Giddin's reflection on draws, readers' feedback

6/23/2012 – After the first four games of the World Championship had ended in draws English chess columnist Steve Giddins wrote a provocative article. He called the match disappointing and blamed it on computers narrowing the preparation gap to a degree where world class GMs who are closely matched cannot gain a decisive advantage. In response we got massive feedback and a piano recital.

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The World Chess Championship 2012 was being staged in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, between World Champion Viswanathan Anand of India and the winner of the Candidates tournament Boris Gelfand of Israel. The match is over twelve games and lasted from May 11 to 30, with a prize fund of US $2.55 million. After the regular classical chess games the score was tied at 6.0-6.0:

 Players
Rtng
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Tot.
Perf.
+/–
 Vishy Anand
2791
½
½
½
½
½
½
0
1
½
½
½
½
6.0
2727
–11
 Boris Gelfand  
2727
½
½
½
½
½
½
1
0
½
½
½
½
6.0
2791
+11

In the tiebreaks that followed Anand won game two, while the other three were drawn. He thus won the match and retained his World Championship title.

 Players
Rtng
R1
R2
R3
R4
Tot.
Perf.
 Vishy Anand
2791
½
1
½
½
2.5
2815
 Boris Gelfand  
2727
½
0
½
½
1.5
2703
Here are all the ChessBase reports on the World Championship match.

Steve Giddins' reflections

"I do not wish to criticise the players," Steve said. "They are just reacting to the circumstances they find themselves in, and are doing what they think they have to do, to have the best chance of winning the match." Likewise he did not give any credence to the claim that all would be rosy, if only the match organisers had imposed the infamous "Sofia rules", to prevent early draw agreements. Having Sofia rules in place for the first two games in Moscow would have forced the players to play another 20 or so moves, before agreeing a draw, but all that would have meant was two largely contentless 40-move games, instead of two largely contentless 20-move games."

Steve's assessment: the computers were to blame! The crux of the problem is that there is a very small disparity in strength between the players. Against a weaker player even if Anand gets nothing from the opening, he will still be able to outplay him over the board, and win. But he cannot do that to a top-class GM. "If he gets nothing from the opening, he will have huge trouble beating a player like Gelfand, and vice versa. The result is a whole series of effectively contentless games, where the players are just checking each other's computer-aided preparation. Once in a while, they will hit on a gap, and get some advantage, but most of the time, there will just be what we have already seen in Moscow – 15-20 moves of preparation, 4-5 more accurate moves, a dead position, and a draw." His solution: "Sadly, I don't think there is one, at least not without abandoning traditional chess, in favour of Fischer-Random. It grieves me to say it, but I think classical chess is in its last days."

As anticipated this article led to a great number of letters that filled our feedback box. We bring you a large sample of them, selected by a semi-automatic process. We have held back a few which proposed some especially interesting and though-provoking ideas, and need to be dealt with separately.

Reader Feedback

David Herz, Paris, France
Steve Giddins is right on, and right on the mark. I got to play one of the first programs in the seventies and things have moved apace. I can think of nothing more dispiriting, more dehumanizing to hear every commentator and many many players saying, after every move, let’s see what the engines say... The engines don't say anything. We are the saying animals, it is a game we created for ourselves, not for machines. Of course we cannot kick them out but their preponderance is indeed leading chess down a dead end. The Carlsen interview was a breath of very fresh air. He does not use computers, can you imagine that? He still depends largely on that analogue thing we call a brain. Computers have brought marvellous variations and unsuspected soundness to many aspects of the game, but overusing them is indeed choking life and interest out at the top level, and so far this match is vindicating that opinion. Today when you go out to a restaurant and you do the calculation for dividing the bill in your head, no one believes you. They have to check it on their cell phone calculators. This emptying of the brain and its functions is one of the symptoms of computer overuse. Couldn't we dose its invasiveness more effectively?

Alexander Milanoff, Canada
I don't completely agree with Steve Giddins. Yes, computers have made opening preparation much easier. Yes, the difference in skill level between the top players is minimal. Yes, computers allow for deep tactical checks of particular positions providing moves which players can then apply in their games. These things lessen the 'classical purity' of chess as a human intellectual pursuit. But, at the same time, chess is not only a purely mental pursuit. Only from an abstract perspective could it be called that. From a practical perspective, chess is just as much a psychological game as it is intellectual, when played between humans. This much should be obvious, and important to remember. A move made over the board, in a game between humans, can have a psychological impact, a temporary unbalancing of emotion, let's say, that can determine the course of a game due to the opponent making a mistake or taking a great deal of time to calm themselves down and think clearly about the position. The general demeanour of the players facing each other, the subtle behavioural cues that most people are not conscious of, the looks the players give each other during the game if they make eye contact, the times at which players stand up and go for walks in the middle of the game, all these things also have psychological impact and affect the game. It's human, and natural. It's a mistake to only consider a human's performance in a game based on pure strategic and tactical skill; humans are not computers. Although this is the standard way of analyzing, it does not give the full picture of why moves were made.
So: No, human chess is not at an end. There are still an untold number of outside variables that can determine the result of a human vs human chess game. I mean come on, I shouldn't even need to say this...

SteveChess, Cambridge USA
The real crux of the matter, concerning the Anand-Gelfand 2012 match is this. First, the match is too short. Should be 21 games, at least, and if the match is drawn at that point, the champion retains his title. Now with a 12 game match, Gelfand's strategy is to keep even right to the end: 12:12. Then, even with tie-breaks, Gelfand will have done himself proud. Considering that Anand has a rather large + score vs Gelfand, and Boris is getting on in years; and Anand is a good blitz player, the odds are that Anand will win the match, unless he slips up! I have seen Anand slip up. So Vishy and Boris are playing it very cool, close and careful. There is no need to criticize the type of play or the results. Let anyone who is offering criticism attain a chess rating of FIDE 2700+ before s/he even dares to offer a complaint. Secondly, let the complainer tell us that he has walked in the shoes of Anand or Gelfand, that is was in a World Championship of some sort, before s/he can really understand the behaviour of Anand and Gelfand. If these complainers are getting bored, let them watch the Bostn Celtics or Boston Red Sox for excitement, for immediate gratification. Otherwise, let's settle down, put our chess observation caps on, be patient and get into the very very intense, tense, need-to-be-very-precise in calculations, to appreciate that we are watching chess quality at the very top! Good luck to Vishy and Boris. I love them both. They are an inspiration and a strong asset to chess and its proliferation around the world. Personally, I'm rooting for Boris. He is truly Rodin's "The Thinker" wow! Intense.

GM Jacob Aagaard, Glasgow
If you are 100% focused on getting an advantage with white out of the opening, then there will be a number of draws. But this has already been the case for a decade - a decade where the draw percentage has been falling. We have always had matches where the opponents have chosen a very safe style to avoid losing rather than winning. They have always had boring moments and there will be boring moments in the future. When Gelfand plays 5.e3 and Anand 5...a6, they both choose to limit the chances of a loss rather than hope for outplaying the opponent. If they continue this way, we are heading for a rapid play-off. Or, maybe game five has a decisive result and the other player needs to get out there. Remember the dullness of parts of the Leko-Kramnik match...

Harish Srinivasan, Buffalo, USA
You say that "The computer is now so powerful, that it becomes impossible to out-prepare another top player in the opening.", but you could also quote the exact opposite that "The computer is now so powerful, that it becomes easy to out-prepare another top player in the opening". Basically it boils down to what openings you are analyzing. There is always a good chance that the opening you analyzed was not analyzed by your opponent with the computer. For instance in the first game Gelfand played the Grunfeld and Anand had to opt for a side-line to avoid directly stepping into preparation. But then in the 3rd game he was prepared by then to play 3.f3 line. Similarly Gelfand avoided the main Qc2 line as white against Anand's slav as he had possibly not expected the a6 slav, but today he tried it out. A small battle of tests concluded after 4 games. Now we may move onto newer frontiers. The computers have just changed the nature of the battle of wch matches i.e. the perspectives have changed, but it remains interesting.

Itzhak Solsky, Brussels, Belgium
I'm a concert pianist and pretty strong chess amateur. I think part of the problem in this specific WC is that both contenders, at least for the time being, seem content to just drift along the games of the main match, and if necessary, drift into rapids, blitzes and worse, really making fun of the whole format, considering it's for the World Championship. One option, bearing in mind that we are talking WCh here, a type of match that traditionally has draw-odds for the incumbent champion, is that when it really gets ridiculous (say, after rapids end in all-draws or something), Gelfand will get up and say "ok guys – I refuse to lower myself into blitz play in trying to snatch the crown from Mr. Anand - I'd rather concede that the title remains his, after having tried and failed, then lower myself and the whole status of chess and the WC, to have it decided in blitz and armageddon". Noble.

But is there a better, more fun way to prevent this kind of scenario? Not to mention worse ones? How to make both competitors fight for a real edge from the get-go? How to make them both, or at least one of them, always unhappy with the status quo? My answer is – reverse the order!! Don't wait for the classical games to end in a tie in order to play tie breaks! Start with the tie breaks and armaggeddon first.

Also: let the players bid for the times in the Armaggedon. A says I want to play black, because I'd like draw odds! Let me play with 4 minutes against 5! Then G answers: well, I think I can draw with black with 3:45 minutes. A says: well then, go for it. Anand wins.

Next is blitz. They hold 20 blitz games, and G beats A 11:7. Had it been 10:10, A would be considered the winner, because of the Armageddon played before.

A rest day follows, after all of this rough and tumble, and now they go to the rapids. They play ten of these over two consecutive days. Rapids are more serious business. We no longer throw pieces around. There are plans, strategies; both players are warming up for the main match which lies just ahead. They already use the rapids to feel each other up (of course, Armageddon and blitz are kind of a joke. We are still in the world championship!! Although, draw-odds in the rapids are with G, because of what happened before).

The tension is mounting! G wins a brilliancy in game one with white, just to lose on time in game 2! Games three and four end in draws. It quickly becomes clear that most games drift anyway into blitz, often still in unclear positions... but the fight is still on – and we are still in a tie break.

After a tumultuous session, at game 8 the score stands at 4:4. Then A manages to win the last two games, one of them by a last-minute blunder, the other by uncorking an opening novelty that became very time-costing for G, although later it was found unsound (especially the exchange sacrifice on d3, where a hidden zwischenzug was missed.... A won the rapids 6:4, and is the 'tie-break champion' now.

At this point, it's time to switch to classical. After all of the excitement and the adrenaline, the players are given four rest days, so that they can come fresh to game one. G knows that he needs to win!! The draw odds are in favour of A, the winner of the rapids. 'If only I saw that zwischenzug', thinks G. Then he consoles himself - 'well, still 24 classical games to go. G has a long time ahead of him to prevent the draw-odds taking effects, which in any case, are naturally the WC's prerogative.

The tie-breaks didn't decide the match!! They just spiced it up, with enormous entertainment values to all concerned (who would play over the moves also 51 years later, boasting trivia knowledge in an attempt to immortalize either G or A, according to taste and preference...) but with no over-serious emphasis (win the Armageddon or die!!!).

This system will probably remain popular until early January 4529, where chess will be solved by hyper-intelligent shades of purple, on a random visit to Earth. The solution involved the move 3.Be2.

Editorial note: Very interesting proposal. For readers who lack the attention span: the writer proposes that the tiebreak games are played in advance and essentially determine who has draw odds in the classical match. Incidentally, your Scarlatti is quite beautiful, Itzhak:

Duncan Vella, Swieqi, Malta
I wouldn't be so negative about computers killing classical chess. Before going for Fischer Random chess we have another possibility that will make players compare their playing ability and not analysis memory. So, the players arrive at the board. The one playing white chooses one out of ten envelopes. In these envelopes are the first two moves that have to be played. These movers are valid opening moves, e.g. 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5. White continues the game.

Ron Stanley, Pennsylvania, USA
It would be interesting to see a "decathlon" type of match in which a set of opening positions are chosen (perhaps at random), and two games are played by the players with each opening position. 20 games, 10 positions, each player having white once and black once. I'd love to see an Alekhine's Four Pawns Attack, a Marshall Gambit, a QGD, a Max Lange Attack, a Leningrad Dutch, etc. all be part of a match. I doubt any GM could prepare for all of those lines in advance of a match, and it would be a great test of try chess playing ability without having to go to Fischer Random. I bet the fans would love to watch something like this.

Wallace Hannum, New Haven, CT
It's a bit silly for Steve Giddins to claim that computers are killing classical chess since the match started with four well-played draws. Did he forget that in the 2010 Anand-Topalov match three of the first four games were decisive? Have computers ruined chess since then? As for the draws... well, the players drew the first four games in 1910, 1921, 1951, 1966, 1978, and 1995. And computers had nothing to do with the long string of draws in the 1984 Kasparov-Karpov match. Between evenly matched players there are going to be draws, and with modern computers there will be deep preparation, but let's not claim that classical chess is dead. Just enjoy the games.

Mark van der Hoorn, Wellington, New Zealand
Although nobody really wants to see Fischer Random, isn't the "random" aspect worth a thought? I guess computers can evaluate countless "normal" opening positions to a state of equal chances. Probably add a filter to remove the ones that are "dead draws". So then you end up sitting down to a game where you start with no opening preparation, but knowing that whether or not you're attacking or defending or whatever the structure etc, you're still well in the game. You just have to find the best idea. I imagine this would suit the all-rounders, which kind of appeals to me. The concept of the best defenders being forced to attack, and that kind of thing. Opening specialists wouldn't care for this much I suppose, but if we're talking about "random" then there could be an option where the random opening position selected is the original start position. Maybe give that option a fifty percent chance or something. I vaguely recall something like this being tried before, with that Kasparov vs Short King's Gambit debacle. I suspect you'd need a more rigorous method of selecting start positions, but it may be worth another shot.

Marcel Baartz, La Gomera, Spain
How many times has the death of OTB classical chess been announced over the past decades? I think its true that the theoretical preparation is improving more and more, but there are other values that one must take into account too. Nobody can prepare all against everything! There are psychological weaknesses to consider, chances to take risks and surprise an opponent, like Aronian did nowadays, that still can unbalance every game to play.

John Rood, Holbrook, MA
ChessBase knows very well that I have been predicting this situation. Here is my best attempt at the solution: Contract Chess. Use the computers to produce situations which are as unclear to them [= the computers] as is possible, then have the top GMs play against each other (over the board, without computer assistance, obviously) in such positions.The bottom line here is that chess *is* going to be solved. Your recent April Fool's joke is more "realistic" than any of the combinatorial counting arguments which purport to show chess can't be solved because the number of positions, sequences of moves, games etc is astronomically high.

Laurentiu Grigorescu, Windsor, Canada
This is a timely and well reasoned analysis of the "contentlessness" of the four games of the World Championship match. But there are solutions other then 'Fischer Random", which, by the way, would make more sense as a tie-breaker than the insane, error-prone rapids or blitzes. One solution would be the elimination of the match entirely, even if this breaks with the tradition, and go for "Mexico City 2007" solution - a strong double-round robin tournament. Another solution can come from the top players themselves, by trying to find new ways to play off-beat openings. Alekhine and Fischer found new ways in their time. It is the duty of top players to lead the way, not playing the same lines over and over again. Players like Aronian, Carlsen and Nakamura seem to go this way. And the Anand-Gelfand match is not over yet!

Shiv Mathur, Mumbai, India
It all sounds very pat, but ... the conditions have always been the same for all players at various moments in time. When there were no computers, both opponents would still have identical access to books, magazines, etc., and their preparation would still be comparable. When there were four draws in a row, would people blame this on the fact that there were too many chess books available? I really feel that this new idea (Sofia rules?) that these top players OWE us 'interesting' games is unbearably patronising to the chess elite.

Rick, USA
I see several problems. First, the Candidates Match should not determine the opponent of the World Champion. It should go to the highest rated player. As of today, there are 19 Grandmasters rated higher than Gelfand. Secondly, whoever wins the Candidates is guaranteed to be a millionaire (win or lose the World title). Also, the disparity in prize money between challenger and current World champion is not that great – where's the incentive to win?! Both could be thinking. "I've got my million", why rack my brains coming up with wins. Basically, the World Title match has become 'appearance fee' money. Another concern is mentioned in the above article: if rote memorization and the use of computers is so equalizing – something Fischer complained about decades ago – let's shorten the time on the clocks. Make the players think on their feet. You'd get more exciting games, and that's what the spectators want. Lastly, there should be rapid games in the initial contest – mix it up, put a little excitement in the event. Maybe have 20 games with 10 being classical, 8 rapid and even 2 variants of some sort. What are we being so cautious about here?

Patrick Wintershoven, London
Loved Steve's article. But why not using Fisher Random, cutting out the computer and let human chess skills prevail?

Rauan Sagit, Stockholm, Sweden
I don't agree that the computers are eating up chess. I think that chess games are still decided in critical positions in the middlegame and endgame. In this match the players choose positions that are low in dynamics. Which means taking small or no risks. I hope that the following games will be more dynamical and yes both Anand and Gelfand are great at calculating over the board so I think the public is really craving some action! I know I do!

Markus, Austria
Sorry, Mr. Giddins your commentary regarding computer analysis is only partly right. Please bear in mind that in every top tournament of the best professionals there are wins, despite deep computer analysis. Therefore the influence of the computer at the moment makes a win more difficult as in the past, but it's possible. But the top level preparation of both players in the last few months, supported by top seconds, logically leads to more equilibrium in the results. But to interpret the issue as the "dead of modern chess" because of computers is really not very serious at the moment...

Mohan Jayaraman, Chennai, India
I am a middling correspondence chess (cc) player (rated 2246 in ICCF) and am in total disagreement with the views expressed by Steve Giddins (after four games of the World Championship). We had five wins out of 12 in the Anand-Topalov match (of course with its own share of errors). Anand played a novelty with black and won twice vs Kramnik in the earlier title defence, and won that match mostly based on those wins. That variation has not been seen much in GM play since and this for sure can be effect of engines.

In CC endgame mastery has become the key to winning, as engines are prone to assess endgames poorly. Unfortunately GM's endgame skills are also not that good these days and they do not seek to direct their energies to get an opening from which they can get into endgame positions where they can try to win. This is sadly true of most of the GMs, with the exception of Carlsen (sadly he is not competing for World Championship, thanks to FIDE's policies). In short World Championship matches cannot be won by just getting novelties and have to be fought in the endgame phase to win, which is very much lacking in the present World Championship, with its short draws. Even where an minor advantage is there the players are not fighting for it. I am sad that my countryman Anand is also playing like this and making chess appear to be a boring game. But of course these days results are the only things that matter (see for example the teams coached by Jose Mourinho where defence takes priority over everything else).

David Krantz, New York, NY, USA
I love to see sharp predictions, in part because they can so easily be shown wrong. It would not surprise me to see a different viewpoint emerge by the end of the current Anand-Gelfand match. Steve Giddins also neglects to mention the role of the team members helping Anand and Gelfand prepare for the match. Giddins alone would not so easily match Anand's preparation with the aid of his team; and Giddins might have considerable trouble utilizing and coordinating the input from four GM helpers.

Edward Scimia, Bethel, CT, USA
The last two World Championship matches have had nine decisive games out of 23 played. Four drawn games (one of which may have featured a missed win) is much too small a sample for doomsday predictions.

Dr. Kannan Aravamudan, Chennai India
Come on, give us a break: In the third game Gelfand deviated a lot from the engines after the opening phase. In middle game he made a mistake of a5 and Anand short of time could not capitalize. If you want to save chess, reduce the time per 40 moves, even in classical chess.

Philip Reilly, Ireland
I agree with Steve Giddin's thoughts on the detrimental effect that computers are having on World Championship matches. But it’s not just during match preparation that computers have changed the nature of these contests. Before computers could out analyze people we had adjournments which allowed for players with a slight advantage to see the game to its conclusion. Granted they had a team of grandmasters helping them, it still remained a human struggle subject to error. This allowed 80 move games with many classic endgames which we can now enjoy years later. In the current climate if a player does not have an obviously winning advantage by move 40 they seem inclined to agree a draw and conserve their energies for the next game. And the result for the spectator? A major bore.

Vallés Moreno, Madrid, Spain
The situation (at least regarding chess and computers) hasn't changed that much since last world championship. In my humble view talk about Fischer random while a WCh match is being contested is not very responsible. Classical chess is very much alive and kicking. By the way only four games have been played, it's too early for draw such a dramatic conclusion!

Lu Tahmazyan, Los Angeles, USA
Super GMs have always prepared extremely well for a game let alone a match. This was true during Fischer's time, hence the invention of Chess960. I remember reading an article a while back in Chess Life by one of the most respected GMs, Paul Benko, where he stated playing over the board chess did not excite him any more since the game started at move 20 or so. GM Evgeny Sveshnikov raised same concern when he suggested that hiding identity of opponents thus to eliminated wins cooked at home. One of Kasparov's favorite quotes (paraphrasing here) "Yes, I did spend 20 minutes on the board for my win against Karpov, but I spent 48 hours before the game preparing for it". So, is chess dead? I most emphatically disagree. For the rest of us, it is still fun to throw wood around the board. It is still interesting to watch tournaments, granted sometimes we are served just a computer variation with insane tactics & such, but still it is fun to watch. But: is match play dead? YES.

John Stockton, Modesto, USA
I felt this way back in mid 1980s, when decent chess computers were starting to come out. I saw then what was going to happen to what the author says now has happened. I started to lose interest in chess because the "human" aspect of it was getting diminished, and would be further greatly diminished with time. The game was just not worth my time anymore, and I saw taking chess seriously as just a waste of my life.

Irvin Gomez, Forest Hills, NY
The game is the same. The problem is not computers. The problem is the snobbish, irrational attitude of weak and strong players alike, who won't accept any less than the chess they despise! The solution is simple: make the time controls significantly shorter and replay games at progressively shorter time controls until a decisive result is achieved. If several games are played before a decisive result is reached, only the original draw is rated. In other words, the shorter games are never rated.

This will introduce an element of urgency on the players' attitude and will make the games far more exciting. Yes, the quality will suffer a little bit, but we have to shed our hypocritical attitude toward the game: we shudder at the thought of compromising the games' "search for the truth", but do not hesitate to criticize the boring games we get as a result of our pursuit. Needless to say, those unwilling or unable to compromise can always set up their own Rybka vs Fritz matches. The quality will always be higher than Anand vs Gelfand. For the rest of us, bring back the blunders that made us worship Murphy, Fischer, Tal and all the deeply flawed chess of the past, when the errors were many, but the game was alive.

John Herr, Ames, Iowa, USA
First, let me say that I am not in the least bit disappointed in the prevalence of draws at the grandmaster level. There is no such thing as a "boring draw" to me; it's all part of the intrigue of the mechanics of the game. However, for all those who do decry the death of classical chess via "boring draws," it seems to me that chess lovers are eager to put the blame everywhere except where it actually belongs: the game itself.

The Japanese variant of chess, shogi, has hardly any draws, even at the highest level. Arimaa is a game partially inspired by chess that has no draws whatsoever. The reason these games have so few draws does not likely have to do with computers, or the will or preparation of the players, but it is because of the nature, design, and mechanics of the games themselves. These games simply have an intrinsically lower capacity for draws than chess. If it were even possible for computers to cause the death of classical chess, shouldn't we blame the deficiency of chess that makes it amenable to such an assault, rather than the assault itself? Computers have caused grandmasters to play at a higher level. Playing at a higher level should be a good thing. If for some reason it isn't, then there's something wrong with the game itself.

Pedro Santiago, Bauang, La Union, Philippines
It does not matter even the preparations are assisted by computers. These top GMs are not just parroting computer moves. After move 20 and beyond they will get tired, so their calculations will be less sharp than what computers will dictate. Humans are humans.

Johnathan Rothwell, Southport, England
The harbingers of chess doom have been foretelling the death of classical chess since at least the 1920's, both Capablanca and later on Fischer produced variants of the game, but they have all been proven incorrect. There are a number of reasons as to why top level chess produces so many draws: length of the match, respective strength of the players, amount of preparation, form of the players, style of the players (would Morozevich v Nakamura have produced these draws?), choice of opening, time control etc. The main reason however is simply because top players make fewer mistakes – fewer mistakes equals a higher percentage of draws. The real issue is why do chess enthusiasts and the press have such a problem with draws? The draw is the most natural and logical outcome of the game between two evenly matched players. If you want 1-0 or 0-1 have Anand play me, there won't be any draws then!

Intermezzo, Hebden Bridge, United Kingdom
Mr Giddins paints a bleak picture indeed. I tend to agree with his assessment. However, I wonder if changing the format of the World Championship would help mitigate the risks. We have seen time and again in the last few years that when a great deal is at stake the head-to-head match format often results in an acutely risk averse approach from both players. Mr Giddins outlines the issues very well and I agree that this is not really the players' fault.

My observation is this: we do not have the same kinds of problems in top level Round Robin and Swiss system tournaments where there are still plenty of exciting games being played despite the high stakes. The current US Championship is a good counterpoint to the WCC in Moscow. Is this because it is much more difficult to prepare in great depth against a broad number of opponents? I suspect so. Perhaps the World Championship should always be decided by a double round robin tournament of 10 or 12 players. Maybe we have seen the end of head-to-head World Championship matches rather than the death of all classical chess.

I do have a more 'creative' solution which I think could work and have a limited impact on the way the current game is played including opening theory. Why not delve back into the history of our game for an answer and introduce another way to win a game of chess? The Arab game used to have a result called "win by anihilation". Basically, if you took your opponents last piece and they couldn't capture yours on the next move then you won the game. This small rule change would change end game theory significantly enough to shake up the game and would have the added benefit of encouraging players to play right down to bare kings because it introduces a new factor to calculate "Can I capture all his pieces before he captures all mine?" Could this possibly work? It needs to be tested.

Paul Cooksey, Maidenhead, England
I do not believe that two weeks of house arrest is sufficient punishment for Mr Giddins, but it is a good start.

Steve Engelen, Eiksmarka, Norway
I agree to a large extent with Giddins. Both strong players (Anand and Gelfand) use classic openings and the difference becomes very small because of computer-aided preparations. What could be done is that each game, the computer proposes an opening set of moves (four or so) which both sides have to play.

Thomas Niessen, Aachen, Germany
I agree more or less with the details, but not with the overall conclusion. First of all, only 4 of 12 games are finished, and everything can change with the next game. Secondly, the last two world championship matches were completely different, though the engines were already strong. And thirdly, Magnus Carlson's approach is very successful, and he is not known for extensive opening preparation.

Stephen Veasey, Stocksfield, United Kingdom
Although Steve Giddins has a point, it doesn't explain game three where Anand chose the extremely rare (in the Gruenfeld) f3 line and the players were essentially 'on their own' from an early stage. Neither of them made an error that could lead to winning chances for the other guy. Top level human players are now technically so good that unless there is a 100 point plus rating difference or one or other of the players is just having a bad day most games in the types of openings used in match play will be drawn. If the match was over 24 games, then it’s possible somebody would be brave enough to go for a slightly dubious but not analysed to death variation in the early going, because there is plenty of time to get the point back later on if you lose. If it works, you don't have to use the variation ever again because it’s done its job. The final point is that it is not up to the players to provide 'entertainment'. All that matters is that someone wins the World Championship.

Fred Wilson , New York NY USA
Steve Giddins is a whiner. The problem is not computer preparation but the shortness of the match and the opponents themselves. In the "old days" a match lasted at least 24 games which gave the players more room to risk something., as a one game deficit was not insurmountable. If either Anand or Gelfand had the true "play on until virtually it is king vs. king" attitude like Lasker or Fischer or Carlsen or Nakamura we would see a very different type of match. Classical chess it not dying but perhaps we are seeing the last remnants of the "Soviet school" playing for the world title.

Laszlo Csizmadia, Hungary
I sadly agree with Steve Giddings. Extensive computer analysis (with huge and huger databases and more and more powerful computers) hinder players to play (in its original meaning) chess. Helluva lot of preparation creates long prepared lines and little play. And they hardly risk unanalysed lines (even if they look promising) at the board because what if the opponent has their own preparation of it. Because he can have it (thinking of the vast resources). So they choose the safe lines and it is understandable taking into account it is a World Championship match.

Jim Larsen, West Chester, USA
I read with interest Steve Giddins' viewpoint that "computers are killing the game", and frankly I find his position absurd. How is it that Carlsen and Aronian continue to have incredible tournament success? I'll follow Steve's lead and suggest an experiment: Let's lock Anand in a room for a week, with a powerful laptop. During that week, Carlsen will play soccer and relax. Subsequently, let them play a world championship match of reasonable length – say, 24 games. We'll see how helpful the computer is when Anand gets continually outplayed – in the middlegame.

Yousaid Mostofo, Málaga, Spain
Instead of playing random chess, why not draw lots to decide the opening?? E.g. Sicilian, King´s Gambit, King’s Indian, etc.

Nelson Hernandez, Reston, VA USA
I partially agree and partially disagree with Steve Giddens' assertion that computers are killing human chess. In a larger sense, yes, absolutely: as hardware and software have relentlessly continued to improve, the depth of analysis has reached hitherto undreamed-of levels with no end in sight. The gap between human and computer chess continues to widen year by year to the point that referring exclusively to human databases for the novelty move in a game has become almost a joke, because computers have oftentimes already played what is cited as a novelty many times in recent years. For example, in the first game of the Anand-Gelfand match, the game's first 19 moves followed a 2010 game played between computers on Playchess precisely.

But if we set aside the technological reality of ever-improving computers, there are a couple of points that must be argued on the other side. First, that no human could possibly be prepared for everything his opponent might throw at him, and thus it is and always will be possible to push an opponent, even a seasoned GM, out of preparation and into an ambiguous and dynamic position relatively quickly if that is the aim. And secondly, you are likeliest to achieve this if you are on relatively underexplored terrain, where your preparation greatly exceeds your opponent's, and persistently attempt to avoid or deflect statistically drawish positions.

