Technolojee = progriss

Nov 11, 2007, 2:16 AM |

The history of collective chess knowledge has always been a topic that has interested me. Russian articles and games and analysis from Russian tournaments were goldmines of information for the world's top chess players 20+ years ago.

I once spoke to a guy who played against Petrosian in a tournament game many many years ago. He said "I thought I had a good position, only to find out I had fallen right into a little known Russian sideline". Here was a guy playing against a future (at that time) World Champion, and he was awash in his opponent's theory. Because that is all that existed back then. You had your knowledge you brought with you to the chess board from your own analysis and your knowledge of other Grandmaster's games, and your wit and inspiration at the chessboard. The more you knew about previous Grandmaster games, the more you could be guided through "known" positions before relying on your own wits. No wonder up-to-date information on Grandmaster games and theory was such a hot commodity. In those days Grandmaster moves were always considered "correct" until proven incorrect by analysis, or a new grandmaster game. It was the whole "re-inventing the wheel" concept.

Today we have the benefit of the Internet and high powered computer programs to help us with our chess. The average chess enthusiast can watch right along with a game between two grandmasters playing on the other side of the world, as it happens, and laugh at their moves because they don't match what "fritz would do". All from the comfort of a bath robe and a nice comfortable computer chair. Every (wo)man a chess guru, every (wo)man a walking... er... sitting chess encyclopedia.

I remember my dad looking at my english assignments in high school and telling me how easy I had it. We no longer broke down sentences into messy little diagrams. My dad told me he spent hours diagramming sentences, and my thought was... "Wow Dad, that sucks. Out of my way I've got a date with Ms Pacman."

Thing is, there is a lot I wish I knew about the english language, stuff I feel like I should know but it just isn't there. Ask me what an indirect object modifier is, or a dangling participle. I'm more apt to giggle like a school girl than give you any kind of coherent answer. So now my son is complaining because he has to diagram sentences. He hates doing it, but I tell him it's good for him (wow... never thought I'd throw that one at my kids). Now he's telling me all about Appositives and Gerund phrases, and I just nod and say "Good son, well done".

But the point of my rant is obvious isnt' it? With all this power we have at our fingertips, it seems chess is being internalized by people in a completely different way. I've been beaten by people that get confused when I use words like "Fianchetto" or "Prophylaxis". And I'm not suggesting these guys are cheating when playing me... just that they learned chess concepts from a computer program, instead of reading through the classic chess books... World Champion's analyses and such.

Who of us is going to calculate our budget with a pencil and paper when there's a calculator in front of us.. or even better.. a computer program that helps us keep track? So when trying to better understand what is going on in a chess position, many of us plug it into Shredder, or Fritz, or Rybka... without working through any analysis on a board with pieces. Why do it yourself when with a push of a few buttons you can get reliable, high quality move advice from an engine that beats the best chess players on the planet? I could go cross-eyed looking for tactics in a position for an hour, or just ask Fritz and see more possibilities in 10 seconds than I would see in a week of my own analysis.

Some day when my own sons (and daughter) are strangling me with new opening weapons they learned from Chessmaster 16, I will say to them "I liked the way you used your fianchetto in combination with your advanced e-pawn and your queenside knight to wipe out my central resistance". They will look at me and say "Whatever you say dad... just watch out for my horsey next game".