Friday, July 8, 2016

Pestaño: Prelude to the world championship

THE Bilbao Chess Grand Slam Masters Final 2016 will be held on July 13 to 20, a week earlier than usual to assure the participation of the world’s current best players, especially the world champion , Magnus Carlsen.
The tournament is a double round robin featuring six players. The tournament regulations use the Sofia Chess Rules, which forbids agreed draws before 30 moves, and the “Bilbao” scoring system of 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss (though for ratings purposes, the traditional scoring method is used). A soundproofed and air-conditioned glass “cube” was constructed in Bilbao, Spain to house the tournament, allowing spectators to watch closely the players inside.
Aside from Carlsen, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura have been invited by the organizers. The surprise sixth player is 16-year-old Chinese teenager, Wei Yei, though still far from the most select elite, he is considered by highly renowned chess specialists as the strongest candidate in the near future to dispute and even seize the world title from Magnus Carlsen.
Carlsen, in turn, is planning to become the best chess player in history.
It will be a major accomplishment though by Wei Yei if he does not finish in the cellar.
This tournament is unique because in November this year Carlsen and Karjakin will play for the World Championship in New York. So Bilbao can be considered a prelude to their encounter for the world championship as they will play two times. Thanks to this world exclusive encounter, Bilbao and its Grand Slam Masters Final is one of the top events in this year’s international chess calendar, along with the individual World Championship, the Olympiad in Baku and the Grand Chess Tour.
Wesley is the defending champion in this event and it will be interesting and exciting if he can repeat his performance last year.
Chess Olympiad. According to Fide President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov everything has been ready and the Baku  Olympiad can be held right now. Ilyumzhinov said that the competition, which will be held on Sept. 1-14, will make history for the number of participating countries.
“Currently, a record number of applications have been received. I believe that all 178 countries will participate in the Olympiad. So, it will be second biggest competition after the Summer Olympic Games.”
Will Armenia participate? They are considered one of the contenders for the championship.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an ethnic conflict between the Republic of Armenia and Azerbaijan over the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a region in Azerbaijan populated primarily by ethnic Armenians. The present conflict began in 1988 and escalated into a full-scale war in the early 1990s. Tensions and border skirmishes have continued in the region despite an official cease-fire signed in 1994.
The Philippines has just finished the 2016 Battle of GMs to determine its lineup both for men and women . Rogelio Antonio, Jayson  Gonzales and Paolo Bersamina booked their tickets after finishing 1-2-3 in the elimination. They will be joined by the country’s highest rated player, who is presently based in the USA, Julio Catalino Sadorra. Eugene Torre will probably be the fifth player and maybe also the team captain of both men’s and women’s teams.
In the women’s division, Janelle Mae Frayna,  Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Christy Lamiel Bernales earned their slots. Among those being considered for the final two berths  are  Bernadette Galas, Mikee   Suede  and  Catherine Perena-Secopito.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Pestaño: Chess computers better than humans

A LONG time ago I had a dinner date with GMs Eugene Torre and Jaime Sunye–Neto of Brazil. Eugene then was still considered the best player in Asia and Jaime was a mainstay on the Brazilian chess Olympiad team, and was at that time President of the Brazilian Chess Federation.
Jaime was one of the most influential persons in chess then and later ran for president in 1996. He assembled a powerful team and won the support of almost all of the chess-playing countries of Europe. Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov exerted a lot of influence and pressure on the delegates especially from the Latin-American and African federations with the help of Singapore`s Ignatius Leong who held a lot of proxies. Jaime lost by 87 votes to 44.
As I recall, our main topic of discussion was chess in general all over the world ,Garry Kasparov and the increasing popularity of chess computers.
Going back, I was introduced to chess computers in the early 1980s while playing regularly at the Luneta on weekends and the earlier versions were easily beaten. However, sometime in the mid-80s a foreigner brought a portable chess computer to Luneta that was a revelation at that time. He challenged all the strong chess players then to play against the machine with a bet and won most of them.
In the 1982 North American Computer Chess Championship, Monroe Newborn predicted that a chess program could become world champion within five years; tournament director and International Master Michael Valvo predicted 10 years;  Ken Thompson predicted it would take more than 20; and others predicted that it would never happen.
During our discussion, Eugene had the opinion that a computer will never be able to defeat the world champion, while Jaime said it will happen much sooner than later probably within a decade.
Garry Kasparov, in a 1996 match with IBM’s Deep Blue, lost his first game at tournament time controls in Deep Blue vs. Kasparov, 1996, Game 1. This game was, in fact, the first time a reigning world champion had lost to a computer using regular time controls. However, Kasparov regrouped to win three and draw two of the remaining five games of the match, for a convincing victory.
Deep Blue was then heavily upgraded to calculate up to 200 million positions per second , and played Kasparov again in May 1997. Deep Blue won Game six, therefore winning the six-game rematch 3½–2½ and becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch. IBM refused and retired Deep Blue.
While world champion Magnus Carlsen is rated 2835, chess computers are now rated well over 3000. The top five are: 1.) Komodo (3340), the leading commercial program, was the undisputed champ of 2014 before being briefly eclipsed by the new version of Stockfish this year. Its developers then released Komodo 9, which is about 50 rating points better than its predecessor.
2. Stockfish (3318) and Komodo are easily the two strongest in chess history. The best thing about Stockfish is that it is completely free, open source, and cross-platform.3. Houdini (3277), a commercial engine, used to be the strongest in the world, and remains a very formidable chess program.
4. Fire ( 3229) In development since 2010 is another fast-riser in the world of computer chess. It gained 16 rating points in the CCRL pure list compared to its normal database rating, the most of any engine in the top 15.
5. Gull (3214)is the fifth-ranked of the world’s best chess programs.