Little Bits of History

October 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 17, 2017

1956: Donald Byrne meets Bobby Fischer at the Marshall Chess Club. Byrne was 26 years old at the time and an acclaimed American chess master. He was playing in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City when he came up against the 13 year old Fischer. Byrne played White and opened with a noncommittal move. Fischer, playing Black, responded with a “hypermodern” principle-based plays. Byrne made what seemed to be a small mistake on move 11 but Fischer capitalized on it and eventually won the game on move 38 even after sacrificing his queen over 20 moves earlier. The match was called the “Game of the Century” by Hans Kmock in Chess Review.

Byrne was born in 1930 and was one of the strongest chess players in American in the 1950s and 1960s. He won the US Open Chess Championship in 1953 and went on to play or captain in five US Chess Olympiad teams between 1962 and 1972. He was awarded the International Master title by the World Chess Federation in 1962. During this particular game, it was obvious Fischer was winning and in a game between two masters, the losing player would normally resign but instead, at the urging of his friends as a “tip of the hat” to the teenager, they played out the game allowing Fisher to checkmate the more advanced player. Byrne died in 1976 at the age of 45 from complications of lupus.

Fischer was born in 1943 and became a grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. Some consider him to the greatest chess player of all time. He appears first on a number of different ranking lists. While a brilliant chess player, Fischer ran into problems with other players and eventually went into semi retirement in the mid-1960s. He returned to the game and played well until he disappeared from the scene in 1972. He remained hidden for twenty years until in 1992, he met with Boris Spassky, beating him. However, US President HW Bush had imposed sanctions against Yugoslavia and warned Fischer not to play. Now a fugitive, Fischer took up residence in Hungary. He moved around and was in Iceland when he died in 2008 at the age of 64.

Chess is a game played on a 64-square board. The game is old and based on prior similar games. By 1200 rules were changing to make it more of the modern game we know today. Around 1475 several new rules were added which turned into what we know today. The Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation (FIDE) was formed in 1924 and has been the arbiter of international chess competitions since. Founded in Paris, it oversees the 185 national associations. The current champion is Magnus Carlsen of Norway who took the title in 2013 and has successfully defended it in 2014 and again in 2016.

I just made the moves I thought were best. I was just lucky. 0 Bobby Fischer, after winning the Game of the Century

You have to remember, Bobby wasn’t yet Bobby Fischer at that time. – Donald Byrne, reminiscing about the game

When I won the world championship, in 1972, the United States had an image of, you know, a football country, a baseball country, but nobody thought of it as an intellectual country. – Bobby Fischer

All that matters on the chessboard is good moves. – Bobby Fischer




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.