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Subject: Re: What is Botvinnik's legacy to computer chess?

Author: Amir Ban

Date: 14:22:12 02/20/00

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On February 20, 2000 at 14:49:58, Christophe Theron wrote:

>On February 20, 2000 at 10:01:46, blass uri wrote:
>>On February 20, 2000 at 02:35:02, Bruce Moreland wrote:
>>>On February 20, 2000 at 02:25:32, Eelco de Groot wrote:
>>>>Botvinnik worked for many years on his program Pioneer but had very poor
>>>>hardware available to him in the USSR. It could solve some very difficult
>>>>positions from Botwinnik's games but never reached the stage where it could play
>>>>whole games as far as I know.
>>>The essence of intelligence is generalization, and the ability to generalize,
>>>however poorly, is built into any chess program very early on.  Anyone can
>>>create a program in under 24 hours that plays a complete game.
>>I do not think that anyone can create a program in under 24 hours that plays a
>>complete game of chess even if the task is only to choose a random move.
>In 1987 I write the first version of my chess program for PC in one weekend. It
>began to play games only a few hours after I started to work.
>Of course I already had the experience of writting a chess program, but this one
>was completely different from the one I had written before. Not the same
>computer, not the same programming language, not the same basic data structures,
>everything was different.
>I think any experienced programmer, or even student, can create a chess program
>in a very short time, and a program that can play reasonnable beginner's moves.
>It actually happens all the time. Creating a chess program is a rather common
>project in the universities. A smart student can read some thesis about the
>subject and quickly write his own program.
>>Maybe you are right about professional programmers but
>>there are many people who do not know to create computer programs and many
>>people are going to fail in the task of creating a chess program that play chess
>>in under 24 hours even if they know something about programs but did only some
>>simple programs of not more than some hundreds of lines.
>Probably it's a difficult task for many people, but still it's doable and has
>been done already by non-professionals.
>    Christophe

You guys must be terribly bright. Well, actually, of course you are, but I have
no idea what you are talking about.

Writing a chess program from scratch in 24 hours or even a week doesn't make the
slightest sense to me.

I think if I lost all my sources and had to recode my program based on memory it
would probably take me about 2 weeks to come up with a simplified but working

I would need to build the basic data structures, code the move generation
functions, code makemove and unmakemove, try to remember how this alphabeta
worked and where I need to change the signs, work on the quiescence search,
patch some simplified evaluation function (no hope of remembering even 10% of
the real thing) and think out its internal data structures. Then work on game
control structures, identify the terminal positions, do input & move parsing,
and do some move and board display. Did I forget anything essential ? Probably,
but I'll find this later when I start compiling and debugging, which will
probably take a long time because I coded in a hurry.

I expect the result to look quite unprofessional and to play rather weakly after
only two weeks. If you want some fancy features like a working transposition
table and an opening book, you'll have to give me an extra week.

And all this is just to recode something that I already have and know well. If
someone is merely a bright programmer but has to think out all these issues as
he goes, how much do you expect this to take ? I think writing a chess program
from scratch is certainly more than a student semester project, which takes a
semester. I manage programmers on a daily basis, and I need to have a feeling
for how long tasks will take them. I would not assign even my best programmer to
write a working chess program in less than 3 months, and even that seems a bit

What am I missing ?


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