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The new age of chess playing machines

Short story By: amitontheweb
Non-fiction



Chess was supposed to be a game that only humans, intelligent creatures, could play. It was a tacit belief that the ability to play chess was a sign of intelligence. It's really a victory for the human mind and its ingenuity.


Submitted:Jan 2, 2007    Reads: 241    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   


Any doubts entertained on whether we have moved into a new age, or at least climbed a new step on its ladder, would be put to rest by the fact that the game of chess is now played by machines which can better any human on a given day. What some upto the 80s considered even impossible has been put into practice, and if reports are true, no man can beat the best rated machines playing this mind game today.

That Kasparov, the greatest chess player ever, was beaten by a game or two in a return match, could be doubted as part of some marketing gimmick that did not go beyond exhibition matches. Yet, re-playing that second or third game where he lost in the end game shows it was really an oversight on his part, a lack of calculation, where the machine saw further; it rattled Kasparov to an extent that he demanded being shown printouts of the game to prove that the machine actually performed certain calculations to reach the decisive moves. The final game saw him falling to an opening trap that, as V Anand said, used to be a part of his own opening preparations for other players! It is simply unbelievable. Can machines really beat good chess players? They can and do beat amateurs.

Chess was supposed to be a game that only humans, intelligent creatures, could play. It was a tacit belief that the ability to play chess was a sign of intelligence. It required judgment - evaluating a series of positions in order to select moves that led to victory. Only humans could intuitively guess the winning moves. Calculations were involved, but it was their outcome that mattered in the end, such that even major pieces could be given up in order to attain winning positions. Only humans could evaluate outcomes as favourable or avoidable. These were probably the arguments we heard against chess playing machines.

This writer lost several games to a GNU chess engine, but won a game in which he sacrificed three major pieces for the computer's queen to reach an end game where, on an almost empty board, his queen turned out to be more powerful than the three extra pieces the machine had. The machine was obviously not programmed to value a queen in the end game on an almost empty board as holding more points or values than three major pieces.

Seen in a truer picture, when you play chess against a machine, you are actually pitted against those hundreds of programmers who spent thousands of hours programming the machine, and not against a thinking device. The real thinking process went inside the programmers at the time of creating the programme.

Whether humans win or machines, as far as the game of chess is considered, it has entered its new age. The barrier of the impossible has been breached. It's really a victory for the human mind and ingenuity, a victory for its reasoning, and a medal for the diligent hard work, built upon the works of others, that today we have machines that can beat humans in their own game.





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