22 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Broadcasters

A few days ago, in Berlin Candidates - Broadcasting, when I wrote,

Every time I write about live broadcasting of FIDE events, I end with something like 'I'm certain we haven't seen the last of this topic',

I hardly expected to see two of the most respected commentators in chess broadcasting letting their hair down the same day.

Round 9 - 2018 FIDE Berlin Candidates - Live Commentary

From Youtube's Chess24media channel:-

Streamed live on Mar 20, 2018 • Live commentary with Grandmaster Peter Svidler and Grandmaster Jan Gustafsson on Round 9 of the FIDE Berlin Candidates in Berlin, Germany.

Who said, Chess Players Aren't 'A Barrel of Laughs' (August 2017)?

20 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Broadcasting

Just as spring is followed by summer is followed by autumn, so a FIDE World Championship event is followed by live online broadcasting is followed by threats from FIDE/Agon/Worldchess against the broadcasters. The latest example of this (un-)natural phenomenon is FIDE Live Moves Broadcasting Policy (fide.com; 15 March 2018):-

In an effort to maintain the commercial viability of chess, FIDE is inviting federations, organisers and other interested parties to submit their comments and provide feedback with regard to the draft "Live moves broadcasting" policy published herewith. • Comments and feedback can be sent by 31 May 2018.

Anyone surprised by this wasn't paying attention to last year's FIDE Congress. As I reported on my World Chess Championship blog, in 2017 FIDE Congress : Whither the World Championship? (November 2017),

The first/last point, Annex 67, is perhaps the most important for the future of the World Championship:-

"To: Members of the Working Group to Study the Proposal of Agon Limited on Protection of Live Chess Moves [...] The Draft Policy recognizes the right of the World Chess Federation to control the live dissemination of the FIDE events' moves. Furthermore, it provides for the measures to be taken against persons interfering with this right. [...] Sincerely, Matvey Shekhovtsov"

We've already seen Shekhovtsov once on this blog in 2016 Candidates, Moscow (November 2015), regarding a 'change in the Agon/FIDE interface team' (Andrew Paulson out, Merenzon & Shekhovtsov in). We've also seen the subject of the draft in World Championship Bullying (November 2016). It's not clear to me how FIDE expects to contravene well-established copyright law with an internal procedure, so I'm certain we haven't seen the last of this topic.

The latest document on 'Live moves broadcasting' is an evolution of that 'Annex 67'. A comparison of the two documents gives some insights into the thinking of FIDE insiders, but I won't bore readers of this post with the details. There is a portion of the document that would even apply to small-fry bloggers like me:-

3.1. The following actions shall be regarded as violations of the Broadcasting right:
- unauthorized live move-by-move broadcast of FIDE events via any means of communication including, but not limited to Internet, Radio and Television;
- contributing to organization of unauthorized live move-by-move broadcast;
- advertising and/or promoting unauthorized live move-by-move broadcast.

So if I write a post promoting, say, Chess24.com's broadcasts of the forthcoming World Championship in London, I might be guilty of 'promoting unauthorized live move-by-move broadcast'. What would my punishment be? From the FIDE draft, section 6.1:-

  • First-time violation. For the first time violation a fine in the amount of 1 Euro is imposed.
  • Second-time violation. For the second-time violation a prohibition on taking part in a chess competition, or in any chess-related activity for 3 months and prohibition to hold official positions at FIDE and its member organisations for 3 months shall be imposed.
  • Third-time and further violations. For the third-time violation, as well as for any subsequent violation, a prohibition from taking part in a chess competition, or in any chess-related activity for 1 year and a prohibition to hold official positions at FIDE and its member organizations for 1 year shall be imposed.

Since the phrases 'chess competition' and 'any chess-related activity' aren't restricted to FIDE-controlled activities, I'm wondering how FIDE plans to enforce that punishment. In the meantime, I've set aside a Euro (currently about US$ 1.25) to pay the fine for any first-time violation.

For a more nuanced discussion of the FIDE draft policy, see Consultation on the Draft FIDE Live Moves Broadcasting Policy (ecforum.org.uk). For a less nuanced, more entertaining discussion of the same policy, see FIDE Live Moves Broadcasting Policy (reddit.com). Every time I write about live broadcasting of FIDE events, I end with something like 'I'm certain we haven't seen the last of this topic'. I wish I could use a better closing.

19 March 2018

Interview Videos : World Champion Carlsen

For the past eight weeks, I've been posting interviews with the eight players competing in the 2018 Candidates Tournament. Now that the tournament is well underway in Berlin, let's have one final interview with the man they are chasing, GM Magnus Carlsen. The off-camera interviewer introduces the current World Champion with the reason for the interview:-

Magnus, you have just beaten Anish Giri in the playoff to win a record sixth title here in Wijk aan Zee. Congratulations.

A poised and relaxed Carlsen makes a sharp contrast with other recent interviews we've seen, like Magnus Carlsen on his London Chess Classic.

Tata Steel Chess - Interview - Magnus Carlsen - Winner (2:41) • 'Published on Jan 28, 2018'

When asked, 'This is the first time we've had a playoff in Wijk aan Zee. Before there were shared winners. What's your take on that? Are you a fan of playoffs or would you have preferred to share the title with Anish?', he says,

The only thing I'm not a fan of is deciding things away from the board with some kind of tiebreak system that is not a playoff. A shared win is fine and a playoff is fine, because even though it's a different format, it's decided over the board.

There is considerable irony in that statement, given that five years ago Carlsen won the 2013 Candidates Tournament, London on tiebreak, thereby getting his first shot at a World Championship match. When I started the series of 'Interview Videos', all eight players had equal theoretical chances of winning the tournament:-

Now that the half-way point of the 14 round event has been reached, about half of the players have been practically eliminated. Which player will ultimately succeed in getting the coveted title match with Carlsen?

18 March 2018

The Capablanca Cocktail

How did the word 'bar' get so many different meanings? In this series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), we've already seen Chess Behind Bars (October 2017; 'Interview with Carl Portman on Chess in Prisons'). Here's another meaning of the word, from Youtube's World Chess coverage of the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament:-

In the World Chess Club Moscow we have 11 cocktails and we brought three of them to Berlin, to this lounge. We have the Smyslov [cocktail], the Fischer, and the Capablanca, based on Cuban rum.

If you're in Moscow and need a map to find the place, see club.worldchess.com. Hint: the map is under the banana.

A visit to the chess bar / Candidates 2018 (3:56) • 'Published on Mar 15, 2018'

Around the middle of the video, commentator Lennart Ootes asks 'Cannon', the Beverage Director of the Moscow Club,

Q: If you would make a cocktail about Alexander Grischuk, what would the cocktail look like? A: I guess it would be something with samogon. [Sasha] has the appearance of a typical Russian male, who has patriotic feelings, who believes in the best future for the nation, for the country, who could drink spirits like samogon, straight without the [mixers].

Samogon? Wikipedia to the rescue:-

Russia: The Russian name for any homemade distilled alcoholic beverage is called samogon, meaning "self-distilled", literally "self-ran". [...] Samogon is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the country. It directly competes with vodka, which is more expensive (in part due to taxes on distilled alcohol), but contains fewer impurities. • Moonshine by country (wikipedia.org)

For more about the Moscow club on Youtube, see Opening party of the World Chess Club Moscow (December 2017). For more about the chess bar commentator, who has other, similar videos on the same channel about the look-and-feel of the tournament venue, see About Lennart | Lennart Ootes (lennartootes.com).


16 March 2018

Game and Mistake of the Day

For this edition of Video Friday, I had a big choice of clips about the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament. I chose the video below for a number of reasons:-

The two players -- both of whom are among the favorites to win -- were among the leaders of the event after round three; see Berlin Candidates - First Week for the standings at the time (2.5 Kramnik; 2.0 Caruana, Mamedyarov; ...) and for projections of the eventual winner. • It had one of the highest view counts on YouTube's World Chess channel. • It's a fascinating game.

Before you watch the press conference / postmortem, you might want to watch two other clips from the World Chess channel -- Game of the Day and Mistake of the Day -- both subtitled 'Kramnik - Caruana / Candidates 2018 / Round 4', and both hosted by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko.

Round 4. Press conference with Kramnik and Caruana (11:36) • 'Published on Mar 14, 2018'

The top comment currently says,

Can't remember when I saw such a complex endgame last time.

Some of the other adjectives used to describe the game: 'astonishing', 'crazy', 'seesaw', 'cruel'. The game was played the round after another exciting Kramnik game: Game of the day: Aronian - Kramnik / Candidates 2018 / Round 3 (also commentated by GM Miroshnichenko).

15 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Organizer

In my previous post I discovered so much about the Berlin Candidates - Venue, that I decided to use the same technique again. In a nutshell, that means using a search on images to create a composite image, then following the links for individual images wherever they lead. This time I decided to look at the main site of the official organizer, Worldchess.com.

Google image search on 'site:worldchess.com' for 'Past month'

It's striking that all images are in black and white, except the color photo in the bottom row (C2), where Judit Polgar is talking to Magnus Carlsen at the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin World Championship match. The photo is from Making Chess Broadcasting Dramatic (worldchess.com, as are most of the other links used here). I discussed that page last week on my World Chess Championship blog (see Berlin Candidates - Resources) There my focus was the 'stickers', which are also visible in abundance in the composite image above: A3, B5, C4, C5.

Of the other images, many -- A4, B3, C1, C3 -- are from Official Digital Chess Set Released (in Beta):-

In 2014, Pentagram has developed for World Chess the official chess set, a beautiful rendition of the classic Staunton that had become the official chess set of the World Chess Championship cycle (a limited edition of 500 sets is produced for each Championship by hand in India). But 99% of chess is played online, and with the update of the official World Chess chesscasting service (to be released soon), we have been developing the official digital set, which will be used in official chesscasting.

The other images shown above are for index pages like News - World Chess and Latest News - World Chess, which lead to individual news stories. Both pages link to the same stories, but use a different format for the index. One story that is not represented in the composite image, but shows up on the news index pages, is Branding the Headquarters of Chess in Berlin: Smart or Sexy.

All eyes in the chess world are on Kuhlhaus Berlin, the venue for the World Chess Candidates Tournament, the qualifier for the Championship Match. The loft-style building near the Potsdamer Platz in German capital, a former ice factory, has been fitted inside and set-up as a five-story chess stadium. World Chess, the organizer of the Tournament, decided to brand the building itself to market chess and to give spectators and the media a clear positioning of the venue and the event and the sport.

This relates to my 'Berlin Candidates - Venue' post, where I picked up the slogan displayed on the side of the Kühlhaus:-

Entering this building might substantially increase your IQ. Chess does that to humans.

It turns out that this slogan is just one of many considered for the event, including a 'selfie-magnet'. One recurring feature about all of the above is the heavy-handed emphasis on marketing, branding, and selling (e.g. that weird logo again in B2 and B4, 'Online Sponsorship Store is Open'). Other than a table summarizing round-by-round progress, there is no news on Worldchess.com about the progress of the Candidates tournament itself.

News and photos about the event can be found on the FIDE site in stories like 2018 FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament Started Today (fide.com; 10 March 2018). That page links back to the site we've been looking at, worldchess.com/berlin, where we are told,

After the 2016 Championship Match in New York chess has been steadily moving from being an elitist game towards a becoming a [sic] global spectator sport. With an increased worldwide coverage, stunning locations, digital broadcasting, superstar players and high profile guests, chess is now enjoying one of the most exciting times in its history. The intriguing tournament in Berlin is expected to be yet another breakout for big chess.

That's brilliant marketing: insult the current fans of the game by calling them 'elitist', then promise 'high profile guests'. Agon/Worldchess, I'm guessing that your days are numbered. In related news, World Chess announces London as its new global HQ (February 2018):-

World Chess, the commercial rights holder and promoter of the World Chess Championship, will follow its incorporation as a UK-registered company last December by establishing a new worldwide headquarters in London this year.

The announcement included a statement about UBS in Geneva having closed FIDE bank accounts.

13 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Venue

Some strange stories about the venue have been escaping from the 2018 Candidates Tournament, Berlin. Where exactly is it being played?

Google image search on 'Berlin Kühlhaus' -> 'Candidates'

Using the same notation as in Chess and Art Movements (December 2017) -- 'Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '5' (from left to right)' -- let's see where those images take us. Two images in the top row (A1, a bird's eye view of the playing area, & A3) lead to Candidates in "cool" venue (chessbase.com; October 2017):-

Agon today announced the venue for the 2018 Candidate Tournament in Berlin. The players will compete in the "Kühlhaus Berlin" next March 10th to 28th.

Sandwiched between those (A2) is Venue for the World Chess Candidates Tournament Announced: Kühlhaus Berlin (worldchess.com; October 2017):-

The venue is a historic building located in Central Berlin at the meeting point of the most vibrant districts. The simple, yet modern cubic architecture of Kühlhaus will provide guests with the space of five floors to enjoy the dramatic chess competition.

'Entering this building might substantially increase your IQ. Chess does that to humans.' • That not-so-catchy phrase appears in a couple of images. The first image (B4) leads to Battle of the non-Candidates (chess24.com), the report of an unfriendly Twitter exchange between GMs Carlsen and Giri, including more than 100 comments reminding us that top chess players sometimes behave like jerks with each other. The second image (C3) leads to #fide hashtag on Twitter (see 9 March), showing the phrase above the Kühlhaus entrance.

What about those 'strange stories' I mentioned in the lead sentence? They are documented in "Playing conditions are absolutely terrible" (reddit.com; subtitled 'Grischuk's comments about the candidates so far'). Reddit also picked up the 'Entering this building...' catch phrase: This advertisement for the chess candidates tournament 2018 in Berlin. : iamverysmart, e.g. 'Fun fact about me, I don't think I'm stupid, but I'm terrible at chess'.

Should we be surprised by any of this? After all, the organizers of the Candidates tournament -- Agon / Worldchess -- are the same people that brought us that weird logo documented in Dirty Mind Games (December 2017).