18 March 2018

The Capablanca Cocktail

How did the word 'bar' get so many different meanings? In this series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), we've already seen Chess Behind Bars (October 2017; 'Interview with Carl Portman on Chess in Prisons'). Here's another meaning of the word, from Youtube's World Chess coverage of the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament:-

In the World Chess Club Moscow we have 11 cocktails and we brought three of them to Berlin, to this lounge. We have the Smyslov [cocktail], the Fischer, and the Capablanca, based on Cuban rum.

If you're in Moscow and need a map to find the place, see club.worldchess.com. Hint: the map is under the banana.

A visit to the chess bar / Candidates 2018 (3:56) • 'Published on Mar 15, 2018'

Around the middle of the video, commentator Lennart Ootes asks 'Cannon', the Beverage Director of the Moscow Club,

Q: If you would make a cocktail about Alexander Grischuk, what would the cocktail look like? A: I guess it would be something with samogon. [Sasha] has the appearance of a typical Russian male, who has patriotic feelings, who believes in the best future for the nation, for the country, who could drink spirits like samogon, straight without the [mixers].

Samogon? Wikipedia to the rescue:-

Russia: The Russian name for any homemade distilled alcoholic beverage is called samogon, meaning "self-distilled", literally "self-ran". [...] Samogon is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the country. It directly competes with vodka, which is more expensive (in part due to taxes on distilled alcohol), but contains fewer impurities. • Moonshine by country (wikipedia.org)

For more about the Moscow club on Youtube, see Opening party of the World Chess Club Moscow (December 2017). For more about the chess bar commentator, who has other, similar videos on the same channel about the look-and-feel of the tournament venue, see About Lennart | Lennart Ootes (lennartootes.com).


16 March 2018

Game and Mistake of the Day

For this edition of Video Friday, I had a big choice of clips about the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament. I chose the video below for a number of reasons:-

The two players -- both of whom are among the favorites to win -- were among the leaders of the event after round three; see Berlin Candidates - First Week for the standings at the time (2.5 Kramnik; 2.0 Caruana, Mamedyarov; ...) and for projections of the eventual winner. • It had one of the highest view counts on YouTube's World Chess channel. • It's a fascinating game.

Before you watch the press conference / postmortem, you might want to watch two other clips from the World Chess channel -- Game of the Day and Mistake of the Day -- both subtitled 'Kramnik - Caruana / Candidates 2018 / Round 4', and both hosted by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko.

Round 4. Press conference with Kramnik and Caruana (11:36) • 'Published on Mar 14, 2018'

The top comment currently says,

Can't remember when I saw such a complex endgame last time.

Some of the other adjectives used to describe the game: 'astonishing', 'crazy', 'seesaw', 'cruel'. The game was played the round after another exciting Kramnik game: Game of the day: Aronian - Kramnik / Candidates 2018 / Round 3 (also commentated by GM Miroshnichenko).

15 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Organizer

In my previous post I discovered so much about the Berlin Candidates - Venue, that I decided to use the same technique again. In a nutshell, that means using a search on images to create a composite image, then following the links for individual images wherever they lead. This time I decided to look at the main site of the official organizer, Worldchess.com.

Google image search on 'site:worldchess.com' for 'Past month'

It's striking that all images are in black and white, except the color photo in the bottom row (C2), where Judit Polgar is talking to Magnus Carlsen at the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match. The photo is from Making Chess Broadcasting Dramatic (worldchess.com, as are most of the other links used here). I discussed that page last week on my World Chess Championship blog (see Berlin Candidates - Resources) There my focus was the 'stickers', which are also visible in abundance in the composite image above: A3, B5, C4, C5.

Of the other images, many -- A4, B3, C1, C3 -- are from Official Digital Chess Set Released (in Beta):-

In 2014, Pentagram has developed for World Chess the official chess set, a beautiful rendition of the classic Staunton that had become the official chess set of the World Chess Championship cycle (a limited edition of 500 sets is produced for each Championship by hand in India). But 99% of chess is played online, and with the update of the official World Chess chesscasting service (to be released soon), we have been developing the official digital set, which will be used in official chesscasting.

The other images shown above are for index pages like News - World Chess and Latest News - World Chess, which lead to individual news stories. Both pages link to the same stories, but use a different format for the index. One story that is not represented in the composite image, but shows up on the news index pages, is Branding the Headquarters of Chess in Berlin: Smart or Sexy.

All eyes in the chess world are on Kuhlhaus Berlin, the venue for the World Chess Candidates Tournament, the qualifier for the Championship Match. The loft-style building near the Potsdamer Platz in German capital, a former ice factory, has been fitted inside and set-up as a five-story chess stadium. World Chess, the organizer of the Tournament, decided to brand the building itself to market chess and to give spectators and the media a clear positioning of the venue and the event and the sport.

This relates to my 'Berlin Candidates - Venue' post, where I picked up the slogan displayed on the side of the Kühlhaus:-

Entering this building might substantially increase your IQ. Chess does that to humans.

It turns out that this slogan is just one of many considered for the event, including a 'selfie-magnet'. One recurring feature about all of the above is the heavy-handed emphasis on marketing, branding, and selling (e.g. that weird logo again in B2 and B4, 'Online Sponsorship Store is Open'). Other than a table summarizing round-by-round progress, there is no news on Worldchess.com about the progress of the Candidates tournament itself.

News and photos about the event can be found on the FIDE site in stories like 2018 FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament Started Today (fide.com; 10 March 2018). That page links back to the site we've been looking at, worldchess.com/berlin, where we are told,

After the 2016 Championship Match in New York chess has been steadily moving from being an elitist game towards a becoming a [sic] global spectator sport. With an increased worldwide coverage, stunning locations, digital broadcasting, superstar players and high profile guests, chess is now enjoying one of the most exciting times in its history. The intriguing tournament in Berlin is expected to be yet another breakout for big chess.

That's brilliant marketing: insult the current fans of the game by calling them 'elitist', then promise 'high profile guests'. Agon/Worldchess, I'm guessing that your days are numbered. In related news, World Chess announces London as its new global HQ (February 2018):-

World Chess, the commercial rights holder and promoter of the World Chess Championship, will follow its incorporation as a UK-registered company last December by establishing a new worldwide headquarters in London this year.

The announcement included a statement about UBS in Geneva having closed FIDE bank accounts.

13 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Venue

Some strange stories about the venue have been escaping from the 2018 Candidates Tournament, Berlin. Where exactly is it being played?

Google image search on 'Berlin Kühlhaus' -> 'Candidates'

Using the same notation as in Chess and Art Movements (December 2017) -- 'Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '5' (from left to right)' -- let's see where those images take us. Two images in the top row (A1, a bird's eye view of the playing area, & A3) lead to Candidates in "cool" venue (chessbase.com; October 2017):-

Agon today announced the venue for the 2018 Candidate Tournament in Berlin. The players will compete in the "Kühlhaus Berlin" next March 10th to 28th.

Sandwiched between those (A2) is Venue for the World Chess Candidates Tournament Announced: Kühlhaus Berlin (worldchess.com; October 2017):-

The venue is a historic building located in Central Berlin at the meeting point of the most vibrant districts. The simple, yet modern cubic architecture of Kühlhaus will provide guests with the space of five floors to enjoy the dramatic chess competition.

'Entering this building might substantially increase your IQ. Chess does that to humans.' • That not-so-catchy phrase appears in a couple of images. The first image (B4) leads to Battle of the non-Candidates (chess24.com), the report of an unfriendly Twitter exchange between GMs Carlsen and Giri, including more than 100 comments reminding us that top chess players sometimes behave like jerks with each other. The second image (C3) leads to #fide hashtag on Twitter (see 9 March), showing the phrase above the Kühlhaus entrance.

What about those 'strange stories' I mentioned in the lead sentence? They are documented in "Playing conditions are absolutely terrible" (reddit.com; subtitled 'Grischuk's comments about the candidates so far'). Reddit also picked up the 'Entering this building...' catch phrase: This advertisement for the chess candidates tournament 2018 in Berlin. : iamverysmart, e.g. 'Fun fact about me, I don't think I'm stupid, but I'm terrible at chess'.

