16 June 2024

An Unexplained Chess Set

For this month's Flickr favorite, I could have chosen another AI generated photo as in No Hunk-o'-Junk Here (April 2024), but none of the three candidates on the short list were particularly inspiring. I was more intrigued by the photo shown below although there was almost no information about it. The description of the photo repeated its title and added only,

Curt Schlevogt, Ingrid Collection

There were no tags offering further clues. This leads to the often asked question, 'What have we here?'.

Preciosa Chess Set 08 © Flickr user Preciosa Ornela under Creative Commons.

A little searching on the obvious keywords led to 'Desna' Decorative Glass - Preciosa Ornela (preciosa-ornela.com), where Desna is a town in the Czech Republic; Google: 'Population: 3,084 (Jan 1, 2020)'. One section of the page informed,

Chess Set • Desna Since 1847 • Curt Schlevogt, Collection Ingrid • This exclusive chess set is possible to purchase in our Glass Shop in Desna.

A suggestion to 'View More Photos' points to Decorative Glass - Desná since 1847 (flickr.com; 'We would like to introduce you to the artistic crystalware collection from PRECIOSA'). And now that we have come full circle back to Flickr, the journey ends here. We might never know if there is a story behind the set.

09 June 2024

Chess.com ARR, Takeaways, and Sound Bites

Only 180 views for a chat with the man who shepherded the greatest chess boom of all time? The most popular chess streamers probably get that much attention in the first millisecond of their latest stream. There is definitely something wrong with this picture.

Erik Allebest - From 0 to 150 million ARR - The Chess.com story (1:12:33) • '[Published on] May 12, 2024'

I thought I knew most of the important accounting and investing acronyms, but ARR had me stumped. Although there are dozens of ARR acronyms in use, I'm guessing that the right one is explained on the page What is annual recurring revenue (ARR) and how to calculate it (paddle.com):-

Annual recurring revenue is a crucial success metric for subscription companies. Learn why it’s important and how to calculate it correctly. [...; AAR] is the yearly value of revenue generated from subscriptions, contracts, and other recurring billing cycles.

The description of the video starts,

Chess.com has grown from being a simple chess service to a thriving 150 million ARR business. The company has focused on making chess accessible to everyone through services around a product that hasn’t changed in centuries. We touch on the challenges of scaling a company and the role of titles and leadership in an organization and how many times Erik wanted to give up in the process.

Wanted to give up? Say it ain't so, Erik! The rest of the video description is worth a look and covers 'Takeaways', 'Sound Bites', and 'Chapters' (important segments in the video). Someone spent time putting all of this together and received only 180 views. For a previous post on the world's most successful commercial chess enterprise, see The Rise of Chess.com (January 2023; 32,365 views).

04 June 2024

June 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

In last month's post about American chess magazines of yesteryear, May 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (May 2024), we had the Candidates stage of the World Championship on the left and American news on the right. Here we go again.

Left: '?'
Right: '"I saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas" • GM Jaan Ehlvest; Winner of the 1999 National Open'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Soviet Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, vanquisher of Mecking and then Petrosian. during a talk on the Mecking match before an exhibition at Chess City in New York. The delightful Korchnoi describes the Mecking encounter [inside]. Photo by Nigel Eddis.

Once again, the first chess content in the magazine was 'The Editor's Page - News & Views' by Burt Hochberg. His summary of the contemporary scene is again worth quoting. It started,

It will come as startling news to many that Anatoly Karpov, who turned 23 in May, has roundly defeated ex-World Champion Boris Spassky in their semifinal Candidates Match in Leningrad. Though widely expected to be Fischer's "revenge" challenger in 1975, Spassky was not everyone's choice. His compatriot Korchnoi, for example, told us in New York that despite Spassky's decisive win of the Soviet title last year, some grandmasters (including Korchnoi) recognized in Spassky's games signs that he had not yet recovered from his 1972 defeat at Fischer's hands. [...]

A few paragraphs later, Hochberg covered the other half of the semifinals.

In Odessa, USSR, the Korchnoi-Petrosian semifinal match came to an abrupt end when Petrosian resigned the match on account of illness with the score 3-1 against him. Five games were played, with only one draw among them, a stark contrast with the 1971 match between these rivals. Svetozar Gligoric analyzes this match in our July issue. [NB: Yes!]

After news about various U.S. championships, Hochberg ended his summary with a quote from GM Korchnoi's four page report on the match.

Quotation of the month: "Despite the objective difficulty of the position, I continued to play quietly and confidently, as though all was well, as though I, and not my opponent, was winning. As I later learned, this manner of play really drove Mecking mad!" -- V. Korchnoi

The full title of the Korchnoi report was 'The Korchnoi - Mecking Match' by Viktor Korchnoi. Echoing the 'Quotation of the month', it started,

There were many critical moments in my match with Mecking. A lot of mistakes were made and in fact there was not a single error-free game. My opponent has learned to set up his game rather well strategically and his tactical skill was always up to par. However, owing to his character disposition he was not capable of consistent play through the match. At difficult moments I succeeded in saving bad positions and even scoring important points by means of stubborn defense unforeseen by my opponent. Here are three fragments from the match which were turning points in the overall struggle.

For the results of all the matches mentioned here, see 1973-75 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

It was a three-way tie for first place in Las Vegas, at the National Open, and Jaan Ehlvest took home the Edmondson Cup on tiebreaks. It was the third time that Jaan tied for top honors, but this was the first time he won the Cup, edging out Ilya Smirin and Gregory Kaidanov. Almost 1,000 players journeyed to Las Vegas to compete over the board, and to enjoy the ambiance of the Riviera Hotel and Casino, enhanced by the organizing skills of Al Losoff and a skilled staff. Coverage, provided by Edmar Mednis, begins [inside].

And yes, one could say one saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas... • Cover photo by Brian Killigrew.

The four-page, illustrated tournament report 'National Open: More Excitement and Fun' by GM Edmar Mednis started,

The 1999 National Open was held from March 19-21 at its luxurious home, Riviera Hotel & Casino, on the famous "Strip" in Las Vegas. Chief organizer Alan ("Al") Losoff had again put together a fantastic festival of competitive chess and pure enjoyment. Players were guaranteed a lot more money than last year ($50,000 vs. $42,000), with the actual payout being $53,350.

The turnout was an impressive 986, with 260 (including 27 GMs) in the Open section, 347 in the Reserve section (under 2000), 340 in the Booster section (under 1600), and 39 in the Unrated section. The larger guaranteed prizes meant that all section winners received more for their successful efforts. The three winners in the Open each made $4000, the two in the Reserve got $2500 each, and the two in the Booster each pocketed $1200. The schedule was two rounds per day, the time limit was 40/2, 20/1, SD/30, and an unlimited number of half-point buys [sic] were available.

And in case you're as clueless about the cover as I was ... Q: What means 'I saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas'? • A: That must be Ehlvest Presley. • Q: Is that a hound dog's name?

02 June 2024

Everybody Loves Morphy

A couple of months ago in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), the post of the month was Morphy Unpublished (April 2024). There I wrote,

On this blog's long running series 'Top eBay Chess Items', Morphy items are not unusual. Having said that, it's been a few years since the previous post on Morphy.

And here we are again. The item pictured below was titled '1860 Sage Token No. 3 Paul Morphy Chess King Harrwitz & Staunton Copper Plated', and carried the note 'AU Details, copper plate white metal'. It sold for US $2225.00 after 34 bids from eight bidders. After a starting price of $0.99, in the last hour of the auction the price rose almost 50% from $1501.

The description started by echoing the title,

1860 Sage Historical Token No. 3, AU Details, copper plate white metal.

Then quoted most of the token's inscription,

[Front:] Paul Morphy, The American Chess King. [Back:] He Has Beaten Harrwitz In Chess Playing And Staunton In Courtesy • No. 3 Aug. 8. [Sage's Odds and Ends]

Then added,

Sage's Historical Tokens (150-250).

I couldn't find much about the tokens, although I didn't look very hard. The page A.B. Sage Series | Coin Census Population Report | NGC (ngccoin.com; NGC Census : US Tokens & Medals : A.B. Sage Series), mentions the Morphy token twice.

30 May 2024

An Indian-Norwegian Yahoo

Last month's Yahoos post, Candidate Yahoos (April 2024), started:-

Of the 99 chess stories returned by Google News for the month of April, 27 were about the just concluded Candidates tournament.

Skip ahead one month and we get similar:-

Of the 101 chess stories returned by Google News for the month of May, 28 were about...

