Programmers Attack Go With Brute Force

Last June an article by Jonathan Schaeffer, Martin Müller & Akihiro Kishimoto, AIs Have Mastered Chess. Will Go Be Next? was published. “Randomness could trump expertise in this ancient game of strategy,” followed. “Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer science professor at the University of Alberta, in Canada, had been creating game-playing artificial intelligence programs for 15 years when Martin Müller and Akihiro Kishimoto came to the university in 1999 as a professor and graduate student, respectively. Kishimoto has since left for IBM Research–Ireland, but the work goes on—and Schaeffer now finds it plausible that a computer will beat Go’s grand masters soon. “Ten years ago, I thought that wouldn’t happen in my lifetime,” he says.” (

Jonathan Schaeffer is the man behind Chinook, the computer program that solved Checkers. You can find the paper, Checkers is Solved, to learn about the proof here: (
He has also revised his book first published in 1997, One Jump Ahead: Computer Perfection at Checkers, which I read years ago. Jonathan Schaeffer is like E. F. Hutton in that when he talks about a computer game program, you listen.

For years I have followed news of computer Go programs. Before sitting down to punch & poke I searched for the latest news, coming up empty. This as good news for humans because Go is the last board game bastion holding against machine power. It is also the world’s oldest, and most complicated, board game. It “originated in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago. It was considered one of the four essential arts of a cultured Chinese scholar in antiquity. Its earliest written reference dates back to the Confucian Analects.” (

Schaeffer and his group have developed a Go-playing computer program, Fuego, an open-source program that was developed at the University of Alberta. From the article, “For decades, researchers have taught computers to play games in order to test their cognitive abilities against those of humans. In 1997, when an IBM computer called Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the reigning world champion, at chess, many people assumed that computer scientists would eventually develop artificial intelligences that could triumph at any game. Go, however, with its dizzying array of possible moves, continued to stymie the best efforts of AI researchers.”

In 2009 Fuego “…defeated a world-class human Go player in a no-handicap game for the first time in history. Although that game was played on a small board, not the board used in official tournaments, Fuego’s win was seen as a major milestone.”

They write, “Remarkably, the Fuego program didn’t triumph because it had a better grasp of Go strategy. And although it considered millions of possible moves during each turn, it didn’t come close to performing an exhaustive search of all the possible game paths. Instead, Fuego was a know-nothing machine that based its decisions on random choices and statistics.”

I like the part about it being a “know-nothing machine.” I have often wondered if humans, like Jonathan Schaeffer, who are devoting their lives to the development of “thinking” machines, will be reviled by future generations of humans as is the case in the Terminator movies. It could be that in the future humans will say, “Hitler was nothing compared to the evil SCHAEFFER!” If I were supreme world controller a command would be issued ending the attempts to crack Go, leaving my subjects one beautiful game not consigned to the dustbin of history, as has been the fate of checkers. I fear it is only a matter of time before chess meets the same fate. GM Parimarjan Negi was asked in the “Just Checking” Q&A of the best chess magazine in the history of the universe, New In Chess 2014/6, “What will be the nationality of the 2050 World Champion?” He answered the question by posing one of his own, “Will we still have a world championship?” Good question. I would have to live to one hundred to see that question answered. Only former President of the GCA, and Georgia Senior Champion, Scott Parker will live that long, possibly still be pushing wood in 2050, if wood is still being pushed…

The article continues, “The recipe for building a superhuman chess program is now well established. You start by listing all possible moves, the responses to the moves, and the responses to the responses, generating a branching tree that grows as big as computational resources allow. To evaluate the game positions at the end of the branches, the program needs some chess knowledge, such as the value of each piece and the utility of its location on the board. Then you refine the algorithm, say by “pruning” away branches that obviously involve bad play on either side, so that the program can search the remaining branches more deeply. Set the program to run as fast as possible on one or more computers and voilà, you have a grand master chess player. This recipe has proven successful not only for chess but also for such games as checkers and Othello. It is one of the great success stories of AI research.”

Voilà, indeed.

“Go is another matter entirely,” they write, “The game has changed little since it was invented in China thousands of years ago, and millions around the world still enjoy playing it.”

But for how long?

“Game play sounds simple in theory: Two players take turns placing stones on the board to occupy territories and surround the opponent’s stones, earning points for their successes. Yet the scope of Go makes it extremely difficult—perhaps impossible—for a program to master the game with the traditional search-and-evaluate approach.”

