31 December 2015

More Rummaging

There's more to

Rummaging through 30-year-old chess magazines looking for details on zonals

than the sort of chess history in FIDE's Cradle. There's also art. This cover from the July 1984 issue of Europe Echecs reminded me of the Knights Errant, a group of early chess bloggers who believed that chess was all about tactics, tactics, tactics.

Sancho Panza Counting the Kibitzers, Roland Partos

The artist was the older brother of IM Charles Partos, and was himself a keen chess player. Who are the kibitzers that Sancho Panza is counting? Don Quixote? No, the trees to the right are full of faces.

29 December 2015

Borrowing Leaves

Yes, the holiday week continues and, no, I don't have enough time for blogging. Today I'll borrow a leaf from Felican Kristnaskon! (Merry Christmas!), which borrowed a leaf from Top eBay Chess Items by Price.

While I was working on the Christmas post, I looked at eBay auctions that never make the cut in 'Top Chess Items' and particularly liked the photo shown below. Titled '1957 Vintage MARCEL DUCHAMP LARRY EVANS Chess Photo Art 16x20 ~ PHILIPPE HALSMAN', it sold for nearly US $110, Buy-It-Now.

I don't normally use watermarked photos -- this one is marked 'Finephoto' (the name of the eBay seller) in the lower left -- but the subject, the quality of the photo, and the additional information convinced me to break this rule. The description ('Print Specifications') added,

Photographer: Philippe Halsman (Latvia born American, 1906 - 1979) - internationally renowned portrait and fashion photographer, one of the most important and influential photographers from the 1940's through the 1970's.
Subject: Marcel Duchamp and Larry Evans playing chess.
Date Of Negative: 1957
Type Of Print: Authentic Vintage Sheet Fed Photogravure (from original image - authorized by Philippe Halsman)
Date Of Print: 1972
Original Issue: Bound sheet fed photogravure compilation.
Paper: Medium weight, clay coat - satin/matte finish.
Print Origin: Italy
Approximate Image Size Inches: 8.75 x 10.25 inches
Mount Board Size Inches: 20 x 16 inches
Mount Board Color: White
Print Border: No - full bleed print.
Condition Grade: Extra Fine ++
Verso: Professionally dry mounted with Bienfang archival materials onto sturdy 4ply museum mat board.

One of the most significant photographic artists of the 20th century, Halsman has had numerous exhibitions of his work and his iconic portrait images are held in important collections and museums throughout the world. In 1958 Halsman was listed in Popular Photography magazine's "World's Ten Greatest Photographers" along with Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Ernst Haas, Yousuf Karsh, Gjon Mili, and Eugene Smith. In 1975 he received the Life Achievement in Photography Award from the American Society of Magazine photographers.


Marcel Duchamp and Larry Evans weren't exactly unknowns either. All of that taken together makes a concise introduction to collecting vintage chess photos.

28 December 2015

Evaluation Anomalies - Engines Behaving Badly

After the previous post, Evaluation Anomaly - Mass Exchange, there are still a number of games to be examined in TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies. In this post, I'll take a quick look at two more. (As in the previous posts, see TCEC Archive Mode to play through the complete games using TCEC's helpful game viewer.)

The diagram below shows positions from two games, both with Stockfish playing White and Komodo playing Black. The top row shows two positions from game 44 and the bottom row shows two positions from game 52.

In game 44, after 61.Bf2, reaching the first diagrammed position, Stockfish evaluated the position at wv=0.33 (a third of a Pawn in its favor). Komodo played 61...Rd5, with a value of wv=0.00 (dead equal). Stockfish played 62.g6+ (wv=0.33), to which Komodo replied 62...Ke7 (wv=-0.41), reaching the second position. Note that Komodo's evaluation of the position has dropped suddenly to a negative value (i.e. in Black's favor).

The game continued for another 30 moves with White giving itself an advantage of wv=0.33 and Black giving itself an advantage of around wv=-0.40. At move 90, Black's evaluation quickly dropped to zero (wv=0.00), and ten moves later White's evaluation did the same.

What happened here? It's easy for a human to see that after 62.g6+, the position is completely blocked. Neither player can break through without incurring a serious disadvantage. The game continued for another 50 moves before being declared a draw, with both engines recognizing the inevitable draw 10-20 moves before the 50th move was reached.

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 44

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 52

In game 52, Stockfish played 43.Raa1 reaching the first position in the bottom row and giving itself an advantage of wv=0.65. Komodo played 43...Qd2, with a similar evaluation of wv=0.62. Both engines consider the position to be nearly two-thirds of a Pawn in White's favor, which should give good winning chances.

The next few moves were 44.Qxd2 (wv=0.81) 44...exd2 (wv=0.03) 45.Red1 (wv=0.81) 45...Re2 (wv=0.00) 46.h3 (wv=0.00) 46...Ra8 (wv=0.00), reaching the second position in the bottom row. The advantage of two-thirds of a Pawn has evaporated and both engines consider the position to be completely equal, although it took White a few additional moves to realize it.

