites

How could anyone not like the colors in this photo?

Your Move © Flickr user Brentonbythesea under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Patrons playing chess after breakfast. Yolk, Manzanita, Oregon.

What about those colors? Additional info for the photo said, 'This photo is in 60 groups', of which the six featured groups had something to with iPhone. On top of that, 'This photo is in 16 albums' featured one called Topaz Software. Bingo! The site Topaz Labs: AI Image Quality Software (topazlabs.com), informs,

Get better image quality. Not every photo or video requires exceptional image quality. For the ones that do, Topaz AI image enhancement software helps you achieve impossibly good results.

Is there AI that detects when the Kings and Queens are set up on the wrong squares in a photo? Apparently not.

19 November 2021

Not the 'Under the Weather' Channel

Has it really been nearly two years since I was last Under the Weather (January 2020)? Because that post was on my World Chess Championship Blog, I used a photo of World Champion Magnus Carlsen looking not at his best.

This time I could have used one of a dozen similar photos of other world class players, but that's too easy. Instead I'll continue with the current TMER series (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record), where the previous post was Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, Chess24 (November 2021). I signed off saying,

It's obvious from the structure of the deal that the transaction was a takeover of Chess24 by Play Magnus. In the article we learn, 'On our 5th birthday [Carlsen] took on Peter Svidler in a match, and last Friday he played his first Banter Blitz.' That mention of Carlsen and 'Banter Blitz' is worth further exploration for the TMER, but I'll save that for another post.

The following video isn't quite what I had in mind for that other post, but it's a step in the right direction.

Carlsen vs. Svidler chess24 Birthday Banter Blitz (47:50) • '[Published on] Feb 26, 2019'

The video description says,

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and eight-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler play a first to five points blitz match to celebrate Chess24's 5th birthday! The players' thoughts are combined in this video (in left and right audio channels).

Then it adds, 'For the separate videos and more check out': Magnus Carlsen stars in birthday extravaganza (chess24.com). The 'first to five points blitz match' lasted six games. No bonus credit for guessing who won.

15 November 2021

Talkchess Is Talking Again

Let's go back almost three months to Talkchess Is/Isn't Talking (August 2021). At that time I wrote,

I went back to the Talkchess forum once a week while preparing my weekly TCEC/CCC post and had the same message ['403 Forbidden'] every time. For this post I decided to look into it more deeply. [...; Unfortunately,] I ran out of time for working on this post. Maybe I'll tackle [the recommended workaround] later if I really, really need Talkchess. I can live without it for now.

A couple of weeks later the TalkChess admins -- the people who keep the site up, running, and interesting -- decided to tackle the problem themselves. A pair of forum threads documented their progess:-

The admins set up a copy of the software and data behind the system, then used it to isolate and debug the cause of the problem. The entire process took only a few weeks and appears to have achieved a resounding success. Kudos to all who participated. Now I'm able to go back to an older post, Stockfish vs. ChessBase (July 2021), where I wrote,

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

For the record, the relevant thread was:-

That thread started almost four months ago and petered out nearly three months ago. The original complaint is likely still being litigated.

There have been other developments involving chess engines since then, so my time would be better spent looking into those. I'll save that task for another post.

14 November 2021

Three Guys on 'Best Chess Moves'

What's this? Of the 21 videos on this month's short list for featured video, three were titled something like '10 Best Chess Moves Ever'. Here's the first of them.

10 Best Chess Moves Ever Played (36:28) • '[Published on] Oct 25, 2021'

The video's description didn't offer much that was unique to the clip, so I'll use one of the first comments.

I've had an extremely bad day and seeing the thumbnail itself cheered me up...

Yes, that's a great thumbnail and the description links to its source: Emil Adam (instagram.com; @jojochessnoob; 'Thumbnail editor for GMHikaru and GothamChess'). I could easily set off on a tangent about chess video thumbnails, but first I'll finish this post. Here are direct links to the three videos on the short list, where the first is the clip behind the thumbnail shown above:-

Of course, I don't know how much originality went into these picks. The Chess.com video links to an article on the site that predates the GothamChess video by more than a year: The 10 Best Chess Moves of All Time (chess.com; September 2020; Colin Stapczynski). The idea 'Best Chess Moves of All Time' or 'Best Chess Games etc.' isn't exactly novel. Instead of worrying about ownership, I'll just enjoy the videos and the moves. Thanks, guys!

12 November 2021

Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, Chess24

Continuing with Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 2000-), the previous post, Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, Lichess (October 2021), demands to be followed by an equivalent post on Chess24. We already know from Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, the Tours (October 2021) that Chess24 played a central role in the organization of the 'Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour' (2020) and the 'Meltwater Champions Chess Tour', (2020-21) but there is more to the relationship with GM Carlsen than meets the eye. In Chess24.com, Wikipedia informs,

In March 2019, Chess24 merged with Magnus Carlsen's company Play Magnus AS in a transaction that made the former Chess24 owners the largest shareholders in Play Magnus.

That sentence has two references in the form of footnotes:-

Google Translate tells us that the Norwegian headline means,

Chess expert takes over Magnus Carlsen's gaming company; Chess master Magnus Carlsen and the app company Play Magnus buy one of their biggest competitors.

After reading the translated article, I can quibble with the headline phrases 'takes over' and 'one of their biggest competitors', but it's a minor point, maybe due to a glitch in translation. The essentials of the transaction were explained in a few paragraphs:-

The settlement in the transaction takes place by issuing new shares in the company. [Chess24's GM Jan] Gustafsson and [Enrique] Guzman will remain with 38 percent of the shares in Play Magnus, while the current shareholders will remain with 62 percent.

Last summer, Play Magnus raised NOK 38.5 million in fresh capital in a share issue that priced the entire company at close to NOK 150 million. The merger with Chess24 will be carried out at the same pricing as in the previous issue. The total company will thus be priced at NOK 291 million, says chairman of the board Anders Brandt in Play Magnus.

Magnus Carlsen and his father keep their shares, which in the last issue were priced at close to NOK 68 million. Following the acquisition, the second largest shareholder in Play Magnus will only be beaten by the holding company of the two previous Chess24 owners.

At current 2021 exchange rates, NOK 100 (Norwegian Kroner) is equivalent to USD 11.50 or EUR 10.00. More information about the previous transactions is available via links to other articles on the Dagens Naeringslivs site.

Current information about the company is available from its web site. The following image from the site's main page lists eight subsidiaries: Play Magnus app suite, Chessable, Chess24, Silver Knights, Champions Chess Tour, New in Chess [NIC], Aimchess, and iChess.net.

Play Magnus Group (playmagnusgroup.com)
'Defining the Future of Chess'

Getting back to the Chess24.com announcement, 'Chess24 and Play Magnus join forces', the article starts,

Today we’re proud to announce that Chess24 has merged with Play Magnus [...]

Later it also uses the word 'merger', but it's obvious from the structure of the deal that the transaction was a takeover of Chess24 by Play Magnus. In the article we learn,

On our 5th birthday [Carlsen] took on Peter Svidler in a match, and last Friday he played his first Banter Blitz.

That mention of Carlsen and 'Banter Blitz' is worth further exploration for the TMER, but I'll save that for another post.

08 November 2021

TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Both Underway

For the first time in a long while we have both world class engine vs. engine tournaments in full operation. Before we get to the current status, let's summarize the previous post TCEC Cup 9, CCC C960 Blitz Final : Both Underway (October 2021):-

TCEC: The site's 'Cup 9' has reached the semifinal round, with Stockfish, ScorpioNN, KomodoDragon, and LCZero all qualifying for that stage. • CCC: In the 'Chess960 Blitz Semifinals', Stockfish finished a point ahead of Dragon as both engines qualified for the final match, where Stockfish has a non-trivial lead over Dragon.

Since that post, both sites have organized the final round of their respective tournaments and started new tournaments.

TCEC: The results of 'Cup 9' are available on the page TCEC Cup 9, (wiki.chessdom.org), although missing the results of the final match. In the semifinal round, Stockfish beat ScorpioNN +1-0=21, and LCZero beat KomodoDragon +1-0=27. In the final round, Stockfish beat LCZero +1-0=3. In the consolation match ('Bronze') for 3rd/4th place, KomodoDragon beat ScorpioNN +2-0=2.

That semifinal round is an eye-opener -- two decisive games out of 50 played, all using a forced book. The page TCEC Cup rules (ditto), explains,

3. Matches and tiebreaks: a. Each of the matches will initially consist of 2 pairs of games (4 games, every second with reversed colors and the same opening). [...] c. In case of an equal score after 4 games, the tiebreak will be played out immediately. The tiebreak consist of additional game-pairs; a decisive pair of tiebreaker games decides a match.

After some testing, the TCEC launched into 'Swiss 2', which is still in the first of 11 rounds. Each round consists of two games between paired engines with colors reversed in the second game. The 44 engines will be battling each other for the next month.

CCC: I covered the site's 'Chess960 Blitz Championship' on my chess960 blog in a post titled CCC C960 Blitz Championship (October 2021). To summarize that post,

In the final match Stockfish beat Dragon +10-1=589. Yes, more than 98% of the final games were drawn. Stockfish switched to NNUE evaluation last year, while Dragon is also an NNUE engine. Is the high percentage of draws because they both use the same technology for evaluating positions?

I started to answer that question in the previous off-week engine post on this blog, Evaluating the Evaluations (November 2021; 'My first problem was to learn how to find my way around the PGN files'). Given the protracted performance in the TCEC Cup 9 semifinal round, maybe the same sort of analysis should be applied to forced openings from the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR). I certainly wouldn't want to see forced openings used in chess960. It's high time for the chess engine community to investigate a more creative solution to the problem of excessive draws in engine play.

After the 'C960 Blitz Championship', the CCC started a 'CCC 16 Rapid' tournament with four stages:-

• Qualification (eight engines, two promoting),
• Main event (twelve engines, six promoting),
• Semifinals (six engines, two promoting), and
• Finals (150 rounds, 300 games).

The tournament is currently between the Main event and the Semifinals. Each stage is designed to last a week. Why the name 'CCC 16'? Because the previous scheduled event was 'CCC 15', which halted midway for technical reasons. See last year's post TCEC S19 DivP Chugging Along; CCC15 Halted (September 2020), for more info.

[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; Dragon = KomodoDragon]

07 November 2021

Coffee with Cherubs

In this blog's long-running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), we've seen just about everything, including cherubs: Chess with Cherubs (July 2013). Of course, 'just about everything' doesn't mean everything.

Here's something we haven't seen. Titled 'Antique Dresden Wehsener Hand Painted Playing Chess Scene Cup & Saucer', the item pictured below sold for US $840.00 after three bids from three bidders, on a starting price of $780.00.

The item's description was informative, although I'll use a different order to present the information. It ended,

An interesting and beautiful Dresden cup and saucer set. The cup has a hand painted scene. Depicting a little boy and a little girl playing chess accompanied by beautiful views. The scene has some very fine details, a table covered by green tablecloth with a chessboard and chess pieces on top, the boy sitting on a chair covered by feathers blanket, with red curtain and marble column behind him. The hand painted scene with the beautiful views circle around the exterior of the cup. The surface of the saucer is fully gilded. An interesting and beautiful cup and saucer set.

Before that we had some technical details.

[Date] 1895+ • [Size] The cup: 6.2 cm high /8.5 cm diameter. The saucer: 14.3 cm diameter. • [Condition report] Very good condition with no crack, hairline, restoration or chip. There are gilt wears on the top rim of the cup, two small area on the saucer have gold lost.

The description started with a macro look at the business that produced the cup.

[Factory] Dresden (Richard, Gerhard & Werner Wehsener) Germany. Richard Wehsener started his own business in 1895.His next step was a studio store in the Zinzendorfstrasse. There was great demand for his designs. Even the British Museum and the National-Museum in Washington DC obtained his pieces. Wehsener became known around the world as "Dresdner Handpainting" and "Dresden China".

In 1914 Richard Wehsener, opened the store for his studio store on Prager Strasse; Dresden's famous Prager Strasse, a world-renowned shopping area which was obliterated by World War ll bombing. However, the Wehsener's Porcelain firm survived and is still in business today with Richard Wehsener's descendants although this art of styled of porcelain painting seems to be fading as less are proficient.

The guardian of blogging about chess and coffee is 'Spraggett on Chess' (not for all ages). A recent example, subtitled 'Black Coffee: Always Steamy', was Coffee, Death, FIDE and other Nonsense! (spraggettonchess.com; August 2021). Along with 'Latest Coffee Study', it discussed 'Historic First by a Woman!' (Dora Maar) and 'Trying to keep FIDE honest' (FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich).

Coffee, yup (with cherubs). Dora Maar, yup (see Dora Maar, Weeping Woman; June 2020). FIDE and Dvorkovich, yup. There are only so many subjects suitable for a chess blog.

02 November 2021

November 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover'

Just like last month's October 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (October 2021), this month we have 'USA all the way' (with a little bit of Belgium). Here we see two giants of American chess, one from 50 years ago, the other from 25 years ago.

Left: '?'
Right: 'George Koltanowski Honored by California Assembly; Leah & George Koltanowski, the Dean of American Chess'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

In training for the match with Petrosian, Fischer (left) and his second, Larry Evans, analyze in the pool at Grossinger's Hotel in New York's Catskill Mountains. An early report on the match appears [inside].

'Inside' we learned,

FISCHER LEADING, 4 1/2 - 2 1/2 • As we go to press, the latest score in the Fischer - Petrosian match is 4 1/2 - 2 1/2. Fischer won the 1st, 6th and 7th games, Petrosian the 2nd. Here are the first six games.

According to my page 1970-72 Candidates Matches, two more games would be played in the match, Fischer winning both. For the previous CL&R cover on the candidates matches, see September 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (September 2021): 'Fischer and Larsen during the fifth game of the sensational match at Temple Buell College, Denver.'

GM Evans once had a falling out with Fischer. How did the story behind the CL&R cover fit into that chronology? [FLUP no.1]

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Most cover introductions take up a paragraph or two. The introduction to the November 1996 took up a full page. First there was an explanation.

"Pawns are like buttons. When they're gone, the pants fall down all by themselves."

Those words of wisdom by George Koltanowski, the Dean of American Chess, were offered to California Assemblyman Scott Baugh during their impromptu game at the California State Assembly in Sacramento on August 5. The occasion was the presentation of a special bipartisan resolution honoring Kolty for his blindfold chess achievements and for his eight decades of dedication to the Royal Game.

George, who celebrated his 93rd birthday on September 17, has been the chess columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle for 49 years. and was named 'Journalist of the Year' by the Chess Journalists of America [CJA]. Our thanks to the Chronicle's Associate Publisher Anthony Newhall. reporter Steve Rubenstein. and photographer Steve Yeater (who provided our cover this month) for sharing this story with Chess Life readers.

The full text of the resolution was copied on the same page.

By the Honorable Curt Pringle, Speaker of the Assembly;
and the Honorable John L. Burton, 12th Assembly District
Assembly Members [...]

For the rest of the resolution, I'll just give the start of the paragraphs.

WHEREAS, International Grandmaster George Koltanowski, a distinguished San Francisco resident, who was born September 17, 1903, has enriched the lives of countless people worldwide through his informative lectures, insightful writings, and spectacular and unparalleled, simultaneous blindfold exhibitions; and

WHEREAS, His staggering successes in Caissa's realm of blindfold play [...]

WHEREAS, His commitment to voluntarily teaching chess to young people [...]

WHEREAS, His accomplishments in the chess world [...]

RESOLVED BY SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY CURT PRINGLE, ASSEMBLY MEMBER JOHN L. BURTON AND THE ABOVE-NAMED COAUTHORS, That the California State Legislature takes pleasure in honoring International grandmaster George Koltanowski for his truly monumental contributions to the game of chess, applaud him on his vast accomplishments that have astounded thousands for more than eight decades, along with the dignity with which he has always comported himself, making him a deserving legend throughout the world, and extend to him best wishes for continued success in his future endeavors.

Members Resolution No. 1366
Dated this 5th day of August, 1996
[signed by Pringle and Burton]

Flipping back 25 years to the 1971 CL&R, we find a curious story 'How Sick Can a Man Get?' by George Koltanowski, under the heading 'Chess Ramblings'.

There is no good way of starting this. "I shoulda had my head examined" is no good -- "I shoulda stood in bed' is even worse. So let me just tell it straight out and get it over with. [...] And now the butcher has asked me for chess lessons: what should I tell him?
The above was written in 1954. It is pure fantasy on my part. To those members of the medical profession who feel miffed, my apologies.

Now, seventeen years later, I am still overweight, still complain of a variety of aches and pains, but my wife and I are still happy. I still teach on and off. My wife is a wonderful cook, so with her and Khayyam's loaf of bread, jug of wine, and -- not least -- chess, one could hardly ask for more!

Earlier this year, in May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (May 2021), I commented on the unusual nature of Koltanowski's writing ('one of the shortest and strangest tournament reports I have ever seen for a national tournament'). The 'pants fall down' quote given above might be another example. How many other 'Ramblings' did Koltanowski leave us? [FLUP no.2]

01 November 2021

Evaluating the Evaluations

In the most recent post on my chess960 blog, CCC C960 Blitz Championship (October 2021), which was itself a crossover idea from this current blog, I ended the post saying,

Given that engines' evaluations for every move are available in the event's PGN game scores, perhaps there is something to be learned about the 960 different start positions. That investigation would make a good follow-up post.

My first problem was to learn how to find my way around the PGN files available from the TCEC and the CCC. I went back to TCEC Season 21 -- reported on this blog a few months ago in TCEC Stockfish Wins S21; CCC Romance Continues (August 2021) -- then downloaded the PGN file containing the 100 games played in the match and loaded it into a normal database, i.e. not a chess database. After an hour or two sorting out a few technical problems, I had a working tool for further exploration.

Of the 26 decisive games played in the S21 Stockfish - LCZero final match, only one was won by Black : game 85. The same opening with colors reversed, game 86, was drawn. All of the games in the match started with openings dictated by the organizers.

Games 85 & 86 used an opening called the English ultra-symmetrical variation, where the initial moves were 1.c4 c5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.a3 e6 6.b4 Nxb4 7.axb4 cxb4 8.Nb5. The TCEC pages for the two games display the following charts showing both engines' evaluations during the course of the games.

In game 85, both engines calculated an advantage for Black that increased steadily. In game 86, the initial advantage for Black slowly evaporated.

I once based an entire post on detecting problems with the evaluations: TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies (December 2015). It took me as long to identify those anomalies as it did to create the database for the current post.

Now that I have a tool for rapidly evaluating the engine evaluations, what can I do with it? The first task will be to put it to work on the 960 start positions used in chess960.