25 May 2015

Going Mobile : Responsive Design

I ended my last post, Going Mobile : The Viewport with a small dilemma.

Now I have to decide which is more important -- having mobile visitors understand at a glance the full content of a page, or having Google rank my pages as mobile-friendly.

It turns out that both are possible. The technique is called Responsive Web Design and here's how Wikipedia defines it:-

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).

Since no one comes to a chess blog to read about web design, I won't attempt to survey the many resources on the subject. One that I found particularly useful is the Responsive Design View tool in Firefox. This lets me experiment with the view of my pages the same way a mobile visitor sees them. The following image shows screen captures of the two home pages in both portrait and landscape orientation.

Mobile Views

Top row: World Chess Championship
Bottom row: Chess for All Ages (CFAA)

From this it's obvious that I can improve the look of both sites with just a few simple changes. The big Adsense banners, which serve mainly as counters, can be reduced in importance, and the CFAA logo can be reduced in size. I'll work on a different look for both pages and present the result in a future post.

24 May 2015

FIDE Chess Curriculum

Continuing with the mini-series that started with a post looking for a Chess Curriculum, the second post, S.Polgar Chess Curriculum, ended with

In my next post I'll look at No.5 in the 'Chess Curriculum' list which is (apparently) FIDE's curriculum.

Thanks to some previous work I did, FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014, it wasn't hard to locate FIDE's suggested curriculum. The relevant link is behind a banner on the FIDE home page.

The subdomain, cis.fide.com, in turn leads to Teaching Materials, where the first resources listed are 'Kulac - Teacher's Guide - Year 1',

This is the first English translation of the book by Dr Olgun Kulac that is used by more than 49.000 teachers in Turkish schools. It is the cornerstone of a series which includes several class books.

and 'Kulac - Class Book - Year 1',

This is the English translation. This is the class book used by the first year students (age 6-7-8).

'Kulac - Class Book - Year 2' is also listed, but

This is the Turkish language version. An English translation will follow when the translation of Class Book Year 1 has been completed. We are also awaiting the Teacher's Guide for Year 2.

Now that I've rounded up the five curricula (curriculums) identified in my initial post, there are two more that deserve a look: (1) from the Kasparov Chess Foundation and (2) from Chess Cafe.

22 May 2015

Chess at Clandon Park

The caption said, 'Following the fire at Clandon Park, I've found a few more photos in old albums. Presumably this was destroyed.'

Clandon Park 15 September 1991 © Flickr user Paul Appleyard under Creative Commons.

For more about the fire, see Clandon Park House fire: Investigation 'will take time' [bbc.com/news]. For more about the painting, see nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1441467, where we learn

The Hon. Edward Onslow (1758-1829), John FitzWilliam, 8th Viscount FitzWilliam (1752–1830) and George Augustus Herbert, 11th Earl of Pembroke (1759-1827) playing chess; Daniel Gardner (Kendal 1750 – London 1805).

For more about the artist, see Daniel Gardner [Wikipedia].

21 May 2015

The Engines' Value of Castling

While archiving old support files on my hard drive, I found a strange PGN file and a related spreadsheet. 'What were those for?', I wondered, and used the files' datestamps to relate them to an unfinished post, The Value of Castling (August 2013). That post included a useful summary:-

1.0 - Value of castling : Where '1.0' is the well-known value of a Pawn. Ever since encountering that statement by GM Kaufman, I've wondered if there was any way to verify it. I've also wondered about the value of castling O-O as opposed to O-O-O. Armed with the three variations at the beginning of this post, I can plug the resulting positions into an engine and record the results.

Those three variations had afterwards expanded to 16, all of them using different paths to reach the position shown in the following diagram.

1.e4 e5

The 16 variations lead to different combinations of castling in the diagram -- (1) Both sides [i.e. wings: Kingside O-O & Queenside O-O-O] possible, (2) No O-O possible, (3) No O-O-O, and (4) Neither side possible -- for both White and Black. For example, the variation 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Rg1 Ng8 4.Rh1 Nf6 5.Ng1 Ng8 leads to the diagram with White unable to castle O-O, but with Black retaining the option of castling to either side.

After constructing the 16 variations, I ran three engines -- Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish -- on each of the resulting positions and recorded their evaluations after 15 ply had been reached. None of these engines is the most recent version -- I acquired all of them in the period 2013-2014 -- but that isn't important for this exercise.

