It is interesting that Turing worked with some of the best British chess players among them Golombek and Alexander. I am not sure how to characterize it, but he is considered a creative genius at a level and was certainly very important and successful in the code-breaking efforts during WW2.

He would play with Golombek, who I think could allow Turing to change color at a point of his choosing during the game. Although, I am not sure of the constraints; maybe it was up to a certain move. Golombek could then beat Turing from Turing's presumably losing position. I have never played at those odds, but I can't imagine, assuming that Golombek was playing to win, that Turing had much of a position, to begin with. On the other hand, perhaps, Golombek would try to keep a more or less even game so that he had chances. Anyway, I really wonder how weak of a player Turing was and if perhaps some of his games survive.

  • 3
    Only one game found from 1952 and Turing lost. Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 8:29
  • 2
    Unclear that this a real game or one using the "program" Turing had written which, as I understand it, was just a series of rules that a player would follow simulating being a computer. It is interesting that as late as the 1970s some good players who also were computer scientists could not imagine a world champ computer chess player.
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 8:33
  • 2
    The text indicates that it was not Turing, who played that game. I have a strong suspicion that you will not be able to get an answer for this question as I could also find no games that he played, and thus, cannot make any reasonable guess. I will say that if he were able to hang with Golombek, even for a while, he must have been a fair bit stronger than just a pure beginner. Of course, I also suspect that had he not had more important things to do, and devoted himself to the game, he would have easily been a Master, if not a lot stronger. Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


A similar question was asked on another forum a few years ago, and the answer that was given was "Alan Turing wasn’t a very strong chess player at all. He was probably at the level of a beginner. He certainly knew the rules of the game, but not much more."

Wikipedia notes, regarding the chess program that Turing and a colleague designed, "... the algorithm is primarily designed around the decision to take a piece or not; according to Turing, the resulting gameplay produces a low level game of chess, which he considered commensurate with his self-described average skill level at the game." According to the article, Turing's algorithm (it's really difficult to call it a "program", as it never ran on any actual computer - Turning only ever "ran" it on pencil and paper) only looked two half-moves ahead, applied a static evaluation function to each resulting position, and selected as the next move whichever one led to the highest average evaluation after the following half-move.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.