X3D Fritz wins game two after Kasparov blackout

11/14/2003 – 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.

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Game two of the Man-Machine World Chess Championship opened with fanfare. New York Rangers ice hockey star Anson Carter made the ceremonial first move for Garry Kasparov, who had the black pieces against X3D Fritz. Instead of moving a piece, he spoke into the voice recognition microphone. "e7 to e5" he intoned, and the fight was on.


Premonition? A slightly grim Garry Kasparov enters for game two

The number 13 has long brought luck to Garry Kasparov. He was born on April 13, 1963. He was the 13th World Chess Champion and he took the title in 1985 (8+5=13). Today on the 13th X3D Fritz was a black cat walking across the path of the world number one.


Kasparov and New York Rangers hockey star Anson Carter don the X3D glasses

It was another exciting game, with X3D Fritz handling the virtual white pieces. Kasparov didn't play his beloved Sicilian Defense after X3D Fritz opened with 1.e4. Instead he opted for 1...e5 and headed into the Berlin Defense of the Ruy Lopez. It was no coincidence that Kramnik used this same defense successfully against an earlier version of Fritz in a game last year (and even used it successfully against Kasparov himself in their 2000 world championship match).


A problem at the start of the game: the virtual chessboard was set with the white pieces in front. ChessBase programmer Jeroen van den Belt changes the board, while a distraught Kasparov looks on. Right arbiter Albert Vasser.

Kasparov hoped to emulate that success but the X3D Fritz team was ready. They went into a more active sideline of the Berlin by playing 4.d3. That kept the powerful queens on the board, a critical factor that makes it much harder for the human to keep up with the calculations of the computer.

It didn't all go White's way, however. Kasparov still managed to get the sort of closed, maneuvering position he was hoping for. When X3D Fritz closed the center of the board with 10.d5 the commentators were of the opinion that it had played into Kasparov's hands.

Closed positions with blocked pawns and little piece activity are considered very hard for computers to play. Their brute force method of finding the best move can't reach far enough to make subtle positional decisions. Meanwhile, a Grandmaster can recognize the patterns from years of experience and slowly bring his forces into optimal position.

At least that's the way it usually works. X3D Fritz surprised the pundits by making good move after good move, the same moves suggested by the many top-level human players in attendance. Australian #1 Ian Rogers proposed that X3D Fritz had passed the chess Turing test, the point at which a computer becomes indistinguishable from a human!


Fritz author Mathias Feist looking after his computers

Kasparov built up a powerful attacking position on the kingside and began to slowly advance. X3D Fritz did the same on the other side of the board, the queenside. It advanced its pawns to establish a bind and potential breakthrough. Whose attack would arrive first?

The Grandmasters were divided. GM Rogers favored White's chances, especially since every piece exchange would favor X3D Fritz in the endgame. French #1 Joel Lautier thought that Kasparov could build up enough pressure to hold back the computer's pawns, and could even play for an advantage. ESPN2 commentator GM Yasser Seirawan thought X3D Fritz had defended itself well on the kingside and could look forward to winning chances with its queenside pawns.


The Internet corner, where Frans Morsch is being interviewed for the Playchess server by Fred Friedel, while Jeroen van den Belt looks after the Fritz media system technology. On the right Mig Greengard doing the live internet coverage on multiple giant web portals.

Just as the tension was building to the breaking point, the computer blinked. Instead of building up more pressure, it swapped pawns in the center with 28.cxd6, letting go of much of its advantage on the left flank. It continued to liquidate on that side and now it was more of a question of whether or not Kasparov would be able to make any progress on the kingside where his forces were marshaled.


Interviewing US women's champion Anna Hahn on the Playchess server

That question went unanswered. At move 40 both players would get an extra hour added to their clocks, but with only a dozen minutes left on his clock for the next eight moves, Kasparov played hastily with 32...Rg7. It was intended to prepare the aggressive advance of his kingside pawns. Unfortunately this move was a fatal, and all too human, blunder.


Former US women's champ IM Jenny Shahade talking to ChessBase

Internet commentator Mig Greengard immediately typed out "Kasparov has blundered!" to the hundreds of thousands of online viewers around the world. In his hurry to make the final moves to the time control Kasparov had overlooked a relatively simple pin tactic that allowed X3D Fritz to play a crushing attacking move with 33.Rxe5.


GM Lev Alburt, many-time US Champion, discusses the game on Playchess.com

Kasparov himself was aware of his tragic error almost immediately. With no opponent to hide his frustration from he got up from the board shaking his head in anger. He stormed around the room, waiting for X3D Fritz to deliver the deadly blow he knew was coming. He didn't have long to wait. A few moves later it was clear that it was indeed as bad as we had thought.

Fritz X3D,( - Kasparov,G (2830) [C66]
New York (2), 13.11.2003

In time trouble Kasparov played 32...Rg7?? Fritz pounced on the chance with 33.Rxe5. The rook on f8 is undefended and the pawn on d6 pinned. The game ended 33...dxe5 34.Qxf8 Nd4 35.Bxd4 exd4 36.Re8 Rg8 37.Qe7+ Rg7 38.Qd8 Rg8 39.Qd7+ 1-0.

A rattled and defeated Kasparov played on listlessly in a position that at first a few commentators thought might hold out chances for a draw. But it was exactly the sort of tactical attacking position that computer play perfectly, so the loss of a pawn was the least of Kasparov's problem. His king came under a direct attack by X3D Fritz's queen and rook and the end was near.


An exhausted and deeply disappointed Garry Kasparov talks to GM Maurice Ashley on ESPN immediately after the match.

Kasparov resigned on move 39. What he had already seen was now painfully obvious. X3D Fritz would grab more pawns and push them down the board where they would promote to new queens. It was hopeless. After over three hours of close battle Kasparov had slipped just once and was punished mercilessly by the machine.

After the game an emotional Kasparov acknowledged that this is exactly the problem with facing a beast like X3D Fritz. It may not play perfectly, and in fact had missed its best chances, but it never made a serious mistake. On the other hand a human, even Garry Kasparov, is vulnerable to oversights that the computer will punish instantly.

There are only two games left for Kasparov to strike back and even the score. Game three is Sunday so he has two days to recover from this brutal blow to his ego and his concentration. Can he come back? He will have the advantage of the white pieces in game three.

Replay the annotated game here

Report by Mig Greengard
Pictures by Frederic Friedel, Mig Greengard, Susan Grumer


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