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With new rules and a new normal, NASCAR set to return this weekend – ESPN

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.'"

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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."

1:02

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.

No fans.

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?"

Tharp agreed.

"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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With new rules and a new normal, NASCAR set to return this weekend - ESPN

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"Chess makes me happy": An interview with Boris Gelfand – Chessbase News

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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"Chess makes me happy": An interview with Boris Gelfand - Chessbase News

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Chess: Breaking the Code – TheArticle

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.

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Chess greats face off online, webcams, arbiters to watch moves – The Indian Express

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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8 Reasons Vanderpump Rules Needs to Be Rebooted – Variety

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.

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Out-preparing the Candidates with Fat Fritz (Part 1) – Chessbase News

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:

Out-preparing the Candidates with Fat Fritz (Part 1) - Chessbase News

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Beating the Philidor – BusinessWorld Online

Posted: March 13, 2020 at 8:44 am

I am sure most of our readers have seen the famous 1858 Morphy versus Duke of Brunswick game played at an opera house in Paris. It has been called the most famous game in chess history.

Morphy, Paul Duke of Brunswick, Count [C41]Opera House, Paris, 02.11.1858

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Bg4?

A bad move. We will discuss alternatives later. Bobby Fischer mentioned here that 3Nd7 is the right move, but even that has been proven to be weak.

4.dxe5 Bxf3

Black loses a pawn after 4dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Nxe5

5.Qxf3 dxe5 6.Bc4

Threatening mate on f7. The move is close to winning, but GM Larry Kaufman points out that 6.Qb3! was even stronger, for after 6b6 7.Bc4 White has a lead in development, threats, and the bishop pair, while Black has weakened his position with b7b6. White should win.

6Nf6

Fischer tells the story that he played simultaneous exhibitions in Sarajevo and two of his opponents played 6Qf6 Maybe they were trying to lose the same way, as a joke or something (Fischer). 7.Qb3 b6 8.Nc3 c6 (preventing Nd5) 9.Bg5! Qg6 (9Qxg5 10.Bxf7+ Ke7 11.Bxg8 wins.) 10.Rd1 (I couldnt castle: 10.000? Qxg5+) 10Be7 (10Nd7 11.Nb5! cxb5 12.Bxb5 Ngf6 13.Bxf6 the d7knight is lost) 11.Bxe7 Nxe7 12.Bxf7+ Qxf7 13.Rd8+ Kxd8 14.Qxf7 both of his opponents reached this position and lost.

7.Qb3

Attacking both f7 and b7 and he is winning one of them

7Qe7 8.Nc3!

If he had taken the b7pawn then 8.Qxb7 Qb4+ 9.Qxb4 Bxb4+ Black will survive to the endgame.

8c6 9.Bg5 b5

POSITION AFTER 9B5

10.Nxb5! cxb5 11.Bxb5+ Nbd7

[11Kd8 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Qd5+ Kc7 14.Qxa8]

12.000 Rd8 13.Rxd7! Rxd7 14.Rd1 Qe6 15.Bxd7+! Nxd7 16.Qb8+! Nxb8 17.Rd8# 10

Ok, we now know that 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Bg4 is a mistake. As mentioned above, Bobby Fischer commented that 3Nd7 is correct. The idea is to support Blacks pawn on e5 with the setup Nd7, Be7 and c6, the so-called Hanham Variation (apparently there was an American chess master many years ago named James Moore Hanham). This strikes a cord with me, for my very first chess book was The Pan Book of Chess by Gerald Abrahams and this was the line he recommended as well.

I mentioned GM Larry Kaufman in the notes up there on move 6. He is a respected name in chess engines and openings. He worked on the opening database of Rybka, and later on collaborated with Don Dailey and Mark Lefler on the development of world computer chess champion Komodo, especially on its evaluation function. As most of our readers know, Komodo is consistently ranked near the top of most major chess engine rating lists, along with Stockfish and Houdini.

GM Kaufman wrote a very good book on the openings in 2004 entitled The Chess Advantage in Black and White. A new edition came out in 2012 entitled The Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White, and an even newer edition was entitled Kaufmans New Repertoire for Black and White (2019). I would suggest to my readers to get a copy as it is very informative and useful for amateur players like me who want to know a little bit about most openings but do not have enough time to comprehensively study the details. We have to ensure, though, that the little bit we know is the part that we will get to use in actual tournaments, and in that the book is just the right mix of theory and practice.

But I digress. Grandmaster Larry Kaufman notes that the Hanham Variation aims to maintain Blacks pawn on e5, analogously to closed lines of the Ruy Lopez, and opines that it would be quite popular and on a par with the major defences to 1.e4, except for the annoying detail that Black cant actually reach the Hanham position by force.

Let us take a look at how the late GM Vugar Gashimov, a very aggressive player, attacks the Philidor.

Gashimov, Vugar (2585) Managadze, Nikoloz (2430) [C41]Athens Acropolis op Athens (3), 08.03.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nd7

Black can try another move order with 3Nf6 hoping for 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.00 (You can also try 6.Ng5 00 7.Bxf7+ Rxf7 8.Ne6 Qe8 9.Nxc7 Qd8 10.Nxa8 b5 11.f3 [11.Nxb5? Qa5+ 12.Nc3 Nxe4 Black has strong compensation for the sacrificed material] 11Ba6 12.a3 Qxa8 13.Be3 Black is doing fine) 600 7.a4 c6 this is the set-up that Black wants to get in the Hanham. But are all those contortions worth it? Take a look at the next game.

After 3Nf6 though White can play more aggressively with 4.dxe5 Nxe4 5.Qd5! The Rellstab Variation 5Nc5 6.Bg5 Be7 7.exd6 Qxd6 8.Nc3 White is better.

4.Bc4!

[4.Nc3 Ngf6 5.Bc4 Be7 6.00 00 7.a4 gives us the Hanham, but the text move is much stronger than 4.Nc3]

4c6

Alternatives:

4Ngf6 5.dxe5 (5.Ng5 is also good) 5Nxe5 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qxd8 Bb4+ 9.Qd2 Bxd2+ 10.Nxd2 White is clearly better;

4Be7 loses a pawn: 5.dxe5 Nxe5 (5dxe5? 6.Qd5 White wins) 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7.Qh5! wins at least a pawn]

5.00 Be7 6.dxe5 dxe5

[6Nxe5? 7.Nxe5 dxe5 8.Qh5]

7.Ng5 Bxg5 8.Qh5 Qe7 9.Bxg5

White has an edge due to his two bishops and his better development.

9Ngf6 10.Qh4 Nf8 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Qh6 Rg8 13.Nc3 Bg4 14.Qe3 Ng6 15.f3 Be6 16.Bxe6 fxe6 17.Ne2 Rd8 18.Kh1 b6 19.f4 exf4 20.Nxf4 Nxf4 21.Qxf4 Rg6 22.Rad1 c5 23.h3 Kf8 24.e5 f5 25.Qf3 Kg7 26.Rxd8 Qxd8 27.Rd1 Qh4 28.Kh2 Kh8 29.g3 Qe7 30.Rd6 Rg8 31.h4 Rc8 32.Qb3 c4 33.Qe3 Rc5 34.Qh6 Rxe5 35.Rd7! 10

Just one more illustrative game.

Gashimov, Vugar (2730) Bologan, Viktor (2690) [C41]Poikovsky Karpov 10th Poikovsky (1), 03.06.2009

1.e4 d6

Bologan goes for the Hanham through a different move order.

2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7

If they had gone through the regular move order then whites knight would still be at its home square of b1 and his bishop on c4 and now Ng5 would be very hard to meet for Black. In modern times, if you want to play the Philidor Defense, you have to start off with the Pirc!

5.Bc4 Be7 6.00 00 7.a4 c6

This is exactly the same position as my first comment, note B, in the game above. But even though Black has attained his desired position White still has the freer position and his pieces are active. Watch how Gashimov harnesses all his pluses.

8.Re1

A logical move here would be 8.h3 to keep off Blacks light-squared bishop from g4, but lately Black has discovered the move 8Nxe4!? 9.Nxe4 d5 10.Re1 (10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.dxe5 dxc4 12.Nd6 Be6 13.Nxb7 Qc7 14.Nd6 Rad8 15.Qf3 Bxd6 16.exf6 Qxd6 17Bf4 1/2-1/2 Salgado Lopez,I (2618)-Baklan,V (2614) Drancy 2016) 10dxe4 11.Rxe4 exd4 12.Bf4 Nc5 13.Rxd4 Qe8 14.Bd6 Bxd6 15.Rxd6 Qe7 16.Ra3 Be6 17.Bxe6 Nxe6 18.Rad3 Rad8 Sevian, S. (2580)-Indjic, A. (2542) Dallas 2016 23.

8a5 9.h3 exd4 10.Nxd4 Nc5 11.Bf4 Ne8

The idea is to play Ne6, which if played immediately will be met by an exchange on e6 followed by e4e5.

12.Be3!

Played so that after 12Ne6 his bishop on f4 wont be attacked and he can respond 13.Nf5.

12Nxe4?! 13.Nxe4 d5 14.Ng3! dxc4 15.Ndf5

The knights position on f5 is untenable for Black and he has to find a way to get it out.

15Be6

[15Nf6 16.Bd4 Be6 17.Qf3 Re8 18.Nxg7! Qxd4 (18Kxg7 19.Nh5+ Kf8 (19Kg6? 20.Qg3+) 20.Bxf6 Bxf6 21.Nxf6 White is clearly winning) 19.N3f5 Bxf5 20.Nxf5 Qxb2 21.Rab1 Bd6 22.Nxd6 Rxe1+ 23.Rxe1 Blacks king is not secure]

16.Nxe7+! Qxe7 17.Ne4

Threatening Bc5.

17Qd8 18.Bc5 Nf6 19.Bxf8 Qxf8 20.Nxf6+ gxf6 21.Qd4 Qd8 22.Qf4 f5 23.Qg3+ Kf8 24.Qe5

Whites game is completely winning.

24Qg5 25.Re3 Qg7 26.Qd6+ Ke8 27.Rae1 10

Blacks woes can be traced to his intention of maintaining the strongpoint on e5. Why not just give it up and play solid? Whats wrong with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7, the Antoshin Variation? GM Larry Kaufman in Kaufmans New Repertoire for Black and White, remarks that this line is a pretty reasonable choice for Black in a must-win situation, because although White is better, both sides have play, and the chances of a draw are fairly low. He then revealed that he selected this defense for Black repeatedly and successfully for the computer program Rybka in a match were it gave draw and White odds in every game to GM Joel Benjamin.

But there is something wrong with the Antoshin. That is what we will take up on Tuesday.

Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.

bobby@cpamd.net

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Beating the Philidor - BusinessWorld Online

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Top 10 Richest Tech Company CEO’s Ranked By Net Worth | TheTalko – TheTalko

Posted: at 8:44 am

Every great idea isnt always tangible. People just aren't born into money and opportunities like Kylie Jenner.Few people have the ingenuity and determination to become successful in a career environment, let alone a millionaire in the tech industry. Even fewer people have what it takes to just become a bonafide billionaire.

It takes a lot of brains, a concise plan, serious connections, and a sprinkle of luck. We have decided to compile a list of the 10 richest tech billionaires in the world these ten individuals have totally shattered the barrier between rich and extremely wealthy.

Numerous households across the world own a Dell computer or have owned one in their lifetime. Michael Dell has remained relatively quiet for someone worth $31.9 billion. Technology has evolved since a considerable deal since the '80s, but Dell seems to always be evolving one step ahead of the competition.

Dell has created his vast empire by crafting sustainable devices that are worth the asking price. His anonymity has only made him richer, especially with his private MSD Capital investment firm, which is where most of his fountain of wealth flows from.

Elon Musk is the real-life Tony Stark. Much like Tony Stark, he loves his toys, but his judgment sometimes gets the best of him. But as far as his life's work his Telsa company is the future of technological advancements. He's a genius beyond his years, who will help shape car designs and much more Tesla is truly a remarkable brand and innovative company lightyears ahead of its competition.

RELATED: 20 Sketchy Things About Elon Musk Everyone Just Ignores

Equipped with its own charging stations, Telsa is bound to pioneer flying cars, helicopters, and probably everything viewers have ever seen on the Jetsons. Musk has been the only man daring enough to attempt to bring his massive toy imagination to fruition.

Ma Huatang isn't that well known in America, but he's a titan in the tech work in China. With his tech company Tencent he has managed toaccumulate $46 billion.

Hautang also got his fat pockets from his messaging company Wechat. They say money can't buy happiness but Huatang can afford anything else. He isn't in the spotlight but he doesn't need anything distracting him from his work. As far as tech giants go he's on the upper hierarchy on a shortlist.

Sergey Brin may not ring bells, but if money talks he's one of the loudest people in the room. Brin has made a killing from being one of the other Google cofounders, and his other company Alphabet.

RELATED: 10 Google Earth Easter Eggs Everyone Should Check Out

Many may not know the name but countless people have seen his work on Google. Either way, Brin is still the president of the company and oversees business relations to extensive capacity. He is teetering on $63 billion in total final assets, and he isn't slowing down for competitors like Bing or Yahoo.

Larry Page is one of the cofounders of Google, and he knows how to stay out of the public eye. Google is no doubt his crowning achievement in terms of investments, and that's all he needed. Google is now one of the most recognizable search engines available, and it wouldnt be possible without Page and his cohorts finding their niche in the tech industry.

Sometimes all it takes is one ingenious idea to never have to work again, and Page is one of the few who own that reputation. He is already worth over $50.8 billion, and Google isn't going anywhere. Lucky him.

Steve Balmer may be the happiest billionaire alive. Balmer was so successful at one point that he stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2014. Now he enjoys spending a lot of his time sitting courtside during Los Angeles Clippers games with his wife Connie. He's charismatic and doesn't seem to have a care in the world.

It's clear Ballmer's life is on cruise control, and his impertinent business moves have set him up for a permanent vacation. He deserves it He's still worth 0ver $65 billion even after giving away an unprecedented $128 million away to charity. Mere mortals can only dream to have even 5% of that amount.

Larry Elison dropped out of college twice and still found a way to be a billionaire 60 times over. Elison'smade a name for himself as the benefactor of Oracle with most of his real estate holdings tied up in Silicon Valley.

Elon Musk must've seen something in him because he had enough faith in him to appoint him to board of directors at Telsa. Elisons got connections to a lot of other rich people, and that could be a contributing factor to justifying Musks hiring choice. Gosh, it must really feel good to have billionaire friends.

Mark Zuckerberg is a social media giant who makes power moves like a game of chess. Facebook acquired Instagram and that's proving to be quite the intuitive acquisition. Facebook started off initially as a platform for connecting with family and friends, but since then its even evolved into a dating website.

RELATED:Comments By Celebs: 10 Of The Best IG Posts, Ranked

Zuckerberg doesn't live a glamorous life like someone such as Dolly Parton, but that works best for him. After all, he's got no competition, and hes run all of his rivals out of town. Unfortunately, Zuckerberg did hit a snag after his Facebook invasive security scandal, and According to ScreenRant, Zuckerberg and Facebook have been accused of "manipulatingvotes," and subsequently lost $9 billion. Be that as it may, Zuckerberg is still stinking rich.

Bill Gates has built his empire with Microsoft and there's no sign of the company slowing down. However, he sold most of his shares but according to Business Insider, he only owns just a little over 1% of his assets. Normally owning 1% of anything is a small number, but when you have Bill Gates money thats an exuberant amount of cash-flow.

With Gates expanding his business investment expenditures into the XBOX franchise, he's still making money hand-over-fist with his stake share in the company. Gates is quite generous giving away a jaw-dropping $35.8 billion in stocks to charity.

Jeff Bezos wasn'texactly born into a fortune like others were. Where Elon Musk is the future of technological advancements, Jeff Bezos is now the future of online produce and shipping. In the future, Amazon may put grocery stores, UPS, Fed Ex, USPS and every other shipping company out of business.

With more shoppers opting to get products shipped rather than going to physical stores, it seems inevitable. Plus there are mounting Amazon delivery vehicles being pushed into production. Bezos saw a niche and he even decided to acquire the reputable Washing Post. Bezos tops our list because he is simply the richest man on the planet.

NEXT:The Irishman: The Net Worth Of The Main Cast

Next10 Photos From Amy Schumer's Instagram That We Can All Relate To

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Top 10 Richest Tech Company CEO's Ranked By Net Worth | TheTalko - TheTalko

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Google Teaches AI To Play The Game Of Chip Design – The Next Platform

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 2:04 am

If it wasnt bad enough that Moores Law improvements in the density and cost of transistors is slowing. At the same time, the cost of designing chips and of the factories that are used to etch them is also on the rise. Any savings on any of these fronts will be most welcome to keep IT innovation leaping ahead.

One of the promising frontiers of research right now in chip design is using machine learning techniques to actually help with some of the tasks in the design process. We will be discussing this at our upcoming The Next AI Platform event in San Jose on March 10 with Elias Fallon, engineering director at Cadence Design Systems. (You can see the full agenda and register to attend at this link; we hope to see you there.) The use of machine learning in chip design was also one of the topics that Jeff Dean, a senior fellow in the Research Group at Google who has helped invent many of the hyperscalers key technologies, talked about in his keynote address at this weeks 2020 International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

Google, as it turns out, has more than a passing interest in compute engines, being one of the large consumers of CPUs and GPUs in the world and also the designer of TPUs spanning from the edge to the datacenter for doing both machine learning inference and training. So this is not just an academic exercise for the search engine giant and public cloud contender particularly if it intends to keep advancing its TPU roadmap and if it decides, like rival Amazon Web Services, to start designing its own custom Arm server chips or decides to do custom Arm chips for its phones and other consumer devices.

With a certain amount of serendipity, some of the work that Google has been doing to run machine learning models across large numbers of different types of compute engines is feeding back into the work that it is doing to automate some of the placement and routing of IP blocks on an ASIC. (It is wonderful when an idea is fractal like that. . . .)

While the pod of TPUv3 systems that Google showed off back in May 2018 can mesh together 1,024 of the tensor processors (which had twice as many cores and about a 15 percent clock speed boost as far as we can tell) to deliver 106 petaflops of aggregate 16-bit half precision multiplication performance (with 32-bit accumulation) using Googles own and very clever bfloat16 data format. Those TPUv3 chips are all cross-coupled using a 3232 toroidal mesh so they can share data, and each TPUv3 core has its own bank of HBM2 memory. This TPUv3 pod is a huge aggregation of compute, which can do either machine learning training or inference, but it is not necessarily as large as Google needs to build. (We will be talking about Deans comments on the future of AI hardware and models in a separate story.)

Suffice it to say, Google is hedging with hybrid architectures that mix CPUs and GPUs and perhaps someday other accelerators for reinforcement learning workloads, and hence the research that Dean and his peers at Google have been involved in that are also being brought to bear on ASIC design.

One of the trends is that models are getting bigger, explains Dean. So the entire model doesnt necessarily fit on a single chip. If you have essentially large models, then model parallelism dividing the model up across multiple chips is important, and getting good performance by giving it a bunch of compute devices is non-trivial and it is not obvious how to do that effectively.

It is not as simple as taking the Message Passing Interface (MPI) that is used to dispatch work on massively parallel supercomputers and hacking it onto a machine learning framework like TensorFlow because of the heterogeneous nature of AI iron. But that might have been an interesting way to spread machine learning training workloads over a lot of compute elements, and some have done this. Google, like other hyperscalers, tends to build its own frameworks and protocols and datastores, informed by other technologies, of course.

Device placement meaning, putting the right neural network (or portion of the code that embodies it) on the right device at the right time for maximum throughput in the overall application is particularly important as neural network models get bigger than the memory space and the compute oomph of a single CPU, GPU, or TPU. And the problem is getting worse faster than the frameworks and hardware can keep up. Take a look:

The number of parameters just keeps growing and the number of devices being used in parallel also keeps growing. In fact, getting 128 GPUs or 128 TPUv3 processors (which is how you get the 512 cores in the chart above) to work in concert is quite an accomplishment, and is on par with the best that supercomputers could do back in the era before loosely coupled, massively parallel supercomputers using MPI took over and federated NUMA servers with actual shared memory were the norm in HPC more than two decades ago. As more and more devices are going to be lashed together in some fashion to handle these models, Google has been experimenting with using reinforcement learning (RL), a special subset of machine learning, to figure out where to best run neural network models at any given time as model ensembles are running on a collection of CPUs and GPUs. In this case, an initial policy is set for dispatching neural network models for processing, and the results are then fed back into the model for further adaptation, moving it toward more and more efficient running of those models.

In 2017, Google trained an RL model to do this work (you can see the paper here) and here is what the resulting placement looked like for the encoder and decoder, and the RL model to place the work on the two CPUs and four GPUs in the system under test ended up with 19.3 percent lower runtime for the training runs compared to the manually placed neural networks done by a human expert. Dean added that this RL-based placement of neural network work on the compute engines does kind of non-intuitive things to achieve that result, which is what seems to be the case with a lot of machine learning applications that, nonetheless, work as well or better than humans doing the same tasks. The issue is that it cant take a lot of RL compute oomph to place the work on the devices to run the neural networks that are being trained themselves. In 2018, Google did research to show how to scale computational graphs to over 80,000 operations (nodes), and last year, Google created what it calls a generalized device placement scheme for dataflow graphs with over 50,000 operations (nodes).

Then we start to think about using this instead of using it to place software computation on different computational devices, we started to think about it for could we use this to do placement and routing in ASIC chip design because the problems, if you squint at them, sort of look similar, says Dean. Reinforcement learning works really well for hard problems with clear rules like Chess or Go, and essentially we started asking ourselves: Can we get a reinforcement learning model to successfully play the game of ASIC chip layout?

There are a couple of challenges to doing this, according to Dean. For one thing, chess and Go both have a single objective, which is to win the game and not lose the game. (They are two sides of the same coin.) With the placement of IP blocks on an ASIC and the routing between them, there is not a simple win or lose and there are many objectives that you care about, such as area, timing, congestion, design rules, and so on. Even more daunting is the fact that the number of potential states that have to be managed by the neural network model for IP block placement is enormous, as this chart below shows:

Finally, the true reward function that drives the placement of IP blocks, which runs in EDA tools, takes many hours to run.

And so we have an architecture Im not going to get a lot of detail but essentially it tries to take a bunch of things that make up a chip design and then try to place them on the wafer, explains Dean, and he showed off some results of placing IP blocks on a low-powered machine learning accelerator chip (we presume this is the edge TPU that Google has created for its smartphones), with some areas intentionally blurred to keep us from learning the details of that chip. We have had a team of human experts places this IP block and they had a couple of proxy reward functions that are very cheap for us to evaluate; we evaluated them in two seconds instead of hours, which is really important because reinforcement learning is one where you iterate many times. So we have a machine learning-based placement system, and what you can see is that it sort of spreads out the logic a bit more rather than having it in quite such a rectangular area, and that has enabled it to get improvements in both congestion and wire length. And we have got comparable or superhuman results on all the different IP blocks that we have tried so far.

Note: I am not sure we want to call AI algorithms superhuman. At least if you dont want to have it banned.

Anyway, here is how that low-powered machine learning accelerator for the RL network versus people doing the IP block placement:

And here is a table that shows the difference between doing the placing and routing by hand and automating it with machine learning:

And finally, here is how the IP block on the TPU chip was handled by the RL network compared to the humans:

Look at how organic these AI-created IP blocks look compared to the Cartesian ones designed by humans. Fascinating.

Now having done this, Google then asked this question: Can we train a general agent that is quickly effective at placing a new design that it has never seen before? Which is precisely the point when you are making a new chip. So Google tested this generalized model against four different IP blocks from the TPU architecture and then also on the Ariane RISC-V processor architecture. This data pits people working with commercial tools and various levels tuning on the model:

And here is some more data on the placement and routing done on the Ariane RISC-V chips:

You can see that experience on other designs actually improves the results significantly, so essentially in twelve hours you can get the darkest blue bar, Dean says, referring to the first chart above, and then continues with the second chart above. And this graph showing the wireline costs where we see if you train from scratch, it actually takes the system a little while before it sort of makes some breakthrough insight and was able to significantly drop the wiring cost, where the pretrained policy has some general intuitions about chip design from seeing other designs and people that get to that level very quickly.

Just like we do ensembles of simulations to do better weather forecasting, Dean says that this kind of AI-juiced placement and routing of IP block sin chip design could be used to quickly generate many different layouts, with different tradeoffs. And in the event that some feature needs to be added, the AI-juiced chip design game could re-do a layout quickly, not taking months to do it.

And most importantly, this automated design assistance could radically drop the cost of creating new chips. These costs are going up exponentially, and data we have seen (thanks to IT industry luminary and Arista Networks chairman and chief technology officer Andy Bechtolsheim), an advanced chip design using 16 nanometer processes cost an average of $106.3 million, shifting to 10 nanometers pushed that up to $174.4 million, and the move to 7 nanometers costs $297.8 million, with projections for 5 nanometer chips to be on the order of $542.2 million. Nearly half of that cost has been and continues to be for software. So we know where to target some of those costs, and machine learning can help.

The question is will the chip design software makers embed AI and foster an explosion in chip designs that can be truly called Cambrian, and then make it up in volume like the rest of us have to do in our work? It will be interesting to see what happens here, and how research like that being done by Google will help.

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Google Teaches AI To Play The Game Of Chip Design - The Next Platform

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The Clipper Race Leg 5 – Race 6, Day 3: Le Mans Race start and finding the wind – Sail World

Posted: January 27, 2020 at 1:10 am

by Clipper Round the World Race 22 Jan 08:01 PST 22 January 2020

The Clipper Race fleet has made its way through the beautiful Great Barrier Reef as they navigate away from Australia and start their route to China with the first stop being Sanya in Race 6 of Leg 5: The Sanya Tropical Paradise Race.

The fleet has taken part in a Le Mans Race Start which took place at 0700LT (2100UTC). Imagine Your Korea's Skipper Rob Graham who was the Race Officer for the Le Mans start states that there was a "good clean start by all eleven boats, Punta del Este and Imagine your Korea did well in the centre and Visit Sanya, China and Qingdao did the best either side. Everybody was holding a south tack for the moment but heading up to close-hauled."

So, what is a Le Mans start? Essentially all 11 of the fleet were lined up under engines with their mainsails raised and their headsails ready to go. Upon Race Start, the fleet can proceed forward raising their headsails and it is a rolling start.

Without doubt, the sense of occasion and sight of the Le Mans start was admired by all. WTC Logistics Skipper, Rich Gould says: "A Le Mans start is certainly an impressive sight, with whole fleet all raising head sails at the same time, the sound of 22 sails being raised and many winches spinning filling the air."

Currently sitting in the lead on the Clipper Race Viewer, is Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, with WTC Logistics and Seattle currently in second and third place respectively.

Some of the teams looked to utilise their extra (and unexpected) day in port with some additional training. Unicef, Imagine Your Korea and Seattle both opted to undertake some additional training.

At this early stage, all crew members are observing the other boats tactics with interest. However, the weather conditions continue to frustrate the crew. Imagine Your Korea's AQP Sam says: In these conditions there is no way out, other than to keep making the best of what little puffs you can find. This can be frustrating and tiring in a way that heavy weather sailing is not."

The delay to the start of the race provided ample opportunity for some fleet members to improve their skills. For new crew members that joined the race in the Whitsundays, this has been an intriguing introduction to ocean racing. Their fellow crew members have been quick to impart their knowledge on to the 'newbies'.The hot and heavy weather conditions do not make for the most comfortable of passages. Qingdao's Skipper, Chris Brooks reveals that: 'It has been a tough day under the scorching sun. There have been very light winds and half of us have fallen into a wind hole."

Unicef's Skipper Ian Wiggin is in agreement. He says: "The going has been slow - we have only managed eight miles as the crow (seagull??) flies in the past seven hours - but we are right back amongst the fleet. It is a real chess match at the moment, as we fight quite a strong current and some very changeable light winds which seem to be both conspiring to drive us south at the moment and undo all those hard fought gains of this morning. The forecast is for more of the same over the next 48 hours or so, so our resolve, patience and determination will be tested to the full."

Keep an eye on the Race Viewer to find out how the race is progressing.

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The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 3: Le Mans Race start and finding the wind - Sail World

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