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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Advanced Chess and a Tartajubow Rant

 Advanced Chess is a form of chess where the human players use an engine during the game.   It was first suggested by Kasparov as a way to increase the level of play. Kasparov’s idea was first tested in 1998 in Leon, Spain in a match against Topalov. Kasparov used Fritz 5 and Topalov used ChessBase 7.0 with both using engines Fritz, HIARCS and Junior. It was a 6-game match and they were allowed to consult the million game database only for the 3rd and 4th game.  The T/L was game 60 and the match ended in a 3-3 tie.

       After the match, Kasparov said:"My prediction seems to be true that in Advanced Chess it's all over once someone gets a won position. This experiment was exciting and helped spectators understand what's going on. It was quite enjoyable and will take a very big and prestigious place in the history of chess."
       World Champion Anand was considered the world's best Advanced Chess player, winning the three consecutive Advanced Chess tournaments in Leon in 1999, 2000 and 2001, before losing the title to Kramnik in 2002. After the loss Anand said: "I think in general people tend to overestimate the importance of the computer in the competitions. You can do a lot of things with the computer but you still have to play good chess. I more or less managed to do so except for this third game. In such a short match, against a very solid and hard to beat opponent, this turned out to be too much but I don’t really feel like that the computer alone can change the objective true to the position."  Of course, engine strength has improved greatly since then, but the point is still valid.
      There is a debate going raging on one of the forums about the legitimacy of players using an engine during the game.  Whenever this subject comes up, in the words of Bernie Mac, “It makes my butt itch.”
       During these debates, I always see comments like, it will be a match between computers, might as well let sprinters ride motorcycles, computers should only be used as tools, humans are restricted to shuffling pieces, it is disgusting and primitive, a computer does not give you reasons why it has played a move, computers ruin chess and the ubiquitous, you don’t learn anything that way.
       These people are missing the point.  It does not matter how disgusted they are with the use of engines in correspondence chess, which most of them don’t play anyway, because chess engines are here to stay and, like opening books, they are going to be used in correspondence play no matter what the rules say.  That’s why the official correspondence governing body, the ICCF, has no rules against their use. To use an engine in an organization that does not permit their use is cheating.
       This brings up another point…some of these people apparently do not understand the meaning of cheating.  By definition, cheating is a deliberate violation of the rules or other unethical behavior that is intended to give a person an unfair advantage.
       In OTB chess, cheating could be consultation with spectators or other players, computer use, rating manipulation, pre-arranged draws, etc.  In CC it would be anything that is against the organization’s rules, including consulting engines and tablebases.  If you are not violating the organization’s rules, you are not cheating…duh!
       As for the other arguments, Advanced Chess is nothing more than another variation of the game just like blitz, Fischer Random Chess or blindfold play.  In AC both players have agreed to use an engine to assist them.  My suggestion is that if you don’t like this kind of chess, then just ignore it.
       Ever since I can remember CC has not been considered real chess by OTB players. I remember a case years ago where a TD announced free entry for titled players and when a CC GM showed up asking for his free entry, he was denied because a CC title didn’t count.  In my own experience, I once had a game published in Chess Review magazine and annotated by John W. Collins.  Naturally, I was pretty proud of it but when I went to the chess club not one person had seen it and even my 10-12 correspondence opponents didn’t see it except for one and all he said was, “Saw your game.”  Hardly anybody pays attention to correspondence, blitz, blindfold, handicap, FRC or Advanced Chess games.  So, what’s the big deal if some people want to play AC or correspondence chess where engines are used?
       Another point is that in high level CC tournaments some players win almost all of their games and there is always some unfortunate soul who loses most of his games.  If engines were the only factor involved that would not be the case.  Engines make mistakes too else they would not beat each other. No, the difference is the human.  But, the guys who win those tournaments are GOOD.  If buying an engine was all it took to play at their level, I’d be blogging about my games in the World Correspondence Championship.
       The comment that really gives me a chuckle though is the one, “You don’t learn anything.”  What in the world makes these guys think that people who use engines are trying to learn anything?  One’s study is usually independent of tournament play be it correspondence, otb or Internet.  Certainly a person using an engine to win hundreds of blitz games on the Internet or trying to see how high of a rating he can get on a site that disallows engine use cannot be interested in learning anything.  He is motivated by other reasons, whatever they may be.
       Many players  seem to think playing hundreds of blitz games against dumbed down engines or blunderchecking with Fritz at 10 seconds a move is studying, but it’s not.  In pre-computer days, studying meant buying chess books and subscribing to magazines so you could receive instruction and play over games.  You kept notebooks and index cards on openings.  If you wanted to know about strategic or tactical themes you had to painstakingly search through games in your books to find examples. That's why the Informants were so popular. Nowadays you can do it in minutes on the computer.  But it’s the careful study of those games that yields results.  When it comes to playing over games on the computer there are different schools of thought on the benefits.  Some think it’s easier and more efficient.  GM Alex Yermolinksy disagreed stating he felt that physically moving pieces on a real board helped reinforce learning and visualization. 
       It seems these days though there are a lot of players who have never played in a tournament, know nothing about the history of chess players and approach chess as a video game played on a computer screen.  There is nothing wrong with that if they are having fun.  Likewise the same applies to any other form of chess you choose to play.  None of us are professional players and none of will ever, as old people used to say, ‘amount to a hill of beans.’  Not in the chess world anyway so play chess in whatever form you enjoy and let others do the same. 

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