Sunday, December 18, 2005


Do you need some Chess Openings?

I am terrible at Chess, unable to think ahead, to see anything, but I am very interested in it (in no small part be cause some of my favorite authors and directors were interested in it*), and the people who play it; and the machines. There is a great article in last week's New Yorker about Hydra, the world's best computer chess player. Computer chess is more complicated than I thought. Becuase Chess is even more complex than a computer can figure out, it all comes down to how the computer is programed (such as brute force v. strategy); comes down to the personality of the person programming. Grandmasters are studying computer chess matches and learning startling new things about the game, about what is possible, about what works. The Upshot: in most cases the computers are making plays that no human would ever attempt because they are, to us, crazy/stupid; irrational, inconceivable; but because a computer doesn't get nervous, it doesn't mind playing close to the edge.

Chess problems demand from the composer the same virtues that characterize
all worthwile art: originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and
splendid insincerity.

-- Vladimir Nabokov, Poems and Problems, 1969 (via Ye Olde Dust Congress)

*and "One Night in Bangkok" is a great song.

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