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.

15 January 2024

The Village Wizard

A week ago I started a new Monday series requiring two artistic talents which I lack completely: story telling and illustrating. In that post, The Chess Village (January 2024), I wrote,

The story starts in the Catskill mountains, in a village where almost everyone plays chess.

This is the second installment.

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. He has two distinguishing characteristics that everyone notices wherever he goes -- he wears a pointed hat and a cloak. For this reason the villagers call him the 'Wizard'. He lives in a mansion on the edge of the village.

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

14 January 2024

Man City and Magnus

From Youtube's 'Man City' (Manchester City) channel. For an introduction to the team, see Manchester City F.C. (wikipedia.org; 'This article is about the men's football club').

When Geniuses Meet | Pep meets Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen (11:54) • '[Published on] Dec 12, 2023'

The description said,

A must-watch encounter between two tactical geniuses, our manager Pep Guardiola sits down with Magnus Carlsen to talk their Greatest Moves.

The first of more than 1600 comments said,

As a chess and football fan, I see this as an absolute win.

I have to agree, even though I'm not a huge football [soccer] fan. While I was preparing the post on my local PC, I received the message: 'Video unavailable : Watch on YouTube'. Will it be available after it's posted?

09 January 2024

FIDE Rating List - January 2024

A new year means a look at the first FIDE rating list of the year. I've been doing this for so many years that I repeated that first sentence from last year without consciously copying it. Even better, I have a reliable checklist to follow.

1) Identify last year's post: FIDE Rating List - January 2023 (January 2023).

2) Identify the source of the FIDE data: FIDE Ratings Download (ratings.fide.com).

TXT format (31 Dec 2023, Sz: 9.77 MB)

3) Compare some basic counts over the past few years. Going back to the start of 2020 gives pre-covid 19 as a reference point.

2024: >440K players; >265K marked inactive
2023: >405K players; >253K marked inactive
2022: >377K players; >228K marked inactive
2021: >362K players; >174K marked inactive
2020: >354K players; >181K marked inactive

4) Analyze changes in players per federation. The upper chart shows two new federations (Grenada and Niger). No federation had a name change, giving FIDE exactly 200 federations.

The lower charts show federations with the largest increase in number of players (left) and the largest percentage increase (right; for federations with at least 100 players at the start of 2023). In last year's post I noted,

Mexico ('MEX') and Bangladesh ('BAN') are on both charts.

Copy that for Mexico, then add China ('CHN') and Philippines ('PHI'). Bangladesh missed being included this year by only two places on the left chart.

5) Identify ideas for a followup post. In last year's only followup post, FIDE Rating List - Active Players (January 2023), I remembered an idea from 2022:-

One idea is to look at the doubling of players under the FIDE flag ('FID'), as calculated on the right [chart]. This must be a consequence of the war in Ukraine, but should be confirmed.

Will I manage to do it in 2024? To get started, here are counts of 'FID' players for the past five years:-

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

Yes, this confirms that there has been a substantial increase during the past two years. What more can we learn from the rating lists about this?

08 January 2024

The Chess Village

For the past month I've been using one post per week to explore AI Comics (*). In the previous post, Father Time and the New Year Baby (January 2024), I wrote,

After a month experimenting with this technology, it's time to carry the idea one step further. • Next: The chess village.

A 'step further' means to develop a complete story using AI Comics to illustrate the story. The story is mine; the illustrations are AI Comics. This post is the first installment.

The story starts in the Catskill mountains, in a village where almost everyone plays chess. The village square is a chess board and on an average day, when the weather is good, any number of villagers gather there to play games of chess with each other.

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

07 January 2024

In the Style of ...

In the ongoing series dedicated to chess on eBay Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), last month's post was Fischer - Spassky Top Items (December 2023). I wrote,

My short list for this post had a dozen items, any one of which could have been featured for the post.

This month the situation was the opposite; my short list had zero items. I looked at twice the number of eBay pages that I usually do, came up empty handed, then looked at a number of related ideas and again came up empty handed. What to do? I decided to look again at the page of the most expensive items, concentrating on chess sets, which I often exclude from the short list because there are so many of them.

The item I finally chose was titled, 'RARE 1960s Giacometti STYLE Brutalist Bronze Chess Set'. It sold for US $1500.00 'Best offer accepted or Best Offer', which appeared to be close to the asking price.

Why did I choose this chess set instead of one of the other dozen in the top results? I've posted a couple of times on the brutalist style, where the first time was Brutalism in Chess (July 2011), and where I asked, 'What exactly does 'brutalist' mean?' I still don't understand the term very well. The description of the chess set pictured above said,

32 unique ultra rare chess pieces cast by hand in the brutalist Giacometti mid-century style. The King is 6.5" high; see photos. 16 pieces are a darker bronze and the other 16 are a lighter bronze look.

