HOW Can a Computer Play This Badly?

HOW Can a Computer Play This Badly?

Jul 17, 2015, 3:12 PM |

Messing around with different Android apps, I came across one called "Chess Free." I tend to avoid any app that is free, but I just needed something to play chess with when I was waiting on other things, so buying an app wasn't warranted. 

I played the first game at CPU Level 6 to get a feel for it. After steamrolling the CPU, I set it on its maximum, level 12, and this happened:

Wait, what?

It's probably the strangest game of chess I've ever played, and I wouldn't expect a level 12 CPU to just have... no regard for development, King safety, or excessive Queen usage. 

I was worried for a while. Chess Free's White Queen was gobbling up everything. Material looked awful

But despite the Level 12 computer running on a quadcore Snapdragon Samsung Galaxy S5, it didn't see the devastation that could be wrought by taking its Queen away from the d-file. 


It's not that difficult to look at White's position and see the threat. Of course, 11...Be6 12.c6! effectively puts an end to all of Black's threats, but White was playing way too aggressively--exactly the way a human might with such a tremendous lead over the opponent. However bad White's position was, mine was at least four times as bad. I was getting my ass kicked.

WHAT? How did White, a computer, miss this? How bad is this chess engine?!

White could have kicked my ass and shut down my attack on at least three occasions, and Queen captures Queen would have put the nails in my coffin. White had more than enough material advantage to beat the ever loving shit out of me.

Now, it is worth pointing out that Chess Free makes its moves very, very quickly. I have a hard time dealing with this. There is no timer on my moves, but when I make a move and the computer immediately responds, it puts me in a Blitz mindset, and it's very easy for me to forget that I don't have to hurry (which is great, because I'm fucking awful at Blitz--my brain works slowly).

In this game, I didn't remember that I could slow down. The computer "tricked" me into Blitz mode, and very few of my moves took longer than 2-3 seconds to make. 

It reminds me of my senior year in high school, when I was playing against the Chessmaster on Moderate (this was back when it had actual difficulties) and using it to learn openings. I don't remember now the name of the opening, but I remember making the move 12...Nxf5#. It may have been 12...Nxg5#. We followed the book up to that point. It was really strange that Chessmaster would even have chosen an opening that had such a glaring weakness.