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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Chess Engines
Posted: July 25, 2020 at 10:11 am
By: Tech Desk | Updated: July 20, 2020 9:27:04 am There is an abundance of chess games available on Google Play Store (Source: Play Store)
There can be a million first-person shooter game like PUBG, 3D endless running games like Temple run, graphics-heavy racing games like Asphalt but Chess is still one of the most basic and interesting games around on smartphones. You dont need a high-end smartphone to run this game as they can run on almost any smartphone, not taking too much space.
If you are surfing, looking for a Chess game to download heres a list to choose from as per your needs from the abundance of versions available on Play Store.
Chess (by AI factory limited) is the highest-ranked paid chess game on Android. It has 12 playing levels from novice to expert. Apart from the usual single-player and multiplayer mode it also has a casual mode which helps you understand the game better with hints and move take backs. If you are a serious player, the pro mode is the best as it does not hold back any punches. You can also track your history which will help you improve.
The game lets you play online as well. You can choose between a wide array of 2D and 3D chess boards. You can also review your previous game. It has a 4.7 rating on Play Store. There is also a free version available which has over 1.5 million downloads.
Play Magnus is a two-dimensional chess game where your opponent will be Grand Master Magnus Carlsen. You have control over whether you want to play against a Magnus as young as five years old or a 27-year-old. The chess engine of this one is different as well as it has the same opening as Magnus depending on the age of AI-powered opponent. Features like Brain Power boost and Magnometer help you identify whether the opponent is bluffing with the next move or not. If you are new to the game, there is an option of training videos as well.
To add more to it, you have a chance to qualify to play Magnus Carlsen Live at a secret location. The app has a 4.3 rating on Play Store after over 23,000 downloads.
This version has a more minimalistic approach to the game. Despite being simpler than other versions available it lets you play in analyse mode, choose between different playing engines, adjust the playing strength. It also has different colour themes, animated moves and even a blindfold mode. Third-party engines are also configurable in this game to boost the diversity of moves of the opponents. It has a rating of 4.6 on the Play Store. The game is closing in on 16,000 downloads.
Instead of giving you a head-on game, this chess game gives you different puzzles, situations to solve. The game lets your choose between three modes. Solve daily puzzles mode helps you solve new problems every day. Solve offline puzzle packs is something that comes preloaded with the app. The third one, Progress Mode is an interesting take as it gives you random as per your level. You can also play on different boards, see your level history and bookmark puzzles to solve again. It has a 4.5 rating on Play Store after over 54,000 downloads.
Its not just the 3d style of the game that makes it interesting but a Harry Potter Hogwart-style chess board to add a little drama in your gameplay. It will be a little nostalgic for Harry Potter fans as humanoid chess sets and graphics add another dimension to the game which the aforementioned dont possess.
It has five humanoid chess sets: Barbarian, Dwarf, Skeleton, Orcs & Spartan. There are three difficulty levels. You can also play the game online. However, if you are into the game and not into graphics, this is not the one. The Battle Chess 3D has a 3.7 rating and over 37,000 downloads.
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Posted: at 10:11 am
7/19/2020 Remembrances of his first chess books, analysis of a World Championship game, backstories from a Candidates Match and a squashed Caro-Kann are all part of the latest column by Jonathan Speelman. The former world number four confesses: Opening theory has never been my thing, and I was perhaps lucky to be active at a time when it was much less essential. | Photo: David Llada
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[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]
When I was little, I hada row of chess books on a shelf above my bed. Of course I cant remember all of them, but several are very clear.
After learning the moves of chess from my cousin on Boxing Day (December 26th) 1962, my first chess book was Chess for Children by Bott and Morrison, which gave me the basics.
My first-ever serious chess book though was Bob Wades account of the 1963 World Championship match between Mikhail Botvinnik and Tigran Petrosian. My mum bought it for me in Edgware Roadpresumably the match ran from March to May in the summer of 1963. With a distinctive dark red cover once it lost its jacket (I can see it on a shelf now) Ive enjoyed re-reading and dipping into it ever since.Some of the games especially Petrosian's epic king march in game 5 are truly memorable.
Master Class Vol.10: Mikhail Botvinnik
Our experts show, using the games of Botvinnik, how to employ specific openings successfully, which model strategies are present in specific structures, how to find tactical solutions and rules for how to bring endings to a successful conclusion
Later, I got Euwe and Kramers two-volume work on the middlegame, Bent Larsens Selected Games 1948-69and Peter Clarkes book on Mikhail Tal (which annoyingly, although I can see at least five other books on Tal, I cant at the moment bring to hand).
And a couple of years later, I beat some 200ish ECF (2200ish) player in a simultaneous display at Foyles (the famous book shop on Tottenham Court Road) and won a whole selection of books from Pergamon Press, including Vladimir Vukovics wonderful The Art of Attack in Chessand a book on Petrosian by Alberic OKelly de Galway the Belgian count who as an arbiter at some team competition in the 1970s once attempted to get the England team captain David Anderton to order myself and Jonathan Mestel to get our hair cut!
The Pergamon Tranche also included A Complete Defence to 1.P-K4,a study of the then backwater, the Petroff, by Bernard Caffery and David Hooper.Though our main opening bible in the English speaking world at that time was Modern Chess Openings.
I had the tenth edition (1965, completely revised by Larry Evans under the editorship of Walter Korn). Chess theory was then still very rudimentary compared to today, and there was a wonderfully whooly quote about the Yugoslav Attack against the Dragon which went,Black must react promptly and vigorously just how is not quite clear. I also found the 8th, 11th and 13th editions on my shelves. By the 11th (Walter Korn, 1972), defences had been found against the Yugoslav.
Opening theory has never been my thing,and I was perhaps lucky to be active at a time when it was much less essential. But of course I know lots of general information and in a few lines I was either a trail blazer (quite possibly losing track of the line later) or one of the main protagonists.
As White, these tended to be sneakily wimpy ways to try to get the advantage without having to learn the complexities of the then main lines. For instance,6.a3 in the Symmetrical English, while it wasn't of course a novelty, was new to me when I played it against Jan Timman in the Reykjavik World Cup in 1988 and has since become the main line, slightly surpassing 6.g3 innumber in recent games.
But perhaps the best known instance was against Nigel Short in our first Candidates Match.When a couple of weeks after Mikhail Gurevichintroduced it on the Russian Championship, I was lucky enough to be able to play 10.0-0-0 in the Bf4 Queen's Gambit
This had been published in a Norwegain newspaper which Marianne, my second Jonathan Tisdall's then girlfriend (and now ex-wife), had bought on the way here. And I was able to play it before Nigel or his second John Nunn were able to see it in Schachwokke.
As Black I tend to like to maintain my pawn structure,and have for many years had a love/hate relationship with the Caro-Kann or Cockroach (a mild joke the Russian for cockroach is tarakan). Its an opening which works splendidly if White gives any quarter, since your position is intrinsically sound and eventually, once youre developed, then the extra centre pawn on e6 may come to the fore.
However, if White is suitably dismissive and able to back up his or herscepticism with sufficient kinetic energy then even the cockroach may get squashed as in this game against the great Misha Tal:the only one I lost while qualifying from the SuboticaInterzonal in 1987.
The Fashionable Caro-Kann Vol.1 and 2
The Caro Kann is a very tricky opening. Blacks play is based on controlling and fighting for key light squares. It is a line which was very fashionable in late 90s and early 2000s due to the successes of greats like Karpov, Anand, Dreev etc. Recently due to strong engines lot of key developments have been made and some new lines have been introduced, while others have been refuted altogether. I have analyzed the new trends carefully and found some new ideas for Black.
The rest is here:
Posted: at 10:11 am
With last weeks long-planned, no-Olympics launch of Peacock, the Streaming Wars have reached something approaching a status quo. For the first time in what feels like all of living memory, there are no upcoming new services to speculate about. The players are all present and accounted for, and as the pandemic has sent us inside and in search of entertainment, streaming has taken on an outsized role in how we decide to spend our spare time. In other words, its the perfect time to check in on the streaming landscape, which finally feels stable enough to evaluate as a whole. Here are some takeaways from the past few months in Hollywoods digital frontier.
Peacocks debut is certainly significant for the long-term aspirations of Comcast and NBCUniversal. But the largely free, somewhat confusing service feels most significant for the era its presence effectively ends. Ever since Apple ordered what would eventually become The Morning Show in the fall of 2017, consumers and critics have been in a state of anticipation. Weve been reacting less to streaming as it is than predicting what it would eventually become. But while the opacity of streaming companies makes some speculation inevitable, our days of reading the tea leaves by way of press releases and trade reports are effectively over. Peacock was the final chess piece to show up on the board. Now, the game can begin.
Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Quibi together form the second generation of streaming services: those designed to capitalize on, and hopefully chip away at, the success of the first. Disney+, Max, and Peacock are all owned by content-rich parent companies who grew tired of leasing out libraries they could be earning profits from; Apple TV+ and Quibi used a trillion-dollar valuation and Jeffrey Katzenbergs pitching prowess, respectively, to start their own production engines from scratch. Collectively, all of these companies have claimed they can take on the more established Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, whove had time to shore up their original offerings as titles like Friends and Frasier return to their home turfs. In the back half of 2020, the noise of the second wave will start to fade, and streaming will begin to settle into some kind of equilibriumone that may well include fewer contenders.
If Peacock is an inflection point, the next few months may well bring some sort of downswing, and not just because of COVID-19-related halts on new productions. What are subscribers actually willing to pay for, or spend their time watching? After years of expansion, the pendulum is due to swing toward contraction. And theres already a prime candidate for where natural selection may start to take its toll ...
Of all the new services, Quibi assigned itself the steepest challenge. Not only were Katzenberg and his business partner Meg Whitman trying to compete with a completely clean slatethey also tried to stand out with a short-form gimmick ill-suited to a premium rendition, plus an emphasis on mobile, on the go viewing caught flat-footed by a moment when almost nobody is going anywhere. The silly name and counterintuitive pronunciation (its short for quick bites, but it rhymes with libby) were just the cherry on top.
More than two months after its April launch, the Wall Street Journal published a report outlining Quibis many troubles, both in overall performance and behind the scenes, followed soon by a similar tell-all at Vulture. In both accounts, Katzenberg and Whitman were characterized as two 60-somethings trying to cater to a demographic they didnt understand as their brainchild burned through cash and lost executives like its head of brand marketing. Katzenberg has tried in vain to shift blame onto the pandemic, while some reports have indicated more than 90 percent of free trial users have opted not to sign on for a paid subscription. And while all publicity is good publicity, most of Quibis publicity consists of viral tweets dunking on loopy concepts like a woman has a golden arm.
The idea of a snappier streaming service that toys with the bounds of traditional TV has its defenders, including myself. But nearly four months in, it seems unlikely Quibi will be able to channel that potential into a sustainable businessas opposed to an outlet like YouTube, which has its own homegrown community of creators. If Quibi does sputter out, itll take floods of investor money with it, after everyone from Alibaba to Disney bought into Katzenbergs track record because of his past ventures like Dreamworks. At least well always have the memes.
In happier but equally symbolic news, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced last week that chief content officer Ted Sarandos, widely viewed as the Hollywood counterpart to Hastingss base in Silicon Valley, would share his title and join the companys board of directors. While a company as big as Netflix having co-CEOs is exceedingly rare, the promotion also cements what outside observers have long known to be the case: Netflix is no longer a tech company with a satellite business in entertainment. Its a tech and media company, one whose original productions play an increasing role in its success. Sarandoss ascent may not change much about Netflix, but it reflects a seismic change in the kinds of companies that now shape the industry, with form and function more intertwined than ever. Our platforms and what we watch on them are now one and the same.
Actual theaters may still be dark, but theater is adapting, if only at its upper tiers. July 4 weekend was dominated by the streaming release of Hamiltonor rather, a version of the Broadway smash starring the original cast and filmed without an audience. Disneys $75 million investment appears to have paid off in the form of a meaningful uptick in new subscribersadult theater fans are a distinct demographic from the families with kids who powered Disney+s first few months (though Lin-Manuel Mirandas contributions to Moana may have trained a new generation of fans).
The success of Mirandas translation to screen naturally leads to questions about its potential replication. Just as stand-up comedy specials are live performances filmed and repackaged for home viewing, could stage plays and musicals enjoy a second life outside their venues four walls? (Netflix tried something similar with its 2019 release of Kerry Washington in American Son.) Such distribution could democratize an art form thats historically limited to those who can afford tickets and travel to a theater, and could draw an untapped market to new services.
Of course, theater-as-streaming is hardly that simple. Hamilton is a once-in-a-generation hit with a massive cultural footprint. Celebrities and politicians routinely stopped by the original Broadway run, where tickets ran into the thousands; the soundtrack alone has sold millions of copies. A built-in audience makes the expense of a professional directing job worth the start-up costs, but almost every other Broadway show operates on much thinner margins; its doubtful theres equal demand for, say, Keri Russell and Adam Driver in a revival of Burn This. In the space between popular sensations and niche adult dramas, however, theres uncharted territory for other content-hungry streamers to explore. And without a path back to Broadway in sight, theater may have to get unorthodox in order to survive.
Last and least, as always, are the self-released statistics selectively offered by streamers to gauge their own success. Andy Sambergs charming Palm Springs is Hulus most talked-about original film; Tom Hanks vehicle Greyhound earned an audience commensurate with a summer theatrical box office big hit on Apple TV+; 40 million people watched Never Have I Ever and Space Force in their first four weeks of release, a term Netflix defines as taking in just two minutes of a single episode. (The company used to tally views in terms of completing 70 percent or more of a single episode, then further lowered the threshold for its metrics.)
These data points mean little on their own, but they start to take on more meaning in context. Palm Springs was a record-setting Sundance acquisition Hulu wants to show was worth the investment, financially as well as creatively. Hulu holds an Outstanding Drama Series Emmy for The Handmaids Tale, but its not yet as established in features, which a streaming-friendly romantic comedy could help to fix. Apple wants to prove itself as a venue for upcoming releases with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Sofia Coppola, whose pivots to streaming will be less last-minute than Greyhounds. Over at Netflix, meanwhile, a full list of its pseudo-ratings reveals some surprising disparities: The ubiquitous Love Is Blind, for instance, was far less widely watched at 30 million views than the magnificently dumb Too Hot to Handle, at 51 million.
The asterisks on these figures remain firmly in place, though its still interesting to see exactly how many eyeballs a supersized meme like Tiger King amounts to (64 million, at least for those first two minutes). Streaming is far from transparent, but with the peacocks coming home to roost, its worth seeing what major players count as a successand how they try to claim it.
Continue reading here:
Posted: July 6, 2020 at 4:44 am
On July 4, the day the United States of America celebrates its independence, let's take a look at the best chess players in American history.
The United States has long produced top chess talent, with some of the game's finest players, authors, and theoreticians calling the U.S. home.
In recent years, the U.S. has been a force on the international chess scene, and its "big three" grandmasters are staples at the world's top tournaments. The United States had a world-championship contender in 2018, with GMFabiano Caruana coming up just short against the world champion, GMMagnus Carlsen.
Caruana obviously makes the list of the best-ever U.S. players, but where does he rank? And who is ahead of him?
There are many ways to make a "best-of-all-time" list. Your selections will be different from mine. I am using peak playing strength as my primary metric, not overall career achievement because I am most interested in the best possible chess produced by each American on this list.
8. GMGata Kamsky
Peak rating: 2763
Kamsky is a true chess prodigy. He became a strong grandmaster at age 16 and reached his peak in the 1990s. His career pinnacle was in the 1996 FIDE world championship bracket, where he made the finals but dropped the championship match against the reigning FIDE world champion, GMAnatoly Karpov.
Kamsky was born in the Soviet Union but moved to the United States early in his career. Kamsky won the U.S. chess championship five times (1991, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014), cementing his status as an American chess legend.
Here is a 22-year-old Kamsky beating the super-GM Nigel Short in 26 moves.
7. GMLeinier Dominguez Perez
Peak rating: 2768
Even with much recent success, Dominguez Perez remains an underrated American chess talent.
Dominguez Perez officially became an American chess player less than two years ago, in December 2018, when he transferred federations to the United States. Before that, he was the five-time Cuban chess champion.
His career peak was likely his sole first place in the 2013 FIDE Grand Prix leg in Greece, finishing ahead of 11 other super-GMs, including three others on this list.
Dominguez Perez's attacking prowess was on full display in 2014 when he practically wiped future-compatriot GMWesley So's kingside off the board in this brutal miniature.
6. Paul Morphy
Peak rating: 2811 (estimated by Edo)
It's not a stretch to call Paul Morphy the father of American chess.
A true prodigy, Morphy was not just a chess force at an early age. His game was also about 100 years ahead of its time in terms of style and even tactical strength.
GM Bobby Fischer called Morphy "the most accurate player who ever lived," which should tell you something because many chess fans give that title instead to Fischer.
Morphy's game peaked quite early, and the apex was his European tour in 1858 at age 21. Morphy pretty much destroyed every strong player the European continent could throw at him, and by the time he returned to the United States, he was recognized as the unofficial world champion.
Morphy retired from competitive chess a year later to begin his law practice, never returning to the game before his death at age 47.
Morphy is the author of arguably the most famous chess game ever played, an exhibition against the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard at an opera house in Paris. If you're going to show a chess beginner one game, use this one.
5. GMHikaru Nakamura
Peak rating: 2816
Hikaru Nakamura, while quite a formidable traditional chess force, is truly a chess player of the modern age.
Nakamura has made his mark as unquestionably the best American blitz chess player ever, and also the best American online chess player ever. Since most chess games in 2020 are both played online and at fast time controls, these are fairly important arenas.
Nakamura has also established a tremendous following on the live-streaming site Twitch and was called "the grandmaster who got Twitch hooked on chess" by Wired magazine. On Chess.com, Nakamura has won the two most recent editions of the Speed Chess Championship (2018-2019).
Of course, Nakamura has enjoyed solid over-the-board success as well, winning the U.S. championship five times.
No game quite captures the modern, fun, and online-friendly nature of Nakamura's style like his thorough trolling of the computer engine Crafty back in 2007, when Crafty was one of the world's strongest engines and Nakamura was just 20 years old.
4. GMWesley So
Peak rating: 2822
Wesley So transferred to the United States federation six years ago, and since then he has established himself as one of the world's best players.
So is 26 years old and it's reasonable to think that his chess peak is just getting started. So's style of play is precise and safe, rarely getting himself into trouble. This less-risky approach has been cited (mostly unfairly) as evidence that So is not an exciting chess player.
That argument went right out the window last November when So destroyed the classical world chess champion, Carlsen, in the finals of the first FIDE world Fischer random chess championship. So ran up the score, winning the match 13.5-2.5, putting to rest any doubts of his brilliance and creativity.
In this famous game against the top Chinese GM Ding Liren, So answers any lingering questions you might have about whether three pieces are better than a queen.
3. GMFabiano Caruana
Peak rating: 2844
Caruana is currently at the top of his career and sits just 28 rating points behind Carlsen on the live list. Caruana and Carlsen are the only players above 2800. The pair fought a close battle in the 2018 world chess championship, with Carlsen needing the tiebreaks to retain his title.
Caruana is still in contention for the next world championship whenever that process resumes, with the American one game off the lead of the 2020 candidates' tournament at the time of its postponement halfway through the schedule.
Caruana's chess highlight reel is too extensive to fully appreciate in this space. He won the U.S. chess championship on his first try in 2016, and he was the four-time Italian chess champion before transferring to the U.S. federation.
Why pick a draw for Caruana's showcase game, when all the other players get wins?
This game against Carlsen in the 2018 world chess championship represents the peak of chess on two levels. On the surface, you have the tremendous underdog Caruana outplaying and pressuring the world champion Carlsen, who was lucky to escape with the draw and maintain an even match.
On a deeper level, there is a beautiful and inscrutable endgame lurking in this game that astounded everyone who analyzed it. The chess super-computer "Sesse" found a forced checkmate for Caruana in 30 moves in real-time, as millions watched the game around the world. The legendary former world champion GMGarry Kasparov said no human could ever spot the win. Yet it was in there, on the board as surely the 64 squares themselves.
I still get goosebumps playing over this endgame.
2. GM Bobby Fischer
Peak rating: 2785
Bobby Fischer stands as the most legendary U.S. chess player ever and is universally considered one of the three greatest world champions, along with Carlsen and Kasparov.
Fischer was responsible for a renaissance in American chess in the 1970s as he racked up ridiculous winning streaks on his way to the world title over GMBoris Spassky in 1972. Fischer elevated the game of chess to geopolitical philosophy, representing American individualism against the Soviet chess machine.
The most striking aspect of Fischer's chess was how far ahead he was of his competition. His peak rating of 2785, earned before the considerable rating inflation in the 50 years since would place him near the top of the chess world even today.
Computer studies have confirmed Fischer's strength and accuracy as other-worldly for his time. His style was universal, elegant and above all, accurate. His fierce competitive spirit is something the computer engines can't measure; Fischer had one of the strongest wills to win in chess history.
Fischer's career was cut short by disagreements with chess organizers along with mental and physical health problems. Nonetheless, in the short time he spent at the top of the game, he changed it forever with the millions of American players he inspired.
Almost as a side note, Fischer invented Fischer random chess (chess 960), which is considered one of the most creative chess variants. Fischer also held a patent for a chess clock with an increment, which is the preferred time control today of many players.
The below game, one of the most famous in chess history, shows the stunning chess clarity possessed by Fischer even as young as age 13 when he eviscerated a leading American chess master, Donald Byrne.
