22 May 2018

Vasiukov Photo / Caruana's Career

This month the chess world lost another former Soviet star, Evgeni Vasiukov (1933-2018). I searched my archive of eBay material and found only a single item featuring him. It's still worth a post.

The description said,

Original Soviet chess press panoramic photo. Grandmaster Evgeni Vasiukov plays white against Grandmaster Mikhail Tal, 1970s. Retouched for publishing in Latvian chess magazine "Sahs".

I've cropped out the 'panoramic' aspect, which showed chess fans pressing in from all sides to watch the game, apparently played at blitz time control. For more about his career, see Evgeni Vasiukov (wikipedia.org); Soviet Championships: 'He qualified for the finals a total of eleven times.'


For the past few weeks I've been running a series to learn more about Fabiano Caruana's early career. Here is a summary of the posts.

Although I didn't plan it at the time, the four posts document a natural progression in the early career of any budding chess superstar: early steps, Grandmaster title, GM supertournaments, World Championship aspirations. If I had been more alert while putting together 'early steps', I would have included Caruana's experience in youth tournaments.

I might come back to Caruana's career for the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match later this year in London. In the meantime, here are a number of related posts on this blog -- most of them recent -- about GM Caruana.

Posts marked '(*)' are currently showing up in 'Popular Posts (Last 12 months)' at the bottom of all blog pages. This attests to Caruana's popularity.

21 May 2018

Installing Leela

After Getting to Know Leela, what happens next? Installing it might be a good start. Following the instructions from that previous post...

For more info, go to lczero.org and refer to the links in the left navigation bar.

...I clicked through 'Getting Started' and eventually got to a page of the same name: Getting Started.

To help the LCZero project get stronger by running self-play training games on your own computer, see...

First question: On which machine should I install the Leela software? I decided to install it on my WIN7 PC. That's where I do most of my writing. Since the objective of the exercise is to write a few posts about Leela, it would be easier to copy/paste material directly into a post, like this one. Unfortunately, I ran into a technical problem and after fiddling a bit decided that WIN7 was the problem. I switched to a WIN10 PC.

I followed the instructions again (the second time went faster) and this time everything worked smoothly. After downloading and unzipping the file, I launched the client, set up a new account, and the software started automatically. Here's a screen capture showing the end of the first game and the start of the second.

'SlowMover', that's me.

20 May 2018

The Chess Waste Land

There are so many angles to today's featured photo that I hardly know where to start.

A game of chess © Flickr user Luke McKernan under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Barbara Kruger chess set, with paintings by Paula Rego, Peter Blake and Edward Hopper. The Waste Land exhibition, Turner Contemporary, Margate.

Margate: Ernst Gruenfeld won at Margate 1923 ahead of Alekhine (and others), although the tournament is not mentioned on BritBase: 1920-29 (saund.co.uk). For the next decade, BritBase: 1930-39, the site gives as Margate winners: 1935 Reshevsky, 1936 Capablanca, 1937 Fine/Keres, 1938 Alekhine, 1939 Keres. I presume the annual series ended because of WWII (1939-1945).

Waste Land exhibition: Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ (turnercontemporary.org):-

In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land sitting in the Nayland Rock shelter on Margate Sands. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work, reflecting on the fractured world in the aftermath of the First World War as well as Eliot’s own personal crisis.

For more about the poem, see Wikipedia's The Waste Land; its second part is titled 'A Game of Chess'. T.S. Eliot received a passing reference in a previous Flickr Friday post on this blog: Multi-dimensional Chess Imagery (November 2017; 'The large frame under the horseshoe is an an excerpt from T.S.Eliot's poem "East Coker" (1940), that starts "You say I am repeating / Something I have said before".')

Barbara Kruger chess set: The Margate photo is taken at an angle that captures both the chess set and an artwork featuring chess behind the set. It's not immediately obvious, because the chess set is shown from the wrong side, but the board is a photo of a boy screaming. A better view of the boy's head is at The Art Of Chess 2006 (tatintsian.com; 1/10, all sets). The chess artwork by Peter Blake shows Marcel Duchamp. Another work featuring Blake recreates the famous photo of Duchamp and model Eve Babitz.

Flickr: This current post is the follow-up to The Last Flickr Friday, where I said, 'I'll be cutting the series back to one post a month and moving it to Sunday.' It might also be the last Flickr photo: SmugMug acquires Flickr (techcrunch.com; April 2018); the article overviews the history of Flickr, 'founded in 2004 and sold to Yahoo a year later'. I hope the situation after the acquisition will continue to provide inspiration for future posts featuring chess photos.

18 May 2018

A Transformational Technology

On the 12th anniversary of this blog, Silk Anniversary! (1 May 2018), I decided to start giving less time to blogging:-

While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down; maybe go from one post per day (across my four blogs) to 5-6 posts per week.

With that in mind, I cut back my rotating Friday posts to once a month each and moved them to another day:-

So here we are, another Friday and I have nothing special to do. Before signing off completely, I'm going to spend a few Fridays looking at the impact of artificial intelligence and neural networks on the world of chess. To get started, I gathered all previous posts on the subject(s) into a new category: Showing posts with label AI/NN. It's a technology that is not only transforming chess, it's transforming nearly everything that we do.

17 May 2018

The Value of a Tempo

What's the value of the first move in chess? Most people would say it's a tempo, but there's a problem here.

Let's say that White passes on the first move. I know the rules of chess don't allow a player to say 'Pass!', so let's call it a thought experiment. If White passes, then Black has exactly the same advantage of the first move that White just had. Now here's the problem: If White gives up a tempo thereby giving Black an extra tempo, then the difference between the positions is two tempi. But White only passed on one move, so how can this be? Let's use a simple algebraic formula to illustrate this...

X - 1 = -X

... where 'X' is the value of the first move for White, '-1' is the value of the lost move, and '-X' is the value of the new situation for Black. Solving for 'X' gives X = 1/2. This means that the value of the first move is not a tempo; it's a half-tempo. QED?

A few years back I wrote a couple of posts -- One Imbalance Leads to Another (February 2013) and A Pawn Equals 200 Rating Points (ditto) -- based on GM Larry Kaufman's work. One of the observations from his work was...

  • 0.4 - Value of a tempo
  • 0.2 - Value of first move

...where a Pawn is worth 1.0. Kaufman's observation confirms the X = 1/2 calculation. Why bring this up again? While reading the September 2017 issue of Chess Life, I noticed that GM Lev Alburt gave the following diagram in his monthly column, 'Back to Basics', after the moves 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3.

Most people would accept that statement as obvious and continue with the column. We've all seen similar statements many times and accepted them without question, but it might not be so straightforward. According to Kaufman's work, White's advantage might be *only* a half-tempo.

I plugged the position after 1.e4 c5 into an engine, looked at the analysis, entered a null move for White, and looked again at the analysis. The difference between the two analyses (before and after the null move) was not a half-tempo, it was closer to a full tempo. Why is the value of a move a half-tempo at the start of a game and a full tempo later? I think it's the difference between 'having the move' and 'making a move'. Once you make a move the advantage of having the move passes to your opponent.

I'm a big fan of chess960. I've always assumed that different start positions have different values. According to the analysis above (X - 1 = -X), every position starts with the same fundamentals -- a tempo is a tempo no matter what the start position might be.

So why do some chess960 start positions seem to offer a better opportunity for White to gain an advantage? Maybe it's for the same reason that some moves in the traditional start position (as in the diagram above) offer a better opportunity than other moves. After all, 1.d4 and 1.e4 are better moves than 1.a3 and 1.h3. A move that accomplishes two objectives is better than a move that accomplishes a single objective; similarly, a move that does nothing is better than a move that makes the position worse. Just don't say, 'Pass!'.

15 May 2018

Caruana at the World Cup

In my previous post on the challenger for the current World Championship cycle, Caruana at Corus, I ended with the observation:-

Between the 2009 and 2010 Corus tournaments, there was another significant event: the 2009 World Cup.

According to my World Championship Index of players [A-G], GM Caruana has played in five World Cups. Following is a summary of his results in the seven-round knockout events.

2009 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, XI-XII, 2009.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - Bruzon Batista,L 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 4.0 - Dominguez Perez,L 2.0
Rd.3 Caruana,F 3.5 - Alekseev,Evgeny 2.5
Rd.4 Gashimov,V 3.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

2011 World Cup; Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, VIII-IX, 2011.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - Pridorozhni,A 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Drozdovskij,Y 0.5
Rd.3 Svidler,P 3.0 - Caruana,F 1.0

2013 World Cup; Tromso (Norway), VIII-IX, 2013.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 1.5 - G.,Akash 0.5
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Yu Yangyi 0.5
Rd.3 Caruana,F 3.0 - Malakhov,V 1.0
Rd.4 Caruana,F 2.0 - Granda Zuniga,J 0.0
Rd.5 Vachier Lagrave,M 2.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

2015 World Cup; Baku (Azerbaijan), IX-X, 2015.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 2.0 - Zaibi,A 0.0
Rd.2 Caruana,F 1.5 - Mamedov,Rau 0.5
Rd.3 Caruana,F 1.5 - Kovalyov,A 0.5
Rd.4 Mamedyarov,S 1.5 - Caruana,F 0.5

2017 World Cup; Tbilisi (Georgia), IX, 2017.
Rd.1 Caruana,F 2.0 - Solomon,K 0.0
Rd.2 Caruana,F 4.0 - Lenic,L 2.0
Rd.3 Najer,E 2.5 - Caruana,F 1.5

How did he qualify for the World Cup events? Another of my pages, World Chess Championship Zonals, includes links to 'Qualifying Paths' for each cycle.

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2008-2009 (C24)

h) 6 nominees of the FIDE President
122. Caruana, Fabiano (ITA)

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2010-2011 (C25)

d) From FIDE Rating List, 20 players, average 7/2010 & 1/2011:
25. F. Caruana (ITA) 2709,00 [19th on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2012-2013 (C26)

d) From FIDE Rating List, average 3/2012 up to 1/2013:
12. F. Caruana (ITA) 2775,44 [5th on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2014-2015 (C27)

d) From FIDE Rating List, average 2/2014 up to 1/2015:
09. F. Caruana (USA) 2803.66 [2nd on the list]

>>> Zonal Qualifiers 2016-2017 (C28)

c) From FIDE Rating List, 18 players, average 2/2016 up to 1/2017:
08. F. Caruana (USA) 2807.91 [1st on the list]

As the official challenger in the forthcoming 2018 Carlsen - Caruana title match, GM Caruana is guaranteed a place in the following cycle. Whatever the outcome of that match, I expect he will be a key participant in World Championship cycles for many years to come.

14 May 2018

Getting to Know Leela

After last week's introduction to Leela Chess Zero and the TCEC, where to go next? How about an explanatory video? In last year's introduction to AlphaZero, A New Style of Chess (December 2017), I featured Agadmator's Chess Channel on Youtube, so let's call on Agadmator again.

Artificial Intelligence Leela Zero to Become as Strong as Alpha Zero? | Only if We Help! (14:28) • 'Published on Apr 5, 2018'

The video's description explains,

Great progress has been made so far -- Leela has gone from random play to around 1800 now on average hardware in four weeks. The catch is that project relies on people running Leela on their computers so there are more matches for Leela to learn from.

For more info, go to lczero.org and refer to the links in the left navigation bar.

13 May 2018

Fabiano Streams on Twitch

A couple of months ago on Video Friday we had Magnus Streams on Youtube (March 2018). Now we have World Champion Carlsen's next challenger hosting a stream; see 2018 Carlsen - Caruana; London for more about next November's title match, including the official site, etc.

Fabiano Caruana - Titled Tuesday May 2018 (1:40:07) • 'Published on May 3, 2018'

Chess.com's own video report on Youtube is at Titled Tuesday Blitz Chess Tournament: May 2018 With Caruana and Giri:-

World championship challenger Fabiano Caruana decides to put his skills on display by playing AND streaming the May edition of the Titled Tuesday blitz chess tournament. Joining him is Anish Giri who's hungry to defeat him "on air."

For Chess.com's written report on the event, see Petrosian Wins Titled Tuesday Ahead Of Giri, Caruana. In the future I'll be featuring videos once a month on this blog. The previous, fortnightly schedule ended a few days ago with The Last Video Friday.

11 May 2018

The Last Video Friday

Unlike last Friday's post The Last Flickr Friday, this current post isn't really 'The Last Video Friday'. That distinction belongs to 2018 U.S. Championship (April 2018; 'Strength of the Tournament'). The tag count currently shows 'Video (406)', which means I have to go back many years to find the original Video Friday. I initially performed a couple of tests to understand the techniques:-

Some time after making those tests, the videos were gone. The YouTube version is now marked 'This video is unavailable', while the Google version has simply disappeared without a trace. The third post in the category was:-

  • 2007-03-16: Video Friday • 'Chess and metaphysics don't usually mix well. This video is a pleasant exception.'

By some happy quirk of fate/metaphysics, that first Video Friday post has survived intact. I don't know what the odds are of a video becoming unavailable, but based on the number witnessed via this blog, it must be fairly high.

'This video is unavailable.'

I'll still continue reviewing recent YouTube submissions on the subject of chess, but it won't be on Friday.

10 May 2018

2018 CJA Awards Announcement

Once again, the month of May means the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have announced their annual award categories. It also means that I'll have material for at least three posts on this blog. Last year we had...

...and this year I expect we'll have similar. The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the award categories for last year and for this year.

2017 2018

Too small to read? The CJA's completely revamped web site, Chess Journalism (chessjournalism.org), points to an online entry form that includes the same list of categories.

What's changed? The first four category groups for 2018 ('THE TOP FOUR', etc.) are carbon copies of the 2017 groups. When we reach 'NEWS AND FEATURES', things start to change. The category 'Best Tournament Report', which was present in 2016 but missing in 2017 (apparently an oversight), is back in 2018, and split into two: 'National / International' and 'Local / Regional'. The other categories in the group are unchanged except for a new category, 'Special Achievement'.

After 'ELECTRONIC MEDIA', where the categories haven't changed and which still includes 'Best Chess Blog', there is a new group, 'MULTIMEDIA CATEGORY'. Here the new categories are:-

  • Best Mainstream Media (one free entry to anyone)
  • Best Tournament Report
  • Best Educational Lesson
  • Best Interview

Whether you're a CJA member or not (I'm not), the CJA's revamped web site is worth a visit. It appears to have changed end-2017, but if you're nostalgic for the old site, it is still available at archive.org / chessjournalism.org.

The revamped site has 'News', mainly minutes from past CJA annual meetings, an 'Awards Archive' with links to relevant material, and back issues of The Chess Journalist, which hasn't been published since 2014. The minutes for the 2017 annual meeting explained,

PDFs of old issues of The Chess Journalists have begun to be put up online. There is also a list of issues that are missing from the White Collection in Cleveland that has been placed on line.

The earliest issue currently available is 'Chess Journalist - Spring 1977 v5 n1'. Since I've never seen an issue of the periodical dated before 2007, there is plenty here to keep me busy until the 2018 CJA Awards are announced three months from now.

08 May 2018

Caruana at Corus

Continuing with our look at TWIC's coverage (from Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess) of Fabiano Caruana's career, I covered his early steps in Caruana's TWIC Debut (April 2018), and his next steps in Caruana's Rise to GM (ditto). I ended that last post with:-

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.

The following composite image shows GM Caruana's performance at Wijk aan Zee in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He won the C-event easily in 2008, won the B-event with considerable luck in 2009, and finished +1-3=9 at the A-event in 2010, three points behind winner Magnus Carlsen.

Source: TWIC 690, 742, 795

For the corresponding reports from Chessbase.com, see:-

Between the 2009 and 2010 Corus tournaments, there was another significant event: the 2009 World Cup.

07 May 2018

Leela Chess Zero

Now that I've finished with TCEC Season 11 (see last week's Battering the French for the final post), where should I go next? The first post in this current series on engines, Back to the Future with Chess Engines (April 2018), promised a look at the future. What could be more futuristic than AI? In the middle of last month, the TCEC organizers announced Leela Chess Zero enters TCEC Season 12 (chessdom.com).

Leela Chess Zero (LC0), an open source adaptation of DeepMind’s recent Alpha Zero artificial intelligence demonstration project, will compete in TCEC’s Season 12. In so doing it will become the first chess-playing neural net in history to publicly challenge traditional human chess programming.

Leela was placed into the lowest of the TCEC qualifying events, Division 4. Based on its poor performance, it might be at risk of being dropped for future TCEC seasons. Here's a crosstable of the event.

TCEC Season 12, Division 4

Ouch! I better not waste any time. For the next few weeks in this series I'll look at Leela and its technology.

06 May 2018

Chess Art, Paris 1925

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), we've had A Six-Figure Chess Item at Auction (November 2017; 'Marcel Duchamp : Pocket Chess Set'), and A Seven-Figure Chess Item at Auction (also November 2017; 'The Chess Players' by William Roberts). A five-figure item might seem commmonplace, but there were only three others listed in the 'Six-Figure' post.

The item pictured below was titled 'Frantisek Zdenek Eberl, French/Czech (1887-1962), Chess Players, oil', and subtitled 'Part of a live auction event on Thursday, Apr 26'. The winning bid was US $38,000 after 20 bids.

The description repeated the information in the title and added,

Seller's Estimate: USD 6,000 - 8,000.
Oil on canvas, signed "F.Z. Eberl" and dated "Paris 25" lower left.
Inscribed "Salon d'Automne" and "d'Office" on the reverse.
41 x 28 1/2 inches.

Provenance: Ancienne Maison P. Ferret, L. Helvig, Successeur, Paris, France; Private Collection, New Jersey.
Exhibitions: Salon d'Automne (1925), Paris, France.

Wikipedia's page on the artist, François Zdenek Eberl, says,

François Zdenek Eberl (1887-1962) was a Czech-born painter who worked mainly in Paris, France. At his prime, his name was included among those of fellow painters and personal friends Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and Maurice de Vlaminck. [...] Drawing inspiration from the folklore of Paris, his preference was to paint the street scenes and nightclubs as he observed them.

