The legend vs the computer

7/29/2003 – Fifty years ago a young South American player won the World Junior Championship in Copenhagen. Today Oscar Panno is playing in the Magistral de la Republica Argentina. In round four he encountered an opponent who knows no respect: Shredder 7.0 sacrificed a queen and announced mate in five moves. Full report.

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VI Magistral de la Republica Argentina

The sixth edition of this strong Argentine event is under way in Vicente Lopez, a suburb of Buenos Aires. This year it commemorates the fiftieth (!!) anniversary of Oscar Panno's Junior World Championship title, won in Copenhagen in 1953.

Panno, the leading veteran of the strong Argentine chess scene since the passing of Miguel Najdorf, is one of the participants in this year's Magistral. It also includes a computer program, Shredder 7.0, which is currently leading in the SSDF computer rating list. Shredder is also leading the tournament!

In the last two editions of this event Shredder's rivals Chess Tiger and Hiarcs scored great successes. Hiarcs came equal second (with Panno) in last year's event, while Chess Tiger won first with an incredible 2788 performance in 2001. For the curious, Shredder 7 is playing on an Athlon 1.6 GHz processor machine and is using the "aggressive" program setting.

This year the players would be prepared for the onslaught of the computer, or would they? In the first round Shredder could only get a draw against Uruguayan GM Andres Rodriguez, while beating FM Juan Carlos Escandell in the IM section. Since then the record computer world champion has not lost or drawn a single game. The score: 3½ points in four rounds in the GM section, 4/4 in the IM group.

Organizer Roberto Álvarez has sent us reports, games and pictures. Here a summary of the material we have received so far. You can read his full reports in Spanish at the Ajedrez de Estilo website.

For the past three days the weather in Buenos Aires has been cool, but the skies are bright blue and cloudless, unlike the games of the third round, which were dark and stormy. Shredder 7.0 had black in an English Opening against FM Alejo De Dovitiis, who seemed to have everything under control.

Alejo De Dovitiis - Shredder 7.0

Here White played the inoccuous 49.Kf2? After 49.Kh1!? things would have still been tenable. But you know how it is against computers: one little mistake, one false step, and the thing comes down on you like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla. 49...g6! and now, as you surely have immediately seen, 50.fxg6 Kg7 leaves the white bishop on f4 pinned and lost (51.Kf3 Bd6). Alejo tried 50.Kf3 gxf5 51.Bc6 Rd8 52.Rg1 Bb3 and Shredder never left the outcome in doubt: 0-1.

Shredder is playing solid, error-free chess, gaining advantage out of "dry" positions and imaginatively avoiding drawing continuations. It's endgame technique is impressive, as witnessed in the 4th round game in the IM group against Guillermo Malbrán. The game lasted 80 moves and was the longest of the tournament so far.


Shredder 7.0 vs Oscar Panno at the VI Argentinean Magistral

And what happened to the legendary GM Oscar Panno, 68, Elo 2489? Take a look at the following position:

Shredder 7.0 - Oscar Panno (round 4)

Panno was doing okay and could have gone on with 39...Qh5+ 40.Kg1 Rg8! 41.Qf5 Nf4! 42.Rf8 Rhg7 43.Rxg8+ Kxg8 44.Qc8+ Kh7 45.Qf5+ Kh8 46.Nd6 Ne2+ 47.Rxe2 Qxe2 48.Qf8+ Kh7 49.Qf5+=. However he too made the deadly slip: 39...Rxf6? In milliseconds the computer strikes: 40.Qxf6+ Rg7 41.Nd6! Kh7 [ 41...Qh5+ 42.Kg1 Nf4 43.Ne8 Qg6 44.Qxg7+ Qxg7 45.Nxg7+-] 42.Ne8! [not 42.Nf5 Rc7!] 42...Rd7.

Now Shredder as white to play announced mate in five. How long does it take you to find the correct continuation? The solution can be found in our...

On the banks of the Río de la Plata

In the north of greater Buenos Aires, close to Tigre, San Isidoro and San Fernando (if you can use the word "near" meaningfully in a country as large as Argentina) is the district of Vicente López, where the 6th Magistral is being staged. It has a population of 300,000, while the "Federal Capital of Buenos Aires" is home to four million inhabitants.

Actually the greater city of Buenos Aires is overflowing into the surrounding countryside and probably has closer to 12 million inhabitants, living in 56 "barrios" or districts. The city is divided into grids and contains over 100,000 street blocks. Some of the streets have house numbers in the tens of thousands. The longest street is the Rivadavia (35 km, 22 miles), and the widest, probably in the world, is the 9 de Julio, seen in the picture above, with a 70 metre (200 foot) high obelisk in the middle.

Pictures from the tournament


Shredder vs FM Marcelo Ibar, 44, Elo 2315


FM Juan Carlos Escandell, 40, Elo 2345, vs the computer


The computer

Official web site with games and results


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