Engine and database use in Correspondence Chess

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Brian Egdell
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:38 pm
Location: The Netherlands

Engine and database use in Correspondence Chess

Post by Brian Egdell » Sun Sep 09, 2018 4:10 pm

Apologies in advance if this subject has been hashed out elsewhere, or if it is inappropriate for the English Chess Forum, or if I am posting it in the wrong place (in which case please move as appropriate!). I am a fairly new, and so far almost completely inactive, forum member. But this is a subject on which I would welcome people's views if that is possible.

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I'm a former enthusiastic Correspondence Chess player, but after years of playing by post followed by a few years with the then-newly-possible Email format I stopped because I was not particularly interested in running chess engines to do the analysis work for me. As is well known, the ICCF allows engine use and the game has completely changed as a result compared with 25+ years ago.

However just a few years ago I took Correspondence Chess up again online because the site chess.com supports it (it's called "Daily" chess there) with a ban on engine use, backed up by a highly expert cheating detection team which is very effective at finding players who are illegally using software help in their games and banning their accounts. Even at the top levels far above my own much more average ability, players can generally enjoy correspondence chess without too much fear that they are playing an engine rather than a human opponent. This is really appreciated by many members there. Up until two days ago, the only help permitted on this site which was unavailable to the postal chess players of decades ago was consulting online databases of games in order to choose opening moves. Former postal players had to rely on periodicals like "Informator" or books and articles about openings.

But on 7 September, two days ago, the site suddenly announced that in its correspondence ("Daily") games players would now, with immediate effect, be permitted access to Endgame Tablebases in their games. This, of course, has the effect of immediately cancelling any need to show any technique in defending K+R vs K+R+B for example, or winning K+Q+P vs K+Q or K+Q vs K+R. These endings have been exhaustively analysed, as have all other endings with 7 or fewer pieces on the board, and for every position it is known what the correct play is and what the result of the "game" should be.

Here is a link to the article announcing the changed rule:
https://www.chess.com/blog/monitor/rule ... ence-chess

I'm deeply unhappy by this development (well, I'm biased, because I find non-trivial endings with very few pieces left amongst the most interesting parts of the entire game). I don't understand what chess on that site gains by the new permission to use tablebases when they were perfectly successfully outlawed before. What do other people think?

Roger de Coverly
Posts: 16998
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:51 pm

Re: Engine and database use in Correspondence Chess

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:30 pm

Brian Egdell wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 4:10 pm
I don't understand what chess on that site gains by the new permission to use tablebases when they were perfectly successfully outlawed before. What do other people think?
I think they are falling in line with the ICCF who allow them. Once you allow chess with an "open book", there seems little point in allowing some look ups but not others.

Ian Thompson
Posts: 1889
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:31 pm
Location: Awbridge, Hampshire

Re: Engine and database use in Correspondence Chess

Post by Ian Thompson » Sun Sep 09, 2018 6:39 pm

Their rules seem to be based on the premise of "if you cheat by using a computer we'll catch you." One reason for allowing the use of tablebases is that it's impossible for them to reliably detect their use - anyone illegally using one would just choose any one of the winning/drawing moves each time, avoiding picking the move that wins/draws most quickly every time.

Nick Grey
Posts: 849
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:16 am

Re: Engine and database use in Correspondence Chess

Post by Nick Grey » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:44 pm

What is confusing is a governing body trying to remove all forms of cheating (getting help from a machine or others) and another which actively encourages it.

Either form is trying to sell us a lot of products with FOMO.

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