A semi-virtual trip to New York

11/12/2003 – The spectacular match between Garry Kasparov and X3D Fritz in the exclusive New York Athletic Club has started, the first game was trasmitted live in a unique TV chess spectacular. In the playing hall hundreds of guests followed the action, including the US Women's Olympiad team. Here's an illustrated report.

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The ChessBase team arrived in New York on Sunday, after a somewhat harrowing trip from Europe. In 36 hours we had to set everything up: the computer that would play Garry Kasparov, the X3D display that would replace the normal chessboard and pieces, the video feed of this virtual reality image into the spectator area, the live Internet coverage and a hundred other things. It was only with the support of a bevy of extremely efficient technicians from X3D Technologies, the company sponsoring the event, that this complex network of new technologies could be installed. Incredibly in the end everything worked exactly as planned.

The event is being staged in the New York Athletic club, a very classy hotel facility directly on the edge of central park. Ironically it is just a few blocks away from the Plaza Hotel where Garry Kasparov stayed during his ill-fated match against Deep Blue in 1997.


Breakfast in the New York Athletic Club, where you have to wear a tie and jacket even if it is eight in the morning (and no jeans or sneakers, either – we are a sports club, gentlemen!). That's the ChessBase team, with Jeroen van den Belt, wearing a tie for the first time since high school graduation, Alex Kure, testing the tolerance of the NYAC, Frans Morsch, Mathias Feist and the author (behind the camera lense).


Deja vu all over again? Didn't we end up stringing cables over the 12th storey balcony of the the Athletic Club the last time? Yes indeed, that's Oscar from X3D setting up the Internet connection to the spectator hall three floors below. In addition this time the ESPN crew ran heavy duty lines all the way to the street level.


A fleet of ESPN trucks parked in front of the New York Athletic Club venue


These trucks contain everything: a full recording and editing studio, broadcast and satellite transmission, even a complete, independent power supply (for which X3D Fritz thanks them – no danger of a blackout when they switch on their lights).


Garry Kasparov prepping Maurice Ashley, who will do commentary for the ESPN chess extravaganza. In the middle Garry's manager Owen Williams looks on. Owen hails from South Africa, where he used to be a top tennis star, and now lives in Florida. Unlike most managers he is a thoroughly friendly, likable person.


A distinguished visitor: top French player Joel Lautier tries out Kasparov's match equipment. Joel helped with the live Flash coverage on the Internet.


Waiting for the moment – scores of TV and photo journalists behind the red line.


13:00h EST: Kasparov enters the venue. The best shots are captured by the crew of Germany's largest TV station, ZDF, with multi-lingual Franco-Germany-US producer Christelle taking notes.


It actually appears that he is looking forward to the X3D experiment


Instead of adjusting his pieces and preparing the scoresheet Garry dons X3D glasses


He cannot hide his delight when the pieces jump out of the monitor


Our single-lens camera cannot capture the X3D effect that presents itself to the player


Meanwhile in the utility room the Fritz team monitors the progress of the game, while ICGA president David Levy (far left) makes sure that everything is done according to the rules


The ESPN chess show, with commentators Maurice Ashley, Paul Hoffman and Yasser Seirawan, who have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to popularise their game in the US (when was the last time you saw chess broadcast for 17 hours on a national cable network?).


Delightful visitors to the X3D chess spectacle: IM Irina Krush, four times world champion GM Susan Polgar, WGM Jennifer Shahade and WGM Rusa Goletiani, all part of the US Women's Olympiad team.


At move 37 X3D Fritz can force a repetition and get a draw. Garry Kasparov waits to see what the computer will do. It repeats moves, the first game is drawn.


The signing of the scoresheet is documented for TV


Preparing the human champ for the TV wrapup


Explaining to the ESPN anchors what it is like to play Fritz in the X3D world


"It wasn't easy, but it is interesting to be a pioneer in this new technology"


The audience is enthralled – including the X3D Fritz team who are standing under the camera boom.

Frederic Friedel


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