Entropy in the Opening in Correspondence Chess

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Not so long ago I read an article on Entropy in the Opening. It covered a different concept to that I intend to examine, but I loved the expression and the concept on which it is based.

There are several scientific definitions of Entropy but fundamentally it is the tendency of a system to move from order to disorder. Taking this concept and applying it to Correspondence Chess, it can be the tendency to move from an Opening position where the true result of a game of chess is possible (Win for White or drawn – that is another discussion!) towards the draw. Another way of thinking about this is that we start the game with the maximum theoretical change of winning with White and at the point of a draw being agreed or forced the energy of that system is at a minimum,

From a practical point of view, therefore, it suggests that our aims should be those which maintain the maximum energy or opportunity in a position.

Consider this. I am examining a position without an obvious winning move. What is the best path forward? Considering the logic above we should look at our options and our opponents’ responses to maintain the maximum number of viable paths possible.

This is another way of stating a common concept: Keeping the tension in a position. In this engine driven age, the advantage of this is that the wider the search tree is at the base, the more opportunities for engines to act in a suboptimal way.

The other advantage of this approach is tending to avoid one of the strangest behaviours of modern correspondence chess – that of the two players who charge down a known opening line to a draw in 20-30 moves. 

When musing this concept, I wondered where I read it before (very few ideas are new, most are simply repackaged!) and it came to me – Hans Berliner’s much lampooned “The System.” Some ideas seen there are, to put it nicely, odd, but the entropy concept is a combination of four of Berliner’s concepts! I’d always recommend the book to read for a CC player, although as food for thought rather than concrete advice!

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