Shelby Lyman on Chess: The Computer Age in Chess
Sunday, January 18, 2015
(Published in print: Sunday, January 18, 2015)
The time is long gone when a combination of human sweat, effort and smarts was the final word in chess.
Today, by and large, it is an easily accessible and relatively inexpensive computer that is arbiter of the right move.
Years of home analysis of a single variation or position can be blasted in a few minutes, or even seconds, of a computer scan.
Nevertheless, human intuition is sometimes superior to computers in judging certain positions that do not easily lend themselves to mere calculation.
But this occasional superiority is of little comfort in playing against the digital monsters that make better plays, move after move, against their human counterparts.
Computers also allow us to parse hundreds, if not thousands, of games on a scale not imaginable to grandmasters of old, whose efforts were imprisoned in the sluggish manifold of a wooden or plastic board and pieces.
The new technology has altered the nature of human chess thinking.
A downside is that reliance on computer analysis can stifle creativity, central to which is the ability to probe and think for oneself.
But compensating for this negative tendency is the knowledge and insight gained by looking at hundreds of times more games played by top human players, and the insights and understanding such practice provides.