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Gene Milener Print E-mail
By Joel Benjamin   
November 21, 2006
Dear Joel,

Many chess game annotations are enhanced with information taken from computer software analysis. We know this because some annotators explicitly mention Fritz or Shredder or Rybka.

I believe other annotators make no mention that they used software analysis to enhance their published annotations.

Should we consider it somewhat unethical for a person to use the output of a chess analysis program to guide or enhance the annotations he publishes, without him mentioning that software was used?

Should the person be expected say that software was used, and should he be expected to name the specific program that was used (such as Fritz9 or Arena 2.0)?

I am unsure of my exact position on this question. At the moment I think annotators should mention the exact software they used. This mention can be once at the beginning, and does not have to attribute which parts of the overall annotation came from software.

Mentioning the specific software is a courtesy to the reader, not an obligation to the software company.

What do you think Joel?

Thank you.

Gene Milener
[email protected]

Nowadays, almost all annotators use a computer program to assist their published analysis. There really isn't any choice in the matter, as if they don't use a program to check their calculations, the readers will find mistakes and happily point them out.

I think that annotators attribute lines to software if the variations are particularly long and complex or not likely to be found by human eyes. Sometimes writers will point out a computer line that contrasts their own analysis or perception of the position.

I think that annotators should be given some latitude for variations that are well within their capability to find without computer assistance. If the annotator starts out by stating what program he used, he dilutes his own importance in the process. So if the computer doesn't find anything earth shattering, he probably won't give silicon attribution. I don't think this is in any way unethical. We don't expect a writer to tell us what spellchecker he used, whether he had the right spelling in the first place or not.

If a computer provides a particularly compelling piece of analysis within the work, then it is appropriate to give the credit. I would not go so far as to say omitting the citation would be unethical, because we know nobody does complicated analysis without using a computer.

In this case, the annotator might as well mention the specific program, though it doesn't matter to me if he writes "my computer."

Joel Benjamin