Should we be surprised by any of this? After all, the organizers of the Candidates tournament -- Agon / Worldchess -- are the same people that brought us that weird logo documented in Dirty Mind Games (December 2017).

12 March 2018

Interview Videos : Wesley So

Let's continue with the weekly interviews featuring the eight players from the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament. We started seven weeks ago with Interview Videos : Aronian (January 2018) and have arrived at the alphabetically last player (after Interview Videos : Mamedyarov), GM Wesley So.

Wesley So on beating Vladimir Fedoseev at the World Cup (15:48) • 'Published on Sep 18, 2017'

The description of the video, which is on Youtube's Chess.com channel, set the context:-

Wesley So discusses his win vs Vladimir Fedoseev at the World Cup, and also talks about the upcoming Chess.com Isle of Man tournament.

The win over GM Fedoseev, in round five of the 2017 World Cup, Tbilisi (Georgia), was GM So's ticket into the semi-final round of the event. In that next round, where the winner was guaranteed qualification into the Candidates tournament, he lost to GM Ding Liren.

The Berlin Candidates tournament started two days ago and GM So started badly by losing his first two games. Can he recover to challenge the leaders? For more about all eight players, see Berlin Candidates - Resources on my World Chess Championship blog.

11 March 2018

Mephisto/Gunsberg CDV

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the ongoing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price and the second appearance of a CDV. See Morphy CDV (September 2016) for the first.

The item shown below was titled 'CDV Mephisto (automaton) Mechanical Chess-Player. Early Robot, Gunsberg c 1880'. It sold for GBP 321.00 (approximately US $445.13) after ten bids from eight bidders.

The Marvellous Automaton

The description said,

Photographic studio: The London Stereoscopic Co. Photo measures: 102 mm x 62mm approx. Condition: Good.

The image was accompanied by a printed tag that said,

"Mephisto" is a slim figure of life-size, seated in an easy position on a library chair, the left arm and hand leaning on and grasping the elbow of it; the right hand resting on the table ready for moving the chessmen on the board.

Another printed tag, with unreadable portions on its left and right sides, included the following sentence fragments:-

acted the Automaton) assuming such a position • the (sham) machinery, so as to conceal him • this opening of the doors was only permitted • NEVER DURING PLAY for the simple reason

For more about chess CDVs, see Brady CDVs (September 2016) on this blog.

09 March 2018

Not so Flickrless Friday

Another Flickr Friday, another bust in locating a suitable image. What to do this time? A few months ago I featured Flickrless Friday (December 2017). Now I have to find a different angle. I know! Let's have a quiz. Question: What do the four Flickr 'chess' photos shown below all have in common?

Photo top left: Beer Can House © Flickr user Thomas Hawk under Creative Commons.

Answer: They all have a white tag that says 'chess'. As I explained for one of the images in the 'Flickrless Friday' post,

The only association with chess is via a white tag assigned by Flickr, i.e. if the image looks like a group of chess pieces, let's assign it to 'chess'.

Those white tags are now infamous. The headline of one news article said, Flickr’s auto-tagging feature goes awry, accidentally tags black people as apes, (independent.co.uk; May 2015) along with the subtitle 'The site’s tool was built to help people easily identify features of pictures -- but has run into problems as it learns'. No kidding! The article went on to explain,

Though the racist implications were obvious, it has also identified a white women [sic] with the same tag.

If I had been in charge of that project, I would have pulled it immediately and insisted on zero classification errors when identifying people. Imagine the potential for lawsuits. The same article said later,

Flickr launched the features a couple of weeks ago. The team behind it explained to the Independent just before the launch that it uses "convolutional neural networks", or computers that act like human brains, to identify the photos.

A convolutional neural network (CNN) is also the key to the technology behind Deepmind's AlphaZero. When people talk about artificial intelligence, they are often referring to a CNN.

Here are links (photos left to right, top to bottom) to the Flickr pages associated wth the four photos I selected. I repeated the first link to be consistent.

If I ever run into a Flickrless Friday again, I'll have to think up something really special.

08 March 2018

Stockfish in a Straitjacket?

It was one of those coincidences you can never plan. Near the end of last year Houdini won TCEC Season 10 at the same time that AlphaZero appeared on the scene. I covered both of those significant computer chess events in a single post, Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish, and AlphaZero (December 2017). The first three names are the top three chess engines in the world, of roughly equal strength, but AlphaZero had apparently crushed one of the trio in a match. In my post I wrote,

We can quibble about whether the AlphaZero - Stockfish match was indeed a fair fight -- 1 GB hash size is a severe restriction -- but the final score of +28-0=72 for AlphaZero was more than convincing to all but the most vehement skeptics.

I was reminded of those words while writing my most recent post, TCEC Season 11 in Full Swing. One of the sources I consulted, without referencing it in the post, was TCEC 11: Premier Division starts (chessbase.com; February 2018). The Chessbase site is well known and well respected for its expertise in computer chess and always attracts comments from informed readers. This particular article launched a discussion on why AlphaZero wasn't participating in TCEC Season 11 and whether the AlphaZero - Stockfish match had been too heavily rigged in AlphaZero's favor. The discussion mentioned four factors that could have hurt Stockfish's performance:-

  • Restricted hash size
  • Fast time control
  • No opening book
  • No endgame tablebases

I knew that the first two points were an issue, but wasn't certain if the last two were true. I went back to the Deepmind paper that had announced AlphaZero to the world (titled 'Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm') and re-read the relevant section:-

Evaluation • To evaluate performance in chess, we used Stockfish version 8 (official Linux release) as a baseline program, using 64 CPU threads and a hash size of 1GB. [...] The Elo rating of the baseline players was anchored to publicly available values. We also measured the head-to-head performance of AlphaZero against each baseline player. Settings were chosen to correspond with computer chess tournament conditions: each player was allowed 1 minute per move, resignation was enabled for all players (-900 centipawns for 10 consecutive moves for Stockfish and Elmo, 5% winrate for AlphaZero). Pondering was disabled for all players.

Since 'publicly available [Elo] values' depend both on configuring engines properly and on a level playing field, I started to have serious concerns that this controversy was more than a quibble. What did the Stockfish developers think about the match? On Stockfish's Fishcooking forum, in a long thread titled Open letter to Google DeepMind (December 2017), the opening message said,

AlphaZero won the 100 game match against Stockfish very impressively by a total score of 28 wins and 72 draws and 0 [losses]. This translates to an Elo difference of 100. However the details of the match described in your paper show that this match might have been much closer and more interesting had it not been for some IMO rather unfair conditions.

That first post and the subsequent discussion repeated the four complaints from the Chessbase comments listed above, and added,

In the match version 8 of Stockfish was used which is now over a year old. The latest version of Stockfish is over 40 Elo stronger in fast self play.

That makes five significant objections to the conduct of the match. Later in the same Fishcooking thread, TCEC insider Nelson Hernandez wrote,

This "match" was like a boxing match where one fighter had no seconds in his corner, the referee and judges were picked by his opponent, there was no audience to validate what happened in the ring as it happened, and the post-match story was written by the opponent's hirelings. It may well be that Alpha Zero is indeed better than the latest version of Stockfish in fair test conditions. But it is almost criminal to announce very biased test results such as these, thereby rubbishing the work of hundreds of people, in order to gain some PR benefit. What the computer chess community expects is fairness and decency.

The clincher to the above discussion is that three months have passed since Deepmind's bombshell announcement, which made available only ten games from the match. None of the other 90 games have been released for dissection by the experts. AlphaZero might be a better chess engine than Stockfish, but it might also be much worse. If we can't have a match where the Stockfish developers configure their creation for its full strength, let's have the other games from the first match.

06 March 2018

TCEC Season 11 in Full Swing

Two world class computer championships in a twelve month period? Less than six months ago on this blog we had TCEC Season 10 Kickoff (September 2017), where I wrote,

Fans of engine-to-engine play -- and who isn't? -- know that the TCEC (Top Chess Engine Championship) is the toughest tournament of them all. Many consider it to be the real World Championship of chess engines. The TCEC takes place on Chessdom.com, and over the past month the site has announced plans for Season 10.

I could have used that same paragraph for this current post by changing 'Season 10' to 'Season 11'. I covered the end of TCEC Season 10 in Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish, and AlphaZero (December 2017), where I noted, 'With the score at +14-9=73 after 96 games, Houdini was declared the winner [over Komodo]'. While that season was itself in full swing, Chessdom issued a TCEC Season 11 press release (November 2017):-

Starting with its 11th season in early 2018, TCEC will adopt a league format consisting of four divisions of eight chess engines. The five divisions will be called the Premier, First, Second, Third, and Fourth Divisions. Each division will conduct a tournament which will lead to the top two engines in the Premier Division facing off in a 100-game Superfinal for the TCEC seasonal championship.

The league’s mechanics are straightforward. Divisional tournaments will be conducted in sequence from the lowest (Third Division) to the highest (Premier Division). At the end of the Third, Second and First Division tournaments the top two finishers will be promoted to the next-higher division. At the end of the Second, First and Premier Division tournaments the bottom two finishers will be relegated to the next-lower division.

That preliminary announcement was further embellished with TCEC Season 11 - information and participants (December 2017):-

TCEC Season 11 will start this January 3rd. It will involve 30 of the strongest computer chess software programs in the world. One more time the engines will be provided with a high quality hardware -- a 44 cores server -- and will compete in equal conditions to crown the strongest one in the Top Chess Engine Championship.

The last of the four divisions finished a month and a half later with Andscacs wins TCEC Division 1 (February 2018; includes links to results for lower divisions):-

With this division gold medal Andscacs earns the right to participate in the race for the TCEC title in the Premier Division, an event which will be the strongest computer chess championship in history.

This was immediately followed by the computer version of a candidates tournament: TCEC Premier Division – the strongest computer chess event in history (February 2018):-

After four divisions of exciting qualification battles, we are at the doorstep of the highest category of the Top Chess Engine Championship. The eight best chess software programs, that any professional player or aficionado can use on a home computer, are going to meet in a direct battle to determine the best of the best in the field. The eight participants include the defending champion Houdini, the vice champion Komodo, the top open source program Stockfish, as well as the challengers Fire, Ginkgo, Chiron, Andscacs, and Fizbo.

The November 2017 press release provided details about the format of the Premier Division:-

Top two Premier Division finishers advance to Superfinal competition; bottom two finishers relegated to First Division. • 6x double round-robin (engines play each other 12 times); 84 games each engine.

As I write this post, the tournment is at the start of its second half, the seventh round. The action goes on 24/7 at TCEC - Live Computer Chess Broadcast.

05 March 2018

Interview Videos : Mamedyarov

Next up in our series of interviews with the eight players taking part in the 2018 Candidates Tournament, Berlin (starts this coming weekend!), after Interview Videos : Kramnik is Azerbaijani grandmaster Shakhriyar [Shahriyar] Mamedyarov. He qualified into the Candidates event by finishing first in the 2017 Grand Prix.

Tata Steel Chess - Interview - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Round 13 (4:31) • 'Published on Jan 28, 2018'

The interview was conducted after the last round of the recent supertournament in Wijk aan Zee. Mamedyarov finished tied for 3rd-4th with Kramnik, after Giri and Carlsen.

Q: Was this your last tournament before the Candidates? A: No, I will play in the Tal Memorial before the Candidates -- maybe it's also not the last. I just want to play chess and not only to sit home and prepare for the Candidates.

GM Mamedyarov is currently ranked world no.2 on the March 2018 FIDE rating list. For an overview of his record against the other candidates, see Berlin Candidates - Kickoff (February 2018) on my World Chess Championship blog.

04 March 2018

Chess in Education and Health

FIDE has just issued a new booklet, Chess - A Tool for Education and Health (fide.com).

This new 48 page booklet is now freely available to download as a PDF from cis.fide.com. In this new edition, we hope to disseminate throughout the worldwide chess community the benefits of education, health, as well as the use of chess in different social and therapeutic areas. We hope it serves as a letter of introduction, not only for amateurs, instructors and teachers, but also for the entire community that wants to know the work that is being carried out with chess as an educational and socialization tool.

The booklet overlaps many of the topics that we've seen on this blog in this ongoing series about The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). Here are its first two pages, the cover and the table of contents:-

If that table of contents is too small to read, here's the list in a more readable format:-

2 Morals of Chess
3 Chess in Bloom
4 Thinking Skills
5 Educational Cutlery
6 Critical & Creative Thinking - Chess in the Educational Process
7 Chess as a Teaching Tool
8 Educational Benefits of Chess
10 Psychomotor Skills
11 STEM Skills
12 Cognitive Abilities
13 Life Skills & Counselling
14 Ethical Sense
15 ADHD & Autism
16 Social Benefi ts & Minorities
18 Health Bene fits
19 Beating Cognitive Decline
20 Smart Girl Uganda
21 Queen of Katwe
22 Prisons - Chess That Brings Freedom
26 Alzheimer's - Checkmating Dementia
28 Teaching Programs - 4-6 Early Years Skills
30 Teaching Programs - 7-11 Planet Chess and others
32 Teacher Training
33 FIDE School Instructor title
34 FIDE School Chess Leader diploma
35 Support for Teachers
36 European Parliament
38 European Union – Erasmus+
39 European Chess Union
40 CiS Around the World
42 Chess & Education Conferences
44 Research
46 Bibliography

Several of these topics are controversial, for example 'Alzheimer's - Checkmating Dementia', a topic I last covered in More on Chess and Alzheimer's (July 2016). The FIDE booklet says,

Research among those over the age of 60 strongly suggests that chess is valuable in combating Alzheimer's.

The phrase 'strongly suggests' is less provocative than the usual phrase 'studies show', and I imagine that FIDE is making an effort to avoid adding fuel to the controversy. Other topics in the booklet show similar circumspection. For more about these topics on this blog, follow the links for 'Chess in School' Summarized (October 2016), and FIDE's Social Commissions 2017 (November 2017).

02 March 2018

Magnus Streams on Youtube

Nearly four hours of World Champion Magnus Carlsen talking about his own games in progress. What's not to like?

Special guest Magnus Carlsen streaming his PRO Chess League games (3:56:10) • 'Published on Feb 25, 2018'

From the Jon Ludvig Hammer channel, GM Hammer is an official friend of Magnus. The hundreds of comments make up for the lack of a description on the clip. Take this comment, for example:-

Wow, this is a revolution in the history of chess. Being able to watch the World Champion and leading chess player over the last 10 years, sit in a comfortable environment and play and comment on both his own and others' games, is a huge source for insight. Thank you so much for sharing this Jon Ludvig, I think this video will live a long life on Youtube.

The first game on the video can be found at Magnus Carlsen vs Roman Yanchenko, Pro Chess League 2018 (chessgames.com; GM Carlsen opens 1.h3). The other games can be found by following that link.

01 March 2018

March 1968 'On the Cover'

Every month, the 'On the Cover' series goes back 50 years for a glimpse at what the top American chess magazines were reporting. This month marks four years since the first in the series, March 1964 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'Jerry Spann, Oklahoma City' (Badge)
Right: 'Medieval Manikins'

Chess Life

'Good Man Gone' by Ed Edmondson • There was a man, a man named Jerry. For that's how he was known to all of us -- simply, warmly, "Jerry" to his thousands of friends wherever chess is played. Jerry fought with characteristic verve and courage throughout the final months of an encounter with the toughest opponent of them all, succumbing to the last check early this year.

In the February 1968 'On the Cover', the cover of Chess Review informed us that Spann was a former USCF president. The March 1968 Chess Life included a second article, 'Legacy from Jerry' by Fred Cramer, Past President, USCF.

Chess Review

Mark Freeman reports to us: The recent "Artists as Craftsmen" exhibition at the East Side Gallery displayed the work of the gallery artists in their lighter moods. Whimsy, humor and originality marked many of the truly unique objects in this Annual.

A feature of the exhibition was a series of "Knights" by William D. Gorman. Using beach pebbles for heads and wood carving for bodies, he created beautifully crafted chess desk pieces, each of individualistic character. [...] CHESS REVIEW regrets not being able to present the set in its proper colors on its cover but is using green for St. Patrick's day.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary informs us that Manikin is a variant of 'mannequin' and 'mannikin', is 'dated, usually disparaging', means 'a little man', and has 'Popularity: Bottom 40% of words'. I don't recall the word ever being used to describe a chess set.

27 February 2018

February Yahoos

This post marks five straight months of this blog ending the month with a Yahoo title. That means five months where something in the chess world caught the attention of the mainstream press. While last month's post, January Yahoos, had only a feel-good story, this month's story has both feel-good and a feel-not-so-good stories.

2018-02-09: This Ex-NFL Player Is On A Mission To Become A Chess Master (yahoo.com)

When John Urschel retired from the NFL last year after just 3 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, it made headlines. In recent years, several young players, including Chris Borland of the 49ers, have bowed out of the sport early due to growing concerns over the potential for long-term brain damage, but Urschel’s motivation was different: he just didn’t have time for football anymore. Now, Urschel has quietly set himself a new goal: he wants to become a chess master.

For more about Urschel, see Wikipedia's John Urschel:-

John Cameron Urschel is a Canadian mathematician and retired professional American football guard and center. He played college football at Penn State and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Urschel played his entire NFL career with Baltimore before announcing his retirement on July 27, 2017, at 26 years old.

The second story appeared twice in the Yahoo news feed. This is not unusual, except that the look changed the second time. I wasn't sure which instance to use, so I captured both of them. The first link led to the following article.

2018-02-14: Most powerful man in chess accused of 'secretly funding ISIS' (yahoo.com; nypost.com)

The world governing body of chess has had its financial dealings frozen amid allegations its scandal-hit president facilitated the funding of Islamic State terrorists. FIDE, the Lausanne-based federation which runs the game, disclosed on Tuesday that Swiss bank UBS closed its accounts after finally losing patience with its failure to depose Russian millionaire Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Ilyumzhinov, who was once part of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, was placed on a US wanted list in November 2015 for allegedly being involved in oil deals which left a financial trail to the terror group ISIS via the Syrian government. In a letter published on the FIDE website, treasurer Dr. Adrian Siegel revealed UBS had shut its bank accounts and the federation faces a "serious problem" paying bills just weeks before the Candidates, its flagship world championship playoff tournament in Berlin.

I've been following the sanctions saga since the end of 2016.

Posts marked '(*)' are from my World Chess Championship blog. An election for FIDE President will take place later this year.

26 February 2018

Interview Videos : Kramnik

Next up in the video series covering the eight players who will be competing in next month's Candidates Tournament - Berlin is Vladimir Kramnik, who gained entry to the event as the organizer's wildcard choice. For the previous video in the series, see Interview Videos : Karjakin.

Interview With GM Vladimir Kramnik - Chess World Cup Knockout 2017 Round 2.2 (10:04) • 'Published on Sep 7, 2017'

The interview followed Kramnik's win in the second round of the 2017 World Cup - Tbilisi (Georgia) last September. For another interview with Kramnik on the same day, see 'I am not one of the favourites but four years ago too I wasn't very young' (Youtube channel: ChessBase India; 'Published on Sep 7, 2017'), where he is referring to his victory in the 2013 World Cup - Tromso (Norway).

The clip shown above is from Youtube channel: Chess Fan. Its description says only,

Source: Chess Cast. If any owners has an issue with any of the uploads please get in contact and it will be deleted immediately. Thank you for your cooperation.

I found the original video at World Cup 2017 Tbilisi on Livestream (livestream.com/chesscast). I also found three other copies of the 'Chess Fan' / 'Chess Cast' video on other Youtube channels. Who owns the copyright? I suspect it is the version FIDE World Chess Cup 2017 Interview with Vladimir Kramnik (Youtube channel: Georgia Chess; 'Published on Sep 8, 2017').

25 February 2018

A 'High Degree of Finish'

In this ongoing series about Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the ultimate place to go for high-end artwork featuring chess is Sotheby's. A few months ago we had A Chess Painting and a Namesake (December 2017), where the links lead back to previous posts featuring Sotheby's auctions.

The item pictured below was titled 'Jean Carolus - The Chess Players'. It sold for US $9,500 after four bids at 'live auction bidding'. The auctioneer's page, carolus, jean the chess players (sothebys.com), informs 'Estimate 12,000 - 18,000 USD; LOT SOLD. 11,875 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)'.

The eBay description repeated the name of the artist, the title of the painting, and the estimate; then added '30 1/2 by 38 in.; Oil on canvas' followed by a long condition report and a provenance. I was curious to see if the work had been noticed in any of the usual online collections, so I followed the Google image search steps detailed in 'Mystery Painting' Still a Mystery (January 2017). It appears that useful functions like 'Find other sizes of this image' and 'Visually similar images' have disappeared recently. The page Getty load of this: Google to kill off 'View image' button in search (theregister.co.uk; 12 February 2018) blames Getty Images for the change.

As for the artist, Wikipedia's entry Jean Carolus starts,

Jean Carolus (Brussels, 1814–1897, Paris), a Belgian painter of genre scenes and interiors, spent much of his life living and working in France. Noted for his depictions of figures set within interior scenes, he is esteemed for the high degree of finish and jewel-like quality attained in these works.

That last sentence certainly applies to the this post's featured work.

23 February 2018

Thomas Jefferson Read Philidor

I cropped out most of the parlor setting to highlight the chess set, so click through to the linked Flickr page to see the original photo. (NB: Tough luck that the pieces are set up incorrectly and the position is artificial.)

Play Chess - Thomas Jefferson's Monticello © Flickr user Geoff Livingston under Creative Commons.

The page Chess | Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (monticello.org) says,

Chess was one of Jefferson's favorite games. The following are references to chess in Jefferson's and his family's papers compiled by Monticello researchers.

Here is a selection of the most interesting of those references.

1801 December 4. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I will pray you at the same time to send me Philidor on chess, which you will find in the book room, 2d. press on the left from the door of the entrance: to be wrapped in strong paper also."

1818 December 4. "When Dr. Franklin went to France on his revolutionary mission, his eminence as a philosopher, his venerable appearance, and the cause on which he was sent, rendered him extremely popular. For all ranks and conditions of men there, entered warmly into the American interest. He was therefore feasted and invited to all the court parties. At these he sometimes met the old Duchess of Bourbon, who being a chess player of about his force, they very generally played together. Happening once to put her king into prise, the Doctor took it. 'Ah,' says she, 'we do not take kings so.' 'We do in America,' says the Doctor. "At one of these parties, the emperor Joseph II, then at Paris, incog. under the title of Count Falkenstein, was overlooking the game, in silence, while the company was engaged in animated conversations on the American question. 'How happens it M. le Compte,' said the Duchess, 'that while we all feel so much interest in the cause of the Americans, you say nothing for them?' 'I am a king by trade,' said he."

c.1853. (Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "So he was, in his youth, a very good chess-player. There were not among his associates, many who could get the better of him. I have heard him speak of 'four hour games' with Mr. Madison. Yet I have heard him say that when, on his arrival in Paris, he was introduced into a Chess Club, he was beaten at once, and that so rapidly and signally that he gave up all competition. He felt that there was no disputing such a palm with men who passed several hours of every evening in playing chess."

c. 1853. (Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "My grandfather taught me to play chess, liked to play with me, and after our dinner, in summer time, he would have the chess board under the trees before the door, and we would have our game together. He had made, by his own carpenter and cabinet maker, John Hemmings, and painted by his own painter, Burwell, a small light table, divided in squares like a chess board and with a sort of tray or long box at two of the sides to hold the men and put them into as they were taken off the Board. It was a very nice, convenient little thing and purfectly answered the purpose for which it was intended. This was called one of Mr. Jefferson's contrivances."

For more about the chess set, see Chess Set (English) on the same site.

22 February 2018

Patreon Chess

A few days ago I wrote a post titled The Week in Podcasts, subtitled 'Interview with Mark Crowther'. Although the focus of that particular post was chess960, another topic also caught my interest. At about 21:00 into the interview, Crowther talked about remuneration for his work. He said,

Charging for TWIC is a non-starter, so I have to find some other way of financing my own time to do it. It's more than justified in terms of its utility.

Having prepared for the topic, the interviewer, Ben Johnson, launched a dialog:-

Q: Here's a question from Greg Shahade, a name that may sound familiar. He says, 'Why doesn't Mark have a Patreon page? He would make huge money.' • A: I'm sorry? • Q: Do you know what Patreon is? • A: No clue at all. That's probably the answer to his question. • Q: I'll tell you, because Perpetual Chess has a Patreon page. Basically it's a way for people to support independent art.

I had never hear of it either, so I located its home page, Patreon.com ('Best way for artists and creators to get sustainable income and connect with fans'), and its Wikipedia entry, Patreon:-

Patreon is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or "patrons." It is popular among YouTube videographers, webcomic artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, and other categories of creators who post regularly online. It allows artists to receive funding directly from their fans, or patrons, on a recurring basis or per work of art.

I found the interviewer's Patreon page at...

...and then found a number of pages for creators of Youtube chess videos, whose work I have admired many times:-

I'm sure there are many more like these. I frequently use TWIC for research on chess history and would certainly contribute to a TWIC Patreon page. As usual with anything involving money, some caution is required. How much of a donation eventually reaches the content creator? That's a question that I'll leave for another day.

20 February 2018


I ended a recent post, Bobby Speaks from the Grave, with the comment:-

For the rest of the commentary, see Nakamura-Carlsen... (twitch.tv/chess).

That reminded me of a few links that I had bookmarked some months ago, but never followed up. The first was Twitch, Chess.com Partner To Promote Chess Streaming (chess.com; November 2017), 'FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE':-

Chess.com and Twitch today announced a multi-year partnership to benefit chess streaming and major chess events. Twitch had long been the broadcast partner for Chess.com's regular chess programs and major events like the Speed Chess Championship and PRO Chess League. Now the social video service will officially partner with Chess.com as a sponsor for its entire lineup of chess events and to help grow the global brand of chess as an online spectator sport.

The press release included a comment from Mr. Chess.com himself:-

"I've been a video gamer my whole life," said Erik, CEO and founder of Chess.com. "To see the game of chess reach this status among other top online games is a dream come true and something I never imagined when starting Chess.com. I'm more excited than ever about the future of online chess. I cannot imagine a better partner than Twitch."

Not being a video gamer, I had trouble parsing those sentences into any coherent narrative. Wikipedia came to the rescue in Twitch.tv:-

Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform, Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to creative content, "real life" streams, and more recently, music broadcasts. Content on the site can either be viewed live or via video on demand.

That helped immensely. Another bookmark dated the same day as the press release, What Are The Best Chess Streams On Twitch? (chess.com), anticipated my next question:-

What are some of the best chess channels on Twitch? First, the obvious one: Twitch.tv/chess. But outside of the biggest events, who else is streaming Chess.com and where can you find them? There are already dozens of streamers and channels listed right here at Chess.com/streamers.

Turning those two italicized references into clickable format gives:-

The logically next question was answered by yet another bookmark from November, How To Become a Chess.com and Twitch Partnered Streamer (chess.com):-

Chess.com has partnered with Twitch to bring chess fans around the world more options to watch their favorite players. To grow the chess streaming ecosystem, Chess.com and Twitch are offering a number of benefits to chess players of all skill levels who want to get involved.

An 'Apply here' link on that page goes to How To Become A Streamer On Chess.com (chess.com; January 2017):-

How do I start streaming on Chess.com? • First, singup [sic] for a username and channel url at twitch.tv (your channel will be twitch.tv/yournamehere with whatever name you choose).

That's pretty much everything I needed to know. Now I'll go watch some chess 'streams' and maybe even look at some other video games.

19 February 2018

Interview Videos : Karjakin

After the previous post, Interview Videos : Grischuk, in this series on the players who will be competing in next month's 2018 Candidates Tournament (Berlin), next up alphabetically is GM Sergey Karjakin.

Candidates Tournament 2016 | Round 14 – Interview with Sergey Karjakin (3:53) • 'Published on Nov 24, 2016'

The description said,

Interview with the winner of the Candidates Tournament 2016. In the last round of the Candidates Tournament, Sergey Karjakin won the game over Fabiano Caruana and ended up first.

My page on that Moscow event is 2016 Candidates Tournament. My final post on the tournament was Moscow Candidates - Wrapup (April 2016). Karjakin went on to lose the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin title match in November 2016, thereby qualifying for the 2018 Candidates tournament. He has to be considered one of the favorites to qualify for the 2018 title match against Carlsen.

18 February 2018

The Week in Podcasts

Many of the recent posts in my series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) have featured videos. For a change of pace, let's have a podcast.

Interview with Mark Crowther, founder of The Week in Chess, about the story of TWIC (1:03:27) • 'Published on Feb 14, 2018'

The description said,

Mark Crowther is the founder, editor, and writer behind the indispensable online periodical The Week In Chess (TWIC). In our conversation, we talked about Mark’s origins, TWIC’s humble beginnings, and how he manages the workflow of writing about and publishing a relentless torrent of chess games played by top players. Mark and I [Ben Johnson] also talked about the chess world more broadly. He shared a rumor he recently heard about the next FIDE election and discussed his own chess playing, plus shared book recommendations.

I imagine that everyone with a keen interest in chess knows about Mark Crowther's TWIC and has the site bookmarked somewhere, but as a courtesy I'll repeat the URL: TheWeekInChess.com. At about 44:00 into the clip, the interviewer turns to chess960. I have another blog that concentrates on chess960 and once featured Crowther in a post titled The Week in Chess960 (December 2013). There I quoted him tweeting,

Mark Crowther @MarkTWIC 10 Nov • @AndreyDeviatkin @mikhail_golubev • If Fischer Random is the answer then it's time to take up a completely different game.

At that time I dismissed the comment by putting him in the same category as publishers who specialize in books about chess openings:-

I'll cut Crowther some slack, because the success of TWIC is partly based on his weekly distribution of recent games. The interest in his work stems from players maintaining chess databases for opening research and would shrink (disappear?) if the game scores were chess960 games.

Back to the podcast:-

Q: You're not a fan of chess960. As we're recording, we've got the Nakamura - Carlsen chess960 match as the next big event in the chess world. What is it about chess960 that you don't like?

A: I think that the opening positions are ugly. Chess is a classical game. The pieces are on the starting squares that they're on for a reason. There's a balance, a symmetry to it that's just not there if you randomly rearrange the pieces. I was thinking about it this week. Why did I have such a viscerally anti-anti-chess960 reaction. It seemed a bit over the top when I reflected upon it.

I think in part it was disappointment with Fischer himself. Fischer came back in 1992. There was an expectation that he might come back as a venerable gentlemen to play some other events. Then he came up with this chess960 which seemed to me to be a way of avoiding to come back at all. I think I'm right in thinking that. He didn't want to come back to lose, the main reason that he stopped in the first place and chess960 was his excuse.

It has to be said that in the World Championship matches, particularly Gelfand vs. Anand, if the two players are highly booked up it's not interesting. That match was the pinnacle of preparation. Gelfand didn't like it when people said the match was boring. Theoretically it was fascinating for those who liked the positions they were playing, but there was very little chess in that match. It was all prep and that was not a good feeling.

But Carlsen... I like the way that Carlsen plays. Most everyone does, but he's more anti-theory. That said, maybe this is the only way. Maybe chess960 in another five or ten years will be the only way to keep chess going. If theory really starts to get exhausted and people can draw well with Black, then where do you go?

I had an email about that with David Navara. He was saying that he would very much like to play some professional chess960 events. At the moment, if he wants to, the only events available to him in the Czech republic have 30 pound prizes, very low prize funds. He would like to play proper chess960 and he thinks he's good. A number of top players are enthusiastic about playing chess960, so maybe I'm wrong.

The Crowther interview includes 'EP.59' in the podcast title. For the previous 58 episodes and for future episodes, see the YouTube channel Perpetual Chess Podcast.

16 February 2018

Another AI Engine

This edition of Video Friday ties together two recent posts: The Lineage of AlphaZero (January 2018) and AlphaGo Netflix (ditto).

Interview with Rhys Rustad-Elliott, creator of the chess engine "Shallow Blue" (9:21) • 'Published on Feb 7, 2018'

The clip's description explains,

On February 2nd, Hart House Chess Club hosted a very interesting event on Chess, Computers and AI, featuring the screening of the award-winning documentary "AlphaGo", followed by an elite lecture by our guest speaker, Rhys Rustad-Elliott (sophomore at [University of Toronto] in Computer Science). Rhys, originally from Vancouver, had an interest in Computer Science and Software Engineering since elementary school, when he started toying around with simple programs in Python. Nowadays, he’s interested in a wide variety of Computer Science related topics and recently finished work on his chess engine, Shallow Blue (a play on words of Deep Blue).

For more about the lecture, see Rhys Rustad-Elliot introduces “Shallow Blue” and reflects on “Alpha Go”, Computers and AI (harthousechess.com).

15 February 2018

Bobby Speaks from the Grave

During the recent Carlsen - Nakamura match, Fischer Random 2018 (frchess.com), the setting received considerable attention.

Fischer: 'The *Old* Chess Is Dead'
(chess960frc.blogspot.com; February 2010)

The photo is a screen capture from the start of the live commentary for the match, where we learned,

IM Anna Rudolf: 'The two players are part of an art performance, an exhibition of fine art photography by Dag Alveng, Norwegian photographer. The photos are representing the tombs of former World Chess Champions.' • GM Yasser Seirawan: 'We say standing on the shoulders of giants. Here they'll be crossing their graveyards. There you see the two players, the black and white chairs, how appropriate.' • IM Rudolf: 'In front of the tomb of Bobby Fischer. [...] If you look at the table, this beautiful white table, it is exactly the same marble as the tomb of Bobby Fischer.'

Standing behind Magnus Carlsen is Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, who made the ceremonial first move for GM Carlsen. For the rest of the commentary, see Nakamura-Carlsen 960 Fischer Random Match, Day 1 | Part 1 (twitch.tv/chess).

13 February 2018

Chess Mardi Gras

Today being Mardi Gras, and me having no concrete ideas and little time for a more profound post, let's just celebrate the day. Seen on eBay: 'Chess sports carnival parade car in France original 1950s photo postcard'.

The description added only,

Size: approx. 3.5" x 5.5" ( 9 x 14 cm).

The back of the card said,

Carnaval de Nice
Le Nain Jaune
Const: J-B. Pissarello

That's Nice, France, where Le Nain Jaune means 'The Yellow Dwarf'. As for 'Const', I'm not sure what it means -- maybe 'constructeur' of the float? For another take on the same topic, see Chess Carnaval (March 2012).

12 February 2018

Interview Videos : Grischuk

Starting with Interview Videos : Aronian, where...

I calculated that, at the rate of one player per week, I have just enough time to review the eight players who will be starting the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament in March.

...and last seen in Interview Videos : Ding Liren; continuing alphabetically, next up is GM Grischuk. The popular Russian grandmaster qualified via the FIDE Grand Prix (not to be confused with the non-FIDE Grand Tour).

Paris Grand Chess Tour: Alexander Grischuk On Blitz Time Controls (4:32) • 'Published on Jun 23, 2017'

The description said,

An interview with Alexander Grischuk, who is only a point behind Magnus Carlsen going into the blitz segment at the Paris Grand Chess Tour.

For more about the tournament, see Paris GCT | Grand Chess Tour (grandchesstour.org).

11 February 2018

'She Is Very Serious'

As far as I can tell, this is the first daguerreotype seen on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. One eBay post last year, Morphy CDV (September 2016), as well as its follow-up Brady CDVs (ditto), touched the subject, but took it no further.

The item pictured below (which I've brightened considerably) was titled 'Rare Victorian Framed Daguerreotype - Named Man & Woman Playing Chess - 1840s'. It sold for GBP 495.00 ('approximately US $683.45' according to eBay) 'Buy It Now'.

The description said,

This is a very rare genuine framed daguerreotype of an elderly couple playing chess at a table, dating from the 1840's. The daguerreotype is in its original gilt edged frame and appears to have been a gift from a Miss Anson to a friend of her Uncle Henry and Mrs P[...?] Ward with the additional comment "She is very serious".

The frame has obviously not been opened up at the back for many years but must have been re-papered at a later date and it is in good condition. There is some oxidisation around the edge of the image and a few specks that are under the glass as well as a few light scratches in the top right hand corner which aren't visible unless caught in the correct light. The image measures 9 cm x 6 cm in a 15 cm x 12.5 cm frame. A wonderful antique daguerreotype that would grace any collection.

The comment written on the back of the item is given in the description as 'She is very serious'. The last word looks to me to be something else, starting 'sel...', but I can't guess what word. She certainly looks very serious.

09 February 2018

Likable, Likeable Chess Players

This photo looked vaguely familiar, but where? After searching this blog for 'statue' and 'sculpture', I found the post Distant Cousins? (September 2011); same statue, completely different angle.

Chess Players © Flickr user F Delventhal under Creative Commons.

There was no further description on the photo and it wasn't immediately clear how to untangle the associated tags:-

Cartagena, CartagenadeIndias, Edgardo, Carmona, statue, estatua, San, Pedro, Claver, Square, Plaza

The 'Cousins' post locates the artwork in Cartagena, Colombia and other versions of the photo inform that it is in the square next to the 'Cathedral de San Pedro Claver'. As for Edgardo Carmona, in Iron Sculptures in Downtown Fort Myers (March 2016), the blog 'My Fort Myers Beach, My Florida' informs,

In his sculptures, Colombian artist Edgardo Carmona showcases "likable characters that make Cartagena, Colombia, what it is." The sculptures, all carved from rustic iron, depict characters and scenes from Mr. Carmona’s hometown, where he was born in 1950.

The sculpture even includes a rustic iron chess clock. These are serious players.

08 February 2018

Kasparov vs. Hsu

In last week's Video Friday post, GK's Four Most Memorable Games, one of the four games was 'Deep Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov; IBM Man-Machine (1997), New York, NY USA, rd 6'. By coincidence, I've been reading Kasparov's recent book, Deep Thinking, where he spends several chapters discussing that fateful match. Besides the 1997 match, the former World Champion also discusses earlier encounters with the Deep Thought / Deep Blue team.

When it comes to his own activities, Kasparov is never an impartial witness and is sometimes misleading. In search of objectivity, we can compare Feng-hsiung Hsu's account of the same meetings in his own book, 'Behind Deep Blue'. I featured the book last year in Deep Blue 'On the Cover' (June 2017).

In preparation for a future post or two, I created a cross reference covering the two books. The references for Kasparov's book use the Kindle's location ('loc') attribute.

Hsu: Kasparov:
1989-10 Deep Thought, New York p.130 (PDF) loc.1634
1996-02 Deep Blue, Philadelphia p.188 loc.2063
1997-05 Deep Blue, New York p.235 loc.2424 (A)
1991-03 Hanover p.? loc.1794 (B)
1993-02 Copenhagen p.155 loc.1966 (C)
1995-05 Hong Kong p.171 loc.2051 (D)

(A) The reference here is to when discussions began. See also loc.2595 (Ch.9 'The Board Is in Flames!'); loc.3124 (Ch.10 'The Holy Grail'); and loc.3381 (game 6).

(B) Hsu doesn't mention this event. Kasparov says that the event had 6 GMs and an IM, and that Deep Thought finished with 2.5 points out of seven games. A previous post on this blog, Deep Thought/Blue in the Early 1990s (July 2015), says, '1991-03-19: DT2 in Hannover (w/ link), "Deep Thought 2 vs. 7 German GMs" at Cebit in Hannover'; also GK simul.

(C) Organized by IBM Denmark.

(D) See World Computer Chess Championship : 8th WCCC - 1995 Hong Kong.

Kasparov's book also gives details about his games/matches against other chess computers. I should compare this to my page Garry Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1973-; 'Last updated 2014-08-11').

06 February 2018

FIDE Is More Than a Rating System

During the first few years I started this blog all posts about chess ratings were for FIDE ratings and nearly all posts about FIDE were about their rating system. These days, some posts about rating are for non-FIDE ratings and most posts about FIDE have nothing to do with ratings. To reflect this shift in focus, I split the 'FIDE/Ratings' label (aka category) into separate labels for 'FIDE' and 'Ratings'. The before/after numbers looked like this:-

210 FIDE/Ratings

195 FIDE
  91 Ratings

The difference in the count between 'FIDE/Ratings' and 'FIDE' is due entirely to a series I ran last year: Early U.S. Ratings : A Summary and an Exercise (October 2017). I hope to continue that topic later this year

05 February 2018

Interview Videos : Ding Liren

[NB: Ding Liren is a soft spoken guy. Turn up the volume on your speakers!]

FIDE Press Officer Anastasiya Karlovich opens the interview saying, 'Ding Liren is here with us, the first player who is in the final, the first player who qualified from the World Cup to the Candidates. How do you feel about it?' The occasion was the 2017 World Cup; Tbilisi (Georgia), IX, 2017, after Ding Liren beat Wesley So to qualify for the final match.

FIDE World Chess Cup Interview with Ding Liren (7:03) • 'Published on Sep 23, 2017'

The description of the clip was brief:-

FIDE World Chess Cup interview with Ding Liren after semifinal tie-breaks.

For the games of the match, see Ding Liren - Wesley So (2017) on Chessgames.com ('Lifetime Record: Ding Liren beat Wesley So 3 to 2, with 17 draws'). For the previous interview in this series, see Interview Videos : Caruana.

04 February 2018

The Chess Family

Chess aficionados sometimes overlook or forget that their favorite game is just one member of a great family. The next video in this series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) serves as a useful reminder.

A World of Chess: Its Development & Variations through Centuries & Civilizations (10:57) • 'Published on Jan 31, 2018'

A discussion of Western chess starts around 6:30 into the clip. The video's description says,

A World of Chess by Jean-Louis Cazaux and Rick Knowlton, McFarland Publishing. • A vast and comprehensive view of the many forms chess has taken over the past fifteen centuries. Deeply researched, with over 400 illustrations and clear, concise delivery of game rules and information on the broad issues of chess history.

Two sites -- more like a page and a site -- are given in the description:-

For more on the same Youtube channel, see AncientChess.

02 February 2018

GK's Four Most Memorable Games

Here's Garry Kasparov doing what he does best -- playing chess. The way he explains the dynamics of a position is both entertaining and instructive.

Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov Replays His Four Most Memorable Games | The New Yorker (9:36) • 'Published on Jan 19, 2018'

The description, from The New Yorker channel, said,

Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time, replays some of his most unforgettable games. He relives both the happiest and the most painful moments of his career.

Thanks to Chessgames.com, here are the four games in the order presented:-

Near the end of the video, Kasparov sums up his approach to chess: 'You have to make tough decisions, and you have to be able to resist pressure and survive after psychological blows and losses.'

01 February 2018

February 1968 'On the Cover'

In contrast to two stories of the moment seen in last month's January 1968 'On the Cover', this month 50 years ago the two leading American chess periodicals featured a contest looking forward in time and a story looking back in time.

Left: 'Announcing the First International Endgame and Problem Composing Contest of the United States'
Right: 'Former USCF President'

Chess Life

The problems above were composed especially for this important occasion by Pal Benko. Each diagram contains two separate and distinct problems in the shape of a letter of the alphabet, corresponding to the initials of the new contest. Each solution is confined to the area of the problem and does not interfere with the other position within the same diagram. Each problem is a mate in three. Every piece is necessary.

The prize fund, sponsored by the Piatigorsky Foundation, was $500. According to Inflation Calculator, that would be the equivalent of around $3500 today. Nine of the 32 pages inside the magazine were used to cover 'The Fischer Affair', in which Bobby Fischer quit the 1967 Sousse Interzonal while he was leading the tournament.

Chess Review

We regret to announce the death of Jerry Spann, popular former President of the United States Chess Federation and representative of the U.S. in the FIDE meetings.

Last year the Oklahoma Chess Monthly (ocfchess.org) published a two-part series on Spann, written by Tom Braunlich:-

'This month [August 2017] is the 60th anniversary of this businessman from Oklahoma becoming USCF President, an organization he has widely been credited with rescuing from failure.'

30 January 2018

January Yahoos

In last month's December Yahoos, I repeated a sentence from 'November Yahoos'...

I wondered, 'Will a Yahoo chess story turn up in December?' As the month continued, there were at least three stories grabbing headlines.

...which might as well have been a monthly recurring question, i.e. 'Will a Yahoo chess story turn up next month?' Indeed one did, although I had to wait until the last week of January.

The headline of that first story was 'These Photos of Tournament Chess Players Redefine the Word "Focus"' and the caption said,

In 1987, Russian grandmasters Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov faced off in Seville, Spain for the World Chess Championship. David Llada, then a nine-year-old boy growing up the small northern town of Asturias, remembers being captivated by a newspaper photograph of the two chess geniuses.

After passing through a stub page in sports.yahoo.com, the corresponding link eventually went to The Tortured Deep-Focus Faces of Tournament Chess Players (wired.com), a slideshow of 12 photos from David Llada's recent book The Thinkers. Chess players know that they make interesting photo subjects, and it's about time that the non-chess press agrees.

Unfortunately, the associated Wired.com article failed in its basic journalistic duty of spelling Llada's name correctly. The first few mentions of his name used the spelling 'Lloda'. While most of these have since been corrected, the sloppiness has been preserved for posterity in The Tortured Face of an International Tournament Chess Photographer (xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com). Imagine a world where journalists not only show the fascinating side of chess players, but actually spell their names correctly!

For another example of a book devoted to chess photography, see Black and White Passion (February 2016) on this blog. The photos in that book were taken by Catherine Jaeg.

The second of the 'January Yahoos' shown above was an ad, 'Curious How Your Net Worth Stacks Up?', illustrated by a set of chess pieces. While not as interesting as most of the chess ads I once collected for Chess Ads V (August 2009), it's still good to see.

29 January 2018

Interview Videos : Caruana

A week ago, when I kicked this latest series off with Interview Videos : Aronian, I explained,

In 2016, I featured instructional videos showing each [of the eight candidates] analyzing a game. This time I'll feature each player being interviewed after a game. The eight players, in alphabetical order, are GMs Aronian (*), Caruana (*), Ding Liren, Grischuk, Karjakin (*), Kramnik, Mamedyarov, and Wesley So.

Like Aronian, GM Caruana has '(*)' after his name, meaning that he is one of three players in 2018 who also played in the 2016 Candidates. This interview by Chess.com was recorded last month.

Fabiano Caruana Discusses Winning The London Chess Classic (3:20) • 'Published on Dec 14, 2017'

The video's description said,

Fabiano Caruana achieved one his biggest chess super-tournament wins in years after defeating first Michael Adams in the final day and then Ian Nepomniachtchi in a tiebreak. Here [are] his thoughts on this challenging day in our interview.

As my page on the 2016 Candidates Tournament shows, Caruana came close to winning the event. In a last round, must-win situation, where the tiebreaks favored his opponent GM Karjakin, Caruana lost. Will he perform just as well in 2018?

28 January 2018

Chess Photos on eBay

Despite the increasing popularity of photos as collectors' items, we don't often see them here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. While an individual photo might be expensive compared to other photos, it isn't when compared to other categories, like artwork.

Take, for example, the last photo featured in this series, Man Ray Chess Photos (September 2017), which I used because 'the short list had only a single item and I had to go well under my usual cutoff price to find it.' How many other unique photos are lurkng just outside the price radar?

The following image shows the highest priced items returned by eBay on a search for 'chess photos'. The highest priced item -- 'CUSTOM PET PORTRAIT pencil drawing from your favorite photo by Carlene Chess' -- isn't a chess item, but the rest are.

After the pet portraits is an item titled 'Café De La Régence Photo Photograph Paris Regency Cafe Chess Chessmasters'. It sold for US $250, 'Buy It Now '. The description said,

Albumen Photograph of Café De La Régence. Paris: [circa 1890]. Two albumen photographs adhesive mounted on opposite sides of a stiff card album leaf. Photos measure 8 3/8” x 10 7/8” on a leaf measuring 14” x 10¾. Photos very good or better with some fading, mostly at extremities.

An outstanding photograph of the Café De La Régence, the storied cafe that originally opened in 1681 and was located at 161 Rue Saint-Honoré when this photo was taken. It was considered a center of European Chess with numerous masters playing there as well as a haven for intellectuals -- Marx and Engels met for the first time at the cafe in 1844. This photo shows well dressed men and women sitting at outside tables while two waiters tend to them.

Another unusual item is the first photo on the second line. Titled '1984 Press Photo Bobby Fischer Plays Chess with 55 Opponents in Milwaukee', it sold for US $129.50 after 17 bids. Its description was copied from the accompanying press caption, which said,

Matching wits with a roomful of opponents at once, Bobby Fischer, the United States chess champion, studied a move at the Pfister Hotel, Thursday night. Fischer played 55 opponents, moving continuously around the inside of a large rectangle. He defeated 47 foes, drew five and lost to three.

The description also said, 'Photo measures 9.75 x 8 inches. Photo is dated 05-15-1984', repeating the error in the item's title. That should be '1964'.

The other items in the composite image did not fetch higher prices for being photos. Several sold for their autographs. The last item was titled 'RARE Chess Memoirs: Chess Career Physician Lasker Pupil Joseph Platz SIGNED' and sold 'Best offer accepted' for less than the asking price.

Rare limited print copy of "Chess Memoirs: The Chess Career of a Physician and Lasker Pupil" by Joseph Platz written in memory of his dear friend and teacher "The Greatest of them all" Dr. Emmanuel Lasker. 1979. This copy is signed and dedicated by Dr. Joseph Platz to "William Lombardy" who wrote his ExLibris on the back of the cover page.

I imagine it came from the same collection as Lombardy's MCO (October 2017).

26 January 2018

Attention to Detail

Gustav Wentzel - Chess Players (1886) © Flickr user Gandalf's Gallery under Creative Commons.

The Wikipedia entry on Gustav Wentzel says,

Gustav Wentzel (1859 - 1927) was a Norwegian painter. He was best known for interiors and domestic and rural scenes. His artistic style was associated with Naturalism and noted for accurate observations and attention to detail.

For a previous post inspired by the same Flickr user, see Isidor Kaufmann (May 2011).

25 January 2018

FIDE's Marketing Committee 2017

After the post about FIDE's Ethics Commission 2017, there is one more topic I'd like to address: FIDE's Marketing Committee (soon to be a commission?). Going back to my post about Spectating the 87th FIDE Congress (December 2016), we find the first report of the group in the minutes of the 87th FIDE Congress; General Assembly; Baku, Azerbaijan; September 2016:-

9.6. Marketing Committee • Annex 72 is Minutes from the Marketing Working Session. It was proposed to establish a new membership for Marketing Committee. It consists of the following: Chairman: Martin Huba, Secretary: Kraytem Ezzat [...] The General Assembly approved the new membership of Marketing Committee.

Like many marketing materials, Annex 72 is high-level and vague, e.g.

The need to define a strategy in communication and especially in social media was agreed by Messrs. Freeman, Borg and all the participants and some concrete proposals are expected to be submitted to the FIDE management in the next future.

Fast forward a year to Spectating the 88th FIDE Congress (November 2017). Here in the minutes of the 88th FIDE Congress; Executive Board [EB] meeting; Goynuk, Antalya, Turkey; October 2017, we find a discussion of the group's funding:-

Mr. Herbert thanked the Treasurer for raising the budgets of Commissions. He asked [whether] the budget for Marketing Committee exists or not.

Prof. Siegel replied that there was a meeting with Mr. Huba who said he has some projects and he needs money for them. So he provided a list of expenses and there is a monthly salary of 3,000 euro and an annual travel of 24,000 euro. This is unacceptable as he was reluctant with other Commissions, in particular in a Commission which just starts. Mr. Huba said he cannot do anything if he does not get anything. The money proposed by the Treasurer, was 10,000 euro. We cannot give a salary of 3,000 euro to the Chairman of a new Commission which did not produce anything.

Mr. Borg said in Baku we did not have a quorum to establish the Commission. It is not intended to bring sponsorship, as there is a different mechanism for this. In this case the brief of this Committee to try to understand what is the vision of FIDE. It has an advisory role. He said no money for Marketing is not correct. I would agree with 10,000 euro to be included. He said he would speak to Mr. Huba.

Later in the minutes is a brief mention of the group's input to the EB:-

4.20. Marketing Committee. • Annex 38 is Committee’s Minutes. Executive Board noted.

The first two pages of Annex 38 offer a number of bullets:-

The following suggested areas of FIDE intervention were identified:
1) Information Gathering
2) Mission and Vision defining
3) Mission and Vision sharing and elaborating
4) Branding
5) Seeking of alternative sources of funding
6) Increasing membership base of FIDE

For example, that last bullet says, 'Present number of about 130,000 FIDE rated players could be raised easily to few millions but there is a need of a sensitive and focused negotiations with individual federations'. The rest of the annex is a marketing presentation titled 'Chess Means Smart' with 16 slides of photos under headings like 'Chess Is History' and 'Chess Is Culture'. The following section has 16 pages titled 'FIDE Situational Evaluation', where the first slide serves as a table of contents. I've copied it here.

The presentation is an extract from a larger 85 page document which is available online:-

FIDE Situational Evaluation

The rest of the EB annex is a series of sales pitches for European organizations followed by three actions 'FIDE Marketing : Urgent Areas'

1) Serious regular analytical work [e.g. indicators]
2) Permanent Youtube channel, Facebook, Twitter, photo & results site, press kits.
3) Marketing Planning [e.g. goals, projects]

The current membership of the group is on the FIDE Directory: Marketing Committee (fide.com).

23 January 2018

ACP Top Tournaments 2017

Feeling under the weather? Looking for an easy subject that doesn't require any deep thought? That's me today, so I was happy to find the results of the latest poll by the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP).

Our Tournament of the Year 2017 poll, which this year has been anticipated to the earliest part of the year in order to make it even more relevant, saw quite a few tight races for the best tournament in several categories.

After listing top tournaments in specific categories like 'Round-Robin' and 'Official [FIDE] Events', the ACP gave combined results.

The Overall Best category, perhaps the most important one, saw our members’ preference for open tournaments. First was the Tradewise Gibraltar and second was Chess.com Isle of Man International. Third and fourth were the preferred Round-Robins Sinquefield Cup and Tata Steel Chess, with a rather peculiar swap in places between these two excellent events.

Here are the top-10 tournaments in the combined category.

Tournament of the Year 2017 Results

Three 2017 Gand Prix events were among the four lowest ranked tournaments overall. Is the ACP trying to tell FIDE something? For the previous ACP survey on this blog, see ACP Survey 2016 - Results (April 2016).

22 January 2018

Interview Videos : Aronian

It's time to close the series on improving my chess engines -- at least for now -- and move on to another topic. I've summarized the engine series at the end of this post and have calculated that, at the rate of one player per week, I have just enough time to review the eight players who will be starting the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament in March. I did the same for the 2016 Moscow Candidates Tournament, which I started in Instructional Videos : Carlsen (January 2016), and summarized in Instructional Videos : the Candidates (March 2016):-

We started this series of instructional videos with the current World Champion, GM Carlsen, then worked through each of the eight candidates for a title match later this year: Anand, Aronian, Caruana, Giri, Karjakin, Nakamura, Svidler, and Topalov.

In 2016, I featured instructional videos showing each player analyzing a game. This time I'll feature each player being interviewed after a game. The eight players, in alphabetical order, are GMs Aronian (*), Caruana (*), Ding Liren, Grischuk, Karjakin (*), Kramnik, Mamedyarov, and Wesley So. Players with an asterisk ('*') after their names also played in the 2016 Candidates. Let's start with the first player in the list, the ever-popular GM Aronian, who is certainly one of the favorites to win the event.

Levon Aronian Wins Chess World Cup 2017 (6:32) • 'Published on Sep 27, 2017'

The video's description said,

Levon Aronian Beats Ding Liren; Chess World Cup 2017; Final; Tie Breaks

Aronian had just won the 2017 Tbilisi World Cup, where he and his final opponent, Ding Liren, both qualified into the 2018 Candidates.


As for the series on chess engines, I started with a look at the most important components.

Then I looked at TCEC Season 10, which was entering its final weeks.

A powerful newcomer, AlphaZero, appeared during the last days of the TCEC, and I spent some time to review its underlying technology.

I'll come back to the subject for TCEC Season 11, which is currently underway, and for a deeper look at AlphaZero.