Monday, 17 November 2008

I wish I were better at playing chess...

I’m not bad at playing chess. But it’s one of those things I wish I were better at, but for which I don’t have the time (nor the motivation to make time) to work on in more detail. I used to play chess when I was younger, and wasn’t bad then – just as I’m not bad now. But for some reason, I have this notion in my mind that I should be better at playing chess than I am. I like to think as myself as the “kind of person who should be good at chess” so to be rather average when finding my way around the chess board feels rather unrewarding.



I feel the same way about Sudoku, as it happens. It’s the sort of thing which you’d think a Cambridge Maths Graduate should be able to do. But I’m not actually very good at them. I understand the logic behind solving a Sudoku but find its application rather boring, usually. When solving Sudoku, there are usually only a few types of logic needed to solve the puzzle. But I’ve never seen the fact that a Sudoku is supposed to have a unique solution used as a logical step in finding that solution. It would be, in theory, possible to construct a Sudoku puzzle where a number must be placed in a certain location in order to guarantee a unique solution; placing any other number there would lead to the solution not being unique, and hence must be incorrect.



At least I think it’s theoretically possible to construct such a puzzle. I’m not entirely sure...



Talking of things of which I’m not entirely sure – back to the subject of chess. I’ve never understand why it’s not possible to build a computer system which can beat any human opponent at chess. I don’t really understand the problem of getting computers to play chess in much detail, but I’d one day like to hear a simple explanation of why Garry Kasparov could manage to beat an enormously powerful computer at something like chess. Also, on a related note – I’d be interested to know whether it’d be possible to allow a computer to learn how to get better at chess over time. All algorithms for playing chess that I’ve read are non-adaptive (probably not the correct technical term) but I’d be interested to know whether there are any chess solving programs out there which can learn as they play.

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