The Armchair Warrior Versus Magnus Carlsen

Most of my morning was spent looking at Chess games on the internet from the London Classic, Russian Championship, and the big one, the TCEC Championship. Komodo had won game 73 of the 100 game match, bringing the score to 6 wins for the Dragon versus 11 for the Escape Artist known as Houdini. After a draw the two silicon combatants locked horns in a titanic struggle which lasted 213 moves, maybe half of those being played on the 15 second increment. Good thing the machines never need a rest room break! The programs squeeze every possibility out of a position, unlike humans who give up the ghost and head to the pub before reaching the middle game.

While watching the mammoth battle my thoughts drifted to a Q & A I had read concerning an interview the human World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, had given which was discussed by those involved with computer Chess.

Nelson: Let’s turn for a moment to human chess. Did you all see the recent interview with world chess champion Magnus Carlsen in Germany, where one of the leading topics of discussion was computer chess?

[Robert nods, Larry and Mark have not seen it]

In case you viewers didn’t see it, Magnus said that chess programs are stronger than human beings because of their obviously superior calculation ability, but oftentimes programs make moves that give evidence that they are clueless because their algorithms which stand in for human judgment are deficient. I think none of us would disagree with that. Am I right?

Robert: Uh-huh. Well, less and less, to be honest. Ten years ago what Carlsen said was obviously true, but today it is becoming less clear whether that is still the case.

Nelson: Okay. Then Magnus went on to say something interesting that made all of us in TCEC smile a bit. He was asked if he studied games played between chess engines. He said no. He said games played between chess engines were rubbish and that finding useful ideas within them was like finding a needle in a haystack. None of you match his skill level but you are all relatively good chess players. What do you think? Are engine games rubbish?

Larry: I think what he means is that they aren’t terribly useful for the purpose of coming up with ideas for a human to use against another human. Doesn’t mean that the games aren’t incredibly high-quality. They are too subtle I guess is the point. The reason for the moves are usually nothing that is directly usable by a human player.

Nelson: Robert?

Robert: Yep. I think that is the right interpretation. But the first thing to say is: Magnus doesn’t really like chess engines. [chuckles] He is not a big fan of chess engines.

Nelson: Yeah, I got that. He seemed really uncomfortable in that interview.

That made me think about GM Maurice Ashley’s commentary on the US Chess Championships. He will often say something like, “That is a computer move,” or, “No human would play a move like that.” I translate that as, “Humans do not play moves as strong as computers.” That is why the “engines” are rated 400 points higher than human players. Magnus said,”…games played between chess engines were rubbish…” The games between the best programs fascinate me. Magnus has a right to his opinion, but I beg to differ. The Go community does not think games played by “engines” are rubbish. On the contrary, they study them in order to learn from the “engines.” The highest ranking ever Western Go player, Michael Redmond. has spent an inordinate amount of time studying the games played between AlhpaGo and humans, and also games AlphaGo against itself. The “engine” has increased human understanding of the game of Go exponentially, especially in the opening phase of the game. Michael has shared the knowledge gleaned from his study of the games with everyone. For example, see:

Komodo 1970.00 (3232)
Houdini 6.03 (3185)
TCEC Season 10 – Superfinal
Scotch: 4.Nxd4 Bb4+

