31 August 2015

Fighting Cookies with Cookies

It turns out that complying with EU cookie regulations -- see Google and the Brussels Bureaucrats and Google Is Watching You for background -- is easier than I had anticipated. After looking at a number of technical solutions, I chose Shareaholic - Content Amplification Software, as described in their blog post Remember to Ask Before You Take a Cookie.

I created an account, executed the required steps, and added the generated code to my Mark Weeks Homepage. I also decided to tweak my Site Map : World Chess Championship, to move the 'Privacy Statement' from the end of the page to the beginning. Although this might not be sufficient to satisfy the full intent of the EU policy, I think it's a good start. I can expand the statement if necessary and can replicate the consent banner to all other pages in a few minutes.

The Shareaholic software does much more than cookie warnings. I'll look at the other possibilities when I have a moment, but would first like to get some experience with it.

30 August 2015

Surreal Chess

I was nearly certain that here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price I had already featured the painting shown below, but it seems I was mistaken. The auction was titled 'Vladimir Kush Artist Proof on canvas framed "Chess"', and the item sold for a bit less than $1800, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description added only,

The artist proof on canvas titled "Chess" by the artist Vladimir Kush. Framed by the gallery measures 21" x 23.5"; AP 5 of 30. Comes with the certificate of authenticity from the gallery.

'AP' means 'Artist Proof', which is undoubtedly the reason for the four figure price. If you do an image search on 'chess kush', you'll find dozens of examples of the same painting, most of them priced at three figures. If you do a search on 'Vladimir Kush', you'll find the artist's Wikipedia entry, Vladimir Kush. It starts,

Vladimir Kush (born 1965) is a Russian born surrealist painter and sculptor. He studied at the Surikov Moscow Art Institute, and after several years working as an artist in Moscow, his native city, he emigrated to the United States, eventually establishing his own gallery on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

That makes yet another reason to visit Maui.

28 August 2015

Chess in Jakarta

The tags for the photo say, 'Kota Jakarta', which means 'Old Town Jakarta'.

5 menit saje © Flickr user Emile Krijgsman under Creative Commons.

Google Translate doesn't know what to do with '5 menit saje', but it translates '5 menit saja' to 'only five minutes'. That must be the time it takes to make a silhouette.

27 August 2015

TCEC Season 8 - Preliminary Info

If you follow chess at all, you've probably heard about the tournament that just started a few days ago featuring the planet's strongest players. No, I'm not talking about the 2015 Sinquefield Cup. Those players, with the likes of GMs Carlsen and Anand, are strong -- at least for humans -- but the world's strongest players are battling it out in TCEC season 8, the Thoresen Chess Engines Competition.

For the original announcement, see Information and Participants List; for more details, see Complete Information, both pages courtesy Chessdom.com, the event's 'Partner'. Earlier this year I covered the previous season in TCEC Season 7. For season 8, I'll be looking for further clues about What Makes the Engines Tick.

25 August 2015

Ethics in Chess Journalism

Here's the scenario: 'A' runs a popular web site devoted to an important aspect of chess history. 'B' copies large portions of the web site to create a book which is sold commercially. 'C' notices the excessive copying and publishes an article exposing the act. 'B' makes a formal complaint to the world chess federation, citing 'C's alleged unethical behavior; the complaint is rejected. 'D' notices the official record of the complaint and mentions it in passing, without understanding its history. Years later, 'C', who was never notified of the complaint against him, discovers 'D's writeup and sets the record straight.

Here's the cast of characters: 'A' is Wojciech Bartelski of Olimpbase.org. 'B' represents the Turkish Chess Federation. 'C' is Dr. Daaim Shabazz of TheChessDrum.net, writing Olympiad book copied from Olimpbase.org?. 'D' is me (D is I?), writing Ethics and Cheating, about FIDE's Ethics Commission.

Dr. Shabazz has documented the entire affair in a recent post, Turkish Chess Federation vs. Dr. Daaim Shabazz (2012). See in particular the link to the 'Official Complaint of Turkish Chess Federation' (PDF), which is almost surreal. The Ethics Commission should perhaps have contacted Shabazz about the complaint, but this was, at worst, a procedural lapse.

