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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2003
 
Former World Champion Garry Kasparov is now playing a match against "Deep Junior", a successor to the chess computer that defeated him in 1997. The match started out well for Kasparov, with a crushing victory in only 27 moves in the first game. I haven't found any analysis of the game yet, but you can watch the moves here.

An interesting point about this program is that it is more 'intelligent' than earlier chess programs. Human masters examine relatively few possibilities in a game; they know by experience which ones are the most important to consider. Chess computers lack that judgement but, as hardware got faster, haven't really needed it, substituting the ability to examine up to 300,000,000 positions per second, about 45 bn for a typical move. Junior looks at 'only' 2 or 3 million positions per second, but, because those positions are selected relatively well, was able to beat programs which examined more positions.

Computers aren't yet up to the level of the very strongest humans. Kasparov's loss and the subsequent draw by Victor Kramnik against yet another program both came because the computer has the advantage of consistency, while human players tire and make errors. Still, computers are improving and humans aren't - only twenty years ago any highly skilled player could win against the best computers. Computers will inevitably, probably by 2010, become strong enough to consistently beat any human player.

Many people find this to be disturbing, a triumph of machinery over the human mind. It's a view I don't share. Computers do not actually understand or play chess; they perform binary mathematical computations very quickly and very accurately. Humans have to solve the extremely complex problem of translating the subtle ebb and flow of a chess game into the very narrow mathematical functions that computers can perform. The first computer program strong enough to beat us at our own game will be a product and demonstration of the astonishing resources of human ingenuity.

The official site for the match sponsor is here. There will presumably be frequent updates on this chess blog. Calpundit has also posted on computer chess.



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