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History of Computer Chess

Dietrich Prinz wrote the chess playing program for a general purpose computer

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Computer Chess

Computer Chess - World Chess champion Vladimir Kramnik poses in front of a computer monitor promoting the 'Man v Machine' chess match, where Kramnik takes on the World''s most powerful chess computer, Deep Fritz in Bahrain in 2001.

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Doctor Dietrich Prinz wrote the original chess playing program for a general purpose computer (the Manchester Ferranti). The program first ran in November 1951. Prinz was the head of programming at Ferranti, the company that designed and built the groundbreaking Mark I, Mark II, the Ferranti Mark computers, for the University of Manchester.

The first person to ever challenge a computer to a game of chess was Dietrich Prinz - he was the first person to ever play computer chess.

Previously, special purpose machines designed only for playing chess had been invented. Dietrich Prinz was familiar with the chess-playing machine built by Torres y Quevedo. Prinz decided to work on the programming necessary to make a regular computer play chess.

The first checker-playing program was written by Christopher Strachey. It ran on the Ferranti Mark I in the Manchester Computing Machine Laboratory and was completed in 1952. Strachey was able to program an entire game of checkers, checkers being a much simpler game compared to chess.

Dietrich Prinz

Dietrich Prinz was born on 29 March, 1903. He was educated at Berlin University, where his teachers included Planck and Einstein, and graduated with a Ph.D. in Philosophy. He left Germany in 1935 and settled in England.

Prinz started working at Ferranti Ltd in 1947, and became involved in the firm's work with the Manchester Mark series of computers. Prinz was head of programming, alongside Vivian Bowden, and worked on the Manchester Mark I and the early Ferranti-Mark computers.

Belle, Deep Thought

In 1957, a full-fledged chess program was written by Bernstein for an IBM 704 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1983, a chess program called Belle, designed at AT&T's Bell Laboratories, became the first to reach the U.S. master level of playing ability. In 1988, an IBM-designed program called Deep Thought, defeated one grand master and tied another.

  • Programming a Computer to Play Chess
    Claude E. Shannon's 1949 Bell Labs report on just how a computer might play chess. This is the original history paper that started it all.
  • Computer Chess
    Resources for playing and programming computer chess.
  • Deep Blue Chess Master
    Deep Blue is at heart a massively parallel, RS/6000 SP-based computer system that was designed to play chess at the grandmaster level.
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