Authorities Crack Down On Go Players Using Phones

It was just a matter of time as far as I was concerned until the Go community would be forced to take action when I posted on Go forums prophesying about the actions which would be necessary in the near future to prevent cheating with use of computer programs during play. This was before the rise of AlphaGo and I was excoriated unmercifully for even saying such a thing. After all, Go was not Chess, and most so-called “experts” were predicting it would be another decade before any computer program would rival even lower level Dan players. In reality it was closer to ten months before the Go community was in for a “rude awakening.”

Chess GM Alexander Morozevich, who has also been in the news for playing Go recently, spoke about this in a recent interview with Murad Amannazarov when he was asked, “So it’s only a hobby?” Morozevich answered the question, “Well, of course it’s a hobby. Go can’t be my profession, I understand that perfectly well. It’s not that I’ve been disappointed in chess and decided to start from scratch, because it’s clear that I’ve got neither the time, opportunity nor anything else in order to become a professional there. For me it feels more like I’ve learned a foreign language i.e. if I learned something like Spanish, Chinese, Arabic or some other language I’d also need to practice it from time to time and that, of course, would surprise no-one. It turned out that I “learned a language” – I got acquainted with playing Go, it really drew me in and it’s the first game after chess that has really enthralled me. To some extent I’ve learned to play it, which by analogy is like someone more or less acquiring a language at a beginner level. Then he travels either to the country or finds some native speakers, or he reads books i.e. he develops that in some way. I do more or less the same: I go along, I chat, sometimes I play tournaments, but it’s clear that it’s only as a hobby, of course. It’s not a new job, or a new profession, or a new path. At least from the point of view of achieving any results I don’t have any illusions. I’m 40 years old and that would be extremely naïve. I understand perfectly well that there are roughly ten thousand 10-year-old Go players who would beat me. Therefore you have to understand that if you’re competing with millions and among them you’re roughly in the 4th million, or something like that, then no doubt there’s no point having any great illusions.

A different issue is that somehow I see very similar processes in what Go is going through and what happened in chess 10-15 years ago. That’s all happening to them and is comparable to what happened to us – it’s not even retro-analysis but as if you have another view of the process that we already saw in chess. When the first computers came along they gradually gained momentum, became stronger and stronger, and the way chess players reacted to that then, what they expected of where it would lead, how they began to use them – the same is now happening, the same computer revolution, only it’s as if it’s only just begun. Until 2015 that was the only intellectual game in which professionals were stronger than machines, and only in the last year or year and a half have the first harbingers appeared saying that yes, the end of Go has come. For now it’s not quite formalized, but gradually, I think, they’ll follow the same path that we followed in chess. Machines, of course, will take up an absolutely dominant position, despite the fact that of course the calculating algorithms, the evaluation algorithms are quite different. As far as I understand it the algorithm used by AlphaGo, the most successful program, is a Monte Carlo algorithm. That was also one of the main computational approaches in chess, but it didn’t become common. Machines reached a maximum of 2400 with that. After all, our game is about more direct selection, while there it was possible even to use that algorithm, which is quite interesting.”

I highly recommend anyone interested in either game read this excellent interview with one of the more interesting minds in the world of games.
(https://chess24.com/en/read/news/morozevich-on-go-computers-and-cheating)

An article published recently in the Global Times:

Authorities getting stricter about Go players using their phones at a match in China

China’s top authority for the game Go recently announced a ban on phones at Go matches in response to the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the sport.

According to a notice released by the Chinese Weiqi Association (CWA) on Tuesday, “during matches, players are not allowed to have or watch mobile phones and any other electronic devices. If they are found with one of the devices, they will be judged losers immediately.”

Players are also forbidden to leave the room during a break in the matches, unless they have special needs and are acccompanied by a judge.

For team events, if the team leaders or coaches use AI technology in connection with the match, the entire team’s score for the round will be declared invalid.

The new regulation covers all upcoming matches of China’s professional Go league in 2017, with further expected in 2018.

AI technology has been used on some board games with great success.

On a related note, Georgian chess champion Gaioz Nigalidze was thrown out of the Dubai Open in 2015 for regularly leaving the table to check his mobile phone which he had hidden in a toilet cubicle, the Washington Post reported.

AlphaGo, a Google AI program, claimed a 3-0 clean sweep on May 27 over China’s Ke Jie, the current world No.1 Go player, after defeating many other top players.

“AlphaGo has done a splendid job,” 19-year-old Ke, a native of Lishui, Zhejiang, told a postgame press conference.

Go, or weiqi in Chinese, involves two players who take turns putting white and black stones on a grid of 19 x 19 lines. Victory over an opponent involves advancing over more territory on the grid.

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1073115.shtml

If caught cheating I assume the perpetrator would be forced to do a “perp walk” with the only question being, “Would you like a blindfold?” There are some, if not most, officials in FIDE, such as Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who would dispense with the blindfold and even possibly even the perp walk. For those unaware, Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov, after knocking former World Human Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand out of the World Cup, was accosted by the bombastic organizer of the event, GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili for wearing Bermuda shorts even they are deemed acceptable by the world Chess organization, FIDE, a few minutes before beginning the game with his next opponent. As stated by numerous witnesses, Azmaiparashvili’s unnecessary diatribe would have rattled even the most stable Chess player.

(http://www.spraggettonchess.com/fide-psychopath-at-large/)

See also the article Psychopathy in Tbilisi, by GM Kevin Spraggett on his excellent blog in which he prints the official FIDE rule:

3 Dress code for players during games in progress

3 a. The following is acceptable for men players, captains, head of delegation.

