07 February 2017

That 'History-Making Tournament'

Continuing with February 1967 'On the Cover', I quoted the start of 'A History-Making Tournament! ... an electronic computer played chess against human beings under regular tournament conditions', a non-cover story from the February 1967 Chess Life (CL). I ended with:-

The story continued with 'a report sent in by Benjamin Landey'. The chess playing computer was named MacHack VI.

Here's the rest of that CL report:-

The following is an excerpt from a report sent in by Benjamin Landey, well-known New England chess organiser, and Tournament Director for this event.

"Aside from all the fun we had, and the joshing, the entry (of the computer) was part of serious scientific research.

"Technical advice (about chess, not computers) in the programming was given by Larry Kaufman, Baisley, and Wagner, all highly rated and all MIT students. Kaufman is an undergraduate. (Editor's note: He Is also the winner of the recent American Open at Santa Monica. See the December CL [and December 1966 'On the Cover'.])

"The present programming makes of the computer a beginner. However, partly as a result of the experience in this tournament, the program will be improved.

"MacHack VI (the computer's name) played all five rounds and ended up with a game score of 1/2 - 4 1/2. It was able to pull off a couple of pretty combinations but is very weak in the endgame.

"The chess program was written by Richard Greenblatt of MIT'S Project Mac for the PDP-6 computer. It is hoped that it can play regularly in tournaments so that its strength can be more accurately compared to that of human beings.

"MacHack VI's current rating is a provisional 1239 (Class D). The computer's play is extremely erratic; witness the following games:

The report continued with a couple of games that I recorded while playing through them:-

[Event "Massachusetts Amateur Championship"]
[Site "Boston MA"]
[Date "1967.01.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Wagner, Carl"]
[Black "MacHack VI"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.g3 e5 2.Nf3 e4 3.Nd4 Bc5 4.Nb3 Bb6 5.Bg2 Nf6 6.c4 d6 7.Nc3 Be6 8.d3 exd3 9.Bxb7 Nbd7 10.exd3 Rb8 11.Bg2 O-O 12.O-O Bg4 13.Qc2 Re8 14.d4 c5 15.Be3 cxd4 16.Nxd4 Ne5 17.h3 Bd7 18.b3 Bc5 19.Rad1 Qc8 20.Kh2 Ng6 21.Bg5 Re5 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.Ne4 f5 24.Nf6+ Kg7 25.Nxd7 Qxd7 26.Nc6 Rbe8 27.Nxe5 Rxe5 28.Qc3 f6 29.Rd3 Re2 30.Rd2 Rxd2 31.Qxd2 Ne5 32.Rd1 Qc7 33.Bd5 Kg6 34.b4 Bb6 35.Qc2 Nc6 36.Be6 Nd4 37.Rxd4 Bxd4 38.Qxf5+ Kg7 39.Qg4+ Kh6 40.Qxd4 Qe7 41.Qh4+ Kg6 42.Bf5+ Kg7 43.Qxh7+ Kf8 44.Qh8+ Kf7 45.Qa8 Qc7 46.Qd5+ Kg7 47.Kg2 Qe7 48.h4 Kh6 49.g4 Kg7 50.h5 Qe2 51.h6+ Kf8 52.h7 Qxf2+ 53.Kxf2 Ke7 54.h8=Q a6 55.Qe6# 1-0

[Event "Massachusetts Amateur Championship"]
[Site "Boston MA"]
[Date "1967.01.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Conroy"]
[Black "MacHack VI"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Qf3 Qd5 9.Qxd5 Nxd5 10.Be2 Bf5 11.d3 Bb4+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ 13.Nxd2 O-O 14.a3 f6 15.Ngf3 Rab8 16.b4 Nb7 17.O-O Nc3 18.Rfe1 Nxe2+ 19.Rxe2 Nd6 20.Ne4 Nxe4 21.dxe4 Be6 22.Rd1 Bc4 23.Red2 Rb7 24.Rd8 Rxd8 25.Rxd8+ Kf7 26.Nh4 g5 27.Nf5 Rc7 28.g4 Kg6 29.Rd6 Be2 30.Rd8 Bxg4 31.Rg8+ Kh5 32.Ng7+ Kh6 33.Nf5+ Kh5 34.Ng7+ Kh6 1/2-1/2

The USCF rating list in the December 1966 CL listed MacHack's opponents as:-

  • 'Wagner C. (N.J.) 2163', and
  • 'Conroy, J. (Mass.) 1365'

The tournament (30 players) was rated for the June 1967 CL rating supplement, where we find:-

  • 'MacHack V. (Mass.) 1338*'

Later in the year we find:-

  • 'MacHack VI (Mass.) 1493*'

The asterix after a rating meant a provisional rating based on 10-24 games ('less reliable than established ratings').

The same two games, although identified incompletely, can be found on Chessgames.com under Greenblatt (Computer), 'born 1966'; 'Number of games in database: 7; Years covered: 1967 to 1977'. Another of the seven games is in the September 1967 CL, along with a game fragment showing a nice combination by the machine. The three games from 1977 are attributed to Bobby Fischer.

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