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bb4+ 5. c3 Be7 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d6 8. Qa4 Nf6 9. Qxc6+ Bd7 10. Qa6 O-O 11. O-O Rb8 12. Nd2 Re8 13. Qa5 Bf8 14. c4 Ng4 15. Nf3 Bc6 16. b3 Ne5 17. Nxe5 dxe5 18. Bc2 Bb4 19. Qxa7 Bc3 20. Be3 Qc8 21. Qa3 Ra8 22. Qc1 Bxa1 23. Qxa1 Qb7 24. f3 Ra3 25. Rf2 Bd7 26. Bc1 Ra6 27. a4 c5 28. Be3 Rc6 29. Qd1 f6 30. h3 Be6 31. Kh2 Qc8 32. Rd2 Qc7 33. Rd3 f5 34. Bf2 f4 35. Bh4 h6 36. Bd8 Qf7 37. Qe2 Qg6 38. Bh4 Qf7 39. Bd8 Qg6 40. Qf2 Ra6 41. Bh4 Qh5 42. Qe1 Qf7 43. Qa1 Qc7 44. Be1 Bf7 45. Qd1 Be6 46. Bc3 h5 47. Qd2 g5 48. Bd1 Kf7 49. Qb2 Kf6 50. Qd2 Kf7 51. Qe1 Raa8 52. Be2 Rg8 53. Kg1 Kg6 54. Qa1 Kf6 55. Rd1 Rad8 56. Rf1 Ra8 57. Qb2 Rab8 58. Ra1 Rb7 59. a5 Rgb8 60. Ra3 Ra7 61. Ra1 Rab7 62. Ra3 Ra7 63. Qc1 Kg6 64. Qd1 Rf8 65. Ra2 Rd8 66. Qa1 Kf6 67. Bf1 Ra6 68. Qc1 Kg6 69. Qb2 Kf6 70. Ra1 Rb8 71. Ra3 Rba8 72. Be2 Rg8 73. Qc1 Kg6 74. Qa1 Kf6 75. Qe1 Kg6 76. Ra2 Rb8 77. Qb1 Rg8 78. Qa1 Kf6 79. Qe1 Kg6 80. Qa1 Kf6 81. Qd1 Rd8 82. Qc1 Rb8 83. Ra3 Kg6 84. Qb2 Kf6 85. Ra2 Rba8 86. Ra4 Rb8 87. Kh1 Rba8 88. Ra1 Rg8 89. Kg1 Rga8 90. Kh2 R6a7 91. Qd2 Kf7 92. Qd1 Rg8 93. Qe1 Rb8 94. Ra3 Rg8 95. Qa1 Kf6 96. Qc1 Kg6 97. Qd1 Kf7 98. Ra2 Ra6 99. Qa1 Kf6 100. g3 h4 101. g4 Rga8 102. Kg2 Rd8 103. Ra4 Bd7 104. Ra3 Be6 105. Qc1 Rb8 106. Qb1 Rd8 107. Qc1 Rb8 108. Qe1 Bc8 109. Qa1 Raa8 110. Qc1 Ba6 111. Bd1 Rb7 112. Ra1 Rd8 113. Qc2 Qd6 114. Be2 Qe6 115. Qb2 Rbb8 116. Ra2 Rd7 117. Qa3 Rdd8 118. Qb2 Rd7 119. Qa3 Rdd8 120. Kh2 Qe7 121. Rb2 Kf7 122. Qa4 Qe6 123. Qa3 Qe7 124. Kg2 Rb7 125. Rb1 Rdb8 126. Qa2 Rd8 127. Qa1 Kf6 128. Qa4 Qe6 129. Qa3 Qc6 130. Kh2 Rbb8 131. Qb2 Qc7 132. Kg2 Ke6 133. Qa1 Rb7 134. Qa4 Rbb8 135. Qa1 Rd7 136. Qa4 Rdd8 137. Rb2 Kf6 138. Qa1 Qc8 139. Rc2 Qe6 140. Qa3 Qe7 141. Kf1 Rd6 142. Ke1 Ke6 143. Rb2 Qc7 144. Rd2 Rxd2 145. Kxd2 Kf7 146. Kc2 Rd8 147. Qc1 Ke6 148. Kb2 Bb7 149. Qf1 Qd6 150. Ka3 Bc6 151. Qb1 Ra8 152. Qe1 Bb7 153. Qf1 Rd8 154. Qf2 Qc7 155. Qe1 Qd6 156. Qb1 Ba6 157. Qg1 Qc6 158. Qc1 Qc7 159. Kb2 Bb7 160. Qa1 Ba6 161. Qb1 Qd7 162. Qa1 Qc7 163. Qe1 Rd7 164. Qf1 Qd6 165. Qc1 Qc7 166. Ka3 Rd8 167. Qf1 Rd6 168. Kb2 Qb8 169. Qb1 Rd7 170. Ka3 Qc8 171. Qf1 Qf8 172. Qg1 Qd6 173. Qa1 Qc7 174. Qb2 Rd4 175. Qa2 Qb7 176. Qa1 Rd8 177. Qe1 Kf6 178. Bf1 Qc7 179. Qc1 Bb7 180. Kb2 Ke6 181. Qb1 Rb8 182. Qc2 Bc6 183. Ka3 Qd6 184. Qd3 Qe7 185. Be2 Ra8 186. Qd2 Rd8 187. Qc1 Qc7 188. Qg1 Bb7 189. Kb2 Rb8 190. Qd1 Bc6 191. Qe1 Ba4 192. Bd1 Bc6 193. Bc2 Ba4 194. Ka3 Be8 195. b4 cxb4+ 196. Bxb4 Rd8 197. Qe2 Kf6 198. Bb3 Bf7 199. Qf2 Rd4 200. Bc3 Qc5+ 201. Kb2 Rxc4 202. Qd2 Be6 203. Qd8+ Kf7 204. Bxc4 Qxc4 205. Qb6 Qe2+ 206. Kc1 Qxf3 207. Qc7+ Kg6 208. Qxe5 Qf1+ 209. Kc2 Qe2+ 210. Kc1 Qf1+ 211. Kc2 Qe2+ 212. Kc1 Qe3+ 213. Kc2 Qe2+ 1/2-1/2

Houdini 6.03 (3185)
Komodo 1970.00 (3232)
TCEC Season 10 – Superfinal
Scotch: 4.Nxd4 Bb4+

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bb4+ 5. c3 Be7 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d6 8. O-O Nf6 9. h3 O-O 10. Be3 Re8 11. Qc2 Bf8 12. Nd2 a5 13. Rae1 Bb7 14. Rd1 g6 15. Bg5 Be7 16. Rfe1 Nd7 17. Be3 Bh4 18. a4 c5 19. Bb5 Re6 20. Kh2 Rb8 21. g3 Bf6 22. f4 Qe7 23. Bf2 Nb6 24. Rc1 Rc8 25. Re2 Bg7 26. Rce1 Rb8 27. g4 Qd8 28. Bg3 Nd7 29. Nf3 Re7 30. b3 Kh8 31. Nd2 Kg8 32. Bh4 Bf6 33. Bf2 Re6 34. Bg3 Nb6 35. g5 Bg7 36. h4 Re7 37. f5 Be5 38. Bxe5 Rxe5 39. Nf3 Qe7 40. f6 Qe6 41. Qd3 c4 42. Bxc4 Nxc4 43. bxc4 h5 44. Nxe5 Qxe5+ 45. Qg3 Qc5 46. Rb2 Qxc4 47. Qe3 Kh7 48. Rb5 Qa2+ 49. Qe2 Qe6 50. Qg2 Qc4 51. Qb2 Qd3 52. Qe2 Qxc3 53. Qe3 Qc2+ 54. Re2 Qc4 55. Kg1 Qxa4 56. Qb3 Qxb3 57. Rxb3 a4 58. Rb5 Ba6 59. Rxb8 Bxe2 60. Rb7 c5 1-0

After this game Houdini has a commanding six point lead with only two dozen games left to contest.

One thought on “The Armchair Warrior Versus Magnus Carlsen

  1. Kevin says:

    Who are you?

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