The Future of Chess is Terrifying

Continuing with “Intelligence and chess” by Fernand Gobet, & Guillermo Campitelli, published in 2002, we find this under the sub-heading, Expertise in chess:

“In addition, there are important individual differences in the style of play:
some players are aggressive, others defensive; some prefer tactical complications,
others transparent strategic planning. Finally, one can look at extra-chess activities
for evidence of individual differences. In his 1946 book, De Groot found that there
were important differences in training and background in the sample of 55
grandmasters he studied. In particular, he found that 13 of his grandmasters had a
training in science or mathematics. Interestingly, such differences in background
have tended to fade away in recent years: nowadays, with the stringent training
requirements of competitive chess, most players are professional, with no university
training.
Where do these differences come from? Several psychological explanations,
paralleling the strands of research mentioned above, have been advanced. Information-
processing research tends to emphasise the role of the environment (presence
of coach or playing opportunities, coaching techniques, etc.). The extreme position
in this strand has been taken by Ericsson (e.g., Ericsson et al., 1993) in his theory of
deliberate practice, which denies the role of innate differences, except for motivation
and the ability to sustain long-term practice.”

This is the “theory.” In an article at the Chessbase website, Vladimir Kramnik: My Path to the Top, dated 2/20/2015, we find the “practice.” Vladimir says, “If my first book would have been a collection of the best games of Kasparov or Tal, I am sure that I would have a different playing style. But it happened as it happened, and I have nothing to complain about.”

“In the introduction Kramnik reveals how he started to play chess and he describes the atmosphere and the chess culture in Tuapse, a small town on the Black Sea where he was born and brought up. You will hear charming and humorous anecdotes you have not heard before: “I had a normal childhood. When I was seven, I went to a normal school. I would say Tuapse was a normal provincial Soviet town. It is an industrial town with working people, and I can say that I was not in the elite atmosphere, I’d say as far I am aware quite a few of my classmates, they went to prison rather soon after finishing the school (laughs). So it was a normal worker’s place with rather tough working lessons…”

“Kramnik also reveals what his first chess book was. Can you guess? A collection with the Best Games of Anatoly Karpov! Kramnik was fascinated by the games of Karpov and studying them had a big influence on his style.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/vladimir-kramnik-my-path-to-the-top-3)

If how chess is learned depends upon the style of the games from which the student learns, what kind of players will be, or are already being produced due to the influence of computer programs such as Komodo and Stockfish? To help answer this question I send you to the excellent article, Massacre by the innocents, by GM Vlad Tkachiev at the chess24.com website. The GM, one of the best writers, and thinkers, in chess, writes about the future generation of chess, “The future of the second chess superpower arranged a worldwide premiere just for us, with a clash of generations, civilisations and philosophies. And here’s what left the deepest impression on me: the way, whether it was evening, afternoon or morning, they would gather in the lobby of the Grand Sahid Hotel, connect to the free Wi-Fi and spend hours immersed in surfing the internet. They didn’t talk to one another. They didn’t drink anything. They paid no attention to their surroundings. They were off on their notebooks, tablets and smartphones – somewhere very far away.
They say we fear the unknown. For us, seasoned professionals, it was terrifying.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/battle-of-the-chess-generations)

A Chess Win-Win Situation

Some of the best writing on the recent World Chess Championship match was done by GM Vlad Tkachiev. His new blog, ChEsSay, has been translated with permission from the Russian original by the chess24.com website. His post, “Tkachiev on Carlsen’s problems in Sochi,” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/tkachiev-on-carlsen-s-problems-in-sochi) contains a comment which caught my eye:

“If Anand wins, I get a double burger. If he loses, I’ma hit dat caruana marijuana. So, win-win.” – MohandasGandhi

Fire up that Bong, Mohandas G.!

The Chess Mind

Writing on his blog, “The Chess Mind,” (http://www.thechessmind.net/blog/2014/11/20/the-world-championship-on-espn.html) Dennis Monokroussos takes exception to the title of an article appearing on the Grantland website, “Alien Space Tours, Vladimir Putin, and World-Exploding Double Blunders: Welcome to the 2014 World Championship.”
(http://grantland.com/the-triangle/world-chess-championship-aliens-vladimir-putin-magnus-carlsen-vishy-anand/). He writes, “I have only one real complaint about the article, and chances are it’s not the author’s fault: the headline.” Later he has this to say, “Thanks for nothing, Bill Simmons and ESPN.”

Dennis is obviously unaware of the expression, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” (“The proverbial expression began to be used in the early 20th century. The earliest version that I have found in print is from the US newspaper The Atlanta Constitution, January, 1915:

All publicity is good if it is intelligent.

The thought behind the proverb had been expressed earlier by Oscar Wilde:

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/there-is-no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity.html)

It is good for the Royal game when those outside of chess write about the game, and it is even better for those involved with the chess to listen to those on the outside looking in because perception is reality.

Spike Friedman, author of the aforementioned article, wrote this, “I didn’t see the blunder. I mean, I saw it. I was watching the match at about five in the morning, but I didn’t see what happened as it happened. The Houdini computer I was watching along with immediately registered the swing in win expectancy, but it frequently shows wild results in the first few seconds after a move. I’ve grown numb to the initial burst that suggests a move may have been a crucial blunder, as the computer often needs to push a little deeper before seeing that the status quo has not shifted. Additionally, the broadcast had gone to a break, so there was no live commentary on the moves. You can hear a snippet of the ad in the YouTube capture of the moment. Anand had already played before the commentators were back on air.”

I checked the USCF website but could not find a rating for Spike, so he must be one of the “many” who play and/or follow chess but cannot find a reason to join USCF.

The article contains a video of the missing moments during the now infamous double blunders.

This is incredible! Vishy did not, as I wrote earlier, make an instantaneous move. How could Vishy have sat there a full minute and not have seen Knight takes pawn? Only one who has been there and done that can understand the chess mind.

Spike writes, “…chess is a game of two people trying to be the better human.”

Actually, Spike, the reason they are playing the match is because, like the Highlander, “there can be only one.” Spike goes on, getting carried away with, “A generous interpretation of a world championship in chess, then, would be to say that it’s the crowning of the ultimate human.”

All I know is that both of the humans have held title of World Chess Champion. I suppose one could think of them as the “ultimate” chess champion, but “ultimate human?” I will leave that for others to decide.

Spike has also determined, “…it also means that the world championship is being contested at a lower level than usual.”

Spike does not mention what his buddy Houdini has to say, but it could also mean this is a much better match “than usual.” I read a quote contained in one of the excellent blog posts by GM Vlad Tkachiev translated and printed on the Chess24 website (https://chess24.com/). “The level of the match will be determined by the level of Anand’s play.” Vishy has played much better chess and, unlike the first match, this one is not a “walk-over.” A close match produces much more stress and strain. The only explanation is that both players “cracked” and happened to do it in back to back moves.

What damages the credibility of the Royal game is a headline like this one: “Fide yet to get World Chess Championship prize fund”

The article begins, ” It is inconceivable that the Russian organizers of the ongoing world chess championship won’t pay Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand their match fees, but a top official on Friday revealed that the world chess federation hadn’t yet received in its bank account the event’s prize fund of €1 million. Coming at the halfway stage, barely two weeks before the match is to conclude, it points to the state of affairs at the world chess federation better known by its French acronym Fide (derived from Federation Internationale des Eches).” (http://www.livemint.com/Consumer/T6963pMV10OYMUy1K7e9SK/World-chess-federation-yet-to-receive-prize-fund.html?utm_source=copy)

The insular chess world needs to take note of how the game is portrayed in the media, especially social media.