ITEP Chess Program

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The ITEP Chess Program,
an early Soviet chess program, developed since 1961 at Alexander Kronrod’s laboratory at the Moscow Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) by Georgy Adelson-Velsky, Vladimir Arlazarov, Anatoly Uskov, Alexander Zhivotovsky, A. Leman, M. Rozenfeld and Russian chess master Alexander Bitman [1], to run under the Soviet M-20 computer. According to the description of the Russian Virtual Computer Museum, the ITEP Chess Program was developed for the M-2 [2], which seems wrong since all primary sources mention the Chess Program was written for the M-20 [3].

Shannon Type A

The ITEP Program already was a Shannon Type A program, encouraged by Kronrod’s "general recursive search scheme", and by Alexander Brudno's description of the Alpha-Beta algorithm [4].


see Stanford-ITEP Match

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 [5]. 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 M-20. The match played over nine months was won 3-1 by the ITEP Program, which searches either three (first two games) or five plies (improved version) ahead.



ITEP team during TV interview, November 24, 1967, M-20 in the background, from left:
Anatoly Uskov, Georgy Adelson-Velsky, interviewer, Alexander Bitman, Vladimir Arlazarov and Alexander Zhivotovsky [6]


By 1971, Mikhail V. Donskoy joined with Arlazarov and Uskov to program its successor on an ICL System 4/70 at the Institute of Control Sciences, called Kaissa, which became the first World Computer Chess Champion at the WCCC 1974 in Stockholm.



Quote from Mikhail Donskoy's life cycle of a programmer [7]:

When I was in high school I learned to program on the M-20 ... In the group of programmers at Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics, where computing work was done on nuclear physics on the M-20, they came up with arrays, lists, the need for subroutines and more. One of my teachers, Georgy Adelson-Velsky came up with a hash memory. Details can be found in another of my teachers - Alexander Kronrod "Conversations about programming". Even before Dijkstra's basic principles of structured programming was known, Alexander Brudno published the book "Programming in meaningful notation." There was also created the first chess program ... The chess program ITEP, the predecessor of Kaissa fit in memory of M-20, namely in 4096 cells, each of which has a 48-bit ...


Quote from Biography AS Kronrod by Alexander Yershov [8]

In 1958, Kronrod, Adelson-Velsky, and Landis selected "Snap" ("подкидного дурака") as the intellectual foundations for the development of the game heuristic programming [9]. 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.


Quote from The Early Development of Programming in the USSR by Andrey Ershov and Mikhail R. Shura-Bura [10]

At the end of the 1950's a group of Moscow mathematicians began a study of computerized chess. Sixteen years later, the studies would lead to victory in the first world chess tournament for computer programs held in Stockholm during the 1974 IFIP Congress. An important component of this success was a deep study of the problems of information organization in computer memory and of various search heuristics. G. M. Adelson-Velsky and E. M. Landis invented the binary search tree ("dichotomic inquiry") and A. L. Brudno, independent of J. McCarthy, discovered the (α,β)-heuristic for reducing search times on a game tree.

See also


  • Alexander Kronrod (1964). Conversation Twelfth: Non-Computational Tasks. in book Conversations about programming, 2001 – 1st edition of the book
А.C. Кронрод (1964). Беседа двенадцатая: Невычислительные задачи. в кн. Беседы о программировании, 2001 – 1-е издание книги
В.Л. Арлазаров, А.Р. Битман (1968). Обыграет ли машина человека? Шахматы в СССР, 2, 9–11

External Links

В шахматы "играет" ЭВМ. Телевизионные новости. Эфир 24.11.1967 [11]


  1. Georgy Adelson-Velsky, Vladimir Arlazarov, Alexander Bitman, Alexander Zhivotovsky, Anatoly Uskov (1970). Programming a Computer to Play Chess. Russian Mathematical Surveys, Vol. 25, pp. 221-262
  2. The Fast Universal Digital Computer M-2 from the Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  3. Georgy Adelson-Velsky, Vladimir Arlazarov, Alexander Bitman, Alexander Zhivotovsky, Anatoly Uskov (1970). Programming a Computer to Play Chess. Russian Mathematical Surveys, Vol. 25, pp. 221-262
  4. Alexander Brudno (1963). Bounds and valuations for shortening the search of estimates. Problemy Kibernetiki (10) 141–150 and Problems of Cybernetics (10) 225–241
  5. Michael Brudno (2000). Competitions, Controversies, and Computer Chess, pdf
  6. Image captured from the Video В шахматы "играет" ЭВМ. Телевизионные новости. Эфир 24.11.1967, 3:03
  7. Михаил Донской: Жизненный цикл программиста - ПОЛИТ.РУ (Russian) Mikhail Donskoy - The life cycle of a programmer translated by Google Translate, August 20, 2008
  8. Биография А.С. Кронрода (Biography AS Kronrod) by Alexander Yershov
  9. Boris Polyak. Memories.
  10. Andrey Ershov, Mikhail R. Shura-Bura (1980). The Early Development of Programming in the USSR. in Nicholas C. Metropolis (ed.) A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century. Academic Press, preprint pp. 44
  11. The date of 24.11.1968 in the video title seems wrong. As announced, the interview was taken a week after the end of the Stanford-ITEP Match in 1967. A broadcast in November 1968 is further unlikely due to the famous letter in support of Esenin-Volpin

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