31 January 2018

Catching up with PGN

Continuing with Small Projects for 2018 (December 2017), I tackled the backlog of PGN files mentioned in that post:-
I have two technical problems to address. [...] The second is a replacement for my old PGN normalization software, which was forcibly retired last summer. I added two recent events without including the corresponding PGN.

A few weeks ago I switched to PGN-extract, and performed a small, successful trial on the 23rd World Computer Championship. Now I used the software to add the PGN files for all rounds of the 2017 World Cup, and for the last leg of the 2017 Grand Prix.

The trial went well for the PGN-extract software, but I discovered an unfortunate error in my processing of forfeit games. This happened in both round 1 (Onischuk - Zherebukh) and round 3 (Rodshtein - Kovalyov; the infamous 'shorts' incident). While it was easy to fix once I had identified it, the same error may have crept into previous knockout events. I'll have to come back to this another time.

24 January 2018

2018 Candidates Schedule

Sometimes it takes a lot of work to write one simple sentence. Take, for example, a recent post on my main blog, Interview Videos : Aronian, where I wrote, 'I have just enough time to review the eight players who will be starting the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament in March.' To calculate this, I had to know the date of round one of the upcoming tournament. First stop: FIDE Calendar 2018, where I learned,
Candidates Tournament 2018; Berlin, Germany; 10-Mar-2018; 28-Mar-2018

That pointed to a page Candidates Tournament 2018, where the only additional information on the page was a link to 'REGULATIONS', i.e. Rules & Regulations for the Candidates Tournament of the FIDE World Championship cycle 2016-2018. The associated PDF, which has been available since last spring, gives a day-by-day tentative schedule:-

Arrivals: 1 day
Opening Ceremony & Players Meeting: [etc.]
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Free day
Free day
Round 13
Round 14
Tiebreaks / Closing ceremony
TOTAL: 22 days

The FIDE Calendar says the event starts 10 March and lasts 19 days. I guess that day count includes round one through any tiebreaks. So round one starts 10 March. Is there any way to confirm this? My own page, 2018 Candidates Tournament (created November 2017), points to FIDE World Chess Berlin Candidates Tournament 2018 (worldchess.com/berlin). Is that the official site? I captured the current look of the page in the following image.

Those blue buttons in the bottom left say, 'Select Broadcast Plan' and 'Buy Ticket', but I couldn't find any information about who is playing or the schedule. After endless screens about broadcasting details, the last piece of info on the page says, 'Read full regulations' and points to a PDF titled 'Regulations for the 2016-2017 FIDE World Chess Grand-Prix Series'. Grand Prix? It looks like this page is a copy/paste from another page. Fortunately, that 'Buy Ticket' button points to FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament Tickets & Event Dates (ticketmaster.de), which says,

10 Mar 2018; FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament | Round 1; Sat 15:00; Kühlhaus Berlin
27 Mar 2018; FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament | Round 14; Tue 15:00; Kühlhaus Berlin

A 'Find tickets' button for round one lists prices in three ticket categories: white, silver, and gold. With the tournament starting in a little more than six weeks, I still have time to make travel arrangements.

17 January 2018

23rd World Computer Championship

One of my Small Projects for 2018 (December 2017), was to update my page on the World Computer championship. Besides catching up with the ICGA, it gave me the chance to try out the PGN-extract software on a real PGN file. I noticed two differences with the previous software:-
  • a space between the move number and White's move (e.g. '1. e4' instead of '1.e4')
  • some lines start with a move instead of a move number (e.g. '1.d4 [...] 8. // O-O [...]' instead of '1.d4 [...] // 8.O-O [...]', where '//' indicates a new line)

Both of these are matters of taste and are probably not dictated by the SAN standard (which I don't remember ever reading anyway). On the positive side, the PGN-extract software does its most important job admirably : checking the validity of the moves in a PGN file. It also allowed me to remove comments from the file in the same step as the checking, which was a separate step with the previous software.

I created the PGN file & crosstable, combined the two into a ZIP file, loaded the result to my site, and updated the index page, World Chess Championship : Computer Chess. For the post on the previous ICGA championship, see 22nd World Computer Championship (August 2016).

One small question I had during the process was whether to continue listing Don Dailey as a developer for the winning program, Komodo. According to the Wikipedia page, Don Dailey, he died in November 2013. Since the Komodo site, komodochess.com, is titled 'Komodo chess engine by Don Dailey, Larry Kaufman & Mark Lefler', I decided to use that as a guideline. For details about the 23rd WCCC, see the ICGA site:-

The ICGA is going through some soul-searching about its stewardship of the WCCC. For specifics, see:-

That last link, by 'David Levy – ICGA President', includes a capsule history of the WCCC, e.g.:-

It came to pass that the first WCCC took place in Stockholm, at the Birger Jarl Hotel, in the summer of 1974. The British entrepreneur publisher Robert Maxwell donated a medal for the first World Champion, which was won by the Soviet program Kaissa, developed by Mikhail Donskoy, Vladimir Arlazarov and Anatoly Uskov.

It remains to be seen whether the current ICGA initiative is a fresh start or 'too little, too late'. Although a comment to the Levy article acknowledges the existential challenge of the TCEC, the ICGA plans future chess events:-

It's also worth noting the group's Facebook page: ICGA - Home.

10 January 2018


Continuing with Small Projects for 2018 and 'a replacement for my old PGN normalization software, which was forcibly retired last summer', I had to look no further than PGN-extract ('A Portable Game Notation Manipulator for Chess Games'). Although its output is not completely what I was looking for, it does the more important job of checking the validity of PGN files. I'll test drive it for some of the other 'Small Projects' before adopting it definitively. An overview of its functionality is available on the page PGN-extract Help file.

I also spent some time poking around the chess software on GitHub.com. The projects go beyond the basic support needed for my World Championship site and would better be addressed on my main chess blog.

03 January 2018

Petrosian Talks About Fischer

Since the first of the Small Projects for 2018 (December 2017) is 'a replacement for my old FTP package' and since I have nothing to say about that other than 'file name case conversion is an issue!', what can I write about in today's post? Luckily, yesterday's post on my main blog, January 1968 'On the Cover', provided a topic from the January 1968 Chess Life in an article 'Venice 1967' by Larry Evans. The report by the five-time U.S. champion included a long section titled 'Petrosian Talks':-
Since we were quartered in the same hotel, and frequently walked to the tournament hall together, I had the opportunity to ask Petrosian some burning questions. (His wife served as translator.) He readily admitted not being satisfied with his chess ever since the title match with Spassky, in which he felt the quality of his play was considerably better than the result would indicate. He is confident of finding his form in 1968 and attributes his poor tournament showings (as opposed to his winning the gold medal on Board One at the Havana Olympic) to the cross [curse?] of the title: everyone now plays for a draw against him.

And what about a match with Fischer? He says FIDE would not permit one for the title. What about an unofficial match, say, 12 games, for a purse of $10,000, divided 60% for the winner and 40% for the loser? Here Petrosian's attitude was ambiguous. He personally would be happy to play such a match, but it's a question of what his own chess federation would say. Furthermore, who would want to put up with all of Fischer's conditions? By now the latter's eccentricities are well known. Then Petrosian said that $10,000 would not be enough. I indicated surprise, pointing out that he received less than $2,000 for winning the title match against Spassky. Donner happened to be present at this discussion, and when asked by Petrosian's wife who he thought would win such a match, Donner replied instantly: "Fischer!" Donner, further, thought that the FIDE system was strong enough to withstand unofficial matches of this nature when the title was not involved (although the winner would have a moral claim). Petrosian wondered whether Fischer's chess was not somewhat stronger five years ago, before his temporary retirement from the game. I said Bobby was playing better than ever and would undoubtedly win the Interzonal.

Then came the news of the scandal in Tunis and Fischer's withdrawal. Everyone thought that Bobby was crazy. I said we would have to have more facts, but that Bobby was generally right when it came to matters of principle. I couldn't tell whether Petrosian was pleased by the prospect of not now having to meet Fischer for the title; but again he indicated that he would play Fischer a match if the decision were his to make. His wife pointed out that Tigran had a tremendous plus score against Bobby, and I replied that it had been piled up when Bobby was just developing. I know that of all the Russians, Bobby has the greatest respect for Petrosian. If they made draw after draw in a match, which is not unlikely, Bobby might very well get impatient and suicidally try to force the issue. When I asked Petrosian how he felt about a return to the old type of match for the title -- based on who wins the first six games, for example, thus making ties impossible -- he said he was not opposed, but it could produce an endless number of games since the players are so evenly matched nowadays. Besides, this is a matter which rests solely in the hands of FIDE.

It is clear that Petrosian, whether he says so or not, considers Bobby the strongest possible challenger. But, he said, in their own games Bobby did not make a single move which he had not anticipated. Furthermore, he gave Fischer a draw (in their second round encounter at the Piatigorsky Cup 1966), even though he demonstrated to Bobby after the game that he (Petrosian) had a winning position. Why? Because he wanted to see Bobby finish second (rather than Larsen) because Bobby had played the best chess in the tournament. His wife, seeing that I took this with a grain of salt, assured me that it was true. Apart from that, he would like to play in the next Piatigorsky and give an exhibition tour in America.

Tigran Petrosian was the reigning World Champion from 1963 to 1969.