Who will challenge mighty Magnus?

March 6, 2018



Next Saturday, [March 10, 2018] eight top Grandmasters will start their Candidates Tournament in Berlin. The winner will gain the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Chess Championship crown, in a match to be played in November in London.

Magnus is the successor to a line of great players, often childhood prodigies, to become world champion, While there are others of his own generation, and emerging wunderkind able to complete, will any be strong enough to wrest the crown from him?

It is possible, but would be a surprise. The long-established ranking system at chess works pretty well.

If you think chess is boring and time-consuming, so do some innovators inside the game, who are playing around with the rules to cope with the invasion of technology into the game (or sport, as it controversially likes to term itself). Gone are the matches in which after a day’s play,, one of the papers would seal and move, and spend much of the night analysing what next to do. A century ago, chess clocks were introduced. Then all-night study was carried out replaced by seconds doing the hard-lifting. Then with the advent of powerful chess computers, overnight play withered and died.

Now, if a game seems to be in danger of extending into the night, the speed of play is increased, leading to a survival of the most agile and intuitively gifted. Matches are increasingly tailored to audiences watching on the web.

Today, I came across a humorous account of ten rules for introducing morality into computers (whose programmes are already capable of beating even Magnus). One of the computer programmes did a silicon bladed destruction job on the great champion Gary Kasparov. One of the rules of morality was for the IT chess computers to ‘let Gary win from time to time’.

Don’t know if the computers are quite ready to appreciate the humour.img_08241



Twitter Forces Defeated by Grandmasters in a Chess Game

December 8, 2011

A game of chess was played by a group of Grandmasters against Twitter at the London Chess Classic. It may be a pointer to the power and limitations of decision-making through the social media. It has some parallels with the match played by Deep Blue against World Champion Gary Kasparov, some years ago

The game was reported in The Independent [6th Dec 2011] by Chess grandmaster Jon Speelman. It was played as “a game on Twitter between the grandmaster collective totalling 25,000 chess rating points” [or roughly the combined efforts of around a dozen grandmasters] and what was described as “the denizens of Twitterdom”.

Lightening Chess

As the youtube above indicates, the Grandmasters [playing the black pieces] moved at lightening speed, and with a certain degree of levity.

Tacit knowledge

The video also shows how the moves via twitter are being communicated by an arbiter, and displayed for onlookers on suitably large chess boards. The Grandmasters seem to be playing without a great deal of direct interaction yet were able to sustain a coherence of plan. There is a great deal of shared and tacit understanding of the possibilities of the changing position on the board, but also bounded improvisation around selection of moves. Think of Barcelona playing a game of beach football!

The wisdom of the [Twitter] crowd

The ten grandmasters (black) amused themselves by selecting an opening rarely seen in Master chess. So they did not want to win just by superior technical knowhow. Speelman noted that “The North Sea [opening] is highly provocative but not utterly absurd.”

The Grandmasters get a positional advantage

The grandmaster collective “soon got a very fine position” positional play.


The game ended in 23 moves, which would be a crushing defeat in high-level tournament play

What happened?

To my (non-masterful) eye, the black forces followed a famous idea of Bobby Fischer which won him a game in his World Championship match against Boris Spassky who was flummoxed by the unexpectedness of the opening.

Consequences for leadership

Leadership is becoming increasingly seen in many situations as better being distributed than left to the whims of a powerful leader. On the other hand, the chess game adds support to such theories.

And what about Big Blue?

Which leaves the unanswered question whether the collective human brain that is Twitter in action would beat today’s version of Big Blue, the program which defeated the then World Chess champion, Gary Kasparov…