Friday, December 26, 2008

Man vs. Machine vs. Machine vs. ...

Over the years I have owned several different chess computers ranging from the very weak to Grandmaster strength. All of the early ones were dedicated units. Some were new and some I picked up second hand.

My first was some kind of Boris Diplomat that looked something like this. It was a very weak unit as I remember and I would estimate it would be rated around 1000.

Soon moved on to a Chess Challenger such as the the shown here. I don’t remember if it was model 7, 8 or 9 but I remember it being around 1400-1500 and the green cover was always bubbling up and it became hard to play on. I don’t remember what happened to these first two units, but I no longer have them.

I figured I needed to upgrade to a higher strength machine. I remember that it was the first time I ever ordered something over the phone (this was before the internet was invented by Al Gore). I looked at all the options and decided to purchase a Novag constellation from The Canadian Chess Computer Warehouse in Montreal. I had never heard of the company before so I was nervous it wouldn’t arrive but it did. I must say I was very happy with my Novag Constellation for many years. I think it was advertised around 1800 and therefore higher then my rating at the time I got it. It was my steady playing partner for several years as my rating improved. One of it faults was that it never learned from its defeats so that once I beat it in a certain line than every time after that, if we entered that line, I could repeat the earlier game and beat it again. This forced me to vary my openings or I would end up replaying games over and over. Even though I quit playing chess for many years I brought it with me when I moved to Alberta. Recently I took it out of the box for the first time in ten years.

When I started playing chess again I soon realized I would need to purchase a chess program for my personal computer if I wanted to be competitive with everyone else. When I quit playing chess in the early 90’s I didn’t own a computer and I don’t think affordable programs were that strong at the time. The Fritz program seemed the best for me so I tried the Fritz10 program and I must say it is an incredible program. It’s good to have your own grandmaster to analyse positions. I can remember trying to study my games years ago on the Novag Constellation and while it would catch any major blunders, I sure I missed many finer points. I was hoping when I visited PEI this summer I would be able to find my old games and put them through Fritz and see what wes revealed, but alas they had been tossed a couple of years ago.

Last year the kids spotted a Go 1650L at a garage sale. I picked it up for a cheap price. I assume the 1650 is supposed to be it’s rating but it seems much weaker to me in the few games I’ve played with it.

Finally I bought the kids the Chessmaster game for the Nintendo DS system. It claims that the top rating is 1850 and from the few games that I played against it I think that that is probably close.

So what I’ve decided to do is hold a tournament with all the programs and computers I still have and see what happens. The competitors are as follows:
Fritz 10 (Set at 2000)
Fritz 10 (Set at 1900)
Chessmaster DS (1850)
Human (currently underrated at approx 1800)
Novag Constellation (1700-1800)
Go 1650L (1650? )

So far I’ve played a few of the games and ran into a few problems. First I had to chose a time setting that wouldn’t take too long but still give a good game. I chose an active time of 30min per player per game. Then I had to find the manuals for the Novag and Go units so I could set the times appropriately. I was able to find the Novag manual on the internet but the Go unit was a little harder as I could only find the Spanish instructions and had to translate them as best I could. The problem is the time settings are different for all of them. When I played the Chessmaster DS against the Novag it was a good game - Novag lost the exchange but was able to trap the Chessmaster Queen and win it for the Rook. So Novag was probably winning but when the Novag’s time ran out on the Nintendo unit Chessmaster claimed a win and that was the end of the game. I guess I will have to adjust the time settings on the DS and replay the game.

An interesting game shown below where I couldn’t figure out how to stop the connected passed pawns and win with my extra rook.

machine tourney terry-2000b.pgn

Edited comments: I just remembered that I have a couple of other chess playing computer programs. First is the Chess game for Playstaion. I can't recall playing a complete game against it but I doubt that it is very strong.

I also have the Chess Titans Program that came with Windows Vista on my laptop. I know that it has 10 levels and on the lower levels it is extremely easy to beat. I've beaten it on level 8 but haven't finished a game on level 10 yet.

And finally I forgot about the Chessmaster 9000 program that I picked up for $10 in the sale bin at Staples a coupl of years ago. It is a great program for choosing various computer opponents with different personalities and a wide range of strengths. I think I will add it to the tournament.


Robert H said...

I played a 1800 player online I'm rated pretty low at 1210 and was as high as 1430 at Yahoo live players from around the world....recently the 1800 player I played was human gave my opponent a whirl for the money I held my own will get there just maybe......I played the hall of famer walter browne he was rated third all time best chess player in the United States behind bobby fischer third rank down but it was in tennis not chess.

Robert H said...

This is Robert H again yes I had one of those Challenger computer playing chess models I use to beat it all the time in the 90's but now I'm wavering still a low level 1210 player but who knows Walter Browne was absolutely an inspiration who I met we talked about his game I keep a blog too on tennis called Nerves Galore and another one It Never Takes A Genius. I hate to lose.

Robert H said...

I'm still playing on line chess games with Yahoo internet games against human on line players to this date no improvement in ratings but the entertainment value is still ever present my blog on chess is called "Nerves Galore" this is a good blog anyone including a beginner can absorb intended for the general public who want to know about the significance of chess and the agony and on the other hand the immense pleasures the game of chess can bring to the human mind in want of a good mental exercise known as concentration.