Peak rating: 3500+
I can already see the objections in the comment section. But the headline in this article said "chess players," not chess humans, and I am a big fan of non-human chess.
AlphaZero is an artificial intelligence project that plays chess. Given just the rules of the game, AlphaZero taught itself to play chess to superhuman levels in mere hours using machine-learning techniques.
It stormed onto the chess scene in late 2017 when its operators released the results of a 100-game match with Stockfish, the traditional champion chess engine.
AlphaZero plays chess differently from most computers, possessing an almost-intuitive understanding of the game and handling many positions in a beautiful, human-like manner. Of course, AlphaZero is stronger than any human, but if you played through its games you'd think it had a distinct personality. Maybe it does.
AlphaZero inspired a whole wave of neural-network chess engines, including the international open-source project Lc0, which currently sits second behind Stockfish on the computer ratings list. The machine-learning approach pioneered by AlphaZero transformed the scientific basis of computer chess, and it will be the neural-network engines that evolve the game to its next levels, wherever that may be.
Is AlphaZero American? AlphaZero runs on American TPUs. The project's inventor, the AI company DeepMind, is headquartered in the United Kingdom, but the company has been owned by an American corporation (Google/Alphabet) since before there was an AlphaZero.
If George Washington was born a British subject but can still be considered a founding father of the United States, we can extend that same leeway to AlphaZero, especially on the American day of independence from Great Britain.
Of course, there are many other American chess engines, most of them far stronger than the human players on this list, but here they are collectively represented by the intrepid AlphaZero, which changed computer chess forever.
I'll never forget where I was when I saw this game by AlphaZero against the reigning top computer engine Stockfish, and if you care about the evolution of chess, you might not either.
Who do you think are the top chess players in American history? Let us know in the comments.
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Posted: May 15, 2020 at 8:51 pm
It was a month ago when Kerry Tharp's phone rang. The area code was a familiar one: 386, as in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The man known throughout the racing world as "The Commander" is in his fifth year as president of Darlington Raceway, NASCAR's old-school equivalent to Fenway Park or Lambeau Field and a facility that, as of last fall, is owned by the sanctioning body itself. Before that, Tharp spent more than a decade in NASCAR's communications department. So, when the phone rings from 386 and NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Tharp has always known it is never an unimportant call.
But this one was the biggest he has ever answered.
"They said, 'Could Darlington be ready to host a Cup Series race on May 17?'" Tharp recalls. "I said, 'Well, I don't seem to have anything on my calendar for that day -- or anything on my calendar for any other day, either. So yeah, let's do it.'"
The Commander laughs as he tells the story, then quickly cuts those chuckles short.
"For a month I had been just like everyone else in the United States," he said. "I was at home, on my couch, doing whatever I could around the house and wondering when we were going to get sports back. But as soon as I got that phone call, I called the Darlington Raceway staff and said, 'See you back in the office tomorrow morning. We've got a few weeks to do a few months' worth of work.'"
On Sunday at Darlington, NASCAR will return to the racetrack for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to pack up and abandon Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 13, as teams were preparing their cars for the weekend's first practice session ahead of what was supposed to be the season's fifth race.
Now that fifth race will be run two months later and at an entirely different racetrack. It will be held with no fans in the grandstand and no laps having been turned in practice or qualifying. Teams will do their work in unusually small groups, restricted to 16 crew members, including the driver. Big organizations routinely have three times that many people on their credential rosters, from mechanics and engine tuners to team owners and family members.
Those crew members will be the subject of a health screening prior to entering the racetrack, a check of temperature and vital signs, to be compared with health notes already supplied to on-site medical teams. As one Darlington Raceway official described it, "It'll look like the TSA airport screening line, but with thermometers." Anyone showing signs of fever or other symptoms, or exhibiting in-person deviations from the paperwork provided, will be sent for "heavy screening" by physicians in the newly erected medical center.
When they go to work inside the track, they will be subject to random light screenings throughout the day and thermal cameras will monitor their temperatures as they work. There will not be COVID-19 testing as of yet, in part because the tests take days to process and because NASCAR has said it does not want to take tests away from the general public.
Anyone who does not comply with these new unprecedented safety measures and rules -- say, a refusal to wear a mask -- will be ejected from the garage and hit with massive fines. In the garage, there will also be no tolerance for handshakes or hugging it out with friends. There will be no contact with anyone outside of one's group, every team confined to designated work areas and walking to those areas via precisely marked footpaths.
The path that NASCAR has traveled during the 65 days between Atlanta and Darlington has been anything but precise, a constantly redrawn road map that, even here on the eve of stock car racing's return, remains written in pencil, ready to react to anything that goes right or wrong at Darlington.
"The conversations and decisions that have been made during this time are no different than the decisions that have to be made by everyone right now, in every corner of society," said Eric Nyquist, NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer. "The news and what we know about the virus and the pandemic, it all seems to change on an hourly basis, especially during those critical first days after Atlanta. So, we have always had to be willing to react to that. And that flexibility won't stop when racing starts at Darlington. Far from it."
Those critical first days Nyquist speaks of were spent by the highest-ranking members of NASCAR's management team hunkered down in an expansive meeting space in the sanctioning body's HQ facility, located across the street from Daytona International Speedway. They have been in that room nearly nonstop over the past two months, but in the beginning, it was a strange juxtaposition, to say the least.
Only one month earlier, the racetrack across the street had hosted thousands of people as they watched Denny Hamlin win the Daytona 500 and Ryan Newman survive one of the most frightening crashes in the 62-year history of the Great American Race. Now the track, and the highways around it, were silent, as NASCAR's brass, led by president Steve Phelps, took their seats in the meeting space -- so spread apart via social distancing some had to raise their voices to deliver their talking points from one side of the room to the other.
NASCAR also was on every pandemic-related conference call that involved America's major sports leagues, including those conducted by the White House.
Over the past three weeks, ESPN.com talked with people from every corner of NASCAR, from the sanctioning body and competitors to racetrack executives and crew members, to see how they have prepared for the sport's return.
Auto racing was widely considered a leading candidate to become the first sport to return, thanks to the lack of physical contact between competitors and an already existing emphasis on safety. It is the only sport in which competitors -- drivers and pit crews -- have long plied their trades on Sunday afternoons wearing gloves, face coverings and helmets.
Because of the dangerous nature of auto racing, NASCAR's file of medical experts was already extensive. Those contacts drove NASCAR toward Dr. Celine Gounder, clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Gounder has been on the coronavirus front lines at New York City's Bellevue Hospital Center and on the executive committee of the NYC COVID-19 Rapid Response Coalition.
"This physician had been on the ground with Ebola. What was beneficial was to have access to info that put us a few weeks ahead in terms of how we needed to respond," said John Bobo, NASCAR vice president of racing operations. "We also talked with local health care providers of where we're going, and we get buy-in from those folks. As we talked to emergency room physicians in different cities, we got a better understanding of how the virus was reacting. We were trying to find a lot of different data points.
Ryan McGee explains why this could be another turning-point moment for NASCAR, and gives host Mina Kimes and other casual racing fans one good reason to love the sport. Listen to ESPN Daily
"We wanted to go into a community that was not in crisis. We must have an advanced life support helicopter on hand, and we always have to work closely with health care providers. We treasure our local relationships with health care providers, and we always tour trauma centers before and after races. So, we relied upon relationships we already had."
Every bit of that data gathering was done with the express goal of returning as soon as possible, wherever and whenever it made the most sense. When NASCAR's list of postponed events grew from three (Atlanta, Homestead-Miami and Texas Motor Speedway in March) to eight (adding Bristol, Richmond, Talladega in April and Dover and Martinsville in early May), the target date for the sport's return became May 24, with the traditional Memorial Day weekend "crown jewel" event, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"The attraction to Charlotte was pretty obvious once we realized that the schedule changes were going to slide into April and looking toward May," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "It's home. Most teams can drive there in minutes, so there's no air travel and no hotel rooms. It's also the same type of racetrack [a 1.5-mile intermediate oval vs. two-plus-mile superspeedways, winding road courses or half-mile short tracks] as the races we had to postpone at Atlanta, Homestead and Texas, so race teams should have the inventory of cars and engines for that type of racetrack ready to go."
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson explains what it will be like showing up to race at Darlington without practicing and shares how simulations on iRacing have helped him get a feel for the track.
Even as the idea of a Charlotte return started to make the rounds, it did not deter government officials, particularly state governors, from lobbying NASCAR to pick a facility in their state to be the sure-to-be-ballyhooed comeback track. The leader of that charge was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was in contact with Phelps nearly the instant that the Atlanta event had been shuttered, assuring NASCAR it could continue to do its work in Daytona and also looking for some assurance that his state's racetracks -- Homestead-Miami and Daytona -- would still host their scheduled events, whether it be sooner or later than originally scheduled.
At one point or another, NASCAR talked to the leaders from each of the 23 states that host one of NASCAR's national series events, all with varying calendars and policies when it comes to both "return to work" and "stay at home." When asked to describe the experience, Bobo speaks of three-dimensional chess.
"This is like 18 boards," he said. "We're dealing with a tremendous number of governor's offices in a variety of states. We're looking at trends, and we know things are dynamic in communities. We have to work with our TV partners and other vendors, how are they doing and what can they do?"
For example, Toyota's race teams -- including Joe Gibbs Racing, current powerhouse of the sport -- receive their engines from Toyota Racing Development. Unlike Ford and Chevy, who build their engines in North Carolina, TRD ships them to race teams from a factory in Costa Mesa, California, where work restrictions and stay-at-home measures are still much tighter. Were they going to be able to get engines to their teams? Thankfully, enough had been delivered before the shutdown, and as of Tuesday, the TRD office in California was opening back up.
Making the restart even more difficult is the fluidity that comes with the global pandemic.
"Can Goodyear provide tires? Can we get fuel? It's incredibly complicated," Bodo said. "We're on version 65, maybe version 70, of the plan. We do have pivot plans. Frankly, there's been days of the week where things have changed by the hour."
Not surprisingly, the governor's office that NASCAR talked with most was that of Roy Cooper of North Carolina. The majority of NASCAR teams, drivers and suppliers are located in the Charlotte area, as are a pair of NASCAR's secondary headquarters, its Research and Development Center in Concord and the NASCAR Tower in Uptown Charlotte, home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
On April 23, Cooper designated NASCAR race shops as essential businesses, meaning that race teams could go back to work in small numbers and employing social distancing rules. But Cooper also has been among the most methodical of Southern governors when it comes to reopening plans, moving a little slower than others in the region, particularly his border neighbors in South Carolina.
That's how Darlington came into play, some 3 months ahead of its traditional Labor Day weekend race date. With sponsors, broadcast partner Fox and team owners all pushing NASCAR to get back to the track sooner than later, the weekend prior to the Charlotte return began to look more and more attractive.