What happened here? In the first diagram, both engines saw that White will win a Pawn -- losing the a-Pawn in exchange for Black's d/e-Pawns. That leaves White a healthy Pawn ahead, right? No, unfortunately for White, the 'healthy' extra Pawn is an advantage of f/g/h-Pawns for White vs. g/h-Pawns for Black. With both Kings placed behind their Pawns, an experienced human player knows that the Rook and Pawn endgame is a draw. It took the engines a few more moves to see that.

In both games discussed here, the engines continued to move their pieces hither and thither for many moves before the draw was declared. Good human players would have agreed a draw as soon as boredom set in.

27 December 2015

Chess Curriculum - Summary

It's been nine months since I first got the idea from Google -- Google Autocompletes CIS (29 March 2015) -- to look at what constitutes a

The initial survey included that kickoff post plus the following posts:-

From that I derived:-

Then I looked at each curriculum in turn:-

If I were a relatively novice player looking for a comprehensive course to teach others, I would follow the ChessKid/Chess.com curriculum. As an experienced player looking for a structured approach where I supply the details, I would follow the Susan Polgar curriculum. The main FIDE curriculum ('Age 7-9') might also fill a niche somewhere. As for the others, I found them limited in their approach. Although I don't plan to take this series any further, I might come back to it from time to time. I realize that I've only scratched the surface.

25 December 2015

Felican Kristnaskon!

Carrying on the CFAA Christmas greeting tradition (last seen in 2014's Joyeux Noël!) and borrowing a leaf from Top eBay Chess Items by Price, here is the first (and perhaps last) annual 'Top eBay Chess Christmas Items by Price'.

Left to right, top to bottom (taken from the items' descriptions):-

  • Chess Lyrics A Collection of Chess Problems by A.F. Mackenzie 1887-1905. Edited by Alain C. White. Published by J.H. Graham New York 1905. Hardback, 476pp with 282 compositions. This is the 1st book edited by White in the Christmas Series and is signed by A.C. White! Two page memoriam by A. C. White after solutions at end for A.F. Mackenzie (October 6, 1861 - June 23, 1905) He passed when the book was going to press. Very scarce book!

  • J. Juchli's Schachprobleme. Edited & published by Alain C. White of New York and Dr. M. Henneberger of Bern 1908. Text completely in German. Hardback, 93pp. 54 compositions with annotated solutions. Probably not part of the Christmas series? A scarce book.

  • Chess Lyrics by A.F. Mackenzie. Edited by A.C. White. New York, 1905. Number 1 in the A.C. White series. Scarce.

  • Chuck Berry CHESS 1714 Run Rudolph Run and Merry Christmas Baby

  • A signed copy of Les Mille et un Mats Inverses By Alain C. White. Published by Numa Preti, Paris 1907. Two volumes, both completely in French. The first volume inscribed, "G. Dobbs Presented by Alain C. White Xmas 1907" and with tipped in insert "Avec les Meilleurs Voeux de Noel. Alain C. White 1907." Volume I, hardback, unnumbered pages with 1001 compositions. Volume II, hardback 231pp with Introduction, solutions and composers. Very scarce set.

  • Disney Chess Collection NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Set of 24 Figure; Produced: Tomy Tec

And remember: Drive safely!

24 December 2015

Bobby's Big Hands

Three months ago I ran a couple of posts about Bobby Fischer photos from LIFE magazine: That's Not Bobby! and That's Definitely Bobby!. To round out the series, here is a composite photo that I've been saving for the right moment.

Source: Chess Champion Bobby Fischer

GM Seirawan talking about GM Byrne talking about Fischer:-

He had these very big hands and the pieces just danced as they moved about the board.

From An afternoon chat with Yasser - Part I (This Week's Chess Safari).

22 December 2015

FIDE's Cradle

Rummaging through 30-year-old chess magazines looking for details on Zonals 1984-1987, I discovered a small photo filler (Europe Echecs 1986-02 p.4) captioned,

Mairie du 9e arrondissement de Paris ou furent signés, en 1924, les statuts constitutifs de la F.I.D.E. Le berceau n'a pas changé.

If your French isn't any better than mine, the photo showed the city hall of the Paris 9th district where the FIDE statutes were signed in 1924 ('the cradle hasn't changed'). There was no need to scan the photo, because better shots are available on the web (and the building still hasn't changed).

Source: Mairie du 9e arrondissement de Paris
or 9e arrondissement de Paris

Wondering if anyone had already documented this bit of chess history trivia, I discovered a series of three more recent articles, also from Europe Echecs -- see Paris 1924 Création de la FIDE (1), (2), (3) -- signed Georges Bertola.

That's the same Bertola I featured a few years back in Early Chess Magazines, and that makes an easy blog post for a busy holiday season. Not bad for a half hour of rummaging, plus I found plenty of info about the zonal cycle I was researching.


In part (1) of the series, Bertola says that FIDE was born on Sunday, 21 July 1924. Kazic's 'International Championship Chess : a Complete Record of FIDE Events' says, 20 July 1924. The page on International Chess Day [Wikipedia] says,

The international chess day is celebrated annually on July 20, the day the International Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded, in 1924.

Did Bertola get it wrong? But he knew it was a Sunday...


Later: ...Bertola got something wrong. According to the page for July 1924 (infoplease.com/calendar), 21 July 1924 was a Monday.

21 December 2015

Evaluation Anomaly - Mass Exchange

I learned so much from the exercise in Evaluation Anomaly - Long Combination that I decided to repeat it on another position from TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies. This time I chose game 18, Stockfish - Komodo.

The composite chart below shows four key positions from the game. I don't expect anyone to follow the moves mentally, but the game can be played on TCEC - Archive Mode, using the same instructions given in 'Long Combination'. All of the key move metrics are shown in the helpful interface used there.

The first position shows the game after the initial eight moves of the opening variation imposed on the engines. Stockfish's next move as White was 9.Bb3, which it evaluated as wv=0.17. Komodo's move as Black was 9...h6, with a value of wv=0.23. Note that both 'wv' values are close to the 0.20 predicted for the initial start position. For the other positions, I'll use a sum of the values from a White-Black move pair (0.17 + 0.23 = 0.40 here) to compare the evaluations through the game.

The game continued 10.Nf1 Re8 11.a4 b5 12.Ng3 Bd7 13.Bd2 b4 14.a5 Rb8 15.h3 bxc3 16.bxc3 Qc8 17.Bc2 Rb2, then 18.Qc1 (wv=0.54) and 18...Qb8 (wv=0.37), reaching the second position. Here the combined wv is 0.91, more than double the value in our first position. This was followed by 19.Nf5 Qb7 20.Ne3 Qb8 21.Nh4 Ne7 22.Nc4 Rb7 23.d4 Ng6.

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 18

The third diagram shows the position after 24.Nxg6 (wv=0.67) 24...fxg6 (wv=0.56), with a combined wv of 1.23. This is the highest evaluation reached in the game, which continued 25.Be3 Kh7 26.Qd2 Be6 27.Bd3 Bxc4 28.Bxc4 Nxe4 29.Qd3 c6 30.d5 cxd5 31.Bxd5 Nc5 32.Bxc5 Bxc5.

The next two moves -- 33.Bxb7 (wv=0.27) 33...Qxb7 (wv=0.09) -- reach the fourth diagram and involve an exchange sacrifice, where Black has one Pawn as compensation. The combined value of wv=0.36 is substantially below the combined wv from the third diagram.

What happened between the third and fourth diagrammed positions to cause such a dramatic decline in the evaluation? In the third position, a pair of Knights has just been exchanged, but all of the other pieces are still on the board. In the fourth position, three pieces remain for each side. Between the two positions, half of the pieces were swapped off. Although exchange sacrifices can be tricky to evaluate, the position in the fourth diagram looks harder to win for White than to draw for Black -- the Bishop is well placed for defense -- and the evaluation proves to be accurate.

The conclusion is that the evaluation in the third position is overly optimistic. Using the same calculation explained at the end of the post on 'Evaluation Anomalies', the ~0.60 advantage for White gives a 67% chance of winning the game. The third position might simply be in the 33% of positions that are more difficult to win. We are, after all, dealing with probabilities here. Only after more pieces are exchanged do we start to see the eventual outcome.

20 December 2015

1978 USSR Championship

In 2014 I featured four items with multiple autographs on Top eBay Chess Items by Price:-

In 2015, with the year nearly over, this is the first. Titled 'Russian Chess: Program of 46 USSR Chess Championship signed by all participants', it sold for US $415 after 50 bids from five bidders.

The description added,

Program of the 46 USSR Chess Championship among men (Major League) autographed by all participants:
Garry Kasparov, Efim Geller, [...], Vitaly Tseshkovsky

Tbilisi, Chess Palace, 2-27 December 1978; Language: Russian; 16 pages.

For a crosstable of the event, see 46th USSR Chess Championship, 1978.

18 December 2015

Mobius Chess

The caption explained,

A large suspended steel mobius strip covered by a grid of side glow fibre optic.

And it changes color.

Top photo: FIGMENT Boston 2015 © Flickr user AnubisAbyss under Creative Commons.

No more back rank mates!

17 December 2015

Magnus Tweeted...

... and the world listened.

Chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen: 'Bobby Fischer is my dream opponent'
(CNN.com; Twitter: #AskMagnus)

What does the small print say?

MC: "Usually a salad or an omelet to get some energy. Something that's not too heavy." • MC: "I think there are many cultural reasons. Chess has generally [been a man's game and thus more men start playing chess -- so the numbers are much greater.]

Those were the answers, but what were the questions?

Q: What do you eat before a match? • Q: Why do men dominate chess, and what should be done about it?

Don't miss the other questions, like 'Who do you consider your strongest opponent in the next few years?' (Spoiler alert: GM Aronian)


I resisted the temptation to title this post 'Magnus Is Awesome', as in my previous post in the Yahoo series, Propaganda Is Awesome. P.S. The CNN photo slideshow of Magnus's career is worth the price of admission.

15 December 2015

Iconic Is Awesome

Iconic this, iconic that. These days, everywhere you look, something is 'iconic'. What about chess?

Google image search on 'chess "iconic"'

[Why the quotes around '>>>"iconic"<<<' in my search term? When I didn't quote the word, I received a whole page of results for chess plus the word 'famous'. Sometimes you have to tell Google that you want exactly what you wrote, not what Google thinks you want.]

First row: sandwiched between iconic Bobby Fischer and iconic Marcel Duchamp are four photos of an iconic chess set, which also appears in the middle of the second row. Maybe iconic doesn't mean 'widely recognized and well-established', because I couldn't remember seeing it before. The link on the first image goes to Iconic Buildings Become Pawns in Skyline Chess. Now I get it.

Second row: sandwiched between similar shots of the iconic chess scene from the iconic film 'Det Sjunde Inseglet' are iconic 'Samuel Reshevsky, age 8, defeating several chess masters at once in France, 1920', followed by our iconic chess set, followed by 'Baby Arthur recreates iconic movie scenes', i.e. the 'Seventh Seal' again.

Third row: starts with 'Chess Knight angry horse iconic', followed by 'a new chess set that is currently being used at the World Chess Championship Candidates Tournament in London' ('beautifully iconic and simple'), followed by 'Vaclav Touzimsky's iconic picture, a Soviet tank crashes into a building in the town of Liberec' (*), followed by an illustration for 'Famous Business Leaders' on AchieveIconic.com, followed by iconic Tobey Maguire ('Hollywood to bring iconic US-Sovyet chess standoff to silver screen').

Fourth row (not shown): more of the same.

(*) What does a Soviet/Sovyet tank have to do with chess? For the long answer, see Huffington: Chess in the Time of War [Chessbase.com, after GM Kavalek].

14 December 2015

Evaluation Anomaly - Long Combination

I ended the post on TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies with the desire to 'take a closer look at one or two of these games to determine why the engine(s) failed'. The first game of the six I flagged was played in round eight, so I started there. To play through the game and to examine all of the engine evaluations, see TCEC - Top Chess Engine Championship - Archive Mode, Season 8 - 2015.08.21, Superfinal - 2015.11.06, game 8.

Annotating a game between good engines -- the two best chess engines in the world -- is almost hopeless. The calculations are (nearly) error free, the variations are razor sharp, and the plans are incredibly deep, making the whole game incomprehensible to the human analyst. Having said that, I'll give it a try anyway, hoping to learn something from the exercise.

The evaluation anomaly started at move 16, the first position shown in the following composite diagram. White has sacrificed a Pawn, getting the open g-file against the Black King as compensation. White (Stockfish) played 16.Be2, threatening a discovered attack on the Black Queen. The TCEC statistics show that White expected 16...Re8 in response, and gave the position a value of 0.29. Black (Komodo) played instead 16...Ne7, with a value of wv=0.40.

Here White saw a future combination and prepared it with 17.Qd2, while its evaluation shot up to wv=1.05. Now something went wrong with the TCEC stats. Black played the expected 17...Ng6, protecting the g-file, but the stats show wv=0.00, indicating equality. That can't be right, so I'll just ignore it. The game continued 18.h3 (wv=0.94), protecting the h-Pawn with the Rook and finally threatening the discovered attack on the Queen, 18...Qa5 (wv=0.37), reaching the position in the second diagram.

Here White unleashed the planned combination, sacrificing the Knight with 19.Nh4. The game continued 19...Nxh4 20.Rxg7+ Kxg7 21.Rg3+ (discovering another attack on the Black Queen) 21...Qg5 22.Rxg5+ hxg5 23.Qxg5+ Ng6, reaching the third diagram.

Stockfish - Komodo, TCEC Season 8 Superfinal, game 8

In the third diagram, White has a Queen and a Pawn against two Rooks and a Knight. Normally this would be better for Black, but the combination isn't finished yet. White played 24.h4 (wv=0.94), threatening to attack the pinned Knight. Play continued 24...f6 (wv=0.43, Black's evaluation is consistent with its opinion from before the combination started), 25.Qg3 Kh7 26.h5 Ne7 27.Qxd6 Rf7 28.Bd3 Ng8 29.e5+ f5 30.d5 Re7 31.Qd8 exd5 32.f4 b6, reaching the last diagram.

After 32...b6 (wv=0.11), White has two ways to repair the material deficit. It chose 33.Qxd5 (wv=0.81), followed by 33...Rb8 34.Qd8 Kh8 35.Bxf5 Bxf5 36.Qxb8. After the last capture, the material is a Queen and three Pawns against Rook, Bishop, and Knight (Q+3P:R+B+N). White gave the position wv=0.72, while Black, after 36...Kh7, gave it wv=0.12.

The game continued for another 40+ moves. White was unable to break Black's defense and the game ended 'Draw by adjudication: TCEC draw rule', both sides evaluating the position at wv=0.00.

