In May, 2006, The future undisputed World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik was faced with a problem; how to play a computer even more powerful than the famous Deep Blue.
Deep Fritz represented real power at the chess board, but Kramnik, an experienced “advanced chess” player (where two humans use computers to help their play, legally, in a game) was drawn into the method rather than the topic of checkmate. After 34 moves he was faced with this position.
Kramnik to move as black.
And he chose 34. … Qe3?? missing the checkmate-in-one by Deep Fritz on Kramnik’s own king.
“The computer age has arrived, and it influences everything: analysis, preparation, information. Now a different talent is required – the ability to synthesize ideas.” – Boris Spassky.
Computers have quickly come into every aspect of our lives, bringing to light both the negative and positive attributes that we as humans have always had but never realized.
Before computers came to chess, players played the game armed with the knowledge and analysis of previous Grandmaster games or merely their own game review. GM moves before the time of computer critique were always correct (until they’re proven incorrect by other Grandmasters’ moves and analysis) and information on them was limited and often expensive.
Enter chess engines and a few years down the line the situation has changed drastically. Grandmasters who were previously held in awe are now being taunted from the sideline because of their machine-calculated blunders: errors made public almost before they even complete moving.
Analysis doesn’t take that long anymore. A Grandmaster doesn’t have to wait for ages before another Grandmaster is ripe enough to challenge his moves. His moves are analyzed and laughed at right under his nose.
Does this help us in any way? Maybe…
Maybe the computer is taking away a lot of things – the pleasure of watching the game with other real people, the naturalness, the royalty, and the grandiose dreaming associated with the game.
But maybe also the computer analysis has helped us discover ourselves too. Computers easily expose our tactical faults at the game of chess; but more importantly they may make us realize our own strategic and human capabilities, and that of our peers.
“But whatever you might say and whatever I might say, a machine which can play chess with people is one of the most marvelous wonders of our 20th century!” – David Bronstein
Strategy, not Tactics
Knowing that our faults will be out there in the open quickly challenges us to put our strength into the thinking and analysis of principles – tactics alone no longer cut it at the highest levels of play.
Computers may have made us more human. We no longer push pieces with superior smirks on our faces, because now we know our own vulnerability. GM’s are no longer interested in making their games faultless, but instead adapt their styles to magnify their own strengths, and profit from the weakness of their competition. This is what strategy is, folks.
In the same vein, tiny super computers and software written for every human endeavor may expose our weaknesses, but they challenge us to harness our strengths more efficiently also.
They tell us that as humans no matter how hard we try, we can’t know it all. We’ll always have frailty and faults. This lesson can leave us more grounded if we choose, and teach us the importance of depth of thought instead of raw and instantaneous tactical gratification – we should think and improve on those perceptive and judgemental, truly human, elements that computers will never possess.
“Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams, but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love, and understanding.” – Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.
To win today we must be deep, be principled, be human, and Be Strategic.
credit: the full Deep Fritz – V. Kramnik game can be found in interactive PGN format here…
image: Deep Fritz (w) vs. Vladimir Kramnik, 2006: Black to move. created by http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-diagram-generator.php