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Chess fans overload IBM's Web site

May 3, 1997
Web posted at: 10:43 a.m. EDT (1443 GMT)

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Shortly after the celebrated chess competition between world champion Garry Kasparov and the IBM computer known as Deep Blue began Saturday at 3 p.m. in New York, IBM's Web site was jammed by what in other contexts would be known as a standing-room-only crowd.

Too many computer owners tried to follow the competition at www.chess.ibm.com than could be accommodated, leaving many of them with messages like "Waiting for reply" and "Failed to connect to server."

The winner of the battle between Kasparov, the Russian grandmaster, and the IBM RS/6000 SP computer will receive $700,000 from a $1.1 million purse.

But, there is more to the competition that just chess, of course. What everyone wants to know, ultimately, is which is superior, man or computer? Many suspect that the computer is rapidly narrowing the gap.

Deep Blue stunned Kasparov, and the chess world, early last year by winning the first of their six-game competition in Philadelphia. Although Kasparov came back to win, 4 games to 2, the people behind Deep Blue thought they could do better, and have come back to prove it.

Deep Blue has been dramatically improved this time around, and is now twice as fast as the machine Kasparov beat last year. It can examine up to 200 million chess positions per second, or 50 billion in the three-minute period allowed per move by the rules.

Groomed in the ways of chess

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It also has been groomed in the ways of chess for this competition by American grandmaster Joel Benjamin.

Says Benjamin, "I examine certain positions, what types of moves it plays, how it behaves in certain situations," and, with the help of five scientists, re-programs the computer to help it function more like a chess player.

"We also made our program more flexible, so in between games we can change our strategy to counter what Garry will do," says Chung-Jen Tan, the manager for Team Blue.

Kasparov won the draw to play with the white pieces at a news conference Thursday, which confers on him the advantage of the first move Saturday. Deep Blue will play with white in game 2 on Sunday, game 4 on Wednesday and the sixth and final game on May 11.

Kasparov complained that the computer not only has the advantage of six men behind it, and its formidable computing power, but also the benefit of having "studied" Kasparov's games.

Kasparov has had no access to any of the computer's games since it has been upgraded.

'I said 'him.' I meant 'it'

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"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," says Kasparov, who paused to correct himself. "I said 'him.' I meant 'it.'"

"He has seen our formal games," a slightly ruffled Tan told reporters. "We have not had time to just go out and play tournaments. This is not about the match ... this is more than just a chess game. This is really about the future and how we use computers to live our lives for the betterment of mankind."

Yet another advantage would seem to be Deep Blue's unemotional and tireless style.

"We've seen countless times where Deep Blue, in bad positions, will just play on and on and somehow save the game," says IBM scientist Murray Campbell.

Arrogant and intense, the 34-year-old Kasparov has been world champion since 1984 and is considered the best ever to play the game. He has lost to computers before, but only in speeded-up games, never in the longer, classical games that can last up to six hours.

Kasparov expects to win

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"Mankind is at a stage now where we need some practical results from our computer work and you can only get this specific result in chess," he told reporters a few days ago while preparing in his hotel room for the match.

Chess is ideal for computers because it involves a specific number of physical objects governed by simple, clearly defined rules. All of those involved in the match have described it as an experiment to help build computers that can make complex, simultaneous calculations at high speeds.

Nevertheless, despite Deep Blue's daunting capabilities, Kasparov is certain he will win again.

"It will be a different kind of chess from last time," he says, "but I have no doubt the end result will be the same."

Correspondent Brian Jenkins and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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Karpasov vs. Deep Blue The Rematch  |  The Match-Up  |  Round One
The Message Board  |  The Chess Links
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