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.