24 April 2018

Caruana's Rise to GM

I ended last week's post, Caruana's TWIC Debut, with:-

Two recurring events would prove to be important to Caruana's evolution as a chess player: the First Saturday tournaments in Budapest and the New York Masters.

Taking the New York Masters (newyorkmasters.com) first, after the initial TWIC report (59th New York Masters; 9 June 2003), there were 23 further TWIC reports mentioning Caruana in the event. They covered the 81st edition (11 November 2003) listing Caruana as an FM rated 2137, through the 122nd edition (19 October 2004), where the young star, now rated 2196, drew with GM Gata Kamsky, rated 2717. The official site mentions an even earlier event, the 36th edition (3 December 2002), where Caruana was an FM rated 2125.

As for the First Saturday events, after the February 2003 edition the next TWIC report was the June 2004 edition, where Caruana (rated 2140) finished the category 2 'IM' event with +4-4=2 for a 2304 performance. TWIC reported Caruana's participation in ten more of the Budapest events. Worth special mention is The Week in Chess 589 (20 February 2006):-

5) First Saturday February • The First Saturday tournaments for February 2006 start saw a GM and two IM groups along with lesser events starting February 4th. [...] Note that Fabiano Caruana is now Italian, not US as given last week.

The change of federation made him a European. Playing the February event in the GM section (apparently for the first time) as an FM rated 2409, he scored +5-5=2. The next three TWIC reports on Caruana in First Saturday events show him gaining his first, second, and third GM norms.

From Mr ‘First Saturday’ – Laszlo Nagy in Budapest (chessbase.com; February 2010):-

One day I saw [Laszlo Nagy] walking crestfallen in the corridors of the playing venue. He revealed to me what troubled him: GM Fabiano Caruana who has achieved most of his norms and titles playing at the First Saturday has related to Laszlo that a journalist in the USA teased him that First Saturday is a 'factory for norms', implying norms are easily or dishonestly achieved. I seemed to have managed to console him by pointing out that this journalist has picked on a particularly wrong target: Caruana had just made his impressive debut at Wijk aan Zee -- does that make this highly respected event also ‘a factory for norms’? Young Caruana has proved his talent time and again and paving his way through the First Saturday he reached many super tournaments up to the latest World Cup.

Fabiano Caruana at his first 1st Sat tournament in June 2004 [NB: what about the February 2003 event?] where he started as an 11-year-old FM rated 2140. At the time he was still playing under the USA flag, in the meantime, he had switched his allegiances and today plays for Italy. His current rating is 2675.

Fabiano and his family lived in Budapest for a number of years. Their main reason for settling temporarily in the Hungarian capital was his coach GM Alex Chernin who is a Budapest resident. But he combined his training sessions with playing, almost monthly, at the First Saturday, where by the following year, in May 2005 [TWIC 550], he achieved his first IM norm with 7.5/10 and a 2470 performance. His final GM norm came in the July 2007 First Saturday tournament.

From Fabiano Caruana Earns 3rd GM Norm (uschess.org; July 2007):-

Fabiano Caruana just earned his third GM norm in July's first Saturday tournament in Budapest. He also earned his first two norms in the March and April editions of the famous First Saturday tournaments, held in downtown Budapest. Fabiano has dual American-Italian citizenship and a FIDE rating of 2549. At 14 years old, he is set to beat Hikaru Nakamura's record as the youngest American GM ever!

The GM title helped Caruana gain invitations to the next level of tournaments. In January 2008, he would play in Wijk aan Zee (Corus 'C') for the first time.

