Tag Archives: chess

Did Deep Blue win because of a software bug?

A few days back I watched the famous documentary ‘Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine‘. The IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated Kasparov at chess, a feat nobody thought was possible back then. Garry Kasparov was the ‘Classical’ World Chess Champion at the time (the FIDE champion was Anatoly Karpov).

Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine

The documentary is based on the epic 1997 rematch between Kasparov and Deep Blue. In fact, the first round of games happened in 1996 which ended with Kasparov winning 4-2. After much tweaks to the Deep Blue engine, IBM challenged for a rematch in 1997, which Kasparov accepted.

Deep Blue computer
Deep Blue

Kasparov won the first game after 45 moves. The turning point of the series was the second game. In the 37th move, Deep Blue played Be4!? which caught Kasparov off guard. After a few more moves Kasparov resigned and claimed that Be4 was not a move possibly considered as good by a machine and accused IBM of cheating. IBM fired back saying that Deep Blue wasn’t a regular chess program and if anyone thought it would play like a normal chess computer would do, that would be a big mistake.

Kasparov making a move against Deep Blue
Kasparov making a move against Deep Blue

Kasparov requested IBM to provide the game logs to check how Deep Blue concluded that Be4 was the best move, to which IBM did not comply. This would be fair during the series, as the logs would reveal the thinking pattern of Deep Blue which would lead to an unfair advantage to Kasparov. However, they could have at least released the logs later on. Several studies that followed concluded that a software bug helped Deep Blue win, i.e. it had chosen a random move in a seemingly dead-lock situation.

To make things worse, it was soon revealed that Kasparov could have drawn the game with a perpetual check. Critics claim that Kasparov had met with a mental breakdown after hearing this, which led to his defeat in the 6th game, after three more draws (3, 4, 5), thus making Deep Blue the winner of the series.

Kasparov resigning in Game 6
Kasparov resigning in Game 6

Deep Blue was retired soon after this match and no further development followed. Just like they retired sending people to the moon after the first successful attempt in 1969. The computers have become faster and more efficient by now and there exist dozens of popular chess engines like Deep Fritz, Rybka and Shredder. It’s not clear whether these actually exceed the power of Deep Blue.

‘Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine’ is an exciting documentary, featuring Kasparov himself and the actual scientists who built the Deep Blue. You can watch it in Youtube. Also, an annotated version of the second game can be found here.

Losing at chess

I’ve always been a chess enthusiastic. But the problem was that I had no one to play with and I hate to have to play with computer. Then @e4c5 told me about chess.com where you get to play with real people. Was playing there for about two years and used to have a 1600+ rating. And then I stopped playing.
Now I’ve started playing again. And know what my rating is? 1300-1400. I sometimes lose to players with <1300 rating. Wanted to bang my head against the wall. But no.
I decided that I will be hereafter playing just for fun and not for the rating. That’s a good excuse. I don’t feel bad at losing the games anymore. Which is all that matters.
(PS. If you’re not in chess.com yet you should definitely join. It has a huge community and a lot of learning resources.)

Installing SCID in Ubuntu

SCID is a free, cross-platform chess database application. Can be used to edit PGN files and do loads of other stuff.

Unfortunately there is no PPA or deb files available to install the app in Ubuntu, so you have to get the tarball available at the site and install manually. If you try to configure the tarball you’ll get an error saying that it cannot find Tcl and Tk in the system, even though you have Tcl/Tk installed. The reason is you need to have the developer channels of Tcl/Tk installed for SCID.

Here’s how to install SCID in Ubuntu:

1. Install Tcl/Tk developer channels using the command:

sudo apt-get install tcl8.5-dev tk8.5-dev

(8.5 is the latest release)

2. Download the SCID tarball and extract in a temporary location

3. Go to the extracted location in a terminal and enter the following commands:

./configure BINDIR=/usr/local/bin

sudo make install

To run SCID, press Alt+F2, type scid and press enter.


Exams and chess

In every exam season I find something to distract myself from studies. And this time it’s chess.

I had stopped playing in chess.com for several months and the rating had dipped to about 1250. Once I restarted playing it climbed back again, but not as high as it used to be. My skills have become blunt. Will need a lot of practice to reach a rating of about 1600.

And then I bought the diamond membership in chess.com for a month. Cost me 7 dollars, but hope it would be worth the cost. I can now play unlimited moves from the mobile app, has unlimited access to tactics trainer and computer workout and several other cool features. The important thing is to make proper use of each of these features before the month runs out. If the going gets good I would perhaps buy the diamond membership for a whole year. To get access to Chess Mentor you need a platinum account but that’s not within my budget’s reach.

And talking about the exams.. well, I’d better not talk about them.