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Geek Trivia: What descendant game of chess was designed specifically to stifle artificial intelligence?

What descendant game of chess -- played with all the same pieces on a standard chess board -- is specifically designed to be difficult for computers, even supercomputers, to play?

Today is the 15th anniversary of the death of human chess supremacy, as on May 11, 1997 the IBM chess supercomputer Deep Blue became the first non-human player to defeat a reigning chess Grand Master, Garry Kasparov, under normal chess tournament match rules. Since then, competitive supercomputers and chess computing have gone somewhat separate ways.

IBM never developed another large-scale chess hardware system after Deep Blue, as the proof-of-concept was all the company really wanted (and there isn't exactly a market for custom chess-playing processor grids). Instead, the company sought to "solve" another competitive arena where humans seem invincible: the game show Jeopardy! -- which was eventually dominated by the IBM supercomputer Watson. While Watson handily defeated two of the best human players in Jeopardy! history -- Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter -- it wasn't flawless (and never came close to a perfect game).

Watson, you see, had trouble with short clues that only included five or fewer words. With insufficient data to contextualize, Watson often couldn't "guess" a correct answer. In other words, short Jeopardy! clues represented an anti-computer strategy for Jeopardy! game designers. This brings us back to chess software.

Custom hardware like Deep Blue is no longer necessary as, thanks to a combination of Moore's Law dropping the cost of raw computing power and advances in software efficiency through heuristics, a common high-end laptop can run chess-playing programs that can defeat virtually any non-grandmaster chess champion. The grandmasters, however, have adapted anti-computer strategies that confound these programs' brute-force approaches to chess strategy -- usually by playing openings that either remove most of the central board from play (the double fianchetto opening) or that are so unorthodox the chess program doesn't have a standard counter in its "opening book" of chess attacks (like the Mieses Opening).

One chess enthusiast has gone the extra mile, however, and developed a descendant of chess -- played with all the same pieces on a standard chess board -- specifically designed to be difficult for computers, even supercomputers, to play.

WHAT DESCENDANT GAME OF CHESS WAS DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY TO STIFLE SUPERCOMPUTER PLAYERS?

Get the answer.

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

5 comments
joethejet
joethejet

Well, The other advantage Watson had was no synapse delay in pressing the button. If you built in a physical delay in pushing the button I'm not so sure the computer would have won.

gilesjerrit
gilesjerrit

Those needn't have spent all that time inventing a new game of chess. They should have challenged IBM to a game of Chessboxing.

TomMerritt
TomMerritt

One thing I noticed while watching Watson play Jeopardy!: If the question was basically a "lookup", then Ken and Brad didn't stand a chance. If a question, however, involved some "roundabout" thinking, the boys often beat Watson. I don't remember a specific question per se, but a question something like "Is verifiable and sounds like the area above the horizon" might do. It was fascinating to watch Watson crank around potential answers, but one of the boys was usually right on it. We haven't quite been replaced yet. It's TRUE!

andrew232006
andrew232006

because I have no idea what "Is verifiable and sounds like the area above the horizon" means.

TomMerritt
TomMerritt

Maybe that example was a bit convoluted. I couldn't remember a "real" example. TRUE (Sounds like "blue", right?). My bad, but my point was that the questions where you had to follow several trains of thought were where Ken and Brad kicked Watson's virtual butt.