Chess

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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones