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Monday, May 28, 2012

Vitruvius Follow Up

      As mentioned in a comment on the previous post, a test was conducted where the engine was given 25 test positions chosen from games in which a typical human positional sacrifice was played. The results can be viewed HERE. The ‘Human Version’ performed remarkably well.
      Its predecessor, DeepSaros3, can be downloaded HERE or HERE.  You can also download opening books. Version 3.0 is inspired by Wilhelm Steinitz and the evaluation functions have been modified to follow the rules dictated by Steinitz in the following publications:
- The Modern Chess Instructor (1889)
- Various numbers of "International Chess Magazine" (1886, 1901)
      So far I have not had a chance to try DeepSaros3 other than in a short 5 minute match against Houdini 1.5 (x64).  The results were surprising and indicate this engine is definitely worth further evaluation. DeepSaros 3 won all four games.
      Some comments made on the Open Chess Forum:

Everything I've seen posted would indicate that it's the weakest of the Ippolits, and buggy in MultiPV mode.

... I don't think that the utility of an engine stands or falls with its strength, once it's "strong enough" (and Vitruvius appears to be as strong or stronger than R4, at least in some testing). If Vitruvius manages to suggest lines which make sense to human players, analyzing or preparing for games with other humans, and which differ from the typical "computer moves" without being blunders, that would be a useful achievement, even if it loses against Houdini.
At some point I stopped using Vitruvious for analysis of correspondence games as it never suggested any idea that was better than what I could get with other engines and its crazy tries were always very easy to refute (contrast with Zappa Mexico II Dissident Aggressor which now and then still suggests plans that blow the socks of Rybka 4.1 or Critter 1.4.)
... I don't know if Vitruvius may be good or not for port-mortem analysis of human games, or OTB preparation (where needs compared to correspondence games analysis are entirely different) I advice people to remain skeptical.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Vitruvius Chess Engine

According to the author’s site: Vitruvius is a UCI engine with a penchant for human positional play and works with Fritz, Schredder, Aquariu, ChessBase, Chess Assistant, and free programs such as Arena, Scid, Jose and Winboard.  Vitruvius is based on the free Ippolit programs (RobboLito, Igorrit, IvanHoe) from which it inherits certain caracteristics and pecularties but Vitruvius has an original style of play with a highly speculative tendency. Thanks to its finely tuned positional vision, Vitruvius shows a readiness to sacrifice a pawn or two, the exchange and sometimes even a whole piece, for purely positional compensation.
        Price ranges from 25 Euros (32 & 64 bit) ($31) to 35 Euros (high-end version) ($44).  Opening books are sold separately for around $38...pricey!!
        The development team is Domenico Lattanzi, a computer scientist, cirst Category player and qualified juvenile chess instructor, Andrea Manzo, a computer scientist living and working in France. He is a master of the Italian Chess Correspondence Association (ASIGC) and has achieved his first norm of IM. Currently playing in the Final of the 15th World Cup of the ICCF and Roberto Munter, an industrial consultant.
       ATOMICC Computer Testing Blog has run several matches pairing Vitruvius against several well known engines:

1 Vitruvius 1.11C HEM x64 1CPU +53/=40/-7 73.0/100
2 Fritz 13 +7/=40/-53 27.0/100

1 Vitruvius 1.11C HEM x64 1CPU +25/=54/-21 52.0/100
2 Critter 1.4a 64-bit SSE4 1CPU +21/=54/-25 48.0/100

1 Houdini 2.0c Pro x64 1CPU +37/=44/-19 59.0/100
2 Vitruvius 1.11C HEM x64 1CPU +19/=44/-37 41.0/100

1 Rybka 4.1 SSE42 x64 1CPU +25/=59/-16 54.5/100
2 Vitruvius 1.11C HEM x64 1CPU +16/=59/-25 45.5/100

Rating List

All engines use 1 CPU.
        It would appear that this is a very good engine, but not quite up to the level of the very best.  On the other hand, if it does play ‘human-like’ as the authors claim it could be, for a lot of players, an engine worth investing in.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Simpson’s Divan

Simpson's in the Old Days

      Today Simpson's-in-the-Strand is one of London’s oldest restaurants, but to chess players it’s best known as haunt for early greats of the chess world.
       After a modest start as a smoking room and then a coffee house, Simpson's achieved a dual fame, for its traditional English food and as the most important venue in Britain for chess in the nineteenth century. Chess ceased to be a feature after Simpson's was bought by the Savoy Hotel group of companies at the end of the century, but it’s still around today and is famous for its traditional English food.
       As a coffee house it was a place where gentlemen smoked cigars with their coffee, browsed over the daily journals and newspapers, indulged in conversation about the politics of the day and…played chess.  Members paid one guinea a year but there was also a daily entrance fee for others: 2.5 pence  or 7.5 pence with coffee and a cigar.
       Chess matches were played against other coffee houses in the town with runners in top hats carrying the news of each move. The Grand Cigar Divan soon became recognized as the home of chess in England. It was one of the top London restaurants, becoming an established attraction with patrons including non-chess players like Charles Dickens, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli.
       Simpson introduced the practice of wheeling large pieces of meat on silver trolleys to each table and carving them in front of guests – a custom that still prevails today. 
       Shortly before his death in 1864, John Simpson sold the restaurant to Edmund Cathie, and in 1865 a prospectus was issued for "Simpson's (Ltd)" with capital of 100,000 pounds to purchase and extend the Divan Tavern.
       In 1898 Richard Carte, owner of the Savoy Hotel acquired Simpson's. Carte died in 1901, and his son, Rupert  took over the business and Simpsons was closed for redevelopment. All the old furniture and fittings were sold off and it was reopened in 1904 under the name Simpson's-in-the-Strand, Grand Divan Tavern.  It remains today.

Simpson's Today
      Simpson’s continues to be a favorite in London’s restaurant scene and is particularly renowned for its style of food which is described as ‘fine English food.’
My Favorite meal - breakfast!
       Today with its crystal chandeliers and French-polished paneled walls it’s nothing like it was in Staunton’s day though.  It still serves roasts carved from the trolley with daily specials, potted shrimp, lobster soup, and steak and kidney pudding.  They also serve game like roasted wood pigeon breast with green beans, new potatoes and bacon. Welsh rarebit, smoked Scottish salmon or roast rib of 28-day aged Scottish beef surrounded by roast potatoes, Savoy cabbage, Yorkshire pudding and horseradish are also on the menu.  They also serve breakfast.  They dress code is smart casual. 
       That’s today.  Yesteryear things were different.  On entering you found long rows of sofas, smelled tobacco and saw many chessboards and shelves full of books. An old waiter brought coffee, cigars and some newspapers, and asked if you would like a game of chess.
       On one occasion, when the Divan was being cleaned and redecorated, that the proprietor carried sunk into each marble table a chessboard and when the Divan was reopened, the players would not them!  use these stone squares. They said they had to have a board raised from the table.  Their reasoning was simple: the marble boards, being flush with the table, would allow a dishonest player to easily might easily slide a captured piece or pawn back again on to the board.  I guess chess players have always had to worry about cheating.
       In cold weather there was a large fire at each end of the room where patrons would congregate for a chat and a smoke.
       When Henry Buckle was around he would occasionally join in the talk; he was always very positive, and few cared to contradict him. His rapid talk was not like his play, for this was very deliberate. On one occasion, when playing against Charles Stanley, he took nearly an hour over a single move. When he did move, Stanley said, “Yes, I thought that the knight would be the right move!” “You only thought so; I know it,” retorted Buckle.
       Buckle would sometimes invite a player to visit him at his house for a game. He was fond of giving pawn and move, or pawn and two, to a strong player, and the game would usually last late into the night. Next day, Williams, who edited a chess column, would look out for Buckle’s antagonist, and get him to go over the game of the night before, which was then taken down. In this way some of Buckle’s games were preserved, which otherwise would have been lost.
       Other famous patrons were Bird, Blackburne, and Gunsberg. Then there was James Mason, who it was said was remarkably quiet while playing chess, all his energies being devoted to the game, and in this respect he differed from many other noted masters who it was said often assumed an air of carelessness and indifference.  Mason was also capable of giving sound views on the political questions of the day, in which he took a great deal of interest.
       Rev. G. A. MacDonnell often came where he was one of the most popular men at the Divan. Besides being an exceptionally fine player, be was gifted with a good sense of humor and had endless anecdotes to tell of the players of the previous generation…Boden, Buckle, Falkbeer, and Staunton.
       Another remarkable man who frequently appeared was James Mortimer.  Mortimer was a former secretary of the American Legation in St. Petersburg and Paris, a friend of Paul Morphy, the editor and proprietor of the Figaro, as well as several other journals, and the author of several plays.  He was an enthusiastic player who took part in every first-class tournament held in England for many years.
       Men distinguished in various professions were often visitors:  comedians and clergymen, journalists and doctors, elderly merchants and youthful clerks, pompous family lawyers.   
       Simpsons on the Strand was resurrected as a chess venue, perhaps for the last time, for the Short v. Kasparov match in 1993.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Modern Time Controls

      The US Championship has finished. In one amusing incident Kamsky defeated a washed up Seirawan in round 9. After 20 moves Kamsky had won a position and, thanks to the increment, more time on his clock than he started with! Kamsky had prepared the whole opening a year previously and Seirawan walked into the prepared analysis. Winner, GM Hikaru Nakamura beat GM Gata Kamsky for the first time ever in classical chess and finished first. The time controls were: 40/90 with 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus a 30 second per move increment from move one.

      In the tie between Zatonskih and Krush for the women’s championship the rules were: Two-game rapid match (G25+5) and if it ended in a tie after the two games, an Armageddon game was to be played. That’s 45 minutes plus a 5 second increment per move, draw odds for Black. Additionally, each player was to ‘bid’ an amount of time with which they were willing to play in order to have their choice of color.
      The match for this year’s world championship is only 12 games. The time control is 120 minutes, with 60 minutes added after move 40, 15 minutes added after move 60, and 30 additional seconds per move starting from move 61.
      In case of a tie at the end of 12 games, there will be a series of tie breaks. Colors will be drawn and four rapid games with a time control of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move.
      If the score is tied after the four rapid tie break games, colors will be drawn and two blitz games (5 minutes plus 10 seconds increment per move) will be played. If the score is tied after two blitz games, another two-game blitz match will be played, under the same terms. The process will repeat, if necessary, until five blitz matches have been played.
      If the score is tied after ten blitz games, a single sudden-death Armageddon game will determine the champion. The winner of a draw of lots gets to choose the color to play, with white given 5 minutes and Black 4 minutes. Beginning with move 61, a three-second increment will be added following each move. If the game is drawn then the player of the Black pieces is declared champion.
      I don’t know what to make of all this time control mumbo-jumbo. In the days of yesteryear the championship was a 24-game match with the champion keeping his title in case of a tie. The time control was 40/120 then 16 moves per hour (or whatever it was; I don’t remember exactly) and adjournment after 5 hours play.
      The argument goes that these days during adjournments the players can use engines to analyze their games. What’s the difference between having a gaggle of GM’s analyzing an adjourned position for the participant or having an engine do it? I guess another idea is that all of the moves are those of the participants and not others, man or machine. This may be a good idea, but somehow I miss the old days. The Botvinnik-Tahl and Fischer-Spassky matches had real drama.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Free Chess Database Program

ChessDB is a free chess database which can be used on Microsoft Windows, Linux, Apple Macs running OS X, FreeBSD, as well as most modern UNIX versions. The program has translations into English, Spanish, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian and Swedish.
          With ChessDB you can enter games with a mouse, pgn files, download from The Week in Chess, import from ICC and FICS and annotate them with text, symbols, colors and show variations.  You can also import different engines and create crosstables.  Engine matches are also possible. It has position set up and search functions, does rating graphs, player reports and classify games. It also has 3 and 4 piece tablebases.  A lot of program for free.  LINK

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Halloween Gambit

I've never been a lover of gambits, sound or unsound, but the other day I was intrigued by an article I saw on the Halloween Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5 Nxe5

In this gambit (also known as the Müller–Schulze Gambit or Leipzig Gambit) White sacrifices a knight for a single pawn. White's objective is to seize the center with pawns and drive back Black's knights.

The theoretician Oskar Cordel reported in 1888 that Leipzig club players used the opening to dangerous effect, but he did not believe it was sound. Their name for it, Gambit Müller und Schulze, the German equivalent of Smith and Jones. It was renamed the Halloween Gambit in the magazine Randspringer in 1993. The name is founded on the fact that players who are for the first time confronted with it they become shocked as if they were suddenly confronted with the horror of some scary Halloween mask.

Clearly the gambit is unsound, but I let Houdini 1.5a examine the position after 5.d4 for about a half hour and was kind of surprised at the results.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5 Nxe5
NowWhite usually plays
5.f4 does nothing for his development. Black can retreat the attacked knight to either g6 or c6. For example, 5...Nc6 6.e5 Ng8 7.d4 d5 which favors Black by 2P's according to Houdini.  Here is Houdini's analysis of the variations after about half an hour.
5...Nc6 6.d5 Ne5 7.f4 Ng6 8.e5 Ng8 9.d6 cxd6 10.exd6 Qf6 11.Nb5 Nxf4 12.Nc7+ Kd8 13.Qf3 Bxd6 14.Nxa8 b6 15.c3 Qe6+ 16.Kd1 Ng6 with Black being given the advantage of only slightly over one pawn.
5...Bd6 only results in equality after 6.Nb5 Neg4 7.e5 Be7 8.exf6 Nxf6 9.Bf4 d6 10.Be2 0–0 11.Nc3 c6 12.0–0 Be6 13.Re1
6.e5 Ng8 7.Bc4 d5 8.Bxd5 N8e7 9.Be4 c5 10.d5 Nxe5 11.0–0 f5 12.Bd3 N7g6 13.Re1 Kf7 14.h3 Bd6 15.Nb5 Bb8 16.Bf1 a6 17.Nc3 Re8 with a nearly 2P advantage for Black.
Handing the opponent a two pawn advantage right out of the opening isn't something I'd be comfortable doing and GM Larry Kaufmann wrote in 2004 that the gambit is refuted by 4...Nxe5 5.d4 Nc6 6.d5 Bb4! 7.dxc6 Nxe4 8.Qd4 Qe7 which he attributes to the Polish IM Jan Pinski. Of course most of us aren't playing Hourdini or a GM and if the large number of short wins for White means anything, this gambit looks like something blitz players or club players might want to give a try...there's nothing to lose but the game.

For more analysis check out Chessville's coverage of it: PART 1 PART 2

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sam Loyd Puzzle

White to move and mate in three.  Not difficult with a board and pieces, but try doing it in your head and it’s a little more challenging.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Morphy Miniature

Judge A.B. Meek
      Morphy’s opponent in this game was Alexander B. Meek (July 17, 1814 (Columbia, South Carolina) – November 30, 1865 (Columbus, Mississippi) a politician, lawyer, chess player, writer and poet who served as Alabama’s Attorney General in 1836.
       His ancestors on both sides were of Irish descent, and those on his father's side came from County Antrim, Ireland.  Meek graduated from the University of Alabama, A. B., 1833, and A. M., 1836, and received the honorary degree of A. M. from the University of Georgia, 1844.
       When the troubles with the Creek Indians occurred in 1836, he volunteered as ensign in the U. S. Army. During that same year, he was appointed attorney general of the state by Gov. Clement C. Clay to fill a vacancy, and held that position until the following winter.
       He was editor of the Flag of the Union, at Tuscaloosa, 1835-1839, and of the Southron, a literary magazine, 1839-1842. In 1842, Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick appointed him judge of the probate court at Tuscaloosa, and he held that position until 1845. During the latter year he was appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury by President James Polk, and became legal advisor of that department. After holding the office about two years, he retired with the commission of federal attorney for the southern district of the state, and was retained in that position until the close of Polk's term. He was associate editor of the Mobile Daily Register, 1851-1858; represented Mobile in the Alabama House of Representatives, 1853-1855, and as chairman of the committee on education, secured the establishment of a system of free public schools in the state.
       In 1854, he was appointed judge of the probate court of Mobile by Governor John A. Winston, and held that office until May, 1855; was elector on the James Buchanan ticket, 1856; and a representative in the state legislature and Speaker of the House, 1859-1861. He was a trustee of the University of Alabama, 1862-1864. He was author of The Red Eagle, 1855, Songs and Poetry of the South, 1856, Romantic Passages in Southwestern History, 1857; and an unfinished "History of Alabama"; and prepared a supplement to Aiken's Digest of Alabama, in 1842.
       Married: (1) in 1856, to Mrs. Emma Donaldson Slatter, of Mobile, the widow of Hope Hull Slatter; (2) in 1864, to Mrs. Eliza Jane Cannon, of Columbus, Miss., the widow of William R. Cannon, who was for a long time president of the Mississippi Senate. He had no children. Last residence: Columbus, Miss.
       In this game Meek plays a type of move frequently seen in games by amateur players who like to play sacrifices without regard to whether they are totally sound or not.  GM Ludek Pachman used this game in Modern Chess Strategy as an illustration of the dangers of trying to disturb the balance by means of a sudden attack when the opponent has not made any obvious errors.  He wrote that this wrong and so White’s sudden aggression was bound to achieve nothing. 
       This is not the view of modern players who will sometimes violate general principles if they feel they have some compensation.  This game also shows the necessity of relying on concrete calculation of variations rather than general principles.  As you will see, although Black does obtain a slight edge, Meek’s position was actually quite playable until his blunder at move 13.  We also see Morphy missing the best continuation on two different occasions and offering his opponent the chance to regain near equality. The game illustrates what often happens in annotated games…they are annotated by result when it is assumed the winner was in complete control and had it all figured out.  Of course these days all of us with an engine can be a critic, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the games.

Adam’s Computer Chess Pages

 I just discovered this nice blog devoted to chess engines. LINK

The author’s stated purpose is to: present the results of his testing and experiments with computer chess engines, as well as to provide information to others concerning engines, GUIs, and ancillary programs. The blog contains links to engine downloads, forums, GUI’s, rating lists and utility programs.

One thing that might appeal to lower rated players is his rating list of “Also Ran” engines. These are weaker engines that have not been tested on most lists because they are too weak.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rudolf Swiderski

       Rudolf Swiderski (July 28, 1878– August, 1909) was a German master who made his mark in 1900 when he won 1st place at the Munich Hauptturnier. After this this he played in eight major tournaments from 1902 to 1908 with his best results being tied for first at both Coburg 1904 and at the Monte Carlo 1904 Rice Gambit theme tournament.  In his Career he had wins against Nimzovich, Blackburne and Rubinstein.
        Writing in My Fifty Years of Chess, Frank Marshall said, "Of all the chess masters I ever met, Swiderski was the most weird…Swiderski, en passant, was a peculiar fellow. He made very few friends, had a gentle but melancholy disposition, was a fine violinist, ate raw meat, committed suicide a few years [after the Rice Gambit theme tournament]"
        His death appears to be surrounded by some confusion.  Many reference books refer to his death date as August 12, 1909 but the Washington Post for that day contained an August 11 dispatch of his death while the Trenton, New Jersey Evening Times of August 11, 1909, reported "The body of M. Swiderski, the noted chess player, who committed suicide on August 2 was found today in the room where he had poisoned himself and then fired a bullet into this head. The body was badly decomposed. The date of the suicide was determined by a note left by Swiderski.  Swiderski was recently convicted of perjury in a trial that involved him in a disgraceful scandal."
        On the other hand, some sources report that he committed suicide because he could not face an operation.  As concerning the date of his death,  most reference books state that Swiderski committed suicide, at the age of 31, in Leipzig on 12 August 1909.

TheWashington Post article dated 12 August 1909 read:
‘Famous Chess Player a Suicide.
Special to The Washington Post.
Berlin, Aug. 11. – Swiderski, the celebrated chess player, was found dead today. Apparently he had poisoned and shot himself.’

      Of course, he could not have died on August 12 when the date of the dispatch from Berlin was from the day before.  However the August 12 date was the one given in the September 1909 issue of the German chess magazine, Deutsche Schachzeitung, which said that Swiderski had killed himself on account of his living circumstances and rather than undergo a necessary operation.”  So according to Deutsche Schachzeitung his suicide was due to health problems, not having been convicted of perjury.
        In addition, several other sources list his date of death at various other times.  The August 15, 1909 issue of Deutsches Wochenschach simply stated he died suddenly in the past week. The October 1909 issue of Wiener Schachzeitung listed the erroneous date of his death as September 2, 1909 while the October 1909 issue of the American Chess Bulletin listed it as August 2.
         In any case the cause of death was listed as a combination of poisoning and shooting although it seems to me that it would have been the shooting part that was the more effective.  As to why anyone would take poison then shoot themselves, who knows?  Perhaps after taking poison, death was not quick enough, or perhaps it was too agonizing so he sought a quicker method.
         The Trenton Evening Times of August 11, 1909, under the headline ‘Noted chess player ends life’  reported ‘The body of R. Swiderski, the noted chess player, who committed suicide on August 2, was found today in the room where he had poisoned himself and then fired a bullet into his head. The body was badly decomposed. The date of the suicide was determined by a note left by Swiderski.  Swiderski was recently convicted of perjury in a trial that involved him in a disgraceful scandal.’  If this report is accurate, then his date of death was August 2 and the later dates are inaccurate, being instead the dates his death was reported.
        According to chess historian Edward Winter, Swiderski’s last game  was a draw against G. Enderlein in a tournament in Leipzig but because Swiderski died before the event (a club tournament) finished, he was not awarded first prize despite having the highest score.

An article appearing in The Scotsman, dated August 12, 1909 read:

‘Chess Champion’s Tragic End
Berlin, 11 August
A telegram from Leipzig reports the suicide of Swiderski, the champion chess player of the world, under dramatic circumstances. The evidence points to Swiderski having taken his life on the 2d inst., but the body was only found today, being in a terrible state of decomposition. The unhappy man had apparently taken poison, and then shot himself with a revolver. Allegations of perjury in connection with a love affair had been made against the deceased, and it is supposed that fear of legal proceedings was the motive which led to the tragedy. – Central News.’

So, according to this article his date of death was August 2, but it says, unlike the Trenton Evening Times article, that he was alleged to have committed perjury, not convicted of it. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chess OK Aquarium Update

        After the initial difficulties getting acquainted with IDeA and about a week playing around with this program, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t like it at all.  Fritz is, in my opinion, much better.
        I was just doing an analysis of one of my CC games using Aquarium and Houdini 1.5 and when I tried to save the game, the stupid program got hung up and quit working.  This isn’t the first time this has happened either.  It’s not my computer which is a dual core laptop with plenty of memory, etc.  Besides, I’ve never had this problem with Fritz.  Too bad they don’t have a money back guarantee.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Deep Position Analysis with Fritz

       Having done a post on Aquarium’s IDeA feature I thought a comparison with a similar one offered by Fritz…Deep Position Analysis…was in order.
        I love this feature on Fritz.  Unlike Aquarium though, you need to save the analysis before quitting because it does not store the analysis in a file.  If you want to go back and analyze some more, you have to start from scratch.  Also, it’s been a couple of days now that I have been fiddling around with IDeA on Aquarium and it still isn’t very clear to me how to make it work smoothly and understand what all the icons and such appearing in the various windows mean. It also annoys me that when IDeA is running, I don't see anything happening.  I want to see some lines of analysis and evaluations flickering on the screen just to reassure me it's doing something.  Trivial, I know.  For me, Fritz is definitely more user friendly.
        The way DPA works is, it advances one move at a time, each time adding the top-evaluated candidate to a growing line of analysis so that eventually you end up with a whole tree of moves. As with Aquarium, you can have more than one engine perform a deep position analysis but, of course, with more than one engine, be prepared to allow it lots of time.
        Even using a fairly fast time setting (say one minute per move) and a fairly small tree (say four moves) DPA can take maybe two hours, so it’s clear that really ‘deep’ analysis could easily take overnight.  And, as mentioned, once you stop the analysis, that’s it. 
        For ease of use, I think Fritz is far and away the winner, but for thoroughness, Aquarium’s IdeA feature might be better.  I say ‘might’ because I'm not sure yet.  That's because of of its whopping big learning curve for those who, like me, are computer handicapped, rather dense when it comes to understanding a manual or maybe just a slow learner…on the other hand if you are ten years old or a computer guru you can probably pick it up on the fly. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

IDeA with ChessOK Aquarium 2011

Available from ChessOK

EDIT: Tuesday, 5-8-12
I received an e-mail from Aquarium and the problem I had was resolved.  Originally, just to make sure I was copying the serial number correctly and to save some time, I copied and pasted it from the download e-mail I received.   Customer Service has advised me that with Windows 7 you must enter the serial number manually because the Windows 7 clipboard may change the dashes in the serial number to something else, thus rendering the serial number incorrect.  This is what accounted for my inability to get the program to run.

Some time back I read an article in which the Blog poster claimed that IDeA (Interactive Deep Analysis) works very well for correspondence players, so I finally ordered ChessOK Aquarium as a download from ChessOK for $30. 

I had installation problems from the beginning.  Everything was fine until I tried to start the program and it would not run.  After multiple tries I finally reinstalled it and it still didn’t work, so I e-mailed ChessOK.  That was on Friday afternoon, so I did not expect to hear from them immediately.  Anyway, Saturday morning I tried starting the program again and it worked.  Later that day, the Houdini 1.5a64 engine I had loaded crashed and Sunday when I started the program it got hung up so I closed it and restarted it only to be asked to supply the serial number again.  It remains to be seen if I will hear for ChessOK and if Houdini will continue to cause problems and if the program is going to continue to act up.
The program comes with Crafty (version not specified), Deep Rybka, 2.3.2ax64, Delfi, Rybka, 2.3.2ax64, Rybka Observer and Weak Delfi but you can install any other engines you want. A word on a couple of the programs:  When playing asgainst the computer in the Fun Mode, the Rybka Observer runs briefly after each move to check to see if you have made an obvious blunder and the Weak Delfi is for use at easy levels; it is only set to 1000 Elo. The Weak Delfi engine is for use at easy levels; this version can be set only to 1000 ELO.

