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Tag: Candidates Tournament

The Agon Widget from Hell

Remember back in March when Agon, the FIDE puppet company responsible for organizing and managing the World Chess Championship cycle limited the live game broadcasts and infuriated pretty much everyone except their billionaire Russian investors and mafia henchmen? Well, run-on sentences aside, the Agon mafia has returned to show its ugly teeth in the run-up to the World Chess Championship in New York City this November with an announcement that broadcast of the games will be limited to a widget designed to be embedded into an external website to broadcast the games. Peter Doggers at Chess.com breaks the announcement down a little more. When you have finished reading his excellent report, behold the new widget:

Agon’s WCC broadcast widget. (Credit: Chess.com)

According to the official statement,

First, and most importantly, the live moves of the World Chess Championship match will be made available for free to responsible chess websites and other media organizations that take our official broadcast widget.

Although it is presented as the most important part of the broadcast announcement, the idea that the WCC moves should be free is buried in the typical Agon-FIDE hyperbole and legal threats to the chess community and its myriad of online portals. For example,

It is fair to say that the furor that followed divided the global chess community. We were asked, “Does Agon have the right to prohibit anyone from broadcasting the moves as they were made?” We believe that we do and that we have a strong legal position. We also have the full support of the World Chess Federation and many others within the game.

Agon acknowledges that its actions divided a deep and thriving community, but it still fails to see that the divide is between Agon-FIDE and everyone else, not a divide among the chess community. In fact, I don’t believe that I’ve ever witnessed an online community come together en masse like the chess community did when Agon announced its monopoly. With its restrictive broadcasting agreements and tactics aimed at subverting the established ecosystem, Agon has alienated itself from countless people who care about chess and want to see it grow. Furthermore, to assert that its position is legitimized by a FIDE endorsement is no different than saying that its okay to restrict the games because the Kremlin says so. In addition, those within the game that are often quoted by Agon-FIDE couldn’t care less about broadcast rights for chess. Their names are solidified in the annals of chess history and their view is always from the front row…at the board!

What we are doing has never been attempted before in the chess world. It is a revolutionary approach and I am sure we will probably make some mistakes in its implementation before we are finished.

Really? It hasn’t? Do they mean that nobody has ever created a chess widget before to cover broadcasted games? How interesting because Chessbase has one and Chessbomb has one that regularly broadcasts live tournament games. This kind of drivel expounds on how little Agon-FIDE really knows about the depths of ingenuity, innovation, and connectedness that exist in the online chess world.

Suspicious Widget

As a veteran of nearly thirty years of computer and network development, I can say that most competent webmasters are reluctant to arbitrarily add external widgets to their platforms. Companies often gain the trust and respect of their customers by demonstrating commitment to that platform’s service before said platform allows their widget or code to be embedded within their framework. For me, I trust Chessbase and Chessbomb because they have earned trust and respect as reputable companies with a legitimate interest in furthering the game of chess. Agon has done nothing but drive a wedge between the chess community and the organization that is supposed to be championing our game.

Would you trust a Soviet JavaScript or PHP widget on your network or content platform? I sure as hell wouldn’t. Call me paranoid, but the truth is always buried in fine print and revealed in data breaches or midnight special forces raids.

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MHCC July 2016 Round 1: The Stuff of Nightmares

Although you’ll be hard-pressed to find many pastors (or people) out there who would admit that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is their favorite film of all time, I am not your typical pastor nor do I like to think of myself as your typical person. When it comes to chess, there is much evidence to support the position that I might be the world’s worst chess player. I have become accustomed to losing just in some of the most interesting and depressing ways over the past few years and I thought I have learned to deal with the trauma that can arise from such an experience, but last Wednesday’s tournament OTB game reminded me of how devastating it can be to make a mistake in a game where I put so much time, effort, energy, and focus. In essence, Wednesday night was an opportunity for me to experience my own Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

As many of you know, I have been playing in my first series of OTB tournaments a few months back, but had to take a break to finish some school and other personal projects. These projects also contributed to the lack of posts here on Campfire Chess, but I digress. Playing in the July edition of this tournament was a last-minute decision, so there was a little bit of hesitation on my part for returning. However, I know that the best way to improve is to continue to play. Unfortunately, my return to OTB play was the stuff of nightmares. Rarely do I go into these situations expecting a win because very few of the players involved in these tournaments are rated anywhere near where I perform. Most of them are the master level or higher including a resident International Master and occasional visits from Grandmasters, which I have written about in the past. However, I can say that I never expected what happened this past Wednesday night. To say that it was traumatic betrays the depth of the experience.

