Columns | May 22, 2009 19:23

What baby names can tell you about chess openings

Baby names and chess openingsIf you have kids, you've probably thought hard about how to name your child. Should you choose a 'special' kind of name, or rather a very trendy or well-known one? Popularity is an important aspect when it comes to choosing virtually anything. The same goes for chess openings: do you want to go for popular main lines or for 'off beat' variations?

Both options come with their own advantages and disadvantages. A trendy baby name may suggest a popular baby - and trendy parents - but a special name will suggest a special child. Likewise, playing a trendy chess opening will imply theoretical knowledge and opting for an obscure variation will suggest more independence and creativity. A lot has been written about the popularity of baby names (see, for example, the chapter 'What's in a name' in Steven Pinker's recent book The Stuff of Thought and the chapter 'Would a Roshanda by any other name smell as sweet' in the book Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner).

ResearchBlogging.org But why do baby names (and chess openings) start to lose their popularity at some point? Is it merely that more and more people become 'fed up' with it, or is there more going on? Recent research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (May 2009) on baby names suggests a solution: the rate at which a cultural trend becomes popular, is also indicative of its decline. As one Scienceblogs article on the research put it: "the faster the rise to prominence, the steeper the fall from grace."

The researchers, Jonah Berger and Gael Le Mens, looked at the changing popularities of first names in France and the USA over the last 100 years. They found that parents were less inclined to give their children names that had become very popular very fast, regardless of the overall popularity of these names. The names Tricia and Krisi, for example, became very popular very fast in the 60s, and lost their appeal in the 70s equally quickly, whereas the name Charlene slowly gained in popularity and also declined much slower than Tricia and Kristi. The reason? "Fads are perceived negatively, so people avoid identity-relevant items with sharply increasing popularity because they believe that they will be short lived."

Of course, chess openings are much more than just a cultural trend. In chess, unlike fashion, popularity is not merely subjective - it's also highly objective: a losing line won't be played much. That's why nobody plays the Damiano Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6?) these days. A 'hard refutation' can simply kill a chess line's popularity instantly. But what about lines that are not known to be refuted, or even known to be inferior? Might their popularity also be dependent on the idea that they might be 'short lived'? I have always wondered whether adopting a particular variation isn't also part of one's image. Apart from any objectivity - isn't it cool to play popular lines?

I realize this is a different point of view that most chess players will think of. They will, of course, accept that chess lines are subject to change in popularity, but my guess is they will try to analyse this change in terms of chess theoretical developments: novelties, strong players starting to experiment with the line, matches being played with it, etc. Indeed, in a recent discussion on this site, many posters gave reasons for why certain openings fluctuated in popularity over time. But these were all reasons to do with chess. In this article, I want to see if there are other reasons for adopoting a particular line or not. I want to raise the possibility that chess openings, like baby names, can be a cultural trend, subject to sociological and psychological forces.

Take, for instance, the 7...Qc7 line of the Winawer variation of the French Defence, a pretty cool and exciting line which I have analysed myself a lot of times:

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7

French WinawerIn a recent issue of ChessVibes Openings, Merijn van Delft and Robert Ris noted that this line became increasingly inpopular in the 90s, even though nobody seemed to know why. In top grandmaster games, Black was usually fine after the opening, and Black even seemed to score better than usual with this line. But all of sudden, Black players just switched to 7...0-0 without an apparent reason. (Now, by the way, 7...Qc7 seems to be back on the scene.) What was going on? If the reasons for the change couldn't be related to particular objective developments such as games or novelties, maybe there were other, more subjective different reasons.

I found myself wondering whether Berger and Le Mens' conclusions also played a role in the popularity decline of this particular variation. Could the mere speed with which the variation became popular be of influence to its eventual decline? To test this, I decided to do a little research of my own. In ChessBase MegaBase 2008, I counted all games in which the diagrammed position occurred between 1980 and 2004 over a reperiod of 5 years. For instance, in the period 1980-1984, the position occurred in 47 out of 96230 games, i.e. 0,048%. In 2000-2004, the position occurred in 737 out of 1173157 games, i.e. 0,062%, and so on. To make sure I hadn't overlooked some kind of 'refutation' of the line, I also checked the score results of these games, but I didn't find any strange results compared to the overall results of chess games in this period. (The average was around 54% for White.)

This was the easy part. Chess databases are a real gold mine for this kind of research, actually, but the problems only start here. One important question is: how to measure the popularity of a particular opening variation? First, I decided that it would be best to take all Qc7-Winawer games played - not only the ones played by grandmasters or titled players. This may be surprising to some readers, but I believe I had good reasons for it: 1. the number (N) of games would be bigger, and thus more likely to say anything significant; 2. there is no reason to assume that the popularity of a line doesn't go beyond the top level of chess players; 3. Berger and Le Mens research also didn't exclude particular groups or classes of people; and, most importantly, 4. because including all games in the sample rules out the possibility that a certain small group of players (namely, the elite) simply became bored with it or couldn't surprise their (also elite) opponents with it anymore.

Thus, the popularity of the line (P) in a particular period would simply be defined as the percentage of games played with that line of all the games played. By comparing periods, something could be said about the rate of decline and increase of popularity over time. (One possible problem with this method is that comparing different time periods may not be such a straightforward task in chess databases, since these databases contain vastly more games, and by weaker players on average, for later periods due to the rise of digital game storage and the internet.)

I must confess I was pretty excited when I starting counting and found that in the period 1980-1990 (a period for which I recalled the Winawer becoming more and more popular), the popularity of the Winawer variation indeed seemed to increase slowly but steadily until around 1986. In 1980, P was 0,006%, in 1986 it had gone up to 0,019%. But in 1987 it suddenly took flight: P for 1987 was 0,028%, for 1988 it was 0,038% and in 1989 it had grown to 0,042%. Within a three year's period, the popularity of the Winawer had more than doubled! And then, in 1990, the popularity of the Winawer suddenly sunk back to 0,017%. Here are the results in a graph:

Winawer popularity

Sure enough, these data seem to support the conclusions of the baby name research. Here, too, we see a sharp decline in popularity right after a sharp increase in the preceding period. After that, the variation has never again been as popular as it was then. But as usual, doubt soon crept in. Even assuming the results of the opening (on top level) didn't affect the overall popularity of the variation (if anything, the variation scored better in the 5 year period right after it was abandoned), what did the data tell me, exactly?

In the baby name research, the popularity of a name was measured in comparison to the popularity of other baby names. But my little research didn't say anything about other opening lines (such as the Rubinstein French, or indeed the Sicilian). To be able to draw any conclusions, I had to include other opening lines in my data as well. As co-editor Merijn van Delft pointed out to me recently, you can't measure the popularity of the 6.Be3 Najdorf without taking into account the status of the Poisoned Pawn variation, which arises after 6.Bg5! It soon became clear that this would be an enormous amount of work - interesting work which, regrettably, has to wait until further notice.

But even so, I think it's definitely possible that in the Winawer's case, something similar like baby naming has occurred. Of course, my data does not say anything about the reason of the Winawer's sudden decline, but what the data does show, in my opinion, is that the 'sharp peak' phenomenon can also occur in the choice of chess openings in principle. I'm sure it can also be shown that there are variations that gain in popularity slowly, and then again decline slowly as well, but that's not the point. Further research is necessary to validate the hypothesis that the baby name effect is present in chess, too.

Berger and Le Mens speculate that marketing and technology play possibly play important roles in cultural extinctions, and the same could be true of the Winawer, especially with the rise of computer chess around 1990. But as the author of the hyperlinked Scienceblog article remarks:

[T]heir work suggests that regardless of these external influences, newly popular items are swayed by internal forces that limit their own stay at the top. They predict that these effects should be much stronger in areas like names, where cultural tastes are used to communicate our identity. The clothes we wear, the cars we drive and the gadgets we flaunt would fall into this category too, while our choice of refrigerator or bathroom tiles might not.

But does our personal choice of chess openings 'communicate our identity'? I think it does - on all levels. I've always wondered whether Morozevich's or Nakamura's choices to play obscure openings weren't partly a way to create some kind of 'rebel image' that could serve them well - both in terms of more invitations and in terms of popularity among amateurs. On a more down-to-earth level, I myself remember how hip I thought I was when I started playing the King's Indian, following in the footsteps of my hero Kasparov. Other chess players that I know think it's particularly cool to play lines that nobody else plays. In my local chess club, there are even people who dismiss other players merely for the openings they play.

I used to be a fan of the hardcore thrash metal band Slayer. Everybody else I knew hated their music - for some reason, it felt great. In the same way, there may be more to the popularity of chess openings than just their correctness.

Jonah Berger and Ga?´l Le Mens (2009). How adoption speed affects the abandonment of cultural tastes Proceedings of the National Acedemy of Sciences

Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll

Chess.com

Comments

guitarspider's picture

Great article!

Matthijs's picture

Good article, you might be right!

alfiler's picture

Players do not only want to surprise the opponent. They also want not to be surprised by them. The more popular one line has become, the more chances that you opponent knows a lot about it (well, at least more than you) and then you choose a sideway to avoid it. Then, it becomes mass behaviour, with the popularity of the line fading away as a result.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Thx, Arne - once again an interesting and intriguing subject you are dealing with in a most informative and challening way. I have just read the article and will have to ponder a little more about it, and most likely I will be back to join the discussion with more substantial points of view.
But here some questions/thoughts that immidiately spring to my mind:
1) The decline of the Winawer in the start-90es could also come from players AVOIDING it by, most of all, playing 3.Nd2. A little survey on this in the databases should not be difficult.
2) Your quantitive investigations are based on the position in the diagram - am I right? Around 1990 the line after 7.-,0-0 was quite popular I remember. Intuitively I would say far more popular than 7.-,Qc7. But soon new sharp ways of conducting whites attack were discovered. That leading to players falling back from the line could easily be investigated too.
3) The late 80es till start 90es were really some transition years when it comes to chess preparation methods -and in many other in many other, over all cultural, poltical and sociological ways, some of of them which had a huge impact on chess. I am especially referring to the collapes of the socialist world. At that time many players, including me, simply started avoiding heavily analysed, sharp lines.
4) One crucial factor in the developement of chess lines I guess you are leaving out, namely the correpondance games, usually not (for some reason) included in the databases. Especially in the sharp Winaver after 8.Qxg7!? I believe some such games in the 90es were highly important for the development of new ways to handle the positions for black.
5) Could be it is also time for some qualitative investigastions by interviewing strong players about their incentitives to fall back from or employ some lines in question. Actually you can find many written and/or oral accounts on that here and there from the masters themselves. Personally I can refer to a lot of such from Bent Larsen. Maybe we will come back to that. Any master accounts on their relationship to the Winaver?

Arne Moll's picture

@JC, I do think surprise value is an important aspect in this, but it can hardly be the only explanation for such an overall rapid decline, don't you think? And since correctness also isn't likely to be that reason either (at least I haven't found any reasons to think so), I think cultural factors ('the faster the rise to prominence, the steeper the fall from grace'), as suggested by the baby research, may well have played an important role in this case.

@Thomas, Alexander: I think it's way too early to say anything about the the Nxf7 variation. Anyway, that line might be a case where one or two games (or its subsequent analysis) really did decide its popularity - contrary to the Winawer.

@Jens: Can't wait! Concerning your points 1 and 2: yes, absolutely. This is what I meant when I wrote it's so hard to do research (and say something meaningful) on a single variation!

JC's picture

Interesting thoughts, but the lack of concrete developments in the line don't necessarily make the trend a cultural/psychological one. The change in popularity of the line can easily be a function of its current popularity for objective reasons: the more popular a line has become, the less likely it is to surprise an opponent.

Moreover, the faster a line gains in popularity, the more likely the rise will be clear to players - and consequently, the more likely that they will be aware that it's no longer a surprise after a while.

That's not to say that there isn't any purely cultural/psychological influence - just that popularity trends certainly don't demonstrate it. In both baby-names and chess openings, it appears that change in popularity can be a function of current popularity. That's no evidence at all that this relationship exists for the same reasons in both cases.

I don't see how you'd isolate the perceived 'fadishness' of a line from the perceived likelihood of an opponent's familiarity with it.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Thx, Arne, for one more fine article dealing with interesting and intriguing subjects, and in a most informative and challenging way.
But I can not really follow you in your babyname analogy, which perhaps in a broader way should be phrased as a "fashion-analogy".
Our choice of openning is mainly done from what works for us, meaning what provide us with decent results in the games. But, of course, when we do make these choices, we will be mainly aware of the opennings actually played around us at present and mostly choose from them. But from that you can not at all deduce that players in general at a time will fall back from using opennings that are "too" popular, as these Berger and Le Mens seem to have observed concerning names.
But, In some ways I agree that choice of opennings "...can be a cultural trend, subject to sociological and psychological forces.". Playing chess is also a way of expressing yourself, and as such deeply rooted in the players identity - how he objectivises himself. And it seems that some players identity simply urges them to go against the trends at present. Need I remind you of my great compatriot, Bent Larsen? But, I can tell you for sure, Bent would not have developed this attitude if it did not worked form him by providing great results.
However, if we still keep it to the chessrelated factors, here are some immidiate questions/thoughts that sprang to my mind while reading the article:
1) The decline in the ussage of the Winaver observed could also come from whiteplayers wanting to AVOID it, mostly probably by playing 3.Nd2. That should be easy to investigate via the databases. (3.e5 also experienced a kind of rennaisance at that time).
2) As I understand it, Arne, your quantitative invistigation was based on the position in the diagram after 7.-,Qc7, am I right? Ok, but, as far as I remember, around 1990 the move 7.-,0-0 was very popular and I would assume it was played far more often than Qc7. After whiteplayers developed some new ways of dealing with the kings attack, it vanished out, even though it still emerges now and then. So, 7.-,Qc7 was not at all a hot issue in these days, acutally there must already in the 80es have been some lines keeping people off it.
3) There is another important factor in the development of chess lines that you/we have not dealt with so far in this discussion: The correspondance games, which for some reasons rarely are included in the databases. I believe that some such games had a heavy impact on exactly blacks ressources in the line in question, especially on the sharp lines after 8.Qxg7.
4) The time around 1990 was really a time of transition. In the overall cultural and political sense this was mainly due to the collapse of the socialist part of the world. This also had a huge impact on chess life in all its aspects. In chess in these years you saw an immensely qualitative and quantitative broadening of the methods for preparations. For that reason some, and not that few, players, including me, also began to fall back from employing heavily analysed, sharp and "trendy" lines. That could also mean that the period you are investigating, Arne, in some ways are abnormal.
5) It could be that we should do some qualitative investigations on all this, fi. by interviewing some masters on their incentitives to abbandon or employ centain lines/opennings. Acutally you can find a lot of accounts from masters on this here and there. if you just look for it. Personally I am able to refer to a lot from Bent Larsen, both written and orally. And maybe someone can find some master accounts one their relationship to the Winaver?

Alexander's picture

I agree with JC. One point more is that the players are not only no longer able to surprise the opponent, but are also justified in the belief that their opponent might have a strong novelty prepared in that line. It is never a good thing going into an opening you are most certain your opponent had prepared for (since it is that popular); prudence is therefore one of the possible reasons for the quick fall of the Winawer popularity. This is especially so because this particular line is a very tactical one. One can easily imagine it (unlike let's say Najdorf or Ruy Lopez, which are played at a constant rate) being refuted.

Alexander's picture

One more thing: a fine example of this phenomenon is Topalov's famous sacrifice 12. Nxf7 in the Anti-Moscow. Even though the line is far from decided, there were only one game at a high level in this variation (Timman played it the very next day in a good faith Ljubojevi? didn't have time to analize it). People are unwilling to play it because they have a good reason to believe their opponent had found a way to refute it; thus the sudden fall of its popularity.

Thomas's picture

12. Nf7: is taking things one step further, it is one possible move within the still popular anti-Moscow variation. And while there was one more game (Shirov-Karjakin, Aerosvit 2008, 1/2), it may well be that the knight sacrifice is not completely correct and thus essentially a "one-game novelty".

A related story is Anand's 14.-Bb7 against Kramnik in the Meran. Here I also haven't seen follow-up games, but in this case it may well be that white players tend to avoid it.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Well, Arne, we can not have that, so here I am again:
I can not really follow you in your babyname-analogy, which maybe should be broadened and phrased "fashion-analogy". Of course, quite offently you use expressions as "fashionable lines" aso., but this "fashion"-phenomena in chess can not at all be paralleled to "fashion" in commercial branches like clothes, drinks, food, music etc.. In the later there is a striving from both the consumers and the manufactorers to have and provide something NEW just because it is new.
Chess players mainly make their choiches of opennings from what works for them by producing good results. Chess is a sport and the bottom line is the end score, and from it most motives are derived.
But, in some sens, I also believe that chess style and there by openning choices "...can be a cultural trend, subject to sociological and psychological forces", as Arne put it. Some times, especially in these years, I really think I observe a kind of "semi-bourgeois" trend in chess style, looking too much for safety and believing too much in authorities. On the other hand, I also know of chess players, who live a seemingly deeply boring middleclass life, but at the chess board shines with a fierce and risky attacking style - maybe as a reaction?
And then there is the (could be psychological) question of selfidentity. Some players simply do not want to play like the majority, to follow "fashion", so to say, and some admirable persons fortunately also do not wan to in real life! Do I have to remind you of my great compatriot, Bent Larsen? But, I can assure you, Bent would not consciously have developed that attitude, if it did not also provided him with great results.
But all this is quite elusive and difficult to grasp, I guess you can only speculate...
Some more, chess related, remarks on your investigation, Arne: As i wrote, the years 1990 was a period with deep and broad transitions, also in chess. It could be that these years were abnormal, compared to years before and after. And maybe matters were only settled in the beginning of this century, where almost anyone a little serious about chess now have access to the internet, large databases and strong computerprograms.
About the Winaver: It could also be - and I believe I remember it as such - that many whiteplayers at that time fell back from 7.Qg4 in favour of 7.Nf3, not because of 7.-,Qc7 but the heavily analysed 7.-,0-0.
An at last - so far? - one account from Bent Larsen: In the mid-80es I asked him why he did not play the Dutch any longer: "No, it has become too popular. They know it too well. You know, Jens, some times I can only get a draw with it...."

Jens Kristiansen's picture

What is this? Suddenly TWO comments from me? Well, I have recently installed Explorer8 and have had some strange experiences with such board messages not coming through amo..
I usually make a draft of my comments, so I submitted it several times, after a little extra editing. But now it seems that there is at least one superfluous comment from me. Sorry for that, folks

Castro's picture

Arne:
Very interesting and laborious article! Very nice ideas, though it can indeed be a very complicated matter.
Anyway, congratulations for the result, but also for the courage to entering a maybe not very well rewarding issue, at least in terms of bold, strong, conclusions.
I dont have time to study this problem deeply, but allow me to just point that baby names tendencies may share, here and there, some characteristics with the trendy choice of openings, but the latter biggest basis is that of (subjective perception of) "efectiviness", in something very linear and strightforward: winning games.
You can't replicate that in human names, unless you believe in some mysticism about it (To be rich, it's good to be called Nelson, for instance).
Of course in chess you also have "mystic" ways of playing openings. For instance that of believing in opening a game based solely on surprise, or solely on what Carlsen is playing, etc., as trustable methods...

As I don't have the time to go deeper in that interesting subject you brought, let me ask you if you'd agree with me in a, for me, more atainable (but surely not so generaly interesting) issue, which is secundary in your article, I understand: That of the Damiano Defense.
I don't play that defense, as it looks too dangerous for black, as to my human knowleage is concerned.
But don't you agree it's incorrect to call it "hard-refuted"? If I recall correctly, the only thing refuted there is the variation 3.Nxe5 fxe5?, and it was Damiano himself who showed the refutation! The opening bears his name, but he just presented it, alongside the refutation of one of the posible sequences.
As for chess as a two-players game of complete information (as it is, in mathematical Game Theory), it's even posible for us to discover in the future that it would be the best defense for black! So, your question mark to 3. ... f6 may turn into "!", right?
Being (not yet?) realy refuted, and chess's optimal strategy (as it must have)being not yet known to us, we're just bond to our limitations and experience. But, as all advances in chess theory (in some measure), such an incredible discovery would simply being breaking our previous experience. Even the computers have to rely on that human experience and in strong calculating powers, for the time being, and not on endgame databases (as it is already the case for checkers).
I don't know if you're aware of that, but do you know it is even posible that the game of chess is a zugzwang for white, and so (with the best play) the black would have a forced win? In that anti-nowadays-human-experience scenario, maybe even the Damiano is (one of) the way(s) to go! And even out of that scenario, it could be proved that the Damiano is a draw or a loss, but the most tenacious defense anyway.
This I think is true, as long as any opening, or variation, is not realy refuted, rather than simply dificult for us to play, or unpopular!
What do you think?

Arne Moll's picture

Jens, of course results are important, but I think you may be overestimating that point of view. For non-professional chess players, the cultural factors may be more important. (Yet another reason not to focus on top level games only!) For instance, I have absolutely no idea what my own white score against the Sicilian is, nor do I much care. I just like the play that arises after it, and I also think it's pretty cool to play 1.e4. I think playing 1.e4 is also an image statement for me, in the sense that it sends the message that I am someone who doesn't back down from a theoretical or sharp fight and therefore am not to be messed with! To me, this doesn't sound too far from the idea of calling your son 'Storm' as some parents seem to like.

@Castro, you're right for many openings, but surely not the Damiano opening, unless just about all our basic assumptions about chess (power of central pawns, rapid piece development, weakened kingside, early queen moves) turn out to be wrong.

Thomas's picture

Along the lines suggested by Jens, a complete assessment of the Winawer would have to include the popular ups and downs of the various earlier deviations, hence the variation tree would look about as follows:
1.e4 e6 (1.-e5, 1.-c5, ...) 2.d4 (2.Qe2!? :) ) d5 3. Nc3 (3.Nd2, 3.e5) Bb4 (3.-Nf6, 3.-de4:) 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bc3: 6.bc3: Ne7 7.Qg4 (7.Nf3, 7.a4) Qc7 (7.-0-0).
This may be incomplete - both because I didn't mention (most) offbeat continuations, and because my theoretical knowledge is patchy (myself, I play 3.Nd2). And such an investigation would be more work and might result in a confusing series of graphs ... .

Regarding Bent Larsen, I would say there are several types of strong player when it comes to opening practice (and philosophy!?):
- those who - successfully - play their own stuff, which is hardly copied by others (of course Jens would know much better than me how Larsen's choices affected openings by other Danish players!). "Modern analogues" may include Ivanchuk and Morozevich.
- those who follow popular lines and refine their theory (should I put Topalov here concerning the Najdorf?)
- those who play new openings, or rather revive old and semi-forgotten ones, which are then also played by their colleagues. Oddly (for some), I would put Kramnik in this box: (Petroff), Berlin Wall, Catalan, ... . And this is my answer to those arguing that "Kramnik is a boring player, he does not play the Najdorf".

@Arne Moll: I agree with you regarding the Damiano, but there are numerous exceptions from the 'basic assumptions about chess' you mention, though not as early as move 2.
For example, early queen moves: 7.-Qb6 against the 6.Bg5 Najdorf violates basic rules, but seems justified basd on three arguments:
- it cannot be refuted
- it wins a pawn
- it limit's white's subsequent options (castling long is no longer an option).

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Now this discussion is already sticking in several directions, each of them quite interesting - could be the basis of at least four different discussion fora.
But as the starting point is Arnes article, I think we should stick to his ideas/points of views.
Yes, I do believe that the development of a chess players "style" is deeply embedded in cultural and psychological factors. It also developes from the inspiration from other players - you could call this "chess-sociological" factors. As strong, professional players engage more in the game and also,have stronger motives regarding the results, the later factor has more bearing on their style.
So, it is quite evident that, as Arne put it, "... For non-professional chess players, the cultural factors may be more important.".
But I still can not follow the babyname-analogy. Perhaps more suitable would be an analogy with styles of clothing? Your clothes is also some signal about who you are, and I guess we are all a little bit aware of that - at least we are aware of what clothes we will NOT wear!
Ok, if we limit the research object to, say "Openning choices by non-professional players" and we set up the thesis that they are deeply influenced by cultural and psychological factors, we will not get far only by quantitative investigations. We will have to use the qualitative methods developed in the humanistic sciences, especially in antropology/etnographics. That may sound pompous, but it is not that difficult. We are all participants in chess life, and as such we can also regard ourselves as some kind of "field workers" doing "participant observations". There has already been referred to a few of such in this discussion.
Let us have some more of them. And THEN we may put up some more elaborate hypothesis, which maybe could be supported by some quantitave investigations.

Castro's picture

@Arne

Yes, I agree that finding out that the Damiano was, after all, a good defense, would be a huge shock to our actual chess knowleage, but it's not a posibility we should dismiss! Even within our secular chess experience, we have already lots of modern variations which shocked and reformulated previous assumptions.
For instance, we already "accept" Shevievnikov's and Grunfeld's centers, something unbelievable one century ago...
The simple fact that the game could be found out to be a forced win for black --- even if it deeply shock our experience-based intuition and way of play --- show us (as chess should already taugh us) that everything is posible until some definitive proof (as a real refutation is).
I find very amusing those incredible posibilities, like the one of some future clasification of the move 2. ... f6 as "unica mossa" (only move). I think Breyer would rejoice too :-)

Arne Moll's picture

Indeed, Castro. By the way, A couple of years ago I wrote an article about this very subject, you can read it here. (The english version can be read below the Dutch one.)

@Jens, in the scienceblogs article I mentioned, the clothing style analogy is also mentioned. I agree that qualitative research is also needed. There is so much potential for research in chess, but it's hardly being done, I'm afraid.

Castro's picture

Arne,

Interesting poins of view, on that other article, indeed. Those are the things we were talking about.
Just two remarks:
- The computer's role could be exagerated. It coult be absolutely necesary for the game to be solved, but we don't know that. In fact, the solution of chess (as a 2-players, complete information game, in game theory) could be reached by some human deductive proof only. Or not. We don't know yet.
- The analogy with the universe is other exageration, even on the narrow frame it is given. The game of chess we know is finite and has, in fact, a solution. We're merely barred from it, for the time being. Checkers was on that state some years ago. As for the Universe... :-) We don't have reasons to believe we could get out of the "middle-size" prision ever (without becoming gods hehehe).

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Well, this discussion is really springing back and forth between "minor-", "middle-" and "mega-size"-questions :).
On the later I think that some of you are on the way into mysticism.
We - the humans - do know and comprehend something - and we are the only creatures around who do, as far as we know.
We do know and comprehend something about quantum mechanics. Otherwise I would not have my laptop and would not be able to communicate with you in this way.
We do know and comprehend something about chess. From that we can also, by induction, not deduction, grasp something about the "big" solutions. That has already been done by some of the greatest when it comes to pure chess investigations. Fi. Troitsky with his old analysis and conclusions on the endgame K+N+N against K+P. In our time the tablebases have overall verified his conclusions.
From what I know and comprehend about chess, and by pure induction, I will stand up for the view that the Damiano-defence will not be included in the BIG solution, meaning it should be "correct" and leads to draw (or a win). I am ready to bet on that, but that seems rather futile :).
By the way, it has been mathematical proven, by deduction, that chess HAS a solution. Thats all...
And more thing: What Dawkins, Feynman and the other great minds are refering to is the limits of human perception, as developed from adaptation to the environment. They exactly understand something about these matters, because it is a continuously obstacle in their research. Fortunately some human minds have been able to - step by step - push our recognition beyound these limits. And this proces goes on and on. Hats off for we the humans!

Castro's picture

@Jens Kristiansen

It is no greater mysticism betting one way rather than the other way around, on not yet solved issues. So, good or bad Damiano defense (by the way, the defense that Damiano himself considered the worse available to 2.Nf3) are both futile bets. But we humans take pleasure on futile things too :-)
As for Troitsky's researches on KNN vs. KP, it realy is no great surprise that the computers confirmed him. He was a genious and a very dedicated chess composer, and that endgame is difficult, but not that difficult for such a man to dominate completely. But there are lots of chess problems where human assumptions were refuted by means of the computer, and sometimes for our big surprise!
As for chess having solution, yes, I told that before, and it's something common to all finite, complete information games. I believe that the solution is about to be discovered (with or without computers).
Finaly, just stressing that (almost by definition!) one of the usual "limits of human perception" is what we can call "ilusion". Even if one recognise human efforts in pushing those limits, and like to think "this proces goes on and on", there will always be issues where this linearity is useless and just human-consoling, until the answer comes as a shock, shattering all our assumptions, and from some completely different way.

Castro's picture

By the way, an amusing (even beautiful) game involving two 19th century Russia greats and featuring the infamous Damiano Defense (even if the great Chigorin missed a great combination twice!):

Emmanuel Schiffers vs Mikhail Chigorin 1/2-1/2 (Petersburg, 1897)

Hope it's ok to put the link:
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1036460

Arne Moll's picture

Castro, perhaps that opening choice of Chigorin can indeed be compared to clothing style: the concept of jeans with deliberate holes in them, just to show others that you don't care about them... ;-)

Thomas's picture

I have never heard of Schiffers before, but acirce in the comments on Chessgames says that he was #18 on the 1897 "Chessmetrics list". Still, I think that 'present-day GM's could at most play the Damiano in blitz or simul games against much weaker opponents (if they have a certain sense of humor and don't care that much about the result ...).
Related, but less obviously bad: A Dutch IM (guess who?) once played 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Qe7 against me in a blitz game. He eventually won a crazy game - I think this was mostly due to the ~500 points rating difference, but he told me afterwards that he had also beaten Nigel Short in a rapid game with the same opening.
On Arne's clothing analogy: "Jeans with deliberate holes" may also reflect the desire to be part of a maverick group. Here, a chessic equivalent might be the disciples of the Blackmar-Diemer gambit !?

Arne Moll's picture

The huge difference between 2...f6 and 2...Qe7 is that the latter doesn't weaken anything. Black can keep the position closed and his king safe. In the Damiano, he doesn't get anything in return for the weakened kingside (e5 isn't even protected by f6!). That's why 2..f6 is really bad and 2..Qe7, like Chigorin's 2.Qe2, is really not so bad.

Thomas's picture

I agree that 2.-f6 is simply bad - maybe Castro also agrees, but enjoys being provocative!?
But I think there is a difference between 2.Qe2 and 2.-Qe7. For white, the odd queen move makes sense - aiming to prevent black from reaching his preferred French setup. 2.-Qe7 eventually results in a Philidor (sort of), but what's the added value of this queen move compared to 2.-d6 [which probably has to be played later anyway]? Indeed, my opponent also said after the game "if I keep my center together, black's position is playable".
I guess 2.-Qe7 is also primarily a provocative move - asking white to look for a (non-existing) refutation and to burn time on the clock doing so. Clever, but presumably it works only once against any given opponent (and is best used in games that do not end up in databases!?).

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Castro, if Manchester United was going to play, say, one of our danish teams, you can easily imagine how the Betting Companies would set up the odds. That´s because they KNOW something about football. I f you even though would place your bet on the danish team, you would by guided some, maybe subliminal foreseeing of the completely unexpected result - and that would indeed be "mystiscism"!
And, Castro, you wrote: "...there are lots of chess problems where human assumptions were refuted by means of the computer". Is that really so? I could be you are refering to the endgame K+B+B vs. K+N, which the tablebases proved is a win in any normal position, contrary to previous human assumptions. But that is a special case, because no one of the great endgame investigaters ever really dealt with that endgame. You may wonder if eg. Troitsky would not have found the correct "solution", had he given it its time. In endgames where the great investigaters have been seriously at work, as far as I know, very few basic refutations of their conclusions has been pointed out with the aid of the tablebases, if any at all.
Castro: "I believe that the solution is about to be discovered (with or without computers)" Please tell us more about that!
About the game Schiffers-Tchigorin: Very amusing, white even wins the black Q for two pieces, before it ends in a draw. Is it really a serious game? Maybe an exhibition- or rapidgame? That´s a question for chess historians - on this subject it proves nothing.
About 2.-,Qe7: I believe it is one of Gunderams many, rather alternative suggestions. Another one was: 1.e4,e5 2.Nf3,d6 3.d4,Bg4 4.dxe5,Nd7!?. You may try that out in blitz-games :).

Thomas's picture

Jens, thanks for mentioning Gunderam's name .... I was curious, and Google is one's best friend: To my slight surprise, 2.-Qe7 was played by 'respectable' players such as Sulskis and (back in 1971) Kupreichik. And it even occurred in Adams-Radjabov, FIDE WCh Tripoli 2004 (drawn after 44 moves).
http://www.chess.com/opening/eco/C40_Gunderam_Defense
(then "view games" and sort by rating).
Concerning Gunderam's other suggestion, I actually had to deal with it playing white in blitz games ... and indeed it is hard to prove over the board that black has insufficient compensation for the pawn.

Castro's picture

Oh Lord, so much pasion you people have! Nice!
Let's see...

@Arne, Thomas, Jens
The clothing analogy. Nicely spoted. I understand it, but note that it is a great analogy for the thing you think was in Chigorin's mind. I think he was experimenting, yes, but not trying to show off anything. And Schifers was no patzer at all, and that #18 Thomas mentioned is, at least for some period, an underrate.
Now, for the Damiano:
I don't know what is the fear! As I said before, I don't play it myself (maybe I'll start from now on) because, as to my (human, present-day, not-very-good-or-informed-player) information and intuition, it seems too risky for black.
But saying it is "bad" as having full information, or even "simply bad" or "obviously bad" looks far more risky!!
It could be confusing "difficult to play nowadays" with "refuted". That's what I meant, and I'm also honest in saying that I must admit the (remote, for our intuition) posibility of the Damiano ending up being a good defense (or, who knows, even THE best defense).
I'm completely sincere and glad to have that posibility open! And no, Thomas, my slyghtly provocative nature is not on call here, unless if having some different view is to be regarded as simple provocation. (Of course I'd like to see eminent masters ( ;-) ) like you sharing that view, but don't go wrong, my opinion is not influenced by that, unless I'd see real reasons (not pasions) to maybe change it.
A question to you 3: Do you realy think you have a won (classic times) game, if your level opponent (say, you both had 2200 elo) plays you the Damiano?
Would you at least rate your chances way above the usual white's advantage, against such an opponent?
If your answer is "Yes", I think you're on pasion and faith territory, that's all.
Faith is important, but here your "Yes" answer are of no greater value than my critics on the French defense (on the French Chigorin article!). It's guessing, and guessing at one's "pleasure" (thing I did asumedly). Sorry!
I liked to see mentioned, on this context, another "infamous" (but not so) opening: The Blackmar-Diemer gambit. What are the odds against it? Is it good? Or "almost refuted" (an hilarious concept :-) ), like the Damiano seems to be on your minds?
Arne, I say your take on the "difference between 2…f6 and 2…Qe7" was exactly that kind of mistake. All that post is pasion-understandable, but only posible to say by forgeting any real reason. What do we know about the future things that will contradict the things we think we know? How can one be obviously sure that f6 is weakening (beyond any kind of unkown compensation), and that, with Qe7, "Black can keep the position closed and his king safe"? Can it?? Couldn't it be the precise other way arround? Are you god, or will you share those proofs with us? Ah, it's a belief? Ok, it is fully respectable, as such! Imagine someone simply condemning the Shvieshnikov because of the d6 pawn on the open file...
Ah, but there is a significant number of games, and lots of best players believe in it...? Ah, but it passed many decades without being refuted? Ah!
One must know what is being talked, in order to understand each other.
And yes, Thomas, on this context you used the expresion "I guess" very well, on the following post. (I'm not being ironic)
Jens, I understood from the start (the other post of yours) your point on that we, humans, know something, and so some bets look better than others. So, the Manchester analogy is nice, and everyting, but regarding chess one thing happens much easier than in football: Our information could be criticaly and extremely wrong, when revealing the --- for now --- unknown territory. It's not a question of one improbable game a danish team could (can realy) win from Manchester, on a "bad day" of the latter.
In a pure finite logical game, as chess is, if we don't have the solution, we must play acording to "rules" we gathered for centuries, about the known part of the game, but the reformulations of some of them are (and can be even more) extreme. In football it could happen still, but either they were not that extreme reformulations, or we couldn't anyway expect to understand them, as there are no completely solved situations in football (other than the final blow of the referee, maybe).
An example I do again: Do you agree it can be proved that black has an advantage? Even a win? (As white can, of course). Don't you know, for instance, that much of our present-day aproach is based on white having an advantage? Are these two facts conciliable? One thing is understanding why one does not play the Damiano today, other is saying of sure science that it's obvously not the way to go, or even saying that betting on the french defence is a best bet.
Doesn't your intuition tell you, for instance (as I don't have a proof), that for any "chess-like" game that has been proved to be a win for white, one can present another that is a win for black (and another that is a draw with best play)?
As for the endgames, you're right for the most part: Either were assumed complicated endgames, or rarely the investigators were completely denied, but I'd include also that question of "unique moves", where the computer discovered they weren't unique (on heavy pieces endgames, for instance). And look: It's not on ("simple") endgames that the question is, but more on opening choices and dismisses.
I note some irony on your comment on my sentence "I believe that the solution is about to be discovered (with or without computers)”.
It was not necessary! That sentence is fully asumed, and the "I believe" part is not an English language trick. It's a matter of faith, of course also intuition-based on my (old, though) math theorems and programing studies, and on what happened to other games, including checkers (and I didn't fail in predicting the solution of checkers, some years before). I can add that I'm one of those who do not fear --- maybe my curiosity even makes me wishing --- that eventuality. Do you think I can tell you more? Please sugest.
The Schiffers-Chigorin was a serious match game, but of course they were uncompromising masters trying things (as the famous Chigorin-Tarrash match also was). I find your comment "on this subject it proves nothing" rather misterious. I didn't claim it would prove something on this subject, but as you mentioned... What about proving that none of the two masters liked to persist on playing the Damiano? That, I think, brings an amusing and revealing paradox: It would be a conclusion that proved something (my point of view of not mixing faith/pasion/mysticism with science/logic/reason) by not proving something (that the defense would be bad).

Castro's picture

Arne,

A question I'm always forgeting to ask you: Is the baby-girl on the picture your kid?
Anyway, very kute! And one can see she's already pondering the next move! :-)

Castro's picture

(Could it be I get no more answers because no one understands my bad english?... my strugling and boring writing style? Or... what?)

PB's picture

Castro, perhaps that opening choice of Chigorin can indeed be compared to clothing style: the concept of jeans with deliberate holes in them, just to show others that you don't care about them... ;-)

Thomas's picture

Castro, the main reason may be that your posts are often on the VERY long side - try to condense them or maybe split one post into several shorter and 'manageable' ones !?
Regarding the role of strong GM's in opening developments, there are two contrasting theories:
1) Only the top 30 GM's matter at all (GuidedByVoices in an earlier thread).
2) Choices by GM's do NOT matter at all - that's how I would interpret Castro's recurrent and stubborn remarks on the Damiano.

But GM's know something about chess, more than Castro, Thomas and others and maybe even 'significantly' more than IM Jens Kristiansen. So I would separate offbeat (dubious-looking?) openings into two categories:
1) those played by some GM's, at least occasionally: Evans Gambit, King's Gambit, Jaenisch Gambit, Chigorin defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6), Gunderam opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Qe7), [who wants to continue this list?]. Some people would also include KID and Ben-Oni. And some openings were initially considered offbeat but even achieved mainstream status (Sveshnikov, Grunfeld).
2) those NOT played by GM's: Damiano, Blackmar-Diemer gambit (though popular among some other players). What's wrong with those openings? Clearly something must be wrong ... . The Morra gambit also seems to fall in this category, which suprises me a bit. Is it clearly worse than some d5 gambit lines in the Queen's Indian, fashionable in past and present? There seems to be a theoretical consensus that white's compensation in the Morra is insufficient, but this could change, any GM could try the Morra at least as a surprise weapon (also speculating that his opponent is not, or insufficiently prepared).

Arne Moll's picture

Thomas, I really think the Damiano (which has only disadvantages) falls in a different category than the Blackmar-Diemer and the Morra Gambit (which definitely do have advantages) or even the move 2.Qh5 that Nakamura played once after 1.e4 e5 (at least it attacks e5!).
Besides, some variations tend to cross over those category barriers, such as the Albin counter gambit which had a very bad name until a few years ago, when Morozevich and others started playing it with reasonable success.

Thomas's picture

Arne, you do not need to convince me that the Damiano is simply bad, but you, me or anyone else apparently cannot convince Castro. I will give it one more try: Unlike, for example, Blackmar-Diemer and Morra it isn't even played at club level (excluding beginners) - if my own experience is comprehensive and representative: it spans ~25 years and includes five towns/regions from three countries (Germany, France and the Netherlands).

And of course my definition of categories is both simplistic (one could define more than two categories) and flexible (things can change through time). Taking the Sveshnikov as an example: Maybe some people, including strong players (ELO >> 2000] were laughing or shaking their heads at Sveshnikov when he first played 5.-e5. Back to club level: In my first club, people got a puzzled look on their faces when I played the variation about 20 years ago. It was a small club, most people didn't follow GM games and didn't know much about opening theory - so actually they were even more puzzled that I needed less than a minute for the first ten moves ... . But by now, the Sveshnikov is well-established (accepted and respected by GM's, and even known to amateurs rated 1400-1600).

Repeating and further explaining what I wrote before: If the Albin counter gambit can 'promote' from [my] category 2 to 1, the same might be possible for the Morra (why not?). Maybe it can even reach the status of a relatively common gambit having reasonable success, comparable to the Wolga-Benko gambit. There are obvious differences: the compensation needs to be stronger, more tangible, ... if one sacrifices central rather than flank pawns !?

Castro's picture

You're right, except for the chessy things we don't know yet.
(How to avoid stubborness when confronted recurrently with the same mistake?)
Why thinking we can now see deeply into what are the advantages and disadvantages of a not refuted opening, other than with our present-day weapons, some of which are fated to be refuted themselves?
Why pretend we understand everything now, about something (I agree) is bad to play with that present-day weaponsand evaluations of us?

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Well, Castro, you see, in discussions I prefer to take off from what we do know, the other way around is "mystiscism" in my eyes.
But, any way, it is quite exciting to speculate about this BIG solutions to the game of chess. When wil have it (not in my time I suppose, or what do you think, Castro !? :)), we will quite likely be up for some surprises, but I do not think we will have to completely alter our theoris on chess.
Basically there are only two kinds of positions in chess: Those which are "=", meaning drawn by correct play, and those which are "+ -/ - +", meaning won for one of the parties by correct play. If we assume, as I do just intuituvely, that the game is drawn by correct play, then the SOLUTION - or most likely, the SOLUTIONS - are along paths consisting only "="-positions. The famous "Shannon number" estimates around 10 in 210 possible variations of chess, meaning possible games. Even if only a very tiny portion of these are "correct", then it will still be an enourmous number of games.
And more: In many of these "correct" games it could be that one of the parties along the "="-path has many alternatives that keeps him there, while the other party for a long sequence of moves only has one choice, keeping him on the path. But, even though, this game will still be categorized as "correct".
Well, it could be, even if I doubt it, that, say, the Damiano after 2.-,f6 still keeps black on the "="-path, but I would believe black for a long sequence would have to follow a very narrow path to stay there. And that is what really matters to HUMANS: The Damiano is simply to difficult to defend from.
In this connection, about these gambits where white (some times black) offers a pawn to gain some quick mobilisations as eg. The BDG, The Morra- or the Danish Gambit: I honestly believe they are also "correct", meaning that whites game is not LOST after playing them. So why are they not played by the best players? In my opnion it is simply because they are to easy to defend against, especially in the modern way by simply giving the material back at an appropriate moment. These gambits are simply not played beacuse they are far to DRAWISH!
But there are lots of other gambits at work in modern chess at the highest level. But in these you away material for some more refined, farsighted goals, and that is another matter.

Arne Moll's picture

Thanks for the fine post, Jens. I agree with it completely. Castro, I should add that although we may not know everything in chess, or ever know it for that matter, I don't think that means we should abandon all the knowledge that we have collected in the past centuries. It's very valuable and often proved to be 100% correct! To ignore that would be the same mistake the creationists are making when they argue that because evolution hasn't explained every biological process step yet, the theory must be false or at least shouldn't be taught in schools.

forest's picture

yes Arne, can you do so, because I dont trust forest doing it as he promised!

Castro's picture

@Arne

Maybe it's somewhat "dangerous" to bring Darwinism here. You may get undesired comments (not undesired on the same way of mine, hehe).

I understand what you mean, but (other than realy being a darwinist myself :-) ) comparing my point of view with that of creationists regarding biology it's a little too much! Of course we say everyday at our clubs (I don't go there for years, though) things like "That opening sucks, it's simply bad".
And in the sense of "knowledge that we have collected in the past centuries" we even can call these remarks as "science". I just think we should know better, regarding chess science, maybe because in this kind of pure logical games either you realy know the solution for some situation already or it's easy to get a big surprise.

Just think the "knowledge that we have collected in the past centuries" before the advent of Grunfelds, Sveshnikovs, and others. It surely condemned them imediately, as strongly as you dismiss the Damiano now.

(But luckilly there were always "crazy players" that assumedly played "bad openings". Even Steinitz were one of the maddest tactitians ever, and he even insisted playing the completely crazy Steinitz Gambit --- a "simply bad" opening, in my opinion looking even worse than the Damiano ---, despite all his strategic theory! And lots of masters grabed lots of bad-reputed openings, believed in them, and sometimes inspire others to play them... That's how openings come... and go!)

Anyway, I never said we should abandon our knowledge now, neither I think for the Damiano to be good we would have to abandon great part. The concept (not easy to concretize, or sometimes even imagine, for the future of this or that opening, before the respective concrete "shocks" happen) is "reformulation", and we hat lots of them along the centuries. And they were "unbelievable" before happening, also.

@Jens

I liked particularly of your image of Damiano (or other openings) maybe being "=" but with a too much "narrow path" of choice of sequences to atain that (specialy from the present day knowledge point of view).
That's something I think I was also saying, except that I (and everybody outside guessing is forced to) admit posible the other two results: "+-" and "-+".
Look: I'm not saying "believe very probable" (any of the 3)!

As for the BIG solutions: What is that???
Who talked about big? What do you mean by that?
The solution (plural is irrelevant, as I can say "solution" meaning set of solutions, set of all same-minimal-length sequences of best play, for instance) exist.

There are some (rather turtuous or mystical) meanings of that sentence that would be false. For instance, the solution of the chess game doesn't "exist" for me (or you or us all) because it's not proved I will ever see it before I die.

But I think we can agree on the meaning it is true. (Can we?)
Chess has a solution. (Right? Please tell me if the objection starts here!)
Checkers was in the same situation, say, in the 60's. (OK?)
Checkers is solved now. (Not the 10x10 variant, etc, but OK?)
(These previous two were just examples.)
Chess CAN BE about to be solved (Yes?)
I say chess IS about to be solved (10-20 years is my guess, but I CAN BE wrong).
What's the big deal??

Respecting any guesses about what this (posibly composed) solution will consist of (if =, +- or -+, and if one or more identical best sequences), my own guess in that particular is I just don't know, and I'm eager to know! I'd be specialy amused if the solution was -+, but not completely surprised. The other two would amuse me too, of course.

More than living to that day of the solution, I'd wish to live enough to understand someting about it also! Does that make me weard? Maybe...

Imagine that tomorrow (29/05/09) someone proves that the game can never be that very amusing -+.
I'd rejoice anyway! And I'd become curious to know (though maybe not capable to understand?) that proof. Get it? THERE is my own assumed view and subjectivity. THERE I could never say it would be expected that others feel the same way, nor that it has anything logic or scientific (other than the curiosity, maybe).

Castro's picture

Arne, could you please get my post out of the spam filter prision (again)?
Thx.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Yes, as far as I know of, it is mathematically proven that there is a solution to chess.
But when (if?) we have that, it does by far not mean that we have solved all the mysteries, and the book can be closen - on the contrary, I believe.
The computers can tell us, the human players, how we should have played in a given position. And one day they may even provide us with a definite answer on that.
But...they will never be able to tell us WHY we choose a given move, how ever faulthy or brilliant it is. As they will never be able to tell us WHY we choose our opennings.
The BIG mysteries are still hidden inside ourselves.

Castro's picture

forest?

Woke up from some bad nightmare? :-)
Looks like you wrote something related with my adressing Arne, but it's puzzling what you could mean...

Castro's picture

@Jens

I don't even pretend to know that enough to allow me to agree with you.
I'll explain:
The solution can have various forms, and some of these forms would even allow human beings to imediatly understand. In the case of other forms of solution, your scenario would become real, and maybe humans wouldn't understand more than being informed by computers of what is the move... at least for some years, or so. (Or not).
But let me give an image of the other kind, the forms I mentioned first.
It's realy (of course) just an image.

As an emerit IM you know (though lots of us untitled also know) that in the endgame (say) white Ka8, Pa7, N wondering the board, but far from this corner, and black just the K (say) on d7, it is easily proved mathematicaly (and as easyly understood) that, regardless of the exact square of the knight, and of the exact future knight moves, Black (on the move) draws or loses the game exactly if he plays (his king) to the one of the two squares {c7, c8} which is of the same colour of the square where the White N stands.

No one can asure that the (for me not far away) solution couldn't be of that type, in terms of "easy to aply", who knows, "easy to understand" (never as easy as my image, that would be outragious, hehehe!!), or even "discovered without computers".
No one knows! (I think). And the great complexity of the game is no garanty of any greatness on the complexity of the solution either! You can have more intricated rules in a game with some childish solution! (The one of chess isn't, I think).

Ah! But even if the solution was to be easy to aply or understand, we wouldn't run out of misteries, for a long time, would we?
If not for anything else, we will always have the psichologic (and brain sciences in general), the computational, and historical aspects... And more!
If not easy (or even not human posible) to aply, then the existence of the solution will also allow us to continue playing (other humans, at least).

Anyway, I'm not a profet, just a simple happily believer ;-)

Castro's picture

Let's get realy mystical: The solution to chess will be revealed on the Maya Calendar's ending, 22th December 2012.
LOL :-)

Castro's picture

Sorry, on the previous post:

"Black (on the move) draws or loses the game exactly if he plays (his king) to the one of the two squares {c7, c8} which is of the same colour of the square where the White N stands" (*)

(*) or if he makes any other move

Of course!

Castro's picture

I see... One more dead end. Ok. (Not for me, anyway ;-) )

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