23 October 2010

Advanced Chess960 @ Chess.com

One of my five Questions of Chess960 Theory is 'How useful are computers in evaluating the different start positions?' A few months back I wrote about Chess960 Groups @ Chess.com, where one of the members took the question about computers to another level. In Advanced Chess960 - a Debate, glider1001 suggested,
The area of interest I have is in Advanced Chess960 (computer assisted). I want Chess.com to recognize this way of playing by allocating it a rating's category. If you want to read up on Advanced Chess, type it into Wiki. If you type in Advanced Chess960 however, you only get a couple of links. It is early days. [...]

Why would I want to have computer assisted Chess960 play accepted at Chess.com? That question is actually quite simply answered with an analogy. The computer is like a telescope that can help to peer deeper into the Chess960 galaxy than can be seen with the naked eye of our own intellect. Why not use a computer then?

Responses to the question, 'Why not use a computer?', came quickly.

Kacparov: 'Advanced chess is cheating here, if you want to play it you need to go somewhere else, sorry.' • Atos: 'It's not allowed to use assistance in rated games, even if both sides agree.'

Right question, wrong forum. Chess.com members have the same tolerance for accused computer cheaters that the Holy Office of the Inquisition had for those poor souls suspected to have strayed from Catholic orthodoxy. A recent case involving IM (and WGM) Yelena Dembo was discussed on The chess games of Yelena Dembo at Chessgames.com. In the online world, tongues will wag and you're guilty until proven innocent. Good luck with that.

Not one to give up easily, glider1001 set up his own group on Chess.com: Advanced Chess960 Community, complete with its own forum, Advanced Chess960 Community - Forums. While member numbers are low, and likely to remain so, there are already a screenful of interesting chess960 topics, penned by glider himself, on the forum. Many of these are more about chess960 opening theory than about computer assistance. I hope glider doesn't mind if I rely on some of his ideas, duly attributed, for future posts on this blog.


HarryO said...

Hi there Mark
Yes I realize that Chess.com has a zero tolerance mentality to Advanced Chess960. They are entitled to this approach even if it has many unintended side effects and will probably not achieve the result that they want. Zero tolerance theories do not work in practice that I am aware of. My own thinking on the subject can be found here:

I respect their goal however and realize that we do not want a perception that Chess960 and cheating are one and the same (you would think that "reason" would simply predominate over perception but reason is probably a function of perception in any case!). Chess960 is beautiful and good and a lot of fun. It is that simple.

So as you have suggested, I think it is a good idea to use the Chess.com publishing facilities for Chess960 analysis. Essentially no-one has contributed to the Advanced Chess960 community or is likely too, and so it is essentially a Chess960 blog! Actual game play of Advanced Chess960 itself is moved over to the LSS server http://lss.chess-server.net/info/home where I think our support is needed there!

That server seems to show some promise. Essentially the have taken the opposite approach to Chess.com. There are specific tournaments that are strictly human to human play, while the vast majority are free to use computer assistance! While this is better than zero tolerance, opposite approaches to zero tolerance are probably also too extreme.....

Often when there are two extreme points of view, there is not a solution that is available (there is no solution to a contradiction), but a natural resolution instead.

The natural resolution to all issues regarding computer assistance is just to enjoy and fully embrace Chess960 and to create two rating categories, an "Advanced Chess960" category for computer use and a standard rating category for human to human play. So long as there is no prize money reward system, such a system would work fine online.

At the same time as doing that, people like ourselves should be describing to intermediate level players how computers can be used as tools to facilitate coaching. There are good ways to use computers and there are bad ways! We inspire others with our human spirit. Computers cannot take that away from us.

The reality is that we live in an era where Chess is mixed up and confused about all these issues. I cannot sympathize too much with the Chess community because Bobby Fischer one of the greatest players of all time who loved chess dearly, gave the world the required resolution to all problems of chess play in the modern era, but it has been more than a decade of inactivity and other great players of the game have been overly resistant to change in my opinion.

That said, I will try to contribute to the LSS community to describe to them just what a beautiful and inspiring resolution Chess960 is for the Chess community. The LSS activities are primarily SP518 based and so I expect to find that the process of change will come slowly there too (but you never know)

The point is that Advanced Chess for SP518 is almost completely futile with so much database knowledge built into the machines. This is what is killing online correspondence chess, not computer assistance itself. Rated Advanced Chess960 is wonderfully relaxing and will continue to be enjoyable for the foreseeable future while computers are so limited in their ability to play Chess960.

We take the issues as they come! Chess960 solves the problem of computer use at least for another five to ten years. This gives us time to examine our philosophy towards artificial intelligence more generally, when it finally does arrive on the Chess960 scene.


Polar_Bear said...


in your article, you missed the "detail" that Yelena Dembo is proven cheater. So your expression about wagging tongues is really improper.

Rated advanced chess (and then rated 960) was not implemented perhaps because there is no serious interest.

But i appreciate you don't try to cheat.

David said...

Hi Mark,
I work at chess.com, including in cheat detection. Just wanted to clarify two things:
1) Players are considered (by staff) innocent until found to be suspicious, then suspicious until proven guilty (some are proven innocent, many remain extremely suspicious).
2) re: member tolerance for cheaters. we have 2.5 million members. some of them are very angry about cheaters, some are indifferent, some are indulgent, some are cheaters themselves. of course it runs the gamut, as does how members feel about those they suspect of cheating. however, it is our policy to police all public accusations (I deleted such a public post just 1 minute ago).

HarryO said...

What I don't get is that there is a simple resolution to all things cheating online! We don't have to accuse anyone of anything! We just have to create two categories and monitor those categories with moderators:

1) Advanced Chess(960)
2) Standard Chess(960)

If a Standard player is privately agreed by moderators to be using external assistance, they are publically referred to the Advanced Chess categories where it doesn't matter how they play.

If an Advanced player is privately agreed by moderators to be blundering excessively, they are publically referred to the Standard Chess where it doesn't matter if they blunder.

It just needs a bit of education about the distinction. However it doesn't need much! Advanced Chess has been around as a concept for over a decade now and advocated by one of the greatest players of all time.

So I struggle to understand the problem, but I accept whatever online chess organisations want to go with.....

Although I totally understand the simple logic that in the on-line world we don't actually need two different rating categories because the computer assisted players will naturally rise to the top creating a rating distinction between human only and computer assisted, in practice it doesn't seem to me to work as simply as that because of public perception and expectations.