Published: 09th February 2021
#ThrowBackToday: In an instance of man vs machine, chess face-off between grandmaster Garry Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue
In today's TBT, we take you back to the day when IBM's Deep Blue played against Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. While the latter won fair and square, he lost the subsequent rematch...
Of course, the day a man faced off against a computer for chess had to go down in history. And so it did. The date: February 9, 1996. The opponents: IBM's chess-playing computer Deep Blue and Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. On an aside, American grandmaster Joel Benjamin was part of the team working on the supercomputer’s development. Oh, what a day! Six nail-biting rounds kept the whole of mankind on the edge and it was a true man versus computer situation. While Deep Blue played white against the former World Champion's black and won the first round, Kasparov quickly rebounded to win three and draw two rounds. And what a close call it was.
A rematch was called for on May 11, 1997, but this time, Kasparov faced defeat at the hands of Deep Blue. Of course, the victory of the machine went on to achieve a symbolic significance, that Artificial Intelligence was no longer simply catching up with man, it was beating him at his own game. Literally!
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While discussing the match in retrospect after about a decade, Kasparov said, "While writing the book I did a lot of research — analysing the games with modern computers, also soul-searching — and I changed my conclusions. I am not writing any love letters to IBM, but my respect for the Deep Blue team went up, and my opinion of my own play, and Deep Blue's play, went down. Today you can buy a chess engine for your laptop that will beat Deep Blue quite easily."
Why should a writer from South Africa matter? Just because he has won a Nobel Prize for Literature and the Booker Prize twice? No, because JM Coetzee, born on February 8, 1940, lay bare the ill-effects of colonisation, namely racial discrimination, especially in South African society. His novel Disgrace, which bagged him the second Booker, was even discussed in the parliament of the country.