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How Technology Is Transforming The Game Of Chess

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

The advancement of technology over recent decades has transformed the game of chess in so many ways. Rather than be afraid of technology or feel threatened by it, chess enthusiasts are embracing it to help them improve their game.

From having fun challenging a computer with online chess games and pitting your wits against an unfeeling machine, to using the technology to your advantage by working out where your game went wrong, you can really broaden your chess-playing horizons by making good use of technology to improve your chess-playing skills.

However, it is important to remember than using technology can become addictive – so much so that a lot of chess players have completely changed their style and began playing quite robotically, which kind of sucks all the fun out of the game.

In the real world, it is the human element of playing chess that makes it exciting and unpredictable.

How computers changed chess

The centuries-old game of chess has remained popular because it is a game of strategy and trying to outwit your opponent in a game that doesn't involve the loss of life or by gaining a serious physical injury (in most cases).

While we can fondly look back on the games of chess played in the 1980s between Russian Grandmasters such as Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov as being the absolute pinnacle of the game, the glory days of human vs human chess games radically shook up when IBM's Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997.

It is astonishing to think that nowadays, chess engines like Houdini and HIARCS can beat the top chess players in the world while simply running on a laptop.

How chess engines work

For a beginner chess player sitting down to play a game of online chess, the engine will be able to evaluate each chess piece position and tell you what would be the best moves to make next. They will then immediately reevaluate the board after every move by yourself and your chess opponent.

These chess engines are so good that even players new to chess will be able to see where experienced players make mistakes.

During live chess tournaments, the chess master commentators will give live commentary of the game online, but they don't use chess engines to direct their commentary. Instead, they will comment on what human judgement the players may use to decide their next move.

However, for those following the game online and running the analysis of the game through a chess engine, the computer will predict the next best move, which a lot of followers will then eagerly tweet or live comment on the game feed.

Risk of cheating the game

As with most technology that offers up answers, the risk of cheating amongst chess players by using chess engines has risen it's ugly head. These new chess engines are so portable and powerful that a lot of players, including Grandmasters, have been accused of cheating the game.

One notorious instance was the 2006 World Chess Championship played in Elista, Russia. The Russian grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik was accused of cheating by his opponent believing he was using a computer to help his game.

Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov alleged that Kramnik was using a computer during his very frequent toilet breaks during the game. This led to the incident being named 'toiletgate' by followers and since that controversial game, many tournament chess players are now being scanned with metal detectors before being allowed to play.

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