‘Computer Glitch Defeated Kasparov’

May 11, 1997:
“IBM’s supercomputer ‘Deep Blue’ makes chess history by defeating Garry Kasparov, the chess champion widely regarded as the greatest who has ever lived. The Russian master conceded defeat after 19 moves in the sixth game of the tournament, losing the match 2.5 to 3.5. It was the first defeat of a reigning world champion by a machine in tournament play.

“‘Big Blue’, which can analyze 200 million chess moves a second, had met Kasparov once before, but the human had been able to hold his own against the computer. Before their second meeting, Kasparov had never lost a professional chess match.”


Chess champion Gary Kasparov, 1997, training for his May rematch with Deep Blue (Ted Thai—The LIFE Picture Collection-Getty)

“Kasparov and other chess masters blamed the defeat on a single move made by the IBM machine. Either at the end of the first game or the beginning of the second, depending on who’s telling the story, the computer made a sacrifice that seemed to hint at its long-term strategy.

“Kasparov and many others thought the move was too sophisticated for a computer, suggesting there had been some sort of human intervention during the game.

It was an incredibly refined move, of defending while ahead to cut out any hint of countermoves,” grandmaster Yasser Seirawan told ‘Wired’ in 2001, “and it sent Garry into a tizzy.”

“Fifteen years later, one of ‘Big Blue’s designers says the move was the result of a bug in Deep Blue’s software.

“The revelation was published in a book by statistician and New York Times journalist Nate Silver, titled “The Signal and the Noise”…

“For his book, Silver interviewed Murray Campbell, one of the three IBM computer scientists who designed ‘Deep Blue’, and Murray told him that the machine was unable to select a move and simply picked one at random

“Kasparov had concluded that the counterintuitive play must be a sign of superior intelligence,” Campbell told Silver. “He had never considered that it was simply a bug.”

“It’s tempting to think there’s a lesson here about human nature. After all, a human mistake in the development of the software led to the machine’s victory. It’s sort of reassuring to think that a human flaw is actually what made Deep Blue successful…”

–‘Did a Computer Bug Help Deep Blue Beat Kasparov?’,
KLINT FINLEY, Wired, 09.28.12.


IMAGE: Garry Kasparov, left, against IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer. Chung-Jen Tan, manager, Deep Blue project, looks on, 1997.
(Photo–Adam Nadel-Associated Press)


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