Were about what exactly? The lead section, with nine related stories, was titled 'R Praggnanandhaa defeats Magnus Carlsen in classical format'. Add to that more on the same game mixed in with other chess news and we get 24 Pragg-Carlsen stories. Add another four stories on related topics and we get 28 total.

In other words, one game in May received more attention from Google News than the most important tournament of the year received in April. Here's a typical story from Pragg's home country India:-

To follow the game, see Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa vs Magnus Carlsen; 12th Norway Chess (2024), Stavanger NOR, rd 3, May 29 (chessgames.com). I've played this line ('Sicilian Defense: Kan. Modern Variation') many times with both colors and I don't know what's 'provocative' about it. Maybe I'll find out by the time the June Yahoos are available.

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

19 May 2024

Shoreditch Street Art

The title of this month's Flickr featured photo says 'graffiti', but it looks more like 'street art' to me. Don't ask me what the difference is; I just know it when I see it. The last time we saw 'graffiti' on this blog was Only on Sunday (April 2023; yes, that's definitely graffiti). The last time we saw 'street art' was No Monkey Business Here (July 2017; Description: 'Street art in London').

Tris graffiti, Shoreditch © Flickr user duncan cumming under Creative Commons.

The decsription on this photo said,

Game on! This is the first piece in a chess battle between Tris and Core246. Two years later it's still in progress.

The Wikipedia page Shoreditch (wikipedia.org), says,

Shoreditch lies just north-east of the border with the City of London and is considered to be a part of London's East End.

By some curious coincidence, the full description in 'Monkey Business' says, 'Street art in London, Shoreditch'. Or maybe it's not a coincidence. The 'People also ask' section of a Google search on 'Shoreditch' informs,

Q: 'What is Shoreditch famous for?' • A: 'Shoreditch is famous for its street art, which can be seen all over the area. The area is also known for its trendy bars and restaurants, as well as its thriving creative scene.'

The Flickr user credited with this month's photo maintains an album titled 'Shoreditch graffiti & street art', currently with more than 32.000 photos. Too bad there's no search on the album. It might be both informative and entertaining to browse more chess street art.

14 May 2024

May 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

Last month's post about American chess magazines of 50 and 25 years ago, April 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (April 2024), was all about American chess. This month we're reminded that there are always important chess events happening in the rest of the world.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Maurice Ashley - Our Newest Grandmaster'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Anatoly Karpov (left) and Tigran Petrosian, winners of their quarterfinal candidates matches. See [inside] for Spassky's assessment of his match opponent in the current semi-finals, and for Szabo's penetrating review of Petrosian's victory.

For the report on the two other quarterfinal matches, see March 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (March 2024). For the crosstables of all four matches, see 1973-75 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Maurice Ashley, Grandmaster
Grandmaster Maurice Ashley.
Sounds good either way

Technically, until the next meeting of the FIDE Qualifications Committee, I [CL Editor Glenn Petersen] suppose we should say "Grandmaster-Elect" Maurice Ashley. But that's a technicality I'm willing to ignore. Although there are many who are strong enough to achieve the aim (but lack opportunities; see [inside]), few are more deserving than Mr. Ashley.

And not just for what he has accomplished over the board, is he deserving. As a coach, as a role model for young people, as a chess teacher, chess author, chess announcer -- indeed, as an enthusiastic spokesman in almost all areas of chess promotion, Maurice has made his presence notable. Certainly, as the first Black Grandmaster in the world, his place in history is assured. However, there will be no mere 15 minutes of fame for this young man. As he continues to climb mountains (see Brian Killigrew's interview [inside]), and to set standards for generations of youngsters to come, we predict Mr. Ashley 's moment in the sun will be lifelong. • Cover photo by Brian Killigrew

I'm guessing we'll see GM Ashley on the right side of many future 'On the Cover' posts.

12 May 2024

A THR 'Exclusive'

THR = 'The Hollywood Reporter', which is also the name of the Youtube channel responsible for the following clip.

Emma Stone, Nathan Fielder and A24 to Produce Ben Mezrich Chess Scandal Story | THR News (1:06) • '[Published on] May 2, 2024'

The description said,

Emma Stone and Nathan Fielder are set to team up once again. If deals close, the duo would partner with A24 on 'Checkmate,' a hot feature package centered on a book proposal by Ben Mezrich, the author whose books were adapted into films such 'The Social Network' and 'Dumb Money.' Fielder is attached to direct, while Stone will produce along with her husband and partner Dave McCary via the duo's Fruit Tree banner.

The description continued, 'To learn more about this story:' Emma Stone, Nathan Fielder Reteam with A24 for Ben Mezrich’s Carlsen - Niemann Chess Scandal Story (Exclusive) (hollywoodreporter.com; May 2024; subtitled, 'The indie upstart seems to have outwitted streamers and studios to win 'Checkmate' with a seven-figure deal that left competitors' head-spinning.')

The last time we saw the Niemann affair on this blog was This Month Features a Bottom Yahoo (September 2023). Let's hope the movie treats chess and chess masters better than Tobey Maguire's 'Pawn Sacrifice', last seen in Excerpts from 'Pawn Sacrifice' (May 2017).

Why hasn't anyone done a movie on the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match (m-w.com), aka Toiletgate? I'm guessing it's because the players were Russian and Bulgarian, not the sort of nationalities that inspire massive Hollywood interest.

05 May 2024

1976 U.S. Junior (Closed)

In this monthly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), the sellers often label their items as 'Rare' or 'Amazing'. More often than not, a more appropriate label would be 'Commonplace' or 'Banal'.

The item pictured below was titled 'Amazing Chess History - 8 Autographs'. I won't argue with the adjective here, although 'Rare' or 'One of a Kind' would be equally appropriate. The autographed photo sold for 'US $450.00 Best offer accepted'. Despite eBay's usual obfuscation of the actual selling price, the stated price appears to be close to the actual price.

Left to right: Tisdall, Regan, Seirawan, Henley, Diesen, Fedorowicz, Rohde, DeFirmian.

The description said,

Amazing photo of the 1976 US Junior Chess Championship. Signed by all eight players. This is an amazing piece of chess history. It is signed by six Grandmasters and two International Masters. [...; full names, titles, and ratings for all players] This is NOT something you will see again.

A link titled 'I want to know more!' led to "Fed" Up With Chess? / John's First Visit (memphischessclub.blogspot.com; May 2012). The blog post started,

What a wonderful season the summer of 1976 was in the Bluff City. The United States was preparing to celebrate the bicentennial in July, but before that national event the Memphis Chess Club was presenting the city's chess players a miraculous moment, the 11th U.S. Junior Invitational Championship Chess Tournament; this Memphis event would be repeated only once more in 1978, and in both events, John Fedorowicz participated.

'Fed' was and still is a nickname for Fedorowicz. The September 1976 issue of Chess Life & Review carried a report on the tournament. Titled 'U.S. Junior Invitational Championship' by Carol Little, ITD, it started,

The 11th Annual U.S. Junior Invitational Championship, held in Memphis, Tennessee, June 20-26. was won by Mark Diesen of Potomac, Maryland. and Michael Rohde of South Orange, New Jersey. They each had a score of 5 points and were declared Co-Champions.

This did present a problem for the USCF: Who was going to represent the U.S. in the Netherlands later this year? After a long-distance call to the New Windsor office, an equitable solution was agreed upon by both players, and Mark Diesen will go to Holland as the U.S representative to the World Junior Championship.

The 1976 U.S. Junior Championship was the first national tournament to be held in the Mid-South since the Western Open Championship, the forerunner of the U.S. Open, was held in Memphis in 1914.

The Wikipedia page John Fedorowicz (wikipedia.org) says, 'co-winner of the 1977 U.S. Junior Championship (with Kenneth Regan) and outright winner in 1978'. Somewhat curiously, the same page carries no link to a separate page on the series of U.S. Junior championships.

25 April 2024

Candidate Yahoos

This month's Yahoos post (see footnote) is going to be short. I'm leaving on vacation and must catch a plane in a few hours. Of the 99 chess stories returned by Google News for the month of April, 27 were about the just concluded Candidates tournament (CT; for the latest post on my World Championship blog, see Toronto Candidates - Third Week; April 2024).

The first three of those CT stories were grouped under a header titled 'Gukesh at world chess championships'. The first of those three stories was:-

  • 2024-04-24: Dommaraju Gukesh Wins The Candidates’ Tournament (nytimes.com; Dylan Loeb McClain) • Alternately titled: 'The Next Winner of the World Chess Championship Could Be the Youngest Ever'; Subtitled: 'Dommaraju Gukesh, a 17-year-old grandmaster from India, is the youngest player ever to win the Candidates Tournament.' • 'Dommaraju Gukesh, a 17-year-old Indian grandmaster, made history on Sunday: He won the Candidates Tournament in Toronto, held to select the challenger for the World Chess Championship in the classical time control. With that achievement, he became the youngest player ever to qualify for the title match.'

