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Submission + - A Data-Driven Exploration of the Evolution Of Chess

HughPickens.com writes: Randy Olsen has a interesting article where he explores a data set of over 650,000 chess tournament games ranging back to the 15th century and looks at how chess has changed over time. His findings include:

Chess games are getting longer. Chess games have been getting steadily longer since 1970, increasing from 75 ply (37 moves) per game in 1970 to a whopping 85 ply (42 moves) per game in 2014. "This trend could possibly be telling us that defensive play is becoming more common in chess nowaday," writes Olsen. "Even the world’s current best chess player, Magnus Carlsen, was forced to adopt a more defensive play style (instead of his traditional aggressive style) to compete with the world’s elite."

The first-move advantage has always existed. White consistently wins 56% and Black only 44% of the games every year between 1850 and 2014 and the first-move advantage becomes more pronounced the more skilled the chess players are. "Despite 150+ years of revolutions and refinement of chess, the first-move advantage has effectively remained untouched. The only way around it is to make sure that competitors play an even number of games as White and Black."

Draws are much more common nowadays. Only 1 in 10 games ended in a draw in 1850, whereas 1 in 3 games ended in a draw in 2013. "Since the early 20th century, chess experts have feared that the over-analysis of chess will lead “draw death,” where experts will become so skilled at chess that it will be impossible to decisively win a game any more." Interestingly chess prodigy and world champion Jose Raul Capablanca said in the 1920's that he believed chess would be exhausted in the near future and that games between masters would always end in draws. Capablanca proposed a more complex variant of chess to help prevent “draw death,” but it never really seemed to catch on.
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A Data-Driven Exploration of the Evolution Of Chess

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