This week I am joined by the authors by one of the most anticipated chess books in recent memory, Gamechanger: AlphaZero's Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI.GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan have written a fascinating and revelatory book, so I was very excited to chat with them about the background to the book and discuss some highlights from it.
In our conversation, we also touch on other aspects of Matthew and Natasha’s accomplished careers, particularly, how adults can continue to make strides in chess, as discussed in their prior collaboration, Chess for Life.. You can find many more details about our conversation with timestamps below. Gamechanger is now available from New in Chess, Chessable, and Forward Chess, and will be released on Amazon in the US on February 15.
0:00 Intro, discussion of the genesis of the GameChanger project and how its seeds were sown at the London Chess Classic
5:00- Natasha and Matthew talk about how they approached the project once Demis Hassabis of DeepMind gave them permission to write about AlphaZero
10:00- We get into the meat of the GameChanger book, beginning with a discussion of which players in history Alphazero’s chess style is reminiscent of. Kasparov, Carlsen and Botvinnik are mentioned.
22:00- A Patreon supporter of the podcast asks a question about how Alphazero learned chess. In Gamechanger Matthew and Natasha lay out 4 principles in Alphazero’s approach to learning chess (as well as how other DeepMind programs have learned other games, such as Go): :
Learning rather than being programmed
General rather than specific
Grounded rather than logic based
Active rather than passive
24:00- What openings did AlphaZero gravitate toward, and we can we learn from those choices? Among other openings, Matthew mentions that Alphazero plays the Botvinnik System and the Anti Moscow Gambit against the Semi-Slav, and double king pawn and the Berlin Defense against e4.
29:00- How will these opening choices and this playing style filter through to the professional and amateur chess circuits?
34:00- Have the authors heard anything about whether Deepmind will continue to improve and deploy Alphazero in chess competitions?
35:00- We discuss Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan’s previous collaboration, Chess for Life. This is a book of interviews and games based specifically on how adults can maintain and/or improve their level of chess play. What was some of the advice for adults that the authors gleaned from their interviews? They mention insights from the games and repertoires of GM Keith Arkell, FM Terry Chapman, GM Pia Cramling and GM Sergei Tiviakov, as discussed in the book. Both Gamechanger and Chess for Life have instructive chapters on The Carlsbad Structure.
43:00- What did the legendary trainer, IM Mark Dvoretsky tell GM Matthew Sadler in what he called “the most instructive 5 minutes of my life?” What else did he learn from a memorable couple of weeks working with Mark Dvoretsky?
48:00- How has Matthew managed to reach his peak rating despite being 44 years old and employed full time?
54:00- Book recommendations! Natasha enjoyed My 60 Most Memorable Games and Chess Bitch. Matthew recommends Small Steps to Giant Improvement,Positional Decision Making in Chess, The Chess Toolbox, and Emmanuel Lasker, Volume 1
56:00- How can we keep up with Matthew and Natasha’s chess work? They have a Facebook page for Gamechanger here, and a Youtube Channel with bonus material related to the book here. They also have a Youtube channel for Chess for Life here.
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