31 October 2022

TCEC S23 Sufi, CCC19 Rapid : Both Underway

'Another two weeks, another report about the world's top two ongoing engine vs.engine competitions.' That's what the lead sentence for this post should say, except that it's been three weeks since the previous report. My wife frequently insists on taking vacations that interfere with all of my well-planned schedules. That previous report, TCEC S23 DivP, CCC19 Blitz Final : 'Well' Underway (October 2022), can be summarized as follows:-

TCEC: S23 DivP is well underway. Stockfish is two points ahead of LCzero and KomodoDragon, which are separated by a half-point. • CCC: Stockfish won 'CCC19 Blitz Main' ahead of LC0 and Dragon, who were well ahead of the other seven engines. In the 'CCC19 Blitz Challenger Match', Dragon beat LC0 by six points in a 300 game match. Stockfish is pummelling Dragon in the 'CCC19 Blitz Final' match.

You might guess that a three-week interlude would mean more to report than the normal two-week interlude, and you would be right. The following summary brings us up-to-date to the current situation.

TCEC: In S23 Premier Division (DivP) Stockfish won all of its mini-matches, finishing three points ahead of LCzero and KomodoDragon. Those habitual contenders for 2nd/3rd place in all recent engine events tied, but were still well ahead of the other five engines. How did TCEC break the tie to determine Stockfish's final opponent? The first tiebreak rule said,

1. In case of engines being tied, then the direct encounter(s) between the tied engines decides first.

The two engines finished +2-2=4 in their individual mini-match. The second tiebreak rule said,

2. The Sonneborn-Berger [S-B] is the second criterion.

LCZero had S-B tiebreak considerably superior to KomodoDragon. The difference appears to be due to LCZero's much better performance against Stockfish, 'minus one' versus KomodoDragon's 'minus four'.

The Dragon then played a consolation 'Infrafinal' match against Ethereal, the engine that finished clear fourth (although with an even score) in DivP. KomodoDragon won the 100-game match by 19 points.

The 100-game S23 final match (aka 'Superfinal' or 'Sufi' in TCEC jargon) has seen five of the games finish, with Stockfish having a one point lead over LCZero. For the result of the previous Sufi, see TCEC S22, the Fish Again; CCC17 Bullet Top-3 (April 2022; 'the Fish's fifth straight Sufi victory').

CCC: In the 'CCC19 Blitz Final' 300-game match, Stockfish beat Dragon by 60 points. After a few exhibition events, including two in an 'OpenBench Interlude' series, the site launched a 'CCC19 Rapid' multi-stage event.

Eight engines competed in the 'CCC19 Rapid Newcomers' stage, with the top four promoting to the eight-engine 'Qualifier #1'. Those promoted engines finished in the last four places, so four different engines promoted to the eight-engine 'Qualifier #2'. Those four engines are currently occupying the last four places. The next stage should be the 'Main' event.

[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]

30 October 2022

World Chess IPO

Once again we return to the long-running series The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), last seen in 'The Root of All Evil'? (September 2022). In that post I wrote,

This is the second post in a row to deal with the so-called 'root of all evil'.

By some weird twist of fate -- evil fate? -- we now have the third post in a row. The story appeared on my most recent Yahoos post, Chess960 Mania (October 2022), where 'Yahoos' is a keyword meaning 'mainstream news stories about chess'.

If you're not familiar with IPOs, you're probably not an investor in stock markets. Wikipedia, in Initial public offering (wikipedia.org), defines an IPO as follows:-

An initial public offering (IPO) or stock launch is a public offering in which shares of a company are sold to institutional investors and usually also to retail (individual) investors. An IPO is typically underwritten by one or more investment banks, who also arrange for the shares to be listed on one or more stock exchanges. Through this process, colloquially known as floating, or going public, a privately held company is transformed into a public company.

You can win big or you can lose big. If you're with the private company going public, you usually win big, at least in the short term. All others pay cash.

World Chess gearing up for IPO (8:52) • '[Published on] Oct 27, 2022'

The description of the video starts,

World Chess PLC chief executive Ilya Melenzon speaks to Proactive about his plans to list the company on the London Stock Exchange later this year. The initial public offer, of which a slice is open to retail investors via the PrimaryBid platform, is intended to raise up to Euro 8 mln for the company.

Now here I had a problem. The fellow doing all the talking on the video is Ilya Merenzon, not Melenzon. The first time we saw Merenzon on this blog was Carlsen - Anand II : Rumblings (November 2014; 'Who was that fellow sitting to the right of the match stakeholders? Introduced as "the organizer of the tournament, Ilya Merenzon"...').

Did Mr. Ilya change his name or are we witnessing a lack of due diligence? A page related to the video, World Chess gearing up for IPO (proactiveinvestors.com) starts, 'World Chess PLC chief executive Ilya Melenzon...' and the only references on the web to 'Melenzon' are related to the IPO. Looks like 'Proactive Investors' weren't so proactive when it came to World Chess (aka Worldchess).

Nitpicking aside, I'm always looking for ways to speculate on chess. I signed up with 'Proactive' for future info on the Worldchess IPO and will follow up on this blog.

28 October 2022

'To Sam, With Thanks'

The first few months of this 'Fischer Friday' series were mainly about the 1972 Fischer - Spassky Title Match (m-w.com). Then in the post FS 1972 + 20 = FS 1992 (September 2022; 'It's time to change the subject, if only for a few weeks'), I switched to the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch (also m-w.com). Let's return to the 1972 match.

While preparing this month's eBay post -- 'Top eBay Chess Items by Price', Chess and Italian Design (October 2022) -- I noticed many Fischer items near the top of the list. I doubt it's a coincidence and am reasonably certain that the interest is related to the 50th anniversary of the 1972 match. The following image shows the top Fischer eBay items from the time of the 'Italian Design' post.

Three of the items were from the same seller -- the first two in the top row and the first in the bottom row. The first item in the top row sold for more than the other five items taken together. Titled 'Bobby Fischer My 60 Memorable Games - Autographed!', the winning bid was US $11,400 after 28 bids, on a starting bid of $5,000. The description said,

Exceptional memorabilia from the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland 1972. 1st edition of My 60 Memorable Games signed by Bobby Fischer to his friend Saemi Rock, a.k.a. Saemundur Palsson, friend and bodyguard in 1972.

Signature is dated Sept. 1st, 1972 or just after Bobby won the 21st and last game of the match. Condition: as seen on pictures, dust cover has some damages and repairs, book itself is in fine condition.

Fischer's inscription said,

To Sam, with thanks for his tireless work and companionship during my stay in Iceland. • Bobby Fischer, Sept 1, 1972

Of the other five items, four were signed by Fischer. The exception was the ticket to game two, the forfeited game, at the end of the top row. I'm sure I'll see more Fischer items for the next post in the 'Top eBay Chess Items' series, scheduled for next weekend.

27 October 2022

Chess960 Mania

Last month's Yahoos post (see the footnote for an explanation of Yahoos) was Cheating Mania (September 2022). It followed a course not seen in previous Yahoos:-

Unlike all previous posts in the Yahoos series, this month requires two charts to present the base statistics, shown below. On the left are the counts derived from Google News, similar to the chart in last month's Olympiad, Business, and Political Yahoos (August 2022). On the right are counts from a special supplement, linked from the Google News results and called 'Full Coverage'. These stories were 100% about the cheating scandal.

For the current Yahoos post, once again we have two charts -- Left: Base statistics, Right: Full coverage. This month the 'Full Coverage' is about an event I've been following on my chess960 blog, seen last week in 2022 FWFRCC Qualifiers (October 2022; 'FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship'). The final stage of the event is currently taking place in Iceland.

I'll continue to cover the FWFRCC final on that blog, incorporating Google's 'Full Coverage' into the next post. For this current post let's focus on the left chart.

This month Google News returned 101 stories, of which 83 were from the current month and 18 were repeats from previous months. Of the 83 current month stories, five sources accounted for more than two stories, a total of 33 stories, as shown in the chart on the left. Once again, Chess.com was the largest single source of chess stories.

In last month's 'Cheating Mania', I observed, 'Of the [78] Google News stories, 17 were about cheating.' The cheating story continued bigtime in October. Of the 83 stories, 10 were about cheating, three of those from Chess.com.

The biggest cheating story was flagged by Google from an obscure source called the 'Lebanon Democrat', which declined to give me a copy. The page it gave me said,

451: Unavailable due to legal reasons • We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time.

It turned out the original story was from the Associated Press (AP), available from multiple news sources. Here's one:-

Back to this month's chart on the left, the 33 stories were a mixed bag. The two 'chess' stories from the 'Chicago Sun-Times' had nothing to do with chess. They were about football. One of the 'New York Times' (NYT) stories was also about football, although with significant chess content. I featured it last week in a post Really Big Stereotypes (October 2022; 'The original NYT story can be found at "Forget Madden..." [nytimes.com]').

The NYT has been a leading source of Yahoos since The New No.2 Yahoo (June 2022), always because of their chess puzzles. This is the first month since June that none of their puzzles appeared on Google News.

As for the other 50 sources with a single story, several of the stories made my short list -- partly for their quirkiness -- but none was particularly compelling on a revisit. The best of the bunch was about the All India Chess Federation (AICF):-

  • 2022-10-27: Chess federation claims pests destroyed records (thebridge.in) • 'The [AICF] has claimed that records pertaining to a Right to Information (RTI) Act query by a player were destroyed by pests at its headquarters here, leading to a rebuke from the Central Information Commission.'

The Niemann lawsuit; the NYT puzzles; AICF pest control; will Google's 'Full Coverage' become a mainstay of chess news? There's plenty to look forward to in next month's Yahoos post.

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

21 October 2022

People Said, 'Ouf!'

Cover, Europe Echecs, December 1992:-

Fischer - Spassky :
ouf, c'est fini!

In the following scan I've enlargened the text on a portion of the cover, with the top line of the original text still visible on the right. On the left are a couple of partially hidden headlines.

The first headline said some guy named Adams won some tournament called Tilburg. The second headline said some guy named Kasparov won some tournament called Trophée Immopar over some other guy named Anand.