Suits, ties, dressy pants, trousers, jeans, long-sleeve or shirt-sleeve dress shirt, alternatively T-shirts or polo, dress-shoes, loafers or dressy slip-ons, socks, shoes or sneakers, sport coat, blazer, Bermuda shorts, turtleneck, jacket, vest or sweater. Team uniforms and national costumes clothing.

http://www.spraggettonchess.com/psychopathy-in-tbilisi/

Another excellent commentary of the sordid affair is: https://laregledujeu.org/arrabal/2017/09/10/8209/a-n-t-o-n-k-o-v-a-l-y-o-v-grand-maitre-international/

Chess Versus Go

Richard Bozulich is writing a series of essays on various go topics. The first is, The Interplay of Intuition and Brute-Force Analysis in the Game of Go. (http://www.usgo.org/news/2015/03/two-new-books-from-kiseido-and-bozuliuch-launches-online-series/)
The one with interest for the chess world is the second, Chess and Go: A Comparison. (http://www.usgo.org/news/2015/03/spring-sale-at-kiseido/)

“Richard Bozulich (born 1936) is an American author and publisher of go books in English and a college math professor. He co-founded the Ishi Press. Bozulich was born in Los Angeles, California. He attended UCLA and in 1966 graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in mathematics. Bozulich had worked his way through college by buying and selling highly technical used books and upon graduation decided to become a book publisher. He moved to Japan and in 1968 in partnership with Stuart Dowsey founded The Ishi Press, a book and magazine publishing company that primarily published books about the game of go. In 1982 Bozulich founded Kiseido Publishing Company. Richard Bozulich has written or published more than one hundred books and magazine and newspaper articles about the game of go. He is the world’s most prolific author of go materials in English.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bozulich)

He begins Chess and Go: A Comparison with, “Chess and go are games rich in both strategy and tactics. Because of the relatively small size of the chess board (64 squares), chess is considered to be more of a tactical game than a strategic one, in which gaining a material advantage is the all important first step to the eventual mating of the king. The small size of the chess board does not seem to be conducive to strategic ideas.

Go, on the other hand, with its enormous playing field of 361 points, is generally considered to be a game in which both strategy and tactics are equally represented.

For sure, there are a large number of principles that govern go strategy. With respect to tactics, there are at least 45 different kinds of tesujis that can be used to gain a tactical and, ultimately, a strategic advantage. Many of the strategic and tactical principles of go are encapsulated in a hundred or so go proverbs. In addition, there are a large number of other strategic principles which make up go theory and are instinctively understood by all strong players.

What about chess? What are the principles that guide a player to make sound strategic moves?

When I first started to investigate this, I didn’t expect to find too many strategic principles. I was sure that there would be many more chess ‘tesujis’. ((teh-soo-djee) (skillful play) (http://senseis.xmp.net/?GoTerms) To my surprise, I found more than 60 strategic chess principles, but only 13 chess tesujis.

In spite of the paucity (compared to go) of its tesujis, chess is still a game rich in tactical maneuvers that require deep and accurate analysis. However, due to the small size of the chess board, a small slip in reading is often catastrophic, whereas in go, small mistakes in reading are not necessarily fatal, as compensation can be obtained in other parts of the board.

In a game of chess, there is essentially one battle going on. Only one opening can be played and the opening chosen sets the strategic theme of the game. In go, each corner of the board can feature a different opening (joseki) each with its own strategic theme. Skirmishes also arise on the sides, so there are numerous battles going on simultaneously in different parts of the board, but they are all interconnected and coordinating them into one coherent strategy is what makes go a very difficult and profound game.

There are a number of strategic concepts that exist in go but not in chess. They are analogous to the ones used in decision-making situations in business, geo-politics, or in everyday life.” (http://www.magicofgo.com/roadmap9/chess%20and%20go.htm)

Richard then contrasts Go principles with the principles of Chess in the rest of this highly interesting and provocative look at the differences between the Royal game and Go.

Programmers Attack Go With Brute Force

Last June an article by Jonathan Schaeffer, Martin Müller & Akihiro Kishimoto, AIs Have Mastered Chess. Will Go Be Next? was published. “Randomness could trump expertise in this ancient game of strategy,” followed. “Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer science professor at the University of Alberta, in Canada, had been creating game-playing artificial intelligence programs for 15 years when Martin Müller and Akihiro Kishimoto came to the university in 1999 as a professor and graduate student, respectively. Kishimoto has since left for IBM Research–Ireland, but the work goes on—and Schaeffer now finds it plausible that a computer will beat Go’s grand masters soon. “Ten years ago, I thought that wouldn’t happen in my lifetime,” he says.” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/artificial-intelligence/ais-have-mastered-chess-will-go-be-next)

Jonathan Schaeffer is the man behind Chinook, the computer program that solved Checkers. You can find the paper, Checkers is Solved, to learn about the proof here: (http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~chinook/)
He has also revised his book first published in 1997, One Jump Ahead: Computer Perfection at Checkers, which I read years ago. Jonathan Schaeffer is like E. F. Hutton in that when he talks about a computer game program, you listen.

For years I have followed news of computer Go programs. Before sitting down to punch & poke I searched for the latest news, coming up empty. This as good news for humans because Go is the last board game bastion holding against machine power. It is also the world’s oldest, and most complicated, board game. It “originated in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago. It was considered one of the four essential arts of a cultured Chinese scholar in antiquity. Its earliest written reference dates back to the Confucian Analects.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_%28game%29)

Schaeffer and his group have developed a Go-playing computer program, Fuego, an open-source program that was developed at the University of Alberta. From the article, “For decades, researchers have taught computers to play games in order to test their cognitive abilities against those of humans. In 1997, when an IBM computer called Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the reigning world champion, at chess, many people assumed that computer scientists would eventually develop artificial intelligences that could triumph at any game. Go, however, with its dizzying array of possible moves, continued to stymie the best efforts of AI researchers.”

In 2009 Fuego “…defeated a world-class human Go player in a no-handicap game for the first time in history. Although that game was played on a small board, not the board used in official tournaments, Fuego’s win was seen as a major milestone.”

They write, “Remarkably, the Fuego program didn’t triumph because it had a better grasp of Go strategy. And although it considered millions of possible moves during each turn, it didn’t come close to performing an exhaustive search of all the possible game paths. Instead, Fuego was a know-nothing machine that based its decisions on random choices and statistics.”

I like the part about it being a “know-nothing machine.” I have often wondered if humans, like Jonathan Schaeffer, who are devoting their lives to the development of “thinking” machines, will be reviled by future generations of humans as is the case in the Terminator movies. It could be that in the future humans will say, “Hitler was nothing compared to the evil SCHAEFFER!” If I were supreme world controller a command would be issued ending the attempts to crack Go, leaving my subjects one beautiful game not consigned to the dustbin of history, as has been the fate of checkers. I fear it is only a matter of time before chess meets the same fate. GM Parimarjan Negi was asked in the “Just Checking” Q&A of the best chess magazine in the history of the universe, New In Chess 2014/6, “What will be the nationality of the 2050 World Champion?” He answered the question by posing one of his own, “Will we still have a world championship?” Good question. I would have to live to one hundred to see that question answered. Only former President of the GCA, and Georgia Senior Champion, Scott Parker will live that long, possibly still be pushing wood in 2050, if wood is still being pushed…

The article continues, “The recipe for building a superhuman chess program is now well established. You start by listing all possible moves, the responses to the moves, and the responses to the responses, generating a branching tree that grows as big as computational resources allow. To evaluate the game positions at the end of the branches, the program needs some chess knowledge, such as the value of each piece and the utility of its location on the board. Then you refine the algorithm, say by “pruning” away branches that obviously involve bad play on either side, so that the program can search the remaining branches more deeply. Set the program to run as fast as possible on one or more computers and voilà, you have a grand master chess player. This recipe has proven successful not only for chess but also for such games as checkers and Othello. It is one of the great success stories of AI research.”

Voilà, indeed.

“Go is another matter entirely,” they write, “The game has changed little since it was invented in China thousands of years ago, and millions around the world still enjoy playing it.”

But for how long?

“Game play sounds simple in theory: Two players take turns placing stones on the board to occupy territories and surround the opponent’s stones, earning points for their successes. Yet the scope of Go makes it extremely difficult—perhaps impossible—for a program to master the game with the traditional search-and-evaluate approach.”

This is because, “For starters, the complexity of the search algorithm depends in large part on the branching factor—the number of possible moves at every turn. For chess, that factor is roughly 40, and a typical chess game lasts for about 50 moves. In Go, the branching factor can be more than 250, and a game goes on for about 350 moves. The proliferation of options in Go quickly becomes too much for a standard search algorithm.”

Hooray! That is the good news, and there is more…”There’s also a bigger problem: While it’s fairly easy to define the value of positions in chess, it’s enormously difficult to do so on a Go board. In chess-playing programs, a relatively simple evaluation function adds up the material value of pieces (a queen, for example, has a higher value than a pawn) and computes the value of their locations on the board based on their potential to attack or be attacked. Compared with that of chess pieces, the value of individual Go stones is much lower. Therefore the evaluation of a Go position is based on all the stones’ locations, and on judgments about which of them will eventually be captured and which will stay safe during the shifting course of a long game. To make this assessment, human players rely on both a deep tactical understanding of the game and a clear-eyed appraisal of the overall board situation. Go masters consider the strength of various groups of stones and look at the potential to create, expand, or conquer territories across the board.”

This sounds good so far, but then they continue, “Rather than try to teach a Go-playing program how to perform this complex assessment, we’ve found that the best solution is to skip the evaluation process entirely.”

Oh no, Mr. Bill!

“Over the past decade, several research groups have pioneered a new search paradigm for games, and the technique actually has a chance at cracking Go. Surprisingly, it’s based on sequences of random moves. In its simplest form, this approach, called Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS), eschews all knowledge of the desirability of game positions. A program that uses MCTS need only know the rules of the game.”

I do not know about you, but I am hoping, “What happens in Monte Carlo stays in Monte Carlo.” Do you get the feeling we are about to be Three Card Monte Carloed?

“From the current configuration of stones on the board, the program simulates a random sequence of legal moves (playing moves for both opponents) until the end of the game is reached, resulting in a win or loss. It automatically does this over and over. The magic comes from the use of statistics. The evaluation of a position can be defined as the frequency with which random move sequences originating in that position lead to a win. For instance, the program might determine that when move A is played, random sequences of moves result in a win 73 percent of the time, while move B leads to a win only 54 percent of the time. It’s a shockingly simple metric.”

“Shockingly simple,” my jackass. There is much more to the article, including this, “The best policies for expanding the tree also rely on a decision-making shortcut called rapid action value estimation (RAVE). The RAVE component tells the program to collect another set of statistics during each simulation.”

As in “Raving lunatic.” The article provides a list of what current computer programs have done to games, and how they rate in “…two-player games without chance or hidden information…”

TIC-TAC-TOE (Game positions, 10 to the 4th power) = Toast

OWARE (Game positions, 10 to the 11th power) = Fried

CHECKERS (Game positions, 10 to the 20th power)= Cooked

OTHELLO (Game positions, 10 to the 28th power)= Superhuman

CHESS (Game positions, 10 to the 45th power) = Superhuman

XIANGQI (CHINESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 48th power) = Best Professional

SHOGI (JAPANESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 70th power) = Strong Professional

GO = (Game positions, 10 to the 172th power) = Strong Amateur

They end the article by writing, “But there may come a day soon when an AI will be able to conquer any game we set it to, without a bit of knowledge to its name. If that day comes, we will raise a wry cheer for the triumph of ignorance.”

I would much prefer to raise a stein and drown my sorrows to that…

THESE are my people

In an article at the Chessbase website, written by chess GM Peter Heine Nielsen, Grandmasters at the Shogi Forum (part 2), one finds, “The tradition of the best Japanese board game players, to be interested in a game other than their ”main” one is known from Nobel Prize winner Kawabata’s masterpiece “The Master of Go”.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grandmasters-at-the-shogi-forum-2-2)

The title of Tiger Hillarp’s post, dated March 9, 2015, is, Virtual ascent to 1 dan. Tiger, a Chess GM, has become a dan Go player! Congratulations are in order for the Tiger! World chess champion Emanuel Lasker, who said, “. . . [it is] something unearthly . . . If there are sentient beings on other planets, then they play Go,” (http://www.kiseido.com/) would be proud of Tiger’s accomplishment. He writes, “After a rather long struggle to get up to 1 dan on KGS I finally managed the other day. It might seem like a rather small step for mankind, but it felt quite big to me and merited a rather bouncy and ungraceful dance around the livingroom. As a chess coach I always recommend my students to annotate their games and I do – of course – follow my own advice as I try to improve my go skills. Here are two examples that I have tried to make less go-diary-like.” (http://tiger.bagofcats.net/)

Tiger not only annotates two of his Go games, but also annotates the 39:th Kisei titel match, game 1, in his post dated February 18, 2015. (http://tiger.bagofcats.net/go/39th-kisei-titel-match-game-1/)

As many of you know I have spent time attempting to learn Go the past few years. From a crossword puzzle study at Georgia Tech, for which I was paid, under the supervision of graduate student, now Ph.D. Zach Hambrick, I learned Seniors who had worked crossword puzzles for a long time did not show the changes that those for whom, like me, it was a new experience. Current thinking is that the brain needs new stimulation as one ages. I do not want anyone, like the nattering nabobs of negativism who post on the USCF forum, to misconstrue my words as they have previously done so often. I do not know if the time I devote to chess is helpful or not. I do it because of the joy it brings. I do, though, know the time spent studying Go is beneficial for my brain, not to mention the fact that it, too, brings me immense joy. Having playing chess most of my adult life, Go is like entering a portal into a completely new and different universe. Whether it be chess, Shogi, Go, or even backgammon, it is all a game which we play. After all, we game players are all kindred spirits. One of my favorite stories comes from a wonderful woman involved with the Emory Castle Chess Camp (http://www.castlechess.org/dnn/). She said, “The very first year his mother brought him he was a tiny little thing, very serious, didn’t have many friends at school. She had been trying to help him by telling him he just needed to find the right people to make friends with. When they walked into the ballroom at Emory for Castle orientation and there were kids all over the floor playing blitz and bughouse, and his face lit up and he turned to her and said with a huge smile, “Mom…. I’ve found them, THESE are my people.”

Chess Offers Low-level Gains for Society

The Legendary Georgia Ironman did not care for the conclusion drawn by the authors of Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, by Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli. The Ironman loves chess and has, on occasion, gotten his back up when I have mentioned anything negative about the Royal game. He has acted rather prickly upon hearing it said that Wei-Chi, or Go in the US, is a better game. For example, there are almost no draws in Go. It can therefore be thought of as a game with honor, something, because of the proliferation of offered draws, chess lacks. Go players do not offer a draw because to do so would show a lack of honor, which would mean a loss of face, or respect, so it is simply not done. I enjoy going over the games of the Go masters because the commentary emanates from the mind of a human, not a machine. GM Maurice Ashley has been part of the broadcast team of the US Chess Championships from the opulent St. Louis Chess Club for the past several years and I still have no clue what he thinks because he is the human informing the viewers of what the computer “thinks.” In post game interviews with the top human players in the world today one hears the word “computer” ad nauseam. It is, “computer this, computer that…here a computer, there a computer, everywhere a computer…computer, computer, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘PUTER!” until one is sick of hearing the word. The best human players in the world no longer tell fans what they think, because they allow the ‘puter to do the thinking for them.

The Ironman, like many in the chess community, simply refuses to believe the conclusions drawn by the authors, as they acknowledge in section 4.2: Recommendations for future research

“We realize that our conclusions are likely to disappoint many chessplayers, in particular those who have invested considerable amounts of time and energy in promoting chess in schools, and those who have actually collected data about the effect of chess instruction.”

The conclusions reached almost a decade ago by Gobet and Campitelli could have been used for future research, but as of now, this is the last word. One finds this in the previous section, 4.1 Evaluation of past and current research:

“As mentioned earlier, research in psychology and education suggests that cognitive skills do not transfer well from one domain to another. Thus, the default position for most education experts will be that skills developed during chess study and practice will not transfer to other domains. Do the empirical data on chess research refute this position? Unfortunately, the answer is: no.”

The end of the line shows this written in the conclusion to the study, given it in its entirety.

5 Conclusion

“As shown in the documents collected by the USCF, chess teachers and chess masters are sanguine about the benefits of chess instruction, proposing that chess develops, among other things, general intelligence, ability to concentrate, ego strength, self-control, analytical skills, and reading skills. De Groot (1977) is more specific and has suggested that chess instruction may provide two types of gain: first, “low-level gains,” such as improvement in concentration, learning to lose, learning that improvement comes with learning, or interest in school in underprivileged environments; and second, “high-level gains,” such as increase in intelligence, creativity, and school performance. Our review indicates that research has mostly explored the possibility of high-level gains, and this, with mixed results.
As argued in this chapter, there is a huge chasm between the strong claims often found in chess literature and the rather inconclusive findings of a limited number of studies. The extant evidence seems to indicate that (a) the possible effects of optional chess instruction are still an open question; (b) compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems; and (c) while chess instruction may be beneficial at the beginning, the benefits seem to decrease as chess skill improves, because of the amount of practice necessary and the specificity of the knowledge that is acquired.
This chapter has critically reviewed the extant literature, and has proposed avenues for further research. We hope that the somewhat negative conclusions we have reached will stimulate the next wave of empirical studies. While chess may not “make kids smarter,” it may offer what De Groot calls “low-level gains” for our society, and it would be a pity not to exploit this opportunity.”

Unless and until this is refuted this has to stand as the final answer to the question, no matter how unpalatable it may be to some in the chess world.

What is Chess?

