'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

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  • 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

    In the ChessTalk thread titled "Time Increments", I asked Kevin Pacey: where is the interest in the most elite form of chess possible, namely chess played between top computer engines such as Houdini versus Stockfish? In other words, where is the book on such games? (those two engines did play each other I believe in 2013, in a match of many dozens of games, and this match went for the most part unnoticed and as far as I know, there is nowhere to be found an in-depth analysis of the games).

    Kevin posted in that thread this response:

    "A book on a computer vs. computer match would likely sell far less than a book on a match between elite humans that wasn't a blowout, because we can't calculate nor evaluate positions as well (or in the same way) as computers, and their 'styles' would be harder to explain in depth, or enjoy."

    What Kevin appears to be saying is that not only he personally, but most chess players who follow the game's latest developments, would not enjoy a book analyzing Houdini versus Stockfish games because:

    (a) they wouldn't understand the analysis (presumably even if the analysis was written by humans, which begs the question... who else would write it?), and

    (b) they wouldn't be able to discern any 'style' in either computer engine's play.

    I think Kevin's points are important enough to warrant a separate thread on the topic of just what IS a chess player's 'style', and asking whether Kevin's points are valid. Why is this important? I think because everyone who can call themself a serious chess player seems to want to see or to develop or see developed in others 'quality chess'. I keep seeing this mentioned again and again. Yet nobody seems to pay any attention to the greatest quality chess, computer engine versus computer engine. Regardless of style considerations, these engines when matched against each other give us the pinnacle of chess quality. You must believe in that if you believe in the ELO rating system. So what that means is: we should all be able to learn from analysing games between top engines, more so than analyzing ANY human versus human games or even human versus engine games.

    On the question of 'style', only a few words come to my mind. There is 'positional' versus 'tactical', there is 'conventional' versus 'unorthodox' (especially in openings), and there is what I would call 'broad' versus 'narrow'. Those last terms refer to whether a player is adept and expert in all phases of the game (opening, middlegame, endgame) or only one or two of those phases, and may actually be weak in one or two phases.

    Additionally, there could be the concepts of 'continuity' versus 'discontinuity'. This refers to whether a player shows a tendency to embark on a strategic plan and stick to it come what may, or instead shows a tendency to jump from strategic plan to strategic plan based on what the opponent is doing to change the nature of the game.

    If anyone else has more definitions of style, by all means add them in this thread so we can all get a more complete picture of exactly what this entails.

    So I suppose the first question many of you could answer is: for you to analyze a set of games set forth in a book, do you need those games to be a collection that contrasts two different styles? For example, Kasparov versus Karpov or Fischer versus Spassky?

    Alternatively, would you ever be interested in a book that analyzes games purely for the sake of learning 'quality chess', i.e. a book that showcases games between many different players, in which the games have been selected for their instructive value alone?

    If a prominent chess author, let's say a John Nunn or a Jeremy Silman, were to author a book analyzing Houdini versus Stockfish, would you buy it and if so, purely for that author's reputation?

    What if the book were authored by some run-of-the-mill GM, and it seemed to have good annotations and diagrams, would you buy the book in order to learn about 'quality chess'?

    And finally: would you agree that the lack of discernable 'style' in the play of computer engines on the whole (which we can agree for now is entirely possible) means that there is little to nothing you could learn from analyzing games between such engines, either on your own or with the aid of such a book authored by a GM?

    That last question gets to the crux of Kevin's points: is chess 'objective' enough that players can learn something from the highest quality play in terms of ELO rating, even if that play exhibits no discernable 'style' over many games?
    Only the rushing is heard...
    Onward flies the bird.

  • #2
    Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

    Originally posted by Paul Bonham
    On the question of 'style', only a few words come to my mind. There is 'positional' versus 'tactical', there is 'conventional' versus 'unorthodox' (especially in openings), and there is what I would call 'broad' versus 'narrow'. Those last terms refer to whether a player is adept and expert in all phases of the game (opening, middlegame, endgame) or only one or two of those phases, and may actually be weak in one or two phases.

    Additionally, there could be the concepts of 'continuity' versus 'discontinuity'. This refers to whether a player shows a tendency to embark on a strategic plan and stick to it come what may, or instead shows a tendency to jump from strategic plan to strategic plan based on what the opponent is doing to change the nature of the game.

    If anyone else has more definitions of style, by all means add them in this thread so we can all get a more complete picture of exactly what this entails.
    Some elements of style are described on the Chess Problem page for Wikipedia. The world of chess problems in general often refers to style and can be helpful.

    Economy, beauty of play, originality come to mind as elements of style. The late, great Vladimir Nabokov (who was both a novelist and a chess player) wrote about the "originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity" of creating chess problems. All of these terms could apply to the style of a player, or computer, although I'm not entirely sure what Nabokov meant by "splendid insincerity".
    Last edited by Nigel Hanrahan; Sunday, 6th April, 2014, 04:36 PM.
    Dogs will bark, but the caravan of chess moves on.

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    • #3
      Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

      Computers do have 'styles', but IMO what's harder to explain about them (than human styles) is describing in even inexact terms the decisions by which their move selections are based on, i.e. describing all the numerical values produced by their evaluation functions together with the other means by which their algorithms accept/reject moves.

      I've heard of some programs being stronger than others 'positionally'. However trying to get into the finer points of a player's style is easier in the case of humans. Some human players clearly always (or sometimes, depending on the opponent and tournament situation) prefer piece play over pushing on the pawns at an early stage, for example, assuming the two approaches were even remotely close in strength objectively. A computer might randomly do the former in one game but not another if the same position is reached, and piece play is otherwise just as strong numerically as pawn play.

      In any case, many nuances and factors that haven't been mentioned (nor that can be summed up on a relatively short list) go into what can be called a style, and no two players are exactly alike. Sometimes style might be seen as a shortcut to explaining strengths vs. weaknesses (can you believe it?... Karpov once claimed he had no style), but I don't agree with this too much since style can also refer to simple likes and dislikes between moves of roughly equivalent value (at least in the case of humans).

      Fwiw, back in the days when computers were still relatively weak, IMO their 'styles' might have been more entertaining (due to searching for an explaination of their occasional comical [not tragic!?] blunders, for one thing) and they seemed easier to distinguish, both from other machines' styles, and at least at more times by their types of moves that would seldom have been made by human players.
      Last edited by Kevin Pacey; Monday, 7th April, 2014, 07:05 PM. Reason: Grammar
      Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
      Murphy's law, by Edward A. Murphy Jr., USAF, Aerospace Engineer

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      • #4
        Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

        This all misses the point.

        The reason I prefer games involving humans are that they are humans. Humans are interesting, they have personalities. Kasparov is bombastic. Fisher was eccentric. Karpov was a machine. Korchnoi was fighting the USSR. Anand is the gentleman. It is their lives, the fact that they connect with you, that they react emotionally puts the face to chess. Stockfish vs Rybka are two soulless machines. How can you relate to either?

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        • #5
          Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

          Originally posted by Garland Best View Post
          This all misses the point.

          The reason I prefer games involving humans are that they are humans. Humans are interesting, they have personalities. Kasparov is bombastic. Fisher was eccentric. Karpov was a machine. Korchnoi was fighting the USSR. Anand is the gentleman. It is their lives, the fact that they connect with you, that they react emotionally puts the face to chess. Stockfish vs Rybka are two soulless machines. How can you relate to either?

          Garland, I can definitely see your point IF we were talking about an activity that is inherently human in itself. For example, tennis or boxing or political debates. It's hard to imagine machines engaging in any of that. In the case of tennis, I grew up watching it in the era of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Ivan Lendl. Those 3 guys hated each other, so any time there was a match between any 2 of them, it was a fantastic battle of wills. But it involved human physical activity and so their personalities came through in the way they behaved physically. For example, Lendl never won Wimbledon because his stoic personality made him physically unable to handle the faster reflexes needed to win on grass.

