A Welcome from the President, David Levy

Welcome to the website of the ICGA, the global organisation promoting the use of computers in “game” situations. The ICGA contributes to the experience of game- and computer-game playing in the widest sense through education, entertainment and academic research in Artificial Intelligence. Our aims are:

  • to promote the demonstration of Artificial Intelligence via the domain of computer games
  • to foster the community of those interested in the theory and practice of computer gaming
  • to promote competition in games that include computer involvement
  • to add value, by education and entertainment, to the human experience of game-playing.

Games have historically been a major part of the world’s cultures, perhaps initially as a way of modelling some aspect of our society in a simple and safe way. Today, computer technology is a key force for change: computer game-playing combines these two elements of our world. Computer involvement in game- and model-domains will continue to add value to the human enjoyment of them, as well as creating knowledge and AI techniques which can be used more widely in important areas where complex search is involved. The ICGA contributes by promoting this activity and our members have included many leading figures in Computer Science.

The ICGA has developed from and incorporates its roots, the ICCA (International Computer Chess Assoc.), which encouraged and witnessed remarkable progress in computer chess over a period of 25 years. As you will see from this site, the ICGA recognises a wide range of game-domains, each a micro-world presenting a distinct challenge to its players and to the AI community. The ICGA publishes the ICGA Journal, holds the Advances in Computer Games conference every few years and has organised several Computer Olympiads featuring computer-play in various games.

The scope of our games domains now includes not only discrete, 2-person, board games of no chance and perfect information, but also games that are non-discrete, games that involve chance, imperfect information or negotiation, as well as management games and games such as snooker and soccer that have a strategy element. In fact any “game” in the widest sense of the word, provided always that some strategy is required to play the game well. We intend to explore all of these games and more, to introduce them in our journal, on our web site and at our conferences, and to organize tournaments for them.

In the future, the ICGA will be as well known for the progress made in other game domains as the ICCA is known for advances in computer-chess. We invite you to join our membership and contribute in whatever way you can to this progress. Acknowledging our history and continuing activity, we now detail some computer-chess achievements.

The ICCA, ICGA and Computer Chess

At the 2nd World Computer Chess Championship in Toronto in 1977 Monty Newborn, who was ICCA President from 1983 to 1986, made what was, at that time, a highly controversial prediction:

“In the past Grandmasters came to our computer tournaments to laugh.

Today they come to watch. Soon they will come to learn.”

Within three years of the end of Monty’s term of office as President his prediction was no longer controversial. The strongest chess program of the day, Deep Thought, had already defeated Grandmasters in tournament play and had finished joint first in a tournament ahead of former World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal. Since then the standard of play of the leading chess programs has progressed so much that nowadays many of them can defeat most Grandmasters at fast time controls. The top few sometimes win games at “classic” time controls against World Championship calibre players, as both Kasparov and Kramnik can testify.

It is clear that the ICCA played a major role in the steady and inexorable march of progress in the playing strength of chess programs. Our tournaments were the World Microcomputer Chess Championships and the (unrestricted) World Computer Chess Championships; other events included the ACM tournaments organized very largely by ICCA Board members. All these competitions provided chess programmers with a forum in which to exchange ideas and, more importantly, with the competitive incentive to continue working on improving their programs. The most persistent authors would return regularly, hoping each time that the changes they had made since the previous tournament would enable their program to improve on its previous performance.

Thus we witnessed a very steady improvement, year by year, including the famous match-win by IBM’s Deep Blue against Kasparov in 1997. While one match is not conclusive evidence about the relative strength of human- and computer-play, our belief is that it can now be only a matter of a few years before the best programs regularly match the performance of the best human players and are rated as highly in the same terms. If they can then communicate their expertise in human terms, they will also become our teachers and help us to new insights.

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