Magnus Carlsen Superman

The World Human Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, did not win the recently completed London Chess Classic. Although he may have lost a battle he won the war by taking the Grand Chess Tour.

One of the headlines at the Chessbase website during the tournament proclaimed, London Chess Classic: Magnus on tilt. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/london-chess-classic-round-8)

The article, by Macauley Peterson, began:

“Round 8 saw a startling blunder from the World Champion whose frustration following the game was palpable.”

Later we fans of the Royal Game read this:

Round 8

“For the first few hours of Sunday’s games, it looked like we could be heading for another day of peaceful results. Adams vs Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave vs Anand both ended in early draws, and the remaining games were level. Suddenly, a shock blunder from World Champion Magnus Carlsen flashed up on the screens, a variation which lead to Ian Nepomniachtchi being up a piece, and easily winning. Carlsen resigned just four moves later.

After the game, a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup with Grand Chess Tour commentator GM Maurice Ashley.

These occur in the same conference room in which a live audience enjoys commentary during the round, and around 150 people were crowded into the room to hear from Carlsen.”

Whoa! Let us stop right here and consider what we have just read…

“…a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup…” I believe the word “interview” should be inserted after “standup.”

Why would anyone in their right mind put something in any contract, in any game or sport, forcing a player who has just lost to be interviewed by anyone BEFORE THEY HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO DECOMPRESS?! This is incomprehensible, and the sanity of those responsible for forcing anyone to sign a contract that requires the person to be interviewed before having a chance to compose themselves must be questioned.

The article continues:

“A few moments before they were to go on air, Ashley casually reached over to adjust the collar on Carlsen’s sport coat, which had become turned outward awkwardly. Magnus reacted by violently throwing his arms up in the air, silently but forcefully saying “don’t touch me”, and striking Ashley in the process. Maurice was, naturally, taken aback but just seconds later he received the queue that he was live.”

Maurice is a GM, and a pro, not only when it comes to playing Chess, but also when it gets down to interviewing tightly wound Chess players. Since he played the Royal game at the highest level he knows the emotions it can, and does, evoke first hand. Maurice was the first one to ‘fergettaboutit.’

I recall a time during a tournament when a young fellow playing in his first tournament lost control of his emotions and, shall we say, “flared-up.” His mother was aghast, and appalled, saying, “Now you will never be able to come here again.” Since I had given lessons at the school the boy attended I stepped in saying, “Ma’am, that’s not the way it works around here. By the next time your son comes here everyone will have forgotten what happened today.” The mother gave me the strangest look before asking, “Are you just saying that to make me feel better?” I assured her I was not and then someone else interjected, telling her, with a large grin on his face, that I was indeed telling her the truth. Chess people, to their credit, are about the most forgiving people one will ever know.

There followed:

Magnus was clearly in no mood to chat:

“I missed everything. There’s not much else to say. I think I failed to predict a single of his moves, and then, well, you saw what happened.”

“It will be interesting to see if Magnus will recover tomorrow. When asked for his thoughts on the last round pairing he replied, “I don’t care at all. “Black against Levon Aronian will be no easy task, with that attitude.”

The excellent annotation of the game Magnus lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi

on Chessbase is by GM by Tiger Hillarp-Persson,

who has also annotated games of Go on his blog (https://tiger.bagofcats.net/). After move 29 Tiger writes, “There were probably a few who thought Magnus would win at this stage…”

Magnus begins going wrong at move 30. He then gives a line and writes, “White is dominating. It is quite out of character for Carlsen to miss something like this. It seems like he wasn’t able to think clearly today.”

Before Magnus plays his 33rd move Tiger writes, “Now White’s pieces are all in the wrong places.”

After White’s 34th move Tiger writes, “Here Carlsen seems to lose his will to fight. Now one mistake follows another.”

Those are very STRONG WORDS! Human World Chess Champions, with the exception of Garry Kasparov when losing to Deep Blue,

do not lose their will to fight!

Yuri Averbakh,

Russian GM, and author, in a 1997 article in New in Chess magazine, the best Chess magazine of ALL TIME, placed chess players into 6 categories; Killers; Fighters; Sportsmen; Gamblers; Artists; and Explorers. Although he listed only Kasparov and Bronstein

as “Fighters,” the World Chess Champion best known for being a “Fighter” was Emanuel Lasker.

I would put current human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen in the class with Lasker as a “Fighter.”

In an interview at the Chess24 website his opponent in the game, Ian Nepomniachtchi,


had this to say, “To be fair, Magnus had a bad cold during the second half of the tournament and therefore wasn’t in his very best form.”

Nepo is extremely gracious while explaining why Magnus “…seemed to lose his will to fight.” When one is under the weather it is extremely difficult to think clearly, especially as the game goes on and fatigue begins to dominate. Imagine what history would have recorded if Bobby Fischer had not caught a cold after the first few games against former World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian.

This was a topic of conversation during a meal with Petrosian, Paul Keres,

and future World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov,

at a restaurant in San Antonio, the Golden Egg, during the Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in 1972.

Interviewer Colin McGourty asked Nepo this question:

“It seems as though he’s stopped dominating as he did a few years ago. Is that the case?

A few years ago the level he was demonstrating was out of this world, particularly when he wasn’t yet World Champion, plus at times good patches in his career alternated with even better ones. Gradually, though, people have got used to him, and when you’ve already achieved it all, when over the course of a few years you’ve been better than everyone, it gets tougher to motivate yourself. That doesn’t just apply to sport, after all. Magnus has a great deal of interests outside of chess, but even his relatively unsuccessful periods are much more successful than for many of his rivals. Even in what generally wasn’t the tournament of his life he beat Aronian with Black in the final round and finished third i.e. he performed very decently.”

https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nepomniachtchi-on-london-carlsen-and-alphazero

There you have it. “Even in what generally wasn’t the tournament of his life he beat Aronian with Black in the final round and finished third i.e. he performed very decently.”

Levon had the year of his life in 2017. He had the White pieces in the last round against a weakened World Champion. He could have ended the year in style with a victory. This from Chessbase:

The Magnus bounce

“The World Champion, after a troubling performance yesterday, appeared once more to be on the brink of defeat with the black pieces against Levon Aronian. Carlsen was considerably worse in the middlegame, but it took just a couple of inaccuracies from Aronian for the World Champion to completely turn the tables. He went on to win, despite knowing that a draw would be enough to clinch first place in the Grand Chess Tour standings.

In fact, Aronian offered Carlsen a draw, right after the time control, which Magnus refused, as he was already much better in the position. It was the 11th time in 17 tries that Carlsen came back with a win immediately following a loss, since 2015.” (https://en.chessbase.com/post/london-chess-classic-2017-carlsen-wins-grand-chess-tour)

Many years ago IM Boris Kogan told me the measure of a Chess player is how he responds to a loss. Many in the same condition would have been happy to settle for a draw in the last round. Some would have made it a quick draw. Not Magnus!
Magnus Carlsen is a worthy World Champion. My admiration for our World Champion has grown immensely.

Consider this headline from the official tournament website:

Round 8 – Carlsen Car Crash at the Classic

11.12.17 – John Saunders reports: The eighth round of the 9th London Chess Classic was played on Sunday 10 December 2017 at the Olympia Conference Centre. The round featured just the one decisive game, which was a disastrous loss for Carlsen, as the result of two terrible blunders.

http://www.londonchessclassic.com/downloads/reports17/2017-12-10%20LCC%20Round%208.pdf

As bad as that is, it could have been much worse. Even when completely well Magnus has sometimes gotten into trouble early in the game, especially when playing an opening some consider “offbeat.” Every true human World Chess Champion, one who beat the previous title holder in a match, was a trend setter who was emulated by other players of all ranks and abilities. Simply because Magnus opened with the Bird against Mickey Adams

in round seven other players may now begin opening games with 1 f4. It is true that Magnus got into trouble in the opening of that game, but his opponent was unable to take advantage of it and Magnus FOUGHT his way out of trouble. (see the excellent article, including annotations to The Bird game, by Alex Yermolinsky at Chessbase: https://en.chessbase.com/post/london-classic-nepomniachtchi-joins-lead)

As Macauley Peterson

wrote, “Black against Levon Aronian will be no easy task…” That is Black in the LAST ROUND against the player who this year has stolen Magnus Carlsen’s thunder. An obviously under the weather Magnus had Black versus a man who believes he should be the human World Chess Champion. If there were no FIDE (we can only dream…) and things were like they were before World War II, Levon Aronian would have absolutely no trouble whatsoever finding backers for a match with Magnus Carlsen. The outcome of the game could have psychological ramifications for some time to come.

Levon held an advantage through 34 moves, but let it slip with an ill-advised pawn push on his 35th move.


Position before 35. b6

The game ws then even. The player who fought best would win the game. That player was Magnus ‘The Fighter’ Carlsen. The loss must have shattered Levon Aronian’s psyche; there is no other way to put it. Levon had White against a weakened World Champion yet he did not even manage to make a draw. That fact has to be devastating to Aronian. Oh well, Levon has a pretty wife…

Games Have Been Terminated!

The thing about writing a blog is that one never knows what an email will bring. After spending an inordinate amount of time in front of Toby, the ‘puter, yesterday learning how to insert diagrams, and then putting together the post in order to have something in which to insert them, I determined that today I would spend time with the Daniel Gormally book, Insanity, passion and addiction: a year inside the chess world, while playing over Chess games on an actual board with pieces one can feel, and possibly “working” on the openings intended for the Senior Championship of the Great State of South Carolina, which is only ten days away, by going to the CBDB and 365Chess. Wrong, Ke-mo sah-bee! An email from my friend Mulfish arrived at 11:42 am, upsetting the Bacon cart…

“Looking forward to the AWs take on AlphaZeros stunning win over Stockfish,” was the message. “What’s this?” I thought, wondering if Mike was referring to the TCEC Computer Chess Championship that is in the final stretch. “But Stockfish is not participating in the Super Final,” I thought. I therefore fired off an immediate response: “To what, exactly, are you referring?” His reply was, “Look in the all things Chess forum.”

