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Chess algorithm written by Alan Turing goes up against Kasparov

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Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov has played one of the first computer chess programs ever created, written over 60 years ago by Alan Turing.

Credit: VideoLectures.net

As part of the University of Manchester's Alan Turing Centenary Conference, Kasparov took on Turochamp, an algorithm that Turing wrote by hand, but never had the chance to put on a computer.

Turing designed the program to play using rules of thumb to pick out the best move, thinking two moves ahead in the game. Since Kasparov is usually thinking 10 moves ahead, he beat Turochamp in 16 moves, but he was suitably impressed with how Turing had come up with it before there was even a computer to try it on.

"I suppose you might call it primitive, but I would compare it to an early car - you might laugh at them but it is still an incredible achievement," he said in a canned statement.

"He wrote algorithms without having a computer – many young scientists would never believe that was possible. It was an outstanding accomplishment."

Turing tried to put the algorithm on the Manchester Ferranti Mark 1 computer after it was constructed at the University in 1950, but never finished the work.

Kasparov was part of a number of high-profile luminaries speaking at the conference, including internet daddy Vint Cerf and David Ferrucci of IBM, to honour Alan Turing, who would have been 100 years old this week.

The Russian grandmaster is generally considered the greatest human chess player ever, so it's safe to say that he would also have beaten almost any human he encountered - and in that respect at least, Turing's software passed the Turing test. ®

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