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Checkmate: Exploring Backward Induction Among Chess Players

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  • Steven D. Levitt
  • John A. List
  • Sally E. Sadoff

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.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15610.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Publication status: published as Steven D. Levitt & John A. List & Sally E. Sadoff, 2011. "Checkmate: Exploring Backward Induction among Chess Players," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 975-90, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15610

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Cited by:
  1. de Clippel, Geoffroy & Eliaz, Kfir & Knight, Brian, 2011. "On the Selection of Arbitrators," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 8724, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Le Coq, Chloe & Tremewan, James & Wagner, Alexander K., 2013. "Social Centipedes: the Impact of Group Identity on Preferences and Reasoning," SITE Working Paper Series 24, Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics, Stockholm School of Economics.
  3. Carpenter, Jeffrey & Graham, Michael & Wolf, Jesse, 2013. "Cognitive ability and strategic sophistication," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 115-130.
  4. Gränsmark, Patrik, 2012. "Masters of Our Time: Impatience and Self-control in High-level Chess Games," Working Paper Series, Swedish Institute for Social Research 2/2012, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
  5. Gränsmark, Patrik, 2012. "Masters of our time: Impatience and self-control in high-level chess games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 179-191.
  6. Paolo Crosetto & Marco Mantovani, 2012. "Availability of Information and Representation Effects in the Centipede Game," Jena Economic Research Papers, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics 2012-051, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.
  7. Gränsmark, Patrik, 2010. "A Rib Less Makes you Consistent but Impatient: A Gender Comparison of Expert Chess Players," Working Paper Series, Swedish Institute for Social Research 5/2010, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
  8. Cardella, Eric, 2012. "Learning to make better strategic decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 382-392.
  9. Brosig-Koch, Jeannette & Heinrich, Timo & Helbach, Christoph, 2014. "Does truth win when teams reason strategically?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 123(1), pages 86-89.
  10. Gerdes, Christer & Gränsmark, Patrik & Rosholm, Michael, 2011. "Chicken or Checkin'? Rational Learning in Repeated Chess Games," IZA Discussion Papers 5862, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Matthew Kotchen & Matthew Potoski, 2011. "Conflicts of Interest Distort Public Evaluations: Evidence from the Top 25 Ballots of NCAA Football Coaches," NBER Working Papers 17628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bühren, Christoph & Frank, Björn & Krabel, Stefan & Werner, Alexander, 2012. "Decision-making in competitive framings—Strategic behavior of chess players in mini-ultimatum game chess puzzles," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 115(3), pages 356-358.
  13. Kawagoe, Toshiji & Takizawa, Hirokazu, 2012. "Level-k analysis of experimental centipede games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 548-566.
  14. Jeannette Brosig-Koch & Timo Heinrich & Christoph Helbach, 2012. "Exploring the Capability to Backward Induct – An Experimental Study with Children and Young Adults," Ruhr Economic Papers, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen 0360, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  15. Gränsmark, Patrik, 2010. "Social Screening and Cooperation Among Expert Chess Players," Working Paper Series, Swedish Institute for Social Research 4/2010, Swedish Institute for Social Research.

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