Halftime at the World Human Chess Championship

The sixth game of the 2018 World Human Chess Championship was drawn, as were the first five games.

There are multiple reasons all games have been drawn. The format of only twelve games lends itself to many drawn games. When Bobby Fischer

defeated Boris Spassky in 1972 the World Chess Championship was comprised of twenty four games. A player could lose a game, or two, as did Fischer to begin the match, and still have time to mount a comeback. In a much shorter match the combatants know one decisive game could be all she wrote. In addition, the players are evenly matched. One would expect extremely close games between the two best human players in the world. Then there is the fact that human players are much stronger and better than their predecessors. As Chess players improve there will be more draws, unless there are changes to the rules.

In the recent 2nd Du Te Cup 2018 played in Shenzhen, China 4th to 11th November 2018, six of the top Grandmasters in the World, rated between 2709 and 2816, played an eight round double round robin in which a total of twenty four games were played, only five of which ended in victory, and each was a win for the player with the white pieces. The first win did not come until the fifth round.

The recent TCEC computer program World Chess Championship is a possible indication of what could happen in future human tournaments and matches. Stockfish and Komodo played one hundred games; only twenty one were decisive. Stockfish won thirteen games with white; Komodo won five, for a total winning percentage of eighteen percent for white. Playing black Stockfish won only two games, while Komodo won only one. Only three percent of the games played ended in victory for the black pieces. Seventy nine percent of the games played by the two 3500 rated programs were drawn.

FiveThirtyEight

It was my intention to write something about the revelatory Chess articles being written at the website of ABC News, FiveThirtyEight (https://fivethirtyeight.com/), which has been on my radar because of the excellent articles written about Major League Baseball. I first surfed over to FiveThirtyEight to read an article mentioned on another Baseball website and soon was surfing there every day, and not only because of the MLB atricles.

Mark Weeks over at Chess For All Ages beat me to the punch, so to speak, with his post Chess@538, dated 15 November, 2018 (http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2018/11/chess-538com.html). It is an excellent post which culminates with:

“The resulting brouhaha convinced one respected chess journalist, GM Ian Rogers of Australia, to resign his job working with the American team: @GMIanRogers: Sadly parting ways with @ChessLifeOnline after a decade… (twitter.com):-

…I declined to accept edits to my round 4 World Ch’p report which would downplay responsibility of editors of the Caruana video, downplay the effect of the video on Caruana’s chances, and omit the key image from the video.

On top of that, all of the videos produced by the St.Louis Chess Club disappeared from Youtube. Out of sight, out of mind? Hardly. Someone in St.Louis is guilty of an unprofessional lapse of judgement. That’s the person who should resign — not a journalist doing the job he was paid to do.”

I must concur conclusively with Mark’s astute assessment of the situation. Who is guilty in St. Louis? Inquiring minds want to know…

In the latest column by Oliver Roeder, Chess World Rattled As Someone Nearly Wins Game, it is written, “Chess players are second only to maybe biological taxonomists in their proclivity to elaborately name things, and sure enough even this rare position has its own proper name: the Karklins-Martinovsky Variation. But neither player was troubled by Karklins-Martinovsky, they said after the game. Its theory is well known to these elite players.

And so they played on. The powerful queens came off the board by move 8, but this loss took no edge off the fight. For a while, the game looked less like a battle and more like a dressage competition, as 66 percent or more of each player’s first 12 moves were knight moves.”

The following paragraph can be found in the November 16 post by Mr. Roeder:

“The data scientist Randal Olson analyzed hundreds of thousands of chess games in an article a few years ago. The closer players are in rating, he found, the longer games tend to go. And as the players get better, draws become far more common. Carlsen and Caruana are as good — and about as close in rating — as you can get. Indeed, they are even beyond the scope of Olson’s chart below, with Elo ratings (which measure the strength of players given the opponents they’ve played) north of 2800.”

I clicked on the link provided and was sent to a column written May 24, 2014, by Randal S. Olsen. There is a fantastic picture of Bobby Fischer playing Mikhail Tal, which I saved. It was worth clicking on just to see the picture.

Then I went to Mr. Olsen’s home page (http://www.randalolson.com/) and found this: “Does batting order matter in Major League Baseball? A simulation approach”

Good thing today is an off day in the WHCC.

The Greatest Chess Tournament of All-Time

The last day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season has often been called “The Greatest Day Of Baseball Ever.” Eric Simon @AmazinAvenue used the aforementioned headline (http://www.amazinavenue.com/2011/9/29/2457299/red-sox-rays-braves-wild-card-jose-reyes-mlb-playoffs).

MLB.com continues the trend with headlines such as, “One year later, recalling baseball’s Best Night Ever” (http://m.mlb.com/news/article/39125938/)

Do a search and a film by MLB.com heads the line-up, “Regular season’s wild end” (http://m.mlb.com/video/v19789807/the-2011-regular-season-ends-with-a-flourish).

The sad thing is that all this “greatness” transpired long after most fans had gone to sleep. Little League baseball players cannot stay up until after midnight to watch, no matter how “great” the event. Most who have to rise early to get to work cannot stay awake because the games drag on and on, with an endless series of commercials between innings and endless pitching changes. Most fans have been bored stiff long before something “great” happens.

Every generation has its “greatest.” The sixth game of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox, which featured a home run that barely stayed fair by Carlton Fisk, was the “greatest game of all-time.” To the fans in Pittsburgh the home run hit by Bill Mazeroski to beat the damn Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Ralph Terry in the 1960 World Series will always be the “greatest game of all-time” no matter what happens in the future.

The recently concluded second Sinquefield Cup is being called the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time. Except for the runaway winner, Fabiano Caruana, who kept his head while those around him were losing theirs, the standard of play was abysmally low. It is possible the player who finished, the sinister Vesilin Topalov, played the worse chess. Fortunately for him some of his opponents played their worst chess against him. For example, Hikaru Nakamura should have blown Topalov off of the board in the third round, leaving him three losses and having to face World Champion Magnus Carlsen while sitting behind the black army. Nakamura would have only a half point behind Fab Car and it would have been a completely different tournament. I will be kind and say that other than Fab Car the players did not bring their “A” game. It was certainly not the most interesting chess tournament of all-time.

GM Alejandro Ramirez wrote an article on 9/7/2014 for Chessbase, “Sinquefield 10: Draws end magnificent event,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/sinquefield-10-draws-end-magnificent-event)

A few days later, 9/10/2014, Alisa Melekhina wrote an article, “Behind the Scenes of the Sinquefield Cup,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/behind-the-scenes-of-the-sinquefield-cup)

“Strongest Chess Tournament Ever Begins in Saint Louis”
By Brian Jerauld
August 27, 2014
SAINT LOUIS, MO (August 26, 2014) — It‘s time to ring the bell on the strongest chess tournament in history.
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12780/772/

Saturday, August 16, 2014
Sinquefield Cup 2014 – Strongest Chess Tournament in History
http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com/2014/08/sinquefield-cup-2014-strongest-chess.html

Jason Rosenhouse, writing on something called the “Evolution Blog: Science, Religion, Math, Politics and Chess” has this headline: “The Greatest Chess Tournament in the History of Chess Tournaments”
Posted by jrosenhouse on August 28, 2014
http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2014/08/28/the-greatest-chess-tournament-in-the-history-of-chess-tournaments/

But wait, there’s MORE!

“Fabiano Caruana Is Doing The Impossible At Chess’s Most Competitive Tournament”
10:21 AMSep 5 By Oliver Roeder
http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/fabiano-caruana-is-doing-the-impossible-at-chesss-most-competitive-tournament/

Leave it to Tim Krabbé to put an end to the hyperbole:

“Could this nonsense about ´the strongest chess tournament in history´ please stop? You have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9 of the most recent ranking. The 1938 AVRO tournament had the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Of your six players, four are in the top-six – a density of 4/6, or .67. The AVRO Tournament had eight of the top eight – a density of 8/8 or 1. Both tournaments are double round robins, with of 30 and 56 games respectively. Multiplying these numbers, we get an index of 4/6*30=20 for Sinquefield, and 1*56=56 for AVRO.

AVRO, therefore, was almost 3 times as strong.

Should anyone see these calculations as meaningless, they should consider that they share that quality with Sinquefield´s average rating of 2802. Ratings do not reflect playing strength – they reflect relative playing strength and therefore, inflation more than anything else. I could go out right now and buy the most expensive pingpong ball in the history of humankind.

With many thanks for the wonderful tournament,

Tim Krabbé”
http://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/diary.htm

Many thanks for putting the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time into perspective, Tim.

MUHAMMAD ALI: THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME