Are there games between top computers which uncovered never-seen-before ideas?

And if so, how can humans notice?

Addendum: I understand the position of James Christopher in his answer, but my question goes a little beyond that. It is possible for the computer to find a winning move without understanding the idea behind it, and thus to win the game. If afterwards a human notices that the move discloses a new theme or idea never before seen, that would qualify as a positive answer.

Addenddendum: We have a linguistic problem here. Let me clarify: The computer does not need to have a new idea or even understand what it is doing. But it can find a move that wins the game, and later, when people analyze what happened, they realize "oh! this move wins because of such-and-such!" The computer does not need to know that it forked the king and queen, it just evaluates the material gain and decides that the knight move is best. We call it a fork and add a section in the basic tactics chapter.


3 Answers 3


My answer is - Yes. A simple example is the use of endgame tablebase. Many positions, which were thought to be drawn, now have a winning line. IMO this is a new idea. One day computers might uncover that castling is bad - it is a new idea, doesn't matter if it was achieved by brute force.

ps: even though computers work on fixed algorithms, they can uncover new ideas. Same algorithm can return different results when run for longer duration and/or better hardware. In the end, chess is deterministic and finite.

  • 1
    +1 for endgame tables. I love the notion that 200+ moves are necessary to decide if some endgame positions are a win or not. My question, though, is about a specific idea, motif, new mating net,... in a concrete game.
    – yrodro
    Sep 1, 2013 at 14:22

Computers are based on algorithms written by humans, which are based on knowledge and concepts known to humans. They do not work based on abstract chess ideas. Computers are not known for creativity, so I would say that the answer to your question is no.

They will certainly find moves in a position that GMs have not thought of before, but that is not the same as a new chess idea.

  • Define creativity.
    – Tony Ennis
    Aug 29, 2013 at 22:25
  • @Tony Ennis - new and/or original and/or unorthodox ways of addressing a problem or achieving a goal. A computer will not find moves that fall outside of its algorithms. Aug 30, 2013 at 1:51
  • 2
    While creativity only exists in the eyes of a human, a computer could make an unexpected move, which if a human player made would be considered creative. Yes the algorithm runs as coded, but even the programmer won't foresee every possibility of state that can happen in their program. Aug 30, 2013 at 8:19
  • 1
    @JamesChristopher That is Lady Lovelace's Objection to AI, the position that computers cannot think farther than their programmers. It is effectively equivalent to claiming that no-one can be smarter (or more creative) than their parents.
    – lily
    Aug 31, 2013 at 4:42
  • @Istvan Chung The difference is that it is a fact that our computers cannot operate outside its programming. Believing that a person is analogous to this is making a whole lot of assumptions and speculation, philosophical or otherwise, about the nature of intelligence, consciousness, and the different aspects that are part of a human mind. Aug 31, 2013 at 5:11

Interesting question,

In my opinion computers dont play chess but do something that just looks like it. The way they do it is simply through number crunching algorithmes. It must be said that in their programming there are some heuristics that could be seen as rudimentary ideas about the game.

To answer your question I am sure computers produced moves that showed something new about the game but they didnt uncover any ideas. Computers can not think and ideas belong to the realm of humans. So to notice an idea needs someone to interpret the move or sequence of moves and form some sort of generalisation.

Besides opening innovations and improved endgame analysis computer chess is rather killing a lot of ideas by showing that many positions are defensible after all.

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