What is chess about?

Chess, created in India perhaps around 4th-8th century A.D., has a basic math/geometric root.  Before the scientific method was formulated and popularized and regularly applied, there were movements to learn, to examine, to explore the roots of things–the principles of life and nature.

When it comes to chess certainly by the latter 1800s the notion that principles of chess exist and were probably objective and discoverable had its adherents; yet to say that chess is purely scientific at root is still at 2017 not exactly popular.  The software writers for chess computer programs no doubt are convinced it is so, scientific at root.

In queen and pawn for both sides endings the complexities are very great, so chess researchers noted that it was deep water and not easy to map.  However, 5-man table bases of endings were assembled increasingly accurately, then 6-man endings on computer programs appeared. (a free one is available to the public at shredder chess.com).  Peter Karrer of Switzerland in latter 1999 was hired to write the software to solve the 7-man ending that arose in Kasparov Versus the World chessgame; he did so; that was achieved then too late to be used during the game, but it shed a tremendous amount of light on that particular endgame configuration just after the game was over.

Eventually a 7-man table base for endings has been achieved—it is very large in size.  The root of this progress is that equations were written for chess dynamics and number values assigned for the chess pieces, a pawn-not-near-queening is worth 1, queen at 9, king at 1000.  For example, one could try assigning the king a value of infinity, but the software chess programmers and engineers found that a value for the king of 1000 worked more ideally and practically.  Botvirnnik had a dual career, he was both chess player and electrical engineer, and he mapped some of the early computer chess programming and wrote a book on it.

“Reuben Fine estimated that about half of the greatest players had mathematical or scientific backgrounds….Bobby Fischer was a leading exponent of this view, avowing, ‘I don’t believe in psychology. I believe in good moves.’  His position has a powerful logic. The rhetoric of science proclaims that long-term strategies and short-term tactics can be developed through close study of the principles of chess. Aron Nimzowitsch’s Chess Praxis treats chess as a science by stressing fundamental principles, such as centralization and over- protection.  Such a systematic presentation of chess theory emphasizes logic and objectivity, training the mind to apply general principles to vaguely defined situations.,” according to http://press.uchicago.edu/books/excerpt/2015/Fine_Players_Pawns.html


Adolf Anderssen

In all his games with me Morphy has not only played, in every instance, the exact move, but the most exact.  He never makes a mistake; but, if his adversary commits the slightest error, he is lost.

Emanuel Lasker

In Paul Morphy the spirit of La Bourdonnais had arisen anew, only more vigorous, firmer, prouder… Morphy discovered that the brilliant move of the master is essentially conditional not on a sudden and inexplicable realisation, but on the placing of the pieces on the board.  He introduced the rule: brilliant moves and deep winning manoeuvres are possible only in those positions where the opponent can be opposed with an abundance of active energy… From the very first moves Morphy aimed to disclose the internal energy located in his pieces.  It was suddenly revealed that they possess far greater dynamism than the opponent’s forces.

Jose Raul Capablanca

Reviewing the history of chess from La Bourdonnais to the masters of our day right up to Lasker, we discover that the greatest stylist was Morphy.  He did not look for complicated combinations, but he also did not avoid them, which really is the correct way of playing… His main strength lay not in his combinative gift, but in his positional play and general style. Morphy gained most of his wins by playing directly and simply, and it is this simple and logical method that constitutes the true brilliance of his play, if it is considered from the viewpoint of the great masters.

Bobby Fischer

A popularly held theory about Paul Morphy is that if he returned to the chess world today and played our best contemporary players, he would come out the loser.  Nothing is further from the truth.  In a set match, Morphy would beat anybody alive today… Morphy was perhaps the most accurate chess player who ever lived.  He had complete sight of the board and never blundered, in spite of the fact that he played quite rapidly, rarely taking more than five minutes to decide a move.  Perhaps his only weakness was in closed games like the Dutch Defense.  But even then, he was usually victorious because of his resourcefulness.

Vassily Smyslov

There is no doubt that for Morphy chess was an art, and for chess Morphy was a great artist.  His play was captivated by freshness of thought and inexhaustible energy.  He played with inspiration, without striving to penetrate into the psychology of the opponent; he played, if one can express it so, “pure chess”.  His harmonious positional understanding the pure intuition would have made Morphy a highly dangerous opponent even for any player of our times.

Garry Kasparov

What was the secret of Morphy’s invincibility?  I think it was a combination of a unique natural talent and brilliant erudition.  His play was the next, more mature stage in the development of chess.  Morphy had a well-developed feel for position, and therefore he can be confidently regarded as the first swallow – the prototype of the strong 20th century grandmaster.    https://www.chess.com/blog/batgirl/morphy-quotes


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