Next month, there’s a world chess championship match in New York City, and the two competitors, the assembled grandmasters, the budding chess prodigies, the older chess fans — everyone paying attention — will know this indisputable fact: A computer could win the match hands down.

They’ve known as much for almost 20 years — ever since May 11, 1997. On that day, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated the great Garry Kasparov who, after an early blunder, resigned in defeat.

“I am ashamed by what I did at the end of this match. But so be it,” Kasparov said. “I feel confident that machine hasn’t proved anything yet.”

Kasparov’s confidence proved unjustified. In the years since, computers have built on Deep Blue’s 1997 breakthrough to the point where the battle between humans and machines is not even close. Even chess grandmasters like author and columnist Andrew Soltis know this to be true.

“Right now, there’s just no competition,” Soltis says. “The computers are just much too good.”

And as it turns out, some players prefer to stay away from computers as opponents, he says.

“The world champion Magnus Carlsen won’t even play his computer,” Soltis says. “He uses it to train, to recommend moves for future competition. But he won’t play it, because he just loses all the time and there’s nothing more depressing than losing without even being in the game.”

Magnus Carlsen, who’s Norwegian, defends his title against Sergey Karjakin of Russia, in November. Carlsen is 25. Karjakin, 26.

They have both arrived at the highest ranks of the game in an era when a $100 chess computer can easily dispose of them both. That superiority had been pursued and imagined for decades.

There was a chess match in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL, the computer, versus Frank, the astronaut. The chess match in 2001: A Space Odyssy between HAL, the computer, and Frank, the astronaut.

But here’s the question. Do HAL’s real-life progeny — computers that can see 30 moves into the future — play the game differently? Do they have a style? Have they taught humans new strategies?

Murray Campbell of IBM was part of the Deep Blue project. As he says, chess computers do play differently. They make moves that sometimes make no sense to their human opponents.

“Computers don’t have any sense of aesthetics or patterns that are standard the way people learn how to play chess,” Campbell says. “They play what they think is the objectively best move in any position, even if it looks absurd, and they can play any move no matter how ugly it is.”

Human chess players bring preconceptions to the board; computers are unbound by habit. And, unlike people, computers love to retreat, Soltis says.

“And if you see a game in which one of the players is doing a lot of retreating mysteriously and so on, and the game goes on forever and ever, that’s a computer,” he says.

Susan Polgar is a grandmaster and a six-time national collegiate champion chess coach. Computers do all that retreating, she says, because they’re not slaves to human nature. Humans, she says, don’t like to admit a mistake unless they really have to.
“And in those borderline cases when it’s not obvious that you have to retreat, chess players tend to not like to retreat,” Polgar says. “Let’s say you move a knight forward towards your opponent’s king, attacking. Unless you absolutely have to retreat, you rather try to follow up that attack by bringing more pieces to attack your opponent’s king.”

Computers display no such stubbornness. “A computer, if it calculates that the best move is to retreat, it has absolutely no psychological boundaries holding it back from retreating,” Polgar says.

One of the human players in November’s match, Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, was described as playing a very un-computer like game of chess. Polgar says this means Carlsen can win with different kinds of strategy, and he might choose his strategy based on what he knows about his opponent.

“Against one opponent that loves having queens on the board — the most dangerous attacking piece — he would make sure, you know, try to get rid of the queens as soon as possible and put his opponent in a more uncomfortable setting on the chessboard,” Polgar says.

To the great human chess champion, understanding the foibles of his foe can be a key to victory. To a computer, all opponents look the same. “I think many of the common board games don’t have the unknown element in it,” Campbell says. “They may have chance elements. A game like backgammon, for example, there’s roll of the dice, but you can calculate the probabilities quite accurately. When there’s unknowns, there’s things … just are hidden from you, and even the alternatives, the things you can do, can’t be set down and enumerated. There’s maybe too many possible actions you can take. That’s the challenge for modern artificial intelligence research.”

