Chess is one of the oldest – and most popular – board games. On Christmas Eve, the classic game is given as a gift several hundred thousand times over, whether as a chess set, computer game, or chess computer. Yet what is the secret of successful chess players? Cognitive scientists at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University have been investigating this question for the past year in the project “Ceege” by recording players’ eye movements and facial expressions. Now, the researchers are revealing their preliminary results and explain why Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen again earned the title of world chess champion at this year’s tournament.

On the Futured IMAGE: Using special glasses, the project Ceege tracks the chess player’s eye movements. Most players keep their eye on the key chess pieces.

“There are numerous theories on how the brain controls attention and solves problems in both everyday situations and game situations,” says Professor Dr. Thomas Schack. The sports scientist and cognitive psychologist heads the CITEC research group “Neurocognition and Action – Biomechanics” as well as the chess research project. “The game of chess is an ideal object of research for testing these theories because chess players have to be extremely attentive and make decisions in quick succession as to how they will proceed.”

Schack’s research group is working together on “Ceege” with Inria Grenoble Rhones-Aples, a research institute in France. The project name means “Chess Expertise from Eye Gaze and Emotion.”

“We are investigating individual game tactics, chess players’ behavior towards one another, and their body language,” says Dr. Kai Essig, who together with Thomas Küchelmann is working on the project. “With the findings from this project, we will be able to predict in the future how strong an individual chess player is, and how high the chances are that a player wins a match. It appears that we will even be able to recognize a series of optimal moves that will increase the player’s probability of winning.”

In order to gather as much information on players and their activity as possible, the Bielefeld researchers use various techniques. Eye tracking glasses allow to measure players’ gaze positions, while video cameras record their facial expressions and body language. Professor Dr. James Crowley and his team from the Institute Inria are focusing on chess players’ emotions, capturing for instance microexpressions – facial expressions that are only recognizable for a few miliseconds – as well as gestures, heart and respiratory rate, and perspiration.

More than 120 participants have so far played chess under observation in the study and pilot study. Of these, a third were chess experts, and the other two-thirds novices. “The current study and the pilot study already show that chess experts show significant differences in their eye movements,” says Kai Essig. “Chess experts concentrate for most of the time on the main chess pieces that can make or break the game in respective situations. The experts control their attention more efficiently than novices.” According to Essig, amateurs jump very frequently from one figure to the next with their gaze, and look at nearly all the pieces on the board, regardless of whether they play an important role in the particular game situation.

With the knowledge gleaned from their project, the researchers closely followed the chess world championship in November. “Early in the tournament, it was already apparent that Magnus Carlsen would win. He had shown more initiative in the first six matches. It was hardly possible for his opponent Sergej Karjakin to dominate the game,” says physicist Thomas Küchelmann. When observing from a distance, though, only limited conclusions can be drawn. As Küchelmann explains: “in order to make concrete predictions, we would have actually had to measure Carlsen’s and Karjakin’s game with our test equipment. It would have been interesting to measure, for instance, Carlsen’s emotional reaction to his missed end game opportunities, and his mistake in the eighth match, which he lost, along with Karjakin’s emotional reactions to running out of time in the tie break.”

With their findings, the researchers want to develop an electronic chess assistant, which would analyze the weaknesses of chess novices and experts, using eye tracking for instance, and train players by providing tips and explanations. The assistant would recommend which move is optimal in the particular situation. “Looking forward, it would also be conceivable to integrate this assistive system into a robot. With their physical presence, robots could motivate players in a different way than for example an assistant operating verbally on a tablet,” explains Thomas Schack.

The “Ceege” research project will run for three years, through February 2019. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the French research funding body „Agence Nationale de la Recherche” (ANR) are providing funding for the project. Bielefeld University has received 300.000 euros for the research.

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Jul 02, 2021

Both matches had winners on Day 1 semi-finals

Both matches had winners on Day 1 of the Goldmoney Asian Rapid semi-finals. Magnus Carlsen began his second decade of being top on every published rating list with a loss to Levon Aronian, but he hit back immediately to grind out an endgame win in the next game. He took the lead in their semi-final by winning the last game of the day, though not without a scare at the end. In the other semi-final Ding Liren credited playing basketball with an improvement in form that saw him power to victory with a game to spare. Vladislav Artemiev, like Levon Aronian, will have to win on demand on Saturday to force a playoff.

See also:

  • Champions Chess Tour website
  • All the Goldmoney Asian Rapid games with computer analysis: Prelims, Knockout
  • Hou Yifan joins Magnus Carlsen for Goldmoney Asian Rapid
  • Carlsen starts Goldmoney Asian Rapid against Firouzja, Hou Yifan & So
  • Goldmoney Asian Rapid Day 1: Carlsen hits back after Firouzja stumble
  • Goldmoney Asian Rapid Day 2: Aronian and Ding lead
  • Goldmoney Asian Rapid Day 3: Aronian triumphs, faces 17-year-old Erigaisi
  • Goldmoney Asian Rapid Day 4: Carlsen & Artemiev lead
  • Goldmoney Asian Rapid Day 5: Carlsen & Aronian scrape into semis after playoffs
Sep 08, 2019

2019 Chess Calendar

This 2019 Chess Calendar is of course a work in progress, since we don’t yet have the dates or details for many events, including those of the Grand Chess Tour. Please let us know in the comments if we’ve left out any major events which have already been announced.

Current and upcoming tournaments:

August 2019

August 20 – September 2 | World Cadet Championship | Weifang, China

The annual World Youth Championships for the Under 8, U10 and U12 age categories.

Links: official website, chess24: U8, U10, U12, G8, G10, G12

September 2019

September 2 – 5 | 2019 Champions Showdown: Chess960 | Saint Louis, USA

Garry Kasparov will once again be back at the chessboard to play in the $200,000 Champions Showdown. His opponent for six 30 minute, 10-second delay rapid games and 14 5+5 blitz games will be world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana. The other three matches are So-Topalov, Dominguez-Svidler and Nakamura-Aronian.

Links: official website, chess24

September 10 – October 4 | FIDE World Cup | Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia

The biennial World Cup is probably the most anticipated chess event of 2019, with 128 players set to compete for the title and places in the 2020 Candidates Tournament. Will World Champion Magnus Carlsen take part again after getting knocked out by Bu Xiangzhi in 2017?

Links: official website, chess24

September 11 – 22 | 1st FIDE Women’s Grand Prix | Skolkovo, Moscow, Russia

This 12-player round-robin is the 1st of four Women’s Grand Prix events that will determine two places in the 2021 Women’s Candidates Tournament. The series consists of 16 players who compete in 3 of the 4 events. The top prize is 15,000 euros, with another 20,000 euros for the overall winner of the series.

October 2019

October 2 – 12 | World Youth Championship | Mumbai, India

The annual World Youth Championship for the Under 14, U16 and U18 age categories.

Links: official website

October 10 – 21 | FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss | Douglas, Isle of Man

This year the 9-round Swiss on the Isle of Man will be a 160-player event to determine a single place in the 2020 Candidates Tournament to select Magnus Carlsen’s next challenger. It might still be sufficient to finish second, however, since Magnus himself will play.

Links: official website

October 15 – 25 | World Junior Championship | New Delhi, India

The most prestigious prize in junior chess, with players 20 and under competing in 11-round open and women’s tournaments to determine the 2019 World Junior Champions.

Links: official website

October 14 – 21 | Russian Rapid and Blitz Championship | Sochi, Russia

A week in which Russian players battle it out in both individual and team rapid and blitz tournaments. Traditionally Vladislav Artemiev wins almost everything.

Links: official website

October 24 – November 2 | European Team Championship | Batumi, Georgia

A 9-round biennial team event open to all the European Chess Federations. The defending champions are Azerbaijan, in the open category, and Russia, among the women.

Links: official website

October 27 – November 2 | Fischer Random 2019 | Bærum, Norway

After a match between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura was held in 2018 the plan this year is to expand and hold a World Championship style event open to all online before a knockout tournament takes place in Norway. The World Champion will be seeded through to the semi-final stage.

Links: official website

November 2019

November 4 – 18 | FIDE Grand Prix Leg 3 | Hamburg, Germany

The third leg of the new FIDE Grand Prix series. Each leg is a 16-player knockout with a €130,000 prize fund, with an additional €280,000 on offer based on the overall standings after all four events. The main goal is to win one of two qualifying places for the 2020 Candidates Tournament.

Links: official website

November 4 – 11 | Superbet Rapid & Blitz | Bucharest, Romania

The sixth leg of the new-look 12-player Grand Chess Tour is a 5-day rapid and blitz tournament. The tour regulars play in three of the five rapid and blitz events and both classical tournaments.

Links: Grand Chess Tour

November 10 – 16 | European Chess Club Cup | Ulcinj, Montenegro

The annual open and women’s European Club Cups are open to qualifying club teams from across Europe. In 2018 Peter Svidler let St. Petersburg-based Mednyi Vsadnik to victory despite losing his first 4 games.

Links: official website

November 12 – 23 | World Senior Championship | Bucharest, Romania

The World Individual Senior Chess Championship is help in open and women’s categories for players aged 50+ and 65+.

Links: official website

November 20 – 27 | Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz | Kolkata, India

The seventh leg of the new-look 12-player Grand Chess Tour is a 5-day rapid and blitz tournament. The tour regulars play in three of the five rapid and blitz events and both classical tournaments.

Links: Grand Chess Tour

November 21- 23 | Chinese Chess League | China

A 12-team double round-robin league held in six venues over the course of eight months. Most of the players are Chinese but there’s a significant foreign presence during each round.

Links: official website, chess24

December 2019

December 1 – 9 | London Chess Classic | London, UK

The London Chess Classic will host the finals of the Grand Chess Tour. The prize fund for the final four players in the tour has been raised to $350,000, with $150,000 for 1st place and $100,000 for 2nd.  We can also expect major accompanying events such as the British Knockout Championship.

Links: official website

December 3 – 14 | 2nd FIDE Women’s Grand Prix | Monaco

This 12-player round-robin is the 2nd of four Women’s Grand Prix events that will determine two places in the 2021 Women’s Candidates Tournament. The series consists of 16 players who compete in 3 of the 4 events. The top prize is 15,000 euros, with another 20,000 euros for the overall winner of the series.

December 10 – 24 | FIDE Grand Prix Leg 4 | Tel-Aviv, Israel

The fourth leg of the new FIDE Grand Prix series. Each leg is a 16-player knockout with a €130,000 prize fund, with an additional €280,000 on offer based on the overall standings after all four events. The main goal is to win one of two qualifying places for the 2020 Candidates Tournament.

Links: official website

December 11 – 15 | European Rapid and Blitz Championship | Tallinn, Estonia

In recent years the European Rapid and Blitz Championship has featured as a warm-up for the World Rapid and Blitz held later in December.

December 13 – 22 | Sunway Chess Open | Sitges, Spain

An ambitious open tournament that has been growing year by year and attracting some top players.

Links: official website

May 08, 2017

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has now won his home supertournament

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has now won his home supertournament for a second year in a row, with his +2 score built on wins with the black pieces over Wesley So, Pavel Eljanov and Vladimir Kramnik.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov retained his Gashimov Memorial title after an anticlimactic final round in Shamkir. His game against Veselin Topalov raced to a draw, meaning only Wesley So could force a playoff if he beat Harikrishna with the black pieces. Soon, however, there was nothing Wesley could hope for but a draw, which he safely achieved.

The day was saved, however, by Vladimir Kramnik, who emerged victorious from a complicated 6-hour battle with Pavel Eljanov. That second win in a row for Big Vlad took him up to second place on the tiebreak of most wins.

See also:

  • Official website
  • All the games with computer analysis on chess24
  • Shamkir Chess 1-2: So’s streak ends, Eljanov leads
  • Shamkir Chess 3-5: Mamedyarov leads, So back at no. 2
  • Shamkir Chess 6: A bad day for Russia
  • Shamkir Chess 7-8: Mamedyarov rocked by Wojtaszek

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