Games, analysis and discussion

Discussion of some modern problems for chess (e.g. computers)

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Here's a list of what at least some people may see as some modern problems for chess, together with my discussion of each:

1. Computers are better than the top humans (e.g. now there may be less public respect for chess & chessplayers).

A common argument is to draw the analogy that sprinters don't compete with motorized vehicles, so why compare chessplayers to engines? A counter-argument may be that chess used to demonstrate the glory of man's intellect, and having something on Earth that 'outhinks' us (e.g. in chess) is irksome, at the least, compared to being physically less able. It seems to me at this time that there can be no worthwhile board game of skill that top humans will forever outdo computers at. Unless something special happens & we lose some of our arguably less desirable technology, say to divine intervention necessary to avert WWIII, we'll have to get used to computers outdoing people in the long run. Meanwhile, I think the public still generally maintains a good &/or fond respect for chess & human players regardless, perhaps largely accepting the sprinter analogy.

2. Computers & other modern technology make cheating easier (especially on internet).

Engines have no doubt made cheating easier, and that too may hurt some people's estimate of chess and chess players. However, both for internet and over-the-board chess, efforts continue to be made to combat it, though it's like an arms race I understand. At least chess is in good company, for there is such technology-assisted cheating in the education system & other areas of life. Plus, one might hope for looming divine intervention, as I alluded to previously.

3. Computer databases commonly used for learning much about opponents.

Computer databases are allowing (especially, serious) players to prepare extensively for opponents, but at least it often cuts both ways. Plus, it encourages players to have wider, less predictable opening repertoires, if that's seen as a good thing for chess in general.

4. Openings being slowly played out (heavy theory now for many openings that are thought to be critical).

This possibility alone could prove to be the demise of chess, as far as elite player chess events are concerned, in 100 years, I once predicted on chesstalk (IM Jean Hebert disagreed; he thought 500+ years for the demise). Perhaps if players don't press so hard for an edge (or equality) in the opening more often, less critical, but still interesting, openings might get played more often.

5. Endgame tablebases removing mystery of endgames, at least.

Chess had more charm before computers, I think, but so far at least tablebases are confined to a relatively small number of pieces. Who knows, maybe some day chess will be solved, especially if quantum computers become practical.

6. No more adjournments (time controls with increments, engines, tablebases).

I used to enjoy analyzing the odd adjourned position before digital clocks came along, making increments possible. Adjournments were stopped generally after elite chess first did so. It's too bad that chapters about adjournments in old books thus go to waste, but I don't miss adjournments myself, and I always felt it was somehow like cheating because pieces can be moved around, etc. (but then, that's how I personally feel about how engines 'think', too).

7. High level of draws in elite chess.

There's lots of technique among high level chess players nowadays, but sometimes I think they respect each other way too much; they should try to grind down an opponent in dull positions more often than they do. Fischer induced some 'incredible' errors at times from opponents who were either worn down or psyched out. It was rather like boxing in terms of its toll, then.

8. Very high level of draws in correspondence chess (due to engines).

Not much I can say about this, regrettably. Perhaps correspondence players may wish for divine intervention, too.

9. Advantage of White in chess can make it hard to win with Black in top level chess.

At least it's not quite as bad as having the advantage of the serve in a game of tennis, but that is a quite playable sport thanks to taking turns with the serve. Think of winning with Black as a fun challenge. Plus recall what I wrote about trying to grind down top players in dull positions, if one finally equalizes with Black.

10. Role of human annotator has been undermined by engines.

Nowadays an engine can spew out a lot of analysis of a given position, and an annotator's job should be more about using much prose to explain positional/strategic things to people, besides psychological or other considerations that may have affected the players involved. On the bright side, perhaps, distant spectators can instantly analyze a game in progress with an engine.

11. Grandmasters annotate opening books nowadays really only for players below their level (due to engines).

In the old days GMs probably didn't annotate much for their peers, either. Now they have less options that way.

12. Possible discontent with chess may attract people more to chess variants (or other board games of skill).

I looked at stats for FICS server recently and found that for about 15 years there was an average of 2% of all games played that were chess variants (the rest were chess games). Of the 2%, at least half were bughouse games, and much of the remainder were crazyhouse. So, not much interest in chess variants compared to chess at the moment, it would seem. I noticed also that on, there appered to be no chess variant organization in the world that had not gone defunct for some time now. On the bright side for chess variants, standard chess in its current form must inevitably die off, for some reason, even if it takes centuries more. Then it may be from the ranks of chess variants that a replacement form of chess will come. For now, I've looked at dozens of chess variants, however briefly, and it's my opinion that none have all the positive features that chess has, and then plus some more. Many seem worthwhile games though, and what they lack in comparison to chess in some way(s), they compensate for in other ways(s). I'm not that high on variants that have some random element to them, though I understand that e.g. Knightmare Chess might be interesting (it uses card decks to change rules as the game unfolds, in ways that can be somewhat anticipated perhaps).

A 2012 report on FIDE website re: chess demographics (includes discussion of public's views re: chess):

FICS stats for 2015 & previously:

A link re: Knightmare Chess:

A link showing some IMHO cool plastic fairy chess pieces that are now being commercially sold:

Below is a link giving 12 reasons I think people may have to play chess without much taking skill level or ambition into account:

A link re: why chess is so popular among board games of skill:

Below is a link re: what I think the future of chess may be:

Below is a link re: my thoughts on reducing the perceived geek factor of chess:

Below is a link re: my perceived benefits & disappointments with offline chess as a master:

A link re: some ideas of mine for new Chess Federation of Canada services for its members:

Updated 05-21-2017 at 10:29 AM by Kevin Pacey

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Chess issues