Monday, 17 September 2007

Airline Chess

One of the (minor) criteria I use to judge the quality of an airline is the chess program provided as part of the in-flight entertainment. For the last 7 or so years I've usually seen a totally woeful program the seems to be standard on Lauda/Lufthansa/Air France etc. For my trip to Hong Kong I flew Virgin Atlantic (no freebees for me for this plug btw) and found they had a different chess program. Even better, the first game I played against it (when I was still awake), went for about 50 moves, even though it began 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ne4? I played 3.d4, won an early pawn but still had to work to grind it down. All very promising.
That was until I decided to get in a quick game before the plane landed. The second game took place about 8 hours into the flight and I was feeling quite tired. Still, it was pretty ugly (for the program).

Me v Airline Chess Program
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ne4 3.d3 Nc5 4.d4 Ne6 5.Nf3 d6 6.d5 Nc5 7.Nc3 dxe5 8.Nxe5 Nbd7 9.Bb5 h6 10.Qf3 Ne6 11.Qxf7#

Just for good measure I repeated the game on the return flight.

Nonetheless it still stands up better than the program I previously played. In fact during one game (in 2002 or so) I caused the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death" to appear, and knowing the viral nature of Microsoft products I assumed that the aircrafts avionics were the next to go, with the plane plunging 10,000 metres into the ocean below.


Anonymous said...

Nice way to rank airlines. Just had 10 hours of flight today with AirFrance. You say their program is woeful. Well guess what I found a sequence to beat the program in 4 moves with both white and black.
e4 e5 Qf3 Nc6 Bc4 Nd4 Qxf7#
d4 e5! dxe5 Bc5 e4 Qh4 Nf3 Qxf2#
That was with the hard level, and goes exactly the same with medium difficulty.
At the easy level, as black the computer plays a little different therefore both Qxf7# or Bxf7# work (which is worse). However playing as black I haven't been able to beat the computer with this rustic strategy, since it plays f3 systematically (as if it suddenly knew my plans).
Well I guess I just found some sort of loophole and many a customer doesn't notice (if they even care to play chess), so the program is good enough for what it's worth. I just wished it knew ;ore about priorities in chess.
For example, the cpu is easily lured into crucial blunders (as you can see with my four moves winning sequence for white).
Another example, and which is then one that made me realize the absolute lack of priority in the program is this one:
e4 e6 d4 d5 e5 c5 dxc5 Bxc5 Nf3 Qb6 Nc3 Bxf2+ Ke2 Bd7 (developing, preventing Na4, and hoping to attack the king if that knight should move away, and yet...) Be3??
How come it has to make the worst possible move? That's when I decided to see if it could checkmated even faster.

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