Are computers closing in on solving chess?
The title may be a little extreme, but I got very curious about the concept. I chose to use ICCF games to get a solid pool of computer-enhanced game results. The arrival of multi-core computers and ever-stronger software like Rybka and Houdini have definitely made an impact on the outcome of correspondence chess games. Consider the following data:
Draw percentages by year on ICCF:
Year - games - draws - white wins - black wins - white performance
2006 - 35790 - 39% - 35% - 26% - 55%
2007 - 39152 - 44% - 33% - 23% - 55%
2008 - 42735 - 45% - 32% - 23% - 55%
2009 - 41350 - 47% - 31% - 22% - 55%
2010 - 39430 - 47% - 31% - 22% - 54%
2011 - 12535 - 49% - 29% - 22% - 54%
As you can see, just in the past five years computers have increased the drawing percentage by an astounding 10%! White's expected performance went from an upper 55% to a near flat 54% in that time. Also note how 2007's arrival of multi-core desktop PCs jumped the drawing rate by 5% on the spot.
I also have determined much of white's (and black's) wins come from playing risky openings rather that 'safe' ones. An example would be the Sicilian offering black maximum risk-reward against 1.e4, while the Petroff affords black a rather dull but much safer chance to draw at the very least.
My own conclusion is that ultimately white cannot win if black plays for minimum risk in the opening.