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    Monday
    Apr022012

    The King's Gambit, Solved?

    Believe it or not, Vas Rajlich of Rybka fame claims to have solved the King's Gambit, and the alleged result is that after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 only (the utterly unprincipled) 3.Be2 even allows White to draw; 3.Nf3 will eventually lose to 3...d6 4.Bc4 h6 5.d4 g5 (but not 3...g5, when White again escapes with 4.h4) while 3.Bc4 is refuted (eventually) with 3...Nf6. Shortly after I started reading this article, I assumed it was an April Fool's joke, but the ChessBase page dates it April 2. So maybe it's serious?!

    Assuming it's true, readers, do you find this:

    (a) Inevitable, so we might just as well get used to it.

    (b) Depressing, a big first step to the final death of chess.

    (c) Invigorating: Go technology!

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    Reader Comments (26)

    I never believed that the Kings Gambit is good for White. It is dubious and will remain dubious ....

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchess player

    I'm still going with April Fools joke. They probably posted it April 2nd so it was more believable. I agree with points A+B, Technology BOOOO.

    [DM: Sure, but what kind of person makes an April Fool's joke not on April Fool's day? Oh wait...never mind.]

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Karen

    Well, I find it a) and b) ... But I'm doubtful about 3.Be2 is the only way to draw...

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMango

    You have an accused cheater making claims in an interview that was conducted on April 1, and this interview is presented on a website that notoriously always presents an April Fools joke. I cannot buy into the assumption required to take the quiz.

    [DM: *Accused*, yes, though it's hard to see why his allegedly taking computer code would have implications for the truth or falsity of this story. As for ChessBase, it's not impossible that it's a joke - I hope it proves to be one! - but in over a decade now I can't recall them writing up an April Fool's story that wasn't on April 1.]

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Stripes

    Read the first lines of the interview. They fairly clearly say that it took place on the 1st.

    [DM: Yes, I read that, but the ChessBase practice for jokes is when they publish them. Thomas offers another version of that thought in the next comment.]

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous coward

    Is it possible that Chessbase didn't make an April Fool's joke, but fell victim to one by Rajlich? The interview itself was held 1st of April.

    [DM: That's possible, and would certainly serve them right! Anyway, I sure hope it's a joke.]

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    I think it's an April Fools joke, since I can't imagine he would go to that expense, even assuming it were possible. If it is not a joke, though, I find it depressing. As an amateur player, I love having access to strong Chess software to help me analyze old games (it was extremely frustrating to me many years ago when playing over some master game from the 19th-early/ mid 20th century and asking myself "why isn't move X playable here?", and never knowing for sure if it WAS playable, or wasn't due to some hidden and unmentioned refutation), but some supercluster computer deeming out win/lose/draw judgements on various openings can only be bad for the game.

    If it's not a joke and this sort of thing is 'inevitable', then bring on Fischerandom.

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMikeO

    It's just too ripe not to be a joke (and has too much waving of the hands, e.g. "advanced zugzwang detection techniques," to be credible to this skeptical mind).

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGoboh

    I'd put my money on it being a joke.

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommentercheVelle

    Don't you think the Capablanca Chess-Billiards match was the April Fools?

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDon Aldrich

    If it was for real it would also be on the German language Chessbase.de website, but it doesn't have April Fool's jokes.

    Too bad. I'd like to see someone try this.

    April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Upper

    Even if this is real and even if GMs can effectively memorize all these computer lines, most folks (I suspect even many professionals) can't memorize anywhere near as much as this across many lines so it's all good!

    I guess at some point folks will start opening with oddball moves like 1. a3, pass on the advantage as white and "play chess".

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternminwalla

    (Even if it were true) I certainly have my doubts when it comes to computer evaluations. I have seen and composed studies where evaluations of +/-8.00 or higher were utterly wrong (due to fortresses, long term strategy ending in a zugzwang, etc). It is sufficient that only one of the "gazillion" variations falls into such a position for the conclusion of the whole analysis to be invalidated...

