If we downloaded a gigantic database of chess games into our brains (intelligence downloads), then would we play at a stronger level than the world's leading top players?

What about if we downloaded a 7-piece tablebase into our heads?

And also I was thinking the size of the game database would be 6.5 million games, and all grandmaster games or at least above 2400.

  • 3
    Try playing a game of slow chess online with a database of 6.5 million games available, do you really play that much stronger? – RemcoGerlich Jul 27 '17 at 14:28
  • But those databases usually stop at the middlegame. Also would it teach us new ideas and patterns in chess? – Sorin Solberg Jul 27 '17 at 14:32
  • 5
    With brain big enough to store database and fast enough to process its searching paterns, you should probably just download stockfish instead. – hoacin Jul 27 '17 at 16:06
  • But that's not the point; Magnus Carlsen studies and memorizes games. – Sorin Solberg Jul 31 '17 at 11:58

If that database contained purely grandmaster games, and we were fast enough to process all of that information, then you could technically replicate the moves of any grandmaster and become equal to their skill level. However, if faced with a board layout not in the database, you would have to use your own intuition. That, unfortunately, must be learnt and cannot be downloaded.

If you downloaded games from chess computers too, you could play at a higher level than any human, however new board states would again throw you off since you would have to process the board yourself and not rely on the database.

So I guess the answer is that if you downloaded a database of all grandmaster and computer games you could theoretically beat any grandmaster as long as you repeat a game in which the side you are playing as won. Any divergence into a new line will make the database obselete.

As for the tablebase, you would have to hold your ground against your opponent until there were 7 pieces left, and then you would be able to spot the best move for the rest of the game. The issue here is that with 7 pieces left, most grandmasters are nearly flawless in their endgames anyway, and unless you enter the endgame with a small advantage you will be pretty much equal, even with machine skill.

  • Very thoughtful answer. And yes I would love to be able to fully play and comprehend every move played in a TCEC database! )). But the thing is, if you could remember over 6.5 million games, then couldn't you use ideas from some of those games for when you get out of 'theory'? You just kind of know what move must be played, because you have mountains and mountains of patterns stored in your brain? – Sorin Solberg Jul 27 '17 at 15:00
  • 1
    "as long as you repeat a game in which the side you are playing as won" -- good luck with that; almost all games deviate from what was played before pretty quickly. – RemcoGerlich Jul 28 '17 at 8:19
  • @RemcoGerlich that was my point. it's not gonna happen. – Aric Jul 28 '17 at 8:41
  • 1
    @SorinSolberg You said "if we downloaded a gigantic database". This means that you would still have to interpret the information yourself. Sure, you could make educated moves by looking at similar positions in grandmaster games, however people already do that. The reason this isn't effective is because one position can never be directly compared to another. There is always some quirk 8 moves down the line which makes this position different, and makes the best move different. – Aric Jul 28 '17 at 8:44
  • 1
    @SorinSolberg In my opinion, tactics training helps you to recognise when you can use tactics, however it depends on the situation as to whether you should use that tactic. In cases where a tactic is available and useful, someone who has practised tactics will be better at spotting the tactic and evaluating whether to use it. Someone who has not done this may not even spot the tactic. I think that tactics training is useful to let you process board states faster, however it will not improve your playing by a considerable amount once you get past the "beginner" level of chess. – Aric Jul 31 '17 at 11:55

It would hardly help, because chess is not a game of knowledge. It's a game of skill. It wouldn't be much different from "downloading" video of all football games ever and expecting to play like Messi.

To play strong chess, you need to be able to find the best move in a position you've never seen before, that usually has never been played before.

Yes, pattern recognition is a big part of it -- but you'll still need to know why those patterns work, why moves were played and others weren't, and be apply to apply that knowledge to new positions. Just knowing the old games instead of having them in a database isn't that much help. And there are still lots of positions where pattern recognition isn't the important thing, but rather exact calculation.

Tablebases are different matter, because they contain everything when the number of pieces is small enough, and the moves they contain are perfect. If this player reaches a winning position that is in the database, he'll always win it. That's much better than human players manage. But he'll have to reach those positions first...

  • Thank you. I agree, Chess is a game of skill and not so much knowledge. When Igor Smirnov was an IM, he was able to skillfully understand positions even though his knowledge was far inferior from his old GM coach's level. Smirnov would actually win most of his practice games I think. I like your football comparison by the way. But okay here is my next question; why does Carlsen and other top GMs study and memorize games? Carlsen memorized 30000 games, and in an interview he said that he already knows what to do, but spends time verifying his moves. – Sorin Solberg Jul 31 '17 at 11:52

I don't think it'll help, unless you download the Stockfish engine (but not the database). You can't win a game by just checking the database, you'll need the understand the moves. There's no point with a 7-men tablebase if you miss a simple tactic in a new position not in the database.

I'm convinced I can defeat a FIDE 1400 player, even if the player is allowed to search the database during the game. I'm happy to allow my opponent unlimited access to 7-men tablebase. That wouldn't make any difference.

  • Thank you. But then why does Magnus Carlsen have 30000 games memorized? There are recipes, especially at the top level, although I guess a database doesn't account for calculation and move evaluation. – Sorin Solberg Jul 31 '17 at 11:48
  • @SorinSolberg I never mentioned Carlsen memorized 30000 games. – SmallChess Jul 31 '17 at 12:07
  • Yeah I know. My point is, if memorizing a game database isn't so helpful, then why do GMs bother to study and memorize chess games? – Sorin Solberg Jul 31 '17 at 12:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for?Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.