On the subject of intuition


Back to forum

Elmer Valderrama    (2006-12-02)
On the subject of intuition

Just received an e-mail from a known online book dealer inviting me to order the fifth Volume of G Kasparov's My Great Predecessors(about Korchnoi and Karpov).

I had a look at the online pages of the book (first three or so) and there is a paragraph about a proposed (by G K) division of players according to -guess what- intuition:

1) those players without any intuition but hard work (Botvinnik, Fischer..)

2) those with strategical intuition (Capablanca, Petrosian, Karpov..)

3) those with non-balanced positional intuition (Alekhine, Tal, Korchnoi, Kasparov..)

Very interesting reading. I guess we have to place engines in group one ;)

However, I would place Kasparov in the same group one of those without intuition but hard work as the criteria shows that players from that group tend to quit chess earlier (Botvinnik was on/off through his reigning) than the intuitive players who last longer (with Korchnoi the Terrible heading by far the lot)

Thibault de Vassal    (2006-12-02 15:55:16)
Engines and intuition

About chess engines, that's hard to say. If we call 'intuition' their ability to play speculative moves - calculating less possibilities than usual in complex positions - it's quite easy to change some parameters and say "this engine plays according his evaluation function more than calculation", like us... It's a question of proportion and that's hard to compare with human thinking.

Lawrence Nesko    (2006-12-02 17:58:08)
Does it even make sense...

...to attribute intuition to engines at all? I mean, even if the parameters of an engine were to be altered to limit its analytical abilities, isn't the engine still going to play what it's algorithm considers the objective 'best move'? If such is the case, then the engine still isn't using intuition at all, correct?

Furthermore, I'm not sure any grandmasters could be said to lack intuition. Fisher may have had less intuition than Korchnoi, but probably possessed more intuition regarding chess in his litle finger than I ever will in my entire body.

Don Groves    (2006-12-04 05:25:01)

A good definition of intuition is the immediate knowing of something without the conscious use of reasoning. This leads to two observations: (1) Computers cannot do anything without reasoning (programming) and thus cannot act intuitively. (2) Intuition can be trained by practice. The more intimately we are familiar with anything (say a game), the more likely our first impression (immediate knowing) will be correct. So, I think intuition gained through experience plays a large role and an intuitive player can go far in Chess or Go. At some point, however, one must become a good analyst to progress further. I would be interested in opinions about how far in each game (elo rating) a purely intuitive player might progress.

Thibault de Vassal    (2006-12-04 12:52:51)

I don't agree with that. If you oppose intuition to calculation / algorithm / reasoning, chess engines do have intuition. Even Fritz has chess knowledge, that looks like ours by the way, and can play at a 1900-2000 level OTB without any calculation (1 move forward) IMO. And the same, some chess engines improve their evaluation of positions by training.

Quite complex question, nearer philosophy than computers :)

Elmer Valderrama    (2006-12-04 14:18:02)

I disagree, chess knowledge can't be equated to intuition, here is my long post about it (why am I writing about the same things all over and over and at the same time of year, I dunno ;)

1. Players without any intuition whatsoever but great working capabilitites (as Botvinnik, Fischer, Kasparov, ..engines..)

-they never relie on intuition (they dont have any at all after all) so everything must be subject to calculation, they have the "hardware" (perfect body and mental conditions, rigorous training, perfect visual/realistic representation of positions and a great chess knowledge which must be kept fresh in mind -if not, they wouldn't have reference points to judge/evaluate resulting positions.

When on top form they can beat anybody and I mean ANY body: human, extraterrestial, ultragalactic, trans-natural, hyper-divine,etc, and for an overwhelming score, like 6-0 ;)..well you know what I mean.

The drawback well you already know it, it last a mig, except for the engines, no-one can keep up with this regime (GK could for a long time, but resorting to short breaks (not playing for WC, choosing carefully where to play etc,) But most important it's impossible to implement for long if the "hardware" -see above- starts to "leak oil" then it's all over..

This can be brought up to an art, like Kasparov or Fischer, it is more powerful than understanding chess as a natural tongue (as intuitive players) because the "top-form" competitive element is always present and the "hardware" works in pristine conditions.

From the above it follows of course that engines are the ultimate chess warrior over the board at least (and only there, not in CC)

2. Those who have strategical intuition. (Capablanca, Petrosian, Karpov maybe Anand..)The general impression is that they are simply lazy people: not need to work out any thing as they just "know" where pieces should go and what the point is of their moves, usually there is no need for deep calculations, just two or three moves (4 to 6 plies) to corroborate the "feeling" and the game is won.

The "feeling" is hard to express in words, and usually is lost if expressed in words ;). It goes beyond a simply pattern recognition, or a full database of chess knowledge, it is about predicting the future possibilities (not having real positions in mind, just the "possibilities" or general lines of play in future positions which may or may not happen to appear for real in the game. They can play for long long time and win a lot of tournaments (Karpov I believe have the record of won tournaments)

3. Those who have special understanding in unbalanced positions (Alekhine, Tal, Korchnoi..) They are dynamic players who love to calculate but not for the sake of finding the best of the best of the best of the moves (as those in group 1 would do), they calculate SOME variations, those who have meaning to them I see them as players of group 2 with a more or less working "hardware" i.e they are not going to trust 2 or 3 moves variations neither they are going to speculate on the future possibilities without any ground/basic calculation under it. Their "feeling" is again hard to express in words, but I believe it is something like calculating a 10-12 plies variation with every position in-between being subconciously excrutinated for crushing unexpected turning moves (this is not done by players of group 1, they would calculate "normal replies" in that 10-12 plies variation and would have to go deeper (like 20-30 plies to see the point ;)

So that "feeling" is what enable us to compose music, create art etc but also it is something that enable us to err like fools :( Whether it can be mimicked by software or not it's an open question but as I said a calculation 40-50 plies deep it's practically equal to using intuition... Obviously the above classification of G Kasparov it's a bit rough in the sense that there are very few "pure intuitive" players (of either group 2 or 3) as mentioned by Don in his post most of the players is a mix of talent I believe, if I had to choose a pure intuitive player from those groups I would point Capablanca and Korchnoi, and of course Kasparov of group 1

Thibault de Vassal    (2006-12-04 16:45:00)

That's difficult IMO to distinguish "feeling" and knowledge.

Anyway I completely disagree when you say Fischer, Kasparov (and so on) could beat ANY body 6-0 when on top form... Such results could only happen with quite 'weak' opponents, particularly in the past.

Don Groves    (2006-12-05 02:05:37)

Thibault, I understand your point but in humans (all living things having a brain actually) there is a moment between the observation of something and when we begin to think about it. Robert Pirsig calls this moment our entire knowledge of "external reality." Intuition happens in that moment. I don't think computers have a corresponding state to this (and possibly our own is an illusion ;). You are right that this is a more philosophical question than technical, but as long as we insist on comparing "artificial" intelligence to our own, computers must be subjected to these questions.