Advanced Chess (or Centaur Chess) is a form of chess credited to 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov. The rules of the game dictate that a person can play a normal game of chess with a computer helping in the background. It is said that when a top grandmaster and a strong chess engine analyse together, the level of play is increased to heights never before seen in the history of chess. Advanced Chess is unique in that sometimes a regular average player can hold their own and even defeat strong grandmasters. 15th World Champion Viswanathan Anand is considered to be the world’s premier expert on Advanced Chess, winning three consecutive Advanced Chess tournaments in León in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Computers are already very strong by themselves, so why do they need help from a human? Chess engines often have weaknesses in quiet positions and in considering strategical subtleties. There is also a small number of positions in which a computer’s analysis is totally wrong. Other times, humans can instinctively find the best move in the position whereas a computer may not even consider it. In this case, the human can probe the chess engine about his potential move and the computer can analyse it. Of course, humans have their own shortcomings too. With the aid of a trusty Fritz or Rybka, they can weed out the majority of the tactical errors in their games.
In short, humans and computers complement each other. Humans contribute the bulk of strategic and positional chess knowledge, whilst computers are used for deep tactical calculations.
Nowadays, there is also ‘Freestyle Chess’, a form of Centaur Chess where consultation teams are allowed. ChessBase’s playing site PlayChess (one of the biggest online chess clubs in the world) frequently has a freestyle chess tournament called the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament. Surprises are common in this tournament, with occasional dark horses winning the championship.
For example, Xakru become Freestyle Champion in 2006. Funny ChessBase caption: “That’s what happens when you choose a flippant name on the chess server: you win a major event and wish you hadn’t called yourself ‘Damn it’ (in Czech).” The Xakru team was comprised of Jiri Dufek and Roman Chytilek. Jiri, a system administrator, was 32 at the time with a FIDE rating of 2276 and was an ICCF IM (2568). Roman, a university teacher of political science was 30 years old at the time and was an IM (FIDE: 2394) and an ICCF GM (2649). 2nd place was “Flying Saucers”, which was manned by a single player – Dagh Nielsen (FIDE: 2163) from Denmark.
Before that, in 2005, another dark horse “ZackS” took out the championship title. Shockingly, at the time, it was controlled by Steven Cramton, 1685 USCF, and Zackary Stephen, 1398 USCF! They defeated teams of strong grandmasters all the way to victory in the finals. In the final, Cramton and Stephen convincingly defeated Russian GM Vladimir Dobrov, working together with a 2600+ colleague with a 2.5:1.5 score.
Garry Kasparov has invented a game where almost anyone can conquer. Indeed, even if you were “assisted by the devil, that would probably be covered by the rules” (Kasparov). For more information, see the Wikipedia article on Advanced Chess.