Anyway, on to my impression of the program.  First, the interface appears more cluttered than Fritz, but that’s just me.  Another thing I immediately noticed was that after using Fritz, the interface seems cumbersome.  There is lots of documentation available for Aquarium and it appears you will need it…and that’s assuming you can understand it.

OK, so I’m not the most computer literate person around, but it appears I’m not the only one.  One forum poster stated he was pretty much a noob and was also having trouble using the IDeA feature.  Like this poster, I turned on IDeA and it’s supposed to generate new moves into the tree but I didn’t see anything happening.  It was analyzing but not putting anything into the tree.  Nobody answered his question so I don’t know what I am doing wrong and so far haven’t been able to figure it out from any documentation.

As I said, the main reason for this purchase was to try the IDeA function. IDeA is supposed to be a powerful analysis function that examines a position and then follows the most important moves to create a tree of variations and keeps adding more analysis until you tell it stop.

The analysis can be focused on moves and variations that you consider important and overnight analysis produces hundreds or even thousands of analyzed positions which are then stored on the hard drive. IDeA also uses the results of previous analysis, even if you start from a different position.

One experimenter evaluated IDeA as an analysis tool for correspondence play where he depended as much as possible on IDeA itself. He usually followed the recommended book lines and didn’t do any type of analysis until late in the opening or when entering rare variations.

His results were pretty impressive: 16 =2 -0 against an average opponent’s rating of 1943, giving him a performance rating of 2386.  He also mentioned that in many cases he did not have to spend much time on his moves because his opponent’s moves were already in the analysis tree so he just did a quick check in the infinite analysis mode.

He also put emphasis on avoiding draws by trying to find ways to keep the game going, even when the position wasn’t particularly promising. Also because he wanted to win as many games as possible, he sometimes avoided the best move if it would lead to increased drawing chances for his opponent. In the process he discovered that IDeA is often good at distinguishing between drawing lines and winning/losing lines. He advised that, in general, IDeA improves with more powerful hardware because you can either analyze more positions or analyze each position to a deeper extent in the same amount of time and this will certainly affect the results.
His conclusion was that IDeA is a powerful analysis tool for correspondence chess adding that his opponents never managed to refute the moves found with the help of IDeA.  Another advantage to IDeA as opposed to the infinite analysis method is that you can end up with extensive analysis on several openings.

So, I can see how this IDeA function could be a very valuable tool in correspondence chess, but I have to figure out how to use it first, and like I said, it’s not going too well at the moment.  If I can figure it out, and if I don’t keep having those niggling little problems, Aquarium could be a very handy program.  Still, for ease of use, you can’t beat good old Fritz.  In fact, I can only recall having consulted Fritz' documantation on two or three occasions and that was more out of curiosity than need.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chess Composition for Beginners

I’m not a fan of problem solving, but if anybody thinks they might be interested in this area of chess, I came across a couple of interesting introductory resources.
Chessmaniac offers a free 101 page pdf book, Chess Problems Made Easy, that deals with two and three movers that takes you from the beginning.  Chapter One starts you off with technical terms and then expands on them from there.

You might also want to check out Peter’s Problem World at Chessville.  The column is by Peter Wong of Sydney, Australia, a FIDE Master of Chess Composition.
And if you are really into chess problems, the 68-page pdf Handbook of Chess Composition is available HERE.
Chessproblems is a chess problem and puzzle site that allows you to interactively solve and explore all varieties of problems through an interactive applet. Any user can contribute new chess problems through an interactive editing system. You can also select the level of difficulty ranging from ‘Novice’ to ‘Fiendish.’  To unlock the full benefits of the site, free registration is required. When logged in, problem attempts get remembered, so when you view a problem you can see how many times you've tried it before, and how many of those attempts were successful. This information also lets you search for problems that you've not tried yet, or not solved. A forum also exists for general discussion of the site.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Does Being a Chessplayer Mean You Have the Potential to be Rich?


There was an article in the New York Times a few months ago about a star hedge fund manager on Wall Street named Boaz Weinstein who was also a master. And then there is Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal who now runs the hedge fund Clarium Capital, who also happens to be a master.

 Many good chess players were also good at bridge; Reshevsky for one enjoyed the game. Top of Form Warren Buffet is an accomplished bridge player and David Einhorn, president of Greenlight Capital finished 18th in the main event of the 2006 World Series of Poker. But being skilled at games is no guarantee of success. James Cayne, the former chief executive of Bear Stearns, is a world-class bridge player who has won many international bridge tournaments. OK, Bear Stearns collapsed in 2008, but still…

IM Norman Weinstein (no relation to Boaz Weinstein) also had a successful career as a Wall Street Trader. GM David Norwood was also a trader for a brief period of time, but quit after a couple of months because he didn’t know what he was doing. But a year later he got back into the banking business and in 2008, at the age of 40, retired a multimillionaire.

 The Web site of the hedge fund manager D.E. Shaw Group lists among its employees a life master at bridge, a past “Jeopardy!” champion and Anna Hahn, the 2003 US women’s chess champion. Ms. Hahn is a senior trader.

Patrick Wolff, a two-time US Chess champion, worked as an analyst and rose to become one of the managing directors at Clarium. This year, he set up his own fund, and, in a reference to his chess background, named it Grandmaster Capital.

 At Talpion, a hedge fund started earlier this year by billionaire investor Henry Swieca, one of the fund’s senior traders is Matthew Herman. Never heard of Matthew Herman? For many years, Herman’s international rating was 2,149, mostly because he rarely played and almost never entered tournaments.

Herman graduated from the State University at Albany at 15 and received a master’s degree in mathematics from Brown two years later. When he was 18, he went to work at Goldman Sachs. That is when he started playing chess again, but only in small US tournaments. In late 2010, he took a hedge fund job and treated himself to a European vacation before he started. While in Europe he entered several tournaments and performed well. He tied for first with four grandmasters at the Memorial Crespi tournament in Italy and won the title on a tie-breaker. At the Ascona Chess Festival in Switzerland, he tied for third and beat Mihajlo Stojanovic, a Serbian grandmaster.

Then there is GM Maxim Dlugy. Dlugy was born in Moscow and arrived with his family in the US in about 1979. Dlugy was a late developer and was only an average player until he shot up in strength in the early 1980s, winning the World Junior Championship in 1985 and becoming a GM in 1986.

Dlugy was also involved in chess politics and was elected President of the USCF in 1990. Banker’s Trust placed an ad in the New York Times for young chess masters believing that they would make good securities traders and Dlugy answered the ad and was hired. He worked on Wall Street, eventually becoming a principal of the Russian Growth Fund, a hedge fund. Kasparov was formerly associated with Dlugy's Russian Growth Fund.

In 1991 Dlugy stopped playing chess and went to financial business back in the Soviet Union. Things went pretty well until 2005 when he was arrested by the Russian police on fraud charges.

He was detained by police at the Moscow airport after immigration records revealed that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest and after a year-long investigation prosecutors accused him of trying to defraud the owners of Russia's second biggest magnesium plant. He was accused of issuing more than £4 million worth of bonds backed by the plant without the knowledge of other board members. The prosecutors claimed that the bonds were sold to three companies that had been illegally registered using stolen passports or documents of dead people. Finally,on December 20, 2005. Dlugy was acquitted of all charges, after spending eight months in jail.

Another promising US player, Ken Rogoff (1953- ) became a Grandmaster in 1978 and then retired from chess, earned a PhD in Economics from M.I.T. in 1980, and became the chief economist at the World Bank. Early in his career, Rogoff served as an economist at the International Monetary Fund and at the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Science as well as a Fellow of the Econometric Society and a former Guggenheim Fellow.

Rogoff also served as the Charles and Marie Robertson Professor of International Affairs at Princeton University and later served as Economic Counsellor and Director, Research Department of the IMF, from August 2001 to September 2003.

In 2002, Rogoff was in the spotlight because of a dispute with Joseph Stiglitz, a former Chief Economist of the World Bank and 2001 Nobel Prize winner. Stiglitz had criticized the International Monetary Fund in his book, Globalization and Its Discontents, which got Rogoff’s dander up.

Before them, Al Horowitz had been a securities trader on Wall Street with some other chess masters: Maurice Shapiro, Mickey Pauley and Albert Pinkus. Horowitz gave it up to devote himself to his chess career. Maurice Wertheim was an investment banker who financed much of the activity in American chess during the 1940s.