The Computer: A Phantom Specter Haunting Chess

Computers Are Haunting The World Chess Championship (Which, Yes, Is Still Tied)

By Oliver Roeder

Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in London, like the two games that came before it, ended in a draw — 49 moves and a touch more than four hours. The best-of-12 championship is currently level at 1.5 points apiece in a race to 6.5 points and the game’s most important prize.

On Monday, Caruana controlled the white pieces and Carlsen the black.

The pair began Game 3 with an opening called the Sicilian Defence, specifically its Rossolimo Variation. It was the same opening they played in Game 1 — which ended in an epic seven-hour draw — and the first five moves exactly matched those from that earlier game. But they deviated dramatically from this familiar ground on move 6, when Carlsen moved his queen to the c7 square. Caruana glanced around the soundproof glass room in which they played, looking slightly befuddled.

A quick word on this opening’s eponymous Rossolimo himself seems warranted, given that Monday’s game was lacking in fireworks and Rossolimo’s name has figured more prominently thus far in this world championship than any but Caruana and Carlsen. He was Nicolas Rossolimo, Renaissance man:

one of the U.S.’s 12 grandmasters at the time, fluent in Russian, Greek, French and English, and the “proprietor of a chess studio,” which became a second home to some players. He was also a judo master and a New York City cab driver and recorded an album of Russian folk songs, according to The New York Times. He died in 1975 after a fall near the storied Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.


Fabiano Caruana at the Marshall Chess Club


http://www.marshallchessclub.org/


Magnus Carlsen at the Marshall Chess Club

https://www.chess-site.com/chess-clubs/marshall-chess-club/

There is another figure, aside from the colorful Rossolimo, casting its shadow over this championship: The Computer. Most livestreams of the match feature instant computer engine analyses, whose cold numbers instantly assess the humans’ tiniest inaccuracies down to hundredths of a pawn. Those judgments ripple through the commentary. Full disclosure, I rely heavily on a chess engine running on my laptop to aid my understanding as I watch the games. One popular site during recent world championships features live analysis showing arrows pointing out a supercomputer’s favored moves. (http://analysis.sesse.net/)

The principals in the match have also commented on The Computer’s somewhat spooky influence.

“I’m facing not only Fabiano and his helpers, but also his computer help,” Carlsen said in a press conference after Game 2. (He was referring to Caruana’s deep preparation for the game, although Carlsen surely uses a computer to prep, too.)

“It’s like you’re playing against a phantom,” Judit Polgar,

a grandmaster providing official commentary on the match, said today.

The Computer can often seem like a phantom, a specter haunting the games. It can seem like an overlord that has rendered the human game obsolete and small. But it’s important to remember that man made the machines. Garry Kasparov lost to the supercomputer Deep Blue,


World Chess champion Garry Kasparov barely acknowledges the handshake from Dr. C.J. Tan head of the IBM Deep Blue computer team which defeated Kasparov in the six-game series that ended on May 11, 1997.
Credit: Roger Celestin/Newscom

but a team of humans sweated and bled to built it. In these technological gaming battles, man plays two roles: builder and performer.

At the world championship in London, we are witnessing the performance of two of the best players in the history of the game. That stronger computers exist, and have helped Caruana and Carlsen get to London, does not detract from their feat.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/computers-are-haunting-the-world-chess-championship-which-yes-is-still-tied/

Magnus Carlsen Superman

The World Human Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, did not win the recently completed London Chess Classic. Although he may have lost a battle he won the war by taking the Grand Chess Tour.

One of the headlines at the Chessbase website during the tournament proclaimed, London Chess Classic: Magnus on tilt. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/london-chess-classic-round-8)

The article, by Macauley Peterson, began:

“Round 8 saw a startling blunder from the World Champion whose frustration following the game was palpable.”

Later we fans of the Royal Game read this:

Round 8

“For the first few hours of Sunday’s games, it looked like we could be heading for another day of peaceful results. Adams vs Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave vs Anand both ended in early draws, and the remaining games were level. Suddenly, a shock blunder from World Champion Magnus Carlsen flashed up on the screens, a variation which lead to Ian Nepomniachtchi being up a piece, and easily winning. Carlsen resigned just four moves later.

After the game, a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup with Grand Chess Tour commentator GM Maurice Ashley.

These occur in the same conference room in which a live audience enjoys commentary during the round, and around 150 people were crowded into the room to hear from Carlsen.”

Whoa! Let us stop right here and consider what we have just read…

“…a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup…” I believe the word “interview” should be inserted after “standup.”

Why would anyone in their right mind put something in any contract, in any game or sport, forcing a player who has just lost to be interviewed by anyone BEFORE THEY HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO DECOMPRESS?! This is incomprehensible, and the sanity of those responsible for forcing anyone to sign a contract that requires the person to be interviewed before having a chance to compose themselves must be questioned.

The article continues:

“A few moments before they were to go on air, Ashley casually reached over to adjust the collar on Carlsen’s sport coat, which had become turned outward awkwardly. Magnus reacted by violently throwing his arms up in the air, silently but forcefully saying “don’t touch me”, and striking Ashley in the process. Maurice was, naturally, taken aback but just seconds later he received the queue that he was live.”

Maurice is a GM, and a pro, not only when it comes to playing Chess, but also when it gets down to interviewing tightly wound Chess players. Since he played the Royal game at the highest level he knows the emotions it can, and does, evoke first hand. Maurice was the first one to ‘fergettaboutit.’

I recall a time during a tournament when a young fellow playing in his first tournament lost control of his emotions and, shall we say, “flared-up.” His mother was aghast, and appalled, saying, “Now you will never be able to come here again.” Since I had given lessons at the school the boy attended I stepped in saying, “Ma’am, that’s not the way it works around here. By the next time your son comes here everyone will have forgotten what happened today.” The mother gave me the strangest look before asking, “Are you just saying that to make me feel better?” I assured her I was not and then someone else interjected, telling her, with a large grin on his face, that I was indeed telling her the truth. Chess people, to their credit, are about the most forgiving people one will ever know.

There followed:

Magnus was clearly in no mood to chat:

“I missed everything. There’s not much else to say. I think I failed to predict a single of his moves, and then, well, you saw what happened.”

“It will be interesting to see if Magnus will recover tomorrow. When asked for his thoughts on the last round pairing he replied, “I don’t care at all. “Black against Levon Aronian will be no easy task, with that attitude.”

The excellent annotation of the game Magnus lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi

on Chessbase is by GM by Tiger Hillarp-Persson,

who has also annotated games of Go on his blog (https://tiger.bagofcats.net/). After move 29 Tiger writes, “There were probably a few who thought Magnus would win at this stage…”

Magnus begins going wrong at move 30. He then gives a line and writes, “White is dominating. It is quite out of character for Carlsen to miss something like this. It seems like he wasn’t able to think clearly today.”

Before Magnus plays his 33rd move Tiger writes, “Now White’s pieces are all in the wrong places.”

After White’s 34th move Tiger writes, “Here Carlsen seems to lose his will to fight. Now one mistake follows another.”

Those are very STRONG WORDS! Human World Chess Champions, with the exception of Garry Kasparov when losing to Deep Blue,

do not lose their will to fight!

Yuri Averbakh,

Russian GM, and author, in a 1997 article in New in Chess magazine, the best Chess magazine of ALL TIME, placed chess players into 6 categories; Killers; Fighters; Sportsmen; Gamblers; Artists; and Explorers. Although he listed only Kasparov and Bronstein

as “Fighters,” the World Chess Champion best known for being a “Fighter” was Emanuel Lasker.

I would put current human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen in the class with Lasker as a “Fighter.”

In an interview at the Chess24 website his opponent in the game, Ian Nepomniachtchi,


had this to say, “To be fair, Magnus had a bad cold during the second half of the tournament and therefore wasn’t in his very best form.”

Nepo is extremely gracious while explaining why Magnus “…seemed to lose his will to fight.” When one is under the weather it is extremely difficult to think clearly, especially as the game goes on and fatigue begins to dominate. Imagine what history would have recorded if Bobby Fischer had not caught a cold after the first few games against former World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian.

This was a topic of conversation during a meal with Petrosian, Paul Keres,

and future World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov,

at a restaurant in San Antonio, the Golden Egg, during the Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in 1972.

Interviewer Colin McGourty asked Nepo this question:

“It seems as though he’s stopped dominating as he did a few years ago. Is that the case?

A few years ago the level he was demonstrating was out of this world, particularly when he wasn’t yet World Champion, plus at times good patches in his career alternated with even better ones. Gradually, though, people have got used to him, and when you’ve already achieved it all, when over the course of a few years you’ve been better than everyone, it gets tougher to motivate yourself. That doesn’t just apply to sport, after all. Magnus has a great deal of interests outside of chess, but even his relatively unsuccessful periods are much more successful than for many of his rivals. Even in what generally wasn’t the tournament of his life he beat Aronian with Black in the final round and finished third i.e. he performed very decently.”

https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nepomniachtchi-on-london-carlsen-and-alphazero

There you have it. “Even in what generally wasn’t the tournament of his life he beat Aronian with Black in the final round and finished third i.e. he performed very decently.”

Levon had the year of his life in 2017. He had the White pieces in the last round against a weakened World Champion. He could have ended the year in style with a victory. This from Chessbase:

The Magnus bounce

“The World Champion, after a troubling performance yesterday, appeared once more to be on the brink of defeat with the black pieces against Levon Aronian. Carlsen was considerably worse in the middlegame, but it took just a couple of inaccuracies from Aronian for the World Champion to completely turn the tables. He went on to win, despite knowing that a draw would be enough to clinch first place in the Grand Chess Tour standings.

In fact, Aronian offered Carlsen a draw, right after the time control, which Magnus refused, as he was already much better in the position. It was the 11th time in 17 tries that Carlsen came back with a win immediately following a loss, since 2015.” (https://en.chessbase.com/post/london-chess-classic-2017-carlsen-wins-grand-chess-tour)

Many years ago IM Boris Kogan told me the measure of a Chess player is how he responds to a loss. Many in the same condition would have been happy to settle for a draw in the last round. Some would have made it a quick draw. Not Magnus!
Magnus Carlsen is a worthy World Champion. My admiration for our World Champion has grown immensely.

Consider this headline from the official tournament website:

Round 8 – Carlsen Car Crash at the Classic

11.12.17 – John Saunders reports: The eighth round of the 9th London Chess Classic was played on Sunday 10 December 2017 at the Olympia Conference Centre. The round featured just the one decisive game, which was a disastrous loss for Carlsen, as the result of two terrible blunders.
http://www.londonchessclassic.com/downloads/reports17/2017-12-10%20LCC%20Round%208.pdf

As bad as that is, it could have been much worse. Even when completely well Magnus has sometimes gotten into trouble early in the game, especially when playing an opening some consider “offbeat.” Every true human World Chess Champion, one who beat the previous title holder in a match, was a trend setter who was emulated by other players of all ranks and abilities. Simply because Magnus opened with the Bird against Mickey Adams

in round seven other players may now begin opening games with 1 f4. It is true that Magnus got into trouble in the opening of that game, but his opponent was unable to take advantage of it and Magnus FOUGHT his way out of trouble. (see the excellent article, including annotations to The Bird game, by Alex Yermolinsky at Chessbase: https://en.chessbase.com/post/london-classic-nepomniachtchi-joins-lead)

As Macauley Peterson

wrote, “Black against Levon Aronian will be no easy task…” That is Black in the LAST ROUND against the player who this year has stolen Magnus Carlsen’s thunder. An obviously under the weather Magnus had Black versus a man who believes he should be the human World Chess Champion. If there were no FIDE (we can only dream…) and things were like they were before World War II, Levon Aronian would have absolutely no trouble whatsoever finding backers for a match with Magnus Carlsen. The outcome of the game could have psychological ramifications for some time to come.

Levon held an advantage through 34 moves, but let it slip with an ill-advised pawn push on his 35th move.


Position before 35. b6

The game ws then even. The player who fought best would win the game. That player was Magnus ‘The Fighter’ Carlsen. The loss must have shattered Levon Aronian’s psyche; there is no other way to put it. Levon had White against a weakened World Champion yet he did not even manage to make a draw. That fact has to be devastating to Aronian. Oh well, Levon has a pretty wife…

Garry Kasparov’s Shallow Thinking

“As I said, true champions are mentally exceptional. They can stick to their goals even in the most trying of conditions. It is easy to find ways to lose. The hard thing is to keep your mind fixed on winning, even when the pressure is at its most intense.”

The above is the culminating paragraph of the first chapter from, Knowing the Score: What Sports Can Teach Us About Philosophy (And What Philosophy Can Teach Us About Sports), by David Papineau.

World human Chess Champion Garry Kasparov

infamously lost the match played against the computer program known as Deep Blue and two decades later has written a book, his mea culpa, hopefully the last, explaining how, and why, he lost the match. From what he and his co-author Mig Greengard wrote it is evident how difficult it was for Kasparov to keep his mind fixed on winning because he found a way to lose.

Garry let us in on his thinking

when he hedged his bet from the first match, where the $500,000 purse was to be split 4-1. The purse for the second match “…would more than double, to $1,100,000, with $700,000 going to the winner.” Would Bobby Fischer have hedged his bet, or would he have gone ALL IN!?

“I underestimated that with so much on the line, IBM wasn’t only building a chess machine to beat me at the board, but a machine to beat me, period”

“Our contacts with IBM in the run-up to the match revealed one last flaw in my estimation of my chances. Gone was the friendly and open attitude that had been on display around the Philadelphia match run by ACM. With IBM in charge from top to bottom, this chumminess had been replaced by a policy of obstruction and even hostility.”

“In August, Deep Blue project manager C.J. Tan had told the New York Times quite bluntly that “we’re not conducting a scientific experiment anymore. This time we’re just going to play chess.”

This translates to, “We are here to win.”

This disabused Kasparov of the notion that he was some sort of collaborator in a joint intellectual and scientific effort. Now Garry was a gladiator in an arena where it was every man, and machine, for itself. It is written, “This gets back to the biggest reason I agreed to a prize fund that was less than everyone thought I could demand (especially my agent): I believed IBM’s promises of future collaboration. During my visit to their offices in 1996. I met with a senior vice president who assured me that IBM would step in as a sponsor to revive the Grand Prix circuit of the Professional Chess Asscociation.”

This brings to mind a quote: “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it till now.” — (Comment made 10 April 1962 in reaction to news that U.S. Steel was raising prices by $6 per ton, right after the unions negotiated a modest new contract under pressure from JFK to keep inflation down.)
John F. Kennedy, 35th president of US 1961-1963 (1917 – 1963), “A Thousand Days,” by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. [1965]

Kasparov had nothing in writing, only a wink and a promise. Garry was in for a rude awakening.

The first game was an epic struggle won by Kasparov. At one point GM Maurice Ashley famously said, “The board is in flames!” In place of the game notation the games are described with words so people with little or no knowledge of Chess are able to understand without having a board and pieces in front of them. It is written, “As Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke said, no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy. My plan for a quiet fact-finding mission in game one had been blown to hell by the aggressive machine. I was pinning my hopes on my superior evaluation ability.”

Kasparov resigned to the humans operating the machine to end the second game. A lengthy paragraph details the scene when Kasparov was informed THE NEXT DAY that he had resigned in a drawn position. Garry writes: “To psychoanalyze just this once, with twenty years to cycle through the stages (of grief), this was also me saying to myself, “My god, how could “I” miss something so simple?” When you are the World Champion, the world number one, any defeat can be viewed as self-inflicted. This is not exactly fair to my opponents, many of whom could count their victories over me as the pinnacle of their careers, but after such an incredible revelation I wasn’t in the mood to be fair to anyone.”

If Kasparov is being truthful then it is obvious he “let go of the rope.” He simply gave up. He lost his belief in his “superior evaluation ability.” He came to believe the program was omnipotent. He saw only opening books and endgame table bases. Which begs the question: Why were opening books and endgame table bases allowed? Garry could not use them. Why should the machine be allowed to use them? Garry was the HUMAN World Champ; he could have played against a program that would have had to “think” on its own, just as the human. It was his title wanted by IBM. He could have dictated terms. He laments not having enough time between games to rest, something the machine did not need. Garry agreed to the format.

The Go program, AlphaGo, uses no table bases whatsoever, and because of that it has caused a revolution in the opening stage of Go. Someone could have written in the program all the known openings of the greatest Go players from the past 2500 years, but did not. The authors write, “…AlphaGo defeated the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol.” He was not the world’s top Go player at the time he played the match, but he had previously been the top player. AlphaGo later beat the top human Go player, Ke Jie, then “retired.”

Just as he wrote about the inevitability of losing his World Championship title after his lost match to Vladimir Kramnik, Garry’s hand-picked opponent, he viewed it as inevitable machines would eventually supersede humans at the game of Chess.

About the final game they write: “When asked about remarks by Illescas that I was afraid of Deep Blue, I was again candid. “I’m not afraid to admit I am afraid! And I’m not afraid to say why I’m afraid. It definitely goes beyond any known program in the world.” At the end, Ashley asked me if I was going to try and win the final game with the black pieces and I replied, “I’ll try to make the best moves.” Bobby Fischer famously said, “I don’t believe in psychology, I believe in good moves.”

“The match was tied , 2.5-2.5. Should I play it safe and aim for a draw or should I risk everything and play for a win with black? With no rest day, I knew I would have no energy for another long fight of the sort that resulted from my anti-computer lines. My play was already shaky. I knew my nervous system very well from two decades of competition, and it would not withstand the strain of another four or five hours of tension against the machine. But I had to try something, didn’t I?”

Kasparov then went to the board and played an awful move allowing a Knight sacrifice because he thought the program would not play the Knight move. He did this even after saying, “It definitely goes beyond any known program in the world.” The Knight move is such a ripper that most class D players would make it. If you do not believe me then play 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 h6

and watch their eyes blaze before playing 8.Nxe6 Qe7 9.0-0 fxe6 10.Bg6+ Kd8 11.Bf4 b5 12.a4 Bb7 13.Re1 Nd5 14.Bg3 Kc8 15.axb5 cxb5 16.Qd3 Bc6 17.Bf5 exf5 18.Rxe7 Bxe7 19.c4 1–0

Garry Kasparov has been called the best Chess player of all time by many. He lost to a computer program in under twenty moves. The game was over long before he resigned. It is called a “miniature,” among Chess players, and that is not good. Garry lost like a beginner. How can he be considered the “greatest of all time?” There was only one Greatest of All Time, and that was Muhammad Ali.

Did IBM cheat? “I have been asked, “Did Deep Blue cheat?” more times than I could possibly count, and my honest answer has always been, “I don’t know.” After twenty years of soul-searching, revelations, and analysis, my answer is now “no.” As for IBM, the lengths they went to to win were a betrayal of fair competition, but the real victim of this betrayal was science.”

I am having much trouble understanding what is written because Kasparov goes to great pains to prove IBM cheated when he quotes a 2009 New In Chess interview with GM Miguel Illescas, who was on the IBM “team,” along with many other Grandmasters too numerous to mention. “Every morning we had meetings with all the team, the engineers, communication people, everybody. A professional approach such as I never saw in my life. All details were taken into account. I will tell you something which was very secret. Well, it’s more of an anecdote, because it’s not that important. One day I said, Kasparov speaks to Dokhoian after the games. I would like to know what they say. Can we change the security guard, and replace him by someone that speaks Russian? The next day they changed the guy, so I knew what they spoke about after the game.”

If that is not cheating, what is cheating? It is written, “I make the point because after Enron, people stopped telling me that “a big American corporation like IBM would never do anything unethical.” Especially after they found out how much IBM’s stock price went up after the match.”

There it is, just Show Me the Money! In a capitalist monetary system everything devolves to Where is the Money? Or, Who has the Money? Or, How Can I Get the Money?” Kasparov mentions the IBM program known as “Watson,” which “won” a tournament of champions on the TV show “Jeopardy.” The person, or thing, that gets to answer the most questions wins, and “Watson” was, shall we say, REALLY quick on the trigger. Former Chess player Big Al Hamilton’s philosophy of life was, “Everything is rigged.”

After allowing the devastating Knight sacrifice in the final game one legendary Chess player erupted with, “Garry took a DIVE! Playing this way is his signal to us that the fix was in!” I replied, “Wonder if IBM was holding Garry’s wife and children hostage?” After several moments of cogitation, the legendary one, at least in his own mind, replied, “Where were Kasparov’s wife and children during the match?” If anyone questions this I suggest they read, The Fix Is In: The Showbiz Manipulations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR, by Brian Tuohy.

Now that computer programs play a level or two better than the best human players what Kasparov accomplished in his Chess career is meaningless. To history he will only be known as the human who lost a match to a machine. Kasparov knows this and it eats at him. For example, it is written, “Looking back, I was the last world champion to win a match against a computer. Why don’t those This Day in History calendars have a page for that?”

