Azlan Iqbal: Recomposition contest result

by Azlan Iqbal
2/24/2016 – 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

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Recomposition Contest Result

By Azlan Iqbal, Ph.D.

As part of the ChessBase Christmas puzzle series at the end of 2015, I submitted a new type of puzzle called, ‘recompositions’. The idea here is to ‘recompose’ the original starting position given just fragments of information such as the moves (in coordinate notation) and perhaps an engine evaluation score of that line. ChessBase readers were tasked with some detective work in finding the original starting position that made the most sense.

From all the submissions I received, none actually solved the problem satisfactorily, but one came quite close such that even I used it as a different starting point to experiment with a viable solution. Alas, that solution still remains elusive, and perhaps always will. In any case, the submission in question is therefore in my view still worthy of the featured prize. Here it is, compared to my own original solution (which admittedly did not work).

My original proposed solution


The winner’s solution, by Koen Eeman

As you can see, the position has been altered considerably. Notably, the black king has moved a great distance to the other side of the board, and the bishop on d8 has been replaced with a queen. The pair of white rooks, however, remains the same as is probably also in the actual starting position (whatever that may be). The winner apparently used the Stockfish 6 engine and his solution corresponds to the original variation I provided until about move 3 of the line. Instead of 3. ... Nh4, the main line shown for his position is 3. ... Nc3 and it differs totally from there. Also, it appears to be a forced mate for Black! So the solution only goes so far.

[Event "Forensic Chess"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.01.28"] [Round "?"] [White "Eeman, Koen"] [Black "Recomposition problem"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3q4/7N/8/1R1p1nr1/n7/bR3K2/2P5/3k4 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceDate "2016.01.28"] {Recomposition from the move sequence: 1. h7g5 d8g5 2. b5d5 d1c2 3. b3a3 f5h4 4. f3e4 g5e7 5. e4f4 e7a3 6. d5b5 a3d6 7. f4g5 a4c3 8. g5h4 c3b5 9. h4g5 d6e5 10. g5g6 c2d3} 1. Nxg5 Qxg5 2. Rxd5+ Kxc2 3. Rxa3 Nh4+ 4. Ke4 Qe7+ 5. Kf4 Qxa3 6. Rb5 Qd6+ 7. Kg5 Nc3 8. Kxh4 Nxb5 9. Kg5 Qe5+ 10. Kg6 Kd3 0-1

The winner, from what I understood, also posited the idea that the line I provided (with a score of +8) may have been an incomplete evaluation at the time it was cut off (assuming it was cut off). This is possible but yet a far cry from Black forcing mate. In any case, congratulations to our winner! I played around with the pieces and Stockfish 6 myself and could not make further progress from his solution so it remains the closest one thus far.

Nevertheless, here is a new challenge where I actually know the original position, so potential solutions can be compared against it for accuracy. The engine analysis for this line is +9.99. Good luck!

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

You can send your solutions to my official email address with a c.c. to my private address, just in case our spam filter here at the university gets too fussy.

Koen Eeman wins this copy of Fritz 13, signed by Garry Kasparov.
A similar prize awaits the winner of the new problem.

Previous ChessBase articles by Prof. Azlan Iqbal

  • 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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gmwdim gmwdim 2/24/2016 07:44
Interesting puzzle. It's not too hard to figure out most of the pieces that have moves, but the real challenge is where to put the rest of the pieces (especially the pawns and kings) so that the move order makes sense (and has the proper engine eval, of course).