Entries in Ken Regan (10)
Ken Regan needs no introduction to long-time readers of this blog. He is an International Master and an associate professor in computer science professor at SUNY Buffalo, and is best known nowadays within the chess community for his work on "intrinsic performance ratings" or IPRs. His work has been mentioned regularly on this blog, and he has also been a frequent commentator here and has guest posted once or twice. (He's very welcome to do so again, too!)
If you haven't noticed him or his work here or elsewhere, or would like to know a bit more about this interesting character, Howard Goldowsky has written a long and very worthwhile feature article profiling him for the June issue of Chess Life; happily, for those who don't subscribe to that magazine, that article is also available online. Do have a look!
Still another post by one of our favorite and most valued commenters, on the issue of cheating in chess and how to fairly and properly nab the bad guys.
I was away all day on a coaching trip, but IM and computer scientist Ken Regan very graciously agreed to fill in for me today. His comments on the round - especially on the game between Magnus Carlsen and Teimour Radjabov follow, and then below that I'll add a few comments tidying everything up. I hope everyone enjoys his commentary and his further remarks to Carlsen-Radjabov in the replayable games section, linked to below. Ken has been a real boon to both this blog and its blogger alike, and it's a privilege to have him help out. Thanks, Ken!
The scoreboard says four draws, so Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen maintain their 1.5-point lead on the rest of the field. Of course the concept of "joint leader" in this event is ultimately hollow, for only one can emerge as the challenger for the world title held by Viswanathan Anand.
What the scoreboard doesn't say is that Aronian could have had the lead, even a full-point lead, all to himself at this halfway point. Aronian verged on domination before Alexander Grischuk simplified enough to reach a draw, while the favorite Carlsen clipped several gates on his way to a nervous draw with White against Teimour Radjabov. At which gates could he have been taken for a tumble? That's the main question to engage us with our own chess boards---and computers and/or minds, pick'em---after the play is over.
While thinking of themes for this guest post even before the clocks started, I mused on the idea that in every window when you are following the action on ICC or Playchess or Chessdom or other sites, at least four separate games are going on. They are:
1. the game being played by the human White, 2. the game being played by the human Black, 3. the game being played by the computer in the analysis window, and 4. the game being played by you while viewing.
There also may be the game as seen by a live commentator. I was following on Chessdom, where Canadian IM Aman Hambleton supplied comments on Carlsen-Radjabov in excellent prose that explained strategy and variations at perfect picth for the audience. I myself had time only to throw in one comment in the separate chat window, before leaving to attend an early afternoon concert. But this is enough to illustrate the differences among all four different games.
In all four games, Carlsen played the early Rossolimo Sicilian trade 1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. Bxc6 used by Anand in last year's match against Boris Gelfand, whose complexity gives much latitude for outplaying the opponent in a fashion Carlsen has trademarked. Radjabov allowed 7. e5 and 8. exd6 splitting Black's pawns, but seems to have done his homework, as he mobilized his center and pointed his pieces Kingside in a forthright manner. Then came a phase that struck me in "my" game as nervous: 12..Be6, 13...Qe7 (awkwardly defending c5 under fire from the Rook on e1), 14...Rad8, 15...Bc8 (going back), 16...f4 (again forced to defend c5 and weakening), and 17...Kh8. I thought Carlsen was all set up to win his game, but Radjabov's shuffle made it possible for his game to begin with 18...Bg4!
Carlsen admitted in the press conference that he underestimated the frank strategy 19...Bxf3! 20. Qxf3 Nh4 21. Qe4 f3 22. g3 Ng2!, partly under the hallucination that 23. Rd1 Qe6 24. Kh1 Qh3 25. Rg1 threatened 26. Rxg2 protected by the Queen on e4. This makes me wonder what game he was playing---but I myself have "seen" brilliant combos ending with Ng6+ intending to meet ...Kg8 by Bh7+. The Houdini analysis window was less nervous---it was showing evaluations consistently near 0 (even game) right up until suddenly agreeging with Hambleton and liking Black after 21...f3 was played. Meanwhile, however, I was fixated on the problem of Black's blocked and lifeless Bishop on d6, even making a crack comment that it was just a big pawn.
How does all this come together for the game? After Carlsen's decision to jettison the Exchange and bring the other Knight back for defense with 23.Nc3, Radjabov concentrated on a strategy to further the Kingside pressure and open up that side with 23...Qe6(?!) 24.Re3 Nxe3 25.fxe3 f2+(?). He was quite set in the conference that he needed to do this to avoid a blockade with Nd1-f2 and felt he should win---underestimating Carlsen's later retreat 29.Qh1! which kept everything covered. But I (and Houdini) think the best chance was missed at move 23: 23...Nxe1 24.Qxe1 Bc7! to follow with 25...Ba5 and trade the awful Bishop off! Then I think White will just be flattened by the pressure and pawn on f3.
Neither player noted this, and the only place I've found it mentioned so far is in comments at http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1713445&kpage=20, player DcGentle. After 29.Qh1 I think White is holding pretty comfortably, but perhaps others will find tries for Black.
[UPDATE: Ken has added remarks on the other games as well, and the replayable games now include comments to all four games.]
Levon Aronian's game was another case of differing perceptions. I thought Black was positionally awful around Move 19, but Black does have a Kingside activity plan, and Aronian as White felt obliged to blow the center open first with a pawn sac. I don't think it gave chances as strong as some other annotators seem to believe, however. Gelfand's game with Kramnik featured a double mistake at Move 18-19, and I haven't yet looked for the explanation in what resumed being a fairly chanceless draw. Ivanchuk-Svidler may be important for Scotch Opening theory but stayed dynamically balanced.
Back to DM. Here are the standings after round 7 - the end of the first of two cycles:
1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 5
3-4. Kramnik, Svidler 3.5
5-6. Grischuk, Radjabov 3
7-8. Ivanchuk, Gelfand 2.5
Next up, the round 8 pairings:
- Carlsen - Aronian (the battle of the leaders)
- Radjabov - Gelfand
- Grischuk - Ivanchuk
- Kramnik - Svidler
About a week and a half ago, I mentioned on these cyberpages the remarkable play of one Borislav Ivanov in the Zadar Open. Despite a rating of 2227, Ivanov's managed a spectacular tournament performance rating (TPR) of 2697, and this occasioned a partial search of his person and his pen (both were negative) and a long list of accusers on the web ready to proclaim his guilt.
My preference was to wait for the work of a sane, qualified researcher before drawing any potentially libelous conclusions - the work of Ken Regan, to be specific. He has weighed in, and has offered some thoughtful remarks (and invited more from others) on the more general topic of cheating in chess. (Be sure to check out his letter to the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) Board for more on the matter, and - for those with the relevant technical background - the appendix attached thereto.)
The series of Informants is up to issue 115 now (I'll review that on this site soon, possiby tomorrow), but it's possible to derive pleasure and value from the older issues too. You might be inclined to agree, but think that the value comes from the games, which are available in various databases - including specific databases of past Informants.
There's certainly value in database diving, and I'd be among the last to deny that. But when one searches databases it's with a pre-existing sense of what to look for; when one leafs through a book, on the other hand, it's a voyage of discovery and surprise. Both are valuable, and neither can replace the other.
As it turns out, I have all (or very nearly all) the past Informants on disk, but a friend recently donated a stack of older issues he had picked up some time ago on a book-buying spree. The first one I looked at was Informant 26, which covered games from the second half of 1978. Flipping through the volume was first of all a nostalgic experience, seeing games from many of the top players when I was taking my first tiny steps in serious chess. That was the year of the acrimonious Karpov-Korchnoi match in Baguio City, and players like Portisch, Spassky, Polugaevsky, Timman, Larsen, Mecking, Tal and Petrosian filled out the super-elite of the day; while Kasparov was just beginning to burst onto the scene. Some of the greats of the time have retired or died, and it's worth remembering them; others are still in the arena, and their continued participation in the world of chess is worth celebrating.
Another pleasure was to look back at some of the American players, most of whom, like James Tarjan, have given up the game. And then there was the fun surprise of seeing some of Ken Regan's games. Ken, as long-time readers of this blog know well, is not just a (mostly inactive) IM but a computer science professor too and the originator of Intrinsic Performance Ratings. One game in particular really caught my eye, against Hungarian GM Laszlo Barcsay (you can replay it here). And I may never have come across it were it not for the actual book being in my hands!
Sometime last month IM and computer scientist (and regular reader of this blog) Ken Regan found a little time for tournament chess, and while the result wasn't all he might have hoped he was kind enough to send one of his games, from which I'll present the following excerpt.
IM Kenneth Regan - NM Scott Riester, position after 20...Qxh2+ 21.Kf1
"Now the pin-cutting 21...Bc5! was missed by both players. [DM: That very nice move is best and conclusive, but Black has other moves that also win with a huge margin.] The computer sees instantly that it's "splat!", so my statistical model rates it a near-certainty to be found, but this may qualify as a kind of "Invisible Move" that is hard to suspect let alone see. My opponent's actual 21...Qh1+ 22.Ke2 Qxg2 seemed natural, and now I hallucinated that after 23.Nxa7+ Kd7 24.Rg1 Qe4 I could play 25.Rgd1+ Ke7 26.Bg5 "mate". Seeing nothing else I played 25.Qb5+ and resigned next move. But I could have really mixed things up by playing 23.Bxf5!
"According to my Houdini run to high depth, there is only one way for Black to keep the advantage, let alone survive. Can you find the move, unaided?"
I (DM) will give the answer later, in the unlikely event that someone doesn't find it first and include it in the comments. But please, readers, only give what you find with your own thoughts; don't include or hint the solution if you got it from an engine - even if you tried to find it on your own first!
(And more.) The blog's favorite computer scientist with an IM title, Ken Regan, offers some reflections on draws in relation to the world championship match and in comparison with computer chess, in this recent blog post. As usual with his work - when it's accessible to laypeople (and in this case, it is), it's worth your time.
(Not literally, of course - ubiquity properly speaking belongs to God alone. And while we're in that ballpark, happy belated Easter to my non-Orthodox readers, and happy upcoming Easter to the Orthodox!)
Ken Regan is a mostly retired IM, a highly active computer science professional, and - best of all - a regular reader of and commenter on this blog. He has found areas of intersection on the first two topics over the years; most notably, since 2006, he has taken a careful look at claims of computer cheating and has been developing algorithms to assist in its detection. Recently his work has received a lot of attention (e.g. this New York Times article, mentioned in an earlier post), and it has continued. The aforementioned NYT article is cited in this ChessBase piece, but it briefly touches on other, more human forms of cheating (or rather, interference) and shows an embarrasing but relevant example from one of his games.
That game is from 1978, and it's not the only recent print mention of his early chess days. The newest issue of Chess Life (April 2012) has a retrospective article on Pal Benko's column in that magazine and some of the individuals who grew up with and contributed to its "Bafflers" section on the way to become players or problemists of note themselves. The article includes this composition of Ken's, published as a "Benko's Baffler" (and apparently winning a special prize, too) when he (Ken) was just 12:
White to move and win. (The solution is here.)
Finally, I'll draw attention to an interesting post by Ken on the "Goedel's Last Letter and P=NP" blog, entitled When is a Law "Natural"? Much of the math in the post may be indecipherable to non-specialists, but there's enough "normal" English, and on the subject of chess, to keep readers of this blog engaged.
He's a busy fellow, and the foregoing only scratches the surface of his diverse interests. It's very nice to have him as a regular reader!
The title is a bit too strong, as Ken Regan's program can certainly provide strong statistical support (or disconfirmation) for accusations of cheating, but not proof. Nevertheless, it's a useful tool with some nice fringe benefits (intrinsic performance ratings, for example, offer a comparatively objective metric for comparing past and present players). Read all about it in this New York Times profile.