Eros Riccio kindly accepted to answer a few questions after his win in the 9th FICGS correspondence chess championship. Once again, his answers are worth to read... including probably a few surprises and valuable informations for most of us!
- Hello again Eros. Congratulations for this new win! So you played Jeroen for the second time in a row, this time in the 12 games format. There were 12 draws but it does not mean a lot. How did things go?
--> Hi Thibault! Nice to answer your questions again I managed to resist again Van Assche's assaults, this time he was well-determined to win, as he made me really suffer in a couple of games. The first game was a semislav, me as Black. He played a rare variation (starting with 14.Be2 followed by 15.Qd3) that was new to me. At first the engines were giving 0.00 evaluations, but after the move 22.Qg3 they started to realize that Black's position was difficult, and they kept increasing their evaluation in White's favor move after move. That was quite a scary thing to see, and I really thought that I could have lost the game. I had to use all the thinking time (leave included) to be able to resist. This new variation impressed me so much that I decided to use it as White myself as a surprise weapon, and in fact it allowed my engine on autoplay on my old I7 980x to win a lot of games as White and a 500 dollars prize getting first place in a strong tournament on Infinity Chess. The second game was a Spanish, me as White. After his 7...0-0 I decided to avoid the Marshall (that would have probably happened if I had played 8.c3) trying the AntiMarshall variation 8.d4. I am now convinced that this variation gives nothing good to White, but I didn't know that yet when I played it! Already after the rare strong move 11...c5! things were starting to get difficult for me. He simply continued with c4 and d5, getting space advantage with his Pawns on the Queenside, while I could find no attack at all on the Kingside. Again I had to be very careful to escape with a draw.
- What can you tell about your other results this year, particularly at ICCF where you're now ranked #9 with an outstanding rating of 2639 ?
--> My ICCF elo in the past few years has raised. Slowly, but it has raised. I had no defeats and a couple of wins in the Olympiads and European team tournaments started in 2012. I am satisfied of that, as winning nowadays in top correspondence tournaments is very difficult. Important is to remain undefeated.
- Last year, you said that you felt like your play was getting weaker each day because your machine was getting older, did you finally upgrade it? But maybe this is a secret...
--> No. As I wrote earlier, I haven't updated my machine. Fortunately cpu's general speed has kept increasing not as quickly as in the past, so my I7 980x can still compete.
- Did your vision of computer chess evolve after these last 18 months? What do you expect for the next years? Do you plan to become a chess cyborg? ^^
--> Fortunately for our hobby, computer chess isn't rushing towards the "all draws" situation that I talked about a couple of years ago. That's because, fortunately, increasing cpu's power and engine's strenght is getting more and more difficult. Yes, some main lines already lead to all draws often, but chess gives so many openings options that to avoid that, you can simply play subvariations. When played a lot, also subvariations will become main variations. Then again, when the draws rate gets too high, you just pick another less played opening. It will take many years to cover every opening to a high draws rate.
- Your next challenger is Peter W. Anderson, who made a convincingly path through the round-robin cycle before to defeat SM Igor Dolgov 5-3 in the 10th candidates final (by the way he's also playing the 11th candidates final). It seems that you never played him before. How do you feel this match? Do you have any words for your opponent before that the games start?
--> I am happy to play a new player! We have just started our match, again, all my first moves as White were 1.e4. What to say... it's up to him to avoid main lines as Black (he already did it answering with 1...g6 in three games) if he wants to try to win with the black pieces. But the real challenge for him of course will be to try to win with the White pieces. It will be interesting to see if he can find holes in my Black repertoire like Van Assche was able to do. Let's wait and see!