Programmers Attack Go With Brute Force

Last June an article by Jonathan Schaeffer, Martin Müller & Akihiro Kishimoto, AIs Have Mastered Chess. Will Go Be Next? was published. “Randomness could trump expertise in this ancient game of strategy,” followed. “Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer science professor at the University of Alberta, in Canada, had been creating game-playing artificial intelligence programs for 15 years when Martin Müller and Akihiro Kishimoto came to the university in 1999 as a professor and graduate student, respectively. Kishimoto has since left for IBM Research–Ireland, but the work goes on—and Schaeffer now finds it plausible that a computer will beat Go’s grand masters soon. “Ten years ago, I thought that wouldn’t happen in my lifetime,” he says.” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/artificial-intelligence/ais-have-mastered-chess-will-go-be-next)

Jonathan Schaeffer is the man behind Chinook, the computer program that solved Checkers. You can find the paper, Checkers is Solved, to learn about the proof here: (http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~chinook/)
He has also revised his book first published in 1997, One Jump Ahead: Computer Perfection at Checkers, which I read years ago. Jonathan Schaeffer is like E. F. Hutton in that when he talks about a computer game program, you listen.

For years I have followed news of computer Go programs. Before sitting down to punch & poke I searched for the latest news, coming up empty. This as good news for humans because Go is the last board game bastion holding against machine power. It is also the world’s oldest, and most complicated, board game. It “originated in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago. It was considered one of the four essential arts of a cultured Chinese scholar in antiquity. Its earliest written reference dates back to the Confucian Analects.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_%28game%29)

Schaeffer and his group have developed a Go-playing computer program, Fuego, an open-source program that was developed at the University of Alberta. From the article, “For decades, researchers have taught computers to play games in order to test their cognitive abilities against those of humans. In 1997, when an IBM computer called Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the reigning world champion, at chess, many people assumed that computer scientists would eventually develop artificial intelligences that could triumph at any game. Go, however, with its dizzying array of possible moves, continued to stymie the best efforts of AI researchers.”

In 2009 Fuego “…defeated a world-class human Go player in a no-handicap game for the first time in history. Although that game was played on a small board, not the board used in official tournaments, Fuego’s win was seen as a major milestone.”

They write, “Remarkably, the Fuego program didn’t triumph because it had a better grasp of Go strategy. And although it considered millions of possible moves during each turn, it didn’t come close to performing an exhaustive search of all the possible game paths. Instead, Fuego was a know-nothing machine that based its decisions on random choices and statistics.”

I like the part about it being a “know-nothing machine.” I have often wondered if humans, like Jonathan Schaeffer, who are devoting their lives to the development of “thinking” machines, will be reviled by future generations of humans as is the case in the Terminator movies. It could be that in the future humans will say, “Hitler was nothing compared to the evil SCHAEFFER!” If I were supreme world controller a command would be issued ending the attempts to crack Go, leaving my subjects one beautiful game not consigned to the dustbin of history, as has been the fate of checkers. I fear it is only a matter of time before chess meets the same fate. GM Parimarjan Negi was asked in the “Just Checking” Q&A of the best chess magazine in the history of the universe, New In Chess 2014/6, “What will be the nationality of the 2050 World Champion?” He answered the question by posing one of his own, “Will we still have a world championship?” Good question. I would have to live to one hundred to see that question answered. Only former President of the GCA, and Georgia Senior Champion, Scott Parker will live that long, possibly still be pushing wood in 2050, if wood is still being pushed…

The article continues, “The recipe for building a superhuman chess program is now well established. You start by listing all possible moves, the responses to the moves, and the responses to the responses, generating a branching tree that grows as big as computational resources allow. To evaluate the game positions at the end of the branches, the program needs some chess knowledge, such as the value of each piece and the utility of its location on the board. Then you refine the algorithm, say by “pruning” away branches that obviously involve bad play on either side, so that the program can search the remaining branches more deeply. Set the program to run as fast as possible on one or more computers and voilà, you have a grand master chess player. This recipe has proven successful not only for chess but also for such games as checkers and Othello. It is one of the great success stories of AI research.”

Voilà, indeed.

“Go is another matter entirely,” they write, “The game has changed little since it was invented in China thousands of years ago, and millions around the world still enjoy playing it.”

But for how long?

“Game play sounds simple in theory: Two players take turns placing stones on the board to occupy territories and surround the opponent’s stones, earning points for their successes. Yet the scope of Go makes it extremely difficult—perhaps impossible—for a program to master the game with the traditional search-and-evaluate approach.”

This is because, “For starters, the complexity of the search algorithm depends in large part on the branching factor—the number of possible moves at every turn. For chess, that factor is roughly 40, and a typical chess game lasts for about 50 moves. In Go, the branching factor can be more than 250, and a game goes on for about 350 moves. The proliferation of options in Go quickly becomes too much for a standard search algorithm.”

Hooray! That is the good news, and there is more…”There’s also a bigger problem: While it’s fairly easy to define the value of positions in chess, it’s enormously difficult to do so on a Go board. In chess-playing programs, a relatively simple evaluation function adds up the material value of pieces (a queen, for example, has a higher value than a pawn) and computes the value of their locations on the board based on their potential to attack or be attacked. Compared with that of chess pieces, the value of individual Go stones is much lower. Therefore the evaluation of a Go position is based on all the stones’ locations, and on judgments about which of them will eventually be captured and which will stay safe during the shifting course of a long game. To make this assessment, human players rely on both a deep tactical understanding of the game and a clear-eyed appraisal of the overall board situation. Go masters consider the strength of various groups of stones and look at the potential to create, expand, or conquer territories across the board.”

