The Female World Record--Part 7 ("New Openings")

May 5, 2010, 10:28 AM |

(In the last installment, Cassandra studied The Guinness Book of World Records searching in vain for a chess record she could set.)

Cassandra understood she was unlikely to win a real chess title. In fact, she was unlikely ever to win a single game because of her difficulty with checkerboard patterns. But always losing is disheartening, even for a female. And Cassandra was used to being a winner in everything else she did. So, she reached deep down and found the courage to persist in her goal of winning some kind of chess record.

That summer Cassandra reread all her favorite chess books, most of which advocated a geometric approach with a focus on the center. Day after day and long into the night she stared at a chess board on the desk in her bedroom, her eyes riveted to the four central squares, because she truly believed her destiny lay with them.

When that led nowhere but to the four central squares, she turned her thoughts to the borders and the corners.

Gradually, a number of ideas began to take shape. The first idea was that it takes two to play chess, just as it takes two to tango, even if one player is a computer. Only one can win, but often no one wins. In fact, her entire 11-point rating was due to this mysterious fact about chess.

Then one day she came across some interesting bits of chess lore in one of her books, which suggested a possible solution to her dilemma. The author said that beyond the algorithms controlling the opening moves, most chess programs rely on databases of master-level-and-above tournament games. In other words, in openings computers rely on algorithms to select the best moves, but they simply "memorize" middle games and endgames. And, when Garry Kasparov beat Deep Blue in 1996, it was because he confused the computer in the opening.

'That's the answer. I may not be able to win or even draw a game,’ she thought. ‘And all the records for losing streaks have already been set by professional players. But there is one type of outcome I may be able to learn to achieve. Stalemate could put me in the record books.’

So she turned her attention to the art of stalemate, perpetual check, traps, and especially the swindle.

'If Kasparov could confuse Deep Blue with an opening move, maybe I can confuse an ordinary human being with an opening, too.'

It meant she would have to create a new opening. ‘Of course, I can’t expect my opening to be any good, but it might at least confuse my opponents and ensure they acquire the maximum material advantage so I can force a stalemate.’

So she sat down to play a game of computer chess to see if any unexpected—even ludicrous—openings would confuse her infallible opponent. Whether through a fluke or because some moves are simply idiotic, Cassandra rapidly found a 10-move opening for White and a 10-move opening for Black that not only puzzled her robot opponent but also led quickly to an endgame in which she had no pieces and few pawns left on the board. The Black opening was designed around a vertical column of useless pieces on the d-file, and the White opening was designed around the idea of a right triangle whose hypotenuse was the a-h diagonal.

She named these openings the Bermuda Triangle (White) and the Celtic Cross (Black):

The Bermuda Triangle Opening (White's disadvantage)

The Celtic Cross Opening (Black’s disadvantage)


To be continued in the final installment . . .