The new and improved Magnus Carlsen

After a few years of only so-so (but still world #1) results, Magnus has I believe won five tournaments in a row this year and he is leading in the sixth, currently running in Croatia.

He recently stated that he has learned some new chess ideas from AlphaZero, but more importantly he has shown up better prepared in the openings than his opponents, probably for the first time in his career.  Yet his preparation has taken an extraordinary spin.  Other grandmasters prepare the opening in the hope of achieving an early advantage over their opponents.  Magnus’s preparation, in contrast, is directed at achieving an early disadvantage in the game, perhaps willing to tolerate as much as -0.5 or -0.6 by the standards of the computer (a significant but not decisive disadvantage, with -2 signifying a lost position).  Nonetheless these are positions “out of book” where Magnus nonetheless feels he can outplay his opponent, and this is mostly opponents from the world top ten or fifteen.

So far it is working.  One commentator wrote: “Magnus is turning into a crushing monster just like Garry. He isn’t the strangler anymore”

And it is hard to counter someone looking for a disadvantage!


It is very easy to counter Magnus. Boot up your phone.

Not quite. Boot up your fast PC is more like it.

Speaking of 3D chess, has anyone noticed this little number by Trump and Pompeo to placate their Chinese masters:

"The decision this week by the U.S. to name a Pakistani separatist group as a terrorist organization is seen by analysts as part of a backdoor deal between Washington and Beijing ....... following attacks on Chinese-funded Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan's southern Balochistan province."

America doesn't build its own infrastructure anymore but Trump is helping build OBOR. Isn't Blackwater or whatever Betsy DeVos's brother calls it now, also helping the Chinese with this? Republicans continue to sell out our country and make our foreign enemies stronger.

If true, this should be bigger news.

Oligarchs and their would-be imitators gonna oligarch.

So the Orange Oaf has been downgraded to mere oligarch? You know, from Fuhrer.

Perhaps one day you chicken littles will see Trump objectively: as a rude, but occasionally cunning, horse trading narcissist from Queens, who — like every other inhabitant of the White House — will achieve some good things and do some dumb things, during his 4 (or possibly 8 years) in office. The name calling and hysteria is awe inspiring...

This is mainly a chess page, and I'll let that Kastmaster(tm) flash by.

It might be more on topic to talk about other successes in AI:

He wins because he is the smartest, most creative, fastest thinker. Look at lichess tournaments where he shows to be superior in all phases of the game even under the worst possible openings (transvestite, G4, G5) and in pretty much any time control. Also he is a confident player - risk taker and avoids overthinking a move.

'And it is hard to counter someone looking for a disadvantage!'

Counter, maybe.

Which is why encouragement is the proper concept.

Clearly the campaigning has started up for 2020. sigh.

Rapport and Jobava are also known for their willingness to accept slightly dubious positions if they can play for a result. In their cases it backfires sometimes. And of course Nakamura has been known to play 1. e4 and 2. Qh5.

In my own games I've done this with good results. The line 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. c4 c6 happens sometimes, and every "book" out there says that 4. dxc6 is not very good, and rightly so. Transposing to the standard Panov is much better, and against someone rating 2000 and up that's what I do.

But against the usual class player I simply grab the pawn. They simply don't understand how to maintain the initiative handed to them, and it's a free pawn for me.

Similar to what Carlsen's doing, the often-#1 Joey Chestnut raised his game at this year's Nathan's Famous contest and crushed his opposition by eating 71 hot dogs, nearly two dozen more than the second-place finisher. Maybe Carlsen and Chestnut can do some appearances together.

Looking at the top computer line alone is very deceptive when it comes to position evaluation: Even super GMs playing classical will not find all of those lines. What is important, and rarely discussed outside serious circles, is the costs of likely mistakes in the position: How do natural moves that don't fall into clear tactical traps look like compared to that top computer line? If the best line for my opponent is very complicated, and gives them many chances of doing far worse than said best line I am far better off than in a game where the top 6 moves are all 0.00.

Besides that, being the one that moves off book, and has an extra 6 moves of preparation vs their opponent has an advantage anyway, even in classical. Each move can be 10+ minutes of advantage to the time control.

Either way, what we are seeing here is not just Carlsen being very good, but having to look for some ways to realize his skill advantage, as, in practice, classical has never been more drawish, and when you want to win tournaments, drawing every round, Anish Giri style, is not going to cut it.

Agree that Magnus is new and improved, but I do not think that he wants to have an early disadvantage. AlphaZero demonstrated that having the initiative in chess has more value than previously thought. (AlphaZero sacrificed 1, 2 and even 3 pawns in games just to keep the initiative and won in the end, so the current engines/positions evaluators are imprecise) And Magnus is the first one among the top players who understood this and he is trying to implement it.