Rook, Seahorse, Bishop with spear, tall Queen, lofty King and bow-tied warriors -- a truly unique inspirational ensamble of chess pieces that is one of a kind in the world and will fascinate and find its new owner. Each of these chess pieces is a work of art in its own right and owes this wonderfully beautiful patina to the fact that the chessmen had been forgotten in a wine cellar for decades.

The patina does not rub off on the skin or when touched. The chess pieces are playable. I do not have the original board. I am selling the set as it is.

The board is obviously too small for the pieces. The bases of the 'Seahorse' Knights on b1 and b8 are larger than the squares on the board. As for Giacometti, his Wikipedia page, Alberto Giacometti (wikipedia.org), says,

Giacometti was one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. His work was particularly influenced by artistic styles such as Cubism and Surrealism.

The page doesn't mention Brutalism, but other pages do. For example, 'sculpture in the Brutalist style of Giacometti'. That's almost exactly what the description of our chess pieces said.

02 January 2024

January 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

A new year means turning the page to the next twelve months of 'On the Cover' posts. This year will mark the tenth anniversary of the series, which started with March 1964 'On the Cover' (March 2014). In the last post for 2023, December 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (December 2023), I noted,

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.

This month we return to an 'arty portrait on the right'. More about that after we see the January covers from 50 and 25 years ago.

Left: '?'
Right: 'de Firmian Grabs Third Title'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines (left), presenting a check and winner's trophy to Bent Larsen. The Danish grandmaster has just won the greatest chess tournament ever held in the Asian and Pacific zones. Stories and games next month.

For once, I'm not going to use the 'On the Cover' time machine to preview next month's tournament story. A new column in January 1974, titled 'The Editor's Page - News & Views' by Burt Hochberg, gave sufficient details:-

The great Philippines International Tournament, the most important chess event ever held in Asia and the Pacific area, ended November 6. The significance of the event was highlighted by the ceremonial presence of World Champion Bobby Fischer and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.

Bent Larsen, the tournament's highest-rated player, won it with 12 1/2 - 2 1/2, losing only to Gligoric. Yugoslavia's most promising young grandmaster, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, was second with 11 1/2, and our own Lubomir Kavalek, one of the world's most active grandmasters recently, scored 11 points to take 3rd place. Other scores: [...] Lombardy won the brilliancy prize for his win against Quinteros. The prize was $1,000! First prize in the tournament was $4,000.

That mention of Fischer and Marcos deserves further exploration, but I'm worried it might lead me down a rabbit hole from which I won't return in time to finish this current post. Maybe later...

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Nick de Firmian won the 1998 U.S. Championship by defeating the defending champion, Joel Benjamin, 2 1/2 - 1 1/2. We again called on portraitist Steven Seward of Cleveland, Ohio, to work his magic for our cover.

Coverage of the championship, the Women's Championship (won by Irina Krush), and the U.S. Senior Championship (won by Arthur Bisguier), will begin next month.

And there we have our connection to the arty portrait of two months ago: November 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (November 2023; 'Steven Seward, a portraitist from Cleveland, Ohio'). That makes three arty covers in a row and there is more to come later in 1999. The cover introduction continued with news about two World Championships.

FIDE UPDATE: De Firmian, Benjamin, and the other semi-finalists, Dmitry Gurevich and Tal Shaked, qualified to participate in the FIDE World Championship, along with Boris Gulko and Sergey Kudrin, both of whom qualified by previous performance or rating; and Alexander Ivanov, who qualified by winning the 1998 Pan American Championship, which was held in Venezuela in October. Gata Kamsky has also been invited (by rating). His participation will hinge on whether or not the finalized dates for the event interfere with his medical studies.

Alisa Galliamova-Ivanchuk forfeited her match with Jun Xie. China was awarded the bid for the match; Alisa wanted to play at least half of the match in Russia, so she didn't show up at all. Jun Xie, the former women's world champion, will now challenge the current champion, Susan Polgar.

Once again, that news 'deserves further exploration'. I'll put this month's rabbit hole on the follow-up list.

01 January 2024

Father Time and the New Year Baby

A week ago, in Foxy Christmas Chess (December 2023), I wrote,

This year Christmas falls on a Monday, which happens to coincide with a new series last seen in Chessman Comics (December 2023).

Christmas plus one week equals New Year's Day. Once again, our AI generated comics have something to say.

'Father Time plays chess with New Year baby.'
AI Comic Factory

After a month experimenting with this technology, it's time to carry the idea one step further. • Next: The chess village.