All The Right Moves

During the interval between finishing the book

and writing the review a younger fellow came to the Ironman Chess club one evening with his lady friend on his arm. As an unknown he attracted much attention especially when playing his first game with one of the regulars, a class ‘B’ player with obvious mental problems (he is the kind of human who, when he comes in contact with a dog, the dog begins to growl before baring its teeth and barking. At the House of Pain it was commonly acknowledged the fellow, “Ain’t right.”). The newcomer had the ‘B’ player on the ropes, and was actually winning. The worse his position became the more afraid were we he might EXPLODE. Fortunately, the newbie blundered and lost the game and the frown and stare of his opponent turned into a smile while he “talked shit,” happy as a clam, while his opponent continued playing out the lost cause his game had become.

I was next in line to play a game with the newcomer. Before beginning the game I asked the young man a few questions, learning he had only played online Chess up to this point in his life. This made me think of the recently finished book, which was to be reviewed. While listening to the man I could see he had “The Look.” If you play any type of game you know about what I am talking. I have seen “The Look” many times throughout the course of my life. It has been noticed in not only Chess, but Backgammon and Poker. I even saw in in an opponent when playing Risk. Sure enough, we were the final two players in that particular game, and yes, I won. Writing about Risk reminds me of another game of Risk played in the Great State of Alabama many decades ago when returning from a Chess tournament. Big Al Hamilton, NM Michael Lucas, and I stopped at Doug King’s house and a Risk game was started. The three fellow Chess players were all from Alabama. When the game began Big Al looked at the other Bama brothers and said, “Let’s all attack Bacon and put him outta the game.” Since all three of them would play before my turn the of my chances surviving were minuscule. After being wiped from the board I upset the board and that ended the game. I regretted it immediately because I needed a ride back to Atlanta. Fortunately, the Bama bro’s were the understanding kind of fellows and I made it back without having to ride the ‘Hound…

It was obvious the younger man could play some Chess, and had played some Chess, but, like most newbies, he “attacked” with only his Queen and Knight, eventually “winning” my Queen’s Rook. Unfortunately for him he lagged in development and his “plan” allowed me to place pawns on both d5 and e5 while infiltrating the seventh rank with a Rook, which was en prise for several moves on d7 while his Knight on f6 could not move because of a deadly pin.

After resigning they decided to leave, but we did have a chance to talk, with my learning he was twenty-nine and a programmer. I highly recommended he read the book, All The Wrong Moves, but not for the reason he thought. The email exchange will explain:

Oct 15 at 10:12 PM
Hi Michael,

Enjoyed meeting & playing you tonight!

I went to buy “all the wrong moves”, but the book description says it’s a memoir – is that correct? I was under the impression that the book you recommended was a chess tutor book.

Michael Bacon
To:
Oct 16 at 8:14 AM
Why would you have thought that? It’s about a 29 year old man who decides to enter the world of human Chess tournaments after first playing online. You NEED to read the book before taking another step into the Chess world.

AW

To:Michael Bacon
Oct 28 at 10:24 AM
Just finished the book and really enjoyed it, thanks for the recommendation. I read it as a cautionary tale to not get into chess! It does seem like for certain people (like me!) chess can have an addictive quality, so I’d like to enjoy it more casually.

I don’t think I’ll be able to make a club meet up until late november!

Make of it what you will but I prefer to think it was synchronicity that brought the man to the club of Iron. I also like to think he attained that for which he was looking at the Ironman CC. I realize there are many “true believers” reading this who will disagree with me. You know the type. To them “Chess is the BEST AND GREATEST GAME OF ALL TIME!” They will ask, “Why did you do that? Chess needs more adults because currently the vast majority of humans who play Chess are children.” You know, the “Kill the messenger” kinda people. The fact is that I only gave the young man additional information to help him decide what to do with his time in the future. Besides, does the Chess world really need another stumble bum who gave up a promising career, and life, to do whatever it takes to get to the next round on time even though he may have to sleep on the floor underneath the table upon which a Chess game will be played in only a few short hours?

Garry Kasparov’s Shallow Thinking

“As I said, true champions are mentally exceptional. They can stick to their goals even in the most trying of conditions. It is easy to find ways to lose. The hard thing is to keep your mind fixed on winning, even when the pressure is at its most intense.”

The above is the culminating paragraph of the first chapter from, Knowing the Score: What Sports Can Teach Us About Philosophy (And What Philosophy Can Teach Us About Sports), by David Papineau.

World human Chess Champion Garry Kasparov

infamously lost the match played against the computer program known as Deep Blue and two decades later has written a book, his mea culpa, hopefully the last, explaining how, and why, he lost the match. From what he and his co-author Mig Greengard wrote it is evident how difficult it was for Kasparov to keep his mind fixed on winning because he found a way to lose.

Garry let us in on his thinking

when he hedged his bet from the first match, where the $500,000 purse was to be split 4-1. The purse for the second match “…would more than double, to $1,100,000, with $700,000 going to the winner.” Would Bobby Fischer have hedged his bet, or would he have gone ALL IN!?

“I underestimated that with so much on the line, IBM wasn’t only building a chess machine to beat me at the board, but a machine to beat me, period”

“Our contacts with IBM in the run-up to the match revealed one last flaw in my estimation of my chances. Gone was the friendly and open attitude that had been on display around the Philadelphia match run by ACM. With IBM in charge from top to bottom, this chumminess had been replaced by a policy of obstruction and even hostility.”

“In August, Deep Blue project manager C.J. Tan had told the New York Times quite bluntly that “we’re not conducting a scientific experiment anymore. This time we’re just going to play chess.”

This translates to, “We are here to win.”

This disabused Kasparov of the notion that he was some sort of collaborator in a joint intellectual and scientific effort. Now Garry was a gladiator in an arena where it was every man, and machine, for itself. It is written, “This gets back to the biggest reason I agreed to a prize fund that was less than everyone thought I could demand (especially my agent): I believed IBM’s promises of future collaboration. During my visit to their offices in 1996. I met with a senior vice president who assured me that IBM would step in as a sponsor to revive the Grand Prix circuit of the Professional Chess Asscociation.”

This brings to mind a quote: “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it till now.” — (Comment made 10 April 1962 in reaction to news that U.S. Steel was raising prices by $6 per ton, right after the unions negotiated a modest new contract under pressure from JFK to keep inflation down.)
John F. Kennedy, 35th president of US 1961-1963 (1917 – 1963), “A Thousand Days,” by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. [1965]

Kasparov had nothing in writing, only a wink and a promise. Garry was in for a rude awakening.

The first game was an epic struggle won by Kasparov. At one point GM Maurice Ashley famously said, “The board is in flames!” In place of the game notation the games are described with words so people with little or no knowledge of Chess are able to understand without having a board and pieces in front of them. It is written, “As Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke said, no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy. My plan for a quiet fact-finding mission in game one had been blown to hell by the aggressive machine. I was pinning my hopes on my superior evaluation ability.”

Kasparov resigned to the humans operating the machine to end the second game. A lengthy paragraph details the scene when Kasparov was informed THE NEXT DAY that he had resigned in a drawn position. Garry writes: “To psychoanalyze just this once, with twenty years to cycle through the stages (of grief), this was also me saying to myself, “My god, how could “I” miss something so simple?” When you are the World Champion, the world number one, any defeat can be viewed as self-inflicted. This is not exactly fair to my opponents, many of whom could count their victories over me as the pinnacle of their careers, but after such an incredible revelation I wasn’t in the mood to be fair to anyone.”

If Kasparov is being truthful then it is obvious he “let go of the rope.” He simply gave up. He lost his belief in his “superior evaluation ability.” He came to believe the program was omnipotent. He saw only opening books and endgame table bases. Which begs the question: Why were opening books and endgame table bases allowed? Garry could not use them. Why should the machine be allowed to use them? Garry was the HUMAN World Champ; he could have played against a program that would have had to “think” on its own, just as the human. It was his title wanted by IBM. He could have dictated terms. He laments not having enough time between games to rest, something the machine did not need. Garry agreed to the format.

The Go program, AlphaGo, uses no table bases whatsoever, and because of that it has caused a revolution in the opening stage of Go. Someone could have written in the program all the known openings of the greatest Go players from the past 2500 years, but did not. The authors write, “…AlphaGo defeated the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol.” He was not the world’s top Go player at the time he played the match, but he had previously been the top player. AlphaGo later beat the top human Go player, Ke Jie, then “retired.”