I admit: this isn't much of a post, but I'll try to make up for it when I return from vacation. For the previous Yahoos post, see Real Yahoos (Sort Of) Spotted Again (March 2024).

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

22 April 2024

Vikings as AI Stereotypes

Although it might have seemed that last week's Monday post, The Circular Chess Boards of the Druids (April 2024; 'Druids play chess'), was more about non sequiturs than anything else, there was a common thread tying it to previous Monday posts: four weeks in a row on a religious theme. This current post looks to be breaking that series, unless of course there is something religious about Vikings.

'Vikings play chess'
AI Comic Factory

Before we get to the Viking part, let's remember a quirk I observed about the AI Comic part a couple of weeks ago in The '3D Render' Style (April 2024). I closed the post saying,

A recurring theme in the experiments is that the software reduces a text phrase ('Buddhists' in this example) to a stereotype, then develops its images based on that stereotype. I'll have more examples of this phenomenon in future Monday posts.

So here we are. There's no denying that, in the image above, the 'Vikings' look similar -- fierce, brawny men, all with long hair and long beards, wearing some kind of a horned skull cap. If you asked people to pick a Viking out of a police lineup, I bet most of them would pick any person looking like our AI Vikings. Getting back to real Vikings, in Vikings (wikipedia.org), Wikipedia starts,

Vikings were seafaring people originally from Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), who from the late 8th to the late 11th centuries raided, pirated, traded, and settled throughout parts of Europe.

This is preceded by a note that explains,

For the North Germanic ethnic group from which most Vikings originated, see Norsemen.

What about their religion? The same Wikipedia article explains,

For most of the period, they followed the Old Norse religion, but later became Christians.

All of those italicized terms lead to more Wikipedia articles, but I'll stop here. In my next Monday post, I'll delve into more AI stereotypes.

21 April 2024

No Hunk-o'-Junk Here

For this month's Flickr Favorite post, I had a number of good choices. One choice was another in the series of J-L. Mazieres chess images last seen in More Lessons in Art Appreciation (April 2021). The new Mazieres Flickr page is Lucas de Leyde [aka van Leyden]. 1489-1533. Leyden Jeu d'échecs. (flickr.com), where the title continues,

Berlin Gemaldegalerie. The game of chess symbolizes both the struggle for power and the war of the sexes.

The choice I finally made, shown here, is another of those AI generated chess images of which I'm so fond. When I first saw it, I thought it might even be a photo of a real chess set.

victorian era technical illustration of steampunk style chess pieces... © Flickr user Hongse sishen under Creative Commons.

The full title is:-

victorian era technical illustration of steampunk style chess pieces on intricate chess board with complex brass and ivory fittings with exotic colorful mineral crystals, measurement dials and meters [...]

That reads very much like a prompt for an AI generator. It was continued in the description with:-

[...], glass magnifying lenses emitting ethereal light & electrical sparks --ar 16:9 --style raw --v 6.0 @Jerry

The Flickr user's name looked to be written in Chinese characters. Google confirmed it to be 'Chinese (Traditional)', then transliterated it to 'Hongse sishen', translated as 'red death'. Note the word 'death' is also a component of the photographer's name in the image's URL.

The last time we saw 'steampunk' on this blog was Hunk-o'-Junk Chess (January 2016; 'Before: Random Pipe Fittings • After: Steampunk Chess Set'). As far as I can tell, steampunk and AI are polar opposites.

19 April 2024

CFAA's CMP : Blogs

After two posts on my experience with Google's CMP -- CFAA's CMP Earnings and Visitors (both April 2024; CMP = Consent Management Platform for ads) -- I decided,

I don't mind losing the ad revenue. [...] This latest chart, however, shows that the CMP change is making visitors stay away. [...] It looks like Google's Adsense will have to go.

That will take some time to do, but in the meantime I have another decision to make. My Google account's CMP and associated ads also appear on my blogs. The following chart shows the impact of the blogs' ads on total earnings.

google.com/adsense : full year 2023

The first line shows earnings from m-w.com/aboutcom (the 'Chess for All Ages' site), the second line from m-w.com/chess (the 'World Chess Championship' site), and the third line from this blog that you're reading (CFAA). The last two lines are for my other chess blogs.

The first line says that over 90% of earnings are coming from the CFAA site. Of course, I knew that already, but it always helps to quantify relationships.

Re the three blogs, although their 'earnings' are negligible, I've never done them for the money. They're more of a hobby than anything else. If they get visitors, that's great; if they don't, there's no harm done. Through the years that I've been keeping them up-to-date, the daily numbers of visitors have fluctuated substantially and depend on a number of factors over which I have little control.

Bottom line: I'll keep Adsense on the blogs. That will help me stay up-to-date with online ad technology and trends. The online space evolves so quickly that what is true today is no longer true tomorrow and vice versa.

15 April 2024

The Circular Chess Boards of the Druids

A week ago I posted The '3D Render' Style (April 2024; aka 'Buddhists play chess'). There I started,

Let's continue with the religious theme. Three weeks in a row make a trend.

Four Weeks in a row make a wedding photo of my three brothers and me. And following the principles espoused by Non sequiturs 'R' Us, that brings us to the subject of Druids.

'Druids play chess'
AI Comic Factory

What exactly is a Druid? In Druid (wikipedia.org), Wikipedia starts by saying,

A druid was a member of the high-ranking priestly class in ancient Celtic cultures. Druids were religious leaders as well as legal authorities, adjudicators, lorekeepers, medical professionals and political advisors. Druids left no written accounts.

Following the link for 'Celtic cultures' brings us to Wikipedia's page on Celts. First we learn an important distinction:-

This article is about the ancient and medieval peoples of Europe. For Celts of the present day, see Celts (modern).

The article 'about the ancient and medieval peoples' starts,

The Celts or Celtic peoples were a collection of Indo-European peoples in Europe and Anatolia, identified by their use of Celtic languages and other cultural similarities. Major Celtic groups included the Gauls; the Celtiberians and Gallaeci of Iberia; the Britons, Picts, and Gaels of Britain and Ireland; the Boii [central Europe]; and the Galatians [Turkey].

So my Belgian friends [Gauls] are somehow related to Turks. That I did not know...

14 April 2024

Playing Chess with Your Brain (*)

While I was preparing last month's Yahoos post, Real Yahoos (Sort Of) Spotted Again (March 2024; 'Yahoos = mainstream news stories about chess'), the top story -- which was not mentioned in the post -- would have been the Neuralink news. What's Neuralink? The following video, from Youtube's Guardian News channel, explains.

'Like using the force': Neuralink patient demonstrates how he plays chess using brain-chip (1:32) • '[Published on] Mar 21, 2024'

The video's description said,

Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old quadriplegic who has a Neuralink brain-chip, demonstrates during a livestream how he is able to control his laptop cursor with his mind to play chess. Arbaugh received the implant in January, after the startup founded by Elon Musk was granted federal approval to test the device in humans. Following the approval from regulators, Reuters reported that US Food and Drug Administration inspectors found problems with recordkeeping and quality controls for animal experiments at the company.

I don't know why that last sentence was added, because it wasn't mentioned in the clip. User beware?

(*) Irony intended.

12 April 2024

CFAA's CMP : Visitors

In the previous post, CFAA's CMP : Earnings (April 2024; Google's CMP = Consent Management Platform for ads), I noted,

Although [ad] earnings declined significantly over the last six months, what about page views? I'll look at that metric in a follow-up post.

I also noted that earnings declined more than 90% after I implemented the change that Google had imposed. The following chart shows monthly visitor counts -- as recorded by my site's ISP -- over the past two full years 2022 and 2023, plus the first three months of 2024.

Worse and worse! The red circle indicates the month that I implemented CMP on my personal domain (m-w.com).

Sep 2023 was down 40% over the previous year and Oct 2023 was down 60%, as were the following two months. The first three months of 2024 were down 70%.

I don't mind losing the ad revenue. I was mainly taking advantage of the ads to cover site server costs. This latest chart, however, shows that the CMP change is making visitors stay away. That is something up with which I shall not put! (to quote Churchill)

It looks like Google's Adsense will have to go.

