Ed Trice
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  • August 27, 1989

    I entered The Sniper into the Pennsylvania State Chess Championship shortly after the Drexel University Chess Championship ended. I worked hard on its Opening Book, adding perhaps over 2000 lines of play into it. These moves would be played instantly should they occur against the opponent, saving time on the clock, which is very important in tournament play. As most programmers will tell you today, such a small scale endeavor as this (so few moves, so little time before a tournament) is almost not worth it. The program only encountered one variation in the tournament it did not have previously, and even then, it only stayed in its "book" for 3 moves longer than it would have without it.

    In the image shown below, you can barely see me. I am on the top-left of Dr. Hans Berliner's head. You can see my green and white striped shirt and my watch. Sitting opposite me was Valerie Face, a girl from Pennsylvania rated in the 1800's. In that game, The Sniper played Henry Bird's Opening (1. f4) and won.

    The Sniper continued it's undefeated streak, winning 2 games and drawing 3. That score of 3.5 points out of 5.0 was good enough for a tie for 10th place. The tournament was won by the legendary chess program Hi Tech, with a perfect 5-0 score. I sat next to the late Hans Berliner for the duration of the tournament. At the beginning of the event, the press surrounded our table. I just finished a 3-dimensional version of the chess board on my Macintosh SE/30, running at 16 MHz (seemed fast at the time). One of the reporters looked at the 3D board and asked "Is that Hi Tech?"

    Berliner's head snapped hard to the right, as he glared at the reporter. "No!" he said emphatically. "This is Hi Tech," pointing to his Toshiba laptop that connected remotely to the Carnegie-Mellon University mainframe far away."That is 'Low Tech'," he said derisively.

    The reporters all laughed, Berliner grinned, and I felt a flush of embarassment at the unexpected remark. In perfect unison, almost as if rehearsed, the reporters all looked back up at me, after they scribbled furiously into their paper notepads. In a moment of inspiration, I retorted "And for $100,000 less, you can play my program, which is almost as strong."

    They didn't laugh as hard as the first volley, but Berliner turned pink, and his bald head could not dim the exuding broadcast. When the reporters had left, he looked over at me, gave a dismissive half-shrug half-smirk, and quickly looked away.

    Hans Berliner's wife was with him for the entire duration of the event, and I happened to see them both out in the parking lot after it was over. I congratulated him on his victory. He said something like "I think this will be it for me." I asked "What do you mean?" He said, "Well's there's nothing left to prove anymore." I am not 100% sure if Hi Tech ever played another game, but I am sure it no longer attended the Pennsylvania State Chess Championships.

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