Home > Grand Strategy, Strategists, Strategy, Sun Tzu > Sun Tzu and the Art of Beating Android Chess

Sun Tzu and the Art of Beating Android Chess

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

As a student of strategy, I like to play chess.  The only problem is I’m terrible at it.  My favorite chess game is Android Chess, which is a chess game on my cell phone.  For several months after I got the game, I could not find a way to beat it, even on the lowest level of difficulty.  It occurred to me that Sun Tzu may be helpful in devising a strategy for beating Android Chess:

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.

So, I decided to get to know my enemy.  I began to do a little research on computer chess.  It turns out that chess programs play  using two primary methods.  First, they calculate as many possible moves as they can and choose the best one.  However, there are so many possible combinations of moves, that most chess programs are only able explore between 5 and 20 moves into the future.  Second, chess programs assign values to different pieces dependent upon the strength of the piece.  The program will attempt to stay even with the opposing side based on these values.

Very nice, but how can I use this to my advantage?  If the program “thinks” 20 moves ahead and plays a strategy that values material, I must play a strategy beyond 20 moves that values position.

Instead of trying for traps and checkmates (which never worked because they are less than 20 moves), I decided to play a game of attrition.  I would focus on gaining a small advantage in pawns, then exchanging the more powerful pieces one for one until most of them were gone.  I could then use my pawn advantage to advance one or two pawns to the top row and promote them to queens.  This would take about 70-80 moves to accomplish; well beyond the 20 the computer looked at.  To gain my pawn advantage, I would have to use positioning.  I accomplished this by exchanging pieces in front of the opposing pawns.  In other words, I might take the opposing knight with mine, but the program would have to use a pawn to take my knight and stay even.  However, in doing so he would stack two pawns on top of each other.  This would give me an advantage in the latter part of the game because I would only need one pawn to block two of his from advancing.

The strategy works almost every time.  Small victory I know, but once again it shows that Sun Tzu really knew his stuff.   Of course, now I need a new chess game…

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