Advantage

The concept in Chess of advantage is peculiar in that it lacks rigorous definition.

What is advantage? If there is one human notion of the game which is endorsed by our experience with computer chess, it is certainly that chess positions tend to possess myriad defensive resources: the embarrassing truth is that one must work hard to lose a chess game.

Advantage in chess parlance seems usually to mean something only distantly related to definitive advantage. Well played by both, the game ends in a draw with the computer still showing, say, +0.28 for one player. Perhaps advantage might be frankly be defined as “most of the human players I know would rather have this position than the other one”.

Which brings us to another interesting juncture.

The two sides’ arrays form sort of a yang and yin in the opening. White is the Arousing, Black the Receptive, so to speak. An opening position is the intersection of White’s expansion and Black’s absorption of same. So is either position “better”, despite the computer heuristic of assigning numerical advantage to one or the other side? In what way is White better off possessing more space if Black is perfectly positioned to deflect and dissipate any White initiative?

So then is the assignment of “advantage” to White a Freudian reflection of the historically male scholarship of the game? White is “thrusting forward”, ergo White has the “whip hand”, etc.? Consider the historical enthusiasm for 1. e4 in the light of the objective generality that 1. e4 is pretty much a pawn sacrifice, one which, properly played, secures for White enough activity against proper Black defense to allow White to draw a pawn down.

World champion Em. Lasker seems to have grasped of the truth that the only advantage that can be rigorously defined is winning advantage in that he willingly entered known positions assessed as inferior by his contemporaries.

Jacques Delaguerre