While browsing YouTube videos late one evening a few months ago, I happened upon a presentation about the Google Alpha Zero project. If you’ve not heard of it, its a Google artificial intelligence project investigating machine learning techniques, and used chess as an example. Cutting a long story short, the system learned to play chess from scratch in four hours to a standard higher than any computer chess program in existence. Various grandmasters analysing its games were kind of terrified by what they saw it appeared to understand positional ideas that took us decades to discover, and essentially played like a human.
I got sucked into watching a series of chess videos over the coming days and weeks, and ended up tripping over a quite wonderful website called lichess allowing people to play each other on the internet for free, with no advertising. Its years since I last played chess properly, so I started out hilariously badly and I also recognised that I only typically get the chance to play late at night when I’m tired, and making mistakes.
Here’s the thing though I’ve kept at it, and have discovered that I really don’t mind losing at all its become more about playing the game. When I was younger I hated losing at games but now I appear to just enjoy playing win or lose. Maybe this is a change children have brought about in me I’m not really sure.
I suppose the reassuring thing about playing real people is that they make mistakes when you play a computer you can of course lower its playing strength, but typically that resorts in entirely fabricated mistakes, which aren’t quite the same as a human either blundering, or just getting into a complete and utter mess.
Ill have you know I’m rather good at getting into complete and utter messes. I’m less good at getting back out of them.