Man vs machine – but not Kasparov

1/30/2003 – While Garry Kasparov battles it out in New York against Deep Junior, back in Holland the world's number eight player, Evgeny Bareev, is playing a four-game match against the English program Hiarcs. The first two games ended in a draw, the next will bring the decision. You can watch them live on the Playchess.com server. You will find an illustrated report on this parallel man vs machine event here.

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A strategic battle ends in a draw

Mark Uniacke arrived at the Centre Ceramique early to get his fast Athlon 2.4 Ghz with 1GB RAM started and to play a few blitz games with Hiarcs X against Hiarcs 8. It is obvious that the new version is stronger than its predecessor: Hiarcs X crushed his younger brother 4,5-0,5. “I think that this new version is about 50-60 Elo points stronger than Hiarcs 8. I have been working full-time on it since october. I am a bit nervous before the games start, you could say that I am the nervous part of the program!”, Mark Uniacke told us before the game.

Hiarcs has often played in the famous Aegon Man vs. Machine tournaments in The Hague in the nineties. The program played 30 games in Aegon and scored 18,5 points (62%). In 1997, during an exhibition before the last Aegon tournament started, Hiarcs 5 played games against Anand and Timman: both games ended in a draw.


Evgeny Bareev starts his game against the English program Hiarcs

The first game of the match Evgeny Bareev vs Hiarcs X ended in a draw. It was a French Defence with the human GM playing black. In the middlegame Hiarcs avioded the exchange of queens, but after 25 moves it looked as though Black had a slight edge. Hiarcs defended the position, and after an exchange of queens Bareev was sure he had a win. But he could not find a way to capitalise on it and the game ended in a draw.


Mark Uniacke, the author of the very successful Hiarcs program

"Let's try it again tomorrow," said Mark Uniacke, who was not unhappy with the draw. "The exchange variation we played is drawish, but the open position is good for the machine. I don't like closed positions with Caro-Kann Slav structures. They are much more difficult for computers to play."


Bareev and Gleck, preparing for the game with a good bottle of wine

On Wednesday GM Igor Glek (Elo 2576) came to Maastricht on Wednesday to help his good friend Bareev. They obviously prepared an English opening (very polite, since Hiarcs is an English program!) and after the new move 11…Be6 Hiarcs felt quite comfortable. The English program closed the centre and Bareev took the opportunity to take the initiative on the queenside. Glek thought that white was slightly better after 31 moves, but “it is difficult to find the correct plan. Black has a cramped position but maybe it is easy for computers to defend this position. It is a good position to play with white against a human player, but against a computer it is a different story. I can remember that I played against Fritz 3 in a tournament in Bonn in 1995. I thought that I had a winning position but Fritz found some incredable moves. I could not believe that the computer could hold the position.” Back to the game: Hiarcs tried to take over the initiative with moves like 36…e3 and 37…Nxb5. However, that gave some tactical chances for the 36-year old Muscovite. It was not enough to get a winning advantage though: the game ended in a draw.

On Thursday the third game will be played on 13.00 CET. The games are to be found on the official website. You can also follow them live on the Playchess.com server.

Eric van Reem
Press officer Chess Events Maastricht Foundation


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