This sounds good so far, but then they continue, “Rather than try to teach a Go-playing program how to perform this complex assessment, we’ve found that the best solution is to skip the evaluation process entirely.”

Oh no, Mr. Bill!

“Over the past decade, several research groups have pioneered a new search paradigm for games, and the technique actually has a chance at cracking Go. Surprisingly, it’s based on sequences of random moves. In its simplest form, this approach, called Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS), eschews all knowledge of the desirability of game positions. A program that uses MCTS need only know the rules of the game.”

I do not know about you, but I am hoping, “What happens in Monte Carlo stays in Monte Carlo.” Do you get the feeling we are about to be Three Card Monte Carloed?

“From the current configuration of stones on the board, the program simulates a random sequence of legal moves (playing moves for both opponents) until the end of the game is reached, resulting in a win or loss. It automatically does this over and over. The magic comes from the use of statistics. The evaluation of a position can be defined as the frequency with which random move sequences originating in that position lead to a win. For instance, the program might determine that when move A is played, random sequences of moves result in a win 73 percent of the time, while move B leads to a win only 54 percent of the time. It’s a shockingly simple metric.”

“Shockingly simple,” my jackass. There is much more to the article, including this, “The best policies for expanding the tree also rely on a decision-making shortcut called rapid action value estimation (RAVE). The RAVE component tells the program to collect another set of statistics during each simulation.”

As in “Raving lunatic.” The article provides a list of what current computer programs have done to games, and how they rate in “…two-player games without chance or hidden information…”

TIC-TAC-TOE (Game positions, 10 to the 4th power) = Toast

OWARE (Game positions, 10 to the 11th power) = Fried

CHECKERS (Game positions, 10 to the 20th power)= Cooked

OTHELLO (Game positions, 10 to the 28th power)= Superhuman

CHESS (Game positions, 10 to the 45th power) = Superhuman

XIANGQI (CHINESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 48th power) = Best Professional

SHOGI (JAPANESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 70th power) = Strong Professional

GO = (Game positions, 10 to the 172th power) = Strong Amateur

They end the article by writing, “But there may come a day soon when an AI will be able to conquer any game we set it to, without a bit of knowledge to its name. If that day comes, we will raise a wry cheer for the triumph of ignorance.”

I would much prefer to raise a stein and drown my sorrows to that…

Komodo & Black Death

TCEC season seven is history and Komodo emerged victorious after beating the old champion, Stockfish, by a score of 7-4, with 53 draws. All of the decisive games were won by White. What does this portend for the future of chess?

These chess playing “engines” are rated two classes above the World Human Champion, Magnus Carlsen, three classes above your regular, everyday grandmaster, called “tourists” by former World Human Champion Garry Kasparov, until an “engine” left him black and Deep Blue, and four classes above the bottom-rung GM’s. The difference between a 3200 program and the lowest level to earn a GM title is the same as a NM and a class “C” player. If the best GMs continue to improve, how long will it be before a game will never be won by Black?

If a new rule awarded a higher score for a win with the Black pieces it would not matter since Black would never win. Something needs to be done to help Black. In Wei-Chi, known as Go in the US, something was done about the advantage of the first move and it is called “Komi.”

“Komi is a Japanese go term adopted into English. In a game of Go, Black has the advantage of first move. In order to compensate for this, White can be given an agreed, set number of points before starting the game. These points are called komi, which is short for komidashi. The English term “compensation points” or simply “compensation” is often used as a translation for komi.”

F0VNV

http://senseis.xmp.net/?Komi

Sometime ago I read about a football- soccar in the US- fan who was a mathematician. His team must have lost after a sudden-death shootout because he posited, and proved mathematically, that it would be better to have the team kicking second also take the third shot on goal. After the first team takes the fourth shot the teams alternate. I recall this because he used myriad equations to prove his theory, while I simply added 1+4=5, and 2+3=5.

It is time for a “New Rule.” What if, after White made the initial move, Black made the next two moves, with the caveat that only one move can be made with the same pawn or piece? Without the caveat it is obvious after 1 e4, Whites game is in its last throes. This would preclude all 1 e4 2 Nf6 3 Nxe4; and 1 e4 2 d5 3 dxe5, type openings.

Garry Kasparov Tangled Up in Deep Blue

When world human chess champion Garry Kasparov lost the second match with Deep Blue in 1997, I said, and have continued to say, and write, that Garry Kasparov will be remembered only for losing to the chess program known as Deep Blue. Many find this unpalatable, but, as Walter Cronkite used to say to end his CBS news broadcast, “That’s the way it is.”
Proof can be found on This Day in History under May 11:
“On May 11, 1997, chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov resigns after 19 moves in a game against Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer developed by scientists at IBM. This was the sixth and final game of their match, which Kasparov lost two games to one, with three draws.” (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/deep-blue-defeats-garry-kasparov-in-chess-match)
This is the only listing for Kasparov. There is absolutely nothing concerning any of his other chess accomplishments. It may be unfortunate for Garry, but this is how he leaves his make on history, as a loser.
The above mentioned article ends with, “The last game of the 1997 Kasparov v. Deep Blue match lasted only an hour. Deep Blue traded its bishop and rook for Kasparov’s queen, after sacrificing a knight to gain position on the board. The position left Kasparov defensive, but not helpless, and though he still had a playable position, Kasparov resigned–the first time in his career that he had conceded defeat. Grandmaster John Fedorowicz later gave voice to the chess community’s shock at Kasparov’s loss: “Everybody was surprised that he resigned because it didn’t seem lost. We’ve all played this position before. It’s a known position.” Kasparov said of his decision, “I lost my fighting spirit.”

