On the 11th May 1997, the IBM computer Deep Blue became the first computer to defeat a reigning world chess champion under tournament conditions when it beat Garry Kasparov 3½-2½ over six matches.

Deep Blue began life as a graduate research project at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Developed over 8 years by a team of eight computer scientists, it operated through brute force computing power.  Ranked as the 259th most powerful computer in the world, Deep Blue was able to evaluate 200 million separate chess positions per second.

The Deep Blue team used records of Kasparov’s previous games to program the computer with his previous strategies.  The programmers were also allowed to tweak the computer’s algorithm between rounds to take account of the last game.  Kasparov, meanwhile, was playing blind since this model of Deep Blue hadn’t played any previous tournament games.

Kasparov was unnerved by the behavior of Deep Blue in the first match.  Although the computer lost the match, Kasparov believed it showed ‘superior intelligence’ when it sacrificed a piece.  However, IBM later claimed that the sacrifice was a result of a bug in the software resulting in the computer playing a fall-back move.  However, this illogical move unsettled Kasparov and put him at a psychological disadvantage for the remaining games.  He refused to accept the defeat, accusing IBM of human intervention which they strenuously denied.  IBM also refused his requests for a rematch.

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