23 April 2018

A Double-edged King's Indian

In last week's post, Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 11, I noted,

The final score in the TCEC superfinal match was +20-2=78. A 59-41% margin of victory indicates that Stockfish is about 65 Elo points ahead of Houdini

In other words, Stockfish ('S' in the following discussion) beat Houdini ('H') convincingly. As in past TCEC superfinals, the engines took turns playing both sides of opening variations dictated in advance by the organizers. Stockfish had White in the odd-numbered games, and the following table shows how the two engines fared with each color, i.e. Houdini's two wins were with the White pieces:-

S-H: +13-0=37
H-S: +  2-7=41

In one pair of games -- the 29th and 30th -- Stockfish won both as White and as Black. The opening was labelled the 'King's Indian: Mar del Plata', and the first 14 moves were fed to the engines:-

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 f5 11.f3 f4 12.Bf2 g5 13.Nd3 Nf6 14.c5 Ng6

The top diagram in the following chart shows the position where the engines started to think for themselves.

The bottom diagram shows the evaluations given to the resulting positions for the rest of the two games. On its first free move, Stockfish as White played 15.Rc1, while Houdini as White played 15.Kh1. The two moves make a sharp contrast. Stockfish's choice was offensive, while Houdini's was defensive.

For the rest of both games, Stockfish's evaluation of the position was invariably more accurate than Houdini's. Its forecast for the trend of the game came always a few moves ahead of Houdini's. If these had been human players, we could easily say that Stockfish had a better understanding of the position than Houdini.

As White, Stockfish won by breaking through on the Queenside, creating an advanced passed Pawn, and converting an endgame advantage. As Black, it won by a crushing attack on the Kingside. These are exactly the strategies that the position requires after move 14.

22 April 2018

Of Chess Men and Fishing Rods

Are we running out of items for the long-running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010)? For this current edition I had the choice of a tournament program signed by the participants, a GM scoresheet signed by the players, a set of chess magazines, and a box. Since I've already featured examples of the other items, some several times, I went with the box.

Titled 'An Early 19th Century Chess Set Box', the item pictured below sold for GBP 3356.00 ('approximately US $4,706.12'). Starting at GBP 199.99, the auction lasted a week. After five days the price reached GBP 1800, when bidding stopped. Seconds before closing the price jumped to GBP 3200, and after a few more bids ended at the price shown. The bidding history showed a total of 22 bids from 7 bidders.

The description was so vague that you might wonder why the item attracted so many bids:-

This antique chess set box I think dates to the early 19th century but possibly a little later. I am not certain what the box is made of but looks like a lacquered papier mache or composite material but not certain. The box has a lovely design of a castle with the walls having chess piece figures and symbols with chess board designs on the ends as seen in the photos. The box is really well made and quite large measuring 8.25 x 6.25 x 4 inches. Inside there are cloth linings which I think are later additions.

The lid lifts off but not sure if originally attached. Underneath there is a retailers or makers label as shown with a number 22 but with possibly another number before them and signed beneath. The box is in pretty good condition. I think there have been a few repairs in the past and new material underneath, a few minor knocks and general wear and tear with age and use.

After a little searching, I discovered that I had featured another such 'box' a few years ago in Jaques Carton Pierre Casket (March 2013). After showing another composite photo with a more detailed description than for the current item, I added, 'It would be useful to know the dimensions of the casket'. Now we know. The certificate under the lid of the current item (shown above) looked something like:-

REGISTERED No. 58,607, 5 & 6 VICTORIA, Cap. 100
Signed ____ ??? Archery
7 St.Margarets Street, Canterbury
[drawing of two gentlemen fishing]
A large assortment of Cricket-balls, Bats, Wickets, etc.

Chess men, racket balls, fishing rods, and cricket -- what's the connection?

20 April 2018

Chess in the Pink

Once again I'm faced with a Flickrless Friday (December 2017). The last time this happened, in Not so Flickrless Friday (March 2018), I explored one of the ways that artificial intelligence (AI) is used to categorize photos. Now I'll explore another way. In 'Flickrless Friday' I wrote,

I hope to have a real Flickr Friday post two weeks from now. If not, I'll explore those little colored boxes at the top of my screen capture.

The new screen capture below shows 15 'little colored boxes', where I chose to limit images to 'pink'.

flickr.com/search/?text=chess (on 'pink')

The Flickr universe of 'text=chess' photos currently returns 'View all 359,886'. Of the 15 colored boxes, two are labelled pink: 'Pale pink' (105,017 photos) and 'Pink' (9,304). I guess pale pink has a higher number of photos because it includes people's faces. Whatever the reason, my screen capture uses 'pale pink', which is why the corresponding box has a check mark.

Next to the little colored boxes are four patterned boxes, labelled in order 'Black and White', 'Shallow depth of field', 'Minimalist', and 'Patterns'. I'll save a look at those for the next 'Flickrless Friday'. In the meantime, I might try to find another source of photo sharing. Like other Yahoo services that I use from time to time, Flickr seems to be failing gradually. I've also been trying to think of a legitimate motivation to search on pink chess photos, but don't have a single good reason -- except to write a post like this one.

19 April 2018

Berlin Candidates - Chess Press Overview

As the chess world gears up for what must be the most anticipated World Championship match since 2013 Carlsen - Anand, let's have one last look at the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament. The following table links to the daily reports from two respected names in chess news: Chessbase.com and Chess.com.

Rd. Chessbase Chess.com
  What you need to knowCandidates: Opening moves FIDE Publishes Candidates' Tournament Pairings
R1 Candidates come out swinging Caruana, Mamedyarov, Kramnik Win
R2 Grischuk wins against So Grischuk Bounces Back
R3 Kramnik wins brilliancy Kramnik Beats Aronian In Brilliant Style
R4 Caruana and Aronian score Aronian, Caruana Win In Incredible Round 4
R5 Candidates trials and tribulations Grischuk Thrills Again
R6   Mamedyarov Catches Caruana
R7 Caruana beats Aronian to take lead Caruana Sole Leader Halfway Through Tournament
R8 Grischuk edges Kramnik to start second half Grischuk Outwits Kramnik
R9 Caruana misses victory, Kramnik loses again Karjakin Prolongs Kramnik's Misery
R10 Draw at the top Aronian Hangs Mate Against Kramnik
R11 Karjakin's last chance Caruana Leads, Aronian Suffers
R12 Drama, drama! Karjakin takes the lead! Tournament Wide Open As Karjakin Beats Caruana
R13 The final fourCandidates tiebreak scenarios Caruana Beats Aronian, Leads Before Final Round
R14 Caruana wins!First American challenger since Fischer Caruana Wins FIDE Candidates' Tournament
    Caruana: 'I Think My Chances Are About 50-50'

The headlines in the table already give a sense of the tension and excitement that surrounded the tournament. Next stop: the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match.

17 April 2018

Caruana's TWIC Debut

In the recent post, Carlsen's Next Challenger, I ended with an action:-

There's much more to be said about the next challenger to World Champion Carlsen. I'll explore [Fabiano] Caruana's early career in a short series of posts.

I don't know why I used the phrase 'short series'. As with any young star, there are so many different angles to be investigated that a diligent researcher could make a career out of it. First, here are some useful links for future reference:-

The Wikipedia page gives some basic information about Caruana, including his citizenship:-

Fabiano Luigi Caruana (born July 30, 1992) is an Italian-American chess grandmaster. A chess prodigy, he became a grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 11 months and 20 days -- the youngest grandmaster in the history of both Italy and the United States at the time. [...] Caruana possesses dual citizenship of both Italy and the United States, so he has the option of FIDE affiliation with either the Italian Chess Federation or the United States Chess Federation. Caruana played for Italy from 2005 to 2015. On May 12, 2015 the USCF announced that he would be changing federations, to play for the USA.

Wikipedia's coverage of Caruana's career starts in 2007:-

In July, Caruana won the "First Saturday" GM tournament in Budapest with 7 points out of 9 games. He obtained his final GM norm and at age 14 years, 11 months and 20 days, became the youngest grandmaster of both the United States and Italy.

For earlier events, I turned to Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess (TWIC). The first mention I found was from 2001, when Caruana was nine years old.

The Week in Chess 365 (5 November 2001)

There were no games by Caruana in TWIC365. I found the first games in TWIC383 and TWIC409, although Caruana was not mentioned in the related tournament reports. Both games are missing from Chessgames.com, as are his other games in TWIC409.

[Event "US Amateur Team East"]
[Site "Parsipanny USA"]
[Date "2002.02.16"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Milovanovic,Dragan"]
[Black "Caruana,F"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[BlackElo "2032"]
[EventDate "2002.02.16"]
[ECO "A48"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Bd3 O-O 5.O-O d5 6.Nbd2 Nbd7 7.c3 b6 8. e4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Bb7 10.Re1 Re8 11.Bf4 Rc8 12.Qa4 a6 13.Rad1 b5 14.Qc2 Nd5 15.Bg3 c6 16.h4 c5 17.dxc5 Nxc5 18.Nxc5 Rxc5 19.Qb1 Qb6 20.h5 Bxc3 21.hxg6 hxg6 22.bxc3 Nxc3 23.Qb4 Nxd1 24.Rxd1 Bxf3 25.gxf3 Rd8 26.Be2 Rxd1+ 27.Bxd1 Rc1 28.Qd2 Qc5 29.Kg2 a5 30.Bf4 Rc4 31.Be3 Qd6 32.Bb3 Rh4 33.Qxa5 Qd7 34.Kf1 Qd3+ 35.Kg2 Qd7 1/2-1/2

[Event "New York State-ch"]
[Site "Kerhonkson USA"]
[Date "2002.08.31"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Simon,Jerry C"]
[Black "Caruana,F"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[BlackElo "2040"]
[EventDate "2002.08.31"]
[ECO "D90"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Qb3 Nxc3 7.bxc3 O-O 8.Ba3 Nd7 9.Rd1 b6 10.e3 Bb7 11.Be2 Re8 12.O-O e6 13.c4 Qc8 14. Rfe1 e5 15.c5 bxc5 16.dxc5 Bc6 17.Bc4 Re7 18.e4 Rb8 19.Qe3 Nf6 20.Nd2 Rd7 21.f3 Qd8 22.Qe2 Nh5 23.g3 Qg5 24.Nf1 Nf4 1/2-1/2

In the second half of 2002, mentions of Caruana in TWIC began to accelerate. Following are excerpts from the next five.

The Week in Chess 405 (12 August 2002)

9) US Open • The US Open took place July 27th - August 4th 2002 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Gennadi Zaitshik and Eugeniy Najer finished on 8/9. No games available.

Final Round 9 Standings:
1 Zaitshik, Gennadi GM 2578 8.0 46.5
50 Caruana, Fabiano 2024 6.5 34.0
525 players

The Week in Chess 420 (25 November 2002)

9) World Youth Chess Championships • The 2002 World Youth Chess Championships took place in Heraklio, Greece, November 15th-24th 2002. 802 young chessplayers (categories under 18, 16, 14, 12, 10 for boys and girls) from 71 countries played including some of the strongest junior chessplayers of the world. I give the games from sections with significant numbers of rated players. [...]

Boys Under 10
Safarli Eltaj AZE 2210 9,5
Ding Liren CHN 0 9,5
Caruana Fabiano USA 2102 8

The Week in Chess 432 (17 February 2003)

9) First Saturday February • There were two 11 player IM groups and two FM events in Budapest as part of First Saturday February. David Berczes won the IMA event, Laszlo Gonda the IMB. ------------------------------------------------------ FSIMA Feb Budapest (HUN), 1-13 ii 2003 cat. II (2288) ------------------------------------------------------ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 ------------------------------------------------------ 1. Berczes, David 2261 * 0 = 1 1 1 = = 1 1 0 6.5 [...] 10. Caruana, Fabiano f 2134 0 = 1 0 = 0 0 0 1 * = 3.5 11. Schneider, Attila m 2302 1 = 0 0 = = 0 0 0 = * 3.0 ------------------------------------------------------

The Week in Chess 448 (9 June 2003)

10) 59th New York Masters • Jaan Ehlvest won the 59th New York Masters on 3rd June 2003. News John Fernandez. ----------------------------------------------------- 59th New York Masters Action (USA), 3 vi 2003 ----------------------------------------------------- 1. Ehlvest, Jaan EST g 2587 +11 + 4 + 6 = 3 3.5 [...] 14. Caruana, Fabiano USA f 2165 - 5 - 9 -13 = 0.5 15. Rosenberg, Evan USA 2155 --- --- --- =11 0.5

The Week in Chess 464 (29 September 2003)

8) Marshall CC v Mechanic's Institute • John Fernandez reports: On Sunday, September 28th, two world famous chess clubs, the Marshall Chess Club and the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club squared off despite being separated by 2600 miles (4150km), in what will hopefully be the first in a series of distance matches between the famous New York City and San Francisco clubs.

This match pitted four of New York's best players under the age of 16 versus four of Northern California's best and brightest. The games were played at a Game 90 + 30 second increment over the Internet Chess Club [ICC].

In four very exciting games, the Marshall Chess Club won the match with the score of 3 wins to 1 loss. [...] On board three, FM Fabiano Caruana chose the Two Knights variation of the Caro Kann Defense versus Drake Wang. In a shocking blunder, Wang hung mate in one on move 9, although it must be admitted that his position was probably already quite critical. [...]

On top of the World Youth Championships and the strong USA-style opens, two recurring events would prove to be important to Caruana's evolution as a chess player: the First Saturday tournaments in Budapest and the New York Masters.

16 April 2018

Stockfish Wins TCEC Season 11

In last week's post, Back to the Future with Chess Engines, I wrote,

A total of 63 of the 100 games have been played, with the current score in favor of Stockfish +14-1=48 (38.0/63 = 60.3%). Extrapolating this over the remaining games indicates that Stockfish will reach the requisite 50.5 points after 84 games, and that the final score will be +22-2=76 (60.0/100).

A few days later Chessdom.com confirmed, Stockfish convincingly wins TCEC Season 11:-

Stockfish is the winner of the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC) Season 11. The open source engine by Marco Costalba, Joona Kiiski, Gary Linscott and a huge community of contributors, defeated last year’s champion Houdini and crowned itself the new Grand Champion of the competition.

This is the third title for Stockfish, after the victories in Season 6 and Season 9. However, this time Stockfish created history by winning the title in a one of a kind landslide victory. After 85 games Stockfish had the necessary 50.5 points (18 victories, 65 draws, and only two losses), with 15 games to spare the title was in the hands of the open source engine.

Yesterday the last game was played and the results were posted pronto in TCEC Season 11 final standings (chessdom.com):-

Final standings of TCEC Season 11. The top six engines enter the Premier Division of Season 12, the next six engines enter the First division, etc. The fourth division of Season 12 will be entirely invitational.

1. Stockfish – Grand Champion of TCEC S11
2. Houdini – silver medal
3. Komodo – bronze medal
4. Fire
[30 engines]

At the same time, the organizers announced TCEC Season 12 – participants and information (ditto):-

The Top Chess Engine Championship Season 12 is going to start in the second half of April 2018, a few hours after the last game of the Stockfish – Houdini S11 match. It will once again be a division system with 32 engines of relative strength 3000+ ELO, all taking place on a high end 44 cores machine in search of ever stronger and better chess.

That last announcement included 'TCEC Season 12 rules changes'. The most important was:-

The reduced time controls and number of games will allow for four seasons per year and leave time for an extra event (hint: NN engines).

Four seasons per year is almost guaranteed to reduce human interest in the competition, but the introduction of 'NN engines' (Neural Network, aka AI engines) might bring many people back. The final score in the TCEC superfinal match was +20-2=78. A 59-41% margin of victory indicates that Stockfish is about 65 Elo points ahead of Houdini.