Monday, 29 June 2009

ALCHEssMIST Celebrates First Birthday 28th June 2009

ALCHEssMIST was conceived on the 28th June 2008 as a hybrid of ALCHEMIST and CHESS. He first appeared on the internet here at At that time alchessmist was a unique word, never before found on the internet. ALCHEssMIST is a portmanteau word - meaning essentially the blend of two or more words.

The ALCHEssMIST Blog was subsequently commenced on the 18th September 2008, with a post entitled - Chess is the Drosophila of artificial intelligence.

In celebration of ALCHEssMIST's birthday a new blog has been started which will simply feature links selected by ALCHEssMIST about chess topics:

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Stuart Dreyfus on Mathematics, Chess, Expertise, Intuition, Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence

Stuart Dreyfus
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
Ph.D. Applied Mathematics, Harvard University, 1964

Stuart Dreyfus is Professor Emeritus in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at University of California, Berkeley. Stuart is also the younger brother of Hubert Dreyfus, philosophy professor at University of California, Berkeley. In 1986, the two brothers co-wrote Mind Over Machine: The Power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the Era of the Computer. In this book they discuss the 5 stages of skill acquisition (Novice / Advanced Beginner / Competent / Proficient / Expert). Stuart Dreyfus recalls "... what it is to think like a competent chess player, as he is stuck at that level."
I was always good at mathematics and took up chess as an outlet for that analytic talent. At college, where I captained the chess team, my players were mostly mathematicians and mostly, like me, at the competent level. At this point, a few of my teammates who were not mathematicians began to play fast chess at the rate of five or ten minutes a game, and also eagerly to play over the great games of the grandmasters. I resisted. Fast chess was no fun for me, because it didn't give me time to figure out what to do. I found grandmaster games inscrutable, and since the record of the game seldom if ever gave principles explaining the moves, I felt there was nothing I could learn from the games. Some of my teammates, who through fast chess and game studying acquired a great deal of concrete experience, have gone on to become masters.
It is interesting seeing this assessment by an accomplished mathematician, as it does reinforce the point that being good at mathematics does not necessarily imply increased chess expertise. That being said, mathematicians do seem to be over-represented in the youthful, and also not so youthful, chess playing fraternity. On Stuart Dreyfus' Berkeley webpage their is also the following quote:
"Expertise is pattern discrimination and association based on experience. It is intuitive. There is no evidence you can reduce it to rules and theory. Hence, Artificial Intelligence probably can't be produced using rules and principles. That's not what intelligence is."
I now become confused when considering the chess skill of a computer program such as Fritz or Rybka. Clearly these programs are expert at playing chess but it is not the same as the expertise of a human chess player. The expert human chess player is very intuitive in their play, whereas the expert computer chess program is very heavily analytical in it's approach. Maybe we need a different set of terms for the skilled expert computer program.

Mind over machine: The power of human intuition and expertise in the era of the computer.
Hubert L Dreyfus (Author), Stuart E. Dreyfus (Author)
Hardcover: 231 pages
Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (1986)
ISBN-10: 0029080606
ISBN-13: 978-0029080603
[Amazon link]

Friday, 19 June 2009

Logic Quote - Semantics and Mathematics

If your thesis is utterly vacuous
Use first-order predicate calculus.
With sufficient formality
The sheerist banality
Will be hailed by the critics: "Miraculous!"

If your thesis is quite indefensible
Reach for semantics intensional.
Your committee will stammer
Over Montague grammar
Not admitting it's incomprehensible.


Montague Grammar
Predicate Calculus

Logic - Mathematics - Montague Grammar - Predicate Calculus - Quote - Semantics -

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Josh Waitzkin on "Tackling the Multi-Tasking Virus"

Young Josh Waitzkin

I recently came across this online article by Josh Waitzkin entitled "Tackling the Multi-Tasking Virus". He gives some very sound advice and work-around solutions to the current multi-tasking culture which has gripped the youth of today. The whole online article is well worth reading.

The key points Josh makes can be summarised as:
  1. Do what you love.
  2. Do it in a way you love and connect to.
  3. Give people a choice and they become engaged.
  4. Release a fear of failure.
  5. Build positive routines.
  6. Do one thing at a time.
  7. Take Breaks.
Josh Waitzkin is the President of the - JW Foundation.
Josh Waitzkin is the author of - "The Art Of Learning"

Josh Waitzkin is also the subject of the book and film - "Searching for Bobby Fischer"

Related Posts:

ALCHEssMIST - Josh Waitzkin - Psychology Today Interview With Scott Barry Kaufman

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Chess Art - Outdoor Bronze Chess Sculpture by Lloyd Lillie - John Marshall Park Washington DC

The Chess Players by Lloyd Lillie
[Photo by kimberlyfaye, Creative Commons]

The sculpture shows 2 seated male figures playing a game of chess on a granite bench ledge. The artist is Lloyd Lillie who modelled the older figure on the sculptor's father and the younger figure on the sculptor's son.

Location of sculpture:
  • John Marshall Park, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC
  • Just North of Pennsylvania Ave. at 4th St NW
  • Between Canadian Embassy & US Court House
The park was dedicated in honor of John Marshall, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1801-1835. He was also a great admirer, and biographer, of George Washington. Marshall was at one time a resident at this park's location. The park has a bronze sculpture of Marshall dressed in long judicial robes and seated in an arm chair.

View Larger Map

Chess Position From Sculpture
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Further images of the sculpture are available here.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Chess Photography - Chess Is A Sensual Game - More A Dream Than Reality?

A Quick Game Of Chess [link]
[Image by is a belle, fickr Creative Commons]

A nicely composed cloned photo - and certainly more "interesting" than the usual chess portraits.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Should Christians Play Chess? - A Satirical Look at Religious Objections to Games

The following passage was posted by ELEPHANTCITY as a satirical poke at the article Should a Christian play dungeons and dragons? The author is also happy for this article to be used on other sites - "if anyone's worried about copyright, i formally grant permission for whole or partial quotes of this page". (page link)


The Subtle Sin

Never mind the well-addressed question Should a Christian play dungeons and dragons?

A better question would be:

Should Christians play chess?

It has an obvious theme, in the traditional White against Black sides, good versus evil. The symbology of the good guys is obvious:

King - Secular Leader, but with the Church close on his side (King's Bishop)

Queen - All the King's secular forces combined into a powerful tool of his administration. Starts at his side, to show His dominance. Straight and Diagonal movement shows the ability to apply to all problems and situations.

Bishop - liaison between Man and God, the administration of the House of the Lord on Earth. Keeps to one color, to show that the church has limitations in its applicability, BUT there are TWO Bishops, one for the Church, one for the Congregation, and between the two of them, they can get anywhere. Shows the transparent MYTH of Separation of Church and State.

Knight - The Special Forces, able to attack from unseen angles, and retreat across obstacles. The 90-degree component seen by many to symbolize the duality of God's Might and Man's Will.

Rook - Portrayed in most modern sets as a castle, examination of early structures leads many to conclude it is actually a church, historically. Either way usually exemplifies a building made of Stone, and "On this stone I shall build a church."

Pawn - All the multitudes of Man, serving God best by stepping blindly forward.

Of course, the Black side, the Evil, has the same components. Considering that the Dark One has his followers and his Bishops, we know what God has stated about False Religions: "As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

This makes it seem that someone playing chess, especially on the White Side, is acting out a morality play, attacking the forces of Darkness and crushing them under his heel. There lies the trick that ensnares millions of innocent souls every year.

Evil has, mathematically, as much of a chance to win as Good. The only restriction between the colors is that White moves first. In reality, The Good side should have more power than the evil, for the Lord has said, regarding HIS believers: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." Unfortunately, the 'powers' given to the individual units of a chess set are evenly matched by their direct opponents.

Anther problem is the power of the Queen. She is clearly portrayed as the King's wife, but granted greater power and maneuverability. She travels and works independently of the King, if nominally at his 'bidding.' This directly conflicts with MANY biblical verses, to wit:

  • "...and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
  • "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
  • "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
  • "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing."
  • "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."
  • "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing."
  • "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands."

A further heresy implicit in the play of Chess, is that of returning lost souls to play. If a simple pawn makes it unmolested to the final rank of the enemy's side, he can be transmuted to any other piece of the game. In this manner, lost pieces can be regained. The bible clearly shows that there is only one event of importance following an individual's death, and that is the judgement. After that, the soul is sent Heavenwards or dropped into the Lake of Fire. Reincarnation is the devil's idea.

In addition to problems with the rules, certain conventions of game play are offensive to any True Christian that has seen the Truth. It is possible, if care is not taken, to move the Knight in such a manner that the outline of a Pentagram is described on the board, an incontrovertible sign of Satan.

Most frighteningly, throughout most of the game, the mechanism of capturing a piece results in removal of the lost piece. In the final move, of EVERY chess game, the King is not captured. Instead, the losing player lays his King down on the board, mimicking a ritualistic HUMAN SACRIFICE!

Does it still sound like a simple 'Game?'

For Further Consideration:

Chess is so addictive that prisoners and isolated individuals have been known to carve their own sets out of random materials at hand.

The forces of Darkness have managed to get introductory chess books into almost EVERY school library in the entire country! Our children are ENCOURAGED to take up the Devil's Pastime! They often play it in pairs, unsupervised by any responsible adults.

Unlike more traditional games, like Monopoly or Yukon Solitaire, chess does not stop at a mere Winner/Loser concept. Implicit in each game of chess, at least ONE person HAS to die before the game can be over.

And finally, in various times and places, people have been known to dress up in costumes and actually 'Act Out' a chess game! A game that encourages people to see themselves as carved and painted pieces of wood deserves at least a little more scrutiny!

At the best, it's origins are lost in pagan antiquity, and not easily subjected to objective Christian scrutiny for unbiased analysis.

At the worst, Satan eased it into place in anticipation of the reaction to AD&D. Think of that the next time you tell you children "Why don't you play chess, instead?"

Bobby Fischer Pasadena Storage Unit Chess Library Auction (Bonhams, New York) 10th June 2009

An auction of Bobby Fischer's chess library from the Pasadena storage unit will take place on the 10th of June 2009 at Bonhams, New York. The manuscript material mostly centers on Fischer’s preparation for his World Chess Championship match with Boris Spassky in 1972. The auction estimate for the lot is around $50,000 - $80,000. More information here.

Background History:
  • Library of books and documents derived from the Pasadena storage unit.
  • The Pasadena storage unit was where Bobby Fischer’s belongings were held after 1992.
  • Fischer had defied the U.N. embargo against travel to Yugoslavia for his re-match against Boris Spassky in 1992.
  • Bobby Fischer never returned to the U.S. following the rematch with Boris Spassky.
Contents include:
  • Around 320 volumes on chess including a few match results, various places and languages (including many Soviet imprints), 1889-1992,
  • Around 400 issues of chess-related periodicals, including - “Magyar Sakkelet”, Overboard, Revista SAH, Sahovski Informator, The Chess Player, and “Waxmatbl”.
  • 9 personal floppy disks.
  • 3 sets of proofs for Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games (published 1969).
  • Robert Wade's manuscript research on the match history of Boris Spassky (4 volumes of bound typescript, with commentary).
  • Games of Mark Taimanov and Tigran Petrosian in manuscript notebooks with notations (from the 1950s-1970).

Chess Quotient (CQ) of Youngest Grandmasters in History by Paul Muljadi

The Chess Quotient (CQ) is a simple idea based on the Intelligence Quotient (IQ). CQ is calculated as the Elo rating of the player divided by their age (16 years or younger). Paul Muljadi has published a CQ list of the youngest grandmasters (ELO rating over 2500) in history (here).

Elite CQ List by Paul Muljadi

Bobby Fischer ..... 161
Judit Polgar ...... 162
Koneru Humpy ...... 165
Hikaru Nakamura ... 165
Peter Leko ........ 174
Etienne Bacrot .... 177
Ruslan Ponomariov . 179
Teimour Radjabov .. 179
Bu Xiangzhi ....... 180
Magnus Carlsen .... 188
Sergei Karjakin ... 199

Thursday, 4 June 2009

James McQuillan Loses The Apprentice Endgame - A Knight Is No Competition Against 4 Potentially Queenable Non-connected Passed Pawns

James McQuillan "The Apprentice Legend" and alleged child chess champion was fired by Sir Allan Sugar last evening after the "trial by job interview" episode. The job interviews were illuminating as it became clear that some of the things written in James' CV were placed there for dramatic effect. I suspect the child chess champion assertion may have also been inserted with an element of hyperbole. For those of you who haven't seen James in action - here are some youtube clips.

Related Posts:
ALCHEssMIST - Alan Sugar Chess - James McQuillan "Owns" Alan Sugar
ALCHEssMIST - The Apprentice 5 - James McQuillan - Really A Child Chess Champion?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

News Watch - Passing Exams Could Be Child's Play For Boys

Chess in the Park (New York City)
[Flickr Creative Commons, photo by dlkinney]

Poor performance amongst boys at school is a real problem. This article, from The Independent newspaper (3rd June 2009), reports recent research that encouraging boys to be involved with games and sports has a positive impact on their academic performance. Chess was one of the activities shown to have been beneficial.
Study claims schoolchildren who play sport are more likely to succeed in the classroom.
By Richard Garner, Education Editor

Leading academics and policymakers have pondered long and hard about the problem of how to overcome the poor performance of boys at school.

Now it seems, according to new research published today, the answer may be quite simple – just get them to play more games and the exam passes could take care of themselves.

Continued here ...

Political Chess - Obama Chess Metaphor Update

Barack Obama
[Flickr, Creative Commons license]

Since my last Obama chess posting (here) there have been a number new Obama chess metaphor articles, including:
Related Posts:
Political Chess - Obama's Chess Presidency - Strategy Over Tactics
Political Chess - Barack Obama (Chess) vrs Hillary Clinton (Checkers)