It is unusual for Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ to turn his attention away from the deeper mysteries of physics. However, he did so recently when asked to try his hand at producing an infallible chess-playing machine. Announcing the result of his foray, the jovial giant was positively effervescent, reporting success commensurate with his expectations. Helping himself liberally from a jeroboam of his home-made greengage wine, he explained his project to a rapt audience, as follows:
“I applied the same incisive reasoning to this problem as I do to genuine scientific ones, thus grasping quickly where others had erred. They had stuck strictly to chess, failing to widen their scope. I was able to improve upon their efforts by taking in mah-jong, the Japanese pastime of ‘go’ and some aspects of tai-chi and Zen. Superimposing these concepts upon the chess base, for which I used a book entitled ‘A Century of Master Chess’, I soon had the ingredients for a kind of intellectual soup, which I cooked, using a touch of what one might call Joppian inspiration.
“I was told that a computer company had produced a machine known as Deep Blue, which had shown promise by beating the leading human player. However, I have to say I consider that artifact virtually paleolithic, compared with my apparatus which I call Dark Green. For the proving process, I brought to bear my characteristic thoroughness. First, I tested my own strength and was gratified, though hardly surprised, to discover that I had a British Chess Federation (BCF) rating of 390. I understand that this is far higher than any level hitherto recorded.”
After prolonged applause, Jopp went on: “Armed with this knowledge, I pitted myself against my machine in a twenty-game match. I have to report that the outcome was a full score of draws, neither the device nor I ever looking like getting the upper hand. If I, with my phenomenal rating, cannot prevail, nobody else will, including the world champion, whatever his name is. I propose to add a few refinements, but it is already clear that I have succeeded in producing an invincible chess-playing appliance. This is far from being my first coup, but it is one of which I am particularly proud, as it represents a departure from my normal work.”
Disparagement came at once from Jopp’s most virulent attacker, the short, bulbous, pilgarlic ‘Swedish Savant,’ Dr Terps Dunderklap. Emerging from a topless bottomless Sundsvall women’s bowling alley, he grunted his ridicule. “Nothing in this world is perfect,” he said, “but as morons go, Jopp is close enough. This time, he made only two mistakes, which for such a maniac is good going. His first blunder was the book choice, which covers the wrong century, the nineteenth – a period noted for unsound sacrificial play. The second error was Jopp’s confusion of ratings. His score of 390 was on the internationally accepted Elo scale, where the numbers are about ten times those used by the BCF for any given playing strength. An Elo rating of 390 indicates the intellectual level of an amoeba. The reason for the twenty drawn games is that neither the man nor his ludicrous machine is capable of giving checkmate. Decades ago, I played ten games against him, winning all of them by one or other of the two most basic methods, fool’s mate and scholar’s mate. Naturally, the former predominated, as Jopp was always more of a fool than a scholar.”
The professor retorted: “Klaptrap’s memory is as weak as the rest of his mind. The ‘match’ he played was against my brother Ovar, who was an infant and did not even know how to move the pieces, while Dunderhead was twelve years of age. I would compliment him on his genius in chalking up that great victory, but he wouldn’t understand the sarcasm.”
A case for bated breath, it seems. Do we have a solution or just another argument?
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