Friday, December 31, 2004

Modern Architecture and Chess

A view from inside MIT's Stata Center.

A message from Mothers Against Drunk Chessplaying

With New Year's Eve upon us, a public service announcement seems appropriate -- a tragic story about the dangers of mixing alcohol and chess:
But one thing I learned, don't play drunk chess, especially when you don't have proper shot glasses.
See also "How to Play Chess With Beer".

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Velvet G's Chess Photostream

Mounting Forces - War - Check

Very cool!

Chess, Personality and Madness revisited

In my post on Chess, Personality and Madness, I posed the hypothesis that "Playing chess doesn't turn one into a 'difficult case', but rather 'difficult cases' are more likely to be attracted to chess." Richard Feynmann offers his take:
I have to say I completely agree when taking myself as the entire population. I am a difficult case. I speak my mind with disregard for the consequences (I'm usually aware that what I say is controversial but don't normally care), I have little time for the needs of others and am generally considered to be inconsiderate ... all charges to which I plead guilty ... it sounds arrogant to admit that I have these faults and to then follow it up by saying "I don't care" but I really don't care as I have no interest in spending my time tiptoeing around people ... I barely have enough time for my interests as it is! So in answer to DG's question ... I'd say yes difficult cases are attracted to chess and I think the reason is that you have to be difficult to get anywhere as chess absorbs life for those who get seriously involved!

Those who know the grip it takes once you get involved in the game know that the rest of life pales into insignificance ... and I think one reason why it's only difficult people who get that far is that difficult people tend to have unfulfilling personal lives and thus have little to counter the appeal of chess. Again referring to my own case I plead guilty to that ... I had friends at one point, I had a social life, I had hope for my career ... now all I want to do is study weak squares ...
See also "Watch Richard Feynmann go mad - Live!".

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Chess - it's a killer game?

Marianne at mentions that chess was the favorite game of several serial killers. Unfortunately she doesn't provide any names or sources.

Does anyone have any specific knowledge on this topic?

Chess in Tucson

Courtesy of the The Arizona Daily Star.
Chess Knights - Borders, 5870 E. Broadway. A chess challenge for players of any skill level. Boards and pieces provided. 6 p.m. Mondays. Free. 584-0111.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Is chess the ultimate metaphor?

I posted awhile back on the use of the term "chess piece" to describe Ukraine's current geopolitical status. But there seems to be no end to the metaphorical use of chess in describing politics, war, life, in fact - just about anything. Particularly popular is the use of "pawn(s)" to describe a person or group who is unaware, controlled, being duped, left out of the loop, etc.

Here is a typical example from Froggy Ruminations' post "Usama bin Laden is NOT Dead":
....But at some point, muslims are going to have to realize that they are acting as pawns in a global chess game being played by a handful of despotic psychopaths who are all too willing to sacrifice them in what will clearly be a losing effort.
Here is another example, on the topic of Marxism by Diplomad:
It's a call to keep certain people as either an ethnic curio on the shelf for the enjoyment of European and North American anthropologists or, equally vile, as exploitable pawns for the use of political activists.
And in a post entitled "Rumsfeld's Gambit", the So-Called Austin Mayor states:
It seems the wing-nuts were wrong to consider Spc. Wilson a pawn of the liberal media. He's actually a pawn of the Bush administration -- just like all the other troops in Iraq.

Fireplace Chess

The last move was ...Qh2#.

Play chess at the bank

Someone hacks a German ATM and turns it into a chess computer.

Link - Pictures - Hat Tip:

Close-Up Chess


The newest Knight

Don Q's entourage on the de la Maza quest continues to grow. Give a big BCF welcome to Pawn Sensei - The Chess Wanderer.

In his most recent post, Sensei informed us that he "woke up with a killer sore throat and a headache." Let's hope he isn't following the same path as the Orange Knight.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Simpson's Chess


Before it's too late

As we get older, we often become fodder for the youngsters on their way up the rating ranks. I've heard many a complaint about games lost to under-rated juniors. I, however, have generally taken a different view on this phenomenon. I choose to relish those times when I've caught these youngsters early in their development and showed them a lesson or two (or at least didn't lose).

