Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Chess – I used to be vaguely good at that once.

I remember joining my junior school’s chess club, and winning several games, albeit more because the lesson finished than anything else. UK junior chess champion Demetrios Agnos lived around the corner from me too, and he gave me some useful advice.

As I got older though, I became more bored and impatient. I’d let pieces get taken, purely because I wanted something to HAPPEN.

One time
Herschel and I sat down to play a game, and it’s the only time I’ve known him, and me, to both fall so utterly silent for so long. (barring the obvious exceptions – during a journey, when unconscious, throughout a Jacques Tati movie etc.)

And Herschel and I both got thrashed by
Chris over the internet once too. And of course I played Frank once.

Tonight however I sat down to watch a DVD of the movie
Game Over: Kasparov And The Machine.

Frustrated as I often am by the Internet Movie Database (“Hm - We don’t know anything at all about your favourite film – why don’t YOU click here to tell US”), this time their synopsys is definitive:

Garry Kasparov is arguably the greatest chess player who has ever lived. In 1997 he played a chess match against IBM's computer Deep Blue. Kasparov lost the match. This film shows the match and the events surrounding it from Kasparov's perspective. It delves into the psychological aspects of the game, paranoia surrounding it and suspicions that have arisen around IBM's true tactics. It consists of interviews with Kasparov, his manager, chess experts, and members of the IBM Deep Blue team, as well as original footage of the match itself.

And it’s truly amazing how a single suspicion – that IBM cheated – can be strung out to fill an entire movie like this.

Part of the theory goes that, at one point, the computer made a move that was so completely illogical, that no computer could ever have been programmed to make it. This suggests that maybe actually a human being was deciding the moves, with computer advice – the best of both worlds.

Where this fascinating film fails for me, is simply in its narration – the whole thing is whispered to give it some sort of conspiratorial feel, but all this did for me was make it hard to make anything out.

There’s also a lot of talk about exponentially expanding scenarios making programming a computer to play chess impossible, however while there may be an infinite number of possible sequences of moves, there is still only a very high finite number of possible positions to the game.

Most chilling is one interviewee’s assertion that thinking is the only thing that man is better at than any animal, so when a computer suddenly comes along and does that one thing better than us, we lose our supremacy of the planet.

A fine watch – and for me, far more interesting than actually playing the game.

Garry Kasparov gives up on making out the narration


2 comment(s):

At 4:11 am, Blogger KlownKrusty said...

A-hem. Your move, Mister Goble.

At 2:43 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Is that what you believe?


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