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The Non-Human Factor (Part 3 )

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Q.7.- I have always thought that chess-playing engines do cheat. One may accept it or not, but they not only cheat, I suppose that to be able to play Chess, they have to cheat: when you play against one of them (OTB games) , you cannot use written notes, books, magazines etc. But they do use the opening book they have. This prevents them from forgetting opening lines, changing the order of moves, etc. And the same is valid for the analysis they carry out later in the game. As a human, you may end up mixing lines, playing wrong moves in advance, overlooking some move when having to play. They will never make such mistakes. Engines do not overlook  moves once they have decided on a certain line of play. And they do not change moves by mistake. So, if you want to beat them ,you will have to be more cunning than them ,but do not put your hopes in human-like type of mistakes. Then the question is still there: Can they be beaten? How?. Well, I do not have a straightforward answer. I do not think there is such an answer.  I suppose you should survive in the opening by achieving a balanced position, play positionally active during the middlegame without entering no-way-out alleys, choose the right balance of forces, assess the matter of the Bishop pair or the B vs. N as accurately as possible and try to keep the middlegame as closed as possible BUT as full of possibilities as possible. Today’s programs can play positional Chess with a high degree of proficiency. A different matter is when the game reaches positions with less and less tactics and more and more strategy. If the engine plays to win, it may give you some fresh targets to shoot at. If not, at least you will have the draw at hand… Playing against them as if they were humans, will not pay off. Forget about passive opening set-ups even if they lead to closed or semi-closed positions. With the initiative, you will be smashed. Forget about open positions or tactical melées with interchange of blows by taking pieces on each turn while it also takes yours: if it goes into such lines, it is because it has seen all the possible intermediate moves. The normal outcome would be ending up with one or several pieces down…So, the best policy for you would be to keep the piece balance as tight as possible . On the other hand, one may think that keeping it simple will be useful. Forget about it too. The main problem is to understand how they are able to “see”” all the drawbacks every move contains. And this is not easy to explain.

Well, you may be wonder why writing about this topic since everybody knows they are (nearly) unbeatable. Perhaps because the whole thing is our last frontier today and perhaps because it can help us understand the way we think too. 

Be that as it may, it has not deterred me from keeping on playing Chess. So, do not think about engines, plies and other time consuming , mind-boggling  concepts and … play the Eternal Game. The rest may only be an odd mental state. 

(Note: This is a personal view susceptible of change as time passes by. Please remember that in Chess the best opinion is your opinion, the best ideas are your ideas and that everything is relative. )

pridaux 1

Prideaux.  Mate in 3 moves

reinmann

Reinmann. Mate in 3 moves.

QChess.

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Written by QChess

January 5, 2016 at 8:22 am

The Non-Human Factor. (Part 1)

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“Nor even top professionals play serious games against today’s Chess programs: they are too strong”.  I have read this  statement a lot of times. Well, once established the main idea, I was on a train some days ago, a bit lost in my own thoughts and yes, daydreaming, when I began to think about it. Because one thing is to say something, accept it without hesitation because it was said by someone “important” and a different think is to put the idea before us an try to explain it clearly. So, in my opinion, the main questions could be: 

1.Why are today´s programs so strong /much stronger than top chessplayers?.

2.-In which ways “they” play different to us? Conversely: in which way do we play different to “them”?

3.-What do “they” see we do not see?

4.-In what way do “they” see/assess the elements of a game that we are unable to match them?

5.-In what way do “they” apply the elements of Chess that we fail to match their prowess?

6.- Can we really make any attempt at beating them?

7.- And the Big One:  Do “they” cheat??

I have devoted a lot of time to think about all this. I suppose the main fields to investigate are the openings and the middlegames (and apply the above-mentioned questions to them. Why?.- Because if you survive to reach an endgame ,the game will be lost/won/or drawn, and everything will depend on accurate calculation of variations (if it is drawn or won. If it is lost for you, there will be no problem: you will be scientifically killed and dissected by the monster…)

Possible answers that may change as time passes by…:

Q.1/ Q.2 – They play much stronger due to a variety of factors: they never forget the openings and play them without mistakes. They are extremely strong at tactical calculation. They never speculate or feel fear. They have no interest in their opponents’ ideas, emotions, body language, noise, etc. They are not pressed by rating points, timetables, previous results, statistics, final standings, money they can earn or lose, they are never tired or bored, they are never hungry or sleepy, they never have “a bad day” and have no prejudices, there are no ugly moves/positions for them. They are only there TO PLAY CHESS AND ONLY CHESS. During the past few years,apart from refining the tactical side of the program as far as calculation of movements is concerned, programmers have learnt to include strategical ideas in their way of choosing a move, making them even more deadly: for instance the always complex matters of B vs. N , the change B for N, the different value of B’s and N’s according to the position -and more if the position is tactical, etc. 

(To be continued)

Bruski

Mate in 3 moves. Bruski 1906

Ernst

Mate in 3 moves. G. Ernst. 

Happy New Year 2016 to all my readers. 2015 has been very bad for me but let me tell you I wish all your dreams come true this next year. Thank you very much for being there.

QChess.

Written by QChess

December 30, 2015 at 7:19 am

Wonderful Knights, Odd Squares.

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“…for thre is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  Shakespeare: “Hamlet

You are at home studying wonderful Chess games. You see how well-played they seem to have been played : an exquisite and smoot blend of strategy and tactics. You say to yourself you are going to do the same. (End of dream)

Then you go to play your own games and everything seems “rough”, full of ups and downs, with oversights on both parts if not gross mistakes. Back at home you tend to think you have been tricked by those GMs: the theory they played differs from the theory you wanted to imitate at one junction and you lost the thread of the game, and…and…and… etc.

Well, one of the many problems in Chess occurs when you have left the book and instead of a lovely attacking position with clear objectives and so on you face one of those level positions with several options but no clear plans, no threats, no weaknesses to attack, and so on. You have to play one move and after going to and fro considering one move after another without any clear idea, then you move a piece. But after seven or eight moves you realise you have committed your position to a degree that even a draw would be a miracle. 

For those positions, top GMs have developed a sort of sixth sense which allows them to intuitively “see” many hidden things: they “see” ,or rather can feel ,that which piece belongs to which square and how to re-route their pieces to keep their positions consolidated and harmonious. (Take for instance a player like Petrosian ). They feel that even apparently “ugly” moves like Nf3-h2 or e1 , Ng3-h1, etc may be the best option not because “something-has-to-be-played” , but because that is the right way to anticipate a hidden threat or re-route the piece via that odd square. (Backwards Knight moves, specially to the h1/h8 or a1/a8 squares are difficult to evaluate for the average player because of the way most of the people have been taught the rudiments of strategy in their beginnings)

But GMs have learnt (after all they are full-fledged professionals and they excel at what they do) that there is no such a thing like “pretty” or “ugly” squares/moves, but good and bad moves, good and bad plans , good and bad strategical/tactical decisions. Even Nimzowitsch was accused of playing “bizarre” moves, moves nobody understood, nobody would play because they went against the accepted truths or were labelled as “ugly”. Nevertheless, he made history, while many of his detractors, those defending “normal ideas”, those unable to accept that Chess was not a dead thing but a living, evolving one, passed unnoticed. 

So, the next time you sit at the board do not use those dangerous concepts of “prettiness/ugliness” when pondering about the movement of the pieces and the squares involved. (Or do it and then try to explain to yourself why h1/h8 is “not definitively  a square for your Knight to use…)

The following position is from Nimzowitsch-Tartakower, Carlsbad 1929:

Nimz-Tart

Nimzowitsch played here…yes: 17. Nh1! and went on to win the game:

17…, f6  18. Qh2, h6 19.Ng3, Kh7 20. Be2 Rg8  21. Kf2 Rh8 22. Rh4 Qe8 23.Rg1, Bf8 24. Kg2, Nb7 25. Nh5, Qg6 26. f4, Nd8  27. Bf3, Nf7 28. Ne2,Be7 29. Kh1,Kg8 30. N2g3, Kf8 31. Nf5, Rg8 32. Qd2! Rc1 33. Rh2, Ke8  34.b3, Kd8  35. a3, Ra8 36. Qc1 Bf8? 37. Nh4,!, Qh7 38. Nxf6, Qh8 39. Nxg8, Qxg8 40. g5, exf4,  41.gxh6,Qh7  42. Qxf4, Bxh6  43. Qf6, Kc8 44. Nf5, Bxf5  45. exf5Kb7 46. Qg6, Rh8 47. Qxh7, Rxh7 48. Rg6, Kc8  49. f6, Rh8  50.Bg4, Kd8 51. Be6, Ke8  52. Bxf7, Kxf7 53. Rhxh6, 1-0

The next position is from Schlechter-Nimzowitsch, Carlsbad 1907:

Schl-Nimz

Here, Nimzowitsch played... 17…Nha8!/ and went on to win the game.

And the last one is from Nimzowitsch-Rubinstein, Dresden, 1926:

Nim-Rub

The game continued: 18. Nh1! (en route to g5 forever) ,… Bd7/ 19. Nf2, Rae8 / 20. Rfe1, Rxe2/ 21. Rxe2, Nd8/ 22. Nh3, Bc6 / 23. Qh5, g6/ 24. Qh4, Kg7/ 25. Qf2, Bc5/ 26. b4, Bb6/ 27.Qh4, Re8/ 28. Re5!, Nf7/ 29. Bxf7, Qxf7/ 30. Ng5, Qg8/ 31. Rxe8, Bxe8/ 32. Qe1, Qe7/ 33. Qe7, Kh8/ 34. b5, Qg7/ 35. Qxg7 ,Kxg7/ 36. bxc6,  1-0

QChess.

Written by QChess

March 28, 2014 at 7:45 am

CC Crisis

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(This is an open post. There are no definite ideas, only hints and doubts)

From time to time some doubts assault me and I fall into deep periods of Chess crisis:

Phase 1: No matter what you do: you start losing CC games.

 Phase 2: You need to rethink your approach to Chess and this means a change in your opening repertoire because for some reason, you have decided to torture yourself with CC.

Today’s CC has become a sort of “Star Wars”, with people glued to their computers + databases , aloof from the rest of the world, trying to destroy their unseen and unknown enemies using supertechnological devices. There is no strategy, no blunders due to wrong analysis, no human factors. Many games are decided by choosing one or another option in the opening. Once you or your opponent get an advantage, it is very difficult to lose the game due to a blunder. And it is very difficult to turn an inferior position into an advantageous one too… 

What can be recommended for OTB Chess is not valid for CC. That’s all.

Then, what can be done , apart from nothing?. Sometimes I tend to thing that it would be better to forget everything about dynamic strategy and so on: that is for OTB, not for CC. Then?. Well one of my last ideas is to revert to the classics, concretely to players like Nimzowitsch and -why not?- Petrosian. But can it be done when we try to follow all the moves databases suggest so creating games of the type we all know today?. Or should we play bizarre openings/defences ? (If you do so, don’t use a program to check the positions…) The answer is that what we perhaps should do is not to play bizarre openings but some of the strategies suggested by Nimzowitsch: centralization, restraint and , above all, blockade. As how we can do it , well, the idea is still in its beginnings… I have been reassessing some games by Nimzowitsch and one of the ideas is that he was a superb strategist who based everything in a deep tactical insight. If you study the chapter devoted to blockade in his “Chess Praxis” you will see how he was able to carry out his strategical/positional  ideas using tactical threats.

The question now is clear: could today’s super-programs be defeated by closely adhering to some of the ideas expressed by Nimzowitsch and only with this ideas?.-For in the rather tactical positions stemming from today’s openings, it is clear a computer will have the upper hand… And as for CC : could it be possible to use this or a similar method to defeat an opponent armed with “Deep ~” and a strong ,updated database?  (If you think all this is not important, please could you tell me why if all CC players use the same devices there are still wins and losses???)

(One of the main problems in Chess is not to find the first move and the sequence in combinative positions but to find the best move in strategical or quiet ones with no imminent tactical threats. Have you ever trained this particular point?. Remember that before reaching a combinational moment -and in most cases it will occur after a blunder on your opponent’s part -many intermediate “quiet” positions have to be solved ,since in Chess you have to make moves…)

Nimzo

This position is from Nimzowitsch-Möller, Copenhagen 1923. How would you continue?

QChess.

(Solution: 34. Rxe5!, Bc3 35. Rb2-b5, Bxe5 36. Rxe5, a4 37. Kf3,Bc2 38. e4, Bb3 39. Rb5 , Ke7 40. Rb7, Kd8 41. Rb8, Ke7 42. Kf4, Rxd7 43. Rb7!, Be6 44. cxd7, Bxd7 45. Ke5, Ke8 46. Kd6, Bxg4 47. Rxg7, h5 48. e5, a3 49. e6, Black resigns.)

Written by QChess

January 10, 2014 at 8:11 am

Horwitz and Kling.

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When I go on holidays I like visiting bookshops and having a look at the Chessbook section. Yes, today you can get anything anywhere, and more through the web, but … This September I found a book the second edition of which appeared in 1889 published in London by G. Bell and Sons. The title is CHESS STUDIES AND END-GAMES and contains the studies and endgames composed by Josef Kling (1811-1876) and Bernhard Horwitz (1808-1885) . The original first edition was published by the authors in 1851 and the 1889 edition was a revised and corrected one by Revd. William Wayte. The book has two parts, one of them devoted to “Chess Studies” and the other being a “Miscellany of Endgames”.

Many people think these type of books are useless: a lot of diagrams featuring composed positions to solve and nothing more. A quick glance at one or two of the positions , a possible (and most likely wrong) solution by seeing the apparent (and probably wrong) first move  and a boring sneer. (It’s much better a book full of opening variations outdated since the very moment it goes to press, isn’t it???). Wrong approach.

I must confess there was a time I had that stupid attitude… Later, I realised how valuable solving studies,problems and endgame compositions  to train one’s tactical skills is … I think it was Botvinnik who pointed out that there was no strategy in studies. As in most of the topics he wrote about he was right. You cannot solve a study or a problem by using strategical ideas or looking for deep strategical plans. These things have to do with pure calculation. Alexander Kotov , the man whose books taught how Chess is played to several generations of players, said that any work on this field was beneficial and useful to the player. 

I have opened the book at random and found the following position:

endgame pos

Would you like to spend some time trying to solve it? White to move wins. This does not have  a long solution. Apart from problems featuring mate in three, four moves I think it is not necessary (unless you were a genuine Chess study fan) to torture yourself trying to solve positions with solutions which may have nine, ten and even more moves (curiously enough, I have seen columnists which offer their readers combinative positions from actual games and the solution has seventeen, twenty and in some case over 25 moves (!!). These are, clearly,  cases of sheer incompetence: you cannot pretend people to guess 20 moves in GMs’ games offering the position as a case of “combination”… )

But this book provoked a curious feeling on me: These two authors lived in the 19th century. Obviously they had their own lives, fears, pains, happiness, hobbies ,etc. though they  devoted their lives to Chess. Over a century has passed and we know of them because of their work in Chess… What do we really know about those who preceded us in say, the last years of the 19th century and the first two or three decades of the 20th century?. All of them are now dead (I am speaking of those who lived in those years not of those who were born then). We read about their Chess lives, study their games and perhaps try to know what the places where they played were like in those years… But the man himself?. Of course the private lives of some of them are relatively well-known . Other ones’ are not so .

Solution to the study:

1. e5, Kd5 /2. Kf2, Ke4 /3. Kg3, Kf5/ 4. Kf3, Kg6/ 5. Bxe7 winning.

QChess.

Written by QChess

September 23, 2013 at 2:35 pm

…And Problems.

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problem

Shinkman 1872

(Mate in 4 moves: Solution to this problem proposed two posts ago.)

I have said on several occasions that one of my way of training is solving what I considered the most interesting Chess compositions, those of mate in three moves. As you know, there are compositions featuring mate in 2 ,in 3, in 4, in 5, etc moves. Those labelled “mate in 2” are boring to me . And as far as I can remember I  had never tried to work with mate in 4 problems. I found  the above in the excellent book  “Chess Tactics for Advanced Players”, by Averbakh, one of those books from the Soviet period that one of my friends in the former East Germany sent to me as  a present many years ago. It is a real gem. Well, in one of the exercise sections the position appears. At first I was reluctant to work on it. A quick glance .But I could not take the position out of my mind.I love problems with few pieces, so I set up the board and after 45 minutes was able to solve it. 

The point is that I learned how these problems should be approached. Instead of struggling to find strong first moves, firstly I tried to understand how many moves Black had. Then, if one of those moves should be prevented so provoking the other.Then, why the White pieces were on the squares they were. In short: I dealt with it as if it were a mate in 3 moves…

At last, an idea came to my mind: instead of trying to find the strongest first move (and if the key were the second move? ), I began to think about the possible “end-positions” and then the solution appeared clearly when I saw d4 as the mating square and the only device was a pin in one of the variations and a curious self interception in the other. So, my friends, sometimes abstract thinking in images is better than void calculation of aimless variations. (Incidentally the difference between inductive and deductive thinking?) 

The solution provides a deep aesthetic pleasure:

1. Rb1,d3 /2. Ba1, e5 / 3. Rb2, Kd4/ 4. Rb4 mate . (If 1. …, e5/ 2. Bd8, d3/ 3. Bb6 Kd4/ 4 Rb4 mate )

As Kotov used to say, every effort you make analysing positions, endgames, problems… is valid to keep on progressing in Chess. At the chessboard you must be imaginative, inventive, avoid playing by inertia after calculating only 2-move variations, etc. Of course in many positions the art of accurately calculating 2-move variations is fundamental (even Botvinnik wrote about this topic). But in the rest of cases something more deep, something more concrete and accurate is required. The time spent in training your tactical vision can never be lost. To some people , solving these problems may seem boring… Well, you are the chessplayer. Accept it and devise your own training programme. Chess has to do with openings, strategy,tactics,planning and endgames. Do it as you wish. The greatness of Chess is that … you cannot blame any other people of your results !. Spassky mentioned “PERSEVERANCE” as  his main asset. So, at least, the rest of us, poor mortals, should avoid “indolence”. Shouldn’t we?.

QChess.

Written by QChess

August 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Doubts…

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Once you start studying and playing Chess in a competitive way no matter if it is OTB or CC , you are trapped. You build a sort of parallel world inside your head and no matter what other things you have to do in your life: your head will be always thinking about positions, opponents, present/ future games and openings. If you, like me, devote yourself to CC and have a lot of official correspondence games running at the same time then the whole thing may be worse: CC games take months to be played. In a single week you may win,lose or draw several of the games . Then no results for weeks or months, only moves coming  and going through the ICCF webserver, ost of them in utter silence. Only your head gets full of activity without anybody noticing it.-Why do we play Chess?-

mate in 4

Perhaps you would like to try to solve this problem . It is a mate in 4.

Professional chessplayers play for money. O.K. And the rest of us (millions throughout the world?) . Perhaps we all know why we play Chess …until we have to try to explain it… Maybe most people do not care about this matter. They play Chess and that`s all. But what is clear is what we want when we play Chess: all of us want to WIN. It is a sort of self-imposed challenge. Nobody plays Chess to become a better person, get more knowledge about the universe, etc. And we don’t play Chess “to learn” (or the worst version of this: when you lose and you think/somebody tells you: “you only learn from your defeats”. I have read/heard this scores of times . And I beg your pardon, but to me it is the most stupid explanation ever invented to justify defeats. – No, if this were true, simply lose all your games but be the wisest man on earth… We do not play Chess to learn. We play Chess, paraphrasing Mallory when he was asked why he/people wanted to climb Mount Everest and replied “Because it is there”.Then we play Chess because it is there. And we play Chess, study Chess etc. to WIN.

Every chessplayer must design his/her Chess career. S/he must choose the way they want to study, train and play. The books they want to read, the games they want to study , if they are going to play OTB or CC and act accordingly. 

With a blog like this my only aim is to try to act as a mind/brain trigger making the reader constantly change his/her position to get fresh new perspectives/ideas. This is why I include games and problems. I cannot teach anybody to play Chess.Simply I don’t know why. And to me, the sum of its part is greater than the whole itself. Like most of you, I’m also trapped.

Kling

Above: White to move. J. Kling

If the moment arrives and after due calculation, would you give your Queen for two Rooks?. Well, I know it will depend on the position and a clear calculation. Bobby Fischer left us several examples of the fight R+R vs. Q. In my CC games I have had to decide in some moments too. Well, unless the position with the Q were clearly advantageous, I would choose the two Rooks (the last game I have lost was one in which I gave my Rooks for his Queen simply to realize that was the losing decision. Why did I do it?????? .-Because I made a mistake…. And this mistake is doubly painful BECAUSE I KNEW THAT THE REST OF THINGS BEING EQUAL, TWO PIECES ALWAYS WIN AGAINST ONE PIECE. Shame on me… I deserved it.

(The solution to the Kling problem may be too easy or too difficult. The key first move is 1.Ra4  and the mate threats combined with  a double attack win the Black Queen…)

QChess.

Written by QChess

August 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm

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