26 September 2022

TCEC S23 Paused; 'CCC19 Blitz Main' Underway

Another fortnight has passed since our previous report on the planet's top-two, ongoing, engine vs. engine competitions: TCEC S23 L1, CCC19 Blitz - Both Underway (September 2022). Here's a summary of that report:-

TCEC: S23 L2 finished with four engines promoting. The 12-engine L1 is in the second of its four round robins. • CCC: Dragon edged Lc0 by three points in the 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' match. Later the site started a series of 'CCC19 Blitz' events. Between CCC18 and CCC19, the CCC launched an eight-engine 'Chess 324 Bonus' event.

In the two intervening weeks, both sites have progressed. The following is the latest on TCEC S23 and CCC19.

TCEC: S23 L1 finished with Ethereal and Berserk promoting into the Premier Division (DivP). Before DivP starts, the site is running 'S23 - Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus 22', with the terse !next explanation 'VSOB22 until replacement GPU'. For the previous discussion of VSOB on this blog, see Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC1, Leads CCC18 Rapid Final (August 2022). VSOB appears to be the stand-by filler when the regular schedule of TCEC events is paused.

CCC: In the previous post, 'CCC19 Blitz Underway', I also wrote, 'It's not clear what direction [the CCC] intends to take with the new season, so I'll say no more for this current post.' The site is currently running 'CCC19 Blitz: Main' with 10 engines. This was preceded by three other 'CCC19 Blitz' events: 'Newcomers' (6 engines), 'Qualifier #1' (8), and 'Qualifier #2' (8). 'Where it stops, nobody knows!'.

The site's !next command says, 'Main Event: Stockfish, Leela, Dragon, Ethereal, Slowchess, Berserk, +4 top engines from Qualifier #2.' The CCC's Club and Discord sites are both silent.

[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]

25 September 2022

'The Root of All Evil'?

In this blog's long-running monthly series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), this is the second post in a row to deal with the so-called 'root of all evil'. Last month we had Was Fischer Avaricious? (August 2022).


Who Has Won The Most Money In Chess History? (2:45) • '[Published on] Aug 25, 2022'

The description said,

The highest-earning chess players throughout history. We collected data from 1851 to now and here are the results! How do Kasparov, Carlsen, Fischer, Anand and Hikaru compare in this chess timeline of prizewinners?

The description linked to a related article: Who Is The Biggest Prizewinner In Chess History? (chess.com; Nathaniel Green). Unlike too many comments to a typical Chess.com article, some here are spot on.

'Should add Naka Twitch' and 'xQc should be in list', but later 'Nakamura is a streamer, not a chess player, so this is a meaningless comparison.'

'Did you include any of the matches versus computers that were played by Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand? Did you include the top level rapid and blitz tournaments? Did you include the Melody Amber tournaments?'

And on an unrelated, but topical point: 'Kasparov accused the computer of cheating. Funny. At that time, dishonesty meant tips from people. Now it's the other way around.'

The last time I featured a similar video in a post (also in the series 'Sociology of Chess') was Top Tweeters (August 2020). I called it the 'time travel bar chart technique'. Watch what happens starting 1:30 into the clip.

23 September 2022

1992 Fischer - Spassky 'Under the Weather'

This post could have been the next in the 'under the weather' series, last seen in Not the 'Under the Weather' Channel (November 2021), but I've found that keeping busy is a good medicine for a bad cold. That and lots of sleep.

Instead I'll continue the 'Fischer Friday' series, seen last week in FS 1972 + 20 = FS 1992 (September 2022). In that post I wrote,

I don't have much in my photo archive about the 1992 [Fischer - Spassky] match. The following composite image shows the wirephotos that I found. These are black-and-white photos, although there are also many color photos documenting the match.

For color photos, let's return to a technique last seen in The Sociology of Chess in Images (September 2021), shown in the following composite image.


Google image search on '1992 Fischer Spassky'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'F' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '8' (from left to right).]

Unlike all of the previous posts using the chessboard naming scheme, this latest post combines the first two pages returned in the Google image search. More photos means more fun, and more fun means more to talk about.

The first thumbnail (A1) leads to a page dated May 2011, Fischer - Spassky 1992 (chess.com; IM Silman), which opens with a question worthy of a FAQ about the match: How good were the games?:-

In Andrew Soltis' book BOBBY FISCHER REDISCOVERED, page 278, he states (regarding the rematch in 1992 with Spassky), "In fact the match games were of a fairly high quality particularly when compared with Kasparov’s championship matches of 1993, 1995 and 2000, for example." Kasparov has ridiculed the quality of play in this match while Soltis who featured the 1st and 11th Svefi [sic; Sveti] Stefan games in his book felt otherwise. Your opinion?

The thumbnails with a yellow border (A2, A4, and B3) lead to Youtube videos. The Youtube channels aren't given.

Some of the photos appear so often that they might well be iconic. Consider, for example, A5, B2, and D5. Photo E1 appears to be the same scene, but has a different tint and angle; Spassky's French flag is visible and Fischer's U.S. flag is not. Photos E5 and F6 are also the same. The match poster is seen in B7 and F2.

Several photos are not from 1992. Photo C4 is from the 1972 match, although it illustrates a game from 1992. Photo C6 is from a game played before 1972 (Siegen 1970, I think).

Photo D1 is about a moment from the opening press conference that is more famous than any of the games played in the match. It shows Fischer with the letter that led to the famous spit incident. I remember that my parents, who were not at all interested in chess, asked me about that incident. I answered that chess players were basically harmless. They weren't convinced.

19 September 2022

Talkchess Talks Current Topics

The buzz in the chess world has been dominated for the last two weeks by the Carlsen/Nakamura vs. Niemann affair. Finding it impossible to ignore, I documented it in the post Chess Players Behaving Very, Very Badly (September 2022). Talkchess members discussed the technical possibilities for cheating in two related threads:-

  • 2022-12-06: Carlsen withdrawal after loss to Niemann (talkchess.com; lkaufman) • 'I am posting here to ask those who are technologically knowledgeable how they would go about getting computer help in an event where the players are "wanded" for electronic devices, where spectators are barred (for Covid reasons), and where everyone is on camera during the games.'
  • 2022-12-13: Chess Cheating Hackathon! (talkchess.com) • 'I wanted to see if anyone had ideas on how to best circumvent the present cheating protocols being used at the [Sinquefield] Cup at the moment.'

That first Talkchess thread was initiated by GM Larry Kaufman, who has appeared recently on this blog in two unrelated posts:-

Another Talkchess thread pointed to a different Kaufman interview, apparently more recent than the one featured in the Chessbase video.


Interview with world-class expert, Larry Kaufman (44:12) • '[Published on] Sep 15, 2022'

The description said,

A warm, semi-technical interview covering an overview of chess engine development from 1960 to the present day. Larry goes on to describe Komodo Dragon's unique approach which can give a practical edge in human v human competitions!

The related YouTube channel, 'Carl Bicknell', has a few other videos related to chess engines. Unlike many engine enthusiasts, he's also a competent, expert level player.

18 September 2022

World Champion Petrosian Chess 'School'

Chess is so popular in Armenia that the title of this photo, 'Chess School Yerevan', doesn't tell us much. Yerevan is the capital of Armenia.


The Chess School Yerevan © Flickr user mcfarlandmo under Creative Commons.

Thanks to Google I found a similar photo on Wikipedia's page Tigran Petrosian Chess House. The page starts,

Tigran Petrosian Chess House, officially the Central House of Chess-player named after Tigran Petrosian, is the center of the sport of chess in Yerevan, Armenia. It was opened in 1970. In 1984, it was renamed after the former world chess champion Tigran Petrosian.

The same photo is on another Wikipedia page Chess in Armenia. Since I've already referenced that page in Armenian Candidates (March 2016), specifically for 'Teaching of chess in schools', I'll stop here.

16 September 2022

FS 1972 + 20 = FS 1992

For the last few months I've been running a Fischer Friday series, focused on the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match (m-w.com). Now it's time to change the subject, if only for a few weeks. Twenty years to the day after Spassky resigned the 1972 match, a new match began:-

Unfortunately, I don't have much in my photo archive about the 1992 match. The following composite image shows the wirephotos that I found. These are black-and-white photos, although there are also many color photos documenting the match.

That composite is inspired by a pair of posts I've been using as an illustrated guide to the 1972 match:-

In the top line of the composite image, the first two photos are from game one of the 1992 match. The last two photos show Zita Rajcsanyi [Rajcsany], plus the start of the eighth game.

The first photo in the bottom line shows Fischer meeting Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. It is followed by a photo from the 30th (and last) game plus two photos of Fischer wearing a wreath marked 'The World Chess Champion'. The last three photos have the same date.

***

It's a good time to take a checkpoint on the Fischer Friday series to date. Posts marked '(*)' were not part of the series, but are nevertheless relevant.

Also worth noting are three related resources, the first two of which are valuable external references.

I plan to come back to the 1972 match, but first I'll spend few posts exploring the 1992 rematch.

12 September 2022

TCEC S23 L1, CCC19 Blitz - Both Underway

The summer season is traditionally a slow season for chess, but the world's two foremost engine vs. engine competitions keep chugging along at the same speed as during the other seasons. Let's start our fortnightly post with a summary of the previous post, TCEC S23 Leagues Underway; CCC Rudderless? (August 2022):-

TCEC: S23 QL has finished and L2 is just getting started. • CCC: Stockfish beat Lc0 in the 300 game 'CCC18 Rapid Final', after which the site launched a 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' 300-game consolation match between Dragon and Lc0. The CCC has deviated from the sequence of events seen in CCC16 and CCC17. Has it undergone some sort of administrative shake-up?

Two weeks can be a long time in engine competitions. What has happened since that previous post?

TCEC: S23 L2 finished with four engines promoting. The 12-engine L1 is in the second of its four round robins with Minic having the best chance of the four L2 engines to promote to the next stage, the Premier Division.

CCC: Dragon edged Lc0 by three points in the 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' match. Later the site started a series of 'CCC19 Blitz' events. It's not clear what direction it intends to take with the new season, so I'll say no more for this current post.

Between CCC18 and CCC19, the CCC launched an eight-engine 'Chess 324 Bonus' event. It was won by Stockfish with a four point lead over second place Dragon, which finished eight ponts ahead of third place Ethereal. Lc0 finished fifth, a point better than an even score. The bonus event was followed by an 'Chess 324 In-house [whatever that means] Final' match between Dragon and Ethereal. Dragon won by 21 points, without losing a single game. For more about the two events, plus some speculation on the administrative shake-up I noted two weeks ago, see last week's post Chess324 Is a Thing (September 2022).

[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]

11 September 2022

Chess Players with Class

After all the anti-social behavior documented in the recent post, Chess Players Behaving Very, Very Badly (September 2022), it's easy to forget that there are still role models in the game. GM Anand is one of the classiest.


How Vishy is changing the Landscape of Chess in India | WACA Chess (4:52) • '[Published on] Sep 8, 2022'

The description said,

Vishy Anand became the first Indian Grandmaster and because of him, India has a big talent pool, representing India on the world stage. Vishy Anand reacts to his AV [?] where a small journey of his was displayed to the audience at the WACA felicitation program in Bangalore.

What's WACA? A page from nearly two years ago, Viswanathan Anand launches WACA Chess Fellowships to mentor India's chess champions (thebridge.in), explains,

WestBridge Capital, under the umbrella of its public charitable trust, WestBridge Charitable Foundation, is set to launch a chess fellowship program, in partnership with Chess Maestro and former World Champion, Grand Master (GM) Viswanathan Anand, establishing the WestBridge-Anand Chess Academy (WACA).

The video clip featured above is from ChessBase India, another classy Indian resource.

09 September 2022

Fischer - Spassky Zeitgeist

Last week's post in the Fischer Friday series, Benson Called Bobby (September 2022), was about the 21st and final game of the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match (m-w.com):-

Brad Darrach described the transition from the 10th World Champion to the 11th in his usual colorful style.

A more straightforward account of the end of the match can be found in the book I introduced in an earlier post, GM Svetozar Gligoric, Player/Journalist (August 2022):-

Gligoric's book 'Fischer v Spassky: The Chess Match of the Century' (Fontana, 1972), contains good accounts of the off-board happenings between games.

The only artwork in the book consists of two uncaptioned, unattributed sketches of the pensive chess warriors inserted after the historic 21st game.


Left: Robert Fischer • Right: Boris Spassky

The artwork is followed by two pages summarizing the zeitgeist of the match. Titled, 'In Retrospect', it starts,

Among the world champions since the war, Boris Spassky has distinguished himself. During a relatively short period of five years he came victorious out of personal duels with a most exquisite group of contemporary grandmasters -- Keres, Geller, Tal, Larsen, Korchnoi and Petrosian. No other world champion could boast such an impressive list of triumphs in matches.

At the same time, Robert Fischer was growing alongside him into another chess giant who, with his general results and high percentages, outclassed the achievements not only of his contemporaries, but of any individual in the whole history of world chess.

Years had to go by, and many difficulties had to be overcome, until the match between these two players in their prime became reality, the match which every chess enthusiast considered as the most wishful chess event of our century. By happy coincidence -- after a quarter of a century of supremacy by one country -- it was also the first clash at the top in the spirit of healthy sporting rivalry between the best representatives of two different parts of the world.

All that gives a clue to the unexpected chess fever which overwhelmed continents during those two months in Reykjavik. The match opened a new, unforeseen chapter in the history of this noble game, which has existed modestly for more than one thousand years, only now to be discovered, by a good part of mankind as the best game ever invented by the human mind.

The last page in the book has a single paragraph:-

The American grandmaster Robert Byrne played in the very strong Alekhine Memorial Tournament in Moscow in November / December 1971. He was asked for his opinion on the result of the Fischer-Spassky match and was widely quoted in the Soviet press as follows:-

"Fischer will win by 12 1/2 to 8 1/2 and will be World Champion for the next twelve years!"

GM Byrne's prediction about the final score was right on the mark. Who could have known that his prediction about the length of Fischer's reign was far-fetched fantasy?

08 September 2022

Chess Players Behaving Very, Very Badly

The game:-

The players:-

Plus thousands of comments from chess fans.

***

Later: The reactions:-

Advantage? [TBD]

05 September 2022

Chess324 Is a Thing

The most recent post on my chess960 blog, TCEC DFRC1 (August 2022), mentioned a new idea in the specialized world of chess engines:-

'!chess324 • A subset of DFRC where the Kings and the Rooks are at the usual starting position. Since castling is standard, this allows all engines to play.' For more about that definition, see Chess324 (talkchess.com; lkaufman, aka Larry Kaufman of Komodo++ fame).

That Talkchess thread ran its course and eventually died out, then came roaring back with a follow-up post by the same lkaufman: Re: Chess324 (talkchess.com):-

Chess324 now being used in CCC tournament! Dragon currently in first place (8 player multiple round robin), but it's early. Plenty of decisive games already, as hoped, though none yet between engines in the top half.

One of the ensuing discussions concerned the relative performances of three setup strategies -- chess960 (FRC), DFRC, and chess324 -- for reducing draws. Another was a substandard performance by Leela:-

Current working theory -- the [Leela] bad performance so far would be because we submitted an untested branch which ended up having a pretty bad bug. Whether that's actually why Leela has performed so poorly remains to be seen, but it's the most probable explanation, considering the analysis I was running on the side during games with a known good version. The playing Leela was updated to a fixed version around game 154.

At this point a CCC insider ('AndrewGrant') pointed out,

The mid-event "update", was actually a mid-event "revert one commit", so I felt happy to do it. Not a super serious event, so no harm done really by having some buggyness.

Grant is a well known personality in chess engines. His page, Andrew Grant (chessprogramming.org), says,

An American computer science and mathematics major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is author of the UCI compliant open source chess engine Ethereal, first officially released in June 2016, and the distributed SPRT testing framework for chess engines, OpenBench.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, OpenBench was featured in an August CCC event called, 'OpenBench Interlude #1'. Can we conclude from this that Andrew Grant has taken over responsibility for the CCC, at least temporarily? The following image displays what Chess.com, the owner/sponsor of CCC, has to say about the current(?) CCC TD and his apparent(?) successor.


About Chess.com (chess.com; 'Updated: Aug 26, 2022')

The LinkedIn page for 'Connor' confirms the end date: 'CCC Tournament Director; Chess.com; Jul 2021 - Aug 2022'. Will this personnel change be confirmed by a Chess.com announcement? I don't recall this being done the last time, so my guess is that we'll have to monitor 'About Chess.com' for any updates regarding CCC administration. See CCC Changes the Guard (October 2021), for the previous transition. Thanks, Connor, for a job well done.

04 September 2022

The Spanish Forger Liked Chess

While I was compiling the short list for this month's edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), eBay proposed other chess items under the heading 'Similar sponsored items'. I looked at several that reminded me of an old post titled, Chess Art, Chinese Copies (July 2010).

The item pictured below was titled, 'The Spanish Forger - museum piece old master oil panel - medieval chess players'. It sold for US $2725 after a single bid. Before I get into the details of the piece sold at auction, I'll mention a couple of references for the question, 'What's the difference between a forgery and a copy?':-

  • Fakes vs copies (deccanherald.com; 'Vienna : Museum of Art Fakes') • 'Copy: A copy of an existing work without the reference that it is original. [...] Fake/forgery: A copy of an existing work with the wrong reference it is original.'
  • Why forgeries, fakes and counterfeits aren’t the same thing (gbgplc.com; 'We are GBG, global specialists in digital identity.') • 'On the face of it, forgery and counterfeit are synonyms for fake -- but they're not actually the same thing, especially when you’re talking about falsified identity documents. [...] 1. Forgery: a genuine document that has been unlawfully altered; 2. Counterfeit: a copy of a genuine document; 3. Fake: an identity document that isn't officially produced or recognised'

I knew that intuitively, but it's always a good idea to get confirmation from an expert. Here's a copy of the item sold via eBay.

The description said,

A beautiful antique oil painting, depicting "The Chess Players" By the Spanish Forger. Two other paintings with chess players by the Spanish Forger are known, both are in museum collections. • Univ. of Pennsylvania, LJS MS 33 • NY, Columbia Univ., Plimpton Add. MS 18

Those last two 'MS' references are for the two other chess paintings by the Spanish Forger, easily found using the obvious keywords. The description incorporated a *copy* (attributed!) to Spanish Forger (wikipedia.org). The Wikipedia page starts,

The Spanish Forger (French: Le Faussaire espagnol) is the name given to an unidentified individual who, in the late 19th to early 20th century, created a large number of forgeries of medieval miniatures.

The Wikipedia excerpts were followed by more details about the piece.

Origin: France • Provenance: Private Collection (Paris, France) • Age: 19th century (Buy with confidence, 100 % money back guaranty!) • Signature: The Spanish forger never signed his work • Material: Oil on panel • Measurements: Approx 14 X 9.8 inch wide tall (35 X 25 cm) • Condition: Good, little signs of age but not disturbing, and I guarantee that the painting is stable; there is absolutly no wood worm inside.

Best takeaway from this post? For me, it's the existence of the 'Vienna Museum of Art Fakes': a whole museum just for fakes.

02 September 2022

Benson Called Bobby

Yesterday's post, September 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (September 2022), fell on an important anniversary in chess history:-

The date of today's post, 1 September, marks 50 years since the historic match ended.

The historic match, as many online chess resources have been reminding us for the past two months, was the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match (m-w.com).The subtitle for that page says, 'Reykjavik, VII-VIII, 1972'; perhaps it should say, 'VII-IX'.

One of the early posts in this Fischer Friday series was Legends of the 1972 Match (June 2022; links to scans of Petursson cards) It featured a full color Halldor Petursson poster, a large copy of the first black & white ('B&W') card in the well known series so often used to illustrate write-ups of the 1972 match.

The following image shows another full color Petursson poster, a large copy of the last card (no.18) in the B&W series. The numbering of the cards, found on the back of each card, makes me wonder whether they are ordered in chronological sequence.

My narrative about the card in the 'Legends' post...

The scan, taken from the original eBay auction, isn't particularly good, but I would need a large scanner to do better. [...] In creating the image shown above, I started with the color portion of the poster and appended the English legend.

...is just as true for the current card. The English language legend on this card says,

WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP - REYKJAVIK 1972
The last Scene: Coronation and Banquet of the Century.
From left to right:
1. Efim Geller: Grand Master. Spassky's Second.
2. Nikolai Krogius: Grand Master. Spassky's Second.
3. Boris Spassky: Ex-World Chess Champion.
4. Bobby Fischer: The present World Chess Champion. Follows Napoleon's The Great Example.
5. Lothar Schmid: Principal Arbiter. "Master of Silence".
6. Saemundur Palsson: Bobby's Body-guard and best Friend in Iceland.
7. Gudmundur Arnlaugsson: Assistant Arbiter.
8. Rev. William Lombardy: Grand Master. Bobby's Second.
9. Dr. Max Euwe: President of FIDE. World Chess Champion 1935-1937.
10. Thorvaldur Gudmundsson: "Mine Host".
11. Harry Golombek: Vice President of FIDE. "The Solid Support".
12. Fred Cramer: Bobby's "Agent-Spokesman-Escort".
13. Gudmundur G. Thorarinsson: The "still-worried" President of the Icelandic Chess Federation.
14. Fridrik Olafsson: Grand Master. "M.I.P." in Icelandic Chess Life.
15. Chester Fox (bottom): The "still" Desperate Film Producer on his own".
GENS UNA SUMUS: We are One Race.
SKAKSAMBAND ISLANDS: Icelandic Chess Federation.
FIDE: Federation Internationale Des Echecs: International Chess Federation.

A resource I've frequently relied on for the Fischer Friday series is 'Bobby Fischer vs. the Rest of the World' by Brad Darrach. See, for example, According to Darrach, Day by Day (July 2022). Darrach described the transition from the 10th World Champion to the 11th in his usual colorful style:-

And then one day, after seven successive draws, the score stood Bobby 11 1/2, Spassky 8 1/2. For the first time Bobby could finish the match with a single victory. "He'll be gunning for this one," [GM Robert] Byrne said. "He won't want to back into the title with another draw."

At 3 A.M. on Friday, September 1, 1972, Spassky lay in bed and stared into the drab reverse twilight of a northern dawn. In the twenty-first game, Bobby had fooled him in the opening and in irritation Spassky had sealed a move that left him less chance of drawing than Bobby had of winning. A careless fluff had cost him his last hope of leaving a stain on Bobby's triumph and a doubt in Bobby's mind. Now all he could do was go down fighting. And yet ... did he really want to let that arrogant Bobby rip off his scalp on the stage of the playing hall while thousands cheered? Spassky decided that for his own sake and for the sake of his country he must make a more carefully managed exit.

At 1 P.M., Harry Benson [photographer for Life magazine] dropped by the Saga [Hotel]. To his surprise he saw Spassky stride out of the elevator, Krogius at his heels. When he saw Benson, Spassky broke into a big smile and casually handed him the news beat of the summer.

"Hello, Hahrry! There is new world champion! I have just resigned."

Benson's face fell. "I'm sorry to hear that, Boris."

"Don't be sorry," Spassky said. "It is sporting event and" -- he shrugged -- "I lost. Bobby is new champion. So! Now I must have walk." And off he went.

Benson called Bobby. "Congratulations! You're the world champion."

"Yeeaah?" Bobby was pleased but suspicious. "How ya know?"

"Spassky resigned. He told me so himself."

"Ya sure?"

When Lombardy arrived, Bobby was still hunched over the analysis board, eyes blazing. "How do I know it's not a trick to make me stop workin' so he'll win? Tell Schmid I demand to see Spassky's resignation in writing!"

At 2:25, Schmid was beside himself. Almost half an hour after game time, Bobby had not shown up to claim his victory. Schmid had refused to make Spassky come to the playing hall and write the word "resigned" on his score sheet -- was Bobby taking his revenge?

At 2:30, Bobby burst onstage, looking surly-shy.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Schmid announced in a sweat of relief, "Mr. Spassky has resigned it by telephone at 12:50 o'clock."

Loud applause. Bobby winced and half looked up from the score sheet he was signing.

"Mr. Fischer," Schmid continued, "has won this game ... and he is therefore the winner of the match."

Thunderous ovation. Bobby scowled as if he wished they would all go away. The ovation faltered, then swelled into rhythmic clapping and stamping. Hastily, as if afraid all those people were coming after him, Bobby bolted through the curtain and was gone. Applause subsided into exclamations of incredulous exasperation. "You mean," an American visitor asked, "this is how it ends?"

This was how it began, the reign of King Bobby.

