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Thursday, March 3, 2011

New World CC Champion

Pertti Lehikoinen of Finland is the 20th (2004) World Correspondence Champion. Yes, that’s 2004, so if my math is correct it has taken 7 years to complete this event. He finished his last game in 2008, but there was one game remaining before the final standings could be determined. The game he was waiting to finish was a 110 move draw…that’s how long it takes the big boys to play! Play started on October 24, 2004 and was played using post cards. Lehikoinen wrote a short summary of his career HERE.
Tie-breaking decided the final standings:
1) Pertti Lehikoinen (Fin) 9 (SB 58,75)
2) Stefan Winge (SWE) 9 (SB 58,25)
3) Miloš Kratochvíl (CZE) 8,5
4) Horst Broß (GER) 8,5

Of course these guys use engines to enhance their play and I can testify from my tournaments at Lechenicher SchachServer that even when you are using an engine things are not as easy as they sound.
      I’ll do a post on it when the game is finished, but I have one interesting game where it was made clear that in order to be successful in these kinds of events you have to 1) have good positional judgment and 2) let your engines (plural) run for days then 3) check its evaluations to make sure you aren’t getting a “false reading.”
      In this particular game I am Black and we were following a Capablanca game in which he scored a quick win. I couldn’t figure out why my opponent entered the line until I got his move where he “improved” on the play of Capa’s opponent. At least that was the initial evaluation of both Houdini and Fritz 12. That left me wondering just how good was Capa’s judgment? Had he missed something? After a lot of analysis with Houdini I came to the conclusion that no, Capa was correct.
      Analysis was no easy task because the engine would often flip flop on its evaluations. Also I noticed that sometimes its evaluation would drastically change after the move was made on the board.
      What this all amounts to is that what happens, as I’ve long suspected, is most engine users only let their engines “think” for a minute or two, or perhaps less, before playing its selected move. Many, many times that initial evaluation is wrong. That’s why to be really good at CC these days where engine use is pretty much a given at the master level, you simply must run more than one engine, let them run for a long time, don’t trust those long outputs but check them move by move and, finally, you must be able to accurately judge the true value of the engine’s analysis.
      All that explains why these GM CC tournaments take years to complete and why people who rely solely on an engine do poorly at the master level. These CC players, while they may not have high OTB ratings still understand a thing or two about chess.  Are they equal to top level OTB GM's in their understanding?  No, of course not, but they do understand chess pretty well.  It also proves that when you run into a typical engine user in CC play who is only letting his engine run a few seconds, or at most, a minute or so before playing its recommended move can be defeated…if you’re good enough.

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