The mystery of Alex Bernstein

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Sergei S. Markoff
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The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Sergei S. Markoff » Thu Jun 06, 2019 9:20 pm

It is well-known fact that the first fully functional chess-playing program was created by the team led by Alex Bernstein in 1957.
It's surprisingly little known about him personally. No birth year, no bio, almost nothing.

What I'm managed to discover:

1) He was one of the guys hired by IBM in 1956. We can find a funny details of IBM recruitment campaign in [1] and [2]. According to these sources he was "a U.S. Intercollegiate champion". However other sources doesn't support this statement. See for example [3]. May be he was confused with Sidney Norman Bernstein?
2) He was attended to the famous Darthmouth conference in 1956. According to [4] "Alex Bernstein, who came from New York to talk about the chess-playing program when he played a game of chess with McCarthy the equivalent of mano in the world of science Bernstein won, despite the fact that he’d accepted the handicap of playing blindfold. After that he produced a program to beat McCarthy when he got back to New York. Because he realized that his visit to Dartmouth didn’t coincide with that of Newell and Simon, he discovered only later that he and they had arrived independently at some of the same ideas for the problem". In McCarthy memoirs [5] we can see only "Alex Bernstein of IBM presented his chess program under construction. My reaction was to invent and recommend to him alpha-beta pruning. He was unconvinced."
3) In "New Yorker" 1958 article [6] we see: "Mr. B. admitte that he has never lost to 704. Bernstein has been playing chess since he was nine years old. He says that 704 makes excellent moves but itsn’t able to think far enough ahead. Bernstein has been too busy lately on other I.B.M. projects to play much chess with 704. “In theory, 704 was incapable of surprising me, but every so often it did,” he said. “One or twice it played so well that it rattled me.”. Not much.
4) And of course we have some photos like https://www.computerhistory.org/chess/s ... 14f6482e6/, several articles written by Bernstein himself and members of his team and even video: https://www.computerhistory.org/chess/m ... 90c26dd21/. But it doesn't help a lot.
5) I've found a short record here: https://radaris.com/p/Alex/Bernstein/ "Alex Bernstein; Lived in: Saint Louis, MO • Chesterfield, MO • Alton, IL; Work: IBM, IBM Corporation, Amdocs Limited". But I'm not even sure that this is our Alex Bernstein.

So, it's probably the time to write a letter to IBM with the hope than they will shed some light on Bernstein personality?

1. Müller, K. & Schaeffer, J. (2018). Man Vs. Machine: Challenging Human Supremacy at Chess (2. Edition). New York, NY, USA: Russell Enterprises, Incorporated. // https://books.google.ru/books?id=0GV2DwAAQBAJ
2. Ensmenger, N. (2012). The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise (2. Edition). New York, NY, USA: MIT Press. // https://books.google.ru/books?id=VCcsTPQ738oC
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Ameri ... ampionship
4. Ashim Das (2005). A report on the dartmouth AI conference // http://www.sci.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~kopec ... nment1.rtf
5. John McCarthy (2006). The Dartmouth Workshop--as planned and as it happened // http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/slid ... node1.html
6. Andy Logan, Brendan Gill (1958). Runner-up / The New Yorker, November 29, 1958 P. 43 // https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1958 ... unner-up-4
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Gerd Isenberg
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Gerd Isenberg » Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:09 am

Hi Sergei,
thanks for your efforts to find some information on Bernstein. McCarthy's quote from The Dartmouth Workshop--as planned and as it happened is interesting:
Alex Bernstein of IBM presented his chess program under construction. My reaction was to invent and recommend to him alpha-beta pruning. He was unconvinced.
updated cpw pages with some more links
https://www.chessprogramming.org/Alex_Bernstein
https://www.chessprogramming.org/The_Be ... ss_Program

Sergei S. Markoff
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Sergei S. Markoff » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:49 am

Gerd Isenberg wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:09 am
Hi Sergei,
thanks for your efforts to find some information on Bernstein. McCarthy's quote from The Dartmouth Workshop--as planned and as it happened is interesting:
Alex Bernstein of IBM presented his chess program under construction. My reaction was to invent and recommend to him alpha-beta pruning. He was unconvinced.
updated cpw pages with some more links
https://www.chessprogramming.org/Alex_Bernstein
https://www.chessprogramming.org/The_Be ... ss_Program
Thank you, Bert! I'm now working on the book about AI (including some historical research), so that's why I've digged this area a bit and found some interesting things and of course some mysteries :)
The Force Be With You!

Gerd Isenberg
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Gerd Isenberg » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:14 pm

Great, keep us informed, Sergei. Also on the Gunter Sсhliebs engine.
Do you have some information about early Soviet programs by Shura-Bura or Butenko?

Thanks & Best regards,
Gerd

Sergei S. Markoff
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Sergei S. Markoff » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:52 pm

Gerd Isenberg wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:14 pm
Great, keep us informed, Sergei. Also on the Gunter Sсhliebs engine.
Do you have some information about early Soviet programs by Shura-Bura or Butenko?

Thanks & Best regards,
Gerd
As to Butenko's program («Эврика» — "Evrika") I see five major sources:

1. Бутенко В. И. Первая Сибирская шахматная программа «Эврика» и ее особенности. – Новосибирск: Ротапринт ВЦ СО АН СССР, 1985.
2. Светлана Книжник (2009). Наставник для компьютера / Наука в Сибири, №17 (2702) 30 апреля 2009 г. // http://www.nsc.ru/HBC/article.phtml?nid=500&id=5
3. В.П. Одинец (2013). Зарисовки по истории компьютерных наук // http://infolymp.ru/resources/library/files/odyniec.pdf
4. Ботвинник М.М. (1987). Аналитические и критические работы 1928-1986. Статьи. Воспоминания // https://books.google.ru/books?id=l8HVDgAAQBAJ
5. http://atimopheyev.narod.ru/AfterPIONEE ... tenko-1970

The first one is unavailable online (I'll try to obtain it).

Let me know if you need some translations, Google provides an automatic translation that looks almost ok but sometimes it fails.
The Force Be With You!

Sergei S. Markoff
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Sergei S. Markoff » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:32 am

Gerd Isenberg wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:14 pm
Great, keep us informed, Sergei. Also on the Gunter Sсhliebs engine.
Do you have some information about early Soviet programs by Shura-Bura or Butenko?

Thanks & Best regards,
Gerd
As to Shura-Bura program the only source is:

1. В. Туманов. «Лучший ход» — за 58 секунд // Таль—Ботвинник: матч-реванш на первенство мира. Бюллетень Центрального шахматного клуба СССР. — 1961. — № 8. — С. 4—5.

I've checked it and I'm not 100% sure that mysterious Shura-Bura program is not actually ITEF/Kaissa and the mystery was born due to journalist mistake.
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Gerd Isenberg
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Gerd Isenberg » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:18 am

Sergei S. Markoff wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:32 am
As to Shura-Bura program the only source is:

1. В. Туманов. «Лучший ход» — за 58 секунд // Таль—Ботвинник: матч-реванш на первенство мира. Бюллетень Центрального шахматного клуба СССР. — 1961. — № 8. — С. 4—5.

I've checked it and I'm not 100% sure that mysterious Shura-Bura program is not actually ITEF/Kaissa and the mystery was born due to journalist mistake.
Yep, Shura-Bura's Program, as mentioned in V. Tomanov (1961). The best move in 58 seconds. in the 8th Bulletin of the Botvinnik Tal 1961 revenge-match, was elaborated in Jaap van den Herik's Ph.D. thesis with some evaluation details and that it had no search.

https://www.chessprogramming.org/Shura-Bura%27s_Program

In The Early Development of Programming in the USSR, Andrey Ershov and Mikhail R. Shura-Bura note that in the end of the 1950's a group of Moscow mathematicians began a study of computerized chess which eventually led to the victory at the WCCC 1974.

http://ershov.iis.nsk.su/ru/archive/subgroup?nid=764886

So it seems the program mentioned in Tomanov's 1961 article was not "Shura-Bura's Program" but likely a forerunner of the ITEP chess program by Georgy Adelson-Velsky et al..

Sergei S. Markoff
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Sergei S. Markoff » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:43 pm

Gerd Isenberg wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:18 am
Yep, Shura-Bura's Program, as mentioned in V. Tomanov (1961). The best move in 58 seconds. in the 8th Bulletin of the Botvinnik Tal 1961 revenge-match, was elaborated in Jaap van den Herik's Ph.D. thesis with some evaluation details and that it had no search.

https://www.chessprogramming.org/Shura-Bura%27s_Program

In The Early Development of Programming in the USSR, Andrey Ershov and Mikhail R. Shura-Bura note that in the end of the 1950's a group of Moscow mathematicians began a study of computerized chess which eventually led to the victory at the WCCC 1974.

http://ershov.iis.nsk.su/ru/archive/subgroup?nid=764886

So it seems the program mentioned in Tomanov's 1961 article was not "Shura-Bura's Program" but likely a forerunner of the ITEP chess program by Georgy Adelson-Velsky et al..
Tumanov, not Tomanov. Yes, this is the exact source. BTW I can send you Tumanov's article copy If you want.
BTW, there was some program for BESM that was able to solve "mate in 2", "mate in 3" tasks. According to Kitov [1], [2], [3] and some other [4] sources it was created by Vladimir Kurochkin [5].
And also there was a program to play KBBK endgame with two different-coloured bishops created by V.D. Kukushkin [1], [2], [3]. But I'm failed to trace any other mentions of it and I have no idea who was Kukushkin.

1. Китов А.И. (1956). Электронные цифровые машины // http://www.kitov-anatoly.ru/naucnye-tru ... vye-masiny
2. Китов А.И., Криницкий Н.А. (1959). Электронные цифровые машины и программирование // http://www.computer-museum.ru/books/ecm_i_prog.pdf
3. Китов А.И., Криницкий Н.А. (1958). Электронные вычислительные машины и программирование // http://elib.ict.nsc.ru/jspui/bitstream/ ... ov1958.pdf
4. В.Н. Лаут. Как я попал в ИТМ? // http://www.ipmce.ru/about/history/leadi ... aut/print/
5. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Курочкин, ... ч_(учёный)
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Rom77
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Full name: Roman Zhukov

Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Rom77 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:51 pm

Gerd Isenberg wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:18 am
So it seems the program mentioned in Tomanov's 1961 article was not "Shura-Bura's Program" but likely a forerunner of the ITEP chess program by Georgy Adelson-Velsky et al..
Sorry for GoogleTranslate, but I want to bring some clarity on the Shura-Bura program.

From the article by Tumanov it is obvious that this is not about the ITEP program. See the following Shura-Bura quotation from the article:
"... For this we set a special program for the machine, in the development of which researchers I. Zadyhailo and V. Smilga took part."
Perhaps it was this program that played against grandmaster Bronstein in 1963.

See also quotes from an article in the journal "Problems of Cybernetics" No. 15, 1965, which was written by E.A. Evgrafov and I.B. Zadyhailo:
“Only small isolated groups work on the creation of a chess machine, and not all the time, but from time to time. <...> This article contains the results of the work we have done in 1961-1962.”
"*) While making a report at a seminar at Moscow State University, G.M. Adelson-Velsky reported that he had conducted similar experiments. He claimed that he had succeeded in achieving the power of playing an automaton corresponding to approximately the fourth category. Unfortunately, the report was devoted only to the implementation technique busting, and the degree of use of chess theory did not say anything. The games played by the machine were not published. "

Sergei S. Markoff
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Re: The mystery of Alex Bernstein

Post by Sergei S. Markoff » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:06 pm

Rom77 wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:51 pm
Gerd Isenberg wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:18 am
So it seems the program mentioned in Tomanov's 1961 article was not "Shura-Bura's Program" but likely a forerunner of the ITEP chess program by Georgy Adelson-Velsky et al..
Sorry for GoogleTranslate, but I want to bring some clarity on the Shura-Bura program.

From the article by Tumanov it is obvious that this is not about the ITEP program. See the following Shura-Bura quotation from the article:
"... For this we set a special program for the machine, in the development of which researchers I. Zadyhailo and V. Smilga took part."
Perhaps it was this program that played against grandmaster Bronstein in 1963.

See also quotes from an article in the journal "Problems of Cybernetics" No. 15, 1965, which was written by E.A. Evgrafov and I.B. Zadyhailo:
“Only small isolated groups work on the creation of a chess machine, and not all the time, but from time to time. <...> This article contains the results of the work we have done in 1961-1962.”
"*) While making a report at a seminar at Moscow State University, G.M. Adelson-Velsky reported that he had conducted similar experiments. He claimed that he had succeeded in achieving the power of playing an automaton corresponding to approximately the fourth category. Unfortunately, the report was devoted only to the implementation technique busting, and the degree of use of chess theory did not say anything. The games played by the machine were not published. "
Thank you very much!
The Force Be With You!

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