The results are shown in the following table. White's four castling options are in rows 3 to 6, Black's are in columns B to E. Values are rounded off to a single decimal place. I know it's hard to read, but that's life. The many data points -- 16 variations x 3 engines -- handled manually mean there is potential for error. On top of that, 15 ply for Stockfish is perhaps not enough. If I ever redo the table, I'll make it more readable.

As an example to explain the data, cell B3 shows the results after the normal 1.e4 e5. The cell says,

H:0.1, K:0.2, S:0.3

meaning 'H' (Houdini) evaluated the position at 0.1, 'K' at 0.2, and 'S' at 0.3. Cell E3 shows the results where White retains both castling options, but Black has neither.

H:0.8, K:0.6, S:1.2

The results here are somewhat less than the hypothetical '1.0 - Value of castling', but are significantly greater than most of the other cells. Only cell E5, which is like E3 where White has lost the O-O-O option, comes close.

Note that four cells -- B4, D4, B6, & D6 -- contain '(*)'. This is to flag an anomaly I encountered during my investigation. Before, I explain it, let's make a brief detour.

I use all three engines in my chess research and have often noticed that they treat triple repetition differently. Houdini declares a repetition (value 0.00) after both moves of a pair repeat a position. That means if a move, e.g. 30.Nf3, repeats a position for White the repetition is confirmed if Black's next move, e.g. 30...Nf6, also repeats the position. Komodo and Stockfish declare a repetition after a single move repeats the position. Using the same example, they would assign a value of 0.00 to 30.Nf3, and stop calculating the line.

Getting back to the four cells (B4 etc.) Houdini calculated a negative value in all four, indicating that Black has the advantage. Komodo and Stockfish both assigned value 0.00, because they noticed that White could repeat a previous position and stopped there. A particularly surprising example is cell B6, 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2 Nf6 3.Ke1 Ng8, where White has lost both castling options, while Black retains them. K & S saw that White could play 4.Ke2(!), repeating the position, and then stopped without giving Black the chance to play something other than 4...Nf6.

In all of these '(*)' situations, I recorded the first non-zero value given by the engine to its second or third choice. Even with this tweak, Komodo still gave near-equality to White.

What does all of this show? First, that castling is indeed a valuable weapon to possess. Second, that O-O is valued significantly higher than O-O-O. It might be useful to extend this investigation to the full family of chess960 start positions, but that will have to wait for another time.

19 May 2015

The USCF Awards

At the same time I posted about the 2015 CJA Awards Announcement, I intended to mention the USCF Awards, but ran out of time. Good thing, too, because the USCF's annual awards deserve a full post at least once on this blog.

The awards are determined during the second quarter of each year at the USCF Executive Board meeting. I found a summary of all awards in the 2013 USCF Yearbook, added the awards for 2014 & 2015, loaded the lists into a database, and ran some simple queries.

The first two awards -- the 'Distinguished Service Award' and the 'Koltanowski Award' -- were made in 1979, and a 'Meritorious Services Award' was added the following year. The number of awards has grown since then to around 20 in recent years, although not all awards are made in every year.

The winners of the awards are the movers and shakers of American over-the-board chess. The Koltanowski Award (sometimes called the 'Koltanowski Medal') is made to an individual or organization offering outstanding financial support to U.S. chess, with the Sinquefields receiving several awards in recent years.

1979 Gold: Bill Church, Jacqueline Piatigorsky, Louis Statham
1980 Gold: Thomas Emery, Lessing Rosenwald
1981 Gold: Fred Cramer; Silver: Howard Gaba, Fred Gruenberg, Al Hansen
1982 Gold: Rea Hayes; Silver: Nobert Leopoldi
1983 Silver: Stephen Jones, Don Richardson, John Rykowski, Ralph Slottow
1984 Gold: Jose Cuchi; Silver: M. Vacheron
1985 Gold: Frank Normali; Silver: R. W. Twombly
1986 Gold: Shelby Lyman, NCR Corporation; Silver: Fanueil Adams, Jr., Paul Arnold Associates, Equitable Life Assurance, Prudential Insurance
1987 Gold: Frank Samford
1988 Gold: Sid Samole
1989 Gold: Novag Industries, Les Crane
1990 Gold: Arnold Denker, Helen Warren
1991 Gold: Ted Field; Silver: Neil Falconer
1992 Gold: Banker’s Trust
1994 Silver: Dr. Martin Katahn
1995 Gold: Interplay Productions, Brian Fargo
1996 Gold: Saitek Industries, Ltd.; Silver: Zamagias Properties
1997 Gold: Interplay Productions; Silver: Novag Industries, Wizards of the Coast
1998 Gold: Chess In the Schools; Silver: Internet Chess Club
2000 Gold: The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD); Silver: The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD)
2001 Gold: The Seattle Chess Foundation
2002 Gold: Floyd and Bernice Sarisohn, Dato Tan Chin Nam
2003 Gold: Dr. Martin (Dick) Katahn; Gold: Tennessee Tech University
2004 Gold: Kasparov Chess Foundation
2005 Gold: Al Blowers (from HB Foundation)
2006 Gold: America’s Foundation for Chess
2007 Gold: Frank K. Berry
2008 Gold: Hanon Russell
2009 Gold: Rex Sinquefield
2011 Gold: Rex Sinquefield; Silver: Doyle Engelen, Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.
2012 Gold: Rex Sinquefield, Jeanne Sinquefield
2013 Gold: Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis; Gold: Garry Kasparov and the Kasparov Chess Foundation; Silver: Trophies Plus
2014 Gold: Bill Goichberg and the Continental Chess Association
2015 Gold: Frank Berry; Silver: Amy Lee

As with most of the USCF's activities, the growth of online chess has been largely overlooked. The ICC received a silver Koltanowski award in 1998. For a list of the 2014 awards, see Brownsville Recognized as Chess City of the Year [FULL AWARDS LIST] on the USCF's USchess.org.

18 May 2015

Going Mobile : The Viewport

I have more topics for the series last seen in Label 'Engines', but before I continue with those, I would like to make a detour to take a closer look at Going Mobile. I signed off that post with

It's clear that I have to address the issue of 'mobile-friendly'. In a future post I'll look at what sort of work is involved. First stop: setting the 'mobile viewport'.

A page on developers.google.com, Configure the Viewport, told me to add 'a meta viewport' in the HEAD section of my pages and gave a specific syntax:-

<meta name=viewport content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

I added this for my WCC index page, loaded it into a test directory, and used the resource Mobile SEO - The tool and optimization guide [feedthebot.com] to compare the results. I first tried Google's 'Mobile-Friendly Test' (see the 'Going Mobile' post for a link), but it failed to render the Adsense code. The following image shows the results given by feedthebot.com.

For me, it's no contest. I would much rather have visitors see the full content of the page (shown on the left) than see only the introduction to the page (shown on the right). Given the full content they know they can zoom in to see more content. The intro alone might leave them scratching their heads and wondering what, if anything, they should do next.

Case closed? Maybe, but first I returned to Google's 'Mobile-Friendly Test' and fed it the address of my test page. It told me,

Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.

This was exactly the message I wanted to see. Now I have to decide which is more important -- having mobile visitors understand at a glance the full content of a page, or having Google rank my pages as mobile-friendly. I'll think about this choice for the next few days. In the meantime, the developers.google.com link I gave earlier contains many more 'Rules' on how to optimize a page for mobile.

17 May 2015

Third All-Russian Masters' Tournament

Once in a while on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I find an item that reminds me how little I know about chess history. The photo shown below, from an auction titled, 'III Russian Chess Tournament - Collection of games of the tournament. 1904', sold for US $950 after receiving two bids. The event was the Russian championship of its time.

Akiba Rubinstein is sitting in the leftmost chair facing Salwe. The other seated players are identified as Chigorin, Yurevich, O.Bernstein, and Duz-Khotimirsky. The description for the auction added,

Tournament book with a report on the tournament, a group photo, individual photos, and pictures of Kiev. M.I. Chigorin edited commentary on the games. M.I. Chigorin Publishing house: Shakhmatnoe Obozrenie (Chess Review). The book is in the original hardcover and it contains:
- All of the games (Kiev, 1903, Chigorin took home 1st place) with round descriptions.
- An introductory article containing the tournament program and regulations.

The last time, Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908), the father of the Russian chess school and one of the best chess players of his time, triumphed at a large-scale tournament.

For more about the event, see Kiev 1903 chess tournament [Wikipedia], which informs,

The 3rd All-Russian Masters' Tournament took place in the rooms of the Kiev Chess Society in the Popov Building at No. 29 Kreshchatyk in Kiev on September 1–26, 1903.

The last time Chigorin was featured on this blog was in 1890 Chigorin - Gunsberg (February 2012).