          I've also dreamed of seeing the day when there could be a moderated debate where on one side you have Bill Maher, Lawrence O'Donnell, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz and on the other side you have Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Dennis Miller, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. There would not be an objective 'winning side' of any such debate, but it would be fun to watch the clash of personalities head-on. Heck, if Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe are on opposite political sides, throw them into that debate too!

          But chess is as inherently human an activity as is Jeopardy. Remember the IBM computer program, 'Watson', that beat the best human Jeopardy contestants? Jeopardy is simple data storage and retrieval, where the combination of the most massive storage and the quickest retrieval wins. Purely a machine activity. Humans can excel, but machines do it better.

          By your points, I would guess you are one who thinks chess is a sport. But it is simply not so. Chess is pure calculation and logic. There doesn't need to be any physical pieces and board. It can all be represented symbolically. It can all be 1's and 0's and nothing more. That is not inherently human nor is it sport. It is simply a puzzle to be solved, as was done with checkers.

          You might respond that there is psychology in chess when humans play over the board. The two players are physically close and 'aware' of the presence of the other. But you also did mention something very interesting: you said Karpov was a machine. From that, one could infer that Karpov was able to reduce any psychological aspect of a game down to zero. If you could enjoy watching Karpov at chess, why not a computer?

          Even if there is a psychological element to human over-the-board games, I would call that a distraction from what chess really is. If you want to see two humans engaged in sport which includes psychology, watch tennis or squash or one-on-one basketball or billiards or (gack!) bowling.

          However, I will propose one exception to this line of thinking. We can easily picture that computers are leading chess in the direction of being 'solved'. I believe within 20 years (IF programmers continue to work at improving chess engines, which at this point is debateable), the top computer engines will no longer be able to defeat one another. All matches between them will end in draws.

          So the exception I would propose is this: humans can and do produce more INTERESTING chess than computers. By that I don't mean the psychological element. What I mean is the 'deviation' element. A computer vs computer game will calculate the most precise moves to 30 plies deep, for example, and at no time during such a game is there a point where each side has 3 or 4 or more pieces en prise. Only humans produce this kind of chess, and even they do it very rarely. Anyone who appreciates this aspect of chess above all is appreciating chess not as a logic puzzle, not as a sport, but as an art form leading us off in hidden mysterious alleyways where the final scene could be anything at all, and the journey rather than the destination is the goal.

          The names of players who played or currently play this kind of style are highly revered in chess history, even if they weren't considered among the 'greatest' players. If Karpov was one of the greatest players ever, Tal was probably more loved and followed. Today we have Nakamura as maybe the best current example of this style, although Richard Rapport seems to be arriving in style.

          And yes, I've just segeued from chess 'quality' to chess 'style'. The two are inexorably linked together. The more quality you want from chess, the less style you get, and vice-versa.

          I think someday people will be saying Carlsen "was a machine". If anyone gets excited over Carlsen's chess, there's a computer engine named 'Houdini' you should know about.
          Only the rushing is heard...
          Onward flies the bird.

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          • #6
            Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

            Your argument is that chess is not inherently human because a machine can do it better than a human. That is a circular argument. Tennis can't be played by a machine? How about table tennis?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIIJME8-au8?

            Humor aside, would your watch two robots compete for the world championship?

            And I differ with your opinion regarding chess as sport.

            Regarding my comment that Karpov was a machine, you misunderstood my point. Karpov was a machine in that he was cold and emotionless. He was an excellent reflection of the USSR at the time and as such was easy to root against. And if you think Karpov reduced the psychological aspect of a game to zero, then you never followed the Karpov - Korchnoi matches.
            Last edited by Garland Best; Wednesday, 9th April, 2014, 12:55 AM. Reason: grammar

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            • #7
              Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

              And lots of people still watch Jeopardy. But no one would watch 3 computers playing Jeopardy.

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              • #8
                Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                Originally posted by Garland Best View Post
                And lots of people still watch Jeopardy. But no one would watch 3 computers playing Jeopardy.
                I imagine Paul Bonham would watch that.

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                • #9
                  Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                  Originally posted by Kerry Liles View Post
                  I imagine Paul Bonham would watch that.

                  Only if the computers absolutely hated and insulted each other. :D
                  Only the rushing is heard...
                  Onward flies the bird.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                    Originally posted by Garland Best View Post
                    Your argument is that chess is not inherently human because a machine can do it better than a human. That is a circular argument. Tennis can't be played by a machine? How about table tennis?

                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIIJME8-au8?

                    Humor aside, would your watch two robots compete for the world championship?

                    And I differ with your opinion regarding chess as sport.

                    Regarding my comment that Karpov was a machine, you misunderstood my point. Karpov was a machine in that he was cold and emotionless. He was an excellent reflection of the USSR at the time and as such was easy to root against. And if you think Karpov reduced the psychological aspect of a game to zero, then you never followed the Karpov - Korchnoi matches.

                    Garland, it is not my objective here to engage in a heated debate. You have expressed your opinion and that is what I asked for in this thread, and I respect your opinion. All I am seeking, since this is all such an interesting topic, is some sort of understanding of why you or anyone else would only watch or replay chess games involving humans.

                    But I do need to clarify: I have not presented a circular argument. This is an example of a circular argument: "'President Reagan was a great communicator because he had the knack of talking effectively to the people." You can see that the two clauses on each side of 'because' are the same.

                    Not so with the argument you attribute to me. A 3200-rated computer engine CAN AND DOES play better chess than any human, there is no need to prove that. My argument is that because of that, it is ALSO proven (and I should have stated this more clearly) that 'the act of (gradually) solving chess via playing of competitive games' is not inherently human. This has to do with chess quality: since engines play better quality chess, they will solve chess sooner than humans. If the day comes when top computer engines can no longer ever win against each other over thousands and thousands of games played at a reasonable time control or ply depth, chess will be solved as a draw.

                    I extend this argument to competitive chess because what is competitive chess? It is trying to play the absolute best chess move possible on every single move, irrespective of who the opponent is. And look at the tools that are available for competitive chess: databases of millions of games, opening books often going beyond 20 plies deep, and of course, tablebases. If a 30-piece tablebase were feasible, wouldn't somebody produce it and wouldn't competitive players buy it? Yes, they would. It's all a striving for chess perfection. But computer engines will beat us to it because chess is pure logic and calculation at which engines far surpass us. Therefore competitive chess is inherently not human.

                    Whereas competitive table tennis is, because as that video you linked to shows, the human did beat the machine, and it is not at all apparent that the machine will someday with proper upgrades ALWAYS beat the human. Table tennis, like other true sport, involves random elements that enable one side or the other to win even if they are actually inferior overall to the other side. That is one essential element of sport that doesn't exist in chess. You won't ever see Bob Gillanders winning a single game versus Magnus Carlsen, even if Magnus were to agree to a 1,000 game match between them (sorry, Bob!). Of course, that's assuming Bob doesn't spike Carlsen's drinks!

                    Some people, presented with this kind of reasoning, think they can compare auto racing to human running competition. Of course, the racing car moves much faster, but it doesn't do it in the manner of a human, making the comparison illegimate. If someday a robot runs faster than any human, and does all the same motions as a running human including swinging of arms, and there is no longer any possibility of a human running faster than any such robot, then I would say stop being interested in any human running competition because we have been usurped. We would be proven inferior, and there would be no random or chance element giving us a chance at ever being a winner against such a robot. In that case, would you still watch human running events? And if so, why? Because some runner from the USSR is "cool and unemotional" just like the nation state he comes from? Exactly how does that translate to the way s/he runs? In your specific example of Karpov, Garland, how does Karpov's being so cold and unemotional translate into his chess moves? Couldn't you look at a computer engine's chess moves and call them just as 'cold and unemotional'?

                    In the case of rooting against Karpov because he's cold and unemotional just like the USSR, why are you extending politics into sport in the first place? Isn't sport supposed to transcend politics, in the Olympic way of thinking? If Norway were to suddenly aspire to world domination and subjugation of all other nations, would you turn against Magnus Carlsen in all his chess games? What does one have to do with the other?

                    Now, if you said you appreciated the artistic element of the human form running, then that I could understand. That's why I mentioned that humans can play more INTERESTING chess than computers. When 2 human players go off on a tangent where several major pieces are en prise simultaneously, the moves that got them there are not the optimal moves in each of the positions along the way, but the humans played them anyway due to some mutual consent to 'see what will happen'. Such sub-optimal play by humans contributes nothing to solving chess, but does enhance chess as an art. That is, chess may have one optimal solution (to be found years into the future), but sub-optimal games can still be appreciated for those who see chess as an art form.

                    We could extend the "inherently human" debate to really try and get an idea of what it means to fit that definition. Let's ask the question: is driving a car inherently human? As you may know, the major auto manufacturers are working on self-driving vehicles. And the ultimate goal of this is to prevent all vehicle accidents that can be attributed to driver error. Apparently that goal is achievable and in the very near future.

                    When that day arrives and all new vehicles are self-driving and existing ones can be made self-driving with a low-cost modification, should any human ever drive a vehicle again? Should the modification to existing vehicles be made mandatory?

                    This is a great question that governments will have to deal with: will it become a crime for a human to drive a vehicle and risk his or her life as well as the lives of other people? Or will there be people arguing that driving is a pleasurable activity and humans should not be deprived of it, because it's 'inherently human' or some such notion?

                    Of course, some will say there's no analogy to chess, nothing in chess is risking lives. But unfortunately that would be not QUITE true. Chess is a very physically unhealthful activity in the sense of sitting for hours at a time, leading to all kinds of cardiovascular problems over long periods of time. So are a lot of jobs, but since chess is a mere hobby, it should be (following this logic) discouraged as being physically unhealthful.

                    Since you brought up table tennis, here's a way to make chess a physically health activity: a chess variant in which the two players engage in best-of-seven-serves play of table tennis, and the winner of each best-of-seven set gets to make the next chess move, with capturing the King possible and ending the game. Each best-of-seven set is served by one player, and the serving turns alternate from set to set. This would be a great game to institute in schools, as it gets children doing physical activity AND doing all the mental learning that comes with chess. Also, table tennis is a game that doesn't rely on physical strength and so girls and boys could compete against each other.

                    Now THAT version of chess would be a sport.
                    Only the rushing is heard...
                    Onward flies the bird.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                      Hi Paul:

                      I prefer to think of it as healthy debate. You ask why persons do not think of games between computers to be interesting, and I'm giving my reasons and clarifying them as you counter them.

                      I differ with your definition of competitive chess. Competitive chess is trying to defeat your opponent. That is not necessarily the same as playing the absolute best chess possible. Read "Chess for Tigers" to see where I am coming from. And if competitive chess is inherently not human, then why hasn't Houdini 3.0 been declared the FIDE world champion? Because Houdini is not human. Computers are almost 100% banned from playing in any sanctioned competitive chess events.

                      Furthermore the only reason you are saying table tennis is inherently human is because the human beat the machine. 40 years ago humans were clearly superior to computers at chess. Does that mean that 40 years ago chess was inherently human while now it is not?

                      I'll NEVER beat the reining Ushain Bolt in the 100 meter race, even though I think I can run fairly well. Does that mean running is not a sport?

                      There are those who think that a computer does not think the same way as a human, and therefore the car/human analogy applies to chess as well. Humans do not do A/B tree analysis. Also, would you argue that if the robot in my video eventually ends up winning, it doesn't count because it is not shaped like a human? And yes, I would continue watching races between humans, because I would want see humans testing themselves against one another.

                      In all spectator sports you end up cheering for one person over another. And politics DEFINITELY are a factor. Just watch the Olymics. We cheer for the Canadians because we are Canadians. It's all about nationalism. Have you noticed how the americans become the bad guys, simply because they were our opponents? Then the olympics are over and they same americans are the good guys because they play on our local team. And during the cold war era, it was definity the norm in the west to root for Korchnoi over Karpov. The USSR was holding Korchnoi's family hostage.

                      Your comments on what is inherently human are off-topic for now, so I won't discuss them at this point. Some other time perhaps.

                      The table tennis-chess sport comment is cute, but will likely be as successful as chess boxing.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                        Originally posted by Garland Best View Post
                        Hi Paul:

                        I prefer to think of it as healthy debate. You ask why persons do not think of games between computers to be interesting, and I'm giving my reasons and clarifying them as you counter them.

                        I differ with your definition of competitive chess. Competitive chess is trying to defeat your opponent. That is not necessarily the same as playing the absolute best chess possible. Read "Chess for Tigers" to see where I am coming from. And if competitive chess is inherently not human, then why hasn't Houdini 3.0 been declared the FIDE world champion? Because Houdini is not human. Computers are almost 100% banned from playing in any sanctioned competitive chess events.

                        Furthermore the only reason you are saying table tennis is inherently human is because the human beat the machine. 40 years ago humans were clearly superior to computers at chess. Does that mean that 40 years ago chess was inherently human while now it is not?

                        I'll NEVER beat the reining Ushain Bolt in the 100 meter race, even though I think I can run fairly well. Does that mean running is not a sport?

                        There are those who think that a computer does not think the same way as a human, and therefore the car/human analogy applies to chess as well. Humans do not do A/B tree analysis. Also, would you argue that if the robot in my video eventually ends up winning, it doesn't count because it is not shaped like a human? And yes, I would continue watching races between humans, because I would want see humans testing themselves against one another.

                        In all spectator sports you end up cheering for one person over another. And politics DEFINITELY are a factor. Just watch the Olymics. We cheer for the Canadians because we are Canadians. It's all about nationalism. Have you noticed how the americans become the bad guys, simply because they were our opponents? Then the olympics are over and they same americans are the good guys because they play on our local team. And during the cold war era, it was definity the norm in the west to root for Korchnoi over Karpov. The USSR was holding Korchnoi's family hostage.

                        Your comments on what is inherently human are off-topic for now, so I won't discuss them at this point. Some other time perhaps.

                        The table tennis-chess sport comment is cute, but will likely be as successful as chess boxing.


                        If competitive chess is about trying to defeat your opponent, and that does not necessarily equate to playing the best moves possible, then explain why chess rules prohibit any activity that would distract from your opponent's thinking process? In poker hands, players can and do talk to one another, try and throw each other off, because psychology is recognized as a key element of the game. There are plenty of other distractions as well, even though poker hands require deep thought just as do chess positions. So if you are really a fan of the human element and of critical thinking, it would seem poker (which is on cable television, by the way) should be more up your alley.

                        If psychology is to be part of chess also, get the rules changed so that players can at the very least talk to one another during play, then you would really have some psychology and human elements to salivate over. Otherwise, with all these rules in place, I say it is most definitely an attempt to make the games about playing the best moves possible and ONLY about that. What's debatable is whether the rules succeed at that or not. Fischer in his prime was one known for trying to physically / psychologically intimidate his opponent even before the game began. Perhaps there are others still doing that today, and I can only presume that this is what "Chess for Tigers" teaches? How to be an a-hole in the world of competitive chess?

                        But while FIDE attempts to make competitive chess purely a contest of calculating skill, they do as you mention prohibit computers and not recognize the engines' superiority. The fact that FIDE won't recognize Houdini as the true world champion is by no means to be taken as any kind of 'evidence' that competitive chess is inherently human. Ironically it is you presenting a circular argument: "FIDE sponsored competitive chess is human because FIDE won't allow computers into competitive chess." Each clause is identical.

                        FIDE, of course, has no interest whatsoever in bringing computers into chess. What GM would bother playing in a tournament where Houdini, Stockfish, and Rybka were all playing? Better to keep the "Carlsen is World Champion" myth alive -- the fish swallow it hook, line and sinker.

                        You asked about chess 40 years ago. How about even farther back, to the time of Capablanca? He foresaw where chess was headed and knew that the game would get bogged down by GM draws, even if he didn't imagine computers, and so he proposed a variant that made the game much more complex. But aside from Capablanca, there have been others including engineers who foresaw even in the '60s or '70s that computers would eventually conquer chess. They could see that chess, while certainly playable by humans, can never be perfected by humans because "to err is human".

                        Yes, some people will watch humans play chess, and even more people will watch humans play Jeopardy, and even more will watch humans play bowling, the most repetitious, strategy-less sport imaginable. This is actually an indictment of chess as a spectator 'sport'. If bowling is on TV and chess isn't, chess has no spectator value even to those who actually think bowling does (and chess is left appealing only to serious chess players, who if they all disappeared today wouldn't even cause WalMart to revise their earnings estimates by .00001%).

                        At least in the Jeopardy case, there are elements that bring out the human factors in the game, but once the play begins, it might as well be computers. Imagine the day when computers can be made to look just like humans, so that from a short distance you couldn't tell if it's human or computer. Then people WILL watch 3 computers play Jeopardy.

                        What I don't get about people 'watching' humans play chess is that only recently due to Internet coverage could they actually watch the humans play chess. Before that, all they could do was replay the games from a game move list. What would you think if it turned out that Karpov and Korchnoi never actually played that match, they couldn't agree on it, and the Soviets faked it all using a couple of other GMs, all in secret? Certainly preposterous, but not impossible, and who would have figured it out at the time just from the game moves alone? Well, things are better today. Now you actually can watch 2 humans squirming in chairs for 5 or 6 hours. Holy Hot Seat, Batman! :)

                        [ I remember Lawrence Trent, during the Carlsen - Anand WC match, commenting for about 15 minutes on Anand for the first time in the match not wearing a jacket. There was nothing else to talk about, so he went on and on about it. What a thrill ride that was! ]

                        The other thing I don't get is that computer vs computer chess is really human vs. human chess in a different form: the humans involved are computer programmers. What if you knew as much about them as you did about Karpov and Korchnoi? What if the two programmers involved were from the U.S. and the USSR? Would that 'suddenly' make the chess interesting, even though the moves are still the same? Ooooooh, now there's politics involved, we have to root against the bad guys! LOL

                        I did NOT write that table tennis is human because the human beat the machine. I specifically mentioned that there is no evidence that the machine will inevitably at some future time be unbeatable by any human. If 40 years ago computer domination of chess was imaginable due to things like Moore's Law, there is no such domination of table tennis imaginable. The fact that the human can win or score points means that the game involves more than just mathematical calculation.

                        For example, there is the concept of choice. Neither the human nor the machine are forced to hit a shot to a specific spot on the table. They choose on the fly where to place a shot. It's not the same kind of choice as in chess, where a search tree of finite numbers of responses and counter-responses is analyzed in microseconds. In the machine's case, it's probably some heuristic choice based only on where the human is positioned at the time. In the human's case, that would play a role, but there is also some sort of intuition involved that comes from years of playing.

                        If such intuition is part of human choice of chess move during a game, and if said human could ever beat Houdini under normal tournament conditions, then I'd say there is still a human element to competitive chess. Unfortunately that will never again be the case. Chess as a competition has been whittled down to pure mathematics... although it seems FIDE will continue to deny this and continue the myth of a human World Champion.

                        BTW, I liked how you arbitrarily decided what is 'off-topic' as if you are the supreme authority. So I'll just take what you wrote about politics and sport and decide that that is off-topic, although it may help to mention that there was a time when we had East Germany and West Germany in the Olympics, and the East Germans almost always came out on top by far.

                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-tim...es_medal_table

                        If you were East German and rooted for your nation, you would have felt very prideful about East Germany and optimistic about its future. And where is East Germany today?
                        Only the rushing is heard...
                        Onward flies the bird.

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                        • #13
                          Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                          Paul, you completely missed the point of my statement that defeating your opponent does not necessarily equate to playing the best moves possible. Defeating your opponent means playing the move most like to make your opponent lose. It's a case of playing the (hu)man, not the board. For example in "Chess for Tigers" the author recommends that when playing players with much higher rating than you, you should play for complications. The logic was that while you are very likely to make a mistake with all the complications, so was your opponent, so the odds were better you would win. Against a weaker opponent, the emphasis is on controlling the board, giving your opponent as few options as possible. At the top level they also "play the man", although it is more subtle, finding weakness in their knowledge, or in their biases when playing. So don't dismiss a book you have not read.

                          As to your poker reference, that's poker. The limits placed on chess regarding talking and distraction are much stricter. (Unless you're playing blitz at the bar. Then trash-talk away!) (Full disclosure here: I do like watching poker on TV on occasion, though not that often). PS: Didn't someone write a computer program that could defeat the world poker champions?

                          You are right that FIDE, has no interest whatsoever in bringing computers into chess. That's because on one is interested in sponsoring it. Where is the money in hosting such an event? I don't see any offers on the table promising $1M to the programming team that writes the best chess program. Do you? People are not interested in it. They want to see PEOPLE compete.

                          I never claimed that chess was a POPULAR sport. It's challenging to appreciate it. Regardless far more people follow Anand-Carlsen than they do Houdini-Stockfish. I challenge you to name a single competitive game/sport/what-have-you that increased in popularity once people had computers or robots competing instead of humans. If you think listening to Trent discussing Anand's jacket was dull, just wait till he goes on at length about how Houdini is relying on the Intel I7 quad-processor core, while Stockfish is utilizing the parallel processing GPU in the NVidea video card.

                          I reject your claim that "there is no evidence that the machine will inevitably at some future time be unbeatable by any human". The machines are getting better hardware and programming to do physical activities better. It would not surprise me at all if 40 years from now someone was able to make a robot capable of defeating the world champion, PROVIDED that as much effort was spent on doing that as was spent of chess playing programs. PS: It wasn't Moore's law that was the major factor leading to computer domination of chess. Moore's law says computing power doubles every 18 months. That's the addition of only 1 ply roughly every 8 years. It was the development of better evaluation functions to judge positions at the quiescence point. From that point the computer makes heuristic choices in chess too.

                          The ONE chess even that caught the entire world's imagination was Fischer-Spassky. Millions followed it world-wide. There were live TV specials, with commentators describing the moves, 60 minutes episodes, It generated more interest in chess in the west than ANY other event, before and after. Why? Because of the human interest. It was the crazy eccentric genius Fischer versus the USSR. The story leading up to the games had the drama and interest that captured the world's imagination. That is what makes a sport a good spectator sport.

                          Your original question was "Where is the interest in the most elite form of chess possible, namely chess played between top computer engines such as Houdini versus Stockfish?" I've given the best explanation I can why there isn't any. You might not like the answer, but I bet that if you polled people they would overwhelmingly agree with me.

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                          • #14
                            Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                            Originally posted by Garland Best View Post
                            Moore's law says computing power doubles every 18 months.
                            No, it doesn't. And it never did.

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                            • #15
                              Re: 'Chess Style' and 'Quality Chess'

                              Apparently my version is a variation. As per Wikipedia, "The period is often quoted as 18 months because of Intel executive David House, who predicted that chip performance would double every 18 months (being a combination of the effect of more transistors and their being faster)"

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