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  1. 04 Feb '08 04:51 / 2 edits
    Chess engines today are as strong and probably stronger overall than the best humans. It's true that there are still many positions where engines are nowhere near as good as a GM, but it's inevitable that within the next few decades, they will dominate every aspect of the game. Rybka has already reached the 3200 ELO level today (and it is probably accurate for humans not just with other engines).

    Perhaps, even further down the line, their strength will be so great that a chess computer the size of a wristwatch could play better than the best humans. This is a bit embarrassing at face value, but more importantly, it opens the way to a whole slew of cheating applications. Perhaps, if there is significant money in chess, a device can be exactly for this purpose (but of course marketed under a different purpose). Maybe the Topalov chess chip some suspected is not so far from reality. Most tournaments wouldn't have the resources to find such devices and even if they did, what would it come to? Would one have to submit to a strip search and a walk through a metal detector? Would one need to be supervised in the restrooms? Even if virtually everyone is honest and it doesn't become a real problem, the suspicion poisons the atmosphere and great games may be marred by accusations.

    Moreover, this will undoubtedly have a great impact on opening theory and general play. If you think engines play a big role now, imagine when they're far, far stronger than any human. Now, imagine hundreds of clusters of computers with hardware tens of times more powerful than today's supercomputers studying a position of a topical opening for several months nonstop. I suspect that some openings thought unplayable will be considered playable again due to some novelty verified or produced by engines, but in general, this will make far more openings almost unplayable at the high levels. With the internet and easy access to information from databases, perhaps it will affect even the Class B and up levels. One might think that at the human level such differences would not be so huge. However, the human has knowledge from ELO levels probably around 4000 and he can practice the positions against such opposition. Humans are already far stronger today than they were a century ago and this trend will continue. Memory and time are the major limiting factors.

    Chess won't be solved and it will certainly still be considered a draw with best play but the opening moves will be played with far greater accuracy than ever before and deviations will be punished more severely at high levels. A large part of the mystery will be gone and the scope for creativity diminished. This may lead to perhaps only several dozen openings being fully and consistently playable. In the absence of large variety and with the increase in accuracy, even more draws will arise at the high levels.

    Its effects on the general game may also be vast. What about chess style? With engines so strong, it will probably be determined what the "best" one is and humans will try to improve themselves and emulate this. It's already clear that an excessively defensive style like Petrosian's would no longer be competitive at the highest levels. Soon, variety in style will essentially disappear because after all it is just a distortion of the reality on the board. Moreover, computer play will become ever more sophisticated and natural (partly because humans will become used to it and partly because engines will become stronger positionally) and it will be indistinguishable from extremely strong and inspired human play. Even if it weren't a human could select the second or third candidate moves or try different engines every few moves if he were attempting to cheat (a worrying subject). Such extreme analysis also suggests that spectacular and completely unpredictable creative feats may be rarer, and when they occur, it will soon be discovered why they don't completely work. While still interesting, most people appreciate truth above all else and so this fact would detract from the beauty.

    What about chess's image and prestige? It was once called the touchstone of the intellect and raised on a pedestal so high that God himself could not reach it. However, that was when humans thought only they could master it. Chess hasn't become easier, but like any magic trick, once you see more of how it works- it's less amazing. Titled players will probably not be as respected as they once were and that isn't just because chess will be understood better, but also because they wouldn’t be as indispensible and useful in analysis. Don't know what to do? Turn on Fritz. Don't understand? Let it show you and explain plans. This is already in Fritz 11, albeit rudimentary, but it will become much better.

    This is of course just my spur of the moment rambling (only took 45 min) nightmare, but it feels too real- too plausible. Some may say that just as marathoners don't stop running because cars can go much faster and for longer periods, the fact that chess engines will completely dominate should not affect human play. But as I showed, it has and will continue to. The car doesn't teach the runner and running only occurs between humans. Moreover, unlike the car, the computer is easy to hide and seems too similar to what the human is doing. This nightmare is so scary to me that I am concerned about chess's future even for the next century.
    I realize that this is exaggerated and there are some benefits that engines have brought about. I myself have gotten a lot of joy out of a better understanding of chess and being able to create and rely on my own ideas after verification. They have only enhanced my appreciation and love for the game thus far and I can't imagine never playing chess again. However, the possibilities are still alarming and not just for chess. Computers will reshape and eventually dominate all games of perfect information (Go included). Humans have always attempted to better understand everything about the world and it's only a matter of time before our curiosity and analysis exhausts our creativity.

    Would it bother you if engines completely dominated chess? Do you think it hurts chess? How realistic do you think my fears are?