By coincidence, I was in touch with Wojciech Bartelski this past weekend and asked him what he thought. He replied,

My database grows courtesy of hundreds of volunteers who devote their time and offer money to build up the database. This is why everybody has and will always have free access to it and permission to use the data. Of course this has nothing to do with simple copy and paste of my own texts.

Of course English is not my native language and texts are not verified by professionals so there must be errors and awkward phrases in there. They charged €28 per book and did not even hire a professional [editor] to correct buggy text!

To this he added, 'Litigation and other legal actions are open questions.' I'm familiar with several cases of copyright violation in chess literature and understand that any civil awards are not likely to produce a windfall, perhaps not even covering the cost of legal action. Perpetrators of copyright violation also know this and it is their first line of defense.

The Ethics Commission is a wonderful resource for righting the wrongs of international chess. In covering their activities I am glad to have rendered a small service to chess journalism and will continue to do so.

24 August 2015

Google Is Watching You

In Google and the Brussels Bureaucrats, I wrote,

I have to return to the same sort of web site maintenance that I did for the 'Going Mobile' series, once again dictated by Google policies: 'We want to let you know about a new policy about obtaining EU end-users' consent that reflects regulatory and best practice guidance.'

To be specific, we're talking about my web site mark-weeks.com, its use of Google's Adsense, and the cookies that Adsense drops on visitors to the site. I have three options on Google's policy:-

  • Ignore it
  • Do enough to satisfy the minimum requirements
  • Remove any code that uses cookies

Ignoring the policy probably won't work in the long term and removing the code means knowing which third-party services are doing what (my pages also have links to Amazon.com, another black box service). Only Google knows how Adsense operates internally and only Google can satisfy the EU's requirements to the letter. Google is essentially doing the minimum by pushing the EU requirements on to the owners of the web sites that use the Adsense service. I'll follow Google's example by also doing the minimum.

Blogspot.com (together with the related Blogger.com) is another Google service that encourages the use of Adsense. On that service Google has grabbed the bull by the horns and introduced a message that is repeated over-and-over across all Blogspot.com subdomains. For example, when I clicked to the Adsense blog's post Introducing a new user consent policy (adsense.blogspot.com), I was greeted with the message,

Deze site gebruikt cookies van Google om services te leveren, advertenties te personaliseren en verkeer te analyseren. Informatie over je gebruik van deze site wordt gedeeld met Google. Als je deze site gebruikt, ga je akkoord met het gebruik van cookies. • Meer informatie • Ik snap het

Yes, it's in Flemish/Dutch and, yes, I've seen the same message dozens (hundreds?) of times on the various computers that I use. It doesn't matter that I've told Google many times that I prefer English and it doesn't matter that I've already accepted the message ('Ik snap het') on other blogs. Google intends to annoy me along with millions of other blog visitors and to blame it on the EU: 'Take that, Eurocrats!'

Clicking on 'Meer informatie' ('More information') leads to a page written in English, How Google uses cookies.

We use cookies for many purposes. We use them, for example, to remember your safe search preferences, to make the ads you see more relevant to you, to count how many visitors we receive to a page, to help you sign up for our services and to protect your data.

Why can't they use cookies to note my language preference or to remember that I've already accepted their cookie policy? And why do they need cookies 'to count how many visitors we receive to a page'? In reality, it's all about targeted ads.

Another link on that 'How' page goes to Managing cookies in your browser. Here the only instructions are for the Google Chrome browser. Users of other browsers have to figure it out for themselves. Google, Google, Google; get it?

Back to satisfying the minimum requirements on my own site, what does that entail? I'll look at that in my next post in this series.

23 August 2015

It's All About Money

Let's take a break from the chess curriculum series, last seen in Pre-chess, and return to a related subject last seen in The Riddles of Chess. The related subject is chess and Alzheimer's disease, about which a nasty fight has broken out on English blogs.

How is a chess curriculum (i.e. chess in schools) related to chess and Alzheimer's disease? Because both are areas in which their proponents tout the magical benefits of chess on the brain. Anyone buying into those magical benefits might very well buy into chess, meaning more money for everyone involved in chess instruction and training. Given that there is so little money in chess today, any additional sums would go far.

The English blog fight began quietly more than four years ago with a post titled Chess Against Alzheimer’s on Chessimprover.com. The post has been removed, recently I suppose, and now returns a 'Page not found' message, although it still survives in the Google cache.

There's no need to look in the Google cache, because the Streatham & Brixton blog (S&B) has copied most of it into a post from last week titled DG XXIII: Doctor Nigel. In case you're not up-to-date with S&B terminology, 'DG' stands for 'Doctor Garry', as in GM Garry Kasparov, and XXIII means the 23rd post in a series rooting out all proponents of the magical benefits of chess on Alzheimer's. Kasparov was S&B's first target in the series. 'Doctor Nigel' is GM Nigel Davies, the latest target. He replied to S&B with Dear Professor Verghese..., which starts,

Due to some recent controversy on the matter I have been considering writing to Professor Verghese about his Alzheimer's study. Although 'board games' were cited as being associated with a lower risk of dementia, would this happen to include chess?

and then went on to accuse the S&B crowd of 'pedantry', along with a Wikipedia reference in case anyone doesn't know the meaning of the word. I happen to agree with the S&B line of reasoning, as overzealous as it might seem, and would replace the word 'pedantry' with the phrase 'responsible journalism'.

Responsible journalists don't overhype the direction of medical research. They don't give false hope to people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, or to their families. No one knows what effect chess might have on Alzheimer's disease -- that 'no one' includes GM Kasparov, GM Davies, the S&B crowd, and me. In his original 2011 post, Davies wrote,

As this research has been around for a few years it amazes me is that chess federations around the world are not singing this from the rooftops.

Perhaps the chess federations understand their responsibility to society in a larger context.

21 August 2015

Watered Down Chess

For this edition of Video Friday, I couldn't decide which clip I liked better.

1) Too little water...

ZIP EXPERIMENTS : Can A Glass of Water Help a Kid Beat Chess Grandmaster? (2:14) • 'It’s all too easy to take water for granted, it’s almost everywhere and it’s free. But new scientific research is suggesting that regularly drinking plain old H2O may give you remarkable powers.' • For more about the experiment, see Zip Experiment 4. Poor GM Rogers!

2) Or too much water...

The 2015 Diving Chess World Championship (1:53) • 'The Diving Chess World Championship took place on August 9, 2015 at the Third Space Gym in Soho, London. [...] Diving Chess is like normal chess but played in a swimming pool with submerged chessboard. Each player can only think as long as they are able to hold their breath.'

Editing Matters

In my previous post, 2015 CJA Awards, I wrote,

Another piece deserving special note was 'Winner: Reconnecting with Caissa' by GM James Tarjan, which received two awards: 'Best Features Article' and 'Best Story of the Year'. An Honorable Mention for 'Best Features Article' went to 'How to Catch a Chess Cheater' by Howard Goldowsky. [...] The Tarjan story didn't impress me as much, so I'll return to it in a future post.

Why did I like the Goldowsky piece better than the Tarjan piece? This question has been bothering me since I learned that the Tarjan piece won two awards. Both stories were based on topical ideas, developed into feature length articles by writers who know their subject matter thoroughly. I read the nine-page Goldowsky piece straight through in one sitting, but put down the six-page Tarjan piece after two pages. I had to force myself to pick it up again and read it to the end. Here are the first few paragraphs of the Tarjan story.

In case you don’t know, chess is ruled by a goddess; her name is Caissa. She presides over a beautiful kingdom, but she is fickle and difficult. If you are lucky (or should we should say, if you are unlucky), she will call you to worship.

Caissa called me when I was very young. In my adulthood, it was time to worship at other altars. Caissa was not happy to lose a devotee, but she talked it over with her fellow gods and goddesses. Some of the other devotees did not understand, but Caissa herself did, and accepted it.

Years later, with the aid of a human-created silicon monster, she called on me again, and I heard the call.

The start is very good, but note the first paragraph : 'should we should say'. The entire piece is badly edited. Later on:

So if you said to me, Jim, you scored seven of nine in the U.S. Open. Big deal. Who cares? If you said that to me, I would be happy to concur.

That sort of unfocused writing is tedious to read and the meandering article is full of it. This criticism is not against GM Tarjan, but rather against the editors of Chess Life. Someone should have taken a red pencil to the whole thing and turned a promising story into a great story. As it was published, it didn't merit two CJA awards.


I don't want to end this post on such a negative note, so let's look at a chess story that happened more than 46 years ago, 'Battle of Junior Giants' by Andrew Kempner.

The genesis of a six-game match between the top two ranking juniors (according to USCF rating tables), Walter Shawn Browne, formerly of Brooklyn, now a citizen of Australia, and James E. Tarjan of Sherman Oaks, California, was a simple question: who is better?

Walter's answer was instantaneous: "l'm better!" Tarjan's was reflective: "Maybe Browne's better." The result, a 3-3 tie, was thus a mild surprise to even the staunchest Tarjan supporters, who found themselves in the vast majority. Only one fan hoped for a Browne victory, stating simply: "Tarjan won't analyze with me any more."

The report included the following photo.

Chess Life, March 1969

Browne made a lifelong career out of chess; Tarjan retired at age 32. Who could have guessed that their chess careers would have turned out so differently?

18 August 2015

2015 CJA Awards

Three months after the 2015 CJA Awards Announcement, Offline, we have the Prize List for 2015 CJA Awards (CJA = Chess Journalists of America, in case you're wondering). As in past years, I'll just list the four awards to which I pay the most attention:-

  • Best Book (paper-printed only) -- Winner: Liquidation on the Chess Board by GM Joel Benjamin - New In Chess
  • Chess Journalist of the Year -- Winner: Mike Klein
  • Best Chess Art -- Winner: Square One, December 2014 Cover of Chess Life - Keith Halonen
  • Best Chess Blog -- Winner: Chess Book Reviews by John Hartmann

The 'Journalist of the Year' and 'Best Chess Blog' have been known since the entries were published -- Entries Received for Chess Journalist Awards 2015 -- because there were no other entries in those categories. By coincidence, it is the second time on the podium for both winners; see my posts on the 2012 CJA Awards and 2013 CJA Awards for details.

The winning entry for 'Best Chess Art' is shown on the left. I corresponded with artist Keith Halonen back in the late 1990s, after he wrote to tell me how much he liked my World Chess Championship site. Despite this character flaw, his work is excellent; more can be found on his personal site, e.g. Chess Gallery.

The book category included an Honorable Mention: 'The Classical Era of Modern Chess' by Peter J. Monté - McFarland & Company, Inc. I mention it because I hadn't heard of the work before and am using this blog post to jog my memory later.

Another piece deserving special note was 'Winner: Reconnecting with Caissa' by GM James Tarjan, which received two awards: 'Best Features Article' and 'Best Story of the Year'. An Honorable Mention for 'Best Features Article' went to 'How to Catch a Chess Cheater' by Howard Goldowsky. Last year in a post titled The 'No Cheating' Jigsaw Puzzle, I wrote, 'The Goldowsky piece has "award winning" stamped all over it.' The Tarjan story didn't impress me as much, so I'll return to it in a future post.

Heartfelt congratulations to all 2015 CJA prize winners!

17 August 2015

Google and the Brussels Bureaucrats

I generally use my Monday blog posts to develop a series on a theme that can't be handled by one or two posts. Two months ago I suspended a series on 'Going Mobile', last seen in

to explore 'Early Chess on the Internet'. This was first covered in

then expanded to a half-dozen more specific posts on chess engines:-

Now I have to return to the same sort of web site maintenance that I did for the 'Going Mobile' series, once again dictated by Google policies.

Dear Publisher, We want to let you know about a new policy about obtaining EU end-users' consent that reflects regulatory and best practice guidance. It clarifies your duty to obtain end-user consent when you use products like Google AdSense, DoubleClick for Publishers, and DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

'EU' stands for 'European Union', where I happen to reside, giving me a second reason to pay attention. If you search on one of the phrases from that excerpt, e.g. 'We want to let you know about a new policy', you'll find plenty of discussion on the subject.

16 August 2015

Satyajit Ray Lobby Cards

Just as I did a few weeks ago with Novag Robot Adversary, I'm using the current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price to return after a short break from blogging. The item pictured below, titled 'India Bengali Cinema 1977 THE CHESS PLAYERS set of 10 lobby cards Satyajit Ray', sold for $722.50, Buy-It-Now.

Besides photos of the lobby cards, the auction had no other useful information in its description. I once featured the film in an August 2009 edition of Video Friday, Shatranj Ke Khilari, and more information is available on a Wikipedia page of the same name, Shatranj Ke Khilari, 'a 1977 Indian film by Bengali director Satyajit Ray, based on Munshi Premchand's short story'.

07 August 2015

A Chess Skyline

The caption said,

The Sydney skyline planned for 2050. The biggest concern is that the now so prominent Opera House will drop out of the skyline.

That's the biggest concern?

Sydnew © Flickr user Guido Veltmaat under Creative Commons.

This artist's vision of the future brings to mind 'A Rook Lighthouse For Bobby' and Chess City, Dubai.

06 August 2015

An Early Digital Clock

Last week, in 'The Chips Are Down!', I used USCF product catalogs from the 1990s to illustrate the state-of-the-art in chess computers circa 1995. After looking at computers, I started to wonder about digital clocks. When were they first introduced into the USCF catalog?

I found the first mention of a digital clock in the '1996 Official Spring/Summer Catalog'. Shown below, it was called the USCF GameTime and was sold to members for $99.95.

It turns out there was another story here. The earliest thread in rec.games.chess (rgc) was

  • 1996-07-21: Advice Needed • 'I thought I would ask the readers for their opinion as they have been very helpful uncovering the USCF Gametime fiasco.'

Fiasco? What fiasco?

  • 1996-07-10: USCF GameTimer • 'I have recently received a GameTimer from USCF and wondered if anyone else has had a similar experience with it. [...] I believe the problem is with shoddy manufacture.'

In the same thread, other rgc fans recorded similar problems, while more positive opinions were expressed about other digital clocks, e.g. Chronos & DGT. A few weeks later, a new thread appeared. It started, 'I received the following letter today':-

  • 1996-07-29: USCF GameTime Recall • 'You recently purchased one of the first 400 new US GameTime clocks with special delay features. We appreciate your order, but we have an unusual request. We would like you to ship your clock back to us. [...] Excalibur Electronics, manufacturer of US GameTime, has notified us that...'

The USCF continued to sell the GameTime for several years, eventually adding a Saitek model and, shortly afterwards, the FIDE Digital Game Timer (DGT). As so often happens with new technology, the first horse out of the gate was not the eventual winner.

04 August 2015

August 1965 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago Pal Benko received a double billing for placing first in two strong open tournaments. If his photo on the Chess Review cover looks familiar, the same photo was also seen for the October 1964 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'San Juan 1965'
Right: 'Perennial Easterner?'

Chess Life

Benko, Lombardy Tie in U.S. Open • GMs Pal Benko and William Lombardy tied for first in the 1965 U.S.Open, played in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In accordance with USCF regulations in effect since 1963, they were proclaimed co-champions.

Chess Review

Pal Benko, former Hungarian and New Yorker, mops up regional tournaments regularly, mainly in the East. With his second Eastern Open title (the first was in 1962), he bids to become a perennial Easterner.

On the page announcing the result of the U.S.Open, Chess Life carried an obituary for a little-known, yet important benefactor of American chess.

E. Forry Laucks • Players at the United States Open were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of E. Forry Laucks on Saturday evening, July 31. Mr. Laucks, a participant in the Open, had played the first six rounds and seemed to be in good health and spirits. Accompanying a large group of chessplayers on a tour of San Juan, he collapsed suddenly and was pronounced dead upon his arrival at a nearby hospital.

Mr. Laucks, a Life Director of the USCF, was most famous as the founder and patron of the Log Cabin Chess Club. This unique chess organization, found. in 1934, was located at 30 Collamore Terrace, West Orange, NJ., and was visited by thousands of players -- including all the outstanding American masters. Hospitality at the Log Cabin was proverbial; proverbial also were the many chess trips and excursions that Mr. Laucks and the club members made to many points in the United States, Canada, Central America, Cuba, and Europe. In 1958 alone, the club sent representatives to eleven countries.

