Institute offers public chess challenge to learn more about how we think (Update)

Institute offers chess challenge to public learn more are about how we think
Credit: Penrose Institute

(TechXplore)—A team charged with setting up the new Penrose Institute at Oxford has issued a challenge to the general public—overcome a chess challenge printed in the Telegraph and send a note describing how you did it. The challenge, the team at Penrose told the press, was part of a process aimed at learning more about the different ways humans think as compared to how computers arrive at answers.

Several years ago, Roger Penrose, the man who shared the World prize with Stephen Hawking, drew a chess problem on a piece of paper—at first glance, it would appear that the player using the black pieces is going to win without a doubt. The white player has only four pawns left to protect the King and nothing else—The black player has 12 pieces left on the board. But, as Penrose noted, it is possible for white not only to draw, but to win, if black makes a blunder.

The purpose of the chess challenge was to show that under some conditions, a human could beat a computer at chess after all, because the configuration he drew up was too complex for a computer to solve—a computer algorithm would simply assume a win for black. This situation and others like it have caused some in the computer and biological sciences to wonder if the human mind might have a that has not been identified—some aspect of our minds that allows us to peer at what looks like an unsurmountable chess configuration and somehow spot the means by which a draw could be forced.

To learn more about such a possible quantum effect, the researchers are looking for help from the general public—they want any and all comers to take a crack at overcoming the challenge and then to write down what happened in their heads as the moment of inspiration struck. They note also that the chess challenge is just the first of a series of puzzles to be published with requests for public assistance. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make computers "smarter" by learning more about how our own brains work, and then mimicking that ability in a machine.


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Mar 15, 2017
Hawking never won, nor shared, a Nobel Prize. Neither has Penrose.

Mar 15, 2017
Neither Hawking or Penrose ever won a nobel prize you fucking retards. Techxplore, maybe do some research before talking out of your asses.

Mar 15, 2017
The draw is pretty obvious and I haven't played since I was a kid. Black cant move anything except his bishops so long as white only moves his king - and the bishops are unable to take anything at all.

I could well be missing something on the win challenge but expecting black to make a blunder here is pretty unlikely. The more likely blunder would be white PxR.

This position is so simple I really doubt a computer would have a problem with it.

Mar 15, 2017
Following the link, it looks like the position was drawn with crayons. Is this a joke?

Mar 15, 2017
This is stupid. The position is obviously drawn, you can see that at a glance. The only black pieces that can move are the bishops, all white needs to do is move the king around on the white squares forever, and the game can never end. I doubt any chess program would see this as a win for black.

Mar 16, 2017
I'm not sure any of the above posters really thought about this very hard at all.
I think what they meant was a STALEMATE or a WIN. Of course the DRAW is obvious, it's the DEFAULT outcome if white only moves the king, which of course after so many moves with no outcome, it is declared a draw. BUT a STALEMATE is different. Getting your King caught so it is NOT in check, but cannot move is the next best thing to winning, and far better than a draw. But HOW is that done? For a stalemate to be legit, ALL OTHER MOVES have to have been exhausted first, meaning white HAS to move those pawns (that can) and get taken. Doing so frees the black queen, which quickly puts an end to the stalemate hope. THIS is where the puzzle is. You have to move your king into position, then force blacks hand by moving your pawns, one of which can place blacks king in check. The puzzle is far more complex than it first appears.

Mar 16, 2017
The three black bishops prove to be a right pain, as two bishops can always provide cover for one another. Whites pawn near the top of the board is another trigger to force blacks hand. If it reaches the end of the board it can be promoted. Of course black knows this, and will keep this covered by TWO bishops at all times (most times, so watch if an opportunity arises ;-) ). Another thing to take into account is blacks king. The white king needs to stay one square away from it. The black king poses a threat when trying to advance the pawn to promotion, as that pawn requires cover by the white king. Truly FASCINATING puzzle.
Have fun people. Go On. TRY IT!!!!

Mar 16, 2017
The terms of the puzzle don't say "stalemate". The proposition is a "draw". Furthermore the claim is that a computer program would see this as a win for black. So you're just wrong about that. I believe you that a stalemate is possible, but a computer would certainly see that.

Mar 16, 2017
@Bart, so if you are correct then the logic is that, because white CAN move pieces other than the King, IT WILL, which results in high probability of loss. So a human can see this, and therefore only moves the king around on WHITE squares only (to avoid three black bishops riding black diagonals), but a computer some how CANNOT see this?? The AI isn't capable of extrapolating whites moves to predict failure from all moves other than moving the king? The AI cannot see that the bishops are all on black squares, so the king is safe on white? Perhaps chess AI doesn't even consider DRAWS as an acceptable outcome?

To me by default, black CANNOT WIN unless white attempts a Stalemate or a Win. Is this what the computer cannot see, but humans can?

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