08 November 2010

Using Computers to Call into Question

Continuing with Gligoric - Fischer, Bled 1961, I had planned to do one more post related to The Pitfalls of Computer Analysis, but came up short. After the diagram in the 'Pitfalls' post, the game continued 21.Qxd3 Bd4+, leading to the following position.

Bled 1961
Fischer, Robert

Gligoric, Svetozar
After 21...Bg7-d4+

Here Kasparov continues analysis by Boleslavsky and Huebner, demonstrating that 22.Rf2 was stronger than Gligoric's 22.Kg2, to which Kasparov assigned a '?'. After 22.Rf2, the engine shows other variations not mentioned by Kasparov, but they all lead to the same type of game. White gets a Bishop and two Pawns for a Rook, giving him a comfortable edge. There isn't much more to be said for the position except that most players would prefer White and Black would ultimately be satisfied with a draw.

I've mentioned Huebner several times in this series on Fischer & Kasparov, mainly because Kasparov draws frequently on the German's comments. Since I've never investigated the source of Huebner's analysis, a digression is in order. Chessville.com offers World Champion Fischer by GM Robert Huebner, a 'ChessBase Monograph on CD, 2003', reviewed by Prof. Nagesh Havanur.

Although Huebner is prominently mentioned as the author of this CD, his role here is limited to writing a summary of Fischer's style and and work on various positions from My 60 Memorable Games. It is noteworthy that Kasparov has also made use of Huebner's path-breaking analysis in this CD for his authoritative work on Fischer, My Great Predecessors Part IV. However, Huebner's general conclusions on Fischer's play tend to be philosophical abstractions and do not have intrinsic merit.

John Watson Book Review #55, among other titles, also looked at World Champion Fischer; Robert Huebner; ChessBase 2003:

The core of the CD is Robert Huebner's analysis of Fischer's play, which parallels that of Alekhine in his CD that I previously criticised. I'm not fond of this one for the same reason, but since many people thought that I was unfair in that earlier case (probably true), I'll let him speak more for himself:
It is for this reason that I have decided to turn my attention to Fischer's famous game collection, "My Sixty Memorable Games". Most critics deem Fischer's comments to be entirely devoid of errors, and each and every one of his observations is accepted as gospel truth. I was plagued by the desire to find out whether this reputation is indeed justified.

It seems to me as if Fischer does not try to fathom the finer points of quiet positions with the same amount of care and attention that he gives to any number of tactical positions. When analyzing complex positions Fischer occasionally lacks the will to probe deeply, and contents himself with incomplete structural explanations and vague judgments. This deficiency is particularly obvious in some endgames. The selection of games for his book also reveals this trait. To my taste, there are too many games in this collection where no real struggle ensues. The opponents are pushed from the board without offering resistance, often after making serious errors in the opening; there is hardly any interesting material for analysis.
[...] The problem, I think, is that almost anyone, given time and a few computer engines, would be able to call into question almost any game or set of annotations by any player, perhaps not with the positional judgment of a Huebner but adequately enough. I don't see this as particularly interesting to anyone beyond the one doing the analysing (to whom it admittedly must be fascinating) and a small minority of players who don't want to do their own investigations and would rather read such technical criticisms than enjoy the unadulterated games of Fischer or a New in Chess Magazine.

If I substitute the name 'Kasparov' for 'Huebner', then Watson's summary judgement -- 'almost anyone, given time and a few computer engines, would be able to call into question almost any game or set of annotations by any player' -- points in the same direction that I find myself going with these posts on My Great Predecessors. There is an inherently unsatisfying quality about using a computer to critique work that was done without the aid of a computer. To then use this critique to form judgements about a person's psychology can easily be misleading and ultimately sinister.

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