Computer Chess

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I wrote my first computer chess program for the Mac around 1990.

sb_work_progress.jpg

Since then I have at times become quite immersed in following computer chess activity. I was one of the few non participants who attended the ACM computer chess championship in Cape May New Jersey in 1994.

Contrary to the opinion of some who know me, I am not a very good chess player. One of the main things hindering me from improving the play of my chess program is that it easily beats me and I am at a loss to figure out why, since my chess is so poor.

In 2002, that interest revived, perhaps fueled by the recent "Brains in Bahrain" human/computer match pitting the current world human champion (Kramnik) against the current computer champion (Deep Fritz). That match ended in a draw.

At that time, I dug out one of my archival Macintosh CD-ROMs and copied my old Macintosh chess program, "Mu Chess," so I could get it working on my Windows machine. After fixing a few long-standing bugs, the program was playing better than ever (which is not all that great - it had a Blitz rating of about 1500). I got it to interface with a common chess- board UI, XBoard/Winboard, and it played games against human chess nuts from various parts of the world on the Free Internet Chess Server.

The program played under the name of 'plywood', a name intended to insult its intelligence, as well as a reference to the plies that computer-chess programs search when they are thinking.

I periodically subscribe to the ICGA Journal (formerly the ICCA Journal), an academic publication for programmers of computer games, such as chess, backgammon and go. The back-issues are fascinating.

More recently, I wrote a computer-chess program which produces live music that reflects the progress of the search tree as it thinks. This engine, "Shallow Brown", was the basis for my composition, "Kasparov vs Deep Blue" which was performed in Eagle Rock, in 2009. The video below was taken at the performance.