Franck Poole vs HAL 9000

Franck Poole vs HAL 9000

Sep 30, 2011, 11:39 AM |

2001: A space Odyssey (1968)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

  Position after HAL move 13. … Bh3!

While the Discovery ship head for Jupiter, in a chess game the astronaut Franck Poole plays 14.Qxa6. HAL answers him 14… Bxg2 and Poole defend himself with 15.Re1.

HAL says:  ─I'm sorry Frank, I think you missed it─ about that and next he plays Qf3!!  ─Queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop, mate... Thank you for an enjoyable game

Curiously, HAL, using the descriptive chess notation, makes a mistake: the Queen move is correctly described as "Queen to Bishop six", not "Queen to Bishop three". Apart from this, HAL's variation 15...Qf3 16.Bxf3 Nxf3# does not mention that White could prolong the resistance for a couple moves, for example by playing 16.Qh6

Considering that Kubrick (great chess amateur) was extremely careful in every detail of his films, there is some conjecture that these errors are subtle harbinger of the failure of HAL. Another interpretation is that there is not a failure of the machine. Poole not only realizes the HAL error, but also gives the reason. So, HAL concludes that humans are not perfect and suppose a risk for the successful of the mission, and  he decides to kill the astronauts. (See "The Case For HAL's Sanity") 

This is the complete game:

 Frank Poole   HAL9000
Discovery. Mission to Jupiter, 2001 (Marshall Gambit)

   (In fact, this game corresponds to Roesch vs Willi Schlage, played in Hamburg in 1910). 

 The ship Discovery, around Jupiter


You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it.  But what Chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other better ideas” (Stanley Kubrick)

From left to right: Kubrick staring at his opponent. Kubrick watching a game during the filming of "The Killing". Game postponed during the filming of “Dr. Strangelove”.