"Adams can
beat Hydra!

By Reimund   Lutzenberger


"Adams can beat Hydra"


This assessment is given by Correspondence Chess Grandmaster Arno Nickel from Berlin,
who recently won against Hydra by 2 : 0 in a correspondence chess match after a six month struggle. On the occasion of the forthcoming match Hydra vs. Adams  chessfriend.com
asked Arno Nickel about his experience with the so-called "hardware monster".


Chessfriend.com: You won two correspondence match games against the previous
version Hydra Chimera. Would you draw any conclusions from this match for the
man/machine event in London? What is your bet?


GM Nickel: Well of course, correspondence chess and over-the-board chess are nowadays
two extremely different disciplines, more so than ever, because correspondence players
in contrast to o-t-b players have full access to computer engines and databases. Nevertheless
my test games against Hydra (I think, we should call them this way) show some aspects of
the potential of Hydra's chess abilities as the successor to Deep Blue. In the two games,
where I played White against the Sicilian and with Black against the Tarrasch-System
in the French Defence, Hydra disregarded principles and unnecessarily got into difficulties, once in the middlegame and the again in the endgame. If the positions are not guided by tactics, I wouldn't be surprised, if a super grandmaster like Adams will give the machine a
thrashing on the board. A lot depends if he manages to neutralize Hydra's tactical
power and in reaching human type positions, where long sighted plans are called for.


Chessfriend.com: This in fact occured to some of the leading grandmasters, who played Hydra
in Bilbao in 2004 and who failed to follow your strategy. Namely ex-FIDE World Champion Ponomariov and the youngster Karjakin (both from Ukrainia), while the bulgarian
Top-GM Topalov was the only one to take half a point from the machine and even
had winning chances at one stage. When this became possible...


GM Nickel: ...exactly, it was in this game, where Hydra also blundered positionally. You cannot eliminate such deficits overnight, and without intensive training against very strong players...


Chessfriend.com: However Hydra Scylla is five times faster than the previous version,
which "only" calculated about 40 millions moves per second.


GM Nickel: As said before, in positional situations such numbers are completely
meaningless. Really important is the direction in which the program goes and how
it evaluates the positions. Once the machine has got the wrong idea, it will not correct
itself by deep calculation in quiet positions. This was evident in my correspondence
games, where Hydra had lots of time and could calculate much deeper than the
new Hydra will be able to in a classical tournament game with four to six hours for all of moves. The results were not better in most of the critical positions.


Chessfriend.com: Some deficits of Hydra were also seen in the recent freestyle tournament on playchess.com, where the sea monster didn't even reach the quarter finals.


GM Nickel: Well, this is of course a hot potato since Hydra as in correspondence chess
had to play against strong players, amongst them even some FIDE grandmasters who
could use engines as in "advanced chess". I was also surprised by Hydra's failure,
but on consideration I realised that all programs including Shredder 9, Fritz 8 and Junior 9 which were also running on strong machines, got into trouble, when playing
without human advice. Probably this wouldn't have happened with shorter time limits,
et's say 15 minute games or even shorter, but in one hour games (1h per player plus
15 sec. per move), human chess competence can already show its qualities in
tandem with engines. By the way, I also participated in this very interesting event and
didn't manage to reach the quarter finals either. However in the process I met Hydra
again and played a nice game which was drawn after 102 moves. The sea monster
must have gotten tired of attacking my fortress without success.


Chessfriend.com: Once again what is your bet on the match Hydra-Adams...?


GM Nickel: Okay, it will very hard for any human being, but as I always hold on for humanity, and especially as Michael Adams is a gifted positional player, I think he might achieve a draw, that means 3 : 3. May be he can even beat Hydra, if he is able to completely control his emotions and avoid any unclear complications. Should this be so, he could succeed where Kasparov failed when playing Deep Blue eight years ago. This would mean that humans have learned since then even though the computers didn't get weaker, but obviously stronger since that time. Hydra don't forget is supposed to be stronger than good old Deep Blue!


Please see the games here :




Postscript of  chessfriend.com  :

The correspondence chess match Hydra vs. Nickel on our server isn't finished yet.
The Hydra Team is ready to continue the match against GM Nickel by playing two
further games. This will take place after the match with Adams. (The first two finished correspondence games can be replayed online and downloaded on our website.)


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