Turing’s Machine Support

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Help! I’m finding it too difficult. How do I beat it?

A. Frustrating, isn’t it? You can take heart in the fact that TuroChamp plays at the level of a strong beginner (somewhere from 1200 to 1400 Elo), so with a bit of time and experience, you’ll definitely get there.

Also, the current “state of the art” in chess engines is so far beyond even the best human players that, if you have beaten a modern chess engine since about 2005 - whoever you are - you only won because it let you win. This means that you, Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov are all in the same boat - the machines can beat us all these days.

This somewhat depressing thought makes TuroChamp all the more precious - if you beat it, you beat it playing at its very best. TuroChamp was defined in 1947 and it hasn’t learnt a thing since - it has a fixed mathematical structure and will always play at the same level. No matter how fast computers get, it will remain fixed, so that when you finally beat it, the achievement will stand. There’s no “Version 2.0” coming in six months to taint your victory.

TuroChamp plays at somewhere around difficulty level 6, so if you need to practice, you could warm up by first beating levels 1-5. Once you’ve done that, here are a few practical tips that might help:

  • Slow down. The longer you think, the better your chances are of winning.
  • Try to ensure that all of your pieces are defended at all times.
  • Block up the center with pawns.
  • Try to simplify the game by exchanging queens.
  • Generally try to keep the position as simple as possible; the machine plays better in complex positions (i.e. where lots of captures are available to both sides).
  • As Turing observed, the machine can be vulnerable to forks.
  • The machine tends to undervalue advanced pawns. You might be able to promote a pawn, even if the game seems lost.
  • The machine is overly fond of bringing its queen out early. It is sometimes possible to trap it (but be careful!).
  • The machine has a disastrous positional sense. It will make major positional errors if you just let it shuffle its pieces around for long enough.
  • The machine can be surprisingly weak in the endgame, to the point of making some absolute howlers. It’s worth playing on for a draw, even if you find yourself in a seemingly hopeless position. Our engine understands both the 50 move rule and threefold repetition, so if you keep moving, the game will eventually be declared a draw.

Q. Why don’t you allow takebacks and hints in some games?

A. We don’t allow takebacks or hints when you’re playing TuroChamp as a mark of respect for Turing and Champernowne. They created their machine almost 70 years ago, before computers existed, using pencil and paper to calculate each move in excruciating, painful and tedious detail. TuroChamp doesn’t get to take back moves, so neither should you. :o)

We don’t allow takebacks and hints when you’re playing a tournament (or another human), to simulate the over-the-board tournament experience. In a tournament, you’re playing without a safety net. If you mess up, you just have to deal with it and either recover or try harder in the next game.

When you’re playing the modified, variable-level engine, you can opt to use hints and takebacks if you like - but we encourage you to learn to live with your mistakes...!

Q. If I beat it once, will those moves always win?
A. It depends. Turing specified that if two moves have the same value, some “additional condition” can be used to choose between them. We opted to apply Turing’s positional function to the opponent’s pieces and subtract a random number, rather than just choosing randomly. If this happens in your game, the machine will probably choose a different move next time, so your fixed series of moves might not work. That said, it’s possible that your moves result in the machine having a clear choice of move at every stage, so you might find a sequence of moves that will always win.

If you do find a sequence like that, please let us know!

If you have other support issues or queries - or if you just want to say hi - please email support@dbrg.com

Good luck!

Turing’s Machine


Turing’s Machine Support

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