Chess and Game Theory

Grandmaster Nigel Davies has invited me to join his blog crew. I am an American chessplayer wandering in and out of expert class. I continually improve my play and wrestle with learning in one’s 60’s. In real life I am a computer programmer. Over the coming weeks, I plan to explore modern chess theory in the light of Game Theory and computation.

Mathematicians of the late 19th century began to research Game Theory. This field has identified Chess as an “intrinsically difficult” problem, one that has to be solved back-to-front. While chess can be represented mathematically in many different ways, there is, according to game theory, no algorithm that will infallibly generate best moves: all possibilities must be exhausted in the search.

The notion of intrinsic difficulty has interesting implications for chessplayers with pretensions to “scientific” play. For instance, it is generally accepted by chess theory that neither White nor Black possess a winning advantage in the starting position, but this is neither proven nor provable without exhaustive calculation.

Such exhaustive calculation is not possible on the fastest modern computational hardware. However, there may be ways around this limit. The entire game of English Draughts (American Checkers) is solved computationally. Will we in our lifetimes see the same for Chess? More on this …

Jacques Delaguerre