Chess and the Open Source Revolution

January 8, 2012
(Volokh) From Tyler Cowen,
via James Grimmelmann:

Soren Riis has a really fascinating essay on the rather astonishing recent developments in the world of computer chess [Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) focusing on the the lifetime ban, recently handed down by the organizers of the World Computer Chess Championships, issued against the author of “Rybka,” a highly successful computer chess program, on the grounds that it is using “plagiarized” code.
It’s a fascinating story in its own right, but particularly for what it says about innovation and information; here’s the key figure, showing the improvements in computer chess play in the last two decades:
What happened in the mid-2000s that led to the sudden improvement in both the overall quality of computer and the rate at which new programs became seriously competitive? Riis writes:

What happened? Starting with the release of the first open-source Fruit in mid-2004, and continuing with the release of subsequent versions of Fruit, open-source engine Stockfish, and especially the release of reverse-engineered Rybka derivatives, highly detailed recipes for building strong, modern chess engines have been in the public domain. Fledgling chess programmers as well as programming veterans have not failed to take notice and the state of the art has advanced rapidly. As a result of this spread of knowledge new programs receive a tremendous performance boost and become “fast climbers”.

There’s a great deal more in the original essay about the nature of proprietary rights and the norms and customs in this particular community — well worth reading.

There is moderation however, because if profit seekers begin to notice they are not getting paid for their ventures then innovation stops. I’m not certain if the consulting model is a long term objective.  Free code will result in a large circulation of experts who will contend with each other through marketing strategies. P.S a certain CMU professor (who I can not mention legally and caused my arrest and conviction of a misdemeanor without any analysis of any University documents) also accused me of copying and pasting code… lolz IDIOTS!



October 27, 2011
(JPOST h/t Vlad Tepes)Iranians and any other athletes from rogue regime should be given short shrift internationally regardless of what the individual does or doesn’t do. Given a country legitimacy only prolongs its shelf life. Time to end the meme that sports promotes peace and stability, it’s just a ruse to allow players from totalitarian regimes to participate in international sports.

Iranian grandmaster Ehsan Ghaem Maghami was expelled from an international chess tournament after refusing to play Ehud Sachar, an Israeli. Maghami refused to play Sachar, his scheduled opponent in the fourth round of the Corsica Masters championship, for political reasons. Leo Battesti, the tournament’s organizer, told AFP that, “Politics has no place in competition at this level. I was forced to expel Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, who unfortunately refused to change his mind.” More than 800 players from 30 countries participated in the tournament, according to AFP, including about 40 Grandmasters and International Masters. Battesti has indirectly gone head-to-head with an Israeli in chess before; in February, he went up against a world record for simultaneous chess games set by Israeli Alik Gershon.  Maghami played 614 simultaneous games, beating Gershon’s record of 523.

The Russian Game

May 20, 2010

Former world chess champion turned opposition  politician Garry Kasparov in RFE/RL's Moscow studios during a previous  interview.The 47-year-old Kasparov, born Garry Weinstein to an Armenian mother and a Jewish father and widely considered the greatest chess player of all time, urged the West to tackle Putin via a list of oligarchs who he said acted as his “wallet” and against whom, he said, there was no shortage of evidence of financial wrongdoing.  via Kasparov made a short-lived bid to challenge for the Russian presidency and was arrested and briefly jailed in recent years after anti-Putin protests.

It’s incredible how much influence a Russian chessmaster has in politics.  I would have to agree that all leaders should be masters of the great strategic language of sixty four squares, but sadly it is never enough if one can not see beyond the cold blooded code of game theory.  Bobby Fisher certainly is no example of balance and reason, but Kasparov the grandmaster who broke with the Socialists feels that Russia is being hurt by it’s own actions and feels that it’s totalitarian but very profitable tendencies will in the end drive it’s Asian connections away because the Asians will begin to see Russia as an aggressive bear.

Kasparov: It is simply not correct to link the level of democracy to prosperity. It is absolutely clear that the economic wealth of Saudi Arabia exceeds the performance of the Czech Republic. But apparently democracy is quite stable in the Czech Republic, which cannot be said about Saudi Arabia. As we delve into the past, we must not forget about the existing model of society. If we look at statistical data, we see that Protestant countries in terms of economic development are more successful than those observing Catholicism. There is coherence, after all, among different societal factors. Most likely, the system of mutual relations that has evolved in Eastern Europe and Asia corresponds to another level of governance. via

Essentially Kasparov clarifies that freedom and profit do not go hand in hand and that Americans must realize that cost benefit analysis will lead to more of the same.

When Kasparov compares Catholicism and Protestant systems he is alluding to free capital.  The Catholic church has been traditionally hostile to interest and banking.  (hence the Catholic’s world dependence on Jews to fill the need to make their society sustainable and at the same time burden Jews with the role.  Same thing as Islamic society and Orthodox Christians such as Russian Orthodoxy.  Religious hostility to profit from banks is what leads to a condemned class of wealthy mercantilism.  It is the root of a black market and it is not exclusive to  Religion.  The same black market exists in other ideologies like socialism.  Hostility to banking causes a despised mercantile class that is rich, because Capitalism is natural and denying nature merely creates a fetish.