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKornrade

    I don't know, Dennis. On the server that day they had a "friendship game" between Topalov and Kramnik. Naturally I jumped into the abyss instead of looking first. There was a "Welcome to April Fools" or something like that. So maybe the KG article is legitimate.

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

    Yes, it is a joke, a good one. But chess does not seem that simple to solve.

    [DM: Have you found some evidence to support the claim? I hope you're right, but hope isn't proof!]

    But if this one position gets solved in such a relatively short time, it would mean that chess would soon be solved too. There are only about 70,000 positions after 2 moves. They would one by one fall at an increasing rate as computing resources get added. It would mean the end of correspondence chess but not of live chess - which now thrives in spite of the abundance of strong engines.

    I agree with MikeO that as an amateur having access to strong software is a good thing. It makes master games more understandable. I would not mind that chess is solved, it would even be interesting.

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

    As to why this is off:

    He claims 4 months on 3000 cores and gives a single-core equivalent of 10,750,000 hours, i.e. less than 40 billion seconds. At a speed of 4.25 GHz, this totals 165 10^18 instructions.

    They talk about 10^100 continuations, and 10^50 moves which need to be evaluated.

    It takes many instructions to evaluate one position, but say one can do it in a single instruction. Even then the time used allows to scan less than 1 in 10^30 of the positions they give! That can not be right.

    Stopping the search after one side has an overwhelming position does not cut down the remainder that much. They already cut down in the alpha-beta pruning.

    The fact that they start their position after 1. e4 e5 2. f4 ef4 reduces the search less that 1 in 100,000 compared to solving chess. A relatively small difference in conquering 10^50 positions.

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

    Basically if it were true, it would only speed up a development that's already happening. In the very near future openings will no longer be analysed and it will be impossible to "refute" theoretical lines. Preparing for Games and building opening repertoires will be a matter of cleverly navigating huge opening trees.
    I already use the chessok tree for that purpose and the Let's Check stuff will only speed things up a lot.
    Top players have already given up on trying to archieve a clear opening advantage that has only to be pushed through for a win. That was Kasparov-style and it's just no longer possible.

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhille

    Take a closer look at the photographs they used, they are from past interviews.

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMedusa

    It is a n April Fool joke. Chessbase posted it today.

    [DM: That settles that!]

    April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLarry L

    I just gave Frederic [Friedel] feedback showing I fell for it for all of 3 minutes, and then pointing to a comment I made a few hours later on Monday on the Rybka forums at http://rybkaforum.net/cgi-bin/rybkaforum/topic_show.pl?pid=410006#pid410006. This explains why the King's Gambit should be impossible on complexity grounds, but goes out on a limb and says resolving the Alterman Gambit in the Dragon might be feasible that way.

    April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth Regan

    Pago Pago! Hysterical!

    April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=8051 It was a joke

    April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMNDIGA

    So it turned out to be an April fool stunt after all. Can't say I'm too impressed with the the Pago-Pago gambit though. Not quite cricket imo.

    April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBabsonTask

    I don't know what motivation IBM would have to loan millions of dollars of specialized hardware to Rajlich especially considering his now damaged reputation. I don't think the parallel processing code would just port between X86 64 and the Power 7 platforms either. There is no known Linux version of Rybka and Windows doesn't run on the Power 7 so that is another dagger in this story. I call April Fools.

    April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNate Criss

    Chessbase just fessed up: it is indeed a joke! (http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=8051). I must say, it was far and away their best one so far. BTW, it was published on April 1 at 23:55 PM -- in Pago Pago. Roll the eyes...

    April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris Falter

    There is absolutely no chance that this is anything but a joke. Last I heard, only a few select 7-piece tablebases had been computed. Considering that each added piece is exponentially more complicated, the concept of "solving" a position after two moves have been played (unless those moves were 1.f4 e6 2.g4, i suppose!) is foolishness for the forseeable future.

    [DM: That it is officially a joke has been revealed. One other possibility though, aside from Fool's Mate: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5?? might be solvable, even on an abacus.]

    April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen

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