J. Biit

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Just Because it is there [1]

J. Biit,
Hans Berliner's first chess program, written in the late 60s in PL/I to ran on an IBM System/360 mainframe computer [2] . It played the First United States Computer Chess Championship 1970 in New York City, and won versus Wita, lost from Chess 3.0 and drew Coko III.

Along with Daly CP, J. Biit was one of the first chess programs operated through a Graphical User Interface. The UI was written at Columbia University for the IBM 2250 Display Unit, and later evolved along with J. Biit to become the Columbia Computer Chess Program dubbed CCCP [3].


J. Biit is the acronym of "Just Because it is there", probably in dependance of the famous quote [4] by English mountaineer George Mallory, having replied to the question "Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?".


J. Biit was a selective search (Shannon type B) program [5] that places considerable emphasis on chess knowledge and restricting the number of positions to be examined, as it scored only 30-100 positions during a search using alpha-beta and incremental board updating. The program was developed in PL/I on the IBM 360/65 at CMU, but was unable to use that system for the 1970 ACM tournament. Since the 360 line was supposedly compatable, Kenneth M. King [6] offered the services of Columbia's more powerful IBM 360/91. Unfortunately they discovered that it wasn't as compatable as expected and Berliner and assistants spent two rather frantic weeks making program changes. It used about 200 Kibibyte of memory and was about 3500 PL/I statements. The program searches a very small tree. Berliner claimed that, on average, only 30 nodes were examined for a move that required 65 seconds of computation. It used a "free form of search which terminated in quiescent positions ... (with) the only bound being the absolute depth limit of 14 ply." It searched two plies for begining and middle games, and 4 plies for end games .


Hans Berliner in his Oral History, March 2005 [7] :

And I wrote a program which actually played chess. And I did it in the way Greenblatt said it ought to be done [8] . It wasn’t anywhere’s near as good a Greenblatt’s program and I wasn’t really a very good programmer obviously, since that was the first time I had written a program...
So it played. Let’s see, I’ve got to get the timeline right here. Now this was in 1970. Now in 1970 I had already left IBM. I left IBM in 1969, and went to Carnegie Mellon as a doctoral student.
And, of course, their attraction with Newell and Simon was they would like to find somebody to push their ideas further forward, and that was me. And so I had this program which, in retrospect, was pretty woesome. 


External Links

Chess Program


July 1986 at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia


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