Candidate Wesley So: Thou Shalt Not Rely Exclusively on Computer Engine Preparation

SeniorPatzer

Round 2 of the 2018 Candidates Tournament concluded and Wesley So is in sole last place with 2 consecutive losses.   He suffered horrible attacking losses to Fabiano Caruana and Alexander Grischuk.

 

In reading various reports Wesley is the only Candidate who does not have a Second, a professional chess player or coach to assist him with opening preparation and all the other various nice things that a Second provides.   Every other player has a Second except Wesley!  Now Wesley was working with a coach, a GM Tukmakov who's a really excellent trainer.  But that was discontinued sometime in 2017.

 

Now all that Wesley uses is a computer engine for his preparation.   With two consecutive losses the pundits are saying that Wesley is done.  Kaput.  Out of it.  They didn't think his chances were very good going into the tournament, but with two consecutive losses, and the psychology that goes with starting 0-2 in a 14 round tournament with the best players in the world, well, it's over for Wesley. 

 

What does this tell me?  For all the factual claims that computers are better than humans at chess, the best chess players still need other human chess players (even if they are worse players than you) to help you compete at the highest levels!!  A computer is NOT enough.

 

People need people.  Tiger Woods has had many coaches.  Rocky Balboa had Mickey and Apollo has trainers.  Bobby Fischer had William Lombardy.   Magnus has a team of seconds.

 

For as individual a mano-a-mano intellectual gladiator combat sport that chess is, Wesley (and any other player) just cannot lone wolf it with a computer laptop and an engine, and expect to win.  Got to, got to, got to have someone else to talk things over.   Sterile computer evaluations can only go so far.  Emmanuel Lasker and playing the person, as much as the board, is really manifesting itself as a sensible approach versus Chess.com's CAPS approach.

 

P.S.  As a possibly related aside, I have read a bit about Wesley's adoptive parents/mother and what not.  Sounds complicated.  IMHO, I think Wesley is better served with a Both/And approach.  Both his adoptive mother And a coach/second.  Doesn't have to be an Either/Or situation.  But must have a Coach/Second.  

 

 

 

 

DeirdreSkye

     Humans play with skills. Engines don't have skills(for now , we will see if A0 will change that).

A position that an engine gives as equal might very well be practically lost if one side  needs several very difficult and unique moves to retain the equality. This is something GMs know and that is why many times doubt engine evaluations(Nakamura , Aronian , Gelfan and others have said that they use engines but they don't blindly trust them). 

 

SeniorPatzer
WhoDoYouPlayToday wrote:

Well, simple answer is that it is too early to tell. So also is a newcomer to the top chess world.

 

 

I would be tremendously delighted to eat my words and see Wesley So come back and win the Candidates after starting with 2 losses.  That would be such a great inspiring story.  If Wesley even got back to 50% and/or finished in the top 4 I would be very surprised.   

 

I watched Wesley's Immortal Game against the Legend Garry Kasparov in a rapid game and I was in stunned awe.  Wesley is a great player.  To make top 10 or top 20 in the world without a coach is practically unheard of. That's how great Wesley's natural talent is.

 

And truly, Wesley is not a newcomer to the elite circuit of 2750 chess.  He knows his colleagues, and how they all have seconds.   He needs to recognize that he is a significant competitive disadvantage without a Second.  

knighttour2

The prevailing opinion about Wesley is that he doesn't create his own winning chances, but rather relies on the mistakes of others.  Most of the top chess commentators who made pre-match predictions expected him to struggle because the field is so strong and had so much time to prepare for each individual opponent.  It should be noted that he had black both games, so he isn't quite out of it.  It's possible he hit some home prep given that his first two opponents had white and the pairings were released a month ago, so both opponents knew they'd be playing him and likely prepared specifically for him.  I think he'll end up finishing near the bottom, which is where I expected him to finish, but if he has a great tournament with white he could rally.

godsofhell1235

I haven't seen round 2 games yet, but IMO So had a very satisfactory opening result against Caruana, and made some poor middlegame choices that lead to a big attack.

I was wondering how he'd do in round 2. He's starting with 2 blacks in a row, and coming off of a tough loss in round 1. I'm sad to hear he lost in round 2 as well.

---

But that's interesting. I didn't know he was the only one without a 2nd.

godsofhell1235
SeniorPatzer wrote:

For all the factual claims that computers are better than humans at chess, the best chess players still need other human chess players (even if they are worse players than you) to help you compete at the highest levels!!  A computer is NOT enough.

Even at my low level I'm aware of the practical decisions that go into making a repertoire, and how unreliable both an engine AND database stats can be.

Wesley So's knowledge of chess, both technically and practically, might as well be god-like compared to me, so I'm sure he's aware of this as well.

But ok, pros still make good use of 2nds, so it's obviously not ideal to work on your own... my point is I would not characterize any pro player as being ignorant of the practical aspects of repertoire building, and the fact that engines do get things wrong sometimes.

MickinMD

"Grischuk [White vs So] said that after putting his rook on c5, he "didn't really calculate anything" (but then showed various of lines he had seen!). "I said to myself, OK I have all pieces in attack, and Black defends with one bishop. If there is no mate, I just quit chess."

The position Grischuk is talking about is below.  What he said and did matches one of the four principles from Fred Wilson's Simple Attacking Plans: Point all your pieces at your opponent's king.

I've been trying to be more aggressive and follow that advice, but it has led me to begin my attacks too quickly.  I'm beginning four games vs Polish and Russian players rated 200 points higher than me on March 15th (The "Ides of March" when Julius Caesar was assassinated!) and I'm definitely going to spend more time developing my attacks!

null

 

godsofhell1235
SeniorPatzer wrote:

With two consecutive losses the pundits are saying that Wesley is done.  Kaput.  Out of it.  They didn't think his chances were very good going into the tournament, but with two consecutive losses, and the psychology that goes with starting 0-2 in a 14 round tournament with the best players in the world, well, it's over for Wesley. 

I've also heard that in tournaments like this, when you have a bad start, the other competitors smell blood in the water. Wins are hard to come by, so when a player is weak, they're targeted. Opponents are no longer content to play for a draw in an equal position with you as white or black (so they may even change the openings they play against you), and in endgames they'll draw it out as long as possible waiting for you to crumble.

MickinMD

For those looking for coverage:

https://www.chess.com/news/view/grischuk-bounces-back-in-round-2-fide-candidates-tournament

https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/fide-berlin-candidates-2018/2/1/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njZjoelzG00

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candidates_Tournament_2018

 

godsofhell1235
WhoDoYouPlayToday wrote:

I'd say it is pretty clear So is not in the same league as the top players. It's one thing to win the Millionaire Tournament and raise your ratings, but unless you are Anand or Kramnik you will eventually dip below the 2750 club like players like Karjakin, Topalov, and Radjabov.

Maybe true, but I don't think it's fair to compare So to someone like Radjabov. Hasn't So maintained his top 10 status for a few years now? (I might be wrong on that, I'm not sure).

And I don't think Topolov belongs on that list. Topolov floated in the top 5 for a long time. Sure he's not that high anymore, but he's in his 40s. Sure Anand is almost 50 and is in and out of the top 10, but that's really rare.

(And yeah Kramnik is the same age as Topo, but I think Kramnik is overrated...)

godsofhell1235

It's almost unfair to call anyone in the top 10 not so good, but when talking about the absolute best, sometimes just being in the top 10 isn't enough.

Wesley So is amazing by almost every standard... but is he a world champ contender? Not yet. I agree with that.

PhillipTheTank

Nobody credible thinks computer engines are enough.  Nobody.

EOGuel

LOL!!!

universityofpawns

Some people just need a few games to "warm up", let's hope that is all it is. In the famous Fischer Spassky match of 1972 Fishcher lost the first too games (although one was a forfeit) and we all know what happened there.

tipish

@Bobby he closed his account but opened a new one he played here with Daniel Naroditsky. Daniel actually outplayed him in lots of games and he is only 2650 about.

SeniorPatzer
godsofhell1235 wrote:
SeniorPatzer wrote:

With two consecutive losses the pundits are saying that Wesley is done.  Kaput.  Out of it.  They didn't think his chances were very good going into the tournament, but with two consecutive losses, and the psychology that goes with starting 0-2 in a 14 round tournament with the best players in the world, well, it's over for Wesley. 

I've also heard that in tournaments like this, when you have a bad start, the other competitors smell blood in the water. Wins are hard to come by, so when a player is weak, they're targeted. Opponents are no longer content to play for a draw in an equal position with you as white or black (so they may even change the openings they play against you), and in endgames they'll draw it out as long as possible waiting for you to crumble.

 

I've read the same thing.  All the hungry sharks have to feed off the carcass of the weakie (it's nothing personal against Wesley), else they lose maximizing their winning chances.   I.e., "If my nearest rivals are scoring 1.5 to 2.0 points off Wesley and I'm only scoring 1 point or less, then I'm losing ground."

 

Wesley is going to seen as the punching bag, and while this is disconcerting for Wesley, this is also his best opportunity to get back in the tournament.  If other players overreach in trying to score wins off Wesley, then Wesley needs to counter-attack and punish his opponents.

 

P.S.  Wesley stopped the bleeding today by getting a draw with the White pieces against Ding Liren in Round 3.

DeirdreSkye
SeniorPatzer wrote:
godsofhell1235 wrote:
SeniorPatzer wrote:

With two consecutive losses the pundits are saying that Wesley is done.  Kaput.  Out of it.  They didn't think his chances were very good going into the tournament, but with two consecutive losses, and the psychology that goes with starting 0-2 in a 14 round tournament with the best players in the world, well, it's over for Wesley. 

I've also heard that in tournaments like this, when you have a bad start, the other competitors smell blood in the water. Wins are hard to come by, so when a player is weak, they're targeted. Opponents are no longer content to play for a draw in an equal position with you as white or black (so they may even change the openings they play against you), and in endgames they'll draw it out as long as possible waiting for you to crumble.

 

I've read the same thing.  All the hungry sharks have to feed off the carcass of the weakie (it's nothing personal against Wesley), else they lose maximizing their winning chances.   I.e., "If my nearest rivals are scoring 1.5 to 2.0 points off Wesley and I'm only scoring 1 point or less, then I'm losing ground."

 

Wesley is going to seen as the punching bag, and while this is disconcerting for Wesley, this is also his best opportunity to get back in the tournament.  If other players overreach in trying to score wins off Wesley, then Wesley needs to counter-attack and punish his opponents.

 

P.S.  Wesley stopped the bleeding today by getting a draw with the White pieces against Ding Liren in Round 3.

Did he stop the bleeding? He entered a line well known that leads in drawn endgame.

He didn't try to win , he only tried not to lose. And this is a tournament where only the first place counts.

In my opinion he doesn't believe it.

Loudcolor

Aronian and So; look where nice guys finish

SeniorPatzer
Firstcomment wrote:

Aronian and So; look where nice guys finish

 

Vishy Anand is a nice guy.  He's been World Champion.  You can still be both "nice" and aggressive.  

SeniorPatzer
DeirdreSkye wrote:
SeniorPatzer wrote:
godsofhell1235 wrote:
SeniorPatzer wrote:

With two consecutive losses the pundits are saying that Wesley is done.  Kaput.  Out of it.  They didn't think his chances were very good going into the tournament, but with two consecutive losses, and the psychology that goes with starting 0-2 in a 14 round tournament with the best players in the world, well, it's over for Wesley. 

I've also heard that in tournaments like this, when you have a bad start, the other competitors smell blood in the water. Wins are hard to come by, so when a player is weak, they're targeted. Opponents are no longer content to play for a draw in an equal position with you as white or black (so they may even change the openings they play against you), and in endgames they'll draw it out as long as possible waiting for you to crumble.

 

I've read the same thing.  All the hungry sharks have to feed off the carcass of the weakie (it's nothing personal against Wesley), else they lose maximizing their winning chances.   I.e., "If my nearest rivals are scoring 1.5 to 2.0 points off Wesley and I'm only scoring 1 point or less, then I'm losing ground."

 

Wesley is going to seen as the punching bag, and while this is disconcerting for Wesley, this is also his best opportunity to get back in the tournament.  If other players overreach in trying to score wins off Wesley, then Wesley needs to counter-attack and punish his opponents.

 

P.S.  Wesley stopped the bleeding today by getting a draw with the White pieces against Ding Liren in Round 3.

Did he stop the bleeding? He entered a line well known that leads in drawn endgame.

He didn't try to win , he only tried not to lose. And this is a tournament where only the first place counts.

In my opinion he doesn't believe it.

 

I hear you.  It's either 1st place or Nothing.   A respectable showing (+1 or the upper half of the tournament standings) is really the same as doing poorly if you ignore the prize money.

 

The old saying of "Win with White, Draw with Black" is a time-tested strategy.  By that measure, Wesley has failed 3 games in a row:  2 losses with Black and a draw with White.  

 

The early front-runners are looking good:  Kramnik (beating Aronian with the Black pieces in a sparkling game), Shak, and Fabio.

 

And per my Original Post (OP), all three of the front-runners have an excellent team of Seconds.

 

If I were an informal yet influential advisor to Team Wesley, I would counsel him to politely request the services of either of the following people to be his coach or Second:

 

1)  Garry Kasparov.

2)  Anatoly Karpov.

 

I would also say Vishy Anand, but he's still active.  But if Wesley were to get one of the former World Champs on his team, with their knowledge of training regimens, and putting some fire into Wesley's belly, I think it would be enough to put Wesley into the very, very top tier or inner circle of players.  

 

I mean, right now, he's already a top 10 player, but with Kasparov or Karpov overseeing his preparation, Wesley's skills and potential would be maximized and he'd be giving Magnus a run for his title and money.