Although there are not as many incoming as there were before taking a long break from blogging, I have received several emails directing my attention here and there, and they are greatly appreciated. Checking the AW stats today showed many people in countries other than the USA reading the AW. In particular I noticed that today, as every day, there is one, and only one, reader in the Maldives. Thank you, whoever you are, and feel free to send an email, as I am curious by nature.

Keep ’em coming: xpertchesslessons@yahoo.com

This is the post found on the USCF forum that prompted Mulfish to fire a salvo at the AW:

Postby billbrock on Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:16 am #321974

“AlphaZero learned to play chess by playing against itself. After just FOUR HOURS of self-learning, it was able to decisely (sic) defeat Stockfish 8.0! (EDIT: this statement is slightly misleading. See downthread.) (100 games match: +28 =72 -0)
What’s really impressive: Stockfish was calculating far more deeply than AlphaZero (at least in terms of nodes per second). AlphaZero is just “smarter.”

After reading only this I thought, “Whoa! This will change not only my day, but possibly the future course of history!” The more I read the more convinced was I of the latter.

Bill Brock provided a link to a PDF paper, Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm
(https://arxiv.org/pdf/1712.01815.pdf) which I read immediately, blowing my mind…

Every morning I read while drinking my first cuppa coffee, and today was no exception. Toby is not fired-up until time to sit down and eat breakfast. I check my email, then the quotes of the day, followed by the poem of the day, which was The Writer’s Almanac, by Garrison Keillor, but it has been discontinued, so I’ve moved on to Poem-a-Day (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem-day) & The Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/). Next I click on the Drudge Report in order to understand what the enemy is thinking, and doing. Then it is the newspapers in digital form, the NYT, WaPo, and AJC. For you readers outside the USA, that would be the New York Times, the Washinton Post, and the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. Then I check out the word of the day (https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day), before heading to check what was on the nightly radio programs broadcast while I am sleeping, Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis (http://www.groundzeromedia.org/), and the Granddaddy of them all, Coast to Coast AM (https://www.coasttocoastam.com/). You may think that Chess comes next, but you would be mistaken. I check out The Hardball Times at Fangraphs (https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/). Then I check out what’s happening in the world of Go (http://www.usgo.org/).

Then it is time for Chess! My routine is to check in at Chess24 (https://chess24.com/en) first in order to learn if there is a new article I will want to return to after checking out Chessbase (https://en.chessbase.com/), where there is usually something interesting to peruse. (Today is no exception because the lead article is, How XiangQi can improve your chess, which will be read. https://en.chessbase.com/). During the TCEC Championships it is then on to Chessdom (http://www.chessdom.com/), where I click onto TCEC (http://tcec.chessdom.com/). And then it is on to the Chess Granddaddy of them all website, TWIC, aka The Week In Chess (http://theweekinchess.com/), which is Mark Crowther’s wonderful website which contains a Daily Chess Puzzle, which I attempt to solve, in hopes it will keep my mind sharp. Why was I writing all this?…Just kidding!

The point is that I read so long this morning (Why Bob Dylan Matters, by Richard F. Thomas; Cover Me: The stories behind the GREATEST COVER SONGS of all time, by Ray Padgett, who has a wonderful website (http://www.covermesongs.com/); and Murder on the Death Star: The assassination of Kennedy and its relevance to the Trump era, by Pelle Neroth) in order to finish the latter. The point being that by the time I got to the email by Mulfish I would ordinarily have already seen the momentous news.

DeepMind’s AlphaZero crushes chess

https://chess24.com/en/read/news/deepmind-s-alphazero-crushes-chess

The excellent article by Colin McGourty begins: “20 years after DeepBlue defeated Garry Kasparov in a match, chess players have awoken to a new revolution. The AlphaZero algorithm developed by Google and DeepMind took just four hours of playing against itself to synthesise the chess knowledge of one and a half millennium and reach a level where it not only surpassed humans but crushed the reigning World Computer Champion Stockfish 28 wins to 0 in a 100-game match. All the brilliant stratagems and refinements that human programmers used to build chess engines have been outdone, and like Go players we can only marvel at a wholly new approach to the game.”

Colin ends with: “And where do traditional chess programmers go from here? Will they have to give up the refinements of human-tuned evaluation functions and all the existing techniques, or will the neural networks still require processing power and equipment not easily available? Will they be able to follow in DeepMind’s footsteps, or are there proprietary techniques involved that can’t easily be mastered?

There’s a lot to ponder, but for now the chess world has been shaken!”

“Shaken?” More like ROCKED TO ITS FOUNDATION!

If games people play are to survive they will be something like that described in the novel I consider the best I have read, Das Glasperlenspiel, or Magister Ludi, aka, The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse. (http://www.glassbeadgame.com/)

Or maybe a book, The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks, which is not only one of my favorite Sci-Fi books, but also one of my favorite book about games.

The stunning news also caused me to reflect on a Canadian Sci-Fi television program I watched, Continuum, in which mega-corporations dominate the world in the future as time-travelers fight one of the largest corporatocratic entities, SadTech, which sounds an awful lot like Google. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1954347/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_6)

The Brave New World is here. The Science Fiction books I read as a youngster are no longer fiction.

The Terminator has arrived.

We are all doomed. DOOMED!

R.E.M. – It’s The End Of The World

The End of the World

Magnus Carlsen’s Brain

One of the things listed under favorites on my computer is “brain science,” a subject with which I have been fascinated most of my life. The most recent article to be included was, “Studying Oversize Brain Cells for Links to Exceptional Memory,” by Carl Zimmer, dated Febuary 12, 2015, in the New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/science/studying-oversize-brain-cells-for-links-to-exceptional-memory.html?hpw&rref=science&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0)

“In 2010, a graduate student named Tamar Gefen got to know a remarkable group of older people. They had volunteered for a study of memory at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Although they were all over age 80, Ms. Gefen and her colleagues found that they scored as well on memory tests as people in their 50s. Some complained that they remembered too much. She and her colleagues referred to them as SuperAgers.”

“Recently, Ms. Gefen’s research has taken a sharp turn. At the outset of the study, the volunteers agreed to donate their brains for medical research. Some of them have died, and it has been Ms. Gefen’s job to look for anatomical clues to their extraordinary minds.”

“Ms. Gefen and her colleagues are now starting to publish the results of these post-mortem studies. Last month in The Journal of Neuroscience, the scientists reported that one of the biggest differences involves peculiar, oversize brain cells known as von Economo neurons. SuperAgers have almost five times as many of them as other people.”

“Learning what makes these brains special could help point researchers to treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of mental decline. But it is hard to say how an abundance of von Economo neurons actually helps the brain.”

“We don’t know what they’re doing yet,” said Dr. Mary Ann Raghanti, an anthropologist at Kent State University who was not involved in the new study.”

“As soon as the Northwestern scientists began enrolling SuperAgers in their study in 2007, the team took high-resolution scans of their brains. The SuperAgers had an unusually thick band of neurons in a structure called the anterior cingulate cortex, the scientists found; it was 6 percent thicker on average than those of people in their 50s.” (The anterior cingulate cortex, also known as Area 25, is a region that is located towards the front of the corpus callosum, in the medial frontal lobe. This region is involved in decision making and emotional regulation as well as vital to the regulation of physiological processes, such as blood pressure and heart rate. In particular, the key functions of the anterior cingulate cortex revolve around:

Detection of errors or shortfalls from some standard (Nieuwenhuis, Ridderinkhof, Blom, Band, &; Kok, 2001)
Anticipation and preparation before task performance
Regulation of emotions. http://www.psych-it.com.au/Psychlopedia/article.asp?id=263)

“Scientists have found von Economo neurons in only a few other mammals, such as apes, whales and cows.”

“John M. Allman of Caltech, who has studied von Economo neurons for 20 years, suspects that the neurons provide long-distance transmission of nerve impulses. The large size of the cells helps maintain electrical signals as they travel across the brain.

“My guess is they represent a fast relay,” he said.”

Noice that after “20 years” Mr. Allman “suspects” and has to “guess.” This is cutting-edge brain science in its infancy. The next paragraph jumped out, causing me to consider some of the things other elite chess players have said about World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. Consider what the former World Human Chess Champion, Viswanathan Anand, had to say after losing the second match for the Crown against Magnus, “My nerves were the first to crack.” (http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2014/11/23/magnus-carlsen-repeats-at-world-chess-championship/)

There is also this, “In a battle of nerves Norwegian World chess champion Magnus Carlsen held up his own better, said the losing challenger from India Viswanathan Anand on Sunday.” (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/magnus-carlsen-held-up-his-nerves-better-anand/514494-5-23.html)

In an interview by Colin McGourty at Chess24 GM Levon Aronian was asked, “What’s behind the phenomenon of Magnus Carlsen, who seized the chess crown?” Levon answered by saying, “I’d say it’s all about his incredible calm and nerves which, strangely enough, failed him at times in the recent World Championship match. But overall Magnus’ main secret is his composure and the absence of any soul-searching after mistakes during a game. At times, after all, you blunder and then hate yourself, saying: “You should be ashamed of yourself – children are watching”. But Carlsen doesn’t have that. He fights to the end, even if he’s playing badly.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/aronian-magnus-main-secret-is-his-composure)

From where does this “incredible calm and nerves” emanate? Could it be that Magnus Carlsen has oversized brain cells, specifically, brain cells known as von Economo neurons? Consider this written in New In Chess 2014/5, about Magnus, “Carlsen knows how to control his emotions, as can be gleaned from his lack of fear, no matter how tense the situation gets on the board.” This can be found in “NIC’s Cafe under “Total Control.” The article continues, “We saw a fine demonstration of his ‘mental control’ during the first free day of Norway Chess, when the players visited a school tournament and some of them were tempted to play Brainball. In Brainball, two players sit opposite each other wearing a headband that registers their brain activity. The aim is to reduce your brain activity as much as possible, as this will set a little ball moving towards your opponent. Once it reaches your opponent, you win. Of the grandmasters that had a go at Brainball, Aronian and Carlsen were the best at relazing their brains, but in their direct encounter the World Champion was in a class of his own. The cursor that indicated his mental activity dropped so low that an admiring colleague sighed:’Incredible. He seems to have total control of his brain.'”

Games People Play

Former World Chess Champion Boris Spassky was interview recently by Colin McGourty. Some of the wonderful interview, “I still look at chess with the eyes of a child” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/spassky-i-still-look-at-chess-with-the-eyes-of-a-child) has been translated by Chess24.

Colin: “All sports change over the years, becoming faster, higher, stronger. Is chess also subject to similar trends?”

Boris: “Chess is also changing, but in a somewhat incomprehensible manner. Computers have appeared in chess and turned everything upside down.”

The advent of computer chess programs have drastically altered the Royal game. The natural evolution of chess has been, shall we say, “enhanced” by the programs. The play of the game of chess has taken a quantum leap forward in the lifetime of Boris Spassky. When change this dramatic occurs it is only natural that older humans have trouble accepting the rapid change. For instance, my grandmother was born before the automobile was invented. When Neil Armstrong allegedly stepped onto the surface of the moon and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” it was much more than she could comprehend and she never believed it happened. To her it was just something “they” put on TV.

Colin: “The reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen has the reputation of being a straight-A chess player who does everything correctly on the board and plays out games for a long, long time. Has chess lost something because of that?”

Boris: “Carlsen is a stubborn kid. In general, what a chess player needs has always been the same, with a love of chess the main requirement. Moreover, it has to be loved naturally, with passion, the way people love art, drawing and music. That passion possesses you and seeps into you. I still look at chess with the eyes of a child.”

Colin: “Can chess players of different eras be compared at all?”

Boris: “It’s pretty hard. Each to his own. Everyone should know his place. Chess players are a very difficult crowd who are largely egocentrics, egoists and individualists. Each of them has his own vision of the world and each is a lone wolf who goes his own way. Each World Champion came from more or less that background.”

Humans have always played games, and, most, will continue to play some kind of game. As Colin said, “All sports change over the years…” Chess is not an exception.

Whatever credibility Checkers had has been lost to the computer program Chinook, the “World Man-Machine Checkers Champion.” (http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~chinook/) Have humans stopped playing Checkers? They have not because they changed the game. Take a look at “International Checkers.” It is not the game your father played.

Consider Three Dimensional Chess, popularized by the Star Trek TV show. (http://www.chessvariants.org/3d.dir/startrek.html)
“Three-dimensional chess (or 3D chess) refers to any of various chess variants that use multiple boards at different levels, allowing the chess pieces to move in three physical dimensions. Three-dimensional variants have existed since the late 19th century, one of the oldest being Raumschach (German for Space chess), invented in 1907 by Dr. Ferdinand Maack and considered the classic 3D game. Maack founded a Raumschach club in Hamburg in 1919, which remained active until World War II. The inventor contended that for chess to be more like modern warfare, attack should be possible not only from a two-dimensional plane but also from above (aerial) and below (underwater). Maack’s original formulation was for an 8×8×8 board, but after experimenting with smaller boards eventually settled on 5×5×5 as best. Other obvious differences from standard chess include two additional pawns per player, and a special piece (two per player) named unicorn.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-dimensional_chess)

It could be that in the future when one speaks of chess, it will be in regard to only 3D Chess.

GM Walter Browne, an avid gamesman, has created a game he named, “FINESSE.” Walter calls it, “The 21st century version of Chess.” He writes, “In 1988 I started to wonder why over two thousand years no one ever thought of another board game besides Chess, that was a “purely” intellectual struggle. There are many chess variants, but none of them are very appealing, so I dared to take up the challenge. I invented Finesse in 1993 and I thought it’s nice, but I put it away for almost twenty years. Then in 2012 I made a few key changes which made all the difference! I had a “Voila”! moment in August 2012 when I realized the chemistry between the pieces would create an endless variety of dynamic positions.”(http://www.finessebybrowne.com/#!history/c1sf)

Check out this “Finesse” video:

Could the game Walter invented be the future of chess? My favorite science fiction novel is, “The Player of Games,” by Iain M. Banks. “Curgeh is the best, the champion. In the ancient, all-embracing Culture in which there is no disease or disaster, only the endless games, he has beaten them all. But an empire’s challenge will teach him what the Game is really all about.” (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18630.The_Player_of_Games)

My favorite novel is, “The Glass Bead Game,” by Hermann Hesse. It is known as “Das Glasperlenspiel” in German. It has also been published under the title “Magister Ludi,” Latin for “Master of the Game.” (http://www.glassbeadgame.com/)

“It was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943 after being rejected for publication in Germany due to Hesse’s anti-Fascist views. A few years later, in 1946, Hesse went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. In honoring him in its Award Ceremony Speech, the Swedish Academy said that the novel “occupies a special position” in Hesse’s work.”

“The Glass Bead Game takes place at an unspecified date centuries into the future. Hesse suggested that he imagined the book’s narrator writing around the start of the 25th century. The setting is a fictional province of central Europe called Castalia, which was reserved by political decision for the life of the mind; technology and economic life are kept to a strict minimum. Castalia is home to an austere order of intellectuals with a twofold mission: to run boarding schools for boys, and to nurture and play the Glass Bead Game, whose exact nature remains elusive and whose devotees occupy a special school within Castalia known as Waldzell. The rules of the game are only alluded to—they are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Playing the game well requires years of hard study of music, mathematics, and cultural history. The game is essentially an abstract synthesis of all arts and sciences. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Bead_Game)

Games will always be played, as long as humans inhabit Earth, which may not be long the way we have polluted the planet. (http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/big-media-blindspot-continuing-fukushima-cover–0_300vfa5puqb8) Even then I like to think humans may be able to travel to an unpolluted planet, where they will, no doubt, play some kind of game.

Everything Is Broken

An email arrived recently in which a reader accused me of being “Mr. Doom & Gloom.” The writer takes exception to some of what I write, most of which he considers “negative.”

The email arrived during a week the chess community learned, “Parviz Gasimov, a 14-year-old from Azerbaijan, has managed the incredible feat of going from a 1949 rating in October 2014 to 2517 in the first rating list of 2015 – no less than a leap of 568 points in three months.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/from-1949-to-2517-in-three-months)
Unlike previous players who “enjoyed” amazing leaps there have been no accusations of any cheating by the boy. He accomplished this unbelievable feat because the F.I.P.s in charge of the world chess organization changed the rules. Keep in mind Sam Sevian, the young GM currently playing in the Tata Steel tournament, was initially rated 315 in the middle of 2006. Six and one half years later he hit first hit 2500 USCF. Where is the outcry and outrage from the chess community? As far as I have been able to determine there has been no one from the chess community to even question this revolting development. Could that be because Kirsan the E.T. and his fellow travelers have instituted so many Draconian changes the chess community has become inured to the changes? Has the chess community collectively decided to accept anything and everything these henchmen deliver? Keep in mind the FIDE president has said, “There is no professional chess and non-professional chess, there is only chess. And we will have discipline.” Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, explaining FIDE’s zero tolerance rule to interviewer Danny King (http://en.chessbase.com/post/king-talks-with-kirsan)
Full disclosure-I have taken this from the Mechanic’s Institute Newsletter #692 (http://www.chessclub.org/news.php?n=692)
What Kirsan the E.T. said sounds like something an adult would say to a child. Does Kirsan the E.T. consider the chess community his children? Or was it said more along the lines of what an older Soviet KGB agent may think? The Nazi Gestapo instilled “discipline.” Why do the very best human chess players allow themselves to be treated as children, or subjects? Why is FIDE allowed to be administered like a Third World dictator runs a banana republic?

Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

During the week the “Doom Gloom” email arrived the chess world learned, “With an Elo-rating of 2399 (January 2015) Kenny Solomon is South Africa’s number three but a few days ago he became the country’s first grandmaster. In the Africa Chess Championship 2014 he finished with 7.0/9 and had a better tie-break than tournament favorite GM Ahmed Adly, World Junior Champion from 2007. This tie-break win made Solomon Grandmaster.” This is from an article, “South Africa’s first Grandmaster,” dated 1/4/2015, on Chessbase. (http://en.chessbase.com/post/south-africa-s-first-grandmaster) Mr. Solomon TIED for first place; he did not win a playoff. He is rated 400 points lower that the number one GM; 200 points lower than an average GM; and 100 points lower than the minimum allowed to become a GM. I have seen nothing questioning this development, so I ask, “Is this a good thing for the Royal game?” Is it a good thing to have such a mediocre player spoken of in the same way one speaks, or writes, about Magnus Carlsen? Now that Kenny has “joined the club” how much does his being a member cheapen the GM title? And why am I the only one questioning this development?

Change is inevitable and chess has changed dramatically this century. The Draconian dictators of chess no doubt believe these changes are good for the Royal game. This flies in the face of the reality. For example, funding for the most prestigious event of the chess world, the World Championship, was difficult to find. The chess world still does not know who funded the match. The public has tuned out chess. Here are some recent headlines to bolster my case:

“Grandmaster Clash: One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.” By Seth Stevenson (http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2014/09/sinquefield_cup_one_of_the_most_amazing_feats_in_chess_history_just_happened.html)

“Destroying the grandmasters,” by Clive Thompson (http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/11/26/clive-thompson-destroying-the-grandmasters/)

“How computers changed chess” By Guillermo Campitelli (http://theconversation.com/how-computers-changed-chess-20772)

This seems an appropriate place to insert measures taken by another game, a cousin of chess, which were not taken by the Royal game:

“Have computers invaded the realm of this ancient game as they did to the western chess? Of course, although it took much longer and caused quite a bit of consternation to the JSA, who in 2005, officially forbade professionals to compete publicly against machines as a way of preserving the dignity of shogi masters. In any event, shogi computer programs were too weak, for a long time, to present a serious challenge to the human mind.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/the-knight-that-jumps-high-falls-prey-to-a-pawn-2)

Have chess Grandmasters lost “dignity” because of losing to chess programs? What you and I, members of the chess community, think matters little in relation to how the general public answers the question. Has chess become a kind of ivory tower, insulated from those outside its borders, or does what the general public think have any meaning? You bet your sweet bippy it means something!

“What chess can learn from rebranded sports: Chess has long been associated with the cerebral and socially awkward, but now a million-dollar Las Vegas tournament is trying to combat that image. Which other games have tried to rebrand?” By Telegraph Men (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/11070041/What-chess-can-learn-from-rebranded-sports.html)

What does it say about chess when the sponsor(s) of this tournament, meant to change the public perception of chess, took a bath? Rather than enhance the stature of chess, the final analysis of the tournament from those in the media, and general public, is that chess, as one member of the general public said, who happens to have played chess when young and who continued to avidly read the New York Times chess column until it ended, “Chess received yet another black eye.”

I will end with a poem about chess, found in the article, “Man vs Machine: A poet on Kasparov-Deep Blue,” by Colin McGourty (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/man-vs-machine-a-poet-on-kasparov-deep-blue).

Chess

awaited
in great anticipation
the match between a man
distinguishing trait: a knife between his teeth
and the monster of a machine
distinguishing trait: Olympic calm
ended in the victory of the dragon

for nothing
poems ripened
in the gardens of Andalucía
the nouveau riche
Deep Blue
elbows his way across squares
sewn from a Harlequin’s cloak
a mocking ignoramus
stuffed
with all the openings
attacks defences
and finally with a joyful
hallali above the corpse
of his opponent

and so
the royal game
passes into the hands
of automatons

it needs to be snatched by night
from the prison camp

when the mind slumbers
machines awaken

we must begin again
a journey to the imagination

Zbigniew Herbert (translated by Colin McGourty)

“A Chess Engine Is NOT Your Friend!”

In their new book, “Play Unconventional Chess and Win,” Noam A. Manella and Zeev Zohar posit, “…that technological tools do contribute toward creativity of top human chess players.” This flies in the face of conventional thinking, and they mention this in the preface to the book:

“Experienced chess players, those who learned the game some decades ago (or even recently),
are sometimes puzzled while being in the tournament hall or watching a live
broadcast of a top game. Do they witness a game between two wise and experienced people,
having enormous knowledge combined with a unique creative ability, or is it rather a
battle between machines, cold, technical, mechanical super-computers which happen also
to have bodily needs, feelings and desires?
The influence of technological tools over the game of chess is controversial. Some think
that chess players become robotic, lose all creativity and avoid taking any risk. The inevitable
outcome is a lot of uninteresting games ending in a draw.
Back in our youth, when chess programs had not yet been used, the players found the
moves “over the board”. The first impression is that the game was then slightly different,
and that nowadays we witness the decay of classical chess. Our intuition suggests that top
players find it hard to play creatively, and the computer plays an important role in this
situation. The fact that those top players and their seconds spend most of their time preparing
while looking at the computer monitor surely contributes to this.
However, others think that technological advances have made a huge amount of information
available to chess players. Thus they can solve, within a short time, problems
which were hitherto considered too complex. Today’s players have more resources to look
for new creative ideas, and those emerge in abundance.
One of the co-authors, Zeev Zohar, a chess expert, has investigated this subject deeply
as part of his academic work. He looked deeply at the arguments of both sides while interviewing
professional chess players as well as chess software developers. Finally he became
convinced that technological tools do contribute toward creativity of top human chess
players. He shared his conclusions with Noam Manella, who is a well-known expert in the
field of creativity, besides being a chess national master and study composer whose works
have received many awards. Mr. Manella, author of the best-selling book The Creative Code,
was highly enthusiastic about the subject. Thus this book was born.
Chess is a game based on patterns, axioms, rules and mathematical calculations. A
computer has no psychological barriers. It is “willing” to check moves that most humans,
including top players, reject instantly as part of a psychological elimination process based
on paradigms. Computer-aided home analyses of top chess players leads to a reassessment
of all old axioms, principles and evaluations. Hence one can easily understand why work
with computers adds a new creative layer to the game.” (http://www.everymanchess.com/chess/books/Play_Unconventional_Chess_and_Win)

I have not seen the book, only an excerpt provided at the Everyman Chess website. I am not now, nor have I ever been, one to “tow the party line.” Knowledge is only advanced by those who question conventional thinking. Although it is true “…that technological advances have made a huge amount of information available to chess players,” I do not understand how that fact can be considered “creative.”

The computer chess programs have drastically altered the Royal game; this is not your father’s chess. For example, take the response to a question posed by Sergey Kim to Rafael Vaganian during an interview on the Chess24 website, “Both at the board and simply in life you met all the Soviet world champions from Botvinnik to Kasparov. The world champions of the twentieth century – of your generation – and the champions of the third millennium – first and foremost, Carlsen: how do they differ?”

GM Rafael Vaganian: “It’s hard to compare, because the chess is totally different. Those champions worked in another setting, playing another kind of chess. With no computers, they worked and created on their own, and their creativity was immense. If they found something it was with their own minds, while now there are these amazing programs. Theory has “grown” to 30-35 moves, and you simply can’t compare the two types of chess. Frankly speaking, I don’t like modern chess, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. After all, a person isn’t capable of remembering so much, so they simply suffer because of it. They need to remember and learn it all, but then what of creativity? They barely play at the board, but at home, and that’s bad.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/rafael-vaganian-anand-won-t-lose)

Prior to the domination of the chess “engines” knowledge was gleaned from intercourse between humans. Mikhail Tal was forced to work with Anatoly Karpov by the Soviet authorities and it changed his style of play. Contrast the games of the young Tal from the 1950’s and 60’s with that of the Tal of the 80’s and you will see an almost complete transformation. Granted, most players change as they age, but not to the drastic extent of Tal. Back in the day human players fed off of each other and learned from their human peers. Today the intercourse is between man and machine. The chess playing programs have altered the natural development of the game of chess. We will never know how chess play would have developed if humans had been left alone.

Former World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik had this to say in an “Indepth interview with Vladimir Kramnik” on Chessbase: “Chess openings are like science. It keeps evolving. Judging by the standards of the time when Garry was an active player, he indeed knew the opening extremely well. Now it is over, his preparation isn’t good anymore. It is part of the past. Chess is developing very rapidly – just like the Internet, gadgets. You know, no one cares about the first models of iPhones now. Without day-by-day opening studies it is not possible. You can’t just invent a bunch of ideas and then spend ten years capitalizing on them. In the 70s or 80s this might have been possible. Now, in the computer age, you have to keep finding more and more new ideas. This is a paramount amount of work. You can’t rely on the old databases.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/indepth-interview-with-vladimir-kramnik-120413)

Kramnik had this to say in response to a question by mishanp, on August 4, 2013, during an interview on the Chess in Translation website:

“A lot has been said recently about how super-computers will put an end to chess. Is chess really finite?”

Vlad: “It’s finite, no doubt, but it’s a number with 27 or 28 zeros – for the human mind it’s still infinite. Checkers, and particularly Russian checkers, really has been exhausted by computers, if you can put it like that. Chess is too complex: even the most powerful computers we use to train can analyse positions to a maximum of about 30 moves ahead. Games, meanwhile, can sometimes stretch to 200 moves. Yes, computers are strong, but they don’t calculate the game to the end and sometimes they make mistakes.” – Kramnik: “Intellectual effort gives me enormous pleasure.” ( http://www.chessintranslation.com/2013/08/kramnik-intellectual-effort-gives-me-enormous-pleasure/)

Computer chess programs are now two of three classes above Vladimir and have become so powerful that it is rare when Black loses a game in a match between these monsters. The same fate awaits human grandmasters as they become stronger.

Colin McGourty posed this question to GM Levon Aronian, “Is there a particular part or subject of the game you enjoy studying? (openings, middlegames, endgames, tactical combinations, etc.)” Levon answered, “I really enjoy finding new ideas in the early stages of the game. The biggest joy in the modern chess era is the discovery of good moves that are not approved by the computer.”

If the grandmasters today are “creating” anything, what is it they are creating? The young players today eschew post-game analysis so they can put the moves played into a computer in order to learn how the “engine” evaluates their moves. Things have changed in the same way things have changed for the game of Checkers. Name the current World Human Checkers Champion. As the “engines” become ever more powerful, chess will inevitably follow the same path as that of the game of Checkers.

IM Jeremy Silman wrote this recently, “The point of this article is to discuss something that needs to be addressed: CHESS ENGINES ARE OFTEN DETRIMENTAL TO THE CHESS HEALTH OF NON-MASTERS. – A Chess Engine Is NOT Your Friend!” (http://www.chess.com/article/view/chess-engines-are-not-your-friend)