The Globe and Mail, Canada
March 4 2005

All the right moves

By Liam Lacey
Friday, March 4, 2005 - Page R10

Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine


Directed by Vikram Jayanti

Classification: G

Vikram Jayanti's documentary about Garry Kasparov's 1997 loss of a
chess match to an IBM computer begins by establishing the chess
master as a figure of historic importance. As a half-Armenian,
half-Jewish outsider, he rocked the Russian establishment when he
took the world chess championship from Anatoly Karpov in 1985. His
play over the next few years earned him the highest ranking in chess

Kasparov is a compelling film subject: suave, sardonic and as
emotionally high-pitched as he is intellectually gifted. He takes the
film crew to Moscow, where his star first ascended, and later to
Manhattan, or "the scene of the crime," where he met his defeat.

In 1996, he played an IBM computer called Deep Blue and won four
games to two. The next year, he was invited to play a second match
with an improved version of the computer, in an event carried live on
the Internet. Kasparov won the first game of the rematch. Then came
the second game, when the computer did not fall for Kasparov's trap.
The world champion's game unravelled and he eventually resigned,
inadvertently walking away from a possible draw. He drew three more
times before falling apart in the last game.

Newsweek called it "the brain's last stand," signalling the moment
when machines passed humans in intelligence. (The physical test,
presumably, was lost around the time John Henry "whupped that steel
on down.") But is that what really happened?

Kasparov is convinced that IBM secretly used the computer and human
help to gain the advantage. The film makes a persuasive case that a
merely good chess player who could see the game's big picture, armed
with the 200-million-moves-per-second calculating power of Deep Blue,
could defeat the champion. And he's convinced that Deep Blue didn't
consistently play like a machine, and subsequently learned that IBM
had secretly hired grandmasters to work on Deep Blue. IBM had both
motive and means. One of the team of programmers says he felt their
jobs were on the line. Contrary to ordinary practice, they did not
allow Kasparov to study any other games by Deep Blue. The stakes were
high: IBM stock rose a startling 15 per cent the day after the match.

The IBM computer scientists counter that Kasparov didn't understand
how good their program was. They admit they tried to out-psych him,
which they managed to do. Nick De Firmian, who was one of the
grandmasters hired by the IBM team, has written: "Kasparov played
much worse than usual, trying a faulty anti-computer strategy when he
would likely have won by normal play."

In overemphasizing the conspiracy case, Game Over moves from being a
compelling documentary to a frankly irritating one. There's a
whispering voiceover, spooky low-camera angles and sinister music.
There's also a story about an early version of Deep Blue, a
chess-playing machine called The Turk, which defeated Napoleon. Far
too often, the film returns to an animatronic figure in a turban
moving figures around a board. We also have clips of the 1927 silent
film The Chess Player, about the same machine, which is shown to be
secretly worked by magicians.

None of this solves the question of whether Kasparov lost or was
cheated. Whether in Moscow or New York, Kasparov found himself
playing a faceless enemy -- the Soviet system in 1985 or IBM 11 years
later. When he starts talking about IBM supplying building passes
that didn't work and telescopes glimpsed in office windows facing his
hotel, he sounds like he's raving.

Chess is a game rife with paranoia -- both American world champions
Bobby Fischer and Paul Morphy succumbed to the disease -- and
Kasparov's belief in IBM's corporate greed isn't convincing. Instead,
it's tantalizingly conceivable, which is where the intrigue lies.
It's not paranoia when they're really out to get you, is it?

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress