Queen Trapped

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Revisiting AlphaZero's out of this world chess to reveal "Installation Theory"

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Revisiting Game 3 of the original 2017 match - Alphazero's "Immortal Zugzwang" game

Hi all

"Accumulation of Installations" Theory

The following game I find truly inspiring and may actually be prompting a concept of "Accumulation of Installations" instead of the traditional "Accumulation of Advantages" which you may have heard about from our first official World chess champion Wilhelm Steinitz.

An "installation" for example installing a thorn pawn generally makes the position easier for you to play - and more difficult for the opponent to play. But installations can be of all shapes and sizes e.g.

"Installing weak pawns"
"Installing advanced pawns"
"Installing prison for opponents' Queen"
"Installing prison for opponent's Bishop"

Some installations are more outrageous than others....

Some of these types of "installations" seems a bit outrageous - and how on earth would they even be achieved you might ask. Well quite often pawn sacrifices and other sacrifices I used to create these installations - they come sometimes at a material short-term cost. But their long-term benefits can be immense.

Game 3 shows Leela with the "installing" style of Chess at its most spectacular - and actually makes me think humans haven't really been playing "Dynamic chess" at all, all these years. And humans perhaps have overstated "Accumulation of advantages" instead of the more visually crushing installs of the "Accumulation of Installation" theory - which CM Kingscrusher proposes in this blog.

Installing thorn pawns was only one slight effect

What I didn't realise a the time of the phrase "installing thorn pawn" was actually that Alphazero was making all kinds of "installs" creating visually crushing positions where actually the tradeoff between making the position "easy to play" via "Installs" is made vs trying to play a scientifically "accurate move". This is more aligned to human chess, because quite often the initiative is worth material just to make the position "easier to play" - e.g. Playing the Smith Morra gambit offers a pawn to get the initiative - and often some crushing wins result when opponents crack under pressure. The "initiative" itself is a concept which aligns to "Easy to play" - the person with an initiative is making the threats and any slip ups can sometimes be severely punished.

I will put diagrams for any relevant "Installations" here just to illustrate Game 3 of the 2017 match.

The game starts off with the Polguaevsky Gambit

The compensation here is rather dynamic

Installation alert - weakened dark squares - looking out for installations later on f6 or h6

Advanced pawn installation alert - the advanced pawns claw into the opponent's position and make it easier to install something on f6 later or d6

Installing a rook on f6

Classic "Thorn pawn" installation: Restricts King and anything else on say h8 later like a Queen - the start of a "prison" installation.

And here the positional combination magic happens:

Rxc5 !!

Installing a prison for the opponent's Queen!

Installing prison with g5 reinforcement

What can black do here?

Pur desperation and despair

Final position

Game Video Annotation

What a game. And looking at several Alpha zero games recently with latest engines has convinced me of an understated new model of positional play I would like to call "Accumulation of installations" :)

Now you might ask - how on earth is this practical?! Well "Thorn pawns" can even be used in bullet chess. But think of even just advanced pawns as king of "installations" and then widen the net of the concept to include "Installing weak pawns" - and this is what seems to be a visually appealing alternative to the principle of "Accumulation of Advantages" which our first World chess champion emphasized. In the modern day of computers and "installing software" or "installing plugins", the installing metaphor seems quite fun to try and make use of.

Key takeaway points

  • Our chess through the study of Neural network games can be significantly enhanced
  • "Installations" can be a continuous game process for making the position easier for us to play
  • "Installations" can be of various types - the most obvious being the "Thorn pawn" installations. But plain vanilla advanced pawns on the 5th rank can also be seen as installations too - as well as just installing weak pawns for the opponent to have to defend

I hope you enjoyed this blog :). Any likes and follows are really appreciated. Also, I also have some interesting chess courses at to check out.
Cheers, K