Garry Kasparov begs to differ...

4/12/2002 – A few days ago world champion Vladimir Kramnik, in a widely-read interview, spoke about his upcoming match against the world's strongest PC program. Comparing it to the IBM computer that beat Garry Kasparov in 1997 Kramnik said: "Fritz is clearly stronger than Deep Blue, whatever the hardware." Kasparov takes exception to these remarks. "Deep Blue’s play in some of the games was close to perfection". Kasparov's interview and all his games against Deep Blue are here.

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Kasparov comments on Kramnik’s claims

In February 1996 Garry Kasparov beat the computer Deep Blue in Philidalphia. Deep Blue ran on an IBM SP/2 server with 25 special micro-channel cards, each of which had eight special chess processors. These did all of the brute calculations, allowing the system to generate and evaluate a cool 100 million positions per second. Deep Blue was six hundred times faster than the fastest microcomputer programs – at least with regard to positions per second (at the time Fritz running on a 150 MHz Pentium was searching at 170,000 nodes per second). Kasparov won the match with 4-2 points.

Garry Kasparov vs Deep Blue, New York 1997

A little over a year later IBM organised a revenge match in New York. The chess chips, designed by Feng-hsiung Hsu and a team of IBM scientists, had been improved, chess knowledge added and the speed increased to about 200 million positions per second. It was now closer to 1000 times faster than Fritz. With the whole world looking on and under fairly controversial circumstances Kasparov lost the match 2.5-3.5 (bringing the total score to 6.5-5.5 in favour of the world champion – why do we tend to forget that).

After the NY match Deep Blue was quickly dismantled. Kasparov's demand for a final shoot-out were rejected and the machine that had achieved the great milestone in artificial intelligence never played another game of chess. All we have to evaluate the strength of Deep Blue II are the six games it played against Kasparov.

You can replay all the Philadelphia and New York games (annotated by John Nunn) on our special Javascript board. Note that you can use the control buttons or click on the game notation to follow the game.

Part two. In October this year world champion Vladimir Kramnik (who won the title from Kasparov in December 2000) will play a spectacular Man vs Machine match in Bahrain against the strongest PC program in the world, Deep Fritz 7. The hardware will be the latest eight-processor SMP system, which will allow Fritz to search at a speed of about three million positions per second. That is considerably less than Deep Blue I or II, but on the other hand Fritz is state-of-the-art software with highly refined search and evaluation algorithms.

One of the preconditions of the Bahrain match is that Kramnik would be allowed to practise against the final version of the program for at least a month before the match (Kasparov by contrast had no access to Deep Blue or its games). Since Fritz is generally available and can be bought on a CD, Kramnik has been able to study it in great detail already. He described his impressions in a widely-read interview on this site. His main impression: "Fritz is clearly stronger than Deep Blue, whatever the hardware."

Now Garry Kasparov has replied to Kramnik's opinions. In an interview on the Kasparov Chess web site the world's number one player is adamant in his rejection of Kramnik's central thesis. Here's what Kasparov has to say. The questions were asked by Alex Finkel.

Q: In his interview, Kramnik says that "the fact that an even weaker program managed to beat Kasparov tells us that the match in Bahrain will be a hard challenge for me". How would you compare the strength of Deep Blue and Fritz 7 and what do you think of Fritz 7’s chances to win the match?

Kasparov: I think the comparison between Deep Blue and Fritz 7 is simply out of place, to put it mildly. On the one hand you have a top chess computer specially developed and designed for the match in the secret laboratories of IBM by the best specialists in the world, while Fritz 7 is just a chess program, a very strong and successful one, but still a chess program which could be purchased by anyone anywhere in the world! Only this difference is enough to decide this argument in Deep Blue’s favor. Concerning the match itself, if it’s going to be held under the conditions I know about (Kramnik gets the Fritz 7 version he is going to compete with in advance in order to prepare for the match, etc), I must say that any other result than a convincing win by Kramnik will be simply unacceptable by me!

Q: In that case how would you comment on Kramnik’s statement that if he loses people might believe that chess computers are superior to human beings?

Kasparov: I think there is no need to comment on this one! It’s quite clear that this statement is just a promotional trick to draw attention to the match and to make the result more significant than it is in reality, while Kramnik’s win is actually pre-decided...

Q: Kramnik says that in almost every position Fritz 7 (run on a 600Mhz notebook) was suggesting objectively better variations than Deep Blue and its play is as versatile as that of a human being?

Kasparov: This is at least unverifiable. I don’t think we have an opportunity to compare it now, because Deep Blue no longer exists. About the versatility of Fritz 7 I may just say one thing -- it’s simply incapable of playing like a human being! It’s true that in positions with 6 or 7 pieces left its play is exceptionally strong, but to conclude that it plays like a human is just an overstatement.

Q: Kramnik also says that it was a mistake for you to play without preparation against an opponent you knew nothing about and that Deep Blue’s performance didn’t impress him that much. What do you say?

Kasparov: I absolutely agree that to play without preparation wasn’t a very wise decision! However, I must say that its (Deep Blue’s) play in some of the games was just close to perfection (especially in games 2-5), even though I played not so badly back then! (For those who doubt it, take a look at Kasparov’s results back in 1997!)

Q: So do you think Kramnik is going to win the match?

Kasparov: No doubt about that!


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