Beating Gnome Chess?

Since my previous post about my chess ability or lack thereof, I have not until now felt the need to post anything on chess. I had decided that I did not have the time or inclination to achieve anything higher than beginning chess.

Since that time I have been playing for fun and only chess against whatever program is on whatever electronics I have near. Nothing serious, just casual play. I started to take Hold’em much more serious as Hold’em is where the money is. I feel that I am short of time to devote to playing chess well. Well enough to actually earn any money from chess. To be truthful, Hold’em is a lot easier – for me at least.

In hopes of becoming better at Hold’em, I have a few five minute games I play daily to help my visual awareness become stronger. Or at least that is the plan. They are both tile games. One game is Mahjong and the second is a game is named Shisen-Sho, both played with tiles. Mahjong has always been the easier of the two games for me. I have had to work at Shisen-Sho.

In the last year or so, I have cut my puzzle solve time almost forty percent. I attribute this to improved visual awareness. I find matches more quickly. The hope is, improved visual awareness will transfer to Hold’em as I will have better focus at the table.

If you have watched videos of the master chess games, perhaps you appreciate the beauty of their moves. Watching those high level games is like watching a complex choreographed dance. Moves and counter moves flowing over the board. Opponents lose their King to such pretty combinations of play.

I appreciate the same beauty when I play chess engines though they are not as pretty. Every move I make has a more powerful counter move both thwarting my move and creating a stronger position for the chess engine. It makes getting thrashed by an over powerful chess engine less painful and more fun. I provide the dancing clomp-about that spurs the engines power.

I choose for the most part to limit my chess to casual levels where the machine moves are fairly mindless. When I lose, the next game is only a click away. Until last week that is when I became bored with mindless chess moves and wanted to play a stronger opponent. I downloaded a number of boards and chess engines to play against (I use Linux).

Most beat me easily, I almost feel like a spectator in the match. Last night one game was different. I played against the chess engine Fairy-max. I could not find a definite Elo rating, but the few posts I found seem certain Fairy-max is rated around 1800 – 1900.

I beat Fairy-max! It was not pretty. There were no ballet moves and pretty combinations. There was me playing as a barbarian, hacking and slashing whenever there was opportunity, all the while waiting for the ax to fall and the game to be over.

I managed a checkmate before I made a bumbling move or two and lost the game through poor play and decision making. I was really proud of myself. My game was not pretty, and I am sure to someone who really plays chess, my mate is quite ugly. But a win is a win and I will take it.

Then came the sad news. I played Fairy-max through Gnome Chess, which previously has been unbeatable for most people. After my win, I knew something was not right as the game was sloppy on the computers part.

Ugly Checkmate

One ugly checkmate, but I’ll take it

After looking around, I found Gnome Chess now has preferences. There are now three levels of play strength. Gnome Chess defaults to the lowest level. So much for my vastly improved ability….

I am not able to determine what level play the levels really are. I am able to beat Fairy-max in the normal setting, which is the middle level. I have not tried the top difficulty level yet.

I doubt you will ever read a post by me on Chess.com extolling the beauty and strength of a game I played, or seeing a checkmate twelve moves out. I enjoy leaving these things to others. I am grateful for what I have achieved in the moment and that is enough for right now.

I almost forgot to mention, my Hold’em game has improved too!