Friday, December 26, 2008

Anand States "Fischer would not be able to compete with the present generation."

Showing that chess skill does not always translate into thinking before speaking, Anand, the current World Chess Champion, had the following to say regarding Bobby Fischer, one of the greatest chess players of all time:

"The learning curve becomes good if one gets associated with computers at an early stage and it is impossible to become skilled in chess without a computer. It was possible then, but not now. Players like Bobby Fischer would not be able to compete with the present generation,"Source

There are a number of issues with this statement. First, it's only weeks away from the first anniversary of Fisher's passing. Secondly, even though Fischer lacked computer assistance in his prime, many of his thoughts on chess were extremely accurate and indicative of a genius of the game. Many of Fischer's deep line analysis is even supported by the best chess computers of today. Were all of Fischer's perspectives on lines and positions accurate when held under the light of computer analysis? Definitely not, but many were. This is very impressive considering the power of today's modern chess engines and how deep they can assess a position.

The thing about Bobby Fischer was that he accomplished what he did without the help of computers or huge support teams during tournament play. For instance, during Kasaprov's prime he had entire teams to support him at tournaments. Grandmasters today at the highest levels of chess are no different, with even the recent 2008 World Chess Championship match showcasing impressive supporting teams for both Anand and Kramnik. This is in addition to computer assistance for training and preparation. And lets be honest, the quality of games in this year's World Championship match left a lot to be desired, especially on the side of Kramnik. It would be very reasonable to say that Fischer, looking back on his tournament play in his prime, would have most likely been a far more challenging opponent for Anand than what Kramnik brought to the table this year.

When I think of the role of computers in chess nowadays, there can be no argument that it is definitely a huge help for modern players. In fact, it has more than revolutionized the competitive game. But it would be hard to argue against the logic that if Fischer, in his prime, had the same capabilities and resources, his game would have been even better than it was. His dedication to chess study was revolutionary in his own time. Consequently, it makes little sense to compare Fischer's achievements in the pre-computer world to those of today.

It's also best to remember that while computers have greatly helped chess, at the end of the day it's still a game of 2 people squaring off against each other. Solid and brilliant play is still rewarded, and mistakes can and always will happen in all levels of chess.

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