Critical Moments In Chess


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Susan Chen

Mentor Department



BACKGROUND: The project incorporates basic knowledge in game theory into the game of chess. The goal of winning in chess is to “checkmate” one’s rival. Following several progressions within the game of chess, the project will provide a basic understanding of making strategic decisions when playing chess. As a reference to readers, a brief summary of how pieces move can be included. AIMS: This project aims to investigate critical moments from chess games by some of the best players in history. Specifically, the project will analyze key decisions under normal and advanced time constraints (classical versus blitz chess) that lead to the success of a game. These equilibrium positions conclude the game can be “solved” by computers, although even the best chess players are not always following the same moves as predicted by the computer. Therefore, this analysis will take into consideration strategic moves made during those critical moments. In short, the aim of this project is to apply backward induction to chess games and examine whether the players adopt the optimal strategies as predicted (in the game of chess, this is known as “calculating”). METHODOLOGY: I will analyze 3 or 4 critical moments in selected chess games, which allows me to go into more detail on the strategies that these players employ as they reach this endgame phase. First, I compare the computer’s calculated best moves with the actual moves made in these games and analyze whether each of these moves is reasonable. I will use chess engines such as and lichess for the computer’s calculated best moves (which I already have access to), and justify why the players may have sometimes deviated from the machine’s optimal strategies. It is in this latter portion where the merging of my two spheres of interest will occur, as I will be examining each players’ strategies and payoffs in detail. EXPECTED OUTCOMES, SIGNIFICANCE, or RATIONALE: This is an important study to aid in my understanding of backward induction, a fundamental concept of sequential move games in game theory. It will be the crux of how I defend the moves the players make, as well as how the computer calculates its best-response results. Additionally, the concept of “look ahead, and reason back” is crucial to any area of study. This study highlights only games featuring true masters of chess (these players are called international/grand masters, IM or GM respectively). Their decision making and strategy is the subject of extensive academic research, and I believe that my contribution though small will be well received by a wider audience

Critical Moments In Chess