I might have trouble today in a game against the likes of Noah Pang, but several years ago I schooled him in the Vienna. While I'm sure he has long since forgotten the game, I haven't! And then there was my only encounter with Josh Friedel back when he was a B-player. While I only managed a draw in a Ruy Lopez - Schliemann, what I remember most is that thanks to some strange last round pairings I managed to win the tournament a half-point ahead of him. It's these memories of small victories that keep us going as we grey.

What brought back these images today? This piece by Waddling Thunder on his long ago encounter with Hikaru Nakamura (unfortunately for him, not as pleasant a memory).

Chess Dream

Had that dream segment where I was playing chess with giant flamingos as the chess pieces seems to be a repeating segue segment...very bizarre.

I wonder what Freud would say (if he weren't dead, that is).

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Another version of...

...chessboxing. Here's the original form.

Do you want to be a film star?

"Chess Game"
SVA student film directed by award-winning student filmmaker Mike Capone. Two exes meet by chance in a coffeehouse. They seek closure in a clash of wills. “Chess Game” is a character-driven script which will give actors the chance to display a broad range of emotions. We will be shooting over a long weekend in late January on Long Island. No pay, but copy/ credit/ transportation/ housing provided. SAG waiver is available. If interested, please submit a copy of your digital portfolio to this casting director.
Courtesy of Elite Casting Network.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

One person's junk is another's treasure

Team Birkhead is psyched about receiving that same Red Sox-Yankees chess set. There's only one problem:
Neither of us wants to be the Yankees...

That's what gift certificates are for

Rich Maclone was obviously hoping for something else for Christmas:
What do you do with the gift that you hate? It's a conundrum that much is sure....

I ... got a Red Sox-Yankees chess set. What am I supposed to do with that. I don't play chess and none of my friends play chess. I guess I could set it up like a display item, but then the kids are going to grab the pieces and I'll be stepping on rooks and queens and killing my feet and it will be a bad scene.

Friday, December 24, 2004

First rule of chess club...


When the kids are more mature than the parents

What is it about grade-school chess articles that bring out the worst in some people? Chess [news] stories ... bring out of the apparent woodwork upset readers from what some have called “the cutthroat world” of K-12 chess.

....I anticipated some negative feedback, and got it, but didn't expect to hear things along the lines of: "My child is better than that child" or "Why wasn't my child listed in the story?" and "So-and-so did well because they had a handicap."
Read "Chess stories bring out competitive emotions" from The Brownsville Herald.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Four Musketeers

It's time again to check-in on the Knights Errant de la Maza:
the four musketeers
Don has posted several must-reads in the past couple of weeks. In particular, I would recommend his reprint of an interview with the Knights' spiritual guide Michael de la Maza and an absolutely hilarious transcript of his recent press conference.

In contrast, Sancho has been more focused on moving and other domestic concerns as of late; and Pale Dun, continuing to play competitive games during his training, shares his perspectives on how his "in-game" thinking is evolving.

That leaves us with the Orange Knight. His blog got off to a quick start, but then on December 6th he mentioned that he caught a cold and has not been heard from since. Until he re-emerges, I'm inclined to call him the "Lost Knight". Thus, we may have only three musketeers after all.

See also "Tilting at windmills".

Watch Richard Feynmann go mad - Live!

Poor guy, following in the footsteps of Rubenstein, Morphy and Fischer:
....It feels strange participating in life at the moment whilst my head is absorbed in chess and thinking about supercomputers that might be our operating system on this planet... having to brush my teeth, catch buses and eat all seems slightly abstract hense my belief that I might be going insane. I'm not actually scared of the prospect of insanity... that may sound... well, insane but it's true...

...does chess make men go mad or do mad men play chess?? I guess that's one of the chicken and egg type questions that does nothing more than make those who think about it want to get horribly drunk.
Read "Hey Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me, I'm not tired and there is no place I'm going to".

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Are chessplayers inherently pessimistic?

From a discussion on optimism, pessimism and the process of falsification:
It turns out that most people are apparently not so good at thinking through how their own ideas will fail - checking themselves for weaknesses. This process of auditing one's own ideas for mistakes and hidden consequences is called falsification. Who is good at it, you ask? Well, here's one example: chess masters.... Chess adepts have been shown... to do what they do not just by generating ideas, but by generating them and shooting them down.

Chess Injuries

Why is it that when participating in an "extreme sport" like skateboarding or snowboarding, people always brag when they spill, but not when they slip on the sidewalk? I would guess it's because of the inherent risk in the sports. By getting injured in something that has a risk of injuring you, you are at least dignified in having taken up the risk in the first place. There's no dignity in injuring yourself playing chess (although, in that case, many would still brag due to the anecdotal value) because the risk of injury that you're taking upon yourself is low...

Does anyone have any chess-related injury stories to share?

Adam Smith not on chess

A chess quote, but not a quote about chess:
He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it.
Quote of the Week from the Adam Smith Institute.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Take it to the bank

Hope at Humor Hangout has put together the pieces of the puzzle and concluded that there must be money to be made in chess. For example, consider chess equipment:
...if there are shops that cater to people who are willing to buy chess pieces made from pewter or brass or marble (those all sound very pretty and weighty and handsome) and chess boards made of high gloss polyurethane (that sounds really elegant), there must be a lot of money in this activity.
And, why don't you hear much about women chessplayers?
...because women are so good at chess that they are able to retire on their winnings early in their careers and thereafter leave the field to the men.
Finally, we all know why chessplayers are smart:
...because they have figured out a way to make a lot of money while sitting down most of the time.

Maybe we need drug testing after all

The age of smart drugs is dawning. Modafinil is just one in an array of brain-boosting medications — some already on pharmacy shelves and others in development — that promise an era of sharper thinking through chemistry....

In a series of experiments in 2001, Sahakian and colleagues found that in games that test mental skill, subjects who took a 200-milligram dose of modafinil paid closer attention and used information more effectively than subjects given a sugar pill.

Read "Sharper minds" from the Los Angeles Times (Hat tip: ChessBase News).

To coin a phrase

In writing a disclaimer regarding his blog, Pete Wright uses the phrase "blog chess" to refer to the need to consider the external reactions/ramifications of what one chooses to publish.

I don't like to play blog chess, where I have to assess whether something I do or say on my blog will cause this person to do this, which in turn means I can do that, and so on.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A rose by any other name ...

You've probably noticed a difference here and at the BCC website. That's right, our name has changed. Welcome to the Boylston Chess Foundation!

Why the change? Rather than provide you with a possibly incomplete or inaccurate answer, I'll ask our president to provide a comment below. I'm sure we won't have to wait long.

Please note that the weblog's URL remains the same - I can't afford to blow-up all my trackbacks, cross-links and directory/search engine listings.

"Green" chess

Question: Can you please tell me if the wood for your wooden chess sets is sourced from sustainably managed forests?

Answer: The wood is part of an environmentally friendly global forestry population reduction program.
Read "Environmentally Friendly Chess" at The Chess House.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Rest in Peace

Chess in Chicago announces the "slow death" of its Chess In Chicago News/Discussion Blog. This follows an extended debate among its users on the relative merits of a forum vs. a blog for sharing and discussing chess-related information.

Needless to say, I'm currently partial to the blog; though I do have to admit that forums probably engender more discussion/give and take. What's your opinion?

Update (12/21/04): The CIC blog is dead. The funeral was a sad, but touching, affair.

GM Wolff annotates the BCC Championship

The Boylston Chess Club Championship was the topic of the Boston Globe's Chess Notes column on 12/14/04. Below I have reprinted the article including annotations by GM Patrick Wolff of the round 6 game between Chris Chase and Alex Cherniack. I've incorporated GM Wolff's notes into the game format I used in the 2004 BCC Championship Weblog (Note: The diagrams were not included in the Globe article).
Chess Notes By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff - Globe Correspondents

Christopher Chase of Somerville and Paul MacIntyre, president of the Boylston Club, were running neck to neck in the last round of the Boylston Club Championship. MacIntyre emerged the victor by a nose as he defeated David Glickman in a Bishop's opening in the last round while Charles Riordan held Chase to a draw arising from a Sicilian defense.

Had Chase not lost the game published today, he could have appropriated the championship. Here Alex Cherniack gets a clear advantage playing Black, as Chase elects on his 10th move to resist pressure on Black's Queen side, instead of reconnoitering his Queen's Knight to the opposite wing. Cherniack appears to win the battle for the center, and Chase banks on a pawn storm and minor piece attack on the Queen side. But Cherniack uses a Rook to defend against White's Bishop and Knight. With a little time advantage, Black finds the right squares to assault White's King with a surprising sacrifice and King hunt that ends the game.

[Event "BCC Championship"]
[Site "Somerville, MA USA"]
[Date "2004.10.13"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Chase, Chris"]
[Black "Cherniack, Alex"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteUSCF "2289"]
[BlackUSCF "2228"]
[ECO "C66"]
[Opening "Ruy Lopez"]
[Variation "Steinitz Defense"]
[Annotator "GM Patrick Wolff"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Be7 4.0-0 Nf6 5.Re1

[The easiest way to advantage is 5.d4!]

5...d6 6.c3

[Here again, experience suggests 6.d4! is the easiest way to advantage]

6...0-0 7.Bxc6

[Having taken the trouble to set up d2-d4 with c2-c3, why make this exchange now before it is necessary? Simply 7.d4 still promises an edge]

7...bxc6 8.d4 Nd7 9.Nbd2 a5 10.a4?!

[White starts getting distracted by the queenside. Now that he has chosen this setup, he should continue consistently: 10.Nf1 Ba6 11.Ng3, followed by Be3, Qd2, etc.]

10...Ba6 11.Nb3 Bc4! 12.Nfd2? Be6

[White's pieces are discombobulated, and so he has fallen behind in development]

13.c4? f6

[Good enough, but even better is 13.f5! To blow open the center, e.g. 14.d5 cxd5! 15.cxd5 (15.exd5 Bf7 is just better for Black) 15.Bf7 16.Nc4 c6!?]

14.d5 Bf7 15.Nb1

[Or 15.dxc6 Nb8 and 16.Nxc6, with advantage]

15...Nb6 16.Qc2 f5! 17.dxc6 Nxc4 18.N1d2 Nxd2 19.Bxd2 fxe4 20.Nxa5 d5

[Black's center and two bishops are far better than White's queenside play]

21.Nb7 Qe8 22.Ba5 Rc8 23.b4 Bg6 24.Qc1

Chase-Cherniack Rd. 6 Diagram 1

24...Qf7 25.Rf1 Bh5

[The attack masses on the kingside, and White is in big trouble!]

26.Qc2 Qg6! 27.Kh1 Rf6! 28.b5 Qxg2+!!

Chase-Cherniack Rd. 6 Diagram 2

29.Kxg2 Rg6+ 30.Kh3

[Or 30.Kh1 Bf3#]

30...Bg4+ 0-1

[It is checkmate after 31.Kg2 (or 31.Kg3) 31...Bf3+ 32.Kh3 Rh6#]
For the record, here are my original notes to this game.

The French Defense in Haiku

Beautiful, poignant, clear as day:
One man has space
The other controls the tension.
A knight, intrigued, leaps.
Read "Chess Haiku" at Man de la Maza.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

A man and his chess set - the sequel

CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines - Arriving to a humanitarian mission without their beloved chessboard to keep them busy, some helicopter squadron Marines got creative.

Using the bottom of a wooden "7-cube" supply box for a board, spare helicopter parts for pieces and some imagination, they made their own.
Read "Marines forgot to bring chess set on Philippines mission, so they improvised".

See also "A man and his chess set".

Friday, December 17, 2004

Is it pronounced "Herb" or "Erb"?

Either way, on New Year's Day the club is holding its annual Herb Healy Open House -- two 4-round G/30 tournaments (rated and unrated sections), free food, fun and frivolity for all. Here are photos from last year's event.

There's no need to end the party at midnight; come on by the club on New Year's morning. Registration is from 10:00-11:30am.

