Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trash your chess engine!


When a ELO 2500 rated chess grandmaster sits down to prepare a sharp Sicilian Dragon variation for an upcoming chess game, a brilliant chess engine is a must have. Overlooking just one idea in such sharp variations is a lethal mistake that can be picked up by the opponent, who is also sitting at home with a cup of coffee and a blazing engine. But, if you are not preparing a novelty in a sharp opening variation, or if you are not making your living as a chess player, perhaps the best thing for you is to actually trash your chess engine. Here is why.

Your chess engine is your Captain Hindsight (see video above). What Captain Hindsight does is to tell you what you should have done in the game. "You should have played bishop to c5 instead of d6, then the opponent could not have played Rxd6 on move 24". But the chess engine only gives these hindsight insights without really teaching you any chess. And also there is a real danger, that you stop calculating yourself and rely on the engine to calculate for you. And this is definitely a bad idea for improving your skills.

Instead, try the following. Delete your chess engines or move the files somewhere where you can find them later when you have a grandmaster visiting your home or whatever. Then put up your game on a board or screen and find the critical positions. And then for each critical position spend 15 minutes with a pen and paper and write down ideas and plans and the move you would make. And then play those moves on the board and see if that makes sense.

Learning how to find the critical positions, spending time on understanding the ideas in them, preferably with a pen and paper so you cannot run away from what you actually accomplished in those 15 minutes! That is a road that for sure improves your skills. But sitting with an engine crunching a position while you are munching on a choco cookie and brushing off the crums from your t-shirt will not improve your chess. Right?