09 April 2024

April 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

As I noted last month, in March 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (March 2024), that month was 'the tenth anniversary of the first "On the Cover" post'. Now we start the next ten years of brief, monthly looks at the leading U.S. chess magazine from 50 and 25 years ago.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Alexander Ivanov - Pan American Champion' (also '1999 Yearbook')

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Grandmaster Walter Browne of California, winner of the Hoogover [sic; 'Hoogoven' or 'Hoogovens', see below] tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Games etc. next month. Photo by Nigel Eddis.

A month later the May 1975 CL&R had a report 'Browne Wins at Wijk aan Zee' by Burt Hochberg. It started,

The strong annual tournament sponsored by the Hoogoven steelworks in Wijk aan Zee, Holland, was won this year by American Grandmaster Walter Browne. His eight wins and six draws gave him a convincing 1 1/2 point advantage over second-place Jan Hein Donner, the Dutch grandmaster.

Browne's only loss was to the young Hungarian grandmaster, Andras Adorjan, in the last round when Browne was already assured of undisputed first place. (That was also Adorjan's only win!)

GM Browne's previous cover was May 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (May 2023; 'won the [1973] National Open in Las Vegas'). A couple of pages further in the March 2024 CL&R we see 'The Editor's Page - News & Views' by Burt Hochberg with a paragraph on the rules for the 'semifinals of the 1974 Candidates Matches' (tiebreak: 'a coin toss if the score is tied after 20 games'!). This was followed by a paragraph that started,

The latest in a series of international tournaments hosted by the USCF will be held April 5-19 at the plush new Continental Chess Club in Los Angeles, California. [...] 2nd USCF International in Chicago late last year.

After all these years, I've managed to overlook this series of tournaments. Where are they documented?

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Alexander Ivanov, of Brookline, Massachusetts, won the 1998 Pan American Championship and secured a spot in the FIDE World Championship, a knock-out affair which, as of this writing, is scheduled for August of this year in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I recently covered this event on my World Championship Blog in 1998 Zonals 2.x References (February 2024). The post started, 'In a feature article for the April 1999 issue of Chess Life, GM Ivanov wrote [...]'.

The 'On the Cover' introduction continued with two other stories. The first story was:-

Still no word on a Kasparov - Anyone match, although recent comments by Kasparov (after his victory at Hoogovens) indicate that Alexei Shirov has fallen out of favor with the World Chess Council (WCC), and that Viswanathan Anand (who has already lost one match to Kasparov) is now the frontrunning challenger. Which doesn't sit well with Shirov. [...]

The second story was titled 'Standing on the Terrace'. It started,

A ripple passed through the chess world with the passing of Lazslo [sic; 'Laszlo'] Szabo late last year. And that was followed by a tidal wave, with the loss of Efim Geller. For Americans, however, the darkest monsoon struck on February 4, 1999, when it was announced that Ken Smith had died. We will have articles on all three in future issues of Chess Life, but it is important to say a word or two about the impact Ken Smith had on the development of chess in the United States during the last 30 years. [...]

The name Ken Smith is almost always associated with Chess Digest. This would be a good time to review Smith's contributions to U.S. chess, but I've run out of time for this post. Hopefully later...

08 April 2024

The '3D Render' Style

I started last week's Monday post, No Splitting Hares (April 2024), saying,

Since today is Easter Monday and since last week's Monday post, Hindu Gods Play Chess (March 2024), was another in a series on AI comics, let's continue with the religious theme.

Three weeks in a row make a trend. As everyone knows, 'The trend is your friend!'.

'Buddhists play chess'
AI Comic Factory

This image uses the '3D Render' style. In previous experiments I didn't like this style, because the results looked unrealistic. In this experiment the results look very realistic, even photo-like, especially the upper right panel. I'm guessing this is because the subjects are people and not the cartoon characters in previous experiments.

Another point worth noting is that the AI software has interpreted 'Buddhists' as 'Buddhist monks'. Of the dozen or so four-panel images I created, only 10% of the panels showed a lay person; the rest showed monks in yellowish (saffron?) robes.

A recurring theme in the experiments is that the software reduces a text phrase ('Buddhists' in this example) to a stereotype, then develops its images based on that stereotype. I'll have more examples of this phenomenon in future Monday posts.

07 April 2024

Morphy Unpublished

On this blog's long running series, Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), Morphy items are not unusual. Having said that, it's been a few years since the previous post on Morphy.

The item pictured below was titled 'Unpublished CDV of Paul Charles MORPHY CHESS PRODIGY Playing a Game 1860s Photo'. It sold for US $2158.00 after 19 bids from seven bidders. On a starting price of $30.00, the bids jumped from $150.00 to the final price in the last 20 minutes of the seven day auction.

Left: Front • Right: Back

The description said,

Very rare image of Charles Morphy playing a game of chess. Unidentified photographer, 1860s. Original albumen print CDV. Overall measures approx. 4 x 2.5 inches. Condition is very good.

The back of the CDV says,

Charles Morphy
New Orleans
American Chess Prodigy

Although the year of death on a CDV dating from the '1860s' raises a question or two, I assume the bidders did their homework. As for my statement at the beginning that 'Morphy items are not unusual', I located three previous posts:-

The latest auction was the first in the series to sell at four figures. Another relevant post was:-

A quick search of Google Images confirmed that the CDV indeed appears to be 'Unpublished'. How long will it take for someone else to 'publish' it?


Later: After a helpful comment on this post (see below), I copied the image from the linked article ('Visions of Morphy' on Chess.com). Then I copied the original image for this post (on eBay), converted it to grayscale, and flipped it to place 'Morphy' on the right. The following composite image shows both images side-by-side.

Left: Elkin - Morphy • Right: Elkin(?) - Morphy(?)

(Can be enlarged; e.g. open in new tab)

In my opinion, the players on the left are younger than the players on the right. On the left, Elkin is about the same size as Morphy; on the right, Elkin(?) is taller than Morphy(?). The face of Elkin on the left is not the same as Elkin(?) on the right, esp. the nose. I don't think the two 'Elkin's are the same person.

Other, more expert opinions are welcome.

05 April 2024

CFAA's CMP : Earnings

In the previous post, CFAA's CMP : Another Look (March 2024), I noted,

My preliminary analysis says there are rough waters ahead. So what happened?

The following chart shows earnings from my resources generated by Google ads over the past year. I implemented Google's CMP near the end of September 2023 ('2023-10-03' on the chart).

There is a sharp contrast between the six months preceding that date and the six months following. (Missing from the chart is the end date, around '2024-04-03'.) The ratio of the total earnings in the first six months to the total in the last six months is about ten to one.

Although earnings declined significantly over the last six months, what about page views? I'll look at that metric in a follow-up post.

01 April 2024

No Splitting Hares

Since today is Easter Monday and since last week's Monday post, Hindu Gods Play Chess (March 2024), was another in a series on AI comics, let's continue with the religious theme.

'Easter bunny plays chess'
AI Comic Factory

As I explained in the 'Hindu Gods' post,

One of the parameters to control the look of the image is 'comic style', of which there are currently 13. For this image I chose the 'Flying Saucer' style.

The 'Easter bunny' images use the 'Egyptian' style. I can't explain why I chose it, except that it looked better than the others. I doubt that the Egyptian Coptics attach any importance to the Easter bunny. For more about the group, see Copts (wikipedia.org), which starts,

Copts are a Christian ethnoreligious group indigenous to North Africa who have primarily inhabited the area of modern Egypt since antiquity. They are the largest Christian denomination in Egypt and the Middle East, as well as in Sudan and Libya.

I couldn't determine from the Wikipedia article whether the Coptic church observes Easter on the same Sunday as the Western Christian church, or whether they include Easter Monday in the observations -- and I didn't pursue it. After all, this is just supposed to be a post about chess in comics.

29 March 2024

CFAA's CMP : Another Look

It's been six months since I adapted my domain mark-weeks.com to incorporate Google's CMP. I documented the change in a series of Friday posts that ended with CFAA's CMP : Wrapup (September 2023; CMP = Consent Management Platform). How well has that change worked? I'll come back to the subject in a new series of Friday posts.

My preliminary analysis says there are rough waters ahead. So what happened? Has Google lost its touch?

28 March 2024

Real Yahoos (Sort Of) Spotted Again

Last month we fretted that Yahoo Zombies Want Chess (February 2024). This month they got what they wanted. For the first time since How Many for Carlsen? For Niemann? (December 2022), Yahoo.com delivered chess Yahoos ... two of them ... on consecutive days ... just after the zombies post.