This is because, “For starters, the complexity of the search algorithm depends in large part on the branching factor—the number of possible moves at every turn. For chess, that factor is roughly 40, and a typical chess game lasts for about 50 moves. In Go, the branching factor can be more than 250, and a game goes on for about 350 moves. The proliferation of options in Go quickly becomes too much for a standard search algorithm.”

Hooray! That is the good news, and there is more…”There’s also a bigger problem: While it’s fairly easy to define the value of positions in chess, it’s enormously difficult to do so on a Go board. In chess-playing programs, a relatively simple evaluation function adds up the material value of pieces (a queen, for example, has a higher value than a pawn) and computes the value of their locations on the board based on their potential to attack or be attacked. Compared with that of chess pieces, the value of individual Go stones is much lower. Therefore the evaluation of a Go position is based on all the stones’ locations, and on judgments about which of them will eventually be captured and which will stay safe during the shifting course of a long game. To make this assessment, human players rely on both a deep tactical understanding of the game and a clear-eyed appraisal of the overall board situation. Go masters consider the strength of various groups of stones and look at the potential to create, expand, or conquer territories across the board.”

This sounds good so far, but then they continue, “Rather than try to teach a Go-playing program how to perform this complex assessment, we’ve found that the best solution is to skip the evaluation process entirely.”

Oh no, Mr. Bill!

“Over the past decade, several research groups have pioneered a new search paradigm for games, and the technique actually has a chance at cracking Go. Surprisingly, it’s based on sequences of random moves. In its simplest form, this approach, called Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS), eschews all knowledge of the desirability of game positions. A program that uses MCTS need only know the rules of the game.”

I do not know about you, but I am hoping, “What happens in Monte Carlo stays in Monte Carlo.” Do you get the feeling we are about to be Three Card Monte Carloed?

“From the current configuration of stones on the board, the program simulates a random sequence of legal moves (playing moves for both opponents) until the end of the game is reached, resulting in a win or loss. It automatically does this over and over. The magic comes from the use of statistics. The evaluation of a position can be defined as the frequency with which random move sequences originating in that position lead to a win. For instance, the program might determine that when move A is played, random sequences of moves result in a win 73 percent of the time, while move B leads to a win only 54 percent of the time. It’s a shockingly simple metric.”

“Shockingly simple,” my jackass. There is much more to the article, including this, “The best policies for expanding the tree also rely on a decision-making shortcut called rapid action value estimation (RAVE). The RAVE component tells the program to collect another set of statistics during each simulation.”

As in “Raving lunatic.” The article provides a list of what current computer programs have done to games, and how they rate in “…two-player games without chance or hidden information…”

TIC-TAC-TOE (Game positions, 10 to the 4th power) = Toast

OWARE (Game positions, 10 to the 11th power) = Fried

CHECKERS (Game positions, 10 to the 20th power)= Cooked

OTHELLO (Game positions, 10 to the 28th power)= Superhuman

CHESS (Game positions, 10 to the 45th power) = Superhuman

XIANGQI (CHINESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 48th power) = Best Professional

SHOGI (JAPANESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 70th power) = Strong Professional

GO = (Game positions, 10 to the 172th power) = Strong Amateur

They end the article by writing, “But there may come a day soon when an AI will be able to conquer any game we set it to, without a bit of knowledge to its name. If that day comes, we will raise a wry cheer for the triumph of ignorance.”

I would much prefer to raise a stein and drown my sorrows to that…

Games People Play

Former World Chess Champion Boris Spassky was interview recently by Colin McGourty. Some of the wonderful interview, “I still look at chess with the eyes of a child” ( has been translated by Chess24.

Colin: “All sports change over the years, becoming faster, higher, stronger. Is chess also subject to similar trends?”

Boris: “Chess is also changing, but in a somewhat incomprehensible manner. Computers have appeared in chess and turned everything upside down.”

The advent of computer chess programs have drastically altered the Royal game. The natural evolution of chess has been, shall we say, “enhanced” by the programs. The play of the game of chess has taken a quantum leap forward in the lifetime of Boris Spassky. When change this dramatic occurs it is only natural that older humans have trouble accepting the rapid change. For instance, my grandmother was born before the automobile was invented. When Neil Armstrong allegedly stepped onto the surface of the moon and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” it was much more than she could comprehend and she never believed it happened. To her it was just something “they” put on TV.