My French - English dictionary says 'ouf' means 'phew', and I know enough French to know that 'c'est fini !' means 'it's finished !' or 'it's over !'. Is that comment positive or negative? It sounds negative -- in the direction of 'Yuk, it's over!' -- but I'd rather be sure before I build on it. Unfortunately, the Fischer - Spassky story inside starts on page 26 and my copy of the magazine is missing pages 19 through 26, so I can't read the article's introduction to souse out the magazine's opinion. C'est la vie!

The previous post in this blog's 'Fischer Friday' series was Historic Photo, Historic Game (October 2022), also about the 1992 match. The next post will return to the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match.

18 October 2022

Really Big Stereotypes

How long has it been since we had a real Yahoo -- a mainstream news source reporting on a chess story -- on this blog? I scrolled back through dozens of 'posts with label Yahoos' and decided that it must have been A Yahoo Backstory (December 2020). Shown below is the latest Yahoo.

It's not immediately obvious which of the six stories is the chess story. If we eliminate the three stories referring to U.S. politics, like the one on the top, the chess story must be the one in the middle of the bottom row captioned, 'Why more NFL players are getting into this board game'.

Although 95% of the world believes the 'F' in 'NFL' means the type of football played only with the feet, not with the hands, the other 5% call that international game 'soccer'. Their football is played by really big men who aren't always known for really big smarts. The link behind the story led to:-

  • 2022-10-11: Forget Madden, The Hottest Game in the NFL Is Chess (yahoo.com; The New York Times, Robert O'Connell) • 'Amari Cooper, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver and a four-time Pro-Bowler, had Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie on his heels. Cooper attacked Awuzie with a flurry of maneuvers, setting up a charge that he hoped would break the game open. Awuzie, though, had learned from Cooper during their 2 1/2 seasons as teammates in Dallas. Leaning on his insider scouting report, Awuzie found his footing and countered. [...] Pawn to f3.'

The original NYT story can be found at Forget Madden... (nytimes.com). It has a revealing subtitle:-

Athletes, known for being gamers, often find ways to compete during their downtime. Football players who tackle chess are drawn to the mental challenge that runs against stereotypes in their sport.

A few years ago, in February Yahoos (February 2018), we saw another chess football story. The external headline that time was 'This Ex-NFL Player [John Urschel] Is On A Mission To Become A Chess Master' (yahoo.com).

17 October 2022

'One Move In, One Move Out'

Is it safe to come out now? Although last month's Cheating Mania (September 2022; aka Carlsen/Nakamura vs. Niemann), seems to be calming down, it's important to remember that there are two aspects to 'Fair Play':-

1) Thou shall not cheat. • 2) Thou shall not accuse the winner of cheating unless thou hast proof.

Accusing your opponent of cheating without having proof opens you to accusations of being a 'sore loser'. One of the best known sore loser sagas happened 25 years ago. I've covered the details in several posts, of which the most important were:-

  • 2018-12-31: Kasparov's 1997 Team • '[Previously] I mentioned the official programs for the 1996 and 1997 matches that Garry Kasparov played with IBM's Deep Blue. The two programs include many details about the matches collected into a single place.'
  • 2022-06-21: June 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' • 'Deeper Blue beats Kasparov'
  • 2022-05-16: 25 Years Ago in Chess History • 'Kasparov started accusations that the match was not all that it appeared to be. [...] I wrote a couple of articles exploring Kasparov's suspicions. Here they are on Archive.org [with links]'

Two years after the loss to Deep Blue, Kasparov was still complaining to people who had insufficient knowledge to differentiate fact from fiction. One example was recorded on video for posterity in Garry Kasparov -- Charlie Rose (charlierose.com):-

18 June 1999 • Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov recounts his discouraging loss to an IBM computer [...]

Kasparov was a frequent guest on the Charlie Rose show; see 'Other appearances' for more videos. For the June 1999 appearance, I excerpted the portion of the Deep Blue interview from the page's 'See Transcript':-

06:11 CR: Right. Chess.
06:14 GK: Yes?
06:15 CR: Have you recovered from this loss to --
06:17 GK: Yes.
06:18 CR: -- the computer?
06:19 GK: Yes. It was tough. I had to go through a very difficult period, and --
06:24 CR: What does that mean? What was difficult?
06:26 GK: It was difficult because I lost, and also, you know, I wanted to have some explanations from IBM, just to have more information about the computer. And unfortunately, IBM denied all the requests to release print-outs and to cooperate with me and many other scientists that wanted to see how, really, Big Blue played. And then the machine was dismantled. IBM refused to play A rematch. All these events, they were very tough for me to swallow. And that's why my results deteriorated for a while. Yeah. And you know, nearly for a year, I couldn't play with my normal strength. But you know, at the end of the year, I recovered, and in 1999, I play probably my best chess. You know, I'm ranked number one, and the gap between me and number two now is the largest in my life.
07:11 CR: If you -- you know what's coming.
07:14 GK: Yes.
07:17 CR: If you played Deep Blue again, would you beat the computer?
07:22 GK: IBM dismantled the computer. I think --
07:24 CR: I know.
07:26 GK: I think they guessed the result.
07:27 CR: Is that's right?
07:29 GK: I would play computer, whether it's Deep Blue or any other computer, if the machine is properly supervised. If machine is properly supervised, I guarantee I will beat any computer today.
07:36 CR: What does "properly supervised" mean and -- and --
07:40 GK: Easy. One move goes in, one move goes out. There's a 100 percent guarantee that machine is not assisted by anything or anyone.
07:47 CR: So you think this was a stacked deck.
07:50 GK: I'm not -- it's my word against their word. Now, first of all, you have to study print-outs. You have to find out how the decision-making process worked. But just if not going far to the past, you look for the future, any match should have proper supervision. I'm sitting here across -- you know, across the table, and the referee's watching my movements. I cannot go back to my coaches to talk to them, to use a computer.
08:13 CR: Right.
08:15 GK: So the machine should be properly supervised, and if it's IBM, there should be panel of independent specialists from Microsoft, from Intel, from Oracle watching the decision-making process. It should be guaranteed that there was no interference.
08:27 CR: And why do you think they wouldn't do that?
08:29 GK: They already answered. They dismantled the machine. As I said, they killed the only impartial witness. And also, they refused even to consider a rematch. And for two years, despite their public promise, they never released print-outs because without print-outs, no one could analyze what actually happened in the game.
08:48 CR: Right. The irony of all this is you used computers to study --
08:52 GK: Yes.
08:53 CR: -- the games of rival. You've probably used them more than any other modern champion.
08:56 GK: Anyone could go to the shop to buy the computer and to use it. So it's impossible to imagine the preparation for the chess tournament now without the computer because you have to look at a new idea. You have to analyze it, and then it's -- you have to avoid blunders. You have to avoid mistakes. And the most effective preparation is for a person who is created, has a great idea, and then you guide the computer, and you can go very, very far because the mixture of man plus computer -- it's a killing one. It's the best combination. In theory, if I'm assisted by the computer, you know, a portable P.C. next to me, I don't think there's any chance for ultra-powerful machine, a future Deep Blue, to win the game.

Fast forward to 20 years after the match: Chess master Garry Kasparov still 'a sore loser' two decades after Deep Blue (smh.com.au; Sydney Morning Herald; June 2017).

SMH: 'Garry Kasparov, left, gives up in defeat against IBM's chess playing computer, Deep Blue, at the conclusion of the sixth game of their rematch in May 1997.'

Kasparov looks dazed and confused. Could the same be said of Carlsen after his game against Niemann?

16 October 2022

Donald Trump, Chess Master

In the world of AI, Trump plays chess.

Upper left: Donald Trump, Ai Generated Art, Public Domain © Flickr user Ben Longstroth under Creative Commons.

The description simply expanded on the title:-

Images of Donald Trump generated by Artificial Intelligence. Licensed as CC0, public domain, free to use for any purpose.

And, yes, in the image on the upper right Trump is playing Biden. Trump is still insisting that he won. For an earlier post on this blog about president no.45, see A Chess Allegory (November 2016).

14 October 2022

Historic Photo, Historic Game

In last week's post for the 'Fischer Friday' series, Roger Cohen, Foreign Correspondent (October 2022), I noted that the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch was a tale of two matches:-

The first match, which had little to do with chess, was about Fischer's sudden return to chess after 20 years of self-imposed retirement. Was he still capable of playing at the highest level? Was Spassky? The second match, which started with the third game, was all about chess.

One journalist was eminently qualified to cover both matches, establishing her own reputation at the same time. We've seen her once before on my World Championship blog in Meet Cathy Forbes (May 2011). The British WIM wrote a couple of stories that have been published in at least two places: the book 'Meet the Masters', introduced in that post, and the March 1993 issue of Chess Life magazine, available online via Chess Life and Chess Review Archives.

The biggest difference between the book and the magazine was a photo that appeared in the book. Although other photos in the book were attributed, this one wasn't.

'Bobby Fischer: preparing for an historic game.'
(p.56; Cathy Forbes is on the right)

The photo relates to the following story which took place when the match moved from Sveti Stefan to Belgrade:-

I stayed up most of the Sunday night planning my questions for Monday's closing press conference. Questions to Mr. Robert Fischer were written on a special form. I was agonizing over my third question -- originally conceived as a joke -- when Grandmaster (Problem Solving) Marjan Kovacevic insisted, "Keep it. I like it. It's a brave question, one we would all like to ask."

"These questions are from Woman International Master Cathy Forbes ... No.3: May I play a game of chess with you?" Fischer looked down from the podium at me. "What's your rating?" Trying not to shake too visibly, I caught his eye and replied, "2125". Bobby smiled -- "Well, we'll think about it." Everyone laughed.

With the score at 5-2, Bobby was in a good mood. At the convivial closing party, he was even persuaded to dance to the stirring strains of local folk melodies [see photo]. Unexpectedly, but happily fortified by several powerful brandies, I was summoned to his table by a "Bobbyguard."

"We'll play a game - just quickly", he said.

That game is available on Cathy Forbes vs Robert James Fischer, 1992 (chessgames.com). It is the only published game where Fischer played against a woman. For more about the match from the same source, see 1992 Fischer - Spassky (ditto).

What were the best games of the match? On my page 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch; Highlights, game 1 has one gold star, game 11 has two. Although this is anecdotal at best, it's a starting point for further investigation.

