20 November 2021

An Engine Iceberg

In the previous post, CCC C960 Blitz Championship (October 2021), I wrote,
Given that engines' evaluations for every move are available in the event's PGN game scores, perhaps there is something to be learned about the 960 different start positions. That investigation would make a good follow-up post.

Make that two good follow-up posts. The first post was on my main blog, Evaluating the Evaluations (November 2021), where I concluded,

Now that I have a tool for rapidly evaluating the engine evaluations, what can I do with it? The first task will be to put it to work on the 960 start positions used in chess960.

The second post is this one. I had already downloaded a few PGN files from recent engine vs. engine events, so the first question was which one to use. I decided to continue with the games from an event that I covered earlier this year in another post on this blog, TCEC C960 FRC3 (March 2021). At that time I noted,

Except for an occasional CCRL game, I can't remember ever looking at an engine vs. engine chess960 game. Is there anything to be learned from such an exercise, or is the play of the engines beyond comprehension?

TCEC FRC3 was a 50 game match won by KomodoDragon over Stockfish on a final score of +2-1=47. The seven mandatory tags in the PGN header for the first game look like this:-

[Event "TCEC Season 20 - FRC3 Final"]
[Site "https://tcec-chess.com"]
[Date "2021.03.14"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "KomodoDragon 2671.00"]
[Black "Stockfish 20210226"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

I loaded the file into my database, added the concept of SP, and produced the following chart. It covers the first 22 games of the match. Each start position (SP) was played twice, where KomodoDragon always had White in odd-numbered games. In a match between humans, this pattern would risk giving an advantage to one of the players, but in games between engines, it's harmless.

The last two columns show the first move, as chosen by White, and the value ('wv') calculated by the engine for that move. I could have also shown the principal variation ('pv') calculated by White, but that wouldn't add much to an initial understanding of the data. The same data is available from the PGN file for all moves by both sides in a game.

Since the data covers only the first move of 25 SPs (50 games) out of the full set of 960 SPs, it's obviously just scratching the surface. Suppose we had data for the first few moves of all 960 SPs from many different engines played over a long period of time. What might we learn from this? I would want an answer to that question before spending too much effort collecting more data.

30 October 2021

CCC C960 Blitz Championship

There's one more idea left from the recent post, Crossover Ideas from my Main Blog (October 2021):-
Review the recent CCC chess960 tournament • The semifinal finishes this weekend. Can we expect a final? Short answer: Probably.

Change that 'Probably' to 'Yes'. In the most recent post in the ongoing TCEC/CCC engine saga, TCEC Cup 9, CCC C960 Blitz Final : Both Underway (October 2021), I continued,

In the 'Chess960 Blitz Semifinals', Stockfish finished a point ahead of Dragon as both engines qualified for the final match. Only one game of their 40-game [semifinal] minimatch was decisive, with Stockfish winning. Lc0 lost three games to each of the two engines, winning none. The other three engines were far behind.

In the final match Stockfish beat Dragon +10-1=589. Yes, more than 98% of the final games were drawn. Earlier this year, in TCEC C960 FRC3 (March 2021), I reported,

In the 'FRC 3' final, KomodoDragon beat Stockfish by a score of +2-1=47. A 94% draw rate echoes the sort of result we expect from a traditional chess match (SP518 RNBQKBNR) between engines.

Note that the CCC's Dragon and the TCEC's KomodoDragon are the same engine. It's also worth noting that Stockfish switched to NNUE evaluation last year, while Dragon is also an NNUE engine, as I noted a year ago on my main blog in Komodo NNUE (November 2020). Is the high percentage of draws because they both use the same technology for evaluating positions?

The following chart shows the result of the CCC semifinal round. Stockfish and Dragon finished 1st and 2nd, ahead of 3rd place Lc0 and three other engines. I know the black background makes the chart hard to read, but the individual game results, especially the losses in red, are clearly discernible.

Stockfish didn't lose a single game during the event, while Dragon lost only one game, to Stockfish. As mentioned above, both engines beat Lc0 three times, which itself lost only a single game to the three engines in the bottom half of the crosstable. The bottom half is a sea of red.

Given that engines' evaluations for every move are available in the event's PGN game scores, perhaps there is something to be learned about the 960 different start positions. That investigation would make a good follow-up post.

23 October 2021

GM Carlsen's Online Chess960

Continuing with last week's post, Crossover Ideas from my Main Blog (October 2021), the second idea was to 'Review Carlsen's chess960 activity':-
So far I've identified two chess960 events for the [Carlsen] TMER. Were there others? Short answer: Yes.

The TMER is Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-), currently up-to-date only through summer 2018. The two chess960 events were tournaments played on Lichess:-

GM Carlsen played using the handle DrNykterstein (lichess.org). From there we find three more events. The first was another 'Titled Arena' tournament, although he played only five games:-

The others ('Fischersjakk'!) were restricted events: 'Must be in team Offerspill Sjakklubb':-

Although the Lichess events are missing, the TMER records three other chess960 events, the last two currently marked 'In preparation':-

2018-02 Fischer Random Rapid/Blitz 2018; Baerum NOR
2019-10 World Fischer Random 2019; Hovikodden NOR
2020-09 Champ Showdown 9LX 2020; Lichess.org INT

All three have been covered on this blog. The last two 'In prep' events were:-

The 'Champions Showdown' is worth special mention because it was played on Lichess, but doesn't show up on the DrNykterstein account. If we follow a page for the three day event...

...we see that Carlsen played on the account of STL_Carlsen (lichess.org). The other players in the elite event also played under 'STL' (St.Louis) names. Before playing on Lichess as DrNykterstein, GM Carlsen had another account, DrDrunkenstein (lichess.org). There are no chess960 games recorded on that account.

16 October 2021

Crossover Ideas from my Main Blog

Since this is a month with five Saturdays, I get three opportunities for a chess960 post. By coincidence, I have exactly three ideas for those posts.

1) Add CFAA posts to the download tag

A few months ago I created New Label 'Download' (August 2021), to keep track of posts with a download, most likely a PGN file. Before starting this blog I used my main blog 'Chess for All Ages' to write about chess960. Were there any posts on that blog to add to the 'Download' label? Short answer: No.

2) Review Carlsen's chess960 activity

Again referring to my main blog, I've been building a reference for World Champion Magnus Carlsen's playing record over the past three years. The most recent post was Carlsen's TMER 2019-21, 'Online = Y' (October 2021), where TMER stands for 'Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record'.

So far I've identified two chess960 events for the TMER. Were there others? Short answer: Yes. A post on this blog, Carlsen Wins Lichess Again (March 2019), discussed one chess960 event and pointed to a previous event, neither of which is listed on the TMER. While researching those two events, I discovered a third. This needs more work.

3) Review the recent CCC chess960 tournament

Another recent post on my main blog, TCEC Testing Cup 9; CCC C960 Blitz Semifinal (October 2021), refers to Chess.com's ongoing 'Computer Chess Championship' (CCC), where the latest event is the 'Chess960 Blitz Championship'. The semifinal finishes this weekend. Can we expect a final? Short answer: Probably.

I'll come back to Carlsen's chess960 activity and the CCC chess960 tournament in the next two posts scheduled for this month. I expect both of those posts will lead to new ideas. That's life in the chess960 blogosphere!

25 September 2021

2021 Champions Showdown, Live

At the end of last week's post, 2021 Champions Showdown, St. Louis (September 2021), I finished with a promise:-
I'll continue the report on the 2021 event in a follow-up 'Live' post.

The Saint Louis Chess Club has videos for all three days, three rounds per day. Here's the video for the first three rounds.

2021 Champions Showdown | Chess 9LX: Day 1 (4:10:36) • 'Streamed live on Sep 8, 2021'

The description informs,

The world’s top grandmasters battle from September 8-10 in a Fischer random chess round robin. It's Chess960: see what happens when bank-rank pieces are scrambled and opening theory is obliterated! Join GMs Alejandro Ramirez and Maurice Ashley for the move-by-move.

Here are the links for all three days, including the first dayembedded above. '2021 Champions Showdown, Chess 9LX, streamed live on':-

As for past events, the 9LX organizers used a non-standard numbering system to identify the start positions (SPs). See this page to convert to standard numbering: Chess960 Start Position Converter for Chessgames.com (m-w.com). Here are the nine SPs from the event (using standard numbering):-


The PGN game scores were distributed with TWIC 1401. I've extracted them to m-w.com/c960/blog, hoping that some day I'll actually be able to play through them.

18 September 2021

2021 Champions Showdown, St. Louis

Remember chess 9LX™? That's the Saint Louis Chess Club’s name for chess960 so they can slap 'TM' on everything, as in Rex™ Sinquefield™, NIH™. Joking aside, the club has become one of the most ardent supporters of Fischer's greatest invention.

Last year we saw the second edition of the club's signature C960 / FRC / 9LX event hosted at an online venue because of the covid pandemic. I covered it in two posts: 2020 Champions Showdown, Lichess (September 2020) and 2020 Champions Showdown Live (ditto). This year the event returned to 9LX's spiritual home in St. Louis.

The official home page for the event appears to be 2021 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX (uschesschamps.com). That's where we find the crosstable shown below.

A striking aspect of that chart is that the two players who finished last, GMs Nakamura and Svidler, were both World Champions at 960's first spiritual home in Mainz. See, for example, Chess960 World Championships (January 2009) on my main blog, and No Place for Chess960 (February 2011) on this blog. I'll continue the report on the 2021 event in a follow-up 'Live' post.

28 August 2021

New Label 'Download'

Last week's post, TWIC's Chess960 Data 2017-21 (August 2021), mentioned four chess960 events covered by TWIC. It turns out that I covered all four in posts on this blog:-

Of those four events, I provided PGN game scores for only one, the 2018 Carlsen - Nakamura match. TWIC provided PGN for all four. In addition to that, I've provided PGN for other events; ditto for TWIC. To help identify any overlap, I created a new category to catalog my posts having a related PGN file: Showing posts with label Download.

If I take the time to identify editions of TWIC that had chess960 PGN files, I'll be able to catalog the overlap. Watch this space.