Game Four Drawn

The big chess match continues apace. Topalov pressed hard with the white pieces in game four. He developed some advantage but was never really close to winning. Kramnik’s tough-as-nails defense did not permit any breakthroughs, and Topalov had to settle for a draw. The score is now 3-1 in Kramnik’s favor. Thursday is a rest day; the match resumes on Friday.


  1. #1 Salvador T. Cordova
    September 28, 2006

    Dr. Rosenhouse,

    If I may pose a sincere question about chess. Is there an opinion as to whether there is a theoretically perfect set of chess moves from start to finish if one is playing white?

    In tic-tac-toe and other limited games with nice discrete outcomes, there is a theoretically perfect set of plays that will either result in a win or a draw.

    Is chess the same way, or does anyone really know? I’m under the impression for end-games scenarios with a few pieces and known boundary conditions, the answer is “yes” as far as perfect moves. However from start to finish is that the case?

    In certain card games like Blackjack there are optimal decisions, but given the uncertainties of the shuffle, there are no perfect moves like in tic-tac-toe.

    I’m inclined to think there are perfect games in chess if one plays white, but I defer to your expertise on the matter.

  2. #2 david
    September 28, 2006

    Salvatore brings up an ancient topic. Since Chess has no random element, it can be presumed that there is an optimal procedure, but no one has ever done the brute force search of all the decision trees, and it’s not likely to happen soon. GM opinion, the last I looked, is that White cannot force the win against best defense. No one (except maybe Reti, if he was serious) ever claimed a win for Black.
    BTW Jason, when I was at Dartmouth sometime between you Dr.Seuss, I used to get regularly thrashed by future IM Danny Kopec. I eventually made it to high A/boderline Expert (published at 1980, performance rating in my last events around 2050) but never forgot the lesson about the gap between pretty good amateur and real player. It was really hammered home when I got to watch Smyslov play in Graz in 1982 (give or take a year). Now that was impressive.

  3. #3 Pastor Bentonit, FCD
    September 28, 2006

    Salvador, many endgames with a given material imbalance (and sufficiently few pieces) have indeed been “solved” (i.e. the shortest way to mate has been elucidated, by computer). Go to and check it out.

    On another note, David, I got to watch another veteran GM last year, playing in Politiken Cup in Denmark: the inexhaustible Korchnoi (who finally became World Champion last week – veteran WC, that is)!

  4. #4 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 28, 2006

    I don’t have much to add to what has been said so far. In principle there must be an optimal method of play for white. Whether that optimal method leads to a win or to a draw is an open question. (I know of no one who thinks that black should have a forced win!) Most serious players, myself included, would guess that optimal play for both sides leads to a draw. After all, the armies are perfectly matched at the start of the game, and it seems unlikely that moving first is enough of an advantage to overcome that.

    I once got to play GM David Bronstein in a simultaneous exhibition. I lost. Bronstein is one of those people (along with Korchnoi), who is on the list of greatest players never to win the World Championship. I also played in the US Amateur Team East the year Anatoly Karpov participated. It was a real thrill to play chess in the same room as him.

    David, I know what you mean about the difference between a strong amateur and a professional player. My current rating is 1950, but if you sit me down across from a grandmaster the game would be a joke. I’d be lucky to last twenty moves!

  5. #5 Tom Jackson
    September 29, 2006

    There’s a brief mention of this chess match on James Randi’s site at

    Randi reports that Topalov has a psychic on his team, for unspecified reasons.

    “Apparently this mystic has the same sort of psychic power Uri Geller does: every sportsman they help, no matter how good, immediately starts losing. Now that is a real paranormal phenomenon.”

  6. #6 Pastor Bentonit, FCD
    September 29, 2006

    Post-WC-gate (the match is most probably over after the forfeit in game five) IŽd like to add an observation from my own tournament play (some 25 years ago!). In those days, smoking was allowed whereas I think the current FIDE rules prohibit smoking OTB. The old guys I was playing perhap hoped that I wouldnŽt be able to see too well?

    I also saw a gouple of games from the Andersson-Tal match in Stockholm, 1976, notably this one:

    …in which Tal went through two or three packets of cigarettes! Then again, Tal died in his late fifties (looking about 90 years old) alt least partly due to not only chainsmoking, but also fairly liberal drinking habits.

  7. #7 Salvador T. Cordova
    September 30, 2006

    Thank you everyone for your responses.

    You all have gotten my interest going, and I think I want to have some fun playing against a computer set at a beginner level.

    Just out of curiosity, I hear of games available on the PC that claim to play at the Grand Master level. Does that sound reasonable?


  8. #8 386sx
    September 30, 2006

    Mr. Cordova, you might like You can play computer programs, real people, speed chess, slow chess, tournaments, whatever you like.

New comments have been disabled.