How does that fit into Chess and Art Movements (December 2017)?

04 May 2018

The Last Flickr Friday

Other than a few tags -- Tallinn, Estonia, Sculpture -- and a link to Wikipedia's page on Paul Keres, this photo had no information about the setting. It appears to be an exterior wall plaque, perhaps on the house where Keres lived.

Paul Kerese © Flickr user Alan under Creative Commons.

The plaque says,

Paul Kerese
Nimeline Malamaje

Given 'Nimeline Malamaje', Google Translate says it's Estonian and turns it into 'Nickname Malamaje'. That information leads nowhere, so we are free to use our imagination.


In the previous Flickr Friday post, Chess in the Pink, I wrote,

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'll be cutting the series back to one post a month -- it's been every two weeks since the first post: Flickr Friday (August 2008) -- and moving it to Sunday.

03 May 2018

May 1968 'On the Cover'

Last month's 'On the Cover', April 1968, featured a correspondence chess champion and a chess set. This month the series returns to the same two world class crossboard players who appeared in the November 1967 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'National Open Champion Pal Benko' (Details next month)
Right: 'Oscar'

Chess Life; 'Details next month' means we go back 50 years less a month to find out what happened in the tournament. From the June 1968 CL:-

At Lake Tahoe, Nevada, from March 24 to 29, 111 competitors took part in the National Open Tournament. When it was all over, International Grandmaster Pal Benko had the first prize of $1250 in his pocket. The tournament director and principle organizer, Ken Jones of Reno, is a lover of chess and philosophy. He has decided not to direct next year's event, a decision no doubt prompted by several misunderstandings and ensuing disputes during the tournament.

Chess Review

It fell to Bent Larsen of Denmark to win the first "Chess Oscar" this year at the tournament at Palma de Majorca. Larsen and the trophy therefore appear on our front cover this month, and the first part of Dr. Petar Trifunovich's account of Palma de Majorca carries the story in some detail. Does Larsen, who happened to win when and where the tournament organizers dreamed up the scheme of nominating and electing the "Player of the Year," merit that award? Petar gives some ponderable cons to rate against the Dane's four straight victories.

The first 'Chess Oscar' is a story worth repeating. From the May 1968 CR (p.156):-

Palma de Mallorca (*), Recounted by Dr. Petar Trifunovich, Part I

The '(*)' signalled an editorial footnote on the use of Majorca vs. Mallorca: 'Dr.Trifunovich prefers to go to "L".' Was there an unstated problem here? Let's continue with the main story:-

First "Chess Oscar" • As Palma was the last chess event for 1967, the organizers hit upon the great idea of proclaiming "the best chessplayer of the year." Along with the proclamation goes a "Chess Oscar" after the long established custom of filmdom. For chess, this is a (more modest) silver cup. This idea introduces a bit of change and enlivening into the humdrum routine of chess life.

For this purpose, a jury was constituted of chess journalists accredited by the tournament: Puig Laborda and Eduardo de Perez of Spain; Harry de Graaf of Holland; Silvain Zinser of France; and Deimitry Bjelica of Yugoslavia. They voted for Bent Larsen of Denmark as the best player in 1967 on the strength of his first-place victories in the Capablanca Memorial at Havana, the Winnipeg International (a tie with Klaus Darga of West Germany), the Interzonal at Sousse and the International Tournament at Palma de Mallorca.

The decision of course has no official significance -- rates perhaps somewhat less than the "grandmasterships" conferred by the Czar of Russia at St. Petersburg in 1914 -- for it was brought about without the collaboration or agreement of the FIDE. It is a one-sided declaration of the journalists who happened to collect at one tournament. And, in fact, one notable chess reporter present, Grandmaster Kotov, did not support the declaration.

Indeed, the objectivity of this decision may be questioned. The Chess Oscar may, first, be unduly apt to be awarded to the winner of the concurrent tournament. Second, the jury gave no explanation as to why Robert J. Fischer, for instance, surely a possible rival, was excluded. Surely, all aspirants and all results ought to be taken into consideration, both the positive and the negative. Here is a brief resume, which this commentator offers as possibly incomplete, speaking without full documentation.

Larsen shared third and fourth with Yefim Geller at Monaco; and, what is quite important, he was not only outscored but also beaten by Fischer. At Dundee in Ireland, Larsen split second and third with Fredrik Olafsson of Iceland, and behind Svetozar Gligorich of Yugoslavia. At Winnipeg, Larsen shared first with Darga. True, Larsen's great victories at Havana, Sousse and Palma are clean as a raindrop. But Fischer had first places exclusively: at Skopje and Monaco, he had no consort; and, even when dismissed from the Interzonal at Sousse, he led undefeated.

At the least, a decision between these two chess giants does not come easily. But the jury left us with no explanation. And what would have happened if the jury had designated someone else, someone not among the participants at Palma? "Oscar" certainly could not have been handed over!

That excerpt is perhaps too long-winded for this blog post, but it *was* the first 'Chess Oscar'.

01 May 2018

Silk Anniversary!

That's what Wikipedia's page on Wedding anniversary suggests for the 12th. The first post on this blog was Another head? (1 May 2006) After one year of blogging, in M'aidez, M'aidez (1 May 2007), I wrote,

It's been exactly one year to the day since I started this blog and it has become an addiction. I need help in stopping. Lots of other chess bloggers seem to be able to stop without any problem. Why can't I?

Eleven years later I'm still wondering how to stop. While I'm not planning to stop anytime soon, I will start to slow down; maybe go from one post per day (across my four blogs) to 5-6 posts per week. Past experience says that this won't last long. I always manage to fill the newfound free time with chess or with blogging. I'm drawn to the two activities like a moth to a flame.

Smooth as silk?

30 April 2018

Battering the French

In last week's post on TCEC Season 11, A Double-edged King's Indian, I selected a pair of decisive games that used the same opening :-

Stockfish had White in the odd-numbered games [...] In one pair of games -- the 29th and 30th -- Stockfish won both as White and as Black.

