February 7, 2003


Well, the last game of the Garry Kasparov vs Deep Junior matchup is about to start. They're tied at 2.5 a piece, but with Kasparov playing black in this last round it doesn't look good. Before game 5, Kasparov thought he'd be able to seize the initiative with a win as white, but Deep Junior shocked everyone by sacrificing a bishop early... and Kasparov had to content himself with forcing a draw.

Obviously it won't be long before this kind of match is hopeless, and it's come about much faster than people expected. Everyone was shocked that he lost the match to Deep Blue, and of course IBM immediately disassembled the victor, ostensibly so that it could be put to good use modelling proteins, but more likely because they knew how lucky they'd been and didn't want to see a rematch. At the time he felt he'd been at an unfair disadvantage because he wasn't able to review other games involving his opponent, something chessmasters routinely do to prepare for a match. But returns to increased computing power aren't diminishing fast enough, and meanwhile programmers are finding new ways to introduce basic patterns to the equation, so that computers can start to recognize the positional nuances that people see.

I'll be disappointed if he loses this match, but not as disappointed as I was when I heard he'd lost his title to Kramnik a couple years back. I've always liked Kasparov. I remember clipping the games with Karpov from the New York Times and playing through them at home - he plays a flashy style that's as exciting as it is cerebral. And of course his political activism makes him more interesting than your typical chessmaster.


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