OCTOBER 16 — There are two major debates today about the future of the game and both have now become intertwined.
They are, of course, about computers which are now so powerful that no human can match them and how they can be (are being?) used for cheating — even if arguably this has been a point of discussion since the late 80s when they became powerful enough although there are significant new dimensions brought about by the Internet, transmission technologies, smart devices, implants and now even wearables.
I remember well the days before day-to-day-use computers were able to process huge game databases while running multiple analysis engines (was that so long ago?).
In my time, chess players depended largely on chess books and the many monthly periodicals which usually had a selection of recent games played by top players in the major tournaments. Chess books remain but the rest have been largely replaced by chess news websites, chess playing sites and online services which help with anything from the latest opening wrinkle to tactics practice.
Certainly it was a gentler time growing up in KL, checking out University Bookstore and finding chess books under the Dover imprint written by players long dead. I remember how shocked I was to find that other players, my junior chess rivals, in places like Penang — through relatives in London — had gotten hold of newer books from specialist chess publishers like Batsford purchased in Foyles!
In the little magazine stands to be found in parts of PJ New Town, the United States Chess Federation magazine Chess Life could be found, but it was the British Council which stood out as they had both British Chess Magazine and its main UK competitor Chess — all for free and with older issues you could borrow and photocopy. And so those publications soon became my regular Friday afternoon reading.
But for the serious players, a special place in all of this was provided by Chess Informant, a company based in Belgrade which systematically collected and organised chess materials and published them in best game collections of the last six months with analysis by the players themselves. They also published chess encyclopedias — of openings, endgames and even parts of the middlegame systematically indexed such as combinations.
Chess Informant essentially created the database industry even if paper based. I remember when playing at Olympiads how the team members would compare notes to see if we had the latest Chess Informant and often on arrival it was a rush to find and update our collection. Luggage had to be co-ordinated to share the weight of all these Chess Informants and Chess Encyclopedias, something quite unbelievable today when we carry it all in our Netbooks, Ultralights and even MacBook Airs running Windows.
Who now does not have database software like Chessbase with computer engines like Houdini, Stockfish and Komodo for analysis? Not to be embarrassed, I had to actually go out and get them in 2008 when I returned to chess after a 12-year hiatus even if for the older generation we find books so much easier (we like to read!) and in some ways that has made up or even been a positive when engaging those who are completely dependent on their silicon friends.
Thanks to Chessbase, today's players have grown up with the chess tools of the computer age and it is today what Chess Informant was to players from the 70s to the 90s, but happily the chess information pioneer which started it all and which generations of players depended on has in recent years begun to reinvent itself with a combination of iconic book (now including content beyond its core of well-annotated games by top players) bundled together into an electronic version.
The latest Chess Informant 121 Midnight Sun is just out and the following is an extract which clearly shows the quality of the publication:
Best Game of Chess Informant 120
Karjakin,Sergey (2766) - Aronian,Levon (2830) [C65]
Khanty-Mansiysk (ct) 120/113, 2014
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0–0 6.0–0 Re8 7.Nbd2 a6 8.Bxc6 [8.Ba4 - 112/183]
8...dxc6 9.Nc4 Nd7 10.b4 Bd6 11.Qb3N [11.Bg5 f6 12.Be3 Nf8 13.Nfd2 Be6 14.Nb3 Qd7 15.Qe2 Ng6 16.Rfd1 Bf8=]
12.Bg5 Qd7 13.Be3 Ng6 14.Nfd2 Bf8 15.d4 Qe7!? [15...Qg4!? 16.Nxe5 (16.dxe5?! b5 17.Na5 Nh4 18.g3 Nf3+ 19.Nxf3 Qxf3 20.Qd1 Qxe4 21.Bd4 Bh3 22.f3 Qd5ƒ) 16...Nxe5 17.dxe5 Rxe5 18.f3 Qh4÷]
16.dxe5 Be6!? 17.Qc2 Bxc4 18.Nxc4 Nxe5 19.Nd2 a5 20.a3 axb4 21.axb4 Qe6 22.f3 Nc4 23.Bf4 c5 24.b5 Nd6 25.Rxa8 Rxa8 26.Rb1 b6 [26...Ra2!? 27.Qd3 c4 28.Qd4 b6³]
27.e5 Nc4 28.Qe4 Ra4! 29.Rc1 h6 [29...Nb2!? 30.c4 Qd7 31.Rb1 Nd3³]
30.h4?! [30.Bg3 Nb2 31.Qc2 Ra3 32.Qxb2 Ra2 33.Qb3 Rxd2 34.Qxe6 fxe6 35.c4=]
30...Nb2! 31.c4 Qd7 32.Rb1 Ra2 33.Be3 [33.Nb3 Nd3 34.Bg3 (34.Rd1? Rxg2+! 35.Kxg2 Nxf4+ 36.Qxf4 Qxd1–+) 34...Nb4³]
33...Na4! 34.Rb3? [34.Re1 Nc3 35.Qg4 Qd3 (35...Qxg4 36.fxg4 Be7³) 36.Ne4 Nxe4 37.Qxe4 Qxe4 38.fxe4 Be7³]
34...Rxd2 35.Bxd2 Qxd2 36.Rd3 Qc1+ 37.Kh2 Nb2! 38.Rd8 Qxc4 39.Qa8 Qxh4+ 40.Kg1 Qe1+ 41.Kh2 Qxe5+ 42.g3 [42.Kg1? Qe1+ 43.Kh2 Qe7! 44.Re8 Qd6+ 45.g3 c4–+]
42...Qe2+ 43.Kh3 Nd3 44.Rxf8+ Kh7 45.Re8? [¹45.Rh8+ Kg6 46.Qc6+ Kg5 47.Qd5+ Kf6 48.Qc6+ Qe6+ 49.Qxe6+ Kxe6 50.Kg2 c4µ]
45...Nf2+ 46.Kh4 Qxb5 47.g4 Qc4!–+ 48.Qc8 [48.Rh8+ Kg6 49.Qc6+ Qe6 50.Qxe6+ fxe6 51.Rc8 Nd3 52.Rxc7 b5–+]
48...Qf4 49.Qf5+ Qxf5 50.gxf5 c4 51.Re7 c5 52.Rxf7 c3 53.f6 Kg6
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.