Computers have been dominating chess for some time but now they’re venturing into new and controversial territory: aesthetics.
Malaysian academic Professor Azlan Iqbal has created a program, Chesthetica, that creates original chess problems from scratch. That’s not so surprising, but Chesthetica aims to create puzzles that are not only challenging and technically correct but “beautiful” as well. And not everybody agrees with the results.
Marjan Kovacevic, a chess journalist and chess problem grandmaster (yes, there are such things), launched a blistering attack online: “Have you ever got an objective evaluation of these ‘creations’?” he growled, refering to Chesthetica’s output. “They have very little in common with the theory of problem chess, with its standards of beauty and quality. In reality, they are 170 years behind the real development of chess composition, not to talk about recent computer findings.”
It’s hard to adjudicate such disputes. But even if Chesthetica’s current efforts aren’t exactly oil paintings, history suggests that with computers, it’s only a matter of time. Stay tuned.
In other news, the 2015 FIDE World Chess Cup is under way in Baku, Azerbaijan. It’s a huge 128-player knockout event featuring some of the best players in the world, along with qualifiers from every continent. At stake is a $US120,000 first prize, and even the losers are generously compensated from a $US1.6 million prize fund. The winner and runner-up qualify for next year’s Candidates Tournament, which will determine the challenger for the world championship. The contestants play two games against each other, one with white and one with black. Ties are settled by play-offs at fast time limits. Organisers have gone to extra ordinary lengths to avoid cheating with electronic devices: even watches and pens will not be allowed in the playing hall. Instead, players will have to use the official pens to fill in their scoresheets.
After just one round there have already been some big surprises. Chinese star Ni Hua (rated 2700) was eliminated by Argentina’s Sandro Mareco, and two American hopes are also out: prodigy Ray Robson and former World Cup winner and world championship contender Gata Kamsky. In the round 1 tie-breaks, 18-year old Chilean prodigy Cristobal Henriquez Villagra beat former World Cup winner Boris Gelfand, and another previous World Cup winner, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, lost to Kovalyov. Australia’s entrant, International Master Max Illingworth, was eliminated 1.5–0.5 in round 1 by Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna, who is much higher rated.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.O-O Nf6 5.Re1 a6 6.
Bd3 b5 7.c4 g5!? (This looks strange, but black ends up trading a side pawn for a more central pawn, which is often good, and gets play down the g-file) 8.Nxg5 Ne5 9.Be2
bxc4 10.Na3 Rg8 11.Nxc4?! (Seeking to punish black’s weird moves, the world champion tries a piece sacrifice) Nxc4 12.d4!? Nb6 13.Bh5 Nxh5 14.Qxh5 Rg7 15.Nxh7 (White has some compensation for the piece) Qd7! 16.
dxc5 (If 16.Nxf8 Qh3! forces the queens offff and leads to a
draw) dxc5 17.e5 Qc6 18.f3 Qg6! 19.Nf6+ (See diagram) Kd8! 20.Qxg6 Rxg6 21.Ne4 Bb7 22.h4 Rc8 23.h5 Rg8 24.Bd2 Nc4 25.Bc3 Bh6 26.Rad1+ Ke8 27.Rd3 Bf4 28. Nf2 Bc6 29.Nh3 Bg3 30.Re2 Bb5 31.Rd1 Bc6 32.Nf2 Bxe5! 33.Ng4 (If 33.Bxe5 Bxf3) Bxc3 34.bxc3 Kf8 35.Kf2 Rh8 36.Ne5 Nxe5 37.Rxe5 Be8 38.g4 f6 39.Re6 Bb5 40.Rde1 Rc7 0-1