The Aegon Computer Chess Tournament is one of the most curious events in the calendar. Other tournaments may have one or two computers pitted against human opponents, but the Aegon tournament, now in its 10th year at The Hague, has enough of them to cause a traffic jam on the superhighway.

This year's event is the largest of the series with 48 machines, each running a different chess program, competing against 48 humans. And after four rounds, the machines are well ahead.

The turning-point came in round three when the building in which the event was taking place suddenly fell victim to a power cut. The machines all had to be stopped for half an hour while they were restarted and the current positions reloaded into their memories. Play then resumed with the machines apparently content but some of the players grumbling about having to play in conditions of poor light.

Had the machines conspired to overload the electricity circuits? Had they studied the Fischer-Petrosian match of 1971 in which the Armenian former world champion's play had gone to pieces after a similar power failure? Nobody was certain enough to make precise allegations, but there was little doubt that some of the human players felt they had been the victims of some mechanical gamesmanship.

In the first round, the humans had been beaten by a score of 28-20. But that was clearly due to the intimidating novelty of facing so many machines. In round two, human supremacy was reasserted with a 27-21 victory. But after the lights went out in round three, the machines won again by 27- 20 and the following day they scored an event more resounding victory by 301/2-171/2. With two rounds left to play, the machines lead by 1061/2- 841/2 and the leader board looks like something from a software catalogue: M-Chess Pro, Hiarcs and Quest lead with 4 points, half a point ahead of Chess Genius X, Mephisto Genius 68030, Schach 3.0, W-Chess, Tasc R 30, and John van der Wiel. Only the last of those nine leaders is a human. Even John Nunn, who has been one of the most computer- unfriendly opponents in recent events, has lost his unbeaten record.

Every human grandmaster knows how to play against computers: you get them out of their books, keep the position closed to avoid tactical accidents, then patiently build up an attack that is unstoppable by the time they see it coming. But putting those rules into operation under the stresses of tournament play and facing a remorselessly accurate, gormlessly uncomprehending and infuriatingly unemotional opponent, is never as easy as it sounds.

, , , ,

,AN , ,

, , , ,

, n , ,

nH, , ,

n , , ,

a, , , ,

,G, ,G,

Enough of artificial stupidity. Here's a problem in honour of Stephen Hendry. It's White to play and mate in four, and if you can't solve it try taking the white up to the baulk end of the table, then playing it off three cushions to get position on the black.

Solution: 1.c8=B!! b3 2.Bg4 b2 3.Bd1! Kxb1 4.Bb3 mate.

William Hartston

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform