Computer Chess Club Archives




Subject: Why use opening books in machine-machine competitions?

Author: Mig Greengard

Date: 23:59:12 11/24/03

Having debated both sides of the issue in regard to man-machine play, I'm left
wondering why opening books are used in computer-only competitions. It's one
thing to say that a Kasparov has his own mental book and preparation so the
computer should too. But what is the point of proving you can hire a better book
preparer and where is the programming glory of winning on a cooked opening line
whether by design or by chance against another machine?

Doesn't it make sense to just dump the books and start letting these things play
the opening on their own? Or if that's too dramatic and/or ugly, to play
Nunn-style matches with balloted openings? Otherwise it seems to me that you
just try to cover up the weaknesses of your program by tweaking the book to
avoid the positions it doesn't handle. And that should be contrary to the goal
of making a good chessplaying machine. Have their been significant projects
without books? Or with computer-only generated and tuned books?

I don't doubt this has been touched on often here but I didn't find much in the
way of good answers to this in the archives. Is the continued use of opening
books just sheer inertia, the quest to play better chess or more human chess, or
are there other reasons? Too hard to regulate the definition of "book"? It's
obvious that books are becoming more and more important and the teams are
investing more work (and money) into them to be successful in computer-computer
play. This all seems like a massive wrong turn or at best a distraction.

One of the many suggestions for the next man-machine match is to let the human
access a his own database, perhaps a limited number of times. That way it's not
just a battle of human memory versus a specially prepared book with three
million positions entered by humans. If and when that happens, the book
advantage will be back on the human side. So it seems to me that the computer
folks (i.e. you guys) could head that plan off by curtailing the use of books or
eliminating. Instead you are increasingly dependent on them, particularly
against humans.

But that's another thread and I'd love to hear some answers on why books are
still used in computer-computer play. I may quote you for an article, so shout
out if you don't wish your name to be used for whatever reason. Thanks, Mig

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