Computer Chess: Longest-Running Experiment in Computing Science

Original article was published on Communications of the ACM – Artificial Intelligence

By ChessBase
June 5, 2020

On August 31, 1970, an experiment began that continues to this day. The first chess tournament for computers was held as part of the Association for Computing Machinery’s 25th National Conference. The interest generated was tremendous, leading to ACM sponsoring an annual event until 1994.

Creating a program capable of competing with the human world chess champion was one of the first “grand challenges” of the fledgling field of artificial intelligence. The importance of computer chess at the dawn of the computer age is reflected in the many computer science luminaries who contributed to early advances in the field. These include Claude Shannon (father of information theory), Alan Turing (creator of the Turing Machine and the Turing Test), Herbert Simon (Nobel Laureate and winner of the prestigious Turing Award), Alan Newell (Turing Award winner), and John McCarthy (Turing Award winner).

Jonathan Schaeffer, a professor in the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta, provides a retrospective of this pioneering time, and efforts to build a chess program capable of competing with, and eventually exceeding, the abilities of strong human players, in the “Special Issue on Computer Chess Tournaments: The 50-Year Experiment,” published in the ICGA Journal.

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