Juiced: Com­puter chess champ stripped of its four ti­tles

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CLAIRE COURCHANE

Yet an­other world cham­pion has been brought low for sus­pected use of a banned per­for­manceen­hanc­ing sub­stance.

Ry­bka, the chess-play­ing com­puter pro­gram that won the past four World Com­puter Chess Cham­pi­onship ti­tles, was sum­mar­ily stripped of its sil­i­con crown June 29 amid charges its programmer pla­gia­rized the soft­ware of two ri­val pro­grams.

David Levy, pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Com­puter Games As­so­ci­a­tion (ICGA), an­nounced the ac­tion against Ry­bka and im­posed a life­time ban on Czech-Amer­i­can programmer and Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy grad­u­ate Vasik Ra­jlich. He ac­cused Mr. Ra­jlich of rip­ping off the cod­ing of two other soft­ware pro­grams mar­keted as Crafty and Fruit. Mr. Levy also de­manded the re­turn of tro­phies and prize money the pro­gram won.

“We are con­vinced that the ev­i­dence against Vasik Ra­jlich is both over­whelm­ing in its vol­ume and be­yond rea­son­able ques­tion in its na­ture. Vasik Ra- jlich is guilty of pla­gia­riz­ing the pro­grams Crafty and Fruit,” an ICGA letter states.

As ac­cu­sa­tions have mounted in re­cent months about the sources of Ry­bka’s phe­nom­e­nal play­ing strength, Mr. Ra­jlich has steadily main­tained his in­no­cence on var­i­ous on­line chess fo­rums but given no for­mal de­nial. Now re­port­edly liv­ing in War­saw, he did not re­spond to email re­quests for com­ment on June 30.

Mr. Levy also re­leased eight com­pre­hen­sive eval­u­a­tions of the pro­grams in com­par­i­son, put to­gether by spe­cial­ists who used Mr. Ra­jlich’s own words on how easy it is to copy pro­gram­ming source code to em­pha­size their point. The eval­u­a­tions show iden­ti­cal cod­ing in nu­mer­ous as­pects of Ry­bka and the ear­lier pro­grams.

“The Ry­bka code base was with­out doubt de­rived di­rectly from other peo­ple’s work and this was never re­vealed, so this is [a] case of tak­ing credit for the work of oth­ers and it shows a lack of re­spect for the other ma­jor tal­ents in com­puter chess as well as the ICGA and or­ga­niz­ers of these events,” Don Dai­ley, a fel­low com­puter chess programmer, wrote in one re­port.

Mr. Dai­ley was also one of 14 co-au­thors of a letter sent to the ICGA in March ac­cus­ing Ry­bka of copy­ing Fruit, an “open-source” pro­gram cre­ated by French­man Fa­bien Le­touzey that was run­ner-up world com­puter cham­pion in 2005.

Ry­bka won four con­sec­u­tive World Com­puter Chess Cham­pi­onship ti­tles from 2007 to 2010. But ques­tions of pro­gram­ming ethics and stolen codes still bedevil the field.

Since the epic 1997 match in which IBM pro­gram Deep Blue de­feated hu­man world cham­pion Garry Kas­parov, com­puter-play­ing pro­grams have far out­stripped their flesh-and­blood ri­vals. To­day, even widely avail­able pro­grams with names such as Fritz, Hiarcs and Deep Ju­nior play at a much higher rat­ing than even the strong­est grand­mas­ters.

Peter Dog­gers, the edi­tor of pop­u­lar chess web­site Chessvibes.com, said there are now maybe hun­dreds of com­puter pro­grams that can play chess and are rou­tinely used as train­ing aids and su­per­strong spar­ring part­ners for play­ers.

“These days, there’s no se­ri­ous pro­fes­sional chess player in the world’s top 100 who doesn’t use a com­puter to as­sist him in an­a­lyz­ing his games and pre­par­ing for new games,” Mr. Dog­gers said.

But with the flood of tech­nol­ogy has come some mod­ern eth­i­cal dilem­mas for the an­cient game.

Mr. Kas­parov and his back­ers ac­cused Deep Blue of get­ting help from hu­man pro­gram­mers for moves at key points in the 1997 match and de­manded — un­suc­cess­fully — to see the com­puter’s cal­cu­lat­ing records.

With the ad­vent of smart­phones and palm-sized com­put­ers, there have been re­peated in­stances of play­ers caught get­ting moves trans­mit­ted to them dur­ing tour­na­ment games. A 2008 world cham­pi­onship match was nearly de­railed af­ter one con­tes­tant ques­tioned the fre­quent bath­room breaks be­ing taken by his op­po­nent.

FIDE, the in­ter na­tional chess fed­er­a­tion, even in­sti­tuted a rule call­ing for the in­stant for­feit of any player whose cell­phone rings dur­ing a game.

An­other com­puter-re­lated scan­dal emerged at the Chess Olympiad — the game’s equiv­a­lent of the Olympics — last fall in Rus­sia. Three top French grand­mas­ters have been sus­pended for up to five years af­ter be­ing ac­cused of an elab­o­rate sys­tem to pass along com­put­er­gen­er­ated moves dur­ing games.

Be­cause Fruit is an “open­source” pro­gram, its codes are avail­able for any­one to use — but its li­cense strictly pro­hibits any­one from mak­ing money off its code and not giv­ing credit. John Dozier Jr., a lawyer who spe­cial­izes in In­ter­net copy­right is­sues, said no suc­cess­ful preven­tive mea­sure from this is in sight.

“When we get bet­ter with dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment, the thieves are go­ing to get bet­ter with their tech­nol­ogy to find the holes with what have been built,” Mr. Dozier said. “The ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy help both sides of the war. It’s a stand­off.”

Mr. Levy said he thinks the rul­ing of the ICGA would de­ter other pro­gram­mers from head­ing down the same path. As for Ry­bka, it will now be re­mem­bered as just an­other cham­pion that didn’t re­spect the rules of the game.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.