Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Computer Chess

I was playing around with a computer chess game today (I won't name any names [well, actually, I will-"Chess Titans"], but it was intended to be a Solitaire-type game such as is found on most computers) and got, well, just a bit frustrated.

I'm not a chess master, but I don't think I'm a slouch at it either. So why can't I beat the easiest setting on this particular chess game? The best I could manage was a draw because I eliminated all of the opponent's non-king pieces (admittedly, that shouldn't really be counted as a "draw," but chess can be weird), and at the second lowest setting, it utterly crushed me. And this was when I used the undo button several times. (Further granted, I don't play chess that often, and my game is probably a bit rusty.)

The problem is that the computer 1) can't be psyched out, faked out, or have its head messed with, and 2) it never makes mistakes, even at its absolute lowest difficulty. The only change seems to be in its aggressiveness.

If you wonder why I make the remark on psychouts, fakeouts, and so on, chess is a heavily psychological game as played between its masters. Why? Partly because most of them are, pardon my language, completely insane. One chess expert, after losing a game thanks to a stupid mistake, went to a chess parlor and used a meat cleaver to chop off the "heads" of all the queens in the establishment (the piece he moved when he shouldn't have was the queen), and that isn't necessarily the craziest chess story. No, that would be when the inmates from Bedlam's asylum beat an expert university chess team.

Yes. That happened. In real life.

Anyway, in case you were hoping for a visual component to this blog post, here's an embedded YouTube video with a clip based on the old Battle Chess video game (although be warned, there's a rather creepy sequence where the rook eats the queen-yes, eats the queen).

There's also this... less graphically sophisticated version, where if you look closely, you can see one knight dismembering another in similar fashion to the Monty "It's just a flesh wound" Python scene (so people say, anyway-I've never seen that movie myself).

And on a somewhat unrelated note, here's a Battle Chess game based on Chinese "chess."

You notice that one red pawn/peasant type piece? He takes out something like a quarter of the blue pieces unaided. That's kind of funny.

There's also Battle Chess 4000, which is really cartoonily amusing, but I probably shouldn't embed too many videos, and there aren't really any long videos for that one.

-Signing off.

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