30 August 2022

Olympiad, Business, and Political Yahoos

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bigger of its two August stories was:-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 August 2022

TCEC S23 Leagues Underway; CCC Rudderless?

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

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

What's the current status of the two sites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 August 2022

Was Fischer Avaricious?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The description of the video says,

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

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

26 August 2022

GM Svetozar Gligoric, Player/Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

25 August 2022

2022 CJA Awards - Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 August 2022

Interviews with Dragon's Developers

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

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

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

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

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

The description of this video said,

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

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

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

21 August 2022

Fun with Flickr Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 August 2022

Bags of Loot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 August 2022

Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC1, Leads CCC18 Rapid Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 August 2022

Inside Lichess

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

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

The description says,

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

It also includes a couple of relevant links:-

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

12 August 2022

Fischer - Spassky Tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

09 August 2022

2022 CJA Awards - Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 August 2022

GM Sadler Tweets About TCEC

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

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

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

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

07 August 2022

A Wizard or a God?

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

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

The description said,

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

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

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

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

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

05 August 2022

Cold Warriors of Chess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04 August 2022

The Sunshine City of Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 August 2022

August 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

Last month's post on the top U.S. chess magazine of 50 and 25 years ago, July 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (July 2022), featured the U.S. Championship on the left. A month later we have the U.S. Women's Championship on the left.

Left: '1972 United States Women's Championship'
Right: 'Najdorf 1910-1997'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Co-winners of the 1972 Women's Championship: Marilyn Braun, left, and Eva Aronson, right. Between them is Mrs. C. Bette Wimbish, Vice-Mayor of St. Petersburg. Photo by St. Petersburg Times and Evening Independent.

The tournament report, 'The 1972 Women's Championship' by TD Bob Braine, started with three paragraphs that could have been the introduction to a tourist guide:-

The Europeans have an expression: There is a city for everybody. St. Petersburg on Florida's suncoast is for chessplayers. It is a modern, clean, peaceful and dignified city. Its inhabitants are friendly, courteous, elderly and unhurried. The cost of living, particularly for essentials, is very low and the lifestyle is leisurely. Shopping is well within a four block radius of downtown and great sightseeing at Busch Gardens is an hour away, Disneyland two hours. "St. Pete" is a mecca for fishermen and boat enthusiasts. It is a city designed for enjoyment. [...]

Then it got back to the main subject:-

The pre-tournament favorite was the nine-time champion, Mrs. Gisela Gresser, but even after a few rounds it was apparent that this was going to be a tight tussle. Five of the eleven players were newcomers to this event and when their initial nervousness wore off we noticed that each one was a stylist. It's a new era in women's chess.

The St. Petersburg Times, which covered the tournament daily, took a lively interest in Mrs. Eva Aronson who is a resident of the city. The newswriters, an easygoing, friendly group, received each of her victories with jubilation and the one time she lost a game we had to console the newspaper staff. [...]

Her co-champion, Mrs. Marilyn Braun (formerly Koput) of Milwaukee, is an attractive young woman with an ideal chess playing disposition. She is serious about her game and should go far in the chess world. She was the only player to go undefeated and from the beginning spectators were aware of her self-confidence.

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

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Miguel Najdorf, who once promoted himself as Champion of the Western Hemisphere, has died at the age of 87, while visiting in Spain. His claim was not without merit. After WWII, he was probably one of the four strongest players outside the Soviet Union.

And while he wasn't the first to play it, he was certainly responsible for popularizing the variation of the Sicilian Defense which bears his name. The cover photograph is by Bill Hook, taken in 1992.

Inside was a two page (anonymous?) article, 'Miguel Najdorf 1910-1997'. It started,

A living legend is no more. Miguel Najdorf died on July 4, while visiting in Spain. Born on April 15, 1910, he was 87. He was a fixture at almost every world championship match for the past 25 years, holding court in the press room, analyzing, playing blitz, and just enjoying the moment. Exuberant is how Arthur Bisguier described him. His love for the game may be matched, but it will never be surpassed.

Perhaps the first mention of Najdorf in the west came after the 1935 Olympiad held in Warsaw, where he scored 9-2-6 (70.6%). It was enough to get him invited to his first international tournament, the Hungarian Championship, in June of 1936. The following is reprinted from The Chess Review, August, 1936: 'The Hungarian Championship tournament' by Lajos Steiner [...]

Half of the 1997 article was a copy of the 1936 article, but it also included a box 'Najdorf and the Najdorf' by IM Elliot Winslow. 'As White, he distinctly favored 1.d4, with a secondary interest in the English/Reti complexes; 1.e4 was far less common.'

A month later the September issue of CL included a six page tournament report '1997 Najdorf Memorial' by GM Patrick Wolff. It started with a four paragraph summary of Najdorf's career (and a one paragraph summary of GM Wolff's impending retirement from chess.).

I once had the opportunity to review Najdorf: Life and Games (archive.org -> chess.about.com) by Tomasz Lissowski, Adrian Mikhalchishin and Miguel Najdorf (Batsford/Sterling, April 2005); see also Two Books about World Chess Championship Candidates (ditto; 'Two of the world's best players [Najdorf and Adorjan] annotate their games in completely different ways.') My conclusion: 'A good book on all counts!' ... and a great player on all counts.

01 August 2022

Stockfish Wins TCEC FRC5, Leads CCC18 Rapid Semifinal

The previous post on the world's two foremost, ongoing engine vs. engine competitions, Stockfish Wins TCEC Swiss 3 and CCC17 Blitz (July 2022), covered two fortnights of engine action. Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: Stockfish won 'Swiss 3' a half point ahead of LCZero, which was two points ahead of Berserk. KomodoDragon finished in fourth place, a half point behind Berserk and a half point ahead of the next five engines. After a 'Stockfish Simul', the site ran FRC5, which reached the four engine 'Final League' stage (with KomodoDragon missing). • CCC: In the 'CCC17 Blitz' semifinal stage, Stockfish finished well ahead of Dragon and Lc0. The other three engines had substantial minus scores. In the challenger match, Lc0 beat Dragon, earning the right to challenge Stockfish. In the final match, Stockfish beat Lc0, to win the 'CCC17 Blitz' tournament. The site then conducted the 'CCC18 Rapid' Qualification stage, starting the CCC's cycle of Rapid, Bullet, and Blitz tournaments again.

This current post covers the single fortnight that has passed since then.

TCEC: This past weekend I covered the FRC5 event on my chess960 blog in a post cryptically titled TCEC C960 FRC5 (July 2022). Stockfish beat LCZero in the final match.

The site is currently conducting 'DFRC 1'. I couldn't find the event on the TCEC wiki. The !dfrc command informs,

Double Fischer random chess: The same as Fischer random chess, except the White and Black starting positions do not necessarily mirror each other. Double FRC has 921,600 (960*960) possible starting positions.

The !dfrc1 command informs,

26 participants (FRC5 + Bagatur), Swiss format, games from starting positions, 11 rounds, and 30min+3s TC. Estimated duration: 12 days.

LCZero is currently ahead of Stockfish and KomodoDragon, although the three engines have not (yet) played the same number of games. Like FRC5, I'll cover the event on my chess960 blog, where I post twice a month.

CCC: From the 'CCC18 Rapid' Qualification stage, Rofchade, Seer, and Revenge promoted into the Main stage, where they joined nine other engines. Rofchade missed promoting into the Semifinal stage by a half point. Leading that stage -- you guessed it -- are Stockfish, Dragon, and LC0, already by a comfortable margin over the other three engines, although the stage is only at the end of the first round robin.

[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]