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IBM OWES MANKIND A REMATCH

7 minute read
Garry Kasparov

In the article I wrote for TIME last year after my victorious match against IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer in Philadelphia, I expressed my surprise and amazement at seeing a new kind of intelligence. I referred to Game 1, in which the computer’s decision to sacrifice a pawn, based strictly on the machine’s calculations, coincided with what a human would have done using human logic. Thus I stepped into a discussion of whether artificial intelligence has to be an exact copy of human thinking procedures or whether we should judge intelligence by the end result. I viewed the match with an improved version of Deep Blue as an opportunity to study this further–and of course to win a competitive event.

Unfortunately, I based my preparation for this match, played two weeks ago in New York City, on the conventional wisdom of what would constitute good anticomputer strategy. Conventional wisdom is–or was until the end of this match–to avoid early confrontations, play a slow game, try to out-maneuver the machine, force positional mistakes, and then, when the climax comes, not lose your concentration and not make any tactical mistakes.

It was my bad luck that this strategy worked perfectly in Game 1–but never again for the rest of the match. By the middle of the match, I found myself unprepared for what turned out to be a totally new kind of intellectual challenge.

The decisive game of the match was Game 2, which left a scar in my memory and prevented me from achieving my usual total concentration in the following games. In Deep Blue’s Game 2 we saw something that went well beyond our wildest expectations of how well a computer would be able to foresee the long-term positional consequences of its decisions. The machine refused to move to a position that had a decisive short-term advantage–showing a very human sense of danger. I think this moment could mark a revolution in computer science that could earn IBM and the Deep Blue team a Nobel Prize. Even today, weeks later, no other chess-playing program in the world has been able to evaluate correctly the consequences of Deep Blue’s position.

Also, Game 2 had a very unfortunate finish. Deep Blue held a strategically winning position, but it made a tactical blunder that, if I had sacrificed a piece, could have given me a miraculous escape. But I trusted the machine’s calculations, thinking it would not miss such a continuation, and resigned instead.

Game 2 created an enigma for me that I never solved and from which I never recovered. I would like the IBM team to start disclosing the secrets of how they achieved this unthinkable success in chess programming. They claim they developed software that enabled them to change the style of the program in mid-match and the evaluation ability of the machine from game to game. This also is revolutionary, because any change, any tweak in the computer normally needs weeks of testing to avoid potential bugs.

I discovered that I was playing a very flexible, quickly changing opponent with an ability to avoid any mistakes in long-term calculations. My opponent was psychologically stable, undisturbed and unconcerned about anything going on around it, and it made almost none of the typical computer-chess errors.

This machine is not invincible, however, and I still believe that I had a chance of winning, especially if I had prepared myself properly for the match, which was very different in spirit from the match in Philadelphia.

From the opening press conference, I realized that for IBM, this was much more than a scientific experiment. Competition had overshadowed science. It had become a contest about winning and losing. The IBM team was at once a player, organizer, arbitrator and sponsor of the event, which left me at a terrible disadvantage. Whether they intended to or not, they created a hostile atmosphere that was very difficult for me to bear. There was something negative in the air. It was a Deep Blue show, and Deep Blue had to win.

IBM’s total control of the site and the playing conditions underscored the vulnerability of the human player. I was the only player in this competition influenced by any sort of negative or hostile atmosphere. I think IBM’s unwillingness to cooperate or give printouts of the computer’s thought processes harmed that atmosphere. (As of today, I still have not received the complete printouts that I requested.) There were also many minor incidents, starting with the fact that the venue was created for the convenience of the machine–with all these air-conditioning systems and dozens of people serving the machine–not the human player.

I don’t want anybody to look at this as an excuse. It’s my fault. I accepted the conditions.

Now I would like to look to the future. I think we have to separate science and sport. I believe the IBM team owes the world of chess, and the world of science, a full explanation of how such a flexible machine was developed. They have to make all the scientific data available to allow others to judge their accomplishment.

I also think IBM owes me, and all mankind, a rematch. I hereby challenge IBM to a match of 10 games, 20 days long, to play every second day. I would like to have access in advance to the log of 10 Deep Blue games played with a neutral player or another computer in the presence of my representative. I would like to play it this fall, when I can be in my best form after a summer of vacation and preparation. And I’m ready to play for all or nothing, winner take all, just to show that it’s not about money. Moreover, I think it would be advisable if IBM would step down as an organizer of the match. It should be organized independently.

I think IBM was the big winner of this match. It scored many points in advertising and in the stock market. I also think the company owes something to chess. I think it would be great if IBM contributed to chess development; specifically, it could create a scholarship to help talented kids study chess.

I think this match proved that there should be no special anticomputer strategy. To beat this machine, I just have to play great chess. I need comprehensive, bullet-proof opening preparation that checks all sharp lines of play to avoid any flaws–which can be deadly when playing Deep Blue. I need physical and psychological stability, a great level of concentration and a mind free of other distractions to calculate, calculate and calculate.

I think something great is happening. I’m proud to be part of that. But I don’t want to be a loser because I’m playing only at 50% of my capacity and 50% of my psychological stability.

If we get this rematch, I’m ready, whatever the outcome, to go to IBM’s labs and have a nice talk with the Deep Blue team. But until then, I’m going to treat them as a very hostile opponent, in order to be ready for the toughest challenge of my life.

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