In only one other opening were both games decisive, the next two games in the match, the 31st and 32nd. Both engines won playing White. The opening was labelled 'French: Tarrasch, Closed', and the first eight moves were as follows:-

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bd3 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.O-O

The top portion of the following chart shows the position after 8.O-O.

The bottom portion of the chart shows the evaluations throughout both games by both engines. Stockfish playing White was finished after 36 moves, while Houdini playing White lasted until the 76th move. It's curious that the first move where the engines diverged -- 9.a4 for Stockfish and 9.Bc2 for Houdini -- had similar characteristics to the divergence in 'Double-edged King's Indian'. The Stockfish move was more aggressive than the Houdini move.

I could say more about the two games, but I'll stop here. This is the third time I've discussed TCEC game pairs where White won both games. The other two posts were Battering the Gruenfeld (March 2015), and TCEC Season 9 Superfinal Openings (December 2016).

The post for TCEC Season 9 showed two openings, a '1.d4 Slav System' and a '1.e4 French Defense'. In today's post we again see the French taking a heavy beating. Does the closed nature of the French coupled with the bad light-squared Bishop give too much of an advantage to White?

29 April 2018

2018 U.S. Championship - Hall of Fame

Like the previous post, 2018 U.S. Championship, 'Strength of the Tournament', this video is from the Saint Louis Chess Club. I thought it fit well into the series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

2018 U.S. Chess Championships: Alex Onischuk's Hall of Fame Induction (3:56) • 'Published on Apr 20, 2018'

The video's description added,

Grandmaster Alex Onischuk is inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame Class of 2018 during the opening ceremony of the 2018 U.S. Championships.

Introducing Onischuk, GM Maurice Ashley says,

All of us know Alex as one of the nicest guys in chess -- one of the humblest, [most] self-effacing despite his many successes. Alex is also an Iron Man, the oldest player in the field [for the current U.S. Championship].

Given how many world class players are somewhat quirky, it's great to see a 'nice guy' being recognized by one of the greatest honors in chess. For GM Onischuk's Hall of Fame page, see Alex Onischuk (worldchesshof.org). For more about all of the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees, see Nimzowitsch and Onischuk among Chess Hall of Fame inductees (chessbase.com; February 2018).

27 April 2018

2018 U.S. Championship

With two rounds to go in the 2018 U.S. Chess Championship, Sam Shankland is 1/2-point ahead of Fabiano Caruana, who is 1/2-point ahead of Wesley So, who is 1/2-point ahead of the rest of the field. GMs Shankland and Caruana play against tournament tail-enders in their final games.

2018 U.S. Chess Championships: Strength of the Tournament (2:03) • 'Published on Apr 21, 2018'

From the Youtube channel for the Saint Louis Chess Club, where the event is currently being played:-

The players in the U.S. Chess Championship talk about the strength of the tournament this year.

For the final results, see:-

When has the U.S. Championship ever been so strong?

26 April 2018

April Yahoos

The seventh straight month of chess in the mainstream press echoed two stories from the two previous months. Two months ago we had February Yahoos:-

Most powerful man in chess accused of 'secretly funding ISIS' (yahoo.com; nypost.com)

And last month we had March Yahoos:-

US chess grandmaster Caruana wins shot at world title match (yahoo.com; Associated Press)

This month's headlines are shown in the following composite of two snippets from the Yahoo news feed.

2018-04-02: Fabiano Caruana is poised to do what no American has done since Bobby Fischer. Here's the path he took to get there (yahoo.com). The Yahoo story was just a stub leading to the real story (with the same title) by Daaim Shabazz, Fabiano Caruana is poised to do... (sfgate.com)

Whenever a glimmer of chess talent is spotted in the United States, people often ask: "Is this the next Bobby Fischer?" In the early 2000s, a diminutive, bespectacled young boy -- who by age 9 was already battling seasoned competitors in top-level sections -- had his name added to the roster of Fischer aspirants. His name is Fabiano Caruana. Fabiano, now 25, has finally earned the right to challenge reigning chess champion Magnus Carlsen for the world championship crown this November in London. On March 27, he won the 2018 Candidates Tournament in thrilling fashion

The story is not your typical account of the formative years of a young chess player. (Although it does that, too.) Its focus is more that 'His evolution makes a good case study for homeschooling and other ways of learning that enable young people to break free from the static environment of formal education in order to pursue their passions.' It turns out that the Sfgate.com story is itself a reprint of Fabiano Caruana is poised to do... (theconversation.com). The copy of the article on that site ('Academic rigour, journalistic flair') has other stories about chess -- 'You might also like' -- that seem to be be worth exploring.

2018-04-09: Russian under US sanctions refuses to resign as world chess head (yahoo.com; The Telegraph)

The eccentric Russian president of the world chess federation will not step down despite calls from his colleagues, who say the US sanctions against him have cut the organisation off from financing. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a multimillionaire ally of Vladimir Putin who has visited dictators like Bashar al-Assad and claims to have once been abducted by aliens, told The Telegraph he would not resign and would in fact seek re-election in October's vote. He has been in office since 1995.

Both the Carlsen vs. Caruana match and the FIDE vs. Ilyumzhinov turmoil will continue as evolving stories over the next few months. Will April Yahoos bring May Wahoos? [What else rhymes with 'Yahoos'?]

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.

15 April 2018

Chess and Community Service

After two posts featuring videos on the recent Candidates tournament in Berlin (the latest was Berlin Candidates - Background), the ongoing series about The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) returns to the theme of community service.

A simple plan for the brilliance of chess (2:38) • 'Published on Mar 30, 2018'

Found on Youtube's WPRI channel ('the source for Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts local news, weather, community, and sports'), the description of the video said,

A local man who fought his way out of poverty wants to give something back to the community.

The related page with a transcript of the broadcast is at A simple plan for the brilliance of chess (wpri.com). It starts,

FALL RIVER, MA. (WPRI) - The game of chess can conjure up its own set of stereotypes. James Medeiros, who struggled with "a lot of horror" as a teenager, doesn't seem to fit any of them. "I just love this game," he said, while contemplating a move on a three-thousand pound chess table. "I don't think I ran into this game as a coincidence. I believe I ran into it for a reason and here I am." He made the move with his bishop, and he also made the table that sits firmly in the Bennie Costa Plaza housing complex in Fall River. Before Medeiros carved chess pieces and built colorful chess tables, he was a mental health worker in a psychiatric hospital.

