'Deep Junior is clearly better than Deep Blue'

1/27/2003 – There were enough journalists to cripple any complementary buffet in the world. In under a month, the Kasparov name and the X3D promotion team brought over 150 media representatives to the New York Athletic Club for Kasparov's first public game against a computer in almost six years. Read our report on the press conference in New York, the place to go when you want to do something grand. More.

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There were enough journalists to cripple any complementary buffet in the world. In under a month, the Kasparov name and the X3D promotion team brought over 150 media representatives to the New York Athletic Club for Kasparov's first public game against a computer in almost six years. Read our report on the press conference in New York

Just when your computer thought it was safe to do a little word processing, heeeee's baaaaaack! Garry Kasparov officially returned to the human-machine ring last night in New York City. His match against the Israeli program Deep Junior begins Sunday and will last six games. There were enough journalists to cripple any complementary buffet in the world. In under a month, the Kasparov name and the X3D promotion team brought over 150 media representatives to the New York Athletic Club for Kasparov's first public game against a computer in almost six years.


Clockwise from lower-left: Amir Ban, Shay Bushinsky,
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Eliot Klein, Garry Kasparov

New York City was also the site of his famous loss to Deep Blue. It is also, as Kasparov said to applause, where you go if you want to do anything grand. The master of ceremonies was commentator Yasser Seirawan, hot on my heels from Seattle, where he lives and was playing in the US Championship. He managed never to mix up Deep Blue and Deep Junior, but he did keep pronouncing Junior programmer Shay Bushinsky's first name wrong. (It's like the English word "shy.")

Kasparov's mother Klara and top-level entourage are here, almost like a world championship delegation. This includes his regular trainer Yuri Dokhoian as well as young GM Mikhail Kobalya, who was part of his London 2000 team. To balance the odds, the Junior team brought their long-time trainer GM Boris Alterman, who also worked with Shay and me at KasparovChess.com.

First to speak was X3D CEO Eliot Klein. As with many chess sponsors over the years, his company's involvement in the game has come suddenly. After they organized the Kasparov-Karpov rapid match last month they decided they were getting good value for their money by promoting their 3D technology with chess.

A word about the 3D stuff. (I'm no expert on it since I just got my first pair of their glasses last week.) When you see the new Fritz 3D board on a system running the X3D software and wearing their glasses it is absolutely sensational. The pieces and board are separate objects and they pop out of the screen. (This is what all the guests will be seeing at the playing site during the match.) I was skeptical when I saw a fuzzy promotional video they had at the K-K match, but this is some very cool stuff up close. I don't know how much playing chess can be enhanced by graphical wizardry, but if you like to play on 3D boards you should definitely check these things out.

However, unless I'm missing something, it was disingenuous of their CEO to say that "anyone" would be able to watch the games in 3D on the internet. The 3D effect doesn't work unless you own the glasses. True, anyone can buy them, but it's a bit like saying anyone can eat Lombardi's pizza, if only they fly to New York.


Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Garry Kasparov

Next up was FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who spoke through a translator who wasn't having her best night. (She was the only one to mix up Deep Junior and Deep Blue, at least so far.) After that it was Junior programmers Amir Ban and Shay Bushinsky's turn at the podium. It was clear they weren't quite used to speaking in front of hot lights and hundreds of people recording their every word!

Shay had the good lead joke with "speaking for the humans behind Deep Junior..." It's good to remind people that there are people on the other side, too. All the speakers said at least one thing about how this match should contribute to both science and chess.

Then it was Kasparov's turn and as usual, he didn't disappoint. He lives and breathes press conferences, although this wasn't one of his best. It will take him a few days to get into top soundbite form. In his opening statements and during the Q&A he talked about Deep Blue several times. Of most interest to the chess community were his comments about how it was clear from using Junior to examine those six games from 1997 that it is stronger than Deep Blue was in 1997. "It is absolutely clear that Deep Junior is better."

Kasparov reminisced about his first computer match, when he easily beat Deep Blue predecessor Deep Thought. Then he recapped his matches against Deep Blue. He spent considerable time distinguishing this match from the "corporate" matches against the IBM machine. "This machine is not hiding behind closed doors like Deep Blue." He started with, "I hope I can represent the human race well in this event!" We have the entire thing on video for ChessBase Magazine (CD-ROM) for those who want every word.

The drawing of the lots followed the long and sacred chess tradition of turning this simple procedure into a bizarre circus. I've seen lots drawn with everything from gold bars to falcons over the years. It was a simple coin flip this time, or so we thought. No, it was a double coin flip filmed in 3D for broadcast over the internet. Ooookay.


Shay Bushinsky and Amir Ban

A mob formed around the flip, making it impossible to see what was happening. Arbiter Geissen announced that the Junior team had won the toss (and the second toss?!). They surprised everyone by selecting black in the first game. Kasparov said he would have chosen white, so everyone was happy.

In the Q&A Kasparov spoke at length several times. He covered the disadvantages humans face due to distractions, health, even weather, while, "the computer only needs to worry about power failure!" He predicted the day when the competition will be to see if a human can win just a single game from a computer. Programmers are always reluctant to talk about their spawn being the "death of chess" and so this question was nimbly dodged by Bushinsky.

Kasparov was asked (by Susan Polgar!) how well he did in practice matches against his own copy of Junior. (He has a version of Junior from six months ago, but the programmers were free to make any changes they like before the match and even between games.) Kasparov answered that he played 5'+2" blitz against it, usually a big advantage for a computer, and that he wasn't unhappy with his results.

Answering another question he said that he effectively hadn't had any preparation at all for Deep Blue in 1997 because "to prepare you have to know something about your opponent" and "IBM was quite cautious by not providing a single game." "There were rumors that it scored 90% against other programs, but no records." He highlighted that there are many games by Junior on record and that he could track the development of the program.

I think I agree with what Kramnik said to me after his match with Fritz in Bahrain, that having an older version of the program can be worse than nothing at all. You can develop certain conceptions and the programmers can change practically everything in a relatively short time. A human GM cannot completely change his way of playing in six months. A computer can play completely new openings and have a very different style.


All smiles at the photo shoot.

Kasparov revisited a controversial topic, his belief that Deep Blue benefited from human intervention at several moments during their 1997 match. While discussing the difference between the programs, "If you analyze these six games thoroughly it is absolutely clear that Deep Junior performs better, except two strange situations when Deep Blue showed a strike of genius and Deep Junior performs as a machine. Those were critical moments of the match where I suspect certain interference from human players." No doubt he is referring to moves 36 and 37 from game two, in which Deep Blue ignored a win of material in order to shut down Black's counterplay.

All in all it was a good show and likely the most media to attend a chess event since the Deep Blue match itself. The coverage has been heavy, including an appearance on the hallowed editorial page of the New York Times.


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