Sunday, January 29, 2012

Non Computerium

Inspired by the disucssion on Nigel Davies's Facebook page of this post from his excellent The Chess Improver: An Experiment in not using computers for chess analysis for a year!

A Scandalous Confession

I've rarely had the board and pieces out over the last months, except for a foray to play real people once every month or two at the new iteration of the Juneau Chess Club. Most of my chess activity has been (shame!) blitz on FICS, with the occasional game of mine I have input and analyzed in my database with the "help" of the engines included. In fact, I have not analyzed these games on my own first as recommended for self-improvement. Mostly I have just imput moves and noted where the engine informed me that I or my opponent screwed up.

A Major Change of Scenery

With no formal rated competition in over a year, no stronger players to battle in person and too much passive reliance on computers I can tell I'm not moving in a positive direction right now in chess. So I'm trying an experiment: For one year, until January 30, 2013, I'm not going to 1) use engines for analysis or 2) play online blitz. I may still play some long games online like the very stimulating set I had with ChessAdmin but mostly I'll be analyzing on my own from books of master games and the collection of my own games that I recently organized, and playing real chess on a real board with a real opponent in front of me. We will see if this has a significant positive effect on my playing strength and attitude toward the game. Perhaps near the end of this year I'll have a chance to play in our State Championship and test myself.

I'll post from time to time on how this is working and what it's like. I'll still use the computer for blogging, anyway. The first post of The Best Of! Chess Blogging will be coming in a couple of days.


Rocky said...

I started a similar commitment back in August. I made a goal to play 52 games over 1 year. Each game must be G/90 or slower. I've mainly been playing against Chessmaster, but I've managed to set up a few long games on-line as well. In fact, I just set up a 4-game match with a former TeamLeague member ... we're going to play a 75/15 every other week.

Anyway, if you need some easy competition, send me an email (rockyrook at hotmail) and we can set up a game or two or four.

Looking forward to the "Best Of" post!

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall you've been an on-again, off-again blitz person. Will be interested to see your opinion in hindsight of its utility (and the value of not doing it) at the end of the training period.

One of the things that I've run across in getting serious about training is the extent to which truly strong chessplayers don't rely on computers, but consciously use them as a tool rather than a crutch. This goes something against the stereotypical image of the modern chess professional grinding away with engines at all hours of the day.

Similar to what you're talking about in using a physical board, one of the things I've done more recently in learning new openings (or studying known ones more deeply) is to go through the source book with a board and pieces, resetting from move 1 after going down a major branch in the annotations. Not just picking and choosing variations, but for the most part playing through every one included. After I started doing this, I saw that a strong professional player had recommended this as well when learning an opening for the first time (I forget who). Whenever I finish my current openings book I'll probably mention that in more detail in a follow-up post.

Farbror the Guru said...

I will join you on the non-computer analysis journey. Great Project!

I will also adhere to the old Botvinnik advice to invite other people to scrutinize my annotations.

Anonymous said...

I am with you as far as the online blitz go.

Rocky said...


Wahrheit said...

Great comments all. Maybe this will become a movement. :)

Timothy Mueller said...

Thank you for a wonderful blog! This is my first visit. During Wijk aan Zee TATA Steel tournament that just finished, there was a video interview with winner Aronian, where he said, in talking about a new opening idea he developed, "I think the engines have it wrong" (was it about his win against Giri? not sure). I was astonished. Having played tournament chess decades ago and watched the improvement of chess "programs" and their evolution into "engines," it struck me that this remark of Aronian's epitomizes what a strange new world we're in now: to find an effective opening innovation, you have to find positions where the "engines" have it wrong! But does this mean that we humans (at least at Aronian's level of play) still have an edge over the engines in finding ideas that are most effective against other humans over the board? I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Timothy yes it was Aronian's game vs Giri where he said the engines had eit wrong. The next sentence out of his mouth was that Black's position was easy to play he had a clear plan. I'm 95% sure Levon didn't mean the engines were objectively wrong. What he meant was that all the difficult decisions fell on White and that the nature of the position was such that it would be difficult for even a very strong human GM to play. This was of course a brilliant practical choice and a perfect example of how the best human players will use the engines as tools but not become slaves to them, instead preferring to rely on their brains and finely honed instincts.