For another example in this series of chess and community service, see 'Chess Behind Bars' (October 2017).

13 April 2018

Interview Videos : Carlsen's Next Challenger

For the third consecutive edition of Video Friday, I picked a video involving Fabiano Caruana. Last month we had Game and Mistake of the Day and Berlin Candidates - Final Press Conference, and here we have the genial new challenger on the day after his tournament win.

Fabiano Caruana on winning the 2018 Candidates' Tournament (20:31) • 'Published on Mar 30, 2018'

The description of the clip (on YouTube's ChesscomNews channel) says,

A day after winning the FIDE Candidates' Tournament, Fabiano Caruana sat down with Chess.com and told about his preparation, the tournament itself and about his upcoming match with Magnus Carlsen.

GM Caruana talks about his training camp, opening preparation, the critical rounds 2-4, the pressure of leading the tournament, his best & worst games of the event, recovering from a loss, his second (Rustam Kasimdzhanov), the tournament organization, the tiebreak rules, and the forthcoming title match with World Champion Carlsen (chances 'about 50-50'). The sweatshirt he's wearing is publicity for the 'chess capital of the USA': St.Louis.

12 April 2018

Carlsen's Next Challenger

It's been two weeks already, but the news is far from becoming old. On one of my other blogs, in Berlin Candidates - Third Week, I wrote,

Yesterday the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament finished with a clear winner, no tiebreaks necessary. Congratulations to Fabiano Caruana on earning the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen next November in a title match.

Two years ago, after Sergey Karjakin won the 2016 Moscow Candidate's Tournament, I worked on a series of posts to learn more about him:-

Now I'd like to do something similar for GM Caruana. Since he's an English-speaking Westerner, his career has been covered more closely by the Western press than Karjakin's career at a similar point.

On this blog, the first post about him appears to have been The Class of 1990 (October 2009):-

I created the following chart, showing the FIDE ratings [the young stars] attained at equivalent ages. It's a little rough because the rating updates don't coincide with birthdays, but I think it gives a good idea of how the players progressed.

On my World Chess Championship blog, the first non-trivial post was Gelfand and His Colleagues (November 2012):-

Q: And what about Caruana? • A: I played with him last at Wijk aan Zee, and it was after this that he made his big leap forward, so it is not easy for me to summarise him today. It seems to me that he also has incredible concentration. He is calculating variations the whole time, like a kind of computer, with a sort of enhanced processor. No, I really have no idea. He has great confidence, you can feel it. [...]

Of course, there's much more to be said about the next challenger to World Champion Carlsen. I'll explore Caruana's early career in a short series of posts.

10 April 2018

April 1968 'On the Cover'

Last month's post, March 1968 'On the Cover', was the start of the fifth year of the ongoing series. That makes this current post the 50th to feature covers from the top two American chess magazines of 50 years ago.

Left: 'Hans Berliner, World Correspondence Chess Champion' (Photo by W.A.Graham)
Right: 'At the Brooklyn Museum'

Chess Life

'The World Correspondence Chess Champion' by Hans Berliner, World Correspondence Champion • On January 31, 1968 play in the [5th] Individual World Correspondence Chess Championship officially came to an end. After almost three years of combat, 17 competitors from nine different countries ceased play in the round-robin contest, and the ten games still remaining unfinished were submitted for adjudication.

I have a page showing a crosstable of the event: World Chess Championship : 5th ICCF Correspondence Finals. Berliner scored +12-0=4 to finish three points ahead of the runner-up. When Berliner died in January last year, I took a snapshot of his Chess Hall of Fame entry in Hans Berliner (1929-2017). The one page Chess Life (CL) article by Berliner quoted above was followed by the first of a short series of CL articles titled 'The Lure of Correspondence Chess' by Hans Berliner. That first article featured the game Yakov Estrin vs Hans Berliner; 5th CC World Ch Final 1965 (chessgames.com), one of the best known games in correspondence chess.

Chess Review

The Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are collaborating in displaying one of the most important collections of chessmen and boards in existence. "Chess: East and West, Past and Present" will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum, April 2 to October 1. The sets have been loaned to the Brooklyn Museum by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mostly from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection. New Yorker Pfeiffer was a devoted collector of chessmen, keenly interested in the game, its meaning and history.

This marked the second consecutive month that Chess Review featured a chess set on its cover. For more about the Pfeiffer collection, see Chess: East and West, Past and Present. A Selection from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection (metmuseum.org).

09 April 2018

Back to the Future with Chess Engines

I last looked at the TCEC Season 11 two weeks ago in Two Championship Qualifying Events, where I noted,'Stockfish and Houdini are headed for the final stage, barring a catastrophic breakdown of either engine.'

A few days later Chessdom.com announced, TCEC Superfinal Stockfish – Houdini starts at 17:30 CET. The announcement included the logo shown on the left, where the top left corner says, 'Chessdom - partner; Chess Arena - sponsor', and the small print at the bottom points to tcec.chessdom.com. The tournament can be followed on that subdomain at TCEC - Live Mode. The announcement confirmed,

Stockfish, the open source engine by Marco Costalba, Joona Kiiski, Gary Linscott and a huge community of contributors, has convincingly won TCEC Premier Division. Stockfish collected 61,0/84 points to secure the gold medal and the right to challenge the current champion Houdini for the TCEC Grand Champion title.

As I write this, the two engines have been slugging it out for a week and a half. 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).

What happens after that? The TCEC announcement informs, 'As TCEC is now a continuous divisions system, Season 12 is going to start right after the Superfinal.' [NB: The trend in chess events these days is that the word 'Superfinal' is used in place of 'Final'. When did this trend start?]

As for this blog, I'm going to continue the series of posts last mentioned in:-

Since then I've looked at chess engines from a generation ago in:-

  • 2018-02-08: Kasparov vs. Hsu • 'Deep Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov; IBM Man-Machine (1997), New York, NY USA'

and from the modern era in:-

  • 2018-03-08: Stockfish in a Straitjacket? • 'Houdini won TCEC Season 10 at the same time that AlphaZero appeared on the scene. [Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish] are the top three chess engines in the world, of roughly equal strength, but AlphaZero had apparently crushed [Stockfish] in a match.'

Are the AI chess engines like AlphaZero destined to overcome the traditional, hand-crafted engines like Stockfish? Or is it all a smoke-and-mirrors show?

08 April 2018

Morphy Stereoview, London

For this edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the item pictured below was the least expensive on the short list for the previous fortnight, but the most interesting for me, because it ties in to a previous post. Titled 'Rare c.1850s stereoview US/New Orleans Chess Prodigy Paul Morphy', it sold for US $425, Buy-It-Now.

The description said,

For sale is an exceedingly scarce photographic stereoview of US/New Orleans chess prodigy, Paul Morphy, playing Hungarian champion and President of the St. James Chess Club, Johann Löwenthal.

Stereoview was made by the London Stereoscope Company in circa 1858, and bears the company's blind stamp in the lower left hand corner. Some wear and fading, but the image is otherwise clear and in good condition. It bears the story of Morphy's ascent from the Louisiana backwoods as a young teen to the top of the chess ranks. Morphy is widely considered to be the best player of his era and the unofficial world champion. He defeated (usually very easily) most of the major players in Europe, and is considered by some to be the greatest prodigy of all time. This is a photo of his 1858 match versus Löwenthal, which he won handily. Scarce.

More accurately, the company's stamp in the corner said 'The London Stereoscopic Company, 54 Cheapside'. As for 'Morphy's ascent from the Louisiana backwoods', I'll transcribe the back of the card in full, not because it adds to the Morphy record, but because it doesn't appear to have been transcribed before.

Mr. Paul Morphy, the Great American Chess Player -and- M. Löwenthal, President of the St. James's Chess Club

Paul Morphy was born in New Orleans, on the 22nd of June, 1837, his Mother was of French and his Father of Spanish origin; Paul's earlier years were passed at the Jefferson Academy in the place of his birth ; in 1850 he became a student at St Joseph's College, Spring Hill, near Mobile, Alabama; he graduated from this institution in high standing in 1854, but remained another year as resident graduate, since that time he has devoted himself to the study of the law.

Paul's parents were fond of chess, and he was initiated by them at the age of ten. In May 1850, M. Lowenthal the distinguished Hungarian passed through New Orleans; on the 22nd and 25th of that month he played with Paul, (at that time not 13 years of age,) in the presence of a large number of amateurs, the first game was drawn, the second and third were won by the invincible young Philidor.

It was with great prestige that Paul Murphy arrived in New York on the 5th of October, to take part in the first Congress of the American Chess Association, and he overthrew, either in the grand tournament or in side play, one after another of those men who had long been looked up to as the magnates of the American Chess world; since then Mr Morphy has visited England and added widely to his fame by the conquest of Messrs. Lowenthal and Boden, defeating the former (in a match for £100 a side) at the rate of 3 games to 1, and the latter in the proportion of 5 to 1.

At Birmingham on the 27th August, 1858, Mr. Morphy contested 8 games, without the aid of chess board or men. against 8 members of the British Chess Association. with the unparalleled result of his having won 6„ drawn 1, and lost 1 of the 8 played, a performance which Lord Lyttelton pronounced the most wonderful thing he had ever witnessed. At a grand banquet given to Mr. Morphy in Paris, a marble bust of him was crowned with laurels amidst the loudest acclamations. On April 25th, 1859, Mr. Morphy played simultaneously 5 of the most renowned players of the St. James's Chess Club; the game at the 1st table was won by Mr. Morphy, at the 2nd it was drawn, at the 3rd it was won by Mr. Barnes, at the 4th it was won by Mr. Morphy, at the 5th it was drawn.

The stereoview establishes the place of the scenes shown in an earlier post, Morphy, Loewenthal, Young Man, and Lady (November 2011), to London.

06 April 2018

Chess by the Campfire

All photos subtitled 'Victoria Range. Grampians National Park. Victoria. [Australia]'

Photo top left: Campfire and Moon © Flickr user Ed Dunens under Creative Commons.

Campfire and moon and chess game in progress. Other photos: 'Pondering', 'The Move', and 'The Reply'.

01 April 2018

Berlin Candidates - Background

When it comes to this blog's series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), the World Championship gets special mention. Just after starting the series I featured World Championship Sociology (ditto) and World Championship Social Media (December 2016). A couple of weeks ago, for the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament, we had The Capablanca Cocktail. One theme stands out from these examples: I like background. Here's a video with plenty of it.

Vlog #30: Candidates Tournament (9:22) • 'Published on Mar 30, 2018'

Shown in the initial frame above are Lennart Ootes (also mentioned in the 'Cocktail' post), vlogger Fiona Steil-Antoni (wikipedia.org), and photographer David Llada (chessdom.com; recent interview).

30 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Final Press Conference

Just like the previous edition of Video Friday, Game and Mistake of the Day ('Kramnik - Caruana / Round 4'), the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament accounted for nearly the entire short list of choices for this post. I had decided beforehand to feature one of the final videos from Youtube's World Chess channel, and was pleased to find the press conference from the decisive game of the last round.

Press conference with the winner of Candidates 2018 Fabiano Caruana (15:30) • 'Published on Mar 27, 2018'

The session started well: 'We have with us the winner of the tournament, Fabiano Caruana. Congratulations!', followed by a warm round of applause, followed by a statement from GM Caruana ('I'm absolutely thrilled!'). Then things became atypical, which is typical for chess, when Agon/Worldchess CEO Ilya Merenzon took the microphone.

It's the first press conference I take part in. I just wanted to say, 'Wow!', to all the players who are here -- and especially to Fabiano -- but also to those who are maybe in the VIP room drinking (at least I hope). The tournament has been amazing.

Lots of journalists have been asking me as an organizer, 'Who do you cheer for? What do you hope for?'. There are many answers, obviously. From a marketing point of view, it was obviously interesting to see Sergey Karjakin win. It would be interesting to see [Vladimir] Kramnik win, especially after his games. But for Fabiano to win, it's not only me -- it seems like it's everyone -- hoped for it. Now the event in London is going to be so exciting and I can't wait to be there. We'll discuss it more in detail later. [Fabiano] is the hero for now.

The FIDE calendar says, 'World Championship Match 2018; London, UK; 9-Nov-2018; 28-Nov-2018'. Let's keep our fingers crossed that Agon/Worldchess sorts out the problems that plagued their online presentation in Berlin.

29 March 2018

March Yahoos

In last month's February Yahoos, I noted, 'This post marks five straight months of this blog ending the month with a Yahoo title.' Thanks to Fabiano Caruana's convincing victory in the 2018 Berlin Candidates tournament (which I documented on my World Chess Championship blog in yesterday's post Berlin Candidates - Third Week), we can now make that six straight months. Unlike all chess stories that I can remember, the first story recorded below was at the top of the Yahoo news feed. It's also unusual to have no photo attached to either headline.

2018-03-28: Fabiano Caruana Wins The Candidates Tournament, Becomes First American to Challenge for World Chess Championship Title Since Bobby Fischer in 1972 (yahoo.com)

The Candidates Tournament held in Berlin, Germany, has come to a conclusion and, at the end of a grueling 18 days of chess, American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana has emerged victorious and will be the next Challenger for the World Championship title. The Candidates brought together the best players in the world to determine the next Challenger, and it was an incredibly tight race. A crucial victory by Caruana against Armenia'sLevon Aronian in the penultimate round put him half a point ahead of his closest rivals - he even increased his lead in the final round with a victory with the black pieces against Russia's Alexander Grischuk. This is a historic result for American chess.

That Yahoo stub led to a story with the same title, Fabiano Caruana Wins The Candidates Tournament... (businessinsider.com), which was marked 'PRESS RELEASE PR Newswire'. The source of the stories was Fabiano Caruana Wins The Candidates Tournament... (prnewswire.com). Since it's not good journalistic practice to copy a press release verbatim, the chess story must have caught the mainstream press unprepared. The source of the press release was the Saint Louis Chess Club.

2018-03-28: US chess grandmaster Caruana wins shot at world title match (yahoo.com; Associated Press)

American chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana has won the candidates tournament for the right to take on world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway for his title in November. The 25-year-old Caruana is the first American to challenge for the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972. Caruana beat Russia's Alexander Grischuk in the candidates' last game on Tuesday to bring his points total to 9.0 after 14 rounds.

Comparisons between Bobby Fischer in 1972 and Fabiano Caruana in 2018 are inevitable. They aren't particularly helpful and I'll try to avoid doing the same.

27 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Tiebreaks

In the previous post, Two Championship Qualifying Events, I gave the standings with two rounds to go in the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament. Everyone knew that a complicated tiebreak scenario was looming, but it was still too early to calculate the permutations.

The tiebreak rules play an important role in a Candidates tournament even when they are not invoked at the end of the event. Five years ago, after the London Candidates - Tiebreaks (April 2013), I wrote,

The 2013 London Candidates Tournament was a good show from start to end. The last three of the 14 rounds featured a neck-and-neck race between ex-World Champion Kramnik and GM Carlsen. [...] Carlsen's 13th round win gave him more than equality -- it also gave him the tiebreak advantage in case of an equal score after the last round.

Both players lost in the last round and Carlsen went on to challenge World Champion Anand and gain the title. Two years ago, in Moscow Candidates - Third Week (March 2016), I noted,

Going into the last round, the tiebreak situation was complicated. The two players leading the pack, Karjakin and Caruana, were due to play each other, so a win for either would be sufficient to win the event. In case of a draw, Karjakin would win on tiebreak if Anand, the third placed player, also drew. If Anand won, thereby achieving the same score as the other two, Caruana would win on tiebreak.

Karjakin beat Caruana and earned the right to challenge Carlsen. In the 2018 Berlin event, the standings before the last round, along with the pairings, are shown in the following chart taken from Chess24.com.

The players with a chance of winning the tournament (plus their scores going into the last round) are:-

8.0 Caruana
7.5 Mamedyarov, Karjakin
7.0 Ding Liren

It's still not easy to calculate each player's chances to win. I listed the tiebreak criteria in the '2013 London Candidates' post and they haven't changed since. For an overview of the possibilities today, see this article from yesterday: Candidates tiebreak scenarios (chessbase.com). Even for Chessbase, I'm not certain the situation is completely clear. The URL for the article says, 'Candidates Tiebreak Favours Mamedyarov', but the article starts, 'Advantage Caruana'. I tried to work out the odds for myself, but it requires manipulating a three-dimensional array, and I gave up.

In another post for today, one top player/organizer pleaded, Can We Please Fix the Tiebreak Situation at the Candidates? (gregshahade.wordpress.com):-

The only reasonable way to break a tie in an event of this magnitude is to play a tiebreak match for it. I could easily end the blog here, and the majority of the chess playing community would agree with me. However it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

Indeed, it's not so simple. Remember World Championship Fizzle (November 2016), when World Champion Carlsen effectively refused to engage in any combat during the last game of a title match and to take his chances in the tiebreak games? The whole chess world groaned, but Carlsen's strategy was straightforward. While his opponent, GM Karjakin, was preparing his opening for the last round game, Carlsen was preparing his openings for the tiebreak. The strategy worked brilliantly and Carlsen retained his title. Back to IM Greg Shahade's post, he continued,

What does it mean that there is no tiebreak after tomorrow’s games? It means that these are going to be the most intense classical chess games that you’ve ever seen.

I'm watching the games as I write this, and 'intense' is the right word. The tiebreak rules are working better here than they did for that 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin title match. IM Shahade goes on to suggest that, to maintain the tension into the last round,

The tiebreak should take place before the first round!

I'm on record favoring that scenario before a match, but I'm not sure how well it works before a tournament. Whatever the case, the situation two hours into the last round of the 2018 Candidates is no clearer than it was when the round started. Whether the tiebreak rules are finally invoked or not, they played a role and Carlsen's challenger will be known in the next few hours.