“My father taught us not to be a pawn in God’s game,” Patti Smith told Andy Warhol’s Interview in 1973. “He used to blaspheme and swear against God, putting him down. I got that side of me from him. The religious part I guess is from my mother, who is a complete religious fanatic.” Patti Smith
“The there are some who just stay with the tour, all the way, day after day, show after show. I’ve met a few and have to say some of them remind me of the Chess players I’ve seen in Harvard Square, playing Chess all day long, decade after decade. You wonder how Dylan feels about those ones.” – Richard F. Thomas, the George Martin Lane Professor of the Classics at Harvard University
The thing about writing a blog is that one never knows what an email will bring. After spending an inordinate amount of time in front of Toby, the ‘puter, yesterday learning how to insert diagrams, and then putting together the post in order to have something in which to insert them, I determined that today I would spend time with the Daniel Gormally book, Insanity, passion and addiction: a year inside the chess world, while playing over Chess games on an actual board with pieces one can feel, and possibly “working” on the openings intended for the Senior Championship of the Great State of South Carolina, which is only ten days away, by going to the CBDB and 365Chess. Wrong, Ke-mo sah-bee! An email from my friend Mulfish arrived at 11:42 am, upsetting the Bacon cart…
“Looking forward to the AWs take on AlphaZeros stunning win over Stockfish,” was the message. “What’s this?” I thought, wondering if Mike was referring to the TCEC Computer Chess Championship that is in the final stretch. “But Stockfish is not participating in the Super Final,” I thought. I therefore fired off an immediate response: “To what, exactly, are you referring?” His reply was, “Look in the all things Chess forum.”
Although there are not as many incoming as there were before taking a long break from blogging, I have received several emails directing my attention here and there, and they are greatly appreciated. Checking the AW stats today showed many people in countries other than the USA reading the AW. In particular I noticed that today, as every day, there is one, and only one, reader in the Maldives. Thank you, whoever you are, and feel free to send an email, as I am curious by nature.
Keep ’em coming: email@example.com
This is the post found on the USCF forum that prompted Mulfish to fire a salvo at the AW:
Postby billbrock on Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:16 am #321974
“AlphaZero learned to play chess by playing against itself. After just FOUR HOURS of self-learning, it was able to decisely (sic) defeat Stockfish 8.0! (EDIT: this statement is slightly misleading. See downthread.) (100 games match: +28 =72 -0)
What’s really impressive: Stockfish was calculating far more deeply than AlphaZero (at least in terms of nodes per second). AlphaZero is just “smarter.”
After reading only this I thought, “Whoa! This will change not only my day, but possibly the future course of history!” The more I read the more convinced was I of the latter.
Bill Brock provided a link to a PDF paper, Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm
(https://arxiv.org/pdf/1712.01815.pdf) which I read immediately, blowing my mind…
Every morning I read while drinking my first cuppa coffee, and today was no exception. Toby is not fired-up until time to sit down and eat breakfast. I check my email, then the quotes of the day, followed by the poem of the day, which was The Writer’s Almanac, by Garrison Keillor, but it has been discontinued, so I’ve moved on to Poem-a-Day (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem-day) & The Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/). Next I click on the Drudge Report in order to understand what the enemy is thinking, and doing. Then it is the newspapers in digital form, the NYT, WaPo, and AJC. For you readers outside the USA, that would be the New York Times, the Washinton Post, and the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. Then I check out the word of the day (https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day), before heading to check what was on the nightly radio programs broadcast while I am sleeping, Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis (http://www.groundzeromedia.org/), and the Granddaddy of them all, Coast to Coast AM (https://www.coasttocoastam.com/). You may think that Chess comes next, but you would be mistaken. I check out The Hardball Times at Fangraphs (https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/). Then I check out what’s happening in the world of Go (http://www.usgo.org/).
Then it is time for Chess! My routine is to check in at Chess24 (https://chess24.com/en) first in order to learn if there is a new article I will want to return to after checking out Chessbase (https://en.chessbase.com/), where there is usually something interesting to peruse. (Today is no exception because the lead article is, How XiangQi can improve your chess, which will be read. https://en.chessbase.com/). During the TCEC Championships it is then on to Chessdom (http://www.chessdom.com/), where I click onto TCEC (http://tcec.chessdom.com/). And then it is on to the Chess Granddaddy of them all website, TWIC, aka The Week In Chess (http://theweekinchess.com/), which is Mark Crowther’s wonderful website which contains a Daily Chess Puzzle, which I attempt to solve, in hopes it will keep my mind sharp. Why was I writing all this?…Just kidding!
The point is that I read so long this morning (Why Bob Dylan Matters, by Richard F. Thomas; Cover Me: The stories behind the GREATEST COVER SONGS of all time, by Ray Padgett, who has a wonderful website (http://www.covermesongs.com/); and Murder on the Death Star: The assassination of Kennedy and its relevance to the Trump era, by Pelle Neroth) in order to finish the latter. The point being that by the time I got to the email by Mulfish I would ordinarily have already seen the momentous news.
The excellent article by Colin McGourty begins: “20 years after DeepBlue defeated Garry Kasparov in a match, chess players have awoken to a new revolution. The AlphaZero algorithm developed by Google and DeepMind took just four hours of playing against itself to synthesise the chess knowledge of one and a half millennium and reach a level where it not only surpassed humans but crushed the reigning World Computer Champion Stockfish 28 wins to 0 in a 100-game match. All the brilliant stratagems and refinements that human programmers used to build chess engines have been outdone, and like Go players we can only marvel at a wholly new approach to the game.”
Colin ends with: “And where do traditional chess programmers go from here? Will they have to give up the refinements of human-tuned evaluation functions and all the existing techniques, or will the neural networks still require processing power and equipment not easily available? Will they be able to follow in DeepMind’s footsteps, or are there proprietary techniques involved that can’t easily be mastered?
There’s a lot to ponder, but for now the chess world has been shaken!”
“Shaken?” More like ROCKED TO ITS FOUNDATION!
If games people play are to survive they will be something like that described in the novel I consider the best I have read, Das Glasperlenspiel, or Magister Ludi, aka, The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse. (http://www.glassbeadgame.com/)
Or maybe a book, The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks, which is not only one of my favorite Sci-Fi books, but also one of my favorite book about games.
The stunning news also caused me to reflect on a Canadian Sci-Fi television program I watched, Continuum, in which mega-corporations dominate the world in the future as time-travelers fight one of the largest corporatocratic entities, SadTech, which sounds an awful lot like Google. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1954347/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_6)
The Brave New World is here. The Science Fiction books I read as a youngster are no longer fiction.