Can you solve a chess puzzle that could prove quantum consciousness? 

Posted on 14 Mar 2017

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The creator of this puzzle is brilliant.

It might look like a simple chess problem, but this puzzle could finally help scientists uncover what makes the human mind so unique, and why it may never be matched by a computer.
75 years after Bletchley Park sought codebreakers in the Second World War by placing a crossword in The Telegraph, scientists are again inviting readers to pit their wits against a new conundrum to find the quickest minds.

Shredder chess app on Grand Master setting gives up.


Easy for humans, eh? I’ll have to come back to it later. What must why not do? Perhaps white must not let any one out of the trap, and just get the stalemate against the three bishops? That seems pretty tricky… unless you think backwards. Hmmm. 

The puzzle coincides with the launch of the new Penrose Institute, founded by Sir Roger Penrose, emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of Oxford, who shared the World Prize in physics with Professor Stephen Hawking in 1988 for his work on black hole singularities.

The new institute, which will have arms at UCL and Oxford University, has been set up to study human consciousness through physics and tease out the fundamental differences between artificial and human intelligence.
If successful, it could prove for the first time that the human brain is not simply a gargantuan supercomputer, but may exhibit quantum effects far beyond the realms of current imagining – a controversial theory that many scientists believe to be impossible.

It seems there are few known physical forces which are not somehow utilized by our biology. It would be surprising to me if quantum effects were not involved in cell division and also in brain cell functions connected with consciousness. 

The chess problem – originally drawn by Sir Roger – has been devised to defeat an artificially intelligent (AI) computer but be solvable for humans. The Penrose Institute scientists are inviting readers to workout how white can win, or force a stalemate and then share their reasoning.

The team then hopes to scan the brains of people with the quickest times, or interesting Eureka moments, to see if the genesis of human ‘insight’ or ‘intuition’ can be spotted in mind.
The puzzle above may seem hopeless for white, with just a King and four pawns remaining, but it is possible to draw and even win.

Scientists have constructed it in a way to confound a chess computer, which would normally consider that it is a win for black.

However an average chess-playing human should be able to see that a draw is possible.

A chess computer struggles because it looks like an impossible position, even though it is perfectly legal.

The three bishops forces the computer to perform a massive search of possible positions that will rapidly expand to something that exceeds all the computational power on planet earth.

Humans attempting the problem are advised to find some peace and quiet and notice how the solution that arises. Was there a flash of insight? Did you need to leave the puzzle for a while and come back to it?

The main goal is to force a draw, although it is even possible to trick black into a blunder that might allow white to win.

The first person who can demonstrate the solution legally will receive a bonus prize.

Both humans, computers and even quantum computers are invited to play the game and solutions should be emailed to puzzles@penroseinstitute.com.
“If you put this puzzle into a chess computer it just assumes a black win because of the number of pieces and positions, but a human will look at this and know quickly that is not the case,” said Sir Roger.

“We know that there are things that the human mind achieves that even the most powerful supercomputer cannot but we don’t know why.

“There is now evidence that there are quantum effects happening in biology, such as in photosynthesis or in bird migration, so there may be something similar happening in the mind, which is a controversial idea.

“If we find out how humans differ from computers then it could have profound sociological implications. People get very depressed when they think of a future where robots or computers will take their jobs, but it might be that there are areas where computers will never be better than us, such as creativity.”

In 1942, codebreakers at Bletchley Park, released a similar crossword puzzle in the pages of The Telegraph in the hope of recruiting new cryptographers, which played a crucial role in helping the Allies crack Enigma and win the Second World war. Readers were asked to solve the puzzle in 12 minutes.
The new chess puzzle is one of several which will be released in the coming weeks by the Institute in an attempt to crack the code of human ingenuity.
James Tagg, inventor of the LCD touch screen who will lead the Institute said: “We are interested in seeing how the Eureka moments happen in people’s brains. For me it is an actual flash of light but it will be different for others.
“This chess position is designed to show the difference between artificial intelligence (AI) and human intelligence (HI) and the nature of human understanding.

“A human looking at it for a short while will ‘see’ what white must, and more particularly, must not do, and use very little energy to decide this.

“But, for a computer, the puzzle requires an enormous number of calculations, far too many for even today’s supercomputers.”
The institute is also hoping to develop new technology to improve the treatment of brain disease and anesthetics, develop a new type of telescope to detect dark matter and even resolve the Schrodinger’s Cat paradox, which suggests a cat in a box could be alive and dead at the same time.

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For the puzzle, the first thing I see is black is boxed in. I’ve gotten to the point where I can take one of the bishops, but I haven’t found the stalemate yet. Hope. It’s something we have that computers don’t… yet.

At first you might think you just need to get your king trapped so it can’t move for the stalemates. To avoid a draw, the chess computer will eventually let you get to this position.


Is this a step in the right direction? No. White can still move and in this case must move one of the top two pawns, taking one of the two black rooks, each of which releases the queen who then mates you, pretty sure… This is easy for humans with consciousness, you say?

Ah, got it. 

I just beat my chess computer on Grand Master 2600 ELO setting. I doubt I’m the first, but I’ll send in my solution.

Update: The Institute sent back this reply:

Thank you very much for spending time on the puzzle. We hope it stimulated your brain. We … may get back to you. 

It was pretty fun, but winning seemed silly, somewhat surprising and decidedly dull as far as strategy. This definitely taught me something about how chess computers work.

For a bit more fun, here’s another surprising puzzle taken from the final play of the final game of the World Chess Chanpionship.


It’s white’s move. What move gives white the win? The answer won the championship.