February 10

This Day in History

Sports

Feb 10, 1996:

Deep Blue beats Kasparov at chess

In the first game of a six-game match, an IBM computer dubbed “Deep Blue” becomes the first machine to beat a reigning world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. Despite this initial upset victory, man ultimately triumphed over machine as Kasparov goes went on to win the match, 4-2.

Garry Kasparov, considered one of the greatest players in the history of chess, was born April 13, 1963, in the Russian republic of Azerbaijan. At 13, he was the Russian junior chess champ and in 1985, at 22, he became the youngest world champion in history when he defeated Anatoly Karpov.

Deep Blue’s origins date back to 1985, when Carnegie Mellon University doctoral student Feng Hsiung Hsu began developing a chess-playing computer called “ChipTest.” Hsu was joined on the project by Thomas Anantharaman and Murray Campbell and the computer later came to be known as “Deep Thought,” after a machine in the science-fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The men were later hired by IBM, where they continued to work on the chess-playing computer. In 1989, Gary Kasparov easily trounced Deep Thought when they met for a 2-game match. Developers continued to refine the supercomputer, which in 1993 was renamed “Deep Blue,” a combination of Deep Thought and Big Blue, IBM’s nickname.

The 6-game match between Kasparov and Deep Blue began on February 10, 1996, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Although Deep Blue was capable of evaluating 100 million different chess positions per second, the IBM team wasn’t sure how the computer would perform in competition and Kasparov was favored to win. Instead, much to his frustration, the world chess champ lost the first game to Deep Blue. However, the tenacious, brilliant Kasparov quickly staged a comeback by winning the second game. The third and fourth games ended in a draw, while Kasparov took the fifth and sixth games, for a score of 4-2.

A heavily publicized second 6-game match between man and machine began on May 3, 1997. For this match, an upgraded Deep Blue was able to examine 200 million different chess positions per second. Kasparov took the first game while Deep Blue won the second. The third, fourth and fifth games ended in a draw. On May 11, Deep Blue won the sixth as well as the match, 3.5 to 2.5. The victory was a huge publicity boost for IBM. A disgruntled Kasparov suggested Deep Blue had been aided by some sort of human assistance during the games, charges that IBM denied. Kasparov demanded a rematch, but instead, IBM retired Deep Blue.

Kasparov retained his world chess champion title until 2000. In March 2005, he announced his retirement from professional chess.

 

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