Ben Bentrup Print E-mail
By Joel Benjamin   
June 4, 2007
If the Human Champ were to play the Silicon Champ in a Fischer-Random match (i.e., no opening books + any other factors I may be missing), would the standard human sob story still be the final result?

Ben Bentrup
Middletown, Rhode Island

I'm afraid Fischer Random would be more of a blowout than standard chess!

People often mistakenly believe computers have an advantage in the opening. Even though programs have more games at their fingertips, they are not so good at evaluating the data. Most opening variations don't produce positions with obvious assessments. Historical practice is often a better guide to the truth than number crunching.

Humans spend most of their time studying openings and are quite good at that phase. We may not have total recall of all moves, but we have a lot of experience and contextual knowledge computers lack. In practice, grandmasters now feel they need to get a superior position out of the opening in order to compete with the silicon monsters.

Chessplayers not only rely on theoretical knowledge but on understanding of typical middlegame and endgame structures that result from the opening. Pattern recognition is the great human weapon. We can judge a position by its similarity to a position or type of position we already know. Chess programmers have not yet mastered this skill. So creating "random" positions only makes it more difficult for humans to play.

Computers, on the other hand, are content to play random positions. They don't use experience, but apply a purely mathematical process to every position they encounter. They analyze three to four move deep tactical skirmishes much better than we do. So Fischer Random chess actually eliminates human advantages and accentuates computer strengths!

Joel Benjamin