31 May 2012

Gelfand: 'Computers have not changed the nature of chess'

A question from the final press conference of the Anand - Gelfand title match:-

You started your chess at the end of the 1980s, a time in the USSR when people prior to the Internet world were [well informed], but then the computer came about. What's the difference you perceive between the times when there were no computers on the scene and nowadays, when computers are out there?


Thank you very much for this pertinent question. I don't think it has been given a proper and in-depth study yet. There is only a [superficial] view of the way computers have changed the world of chess and it really requires further exploration. From my perspective, the computer has changed the game in the sense that the access has become so wide and deep. The rapidness of acquiring this information certainly is uncomparable, but from my perspective again it has not changed the nature of chess, especially at this high level of playing the game. It still requires talent, commitment, ability of effort, and [willpower]. Just pushing the button will not change all of that, even if public opinion might see it otherwise.


Of course, computers have levelled the field in many ways. When I was growing up, there was a huge difference in terms of getting access to chess information, depending on where you lived. I would almost always get the latest games months after people in other countries. There was a huge gap in that sort of thing. If you were born in a city like Moscow, you had the chance to work with so many great players. If you were born in some other city you might have to travel for the same opportunities. Computers have levelled a lot of that off. Games are instantly available to everyone. Even if you're not in the same city you can play with people anywhere. We have to face it, the computer is a strong chess playing entity and working with it can be beneficial if used in the right way.

Having said that, I think you can still see that players who grew up learning chess in a certain way -- a structured framework, where concepts are explained clearly -- made better use of computers than players who didn't have that formation. Computers are a huge help to promote the game and in helping anyone improve, but it is not complete. The role of human interaction, learning from people who have been there, who can share their experience, good coaches, can definitely help you understand these concepts. In general, playing chess is about having a good understanding of the concepts. That you can not get only with computers.

The question and Gelfand's comments are according to the Russian - English interpreter.

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