What happened to the advantage of wv=1.05 that White calculated for 17.Qd2? Of course, I can't say for sure, but the combination initiated with 19.Nh4 wasn't completed until 36.Qxb8. That's 18 moves, around 36 ply, deep. The evaluation of the resulting material imbalance (Q+3P:R+B+N) is itself a complex task. Maybe it's simply an engine example of 'long analysis, wrong analysis'.

13 December 2015

Chess Curriculum - ChessKid/Chess.com II

After the recap and video in the previous post, Chess Curriculum - ChessKid/Chess.com, let's look at the curriculum itself. The first document, Introduction.pdf, has two parts:-

  • Welcome & Introduction
  • Table of Contents (TOC, detailed)

The 'Welcome' tells us who should benefit most from this material:-

We keep the language simple. However, while we believe children with a fourth- or fifth-grade reading level could work through this curriculum on their own, the most practical application of this curriculum is instructor-guided, and in many cases we recommend a classroom format. Most lessons are designed to be delivered in an hour – with optional worksheets to assign for independent learning.

The TOC outlines five sections with four lessons per section. The sections are structured as follows:-

  • Section 1 – Starting Out: The Basics of Chess
  • Section 2 – The Basics of Playing, the "Phases" of Chess & the Opening
  • Section 3 – Tactics, Tactics & More Tactics
  • Section 4 – Endgame Play: Passed Pawns, Technique & King Play
  • Section 5 – Positional Chess, Planning & Advanced Piece Play

Each lesson contains three types of document : the material to be covered, an 'Instructor's Guide', and worksheets (plus answers). From the 'Welcome & Introduction' again:-

The Instructor's Guides furnish lesson plans, provide practical advice, and even suggest ways to keep the experience fun! They also describe the "when and how" to allow for "mini-game" and "worksheet" practice during class. We strongly recommend that coaches (whether teaching in groups or privately) review the lessons in their entirety first, grasping the "big picture" goal of that lesson and all its parts, before teaching their student(s).

For example, the first lesson in Section 1 is:-

  • Lesson 1 - Meet the Players: King, Knight & Pawn

Its nine pages consist of the lesson material (three pages), 'Instructor Handout' (three pages), and three worksheets (one page each). The last section covers these four lessons:-

  • Lesson 17 - The Fundamentals of Positional Chess
  • Lesson 18 - Learning to Play with the "Little Guys"
  • Lesson 19 - Bad Pieces & Other Advanced Piece Play
  • Lesson 20 - Playing "Tournament Level" Chess Games & Planning

The last of the 22 documents, Summary.pdf, tells us,

Whether you are a chess coach just building your school program or club, an experienced chess teacher seeking new material and ideas, or simply a "chess kid" who had the work ethic and discipline to self-tutor your way through our curriculum – you should be proud of yourself! [...]

If you worked your way through our curriculum, solved every worksheet, played each mini-game, and took your time on the more difficult lessons, then we have fulfilled our promise to take you from a beginner's knowledge of chess to an experienced scholastic player's understanding of the game. (That's about 1300-1450 by the United States Chess Federation's rating system.)

Since my first post on this critical aspect of 'Chess in School' series, I've covered a half-dozen (or so) chess curriculums (curricula). The ChessKid/Chess.com offering is one of the most comprehensive. In my next post, I'll summarize my findings from all of the previous posts taken together.

11 December 2015

Nakamura on the Grand Chess Tour

This week's selections for Video Friday were dominated by the London Chess Classic, aka the Grand Chess Tour. By coincidence, the first clip I watched was relevant to my post from a few days ago, Propaganda Is Awesome, where I learned that

The London event is hugely important because it represents the culmination of the the first serious effort to bring all the best chess players in the world together for a big-money contest that can signal a challenge to the World Championship cycle, which commences early next year with the Candidates Tournament.

Would GM Nakamura have anything to say about the London event being 'the most important chess tournament in decades'?

London Chess Classic 2015: Hikaru Nakamura (2:57) • 'Hikaru Nakamura on playing against Levon Aronian and (not) playing on his birthday.'

About 40 seconds into the clip, Peter Doggers of Chess.com asks,

Q: In the virtual standings of the Grand Chess Tour, you're actually on top. Do you feel you're getting some extra pressure? • A: I think if there wasn't this tournament coming up in March, maybe I would be feeling a lot of pressure to win this. The Candidate's Tournament is coming up in March and it's a thousand times more important than the London Chess Classic or the Grand Chess Tour. It really doesn't bother me, because it's just preparation for that. I'm warming up.

So much for propaganda.

10 December 2015

FIDE Anti-Cheating Guidelines

A few days after my recent post on the 2014 adoption of the FIDE Anti-Cheating Proposal, I discovered news about the document in 2015 ACP General Assembly and Poll. This included the '2. ACP Poll: Anti-Cheating Committee' and a mention that 'You can find the Anti-Cheating Guidelines here', which led to the FIDE Handbook:-

A. Administrative Subjects
09. FIDE Code of Ethics
11. Anti-Cheating Guidelines

As far as I can tell (what's subject 10?), the guidelines were published before summer 2015 and incorporate the same document approved near the end of 2014.

I've already discussed the most recent FIDE Congress, Abu Dhabi, September 2015, in several previous posts -- see, for example, The Resurrection of Agon (on this blog) and Whither the World Championship? (on my WCC blog) -- and the Anti-Cheating Guidelines also played an important role at Abu Dhabi. Here are selected bullets from the document 'FIDE Congress, Abu Dhabi, Executive Board, 7-8 September 2015, Minutes':-

5.3. Arbiters' Commission. • The Commission’s next project is to train the arbiters in anti-cheating regulations, in cooperation with the ACC. This will be mainly done by Internet seminars, so arbiters become familiar with the regulations and trained permanently on the Internet, to minimise the expenses.

5.7. Constitutional Commission. • The Executive Board approved the report of the Commission, included the indications concerning the appointment and functioning of Ethics Commission’s investigative chambers on cheating cases. The Executive Board, on the other hand, bearing in mind the technicalities of the subject of the report, recommends to organise a joint meeting of the chairmen of the Constitutional Commission, Ethics Commission, Anti-cheating Committee, with the presence of the FIDE officials, if available, aimed to finalise the publication and dissemination of a consolidated text on FIDE rules concerning anti-cheating.

5.20. Online Commission. • Mr. Stubenvoll said QC [Qualification Commission] in its meeting was against the proposal to have ratings for these online matches and the main reasons that we are not against the idea, the idea is very good but there are not current regulations and we have to be careful to avoid cheating and that the main principles.

5.21.1. FIDE World Cup 2015. • The event shall be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, 10 September – 5 October 2015. Mr. Makropoulos said everything was prepared there. The Anti-Cheating Committee is ready. Ms. Tsedenova has visited recently and checked all facilities.

That excerpt for '5.20. Online Commission' doesn't make any sense to me and would be worth a separate look, both for its anti-cheating direction and for its current status re online play. The two most important anti-cheating commission/committee reports from the minutes referred to annexes, excerpts from which I incorporate here.

5.16. Ethics Commission. • Annex 52 is Minutes of the meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Annex 52: Anti-Cheating • In terms of the FIDE Statutes, independent Investigatory Chambers may be appointed by the Presidential Board and charged to investigate and submit motivated reports to the Ethics Commission on specific cases or typologies of cases. The Presidential Board in Abu Dhabi will be asked to approve separate Investigatory Chambers for three specific cheating cases as well as a standing Anti-Cheating Investigatory Chamber. As a consequence, the Ethics Commission expects to receive at least three cheating-related cases for decision in the very near future. Of course everyone agrees that the nature of these cases calls for expeditious judging.

5.19. Anti-Cheating Committee. • Annex 46 is Minutes of the meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Annex 46: The Anti-Cheating Committee (ACC), the FIDE successor of the ACP/FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee, was set up following a decision by the Presidential Board held in Sochi on 8-9 November 2014. Nominations to the Committee have been finalized in December and the Committee started operation on January 1, 2015. Originally it was FIDE’s intention to grant the Committee a Commission status but the lack of a quorum on the final day of the FIDE General Assembly at Tromso caused FIDE lawyers to call for prudence.

Annex 46 also included the following bulleted paragraphs.

  • Ongoing investigations.
  • Computer-assisted fraud detection system and Internet-Based Screening Tool. ['hindered by substantial technical difficulties']
  • Developing a [web] site.
  • Tournament inspections.
  • Hindering external communication. ['hinder fraudulent transmissions during chess events']
  • Improving procedures.
  • AC Compliance form.
  • AC Guideline awareness.
  • Transmission delay.
  • From Guidelines to Regulations.
  • RCF Proposal. [Russian Chess Federation; see Annex 53]

There's so much more that I could discuss here, that I don't know where to start. Add to that the 2015 World Cup that was ongoing at the time of the FIDE Congress -- Unprecedented Anti-Cheating Measures At Baku World Cup (Chess.com) -- and it's clear that I have to come back to this subject another time.

The ACP Poll that I mentioned in the first paragraph asked 'How do you rate' various aspects of the anti-cheating program ('ACP’s involvement', 'the Anti-Cheating Guidelines', etc.). At this point I would answer 'Good' or 'Very good' to all aspects. But, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

08 December 2015

Propaganda Is Awesome

The Yahoo headline said, 'The most important chess tournament in decades is happening right now in London', and the link went to BusinessInsider.com. As you can see for yourself, the lead said,

The London Chess Classic is underway in England and will continue until Dec. 13. This is one of the chess world's premier events, usually attracting all

Attracting all the what? Mosquitos? No, the article continued,

attracting all the top players, but this year it's extra-special.

Why is it extra-special?

That's because it's the culmination of the Chess Grand Tour, a brand-new, high-level $1-million series of tournaments.

Oh, right, I had forgotten about the Grand Tour. Thanks for reminding me. What about the Candidates Tournaments of 2012 and 2014 -- weren't they extra-special?

The London event is hugely important because it represents the culmination of the the first serious effort to bring all the best chess players in the world together for a big-money contest that can signal a challenge to the World Championship cycle, which commences early next year with the Candidates Tournament. The winner of that event will face Carlsen to battle for the World Championship. The past two times around, it's been won by former World Champ Vishy Anand of India, who's also in the Grand Chess Tour field.

In fact, Anand won the last Candidates Tournament in 2014. Carlsen won in 2012, giving him the right to challenge Anand. But we soon learn that facts aren't the strong point of this article.

Many chess experts and observers consider the World Championship, as it's currently managed by chess's governing body, FIDE, to be a deeply corrupt affair that's controlled by the Russian chess elite and cronies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

We do? It is? In my previous post on the source, Business Insider Chess (May 2015), I mentioned that it was no longer in contention for the 'prize for bonehead chess reporting'. Maybe I spoke too quickly.

For the previous post on Yahoo's chess reporting, see Chess Is Awesome. If we're going to serve propaganda, let's keep it positive.

07 December 2015

TCEC Season 8 - Evaluation Anomalies

After the TCEC Season 8 Superfinal ended (see Week 4 for a wrapup), I stepped through all 100 games looking for examples of misleading evaluations. These are games where at least one of the engines seems to have misevaluated the position. Thanks to the TCEC Archive Mode page, it's easy to review the games in quick succession.

I found 32 games (there's that number again!) where one side or the other evaluated the position as a strong possibility of a win, but the game eventually ended in a draw. I whittled that number down to six and made the following composite chart. It shows the TCEC evaluation graph for each of the six games.

For example, the first graph (game 8, Stockfish - Komodo) shows that around move 20, White evaluated the position to be +1.20 in its favor, while Black evaluated the position at +0.40 for White. The game eventually petered out to a draw.

The third graph shows the infamous game 22 (Stockfish had White in all even-numbered games) discussed in my post on Week 2, where White apparently blundered a certain win. The sixth graph shows the same game I used in my post on Week 3, where I noted,

White starting with an advantage of ~0.60 Pawns in the opening, eventually dropping to 0.00 in the endgame.

Many games followed that same pattern, although with different evaluations in the opening, some with only the ~0.20 advantage predicted by theory for the traditional start position.

A previous post in this series, Chess Engines - Advanced Evaluation, discussed the components of the evaluation function. We also know that A Pawn Equals 200 Rating Points (February 2013), thereby allowing us to use the calculated evaluation to predict the probability of a win. In game 8, the +1.20 advantage equates to an 80% chance of a win, but the game was nevertheless drawn. In another post I'll take a closer look at one or two of these games to determine why the engine(s) failed.

06 December 2015

Culling a Collection

This current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price started badly. As I was working my way down the list of top items, selecting recently sold items for my short list, I realized that there were fewer items than usual. On top of that, the items were mostly chess sets. While I'll feature a chess set from time to time, there is more to chess collecting than sets.

When I reached my price cutoff point faster than usual, with almost nothing on my short list, I went back to see if the item on the previous edition, Chess Charcoal Drawing, was listed. Sure enough, it was missing. Then I noticed that the results page carried a notice near the top, 'All > Toys & Hobbies > Games'. Somehow my usual query had been altered to restrict items to the referenced category. I eliminated the restriction and again had a full list that I could work with.

I noticed long ago that eBay is constantly changing the look-and-feel of its web interface, usually catering to the needs of mobile users. It became so annoying that a few years ago I stopped using the auction service except for the 'Top Chess Items' series. If eBay doesn't want laptop customers, that's their choice.

Back to my short list, it was now longer than usual. While analyzing the items I had flagged, I realized they were almost all for books and signed documents, all from the same seller. The following image shows the top items from that seller; left to right, top to bottom, the items are for Chigorin, Ruy Lopez, Em.Lasker, Philidor, Staunton, and Lasker again. There were many more after this.

I looked at the seller's feedback and noticed that one of the first items was for 'Bobby Fischer Uncensored – Limited paperback edition'. The item's description started,

In 2009, I published Bobby Fischer Uncensored. At the suggestion of a friend I had a small number of books printed in paperback. It is the only time I ever did it. I still have a few copies left that I am now offering. Here is what Edward Winter had to say about the book when it was published:

"One of the most extraordinary of all chess books has just been published: Bobby Fischer Uncensored by David and Alessandra DeLucia (Darien, 2009). A richly-illustrated 394-page hardback of supreme quality, it presents hundreds of items from David DeLucia’s collection of Fischer material, including photographs, game-scores, correspondence, contracts, books and ephemera."

I've featured DeLucia’s collection several times on this blog, including Three Fischer Games Uncensored (October 2010). Looks like the world's top chess collector is/was selling a portion of his collection.

04 December 2015

Trafalgar Magic

With 860 views, 55 faves, 135 comments, and counting -- something is happening here. It's an entry in a contest, Contest #45 "Games & Sports" (other chess entries, too),

The fun of Games and Sports is what we're looking for in this challenge. Do you have a favorite sport? Or an old game tucked away in a closet or attic that would make unique art? Maybe some childhood game brings back special memories for you. Or maybe you even have a child or grandchild's game that could be turned into spectacular art.

and the numbers must be other contestants checking out the competition.

Checkmate © Flickr user abstractartangel77 under Creative Commons.

Despite its originality, the piece looked vaguely familiar. Then it hit me: Giant Chess in Trafalgar Square. The real magic is in the original.

03 December 2015

FIDE Anti-Cheating Proposal

I ended a recent post, Ethics in Chess Politics - Stories (November 2015), with a brief discussion of an alleged cheating case from earlier this year:-

'Case 3/2015: Complaint by Michaela Sandu against Natalia Zhukova and 14 other players' [...] A proper look at this case should discuss the evolving relationship between the Ethics Commission and the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee. I'll save that for another time.

That evolving relationship is not so easy to pin down, at least not for an outsider. In June 2014, the FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee released a proposal ('Annex 34'; see FIDE > Minutes, '2014 Tromso Commissions Reports' for copies of FIDE working documents) in preparation for the FIDE Congress at Tromso.

The document was discussed during the General Assembly at that Congress (August 2014), where the minutes tell us,

5.5. Anti-Cheating Committee • The Anti-Cheating Commission was formed because FIDE was faced with much criticism about cheating, particularly in youth competitions. We spoke to many Commissions and we agreed with them. There are points that are particularly important: Firstly, there are two organs that undertake these matters, there is an investigation chamber which will take the details and decide whether it should go to the Ethics Commissions for sentencing. [...]

There is Ken Regan’s technical system which finds out cases where the player who usually plays at 2200 rating finds out that the same player suddenly plays at 2900 level. I believe the statistics prove this enough for conviction. Our lawyer and Mr. Rivello did not accept this and said we needed more evidence. [Discussion] On the final day, Mr. Israel Gelfer asked to confirm that the report was approved. Mr. Nigel Freeman replied in the negative as there was no quorum and despite the absence of objections, the vote is needed.

I discussed the lack of a quorum in a post from last year, FIDE General Assembly Derailed (October 2014). After the same Congress, the Anti-Cheating Committee (ACC) released minutes of its own meeting ('Annex 73'; 'FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee Meeting, - 8 August 2014, Tromso, Norway'), with an attachment containing an updated proposal. FIDE doesn't use a document control system, but this version can be identified by its 'Section 1 - Commission Structure', which was Section 5 in the previous version.

Later FIDE issued a Press Release: 2014 4th quarter FIDE PB, saying

2014 4th quarter FIDE Presidential Board meeting; 8 November 2014; Sochi, Russia [...] The Presidential Board approved the new proposal of the Anti-cheating Commission and accordingly the new permanent Commission is now established and will start working immediately.

In fact, the lack of a quorum prevented FIDE from establishing a new permanent commission, so that action is awaiting final approval. As for the ACC document, it will have a tremendous impact on how high level tournaments are run and deserves a separate look.

01 December 2015

December 1965 'On the Cover'

Just a few months after Pal Benko's double billing in the August 1965 'On the Cover' -- for a tied first place in the U.S. Open and a clear first in the Eastern Open -- he was back again. But hang on: didn't we already see the 'first American Open' earlier this year? No, that was the first National Open, seen in May 1965 'On the Cover'. The year 1965 was a year of firsts.

Left: 'First American Open Champion'
Right: 'Caissic Fabulous Stroebeck...has another Chess Feature to be noted...It put out the only known Chess Money'

Chess Life

The first American Open, played at the Del Mar Club in Santa Monica, California drew an impressive entry of 124 players on November 25-28. Winner, with an unequalled 7-1, was Grandmaster Pal Benko who thus climaxed a string of victories in California tournaments before returning east for the United States Championship. Benko led the tournament all the way, yielding draws only to Larry Evans and Dr. Anthony Saidy. Among Benko's victims were Dr. Erich Marchand, Irving Rivise, Ray Martin, and Tibor Weinberger.

Chess Review

Those of our readers who have also read from that fascinating chess raconteur Irving Cheney or simply from long-past issues of CHESS REVIEW will know of chess-fabled Stroebeck. Here then is another item of Stroebeckiana. This, Professor M. S. Zitzman of West Chester, Pennsylvania, tells us, is the only "chess money" ever printed. The faces of the notes appear on the cover, the reverse below. Those of you who can read German and have good magnifying glasses may follow the inscriptions. Our interest lies in the chess designs of this unique currency, which may not get you on even a blacked-out subway train but does carry happy connotations for chess spielers, fans and kibitzers.

A game showing a loss by M. Zitzman was on page 377 of the same issue of CR. Chessgames.com has a page for Manfred Zitzman 'of Reading, Pennsylvania'.


Later: 'When Black Is White':

Several readers, including one all the way from South Africa, A.R.Goldstein, have commented on the colors of the squares of the Stroebeck boards (December 1965). The lower right-hand squares on the cover are dark colored. The fact. is that, while to a chessplayer the boards are wrong, to a printer, photo-engraver and to most publishers, they are not. So also for bookbinders. They regard the color of the paper or of the binding of a book as "neutral" and so "White." It is certain that the engraver and printer of currency, say of a greenback, would regard that green as "White."

Chess Review, March 1966