Chess is one of the oldest and most popular board games in the world, played by millions of people of all ages and backgrounds. Over the years, the game has evolved and strategies have been developed, but one question still remains unanswered: is chess a solved game?
In other words, is it possible to determine the optimal moves for both players in every position, ensuring that the game always ends in a draw, win, or loss for one of the players? The answer is no, and in this article, we’ll explore why.
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With the sophistication and level of technology that has been achieved in society over just the last couple decades and being implemented in chess engines, the top engines like Stockfish and AlphaZero must have been able to solve a board game. Chess must be a solved game by now, right?
Indeed, the pinnacle of world chess champions has been reached and surpassed multiple times, and it will likely continue to be surpassed again. Every era of Chess has had the best player at the time, only to be surpassed by a new world champion of greater skill in the next era.
The term “solving chess” refers to discovering the perfect strategy for playing chess, in which either black or white teams can guarantee a way to always force a victory or a draw, from any position in the game. There have been many statisticians and chess experts who claim that chess simply cannot and will never be solved.
These theories have held true so far, as there have been no complete solutions for chess discovered, for any of the outcomes listed above. However with the rise and exponential nature of AI technology, there’s disagreement within the chess and statistics communities about whether or not chess could actually be solved someday.
With the growing developments of artificial intelligence, many believe that we may one day soon see concrete evidence of the solution to chess. In this article, we will go in depth on what it means to solve chess.
Is Chess Solved?
Chess is currently not a solved game and will never be declared a solved game. Chess will ever be completely solved as it comes down to simply being mathematically impossible to solve.
Why Chess Isn’t Solved
To understand why chess isn’t solved, we need to first understand what it means for a game to be solved. A game is considered solved if there exists a perfect strategy that guarantees a win, loss, or draw for one of the players, regardless of the moves made by the other player. This strategy can be obtained by analyzing all possible moves and their outcomes using mathematical algorithms.
For example, tic-tac-toe is a solved game because it has a limited number of possible moves, and every possible outcome can be calculated using a decision tree. It is possible to determine the optimal moves for both players in every position, ensuring that the game always ends in a draw.
However, chess is a different story.
Too Many Possible Moves
Chess has an enormous number of possible positions and moves, making it impossible to analyze every possible outcome using current technology, even with the Shannon Number. In fact, the number of possible positions in chess is estimated to be around 10^120, which is a number so large that it’s difficult to comprehend.
To put that number into perspective, there are only an estimated 10^80 atoms in the observable universe. If we were to create a computer that could analyze one million positions per second, it would take billions of years to analyze all possible positions in chess. This means that even with the most powerful computers in the world, we are nowhere near being able to solve chess.
But even if we could analyze all possible positions, it’s not clear that we could find a perfect strategy for both players. Chess is a game of imperfect information, meaning that each player does not have complete information about the game state. This is because some pieces are hidden from view, and players can only make educated guesses about their opponent’s plans and intentions.
Moreover, chess is a game of skill, creativity, and intuition. Even with perfect knowledge of the game state and all possible moves, it’s not clear that a player could always make the best move. There are many factors that come into play, such as the psychological state of the players, the time remaining on the clock, and the ability to see patterns and combinations.
Will Chess Ever Be Solved?
With the rise of technology being put into engines and AI, many believe that we may one day soon see concrete evidence of the solution to chess. The number of people who share this sentiment is growing every day.
This is still a hard question though, as there’s no agreement on what constitutes the “solution” to chess. After all, that solution could be anything from a single strategy for either white or black to always achieve a draw, to a database of millions of opening moves that are proven to guarantee victory if the opponent makes any one small mistake.
If you believe in the singularity, the notion that technology’s exponential growth rate will reach an infinite sort of growth where AI can build upon itself for rapid innovation unlike we’ve ever seen before, then it could be possible that chess will one day be solved.
Even the strongest amongst engines go, such as Komodo and Leela Chess Zero, are no where near the ability to solve chess. It simply comes down to mathematics.
Is Chess Theoretically Solvable?
In traditional chess, the perfect strategy for forcing a draw or victory without mistakes is impossible to find. A common belief is that if an instruction was devised that could guarantee a win (in all cases) or draw (in all cases) it would be better than the existing state of the game (the standard version of chess).
Though many who enjoy the competition and creativity that comes with chess hope it is never discovered even if it is theoretically possible, as this could mark the end of the game altogether.
In theory, it cannot be disproved that chess cannot be solved, but there is little evidence that the current computing power today will have any ability to fully solve it.
What Will Happen Once Chess Is Solved?
There is of course a lot of contention on what could happen once chess is actually finally solved. Many people are under the impression that even if a computer is able to solve it, it still won’t have an effect on how humans actually play the game, because it will require an immense memory for all of the possible solutions that humans couldn’t possibly understand, let alone employ during a time-constrained chess tournament.
Others believe that once chess is solved, it could mark the end of chess as we know it as people will be able to force stalemates or victories, but this is highly unlikely, and tournaments would still be able to adapt to prevent this kind of strategy from being used all of the time.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long would it take a supercomputer to solve chess?
It’s estimated that there are approximately 10^120 possible positions in chess, which is an incredibly large number. Even with the fastest supercomputers available today, it would be impossible to evaluate every possible position and move within a reasonable amount of time.
However, it’s worth noting that computers have already solved small variants of chess, such as 6-piece chess (where only 6 pieces are left on the board) and 7-piece chess (where only 7 pieces are left on the board). These smaller variants have been solved using a combination of computer algorithms and brute-force calculation.
In short, while it is technically possible to solve chess, the sheer number of possible positions and moves makes it an incredibly difficult problem that would take an impractical amount of time and computational resources to solve using current technology.
Is chess partially solved?
Computers have been able to solve certain endgame scenarios with perfect play, such as positions with very few pieces left on the board. These endgames have been cataloged and are available as tablebases, which provide the optimal moves for each player in every possible position.
Additionally, there have been significant advances in chess-playing algorithms and AI over the past few decades, which have enabled computers to beat the best human players in the world. These algorithms use sophisticated heuristics and search techniques to evaluate positions and make decisions about the best move to make. While these programs are not solving chess in the traditional sense, they are able to play at a level that is beyond human comprehension.
The depth of which chess has been solved to will likely not go any deeper than specific endgame positions with few pieces left on the board.
Will quantum computers solve chess?
Quantum computers have the potential to solve certain types of problems faster than classical computers, due to their ability to perform certain types of calculations in parallel. However, it is not clear whether quantum computers will be able to solve chess in a practical sense.
Chess is a highly complex game with an enormous number of possible positions, estimated to be on the order of 10^120. It is possible to use classical computers to solve some chess endgame scenarios, but the full game is far beyond the reach of even the most powerful classical supercomputers.
It is not yet clear whether quantum computers will be able to solve chess in a practical sense, as it would require a very large-scale quantum computer capable of running complex algorithms. Additionally, even if a quantum computer could in theory solve chess, it is not clear how it would go about doing so or how long it would take.
Therefore, while quantum computers have the potential to revolutionize many fields, including optimization and cryptography, it is unclear whether they will have a significant impact on the game of chess.
There is still much fierce debate on whether or not chess could be solved, but at this point it’s safe to say that there isn’t enough evidence to believe that a solution would have a great impact on the way people play the game.
Though it may also be true that we’ll encounter concrete evidence of a solution in the near future, when and if this information is discovered, we won’t know for sure how the game will change until then. AI will continue to surpass human intelligence in the near future, so we’ll continue to see massive changes to the way we play chess as time goes on.
In conclusion, chess is not a solved game, and it’s unlikely that it will be solved anytime soon. The sheer number of possible positions and the imperfect information nature of the game make it virtually impossible to calculate a perfect strategy. However, this is what makes chess such a fascinating and challenging game. It requires creativity, intuition, and strategic thinking to succeed, and it’s a game that will continue to captivate players for generations to come.
The fact is, that it’s highly likely that chess will never be solved, not even by quantum computers.