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" aopA-ax rapar # 93

;U.formp.ti::#a Process ing

s-Sareh 31, 1967

THE TASK ENVIRONMENT OF Mien Newell and Herbert A* Simon

In the last chapter we examined

the requirements imposed by the

task on problem^solving systems designed to discover proofs for theorems

in logi© and mathematics. Xn the present chapter, we continue our study

of the "demands of the situation 13

in another class of task environments

that has been much studied! game environments»

We shall pay particular

attention to the g.ame of ch-ass g on which most of our own work has focus~

sed, occasionally mentioning Arthur Samuels 4 formidable checkers program

to illustrate specific points.

We shall be particularly interested in

comparing the game-playing environment with the theorem"proving environ-

ment to see to wha£ extent: the demands of the situation

are the sons or

similar for these two kinds of tasks, and to what extent each task makes

its oijn special demands.

The selection of games as task environments is

not frivolous«

there are numerous reasons why they are attractive

for problem<=solving

research, and why chess is particularly

attractive.

I. Selecting a move in chess is generally acknowledged

to be a

difficult problem-solving task*

tially full time to improving and maintaining

Professional players can devote substan-

their skills in it s and

players seldom reach the peak of their powers with less than ten

years' experieo&Q. Moreover, after 200 years of intensive study and play,

the game has not become barren or exhausted.,

Innovations, both in specific

tactics and also in strategy and concepts, continue to be introduced into

oaster play. 2o Because of the vast amount of recorded experience--virtually all serious games between grandmasters in the last century have been pre

served-=-it is relatively easy to evaluate the quality of a chess-playing

program, and to compare it in great detail with the programs of human players

of different strengths, different styles,, and even different periods in the

history of the game*

pared with human protocols in the same game positions and the strength of the program can be determined accurately by pitting it against human players.

The protocols produced by a chess program can be com

3. Because this task has already been used in previous researches,

particularly in the work of A. de Groot with human chess players and the

several chess programs that will be described in this chapter, new research

can build cumulatively on prior results.

4. The "irregularity" of the structure of chess gives the task

a great deal of the flavor of every-day, garden-variety problem solving

that is absent from tasks like proving theorems or solving puzzles.

By

"irregularity"

we mean the peculiarity of the moves of the several pieces,

the "exceptional" moves like castling, the strong boundary effects of the

edges of the board, and so on.

and perhaps will appear plausible to readers who are not chess players

This point will be obvious to chess players,

when they have finished this chapter.

u;:p f 98

Our description of chess°playing programs, like our description

of the Logic Theorist, will have to include some rudiments of the techno­

logy, but we shall not assume that our readers

chess players.

are, or wish to become,

\

with a

board game like checkers, chess, tic~tac-toe, or Go, but we trust they

will not be seriously handicapped in understanding the

We shall assume that they have some familiarity

implications of

the analysis for problem solving if some of the specific technical

terms

are rnfamiliar to them.

Any problem-solving task we might study involves

a technology; we believe that very few of the characteristics

ar'2 idiosyncratic-

of this task

We think most of them are observable in a wide range

:: problem^solving

(or at least game-playing)

Finally, we remark that the authors

situations.

(collectively) can be regarded

strong, but not expert, chess players, conversant with the literature

of the game and able to understand the discourse of masters, although not

able to emulate their practice."- We have organized our discussion in seven

section?.

The first section compares the task environment

for game playing

with t'.ie task environment for theorem proving.

The second, third, and fourth

sections review the history of chess programs for computers,

comparing

s,'/eral of the programs that have been proposed or constructed

light the comparison throws on alternative approaches to this problem-

to see what

solving task.

These sections provide additional examples to illustrate

many points in our discussion of selective heuristics in previous chapters.

I/

We have had valuable assistance from a number of strong players, including

Edward Lasker, Adriaan de Groot, and George Baylor.

helpful in assessing the plausibility of our interpretations, but

They have been very

should

not, of course, be held accountable for our conclusions.

call? $98

The fifth section examines further the respective roles of

search processes and "noticing" processes in game-pleyii\g programs. We

will see, when we come to consider human chess play in later chapters,

that

a

differences in ability to notice relevant features of/chess position is

one important basis for differences in chess-playing strength.

present chapter, we vill show how the nature of the task environment

In the

in­

fluences

the relative significance of noticing and search as problem-sol­

ving strategies.

In the sixth section, we will consider a phenomenon that is

peculiar to competitive situations like war

and chess--the notioi of the

"initiative."

We will show how holding the initiative reduces the amount

of exploration required to find a good move, and will illustrate the point

by exhibiting a simple, but powerful, program for finding checkmates.

In

the seventh, and final, section, we will try to draw together the thread

of discussion.

Gaaass Compared With Theorem Proving

In games like chess, checkers, and tic~tac=toe, the players mek*>

alternate moves.

The rules of the game define for a player a finite set

°f jggajL moves from which he must make his choice when it is his tu:tn0

Making a move creates a new situation in which a set of legal moves is now

defined for the opponent.

generate the legal moves, then the legal replies for each of these legal

From the starting position of the game, we can

moves, then the legal replies to each of those replies, and so oh.

In this

way, we obtain a branching tree (of enormous size for interesting games)

C1F $98

2/

that describes the set of all possible plays of the game. -

The game tree is analogous in important respects to proof

trees in theorem proving. Consider a formal system consisting of sev­

eral axioms aud a single rule of inference.

We can regard the set of

Each new proposition that can be

obtained from the axioms by one application of the rule of inference is

a brarch from the root.

obtained, and so on. (Strictly speaking, the structure will bs a tree

axioms as the "root" of a proof tree.

From each of these branches, new branches can be

;r.ily if the rule of inference employs a single^ premise"-modus ponsns employs

two. Otherwise, each new twig may have more than one ancestral branch.)

To

choose a move in a game, one explores the game tree to learn the conse~

quences of different moves; to discover a proof for a theorem, one explores

the proof tree to learn what path leads to the theorem.

Although the analogy is useful, it is not exact.

First, we have

already noticed that if a rule of inference uses more than one premise, the

'' proof tree" is not a tree but a lattice°like structure.

Second,

in the proof tree, or lattice, all moves are made by one

player, while in the game tree, alternate moves are made by opposing players

A proof is demonstrated by exhibiting a single path that leads to the

desired theorem.

A winning move in chess is demonstrated by exhibiting a

subtree of the game tree having a so-called minlmax propertys that for each

move of the opponent at a given branch, there exists a move for the player

always leading, through a succession of such branches, to a winning position

(See the next section for detail of this concept.)

A proof is a definite

2J

The concept of game tree was apparently first formalized by Zermelo in

1912. The concept was used informally in books on chess and checkers

severel t|hundred years earlier.

On the history of the concept, see

Denes Konig, Theorie der Endlichen and Unendlichen Graphen.

(Leipzig:

plan, whilfc a "win" is a strategy setting forth a tree of paths for all

possible moves of the opponent «>

queries for the nature of game-playing heuristics, as we shall see

This distinction has important conse

Third, we must not confuse the problem-solving search tree,

Taen there is one, with either the proof tree of theorems, or the game

tree of chess*

The subproblem tree generated by the Logic Theorist, for

example, while it is working backwards, is not a t?ee of theorems, but a

tree of propositions from which the theorem to be proved can be derived

(with the help of axioms and previously-proved theorems).

In most extant

game-playing programs, the problem-solving activity consists specifically

o£ a search out along some or all of the branches of the game tree; but

a

this is not an essential characteristic of/game-playing program.

Indeed,

we will describe some game-playing schemes that operate in spaces differ­

ent from, and larger than, the tree of legal moves.

A fourth important difference between theorem-proving and g«mes

derives from a difference in irreversibility of actions.

ing, the aim of the problem-solving activity i§ to find the path that

constitutes the proof.

In theorem-prov­

If the search actually takes place in a space of

proofs (or potential proofs, as in the Logic Theorist), the task is to fiv.d

a whole path, but there is no penalty for going down blind alleys during

the search other than the cost of the search time that is involved.

In game playing,

the aim of the problem-tiolving activity in any

given instance is to find a move-°i.e

the game tree.

a first step on a path through

Once that move has been selected and aade, it cannot be

undone if it later proves to have been wrong.

On the other hand, although

the player may have explored a whole tree in evaluating the move he finally

GIF #98

cbose, ba is not committed to following any

°7-

particular path on that tree

(or even sticking to the limits of ths tree if it is smaller than the

legal move tree) beyond his first move.

After the opponent has replied,

he cm reconsi'ier his whole future path.

Henie, in game playing, the first move in the game tree from

thu current position occupies' a completely different

role from subsequent

mcves.

Tha latter are explored not with the aim of selecting

a path or

strategy /ree, but solely for the information

they may contribute to the

evaluate .*A of the initial move (i.e., the move to be made in the current

From this standpoint, proof lattices are of the "essence" of

pesitici).

theorer-proving tasks, while paths in the game tree are only incidental, although they may have great informational value, to the task of choosing

moves*

It is impossible to conceive of a theorem prover that does not

discv/er proofs; a game player that does ot search in the game tree is wholly

conceivable, A fifth difference between proving theorems and playing games is that the task in the former is to find a, proof any one will do--while the

task in the latter is to find the best move, or, if there is no way of

guaranteeing this, at least a very good move.

can be evaluated only in relation to an assessment

The suitability of a move

of what

other moves

nay be available.

The one exception is the case where a move can be shown

to lead definitely to a forced win (i.e., a win no matter what the opponent

does).

no further unless esthetic criteria lead him to prefer one winning strategy

Here, as in the theorem-proving case, the problem solver need search

r one proof, respectively) to another. We will mention such esthetic

considerations again later in the chapter.

Computer Chess-Playing Programs

A convenient way to gain insight into the nature of the chess

task environment is to examine in historical order some of the attempts

that have been made to construct chess=playing

Because the total population of such programs is becoming sizeable (we

are familiar with at least eight that have been realized on computers,

programs for computers,

exclusive of programs specialized for mating combinations),

we cannot dis­

cuss them all. Instead, we will select for discussion

some that have

been of historical importance in the development

of the field, or that

illustrate alternative approaches.

a

Since the idea of/chess-playing automaton (as well as some fraud­

ulent realisations of that idea) is much older than the electronic digital

computer, it is not surprising that proposals for chess-playing

programs

were put £01ward almost simultaneously with the invention of the modern

computer. ~~ 3/

We shall consider here two early proposals,

those of Shannon

and

Turing, as well as several programs that have actually been run on

machines «

Shannon's Proposal^

The relevant history begins with a paper by Claude Shannon in

1949 (

}. He did not present a particular chess program, but discussed

many of the basic issues involved in constructing

one.

The framework he

introduced has guided much of the subsequent analysis of the problem.

3/ Edward Lasker,

in The Adventure of Chess, devotes chapters 10 and 11

to the pre-coraputer automata and the electronic chess player, respectively,

GIF #91

The relation of moves to features is a relation of means to

The feature defines a possibility for gain (e.g., an enemy piece

ends.

under attack) ©r for loss

are possible means, to be evaluated? for achieving the gain (e.g., cap-

(e.g., one ss own piece under attack). Moves

ture the piece) or averting the loss

(e.g.,

interpose between attacker

and attacked).

Thus 9 NSS has a built-in knowledge of Important possible

means -end relations.

bridge directly from a present situation to possible actions for trans­

This knowledge enables the program to build a

instead of being required to consider

large numbers ©f actions, systematically or at random, with the hope

that some may turn out to be relevant to the desired goals in the given

forming it in desired directions;

situation.

similar means-end structures,

solving behavior. Meane«end analysis we shall seej, is one of the cen

In later chapters we will encounter numerous examples of

in computer programs and in human problem-

tral tools for exploring complex task environments efficiently,

The NSS program also stores chess knowledge in the organi gag ion

in the sequential order in

which goalg; are considered, the order in which features are detected

of its means -end processes s specifically,

the order In iihich relevant moves are generated.

considered bcfrre center control, and center control L

Material balance is

Moves of center pawns are considered, as means toward center control be

fore

preventitive moves or preparatory moves.

In chess, as in real life, the amount of action that can ba ac

complished in e given time

to act effectively,

(in one move,

in chess)

is limited.

In order

it is not important, or even relevant,

to cons-ids*-

all the things that "might be nice to do."

