31 March 2023

Ding Liren's Rise to the GM title

The last two posts in this short series on Ding Liren summarized his career up to his last participation in a World Youth Championship (2004) and after his first participation in a World Championship event (2011). For specifics see:-

What happened during the intervening years? The following chart is a combination of:-

  • An extract of 'Results' from his Wikipedia page (in black and blue), and
  • Reports from TWIC (in red)

For example, the April 2007 Wikipedia reference corresponds to TWIC 659 (T659). The red box marks the time span covered by my TWIC search.

Ding Liren (wikipedia.org) // The Week in Chess (TWIC)

The year 2009 was the Chinese GM's breakthrough year. What about 2010 and after? I'll look at that in the next post.

30 March 2023

Downstreamer Yahoos

Before I get to this month's Yahoos (see the footnote for an explanation of 'Yahoos'), let's look at the March stats. Numbers always tell their own story.

For this current post, Google News returned 99 chess stories, of which nine sources had two or more stories. These are shown in the chart on the left.

Those nine sources accounted for 53 stories, leaving 46 sources with a single story. As always, Chess.com accounted for far more stories than any other source.

Two other perennial leaders, Chessbase.com and the Guardian, accounted for three stories each. In last month's Schizophrenic Yahoos (March 2023), I noted,

Starting more than a year ago, Google has consistently returned a small selection of stories that are more than a month old. [...] In February 2023, the 'Old Yahoos' were gone. Will this continue next month?

This month being already next month, the answer is 'No'. The 'Old Yahoos' are gone and I won't mention them again unless they reappear.

As so often happens, the chess story that dominated the news this month wasn't about the game itself; it was about relationships between top players. Since I already discussed it a few days ago in The Dark Side of Women's Chess (March 2023; Wall Street Journal: 'How Sexual Assault Allegations Against a U.S. Chess Grandmaster Went Unaddressed for Years'), I'll just mention some of the downstream stories that resulted from that main story. The most revealing of them appeared today:-

Before I delve a little deeper into the subject, I have to attend to a priority responsibility. It's been raining for more than 24 hours and the family dog hasn't had his 'daily' walk since two days ago. The rain has diminished and he keeps looking at me sadly with his big soft eyes, asking 'When?' Bye for now...

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


Later, much later: Three weeks later, to be exact. I started several times to finish this post, but gave up each time. The only other story worth mentioning is another angle on the 'Dark Side of Women's Chess':-

  • 2023-03-13: Shahade Tweet Motivates Ellen Carlsen To Report Harassment (chess.com; TarjeiJS) • 'Ellen Carlsen, GM Magnus Carlsen's older sister, says WGM Jennifer Shahade's allegations against Alejandro Ramirez led to her report an incident where she says she was harassed by a chess player as a minor.'

There were some other stories this month involving women's chess, but they were not on this topic. What will next month bring?

27 March 2023

Chessify Resources

A couple of months ago, in Chessify Progress Report (January 2023), I ended the post saying,

I'll continue to evaluate the [Chessify] service and perhaps learn why it's worth a subscription. If I discover anything important that I've overlooked to date, I'll come back with another post.

A couple of weeks later, the Chessify people started handing out free trial memberships. After a few weeks of the trial, I decided that a subscription was indeed worth the money, if for no other reason than to understand better the technology behind the service.

In that same post, I noted that there was 'No chess960 support'. Unfortunately, my test using the traditional start position encountered a snag when I received no moves from my opponents for over a week. I decided to analyze chess960 positions.

The main problem with chess960 in a traditional chess environment stems from the castling rules. Since chess960 games tend to become extremely tactical after a few moves have been played, there is nevertheless some value in trying to confirm the tactics with a traditional, non-chess960 engine. In one game, my chess960 engine indicated that White would have a big advantage after a certain move. The Chessify engines didn't like the move at all. It turned out that the difference hinged on a later move where White castled giving check, which is generally a strong move.

I'll continue using Chessify to look at chess960 positions. In the meantime, here are a few resources to help explore the Chessify service.

How to Analyze with Cloud Chess Engines on Chessify (2:10) • '[Published on] Feb 12, 2023'

The description for the corresponding Youtube video page says,

Learn how to analyze your chess games with Stockfish and other chess engines on the Chessify Analysis Dashboard. Choose from the variety of engine options, select the speed at which you want to analyze, and get the best move suggestions from the strongest chess engines in the world.

Other videos are available at Chessify AI (youtube.com). Although they are intended to overcome the lack of online documentation, they don't go into enough detail to do that successfully.

More info is available through Discord | #website-support | Chessify (discord.com). The videos point to the service's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages, but I haven't looked at them yet. Other resources that I should follow are Latest News About Chessify (chessify.me) and Blogs about Chess Engines, Puzzles, & More (ditto).

26 March 2023

The Dark Side of Women's Chess

In this video GM Nakamura reads the Wall Street Journal article, How Sexual Assault Allegations Against a U.S. Chess Grandmaster Went Unaddressed for Years (wsj.com). The article was subtitled,

Numerous women have accused elite player and coach Alejandro Ramirez of misconduct. Two bodies that run chess in the U.S. allegedly knew of accusations for several years.

It started,

When former U.S. women’s chess champion Jennifer Shahade alleged on social media last month that she had been sexually assaulted by a prominent grandmaster named Alejandro Ramirez, she had no idea it would set off a broad wave of additional allegations.

Kudos to WGM Jennifer Shahade for bringing the allegations to light. Kudos to Hikaru Nakamura for using his high-profile streaming platform to inform the broader chess public.

Horrifying Chess Scandal (23:07) • '[Published on] Mar 7, 2023'

This isn't the first time we've seen this sort of behavior in the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). See also The Dilemma of Women's Chess (July 2020). On that post, Kevin Spraggett commented,

Sexism, discrimination and FIDE's "laissez-faire" attitude towards female empowerment allow for volumes to be written about what is wrong with chess, in particular, and modern society in general.

I'm not sure what GM Spraggett meant by that comment. Are there more stories like the allegations against GM Ramirez waiting in the wings?

For another serious discussion of the latest story, this one by top players GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Cristian Chirila, see Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Alejandro Ramirez (youtube.com; C-Squared Podcast #026). At one time Ramirez worked for Caruana.

The title of this post echoes the title of an earlier post The Dark Side of Scholastic Chess (October 2014). I ended that post saying, 'Sexual predators are often cunning people'. I could have added that it's too easy to pretend that nothing is happening.

24 March 2023

Ding Liren's TWIC Debut

In last week's Friday post, Ding Liren's Climb to a Title Match (March 2023), I wrote,

We interrupt this series on 'Cheating @ Chess.com' to follow an important detour. [...] Before past title matches I've used a few posts to learn something about World Champion Carlsen's challenger for a particular match.

As I pointed out in the same post, 'GM Nepomniachtchi was Carlsen's challenger in the previous title match' and one of the posts I wrote then was Nepo's TWIC Debut (June 2021). I discovered there that young Nepo was keen on youth tournaments. See, for example:-

World Youth Championships (Nepo):-
TWIC 365; 2001-11-05 : U12 16-24
TWIC 420; 2002-11-25 : U12 1-2
TWIC 469; 2003-11-03 : U14 3
TWIC 523; 2004-11-15 : U18 15-27
TWIC 560; 2005-08-01 : U16 2-3

It turns out that Ding Liren's early events -- the only tournaments he played outside China before mid-2009 -- were events in which Nepo participated. Ding's earliest tournaments match Nepo's first four 'World Youth Championships', where Ding was competing in a lower age group because he was two years younger than Nepo.

World Youth Championships (Ding):-
TWIC 365; 2001-11-05 : U10 8-12 [Caruana 17-27]
TWIC 420; 2002-11-25 : U10 1-2 [Caruana 4-8]
TWIC 469; 2003-11-03 : U12 5-7 [Caruana?]
TWIC 523; 2004-11-15 : U12 1-2 [Caruana, Wesley So 7-15]

I added the info in brackets because Ding is three months younger than Fabiano Caruana, who participated in three of the same events & age groups as Ding. Each time, the Chinese player finished higher than the American. The 2003 event is unclear ('Caruana?') because TWIC listed only the top-10% (or so) finishers in each age group.


The following composite chart is from FIDE's 'Rating Progress Chart' for both competitors in the forthcoming 2023 Nepomniachtchi - Ding Liren Title Match (m-w.com). For a more readable view of the same data, see:-

Ding Liren - Wikipedia : 'Born: 24 October 1992'
Ian Nepomniachtchi - Wikipedia : 'Born: 14 July 1990'

The data points circled in red correspond to each player's 18th birthday. Ding was listed at 2604, Nepo at 2602.

20 March 2023

TCEC S24 DivP, CCC20 Blitz Final : Both Underway

In the previous fortnightly report on the world's two leading engine vs. engine competitions, TCEC S24 L1, CCC20 Blitz Semifinals: Final Week (March 2023), both the TCEC and CCC were well into their respective seasons. Following is a summary of that report.

TCEC: S24 L1 is underway with Koivisto leading by a significant margin. Berserk is in a tie for second place. • CCC: Of the 12 engines that competed in 'CCC20 Blitz Main', six qualified into the 'CCC20 Blitz Semifinals', which is underway.

After another two weeks, both competitions are seeing the usual three engines vying for the top places. Following is the current status.

TCEC: Koivisto won S24 L1 three points ahead of Berserk, which finished a point ahead of the next three engines. Both Koivisto and Berserk promoted into the Premier Division (DivP). With two rounds completed in the eight engine, eight round tournament, they are in fourth and fifth place place, significantly behind KomodoDragon, LCZero, and Stockfish. LCZero beat Stockfish in an early game of the third round.

CCC: In the 'CCC20 Blitz Semifinals', Stockfish, Lc0, and Dragon finished in that order. Lc0 beat Dragon by 32 points in the 500-game 'Challenger Match', and is currently trailing Stockfish by 16 points after a sixth of the 500-game 'Final Match' has been played. This extrapolates to a difference of nearly 100 points when the match will have finished.

[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]

19 March 2023

Karpov and Kasparov Play Chess in Iceland

Last month's Flickr favorite, Catsparov Chess (February 2023), confirmed a trend:-

Am I just a sucker for AI generated chess images? It appears I am.

And here we go again, even when dealing with an historical absurdity on multiple counts...

Upper left: DALL-E 2023-03-10 21.34.47 © Flickr user fdecomite under Creative Commons.

The description, which was a continuation of that cryptic title, said,

Karpov vs Kasparov play chess for the World Championship in Iceland, oil painting in the style of brothers van Eyck.

Wikipedia's page Jan van Eyck (wikipedia.org; 'before 1390 – 1441, was a painter active in Bruges [now Flemish Belgium]') informs,

He had a sister Margareta, and at least two brothers, Hubert (died 1426), with whom he probably served his apprenticeship and Lambert (active between 1431 and 1442), both also painters, but the order of their births has not been established.

If 'Flickr user fdecomite' rings a bell, then you have an excellent memory. I featured his/her work in two previous Flickr posts, of which the last was Chess Needle (January 2009).

17 March 2023

Ding Liren's Climb to a Title Match

We interrupt this series on 'Cheating @ Chess.com' to follow an important detour. The Chess.com series was previously seen in Cheating for all Ages (March 2023), where I wrote,

I'll start with a summary of past posts on this blog that dealt with various aspects of cheating. Posts marked '(*)' featured Chess.com.

Why take a detour when I was just getting started? I realized this week that the 2023 Nepomniachtchi - Ding Liren Title Match (m-w.com; FIDE: 'due to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, from April 7th to May 1st'), starts in less than a month. Before past title matches I've used a few posts to learn something about World Champion Carlsen's challenger for a particular match. Because of Carlsen's withdrawal from the cycle, in this match both players are taking the role of challenger. Here are a few earlier posts that give the background to this unusual situation:-

GM Nepomniachtchi was Carlsen's challenger in the previous title match, 2021 Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi (m-w.com; Dubai, XI-XII, 2021). In the months before the match, I created a series of posts about his career:-

The post titled 'Nepo at the World Cup' included a 'chart adapted from one of my pages [that] shows the World Championship events in which GM Nepomniachtchi has so far participated'. For this current post I did the same for Ding Liren. The codes in red delineate the different cycles.

Index of players (A-G), with links to the different events

Both Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren began their climb to the World Championship in the same event, the 2011 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Nepo qualified from the 2010 European Championship, where he finished first, and was eliminated in the third round of the World Cup by Gata Kamsky. Ding, who is two years younger than Nepo, was a nominee of then FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and was eliminated in the first round by Wesley So.

13 March 2023


In the previous off-week engine post, Chessify vs. Chessbase Engine Cloud (February 2023), I noted,

Since the beginning of the year, the off-week engine posts -- meaning those weeks that I'm not tracking TCEC/CCC -- have been looking at the Chessify engine cloud.

While the Chessbase service deserves a deeper look, I'm going to switch my attention to another, similar service that I can use immediately without installing expensive software that I don't really need. The following screen capture shows the home page for 'Next Chess Move [NCM]: The strongest online chess calculator'.


The intoduction at the top of that page explains,

Drag pieces to configure the board and press 'Calculate Next Move'. I'll tell you what the computer player does.

Last year we briefly saw the same site in the post Stockfish Breaks All the Barriers (April 2022; 'NCM Stockfish Dev Builds). At that time I neglected to delve into the real purpose of the site.

The function to 'Calculate Next Move' begs to be used on something other than the traditional start position that appears there by default. I went back to one of the games that I'm using to try Chessify, as described in the recent post Chessify Progress Report (January 2023).

I chose a game that has progressed to a Queen and Pawn (Q+P) endgame where I have an extra Pawn. It's a difficult endgame and during the Chessify trial I've learned a lot from offline resources about Q+P endgames in general. I've steadily improved the position of my King and Queen to their maximum potential, but am now facing a decision on how to proceed. There are several possible plans, but the Chessify engines insist that all variations lead to a draw.

Back to NCM, I used the FEN function, shown below the chessboard, to enter the FEN string from the current position of my Q+P endgame. I then unleashed both Stockfish 15.1 and LCZero 0.29.0 -- separately, of course -- on that position.

My first impression was that NCM is somewhat tedious to operate. 'Calculate Next Move' thinks for about five seconds, then returns a single move that (1) needs an action to apply it to the current position, followed by (2) another action to change the 'Active Color', i.e. the side to move, before it's ready to calculate the following move. None of the remaining moves in the 'Principal Variation' (PV) are shown.

Despite that repetitive procedure, the short test worked well and I'm ready for a more extensive test on a real game (where engines are permitted). The top of the right column on the NCM home page informs,

NCM Pro $19/year • Get stronger moves from NCM's 16 CPU core and RTX 2080 GPU dedicated servers. Free trial includes ten minutes of calculation time. Paid members get unlimited calculations.

The link for 'See Details' points to Next Chess Move: About NCM Pro, where more is explained. As soon as I finish one of my Chessify test games, I'll start the NCM free trial on a new game.

The major downside to the service is obvious. It's a magnet for online chess cheaters.

12 March 2023

I Should Just Focus on the Chess

Tired of people talking about the success of Chess.com? I can't sympathize, because I don't think I'll ever get enough. A couple of months ago the featured video of the month was The Rise of Chess.com (January 2023). Consider this a follow-up post.

This Company RULES Over ENTIRE CHESS MARKET | Case Study (11:49) • '[Published on] Feb 24, 2023'

The description said only,

We have revised the payment plan for this cohort. Under this new plan, the base price is now 30,000 + GST, and the rest from your first month's salary IF you get placed through the cohort. If you do not get placed/don't apply for placements, we don't charge you the salary fee.

I had no idea what that meant, so I decided to find out. The Youtube channel, Aevy TV ('We take complex educational topics and make it super fun for you so you never forget.'), pointed to AevyTV Video Editing Cohort (aevytv.com), which said, 'The Best PLACEMENT FRIENDLY Video Editing coHORT money can buy'.

A popup on that page said, 'Glad to see you here! How can I help you?' plus 'Start chat'. I accepted the chat with the intention of starting a dialog on the topic: 'I don't know. How *can* you help me? Who are you?'. The invitation 'Start chat' led to a page Share on WhatsApp (whatsapp.com) which announced,

Aevy Ventures Private Limited • Continue to Chat

'Continue to Chat' informed,

Looks like you don't have WhatsApp installed! • Download or use WhatsApp Web

'Use WhatsApp Web' went to a page of instructions plus a QR code. [...] No thanks. I just wanted to chat so I'll skip it. In retrospect, I doubt that it would help to enjoy the very interesting video, so I'll just ignore it for now. I can always come back to it later if necessary.

That's life on the web. You land on a promising page that immediately tries to sell you something -or- tries to sign you up for a newsletter -or- wants you to download some software. That's before you even decide if the page was worth visiting in the first place.

As for the video, 'This Company Rules', I'll continue with it another time. It appears to be worth the persistence.

10 March 2023

Cheating for all Ages

For the last few weeks I've been running a weekly series on Chess.com's Game Review Tools (February 2023). I'll continue with Chess.com, but change the focus. That post mentioned,

[Chess.com] has a good reputation for vigorously enforcing its no-engine policy, even if it leads to controversial decisions.

I'll start with a summary of past posts on this blog that dealt with various aspects of cheating. It's a real mixed bag. Posts marked '(*)' featured Chess.com.

Recent months have seen heavy media interest in the so-called Niemann affair. The entire discussion gets a '(*)' because Chess.com played a leading role.

Another recent, recurring topic has been the controversy surrounding the 1997 match Kasparov vs. IBM's Deep Blue (m-w.com). It provided some precedent for the Niemann affair.

The rest of the posts are listed in unfiltered, reverse chronological order.

The list needs a lot more work. I'll fill in some of the blanks as I continue with the Chess.com series.

09 March 2023

March 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover'

Another month means another look at U.S. chess 50 and 25 years ago. The tags for last month's post, February 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (February 2023) -- 'Books/Mags, Photos, USchess, WCC' -- apply equally well to this month.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Karpov Reigns Supreme as FIDE World Champion!'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

I. A. (Al) Horowitz, who died in January. Tributes to this irreplaceable man begin [inside]. Photo courtesy of New York Times [NYT].

The tributes started with five pages headed,

I. A. Horowitz
November 15, 1907 — January 18, 1973

The first tribute was by USCF Executive Director Ed Edmondson. It started,

The 1930's were glorious years for USA chess. Young masters were on the rise; they played exciting, stimulating games in tournaments such as the U.S. Open and the U.S. Championship; our teams swept to victory in four consecutive Chess Olympiads; and, in 1933, a great new American chess magazine was born.

It was a time for living legends. Just look at our line-up in the Chess Olympiad (World Team Championship), Stockholm 1937: Reshevsky, Fine, Kashdan, Marshall, and Horowitz. Giants, every one. But to me, a high school student then just beginning to explore the delights of tournament chess, none loomed larger than I. A. (Al) Horowitz. He was everywhere -- at the Olympiads, the U.S. Opens, the U.S. Championships; crisscrossing the nation (with occasional stops in my home town of Rochester) on one simultaneous exhibition tour after another; and coming into my home every month as editor of CHESS REVIEW.

Other tributes were by GMs William Lombardy, Isaac Kashdan, and Arnold Denker; CL&R's Jack Straley Battell and Burt Hochberg; and the NYT's John Devlin. The first photo showed Horowitz playing Petrosian in the USSR-USA match, Moscow 1955.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

The issue's introduction, titled 'On the Cover' of course, was a natural continuation of the intro to the February 1998 issue of CL, copied verbatim in last month's post. See that post for links to the WCC events mentioned below.

Elizabeth Karnazes shot the cover photo of Anatoly Karpov just after he successfully defended his FIDE World Championship title in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Karpov will be appearing at the National Open in Las Vegas, March 28-29, to give a 30-board simultaneous exhibition. If you can get to Las Vegas a day early, organizer Al Losoff will be auctioning off one board to the highest bidder. Details [inside].

The rumor mills are working overtime. It is rumored that Garry Kasparov will finally defend his PCA World Championship title in the closing months of 1998. The challenger will come from a group of grandmasters selected by Kasparov. Karpov will not be invited. So much for a unification match.

And FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has announced plans to make the knockout world championship an annual affair. Las Vegas is high on the list of possible sites for 1998.

Every one of those paragraphs would make a good start for a follow-up post, but there is only so much time for chess.

06 March 2023

TCEC S24 L1, CCC20 Blitz Semifinals: Final Week

For the previous fortnightly post on the two most important, ongoing engine vs. engine competitions the keyword was 'Underway': Stockfish Wins TCEC Swiss 4; TCEC S24 L2 & CCC20 Blitz Underway (February 2023). Here's a summary of that post:-

TCEC: Stockfish won 'Swiss 4', a point ahead of KomodoDragon and LCZero. The site then started S24 League 2 (see diagram for S24 stages). • CCC: The 'CCC20 Blitz Newcomers' and 'Qualifier #1' events have finished and 'Qualifier #2' is underway. The next stage, 'CCC20 Blitz Main', will have 12 engines with three coming from 'Qualifier #2'.

The keyword is still 'Underway', although both competitions have advanced considerably. Both are reaching the stages that determine the three best engines to close their respective seasons.

TCEC: S24 League 1 is underway with Koivisto leading by a significant margin. Berserk is in a tie for second place. Both engines featured in the recent post Chessify's Other Engines (February 2023). L1 will run for another week.

Between L2 &nd L1, the TCEC conducted the 'L2 Igel Gauntlet', with Igel playing against 11 other engines. The TCEC S24 Wiki page explained in two parts the reason for the event. The first part said:-

Tournament Director's decision regarding Booot: It came to the attention of the author of Igel that Booot was finally ready, after many setbacks its author had experienced due to the war in his country [Ukraine]. Igel author in a gentleman gesture then offered Booot to take its place in League 2, and this offer was accepted by TD-decision.

And for the second part:-

Tournament Director's decision regarding Igel: The many Booot crashes distort League 2 results. To alleviate this problem, Igel will be placed back after this League's play and play a 2 rounds gauntlet with reverse games against the other 11 League 2 engines. After removing Booot's results this will give the final table and promotions for League 2.

That was a great show of sportsmanship by all concerned with good calls by the TCEC TD.

CCC: Of the 12 engines that competed in 'CCC20 Blitz Main', six qualified into the 'CCC20 Blitz Semifinals', which is underway. With less than 10% of the games completed, Stockfish already leads by a comfortable margin ahead of Dragon and Lc0, which are ahead of the three other engines. The event will finish within a week, when the second and third engines will compete in a 'Challenger Match' to determine who will face the winner of the Semifinals in the Final match.

[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]

05 March 2023

Poster Perfect Chess Art

This month's initial list of Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) was top heavy with chess sets. I had to scroll way down the list to find an example of chess art, so scroll I did.

The item pictured below was titled, 'Victor Vasarely L’échiquier chess board signed print (1969)', where L’échiquier is French for 'chess board'. It sold 'Best offer accepted' after one bid for GBP 380.00 ('approximately US $455.13', according to eBay).

The description repeated the title and said,

This print was has been seen by an auctioneer and [sic; who(?)] proved the authenticity. Print is framed in its original frame. • Print: 35 / 138 • Height: 53cm • Width: 47cm

Other sources say the work was created in the 1930s. It was also used as one of a series of posters for the 22nd Chess Olympiad, 1976, Haifa, Israel. In the same eBay series, we've seen Victor Vasarely once before: Vasarely Set, Board, or Both? (November 2019). There I ended saying,

Why did I decide to feature this set for this post? Vasarely produced other chess related works. Cataloging them would make a good rainy day project.

Add to that catalog the 1976 series of Olympiad posters.

03 March 2023

Chess.com's Game Review Tools Support

In two recent posts I overviewed two important tools available on Chess.com:-

Chess.com has detailed help available under 'Member Support and FAQs' (support.chess.com). The help pages listed here lead to others:-

As I said in the 'Tools PGN' post, there is much to explore here...

02 March 2023

Schizophrenic Yahoos

This month's Yahoos post has a schizophrenic foundation, in multiple senses of the word. Which word? Take your pick. (See also the footnote for an explanation of Yahoos.)

Unlike every previous Yahoo post on this blog -- e.g. last month's First Yahoos of 2023 (January 2023) -- the summary of top Yahoos in February was constructed from data on two different days. That deserves an explanation.

I started writing this post using the data shown in the left half of the chart. On that day, at that time, Google News returned 99 stories, of which five were from the previous month, January. All five stories were also returned for the list behind January's 'First Yahoos of 2023'. There was nothing earlier. Then I realized that only 28 days had passed since the January post. Since Google generally returns stories covering the past 30 days, I had some overlap with the previous post. I decided to wait two days and rewrite the post.

The data shown in the right half of the chart is from the second attempt writing this current post. This time Google returned 101 stories. Six news sources accounted for two or more stories, with a total of 55 stories among them. Since there were no stories from before February to be excluded, that left 46 sources with a single story.

Starting more than a year ago, Google has consistently returned a small selection of stories that are more than a month old. I documented this in Old Yahoos Don't Always Die (February 2022). In February 2023, the 'Old Yahoos' were gone. Will this continue next month?

Having two sources of data revealed some new aspects of Google News inner workings. Only two days later, three news sources have disappeared from the chart on the left, the earlier source of data. The two different lists also allow an analysis of how stories age under Google's selection algorithm, an idea too intricate for this current post. It's also worth noting how ChessBase is coded differently -- 'ChessBase' on the left, 'en.chessbase.com' on the right.

Around the middle of last year I started to wonder if Google News uses some sort of paid placement for news stories. I won't go into the details here, but in some months, the Yahoos exhibited peculiar behavior. This month I noticed a message that I had never seen before. It appeared before the list of Google's results:-

How these stories are ranked • These news articles are ranked based on their quality, originality of content, freshness of content, and where permitted based on your settings, your previous activity and purchases within Google News, and activity in other Google products. Google may have a license agreement with some of these publishers, but it has no impact on the ranking of results. • Learn more...

The phrase 'no impact on the ranking of results' says nothing about the number of results from a specific news source, a 'publisher' in Google's vocabulary. The link behind 'Learn more...' led to Google News consumer information - Google News Help (support.google.com). I'll try to come back to this topic in another post, but first I have to look at some of the news stories flagged by Google. That is, after all, the purpose of the Yahoo series. Watch this space...

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


Later: Re 'three news sources have disappeared from the chart on the left', none of the stories published by those sources was particularly compelling, so no need to take that thought any further. One new source appeared on the right: 'Yahoo News'. In fact, the real Yahoo accounted for three different stories. The first was:-

  • 2023-03-01: Russian chess stars quit Europe for Asia in ‘historic’ move (sports.yahoo.com; Independent; Reuters) • 'Chess powerhouse Russia has joined the Asian Chess Federation following an ACF vote that allows Russian players to keep competing at an international level despite the war in Ukraine and the sanctions that it has prompted.'

There were a handful of stories on the same topic from other sources, making the federation transfer the news story of the month. I already covered it on my World Championship blog in Zone 1.6 (Russia) Becomes Zone 3.8 (March 2023), and will probably continue to follow it there. Two other Yahoo stories returned by Google News were:-

The first story 'speaks for itself', to use a chess cliché popular in recent months. The second story was echoed by another handful of stories with titles like 'Chess.com Hits #1 in iOS App Store' (chess.com) and 'Server Trouble and the End of Mittens?' (ditto).

Of the other stories worth mentioning, one appeared four times. I'll reference its original version:-

The lead sentence started, 'Here’s something else chess players need to keep in check...'. (Groan, cough, cough.)