26 May 2022

2022 CJA Awards Announcement

It's that time of year again, when the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) open their annual award season. Last year I featured the CJA in four posts:-

The following chart shows the award categories as listed in the last two May issues of Chess Life. Seven categories and their corresponding awards for 2022 are shown below on the right. Next to them, on the left, is the related announcement from 2021.

2021 2022

If you're interested in specific awards for 2022, you should see the list of awards on ChessJournalism.org ('We promote the highest standards of ethics in chess journalism, represent United States chess journalists in appropriate national and international bodies, and influence policies affecting the promotion of chess.'), where you'll also find instructions for submitting your own entries.

I noticed a few changes from 2021 to 2022. There are three new awards:-

  • Best Weekly Video Program
  • Best Documentary
  • Best Tournament/Match Coverage

Several awards have been redefined. The three awards for 'Junior (Under 18)' have been extended to 'Junior (Under 20)'. The last award in the list, 'Best Photography', has been restricted to 'Best Photograph'.

Although I'm not a member of the CJA, I always look forward to seeing the winners and their work. Good luck!

23 May 2022

TCEC Cup 10 Underway; Stockfish Wins CCC17 Bullet

Two weeks ago, in the previous post on the two foremost, ongoing engine vs. engine competitions, I ranked the three leading engines and asked a question: TCEC/CCC: Stockfish no.1; Dragon, LCZero - Who's Better? (May 2022). To summarize that post:-

TCEC: LCZero beat KomodoDragon +24-15=61 in the S22 Subfi to claim bragging rights as the no.2 engine in the world. The site is currently running a 'VVLTC Bonus'. • CCC: In the 'CCC17 Bullet Challenger', Dragon is only a few games from clinching victory over Lc0. Barring a catastrophe for Dragon, the 'CCC17 Bullet Finals' will see Stockfish vs. Dragon.

At the time, it was a toss-up between Dragon and LCZero. Bragging rights are only valid until the next match. Has anything changed in the meantime?

TCEC: The 'VVLTC Bonus' consisted of four-game mini-matches featuring the top three engines: Stockfish, LCZero, and KomodoDragon. Stockfish and LCZero drew their match, while both finished 'plus-one' against KomodoDragon.

Sometime later the site launched the 'Cup 10' event, using a 32-engine knockout format. The four engines that reached the semifinal stage included the three that competed in the 'VVLTC Bonus' plus an engine named 'Revenge'. An !command informs that Revenge 'is the renamed upgrade to Pedone'.

CCC: In the 'CCC17 Bullet Challenger' Dragon beat Lc0, 844.5-775.5 (1620 games). Then in the 'CCC17 Bullet Finals' Stockfish beat Dragon, 993.0-627.0 (also 1620 games). Unfortunately, I didn't have time to work out the W-L-D scores for either match.

The site is currently preparing the 'CCC17 Blitz Qualification' event, the first stage in the next multi-stage competition. Last month I prepared an summary of the The CCC16 Season (April 2022). The CCC17 season is following the same overall structure -- first a rapid event, then a bullet event, then a blitz event.

Back to the question 'Dragon, LCZero - Who's Better?' In the TCEC 'VVLTC Bonus' the answer was LCZero is better. In the 'CCC17 Bullet Challenger', Dragon was better. In the TCEC 'Cup 10', Stockfish will probably beat one of them in the semifinal match, then beat the other in the final match, proving only that the drawing for the brackets plays a role for the ranking after no.1.

[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]

22 May 2022

Stretching Your Legs in 1912

Q: What is the doctor doing to the man that he's holding in his left hand?


LOWELL, Orson. Life Magazine, Doctors' Number, Nov. 21, 1912 © Flickr user Halloween HJB under Creative Commons.

A: He's stretching the man's leg. • The small print under the illustration says,

A Game of Patients

The two men kneeling on the right of the chessboard are praying to the nurse. The man behind them is standing on his stretched leg. What does it all mean?

For more about the artist, see Wikipedia's Orson Lowell. The page informs,

Orson Byron Lowell (1871–1956) was an American artist and illustrator of covers and interiors for magazines. Born in Wyoming, Iowa, Lowell was the son of landscapist Milton H. Lowell. [...] By 1907, he became known for his cartoons with a social message published in the humor magazine Life.

'Humor magazine Life'? That doesn't sound like the Life magazine I knew as a youngster. Another Wikipedia page, Life (magazine), informs,

Life was an American magazine published weekly from 1883 to 1972, as an intermittent "special" until 1978, and as a monthly from 1978 until 2000. During its golden age from 1936 to 1972, Life was a wide-ranging weekly general-interest magazine known for the quality of its photography. Life was independently published for its first 53 years until 1936 as a general-interest and light entertainment magazine, heavy on illustrations, jokes, and social commentary. It featured some of the most notable writers, editors, illustrators and cartoonists of its time...

Is there an archive of pre-1936 Life somewhere?

20 May 2022

Bobby Fischer Day by Day

I might as well make it official. After last Friday's post, Fischer's Storage Locker and eBay (May 2022), this is the fourth consecutive Friday featuring the 11th World Champion. Let's just call it 'Fischer Friday' and continue the series until at least the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match (m-w.com). That will be end-June or begin-July, depending on how you assign the start of the match.

In the meantime, here's a site that offers newspaper clippings in chronological order: Bobby Fischer 1972. That link is for January 1972. Follow the 'Prev/Next' arrows for previous/subsequent months.

16 May 2022

25 Years Ago in Chess History

First up in A Year of Anniversaries (May 2022) is a match that marked the moment when the machines took the upper hand in chess.

25 years: Kasparov vs. IBM's Deep Blue • 1st match: Philadelphia, II, 1996; 2nd match: New York, V, 1997

A report on the match was one of several segments in a recent CNN 10 show, A Historic Chess Match (youtube.com), where it was preceded by the multiple choice question...

'Chaturanga is believed to be an early version of chess, originating in what place?' • Choose one: 'Persia, China, India, or Egypt.'

...(Raises hand and waves wildly, 'I know, I know!'). The segment incorporated 'an original CNN report from 1997'. Here is that report in standalone format.


In 1997, an IBM computer beats world chess champion... (2:19) • '[Published on] May 13, 2022'; the clip displays 'May 11, 1997; New York'.

The description said,

"He can't believe it", were the words the commentators had for a speechless Garry Kasparov, a world chess champion, after he lost to IBM's computer named Deep Blue. Watch how CNN covered the historic event 25 years ago.

At 50 seconds into the 1997 clip, then World Champion Kasparov started accusations that the match was not all that it appeared to be. When I was with About.com, I wrote a couple of articles exploring Kasparov's suspicions. Here they are on Archive.org:-

  • Feature: 'Game Over' : Did IBM Cheat Kasparov? (June 2005); subtitled, 'The film failed to ask the tough questions. The conspiracy theory is still open to speculation.'
  • Review: Game Over - Kasparov and the Machine (ditto); 'Directed by Vikram Jayanti. • Documentary about the 1997 man - machine chess match between World Champion Garry Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue'

For more about the documentary, see Wikipedia's Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (wikipedia.org).

15 May 2022

Controversial NFTs

Last month's Yahoos post, Yahoos of War and NFTs (April 2022), was the first post on this blog to mention NFTs [Non-Fungible Tokens]. I noted,

Although NFTs specific to chess have been seen before in the chess world, the involvement of Chess.com adds weight to their importance. Is this the stuff of fad or future? We'll find out soon enough.

On this month's short list for featured video, I had one clip about the Chess.com NFTs. Not to be confused with the now-definct Chessvibes.com, last seen on this blog in A Big Hole in Chessvibes (May 2013), the video's source was Youtube's Chess Vibes channel.


New Chess.com Feature: NFT's! What is Treasure Chess? Chess NFT Marketplace Tips (10:21) • '[Published on] Apr 22, 2022'

The description said simply,

Check it out yourself: Treasure.chess.com

My biggest takeaway from the video was after reading the comments. NFTs are even more controversial than I had imagined. Sound investments or scams? There are plenty of opinions on both sides.

13 May 2022

Fischer's Storage Locker and eBay

Early in October 2005, an auction related to Bobby Fischer appeared on eBay's site. The auction essentials were:-

Item name: Bobby Fischer's chess book collection and other items
Item number: 8702434554
End date: Oct-13-05 00:51:04 PDT

The description said,

Bobby Fischer's chess book collection and other items • Rescued from a So. Cal. flea market about 6 years ago, here are Bobby Fischer's personal items from the infamous storage locker which was sold for lack of rent payment. It is a unique opportunity for someone in the international chess community to perserve the legacy of who many feel is the most talented chess player of all time.

I have tried many times in the last few years to reach Bobby (I did meet him when we were both younger) to return these items to him, but I feel his latest stand on America would not allow him to do this.

What is being offered is:
- The original manuscript and galley prints of Bobby's best selling book, "My 60 Most Memorable Games" (originally titled, "My Life in Chess") This covers an entire table top (see picture) and contains numerous notes and corrections which should make fascinating study for years to come.
- A ceramic plaque given to Bobby, Bahia Blanca, 3/11/71
- About 20 meticulously crafted "crib" notes for tournament preparation:-
[...]

The built-in counter showed '0001' when I saw the auction, suggesting that I was one of the first people -- perhaps the very first -- to see it. The auction mentioned an additional Excel file, so I sent a message to the seller via eBay's internal messaging system, requsting a copy. He replied,

Here it is. I'm still working on listing all the paperbacks and hard bound books, but it will give you a better idea of what is there. If I finish this week, I'll send you an update. Thanks for your interest. LAAF (Note: The first worksheet is a general index, and each finished worksheet is for a specific box.)

Shown below is a screen capture of the first worksheet. The first column shows box numbers; the last column shows box weights. The box numbers colored green are detailed on a separate worksheet.

I was the About.com chess guide at the time and opened a thread on the related forum. The forum and thread disappeared long ago. If I remember correctly, the eBay auction was cancelled after a few days. Some of the items went on display a few years later.

There are several stories here. The first is the 'infamous [Bekins] storage locker'. The second, perhaps fictional, is the Southern California flea market. The other stories are about the items included in the auction, which were not the total contents of the storage locker. For more about the contents, see A Memorable Life: A Glimpse into the Complex Mind of Bobby Fischer (worldchesshof.org; PDF).

09 May 2022

TCEC/CCC: Stockfish no.1; Dragon, LCZero - Who's Better?

The previous fortnightly report on the world's leading engine vs. engine competitions was TCEC S22, the Fish Again; CCC17 Bullet Top-3 (April 2022). Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: In the S22 Sufi, Stockfish beat KomodoDragon +28-9=63, confirming its status as the world's top engine. The site is running the S22 Subfi between KomodoDragon and LCZero. • CCC: In the 'CCC17 Bullet Semifinals', the leaders are Stockfish, Dragon, and Lc0, well ahead of the other three engines.

Fast forward two weeks... What's the current status?

TCEC: LCZero beat KomodoDragon +24-15=61 in the S22 Subfi to claim bragging rights as the no.2 engine in the world. That was followed by 'S22 - 4x time odds'. The !command provides a nutshell explanation:-

Stockfish vs Stockfish 25%: kind of simulate what effect 4x has, actual 120min+12s (Sufi) vs 30min+3s (QL..L2, Cup, FRC and DFRC) would be too long, so using only 30min+3s vs 7.5min+0.75s, !sufibook, about 2 days

Long-TC Stockfish beat Short-TC Stockfish +33-10=57, proving that a longer time control is an advantage (but we knew that already). The site is currently running a 'VVLTC Bonus'. For an explanation of the acronym VVLTC, see TCEC Stockfish Wins S21; CCC Romance Continues (August 2021).

CCC: In the 'CCC17 Bullet Semifinals', Stockfish, Dragon, and Lc0 finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, with each engine comfortably established in its position. The other three engines finished with minus scores. In the 'CCC17 Bullet Challenger', Dragon is only a few games from clinching victory over Lc0. Barring a catastrophe for Dragon, the 'CCC17 Bullet Finals' will see Stockfish vs. Dragon. Does anyone believe that Stockfish will lose?

[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]

08 May 2022

Chess in the 'Heart of Israel'

After the last two posts reminding us of the horrors of war -- 'Does Not Ship to Belgium' (March 2022) and eBay 'Stands with Ukraine' (April 2022) -- the long running series Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) returns to its spiritual roots. By that I mean art, last seen in Surrealism Does Not Apply (February 2022).

The painting pictured below was titled 'Vintage 1950s-60s Oil Painting BACIA GORDON Mid Century Modern ISRAEL Children Chess'. Working from the available information, I calculate that it sold for $400, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description consisted of a number of keyword/attribute pairs, sometimes inconsistent. For example,

Title: Children Playing Chess - Hadera; Subject: Children Playing Chess - Israel • Production Technique: Oil Painting; Material: Canvas; Framing: Framed • Size: Large; Item Length: 28 in; Item Height: 22 in • Region of Origin: Unknown; Culture: Israel • Time Period Produced: 1950-1959; Year of Production: 1960

[Wikipedia's page, Hadera, informs, 'Hadera is a city located in the Haifa District of Israel, in the northern Sharon region, approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the major cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa.'] Another keyword in the description, 'Seller Notes', warns,

Vintage painting, oil on board. It appears to have been painted while framed. There are a few smears of paint on the inner frame as though the brush touched it while painting. The frame has some wear. It has not been treated with love and care! Lots of smudges, scrapes and marks. Great decor by a prolific, collectable artist. (1904-1977). Painting itself only has minor age wear.

There's a domain dedicated to Bacia Gordon's work, The Artwork of Bacia Gordon (ingatheringofexiles.com). Its welcome starts,

After Bacia Gordon’s passing in 1977, a large collection of her work was shipped to Israel. The idea of bringing Bacia’s collection to Israel was Rivka Guber’s. Since the paintings reflect the history of Lachish region -- people and landscapes, Mrs. Guber wanted this collection to be in the Lachish region. In those days the regional library was called “SHEKEL” which is a combination of three municipalities: Qiryat-Gat, Lachish and Shafir. The library of Qiryat-Gat was the central library. The three participants decided that the central library should be in charge of the collection.

The site's 'More About Bacia' page offers a biography, critical appreciations, and excerpts of her remarks from 'program notes to her many exhibits'. The page starts,

Bacia Gordon (1904-1977) came to the United States from Poland and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. She traveled widely the United States, Mexico, Europe, and Israel. She was a member of, and has exhibited with Artists Equity, Jewish Arts Club, the Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago, The Chicago Art Institute, and in Migdal Ashkalon, Israel. She was also a member of the Chicago Society of Artists. Her work is represented in many private collections in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Paul, Rockford, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Mrs. Gordon spent much time in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s, and most of the works in this web site reflect her stay there.

One of her remarks: 'I have been privileged as few tourists have been, to come close to the heart of Israel.'

06 May 2022

The Fischer Patent

On my chess960 blog (see the sidebar for a link) I'm fond of using the phrase 'Fischer's greatest invention' to describe Chess960/FRC. I'm certain that 99.9% of competent chess players would have a different opinion. Here's one serious alternative.


Chess Patents (m-w.com)
'Patent no. 4884255: Digital Chess ('Fischer') Clock'

More info can be found on US4884255A - Digital chess clock - Google Patents (patents.google.com). For example:-

Abstract: A game timing apparatus and method for simultaneously timing events for two players is disclosed. The method involves presetting a pair of clocks for respective initial time periods, starting one of the clocks to time a first player's move, simultaneously stopping one clock and starting the other, and incrementing or decrementing each of the clocks by a time interval once for each move or a group of moves. [...]

For any skeptics who doubt that Fischer was capable of obtaining this patent, note the additional info against it:-

  • 1988-08-05: Application filed by Fischer Robert J
  • 1989-11-28: Application granted

I'd never encountered Google Patents before. What's new in chess inventions since I created the 'Chess Patents' page in 2007?

03 May 2022

May 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

A few days ago, in A Year of Anniversaries (May 2022), I noted that the year 2022 will commemorate historic chess events from 50 and 25 years ago. Our two American chess magazines from those time periods were still a few months away from covering those events extensively. Nevertheless there was plenty of other news to report.


Left: 'Browne / Levy / Gligoric'
Right: 'Karpov and Kennedy - Together in Cyberspace'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

In the center, Svetozar Gligoric, winner of the Statham Tournament in Lone Pine, California, Flanking him are Walter Browne, left, and Louis Levy, right, co-winners of the National Open in Sparks, Nevada. The National Open story is [inside]; the Lone Pine story will appear next month.

[The cover explanation referred to small copies of the three photos on the same page as the table of contents. On the cover pictured above, Gligoric is beneath the other two.]

We last saw GM Gligoric 'On the Cover' -- with the same photo -- in the April 1971 & 1996 post (April 2021). GM Browne was last seen a few months ago in the post for February 1972 & 1997 (February 2022). As for Levy, see Louis Levy (prabook.com; 'Prabook is a registered trademark of World Biographical Encyclopedia, Inc.').

The CL&R cover description mentioned two tournaments: the National Open and Lone Pine. The first event was covered in a May CL&R article titled 'The National Open' by George Koltanowski. His report started,

The 1972 edition of the annual National Open Tournament, held in Sparks, Nevada, attracted 134 players, and Was a hard-fought battle for the top places right down to the wire. Walter S. Browne, a grandmaster whose official nationality is Australian, and Master Louis Levy of New Jersey shared the title with seven points out of eight. Walter defeated visiting Yugoslav star Svetozar Gligoric in the seventh round in a titanic game lasting 84 moves.

The second event was covered the following month in the June CL&R. Going back a year to the May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover (May 2021), there was no article on the first Lone Pine tournament. Discussing Koltanowski's report on the 1971 National Open, I noted,

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

A year later the oversight was corrected in a two page report by Isaac Kashdan titled 'Statham Tournament at Lone Pine'. It started,

Hastings. England: Palma de Majorca, Spain; Skopje and Vincovci. Yugoslavia; Wijk aan Zee, Holland; Mar del Plata, Argentina; Natanya, Israel; and Reggio Emilia, Italy. What do all these have in common? Chess players will recognize them as small towns around the world which sponsor chess tournaments on a regular basis.

Add to these Lone Pine, California. The second in an unusual series of tournaments was held there from March 12 to 18 this year. Remember the name. It will prove to be one of tae great centers of American chess, at least once a year.

Chess came to Lone Pine when Louis D. Statham established his residence there, moving from an estate in Beverly Hills. He learned chess several years ago, after semi-retiring from an active business career. He is involved in correspondence chess, with dozens of games going on regularly. But there was no one to play with in Lone Pine. Statham wanted the residents to see what the game was all about, and he thought that some of our prominent chess masters might enjoy playing where they could breathe fresh air, away from the usual hotel atmosphere.

The annual event's stature continued to increase in the following years.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Karpov and Kennedy and Chess.net • "One secret to becoming a champion is to associate with strong players. Inevitably their ideas will rub off on you. Through the Internet and Chess.net, average players have a chance to do just that. Talented young players who might never find a capable mentor, now can find some of the best in the world." - World Champion Anatoly Karpov

In his inaugural address, President Clinton made reference to getting the Internet into schools. The next day, World Champion Anatoly Karpov and John Fanning of Chess.net met for almost an hour with Senator Edward Kennedy to discuss the role of chess and education for students throughout the world.

Chess.net is an Internet-based project that combines a free chess server with an online chess school. GM Karpov, 45, is one of the owners, and regularly gives exhibitions there, as well as providing commentary on major events.

Chess.net intends to continue working with teachers and legislators to see how chess can help smooth the transition to the Internet. They also plan to add more programs specifically for scholastic use, and have produced a "Teacher's Guide to Chess on the Internet," which is available free for download from the www.chess.net site, by e-mail by writing to web-master@chess.net.

The 20-page report covers interesting websites, how to play chess on the Internet, and sample lesson plans to using Internet chess to discuss international news and cultures in the classroom.

John Fanning, CEO of Chess.net, explained why they are committed to chess education as well as entertainment. "I'm a father, and I have the same concerns as any parent. Most of the computer/video games our young children are exposed to are riddled with violence, mindless and base. If our children can instead experience the intellectual challenges and excitement of chess, learn deep thinking, focus, and patience, we may help to accomplish something great." - Duif Calvin

Jumping ahead 25 years to the present, everyone knows about the extraordinary success of Chess.com. Has the story of the earlier Chess.net been recorded? That might make a good post some other time.

02 May 2022

Thirtysomething Fritz

Toward the end of last year, Chessbase.com started a series titled 'Thirty years! Happy Birthday Fritz' written by Mr. Chessbase himself, Frederic Friedel. The first article in the series explained,

It was 1991. For five years ChessBase had been vigorously selling its professional database program, which most ambitious chess players, all the way up to the World Champion, were using to study the game. It could show you the latest opening trends, their success in present-day tournaments, or the performance of your opponents in these openings. It could give you examples of important endings, and show you how very strong players handled them.

What the database program couldn't do was to play a game against you, or advise you on the quality of individual moves. Why not, our company thought. A plan was born!

Here is the series of six articles:-

  • 2021-11-05: Part 1 • 'In November 1991, ChessBase launched its first chess playing program for PCs.'
  • 2021-11-09: Part 2 • 1992-2001, 'Kasparov and Fritz; Fritz vs. Deep Blue'
  • 2021-11-13: Part 3 • 'In 2003 there was a gigantic man - machine match in New York. Garry Kasparov faced "X3D Fritz"'
  • 2021-11-23: Part 4 • 2004-2005; 'AI Accoona ToolBar vs Rustam Kasimdzhinov'
  • 2021-12-09: Part 5 • 2002 Kramnik vs. Deep Fritz, Bahrain; 'Brains in Bahrain';
  • 2022-01-10: Part 6 • 2006 Kramnik vs. Deep Fritz, Bonn; 'First half of the match'

In fact, that last part was numbered 6.1 and promised, 'Part two of the epic man vs machine match in Bonn will follow shortly.' At the time I decided not to highlight the series until part 6.2 was available. Nearly four months later, it looks like something happened along the way. For an earlier, related post on this blog, see Searching for Fritz (June 2015; 'I looked for early mentions of a name that has been nearly synonymous with 'chess engine' for more than 20 years: Fritz.')

01 May 2022

A Year of Anniversaries

This year we'll be seeing some big chess anniversaries:-

Those links are to my own pages, showing that I have at least passing familiarity with the subjects. Starting with Kasparov - Deep Blue this month, I expect we'll see the pundits out in force to remind us of the importance of each of those historical matches.

On a more personal note, I'll see a couple of significant anniversaries myself:-

  • 70 years prowling the third stone from the sun
  • 50 years playing correspondence chess
  • 25 years documenting the World Chess Championship (m-w.com; WCC site)
  • 16 years blogging

That last item might seem out of place, but the blogging anniversary is today. The number 16 -- which, as every computer person knows, is 10000 base 2 -- is just as significant to computers as 100 base 10 is to humans. Through the years I've noted the anniversary of the blog on several occasions:-

This might well be the last blog anniversary. A few years ago I announced, The End of Daily Blogging (September 2019). As the following table shows, the number of posts last month was about half of what it was the year that I made that announcement.

Posts in April (count):-
- 2018 April (19)
- 2019 April (22)
- 2020 April (12)
- 2021 April (15)
- 2022 April (11)

The previous tally of personal milestones across my own web resources was 2500 / 20 / 500 (August 2017). Later this year I'll be closing down the WCC site, probably after the next title match -- 'C30' using my method of counting the WCC cycles since FIDE took over. Will he play or won't he play? Carlsen that is. I'm as curious as the next person to find out. After that, it's time to put the whole thing to sleep. We will always have Wikipedia, won't we!

29 April 2022

The Joke's on Me

It was stunning news from the U.S. chess federation: 'Announcing the World Premiere of "Fischer in Iceland," a Jazz Opera in 3 Acts'. The news was illustrated by the poster shown below.

The small print on the poster said,

[Top] 'Libretto by: Dr. Frank Brady based on his book Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall • Music by: National Master Alex King'

[Bottom] 'A jazz opera commissioned by the US Chess Federation premiering in St.Louis this fall!'

The post included capsule bios of both Dr. Brady and NM King. It ended with, 'The opera ain't over until Fischer mates Spassky!'.

The news included a not-so-subtle clue; the date was 'April 1, 2022'. Yes, the date was true, and, no, the news was not: APRIL FOOLS! Announcing the World Premiere of "Fischer in Iceland," a Jazz Opera in 3 Acts (uschess.org).

I'm only a little ashamed to admit that it fooled me. I wasn't going to mention the USchess joke, because April 1st was gradually slipping into the misty past, but an earlier post this week on my World Chess Championship Blog, It's Not an April Fool's Joke (April 2022), gave me a new opportunity.

I'm not usually a fan of April Fool chess jokes -- too many of them are stuff like 'FIDE abolishes draws!' -- but this year brought a good crop. Two worth mentioning are New chess table to ensure security (chessbase.com), and Hackers Leak Lichess Source Code (lichess.org; 'All our inner workings exposed!'). The Chessbase news included a list of previous April Fool's jokes -- Chessbase calls them 'pranks', which is probably the more accurate word.

