Kavalek in HuffPo: Almost Human Chess Machines

6/7/2010 – There used to be a time when mistake-free play and machine-like calculations were considered the highest accolades in human GMs. Today "they played like human beings" seems to be the best compliment we can pay to chess computers. In his Huffington Post column GM Lubomir Kavalek analyses a deep computer game – and provides the solutions to last week's zugzwang problems.

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Almost Human Chess Machines

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

Precision, mistake-free play and machine-like calculations were the highest accolades for the top chess players. Remember what the former world champion, Tigran Petrosian, said after he was eliminated by Bobby Fischer from the world championship cycle in 1971? "As soon as Fischer gains even a slightest advantage, he begins playing like a machine. You cannot even hope for some mistake." Nowadays, it seems to be the other way around. "They played like human beings," is the best compliment we can pay to chess computers. When they do play like us, we get emotional: we feel for them, love them and embrace them.

Chess computers were not only praised for making human-like moves, but they were also accused of playing them. The former world champion Garry Kasparov still holds a grudge against IBM's Deep Blue computer after he was defeated by the machine in 1997. "It made human moves," he said, implying that the computer was unfairly helped by the IBM team during the play. Despite seeing the game logs and reading the denials of the team members, Kasparov remains unconvinced.

The top commercial chess computer program is Rybka, a "small fish" in Czech. Rybka 4, the newest version of its Czech-American programmer, IM Vasik Rajlich, was recently released by ChessBase. At the end of May, the program also triumphed at the 10th International Computer Chess tournament in the Dutch city of Leiden. It won eight games and lost to Deep Sjeng, which finished a full point behind the winner. But it was not this defeat that caught my attention.

In a recent computer tournament, ran by Martin Thoresen in Norway, Rybka 4 lost to a program with another fish name, the Stockfish. The name suggests a dead fish, but in this game it came wonderfully alive. It was a typical Grunfeld Indian game, a classic confrontation between a strong pawn center and active piece play with a romantic aura that would have pleased players from 19th century. It is a chaotic masterpiece in which one king goes for a walk, the other is hunted and the sacrifices range from pawns to queens.

I saw the moves on Mig Greengaard's inspirational Daily Dirt site where one finds great, passionate debates on many chess topics. Here it is with my comments:

Note that in the replay windows below you can click on the notation to follow the game.

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


Solutions to the Zugzwang problems

In last week's column Lubos Kavalek showed us three problems illustrating the "Art of Zugzwang". Here are the solutions:

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site has around 13 million unique visitors per month (number for March 2010); according to Google Analytics the number is 22 million uniques per month.


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