13 October 2022

Party Cookies

Earlier this year I ran a series of four posts about living with Google's Adsense:-

It's time for another post in the series. Lately I've been receiving emails from Google informing me about 'First-party cookies support for personalization'. Here's a sample email text:-

Last year, we launched first-party cookies from Google to help you increase your revenue with features like frequency capping. Now, we're updating first-party cookies to also support personalization. • What does this mean? • First-party cookies for personalization help to show personalized ads to your users when third-party cookies aren’t available, which may increase your revenue.

By now, everyone knows what cookies are, but what are 'first-party cookies' and 'third-party cookies'? A Google AdSense help page, Ad serving settings, explains,

First-party cookies • Cookies are small text files downloaded to a user's browser that can be used to store user information and preferences. Cookies are either first-party (associated with the domain the user is visiting) or third party (associated with a domain that's different from the domain the user is visiting). Google may use first-party cookies when third-party cookies are not available.

Allow first-party cookies • Choose whether or not you want to allow first-party cookies from Google on your site. Allowing first-party cookies from Google may increase your revenue because it enables features like frequency capping on ads and allows ads with a frequency cap to serve on your site.

Use first-party cookies for personalization • Choose whether or not you want to allow first-party cookies for personalization on your site. First party cookies for personalization help to show personalized ads to your users when third-party cookies aren’t available, which may increase your revenue. You can only use these cookies for personalization if you’ve turned on the Allow first-party cookies option.

The concept of 'frequency capping' sounds like a good thing. Otherwise you might get the same ad every time you look at a post on this blog (or on any of my other resources that use AdSense).

The concept of 'personalized ads', however, sounds like an attempt to get around a lack of third-party cookies. If they aren't available, there's probably a reason. Maybe someone has simply turned them off.

Long story short -- I left 'first-party cookies' on, but turned 'first-party cookies for personalization' off. Finally, what about 'second-party cookies'. Are they a thing? This page, Breaking down First, Second, and Third Party Cookies (mmaglobal.com; 'MMA is the only marketing trade association that brings together the full ecosystem of marketers, martech and media companies working collaboratively'), says,

Second-party cookies are cookies that are transferred from one company to another company via some sort of data partnership. For instance, an airline could sell its first-party cookies (along with other first-party data such as names, email addresses, etc.) to a trusted hotel chain to use for ad targeting. In theory, this enables brands to exchange data with each other in instances that mutually benefits both parties.

So in theory I could exchange first-party cookies with other chess resources and we could all make big bucks (snort!). The main problem is that Google AdSense manages the cookies, not me. I have no idea how to access them. All in all, it's better that way.

10 October 2022

TCEC S23 DivP, CCC19 Blitz Final : 'Well' Underway

Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the world's two foremost engine vs. engine competitions. Let's first summarize the previous report from two weeks ago, TCEC S23 Paused; 'CCC19 Blitz Main' Underway (September 2022):-

TCEC: S23 L1 finished with Ethereal and Berserk promoting into DivP. Before that event starts, the site is running 'VSOB22 until replacement GPU'. • CCC: The site is currently running 'CCC19 Blitz Main' with 10 engines. This was preceded by three other 'CCC19 Blitz' events: 'Newcomers', 'Qualifier #1', and 'Qualifier #2'.

The current situation has both sites following a script well known from recent competitions.

TCEC: S23 Premier Division (DivP) is well underway. Stockfish is two points ahead of LCzero and KomodoDragon, which are separated by a half-point. The other five engines have negative scores. The event will finish in a week or so.

CCC: Stockfish won 'CCC19 Blitz Main' ahead of LC0 and Dragon, who were well ahead of the other seven engines. Sound familiar? If not, see the previous paragraph. Ethereal led the also-rans and managed a positive score.

Repeat that previous paragraph for the 'CCC19 Blitz Semifinals', substituting 'other three engines' and 'negative score'. In the 'CCC19 Blitz Challenger Match', Dragon beat LC0 by six points in a 300 game match. Stockfish is pummelling Dragon in the 'CCC19 Blitz Final' match.

That pattern has been repeating for many months. Suggested template for future posts (respectfully respecting the respective 'NB' in the footnote):-

Round-robin: 'Stockfish won _____ [well] ahead of LC0 and Dragon [or vice versa] which finished ahead of [number] other engines.' • Match: 'Stockfish beat [(Choose one:) LC0 -or- Dragon] in the _____.'

Will some extraordinary event break the routine? Perhaps a respectful retrospective look would be revealing.

[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]

09 October 2022

What Makes a Great Coach?

Tired of all the recent, seemingly endless, stories and videos about cheating in chess? For this month's featured video, let's change the subject.

RB Ramesh free talk: "Let your kids enjoy the game of chess!" (1:06:37) • '[Published on] Sep 12, 2022'

The description summarized the message of the video.

The great coach RB Ramesh invited parents attending the World Youth Chess Championships 2022 for a discussion to help them understand what a healthy parent-child relationship looks like.

"Let them enjoy themselves, have fun playing chess. Of course you want them to perform, but don't put pressure on them and don't try to coach them. You are their parents, you are their support, you are their biggest fans. Encourage them when they lose. Without pleasure, without enjoying the game, there are no great results in any sport, but especially in chess, which is not called the sport of the mind for nothing. Take care of their minds and that's how you'll raise happy and healthy athletes and adults!"