Sticking to the current form of governance, which is to say guaranteeing the survival of Putin’s regime, will necessarily lead to the demise of Russia within its present borders.  The Far East and Eastern Siberia are already developing according to a Chinese scenario, the full scope of which will be revealed in the near future. In the next 10 to 15 years, a lot of Russian territories will become at least de facto Chinese. This will change the situation in Russia fundamentally.

Furthermore, the situation in the North Caucasus is rather unstable. Mutual relations and the cooperation between Putin and [Ramzan] Kadyrov, the high price that has been paid to buy the loyalty of the local elite through an enormous tribute of multibillion[-ruble] investments, all this cannot be an arrangement for good. The situation in the region can easily get out of control if the capital inflow is interrupted. It is apparent, even when leaving democratic institutions and values aside for a moment, that Putin’s regime has led the country down a blind alley. Our task is to usher in a shift of paradigms, a new foundation. via

That is a threat that will make the Kremlin take notice, but it contradicts what he says above.  Certainly propping up totalitarianism has worked for Russia as it hide behind a facade of Democracy.  What ever mean spirited chess game Russia has done in the last 20 years has worked for them, but Kasparov obviously sees resource rich Asian states turning on “colonial” Russia out of greed as well. 

…meanwhile Putin sees the chessworld as his key to power.

Former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov has never been much of a rabble-rouser. During the Cold War he was a loyal Soviet subject whose chess anthologies featured pictures of him harvesting wheat with a scythe — for fun. He flirted with elected office in the 1990s, but has confined his public activism in the Vladimir Putin era largely to ecological and children’s causes. He speaks in a gentle, nasal voice. He collects stamps. 

But Karpov, whose battles with Garry Kasparov in the 1980s defined the
game of kings for an era, is now at the epicenter of an escalating political
spreading through the already fractious world of international

With the backing of his former nemesis Kasparov and national federations from the United States and Western Europe, Karpov is bidding to unseat Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as the president of the International Chess Federation, known by its French acronym, FIDE. Ilyumzhinov is also the mercurial president of the southern Russian republic of Kalmykia, which he runs as his own fiefdom. His tumultuous 15-year reign over world chess has seen a precipitous decline in the prestige of the title of World Chess Champion.  More than chess is at stake. Winning re-election could be crucial for Ilyumzhinov, whose fate as the president of Kalmykia is up in the air. Ilyumzhinov has run his quasi-autonomous, mostly Buddhist republic since shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, but is facing increasing criticism from the local opposition over persistent poverty in the region. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will have to decide whether to nominate him for another term this fall.
“Even if he’s not nominated for a new term, [the FIDE presidency] would allow him to remain a flashy, notable person of status,” says Nikolai Petrov, an expert on regional Russian politics at the Carnegie Moscow Center.  Karpov, meanwhile, is promising to restore some of the international attention chess enjoyed for most of the last century. “The value of the title of world champion has been degraded, and the popularity isn’t there,” Karpov said in an interview last week. “No one knows who the world champion is
anymore.” (That would be Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, for those keeping score at home.) But a funny thing happened on Karpov’s road to the FIDE presidential
election: The Kremlin’s point man for chess snubbed him, declaring instead that
Ilyumzhinov will be Russia’s candidate for the post. The decision puts the
government in the peculiar position of supporting a deeply eccentric, autocratic regional leader — Ilyumzhinov claims to have once been briefly abducted by aliens and counts Muammar al-Qaddafi and Chuck Norris among his friends — over one of Russia’s greatest, and most politically loyal, sporting icons.   Why, exactly, is unclear, but the decision has prompted a revolt in the Russian Chess Federation. When the federation’s supervisory council convened Friday in the ornate main playing hall of Moscow’s Central Chess Club, a majority voted to nominate Karpov. But the meeting was subsequently declared “illegitimate” by Arkady Dvorkovich, the senior Kremlin aide who oversees the federation. Should Dvorkovich’s decision stand, Karpov might end up running as a nominee from a European or North American federation. The geopolitical overtones of all this are a throwback, however faint, to chess’s Cold War glory days, when the game was as inextricable from matters of national pride and identity as the Olympics. In the West, Bobby Fischer’s victory over Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship was portrayed as a triumph of American individualism and self-discipline over the collectivism and powerful state sponsorship of the Soviet chess machine. Millions of Americans
followed televised analysis of the intricate on-board maneuvering between the
two grandmasters, inspiring a brief national infatuation with chess. The 1984-1985
Kasparov-Karpov duels were eerily symbolic of the perestroika era, with the young, rebellious Kasparov surviving a grueling series of games to eventually trump Karpov and the fading Soviet hierarchy that supported him.


The French Defense

April 26, 2007

The French Defense

It’s Moscow, 1960. For a whole year the world has been waiting to see what happens when Tal and Botvinnik meet for the World Chess Crown. And now, the wait is over. The time is now.

The French Defense by Dimitri Raitzin is an award-winning play about this struggle of generations. The protagonists are the new and the old, pure talent and a lifetime of experience, two different styles and two different outlooks on life.

It is a play about a collision between the two best chess players in the world: the Champion – a survivor of the Stalin era who has held the World Title for 12 years, and the Challenger – a bright new phenom who has only one thing on his mind: victory.

Dimitri Raitzin was born in Moscow and emigrated to Israel and then to the United States in 1975. He is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia Business School. Prior to embarking on a career as a playwright he has had a 15 year career on Wall Street.