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Friday, August 12, 2011

Good Engine Analysis is an Art

...but for most of it’s more like a kindergartner’s crayon drawing.

I use Fritz 12 with the Houdini 1.5a x64 bit version.  If you have a single core processor you will have to use the 1.5a w32 bit version.   So far I have not found any engine that consistently defeats Houdini and the Fritz 12 engine does not even come close.
Opening books really do not matter because for correspondence play or analysis I use a database. There are many good commercial and free DB’s available, but I have always used my own which consists of about 3.5 million games.  The main thing is to make sure you keep it updated.  For this you can use a site like The Week inChess to download new games every week.

I also use the DB that contains all the games ever played at the now defunct InternationalEmail Chess Group because it contains openings used by some of the world’s top CC players and their games are good models to follow. I don’t search for my own opening innovations like most top level CC players because I’m not one…I wisely rely on their research!  Openings will need to be solid mainline openings and not dubious gambits.  Successful CC usually means winning in the ending and to do that you are best advised to play positional chess.

You should set the hash on the maximum Ram you can and give the engine plenty of time to select a move.  Then, as I have pointed out in previous posts, check the analysis!

Houdini can use the Gaviota End Game Table Base which can be found at Gaviotachessengine but I never use it.  I prefer to check potential endings at the Shredder Endgame Database. The EGTB access is very slow and if you do choose to use it download time can run 30 to 80 hours and at least 50 GB of hard disk space. Should you choose to download them you can interrupt at any time and when you start again, the program knows at what point you stopped and it continues from there.
The latest issue of Chess Life had an interesting interview with CCGM Stephen Ham. Ham stated in the interview that his chess tends to be technical with an emphasis on long range planning and his wins are usually the result of the accumulation of small advantages resolved in the ending.  When analyzing with an engine he investigates positions that interest him and not the engine.  He added that (strong) players know which lines are worth looking at and which are not.  He also added that he relies on his own evaluation of the position and not the engine’s which he claims are often unreliable.  I have heard other very strong players make the same claim. 
One interesting statement he made was that in closed positions with hypermodern strategies (e.g. King’s Indian) engines often play weakly and their evaluations usually favor White which are unreliable and incorrect.  Perhaps this explains why in top level CC you often see a lot of Queen’s Gambit’s and Nimzo-Indians.  He also advised that when playing CC one ought not be influenced by the engine...often his moves were not even in the top ten engine choices.  This is in line with what I heard another CCIM say: The initial search for moves should first be broad, not deep.  Only when one has selected moves that look promising should deep analysis begin. 
For most of us, we enter a game into our engine, let it analyze at 10 seconds per move and call the result “analysis.” But, whether one is playing CC on a site where engine use is allowed or simply analyzing games with the idea of improving, serious analysis is time consuming and requires considerable skill.  That’s unfortunate because most of us are looking for an easy way to improve and improve fast. 

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