One of the glorious things about being a lover of the Royal game is the computer. One of the worst things about being a fan of chess is the computer.
Since I am still alive at an advanced age and have a computer I am able to watch the games of the best human players in real time via the machine. For instance, as I punch & poke at this very moment, GM Gata Kamsky is playing one of my favorite openings, the Leningrad Dutch, versus GM Mikhailo Oleksienko. The latter played 6 b3 against the usual first five moves, a move favored by IM Boris Kogan. The ideas the “Hulk” shared with me about this particular move order have stayed with me. I will be surfing on over to the game periodically while writing.
I prefer to watch the moves played in the game sans computer generated analysis while trying to understand what is transpiring over the board in a country on the other side of the planet. I admit that occasionally I am so flummoxed I will resort to looking at current analysis provided by the tournament website, or the ol’ standby, http://www.ChessBomb.com.
As should be known from what I have written previously, I am a HUGE fan of Hikaru Nakamura. “You gotta pull for SOMEBODY,” was heard on numerous occasions at the House of Pain. I pull for Hikaru, and make no bones about that fact. Today, at the tournament in memory of GM Vugar Gashimov, my man, Naka, had the White pieces versus Fabiano Caruana, my number two favorite player. I think of him as an International American. And no, Magnus is not my number three. That honor goes to Peter Svidler, because I read in an interview he listens to Bob Dylan. Svid, my man! I have got to like a player who appreciates Bob.
One of the best things about watching chess on the interweb is the interviews after the game. Unlike earlier days, a computer is used by the players for analyzing the just played game. Something may be gained by my being able to watch the players share their thoughts, but something has also been lost. Anyone who has ever watched GM Walter Browne go over his game will attest to that fact. It has been said that Walter has never lost a game in analysis, and for good reason. Walter was a bundle of energy with the pieces flying across, and sometimes off, the board. The best show was after the game when it came to Mr. Six Time!
Today’s game between my two favorite players was an English Four Knights game. The system is one in which White builds up a fine position with more space and then has to decide what to do with it. I am reminded of my days playing backgammon, when a player would reach a beautiful position and a kibitzer would say, “Take a picture of it,” meaning he had to make a move and because he had no timing, his position would collapse like a house of cards no matter what move he made. “Stack ’em up,” would also be heard as the unfortunate player had to begin placing too many chips on one pip. This is what occurred in today’s game. Hikaru said as much after the game. “I didn’t find the right plan an that’s why I should’ve lost,” he said. After move forty Hikaru said honestly, “Right around here I start losing my mind for no reason.” Earlier as I was watching him lose his mind, I thought of something GM Viktor Korchnoi said about Magnus Carlsen being rated so highly at such a young age and there being thousands of positions he had not seen. The great thing about the game of chess is that although a player may have seen millions, if not billions, of positions, he has not seen this particular position. He may have seen similar positions, but not this one, and he has to not lose his mind in the complications.
Because of the computer programs, or “engines” as they have become known, top level chess is vastly different than it was even a generation ago. This is not your father’s chess. The players speak of the “engines” anthropomorphically. For example, Hikaru said, “The computer will probably be a better person to ask than us.” Later he said, “That’s why computers are better than us.”
Fabiano got in on the discussion by saying, “The game was complicated. I don’t know how we played until I check the computer.” It seems to me that a player rated 2783 ought to know how he, and his opponent, played without having to resort to a machine. Have the programs advanced so far as to be the end all when it comes to understanding chess?
GM Caruana said, “I wish there was more time to see Baku. We only had one day…” I smiled while thinking to myself of the lyrics to a song from the musical, “Chess.”
“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me
One town’s very like another
When your head’s down over your pieces, brother”
“One Night in Bangkok” as written by Tim Rice, Benny Goran Bror Andersson, Bjoern K. Ulvaeus