Saturday, December 11, 2021

g-f(2)723 THE BIG PICTURE OF THE DIGITAL AGE (12/11/2021), WSJ, Computers Revolutionized Chess. Magnus Carlsen Wins by Being Human

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Computers Revolutionized Chess. Magnus Carlsen Wins by Being Human

Chess engines were supposed to make classical chess more predictable. Instead, they made the most inventive player of all time more creative.
  • It was the first time in five years that a championship classical game—the format played under long time controls—didn’t end in a draw. The chess world could hardly believe what it was seeing. In the age of supercomputer-trained super grandmasters, there were widespread fears that world championships were becoming dull and predictable. Preparation seemed to trump inventiveness.
  • Instead, this era brought out the brilliance of perhaps the most brilliant chess player ever.
  • Magnus Carlsen, of Norway, steamrolled Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi 7.5-3.5 in the best-of-14 series, capturing a decisive victory that solidified his legacy as the greatest in the history of the sport. He has been the world champion since 2013—this was his fifth win—and is the highest-rated player of all time.

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    FIDE World Chess Championship Game 11 | Carlsen vs. Nepo



    Joshua Robinson

    The Wall Street Journal

    Joshua Robinson covers European sports for the Journal from Paris and London. Previously, he wrote features on New York sports and covered the New York Giants.

    He is a graduate of Columbia University.

    To contact Mr. Robinson, call +44(0)207-842-9207 or email Follow him on Twitter: @JoshRobinson23.

    Andrew Beaton

    Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

    Andrew Beaton is a sports reporter for The Wall Street Journal in New York covering the NFL, college sports and more. He can be reached by email at and followed on Twitter at @andrewlbeaton.

    Extra-condensed knowledge

    Lessons learned, WSJ

    • What even his rivals marvel at is how Carlsen, 31, has weaponized the computer revolution against them. He does it not by overpowering opponents with calculation, but by harnessing that digital knowledge to turn games into more human battles. 
    • Before the 2018 championship—the first ever in which all the classical games ended in draws—a new neural-network-based engine called Leela Chess Zero ushered in an even more advanced era. By playing hundreds of millions of games against itself, the computers were growing more powerful all the time. Some worried they were turning human players into pawns. 
    • In any given situation, the engines might recommend any number of moves and suggest that they are all relatively equal. Those are the obvious ones to study. But by playing a more obscure move—perhaps even one that the computers suggest is disadvantageous—Carlsen thrives by throwing his opponents into that unfamiliar territory.
    • And Carlsen’s instincts allow him to pick up the subtlest edges in these unscripted scenarios. That’s how he prevailed in the sixth game of this championship. After 136 moves, the longest game in championship history, he scored the first decisive result.
    • “I think Game 6 was one of the most exciting games in world championship history,” Caruana said.

    Condensed knowledge

    Lessons learned, WSJ 

    • One reason is that Nepomniachtchi came into the match with a similar reputation to Carlsen—aggressive, unpredictable, and human when it counts. Nepomniachtchi, a 31-year-old who sported a man bun until he curiously got a haircut midway through the competition, attributed that to laying his chess foundation with traditional study. 
    • The man now backed by a supercomputer from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow, known as “Zhores,” didn’t have access to a decent chess engine until he was 12. 
    • “I think the generation [born in] the early 90s is probably the last one, which was raised without some major, major computer influence,” said Nepomniachtchi. “Compared to some teenage players who are shining already today… I’d like to think that my take is a little bit more human.” 
    • Unfortunately for Nepomniachtchi, he revealed his humanity a little too much in this championship with critical blunders. Carlsen, meanwhile, proved that few humans are harder to read than he is.
    • “We can all probably replicate what the top computers are saying,” Nielsen said. “What’s going in Magnus’s mind, only Magnus knows.”

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    • [genioux fact deduced or extracted from WSJ]
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