If you play chess, you’d likely give your right arm to be able to read the thoughts of your opponent. But imagine if you could see their mind mulling over every move – yet still lost. How humiliating would that be?
You’d probably forgive yourself quite easily in this case, as your opponent on the Thinking Machine website would be a software bot with a difference. It reveals the moves it is contemplating through a colourful storm of lines on the chequered board.
The lines gather and coalesce more strongly along the routes of the possible moves it develops a preference for, until finally it commits itself. It’s fascinating to watch because the process reveals the enormous difference between artificial gaming intelligence and the human perspective.
Faced with a standard king pawn opening, for example, a human opponent has but a handful of opening responses of any worth. With the program, however, we see how it considers both of the possible moves for each of its eight pawns and much more besides, before narrowing its choices down to the range of responses that a human player might consider obvious.
As the game progresses, the bot’s neon trails flashing around the board show how it predicts the game will unfold. Have a go – see if you can confound its expectations and beat it into submission. Whatever the outcome, you won’t get bored waiting for your move.
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– GM Susan Polgar