Computer Chess

In 1980, an annual gathering of teams of idiosyncratic nerds compete in a nondescript California hotel to see which of their computer programs can best the others at computer chess. A grandmaster (Gerald Peary) presides as master of ceremonies with a videographer and microphone in tow. Clunky, primitive personal computers are carted from room to room. Bad haircuts, dorky shirts, “birth control glasses”, and other social impedimenta are ubiquitous. Bull sessions on the dystopian possibilities of artificial intelligence are pursued. The Pentagon’s interest in the goings-on is intimated. The only female geek (Robin Schwartz) in attendance is repeatedly hailed and “welcomed” by the MC.

Simultaneously at the same hotel, a human potential movement group (the “seekers”) has occasional run-ins with the geeks, generating awkward and humorous moments. A painfully shy young computer programmer (Patrick Riester) attracts the interest of a swinging older couple (Cyndi Williams and Chris Doubek). The twin threads of “spiritual” exploration and cybernetic innovation imply an unspoken and implicit hidden connection. In a startling scene, a prostitute — apparently solicited by the young programmer — reveals herself to be infinitely more than expected.