Cyrus Lakdawala Interviewed at Georgia Chess News

An Interview with IM Cyrus Lakdawala

by Davide Nastasio was published March 1, 2019 at the GA CHESS NEWS website. http://georgiachessnews.com/2019/03/01/an-interview-with-im-cyrus-lakdawala/

The interview is excellent and was enjoyed immensely. Although aware of IM Lakdawala from his playing days, and knowing he was a prolific author considered controversial by some, I knew very little about him. The lack of knowledge was remedied by the interview found him to be a very interesting person with whom I would like to spend time.

The knock on Cyrus is the number of Chess books he has written. I visited the Gorilla and stopped after counting on my fingers and toes twice. I must admit to not having read any of the books. I do not even recall seeing one of his books in a bookstore. Yet his book published last summer, How Ulf Beats Black: Ulf Andersson’s Bulletproof Strategic Repertoire for White,

looks interesting, especially since I previously read, Grandmaster Chess Strategy: What Amateurs Can Learn from Ulf Andersson’s Positional Masterpieces, by Jurgen Kaufeld and Guido Kern, published at the beginning of this decade and consider it to be a masterpiece.

The interview begins, “Life is full of surprises. Thanks to the unexpected alignment of Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter, I had the chance to interview Cyrus Lakdawala, likely the biggest writer in chess history. Some love him, and some definitely hate his writing style. Whatever your inclination is, don’t miss this interview, because in it we discover more about a great professional player who has worked in chess for decades, and who has dedicated his life to something he truly loves.
Generally when I don’t know what to give as a gift for Christmas, I give Lakdawala’s books. I remember once I found an incredible offer of Korchnoi’s Move by Move for something like $6, and bought some for Christmas.” One of the friends I gave the book to never played chess again, so I guess Lakdawala was pure enlightenment! I loved interviewing Lakdawala for the following reasons: he is really articulate, he shows a human side of chess in which we can all find ourselves, but most of all I felt the similarities with his writings and my own.

As always in my articles I will pause the interview from time to time to show some excerpts from the great books written by Lakdawala, Some of the games I found in his books are quite important for our development as chess players.”

Davide Nastasio: Could you tell for our readers how the chess journey began for you?

Cyrus Lakdawala: My father taught me how to play at age eight, and I have never forgiven him for it! I got immediately addicted, even though I didn’t display an iota of talent for the game.

DN: Who coached you when you were young?

CL: At first I only played my father (who was an A-player) and kids at school, but never had a formal coach. I was essentially self-taught from books — and I wasn’t a very good teacher, since my study was all over the place. Also, I was completely dishonest with myself, since at age eight, I strove to be the new Tal, which was a wee bit off the mark, since on the chess board I was the biggest dove of all time. When I was a kid, during summer vacation I desperately sought out strong competition and would walk miles to the shopping center bus stop, take a 45-minute bus trip to downtown Montreal, then take a 20-minute metro ride to the En Passant Chess Cafe. There I could play blitz with strong masters, like FM George Levtchouk (maybe I’m misspelling his name, if so, sorry George!) and GM Kevin Spraggett, and many others. I would play endless blitz games for stakes of 25 to 50 cents per game, which for a 13-year-old in 1973, was a fortune, since I only made $5 per week from my paper route. I was completely lopsided in playing strength with fast and slow time controls. I could hang with masters and even some titled players in blitz, yet in tournament play, I was still rated 1795 in over-the-board play when I was 17 years old, so it would be slightly dishonest to describe myself as a budding prodigy!

DN: Which books influenced you most in your formative years? (An excellent question for a prolific Chess writer)

CL: Five chess books deeply influenced me:
1. I don’t remember its name or its author, but it was a book on Capablanca’s games. Going through them, I craved to replicate Capa’s Mozartian perfection in my own games and always fell short.
Let me pause the interview here to point out that Lakdawala wrote a book on Capablanca!

And this is a game from that book which shows Lakdawala’s great teaching skills! (The game between Capa and A. Conde from Hastings 1919 follows)

And now back to the interview!

