Friday, October 15, 2010

The Great Equaliser

It's been slightly more than 13 years since Kasparov lost to the computer Deep Blue. What this monumental impact it had on the chess world has been nothing short of incredible.

We now know that the best chess mind in the world is no match against the best chess engine in a tactical slugfest. That's because chess engines have the incredible ability to walk a tightrope and still hold a game (given enough processing power and adequate time). Emotion and pressure has no bearing on its performance.

So what has really happened since then?

Instead of signaling the death of chess, what has happened ironically is the exact opposite. Computers have made chess become even more accessible to everyone.

No longer do you need someone to tell you what tactic you missed in your OTB game. The computer will show you the way in less than a blink of an eye, thereby helping you in your game.

The prolifigeration of chess material on the internet and in bookshops, online stores have been incredible. Unsure what your opening plan and strategy should be? Look up in any of the free online databases to see what everyone is playing. Not sure if this 2P+R+K v P+R+K endgame is winning? Look up any of the widely free tablebase chess servers on the Net and your answer will be given.

What also has given rise is the increasing usage by human players to make computer-like moves. Moves which seem impossible and counter to reason suddenly can now be shown to work.

The internet is also largely responsible for the increase and spread of chess information, being quick to embrace chess in all its forms. You can find video analyses of old master games on YouTube, read free online annotations by GMs on games, watch videos of recent tournaments.

We now have so much chess information floating around in the web that it does not matter if you're a 2700 GM or a 700 player, you still have access to the same information as the next person. Never has the playing field been more even.

The unfortunate part is that it also allows anyone to be an armchair critic. :)

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