CHESS: Kings, Queens, and Kingdoms

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A Regal History

Chess presumably originated in Eastern India, around 550 B.C., by the Gupta empire. Using an earlier version known as chaturanga, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots were used (now called pawn, knight, bishop, and rook). With evolution into Persian and then eventually Western Europe and Russia (around the 9th century), it was more widely used. A contested theory of chess originating in China is proposed, with the predecessor version named xiangqi.

Modern rules as we know them today, however, for individual pieces, evolved after 1200 in Italy and Spain. Pawns could move two spaces to start by around the 13th century, and the queen became the most powerful chess piece in the 15th century. Reviewers of chess abound in the late 18th century, and modern chess tournaments came about in the 1850s.

The first modern chess tournament was held by Howard Staunton in 1851 in London, ironically won by a German named Adolf Anderssen. Strategy later abound with Wilhelm Steinitz from Prague regarding protection from weakness in one’s position (by not bringing the queen out early, as had been done previously). Key notables subsequently included Johannes Zertort (who lost to Steinitz in 1886, at the first regarded “World Championship”) and German mathematician Emanuel Lasker (who beat Steinitz in 1894 and enjoyed the longest tenure of chess champions, for 27 years). While debated, the title “Chess Grandmaster” was given in 1914.

Post-WW II 1948 introduced a new chess champion, with Soviet domination beginning upon Mikhail Botvinnik’s win. Notwithstanding American chess champion Bobby Fischer from 1972-75, no non-Soviet won till the end of the USSR.

A formal championship structure of competition, between interzonal and zonal champions, was arranged, with title defense every 3 years and rematch upon loss by a champion after 1 year. Fischer did not lose to Karpov, but rather was disqualified because he was insistent that FIDE, the responsible organization of chess, meet his demands (which were consequently unmet). Kasparov eventually defeated Karpov, and in the modern era would eventually face Deep Blue, the IBM computer (covered under “The Future of Chess Strategy.”

Present-day Chess

Competition in chess involves a series of different tournaments, but there is a hierarchy which has been established for rewarding winners. FIDE stands for “Federation Internationale des Echecs” and is the international chess organization. US Chess and English Chess Federations, along with thoers, exist. While separate men’s and women’s chess championships exist, female player Judit Polgar maintains her rankings by playing high-ranking women players (never having participated in a women’s championship). The World Junior Chess Championship, as well as European and National categories abound for individuals, with team events such as Chess Olympiad and World Chess Solving Championship among them.

Among rankings, Grandmaster (GM) or International GM (IGM) is awarded by FIDE by having an “Elo chess rating” (based upon a score given by assuming a player’s normal play will be random, but true skill should be counted above that random chance) of 2500 or more at a time, and three wins in tournaments with grandmasters), with some other criteria also accepted. International Master is given for a score of 2400, with FIDE Master, Candidate Master, and others given for lesser scores (but at least 2200).

With over 1300 grandmasters in the world in 2011 (highest in Russia with 208),

Interestingly, the highest Elo score ever attained is 2881 (by Norwegian IGM Magnus Carlsen, who is world champion as of 2014 presently as of this writing).

The Future of Chess Strategy

With computers ever advancing with Moore’s law of transistors (see section on www.RavishOnElectronics.com) allowing increased capacity at a fraction of cost, the inevitability of a computer being programmed to combat a human arrived as of May 11, 1997. On this date, IBM computer engineers (www.ibm.com) developed Deep Blue, which competed in a close match (2 wins for IBM, 1 win for Kasparov, and 3 draws).

 

Programming Deep Blue involved a myriad of paradigms – complex calculations, modeling with risk analysis, database searches, and others – which had potentially widespread implications for the future.

 

The crux of strategy in chess is defeating the opponent’s king. The prior attempt of 1996 was won by a human, and with a “rematch” involving Deep Blue and programmers Hsu, Campbell, Hoane, Brody, Tan, and others, the programming explored ability to consider 200 million possible chess positions per second. Interestingly, strategically, Kasparov won the first game of six. After Deep Blue won the second game, the next three games drew, and the last game was won by Deep Blue.

 

Also strategically, the game did wonders for both chess (with media drawing 3 billion impressions in the world). Subsequently, the learning afforded by Deep Blue and the ability of a machine being programmable for what was accomplished (vs. humans) led to financial modeling, risk analysis, new drug discovery in medicine, and other applications.

 

Deep Blue, though since retired to the Smithsonian (www.si.edu), has led to the development of a computer made famous in the television game show Jeopardy! (www.jeopardy.com). This computer represents another project named Watson, which is similar in many ways to Deep Blue. In turn, Watson has now found other applications, in healthcare (e.g. as a paradigm for cancer treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering – www.mskcc.org).

 

(Information above has been acquired from numerous sources, including www-03.ibm.com, www.mskcc.org, and Wikipedia.org, among others)