Monday, December 12, 2016

The fake truth part 2

With the New Year celebrations in front of us a lot of money will be spent. We are searching the right gifts for our loved ones but should not forget ourselves. This reminds me that I am still looking for a good book about chess to read during the Christmas's holidays. Currently I am reading the book Ivan's_Chess_Journey_Unravelled which I like so something similar is fine but other proposals I welcome too in the reactions.

In this period of the year we see shops making extra efforts to attract customers. Advertising, newsletters, ... are just a few techniques used to promote the products. The commercial king of chess is already for several decades Chessbase. Nobody else succeeds better to earn money by selling chess products. Except a large variety of attractive products also huge investments are done in marketing which plays a crucial role in their sales.

The financial resources of Chessbase are many times larger than the competition. This advantage they exploit maximally via skillful marketing-plans. This year Chessbase didn't miss a golden opportunity like the world-championship to attract (new) customers. They were the only ones to get annotations of the games by the world class pros Ruslan PonomariovFabiano CaruanaWesley So and David Navara. I can't remember an earlier world championship for which 4 players with an average of +2760 elo were asked to provide their analysis. I write this blog unpaid but I am sure these guys got a very high fee for their services.

It is very hard to predict if Chessbase will see an increase of their sales by this stunt. Besides are the analysis of the best players in the world really better than what you can get on the other sites? In my previous article you could read that today's best engines play several hundred points better than any player. You could therefore deduct that an annotator will just talk through the analysis of the engine.

From pure analytical perspective I do not see much difference. The engines point out quickly and accurately the mistakes which are covered in any proper report. One big exception is the opening. The top-players play and know each others repertoire extremely well so are able to tell us which lines are critical and popular. I give one example. Game 11 was a pretty harmless looking opening but Wesley So demonstrates things can quickly get out of control.

The biggest added value of the best players is their commentary. Computers are not capable today to understand the chess-psychology in human games. Besides this is something very much linked to somebodies playing strength. Finally Wesley so also injects lessons in his commentary for the average player. You notice clearly that Wesley has quite some experience in coaching weaker players contrary to his illustrious colleagues. He tells us to be practical if we analyze openings. Don't spent countless hours into studying some opening which will very rarely pop up in your practice. You will develop much faster by carefully selecting and absorbing ideas.

Another remarkable statement of Wesley is that he doesn't fully trust his notes of 2013. He rightly claims that Houdini, the computer and the internet were much slower 3 years ago. This fully matches my previous article in which I wrote that we saw a jump in strength of 200 ratingpoints in only 3 years for the engines. On the other hand I do wonder what he exactly means with the internet. I see today many enjoyable and addictive multi player games ( boom via the faster network but I normally use only 1 or 2 PC's for the analysis.

The problem is for an amateur of course much smaller. The influence of the opening is rather small upon the final result of a game (see studying chess openings). On the other hand I always try to add something scientific into my games. It is pretty frustrating to discover afterwards that the used analysis in which quite some personal effort was put, are outdated. Something like that happened to me recently in the Belgian interclub. In 2007 I met for the first time a rather obscure line of the Sicilian after which I spent a number of hours to find an anti-dote.

In the second round I got recently again the same opening on the board by Hendrik Ponnet. I still could remember my recommendation from my opening-book but only after the game I found out that the theory was developed a lot since then.

I get the impression that Hendriks preparation wasn't very extensive as normally I should not have obtained any advantage out of the opening. Sometimes using outdated analysis can throw the opponent out of book but you can't count on such coincidences of course.

We know that the raise of the machines won't stop immediately so we do have to take into account also in the future that some of our analysis will be outdated. Especially if you play sharp tactical lines you have to be very careful to rely on old analysis. Next I also experienced that by studying properly the options of the opponent you can improve drastically the opening analysis. Till a couple of years ago I was already satisfied after finding an answer to the lines which the engine showed. Today I also investigate any line which was played with some success in practice (+2300 standard chess, chess between computers, correspondence chess and even my own online-games). Well any line is of course not possible as in the end you do want to finalize the analysis in maximum a couple of weeks.

By looking at a much bigger variety of lines, I get a more balanced evaluation of an opening. Finally I also discovered that this method of studying openings bears a number of ideas which I use as surprises.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the article; I will have to take another look at that 2...Nf6 line.