    Thanks for bearing with me and sorry for being so wordy!
  2. Standard member irontigran
    Rob Scheider is..
    04 Feb '08 05:20
    Originally posted by exigentsky
    Chess engines today are as strong and probably stronger overall than the best humans. It's true that there are still many positions where engines are nowhere near as good as a GM, but it's inevitable that within the next few decades, they will dominate every aspect of the game. Rybka has already reached the 3200 ELO level today (and it is probably accurat ...[text shortened]... fears are?

    Thanks for bearing with me and sorry for being so wordy!
    great thoughts, i completely agree with you here
  3. 04 Feb '08 05:24
    Originally posted by irontigran
    great thoughts, i completely agree with you here
    Are you talking just about the wordy part? Seriously, I don't want people to agree with me.
  4. Standard member irontigran
    Rob Scheider is..
    04 Feb '08 05:29 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by exigentsky
    Are you talking just about the wordy part? Seriously, I don't want people to agree with me.
    no, i was agreeing with the computer part, which was over 99.7 of you post

    yes, computers are already changing chess and theyve just begun..

    edit:and obviously i like petrosian and sad to see hes the last of his kind style-wise
  5. Subscriber coquette
    Already mated
    04 Feb '08 05:59 / 2 edits
    I flick on a light switch and my light travels as fast as any of the other lights in the universe. If they were racing, it would be a draw.

    The kind of comparison you are making between human chess and computer chess is about the same as posing a complex math problem of this sort: Take the cube root of 839,365.154 and multiply it times the square of 345,204,120 and then divide the result by the fifth power of one half of 8,839,365.154 and then divide the 16th power of this number by 16.4. So, a computer does this as fast as you can punch the keyboard and the result is neither impressive nor interesting. It was just a calculation.

    Ask any computer to explain why a rose is beautiful, or a pretty girl or a handsome man is exciting, and how it feels to be excited. Ask the computer to explain how americans elected a certain president twice, or someone else thinks that they are being moral by killing thousands of people that they never knew.

    I enjoy swimming and running and jumping but I'll ever win an olympic medal. I still enjoy doing them. It feels good to swim and run and jump, even if I'm not the best in the world. Also, no runner can run as fast as I can drive my car.

    I think chess is safe.
  6. Standard member Yuga
    Renaissance
    04 Feb '08 06:06 / 1 edit
    I think chess is an individual pursuit of knowledge so that one can apply that knowledge to play good and interesting chess. I feel my understanding of current chess theory is much too superficial to worry about further advances in chess understanding.

    Improvement and not perfection is the most realistic goal in the pursuit of chess understanding or anything in life. Life is too expedient to take ambitions too seriously. There is not enough time in one lifetime to learn everything there is to learn about chess – there’s enough to keep me happy!

    Engines can enhance a human’s understanding if utilized properly and stronger engines would simply make them better teaching tools.

    All chess players and engines have style (although if I met any RHP'er in real life I would not be so sure) ; as one’s understanding of chess and styles of humans and engines increases, the easier it is to differentiate between them. Increasing the strength of engine doesn’t change the fact that there is much subjectivity regarding "best" moves as both sides have many options to maintain the balance.

    I do not think that accessibility and sophistication of cheating technologies will increase much more in future as such technologies are already highly accessible and sophisticated and can be virtually undetectable. Human nature as a whole will not change in future; thus the cheating problem will not change.
  7. Standard member Dragon Fire
    Lord of all beasts
    04 Feb '08 08:41 / 1 edit
    Other than at levels where a lot of money is involved I don't think it matters.

    People play chess because they enjoy it and for the majority human vs human play won't change.

    Athletes already cheat at the highest levels but it hasn't (yet) stopped the Olympics or World Cup and fortunately most (of the top athletes) don't cheat as the punishment if caught is severe. We don't suspect anyone winning the 100m at their school sports day of being on steroids. At top levels it should be possible to sweep the room and players for electronic devices, at lower levels it doesn't matter.
  8. 04 Feb '08 09:03
    Originally posted by Dragon Fire
    Other than at levels where a lot of money is involved I don't think it matters.

    People play chess because they enjoy it and for the majority human vs human play won't change.

    Athletes already cheat at the highest levels but it hasn't (yet) stopped the Olympics or World Cup and fortunately most (of the top athletes) don't cheat as the punishment if ...[text shortened]... e to sweep the room and players for electronic devices, at lower levels it doesn't matter.
    I don't know what you mean at low levels it doesn't matter but even in a weekend tournament you cannot use your phone or just wander into the toilet unaccompanied.
  9. 04 Feb '08 09:45
    Chess is a beautiful intriguing stimulating and enjoyable game to play and so long as people want to play it then chess will survive. Film did not kill theater, TV did not kill radio, the record player did not kill live performance and the computer will not kill chess.