Colin: “The reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen has the reputation of being a straight-A chess player who does everything correctly on the board and plays out games for a long, long time. Has chess lost something because of that?”

Boris: “Carlsen is a stubborn kid. In general, what a chess player needs has always been the same, with a love of chess the main requirement. Moreover, it has to be loved naturally, with passion, the way people love art, drawing and music. That passion possesses you and seeps into you. I still look at chess with the eyes of a child.”

Colin: “Can chess players of different eras be compared at all?”

Boris: “It’s pretty hard. Each to his own. Everyone should know his place. Chess players are a very difficult crowd who are largely egocentrics, egoists and individualists. Each of them has his own vision of the world and each is a lone wolf who goes his own way. Each World Champion came from more or less that background.”

Humans have always played games, and, most, will continue to play some kind of game. As Colin said, “All sports change over the years…” Chess is not an exception.

Whatever credibility Checkers had has been lost to the computer program Chinook, the “World Man-Machine Checkers Champion.” ( Have humans stopped playing Checkers? They have not because they changed the game. Take a look at “International Checkers.” It is not the game your father played.

Consider Three Dimensional Chess, popularized by the Star Trek TV show. (
“Three-dimensional chess (or 3D chess) refers to any of various chess variants that use multiple boards at different levels, allowing the chess pieces to move in three physical dimensions. Three-dimensional variants have existed since the late 19th century, one of the oldest being Raumschach (German for Space chess), invented in 1907 by Dr. Ferdinand Maack and considered the classic 3D game. Maack founded a Raumschach club in Hamburg in 1919, which remained active until World War II. The inventor contended that for chess to be more like modern warfare, attack should be possible not only from a two-dimensional plane but also from above (aerial) and below (underwater). Maack’s original formulation was for an 8×8×8 board, but after experimenting with smaller boards eventually settled on 5×5×5 as best. Other obvious differences from standard chess include two additional pawns per player, and a special piece (two per player) named unicorn.” (

It could be that in the future when one speaks of chess, it will be in regard to only 3D Chess.

GM Walter Browne, an avid gamesman, has created a game he named, “FINESSE.” Walter calls it, “The 21st century version of Chess.” He writes, “In 1988 I started to wonder why over two thousand years no one ever thought of another board game besides Chess, that was a “purely” intellectual struggle. There are many chess variants, but none of them are very appealing, so I dared to take up the challenge. I invented Finesse in 1993 and I thought it’s nice, but I put it away for almost twenty years. Then in 2012 I made a few key changes which made all the difference! I had a “Voila”! moment in August 2012 when I realized the chemistry between the pieces would create an endless variety of dynamic positions.”(!history/c1sf)

Check out this “Finesse” video:

Could the game Walter invented be the future of chess? My favorite science fiction novel is, “The Player of Games,” by Iain M. Banks. “Curgeh is the best, the champion. In the ancient, all-embracing Culture in which there is no disease or disaster, only the endless games, he has beaten them all. But an empire’s challenge will teach him what the Game is really all about.” (

My favorite novel is, “The Glass Bead Game,” by Hermann Hesse. It is known as “Das Glasperlenspiel” in German. It has also been published under the title “Magister Ludi,” Latin for “Master of the Game.” (

“It was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943 after being rejected for publication in Germany due to Hesse’s anti-Fascist views. A few years later, in 1946, Hesse went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. In honoring him in its Award Ceremony Speech, the Swedish Academy said that the novel “occupies a special position” in Hesse’s work.”

“The Glass Bead Game takes place at an unspecified date centuries into the future. Hesse suggested that he imagined the book’s narrator writing around the start of the 25th century. The setting is a fictional province of central Europe called Castalia, which was reserved by political decision for the life of the mind; technology and economic life are kept to a strict minimum. Castalia is home to an austere order of intellectuals with a twofold mission: to run boarding schools for boys, and to nurture and play the Glass Bead Game, whose exact nature remains elusive and whose devotees occupy a special school within Castalia known as Waldzell. The rules of the game are only alluded to—they are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Playing the game well requires years of hard study of music, mathematics, and cultural history. The game is essentially an abstract synthesis of all arts and sciences. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics.” (

Games will always be played, as long as humans inhabit Earth, which may not be long the way we have polluted the planet. (–0_300vfa5puqb8) Even then I like to think humans may be able to travel to an unpolluted planet, where they will, no doubt, play some kind of game.

TCEC Rules

The Season 7 Superfinal of the TCEC ahampionship is underway with Komodo 1333 playing Stockfish 141214. I was amazed upon learning game 3 began as a French: Chigorin, 2…c5. In this 64 game match the same opening is being played by both “engines.” This game began during the evening of December 17, 2014 with the same opening played the following game, with colors reversed, and I spent the night watching the games, with both being drawn.
The TCEC people force the “engines” to play 8 moves. When White plays 2 Qe2, after 1 e4 e6, it signifies the Chigorin. Black should be allowed to play any move it computes best in lieu of being forced to play a move it may, or may not, consider best. When Black, on move two, after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3, plays Nf6 that signifies the Petroff defense. I fail to understand why the TCECers force the programs to play another SIX moves when it is obvious White should choose the third move. Another example is the Najdorf defense. After 1e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Black has a variety of choices. Playing 5…a6 signals the Najdorf. At this point White has a plethora of choices. The “engine” should make the choice. After 1 e4 e5 2 f4 White has chosen the King’s Gambit, and Black has many options. It is unfortunate but we will never know what an “engine” would play because humans have made the choice for the machines. Near the end of the line for the game of Checkers, with the advent of the Checker playing program Chinook ( the openings would be chosen for the human players in a tournament because so many openings were known to be a forced draw.
One would think that the humans in control of the TCEC tournament would at least choose an opening played numerous times by top GMs, but such is not the case. Take the aforementioned Chigorin game as an example. After 1 e4 e6 2 Qe2 White has, according to the Chessbase Database (, just played the top scoring move against the French, with White scoring 57%. The move Black makes in reply, 2…c5, is the most played move in the variation and can be considered the main line. On its third move the “engine” is forced to play 3 g3 when the most often played move, considered to be the “main line,” is 3 Nf3. According to the CBDB, Stockfish 181114 would play the little played 3 b3. I would rather see SF play this move, since it is the move determined best. Houdini would play another lesser played move, 3 d3. That is the move it should be allowed to play.
Black answers with the most often played move, 3…Nc6, the move considered best by Komodo. Stockfish 5×64 at depth 31 also plays 3…Nc6, but at depth 35 changes to 3…g6. It would be interesting to see a game between these two titans continue from this point.
The next move, 4 Nf3 is the main line, but Houdini 3×64 would play the little played 4 d3. This is followed by 4…Be7, considered best by both SF and Komodo, yet 4…g6 and d6 have been played more often.
5 Bg2 is for choice, as is the reply 5…d5. 6 d3 is the main line, but Houdini 4×64 would play 6 0-0. The next move, 6…Nf6 is almost automatic. The program is forced to play 7 0-0, the main line, but Komodo would play 7 e5, so maybe it is best?! 7…0-0 would seem to be a no-brainer, and it has been throughout chess history, and it is the first choice of both Stockfish and Houdini, but the humans in charge forced the “engines” to play the much lesser played 7…b6. Now White plays 8 e5 and Black retreats his Knight to d7 and the forced moves have ended and the programs can begin to “compute.”
The TCECers could have allowed the “engines” to compute beginning on move two, after White plays 2 Qe2, or they could have chosen the same opening moves chosen previously by the best human players to have played the opening. Instead the knuckleheads at TCEC forced the machines to play an obscure, little played line.
The first move produced by a program, 9 c4, is not only “main line,” but also seen as best by the “engines.” Stockfish played 9…0-0. Komodo would play the most often played move, 9…d4.
Stockfish played 10 Re1 (Komodo would play a TN, 10 a3) and Komodo responded with 10…h6, which is a TN. Stockfish 151214 shows 10…Ndb8 at depth 24, but give it more time to crunch and it produces the move chosen by Komodo.
The move 10…h6 is a deviation from “known theory.” A game was played with the move 10…Bb7 in lieu of 10…h6. Who were the players in this earlier game? Were they well-known GMs who devoted their lives to the Royal game? Not hardly…They were guys of my calibre:

Samuel Minor (2092) vs Matthias Schoene (1846)
Frankfurt-ch 05/15/2006

1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Qe2 Nf6 4. Nf3 c5 5. g3 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O Nc6 8. e5 Nd7 9. c4 b6 10. Re1 Bb7 11. h4 Re8 12. Nbd2 Nf8 13. Nf1 Qc7 14. N1h2 Nd4 15. Nxd4 cxd4 16. cxd5 Bxd5 17. Bxd5 exd5 18. Qf3 Bb4 19. Re2 Rad8 20. Ng4 Ng6 21. h5 Nxe5 22. Nxe5 Rxe5 23. Bf4 f6 24. Bxe5 fxe5 25. a3 Be7 26. Rae1 Bf6 27. h6 Qd7 28. Rc2 e4 29. dxe4 dxe4 30. Qxe4 d3 31. Rd2 Bg5 32. f4 Bxh6 33. Qe6+ Qxe6 34. Rxe6 Kf7 35. Re3 g5 36. fxg5 Bxg5 37. Rexd3 Bxd2 38. Rxd8 Bc1 39. Rd7+ Kg6 40. Rxa7 Bxb2 41. a4 h5 42. Kg2 Kg5 43. Kh3 Bc3 44. Rd7 Bb4 45. Rd5+ Kg6 46. Rb5 Ba5 47. Kh4 1-0

For the record here are the two games played by the computer programs:

Stockfish 141214 (3218) vs Komodo 1333 (3210)
TCEC Season 7 – Superfinal game 3
C00 French: Chigorin, 2…c5

1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. g3 Nc6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. d3 Nf6 7. O-O b6 8. e5 Nd7 9. c4 O-O 10. Re1 h6 11. Bf4 d4 12. h4 Bb7 13. Nh2 Rb8 14. Ng4 h5 15. Nh2 g6 16. Nd2 a6 17. Nhf3 b5 18. Rab1 Qc7 19. cxb5 axb5 20. a3 Rbc8 21. Rbd1 Ba8 22. Ne4 Rfe8 23. b3 Qa7 24. Rb1 Qc7 25. b4 cxb4 26. axb4 Bxb4 27. Rf1 Qb8 28. Nf6+ Nxf6 29. exf6 e5 30. Bh6 Bc3 31. Bh3 e4 32. dxe4 Rcd8 33. Qxb5 Qxb5 34. Rxb5 Na5 35. Rc1 Bxe4 36. Nxd4 Bxd4 37. Rxa5 Bb2 38. Rf1 Bxf6 39. Bg2 Bf5 40. Bf3 Bc3 41. Ra2 Rd3 42. Be2 Rd4 43. Rc1 Rde4 1/2-1/2

Komodo 1333 (3210) vs Stockfish 141214 (3218)
TCEC Season 7 – Superfinal game 4
C00 French: Chigorin, 2…c5

1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. g3 Nc6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. d3 Nf6 7. O-O b6 8. e5 Nd7 9. c4 O-O 10. Re1 h6 11. Bf4 d4 12. h4 Bb7 13. Nh2 Re8 14. Qg4 Bf8 15. Bxc6 Bxc6 16. Bxh6 f5 17. Qg6 Qe7 18. Bf4 Qf7 19. Qxf7+ Kxf7 20. Nd2 b5 21. Nhf3 Be7 22. cxb5 Bxb5 23. Nc4 Bc6 24. Ng5+ Bxg5 25. Bxg5 Reb8 26. Na5 Bb5 27. Rad1 Rb6 28. b3 Rab8 29. Re2 Ra6 30. Nc4 Bxc4 31. bxc4 Rab6 32. f3 Rb2 33. Rde1 Rxe2 34. Rxe2 Rb1+ 35. Kf2 Nb8 36. Re1 Rb2+ 37. Re2 Rb1 38. g4 fxg4 39. fxg4 Nc6 40. h5 a5 41. Kf3 Rd1 42. Bd2 Ra1 43. Be1 a4 44. g5 a3 45. Kf4 Rb1 46. g6+ Ke8 47. Ke4 Rb2 48. Kf3 Nb4 49. Bxb4 cxb4 50. h6 gxh6 51. c5 b3 52. c6 Rxe2 53. Kxe2 bxa2 54. c7 Kd7 55. c8=Q+ Kxc8 56. g7 a1=Q 57. g8=Q+ Kb7 58. Qf7+ Ka6 59. Qxe6+ Ka5 60. Qd5+ Ka4 61. Qc6+ Kb4 62. Qc4+ Ka5 63. Qc5+ Ka4 64. Qc4+ 1/2-1/2

If any of this is logical to you, please leave a comment and elucidate the AW because none of this makes any sense to me whatsoever and I am certain Mr. Spock would question the logic behind the moves.

