by Steve Lopez Chess King contributor I’ve been “robot crazy” ever since I first saw Battlebots on TV over a decade ago. It’s still one of my all-time favorite shows, which I view as a sort of “fight club for smart people” competition. I became involved in various virtual robot programming competitions – virtual because my mechanical skills are approximately nil. A variety of online competitions allowed software users to construct virtual robots from a suite of parts, then write a program which allowed the robot to move and fight autonomously, and I was spending long hours pounding the keyboard, smashing keys like a cross between a wild chimpanzee and a mad scientist, writing programs for my virtual monstrosities. It was around this same time that I began to travel to various robotics exhibitions, everything from LEGO Mindstorms to FIRST scholastic competitions. In fact, by the early 2000’s I all but gave up chess for amateur robotics. Yeah, I’m definitely a “robot geek”. So when I heard about the robot chess blitz championship between CHESSka and KUKA Monstr, my tail started a-waggin’. Then I learned that our own Alexandra Kosteniuk’s dad was the creator of CHESSka, and I started bouncing off the walls. Then I saw the video of Game One, and I dang near lost my mind. I yelled for my sons, “Guys! You’ve GOT to see this!!!” The twins came running and the three of us wound up cheering and screaming at the screen as we watched the first game of the first all-robot blitz chess championship:
“They’re punching their own clocks!” “Check it out – they even drop the pieces back in the box!” “Look at CHESSka – it’s almost like it’s disdainful, turning away after every move, like it’s saying, ‘I don’t care what you play’!” And, later: “CHESSka turns away after every move, but still won on time!!!!” “Yeah, you know why? No hesitation — it already knows what it wants to play before it even swings the arm. See? KUKA pauses — CHESSka doesn’t.” “That is so cool!” You’re mileage may vary but, to me, if robot blitz chess isn’t the coolest thing ever, it’s definitely in the top ten. I love this stuff. It was pretty hard for me to learn to program a virtual construct to roll forward and swing a hammer or pickaxe at a moving target – the fact that Alexandra’s dad not only built a machine that can manipulate actual physical objects (small ones, too!) and punch a clock, but also programmed it to play pro-level chess totally blows my mind.
CHESSka vs KUKA Monstr - Game One

CHESSka vs KUKA Monstr - Game One. So cool... (Click the photo to enlarge)

Here’s the first game of the match, fully replayable in your browser, with positional analysis furnished by Houdini 2 Pro running in the Chess King Pro interface. I’ve also added a few of my own comments.

KUKA Monstr – CHESSka

Result: 0-1
Site: Moscow
Date: 2012.05.19
[…] 1.e4 e5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.¤c3 ¤f6 4.¥c4 ¥c5 5.h3 O-O 6.d3 ¤a5 7.¤xe5 +0.007…£e7 +0.04 N
(7…d6 8.¤f3 ¤xc4 9.dxc4 ¥b4 10.¥d2 ¥xc3 11.¥xc3 ¤xe4 12.¥d4 …1-0, Goodman James 1098 – Hopf Lorna 1048 , Mingara 2000 Ch Australia (minor))
8.¥xf7+ +0.048…¦xf7 +0.049.¤xf7 +0.049…£xf7 +0.0410.O-O +0.0010…¤c6 +0.0011.¥e3 +0.0311…¥b4 +0.0312.£f3 +0.0312…¥xc3 +0.1013.bxc3 +0.1013…d6 +0.1014.a3 +0.1014…a5 +0.1615.¥g5 +0. 0815…¤e5 +0.19
(15…¥d7 +0.07 16.£e3 +0.07 16…b6 +0.07 17.f4 +0.07 17…¦f8 +0.11 18.c4 +0.11 18…h6 +0.15 19.¥h4 +0.15)
16.£e3 +0.2516…¥d7 +0.2517.f4 +0.2517…¤c6 +0.2018.d4 +0.2618…¦e8 +0.2719.¥xf6 +0. 2719…£xf6 +0.2620.£d3 +0.2620…£f7 +0.2621.d5 +0.2421…¤e7 +0.2422.c4 +0.2422…£f6 +0.2423.c5 -0.02*
(23.¦ae1 +0.26 23…¤g6 +0.22)
23…¤g6 +0.0024.c6 -0.0824…bxc6 -0.0825.dxc6 -0.0825…¥c8 -0.0826.f5 -0.0826…¤f4 +0.0027.£f3 +0.0027…£d4+ +0.0028.¢h1 +0.0028…¦xe4 +0.0029.£b3+ -0.34
(29.¦ab1 +0.00 29…¥xf5 +0.00)
29…£d5 -0. 4030.£b8 -0.4030…¤xg2 -0.3431.£xc8+ -0.3431…¢f7 -0.4532.£b7 -299.88 (-0.44 32.c4 £xc6)
(I was watching the video at the local game store and one of the guys asked why 32.£xc7+ wasn’t played. It was hard to see (given the orthagonal board view in the video) but after
32…¦e7 “there’s a discovered check (and mate threat) against the White King, which can be avoided at the cost of the Queen:
33.c4 £e4 34.£xe7+ (34.£xa5 ¤e1+ 35.¦f3 £xf3+ 36.¢h2 £g2#) 34…¢xe7 35.¢h2 White reorganizes to avoid the mate threat.
35…¤e3 36.¦g1 White avoids the mate, but his pawns are scattered.)
32…¤e3 -1.31* CHESSka overlooks a mate.
(-156.50 32…¤h4 33.£b3 ¦c4+ 34.¦f3 ¤xf3 35.¦g1 ¤d2+ 36.¦g2 ¤xb3 37.¢g1 £d4+ 38.¢h1 ¦c3 39.¢h2 ¤d2 40.¦g5 £f2+ 41.¦g2 ¤f1+ 42.¢h1 ¦xh3+ 43.¦h2 £xh2#)
33.¦f3 -1.0633…¦e5 +0.00 (-1.06 33…a4 34.c4) 34.£b3 +0.0034…¤c4 +0.0035.£d3 +0.0035…£xc6 +0.0036.¢g1 +0.0036…£c5+ +0.0037.¢h1 +0.0037…¢f6 +0.0038.¦af1 +0.0038…¦e3 +0.0039.¦xe3 +0.0039…¤xe3 +0.0040.¦f3 +0.0040…¤xf5 +0.0041.¢g2 +0.0041…¢g5 +0.0442.£d2+ +0.0042…¢g6 +0.00 White lost on time after 43.¦c3
Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2012, Steven A. Lopez & Chess King. All rights reserved.