16 March 2018

Game and Mistake of the Day

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

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

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

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

The top comment currently says,

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

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

15 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Organizer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Venue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 March 2018

Interview Videos : Wesley So

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 March 2018

Mephisto/Gunsberg CDV

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

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

The Marvellous Automaton

The description said,

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

The image was accompanied by a printed tag that said,

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

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

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

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

09 March 2018

Not so Flickrless Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 March 2018

Stockfish in a Straitjacket?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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