2. I read a book on Nimzowitsch’s games (I don’t remember the name or author of this one either and I’m wondering if I should up my daily dose of Ginko Biloba) and desperately tried to imitate Nimzo’s play, usually with disastrous results, since I would cleverly transfer my queen to a1 and then get mated on the other side of the board, or with great erudition I would overprotect my e5-pawn (just as Nimzowitsch taught) and then overlook my opponent’s response …Bxa1, chopping my now hanging queen.
3. I devoured Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games, and swore to be his next incarnation and play just like him. As you may have guessed, this vow didn’t come to fruition.
I need to pause the interview once again to show another book by Lakdawala on Fischer.

My idea to show entire games commented by Lakdawala has purpose to show the great deal we can learn from his format, thanks to his questions at the right moments.
4. In the summer of 1977, I read my buddy IM Tony Saidy’s

masterpiece: Battle of Chess Ideas

and was so inspired that I made the slightly questionable decision of striving to become a professional chess player, despite the fact that I was 17 years old and rated 1795. I have since demanded an apology from Tony for tricking me with his book.
5. In 1994, I was mired at a USCF rating of 2500 for several years and it felt as if I had reached my peek rating. Then to my great good fortune, I bought a copy of my buddy Jeremy Silman’s

Reassess Your Chess

as a teaching tool for my students, since I considered it a beginner’s book. To my great astonishment, the book shifted something which was previously jammed in my thinking process and my rating rocketed to nearly 2600 within the space of a very short time, which I completely attribute to Jeremy’s indispensable book. The reason Reassess Your Chess is the best-selling chess book of all time is that it may be the greatest chess book of all time. There is some hidden secret within it. Exactly what the essence of that secret is I can’t fathom, but it is there.
Again, I pause the interview to interject my own comments: I bought a 3rd edition of Silman, because I thought it was a classic. And I also bought the last edition, now I just need to find the time to read them!

DN: Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your books, because I know you are a prolific author. How did you select material for your own books?

CL: Sometimes I propose an idea and sometimes the publisher suggests one. I’m at the point right now where there is no time when I’m not simultaneously working on at least two books. For me, the books are all consuming and I think about them day and night. Since I began writing chess books, I filled up 77 yellow notepads with notes for my books. If I average about 650 notes per pad, that is a lot of notes. I can’t give you the exact number, because I already mentioned that I’m not very competent in math and am only able to count to 20.

DN: What is your philosophy for teaching?

CL: My philosophy for teaching is to never BS the student (or parent) and always ruthlessly tell them the truth — even when it hurts — which I do, since I’m not afraid of losing students by offending their parents. It is the nature of humans to crave praise, but false praise (which I see some teachers engage in) is harmful to the student. It’s a ruthless world out there and the student shouldn’t be congratulated if they didn’t prepare, lost 50 rating points in the tournament, ignored your opening advice and placed 40th in their section, yet some of the parents clap their hands in delight and tell the kid, “Great job! High five!” Instead, the student must be toughened with the truth. If the student is weak in a portion of the game or with a psychological aspect, I insist that they strive to fix the problem. The other issue is unrealistic expectations from parents. Their kid is lazy, 14 years old and rated 1400, yet they believe he or she is a prodigy and expect me to have the student break the 2200 barrier by the end of the year, achieve the IM title the following year and GM the year after that. I tell them this is impossible, yet love is blind and many parents believe their kid is the next Caruana or Carlsen.
Speaking of Carlsen, Lakdawala also wrote one Move by Move book on the World Champion.

DN: Do you have any advice for senior players?

CL: If we are the exquisitely carved porcelain doll, then old age is the hard stone floor when we are dropped, destined to smash into a thousand tiny shards. It’s difficult not to regard old age as a personal rebuke, since it is also a thief who slowly and brazenly embezzles our abilities over time. Survival in an unforgiving environment means having to make ruthless choices, so adjust your style to reduce calculation and complications, which exhaust us old guys. If you are an older player now way past your prime, you are most certainly better than your younger counterparts when it comes to decision-making and technical positions. So strive for these, rather than math-based situations. Our brains just don’t work as well as they did in our prime, so think about switching to the Caro-Kann and put your Dragons on the shelf. Factor in that your synapses don’t fire in the brain as fast as they used to and stop being the antlered buck who wants to smash heads, vying for dominance in the herd. Be sneaky, rather than forceful. So steer the game to logic-based positions, rather than irrational ones. Look, it isn’t all doom and gloom for us old guys and gals.

