11 May: The Computer That Defeated Kasparov

IBM’s Deep Blue conquered Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov on 11th May, 1997 – in a man v machine clash Newsweek brazenly baptised ‘The Brain’s Last Stand’.

Despite the incredible achievement of having created a program able to calculate 200 billion positions in three minutes, the IBM engineers were advised by their PR team not to look too happy at the press conference afterwards, so as to avoid Kasparov – who had initially hinted at foul play behind the scenes – from gaining sympathy. 

In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca explore whether American viewers felt more affinity with the Russian player or the American corporation; question whether machine learning ruined competitive chess forever; and reveal how even this computerised contest came down to psychological tactics…

Further Reading:

• ‘Deep Blue computer beats world chess champion’ (The Guardian, 1996): https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/feb/12/deep-blue-computer-beats-kasparov-chess-1996

• ‘Twenty years on from Deep Blue vs Kasparov: how a chess match started the big data revolution’ (The Conversation, 2017): https://theconversation.com/twenty-years-on-from-deep-blue-vs-kasparov-how-a-chess-match-started-the-big-data-revolution-76882

• ‘Deep Blue vs Kasparov: How a computer beat best chess player in the world’ (BBC News, 2017):