Most of you guys know that I am now living in China and have been for over 3 years now.
In order to quench my thirst for chess (and due to the lack of tournaments here), I spend a lot of time training with engines, usually at a 25 5 time control.
I also run tournaments on my computer between interesting engines and force them to play openings that I am working on at any given time.
This is a lot of fun despite my still yearning to play in a real OTB tournament some time soon.
Over the December holidays a former chess student of mine came to visit me in China and spent two weeks with me during which time we enjoyed lots of blitz chess (click here to see footage from one of our blitz battles), bbq, good coffee and beer!
During this time and perhaps during one of our countless blitz games Jerry said to me “You seem much stronger now! Maybe 100 points!“.
Jerry is a reasonably strong player (inactive, but somewhere between 1800 and 2000 ELO) but was losing most games in silly miniatures.
My last OTB tournament was in 2011, so surely I haven’t improved by 100 points so what had convinced Jerry that I’d improved so much?
What had changed in my chess was my style, not my strength.
I’d transformed from more of an active positional player to a super aggressive, attacking player who is always sacrificing!
Here is a typical game from the ones I played with Jerry.
So what had changed my style?
Obviously whatever has been influencing my chess the most in recent times.
And what has been influencing my chess most is computer chess.
More precisely, I have been learning to assess positions the way that sacrificial and aggressive human-like chess engines such as Prodeo (personalities like Q3, Tal, Storm, Vulcan, MACHEID, ALEXAL etc), Zappa Mexico (Dissident Aggressor Settings), Gambit Fruit (my “cognac” settings 😉 ), Twisted Logic (my “cognac” settings), Rodent II (my “cognac” settings), Disaster Area (my “cognac” settings), Ronin 8.0 Attacker personality, Deep Junior 7, Gambit Tiger 2.0, Thinker 5.3b Inert and more!
(Note: I’ve decided to call the personalities I create “cognac” settings for the same reason I placed this word in my site name…because cognac is a fine wine which is heavenly when mixed with chess and plenty of spare time! 🙂 )
What follows is a list of ways that these fantastic engines have affected my play and (in my humble opinion 😉 ) improved my style of play as well.
Playing Against Chess Engines Taught That…
1. Strong players can lose quickly, if placed under enough pressure early on.
Placing pressure on an opponent with tactical threats, time trouble and unfamiliar/messy positions throws them into a psychological situation where they often become anxious, lose confidence and make uncertain moves.
They make many more mistakes in this situation than in calm, strategic and manoeuvring positions as well.
Messy positions contain a lot more hidden resources as well, where even if you sacrifice without seeing the outcome clearly, there is very high chance that your opponent will not defend well anyway.
Good defence is the hardest skill to develop in chess and is only possessed by a few.
So be bold, launch your pieces at the kingside and sacrifice something!
Ed Schröder’s program Rebel 6.0 is a program from the mid-nineties which played nice and master level chess with an ELO rating of around 2350.
Here’s an example of its play from the Aegon Man vs Machine tournament of 1994.
We see Rebel 6.0 completely outplay a master with a 2350 FIDE rating.
So based on that game (and several others from Aegon), we could say that Rebel 6.0 is definitely a strong player, right?
No geeks! I’m not comparing Rebel 6.0 to Stockfish, I’m comparing it to YOU!
Yes, as an opponent its an excellent and difficult opponent to handle, even for master level players.
So how do you suppose Rebel 6.0 could be defeated in 17 moves?
Seems impossible right? Thats still basically the opening!
This is not Morphy vs the average beginner!
Actually…applying my “cognac” settings to the Disaster Area engine, makes it play like Tal on steroids and if even a master-level engine like Rebel 6.0 isn’t careful…disaster (pun intended 😉 ) can be the result.
DisasterArea-1.54 Cognac vs Rebel 6
Rebel 6.0 was made to look like one of Morphy’s weak opponents!
Do you think white would have won in 17 moves in a calm Reti opening or something?
You need to play openings (and in a style) which place your pieces in active positions with plenty of potential for opening the game up and creating attacking chances.
White’s play in the above game was NOT 100% correct, but that’s not what decides chess games.
Chess is a sporting contest and the strongest player on the day is the winner. Not the strongest analyst afterwards!
Anyway, so let’s see how I have tried to emulate this “place-pressure-from-the-beginning-and-blow-away strong-players” technique.
Now I didn’t defeat a 2350 level player in 17 moves, but I DID defeat a 2280 player in 19 moves!
Let’s see it.
Not bad huh? 😎
I think the lesson we can receive from this is that the ideal way in which to play chess from a practical viewpoint is aggressive, “messy” and tactical.
These skills can be developed by any player just by improving tactics, learning the most common attacking plans and developing skills in calculation.
Choosing openings wisely is important too, but we’ll come to that later.
The point is…
All of this is possible and not difficult for he who puts in the work.
Thats enough for now my friends, check out part two of this article for another BIG nugget of chess wisdom I learnt from just one particular chess engine. 🙂