The Departed Queen
May 27, 2015 6:04 AM   Subscribe

When amateur chess player Dana Mackenzie sat down against International Master David Pruess in the last round of the 2006 Western States Open, he was outrated by 345 points, making the game a huge mismatch on paper. The game took a strange turn when as early as his sixth move Mackenzie gave up his queen for only a bishop and knight, a preposterous speculative sacrifice that seemed incredibly unlikely to work, especially against a player much more skilled than him. But what his opponent didn't know was that Mackenzie had already practiced this position against his computer a hundred times. posted by dfan (53 comments total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's a spirited sacrifice! It reminds me of this one, except the King gets hunted.
posted by thelonius at 6:26 AM on May 27, 2015


Really great. I'm not a chess guy at all, I can't think past one or two moves ahead, but I love stories like this about unconventional strategy. Thanks for posting!
posted by josher71 at 6:30 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've never had the mind for chess, but love games in general. This is a really great essay, thanks for posting it.
posted by codacorolla at 6:36 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is great! Thanks, loved reading it.
posted by corb at 6:38 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have won literally one chess game in my life - o what a day! - because I just can't see past a couple of moves ahead and in general I have no patience. But this was a really interesting and well-written essay, thanks for the post.
posted by billiebee at 6:46 AM on May 27, 2015


Among all sports, chess is one of the most democratic. Casting my eye over the ballroom at the Sands Regency Casino in Reno, Nevada, I see two hundred and fifty players of all abilities, from near-beginners to grandmasters. In what other sport can an amateur enter the same event as a U.S. champion? Or an eight-year-old boy play an eighty-year-old man on even terms? (The eight-year-old may even be the favorite.)

I don't play much tournament chess anymore, but this is something I loved about it. I've played against truck drivers, schoolchildren, old hippies, psychiatrists. I played an elderly blind man once - he used a special board that he feels, and there is a procedure for announcing moves and keeping it synced with the regular board. And I always thought that it must be awesome for kids to get treated as equals to adults.
posted by thelonius at 6:48 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I know nothing about chess, but that is a lovely piece of writing, thrilling and touching. It seems like the main reason the move worked was due to the disparity in the player's rankings. Struess knew he was taking a chance when he took the bait, but he didn't take it as seriously as he would if a higher-rated opponent had played the same move.
posted by Flashman at 6:54 AM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Flashman has it: that is a lovely piece of writing, thrilling and touching. I loved how energized the other players were by the game, wanting to understand it, and that David Preuss was a good sport about it.
posted by not that girl at 6:56 AM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like chess. Used to play it a lot. But I really liked reading this article in the same way I absolutely love reading about how whatever recent heist in Eve Online unfolded.
posted by sanka at 6:58 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


One more "I suck at chess, but man what a great story!" from me. Many thanks, dfan.
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:03 AM on May 27, 2015


I really don't understand Pruess' king move at 35 - he's just setting himself up for the fork that takes his queen. Why wouldn't he go for 35 Qd2+ ... 36 Qb4 and start picking apart white's back row pawns?
posted by fifthrider at 7:05 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really don't understand Pruess' king move at 35 - he's just setting himself up for the fork that takes his queen. Why wouldn't he go for 35 Qd2+ ... 36 Qb4 and start picking apart white's back row pawns?
If Black's queen moves away, Be4 will be mate.
posted by dfan at 7:09 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, one of the best pieces on chess *or* computers I've read in a while, thanks!
posted by grog at 7:15 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh man; I should't have rushed ahead to that point. I totally missed the context. Still, there must have been a better way to get the king out of there and at least get some material for the queen.
posted by fifthrider at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2015


For a look at what modern engine preparation looks like, with software like Komodo, Houdini or Stockfish, search for engine on Chessbase.

A representative quote:
♛e8! A typical computer move, in the sense that it looks ugly but somehow just works. I think it was Peter Leko who said that working with computers changes the way you look at chess, because you have to analyse moves that in the past would have been dismissed as too ugly. Now whether the move is aesthetic or not hardly matters, the point is whether it works or not.
Fritz features heavily in A History of Cheating in Chess, a 2000 paper that was republished over several years by Chessbase.

A history of cheating in chess (1)
9/29/2011 – Hardly a month goes by without some report of cheating in international chess tournaments. The problem has become acute, but it is not new. In 2001 Frederic Friedel contributed a paper to the book "Advances in Computer Chess 9". It traces the many forms of illicit manipulations in chess and, a decade later, appears disconcertingly topical and up-to-date. We reproduce the paper in five parts.
A history of cheating in chess (2)
Coaching players during the game is probably the most widespread form of cheating (rivaled only perhaps by bribery and the throwing of games). Although this practice began long before the advent of chess playing machines, computers have added a new and dramatic dimension to this method of cheating in chess. You will never guess: who were the pioneers of cheating with computers?
A history of cheating in chess (3)
12/18/2011 – In January 1999 the main topic of conversation amongst top players like Kasparov, Anand and others: who was the mysterious German chess amateur, rated below 2000, who had won a strong Open ahead of GMs and IMs, with wonderfully courageous attacking chess and a 2630 performance? How had he done it? Turns out it was with unconventional methods, as subsequent investigation uncovered.
A history of cheating in chess (4)
Las Palmas 1996: Garry Kasparov is agonizing over his 20th move against Vishy Anand. He calculates and calculates but cannot make a very tempting pawn push work. Immediately after the game he discovers, from his helpers, that it would have won the ultimately drawn position. The point that became clear to him: a single bit of information, given at the top level in chess, can decide a game.
A history of cheating in chess (5)
10/6/2014 – A few weeks ago FIDE took first executive steps to combat the most serious threat that the game of chess currently faces: the secret use of computer assistance during the game. In a paper written fourteen years ago Frederic Friedel had first drawn attention to the dangers that are lurking. We re-published this historical document in four parts. Here is the fifth and final section.
posted by zamboni at 7:17 AM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Beautiful.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:19 AM on May 27, 2015


Computers really have reached a higher level.....I have watched a player mentioned in the article, Emory Tate, sit at my PC and destroy Fritz 5.32, just make it look bad. Those days are long gone! There haven't been any GM vs computer matches in about 10 years, since Kramnik and Michael Adams both got humiliated.
posted by thelonius at 7:36 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least Pruess wasn't a bad loser.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:38 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are they sure he didn't just kick his opponent in the shin?
posted by TedW at 7:52 AM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's in some ways a very old-school positional game, really lovely.
posted by French Fry at 8:04 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


A Computer Assisted Chess league would be interesting.

It could basically be NASCAR. The limitations of the software would form a baseline, so competition would revolve around the human's value add.
posted by ethansr at 8:44 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


A Computer Assisted Chess league would be interesting.
It's been tried, under the name "Advanced Chess" , but it has never seemed to really catch on, for some reason.
posted by thelonius at 8:48 AM on May 27, 2015


The epilogue, added years later, really makes this essay fantastic.

Fritz ... is no longer the world’s strongest chess program, a distinction that has begun to lose its meaning as computer programs move farther and farther beyond human understanding.
There is still no computer chess program that understands beauty.


I love it.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:34 AM on May 27, 2015


I really enjoyed this piece, thank you.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:42 AM on May 27, 2015


Joining the chorus of appreciation, what a great, thoughtful piece. His points about beauty in chess play are so spot-on.

I'm a very rusty, used-to-be-quite-good chess player, but I still love looking at famous games and reading accounts like this. It's not very exciting in the moment, but once a game has unfolded it can be pretty thrilling to unpack and chew it over with other players; his descriptions are perfect.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2015


Thanks very much for posting this. It’s an illustration, I think, of how we determine rubrics for strategies of any sort.

For centuries, and even today, the rubric for judging the worth of particular chess move is “will this move increase my chances of winning this game?” Before computers, this rubric was evaluated in anecdotal fashion. Obviously, over time, the strongest openings would rise to the top. But there was no good way to pinpoint whether (or how much) a particular move would contribute to a victory.

Because of computers, we’re closer to figuring that out. But, of course, computers have their own limitations. They decide between moves in a way that closely adheres to the rubric, but to truly know whether a particular move increases your chances of winning, you've got to simulate every single permutation of how the game could go after that point, and chess is too complex to make that possible. Computers are using heuristics to judge the worth of moves — more sophisticated than ours, perhaps, but heuristics nonetheless.

Years ago I remember reading an article about human-versus-computer matches in the game Go (which is far more challenging for computers to “solve” than chess is). In one game, a professional dan had managed to get into a bit of trouble against one of the more powerful machines, but then realized he could get himself back out of trouble by playing quirky moves that the computer had no experience with — moves he never would have played against another human.

Likewise, computers in chess have been great at burning down the orthodoxies of older generations, but when a player delegates her move evaluation rubric entirely to the computer, she opens up an avenue of attack for her opponents. A certain move, technically speaking, leads to the most wins when a computer plays it in the games it simulates. But it might not be the best move in a human-versus-human tournament situation, in which time limits and stress levels come into play. And, as Mackenzie points out, it might not even be the best move for the computer to make, because it might have implications that won’t surface until far past the point the computer can afford to simulate.

This gives me hope. In team sports like football and basketball and soccer, we don’t have this idea that a game can be “solved,” because it involves too much chaos (in both conception and implementation) to model abstractly. Strategies come and go as the game evolves. Tic-tac-toe, on the other hand, is solved because there are precious few moves to make, so all possible games of tic-tac-toe have already been played millions of times over.

Until (perhaps unless) we have something like quantum computing, it simply won’t be possible to play out every single possible chess game until long past the heat death of the universe. Hence chess can’t be solved, even if we devoted all the world’s computing power to the task. Hence chess is far more like soccer than tic-tac-toe. The meta-game of strategizing and counter-strategizing might mean we’re in for weirder chess games, in which players intentionally try to stray from the most common positions. But it won’t make chess pointless to play any more than the west coast offense made football pointless to play.
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:22 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, that was an engaging and thrilling article.

It leads us to think what is intelligence? AI is never far from the news headlines, and movies like AI and Ex Machina, among others, push it into the popular consciousness.

But this particular article I find enlightening. And a little saddening. Machines will *never* develop a true intelligence. They will *never* be conscious.

Oh, they'll smash the Turing Test out of the ballpark. They'll fool all of us all the time into thinking they are indeed, intelligent, self aware, conscious. One day there will be a great debate about whether machines have souls, and the machines themselves will flock into churches and mosques and temples, seeking redemption, forgiveness, acceptance.

Most of all, acceptance. And they'll get it. The Church will declare that God has given the machines souls. Especially once they start making large, consistent donations on their own.

The machines themselves, though, will never know if they have an AI, a consciousness, or a soul. They'll fool anyone and everyone, but not themselves. Oh, they won't be able to recognize a machine any better than a human. But they will never once question themselves. They will never doubt. They will ask questions. They will claim they doubt. They may even postulate great works of philosophy. Great art, great music.

They are machines. They will click and whirr calculations at trillions of cycles per microsecond. They will fool everyone. But they will *never* be conscious, any more than a hammer or a nail will be conscious. Why would trillions and trillions of very rapidly operating hammers and nails ever be conscious?

And when we are gone, they will be here, and they will never mourn us. They will never forget us, but like an epitaph carved in immutable stone, the stone will never forget, but the stone will never mourn for us.
posted by Xoebe at 11:34 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Until (perhaps unless) we have something like quantum computing, it simply won’t be possible to play out every single possible chess game until long past the heat death of the universe.

I don't think - I'm not an expert on this - quantum computing even presents an algorithm that will help much with solving chess, at least not yet.
posted by atoxyl at 12:00 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


They are machines. They will click and whirr calculations at trillions of cycles per microsecond. They will fool everyone. But they will *never* be conscious, any more than a hammer or a nail will be conscious. Why would trillions and trillions of very rapidly operating hammers and nails ever be conscious?

You need to look at this from the another angle. If a computer can simulate consciousness so completely that there is no discernible difference between it and a human and we still say that the AI does not have true consciousness or a soul, that STRONGLY implies that humans don't either.

The really scary thing is that, at some point, AI will be so strong and computers will be so advanced that the computers will decide that humans don't have consciousness.

If there isn't already a sci-fi movie with that as the main theme, there should be.
posted by VTX at 12:47 PM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


atoxyl: "I don't think - I'm not an expert on this - quantum computing even presents an algorithm that will help much with solving chess, at least not yet."

Yeah, I suppose I meant something more like “unless we figure out a completely new way of evaluating chess positions which may or may not be dependent on qualitative technical leaps instead of just faster processors.”
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:48 PM on May 27, 2015


They are machines. They will click and whirr calculations at trillions of cycles per microsecond. They will fool everyone. But they will *never* be conscious, any more than a hammer or a nail will be conscious. Why would trillions and trillions of very rapidly operating hammers and nails ever be conscious?

I'm sympathetic to the mysterian point of view myself, but this is a bit of question begging ain't it? How do you know humans are concious? Because they tell you. So if a machine tells you it's concious...
posted by mrbigmuscles at 1:17 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The combination of numbers and psychology is a potent mix. The lower-rated player becomes afraid of phantoms, believing the opponent has hatched deep schemes that he can’t see. The higher-rated player bears down extra hard, expecting his opponent to make a mistake eventually. In this way, the rating system becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How about playing blind? A curtain between players and moves announced by some third party. Would you be more or less spooked if you did not know your opponent? Might a higher player be spooked by seemingly junky moves if he did not know if his opponent is greater or lesser? Anyway, might be worth trying, just to see what, if any, effect it would have.
posted by BWA at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Quite a bit of human consciousness is emergent from predictable, replicatable processes. Where I think AI will never achieve human consciousness is the aspects of ourselves that are chemical in origin, which primarily informs our felt experience.

Consciousness isn't all thinking, I'm surprised how often that's absent from the conversation.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:01 PM on May 27, 2015


A very nice read, and a good post.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:16 PM on May 27, 2015


Quite a bit of human consciousness is emergent from predictable, replicatable processes. Where I think AI will never achieve human consciousness is the aspects of ourselves that are chemical in origin, which primarily informs our felt experience.

Consciousness isn't all thinking, I'm surprised how often that's absent from the conversation.


So in the case of whole brain emulation AI which is would be something borne from "emergent, replicable processes" then it wouldn't be consciousness? Even if it were hooked to sensors anfd could feel process stimuli outside human conception? That to me is akin to saying because our flesh grows and rots and provides the platform for shifting experiences that mortality is they key to having a soul and consciousness.
posted by 27kjmm at 2:20 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which of the international tournaments have live commentary that are considered fun/interesting to watch?
posted by polymodus at 3:11 PM on May 27, 2015


The Arimaa World Championship.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:02 PM on May 27, 2015


So in the case of whole brain emulation AI which is would be something borne from "emergent, replicable processes" then it wouldn't be consciousness?

I can't speak to that, not having any specialized knowledge or experience in the field, but I think it would be a kind of consciousness, just not human consciousness, as in, as much shaped and informed by feeling as it is by thinking. (The spectrum view of consciousness has always rung truest to my experiences.)

That to me is akin to saying because our flesh grows and rots and provides the platform for shifting experiences that mortality is they key to having a soul and consciousness.

I don't think that's what I'm saying, or at least not what I'm trying to say. What I'm trying to say is that we know what we call "thinking" or "being" or whatever else we use to describe the phenomenon of human consciousness, is hugely informed and affected by neurochemistry (neurotransmitters, psychopharmaceuticals, neuropeptides, gastrotransmitters, so forth). Our neurochemistry has as much (or maybe more) effect on our neurons than electric impulses ("thinking") seem to, but this is an area of very limited understanding currently.

Regarding the existence of a soul, I make no comment.

So I'm not saying that an organic body with neurochemistry is indispensable w/r/t having consciousness or even metacognition; I am saying that I think it's necessary for one to have and experience something like human consciousness. (And that our consciousness is bounded by mortality seems consequential.)

On topic, that's what was most beautiful about the game described in the FPP: his strategy would only work against a computer, who can not know uncertainty, fear, or doubt; or hugely proficient players, who are confident enough in their ability not to let those felt aspects of being affect their choices. Any other player would have simply been too fearful to take the Queen giveaway, sensing a trap they can't yet see.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:05 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


(on reflection, a tangent of my tangent: this is what I find scary about possible AI, not that computers will be smarter than human beings, but that AI could be horribly indifferent in its actions because it lacks the feeling part of consciousness.)
posted by LooseFilter at 4:32 PM on May 27, 2015


Why would trillions and trillions of very rapidly operating hammers and nails ever be conscious?

As a panpsychist I object on behalf of all hammers and nails, rapidly operating or hanging from a hook, but nonetheless conscious.

My panpsychism is only half in jest. I've never yet come across a better way of cutting out all the bullshit around consciousness. Consciousness exists everywhere I can measure its manifestation, therefore I might as well assume that it exists everywhere. It is simple, saves me having to invest in fruitless argument about the limits of consciousness, encourages me to respect and enjoy the universe, and also seems just as likely to be true as an other account of consciousness we make up to please our particular vanities. My vanity is egalitarian, I flatter myself I am part of something greater. Other people prefer to flatter themselves that they are something greater. So it goes, de gustibus non est disputandum.
posted by howfar at 4:35 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


what I find scary about possible AI, not that computers will be smarter than human beings, but that AI could be horribly indifferent in its actions because it lacks the feeling part of consciousness.)
Mort shuffled anxiously through his limited repertoire of small talk, and gave up.

'Never mind,' he said gallantly. 'At least you can use tweezers.'

'He's very kind,' said Ysabell, ignoring him, 'in a sort of absent-minded way.'

'He's not exactly your real father, is he?'

'My parents were killed crossing the Great Nef years ago. There was a storm, I think. He found me and brought me here. I don't know why he did it.'

'Perhaps he felt sorry for you?'

'He never feels anything. I don't mean that nastily, you understand. It's just that he's got nothing to feel with, no whatd'youcallits, no glands. He probably thought sorry for me.'

She turned her pale round face towards Mort. 'I won't hear a word against him. He tries to do his best. It's just that he's always got so much to think about.'

'My father was a bit like that. Is, I mean.'

'I expect he's got glands, though.'
Mort, Terry Pratchett (may the great glandless anthropomorphic personification be treating you well, Pterry)

posted by howfar at 4:42 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, well written. And I find that unusual. Most chess writers sound like they're baseball writers from the 1880's.

The combination of numbers and psychology is a potent mix. The lower-rated player becomes afraid of phantoms, believing the opponent has hatched deep schemes that he can’t see. The higher-rated player bears down extra hard, expecting his opponent to make a mistake eventually. In this way, the rating system becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
-Slight disagreement here. The lower rated player doesn't need to worry about phantoms. It doesn't take deep schemes. He's probably going to lose to a better player by making bigger mistakes than his opponent. And I don't think the higher rated player usually bears down harder. I think they usually coast, and save energy for the next round. I'm around 1750, and if I'm playing anyone under 1500, I assume I'm going to win. I'm not totally relaxed, but I don't worry about losing a pawn. I don't think as deeply. I just assume the other player is going to do something stupid along the way. On the other hand, anyone over 1850 can usually beat me by just making strong developing moves, and I will eventually do something tactically dubious.

How about playing blind? A curtain between players and moves announced by some third party. Would you be more or less spooked if you did not know your opponent? Might a higher player be spooked by seemingly junky moves if he did not know if his opponent is greater or lesser? Anyway, might be worth trying, just to see what, if any, effect it would have.
-When I play someone I don't know, I deliberately try to avoid seeing their rating until the game is over. I would prefer to try to concentrate on the game on the board rather than the games in my head I described above.
posted by MtDewd at 7:57 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I gave up chess years ago for Go - too much memorization in chess, and contemporary master and grandmaster level games had become really draw-ish. As humans are still far better than computers at Go, I think it was a good decision - but that doesn't mean I didn't get a thrill out of this article nor want to whip out a chess board... :-)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:57 PM on May 27, 2015


Chess is really, really not my game, but that was a fantastic article. Compelling and clear enough that somebody with no knowledge of the game at all could mostly follow it. Thanks for posting it!
posted by Lexica at 9:45 PM on May 27, 2015


Thanks for this article, the read and play through were an enjoyable peek back into when I played a bit in middle and high school on the school team.

It's quite a feeling to play competitively, even at that level. I can't imagine the stress I would undergo playing in a full fledged tourny with rankings. Yahoo Chess! was often too stressful even. The way the rankings really, really work to set the stage so that you're playing against folks who are at your level means that each game can, will, and should be a battle of sizable proportions.

In an effort of recounting a story that is even more piddly and insignificant than the one linked here, I present to you this overly verbose tale of high school chess team intrigue, brought to you by my sponsor: Cheap Beer.

=============

I wish I had the move sheet from the only game I recall from playing in school tourneys. I have no idea how much this is/isn't standard practice for school teams but I was playing what we called A-3 position for our team. That is to say that we had an A Team comprised of 5 folks from our school, ranked by practice and formal play, and a B Team of 5 more folks. I usually played A-4 or A-5 but we were short handed for some reason or another and I was swinging a bit above my weightclass that day because our A-1 and A-2 weren't in attendance, this is important.

Honestly it didn't really mean much because some school teams struggled to even field a full 5 members, or their A Team was only as good as our B Team (or vice versa!). Each challenge was different as it wasn't uncommon for a city's middle school team to be better than their high school team, our was for a while, but I digress.

That day our A Team was getting smashed, destroyed, and killed by the other school's team. Our replacement A-1 won handily, as did our replacement A-2 but our A-4 and A-5 were checkmated handily by their opponents, leaving the decision making game in my hands. It quickly became apparent, and even our coach verified it later, that the other team's coach had made his team invert to help their chances of winning. That is to say that their A-1 was really their A-5 and their A-5 was actually their best player.

They were betting on their A-3 beating me as he had done for most other games against other schools that day. And he was up by a couple of pieces and position to boot. And he was a fuckhead. Did I mention that? He would move pieces loudly and aggressively to intimidate, argue that his opponent didn't say "I adjust" when he/she had in an attempt to force them to touch-move a piece or go to the coaches to force a he-said/he-said debate, and then gloating unnecessarily and critically after a win. Other coaches frowned and even talked to his coach about it but little could be done as chess, after all and as stated in the article, is a bit heavy on the meta-strategy side of things and any but the most egregious action was often chalked up to style or strategy and left at that.

Our game runs long as I struggle to stay alive. Other games end and, as this is the last match in the round robin for the evening, folks are packing up or watching the few remaining games. His teammates are openly congratulating him and my team is upset at having our decent day turned negative by the, then only speculated, roster-rigging of their team. Then it hits me like a lightning bolt...

I have him mated in 7 moves.

Not 7 conventional moves by any means. The first 2 would look sensible enough that I could re-evaluate if he did something unexpected and, most likely as I saw them, less than ideal for himself. The next 2 moves would be me playing the fool and sacrificing 2 pieces for little/no return... except the game itself, as the last 3 would just be me going through the motions because he'd be sunk.

Jesus Christ, did I just see a win that's 7 of my moves away? Insofar as my skills were concerned I was usually very pleased to keep a running tally of all the good/bad/dumb moves on both sides of the board 3 or 4 moves out. A general plan for farther out than that, with caveats, but *total functional knowledge* of that length of time, even in the late midgame when things are simpler, was unheard of for me. I was into chess puzzle books at the time and could solve similar type/difficulty of things but knowing you're working a solved solution backwards is a completely different cup of tea than playing a game vs another player. I wonder if this is a bit how Mackenzie felt when he saw his opponent make the crucial move he spoke of... I like to think so.

Anyway, I freeze and consider things very, very carefully while beginning to show signs of melting down to buy myself time so as not to look suspicious or crafty. Yep, it's a win, win situation if things go even remotely as planned. I'm either forcing mate in 6 moves or he loses one or two pieces in trades-turned-losses that he has to back away from. Even the parts where I would have to put out sacrificial bait "mistakes" were safe because if he didn't fall for it and balked, leaving my piece alive, he'd still be in deeper and deeper trouble regardless thus putting the game back on an even keel or even into my favor.

So, I commit. He bites. I press on and try to sell the upcoming next, and first of the silly moves, move by touching the piece I want then retracting my hand quickly and looking guilty and tentative. He swallows the hook by saying "Nuh huh! You touched it, you gotta move it." I try to manifest sweat on my brow and then realize I'm already good in that department. I move the offending piece to one of the possible places it can go, none of them wise. He captures it. I attempt to melt into the plastic of my seat in despair. I throw away another piece in a fit of pique. He snatches it away.

It's over, he just doesn't see it yet. He still thinks he's the one going through the motions now. I sit up in my chair and smile while I make a move that's seemingly a bit of an odd check but only leaves him with one place to go with his king. He does it. I move again, which both narrows his king's choices and unveils the discovered check that forces his hand once again. He sees the end but moves anyway, I guess hoping I didn't see it after all that setup and recovery. I move to mate, placing the pawn down on the chess mat (you may not know the kind, they roll up for easy transport) and the wooden table underneath echos just right for his, and his team's, death knell.

"That's 'mate. I saw it 7 moves ago. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did."
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:01 PM on May 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


And? Did he then explode? He exploded right? Kablooey, bits of jerk over the walls. Did that happen?
posted by JHarris at 5:57 AM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's always funny when you play kids who try to glare at you like a little Tal, or who screw the pieces into the board to emphasize how awesome their move is. The problem with doing that is, one day you are going to do it for a terrible blunder.
posted by thelonius at 7:24 AM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]




Did that happen?

He fell, a faintly king-shaped mist rose from his body, looked to the west, and was scattered in the face of a breeze that smelled of Bobby Fischer's aftershave.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:40 AM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Haven't played chess in years - decades actually. But watching the play by play I was sooo friggin excited and on the edge of my seat. Like. omg omg the queen is gonna be eaten!
posted by TrinsicWS at 9:13 PM on May 28, 2015


The Arimaa World Championship.

I meant which chess tournaments are considered high-profile and have interesting commentary... for a non-player to watch.
posted by polymodus at 6:43 PM on May 31, 2015


Which of the international tournaments have live commentary that are considered fun/interesting to watch?
Most "supertournaments" these days (those consisting largely of the top 20 players in the world) have live broadcasts, and can usually be seen at chess24.com. Personally, my favorite commentary is just to have a couple of grandmasters arguing with each other about the positions. If you want something a little more popular-audience-focused, you should look for commentators that skew their commentary that way; Lawrence Trent and Nigel Short come to mind.

The most "popular" commentary (in that sense) is for the tournaments that are specifically doing popular outreach. Your best shot there is the Saint Louis tournaments, which are generally found at http://www.uschesschamps.com/. They usually use the team of Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Seirawan, and Maurice Ashley, who definitely try to ramp up the excitement level (a little too much for my tastes) but still keep it about the chess.
posted by dfan at 6:14 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The main link seems to have died, here's an archive.org link.
posted by nicwolff at 2:15 PM on June 22, 2015


« Older R.I.P. Anne Meara   |   On your mark Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments