by National Life Master Loal Davis
The recent match between AlphaZero and Stockfish has received a lot of press; much of it (personal opinion) blind idol worship. Admittedly there were some notable positions/games, but the first game I saw (below) caused me to sit back and look closely. I recommend others do the same; I did not like what I saw.
AlphaZero – Stockfish Match
White “AlphaZero (Computer)”
Black “Stockfish (Computer)”
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 e6 3. c4 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O
Both computers have chosen to enter the Queen’s Indian Defense.
An interesting Pawn sacrifice. AlphaZero may be “winging it”, but this idea was played by Reuben
Fine against S. Landau in Ostend 1937. It has been played in various guises and analyzed extensively since then so I would assume it was in Stockfish’s “book”.
exd5 8. Nh4 c6 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Nf5 Nc7 11. e4 d5
“Normal” is 12. Nc3 or 12. Re1. 12. Qg4 Is not considered too good as Bf6 renders White’s Queen “not doing a whole lot” and Black is still a Pawn up.
12… Nxd5 13. Nc3 Nxc3
13… Re8 keeps the development moving forward and takes care of the tactical threat to d5 supported by a Knight fork.
14. Qg4 g6
14… Bf6 15. bxc3 (15. Bh6 Ne2+ 16. Kh1 Bc8) 15… Bc8 and it’s not very clear what White is doing.
15. Nh6+ Kg7
15… Kh8 avoids more checks, but Black may choose that a little later.
16. bxc3 Bc8
17. Qf4 Qd6
With 17… f5 played here or on the previous move – the Knight on h6 does not look very healthy.
18. Qa4 g5
Black has got to be winning here.
19. Re1 ?
Ridiculous – but with 19. Ng4 f5 20. Rd1 b5 21. Qb3 Qc7 Black is well on top.
19… Kxh6 20. h4 f6 21. Be3 Bf5 22. Rad1 Qa3 23. Qc4 b5 24. hxg5+ fxg5 25. Qh4+ Kg6 26. Qh1 Kg7 ?
Why? 26… h5 has got to be better. 27. Bc1 Qc5 28. Be3 Qxc3 and the perpetual attack (coming up) does not exist.
27. Be4 ?
With 27. Bc1 Qc5 28. Be3 Qa3 (28… Qxc3 29. Bd4+) 29. Bc1 White has a perpetual attack and a draw.
27… Bg6 ?
Bad defense. With 27… Bxe4 28. Bd4+ Bf6 29. Qxe4 h6 just how is White supposed to break through?
28. Bxg6 hxg6 29. Qh3 ?
Back to losing. Once again White has a perpetual with 29. Bc1
29… Bf6 30. Kg2 Qxa2 31. Rh1 Qg8 32. c4 Re8 33. Bd4 Bxd4 34. Rxd4 Rd8 ??
Horrible. Black is trading off defending pieces leaving “dead wood” on the Queenside. 34… Re5 or even 34… Kf7 both give Black a huge plus.
35. Rxd8 Qxd8 36. Qe6
Now White is better. An amazing defensive gaff at the “hands” of Stockfish. Actually, this entire game is an amazing display of fumbles by both computers.
(36… Qd7 37. Qe5+) (36… Qf6 37. Rh7+) (36… Qc7 37. Qe3)
37. Rd1 Nc5
The rest of this is of little interest.
38. Rxd8 Nxe6 39. Rxa8 Kf6 40. cxb5 cxb5 41. Kf3 Nd4+ 42. Ke4 Nc6 43. Rc8 Ne7 44.
Rb8 Nf5 45. g4 Nh6 46. f3 Nf7 47. Ra8 Nd6+ 48. Kd5 Nc4 49. Rxa7 Ne3+ 50. Ke4
Nc4 51. Ra6+ Kg7 52. Rc6 Kf7 53. Rc5 Ke6 54. Rxg5 Kf6 55. Rc5 g5 56. Kd4 1-0
Saviely Tartakower fancied himself a homespun philosopher and his sayings are often referred to as “Tartakowerisms”. Perhaps you’ve heard of a few.
* The blunders are all there, waiting to be made.
* Sacrifices only prove that somebody has blundered.
* It is always better to sacrifice your opponent’s men.
* Moral victories do not count.
* A threat is more powerful than its execution.
* An isolated Pawn spreads gloom all over the chessboard.
* Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do;
strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.
And my favorite –
* The winner of a game is the one who
has made the next-to-last blunder.
I find this last quote apropos to the “game of the future” above.