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10 Years After Big Blue Beat Garry Kasparov 368

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-does-it-mean-man dept.
Jamie found another MIT Technology review story, this time about Chess, Supercomputing, Garry Kasparov, and trying to make sense of just what exactly it all meant when a computer finally beat a grand master. An interesting piece that touches on what it means to play chess, the difference between humanity and machinery and how super computers don't care when they are losing. Worth your time.
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10 Years After Big Blue Beat Garry Kasparov

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    It stays relatively cool under pressure.

    Problem is, it heats up under load.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:14AM (#20235393)
      in defense of kasparov, big blue also had help from kasparov's previous competitors to look over and recommend moves for big blue to move, so it wasn't really the machine alone that beat kasparov, he was defeated by a supercomputer and a few of his previous competitors.
      • by zebs (105927) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:17AM (#20235427) Homepage
        Wouldn't a human competitor examine Kasparovs previous matches and come up with a strategy based on their own experience Kasparovs past games?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by KDR_11k (778916)
          Yes but a human competitor could also play the whole match. The point of the match was supposedly to demonstrate that the computer can perform the task (chess) better than a human but the computer still needed significant human help.
          • by FauxPasIII (75900)
            > but the computer still needed significant human help.

            As I understand it, the humans provided patterns of moves that were historically proven to be strong ones. I suspect that if you gave big blue as many years (and sufficient storage) to chew on the problem as most of the human grand masters have, it would come up with some amazing opening sequences on its own.
            • by jedidiah (1196)
              The computer lives in accelerated time. So it has probably had as much "experience" as any grand master.

              Plus, the computer can be fed canned "experience". That's rather the whole point of the machine.
              • by Calinous (985536)
                Yes, but learning chess is being fed "canned experience" (lessons, openings, example matches)
        • by feijai (898706) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:01AM (#20235939)
          Sure. But Kasparov didn't have access to Deep Blue's "previous games", or indeed any information about the system at all. They kept him in the dark. IBM also insisted that there be no game breaks -- not an issue for Deep Blue of course -- but a very *big* deal for professional chess players. But most importantly, IBM's team of chess masters and coders modified the system between chess games after analyzing Kasparov's strategy the previous game. That is, he wasn't playing Deep Blue: he was playing Deep Blue being adapted in semi-real-time by a bunch of human experts. And crucially, IBM hid this fact, knowing that it'd be (rightly) considered highly suspect.
          • by DrVomact (726065) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @02:17PM (#20239417) Journal

            But most importantly, IBM's team of chess masters and coders modified the system between chess games after analyzing Kasparov's strategy the previous game. That is, he wasn't playing Deep Blue: he was playing Deep Blue being adapted in semi-real-time by a bunch of human experts. And crucially, IBM hid this fact, knowing that it'd be (rightly) considered highly suspect.

            Why is this "highly suspect"? I suppose you might think so if you made the mistake of believing that Kasparov was actually playing against a piece of hardware (the "computer"); but of course he wasnt. Kasparov was playing against a team of chess-knowledgeable programmers; Kasparov was playing against software. The only remarkable thing about the computer itself was its speed--it was fast enough to carry out the laborious recursive brute-force searches for optimal moves in about the same time as a human player would take to decide his move. In theory, you could have done the same thing with a 70s era computer...but the game would have taken forever.

            I'm not a chess player, but it's my understanding that during important tournaments, players often talk to advisers to determine their strategy in the next game against a tough opponent. How is this different from the programmers tweaking the software between games? Fundamentally, this was a contest between Kasparov and a team of programmers. Kasparov surely knew that, and accepted the match under those conditions. So I don't think the IBM team can be accused of "cheating".

            The fact that such accusations have been made shows how people--even the paranormal crowd that posts to /.--easily forget how computers and computer software work. Once you remind yourself that this is not a case of "man vs. machine", then the philosophical significance of the contest wanes. Computers do not play chess...only people do.

            • by feijai (898706) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @03:54PM (#20240671)
              I am both a chess player *and* an AI researcher, so take my nonsense with a grain of salt. :-) IBM cheated in the spirit of the game. Who defined the spirit? IBM did. They hailed the game as the demonstration that a computer system could defeat Kasparov in a chess match. But a computer system didn't defeat Kasparov: a half-dozen computer systems beat him, each one different from the last. modified by AI researchers and a team of chess masters. And they didn't tell anyone: so far as I understand, it got leaked after Kasparov discovered that Deep Blue wouldn't make the same move twice and that inspired an investigation. It's one thing to consult with advisors. It's another thing to have advisors heavily modify your brain mid-match. What did IBM prove with all this? Just that Kasparov could only be beaten if they kept changing the goalposts on him.
      • by magarity (164372)
        big blue also had help from kasparov's previous competitors to look over and recommend moves
         
