Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Great Chess Face-Off

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Great Chess Face-Off

Article excerpt

NEWS that a computer has been perfected which can play chess seems to have brought on more enthusiasm than I would have predicted. I am not, though, much of a judge, since I eliminated all forms of mathematics from my activities years ago.

I look upon chess as an amusement similar to splitting firewood. Don't misunderstand - I don't play chess and never did. I know nothing about it.

This chess-playing device can think 720,000 times in one second and has already defeated several human experts at the game. My instant response to this breakthrough seems not to have occurred to anybody else - yet. I suggest that they make two of these chess-playing computers and set 'em against each other and let 'em play. Hang a sign on the doorknob that says DO NOT DISTURB.

The mechanical chess player is by no means new. There used to be an amusement park in Boston called Austin & Stone's Museum. It had a mechanical chess player that had never been beaten - at least Mr. Austin and Mr. Stone said it never had, and they should know.

I'm not sure if I remember that museum, and it may be that I merely heard about it until I thought I remembered. But I did see the mechanical chess player and watched my Uncle Eddie challenge it - it may well have been after the museum went out of business and the mechanical chess player was at another location.

Uncle Eddie was not, really, a chess fancier, but he did win a few checker tournaments. Somewhere in our now-dispersed family keepsakes his books on checkers might still be found if anybody knew which back shelf. He never called the game "checkers," but pronounced it "drafts" and spelled it "draughts."

My uncle was fascinated by the Austin & Stone mechanical chess player, and went to play a game with it every time he was in Boston. He took me with him, and I suppose I showed alarm at approaching the thing, because he held my hand and assured me it was friendly and wouldn't bite. I stood behind the railing with the folks who came to watch Uncle Eddie play.

The somewhat human-like figure sat cross-legged in the manner of an Oriental deity, and the chess board was on its knees. …

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