David Levy on Kasparov vs X3D Fritz

12/21/2003 – "The games of the match have been thoroughly dissected and analysed by human players and computers far stronger than I am," writes computer chess guru David Levy. His impressions of the match are of a far more general nature. David talks about the openings (3.5:0.5 for Kasparov), the middlegame and the X3D environment. Levy's report and links...

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The Openings

Kasparov won the battle of the openings 3.5-0.5 and could have scored wins in all of the first three games as a result. Fritz' choice in game 1 was described by Kasparov as "childish" in his post-game comments, and indeed it is difficult to justify playing a line that he is known to have studied thoroughly for his match against Deep Junior in January/February. It was said after the match that the Fritz team chose this line because they wanted to prove that their program could handle the line better than Junior, but this surely is no way to plan one's strategy for an encounter with the all-time number one player. Egos should be sacrificed and one should only allow one's program to play lines that suit its style and have the benefit of sound analysis and acceptable evaluations behind them. Fritz survived this game because Kasparov let it off the hook.


David Levy at the openings ceremony
before the Kasparov-X3D Fritz match
 

In game 2 Fritz allowed Kasparov to obtain a blocked pawn centre reminiscent of many lines in the Kings Indian. Such positions may be objectively slightly better for white in a human vs human game, but not when playing against a computer program. As Kasparov showed, human players have a better understanding of such positions than do their silicon opponents, so again one must criticize this strategic decision by the Fritz team. The rule should be, avoid positions with blocked pawn centres. Again, Kasparov's failure in this game was just that. Fritz fought very hard but was being steadily steamrollered when Kasparov threw away the game with a grotesque one move blunder.

Game 3 was the worst of all in terms of Fritz' opening strategy. After Black's 5th move ...a6 I was convinced that the program would lose because it would not understand how to play the highly blocked pawn chain. Sure enough its pieces wandered around doing nothing, allowing Kasparov to build up the pressure at will. The result was never in doubt, even though Kasparov felt that the position was, objectively, not clear, and that Black could create counterplay with ...f7-f5 and ...f5-f4. Some programs might well find this plan but it is not Fritz' style.

The opening of game 4 was the only one in which Fritz achieved a position suited to its style. But by the time the players were out of book there were no practical chances for either side and a draw was inevitable. Had Fritz obtained more stylistically suitable positions from the opening in games 1 and 3, the result of the match might have been different.

The Middle-Game

I felt that Fritz fought extremely hard when in difficult positions. It is a very resilient player, which makes life tough for human opponents who cannot afford to let up the pressure. In game 1 for example, had Kasparov played Bf3 as predicted by the program,(instead of Nf5), he would probably have won. He considered Bf3 but decided, naturally enough, to play the "normal" move Nf5 (from where the knight turned out to have no brilliant future). After this slip it seems likely that there is no longer a winning try for White.


Lessons from the master: Garry Kasparov discussing his games against X3D Fritz with David Levy (in New York on the day after the end of the match).

A full video recording of Kasparov's analysis can be viewed on the Playchess server.

The 3D environment

It is very much to X3D's credit that their virtual reality technology creates an image and an environment in which Kasparov can continue to play at such a high level.

The one real problem for Kasparov related to the rules of play, and something that no-one had considered before the match. In human vs human chess a player picks up a piece, then moves it to its new square and finally releases it. When the piece is in the air, and even when it is on a new square (unless the move is a capture) the player may change his mind about the destination square. So he always sees what the board looks like after he picks up the piece and before he puts it down again. This allows him to spot any important changes in the position, for example something relating to the defence of one or more of his own pieces.

With the virtual reality environment Kasparov was calling out his moves and did not have the luxury of changing his mind when he saw the piece in the air (or on a new square). After the match his second, Yuri Dokhian, asked him simply to remove the rook from the board in game three (instead of playing it to g7), and immediately Kasparov realised that ...Rg7 would be fatal.

For future matches the human player should announce his moves in full notation, so that when he names the "from" square the piece rises above the board, and then when he names the "to" square his move (unless it is a capture) is not completed until he says "OK" or "move" to confirm that he has "taken his hand off" the piece.

David Levy

David Levy, born in London in 1945, won the Scottish Championship at the age of 22 and became an International Master three years later. In 1968 at a Artificial Intelligence workshop in Edinburgh, he played a friendly game against Stanford professor John McCarthy. Levy easily beat the professor, and McCarthy remarked that within ten years there would be a computer program that would beat Levy. The two made a 500 Pound bet, which was later more than doubled when three other computer experts, Donald Michie of Edinburgh University, Seymour Papert from MIT and Ed Kozdrowicki from the University of California, joined in the wager. In August 1978 Levy won his bet when he defeated CHESS 4.7, the strongest chess playing computer of the day, by a score of 3.5-1.5. In 1984 Levy beat Cray Blitz 4-0, and in 1989 lost to Deep Thought 0:4.

From 1994-1997 Levy has managed a team developing natural language processing software, winning the Loebner Prize in the process (widely regarded as the World Championship for conversational software). Today David is the CEO of his own systems development businesses, the principal products being strategy games programs for embedded products, interactive TV system, consultancy services on strategy games and similar projects, intelligent toys.

ChessBase reports on Garry Kasparov vs X3D Fritz

Miss New York City goes X3D
28.09.2003 Mere prime ministers and CEOs pale in comparison to beauty queens and sports stars and we'll have both for the November match between Garry Kasparov and X3D Fritz. Miss New York City 2003, Katie Horn, will make the first move of game three on Sunday, November 16. She stopped by the X3D offices in her tiara and of course we've got lots of photos.

Man vs Machine – who is winning?
08.10.2003 Every year computers are becoming stronger at chess, holding their own against the very strongest players. So very soon they will overtake their human counterparts. Right? Not necessarily, says statistician Jeff Sonas, who doesn't believe that computers will inevitably surpass the top humans. In a series of articles Jeff presents empirical evidence to support his claim.

It's Man vs Machine in virtual reality
03.11.2003 If you liked Matrix II you're going to love this one. Just one week from now the world's strongest chess player, Garry Kasparov, will play a match against the chess program X3D Fritz. The historic match will be conducted on a virtual reality board which floats in the air in front of Kasparov. On Friday in the ESPN Zone in New York City will host the opening ceremony.

May the Force be with him
08.11.2003 "Remember the first 'Star Wars' movie? The only way to destroy the Death Star was to find this one little spot, this weakness, and blow it up. With computers it's the same." At the opening ceremony Garry Kasparov spoke about the ordeal he has to go through in his match against X3D Fritz.

Expert and fan predictions for Kasparov-X3D Fritz
11.11.2003 The votes are still coming in, but the Grandmasters and fans have spoken. What do GMs Seirawan, Ashley, Alburt, and Susan Polgar have to say about the result of the match? Not everyone thinks Kasparov will win. Read their predictions and the results of an ongoing poll here.

A swat team to New York
11.11.2003 Our trip to New York to play in the upcoming match between Garry Kasparov and X3D Fritz started on a frightening note. Take a deep breath before you read the following story. We would like to warn you that some readers may find the images distrubing. Here is our express report.

X3D Fritz holds the draw against Kasparov in exciting game one.
12.11.2003 The machine threw down the gauntlet by playing the same Slav Defense in which Kasparov beat Deep Junior in the first game of their January match. X3D Fritz grabbed a pawn, sacrificed the exchange and held on to draw against the world #1, forcing a repetition to end the battle on move 37. We now have analysis and explanation of the game by GM Karsten Mueller and Mig.

A semi-virtual trip to New York
12.11.2003 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.

X3D Fritz wins game two after Kasparov blackout
14.11.2003 The second game of the spectacular Man vs Machine encounter in New York ended with a stunning loss by Garry Kasparov. The greatest player of all time was actually doing quite well with the black pieces against X3D Fritz, when suddenly a time trouble blunder put an end to all chances. Here's our illustrated report.

It is in the news
16.11.2003 Everybody is talking about it – the coverage in thousands of newspapers all over the world comes in addition to the massive cable TV coverage on ESPN and TV news reports in stations around the world. Even Al Jazeera is following the progress of "Chess czar Gary Kasparov" in his New York match against X3D Fritz. Here are links to a small sample of the international media coverage.

Kasparov strangles X3D Fritz in game three
17.11.2003 Just in case you thought the rise of the machines was inevitable, Garry Kasparov stood up for humanity in game three against X3D Fritz in New York City. Actually, it was more a case of X3D Fritz lying down while Kasparov rolled over it like he was the Terminator instead of the human. The match is now tied 1.5-1.5. The final game is Tuesday and X3D Fritz will have white. Report and full analysis.

Pictures from Manhattan
18.11.2003 With the match between Garry Kasparov and X3D Fritz tied 1.5:1.5 after three games the tension is very high in New York, where the ESPN coverage of the event is drawing more viewers than anyone anticipated. Before the critical fourth game we bring you a pictorial report and new analysis of game three.

Kasparov vs X3D Fritz match finishes 2-2 after game four draw
19.11.2003 Things cooled down as quickly as they had heated up in game four of the Man-Machine World Championship in New York City. Kasparov worked out of a difficult opening to reach a draw with black against X3D Fritz. The match ended in a two-two draw with a win for each player and two draws. Early report and game with notes here.

Back to reality after the virtual reality battle
21.11.2003 Garry Kasparov was in a fine mood when he sat down to go over the games and the match in an exclusive press conference. We filmed the entire remarkable session as Kasparov dissected the games and discussed the differences between X3D Fritz and Junior, anti-computer strategies, comp-comp chess, possible improvements for the next match, and much more.


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