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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
In his discussion on game database statistics, he advises caution because 1-the number of games may be too small to have any statistical meaning 2-the stats don’t take into accounts later improvements 3-they don’t take into account the playing styles of the players. For example, playing Black against the King’s Gambit Accepted I would find stats meaningless because I never accept the gambit and try to avoid tactical melees. 4-the strength of the players is often omitted and 5-you must take into account the number of draws. A 50% score in a line where White wins half of the games and loses half is not the same thing as a line where all of the games were drawn! As he points out in a must win situation, the first scenario would be the way to go but if one is playing in a section to earn a master norm, the second scenario with a lot of draws may be the best course.
For stats to be meaningful he recommends having several hundreds of games available. Also, it is important to select openings that fit one’s preferred style of play. It’s also important to do your research to make sure that no recent developments have refuted your selected line of play. White may have won 75% of the games in the db but a latrer improvement may have completely reversed the situation. He advises that if there is not a sufficient number of games in the db then it is absolutely essential to play over the games to make sure the results weren’t influenced by mistakes later in the game.
In a recent CC game I faced a situation (I had Black in a King’s Gambit Declined) where we quickly reached a position with only three games in my database. The results were +1 -1 =1 and I had a choice of two different moves, both of which looked OK, but one line (where Black scored +1 -0 =1) lead to a position that was materially imbalanced and the engine was showing a small advantage to Black. Because I am always skeptical of engine evaluations in this type of situation the question was, is that true?
Analysis lead to a position where White was a P up and Black was threatening to regain it immediately by capturing the a-Pawn. The engines wanted to play either 13.Be2 or 13.Bg5 with a tiny edge for White. But I had to ask what if White played 13.a3 which the engine says is evaluated at 0.00. The critical line came after 13…Bf5 forcing White to play 14.Kf2 to get out of the pin. This is the position in question:
Saturday, June 25, 2011
If you like, you can keep a record of the number of moves you get the same as in the text and watch it rise. It won’t rise evenly, as some games contain many obvious moves-others not. But if you take an average over ten games, your average for the next ten games will be higher. And so on.
One thing I do not like about RobboLito is that you can only see the move it is currently considering (at least on the Fritz 12 interface). i.e when you click on the “+” button to see more lines, nothing happens so the Fire engine is the more valuable of the two. Also, at least on my laptop, I need to use the 32-bit version of RobboLito to avoid crashes. Here is a game played with a T/L of 30 moves in 15 minutes the 15/5.
One idea is to play the rapid and blitz games before (not after the classic games) so that the player who wins the rapid match has the advantage right from the start. The result of this is a draw is to the advantage of the winner of the blitz match. This way the loser will be forced to try and win. No more quick draws so they can take their chances in blitz. This does not eliminate draws, but reduces fast draws without a fight.
Another involves something really, really important to today’s professional players…money. Half of tournament prize fund is divided among winners of games finishing with a result. So a player, who scored +4 -4 =4, gets 4 times more money than those who scored +1 -1 =10. This idea is for elite tournaments. Aggressive players would receive more money and this should increase tension in tournament as players try for a bigger payday by winning more games.
The most radical solution is to treat draws as wins for Black. The logic behind this is that chess is so developed on the highest level that white has a significant advantage. If there wasn’t any difference between loss and draw, white could play risky and select sharp positions instead of boring, risk free positions with small advantage. As Chitatelsky points out, this idea only works at the elite level.
He also suggested that eliminating draws would be good for advanced chess because White loses very seldom in advanced chess and most games are very boring. But if White was forced to think about winning it would lead to interesting games and attempts to win. This may be the case on the elite OTB level, but I don’t think advanced chess is all that popular among the world’s elite players at this time and to impose such a rule on correspondence players (almost all of whom play advanced chess anyway) is not a good idea because most of them aren’t in the same class as the world’s elite OTB players.
Chitatelsky makes an interesting observation that modern day chess at highest levels is “becoming strange sport without competition nature, which is very unattractive to wide audience.” I know what he means…I really haven’t been interested in watching GM play, even at the world championship level, for years. Most of them are so boring I wouldn’t care if they all give up chess and left it to us rating challenged amateurs to play the game for nothing but the fun of it.
Friday, June 24, 2011
1. Browne x ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 8½- 4½
2. Rogoff ½ x ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 ½ 8 - 5
3. Vukcevich ½ ½ x ½ 1 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 0 1 ½ 7½- 5½
4. Byrne, R. 0 ½ ½ x ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 7 - 6
5. Reshevsky ½ ½ 0 ½ x ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 7 - 6
6. Lombardy ½ 1 1 ½ ½ x ½ 0 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 6½- 6½
7. Bisguier ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ x ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 6½- 6½
8. Tarjan ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ x 1 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 6½- 6½
9. Commons ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 x ½ 1 0 1 1 6½- 6½
10. Kavalek ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ x 0 ½ ½ ½ 5½- 7½
11. Peters ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 0 1 x ½ 0 ½ 5½- 7½
12. Mednis 0 0 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ x ½ ½ 5½- 7½
13. Grefe 0 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ x 1 5½- 7½
14. Benko 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 x 5 - 8
As a result of this tournament, Walter Browne, and Ken Rogoff qualified for the 1976 Interzonals. Robert Byrne also qualified as a result of having played in the 1974 Candidates Matches. Lubomir Kavalek also played in 1976 Interzonals.
One surprise of the tournament was Arthur Bisguier’s results; he is the only player ever to have drawn all of his games in US Championship play. Given Bisguier's temperment and style all draws was unusual.
The last round of this event was memorable because Samuel Reshevsky complained to the TD about the refusal of Pal Benko to honor a pre-arranged draw (technically illegal). Andrew Soltis wrote about it in The US Chess Championship: 1845-1985.
The second prize, and second interzonal invitation, depended on two pairings. If Rogoff were to lose with Black to Bisguier, then Reshevsky, the closest to him, could tie the young Yale student by defeating a now-demoralized Benko.
What happened next did not reflect honorably on the character of U.S. Championship participants. In fact, it recalled the long-forgotten Grundy incident of the 5th American Chess Congress. According to Reshevsky, on the night before the final round, he approached Benko with a proposition: If we see that Rogoff is drawing or winning against Bisguier tomorrow, he said, there's no point in our exerting ourselves. We might as well draw because a win means nothing to either of us. But if Rogoff loses, Reshevsky went on, then I'll play to win because I can force a playoff for the Biel, Switzerland, interzonal spot by tying him for second place.
This in itself is against international chess etiquette. But Reshevsky added another element: If he managed to get into the interzonal, Reshevsky said he would choose Benko as his second there and there would be a nice salary for that. (According to Benko, the question of a last- round draw came up in the middle of the tournament and he indicated his willingness to draw.)
In any event, there was no repeat of "Grundy" the next day. Rogoff drew quickly, thereby clinching the trip to Biel and also allowing Bisguier to establish a record by drawing all 13 of his games in the Championship. Seeing this, Reshevsky indicated to Benko that it was time to draw as they had agreed. But Benko refused, pointing out that he had the better position and, more important, he would finish a humiliating last in the tournament if he only drew. "I must win to get out of last place," he told Reshevsky.
Reshevsky was outraged; he complained to tournament director Tim Redman that his opponent was not living up to an highly irregular agreement and, when he got no help from that quarter, began angrily repeating his draw offer at the table to Benko. He even tried enlisting the help of bystander Bisguier to convince Benko. All this served only to upset Reshevsky enough to throw away a pawn, but he managed to hold the position for a draw when play resumed the next day. Benko says he was too upset to win and the incident was soon forgotten.
Chess Life & Review (September 1975) told the story:
Going into the [final] round Reshevsky still had an outside chance of getting into a playoff for the second Interzonal spot, and the night before the game he approached his opponent, Pal Benko, with some "ideas." Benko, who had been Sammy's second at the Petropolis Interzonal, was told by Reshevsky that Sammy would watch Rogoff's game with Bisguier and should Rogoff win or draw Sammy wanted a draw since the Interzonal spot would then be out of reach. If Rogoff were to lose then Reshevsky would play for a win, and he informed Benko that if he did make it to the Interzonal Pal would again be his second and there would be a good bit of money involved. All of this was just great for Reshevsky, but Pal, who'd finished 2nd in last year's Championship, was in last place and he needed a victory to avoid finishing there.
The next day Rogoff drew quickly with Bisguier, giving Arthur a record of some sort for his thirteen draws, and that draw, combined with Vukcevich's draw with Byrne, gave Rogoff second place and a trip to the Interzonal. Seeing that his last chance of qualification was gone, Reshevsky offered a draw which he apparently felt sure Benko would accept, but Pal just looked up and said, "I cannot take a draw, I must win in order to get out of last place." As the playing session continued Reshevsky pestered Benko repeatedly for a draw, noting every other drawn game, to which Pal could only say, "It doesn't matter, I have to win to avoid finishing last."
