23 February 2010

Operators and Things (*)

My most recent chess960 post, A Few Novel Ideas, got me thinking about a subject that is not limited to chess960: What factors make one player more successful at correspondence chess than another player. I came up with the following list.

  • Chess Knowledge
  • Engine Use
  • Work Capacity

I could have also mentioned Talent, but some people would say that it plays no role whatsoever, so I left it out. Next I came up with four categories of player and assigned each category a value for each success factor, according to the following table.

For example, a titled player has a higher capacity for work than a Master/Expert, while a Master/Expert has greater Chess Knowledge than a player in the next tier, an Average Player. My assignments are all subjective, and someone else might quibble with them, but they work for me.

Finally, I added another category called Engine Operator. These are players who simply transmit the best move calculated by a chess engine after letting it run for some time. I've encountered a few of these players in my own games and am certain that they exist. Where do these players fit in the hierarchy?

I believe that operators currently fall in the band between Master/Expert and Average Player, overlapping both. This means that it is possible to defeat them with good chess knowledge and some concentrated work on that specific game. Some positions are more amenable to knowledge and work than are other positions, but that isn't relevant here.

As stronger chess engines become commercially available, the playing strength of operators is constantly on the rise. Will they eventually occupy the highest tier? This would mean that chess knowledge and work capacity will ultimately count for little to nothing.


(*) Operators and Things: The Inner Life of a Schizophrenic by Barbara O'Brien.

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