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Robert James Fischer vs Greenblatt (Computer)
"Man vs. Machine, 1977" (game of the day Oct-24-2018)
Computer Match (1977), Cambridge, MA USA
King's Gambit: Accepted. Bishop's Gambit Bledow Countergambit (C33)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Rookfile>

Nxg5 is a no-brainer for a student of the classics like Fischer. :-)

Morphy vs Anderssen, 1858

<Others> Itís not like ...g7-g5 is unheard of in the Kingís Gambit, although itís probably better to play it sooner...

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<piroflip> Bobby take this machine apart for sure but I remember reading in a chess mag's report on this game that it had a rating of 185BCF. This equates to almost 2100!!>

Highly doubtful. In a chart and table are presented showing the computer chess program rating increases over time. It lists the 1975 mean rating to be about 1797 and the 1980 mean rating to be about 1996, with the rating increases being linear. So interpolating between the 1975 and 1980 mean ratings suggests that MacHack VI's (Greenblatt program) rating would be about 1877, particularly since in 1977 MacHack VI was not the strongest chess program around.

Still, not bad. Another chart in the same article compares computer chess programs by year to the percentage of players who regularly played in chess tournaments. And an 1877 rating in 1977 would be expected to score as well or better than about 90% of those players. Of course, unfortunately for MacHack VI, Fischer was substantially above the playing strength of those 90% of the players!

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<rookfile> Well, I imagine the computer was some big mainframe monstrosity.>

Not necessarily. By 1977 minicomputers were widely available and did not take up more than one rack of equipment (computer, disk drive, power supply, I/O device(s) + terminal). See, for example (a PDP-11/40). I was playing chess against a program running on a minicomputer (HP 2100) in 1977. And the Greenblatt chess program (really named MacHack VI but Richard Greenblatt was its main developer so the program was interchangeably named after him) was developed as part of Project MAC at MIT starting in 1966 and originally ran on a minicomputer, a PDP-6 ( You can find out more about the Greenblatt chess program as of 1967 in

By 1977 it had been ported to a PDP 11/70 which was a much larger, and of course more powerful, computer system. And definitely not easily transportable! I suspect that this was the computer that hosted the program that played the 3 games against Fischer.

<a dial-up modem those days got about 300 baud maximum>

No, 1200 baud modems were introduced in 1972 by Vadic, and AT&T was providing 1200 baud modems in 1976. So it's possible that a 1200 baud modem was in use for the Fischer vs. Greenblatt games in 1977. But even a 300 baud modem would have been adequate since it doesn't require that much bandwidth to transmit chess moves plus the acknowledgement and error checking used to minimize transmission errors. As I'm sure you know, Fischer himself played remotely in the 1965 Capablanca Memorial tournament in Havana, so remote playing was feasible even then. ( and Havana (1965)). Also see my "analysis" of the remote move transmission: Geller vs Fischer, 1965 (kibitz #46).

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Following on from Fischer vs Greenblatt, 1977 (kibitz #67) and Greenblatt vs Fischer, 1977 (kibitz #41), here's the text of Fischer's letter to the <Computer Chess Newsletter>, no.1, 1977, p.3: <

© Bobby Fischer May 17 1977

Dear Mr. Penrod, I think your computor-chess [sic] newsletter is a very good idea. I recently played some games on a terminal with the Greenblatt program. Enclosed are three of them. I made the mistake of buying the "Chess Challenger". It's ridiculously weak- they really shouldn't have come out with it. They also made a botch of the keyboard so it's hard to follow the moves. Somehow they reversed the algebraic notation so that the files are numbered and the ranks are lettered, if you can believe that!

I know I can give it a queen and a rook, because I gave them away in the opening and won. But I can probably give it much more. In the endgame it's almost impossible to lose to it. Provided you agree and acknowledge, that I have all the publication rights to this letter and the enclosed game scores you can publish them in your newsletter. Regards Bobby Fischer>


The three scores duly appeared on page 18 of the second issue:


Three points of interest emerge:

i) Although Fischer's <recently> strongly implies the games were played in Spring 1977, it can't be ruled out that they could date back further, even to 1976.

ii) Fischer played extra games - the three he submitted were either the best or the most publishable.

iii) Newborn's statement, <Fischer said he felt he could give the computer a queen and a rook and still win.>, gives the misleading impression that Fischer was talking of the Greenblatt program, when he was evidently referring to the commercially available <Chess Challenger>.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: The gap between a current SF program available for free and the Greenblatt program is staggering. A few quick notes: after 8....Bd6? 9.d4, SF's evaluation is already about +1.5; as Fischer shows in the game, Black can't defend the gambit pawn. (What's Black supposed to play instead of ...Bd6? SF finds the ingenious 8.....f5, with the idea 9.Nxb4 fxe4, with ...Qd4+ winning the QN if the KN moves.)

SF finds 10.Nxg5 instantly and rates white about +4 in a shallow search. The engine briefly prefers 12.Nxf4 but quickly decides that Fischer's 12.Rf2 is better. The Greenblatt program presumably calculated that 16....Be6 17.Bh6 Qg6 18.Qxg6 and Bxf8 lost a rook but (understandably) didn't realize that 16....Rd8 17.Qxh3 was even worse for Black.

I think the only move by Fischer that could conceivably be called a mistake is 19.Rc1. 19.Rg3 is actually a forced mate after 19....Qxc2 20.Qh6 Rd1+ 21.Rxd1 Qxd1+ 22.Kf2 Qc2+ 23.Bd2 Qf5+ 24.Ke1 Qxe5+ 25.Kd1. But of course 19.Rc1 is crushing, leaving the queen with no escape, and a sensible move for a human to play.

As several have noted, it's odd that the 1977 engine allowed mate in one. 20....h5 is mate in 8, but I wouldn't expect the Greenblatt program to be able to work that out.

Oct-13-18  Howard: Hey, one can't unearth EVERYTHING about a given person's life, let alone Bobby's.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: I've little doubt there is much more to be uncovered about many aspects of Fischer's life, but <Joshka> seems utterly oblivious to the amount of work and money that such researches entail.

Most of the new material that's come to light in recent years has been due to the publication of rare and expensive books,<Bobby Fischer Uncensored>, <In Memorian> and <Bobby Fischer: Triumph and Despair> culled from the David DeLucia collection. I'm pretty sure that <Joshka> has his grubby hands on one or more of these books. But has he gone to the time and trouble of sharing any of this new material with us?

Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Anybody who writes "Fisher" on this site should be banned permanently .
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Hazz>, here's the original (CC1) <Fidelity Chess Challenger> that Bobby was duking it out with instead of Karpov:

Do you remember your first computer chess machine or program?

I think mine was the <Saitek Crap> c.1982.

Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: <MissScarlett: <Hazz>, here's the original (CC1) <Fidelity Chess Challenger> that Bobby was duking it out with instead of Karpov:

Do you remember your first computer chess machine or program?

I think mine was the <Saitek Crap> c.1982.>

You're much older than me ofcourse but mine was around the same time gotta say ...

Funny I was thinking about my mum and dad buying me a chess computer for Xmas as a kid just the other day ... Straight up.

Botvinnik pioneered this schiit... what a fkn MONSTER was created....

Now we have two bit patzters opening up their own YT accounts blogging on Bobby's games offering improvements Yaaaaahdi Yaaaaaaahdi Yaaaaaaah ect ect using fkn ENGINES ...


Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Think it was Bronstein who played the first game against a computer tho ..
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <MissScarlett: <Hazz>, here's the original (CC1) <Fidelity Chess Challenger> that Bobby was duking it out with instead of Karpov:>

I had that! Only clear memory is once it had its queen on d7 and king on e8, with the e-pawn not having moved yet. I found Bxf7+ and Ne5+ winning the queen. I was as proud as if I'd won the Immortal Game.

One big problem old engines and patzers of all ages have is not really understanding the openings they memorize. I assume the Greenblatt program was playing "book" up through 6....0-0. But then it's on its own, and plays two second-rate moves in a row, ...Nxd5 and ...Bd6, at which point it's already pretty much lost. Neither one of those moves is visibly awful, though, and I can see a decent but underprepared human player making them. At at that point, after 9.d4, you either give back the pawn and concede your opponent a powerful pawn center + the f-file, or try to hang on to the pawn. If you're human and you know you're playing Bobby Fischer, you probably do the former; if you're a computer and don't even know you're playing chess, you pick ...g7-g5.

In short, those of us below master strength shouldn't be too sniffy about the way the Greenblatt program played.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Only clear memory is once it had its queen on d7 and king on e8....>

I think you'll find you mean, 4g and 5h, respectively.

Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <AylerKupp:

<<piroflip> Bobby take this machine apart for sure but I remember reading in a chess mag's report on this game that it had a rating of 185BCF. This equates to almost 2100!!>

Highly doubtful.>

From the chessgames GreenBlatt page:

<it acheived a USCF rating of 1243 in 1966>

Of course we don't know who it played after that, and if any improvements were made.

<No, 1200 baud modems were introduced in 1972>

Did they have modems where the phone line plugs in like today?

I only remember Ken Thomson using
"acoustic" modems.
(Id imagine a direct connection was more reliable vs "listening" and "speaking" your signals audibly)

Ken also had the first board I saw
that lit up the square of the piece you move and where it was going.

It was about 4 inches off the table to
accommodate the electronics. The pieces
were normal wooden pcs. However, if you looked on the bottom, the felt was off, the wood was gouged out, and crystals were epoxied in. When the board was scanned with Rf, the resonate frequency of the crystals told Belle what the position on the board was.

<Also see my "analysis" of the remote move transmission: Geller vs Fischer, 1965>

I played on the National Chess League.
(Telephone) There were 4 Boards, each board had a "runner" who would play the verbally transmitted move on your board(your response would be taken by your runner for verbal transmission to their runner).

I've heard it said Fischer was
handicapped due to longer/slower games.
From my standpoint, that was more than made up for by more time on the clock. We were updated on times every 10 moves. There were 20/40 minute periods where I actually used 2 mins on my clock. Since Fischer was one of the fastest players in the world, the time lag probably helped his opponents more.

With Fischer, you also needed to redefine "transmission error."

I've heard the story he had the move:
1.d4, he responded 1...Nf6, white's
response was 2.e5. Indicating d4 was wrong and e4 was actually the first move. When Fischer was told he could replay it, he just played what was on the board. Basically playing an unprepared Alekhine's Defense.

Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <MissScarlett:

<Bobby Fischer May 17 1977

In the endgame it's almost impossible to lose to it.>>

That's hilarious!

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: At least, it appears that <Chess Challenger> recognised promotions. I heard of one program that didn't - the promoted pawn just hovered on the 8th rank in perpetual limbo.
Oct-13-18  RookFile: I remember that some of the old programs couldn't mate with king and rook against king, as long as you kept making your moves quickly.
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: < RookFile: I remember that some of the old programs couldn't mate with king and rook against king, as long as you kept making your moves quickly.>

Were those "stand alone" chess computers with an actual board?

I remember when those were the most popular chess computer options, and at one point a company advertised their machine by saying it was capable of checkmating with knight + bishop :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: 13...c6 is definitely a "class player" type of move. By saying this I mean someone rated <2000 USCF.

This is a move by a player who (which) thinks he (it) has the initiative.

Um, sorry, no you don't!

Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: The awful sad thing about this game is not the computer ... it's that we are staring at arguably the greatest Chess Player ever in his prime.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <RookFile> My second favorite story about those early computers and their "playing ability" was a game that was published in either Chess Life or Chess Review in the mid to late 1960s. The computer, playing White, had a Pc2 and a Nc3. In response to Black's previous (and very threatening move) it played c2-c4 (!) blocking the threat. While it clearly knew that pawns could advance 2 squares on their first move, it didn't know that they could not jump over pieces! The commentators said something along those lines and indicated that c2-c4 was extremely convenient and that the arbiter, so to speak, let the move stand.

Needless to say, with that kind of demonstrated "playing ability", Black won easily.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<thegoodanarchist> This [13...c6] is a move by a player who (which) thinks he (it) has the initiative.>

You mean something like 14...Nxc4 in Portisch vs Tal, 1964? See my comment there in Portisch vs Tal, 1964 (kibitz #27).

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<harrylime> The awful sad thing about this game is not the computer ... it's that we are staring at arguably the greatest Chess Player ever in his prime.>

WHAT !!! Did you actually used the phrase "<arguably> the greatest Chess Player ever <in his prime>." ????? Are you feeling all right? Or are you mellowing in your old age? Please don't.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi AylerKupp,

I think he is talking about Greenblatt who after this game went onto claim that Humans had fixed World Chess.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: Could be a Monday puzzle.

20...? Black to find the only move that allows mate in one.

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