It has been a long game. Yet you feel plugged in; wired. In other circumstances you would consider offering a draw, but in this tournament a draw offer is not allowed. After much deliberation you decide upon 111…Kc6 and the game continues… 112. Ng5 Bg8 113. Ka5 Kc7 114. Kb5 Kb7 115. Kc5 Kc7 116. Nh3 Kd7 117. Nf4 Bf7 118. Kb6 Be8 119. Kb7 Bf7 120. Nd3 Be8 121. Nc5+ Ke7 122. Kc7 Bb5 123. Nb7 Be2 124. Nd8 Bg4 125. Nc6+ Ke8 126. Kd6 Bh3 127. Na5 Bg4 128. Nb7 f4 129. gxf4 Bh3 1-0
It is not possible to wonder where you went wrong because you are not conscious, but a program in a machine. Other entities will determine where and why you went wrong. The name used to separate you from other programs is Critter 1.6a, and you are one of the elite 8 playing in stage 3 of the Thoresen Chess Engines Competition. Your opponent was a program named Houdini 4.
Humans have come to think of chess playing programs as infallible, and any move provided by the highly rated engine is the best move in the position. Such is not the case. Every move played by an engine should be scrutinized just as all moves played by the best human players are questioned and examined. Was the above endgame lost or did Critter 1.6a lose a drawn game?
Chess programs use an opening “book” which consists of many games played by humans. Programs also incorporate endgame tablebases.
An idea to consider in any human versus chess engine battle would be to not allow the program to use either an opening book, or an endgame tablebase. This could possibly even the odds. If this is not enough, another idea to consider would be to cut the power a certain amount, say 10% per hour. As a last resort, the plug can be pulled.
Houdini 4 first went wrong with 76 b5. The program’s own analysis showed 76 Ne5, keeping the Black Knight out of f3, but for some yet as to be determined reason the program made the pawn move. Then on move 80, Houdini 4 melted down completely by trading a Rook for only pawn. Houdini’s analysis showed it was expecting 79…Ng5, but when Chiron 2 played 79…h5, Houdini 4 was obviously flummoxed. Chiron 2 showed 80 Nxh5 as best.
When asked what had gone wrong with Houdini 4 its handler said, “Today Houdini 4 passed the Turing test because it played like a human. As to why, we have just finished a psychiatric diagnostic of Houdini 4. The answer is on the screen.”
The big chess news today is the chess program known as Houdini, rated 3134, lost to the much lower rated Jonny 6, rated ‘only’ 2799. To make things worse, Houdini had the White pieces. The Legendary Georgia Ironman said Houdini lost because it had “…shown human like qualities by making bad moves.” Ouch! The man from the High Plains, former Georgia and Ga. Senior, champion, David Vest, said the machines were showing Tron like tendencies with the possibility of becoming sentient entities. He added, “We may just think they are off, but in reality they continue to compute chess variations even after the plug is pulled!” I got in on the conversation by adding, “And in the future, when humans are battling the machines, as in the Terminator movies, future humans will look back and blame it on those humans who started it all by programming machines to play chess.” Quiet reigned for a few moments while everyone contemplated the prospect…
Life is change and chess is a part of life, at least for now. How long chess will remain relevant is an open question. I lost interest in the computer tournament after learning humans force the machines to play openings played by other humans at the recent Tata Steel chess tournaments, in lieu of allowing them to play the move the program considered best. I have no interest in the USCL because teams are forced to play an inferior player rather than someone much stronger. The same thing happens in Little League baseball when the rules require a team to stick some obviously under qualified child in right field for a certain number of innings, possibly costing his team a win. Many years ago Maddog Gordon and I, watched an episode of the cartoon series, King of the Hill, in which the poor young son of the King was the unfortunate one placed out in right field, against his wishes, I might add. We laughed uproariously as the poor kid tried, and failed, to catch a fly ball. Although the adults meant well when they forced the poor boy to play, they did not take into consideration what it would do to him to be put into a position to fail. This is often the position some, lower rated player finds himself in when the score of the top three boards, often manned by GM’s, is tied, and the outcome of the match is riding on their small shoulders. What is the point? If a team cannot play their four best players, that means some worthy player is forced to sit while a player of much lesser quality plays in his stead. Imagine the outrage if college maimball teams were forced to play the third stringers in the fourth quarter. How much interest would there be in college maimball?
I sent this chess game to a few friends recently:
[Event “Oslo Chess International – Håvard Vederh”]
[Site “Ullevaal Stadion”]
[White “Johannessen, Leif E”]
[Black “Istratescu, Andrei”]
1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. e4 d5 6. e5 Ne4 7. Bd3 c5 8. Nf3
Nc6 9. O-O Bxc3 10. bxc3 cxd4 11. Bxe4 dxe4 12. Qxe4 dxc3 13. Ng5 g6 14. Qh4 h5
15. Ba3 Nxe5 16. Rad1 Bd7 17. Bxf8 Qxf8 18. Qd4 f6 19. f4 Ba4 20. fxe5 Bxd1 21.
exf6 c2 22. f7+ 1-0
The Discman sent this reply, “I read your blog. (Concerning cheating in chess-AW) I am sure some with their heads in the sand will say we’re being paranoid and this type of thing would never happen at your normal weekend tourney but I would be willing to bet does in fact happen. Even if it’s only a small percentage of people who are cheating that’s too much – the integrity of the game is shattered.
Looking at the game below – wow what a hay-maker!” The Legendary Georgia Ironman sent this pithy comment, “I wonder if Leif was “hooked up”?” This is my point, exactly. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it can never be put back, unfortunately. There will always be a question about any outstanding move played by a human. Was it from the mind of man, or was it from the innards of a machine?
The second season, stage one, of the nTCEC tournament has begun. I was amused when the Legendary Georgia Ironman told me he was following the first season of the computer tournament. The games are being displayed on the Chess Bomb website (http://chessbomb.com/), and Chessdom (http://www.chessdom.com/) has been covering the tournament with regular articles. The Bomb is one of the websites the Ironman is able to access on his gizmo. His browser will not allow some websites, but the Bomb is one of the websites that can be accessed on his gizmo. Tim said he liked the fact that there is always a game ongoing. Upon completion of one game, another immediately pops up. Dennis Monokroussos has also provided coverage on his blog, The Chess Mind (http://www.thechessmind.net/). I thought of the Ironman upon reading his post of August 29, 2013, TCEC SEASON 2 UNDERWAY (http://www.thechessmind.net/blog/2013/8/29/tcec-season-2-underway.html). Dennis writes: “There’s always a live game going there, and will be for about three months’ time for anyone truly desperate for a chess fix.”
It was Tim’s time for amusement when learning I am now hooked on the nTCEC tournament. Could I possibly be a neophiliac. The first thing I do in the morning after firing-up the ‘puter is surf over to the Bomb in order to ascertain the result of the game from the previous night, and check out the current game. Because I am such a neophyte fan of the tournament between programs I was unaware the openings are chosen for the programs. This is what happened with the game of checkers when some variations had been played out to the point every one lead to a draw with best play. This happened before Chinook, and other programs sucked the life out of the game of checkers. I do not like the fact that the openings are prearranged. I do not like the fact that the programs are allowed an opening book. Back when playing against the ‘engines’ I would turn off the opening book. It seemed only fair, unless I could do the same and utilize my opening book(s). I would like to see what openings the programs would play, left to their own devices.
Firefly is the lowest rated program, by far, of the 36 participating in the tournament, with a rating of only 2208. Nebula, rated 2421, is closest to Firefly. Houdini, rated 3156, is the top-seed, with Stockfish next at 3102. Firefly won last night when Bugchess2 “bugged-out.” Buggy was not able to respond to Firefly’s 10th move, and lost. There must have been a bug in the system…
I am not only “pulling” for Firefly because it is the lowest rated ‘engine’ but because some years ago my friend NM Neal Harris, upon learning I enjoyed watching Sci-Fi shows, but had no knowledge of the TV phenomenon Firefly (I was completely away from the tube that year), loaned me a box-set of all the episodes broadcast, plus several others that had not been broadcast. As with several of my all-time favorite shows, it only lasted one season. The IMDB website shows a rating of 9.1 out of 10, which is exceptional. Shows rated far lower last for years. Firefly was obviously too good for its own good.
My other ‘favorite’ is Toga II. Anyone who has ever watched the movie Animal House will understand! “TOGA, TOGA, TOGA, TOGA II!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AohA367VVk)