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


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.]