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Speeding to a chess championship.

Speeding to a chess championship

A relative newcomer has captured the North American Computer Chess Championship held last month in Dallas. Chiptest, developed by graduate student Feng-hsiung Hsu of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, in its second year of competition, won all four of its games, defeating both second-place finishers, current world champion CRAY BLITZ (SN: 6/21/86, p.391) and Sun Phoenix. Last year's North American champion, Belle, this time apparently suffering from physical infirmities such as deteriorating integrated-circuit chips, placed well down the list of 13 contenders.

Chiptest, using custom-designed chips, counts mainly on speed to carry it through its games. It has relatively little built-in chess knowledge. "It's a high-speed clone of the Belle program,' says Tony Marsland, presently at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and organizer of a computer-chess workshop held in conjunction with the tournament.

Missing from the competition was Hitech, the 1985 champion developed by Hans Berliner of Carnegie-Mellon University (SN: 10/26/85, p.260). "We don't play in these computer tournaments anymore,' says Berliner, "because there's no computer program within 200 [chess] points of us.' Instead, after a period of development, "we've been playing against tough human competition,' he says. Recently, Hitech won the Pennsylvania state chess championship.

"I think that games between computers are decided on issues that frequently don't have very much to do with chess,' says Berliner. For example, one program may happen to have the speed to look one move farther ahead than its opponent, and that decides the game. Speed, he says, isn't enough to beat the highest-ranked human players.
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Title Annotation:North American Computer Chess Championship
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 21, 1987
Previous Article:Staying on top in supercomputing.
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