WEAKNESS OF COMPUTER CHESS
The First Story: A Night in Riga
It was late evening. The capital of Latvia was burried in the darkfall. The two of us:
me Marijus Kulvietis, the president of Lithuanian chess club "Baltijos Lyga" and my good
friend International master Oleg Krivonosov were sitting in an ordinary hotel room. He
was going to start in Latvian men`s championship next day. Oleg felt tiredness after
the journey from his native town Daugavpils and slight anxiety telling upon him my naturally
stoic friend, either. It was because of experienced mistakes from the part of some officials
and elementary bureaucracy that led to the situation when IM Oleg Krivonosov quite
undeservedly was not enrolled in the last FIDE rating list.
It was not clear whether he would be allowed to play in Latvian championship or not up to
the very last moment. That was the evening when a green light opened Oleg the way to the
mentioned tournament. The first battle was ahead. I knew that the chessplayer had to rest
well however I dared to disturb him.
Our club had sponsored the computer programs tournament "Odyssey 2001". Organizator Thorsten
Czub from Germany and supporter Ed Schroder/boss of the Rebel company/ from Holland were
waiting for the commentaries about the game of the programs. We hadn`t got much time for
discussion that evening, but before leaving Oleg for a week`s tournament I was eager to
receive at least some information.
Oleg Krivonosov distinquished himself in perfect technique, firm schemes in opening and
endgames. No wonder, in the past he was taught by legendary people: Viktor Kortchnoj and
Tigran Petrosjan. I was sure he was the man who had what to say to the participants and
organizers of the "Odyssey".
"Oleg",- I said,- "we won`t have computer programs today. We can write only what we have
left in our heads".
"Well",- answered my friend,- " I remember my both games against Rebel-Century from our
official match. Let`s use what we have got. Your corrchess games! I have enough ideas and
have only to pick out the most proper ones for illustrations".
I`m really playing correspondence chess. Everybody knows that using computers here for
analysis is a permissible standard. That`s why any victory in corchess means the triumph
of human understanding against schemetism of computer analysis.
"That`s true ",- I confirmed,-" I`m sure the weakness of computer chess will cause interest
to the creaters of the programs, fans and people associated with this field."
Oleg started writing from time to time asking me to remember my corchess game which could
illustrate his thoughts. So immediately I had got an interesting manuscript, corrected a
little after returning to Lithuania and to be presented to the reader`s judgement. It`s
the proffesional`s analysis for professionals and those studying chess seriously. So I had
to overcome my modesty to show my games in the illustrations as I am not a great player. I
expect the reader to understand the situation. The purpose is not to demonstrate a high
level but to analyse typical weakness of computer chess on the basis of officially played
games. I do believe many of my opponents were not blindly following the computer, but the
picked illustrations are those were computer style and analysis effected my opponents greatly.
Please, estimate how it has worked.
IM Oleg Krivonosov:
I had two programs to check the given results:
All the analysis I had divided in such a way: 6 problems of computer programs:
1.. Knight on a1
- Knight on a1;
- Bishop on h1;
- King is bravely walking to the centrum;
- No understanding of the endgame (1);
- No understanding of the endgame (2);
- No understanding of the endgame (3).
IECG CUP 5
and here we have it!!!!
When the computer doesn't know what to do-it proposes such moves like this. Till this moment all game was going according to computer`s reccomendation, but black are step by step creating something new and black following only computer-FRITZ 5 plays the same all moves and proposes the same 24.Na1. You can check it.
Seems nothing important-but if computer proposes such moves it is already clear it doesn't understand the position already and step by step going into worse and worse game.
And now white is totally lost possitionally. White has no game while black has comfortable game and can create concrete plans. Less and less space for white.
But the main thing that fatal 24.Na1 -that seemed so innocent first- now has simply eliminated the white knight from the game! I can`t see how to return this knight to the game. Principally it is the same as white has one knight less. White is lost. But I`m not interested in a showing all the games till the end and how it happened. I want to find out where and why the computer advices bad! And such moves like Na1 are advised by programs very often in a silent positions, when computer simply has no good plans.
2.. Bishop on h1
In the game I will show -White had nice pressing. Both players had played rather "human" party.
Nevertheless the game had ended as a draw and I see some influence of computer chess experience
as 38.Bh1? and Bishop trip 21.Bf3, 22.Bh5, 23.Bg4 -rather doubtful and empty bishop moves at a
important moment and FRITZ-5 analysis recommends such moves really in a position I will show.
This recommendations I would name just empty shots and time wasting. Here is a game:
Lithuanian e-mail chess championship
3.. King is bravely walking to the centrum..... and loosing
The game I will show now -is interesting to watch-it is short, tactical and nice win. Also
after one side made a mistake another side has not listened to computer`s recommendations to
take the material back that was sacrificed. But human moves made instead have won and showed
human victory vs computer`s analysis.
Event IECG cup-5
Nice sac. The computer sees it-but programs make this only to return the material back after several moves. While the human idea is to make weak king and to attack it. In short computer`s idea is- a tactical sac- while human`s- a positional sac.
A human move - computers want to take back the material and recommend Bxa8- but then the game returns to +-. While Qc2 is a typicall human`s move and no computer recommends it. And this move prepares a killing attack on a totally weak king.
This position reminds me a game from 18-19 century. I haven't seen such in a nowadays. King in a middle of a desk walking bravely after 10 moves.
Computer still shows only a little advantage for whites while the game is totally lost by black. Now it is principally forced win.
Pay attention how late the programs give more points for white. It shows they don't see clear positional win and count only material results when it is funny clear that the game was lost after 11 move! Any master would laugh at a king walking after 10 move to the centrum of the board. Really-humans victory vs computer`s material counting!
4.. No understanding of the endgame
Lets start from a position missing not the main interesting game-where white has played
bad and went into troubles. The position:
Event-IECG master class tournament
Well, the endgame is clearly won for black. One pawn more and also very far and dangerous black pawn on d3. It maybe discussion by masters, but the programs show the victory for black. I believe them. And further game shows that black are following the recommendations of REBEL-CENTURY and FRITZ-5. Really according to them-black win seems very clear. Lets see what happened when black were playing according the programs:
A draw !!!
And here you are the human builds a defence that wasn't recommended nor by Fritz, nor by REBEL. And result is a draw. Computer still shows some points, but endgame is a draw.
4.2 No understanding of the endgame (2)
One more exiting game where my friend had really to loose the endgame-and several times I
had founded how but it is clearly seen the opponent was following computer`s recommendations
and even when the programs where showing +3.00 for white, white didn't manage to realize
such a dramatic endgame. As the programs also didn't manage to find the win. Let`s see the
Again both programs FRITZ-5 and REBEL-Century show that white must win. Easy to believe them and whe are following their recommendations.
A draw was offered many times, but white couldn't believe they had missed a win in such a clear endgame. But it is really a draw now at the final position and no way to push the pawn. Simply black holds the defence - That wasn't seen again by any program. And REBEL and FRITZ had failed to break the human defence. More to say they have played bad and had got the real draw. Good position for chess pupils to study.
4.3 No understanding of the endgame (3)
We have studied some more endgames were computers didn't manage to win the endgame and human
manage to draw a game. Now lets see the example how the computers didn't manage to find a
win and a human finds a way to win the endgame.
The game is from the same event
Human will say the position is win for white. But the FRITZ and REBEL programs again are walking at the same place and can't find the win. For the human player this win is very simple. As here it is all up to positional understanding. We must eliminate the bishop which holds all the black defence and doesn't allow us to win. Here is the task. Computers don't understand it. The game was won in the following way:
Here is the main way to win-trading the black bishop
Thanks to a great master Oleg Krivonosov for his comments. I guess advantaged chessplayers
will understand our main idea. As to me -playing corrchess- it is clearly seen - computer
programs are very great helpers.
They check our ideas, help to escape tactical mistakes and count the variations. And I do
love such tournaments as Odyssey2001. As I`m interested to find VERY strong and interesting
But our analysis and examples showed there are still spots in a computer`s analysis in very
many fields and we can't trust them blindly! Until the perfect chessprogram is not find out
the best game may be performed only in a cooperation between the chessprogram and a human
President of the Baltijos Lyga Chess Club
© All rights reserved by the Lithuanian Chessclub "Baltijos Lyga"
The first publication is kindly offered to our friends the organizers of a Odyssey 2001
computer tournament and personally to Mr. Ed Schroder.
The discussed games and positions can be downloaded here
for private use and further study, the annotations remain the property of the Lithuanian
Chessclub Baltijos Lyga.