Complete Chess match Tea Lanchava vs Peng Zhaoqin

2/9/2006 – The Dutch city of Maastricht is becoming the center of experimental chess. Every year they stage a event involving unusual conditions. This year it was a computer assisted match between two top women players. They played two games of regular chess and two with shuffled positions. Eric van Reem reports.

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Complete Chess in Maastricht

Report by Eric van Reem

Last week, the Chess Events Maastricht Foundation organised a Complete Chess Match between the Dutch Women Grandmasters Zhaoqin Peng (Elo 2402) and Tea Lanchava (Elo 2389). Peng has won the Dutch women championship six times in a row, Lanchava has been the runner-up several times. They played four games in Maastricht, The Netherlands from 31 January – 3 February 2006. Both players were allowed to use a Pentium 4 3GHz computer with ChessBase software during the encounters. After two defeats in the first games, Peng fought back in the shuffle games to equalize the match 2-2.


Tea Lanchava receiving instructions for the computer assisted match


Peng Zhaoqin gets her lesson with Mega 2006 as well

The match started off with two games of Complete Classic Chess. The prescribed opening was the gambit 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3. Nf3. The players continued with Complete Random Chess in the other two games. This means that the initial position of the pieces was decided by chance. Rules were developed by Count Van Zuylen van Nijevelt and Baron Van der Hoeven in the 19th century.


The setup for the Complete Chess computer-assisted match

The match Peng – Lanchava

Since the Chess Event Maastricht Foundation is also organising a gambit match between the ex-correspondence chess world champions Timmerman and Umansky, main organiser Jan van Reek thought that it would be a nice and original idea to play a sharp gambit in the Complete Chess match this year. Peng and Lanchava had to deal with this opening with the white and black pieces on the first two matchdays. Peng had a slightly better position until the 38th move in the first game, but she made a few inaccurate moves. Lanchava checked a few variants on her computer and chose the right path to glory. After 57 moves and 4.5 hours of play Peng had to resign.

In the second game the ladies played the Scoth Gambit, in which Lanchava played a new move: 8.Bg5. After the game she said that she did not want to follow the game Zvjaginsev-Motylev from 2000, in which white played 8.Ba3. Peng was not very happy with her answer 8...Bg4. “I think that c6 would have been better for black, at least I have some more opportunities to get some active play. Now I had more difficulties.” Lanchava played some very accurate moves and reached a good position. Peng wanted to win the game but pushed too hard. On move 40 she blundered: “My engine showed a big plus score, but I had not enough time to check all the variations”. She obviously did not check the piece sacrifice deep enough with her computer, because it soon became clear that Lanchava could easily stop the passed pawn. After five hours, Peng had to resign the second game.


Peng going down to Lanchava in the Complete Classic Chess games

The third game in the match started with the moves: 1.e4 Nhg6. No, this is not an error, because the ladies had to play two random chess games in their match! Arbiter Geurt Gijssen had determined the position on Monday during the opening dinner with the players and organisation in the excellent Asian restaurant “Ginger. The position that came out of Gijssen´s envelopes:

K R Q B R N B N

Peng needed to win the third game, because she lost the first two games in this match. She controlled the game, played some very accurate moves in the opening and was able to keep the initiative until the end of the game. After the game Peng said that she was very pleased with the moves 7. g3! and 9.b4! “I think that the move 5...Qa6?! was a mistake, because she loses a tempo.” Later in the game, Lanchava blundered with 25...d5? “Oh, my god”, Lanchava said after the game, “what a stupid computer move. I followed the advice of the computer in this position, but 25...d5 loses the game immediately. I should have played 25...g6 first.” After winning the exchange, the Dutch number one still had a few technical difficulties to solve, but won the game in the end. She played the endgame without computer assistance. “I have learned this week that the computer is not always right!“ After four hours of play, Lanchava resigned.


Working with the computer in the Complete Chess Match

Zhaoqin Peng has some experience with an exciting variant of shuffle chess: “About ten years ago I played a few Chess960 games with Bobby Fischer in Budapest. Svetozar Gligoric took me to Budapest, where I met Fischer. He did not want to play classical chess, only Chess960. We just played a few blitz games and I managed to win a few games.”

In the last game, Peng used a lot of time for her first 15 moves, trying to find the right strategy. “It is very important to think intensively about the first 10-15 moves. I think that Tea made a mistake on the first move! I have studied the starting position and I believe that 1.f3 is the best move.” Lanchava had problems finding a good plan, played a disastrous move after a long think (17.Na4??) and lost the game after 46 moves.


Tea Lancava with match arbiter Geurt Gijssen

Looking back at six matches in Maastricht:

The match Peng-Lanchava probably was the last in a series of unique matches in Maastricht. The Chess Events Maastricht Foundation has organised three man-against-machine matches and three Complete Chess Matches from 2001-2006. A remarkable fact: in the three Complete Chess Matches (12 games), only three games ended in a draw, despite the use of chess software and fast computers.

After the match Deep Blue-Kasparov in 1997, the chess world was in a state of shock. The computer could even beat the best player of the world in match, so why organising more man-against-machine matches? Aegon, sponsor of many famous man-against machine tournaments in The Netherlands, immediately stopped their support after the Deep Blue match. As Prof. van den Herik stated in his opening speech last before the first game of the Peng-Lanchava match last week, Deep Blue was running on a supercomputer, but the next challenge would be to see if a world class player could also be beaten by a chess program that was running on a home-computer.

The Chess Events Maastricht Foundation picked up that idea and started a series of matches in 2001. The idea behind the organisation, founded on 14 March 2000 by Jan van Reek, Daniel Brorens and Maarten van Gils, was to get the city back on the chess map again, since no high-class chess events had been organised in one of the most beautiful cities of The Netherlands since 1946!

Dutch GM John van der Wiel, who had played successfully against computers in the famous Aegon tournaments in the nineties, was beaten 3,5-2,5 by the Dutch program Rebel, programmed by Ed Schröder in the first match in Maastricht. Until that match, van der Wiel had never lost a game against a computer in an official tournament or match. His score against the computer was a stunning 24,5-3,5 at that time. ”This defeat must have had the same effect on van der Wiel as it had on Kasparov after his loss against Deep Blue”, van den Herik said in his speech. Unfortunately, the 62 year-old Maarten van Gils died a few months after the first match. However, the foundation decided to go on with a new president: Dr. Ir. Jos Uiterwijk, a renowned computer expert from the University Maastricht.

In 2002, a much stronger GM was invited to Maastricht: Dutch champion Loek van Wely, who played four games against an improved Rebel Century version. That match ended 2-2. There were no draws in that match and all games were won with the white pieces. Jan van Reek, one of the founders of the Foundation said: “ One of the best ever man against machine games was played in that match: the third game, won by Rebel, is a modern classic.”

In 2003, the Russian GM Evgeny Bareev played four games against the English program Hiarcs, written by Mark Uniacke. That match ended 2-2 as well, all games were drawn. “I was very impressed by the way Bareev played in that match”, Daniel Brorens, treasurer of Foundation, said. “He never had any difficulties to equalize or to get a slightly better position against the machine. We were very proud that we could get such a high-class player to Maastricht.”


Maastricht, Holland, where the Complete Chess expriments are staged

In 2004, the Foundation changed ist strategy and the first Complete Chess Match was organised. The young talents Daniel Stellwagen from The Netherlands and David Baramidze from Germany played an exciting match. Stellwagen lost the first game, in which he blundered, but won the match in the end: 2,5-1,5. One year later, in May 2005, prodigy Stellwagen was invited again and he played four games against Loek van Wely. Another innovative element was added by the organisers that year: the players had to play two shuffle chess games, but still with computer assistance. Stellwagen won the prestigious match: 3-1.

Future projects of the Chess Events Maastricht Foundation

Since it has become more and more difficult to attract sponsors for matches in Maastricht and chess events in general, the Chess Events Maastricht Foundation has decided to stop organising matches. However, the foundation will continue to organise correspondence chess matches on the website and wants to support other chess events in the Maastricht region. This summer, the local club MSV-VSM will organise a blitz night, and the tourney will be supported by the Foundation. Jan van Reek: “Well, it is possible that we will change our mind again and organise a match in a few years. It depends how the chess world in itself developes, and if we can get some sponsorship. The problem is that the situation in the chess world is still messy. It is not clear for many outsiders who is the real world champion nowadays, and after this Deep Blue desaster in 1997, many people and sponsors did not take chess seriously anymore. We wanted to show in Maastricht that chess is still interesting by using computers and we are also open for new variants like shuffle chess. Our main goal was to put Maastricht back on the chess map again and with our matches, Maastricht has become a lot of attention in the chess world. From that point of view, it has been a succesfull period. We have seen fantastic matches here in Maastricht and I hope that many people had fun watching the games”, Jan van Reek concluded.

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