In the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, there is a chess game between an astronaut Frank Poole and the supercomputer HAL 9000. The game is depicted as a battle of wits on a video screen serving as a chessboard. Poole, playing as White, and HAL, playing as Black, take turns making moves orally using descriptive notation and natural language. Eventually, Poole resigns the game when HAL suggests a particular path to checkmate, although the move HAL proposes is not obligatory. It’s worth mentioning that Stanley Kubrick, the director of “2001,” was an enthusiastic chess player.
Chess enthusiasts have noticed an intriguing connection between a fictional game depicted in a certain context and a real game that took place in the past. Specifically, the positions and moves played in the fictional game correspond exactly to those of a documented game between the players Roesch and Schlage, which occurred in Hamburg in 1910. This discovery was made known through a collection of short games compiled by Irving Chernev and published in 1955. As a result, chess writers and experts have drawn a parallel between the fictional game fragment and the real historical game, proposing that the fictional representation was derived from or inspired by the genuine encounter.
Let’s take a look at the mentioned game:
In Arthur C. Clarke‘s novelization of 2001, it is mentioned that the astronauts had the option to engage in different board games with HAL as a means of passing time. However, the specific game played between them, be it chess or any other, was not explicitly portrayed. In contrast to the film, Clarke’s written adaptation indicated that HAL emerged victorious in only half of the games played, implying that the human astronauts were able to achieve success and challenge the supercomputer’s capabilities on equal footing.