Davide then writes, “I’d like to pause the interview here to show Lakdawala can help also in the field of openings. He just mentioned the Caro-Kann for senior players, and he wrote a book on the Move by Move series.”

The game between A. Matanovic and T. Petrosian, Kiev, 1959 from the Caro-Kann book follows. Then the interview resumes:

With age comes the following:
1. Our experience translates to instant understanding in some positions, which youth and inexperience sorely lack.
2. With a slowing of our brain speed comes an increase of deceit, from decades of having been tricked ourselves. Young, inexperienced players can sometimes be easily tricked into positions which require experience and understanding, rather than calculation. I wrote in Play the London System,

“Old age and deceit overcome youth and talent,” and I meant it! So there are actual advantages to being old, and as the spokesperson for Farmer’s Insurance loves to repeat, “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

A writer cannot please everyone and must have thick skin to put his thoughts on paper, or digits on a screen. This is an example found on the internet:

maxharmonist

3 years ago

Cyrus Lakdawala is insufferable, his books being filled with endless and pointless meanderings of this sort (from the Kramnik book):

“The meek bishop backs off, does what he is told to do and goes where he is told to go. A beaten dog may still follow the cruel master’s command. In college, my first job was as an inept hotel clerk. When encountering daily traffic of unruly, spoiled hotel guests, my mouth would obediently respond, ‘Thank you, Sir, for your constructive criticism! Of course, Ma’am! Right away, Ma’am!’ As a pressure valve, my chafing mind, suffering from some strange, inward form of Tourette’s Syndrome, would add in the dark, silent realm of thought: ‘Bugger off (anatomically explicit expletives deleted)!'”

I am one of the readers who actually like “endless and pointless meanderings of this sort,” as they tell one much about the human being who has pointlessly meandered off endlessly. Some of my favorite books about Baseball have used a meandering regular season game as a backdrop for the author’s “meanderings,” which, when one cogitates a little, were the real reason for the book.

Because of reading this fabulous interview on the website of my state Chess magazine I intend on making it a point to read several of the author’s books, including this one since I have long been a Birdman:

It is obvious Lakdawala’s books have held their value. An example would be this book:

It is out of print and will set you back at least $83.44 on Amazon with some books priced over two hundred dollars. Obviously some readers like Cyrus Lakdawala’s books.

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Plagiarizing Ltisitsin’s Gambit

While researching the Lisitsin gambit for the previous article I found an interesting article which brought back memories. The article was in the Kingpin Chess Magazine, The Satirical Chess Magazine. (http://www.kingpinchess.net/)

I was surprised to see it is still in existence, though it appears now to be only online. Back issues can still be purchased. If only I could recall the issue shown to me by Thad Rogers many years ago. The particular issue contained a picture of a buxom lassie, nude from the waist up. Thad snickered when showing the then risque picture, informing he had to remove it from the table when shown the page containing the bountiful boobies. Today such a picture would not even rate a second glance, but things were much different ‘back in the day’ before the internet. The magazine was definitely the Kingpin of that tournament, if you get my drift. I recall a later discussion about the picture with one player, a religious type, asking, “Wonder why Thad did not show it to me?”

The article found concerning the Litsitsin gambit is dated February 25, 2010:

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

This item deals with an accusation of plagiarism leveled against GM Raymond Keene

in the magazine Inside Chess: May 3rd, 1993, pages 24-25; June 14th 1993, page 19 and February 7th 1994, page 3. We are grateful to Inside Chess, now owned by Chess Café, for permission to reproduce this material and would refer the reader to the website http://www.chesscafe.com where Yasser Seirawan contributes a regular Inside Chess article.

Inside Chess, May 3 1993

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

By IM John Donaldson

Examples of plagiarism are not unknown in chess literature, but Raymond Keene has set a new standard for shamelessness in his recent work, The Complete Book of Gambits (Batsford, 1992). True, the work of completely original nature is rare in the field of opening theory. The conscientious author typically collects material from a large number of sources (in itself a time consuming but useful task) and offers some new ideas of his own. Unfortunately, Mr. Keene has done nothing less than steal another man’s work and pass it off as his own.

Blatant

A glance at pages 128-132 of his recent book, The Complete Book of Gambits, and a comparison with my two-part article on Lisitsin’s Gambit, which appeared in Inside Chess, Volume 4, Issue 3, page 25-26, and Issue 4, page 26, early in 1991, reveals that not only did Mr. Keene have nothing new to say about Lisitsin’s Gambit, he could hardly be bothered to change any of the wording or analysis from the articles that appeared in Inside Chess, other than to truncate them a bit. What’s more, no mention of the original source was given in the The Complete Book of Gambits, misleading the reader as to the originality of Mr. Keene’s work.

Just how blatant was the plagiarism? Virtually every word and variation in the four-and-a-half pages devoted to Lisitsin’s Gambit in Keene’s book was stolen. Take a look at the following example: In Inside Chess, Volume 4, Issue 3, page 26 the following note is given after the sequence 1.Nf3 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Ng5 Nf6 4.d3 e5;

Accepting the gambit is foolhardy – 4…exd3 5.Bxd3 (The position is exactly the same as From’s Gambit: 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 with the exception that White’s Knight is already on g5, which spells a quick end for Black) 5…g6 (5…d5? 6.Bxh7) 6.h4 (Botvinnik gives 6.Nxh7! Rxh7 7.Bxg6+ Rf7 8.g4! [For 8.Nd2 see Supplemental Games next issue] 8…d5 9.g5 Ne4 10.Qh5 Nd6 [10…Be6 11.Bxf7+ Bxf7 12.g6] 11.Bxf7+ Nxf7 12.g6 winning) 6…d5 (6…e6 7.h5 Rg8 8.Nxh7 with a winning game Dorfman-Villareal, Mexico 1977) 7.h5 Bg4 8.f3 Bxh5 9.g4 Qd6 10.gxh5 Nxh5 11.Rxh5! Qg3+ (11…gxh5 12.f4 Qf6 13.Qxh5+ Kd7 14.Nf7 Rg8 15.Qxd5+) 12.Kf1 gxh5 13.f4 Qh4 14.Qf3 c6 15.Ne6 Kd7 16.Bf5 Bh6 17.Be3 Na6 18.Nc3 Nc7 19.Nc5+ Ke8 20.Bf2 Qf6 21.Qxh5+ Qf7 22.Bd7+ winning) – analysis by “King’s Pawn” in a 1956 issue of Chess.

Besides 4…e5 Black has two important alternatives in 4…e3 and 4…d5. For the former see issue 4. After the latter White gets the edge via 5.dxe4 h6 6.Nf3 dxe4 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 8.Ne5 Ke8 (8…Be6 9.Nc3 Nbd7 10.Bf4 c6 11.O-O-O Ke8 12.Nxd7 Bxd7 13.Bc4 Bf5 14.h3 g5 15.Be5 Bg7 16.g4 Bg6 17.Rhe1 and White is better in Sergievsky-Chistyakov, USSR 1964) 9.Bc4 e6 10.Ng6 Rg8 11.Nxf8 Rxf8 12.Nc3 and White is better in Podzielny-Castro, Dortmund 1977.

