Azlan Iqbal: Recomposition contest II result

by Azlan Iqbal
4/30/2016 – Over Christmas we had an interesting problem: say you have found some moves somewhere, in coordinate notation without piece names – is it possible to reconstruct the original supposedly meaningful position to which they apply? Later the author, who has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence, presented a second puzzle, and the winner gets a valuable prize.

Recomposition Contest II Result

By Azlan Iqbal, Ph.D.

In the previous recomposition contest, the closest solution to the first problem was shown and a prize awarded for it. In the same article, another recomposition problem was presented for the chance to win another prize. This time around, the solution achieved was closer. Basically, the following sequence of moves (in coordinate notation) was provided along with an approximate engine evaluation for the sequence (i.e. +9.99) and readers were invited to ‘recompose’ what they thought the original starting position looked like.

1. h2e5 e3c5
2. h1g2 f5g5
3. d5d6 g5g6
4. d6d7 g6g8
5. f6f7 g8f8
6. d7d8 f8d8
7. c6d8 e2c4
8. g2c6 b5a5
9. d2d3 c4f7
10. d8f7 a5b6

The main difference this time around was that I actually had the original position to compare against, which was a study-like construct composed by Chesthetica; so determining the closest or most accurate submission was easier. Chesthetica has been composing study-like constructs (using the DSNS approach) for a while now. Without further ado, here is the original position and the closest submission I received.

The original position

The closest recomposition by László Antal

The winning solution differs from the original in only five ways; namely, the missing white pawn on a5, the additional white knight on c5, the slightly shifted white king on c2, the additional black queen on e5 and the additional black pawn on h5. The engine evaluation for the proposed solution’s winning line (which has the same key move) is around +10.37, which is not too far off from the original’s +9.99. Regardless, the real test of success here is how similar the starting position is to the original one and five differences were the least from all the submissions I received. In the case of a tie, I would probably have looked at the differences in winning moves from the starting position, in addition to the difference in stable engine evaluations of the two positions.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "?"] [White "Chesthetica"] [Black "Reconstruction problem"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/2N2PP1/Pk1P1r2/8/4b3/1K1Pb1nB/7B w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. Be5 Bc5 2. Bxg2 Rg5 3. d6 Rxg6 4. d7 Rg8 5. f7 Rf8 6. d8=Q Rxd8 7. Nxd8 Bc4 8. Bc6+ Kxa5 9. d3 Bxf7 10. Nxf7 Kb6 1-0 [Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "?"] [White "Antal, László"] [Black "Reconstruction problem"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/2N2PP1/1kNPqr1p/8/4b3/2KPb1nB/7B w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. Bxe5 Bxc5 2. Bxg2 Rg5 3. d6 Rxg6 4. d7 Rg8 5. f7 Rf8 6. d8=Q Rxd8 7. Nxd8 Bc4 8. Bc6+ Ka5 9. d3 Bxf7 10. Nxf7 Kb6 1-0

Recompositions, I would imagine, would be challenging to program a computer to solve because they would likely require traditional brute-force AI techniques in combination with computational creativity techniques. I suspect a computer being able to most-accurately solve such a problem (in the shortest time) would be a viable test of the quality of its solving algorithm. The YouTube version of the original composition is available here:

Note that Chesthetica’s choice of moves in the animated video are based on a shorter evaluation time of the position using a different engine so that is why they are not the same as what you see above. However, what matters more in a study-like construct is the correctness of the key or first move. So, congratulations to our winner! Enjoy your prize. If anyone would like to know more about recompositions or have any other questions, do send me an e-mail.

László Antal wins this copy of Fritz 13, signed by Garry Kasparov

Previous ChessBase articles by Prof. Azlan Iqbal

  • 2/24/2016 – Azlan Iqbal: Recomposition contest result
    Over Christmas we showed you an interesting problem: say you have found some moves somewhere, in coordinate notation without piece names – is it possible to reconstruct the original supposedly meaningful position to which they apply? The author, who has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence, tried to do it, but with modest success. A reader presented a more plausible solution and won a valuable prize

  • 12/29/2015 – ChessBase Chrismas Puzzles 2015 (5)
    Here's an interesting problem: say you have found some moves somewhere, in coordinate notation without piece names – e.g. 1.h7g5 d8g5 2.b5d5 d1c2 etc. Can one reconstruct the original supposedly meaningful position to which they apply? Azlan Iqbal, who has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence, retraces his thought processes when he tried, in this unique exercise in forensic chess. Help him and you can win a special prize.
  • 5/31/2015 – Celebrating 300 machine generated problems
    As we reported before, Chesthetica, a program by Azlan Iqbal, is autonomously generating mate in three problems by the hundreds, and the author is posting his selections in a very pleasing format on YouTube. The technology behind the program’s creativity is a new AI approach and Dr. Iqbal is looking for a substantial research grant for applications in other fields.

  • 4/7/2015 – Switch-Side Chain-Chess Revisited
    The search continues for a chess variant which retains the flavour of the original game but does not succumb to the brute calculating power of modern computers. AI researcher Azlan Iqbal has proposed his own unique variant. Now he provides some test games and shows how Carlsen could have won (instead of lost) WCCh Game 3 against Anand in Sochi had Switch-Side rules applied.
  • 2/6/2015 – Computer generated chess problems for everyone
    Now they are composing problems that fulfil basic aesthetic criteria! Chesthetica, a program written by Azlan Iqbal, is churning out mate in three constructs by the hundreds, and the author is posting them in a very pleasing format on Youtube. How long will Chesthetica theoretically be able to generate new three-movers? Quite possibly for tens of thousands of years.

  • 11/7/2014 – A machine that composes chess problems
    Chess problems are an art – positions and solutions, pleasing to the mind and satisfying high aesthetic standards. Only humans can compose real chess problems; computers will never understand true beauty. Really? Dr Azlan Iqbal, an expert on automatic aesthetic evaluation, imbued his software with enough creativity to generate problems indefinitely. The results are quite startling.

  • 7/26/2014 – Best ‘Chess Constructs’ by ChessBase readers
    Chess constructs are basically an intermediate form of composition or chess problem, lying somewhere between brilliancies from chess history – and artistic chess problems, between real game sequences and traditional award-winning compositions. A month ago Dr Azlan Iqbal explained the concept asked our readers to submit compositions of their own. Here are the winners.

  • 6/29/2014 – Azlan Iqbal: Introducing ‘Chess Constructs’
    People love brilliancies from chess history – and artistic chess problems. But there is a big gap between the two. Positions from games demonstrate the natural beauty of actual play, while chess problems are highly technical, with little practical relevance. The author of this interesting article suggest an intermediate form, one you can try your hand at – and win a prize in the process.

  • 9/2/2009 – Can computers be made to appreciate beauty?
    Or at least to identify and retrieve positions that human beings consider beautiful? While computers may be able to play at top GM level, they are not able to tell a beautiful combination from a bland one. This has left a research gap which Dr Mohammed Azlan Mohamed Iqbal, working at Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Malaysia, has tried to close. Here's his delightfully interesting PhD thesis.

  • 12/15/2012 – A computer program to identify beauty in problems and studies
    Computers today can play chess at the grandmaster level, but cannot tell a beautiful combination from a bland one. In this research, which has been on-going for seven years, the authors of this remarkable article show that a computer can indeed be programmed to recognize and evaluate beauty or aesthetics, at least in three-move mate problems and more recently endgame studies. Fascinating.

  • 2/2/2014 – A new, challenging chess variant
    Ever since desktop computers can play at its highest levels and beat practically all humans, the interest of the Artificial Intelligence community in this game has been sagging. That concerns Dr Azlan Iqbal, a senior lecturer with a PhD in AI, who has created a variant of the game that is designed to rekindle the interest of computer scientists – and be enjoyable to humans as well: Switch-Side Chain-Chess.

  • 5/11/2014 – Kasparov in Malaysia
    He was mobbed, but in a good way: a large number of chess fans and autograph hunters sought close contact to the legendary World Champion, who officiated the opening of the PMB National Age Group Championship 2014, and took time to discuss a variety of topics with an expert on aesthetics-recognition technology in chess, our author Dr Azlan Iqbal – who sent us a big pictorial report.

Dr. Azlan Iqbal has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from the University of Malaya and is a senior lecturer at Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Malaysia, where he has worked since 2002. His research interests include computational aesthetics and computational creativity in games. He is a regular contributor at ChessBase News.
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genem genem 4/30/2016 11:25
It is strange that the chess world, including Fritz, still has no move notation system that is playable in *reverse*. In other words, and notation so robust that it suffers no dependency on surrounding context, such as do old Descriptive notation and today's SAN.
LAN is a step toward reversibility, but it falls short.
LAN is an inherently bad notation for the human eye, because it places less important info between the two most important items of info; namely
* The type of piece that moved, and
* The destination square.
In software, and in papered presentations where notation space is plentiful, better might be XSAN notation, for "Extended Standard Algebraic Notation". For example...
21. Q:e7<b5/n , instead of just 21. Qxe7.
If you are uninterested in the origin square (b5), or the type of piece captures (black knight, 'n' as in FEN position notation), then you can simply stop reading after you see the front portion 'B:e7'; an option you do Not have with LAN.
In a professional printing of XSAN notation, the '<' could be subscripted to make it smaller in relation.
Pawn moves do not use the '<'. Instead, see these examples...
e65 , instead of e5.
c6:d5/R , instead of cxd5.
Given one position diagram embedded in the middle of a whole game notation, only XSAN gives you the option and ability to play backward a few moves to see how the position arose.
azlan azlan 5/1/2016 02:50
@genem: Interesting observation.
BatBlind BatBlind 5/1/2016 02:13
I notice that Iqbal's very silly articles on Women and beauty in chess have somehow been omitted from his "previous articles" list. Surely some kind of terrible oversight...
ivan3ivanovich ivan3ivanovich 5/1/2016 08:14
In what what is Long Algebraic Notation falling short?

It gives all information that is needed in order to replay any game either forwards or backwards. It let's us know what piece was moved from what square to what square and what it did there.

The only reason that it's presented as 21. Qb5xe7 and not giving the destination square first is the somewhat reasonable inference that chess is supposed to be played "forward" and not "backward".
TMMM TMMM 5/2/2016 01:27
@ivan3ivanovich: If the final position has a white king on a8 and a black king on c8 and the last move was 80... Kc7xc8, how would you rewind?
Adi2010 Adi2010 5/2/2016 07:36
Why chessbase is still giving space to this guy? We need authors like John nunn...
flonks flonks 5/2/2016 01:01
The history of past articles of the author is long, but it is strange that chessbase has forgotton to mention the embarassing articles on the difference in beauty of chess games between men and women. For me, these articles (which lacked in depth and methodology) kind of put into perspective all future work by the same author.
ivan3ivanovich ivan3ivanovich 5/2/2016 02:32

By looking at the score sheet to see what white piece last moved to c8.

The reason we have notation in the first place is so that arbiters can check the legality of claims (draws/castling/e.p. etc.). Chess notation wasn't created or invoked in order to play a game backwards and there is no reason for any human to do so.