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Robert Shimmin wrote on 2002-11-11 UTC
On a re-read of parts 2-4 of About the Values of Chesspieces, I finally
became convinced that with good statistics (thousands of compiled games),
two things should be possible. (1) A workable handicap system for chess
players of different rank that could tie the 19th-century handicaps of two
moves, pawn and move, knight odds, etc. in with the modern rating system. 
(2) A theory of piece values that has better predictive power than what we
have now.

So I wrote some scripts to play Zillions against itself and compile the
results whenever I'm not using my computer, and if, Zillions' quirks
notwithstanding, these numbers have any relation to games played by human
beings, some of my initial results are intriguing.  Among them are

(1) Ralph Betza's intuition in designing Chigorin Chess seems to be
correct: averaged over the course of the entire game, knights may be more
valuable than bishops.  Conventional wisdom holds the opposite because by
the time the game gets around to trading knights for bishops, things have
often opened up enough to close the gap between them.

(2) The 19th-century source was nearly dead-on in calling pawn-and-move at
2:1 money odds -- if we can assume Zillions' strength is on par with that
of the average 19th-century club player, then my statistics so far
indicate pawn-and-move is worth about 130 USCF ratings points.  Knight or
bishop odds seems to be around 400 points so far, and rook odds (with
nowhere near enough games to have good statistics) seems to be worth a
little over 500 points.  Of course, since advantages become bigger with
the increasing skill of the players, it very much matters _which_ 500
points those are...

Anyway, as I've alluded above, the chief barrier in proceeding with this
work, or even in determining whether the numbers have any value at all, is
getting enough games.  Figuring that I actually have to use my machine, I
can only crank out a few hundred games a day.  So if anyone has interest
in donating their computer's downtime to the cause, please email me at
[email protected] with the particulars of the machine (processor, memory,
and operating system) you'd like to run it on, and I'll send you my
scripts for automating Zillions.  The first step will be seeing how much
Zillions' strength varies from system to system, but after that, we may
actually be able to answer some of these questions.