Dispatches From The CCC, 5/19/2019: Blunders And Brilliancies
During some games, you play so well that you begin to feel... unsinkable. (Wikimedia Commons)

Dispatches From The CCC, 5/19/2019: Blunders And Brilliancies


Say one thing for chess engines, say they play a strong game of chess. And when you put the strongest engines on strong hardware... oh, it can be enough to make the World Chess Championship look like a grade-school competition. For the most part that has been true of this (eighth) iteration of the CCC. Many of the games are masterpieces, in which every move is logical and impossibly precise. Pieces develop, kings castle, and one side manages to gain a slight advantage that it eventually converts into a win. Yawn.

That way- the slow, grinding, boring way- is not where beauty lies. You can take your 100 standard-issue masterpieces; I'll take one true brilliancy any day. What's more, I'd even take the game with a spectacular blunder- an engine on the verge of victory that makes a catastrophic mistake and throws it all away. Such games are the heart of chess.

I've annotated the games, but with an eye more on aesthetics than analysis. Enjoy!

"The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made."- Savielly Tartakower

First up is Leela, known for her very intuitive, very human style of play. Whether her play is actually more human than other engines' is open for debate. However, in this game against Houdini she shows an incredible capacity for throwing away a victory (we've all been there, Leela!).

"Those that say they understand chess, understand nothing."- Robert Hübner
The next game comes out of a forced King's Pawn/Four Knights game. Is that the worst opening in chess? Possibly; I was ready for a snoozefest. But then Leela uncorked an early queen sacrifice and Stockfish was helpless. I seriously suspect the Fish had pruned 12.Nxd4! and didn't even calculate the ensuing line.
As an added bonus, Leela throws in a gratuitous checkmate with bishop and knight!

"Chess is life in miniature. Chess is a struggle, chess is battles."- Garry Kasparov

I honestly don't know what to say about this next game. Nobody ever told me that high-level chess had to be exciting, but somehow I hoped for more than this. In the next game Leelenstein and Leela take "grandmaster draw" to a new level:

"Of course White can always play differently, in which case he merely loses differently."- Bobby Fischer
I get the feeling that Fischer didn't entirely understand the King's Gambit. Sure, white is often scrambling to make a draw... but we Romantics know the true value of a game is the fight. Houdini might have lost, but he certainly didn't go down quietly:

Thanks for reading! If I missed anything in my analysis (it's likely- I'm a terrible player!), let me know in the comments!