Before HAL starts killing the crew, he seems to visibly cheat at chess when playing against Frank Poole. Why does he do so? If he has been programmed not to lie, this should be impossible.

Frank: Anyway, Queen takes Pawn. Uh... okay.

HAL: Bishop takes Knight's Pawn.

Frank: Uh, lovely move. Uh... Rook to King one.

HAL: I'm sorry, Frank. I think you missed it. Queen to Bishop three, Bishop takes Queen, Knight takes Bishop. Mate.

Frank: Uh... yeah. It looks like you're right. I resign.

HAL: Thank you for a very enjoyable game.

Frank: Yeah, thank you.

But the moves HAL suggests will mate Frank are actually wrong. HAL should have said “Queen to Bishop six”.

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    This would be a better question if it explained why you assume HAL is cheating. The video is not enough, you must explain what in the video makes HAL a cheater.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 21:10
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    Added transcript of conversation between HAL and Poole, plus explanation of why the move seems wrong.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 21:29
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    @Shawn that would be my guess as well, except that Kubrick wrote that line and he was described as "a strong chess player". But maybe not that strong?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 14:29
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    @Shawn That explanation would be more likely if the director (and effectively co-writer) hadn't been a member of the US Chess Federation, who'd supplemented his income by playing chess in parks and chess clubs, and who played chess in breaks on set.
    – gidds
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


Hal did not cheat at chess. This article explains it well.

The idea that HAL cheats at chess against Frank is a misunderstanding arising from some admittedly not-well-explained chess factoids about how Stanley Kubrick wrote a line of chess notation incorrectly in the script, which made it into the film.

Here's the main point:

It is important to point out that HAL goes on to describe the path to checkmate which involves Frank continuing to resist the attack. Central to the "HAL cheats" thesis is an oft repeated notion that HAL is deceptively telling Frank he must resign without mentioning that Frank could keep fighting. It's true that Frank could play 16.h3 for the three-move prolonged mate as we saw above, but Frank still loses in that line, and neglecting to mention another way Frank could lose doesn't really count as cheating—plus, h3 isn't even the move people seem to be calling for in these anecdotes. It's usually just that they've combined the fact of the notation error with the unspecified possibility of further moves.

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