In my traveling days chess always accompanied me. From Chichicastenango to Makati, from Tangiers to Iraklion, chess was a passport. I played with people that I could not otherwise have communicated with. I never was a strong player and have lost to some of the world's most mediocre players. I do however, enjoy sharpening up with a few games every so often and reading about the masters. Here's a brief sketch about this intriguing game.
The first reference in literature to the game of chess is from 550 A.D. The game of chess apparently began in India and was brought to Persia. From there, it conquered the Islamic world and was brought to Spain and Italy by the Arabs. In Europe, during the latter years of the fifteenth century, the game of chess was altered. The changes were adopted by all Europeans.
The British allowed a pawn to advance two squares on its first move. In response, the French introduced a move, known as en passant. Next, the queen was allowed to move as a bishop and as a castle. She thus became the most powerful piece. Finally, the bishop was allowed to move any number of squares on his diagonals.
The first book about chess was published in 1496 in Spain. It was followed in 1512, with an Italian book, written by Damiano. A Spanish priest, Ruy Lopez de Segura, felt that Damiano's book was inadequate. He published a book in 1561. He was one of the best players, until he was defeated by two Italians at a competition that was organized by King Philip II.
As a chess theorist, Lopez was replaced by Gioacchino Greco. This man was without equal and his writings were published in English, French and German. In the late seventeenth century, the game of chess was nurtured and improved in two cafés. Slaughter's Coffee House in London and the Café de la Régence in Paris. Voltaire, Rousseau, Robespierre, Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin frequented the Café de la Régence. The chess masters, Philidor, Bourdonnais, Deschapelles and Kermeur also played inside these cafés.
The Italians wrote the best books about chess theory until the mid eighteenth century. The first international tournament was in London in 1851. It was organized by Howard Staunton. He was defeated by Rudolph Anderssen. In 1858, an American went to London and defeated everybody. Paul Morphy was such a skilled opponent, Staunton would not play him. Anderssen was defeated by Morphy, who became the unofficial world champion.
The Chess Federation was created in France in 1924. The Soviets have had the greatest influence on the game of chess in our century. Spassky was defeated by Fischer, who then disappeared for twenty years. Fischer reappeared and defeated Spassky again. Fischer would not play Karpov and in 1975, Karpov was the world champion. Karpov was afraid of being defeated by Garry Kasparov. Born in Baku, on the Caspian Sea, of an Armenian mother and a Jewish father, Kasparov was only twenty-two years old when he won the World Chess Championship.
Garry defeated Karpov during the championship of Feb. 1985. It was the longest chess competition in history. Karpov was mentally and physically drained, and he wanted to resume the contest at a later date. Florencio Campomanes, the President of FIDE, intervened on behalf of Karpov. Kasparov protested this decision, and created the Professional Chess Association. He then become an alternate world champion, after he defeated an Englishman. Later, he played a series of games against Deep Blue, a chess super-computer.
Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion (Garry Kasparov) under regular time controls on February 10, 1996. However, Kasparov won three and drew two of the following five games, beating Deep Blue by a score of 4 – 2 (wins count 1 point, draws count ½ point). The match concluded on February 17, 1996.
Deep Blue was upgraded and played Kasparov again in May 1997, winning the six-game rematch by 3½ – 2½, concluding on May 11. Deep Blue won the deciding game six and became the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls.
Here's the Wiki on Deep Blue:
“The system derived its playing strength mainly out of brute force computing power. It was a massively parallel, RS/6000 SP Thin P2SC- based system with 30 nodes. Each node containing a 120 MHz P2SC microprocessor for a total of 30, enhanced with 480 special purpose VLSI chess chips. Its chess playing program was written in C and ran under the AIX operating system. It was capable of evaluating 200 million positions per second which was twice as fast as the 1996 version. In June 1997, Deep Blue was the 259th most powerful supercomputer according to the TOP 500 list, achieving 11.38 GFLOPS on the High-Performance LINPACK benchmark.
“The Deep Blue chess computer that defeated Kasparov in 1997 would typically search to a depth of between six and eight moves to a maximum of twenty or even more moves in some situations. Levy and Newborn estimate that one additional ply (half-move) increases the playing strength 50 to 70 Elo points.
“Deep Blue's evaluation function was initially written in a generalized form, with many to-be-determined parameters (e.g. how important is a safe king position compared to a space advantage in the center, etc.). The optimal values for these parameters were then determined by the system itself, by analyzing thousands of master games. The evaluation function had been split into 8,000 parts, many of them designed for special positions. In the opening book there were over 4,000 positions and 700,000 Grandmaster games. The endgame database contained many six piece endgames and five or fewer piece positions. Before the second match, the chess knowledge of the program was fine tuned by grandmaster Joel Benjamin. The opening library was provided by grandmasters Miguel Illescas, John Fedorowicz, and Nick de Firmian”. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov
"The rules provided for the developers to modify the program between games, an opportunity they said they used to shore up weaknesses in the computer's play that were revealed during the course of the match. Kasparov requested printouts of the machine's log files but IBM refused, although the company later published the logs on the Internet. Kasparov demanded a rematch, but IBM refused and dismantled Deep Blue”. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki Deep Blue (chess computer)
Personally, I stand amazed at the human brain and feel sure that the other 258 computers cited above would probably make Deep Blue blush deep pink. All conceived, engineered and built by human brains. Men and women trying to match and surpass the mental abilities of their own species with a soulless machine. Thank you Garry for representing us real boys and girls. Don't forget that Garry can do what he does powered by a cup of coffee, a pastrami sandwich and a pencil.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.