Reshevsky became more and more upset, finally going over to a friend of Benko's in the spectator area and demanding that Pal be persuaded to take a draw! Benko pressed on, and both players got into time trouble during which Reshevsky dropped a pawn. In the adjourned position Pal had good winning chances but, very upset by Reshevsky's slamming down on his clock and other niceties, he studied the position only for a short time, coming to the conclusion that he could win.
The next day, this was the only adjourned game, and it was obvious that neither player had cooled off; Reshevsky elected to sit at a different table when not on the move. (Bill Lombardy, by some manner of fate, was scheduled to drive both Benko and Reshevsky home; it must have been an interesting trip.)
Due to his lack of study in the adjourned position, Benko had to spend a long time on his moves and got into time trouble, during which he had what he termed a "hallucination." Finally, Benko had to settle for a draw. For Reshevsky it was a great relief, but for Pal it was another case of being too upset to play well. The look on his face and the emotion in his voice as he tried to talk about the game to Bill Lombardy told that story plainly.
Blissfully unaware that the deal he thought he had made might not be completely kosher under a strict interpretation of the USCF Rulebook (to put it mildly), Reshevsky even took his case to the Letters to the Editor section of Chess Life & Review (remarkably similar to that old joke about calling the Police to report that someone has stolen your pot). The December 1975 issue contained this letter from Sam the Man himself:
... The detailed descripton of what transpired between me and Benko, however, disturbed me because a very important detail was left out by the one who gave Mr. Drummond the information about the episode. What was left out was the very significant fact that Benko indicated to me the day before our encounter that he would accept a draw if and when I would offer it. In view of this fact, I took more time in the early stage of the game, watching to see what the outcome of Rogoff's game would be - a fact which brought me unnecessarily into time trouble. I expect that Benko will deny this fact and will produce his close friend to prove his denial, but his friend is not the most credible witness.
I am surprised that Mr. Drummond did not find it necessary to check with me as to the details of the episode before he presented it publicly.
This game included the incident I have mentioned earlier where, when Benko got into terrible time pressure, Reshevsky was keeping his finger on the clock button so as to prevent Benko from punching the clock after he moved. Benko just kept giving Reshevsky dirty looks and hammering the clock with his fist.
After the tournament was over, the players autographed the boards (printed on heavy green and buff paper) they were using and the boards and sets they used were sold to spectators. By the time I decided to go ahead and buy the set used in the Benko-Reshevsky game it was not available.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
He added, “Computers... cannot deviate from their given procedures and knowledge....Did I just say, that chess engines are reliable, do not get caught in mindsets and do not make mistakes? Well, somehow I did, but that statement needs to be put into perspective: accuracy and reliability comes at a high price, namely performance. To compute a position at full accuracy, chess engines need to check all possible moves, all their countermoves and so on – so their ability to look ahead and see developments is vastly limited. To compensate for that, chess engines use different criteria to select the possible moves, which they analyse further, while they just do not follow up the other ones. Only that “trick” allows them to look as far ahead as they do today and to develop their current strength...engines, however, may overlook the stronger, perhaps winning moves amongst the remaining (ones, and) as a result, chess engines, too, get caught in "mindsets" and make mistakes, just like humans.”
Hradecky went on to cite an example that occurred in the 8th World Championship game between Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Leko in Brissago/Switzerland 2004, Here is the position in question after Black’s 23...Re8-e2:
I was curious to see how today’s engines compared so let Fire 1.5 xTreme w64 analyze this position for 10 minutes and its conclusion was 24.bxa6 Rxf2 25.Kxf2 was totally equal (0.00) but after actually playing the moves it took an additional 3 minutes to realize that Black is still winning. Fire eventually figured out that after 23…Re2 Black is winning, but it took about 20 minutes.
Analysis with Houdini was a little different. It’s initial evaluation was that 24.Qxe2 was about a 1/3 of a P in White’s favor but after 3-1/2 minutes it changed its mind and thought Black had an advantage of nearly 2P’s so switched its attention to 24.bxa6 which it considered nearly equal. After another 3 minutes or so, it concluded that 24.bxa6 wasn’t any better (2P advantage for Black).
The actual game continued 24.Qxe2 Bxe2 25.bxa6 Qd3 Kramnik's preparation went this far, believing his passed pawn gave him compensation. But White is lost here thanks to the nice sacrificial lines that Leko found over the board. 26.Kf2 Bxf3 27.Nxf3 Ne4+ 28.Ke1 Nxc3 29.bxc3 Qxc3+ 30.Kf2 Qxa1 31.a7 h6 32.h4 g4 0-1.
What this little experiment shows is that engines (and computers) of today are much faster in arriving at their conclusions than those of yesteryear, but just as a reminder of what I said before, you absolutely must give them some time to ponder the position. A minute or two, even 5 or 10 in a complicated position is just not sufficient. Then, after all that, you have to step through the lines just to make sure nothing was missed.
It’s also been argued that engines have allowed weaker players to compete with stronger players and that the difference between ordinary CC masters and world champions depended only on who had the biggest, badest computers and the best software. As Hradecky pointed out the gap between strong players using chess engines and the weak players using chess engines still remains because the difference in understanding and human skills of the stronger player will still win against the weaker player. Believe me, he's right about this.
So what exactly have engines introduced into CC? First is that you rarely see game losing blunders even in games by low-rated players. What’s really changed is that CC players also need to know how to use chess engines to compliment their own skills.
In recent years I’ve discovered it is necessary, like it or not, to make an effort to learn how to incorporate engines into my CC play. I’ve never been one for quantity over quality in CC. I’d rather play 10-12 games as good as I can as opposed to slopping through 50 or a hundred and only spending a few seconds per move. The funny thing is engines haven’t made selecting moves any easier as I have discovered I am spending just as much time going over engine analysis and trying out different ideas of my own as I used to back in the old post card days. In fact, in some ways it’s worse because in addition to my own thoughts on the position (usually pretty crappy) I have to look at engine lines and because “they” recommend using more than one engine, that can often mean two or three different moves that are “best” depending on which engine you are using. When that happens you have to agonize over which engine to believe and that still means making a judgment call based on one’s understanding of the position.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
As mentioned previously I was unaware that they had no rules against computer use at IECG so ended up going +0 -4 =2 in my first tournament there. IEC G closed up shop last year because of the difficulty in arranging e-mail games. I understand this because I’m also a member if the International E-mail Chess Club which does not offer server play, only e-mail, and it takes forever for sections to fill up.
The following game was one of the two I drew in that first IECG event and was played without engines on my part. I can’t be sure what engine my opponent was using (Fritz 6?), but probably because many players using engines will only let them examine a position for a minute or two then go with the engine’s first choice, I managed to draw a couple of games.
What makes the game interesting was that even with today’s very strong engines it highlights the fact that there are some pitfalls in relying totally on their evaluations and suggested moves. I sacrificed a N on f7 at move 18. Was it totally sound? An analysis at only 10 seconds a move by Fritz 12 and Houdini gave inconclusive results. We’ve all heard the saying, “Think long, think wrong.” That would seem to be the case with engines also because looking at the long variations produced by Fritz 12 and Houdini it was clear that the deeper into the analysis you go, the more errors you find and this, of course, affects the engine’s final evaluation of the given variation. Fritz seemed to make more mistakes of this type than Houdini did though.
This also demonstrates why, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, you cannot always totally rely on numerical evaluations and it is absolutely essential that you scroll through the variations to make sure the engines did not miss anything. I noticed that in many cases the engines did not change evaluations right up until the actual “mistake” was played on the board at which time they would immediately indicate the move was a poor choice. Something to do with the way they store moves I suppose. In those cases stepping back a move would allow the engines to rethink things and come up with a stronger move. While I did not subject this game to a lengthy analysis in an attempt to discover the absolute truth, my general impression was that Black missed some stronger moves along the way and probably could have won. It’s these types of situations that make today’s engine assisted chess just as difficult to play as chess without engines. Different engines, different move suggestions and evaluations. Long variations and missed stronger moves. Sorting through everything takes as much time and patience as playing without an engine. What it often comes down to is a player’s chess skill and his ability to evaluate the position.
Speaking of evaluating positions, this is the real skill that separates the men from the boys in chess. Even if I could calculate as accurately as a GM and we arrived at the same position, it’s the correct evaluation of the position that matters. If you don’t understand the position you will not know what to do…you might even unknowingly play for a lost position! This point is often missed by low rated players (the ability to evaluate who stands better and why) and explains why they are usually reluctant to study strategy and endgames but it’s those features that are aids in making correct evaluations as to who stands better and why. Failure to take salient strategic features into account means you’re just shifting plastic and waiting for a blunder.