(from The Art of Pants)
Chess impersonations by Aman Hambleton | Trying to Lose by Aman Hambleton | Scachs d’Amor by Don Francí de Castellví, Narcís Vinyoles, and Mossèn Fenollar | A Brief History of Chess by Alex Gendler | Tani Adewumi: From homeless refugee to chess prodigy by Aishwarya Kumar | Chess Handshakes | Hikaru impersonation by Daniel Naroditsky | How to play chess properly | White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane | White Queen by Queen | The March of the Black Queen by Queen | Hikaru walks up a staircase | Bobby Fischer, King of the Chess People by Drunk History
“The ability to play chess is the sign of a gentleman. The ability to play chess well is the sign of a wasted life.”
“Chess doesn’t drive people mad, it keeps mad people sane.”
“On Wednesday, World Chess champion Garry Kasparov tied Deep Blue, the IBM supercomputer that can examine 200 million positions per second, in the fourth game of their six-game series. Earlier in the week, Kasparov admitted he made a “catastrophic blunder” in game two when he failed to force a draw by moving rook to e8, opting instead for a Caro-Kann defense that soon transposed into a Pribyl defense, which after Deep Blue moved bishop to e7, gave it the advantage with its ninth position. With all due respect to Mr. Kasparov… what the hell were you thinking?”
“In a life of pursuits adopted and discarded with the ebb and flow of Shannon’s promiscuous curiosity, chess remained one of his few lifelong pastimes. One story has it that Shannon played so much chess at Bell Labs that ‘at least one supervisor became somewhat worried.’ He had a gift for the game, and as word of his talent spread through-out the Labs, many would try their hand at beating him. ‘Most of us didn’t play more than once against him,’ recalled Brockway McMillan.
On a trip to Russia in 1965, Shannon offered a friendly game to Soviet international grandmaster and three-time world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Botvinnik, having presumably endured countless games of show for various dignitaries, agreed to the match but played without paying much attention and nursed a cigarette throughout, his uninterest apparent to all in the room. Then, suddenly, Shannon managed to win the favorable exchange of his knight and a pawn for Botvinnik’s rook early in the contest. Botvinnik’s attention was instantly yanked back to the board, and the atmosphere of the room shifted as the Russian champion realized that his challenger was more than just another hapless dignitary. ‘Botvinnik was worried,’ Betty would remember years later.
The game went on far longer than anyone, including the surprised champion, could have predicted. But there was still no real doubt about the outcome. After forty-two moves, Shannon tipped his king over, conceding the match. Still, lasting dozens of moves against Botvinnik, considered among the most gifted chess players of all time, earned Shannon lifelong bragging rights.”
[…] Nearly a half century before Deep Blue defeated the world’s human champion, Shannon anticipated the value of chess as a sort of training ground for intelligent machines and their makers:
‘The chess machine is an ideal one to start with, since: (1) the problem is sharply defined both in allowed operations (the moves) and in the ultimate goal (checkmate); (2) it is neither so simple as to be trivial nor too difficult for satisfactory solution; (3) chess is generally considered to require ‘thinking’ for skillful play; a solution of this problem will force us either to admit the possibility of a mechanized thinking or to further restrict our concept of ‘thinking’; (4) the discrete structure of chess fits well into the digital nature of modern computers.
Shannon believed that, at least within the realm of chess, the inanimate had certain intrinsic advantages. The obvious ones were processing speeds well beyond the human brain and an endless capacity for computation. Further, an artificial intelligence wouldn’t be susceptible to boredom or exhaustion; it could continue to drill into a chess position well after its human counterpart had lost concentration. Computers were, in Shannon’s view, blessed with ‘freedom from errors,’ their only mistakes ‘due to deficiencies of the program while human players are continually guilty of very simple and obvious blunders’…
But–and Shannon was emphatic about the ‘but’–‘these must be balanced against the flexibility, imagination and inductive and learning capacities of the human mind.’ The great downfall of a chess-playing machine, Shannon thought, was that it couldn’t learn on the fly, a capacity he believed was vital for victory at the elite levels. He cites Reuben Fine, an American chess master, on the misconceptions about top-ranked players and their approach to the game: ‘Very often people have the idea that masters foresee everything or nearly everything.. that everything is mathematically calculated down to the smirk when the Queen’s Rook Pawn queens one move ahead of the opponent’s King’s Knight’s Pawn. All this is, of course, pure fantasy. The best course to follow is to note the major consequences for two moves, but try to work out forced variations as they go.’
In mastering the probabilities of each conceivable position, then, a chess computer would not simply be acting as a superpowered grand-master, but as a fundamentally different kind of player. Essentially, human and computer would be playing two different games while seated across the same board.”
(from A Mind at Play by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman)