Newsletter No. 72

FritzDominates Chess Program s an d Compute r Checkmates Human T h e Eighth Computer Chess Championship, a triennial competition held for the first time in Asia, had chess experts, the sports press, and the public converging on CUHK campus from 25th to 30th May 1995. The main aim of the championship was t o f i nd the best combination of computers and software programs that play chess. Amongst 24 participants from over 10 countries, the winner was a surprise one — Fritz, a Dutch programme that was the first computer to defeat World Champion Gary Kasparov in a series of five-minute games. It was a 'surprise' winner since it beat the tournament favourite, IBM's Deep Blue Prototype, in round 5 of the championship (by . using its better opening game library), and thereafter, in a one game playoff, it beat Star Socrates, a powerful chess computer system developed by the M I T Laboratory for computing science. The one game playoff was played under standard time controls of 40 moves in two hours, followed by 40 moves per hour. The colours in the playoff were decided by the toss of a coin, and Fritz had to start the game by defending with the black pieces; it was a tense game in which Fritz managed to obtain an opening advantage on the black side of the Ruy Lopez opening. The game which started at 9.00 p.m. on 29th May ended at 3.00 a.m. on the 30th. By winning the championship, Fritz demonstrated that chess knowledge is at least as important as computing power. While Fritz was using one of the least powerful computers in the tournament (a standard Pentium 90MHz PC supplied by CUHK), Fritz's opponent in the playoff was using the Intel Paragon parallel supercomputer located at the Sandia National Laboratories, USA. The Paragon is 50 feet long, weighs 30,000 pounds, and has 1,824 processors, each with 16 or 32 MByte of memory. In the words of Dr. H.K. Tsang (the Hong Kong Open Champion) o f the Department o f Electronic Engineering, who chaired the local organizing committee o f six members, 'While the Intel Paragon is a more powerful computer, Fritz is better at playing chess because it has more chess knowledge .' In the Saitek Challenge, i.e. the human versus computer match (sponsored by Saitek, a Hong Kong-based manufacturer o f computer chess machines) held on 28th May, the computer won against man by 4.5:1.5 — the computers had three wins and three draws. Fritz was held to a draw by International Master Dr. M.K. Wong (who works at the Prince of Wales Hospital but is affiliated with the Singapore Chess Federation); X. Yang, Master (the Hong Kong National Chess Champion) was held to a draw by Chess Genius (a British program which recently defeated Kasparov in a two-game match where each player had 25 minutes for all his/its moves); David Carless, Master, drew with Schach 3; Dr. H.K. Tsang was defeated by Mephisto Advantage (a commercial version of the previous world champion, Rebel 6.0); Jonathan Ady, Master, lost to W-Chess; and Kaarlo Schepel lost to Virtua Chess. The championship was not without its share of hiccups. On the very first day, Internet, through which five o f the competing programs were t o communicate with the parent computers in the US and Europe, was found to be too slow, and the organizers had to turn to I BM ' s just-made-commercially- available-in-Hong-Kong OS-2 system with its own dedicated leased line (IBM being th e main sponsor o f th championship). This switchover to the OS-2 system necessitated the formulation of a chain between the machines; each of a set of 35 disks had to be passed from one machine to the other for the hook-up to be effective; and though the whole process caused a two-hour delay in the championship proceedings, i t saved the organizers potentially enormous phone bills. Prof. Kenneth Young, pro-vice- chancellor, presented the winners with their trophies at the end of what was an eventful and memorable, fo r th e University in particular, championship, hiccups and all. The final standings were: 1st Fritz 2nd Star Socrates 3rd IBM's Deep Blue INDUSTRIAL FORUM ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY A forum and public lecture on the latest developments in information technology (popularly considered the next new industry in Hong Kong) and its applications to different industries in the territory was held on 5th June at Lecture Theatre l of Sino Building on campus. Eminent scientists, industrialists and educators participated in the forum, prior to which a public lecture on 'Impact o f I n f o rma t i on Technology on Engineering R & D and Education' was delivered by the world-renowned Prof. H.T. Kung, who is Gordon McKay Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Harvard University. Prof. Kung is a pioneer in the hardware implementation of algorithms. He has made significant contributions t o ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) technology and ha s built a n experimental ATM network with Bell Northern Research which is some 60 times faster than existing computer networks. Other distinguished speakers at the forum included Vice-Chancellor Charles K. Kao, who spoke about industrial research and development initiative in Hong Kong. Joint Venture to Provide an Educational Information Superhighway T h e University's Department o f Information Engineering organized a seminar on 27th May at the Lady Shaw Building to introduce to teachers and students of 30 secondary schools an educational computer communication project for local secondary schools — the result of joint efforts by the Department of Information Engineering and the Network Service Department of the Hong Kong Joint School Electronics and Computer Society. The project attempts to i n t r o d u ce Internet to the public (schools being excellent grassroot level institutions to begin with), as a computer literate workforce i s important to the future competitiveness of Hong Kong. It also plans to use the network to provide information that is related t o education, introduce innovative applications, and provide a better communication infrastructure for schools, joint-school associations, and other educational organizations in the teritory. The project is also assisting local charitable organizations and voluntary agencies in broadcasting their messages to the increasing number of teenage cruisers on the information highway. The Joint HKEIN/ECSNet Project is based on two network prototypes: HKEIN (Hong Kong Education Information Network) introduced by CUHK last year, which provides Internet connections to dial-up users, and ECSNet (Educational Computing School Network), which is a BBS network linking many secondary schools.