Interesting Esoterica

The mate-in-n problem of infinite chess is decidable

Article by Brumleve, Dan and Hamkins, Joel David and Schlicht, Philipp
  • Published in 2012
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Infinite chess is chess played on an infinite edgeless chessboard. The familiar chess pieces move about according to their usual chess rules, and each player strives to place the opposing king into checkmate. The mate-in-n problem of infinite chess is the problem of determining whether a designated player can force a win from a given finite position in at most n moves. A naive formulation of this problem leads to assertions of high arithmetic complexity with 2n alternating quantifiers---there is a move for white, such that for every black reply, there is a counter-move for white, and so on. In such a formulation, the problem does not appear to be decidable; and one cannot expect to search an infinitely branching game tree even to finite depth. Nevertheless, the main theorem of this article, confirming a conjecture of the first author and C. D. A. Evans, establishes that the mate-in-n problem of infinite chess is computably decidable, uniformly in the position and in n. Furthermore, there is a computable strategy for optimal play from such mate-in-n positions. The proof proceeds by showing that the mate-in-n problem is expressible in what we call the first-order structure of chess, which we prove (in the relevant fragment) is an automatic structure, whose theory is therefore decidable. Indeed, it is definable in Presburger arithmetic. Unfortunately, this resolution of the mate-in-n problem does not appear to settle the decidability of the more general winning-position problem, the problem of determining whether a designated player has a winning strategy from a given position, since a position may admit a winning strategy without any bound on the number of moves required. This issue is connected with transfinite game values in infinite chess, and the exact value of the omega one of chess is not known.

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arxivId
1201.5597
journal
New York
pages
10

BibTeX entry

@article{Brumleve2012,
	title = {The mate-in-n problem of infinite chess is decidable},
	author = {Brumleve, Dan and Hamkins, Joel David and Schlicht, Philipp},
	url = {http://arxiv.org/abs/1201.5597 http://arxiv.org/pdf/1201.5597v4},
	abstract = {Infinite chess is chess played on an infinite edgeless chessboard. The familiar chess pieces move about according to their usual chess rules, and each player strives to place the opposing king into checkmate. The mate-in-n problem of infinite chess is the problem of determining whether a designated player can force a win from a given finite position in at most n moves. A naive formulation of this problem leads to assertions of high arithmetic complexity with 2n alternating quantifiers---there is a move for white, such that for every black reply, there is a counter-move for white, and so on. In such a formulation, the problem does not appear to be decidable; and one cannot expect to search an infinitely branching game tree even to finite depth. Nevertheless, the main theorem of this article, confirming a conjecture of the first author and C. D. A. Evans, establishes that the mate-in-n problem of infinite chess is computably decidable, uniformly in the position and in n. Furthermore, there is a computable strategy for optimal play from such mate-in-n positions. The proof proceeds by showing that the mate-in-n problem is expressible in what we call the first-order structure of chess, which we prove (in the relevant fragment) is an automatic structure, whose theory is therefore decidable. Indeed, it is definable in Presburger arithmetic. Unfortunately, this resolution of the mate-in-n problem does not appear to settle the decidability of the more general winning-position problem, the problem of determining whether a designated player has a winning strategy from a given position, since a position may admit a winning strategy without any bound on the number of moves required. This issue is connected with transfinite game values in infinite chess, and the exact value of the omega one of chess is not known.},
	archivePrefix = {arXiv},
	arxivId = {1201.5597},
	eprint = {1201.5597},
	journal = {New York},
	month = {jan},
	pages = 10,
	year = 2012,
	urldate = {2012-03-28},
	collections = {Puzzles,Games to play with friends}
}