Friday, May 18, 201212:00 amSet theory seminarGC 6417

The omega one of infinite chess

Joel David Hamkins

The City University of New York

Joel David Hamkins

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 countermove 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, in joint work with Dan Brumleve and Philipp Schlicht, confirming a conjecture of myself and C. D. A. Evans, we establish 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. An equivalent account of the result arises from the realization that the structure of chess is interpretable in the standard model of Presburger arithmetic $langlemathbb{N},+rangle$. 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 $omega_1^{rm chess}$ is not known. I will also discuss recent joint work with C. D. A. Evans and W. Hugh Woodin showing that the omega one of infinite positions in three-dimensional infinite chess is true $omega_1$: every countable ordinal is realized as the game value of such a position.

Professor Hamkins (Ph.D. 1994 UC Berkeley) conducts research in mathematical and philosophical logic, particularly set theory, with a focus on the mathematics and philosophy of the infinite.  He has been particularly interested in the interaction of forcing and large cardinals, two central themes of contemporary set-theoretic research.  He has worked in the theory of infinitary computability, introducing (with A. Lewis and J. Kidder) the theory of infinite time Turing machines, as well as in the theory of infinitary utilitarianism and, more recently, infinite chess.  His work on the automorphism tower problem lies at the intersection of group theory and set theory.  Recently, he has been preoccupied with various mathematical and philosophical issues surrounding the set-theoretic multiverse, engaging with the emerging debate on pluralism in the philosophy of set theory, as well as the mathematical questions to which they lead, such as in his work on the modal logic of forcing and set-theoretic geology.