French Cheating in Chess with AI

Recently the French chess team was caught and punished for cheating in the Olympiad last year: the culprits included the team captain (a grandmaster), as well as a grandmaster and a master.

One of my friends plays a lot of chess, and I once asked him why he bothered given that AIs can defeat the best human players in the world already, and the opponent could cheat by using an off-the-shelf software package. He answered that chess is a game that’s interesting when played between humans, and that cheating would make the exercise pointless.

My initial thoughts were that a game was flawed if cheating was so easy and so hard to prevent. In some ways this view resembled the idea that drug-free competitive athleticism is over, and we should be open about performance-enhancing technology. However, this goes to the heart of why we play games: we don’t have computers competitively calculating the square root of two, we don’t agree to the rules of a game and then break them, and we don’t sit down to play a game and abdicate all decision-making.

In an interview with The New Yorker (behind paywall, scroll down on this page to read more extracts), the young chess star Magnus Carlsen eschews the reliance on computers of chess in modern era:

“[Carlsen] resisted playing [chess] against computer programs . . . the machine always won, and he did not like being told that there was one ‘best’ move… ‘It’s like playing someone who is extremely stupid but who beats you anyway’… Carlsen finds [computer] games inelegant, and complains about ‘weird computer moves [he] can’t understand,’ whereas in talking about his own game he speaks of achieving ‘harmony’ among the pieces on the chessboard, and even of ‘poetry,’ ”

Kasparov pitches in:

Many top players are so used to running openings by computers that they shy away from the ones that computers rate poorly; the Russian champion Garry Kasparov believes that, as a result, intuition has been undermined. Kasparov says that Carlsen’s casual attitude makes him “somehow immune” from the homogenization of modern chess. “When we played, it was very clear you couldn’t see everything,” Kasparov tells Max. “Now it’s not about the pattern. It’s more number crunching.”

Personally, I think the dominance and pervasiveness of computers in Chess is tragic. My friend’s point of view seemed bizarre initially, but I’ve come around to seeing the value of semi-solved games. Despite ridiculous claims about the depth of Euros (European-style board games) exceeding Chess, I believe they are much easier to solve (just look at all the Dominion simulation going on) and yet still want to play them. I can see why the Japan Shogi Association banned games between its professionals and AI.


2 responses to “French Cheating in Chess with AI

  1. This is a human game. The fact that a computer can “play” chess by storing untold combinations played by human grandmasters, and then compute probability of outcome by comparing all the variations from a position in memory does not equate to “thinking”. This computation used to be done by squads of grandmasters who accompanied the Russian chess team for analysis. Now computers certainly are more portable and less obnoxious then some chess grandmasters. I have used computers for training, but I find more insight by human analysis by me and fellow chess nuts on annotated games we have played.

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