        Since they kept tweaking the program even between games it wasn't possible for Kasparov to do the same. And then there's the way the computer has the first 20 or so moves ( a LOT more than the typical chess program of the day) already precalculated and didn't need to use time on its clock to whip out the next perfect move.
        • by Ngarrang (1023425)

          Since they kept tweaking the program even between games it wasn't possible for Kasparov to do the same.
          Are you proposing that Kasparov doesn't "tweak" his game play? That he doesn't learn and adapt?
          • by Coryoth (254751) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:49AM (#20235811) Homepage Journal

            Are you proposing that Kasparov doesn't "tweak" his game play? That he doesn't learn and adapt?
            No, but if I recall correctly Kasparov was not given the equivalent game history of big blue to learn how it plays. There was a crucial move one of the early games where Kasparov essentially set a trap -- a situation where computers always opt for one move, but a more subtle human player opts for a different strategy. Given the computers play so far, which had conformed exactly to how computers play, Kasparov was fairly confident. But then deep blue went the other way, against anything any other computer would have done, and completely against all expectation. That really threw Kasparov; he thought IBM was cheating since the move deep blue made was so uncharacteristic for a computer (and even for deep blue's play so far). Things quickly went downhill from there because Kasparov really had no idea what he was playing against anymore, while the computer had been trained extensively on his style of play.

            As far as I know no explanation for the strange uncharacteristic move was given by IBM, and deep blue didn't make any other startlingly non computer like moves for the rest of the tournament. It's a rather interesting puzzle.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by bendodge (998616)
              IBM had built a huge library of moves that computers had trouble with. That's why Deep Blue acted so hybrid.
    • by somersault (912633) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:25AM (#20235519) Homepage Journal
      IBM's next chess supercomputer, Big Wuss, is rumoured to care when it is losing.
      • And after reading the article:

        "Both the man and the computer presumably do massive amounts of "brute force" computation on their very different architectures"

        The guy has no idea what he is talking about.. I started thinking maybe he did when he used the words 'heuristics', but brute force means going through every possible move. Humans will never be able to do that as quickly as computers can. He also said that Deep Blue uses heuristics, which means it's not just brute forcing its way, but it doesn't
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Computers playing chess is mostly an expression of the advances in computing power, and only slightly of our ability to create AI. Chess has too small a search space, and brute force is quasi-feasible. Larger games such as Go, (a.k.a. Baduk, Wei qi) are far more interesting, since the board is too big and the subtle effects of a single play radiate across the entire board. Computers still can't even come close to beating a talented child let alone a ranked professional. (Go is also a really fun game to pla
  • lol (Score:3, Funny)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:20AM (#20235457)
    I'll bet Big Blue has one hell of a poker face!
    • by megaditto (982598)
      Guess you didn't get the memo [physorg.com]:

      Poker is a special challenge for computers -- which can already consistently beat humans at chess, checkers and backgammon -- because the gambling game includes deliberate deception, unpredictable emotions of opponents and elements of chance as well as mathematics.
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by D-Cypell (446534) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:22AM (#20235483)
    But what about 'Go'? 'Go' is much harder for computers to play. Let's all talk about 'Go'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      What about backgammon? Go is the same sort of problem as Chess; it's a completely deterministic game, just just has a bigger decision tree. Both are games that could have been designed to be played by machines, rather than humans. Backgammon, as well as being older than both, is still incredibly hard for a computer to play well (and, bringing it somewhat back on-topic, the author of the best backgammon program, based on neural networks, currently works at IBM).
      • I love backgammon and can see only one major flaw with playing against a computer... it has no money for me to take!

        But (back on topic) - it could be said that backgammon, whilst maybe not deterministic (real world randomness), is not non-deterministic, at least as far as the creation of a game tree. I've no idea if I'm barking up the wrong tree but it seems that the decision tree of Backgammon must incorporate all (21?) possible die combos. Although the results of the dice are random there is (thanfully) s
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Whoever built the computer probably has a lot of money for you to take. If they built some super-backgammon machine, and said, anyone who can beat it gets $100, or $1,000,000 (if they're really confident), would that make it more fun. Of course we'd still probably want to have real people rolling real dice to ensure randomness, and that the machine wasn't cheating.
      • by Bandman (86149)
        Backgammon has some degree of randomness, too, since dice are involved.

        If you want a computationally heavy game, look no farther than Go
      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SoVeryTired (967875) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:12AM (#20236097)
        Actually, backgammon was essentially 'solved' in the 80's by a program known as TD-gammon, which used Temporal difference learning along with self play. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporal_difference_l earning [wikipedia.org]

        As far as I know, the major difficulty in writing a strong go playing program isn't the search space, but the fact that there are so many opposing aims that it's very hard to write a good heuristic. For instance, players have to decide wether to go for speed or security in their play. Deciding whether to expand territory quickly and risk invasion, or to build up a small stronghold is a major factor in the game.
        • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Dlugar (124619) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @12:00PM (#20237655) Homepage

          As far as I know, the major difficulty in writing a strong go playing program isn't the search space, but the fact that there are so many opposing aims that it's very hard to write a good heuristic. For instance, players have to decide wether to go for speed or security in their play. Deciding whether to expand territory quickly and risk invasion, or to build up a small stronghold is a major factor in the game.
          The major difficulty isn't so much in that there are opposing aims so much as the fact that there's no good evaluation function. In chess, you search the tree as far as you can, then you have some way of statically evaluating the leaf nodes without traversing the tree any further. In chess, you can use the number of pieces, or the number of squares controlled on the board, etc. But in Go, it's really hard to statically evaluate the board, because all of your pieces on the board might be capturable, and the only real way to tell is by continuing down the search tree.

          As a result, recent advances in Go-playing programs have actually come simply because a new "evaluation function" has arisen: random play. When you get to the end of your search tree, to evaluate whether a move is good or not, you simply randomly play a bunch of games starting at that position, with random moves by both sides, and see what happens. It's a pretty dumb "evaluation function", and isn't really even very static (so it's much slower than, say, most chess evaluation functions), but it has still resulted in a reasonable increase in program strength.

          Dlugar
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Empiric (675968)
        Backgammon "went down" quite a while ago. A couple Googled citations:

        Hans Berliner: ``Backgammon computer program beats world champion''
        Artificial intelligence 14 (1980), 205-220

        Hans Berliner: ``Computer Backgammon''
        Scientific American 243:1, 64-72 (1980)

        I remember reading the Sci Am one in high school; excellent article if you can find a copy--Berliner is/was (still alive?) quite an authority on computer chess as well.
  • tempus fugit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ArcadeX (866171)
    Offtopic, but I really like these '10 years after' articles, because it helps me sit back and think about the last decade. I was thinking this had been more recent, didn't realize an entire decade has passed... Kinda fun to actually think about what all has changed, and what hasn't.
  • Summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:27AM (#20235553) Journal
    I thought I'd save y'all some time and some page views. The following summarizes everything you will take away from the article:

    "10 years ago Kasparov was beaten by a computer. The computer used a brute force searching method that pruned a lot of move trees. How do you know Kasparov's brain didn't do the same thing? The only clear difference is that humans can be intimidated, but that's not to humans' credit. Oh, and Fisher Random chess is designed to force more computational power to be used during the game rather than before."
  • by pzs (857406) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:28AM (#20235577)
    People seem to be very sensitive about computers doing things they think only humans should be able to do. They dismiss defeating a chess grand master or the Turing Test as toy problems.

    I did an AI degree in the mid 90s and one of the things we covered was the definition of intelligence. After running through a few unsatisfactory definitions, my conclusion was that people used intelligence to mean whatever could be done better by a human being than anything else...

    Actually, my favourite definition of intelligence, partly because of its succinctness, is "productive laziness".

    Peter
    • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:39AM (#20235717) Journal
      People seem to be very sensitive about computers doing things they think only humans should be able to do.

      True, but I think that's just a special case of the general rule that, "People don't like when their expertise is systematized so that others can easily gain it." (Probably a better way to say that.)
      • by pzs (857406)
        Indeed. This is why skills which are hard to systematize tend to be a lot more valuable.

        I spend a lot of time trying to tell undergraduate computer scientists that a lot of geeks can learn to code, but far fewer geeks can learn to communicate with people in order to find out what needs to be coded and that this is therefore a much more marketable skill. Of course, most don't listen.

        Peter
        • That's because people who tend to enjoy coding don't tend to be the type of people who want to talk to people (generalisation, but I think a good one). I enjoy coding btw :P
          • by pzs (857406)
            I certainly wish I could spend more of my time talking to people who don't enjoy coding more than they enjoy talking to people.

            Sigh.

            Peter
            • Oh fine, be like that :p What are you doing on /. ? :P In fact I do enjoy talking to some people, and there are times when I would prefer to be talking than coding (most likely times involving friends of the female persuasion).
          • by Abcd1234 (188840)
            I'm not sure that's true anymore (TBH, I'm not sure it ever was). I work in an office full of relatively normal, well-socialized folk, and they're all talented programmers, too. Further, the bulk of my graduating class (around, oh... 2002 or so? I can't remember...) were much the same. I also did a 16 month internship with Nortel Networks, in a research group no less, and they were all pretty normal people, by and large.

            Slashdotters, OTOH... that's an entirely different matter. :)
            • Yeah, it could be a false stereotype.. when I joined Uni I ended up doing a lot less coding than before, and a lot more spending time with real people =p

              Silicon valley is meant to have one of the highest rates for autistic children being born though.. saw it.. in an article.. uh.. online somewhere :P
        • by jedidiah (1196)
          So? You don't even need a geek to gather requirements. Infact, being a geek might actually be a hinderance since you will likely be fixating on how to solve the problem rather than figuring out what the problem is.

          It's probably no coincidence that the first killer app for the PC was concieved by a subject matter expert and not a computer scientist.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      To me, "intelligence" is basically any brain function we haven't figured out how to simulate yet. The only thing holding back AI, is our own lack of understanding.
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:45AM (#20236599) Homepage Journal

      People seem to be very sensitive about computers doing things they think only humans should be able to do. They dismiss defeating a chess grand master or the Turing Test as toy problems.
      I guess you can count me as one of those people. I don't think it's a big deal that a computer can solve complex math problem or play chess well. Most people would have a difficult time with that. While math, science and engineering are great things and have provided a lot of benefit to us, I'm more interested in the sort of 'hunter/gatherer on the African Savannah' problems. Those to me seem to be the basis of human intelligence.

      For instance, how do you see a trail as it winds over grassland and leads into the woods? How does one see a year old trail that is partially overgrown, or a new trail not completely tramped down. How do you track down an animal from smattering of scat, nibbles and tracks over rocks, dirt, grassland, and the tree line? How does a human being see a camouflaged predator slinking behind the tree line? How do you read the sky and know what the weather will be later that day? How do you look at a river and know if it's crossable or not? Back at home, how do you play your relatives, friends, and enemies in the tribe so that you are elected leader when the Big Man passes away? Or how do you manage to convince your husband that your new pregnancy is his, and not your secret lovers'?

      Computers seem to be like idiot savants. They are good at logic puzzles, things like factoring large number or memorizing the phone books. That's a very useful tool in our technological society, but I don't think it's the basis of human intelligence. Like some Autistic person, computers suck as the basics of social interaction, which any three year old understands the basic concepts of. I remember my friend's three year old putting on her parents clothes and getting dressed up when she heard that her parents were going to a Halloween party -- all without prompting. What kind of intelligence do you need to understand the concepts of 'a party' or 'dressing up'? Or simple thinks like standing on two legs or filling a glass of water -- never mind hunting and eating another animal, or following a trail.

      I did an AI degree in the mid 90s and one of the things we covered was the definition of intelligence. After running through a few unsatisfactory definitions, my conclusion was that people used intelligence to mean whatever could be done better by a human being than anything else...
      Well, my definition includes things that organic nervous systems are good at, such as walking, migrating, or hunting.
      • by Rich0 (548339)
        Yes, but do you really want AI researchers devising machines that blend into society and excel at stalking and hunting and eating prey? :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vertinox (846076)
        For instance, how do you see a trail as it winds over grassland and leads into the woods?

        I am a Bolo Mark V of the line. Bolo uses radar, lasers, sonar, GPS, and satellited imagery.

        How does one see a year old trail that is partially overgrown, or a new trail not completely tramped down.

        Bolo does not care. Bolo tank treads crush all terrain obstacles. That which cannot be overcome is destroyed with main gun.

        How do you track down an animal from smattering of scat, nibbles and tracks over rocks, dirt, grasslan
      • by The-Bus (138060) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @03:28PM (#20240329)

        For instance, how do you see a trail as it winds over grassland and leads into the woods? How does one see a year old trail that is partially overgrown, or a new trail not completely tramped down. How do you track down an animal from smattering of scat, nibbles and tracks over rocks, dirt, grassland, and the tree line? How does a human being see a camouflaged predator slinking behind the tree line? How do you read the sky and know what the weather will be later that day? How do you look at a river and know if it's crossable or not? Back at home, how do you play your relatives, friends, and enemies in the tribe so that you are elected leader when the Big Man passes away? Or how do you manage to convince your husband that your new pregnancy is his, and not your secret lovers'?
        I'm sorry, are you a character on the TV show Lost? Your examples seem to indicate so.
    • by kabocox (199019)
      Actually, my favourite definition of intelligence, partly because of its succinctness, is "productive laziness".

      When a computer can beat all grand masters at the same time without any human based programing changes while using only about .1% of capacity while using the other capacity to waste time/be lazy playing around on the internet/doing random things like spending the spare cycles on folding at home or something, then I'll start to worry.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      In the 1950's, chess was indeed considered a valid test of intelligence. As people figured out ways to improve computer play, the "magic" seemed to dissapear, like seeing Oz behind the curtain. This does not necessarily diminish what Blue did, but it does help us see the difference between human and AI thinking.

      The difference between human and machine intelligence currently seems to be that humans use a variety of techniques, while computers tend to use a more limited set of techniques that are carefully tu
  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:30AM (#20235591) Journal
    From the article, "Chess requires brilliant thinking, supposedly the one feat that would be--forever--beyond the reach of any computer."

    Oh, please. The hubris is overwhelming.

    I play the game. I am not a great players, but it is a fun diversion and can help to develop focus and thinking skills. But, please, to say that Chess could have been beyond a computer? That is small, ignorant thinking.

    The human brain excels at pattern matching in massive parallelism. It is this advantage we have over our current computers. But, new computer designs have gotten fast and with lotsa memory and storage space. It was only a matter of time until a computer had the right amounts of that speed, memory and storage space, coupled with programmers to make the best use of it and then no human would ever stand a chance.

    As we get better with fuzzy AI type stuff, even games like Poker, Texas Hold 'em and others will even fall from our human hands.

    The intuition we exercise is some random choice being made, but based on experience and a factor of acceptable risk of failure.
    • by kalirion (728907)
      As we get better with fuzzy AI type stuff, even games like Poker, Texas Hold 'em and others will even fall from our human hands.

      Not only Poker, but Texas Hold'em as well???? Oh the hu^H^Hrobotics!

      Seriously, I don't see this happening with pure AI. Add some bio-sensing mechanism to help determine whether or not the opponent is bluffing, the strength of a semi-bluff, and then you're talking. A pro player should be able to change his game enough to keep the AI from confirming a pattern. The only advantage t
      • by Rich0 (548339)
        There would be no way for a human to sense whether the computer is bluffing other than in its betting patterns, so if the computer can't sense the biological state of the human it isn't really at a disadvantage.

        I don't see any reason why a well-designed algorithm couldn't defeat a human at poker. The key would be having sufficient randomness that a human couldn't tell what it was up to, or the ability to make a human think it has an idea of what is going on when in fact it doesn't.

        There is more to poker th
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nicklott (533496)

      It is a game of logic

      No, no it's not. Not if you're any good anyway. I lost interest in chess when I was about 13 when I realised that the people who were beating me at chess were simply memorising moves and positions and treating it as a test of memory rather than logic. I actually got through about three rounds in an inter-schools tournament (despite being an awful player) simply by doing stupid moves that no one was prepared for. That random/fisher chess sounds like a solution, but frankly there are better and more fun game

  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:32AM (#20235635)
    Later. Later. Right now, let's play Global Thermonuclear War.
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:38AM (#20235697)
    Garry Kasparov ego probably caused him to loose more then his brain power or his chess skills. Having a computer give him an extreamly challanging game got him fustrated thus making mistakes.

    The Computer doesn't care it is just focusing on the game 100% it is not even conserned if it is breathing or not overheating or a person behind it with a gun to shoot it if it looses. It is just running a set of processes, and using its memory to play the game.
    • by oni (41625) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:13AM (#20236127) Homepage
      The Computer doesn't care it is just focusing on the game 100%

      and more to the point, the computer doesn't even know what chess is. It's just adding, subtracting, fetching instructions from memory, etc. It's kind of like how a guy in a box doesn't really understand chinese, or how none of your brain cells actually know what slashdot is.

      I wonder if it would be more accurate to say that a system, which included a computer as one of its parts, but also included a human programmer, beat Kasparov. Kind of like how it's not accurate to say that a few neurons and muscle fibers posted to slasdot. My brain cells and my fingers don't know what they're doing, any more than Big Blue knew what it was doing.
  • not really AI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SolusSD (680489)
    While it was impressive to have a computer win against the "chess master" it accomplished this task by looking ahead as many board configurations as possible based on the current board and the probability its opponent would make certain moves. This is a stategy no human could ever employ due to the sheer processing power it requires to run all the permutation calculations. I believe a system capable of actually "learning", like a trained neural network, would be a fair match for the human brain. As it stand
    • RTFA. It says that Deep Blue couldn't search everything either, and had to use heuristics to cut off unfruitful branches, and then argued that this is exactly what Kasparov does. To the extent that he's just applying heuristics gathered from experience to cut off unfruitful searches, he doesn't have intelligence either.
      • by SolusSD (680489)
        the heuristic functions are programmed into Deep Blue, they were not self emergent-- like the operations performed in a neural network. So unless you can tell me, definitively that a higher being specifically programmed heuristics functions into Kasparov's head, I'm sure you'll agree with me when i say his chess playing ability was emergent.
        • by Surt (22457)
          Unless you think of his parents and peers as higher level beings, no, he wasn't programmed by higher level beings. He was programmed by the same level of beings as deep blue was, and he lost. Ergo, either his programmers were inferior, or his hardware is inferior.
    • Re:not really AI (Score:5, Informative)

      by canuck57 (662392) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:30AM (#20236373)

      While it was impressive to have a computer win against the "chess master" it accomplished this task by looking ahead as many board configurations as possible....

      There in is why many who play chess don't take this match seriously.

      Some flaws, first to play a grand master you need to qualify and play others. Then you enter a tournament and build up to play. This leave a trail of your style of play, your weaknesses and your strengths. A true match, your opponent would study your last games before he moved the first piece!

      In this case, it was completely bypassed, placing the single player against machine at a disadvantage. Should it have been a real tournament play, I suspect the machine would have done well but lost. And there was one game I watched where he lost and he was either having a bad day or tossed it.

  • by feijai (898706) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:41AM (#20235729)
    ...Dennett (the man!) started with an acknowledgement of the fact that IBM cheated.

    After it was discovered that IBM was tinkering using chess experts (that is, humans) to tinker with its software between matches, they're personae non gratae in the chess world now.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:42AM (#20235749)
    Back in the early 1990s, I used to play in chess tournaments. I wasn't very good though and I didn't play at a high level, but I did play in official tournaments that the USCF (United States Chess Federation) sanctioned. My goal at the time was to try to make grand master. I gave up because of 2 reasons. The first was that I wasn't very good. I had serious problems in the middle game. My opening play and end game play were sound, but inevitably I would get beat in the middle game through carelessness. The second reason I gave up was because I realized that computers were ruining chess. Keep in mind that I am talking 1990-1993 here (I stopped playing in tournaments in 1993). In the old days, if you learned a chess opening, the moves might go 7 moves deep or so in most openings where the moves for the white and black pieces were known and any deviations from these set moves got you "out of book" as they say. If you deviated on, say, move 4 in a 7 move sequence, the odds were that your move was bad because if it was so good, it would have been known and used by other players and then be part of the book. At this time being "in book" was already starting to change because of computer analysis. Then you could go 10 moves or more in many openings and still be "in book". The amount of time and memory required to memorize these much deeper opening sequences was overwhelming. One day I realized that it just wasn't worth it and I'd rather devote my time and brain power to other things that I actually had some talent for, like learning other languages.

    Chess is said to be "solvable". My understanding is that it can be proven mathematically that chess has a finite series of moves. If this is correct, then at some point computers will be powerful enough to be able win every game because they'll be able to analyze every possible opening all the way to the end and only pick the moves that will win. No human will ever be able to duplicate this feat. So it is inevitable that computers will eventually be unbeatable. I think just a few weeks ago Slashdot had an article that a computer program has been designed that is now at the point where it cannot lose at checkers - ever. Checkers is quite a bit less complex than chess and it has only now been solved. Whether it takes 10, 20, 50 or more years to solve chess, the day will come when computers simply cannot be beaten at chess under the current rules.

    Should we care? Well, maybe not. Computers are better than humans at a lot of things, like mathematical calculations, so it's inevitable that they will be better than humans at chess. The downside is that once all chess games are solvable, it will ruin chess at the professional level. It will make it almost impossible for any game to be postponed until the next day because once there is a postponement, a player could, in theory, simply use a PC to analyze his game and find a sequence of moves where he cannot lose if he plays them correctly. At that point, there's no more human element in the game - it's simply a matter who can more accurately remember computer analysis. Computers ruined chess for me in the early 1990s. Can you imagine how much worse things are now? And how much worse they will be when the day comes that everybody can use a PC to analyze his game and find a way to never lose? At that point, I suspect that either chess will change to Fischer Random Chess as mentioned in the article or people who would have played chess will simply move on and play the game of go instead. Go is beyond the ability of current computers to solve and even the best computer programs can't beat strong human players.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bandman (86149)
      You could always pick up Go. Computers are going to suck at that for a lot longer than they sucked at chess
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Joohn (310344)
      I doubt things will be that different the day that chess is solved. The only reason that grand masters and computers have been so equal in strength the past years is almost certainly that both humans and computers are playing pretty close to perfect already as it is. The day computers play perfect chess the grand masters will, of course, not be able to win but I'm pretty sure they'll be able to get a fair share of draws.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      My understanding is that it can be proven mathematically that chess has a finite series of moves. If this is correct, then at some point computers will be powerful enough to be able win every game because they'll be able to analyze every possible opening all the way to the end and only pick the moves that will win. No human will ever be able to duplicate this feat.

      Hate to break it to you, but "No [anything computational] will ever be able to duplicate this feat.", Machines or otherwise. This is due to th

      • by klngarthur (1114085) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:59AM (#20236793)

        Hate to break it to you, but "No [anything computational] will ever be able to duplicate this feat.", Machines or otherwise. This is due to the fact that the complete tree of moves (i.e. all possible plies of the entire game from starting position) has on the order of 10^120 nodes to evaluate, which is slightly bigger than the number of atoms in the known universe.
        You don't have to evaluate every node because some are clearly not going to result in victory. If you look at how they 'solved' checkers, they didn't actually analyze every move, they analyzed every possible position once the board had only 8 pieces left. Obviously this is much harder in chess as the finished state of the game can happen with 3 to 32 pieces on the board, but the set of final moves is definitely much smaller than 10^120 and working back 5, 10, 15, 20 moves from those points would also be significantly smaller. It may still be outside the realm of possibility, but i'm sure smarter minds than mine will find ways to reduce the number of relevant states so that eventually a program can be written that cannot be beaten.
      • by Surt (22457)
        The main possibilities for refuting this:

        a) quarktronics: why limit yourself to computing with atoms? (not a big enough multiplier to really solve the problem though)
        b) quantum computing: why limit yourself to computing with the atoms of just one universe?
        c) neutrinotronics: the sun alone emits something in the range of 10^38 per second. There are a lot of neutrinos to work with.
        d) virtual particletronics: why limit yourself to computing with stuff that exists?
        e) algorithm advancement: perhaps we can do a
    • by uarch (637449)

      Chess is said to be "solvable". My understanding is that it can be proven mathematically that chess has a finite series of moves. If this is correct, then at some point computers will be powerful enough to be able win every game because they'll be able to analyze every possible opening all the way to the end and only pick the moves that will win. No human will ever be able to duplicate this feat. So it is inevitable that computers will eventually be unbeatable. I think just a few weeks ago Slashdot had an a

  • I seem to recall that Kasparov conceded the game. While still technically a win for Big Blue, is this not somewhat different than an actual checkmate? Was a checkmate imminent?
  • by amccaf1 (813772)
    In case anyone is confused by the title/summary: Big Blue = IBM; Deep Blue = The Chess Playing Computer.
  • It was an interesting time. But it just upped the bets. Know it's who can be the first to beat a Go dan level player.
  • An interesting observation on the current crop of top PC chess programs. Rybka, the program that tops all the ranking lists, does so with a node count that is much lower. That is, Rybka looks at around a tenth of the number of positions per second compared to other programs. The reason is does so well, is that it has a very sophisticated evaluation algorithm for each position it examines. In some sense, it has better chess knowledge than other programs.

    And this is the difference between Kasparov and Dee
  • In the year 2000 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jpfed (1095443)
    One day far in the future, we will start up our chess programs and they will immediately announce "Mate in 326". A "good" move will be one that hastens the loss by as little as possible.
  • "Chess is the Drosophila of artificial intelligence. However, computer chess has developed much as genetics might have if the geneticists had concentrated their efforts starting in 1910 on breeding racing Drosophila. We would have some science, but mainly we would have very fast fruit flies." -John McCarthy
  • I mean, with Moore's Law improving the computing power of PC's. PCs should be 32-64x more powerful than 10 yrs ago. How big is a machine that would have the equiv processing power of deep blue of 1997?
  • I'll run for the hills once a computer can beat a professional boxer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Johnny5000 (451029)
      Your comment made me think of two things.

      First: Chessboxing [wikipedia.org]

      Also, the quote:
      "A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing."
  • The Best Chess (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @11:48AM (#20237507)
    ... is Computer vs. Computer

    They are fearless, uncompromising, untiring. The games are far more interesting than human efforts. Check out some Rybka vs. ZapZanzibar matches (the number 1 program vs. the number 2 program). Incredible play.
  • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . ca> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @11:59AM (#20237637) Journal
    Deep Blue analayzes millions of possible moves every second, resulting in a performance that eventually beat the best chess player there is. Yet grandmasters do not consider anywhere even close to this number of alternatives, and Kasparov did hold his own against the computer for more than one match. Why can humans so rapidly prune irrellevant combinations from consideration before evaluating them further and still present incredibly strong play? I believe that the answer to this question holds the key to making a computer that is actually good at chess. Deep Blue didn't beat Kasparov because it was better at chess than he was. It beat him because of the sheer overwhelming number of combinations that Deep Blue analayzed, which itself was only sufficient to beat the capabilities of considering the mere hundred or so moves at most that Kasparov would have likely considered each turn. Which is _really_ the better player?
  • by Archtech (159117) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @01:07PM (#20238499)
    Dennett's article suggest to me that he himself does not know a huge amount about chess. For instance, he writes, "The best computer chess is well nigh indistinguishable from the best human chess..."

    Sometimes, but not always. As is well known, computers excel in "random" positions where tactics predominate. That's because they have no concept of "general principles" or strategic goals as human chessplayers think of them - instead, they just calculate furiously and find the move that, against what look like the best replies by the opponent, gives the best "worst-case" outcome after a given search depth. They are programmed to follow the game theory "minimax" strategy, which essentially chooses the best (maximum) outcome if the opponent plays as well as possible (minimum). So in a typical open position with lots of pieces flying around, where there are dozens of variations to calculate, a computer tends to have an accentuated advantage over a human player of similar strength. For many years masters and grandmasters have carefully avoided wide-open positions (like those arising from the King's Gambit, for instance) for that very reason. Playing the King's Gambit against a really strong program looks very much like suicide. You start by giving the thing an extra pawn, which is enough of an advantage for it to win. Then you try to outplay it in its natural environment. It's like fighting a crocodile underwater.

    At the other end of the spectrum, there are a few closed positions (i.e. with locked pawn structures) where even very strong chess programs fail to see what a reasonably good human player spots immediately - for instance, "this must be a draw because White's queen can never escape". (However, it might also sometimes happen that a program spots a clever and previously unnoticed way to break that kind of impasse).

    Returning to my assertion that Dennett is wrong in saying that "The best computer chess is well nigh indistinguishable from the best human chess," I can immediately think of two classic counter-examples. First, the game [chessgames.com] in which Deep Junior, with the Black pieces, sacrificed a bishop on h2 and soon after forced a draw. If Kasparov had tried to play on, he risked losing. No one had ever even seriously considered that sacrifice before in the given position, although the general type (the "Greek gift") is one of the most familiar even to beginners. That certainly wasn't indistinguishable from human play, because no human had ever dared to play it. My second counter-example is the way Deep Fritz squashed world champion Vladimir Kramnik flat in the sixth game [chessgames.com] of their match last year. I was watching live on the Web, and when Deep Fritz played 10.Re3 I thought "Great! the stupid computer is going to get thrashed by Kramnik's ultra-sophisticated play". After some more foolish-looking moves by White, at move 20 I thought the game was definitely going Kramnik's way. But lo and behold! 25.e5! introduced, not so much a tactical melee as the threat of one. Kramnik shuffled his pieces anxiously, on move 30 Deep Fritz grabbed a pawn - and then it was over. Deep Fritz remorselessly ground the world champion down, forcing him to resign in just 17 more moves. In the final position Kramnik, still just a pawn down, could hardly move a single piece. In that game Deep Fritz played the final, technical phase like Bobby Fischer. But it played the attack between moves 10 and 30 better than Fischer could have! Its moves looked like a beginner's, yet they defeated Kramnik.

    Strong programs have a big "psychological" advantage over human players, in that they don't have any psychology! Even super-grandmasters like Kasparov and Kramnik, on the other hand, very quickly start to exhibit signs of nervousness after a few games. Eventually, this can assume proportions that start to resemble post-traumatic stress disorder - especially if the human being has had a nasty shock, such as
  • by sasami (158671) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @03:43PM (#20240547)
    Yale CS professor David Gelernter wrote an article about the match, expressing a quite different view.

    http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,986355,00 .html [time.com]

    Dennett is a brilliant philosopher, but he's also well-known for propounding a particular agenda. While his view is plausible, it is not intrinsically more plausible than Gelernter's view.

    By dwelling on the functional equivalence of Deep Blue chess and Kasparov chess, Dennett skillfully lays the assumption that this is the correct way to compare all differences between humans and machines. Rhetoric like "as far as we know" quietly asserts that all right-thinking intellectuals agree with him, while argument is dismissed as "cling[ing]... to brittle visions."

    However, both his view and Gelernter's are merely expressions of the consequences of certain prior assumptions, and these assumptions are unprovable ones: function vs. being, for instance, or philosophical naturalism vs. methodological naturalism.

    Gelernter adequately illustrates a counter-view that many of Dennett's peers would hold:

    "...the idea that Deep Blue has a mind is absurd. How can an object that wants nothing, fears nothing, enjoys nothing, needs nothing and cares about nothing have a mind? It can win at chess, but not because it wants to. It isn't happy when it wins or sad when it loses. What are its apres-match plans if it beats Kasparov? Is it hoping to take Deep Pink out for a night on the town? It doesn't care about chess or anything else. It plays the game for the same reason a calculator adds or a toaster toasts: because it is a machine designed for that purpose."

    "The more powerful your computer, the more sophisticated the behavior it can imitate. In the long run I doubt if there is any kind of human behavior computers can't fake, any kind of performance they can't put on. It is conceivable that one day, computers will be better than humans at nearly everything. I can imagine that a person might someday have a computer for a best friend. That will be sad--like having a dog for your best friend but even sadder.

    "Computers might one day be capable of expressing themselves in vivid prose or fluent poetry, but unfortunately they will still be computers and have nothing to say. The gap between human and surrogate is permanent and will never be closed. Machines will continue to make life easier, healthier, richer and more puzzling. And human beings will continue to care, ultimately, about the same things they always have: about themselves, about one another and, many of them, about God. On those terms, machines have never made a difference. And they never will."

    Dennett might not be wrong, but he might not be right.

    --
    Dum de dum.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

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