Added on 12/18/2017

This week we have history made in the Russian Superfinal, and the computer chess world, as well as a visit to the Elite Mind Games in China.

Peter Svidler took his record eighth title in the Russian Championship.

GM Peter Svidler

This one really seemed to come out of nowhere—just a few days before the end he seemed to be having a very ordinary tournament.  Svidler started with half out of 2, then defeated two tailenders over the next several rounds.  An “accidental” victory over Vladimir Fedoseev in the penultimate round suddenly changed everything around

Fedoseev came into this game as the tournament leader with 6 points; Svidler was one behind.  So there was no need to overpress here, but youth will have its follies sometimes.  Thus energized, Svidler defeated Matlakov in the last round.  He was joined by Vitiugov who used a little-explored variation to score a quick knockout over Sergey Volkov.

  GM Sergey Volkov

Fedoseev drew his last game and came up half a point short.  He was joined by Daniil Dubov.  Dubov, like Fedoseev, started like a house on fire with three opening wins but cooled off with some scattered losses.  Dubov won a good game in the last round, but it wasn’t enough.

Svidler smelled paydirt and took care of business in the playoff.  The first playoff game made the difference, as Vitiugov made a strange oversight in an unpleasant position.

GM Nikita Vitiugov

Meanwhile, a few of the other big Russian guns, like Grischuk, Andreikin, and Artemiev, challenged some other big names in the IMSA Elite Mind Games event in China.  The tournament was contested in three types of chess:  Rapid, Blitz, and Basque, which is an experimental form where two players face off in two games simultaneously, one white and one black.  The Russian triumvirate each took a piece of the pie, with Andreikin winning the rapid, Artemiev taking the blitz, and Grischuk victorious in the Basque.  Let’s take a look at an interesting positional struggle between Andreikin and Shak Mamedyarov.

Finally, AlphaZero vs. Stockfish.  If you haven’t heard, Alpha Zero, a chess version of the Go program that thrashed the world’s best players.  AlphaZero was given the rules of chess and tasked with improving by playing massive numbers of games with itself.  After four hours of testing, it took on Stockfish in a 100 game match and won 64-36, with no losses.  They released ten games from the match, and we will take a look at one of them:

Okay, so it is, as the developer of Stockfish said, Apples vs. Orangutans. AlphaZero used incredibly powerful machines, Stockfish, an ordinary PC. The version of Stockfish used was not the newest one, and the one minute per move time control is unfavorable for Stockfish’s features.  The practical applications are also unclear; we don’t know how much data about AlphaZero will be released, and we really don’t know how it evaluates moves and positions; as I understand it, AlphaZero keeps playing a series of games with itself to determine the best move.  Still, it is very impressive, and a bit mind-boggling, that a computer can achieve such a high level without any advice whatsoever about how to play. GM Joel Benjamin