Chess, AI and Lessons About Societal Impact

Marcus has used chess several times in his articles about AI on stderr and in comments on Pharyngula and it got me thinking about whether there is something valuable we can learn from how the ascend of AI of sorts has impacted chess. And I think there is. First about the state of affairs as far as AI in the chess world goes.

The good:

The chess-playing AI’s are getting better and more accessible very quickly. What once needed a supercomputer the size of a wardrobe that probably used enough power to heat a household, can now be easily done by a pocket computer running on a battery. This accessibility of high-quality game analysis to anyone with a smartphone has led to a relative chess boom. Today’s young generation has unprecedented access to learning about chess games. Websites like and are thriving. As a result, new chess masters and grandmasters are getting younger and younger. AI has contributed to humans getting better at the game and has led to more people enjoying said game.

The bad:

Wide and easy access to AI that can easily beat even the best chess player of all time has its dark side too. Cheating both in online and OTB tournament chess is at an unprecedented level. I am not a bad chess player and not an excellent one either. But I am good enough to occasionally be paired with really good players online. And also with cheaters who like to pretend they are good. I do not know the exact number, but I have reported probably over a dozen people for suspiciously good play. One report was rejected at the time but said player was confirmed to be a cheater about a month later. One report was a mistake on my part. All the rest were confirmed to be cheaters, sometimes after a short delay, sometimes nearly immediately. And every year there is a talk about cheating in high-ranking OTB chess tournaments, occasionally even with physical proof  – a few years ago a chess grandmaster lost his title after being caught analyzing his current game with a phone hidden in the restrooms.

The ugly:

The rampant cheating online and some prominent cheating scandals OTB foster a culture of paranoia. Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik embodied this paranoia last year, when he publicly hinted that GM Hikaru Nakamura is cheating, without outright saying so. The only proof that Kramnik provided for his allegations proved only that a high understanding of the game of chess does not automatically translate to a high understanding of maths and statistics and how proofs work. But Kramnik is not alone. Allegedly the talk about cheating is behind the scenes all the time at the highest echelons of chess and suspicions are not uncommon. Rarely names are dropped and proofs are provided, but the suspicions are there all the time. I observed this paranoia in myself after losing a game egregiously and my high ratio of correct to false reporting of foul play is because I do my best to analyze the games afterward and look at some data before reporting someone. I also know that I have been myself probably twice reported for foul play (at least my opponents told me they were reporting me). Both of those reports would of course be mistaken. Funnily enough both of those instances I did not play particularly well and subsequent analysis found really sub-par gameplay on my part.

So, what to do with it, is there something to learn about how to deal with AI overtaking the arts? I think there is.

If anything, chess teaches us that the ascend of highly capable AI into a field does not automatically mean the death of said field. Chess tournaments still exist, and amateur chess players still enjoy the game of skill. People do not want to just see and admire good chess games, they want to see and admire good chessgames played by other people. And I think the same applies to art. Using AI as I tried (and failed) to do is equivalent to a chess player using AI to learn a new strategy or analyze their games. If done properly, it could help a lot of people to learn new skills faster and better than before and unleash an unprecedented boom of art. But people still want to see other people’s creations, not just slop churned out by algorithms.

However, chess avoided destruction by implementing and enforcing strict regulations. That is more difficult to achieve in arts than in chess because there is no overarching authority like FIDE and I do not know how to implement this in the real world. But an effort should be made. If someone uses AI to create a picture and then passes it off as their own creation, they should be dealt with the same way as if someone is caught cheating at chess. No galleries should display art by said artist, no auction houses should sell it and their reputation should be forever tarnished and the community should shun them and ridicule them (the last one appears to be happening, at least). They might not be plagiarizing in the sense the word is understood right now, but they definitively are not creating in any sense of the word.

I do not understand why some people cheat in a game of skill even when there is nothing tangible of value to be gained. But people still do it, my understanding, or lack thereof is inconsequential. Apparently, they do get the dopamine hit after a won game, even though they did not, as a matter of fact, win the game – a machine did that on their behalf. And there are people to be found online who consider themselves to be artists because they write elaborate prompts to stable diffusion. But they are no more artist than a teenager who uses Stockfish is a chess grandmaster.

In my opinion, just as it is not morally (and in a sense legally as far as online chess sites and FIDE go) OK to “commission” your game of chess to an AI and then pretend that you are the one who won, it is not OK to commission an art piece and then pretend you were the one who created it.

Addendum: One interesting thing about AI in chess is that whilst the AI does play better than humans, it is generally lousy at mimicking human play. I have won games in a lost position because my opponent resigned – the position was winning for them, but the winning move was so obscure and difficult to find that they could not find it in time. I also lost winning games because I lost my nerves. AI cannot (so far) mimick the time distribution of moves that people have etc. So far even AIs that are deliberately dumbed down to have a lower level corresponding to human players of some strength for the purpose of training or entertainment feel a bit “off” and there are signs that show that they are not human.

Addendum 2: AI is to art what ultra-processed fast food is to nutrition. And if unchecked, it will have the same consequences on our societal mental health as fast food had and continues to have on our physical health.

Intersection of DnD and Social Justice

Today I was etching blades and listening to the YouTube channel LegalKimchi and I must recommend it so far. I especially liked his last video:

But his other videos that I managed to see today were good too. I haven’t yet seen everything and I am unlikely to see everything he has made, but so far he seems to be on the side of social justice, especially with regard to people of color.

Woman Gamers on Youtube – Chess Player – Anna Rudolf

Anna Rudolf has a few tales to tell about sexism in Chess, although she does not talk explicitly about sexism. However, I do think that her false accusation of cheating has a lot to do with some men’s fragile egos being hurt by losing to a woman.

The tale has a happy-ish ending in the sense that she was vindicated and her accusers were reprimanded for wantonly accusing her sans evidence. However, I do wonder if she would have won the tournament and the GM title if she were not so emotionally distraught in that last game.

How to Catch Chess Cheaters With Statistics

Mano has recently mentioned a little kerfuffle in the online chess community involving an American International Master Levy Rozman and an Indonesian cheater Dadang Subur, who was banned o shortly after a match between the two raised the suspicion of Levy Rozman and he (and possibly a lot of people who watch his twitch streams) reported him as a suspected cheater. evaluated the situation and banned the suspected cheater, thus turning him from suspected cheater to confirmed cheater. guards the tools they are using to evaluate whether someone is cheating or not pretty closely so cheaters cannot learn how to circumvent them, which is understandable. It is also a bit annoying for someone who likes to make statistical analyses of their own, like me. I cannot know the tools they use, neither do I have the access to their data, but that does not stop me from speculating. And today I would like to share one of those speculations on the off-chance that there are more people who like this kind of stuff around here.

In the comment section at Mano’s, I have speculated a bit:

They have probably several criteria to look at, and here is my guess at what they are:

1. The time between moves. Experienced players can play memorized opening moves within a fraction of a second. If someone consistently has a high rating and takes a long time to make beginning moves, it is an indicator of engine use.

2. Distribution of times the moves take during a game. I have not made a proper analysis, but my guess based on looking at my own games would be that they should conform to a Weibull distribution.

3. The length of winning-losing streaks. These should probably be pretty randomly long. Consistent patterns of extremely long winning streaks and no losing streaks are a bit suspicious.

4. The win/loss ratio. The site does a fairly good job at pairing people of similar strength, so it should be about 50/50. Even when your ELO is going up. I have gained 300 ELO over half a year and I do have circa 50/50 win to lose ratio.

5. Game accuracy and consistency. It is possible, even for weak players like me, to get accuracy over 90%, or even an occasional perfect game without mistakes and blunders. But a streak of twenty nearly flawless games is unlikely, even for titled players.

6. Rating growth speed. Titled players can send in their certificate and they get assigned rating accordingly, they do not need to start at the basic rating like everyone else. For an untitled player, the faster they gain rating, the more suspicious it is.

From all these, points 1 and 2 are relatively easy to check with just a few games, so I did that. I have downloaded ten of my games, ten games from Magnus Carlsen, and twenty games from one cheater whom I have recently played. My and cheater’s games were all 10 minutes games with no time increment, Magnus Carlsen’s games were, unfortunately, ten and fifteen minutes games with 2 seconds increments, so I had to cut those at fifty moves. But for the purpose of this demonstration, it is sufficient. And why twenty games from the cheater? Because he was an intermittent cheater. He had long winning streaks of nearly perfect games and then long losing streaks of crappy ones with one occasional win by the skin of his teeth. And while it is easy to get a long losing streak of crappy games (I should know), getting one long streak of nearly perfect wins is not very plausible – unless you are Magnus Carlsen, that is.

So the first picture that I would like to share is a so-called dotplot of move times in these games.

On the x-axis are the times in seconds and each dot represents up to ten moves. With the most simple of statistical analyses, the so-called “Lookandsee analysis” one can already see some discrepancies. Both the world champion and I have a very similar distribution of times, with most times being in the range up to ten seconds, with the peak at the category 0 seconds (moves shorter than 1 sec). For the cheater, who had about the same ELO as me, it is different in both his OK games and his fraudulent ones.

In his OK games, he too made a lot of moves in fifteen seconds or less, but he was much slower, with a peak at five seconds category. That indicates the cheater was taking a lot more time than he should even for easy moves, as befits someone who is currently trying to punch way above his weight class.

In his fraudulent games, this becomes even more profound. Almost no moves are made faster than five seconds (and those are usually the first moves of the game) and most take between ten to fifteen seconds.

If the moves were adhering to a normal distribution, there would be a number of easy-to-make visualization tools and statistical tests available. Alas, they do not. I have speculated that they will have Weibull distribution, which was speculation based on the fact that they have a lower limit (0 seconds) and an upper limit (duration of the game, also 10 minutes). As it turns out, Lognormal distribution is even better fit, although Weibull did fit occasionally too.

In a probability plot, if the fit is good the dots should be distributed along with the straight diagonal line and between the curved lines of the same color, which they mostly, although not perfectly, are.

You might say that AD (Anderson-Darling) values say otherwise, and they do, they are a bit high. The p-value also is too low for a good fit for those tests where it could be calculated. But that is in part a problem with these statistical tests, which generally do not work very well with grainy data. And here we have all times rounded to 0.1 seconds, so it is very grainy at the lower end, where, coincidentally, most of the data is. I could transform the data, but it was a lot of work as it is and I am sure I am losing some readers already. So take my word for it that both Lognormal and Weibull distributions are reasonable approximations.

So as a last picture, let us look at a histogram with an overlaid best-fit lognormal curve.

I am sure that has software solutions to dig through the data of suspected cheaters and to dredge up comparisons similar to these for all the points that I have mentioned. There probably are some correlations between move time and its quality with regard to the situation on the board etc.

All in all, I do believe that when someone is banned on for cheating that they were indeed cheating. And there are things that cheaters will probably never be able to fool. The example here is, I think, one of them.

In order to cheat, either the cheater or their assistant must go through the loop of inputting the moves into a computer, waiting for the algorithm to spit out the answer and then inputting the answer to the game. This inevitably prolongs the time. So to keep the move times consistent with those of an honest player might be the most difficult, if not impossible, hurdle for these scumbags.

Killing and Dismembering an HDD

My parents PC started to act up a few weekends ago. I knew the motherboard was defect already, so I have decided to buy everything new, including an SSD – but I thought the old HDD can still be used for data storage. I was ronk. When I built the thing, it was still acting up, and finally I got the message that S.M.A.R.T. detects problems with the drive. So I decided to nix it and throw it out. It did not contain any important information, but even so I wiped it repeatedly, then performed full format, and then I disassembled it, run the platters over with a screwdriver and with strong neodymium magnet. Hopefully not even Nick Fury should now be able to recover the data that once was there, and should he go through the trouble being pissed at finding a bunch of flowers and gingerbread pictures.

When building it back together I did not build in one crucial part – the two half-moon shaped neodymium magnets that you can see to the left of the center in the photo. They are very slim and very, very strong – it is not easy to pry them apart in hand. I decided that they are simply too nice in themselves to throw into recycling and they might be useful in my workshop later on.

Two days later I got an idea how to use them and they might prove to be THE solution to a problem that I was looking for for over a month now, or at least a good part towards a solution. I hope to try that out soon, the weather is getting warmer, the flu or whatever was trying to kill me seems to have failed, so hopefully next weekend I will be able to resume working on knives.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Youtube Video: Nurgle Plague Sword Build

Michael Cthulu is not a smith, he is a welder. And he does not make historically accurate replicas, he makes ridiculous, humongous swords from computer games that have no chance whatsoever to being actually functional in the real world.

But he is entertaining to watch and he has shown some tricks in his videos that are valuable to me in my workshop – like his unique working goggles with replaceable glasses.

He also seems to be a genuinely nice person, at least judging by the ammount of his products he auctions for charity ever since he makes enough money for comfortable living.

Mild content warning – the video takes almost an hour and contains half-naked and very hairy dude in his fifties doing dangerous things with fire, electricity and fast spinning machinery.

New Game: Foundation.

Foundation is a grid-less, sprawling medieval city building simulation with a heavy focus on organic development, monument construction and resource management.

The game features in-depth resource management akin to the Anno (Dawn of Discovery) series, expertly mixed with city building elements from SettlersSimCity, and Pharaoh all topped with narrative encounters inspired by Crusader Kings II to create the ultimate medieval ant-farm simulation!

In this strategy city-builder economy simulation game, players must create a prosperous settlement as the newly appointed lord of a region untouched by man.

Setting to redefine the city-builder genre, Foundation puts the emphasis on the organic aspects of urbanism in the cities of old, powered by Polymorph Games’ in-house game engine, Hurricane, which allows for full mod support and is optimized for the thousands of moving parts that come with building humongous cities.

Among other things, the engine provides the player with robust building tools to create countless unique monuments that can then integrated into your settlement.

With medieval architecture and urbanism at the forefront of its design, Foundation’s vision is to allow players to recreate cities of that period as they envision them or even as they really were.

You can read and see more about Foundation at Medievalists, or just head straight to the Kickstarter, which has garnered much more than the initial ask.

David Lynch Teaches Typing.

A lesson from David Lynch Teaches Typing (image via, used with permission).

A lesson from David Lynch Teaches Typing (image via, used with permission).

Have trouble typing? Perhaps this surreal typing game with David Lynch will help. Or perhaps not.

Super Mario tried to teach me how to type correctly when I was a kid, as did a required semester of typing at my high school, yet I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I continue to always look at the keyboard and only use about half my fingers (unevenly favoring my right hand). So when I found out there’s a new typing game taught by a pixelated version of filmmaker David Lynch, I thought this might finally be my chance to learn.

Available as a free download for both Mac OS and Windows, David Lynch Teaches Typing is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based filmmaker Luke Palmer — “no relation to Laura,” he clarified in a phone interview, ensuring me that Palmer is, in fact, his real last name. Palmer and his collaborator, developer Hyacinth Nil, used to work at an after-school program together, where they came across a ridiculous game called Cooldog Teaches Typing. Later, when Palmer spotted a video game where one of the levels took place inside the Red Room from Twin Peaks, he had an “aha” moment. Palmer and Nil worked on the game for about five months before releasing it earlier this month.

You can read and see more at Hyperallergic.

Toy Trends.

AFP/File / Christof Stache.

The Nuremberg Toy Fair opened yesterday, and all the hot new toy trends are making happy waves.

The Nuremberg toy fair, the world’s largest, opened its doors this week to an industry in the throes of reinvention as toymakers vie for the attention of children increasingly glued to smartphones and tablets.

With traditional toy companies torn between joining kids in the digital world or coaxing them away from their screens, here’s a look at some of the most eye-catching trends from the fair’s 69th edition.


Parents whose pleas to “play outside” routinely go unheeded may be happy to hear that nature is, apparently, in.

Be it the humble spade, magnifying glasses or DIY gardening kits, there’s no shortage of tools to get kids interested in the outdoors. One firm is even offering the chance to raise your own butterflies.

For those who’d rather not get their hands dirty, there’s Beekeeper Barbie — comes with a hive, bottles of honey and tiny bees.


The boom in board games is showing no sign of slowing as families try to turn off their screens and spend time together, said Heinrich Huentelmann, a spokesman for German giant Ravensburger.

Old classics like Monopoly and Cluedo are perennial favourites, but there’s also been a surge in games that have no winners, such as the smash hit Gravitrax where the goal is to build increasingly complex tracks for marble-type balls.

“We can’t manufacture that one fast enough,” said Huentelmann.

Also in the spotlight are “cooperation games” where the only way to win is for all players to work together to chase a mechanical cockroach from a castle for example.


Toymakers are taking the “blind bag” craze to the next level this year, betting that children will not just want to collect the ever-more elaborate mini-toys found in surprise packs, but also the matching accessories and play-sets.

Known as “collectibles”, the cheap dolls or fantasy creatures sold inside opaque packaging are essentially the industry’s answer to the “unboxing” trend that caught toymakers off guard a few years ago, when YouTube videos of toys being unwrapped mesmerised kids everywhere.

In 2017, collectibles accounted for eight percent of the global toy market, according to the NPD research firm, making the tiny toys a multi-billion-euro business.

“Kids love the surprise element and being able to trade and swap. Key for parents is the low price,” said Gary Coppen of the Headstart toy company, which is bringing out baby and pet collectibles whose gender is only revealed in water.

And, it’s predicted that Mermaids are going to be the next huge thing, edging out Unicorns. You can read all about it here.

Black Room.

The first landscape encountered in the Black Room interactive game (all images screenshots by the author for Hyperallergic).

The first landscape encountered in the Black Room interactive game (all images screenshots by the author for Hyperallergic).

The second landscape of Black Room.

The second landscape of Black Room.

Here’s an interesting game, Black Room:

The first few minutes of Black Room are a twist on my expectations. I know I’m not playing a traditional game. In fact, according the game’s homepage, I’m playing a “browser-based, narrative game about falling asleep while on your computer, on the internet,” where I play as “an insomniac on the verge of sleep, moving through shifting states of consciousness.”

Created and developed by Cassie McQuater, Black Room is free to play (with the option to donate money), and was “conceived as a feminist dungeon crawler, [and] features a majority female cast of video game sprites from the 1970s–current day.” After the game’s opening sequence — a blue light descends through a heron-filled sky before crashing to the ground and turning into a woman — my fingers are only allowed to do one thing: move my character to the right. As I do, the background comes alive with stars and fantastical birds. I’m moving through this dreamscape, alone. When I click on the “?” in the upper-right corner of the screen, I’m told, “The sky is vast. Yawning, you feel as though you’ve just woken from a long sleep. There is only one direction to travel.” Onward it is.

As a lifelong insomniac, I might have to give this one a try. You can read and see much more at Hyperallergic.