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.