Our Chess Spin-Off & An Education About Chess by Cullen Sander and Maxim Sindall
Chess is a staple of the board game family. Everyone knows it, and most know how to play it. It seems like something that has always been around, and has always been the fun indicator of wit and strategic thinking. What is the real story of chess though? How did it come to be, what makes it special, why is it so popular, and what has it become today? The answers to these questions will show us what makes chess the renowned beautiful game it is considered today, and lead us on the path to creating our own board game.
Although it is impossible to say with complete certainty, many researchers agree that the Gupta Empire in India is likely the birthplace of chess. Around 1,500 years ago, there were several developing games throughout Southwest Asia that were similar to chess. However, a game called Chaturanga, created in the Gupta Empire, was most parallel to chess today. Another argument for India being the source of the game is the Silk Road. Based on the distribution of the game and discovered written accounts, researchers believe that the game must have sprouted from some point in India. Without the Silk Road, the game could have eventually died off as it would not have been spread along with goods across the world. “The importance of the Silk Road for spreading the game is indisputable,” (Remus).
It is important to note the plot of the game as well when debating its origin. The game may seem extremely medieval to a westerner, because the set up and value of pieces easily resembles the hierarchy of a European kingdom. There is a simple reason for this however, full chess globalization came when it is was acquired from Western Asia by the British Empire. This means that much of the plot behind chess was shifted into a European-Medieval light, when in reality India had the same conditions and hierarchies in place to develop the game first. Many people believe chess came from Europe simply because there are knights, kings, and queens, but really the game has no distinction to make it European.
Chess has only 6 pieces, each with unique movements. Other than that, only a few rules and one objective: Trap the enemy King in a position it can’t escape. That’s it. Perhaps the most famous game of all time and all the rules could fit on a single post-it note. Even still, after just four total moves, there are 8,902 different possible board layouts. This is one of the most admirable features of the game, simplistic yet complex. For a player to respond with a brilliant move repeatedly, it takes a remarkable level of adaptability. Every complex game of skill in the world has elites, chess is no exception. However, it is the simple rules and mechanics of chess that make the skill of the greatest that much more impressive.
Chess is unique in nature. The concept, so different from other games, is that nothing is hidden. It is an absolute shoot out of intelligence, psychology, and risk assessment as nothing is left to chance and both players start with equal ability to win. Also, the individual pieces are unique in a way that allows mastery. In chess scoring, knights may be worth less than bishops, but if they are used correctly they can be twice as powerful. Each player is given the ability to develop their individual tactics and strengths, eventually forming a mental playbook that gives them the depth they need. Above all, chess is a special game because it allows people to have friendly competitions, showing of their wit in a way that, hopefully, doesn’t come off too boastful.
Though the modern form of chess only began to become popular in the 19th century. It became popular through the competitiveness seen by chess enthusiasts. Due to this, many books, journals, and articles discussed about the game. In 1851, the first chess tournament took place, taking chess from a small family game to the international status seen today. As popularity shot through the roof, The World Chess Federation was created to officially make it an international sport that could be played worldwide.
Arguably, the golden age of chess was in the late 20th century. Global broadcasts and rapidly advancing technology pushed chess into the interest of millions. In 1972, New York’s Channel 13 was engulfed by callers complaining about their programing. This was due to the World Chess Championship Game being cut off by a Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington. Grandmaster is a title that denotes the highest level of chess knowledge someone could obtain. One of them, Bobby Fischer was so popular to the American public, he was the topic of 218 New York Times Articles. Though since, chess as a sport has lost most of its excitement it once had. This is due to high ranking chess players losing their much famed personalities. At one time chess was like a boxing match. Contenders would criticize, offer demeaning remarks and start psychological wars, which made it interesting to the general public. In conclusion, chess is a truly international game that has been played around the world. Sadly, chess today has lost much of its original popularity.
In 1951 the age of computer and AI chess began. Dietrich Prinz was first to ever create an automated chess program. Due to the lack of computational power the system could only run the “two-mate” problem, which was finding the best move to get you two moves away from a checkmate. Only 7 years later did Alex Bernstein write a fully automated chess playing program. Advancements in this period were racing due to moore’s law (which stated that every 2 years computation power will double). The 1960’s was a unparalleled time for technology and AI. By 1962 MIT students created a program that could beat amateur chess players. By 1967 the original program was revised to a point where it could beat a very good high school player. In the 70’s and 80’s computer technology progressed to a point where it was reaching Grandmaster levels of scores. The biggest advancement seen though was in the early to late 90’s. Deep Blue a computer from IBM single handedly beat the world’s best chess player, Garry Kasparov, in 1997. Kasparov was so stunned he said afterwards “In certain kinds of positions, it sees so deeply that it plays like God.” This was truly the first time in human history that a machine beat the best the human race has to offer.
Today, computer technology has advanced greatly since the 80’s and 90’s. Today Google’s AI, DeepMind, has mastered the game of chess in only 4 hours. It was given the basic instructions of how the pieces move and how to win the game. From there, the computer learned by itself through “reinforcement learning” in less than 4 hours. After that, the computer mastered 2 other board games in the next 24 hours. The human race is just in the beginning of AI technology and this is just the start.
Developing a game to the exact same standards as chess would come up very short. The main problem is the lack of tangibles that the game holds, it is simply rules and pieces. We plan on using the aspects of chess we think are the most useful to our game, but quite plainly, if our game can’t fit something, we will have to leave it out. To be successful in the creation of a board game, it will take a smarter process. This means first writing up the plots, mechanics, and characteristics and then seeing what Chess-esque things exist and what else can be added. Chess is successful off its simplicity and friendliness, so any game we try to base off Chess should include these at the bare minimum.