Demis Hassabis, the founder and CEO of DeepMind, announced at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NIPS 2017) last week that DeepMind’s new AlphaZero program achieved a superhuman level of play in chess within 24 hours.
The program started from random play, given no domain knowledge except the game rules, according to an arXiv paper by DeepMind researchers published Dec. 5.
“It doesn’t play like a human, and it doesn’t play like a program,” said Hassabis, an expert chess player himself. “It plays in a third, almost alien, way. It’s like chess from another dimension.”
I started programming IBM machines in the late 60s, and at the time there was talk about the possibility of a computer someday beating a competent human at chess. Though the first programs stumbled along like children learning to walk, slowly, over the years, they improved, thanks in part to Moore’s Law and the genius of certain computer scientists. In February 1977 Chess 4.6, the only computer entry, won the 84th Minnesota Open against competitors just under Master level; it later defeated the US chess champion. [source] In 1988, Deep Thought became the first computer to defeat a grandmaster in a tournament. IBM bought Deep Thought, pumped it up and renamed it Deep Blue, and beat World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.
Today, the chess prowess of Deep Blue is available on our laptops, or even in our pockets, on handhelds. The seven foot tall mainframe towers that housed Deep Blue’s “mind” are gone, and strong computer chess is a commonplace . . . [source]
These programs were essentially “taught” chess by human experts. They were one-trick ponies: great at chess but nothing else. The next…