David Levy

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David Levy [1]

David Neil Lawrence Levy, (born 1945 in London)
a Scottish International Master chess player (IM Title 1969), Bachelor of Science in Pure Maths, Physics and Statistics [2] , renowned computer chess expert and promoter, tournament organizer, businessman, and until August 2019 president of the ICGA, the International Computer Games Association. David Levy authored and co-authored an enormous number of articles and books on Chess, Computer Chess and AI-Topics. Noteworthy is the commercial edition of his Ph.D. thesis Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships [3] , which he defended successfully on October 11, 2007, at Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


3-1.computer chess.david levy.102634531.lg.jpg

David Levy ponders next move against Chess 4.6 [4]

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 [5]

The Gambler

The Levy Bet

Cartoon by Jeff Ragsdale [6]

In 1968, Donald Michie, founder of the Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception at the University of Edinburgh, invited Levy, already a strong international chess player and graduated computer scientist, to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) workshop in Edinburgh [7] . Levy played a friendly game of chess against John McCarthy, which Levy won. McCarthy remarked that David was able to beat him, but predicted a computer program would beat David within ten years. David then offered the famous bet, that within that time no chess program would beat him in a tournament match. McCarthy took the bet after consulting Michie [8]. The two made a 500 Pound bet, which was later more than doubled when Donald Michie, Seymour Papert from MIT and Ed Kozdrowicki from the University of California, joined in the wager [9] . David Levy redeemed the bet ten years later, winning a match against Chess 4.7 in Toronto, 1978 [10] . He won a second 5 year bet in 1984, versus Cray Blitz, and then offered a price for the first computer chess team beating him. He finally got crashed 0-4 by Deep Thought in 1989 [11].

Did they all pay up?

Following letter by David Levy was published in the ICCA Newsletter, Vol. 2, No 1, February 1979:

Since my match in Toronto, last August and September, in which I won my ten years old bet, many people have asked me the inevitable question, "Did they all pay up?", meaning the four people with whom I made the bet. I should like to use the pages of the Newsletter to answer this question and to save people from writing to me or asking me about it.
Donald Michie, John McCarthy and Seymour Papert all paid promptly and with good sportsmanship, just as I would have done had I lost. Edward Kozdrowicki, currently of the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, has not paid and has refused to respond in a positive fashion to a number of telephone calls and letters.
I trust that this answers all questions relating to the payment of the bet. 

Advent of EGT

CHAOS failed

Quote by David Levy from his Computer Chess Compendium, The Endgame, pp. 293-294:

The Ending of KRPKR, first attracted the attention of chess programmers in 1974. I was talking to the programmers of CHAOS, during the ACM 1974 in San Diego, and they expressed doubt at my statement that within a year they would not be able to program a computer to play this configuration correctly for both sides, winning with the extra pawn whenever a win was possible, drawing with a pawn less whenever the game really should end in a draw. The discussion closed with a $100 bet, and at the following year's tournament they paid up, admitting that the task was so difficult that they had not even been able to start on it. 

Thompson's Databases

The discussion on KRPKR at ACM 1974 further inspired Ken Thompson to work some 10 years on chess endgames and to develop the Thompson's Databases [12] :

The second tournament I was in was in San Diego in about '75, '74. And in that tournament David Levy, who is a famous chess personality, was the tournament director. And after the games we were in the bar talking and he was saying that "computers can't play endgames, even simple endgames and they never will." And he said "I am an expert in the rook and pawn against rook endgame and a computer will never play a rook and pawn against rook endgame." And so, I went to my room that evening and was calculating the numbers and came to the conclusion that this was doable, that you could solve that game, absolutely solve it by a different mechanism, you know, not by normal computer chess but by a different mechanism. You could just have the answer and look it up and make a table of everything you are supposed to do. And I came back the next day and told him about it and he say's "nah, it takes too many plys, you know", and I said "no, it is ply independent, this is a different method", so he say's "ah no" so he just "poo poo'd me" and I got sort of, angry is not the right word but I got, you know, you know, so I went home and I worked probably for about ten years on endgames. 

Scotch versus Vodka

David Levy further on a second KRPKR bet in Computer Chess Compendium, The Endgame, pp. 293-294:

Being rather greedy, I made a similar bet with Dr. Arlazarov of Kaissa fame during the 1977 World Computer Championship in Toronto. This time the bet was a case of Scotch (if I lost) against a case of Vodka. We agreed that Yuri Averbakh, President of the U.S.S.R. Chess Federation and a renowned endgame expert, would act as arbiter. Just about one year later I heard that I owed Arlazarov a case of Scotch, and section 8.3 of this compendium describes how he and his colleagues collected the wager [13] . 



David Levy, already associated with Monroe Newborn and Ben Mittman from the early ACM Computer Chess Championships, was initiator and co-founder of the World Computer Chess Championship in 1974, as suggested by the Soviet programmers of Kaissa [14] :

Since 1972 (1970 Editor) in the USA and Canada were hold the yearly championships of North America among the chess programs, organized by the ACM. The team of Kaissa directed the organizers of these tournaments to the thought to conduct a world championship, whose organization within the framework its regular congress took upon itself. 


Three years later at the 2nd WCCC 1977 in Toronto, together with more enthusiastic chess programmers and suggested by Barend Swets, David Levy co-founded the International Computer Chess Association ICCA - Ben Mittman was elected as its first president. David Levy organized a lot of computer chess championships, acting as tournament director, reporter or as participant. He was founder and organizer of the Computer Olympiad and the Mind Sports Olympiads.


From 1986 to 1992, David Levy was president of the ICCA, then vice president until 1999 and since then until August 2019 president again, since 2002 of the renamed ICGA [15] [16].

Computer Chess and AI Business

Intelligent Software

In 1979, along with his business partner Kevin O’Connell, David Levy founded Philidor Software, and in 1981 Intelligent Software [17] . Business was developing and trading dedicated chess computers [18] [19] and programs for home computers and PCs. Intelligent Software had several computer chess programmers under contract, Mark Taylor, David Broughton, Mike Johnson, Richard Lang and a Checkers programmer called Martin Bryant [20] . Primary business and trading partners were Eric Winkler [21] and Eric White [22] with their respective companies.

Intelligent Toys

David Levy is now CEO of Intelligent Toys Ltd., a London-based company founded in 2001 that develops toys that incorporate AI, and led the teams that won the Loebner Prize two times in 1997 and 2009 [23] [24] .


Levy is mentioned as co-author [25] of following chess programs, competing at ICCA-tournaments, while he actually was not a programmer but advisor:

Man vs. Machine

See also

Selected Publications

[26] [27] [28]

1976 ...

1980 ...

David Levy (1982). Robots. Translation of Henri Vigneron (1914). Les Automates. also in David Levy (ed.) (1988). Computer Chess Compendium, pp. 273-278. pdf from cyberneticzoo.com » El Ajedrecista

1985 ...

1990 ...

1995 ...

2000 ...

2005 ...

2010 ...

2015 ...

External Links

ICGA/Rybka controversy: An interview with David Levy (2), ChessBase News, February 10, 2012


  1. Interview with David Levy by Mig Greengrad at chessninja.com January 8, 2002
  2. Bachelor of Science in Pure Maths, Physics & Statistics at St Andrew University, Scotland 1963-67
  3. David Levy (2007). Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. Harper Collins, amazon
  4. David Levy ponders next move against CHESS 4.6running on a CDC Cyber 176 supercomputer in Toronto August 1978, Gift of David Levy, from The Computer History Museum
  5. Chess pioneers in Sacher Hotel Vienna, Austria, Gift of Benjamin Mittman, The Computer History Museum
  6. King Moves - Welcome to the 1989 AGT World Computer Chess Championship. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Courtesy of Peter Jennings from The Computer History Museum, available as pdf reprint
  7. Machine Intelligence Volume 4
  8. Oral History of David Levy from The Computer History Museum
  9. David Levy on Kasparov vs X3D Fritz, ChessBase News, December 21, 2003
  10. International Master David Levy ponders next move against CHESS 4.6 running on a CDC Cyber 176 supercomputer in Toronto from The Computer History Museum
  11. BBC - Future - The cyborg chess players that can’t be beaten by Chris Baraniuk, December 04, 2015
  12. Highlights Kenneth Thompson Oral History March 7, 2005 Video © 2005 The Computer History Museum
  13. Vladimir Arlazarov, Aaron L. Futer (1979). Computer Analysis of a Rook End-Game. Machine Intelligence 9 (eds. Jean Hayes Michie, Donald Michie and L.I. Mikulich), pp. 361-371. Ellis Horwood, Chichester. Reprinted in Computer Chess Compendium, already in August 1977 following paper appeared in Russian: A. G. Alexandrov, A. M. Baraev, Ya. Yu. Gol'fand, Edward Komissarchik, Aaron L. Futer (1977). Computer analysis of rook end game. Avtomatika i Telemekhanika, No. 8, 113–117, and further in 1977 A. G. Alexandrov, Vladimir Arlazarov, A. M. Baraev, Ya. Yu. Gol'fand, V. N. Deza, T. P. Il’ina, Edward Komissarchik, Anatoly Uskov, I. A. Faradzhev, Aaron L. Futer (1977). Processing of large files of information on the example of the analysis of the rook’s end game. Programming and Computer Software, No. 3
  14. История “Каиссы” Михаил Донской History of Kaissa by Mikhail Donskoy, (Russian), from Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  15. A Welcome from the ICGA President
  16. A NEW PRESIDENT - Announcement by David Levy by Mark Lefler, December 11, 2018
  17. Tony Harrington (1983). Intelligent Software. Personal Computer World, April 1983, pdf hosted by Mike Watters
  18. SciSys Chess Computers 1979-1986 from Chess Computer UK by Mike Watters
  19. SciSys Intelligent Chess from Chess Computer UK by Mike Watters
  20. David Levy interview from Schachcomputer.info - Wiki
  21. Chess Computers - The UK Story from Chess Computer UK by Mike Watters
  22. De firma Millennium 2000 GmbH Hegener & Weiner in vogelvlucht by Hein Veldhuis, Dutch and German pdf
  23. Home of the Worlds Best Chat Bot
  24. Corporate History
  25. David Levy's ICGA Tournaments
  26. ICGA Reference Database (pdf)
  27. Books by David N. L. Levy from amazon
  28. Books by David Levy from Bookstores.com
  29. Publication Archive from Chess Computer UK by Mike Watters
  30. Publication Archive from Chess Computer UK by Mike Watters
  31. The Best Chess Computer Yet? part 1, part 2, part 3 by Chewbanta
  32. Publication Archive from Chess Computer UK by Mike Watters
  33. Yoshimasa Tsuruoka, Daisaku Yokoyama, Takashi Chikayama (2002). Game-Tree Search Algorithm based on Realization Probability. ICGA Journal, Vol. 25, No. 3, pdf, pdf
  34. Attack of the clones : ChessVibes by David Levy, 19 February, 2011
  35. A Gross Miscarriage of Justice in Computer Chess by Søren Riis
  36. Global brain from Wikipedia

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