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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kasparov plays historical chess program

by Mark Ollig

During WWII, the analytical mind of Alan Turing broke the secret coding method of the German cipher, or crypto machine.

It was better known as an Enigma machine.

Turing, along with Gordon Welchman, created the Turing Bombe machine, which could decipher the German Enigma code.

Turing’s machine is credited with assisting in bringing the war to an end.

Vinton Cerf, who celebrates his birthday the same date as Alan Turing (June 23), is well- known as one of the “fathers of the Internet,” based on his work with TCP/IP (Traffic Control Protocol/Internet Protocol).

TCP/IP are actually two separate protocols (TCP and IP), out of a collection of data communication protocols used for sending information through the Internet.

This past June, Cerf spoke during the Alan Turing Centenary Conference in Manchester.

Alan Turing would have turned 100 years old June 23, 2012.

Turing is considered the father of modern computing in many circles, and so it seemed to be only fitting to have the modern father of the Internet speak about him.

Cerf told those attending the conference about Turing’s curiosity with artificial intelligence, computing hardware and software.,

The first computer Cerf programmed was called a Bendix G-15, which was a computer that was introduced in 1956.

The connection to Turing is that the Bendix G-15 was based on Turing’s ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) design he completed in 1945.

“Turing had the ability to turn anything into a useful application,” commented Cerf.

In 1948, at age 35, Turing wrote a paper titled “Intelligent Machinery.”

Turing described in this paper about creating a “thinking machine” by building what was essentially a robot that would mimic a human and “roam the countryside” to learn about things for itself. He was describing how to design artificial intelligence in a machine that could learn from its own experiences.

Just two years later, Turing released a more detailed paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.”

In this paper, Turing continued to build upon his 1948 paper, and proposed a simple question: “Can machines think?”

Turing stated this idea had gained interest because of the development of a particular kind of machine, called an “electronic computer” or “digital computer.”

He went on to give examples of deductive reasoning from which a machine could come to logical conclusions.

While Turing is famous for breaking the Enigma code and his work with computing design, what he might not be as well known for was creating a computational algorithm for chess during the late 1940s.

It amazes me how Turing, in 1948, could write a chess-playing algorithm – which I will call a program – at a time when the type of computer required to fully execute this program -- did not yet exist.

Turing’s chess program could “think” two moves in advance, using the method of logical “searching decision trees” for making the “best” move.

The computer chess program Turing created could even be considered a computational artificial intelligence program.

During the celebration of Turing’s 100th birthday last month, chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov sat down and played against Turing’s 1948 computer chess program, which was loaded into a modern-day computer.

As this columnist enjoys a good game of chess every now and then, I was very interested in how Turing’s 1948 chess computations would fare in a match against a great chess master like Kasparov.

In watching the video, it seemed to me Kasparov was almost eager to play the program, as he quickly sat down at the table to begin.

A large screen displayed to the audience the chess game moves as they occurred in real-time.

“Turochamp,” Turing’s chess program, played the white chess pieces.

Turing’s program began the match with Kasparov by using the Queen’s pawn, or e3 chess opening.

During the course of the game, Kasparov swiftly moved his chess pieces in a precise, calculating manner. He took only seconds in-between moves and methodically took control of the chess game.

“I’m sorry!” Kasparov smilingly said while capturing the white chess pieces.

He then quickly closed in for the win.

Kasparov was able to checkmate white’s king in only 16 moves.

We must remember Kasparov is a chess grandmaster, and is known for playing chess 10 moves in advance.

After the game, Kasparov complimented Turing’s chess program saying, “It was a start . . . it was something that definitely changed our lives.”

“Although it’s only thinking two moves ahead, I thought it would give the amateur player some serious problems,” he added.

“It was an outstanding accomplishment,” Kasparov went on to say of Turing’s chess program.

Alan Mathison Turing died June 7, 1954, at age 41.

To watch the video of Kasparov competing against Turing’s 1948 chess program, go to