The Legendary Georgia Ironman once remarked, “Chess is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” With my eye swollen shut I had time to reflect upon his statement while contemplating the question, “What is chess?”

The new people who have entered the chess world because of the scholastic craze do not seem to understand this simple fact. Their ignorance is masked by new slogans and “vision statements.” A recent example can be found on the forum of the North Carolina Chess Association. It is election time in the Great State of NC and Sara Walsh has thrown her hat into the ring, running for the post of VP. Unlike my home state of Georgia, the NCCA has a forum where mud can be slung, and from reading the comments on said forum, it is being fast and furiously flung. In her post of Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:14 pm Sara wrote, “While working on a project and looking for content, I realized that there was no About Us page on the NCCA website. So my challenge to you is to come up with a portion of an About Us page. A succinct overview of what defines the NCCA and its role in NC Chess. Think about what’s on the website, what’s in the Bylaws/Charter. One might include a Mission Statement, Vision, Objectives, a short history, possibly some highlights, or anything else you think belongs on an About Us page. Any thoughts?”
Sara

There it is again, the “vision” thing. What is it with women and a “Vision statement?” Does chess need a “vision statement” to answer the question of “What is chess?” Women evidently think it does.

The USCF has put all its eggs in the one basket of scholastic chess. Chess has become a game for children. Chess has become a “learning tool.” For example, the new Executive Director of the USCF, Jean Hoffman, writes in the August 2014 issue of Chess Life that one of the USCF goals is to, “Educate children, parents, teachers and school administrators on the benefits of chess as a part of a school curriculum and as an extra-curricular activity.” Thus far this new century has been devoted to transforming the Royal game into a frilly fun game for children in hopes it will give them a warm fuzzy feeling. Chess is anything but warm and fuzzy. The children learn chess at a young age. As they start to mature they realize what chess is in actuality and stop playing. Children are much smarter than some adults give them credit for, and are astute enough to know when adults are selling them a bill of goods.

Chess is a difficult game to learn and even more difficult to play. The game of Go, or Wei Chi in other parts of the world, has only a few rules and is much simpler to learn, and it does all the things chess people have sold to educators. The number of people on the planet who have taken to the game this century, most of whom are children, has tripled, and is increasing exponentially. Chess is a game of the past, while Go is the game of the future.

Chess is a war game. War does not instill the “warm fuzzys.” The mentally deranged yankee general, William Tecumseh Sherman, is best known for uttering, “War is hell.” Chess is hell. I have heard chess called many things, including, “Mental torture.” I have seen grown men brought to their knees by a game of chess. I have seen grown men cry after losing a game of chess. GM Vassily Ivanchuk once beat his head against a wall so hard and so long after losing a chess game that it left blood on the wall and dripping from his face. Chess is a psychic knife fight. Chess is pure and simple combat, which takes place in the mind.

Over the years I have read chess called many things by the greats of the game, and other notables. Here are some examples:

Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponents mind. – Bobby Fischer

Chess is ruthless: you’ve got to be prepared to kill people. – Nigel Short

Chess is, above all, a fight. – Emanuel Lasker

By some ardent enthusiasts Chess has been elevated into a science or an art. It is neither; but its principal characteristic seems to be – what human nature mostly delights in – a fight. – Emanuel Lasker

A chess game, after all, is a fight in which all possible factors must be made use of, and in which a knowledge of the opponent’s good and bad qualities is of the greatest importance. – Emanuel Lasker

Chess is a test of wills. – Paul Keres

Chess is a contest between two men which lends itself particularly to the conflicts surrounding aggression. – Rueben Fine

Chess is a sport. A violent sport. – Marcel Duchamp

Chess is mental torture. – Garry Kasparov

In the Soviets’ view, chess was not merely an art or a science or even a sport; it was what it had been invented to simulate: war. – Pal Benko

There is no remorse like a remorse of chess. It is a curse upon man. There is no happiness in chess. – H.G. Wells

Chess has been sold to the parents of young children as something it is not, a wonderful game where everyone goes home a winner. Life is not like that, something which the children learn the hard way. As the author Gore Vidal so eloquently put it, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Many aspire to be the best, but there can be only one World Chess Champion.

The following is taken from an episode, “Three Coaches And A Bobby” (season 3, episode 12), of the cartoon show, “King of the Hill.”

The problem with Soccer

I dedicate this version to my friend for over four decades, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, a BIG fan of…

REO Speedwagon Only The Strong Survive

I dedicate this version to myself because it was popular at the time I lost my first love and helped me out of the funk:

Jerry Butler Only the Strong Survive

And here is a live performance many years later:

Jerry Butler – Only The Strong Survive

I dedicate this cover to my crazy cousin Linda who had three passions in life, with Elvis being one, and include it because although many have been called the “King” of popular music, there can be only one King:

Elvis Presley – Only The Strong Survive ( Alt.Take,X Rated )

Hikaru No Chess

The title is a play on the hugely popular Japanese TV series, “Hikaru no Go” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0426711/).
the popularity of this program is best described by this, “World Go population probably tripled because of ‘Hikaru no Go'”, said Joey Hung, USA 8 dan Go instructor. All of Joey’s Go School ( http://www.egogames.com) Go students in Fremont, CA, USA have watched the exciting Go anime. Also, at the World Amateur Go Tournament and Beijing Mental Olympics Tournament, many European, South American and Asian players reflected that they have seen a dramatic increase in Go population due to the ‘Hikaru no GO’ anime.”

“Hikaru no Go (literally The Go of Hikaru or Hikaru’s Go) is a manga (a Japanese comic) and an anime (a Japanese cartoon) about a boy (Hikaru Shindo) who discovers the ancient game when he finds an old board in the attic and meets the spirit of a past Go master (Fujiwara-no-Sai).
The Hikaru no Go manga is published by VIZ Media ([ext] http://www.viz.com) in the United States and Canada, and the Hikaru no Go anime has been licensed by VIZ Media in the United States and Canada. The manga is serialized in the United States version of Shonen Jump ( http://www.shonenjump.com), while the entire anime is viewable at Hulu.com. In North America Hikaru no Go is also available on the ImaginAsian TV Channel” (http://senseis.xmp.net/?HikaruNoGo).

“Hikaru no Go ( lit. “Hikaru’s Go”) is a manga series, a coming of age story based on the board game Go written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata with an anime adaptation. The production of the series’ Go games was supervised by Go professional Yukari Umezawa (5-dan). The manga is largely responsible for popularizing Go among the youth of Japan since its debut, and considered by Go players everywhere to have sparked worldwide interest in Go, noticeably increasing the Go-playing population across the globe, perhaps tripling it.
Current top Japanese Go professional Iyama Yuta is considered to be part of the influx of young Go players whose generation was inspired by the series.
First released in Japan in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump in 1998, Hikaru no Go achieved tremendous success, spawning a popular Go fad of almost unprecedented proportions” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikaru_no_Go).

Maybe the best way to impart just how popular is “Hikaru no Go” would be to mention that in the December, 2012, issue of the second best chess publication in the world, “Chess Monthly,” the man who recently tied with GM David Howell for first place in the British chess championships, IM Jonathan Hawkins, the author of “Amateur to IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods,” when asked the question of what is your favorite film or TV series, answered, “Hikaru no Go.” (!)

The impetus for my last post was Hikaru Nakamura. It is no secret that Hikaru has not been playing well recently. I am sure many other fans of “Naka” have “felt his pain.” After blowing a certain win against human World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the third round of the Zurich tournament, I could not help but wonder if he could ever come back from such a defeat, especially since he has never beaten Magnus in a classical game of chess. Now he has finished dead last on his home court of the St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center in the latest edition of the Sinquefield Cup. If there is a next S.C. Hikaru should be left out, as was Gata Kamsky this year. It is clear there is something wrong with Hikaru. He would not be a good poker player because he is easy to read. It is obvious from his body language that he is not the same person I saw in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, at the 32nd Continental Open in 2002, when he was kicking ass and taking names. He was brimming with confidence and the world was his oyster.

After losing to Veselin Topalov, the Bulgarian, who is often referred to as a former “world champion” though I know not why, Hikaru was interviewed by GM Maurice Ashley. Maurice said, “There was a moment in the game that the computer spotted an idea and we thought you were for sure gonna play. It’s the kind of move you always play. Yasser said you would play it in a bullet game, the move Bxf2. Tell us your thoughts in this moment right now.” Hikaru responded, “Well, I mean basically I had this exact position up until move 19 up on the board, um, you know, before the game and e5 was not a computer move and I knew it had to be bad but, um, during the game I just couldn’t quite figure it out. Um, OK, obviously I looked at Bxf2 and then I rejected it, but, I mean I just simply did not see the end of the line and more or less it’s unfortunate, but even then later I was still OK and then I just completely lost the thread, so I mean, sometimes things don’t go your way.”

Maurice: “The…we hear this often from really high level players like yourself that something goes wrong in the calculation. Can you ever explain it when that happens, because it seems unnerving even to you guys.”

Hikaru: “Um…well I mean…I’m not so upset about missing this one because I mean it wasn’t clear even though it’s the most intuitive move on the board. I mean, sometimes it happens, but again what can you do, sometimes, sometimes you don’t…I mean, if you don’t calculate perfectly, I mean that’s why, that’s why computers are just much better than all of us.”

Maurice: “Well, at least it’s calculating for sure. You’re in a tough situation now.”

There is a caption underneath a picture of Nakamura on the Chessbase website in an article by Alejandro Ramirez titled “Sinquefield 08: Streak stopped, Event clinched” dated 9/5/2014, “Nakamura has had some trouble calculating this tournament, it is unclear why.”
(http://en.chessbase.com/post/sinquefield-08-streak-stopped-event-clinched)

It appears the wagons have been circled and the popular thing to say is that GM Nakamura finished last, without winning a single game, because his powers of calculation have deserted him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hikaru has been playing badly because he has lost faith in his judgement and doubt has crept in where there once was confidence. Losing will do that to a player no matter what game is being played. Simply put, Hikaru has lost confidence in his intuition. His suspect moves show this fact.

When on his way to becoming World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal played moves that defied calculation. There were no super computer programs in those days so humans could not calculate the ramifications of some of Tal’s moves. Tal could not calculate the ramifications of some of his moves, yet he played them anyway, because his intuition told him they were the right moves to play. Nakamura played like that at one time in the past. Now he seems to be trying to play like a calculating machine. He tells us this with his answer above to the question posed by GM Ashley. “I looked at Bxf2+ and then I rejected it…I just simply did not see the end of the line…”

There is a battle raging inside the head of Hikaru Nakamura. It is a battle between the emotional Captain Kirk and the logical Mr. Spock. Hikaru is an intuitive player, not a calculating machine. He is a poet of the chess board, not a philosopher. I say that with a line from Kevin L. Stoehr, professor of Humanities at Boston University, in mind. He wrote, “Philosophy typically strives for the clarity of definition and proposition. Poetry, in most cases, revels in ambiguity and mystery.” (From the essay, “You Who Philosophize Dylan: The Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry in the Songs of Bob Dylan” in the book, “Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Thinking).” Later on in the same essay he writes, “Like the true poet that he is, Dylan believes that when it comes to the construction of his lyrics (and certainly the creation of the music itself, we might assume), the power of immediate intuition counts far more than the categorizing and ordering power of the intellect.” Hikaru Nakamura must somehow come to terms with the fact that he is an intuitive player and know that ” the power of immediate intuition counts far more than the categorizing and ordering power of the intellect.”

