Wired-up Chessmasters: Kuka Monster Loses to 'Featherweight' Rival in Moscow

Two robots battle to be "First Absolute World Chess Blitz Champion," while the Israeli Gelfand and the Indian Anand continue to draw at world championship.

MOSCOW - It was impressive and spectacular, but also rather spooky. In the middle of a park, on a podium surrounded by dozens of chess enthusiasts who weren't deterred by the rain, two robots battled it out for the title "First Absolute World Chess Blitz Champion."

Kuka Monster, a German-made robot, weighing 300 kilograms, and resembling a cross between RoboCop and one of the stars of "The Fly," tried to overcome a more refined, but not less sophisticated robot by the name of ChessKA, weighing only 120 kilograms. Both robots, fed by chess super software, can calculate thousands of variants of the game and execute them within an average time of 2.5 seconds - most of this time taken by the mechanical arm making the move. Each side has only five minutes per game. The plan is to hold a robot championship every year, and create a robot champions league of sorts, called Chess-Robo-Liga, for commercial robotechnical manufacturers, in a similar format as Formula 1 for car manufactures.

ChessKA, created by the engineer and chess coach Konstantin Kosteniuk, father of former chess world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, managed to cause his opponent to use up all its time three times, and won the title, 3.5-0.5. Kuka Monster's manufacturer, Kuka Robotics, will now have to go back to the drawing board. Still, only an hour before being beaten by ChessKA, Kuka Monster managed to rout Russian grandmaster and former Blitz Chess world champion Alexander Grischuk 4.5-1.5. When in white, the robot easily outclassed the human, leaving him without time and in inferior positions. ChessKA, too, has previously beaten human grandmasters with ease.

Is the era of human chess players over? That's a hard one to answer.

Meanwhile in the contests between humans, both contestants succeeded in neutralizing the opponent's initiatives, with robot-like persistence and accuracy - but no more. Former world champion Garry Kasparov, supplied some insights in the contest between Boris Gelfand and Viswanathan Anand, currently tied at 3-3, and to resume today with Gelfand in white. Kasparov was quick to declare that, in fact, the two are contesting the title of "world champion," not "best chess player in the world."

"One can understand Gelfand," Kasparov said, "in the past 20 years he hasn't managed to beat Anand in classic chess even once. He's very concentrated, since he understands that one defeat can put an end to his aspirations, especially in such a short tournament." Kasparov claims that Anand, too, "isn't the same player he once was, and is afraid of losing since he knows he'll find it very difficult to win." Kasparov said he wouldn't be surprised if the tournament goes down to a tie-break.

AP