In The Complete Book of Gambits the following note is given after 4…e5;

Accepting the gambit is foolhardy – 4…exd3 5.Bxd3 (The position is exactly the same as From’s Gambit: 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 with the exception that White’s Knight is already on g5, which spells a quick end for Black) 5…g6 (5…d5? 6.Bxh7) 6.h4 (Botvinnik gives 6.Nxh7! Rxh7 7.Bxg6+ Rf7 8.g4! d5 9.g5 Ne4 10.Qh5 Nd6 [10…Be6 11.Bxf7+ Bxf7 12.g6] 11.Bxf7+ Nxf7 12.g6 winning) 6…d5 (6…e6 7.h5 Rg8 8.Nxh7 with a winning game Dorfman-Villareal, Mexico 1977) 7.h5 Bg4 8.f3 Bxh5 9.g4 Qd6 10.gxh5 Nxh5 11.Rxh5! Qg3+ (11…gxh5 12.f4 Qf6 13.Qxh5+ Kd7 14.Nf7 Rg8 15.Qxd5+) 12.Kf1 gxh5 13.f4 Qh4 14.Qf3 c6 15.Ne6 Kd7 16.Bf5 Bh6 17.Be3 Na6 18.Nc3 Nc7 19.Nc5+ Ke8 20.Bf2 Qf6 21.Qxh5+ Qf7 22.Bd7+ ) – analysis by King’s Pawn in a 1956 issue of Chess.

Besides 4…e5 Black has two important alternatives in 4…e3 and 4…d5. The former is considered in the text game whilst after the latter White gets the edge via 4…d5 5.dxe4 h6 6.Nf3 dxe4 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 8.Ne5 Ke8 (8…Be6 9.Nc3 Nbd7 10.Bf4 c6 11.O-O-O Ke8 12.Nxd7 Bxd7 13.Bc4 Bf5 14.h3 g5 15.Be5 Bg7 16.g4 Bg6 17.Rhe1 and White is better in Sergievyky-Chistyakov, USSR 1964) 9.Bc4 e6 10.Ng6 Rg8 11.Nxf8 Rxf8 12.Nc3 as in Podzielny-Castro, Dortmund 1977.

Fairness Called For

To be fair to Mr. Keene, he did some original work on Lisitsin’s Gambit – or perhaps he just miscopied. Consider the note after the moves 5.dxe4 Bc5 6.Bc4 Qe7 7.Bf7+. The Inside Chess article gives:

“The inaugural game in this variation, Lisitsin-Botvinnik, saw 7.Nc3 Bxf2+ 8.Kxf2 Qc5+ 9.Kg3 Qxc4 10.Rf1 O-O 11.Rxf6! gxf6 12.Qh5 Rf7 13.Nxf7 Qxf7 14.Qg4+ Kh8 15.Nd5 Na6 16.Qh4 d6 17.Bh6 Be6 18.Qxf6+ with equal chances.”

Photocopy Would Be Better

The note in The Complete Book of Gambits is exactly the same except that “with equal chances” is changed to “with equal success.” A burst of originality in Mr. Keene’s part, or just Fingerfehler? More originality is seen as “Sergievsky” at Keene’s hands. Perhaps he would do better to just photocopy other people’s work and print that.

Mr. Keene’s behavior is absolutely inexcusable.

Batsford Replies

Dear Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for your recent letter regarding The Complete Book of Gambits. I have discussed this matter with Raymond Keene who informs me that a full credit for yourself and Inside Chess was prepared with the manuscript to go into the book. However, due to an oversight on his part this became detached and failed to appear in the book. It was not his intention to publish the piece without due acknowledgement.

Mr. Keene offers his full apologies for this unfortunate oversight, which will be put right on the second edition (or the whole piece dropped if you prefer). Furthermore, he is happy to offer you, or any nominated charity of your choice, a share of the UK royalties on the book equivalent to the share that the Lisitsin section occupies in the book. We hope that such a settlement will be amenable to you.

On another matter, Mr. Keene will be the organiser of the 1993 World Championship match between Kasparov and Short and will be happy to supply your excellent magazine with full accreditation if you contact him directly. His fax number is (fax number given).

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Kinsman

Chess Editor (Batsford)

Donaldson Replies

Dear Mr. Kinsman,

Thank you for your prompt and courteous reply.

I would prefer that my work be omitted from any second edition of The Complete Book of Gambits and I suspect that if all the other victims of Mr. Keene’s “unfortunate oversights” are accorded the same privilege, it will be a slender work indeed.

(The complete lack of any bibliography for this book is typical of Keene.)

As for your generous offer of a share of the UK royalties, I would prefer a flat payment of $50 per-page ($200) be sent to me at this address.

Finally, I am afraid Inside Chess will have to cover the Kasparov-Short match without benefit of Mr. Keene’s accreditation which, no doubt, would somehow “detach” itself and “fail to appear” due to an “unfortunate oversight.”

Yours sincerely,

John Donaldson

Associate Editor, Inside Chess

http://www.kingpinchess.net/2010/02/the-sincerest-form-of-flattery/

There is more, much more, that can be found by clicking the link above.

As for GM Raymond Keene, the author of Chess Notes, Edward Winter, (http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/index.html) basically ripped Keene a new one at his website. It is sad, really, when one contemplates GM Keene authored one of the best Chess books I have ever read, and many others have had it one their list of the best Chess books of all time.

A word about Inside Chess

magazine from Dennis Monokroussos at The Chess Mind:

A Review of Inside Chess, 1988-2000

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:58PM

For large chunks of its history, Chess Life and Review was provincial, very slow to report on international events, and aimed at a very low readership in terms of skill. There was no internet though, and it had something pretty close to a monopoly in the United States, so strong club players (and up) were stuck. We could get the Informant twice a year (pretty late), and some lucky few of us could occasionally get photocopies of tournament bulletins Walter Browne would bring from overseas.

It was this vacuum that Yasser Seirawan’s

Inside Chess filled in a wonderful way from 1988 to 2000. For most of its run, the magazine came out every two weeks, and it included tournament reports from all over the world, with a special focus on super-tournaments. Sometimes Seirawan himself was a participant in those tournaments, but whether he was or not the reports were timely, colorful, and full of games commented on by the man himself. As an elite grandmaster, he certainly knew what he was talking about, and what was even better was his commentary style.

Seirawan could sling variations with the best of them, but his commentaries were primarily verbal. They were lively, insightful, and highly opinionated. Seirawan was no respecter of persons when it came to annotating a move, and if a move offended his aesthetic sensibilities he could award it a “??”, even if it was played (and praised!) by Garry Kasparov. One may dispute Seirawan’s judgments, but because of his forthrightness the reader is engaged and will both learn and be entertained.

The magazine wasn’t just Seirawan, though it was his baby. Many other players on both sides of the Atlantic helped out over the years, most of all American (by way of Bulgaria) IM Nikolay Minev, who wrote numerous articles from opening theory to chess history to various subtle tactical themes. (Others include GMs John Nunn, Nigel Short and Walter Browne; IMs Jeremy Silman, John Donaldson and Zoran Ilic, and there were many many more.) Nor was the magazine only games and analysis: there were tournament reports (with pictures and crosstables), interviews, discussions of chess politics, news briefs (often fascinating, as we see players who are famous today making their first tiny splashes on the world scene), and ads. (You might think of it as a sort of non-glossy, biweekly version New In Chess.)

That there were advertisements shouldn’t be surprising – bills must be paid. But one might not expect them to have survived into the current product. As an American who remembers many of the tournaments, companies and products advertised from the time, they have a small nostalgic value to me, but in all honesty a format that eliminated them wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. The format, however, gives us no choice: what we have are PDFs of scanned hard copies of the magazine’s issues.

There are three disks in the set: one for 1988-1990, a second for 1991-1995, and a third for 1996-2000. Each issue has its own PDF file, and while the issues are searchable the games can’t be successfully copied-and-pasted into ChessBase. Two handy features are a pair of PDFs: one with an index for the whole series, the other concatenating all 284 issues’ tables of contents. Not ideal, perhaps, but a decent compromise to having one gigantic PDF that would take a long time to load and search.

Maybe the product could have been better, but even so I’m very glad to own a copy, and I can heartily recommend it to chess fans everywhere and of all strengths (especially but not only to those rated over 1700-1800), and to fans of chess of history.

(Ordering information here; and many samples of Inside Chess articles can be found on the Chess Cafe website – type “Inside Chess” [without the quotation marks] in the site’s search box to find lots of sample articles.)
http://www.thechessmind.net/blog/2013/2/6/a-review-of-inside-chess-1988-2000.html

“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)