Little Bits of History

Man Against Machine

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 11, 2010

Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov

May 11, 1997: IBM’s Deep Blue mainframe computer beats chess champion Garry Kasparov 3.5-2.5 under standard time constraints for a chess match. Deep Blue won its first game against Kasparov in February 1996 and went on to lose a five game match a week later with Kasparov winning 3 games and 2 games ending in a draw.

IBM Corporation is known colloquially as Big Blue. Douglas Adams named his computer in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Deep Thought. Deep Blue is a combination of the two names. Deep Blue underwent heavy upgrading in the following year getting ready for a rematch and became known to its makers as “Deeper Blue.”  Its chess playing program was written in C, a common computer programming language. The computer was a huge piece of equipment and weighed 1.4 tons. The chess playing computer was first devised in 1985 by Feng-hsiung Hsu then a Carnegie Mellon doctoral student. He developed a computer called “Chiptest” which was then modified by Hsu and several others working for IBM.

The man against machine match began on May 3, 1997 with Kasparov beating Deep Blue in 45 moves. The next day, Deep Blue came back with a win in 45 moves. Then the next three games played on May 6, 7, and 10 were draws. Finally, on May 11 Deep Blue won in only 19 moves. Kasparov tried to downplay his loss and accused IBM of cheating. IBM refused to show Kasparov computer logs at the time but did eventually publish them online.

IBM stated that Deep Blue was not “Artificial Intelligence” and noted that it could not learn from the preceding games. What it could do was process possible moves in very rapid fashion. There were a total of 256 processors working together. It was brute computing strength with Deep Blue able to evaluate 200,000,000 positions per second up against a lone chess master, who was able to consider three positions per second. The programming incorporated in the computer was written in C running under an AIX operating system. With improvements, the computer was able to adapt to new strategies as the game progressed. Kasparov and the supercomputer never squared off against each other again.

“Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when they are only wasting their time.” – George Bernard Shaw

“It is impossible to win gracefully at chess.  No man has yet said “Mate!” in a voice which failed to sound to his opponent bitter, boastful and malicious.” – A.A. Milne

“Life’s too short for chess.” – Henry James Byron

“I have to play an opponent, a very powerful opponent, that studied all my games, that has a unique ability — the best on the planet — to collect all this information and analyze that, and I know nothing about him, … I said ‘him.’ I meant ‘it.'” – Garry Kasparov

Also on this day, in 1820 HMS Beagle was launched.

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