Garry Kasparov Tangled Up in Deep Blue

When world human chess champion Garry Kasparov lost the second match with Deep Blue in 1997, I said, and have continued to say, and write, that Garry Kasparov will be remembered only for losing to the chess program known as Deep Blue. Many find this unpalatable, but, as Walter Cronkite used to say to end his CBS news broadcast, “That’s the way it is.”
Proof can be found on This Day in History under May 11:
“On May 11, 1997, chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov resigns after 19 moves in a game against Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer developed by scientists at IBM. This was the sixth and final game of their match, which Kasparov lost two games to one, with three draws.” (
This is the only listing for Kasparov. There is absolutely nothing concerning any of his other chess accomplishments. It may be unfortunate for Garry, but this is how he leaves his make on history, as a loser.
The above mentioned article ends with, “The last game of the 1997 Kasparov v. Deep Blue match lasted only an hour. Deep Blue traded its bishop and rook for Kasparov’s queen, after sacrificing a knight to gain position on the board. The position left Kasparov defensive, but not helpless, and though he still had a playable position, Kasparov resigned–the first time in his career that he had conceded defeat. Grandmaster John Fedorowicz later gave voice to the chess community’s shock at Kasparov’s loss: “Everybody was surprised that he resigned because it didn’t seem lost. We’ve all played this position before. It’s a known position.” Kasparov said of his decision, “I lost my fighting spirit.”

Many have called Garry Kasparov the greatest chess player in the history of the game. I have always wondered why. I mean, if a player loses the biggest match of his life, a match in which he was fighting for the honor of the human race, how can anyone in their right mind consider him to be the greatest? Garry Kasparov will always be considered a loser by the public.

The website provides the final game of the match, naming it, “Tangled Up in Blue.”
Deep Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov
“Tangled Up in Blue” (game of the day Sep-12-05)
IBM Man-Machine, New York USA (1997) · Caro-Kann Defense: Karpov. Modern Variation (B17) · 1-0
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 de4 4. Ne4 Nd7 5. Ng5 Ngf6 6. Bd3 e6 7. N1f3 h6 8. Ne6 Qe7 9. O-O fe6 10. Bg6 Kd8 11. Bf4 b5 12. a4 Bb7 13. Re1 Nd5 14. Bg3 Kc8 15. ab5 cb5 16. Qd3 Bc6 17. Bf5 ef5 18. Re7 Be7 19. c4 1-0

Garry Kasparov lost with the Karpov variation. Cogitate on that one for a moment. Consider why Kasparov would even consider playing a variation named for the previous World Champion, whom he had dethroned. The variation was totally out of character for Kasparov. The only way this makes any sense to me is that Garry Kasparov took a dive. The term “take a dive” means to lose intentionally, as when a prize fighter loses because the fix is in, like Sonny Liston did when he hit the mat against Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, in their 1964 title fight. The match meant a great deal to IBM, especially in winning the match. How much was it worth to IBM? Jonathan Schaeffer, of the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta, the man behind the program of the now World Checkers Champion, Chinook, that cannot lose (Computer Checkers Program Is Invincible ( see also ( had this to say:
“The victory went around the world. IBM estimated it received $500 million of free publicity from the match, and IBM stock prices went up over $10 to reach a new high for the company. (

NPR featured a story August 8, 2014, “Kasparov vs. Deep Blue.” It can be heard here: (
A transcript is also provided:
In 1997, Deep Blue, a computer designed by IBM, took on the undefeated world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. Kasparov lost. Some argued that computers had progressed to be “smarter” than humans.

