Skip to main content

AI researchers make $1 million challenge to anyone who can solve chess puzzle

Have a good mind for computational problem-solving? Fancy netting a cool $1 million for your efforts? Then the University of St. Andrews and the Clay Mathematics Institute sure have the competition for you. Announced on Thursday, the prize (awarded by the Clay Mathematics Institute) is available to anyone who can solve a chess puzzle which researchers estimate could take thousands of years to come up with a quick answer to. Were it solved, a program working out the math behind the so-called “Queens Puzzle” would help address a number of currently impossible problems, including breaking any online security measures.

First devised in 1850, the Queens Puzzle originally asked chess players to place eight queens on a standard chessboard in a way that would allow no two queens to attack one another. Although the problem has since been solved by human beings, when the chessboard is increased to a sufficiently large size (think boards with 1,000 by 1,000 squares and upwards), researchers at the University of St. Andrews claim a computer program would take roughly a millennium to solve it. Unless you can prove otherwise.

“On January 1, 2015, a friend of mine on Facebook posted a link to an online discussion about this problem, and said he had a hunch I would be interested in it,” Professor Ian Gent, one of the researchers who threw down the gauntlet, told Digital Trends. “He was right, and so I spent a lot of time with my colleagues working it out.”

Gent and his colleagues managed to work out the math to show how hard the problem is — whch is where the 1,000 years estimation comes from. The really tough bit, however, is to take the next step. “You can [win the $1 million] either by proving that no algorithm can solve the n-Queen Completion puzzle in reasonable time, or by finding an algorithm which does solve it quickly,” he continued.

According to Gent, solving this problem efficiently is, “probably the hardest thing to do in computer science.” The reason is that the current methods of solving it essentially use blunt-force trial and error, which works by figuring out every possible option. An algorithm that could solve the problem quickly, on the other hand, would be a major game-changer.

Even if you don’t think you’re the person for the job, you can check out a research paper describing the problem by Gent and his colleagues, published in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research.

In the meantime, Gent has three pointers for anyone hoping to pick up the grand prize: Get a Ph.D. in computational complexity, be brilliant, and get very, very lucky.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more
The 11 best Father’s Day deals that you can get for Sunday
Data from a workout showing on the screen of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Father's Day is fast approaching and there's still time to buy your beloved Dad a sweet new device to show him how much you love him. That's why we've rounded up the ten best Father's Day tech deals going on right now. There's something for most budgets here, including if you're able to spend a lot on your loved one. Read on while we take you through the highlights and remember to order fast so you don't miss out on the big day.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 -- $200, was $230

While it's the Plus version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 that features in our look at the best tablets, the standard variety is still worth checking out. Saving your Dad the need to dig out their laptop or squint at a small phone screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 offers a large 10.5-inch LCD display and all the useful features you would expect. 128GB of storage means plenty of room for all your Dad's favorite apps as well as games too. A long-lasting battery and fast charging save him the need for a power source too often too.

Read more