Resigning a won game

by Jonathan Speelman
2/3/2019 – True Agony! Columnist GM JON SPEELMAN briefly rifs on AlphaZero and Giri-Shankland before turning his attention to this week's submission from Zimbabwean Class A player, Tapiwa Allister Gora. Feel free to send in your own games! Jon can always use more material from readers. If your games are selected for the Agony column, not only will you get free detailed commentary of your games by one of chess’s great authors and instructors, and former world no. 4 player, but you also win a free three-month ChessBase Premium Account! | Photo: Tapiwa Gora (right) vs Simon Bokamoso at a recent tournament

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Speelman's Agony #92

Many thanks first to everybody who's sent games into the drop box in recent weeks. Two requests though: Please include an email address so that I can contact you. And please use either PGN or a compressed ChessBase database CBV. (In ChessBase, click Menu→Database→Backup database, or hit Ctrl+Z.) 

Last Tuesday (January 29th), I went to a lecture in London regarding Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan's new book on AlphaZero: “Game Changer”.

The chess manifestation of Google DeepMind's platform (which first produced AlphaGo and subsequently also a Shogi program AlphaZero-Elmo), AlphaZero, was completely self-taught starting with just the rules of chess over a period of hours: though given the prodigious computing power employed this translates to years on normal hardware. The result which is already surely the strongest chess playing entity on the planet has been able to defeat Stockfish over a large number of games though admittedly in their first match Stockfish was grossly hampered being deprived of its opening book and given a meagre one Gigabyte of hash tables when 64 would apparently have been optimal.

The really interesting thing from a chess perspective is that AlphaZero has its own unique style and evidently — it's still a black box to us though they're writing software to interrogate it — its own evaluation system. And this has led to a number of really splendid (super)human-like games in which this weird monster has elicited almost no concern with traditional material values, 210 games incidentally are downloadable from DeepMind (or replayable from ChessBase's "Inside the (deep) mind of AlphaZero").

The talk started with a presentation by computer scientist Thore Graepel a lead researcher on the project, who was followed by Regan and then Sadler. A short moderated chat followed and then questions were taken from the audience. [See our recent interview with the authors -Ed.]

While there were some chess players and surely also some AI people, the majority, I imagine, were interested members of the public. And one question was whether, given that engines play better than people, interest in games between humans would die out?

The answer currently, and I hope in the future is, of course, “No!”. Chess between humans is a visceral ritual battle projected onto an artificial (but potent) arena and while we hope for brilliance, we also expect mistakes (which incidentally is why engines can beat us since most of them — though perhaps not AlphaZero — are still above all giant error checkers seizing on our inevitable tactical inaccuracies mercilessly).

The worst mistakes in chess change the result at a stroke by 90 or even 180 degrees. One of the latter occurs in this week's games and first a mere 90% in the notorious game from Wijk aan Zee in which Sam Shankland resigned against Anish Giri in a drawn position.


Tapiwa GoraAfter 45.b6 Shankland surrendered. Of course, simply ♚d5-d6-d7-c8 and sitting would have made a draw since White can't prevent the king from oscillating between c8 and either d7 or d8 unless he gives stalemate or chases the king into the corner which doesn't help either.  

The amazing thing is not that Shankland had a moment of madness but that he had the mental strength to recover immediately beating both Ian Nepomniachtchi and Vladimir Kramnik in the final two rounds. Bravo!

This week's games are by Tapiwa Allister Gora (pictured), a 20-something Zimbabwean. He wrote a couple of notes but everything else is mine. We start with the Agony in which the poor guy resigned in a winning position!


Click or tap the second game in the list below the board to switch

Strike first with the Scandinavian

The Scandinavian is a rarely employed opening on the hightest level und guides your opponent on much less familiar terrain than for example the Sicilian, French or any 1.e4 e5 system. After 1.e4 d5 Black fights for the initiative from move one.

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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