Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chess and Colors

Chess and Colors

It's hard to believe that chess games began with either white or black moving first until standardization with white in the late 1800's. Something inside of me would hurt if I saw the first move something like 1.e7-e5?! Or the King and Queen on the wrong sides of the board at move one. And there has been the ongoing discussion of what impact having the first move (white) gives a player. Weaver Adams in "White to Move and Win" contended that e4 was a forced win for white [see editor's note below] and later Hans Berliner in "The System" said that 1.d4 was a forced win for white although he had difficulty in demonstrating many aspects of this belief.

In a February 2008 essay I jokingly said: "The game of chess has been solved - it's just that we humans don't realize it." Platonists among you get the joke, chess players don't think it is that funny.

Yet most people contend, as was noted in the comments of that essay, that accurate play on both sides will result in a draw. Still at the highest levels about 37% of the time white seems to win, 36% draw, and black wins 26% of the time. And the weaker the players the less effect colors matter. Gary Kasparov said it took a little longer for him to win with Black than White. But it appears that at the IM/GM level color makes a bigger difference and the players realize it as computer generated parings and colors of strong players seems to be the biggest source of contention to directors of tournaments. The fact that Alexander Ivanov had white twice the last day of the Mass Open gave him favorable tailwinds to help him win as State Champ (albeit he won in an impressive 23 moves in both cases- more from theoretical one upmanship, yet color was a factor).

Zen chess players among you will say that white is at a disadvantage moving first: the best first move in chess is the second move. A lot them play the French Defense.

There was a time when people thought that Grandmaster chess would end up with every game drawing and the game of chess would dry up. "Random" versions of the game and giving something besides 1/2 for draw have been proposed, although not very strongly accepted. The introduction of computers I think actually has enhanced play and enables players an easier way "to shop" for specific variations. Every year you see more and more computer contrived openings: more of these openings appear to me to be more and more bizarro. For example, Bill Kelleher's Mass Open White Sicilian ALapin had d4 unmoved for so long, while Bill's opponent moved an early g5 to poke at the F3 knight, insanity erupted with black having a mangled pawn structure, all of this seemingly so non-intuitive to mere humans. Between rounds players nestled by the outlets in the skittles room in order to plug in their laptops.
I was a fly on the wall and watched IM Mark Esserman fast forward thru Grunfeld variations one of which an hour later became reality. Do you feel the introduction of the use of computers in chess preparation effects this white advantage? Does it create the chance of more draws, or creation of more unbalanced positions?

Please Comment
Thank You
Mike Griffin


(born Apr-28-1901, died Jan-06-1963) United States of America

[what is this?]
Weaver Warren Adams was born on April 28, 1901 in Dedham, Massachusetts. An American chess master, he participated in the U.S. Championship in 1936, 1940, 1944, 1946 and 1948. He won the Massachusetts State Championship in 1937, 1938, 1941 and 1945. In 1939, he wrote a book entitled "White to Play and Win." After publication he played in the U.S. Open at Dallas. He did not win a single game as White (3 losses and 1 draw) and won all his games (4 games) as Black! Weaver Adams won the 49th U.S. Open, held in Baltimore, in 1948. He also wrote "Simple Chess", "How to Play Chess", and "Absolute Chess." He passed away in Cedar Grove, New Jersey in 1963.

No comments: