Claude Shannon

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Claude Shannon [1]

Claude Elwood Shannon, (April 30, 1916 – February 24, 2001)
was an American electrical engineer, mathematician and researcher from MIT and since 1941 Bell Laboratories. One of the pioneers of the information theory .

In 1949 Shannon published a groundbreaking paper on computer chess entitled Programming a Computer for Playing Chess [2] . It describes how a machine or computer could be made to play a reasonable game of chess. His process for having the computer decide on which move to make is a minimax procedure, based on an evaluation function of a given chess position.


Chess Automation

Quote of the text on the back on the photo, as given in ICCA Journal, Vol. 12, No. 4: [3] :

 Dr. Claude E. Shannon demonstrating to Chessmaster Edward Lasker his (home-made) electric chess automation, build in 1949. The machine could handle up to six pieces, and was designed to test various programming methods. With one hundred and fifty relay operations required to complete a move, it arrived at the reply to an opponent's play in ten to fifteen seconds. It had built into it a random element, and as a result did not necessarily always make the same move when faced with the same position. 
2-0 and 2-1.shannon lasker.prior 1970.102645398.NEWBORN.lg.jpg

Computer pioneer Claude Shannon and chess champion Edward Lasker at MIT, ponder the
computational aspects of playing chess at Shannon's early relay-based chess machine [4]

WCCC 1980


WCCC 1980, Linz, Austria, Special guest Claude Shannon, David Levy left [5]

Chess Pioneers Mittman Newborn Marsland Slate Levy Shannon Thompson Truscott.c1980.102665753.lg.jpg

Chess pioneers in Sacher Hotel Vienna, Austria 1980: Ben Mittman, Monty Newborn, Tony Marsland,
Dave Slate, David Levy, Claude Shannon, Ken Thompson, Betty Shannon, Tom Truscott [6]

WCCC 1989

3-1 and 3-2.Thompson Shannon Slate.WCCC.Edmonton.1989.102645362.NEWBORN.lg.jpg

Thompson, Shannon, and Slate at the 6th WCCC Edmonton 1989 [7]

5-2.Hsu and Shannon 1989.102645330.HSU.lg.jpg

Claude Shannon awards Feng-hsiung Hsu, first prize for Deep Thought, Edmonton 1989 [8]

Shannon's Types

Claude Shannon categorized two types of search [9] :

Without the sense of alpha-beta, and inspired by the experiments of Adriaan de Groot [10] , Shannon and early programmers favored Type B strategy. Type B searches use some type of static heuristics in order to only look at branches that look important - with some risk to oversee some serious tactics not covered by the plausible move selector. Type B was most popular until the 1970's, when Type A programs had enough processing power and more efficient brute force algorithms to become stronger. Today most programs are closer to Type A, but have some characteristics of a Type B as mentioned in selectivity.

See also

Selected Publications

1938 ...

1950 ...

1980 ...

2000 ...

Forum Posts

External Links


100th Birthday


  1. Claude Shannon from Wikipedia
  2. Programming a Computer for Playing Chess (raw text)
  3. Photo of courtesy of Mrs. Shannon and Jos Uiterwijk, ICCA Journal, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 217. Quote of the text on the back on the photo
  4. Shannon and Lasker at Shannon's chess machine, ca. 1950 Gift of Monroe Newborn from The Computer History Museum
  5. Claude Shannon during the 3rd World Computer Chess Championship that was staged in the course of the Ars Electronica Festival 1980, credit: LIVA – Linzer Veranstaltungsgesellschaft mbH, Ars Electronica - Codes & Clowns (2010/2011) – Flickr
  6. Chess pioneers in Sacher Hotel Vienna, Austria, Gift of Benjamin Mittman, The Computer History Museum
  7. Thompson, Shannon, and Slate Photo by Monroe Newborn from A History of Computer Chess from The Computer History Museum
  8. Claude Shannon awards Feng-hsiung Hsu Photo from A History of Computer Chess from The Computer History Museum
  9. Claude Shannon (1949). Programming a Computer for Playing Chess. pdf
  10. Groot, A.D. de (1946). Het denken van den Schaker, een experimenteel-psychologische studie. Ph.D. thesis, University of Amsterdam; N.V. Noord-Hollandse Uitgevers Maatschappij, Amsterdam. Translated with the help of George Baylor, with additions (in 1965) as Thought and Choice in Chess. Mouton Publishers, The Hague. ISBN 90-279-7914-6. (amazon)
  11. In Vadim Anshelevich (2002). A hierarchical approach to computer Hex. Artificial Intelligence - Chips challenging champions: games, computers and Artificial Intelligence, pdf, Vadim Anshelevich acknowledged Claude Shannon, who build an analogue Hex-playing machine using electrical resistor circuits, which was model in Anshelevich's program Hexy
  12. Hex is a special case of the Shannon Switching Game, from Jack van Rijswijck (2003). Search and evaluation in Hex. Technical report, University of Alberta, pdf
  13. Thomas Fischer (2009). Bridg-It – Beating Shannon’s Analog Heuristic. pdf

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