Captain Chess
Original Articles for Club Players

Abuse of Engines and Lack of Respect for the Chess Master

August 13th, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading ‘King’s Indian Warfare’ (Quality Chess), an interesting journey conducted with mastery by the creative Israeli GM Ilya Smirin, and ended up marveled at the huge respect cast by him on his great opponents. This book suggested me one question —besides many venomous ideas on the KID: has the reverence for the chess Masters diminished over the last decades?

Not much you’ll wait in the course of a transmission before an amateur starts pointing out the Master’s inaccuracies to continue suggesting the correct way to proceed on the position. Indeed, these days the omnipresent module hovers over our heads and always (almost) shortens the path to the truth, but does it really give us mortals the right to speak aloud in the very presence of truly artists? Nope. Easy boy.

‘Times when Grand Masters were respected are gone, now the truth is at everyone’s reach’, wrote on Facebook the Spanish Champion Francisco Vallejo Pons alluding to a recent interview in which GM Maurice Ashley had upset the World Champion Magnus Carlsen by stressing twice the Norwegian’s game hadn’t been that smooth.

‘What do you want me to do?’, Carlsen spat out clearly annoyed, ‘I mean, do you want me to get a huge advantage from the opening and then to push it all the way? Is that the only way you can win a smooth game?’, the Champion retorted.

Of course, not that journalists and chess lovers can’t express their opinions, it’s all about respect and good manners. Be it science, art or sports, we’re not supposed to counter the geniuses, on the contrary, we should walk cautiously over a path others know way better than ourselves. A tiny bit of ultimate truth is only accessible to a quite exclusive bunch of people and better for us to have that on mind, always.

Eljanov-Mamedyarov, Shamkir 2017 (3), position after 43…Rf5

In this tricky position White played 44.Re5 and went on to lose after a stunning battle over 66 moves. Winning was 44.e7! but how many of us would have found the correct way to proceed and all its intricacies with the clock ticking? Not me Sir.

The great Jan Timman reported on New in Chess (4/2017) what Samuel Copeland (2118) had commented on Chess.com about White’s move: ‘It’s difficult to say what Eljanov had missed, but this [44.e7] wins fairly easily’. ‘Yes, easy to see when you have a computer helping you’, drew Timman, ‘Over the board, it was anything but obvious that Black would be finished after 44…Be3+ 45.Kf1 Qh3+ 46.Ke2 Rxd5 47.e8Q‘.

Didn’t it happen to you? You’re barely ten steps away from the board ruminating the cruel defeat when your mate approaches with that killer move which would’ve granted the elixir of victory instead of the awful blunder you played. What’s your first reaction? He wasn’t sitting there. He did not feel the pressure and certainly wouldn’t have found that exquisite move without the engine running. He knows nothing.

Actually, he does know about chess as much as you do but clearly it wasn’t the moment to approach and probably nor the place. It wasn’t the way. Engine’s suggestions aren’t ours and so we shouldn’t be proud of them. Now, try to imagine a genius being told his or her game wasn’t good enough because a silicon chip thinks otherwise. Try to imagine the World Chess Champion being told the game he just won wasn’t that smooth. Not fair, uh?

Former Spanish Champion FM Fernando Visier wrote many years ago on the extinct magazine OchoXOcho (year II, number 8) a fine anecdote which I consider related to this matter. It happened that Mr Visier had adjourned a game in the Lugano Olympiad (1968) at a position where he had the better chances and moved forward to analyze the best possibilities with the members of the team. After one hour of analysis six fairly strong players (GM Arturo Pomar among them) concluded the best try was to break on c5.

Before they finish the analysis the then World Champion Tigran Petrosian showed up around there and they normally seized the opportunity to have the Armenian’s opinion. On Visier words: ‘Petrosian observed the board for a few seconds and with a disparaging gesture set the white king on a1, a pawn on b4 and other on c5 to comment: “White wins easily”.’ A tiny bit of ultimate truth.

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