Friday, July 15, 2011

Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine

I saw this 2002 documentary on Monday night about Garry Kasparov's second match with IBM's Deep Blue in 1997. The film follows Kasparov's view of the match and the related conspiracy theories. Unfortunately apart from some interviews with 3 of the Deep Blue team it doesn't seek the views of computer chess experts, so the naive views of computer chess by Kasparov and others are not challenged. The film is punctuated with shots of "The Turk" (actually a replica), which clearly signal where the film maker's sympathies lie. That said it is an interesting film.

For those of us who can't tell one Russian world chess champion from another the film gives us a background on Garry Kasparov's rise and his challenge to the reigning world chess champion, Anatoly Karpov (with those amazing ^ ^ eyebrows).

Garry Kasparov had beaten Deep Blue in their first match in 1996, winning 4-2 in a 6 game match (Kasparov winning 3 and drawing 2 games). But before the rematch in 1997 Deep Blue's hardware was upgraded to make it twice as fast and it's software had been improved and tuned by a team including 4 grand masters.

The six game 1997 rematch was played at an IBM building in New York. Kasparov won the first game easily and was surprised at how differently Deep Blue played in the second game. He offered a sacrifice and was taken aback when the computer ignored the offer. He went on to resign. He accused IBM of cheating, claiming that a human must have intervened during a 15 minute move. He publicly demanded to see Deep Blue's logs from the match (a demand he repeated before and after every game for the rest of the match). That night another grand master suggested that Garry could have forced a draw if he had continued.

Kasparov was convinced that computers were stupid and thought that all computer programs couldn't resist sacrifice offers and accused Deep Blue of not playing like a chess program. The next three games were draws but Garry was unsettled by losing game 2 to a computer that didn't play like a computer, by IBM's refusal to hand over the logs and the general attitude of a public relations conscious corporation. IBM may or may not have deliberately played on his nerves, but ultimately it looks like he was psyched out by game 6, which he lost hence losing the match.

Unfortunately the film doesn't talk to independent computer chess experts about the match. They might have pointed out that there is nothing implicit in chess programs that mean that they have to take offered sacrifices. It is just that comparing material is about the easiest calculation to put in a chess position evaluation function, and hence the tendency for chess programs to prefer to take pieces.

IBM retired Deep Blue after the match. The other conspiracy theory in the doco was that IBM's share price rose 15% because Deep Blue beat the world chess champion and IBM didn't want to risk someone beating Deep Blue.

Note that the 1984 Karpov Kasparov match lasted 48 games before being called off, they played 4 other matches each lasting 24 games over the next 6 years, so the 6 game match against Deep Blue was unusually short by comparison.

Here IBM's description of Deep Blue and of the match including log files.

Ian's rating 2/5

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