24 September 2009

A Note to Armchair Computer Analysts

Yesterday, in A Grainy Day Photo, I used an image from Purdy's 'Extreme Chess'. Today I'll use a quote from the same source (p.92). I've removed a few references to correspondence chess that do not change Purdy's message.

Chess is played under artificial restrictions, the purpose of the restrictions being to measure the comparative abilities of two players under similar conditions. All the conditions are inimical to the production of accurate chess. Consequently, we should treat error as part and parcel of over-the-board play, however august the players engaged.

We should not be too smugly carping and captious, but should view the game first and foremost as a struggle -- a clash of two minds under conditions which are, as far as practicable, equal for both. If a player produces a flawless game under the handicaps mentioned, he should receive all the greater praise; but we should not regard a game as unworthy of our attention just because it contains several errors by both players. We must remember that some games contain more difficult problems than others. (From 'Ideals of Annotation'; the emphasis is Purdy's)

I thought the sentiment was even more apt in the 21st century, where chess players of all abilities use software to analyze the games of the greatest players of all time. To study the games is good; to criticize 'smugly carping and captious', especially when it is based on the numerical evaluation of an emotionless machine, is not good.

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