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AlphaZero: Will People Treat Chess the Way they Treat Tic-Tac-Toe?

  • #1

    Chess aficionados have been bombarded (and rightfully so) by the news of AlphaZero teaching itself in a matter of hours to destroy StockFish.  Regardless of whether it was a Google publicity stunt, we still have GM's utterly stunned and in awe of AlphaZero's moves.  (Eg., GM Peter Svidler and GM Alex Colovic).

     

    Possible Downline Consequence or Implication of this:  Will people treat chess like the way they treat tic-tac-toe?  In other words, is this the "death" of chess?

     

    All analogies are imperfect.  Given that proviso, people treat tic-tac-toe with a mild amusement.  Fun for playing with young children and teaching them to think and visualize in advance.  And then seeing them learn with perfect play that the 2nd player can always get a draw, i.e., "Cat's Game."

     

    And so, Tic-Tac-Toe, while not technically dead, is relegated with a shrug of the shoulders to a child's amusement *because it has been solved with best play*, and unworthy to spend much more time on it.

     

    The question then becomes, will chess follow the same fate, albeit inexorably slower, as tic-tac-toe?  Imagine if you will a conversation between a skeptical Chess Parent and Chess Son/Daughter:

     

    Son:  "Mom, Dad, I won a chess tournament, and got a chess trophy!!  I love studying and playing chess.  Spending a couple of hours a day on chess has paid off!"

     

    Parent:  "Congratulations Son!  That's really nice.  But I have to have a heart-to-heart with you even though you're happy and I'm happy for you.  You see, even the best grandmasters in the world are patzers compared to Chess Programs and Chess Engines.   Humans will never beat computers.  And it's just about solved."

     

    Son:  "What do you mean "solved"?"

     

    Parent:  "Remember tic-tac-toe?  Where with best play it's always a "Cat's Game"?  Same thing with chess.  Best play is a draw.  Look at the recent London Chess Classic.  Vast majority of games are draws."

     

    Son:  "So what are you really saying?"

     

    Parent:  "Uhh, I want you to enjoy what you enjoy, and perhaps you might want to enjoy studying, learning, training in something that has a future, a career, has some money potential in it, ya know?"

     

    Next day.  Son says:  "Fug."

     

    Parent:  "What?"

     

    Son:  "There's a girl at school I really like.  And she walked by me while I was hunched over a chess board.  And she said, 'Ya know, chess is dead.  Haven't you heard of a program called AlphaZero?  Why are you wasting time on that game?"

     

    Parent:  "But, but, but, look at all the benefits of chess!  You learn Concentration, Patience, Calculation, Visualization, Consequences of Decisions, Planning, Decision-making, Decision-Making under Time Pressure!"

     

    Son:  "Yeah.  But I could learn all that learning to be a chef.  Look at all those Food Network shows that mom watches!  Like Chopped and Iron Chef.  They're all timed competitions.  And they gotta concentrate and make decisions under time pressure too!"

     

    And afterwards, the chess set was placed on the game shelves next to the game of "Sorry!" and only to be taken out on rare occasion.

     

     

     

     

  • #2

    No, it is trivially easy for a human to learn perfect play on tic-tac-toe. Not so with chess. For the vast majority of players, they will never get close to a perfect level of play or perfect recall so the game will still be able to challenge the vast majority of players (and probably all players even).

  • #3
    Martin_Stahl wrote:

    No, it is trivially easy for a human to learn perfect play on tic-tac-toe. Not so with chess. For the vast majority of players, they will never get close to a perfect level of play or perfect recall so the game will still be able to challenge the vast majority of players (and probably all players even).

     

    Of course, chess will be a challenge to *everyone*.  The question really is, Do people want to take up a challenge when it's been solved or conquered by computers?  Of course, some people will.  So then, the real question is, "Will interest in chess dwindle *significantly* as a result of AlphaZero?"

     

    Now one answer could be, "Nah, interest in chess didn't dwindle significantly when Deep Blue defeated World Champion Garry Kasparov, did it?  In fact, it increased!  So why would AlphaZero's triumph cause interest in chess to decrease?"

     

    I don't know.  That's a valid response.

  • #4

    I think chess being in the media in a more mainstream way helps promote chess and get people interested. For the most part, chess has already been conquered by computers and AZ is showing that the process can be done differently, in a less brute force way (or at least, a better way to come up with candidate moves and positional evaluations while ignoring a lot of things).

     

    So, even though engines are better than humans even before AZ, that, in itself, hasn't caused chess to lose players (or maybe that many wink.png).

  • #5

    Ian Nepomniachtchi: We'll probably play some other game but chess very soon!"

     

    That was from Peter Dogger's excellent chess.com article getting the takes and reactions to the AlphaZero news by the London Chess Classic GMs.

  • #6

    Ask AlphaZero whether it give another answer for the same problem ? 

  • #7

    Should the IOC remove track events from the summer olympics? After all who wants to see competitors running when there are cars and machines that can race ten times faster? Shot put too. There are crude trebuchets that can toss a shot put ten times further. Etc. Etc.

     

    What a machine can do has no relevance on Olympic competition nor should it have any effect on human vs human chess play. IMHO

  • #8

    Though not a GO player, I knew chess was in trouble when I read this true AI monster (not the BS of brute force ... make that brute farce) had taken out the world's best human player.  That said, I understand English draughts (vs. International 10 x 10 draughts with "flying kings") has been solved for years, yet there are still draughts tournaments to this day.
    I don't know exactly what this breakthrough development will do, but the status of chess in the eyes of the public already took a hit when Garry Kasparov lost to Deep Blue in 1997.  I think AlphaZero will further erode its status, but not for the true lover of the game who knows its long, storied history.  Hell, I still enjoy playing through Adolf Anderssen's and Paul Morphy's games, but the public and even some chess players want the newest and greatest.  Truth is, with this new way of "thinking," I don't believe Fischerandom is safe.

  • #9
    Philidor_Legacy wrote:

    Should the IOC remove track events from the summer olympics? After all who wants to see competitors running when there are cars and machines that can race ten times faster? Shot put too. There are crude trebuchets that can toss a shot put ten times further. Etc. Etc.

     

    What a machine can do has no relevance on Olympic competition nor should it have any effect on human vs human chess play. IMHO

     

    There's one thing that nullifies this comparison.  I have already seen chessplayers saying they want to see more games played by AlphaZero.  They saw both deep positional beauty and incredible tactics by AlphaZero.  Maybe folks will prefer to watch/study computer chess over human chess.  

  • #10
    fightingbob wrote:

    Though not a GO player, I knew chess was in trouble when I read this true AI monster (not the BS of brute force ... make that brute farce) had taken out the world's best human player.  That said, I understand English draughts (vs. International 10 x 10 draughts with "flying kings") has been solved for years, yet there are still draughts tournaments to this day.
    I don't know exactly what this breakthrough development will do, but the status of chess in the eyes of the public already took a hit when Garry Kasparov lost to Deep Blue in 1997.  I think AlphaZero will further erode its status, but not for the true lover of the game who knows its long, storied history.  Hell, I still enjoy playing through Adolf Anderssen's and Paul Morphy's games, but the public and even some chess players want the newest and greatest.  Truth is, with this new way of "thinking," I don't believe Fischerandom is safe.

     

    Well, you could be right.  It's the concern of my initial post.  Whether there will be a loss of status for chess and what this portends for competitive OTB chess for humans.

     

    Used to be a person could strive to reach 2200, and feel tremendous satisfaction in this achievement.  And perhaps bask in social recognition of this achievement.  But now??  People might shrug, and say, "So what.  The game's somewhat trivial now given that Computers have rendered all humans as patzers."  Kinda takes the joy out of reaching high chess goals.

  • #11

    Chess being solved? Nah.

    What should amaze is that no one has dared to post the games annotated in deep.

    For starters, AlphaZero played in a style that reminded me of Petrosian and Fischer: It breaks the opponent's coordination and deprives "him" of any activity whatsoever. It doesn't need to calculate that many positions because is using some as "known and safe islands" to navigate across an ocean. Pretty much as humans do when calculating to reach positions regarded as "advantageous" due to previous known patterns.

    But more interesting –to me– is how it has deduced a value (more precise than what we know) for piece activity. Some of its "material offers" can only be based on that, as it isn't calculating that many positions. In other words, its techniques for position assessment are more precise than humans'.

    And I say interesting because we, humans, can learn and replicate such approach and evaluations, while we can't use brute force as current engines do.

  • #12
    JMurakami wrote:

    Chess being solved? Nah.

    What should amaze is that no one has dared to post the games annotated in deep.

    For starters, AlphaZero played in a style that reminded me of Petrosian and Fischer: It breaks the opponent's coordination and deprives "him" of any activity whatsoever. It doesn't need to calculate that many positions because is using some as "known and safe islands" to navigate across an ocean. Pretty much as humans do when calculating to reach positions regarded as "advantageous" due to previous known patterns.

    But more interesting –to me– is how it has deduced a value (more precise than what we know) for piece activity. Some of its "material offers" can only be based on that, as it isn't calculating that many positions. In other words, its techniques for position assessment are more precise than humans'.

    And I say interesting because we, humans, can learn and replicate such approach and evaluations, while we can't use brute force as current engines do.

    Same reason no GM has ever bothered annotating games from previous engine-engine games all this while, and we have tons and tons of games at long time controls by now.

    Meanwhile, AlphaZero's games look like they are on a different level, even GMs may have difficulty understanding them, hence no annotations. This thing doesn't know strategy, and yet.....it does. It's like it sees the entire board all the time and knows every square intimately. And then it does tactics like Stockfish on steroids.

    Humans simply cannot do the same.

    More interesting would be a series of matches between AlphaZero vs a top GM like Carlsen, or a highly booked-up GM on openings, with AlphaZero knowing NO opening theory. And let's see what it comes up with. It will probably creates tons of novelties, and this is what most human GMs are interested in, I presume. In fact, some openings have already been rendered/presumed dead by AlphaZero....

  • #13
    Debistro wrote:

    More interesting would be a series of matches between AlphaZero vs a top GM like Carlsen, or a highly booked-up GM on openings, with AlphaZero knowing NO opening theory. And let's see what it comes up with. It will probably creates tons of novelties, and this is what most human GMs are interested in, I presume. In fact, some openings have already been rendered/presumed dead by AlphaZero....

     

    I actually suggested that earlier in a comment on my post about Magnus being a Patzer when compared to AlphaZero.

     

    Commenter HobbyPlayer:  

    I don't expect to see any more games from AlphaZero, because it's already fulfilled its purpose (testing the AI). Now DeepMind will be probably be applied to other things. (Though, I hope I'm wrong on this, because I'd sure like to see more AlphaZero chess!)

     

    Me:  Now look at that last sentence.  It is a sentiment that is probably echoed by Top Grandmasters all the way down to lowly patzers.  

     

    I have read somewhere that Grandmasters were excited by AlphaZero's accomplishment because they could learn from AlphaZero!  This is the Silver Lining in the Eeyore Cloud!

     

    Now didn't former World Champion Max Euwe write a book about, or titled, "Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur" where he annotated games between chess amateurs and chess masters, so that chess amateurs (patzers) could learn from those games?

     

    With the same idea, why don't we have a match between World Champion Magnus Carlsen versus AlphaZero?  THEN, we could have someone write a book like Max Euwe, and then all us patzers could learn from World Champion Patzer Magnus Carlsen's blunders!!  Wouldn't that be a great learning method!!?

  • #14

    you are underestimating how difficult it is to become GM. and most grandmasters cannot even dream of becoming world champion. the world champion cannot even dream of beating Stockfish. now AlphaZero just crushed Stockfish with relative ease.

    considering all of that, it is far beyond the ability of any human to understand the strength and thinking process of this new program. when even the best professionals in the world cannot comprehend how something in their field of expertise works, you can guarantee it will fly over the majority of people's heads.

  • #15

    What happened when a tic-tac-toe game became a dead-draw thing between two mature people? They generalized it from 3x3 to 4x4 or in general mxn and so on..
    Perhaps same will happen to chess.

  • #16

    it has already happened with chess in the form of 960. Fischer claimed that chess was a 'dead draw' and that openings theory being memorized was killing the creativity of the game and imagination of players. of course he would have no way of knowing how strong chess programs would become after several decades. people play 960 but it is just a variant of the game, like bughouse. the main traditional form of the game is still the most popular and well respected.

    the difference between chess and tic-tac-toe is that chess has been proven to be a dead draw only theoretically (not practically), but tic-tac-toe has been proven to be a dead draw both theoretically and practically. if the majority of grandmasters cannot even draw one game against Stockfish, but AlphaZero just crushed Stockfish, what does that say about the ability of human chess players. it shows that there is still so much we do not know about the nature of this game, that there is so much room to grow and improve.

  • #17

    The parameters for tic-tac-toe is much more limited and smaller. So ttt can easily die faster than chess due to its inclusive and complicated parameters and variables.

  • #18

    The art of chess will live on!

  • #19
    notabjoe wrote:

    The art of chess will live on!

     

    But will it mostly be computer generated art?

     

    Will interest in competitive OTB chess by humans dwindle?

  • #20
    Comparing the likes of a rudimentary excercise like tictactoe to the endless depths of a construct like chess is ludicrous and shows an inability to conduct even basic arguments on any more than an infantile level.

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