September 19, 2012

The Difficulties of playing with computer-like precision

Here is a very different topic to read about! With advances in technology, the game of Chess has taken a tremendous leap towards progress. More about Chess and computers. 

The Difficulties of playing with computer-like precision
By Ashwin Jayaram

The prospect of writing a proper chess article has always been something I wanted to do. Although now that the opportunity has arrived, I am not entirely sure what I am supposed to do. 

Usually when a chess article is written, the author resorts to using famous examples or his own games. The only problem with this is that it is too easy! I have recorded a vast amount of my own games and they all have very interesting moments and fascinating ideas.  Although to the extent possible, I would rather work a little harder to find good material. Rest assured, if I am ever caught using my own games as material, let it be understood that I am out of any other material whatsoever or simply want to show off :). As for famous examples, I will certainly not be using them at all as I would like anyone who reads my material to at least see something new (even if they don’t learn anything new).

Now, I should probably give an explanation for my rather unimaginative and awkward title. I had begun my article by finding some fascinating ideas in some games. While they were all very interesting, they didn’t have any connecting theme at all apart from being very interesting and being analyzed by a computer.

 At first I was going to write an article about the analysis engines and how it is difficult to play with computer-like precision in practical play. Indeed the second sets of examples are more of this theme than being very interesting. It later occurred to me that it is a secondary theme. After all, most of the material published in any recent work has been analyzed extensively with a computer and is essentially a common theme for any chess article that can ever be written.

 I spent a lot of time thinking about any possible connections between my examples and was forced to conclude that the only thing every game had in common was that it contained very interesting tactics. So I decided to write the article with the unimaginative title “Some interesting positions” although I was afraid that only I would see the humor in such a title while everyone else would only marvel at the lack of any proper thought given to it.

So in the end, I decided that the best thing to do was to confess my confusion and give both my half ideas and combine it into an article. I will be giving the positions in order of the ideas I had about the article while collecting the material. Thus the title “Some interesting positions or the Difficulties of playing with computer-like precision”. This title is both unimaginative and also very awkward, but I do find it funny. After all, I also considered naming this article “The difficulties of giving an article an appropriate title”, although this would have the fault of having nothing to do with the material itself.

So, the thoughts in the analyzed positions will basically be about the positions itself and the comments below the diagram would be my ramblings about my previous half ideas regarding engines and precise play. I hope that this, at the very least, would live up to the title.
On a slightly serious note, I would recommend that you set up the position on a board and think about it for a while before seeing my analysis. That would guarantee some extra sharpness in ones calculating abilities apart from some amusement from some odd ideas.

Before I actually show my collected material, I should probably apologize for my rather unimaginative and awkward title while hoping that the examples below are interesting enough to distract you from it 

1. Some Interesting positions

Can I really blame either side for missing several options? It is very difficult, (especially in mutual time trouble) to make the best moves when there are mating options for both sides and Major pieces near the king. In several variations, the king has to flee far from his home and still defend. In practice, it is very difficult to actually choose such a variation, check it with less time and play it. It is very easy for me (or any spectator) to look at a game at home with the analysis engine humming in the background. What can I say except enjoy the fireworks :)
It is not easy to say why Khairullin missed his win. Perhaps he assumed that he had already messed up his position and resigned himself to a repetition. Maybe he saw it, but in time pressure didn’t really believe that it could work. Maybe he saw it, calculated it to an extent but was afraid to actually play it as the king has to run all the way to the queenside. A draw for Black against his stronger opponent in a previously worse position was certainly a good result for him, and he was probably unwilling to risk it.
The position above is indeed the second most spectacular miss I have ever seen. No one who sees the position at first would be willing to believe that the position is a mate in 3. I would not particularly blame anyone for missing such an idea here. After all, the most natural move in the position (27...Rg8) seems to fetch an advantage. This would indeed be the appropriate place to say the very old chess proverb “when you see a good move, look for a better one”. It would have certainly finished off the job on the spot anyway.
The position after 29.g6 would count as the most spectacular miss I have ever seen. When I first saw the idea, I was kicking myself for hours for not having the opportunity to think over the position and see if I could even get close to finding it. So enjoy!
Those reading may think,” again with the unimaginative and awkward titles!” I would think that the reader would be used to it by now. This example is indeed less interesting than the previous examples and is actually quite simple. The reason why White didn’t play like a computer here is because of a very common mistake. Several times, a player prematurely ends his calculation short without seeing the whole variation. Indeed here, White probably ended his calculation after seeing that Nc6 Bc6 threatened the queen. Had he seen a bit further, he would have been able to prevent the heartaches of fighting on.
The position above is extremely interesting but is fascinating because of the complications that could occur than because of any overly flashy moves. The issue here is why Black avoided the complications above (which I have only analyzed in a very concise manner). I will simply summarize it by saying that very few players would be interested in initiating unclear complications on move 39 against a very illustrious opponent. 3. Why it is difficult to play with computer-like precision
The above example was collected when I was in a mind to write about Computer like precision. The idea itself is not so difficult to spot. The issue here is to make such a decision to leave the Black king under attack by three pieces and only defended by a knight on c6. It seems as though Black will be mated, although he is able to defend himself. In such a dire position, what Black should have done is keep his pieces on the most active squares and hope for the best.
The above example was meant to be a devil’s advocate to illustrate what would happen if you believe everything the computer suggests. The analysis engine seems to be unable to understand that the position after 49..Ke5 is a draw (or at least I think it’s a draw. If anyone can find a win here, please do inform). My next article will follow when I collect more material. It should be easy as I have a ton of material from the recently concluded World Juniors and the Olympiad. So hopefully I will be able to do a better job with finding an appropriate title :)