Supercomputer Project May Move the Level of Chess Play Forward
A UT Dallas computer expert and researcher is developing a new chess supercomputing platform that he hopes will give a significant advantage to the award-winning UT Dallas chess team and, eventually, to chess players around the world.
Dr. Jerry Perez, director of Cyber Infrastructure Operations in the Office of Information Technology, is working on a chess analysis platform on Ganymede, the supercomputer used by UT Dallas researchers.
Dr. Jerry Perez, director of Cyber Infrastructure Operations in the Office of Information Technology, has been working on the high-speed chess computing solution for several years. He said the best chess players know many good moves for any given situation, but a computer can provide much more information.
“The problem with chess is that there are more possible moves in a game than there are atoms in the universe, and humans only know a patch of good moves. The best chess players memorize this little area,” Perez said. “But with computers, we are able to go beyond this limited cloud of knowledge and find other paths. Computers have helped navigate us through.”
While computers cannot be used during a match, they can be used to analyze tendencies of potential opponents and prepare for a competition.
“Computers are almost everything to chess nowadays,” said Angel Arribas Lopez, a software engineering major and a member of the chess team, which took first place in the Texas Collegiate Super Finals last year. “Not only are they much faster analyzing and calculating than any human being, but they are also accurate almost to perfection.”
Collegiate chess programs typically use platforms that utilize personal computers and connect to the cloud. Such platforms often can be used by only a few players at a time and have limited computing power.
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“It just takes a laptop too long,” said Jim Stallings, director of the UT Dallas Chess Program. “That’s why you need something much, much faster.”
The solution, according to Perez, is a supercomputer, which can perform at or near the highest operational rate for computers. Such computers traditionally are used for scientific and engineering applications that must handle very large databases or do a great amount of computation.
Perez is developing his chess analysis platform on Ganymede, the supercomputer used by UT Dallas researchers.
“The platform that the chess team is using right now would be like a sports car — it’s pretty fast and it’s very nice, but it can only seat two people. The supercomputer would be like a jumbo jet that can seat the whole team and go much faster,” he said.
Perez said the Ganymede platform already is providing excellent chess information, but its numerical format is difficult for many players to understand. He said the players strongly prefer using a visual, graphical interface that shows a chess board and chess pieces, rather than strings of numbers.
“This is about trying to change a worldwide culture. It’s an established, worldwide phenomenon to do chess analysis with a board,” he said.
Lopez said he and other chess team members agree that the visual computer chess analysis is the best method.
Perez plans to develop an interactive chess board that can communicate with the supercomputer and provide clear, easily understood results. He expects the graphical interface to be ready for testing by the chess team later this fall.