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The art of Artificial Intelligence

Updated on October 9, 2013


Artificial intelligence, thinking machines is not a desiderate of our times only, it was present also in the mind of ancient peoples. Greeks, for example, in their myths imagined thinking beings such as Talos, the gigantic bronze robot, or Galatea, the Pygmalion statue who came to life. Humanoid robots theme is also present in in the literature of ancient Chinese. Yan Shi, an 3rd century BC artificer, it is said to have built a human-like robot able able to move by itself. Close to our times, artificial beings have become a theme in fiction literature as well as, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) is a classic example. At practical level, people also have tried for long time to make a machine think like a human being, and chess was the domain where such an urge has manifested fully.


"The Turk "was the first machine (robot) to play chess to high level. Even if this "robot " was in fact a hoax, a machinery under human control like a puppet dancing on astring, it really puzzled many peoples of the time. It was exhibited for more than 80 years around the world, playing against numerous world personalities. May be the most famous game it played was the victory against the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The Turk "ended up" in the Chinese Museum in Philadelphia where was destroyed by a fire in 1854. Owning to the Turk's popularity and mistery, its performances inspired also many other inventors.It is said that the great-father of the first computer, Charles Babbage, saw the Turk and though he realized that it must be a trick also asked himself if he could produce a machine to think for itself. His "difference engine " - the first computer - appeared just because of this desire to build such a machine.

The first chess playing computer

The first chess programs were weak, and incapable to beat any professional human chess player. Nowadays those old days are long time gone.The chess programs have quickly gone from very weak to very strong, and that in just a little more than 40 years.For a wile, between the 1970s and 1980s, it was uncertain whether any chess computers would ever be able to defeat the human top players. In 1968, David Levy, an international chess master, became famous when he made a bet that no chess program would be able to beat him fort the next ten years. He won the bet when in 1978 he defeated Chess4.7 chess program- the strongest program at the time, but fairly acknowledged that it would be long before he would be but such a chess program. He was right, eleven years later he was defeated by another chess program Deep Thought, in a demonstrative game.

Deep Thought, however, was still considerably below World Championship level, as the world champion Garry Kasparov proved it in two convincingly wins in 1989. It was not until 1996, when Kasparov lost his first game to a computer chess program, Deep Blue, however, he was able to win the match with 31/2 -21/2 This was in fact the first time when a reigning world champion lost a game to computer chess program. Moreover, an year later an improved version of Deep Blue defeated Kasparov with an impressive 31/2--- 21/2 victory. This time was for first time a when a world champion Garry Kasparov, World Chess Champion lost a match against a computer program under standard time control. The evolution of chess programs became really staggering .With increasing processing power, chess computer softwares running on commercially available engines started to rival with the strongest chess players.

In 1998, Rebel 10 chess program defeated Viswanathan Anand, the world champion at that time, by a score of 5-3. In October 2002, another world champion,Vladimir Kramnik, and Deep Fritz, the strongest chess computer at that time, competed in the eight-game "Brains in Bahrain" match. The match ended in a draw after an incredible blunder by Kramnik in the game 6. In 2005, Hydra, a strong chess program defeated the grand-master Michael Adams - ranked seventh in the world- with an staggering 51/2 - 01/2 score.

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In November 2006, Vladimir Kramnik confronted Deep Fritz again.. This time the "robot " won relative easily by 4-2. As a result of this match, the public interest in "human against chess softwares " competition has diminished . Today the world chess campions rarely, if ever, play official games against computers programs. Human- machine chess games clearly showed the best computers programs have overtaken human chess champions starting with the early 2000s. For the last 40 years the best machines have gained around of 40 Elo ( Elo, the coefficient showing the relative skills of a chess player) rating points each year, while the humans have gained only 2 points. In 1988 special Elo rating was created for rating machines. Even if the two Elo ratings cannot be compared directly, however, they say much about the force of the program computers compared to human players. The best ever Elo rated human player, Magnus Carlsen, has a rating of 2872, while the best rated program has a rating of 3180.Today the super chess computers are able to analyze 200 million positions per second. No human can do that, nor quite close to it. The chess softwares are now accessible to general public.

High tech chess software

Practically nowadays all chess players in the world use computer programs for their training. But it is more than this, the "biggin-ers", commonly, the children, have started learning chess using chess programs. In the last years from the multitude of "super" chess programs, Houdini chess program has took the "ramp lights". The program written by a Belgian programmer, Robert Houdart, is currently the strongest chess program in the world. The name was chosen after the name of an American illusionist, Harry Houdini (1874-1926), famous for his sensational escape acts. The Houdini chess software, like Houdini the illusionist, is said to be able of escaping from very difficult situations and finally, win. The most experts say that if a chess player will sometimes need to represent our planet in a chess game against another planet, that one cannot be other than, Houdini. The chess program was written for Windows and can be ruled on any not too old Window versions, but also it can be ruled on Linux using Wine..Houdini 3 is the newest and strongest version of this chess program, and contains an improving in the evaluation of all stages of the game. So, the opening improvements offer a a more convincingly piece activity for a better management of the space. In the middle game Houdini 3 also has also brought significant enchantments by offering the pieces a better mobility while preserving king-side safety . In end games Houdini 3 goes deeper into calculating more positions than the older versions of the program. When using Tactical Mode , Houdini 3 prefers tactical and active solutions rather than positional moves. These improvements turns the engine into the most proficient tactical position solver ever. For deeper analyses of a position , Houdini 3 comes with Smart Fail-High, a feature that makes possible founding the best moves in the most complicated positions. Of course, this version is for selling, but older versions like Houdini 1.5 can be downloaded for free.

Chess game is no more the romantic game that once was, now it is about high technology, and here is where Houdini chess program comes.

Will computer chess programs be able of completely deciphering chess "mistery"? May be yes, may be not, but the perspective is generally still considered to be remote, to the big relief of those who love chess and its incertitude in asserting with mathematical certainty who wins.

For a better understanding of Houdini :

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