31 December 2023

28 December 2023

Yahoos Set a New Low

So many problems, so little time. In last month's Yahoos post, Missing Yahoos (November 2023; see the footnote below for an explanation of 'Yahoos'), I wrote,

For the first time in the Yahoo series, Google News stopped including the names of all sources in its list of top stories, identifying those sources only with an icon, often unreadable. I had to add the names of many sources manually. [...] If this continues -- which it probably will -- I'll have to abandon the monthly Yahoo post.

Once again, this time for the month of December, the text names of many news sources were missing. I decided to quantify this.

The chart on the left is similar to those seen in past posts for the Yahoos series. The difference is that it counts the number of stories by all sources, not just sources with two or more stories. The numbers in the left column total to 99, which is the number of chess stories returned by Google News this month.

Of those 99 stories, 74 lacked the text name of the source of the story. Assuming that ˜30 of the stories were from Chess.com, that leaves 44 stories requiring further research to determine the source.

At this point I might have taken a deep breath and done the research, but there was a further complication. At the top of Google's list was a group of stories wuth the group headline 'Chinese chess champion stripped of title after cheating'. Chinese chess? No, I'm not interested. I'm sure it's a great game, but it's not the object of this blog.

On top of that, the stories were as disgusting as you'll find. Sample headline: 'Chinese chess champ banned for year after pooping in bathtub; rumoured to have used anal beads'. I counted all such stories and came to 27. That's 27 stories out of 99 ready to be flushed. The Google AI news bots obviously need toilet training.

The reference to 'anal beads' takes us back to a recurring story involving Western chess. It was last seen in the Yahoo series a few months ago: This Month Features a Bottom Yahoo (September 2023).

Of the other 72 stories, some were worth exploring. I might come back to these another time, but then again, I might not.

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

25 December 2023

Foxy Christmas Chess

Merry Christmas to one and all! Last year's Christmas post was Not the Dickens Christmas Story (December 2022). This year Christmas falls on a Monday, which happens to coincide with a new series last seen in Chessman Comics (December 2023).

'Santa Claus plays chess with foxes.'
AI Comic Factory

For more chess-playing foxes, see A Chess Christmas Carol (December 2023). We'll also be seeing our furry friends in future posts for the same series.

24 December 2023

Don't Burn It

All booms eventually run their course. Once covid confinement and the Netflix series have been forgotten, what to do with that wooden chess set gathering dust in the closet?

Turning a Chess Board into Wall Hooks (1:00) • '[Published on] Dec 6, 2023'

And on that melancholy note we close the book on the long-running series that started with The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). That makes more than seven years and over a hundred posts on a subject that I still don't understand.

18 December 2023

Chessman Comics

A new Monday series, where last week's post was Fischer vs. Carlsen (December 2023), reminded me of an idea that has long been on the back burner. The following composite image is from two eBay auctions that took place in October 2001. I've always wanted to learn more about the two comics and now is the time.

The descriptions for the two auctions said,

Left: 'Chessman #1 comic was the brainchild of IM John Watson and inventor of Chessman and artist for this issue, Chris [Christine] Hendrickson. 20 pages. Autographed (for me personally) by Chris Hendickson. Magazine/comic is very clean and is in very good to fine condition with no markings. Only two issues of Chessman exist, #1 & #2 (see my other auctions for #2). Only 100 copies were produced.'

Right: 'The Incredible Adventures of CHESSMAN presents "Treachery in Transylvania!" Comic. Brainchild of IM John Watson & artist Chris Hendrickson who invented Chessman and did art work in first issue. Comic, issued in 1982, has 44(!) pages chock full of chess adventures and great artwork. Chessman #1 comic had a printing of only 100 copies; I do not know what the printing was, however, on this issue. ONLY TWO ISSUES EXIST, #1 & #2 Bonus: autograph (I obtained personally) of Chris Hendrickson is on the copyright page after: "Special thanks to Chris Hendrickson for permission to use character Chessman" '

The October 1979 issue of Chess Life (p.577) included a three page comic titled, 'Chessman: The Cosmic Chessplayer' by Watson and Hendrickson. For another blog looking at 'Chessman', see John Watson and Chessman Comics (zanchess.wordpress.com; February 2015), including links to other resources. For more about Chessman's author, see John L. Watson (wikipedia.org); the entry is now somewhat dated.

17 December 2023

Alice++ Again

The previous Flickr post, AI Chess Comics (November 2023), mentioned, '"Alice" is a recurring theme in chess art.' How does that relate to the next Flickr image?

Floating chess © Flickr user Jaci XIV under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Created for: Digitalmania Group
After: Vladimir Kush
Created for the Magnificent Manipulated Masterpieces
172st MMM "Chess game" Challenge

That leads in a couple of new directions. The first direction is a forum for a Flickr group, New challenge 172 ~ Chess game | Magnificent Manipulated Masterpieces (flickr.com/groups), which starts,

For our December challenge, we chose the theme CHESS GAME. This game, which in itself challenges our mind, stimulates our creativity and provides us with pleasant entertainment. From children to the elderly, from kings to soldiers, this game has served as inspiration. Your entry could be realistic, surrealist, abstract, it could be a collage, mail art etc.

The introduction uses the 'Floating chess' image, after which there have been added original works of chess art (currently 22).

The second direction leads to CHESS - Giclee on Canvas (kushfineart.com), which features a well known chess image for sale. Its description starts,

In Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Alice journeys to Wonderland? Where straight streams run across the land and living fences separate the space between the streams into equal squares. “In my opinion, Wonderland strikingly resembles a chessboard,” said Alice. “This whole world is chess! This is one huge match!”

Once again, '"Alice" is a recurring theme in chess art'. I'm sure it won't be the last time.

11 December 2023

Fischer vs. Carlsen

At the end of last week's Monday post, Elon Musk and Squirrels (December 2023), I asked,

Will this be the start of another Monday series? That depends on whether I can figure out how to make AI comic generation do what I want it to do, rather than what it wants to do.

While I've learned a few tricks in the week since that post, the whole process is still too much like herding cats. For this post, I used the tool to see how well it drew World Champions, both past and present.

'Bobby Fischer plays chess with Magnus Carlsen.'
AI Comic Factory

That's clearly Fischer in the upper left panel. In the lower right it looks like Carlsen on the left and Fischer on the right. The two other panels might be the same or they might be Carlsen on both sides. I made several attempts at generating the composite image and could almost hear the AI software complaining that 'all young Caucasian males look the same'.

As for the other World Champions, the AI likenesses were generally acceptable, although sometimes barely. I'll look at that in another post, maybe on my World Championship blog.

10 December 2023

'Timeless Pursuit of Checkmate'

Well known images and well known facts combine to give a high level introduction to chess history. It's a pity there are number of small inaccuracies, including an illegal move.

Evolution of the Game of Chess (4:40) • '[Published on] Dec 7, 2023'

The description of the video also promises high level.

Let's explore key moments and pivotal rule changes that shaped the game we love today. Let's unravel the rich tapestry of chess, where intellect meets strategy in a timeless pursuit of checkmate.

If there were no more than this, I might have featured a different video this month, but the inclusion of hashtag #chesshistory (youtube.com; '1.3K videos, 355 channels') promises much future exploration. How is the order of the videos in the hashtag, most of which have less than 1000 views, determined?

07 December 2023

December 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover'

Last month's post about U.S. chess magazines 50 and 25 years ago, November 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (November 2023), had an arty portrait on the right. This month's post has a different sort of art.

Left: 'The World's Top 60; FIDE Annual Rating List; Reflects all performances through July 1, 1973'
Right: '"No Cheating", James Todd, 1998'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Professor Elo's latest calculations. See [inside] for the complete list.

