8:4 final score for the machines – what next?

by ChessBase
11/24/2005 – All three games in the final round of the People vs Computers match in Bilbao ended in three exciting draws. Except for the Deep Junior vs Ponomariov game, which had everyone bored to tears, until Junior suddenly tried to win and almost lost to the former world champion. Report and games.

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II People vs Computers World Chess Team Match

Round 4 report by Arbiter David Levy

This was a better day for the grandmasters than they were expecting. Khalifman as white obtained the tiniest of advantages out of the opening, and looked to be attempting to take control of the d-file which, if he had been able to do so, would have given him a definite plus. But not only did Khalifman find it impossible to seize the d-file, he ended up conceding it to Fritz, which then subjected him to abject torture. Eventually an endgame was reached in which Khalifman was compelled to sacrifice his last remaining piece, and he drew the game by the skin of his teeth. Such is life these days, even for a former World Champion, when playing one of the world’s top computer programs.

Final game: Alexander Khalifman vs Fritz 9

Kasimzhanov was definitely better against Hydra, obtaining a Maroczy bind type of position after the opening transposed into some sort of Sicilian. But Hydra defended extremely tenaciously, and piled up its pieces to overprotect the d5 square. As every Russian schoolboy knows, if Black can play the freeing break …d5 in the Sicilian, then his position is fine. Hydra duly managed …d5, and although Kasimzhanov later had some attacking prospects on the K-side, it would have been too risky to attempt to advance on that wing, and Kasim therefore decided to settle for a draw by repetition.

Fight amongst equals – Kasimdzanov vs Hydra

By far the longest game of the day, and of the whole event, was Junior’s ridiculous attempt to win against Ponomariov, from a Winawer variation in which the centre (and much of the remainder of the board) was completely closed. By move 18 the stage was set for a quick shaking of hands. But Amir Ban, operating Junior, saw that his program assessed the position as being slightly better for White, and therefore wanted more. For almost 50 moves no pawn was pushed and no piece taken, while Ponomariov moved a couple of his pieces back and forth ad nauseam.

Shuffling his pieces in a closed position: Ruslan Ponomariov

But then, just as everyone in the playing hall was about to fall asleep with boredom, Junior advanced its f-pawn to f3, and then to f4. This appeared to give new life to Ponomariov, or perhaps he was just incensed at the fact that Amir had not offered a draw. Whatever the reason, Ponomariov now started to play for a win for the first time in the game (and this was around move 70).

Going for a win: Ponomariov puts the pressure on Deep Junior

First Ponomariov appeared to be better, with the program’s king looking somewhat exposed in the centre, but then the tables turned and it was clear that Pono was very much on the defensive, and then they turned just one more time to give Pono a reason to play for a win again, with a knight against the program`s not very wonderful bishop. Just when Junior was getting rather short of time, in the final “guillotine” session of the time control, the players repeated moves and the game was over.

Operating Junior with an IBM keyboard joystick: Amir Ban in time trouble

The result today, three draws, gave the grandmasters a total of 4 out of 12, half a point more than last year. So what have we learned from this event and what comes next?

TV interviews after the game, outside the venue in Bilbao

The event in Bilbao has shown once again that the world`s best programs are still more than a match for leading grandmasters. There now seems little point in anyone outside the world`s top ten taking on a leading program (or is ten too big a number?).

The audience following the man vs machine games

This site has already started to discuss the question “What next?”, and the suggestions have been rolling in. My own idea is to give the grandmasters pawn odds, with the programs playing white in every game and giving it’s a-pawn. But the idea I like best is Grandmaster (and former German Champion) Christopher Lutz` suggestion that the GMs should be allowed to look at the computer monitor throughout the game, enabling them to see exactly what the program is thinking about at all times.

The Bilbao Opera, on the way to the final dinner restaurant

The same traditional grill restaurant we knew from last year

The traditional filling of the cidre mugs

Ruslan Ponomariov studies his mammoth game during dinner

Vegetarians look away: this is what is served, in copious quantities

Txokos, txikis, txapelas
Illustrated Spanish language report on an outing arranged for the participants


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