Note the phrase 'great coach'. The GM's Wikipedia page, Ramachandran Ramesh (wikipedia.org; currently just a stub), says,

He started Chess Gurukul, Chess Academy in Chennai to train young players in 2008. Since then, Chess Gurukul has produced many international chess champions from India.

For several tributes from the year 2020 to Ramesh, see Top Grandmasters of Indian chess pay homage to their teachers (chessbase.in; Sagar Shah). For a more recent commentary, see Interview: GM Ramesh On Coaching India-2 At Chess Olympiad, Winning Bronze (chess.com), especially 'Working With Praggnanandhaa'.

07 October 2022

Roger Cohen, Foreign Correspondent

Last week's post, Fischer: 'That's my answer' (September 2022), covered the start of the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch (m-w.com). At the pre-match press conference Fischer said,

"I'll start off with, umm, ah, some impudent questions from The New York Times [Roger Cohen]."

Roger Cohen wasn't some random chess journalist. His Wikipedia page Roger Cohen (wikipedia.org) starts,

Roger Cohen (born 2 August 1955) is a journalist and author. He was a reporter, editor and columnist for The New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune (later re-branded as the International New York Times). He has worked as a foreign correspondent in fifteen countries.

He was also a specialist on the Bosnian War. Another Wikipedia page Hearts Grown Brutal (ditto), informs,

Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo is a non-fiction book by New York Times reporter Roger Cohen chronicling his experiences covering the Bosnian War and the Bosnian Genocide. Random House published the book on August 25, 1998.

For a previous post in this 'Fischer Friday' series, GM Svetozar Gligoric, Player/Journalist (August 2022), I observed,

The 1972 Fischer - Spassky match 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.

Copy that for the 1992 rematch. The first match in 1992, which had little to do with chess, was about Fischer's sudden return to chess after 20 years of self-imposed retirement. Was he still capable of playing at the highest level? Was Spassky?

The second match in 1992, which started with the third game, was all about chess. Yes, the two players showed in the first two games that they still knew how to play. Could they keep it up for a long match that would continue until one of them had won 10 games?

Thanks to the 'The New York Times Archives', I located a half-dozen reports filed by Roger Cohen for the NYT (nytimes.com). Here they are in chronological order:-

  • 1992-08-31: Fischer and Spassky Ready to Play Chess Not Far From a War • 'Even by his own eccentric standards, the reclusive American chess genius Bobby Fischer has come up with something seriously weird in agreeing to make a comeback against his old rival Boris Spassky at this coastal resort just 70 miles from the carnage of the Balkan war.'
  • 1992-09-01: Mystery Man Pushing the Pawns • Jezdimir Vasiljevic (pronounced vass-ill-YAY-vich according to the NYT); 'The Yugoslav economy, never the world's strongest, has collapsed during the civil war of recent months. But one pugnacious businessman has continued to wheel and deal at a furious pace, culminating with his bold financing of the scheduled comeback of the United States chess genius Bobby Fischer against his old rival Boris Spassky in this Adriatic resort not far from the fighting.'
  • 1992-09-02: Bobby Fischer Ends Silence With Rancor • 'Brooding and bitter, the American chess genius Bobby Fischer emerged today from two decades as a recluse to dismiss the world's leading chess players as "the lowest dogs around" and to spit, almost literally, in the face of the United States Government.'
  • 1992-09-03: Fischer Wins First Game of Match With Spassky • 'With verve and vigor, Bobby Fischer returned to competitive chess today after a 20-year absence as a recluse and crushed his old rival Boris Spassky in the opening game of an exhibition series.'
  • 1992-09-04: Fischer Battles to a Draw in the 2d Match Game • 'Bobby Fischer and his old rival Boris Spassky today battled to a draw in the second game of their exhibition chess series. Fortune swung both ways during the grueling, seven-hour game before Mr. Fischer offered a draw on the 59th move.'
  • 1992-09-05: Reporter's Notebook; On the Adriatic, Chess Mates and Chilled Campari • 'Things got off to an awkward start here at the exhibition chess match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. The cover of the glossy program prepared by the players' Yugoslav host referred to Mr. Fischer as "the world shess champion."'

Note the repeated use of the phrase 'exhibition chess' match. That last report continued, 'Now virtually nobody, apart from Mr. Fischer himself, believes the United States grandmaster is still world champion, a title currently held by Gary Kasparov of Russia.' A seventh report by Cohen was dated several months after the last game, played on 5 November.

  • 1993-03-21: Banker's Balancing Act Cuts Yugoslav Safety Net • 'Wars always have their profiteers, their smugglers and their fixers, but seldom does a single wheeler-dealer stir the national enmity directed at Jezdimir Vasiljevic, a Serbian banker whose abrupt departure this month has accentuated the economic chaos here and thrown some light on the shady deals keeping Serbia afloat despite United Nations sanctions.'

All three of Fischer's matches followed the 'first match, second match' pattern. Three matches? Three years after the 1972 match, chess history recorded 'The Match That Never Was', i.e. 1975 Fischer forfeits to Karpov (m-w.com). In that year there was no second match. Fischer simply refused to play. Chess historians have been debating Fischer's conditions ever since.

