Saturday, March 2, 2013

An Asterisk for Chess Engine Users?

It is interesting that your comments in the recent blog fit with the thoughts I had a few days ago. One of my friends was lamenting that he lost a game because of a blunder. I stated that even the best players will occasionally lose games because of blunders, and sent him the following position and analysis.

GM Ivanchuk, Vassily (2758) - GM Sandipan, Chanda (2590)
Vladimir Petrov Memorial, Jurmala LAT (14.1), 2013.02.17

1. c4 c6 2. e4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bf4 g6 7. c5 Bg7 8. Bb5 O-O 9. Nge2 Ne4
10. O-O Nxc3 11. bxc3 Na5 12. Qa4 f6 13. Rad1 e5 14. dxe5 fxe5 15. Be3 Be6 16. f4 Qc7 17. fxe5 Bxe5 18. Nf4 Bxf4 19. Rxf4 a6 20. Be2 Nc4 21. Rxf8+ Rxf8 22. Bxc4 dxc4 23. Rd6 Qf7 24. Qd1
Bg4 25. Qe1 Bd7 26. Bd4 Bc6 27. h4 Re8 28. Qg3 Qf5 29. Rf6 Qe4 30. Kh2 Qd5 31. Rxg6+ Kf7

Position after 31. ...  Kf7

32. Qc7+??  ...

If Ivanchuk would have had Rybka at his side, he would have won the game with 32. Rf6+ Ke7 33. Qg7+ Kd8 34. Rd6+ , instead of  32. Qc7+??  However, Black would have also have played better chess with an engine at his side. Alexander Pope stated, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”  Without human error, chess would be a very boring game.

32. ... Kxg6 33. Qg7+ Kf5 34. Qf6+ Kg4 35. Qg7+ Kf4 36. Qh6+ Ke4 37. Qe3+ Kf5 38. Qh3+ Kg6 39. Qg4+ Kf7 0-1

Chess engines may end the beautiful game of chess through boredom. They may also end chess if it becomes a fraudulent game. It seems like everyday, the media is telling us about some form of fraudulent behavior  (e.g., the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and cycling, plagiarism in college, Ponzi schemes). With a decent chess engine, a 1300 player can pose as a 2400 player. In my opinion, this is clearly another form of fraudulent behavior. If you studied and played chess for several years and reached the 1900 level, would you want to lose to 1300 player using a chess engine?
Nowadays, it seems like it is becoming harder to find and appreciate actual accomplishments by people. What is real? The argument for the use of chess engines seems to be that we cannot stop people from using them so we might as well make them legal. I recall when Roger Maris broke the home run record. Baseball gave him an asterisk because he did it with more games in the season.  Maybe we can place asterisks by the names of chess players who use chess engines.

John Adams
Guest Columnist

(Note: Mr. Adams won the prestigious U.S. Grand National Chess Championship in 1974, an era when chess engines did not exist.  - Webmaster.)