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?
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 also follow him on his personal blog.