banner MSNBC
May 11, 1997

Advantage, IBM: Deep Blue Battles Kasparov to a Draw


NEW YORK -- Outfoxed by a cagey computer in a complex endgame, Garry Kasparov was held to a draw on Saturday by the IBM computer Deep Blue, keeping their match tied, but forcing Kasparov into a difficult position if he is to successfully defend the supremacy of the human chess player in the final game of the match.

With half a dozen pieces left for each side, and Kasparov pressing for a passed pawn that would become a queen, the computer -- rather than block the pawn -- pursued his king and forced a perpetual check. "This is astonishing wizardry from Deep Blue," said Maurice Ashley, an international master who was providing commentary on the match.

"This is fantastic," said Mike Valvo, another commentator who is also an international master. "The computer is showing us new ways to play these endgames."

After five games, a win for each side and then three consecutive draws, the score is 2 1/2-2 1/2. In Sunday's sixth game, Kasparov will have to win with the black pieces -- a disadvantage because White moves first -- if he is to prevail.

"In that game, $300,000 is on the line," Valvo said, referring to the difference between the $700,000 winner's share of the prize fund and the $400,000 that will go to the loser.

"Forget the $300,000," Ashley said. "The future of humanity is on the line."

Kasparov, who was visibly angry at the end of the game and renewed his request to see a printout of the computer log from previous games, was welcomed with an ovation afterward by the 500 or so spectators at the Equitable Center in Manhattan.

"That was a very exciting game and probably the cleanest one of the match," Kasparov said. "In a match like this, there are many discoveries, and one of them is that sometimes the computer plays very human moves. We have to praise the machine for understanding positional factors very, very deeply."

Referring to a statement by Miquel Illescas that he is playing as if he is afraid, Kasparov said: "I'm not afraid to admit I am afraid, and I'm not afraid to say why I am afraid. It goes beyond any chess computer in the world."

As for the import of Saturday's contest, he said: "It is important more for the outside world than for me." Asked if he would be particularly aggressive to go for the victory, Kasparov added: "I will try to play the best moves."

The Deep Blue team also appeared on stage after the game, and it was met with catcalls and boos.

Because the game was one that most people felt was Kasparov's best chance to clinch the match, tensions were high all afternoon. And one clear signal that the match had reached a crucial stage was the evident sensitivity on both sides over the guarding of strategy.

For the first time during the match, the Deep Blue team was given crib sheets by the IBM public relations department for its daily news conference during the game. And one reporter, Jeff Kisseloff, who was hired by IBM to report on the Kasparov team for the match Web site, lost his reporting privileges after he included damning comments about Deep Blue in his report from the champion's supporters.

IBM also engaged grandmasters John Fedorovich and Nick DeFirmian to work on openings with Deep Blue, though no one on the Deep Blue side has said this publicly, even when asked directly in a news conference about additional help. It was DeFirmian who confirmed his involvement and that of Fedorovich, but declined to discuss it, he said, because IBM had insisted he sign a secrecy agreement.

Meanwhile, Owen Williams, Kasparov's manager, said during Wednesday's game that the Deep Blue team had promised to honor the champion's request to see the computer logs for the games played thus far, an extension of Kasparov's complaint that all relevant information about how Deep Blue plays -- including its previously played games -- has been kept from him.

On Saturday, for their part, the Deep Blue team members said no promise was ever made to reveal the logs before the match was over.

"Under no circumstances would we give him the log," said C.J. Tan, the manager of IBM's Deep Blue project. "That would be giving away all our strategy."

"Here, put your head on a platter," said an arch Feng-Hsiung Hsu, a research scientist on the Deep Blue team.

Saturday's game, like many in the match have been, was one of shifting fortunes. Kasparov, employing a favorite opening called the King's Indian Attack, pressed the natural advantage of playing White, and, ahead early, pushed Deep Blue into an unexpected bishop exchange and several other moves that many experts considered ineffective.

"A lemon," one of the commentators, Maurice Ashley, said, after Deep Blue moved a knight on its seventh move.

Indeed, all through the game, Deep Blue elicited raised eyebrows, not least by Kasparov, who betrayed his surprise frequently with askance looks at the board. At one point, Ashley described a reaction by the champion: "Like, what's up with that?"

Nonetheless, Deep Blue made up ground, and by Move 20 found itself in the kind of position it likes, with many evident possibilities, lots of potential for captures, and other clear objectives.

"It's the sharpest position of the entire match," said Joel Benjamin, a grandmaster advising the Deep Blue team.

"The best chance for blood," said Feng-Hsiung Hsu, an IBM researcher, rubbing his palms together.

Home | Sections | Contents | Search | Forums | Help

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company