Working with Dr. Gounder, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Charlotte Motor Speedway executives and local health officials already partnered with the racetrack, NASCAR submitted a lengthy "How we're going to do this" plan to Cooper in late April. He sent it back with additional suggestions and changes from North Carolina state health officials. That same plan, but with a Darlington twist, was sent to South Carolina's governor, Henry McMaster, a longtime NASCAR fan and perhaps second only to DeSantis in his constant contact with NASCAR officials to try to bring the sport back in his state. It too was approved.
On April 30, NASCAR officially announced its plans to return on May 17, kicking off seven events in 11 days at Darlington and then Charlotte Motor Speedway, four of those being Cup Series races.
"Here's how fluid this whole thing was," Tharp said. "It wasn't until a few days after we'd agreed to the first race back that we found out we would also have a second Cup race four days later. And I found about the Xfinity Series race that we're going to run in between those Cup races on a conference call right before the schedule announcement went out. I'm not complaining at all. We will host as much racing as they want. But that's how much all of this changes that fast."
It has only moved faster in the weeks since.
NASCAR teams received the list of rules and regulations for Darlington shortly before they were announced to the public.
Team rosters will be 16 people, including the driver.
Cloth face masks are required. Anyone who does not wear one will be removed from the facility immediately and face up to $50,000 in fines.
Teams' work areas in the garage will be spread out to comply with social distancing guidelines, as will be the spotters, who normally are shoulder to shoulder atop the press box/tower.
Competitors' motor homes will be allowed in the racetrack infield, but instead of occupying one enclosed area, they will be spread out throughout the infield.
Over-the-wall pit crew members will use face screens or neck socks in addition to their normal gear of firesuits, helmets and gloves.
Teams must closely monitor the health of their employees before, during and after each event, including filling out medical forms that will be reviewed by medical personnel prior to track admission during a prerace screening that will include temperature checks.
There will be random temperature checks of everyone working in the garage area. Anyone determined to be symptomatic will be checked via an outside care center. If they are determined to be a potential virus threat, they will be replaced with another crew member.
Everyone is required to maintain a contact tracing log, manually and then via digital logging. If a worker shows symptoms, that person and those he was in contact with will need to self-isolate.
Teams already had the Darlington-Charlotte schedule in hand before it was made public, as well as a tentative schedule through the middle of summer. Now, with the health regulations in place, they could get back to work.
"I have literally not left my house since this whole thing started," said Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus, who currently oversees the cars of William Byron but won 83 races and seven Cup Series titles calling the shots for Jimmie Johnson.
Knaus is a notorious workaholic, known to sleep in his office at the height of his success with Johnson. But for two months, he has had to balance that work from home, alongside his 20-month-old son and his wife, who is expecting another child this summer.
"We have two distinctly separate groups working on our race cars," Knaus said. "There have been people at the race shop for a couple of weeks, preparing the cars for Darlington, Charlotte and beyond, but I will not see them unless it's on video. I am with the group who does not go to the shop but will go to the racetrack."
The shop team will load two race cars -- a primary and a backup -- into the team's 18-wheel mobile HQ. The team's truck driver will arrive, entering through a door where he sees no one else, and make the 105-mile drive to Darlington on Saturday. Normally, the 40 team trucks are packed into a small space, fitted together tighter than Tetris blocks. At Darlington they will be spread out. After scrubbing down every flat surface in the hauler's work areas, the hauler driver will take on his Sunday pit crew duties with the road crew having had no contact with the shop crew.
Because of the close proximity of the track, no one will be spending the night, especially not the race car drivers -- but they will have their motor coaches on site, where they live with their families during non-pandemic weekends. On Sunday, the drivers will be alone in those RVs, purposely isolated and waiting to be called to their cars for the green flag. Those motor coaches will be wheeled into the racetrack on Saturday and spread throughout the spectator-free infield. The rigs then with get a deep clean before the racers move in the following day.
"I will be totally on my own," said Johnson, reminding that, like any other athletes, racers have a support system of people, from PR reps to agents to cooks. "I am in charge of my gear, hydration system and nutrition. That includes my primary stuff and backups. Fire suits, shoes, gloves, ear molds, helmets, head and neck restraints, and so on. When the race is over, I'm responsible for cleaning and sanitizing everything for the next race.
"When they tell me it's time to get to the race car, I will head out. And I will absolutely be following whatever direction they tell me to walk."
On Tuesday night, Tharp was in the Darlington Raceway infield helping to ensure that Johnson and everyone else is clear on where to walk. NASCAR and track operation officials have been laying down what feels like miles of red tape, marking off workspace borders for teams in the garage, walkways that connect those workspaces to the teams' big rig and even who can use which bathroom. Spotter spacing and parking spaces also are being marked.
Outside the racetrack, a medical screening area is being constructed where there normally would be hospitality tents and tailgaters. Everyone who arrives will be asked for their ID so the medical questionnaires they have previously filled out can be called up on a tablet computer by a medical professional. There, outside their vehicles, each person entering the track must appear on a roster turned in by their team, and then they will receive an on-the-spot medical screening.
And while there will not be COVID-19 testing as of yet, the possibility of future testing is on the table should the need arise. There is concern about someone who comes up symptomatic having passed it on to others. It happened in the F1 paddock during that same March weekend the Atlanta race was canceled. It happened last weekend in UFC. That's why the NASCAR contact logs will be kept. And it's yet another reason why the overall plan continues to be written in pencil. If there's an outbreak that starts to push toward a lack of control, the plug on the season can and will be pulled again.
"I relate it to my military days," said Tom Bryant, NASCAR's senior racing communications director, who has worked closely with Bobo on at-track logistics. Bryant served 20 years in the Army, including special operations and multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan. "You've done your mission brief, you've checked your weapons and you're waiting on the pickup -- and the 'what-ifs' start to race through your mind. You need to trust your team of people who have worked together to build this comprehensive plan that has been reviewed by a number of experts and trust that the talented people you work with will be able to perform.
"I'm not sleeping well, but I have a lot of faith in our team, and we have a very solid group of professionals who are ready to face things and make decisions."
Also located outside the track is a new "outfield medical center" set up in addition to the regular infield medical center, which will remain reserved for race-related medical situations (post-crash examinations, etc.). The outfield center is where anyone who shows any signs of illness will be sent for further examination.
Patrolling those areas -- as well as every parking lot and gate of Darlington Raceway -- will be dozens of law enforcement officers, from the Darlington County Sheriff's Office, South Carolina Highway Patrol and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the state's investigative law enforcement agency. They will be on the lookout for anyone who tries to find their way into the racetrack or tries to turn Sunday's race into a protest opportunity or worse.
Darlington Raceway officials already have learned of large gatherings planned in the immediate area of the track, which they have politely worked to discourage. On Wednesday, a local man was arrested for calling the racetrack and leaving threatening messages, explained in the Darlington County Sheriff's arrest warrant as: "describing a possible explosive device and the results it may create to further his cause."
While the police presence might appear larger than normal, every other group will be much smaller. During a full race weekend that involves all three NASCAR national series -- Cup, Xfinity and Trucks -- there can be as many as 3,700 credentialed personnel in the racetrack infield, including competitors, NASCAR employees, track workers, support industry personnel and media members. On Sunday, that number will be less than 900.
The press box will have only four occupants, working as pool reporters for the media not in attendance. Motor Racing Network also will use a small team of radio personnel, made up only of those who live in the Carolinas and can make the drive. Fox will be working with a crew half the normal size to broadcast the race, utilizing only one reporter on pit road and moving production work such as replays and graphics to its studios in Charlotte. That's also where the broadcast booth will be, with Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon watching on monitors from separate studios, as they have throughout the network's broadcasting of iRacing over the past two months.
It would be naive to believe that the surprising success of eNASCAR broadcasts (roughly 1 million viewers per week) hasn't fed into NASCAR's desire to get back to the live track as soon as possible. Phelps has never disputed that. Much of the motivation behind all of the phone conversations, the politics, the education on pandemics and the laying out of the rules that will be so heavily enforced at Darlington and Charlotte has been to be the only live sport on television on Sunday afternoons for the foreseeable future.
If one were to receive a commission for every time the name of the 1979 Daytona 500 has been invoked over the past few weeks, he or she would not have to go back to work. That's when CBS aired its first live, flag-to-flag coverage of NASCAR's biggest race, on a Sunday when nothing else was on and much of the East Coast was socked in by a snowstorm. Those people stuck in their homes were gifted with perhaps the greatest finish in the history of motorsports, when Richard Petty held off Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt, as Cale Yarborough had a fistfight with the Alabama Gang after crashing out of the lead on the final lap. NASCAR's three decades of growth started that day.
These days, it has been stuck in neutral. But now, so is the American sports-viewing public. Check that ... so is the entirety of sports, period. They will all be watching on Sunday to see if the road back to normal does indeed run through Darlington, South Carolina.
"I have no idea how it's going to feel when the green flag finally waves because this has been so different getting there," Knaus said. "I really hope that when we get some laps in, we have settled in, and it'll be like, 'OK, this feels normal.' If it does, it'll be the first time something has felt normal in a really long time. And that's really all anyone wants right now, isn't it?"
"I've heard from a lot of people who work in a lot of different sports," said Tharp, who before joining NASCAR spent 20 years as the media relations director for the South Carolina Gamecocks, working with the likes of Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. "They all want to see if all of this we are doing to make this race happen works. They are all hoping that it does.
"We make this work, and we will, then sports are back. And other sports can hopefully take what we learn from this and they can get back soon too."
ESPN feature producer Tracy Wholf contributed to this report.
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Posted: April 24, 2020 at 2:44 pm
4/23/2020 For decades Boris Gelfand has been one of the best chess players in the world. He is known for his deep analyses, his passion for chess and his admiration for Akiba Rubinstein. In an interview with ChessBase Gelfand talks about the Candidates, why modern players study the classics and why chess makes him happy. | Photo: Russian Chess Federation
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Dear Boris, the Candidates Tournament 2020 in Yekaterinburg was the last live-tournament before the corona lockdown. Unfortunately, it was postponed after the first seven rounds. But how did you like the chess so far? Is there any game that particularly impressed you?
In the first seven rounds we saw quite a few interesting games. Ian Nepomniachtchi's ending against Anish Giri in round 1 and Nepo's win against Wang Hao were the most memorable games for me.
You have a lot of experience with the Candidates. In 1991 you qualified for the first time for the Candidate Matches, in 2013 you played in the Candidates Tournament in London. What makes Candidates Tournaments and what made Candidates Matches special and in how far are they different to other top tournaments in which the stakes are high?
I have always thought that the Candidates Tournament is the most important tournament in the calendar. When I was young I immensely enjoyed reading the books about the Candidates tournament or matches in 1959, 1962, 1965 and 1968.
A young Boris Gelfand
I always wanted to qualify and do well in these events, it was more important to me than keeping or improving my rating. Thats what was missing in the years 1996-2006 and it badly affected my performance in this period. The difference between the Candidates and a regular tournament is that only victory counts, one cannot be satisfied with being second. There is no "good performance", there is only the winner.
What does it take to win in the Candidates and to become a World Championship Challenger?
It needs a combination of factors: the ability to fight under the highest pressure, to be well prepared chess-wise, physically and mentally. And you need luck as well, as usual.
How do the players prepare for such an important event?
I always arranged a couple of training sessions and invited some colleagues to join my trainer Alexander Khuzman and me during such training camps.
Lets go back in time. Do you still remember how it felt to qualify for and to play in the Candidates Matches in 1991?
Yes, I do remember. I was just 22 and had unlimited confidence. So I considered myself as one of the strongest players in the World and thought that my qualification was very natural.
And how did it feel to play in the Candidates Tournament in 2013 as a former World Championship Challenger who almost became World Champion in 2012 you had to fight against the younger generation of top players?
I was very motivated to win London and to qualify for another match. I was familiar with all the players and tried my best. The tournament was not successful but my preparation paid off in the following events. I believe that in 2013 I played the best chess of my career.
From 1991 to 2013 you played in seven World Championship cycles. Do you have any memories of these events that are particularly fond to you?
Yes, sure. I am proud of my play in the Candidates match vs Vladimir Kramnik in 1994 and in the World Championship Tournament in 2007 in Mexico, where I shared second and third place with Vladimir Kramnik. I was excellently prepared and played well. However, between 1998 and 2007 I had almost no invitations to top events and this prevented me from playing more confidently and I missed number of opportunities.
How do you think chess has changed in the last 30 years and how did you experience this change?
Many things have changed. Nowadays everyone has access to huge databases. A lot of high level chess has been played in these 30 years and it helped to reassess a lot of positions. Engines have become an important part of chess and helped to open the boundaries of chess game.
30 years ago it was important to get information. Nowadays we are overloaded with it. It is much more important to analyze it and to my make correct conclusions. However, the key factors to success are the same: talent, work ethic, a strong character and believing in ones vision of chess.
You are a great admirer and fan of Akiba Rubinstein. Did you see the influence of Rubinstein (or another classical player) in any of the games that have been played so far in the Candidates or is "Modern Chess" completely modern now, with no regard to the classics?
It is a very rare to see that a modern game copies the exact same idea or maneuver from a classical game. But the absolute majority of top players have studied classical games well and it has influenced their chess. Magnus Carlsen is the best example. When he quotes a game like Flohr-Goldberg, played in 1949, in his press-conference no further comment is needed.
Your books Dynamic Decision Making in Chess and Positional Decision Making in Chess appeared in 2015 and 2016 but are already considered as classics. In these books you give deep insights into the mind of a top grandmaster but what I found even more fascinating is your seemingly unlimited enthusiasm for analyses and your love and passion for chess that shines through virtually every page of the book. What kindled this passion and what has kept it going throughout your long and illustrious career?
I am amazed with the richness of chess and I am happy to start my day with chess and finish it with chess. It makes me happy.
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Posted: at 2:44 pm
Imagine that, overwhelmed by a dire national emergency, the Government were to summon a group of chess grandmasters to become theguiding lights to identify and implement the solution to the crisis. Sounds farfetched? It has happened once before.
This singular story is told (with some dramatic licence) in the award-winning film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the genius who designed the computers for the decryption programme, Ultra, which ultimately broke the Enigma military codes used by the Nazis.
By the start of World War Two, British intelligence had already established a high security operation at Bletchley Park, where code-breakers assembled to try and crack the secret cyphers of the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. Turing, indeed, arrived at Bletchley on September 4, 1939, the day after war had been declared. It was in a good cause. It has been estimated that the work of the Bletchley team may have shaved two years off the war and saved 14 million lives.
The Imitation Game quite rightly glorifies the vital role played by Turing, if embellishing the facts. The film also acknowledges the role of the chess experts by including as a leading character Conel Hugh ODonel Alexander. Known for understandable reasons as CHOD, he was twice British Chess Champion and vanquished the coming World Champion, Mikhail Botvinnik, in the 1946 Anglo-Soviet radio match .
However, what comes across less clearly is that Bletchley recruited virtually every leading chess master in the UK. The sole exceptions were B.H. Wood, a talented chess writer and editor, who, however, was suspected of being a Communist, and William Winter, who actually was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.
Apart from Alexander himself, who went on to a glittering career at GCHQ, the UK government listening post, and who was awarded the CBE, the chess fraternity at Bletchley also numbered Harry Golombek, thrice winner of the British Chess Championship, who later received the OBE as well as promotion to Grandmaster Emeritus. Harry was also my predecessor as chess correspondent of the Times.
Yet Golombeks chief distinction in the chess universe was to write a series of chess books which inspired a generation of chess aspirants, including myself. They included accounts of the 1948, 1954 and 1957 world championship matches, as well as classic anthologies of the best games of the great Cuban world champion Jos Raul Capablanca and the Hypermodern pioneer Richard Rti. Golombek was more of a stylist and annotator than an historian of the game.
Golombeks most spectacular game was a sensational draw in 1952 against the Soviet Grandmaster Yefim Geller, while his most illustrious victim across the chessboard was the Dutch former world champion Dr. Max Euwe, here .
By no means least amongst the chess illuminati at Bletchley was Stuart Milner-Barry, also a member of the British chess team. Milner-Barry rose to great eminence in the civil service, was awarded a knighthood and came close to becoming British chess champion, though the best he eventually achieved was silver medal.
Milner-Barrys most prominent victim was the Hungarian-American grandmaster Pal Benko, twice a candidate for the world championship, in this 1956 game .
In the film it is Turing who delivers the vitally important letter to Winston Churchill, requesting vastly increased resources for the cypher breakers, resources which enabled Turing to build his longed for decryption engines. In reality, it was Milner-Barry who was entrusted with this task.
Churchill reacted promptly, turning to General Ismay with the memorable command: Action this day. The Red Sea of obstructive bureaucracy duly parted.
I never played against Alexander, who retired from active play before my time, though I did serve many times under his captaincy in the British Chess Federation team. Indeed, Alexander captained the team which featured in my recent column for TheArticle Smokescreens. There I recounted my efforts to extinguish the conflagration which threatened to engulf the game between Jan Donner and Jonathan Penrose, when the Dutch Grandmasters ashtray burst into flames.
Having encountered Golombek twice across the board, I found him to be extremely solid: both games ended as draws. Milner-Barry was a knight of the old school, who hated draws and always steered uncompromisingly for the most aggressive course. He tended to overplay his hand and I found him relatively easy to defeat.
The Bletchley chess player whom I never even met was Alan Turing. Turing was fascinated by chess, but was by no means in the same league as Alexander, Milner-Barry and Golombek. Indeed, Golombek told me that in his games against Turing, he would turn the board around after Turing had (invariably) resigned and proceed to beat Turing again from the position the computer genius had already abandoned as hopeless.
Turing may not have excelled at chess, but he did create the first viable chess programme. Computer science was not yet sufficiently advanced during the 1940s for a physical computer to be able to play chess, but Turing did the next best thing, given the resources of the day. He developed algorithms on paper which could lead to selection of chess moves, and thus play a computer generated game.
Here is a link to a game by Turings chess-playing paper computer. Two things stand out. The first is an inexplicable blunder by the computer at the end. The other striking point involves the twin advances of the white pawns on the a and h files at the two extremities of the chessboard. This is eerily predictive of the style of the Alpha Zero computer programme, brainchild of another British computing genius, Demis Hassabis CBE.
As Grandmaster Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan demonstrate in their book, Game Changer, such flank pawn advances are a commonplace of the winning strategies of what is probably the strongest chess engine the world has seen, or perhaps will ever see. In that sense Alan Turing displayed truly astonishing prescience. Though his contribution to the victory in World War Two was rewarded by the OBE, after his conviction for gross indecency, the heartless authorities punished him with chemical castration for his criminal homosexuality, leading to his probable suicide in 1954.
On December 24, 2013, after a gap of nearly sixty years, Turings criminal conviction was finally overturned under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
Justice had finally triumphed, though, as Shakespeare (another chess player, see my column here ) put it in Richard III: But he, poor man, by your first order died, /And that a winged Mercury did bear; /Some tardy cripple bore the countermand, /That came too lag to see him buried.
Posted: at 2:44 pm
Written by Shivani Naik, Sandip G | Mumbai, New Delhi | Updated: April 24, 2020 5:46:34 pm Viswanathan Anand, Gary Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik are set to play in the Online Nations Cup
A well-lit room, smartly-placed roving Webcams, a Screen-share setting on Skype, an arbiter sitting remotely while accessing the players computer and alert to any out-of-place ambient sound, and oodles of trust in the top respected names of the game: Those are the logistics of the Online Nations Cup in chess, perhaps the highest profile sporting action thatll take place between May 5-10 at multiple venues coinciding with chess famous residential addresses.
A set of arbiters will also monitor every move (speed of reactions and patterns), vetting them on anti-cheating software to look for engine aids.
Six teams Russia, the USA, China, India, best of Europe and Rest of the world, will go up against each other in a double round robin, blitz 25-minute team format, as the cerebral sport mainstreams playing arenas hitherto frequented by amateurs which will now be headlined by the pros: online chess rooms sitting at home. This was necessitated by a world cornered into restrictive lockdowns forced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While players and fans are happy that atleast chess can stay afloat while global travel is at a standstill and all sporting action has paused, the biggest test for the organisers and those overseeing the competition fashioned to be like chesss Ryder Cup will be to ensure that the online setting leaves no doubts about fair play, and cheating is completely ruled out.
It is an elite event. Only the best players in the world. They would never risk their reputation, says David Llada of FIDE, while adding that the world body will do everything technology permits to guarantee that conditions for the event cannot be corrupted by anyone participating. With names like Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Indias Viswanathan Anand set to be involved in playing and guiding capacities, FIDE is banking on reputations to ensure nothing silly is indulged in.
However the online setting will keep everyone on their toes, given the sheer scope for manipulations. The players will be playing from home. They are required to have a couple of webcams, so the arbiters can see their room and their computer screen. These will be rapid games, so there are no toilet breaks which would pose a challenge. Chess.com also has some anti-cheating systems that are able to track, with a high degree of reliability, when a player is making too may moves that coincide with the engines recommendations. All things combine we can guarantee the conditions for the event to be considered safe, Llada adds.
Online chess is not a novelty and FIDE says an estimated 16 million games were played online since the lockdown began. But this will be the biggest event to take off on an online platform. Prof Anantharam, one of Indias leading arbiters whos also on the FIDE panel says that backroom work for arbiters will now include tracking every move and tallying it with engine databases in forensic ways.
At this high level, players wont take risks. But as a governing body, we have to take all precautions. There are a couple of checking tools a fast one which flags a move for the fair play team if the software suggests the players analysis could be engine-aided within seconds and then detailed checks monitoring the next moves in a match. Noone is naive to think cheating doesnt happen in online chess.
