25 years ago a computer beat Kasparov, the 13th world chess champion

In 1997 Deeper Blue, the second version of an IBM program, won a match in 6 games (3.5 to 2.5) against the Russian champion. Since artificial intelligence has made such progress that the intricacies of Japanese shogi and the game of go have come to be largely mastered in 2017.

To oblivion” pawns are the soul of chess», Philidor’s philosophical maxim, which in the 18th century allowed man to understand strategy on 64 squares? Perhaps because since the victory of the computer Deeper Blue against the chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, the machine has not ceased to demonstrate its capacities to surpass the human being in increasingly complex tasks. without being able to fully compete in terms of adaptability and versatility.

Deeper Blue’s victory was an event “culturally amazing“, but “technologically, it was only a great success“, explains to AFP Philippe Rolet, doctor in artificial intelligence. Basically, the success of Deeper Blue is only a victory of “Brute force“, explains the co-founder of Artefact, a consulting and technological development company in this field which has 800 employees.

At this moment, the machine wins thanks to its formidable computing power, which allows it to determine all the possibilities of evolution of the game very far in the game, and to deduce the best piece to play. In reality, the real revolution is at this time barely emerging from the laboratories: it is that of machine (or automatic) learning, and artificial neural networks, which have made immense progress in the artificial intelligence over the past decade.

While Deep Blue knew how to play chess thanks to a whole architecture of logical rules instilled by human beings, the new machines forge their own rules themselves, in a learning period where they ingest mountains of data. “We move from imperative programming to programming by learning“, explains Philippe Rolet. In games, the effect is startling. In 2017, DeepMind company’s AlphaGo algorithm, based on machine learning, beat the world’s best go player, Ke Jie.

Before AlphaGo, “there was speculation about the handicap that would have to be given to God for man to be on an equal footing with him“, recently said Cédric Villani, the mathematician deputy, author in 2018 of a founding report on artificial intelligence (AI). “And then seeing the crushing level of the humanby AlphaGo, “we understood that the human was much less good than he thought. Some moves in the algorithm that we initially thought were rookie mistakes turned out to be great moves“, he continued.

A “self-study»

Today, machines are even capable of beating humans in games with uncertain universes, such as poker or bridge, as the French start-up NukkAI recently demonstrated. These giant steps completely go beyond the world of games, where the machine no longer has much to prove. In recent years, artificial intelligence has madeabsolutely amazing progress that surprised me myself“, explains to AFP Yann LeCun, the head of AI research at Meta / Facebook, and one of the founding fathers of modern AI.

Today we are able“to allow a machine”to translate any language to any language in a set of 200 languages” Where “to have a single neural network that includes a hundred languages“, he explains. But the machines still come up against obstacles. “It’s not because we can hold a funny dialogue with GPT3“, the breathtaking text generator of the OpenAI startup of Elon Musk, that this one “will be able to help us in everyday life“, he nuances.

What is missing to design this virtual assistant – and no doubt also to manufacture the real autonomous car – is to arrive “to a general self-learning method“Says Yann LeCun. “We would put the computer in front of 200 hours of video, and from that, it would come to a form of ‘understanding of the world, of ‘common sense. This is what would then allow him to arrive at learning capacities “closer to what is seen in animals and humans“, he explains again. The researcher is convinced that machines will one day have “a universal ability to learn, able to learn anything that humans learn, in most cases with higher abilities“.
But when will this happen? The answer is not clear“, he concludes cautiously…

In 1997, the loss to Deeper Blue affected Kasparov terribly AFP/Stan Honda

Kasparov’s historic blow-by-blow defeat

Deeper-Blue -Kasparov, New York 11 May 1997, Caro-Kann defense Karpov variant

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 h6 8.Nxe6!?! (a) Qe7 9.OO fxe6 10.Bg6+ Kd8 11.Bf4 b5 12.a4 Bb7 13.Re1 Nd5 14.Bg3 Kc8 15.axb5 cxb5 16.Qd3 Bc6 17.Bf5 exf5 18.Rxe7 Bxe7 19.c4 Kasparov resigns 1 -0
a) A decision, at that time, incredible or even impossible to take for a “machine“. She, IBM’s super-calculator, embarks on a design, a speculative sacrifice, hitherto the exclusive prerogative of human thought. Kasparov, disconcerted, will claim after the game, in veiled terms, that grand masters and computer scientists guided the choices of the program at the last moment…

A miniature part for history

Right hand under his chin, dark eyes, Garry Kasparov stares at the chessboard one last time, annoyed, before abruptly leaving the table. It’s a thunderclap: the king of chess has just been beaten by a computer. On May 11, 1997, a machine knocked down a reigning world champion for the first time after a regulation match. This date will mark the history of the discipline and shine the spotlight on the dizzying potential of artificial intelligence.

L'”Ogre of Baku“, 34 years old and then master of the world chessboard since 1985, lost after six games, on the final score of 3.5 points to 2.5, against the Deeper Blue supercomputer designed by IBM.
In front of cameras from all over the world, who came to film the show in New York, this setback has a taste of humiliation for the tempestuous Kasparov. Hadn’t he assured that he would stand up to the machines at least until the dawn of the next millennium?

A year earlier, the Russian had brought down Deep Blue with a score of 4 to 2. But its designers have constantly improved the 1.4 ton monster, now capable of calculating 200 million positions per second. Shaken by his defeat, the champion nevertheless refuses to accept the superiority of the machine. “The computer hasn’t proven anything yet“, he said during the press conference following the match, reported by AFP. “A man, the best player in the world, cracked under the pressure“, he explains, speaking of himself, “but we can beat the computer, it has too many weak points“.

Far from being consoled by the 400,000 dollars promised to the loser, he castigates IBM, which did not give him access to previous games played by the machine, which was able to analyze all of its own. He even becomes accusatory, suggesting that humans assisted the computer during the match and regretting not having “laid down certain conditions“so that the game is “honest“.

The other players of the world’s cream of chess, who scrutinized the confrontation live, also refuse to consider the defeat of the grandmaster as a tipping point. Asked by the press, they point to a series of bad choices by the Russian champion. For some, his obsessive need to understand the blows of the machine, rather than focus on winning, was fatal to him.

Computer chance or the hand of man?

Years later, a book will relay a secret from a developer of Deep Blue: a malfunction of the computer would have tipped the game. Unable to choose between several moves, the machine would have played randomly during a game, destabilizing Kasparov for the rest of the confrontation.

Either way, Deeper Blue’s victory made IBM happy, delighted to see the interest in its computer’s prowess.
All of this has nothing to do with a fight of man against machine but with how we humans can use technology to solve complex problems.“, enthused after the match the head of the IBM project, Chung-Jen Tan. And to praise what artificial intelligence would bring in many fields, from financial analysis to the study of natural, meteorological or seismic phenomena.

Kasparov, anxious to take his revenge, will draw twice in 2003 against computers. But time will eventually soothe his wounded ego. After the 1997 defeat,I was devastated“, he confided in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Le Temps in 2019. “But with a little hindsight“, his defeat appeared to him as “a victory for mankind“, since it foreshadowed “the breadth of the range of activities that could be assisted by technology“. From now on, what worries the chess legend are the excesses of the digital giants on individual freedoms: “We need them to be accountable“, he urged in an interview granted in November 2021 to AFP.

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25 years ago a computer beat Kasparov, the 13th world chess champion


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