This article supplements a series of videos about Stockfish’s opening repertoire which appeared on the “Silicon Road to Chess Improvement” YouTube site (https://www.youtube.com/c/SiliconRoadChess). This article provides an overview of Stockfish’s main openings; for all the detail and many surprises(!) take a look at the video series!
It struck me that it would be intriguing to look at the opening choices of the latest engines and to compare them to conventional wisdom about the opening. When I talk about “conventional wisdom” I’m not talking about the current thinking of elite players about the opening but more about the orthodoxy which was prevalent until about 10 or 15 years ago and which I think is still how the average non-professional chess player thinks about openings.
In my new book “The Silicon Road to Chess Improvement” I spend a whole chapter on engine sacrifices. One of the many sacrifices that engines play nowadays are sacrifices to clear lines for their major pieces. We saw many such long-term sacrifices from AlphaZero and modern engines are just as ready – indeed eager – to do so! One great example was from the game Combusken-rofChade in round 3 of the ongoing TCEC Swiss 2 (https://tcec-chess.com/#div=sw2&game=102&season=21)
Engines can teach us how to play like Tal or Shirov at their best! Understanding this theme is a key building block in creating promising attacking positions.
Komodo plays a model Grunfeld against Igel, pushing rook’s pawns AlphaZero-style on both wings to squeeze Black for space then cutting through Black’s porous kingside dark squares with a fine exchange sacrifice.
Any 1.d4 players who face the Grunfeld should note this as a model game: it’s a perfect example of what White should be aiming for!
One of the things I like when watching engine games are evaluations that surprise me. In particular I look out for positions that seem reasonable to human eyes but which produce a high engine evaluation. It’s struck me how often I am misled by plausible-looking development schemes.