Just as he wrote about the inevitability of losing his World Championship title after his lost match to Vladimir Kramnik, Garry’s hand-picked opponent, he viewed it as inevitable machines would eventually supersede humans at the game of Chess.

About the final game they write: “When asked about remarks by Illescas that I was afraid of Deep Blue, I was again candid. “I’m not afraid to admit I am afraid! And I’m not afraid to say why I’m afraid. It definitely goes beyond any known program in the world.” At the end, Ashley asked me if I was going to try and win the final game with the black pieces and I replied, “I’ll try to make the best moves.” Bobby Fischer famously said, “I don’t believe in psychology, I believe in good moves.”

“The match was tied , 2.5-2.5. Should I play it safe and aim for a draw or should I risk everything and play for a win with black? With no rest day, I knew I would have no energy for another long fight of the sort that resulted from my anti-computer lines. My play was already shaky. I knew my nervous system very well from two decades of competition, and it would not withstand the strain of another four or five hours of tension against the machine. But I had to try something, didn’t I?”

Kasparov then went to the board and played an awful move allowing a Knight sacrifice because he thought the program would not play the Knight move. He did this even after saying, “It definitely goes beyond any known program in the world.” The Knight move is such a ripper that most class D players would make it. If you do not believe me then play 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 h6

and watch their eyes blaze before playing 8.Nxe6 Qe7 9.0-0 fxe6 10.Bg6+ Kd8 11.Bf4 b5 12.a4 Bb7 13.Re1 Nd5 14.Bg3 Kc8 15.axb5 cxb5 16.Qd3 Bc6 17.Bf5 exf5 18.Rxe7 Bxe7 19.c4 1–0

Garry Kasparov has been called the best Chess player of all time by many. He lost to a computer program in under twenty moves. The game was over long before he resigned. It is called a “miniature,” among Chess players, and that is not good. Garry lost like a beginner. How can he be considered the “greatest of all time?” There was only one Greatest of All Time, and that was Muhammad Ali.

Did IBM cheat? “I have been asked, “Did Deep Blue cheat?” more times than I could possibly count, and my honest answer has always been, “I don’t know.” After twenty years of soul-searching, revelations, and analysis, my answer is now “no.” As for IBM, the lengths they went to to win were a betrayal of fair competition, but the real victim of this betrayal was science.”

I am having much trouble understanding what is written because Kasparov goes to great pains to prove IBM cheated when he quotes a 2009 New In Chess interview with GM Miguel Illescas, who was on the IBM “team,” along with many other Grandmasters too numerous to mention. “Every morning we had meetings with all the team, the engineers, communication people, everybody. A professional approach such as I never saw in my life. All details were taken into account. I will tell you something which was very secret. Well, it’s more of an anecdote, because it’s not that important. One day I said, Kasparov speaks to Dokhoian after the games. I would like to know what they say. Can we change the security guard, and replace him by someone that speaks Russian? The next day they changed the guy, so I knew what they spoke about after the game.”

If that is not cheating, what is cheating? It is written, “I make the point because after Enron, people stopped telling me that “a big American corporation like IBM would never do anything unethical.” Especially after they found out how much IBM’s stock price went up after the match.”

There it is, just Show Me the Money! In a capitalist monetary system everything devolves to Where is the Money? Or, Who has the Money? Or, How Can I Get the Money?” Kasparov mentions the IBM program known as “Watson,” which “won” a tournament of champions on the TV show “Jeopardy.” The person, or thing, that gets to answer the most questions wins, and “Watson” was, shall we say, REALLY quick on the trigger. Former Chess player Big Al Hamilton’s philosophy of life was, “Everything is rigged.”

After allowing the devastating Knight sacrifice in the final game one legendary Chess player erupted with, “Garry took a DIVE! Playing this way is his signal to us that the fix was in!” I replied, “Wonder if IBM was holding Garry’s wife and children hostage?” After several moments of cogitation, the legendary one, at least in his own mind, replied, “Where were Kasparov’s wife and children during the match?” If anyone questions this I suggest they read, The Fix Is In: The Showbiz Manipulations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR, by Brian Tuohy.

Now that computer programs play a level or two better than the best human players what Kasparov accomplished in his Chess career is meaningless. To history he will only be known as the human who lost a match to a machine. Kasparov knows this and it eats at him. For example, it is written, “Looking back, I was the last world champion to win a match against a computer. Why don’t those This Day in History calendars have a page for that?”