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Holiday Hussle

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Trying to get through piles of work before the holiday rounds begin. Thanks to everyone who has been sending things in; I just haven't had time to post. In no particular order:

Topalov's side is making a move to deny responsibility for the ABC interview in which he accuses Kramnik of cheating and crimes against humanity. This seems to be synchronized with a threatening letter from Kramnik's side that invokes possible bans for violating FIDE's code of ethics. (Hahahah, try to say "FIDE code of ethics" without laughing. You can't.) I suppose everyone could just pretend it never happened, the old "I was misquoted" defense. Happens all the time. At least Topalov didn't call Kramnik a macaca. I wonder if we can get to the interviewer Bellon before Stopwatch dusts off Torquemada's scrotum clamps and gets him to say it never happened.

Speaking of cheating, and it looks like we will be doing a lot of that in the coming years, Jon Jacobs sends a link to a "Town Hall Meeting" on the subject he moderated at the Marshall Chess Club earlier this month. Lawyers and politicians and players, oh my! Some informed opinions worth a read.

Bessel Kok has indeed signed with FIDE to run professional chess events under a new Amsterdam-based company, Global Chess. This isn't as ambitious as originally planned, but good things can happen if the authority is there. It certainly can't be worse than the last time they tried this with FIDE Commerce. Oy. I'll have more on this later and you can post your questions for Bessel Kok here if you like. Not sure I'll reach him before the holidays subside though.


At the Topalov fan site they claim that it was Danailov not Topalov that said those things.

Didn't they remember that "Topalov and Danailov are one person"?

It's odd indeed that a "fan site" knows what Topalov said and didn't say.

It would be even more odd for a paper to make all that up, actually.

You know its odd, in all of his "no more s**t, please" e-mails to me Danailov didn't once mention that he thought the interview bogus. Still a retraction is a good thing.

my info is different from Mig's one.


Danailov says interresting things:
there were a resignation of second Appeal Comission after discovering of internet cable in Kramnik toilet -- a resignation that Kirsan didnt accept...
So: why second AC of World Championship match in Elista gave their resignation after discovering this 'funny and meaning nothing bad for Kramnik' cable?

Yeah, the fan site seem to have some connection, but who is behind the site or where they get the information from.
At the same time they also report on the second resignation. However, nobody finds people from the appeals committee to confirm it.

Yes this is the story Danailov has been trying to get people to publish. They offered to resign on the 4th after not being told about the cable which from the letter seems to be the one they found on the 1st after the inspection. We have no idea what happened subsequently. It seems they objected to not being told about the search in detail before they arrived.

The problem with the story is that it is the innuendo. There is no evidence at all that Kramnik knew of these cables, nor that he could get to them without completely dismanteling the ceiling.

For what its worth, I could give you a guess. The Olympiad was the first event held there, all the boards were electronically connected up and eventually they got broadcasting of them all via the internet. Presumably after it was to be the venue for this event (or some match prior) there was a reconfiguration of the building for a new purpose, smaller matches and events and now either they put cables across all the ceilings or this room was for a different purpose originally and was made into a toilet.

And the cable actually crosses the room, they don't show the ends of any cable. Which is probably what makes the pictures completely worthless as evidence if there is nothing to plug into they might as well not be there. If they're not for that room if anything its proof there wasn't any cheating. But again no context so we can't really draw that, or indeed any other conclusion definitively.

They were presented to me as proof of the now denied statements of cheating in the ABC interview.


Who are they that you mention in your last sentence, and at what point was the presentation made?


Mark, i am wondering about you answering on behalf of Kramnik and his manager and give all us hyptothetical versions about that cable
Then answer to me please why no official till now denies the existence of this cable?

Well the cable story including the pictures has been around for more than a month. Here is from Trud Nov 18. http://www.trud.bg/Default.asp?statid=39851&rubr=0&izd=2&fsize=&swidth=800&tr=1&im=11&id=18&iy=2006 It was obvious already then that the not exactly sensational "discovery" proved absolutely nothing - the stories never mentioned anything about an outlet or jack, etc.

acirce i had to admit that you're right.

This is so unusual to see cables in a building wall in the 21 century. Even if there was a jack (there was no one), what would Vlad connect it to?
By the way, computer network cards using regular electric power cables as communication channels, are already a commodity. Should we demand now players to play in the dark, and all electric circuitry to be removed from walls?
Even if this interview is a setup, there were many other talks by Veselin and Silvio on the matter to ban them both. Topalov said the title is worthless for him, he just plays for money. Therefore the ban should not be the big hit for him. They can continue selling those funny toilet seats they are so happy about.

I have no special inside knowledge of Kramnik's attitude, merely what's been published. Last stuff I got from the Kramnik camp was about the start of his match against Fritz and before that the press releases during the Topalov match.

In truth it doesn't take a genius to work out that:

a) given his current schedule of Wijk and Amber he won't play Topalov in March or April, leaving aside the cheating allegations and the shortness of notice.
b) as confirmed by the article on the Topalov fan site Kramnik and his manager are distinctly unimpressed by the "Topalov" interview. What I didn't know until today is that they've taken it to FIDE (several articles including the Istvestia one) and that Danailov is denying the exact comments.

Yes, highly unusual indeed. As Danailov put it "There is no other bathroom in the world connected to the Internet." Umm, connected? ( http://standartnews.com/en/article.php?d=2006-11-29&article=1923 ) I mean, talk about desperation when you try to make this into some kind of big story...

Topanailov should take a trip to Japan. There he will find bathrooms with computer monitors, internet, and TV. Should Japanese worry about cheating in Go when computers improve in playing it?

The advent of computers in chess changed the game. In fact, within last several months a mini revolution took place. With the emergence of Rybka software, computers increased their play power beyond that of humans. One can argue that this is not anything new; after all, Kasparov lost to Deep Blue almost ten years ago and chess did not change that much since then. Yet, this argument is not applicable to the current situation simple because Deep Blue ran on proprietary hardware valued around 20 million dollars. In words, practical implications of that match were close to null. Today, the game of chess faces challenge no other sport ever was faced with. Cheap and wildly available software can beat the best in the business. True, other sports had to deal with “performance enhancing drugs” but this is not a good comparison either. Any “performance enhancing drugs” improves results in range say 5%, 10% maximum, while in chess a complete layman equipped with computer can send home the best.
The most visible results of this change are public accusations of cheating, that is of using computer assistance during actual game. In this matter, it is interesting to note a subtle change in the accusations coming from Topalov’s camp against Kramnik. In the article published on this site titled “Town Hall Meeting” we find the following quote:

“Stripunsky said the fact that Topalov merely suspected that Kramnik might have been cheating during bathroom breaks was enough to affect the quality of Topalov’s play.”

So it is no longer physical cheating it is a possibility of cheating which wracked Topalov’s game. Well, if confirmed, this statement can be logically reduced to the following:

“Computers play with such strength that nobody has practical chances anymore. Kramnik knew this and Topalov knew this. But Kramnik is such a bastard; he used this knowledge to create an impression that he has a computer in his WC, he destroyed Topalov’s spirit and brought his performance down.”

Simply put, Stripunsky says (after Topalov I presume) that it is the very strength of computers which created a threat to integrity of the match, not physical cheating. An interesting observation isn’t it?

Let’s follow this path and let’s try to understand from a point of view of a professional chess player, what it means for him that a software program plays on higher level.
Our chess player, let’s call him X has a rating of 2700 Elo. He may not even like to work with computers; in fact, he may enjoy intellectual pleasure of analysis on his own. But he must be a realist, if cheap and wildly available software can play about 200 points higher, he has no choice and has to adapt. So he buys a PC, installs proper software and runs it 24x7. He analyses different openings of interests to him, from time to time computer brings some new ideas which he adopts to his own repertoire. Game has changed he thinks. It is just no longer a dual between two humans. It has become a duel between human and his computer versus another human with a computer. So far so good. But now our X faces another professional player, say Y, and scores a spectacular victory. X may even not remember if his victory is due to computer analysis or his own invention. But what about Y? Well, there is something in human nature which may make it difficult to him to admit that X is a better player. Nothing personal of course. Y may start to think about his recent slump and come to a conclusion that well … X is not completely honest about his chess because he uses two PC (instead of one). Obviously, if computers play better chess, then using two computers to do analysis gives you advantage over everybody else who uses only one. So what is Y to do? He shares with the rest of world his discovery (sounds familiar?) and runs to buy second PC. But as soon as he reaches stores, a new idea strikes him, why not to get two new PC instead of one? After all fate favors bold, doesn’t it? So he takes his truck, loads two boxes with computers on it and with a big smile drives home. Only in the last moment he notices X who carries no less than five boxes to his own truck parked at the opposite end of the same store. Get the point? X is exuberant about his latest performance, his game improved so much since he started working with computers he wants to push it harder. Now after beating Y, he is believer again; he can go all the way.
Does it sound realistic? It does to me. Computers play better chess than humans and humans lost control of the game.

Denying responsibility now is "interesting". It should have happenned immediately after the "alleged" interview was circulated. Unless it was intended to stir up things without being legally condemnable... Wow, this is not getting any more pleasant.

Don't know what to say about this cable. Not nice to know about it, but this is exactly what happens when someone insists on going 50 times to the restroom!!! If Topalov had done that, I can imagine the kind of universal condemnation that would have followed. As I have said many times before -- very few people can analyze the game technically and conclude that nothing irregular happenned. What resonates with the masses are the strange arrangements of "restroom breaks" every minute.

When will this nighmare be over? Soon, I hope...


P.S. Still, it need to be repeated like Cato -- this is all popcorn in comparison with the grandiose irregularity of not knowing exactly who will play in Mexico2007!!! The lack of strong governing body creates these abysmal situations: soft contracts, slippery rules, innuendo, accusations, etc. In all cases if there was a strong governing body in the sport, none of these would have been possible.

about playing without electricity -- Kramnik started training himself to play this way:

Can someone tell me why, after every credible source confirmed the number as an exaggeration, that we are we still hearing this nonsense about "50 times to the bathroom?"

A la gerre comme a la gerre?
My guess is, Topanailov knows for sure they can't get re-match (they are late, the schedule is too tight, they make and they still talk the talk instead of bringing the guaranteed money). Therefore, they intend to make the team Kramnik nuts, and to make him looking afraid of playing Topa in public eye. They also picture FIDE as biased and anti-Topalov (or pro-Kramnik).
I still don't understand why they need this. Danailov is not doing this without purpose. How will they capitalize on this dirt?

"Danailov said that the final documentation for the match will be sent this afternoon."

No further info about this. I wonder if there are new "technical formalities" in the way.

Bogdan's comment is a very long-winded way of saying that computers have raised the standard of the game.

Why anyone who purports to be either a lover, fan, or player of chess would complain about the standard of play being raised, is beyond me.

A year or so ago, the New York Times' Dylan Loeb McClain wrote a story with the same theme as Bogdan's comment, except it discussed pros playing against amateurs rather than against fellow pros.

Since it was written well before "The Cat in the Hat", the focus wasn't on cheating, but on the fact that pros today must take greater care than ever not to fall into a prepared opening trap -- since now even 1600 players often use a database to research their opponents' opening repertoire, and then use one or more engines to try and poke holes in it. (I did this myself a couple of times during the past month, against GMs Yudasin and Ivanov. I didn't get especially good positions, though.)

While a few pros quoted in the article complained about the new landscape, the overall message was that computers had helped level the playing field, thereby raising standards for everybody. Fans most of all should welcome this. (Of course, there is a trade-off: The heightened risk of cheating represents a less positive facet of the same development.)

He found a network cable in his office, connected to his computer, and is afraid of Kramnik or KGB spying on him ;-)
He'd bring the papers himself, but he is afraid of crossing the Russian border.
So many unexpected troubles, I am crying :-(

I agree with the "very long-winded" part. But I disagree with your description of computers impact on the game as "raised standards". I think that in practice it is closer to intellectual duplicity. The guy, who is on the losing end, loses to computer not to his opponent’s superior skills. However, the winner may claim that it does not matter; since the understanding of the game was improved.
Anyway, the purpose of my "very long-winded" post was to outline a real possibility that though nobody wants it, the intellectual duplicity and paranoia may take over the game. Again, this would be direct result of the fact that computers play better chess than humans.


If you find yourself being criticized for being long-winded by Jon or myself you KNOW you have serious problems.

Rybka is not at all close to being the strongest comp available. It is very weak actually.

"Holiday Hussle" in a chess forum?
OK, here it is:

Happy Holidays!

Off-topic question to Chess Ninjas:

I'm looking for a dimly remembered quote (and its author) which went approximately like this:

When you first start playing chess you make rapid improvements and are flush with the glow of progress.

Later you understand how little you know. There is an analogy to a landscape where you start out in the plains, then gain higher terrain, only to find out that you have reached but the foothills.

The better players are then likened to mountains; beyond these mountains are still higher peaks, with the tallest summits shrouded in the clouds, and you despair of ever attaining such heights yourself.

Many thanks in advance to anyone who can help me find the original quote!

Oh, and happy holidays to all.

Dear Mr. Topalov,

As an American chess fan, I thank you!

Fischer was my chess hero when I was a kid -until I later learned about his non-chess garbage. And then the Tokyo Airport incident just made things that more embarrassing.

Now, Mr. Topalov, you have taken chess to a new low with your zany stuff. You know something, Bobby Fischer is not alone anymore! (Whew!)

So THANK YOU! Keep up the good work!

HLM, I don't know anything about that chess quote, yet way back in college (circa 1973) I heard an almost identical one about physics.

It was told to me by a high-school classmate who I didn't know well, although we'd been co-editors of the literary magazine. We then went to the same college, and he majored in physics.

I've always remembered what he said; it went something like this:

What is a proton? When a person in elementary school hears about a proton for the first time, he is taught to view it as a little marble with a plus sign on it.

Later, when he studies to be a physicist, he learns to think of a proton as a series of equations that describe its position, mass, charge, relation to other particles in an atomic nucleus, etc.

But if he becomes a really profound physicist, he will always realize that beneath all those equations there is still this "marble" and he doesn't REALLY know what it is.

Protons decay, but chess is forever. ;-)

Even further, the physicist doesn't care WHAT it is, (s)he only cares how it behaves.

A physicist (and a few others) knows that what something is only how it behaves. That which has no effect on a something's behavior can not be detected. :)

I have two comments about the Marshall Chess Club meeting.

1. There is a tendency, among scholars and others, to “juice up” meetings by exaggerating the importance of the issue under consideration. Assuredly, this has occurred here. We have three widely known episodes – Varashavsky, Rosenberg and von Neumann. This is not of the order of magnitude of drug cheating in athletics, cycling, weight lifting. This remains a second order problem.

2. There are several slightly concerning features about the report from the Marshall club meeting. I would pick out three aspects of the meeting report which just quietly suggest that the meeting produced more heat than light. First, Danny Kopec based his remarks on the primary observation that chess is close to being solved, if it has not already. This really does seem to be a wildly overblown exaggeration, and indeed irrelevant to the issue. It has nothing practical to do with the possibility of cheating. Solving chess is not required for effective cheating. The alleged proximity of Rybka, Shredder, Fritz or Hydra to the solution of chess is neither clear nor important. Second, Kopec sends his audience off into the night with an all-round guilt trip, claiming that cheating derives from commercialisation, and we are all (organisers, adult players, children and professionals, and those are his words!) to blame for this, it ruins chess (and it ruins Christmas too presumably). This is the veriest irrelevant nonsense. Finally, it is difficult to miss the quite bizarre aside by Steve Immitt that John von Neumann was “a famous artificial intelligence pioneer”. This is of course narrowly true, but it really does cast some doubts on the credibility of the speaker. It’s a bit like describing Beethoven as a pioneer of cello concertos, or Newton as the father of optics. Check e.g. wikipedia.

Shane - I agree with your comment #2 about Kopec's remarks ... definitely far afield. But as far as your comment #1, improved cheating is an important issue. The famous von neuman episode from years ago involved clumsy technology, employed by a chess novice (or worse). Now we are seeing more sophisticated technology, used by skilled players. The trend has dire consequences for those of us who shell out $350 to play in a tournament like the WO, as well as for the organizers.

A few corrections to Shane Bonetti's comment.

First, the reference to chess being "close to being solved" was made by Steve Immitt, not Danny Kopec.

Second, by quoting Wikipedia as his main source on a technical topic, Dr. Bonetti is placing his own credentials (if any on this subject) in a rather poor light. After perusing what is perhaps a more authoritative Web reference (http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/VonNeumann.html), I fail to see how it is "bizarre" to refer to von Neumann as a famous artificial intelligence pioneer.

My own thumbnail description of Dr. von Neumann, on another part of the "Blockade Chess Cheaters" site, states: "John Von Neumann is the name of a major figure in early computer science, who worked on the Manhattan Project developing the A-bomb. He died in 1957."

Perhaps Dr. Bonetti (who is an academic himself, but in economics) would have some quibbles with that too, that might be of great interest to his fellow academicians, but probably would have zero relevance here. Rather ironic since it was he who criticized another speaker for "irrelevant nonsense."

Third, the few concrete incidents of chess cheating that I chose to include in my report, hardly exhaust the universe of reported incidents where some evidence was found. (A list of mostly unverified Web references can be found on the 2nd page of the "Blockade Chess Cheaters" site, immediately beneath the Town Meeting report, under the heading, "Supplemental Information.")

True, the majority of those reported incidents involved amateur players and/or all-amateur events (such as class sections). Yet all one need do is speak with any GM in the world, to see that cheating is viewed by those closest to / potentially most affected by it, as a very real threat and a very serious concern, even at the highest levels (not to mention the continuing war of words between Topalov and Kramnik and their representatives over this issue).

So it seems that Dr. Bonetti is unaware of a lot of what is going on in the chess world lately.

Fourth, the question of how close chess is to being "solved" has been debated ad nauseam on other Dirt threads. Yes it's unnecessary to "solve" chess in order to cheat. But Dr. Bonetti seems to miss the speaker's point, which was that computers in the process of trying to "solve" chess have progressed to the point where they are clearly stronger than the strongest humans. And it is this that makes cheating with computer help a possibility that organizers must take seriously.

Those last two sentences are exactly what Immitt said, in his remark that I quoted. Dr. Bonetti has chosen an odd, backhanded way of questioning a point that is universally accepted by just about everyone in a position of authority or respect in the chess world.

Perhaps he would like to debate either Topalov or Kramnik about whether a GM who had hidden access to computer move choices would have an unfair advantage over another GM. We know through Mig that Kasparov has already spoken on this question and answered firmly in the affirmative; but I'm assuming Kasprov's opinion would carry little weight with the all-knowing Dr. Bonetti.

Finally, as regards Kopec's remarks, which focused on the decline of chess morals as a background issue that has eased the way for cheaters, a number of people have complained in emails and face-to-face that such ideas weren't relevant to the discussion of cheating and how to combat it.

Perhaps. But I think there often are benefits when analyzing any issue, to being open to look at the "big picture", the gestalt and human context that envelops the particular issue under examination -- as opposed to always staying focused on the straight and narrow. Surely an academic economist should be able to comprehend that.

Chess cheating story hits the world of cranky geeks:


To the list of modern day chess computer cheats might be added Mr Sharma of India, just banned for ten years after being discovered with a Bluetooth receiver (whatever that is) sewn into his cloth cap.

How typical this all is of lawyer types, and what is all this but an attempt again to introduce law and lawyers, bush lawyers and their inanity and distraction, into chess administration

What we have here is almost all snide vapid rhetorical arguments from authority (Gary says, Topy says, everyone says, argue that with Kramnik), which is exactly the the style of argument of lawyers and theologians. It is as unconvincing. It is intellectually vacuous.

Recall how deeply irrelevant to the outcome of the Topalov - Kramnik stuff was all the bleating of lawyers and pseudo-lawyers.So it is here too.

I think finally that it is at least arguable that those organising, reporting, attending and publicising these few (now four with another cat in a hat sharma) episodes do more to bring chess into disrepute than do the cheats themselves. This is an intensely practical argument, not one which relies on some GM having said so.

To repeat, this cheating issue is of second-order importance, and the self-important thundering insistent overblown exaggeration one encounters here, from Jacobs and his ilk (and anywhere else we have bush lawyers taking on delicate administrative issues) creates little light and bad publicity.

Sometimes, at least arguably, it is best just to shut up.

Physician, heal thyself.

"To the list of modern day chess computer cheats might be added Mr Sharma of India, just banned for ten years after being discovered with a Bluetooth receiver (whatever that is) sewn into his cloth cap."
-Posted by: rdh at December 28, 2006 06:07

Bluetooth is a standard for short range (short distances, typically indoors) wireless communications. There are many devices out there which use this format - e.g. modern household appliances, handheld PCs, wireless GPS units, etc. There could, for example, be a cohort somewhere in the playing hall running pocket Fritz and relaying the moves using bluetooth to a player with a concealed receiver.

Well said Jon Jacobs.

It seems to me a lot of the statements made at the townhall meeting were along the following lines:
1) Computer cheating either is or has the threat to be a serious problem.
2) There are legal or practical implications to proactively prevent cheating.
3) The approach to this problem is likely improving detection of cheaters and not trying to out-right prevent people from cheating.

I tend to agree with this sentiment (although definitely not all the comments made by all the speakers). I've always thought that the easiest way to detect a class player cheating is to have him explain how he came to the decisions for his moves to a strong titled player. This is really the primary reason strong players just don't blindly look at computer evaluations to study chess. Computers can't tell you why they made moves and people, even those such as Nakamura who study primarily with computers, do not come to judgements of a position the same way computers do.

An example of what I'm talking about. Let's say you were to use a computer to defend a K+Q+P vs K+Q endgame. The computer will always give you a move that draws, but it may not give you the best human defense. Since the computer is using a tablebase it doesn't not differentiate between a move that maintains the draw and a move that immediately forces stalemate for example because both these moves are dead drawn to the computer. A human however much prefers the stalemate as it ends the game immediately with no more chances to blunder.

Josh's comments about computers and their limits as educators of humans are well worth repeating.

Amazing as it might seem, a handful of trolls (who admitted not knowing much about chess themselves) actually flamed me and Mig here several months ago for making similar comments -- ideas that are pretty much self-evident to anyone above, oh, 2000 or so.

As for Josh's suggestion to require class players suspected of cheating to explain their decisions immediately after the game, that's an interesting idea, but probably even less practical than most of the other anti-cheating measures being batted around.

Clint Ballard, the Seattle organizer and anti-draw activist (inventor of BAP scoring), made the same suggestion last week in an email to me. He wrote: "One idea for a deterrent is to require big money prize winners give a lecture on their critical game(s). Any real chessplayer wouldn't mind demonstrating how they crushed their opponent and a cheater who knows they have to go in front of a crowd and explain their moves, might think twice about cheating."

My response was that I can't see either organizers or players getting too enthused about subjecting winners to a (mandatory) exam or lecture requirement. While I like the idea of giving people, especially class players, an audience to talk about their best or most important games, as with everything else in chess, the problem is money (a person's time = money).

Ultimately anything that encourages or focuses on quality of chess play, as opposed to rewarding only end results, is good. But having second or third parties analyze the quality of even one game is highly time-consuming, hence expensive.

That's why in my own presentation I mentioned the alternative of subjecting suspect games (or all tournament-deciding games) to engine-based analysis with little human intervention. But that tool is not without problems, either, and it attracted little enthusiasm at the meeting.

I'm not sure how formal or how long such an analysis would have to be. It might be simple enough to have a 15-20 minute post-mortem with their opponent with some kind of official present. Already there are some proceedures that I think were in place at the recent North American Open for what would be done with suspected cheaters and I think the false-positive rate on this test will be quite low.

The engine-based analysis running in like real-time might be useful, but the problem is that there are so many factors that go into what we call a "computer first move" such as time the engine was thinking about the position, which engine was being used, how powerful the computer being used was. The again if a computer is only used for 1 or 2 moves which I think you've expressed significant concernt for before then it would be almost entirely undetectable in this manner.

As for Clint Ballard claiming that anybody would like to show all of their games, I'm not so sure this would be appealing to players whose egos weren't quite as large as Mr. Ballard himself. I mean most of the time if I ask my friend after a game why he made move X instead of move Y he either a) analyzed move X and decided it was good enough of a move to make b) found a flaw in move Y or c) missed a point within a sub-variation of move Y.

I'm really not sure how impractical this would be to implement, it requires 1 strong player and the player in question mostly, more often than not major events already have a GM waiting around to have weak players analyze their games with, this would simply involve maybe once or twice in a tournament when cheating is suspected for a player to have to show the game in question.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 22, 2006 11:29 AM.

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