As we all know 50 years later, 'the reign of King Bobby' was the least productive in chess history. Except for a few games against a weak computer in 1977, Fischer didn't play another published game until 20 years later, the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch, Sveti Stefan/Belgrade (m-w.com). I'll add a post or two about that match to this Fischer Friday series.

01 September 2022

September 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

In last month's post, August 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (August 2022), the most recent in this blog's long running series about American chess magazines 50 and 25 years ago, I asked and answered,

And what about the other championship that was taking place 50 years ago? A one page story, 'The Match: Fischer Leading!' by Burt Hochberg, gave the raw game scores for the first six games, where the sixth game had been played on 23 July.

Jumping ahead a month to its September 1972 issue, CL&R couldn't yet report the final result of the match. The five page lead story, 'The Match' by Robert Byrne ('in Reykjavik covering the match for a New York newspaper and for CL&R'), had annotations for the first five games and raw game scores through game 14, which was played on 15 August.

The date of today's post, 1 September, marks 50 years since the historic match ended. In his book that appeared in 1974 -- see the post Spassky's Team (July 2022), for more about the book -- GM Byrne wrote an introduction to the last game, which started on 31 August. He said,

After seven draws in a row [Fischer won the 13th game], Bobby finally broke through to take the 21st game and the match. One of the most important opening innovations he produced in the match came this time in a variation of the Sicilian Defense he had never before shown any liking for. It cashiers one of the chief attacks available to White, Black obtaining a small but clear advantage.

However, just when Bobby seemed to be succeeding in the struggle, Boris came up with a finely-judged Exchange sacrifice which should have left little question about the draw. Unfortunately for him, he then blundered monstrously, throwing away the fruits of his intrepid defense and going down to defeat.

Spassky's resignation by telephone [the next day] disappointed the fans, who wanted to see the endgame technique the old and new champions took for granted. At the final banquet, Fischer was still going over the variations resulting from Spassky's sealed move, 41 B-Q7, pointing out the various desperate traps still at White's disposal. Thus ended "The Match of the Century."

We'll come back to the end of the 1972 match for the October 'On the Cover' post. For this current post, let's return to our U.S. chess magazines from Septembers of yesteryear.


Left: '?'
Right: 'Diary of a World Champion (Trophy: "86 Memorial Day Open - Unrated")'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

1972 U.S. Amateur Champion Ed Vano of Highland, Indiana. Tournament story [inside].

The corresponding tournament report 'Vano Wins U.S. Amateur' was unsigned, but we can guess that it was written by one of the TDs listed at the end: 'Tournament Directors were Bill Goichberg, Larry King, Bob Moran, and Phil Newman.' The report started,

255 players competed in the 22nd Annual United States Amateur Championship, played in New York City over the Memorial Day weekend. There were 148 in Group One, open to all non-Masters, and 107 in Group Two, open to all under 1800 or unrated.

12th-ranked Edward Vano (2050) of Highland, Indiana, a former Master, topped Group One on tiebreak to take the national title. Matching Vano's 6-1 score were George F. Miller III (2117) of Syracuse, N.Y. and Joseph Weldon (2044) of New York City, who placed 2nd and 3rd respectively.

In those days, CL&R gave a full cover to the winner of the U.S. Amateur. A year ago, in August 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (August 2021), we saw that the 1971 winner was Clarence Kalenian.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

So who knew? Perhaps his mother knew, when she sent in the cover photo, back in 1986. Perhaps Dr. Aspis had an inkling back in 1991. Or maybe Leon Haft of the Marshall Chess Club could have predicted it when the lad won the U.S. Cadet Championship in 1992.

Earning a Samford Fellowship in 1996 might have been an indication of future achievements; U.S. Junior Championships in 1995 and 1997 didn't cloud the waters. But who knew Tal Shaked would join a long line of successful Americans who have won the World Junior Championship?

Anyone who has met the young man, that's who. Not by dint of style or playing strength, but because one could not hope for a better role model for today's youth. It had to happen because we all wanted it to happen.

I think his mother knew. Even back in 1986.

The tournament was summarized in a full page photo story, titled 'Player of the Month : Tal Shaked':-

Tal Shaked was awarded the title of World Junior Champion in Zagan. Poland. on tiebreaks over Vigen Mirumian. Both finished with scores of 9.5-3.5 The event was held July 13-28. Tal joins a long line of distinguished winners of this prestigious title. Tal is definitely our Player of the Month!

Incorporated into the story, titled 'Diary of a World Junior Champion', was a list of nearly 20 highlights of his young career. For his later years, see Tal Shaked (wikipedia.org). Another Wikipedia page, World Junior Chess Championship, informs that the only American player to win the same title after 1997 was Jeffery Xiong in 2016.

30 August 2022

Olympiad, Business, and Political Yahoos

It's Yahoo time again (see the footnote for an explanation of Yahoos) and what a great month it's been for chess stories in the mainstream press. Last month we had Candidate and Olympiad Yahoos (July 2022), when the Olympiad was just getting started. This month we had nearly 20 stories related to the Olympiad, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's first have the top level stats.

Google News returned 99 stories of which 95 were for the current month. The 11 sources with more than two stories, shown in the chart on the left, accounted for 57 stories, leaving 38 sources with a single story.

The 2021 summary post A Year of Yahoos (January 2022), aggregating all the data for last year, shows that stories from the previous month started creeping into the Google News search toward the end of last year. I suspect this happens whenever there aren't enough current month stories to satisfy Google's appetite, when they pad their results with older stories.

There were so many Olympiad stories this month that padding wasn't necessary. We'll find out next month if the counts revert to the trend that started last year. Of the five stories about the winning Olympiad teams, four were from Chess.com. The exception was:-

The Indian Express was one of three Indian sources with more than two stories, ahead of ChessBase India, and Sportstar (thehindu.com). Two sources on the chart that I didn't recognize were 'Dot Esports' and 'wknd' (based in Dubai). What's 'Dot Esports'? In Gamurs (wikipedia.org), Wikipedia informs,

The GAMURS Group, simply known as Gamurs, is an esports media and entertainment publisher. Established in December 2014, the group operates multiple brands focusing on the esports and entertainment news markets, including the websites: Dot Esports, [...]. GAMURS is based out of Sydney, Australia, with an office in Austin, Texas.

The bigger of its two August stories was:-

That wasn't the only business story returned by Google, nor was it the most important. The Financial Times announced,

  • 2022-08-29: Chess.com bids for Play Magnus, a move towards monopoly? (ft.com; Leonard Barden) • 'A merger between two of the largest major chess sites is imminent following the announcement that the US-backed chess.com is bidding for playmagnusgroup.com, the company named after world champion Magnus Carlsen. The offer, which values PMG at around $82m, has been accepted and will take around two months to complete.'

Since that story is worth a separate post, I'll look at it in more depth elsewhere. FT chess stories are nearly always big stories about the game, and their other August story was about the FIDE presidential election: Ukrainian grandmaster moves to check Russia’s domination of world chess federation (ft.com; 'Andrii Baryshpolets seeks to harness international sympathy for Kyiv to end Moscow’s longstanding rule of FIDE'). I've already covered that on my World Championship Blog in Dvorkovich Gets Four More Years (August 2022). A related story returned by Google was:-

  • 2022-08-27 Double standards in world chess (thearticle.com; Raymond Keene) • 'FIDE, the governing body of world chess, is now riven with contradictions. As I predicted, its Russian President, Arkady Dvorkovich, has been overwhelmingly re-elected.'

There are at least another half-dozen stories worth mentioning. I've been running a Fischer Friday series related to the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match (m-w.com), last seen in Was Fischer Avaricious? (August 2022). Many other chess organizations have been honoring the match, including two of the most influential chess resources, seen together here:-

All of the above taken together already signals a big month for chess news. I could go on and on, but I'll stay out of the weeds and stop here.

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

29 August 2022

TCEC S23 Leagues Underway; CCC Rudderless?

The wheel of time continues to turn on the world's two foremost, continuous engine vs. engine competitions. Two weeks ago the headline said, Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC1, Leads CCC18 Rapid Final (August 2022). Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: In DFRC1 ('Double Fischer Random Chess: 960*960 possible starting positions'), Stockfish and LCZero finished tied for 1st/2nd places with 16.0/22, 1.5 points ahead of KomodoDragon, which was 2.0 points ahead of Stoofvlees. In the 50 game final match, Stockfish beat LCZero 29.5-20.5 (+18-9=23). After DFRC1, the site launched 'S23 - Chess Bonus', the first event of season 23, which seems to be VSOB-style. • CCC: Stockfish won the 'CCC18 Rapid' Semifinal stage, well ahead of LC0, which was a half point ahead of Dragon. For some reason, the site skipped the Challenger stage, which would have pitted the 2nd & 3rd engines in the Semifinal stage against each other. Stockfish is currently clobbering LC0 in the Final stage.

What's the current status of the two sites?

TCEC: For more about the first ever DFRC event, see TCEC DFRC1 (August 2022) on my chess960 blog. I didn't go deeper into DFRC start positions, but I did document the technical underpinnings of the event:-

To understand what the TCEC accomplished -- and it's without question a noteworthy accomplishment -- let's quote some TCEC !definitions.

That brings us to TCEC season 23 (S23). My post on the equivalent stage of the previous season (S22) was TCEC S22 L3 and CCC16 Blitz Final Both Underway (February 2022). In that post I looked at some of the most important S22 rules:-

The TCEC flagship event is a long, multistage affair. It's useful to have an overview of promotion and demotion rules for the six divisions of the TCEC leagues.

That structure changed for S23. There are now two fewer divisions. Following is an extract of the S23 rules:-

1. Season : The Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC) Season is the premier championship for chess software.
2. Qualification League [QL] : The top 4 engines promote to League 2.
3. League 2 [L2] : The bottom 4 engines relegate and the top 4 promote to League 1.
4. League 1 : The bottom 4 engines relegate and the top 2 promote to Premier Division.
5. Premier Division : The top 2 engines promote to the Superfinal and the bottom 2 engines are relegated to League 1.
6. Infrafinal : Head to head contest between the 3rd and 4th place of the Premier Division.
7. Superfinal : Head to head contest between the winner and 2nd place of the Premier Division.

Since the previous 'Stockfish Wins DFRC1' report, QL has finished and L2 is just getting started. Between QL and L2, S22 had L4 and L3, but these have since been eliminated. What happened to the engines that relegated in S22 L4/L3/L2? It would take some effort to work it out and no one is complaining.

CCC: As expected, Stockfish beat Lc0 in the 300 game 'CCC18 Rapid Final'; the final score was plus-55 for the Fish. After a pause for 'OpenBench Interlude' -- see OpenBench (chessprogramming.org) for an explanation of the so-called 'testing framework' -- the site launched a 'CCC18 Rapid Challenger' 300-game match between Dragon and Lc0. With the event more than 75% finished, Dragon has a small lead. Why is this being played after the Final match? The site's !next command explains nothing:-

Small event of new coming engines(?), and then ...? Your suggestions welcome at !discord.

That makes too many question marks to be useful. If the site were following the sequence seen in CCC16 and CCC17, after the 'CCC18 Rapid' event we would see 'CCC18 Bullet' and 'CCC18 Blitz'. Perhaps the CCC has undergone some sort of administrative shake-up, but its Club and Discord resources are silent.

[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]

28 August 2022

Was Fischer Avaricious?

There's no question about it: World Championship chess needs more cartoons. That's this month's theme in the ongoing series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). The closest thing I could find to a cartoon in the series was Chess Strategy Woodcut (March 2017), and that was a serious drawing, not satire.

A recent Fischer Friday post, Bags of Loot (August 2022), featured an excellent example of how poor was Fischer's public image just before the 1972 match. The post explained,

A remnant of that general lack of sympathy [for Fischer] are the political cartoons of the day. Often appearing on a newspaper's editorial page, often accompanied by an unsympathetic editorial, the cartoons ridiculed Fischer mercilessly.

He was ridiculed for being avaricious, for being impossibly demanding, and for being an unlikely symbol of the post-WWII cold war between the USA and the USSR. Avaricious? On top of 'Bags of Loot', consider the following two cartoons.


Left: Check... or Cash? (newspapers.com); DM (or DN?); Detroit Free Press; Detroit, Michigan; 16 July 1972
Right: $-$-$... (ditto); Lurie; The Honolulu Advertiser; Honolulu, Hawaii; 12 July 1972
>>> 'Clipped by BobbyFischer' <<<

The irony here is that many observers have speculated that money wasn't all that important to Fischer. What was important? From Edmonds and Eidinow, 'Bobby Fischer Goes to War' (HarperCollins, 2004, p.29):-

Cash itself was about status and again about control and domination: if he was offered five, he wanted ten; if he was offered twenty, he wanted fifty. Perhaps his unwillingness even to put his signature on a contract stemmed from the same need; an agreement took his control away. Somehow, the actual amounts were immaterial.

This isn't the first post in the 'Sociology of Chess' series to focus on chess as a potentially lucrative profession. Last year we had Is It Only About Money? (March 2021). There I noted,

The description of the CNBC 'Make It' video says, "Alexandra Botez, 25, is a professional Twitch streamer who makes six figures playing chess online. She and her sister Andrea Botez, 18, have over 650,000 followers and are signed with Team Envy, a global esports and entertainment company."

More recently, in last month's Yahoos post Candidate and Olympiad Yahoos (July 2022), one of the articles I featured was:-

2022-06-29: Hikaru Nakamura: Meet the world’s wealthiest chess player (elpais.com; Leontxo García) • 'The 34-year-old American has spent half his life in the game's most elite circles, but it is online streaming that has made him a millionaire'

Later, on his popular Twitch stream, GM Nakamura read and commented on the El Pais article. It's classic Nakamura.


Meet the World's Wealthiest Chess Player (15:58) • '[Published on] Jul 25, 2022'

The description of the video says,

Hikaru reads and reacts to an El Pais article Meet the World's Wealthiest Chess Player published on June 29, 2022 by Leontxo Garcia.

How much of a connection can we make between Fischer's 'Bags of Loot' and the success of today's streamers? Not much, probably. After 1975, Fischer disappeared from the chess scene. Between 1972 and 2022 were five World Championship matches between Karpov and Kasparov. The two Soviet stars had much to do with raising the financial stakes at the highest level of chess. No one called them avaricious.

26 August 2022

GM Svetozar Gligoric, Player/Journalist

One point I've come to realize in this long Fischer Friday series -- last seen in Bags of Loot (August 2022) -- is that the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match (m-w.com), was in fact two matches. The first match, which lasted from end-June 1972 through the third game, was all about whether Fischer would play. The first match had little to do with chess.

The second match, which started with the fourth game, was all about chess. Starting with the score at 2-1 in Spassky's favor, the players fought some of the most interesting games ever seen at the highest level of chess. The first match caught the attention of the entire world. The second match was mainly of interest to chess players.

The phrase 'all about chess' to describe the second match is not completely accurate. The off-board, psychological battles continued throughout the match, but they were largely ignored by the general public.

Darrach's book -- see According to Darrach, Day by Day (July 2022), for background -- starts with Fischer flying from the American West Coast to New York, then devotes 16 chapters to events before the fourth game. The last 18 games take up a single chapter.

Brady's 1973 book 'Profile of a Prodigy' spends 30 pages from the West Coast to the fourth game, followed by seven pages on the rest of the match. His 2011 book, 'Endgame' -- see Fischer's Best Games? (February 2011), for a summary of posts about the book -- spends even fewer pages to cover the same period.

Byrne & Nei's book -- see Spassky's Team (July 2022), for an introduction -- focuses on the games and the moves, not the politics and the psychology. The first third of the book is an analysis of Fischer's three candidate matches; for an overview of those matches, see 1970-72 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Gligoric's book 'Fischer v Spassky: The Chess Match of the Century' (Fontana, 1972), contains good accounts of the off-board happenings between games. What was GM Gligoric's relationship to the match? In 'Profile of a Prodigy' (p.222), Brady explains,

Fischer was scheduled to arrive in Iceland on June 26th. Journalists and chess lovers began to assemble in increasing numbers in Reykjavik. Feature writers of such renown as Pulitzer-prize winner Harold C. Schonberg, Arthur Koestler, Jeremy Bernstein, George Steiner, David Pryce-Jones, and Clement Freud arrived, while such noted chess writers as Harry Golombek, Heinrich Fraenkel, B.H. Wood, Jens Enevoldson, I.A. Horowitz, Robert Byrne, Larry Evans, Dimitrije Bjelica, Svetozar Gligoric and many others filed daily reports to their respective journals. Over two hundred and fifty journalists eventually made their way to Reykjavik. Though all of their script concerned the dynamics of the match, not all was chess.

Gligoric's full page introduction to the fourth game starts,

After the adjournment of the third game Spassky made no protest, just a simple statement that he would not play in the back room again. The referees agreed with the champion. When built, the spacious room had been intended for table tennis. During those five hours of playing chess there it was discovered that all kinds of outside noise could be heard: traffic on the road above, cars in the parking lot, children playing on the near-by grounds.

What about Fischer? A friend remarked: 'That was the right kind of noise. Not like that from cameras.' This makes sense. In certain countries which are less touched by Western civilisation, people do not agree to be photographed! Fischer was not acting. His dislike for cameras was in-born; a genuine one. There were years of his solitary life when not one recent photo of Bobby could be found for the press.

Nearly every other game starts at least with a similar full page introduction. Gligoric was no slouch at chess either. He played in eight Interzonals and three Candidate tournaments, including two round robins and one knockout event, the 1967-69 Candidates Matches (m-w.com), where he was eliminated in the first, quarterfinal round by Mikhail Tal. Gligoric was one of the strongest player/journalists of all time.

[On this date 50 years ago, the players were preparing for the 19th game. I watched that game (start to finish?), an Alekhine's Defense, on Shelby Lyman's PBS show. In 1972, it was TV chess at its best. The game made a huge impression on me and I realized how little I knew about chess.]

***

Coincidental to this series I found the following image while doing an unrelated search on my archive of eBay images.

The description of the eBay auction said, 'Larger size card showing caricatures of the board of the Icelandic Chess Federation who organized the 1972 World Chess Championship Match.' The ICF officials were not identified and the only one I recognize is Gudmundur Thorarinsson, bottom row center; see Legends of the 1972 Match (June 2022), and Drawing for Colors in 1972 (July 2022). I can guess at one or two of the other faces/signatures, but I'll wait for a more definitive explanation.

***

Later: Re 'The ICF officials were not identified', they are identified on this page: Le match du siècle 1972 (histoire-echecs-philatelie.com); 'The match of the century 1972 (history-chess-philately)'.

Gudlaugur Gudmundsson (membre), Thrainn Gudmundsson (secretaire), Hilmar Viggosson (caissier), Gudjon Ingvi Stefansson (membre), Gudmundur G. Thorarinsson (président), Asgeir Fridjonsson (vice président)

The French language titles in parentheses are easily understood in English, with the exception of 'caissier', which means 'treasurer'.

25 August 2022

2022 CJA Awards - Part 2

A few weeks ago I posted 2022 CJA Awards - Part 1 (August 2022). Now I'll post 'Part 2'. Following the lead from last year's 2021 CJA Awards - Part 2 (September 2021), I'll feature four specific awards:-

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

Winner of the most prestigious award, 'Chess Journalist of the Year', was Elshan Moradiabadi. His certificate is reproduced below.

It's not immediately obvious, but the winner's name is misspelled ('Eishan') on the certificate. It turns out that there's also some confusion on the spelling of his family name. His Wikipedia entry, Elshan Moradi (wikipedia.org), says,

Elshan Moradi Abadi (Persian; born 22 May 1985) is an Iranian-American chess grandmaster.

The winner isn't bothered by these details. On his LinkedIn page, Elshan Moradiabadi (linkedin.com; 'Content creator at Chessable Limited'), which is more under his personal control than the Wikipedia entry, he displayed the same CJA certificate and added,

There are certain achievements that do not change your life in terms of income or career but leave a good feeling with you forever.

The first comment was from Jamaal Abdul-Alim ('2nd Education Editor at The Conversation Media Group; freelance writer, chess journalist and ghost writer.'). He said, 'This is probably my favorite award of all time. I won in 2013. Good to be in such great company.' [NB: I covered the awards of that year in 'Got to Find Me a Chess Blog!' (August 2013; Warning!: criticism of CJA award procedures, with comments).]

The 'Best Book' awards are always problematic to cover in a short blog post because there are several awards. Here are the three winners in the 'Best Chess Book' category ('Award • Person/Brand • Source • Title'):-

  • Best Book - Instruction • Peter Giannotos • New in Chess • 'Everyone's First Chess Book: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers'
  • Best Book - Other • Andy Soltis • McFarland Books • 'Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov, and Averbakh'
  • Best Self-Published Book • World Chess Hall of Fame • Staff • 'Mind. Art. Experience. 10 Years of Chess & Culture in Saint Louis'

The Soltis book won a second award, 'Best Book of the Year' in category 'Top', which was a new award for 2022. Along with the two book awards, GM Soltis won two other 2022 awards.

As for 'Best Chess Art', this is also increasingly problematic. Not too long ago, it was a single category covering various art genres. Now the different genres have their own awards. In recent years, I've used magazine covers to represent the awards. This year the award was listed as:-

  • Best Single Chess Magazine Cover • Best Visual Arts • Winner • Ian Spanier - Photographer • Chess Life, July 2021, Cover • John Donaldson - The Fischer Project

Spanier and Donaldson both won multiple awards in 2022, but a discussion of those might take an entire post. The last of the four awards I follow, 'Best Chess Blog', was:-

  • Ray Linville • Learning with Each Game • Chess.com

If that name sounds familiar, it's probably because Linville won the same award in 2020 and 2021. This year he won against two other entries.

Congratulations to all award winners, not just those I've mentioned here but also to all other winners, co-winners, and honorable mentions. The great chess boom of 2020-21 has lost some of its internal energy, but the work of chess journalists carries on through thick and thin. In 'Part 1' I ended the post saying,

There is so much to discuss this year that I might even squeeze out a 'Part 3'.

Here are a few ideas for 'Part 3', '-4', and so on, no squeeze necessary:-

  • Winners of multiple awards (e.g. Soltis, Spanier, and Donaldson)
  • Art awards (seen visually)
  • Youtube awards (plus Twitch and podcast awards)
  • The CJA's Chess Journalist (it's back!)
  • 'Null' awards (no winner listed)

That's why I follow the CJA award process every year, despite its many imperfections. The world of chess is small, and the world of chess journalism is even smaller, but the creativity evident in both is massive.

22 August 2022

Interviews with Dragon's Developers

Of the many names involved in chess engine development, two of them have familiar faces: Larry Kaufman and Mark Lefler. After seeing both in a recent video, ICGA/AI4S ACG 2021 (March 2022), I was pleased to discover more of the same in a Chessbase article, The magicians of Komodo 3 - Larry Kaufman and Mark Lefler (chessbase.com; Arne Kaehler). Unfortunately, viewing the article's two embedded videos...

...left me scratching my head. The continuity didn't make sense and there were references to invisible actions happening off-stage. The description, which was the same for both videos, didn't clarify matters:-

Just a couple of days ago, Komodo 3 received the free "World Champion" update. We interviewed the creators of one of the most "human-like" chess engines - Larry Kaufman & Mark Lefler. They tell us, what the most significant differences from Komodo 2 to Komodo 3 are, and how a normal working day for an engine creator looks like.

After rereading the 'Magicians of Komodo 3' article, the pieces started to fall into place. The 'Interview' video was a piece of a much longer video from a few months ago; the original interview starts at around 3:52:35 into the following stream.


ChessBase Discount Day Show (25 % off) (5:58:35) • 'Streamed live on May 17, 2022'

The description of this video said,

In this livestream we feature authors of our products including: Elisabeth Paehtz, Robert Ris, Sipke Ernst, Daniel King, Nick Pert, Svitlana Demchenko, Larry Kaufman, Mark Lefler, Lawrence Trent, Karsten Mueller, Markus Ragger, Andrew Martin. They'll show content of their products and tell you some insights to get better at chess.

The Kaufman/Lefler interview was a botch. The interviewees weren't present at the appointed time, and when they did show up, they had only 15 minutes airtime. The 'Magicians of Komodo 3' video was a later attempt to make up for the poor scheduling.

Once I understood the relationship between them, watching the two videos from August made more sense and was more enjoyable. For more about the latest release of Komodo Dragon, see Dragon 3.1 Released at KomodoChess.com (talkchess.com); Mark Lefler: I am posting this for Larry Kaufman, who is traveling now'. The rest of the long 'Discount Day Show' video is also worth a watch.

21 August 2022

Fun with Flickr Search

A couple of months ago, in Caissartistic License (June 2022), I wrote,

For this month's Flickr Favorite, I had two photos on the short list, neither of which I understood. Since I couldn't decide between them, I used both.

It's a nice dilemma to have and this month I had similar. This time it wasn't for two photos; it was for two paintings. And it wasn't for a lack of understanding; it was for choosing between a Ukrainian artist and a Russian artist. What to do? I used Flickr's search function on the photographer -- keyword 'chess', of course -- and came up with the following composite image.


Alexey Solodovnikov, "Young chess player", 1951 © Flickr user Yulia Mi under Creative Commons.

The caption is for the painting in the upper left corner of the composite. The associated Flickr.com link leads to the Ukrainian artist, further identified as 'Alexey Solodovnikov (Ukraine, 1928-2017)'.

The painting by the Russian artist, 'Nikolai Krutov (Russia, 1953)', is also in the top row, third from the left. For that Flickr.com link, follow the link for the Ukrainian artist, click on the photographer's name, and use the search function.

The first painting in the bottom row, by Gustav Wentzel, was seen in a previous Flickr Favorite post, Attention to Detail (January 2018), although by a different photographer. The other five paintings in the composite are new to me, at least as far as I can remember, which is not very far. A search for 'chess' on the Flickr photographer featured in 'Attention to Detail' yields 11 results, some of them well known chess paintings.

19 August 2022

Bags of Loot

A few months ago, in an earlier post in this Fischer Friday series, a post titled Hatchet Job (June 2022), I quoted Anthony Saidy writing,

Brad Darrach, one of the minority of journalists sympathetic to Fischer.

That short quote made two points. The first was that Darrach was 'sympathetic to Fischer'. The second was that the same could be said for only a 'minority of journalists'. That might seem surprising, given the legendary proportions the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match has taken over the past 50 years, but Fischer's recalcitrance was exposed to the world for several long weeks.

A remnant of that general lack of sympathy are the political cartoons of the day. Often appearing on a newspaper's editorial page, often accompanied by an unsympathetic editorial, the cartoons ridiculed Fischer mercilessly. Here's one example.

The cartoonist was one of the best known at that time, Pat Oliphant (wikipedia.org). According to Wikipedia,

Patrick Bruce "Pat" Oliphant (born 24 July 1935) is an Australian-born American artist whose career spanned more than sixty years. His body of work as a whole focuses mostly on American and global politics, culture, and corruption; he is particularly known for his caricatures of American presidents and other powerful leaders. [...] He retired in 2015.

A copy of the cartoon is preserved in the U.S. Library of Congress: 'Mr. Fischer seems to be ready now ... shall we commence, Mr. Spassky?' / Oliphant (loc.gov). Here we learn,

Summary • Cartoon shows American chess player Bobby Fischer in Superman costume holding bags of "loot" approaching table where Soviet chess player Boris Spassky sits, at the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Between Fischer and Spassky -- in small text -- Uncle Sam says to a penguin, 'I seem to always be represented by clowns.' From the same Wikipedia page:-

Early in his career, Oliphant began to include a small penguin in almost every one of his political cartoons. This character, which he named Punk, joined a tradition of such secondary figures, which cartoonist R. C. Harvey has termed "dingbats".

I discovered the cartoon via the resource introduced in Bobby Fischer Day by Day (May 2022). The original clipping, World Chess (newspapers.com; 'Clipped by BobbyFischer'), is attributed to 'The Brattleboro Reformer; Brattleboro, Vermont; 07 Jul 1972'. Given Oliphant's popularity, the cartoon must have appeared in many publications.

There are dozens of other cartoons scattered throughout the 'BobbyFischer' clippings. I featured another in Cold Warriors of Chess (August 2022). More an illustration than a cartoon, the accompanying sympathetic article appeared before Fischer was making daily headlines by *not* travelling to Iceland.

[On this day 50 years ago, the players were preparing for the 16th game, to be played the next day. The score was plus-three for Fischer, with nine games left on the schedule.]

15 August 2022

Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC1, Leads CCC18 Rapid Final

Another two weeks have passed since the previous report on the world's leading, ongoing engine vs. engine competitions. Titled Stockfish Wins TCEC FRC5, Leads CCC18 Rapid Semifinal (August 2022), the post can be summarized as follows:-

TCEC: The site is currently conducting 'DFRC 1'. I'll cover the event on my chess960 blog, where I post twice a month. • CCC: Leading the 'CCC18 Rapid' Semifinal stage are Stockfish, Dragon, and LC0, already by a comfortable margin over the other three engines

What's the current status? The TCEC is transitioning from S22 to S23, while the CCC is finishing the first main event of CCC18.

TCEC: In DFRC1 ('Double Fischer Random Chess: (960*960) possible starting positions'), Stockfish and LCZero finished tied for 1st/2nd places with 16.0/22, 1.5 points ahead of KomodoDragon, which was 2.0 points ahead of Stoofvlees. In the 50 game final match, Stockfish beat LCZero 29.5-20.5 (+18-9=23). For more discussion of the event, see the next post on my chess960 blog, linked on the right sidebar.

After DFRC1, the site launched 'S23 - Chess Bonus', the first event of season 23. I couldn't find much info about this event, which seems to be VSOB-style. What I did find was on the TCEC Discord platform, especially under #bonus-arena. For the previous VSOB (''Viewer Submitted Openings Bonus') event, see TCEC Testing Cup 9; CCC C960 Blitz Semifinal (October 2021), and its chain of links to earlier posts.

CCC: Stockfish won the 'CCC18 Rapid' Semifinal stage, well ahead of LC0, which was a half point ahead of Dragon. The other three engines finished with minus scores.

For some reason, the site skipped the Challenger stage, which was a mainstay of the CCC17 Rapid, Bullet, and Blitz tournaments, and which pitted the 2nd & 3rd engines in the Semifinal stage against each other. The idea was to determine the opponent for the 1st engine in the Semifinal stage, which was Stockfish each time.

Stockfish is currently clobbering LC0 in the Final stage. Between the Semifinal and the Final, the site ran an event called 'Romantic Openings: Wing Gambit' (1.e4 c5 2.b4) with the six Semifinal engines. Stockfish won the event although there were only three decisive games in the 90 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; Dragon = KomodoDragon]

14 August 2022

Inside Lichess

This video is not for chess players. I'm not sure who the target audience is, but it would take me several viewings to start to understand it.


Lichess @ Big Techday 22: Serving 5 Million Chess Games a Day with 125 Volunteers and €5 Donations (49:16) • '[Published on] Aug 10, 2022'

The description says,

T. Alexander Lystad (@arex) spoke about Lichess technology, architecture and scaling at TNG's Big Techday conference in Munich, Germany on July 15, 2022.

It also includes a couple of relevant links:-

For more about the speaker, see T. Alexander Lystad (linkedin.com), another Norwegian from Oslo.

12 August 2022

Fischer - Spassky Tickets

In A Wizard or a God? (August 2022), my most recent post in the series 'Top eBay Chess Items by Price', my short list had a number of items related to the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match (m-w.com). Two of the items were for tickets to the match, shown below.


Top: Game 2 • Bottom: Games 1, 6, and 12

The item on the top was titled '1972 World Chess Championship PSA AUTHENTIC Ticket BOBBY FISCHER Boris Spassky', and sold for $1500.00 'Buy It Now'. The description said,

This AUTHENTICATED ticket was for match 2, which BOBBY FISCHER famously forfeited as he demanded that the TV cameras be removed. This Match 2 ticket to the 1972 World Chess Championship is AUTHENTICATED by PSA!!! Full Authentic Ticket, Authenticated by PSA!!!

This is an awesome piece of history and was such a dramatic event during the Cold War, that even movies have been made about it! This match #2 was held on July 13th, 1972 in Iceland. VERY VERY LOW POP COUNT IN PSA!!

For more about PSA pop count, see What Does POP Mean in Sports Cards? (ballcardgenius.com). The page informs,

POP is short for "population," and is used to reference the scarcity of graded cards or how many there are in existence. For instance, a POP 1 PSA 10 card would mean it’s the only one in existence. a POP 18 would mean there are 18, and so on.

The item on the bottom was titled '1972 World Chess Championship Ticket Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky - LOT'. It sold for '$390.00 or Best Offer', which appears to have been around $350. Its description said,

1972 World Chess Championship Ticket Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky - Three tickets - 1 6 12. For sale is this full issued and used tickets from the eighth game of the Bobby Fischer versus Boris Spassky World Chess Championship held in Iceland in 1972.

