28 February 2022

TCEC S22 L1, CCC17 Rapid : Both Underway

A fortnight has passed since the previous post on the chess world's two most visible engine competitions, TCEC S22 L3 and CCC16 Blitz Final Both Underway (February 2022), so it's time for an update. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: The post included an overview of the promotion and demotion rules for Season 22 (S22), a long, multistage event. After S22 QL and L4 both finished, L3 was underway. • CCC: Dragon won the 'CCC16 Blitz Challenger' match for the right to meet Stockfish, but was losing badly in the 466 game final match.

Since the, both sites have proceeded routinely with their respective schedules.

TCEC: S22 L3 finished with Koivisto and Seer promoting to L2. S22 L2 finished with Koivisto and Minic promoting to L1. Seer placed third, well ahead of the five other engines. Koivisto leads in L1, which is midway through the second of four rounds.

CCC: In the 'CCC16 Blitz Final', Stockfish beat Dragon by a score of +149-44=273 (285.5-180.5). Not a single game was won by Black.

After a 'Stockfish Classical Bonus' match, where Lc0 convincingly beat Stockfish Classic, the site started the 'CCC17 Rapid' event. Of eight engines competing in the 'Qualification' stage, Igel, Rofchade, and Stoofvlees were promoted to the 'CCC17 Rapid Main', which is getting underway.

The rules displayed on the event's 'Info' tab are still those of the 'CCC16 Rapid', which said, 'top 6 promote to Semifinals'. For a summary of those rules, see TCEC Swiss 2, CCC16 Rapid : Both Underway (November 2021).

[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 February 2022

The Ukrainian Muzychuk Sisters

The eyes of the world are on the tragedy in Ukraine unfolding day by day. For this month's post on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), let's go back to happier times.

Muzychuk Sisters | World of Sports (11:48) • '[Published on] Jul 13, 2017'

From Youtube channel UATV English:-

UATV is a 24/7 international broadcaster that targets broad audiences around the globe. Our goal is to deliver objective, relevant and interesting information about Ukraine.

The channel currently features news of Putin's invasion seen from the Ukrainian side. The description of our featured video from 2017 repeats its first sentences:-

They learned to play chess before they knew how to read and write. When other girls played with dolls, the Muzychuk sisters battled each other in chess. At the age of three, they already knew all the rules of the oldest intellectual game and could play a full game. And now, the Muzychuk sisters are in the top-five of the world’s strongest [women] chess players.

From Wikipedia:-

Their parents are both chess coaches. Here's wishing the entire family and their entire nation, 'Godspeed'.

21 February 2022

Breaking the 3400 Barrier

Yesterday's Flickr post, 1.Nf3 in Zalaegerszeg (February 2022), was post no.3399 on this blog, making this off-week engine post the perfect spot for the follow-up to Breaking the 3300 Barrier (August 2021), my most recent periodic look at century milestones in chess ratings. In that '3300 Barrier' post I calculated that the interval between 'barrier' posts was seven months, so we're slightly ahead of schedule.

My first idea for this current post was to look at the ratings of engines from important TCEC/CCC events, but I encountered an anomaly. For TCEC S21, last seen on this blog in TCEC Stockfish Wins S21; CCC Romance Continues (August 2021), the top three engines in the semifinal event were rated:-

S21 - Division P
1 Stockfish 2021061923 • 3632
2 LCZero 0.28.0-rc1_69146 • 3614
3 KomodoDragon 2747.00 • 3582

Those ratings were higher than for the top three in S20, which were higher than S19. For S18, last seen in Stockfish Wins TCEC S18; Leela Wins CCC14 (July 2020), the top three were:-

S18 - Division P
1 Stockfish 202005232210 • 3796
2 LCZero v0.25.1-sv-t60-3010 • 3809
3 AllieStein v0.7_dev-net_14.3 • 3761

In other words, the ratings for S18 were considerably higher than for S19 and subsequent TCEC seasons. Not knowing how to resolve this problem, I turned to another source for engine ratings, CCRL Home (computerchess.org.uk/ccrl). The top three engines there are currently:-

1 Stockfish 14 64-bit 4CPU • 3541
2 Dragon by Komodo 2.6 64-bit 4CPU • 3527
3 Fat Fritz 2 (in SF) 64-bit 4CPU • 3517

And when did engine ratings break 3400? Older CCRL results are available in Archive.org. The oldest results, from March 2019, are captured in the following image.

Source: Wayback Machine

The highest rating is 3463 for Stockfish, with the next two engines just under 3400. That's the closest I got to answering my question.

As for the human contingent, Magnus Carlsen targets all-time rating record of 2900 (theguardian.com; Leonard Barden; January 2022). When I come back in 6-7 months for 'Breaking the 3500 Barrier', I'll check the World Champion's progress.

20 February 2022

1.Nf3 in Zalaegerszeg

They stare at the chess board for an eternity, never blinking, never showing emotion. Chess players? No, chess playing statues. The last time we saw a statue on this blog was Observing a Game in the District (January 2021), where more can be found by following the links.

Nf3, Probably a Zukertort Opening © Flickr user Istvan under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo said,

Chess Players, a statue erected at Zalaegerszeg in 2016, a work by Peter Szabolcs. • Johannes Zukertort (1842-1888) was a Polish-German-British chess master.

That's enough information to locate the statue in Dísz square (e-city.hu), where we learn,

Although Deak Square used to be the centre of our historic inner city, the modern town’s centre is Dísz Square, which is not only a beloved meeting point, but also one of the venues for major municipal events. [...] In the north-western corner you can find the ‘Chess players’ by Peter Szabolcs, referring to the successful chess history of the city.'

I'm interested in chess history so I'll bite: why 'successful'? I had to go no further than the Wikipedia page, Zalaegerszeg ('In 2001, Zalaegerszeg had 61,654 inhabitants'):-

Notable people: [...] Lajos Portisch (1937-), chess player

The great Hungarian grandmaster, who was a World Championship Candidate eight times, twice reaching the semifinal stage in the old system of knockout matches, was born in Zalaegerszeg in 1937. For more about his career, see The chess games of Lajos Portisch (chessgames.com), where we learn that he often played 1.Nf3.

17 February 2022

Old Yahoos Don't Always Die

Three months ago, in World Championship Yahoos 2021 (November 2021; see the footnote below for an explanation of 'Yahoos'), I spotted a couple of changes in the monthly Google News stories:-

This month there was a change in the Google News algorithm. It still returned 100 stories, but I noticed that many were published well before the month of November. [...] Another unusual feature of the month was the precipitous drop in stories from Chess.com, which has been averaging around 40 stories a month for the last six months.

That trend was confirmed in the following month's post, Year-end Yahoos (December 2021). With three months of Yahoos to work with, I can now take a closer look at the older stories, of which there were 54 over the three months.

The chart on the left shows the count of older (historical?) Yahoos across the three months, aggregated by their source. First observation: There were only five sources producing all 54 stories. Chess.com accounted for the great majority of those stories.

Second observation: Many of the stories appeared in more than one month. Specifically, four stories appeared in all three months, 12 stories appeared in two months, and the other stories appeared once. Some of those stories might return for my next monthly Yahoos post, but that doesn't change the current situation.

What were the four stories that appeared in all three months? I'm glad you asked, because I checked myself:-

Third observation: CNN is second on the list of sources thanks to a single story, the last on the list. Ditto for the New York Times third place, where the story was:-

We saw that story in an earlier Yahoos post, Three Times Yahoos (July 2021), where I called it 'tattletale gossip'. After rereading the Times story, I haven't changed my opinion. For a reaction from one of the accused, see '"All My Work ... Had Finally Paid Off"; An Interview with Abhimanyu and Hemant Mishra' in the September 2021 issue of Chess Life. Hemant Mishra, Abhimanyu's father, said,

In that article, they misquoted me. And I’ll tell you how it started. It was a preplanned article, and they wanted to create breaking news. There was a Russian reporter [Ivan Nechepurenko ~ed.]. After we reached Hungary and [Abhi] got his first norm, for a span of two and half months, that guy kept sending me messages on WhatsApp.

He told me that there would be an article about my son in the New York Times, and I kept providing all the information, whatever was needed. And he kept telling me that this article is going to be out in another three days, another five days. That happened for two and a half months.

Back to the four old stories that appeared in all three months of my monthly posts, I understand the apparent popularity of three of them. The fourth, 'Speed Chess Grand Prix', is a mystery. Something told Google News that it was an important story. Was it related to the declaration that the event was 'the next leg of one of the most anticipated online tournaments of the year'? I'm baffled.

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

14 February 2022

TCEC S22 L3 and CCC16 Blitz Final Both Underway

Another fortnight means another post in the ongoing engine vs. engine battles at the top of the chess world. Let's first have a summary of the previous post, TCEC S22 Underway; CCC16 Blitz Nears Final (January 2022):-

TCEC: Season 22 Qualification League ('S22 QL') is underway with 14 engines. • CCC: Six engines qualified from the 'CCC16 Blitz Main' event into the semifinal event. Stockfish, Dragon, and Lc0 finished 1-2-3, well ahead of the other engines.

Both competitions have advanced by several stages.

TCEC: 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 (from TCEC Leagues Season rules):-

1. Season : The TCEC Season is the premier championship for chess software.
2. Qualification League [QL] : The top 4 engines promote to League 4.
3. League 4 [L4] : The bottom 4 engines relegate and the top 4 promote to League 3.
4. League 3 : The bottom 4 engines relegate and the top 2 promote to League 2.
5. League 2 : The bottom 2 engines relegate and the top 2 promote to League 1.
6. League 1 : The bottom 2 engines relegate and the top 2 promote to Premier Division.
7. Premier Division : The top 2 engines promote to the Superfinal and the bottom 2 engines are relegated to League 1.
8.1 Infrafinal : Head to head contest between the 3rd and 4th place of the Premier Division. [...] The winner of the Infrafinal is the official 3rd finishing engine of the TCEC Leagues Event.
8.2 Superfinal : Head to head contest between the winner and 2nd place of the Premier Division.

Since the previous report, 'S22 Underway', both QL and L4 have finished and L3 is underway. Young 'Berserk', which finished 9th-10th in S21 QL, won S22 QL and L4 and is currently third among 12 engines in L3.

CCC: After the 'CCC16 Blitz Semifinal', Dragon and Lc0 played a 466 game 'CCC16 Blitz Challenger' match for the right to meet Stockfish. Dragon won the match with 'plus-nine' and is currently getting pummeled in the 466 game 'CCC16 Blitz Final', where Stockfish is a few games away from clinching a massive victory. CCC plans for the near future are unknown.

[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 February 2022

From Norway to the British Museum

The Lewis chess pieces are a recurring theme on this blog. From the oldest post where they were featured...

...to the most recent...

  • 2019-06-06: Carving Walrus Ivory; 'I've often wondered whether the Lewis pieces were indeed chess pieces.'

...they manage to be both old and new at the same time. This video is from a series called Bank of America’s Masterpiece Moment.

Lewis Chess Pieces (7:41) • '[Published on] Jan 25, 2022'

The description says,

Quite possibly the most famous chess pieces in the world, the Lewis Chess Pieces were discovered on the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of northwest Scotland, around 1831. While their origins are uncertain, it’s clear that they were fashioned by an extremely talented artisan or artisans. The 78 Lewis Chess Pieces are considered masterpieces because of their incredible attention to detail and the individual personality imbued in each piece. Learn more about these objects and a brief history of chess with Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum in London.

A page of credits near the end of the video mentions,

The Lewis Chess Pieces, probably made in Norway, about 1150-1200 • Found on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland • Walrus ivory and whale tooth

And they call the Rooks 'Berserkers'!

11 February 2022

Show Ads Everywhere, Out!

Let's see, where was I in this Google Adsense adventure? I ended last week's post Ads for Zonals, Out! (February 2022) with a test on this CFAA blog:-

I changed from 'Only show ads in the sidebar' to 'Show ads below posts and in the sidebar'. I'll come back in a week to see how this worked out.

I didn't have to wait a week. The results appeared after an hour or so. They weren't what I was expecting.

The screen capture on the left shows this blog after I wrote the 'Ads for Zonals' post, which is visible to the left of my profile face. There's a green 'OK' ad on the sidebar and a similar ad beneath the post. Both ads were for the same service -- I neglected to determine what it was -- and the same ad appeared under another post further down the page. Not very pretty, is it.

I switched this blog back to 'Only show ads in the sidebar', then switched my non-chess blog (linked in my profile) to 'Show ads below posts and in the sidebar'. That gives me the opportunity to track its evolution without annoying visitors to this blog.

I still have a few Adsense actions from the post Life in Google's World (January 2022). I'll explore those some other time.

07 February 2022

'Reasonable Support' Required?

Back in July 2020, the TCEC !next command announced,

Now Top Of The Top - top4 bonus 7x DRR including 1 'bookless' DRR and SF NNUE gauntlet vs top4 !topofthetop . Then Cup6 testing. Then Cup6 !cup. Then S19 starts with special Bonus and special Bonuses between leagues. Then FRC. Then S20 (current plan, can change, also !4k bonus might be inserted somewhere)

A month later that last sentence, '!4k bonus might be inserted somewhere', was expanded:-

Now [S19] QL+L3 testing. [...] Then QL, L3, L2, L1, DivP, Sufi, Cup7 and FRC2. Then S20 (current plan, can change, also !4k bonus and/or !r-mobility bonus might be inserted somewhere)

My fortnightly report at that time was Alliestein Wins TCEC Cup 6; CCC Tests 'Stockfish NNUE' (August 2020). What are those two 'bonus' events? The first...

!4k • Engine maximum size is 4kB (4096 bytes)

...is explained in TCEC 4k Rules (wiki.chessdom.org; 'This is a temporary version!! The page below is not yet final'). The second...

!r-mobility • Goal of reset-mobility is to restrict your opponent mobility in legal moves as much as possible. Only positions after last pawn/capture are included, while not being in check is counted as an additional 0.5 moves.

...is explained in R-Mobility (wiki.chessdom.org). The page starts,

R-Mobility (aka reset-mobility) is a generalization of mate and stalemate: force opponent to have as few legal moves as possible. R-Mobility allows to convert advantage in drawn games into favorable tiebreaks. Only last record since previous pawn and/or capture move counts.

The idea expands on checkmate / stalemate into positions like K+P:K and K+B:K where one side has a material advantage, but the result is a draw. For some time now, I've been looking for ideas that alter scoring (W-L-D) to allow a richer set of values, thereby reversing the draw boredom that chess has experienced when powerful engines are used.

The idea behind r-mobility is a step in that direction, although it is too uncertain to start development. The TCEC !next command currently says,

!4k bonus and/or !r-mobility (armageddon) demo or bonus might be inserted somewhere (one engine minimum with reasonable support needed)

Why wait for 'one engine with reasonable support'? The idea can be back-tested on hundreds of engine vs. engine tournaments to determine if it has any validity. It could even be back-tested on human tournaments. No 'reasonable support' required.

06 February 2022

Surrealism Does Not Apply

Category: Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010); Subcategory: Art; Genre: Impressionism. This is diametrically opposed (*) to the genre in the previous 'Subcategory: Art', which was 'Gothic Fantasy Surrealism' in Classical Does Not Apply (September 2021).

The item pictured below was titled 'Vintage Alex Saval Impressionistic Oil On Canvas Doctor & Lady Playing Chess'. It sold for US $696.50, 'Best offer accepted', and carried a note, 'Was: US $995.00, save 30%'. An eBay info icon explained the 'Was' price:-

(Q:) What does this price mean? (A:) Recent sales price provided by the seller

It didn't explain how one-of-a-kind artwork could have a recent sales price or how the best offer could match the discount to the penny. There's something missing.

The description expanded the title:-

Alex Saval original oil on canvas with an early 20th Century Victorian gathering scene of presumably a doctor playing chess with a lady. Painting measures approx. 36 x 24 inches without frame and 43 x 31 inches with frame. Excellent condition ready to hang and enjoy.

That does indeed look like a doctor's bag next to the gentleman playing chess. A capsule biography of the artist, found on a number of art seller sites, says,

Alex Saval was born in Orastie, Romania in 1929. He studied at the Art Academy of Bucharest from 1946 to 1953. His style was much inclined towards Impressionism and he travelled and studied widely in France. His works can be found in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, amongst others, and in international private collections.

The same wooded area in the chess scene features in several of the artist's other works. None of the listings I looked at identified the setting.

(*) As in 50 Redundant Phrases to Avoid.

04 February 2022

Ads for Zonals, Out!

Continuing with last week's Life in Google's World (January 2022), I removed Google Adsense and Amazon for all pages related to the index page for World Chess Championship Zonals. This affected 64 pages, considerably fewer than would be the case in other areas of my site m-w.com. In the 'Google's World' post I wrote,

I decided not to make any changes for now, except to turn on '(a) "Let Google place ads for you"' for this blog. So far, I haven't noticed any changes.

A week later, I still haven't noticed any changes. Blogger.com, the Google service used to manage this blog, has a feature called, 'Control how ads are shown on your blog'. It looked as shown in the following image.

I changed from 'Only show ads in the sidebar' (pictured on the right) to 'Show ads below posts and in the sidebar' (pictured on the left). I'll come back in a week to see how this worked out.

01 February 2022

February 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

In last month's post on U.S. chess magazines from 50 and 25 years ago, January 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (January 2022), the underlying theme was art. This month it's American players.

Left: '?'
Right: 'The Bronze Age: America Places Third in Olympiad • Bhat Takes the Bronze at World Youth Festival'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Grandmaster Walter Browne, in a photo taken at the U.S. Open in Ventura. Browne scored his first international tournament win in Venice. • Photo by Burt Hochberg.

The last time we saw GM Browne on the cover of CL&R, October 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (October 2021), was for the same U.S. Open in Ventura. The tournament report, '10th Venice International' by Walter Browne, started,

The very thought of playing in this tournament interested me. It was to be played in a casino, and since I had never been to Venice, I considered it a must. The moment I arrived at Milan from New York I felt an inner peace which is very good for chess. At the beginning of the tournament Kavalek told me that the winds from the sea would hurt our play. Of course I laughed.

But I cannot deny that I made some incredible oversights. In the first round, against Tatai, I allowed my opponent to equalize with Black very easily, but I had been up all night traveling. I came back by beating Zichichi and then Gligoric, who would not be content with an easy half point. [...]

Browne finished +7-1=3, a point ahead of 2nd place Mariotti. Kavalek finished 5th, Gligoric 7th.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Third place was earned by the men's team at the 1996 Olympiad in Armenia, and third place was earned by Vinay Bhat in the Boy's Under-12 section of the World Youth Chess Festival for Peace, held in Spain, thus making 1996 the Age of Bronze for the United States. U.S. Champion Alex Yermolinsky earned a silver medal on Board Two at the Olympiad. • Photos by Bill Hook, Richard Peterson and [the] Bhat Family.

GM Yermolinsky is pictured in the top photo on the left, followed by GMs Christiansen, Kaidanov, Benjamin, De Firmian, and Gulko. Russia and Ukraine placed 1st and 2nd at the 1996 Olympiad.

A group photo of the U.S. team at the 1996 World Youth Festival identified 15 members of the team:-

Noah Siegal, Dmitry Schneider, Jennifer Shahade, Jeremy Silman (*), Irina Krush, Jennifer Frenldalkh [sic, 'Frenklakh'], Vinay Bhat, Courtney Olsen, Auka [sic, 'Asuka'] Nakamura, Pal Benko (*), Eric Schiller (*), Igor Shliperman, Tal Shaked, Eugene Perelshteyn, and Rafael Klovsky (*).
I've marked the coaches with '(*)'. Several of the players are still active today. Asuka Nakamura (b.1986) is the older brother of GM Hikaru Nakamura (b.1987).