Human vs Computer in Chess – The Chronicle
Today, no chess player can defeat a machine. Even Magnus Carlsen on a good day would be powerless. However, this wasn’t always the case. There was a time when matches of a human vs computer in chess did not have an obvious leader. Humans kept demonstrating their superiority. Such encounters used to be incredibly fascinating and attracted a wide audience. Let’s take a closer look at the history of intellectual warfare between the children of evolution and soulless machines.
First Attempts to Defeat a Human
It all started, interestingly enough, not in the 20th, but in the 18th century. Back then, people were blown away by the so-called Mechanical Turk. The machine was able to beat formidable opponents. As well as great rulers, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. However, the reason behind the impressive performance was rather trivial. The contraption was operated from the inside by a proficient chess player who made all the moves.
The real history of chess computers dates back to 1951. It was then that English mathematician Alan Turing invented an algorithm that could grant an automated system the ability to play chess. Curiously, the scientist could only demonstrate the principle while acting as a machine himself. Turing’s legendary “paper machine” took around 30 minutes to calculate a single turn.
Chess Computer Program
At last, in 1957, American chess player and mathematician Alex Bernstein created the first algorithm capable of playing on a standard chessboard. To be fair, it still stood no chance against the top players of that period.
Back then, Soviet chess players were second to none. The situation was similar in the hi-tech world. In 1967, a USSR-made chess program outperformed its artificial rival developed by Stanford University with a score of 3 to 1.
6 years later, in 1974, the first ever chess engine World Championship took place. The Soviet Kaissa won 4 out of 4 games and took first place in the prestigious tournament.
But that was only the beginning of the chess computer journey. In 1983, a machine called Belle saw the light of day. It played at the master level, reaching an approximate rank of 2250.
Computers were gradually becoming a force to be reckoned with. In 1968, a Scottish master Levy famously wagered that he wouldn’t lose a single game to a computer in 10 years. He won the bet, conceding only to DeepThought in 1989.
However, Garry Kasparov easily defeated that same program. The champion lost to a computer for the first time in history only in 1996, in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, Kasparov was ultimately able to beat Deep Blue with an overall score of 3.5 to 2.5.
Just one year later, the program improved. The upgrade allowed it to prevail against the great Kasparov with a score of 3.5 to 2.5. The situation became a lot more concerning for humanity.
Human Vs Computer in Chess Today
In the 21st century, the engine finally gained the upper hand. The last significant match between a computer and a top player occurred in 2006. Deep Fritz outplayed Vladimir Kramnik by 4:2. Prior to that, several renowned grandmasters, including Adams, Svidler, and Topalov, lost to machines as well.
At the moment, LeelaChessZero, AlphaZero, Stockfish, and Komodo are considered the most advanced chess programs.
These engines are far superior even to Magnus Carlsen himself. Interestingly, the effectiveness of their average move is much higher than that of a human. Not to mention the fact that they are entirely insusceptible for blunders. The programs have full access to endgame databases. The calculations they make are much deeper and more thorough than what humans are capable of.
Adversary or Friend?
Today, computers are indispensable to chess players. For example, they can help discover interesting variations of certain openings to catch an opponent off guard. Human vs computer in chess battles gives elite grandmasters opportunities to grow and improve their understanding. This is especially useful when training for major tournaments and matches.