ALEKSTONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Meet Alekstone, my nemesis. As you can see, we are closely rated in bullet chess, and he’s won every. Single. Game.

It’s like he’s He-man and I’m Skeletor.
Or he could be Lion-O and I’m Mumm-ra.
Or maybe even he’s Voltron, and I’m, uh, those purple people trying to rule the universe.

The number of those games I was winning and should have won easily….but he’s like a damn magician.

Or maybe I’m just the super-villain that cackles “I’ve finally got you this time, [fill-in-the-hero]!!!!” only to be undone by my own hubris.

I’ll get you next time, Alekstone!!! NEXT TIME!!!!!!

Chess as a bellweather

It’s been 5 years since my last rated game. I only play lightning or blitz occasionally on chess.com and lichess.org nowadays.

(And I STILL cannot consistently spell “occasionally” correctly the first time).

On days that I feel particularly sharp or dull, my chess performance seems to reflect it. So on days when I’m just not sure about how well the brain will function that day, I play a few games to figure it out.

Of course, this method does have some problems:

1. Do I selectively remember those days which support this hypothesis?
2. Did I control for the strength of my opponents?
3. Is my sample size even big enough?
4. [Other stuff I’m not thinking of]

Naturally, the answers for 1-3 are probably “yes”, “no” and “no”, but the hypothesis sounds good enough to me.

Chess Enquirer, Sep 2013

Due to increased security (paranoia) in FIDE headquarters, it’s been much more difficult to discover the dark secrets hidden in modern professional chess. Believe us, we’re trying!

Chess Enquirer Sep 2013

“I BUST HIS AZZ!”

OK. So, there’s this guy Jay Love. He made a YouTube channel to show off his chess exploits…except he isn’t very good. (Imagine watching a couple of your friends who know the rules and not much else. You wince in agony* as you notice pieces being left en prise all the time. That’s pretty much what you’re getting on his channel.)

I also love how he keeps track of the pieces lost count as if it’s a sports score (“He came down and took my Rook, so he’s up 7 – 2 now!”).

But I’ll give him props for attitude and swagger. And who knows; maybe he’ll study up and become good enough someday to make me eat my words.

* In full acknowledgement that players Expert level and higher wince at my games.

Computers are winning in Shogi, too

In Western chess, we have accepted that computers outplay humans, full stop. (Some might say we’ve resigned themselves to this fact. Please hold your applause; I’ll be here all week!)

Shogi (Japanese chess) is quite a different beast. Western chess revolves heavily around material balance. If you’re down a Pawn, you’re expected to have a significant advantage in time or position. Being down a Knight, or even two Pawns is hopeless in a typical position. In Shogi, material is not as pressing. In fact, unlike chess, if you’re down in material, you probably want to exchange pieces.

That’s because of the coolest feature of Shogi…piece drops. In Western chess, a captured piece is out for good. In Shogi, when you capture a piece, it can be returned to the board under your control, with few limits. There are many more opportunities for positional exchanges of pieces.

With regards to the computer, dropping pieces greatly expands the number of possible moves, reducing the effectiveness of brute force searches. The board is always full, so there is no “endgame” with just few pieces. In Western chess, computers can use endgame tablebases to play positions with few remaining pieces perfectly…if they even have to play that far.

But these differences are starting not to matter, as computer processing power and improved programming have finally defeated a current Shogi master.

I’m declaring the year 2020 as the over/under for a computer to play Go at a master level. And Go is NOT easy to tell computers how to play at all.

American political stereotypes, in chess terms

If American political stereotypes played out on the chess board:

  • Democrats would be trying to ensure that every game ends in a draw.
  • Republicans would be denying that White starts out with an advantage.
  • Democrats would be giving away chess books to everyone, whether they care about chess or not.
  • Republicans would be paying GM’s to develop opening novelties, since this knowledge would “trickle-down” to the class D players.

Pretty piss damn poor coverage

Does chess know how to market itself?

For those of you who follow chess, you knew the world chess championship is being held. But looking around the web, it doesn’t feel like a major or exciting event. (Granted, the first 6 games have been draws, many not that interesting. So maybe it’s just truth in advertising.)

Take a look at some major chess sites:

Chess.com. The headline event is some blitz event. Sure they want promote it, but could there be at least some sort of link or…something…to world championship coverage?

USChess.org. For some reason, the US Championships are being held at the same time as the World Championship. There must have been some sort of logic to this, but I’m still trying to figure it out. World Championship coverage is in the rotating headline…at number 8.

FIDE: The World Championship is being held by FIDE. At least it’s easy to find a link. But the page linked to is so bland…it should go to the main championship page, which at least has a video and tries to appear interesting.

Could you imagine ESPN or Fox Sports with such understated coverage of the World Series? Heck, no. During the event, you’ll have a huge headline right in the middle of the page with what’s going on. There will be major buildup leading up to the event with all sorts of analysis.

With web coverage so vital, the chess world needs to make important events look important. Team Liquid (for Starcraft coverage) can do it, why can’t chess?

Do you know who you’re chessing?

For my 3 or 4 readers who have played Starcraft. The meld between Starcraft and chess was strong in this one (in a sense).

The premise of this video is that one of the casters is playing a team game with a random stranger. The other caster gives the player some ridiculous restriction, often leading to fail and hilarity.

For you chess players, imagine playing bughouse. Except your friend can tell you something like “You can’t advance your pawns past the fourth rank” or “Your Knights can’t capture anything”. Plus your teammate is not aware of how you’ve been handicapped.

11-0

I have won my first 11 games on chess.com.

This must be the same feeling a middling college basketball team gets running up the record on weak non-conference opponents.

They know by the time March comes around, their conference record will be 8-8. And they’ll be praying that their single signature win is good enough to land them in the NCAA tournament.

Chess Enquirer, Feb 2012

Yeah, it’s getting old, but what the heck. Good for pretending I’m spending a bunch of time on new content.

In this month’s issue…

Aronian plotting to start World War 3

REVEALED: Aronian’s secret late-night strategy sessions with the spirit of Kim Jong -Il!

The secret agenda behind the Chess Blogger Carnival:
Don’t expect Pearson or BDK to tell you!

Prior Chess Enquirers:

Mar 2011
May 2010
January 2010
June 2008