A prominent trend you see throughout the first four games of the Anand-Gelfand match, if you factor in many millions of computer games into your survey, is that both players persistently make solid yet very drawish moves: as you progress through the games the percentage of games in the database that ended in draw climbs with alarming speed position by position. What seems clear from this is that the players are themselves making a big contribution to the deadlock out of understandable caution and the strategic calculation that risks, if they must be taken at all, can be deferred.

Oswald Roggental, Vienna, Austria
Computers are not to blame if the WCh. opponents can't overcome themselves and start playing 1.e4 (with a variety of 1st replies, hopefully). Also, I doubt that they are really so perfectly prepared for *everything* in the closed openings. It may look like that because they avoid any side variations which may be a little adventurous. With one million guaranteed, they should provide a better show.

Scott Young, Atlanta , USA
Steve is correct about computers making the analysis of the game even. I was always a postal master, since the 70s. Then my rating tanked. When I won they called me a computer geek. So I just started doing competitive analysis with the ICCF and gave up playing. It becomes a test of learning every principle of transitioning into the endgame with a positional advantage that may lead to a victory. Tactics are no longer a major issue with a good engine like Fritz. Take an opening like the Semi-Slav or Catalan and you have a tough nut to crack for any IGM of 2700+ rating. The decision of this contest will most likely come in the quick chess tie-breakers. I hate to say it but our game is close to being solved by the machine.

John Miles, Cochrane, Harare Zimbabwe
I agree that the analyses is even more accurate and could reduce the difference in strength of two very strong players of Gelfand and Anands caliber. But I totally disagree with the assertions that the games were 'content-less' and that classical chess is dying. To start with what makes us all love the game is the beauty and aesthetic pleasure we derive from seeing well played games and or accurate analysis. Revealing beautiful analysis in any game still remains a pleasure, it’s irrelevant from where the analysis comes: from human or computer. I strongly believe that the problem is in the quality of our annotators who no longer reveal critical ideas on the mistaken assumption that they are obvious because the computer has found it in milliseconds! That, my friends, is the reason for having no content! The annotators have forgotten how to explain the moves and ideas!! Remember chess lovers have been striving for the truth in any position and the computers only reveal some of it. It remains for good annotators to translate those findings for the majority of chess lovers. I am sure a book can or has already been written on this. So classical chess is very much alive ! Just need annotators to like the late great Bronstein (Zurich 1953).

Chris, Los Angeles, Calif, USA
The solution to the lack of exciting chess in the world championship is to make draws worthless. The format for some the earlier World Championships was first to win six games. Bring that format back and no more boring draws. Both players will be fighting for a win every game. The championship might go on for 30 games or so, but I would rather see 30 exciting games than 12 boring ones.

David Levens, Nottingham, England
I am sad to say that Steve Giddins has hit on the truth, at least as far as top GMs are concerned; it is now a game for computers! It is also probably why so many very young players, brought up on computers, are rapidly reaching GM status. At my humble level, however, Classical Chess is far from over

Vijay Kamath, Bangalore, India
I agree to a great extent with what Mr. Steve Giddins has to say. If we can be a bit more specific, we can say the biggest impact of computers in chess has been in the opening. What used to be a battleground for theoretical dispute and innovation in the past, is mostly an exercise of rote and memorization now! But I believe chess super talents can adapt and innovate. The past champions could all show their major innovations in the opening when the computer influence was limited as they didn't exist or weren't powerful. The current champions will now have to adapt and innovate in other phases of the game, mainly the middle game and ending. Maybe play openings where the computer influence is minimal, and get to the middle game to play real chess! Once can recall Topalov in 2005 San Luis, where most of his wins came in the middle and end games. I know this is easier said than done, but there is no hope attempting to outplay the opponent in the opening other than a rare surprise once in a while.

Pieter Kramer, Veldhoven, the Netherlands
In my opinion it is not fair to blame the computers for the boring draws. The actual problem is how the players deal with the computers. I don't believe that each of the players has a perfect 20 move opening book in their head on each and every possible opening. A challenger of the WC believing in his qualities could prove his/her superiority if he/she would force the opponent in a dangerous unexpected opening right from the first moves and beat the opponent in creativity. The actual problem is therefore that the challenger of the WC is in fact not a good candidate for the title because he knows he/she is in fact not the better chess player. The system of selecting the candidate is therefore to blame.

Thang Le, San Mateo, USA
I agree with Steve G's assessment wholeheartedly. High level chess games have become no more than a fishing expedition for surprises. Frequently the commentator's most lively remark when commenting a game is "XYZ has found a very strong novelty!" Other than that it's mostly repeating lines from some chess software.

Ricardo Rodulfo, Puerto Ordaz
I believe that one way to avoid quick draws is to go for Sofia rules. In that way if the players are well prepared in the opening because of computer assistance then they will have to show at least how they are in part of the middle game

Naji Alradhi, Dubai, UAE
Computer, of course, affected the world of chess. But this is not the actual reason for the all the draws in this 2012 WCCh. Computers were extensively used during Anand-Topalov match, which was not dull at all. Why then do we have all the draws in the current contest? It's because Gelfand is not trying to win at all! This was his strategy during the qualification matches against stronger players. It is so possible that an Armageddon will be reached with Gelfand as black. He draws and becomes the new world champion, without winning any single game! It could be the only time in history where the world chess champion loses his title without actually being beaten by the challenger. Anand knows this, so he plays for win as white - as seen in G3. Gelfand knows it, so he plays each and every game for a draw. Let the pressure be on Anand!

S. Sperry, Minnesota, USA
Steve Giddins' musings serve merely as further affirmation of chess prophecy predicted over 40 years ago by Robert James "Bobby" Fischer, the 11th World Chess Champion.

Manuel, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
I fully agree with the assessment made on the World Championship and it's co-relation with computer analysis. Computers have murdered the title match. Chess has somehow become a game of Memory in a world of equal chances and slight advantages. A solution to this contemporary predicament may be to hold the match closely right after the candidate matches and sequester the participants to avoid anything but true will and individual prowess on the matches development.

Jean Hébert, Richelieu, Canada
Steve Giddins comments about chess being killed by computers is just as nonsensical than when Lasker and Capablanca declared the game dead a century ago. No one has the memory power to fully use all those computer analysis. What is really killing the current world championship match is the format which encourages both players to avoid risks. And without taking risks, it becomes very difficult to win a game of chess. Back when the challenger had to deal with the clause giving the champion the title in case of a drawn match, there was always one player willing to take risks to win a game. Now there is none because of those fast tiebreaking games. The solution if to give back the champion the tie match advantage, or play the tie-breaking games before the match (the classical games) to determine who gets the title in case of a tie.

Alex Alban, Massachusetts, USA
Steve Giddins is being illogical. It's been only four draws and from that he has come to the conclusion that chess is in its final days and blames computers for it. First of all how many draws were there in the championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov in their 1984 world championship match? That match is the only championship match in history to end without a result, there were simply too many draws. Can't really blame computers for that one can you? As for Steve's example of having a week to examine one opening variation: that's completely irrelevant. Anand and Gelfand have to study a myriad of variations, with each variation containing a myriad of possibilities. If chess was in its final days we would see practically every game in top tournaments be drawn. We're not seeing that, and we probably won't ever see that. Humans simply can't handle the amount of memory it would require to remember every opening variation.

Richard Reich, MD, Fitchburg, WI USA
I disagree with Giddins' contention that computers will be the end of professional chess. Certainly they have drastically altered the game, particularly as regards opening preparation, the end of adjournments, and likely the percentage of draws will climb. Humans tire and err and cannot draw every equal position. His blog sounds much like Capablanca's draw death statements years ago. For how computers can INCREASE the chances of winning via opening preparation see this article by Vitruvius.

Steve Harvey, USA
I became intrigued with chess at the age of 13 because of the creativity involved in the game. I fondly remember studying chess openings with my coach. We would exchange opening ideas for hours with many of the variations being left as unclear. Today, computers are used to eliminate any ambiguity in the opening while destroying much of the social interaction involved in a human analysis session. Chess should require players to use their own creativity from move one. In today's game, players may not use a single brain cell until move 20, depending on the variation. I guess this is the reason why I have always preferred offbeat openings with the hope of turning the game into one of skill and creativity rather than memorization or better mnemonic technique.

Chess has always been likened to war, but I am not aware of any war in history where the initial conditions for war were always the same. Fischer Random attempts to address this issue by providing 960 initial starting positions which puts the focus on a player's chess ability, not their computer software/hardware. I haven't played tournament chess in years because I don't have the time to study chess opening. Fischer Random would bring me back to tournament chess because planning, tactics and endgame play would be the main reason for winning and losing.

Luc van de Velde, Ostend, Belgium
Perhaps it could force the players to play for a win, when the rule would be that: nobody wins the title and the prerogatives bound with it, when the match ends in a tie. In that case the title should be vacant, to win by a tournament, after which you can get a new match.

Rama Gitananda, Phoenix, AZ USA
I can't agree with Steve Giddins musing that "classical chess is in its last days." It is the right contrast of styles that make a match exciting, and if Carlsen or Ivanchuk ever manage to challenge for the title, no one will have to worry about the match being boring.

Chong Ong, Sydney, Australia
I believe a main issue is that grandmasters are content in settling for draws as black during match play. My suggestion would be that after each game that finishes in a draw, a new rapid game is started with the same colours. For example in Game 1, Anand would get white first in normal time controls, and then if a draw, white again in rapid and then blitz (if there are subsequent draws). If there is still a draw – new blitz games until there is a result. This means that the player as black wouldn't be encouraged to just block out for a draw.

Cristóbal Cervino, Luxembourg
Woha Steve?! Why so pessimistic. I think the games were fairly interesting despite the short draws. True so far it was a battle of opening preparation. But if you look carefully for instance at game 3, you can sense that Anand is getting there. Sooner or later they will have to throw the artillery to each other, and someone will eventually score a first win. The key thing is that they need to put pressure on each other. Carlsen for example, hypnotizes opponents and induce them to make mistakes by putting tremendous pressure on them. I think the players have not used all of their bullets. They are testing each other. Both have respect, and have the fear of making an early loss. Give them time; I'm sure we will see some nice wins. At least I don't expect short draws for the whole match. Both have something to prove!

Anton Grzeschniok, Eschborn Germany
Fischer random chess is not the solution. This would be even more stupid than classical chess. Xianqui would be the solution (25% draws on top level), or if you don't like draws at all, than Shogi (3% draws on top level).
Yannick Kilberger, Clermont-Ferrand, France
Killing chess? The game has never been healthier, thanks to computers. While the world championship is an interesting chess event it does not represent chess in its entirety. Also if there is a reason for "so many draws" (come on it's only four games...) it is the length of the match.

Dennis Brennan, Dickinson Tx. USA
Thank you, Mr. Giddins. Agreed the Sofia Rule should be applied in the World Championship. After all millions of $$ are at stake. True, tiebreaks are fun and exciting, but I think not at this level of play. I say let's watch ‘em dook it out old school!

Paul Iinuma, Honolulu
Your article was very interesting and it made me think how we could improve the quality of chess. It is true indeed that computers are to blame for the many draws that occur in top class tournaments, which many of these draws end close to 20 moves. However, we must not look only the negative aspects as computers have tremendously improved the players' ability. When you take a look at the past, especially during the days of Morphy and Lasker, you see that there are many players making mistakes here and there, winning with a dubious opening or an unsound combination. Nowadays, you don't get to see any of that at all because computers aid us with our opening preparations and hence improve the quality of chess. As a chess player, I strive for perfection. Perhaps, I may not be able to understand the game fully, but I want to understand the game well. As the level of chess progresses, so has the level of players. Compared to the past, we have a lot more super GMs in the 2700s and players that once used to be world class players like GM Leko, GM Karpov, GM Adams, and GM Shirov are surpassed by the upcoming stronger GMs including GM Carlsen, GM Aronian, GM Nakamura, GM Caruana, etc.

Maybe we should compare chess with math, music, or art. In today's generation, many of today's researchers are trying to improve the quality of the field they're in. For example, musicians are constantly improving their quality of their recording in their own studios. They also have software that can enhance their quality of sound. Also, physicists and mathematicians are continuing their research to find things that can explain life better. With the use of technology such as super strong computers, these help players solve the complexities that they could not do so before. Similarly, technology has improved the quality of chess, so instead of blaming computers, why don't we embrace it. It's a beneficial tool. If you feel that computers are to blame, why don't we ban the selling of chess engines?

Jonathan Tan, Manila, Philippines
But Magnus Carlsen admitted that his opening preparation is surprisingly not that great, and yet he is a 2800+ player and the number one ranked in the world. Somehow, he transforms the position into a human game, and uses his natural ability to play any position over the board. Plus, he is energetic and will always push for the win. I still believe that the two world championship contender right now are conservative players. Nothing wrong with that, but if you put two such together, don't expect much fireworks.

Jim Williams, Springfield, Ohio
I agree that classic Chess is nearly dead. But I do not understand why others do not want to play chess 960. It is the next logical and rational step. BTW I like Danny King's explanation in the video of how Petrosian and Anand built a defensive fortress with knight, pawn, and King. Lasker also did the same as Black in his game against Bogoljubov in Moscow in 1925!

Thomas Johansson, Sweden
Well Mr Giddins of course has a point. There is serious preparation behind these combatants, including many strong GMs on each side. But on the other hand, was there something else to be expected? Isn't it to far fetched to draw conclusions from the Moscow event that chess is in its last days? The conditions surrounding a match for the world championships is very far from the conditions for the ordinary tournament player who is still prepared to take some risks to win some games. Computers can be a help to find the truth about many positions but they can never cure a safety first attitude.

Craig Gross, Virginia, USA
I agree with Steve. When it comes to head to head matches it's all about the preparation. Chess may not be dead, but the head to head aspect of the World Championship may be on its last legs. It's more exciting to watch a multi-player tournament then two top GM's battle it out for world supremacy. I've heard it suggested before to change the format to a point system like Tennis or Golf. It's harder to prepare for so many top players at once. Anand himself has not fared well in recent tournaments, barely scoring 50% in some cases. Gelfand has been dropping down the rating ladder, and yet both are fighting head to head for the World Championship, and have 4 draws?! You can't get rid of the computer, but you can change the format, thus making it more difficult for any top GM to analyze every critical line of every possibility from every opponent he will face in a tournament setting.

Kenneth Calitri, Mahwah USA
I don’t know if I agree with Mr. Giddins. Recent tournaments – London and Wijk Aan Zee – resulted in games that were gritty, interesting and decisive. A WCCh in the early games is a feeling out process. The only detraction to that is the length of the match which should be either 14, 16, or 18 games. Of course I prefer 24, but these days that is not feasible unless a match is played in 2-4 venues like they did back in Alekhine's days. I am sure both players have multiple weapons prepared as white and black. It will be interesting to see who makes the first intensive push to win a game. I like Anand, but personally would like to see Gelfand fulfill a life long dream and win.

Peter Ballard, Adelaide, Australia
Four draws – Giddins is overreacting. Has he forgotten that there were plenty of decisive games in all recent WCh matches? Or that there are plenty of decisive games in top tournaments? The 1995 Kasparov-Anand match started with eight draws. This sort of thing happens sometimes. No need to panic.

Michael McCaffery, Middletown, NJ
I am not so worried about computers ruining chess. If computers make draws more likely among top players, why does Magnus Carlsen play and win such interesting games? Also, frankly, I think the mounting number of draws is dramatic: "Who will break through first?" Is a 0-0 game in the World Cup final boring? Low scoring matches can be the most exciting! May I add that four draws to start a match is no tragedy with far reaching implications: Kasparov and Anand, in their match in 1995, did not have a decisive result until game nine! Were they using super computers then, too?

Bill Simmons, Washington, DC USA
Play 1 e4, then let each player show us what they got. They will have analyzed a lot of it but not all the possibilities.

Hatch Whitfield, United States
In all fairness, Gelfand does not really have an attacking style -- his main weapon against 1.e4 nowadays is the Petroff, and in general he favors a solid approach. While I think Giddins has a point, the drawish nature of some of the games in the match so far could be attributable to the two specific players, and if Carlsen or Aronian were playing we might not be having this discussion.

Mathieu Buard, St Etienne, France
Will we face such "analysis" every time a match starts with (uneventful) draws? Those players are playing a world title match: they are not patzers who make mistakes in every game (must we remember people that at least inaccuracies must be played by your oponent if you want to win?). There are high stakes, can we blame them from being cautious? All this shows a misunderstanding of games in general, not just chess. And computers? a very rude statement after just four games...

Sidney Shaw, Hereford England
I totally agree with Steve Giddins. I've been playing correspondence chess for 60 years or more. I've recently decided to withdraw after completing ongoing obligations. Most of my opponents, particularly the lower grade ones, reply within hours, sometimes minutes, never using more than a tiny fraction of the allocated time and playing very strongly, usually well beyond their official 'ranking'! Complicated positions do not slow them down. If you look at the results of most competitions the vast majority of the games are drawn: a far greater percentage than was common years ago. Yes computers have destroyed our beautiful game.

Ameya Gore, Pune, India
I agree that person with excellent memory and Rybka can fight with GM at least till the start of the endgame. But in this world championship, "fatigue" factor will play later rounds. Anand will remain champion. Only young player like Magnus Carlson can beat him.

Alan P. Borwell, Scotland (ICCF Honorary President)
The comments made by Steve Giddins saying that computers have already killed correspondence chess is just not true. He has not played proper CC for over ten years, so has no recent knowledge re CC. There are many thousands of CC players from around the World still playing top quality CC games, mostly by Webserver, and there has been no significant loss of players, e.g. in the latest Veterans World Cup we had a record entry of over 400 enthusiastic players. Of course, chess engines have had an impact at lower levels, but cannot be relied on by quality CC players

Jorge Shinozaki, Tokyo, Japan
Thank you for the interesting article. I would like to see Fischer Random Chess played in high-level chess tournaments. Why not?

Carlos Lacunza, San Sebastian, Spain
Computer engines are like large Brazilian bulldozers, building motorways in the jungle of chess. As a result, memory has become a key asset, far more important than other chess talents. Engines have already ruined adjournments and the secret move. No more hidden moves discovered 20 years later by an anonymous player. When it comes to amateur chess, computers are a blessing. You can play a game at any time, you can follow tournaments and matches real time. And engines can help you improve your game. So let's make a difference between computers and engines. A solution: isolate the players during a match! But please, no team either.

Paul Ruffle, Westgate on Sea
I'm reminded of a TV Doctor Who episode where two battle-fleets of Darleks were deadlocked in outer space conflict as their ships computers cancelled each other out. It fell to their creator Davros to switch one side's computers off and that side won easily. Couldn't the two competitors have had a clause added to their contracts not to use computer assistance building up to and during the contest? How about taking away all assistance; computers and humans for the duration of the match? That would determine definitively who was the better of the two.

Frank Berger, Hamburg, Germany
It seems to me that Steve Giddins is exaggerating rather a lot. First of all, four drawn matches in a row is about par for the course in a Chess World Championship. Actually, we have seen a lot more than that before, even in pre-computer-chess days. Also, opening preparation has traditionally been done with the help of IMs and GMs on both sides, not by the contestants sitting all alone at home, trying to figure out the best lines. Certainly, computers have made a difference. The chances of one team finding a promising variation overlooked by the other are more remote now than ever before. But that seems to me a much more marginal change than Giddins believes it to be. Enough to kill off classical chess? I don't think so.

Nor Ilhamuddin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Computers did not kill chess game. Computers only kill chess openings (by near solving them). I bet if chess engines were around 400 years ago, we will never have today any gambits opening such as Muzio Gambits, with exception is maybe Queens Gambit. Fische Random maybe too extreme, as well as nightmare for commentators to set up position on PC before the game started and rules nightmare (how to castling? etc). Since all opening has standard code e.g. A12, then maybe before the game arbiter should draw lots to randomly determine which opening is to be play. It sure will make more interesting chess!

Michael Ginat, Toronto, Canada
I think the main factor is the short match, not computer preparation. The players are too scared to make a mistake in a short match, and they are the types of players who rely on their opening preparation more than Carlsen or Aronian, so the match is boring - Anand is past his prime, Gelfand is doing his best to put in a good showing but is not about to do what Short did against Kasparov. Classical chess not dead, this is just a boring matchup. I blame Anand mostly.

Cyric Renner, Linz, Austria
This so called "World Championship" is turning into an embarrassment. Neither one of these players has any interest in playing decisive chess. Can you imagine anyone sponsoring this? This is why chess will never be taken seriously as a sport or even a competitive game.

Amar Sekhar, Coonoor. India
I dare say that Mr Giddins is probably right. He is just echoing what Bobby Fischer always said. Computers have levelled the playing field, and many of today’s GM's would never have got past the IM stage in the pre computer era. Strong chess programs are probably a good thing for most of us 'patzers', but they do take away the advantage and charm from the few true chess geniuses out there!

Rune Friborg, Copenhagen, Denmark
Since Capablance we have heard people voice concerns about chess suffering the slow smothering of the "draw death". While there may be some truth to this, we need to think about whether or not we really, truly believe it to be a problem. After all the matter is far less complicated than the different issue that many other sports have tackled. The game of American Football has seen tremendous change in its structure the past 100 years to ensure the safety of the players and the entertainment of the audience.

Chess has seen little to no change. Why? Because chess fans have one they value higher than entertainment - finding the strongest player. That is what chess is all about (and has been about since Steinitz). Chess players are almost fanatically interested in the relative strength of players (so much so that we developed an extremely sophisticated mathematical model to determine *exactly* how strong a player was – the ELO). That is why we reward wins financially - because that is what we are most interested in.

So there is no problem. If the chess players around the world has changed and we now value entertaining games over correct ones then the solution is as simple as: Reward entertaining games rather than correct ones. Less emphasis on wins and more on entertainment. It has nothing to do with computers - it is just a matter of what the market wants. This really should come as no surprise to anyone living in a capitalist market economy.

GM Norberto E. Patrici, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Agreed!

Mark Galeck, Mountain View, California
I will take Steve Giddins’ conclusion further along the same lines: it's not really the computers to blame, it's the chess itself! What the computers are showing us, without actually being able to prove it (except on April 1 in Pago Pago!), is that chess is likely a theoretically drawn game. One solution, which would depart somewhat from the rules of the game, but not as much as the Fischer, is to have a tiebreak rule based on "small points". What are "small points"? 1 for pawn, 3 for knight and bishop, 5 for rook, 9 for queen, subtract your total minus the opponents', average over all your drawn games in the tournament (0 if no drawn games).

Colm Daly
A very interesting view offered, but though very persuasive I cannot quite bring myself to agree with the conclusions. Chess really dead or dying? Changed and transformed, yes indeed, maybe it could even be said that chess has been made very boring and, as was said, difficult for players at the higher levels to create chances or tension in their games against such well prepared players. On the other hand it seems to me that as is often said something old is something forgotten and made new again. The big problem in chess is often the way players are such slaves to fashion and trends [understandable to a very large extent] so if more players were willing to play very different openings day to day then it would be so much harder for people to be as prepared, and the chances that two players would be in unfamiliar territory would be much better.

No doubt after the game they would find that so much of what they just played may have been all played before up to a point, but during the game they would have to work so hard over the board.
In any event, I seem to recall that in 1995 A certain Mr Kasparov had eight straight draws and I think Anand won game nine, but soon after Vishy was just destroyed by Kasparov. Of course Kasparov is something very special indeed but the point is that much of what is being said now [with good reason] was said back then. Even though the power of computers and programs has improved beyond belief since, and the game has moved on, I still think we may be in for some very exciting chess in this match and while I think the players are very evenly matched [I don't see Anand as being the favorite as I think Vishy is somewhat past his best days, or at least unlikely to be at his peak too often compared with before. Meanwhile Gelfand will probably be far more motivated and hungry]. On balance I have an odd feeling that Gelfand will win the match, but I would not bet on it. If Vishy gets a head first he could start to dominate and win comfortably overall. [+ 2 or + 3] but if Gelfand wins it will be closer.

Ben Ali Borni, Switzerland
I think this is the worst chess championship that I have ever seen.

Jonathan Tan, Manila, Philippines
I believe one of the major factors contributing to the players being too cautious and conservative is that the match is too short. Just one game can make the difference to the whole match, and there could be no room for recovery. Hence, the players are too cautious not to over-commit. They would only push for action when there is a clear opening advantage. I hope future world championships would be at least 14 or 16 games.

Julian Wan, Ann Arbor, USA
Great article: Steve Giddins article makes some valid points. The widespread use of computer preparation and analysis has blunted the home study analysis advantages of the top players. In the past, playing someone like Fischer or Botvinnik meant not just facing a great player over the board, but also dealing with thousands of hours of secret preparation. We'll probably see analysis pushed deeper into the middle game. Aren't some lines already quite deep? A game where the Marshall gambit in the Ruy Lopez is played actually begins somewhere around move 15 to 20. The short duration of the matches only accentuates this effect – no one wants to take a risk with so little time to comeback. Ironically the unintended consequence of these developments is that we might see more and more matches go to tie breaker quick play and sudden death blitz. Then it is all raw playing power - many ugly games due to oversights and hardly any subtle game play, but historically the very best were very good at this and the fans certainly find it interesting.

It would make an interesting controlled experiment – pit two sets of players hundreds of points apart (ex: 2400 versus 1900 FIDE) – tell them we'll be playing the Slav. One set will get 4 hours to prep using just a set of books or DVDs (from ChessBase naturally), the other gets to use Chessbase/Fritz. Then they play. If Mr. Giddin's conjecture is correct, we should see more draws and upsets in the computer group and the book/dvd group should be beaten handily.

Natan Estivallet, Porto Alegre, Brazil
If Magnus Carlsen were playing, no one would say that "classical chess" is in its final days.

Graeme Cree, Austin, TX
Giddins writes, completly seriously, against the use of the Sofia Rules in this match, saying that they would merely have produced contentless 40 move games instead of contentless 20 move games. He says this as though that's a bad thing, as if it's somehow unreasonable to ask chess players to actually play chess. It's not enough to just say that a game would be drawn with best play, they need to actually give us that play. That's what they should be getting paid for.

Calvin Bennett, Melbourne, Australia
The extract from Steve Giddins' blog dismantles all of the facets of modern day chess, concluding by saying that 'classical' chess is all but dead. Whatever he means by classical chess, it is certainly a rushed statement to say that any match between two top chess players is a silly idea, or that he himself would go anywhere near to getting an advantage against these top players. When it comes to bold predictions, a chess journalist should know better than to deride an important chess event in the middle of it. Many will no doubt be wishing Mr. Giddins could be locked into a hotel room for a week without Rybka 3... or an Internet connection.

Alfred Acaling III, Bacolod City
I don't agree with Steve Giddins's observation. Even in the past World Chess Championship Matches, players of equal strength like Kasparov vs. Karpov matches produce a series of draws, sometimes 17 straight draws. One other example is the Kasparov vs. Anand World Chess Championship Match of 1996 where they played to a draw in the first eight games (and in the process broke the record previously held by the Karpov vs. Korchnoi 1978 World Chess Championship Match held in Baguio). I think we we'll have to be patient, when one player manages to score a breakthrough win, then the match would become very interesting, sport-wise.

Not so long ago we saw how Anand drubbed Topalov in their World Chess Championship Match. Both were using state of the art computers at that time, and both are equal in strength, although one can argue that Anand is slightly superior. But then how can you explain that one player won three games and the other only one game if both players are using the same computers? There is the proof that computers is not to blame.

David Kerrigan, Syracuse, NY
Chess as a sport isn't dying, the problem is that chess was never handled like a sport. If chess was handled like a sport there would be no ability for players to agree to a draw, ever, under any circumstance. There would also be no ability for a player to resign, ever, under any circumstance. Games would play to a conclusion within the rules of the game; checkmate, stalemate or insufficient material. Top level chess today is just glorified training. The players play through memorized openings until they are bored and then they agree to a draw. When losing, everyone resigns well before the loss is played out. Real sports are about the fans and their experience. Chess is only about player ego. Why should we play if we're bored? Why should I play out a loss, it's embarrassing? Like any real sport, players should be forced to go from beginning to end playing every single move out at the board from the greatest combination to the simplest key and pawn endgame. The motto of chess should be "prove it". Think you have a winning position? Prove it. Think that position is a draw. Prove it. Let's see how good players are when they have to actually prove it at the board in competition.

Chris Kantack, Huntsville, AL, USA
Mr. Giddins' article makes a lot of sense until the last paragraph. He's says Fischer Random Chess would solve the problem, but then claims "no one wants it". Who says! Recently I've come around to thinking that Fischer-Random would be a great idea. It would keep classical chess from getting stale for centuries to come. One problem with the current world championship is the prize money. Even the loser, regardless of how he plays, will get one million dollars. I would have made the prize difference much more substantial, say only $250,000 for the loser, giving 2.25 million to the winner. I bet that would reduce the number of mindless draws!

Gregor Makedin, San Francisco, CA USA
Methinks Mr. Giddins should, like everyone here at ChessBase, limit his comments on how computers are "killing chess" to those who are already playing at the grandmaster level on the circuit. The rest of us, 99% of the chess-playing public, would be better served by commentators who at least try and acknowledge us in their reports and articles, and say that computers have been a boon to weaker players who now have at least the suggestion of a strong master on what move he (it) would make in any given position. Personally, I don't care for much of this super-GM celeb-type coverage; it does not really do that much for the popularization and the reputation of chess, other than to depict it as a specialized world circuit for prodigies and laptop geeks. The rest of us who enjoy the game would like to see some report, any report, on the development of chess in any part of the world that does not have a smiling GM deigning to give his blessing on the event. Please, for the sake of the rest of us non-Master players, consider how comments such as "computers are killing chess" relate to players other than masters, and how, although interesting that Magnus Carlsen is on a tear and breaking Elo records, it does not really do anything to help improve our game, inspire us to play, to report exclusively on the doings of super-GMs around the world, deep Rybka, or the mixture of the two.


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genem genem 10/31/2015 06:53
Here is the link to the article that all these chessbase.com fans were commenting on:
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http://en.chessbase.com/post/world-championship-g4-reflections-it-s-the-computers
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