I lost a game in eight moves although I played through to 12 moves for a combined total board time of around 14 minutes. Looking back on things, I realized that it was a simple mistake that ended the game so quickly whether it was rushing or simply not surveying the more properly. It has taken me a few days to get over it, but I have written some commentary on this atrocious game and decided to share it with my Campfire Chess audience. Now, for your viewing pleasure I present to you around one of MHCC July 2016.

Unfortunately, my desire to try again this week has been postponed because of a sick child. As always, family comes first. Therefore, I will have to wait until next week for an opportunity to redeem myself with a reasonable loss.

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Hou Yifan’s Withdrawal Shows Need for Reform

Women’s World Chess Champion Hou Yifan shocked the chess community when she announced last month that she had withdrawn from the Women’s World Championship Cycle, citing disagreements with FIDE over how it conducts the tournament process. Chessbase published transcripts from a recent telephone interview with Yifan and Frederic Friedel where she expressed disappointment in FIDE leadership’s continued support of the current tournament format. As it stands, the Women’s World Chess Champion (hereafter annotated as WCC) is often chosen through knockout tournaments where the winner earns the title despite the possibility that they might possess an ELO rating 100-200 points below Yifan, who is currently the highest rated female chess player in the world.

Trouble with the Knockouts

You can read the article yourself via the link above, but the main point of her argument is that the WCC is often selected via a 64-player knockout tournament format. This format places Hou and her counterparts on equal footing and gives an unfair advantage to players who might not qualify to challenge her in any other setting. If the highest rated player in the tournament has a bad game and is eliminated by a lower player, it creates an opportunity for a player to assume the title of WCC without possessing the qualifications. For her, a knockout tournament is not necessarily a bad thing. However, she views it as an unreasonable format for choosing the WCC. I agree wholeheartedly. Can you imagine if Magnus Carlsen’s title was on the line in some 64-player invitational where a single bad day could send the title into the hands of another player?

I cannot see the men allowing such a method to be used by FIDE to determine the champion, and the women of the professional chess world should refuse to stand for it as well.

Hou’s Plan and FIDE’s Silent Stand

Glass ceilings and gender barriers are coming down all over the world, but FIDE remains trapped in its antiquated ways. Hou’s plan for changing the tournament format is, as Frederic mentions in his article, amazingly simple. She proposes that the same format used to select the World Chess Championship title currently held by Magnus Carlsen be used for the WCC. A series of qualification tournaments would send certain players to a Candidates tournament where the winner would advance to challenge the reigning World Champion. As a compromise, Hou has suggested that the winner of the knockout tournament be declared the challenger to the reigning champion, not the champion themselves. The plan sounds simple enough, but according to Chessbase, FIDE has retained the 64-player knockout format because it is popular among the female chess players.

It is not difficult to imagine why the format is so popular…it reduces much of the legacy of the WCC to a lottery.

yifan

Hou Yifan has big dreams for reforming women’s chess.

It is easy to place the blame on FIDE, which is an organization that has a sorted history of cronyism, manipulation, and disregard for what is best for promoting international professional chess. Countless recommendations for improving tournament cycles and gameplay have been provided by some of the world’s greatest chess minds. Yet, those recommendations and ideas have been met with the standard fare that Hou has received for her comments: to be discussed at the next board meeting. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in government service, I can tell you that it will probably be discussed at the meeting, but the world stands a better chance of Kirsan’s aliens invading than the board agreeing to change the WCC cycle format. Yet, it is this comment in Frederic’s interview that reveals another troubling element to the situation:

FF: Sounds perfectly logical. However FIDE has said that the current Women’s system is very popular amongst the girls since they get to play a lot of interesting events …

What is going on here? FIDE is, potentially, holding on to a format because it is popular, among the women on the circuit. It might be popular, but is it right for the future of women’s professional chess? Unfortunately, one does not have to look far in cyberspace to see the back and forth with people who believe that women cannot play beautiful chess or do not deserve the respect of their male counterparts. The chess audience on Twitter is notorious for this kind of banter, but does the general consensus of the women’s professional chess world about the 64-player knockout championship actually hurt perception of their ability? I would argue that it does! If the women players are arguing for more recognition and appreciation for their art in one breath, but supporting a tournament format that undermines the legitimacy of the highest female chess achievement, then the fight for equal respect of female chess players is what ultimately suffers. That, along with the countless other young girls who are hunched over their chessboards this morning with dreams and aspirations of being a GM or a WCC.

What to do?

Bureaucracies have a notorious history of taking simple ideas and transforming them into disastrous monstrosities. The fundamental elements that make bureaucracies like FIDE so inefficient are probably what will enable the WCC cycle to retain its imbalanced format (for now). Hou Yifan’s withdrawal from the cycle and her recommendations for changing how the WCC is selected should be a wakeup call for the leaders of the professional chess world, but it will most likely fall on deaf ears. In the meantime, the world will continue to watch as its great chess players are increasingly isolated and ostracized by the organization whose mission is to grow and promote our game.

Gens Una Sumus, without clear direction or a promising future.

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WorldChess.com DDoS Claims Most Likely Untrue

Those who were tuned in to the 2016 Candidates Tournament in Moscow and took note of the anger that is seething in the social media world regarding the recent attempts to censor the live game broadcasts of the tournament, may have noticed a tweet from the official account stating that the official website responsible for broadcasting the match was the victim of a Dedicated Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. The tweet was sent from the account at 0449 EST:

It is intriguing that whoever posted the tweet was specific in expressing their opinion that this was an clear attempt to stop broadcast of the Candidates Tournament. For anyone who knows anything about subversion and the attempts by shady and underhanded organizations to manipulate these kind of events knows that this is a propaganda ploy. Because, why would the chess community as a whole have any reason to bring down the single website available to broadcast the moves of one of the most important tournaments of the year?

For those of us with extensive backgrounds in information technology, we understand that it is more likely that the world chess Federation underestimated (like it usually does) the demands that would be placed on a broadcast server. If you are running one server to broadcast a series of games and it is the only place in the world where chess fans are told that they can legally obtained the moves from the event, then countless attempts to contact and connect to the server is not a DDOS! In an attempt to further their efforts to manipulate the chest broadcasting system in future tournaments, claiming that it was a dedicated denial of service attack enables them to deflect the blame from their own services and failings.

Fortunately, the chess community is brilliant and few (if any) actually believed the claims although there are some websites that have repeated the story, but almost none of them have approached it from a purely serious standpoint and are quick to note the sarcastic response from most of the chess community on social media.

As my readers know, I am very passionate about this situation, which is why I offered my $0.02 above. However, I tip my hat to this tweet, which sums up everything I believe that people have come to think about professional international chess under Kirsan Ilyumzhinov:

Will we see more craziness like this in the coming days? Probably so, but I can tell you that the backlash has had an effect on how the tournament and organizers are conducting business. Today, the tournament organizer, AGON, rescinded its to our release rule for the PGN file and will be releasing them immediately after the conclusion of each game in the match.

Small moves.

-w.s.

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Support the Broadcast of #BootlegChess!

Because I grew up in the United States of America and believe in freedom from oppression and disobedience to illegitimate authority, I would like to take this opportunity to voice my support for the growing number of chess websites that are lining up to disobey the illegal order of Agon and the World Chess Federation to block the broadcast of moves from the Candidates 2016 tournament.

Chess24 sent out a link earlier via Twitter with a video broadcast feed for the event on LiveStream

Chessbomb, which is one of my personal favorite sites for following tournament games, has posted instructions on its blog so that fans can help the site broadcast the games. I encourage you, if you have the time and resources available, to check out the instructions and support Chessbomb and other websites in broadcasting these moves around the world! Do not let corporate greed silence the chess community!

