Halftime at the World Human Chess Championship

The sixth game of the 2018 World Human Chess Championship was drawn, as were the first five games.

There are multiple reasons all games have been drawn. The format of only twelve games lends itself to many drawn games. When Bobby Fischer

defeated Boris Spassky in 1972 the World Chess Championship was comprised of twenty four games. A player could lose a game, or two, as did Fischer to begin the match, and still have time to mount a comeback. In a much shorter match the combatants know one decisive game could be all she wrote. In addition, the players are evenly matched. One would expect extremely close games between the two best human players in the world. Then there is the fact that human players are much stronger and better than their predecessors. As Chess players improve there will be more draws, unless there are changes to the rules.

In the recent 2nd Du Te Cup 2018 played in Shenzhen, China 4th to 11th November 2018, six of the top Grandmasters in the World, rated between 2709 and 2816, played an eight round double round robin in which a total of twenty four games were played, only five of which ended in victory, and each was a win for the player with the white pieces. The first win did not come until the fifth round.

The recent TCEC computer program World Chess Championship is a possible indication of what could happen in future human tournaments and matches. Stockfish and Komodo played one hundred games; only twenty one were decisive. Stockfish won thirteen games with white; Komodo won five, for a total winning percentage of eighteen percent for white. Playing black Stockfish won only two games, while Komodo won only one. Only three percent of the games played ended in victory for the black pieces. Seventy nine percent of the games played by the two 3500 rated programs were drawn.

FiveThirtyEight

It was my intention to write something about the revelatory Chess articles being written at the website of ABC News, FiveThirtyEight (https://fivethirtyeight.com/), which has been on my radar because of the excellent articles written about Major League Baseball. I first surfed over to FiveThirtyEight to read an article mentioned on another Baseball website and soon was surfing there every day, and not only because of the MLB atricles.

Mark Weeks over at Chess For All Ages beat me to the punch, so to speak, with his post Chess@538, dated 15 November, 2018 (http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2018/11/chess-538com.html). It is an excellent post which culminates with:

“The resulting brouhaha convinced one respected chess journalist, GM Ian Rogers of Australia, to resign his job working with the American team: @GMIanRogers: Sadly parting ways with @ChessLifeOnline after a decade… (twitter.com):-

…I declined to accept edits to my round 4 World Ch’p report which would downplay responsibility of editors of the Caruana video, downplay the effect of the video on Caruana’s chances, and omit the key image from the video.

On top of that, all of the videos produced by the St.Louis Chess Club disappeared from Youtube. Out of sight, out of mind? Hardly. Someone in St.Louis is guilty of an unprofessional lapse of judgement. That’s the person who should resign — not a journalist doing the job he was paid to do.”

I must concur conclusively with Mark’s astute assessment of the situation. Who is guilty in St. Louis? Inquiring minds want to know…

In the latest column by Oliver Roeder, Chess World Rattled As Someone Nearly Wins Game, it is written, “Chess players are second only to maybe biological taxonomists in their proclivity to elaborately name things, and sure enough even this rare position has its own proper name: the Karklins-Martinovsky Variation. But neither player was troubled by Karklins-Martinovsky, they said after the game. Its theory is well known to these elite players.

And so they played on. The powerful queens came off the board by move 8, but this loss took no edge off the fight. For a while, the game looked less like a battle and more like a dressage competition, as 66 percent or more of each player’s first 12 moves were knight moves.”

The following paragraph can be found in the November 16 post by Mr. Roeder:

“The data scientist Randal Olson analyzed hundreds of thousands of chess games in an article a few years ago. The closer players are in rating, he found, the longer games tend to go. And as the players get better, draws become far more common. Carlsen and Caruana are as good — and about as close in rating — as you can get. Indeed, they are even beyond the scope of Olson’s chart below, with Elo ratings (which measure the strength of players given the opponents they’ve played) north of 2800.”

I clicked on the link provided and was sent to a column written May 24, 2014, by Randal S. Olsen. There is a fantastic picture of Bobby Fischer playing Mikhail Tal, which I saved. It was worth clicking on just to see the picture.

Then I went to Mr. Olsen’s home page (http://www.randalolson.com/) and found this: “Does batting order matter in Major League Baseball? A simulation approach”

Good thing today is an off day in the WHCC.

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The Computer: A Phantom Specter Haunting Chess

Computers Are Haunting The World Chess Championship (Which, Yes, Is Still Tied)

By Oliver Roeder

Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in London, like the two games that came before it, ended in a draw — 49 moves and a touch more than four hours. The best-of-12 championship is currently level at 1.5 points apiece in a race to 6.5 points and the game’s most important prize.

On Monday, Caruana controlled the white pieces and Carlsen the black.

The pair began Game 3 with an opening called the Sicilian Defence, specifically its Rossolimo Variation. It was the same opening they played in Game 1 — which ended in an epic seven-hour draw — and the first five moves exactly matched those from that earlier game. But they deviated dramatically from this familiar ground on move 6, when Carlsen moved his queen to the c7 square. Caruana glanced around the soundproof glass room in which they played, looking slightly befuddled.

A quick word on this opening’s eponymous Rossolimo himself seems warranted, given that Monday’s game was lacking in fireworks and Rossolimo’s name has figured more prominently thus far in this world championship than any but Caruana and Carlsen. He was Nicolas Rossolimo, Renaissance man:

one of the U.S.’s 12 grandmasters at the time, fluent in Russian, Greek, French and English, and the “proprietor of a chess studio,” which became a second home to some players. He was also a judo master and a New York City cab driver and recorded an album of Russian folk songs, according to The New York Times. He died in 1975 after a fall near the storied Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.


Fabiano Caruana at the Marshall Chess Club


http://www.marshallchessclub.org/


Magnus Carlsen at the Marshall Chess Club

https://www.chess-site.com/chess-clubs/marshall-chess-club/

There is another figure, aside from the colorful Rossolimo, casting its shadow over this championship: The Computer. Most livestreams of the match feature instant computer engine analyses, whose cold numbers instantly assess the humans’ tiniest inaccuracies down to hundredths of a pawn. Those judgments ripple through the commentary. Full disclosure, I rely heavily on a chess engine running on my laptop to aid my understanding as I watch the games. One popular site during recent world championships features live analysis showing arrows pointing out a supercomputer’s favored moves. (http://analysis.sesse.net/)

The principals in the match have also commented on The Computer’s somewhat spooky influence.

“I’m facing not only Fabiano and his helpers, but also his computer help,” Carlsen said in a press conference after Game 2. (He was referring to Caruana’s deep preparation for the game, although Carlsen surely uses a computer to prep, too.)

“It’s like you’re playing against a phantom,” Judit Polgar,

a grandmaster providing official commentary on the match, said today.

The Computer can often seem like a phantom, a specter haunting the games. It can seem like an overlord that has rendered the human game obsolete and small. But it’s important to remember that man made the machines. Garry Kasparov lost to the supercomputer Deep Blue,


World Chess champion Garry Kasparov barely acknowledges the handshake from Dr. C.J. Tan head of the IBM Deep Blue computer team which defeated Kasparov in the six-game series that ended on May 11, 1997.
Credit: Roger Celestin/Newscom

but a team of humans sweated and bled to built it. In these technological gaming battles, man plays two roles: builder and performer.

At the world championship in London, we are witnessing the performance of two of the best players in the history of the game. That stronger computers exist, and have helped Caruana and Carlsen get to London, does not detract from their feat.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/computers-are-haunting-the-world-chess-championship-which-yes-is-still-tied/