Chess certainly isn’t what it used to be.
There was a time when people seriously doubted that a computer could ever beat a human at chess but when Garry Kasparov was defeated in a six-game match by IBM’s Deeper Blue back in 1997 it opened the floodgates and ended the debate for good. Now anyone can buy a piece of software – at a very reasonable price – that would crush them repeatedly. Chess players now use the engines as tools for training and development rather than opponents.
It was not easy to see how things could change again apart from the established engines just becoming stronger with each new edition. Yet AlphaZero, created by Deep Mind at Google HQ (London), is shaking up the world in unexpected fashion. It has been coded to teach itself how to play chess and, having already triumphed over its main rivals, it is continuing to evolve – and everyone is taking notice.
Even Magnus Carlsen, the current World Champion, admits he finds himself wondering, ‘How would AlphaZero have approached this?’
There is a fascinating new book, published by New in Chess, which analyses the history and games of this remarkable chess entity.
GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan have produced an excellent book and one which will surely be a strong candidate for the ECF Book of the Year award. Incidentally, the same authors won the award in 2016 for Chess is Life (Gambit Publications).
We will return to Game Changer over the course of the next few blog posts. Stay tuned!