    Maybe some individuals will tire of chess and blame it on computers...but that's not the end of chess.
  10. Standard member Dragon Fire
    Lord of all beasts
    04 Feb '08 09:50
    Originally posted by ludz
    I don't know what you mean at low levels it doesn't matter but even in a weekend tournament you cannot use your phone or just wander into the toilet unaccompanied.
    Yes I can.

    I will play in the Portsmouth Congress in a fortnight. As previously I can use my phone without hinderance outside of the playing hall and no one (except the odd pervert perhaps) will follow me to the toilet.

    I don't see a problem with this. The entry is about £28 with a 1st prize of only about £100. It is not about the money or winning so why the need for concern.

    GM D Gormally has regularly played here and the top players in the open are likely to be about 2400. I very much doubt anyone has cheating on their mind.
  11. 04 Feb '08 11:33
    I don't like exigentsky's long post as I hate reading the morning papers but computer vs human contests were over game set and match when Kaspy lost. I also dislike this computers-in-chess-means-end-of-chess-topics.
  12. 04 Feb '08 13:50
    Originally posted by exigentsky
    Chess engines today are as strong and probably stronger overall than the best humans. It's true that there are still many positions where engines are nowhere near as good as a GM, but it's inevitable that within the next few decades, they will dominate every aspect of the game. Rybka has already reached the 3200 ELO level today (and it is probably accurat ...[text shortened]... y fears are?

    Thanks for bearing with me and sorry for being so wordy!
    "Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change
    To something new, to something strange"

    P.S. - Having read your original post, I'm declaring that I've now read my required one book for the week.
  13. 04 Feb '08 14:02
    Originally posted by exigentsky
    Chess engines today are as strong and probably stronger overall than the best humans. It's true that there are still many positions where engines are nowhere near as good as a GM, but it's inevitable that within the next few decades, they will dominate every aspect of the game. Rybka has already reached the 3200 ELO level today (and it is probably accurat ...[text shortened]... y fears are?

    Thanks for bearing with me and sorry for being so wordy!
    Excellent post! Engines have definitely had an enormous impact on chess and their influence can only grow as they get stronger. I think for most players, the benefits of engines outweigh their disadvantages. They are incredibly useful for analysing finished games, spotting tactical chances far faster (and more accurately) than any human could. I'm not totally convinced about their usefulness as a tool in developing opening theory. For instance engines struggle to grasp the strategic ideas behind complex openings such as the Sicilian Najdorf. Although there are exceptions such as some of the crazier lines in the Poisoned Pawn!

    It's true that the excessive amount of opening theory is causing problems at the top levels. But this is a trend that has been going on for many decades, long before computers were invented. Capablanca, almost 100 years ago claimed that the openings were played out and predicted the death of chess within a few years. His "solution" was to argue for a change in the rules of chess and play it on a bigger board.

    I don't think that we've reached the point yet that a change in the rules is needed. In recent years Fischer Random Chess (or Chess 960) has been suggested as a good way to avoid opening theory. But it seems a bit boring to me. From what I've read about the game, the players usually spend the first 10 moves shuffling their pieces, trying to rearrange them so that the position resembles normal chess! And this is supposed to be progress?

    I also believe that the level of cheating in OTB chess tournaments has been greatly exaggerated. Of course it does exist, and is a potential problem for big prize events. However it's nothing like drugs in sport. On the other hand almost nothing is done to prevent it. I've played in a few international tournaments, and know other people who have played in far more than me, and the level of security is typically non-existent. Players are allowed to wander all over the place, leaving the venue if they wish, chat to spectators and other players, or even visit the bookstall whilst their game is in progress. Nobody is ever accompanied to the toilet. Maybe things are different at the Super GM tournament level?

    So the vast majority of OTB tournament organisers don't seem to think that cheating is an issue. However correspondence chess is a different story. Regardless of whether engines are allowed, tolerated or forbidden, there will always be a proportion of players that use them. Exigentsky referred to "chess's image and prestige". Well, correspondence chess has a terrible image amongst many ordinary OTB players who won't touch it with a barge pole, assuming everyone is using an engine.

    Overall though, I think engines are a good thing. Which is just as well, as they are going to be with us for a long time, whether we like it or not!
  14. 04 Feb '08 14:45
    It's kind of embarrassing that a computer is so stupid we need to give it the power to calculate tens of millions times more positions/moves than his human opponent to be able to beat this human chess grandmaster.

    Also, computers 'cheat' using opening databases and endgame tables.
  15. 04 Feb '08 15:22
    At the end of a day, a computer is just a machine. Nobody is excited watching a computer as they are watching human masters. Who goes drooling in the street saying Hydra is in town she can calculate 63 billion positions per second?

    On the other hand a human master would get many excited, people calling their friends, simuls and so on.