Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Concept of Zugzwang

Zugzwang, best translates from German as “compel to move”. Normally, being able to move is a good thing, for it comes along with choice - to defend, to attack, to do whatever you want; however, at times, it can be quite disastrous! In Zugzwang, all choices are bad moves, so the player would rather not play a move at all (null move). In other words, all paths lead out of Rome. Zugzwang typically occurs in the endgame when there are a few pieces left on the board.

Chess engines often deploy a “null move” heuristic, which essentially is based on the assumption that in a reasonable position, a move is better than a “no move”. It effectively allows the computer to consider one less ply. While the null move itself is illegal, the position after it must be legal with the opponent’s turn, i.e the king cannot be left in check. In order to avoid a null loop, a chess engine does not consider a null move if the previous move in the search was also a null move. Usually, chess engines also filter out positions with a low number of pieces to avoid Zugzwang.

Players often think along those lines to gain perspective from the opponent’s side of the board - “What is my opponent thinking? What is he trying to do?” The null move heuristic does not work in every game. For example, in checkers, any reasonably advantage is usually gained because of Zugzwang.

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 06:47 PM / Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Captain's Log

A while ago, I went over to Kirill’s house and he showed me Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (MSF2004). He spent half an hour preparing the flight (choosing terminal, landing strip, calculating atmospheric conditions, filling up the gas tank, turning on the steam, can’t remember - what else did he do?) and then he took off. You figure that this is where the game begins, where you greedily grab the joystick and cruise… Not so! Kirill promptly turned the plane on autopilot and switched to MSN. He was also supposed to show me the landing too, but he crashed. Not in a wall, no - the program crashed. Well, its Microsoft, what can you say!?

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 04:39 PM /

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ice Breaker (2nd edition)

Well, it has been a long time since I broke one of my bests… this isn’t a historic day or anything - they say, play enough, and you’ll do it eventually. But the thing is: the higher your best is, the harder it is to break it. Playing enough games won’t get you a 4000 rating (billions of games were played, but no one did it - human or machine in any category).

This time; however, the game isn’t just chess or kriegspiel… its crazyhouse! Most of you know the bughouse game (doubles chess) where you pass the captured pieces to your partner… well this is just doubles but on one board (whatever you capture is yours). While the two games are similar, the tactics can be very different, caution you! While good bughouse tend to be good crazyhouse players and vica versa, the correlation isn’t incredibly high.

Like kriegspiel, it is much more comfortable to play on a computer (hard inverting piece colours “by hand”, besides it requires 2 almost-full sets). I am also approaching 1000 tourney wins (not quite there yet). As they say, Progress must progress.

Update: Not approaching 1000 tourneys anymore. Been there and moved on, :). This also happened to coincide with my 900 tourney forfeit: did good work early, and had points to spare.

Update 2: When your rating is at your best, it is easy to break again. Thats exactly what happened. Now the best is 2151 instead of 2134.

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 08:58 PM /

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Things I say - Part II

Well, its next week, I’ve compiled some more of my favourite expressions (yeah I stole a few, but who doesn’t these days)… I still have more, maybe next week?

And failed miserably.
We’re doomed.
Where, where!
Okay, fine, die.
Nothing to see here. Boring!
Soda’s on me.
Good question…
Other than that…
Without a cause.
What’s ‘sappening?
I want cake.
Luck is a skill.

Posted by Oleg Ivrii, 03:23 PM / Comments (3)

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