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What do I do?
Play the game. You're white. To begin the game, move one of your pieces...
What do the images mean?
When it is your (White's) turn to move, the chess board will gently pulse to show the influence of the various pieces. in the left image below, you can see waves over the squares around the king and (very lightly) over the squares where the pawns might capture. When the machine (Black) is thinking, a network of curves is overlaid on the board; see image at right. The curves show potential moves--often several turns in the future--considered by the computer. Orange curves are moves by black; green curves are ones by white. The brighter curves are thought by the program to be better for white.
What were Thinking Machines 1,2, and 3?
No. 1, built in 2002, was an exploratory version that was similar in concept to No. 4 but was completely different graphically and technically. No. 2 was an installation similar to No. 4; it was shown at the London ICA, 2003, as part of the work of MW2MW show. No. 3 was an improved installation shown at Ars Electronica, 2004, as part of the "Language of Networks" exhibit. No. 4 is the first internet edition.
Why is the computer so [easy/hard] to beat?
The chess playing engine is designed to be at the same level as the average viewer of the piece. If you're a tournament chess player, you would clobber most casual players--and you'll clobber Thinking Machine 4 too. If you barely remember the rules of the game, the artwork may clobber you instead. The chess engine we built is simple and uses only basic algorithms from the 50s (alpha-beta pruning and quiescence search). The program's unconventional initial moves may raise eyebrows among experts: we did not give it an "opening book" of standard lines since we wanted it to think through every position.
The goal of the piece is not to make an expert chess playing program but to lay bare the complex thinking that underlies all strategic thought.
What is the technology behind this?
The artwork is an applet written in Java 1.1. The graphics of this internet version would not have been possible without Processing, which we highly recommend.