The secret battle of chess: Artificial Intelligence vs. Humans

08/04/2023 - Actualizado: 01/05/2023

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Recently there has been a boom in the development of artificial intelligence (AI). The chess world is not devoid of these new friends with mechanical brains, among which the most famous are AlphaZero, some time ago Stockfish (a chess engine that also works with artificial intelligence), and many others whose development is undoubtedly underway.

These new friends already outperform us humans by far, even if we were to send the best of us; of course, at this moment the world champion Magnus Carlsen would put up more of a fight than us, but he would undoubtedly be defeated. This raises a big question: Why the superhuman strength of AI? To answer this question, we need to travel back in time a few years ago, when chess engines, one step prior to AI, were just starting to appear.

Artificial Intelligence vs. Humans

Historical Fact

In 1996 a match was held between one of the best players of all time, Garry Kasparov ("The Ogre of Baku"), and one of the first computers in the world capable of playing chess, IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer, which was the forerunner of today's chess engines; the computing power it had at that time cannot be compared with today's power. Kasparov won three games, drew two and lost only one in a highly hard six-game match.

The next match was held in 1997, where the result was quite different, with an improved Deep Blue, the result of this rematch was two wins for Deep Blue, one win for Kasparov and three draws, giving the victory to the computer and opening a door for computers into the world of chess, where if used well they are a great partner for our development as chess players, especially in the most complex positions where it is necessary to do a lot of calculations, precisely their forte.

The Power of Chess Engines

Chess engines are computer programs that use brute force (they calculate every move until they find the one they think is right, at an impressive speed of a few seconds) to find the best move for the position.

You may wonder whether we humans could try to play in the same way, using brute force. The answer, as you can imagine, is no, they can play that way because they do it at a speed that is impossible for humans to achieve, if we tried to do that, besides wasting an abysmal amount of energy, we would not have enough time in our lives to finish a game if we tried to calculate every move as chess engines do; we humans make decisions based on our experiences and feelings.

Artificial Intelligence

Differences Between Chess Engines and Artificial Intelligence

AIs are a bit closer to us in the way they make decisions or figure out the best move, they learn from their past games, they don't go through everything over and over again like chess engines.

One of the most famous is Alpha Zero, an AI that learned chess by playing with itself, it was only given the rules, it learned the rest such as tactics, strategy, combinations and everything else by itself. This ability to learn from past experience is one of the things that artificial intelligence has in common with us, although, as expected, it lacks many of the things that humans use to make decisions, such as emotion and creativity. We make decisions based on our knowledge, our past experiences, our emotions (how we feel), and a little or a lot of creativity.

If we are talking about linear things such as experience or knowledge, where you can give it an order or quantify it in some way, no doubt these computer programs are way ahead of us, but if we are talking about the more emotional and abstract side, there is currently nothing that has the level of humans, computers do not have that magical touch that is able to perform a magic trick, they are linear and predictable.

The Future of Artificial Intelligence

It has been said that they could kill chess, that they could "solve" the game, but given the wide and extensive possibilities of chess, I think it will be very difficult to reach that point, besides the fact that in the competitions the game is to be played by one human against another human, where as a characteristic of our games the error is always present and our desire to want more, where when a good move is made, in a short time someone else finds a better one.

I believe that computer programs will continue to develop only as a tool to help chess progress so that the games will become richer and richer in possibilities, where artificial intelligences will innovate with very chaotic games and where anything can happen, especially for us humans; the AI reaches positions where it is very difficult for a human not to make a mistake.

Chess games with chess engines such as Stockfish, before the advent of AI, used to be perfect games, which in some cases can get boring, because without mistakes for someone to take advantage of, it is more unlikely for the game to have a winner, but here again the human factor comes into play and the countless variations of chess, where many times our fears or ambitions tend to play tricks on us.

What do you think of artificial intelligence ?

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