Chess is on a phisycs's border.
Today I've made my mind to talk with A.A.Shashin, sports master of the USSR, trainer at the Anichkov Palace (St.Petersburg), author of physics-like model of chess. Alexander Alexandrovich has revealed its principal ideas in an easily understood form. But every thing is to be in order.
- Nevertheless, if You will, tell us in more detail about Your work with him.
- Two years before this event I had something a kind of "Boldino autumn", in truth, it was a "Boldino July". Having come from the All-Union selection tournament in Daugavpils 1974 where I understood my unreadiness as a pretender to the world chess crown (A.Shashin is smiling), I felt irresistible thirst for theoretical work. I was working 14 hours a day. A working plan was made up by me. So a two-year program was managed to be done in a month. It was in some state of insanity, of super form when one idea followed the other and one had them only to put down. It was a favourable moment for Korchnoi. I gathered so many novelties that I could not jump up what I had for two weeks. Concretely it was so. I gave out an idea sometimes it was 'crude'. Korchnoi could simply fix it and write down. Being interested in it, he could analyze it with me, or could see it himself and then see again variations of the idea he liked. He had a full freedom of choice. And he... of course ought to be careful in everything. We began our work at 11, continued it till dinner, and then Korchnoi was sleeping two hours. Then our analysis continued till the "Time" program, till 21 o'clock. An international tournament took place at that time where B.Spassky played. It seemed to me that he somewhat sympathized Spassky as strange it might be, though. I remember Spassky beat Uhlmann in the first round. Thus, we followed how Boris Vassil'yevich played, after this Korchnoi accompanied me to a bus, and I came up again in the morning.
- It turns out that You have not lived at that "House of Rest" together with Korchnoi, doesn't it?
- No, I refused. I had my number (room) but I preferred to live at home. It was a real pleasure to work with him. It is a man without 'being on high horse', and any arrogance. He is very objective. When we began working together Korchnoi was in a loose state, may be, 'had strength' of a master candidate. It seemed to me that he had not Grandmaster's understanding of the position, I don't say about tactics as well. I came up mobilized, and then I played not badly. At the very beginning of our work I 'saw the board' better than he did. I seemed to catch better strategical nuances as well. I think he felt that also and agreed with my appraisals. He perceived he was not 'in form', therefore he behaved himself modestly. And when at the end of training he reached a solid Grandmaster's level (at Amsterdam tournament Korchnoi divided first and second places with E.Miles) he displayed himself more resolutely and could interrupt you at 'half word'. And I could break his talking as well when in the first days he blundered grossly in tactics. In a word, one was with him like a comrade. And no any advances.
- What have You acquired in cooperation with Korchnoi? What impression of him as a man have You got?
- The training preparations passed with definite, quite understandable aims, but, of course, Victor L'vovich was saying something, shared it with me. There is something said what cannot be published even now as a matter of long stranding. These are characteristics he gave of different chessplayers. All it was in an open form. He had a literary language. He was an unlogical type man, easily touched, he lives by feelings. He likes much to be liked by other people, he does involuntarily so to be in the limelight. Korchnoi is a hard-steeled man, he had a horrible adolescence, but life did not break him, physically healthy, very much high-spirited. He could smoke, break smoking, could allow himself to break every day routine as well. He felt bad during the city championship of 1973 and his wife Bella was sitting in the hall with a bottle of milk or kefir. Once I asked my trainer V.G.Zak: "How can it be that Korchnoi divides 8-9-th places with me in the championship of Leningrad and the same Victor L'vovich divides the first-second places in an interzonal tournament, collecting 75 percent of points with Grandmasters? Is there any method of "improving the form"? Vladimir Grigorievich listened to me not without a smile and said that there was not such a method. But he revealed "a secret". Before the international tournament Korchnoi passed nearly ten days on V.G.Zak's country-cottage plot. The trees were sawn there and stumps left. So Korchnoi was busy with their stubbing, that is, hard physical work. In return during the international tournament, I paid attention at that, he looked a physically healthy man, I saw that he was a picture of health!
- How does Your work go in the capacity of trainer in the Palace of Young pioneers (Anichkov Palace now)?
- My relations with colleagues at work are rather correct or friendly. When I first came to work V.G.Zak was still working. I'm sure I have been his favourite pupil, he trusted me. Usually I accompanied him after the work. I was interested in intercourse with him. I learnt many things from him. I respected him very much; it is difficult to love such people. He was a complicated person. I liked V.M.Byvshev and A.V.Cherepkov as well. Vassily Mikhailovich and I sympathized mutually. V.S.Faibisovich is my old acquaintance. Among my pupils whom I taught was Gata Kamsky. I set a condition to his father that if he beat his boy I would not work with him. He promised me, and he beat him in my presence over a month and half, the blood was on his face. I came up to V.G.Zak at his lesson and having explained the reason I said that I could not work with G.Kamsky and entrust the pupil to him. Afterwards Rustam Kamsky suggested renewing my trainer's work again, but I refused. Among my pupils M.Zvereva, A.Eliseev and A.Krishilovsky have achieved the highest successes. They all have become international masters. I have passed to a decently-paid individual commercial work with capable pupils. One time I taught N.Bodnaruk another my pupil resettling into Switzerland became a champion of that country. This list may be continued. I checked my methods system not only with selection teams of Anichkov Palace, but with Dina Bazhenova as well. I was studying with her and she became a champion of Russia among children up to eight and ten years. At present her father took a course "to roll" the girl "under tanks" in strong preferably boys' tournaments. It is fit for her really; it is not bad for her alone. One should load a child to maximum. It is better emotionally the child could lose everything in succession, taking a zero (0) out of nine. The main thing is the child should have a wish to win back. But when there begin to arise contrary tendencies it is worse.
- Let's talk now of Your algorithm of finding a good move and the physical model of chess. How are big numbers of physics jointed with chess? Where is a point of contiguity?
- My model of chess play is similar to physical theory. In this, i.e., in its origin it doesn't differ from well-known models in chemistry, biology, sociology, ecology, and humanitarian sciences, etc. The world is one (united). Therefore models are alike, models of real processes in Nature and mental models as well, i.e., the models of processes coupled with our thinking. What have I done? Roughly speaking, I have announced chess a complex system and "switched on" to it the fundamental laws of physical science. One may say so: I have looked at chess play through a prism of theoretical physics, for example, physical thermodynamics. It has got something curious in itself.
- But may we apply Newton's laws? It will be, may be, simpler.
- No. Chess is a non-linear system, in chess the
inter-action between pieces and empty squares (fields) of the chessboard are
closely interwoven. The model of chess game is a model of open thermodynamic
system. Chess is in principle a non-classical system. Hence, by the way,
there it follows in effectiveness of Steinitz'es classical theory and that
of his - Steinitz - chess disciples. Steinitz was far without hope from the
number... Now about numbers... So, from the point of view of complex dynamic
systems it should have a simple connection between small numbers of this
system and its big numbers... The most important small numbers of a chess
system; these are numbers of 13, 32 and 64. The number 13, it is a number
of the degrees of freedom of the chess system: any square (field) of the
chessboard may be empty or occupied by one of twelve pieces. Arithmetic
is simple: 1+12=13, where 12 these are white and black kings, dames, castles,
bishops, knights and pawns (2 x 6 = 12!). Further on: 32 is a number of pieces
(figures) in initial chess position and 64 is a number of squares (fields)
of the chessboard. These three numbers should originate all big numbers of
a chess system!
I have in view the numbers 13, 32 and 64, and
a) number of original chess positions which are allowed by the rules of chess play (let us identify it as "n"),
b) number of chess games which are not repeated (let us identify it as "N"). There reasons to suppose that
I've written about it an article "Chess and metachess" which has been placed in L.Judasin's book "The Millennium Myth of Chess", M., 2004, 608pp.
After I have already given out my manuscript to L.Judasin, I have put forward one curious hypothesis. Its essence is that those a table games be stable which have relation to the number
1036 - - chess, Japanese game "GO", one-hundred-square draughts, cards (say, bridge, etc.). Take really their fundamentally small numbers of these games and make up simple combinations: International draughts - 550,
bridge - 552, GO - 2361
The same 1036 and 10108.
Is it a casual coincidence? Hardly so! The coincidence, as it seems to me, is not casual in so far as the same number 1036 - is a fundamental number of the Nature. This number is correlated (it interacts - S.B.) with the most important for us people the phenomenon. Namely: some million years ago there appeared the first Homo sapiens, there originated the first human thought, there became forming Noosphere... The essence of my hypothesis is that people drift unconsciously in their fantasies (tens of varieties of chess and other table games) toward a stable number 1036 - which does not depend upon fantasies of a reasonable man (Homo sapiens).
- What is Your attitude towards Judasin's book "The Millennium Myth of Chess"? Do You believe that he is insulting the feelings of Christians by his certain statements?
- I have met enthusiastically Judasin's book being mentioned by You. We have had many-hours talks and I have dispelled his doubts how his book will be received! L.Judasin has set forth his questionable or indisputable views, and with great intellectual power. He covers large circle chess of chess and non-chess questions. Owing to the laws of nature which dictate limitation of our brain to receive information he widens their aspects infinitely and loses penetrative power in some questions. Therefore it is little what he can say concretely. But I localize greatly a direction of the intellectual attack (brain-storn) and I have more chances to get the mark. Consequently our books are different. I ought to have more concrete materials. L.Judasin puts tasks to future theorists, and I decide some of them! At the same time it is evident that L.Judasin is a deeply believer Israelite. That is why he has right to express his ideas at the mother tongue of his faith.
- Very well, let's return again to Your theory of chess. Have You invented yourself a term "compactness of packing"?
- Yes, of course. Out of all definitions which tune with concentration that one appeared to me the most fortunate, I have borrowed it from nuclear physics. It has appeared to me less understandable of all others possible which describe the concentration of figures.
- At what book are You working now?
- Now I'm trying to form "Chess game manual" wherein there will be discussed my theoretical argumentation and several hundreds of games and their fragments. That is, the theory itself and the supplement.
- How do You like to pass your free time?
- Reading books and traveling in the woods of the Karelian Isthmus. I've stopped to gather mushrooms after I did twelve kilograms of the white ones!
- - Why is it so, you're lucky!
- If I try to overcome my record I'll have to gather more than 12 kg. What for? I've got full satisfaction as to my abilities; therefore I have stopped the mushroom collector's carrier. We, my wife and me, do not use mushrooms in food as it is a hard one for our stomachs. I have been gathering them for more than twenty years, I know many places, signs and marks, where and when they had to be gathered. Everything in it is based on science...
- I would like still more to ask for Your system of finding a move.
- Yes, very well, in this connection that my chess theory is similar to a physical model, therefore in order to determine the strongest move I use four parameters of the physical system: factors of material, chess time and two space categories (my "know-how") factor of compactness and that of elevated degree of a chess position. Proceeding from them one can determine this or that out of five algorithms for finding the move. Three of them are fundamental, algorithms of Tal, Capablanca, and Petrosian, and two intermediate ones between Tal and Capablanca, and Capablanca and Petrosian. Each algorithm consists of several points for finding a move, chess enigmas (tasks). Having answered these questions You increase the probability to find the strongest move. The similar-to-physics model allows of moves-candidates (2-3 not more, but 5-7 as chessplayers who use other methods) and these moves are good.
- What are the drawbacks of other methods before 'Shashin'?
- Integrally, one may say it so. These people in some non-under-stable way are able to tell a reader what of two-digit-number signs of the position is dominating in the given case. They, from Steinitz to Dvoretsky, cannot prove it. The theory of Steinitz is not in a position to do more than what M.Dvoretsky does. It is not of full value. The theory of Steinitz is an example of the Babylonian' method, that is, "method of analogies" is used, based upon some concrete positions. There may be several hundred thousands of such analogies. Some have them deeper inside, some less. There arises a great subjective moment, or a human factor. And this method is undoubtedly working. But at some stage the method stops working because there are too many of them. The quantity of analogies rises catastrophically and begins to skid. And when they try to generalize all analogies, they approach 11 factors (M.Eiwe). Karpov by the way had seven of them; Capablanca four; Znosco-Borowsky even less, three. So they try to place all these analogies each in the number of factors. The problem is not solved in principle! They cannot say: "Why is in this position one, say, of eleven factors prevailing, and all others may be forgotten (left aside)? They cannot say... The answer is one, according to a method of analogies, nothing other can be said about...
- And Yours?
- I apply logics alone, collection of (coming up to) numbers. I organize all chess game, all infinite quantity of chess games into a great number in the four-measured phase space! Thus, any position is characterized by four numbers! So these numbers, their totality simply imply at what algorithm one should operate. I have expanded an infinite number chess games into five types of algorithms. And for each of them there is a universal rule for finding a move.
- Logics, very well, but what is about intuition?
- Intuition shows itself at junction point of two methods system. People have a right of intuition if they do not know what algorithms should be operated. Then only there may be some discoveries within the sphere beyond the grasp of mind. The intuition for me is conceiving the truth without analysis of the situation. The situation itself is analyzed indeed, but at a level of some associations which we cannot control. There arises a decision; this mechanism will probably never be investigated to the end. In order to play intuitively, on one hand, one should load his memory soundly to have associations arisen; on the other hand, one should feel slack. In this condition according to Z.Freid there open the ways of unconscious into one's consciousness. There appears a non-perceived impulse and it comes up into consciousness. It passes through the memory where there arise many associations. If a man has felt slack that "beam" will be quick so much to sent out the greatest number of them. Hence, there increases his chance in finding the best move! In general, the words about intuition usually conceal a fact that there is nothing possible to say anything of the position concretely... Contrary to "the Babylonian method", at the other "end of the world", in Greece Euclid originated axiomatics. And millions of theorems are being developed out of it.
- Well, thank You, A.A., for an interesting and heterogeneous talk and I wish You successes in Your researches and pedagogical work.A.Shashin - V.Kortchnoi, Leningrad, 1973