Herb Healy 2004

A chess-related activity for long car trips


Top ways to freak out your roommate

29. Sit in front of a chess board for hours, saying nothing, doing nothing. Then look up and say, "I think this game goes a lot faster with two players."
From Breaking His Heart...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Rainbow Coalition

Chess seen through the lens of multi-culturalism...
Diversity chess set
Hat Tip: I'm Eaton in the rain!

Artificial Intelligence & Chess

From Computer's extensive Q&A on Artificial Intelligence:

Alexander Kronrod, a Russian AI researcher, said "Chess is the Drosophila of AI." He was making an analogy with geneticists' use of [the] fruit fly to study inheritance. Playing chess requires certain intellectual mechanisms and not others. Chess programs now play at grandmaster level, but they do it with limited intellectual mechanisms compared to those used by a human chess player, substituting large amounts of computation for understanding. Once we understand these mechanisms better, we can build human-level chess programs that do far less computation than do present programs.

Unfortunately, the competitive and commercial aspects of making computers play chess have taken precedence over using chess as a scientific domain. It is as if the geneticists after 1910 had organized fruit fly races and concentrated their efforts on breeding fruit flies that could win these races.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A man and his chess set

File this under necessity is the mother of invention; and as we all know too well, chess is a necessity:

Marc at marchdesign points us to pictures of inventions created by prisoners. Of interest to this audience is a chess set created from toilet paper and sugar water.

On Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I believe chess falls somewhere between safety and love.

Same old same old

Do you want to play the same old game with the same old opponent who is 300 points different than you in poor conditions? Posted by Hello

Or, do you want an improved, vibrant, competitive, and warm club?

Posted by Hello

If so, please complete the brief (2 minutes)

club improvement survey

online at

Tell all your chess friends to respond also --
including non-members, lapsed members, and folks who don't play at our events.

Fighting Words

Will at Will's Wanderings paraphrases his research professor in Scotland. Dr. Macleod said:
I don't understand people who spend their time and energy playing a chess game as a challenge; I'd much rather be trying to challenge myself by discovering something nobody else has discovered before...
Well, that certainly feels like a stinging slap in the face; so first, an emotional initial reaction: "[expletive], you arrogant academic [expletive]!" Now I feel a whole lot better. Let's try a calmer, more cogent response:

Chess is not solved and therefore there is still much to be discovered. The vast majority of games reach points not seen before, even if not in an absolute sense for a few games following theory, Ivory Toweralmost always for one or both players based their previous experience and current knowledge. OK, a very few games have both players following known theory from beginning to end, but what percentage of the total games played could this possibly be? Therefore, one must conclude that virtually every game offers the opportunity for new discoveries.

I certainly don't intend to suggest that chess discoveries are any more valuable or worthwhile than the types of discoveries that Dr. Macleod might be thinking of. And I suppose if he is thinking about things like the discovery of penicillin then the positive societal impact of enhanced chess knowledge can hardly compare. Nevertheless, from a purely academic perspective, I see no basis for suggesting that his chosen subject for investigation is a priori superior to the pursuit of chess knowledge.

Though I'm sure it's less fun (to a chessplayer, anyway)!

Chess Outdoors


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Why wives and girlfriends needn't worry...

...when you spend an evening at the chess club.

Ian Buchanan conducts an experiment and gains a valuable insight.

From the Harvard University Police Log ...

Nov. 20, 11:53 p.m. — Officers were dispatched to Pforzheimer House on a report of a possible fight in progress. Officers determined it was not a fight but a “human” chess game.

Source: The Harvard Crimson (Hat tip: Andrew Moroz's Blog)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Development of chess thinking

For those of you not inclined to read the first volume of Kasparov's "On My Great Predecessors", this post provides a compact summary of the historical development of chess thinking from Philidor through Steinitz. Good pictures, too.

An offer too good to pass up

From Craig's List:
Chess skill and Chinese food exchange

Do you like Chinese food and Chinese culture? If someone can help my son to improve his Chess skill, I also can make Chinese food for him or her.

