Alexander Kronrod

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Alexander Kronrod [1] [2]

Aleksandr (Alexander) Semenovich Kronrod, (October 22, 1921 – October 6, 1986)

was a Russian mathematician and computer scientist. Kronrod and his fellow Georgy Adelson-Velsky were the last students of Nikolai Luzin at Moscow State University. In the 50s and 60s Kronrod was professor and head of the Computational Laboratory at Moscows Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEF or ITEP). He was involved in developing the ITEP Chess Program in motivating his friends Georgy Adelson-Velsky and Alexander Brudno, as well in his proposal of a "general recursive search scheme". Kronrod is well known for saying, "chess is the Drosophila of artificial intelligence" [3].

In 1965, while John McCarthy visited the Soviet Union, he was challenged by Kronrod, who considered the Kotok-McCarthy-Program to be the best program in the United States at the time. At the end of 1966 the four game match was arranged between Kotok-McCarthy, running on a IBM 7090 computer, and the ITEP Program on a Soviet M-20. The match played over nine months was won 3-1 by the ITEP Program.


Remembering A.S. Kronrod

Quote from Remembering A.S. Kronrod by Evgenii Landis and Isaak Yaglom [4]:

Only in 1955 did a real opportunity arise for A.S. Kronrod to work with an electronic computer. It was the M­2 computer constructed by I.S. Bruk, M.A. Kartsev, and N.Ya. Matyukhin in the laboratory of the Institute of Energy named after Krzhizhanovsky and directed by I.S. Bruk. This laboratory later became the to Institute for Electronic Control Machines. The mathematics/machine interface was developed by A.L. Brudno, a great personal and like­minded friend of A.S. Kronrod.
When he started with enthusiasm to program the M­2 machine, A.S. Kronrod quickly came to the conclusion that computing is not the main application of computers. The main goal is to teach the computer to think, i.e., what is now called "artificial intelligence" and in those days "heuristic programming".
A.S. Kronrod captivated a large group of mathematicians and physicists (G.M. Adelson ­Velsky, A.L. Brudno, M.M. Bongard, E.M. Landis, N.N. Konstantinov, and others). Although some of them had arrived at this kind of problems on their own, they unconditionally accepted his leadership. In the room next to the one housing the M­2 machine the work of the new Kronrod seminar started. At the gatherings there were heated discussions on pattern recognition problems (this work was led by M.M. Bongard; versions of his program "Kora" are still functioning), transportation problems (the problem was introduced to the seminar and actively worked on by A.L. Brudno), problems of automata theory, and many other problems.

Intellectual Foundations

Quote from Biography AS Kronrod by Alexander Yershov [5]

In 1958, Kronrod, Adelson-Velsky, and Landis selected "Snap" ("подкидного дурака") as the intellectual foundations for the development of the game heuristic programming [6]. The program itself was a fiasco - but the basic principles (board games, search techniques and limited depth) were formulated. Further research laboratories in the field of game theory culminated in the first ever chess duel between the program of the Institute of Soviet and American best program developed at Stanford University under the direction of J. McCarthy. By telegraph match was played in four games ended 3-1 in favor of our institute. At the time, chess became a guinea pig for all programmers interested in artificial intelligence.

Competitions, Controversies, and Computer Chess

Quote from Competitions, Controversies, and Computer Chess [7]:

This match has a very sad postscript: Alexander Kronrod, the head of the Computational lab at ITEP, was a highly principled person who, among with many other mathematicians, signed a letter in defense of Esenin-Volpin, a mathematician who was placed in an insane asylum for anti-Communist views. For his signature of the letter Kronrod was reprimanded by the Communist Party. The physicists at ITEP, who were irritated because computer time was “wasted” on game playing instead of their problems used the reprimand as an excuse to oust Kronrod from his position. At the same time Kronrod was fired from his professorship at the Moscow Pedagogical Institute. These actions effectively ended the career of this brilliant mathematician.

What is AI?

Quote by John McCarthy from What is Artificial Intelligence? [8] [9]:

Alexander Kronrod, a Russian AI researcher, said 'Chess is the Drosophila of AI.' He was making an analogy with geneticists' use of that fruit fly to study inheritance. Playing chess requires certain intellectual mechanisms and not others. Chess programs now play at grandmaster level, but they do it with limited intellectual mechanisms compared to those used by a human chess player, substituting large amounts of computation for understanding. Once we understand these mechanisms better, we can build human-level chess programs that do far less computation than do present programs. Unfortunately, the competitive and commercial aspects of making computers play chess have taken precedence over using chess as a scientific domain. It is as if the geneticists after 1910 had organized fruit fly races and concentrated their efforts on breeding fruit flies that could win these races.

Selected Publications


External Links


  1. Alexander Kronrod from Wikipedia
  2. Image from Evgenii Landis, Isaak Yaglom (1987). Remembering A.S. Kronrod. (2002). Translation by Viola Brudno, Edited by Walter Gautschi, ps
  3. Alexander Kronrod from Wikiquote
  4. Evgenii Landis, Isaak Yaglom (1987). Remembering A.S. Kronrod. (2002). Translation by Viola Brudno, Edited by Walter Gautschi, ps
  5. Биография А.С. Кронрода (Biography AS Kronrod) by Alexander Yershov
  6. Boris Polyak. Memories.
  7. Michael Brudno (2000). Competitions, Controversies, and Computer Chess, pdf
  8. John McCarthy (1989). The Fruitfly on the Fly. ICCA Journal, Vol. 12, No. 4
  9. John McCarthy (1990). Chess as the Drosophila of AI. Computers, Chess, and Cognition, pp. 227-237
  10. Kronrod Aleksandr Semenovich
  11. Gauss–Kronrod quadrature formula - Wikipedia

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