Many have called Garry Kasparov the greatest chess player in the history of the game. I have always wondered why. I mean, if a player loses the biggest match of his life, a match in which he was fighting for the honor of the human race, how can anyone in their right mind consider him to be the greatest? Garry Kasparov will always be considered a loser by the public.

The chessgames.com website provides the final game of the match, naming it, “Tangled Up in Blue.”
Deep Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov
“Tangled Up in Blue” (game of the day Sep-12-05)
IBM Man-Machine, New York USA (1997) · Caro-Kann Defense: Karpov. Modern Variation (B17) · 1-0
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 de4 4. Ne4 Nd7 5. Ng5 Ngf6 6. Bd3 e6 7. N1f3 h6 8. Ne6 Qe7 9. O-O fe6 10. Bg6 Kd8 11. Bf4 b5 12. a4 Bb7 13. Re1 Nd5 14. Bg3 Kc8 15. ab5 cb5 16. Qd3 Bc6 17. Bf5 ef5 18. Re7 Be7 19. c4 1-0
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1070917

Garry Kasparov lost with the Karpov variation. Cogitate on that one for a moment. Consider why Kasparov would even consider playing a variation named for the previous World Champion, whom he had dethroned. The variation was totally out of character for Kasparov. The only way this makes any sense to me is that Garry Kasparov took a dive. The term “take a dive” means to lose intentionally, as when a prize fighter loses because the fix is in, like Sonny Liston did when he hit the mat against Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, in their 1964 title fight. The match meant a great deal to IBM, especially in winning the match. How much was it worth to IBM? Jonathan Schaeffer, of the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta, the man behind the program of the now World Checkers Champion, Chinook, that cannot lose (Computer Checkers Program Is Invincible (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/19/science/19cnd-checkers.html?_r=0) see also (http://phys.org/news104073048.html) had this to say:
“The victory went around the world. IBM estimated it received $500 million of free publicity from the match, and IBM stock prices went up over $10 to reach a new high for the company. (http://askeplaat.wordpress.com/534-2/deep-blue-vs-garry-kasparov/)

NPR featured a story August 8, 2014, “Kasparov vs. Deep Blue.” It can be heard here: (http://www.npr.org/2014/08/08/338850323/kasparov-vs-deep-blue)
A transcript is also provided:
In 1997, Deep Blue, a computer designed by IBM, took on the undefeated world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. Kasparov lost. Some argued that computers had progressed to be “smarter” than humans.

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
And speaking of Stephanie Foo, she likes to take things literally. And I told her, I said Stephanie, don’t be such a drag. You’ve been smoking the company line, you got to loosen up, come on, the rules are meant to be broken – it’s time to rage against machine – lady rage, come on. Well, Stephanie – Stephanie promptly brought me a story about raging against a machine. The real machine and someone raging against it. Stephanie Foo, take it away.
STEPHANIE FOO, BYLINE: OK, yes. This story is about chess, but not just any chess game – one of the most famous ever.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov, the world’s chess champions…
FOO: It’s 1997 – world chess champion Garry Kasparov versus Deep Blue, a computer designed by IBM. And for people who wanted to believe that the human brain was still stronger than computers, this was a huge deal.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MAURICE ASHLEY: This is international chess match, I’m Maurice Ashley. The future of humanity is one the line. Now the weather.
FOO: Now Kasparov has never lost a match – ever. He was destroying all the grandmasters at the age of 22. He’s even beaten Deep Blue once before, so he is going into this rematch totally confident, and true enough – bam – Kasparov wins game one easy.
(Applause)
FOO: But then game two is where everything starts to go wrong. In this match, Deep Blue is dominating. Kasparov is visibly frustrated. He’s is rubbing his face, sighing, and then abruptly Kasparov just walks off the stage and quits – forfeits the game. The night after the game, his fans analyze the match and figured something out – something Kasparov, an undefeated grandmaster should have seen. If he had not stormed off the stage and just played his normal game, he could’ve tied Deep Blue.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The match now stands at one game apiece.
FOO: Now, the match was best of five games, with Kasparov eventually losing the whole thing, but the turning point was when he forfeited that match. So since 1997, people have always speculated – what happened in game two? Did he quit because the computer was really so much smarter than he was? Then recently this book by Nate Silver came out called “The Signal And The Noise.” In it Murray Campbell, one of the engineers who created Deep Blue and who was at the match, comes out and says that he thinks he knows what really happened, and he says it starts in the first game – the game Kasparov won.
MURRAY CAMPBELL: Near the end of game one Kasparov had reached a very strong position. It was clearly to any chess expert in the audience, that Deep Blue was going to lose in the long run.
FOO: But here’s where it’s interesting. At the end of the game Deep Blue did something weird – it committed suicide.
CAMPBELL: Deep Blue was calculating a particular move that it could make that would prolong the game as long as possible. And then at the last second, it switched to a completely different move and played it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Rook to D1.
CAMPBELL: And this particular move was really bad, and so it caused us to give up the game right away.
FOO: This really bad move confused Kasparov. Murray says he heard Kasparov’s team stayed up that night trying to analyze the logic behind that move – what it meant. The only thing was – there was no logic.
CAMPBELL: The more obvious explanation is that there was a bug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Uh-oh.
FOO: A glitch – the kind of plot twist only a nerd could love.
CAMPBELL: Due to a bug in the program, unfortunately, it had played a random move.
FOO: But Kasparov didn’t know that, and Murray guesses that Kasparov was so caught up thinking the machine do something that he didn’t that he lost it, and the whole rest of the match was a landslide.
CAMPBELL: My theory is that Kasparov might have seen the drying opportunity but didn’t, because he was overestimating Deep Blue’s capability and assuming that it was incapable of making a mistake that would allow a draw. Deep Blue was very strong but wasn’t that strong. And I don’t know if this is true or not – I think we’ll never know unless Kasparov says himself, but you probably won’t get to talk to him because he doesn’t like to talk about the subject.
FOO: Yeah, Kasparov spent suggesting that IBM cheated, and he hasn’t really talked about the game for many years – until now.
MIG GREENGARD: You have to understand, he’s a little frustrated talking about this stuff over and over again sometimes.
FOO: That’s Mig Greengard. He’s been Kasparov’s aid, publicist and confidant for 14 years. And he’s here to speak on Kasparov’s behalf.
GREENGARD: He’s authorized me to talk with you about it. I talked with Garry about it…
FOO: It being the glitch.
GREENGARD: …And what he said to me – he said it’s ridiculous that move had no impact on his subsequent play – and had no impact on him – that’s it, move on. So that’s all really that I can – that I can go with, is the horse’s mouth.
FOO: So maybe Murray is wrong about the glitch but Mig says, he’s not wrong about Kasparov having a sort of mental breakdown – it just happened a little later. Mig told me that Kasparov was used to playing with computers. He thought he had them all figured out. Kasparov had certain traps that he would set, lures for computers, and computers would always fall for them. So in game two, Kasparov set his trap and waited.
GREENGARD: Because he had these assumptions that of course being a computer, it’s probably going to play this, this and this.
FOO: But it didn’t – it didn’t take the bait.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I see what you’re up to.
GREENGARD: The played something else.
FOO: Something good.
GREENGARD: Something that not only is not the predicted computer move – but a very, very strong move.
FOO: So you’re saying that this is the moment where basically he was psyched out.
GREENGARD: Right. It was just very – I think a very confusing, very disorienting experience to have to then sit down at the board not really knowing what you’re facing. Can I still try to trick it? Does is still play like a computer? Does it make mistakes at all? So psychologically damaging to Garry in that he realized this was a whole new animal.
FOO: And then after that really awesome move, Deep Blue actually makes another bad move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: I guess I’ll play this.
FOO: This bad move is the one that allows Kasparov to tie. But Kasparov is too convinced he’s going to lose to see the fault.
GREENGARD: Like well, no way the computer would allow that – that can’t be there. Whereas against a human you think why not, maybe he made a mistake in his calculations – I’ll give it a shot. Against the computer you get – the computer gets the benefit of the doubt. How could something play like God, then play like an idiot in the same game?
FOO: In a way that’s like a total machine mistake though, right? Because since the machine doesn’t have a specific style or personality like, each different move that it makes could be brilliant and idiotic.
GREENGARD: Sure, sure – of course when he resigned he didn’t know any of this – which itself was demoralizing and humiliating.
FOO: So essentially what Mig’s saying is that Deep Blue wasn’t necessarily as smart as we all thought. Deep Blue didn’t have this magnificent triumph over Kasparov, it was more that Kasparov forced himself to fail.
GREENGARD: In actually turned out to be a bit of a red herring as far as artificial intelligence goes. It turned out it didn’t have emulate human thought to beat the world champion. It didn’t even have to play great chess, but it mostly revealed that humans aren’t perfect – humans make mistakes. They certainly – it turned out to be less complicated than we’d hoped. Deep Blue could calculate 200 million possible moves per second, but it was Kasparov who is overthinking it.
WASHINGTON: Thanks so much to Mig and Murray for helping us out on that piece. And of course, you’ve got to check out the almighty Nate Silver’s book “The Signal And The Noise.” And yes, that piece was produced by Stephanie Foo. We’ve got issues against the machines today on SNAP. And when we return, the man tries to corrupt me with all the free food I can stuff into my mouth. And we’re going to illegally destroy private property just because we can. On SNAP JUDGMENT the “Rage Against The Machine” episode continues. Rock on and stay tuned.
Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR.

Amazing Game: Kasparov’s quickest defeat: IBM’s Deeper Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov 1997

Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue

Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue – Live Oslo 2013

The Turing Chess Test

The headline from a breaking story at Gizmodo is: “A Computer Program Has Passed the Turing Test For the First Time” (http://gizmodo.com/this-is-the-first-computer-in-history-to-have-passed-th-1587780232)
I thought the test had been passed last century when the program for a computer, written by Feng-hsiung Hsu, had Garry Kasparov, the human world champion, singing the deep blues. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJarxpYyoFI)
Mr. Hsu is the Rodney Dangerfield of computer programing in that he is only mentioned in the Wiki article “Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Blue_versus_Garry_Kasparov) under “Further reading.” There one finds, “Hsu, Feng-hsiung (2002). Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09065-3.” This is a very good book.