chess

Share
A few days ago, this space contained a splendid game in which John van der Wiel demolished a strong computer program. His winning technique was to play cramped and uninspiring chess of exactly the type that machines cannot understand. Give them nothing to calculate, and they will drown in their own megabytes.

The counter-argument, however, is that any positional nuance - a weak square, a vulnerable king, a lack of space or whatever - will ultimately become susceptible to tactical exploitation. A machine need not understand strategic subtleties if it can calculate far enough ahead.

Until recently, it seemed that silicon thought would not be able to make that dream come true. Even the fastest computers could not cope with the billions of possibilities needed to compensate for a lack of strategic understanding. As the following game shows, however, our anthropocentric intellectual smugness is coming under severe threat.

White's 12.h4! is just the sort of move computers are not meant to be able to find. The pointless dithering that preceded it, with 9.Be3, 10.Be2 and 11.Bd3, is far more what we are used to, yet 12.h4 brilliantly seizes on the only potential weakness in Black's position. The only way a machine can have decided on such a move is to have stumbled on it through an exhaustive analysis. By looking at every legal possibility to a depth of three moves (comprising about a million positions) it must have got as far as 14.h6! and decided it was worth a fling. After 14...Nxh6, White plays 15.Nxg5! fxg5 16.Bxg5, while 14...Bxh6 is met by 15.exd5 cxd5 16.Rxh6! Nxh6 17.Nxg5 with a winning attack.

16.Nxd5! is the sort of opportunity a computer does not miss: 16...exd5 loses to 17.Bxh7+! Kxh7 18.Qd3+ Kg8 19.Qg6+. The final attack, beginning with 18.Rh5! and 19.Bxg5! is most impressive.

White: QUEST

Black: John Nunn

Aegon "Man v Machine" 1995

Pirc Defence

1 e4 g6 18 Rh5 Rf7

2 d4 Bg7 19 Bxg5 Bxf3

3 Nc3 c6 20 gxf3 fxg5

4 Nf3 d5 21 Rxg5+ Kf8

5 h3 Nh6 22 Rdg1 Nf6

6 Bf4 f6 23 Ne4 Ndxe4

7 Qd2 Nf7 24 fxe4 Qxd4

8 0-0-0 0-0 25 e5 Ke7

9 Be3 a6 26 c3 Qb6

10 Be2 b5 27 exf6+ Bxf6

11 Bd3 e6 28 Rg8 Rxg8

12 h4 Nd7 29 Rxg8 Bh4

13 h5 g5 30 f4 Bf2

14 h6 Bh8 31 Kc2 Qe3

15 exd5 cxd5 32 Qd1 Qxf4

16 Nxd5 Bb7 33 Bxb5 Bb6

17 Nc3 Nd6 34 Be8 resigns

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Larry Fink, the boss of fund manager BlackRock , is among those sounding the alarm  

Not all discounts are welcome: Beware the myopia of company bosses

Ben Chu
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black dead: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen