29 June 2023

Three Yahoo Surprises

Once again, the last unconditional post of the month brings us the month's Yahoos. (For an explanation of 'Yahoos', see the footnote below.) Before looking at the month's stories, let's have the usual statistics and meta-analysis of the month's news.

At the end of June, Google News returned 98 stories from 49 different news sources. The 10 news sources with at least two stories are listed in the chart on the left.

As usual, Chess.com dominated the chess news stories with more stories than the other top nine sources combined. This is no surprise and has happened umpteen times before, maybe even every month. The list of top sources does, however, contain a number of surprises.

The first surprise is the no.2 position held by FIDE. Last month, in Youtube Yahoos (May 2023), Chessbase was no.2, a ranking it has held or shared every month since last year's post Cheating Mania (September 2022), where the New York Times was no.2 and Chessbase was no.3.

The second surprise is the number of news sources which we haven't seen before in the Yahoo series. I should spend some time discussing those new sources, but that will have to wait for later. I'm already late with this post and there are other matters to attend to.

The third surprise isn't really a surprise. It's been expected since the September 2022 'Cheating Mania' post, which started,

It didn't take a crystal ball to predict that this month's Yahoos' post was going to be about Carlsen/Nakamura vs. Niemann, aka the chess cheating affair. The scandal broke three weeks ago and shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.

For a summary of posts about the scandal, see Cheating for all Ages (March 2023). For the latest on the scandal, this month's top story, I come back to 'that will have to wait for later'.

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


Later: Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes when I prepared the discussion above. At the top of its results, Google News returned blocks of stories on two specific chess topics that I failed to include in my counts. As an example, both blocks included a story by CNN. If I had counted both stories, the CNN count would show four stories instead of two. I'll use the CNN stories to represent the two blocks.

'News about Global Chess League' (three stories; plus six more stories among the other 98 returned by Google News)

'Judge dismisses $100m chess lawsuit' (two stories, plus link for 'Full Coverage'; eight more stories among the other 98)

Those two topics each accounted for far more stories than we usually see on a single topic in a typical month of Yahoos. What about the nine sources (excluding Chess.com) with at least two stories? I'll feature what I consider the top story for each source.

The next three sources -- Huntington Herald Dispatch, Jewish Link of New Jersey, and Prima Games -- had local stories mainly of interest to local readers. The last source, Sportstar, has been mentioned in several Yahoos, most recently in Deja Vu Yahoos (December 2022; 'the Sportstar [thehindu.com] stories were mostly about the National Chess Championships of India'). This month, both Sportstar stories were about the GCL. Because of other commitments, I haven't been following the GCL, but it doesn't take a keen chess news fan to figure out that India is deeply involved.

26 June 2023

Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC2; CCC20 Bullet Underway

In this continuing, fortnightly series on the world's top two engine vs. engine competitions, the previous post was TCEC FRC6, CCC20 Rapid; Stockfish Wins Both (June 2023). Expanding that title produces the following summary:-

TCEC: In the 'S24 FRC6 Final', Stockfish beat LCZero +15-12=23. The site then organized 'S24 DFRC2', which has reached 'League 1', the third of four stages. • CCC: In the 'CCC20 Rapid Finals', Stockfish crushed Lc0 143.0-107.0, then crushed the Mystery engine 67.0-33.0 in an exhibition match. The site then launched the 'CCC20 Bullet Entry League'.

Fast forward two weeks and the current situation looks like this...

TCEC: Stockfish beat LCZero +10-7=33 in the 'S24 DFRC2 Final'. This was the final event for TCEC season 24 (S24). The plans for S25 announce,

Now !Swiss5; then !1day, Cup 12, !1day, Leagues, !1day, !FRD1, !1day, !S26; (current plan, can change, also !r-mobility (armageddon) demo or bonus might be inserted somewhere); !1day per move bonus done in alternate and parallel with other tournaments (ongoing)

What's FRD? The !Command says,

Fischer Random Double event, combining FRC and DFRC in one event: FRC in early part, DFRC for later and final parts.

This is a new form of engine competition. It's unclear what issue it is trying to resolve.

CCC: In the 'CCC20 Bullet' tournment, the 'Entry League' was followed by 'Qualifier 1' and 'Qualifier 2'. Before launching the 'CCC20 Bullet Main' event, the site is conducting a match between Dragon and the Mystery engine.

Given that the sequence for both CCC19 and CCC20 was Blitz, Rapid, Bullet, we can expect that the next event will be 'CCC21 Blitz'. Bold prediction: Stockfish will win both 'CCC20 Bullet' and 'CCC21 Blitz'. Timid prediction: Stockfish will win both 'CCC20 Bullet' and 'CCC21 Blitz'.

...According to my first summary of engine vs. engine events, TCEC/CCC 2019 Q1-Q3 Summary (October 2019), I've been doing this series of posts since January 2019. Back then I was following TCEC S14 and CCC03.

What goes around doesn't always come around. Sometimes it stops. The TCEC is starting S25; the CCC is coming to the end of CCC20. I'm almost certain this current post will be the last in the series on this blog.

[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]

25 June 2023

The Sociology of Memes

In all the years that I've been running the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), I've never mentioned memes. So here we go.

Google Image search on 'chess memes'

The last time I used the 'Google Image search' trick was Election Special 2022 (November 2022). At that time I had three rows of image thumbnails. Now I have two. Why the difference? Here's the election image...

Google Image search on 'chess trump biden'

...Looks like the thumbnails are taller now. Of the 13 thumbnails for 'chess memes', 11 are from Chess.com. Why am I not surprised?

20 June 2023

June 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover'

Another month has passed, so let's have another look at U.S. chess magazine covers from 50 and 25 years ago. Both magazines featured the winners of super strong U.S. Swiss-system tournaments of their respective eras.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Minasian Sweeps the New York Open'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier, who won the powerful Lone Pine Tournament in California, which included five grandmasters. Story [inside]. Photo by Burt Hochberg.

The story inside was titled 'Bisguier Wins at Lone Pine'. It started,

[We are indebted to Isaac Kashdan's column in the Los Angeles Times for the story details and selected games. - Ed.]

Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier was the undisputed winner of the powerful Louis D. Statham Masters and Experts Tournament held for the third time in Lone Pine, California. With five grandmasters, the average rating of the tournament was 2322, highest ever for a Swiss in the U.S. and possibly the world.

Bisguier's play was strongly dynamic when necessary, careful and pragmatic when violence was not called for. Now living in a new home in Rock Hill, New York, Bisguier may count this fine victory as a highlight of his recent career.

The Lone Pine tournament also featured a year ago in May 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (May 2022): 'In the center, Svetozar Gligoric, winner of the Statham Tournament in Lone Pine, California.'

GM Bisguier was mentioned in last month's, May 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (May 2023): 'The reference to Arthur Bisguier is for that column ['Player of the Month'], which included a game where the GM lost in 21 moves playing White against Nakamura.' A more typical mention was last year's December 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (December 2022): 'Another Title for Arthur Bisguier', the 1997 U.S. Senior champion.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Professional photographer Brian Killigrew was at the New York Open, when Artashes Minasian received a special prize from New York Open organizer Jose Cuchi (left) and Lladro USA representative Glenn Conciatori (right). This special edition chess set, handcrafted by Lladro (masters of porcelain art), has been awarded to Pablo San Segundo for winning the Championship of Spain, to Judit Polgar at Dos Hermanas (for her "Fighting Spirit"), and now to Minasian for winning the New York Open.

Lladro has come a long way since 1951, when three brothers, Juan, Jose, and Vicente, constructed their first kiln in Tavernes Blanques. Lladro USA is well-established in Moonachie, New Jersey; the Lladro Museum and Gallery is located on West 57th Street in New York City, exhibitions of their fine porcelain creations are held in Russia and Japan, and their fundraising commitment for the U.S. Special Olympics has resulted in even more praise directed towards the company, which now employs more than 2,000 people.

The three page tournament report on the 1998 New York Open was followed by a page and a half of games titled, 'Theoretical Disputes'. This is the first time we've seen Cuchi in this blog on a Chess Life cover, although he received a mention last year in July 1972 & 1997 'On the Cover' (July 2022): 'Jose Cuchi set a new record for organizing the strongest USCF rated event, the 15th New York Open.'

19 June 2023

Chessify Coins and Combos

The last time I posted about Chessify was Chessify Resources (March 2023; 'Here are a few resources to help explore the Chessify service.'). Since then I've learned much about the service and one of these days might document most my recent experiences on this blog.

An important aspect that has eluded me is the Chessify price structure -- plans, coins, and combos. What is the difference between them and how do they work together? Although I had watched the video embedded below, it introduced so many new concepts that I had trouble understanding its basic point.

Chessify Subscription Plans - Price, Features, and More (3:31) • '[Published on] Feb 12, 2023'

The video description says,

Learn everything you need to know about the Chessify subscription plans: price, features, differences, etc. The plans offer access to powerful cloud servers for chess engine analysis, a wide range of chess engines, such as Stockfish and Leela Chess Zero, a 9 Million+ game database updated weekly, opening references, cloud storage, and more.

The video uses a chart which I've reproduced at the bottom of the post. I'm currently on the least expensive of the subscription services, the 'Amateur' plan. Is it worth my while to upgrade to a higher plan? And what is the purpose of 'coins'? Fortunately, there's another video to answer these questions: What are the Chessify Coins and Combo Plans? (youtube.com; Chessify AI).

Here's everything you need to know about the Chessify coin packages and combo plans which offer both coins and standard subscription plan features. The coins give you access to up to 1 BN/s speed cloud servers for analyzing with the strongest chess engines, such as Stockfish and Leela Chess Zero, while the combo plans also offer a 9 Million+ game database updated weekly, opening references, cloud storage, and more.

The FAQ on the pricing page explains that subscription plans are for shared servers and coins are for dedicated servers. When I started using Chessify, I was given 500 coins to help debug a blocking problem I was having. I still have 300 unspent coins, because I didn't know what to do with them. Now I know.


Source: Chessify Subscription Plans and Coins

18 June 2023

'A Constantly Evolving Work of Art' (*)

Chess artist at work? There was no description on this photo, so I had to dig a little.

Art, Chess & Campagne | Design in the City Tour © Flickr user Creative Industries Styria GmbH under Creative Commons.

The Flickr user name leads to Creative Industries Styria (cis.at). The English version of the 'About' page explains,

Founded in 2007 as a network society of the Province of Styria, Creative Industries Styria consider themselves as bridge builders and a network authority between the creative industries and the traditional economy that aims at improving and extending the efficiency and performance in the market for both sides.

Adding the keyword 'chess' to the mix leads to CUBES.ART Chess Innovations (cis.at/member), located in Graz, Austria. That page leads to Chess for kids and adults (chess-junior.com; 'Wall Art Games'). Here we learn,

Welcome to CUBES.ART! We develop products and create experiences that inspire children and adults to become enthusiastic about the game of chess. Our art series WALL ART GAMES -- in a limited edition -- contributes to integrating the game of chess into daily life and maintaining an interest in the "royal game". Learn and enjoy chess "à la CUBES.ART".

Back to the photo, the pieces on the easel are little cubes with the related chess piece printed on the facing side. Another photo in the same series has the little cubes showing checker pieces in the usual checkers formation.

(*) From the same CUBES.ART page: 'Start your next game with a tactical eye and experience the magic of a constantly evolving work of art with each chess move.'

16 June 2023


Some of my blog posts are basically notes to myself. This is one of them. I took two weeks off at the beginning of May and have been scrambling since then to get my blogs back on track. Although you can't see it easily from the dates on the posts, I wrote 30 posts in 30 days and am now caught up.

One trick I used was to skip Friday posts. These are usually a series on some theme. The final posts in the most recent Friday series were:-

The Ding Liren series, which is finished, interrupted the previous Chess.com GRT / Cheating series, which were related topics. When I come back to the Friday posts I'll pick up those series where I left off in March.

12 June 2023

TCEC FRC6, CCC20 Rapid; Stockfish Wins Both

It's time for another fortnightly report on the world's top two engine vs. engine chess competitions. For the previous report, see TCEC FRC6, CCC20 Rapid Finals; Both Underway (May 2023). Following is a summary of that report.

TCEC: The site launched a chess960 event, 'S24 FRC6', which is currently in the 'First phase - League C', the third of four preliminary six-engine double round robins. • CCC: The engine Mystery played five 100-game matches, In the 'CCC20 Rapid Challenger Match' Lc0 beat Dragon 129.5-120.5, and is currently losing to Stockfish by seven points in the 'Finals' after a little more than a quarter of the 250 games have been played.

Since then the TCEC FRC6 event has morphed into the DFRC2, and the CCC Rapid has morphed into the Bullet. Same old, same old? With Stockfish continuing to win everything in sight, it sure seems that way.

TCEC: In the 'S24 FRC6 Final', Stockfish beat LCZero +15-12=23. The site then organized 'S24 DFRC2', which has reached 'League 1', the third of four stages. For more about the event, see TCEC DFRC 2 (wiki.chessdom.org), and TCEC DFRC rules (ditto). The rules state,

The TCEC DFRC is a progressive leagues knockout format played in TCEC, including all invited qualifying participants. The qualifying engines consist of the top engines able to play Double Fischer Random Chess natively under Linux.

For the previous TCEC iterations of FRC6 and DFRC2 on this blog, see Stockfish Wins TCEC FRC5, Leads CCC18 Rapid Semifinal (August 2022), and Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC1, Leads CCC18 Rapid Final (August 2022). I'll have more to say about the more recent iterations on my chess960 blog, which is linked on the sidebar.

CCC: In the 'CCC20 Rapid Finals', Stockfish crushed Lc0 143.0-107.0. The Fish then crushed the Mystery engine 67.0-33.0, losing only three games along the way. The site then launched the 'CCC20 Bullet Entry League'. For the previous CCC iteration of its Bullet event, see LCZero Wins TCEC Cup 11; Stockfish Wins CCC19 Bullet (January 2023).

[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]

11 June 2023

Bond, Siblings Bond

After two straight months with the monthly video featuring the recent World Championship, it's time for some light entertainment. The actors in this clip have nearly six million subscribers on their channel, plus millions of views and thousands of comments on this video. They are definitely doing something right.

Human Chess In Real Life (18:31) • '[Published on] Jun 9, 2023'

The description of the video didn't explain much. Here's the description from the video's channel:-

We're the Nelson family and we make videos that we hope make you laugh and smile! Our channel is clean family fun where we love to make skits about video games. Our videos are full of humor and heart and we love to show the bond of siblings and fun gaming videos.

Fun gaming videos? No more explanation required!

05 June 2023

The CCC's Mystery Engine

In last week's post on engine vs. engine events, TCEC FRC6, CCC20 Rapid Finals; Both Underway (May 2023), for the CCC side of the report I noted,

Mystery played five 100-game matches, beating Koivisto, Berserk, and Ethereal; then losing to Dragon and Lc0.

Mystery played its first CCC game in the CCC20 Rapid: Entry League (chess.com). On the CCC's Discord forum, the early discussion was brief:-

Q: Mystery engine? Or is the engine actually called Mystery? • A: Probably a new Chess.com bot.

That's also what I would have guessed, but there's more to the story. The engine, a last minute CCC20 replacement for 'Demolito : Filling out the 12th spot', qualified into the next two 'CCC20 Rapid' stages, Qualifier #1 (chess.com), and Qualifier #2 (ditto). A handful of Mystery's 'Entry League' games were recorded in Mystery chess engine enters in [CCC]?! (ditto).

Fast forward to mid-May and we find Unknown "Mystery" Engine (chess.stackexchange.com). The writer observed,

One of the strangest things is that at 'CCC20 Rapid: Qualifier #2' it performed poorly. But at the same time, in a one-on-one battle with the "Berserker", it won confidently. And now beats "Ethereal", one of the strongest engines.

Someone commented,

Andrew Grant, the tournament director of CCC and author of Ethereal, seems to be the only one who knows Mystery's true identity. He did clarify that it was not a dumbed down version of Stockfish or Dragon as that would be rather lame. It seems to be an older engine (Maybe Laser?) with NNUE added to it but no tablebase support.

A few days later, the subject came up in one of the leading computer chess forums, Mystery engine at CCC (talkchess.com). The originator of the thread used the engine's UCI log to make an educated guess:-

The most obvious candidate would be a new engine developed by Chess.com as a successor of Komodo Dragon after their purchase of KomodoChess. The [UCI] options don't seem to match any known engine found on GitHub.

Some observers say that interest in chess engine events has been declining lately. At worst, the CCC is using the Mystery engine to rekindle interest. At best, it's a marketing strategy to introduce a new engine. I'm sure that we will soon learn much more.

04 June 2023

Ebay Chess on Stamps

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I was sure that I had already featured a stamp or two, but while searching the blog for today's post I came up empty handed. That probably means that stamps might occasionally make the short list for a post, but I eventually choose another item for the final post.

The item pictured below is one page of an auction titled, 'Chess on Stamps White Ace albums with dj 590 items 4 albums MNH MH CTO'. It sold for US $673.00 after one bid, which was also the starting price.

The Azerbaijan album page pictured above was one of 24 pages used to illustrate the auction. The description of the auction said,

Over 70 territories represented
Over 390 stamps
Over 180 mini sheets
8 covers
CV is $1996.00

I had to look up the acronyms used in the listing:-

Mint Never Hinged
Mint Hinged
Cancelled-To-Order; cancels printed on the stamp without having been used.
Catalog Value

The Azerbaijan Disney stamps were issued in November 1998. An old post on this blog, Karpov at Disney (October 2015), mentioned a number of Disneyland Paris events, among them:-

The November 1998 event was the World Youth Rapidplay Championship (U12 & U14).

This isn't exactly the same as the name 'World Rapid Chess Championship' shown on the stamps, but it's close enough. Disney is more often associated with youth than it is with senior citizens.