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Programs, CC and Losses. Part 2.

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You must assume that it is possible to do everything well and even so,  get a bad result”.  “Law & Order : Criminal Intent.”


Leafing through old Chess mags I found a very interesting article written by the late ex-Soviet GM E. Gufeld. He made the following reflection:

“The discussion about whether one can win a game  if one’s opponent makes no mistakes is as old as the mountains. Many chessplayers in my generation (including myself) have grown up under the influence of the attractive traditions of the SOviet Chess School, and have learnt a great truth: the resolution of the fight comes determined, before any other thing, by a better strategy” (Bold letters  mine.- Questchess).

(This is the linking point of the previous and the present posts in which we are talking about playing CC with the aid of powerful programs and the possibility of continuing playing CC in spite of it)

Gufeld included one of his games (see previous post) in which he finds it difficult to pinpoint a clear mistake on the loser’s part. He also quotes Botvinnik saying:

“There are times when it is possible to find oneself in a lost position without making any mistake”.

So,in my opinion , it implies it would be possible to win against any apparently infallible chess program by trying to beat in in the field of strategy: both sides play their opening moves, choose the best plans according to the position and if there is no tactical melées, in a pure strategical struggle, one of them comes on top.  (You may say this is very nearly impossible to do. O.K. But as chessplayers we are obliged to look for solutions and try to make them happen. This is today’s challenge, isn’t it???).

Curiously enough in the same magazine there was another game in which the annotator (GM Seirawan) was unable to find a clear explanation of what happened except that of “a superior strategy”. In that game a mistake at last occurred and decided the game, but what I am interested is in the previous 29th moves.:

W.: V. Korchnoi (1)

B.: A. Shirov (0)

Buenos Aires, 1993.

1. c4  Nf6  2. Nc3  g6  3. e4  d6  4. d4  Bg7  5. Be2  0-0  6. Nf3  e5  7. 0-0  Nc6  8. d5  Ne7  9. Ne1  Ne8  10. Be3  f5  11. f3  f4  12. Bf2  h5  13. c5  g5  14. a4  Ng6  15. a5  Bh6  16. Nb5  a6  17. Na3  Kh8  18. Nc4  Rg8  19. Ra3  Nf6  20. cd6  cd6  21. Nb6  Rb8  22. Rc3  g4  23. fg4  Ne4  24. Rc8  Rc8  25. Nc8  Qc8  26. Bb6  Ne7  27. gh5  Nf6 (Here Seirawan says that Black has an advantage without White having made a clear mistake:both sides have developed their plans and Black has emerged on top). -After a long reflection Korchnoi played :

28. b3  (and the game continued): … Ned5  29. Bc4  Qc6  30. Rf2! – here Shirov falters with 30…., Rc8?  because he thought that after 30…, Rf8! White would get the advantage…-

31. Bd5  Nd5  32. Rc2 Nc3  33. Qg4! Bf8  34. Nd3  Qe8  35. Nb4  d5  36.  Nd5  Bc5  37. Bc5  Rc5  38. h6  Qf8  39. Rc3  Black resigned.

A conclusion seems clear: if you want to beat the computer try to do it in the field of strategy, trying to reach positions (from the adequate opening) where the program evaluations are absolutely similar. A program can “see” every tactical/combinative nuance, but not strategical shades  when the position offers several equivalent possibilities. In the end it has to propose  move, and nobody can explain why it chooses a),b),c) or d) when the evaluation is similar or the same. If you submit one of these levelled positions to the computer, you can see two effects: 1) It chooses always the same move or 2) It chooses one move at one time, and other of the moves at other time.

There are positions where “the only very best move” does not exist. This is the field we will have to choose as our battleground.



Written by QChess

July 26, 2012 at 7:28 am

Programs, Correspodence Chess (CC) and Losses: Part 1.

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(I have no absolute truths, no cure-all solutions.)

In the field of Correspondence Chess (CC) many people have stated that the intrusion of strong Chess programs may kill (or has already killed) this way of playing the game. I don’t think so. I think it would be better to think that the use of these programs + powerful databases have changed the way of playing CC, but have also taught us a new way of thinking, helping us to develop some qualities like the following ones:

– New attitude in the field of strategy and the assessment of the positions.

– Unstoppable growing of the importance of tactics.

– New ways to deal with the openings.

– Development of a new form of “intuition”

– Development of the tactical insight perhaps more in the field of preventive thinking.

The importance of the study of concepts like “control”, “planning” and “strategical control”.

In CC you may use a program in two ways:  a)  In a defensive way and b) In an aggressive one. When it is your turn to play, you may submit the position to the computer and follow its recommendation blindly. This is B). Or you can analyse the position, choose your move and submit it to the computer to find if there is any tactical mistake you may have overlooked.  This is a).

But in the end you will have to take decisions and assume risks, because in many positions the program assigns very similar evaluations to different continuations. On the other hand, before reaching the middlegame, you will have to play the opening, and here evaluations are even more complicated to assess.: in the end you will have to decide again!.

It is in this process where games are won and lost. It is in this process where CC players must work upon to defeat his/her opponents.

Apart from this, one of the marked differences between CC and OTB Chess is that in CC the player has many problems (to put it mildly) to make speculative sacrifices and cash in on them. Why?.- Because speculative or too risky sacrifices play with two main aspects: 1)the complexity of the ensuing positions and 2) the clock!.  The clock is the element CC lacks of. In many OTB games we have seen wonderful sacrifices. The inherent complications and the time pressure factor are telling elements. In cases like this one OTB players may feel the time factor as something “tangible”, knocking wildly on your nerves.  In CC, with the possibility of calm home analysis, time enough to devote to the position and, yes, “GMs Fritz or Rybka or Deep…”, you cannot play that way. In CC if you sacrifice it must be for something very concrete in exchange.

A question: Do you think a program may be of some use to GMs well over 2800 ELO points????. You may say programs have destroyed Chess in certain ELO limits, but I still think the human mind can find ways to fight against it. And the more I think about it the more I see that strategy must be the subject of a deep reassessment. New strategical creative ideas + control + preventive thinking + good handling of those “open” strategies mentioned by Nimzowitsch, can defeat any program. Trying to beat the monsters with tactics, is to no avail.

But the mentioned ideas have to be studied, reassessed and thought about.

I would like my fellow-CC colleagues to stop complaining and devote time to look for genuine imaginative solutions!

(To be continued).

(The following game is linked to the second part of this post)

W.: E. Gufeld

B.: V. Bagirov

Tallinn , 1981

1.e4  c6  2. d4  d5  3. Nd2  de4  4. Nd4  Nd7  5. Bc4  Ngf6  6. Ng5  e6  7. Qe2  Nb6  8. Bd3!  h6  9. N5f3  c5  10. dc5  Bc5  11. Ne5  Nbd7  12. Ngf3  Qc7  13. 0-0  Bd6  (Black chooses a bad plan?- Gufeld’s impression-) 14. Nc4  Be7  15. Nd4!  Nc5  16. Nb5  Qb8  17. Rd1!  Bd7  18. a4! (By the way: the -!- marks are  by Gufeld in his notes to the game.) 18…, a6  19. Nd4  Qc7  20. Ne5  Nd3  21. Rd3  Rd8  22. Bf4  Qc5  23. Rad1  Nd5  24. Qh5!  g6  25. Qf3! Rh7  26. Bg3  Bc8  27. c3!  a5  28. Nb5  g5  29. c4  Nf4  30. Rd8  Bd8  31. Bf4  gf4  32. Qd3!  Bb6  33. Nd6  and Black resigned.

To anticipate my next post let me say Gufeld believe that in this game Black loses without making a mistake except that inherent to choosing a plan and following it.

P.S. Several writing mistakes have been detected and corrected. Sometimes the brain works faster than the fingers on the keyboard!. Be indulgent: sorry.)


Written by QChess

July 19, 2012 at 6:55 am

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