'Inside' had a two and a half page alphabetical list of rated players. The introduction said,

The following list, approved by the FIDE Congress at Helsinki. Finland, in September 1973, is the official list by which FIDE categories of international tournaments are determined. The list is revised annually, the next will be approved in June 1974. We thank Professor Arpad Eto for providing a copy for Chess Life & Review.

I have a copy of the list on my own domain. For background, see FIDE Historical Ratings 1971-74 (January 2008; 'The 1974 file is missing almost all women.'). For the list itself, see FIDE historical ratings (m-w.com). The file, 1973.zip, lists women, although they are missing on the CL&R pages.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

You won't find "No Cheating" in "The Art of Chess Calendar" (2999A, $10.95). However, if you like the work of James Todd, it doesn't matter where you come across his efforts -- in the USCF catalog (page C21) or on the cover of Chess Life, or at his website: jtstudio.com

The web site, JT Studio, is still active. Todd's work has been seen before on the 1996 side of May 1971 & 1996 'On the Cover' (May 2021; 'James Todd - What Price Victory'). The calendar and catalog references in the introduction relate to an insert distributed with the October 1998 CL. The text promoting the calendar said,

The Art of Chess Calendar • This 16 month calendar is filled with stunning chess artworks. James Todd, who has won numerous awards including Artist of the Year in 1992 by the St. Lotus Ad Assoc., is one of the most talented chess artists we've ever seen. The imagination and detail inherent in all Todd's works are sure to impress and please you with each new month of the coming year.

The lead story inside the December 1998 CL was a report by GM John Fedorowicz on the 1998 Olympiad.

04 December 2023

Elon Musk and Squirrels

What do you get when you cross I Want To Go Squirrel Hunting (September 2023), with AI Chess Comics (November 2023)? Something like this...

'Elon Musk plays chess with a squirrel.'
AI Comic Factory

...Will this be the start of another Monday series? That depends on whether I can figure out how to make AI comic generation do what I want it to do, rather than what it wants to do.

03 December 2023

Fischer - Spassky Top Items by Price

After so many years of following Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), I've learned that eBay auctions follow seasonal trends. For example, the months preceeding the year-end holidays generally have more items than the months following the holidays

This year is no exception and my short list for this post had a dozen items, any one of which could have been featured for the post. By coincidence, the three most expensive items on the list were all related to the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match. Two of those items are pictured below.

Top photo: The item was titled '1972 Chess Championship Spassky vs Fischer Board Position Postcard'. It was listed at US $1,499.99 and sold 'Best offer accepted'. This appears to have been close to the listed price. The description said,

For sale is the complete 1972 World Chess Championship - Boris Spassky vs Bobby Fischer - Final Position Postcards for all games 1-21. Incredible rare set to find even just one of the cards and this is the whole match! You may never see anything like this again! All are postcards printed in Reykjavik with stamps commemorating the match on the front.

The cards show the final position for all games in chronological order; see, for example, the game 2 forfeit by Fischer (top row, second from left) which shows the start position where no moves have been played. Fischer had the White pieces in the game.

While philatelic items related to the 1972 match are common on eBay, they usually fall well under the range for the 'Top Items by Price' series. I had to go back to Fischer - Spassky Autographs (April 2010) for a previous example.

Bottom photo: The item was titled 'Iceland chess - World Chess Championship 1972 - green ticket to games 1-24'. It sold for US $945.35 after five bids from three bidders. Its description said,

Memorabilia from the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland 1972 where Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky played for the World Chess Championship title. Very rare admission ticket to games 1-24, ticket is no. 135. Size aprox 17,5 x 6,5 cm.

For a previous post on the same subject, see Fischer - Spassky Tickets (August 2022). I wonder what the green ticket cost in 1972.

The third Fischer - Spassky item, not pictured above, was related to the items in a post from the beginning of this year, Signed by Fischer, Spassky, and Petursson (January 2023). The latest auction had the same price and the same description as the earlier auctions.