READ | Georgian Grandmaster caught cheating
Just that technology catches it, he says, adding that cash prizes upto Rs 10000 were withdrawn after some lower-rung amateurs were found cheating. Both chess.com and the other popular website lichess.com have developed anti-cheating provisions now.
Magnus Carlsen, the biggest name in chess, is currently hosting another online tournament, and besides the livestreams and live commentary, the emphasis is on a 360 degree monitoring of the rooms via webcams. The sport is not immune to mischief with an IM using the pretext of a weak bladder to take help from his phone hidden in a dustbin in face to face chess to win an Abu Dhabi tournament. The professor, one of the sharpest arbiters in the country once caught a player in Kochi using some kind of transmissions through a Bluetooth device.
Itll be best if cameras used for the FIDE event have audio feeds. As an arbiter of online games, one would need to observe players movements to see if they are checking tools as well as their computer screens to make it footproof, he says. While reiterating that cheating is unlikely at this level, Prof Anantharam maintains that as arbiters theyll need to be on their toes nevertheless. Someone holding a placard but not in cameras view is not a stunt anyone will try, but after a GM recently found intrepid new ways of cheating, FIDE wont take any chances. One person will need to keep watching the player, he says.
GM Dibyendu Barua, while stressing that no top players will attempt cheating, adds that safety measures are important so that no one can blame anyone later.
Keeping the webcam on for the whole duration, a well lit room and supervision will happen ofcourse, he says adding that hes heard of mobile devices being used for cheating at lower rungs. Itll be exciting to watch mixed teams (1 woman out of 4 players mandatory) and besides watching strong chess countries like China, interest will be high in certain matchups. Just seeing Anand match wits with Kasparov again for the younger generation, or Kasparov-captaining against the young Iranian sensation Alireza. Mischief wont be on top of anyones mind, but we dont want exceptions, he says.
Chennai-based RB Ramesh, a former player and current coach, says that the shorter time controls (25 minute rapid) dont lend themselves to any hanky-panky. With technology, cheating can be curtailed in blitz games. But if its longer formats with 300-400 playing, its tough to monitor. But its why online tournaments are not rated officially and FIDE has software like the plagiarism tracker so to some extent you can mitigate cheating, he says.
Captaining a FIDE age-group team once, he insists that both video and audio cameras need to be live, to erase suspicion of someone standing off camera and suggesting moves. One cant obviously say definitively that cheating doesnt happen online, just the chances here are very low, he says.
While FIDE has reacted quickly to the dramatically altered sporting scene globally,concerns of fair play remain at the back of their mind. 50 years ago there was this big USSR vs Rest of the World that was really massive: Now, the world is differentIndia, China they are claiming their place not only in the chess board, but also as superpowers. India is rubbing shoulders with the US, Russia and Europe, Llada says, adding top players were all a bit worried about having all the over to beard tournaments cancelled. But they were relieved to see that chess organizers, including FIDE, reacted very quickly and are now holding all top-level competitions online.
The last word of wisdom are reserved for Viswanathan Anand, who stresses that due caution will need to be taken. Logistics is easier, but they should do some testing. Like some anti-cheating measures because you are after all playing at home.
The idea is you will share your screen with arbiters. In Skye you have a setting, screen-share, you can do that. The arbiter will have access to your computer and know what you are doing. He knows whats happening in the room. The best would be if we didnt have a lockdown, you could arrange a chess player to go to everyones house as an arbiter and make sure that nothing is going on. But right now I think every once in a while they will look around the room and something like that, he explains.
The multiple world champion from India offers an insight into the future saying online chess simplifies a lot of things for the organisers: travel and venue and other minor practical aspects, while hoping online is not forced into becoming the norm. Its turned out very useful in this situation. Having said that, the whole world hopes that we are not living with Corona for the next 10 years. Hope it would not become necessary to play online all the time. For the moment, it keeps us going.
While stressing that online chess has been around for ages and the world neednt act as if its a new thing invented now, he reckons trust in fellow players is the key.
I think its a question of trust. I think chess players trust each other. If someone is caught, its the end of his career, so everyone will hope it wont happen. If they are obsessed with checking every single thing, it will get unpleasant very fast, he says of the mild irritants thatll be so crucial to maintain fair play in the taut-nerved sport.
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Posted: April 11, 2020 at 7:10 pm
Housebound viewers hiding from coronavirus need Vanderpump Rules more than ever but instead, this eighth season is when the Bravo reality show has completely fallen apart.
When the show premiered in January 2013 as an offshoot of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, it was a gift. A reality show about the depthless, dramatic lives of a group of friends who worked at the West Hollywood restaurant Sur; all of whom were pretty but not too pretty, dumb but not too dumb; and who lived in the thrall of the restaurants owner Lisa Vanderpump truly, what could be better? There wasnt a decent human being in the bunch, and it was thrilling. Devoid of a protagonist, Vanderpump Rules viewers alliances would shift according to who was fighting with whom, and who was more wrong. Did someone punch someone else at a party, have sex with his best friends girlfriend, or act like a bully? Those things were likely bad, yes but again, maybe the other person deserved it! Who can really say.
A brief history of Vanderpump Rules: The plot of the show at first revolved around Scheana Shay, trying to make friends at Sur, having transferred from Villa Blanca, one of Lisa Vanderpumps other restaurants. As the new girl at Sur, Scheana introduced us to the rest of the cast: fellow servers surly Katie Maloney, rich kid/mean girl Stassi Schroeder, and, well, surly Kristen Doute, and bartenders Jax Taylor and Tom Sandoval. They were all actor/model/singer wannabes. Jax was dating Stassi, and Tom was dating Kristen, though spoiler alert Jax and Kristen would go on to hook up twice, cheating on Tom and Stassi, their purported best friends.
Katie, Stassi, and Kristen, meanwhile, hazed Scheana from the start, and it quickly became clear that Schaena, a former mistress of actor Eddie Cibrian, an aspiring singer, and then the girlfriend of Mike Shay (a dud she soon would marry who later turned out to have a massive pill addiction) was never going to fit in at Sur. Yet watching her try was utter bliss.
As the seasons have gone by, many key cast members have been added. First and foremost is Tom Schwartz, Katies boyfriend, turned fianc, turned husband. It is Schwartz and Sandoval who provide the shows central love story, however, which has culminated in a fractional ownership of Lisas most recent WeHo cashgrab, the bar TomTom on Santa Monica Boulevard. These two love each other like no other men ever have on television yes, even counting David and Patrick on Schitts Creek: They have a fascinating relationship.
Ariana Madix, a bartender, arrived in Season 2 as a romantic rival to Kristen for Sandovals affections. Kristen never stood a chance. Ariana is a seemingly sane, genuinely cool person dropped in among these histrionic numskulls said with love! and Sandoval had enough sense to hitch onto her. As of Season 3, we also have James Kennedy, an ambitious British DJ also committed to alcoholism and puckish trouble-making in equal measure. In Season 4, we met Lala Kent, a party girl who upon first arrival seemed possibly to be a high-class escort. Its a role Lala, who truly does not give a f, would embrace and there was a minute in 2018 when the internet would celebrate her as a feminist hero.
Theres also Beau Clark, Stassis boyfriend as of last season. Of all of these people, Stassi has always been the most compelling character. Her obsession with horror and violence, her genuine wit, her love of ranch dressing have been a captivating combination. And Beau may actually love Stassi, but he 100% wanted to date her in order to be on television himself, which he succeeded in doing. And that is so sad for Stassi. (Theyre engaged now.)
And then theres Brittany Cartwright. She and Jax began dating in Season 4 after they met in Las Vegas. She allegedly didnt know who he was; when she found out, she moved from Kentucky to Los Angeles to live with him when anyone in their right mind would have run screaming.
Brittany quickly became a part of the story of Jax Taylor, one of reality televisions greatest and most infuriating characters. Hes gone from being a wild-eyed sociopath literally! Stassi made him take a test! who fooled no one, to being a wild-eyed sociopath who has fooled exactly one person, his now-wife Brittany. And because the Vanderpump Rules cast devotedly, and somewhat inexplicably, love Brittany with her machine-gun laugh, homophobic lineage, and aggressive ambition to be on television many of them have gone along with the sham of Jaxs transformation, which has brought the show to its current low ebb as it became overwhelmed by his wedding to Brittany.
The ratings for Vanderpump Rules were ticking downward this season before the quarantine, though not dramatically so. And theyve spiked again with everyone stuck inside. When told of this piece, a spokesperson for Bravo wrote, Last weeks episode of #VanderpumpRules was the most-watched episode of the season with over 2M total viewers.
So yeah, Bravo will never cancel it. However, the network has recently shown it will fire even foundational Housewives in order to save a show, such as the recent massacre at The Real Housewives of Orange County. So might that work here too, by firing, say, Jax? Then at least the rest of the cast wouldnt have to be friends with him anymore. Or should Bravo split the show into two separate series, one about a group of friends who mostly hate each other, the other set at Lisas various restaurants?
I dont know. What I do know is that Vanderpump Rules is now dreadfully dull if not actively terrible. The midseason teaser that dropped recently promised no respite for viewers. Here are eight reasons the show is circling the drain.
For seven years, hovering just above the shows fray has been Lisa Vanderpump. With her incomprehensibly mumbley husband Ken Todd, their adult children Pandora and Max and their thousands of animals, Lisas professional empire has expanded due to the success of Vanderpump Rules.
On The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Lisa would sometimes get dragged down into vicious catfights, because that show is the Thunderdome just say Puppygate to the RHOBH fan in your life, and witness the full-body shudder. She was also frequently accused of being a Machiavellian manipulator not in those words, of course who would use the other women as chess pieces. Her quitting that show mid-season last year came as no surprise. Why would she put up with that st when she had another show on Bravo on which people are literally paid to kiss her ass?
But her regal, untouchable presence on Vanderpump Rules is the flaw at the heart of the show. Its absurd that the lives of the twenty-and thirty-something cast members need to revolve around a 59-year-old woman who is no longer their boss. Over the years, as fewer and fewer of the cast have actually worked at Sur, Vanderpump Rules has jumped through ridiculous hoops in order for Lisa to interact with the cast: Like when Stassi became an event planner, but all of the events just happened to be at Lisas businesses! Or this season, when Lala met with Lisa to discuss volunteering at Vanderpump Dogs, Lisas dog rescue business come on.
The two cast members Lisa seemed to forge a real bond with or at least saw moneymaking potential in are Schwartz and Sandoval, and therefore the scenes at TomTom at least make sense. But having some of the cast come over to her house to make decorations for Pride? No!
Which brings us to
Last season, we were supposed to believe that Lala, who literally flies around on private jets with her man (as she calls him) The Irishman executive producer Randall Emmett was still a hostess at Sur, a laughable idea. We should have been picketing in the streets back when that was still an option!
This season, the show is pretending that Jax and Scheana still work there, even though they make hundreds of thousands of dollars from the show. And when Ariana talked to Lisa about how shes been suffering from depression, Lisas suggestion was that Arianabartend some shifts at Sur? Which Ariana agreed to!
It should be self-evident that a reality show about a restaurant staff that makes its cast rich has to evolve out of the restaurant! The only thing tethering them to Sur is Lisas involvement. If she were only an occasional onscreen presence, perhaps at TomTom, this farcical aspect of Vanderpump Rules could come to an end.
(And about those salaries: Ive heard from two sources that the original cast members make $500,000 per season, which doesnt count their influencer and appearances income.)
Last April, when 50 Cent freaked out on Randall on social media, and demanded Randall an executive producer of 50 Cents Starz show, Power pay him $1 million he said Randall owed him, surely every Vanderpump Rules fan shared the same thought: I cannot WAIT to see this on the show! It was especially exciting that 50 Cents ire was prompted by his viewing of an episode of Vanderpump Rules, in which Lala said that after the first night she and Randall had sex, he gave her a Range Rover the next day. 50 posted the clip and called Lala a 4 quarter hoe, which then caused Lala to respond saying that his comments diminished the validity of the #MeToo movement.
This fight had everything: Randall texting 50 with the hilarious typo, I said Im sorry fofty, 50 then making Im sorry FOFTY T-shirts, Randall at the hospital, claiming he was about to have a heart attack I repeat, it had everything! (Read a summary of it here.)
And yet, when it came time for these events to appear on this season of Vanderpump Rules, there was just one teeny, tiny mention of it, when James and Lalas recently renewed friendship was once again shattered because James tweeted that the 50 Cent feud was hilarious as it was happening. You know why James did that? Because it was fing hilarious! It should have been the entire arc of the season, sidelining Jax and Brittanys wedding death march entirely.
A friend has theorized that the reason Randall has finally agreed to be on camera this season he used to make the cast sign actual NDAs lest they discuss him is in exchange for the show burying his humiliation at Foftys hand. (Randalls publicist did not offer a comment when asked this question.)
Every season, theres an episode set at the Los Angeles Pride parade, since Lisa is an LGBTQ ally, and the show is shot in the summer. But seeing the cast on a parade float season after season does raise the question of why a reality show set in West Hollywood has been so straight for all of these years, setting aside the not-on-camera Sapphic interludes between Kristen and Brittany, and between Ariana and Lala. Yes, there was Billie, a trans hostess at Sur, but she ran up against the buzzsaw of these people, and quit.
It was the filming of 2019s Pride episode seeing the cast posting about Pride on social media that brought the pastor disaster to its boiling point. Fans, annoyed at the hypocrisy, increased the pressure on Jax and Brittany to fire Ryan Dotson, the pastor theyd asked to officiate their wedding who had proudly trumpeted homophobic and anti-trans views. Brittany in particular had her head in the sand about Dotson, rolling her eyes and then blowing it off when Andy Cohen brought it up the previous January on Watch What Happens Live. Finally, in June, when Lara Parker and I asked Lisas publicist about Dotsons toxic remarks, Lisa took action, telling BuzzFeed Ive contacted Jax and Brittany who are extremely disappointed as to the depth and seriousness of these comments by the minister and are very shocked and feel that obviously major alterations will have to be made in their ceremonial plans. They are dealing with this today.
The media component was erased from how it played out on the show. Instead, we saw Tom Sandoval correctly asked Jax why it took Lisa intervening for them to act, causing Jax to freak out on him. (Clearly, Jax was mostly angry at Tom for bringing it up on camera another subtext of so many of the casts interactions.) The argument also brought out an ugly side of Brittany, who wanted Jax to pummel Tom. And then the entire cast sided with Brittany and Jax, except for Ariana, who is not only Toms partner, but a bisexual woman. In the coup de grace, Jax kicked Tom out of his wedding, until Tom apologized to him. Utterly malignant madness.
Last seasons reunion episodes demonstrated that James, the British DJ, was isolated from the entire cast, and not even Tom, Tom and Ariana could justify his behavior. Indeed, James has done many cruel things on Vanderpump Rules, like body-shaming Katie multiple times, making fun of Jax and Lala about the deaths of their fathers, and freestyle rapping at Sur in front of Brittany about how Jax fed Faith although, obviously, that last example was amazing. (If you dont know the story about Jax cheating on Brittany with former Sur-ver Faith in the home of and perhaps in the room with a 93-year-old woman she was caring for, read this Vulture recap.)
The result of James behavior is that he has barely been on the show this season. Is that understandable? If this were real life, yes. But reality shows have forced peers who hate each other to continue to socialize together for years you have one job!
Instead, James has been sidelined with poor Raquel Leviss, his sad-eyed, meek girlfriend, who has become a regular presence. And, in the converse of the rest of the cast refusing to film with him, I fear that Raquel has remained in a toxic relationship with James in order to be on camera. James recently proclaimed that hes been sober for months. Which, if true, is wonderful news. And in order to preserve his sobriety, he should just officially leave Vanderpump Rules.
Beyond the core cast, its always been difficult to figure out exactly who is officially on the show, especially from the huge yearly group photo, which always features tangential players. And then theres someone like Peter Madrigal, the Sur manager who genuinely still works there, and whos also been on the show the entire time, but never in the main cast.
This is all to say that this season they added three new cast members to the opening credits Max Boyens, Brett Caprioni and Dayna Kathan and none of them are interesting. Worse, two of the three, Max and Brett, were a catastrophe out of the gate, after racist tweets of theirs were uncovered a week after Season 8 premiered. Max tweeted this in 2012: Something about Asians that just makes me want to punch them in the suck hole; both men have used the n-word; and Brett has also called women whores. Theyve issued apologies, and surely the Bravo vetting process will tighten in the future, but,like how did this even happen? Is the overlap in the Vanderpump Rules Venn diagram between potential cast members and people whove used the n-word on social media really so great? If so, that should be a lesson in itself!
Of the three of them, Dayna has potential? But shes saddled with tiresome stories, like a who-cares romance with Max, and a thoroughly faked feud with Scheana. Which brings us to.
Scheana has carried this show on her back since the beginning. And what has she gotten for her labors? Stuck with the new kids! Except for enforced group activities, like Jax and Brittanys dozens of wedding activities, Scheana appears only with the new cast, which besides series regulars Max, Dayna, and Brett includes a few other women whose names I refuse to memorize. And not only that, but they put Scheana in the least flattering light possible, making her appear batshit crazy by somehow being simultaneously jealous of Max, Dayna and Brett. She dated Max, and likes Brett (I think?), and shes been made out to be a stalker which she may well be! But she is our stalker. In an interview Brett did with Scheana for his YouTube channel that was filmed for the show, he set out to humiliate her, putting cruel questions to her about being middle-aged (shes 34), and asking whether shes a fgurl.
How dare he.
Back in 2013, Scheana was the conduit albeit a loose one between The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules, with Brandi Glanville, Eddie Cibrians ex-wife, taking one for the team by fighting with Scheana in order to forge the link between the two shows. Scheana has gotten married on camera, gone through Shays pill addiction on camera, and even seemingly surprised him by announcing she wanted to get a divorce on camera. Shes left it all on the field!
For her labors, Vanderpump Rules has shunted Scheana aside and favored Jax and Brittanys story so much that their wedding felt like a hostage situation. The cast members lives may very well have revolved around this wedding its probably happened to every friend group but once the producers realized that Jax didnt have one last cheating scandal in him, they should have found other stories to tell.
Which brings us to
By the time Season 5 of Vanderpump Rules premiered, the show had achieved dizzying heights of excellence. There are those who think that Season 2 which concluded with Kristen and Jax finally confessing their grim-sounding encounters to Stassi and Sandoval was the single best reality season of all-time. My preference is Season 3, during which Jax got his first nose job, Kristen became a chaos agent trying to bust Sandoval for cheating on Ariana with Miami Girl, and Scheanas wedding featured Kristen punching James in the face (which he admitted he deserved).
Reasonable people can disagree about which season is superior! But we can probably all agree that the shows upward trajectory came to a grinding halt in its fifth season, which revolved around the wedding of Katie and Schwartz. Vanderpump Rules went from being hilarious and fun to bleak and depressing thats what happens when two people who appear to hate each other marry. (Schwartzs aggressive loathing of Katie continues unabated. Its interesting and horrifying, yes but not what this show should be for.)
That the Season 5 lows have now been matched by this current season should not be a surprise to anyone who has ever planned a wedding, or attended a wedding. Weddings are not the engines of enjoyable plots! Yet this cast, now nearly all in their 30s, are of the age in which they persist in getting married Lala and Stassi are next. (Lala and Randall announced on their podcast that they have postponed their April wedding until the summer, putting it squarely during the time the show usually films lordhelp us all.)
Jax Taylor turned 40 in July. The show should have gone up in a puff of smoke or a mushroom cloud when the clock struck midnight on his birthday. Instead, we saw him celebrating it. And thats on us! This is a show that on a recent episode tried to make a storyline out of a memorial for Tom Schwartzs dead lizard!
If a memorial for a dead lizard isnt a metaphor for the state of Vanderpump Rules, I dont know what is.
Posted: March 24, 2020 at 6:02 am
Since theadvent of the Coronavirus,we havebeen stuck in our homes, waitingfor a respite. Insuch a situation, the FIDE Candidates 2020is a godsend! In the first three rounds,there have been fivedecisive games, andthe remaininggrandiose battles have left me mesmerised at the level of the players playing in the event.There has been extensive coverage on ChessBasewith round reports and videos, and here in these series of articles appearing on every rest day andafter the closingceremony I will attempt to improve on the opening preparation of the players usingFat Fritz, the strongestengine in the world currently.
Now let me be honest withthe readers before proceeding.Compared to the seconds of these players who had months to prepare their lines, I have had only three solid days to prepare my notes, and unlike Deep Mind I don't have foursuper powerful TPUs. What I do have, however,is a lot of experienceworking with engines to analyse games and openings for ChessBase. The ideasI have managed to find have been in part due to a hunger to activelyunderstandeach and every position, and participating alongside the engine i.e. working with the engine and not for it. This is important, as itwill result in more than just analysisthat promises the best practical results.
With that in mind,let me list the games where I found concrete improvements Vachier-Lagrave vsCaruana and Grischuk vs Alekseenko.The latter is more of an alternative way to play,so we will look at it second, and concentrate onhow Vachier-Lagrave could have posed more problems for his opponent to solve!
