Poole versus HAL 9000

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Animation of the Roesch vs. Schlage game

Poole vs. HAL 9000 is a chess game depicted in the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Astronaut Frank Poole (White) plays the supercomputer HAL 9000 (Black) using a video screen as a chessboard. Each player takes turns during a game in progress, making their moves orally using descriptive notation and natural language. Poole resigns the game once HAL indicates a certain path to checkmate; however, the move which HAL suggests Frank might make is not forced. Stanley Kubrick, director of 2001, was an avid chess player.

The game is shown continuously and legibly for several seconds in a single shot. The board positions and moves made are identical with the conclusion of a real game: Roesch vs. Willi Schlage, Hamburg 1910, which was reported in a 1955 collection of short games by Irving Chernev.[1] Chess writers have therefore attributed the fictional game fragment to the real one, equating the two and suggesting that the former derived from the latter.

The fictional game played between Poole and HAL has been noted as a prescient illustration of artificial intelligence and computer chess, fields which developed more rapidly following the release of 2001. Chess writers have also speculated HAL's misuse of descriptive notation during the game as foreshadowing of his later malfunctioning.

The game[edit]

According to chess writers, the game depicted in the film is based on a tournament game played between Roesch and Willi Schlage in Hamburg, 1910.[2][3]

White: A. Roesch   Black: W. Schlage   Opening: Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defence, Wormald Attack (ECO C77)[4][5]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. c3 0-0 8. 0-0 d5

The opening is a variation of the Ruy Lopez, followed by a pawn sacrifice by Black.

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

At 12.Qxa8?, White commits a blunder by capturing Black's rook using an undefended queen, simultaneously abandoning the defense of his own king. There is widespread agreement among commentators that White's best move at this point is 12.d4!,[2][3][6][7] a move which, if played, would have solidified control of the center, attacked both black knights, and opened up the development of White's queenside flank. Black responded with 12...Qd3!, however, halting the latter.
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
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
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Position before 14.Qxa6

12... Qd3! 13. Bd1 Bh3! (diagram)

Black capitalizes on White's mistake on move 12. The film shows the game from the position illustrated, with Poole (White) contemplating his 14th move.

14. Qxa6?

Spoken by Poole as "queen takes pawn", White abandons the long diagonal and slips 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

Threatening 16...Nh3#. After Poole's "rook to king one", HAL says: "I'm sorry Frank, I think you missed it: queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop, mate." HAL gave Black's queen move from White's perspective, although in descriptive notation it should be given from Black's perspective as "queen to bishop six". While HAL describes a checkmate in two moves, Poole could forestall mate two extra moves; for example: 16.Qc8 Rxc8 17.h3 Nxh3+ 18.Kh2 Ng4#.[8]

0–1

Poole resigns without questioning HAL's analysis: "Yeah, looks like you're right. I resign."
abcdefgh
8
Chessboard480.svg
f8 black rook
g8 black king
c7 black pawn
e7 black bishop
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a6 white queen
b5 black pawn
e5 black knight
f4 black knight
c3 white pawn
f3 black queen
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 black bishop
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white bishop
e1 white rook
g1 white king
8
77
66
55
44
33
22
11
abcdefgh
Final position after 15...Qf3
HAL, after Poole's resignation:
"Thank you for a very enjoyable game."

Arthur C. Clarke's novelization of 2001 also indicated that the astronauts could pass the time by playing various board games with HAL, though no specific game (whether chess or otherwise) was depicted. Unlike the film, Clarke's treatment stated that HAL won only half of games played.

For relaxation he (Dave Bowman) could always engage Hal in a large number of semimathematical games, including checkers, chess, and polyominoes. If Hal went all out, he could win any one of them; but that would be bad for morale. So he had been programmed to win only fifty percent of the time, and his human partners pretended not to know this.

— 2001, p. 100.[9]

Unlike Kubrick, Clarke had no particular interest in chess and said that if he did, 2001 would not have been made as the two "would have just played chess".[10] Consonant with Clarke's passing mention of polyominoes, a game involving pentominoes was shot and considered for use in the film, but ultimately passed over[11] in favor of the chess game, which Kubrick felt would be more familiar to audiences.[12] Parker Brothers had planned a corresponding board game as a tie-in to the film, which was released as Universe in 1967; the cover art on the box included a still from the unused cut.[13]

Interpretation[edit]

Murray Campbell, a member of the team that developed the chess computer Deep Blue, contributed an article to a book exploring the scientific and cultural implications of the HAL character.[6] Campbell argued that HAL's style of play was more "human" than that of Deep Blue's, in the sense that HAL (Schlage) chose a "nonoptimal" move at 9... Nxd5, which nevertheless stymied his human opponent. In contrast, the real computer Deep Blue used "inhuman" brute-force searching and minimax optimization to always seek the best available move. The book's publication was concurrent with Deep Blue's two matches against the Russian grandmaster (GM) Garry Kasparov in 1996 and 1997; the human player won the first match, while the computer won the latter.

Tim Krabbé criticized the choice of Roesch–Schlage by way of its aesthetics, calling it "a plain game"; he likewise suggested that the choice of the game implicated Kubrick's own acumen as a player, as well as that of its fictional characters. According to Krabbé, the aesthetic consideration and the simple endgame variation announced by HAL (but not actually played) might explain the character's misuse of descriptive notation when announcing the queen's movement: "A player who would be impressed by that Queen's sacrifice, might be weak enough to make a mistake in its descriptive notation."[14]

Kotelnikov vs. Geller, 1979[edit]

Game animation

During the Soviet Union's 1979 Spartakiad, a game very similar to Roesch–Schlage was played between Evgeny Kotelnikov and the Soviet GM Yefim Geller.[15][16] In both cases a noted player (Black) forced the resignation of an otherwise-unknown (White) in a short game, prior to checkmate; however, none of the board positions shown in 2001 occurred in the later game. American GM Andrew Soltis reproduced Kotelnikov–Geller alongside Roesch–Schlage in one of his books, to illustrate a variation on the Roesch–Schlage game.[2]

White: E. Kotelnikov   Black: Y. Geller   Opening: Ruy Lopez, Worrall Attack, Sharp Line (ECO C86)[17]

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

The Kotelnikov–Geller game opened identically to Roesch–Schlage, with the same moves made through Black's fourth move.

5. 0-0 Be7 6. Qe2 b5 7. Bb3 0-0 8. c3

From move 5 through move 8, seven turns were taken, though no material was captured. Kotelnikov and Geller each made the same moves as Roesch and Schlage, though in different orders, thus permuting them with the result that no board positions were identical in this section between the two games, except when Kotelnikov played 8.c3, at which point the two games' positions again coincided. The game's play during this phase thus transposed to the corresponding position in the Roesch–Schlage game.

8... d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nf4! 11. Qe4 Nxe5 12. Qxa8?

Beginning with 8...d5, play again proceeded identically with Roesch–Schlage through move 12, with matching board positions throughout.

12... Ne2+ 13. Kh1 Qd3 14. Re1 Ng4 15. Qf3 Qd6 16. g3 Nxf2+ 17. Kg2 Bg4!

The two games permanently diverged when Geller instead played 12...Ne2+; in Roesch–Schlage, a black knight never occupied the square.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chernev, Irving (1955). The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess. Simon and Schuster. pp. 148–149, game No. 322. ISBN 9710851330.
  2. ^ a b c Soltis, Andrew (2017). 365 Chess Master Lessons: Take One a Day to be a Better Chess Player. Batsford. p. 170. ISBN 9781849944342.
  3. ^ a b Evans, Larry (March 24, 1996). "Smart "2001" Computer Didn't Talk the Talk". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
  4. ^ "Roesch vs. Willi Schlage, Hamburg 1910". Chessgames.com.
  5. ^ "C77". chessopenings.com.
  6. ^ a b Campbell, Murray (1996). ""An Enjoyable Game": How HAL Plays Chess". In Stork, David G. (ed.). HAL's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality (PDF). ISBN 9780262193788.
  7. ^ Matanović, Aleksandar, ed. (1981), Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings, vol. C (2nd ed.), Yugoslavia: Chess Informant, p. 412, n. 81, 12.d4 Bb7 13.Qxf4 (13.Qxb7 Ne2+ 14.Kh1 Nxc1 15.Rxc1 Nd3 16.Rf1 c5 =/∞) 13...Nd3 14.Qf5 Nxc1 15.Rxc1 g6 16.Qg4 Bg5 17.Rd1 +/=
  8. ^ Wall, Bill (22 June 2007). "2001: A Chess Space Odyssey". Chess.com. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  9. ^ Clarke, Arthur C. (1968). 2001: a Space Odyssey. ROC (Penguin). p. 100. ISBN 9780451452733.
  10. ^ Wall, Bill. "Stanley Kubrick and Chess". Bill Wall's Chess Page.
  11. ^ "How Kubrick Made 2001: A Space Odyssey - Part 4: Jupiter Mission [A]". youtube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15.
  12. ^ Campbell, .pdf p. 4.
  13. ^ "Universe". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  14. ^ Krabbé, Tim (1999). "Willi Schlage". The only unknown to become immortal twice.
  15. ^ "Kotelnikov, Evgeny vs. Geller, Efim". 365chess.com.
  16. ^ "Kotelnikov vs. Efim Geller". Chessgames.com.
  17. ^ "C86". chessopenings.com.