Next time you are in Witchita

The Wichita Chess Club ... meets on Sundays at Borders Bookstore & Cafe, 1715 N. Rock Road, on Tuesdays at Barnes & Noble, 8021 E. Kellogg, and on Fridays at the Barnes & Noble location at 3045 N. Rock Road.

Informal games can often be found at Riverside Perk, 1144 Bitting. If a cup of coffee helps your concentration, this might be just the place to make your move.

If the roar of an alternative rock 'n' roll band or pulsating beats from a jukebox hone your concentration, try setting up the pieces at Kirby's Beer Store, 3227 E. 17th St. The Kirby's kibitzers can be counted on for lively commentary, too.

Courtesy of the Witchita Eagle.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

BCC Improvement Survey

We are conducting a survey on how to improve the BCC for the new year.

Click this link to take the survey

The online survey is very quick: a few questions you can just click on, and a couple of free response questions where you can type out your detailed thoughts.

Please respond to it and ask your chess friends to respond as well. Even - especially - if they don't play at the club. We want to know how to attract them as players and perhaps as members.

We sent out about 700+ emails to:

  • BCC members past and present
  • Players at BCC events past and present
  • Players at some local clubs
  • Any one who ever played at the BU Open
Naturally, many of the email addresses will be out of date. And we have about 600+ players at the BCC with no known email address. We will send many of them a request to participate, but, again, please ask friends in your circle to participate in the survey.

And come to the annual Herb Healy on New Years day afternoon for chess, chess friends, and food.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Develop your randomness skills

Next time you get fed up with the linear analytics of chess, try a game that exercises the right side of your brain.rps

Press the "#" key? How do you do that?

The Maverick Philosopher provides a discussion on Algebraic Versus Descriptive Chess Notation. Just a few points I would add:
  • Other than pawn moves, most players typically use symbols to represent the pieces, e.g. KQRBN in English. Without these designations, I think you would have to use "full" algebraic, e.g. 1.g1-f3 instead of 1.Nf3, to avoid ambiguity.

  • rotary telephoneWhere two rooks can move to d8, Ra8d8 is certainly clear but Rad8 is more compact and just as accurate. There is another variation on this, e.g. Rooks on d8 and d5 could lead to a move like R5d7.

  • While "x" is the universal symbol for a capture in descriptive notation, in algebraic ":" is also used. However, no capture symbol is actually necessary as there is no practical difference in meaning between N:e5 and Ne5. In either case the knight now resides on the e5 square and the opponent's piece that was there (if any) is obviously there no longer.

Must be an old joke...

...but I haven't heard it before. Courtesy of The Bremerton Speakers Corner:
What do you call a group of chess grandmasters bragging about their recent tournaments in the hotel lobby?

Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Who cares about checkmate?

At the Switlik School in Jackson, New Jersey they run an annual chess tournament using this interesting rule:
“We determine winners by assigning point values to each of the chess pieces,” Henderson said. “At the end of the allotted time for the match, the points are totaled to determine the winner.”
I don't suspect gambits and sacrifices are particularly popular. But apparently, the prize for the winner is:
The winner this year was fifth-grader Matt Moran, who also won last year’s tournament as a fourth-grader. As a bonus, Matt has played a special match against the principal of the school for each of the two years the event has been held. “Last year Matt beat Ron Janesko,” Henderson said. “This year he was beaten by our current principal, Terry Kenney."
Here's a photo of that game:

switlik tournament

Check out the multi-media set-up and the scoreboard (for counting those point values as the game progresses).

Courtesy of the Tri-Town News.

Humanity strikes back

"That was a totally unpredictable gambit," lamented IBM Chess programmer, Benny Morgan. "Our system lacked the capacity to function against such a boring human being and it simply shut down."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Move over Elista...

... the real chess city is Beersheba.
Here's a surprise gambit: the city with the most chess grandmasters per capita in the world is Beersheba [in Israel]'s a ratio of one grandmaster per 22,875 residents in this city of 183,000. That's...impressive compared to traditional chess centers in Russia, like Moscow with one grandmaster out of every 170,000 people, or St. Petersburg with one per 215,000...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Beyond Deep Blue

Eric Meyer, a self-avowed non-fan of chess, has a few suggestions for how to improve chess computer user interfaces. To summarize, he has three major recommendations:
  1. The computer should not move instantaneously so as to appear more human and methodical in its "thought" process

    Eric's perspective is clearly limited by the one program he is using. Most commercial chess engines include time controls for the game and the engine will typically take advantage of that time to search deeper in its tree to find the best move. Contrary to what he states, engines do not complete their full analysis in seconds, but instead will continue to search further as time permits.

    Update (12/10/04): I got this one wrong. Eric's actual point is that the computer should evaluate for the amount of time appropriate to the level/strength setting selected but then wait for a period of time before making the selected move. He believes that for beginning players this will be less intimidating than programs which move instantaneously. Interesting...

  2. The computer should show all the squares which it currently attacks so the player is less likely to move a piece to those squares.

    This certainly seems like a useful training mode for beginners to help them visualize the opponent's threats. I know that Fritz has several training modes including one that shows all the moves a piece can make, but I'm not sure if showing attacked squares is one. The idea of tinting the squares to show how many pieces are attacking is quite an interesting idea. Now if I could just get my OTB opponents to color the board for me after each move, I'd be all set.

  3. The computer should play chess variants.

    When I first started reading this section, I thought Eric might be thinking about Fischer-Random, Suicide, CrazyHouse, etc. In fact, there are specialized engines that play these variants. However, he had something completely different in mind (which left me rather amused):

    My favorite was Nuclear Chess. In that one, any piece could instead of moving choose to self-detonate, destroying itself and any pieces in adjacent squares....And then there was Thermonuclear Chess, where any piece could detonate after making a normal move.

nuclear explosion

Not for blitz

Check out this set of photos of a glass chess set.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Replacement parts?

Bridgett Kinloch provides a long list of things to ponder, including:
Can you buy an entire chess set in a pawn shop?
pawn shop

Don't worry, he's not a member ...

... of the Boylston Chess Club.

A founder of a Colombian drug cartel that became the world's chief supplier of cocaine in the 1990s was transported to a Florida jail Saturday after being extradited from Colombia. Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, 65, landed before dawn in a U.S. government plane and was driven to a downtown Miami jail.... Prosecutors said Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela was the brains behind the concealment techniques, while Gilberto, nicknamed "The Chess Player," ran the family's financial empire...

Monday, December 06, 2004

Human, not so human

"At some point, millions of calculations per minute transformed itself into intuition." - Just in case anyone was tempted to believe this, let me add that computer viruses are dangerous microbes.
I believe his point is that we must be careful not to ascribe human characteristics to non-living things. I think this is a fair criticism; but, for me, it raises the question of whether we are correctly describing the human activity in the first place. What do we really mean when we use the word "intuition" to describe our human approach to chess if a machine can find moves through a completely different approach which are indistinguishable from our own?

Anonymitch asks, "Does intelligence require consciousness?" and answers:
I think not.

It used to be that we thought it required intelligence to play a good game of chess. Machines can now play better chess than most any human. So, either the unconscious machines are intelligent or playing chess requires no intelligence.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

BCC at a glance - membership and active players revised December 1.

We recently revised and updated the membership and activity lists: we have 133 members [including some multiple family and club memberships and honorary life members.]

In 2004 thus far, 326 different chess players have played in at least one of our events. Events include an evening of blitz, a one-day or two day tournament, 4 evenings of the TNS and Monday swiss, up to 9 or 10 round robins in the championship cycle.

"Everyday Ed" Lafferty is the most active member of the club - he played in 46 events. Second is our newest board member, NM Charles Riordan, wtih 39. Board member and TD Bernardo Iglesias was very active, of course, with 37 events. Board member Natasha Christiansen played in 35 tournaments; Chris Williams - 32; Tony DiNosse 31; and our President, FM Paul MacIntyre - 28.

Participation in events was down in November, but the overall trend is still increasing, since the move to Somerville and during the first and second half intervals of the year. However, the Thursday Night Swiss had been improving, both in number and strength of players, but now has been stalling.

You can review our profiles here.

More on Chess and Madness

point2point posted a piece by G. K. Chesterton arguing that reason and logic, not imagination and creativity, lead to mental instability. Madness is not the destination of the poet, but of the chess player:
There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man's mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination....

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.
Chess history does have its examples of great players who have succumbed to mental illness. Morphy and Fischer come immediately to mind. But are chess players really statistically more likely to develop mental problems? I doubt anyone has actually studied this question (though I recall that a study was done showing that chess players are less likely to develop Alzheimer's; perhaps this is the poet's curse).

I would argue that chess can be played using both logic and imagination. Are the hard core calculators, e.g., Tal or Kasparov, more susceptible to mental instability than intuitive positional players like Karpov? Perhaps Tal is not even a good example to choose -- was his bold sacrificial attacking play drawn from calculation, imagination or both?

See also "Chess, Personality and Madness"

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Over at Chess Underground, Pete reflects on the continuing compression of time controls in events ranging from World Championships to club tournaments and, of course, internet play. He points to scholastic play to suggest that things are likely to get worse (i.e., even faster - I know this is a value judgment on my part) rather than better in the future:
Consider this: the recent scholastic grades tournament had a time control of game in thirty minutes. The Junior Open? Game in 45. hour glassIn fact there has not been a scholastic tournament longer than G/60 in the Midwest since the Nationals and Supernationals in Illinois, and even then side events such as "5-minute" and "bughouse" tournaments accompanied the main event....Perhaps the true problem is how we are starting children out - they learn to play in G/30 tournaments (where notation is not only not required, but not even recommended!) and it is only natural to presume the game is to be played at this pace in the future.
Here in Massachusetts the situation is much the same:
  • Burger King Scholastics - G/45
  • BCC Sunday Scholastics - G/30
  • BCC Scholastic Quads - G/45
  • MACA Scholastics - G/45
And, of course, time compression is a way of life in club tournaments. In fact, the BCC tournaments which still run at 40/2, 20/1, SD/30 with adjournments (for example, The Championship; Hauptturnier; Reubens-Landey & Paramount) are really anachronisms at this point. For comparison take a look at typical weeknight time controls around the area:
  • BCC Thursday Night Swiss - 40/90 SD/25
  • BCC Monday Night Swiss - 40/90 SD/15 (recently changed from 30/75 SD/30)
  • Metrowest - 40/90 SD/30
  • Waltham - G/60 (or faster)
  • Newburyport - 40/80 SD/30
From Caissa's perspective, Mick didn't have right; time is not on our side (no it isn't).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

We need more TNS players

Last month we had very few TNS players, but I thought the championship and hauptturnier had siphoned off players. But we started the December TNS with only 14. This is our signature event. Why don't more people play? Help?

Does Deep Blue present a challenge to Mormon religious thinking?

No doubt this question has been keeping you up nights. Have another cup of coffee, turn your brain on to overdrive and read Chess, Computers, and Spiritual Knowledge. Here are a few excerpts:

The wonder of this [the computer's ability to play "strategically"] lies in the fact that Deep Blue did not have any "deep strategy" algorithm. Its programmers did not design it to think strategically....At some point, millions of calculations per minute transformed itself into intuition.

The divide between the tactical calculation of [an] open position and the strategic intuition of a closed one arguably mirrors an ancient distinction in philosophy between two sorts of knowledge: episteme and techne....Mormon thinkers eager to lionize the seeming absence of a well-developed LDS theological tradition have frequently latched on to something like this distinction.....Deep Blue, however, seems to present a challenge to the neat dichotomy upon which this apologetic rests.

Tilting at windmills

Apparently, a small sub-culture is forming in the blogosphere around Michael de la Maza's "Rapid Chess Improvement: a study plan for the adult player." Two interrelated blogs using Don Quixote as their thematic launching point have been providing daily reports on two player's efforts to follow de la Maza's prescription.

Check out: (Don) Man de la Maza & Sancho Pawnza

Today I found yesterday's opening post of Self Flagellation to the Goddess Caissa, a blog which states that it is "in the tradition of (Don) Man de la Maza and Sancho Pawnza, another man's journey to escape the land of Class C rated chess."