Meanwhile, back at the chessboard, two of the best human players in the world — Carlsen and Karjakin — play their championship in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, starting Nov. 11.

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Apr 01, 2019

The Russian men’s team clinched gold with a 3.5:0.5 win over Sweden

The Russian men’s team have won the World Team Championship for the first time since 2013 after they crushed Sweden while England lost to China and India drew against the USA. Gold was also decided with a round to spare in the women’s section, where the Chinese team won an 8th match in a row to claim a first Women’s World Team Championship since 2011. Tan Zhongyi (6.5/8) and Lei Tingjie (6/7) got the wins against the USA. Silver and bronze medals will be up for grabs as the last round starts three hours earlier than usual on Thursday.

The Russian men’s team doesn’t have a stellar reputation in team tournaments, but that’s largely down to the Olympiad, which they’ve famously failed to win since 2002. Over the same period they’ve now won 4 of the 7 World Team Championships that have been played, and this time round they took full advantage of beating their key rivals China in Round 3. By the penultimate round they knew a victory might win them the title, and they methodically set about crushing the Swedish team.

See also:

  • Official website
  • All the games with computer analysis on chess24: Open | Women  
  • World Team Championship starts in Astana
  • World Teams 2-3: Russia pile misery on China
  • World Teams 4-5: Chinese women strike
  • World Teams 6-7: The moment of truth
Apr 03, 2021

German club Deizisau won the 1st ever European Online Chess Club Cup

16-year-old Vincent Keymer posted a 2812 performance as German club Deizisau won the 1st ever European Online Chess Club Cup ahead of Clichy from France and Mednyi Vsadnik from Russia. Keymer’s colleague Georg Meier posted an even better 2896 performance, though it didn’t count towards board prizes as he didn’t play the required 7 games. Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s 6/8, a 2890 performance, was officially the best result, but his club Poland Hussars just missed out on medals in 4th place.

When favorites and international all-stars Baden-Baden were knocked out of the European Club Cup in the playoffs, few could have predicted that their all-German partner team Deizisau would win the whole event! They began the 10-team final as only the 7th seeds and were one of only 3 teams that never scored more than 2.5 points in a match… but Deizisau did that to win no less than 6 matches, lost just one, and finished a point clear at the top.

Deizisau showed incredibly consistency, with their one loss, to Novy Bor, also by the narrowest of margins. In such a tough event it’s never going to be easy, and Andreas Heimann was thrown in at the deep end, suffering defeats to David Navara and Andrey Esipenko in the four games he played, all with the black pieces. Matthias Bluebaum faced fierce competition on top board and lost four of his last five games, but the win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov the round before that earned his team a win.

All in all, the 1st Online European Club Cup seems to have been a success, even if we all hope for a return to over-the-board international team events in the not too distant future.

See also:

  • Official website
  • All the games on chess24: Groups ABCDEFGHI | Playoffs: A, B, C | Final
  • Favourites Baden-Baden crash out of Euro Club Cup
Jan 31, 2022

Magnus Carlsen wins the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2022

Magnus Carlsen scored a brilliant win over his 2018 World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana to win a record 8th Tata Steel Masters title. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov gratefully accepted a blunder by Vidit to join Richard Rapport in second place a point behind, but when it was announced that Daniil Dubov couldn’t play Magnus on Sunday despite a 2nd, negative, PCR test, the title was confirmed. Sam Shankland stunned Sergey Karjakin in just 26 moves, while Arjun Erigaisi will play in the 2023 Tata Steel Masters after cruising to victory with 9.5/12 in the Challengers.

Magnus Carlsen went into the penultimate round of the 2022 Tata Steel Masters in an unusual situation. It was his final game of the event, since a forfeit win over Daniil Dubov awaited in the final round. That put Magnus on the brink of overall victory, since a draw would leave only Richard Rapport within touching distance, and needing to score 2/2 against the formidable duo of Andrey Esipenko and Anish Giri just to force a playoff.


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