Vladimir Kramnik, who spent several years as world chess champion after dethroning Garry Kasparov in 2000, believes his beloved game has grown less creative. He partly blames computers, whose soulless calculations have produced a vast library of openings and defenses.
"For quite a number of games on the highest level, half of the game — sometimes a full game — is played out of memory," Kramnik says. "You don't even play your own preparation; you play your computer's preparation."
Kramnik has some ideas for how to restore some human art to chess, with help from Alphabet artificial intelligence lab DeepMind, whose researchers challenged their game-playing software AlphaZero to learn nine variants of chess chosen to jolt players into creative new patterns.
"Chess engines were initially built to play against humans with the goal of defeating them," says Nenad Tomašev, a DeepMind researcher who worked on the project. "Now we see a system like AlphaZero used for creative exploration in tandem with humans rather than opposed to them."
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