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16th World Computer Chess Championship In Progress 183

Posted by timothy
from the all-the-hipsters-are-there dept.
vmartell writes "The 16th World Computer Chess Championship is now in progress in Beijing, as part of the Computer Games Championship. Currently in the lead are Rybka 3.0, recognized as the world's strongest chess engine and Hiarcs, another commercial engine. Another curiosity is a Java ME based engine running on a Nokia phone, which is currently being trounced by the other engines. A very interesting sideline: before the computer tournament, a Women's Grandmaster played two games against Rybka. The result? Rybka won both games!"
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16th World Computer Chess Championship In Progress

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  • The human aspect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SKPhoton (683703) on Friday October 03, 2008 @02:01AM (#25242709) Homepage
    How much of the "skill" in computerized chess comes from the programmers and how much comes from the raw cpu horsepower available? TFA was quoting 40-core boxes competing with Nokia cell phones.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Onaga (1369777)
      When you realize the search space involved, and computer chess does break down to a search problem, then even small algorithm tweaks can have a large effect. A naive algorithm on a 40-core box will lose to better algorithm on a PDA. So in other words, it's not the the number of cycles you have, but how you use them.
      • "So in other words, it's not the the number of cycles you have, but how you use them."

        That's what she said.

        • by KGIII (973947) *

          Yes but she only said that to appease your ego and to make you feel more manly.

          • I never actually thought there'd be a target audience for those "SATISFY HER NOW! INCREASE YOUR PROCECESSOR CYCLE COUNT TODAY!" messages that keep appearing in my spam folder.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by somersault (912633)

        it's not the the number of cycles you have, but how you use them.

        True to an extent, but using the same algorithm on each machine in a timed game would result in the 40-core box trouncing the PDA - especially in the mid-game where there are a crazy amount of possible paths.

        Deep Blue had a database of endgames to use (and possibly starting techniques, been a while since I read about it) - a mobile could use the same technique to do well near the end without doing much calculation, though it's not exactly a very 'interesting' approach from an AI point of view. And it probab

      • by gaspyy (514539)

        A good algorithm is important, obviously, but ultimately chess is done by brute force.

        I wrote a chess game [flashchess3.com] myself in flash (AS3) and it's no picnic.

        The language itself is at least 10 times slower than C. Even with optimizations is about half the speed of Java. Then the execution time is limited to 15 seconds. Also, transposition tables, opening and closing databases are just huge and no one would tolerate a browser game to allocate 200Mb of RAM for internal caching.

        I assume the situation is about the same f

        • by linhares (1241614)

          A good algorithm is important, obviously, but ultimately chess is done by brute force.

          Not if you do it by analogy [cogprints.org].

      • by Peaker (72084)

        and computer chess does break down to a search problem

        Search of what? If you can find a game win/lose, then sure, its a simple search problem. But since the space is too large, you have to have good evaluators.

        So it is a combination of a search and game state evaluation problem.

    • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Friday October 03, 2008 @09:02AM (#25244663) Journal

      With something like Deep Blue, most of the skill did come from the programmers, it's true. Most of Deep Blue's "intelligence" came from brute-forcing its way through each move. However, since it would take billions of years to work that out, they made sure to shrink the search space; they "taught" Deep Blue about the most common Grand-Master level opening moves, the most desirable end games, and how to recognize unfavorable situations without having to expand the entire tree.

      What they effectively taught (or began to teach) Deep Blue was rudimentary pattern recognition-- knowing how a board is going to turn out without having to figure it out on the fly. And really, that's the more interesting bit, because that is exactly what human players do.

      When a Grand Master plays a game, there are certainly situations where they are working out a game tree that is a few layers deep. But the limitations of the human brain simply won't allow him to work out an entire tree, or even every move in one layer. It's beyond human wetwear. But what isn't is pattern recognition. The Grand Master has spent hundreds of days pre-processing the information; he's played thousands of games, read books on theory, watched other matches, and so forth. He already knows, for example, leaving a King exposed is going to turn out bad. He can see that positions of his pieces around an opponent's weakness leave for only a small subset of desirable moves (even though there are thousands of possible moves). He can recognize when a subset of moves would be very bad for him and instantly eliminate them without expanding the tree to his inevitable defeat. This instant recognition leaves free cycles for evaluating on-the-fly decisions about the current situation.

      A human Grand Master's neural net has been trained to recognize good and bad patters just as surely as anyone else has been trained to recognize hot pan = pain without having to stop and think about it, and that a can of soup needs to be open to be delicious without having to mentally invent the can opener.

      The other advantage a human player has over a machine is that our hardware is much, much better. We've got more gigahertz all up ins ours-- and we have the advantage of an amazingly well trained and time-tested neural net built in.

      But with enough advancement in computing-- from massively complex neural nets, to distributed computing, to quantum computing, and even better manufacturing techniques to ram more Giga-giga-giga hertz onto a slab of silicone, it's only a matter of time until computers have equal or superior hardware.

      From there, it's just a matter of designing a computer that can learn, and giving it the online records of every regulation chess match ever played, and letting it figure out how to be the Grandest Master. Once its learning is in place, it's trivial to copy and redistribute that knowledge.

      As for a computer starting with a blank slate and learning the concepts of game, board, opponent, horse, touch, feel, love-- well, that's just an abstraction of the same problem. It's a longer way off, but if a perfect, learning Chess computer is inevitable, why not that?

      BTW, highly recommended reading on this topic, "The Age of Spiritual Machines" by Ray Kurzweil. It also has a bibliography of a few hundred other excellent follow-ups.

      • From there, it's just a matter of designing a computer that can learn, and giving it the online records of every regulation chess match ever played, and letting it figure out how to be the Grandest Master. Once its learning is in place, it's trivial to copy and redistribute that knowledge.

        I think you're romanticising it somewhat. You're mostly right about the way humans play, though grand masters don't just play on instinct, they will also perform small mental simulations for several moves ahead.

        The day will come where computers can just have a database of every single possble chess move in any game. Then it will no longer be a 'game' where computers are concerned, it will just be a matter of who plays first (unless of course the winning play comes down to starting second - I seem to do bett

        • I agree with you that AI is a far, far more difficult area of study than anyone gives it credit for. I think that's one of the main ruffling points people have whenever the topic of "intelligence" and "chess playing" comes up. It's a really odd situation. Most people rightfully point out that a computer like Deep Blue isn't really playing chess, it's solving a branching-tree problem. It has no concept of the game it is playing, or what it means to kick back with some mates in a pub and set up a board, or wh

      • When a Grand Master plays a game, there are certainly situations where they are working out a game tree that is a few layers deep. But the limitations of the human brain simply won't allow him to work out an entire tree, or even every move in one layer.

        This is a very misleading description of how human chess players work. Humans rarely use exhaustive search further than one move ahead, but they spend a great deal of time during games calculating variations. Even a mediocre player calculates a few moves ah

  • Fish (Score:3, Funny)

    by setagllib (753300) on Friday October 03, 2008 @02:03AM (#25242717)

    Transliterated back into Russian, Rybka means Fish. Maybe I don't know the joke, but I've never known fish to be particularly strong chess players.

  • by joeflies (529536) on Friday October 03, 2008 @02:03AM (#25242719)

    Does chess really need to separate the rankings between male and female champions? Isn't this a sport that gender really doesn't factor in?

    • by rm999 (775449) on Friday October 03, 2008 @02:37AM (#25242831)

      This is a controversial topic - while men clearly excel in physical sports, the mean intelligence of men and women are approximately the same. Often, apparent differences in intelligence (e.g. income) have societal explanations.

      On the other hand, some experiments (http://www.polymath-systems.com/intel/essayrev/sexdiff.html) indicate that the variance in intelligence is greater in men: there are more very smart men than women, but also more very stupid men. Chess, a game that very smart people excel at, tends to be dominated by men. It's not that gender factors into the game per se, but the same could be said for football.

      That said, the article summary "a Women's Grandmaster played two games against Rybka; the result? Rybka won both games!" is probably a troll because Rybka could beat any human; but I still chuckled...

      • by somersault (912633) on Friday October 03, 2008 @05:06AM (#25243445) Homepage Journal

        I have never considered income to be directly proportional to intelligence. It's kind of a bell curve. The smartest people are in the middle and probably get paid about right - management and unskilled labourers tend to get paid amounts quite disproportionate to the amount of work they do or how intelligent they are. Chess skill isn't directly related to intelligence (as in generally accepted IQ 'intelligence' - there are plenty of different types of intelligence recognised in Psychology) anyway - a highly intelligent man who hasn't ever played chess before would probably lose to a girl of average intelligence, as long as the child has a lot of experience.

        the article summary "a Women's Grandmaster played two games against Rybka; the result? Rybka won both games!" is probably a troll because Rybka could beat any human

        Exactly.

        • by homer_s (799572)
          management and unskilled labourers tend to get paid amounts quite disproportionate to the amount of work they do or how intelligent they are

          How would you figure out what the correct pay would/should be?
          • I didn't say that's not the way it should be, as not every job is about hard labour, running a company is high stress, technical knowledge takes years of training etc - I was just saying that pay doesn't really relate to intelligence.

            I'm sure there are a lot of people like me who could have studied business management and get paid more if they actually found it interesting. Actually I wouldn't even need to do that - I could just go work offshore and almost make as much every day as I currently make in a wee

      • by houghi (78078)

        there are more very smart men than women, but also more very stupid men. Chess, a game that very smart people excel at, tends to be dominated by men.

        Then these smart people must be extremely realy very smart to make it all even, because there are so many stupid men, including almost all of the smart ones.

    • by syousef (465911) on Friday October 03, 2008 @03:04AM (#25242925) Journal

      The sad reality is, yes the women certainly can't compete with the men in top level world chess. I'm not sure who it's sad for though - the men or the women. You see to be great at chess you have to be obsessive about it. The more situations you've seen, the greater your ability to avoid lines of play that look good on instinct but leave you in a hole. So world champion chess players tend to be even more obsessive and single minded (to the exclusion of almost everything else including social interaction) than other world champions. People who get that good at chess don't do much else. It's like OCD on OCD. They study study study and study some more. In a lot of ways it's self destructive. Most women just won't do that to themselves. I believe this is the real reason women aren't as good in chess. They're not stupider than men, they're actually smarter.

      • by pbhj (607776)

        They're not stupider than men, they're actually smarter.

        Ha-ha ha, most intelligent sounding troll ever. I particularly like the psyche-out of your sig.

        So basically what you're saying is women are better at everything than men they just don't want to embarrass us by trying. You must be right ... Also, whilst women struggle hard to achieve what they get, men just have OCD and anything they achieve is just a by-product. Doesn't sound at all trollish to me.</sarcasm>

        My view: if you're looking at IQ, or what the general populace calls intelligence, then studies

        • I have heard that chess ability is only a so-so indicator of intelligence, and that the best indicators are mathematical intuition and the ability to learn foreign languages. Don't recall the source, though...

        • by syousef (465911)

          Ha-ha ha, most intelligent sounding troll ever. I particularly like the psyche-out of your sig.

          You are the very reason I have my sig, and no it wasn't set up for this one message. You label me a troll because I hold a point of view contrary to yours. Guess what? I don't hold this point of view to upset anyone. It's what I happen to actually think. I hadn't heard of you before today so I didn't know the statement would annoy you or upset you. It wasn't my aim, but I don't care if it did. That does not make m

          • by pbhj (607776)

            You might want to take a course in comprehension and look up the term "straw man".

            You might want to lookup the term hyperbole. Miaow! Also the literary device of a closing "sarcasm tag" shows that I was jovially somewhat overplaying my point.

            My view is that you're talking out of your rear.

            Why then did you post a link to a document that supported my point? Granted it didn't speak of the greater spread at lower IQ levels, but it was still largely supporting what I said. Moreover the article states that scientific authors assert women have more intellectual stamina (ie are better at maintaining effort in intelligence requiring activities

      • Newsflash: To be able to compete in anything with the best of the world, you have to be passionate about it. You want to become a world-class swimmer? Start spending several hours a day in the water!

        Hoping for a Nobel price in Physics? Not going to happen unless you're "obsessive" about it.

        Regarding the "to the exclusion of almost everything else including social interaction" part: Care to back that up with hard data? If Kasparov is not capable of doing anything but chess, that's news to me.

        So if you actua

        • by syousef (465911)

          So if you actually believe what you wrote, you are basically denying that women can compete in any game, sport, art or science with the best men. Which is more sexist than most AC troll posts in this thread.

          I'm not saying they _can't_ compete. I'm saying that they tend to live more diverse lives and don't become as obsessive. Observing or hypothesizing a trend isn't sexist at all. Denying a woman the opportunity to attempt to compete or putting more obstacles in her way based on her gender would be sexist.

    • Geee... they want everything equal when it suits them, but when the bill comes, where are they??

  • Boring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by foo fighter (151863) on Friday October 03, 2008 @02:13AM (#25242747) Homepage

    Chess has become boring, like checkers or backgammon.

    To even competitively play at the local club level you really need a ridiculously deep memorization of openings and endings. At the grandmaster level, they've basically memorized the tables used by computers.

    Average games of chess only last around 60 moves. The depth of opening and closing books increasingly has reduced the middle game of actually interesting play. If it's not down to only 1-5 moves, it will be soon.

    The game will be dead--or at least not interesting enough to be seriously played--long before it is solved.

    P.S. You arrogant fans of Go can frak yourselves. Where do you think the scientists will go once they're done with chess. Enjoy it while it lasts.

    • Boring Verbs. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ostracus (1354233)

      "P.S. You arrogant fans of Go can frak yourselves. Where do you think the scientists will go once they're done with chess. Enjoy it while it lasts."

      Considering Go's harder. I'd say they're welcome to try.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        "Considering Go's harder...."

        That's exactly what they used to say about chess vs. checkers/reversi - chess was simply too big/hard for a mere computer to solve.

        Computer chess (and even non-computer chess if you get serious about it) is now just an academic exercise.

        Playing chess against even a modest PC is no fun any more. Anybody less than a grand master will be destroyed. For grand masters it's mostly just study and memorization of previous games. Very few moves in a game are actually "creative".

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by HappyEngineer (888000)

          Playing chess against even a modest PC is no fun any more. Anybody less than a grand master will be destroyed.

          Chessmaster lets you select the strength of the player that you are playing against. Other chess games probably have the same capability.

          Yes, chess is very boring when it's impossible to win. But when I play Chessmaster I always select an opponent who is just slightly better than me. I often lose but I feel really good when I win.

          Regarding Go, some people just don't like the game. I sort of en

        • by wisty (1335733)
          This is why Bobby Fisher invented a chess game where the pieces are randomized. It doesn't stop massive computers from brute forcing the game (in theory), but it does make it better for human players who want the challenge to be the game, not the preparation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          We have a number of algorithmic approaches to attack games. Many of them can't work in reasonable time on games with large search space. This is not simply a matter of hardware. There are more possible games of Go (on a standard 19x19 board, rather than the beginners 9x9 board that recent computers have done well on) then there are atoms in the universe. You couldn't even build a memory to store the possibilities. An exhastive search of connect 4 is possible, an exhastive search of Go is simply not (wi

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by linca (314351)

        Computer go players are now one Dan, and rising... Already better than most amateurs ; pros can't beat Mogo with 9 stones anymore.

        • Re:Boring Verbs. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Wildclaw (15718) on Friday October 03, 2008 @07:55AM (#25244163)

          Computer go players are now one Dan, and rising

          Give me an example of one go bot that has been able to maintain 1 dan over a longer period of time on a go server. Crazystone is the best I have seen, and while it did jump into 1d for a short time, it quickly went back to 1k again where it has been steadily for quite a while.

          Also, they don't seem to be improving that much right now. They did have a big breakthrough when Monte Carlo algorithms were introduced, and a little more with using improved processors power to maximize the monte carlo brute forcing. But the problems are now beginning to show, and that is that brute force is still brute force even if it is using a more appropriate version for go.

          pros can't beat Mogo with 9 stones anymore.

          The two rematches with 7 stones didn't go so well though. The pro beat MoGo in both. The game records were quite embarrasing including a total blunder from MoGos side.

          On the other hand, crazystone won an 8 handicap game vs a pro.

          Still, I don't find these games vs pros very interesting. Lots of even games vs amateurs is what should be used to judge strength. High handicap games simply don't scale linearly enough to give any good indication of rating, and are in general to variable in result (meaning you need more games to get an accurate result), because they rely on the mistake of the weaker player, more than the strength of the stronger player.

          • by evanbd (210358)

            AFAIK, none of the programs playing regularly on servers are using more than 8 cores (maybe 4). When playing the pro, Mogo was running on a substantial cluster, and it's well known that Mogo scales reasonably well on clusters. I think it's fair to say that the hardware and software config that Mogo ran in those games could maintain a 1d rating in even games against amateurs. Obviously that hasn't been proven, but I think that speaks more to budget than the strength of the software.

            I don't think we've see

          • A couple of years ago the best chess computer was IBM's Deep Blue, a massive custom machine with terabytes of innards.

            Now it's a standard desktop PC worth a couple of thousand dollars.

            Brute force can compensate for lack of insight but insight advances steadily.

            • ...and preloaded winning moves can compensate for either

              Most of the learning that chess players do is learning known good move sequences .. chess computers are just getting preloaded with more of these - this is why a handheld computer can even think about competing

            • Deep Blue was capable of 11.38 gigaflops in 1997.

              You can go to the store and buy an off-the-shelf PC today which will do 2 teraflops.

              The fact that a standard desktop PC can best Deep Blue has little to do with "insight" and everything to do with Moore's Law.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by trb (8509)
        Saying that go is harder than chess is like saying that the Empire State Building is harder to lift than the Chrysler Building; the complexity of both games is well beyond the horizon of human capability, and is likely to remain so. Because there are more possible moves in one ply of go than in one ply of chess doesn't make the whole game harder, better, or more interesting for people to play. If you like, you can play the games with a fast clock and go by your wits. Or if you want a bigger think, you ca
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by isBandGeek() (1369017)
      Pretty much everything gets boring when over-analyzed, right? Besides maybe politics or the stock market. Because no individual will ever figure either of the two out.
      • by pbhj (607776)

        Wouldn't it be awesome if someone could algorithmically win at the stock market .. the best part would be the end of the stock market as we know it.

        • by pbhj (607776)

          Oops, my bad .. someone just did - it's called naked short-selling. You don't need any money or stock and you can win enough that you take down banks!

          And yes, they had to change the stock market to avoid this method of winning.

    • Have you looked into Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess)? You basically randomize the back rank of pieces into one of 960 different configurations before starting. It makes opening books useless and the game becomes more about skill than memorization. Of course, you'll probably still get slaughtered by a GM, but that's more to do with skill than rote memorization.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by 7 digits (986730)

      Whatever. Let's reply to that obvious troll.

      1) You need opening preparation to play. Well, that's a given, and it was already the case 20 years ago. Now, with computers, opening preparation is easier, so players are better prepared.

      2) Grandmasters have not memorized ending tablebases, first because it is impossible, and second, because grandmasters are still much much better than computers in endgames. Endgame is not about memorisation, but about technique. And yes, you have to work that too.

      3) Average ches

    • Re:Boring (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wildclaw (15718) on Friday October 03, 2008 @07:28AM (#25244021)

      P.S. You arrogant fans of Go can frak yourselves. Where do you think the scientists will go once they're done with chess. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      Go is considerably more difficult than chess because of how the game moves around the board. It isn't the branching factor per se, but the fact that weaknesses left behind sometimes won't get exploited until as far as 100 or even 200 moves later on. In the meantime, players will try to direct the game in such a way that they can exploit the opponent's weaknesses while protecting their own. Also, the other way around, make use of their strength while preventing the opponent from making use of his.

      Without a higher level concept of the board, it is impossible for a computer to understand such ideas, and reading doesn't help because the depth is simply to deep. Monte Carlo bots try by playing out lots of complete game variations rapidly to get a somewhat understanding of the board, but in the end it fails because such playouts are overly simplistic.

      This isn't to say that go computers won't beat us someday, but it will be tougher than chess. Also, one point you made stands out to me as arguing for go, even if computers become better.

      To even competitively play at the local club level you really need a ridiculously deep memorization of openings and endings. At the grandmaster level, they've basically memorized the tables used by computers.

      Due to how go works, memorization isn't nescessary to the same degree. Of course, having some common sequences memorized helps, but in general it is better to have a generic idea about different patterns as to understand the strategic and tactical implications of moves.

      While there are established patterns (joseki) that are used in corners, players often deviate from them based on how the rest of the board looks. And when that happens, knowing the joseki is not very useful except to tell you that the player deviated from it. That is why there is a common saying "learn joseki, lose two stones: forget joseki, improve three stones".

      Those confined to memorized patterns lose to those with more open minds. Still, studying some joseki is useful, because it helps to broaden you view on what good and bad patterns are.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MagdJTK (1275470)

      How does this shit get modded interesting?

      Chess has become boring, like checkers or backgammon.

      Then don't play it. I find it boring too, but I don't look down on people who enjoy it, just as I would hope that they wouldn't look down on me for my interests.

      To even competitively play at the local club level you really need a ridiculously deep memorization of openings and endings. At the grandmaster level, they've basically memorized the tables used by computers.

      Really? You mean people who put effort into learning the game are better at it?! How unfair!!!

      PROTIP: You should play chess with people of similar abilities to you, not grandmasters.

      Average games of chess only last around 60 moves. The depth of opening and closing books increasingly has reduced the middle game of actually interesting play. If it's not down to only 1-5 moves, it will be soon.

      Just untrue. Opening books are getting bigger, but endtables can only just manage 6 pieces. It takes a lot more than five moves

    • After having dealt the last seven years [wikipedia.org] with the anime-obsessed crowd invading Go, and (at least in my limited experience) being nothing but whiny about how much there is to learn, I'd say that engineers [wikipedia.org], chess players [wikipedia.org], and heads of state [wikipedia.org] (though to be fair, in this case, he was merely Prime Minister and was assassinated trying to avoid the militarization of Japan pre-WWII) would be welcome back into the fold.

      On that note, I wouldn't say I'm an arrogant Go player. I've played chess at the local club level

    • Re:Boring (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014) on Friday October 03, 2008 @09:07AM (#25244695) Homepage Journal

      Actually, this was why Bobby Fischer stopped playing chess.

      He may have been as crazy as a bedbug, but that doesn't mean he didn't understand chess. The beauty of chess is its intuitive challenge, but gradually, over the years, an encyclopedic knowledge of past games has come t count for as much as insight.

      Towards the end of his life, Fischer developed a variant of chess where the initial positions of the pieces were shuffled, but in a way that preserved all legal chess moves. This eliminates the value of having a vast database of chess openings.

      • Incidentally it's also partly why I stopped playing. I enjoy the game but have no patience for memorization.

        Interestingly, I think that Fischer's version of chess would have the computers doing even better against humans than they already are. The number of variants is small, only 960. It's more than high enough to offer a great impediment to memorization for humans, which was its purpose, but for a computer to precalculate all the openings on a thousand different games versus just one is not really very di

    • by durdur (252098)

      Opening knowledge is essential if your opponent is an equally prepared player, and is especially helpful if you know that player's preferred systems and can prepare something to win against them.

      But amateur players tend to spend way too much time memorizing openings, and it actually doesn't help your game much. First, you'll forget this stuff. Second, your opponent is likely another amateur and so will play something oddball or not in the books and you'll have to think anyway. Third, all the prep in the wor

    • P.S. You arrogant fans of Go can frak yourselves. Where do you think the scientists will go once they're done with chess. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      This is obviously trolling, but what the heck. Chess has been dominated by computers for quite some time now - many have moved on to Go, and they still fail to beat amateur-level Go players. There are practical reasons why a Go AI is more difficult to program than a Chess one, which I'm sure by the time this has been posted will be explained in great detail by other replies.

      What I want to explain is why Go is better than Chess. It is not because it is more difficult for computers. While Chess doesn't

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)

      P.S. You arrogant fans of Go can frak yourselves. Where do you think the scientists will go once they're done with chess. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      They have already been trying to crack Go for decades now, but Go has not yielded as easily to the game tree search methods and position value functions as Chess did. The number of possible boards that can occur in Chess is thought to be around 10^40, with substantial reductions possible by applying chess specific knowledge and taking advantage of the properties of the game of Chess, whereas the number of boards that could occur in Go is orders of magnitude more, perhaps 1.74×10^172, and tends to stay

    • A lot of games are like this when you get to the expert/master level. For instance, I love(d) playing Scrabble, and when I first started playing online I thought it was awesome. Quickly though, I learned that to really play at the high levels, you need to memorize word lists of obscure 2 and 3 letter words, q's without u's, z/x words, etc... to the point where it was more about memorization and score optimization than anything else. It kind of ruined the game for me.

      I used to play chess a lot too, and that

  • Deep Fritz (Score:3, Interesting)

    by telchine (719345) on Friday October 03, 2008 @03:18AM (#25242977)

    When I think of powerful chess programs, I think of Deep Fritz. It did beat the human World Champion after all. Does anyone know why Deep Fritz isn't competing?

  • I'm actually curious. The engine used by the free chess program supplied with OS X has no trouble whipping me and I'm playing it at one of the easier levels. Fair enough I'm not a great player but I'm not a moron either. My guess is that a significant portion of those that enjoy a game of chess would find many of the free offerings sufficiently challenging.

    I understand the desire to create better and more efficient algorithms but I'll be damned if I can see their commercial use.
    • Yes, this is very depressing- I struggle to beat GnuChess on easy.
    • .. ther may well be a market for the specialised hardware and what batter way than for example IBM to advertise their hardware & software abilities as a company to the triumph at chess so the marketing paybacks are enormous , far bigger than slapping your logo on the front of a football player or F1 car.

    • by 7 digits (986730) on Friday October 03, 2008 @07:16AM (#25243959)

      There are several commercial use for better engines:

      1) Game analysis. When you have played a game against and lost, you try to understand why you lost. Sometimes it is because you made an obvious blunder, but when you get better at the game, you start loosing for strategical reasons (lost control of a certain square, etc, etc). Having a good engine helps you try new ideas, and play a lot of what-if scenarios

      2) Game understanding. When you follow a live tournament between grandmasters, having a good engine can give you an explanation about what the underlying ideas are ("Why doesn't he plays Nb6? You try it, and get the answer instantly")

      3) Correspondence & Centaur Chess. Correspondence chess are long running games where both players have access to whatever they want. It delivers very subtle games, where the strategy is a very important aspect, as all the tactical blunders are removed by the use of good chess engines. Centaur chess is the same with lower time control.

      And, of course, bragging rights are important too: having a better engine than other people in the chess club is a bit like having the better graphic card among fps players...

      As you may have seen, playing against the engine is not one of the uses. Rybka is supposedly at 3200 elo. By definition, 200 elo points higher means you have a 75% win probability. The current world champion is at 2800, which means that he have a 6% win probability against rybka. Good club chess play is around 2000 (it takes several years to reach that level -- at that level, you can generally play blind, or multiple opponents, etc, etc). Such players have a 1 against 4000 chance against a 3200 player. Which means zero chance...

  • ...play a nice game of Global Thermonuclear War?
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Friday October 03, 2008 @11:21AM (#25246625) Homepage

    I had a similar experience in 1978: I had written a neat but slow chess program in Basic for the Apple II. The guy who organized the first West Coast Computer Fair chess tournament encouraged me to enter, and I did not fair so well against the programs nicely crafted in assembler language. Still, since I was handing out free copies of my program, and people liked that, it was a fun experience.

    I actually did a little chess programming last week. I am finishing up the 3rd edition of my Java AI book (self plug: a PDF version will always be available on my web site) and since I have generally "caught the Java generics" disease, I re-coded the chess alpha-beta search example using the new collection classes and generics - it ran so much slower than the old native data type + array version that I archived and tossed the new version :-)

  • I'm on a chess binge lately and have to say that the youtube repository of videos about Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov is just fascinating. Check out Fischer on the Dick Cavett show [youtube.com] to see the how earnest and human Fischer was, for example. The game of chess itself is a formal system with a finite vector space that machines can eventually brute force, but what is interesting is how humans and their neural processing can match the machine approach. The people who play chess well, like Fischer and Kasparov
  • I'm rooting for the Turk. Keep him happy winning chess tournaments and maybe he won't get all discourage and turn into Skynet instead.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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