The Log Cabin played for many years in the Metropolitan Chess League in New York City and in 1945 won the league championship. From August 7 to August 22, 1959 the club was the scene of one of the greatest master tournaments ever held in this country -- the United States Seeded Championship. This event, held in celebration of the club's Silver Anniversary, was limited to ten of the strongest players in the nation. William Lombardy was the winner, followed by Benko, Bisguier, and Robert Byrne. Mr. Laucks provided an unusually generous prize fund: first prize was $1200, second $1000, with the others in proportion. Play was held at the Log Cabin and at Mary Bain's Chess Studio in New York City.

Although the Log Cabin had not been as active in the last few years as previously, Mr. Laucks had lost none of his enthusiasm for chess promotion. Only a few days before his death, he was outlining plans for more "firsts" and spoke enthusiastically of future tournaments and matches.

For more than thirty years E. Forry Laucks was a generous chess patron, an energetic chess promoter, and a colorful and well-beloved figure at chess gatherings everywhere. It will be hard to imagine a U. S. Open without him.

For more about Laucks, especially his influence on young Bobby Fischer, see Elliott Forry Laucks on Chessgames.com.

03 August 2015

Early Computer Chess Ratings

Continuing the look at early chess computer news on rec.games.chess (rgc), my previous post 'The Chips Are Down!' ended,

The long explanation indicates the importance of ratings in choosing a chess computer. I'll look at ratings in my next post in this series.

One of the longest running computer rating lists has been maintained by the Swedish Chess Computer Association, SSDF [chessprogramming.wikispaces.com]. The first reference to the SSDF that I can find on rgc is

  • 1989-04-24: ICCA Journal • 'Volume 12, number 1 of the ICCA Journal is now available. This issue contains: [...] The Swedish Rating List'

The first list I can find is

  • 1990-11-26: Kamsky in Tilburg • 'This are the ratings calculated by the swedish chess computers federation.'

An excerpt of that list is shown below.

A rating list that corresponds to the computer models from 1995 mentioned in 'Chips Are Down' is

Is anyone really interested in computer chess ratings from 20 years ago? If my early-2004 page on FIDE historical ratings is any guide, then the answer is 'Yes!'.

02 August 2015

Chess Curriculum - Pre-chess

Returning to Chess Curriculum Inventory, after Chess Curriculum - Short Versions comes a full, stand-alone version.

No.2: Teaching Chess the Easy and Fun Way with Mini-Games • Kathy Price, Andre E. Zupans • 84 pages • Randolph-TeachingChesstheEasyFunWaywithMiniGames.pdf • subtitled 'Teach Clear Thinking, Promote Math Skills, Enhance Memory & Reasoning; Supporting the Common Core State Math Standards'

The philosophy behind the document can be gleaned from the section 'About the Authors' [p.03 (of the PDF)],

Kathy Price [...] developed this system of teaching chess to entire classrooms by trial and error with students in 1st through 6th grade classrooms. When one adult is facing 24 eager second graders with a variety of skills and interests, it became necessary to have an effective format that allows effective teaching and learning within constrained time limits to take place. • Andre Zupans [...] discovered that un-packing the game of chess in small Mini-Games was an effective way to teach chess. This educational guide has been designed on this principle.

and from the 'Introduction' [p.05]

The value of teaching chess to elementary age children is well researched. Occasionally we see schools that offer optional chess clubs or after school programs but arely we see it instituted in a whole classroom. Why? It is because most teachers do not know how to play or more importantly don’t have an effective system to teach chess to 24 or more active elementary students at once. This book is for that teacher!

Assuming a significant difference between 1st and 6th grade students, I would place the material at the younger end of that range. The document talks to a teacher responsible for a full class -- 'Classroom/Club Management' [p.15, with some good tips] and 'Supporting the Common Core State Standards in Math' [p.65-72, eight full pages] -- not to the students, and not to classes of one or two students.

The exercises can best be described as pre-chess or proto-chess. There is a full page of 'Game Variations' [p.56], e.g. Pocket Knight, Checkless Chess, etc. There are no full games, no openings, and few real-game situations. I expect that students come away eager to play a real chess game, when a more experienced chess teacher would necessarily take charge.