This article by Quah Seng-Sun was originally published in THE STAR, a Malaysian newspaper, on 20 Feb 1998
Brought to you by
Malaysia OnLine,


When the organisers of the annual Linares Super-grandmaster tournament were finalising their list of invited players last year, Anatoly Karpov ran into a storm when he declined to take part in it.

Karpov's reason was simple: he was busy campaigning for a seat in the Russian parliament.

But this did not go down well with the volatile Luis Rentero who, for many years, had been involved with the Linares tournament in many capacity but notably as its main sponsor.

He charged that Karpov had known of the dates for the Linares tournament as far back as the middle of 1996, and despite several reminders in January 1997, Karpov did not have the courtesy to inform the organisers of his plans.

Obviously, the organisers have not forgotten this incident for when they were preparing for this year's Linares tournament, Karpov was not given an invitation to play.

The ones who will be playing, however, are Peter Svidler (Russia), Alexei Shirov (Spain), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine), Viswanathan Anand (India), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) and Gary Kasparov (Russia).

They are currently seven of the world's strongest players, and they will play in the double round-robin tournament, a Category 21 event with an average rating of 2752, which starts tomorrow and will go on until Mar 10.

Speaking of Kasparov, we know the man is today the strongest player in the world. He has, by far, the highest rating in the latest international rating list released by the World Chess Federation (Fide) recently.

But would you consider Kasparov the world champion, or the Anatoly Karpov who won the Fide world chess championship in Lausanne last month?

Kasparov, in my opinion, can no longer call himself the world champion. Remember that it was Kasparov who in 1993 created turmoil by refusing to defend his world champion's title under the auspices of the World Chess Federation.

Remember too that it was Kasparov who was instrumental to founding the Professional Chess Association to serve his own interest by organising a rival match with Nigel Short in 1993 and Viswanathan Anand in 1995, and then let the association fade into obscurity.

The World Chess Federation is today still the only legitimate world chess body with an active chess programme, despite its own shortcomings. And Karpov, although only the sixth-ranked player in the world today, must still be regarded as the winner of the federation's world championship cycle.

Kasparov was interviewed last month by Sport Express, a Moscow magazine.

In the magazine article, Kasparov was asked when his own "world championship match" would take place. Some people, according to the interviewer, Y Vasiliev, were already call Kasparov the person who nominated himself Champion.

Kasparov was asked when he would agree to play a match against his strongest challengers. It seemed that there have been some interest shown by sponsors to finance a match between Anand and Kramnik, and the winner would be playing against Kasparov.

Kasparov's reply was non-committal other than to say that he planned to play such a match in October this year, but the announcements would only be made before the start of the Linares tournament. Well, the Linares tournament will start tomorrow, and I am sure we shall have the details in these pages next week.

There is another interesting development concerning Kasparov. It has just been announced that Kasparov and Topalov will play a highly unusual six-game match in Leon, Spain, from June 9 to 13.

What is so unusual about this match is that both the players will have access to a computer each. Both computers will be identical in their hardware configuration, but the players will load in their private database of chess games.

Very few sports in this world can claim to have such a close affinity with computers. Chess is one of them. Personal computers have become a boon for chessplayers. There are many chess database programmes, and the top players such as Kasparov and Topalov keep detail databases of games played by their comtemporaries.

The Internet has also given chess a boost in a way that would be almost inconcievable five years ago. Today, chess events are relayed through the Internet almost as soon as they happen and the obscure chess game can also very quickly gain the attention of the top players.

So, what will happen in this highly unusual chess match between Kasparov and Topalov is that both players will be using their private databases where they keep their secret research and analyses.

They will be helped by an analytic programme which will be like a tactical mistakes detector.

However, the six games will be played using a time control of one hour per player for each game. With only this limited time allotted for each player, they will have to judge how much time they can afford to spend in consulting their computers.

Although this match will be highly unusual, it is not surprising seeing that Kasparov is heavily involved with it. Soon after he lost the second match to Deep Blue last May, he had been going round with this suggestion that players should be allowed to consult chess computers during games.

There is even a name given to this form of chess. The organisers of the match have called it Advanced Chess, in which humans and computers join forces and compete as a team against each other.

They claim that Advanced Chess represents a very high-tech approach to the game and it increases the level of play to heights never before achieved. It would also give the viewing public a unique insight into the thought processes of chessplayers and computers.

Computers calculate at prodigious speeds. On a fast computer, the strongest chess programs generate and evaluate about 150,000 positions per second. In tactically complex positions they are superior to any human player.

In the opening, computers can access unlimited knowledge from their database of chess games - literally millions of tried and tested moves. In the endgame, the computers use hash tables to search very deeply, and in certain restricted endings (for instance, with just five pieces on the board) computers do play absolutely perfect chess.

Human chessplayers, on the other hand, look at only a very limited number of positions. However, they are able to sort out the relevant from the irrelevant, and look at meaningful moves instead of every nonsensical variation.

Humans are able to judge the quality of a move in the very long-term, and formulate plans that go a long way beyond the horizons of even the fastest computers. If a human chess master can survive the tactical onslaught of the machine, his strategical superiority will triumph.  

In Advanced Chess, claimed the organisers, there is symbiosis between man and machine. Each human player is equipped with a personal computer which he can consult at will during the game.

The human player enters moves for the computer to analyse, and spends time pondering the position himself while the computer checks the crucial variations. The human player is always in charge and has the final decision on which move to make.

Does all these seem interesting? I rather think so and I just can't wait for June to come around.

Copyright: Star Publications (M) Berhad. Thank you. Author: SSQuah

Go Back

This information is brought to you by Malaysia OnLine WWW Server
We could be contacted at :
Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 WWW Malaysia OnLine