And speaking of Stephanie Foo, she likes to take things literally. And I told her, I said Stephanie, don’t be such a drag. You’ve been smoking the company line, you got to loosen up, come on, the rules are meant to be broken – it’s time to rage against machine – lady rage, come on. Well, Stephanie – Stephanie promptly brought me a story about raging against a machine. The real machine and someone raging against it. Stephanie Foo, take it away.
STEPHANIE FOO, BYLINE: OK, yes. This story is about chess, but not just any chess game – one of the most famous ever.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov, the world’s chess champions…
FOO: It’s 1997 – world chess champion Garry Kasparov versus Deep Blue, a computer designed by IBM. And for people who wanted to believe that the human brain was still stronger than computers, this was a huge deal.
MAURICE ASHLEY: This is international chess match, I’m Maurice Ashley. The future of humanity is one the line. Now the weather.
FOO: Now Kasparov has never lost a match – ever. He was destroying all the grandmasters at the age of 22. He’s even beaten Deep Blue once before, so he is going into this rematch totally confident, and true enough – bam – Kasparov wins game one easy.
FOO: But then game two is where everything starts to go wrong. In this match, Deep Blue is dominating. Kasparov is visibly frustrated. He’s is rubbing his face, sighing, and then abruptly Kasparov just walks off the stage and quits – forfeits the game. The night after the game, his fans analyze the match and figured something out – something Kasparov, an undefeated grandmaster should have seen. If he had not stormed off the stage and just played his normal game, he could’ve tied Deep Blue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The match now stands at one game apiece.
FOO: Now, the match was best of five games, with Kasparov eventually losing the whole thing, but the turning point was when he forfeited that match. So since 1997, people have always speculated – what happened in game two? Did he quit because the computer was really so much smarter than he was? Then recently this book by Nate Silver came out called “The Signal And The Noise.” In it Murray Campbell, one of the engineers who created Deep Blue and who was at the match, comes out and says that he thinks he knows what really happened, and he says it starts in the first game – the game Kasparov won.
MURRAY CAMPBELL: Near the end of game one Kasparov had reached a very strong position. It was clearly to any chess expert in the audience, that Deep Blue was going to lose in the long run.
FOO: But here’s where it’s interesting. At the end of the game Deep Blue did something weird – it committed suicide.
CAMPBELL: Deep Blue was calculating a particular move that it could make that would prolong the game as long as possible. And then at the last second, it switched to a completely different move and played it.
CAMPBELL: And this particular move was really bad, and so it caused us to give up the game right away.
FOO: This really bad move confused Kasparov. Murray says he heard Kasparov’s team stayed up that night trying to analyze the logic behind that move – what it meant. The only thing was – there was no logic.
CAMPBELL: The more obvious explanation is that there was a bug.
FOO: A glitch – the kind of plot twist only a nerd could love.
CAMPBELL: Due to a bug in the program, unfortunately, it had played a random move.
FOO: But Kasparov didn’t know that, and Murray guesses that Kasparov was so caught up thinking the machine do something that he didn’t that he lost it, and the whole rest of the match was a landslide.
CAMPBELL: My theory is that Kasparov might have seen the drying opportunity but didn’t, because he was overestimating Deep Blue’s capability and assuming that it was incapable of making a mistake that would allow a draw. Deep Blue was very strong but wasn’t that strong. And I don’t know if this is true or not – I think we’ll never know unless Kasparov says himself, but you probably won’t get to talk to him because he doesn’t like to talk about the subject.
FOO: Yeah, Kasparov spent suggesting that IBM cheated, and he hasn’t really talked about the game for many years – until now.
MIG GREENGARD: You have to understand, he’s a little frustrated talking about this stuff over and over again sometimes.
FOO: That’s Mig Greengard. He’s been Kasparov’s aid, publicist and confidant for 14 years. And he’s here to speak on Kasparov’s behalf.
GREENGARD: He’s authorized me to talk with you about it. I talked with Garry about it…
FOO: It being the glitch.
GREENGARD: …And what he said to me – he said it’s ridiculous that move had no impact on his subsequent play – and had no impact on him – that’s it, move on. So that’s all really that I can – that I can go with, is the horse’s mouth.
FOO: So maybe Murray is wrong about the glitch but Mig says, he’s not wrong about Kasparov having a sort of mental breakdown – it just happened a little later. Mig told me that Kasparov was used to playing with computers. He thought he had them all figured out. Kasparov had certain traps that he would set, lures for computers, and computers would always fall for them. So in game two, Kasparov set his trap and waited.
GREENGARD: Because he had these assumptions that of course being a computer, it’s probably going to play this, this and this.
FOO: But it didn’t – it didn’t take the bait.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I see what you’re up to.
GREENGARD: The played something else.
FOO: Something good.
GREENGARD: Something that not only is not the predicted computer move – but a very, very strong move.
FOO: So you’re saying that this is the moment where basically he was psyched out.
GREENGARD: Right. It was just very – I think a very confusing, very disorienting experience to have to then sit down at the board not really knowing what you’re facing. Can I still try to trick it? Does is still play like a computer? Does it make mistakes at all? So psychologically damaging to Garry in that he realized this was a whole new animal.
FOO: And then after that really awesome move, Deep Blue actually makes another bad move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: I guess I’ll play this.
FOO: This bad move is the one that allows Kasparov to tie. But Kasparov is too convinced he’s going to lose to see the fault.
GREENGARD: Like well, no way the computer would allow that – that can’t be there. Whereas against a human you think why not, maybe he made a mistake in his calculations – I’ll give it a shot. Against the computer you get – the computer gets the benefit of the doubt. How could something play like God, then play like an idiot in the same game?
FOO: In a way that’s like a total machine mistake though, right? Because since the machine doesn’t have a specific style or personality like, each different move that it makes could be brilliant and idiotic.
GREENGARD: Sure, sure – of course when he resigned he didn’t know any of this – which itself was demoralizing and humiliating.
FOO: So essentially what Mig’s saying is that Deep Blue wasn’t necessarily as smart as we all thought. Deep Blue didn’t have this magnificent triumph over Kasparov, it was more that Kasparov forced himself to fail.
GREENGARD: In actually turned out to be a bit of a red herring as far as artificial intelligence goes. It turned out it didn’t have emulate human thought to beat the world champion. It didn’t even have to play great chess, but it mostly revealed that humans aren’t perfect – humans make mistakes. They certainly – it turned out to be less complicated than we’d hoped. Deep Blue could calculate 200 million possible moves per second, but it was Kasparov who is overthinking it.
WASHINGTON: Thanks so much to Mig and Murray for helping us out on that piece. And of course, you’ve got to check out the almighty Nate Silver’s book “The Signal And The Noise.” And yes, that piece was produced by Stephanie Foo. We’ve got issues against the machines today on SNAP. And when we return, the man tries to corrupt me with all the free food I can stuff into my mouth. And we’re going to illegally destroy private property just because we can. On SNAP JUDGMENT the “Rage Against The Machine” episode continues. Rock on and stay tuned.
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Amazing Game: Kasparov’s quickest defeat: IBM’s Deeper Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov 1997

Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue

Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue – Live Oslo 2013

nTCEC: The Future of Chess?

The second season, stage one, of the nTCEC tournament has begun. I was amused when the Legendary Georgia Ironman told me he was following the first season of the computer tournament. The games are being displayed on the Chess Bomb website (, and Chessdom ( has been covering the tournament with regular articles. The Bomb is one of the websites the Ironman is able to access on his gizmo. His browser will not allow some websites, but the Bomb is one of the websites that can be accessed on his gizmo. Tim said he liked the fact that there is always a game ongoing. Upon completion of one game, another immediately pops up. Dennis Monokroussos has also provided coverage on his blog, The Chess Mind ( I thought of the Ironman upon reading his post of August 29, 2013, TCEC SEASON 2 UNDERWAY ( Dennis writes: “There’s always a live game going there, and will be for about three months’ time for anyone truly desperate for a chess fix.”
It was Tim’s time for amusement when learning I am now hooked on the nTCEC tournament. Could I possibly be a neophiliac. The first thing I do in the morning after firing-up the ‘puter is surf over to the Bomb in order to ascertain the result of the game from the previous night, and check out the current game. Because I am such a neophyte fan of the tournament between programs I was unaware the openings are chosen for the programs. This is what happened with the game of checkers when some variations had been played out to the point every one lead to a draw with best play. This happened before Chinook, and other programs sucked the life out of the game of checkers. I do not like the fact that the openings are prearranged. I do not like the fact that the programs are allowed an opening book. Back when playing against the ‘engines’ I would turn off the opening book. It seemed only fair, unless I could do the same and utilize my opening book(s). I would like to see what openings the programs would play, left to their own devices.
Firefly is the lowest rated program, by far, of the 36 participating in the tournament, with a rating of only 2208. Nebula, rated 2421, is closest to Firefly. Houdini, rated 3156, is the top-seed, with Stockfish next at 3102. Firefly won last night when Bugchess2 “bugged-out.” Buggy was not able to respond to Firefly’s 10th move, and lost. There must have been a bug in the system…
I am not only “pulling” for Firefly because it is the lowest rated ‘engine’ but because some years ago my friend NM Neal Harris, upon learning I enjoyed watching Sci-Fi shows, but had no knowledge of the TV phenomenon Firefly (I was completely away from the tube that year), loaned me a box-set of all the episodes broadcast, plus several others that had not been broadcast. As with several of my all-time favorite shows, it only lasted one season. The IMDB website shows a rating of 9.1 out of 10, which is exceptional. Shows rated far lower last for years. Firefly was obviously too good for its own good.
My other ‘favorite’ is Toga II. Anyone who has ever watched the movie Animal House will understand! “TOGA, TOGA, TOGA, TOGA II!” (