CHESS

The Star Early Edition - - TONIGHT COMICS - Mark Ru­bery

With the enor­mous strides made in com­pu­ta­tional power it should come as no sur­prise that the “younger cousin” of Chess, Check­ers (or draughts), had been solved by com­puter pro­grams. It took 13 years of brute-force com­puter anal­y­sis to ex­am­ine all 500 bil­lion- bil­lion pos­si­ble board po­si­tions be­fore re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Al­berta in Canada for­mally an­nounced that they had fi­nally solved the cen­turies-old game of Check­ers. Specif­i­cally: they had a file which con­tained full in­for­ma­tion on ev­ery le­gal po­si­tion that can arise dur­ing the game, and which move, if any, will lead to a win or a draw in that po­si­tion. The task of solv­ing Check­ers was un­der­taken and com­pleted by Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Scha­ef­fer, who had been at it for almost 20 years. “Check­ers has a search space of 5x1 020, a daunt­ing num­ber,” Scha­ef­fer says. “Almost con­tin­u­ously since 1989 (with a gap in the 1997 to 2001 pe­riod), dozens of com­put­ers have been work­ing around the clock to solve the game. You’ve got 500bn-bn pieces of hay in your haystack, and you’ve got to find the nee­dles.” On be­ing asked if Chess could be solved by the same means: “I have been asked many times when Chess will be solved and I refuse to say any­thing other than it can­not be done for a very long time un­less there is a fun­da­men­tally new break­through. The com­put­ing mod­els that we have to­day – even if they are a bil­lion times faster – won’t make a dent in Chess. We need some­thing much bet­ter. The an­swer might be quantum com­put­ing, but this tech­nol­ogy is still in its in­fancy and re­mains un­proven.” And if this were to come to pass we might still find refuge in ei­ther Go or Texas Hol­dem!

In the 1992, a Check­ers pro­gram called

Chi­nook was de­feated by Mar­ion Tins­ley, world cham­pion from 1955-1962 and from 1975-1991. In 1994, Tins­ley had to re­sign in the mid­dle of an even match for health rea­sons; he died shortly there­after. The num­ber of le­gal po­si­tions in chess is es­ti­mated be­tween 1 043 and 1 050 le­gal po­si­tions.

The su­per­com­puter named Lomonsov has de­vel­oped seven-man table­bases (thus all the po­si­tions that in­clude two kings and five pieces) and its size is about 100 ter­abytes. The table­bases of all endgames with up to six pieces are avail­able for free down­load and take up more than one ter­abyte (1 000 gi­ga­bytes!) of stor­age space. Bourzutschky and Kono­val dis­cov­ered a K+Q+N v K+R+B+N po­si­tion where mate can be forced after an as­ton­ish­ing of 517 moves!

WHITE TO PLAY AND WIN

SEE DI­A­GRAM

2014) Se­niors World Movsziszi­vian, Barle-( 01- Qg2! 1 “When you have a world cham­pion in your smart­phone, the myth of the su­pe­rior brain­power of hu­man chess cham­pi­ons has lost its power.” – Hans Ree “If Chess is a vast jun­gle, com­put­ers are the chain­saws in a gi­ant en­vi­ron­men­tally in­sen­si­tive log­ging company.” – Nigel Short

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