06 October 2022

2022 CJA Awards - Part 3

In 2022 CJA Awards - Part 2 (August 2022), I promised a follow-up:-

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. [...]

The first idea was 'Winners of multiple awards (e.g. Soltis [x4], Spanier [x4], and Donaldson [x3])', where I've added, e.g. '[x4]' to show how many awards each of them won. Although the numbers add up to 11 awards, Spanier and Donaldson were named jointly on one award:-

Honorable Mention; Best Story of the Year; 'The Fischer Project'; John Donaldson (author), Ian Spanier (photographer); Chess Life, July 2021

That one story accounted for five of the ten awards. IM Donaldson had one other award for the same story (Winner 'Best Feature Article - Print') plus one Honorable Mention in 'Best Print Articles' for 'Bobby Fischer's Lost Game Scores' in American Chess Magazine (ACM) #26.

All of Spanier's awards were related to the 'Fischer Project' article. These included 'Best Single Chess Magazine Cover', shown on the left.

Two of Soltis's awards were 'Best Book' (including 'Book of the Year') for 'Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh', published by McFarland. The other two awards were for 'Frank J. Marshall: A Century Ahead of his Time' in ACM #22 (Honorable Mention) and his 'Chess to Enjoy' column in Chess Life (CL; Co-winner).

CL's 'Fischer Project' included a side story by Ian Spanier titled 'Influenced by a Legend'. It started,

There I was, a 19-year-old intern at GQ Magazine when in walked the Scottish, whitehaired, seersucker suit-wearing LIFE magazine legend Harry Benson. I knew Benson’s work from college, and was a huge fan [...]

Not entirely by coincidence we saw Benson in the previous post October 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (October 2022; 'Bobby Fischer visiting a farm near Reykjavik during the match.'). Also not entirely by coincidence we might be seeing more of Benson in a future post.

Another idea for a 'Part 3' -- let's call it 'Part 3 bis' -- was 'The CJA's Chess Journalist (it's back!)'. To date, three numbers (XLV, XLVI, and XLVII) dated 2022 are available via the CJA's home page, Chess Journalists of America. Of special interest to followers of the CJA awards are two articles by CJA President Joshua Anderson:-

  • Final Report: 2020 CJA Awards (XLVI), and
  • Final Report: 2021 CJA Awards (XLV)

The report on the 2021 awards started,

The 2021 CJA Awards were the largest and most diverse in the years that I have been involved in the awards. We had a record number of entries, 185, in a record number of categories, from a record number of entrants, judged by a record number of judges, at least for the years in which I have been the Chief Coordinating Judge.

Five of the 2022 awards went to articles published in the Chess Journalist. Issue no.XLV started, 'This is the first issue since 2019. The plan is to make it quarterly, but that is subject to having submissions.' As far as I know, submissions are always from CJA members, making this another reason to be a member (I'm not), so you have another chance to win an award.

04 October 2022

October 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover'

In last month's post September 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (September 2022), I struggled to include the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match:-

CL&R couldn't yet report the final result of the match. [...] The date of today's post, 1 September, marks 50 years since the historic match ended. [...] We'll come back to the end of the 1972 match for the October 'On the Cover' post.

So here we are.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Joel Benjamin: The New Interplay U.S. Champion! INTERPLAY™'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

The World Champion!! Bobby Fischer visiting a farm near Reykjavik during the match. Photo is by Harry Benson, courtesy LIFE Magazine, © Time Inc.

Brad Darrach, author of 'Bobby Fischer vs. the Rest of the World', told the following story in Ch.11 'Iron Logic Meets Sculptured Frenzy':-

The next day at about 5 P.M., Benson and I took Bobby to the country to shoot some photographs. All the way out he was surly and silent. About ten miles from Reykjavik we saw a field of sturdy little Icelandic horses that ran after the car, their blond manes streaming in the sun.

"Hey, they're pretty!" Bobby said. "Can you pet them? Will they bite?"

We pulled off the road and Bobby waded through deep grass to the fence. Fourteen horses trotted up boldly, bumping each other aside in their eagerness to sniff this interesting visitor. Bobby, delighted, broke into big smiles as the horses thrust their soft muzzles into his hands. Then he jumped back.

"Hey! They're drooling on my best coat!"

He took off his precious leather jacket from Argentina and gave it to me to hold. Benson asked him to go into the field and let the horses gather around him.

"Think it's safe?" he asked anxiously. "I got this far. I don't want to die before I get all that money."

We reassured him and separated the barbed wire. The horses veered away at first, but when Bobby sat on a tussock they came back and stood around him in a rough circle. The attention pleased Bobby, who seemed happier with these animals than we had ever seen him with people. He began to talk to them, and they listened.

One of the horses, bolder than the rest, leaned forward as if to kiss Bobby's cheek. Instead, very gently, the horse nipped his earlobe.

Bobby jerked back in terror. "He bit me! Did you see that? Wow! Lemme outa here!" He hurried back to the fence. The horses watched him with gentle eyes.

"This is dangerous, y'know?" he went on. "They got dirty teeth. I could get blood poisoning from a thing like that!"

I've long thought the CL&R cover photo was one of the horse series, but the animals in the background are sheep, not horses. Another famous Benson / Fischer photo shows Bobby being nuzzled in the face by a horse. He is wearing the same clothes as in the cover photo, so maybe I was right all along.

Back to the October 1972 issue, an introduction by editor Burt Hochberg proclaimed, 'Bobby Does It!!'. It was followed by an eight-page writeup by, 'The Match: Bobby's Show', by Robert Byrne. We will see more of the match in the coming months.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Our Interplay Champions!
• Joel Benjamin - U.S. Champion
• Esther Epstein - U.S. Women's Champion
• Tal Shaked - U.S. Junior Champion (World Junior Champion)

A two page, unsigned story titled, '1997 U.S. Interplay Championships', started,

Grandmaster Joel Benjamin, 33, of New York City, is the new Interplay U.S. Champion, by virtue of his victory over GM Larry Christiansen in the championship match. Joel scored +3-0=4 in the round-robin preliminary, +2-0=1 in his semi-final match against GM Gregory Kaidanov, and +2-1=3 against Christiansen, for an overall record of +7-1=8. He earned $10,000 and the Championship ring, designed by Heraldica Imports.

In a departure from the regular round robin format, the 16 players were divided into two separate sections, with the top two from each section advancing to match play. [...]

Somewhat curiously, the same introduction was repeated on the second page of the story. For an introduction to Interplay, see last year's October 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (October 2021; 'Not to be forgotten were the sponsors of the event.').

03 October 2022

Breaking the 3500 Barrier

Another seven-plus months, another 100 posts. Yesterday's post, Chess and Italian Design (October 2022), was no.3500 on this blog. That means it's time for a follow-up to Breaking the 3400 Barrier (February 2022). If you haven't seen the series before, the number 3400 also refers to a chess rating. We had to abandon humanity at Breaking the 2900 Barrier (April 2019), because according to the accepted rating agencies, no one has ever achieved that level.

Not too long after the 'Breaking 3400' post, I had another off-week engine post, Stockfish Breaks All the Barriers (April 2022). There I wrote,

I'll come back to this current post if I ever need to do a 'Breaking 3500' post.

So here we are. Believe it or not, a 3500 rating means we're approaching the current limit for engines. In the 'Breaking 3400' post I noted,

The ratings for [TCEC] 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, the CCRL.

Looking at that page CCRL Home (computerchess.org.uk/ccrl) again, I see there are two lists:-

  • CCRL Blitz (1; Stockfish 15 64-bit 8CPU; 3745 rating)
  • CCRL 40/15 (1; Stockfish 14 64-bit 4CPU; 3534)

The difference between a 37xx rating and a 35xx rating corresponds to the drop from TCEC S18 [37xx] to TCEC S19 [35xx]. I suppose that TCEC switched CCRL rating lists between S18 (finishing in July 2020) and S19 (October 2020). Or something like that.

That July-October 2020 time frame happened to coincide with the introduction of Stockfish NNUE, which saw a dramatic increase in the Fish's rating. If it wasn't rated 3500 before that period, it certainly was after. If I ever do a 'Breaking 3600' post, I now have two CCRL rating lists to consult, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. At the end of the 'Breaking 3400' post, I mentioned,

'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.

Reports last month proclaimed, e.g. Magnus Carlsen breaks 2900 barrier in Julius Baer Generation Cup win (chess24.com; Leon Watson). The article started,

Magnus Carlsen is the Julius Baer Generation Cup champion and the first player to break the 2900 Tour Rating after crushing the "Indian Iceman" Arjun Erigaisi in today’s final.

Given that Chess24.com is a defacto Magnus Carlsen fan club and that the record involved a '2900 Tour Rating' -- whatever that is -- the whole thing looks suspicious. TBD: Review for 'Breaking the 3600 Barrier'.

02 October 2022

Chess and Italian Design

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), when you say 'chess table', you mean something like the item featured in Chess with Rare Woods (February 2017). The item pictured below was titled 'Aldo Tura 1950, Three Nesting Tables Goatskin, Decorated with Chess Figures'. It sold for US $700.00, 'Buy It Now'.

The description said,

Set of three nesting tables, Aldo Tura, Italy, 1950. In high lacquered goatskin, the wooden frame covered with tobacco brown dyed parchment. Decorated with different golden chess figures.

Measurement biggest table: depth 12 inch, width 20 inch, height 16 inch. 70+ years old. Has some wear.

Who was Aldo Tura? The page Aldo Tura (artnet.com; Italian, 1909–1963) explained,

Aldo Tura was an Italian furniture designer best known for his mid-century tables and lamps. Combining his interest in Art Deco and Art Nouveau with low-slung minimalist design of the 1940s and 50s, he often utilized unusual materials like parchment, egg shell, and goatskin, frequently employing wheels and casters in his designs.

Born in 1909, Tura began manufacturing his signature furniture in the 1930s, focusing on limited production of handcrafted designs produced within the confines of traditional craftsmanship. Tura died 1963, and has earned the moniker "the master of parchment" for his use of the material.

It turns out that he designed a number of tables with a chess motif. See Tura Chess - For Sale on 1stDibs (1stdibs.com) for examples. A section of that page titled, 'Aldo Tura Biography and Important Works', starts, 'One of the most enigmatic and polarizing figures to emerge in Italian design...'