Kindred’s Special: A Look at Deep Blue, IBM’s Match Adventuring Computer Challenge with Garry Kasparov

Strategy and tactics by the IBM team that programmed Deep Blue was kept as tight as a taunt rubber band.  The world champion had no way of knowing the caliber of the newest computer terror to hit the chess scene in the guise of the now famous chess match which was won by IBM.  Of course there was the unwillingness of the team to allow the world champion to see any games or analysis that Deep Blue had conjured up in those hours of programming and pre-schedule of the match itself.

The 1700s produced the first recognizable player by the name of Francois-Andre Danican Philidor.  For over half century he dominated the chess world of France as both writer and player.  It was he who is often referenced for saying that pawns were the soul of chess.  By this he meant that pawn structure was a key ingredient to understand chess strategy and game structure.  He explained in his writings the concept of the blockade and positional sacrifice.  Born in 1726, he was considered the top player in Europe when he died in 1795.

Over the course of history, various matches were held for the World Championship.  The first official title match in 1886 was between W. Steinitz and Johann Zukertort although chess matches among the leading players of previous times had been played.  The chess public decided that a champion of the world was needed to remedy the confusion about who the very best player was.  Prior to the Steinitz-Zukertort match which took place in the United States and covered several states during the match,  a match hailed between England and long time foe France was held.  Howard Staunton defeated St. Amant.  However, this match was more a battle between England and France than it was a battle for a world championship.  However, it was acknowledged that the winner would be the best player in the world but no thought of a world champion was contemplated.  In those days it was enough to be recognized as the leading player but there was a ladder of contenders for that ranking.    Then there came the McDonnell vs. Labourdonnais  1834 match, the Staunton and St. Amant match, several matches were held bringing popularity as never seen before by players like Adolf Anderssen,Paul Morphy, and Joseph Blackburne.

The first world title match was a real barnstormer.  In the end, W. Steinitz won from Zukertort, many of Zukertort fans said that while Steinitz won the match, Zukertort was not yet Zukertort.  Thus, did the mystery of the many championship matches to follow tarnished by this history and further by the world champion dictating conditions, mostly financial, that worthy contenders could not raise to satisfy the champion’s dictates.  This was the flaw in the whole collective mess over the years until Alekhine’s death and the AVRO Tournament was held to find a new world champion which was won by Mikhail Botvinnik of the USSR.  Since that time the title match, other than the win by Bobby Fischer over Boris Spassky in 1972 and his loss of the title to Anatoly Karpov by default has remained on the continent  of Europe.  The matches themselves in most recent times continues to plague the match cycle with problems but the real challenger is rightfully found through official tournament and match play.  From this development a number of Grandmasters have achieved the title: Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, and now Magnus Carlsen.  No chess machine!

Financial rewards for World Championship matches were a pittance compared to today’s standards.  It was Bobby Fischer who raised the financial bar for chess as well as the playing conditions for tournaments as well as the matches themselves.  World Champions in the USSR received a mere few thousand dollars and perhaps a new car as a reward.  All this time they were under the yoke of the Director of Sport Committee.

At New York, 1997, a great event took place.  IBM had spent a fortune on using chess as one means of program development in tech advances.  They wanted to test Deep Blue’s updated system against the best and that was a challenge to Garry Kasparov, the World Champion of Chess.

IBM Man vs. Machine (Round 2)

Deep Blue Computer  vs.  Gary Kasparov

1. e4  e5   2. Nf3  Nc6   3.  Bb5  a6   4.  Ba4   Nf6    5.  O-O  Be7   6.  Re1   b5   7.  Bb3   d6   8.  c3   O-O  9.  h3   h6  10.  d4   Re8  11.  Nbd2  Bf8   12.  Nf1  Bd7  13.  Ng3   Na5  14.Bc2  c5   15.  b3   Nc6  16.  d5   Ne7   17. Be3  Ng6  18.  Qd2  Nh7  19.  a4  Nh4  20.  N:h4   Q:h4   21.  Qe2  Qd8  22.  b4   Qc7   23.  Rec1   c4  24.  Ra3   Rec8   25.  Rca1   Qd8  26. f4  Nf6  27. f:e5  d:e5  28.  Qf1  Ne8  29. Qf2  Nd6  30. Bb6   Qe8   31. R/3-a2  Be7  32. Bc5  Bf8  33. Nf5  B:f5  34. e:f5  f6  35. B:d6  B:d6  36. a:b5  a:b5  37. Be4!

According to GM Benjamin, former US Champion, Deep Blue shows itself as Grandmaster strength by this element of blockade strategy.  Perhaps it is a bit unnecessary flattery because the move and plan is pretty obvious but would the computer actually choose this blockading move, something computers seemed to be ignorant of as a strategy.

37. …. R:a2   38. Q:a2  Qd7  39. Qa7   Rc7   40.  Qb6  Rb7  41. Ra8+   Kf7  42.  Qa6  Qc7  43. Qc6  Qb6+  44. Kf1  Rb8  45. Ra6   (1-0).

Deep Blue went on to win the match 3.5-2.5 and also won an early game against the World Champion in 1996.

I guess human integrity is void in computers that show no emotion but just to extract the enormous power of its electronic brain.  Maybe Kasparov made himself look like a bad sport but there is an element in match play that says a player has a right to see games previously played by the opponent. IBM would not grant this request by the World Champion. Who is to say that a computer of Deep Blue’s power would not play this blockade on its own?  Also, it was raised that a strong player inputting moves could conceivably force the computer to follow a certain path. So a disagreement was laid out on the table with no resolution.  See my note above.  As seen in many past escapades, Garry Kasparov gets very uptight and angry and that anger unleashed within the confines of the business and sports world is not tolerated.  Objections or demands should be laid out on the table prior to the match or simply no match.  But there is a big difference between what IBM was offering and the modest purse demanded in past times.  Hey, that takes us back to the days of world chess matches where the champion had the final say and what purse demanded.

The “good old days” were not so good were they!  Does anyone want to say that about the ideals of integrity, honor, and character?

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