Friday, 9 February 2007

From Fidelity to Fritz

Computer programs have come a long way since I first played with my 'Fidelity Chess Challenger 7' machine (pictured) when I was a boy in the 1980's. Whereas I could hold my own with Fidelity, the current World Chess Champion, Vladimir Kramnik recently lost a match against 'Deep Fritz' by a score of 4-2.

There are two main reasons for this dramatic improvement. The first is simple - speed. The version of Fritz that defeated Kramnik can calculate up to 10 million positions a second. The second is more subtle. Programmers are continually improving their machines so that they 'understand' chess better by evaluating positions more effectively.

The fact that a piece of chess software costing under £40 and running on a standard home PC can play as well as, if not better than a Grandmaster has led some commentators to predict the end of chess as we currently know it. However, I think the reality is quite different.

The advent of powerful chess computers and the proliferation of internet chess sites like the Internet Chess Club has created an upsurge in interest in the game. This has also been helped by the fact that chess is starting to shed it's nerdy image, helped in part by the increasingly high profile of some female players such as Judit Polgar, Susan Polgar and Alexandra Kosteniuk.

I still feel nostalgic for my old Fidelity machine from time to time and I suppose the clip below (using real sound samples from a Fidelity Chess Computer!) is a tribute of sorts! Enjoy!

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