Mig 
Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Very Plane Chess

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A 33.6 dial-up connection at my Toulouse hotel isn't a dream, but it works. Had a chess experience on the flight from New York to Paris. The Air France Airbus plane had an "Echecs" game installed on the personal video system. I saw a few other people on the plane playing it and of course I had to give it a try. Decent 3D graphics, although the screen was a bit too small. I confidently set the play level to "difficult" and played 1.d4. This was surprisingly met with 1...e5 and I thought "wow, they have this thing playing sharp gambit chess, cool." That illusion was dispelled very quickly when 2.dxe5 was met with the less-than-incisive 2...Qg5??? The rest of its play was equally pathetic. It would avoid a mate in one, but other than that it was almost random. (Another game 1.e4 e6 (French Defense on Air France!) 2.d4 Qg5??? Oy.)

A Kasparov-branded game is being rolled out on a few airlines in a few markets. I hope it's a lot better than this one or it'll be an embarrassment. In an age in which your shoes have more computer power than the 1969 moon lander, this is ridiculous. I can only assume they believe this is the average level of play, or maybe they just want their passengers to feel good about themselves.

10 Comments

What *would* have been cool is if the video systems were networked together so that you could *crush* the other passengers who were just begining to feel good about themselves!

I spent many hours on Singapore Airlines about a year ago, with a personal video system thing that had a chess game where you could play against other passengers or the computer. I never saw anyone else online, so I always played the computer. Every single game (with me as White) started 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ne4 and I would plot devious ways to prepare f2-f3 and trap the knight. Its openings were kind of weird but it was a good opponent for me, nothing like the ...Qg5 kind of thing. Either that says great things about the program, or terrible things about my playing skill... not sure which! Certainly I did focus on trying to punish its mistakes rather than just trying to play good moves, which might have been part of the problem.

Had exact same experience on Air France, Mig! Computer insisted on dropping it's Queen at first possible moment.... I think my cell phone's chess program is stronger....

I ended up passing the time playing the Othello program instead (a much more even battle).

Gah, what sort of fancy planes do you lot travel on? The best I've had chess wise on a plane was printing off all my adjourned games from Gameknot and going through them... in-flight chess computers indeed...

I saw this crappy touchscreen game in a bar once that had a primitive chess engine on it. Played almost as bad as the one on Air France you described.

4x4? I love that game. I love to play it at the local place I go to it. I like to think of it more as a conversation piece when I play it rather then a test of my skill. Especially since even if I intentionally lose, it won't try to win until I'm down to just a king.

On my Moscow-New York flight on Air France two years ago, that f***ing computer played the same move. I tried, desperately, to will it into giving me a decent game. Eventually I had to pop an Imovane to make the disappointment go away...far, far away. [Profanity edited because it can put the site on various ban lists. - Mig]

Yep, I've tried this one too last week.
I was delighted to see a chess game among the other crapy games offered on the video system.
Well, this chess game was actually crapy too !
I stopped it when the computer left his king checked ! Not even playing by the rules !
By the way, there was an option for playing with other passengers, but didn't try it.

Yes, I had the same exact game with the computer on recent flights back from Moscow and Tel Aviv. You would think that if the progammer ever actually ran his program he might notice this Q-sally and correct it but like you say it plays randomly. The funny thing is that it can sometimes be devious about avoiding mate-in-1/2/3 positions which must mean that it has some evaluative or playing function that it just decides not to use except in dire situations. Very strange.

My cel phone plays slightly better, after 1. e4 d5 2. ed Qd5 3. Nc3: On "easy" it plays Qe5+ Be2 Qxe2, but on hard it goes right for the jugular with 3...Qxa2, quite impressive.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 8, 2004 5:04 AM.

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