Can a Computer Cheat at Chess?

First, humans played chess with other humans. Seeking tougher competition, humans began playing chess against machines. The International Computer Games Association (ICGA) has taken this to the logical conclusion, pitting Machine vs. Machine in the annual World Computer Chess Championships.

If only we could get rid of those pesky human programmers. As reported by, Vasik Rajlich and his chess-playing engine “Rybka” have been banned from all future competition for allegedly plagiarising code from others’ software. 

 The ICGA accuses Rajlich of plagiarizing two other programs, Crafty and Fruit, and demands that he returns the trophies and prize money of the World Computer Chess Championships in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

For quite a while there has been some serious turmoil in the computer chess world. When we reported about the Houdini-Rybka match in February of this year, the article triggered lots of comments about the issue of cloning. Was Houdini derived from the Ippolit series? Was it plagiarized from Rybka? And what about Rybka, was it largely based on the code of other engines?

Read the full article to find the answers to these questions and more, including “What is the best name for a chess-playing engine?” (A: Cluster Toga). Don’t miss the vigorous discussion in the comment thread, either, for argued definitions of digital plagiarism and an especially elegant cake analogy.

-Jon Irwin

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