Monday, April 09, 2012



In 1994, I was commissioned by The Telegraph to interview Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player of all time. I was interested in the man vs machine chess battles that were going on. How I got to Kasparov I can’t remember. The finished piece never appeared. The interview took place in his room at the Conrad Hotel in London’s Chelsea Harbour. Our conversation roamed over chess, computers, the information highway and Kasparov’s political ambitions. Here is the relevant extract from the longer 1,500 word piece.


‘Kasparov was fresh back from Munich where, at a special World Chess Express Challenge, he and other grandmasters played against a computer programme called Fritz3 and lost at least some of their games.

This statement needs to be qualified. First, they were playing 'Blitz' chess - in which a player has only five minutes to complete all his moves - where computers have an advantage. Even here Fritz3, driven by a Pentium chip five times more powerful than that the previous 486 generation, lost 4-1 in the play-offs with Kasparov -  who earned $20,000 for his time and trouble.

To set this in context, the machine vs man chess battle has been raging for years and, in fact, dates back to the building of the first chess-playing automata. When Kasparov played Deep Thought [winning both games in 1989], then the world's most powerful chess playing computer, (it's now Deep Blue), he was quoted in Time saying: "I have to challenge it in order to protect the human race". Garry likes to put himself under pressure.

Until recently, it seemed inevitable that computers would out. Now a new picture is emerging; computers will win in some kinds of chess but may never overcome humans in the main game. Kasparov explains.

" I think that in maybe two years, computers will get the upper hand in Blitz. Blitz is played by emotion. You don't have time to calculate, have time to see the consequence of your decision. It's statistical. The number of blunders is very high. Computer doesn't care about pressure, about heat, about the public, about the noise, about position. It's just looking for the best move. But it does make mistakes.'

Garry then goes into a high-speed and complex dissection of his encounter with Fritz3. It was like Arnie Schwarznegger giving a technical account of his run-in with T-2. Full of lightning, shiny metal, bombast and oratorical innuendoes.

Kasparov may have conceded on Blitz but he has his eye on control of the bigger game. "I don't believe we can overcome [in Blitz] because we do not control the pace of the game. The way to beat a machine  in speed chess, is to control the character of the game. We can do it as human beings. We can change the strategy of the game. Our strategy would be based exactly on the human qualities. We can also devise strategy that will be the most unpleasant for the machine."


Kasparov went on to play IBMs Deep Blue in Feb 19996. Although he lost the first game, he won the series with three wins and two draws.

In 1997, he played an upgraded version of Deep Blue, which defeated Kasparov 3 1/2 to 2 1/2. Even after five games, Kasparov was crushed in the 6th. The result was highly controversial as Kasparov challenged the outcome of the match on several fronts – there’s even a documentary about it: Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine

In January 2003, he played a six-game match  against Deep Junior – a chess  engine that could evaluate three million positions per second. The results was one win each and four draws.

This is Kasparov in November 2003 playing with 3D glasses and a speech recognition system, in his match against the program computer program X3D Fritz.  The result: one win each and two draws

Kasparov announced his retirement from professional chess on 10 March 2005, to devote his time to politics and writing.


According to ‘Beyond Deep Blue: Chess in the Stratosphere’ by Monty Newborn

More than a decade has passed since IBM's Deep Blue computer stunned the world by defeating Garry Kasparov, international chess champion. Following Deep Blue's retirement, there has been a succession of better and better chess-playing computers, or "chess engines," and today there is little question that the world's best engines are stronger at the game than the world's best human players.

Source:  Chesscomicscrosswords

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