That description doesn't make complete sense. The second sentence says, 'full issued and used tickets from the eighth [8th] game'. Does 'full issued and used' mean the attached postage stamp and its corresponding postmark? The postmarks say, '25.VII.1972', '27.VII.1972', and '10.VIII.1972', respectively.

***

Later: I neglected to mention a couple of points that give context to this post. First, it is the latest in a series of Fischer Friday posts where the previous post was Cold Warriors of Chess (August 2022). Second, on this day 50 years ago, the players were between the 13th game, played 10 August, and the 14th, played 15 August. Spassky, who had lost the dramatic 13th game, requested his second time-out for the 14th game, which was scheduled for 13 August.

09 August 2022

2022 CJA Awards - Part 1

A few weeks ago we looked at 2022 CJA Award Entries (July 2022), and now we can look at the final awards. Last year I split the discussion into 'Part 1' and 'Part 2' -- see the 2022 kickoff post 2022 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2022) for background and links. NB: In case you haven't been following the series, the acronym CJA stands for Chess Journalists of America.

I haven't seen an announcement that the 2022 awards are available, but they can be found at 2022 CJA Awards Winners (chessjournalism.org). Between the time I noticed that the awards were available and the time I started to write this post, that 'Winners' page changed, so I have two copies of the list of winners. The chart below, which echoes the post '2021 Part 1', is based on the second of those lists.

The first point to notice is that the number of awards increased from 81 in 2021 to an even 100 in 2022. The second point is that the category 'Best Online and Social Media' has overtaken 'Best Print Articles' for the most awards. In the '2022 Entries' post, I predicted,

I expect we'll see many award winners listed '1st/2nd Equal' or 'Honorable Mention'.

It wasn't a tough call, because the CJA often grants multiple awards in competitive topics. This year they saw increases for each of their 'Winner', 'Co-winner', and 'Honorable Mention' awards.

Last year I counted the number of awards for different organizations, where Chess Life was at the top of the list. This year it's not so easy to make that count. Instead I counted topics with more than one award, shown on the right of the chart. There were nine topics with three or more awards and 18 topics with two awards, leaving 33 with a single award.

I'll be back later with 'Part 2' of this post. There is so much to discuss this year that I might even squeeze out a 'Part 3'.

08 August 2022

GM Sadler Tweets About TCEC

The last time I referenced GM Matthew Sadler on this blog was for the post Engines Forced to Play Like Us (November 2021). At that time I noted,

Along with GM Larry Kaufman, GM Sadler is one of the strongest human players participating actively in the world of chess engines.

It turns out that he's also a prolific Twitter user. Is there any way to focus on his tweets about the TCEC? It turns out there is:-

Nice trick. I can probably use it elsewhere as well.

07 August 2022

A Wizard or a God?

The last time we saw a painting on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) was Chess in the 'Heart of Israel' (May 2022). In that post I called art the 'spiritual roots' of the series. The painting shown below was in an eBay auction titled 'Large Lloyd Garrison Mid Century Oil Painting Chess Medieval Knights Mystic'. It sold for US $315.00 after three bids.

Since that price is below a normal cutoff point for 'Top Items by Price', how did it sneak in? It's eBay's practice to sort the top items by price plus shipping, and the shipping cost on this item was over $200. Good thing, too, otherwise I might have overlooked it.

The description said,

This is a wonderful surrealist vintage mid-century oil painting with a medieval chess theme (Game of Thrones) with knights and armor in an outworldly battle by listed artist Lloyd Garrison. I believe this dates to the 1970s.

This fantastical painting is in very good condition with no damage. There is one rough area to the frame which I have photographed and a couple of small scuffs. It is professionally framed of the period in a wood frame with gold gild and black. There are a couple of flecks to the paint and you may notice some dots or splatters, which are intentional from the artist. This displays wonderfully and is painted on board I believe. In frame measures 40" L x 28" H.

In the center of the painting a wizard is picking up a chess piece from a chessboard that extends (infinitely?) in all directions. Another painting on the same theme by the same artist can be seen at Lloyd Garrison, 20th C. American, Oil Painting Surrealism Chess Game Landscape God in Sky (liveauctioneers.com). The artist's web site, Lloyd Garrison, painting, civil war, [...], says,

My style is realistic, but my subject matter is unlimited. I love both a variety and a challenge. Revolutionary, Civil War, landscapes, still-lifes, portraits, Surrealism, Aviation, Nautical, Westerns, wildlife, and florals are a few of my specialities.

One page on the site, 'Gallery - Miscellaneous', has a couple of other paintings based on a chess theme.

05 August 2022

Cold Warriors of Chess

This blog's Fischer Friday series continues to jump from subject to subject. Last week we had Spassky's Team (July 2022) and this week we jump back to June 1972 when media coverage was building.

In previous posts, notably Bobby Fischer Day by Day (May 2022), I've cited the resource bf-1972 (blogspot.com). If it is at all a reliable guide, media interest in the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Match (m-w.com) started to gather momentum during the second week in June.

Before the match started, originally scheduled for the beginning of July, the focus was on aspects of the cold war between two nuclear superpowers, the USA and the USSR.

One example flagged by 'bf-1972' is Two Kings at The Summit (newspapers.com), shown on the left, captioned 'Illustration, Dave Cross'. The cold war symbolism is unmistakable.

The accompanying 'Two Kings' article by Sandra Shevey is attributed to 'The Miami Herald; Miami, Florida; 11 June 1972, Sun; page 314'. The article was introduced with a brief reference to the geopolitical situation. It said,

Now that [U.S. President Richard] Nixon is back from Moscow, the real summit can begin: America's flamboyant Bobby Fischer facing Russia's reticent Boris Spassky for the world's chess championship in a battle that's bound to be bitter.

With passing reference to sports stars of the 1960s and 70s, it started,

Whatever Joe Namath is to football or Muhammad Ali to boxing, it all goes double for Bobby Fischer and chess. The lone idol of America's three million chess buffs, a player so good he's in a class by himself, Bobby Fischer is a walking example of what it means to have your life completely dominated by trying to corner a wooden king on a checkered board.

As June 1972 morphed into July, the media emphasis turned to the difficulties getting Fischer to play the match. See another previous post, According to Darrach, Day by Day (July 2022), for that chronology.

[On this date 50 years ago, the match score was +5-1(-1)=3, after Fischer had won the 10th game, one of his best wins in the match. The next day Spassky would win his most convincing game.]

04 August 2022

The Sunshine City of Florida

This month's 'On the Cover' post, August 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (August 2022), included a paragraph that reminded me of a few images that show up frequently on eBay. The connection is St. Petersburg FL:-

The tournament report, 'The 1972 Women's Championship' by TD Bob Braine, started with three paragraphs that could have been the introduction to a tourist guide: "The Europeans have an expression: There is a city for everybody. St. Petersburg on Florida's suncoast is for chessplayers."

I found multiple copies of two different scenes. Here are two from postcards.

Top: 'Tourists Playing Checkers, Chess, and Dominoes in St. Petersburg, Florida. "The Sunshine City."'

Bottom: 'St. Petersburg, Florida, "The Sunshine City" • Chess-Players, Waterfront Park'

I have a full scale scan of the top postcard, which clearly shows that all of the games are checkers. One of the auctions dated the card to 1928, another to 1934.

The bottom postcard shows chess. A black-and-white copy was a wirephoto with the following info:-

Original wire press photo • Size : 6" x 8" • Date : 1920s or early 30s • Place : St Petersburg, Florida • Condition : good, many creases, lower right corner folded • Text attached to the photo : Chess expert shows 'em how. Maurice S. Kuhns, of Chicago (with cane) President of the National Chess Federation of America, gives demonstration of his uncanny ability underneath a shady rubber tree at St Petersburg, the sunshine city of Florida, where he is spending the winter.

Was it a small simul? The color copy was the postcard:-

Published by Asheville Post Card Co., Asheville. N. C. Made in U.S.A. Card is part of the "Beautiful Florida Series"

In St. Petersburg, Florida, Wikipedia informs, 'As of the 2020 census, the population was 258,308, making it the fifth-most populous city in Florida [...] the city was named after Saint Petersburg, Russia'. That makes the chess connection even stronger.