In 1997, Garry Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player of all time, squared off against the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. This epic rematch has since been called “the most spectacular chess event in history.” Who won this “Man vs. Machine” battle?
“Ilia Chavchavadze and Ivane Machabeli playing chess, Saint Petersburg” (1873): Over 120 years later, Garry Kasparov would take on Deep Blue in “the most spectacular chess event in history.”
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov: Round 1?
With two six-month exceptions, Garry Kasparov was ranked “chess world number one” by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) from January 1984 to January 2006. Although there is room for debate, he is widely considered the greatest chess player of all time.
In 1996, he played an IBM supercomputer named Deep Blue in a 6-match series. Grandmaster Joel Benjamin lent his expertise to the computer by helping to develop its “opening book.” On February 10 of that year, Deep Blue won its first match against Kasparov, making it the first form of artificial intelligence to defeat a reigning world champion. However, Kasparov won three and drew two out of the next five games, giving him a 4-2 victory.
Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov: Round 2?
Although Deep Blue was beaten, it wasn’t finished. Programmers upgraded the computer and set up a six-game rematch with Kasparov in May 1997. Kasparov was ready but so was the machine. It could evaluate 200 million positions per second and was capable of searching anywhere from 6 to more than 20 moves ahead.
Predictably, this match was closer than the previous one. After five games, each player had one victory and there were three draws. With the score knotted at 2.5 apiece, man and machine settled in for the final bout.
The final game lasted less than an hour. And when the dust had cleared, Deep Blue had won handily. At last, machine had defeated man…or had it?
Did Garry Kasparov lose Confidence? Or did Deep Blue Cheat?
Kasparov’s loss was hard to explain. He opened in somewhat questionable fashion. Worse, he switched up his his moves and fell into “a well known book trap.” Chess historians speculate that Kasparov was tired and had lost confidence. He was also unhappy with the fact that he was denied access to Deep Blue’s recent games while the team that operated Deep Blue could study hundreds of his own. Finally, over the course of the series, he’d chosen to play numerous openings and defenses designed to catch Deep Blue off-guard. While these moves worked to some degree, they also forced him to play in ways that were unfamiliar to him.
However, Kasparov also had a darker theory. He claimed to have seen evidence of human creativity in the second game, which would’ve been against the rules. IBM denied the allegation but strangely, initially refused to show him Deep Blue’s logbooks. Eventually, Kasparov went onto Larry King Live and challenged Deep Blue to a third match consisting of ten games which would not be sponsored by IBM. If he lost, he promised to recognize Deep Blue as the world champion. IBM, oddly enough, refused and dismantled its chess playing machine.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
In January 2003, Kasparov went to war with Deep Junior, a machine capable of considering three million moves per second. The series began in similar fashion to the 1997 one, with three draws and each side winning a game. In the rubber match, Kasparov played to a draw. He would achieve the same result against a separate computer in November of that year.
A sizable percentage of observers believe that computers can now regularly defeat grandmasters and indeed, high-profile games in 2005 and 2006 offer nothing to contradict that notion. Meanwhile, Kasparov has since moved onto politics, namely in opposition to Vladimir Putin. Will he ever return to defend mankind’s honor against machines? Only time will tell.