Chess is one of the world's most popular games. Its popularity and complexity make it an interesting research domain for artificial intelligence. The number of board positions we can get to from the initial board state is larger than the number of atoms in the universe! Chess playing machines have been the subject of human interest for hundreds of years, but only on the last few decades have they been able to compete with (and beat) the world champions. Chess programs now have their own tournaments.
People are concerned about robots. Ever since a computer system defeated chess champion Gary Kasparov 20 years ago, public perceptions of progress in artificial intelligence (AI) research have been defined in terms of high-profile competitions pitting human against thinking machine. Anxiety is high about what the ultimate consequences could be.
Carnegie-Mellon University's Hitech chess computer scored 5-1 in the National Open Chess Championships held in Chicago March 18-20. The Championship Section in which Hitech competed, had 380 entries. The Championship Section in which Hitech competed, had 380 entries. There was a six-way tie for first with 5.5 points between: International Grandmaster Mikhail Tal (a former world champion), International Grandmaster Sergey Kudrin, FIDE Master Michael Brooks, International Master James Rizzitano, International Master Calvin Blocker, and International Grandmaster Leonid Shamkovich. Tied for seventh with 5 points were: National Master Hitech, International Grandmaster Maxim Dlugy, International Grandmaster Walter Browne, International Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier, and nine others.
Deep Blue beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov in the final game of a tied, six-game match last May 11. Kasparov had beaten the machine in an earlier match held in February 1996. The Fredkin Prize was awarded under the auspices of AAAI; funds had been held in trust at Carnegie Mellon University. The Fredkin Prize was originally established at Carnegie Mellon University 17 years ago by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science Professor Edward Fredkin to encourage continued research progress in computer chess. The first award of $5,000 was given to two scientists from Bell Laboratories who in 1981 developed the first chess machine to achieve master status.
The basic paradigm that computer programs employ is known as "search and evaluate." Their static evaluation is arguably more primitive than the perceptual one of humans. Yet the intelligence emerging from them is phenomenal. A human spectator is not able to tell the difference between a brilliant computer game and one played by Kasparov. Chess played by today's machines looks extraordinary, full of imagination and creativity.
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"Years before the first computer was actually built, the famous British mathematician Alan Turing envisaged it playing chess and beating the human world champion. When the very first computers were delivered to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in the 1950s the scientists there immediately started to program it to play chess. For 50 years one of the recurring motifs of the science of artificial intelligence was a chess computer beating the world champion. It was almost an obsession in the community, with scores of teams in dozens of universities dedicating their academic careers to achieve this goal." Who should explore space, man or machine?
"A computer beat the world champion at chess. A robot is on Mars making a few of its own decisions." Kuipers reminded us that these accomplishments are the result of 40 years of research; AI is much older than the technical sessions at this year's conference. This year's conference not only celebrated AI's visible achievements, noted Kuipers. At its heart, it is a technical conference.
This is the first part of'A Brief History of Game AI Up to AlphaGo'. Part 2 is here and part 3 is here. In this part, we shall cover the birth of AI and the very first game-playing AI programs to run on digital computers. On March 9th of 2016, a historic milestone for AI was reached when the Google-engineered program AlphaGo defeated the world-class Go champion Lee Sedol. Go is a two-player strategy board game like Chess, but the larger number of possible moves and difficulty of evaluation make Go the harder problem for AI.
Many years ago I was with Garry Kasparov for an event in London's Home House, and there we had dinner with a young lad, a former child prodigy in chess, one who had reached master level (Elo 2300) at the age of 13 and captained a number English junior chess teams. It was an interesting encounter with the boy enthusiastically describing a computer game he was developing. After he left I said to Garry: "That's a cocky young fellow!" "But very smart," Garry replied. And we left it at that. More than twenty years later I had occasion to contact him again.