***

On a related, more serious(?) topic, while working on this month's 'On the Cover' post, April 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (April 2022), I discovered another musical work inspired by Fischer. Page 227 of the April 1972 issue of 'Chess Life & Review' carried an ad:-

THE BALLAD of BOBBY FISCHER
* An historic, seven minute, 33 1/3 record of Bobby's life and chess exploits with a preview of his match with Spassky.
* Sung and performed by Joe Glazer and his Fianchettoed Bishops.
* For single record send one dollar (plus 25 [cents] mailing charge)
* For two or more records send only one dollar per record. (We absorb Mailing costs.)

Make checks payable to —
COLLECTOR RECORDS
Suite 209, 8422 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, Md. 20910

Have any copies of Bobby's Ballad survived?

28 April 2022

Yahoos of War and NFTs

Last months post on chess news in the mainstream press, Yahoos of Resilience (March 2022), was mostly about the war started by Russia in Ukraine. The theme continued in April, the second full month of war, but first let's have the facts about the so-called Yahoos' pool of stories for the month.

For our April end-month search, Google News returned 99 stories. Of those, 85 were dated April; the others dated from previous months.

The chart on the left shows six news sources returning two or more stories. Since the six sources accounted for 35 stories, there were 50 other sources with only a single story.

While the stories on the Russia - Ukraine war were less numerous than in the previous month, they were nevertheless compelling. The first story that attracted my attention was:-

  • 2022-04-24: Chess.com Banned By Russia (chess.com) • 'Yesterday, Chess.com was banned by the Russian government agency Roscomnadzor, the "Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media." Roscomnadzor is responsible for censorship within Russia, a busy occupation these days. Since the start of Russia's war against Ukraine on February 24th, Roscomnadzor has banned hundreds of sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google News, BBC News, NPR, and Amnesty International.'

The second story attracting my attention was about 'the only non-Russian to be targeted by the American authorities'. What could that possibly have to do with chess? Read on:-

  • 2022-04-23: War in Ukraine: Joel Lautier, the French chess star on the US sanctions list (france24.com) • 'French chess star and businessman Joel Lautier was added to the list of people targeted by US sanctions over the war in Ukraine back in March, French business daily Les Echos reported on Wednesday, the only non-Russian to be targeted by the American authorities. [...] Ironically, Lautier was put on the US sanctions list on the same day as Anatoly Karpov, the former world chess champion who became a Russian MP and voted for the war in Ukraine.'

Twenty years ago, GM Lautier was better known in the chess world than he is today. In its 'stub' page Joel Lautier (wikipedia.org), Wikipedia sums up his chess career as follows:-

Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada in 1973, Lautier first major success came in 1986, when he won the World Under-14 Championship. He earned his international master title in 1988, also winning the World Junior Chess Championship that year. He was awarded his grandmaster title in 1990. He won the French Chess Championships in 2004 and 2005. [...] Lautier is one of the founders of the Association of Chess Professionals [ACP], and served as its president from 2004 to 2005. He was a second to Vladimir Kramnik in the Classical World Chess Championship 2000 against Garry Kasparov.

Of the many other non-war chess stories worth mentioning, one received coverage in three disparate sources:-

That third story, from Cointelegraph.com, outlined the technical details:-

Wyre, a fiat-to-crypto and payment infrastructure firm, partnered up with the online chess community Chess.com to launch a new NFT marketplace called Treasure Chess. The platform allows users to turn a chess game played on treasure.chess.com into a Treasure NFT. Users can then purchase, sell, mint and collect their "Treasures" on the layer-2 blockchain, Polygon.

Although NFTs specific to chess have been seen before in the chess world, the involvement of Chess.com adds weight to their importance. Is this the stuff of fad or future? We'll find out soon enough.

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

25 April 2022

TCEC S22, the Fish Again; CCC17 Bullet Top-3

Relative strength doesn't change quickly among the top engines competing in the two foremost engine vs. engine competitions. In the previous fortnightly post, TCEC Stockfish; CCC Stockfish (April 2022), the no.1 dog was Stockfish, no.2 dog was Dragon. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: In the S22 Superfinal, Stockfish is beating KomodoDragon +12-3=17. Extrapolating this gives a final score of +38-9=53 [64.5-35.5]. • CCC: In the 'CCC17 Rapid Final' match, Stockfish beat Dragon +91-28=181. The site is currently running the 'CCC17 Bullet Qualification'.

Two weeks later, the dogs are holding their positions. The no.3 dog is LCZero, hard at the heels of no.2.

TCEC: In the S22 [Season 22] Superfinal, Stockfish beat KomodoDragon +28-9=63 [59.5-40.5], confirming its status as the world's top engine. To put this in historical context, we can go back to TCEC Stockfish Wins S21; CCC Romance Continues (August 2021), where I noted,

Stockfish beat LCZero in the S21 Sufi by a score of +19-7=74 (56.0-44.0) [...], Stockfish's fourth straight [Sufi] victory.

Now we can talk about the Fish's fifth straight Sufi victory. The TCEC is currently running the S22 Subfinal ('Subfi') between KomodoDragon and LCZero, the two engines that earned second and third places in S22. After a little more than 10% of the 100 games have been played, LCZero is leading by one point.

CCC: In last week's off-week post, The CCC16 Season (April 2022), I mapped the sequence of tournaments for that first season under new management: Rapid, Bullet, Blitz. In a post last year TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Both Underway (November 2021), I mapped the sequence of four stages for the first tournament: Qualification, Main, Semifinals, Finals. The stages have evolved since that 'CCC16 Rapid' post. The format for the 'CCC17 Bullet' tournament is:-

• Qualification (eight engines, three promoting),
• Main event (twelve engines, six promoting),
• Semifinals (six engines, two promoting), and
• Challenger (810 rounds, 1620 games)
• Finals (810 rounds, 1620 games).

As useful as that overview of the stages is, it doesn't tell the complete story. Since each stage is scheduled to last a week, the number of rounds/games for a stage depends on the time control, bullet being the fastest (meaning more rounds).

'Semifinals (two promoting)' is also misleading. The engine finishing no.1 promotes into the 'Finals', while the engines finishing no.2&3 battle it out in the 'Challenger' for the other spot in the 'Finals'. At least that's what I determined in TCEC S22 DivP, CCC17 Rapid : Both Underway (March 2022), and I have no reason to believe that the current 'CCC17 Bullet' tournament is any different.

Back to the status of the 'CCC17 Bullet' tournament, still underway, three engines promoted from the 'Qualification' stage to the 'Main' stage: Rubi, Seer, Igel. In fact, Igel and Stoofvlees finished with the same score and I wasn't able to determine what tiebreak system was used. The tournament rules ('Info' tab) only mention tied matches. Igel beat Stoofvlees in their individual mini-match, which might well have been the basis of the tiebreak.

The three promoting engines from the 'Qualification' stage finished at the bottom of the next 'Main' stage. In the 'Semifinals', the leaders are Stockfish, Dragon, and Lc0, well ahead of the other three engines.

[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]

24 April 2022

Women in Chess Podcasts

In this monthly series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), women's chess plays a recurring role. In the last year or so we've had two posts featuring women:-

This video features the current women's world no.1, Hou Yifan. She is the only woman ranked in the top-100 'open' list (both men and women).


Hou Yifan: "It's the starting point of women's chess" | FIDE Podcast - Episode 3 (1:03:17) • '[Published on] Mar 28, 2022'

The podcast's YouTube description said,

Former Women's World Champion GM Hou Yifan is the third guest on the FIDE podcast in this series of interviews by Lilli Hahn for the Year of the Woman in Chess.

For more about the FIDE series, see:-

That second link leads to a list of related podcasts on FIDE Podcast (podbean.com). For the previous post on this blog featuring a chess podcast, see USchess in Podcasts (June 2018).

18 April 2022

The CCC16 Season

Last month, in TCEC S22 DivP, CCC17 Rapid : Both Underway (March 2022), I made a mistake. Although I was trying to prepare an overview of the first CCC season that took place in 2021 under new management, I overlooked one of the main events.

The chart I prepared for the post was missing the 'CCC16 Bullet' event. The chart showed the most recent event at the top ('CCC16 Blitz') and the oldest event at the bottom ('CCC Blitz Championship 2021'), so 'CCC16 Bullet' should have been sandwiched between 'CCC16 Blitz' and 'CCC16 Rapid'.

The correct order of all four events is shown in the new chart on the left. Since the purpose of the chart was to show the evolution of the different stages (qualification, main, semifinals, ...) from one event to the next, it was wrong to leave out one of them. The correct order -- top to bottom -- of the four events is:-

  • CCC16 Blitz
  • CCC16 Bullet
  • CCC16 Rapid
  • CCC Blitz Championship 2021

The links to four corresponding posts on this blog are documented in the post with the original, erroneous chart. When the current season (CCC17) finishes, I can prepare a similar chart if necessary.

I decided not to change the chart in the original post, because this would likely have led to discrepancies in the text. Apologies for the error.

17 April 2022

War in Simpler Times

For this month's Flickr favorite, I could easily have done another post on the Russia - Ukraine war, like last month's Black and White, Good and Evil (March 2022). Instead, I'll keep the war theme, but go back a century and a half.


Robert O. Tyler playing chess © Flickr user CW Van Deusen under Creative Commons.

The description explained,

From Elizabeth L. C. Dixon's collection of Civil War photos. Original is in the Dixon-Welling family collection at the Connecticut Historical Society.

For more about General Tyler, see Wikipedia's page Robert O. Tyler. It starts,

Robert Ogden Tyler (1831–1874) was an American soldier who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was commander of the Artillery Reserve of the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, where his artillery batteries played an important role in the Union victory.

William Tecumseh Sherman, another general who served during the American Civil War, was the originator of the phrase 'War is hell'. In the 1860s they had newspaper accounts and still photographs of generals playing chess. Today we have smartphone videos of corpses lying in the street. Sherman spoke the truth.

11 April 2022

TCEC Stockfish; CCC Stockfish

In the previous fortnightly post on the world's leading engine vs. engine competitions, The TCEC/CCC Hegemony (March 2022), I established that Stockfish is starting to look uunbeatable. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: In S22 DivP, Stockfish finished a half point ahead of KomodoDragon, which finished three points ahead of LCZero. First there will be an 'Infrafinal' between the engines that finished 3rd and 4th in DivP. Then follows the 'Superfinal' between Stockfish and KomodoDragon. • CCC: Dragon is currently getting crushed by Stockfish in the 'CCC17 Rapid Final' match.

Did I jump the gun on Stockfish? Let's look at the current situation.

TCEC: In the S22 Infrafinal, LCZero beat rofChade +21-1=28. Yes, LCZero lost only one game, confirming a large difference in strength between the top three engines and the rest of the pack.

In the S22 Superfinal, Stockfish is beating KomodoDragon +12-3=17. Extrapolating this gives a final score of +38-9=53. This confirms a large difference in strength between Stockfish and the next two engines. In the previous 'Hegemony' post, I wrote,

Then follows a 'Subfi' (Subfinal?) between the winner of the 'Infrafinal' and the loser of the 'Superfinal', probably LCZero and KomodoDragon.

Neither of the two matches after S22 DivP produced any suspense. What will the third match bring?

CCC: In the 'CCC17 Rapid Final' match, Stockfish beat Dragon +91-28=181. As the footnote below says, 'Dragon = KomodoDragon', making Stockfish a likely double winner -- both TCEC and CCC-- over Dragon. In the 'Hegemony' post, I also wrote,

In 2022, Stockfish is the engine to beat. Between Lc0 and Dragon, it's a tossup. Other engines are far behind.

After the TCEC S22 Subfi match, we'll know if 'tossup' is the right word. If KomodoDragon beats LCZero convincingly, all suspense will have disappeared.

Back to the CCC, the site is currently running the 'CCC17 Bullet Qualification'. And so a new cycle begins once again with most of the suspense happening in the preliminary events.

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

10 April 2022

'Making Moves Against Russia'

I'm a news junkie and Euronews, both in English and in French, is one of my favorite news sources. I turn to its channels several times a day. The pan-European focus sets it apart from national news stations.


How Ukraine's chess community are making moves against Russia (0:59) • '[Published on] Mar 22, 2022'

I missed this particular segment when it was aired. The Youtube description said,

Lviv is said to be the birthplace of as many as 20-30 chess grandmasters, such as Andrei Volokitin, who signed an open letter from players refusing to face Russian opponents

The action of the Ukrainian players is largely symbolic. Top Russian chess players are well aware of the situation in Ukraine and have little influence over Vladimir Putin. As someone once said, 'Chess players are mostly harmless'. For more on the Euronews story, see How Ukraine's chess community are making moves against Russia (euronews.com).

05 April 2022

April 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

Seeing red? This month's post on U.S. chess magazines from 50 and 25 years ago is the chronological follow-up to last month's March 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (March 2022).


Left: '?'
Right: 'Mickey, can you spare $6,000 for a chess set? • Krush takes silver at Disney's World Rapid Chess Championship'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Andy Soltis, winner at Reggio Emilia, his second international tournament and his first international win. His story appears [inside]. Photo at the Manhattan Chess Club by Burt Hochberg.

The story inside was titled 'Fun and Games at Reggio' by Andy Soltis. It started,

It was an enjoyable return to Reggio Emilia this past holiday season and, for me, a profitable one, With the value of the [Italian] Lire up and the number of grandmasters down, I took a bigger than usual first prize in a festive tournament with 12 players from 10 countries.

The competition was relatively weak -- a Category 3 event under the new FIDE system -- and there were only four titled players: Grandmaster Damjanovic and International Master Masic of Yugoslavia, IM Kovacs of Hungary, and IM Silvino Garcia of Cuba, I had a chance to renew old Students' Olympiad acquaintances with Garcia, Lombard of Switzerland and Skalkotas of Greece. The able, multilingual Enrico Paoli played host and tournament director after dropping out as a player just before it began to make room for Lombard.

The mention of the Students' Olympiad harks back to a previous 'On the Cover': November 1970 & 1995 (November 2020). The CL&R cover there explained, 'Andy Soltis and Ken Rogoff, Members of the World Champion Student Team'.

On the same page as Soltis's Reggio Emilia story was a second story with a headline in a more prominent type than 'Fun and Games'. It blared a question in caps, 'GOING TO SEE FISCHER - SPASSKY?', then answered,

Please do not call or write to USCF about transportation to the match or accommodations at either Yugoslavia or Iceland. We are not involved in arranging transportation. tours, or tickets. Because we are swamped with essential work, we regret that we cannot find time to answer any inquiries on this subject.

Whatever information we have which might be helpful to persons planning to attend the match will be published in this magazine. The following information [about Belgrade] is all we have at present; we hope to give you an Icelandic address in our next issue.

For more about the 1972 match venue, see last month's 'On the Cover', referenced in the first paragraph at the top of this post.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

The April 1997 CL lacked an introductory paragraph explaining the choice of cover art and text. It featured three consecutive two page articles relating to the cover, all illustrated with many color photos. The first article was 'Manhattan Chess Set Auction Likely to become Annual Event' by Ed Pfeiffer. It started,

Auctions of collectible chess sets are nothing new for the Phillips gallery. The venerable British firm, which is celebrating its 200th Anniversary this year, has held such sales twice a year in London for the past decade.

On November 6 in Manhattan, Phillips staged its first chess set sale in the U.S. Obviously pleased with the results, auctioneer Claudia Florian, who manages the Phillips salesroom in New York, told the auction audience there would be another one next year. In a post-sale interview Luke Honey, the London-based specialist who arranged the first-time sale, said he expected them to become annual events.

The Phillips sale brought 115 lots to the block including books, games, and other chess-related items: and sets from Britain, Africa, the Orient, Mexico, Europe, and the U.S. Of particular interest were about 100 lots from Laurence I. Wood, a well-known chess set collector from Washington, DC.

The second illustrated article was 'The Art of Chess: A Celebration' (unsigned). Although similar in appearance to the story on the Phillips auction, there was no obvious connection between the two stories other than the art theme.

Between September 16 and October 3 of last year, New York City, home to countless galleries, exhibits, and museums, hosted one more exhibit -- one much closer to the hearts of most chessplayers. "The Art of Chess: a celebration" was held at the Shirley Fiterman Gallery at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and funded by the Fiterman Family, the BMCC Chess Club and the BMCC Student Government Association.

The organizing force behind this two-week long celebration was this month's Volunteer of the Month, Dean Howard Prince. It was a monumental task, as can easily be ascertained by a partial list of artists: Yoko Ono, Samuel Bak, Elaine B. Rothwell, Stepan Shrem, Claire Becker, James Todd, Marko, Smyth, Despo Magoni, Sofia Polgar, Mitchell Beja, William Lombardy.

