homeaboutarchivepodcastnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivepodcastmembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

kottke.org posts about chess

What is a Jeopardy playing supercomputer?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2010

After pretty much solving chess with Deep Blue, IBM is building a computer called Watson to beat human opponents at Jeopardy. It’s not quite at Ken Jennings’ level, but it’s holding its own versus lesser humans.

Deep Blue was able to play chess well because the game is perfectly logical, with fairly simple rules; it can be reduced easily to math, which computers handle superbly. But the rules of language are much trickier. At the time, the very best question-answering systems — some created by software firms, some by university researchers — could sort through news articles on their own and answer questions about the content, but they understood only questions stated in very simple language (“What is the capital of Russia?”); in government-run competitions, the top systems answered correctly only about 70 percent of the time, and many were far worse. “Jeopardy!” with its witty, punning questions, seemed beyond their capabilities. What’s more, winning on “Jeopardy!” requires finding an answer in a few seconds. The top question-answering machines often spent longer, even entire minutes, doing the same thing.

Anand is world chess champ

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2010

Viswanathan Anand defended his title as world chess champion by beating Veselin Topalov in the final game of their 12-game match today.

The match between Anand and Topalov was hard fought, partly because Topalov invoked a rule for the contest that forbids the players from offering draws to each other. The rule, named after the city where the match was being played, insured that there would be no short draws. As the match wore on and fatigue took a toll, both players began to make mistakes with greater frequency.

“Anand” was briefly a global Trending Topic on Twitter this afternoon, which was unexpected and nice.

Chess with Kubrick

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2010

Jeremy Bernstein remembers playing chess with Stanley Kubrick…and witnessing the legendary Fischer/Spassky match.

All during the filming of 2001 we played chess whenever I was in London and every fifth game I did something unusual. Finally we reached the 25th game and it was agreed that this would decide the matter. Well into the game he made a move that I was sure was a loser. He even clutched his stomach to show how upset he was. But it was a trap and I was promptly clobbered. “You didn’t know I could act too,” he remarked.

Magnus Carlsen, the chaotic and lazy chess champion

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2010

You never expect too much from the first few questions of an interview, but this interview of chess world #1 Magnus Carlsen is good right out of the gate.

SPIEGEL: Mr Carlsen, what is your IQ?

Carlsen: I have no idea. I wouldn’t want to know it anyway. It might turn out to be a nasty surprise.

SPIEGEL: Why? You are 19 years old and ranked the number one chess player in the world. You must be incredibly clever.

Carlsen: And that’s precisely what would be terrible. Of course it is important for a chess player to be able to concentrate well, but being too intelligent can also be a burden. It can get in your way. I am convinced that the reason the Englishman John Nunn never became world champion is that he is too clever for that.

SPIEGEL: How that?

Carlsen: At the age of 15, Nunn started studying mathematics in Oxford; he was the youngest student in the last 500 years, and at 23 he did a PhD in algebraic topology. He has so incredibly much in his head. Simply too much. His enormous powers of understanding and his constant thirst for knowledge distracted him from chess.

SPIEGEL: Things are different in your case?

Carlsen: Right. I am a totally normal guy. My father is considerably more intelligent than I am.

His comparison of his abilities with Garry Kasparov’s later in the interview is interesting as well.

How computers changed the way people play chess

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2010

Garry Kasparov discusses the very interesting history and evolution of machines playing against humans in chess.

The heavy use of computer analysis has pushed the game itself in new directions. The machine doesn’t care about style or patterns or hundreds of years of established theory. It counts up the values of the chess pieces, analyzes a few billion moves, and counts them up again. (A computer translates each piece and each positional factor into a value in order to reduce the game to numbers it can crunch.) It is entirely free of prejudice and doctrine and this has contributed to the development of players who are almost as free of dogma as the machines with which they train. Increasingly, a move isn’t good or bad because it looks that way or because it hasn’t been done that way before. It’s simply good if it works and bad if it doesn’t. Although we still require a strong measure of intuition and logic to play well, humans today are starting to play more like computers.

The section about people using computers *during* matches is particularly interesting.

Democratic Chess

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2009

The idea behind Democratic Chess is that the pieces, in collaboration with the players, decide where to move. Each piece communicates with the others through built-in cameras, microphones, and speakers.

Democratic Chess is Chess game where each figure is made of an IP-WLan-network camera each capable of looking arround, listening and talking to the other figures as well as the 2 real person players. With this technology there are many different ways how to play the Game, the next move can be decided in a democratic way among the Figures or they are allowed to discuss with the players and each other the next moves, but at the End the 2 player make the moves.

Perhaps Democratic Chess will crush the evil dictatorial tyranny of the chess player once and for all. (via buzzfeed)

Transparent brilliance

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2009

Michael Paterniti penned a lovely eulogy for Bobby Fischer, the former chess champion who died last year.

This was the beauty of Bobby Fischer’s mind, even then. The boy made very clean, simple lines out of very complex problems, and when the trap was sprung, his style of chess became so transparent you could instantly recognize its brilliance: efficient, organic, wildly responsive and creative.

Also worth a look is a short 1957 profile of Fischer in the New Yorker, written a few weeks after he won the US title at 14. (via snarkmarket)

Blindfold chess

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2008

Blindfold chess is playing chess without a board or pieces…you’ve got to remember where everything is in your head. The world record holder played 45 games of blindfold chess simultaneously. More at Wikipedia. (via panopticist)

How to bull your shoes

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2008

Video on how to bull your shoes (bull = put a really nice polish on them).

1000 circles! From the same series: checkmate in four moves. (via acl)

Chess #1 is 17 years old

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2008

According to these unofficial rankings, 17-year-old Magnus Carlsen is the #1 chess player in the world. The Norwegian became a grandmaster at 13 and is the youngest player ever to reach #1. (via mr)

Oh, in other #1 news, Serena Williams will be the new #1 in women’s tennis after beating Jelena Jankovic in the final of the US Open. On the men’s side, world #1 Rafael Nadal lost in the semis to Andy Murray but won’t lose the top spot in the rankings.

When I heard that chess champion Bobby

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2008

When I heard that chess champion Bobby Fischer had died, I immediately went searching for some of that “sprawling New Yorker shit” on Fischer. Sure enough, the New Yorker ran a piece on Fischer back in 1957, when he was 14 and still “Robert”. Also from their archives, a 2004 review of a book about the 1972 Spassky/Fischer match. The NY Times has extensive coverage of the hometown boy from past and present, including the annoucement of his victory against Spassky.

The story of Tom Murphy, currently homeless

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 10, 2007

The story of Tom Murphy, currently homeless and one of the best chess hustlers (and tournament players) in the US.

Never mind that I’d declined his offer of a lesson, Murphy had gone ahead and transformed our discussion into a formal chess tutorial to which a ticking meter was attached. When the talk wound down, he presented me with a verbal invoice for $20, his standard teaching rate. The chess instruction aside, the $20 I spent taught me an even more memorable lesson about Murphy: When you are in his company, there is often a second, invisible chess game taking place, one that can easily conclude with Murphy’s rooks advancing on your wallet.

(thx, flip)

David Remnick on the current state of

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 01, 2007

David Remnick on the current state of Russian politics and the head of the tiny anti-Putin movement, former chess champion Garry Kasparov.

In recent years, Putin has insured that nearly all power in Russia is Presidential. The legislature, the State Duma, is only marginally more independent than the Supreme Soviet was under Leonid Brezhnev. The governors of Russia’s more than eighty regions are no longer elected, as they were under Yeltsin; since a Presidential decree in 2004, they have all been appointed by the Kremlin. Putin even appoints the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The federal television networks, by far the main instrument of news and information in Russia, are neo-Soviet in their absolute obeisance to Kremlin power.

There’s also an audio interview of Kasparov by Remnick.

Chessboxing

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2006

Mashup sport: chessboxing.

The basic idea in chessboxing is to combine the no.1 thinking sport and the no.1 fighting sport into a hybrid that demands the most of its competitors - both mentally and physically. In a chessboxing fight two opponents play alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The contest starts with a round of chess, followed by a boxing round, followed by another round of chess and so on.

More from the LA Times and the Guardian.

Troyis is a game that utilizes chess

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2005

Troyis is a game that utilizes chess moves (just the knight/horsey actually). Easy to start, difficult to master.

Directions for setting up a Bayesian spam

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2005

Directions for setting up a Bayesian spam filter to play chess.

Chess960, a more random form of chess

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2005

Chess960, a more random form of chess invented by Bobby Fischer, is growing in popularity. Sounds really interesting.