Kasparov: Chess is the Drosophila of reasoning

by Kasparov Chess Foundation
12/13/2018 – The Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) and The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL) have run the very successful Young Stars program for 'Team USA' for the past six years. Meet the latest crop of talented kids from the recent New York training session. Plus, In a new article, Garry Kasparov reminds us that the recent World Championship match did not represent "a contest between the two strongest chess players on the planet, only the strongest humans." Brute force programs have long exceeded human playing strength. But that does not end the historical role of chess as a laboratory of cognition. A new pure AI system has superseded even those programs. Kasparov evaluates AlphaZero's play in Science Magazine and gives a political interview in the prestigious magazine The New Yorker. | Photo DeepMind Technologies, Igor Khodzinskiy

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The latest "young stars"

The Young Stars program in the USA has helped develop several American chess prodigies from across the country, including GMs Jeffery Xiong and GM Sam Sevian. Students have been treated to individualized training sessions with Garry Kasparov’s coaching staff and special training sessions with Kasparov himself. Below are photos from the latest instalment of the Global Young Stars program, and you can find applications for future sessions here.

The most recent Young Stars camp brought forward a talented new generation. This KCF camp was the first serious training session for some of the players in attendance, and it gives them new opportunities to jump-start their game. Held at the KCF offices in Manhattan, students came from as far as California and even Russia! We anticipate more students from other continents to be a part of the program in future editions.

Mishra and Chasin

World’s number one nine-year-old player Abhimanyu Mishra from New Jersey and 2018 World Cadets Championship under-12 bronze medalist Nico Chasin from New York 

Khodarkovsky and Kasparov

Kasparov Chess Foundation director and FIDE Vice President Michael Khodarkovsky along with Garry Kasparov

Group photo with Kasparov

This year’s participants: Left: Rochelle Wu (California), Abhimanyu Mishra (New Jersey), Christopher Yoo (California), Brandon Jacobson, (New Jersey) Right: Anastassia Matus (Minnesota), Nico Chasin (New York), Bibisara Assaubayeva (Russia), Andrew Hong (California) Center: Garry Kasparov and Michael Khodarkovsky

Kasparov's other recent moves

by Frederic Friedel

In 1997 Kasparov famously lost a rematch against IBM's Deep Blue. There were a few human-computer matches after that, but soon "the short window of human-machine chess competition slammed shut forever" (Kasparov). This was due to machines getting faster and programs better. A modern day smartphone is clearly stronger than Deep Blue was. And to the dismay of the Artificial Intelligence community, it became clear that it was not the emulation of human pattern recognition and visualisation that produce a machine that could challenge the world champion. Brute force and clever programming tricks were enough.

Then came AlphaZero, a neural network program developed by the Google company DeepMind. It required no human help, but it generated its own chess knowledge by playing more games against itself than have been recorded in human chess history, as Kasparov notes. In doing so AlphaZero became stronger than any chess engine — and by extension any human player.

So how does the legendary eleventh World Champion view this development, how does he evaluate AlphaZero's play? Kasparov:

I admit that I was pleased to see that AlphaZero had a dynamic, open style like my own. The conventional wisdom was that machines would approach perfection with endless dry maneuvering, usually leading to drawn games. But in my observation, AlphaZero prioritizes piece activity over material, preferring positions that to my eye looked risky and aggressive. Programs usually reflect priorities and prejudices of programmers, but because AlphaZero programs itself, I would say that its style reflects the truth.

There is another piece with Garry Kasparov that has caught international attention. It appeared in the prestigious magazine The New Yorker which is famous for its in-depth reporting.

The piece is a dozen pages long and comes in the form of an interview conducted by Masha Gessen, a visiting professor at Amherst College and the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards (most recently won the National Book Award). After more than twenty years as a journalist and editor in Moscow, Gessen has been living in New York since 2013. As a prelude to her interview with Kasparov she writes:

Born in Baku, the capital of Soviet Azerbaijan, to an Armenian mother and a Jewish father, Kasparov fled that city when anti-Armenian pogroms broke out in 1990. He was twenty-seven years old and had held the world-champion title in chess for five years; he was famous and, by Soviet standards, wealthy. He chartered a plane to Moscow and took nearly seventy people with him. Kasparov announced his retirement from chess in 2005, when he was still ranked No. 1 in the world, and declared that he would devote himself to politics. He started a movement called The Other Russia, a broad coalition united in its opposition to President Vladimir Putin. After a series of street protests and a failed attempt to put Kasparov on the ballot for the 2008 Presidential election, the movement sputtered along until the mass protests of 2011–12, in which the movement’s activists—and Kasparov personally—played a key role. In the political crackdown that followed the protests, Kasparov was forced to leave Russia. He now lives in Manhattan.

Kasparov sat down with Gessen for the interview in a coffee shop in Manhattan. You can read it on this New Yorker page, which is free and not posted behind a paywall.

The vision of the Kasparov Chess Foundation is primarily to use the many benefits of chess to help children worldwide. KCF does this through a variety of different programs, which you can find at KasparovChessFoundation.org


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