The third illustrated article was 'Disney à Paris' by Aviv Friedman. It heralded a future star of U.S. chess.

One of the most colorfully pleasant chess events in the world takes place annually at the Disneyland Paris theme park in France. On December 15, 1996, 164 kids from 42 countries with their coaches, guests, and guardians joined to take part in the second annual "Mickey for Kids" FIDE World championship for children under 14. [...]

The US team: The most successful representative was our "two-weeks-shy-of-13" New Yorker 1rina Krush. With an admirably positive fighting spirit and discipline she scored a fantastic seven points (including a last-round win against the already-sure winner of her section, [Regina] Pokorna) to win the silver medal. With a rating of 2200 USCF she is indeed a name to watch for in the years to come.

Make that 'a big name to watch'! According to Wikipedia's Irina Krush,

Irina Krush was born in Odessa, USSR (now Ukraine). She learned to play chess at age five, emigrating with her parents to Brooklyn that same year (1989). At age 14, Krush won the 1998 U.S. Women's Chess Championship to become the youngest U.S. women's champion ever. She has won the championship on seven other occasions...

For more about the Disney events, see the previous post Karpov at Disney (October 2015), where I mentioned Karpov appearances at Disneyland Paris in 1993, 1994, and 1998. I'm guessing that the 1996 event, where Karpov made an appearance, flew under my radar because he didn't play. To be confirmed...

04 April 2022

Stockfish Breaks All the Barriers

Two weeks ago the off-week engine post was Stockfish Sparkles (March 2022). This post continues with the Stockfish theme.


NCM Stockfish Dev Builds
(nextchessmove.com)

The small print above the chart is self-explanatory:-

NCM plays each Stockfish dev build 20,000 times against Stockfish 7. This yields an approximate Elo difference and establishes confidence in the strength of the dev builds.

Another recent off-week engine post was Breaking the 3400 Barrier (February 2022), where I reckoned that Stockfish broke that rating milestone around March 2019. According to the NCM chart above, Stockfish is currently playing 200 Elo above its March 2019 strength.

The Fish blew past the 3500 mark when it switched to NNUE evaluations. That corresponds to a post on this blog from the same period: Stockfish NNUE = +90 Elo (August 2020). I'll come back to this current post if I ever need to do a 'Breaking 3500' post.

03 April 2022

eBay 'Stands with Ukraine'

Last month's edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), was titled, 'Does Not Ship to Belgium' (March 2022). The title had to do with the Russian attack on Ukraine, which happened near the end of February. I wondered,

Is there any connection between my location (Belgium) and the seller's location (Russia)? Indeed there is. [...] When will eBay stop listings from sellers in Russia?

The answer to that last question came during the week after the post: San Jose-Based EBay Suspends Transactions to Russian Addresses (nbcbayarea.com; 12 March 2022).

[eBay:] "We stand with Ukraine and are taking a number of steps to support the Ukrainian people and our sellers in the region" ... In addition, eBay confirmed they've removed all Putin-related products "that are not clearly anti-Putin."

This resulted in a non-trivial reduction -- I calculate 10-20% -- in the number of sold items listed by eBay for March. These are, of course, chess items and Russia is one of the strongest chess playing countries in the world. I don't know if this reduction has anything to do with the low number of interesting items sold in March, but I couldn't find anything visually attractive that I hadn't discussed before.

The item I chose for this post is shown in the image below. It relates to a 'Top eBay Chess Items' post from a year ago, Lasker, Buschke, Euwe, and Keres (April 2021), where Dr. Lasker's non-chess book 'The Community of the Future' ('Price: $2.50' when it was published) played a small but important role. The March 2022 auction was titled, 'RARE VINTAGE EMANUEL LASKER (Chess Champ) COMMUNITY of the FUTURE 1st Ed 1940 HC'. The book sold for somewhat less than $400, 'Best Offer'.

The description said,

In 1940, the great second Chess Champion of the World, Emanuel Lasker (having reigned 1894-1921), summed up his worldly philosophy and advised his readers on what was to be done to struggle toward a better future. Lasker’s final book.

A great holiday gift for chess players, philosophers, history aficionados, public policy researchers.

Written in 1940 as WWII is ravaging Europe (while the USA bides its time) this prescriptive book of 295 pages addresses education, employment and the exodus of Jews (those so fortunate) from Europe. To Alaska, suggests Lasker (see a fictional treatment of the Alaska plan in Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union, in which a character calls himself Emanuel Lasker).

For Lasker’s 60th birthday, Albert Einstein wrote: “Emanuel Lasker is one of the strongest minds I ever met in my life. A Renaissance man, gifted with an untamable urge for liberty; averse to any social bonds…. As a genuine individualist and self-willed soul, he loves deduction; and inductive research leaves him cold…. I love his writings, irrespective of their content of truth, as the fruits of a great original and free mind...” (quote from “Albert Einstein and Chess,” posted online by Bill Wall. Also see Hannak's biography of Lasker).

This copy has some chips on spine and back and is marred on cover boards, but not excessively (see photos). The pages have no tears and the binding is fully intact. Deckle-edged pages.

There was another book sold during the month, a bound magazine annual, that related to a previous post on this blog. I'll try to add it ASAP.

31 March 2022

Yahoos of Resilience

In last month's Yahoos post, Yahoos of Madness, Yahoos of Tragedy (1 March 2022; see the footnote below for an explanation of Yahoos), I wrote,

Before gathering the data for this post on February Yahoos, I had already decided on the theme -- Russia's brutal, barbaric attack on neighboring Ukraine and its impact on international chess. [...] I'll come back in a month to see how the situation has evolved.

Nearly a month later, it's time to make good on that promise. First, let's have an overview of the month's Google News sources.

Of the 100 stories flagged by Google News, 82 were from March, 18 from previous months. Of the 82 stories from March, 16 were sourced from Chess.com, while another 10 sources had at least two stories. That left 40 sources with a single story.

Of the 82 stories, around a dozen had something to do with the war between Russia and Ukraine. Of the 16 stories from Chess.com, four were related to the war. Note that 16 Chess.com stories is the lowest ever for a single month from the no.1 chess news source.

All of the Chess.com stories were signed Peter Doggers. All received hundreds of comments from chess fans. For the sake of completeness, I added two more stories that were not returned by Google News.

That list alone adds up to significant chess news for a single month. It reflects the fact that both Russia and Ukraine are long-time powerhouses in world chess.

In a normal month I would feature some of the other sources shown in the chart above, of which there are several worth exploring. A new source that caught my eye was Kotaku, which describes itself as 'Gaming Reviews, News, Tips and More'.

Both stories relate to topics that I've followed elsewhere. For more about the Elon Musk story, see It's Not Polytopia (March 2022), on this blog.

The GM Nakamura story is currently unfolding at the FIDE Grand Prix, where he has reportedly clinched a spot in the forthcoming Candidates tournament. This confirms his status as one of the 10 best players in the world. For more about the event, see my page 2022 Grand Prix (m-w.com).

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

28 March 2022

The TCEC/CCC Hegemony

Continuing with the two premier engine vs. engine competitions, we can summarize the previous post, TCEC S22 DivP, CCC17 Rapid : Both Underway (March 2022), in a few sentences:-

TCEC: With two weeks to go in DivP, KomodoDragon, Stockfish, and LCZero are in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, well ahead of the other five engines. • CCC: In the 'CCC17 Rapid Semifinals', which have just finished, Stockfish, Dragon, and Lc0 are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, well ahead of the other three engines. The next event in 'CCC17 Rapid' will be a challenger match between Dragon and Lc0.

Two weeks later the situation has evolved according to expectations. Stockfish is the odds-on favorite to win both events.

TCEC: In S22 DivP, Stockfish finished a half point ahead of KomodoDragon, which finished three points ahead of LCZero. What's next?

First, there will be an 'Infrafinal' ('Infi' or 'Infra') between the engines that finished 3rd and 4th in DivP, i.e. LCZero and rofChade. LCZero won their DivP minimatch +3-1=4. Then follows the 'Superfinal' ('Sufi') between Stockfish and KomodoDragon, who scored +1-0=7 in their minimatch. Then follows a 'Subfi' (Subfinal?) between the winner of the 'Infrafinal' and the loser of the 'Superfinal', probably LCZero and KomodoDragon (+0-0=8 in their minimatch). These three matches will all use forced opening variations.

CCC: Dragon won the 300-game 'CCC17 Rapid Challenger' match against Lc0 by the margin of a single game. Dragon is currently getting crushed by Stockfish in the final match.

In 2022, Stockfish is the engine to beat. Between Lc0 and Dragon, it's a tossup. Other engines are far behind. Who will break this hegemony?

[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]

27 March 2022

It's Not Polytopia

We associate Elon Musk with many concepts -- Tesla Motors, SpaceX, the Boring Company -- but not with chess. When he wrote on Twitter...

Chess is a simple game. Understandable when all we had to play with were squirrels and rocks, but now we have computers.

...he achieved instant induction into the The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) Hall of Fame.


How Everyone Reacted On Elon Musk's Tweet On Chess Being Simple (2:05) • '[Published on] Mar 8, 2022'

From YouTube channel Funny Chess Times, the video description said,

Elon Musk tweeted that chess is a simple game and I am showing how the chess community reacted to it.

A big part of that reaction is from Chess24's Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson. I agree with GM Nakamura's reaction: 'I literally don't care.' Musk followed his provocative tweet saying,

Polytopia is *way* better imo, if you like strategy games.

What's Polytopia? According to Wikipedia's page The Battle of Polytopia,

[It's] a turn-based 4X strategy game developed by Swedish gaming company Midjiwan AB. Players play as one of sixteen tribes to develop an empire and defeat opponents in a low poly square-shaped world.

We'll come back in 1500 years to see if Polytopia has survived and how it has evolved.

21 March 2022

Stockfish Sparkles

In a logical world, this post would follow up the previous offweek post in the TCEC/CCC series, ICGA/AI4S ACG 2021 (March 2022; 'And that gives me two reasons for a followup'), but I liked this next video so much that I had to share it ASAP. It's from Youtube's Chess.com channel and all three games were played during Chess.com CCC events.


These Are Stockfish's Best Ever Chess Moves (23:51) • '[Published on] Mar 9, 2022'

The description said simply,

Join @Keti Tsatsalashvili as she presents the best moves EVER played by the strongest chess engine of all time, Stockfish!

One of the comments asked, 'Where can we find all the complete games in PGN?' I looked for a companion post on Chess.com, without success. I would have settled for a list of references to the original games. Someone should tell Stockfish that double Rook sacrifices are supposed to be uncommon.

NB: The title of the previous, linked post expands to {International Computer Games Association} / {AI4Society} {Advances in Computer Games}. Now you know why I used acronyms.

20 March 2022

Black and White, Good and Evil

Eight years ago I posted, Ukrainian Chess Players (March 2014), which started,

These days Ukraine is on everyone's mind. The happenings of the past few weeks reminded me [...]

Eight years later I can say that the past few weeks reminded me of that old post. Here's a Flickr photo from that period. It's just as relevant today as it was then. The symbolism needs no explanation, although we can certainly question its accuracy.


Politics © Flickr user Samuel Thorne under Creative Commons.

What about the current generation of players? A few years after 'Ukrainian Chess Players', I posted, Karjakin's Federation Change (June 2016). That post ended,

[I] know that the political realities of the region are difficult to fathom. The real world is not reducible to black and white, nor to good and evil.

I no longer agree with that statement. Maybe the real world is not reducible to black and white, but good and evil are not the same as colors.

14 March 2022

TCEC S22 DivP, CCC17 Rapid : Both Underway

The title applies to the world's foremost engine vs. engine competitions and builds on the post from two weeks ago, TCEC S22 L1, CCC17 Rapid : Both Underway. To summarize that post:-

TCEC: Koivisto promoted from S22 L3 to L2 to L1, where it is leading. • CCC: In the 'CCC16 Blitz Final', Stockfish beat Dragon. The site then opened the 'CCC17 Rapid' event, finished its 'Qualification' stage, and started the 'Main' stage, where 'top 6 promote to Semifinals'.

Let's report on the current status of both competitions.

TCEC: In S22 L1, Koivisto finished third, a half point behind rofChade and SlowChess, who both promoted to DivP (Premier Division). With two weeks to go in DivP after nearly a week of play, KomodoDragon, Stockfish, and LCZero are in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, well ahead of the other five engines.

CCC: In the 'CCC17 Rapid Semifinals', which have just finished, Stockfish, Dragon, and Lc0 are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, well ahead of the other three engines. This echoes the current TCEC situation.

What's next? The structures of the three previous CCC competitions are shown in the chart on the left.

After the semifinals, 'CCC Blitz 2021' and 'CCC16 Rapid' had a final match followed by a runners-up match. 'CCC16 Blitz' had a challenger match to determine the second engine for the final match.

It seems to me that 'CCC16 Blitz' had a better structure. After the final match determines the overall winner, few people care about the lower places.

I'm guessing that the next event in 'CCC17 Rapid' will be a challenger match between Dragon and Lc0. [NB: This is indeed what happened.]

The following table lists the posts where I gave the winners for each of the three events in the chart:-

The titles for two of those posts failed to mention the CCC winner. I was probably unsure of the current status of the event. CCC communication with the outside world is not brilliant, but I should be more careful.

[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]

13 March 2022

A Different Kind of Fischer Bio

When I saw the title of this month's featured video, I immediately thought of Joseph Ponterotto, last seen in The Real Bobby Fischer? (February 2016). Fortunately, the ''Fischer as madman' theme isn't what this clip is about. It's a sympathetic biography of Fischer using animated drawings. Some people might call it a cartoon, but for me it's too thoughtful to be called that.


Why Did the World’s Best Chess Player Go Insane? (22:12) • '[Published on] Mar 4, 2022'

When the animator introduced himself, I thought he said, 'Forty-two', but in fact it's 'Thoughty2'. The description explains,

Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos about science, tech, history, opinion and just about everything else.

The question in the title isn't really answered and there are a number of factual errors, so it won't please everyone. With over 1.1 million views and 3400 comments less than two weeks after its publication, the video shows that the Fischer story continues to attract interest 50 years after his near-legendary rise to the World Championship.

08 March 2022

March 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

Here we go again. Another month, another look at American chess magazines from 50 and 25 years ago. Last month, in February 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (February 2022), we saw American chess players. This month we see American chess institutions.


Left: '?'
Right: 'Keep This Issue! • National Directory of Chess Clubs • The Yerminator Wins Again!'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Carl Pilnick, winner of the 7th American Open.

The lead story was 'Seventh Annual American Open', signed 'Carl L. Budd, President Santa Monica Bay Chess Club'. He opened his report saying,

From a record 306 entries in the Seventh Annual American Open Tournament, five players tied for first place with scores of 7-1. Carl Pilnick, a strong master from Los Angeles was awarded the championship trophy in a very close tie-breaking decision. Larry Evans was second and Walter Browne third in this most difficult tie-break. Junior master Ross Stoutenborough and David Strauss, an unrated player recently from England were the other two successful participants.

Was there any news about the forthcoming Spassky - Fischer match? (My convention is to list the reigning titleholder first, which can be reversed after the match is played and the winner is known. It helps maintain objectivity.) Last seen in the 'On the Cover' post for December 1971 & 1996 (December 2021), the March 1972 issue of CL&R had a box titled 'Site for Fischer - Spassky' in its report on the American Open:-

Just as this issue was going to press, FIDE President Max Euwe announced in Amsterdam his decision that the World Championship Match between current title-holder Boris Spassky of the USSR and his American challenger Bobby Fischer will be held in Belgrade and Reykjavik. According to Euwe, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, which was Fischer's first choice, will host the first 12 games of the 24-game match, and Reykjavik, Iceland, Spassky's first choice, will host the second 12 games. Euwe also announced that the match must begin not later than June 25, 1972.

We all know how that worked out, don't we? Maybe not -- why was Belgrade dropped?

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Max Ferguson designed our cover this month. A freelancing artist, Max chose the "Capa" table at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City as the focal point of his work. The table was donated by Louis Wolf, a teammate of Capablanca when both were at Columbia University. It was used by Bobby Fischer in his famous "teletyped" participation in the 1965 Capablanca Memorial in Havana.

If you travel, you'll want to keep this issue. Never again will you be "chessless in Seattle" or anywhere else.

Before we get excited enough about that second paragraph to point out that 'anywhere else' means the good old USA, let's remember that the title was '*National* Directory of Chess Clubs'. The four pages of small print listed around 500 clubs. My old Friday night haunt from the mid-1970s, the Hartford Chess Club, was missing from the list of 22 Connecticut clubs.

For two photos of Fischer and the '"Capa" table', see September 1965 'On the Cover' (September 2015). The March 1997 cover of CL is one of my all-time favorite CL covers.

As for the cover mention of 'Yerminator', the nickname applied to GM Alex Yermolinsky. He won the 1996 American Open, the 32nd in the series.

***

Later: Re 'Why was Belgrade dropped?', see Frank Brady's 'Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy' (books.google.com); p.210 confirms the CL&R account. This was just one paragraph in a 10-page narrative about the choice of match venue.

07 March 2022

ICGA/AI4S ACG 2021

This video, titled '54 Years of Progress in Computer Chess', is signed at the end by two organizations:-

  • International Computer Games Association (icga.org), and
  • AI4Society (ai4society.ca); 'One of the five Signature Areas of Research and Teaching of the University of Alberta, focused on Artificial Intelligence, its applications, and its transformative role for our society.'

Although all notes give credit to both Mark Lefler and Larry Kaufman, GM Kaufman does all of the talking, which is based on a presentation that I haven't been able to locate. I'll try to follow that up as soon as I can.


Advances in Computer Games 2021 - Keynotes 2, Mark Lefler and Larry Kaufman [Komodochess.com] (47:23) • '[Published on] Feb 4, 2022'

The description starts,

The first ACG conference was held in 1975 (then called 'Advances in Computer Chess'). 47 years later, we are still going strong! Since the 1990s, the conference has been organized by the International Computer Games Association. ACG features cutting edge artificial intelligence technology as applied to computer games. This year’s conference was held online 23-25 November. • Video intro by Jaap van den Herik.

For more info about the conference, see Advances in Computer Games 2021 (icga.org), including bios for all keynote speakers, links to accepted papers, and links to all 11 conference videos available on YouTube's AI4S channel. For more info about other papers, see ACG: Advances in Computer Games 2023 2022 2021 ... (wikicfp.com; 'A Wiki for Calls For Papers').

Those resources expand to more resources. And that gives me two reasons for a followup.

06 March 2022

'Does Not Ship to Belgium'

For this 12th anniversary edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I decided to feature a chess set. The last time I did this was Marquetry and Pyrography (December 2020), which linked to the previous post and so on and so forth.

The item pictured below, titled 'Soviet Porcelain Chess Set: The tree of life. Dulevo Factory, 1988', sold for US $2000, 'Buy It Now'. Apologies if you came here to see the set, but it's not the reason for this post.

The description said,

The chess set is the "Tree of Life" performed by master farforist M. M. Obrubov on Dulevo porcelain factory in 1988, the Author studied at the Abramtsevo art-industrial school im. V. M. Vasnetsov, graduated from courses for artists in porcelain at LVHU. V. I. Mukhina. Since 1977 (with short breaks) he worked in the art laboratory of the Dulevo porcelain factory, was engaged in the design and manufacture of artistic samples for mass production and execution of author's products.

From 1992 to 2000 - Director of JSC "White lion". Participant of exhibitions since 1987. At the Dulevo factory was filled with three sets of chess: one was in the Museum Dulevo plant, and the other set was sold in Japan through a trading company "Karpov-Center", and the third is placed on our auction.

If I were featuring the set in this post I would investigate what 'farforist' means and try to make sense out of the second paragraph, last sentence. That's also not the reason for this post.

The reason for the post is the section under the price. It says,

Shipping: Does not ship to Belgium | See details. Located in: Moscow, Russian Federation

Is there any connection between my location (Belgium) and the seller's location (Russia)? Indeed there is. All current items from the same seller have the same 'Shipping' info. The mention 'See details' expands to:-

Shipping to: Worldwide • Excludes: Aruba, Afghanistan, Angola, Anguilla, Albania, Andorra, Netherlands Antilles, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Armenia, American Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan Republic, Burundi, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Bahrain, Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Barbados, Brunei Darussalam, Bhutan, Botswana, Central African Republic, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, China, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Congo, Republic of the, Cook Islands, Colombia, Comoros, Cape Verde Islands, Costa Rica, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Djibouti, Dominica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Algeria, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Western Sahara, Spain, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, Fiji, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), France, Micronesia, Gabon Republic, United Kingdom, Georgia, Guernsey, Ghana, Gibraltar, Guinea, Guadeloupe, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Grenada, Greenland, Guatemala, French Guiana, Guam, Guyana, Hong Kong, Honduras, Croatia, Republic of, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Iraq, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Jordan, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Korea, South, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Saint Lucia, Liechtenstein, Sri Lanka, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Macau, Morocco, Monaco, Moldova, Madagascar, Maldives, Mexico, Marshall Islands, Macedonia, Mali, Malta, Montenegro, Mongolia, Mozambique, Mauritania, Montserrat, Martinique, Mauritius, Malawi, Malaysia, Mayotte, Namibia, New Caledonia, Niger, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Niue, Netherlands, Norway, Nepal, Nauru, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Paraguay, French Polynesia, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Saint Helena, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Solomon Islands, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, San Marino, Somalia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Serbia, Suriname, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Swaziland, Seychelles, Turks and Caicos Islands, Chad, Togo, Thailand, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Taiwan, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, United States, Uzbekistan, Vatican City State, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Venezuela, British Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands (U.S.), Vietnam, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, Western Samoa, Yemen, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Africa, Americas, Antarctic Region, Arctic Region, Asia, Australian Continent, Central America and Caribbean, European Union, Europe, Greater China, Middle East, North America, Oceania, APO/FPO, Rest of Asia, South America, Southeast Asia, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, French Polynesia

For the flip side of this, see Important updates to shipping to Ukraine and Russia (community.ebay.com; 25 February 2022): 'we are temporarily pausing sales to buyers with shipping addresses in Ukraine and Russia.' If you're reading this in the distant future or on a distant planet, see my previous post Yahoos of Madness, Yahoos of Tragedy (March 2022), and its mention of 'Russia's attack on Ukraine, which was launched on 24 February'.

When will eBay stop listings from sellers in Russia?

01 March 2022

Yahoos of Madness, Yahoos of Tragedy

When I first started using the word 'Yahoo' as a keyword for chess stories in the mainstream press, I chose the name because I was using Yahoo.com to identify the stories. As that site declined in importance, largely due to a series of bad business decisions, the meaning shifted to the explanation given in the footnote at the end of this post. I continued to use the keyword because it had the positive meaning of

expressing great joy or excitement

as in 'Yahoo! I found a chess story in the mainstream press!'. I knew there was an additional, negative meaning, but I never bothered to determine exactly what it was. I just checked and found:-

mid 18th century: from the name of an imaginary race of brutish creatures in Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726).

I never imputed that meaning to any of the previous posts in this blog's 'Yahoo' category, but that tradition is about to change. Before gathering the data for this post on February Yahoos, I had already decided on the theme -- Russia's brutal, barbaric attack on neighboring Ukraine and its impact on international chess. I'll come back to that after the usual overview of the past month's Yahoos.

Today Google News gave me exactly 100 chess stories, of which 15 were older stories of the type described in Old Yahoos Don't Always Die (February 2022). Of the other 85 stories, nine sources accounted for at least two stories, as shown in the chart on the left. That leaves 36 sources with a single story.

At this point in the monthly narrative I would normally look at lesser known sources like 'Coos Bay World' or 'The Bridge'. Major sources like 'ESPN' or 'The New York Times' are also good for an informed angle. Instead I'll return to Russia's attack on Ukraine, which was launched on 24 February, and follow the top chess news sites. Of the 21 stories from Chess.com, not a single one is about the war. Ditto the seven stories from Chessbase. Chess24 has one story.

I don't know why Google News returns certain stories among the hundreds of chess stories at its disposition. I assume that it has something to do with popularity, but how the service determines that is a mystery to me. Perhaps one day I'll see the light.

I know from my own research that all three chess news sites had at least two FIDE/Ukraine stories, and Chess24 had three, of which the most recent was the story flagged by Google. Let's look at the three stories from Chess24, all signed Leon Watson:-

On top of the Olympiad action, there are at least three major decisions that FIDE must make regarding its ties to Russia: 1) the connection with its current president, Arkady Dvorkovich, who is a Kremlin insider and Putin crony; 2) the future of Russian corporate sponsors, which are a major source of FIDE's income; 3) the future of Russian players, who are among the best in the world and who always appear in the most prestigious chess events.

On the first point, Dvorkovich is up for re-election later this year. On the second point, Chess24 reported,

FIDE will terminate all sponsorship agreements with Russian or Belarusian sanctioned and/or state-controlled companies.

On the third point,

Russian and Belarusian players [are] banned from displaying national flags at FIDE-rated events and nationals anthem will not be played.

That still leaves plenty of room for further action. I'll come back in a month to see how the situation has evolved.

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