In an alternate universe Nakamura, at Zurich, after disposing of the former Human World Chess Champion, Vishy Anand, in round two, then beat the new Human World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, in lieu of losing the “won game” as he did in this universe. In that universe Hikaru played 21…Bxf6+ in lieu of the insipid 21…g6, bringing the sinister Topalov to his knees, making him 0-3, and having the black pieces against the Human World Champion the next round. Hikaru would have been in clear second place, only a half point behind Fab Car. Things would have turned out differently. After the tournament in which Nakamura and Caruana tied for first place, bizillionaire Rex Sinquefield put up one million dollars for a match between Naka and Fab Car, with the winner going on to play a match with Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen, with ten million dollars going to the winner. I regret it is impossible for me to give you any more details, as I am certain you would like to know who won the matches in the other universe, but Dr. Walter Bishop’s machine providing a window into the other universe destructed when Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin invaded Ukraine, which caused the other Magnus to decline the match with the other Vishy Anand. This caused World War III in which nuclear weapons were used, which destroyed the window on the other side.

In this universe the best thing our Hikaru Nakamura could do would be to take a page out of Bobby Fischer’s book and take a year or so off from chess to, as Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen said to GM Maurice Ashley after beating Naka for the ELEVENTH time, “Figure it out.”

Hikaru No Go can be watched free at these sites:

http://www.hulu.com/hikaru-no-go

http://www.animehere.com/anime/hikaru-no-go.html

The Beatles – Across The Universe

Across The Universe Soundtrack

Classical Chess

“Bill James is the best known baseball analyst in the world” (http://sabr.org/about/bill-james). Bill began his writing career by questioning the assumptions in baseball, something commonly called, “The Book.” For questioning some of the commonly held beliefs in baseball Bill was excoriated by the MLB establishment. His books, and the thinking contained therein, caught on with many and his books became very successful. Many other baseball fans began to question things like the sacrifice bunt, held dear by the MLB establishment. Decades later Bill was hired by the Boston Red Sox as an analyst and the Red Sox became the World Champions. Now every MLB team has an analyst, or team of analysts.

Bill’s latest book is, “Fools Rush Inn: More Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom.” One of the essays is, “Classical Sport.” As is often the case, while reading the essay my thoughts would drift to chess and I would substitute the word “chess” for “classical music.” Read on and you will understand why.

Bill writes, “Classical music has very, very serious problems as an industry. The number of people who enjoy classical music is small compared to the market for other kinds of music and the market is composed primarily of old people.

“Classical music survives, or has survived so far, because it has advantages over the marketplace, rather than advantage in the marketplace. Classical music is perceived by a very large cadre of musical professionals as the highest form of music, and these people have integrated themselves and their music into the society in ways that insulate it from extinction by economic forces. High schools do not teach young musicians to play rock and roll, as a rule; they teach them to play “instruments,” which are in truth the instruments of classical music. Millions of small children take violin lessons, which their parents get for them because this is how music is taught. The perception that this form of music is “classy” -widely accepted in our culture- keeps the form alive by giving it these advantages, and many similar and related advantages. At the symphony I am below the median age and, I suspect, well below the median income. Those old people who go to the symphony have more-than proportional power because they have more-than proportional wealth. There is something much more than that going on here. It has to do with the perception of rectitude, of value and of virtue.”

“Music, like sport, is instinctive to us, exists in all cultures, and will never disappear. There are primal and sophisticated forms of music and of sport, which could also be called vibrant and calcified, or youthful and moribund. There is a spectrum in these activities that runs from vibrant, primal and youthful to sophisticated, calcified and moribund. All sports and all forms of music move across that spectrum, crawling toward obsolescence.”

I have always thought of chess as a form of the “Glass Bead Game,” made popular by the greatest novel ever written, “The Glass Bead Game,” also published as “Magister Ludi,” Latin for “Master of the Game,” by Hermann Hesse, who won a Nobel Prize in Literature for the book. The Glass Bead Game takes place centuries into the future. It concerns the place the game occupies in the culture. “As the novel progresses, Knecht begins to question his loyalty to the order; he gradually comes to doubt that the intellectually gifted have a right to withdraw from life’s big problems. Knecht comes to see Castalia as a kind of ivory tower, an ethereal and protected community, devoted to pure intellectual pursuits but oblivious to the problems posed by life outside its borders.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Bead_Game)

The game of chess can be thought of in the way Bill James writes of classical music. Chess has always been thought of as important because it requires thought, something some very wealthy people have valued highly enough to become patrons of the game. I am thinking of Gregor Piatigorsky and his wife, Jacqueline, and the famous tournaments they funded in Los Angeles in 1963 and 1966, called the Piatigorsky Cup. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piatigorsky_Cup) Every chess player knows of these tournaments, and if you encounter anyone involved with chess who has never heard of the Piatigorsky tournaments the question becomes, “What is this person doing in chess?” In 1961 the Piatigorsky’s sponsored a match between Bobby Fischer and Sammy Reshevsky. It ended prematurely when the wealthy couple wanted to change the scheduled time of one of the games because of a conflict Gregor had with a musical performance. Bobby refused because he had signed a contract that specified the round time of each game. The wealthy couple must have felt like Ronald Raygun, when running for POTUS, and he was heckled from the audience. Ronnie famously yelled, “I am paying for this microphone!” In actuality he was not paying. The people contributing money toward his campaign were paying, but why quibble? It was a great sound bite for the Gypper. The Piatigorsky’s were paying and thought Bobby should jump through any hoop provided. Bobby provided them with what is called a “rude awakening” when he “just said no.” Extraordinarily wealthy people are not used to being refused. They are also not used to being told “no” because they surround themselves with “yes men.”
I mention this because without the patronage of very wealthy people there may not be future chess as we have known it until now. Consider for a moment the state of chess without the largess provided by the latest patron, billionaire Rex Sinquefield. Rather than being held in the state of the art St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center the US Championships may have been held in some room in a college, as has been the case previously. The STLCC&SC is an artificial construct. I mean that because St. Louis was never known as a hot-bed of chess in the way New York city was known to be a hot-bed of chess. The game of chess developed naturally in New York, San Francisco, and other cities without some fantastically wealthy individual building it so they would come. Please do not take me wrong; I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that it is a “thing.”

Chess is in a fight for its life in the marketplace. The common perception among adults is that chess is dead, and that it died when the computer program “defeated” human World Chess Champ Garry Kasparov. In order to survive chess has been “sold” as a wonderful game to help children “think.” Chess is a wonderful tool to help children learn how to think, but so are literature and math The game of Wei-Chi, popularly known as “Go” in the west, is also a wonderful game and in many ways it is better than chess because a computer program is not yet as strong as the best human players (I will discuss this in a planned future post). Go is exponentially more complicated than chess and it is much simpler to learn, with no “weird” moves such as castling or en passant. A draw in go is about as common as leap year. One of the major problems afflicting chess is non-serious games. It will be terribly difficult to explain the worth of a game in which he is asked to contribute after being shown a game such as the one played today in the British Championship:

Pert, Richard G – Pert, Nicholas
101st ch-GBR 2014 Aberystwyth WLS (8.2), 2014.07.27
1.e4 e5 ½-½

To those who may say they are related I say, “Go talk to Venus and Serena Williams.” To those who may say it is near the end of the Championship and they were tired I say, “It is only one game per day and the previous day was an OFF DAY!”

In reply to the post “Has Cheating Affected Chess?” my friend the Discman sent me an email in which he wrote, “Interesting discussion and on point. However, cheating isn’t the biggest problem facing chess. Computers have taken the mystery out of the game. GM’s used to be gods with almost super-natural powers. Now any schmo with a smartphone can figure out the best move. Technology and the public’s need for instant gratification have left chess behind. It is no longer relevant in the public consciousness. Yes, cheating and the potential of cheating are contributing factors, but not the root cause.”

Chris has hit the nail on the head. The Royal game no longer has mystique. Most adults without children consider chess an anachronism, much in the same way they think of the game of checkers, a hugely popular game once upon a time. Consider these comments, first from Ron Suarez on the USCF forum: “We have seen a big drop in adult participation and membership.” (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20209&sid=98f50abff42e50fe2fc1e9553255a7cd)
Gary Maltzman wrote this on the NCAA forum: “Seems like some of the big NC Tournaments are on an attendance downswing.” (http://www.ncchess.org/Discussion/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=856&sid=4d93659f883d9f10934dba14bd4e056b)

These kinds of comments proliferate on the web these days.

I have no solution to offer other than those previously written. The chess world has to look toward those in positions of power, for better or worse. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein to mind: “The thinking it took to get us into this mess is not the same thinking that is going to get us out of it.”

Chess Death by Draw

Yesterday, Monday, August 25, both games in the World Cup had finished by the time I made it to the website. Andreikin-Tomashevsky was agreed drawn before getting out of the opening, while the other ‘game’ between Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik lasted two moves longer, a draw being agreed after White played his sixteenth move.
I surfed over to the website because I am a chess fan. As a fan I was disgusted the number of moves in both games combined did not even reach the number of moves, forty, that has been considered the end of the first time control as long as I have been a fan of chess.
I have been a fan of baseball and other sports during my life. In each and every other sport I have heard players thank the fans, with many saying things like, “Without the fans we would not be here.” I cannot recall any Grandmaster saying anything of a similar nature. Can you? When games are finished before getting out of the opening it is insulting to the fans of the Royal game.
It has been proven in millions of games over the last two hundred years of chess that the player with the player moving first has an advantage. It is considered a small victory for the player with the Black pieces to draw the game. The game of Go has a rule, Komi, that addresses the problem. Komi means points are added to the score of the player with the white stones as compensation for playing second. Because of this rule a draw in Go is an extremely rare occurrence.
I have previously suggested chess adopt such a rule, with Black scoring slightly higher for both a win and a draw. It would not only cut down the number of draws, but also compensate the player having the extra Black in a tournament with an odd number of rounds. For example, if two players win all of their games in a tournament, but one has Black three times, while the other has the white pieces three times, the one having the extra Black would win the tournament. Thus there would be no need for any kind of tiebreaker.
In a tournament such as the World Cup where both players play both colors equally the added bonus would be meaningless. After seeing the truncated games yesterday I mentioned to the Legendary Georgia Ironman an idea to prevent the early draw. What I proposed is that if the score is tied after two, or four, or more, games, the loser of the match would be the player who agreed to the earliest draw with the White pieces. For example, in the games yesterday, Andreikin agreed to a draw after playing his fourteenth move. That would mean that if all the other games were drawn in fifteen moves or more, Andreikin would lose the match. Had there been such a rule in place it would have obviously influenced Andreikin to continue playing.
The Ironman, after cogitating, complimented me on an “original thought,” saying he had never heard of such a proposal. Since, as I have heard all my life, there is nothing new under the sun, I cannot believe someone has not previously had the same thought, and made the same proposal. The Ironman mentioned looking at the games yesterday with one of his young students. The boy, new to chess, told Tim he did not understand why the players would agree to such an early draw, asking why they would do such a thing? Tim said he had no answer for the lad. The young emulate the professionals, whether it be baseball, basketball, chess or Go. Are short draws something the chess community wants the young players to emulate?
During the game still ongoing game between Kramnik and Vachier-Lagrave today Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam discussed the lack of fans watching the games in person with his cohort, GM Nigel Short. Dirk mentioned the “…hundreds of thousands of fans watching via the internet.” How many of those fans, like me, were disgusted by the two early draws yesterday and have not come back today? Why would any potential sponsor spend any money to advertise on a moribund website? Draws agreed before getting out of the opening, or right after the opening, kill interest in chess. Without interest, there will be no chess.
Advertising brings billions of dollars to maimball. Imagine what would happen to the sport if, after the first quarter of the Super Bowl, it were announced that because the score was tied, and since the teams had the same record coming into the game, the coaches had decided to declare the game a draw. How many fans would then tune the game out?