Saturday, July 23, 2011

Computer Chess Cheating: Rybka’s Vasik Rajlich Interview

By Chess Tutor William Stewart
Original Article on Chess Cheating available here.


The International Computer Games Association (ICGA) released a public statement on June 28, 2011 declaring the ultra-strong computer chess program Rybka guilty of plagiarism, specifically alleging that the author/programmer Vasik Rajlich plagiarized two other strong computer chess programs (Fruit and Crafty) while designing the code for Rybka. Rybka has been the undisputed Computer Chess World Champion for the period 2007-2010, however it is extremely unlikely the program will compete in the November 2011 Championship.


Vasik Rajlich

Vasik Rajlich has elected not to directly respond to the ICGA's public accusations, preferring to be interviewed by Nelson Hernandez. Rajlich is an MIT Graduate and an International Chess Master, not to mention one of the best computer chess programmers in the world. What Rajlich doesn't get enough credit for is his ability to dodge questions and provide meaningless / irrelevant answers better than Johnny Cochrane on his best day in court. In his defense, he does make a few good points.


The ICGA stated that they had attempted to contact Rajlich multiple times and were ignored - leading them to publicly accuse and condemn Rajlich and Rybka. When asked why Rajlich has declined to respond directly to the ICGA, at 12:30 he demanded that "the investigation be conducted in a fair and proper manner". This is certainly a legitimate request, however it appears the ICGA was frustrated that Rajlich had declined to cooperate from the beginning.

Rajlich Explains His Side

Essentially, Rajlich feels that the existing rules are sufficiently vague for general misinterpretation and enforcement. Also, any objections to his programming should have been raised a long time ago because he has been publicly doing the same thing under the same rules for years. At 14:15 Rajlich claims that the ICGA rules are vague/ambiguous, specifically the wording in rule 2 with respect to the scope of the word "original" in computer programming. Rajlich believes that the ICGA's case is incapable of presenting evidence that is quantifiable, as computer chess programmers frequently copy codes from public domains to employ in programs. He claims that this "... could have led to an overlap between Crafty, Fruit and Rybka - Which is perfectly legal and normal". ICGA rules do permit copying of programming code, as long as it is credited and/or unrelated to playing strength. It would be nice to see Rajlich and the ICGA work this out transparently to avoid any misrepresentation of the facts, however this is unlikely. At 21:10 Hernandez asks "What would it take for you and the ICGA to be back in good graces?" - greeted by:

"I guess the resignation of everyone currently there". - Vasik Rajlich



So What Happens Next?

Rajlich has declined to comment in detail, however implied that his current business relationships continue in good standing (notably with ChessBase). He stated his sales "were up 400% last week", and joked that maybe he should do this type of thing more often. The ICGA is intending to report the issue to legal authorities and other associations with the intention of proving that Rajlich plagiarized source code to develop, improve and profit from Rybka.

Original Article on Chess Cheating available here. Follow William on Facebook and Twitter.