Poole versus HAL 9000

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HAL, after Poole's resignation:
"Thank you for a very enjoyable game."

Poole versus HAL 9000 is a fictional chess game in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the movie, the astronaut Dr. Frank Poole is seen playing chess with the HAL 9000 supercomputer. As HAL is supposed to be infallible, no one is surprised when HAL soundly defeats Poole (though the novel mentions that HAL is programmed to win only 50% of the time in order for there to be some point in the astronauts ever playing).

The director Stanley Kubrick was a passionate chess player, so unlike many chess scenes shown in other films, the position and analysis make sense. The actual game seems to come from the tournament game between A. Roesch and W. Schlage, Hamburg 1910.[1]

The game[edit]

White: A. Roesch   Black: W. Schlage   Opening: Ruy Lopez (ECO C86)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2

The opening is the Ruy Lopez, Worrall Attack.

5... b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. c3 0-0 8. 0-0 d5

This move is a pawn sacrifice. If White accepts it, Black's pieces can occupy active positions.

9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nf4 11. Qe4 Nxe5 12. Qxa8?

This move deflects the queen, allowing Black to mount a kingside attack. Better was 12.d4, leading to a small plus for White after 12...Bb7 13.Qxf4 (13.Qxb7 Ne2+ 14.Kh1 Nxc1 15.Rxc1 Nd3 16.Rf1 c5 gives Black compensation) Nd3 14.Qf5 Nxc1 15.Rxc1 g6 16.Qg4 Bg5 17.Rd1.[2]
Roesch (Poole) vs.
(HAL 9000)
a b c d e f g h
a8 white queen
f8 black rook
g8 black king
c7 black pawn
e7 black bishop
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a6 black pawn
b5 black pawn
e5 black knight
f4 black knight
c3 white pawn
d3 black queen
h3 black bishop
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white bishop
f1 white rook
g1 white king
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position before 14.Qxa6, where the movie picks up the game

12... Qd3!

Threatening 13...Ne2+ 14.Kh1 Ng3+ with checkmate to follow.

13. Bd1 Bh3!

Black also has 13...Bg4, winning a piece after 14.Qb7 Bxd1 15.Rxd1 Ne2+ 16.Kh1 Ng4 17.Qf3 Qxf3 18.gxf3 Nxf2+; or 13...Nh3+, winning the queen after 14.gxh3 Bxh3 with the dual threat of Qxf1# and Rxa8. The movie picks up the game here (see diagram).

14. Qxa6?

White abandons the long diagonal and moves into a forced checkmate. Even after 14.Qb7 c6 15.Qxe7 Bxg2 16.Re1 Nf3+ 17.Bxf3 Qxf3, mate is not far off.

14... Bxg2 15. Re1 Qf3

Here HAL says: "I'm sorry Frank, I think you missed it: queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop, mate." But HAL's description of the queen move is not technically accurate—the move is correctly described in the descriptive chess notation as "queen to bishop six". Also, while HAL describes a forced checkmate in two moves, it is actually a checkmate in four; Poole could delay mate by playing 16.Qc8 Rxc8 17.h3 Nxh3+ 18.Kh2 Ng4#.[3]


Poole resigns without questioning HAL's analysis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roesch vs Willi Schlage, Hamburg 1910, DSB-Congress, Hauptturnier-B, Ruy Lopez, Worrall Attack (C86) 0–1 at Chessgames.com
  2. ^ Matanović, Aleksandar, ed. (1981), Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings C (2nd ed.), Yugoslavia: Chess Informant, p. 412, n. 81 
  3. ^ Wall, Bill (22 June 2007). "2001: A Chess Space Odyssey". Chess.com. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 

External links[edit]