Checkmate: Exploring Backward Induction Among Chess Players

32 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2009 Last revised: 28 Aug 2021

See all articles by Steven D. Levitt

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Sally Sadoff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Date Written: December 2009

Abstract

Although backward induction is a cornerstone of game theory, most laboratory experiments have found that agents are not able to successfully backward induct. Much of this evidence, however, is generated using the Centipede game, which is ill-suited for testing the theory. In this study, we analyze the play of world class chess players both in the centipede game and in another class of games - Race to 100 games - that are pure tests of backward induction. We find that world class chess players behave like student subjects in the centipede game, virtually never playing the backward induction equilibrium In the race to 100 games, in contrast, we find that many chess players properly backward induct. Consistent with our claim that the Centipede game is not a useful test of backward induction, we find no systematic within-subject relationship between choices in the centipede game and performance in pure backward induction games.

Suggested Citation

Levitt, Steven D. and List, John A. and Sadoff, Sally, Checkmate: Exploring Backward Induction Among Chess Players (December 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15610, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1528033

Steven D. Levitt (Contact Author)

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John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Sally Sadoff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

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Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

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