It's always a combination of the human and machine that willbring you the best results! | Photo: Creative Commons Zero - CC0 viapxfuel.com
All the analysis utilises the Fat Fritzengine that comes with Fritz 17
Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3
The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had only two weeks to prepare for theCandidates, and while his openingsstill need a bitof work, it is clear that the break from chess has been beneficial for him! He hascome in fresh and invigoratedafter a 2019 where he conquered titles but missed out on directqualification by the smallest of margins. However, fortune favours the brave, and MVL has taken the chance that Radjabov gave up. Judging by the qualityofhis play so far he is definitely going to fight for the title. Hisopponent, Fabiano Caruana, on the other hand, has arrived with his killer instinct turned on I have never seen Caruana play chess this aggressively, looking for possibilities to pose maximum problems for his opponent, andnot caring for theobjectivity as much ashe used to! A sad loss notwithstanding, I still see Fabi as thefavourite to win he is both the ratingfavourite and has played the best chess so far.
A man on a mission! | Photo: Lennart Ootes
Things however,could have turned out differently had MVL taken a deeper look at the Neo-Archangel, Fabi's weapon of yore, and an uncompromising systemwhere Black gives White tempi to build up c3 and d4 in the center but keeps a set of active bishops, and chances to play for a win.Time to dive deep!
This is the modern day tabiya of the Neo-Archangel: Black keeps his light-squared bishop flexible at the cost ofa pawn, and modern theory suggests that after the critical 10.axb5 axb5 11.a3 he seems to be holding his own. Thus, MVL's choice 10.a5!? seems more pragmatic. In the press conference both sides called this a very sharp line. It seemed to methat MVL was still under-prepared in these lines, and it showed just four moves later.
This is a critical position, and perhaps the most instructivemoment of the game.Maxime went for 15.g5 here,protecting thee4 pawn and threatening xf7, which Caruana allowed in the game, but the former went wrong almost immediatelyand White didn't get much from there on.Can you do better than Maxime? White to play.
Extreme Calculation Training
Special attention will be paid to Intermediate Moves, Quiet Moves, Sacrifices on Empty Squares, Mating Patterns, Ignoring Opponents Threat, Calculation in Defence and Method of Comparison. Plus 50 interactive examples to test your knowledge.
The right moveis 15.d2!This move hasbeen seen previously in a correspondencegame, so it is an over-the-boardnovelty. What is White's idea? Well, for starters the e4-pawn is indirectly protected, as the b4-knight will hang at the end of the variation 15...xe4 16.xe4 xe4 17.xb4. Secondly, White simply completes his development by connecting the rooks, and the onusis on Black to find the best possible moves.He has to play 15...c5! (otherwise White just continues ad1) 16.dxc5dxc5 17.ad1!xa5!? (critical, probably safer is 17...xd2,but we shall see this later).
If there is one position that Maximecould have been afraid of over the board, it has to be this one. Black has simply won a pawn and White has seemingly no immediate compensation. Add this to thefact that Fabi would have known all the good moves here, and it makes for a scary proposition for MVL!However, after 18.e5! bd8! (the only move, can you see what happens after 18...xf3? 19.gxf3 bd8 20.e2! h521.g5! xd1?)
Well, White has the superb tactical shot 22.xf7+!! and he is winning in all the variations succeeding this sacrifice check the notes provided at the end ofthe diagrams.
Now we turn our attention to Black's only move that keeps him in the game:18...bd8! Here White has two moves the untested 19.e1!?N, which is Fat Fritz's choice, and involves accepting an exchange sacrifice, and the move I would prefer, 19.e2, which is the main line, as it keeps more sanity in the position.
After a sequence of forcing moves from 19.e2 we reach this position, which is critical for the evaluation of the line. White wins a piece, but Black has no obvious weaknesses, and a dangerous 3 vs 1 majority on the queenside. However, with this position still having a lot of pieces on the board, I prefer White, due to the fact that a piece is better than two pawns in general, andespecially in the middlegame. The computer agrees,giving White around 0.50 here, and thatshows while Black has some compensation, it is insufficient for equality.
Returning to White's novelty 19.e1!?, after 19...xf3 20.gxf3 xd1 21.xd1 d8 22.b1!? (22.e2 should simply transpose check the notes below) we reach this position. White is a pawn down and has a fractured structure, but he is the one creating threats, and soon Black is forced to give up an exchange. We reach the following diagram if both sides play their best moves:
White does have the exchange for a pawn, but this position didn't appeal to me personally because of the following reasons Black doesn't have a clear weakness in his position, his pawns restrict our bishop and the knight can find a good spot on f4 eventually, and that with his queenside majority will make this tough to win. However, if the reader is fine with grabbing material, this line should suit her/him.
I have attached my analysis here:
We will be keeping an eye on MVL's preparation in the rounds to come | Photo: Lennart Ootes
Still with me? The real innovations are yet to come!
This was the most intriguing clash of Round 1. Would experienced Grischuk prevail over his young compatriot, or would Kirill show that his performance at the Grand Swiss was not a fluke? Turned out it was the latter, but only just, as in Sasha's time trouble he missed a golden opportunity to press for eternity. However, we are not concerned with the entire game. The opening, however, does merit our attention. Let us quickly enter the critical position:
I find Daniil Dubov to be a really good commentator he is objective and keeps an open mind. Here he mentions that it was he who first vouched for Black in these structures back in 2014/15. Well, it seems to me that he is right in saying that Black has a playable position, but I don't think he equalises, and while 8.c2 by Grischuk in the game is a perfectly good move, I think my novelty here leads to positions that should be slightly more pleasant for White, and while it is not a strict improvement, it seems to lead to better chances practically, as Black has numerous ways to go wrong:
8.a4!? is my proposition for White here. It has never been tried before, but it leads to positions that are promising for the White player in my opinion. What is the idea you might ask? Well, White wants to play Nf3 and castle, but doing so immediately runs into e4!. So he has to wait. How does he do it? Well 8.c2!? is one way, but as I said previously it might be better just to keep the queen flexible. Thus what to do? When in doubt push the rook pawn! (Alpha Zero's teachings!) Also, the deeper meaning of this advance is explained in notes after 8.a4!? a5.
I will proceed now to show some sample positions that can be reached. Please check the analysis if you want to know how exactly this position is reached!
You will find this move h6 played by the machine numerous times in these structures. Basically Black wants to play a useful move while waiting for White to define his piece configuration. Here White should take on b6, and play d2, to improve the placement of the knight and the g2 bishop.
More tension = less advantage? Not quite! Here White benefits from the fact that he is yet to choose his pawn configuration in the center, so he can switch plans and aim for e4 and f4, rather than d4.
This is perhaps the critical test of the line what if Black responds to 8.a4 with 8...a5? Well, the inclusion of these moves seems to favour White for a very specific reason:Black loses the flexibility of his queenside majority, while White's move is a useful one to make it restricts the b5 break and allows for a3 in some lines. The notes provide more detailed explanations, but this is the gist.
This is an extreme example of when both Black and White try to get what they want, but White should be the happier side here good central control and chances for a quick and devastating kingside attack.
With all that covered let us look at the critical move according to Fat Fritz:8...e8. Here I recommend the surprising 9.Qc2!Again White wants to avoid being hit with e4, and while this is not the first choice of the engine it seems to lead to positions that are easier to play for White due to the better pawn structure he will possess.
It's in one of the sidelines of 9.c2, but it shows what exactly White wants to do:He wants to trade his isolated a-pawn and get one pawn island compared to Black's two. This rather simple idea sometimes leads to large advantages long term ones that is!
What about 9...a5? Well, as we can see from this position, the inclusion of a4 and a5 has favoured White, and he has a tangible advantage due to simply being more flexible.
In the main line Black is forced to capture away from the center to retain the best chances of equality something which most people won't do willingly. Even if Black finds all this, with best play we reach the following diagram:
White holds a small advantage here due to the following two aspects better pawn structure and a clear weakness to attack. Black is struggling for a plan, and while some tests are required, it is clear that only White can be pressing here.
Here are the extensive notes on the novelty 8.a4!?
I know, I know Fat Fritz's suggestions always seem to work! | Photo: Maria Emelianova
Here are two more interesting positions for the readers to finish this article:
Dubov praised Ding's next move 11.e4!?, calling it a supercharged Chigorin Ruy Lopez Reversed! Well, I tend to agree, but here are better options 11.b2!? is one, trying to keep the game in Reti/English Territory.
If there is one guy's opening play I can't improve on, it's Fabiano's! Here his move 13.d6! is the best practical chance, forcing Black to find only moves to survive. Well, what about 13.h3!?, which Fat Fritz likes initially? Well, this is one case where I have to bow my head to Caruana's team they noticed what was wrong with the line 13.h3!? xf3! 14.xf3 d6 15.g5 e7 16.b5 and now the only move, which is easier (than the game) to find for a player of Kirill's ability:
The third round did have a fascinating clash:Ding Liren managed to play like an engine and beat off Caruana's preparation almost effortlessly! However, there are a few points I would like to make here:Ding's move 10.xe5!? is probably not the best as far as Fat Fritz is concerned.It evaluates it at 0.64 after some thought, which suggests that the pawn sacrifice needs to be taken seriously. However, there are two other options that don't win material, but give White a much better position as far as static considerations are taken into account. Let us look at them here.
The idea that Fabi played in the game is really interesting and gutsy Black simply gives up a pawn for long-term compensation. However, there is a reason I consider this move to be a one game idea, and in the subsequent lines I offer White two simple ways to gain a long-term positional advantage. When you look at this move, it becomes clear that somehow the concept is positionally not 100 percent correct Black is not that much better developed, and the White king is reasonably safe. Thus, when I checked it deeply with Fat Fritz, I found two interesting continuations.
I can confidently state that this move, along with the idea succeeding it, effectively makesBlack's idea harmless. Why is that so? Well, the move e5 wants White to be greedy and take material, but why should I do it, when I have continuations that promise me a long-term static advantage? Logically, this move makes perfect sense counter-attacking in the center is the best defense against the provocative thrust 9...e5!. The point of this move is revealed in the following line:10...exd4 11.a2! b5(seems to be the only move) 12.xb4 bxc4 13.exf5 d3 14.e3 e8 and now the powerful defensive sacrifice 15.xd3!
White returns the extra material, but develops all his pieces and secures his king. After a few more logical moves we reach the following position:
White is materially not better, but look at his pieces! All of them are centralised and active, and the c-file is ridden with Black weaknesses to attack. It is not a winning advantage, but definitely a tangible one, and Black should look forward to a torturous defense. Fat Fritz gives White around 0.65 here, which is almost a vertical plus minus, and shows how bad Black's position is here.
There is an alternative to this on the 10th move 10.dxe5!?. The move is not as clear cut as 10.e4!, but Fat Fritz still gives White an evaluation of 0.62, and it should be an option to consider.
This position is reached after the critical line in 10.dxe5 fd7. It is easy to see why White is tangibly better here he has a monster bishop on c4, better pieces in general and a dangerous central majority that can decide the battle in the middlegame. This was the safer option to consider.
You too can nowuse Fat Fritzforyour analysis. It comes along with the Fritz 17 software:
Go here to see the original: