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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Odds and Ends

Odds and ends are defined as a group of small objects of different types which are not very valuable or important. This expression may have originated as “odd ends” in the mid-1500s meaning short leftovers of some material such as lumber or cloth. It acquired its present form and meaning by the mid-1700s. That's what's here...just some miscellaneous things that don't deserve a whole post by themselves. 

Old Time Radio Programs
What do old time radio programs have to do with chess? Nothing except listening to them can be a nice break. I just listened to Blair of the Mounties, a Story of the Northwest Mounted Police that was broadcast in 1938. Dumbdotcom is an entertaining site for lots of stuff besides old radio programs. They also have other stuff like online games, viral and music videos, etc. There are some broken links though. Like, I couldn't play the game where you have to pop pimples off a kid's face and the more you can pop in a given time, the higher your score. Too bad...sounds like a lot of fun. How about a really old video of Ellen DeGeneres and a young and very skinny Oprah Winfrey in a rap battle? It was stupid, but then I'm not a fan of Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah or rap. 

Chess Archeology
Chess Archeology has a page devoted to online chess periodicals, both American and foreign, from Google that make for interesting reading. Some samples: American Chess Bulletin 1904-1912, American Chess Journal 1876-1879, British Chess Magazine 1881-1919, Chess Player's Chronicle 1841-1892, City of London Chess Magazine 1875-1876, Deutsche Schachzietung 1846-1922 ...plus many more. You will have to be familiar with descriptive notation, but that should not be a deterrent. If you are of at least below average intelligence you can learn it in 10 minutes. Chess Archeology is an interesting site to browse for a lot of other stuff, too. Photographs, newspaper clipping, articles, etc. It is maintained by Jacques N. Pope. Pope is the author of the definitive work on Pillsbury, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, American Champion. 

Chess and Religion 
The Studies in Comparative Religion site has an article titled The Symbolism of Chess and here is a blog post asking Should Christians Play Chess?  Then there is an article in The Economist titled Why Chess Upsets Religious Fundamentalists. And, finally, unless you are a lot more scholarly than I am, there is a 79 page pdf dissertation sure to bore you titled Queening: Chess and Women in Medieval France

Chess and Politics 
Redacted, the National Security Archive and an excerpt titled Henry Kissinger Jokes about Making a Pawn of Bobby Fischer. It's an excerpt from a taped conversation with Time Magazine’s Diplomatic Editor trying to get the scoop on Kissinger’s famous call to Fischer. Kissinger joked about the Fischer-Spassky match, saying he really just wanted Fischer to play so he could have an opportune cover to meet with Vietnamese Communist Party leader Le Duc Tho.  Kissinger also recommended that Nixon not invite Spassky to the White House because there were rumors that he was going to defect and he thought the government should not risk getting involved in that. 

World of Chess Hall of Fame and American Presidents. Which presidents played chess.

Humphrey Bogart Chess Hoax 
     Most everybody knows actor Humphrey Bogart was an accomplished player. The story of how he came to be one is interesting. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed forced Bogart to look to Hollywood for gainful employment after work began to dry up in theaters in New York. His first attempt at stardom failed and he returned to New York, where in the early 1930s he still remained largely unemployed. Hustling chess fulfilled the need to make a few dollars. In New York City parks and places like Coney Island and Times Square, he played chess for fifty cents a game to supplement his income. Later he drew Reshevsky in a simultaneous exhibition and at one time was a director of the USCF and he was an active member of the Californian State Chess Association in the mid 1940s. 
     One story goes that Bogart was stopped from playing correspondence chess with US soldiers in veteran hospitals because US authorities thought Bogart was sending secret codes via mail. In the book by Bryce Avery, Correspondence Chess in America, he wrote that according to an article by Ben Schiller that appeared in The Chess Correspondent it never happened. 
     Schiller was stationed at Kingman Army Airfield and had visited Hollywood where he met Herman Steiner and had slept at Steiner's house. Schiller suggested to Steiner, who was friends with a lot of Hollywood stars, producers and executives that he contact Bogart's manager and put forth the idea that perhaps Bogart might be interested in playing correspondence games with soldiers. Bogart was presented with the suggestion, but he wasn't interested. 
     As a publicity gimmick Bogart's manager reported to the press that Bogart was playing postal games with the troops to help boost their morale. His manager also added that Bogart was playing almost 200 games! The Times published the story which included a photo of Schiller playing a game against Bogart with the caption that they were finishing a game that had been started by mail. According to the post newspaper the game was actually played on a movie set.  The related story that Bogart was investigated by the FBI after one of his postal chess cards with descriptive notation was thought to contain some kind of code wasn't true either.

Stockfish and Komodo 
     My preferred chess engine rating list is the CEGT 40/40 list because all engines use a general book up to 12 moves, 3-4-5 piece EGTB, the time control is 40 moves in 40 minutes, not blitz, and they run on the same computer, an Athlon 64 X2 4600+ (2.4 GHz). On that list Stockfish 7 64-bit 4 CPU is one rating point ahead of Komodo 9.2 64-bit 4 CPU. The other two recent Komodo releases are next in line and are 20 points or less behind...all are essentially the same rating, but in individual games Stockfish holds a big lead over Komodo in head to head competition. Houdini 4 is about 90 points back and it's been smashed by both Stockfish and Komodo. 
     The engines have different strengths. Komodo is best at evaluating middlegame positions accurately once the tactics are resolved. Stockfish seems to be best in the endgame and in seeing very deep tactics. Houdini is the best at blitz and at seeing tactics quickly. This is why it's important to have both engines, or at least one other one to be used in conjunction with Stockfish. 
     When analyzing the following position with Stockfish 6 64-bit POPCNT after several minutes its recommendation was 18.Rab1, but that move makes no sense to my untrained eye. I was thinking that 18.Nxc6 looks reasonable and when I switched to Komodo, it suggested 18.Qf2 with 18.Rac1 and 18.Rab1 all being evaluated at 0.00. As for my 18.Nxc6, it was also evaluated at 0.00. 

     So, it appears that this position is dead equal. Engines, especially Stockfish, seem to have the trait that when there is no clear cut “best” move...they make mysterious R moves. Stockfish is my main analysis engine, but when I see it making R moves that don't seem to make sense, I always switch to Komodo 8 to see if there is another plausible move. Here it would seem that from the human perspective trading off the misplaced N on b4 for the B is a reasonable move. In this position though it did not seem to matter which of the four moves were made as Shootout results were all draws.The point is that if you see an engine, especially Stockfish suggesting odd looking R moves then it's a good idea to investigate further.

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