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So what are you trying to tell us, Mr. Computer ?

May 16, 2013, 2:40 AM 33

DISCLAIMER : this article is not a discussion about the relative chess powers of humans and engines.

While listening to the very interesting show of GM Magesh last week, someone asked him why he wasn't using an engine to perform his analysis ? While it's true that nowadays engines are stronger than humans in 99,9% of positions, Magesh very candidly answered that engines weren't able to offer ideas and explanations.

While older players may appreciate the simplicity of this deep insight, it may seem counterintuitive to children of the computer to rely on human logic. I mean, why shall we bother about a human idea, when the computer's move is just stronger ? Why not learn it immediately and save us some time ?

Of course, the catch is that the computer output may just prove impossible to re-use. Ever try to explain chess to your friends by quoting the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings ? We may be in awe in front of the computer lines, but unable to synthetize them, we ultimately feel the need to reformulate them in words, in order to be able to conjure them up OTB. Patterns, yes, but with a grain of verbal tagging. At least that's what works for me... I believe that words and ideas are a necessary bridge to cross to reach the promised land of complete and wordless chess objectivity. The words give you the guidelines, and you can then find correct continuations by calculating.

I'd like to share with you an example of the power of human ideas that proved to be a real eye-opener for me. Please consider the following position :

r2r2k1/1b3p1p/pp2pp2/2b5/8/5NP1/PP2PPBP/R2R2K1 b - - 0 1

Your challenge is to try draw this position as black against your engine of choice. First try it directly, giving the engine 5' and anything from 15' to 45'+inc for yourself. It might prove difficult.

Then spend a couple of minutes analyzing the initial position with the engine, and try again. If you succeed  at this second attempt (without takebacks ;-) - congrats !

But if it proved to be too difficult, don't despair : come back in a couple of days, as I'd like to share a simple (human) idea with you that could help...

(to be continued...)

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