Thursday, June 30

Rybka Cheats!?

World Champion Chess Program Banned For Cheating (tech web blog) republished from
June 30, 2011

The engine which emerged victorious from the past four World Computer Chess Championships, called Rybka ("little fish"), has been banned for cheating. But, uh, how can a computer cheat unless it's programmed to?

The answer lies not in its programming, but in its construction. The International Computer Games Association, which has both an awesome name and which runs the computer chess championships, has found that Rybka's creator, Vasik Rajlich, essentially plagiarised the work of other existing chess engines in creating his software, and has been stripped of all his titles and ordered to return all his prize money. (Which engines? Crafty and Fruit.)

Funnily enough, the ICGA didn't take the action because Rybka had stolen code. They took it because Rybka had used other people's code and not given credit.

Do you think this story the truth or a fish tale? Perhaps people chose to slander Mr. Rajlich because of his success as an independent programmer!? I expect to hear more about this story in the coming weeks or months. I have not made up my mind yet.

For you kids out there, this article does contain one moral to learn and follow: Always cite your sources and give credit where it is due. If this news holds true, then the new program Houdini will be the undisputed leader in the world computer rankings. Coincidentally, Houdini openly borrows from other engines under an open source license.

Download the UCI engine for Houdini 1.5 (find the button about 1/4 down page) and run it in Chessbase, Fritz, Aquarium, Arena or Winboard. Here's the best part: Houdini is FREE!

Friday, June 24

Bay Area Showdown in St. Louis

(Photo from the website of the St. Louis chess club, host and sponsor for the US Junior.)

FRIDAY UPDATE: Gregory Young won round 8 to clinch clear first! Congrats!!

Thursday's showdown between Bay Area stars IM Daniel Naroditsky (white) and NM Gregory Young was easily the most critical pairing of the US Junior Invitational to date. Gregory took the early lead, 0.5 points ahead of his rival. By winning, Gregory extended the lead to 1.5 points with just two rounds left.

Click here
to play through the moves. Danya set up the Maroczy bind against Greg's accelerated Dragon, deviating at move 11 from Giri - Tiviakov (Unive 2010). The placement of the white rooks (Rad1) is a central theme to this opening. By move 24, black achieved a small tactical advantage on the queenside. Amazingly, the black queen doesn't get trapped! The resulting opposite color bishops endgame was difficult to hold because of white's weaker pawn structure (down a pawn) and black's active pieces.

Despite the lead, Gregory can't rest yet. His final two opponents, FM Warren Harper and FM Victor Shen are both rated over 2400 and eager to play spoiler. In fact, seven of the ten players still have a mathematical chance to win the championship, should the leader slip. 

Final Standings

  • 7.5 NM Gregory Young --2011 US Junior Champion
  • 5.5 IM Conrad Holt, FM Victor Shen and FM Alec Getz
  • 5.0 IM Daniel Naroditsky, FM John Bryant and FM Warren Harper
  • 3.0 NM Kayden Troff
  • 2.0 NM Jialin Ding
  • 1.0 NM Raven Sturt

Saturday, June 18

Bay Area Stars at US Junior

For the second summer in a row, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has hosted and sponsored the U.S. Junior Invitational for 10 of the top American juniors under age 21. This club, generously funded by Rex Sinquefield, has quickly grown into the most exciting new venue in the nation. The past two U.S. Championships were held here, attracting most of the elite players of the country. No doubt, many of the juniors attending this week dream to join the big boys in the near future. In fact, the U.S. Junior champion earns an invitation to both the World Junior and next year's U.S. Championship!

Previous winners of the U.S. Junior include GM Bobby Fischer, GM Larry Christiansen, GM Patrick Wolff, IM Joshua Waitzkin, GM Tal Shaked, GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Robert Hess, GM Ray Robson and last year's winner, GM Sam Shankland. Bay Area talent Shankland made the most of his opportunity at this spring's U.S. Championship, reaching the semifinals before being knocked out by the repeating champion GM Gata Kamsky.

The field of the 2011 Junior features 8 of the top 16 rated on the June Top 100 list for U21. However, the three Grandmasters ranked at the top (Hess, Robson and Shankland) all declined their invitations, perhaps because they each won at least once before. That left 15 year old IM Daniel Naroditsky, rated 2536 USCF, as the top seed. In a bizarre twist, one of the bottom half players actually tied for 1st in the 2008 U.S. Junior (see photo at top of post). The lucky guy holding the trophy was my longtime student NM Gregory Young, now 16 years old. Please join me in cheering loudly for the two Bay Area representatives in St. Louis, Danya and Greg!

My two former students face eight competitors from across the country: three from NY/NJ, two from Texas, plus one each from Utah, Kansas and the host state Missouri. One of the Texans is #2 seed FM John Bryant, formerly from Southern California, but now attending college. One of two Midwestern players, #3 seed Conrad Holt of Kansas, officially became an IM merely two weeks ago. And the youngest participant is 13 year old NM Kayden Troff of Utah, who picked up his first IM norm recently.

Check out the tournament schedule. The rounds begin at 11am Pacific time and are broadcast live on the chess club website using the MonRoi system. Also make sure to listen to the live broadcast by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman. Unfortunately, there is no coverage on ICC.

Saturday, June 11

GRANDMASTER Sam Shankland!

His odyssey lasted a year longer than he hoped. He took a year off before enrolling in Brandeis University to pursue this elusive dream. Frustrated by his inability to pick up one final norm, he threatened to quit chess. Fortunately for his students and many friends, he fought on. Along the way, he shared a World Youth title, won the US Junior Closed, earned 3rd place at the 2011 US Championship and scalped dozens of experienced chess professionals.

Within the past week, our hero Sam Shankland reached the pinnacle. The world governing body FIDE finally approved his Grandmaster title! He joined more than 1300 players at the highest level for a chess player. Sam was officially credited with four norms, needing only three: New York and Philadelphia in 2009 plus Berkeley and St. Louis in 2011. Bravo!

I still remember Sam as a rambunctious 12 year old rated 1750. It was already obvious back then that he had both the talent and enthusiasm to improve rapidly. In 2004 and 2005, he played a whopping 5,000 standard games on ICC. Kids, don't try this without parental permission. :-) Nonetheless, after so much practice, it is no wonder that his USCF rating shot upwards.

Date - USCF Rating
  • 4/2003 - 1086
  • 2/2004 - 1537
  • 2/2005 - 1867
  • 2/2006 - 2106
  • 2/2007 - 2216
  • 2/2008 - 2279
  • 2/2009 - 2441
  • 2/2010 - 2546
  • 2/2011 - 2559
  • current - 2613
Although I never formally taught chess to Sam, I didn't hesitate to chew him out when he needed it. Trust me, he deserved it! Over the years, I came to know Sam as well as my top private students, even though he was in fact a major rival. Yet I cheered him on while he trotted around the globe. The biggest highlight was the trip to Vietnam in October 2008, where he shared 1st place in World Youth U18. Well done master!

Despite his repeated claims to the contrary, I am confident that Sam won't quit anytime soon. He loves the royal game and has achieved so much. He will undoubtedly play during vacations plus in the online US Chess League in the fall, unfortunately for the defending champion New England Nor'easters. Sam also enjoys teaching private lessons and summer camps. Check out his chess website for more information. Don't worry, GM Shanky is here to stay!

Sam is the second Berkeley Chess School alumnus to have earned the Grandmaster title. They're the same age and, quite predictably, are friends. Who is the other?