In the eyes of the public, computers and humans have been adversaries over the chessboard. Human vs. computer matches were a huge spectacle in the last years of the 20th century, as well as for a few years after that – and despite what people remember from the Deep Blue rematch, they were quite competitive for many years. But in the last decade, the luster from these matches has faded, as computers have clearly overtaken their human counterparts.
Still, that doesn’t mean that humans and computers can’t share a chessboard during competitive play. In Advanced Chess, computers are used in conjunction with human ingenuity to create an even higher level of chess performance. The results can be interesting, entertaining, and highly competitive.
Origins of Advanced Chess
Advanced Chess began with an idea from former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov. The idea was to pair strong human players with top computer programs on high-end software to see just how strong the resulting chess could be. The main benefit is that computers would eliminate virtually all tactical blunders, while the human players would greatly improve the positional quality of the chess.
The first known Advanced Chess match took place in June 1998, between Garry Kasparov and Veselin Topalov. The match featured Kasparov paired up with the Fritz 5 engine, and Topalov using the database and analysis program ChessBase 7.0 – though players were only allowed to consult databases for two of the games. In the six game match, both sides won two games with White, with the other two games ending in draws, resulting in a 3-3 tie. Kasparov remarked that one of the big differences in Advanced Chess was that once a player achieved a winning advantage, the games were virtually over, as it would be impossible to take advantage of either tactical errors of the human player or the early endgame difficulties often seen in computer programs.
Advanced Chess and Freestyle Chess Today
Advanced Chess matches have been held somewhat regularly in the years since the Kasparov-Topalov match, with players such as Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik winning Advanced Chess events between 1999 and 2002. Anand noted that while the computers were a huge help, they didn’t influence the game as much as people thought, saying that “you still have to play good chess.”
In April 2013, the first widely-publicized Advanced Chess game between two titled female players was held. The match pit Women’s World Champion GM Anna Ushenina against WIM Olena Boytsun in a game to benefit Chess for Children, a Ukrainian charity. Boytsun took White and had a slight advantage for much of the game, but ultimately settled for a draw.
Perhaps the most exciting form of Advanced Chess has been Freestyle Chess, a format that has seen some highly competitive and surprising tournaments. These online tournaments started appearing in 2005, and were essentially “anything goes” tournaments – players could enter as human beings, allow a single computer to make all of their moves, or use any combination of humans, computers, and other resources to play their games. The only limit was staying within the prescribed time controls when making a move.
Not surprisingly, the best teams in Freestyle Chess have consisted of skilled chess players using strong hardware, the best software programs, and the technical knowhow to get the most out of them. Many winning teams – but not all – have featured titled players, and most have featured teams of players and computers rather than a single program and human being working together. Freestyle matches and tournaments continue to this day, with the FICGS server being a particularly popular venue for online Freestyle Chess competition.