What just do seconds add to a players preparation for a BIG match? Do they use engines to help them prepare better surprising moves?

Wouldn't a room full of powerful computers running around the clock help prepare better than seconds? Or do the seconds only transfer info from computers to the Player in the match.

1 Answer 1


Seconds, and the players themselves, absolutely use engines to help them find moves, but you cannot just let an engine run and think that it will spit out useful things. There would be too much information, and most of it useless.

First, nowadays, more and more, elite players are resorting to using Leela and Fat Fritz (neural network type programs) since they tend to be better at finding better opening moves. Stockfish is still the king when it comes to brute-force analysis in the middlegame.

Second, if you assume that the game is relatively equal from the opening, just letting a computer run theoretically should not find anything except a lot of equal lines since it will only analyze best moves for both sides. You need human intervention.

That is where the second comes in. Most seconds are very strong GMs with a great depth of theoretical opening knowledge and understanding, and they look at a position, and come up with an idea that they want to test in the player's main lines, and they basically play "advanced chess", combining their great human understanding with the computer's immense analytical ability. Of course, it is not impossible that they will stumble upon a clearly winning line, but at that level, both sides have thoroughly checked their opening repertoire with computers, and the players have such a strong positional understanding, that it is highly unlikely they would play something that weak in the first place, computer-checked, or not. They are simply looking for new move that leads small advantages that lead to an uncomfortable game for the opponent...a game they can press for a long time, hoping that it will create an unforced error.

  • In the old days they helped find moves for adjourned games. Now computers has killed adjournments. They did help prepare better moves to surprise the opponent in the openings. I would expect that they still do that with the computer engine helping spit out possibilities for them to assess. Feb 6, 2020 at 18:37
  • Of course, I remember that, but I did not mention it since it is a moot point today. Feb 6, 2020 at 18:55
  • Do you have any source for the second paragraph?
    – Allure
    Feb 6, 2020 at 23:04
  • 1
    @Allure, Svidler and Jan Gustafsson discussed in during the recent Tata Steel tournament broadcast on chess24.com. Also, some of it has been mentioned on chessbase.com. Feb 6, 2020 at 23:08
  • 2
    God no. I watched every day, for 13 rounds, about 7-9 hours per round. They are certainly out on Twitch, and I assure you they said that, but you will have a lot to go through to find it. Feb 6, 2020 at 23:16

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