25 years ago, the Deep Blue computer tamed the chess king

Right hand under chin, dark eyes, Harry Kasparov looks angrily at the chessboard for the last time before suddenly leaving the table. It’s thunder: the chess king has just been beaten by a computer.

On May 11, 1997, the car knocked down the reigning world champion for the first time since the main match. This date will mark the history of this discipline and illuminate the dizzying potential of artificial intelligence.

The 34-year-old Ogre from Baku, who had won the world chessboard since 1985, lost after six games with a final score of 3.5 points to a 2.5 Deep Blue supercomputer developed by IBM.

In front of the cameras from all over the world, who came to film the show in New York, this failure has a taste of humiliation for the stormy Kasparov. Didn’t he assure that he would resist cars at least until the dawn of the next millennium?

A year earlier, the Russian knocked down Deep Blue with a score of 4: 2. But its designers are constantly improving the monster weighing 1.4 tons, which is now capable of counting 200 million positions per second.

“Nothing has been proven”

Shocked by his defeat, the champion still refuses to accept the advantage of the car. “The computer has not yet proved anything“, – he said during a press conference after the match, according to AFP.The man, the best player in the world, cracked under pressure“, he explains, talking about himself,”but we can defeat the computer, it has too many weaknesses“.

Far from comforting the $ 400,000 promised to the loser, he criticizes IBM for not giving him access to previous games played by a machine that could analyze everything on its own. He even becomes the accuser, assuming that people helped the computer during the match, and regretting that he did not have “set certain conditions“that the game was”honest“.

Other world chess players who have watched the confrontation live also refuse to see the grandmaster’s defeat as a turning point. When asked by the press, they point to a number of unsuccessful elections of the Russian champion. For some, his obsessive need to understand the blows of the machine, rather than focus on winning, was fatal to him.

Years later, the book will tell a secret from the developer Deep Blue: a computer malfunction would shock the game. Not being able to choose between several moves, the car would play accidentally during the game, destabilizing Kasparov until the end of the confrontation.

“With a little retrospective number …”

In any case, the victory of Deep Blue made IBM happy, she was glad to see the interest caused by the skill of her computer. “All of this has nothing to do with the human struggle with the machine, but with how we humans can use technology to solve complex problems.“, With enthusiasm after the match, IBM project manager Chung-Jen Tang.

And to praise what artificial intelligence will bring in many areas, from financial analysis to the study of natural, meteorological or seismic phenomena. In revenge, Kasparov will draw twice in 2003 against computers. But time will eventually soothe his wounded ego.

After the defeat in 1997.I was devastated“, – he admitted in an interview with a Swiss newspaper Weather in 2019. “But a little retrospective“, his defeat seemed to him like”victory of mankind“because it foretold”the breadth of the range of activities that technology can help“.

From now on, the chess legend is concerned about the redundancy of digital giants in terms of individual freedoms: “We need them to respond“- he called in an interview with AFP in November 2021.

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