The Game of Chess
Every once and a while I'll start cycling back and playing the old board games, once again. It used to be only Chess and Othello (Reversi), but in the past 4 years I've also started playing Go. My old roommate from four years ago got me into it. I even wrote a post about it... now that I think of it...
I remember the first time I ever saw the game Go was in the movie "A Beautiful Mind" starring Russell Crowe. I remember thinking:
What is this game and how is it that I've never seen it before?
Indeed, the game appeared quite ancient and strange to me. With a little research I came to realize that Go is actually the oldest board game in human history by a long shot. It is thought to be 4000 years old; twice the age of Christianity lore. Meanwhile, chess is thought to be about 1500 years old.
But I'm not here to talk about Go today.
Unfortunately, it is a shame that all of these board games have been conquered by AI. Every good AI in these games is a nearly unbeatable grandmaster. This means anyone you play online can easily cheat and make grandmaster plays using AI. Too bad, so sad. Skynet will overrun us soon enough, unless we're already in the Matrix.
Playing some games
I saw one of my friends at work playing on his phone. It was the same friend that I tried to convince they should play Go a year or two ago. However, I'm like way too good at Go comparatively, and even when I gave him an opening handicap of 9 moves in a row (maximum handicap) I still dominated him every game.
Eventually he gave up.
It's actually kinda weird how good I am at Go considering I've spent way more hours (and overall years) playing Chess games. I remember I would even play against my dad as a kid.
In any case
I saw him playing Chess and I figured we'd be way more evenly matched, so I challenged him to some games. He actually beat me in the first two because I was a bit rusty and made some huge blunders. I actually couldn't believe he beat me twice in a row, if I'm being honest.
However, I came back with a vengeance!
After that I went full on trihard mode and beat him eight times in a row; Demoralized him a bit. He just recently broke that losing streak and I resigned a game that I maybe could have won but I was losing pretty bad and would rather just restart.
This was the game after that, completed today:
Alrighty Then! (nine moves in)
This was a weird variant of chess called Chess960. The backline spawns randomly. We can see that our Queens got randomly dumped into those corner squares, and the Rooks haven't moved yet either.
I'm looking to get my Queen out onto the board, I'd really like to take out that pawn on E4, but there is a Knight defending it and I can't really get that defender to move out the way. Also he could just move the Pawn on D2 down one to block me.
I'm also looking to move my Knight to F3 to put him in check.
It took me a while to realize you can castle in Chess360. I thought because the pieces were all rando it wouldn't let you do that. However, I noticed mid-game that my king was indeed allowed to move 2 squares over and the corresponding Rook is moved to the other side of the king, just like a normal castle move.
Another weird thing is that when I checked the left side, the site (chess.com) made is look like castling to the left was an invalid move, but I tried to force the move anyway and it ended up working, so I found a minor bug while playing this one; a visual bug that only applies to weird Chess960 games.
I talk too much. Back me up, @geekgirl!
My friend has now aggressively moved his Pawn toward the center! Now both Pawns on G4 and F4 are undefended, but I can't really take them and he knows it. He's got really good control of the center of the board here, which is exactly what you want, but this was a pretty aggro move. I can now move my Knight to the F3 square, put him in check, force him to move, and this will make it so he can no longer castle and get away from my attack. It will also make it harder for him to keep his Rooks connected if I pull it off correctly and force the King between them.
However, once I move to F3, I don't really have a follow up move, so I'm going to pressure the undefended Pawn on F4 so he moves it and is no longer defending the E5 and G5 squares. This will give my Knight 2 more places to move to after I put him in check.
Yeah that's right! I'm playing 4D Chess over here!
JK it's just chess, and I'm not that good.
So now his King is VERY exposed. His Queen is pretty much completely blocked in, and I'm feeling pretty good about my position. He was really over-aggressive. However, at the same time, I could still easily lose, as we are tied in material and one bad move could end it for me in the long run.
I'm wondering where I should move my knight at this point.
He is threatening it with the King.
Then I realize something:
What if I don't move my knight at all and bait him into taking it?
Alright, so I've lost my Knight for "free", but what did I gain?
This is the kind of gambit that usually gets me into a lot of trouble. I'm much better at just playing it safe and slowly wearing down my opponent with attrition; taking a Pawn here or there and getting up a few points so I can eventually win. In this situation, I've sacrificed three points to gain a massive amount of tempo, getting my queen on the front line attacking his King. I hope it was worth it!
So I was down 3 points, now not only have a retaken a Pawn, lessening that gap to 2 points, but I still have tempo because his King is in check and he has to move it out of the way instead of developing another piece.
Now this move REALLY surprised me, and we can see that it really surprised the AI as well. According to the AI, this was a huge blunder. I was thinking the same thing when it happened but I wasn't 100% sure. I was actually worried my plan was going to fail because I didn't realize this was on option.
I know exactly what he was thinking though... he really needed to get away from me and regroup his defenses, but in doing so he became boxed in by his own pieces.
As we can see from the grandmaster AI analysis of this game, he just lost the game on that move as long as I don't make any huge mistakes (blunders). But I'm not a grandmaster so I didn't know that :D
Honestly I wouldn't even call myself an expert even though I'm better at chess than everyone I know. Turns out, not a lot of people play chess or care to learn.
At first I thought this move was going to be a straight up checkmate, but then I realized he had this one move left of blocking my Queen's attack with the Knight. Now my goal is to push his King into my base so there's no way he can win.
Normally this would be a bad move because the Pawn could be taken by his Knight, however, the Knight is pinned by the Queen and can not move.
It was at this moment that I was thinking...
I wonder if he knows he can En Passant here...
He absolutely does not want to move the King farther into my base; he's already pretty screwed. The En Passant (French) is a special move in Chess (like Castling) where you can take a Pawn that moves two spaces if that pawn could have been taken had it only moved one space.
Therefore, his pawn on F5 can move to E6 and kill the Pawn on E5.
It's a pretty weird move that is very rarely relevant,
but it was actually very relevant in this game surprisingly.
The AI is not happy!
This was another blunder, not that it mattered. I was probably going to win either way pretty easily. My friend's king was simply way too out of position and I would have constantly exploited that; regardless of still being down two points.
This path just makes the game end immediately.
It's also important to note that even though I am down two points, am I really? The logic here is that he never even had the chance to activate his queen. Nine of his points are just sitting on the board not doing anything the entire game. This is why tempo can be very important in the game of chess; sometimes if you get ahead you can simply stay ahead, even if you sacrifice pieces to get there.
Forced into the lion's den!
If I'm being honest, I'm actually surprised I pulled it off. Like I said earlier, I'm usually not very good at sacrificing pieces to gain tempo. I usually lose tempo and then I'm left in a game where I'm down material and playing from behind.
Not this time!
The AI didn't like my gambit.
But then again, they rarely ever do.
The move that set this whole plot in motion was labeled a "mistake" by the AI.
The ranking of errors from least to greatest:
So I guess according to a grandmaster player I should have simply taken that Pawn for free and played it safe like I always do. BORING!
Normally I would never blog about a chess game, because who gives a shit about chess, amirite? However, I was pretty proud of myself on this one and it was a very unique game, as many chess games often can be. The power of exponents can be baffling sometimes.
What I'm really trying to say here is that chess isn't always about chess. It's about tactics; it's about how we think in general. I am a strategist; whether in gaming or in crypto or any other part of my life.