If one's Queen is attacked,

developing one*s Rooks becomes a secondary consideration,

even worth attending to unless it can be combined with the more impor~

which is not

tant task of saving the Queen.

This is the principal reason why the.

HSS program's flrst-acceptable-move rule produces sensible movas aa

often as it doe^s (1)

the move is always proposed for a raason<=-=>it

Is

relevant to a goal in the light of specific features of the position|

(2)

the' most pressing problems and important considerations

are taken up

first;

(3)

since a single move exhausts

the program's capacity for

action, there ie no point in dealing with the less important

features 0

The NSS- program illustrates a particular approach to the de-

\

sign of systems for coping with complex task environments.

The program?

is aimed not only at making good moves, but at doing so for the right

reasons that is, in the light of consequences

deduced from noticing

certain circumstances in the

situation, 'in a task environment as coin=

plex as chess, part of the success of play of fitting behavior

to. the

objective requirements of the situatlon«~depends on the emergence of ap­

propriate concepts.

Without them, it will be impossible for a system,

even a very fast one, to explore sufficiently

and to make reliable evaluations.

to discover strong moves

Chess history can be written largely

in terms of the gradual emergence of a few central concepts: piece values,,

mobility, development, center control, and so on.

One should not expact

the equivalent of such a concept simply to emerge from computation

in

specific positions, where the computation is based on quite other features

of the position.

SIP i 93

-60-

NEWER CHESS

All the programs we have discussed were in operation by

1960 , A number of programs constructed more recently appear to b<g

distinctly stronger players than those we have examined.

We are not

familiar with the detail of construction of all of them, but we shell

mention two that are close to Bernstein's program in general organ"

ization and approach.

The improvement in the quality of their play is

due mainly to their incorporation of better chess heuristics, rather

than to novel organizational principles. At least two relatively strong programs have been constructed

in the United States-«by Kotok et aK, and by Greenblatt ejt aJL^, and at

least one in the USSR. A published description is available only for

the Kotok program, but we are familiar with some of the structure

of the

Greenblatt program from personal communication.

The Kotok Program

The Kotok program generates all legal moves and evaluates

them provisionally; it then selects the four most promising for analy­ sis « Analysis is carried eight plies deep, the four most plausible

con­

tinuations being considered for each position.

is not dead, pending exchanges are carried cute

Q

If the resulting position

To avoid evaluating 4 «65,536 positions at each move, the

program incorporates a so-called alpha-beta heuristic that lops off »m

promising branches.

Suppose that the value of one of the four replies to a certain move is

The essential idee of this heuristic is as follows;

already known to be £ (because that reply has been evaluated).

But, by

the minimax principle, the value of the move is the minimum of the values

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1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

WHITE

BIACK

(Kotok)

(Expert)

f

P~K4

P-K4

N-KB3

N-QB3

B~N5

P~S1

0-0

P-SCB4

ByJNch

PxB

R~£l

H-XB3

N-QB3

B-K2

P-Q4

B»K3

Q)?xP

Q?xP

PxP

B-Q4

NxB

Nx25

IfeP

S.-Q1?

Q-RSch!

P»N3

WHITE

(Kotok)

14 PxP

15 P~N7!

16 PxR^Qch

17 NxPch

18 NxR

19 QxP

20 RxB

21 Q-B7

22 RxPch

23 R=K7ch

24 R=R7ch

25 Q»N7

laate

BUCK

(Expert)

N-B3

NxQ

B°B1

K-Q2

B-K2

KxN

N-B3

K-B1

K^Nl

K-R1

K-M1

Remove Black's Queen.

The Ruy Lopez opening was agreed upon.

The Kotok Program v. an Expert

At odds of a Queen

(1962)

Table VIII

of the fear replies considered 5 hence the value of the move cannot be

greater thai* cv<,

Suppose that oae of the alternatives to this move has

already been evaluated, end its value exceeds v;.

to explore further the other replies to the move in question,, for the

Then there is no need

move is known to be inferior to ona of its alternatives

heuristic can reduce drastically the mamber of moves considered

The alpha-beta

For each terminal position generated by the program, a auiner=*

ical evaluation function takes into account measures of material value 9

mtbility, development, center controls, checks, pins, and pawn structure.

The moves are evaluated by a minisaax procedure from the terminal positions

In Table

we give the moves of a game played by the Kotok pro

graw. (White) against en Expert

(Black) who g&ve the program odds of a

Queen^-mnd losto Taking immediate advantage of a mistake in Black 8s 12th

move, the program psesses on to a win.

Previous to its attack, the pro

f

gram had developed soundly, exchanging pieces whenever possible

(which it

should do, since it is ahead in material) .

The other games played by

the Kotok progress though interesting., are not nearly ar. spectacular as

this one.

respondence match with the USSR program 3 but no games have been completed

A variant of the program is now engaged ia a ,feur°g£me cor­

yeto

the

A program constructed by Richard Greenblatt and his associates

in recent months gives us our first really accurate information about play­

ing strength in relation to huraan players.

Since the program is under con­

tinual revision, its playing strength does not remain constant; o*j.r ccinmants

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

#98

WHITE

P-K4

P~Q4

QxP

Q-Q3

N-QB3

N»B3

B-B4

B~N3

o°o~o

P-QR4

K-N1

QxQP

B-R4

N»Q5

QxQ

Q-Q6

Q-Q5

HxP

Q2d?chi:

R-Q8

rsate

(P~1505)

P«QB4

PxP

N»QB3

N»B3

P-KN3

P»Q3

P-K4

P-QR3

P-QN4

B-R3ch

P-N5

11

B-Q2

B-N2

Had?

1

N~B4

B-KB1

R-B1

B-K3

R3CQ

Greenblatt Program v. Glass C Player

Table IX

refer to its performance in the Winter of 1966-67 0 The program eoai^

peted in two totrnaments with rated players. In the fi'cst tournsegnt

it drew with a player holding e 1365

rating

Class D), and lost four

other-games,

St. was provisionally given a rating of 1239

(Class D) f

In the second tournament t it defeated a player with a 1505 rating

(Glass C), and lost four other games.,

Aside from a serious blindness

about its or>m ^-;.ng safety,

its pl&y may evsn be of Cless 3

caliber.

The steiore' of the program's

tournament gasss with." the Class C

player < it defeated is shown in Figurs

<,

the program concerns itself systematically

In the first nine

moves s

and vigorously with center

control and devtilopment

(White's third move loses a tempo, but can

hardly be viewed as "amateurish,

11 since the

first three moves of both

players are identical with a game between Hisses and Tarraach at Berlir*

in 1920.)

the ninth move, White has a distinct

Black meanwhile loses time with premature pswn moves, and by

advantage in development 0

Black's

eleventh move is a blunder, instantly

exploited by White's surprising

reply

On his 14th move, Black falls into a trap that loses his Queen,

The game is now won, bist it is finished

by White with « moat elegsnt

checkzsate, beginning with the Queen sacrifice on Move 2,0, and employing

precisely the same motive as Morphy's checkmate of the Duke of Brunswick

and Count Hsouard. It should be observed that White's early success in

this particular game is not unrelated to its ignoring considerations ox

its own JSiiag safety after Black's Move

11.

The program's selection of several book move* is not an isolated

incident.

In a gams in which, playing

Black,

it defeated H. Dreyfus, its

'63 ^

first four moviJJ were "books'* *- ts human opponent being the first to

depart from acctipted lines. Similarly, the Kotok program, in two

published games in which it played White found book continuations for

three und five noves, respectively, <md in the latter ease th*

th-z-'i departed from Isooko

The program of Greenlylatt is very imaeh like Kotok's,

that it incorporates superior chess heurisfcic,So

It considers at least

six continuations at e£ch mcve 9 but only explores four plias deep, mi-

less it has to go further to reach a dead position.

The alpha-beta

heuristic is uscid to prune the exploration tree*

4

gram ei&siaines for fewer than 6 «1296 posit ions

Typically, the pro-

In a 27-move game £h*at

the program played (and lost) against: an expert 9 the median number of

moves considered was 1,057.

The alpha-beta heuristic i>ma used a median

The smallest number of moves con

number of 174 times to prune branches.

sidered was 162 (at the first move), and the largest number,

16,613*

The fact that the median was a little over 1,000 shows that the pruning

by the alphas-beta heuristic rather mora than compensated , on average 9

the extra moves generated to reach dasd pasit ions

Thiss ? only the

program is more selective in its search than the Greenblatt program

The playing strength of the latter provider further evidence of the ssib

tutabillty of small amounts of chess sophistication for large amounts of

search*

-if-

^-.Q

Jo

STATIC AND DYKAHXC EVAI&ATIGtf

A chess game is won by checkmating the opponent e s King (i 0t-, 9

placing him in a position where he cannot avoid capture}.,

programs cennot explore ahead exhaustively to terminal positions., they

must use various surrogate procedures to select good moves These pro

Since chess

cedures, all involving the extraction of information from bcerd posi­

tions j, fall intto two laain classes? £ f:stis evaluation

functions; applied

to noa~terminal, but relatively "dead/ 5 positions; and procedures for

detecting features of a position that: may b& used to generate plausible

aoves,

Both classes of procedures can be viewed as j3re<iictlon procedures<

The static evaluators assign to positions numbers, or other descriptors,

that are designed to predict which positions are more promising for

achieving & wit?

the higher the value s the better the winning chances.

to define "chance" in this context, beyond remarking

(or averting a loss).

Where the evalu«tors are scalars s

(We will not try

that a probability

interpretation of the term would be strained.) A good evaluation function

is one that orders positions reliably according to the.lr promise

The plausible move generators can be viewed in the game way<=--

they *ise present features on the board to evoke relevant end desirable

actions.

Thus* they predict which moves and continuations will lead to

the highest-valued and lowest-valued positions. There are two steps to

the process:

th&t ia relevant to that feature.

tbe detection of a feature, end the generation of a move

It may b© detected,

for example s that

a piece is attacked; this feature leads to proposing such actions as

capturing the attacker, moving the attacked piece, defending the at-

tacked piece3 or interposing between attacker and attacked

These procedures build eoimeetionc between two spaces, the

space of "states of the -worid"«»i 0® 0 r board positions end the

space of

actions that change the world from one space to another«

The desired

connections (the chess sophistication incorporated in the generators)

run from partial descriptions of pre&/&t states of the world to actions

that offer promise of leading to & more highly desired world*

day knowledge and skill consists of such connections

Much evsry°

2 :,f

the bo&rd is

too long, apply a saw to it; if the soup is too hot, blow on it; if the

bread is across the table, don*t reach for it, but ask for it.

Thus the

connections are predictive s if 1 apply a saw to SOT*®tiring s it will be­

come shorter;

thing, it will be passed to me.

if I blow on a liquid, it will cool; if & ask for some-

They express our knowledge of causal

relations that hold in the worldo What is the nature of the static information available

chess position that predicts these causal relations?

from a

To what extent is

it idiosyncratic to chess, and to what extent geiser&lirsabla

to other sttis-

at!on«j?

We can ask. these questions both about static evaluation

functions,

and about feature detectors, Let ES consider firr£ ch© static evaluation -functions ?ieed ii

chess programs* Whatever their di£i;erenc(U» iii

dcficf.?.,

they all have #

monotonous similarity! piece value, mobility, developiaant,

center control.

King safety arc*, prominent in all (except for those programs that use only

a subset of th&£<e elements)»

Piece values es.n be viewed is* eifher of

two ways

They can be viewed as statements of equivalence based

on chess

experiences that you are about as well off with a Knight as a Bishop 9

'with either of f:hese as with three pawns 9 and so on.

On the other hand;,

piece values

and mobility that the value of each type of piece is very nearly pro-

it can be shown that there is a close correlation betuean

portional to the average number of squares en the board that it can st»

tack. From this viewpoint, piece values con ba interpreted es

or predictors, of average long«run mobility? as dietiuguished

estimates,

from measf^e

of current short-run mobility. Center control is also closely related to mobility,

for the

player who controls the center squares can move his pieces from one side

of the board to the other, while restricting his opponent 8&

movements«

Measures of development are measures of short-run mobility for developed

pieces are those that have been brought into play from their initial posi­

tions.

A measure of Eing safety, on the other hand, combined

with a

mobility measure s like relative development, can be used to predict the

likelihood that a successful tcating attack can be mounted<,

We note that mobility, in one form or another, plays a central

rols in almost all of these evaluations.

This concept is of course not

peculiar to chess, but is equally important

in other gamas as well as in

military strategy and tactics. (Bridge players may wish to try to Inter­

pret the squeeze play in mobility terms, and to note its relation to the

forking move in chess or checkers.)

In an early form of the very suc-

cessful checker playing program designed by A. Samuel (Feigenbauci

and

pp« 100-103), the five most important terms in the evaluation

CIP #98

function (as well as most of the others), are compounded

of mobility, center control, and denial of occupancy (to the opponent).

of measures

Tic-tac>°toe players know that the center square (which lies on

four arrays) is generally the strongest,

the corner squares (on three ar­

rays) are the next strongest, and the side squares (on two arrays), the

weakest. In that game there is only a single "trapping"

situation which

violates that principle.

(A trap ic

& course of action that looks at­

tractive, from the static description, but has undesirable consequences

foreseeable only by dynamic analysis.) Why does mobility play such a central role in the evaluation

of positions in these games?

equivalent to flexibility, or "lots of possibilities"

In a general sense, "high mobility" is

and if there are

lots of possibilities, some of them should lead to good outcomes.

there is more to the matter than this.

But

First, some changes in position in chess are reversible,

others

are irreversible.

Pawn moves (including "Queening" pawns), castling

moves, checkmate, and captures of pieces are irreversible,

reversible.

others are

Conseqiftently, a change in relative piece .values, through

captures or Queening, has long-term effects.

a one-pawn advantage in piece value is enough to win a chess game.)

(Subject to many exceptions,

Second, advantageous irreversible changes in chess are produced by super*

iority of force at specific locations on the /board.

Superior force

here means superior numbers of pieces, regardless

of value, since each

piece can capture exactly one piece (of any value) in one move. Hence, short-run advantages in mobility can be used to achieve local superiority

of forcej £°£ purposes of checkmating the opponent s increasing rela­

tive piece value through a favorable capture 8 or gaining control of. an

The latter two outcomes heve the effect of increasing

middle-run or long-run mobility., which can be transformed, in tiirn,, intc

important squares,

short^run mobility, and thence into local superiority of fcrea*

The most spectacular kind, of termination of a chess gsme Is

sheeted ting the I'&ing early in the game 9 while most of the pieces are

still on the boa:rd°

somewhat <S2S£CJSsd ; or only lightly protected,

A player who observes that the opposing King is

and that his o-*n pieces

are better developed (mor-B mobile} than his opponents, may search for moves that bring about losal superiority ©f force in the izrsnediste aeigfc-

borhooci of the e:*possd King.

pieces '{long-run mobility), if ^.his permits him to achieve the local

superiority of force that will win the game immediately.

cision is reached in the dhcrt~ruxi, piece values decoios irrelevant .

If the de-

He sen afford to sacrifice important

Bat

of course, & sacrificial attack that fails mesns long->rii,n disaster^ henca

the outcome casst be predicted accurately. !"?e will hava more to say about

checkmating attacks in the next section.

Since mobility, in its various forms, is such an important fac­

tor in determining outcomes of chess positions, the features that are

detected for the purpose of activating the plausible move generators must

also relate to mobility.

immediate prospect of a capture that will change relative piece values

Detecting an opening file reveals the prospect of a

of the two sides-

Detecting an underprotected pieca raises the

Rook move that would increase the mobility

of that piece

(by allowing

it subsequently l:o move along that file).

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=69-

In games like chess, where each of the two players

makes a

single move in turn, forking moves represent an

important form of short-

term superiority in mobility.

two points simultaneously, securing temporary superiority of force at

A forking move is a move that attacks

both, and threatening immediate, irreversible

of a piece or a favorable exchange at both.

damage»-i.e., the capture

More generally, a forking

move nay be termed a double-function move. Double-function moves can

be parried only by double-function replies. Among the important fea­

tures of a chess board that must be noticed

by a program are those that

create prospects for double-function moves e.g., undefended forking

squares.

Two main conclusions may be drawn from this discussion of

static ©valuators and plausible move generators. First,

evaluative concepts in chess are not specific to that game, but arise

the central

in other competitive situations, and even in non-competitive

there is uncertainty about the future.

to one or another form of mobility, and while specific measures of mobil°

Mobility plays

an equally central role in checkers and in warfare.

ones where

Most evaluatora in chess relate

ity may be peculiar to chess, the general concept is not.

It is closely related

to /concept the of flexibility that arises in decision makiug under uncertainty.

Second, the discussion of noticing processes suggests a way of

viewing problem solving that is somewhat

different from the picture of

search through a large maze.

Problem solving, in this alternative view,

involves finding features of a present situation

to which experience

(personal or learned) iias associated actions that commonly lead to better

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-70

situations.

ficiently strong causal regularities between them, their associated ac-

tions, and the consequences of the actions, then problem-solving

If a sufficiently rich set of features is known, and suf

becomes

a matter of noticing rather than a matter of searching.

The history of chess-playing programs has shown a general trend

toward substituting more sophisticated noticing processes for large

amounts of speedy search.

respect, but Greenblatt's program though calling for considerable search

The NSS program represents the extreme in this

is far closer in spirit to the NSS program than to the Los Alamos

program.

This is not to say that such a powerful set of

features could

be defined for chess as to dispense with search altogether.

Whether this

not is possible is not known, certainly it has / bc*o done either in chess

programs or in human chess play.

cessful simultaneous play against many (thirty, fifty, or more) weaker

players remind us that a grandmaster's noticing program is more than a

match for a club player's tree search.)

(Exhibitions by grandmasters of suc-

There is a part of chess the discovery of checkmating

combin-

ations--where outcomes must be determined accurately, and search appears

essential.

In the next section, we will discuss this particular

aspect

of chess.

One of its interesting features is that it calls for tree

search resembling that in theorem proving more closely than it resembles

the kinds of tree search we have discussed so far in this chapter.

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CHECKMATING COMBINATIONS

An ironic piece of advice that chess players give to

novices

is ° "Always check; it may be Matel" The advice is ironic because many

checking moves are easily refuted and result only in loss of time for

the attacking player.

Nevertheless, series of checking moves that end in mate- mating combinations--provide much of the spectacular in chess, the

"brilliancies 11 comparable to the final smashing cavalry charge of an

(eighteenth century) army that has first moved into position.

Some of

the recorded mating combinations are as many as eight or more deep (that

is, sixteen ply), and these give rise to much of the mythology about

the mnemonic and visualizing powers of grandmasters.

We shall describe here a mating combinations

program (MATER)

sufficient to discover a great many such combinations,

including some

of the most spectacular in chess history.

The basic ideas imbedded in

MATER are:

(a) to generate only checking moves, and (b) to abandon any

line of analysis as disadvantageous if it allows the opponent more than

a very few (more than four, say) legal replies. Apart

principles, MATER incorporates a few important rules that determine the

from these two

order in which the analysis tree will be explored.

The significant things

that can be said about

this program are: first, that it is remarkably

powerful in finding mating combinations, some involving sacrifices of Queens and other major pieces; second, that it accomplishes this with a

very modest amount of exploration.

Mobility, more specifically, restricting the opponent's

mobility, lies at the heart of MATER,

First, the condition of check-

mato is itself a matter of mobility.

The opponent is checkmated when

(!) his King is under attack;

(2) he has no legal move, of King or

other piece, that removes the King from attack.

lar, that all the squares adjacent to the King to which he might con­

sider moving are either blocked by his own pieces or are under enemy

attack.

This means, in particu°

Thus, the checkmated King is under attack and immobile.

Second, mobility is at the basis of the move generator in

MATERo

A checking move, attacking the King, must be dealt with at once

by a reply that relieves the attack.

the moves available to the opponent.

Hence, checking limits severely

HATER generates checking moves,

and all legal replies to each checking move.

all legal replies will be explained presently.) Those checking moves

(The reason for generating

that tend to restrict the opponent's mobility most severely double

checks and discovered checks are considered first.

Third, mobility is the main criterion for determining along

which branches of the search tree MATER will pursue its search.

Of all

the moves that have not yet been evaluated, that one is selected next for

exploration that allows the opponent the fewest replies. A move that

permits more than four replies is rejected out of hand as unlikely

to

lead to checkmate.

The organisation of MATER*s search may be described as follows:

1. The checking moves in the starting position are

generated, and all legal replies for each.