This, this indeed. I’m a pure duffer and spectator, but that’s the impression I’ve also gotten from AlphaZero game analyses: AlphaZero is far more willing than any human or other engine to trade pieces for position (and then to make that trade pay off).

I’m not sure whether this is seen in chess circles as a new opinion about the relative value of position versus pieces, or an inherent advantage of seeing positions deeper.

To put it another way, does AlphaZero price position higher than any other other chess player, or does AlphaZero already see the place where the exchange is paid back so many moves ahead?


Disadvantage by what metric? The answer, of course, is disadvantage as measured by chess engines. Carlsen isn't playing against chess engines.

At the age Carlsen now is, Shakespeare was the equivalent of a lowly writer for a late night comedy show - there are, right now in 2019 (assuming you are reading this in 2019) about a dozen clever young people writing for the clowns in suits aping Jack Parr down in poor SoCal - imagine that! - who are at a stage in their career where Shakespeare was at Carlsen's age) (nobody, before Shakespeare, had left such an unpromising beginning behind to reach such an understanding of what it is to be human and an artist in words - remember that the great dramatists of old Greece started out as champions of their art !!!)

one of the great regrets in the lives of several people in the Carlsen mold - Gauss, Kolmogorov, Gell-Mann ---- was that they spent their lives "solving problems" rather than being what God meant them to be, poets.
You can look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say even before he retired.

Now, this is a long comment but it will take you maybe two minutes to read ( I am going to stop typing after ten minutes, there is a 5 to 1 ratio).

Nowhere will you find someone who has written a guide to the poetical lines of Shakespeare, with a list of the lines that no cultured person needs to read, the lines that should be read a few times, and the lines that are better than they can be recited (as Schnabel said of his chosen repertoire). There should be such a guide, so that we know just how flawed even the best of us are .... and so that we have more pity for each other, more appreciation for each other, Shakespeares or not (said the guy who just said being the best of chess players is a waste of one's God-given talent, but read on, I will make it clear , as I always do, whether or not my comments are deleted - I speak with authority sometimes, don't I ????)

And you are not often going to find a writer more worth reading than poor Shakespeare, BUT
there are three types of writers
those who never write a line that is enough worth reading that it was worth them taking time off from their real vocation to write said line...
those who have written, once in a while (anywhere from one line in several million to more than half a million lines out of a million) lines worth reading twice, and
those who have written with authority, every word is worth reading.
You have never heard of anyone in that third group, and if you have, you don't know their real name, you don't know what their friends called them.

Back to Carlsen,
Why is he wasting his time competing against the sort of losers whose mistakes are fodder for his ambitions, after all the best at chess are off doing other things, everyone knows that, why can't he just
dump chess
and do something positive with his life.
Can he not compete with the great standards of poetry, can he not
take all that energy and do something that can be appreciated at a better level than
"competitive chess" ///

leaving writers aside, of whom there are the three kinds I described above ....

when we listen in the real world to something someone says - usually not a writer, even I only have one or two friends (among dozens) who even think of being "a writer" = when we listen to something someone says there are three reactions

one .... yes, that is what people say in these situations.
two .... that was interesting.
three .... I should respond in an empathetic way.

You see, in our lives, few of us were born to be writers or artists, and we MUST FEEL EMPATHY for people who want us to listen to them,
even if they merely seek

one . approval for saying what they are expected to say (this is kindness and leadership and strength)
two . gratitude for saying something we have never heard before (this is kindness and leadership and strength)

and there is nothing "merely" about this ...
three.. sometime someone speaks to you and says something remarkably stupid, or sad, or hopeless, or desperate in the search for empathy, and you know you have to do what you can to make them better, to remind them that they are made in the image of God

let us not be mere speakers of words
but let us
be like the God that created us
make this world a better place
by silent effort if need be
by saying a true word in the correct moment

that is why I argue with trolls, trying to make them forget that moment in their life when they were tempted to be a troll
that is why I address my arguments to the elite of the elite of the academics and non-academic geniuses of these far-flung internet sites
that is why I know what this world will look like a thousand years from now

cor ad cor loquitur

I guess 10 years from now Carlsen will still be playing chess
10 years after "TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA"
Shakespeare was writing completely different
and much better plays
ask Ralph Richardson
(Don't ask me I am tired of seeing the ungrateful rude responses to my comments, maybe I will hire a bot to speak, heart to heart, to those who mock me .... Sad!)
cor ad cor loquitur
(by the way I could have written this in Norwegian but it would have taken 2 hours instead of 20 minutes and would have been less colloquial)

nor Ho/re
visdommen roper
ag forstanden lar
s*n ro/st ha/re

by saying a true word in the correct moment

[You have a good chance, statistically speaking.]

1 John 3:18, in case you like to follow up on Biblical references

Great essay in the latest issue of the LRB re. Carlsen --- Tyler, you should read it!

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