There is software around which is specifically designed to help certain individuals use engines when they play chess online. This is enough to put honest players off online competition, and I can understand why.
I don’t believe it will ultimately be stopped by cheating detection, I know of several people who have been accused of using engines in their online games when I am quite sure that they did not do so. Equally I’m quite sure that subtle use of engines is possible and that it will get below whatever radar is in use.
At the same time there is a positive side to playing people who cheat, we get stronger opponents. Obviously we don’t want to treat such games as ‘fair competition’, but for training purposes they are excellent. There’s not much point playing some dummy who makes elementary mistakes, it’s much better that they are engine guided. It’s true that the person employing the engine will get zero benefit from these games but then that’s not our problem. They get an ego massage by getting their ratings up (and it seems that some can overlook the fact that it wasn’t their own doing), we get better training games.
Of course we might not want our true identities to be known when losing to these cheats, which is why it’s best to play under a pseudonym. But if we do this the cheats can only help us improve.
Here’s an interesting discussion between the ever animated Garry Kasparov and DeepMind’s CEO Demis Hassabis. The Deep Blue match features heavily.
With the amount of opening theory around these days it’s tempting to look for short cuts. This certainly explains the popularity of unusual openings, but often they are unusual for a reason. Isn’t there a better way to reduce the amount of study time needed?
Besides playing openings that lead to solid middle game positions there’s another approach worth considering; prepare opening lines together with your chess friends. This kind of team work can pay great dividends, you can motivate each other to study and play training games in the line(s) selected. In addition you can share research and search for resources jointly rather than on your own. It makes a lot of sense on many different levels.
Why don’t more people do this? A lot of players want their opening repertoire to be private and perhaps even secret. They might see the involvement of other people in this process as a potential security leak. But if you play good openings and trust your chess friends, these fears should be baseless.
I’ve come across a few cases of such joint preparation being very successful. One of these was at a club I once played for, Berlin Zehlendorf. Several members specialized in the Four Pawns Attack against the King’s Indian, and they all did well with it.
The strongest Four Pawns exponent at Zehlendorf was Wolfgang Riedel; here he is in action with his favourite weapon:
Although my first tournaments back were fairly successful (first place in the Rhyl and South Lakes Open sections) I was back as a spectator for the Heywood Congress. I’m going through a busy patch with non chess commitments that started just after the South Lakes event. It’s good to sense if you are taking too much on and this was one of those moments.
It’s also good to look for flaws in your play, even if you have been doing well. The weaknesses are certainly there as I had not had time to do any serious preparation, relying instead on improvisation. This can be OK up to a certain level but there’s a point at which it becomes a serious problem. Against well prepared professional players you will certainly get outgunned in the early stages, struggling to get a decent game as Black and having them equalize easily when you are White. And this is compounded if your games end up on databases so that people can study them with the help of modern technology.
I’ll be out of action in July as well but should soon get time to start working on my game. A break isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s better to plan than to charge ahead out of compulsion.
This game has already getting well known but it’s worth reposting here, Levon Aronian wins really brilliantly against the reigning World Champion, Magnus Carlsen. Besides the later fireworks the move 10.Bd3-c2 is worth noting, creating problems for Black as Peter Svidler explains:
Last weekend I managed to follow up my previous first place in the Rhyl Open with another one in the South Lakes Open. After taking a bye on the Friday night I won the rest of my games, my opponents including FIDE Masters Joe McPhillips and Charlie Storey.
The game against Storey was interesting, a dramatic last round encounter in which White sacrificed a piece early on. I wasn’t sure at the time if 10.Qe2 was inspiration or a reluctance to retreat the knight after having played 8.Nb5. Certainly White gets compensation but I’d need some convincing that it’s enough. Later on I was baffled by White’s late resignation when we both had oodles of time on the clock, though perhaps it was through a sense of disappointment about the outcome.
Here anyway is the game:
My son Sam also did very well in the Major, scoring a win and three draws and recording his best ever rating performance (179 ECF). So it’s working out well with us both playing.
Here are a couple of neat graphical representations of chess games. The modern game could probably do with more of this kind of thing in order to draw kids in. Moving dull plastic pieces around a board lacks appeal when compared to some of the amazing video games that are out there now, and I suspect that chess has lost many potential players to these games.
One of my favourite chess commentators, GM Maurice Ashley, packs an amazing amount of insight into this 2 minute Youtube clip. I’m not sure I’d have run through the moves of a Berlin Defence while doing so, though I’ve also run through some Ruy Lopez moves when interviewed for television.
I finally made my first tentative step back into competitive chess by playing the Rhyl Open last weekend. It made sense to choose this one as the scene for my comeback, it promised to be a nerve wracking experience and I wanted a tournament where I felt there wouldn’t be too much shadenfreude if I did as badly as I feared.
Having taken a half point bye on the Friday evening I managed to get a win and a draw on the Saturday. On the Sunday I was already feeling more confident and managed to win both games to finish first equal.
The key game was my Sunday morning encounter with Mike Surtees, a highly original player who does well in North West UK events. I had prepared for him the night before and I felt that his line against the Sicilian left Black with a promising position, similar to those White obtains against a dubious line of the Nimzo-Indian Defence. And in fact he found himself in a difficult position early on:
So where do things go from here? Well as my son Sam was good with us both playing (he did well with a win and three draws in the Major) I’ll be entering some more events where he’s playing. As for international events and stuff, they’re going to have to wait.
If chess has analogies with any physical sport it would probably be tennis. Serving can be likened to playing White and the return of serve is like playing Black. Serve and volley players are similar to those with sharp openings who rush out at their opponents whereas others prefer to win games from the baseline.
The following effort is an example of winning from the baseline as I barely moved a piece beyond the fourth rank, despite being White. But at the end of the game Black’s position was absolutely hopeless: