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The Sunday treat: Garry at Google

11/28/2010 – Yes, we know: nobody watches videos – certainly not long chess reports. But this is an exception. Take an hour off and follow this discussion with Garry Kasparov in the unique Googleplex environment. The former World Champion touches on a number of interesting topics: man and machine, talent, courage for risk, politics in Russia. Watch it in HQ Google video.
 

The Authors@Google program brings authors of all stripes to Google for informal talks centering on their recently published books. Through the program Google invites authors to their Mountain View headquarters as well as the New York, Santa Monica, Cambridge, Ann Arbor, and other offices, where Googlers are treated to readings of everything from serious literature and political analysis to pioneering science fiction and moving personal memoirs; past participants have ranged from novelist Salman Rushdie and economist Jeffrey Sachs to journalist Bob Woodward and U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. When possible, they share these remarkable conversations with the world outside the Googleplex through their YouTube channel.

This is the hour long AtGoogleTalks video in a quality that is a pleasure to watch. Below we point out the key passages, with time stamps so you can jump to the sections that interest you the most – if you do not have the time to watch the entire discussion. Which is what we warmly advocate...

Jonathan Rosenberg asks Garry whether he still believed that IBM had cheated, back in their match in 1997 – and specifically in the second game – and more specifically move 37.Be4. Garry stands by his position but admits it is an I-say-they-say situation. "The problem is that at the end of the match they dismantled Deep Blue and killed the only powerful witness." But he goes on [at eight minutes into the interview] to discuss the subject of man plus machine instead of man vs machine. People, he says, think it is impossible for a human to help Deep Blue – who could it have been, Anatoly Karpov? But they don’t understand that it is not a very strong grandmaster dictating moves. Even a weaker player can guide the computer at a few strategic moments and with that play a decisive role. The same applies to human chess. If two opponents are equally matched just occasional advice – even just a hint that a combination is available – can be decisive.

A very interesting segment starts at around nine minutes, when Garry illustrates the point with a situation he himself experienced back in 1996. This was of especial interest to us since many years ago we had described the occurrence in ChessBase Magazine. The article includes the game and analysis Garry is telling the Google audience about.

Computer assistance at the highest level

By Frederic Friedel

Potentially computers can play a decisive role at the very highest levels of chess. This was made very clear to me during the Super GM tournament in Las Palmas in 1997. In round four of this tournament Garry Kasparov played a very nice attacking game against the world’s number two Vishy Anand. I was following the moves with Fritz in the press room, together with some of the grandmasters present there. Here’s how the game went:

Kasparov,Garry (2785) - Anand,Viswanathan (2735) [B92]
Las Palmas Las Palmas (4), 12.12.1996
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Kh1 b5 10.a4 Bb7 11.Nd5 bxa4 12.Rxa4 Bc6 13.Ra3 Nxe4 14.Na5 Nf6 15.Nxc6 Nxc6 16.Bc4 Nd4 17.Rh3 g6 18.Qd2 Nf5 19.Nxf6+ Bxf6

At this point Kasparov went into a deep think. Jan Timman started to speculate whether White couldn’t play the very forceful 20.g4. Kasparov’s second Juri Dokhoian immediately confirmed: “That’s what he’s looking at!” Yuri understands Kasparov’s thinking better than anyone else in the world.

We started analysing the position with Fritz, and soon we had the following lines: 20.g4! Qc8 (20...d5 21.gxf5 dxc4 22.Qh6 Qd5+ 23.f3 Rfd8) 21.Bd5 Nh4 22.Rg1! g5 (22...Rb8 23.Qh6±; 22...Bg7 23.Rxh4) 23.Rxh4 gxh4 24.g5 Bg7 25.g6 Kh8 (25...Qf5 26.gxf7+ Kh8 27.Bxa8 Rxa8 28.Qd5 wins) 26.gxf7 Qf5 27.Bxa8 (27.Rxg7 Kxg7 28.Qh6+ Kh8 29.Bg5 Rxf7 30.Bxa8=) 27...Rxa8 28.Qd5 Rf8 29.Bh6! This final point, found by Fritz, is especially important and clinches the line. Our full analysis was published in CBM 57.


Juri Dokhoian checking the 20.g4 line with Fritz in real time during the game, Kasparov and Anand analyse after it six hours of play.

Meanwhile White had played 20.Bd5. The game lasted six hours, Anand defended very tenaciously and at around 10 p.m., much to the disappointment of Kasparov, a draw was agreed. When he left the stage Garry spotted me and walked straight over. “I couldn't win it, could I, Fred?” he asked, with a troubled look on his face. It was a bit shocking: the world champion and best player of all times consulting a chess amateur, asking for an evaluation of the game he has just spent six hours on!

Naturally Garry wasn't asking me, he was asking Fritz. He knew I would have been following the game with the computer. “Yes, you had a win, Garry. With 20.g4!” My answer vexed him deeply. “But I saw that! It didn't work. How does it work? Show me.” He and Anand listened in horror while Juri dictated the critical lines. All of this was captured on video and published in ChessBase Magazine 56 (Feb 1997).


Kasparov and Anand learning the truth about 20.g4

The next day Garry did an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. He spoke about “Advanced Chess”, a new concept he has developed, which involves playing games in real time with computer assistance. He used the game against Anand from the previous day to illustrate his point. This is what he had to say: “That game provides us with new arguments for Advanced Chess. If I had had a computer yesterday, I would give you the full line with 20.g4 within five minutes. Maybe less. I would enter g4 and check all the lines. I know where to go. It would give me the confidence to play moves like this. Can you imagine the quality of the games, the brilliancy one could achieve?”

In the time since those remarks there have been two Advanced Chess matches in León, Spain. In the first Kasparov was unable to defeat Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov, who made efficient use of Fritz to defend against the world champion. The match ended in a 3:3 draw, although Kasparov had just demolished Topalov 5:1 in a match without computers. In the following year Vishy Anand played against Anatoly Karpov. Both players were assisted during the game by ChessBase 7.0 and the chess engine Hiarcs 7.32. Karpov was quite inexperienced at operating a computer, while Anand happens to be one of the most competent ChessBase users on the planet. The result was that we were witness to an (unplanned) experiment of man and computer vs man. Karpov didn’t have a chance and was trounced 5:1 by his opponent. I am convinced that a player like Anand, using a computer to check crucial lines during the game, is playing at a practical level of over 3000 Elo points. However, this is the subject for a different article.

At eleven minutes into the interview Garry speaks about new revelations on the match brought to light by one of Deep Blue's seconds, Spanish GM Miguel Illescas.

New for us is the information that according to Illescas the IBM team knew the opening Kasparov was going to play in the final game – an opening, Garry says "I had never played before in my life, and never played after."

Around 16 minutes into the interview the subject turns to business management and how decision makers can learn from the experience of chess players – since every decision contains components of material, time and quality. Garry is an expert on this subject, having written a book entitled How Life Imitates Chess.

Around 18 minutes into the session the Googlers ask Kasparov for advice on how people who do not have the time to devote their lives to chess can improve their game. Garry's counter-question: "If you don't have time to devote your life to chess, why do you want to improve your game?"

At 19 minutes into the discussion Garry is asked about the interrupted match in 1984. He explains, quite poignantly, that in this match Karpov turned into one of his most important teachers, who showed him how one should never give up, that there is hope in any situation, and basically molded him into the chess player and person he is today.

At around 21 min 30 sec Kasparov is asked to describe the progress in his playing strength, the ups and downs of his career. He answers in detail and very candidly.

The role of gut feeling and intuition in chess? "It is the most valuable quality of a human being," Garry replies. We should train intuition, like we train muscles or memory, and practice it, even though "it involves taking risks in a risk-averse culture" (verbatim – and remember this is a Russian speaking!).

To become world champion you undoubtedly need a unique talent. Some players with unique talent did not, however, become world champion, because of character, some element of luck, the ability to work hard, but of course talent is the number one condition for you to become the best in the world.

With the advent of computers young players have access to huge amounts of chess knowledge. But a certain geometry of the board tends to replace strategic understanding. They learn a lot at a very early age – today twelve and thirteen-year-old kids know much more about chess than Bobby Fischer did in 1972, because they know how to use the mouse. But let us not forget that many of the things that these kids learn today were invented by Bobby Fischer – technical ideas, not just in the opening but in the middle game.

In Russia we are not trying to win elections, we are trying to have elections. I want my people to be able to speak when they don't like the course the country is taking – as happened here 24 hours ago [he is referring to the US midterm elections]. The wealth that is being created in Russia should not be used to buy soccer clubs in England or basketball clubs in the US, but invested in Russia. We have hundreds of billions of dollars being taken out of the country by Russian oligarchs, money that should be used to improve the conditions of the people.

I must be very cautious about the use of the terms instructor and student in my relations with Magnus Carlsen. I helped him to learn how to study the game of chess. That was one of the unique things I learnt from Botvinnik. What helped me to work with Magnus was that his chess style and natural talent is different from mine. It is more like Karpov's. He is a very quiet, positional player with a phenomenal ability to recognize positional elements. I am a very sharp and dynamic player, so he could learn how to do other things in chess, so there was extra value added to his chess education. I enjoyed it immensely and I am very happy to see that my work produced such impressive results.

Much of Google's technology works on the notion of the wisdom of the crowds, as displayed by the Web. In the recent game Magnus played against the world it was not about generalities, and you can't use big numbers to ensure the quality of the decision. When I played the microsoft match we did not have two minutes per move but two days. That was probably one of the best games ever played, because my opponents created a very strong algorithm, using computers to pick up the best moves. At a certain point the game was simply phenomenal, and I still don't know how they could make the terrible blunder at the very end – possibly complacency?

We do not have elections in Russia, we do not have justice in Russia, so I am quite pessimistic about the outcome of the Khodorkovsky trial, which is a shame for my country and a tragedy for Khodorkovsky and for Yukos, the most successful (and transparent!) oil company in Russia. The company has ended up in the hands of Vladimir Putin and his cronies – and I made this very grim prediction in 2004: as long as Putin stays in power Khodorkovsky stays in jail. The second trial makes even Kafka pale by comparison, it is a terrible display of the lack of rule of law in Russia and the cruelty of Putin's regime. I hope that in the end Khodorkovsky, one of the most brilliant executives in Russia, will leave prison alive

The Internet plays an important role in beefing up the opposition in Russia, which is not as aggressive as China in limiting access. About 42 million people are now connected to the Internet, but only about ten percent of that number are interested in politics, and only a third or half of those are interested in reading alternative sources of information. So we have about a million or a million and a half people following what the opposition is doing. But the number is growing.

What is holding us back is the fear to make mistakes. We need more courage. Today I don't believe Magellan or Columbus would be able to find venture capital. We have to take more risks. We have to recognize that risk and mistakes are necessary for those who want to make progress and avoid technological stagnation that comes with complacency and a risk-averse culture.

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