Random Posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are Chess Players Getting Better?

Tyler Cowen says…WAIT! Who is Tyler Cowen?! He was a chess master and is a food writer, world traveler, economist and Professor at George Mason University. As a young player, Professor Cowen played at the well-known Manhattan and Marshall chess clubs in New York City and by the time he was 16-years-old he was rated in the mid-2300’s.Then he gave up chess saying, “I realized I wasn’t going to become a professional. There are no benefits, no retirement. It was not the life I wanted to lead. And I fell in love with Economics.” He has a Blog about many things other than chess that I found interesting called Marginal Revolution.  In one interesting post he asks the question, “Are chess players getting better over time?”
A computer-based method of analyzing chess abilities was conducted by Matej Guid and Ivan Bratko from the Department of Computer and Information Science of University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 2006. The basis for their evaluation was the difference between the position values resulting from the moves played by the human chess player and the moves chosen as best by the Crafty chess engine. They also compared the average number of errors in the player's game. Opening moves were excluded in an attempt to negate the progress in chess opening theory. According to their analysis the leader was José Capablanca, followed closely by Vladimir Kramnik.  The "Classical" World Chess Championship matches were analyzed and the results for the fourteen Classical World Champions with fewest average errors:

1-José Raúl Capablanca 2-Vladimir Kramnik 3-Anatoly Karpov 4-Garry Kasparov 5-Boris Spassky 6-Tigran Petrosian 7-Emanuel Lasker 8-Bobby Fischer 9-Alexander Alekhine 10-Vasily Smyslov 11-Mikhail Tal 12-Mikhail Botvinnik 13-Max Euwe 14-Wilhelm Steinitz

The problem with their study was Crafty was not strong enough to evaluate the world champions' play and one of the modifications restricted the search depth to only 12 half moves. A more modern look was done using Rybka and can be found at ChessAnalysis.
What I found most interesting was a list of the 75 most accurate games.  Here is the top 10:
For more information on comparing top chess players throughout history see the Wikipedia Article.

I'd like to think that I know a little more about chess now than I did back in the old days, but since returning to CC play in 2004 after about a 12 year absence, my rating has remained about the same as it was when I gave up CC so it would seem that in general the play of "average" players has much improved over the years. But then on the other hand when I let an engine examine my old postal games it seems that they were no better or worse than the games I play today...so I don't know.

No comments:

Post a Comment