Computer-era chess players: Supercomputers sans emotions | other sports | Hindustan Times
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Computer-era chess players: Supercomputers sans emotions

With computer-generated power to analyse games faster and more extensively than ordinary human beings, computer-era players, it is considered, make less mistakes and are, therefore, difficult to beat as was evident in the Magnus Carlsen-Sergey Karjakin clash.

other sports Updated: Dec 01, 2016 23:42 IST
B Shrikant
Computer has become an integral part of the training process for the chess players these days.
Computer has become an integral part of the training process for the chess players these days.(AFP)

Was it a match between two supercomputers? The way Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin played their World Chess Championship matches in New York is a pointer that the ‘computer era’ chess is well and truly upon us.

Though Norway’s Carlsen disputes the role of computers in his formative years, both he and Karjakin — like most top players these days — use the computer extensively to prepare and analyse their games. They may not have started learning chess on computers but the machines did play an important role in their development.

Their nail-biting encounter thrilled fans at times and left some of them infuriated at the sheer number of draws — both had one win each in 12 regulation games. Both were well prepared and stuck to their plans.

With computer-generated power to analyse games faster and more extensively than ordinary human beings, computer-era players, it is considered, make less mistakes and are, therefore, difficult to beat as was evident in the Carlsen-Karjakin clash.

This raises the question as to how greats of yesteryears such as Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand would have fared in the computer era.

Though Kasparov and Anand were among the first set of players to use computers in their preparations, the machines were not as well developed. They still had to depend on books and humans (teachers, trainers, practice partners) during their formative years.

The way Carlsen and Karjakin play today, it is clear that the likes of Fischer and Karpov, with the help of computers, would have developed faster than they actually did. Fischer became a Grandmaster at 15 — the youngest — and his record stayed for more than two decades. Not to forget Kasparov who became the world champion at 22. The current records are held by Karjakin (12 years, 7 months) and Carlsen (21 years), respectively.

But would the likes of Fischer and Kasparov have produced dramatic, thrilling and entertaining chess had they been born in the ‘computer era’? That is doubtful, for their opponents too would have been products of the era.

Kasparov raised this point a few years back. While discussing a match against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, he wrote that a clash between players weaned on computers would be decided on the one factor that computers lack — emotions.

The Carlsen and Karjakin match showed that players of the ‘computer era’ too make mistakes — actually, similar at times — pointing to the influence of the machines in their preparations.

So, a clash between Anand and Fischer in the ‘computer era’ could most probably be a long-winding, dull affair, unless, of course, human emotions take over and change the course of the game!