Often in my glorious past of heavy partying I would meet confident girls (I love those!) in bars or discotheques and after a few drinks the topic of chess would inevitably come up. Frequently I would get a “I will beat you easily,” or “We should play a game, I’m very good, I beat my sister once when we were 10” to which I would laugh and engage in teasing and further flirting.
Pleasant memories as they may be, these conversations made me think. People who do not have a precise idea what playing professional chess constitues think the game is easy to play and anybody can beat anybody. They are right on the former, playing the game is easy, playing it well is hard and difficult to achieve. They do not grasp the vastness of the gap that exists between professionals and amateurs or novices and the only way for them to understand it is to try and play a professional (in my case a few girls tried, but what followed next is for another type of blog).
Goldchess conducted a very interesting experiment that tried to show the difference between the professionals and the amateurs. To make it even more contrasting, they decided to take the games from the World Championship match between Anand and Gelfand from 2012 and give it to their readers to play out against their computer (rated around 1800). So what we got is the highest level of chess pitted against the level of the regular guy. Here are several examples of what happened:
What we saw here is that the computer really didn’t understand what was important in the position, while the human first improved on Gelfand’s play (impressive!) and then went to win, but not without a hiccup on move 33.
The match was very rich from a theoretical perspective. Several openings were tested, the Slav, the Grunfeld, the Nimzo and the Rossolimo Sicilian. Here’re a few examples from the Slav:
These games show that on the lower levels it is possible to win any kind of position, whether that be a completely symmetrical and equal or a dead-drawn endgame. The better player has a great chance of winning even there.
Amateurs (and not only they, I know a lot of GMs who do that constantly!) love to play for tricks. This is not a bad thing per se, bear in mind that once the great Victor Korchnoi accused Anand of playing “only for tricks!” Take a look at the following example which worked fabulously:
The Grunfeld was Gelfand’s main weapon against 1 d4 and it came as a surprise to Anand. It appeared on the board in the very first game of the match and Anand went for a sideline but it didn’t pose black any problems. Did our players manage to pose problems? Let’s have a look:
We can conclude that play is definitely more exciting when there are more errors. And this goes for every level, even the play of the strong GMs is more exciting and less good than the play of the world championship contenders. Goldchess brought the games of the best players to their readers and let them have fun with them. From what we saw, the plan worked perfectly.