Top: 'Is the United States overestimating China’s power? • Most Americans see China as the biggest threat to the US. But away from headline economic figures, China has a slew of challenges.'
Bottom: 'Speed chess, Soul Cycle, and push-up contests: Saturday Night Live parodies Joe Biden's age • The SNL skit also pokes fun at Biden allies and their claims of extreme abilities. "Behind closed doors, Joe is incredible!"'

For the nitty-gritty details, see the corresponding stories:-

  • 2024-03-01: Is the United States overestimating China’s power? (yahoo.com; The Conversation) • 'Which country is the greatest threat to the United States? The answer, according to a large proportion of Americans, is clear: China.' • The story is headed by a large version of the stock photo shown in the Yahoo thumbnail, a red chess King decorated with the Chinese flag towering over a map of the Arctic ocean (the large version also shows Alaska and Canada).
  • 2024-03-03: Speed chess, Soul Cycle, and push-up contests: Saturday Night Live parodies Joe Biden's age (ditto; USA Today) • 'Soul Cycle, speed chess and a push-up contest are just a day in the life of Joe Biden in the latest "Saturday Night Live" parody of his age, which added a new wrinkle to the bit - making fun of his supporters' denials that age is an issue.'

The second story didn't include a video of the scene. That means it's time to go rummaging around Youtube. Watch this space.

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


Later: Re 'The second story didn't include a video of the scene. That means it's time to go rummaging around Youtube. Watch this space.', I came up empty-handed on Youtube. It seems the SNL library has been moved to PeacockTV.com, where I get the message:-

For other international audiences: Peacock is not yet available in your territory.

The best reference I could find was:-

Even if it were 'available in [my] territory', I already have enough subscription streaming services. Watch this space some more?

25 March 2024

Hindu Gods Play Chess

You know that your blogging activity is teetering on the brink when you can only manage one post in a single week. Last week we had Real Chess Villages (March 2024), as the weekly post in a Monday series on AI comics. The prompt for the image in that post was 'Chess village Kerala' and I ended the post saying,

Although I'm no expert on [India], never having visited, the village structures and the villagers' clothing look to me to be decidedly Indian.

What to do a week later? Let's follow that up with some images related to Indian Hindu culture. Non sequiturs 'R' Us.

'Brahma and Vishnu and Shiva play chess'
AI Comic Factory

One of the parameters to control the look of the image is 'comic style', of which there are currently 13. For this image I chose the 'Flying Saucer' style. I'm not sure what comic series this refers to, assuming there was/is one, but it reminded me of a weird derivative of the UFO community, the Vimana (wikipedia.org). That Wikipedia page starts,

Vimana are mythological flying palaces or chariots described in Hindu texts and Sanskrit epics.

Flying saucer, flying palace, flying chariot. It all depends on what you consider normal.

18 March 2024

Real Chess Villages

This weekly series on comic software started with an imaginary chess village in the Catskill mountains, last seen in Chess Comics - Grids and Panels (February 2024). To explore the grids and panels,

I went back to the first comic page in the series, The Chess Village (January 2024), copied the prompt I used to make the image shown in the post, and re-entered the prompt into the software.

Chess villages are not all imaginary. Not too long ago I mentioned two in the monthly news post, This Month Features a Bottom Yahoo (September 2023).

Here's a story that taught me something I wasn't aware of: 2023-09-03: Here's why this place in Kerala is called the Chess Village of India (indiatimes.com). [...] Remember Schachdorf Strobeck?

First idea to test the comic software: Does it understand German? I entered the prompt 'Schachdorf Strobeck' -- only this and nothing more -- and received a page that had nothing to do with chess. I changed the prompt to 'Chess village Strobeck', looked at a few variations of the results, and decided that the village structures on the page looked typically German and the villagers' clothing was from different periods stretching back a couple of centuries.

Second idea to test the comic software: Does it know what Kerala is? One of the half dozen pages I created is shown below.

'Chess village Kerala'
AI Comic Factory

Although I'm no expert on the country, never having visited, the village structures and the villagers' clothing look to me to be decidedly Indian. The comic software appears to have passed my simple test.

17 March 2024

Conceptual Artist and Surreal Artist

Flickr displays this photo in portrait format. The Royal Academy reference below displays the photo in landscape format, so I did the same. It's more economical in its use of space.

Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí playing chess during filming for 'A Soft Self-Portrait', 1966
© Flickr user dou_ble_you under Creative Commons.

The title of the photo is also the description. I found another copy at Dalí / Duchamp | Exhibition (royalacademy.org.uk; Royal Academy of Arts)

Take another look at two artistic giants: father of conceptual art Marcel Duchamp, and larger-than-life Surrealist Salvador Dalí. This is the first exhibition to throw light on their surprising relationship and its influence on the work of both artists.

Marcel Duchamp is frequently seen on this blog. His previous appearance was November 1968 'On the Cover' (November 2018; 'Marcel Duchamp died at 81 last October 1st, in Paris...').

I thought Salvador Dalí had also been seen, but a search on his surname returned, 'No posts matching the query: dali'. Through a bit of trickery I found The Plural of Pingu Is Pingus (July 2022), where his name is spelled 'Dalí' rather than 'Dali'. Accent purists take note.

11 March 2024

Comic Scholarship

The most recent post in the current Monday series on chess comics was Comics Scholarship, Not Necessarily Chess (March 2024). At the end of the post I wrote,

In the same Google search, the top result was The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship (comicsgrid.com). [...] I look forward to discovering the journal.

That was then, but this is now. The first article in the journal is currently Labra | Caught Between Manga and the Graphic Novel: Two Cartoonists' Trajectories in Contemporary Argentinian "National Comics" (comicsgrid.com). The abstract started,

What do Ignacio Minaverry and Ciro Berliac's trajectories say about comics in contemporary Argentina?

Without reading any further, I decided to look for something more at my level -- absolute beginner in comics scholarship. I searched the catalog of articles on keyword 'comic' (clever, wasn't I), received a long list of titles covering subjects that were all over the map, and decided to read Berube | Context is Everything: A Review of Comics Studies: A Guidebook (ditto; mentions 'Doonsbury' [sic]). The abstract started,

This article is a review of Comics Studies: A Guidebook, edited by Charles Hatfield and Bart Beaty (Rutgers University Press, 2020). This volume, ranging over the broad themes of Histories, Cultures, Forms, and Genres, provides an introduction to some of the major debates in comics studies.

Although this was more accessible than the first article, I still didn't advance very far on the learning curve. I decided that for my last attempt, I would look for something close to home, meaning Belgium, my adopted country. This time I chose Seago | The Ninth Art: A Review of Comics in French. The European Bande Dessinée in Context (ditto). The abstract started,

This article reviews Laurence Grove's Comics in French. The European Bande Dessinée in Context (2010; 2013). The review argues that this book can be seen as a handbook, or almost as an encyclopaedic introduction to be consulted in small parts as and when needed.

Example sentence:-

There is much interesting material in this section: for example, the detailed discussion of the innovative role of the Journal de Mickey (1934) in redefining the BD and making it a commercial success allowing for artistic growth and innovation; a nuanced consideration of the ideological slant in collaborative journals such as Le Téméraire (1943–1944) while acknowledging their artistic verve, or the impact of censorship laws in 1949 preventing imported texts for children and creating a space which allowed for the creation of BD as a distinctive French art form.

This convinced me that I was fighting against the tide and wasn't going to get very far. What to do for this post? I went back to creating illustrations that involve chess.

'Tintin plays chess.'
AI Comic Factory

Maybe I'll come back later to the 'Journal of Comics Scholarship'. History says that I probably won't.

10 March 2024

Shiloh and Bros No.2

I thought this video looked familiar and, sure enough, I had already featured 'HCIRL no.1' from the same Youtube channel in Bond, Siblings Bond (June 2023). This second release was also good for more than a few laughs.

Human Chess In Real Life 2 (31:42) • '[Published on] Mar 1, 2024'

Everything I said in the no.1 post holds for this no.2 post, plus the channel has added another million subscribers. One of the top comments for no.2 said,

This channel has evolved. Once just a fun little family making jokes and having a laugh. Now, professional cinematography and a true story. Astounding.

All that and chess, too. Kudos to all involved.

05 March 2024

March 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

This post marks the tenth anniversary of the first 'On the Cover' post, which was March 1964 'On the Cover' (March 2014). For the first five years the posts showed the covers of the two leading American chess magazines of the 1960s.

The series changed direction in November 1969 & 1994 'On the Cover' (November 2019), shifting to the format showing both 50 and 25 years ago. For last month's post, see February 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (February 2024).

Left: '?'
Right: 'Troop Inspection (c) Jon F. Buckley'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

No, this in not a tennis magazine. But R. Byrne and Spassky did use the courts during their San Juan match. See the games [inside]; full analysis next month. Spassky photo by Betty Marshall; Byrne photo by Burt Hochberg.

The 'full analysis next month', in the April 1974 CL&R, was by Lubosh Kavalek a member of Byrne's team in San Juan. Once again, I'll quote the March 'The Editor's Page - News & Views' by Burt Hochberg for the full, contemporary picture of that cycle's Candidate matches. For the crosstables, see 1973-75 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Ex-World Champion Boris Spassky took the first step towards challenging current Champion Fischer by defeating Robert Byrne in Puerto Rico. Spassky won the third, fourth and sixth games, the other three being drawn.

The second match to finish was Karpov's rout of Polugaevsky. The match lasted eight games, Karpov winning the fourth, sixth and eighth, with the others drawn. Now Karpov must play Spassky in April.

Soviet veteran Victor Korchnoi undoubtedly took great satisfaction in his victory against Brazil's Henrique Mecking. This match, held in Augusta, Ga., went 13 games. The Russian won games five and seven, but Mecking scored in game 12. The young grandmaster's elation was short-lived, however, as Korchnoi took game 13 and the match.

In the last match to finish, Petrosian defeated Portisch, three wins to two. Petrosian had won games five and nine, but Portisch caught up with wins in the 10th and 12th games. Then Petrosian won the 13th. He will be faced with Korchnoi in April.

By the way, draws do not count in match scoring. The quarter-final matches require three wins for match victory, the semi-finals (in April) require four wins, and the final match will go to the player who first scores five wins. A match is won by the player who is leading after a certain number of games (16 in the quarters, 20 in the semis, 24 in the finals), but if a tie exists after the game limit, the match is decided by fervent praying, followed by tossing a coin.

Fifty years ago it was not acceptable to decide a match with a shorter time control than was used in the match games, i.e. rapid or blitz tiebreaks. Today it is the norm. 'Fervent praying', however, is still with us.

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Okay, it's a stretch, I admit. But when you read IM [now GM] Larry Kaufman's article "The Evaluation of Material Imbalances," you will see a connection to Jon Buckley's "Troop Inspection," our cover. The troops have been inspected, evaluated, and promoted (for the most part), so that you can make intelligent decisions over the board. • © 1998 Jon F. Buckley

Don't overlook the report on the Eastern Open. We're very lucky to have two games annotated by GM Lubomir Kavalek.

A black and white version of the 1999 CL cover illustrated the Kaufman article. I once featured the ground breaking Kaufman analysis in a series on Practical Evaluation (February 2013); see '2013-01-15: Kaufman's Material Imbalances * Kaufman 1999'

Buckley's artwork was also seen in August 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (August 2023). Will we see more in future 'On the Cover' posts?

04 March 2024

Comics Scholarship, Not Necessarily Chess

Wobbling on with this weekly, Monday series, the previous post was Chess Comics - Grids and Panels (February 2024). At the end of that post, I gave myself a direction:-

How should I use the different grids to create a more interesting series of pages? I really have no idea. [...] Maybe I should spend some time on this subject.

As usual, the time I used was spent badly and I have only the following composite image to show for it. The left, colored portion is an excuse to use another AI generated image on this chess blog.

Left: 'comic artist draws chess'; AI Comic Factory (aicomicfactory.com)
Right: Google search on 'comic grid' -> 'People also ask'

The right, B&W portion is an example of my favorite section in Google search results, the 'People also ask' section. It's a great way to get up to speed quickly on any subject. The first question, 'What do you call comic squares?', is answered,

A panel is an individual frame, or single drawing, in the multiple-panel sequence of a comic strip or comic book, as well as a graphic novel.

The same answer leads to Panel : comics (wikipedia.org), which opens Pandora's box on the subject of comics, whether short or long or in-between. See, for example, Wikipedia's ensuing page on the 'graphic novel'.

In the same Google search, the top result was The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship (comicsgrid.com). If, like me, you have a STEM education, you might think the phrase 'Comics Scholarship' is an oxymoron. Nothing could be further from the truth and I look forward to discovering the journal.

03 March 2024

Polgar Plus Seirawan GT Nakamura

A few months ago, also for the long-running series Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), we saw Chess Rookie Card (November 2023). I recorded the basic info for that auction as,

The item pictured below was titled 'Hikaru Nakamura #390 American Chess Equipment Ultimate Card Auto'. It sold for around $500, 'Best offer accepted'.

For this month's post we have two more cards in the series, both pictured below. The titles of the auctions are large enough to be readable, but I'll copy them here for the benefit of the search engines:-

  • Susan Polgar #390 American Chess Equipment Ultimate Card Auto - NM
  • Yasser Seirawan #256 American Chess Equipment Ultimate Card Auto - NM

As you can see, the Polgar card sold for $299.00 'or Best Offer' and the Seirawan card for $299.00 'Best offer accepted'. Since the cards were displayed one over the other in a list sorted by descending price, I suppose they sold for close to the same amount.

The description for the Polgar card added,

This is an extremely rare American Chess Equipment card. The card is hand-numbered and signed by Grandmaster Susan Polgar.

The Seirawan card had identical text -- other than the name -- as did the earlier Nakamura card, so I suppose all three cards were from the same seller. The various abbreviations used in the auction were explained in the Nakamura post and I won't repeat them here.

In that previous post I wondered about the original selling price of the Nakamura card. Thanks to an anonymous comment I was informed, 'The Hikaru cost $8.00 at the time' along with a URL to the original product page. I'll leave it to interested parties to locate the two cards mentioned on this current post.

29 February 2024

Yahoo Zombies Want Chess

I ended last month's Yahoos post, RIP Yahoos (January 2024), saying,

After three years the Google Yahoos also ran out of steam: Yahoos Set a New Low (December 2023; 'So many problems, so little time.'). It's time to let them sleep in peace.

But what if they don't want to sleep in peace?

'Zombies play chess.'
AI Comic Factory

Looks like I better rethink the whole thing.

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

26 February 2024

Chess Comics - Grids and Panels

Last week's post, First Adventures in AI Comics (February 2024), discussed some of the challenges using AI Comic software. One of my paragraphs mentioned,

The 2 x 2 format of each page is somewhat monotonous. The free version of the software, which is the version I've been using, offers four different formats of which 2 x 2 is the simplest. Since they can be interchanged easily, I could experiment with the other formats, but there's a significant constraint. There is no control over what part of the story is shown in the individual panels -- four panels in the example of the 2 x 2 format -- that make up the page.

I went back to the first comic page in the series, The Chess Village (January 2024), copied the prompt I used to make the image shown in the post, and re-entered the prompt into the software. The following composite image shows the result.

Four views of 'The Chess Village'

The UL image (upper left) shows the second use of the original prompt. The result is not at all the same as the image displayed in the original post. The AI software almost never gives the same result twice, which would duplicate the multiple images (aka 'panels') that constitute a page.

After creating the UL image, I changed the format (aka 'grid'; the 2 x 2 format is grid number 0 in the AI Comic software) for each of the other three grids (numbered 1 to 3). This resulted in the UR, LL, and LR (lower right) pages, shown in numerical sequence.

The UR page is not at all the same as the UL page; all four panels have changed. The LL page reuses two UR panels, although in different sizes, and the LR page reuses all four UR panels in the same positions. The software created the page as soon as I had clicked the choice of the new grid.

How should I use the different grids to create a more interesting series of pages? I really have no idea, plus there is still the issue of 'no control over what part of the story is shown in the individual panels'. Except for some interest when I was an undergraduate student -- mainly to avoid studying for exams -- I've never been much of a comic connoisseur. Maybe I should spend some time on this subject.

19 February 2024

First Adventures in AI Comics

Last week's Monday post was the last in a series of six posts in an experiment using the 'AI Comic' software. The six posts each featured an image picturing part of the story, corresponding to one page in the comic. The six images are reproduced below.

A Chess Village and Its Wizard

The six posts corresponding to each page/image are linked here:-

Having spent some time manipulating the comic software, I've made plenty of observations on its possibilities and its limitations. One of the first observations was that the dialog balloons, e.g. the 2nd & 3rd pages' UR panel (upper right), contain gibberish text that can't be changed easily. They might look nice, but that's the whole story.

The 2 x 2 format of each page is somewhat monotonous. The free version of the software, which is the version I've been using, offers four different formats of which 2 x 2 is the simplest. Since they can be interchanged easily, I could experiment with the other formats, but there's a significant constraint. There is no control over what part of the story is shown in the individual panels -- four panels in the example of the 2 x 2 format -- that make up the page.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is the lack of built-in continuity for the individual elements and characters of the comic. The Wizard sort of looks the same on each page, but there are significant differences that a real artist would not have allowed. The color of the Wizard's hat, for example, changes constantly.

In the 4th page's LL panel (lower left), there are two wizards. In the 5th page's LL panel, the Wizard's assistant is wearing the hat. In the 6th page's LR panel, there are two assistants, both with the same color hair as his girlfriend. And so on.

For each of the six posts I produced many images on the theme of the post and chose the one that I liked the best. I could have copied the best panels from different trials and pasted them into a new 2 x 2 format, but that would have required more time than I wanted to spend on the experiment. My main objective was to produce relevant artwork that I'm unable to do myself, and this is what happened. Sometimes the AI software gave me an idea that I hadn't thought of myself, which might be the most valuable contribution of the software.

These first six pages are an introduction to the themes that I would like to use in subsequent stories. I'm curious to see where the series will take me.

(*) Images: AI Comic Factory (aicomicfactory.com)

18 February 2024

Chess Jeudi Gras

It took me some time to figure out what is shown in this photo. The title ('Chess') didn't help much and the description was missing.

Chess © Flickr user skooksie under Creative Commons.

The first useful identifying text said,

This photo is in 1 album • Mardi Gras 2024 • 444 items

OK, I got it. It's a night time shot of a Mardi Gras float with a big hand on the top of the float and a chess game on the side. There are a few people standing on the float and other people milling around it.

It reminded me of another post from a few years back, Chess Mardi Gras (February 2018). That photo was from Nice, France and had a link to another Mardi Gras photo from Lisbon, Portugal. Where was today's photo taken? The tags for the photo said,

Mardi Gras • Carnival • Parade • St Charles Avenue • Krewe of Babylon

Two of those tags lead us to St. Charles Avenue - New Orleans Streets to Visit (neworleans.com). Another one leads to Knights of Babylon (wikipedia.org), which starts,

The Knights of Babylon parade on Jeudi Gras, the Thursday night prior to Mardi Gras. The Knights of Babylon Parade rolls annually on its traditional Uptown New Orleans parade route. Babylon is always the first parade on this evening, leading the way for the other Thursday parades, and blazing the trail for Carnival weekend festivities

Jeudi Gras? Literally, 'Fat Thursday'? I didn't even know that was a thing. I just love where the little game of chess takes me.

12 February 2024

The Assistant's Girlfriend

A Monday post means it's time for another installment in our weekly AI chess comic series. In the previous episode, The Wizard's Assistant (February 2024), we learned,

The Wizard and his assistant meet at least once a day and generally discuss the latest challenges facing the chess world.

This is the sixth and last installment of the introduction to the series.

The Wizard's assistant is often accompanied by his longtime girlfriend, who is herself a keen chess player. Some say the girlfriend is the Wizard's niece, although no outsider has been able to decipher the family tree. The girlfriend plays third board on a chess team sponsored by the Wizard. The team is composed of players with some personal connection to the Wizard.

(*) Images: AI Comic Factory (aicomicfactory.com)

11 February 2024

Chess History, Math, and Art

Some chess history, some chess math. If this video had nothing more than that, I wouldn't have selected it for this month's featured video. The hook for me was the sequence of 17 chess images, all appearing to be AI-generated.

Chess: The Game of Infinite Possibilities (9:08) • '[Published on] Feb 7, 2024'

The description explains,

Dive into the captivating world of chess, a game that transcends time and technology. In this enlightening video, we embark on a journey through the history of chess, exploring its ancient origins and the evolution that has made it a timeless test of strategy and intellect. Witness the legendary games that have shaped its course and the grandmasters who have left their indelible mark on this intellectual battlefield.

We delve into the mind-boggling mathematics and probabilities that underpin the game, unveiling the sheer infinite possibilities that lie within each move. Discover how the advent of artificial intelligence has challenged and expanded the horizons of chess, pushing the boundaries of human versus machine. From the mystique of ancient strategies to the cutting-edge algorithms of AI, this video is a tribute to the enduring fascination with chess, inviting you to explore the endless wonders of this ultimate game of minds.

At around 4:30, the narrator mentions Boris 'Spass-Sky', rhymes with 'Pass-Pie'. Is the narration also AI-generated? The voice sounds human enough, but the monotonous delivery makes me wonder. From YouTube's 'Science Compass' channel, I hope I find the time to watch another video from the same channel.

08 February 2024

February 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

The previous 'On the Cover' post, January 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (January 2024), had several twists on the World Championships of 50 and 25 years ago. In the current post, we return to important events of national interest.

Left: '?'
Right: 'EuroDisney and the World Rapids for Kids'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

James Tarjan, winner of the American Open in California. Carl Budd's story is [inside]. Photo by Paula Muller.

The Carl Budd story was titled, 'Tarjan Wins American Open', and identified Budd as 'President, Santa Monica Bay Chess Club'. After five paragraphs about the organizational challenges presented by the event ('403 players, 137 in the Open section and 266 in the Amateur'), the report continued,

The new American Open Champion is James Tarjan, a popular master from Sherman Oaks, California, who now calls Berkeley home. He earned his fine victory by defeating strong competition, including GM Larry Evans and IM Anthony Saidy, After the seventh round, Tarjan was a half point ahead of former California State Champion Kim Commons and needed only a draw to clinch the title, which he achieved. His final score of 7.5-0.5 was worth the first prize of $1.000.

Tarjan. one of America's fastest-rising stars, is 21. In 1965, at the age of 13. he played in his first American Open, winning a junior trophy. Top prizes eluded him until this year. In the 1970 American Open he tied for second with Walter Browne. In 1972 he tied for second with four others. But then, at the National Open in Las Vegas earlier this year, he tied for first with Browne and Laszlo Szabo (though Browne took the title on tiebreaking points). He performed very well in the West Coast Invitational, coming in second, and then finished fourth in the strong U.S. Championship in El Paso. Just one month before the American Open, he indicated his latest playing form by winning the Capps Memorial in the Bay Area.

He will be seeking an international title in 1974 and has already had his first IM result at the Chicago Invitational tournament played after the American Open. Later in the year he will be going to Holland and Spain in furtherance of his ambition.

I included these details because GM Tarjan has been mentioned before on this blog, but was never featured as the top finisher. See, for example, the 1973 National Open in May 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (May 2023).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

"Can you be in Paris tomorrow?" asked Jami Anson, senior art director of Chess Life. Although it sounds romantic -- Paris/Chess/Disneyland -- I know from experience that a working trip is quite different from a pleasure trip. After deciding to go, I knew I wanted to get something unique for the cover, like my April '98 cover of Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono. Here is the result. Exclusively for the readers of Chess Life -- the current FIDE World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov, with Asuka Nakamura, playing the one and only (French!) Mickey Mouse.

The reporting on the event started with 'Adventures in Fantasyland' by FM Aviv Friedman, who explained,

Once a year FIDE, with the help of the French Federation, holds its World Rapid Championship for Boys and Girls Under 14 at the EuroDisney Theme Park in Paris. Does that sound a bit amazing to those who have often read about the usual, army-style youth championships, with bad conditions, poor food and nothing to do? Well, it is as good as it sounds! It really can't be much more fun that that. This year, between the 15th and the 18th of November, 157 players from 55(!) countries all flocked to EuroDisney on the outskirts of Paris, to combine chess and fun.

The reporting continued with 'Disney's World Rapid Chess Championship -- for Kids' by Brian Killigrew. His report included two pages of color photos, an interview titled, 'Anatoly Karpov Speaks', and another interview with Pierre Sissman, Disney Executive VP (Europe). See also the previous post Karpov at Disney (October 2015).

05 February 2024

The Wizard's Assistant

In the previous installment of our weekly chess comic series, The AI Generator (January 2024), we learned,

The Wizard can use his patented AI techniques to generate animals, mainly foxes, who play chess.

This is the fifth installment of the series.

The Wizard needs help for his chess activities, which mainly focus on support for the chess community -- local, regional, national, and international. He has an assistant, a much younger man, who lives in a cottage on the mansion grounds. The Wizard and his assistant meet at least once a day and often take meals together. They generally discuss the latest challenges facing the chess world, but also tackle the AI side of current events. The assistant is not an AI admirer and has strong doubts about the nefarious side of the technology.

(*) Images: AI Comic Factory (aicomicfactory.com)

04 February 2024

A Goat Says, 'It's Chess Not Checkers'

The best items featured on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010) are those that lead to other avenues of inquiry: 'What is this?' and 'What is that?' The item pictured below was titled 'Piggybanx Tom Brady Refractor 1/1 Chess Not Checkers Patriots'. It sold 'Pre-Owned' for $600.00 or 'Best Offer'.

The description of the item added only,

Piggybanx Tom Brady 1/1 Refractor. It is missing one screw for the box; it came that way. Otherwise a very nice card.

'Tom Brady' is easy enough, especially if you follow American football. In Tom Brady (wikipedia.org), Wikipedia informs,

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. (born August 3, 1977) is a former American football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 23 seasons. He spent his first 20 seasons with the New England Patriots and was a central contributor to the franchise's dynasty from 2001 to 2019. In his final three seasons, he was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady is widely regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time

'Piggybanx' leads to piggybanx (@piggy_banx; instagram.com). The cards on display there mostly use the same style header as on the Tom Brady card. The page explains itself as:-

Pop Culture Inspired Concept Art • Medium: Cards • Rarest in the World. No Commissions. No Customs.

As for '1/1 Refractor', Wikipedia comes to the rescue again. In Refractor card (wikipedia.org), we learn,

A Refractor Card is a trading card that has a reflective coating and displays a rainbow when held at a specific angle. They are parallels of base set issues and were introduced with the release of the 1993 Topps "Baseball's Finest" set.

Later on the same page, we find,

The rarest refractor variant is called the "SuperFractor". It is a card that has a production run of just 1 and is serial numbered 1/1.

The phrase that ties the eBay item to this blog is 'Chess Not Checkers'. The page Tom Brady Doubles Down on NFL Criticism: 'Way More Checkers Now Than It Is Chess' (bleacherreport.com), quotes something that Brady said in November 2023:-

I think the pro game is reflecting more of what the college game is, as opposed to the college game reflecting what the pro game is. We're asking pro players to play college football, and that's the biggest difference I see. This is way more checkers now than it is chess.

If you look carefully at the card, you'll see that the White pieces are checker, not chess, pieces. On top of that, there's a goat hanging from Brady's neck. As we all know by now, GOAT stands for 'Greatest Of All Time', which echoes Wikipedia's 'greatest quarterback of all time'.

01 February 2024

Breaking the 3700 Barrier

The post from earlier this week, The AI Generator (January 2024), was no.3700 on this blog, which means it's time for another 'Breaking the Barrier' post. In the previous post for the series, Breaking the 3600 Barrier (April 2023), I wrote,

Getting back to the 'CCRL Blitz Rating List' there are currently 17 engines rated over 3600. Based on that same list, it looks like we're already good for a 'Breaking 3700' post seven months (or so) from now, which should have at least two engines.

Make that nine months -- because I'm slowing down -- and let's have a look at the latest CCRL rating list.

CCRL Blitz Rating List (Feb 2024)

Now we have one engine over 3800 (Stockfish 16), 15 engines over 3700, and (not shown) 11 engines over 3600. It looks statistically strange to have more engines rated 3700 than 3600, but that's what the numbers say. See you a year from now for the '3800 Barrier' -- unless my slowdown grinds to a halt.

30 January 2024

RIP Yahoos

The series of posts centered on the Yahoo family began inauspiciously with Chess and Peanuts (April 2008; Yahoo article 'Writing for Peanuts'). They continued irregularly whenever a Yahoo.com news feed highlighted a story that had something to do with chess.

Starting with October Yahoos (October 2017), the Yahoos appeared monthly through A Yahoo Backstory (December 2020). Those were wonderful days for the Yahoos -- Covid and Netflix ensured a steady stream of mainstream chess stories.

As was inevitable, the stories inspired by Covid and Netflix dried up. The Yahoos morphed into A Database of Yahoos (January 2021), based on common criteria:-

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

After three years the Google Yahoos also ran out of steam: Yahoos Set a New Low (December 2023; 'So many problems, so little time.'). It's time to let them sleep in peace.

29 January 2024

The AI Generator

In the previous installment of our weekly comic series, The Wizard as Professor (January 2024), we learned that the Wizard has more interests than just playing chess. I noted,

The village wizard [...] holds a patent on an important technique used to generate life-like forms in plasma.

This is the fourth installment.

The Wizard can use his patented AI techniques to generate the personae of chess players from the past. Since this practice is frowned upon by the general public and even outlawed in certain jurisdictions, he confines his experiments to generating animals, mainly foxes, who play chess.

(*) Images: AI Comic Factory (aicomicfactory.com)


For more chess playing foxes, see Foxy Christmas Chess (December 2023).

22 January 2024

The Wizard as Professor

In the first installment of this weekly comic series we introduced a chess village and its villagers. Then we introduced The Village Wizard (January 2024), where I observed,

Some say that the villagers' interest in chess stems from the presence of an unusual man who arrived in the village at some time in the recent past.

This is the third installment.

The village wizard is a retired professor of computer science who taught AI at a top-notch engineering college. He holds a patent on an important technique used to generate life-like forms in plasma. The patent has made him a wealthy man.

(*) Images: AI Comic Factory (aicomicfactory.com)

21 January 2024

Consider the Message, Not the Chess

For this month's Flickr favorite, my short list had eight photos. Four of the eight were AI generated images and two were from the annual Tata tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Given my weakness for AI images, guess what I chose for this post?

Top: Strategische Finanzplanung: Schachspiel mit goldenen Bullen und bronzenen Bärenfiguren
Bottom: Human vs AI playing Chess
Both: © Flickr user Kostenlose Bilder mit KI under Creative Commons.

The title of the top photo translates to

Strategic financial planning: Chess game with golden bulls and bronze bear figures

Bulls and bears, got it! The Flickr user name translated to 'Free images with AI'. How did we get from KI to AI? My German - English dictionary translates 'artificial' as 'künstlich'. The word 'künstlich' translates as 'artificial' or 'synthetic'. KI/AI, got it!

I've also been dabbling with AI chess images, last seen in The Village Wizard (January 2024). In looking at hundreds of images, I can't remember seeing a realistic chess set. In the top image, the board looks like it's 7x6. In the bottom image, it looks like 10x8, with two White Queens on the left and two Black Kings on the right. And what is that piece lying on its side in the foreground of the bottom image? Better concentrate on the overall messages of the two images and not on their chess details.

18 January 2024

Players under the FIDE Flag

In a recent post, FIDE Rating List - January 2024 (January 2024), I wondered where to go next with the data. I decided,

One idea is to look at the doubling of players under the FIDE flag ('FID'). To get started, here are counts of 'FID' players for the past five years:-

2020 : 252
2021 : 254
2022 : 263
2023 : 527
2024 : 798

Those numbers total 2094 players, of which 507 were rated 2000 or above. Of course, some of those players were listed as 'FID' for all five years, but I'll come back to that a bit later.

The key to detecting federation transfers is the FIDE ID, a unique code given to all chess players tracked by FIDE. A few years ago, I documented these codes on a page titled FIDE Country and Federation Codes - 'unofficial' (m-w.com; 'Last updated 2015-03-02'). The FIDE ID is shown in the last column of the table on that page. At the bottom of the page are references to blog posts that documented the creation of the page.

Each federation assigns codes to new players using the federation's FIDE ID as the first two or three digits of the player's unique FIDE ID, which is typically seven or eight digits. That means the player's last five digits are assigned autonomously by the federation, perhaps disconnected from any central FIDE database.

When I worked out the codes for the various federations in 2015, there were no FIDE IDs longer than eight digits. Now there are many codes with nine digits. It appears that FIDE assigns those codes when a new player -- previously unknown to FIDE and having no federation -- starts playing on the FIDE Online Arena (FOA). I eliminated 'FID' players with nine digit codes from the total of 2094 'FID' players counted earlier and arrived at new counts for the five years:-

2020 : 164
2021 : 166
2022 : 166
2023 : 394
2024 : 636

That totals 1526 players. I then counted the number of times each player appeared on the lists over the five years. I counted exactly 700 players distributed as follows:-

5 : 144
4 : 11
3 : 9
2 : 199
1 : 337

In other words, there were 144 players who were on the lists for each of the five years and there were 337 players who were on a list for only one year. Of those 337 players, 291 were on the 2024 list (released in January 2024, covering activity in 2023) and 82 were titled players (GM, IM, etc.).

Next stop: Which federations were responsible for those 82 titled players before they became 'FID' players? When I tackle this question, I'll have to keep in mind the European privacy laws that also apply to any chess player who changed federations.