chess duel Man vs Machine, Vladimir Kramnik vs Deep Fritz will be staged from
November 25 until December 5th. It is sponsored by the RAG
AG, one of Europe's largest energy companies. The venue is the National
Art Gallery in Bonn, Germany. Schedule:
There will be full live coverage on the Playchess
server, as well as on the official
site and a number of partner sites.
Spiegel, founded in January 1947, is a weekly German news magazine, the
largest news outlet in Europe. It is highly influential and avidly read every
Monday by the heads of politics and industry. It online news service has also
grown into the biggest and most widely read in Europe. Spiegel Online recently
published the following story on the match Kramnik vs Deep Fritz. We bring
you a translation.
The last match man vs machine?
By André Schulz
On Saturday, November 25, the first of six games between world chess champion
Vladimir Kramnik and the program “Deep Fritz” will be played in
the National Art Gallery in Bonn, Germany. This is not the first man vs. machine
match between the two. In 2002 they played each other in the Gulf state of
Bahrain. At the time Kramnik was able to dominate the machine in the first
half of the match, and led at halftime by a score of 3:1. Then he showed signs
of fatigue and the machine struck back. The match ended in a 4:4 draw.
Kramnik vs Deep Fritz, in 2002 in Bahrain
In the interceding four years Kramnik has played two world championship matches,
the first in 2004 against Peter Leko in Brissago, and recently one against
Veselin Topalov in Elista. His extraordinary strength in match play helped
him keep the title he won from Garry Kasparov in 2000. Still it is doubtful
if he has increased his overall playing strength since the last computer match
four years ago. His current rating on the “Elo” scale, which measures
the strength of chess players, is less than that in 2002, when it reached a
peak of 2807 (Kramnik was the first player after Garry Kasparov to cross the
Vladimir Kramnik (right) defending his title against Peter Leko in Brissago
The situation is quite different in the world of computer technology, where
time never stands still. Today even an off-the-shelf Core Duo processor can
match the speed of the four-processor system on which Fritz was running in
2002. In the current match Kramnik will face a Dual Intel Core 2 Duo 5160 system
which allows Deep Fritz – also improved from version seven to version
ten – to calculate around eight million positions per second.
In 2002 the Bahrain version of Deep Fritz was able to calculate “just”
2.7 million positions per second. Running at eight million positions allows
the current version of the program to search to a depth of 17 to 18 ply in
the middlegame. A “ply” is a move for either side. This means that
Fritz is looking nine full moves ahead for both sides. In the endgame, when
most of the material has come off the board, the search depth can be considerably
Although all of this may sound like an insurmountable advantage for Deep Fritz,
nobody can predict the outcome of the match with any certainty. “While
developing the program one can collect a certain amount of information by playing
it in series of matches against other chess programs,” says Matthias
Wüllenweber, the head of the Deep Fritz development team. “But the
true measuring scale is games against top grandmasters, like this match against
the world champion. Only after the match in Bonn is over do we know exactly
where we stand.”
Much depends on preparation. Kramnik is being assisted by the German grandmaster
and openings specialist Christopher Lutz. In addition he has included a chess
programmer in his team, one who will, he hopes, be able to explain to him how
his opponent “thinks”.
For the preparation phase Kramnik received in May this year the latest version
of Deep Fritz. The final version, the one against which he will play in Bonn,
was sent to him in the middle of October. Since then he and his seconds have
been able to search for weaknesses in the real thing.
That is exactly what Kramnik did in the Bahrain match. At the time he discovered
that Deep Fritz 7 was not playing well in positions that included doubled pawns.
As a result Kramnik played a Scotch opening against the machine, one that gave
Black doubled pawns on c7 and c6.
In earlier days the youthful Deep Fritz would often be manoeuvred into positions
with an isolated centre pawn by its human opponents. This is normally a weakness,
but the program would defend this pawn like a tiger its cub, cleverly using
the adjacent open files to do so. The weakness became a strength.
For the opening preparation against Kramnik the Deep Fritz team has hired
a top grandmaster, who is a great openings specialist. But his name is a secret.
This is normal in important chess tournaments, where players don’t want
their opponents to know what they are planning. The exact speed of the computer
and the modification to the openings book are the two unknown factors for Kramnik
in this match.
It’s about a lot of money – and more
The starting fee for the world champion is 500,000 Euros. If he wins the match
Kramnik gets one million Euros. Between him and the second half of the prize
sum stands a machine that examines around six billion positions before it makes
But it is not just about the money. If the world champion should lose this
match against Deep Fritz, and lose it badly, one would have to admit that our
electronic slaves have overtaken their human masters in yet another area of
intellectual activity. Kramnik knows this full well. “Perhaps I will
be the last top player to face this challenge,” he said.