How the Deep Blue-Kasparov Match Changed Chess



Checks, and some checkmate, the computer programs had already inflicted on the wood pushers. Before encouraging the highest figures to be modest, such as the Russian world champions Anatoli Karpov and Garry Kasparov in the early 1990s, taking advantage of the advantage offered by fast game formats. But when the “Deep Blue” supercomputer brought down the second, the world chessboard tipped over, on May 11, 1997, 25 years ago in New York. On usual ground, the ogre of Baku had promised, “no computer [le] will beat [it] ».

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For the first time in the history of this millennial game, invested by the machine forty years earlier, the best program of the time – perfected by the care of IBM after being corrected by the same Kasparov – came to the end in the long game of the best player of the moment, still considered one of the most innovative champions in the discipline. “Not a turning point, but a starting point”, observes Fabien Libiszewski, a 38-year-old French international grandmaster.

A victory that catalyzes the research of programmers

If the match does not revolutionize the way of playing, it catalyzes the research of programmers. The databases soon expand to completeness, allowing both to democratize the game and to perfect the preparation of professionals. Because where a human touch still surfaced under the microprocessors of Deep Blue, the new programs are no longer turned towards a single goal: calculation, in the absence of play.

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“We often play by intuition, suspecting that our move is not bad, but without knowing if it is the right one, since we are not able to calculate far enough to know if this estimate will always be valid any longer. late in the game. Not computers, which can therefore play moves that seem illogical to a human eye.explains Fabien Libiszewski.

For a player, whose strength lies more in memory than pure talent, the most accomplished analysis engines offer valuable insight into openings, those first moves that will determine the geometry of the game. Like “every player from the 1990s before Deep Blue”Eloi Relange, rising star of French chess at the time of Kasparov’s defeat, thus used the computer in his preparations, “but simply to check if he hadn’t made a tactical error. Today, with the help of artificial intelligence, the best use it to come up with ideas that will surprise their opponent,” slips the international grandmaster, who has become president of the French Chess Federation.

The risk of smoothing the game

Shared on screens, game analyzes have gradually crossed borders. Until reaching Norway and watering the undisputed world champion for almost a decade, Magnus Carlsen. “Players can build themselves by finding opponents around the world to start and rework their games or those of others to progress”, says Fabien Libiszewski. With the risk, too, of smoothing the game, by losing in creativity what they gain in theoretical knowledge.

Observers were able to observe this, in part, during the last final of the 2021 world championship, where Carlsen broke away from the Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, coached by one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, after five sterile and stereotyped first attempts. “It has become very hard to surprise them in the openings, it is true, but Carlsen remains extraordinary because he does not attempt an ace but continues to use it to start the game and make the difference afterwards, like at the bottom of the tennis court, notes Eloi Relange. Way to say that Deep Blue beat Kasparov without killing the spirit of the game.

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