Here is the full text of the instructions from Chessbomb:

As explained in this post, ChessBomb will not use the official site of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2016 because we don’t accept or agree to their Terms and Conditions. This means we have to obtain the moves from other sources. First and foremost, we rely on volunteers to anonymously submit the moves to us. Here is how you can do that:

  1. Download and install the Tor Browser.
  2. Using the Tor Browser, visit this link: http://cbomb73x6akxqm6r.onion/
  3. Select a game, and send us any missing moves!
  4. Click Back, repeat step 3.
  5. By using a Tor Hidden Service, we protect the anonymity of the volunteers. We don’t know their IP addresses or locations, so we can’t be compelled to reveal them.

Your support means everything to us. Thank you!

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The Strange Goings-Ons at FIDE

Back when I started running this blog, started paying closer attention to what was happening with FIDE and the politics of chess. I am not a big fan of politics and I assume that most people are not, but it is hard to resist the temptation to follow the latest drama whether it be a United States political race or controversy in the World Chess Federation. Obviously, Gary Kasparov has made quite a few headlines in recent years over his staunch opposition to the current regime in the World Chess Federation. He took a brutal beating in the 2014 election cycle to elect the new president and is even being accused by Kramnik of being directly responsible for Ilyumzhinov sanctions by the United States Department of Treasury due to his ties with terrorist nations and their leaders.

Therefore, it was no surprise today when I was browsing through Twitter and came across an outstanding article by Chessdom in which the author poured out an immense level of fury over the World Chess Federation’s recent decisions involving the broadcast and exclusive rights of the candidates tournament. This tournament will determine who faces Magnus Carlsen in the 2016 World Chess Championship, and is of great interest to millions of chess players around the world. Before I get into the specifics, I would like to provide you with a link to the tweet that prompted this post. At the end of the day, it is my intention to reaffirm that regardless of your political leaning or your philosophical beliefs: chess belongs to the people!

In my day job we have a saying called BLUF, which stands for Bottom Line Up Front. As clearly indicated by Anton Mihailov’s post on Chessdom, the BLUF is that FIDE and AGON continue to show immense Disrespect and outright contempt for the chess community of the world. Because I am the kind of guy who does not like doing double the work I will not take the time to fully analyze the post, but I highly encourage you to stop over and read it! However, I do not encourage you to go over and read the article simply because I am worried about the future of the world chess Federation or the tournament system as it exists today. Instead, I encourage you to go over and read the article in the context of what Mihailov is trying to say: FIDE, through its corporate sponsors, is continuing its relentless attempt to subvert the freedom of chess players and their fans around the world, and has crossed the line!

kentfide

Kent Brockman is not a big fan of chess censorship. (Credit: FOX)

Imagine if you will for a moment what would happen if Major League Baseball suddenly decreed that no one was allowed to discuss games in progress in any form on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media website. I think it is safe to say that there would be riots in the streets! This is because MLB appreciates its fans and understands how to harness the power of the fan community to boost interest and to create a personal connection to the game. Because FIDE is just now showing up to the internet world (20 years too late), it believes that it can exert control over information flow like the moves of a chessboard are the key to unlocking the launch codes of a nuclear submarine. FIDE does not respect its players and its community, which is why it is able to treat its fan base with this kind of contempt with absolutely no remorse.

I am sure that I am not alone when I say that I would not shed a tear if the World Chess Federation simply ceased to exist as a result of its own miscalculations. It is curious that an organization charged with supporting a vast community of the finest calculating minds in the world routinely makes some of the worst possible decisions both on and off the board. Chess is counter-culture because it is so accessible, which is why countries like Saudi Arabia and other regimes frequently target it for banishment.

bobbyfide

Bobby Fischer had problems with FIDE as well. (Credit: Pawn Sacrifice)

Campfire Chess is proud to be among the tiny chess blogs that make up the dynamic and thriving global chess community. Trust me that if I had the servers and resources, every single move would be beamed into the stratosphere the moment it was made. For now, I leave that to the professionals who have been doing this longer and have the resources. Go forth, my brothers and sisters! The beautiful, hard truth for organizations like FIDE and AGON is this: chess is for the people!

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