19 June 2016

Botvinnik's Pioneer

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price we sometimes see signed manuscripts and we sometimes see chess computers, but we've never seen a signed manuscript about a chess computer. The item shown below (pages 1 & 5) was titled 'Botvinnik's Manuscript: About new working algorithm of the chess "Pioneer", 1988'. It sold for US $400 after a single bid.

That's Botvinnik's signature in the lower right corner of the last page. The description added little information.

The manuscript is dedicated to the creation of the "Pioneer" chess program. Five pages.

The page Pioneer (chessprogramming.wikispaces.com) informs,

Pioneer was a Soviet Artificial Intelligence project headed by Mikhail Botvinnik with the aim to develop a chess program to model a chess master's mind, also used as general purpose planning tool to solve economical problems in the Soviet Union. [...] The name Pioneer was chosen in 1977, when the program was invited to play the WCCC 1977 in Toronto. However, Pioneer was never completed in a way that it could play a game of chess in public under tournament conditions.

The page also mentions,

Controversy: Botvinnik published abilities of Pioneer and its successor CC Sapiens on selected positions, but they never played a complete game of chess in public. For his publication Three Positions, Botvinnik was heavily criticized by Hans Berliner and his old chess rival David Bronstein.

Could this manuscript change the public perception of Botvinnik's Pioneer? Given that the project was terminated in 1990, I doubt it.

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