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Humans v. Computers In Chess – Symbiosis Of The Two Is Superior

Chess engines continue to improve. In 2009 a chess engine running on slower hardware, a mobile phone, reached the grandmaster level. The mobile phone won a category 6 tournament with a performance rating 2898. The chess engine Hiarcs 13 runs inside Pocket Fritz 4 on the mobile phone HTC Touch HD. Pocket Fritz 4 won the Copa Mercosur tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina with 9 wins and 1 draw on August 4–14, 2009.[29] Pocket Fritz 4 searches fewer than 20,000 positions per second. This is in contrast to supercomputers such as Deep Blue that searched 200 million positions per second. Pocket Fritz 4’s higher performance comes from being smarter and not from faster computers. Link

In 2005, the online chess-playing site Playchess.com hosted what it called a “freestyle” chess tournament in which anyone could compete in teams with other players or computers. Normally, “anti-cheating” algorithms are employed by online sites to prevent, or at least discourage, players from cheating with computer assistance. (I wonder if these detection algorithms, which employ diagnostic analysis of moves and calculate probabilities, are any less “intelligent” than the playing programs they detect.)

Lured by the substantial prize money, several groups of strong grandmasters working with several computers at the same time entered the competition. At first, the results seemed predictable. The teams of human plus machine dominated even the strongest computers. The chess machine Hydra, which is a chess-specific supercomputer like Deep Blue, was no match for a strong human player using a relatively weak laptop. Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.

The surprise came at the conclusion of the event. The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process. Link

Perhaps a tactical aid would be more useful than trying to build a machine that can outcompete humans in Arimaa?

    • Rules are simple, intuitive and easy to learn.
    • Most anyone can learn to beat the computers with a little practice.
    • Due to the enormous number of choices on each move (over 17,000) the game feels much more open and exercises creative thinking.
    • There is much to explore and discover about the game since it is so new.
    • No possibility of draws; every match is settled with one of the players winning.
    • Equal winning chances for both players. Neither side has a distinguishable advantage.
    • No need to memorize openings since the starting position is not fixed. Requires on the spot thinking rather than memorization.
    • End game tables are not useful since games can end with all pieces on the board.
    • Computer cheating is not possible since humans are much better.
    • A yearly world championship tournament is held to determine the best human player.

One response to “Humans v. Computers In Chess – Symbiosis Of The Two Is Superior

  1. Pingback: Reply to Roissy on automation : Writings

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