Thursday, February 10, 2011

Technology changes game of chess

Posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 9:04 pm

Technology changes game of chess
Rocio Rodriguez
Staff Writer Daily Toreador - Dept. of Student Media, Texas Tech University

Feb. 10 marks the 15th anniversary of the first time a computer defeated a human in the game of chess.

Though it may seem the average chess player could play and beat a home computer chess game, one particular game revolutionized the interaction of chess and technology — when Russian Garry Kasparov, who is considered by many the world’s best chess player, lost to his computer opponent, Deep Blue.

“Initially, (computer chess) was an entertainment, and then it became a competition pretty much from the mid-1980s to the mid-’90s,” said Susan Polgar, the first woman to earn the grandmaster title and director of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech.

“For that decade it was a competition, and then when that famous match happened between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov, that the computer won — the IBM computer won — that pretty much put an end to the competition, because once he lost, and a number of other grandmasters lost as well to different programs, humans pretty much gave in.”

According to the American Physical Society website, in the first match between Kasparov and Deep Blue, the computer won the first game, shocking Kasparov. Kasparov however, won three games total and played two to a draw. They played again in 1997, but Deep Blue had been improved, working on a faster processor and other resources allowing it to adapt to new strategies. This rematch ended in a win for the machine.

Paul Truong, SPICE director of marketing and public relations and assistant coach of Tech’s chess team, the Knight Raiders, said after Deep Blue’s success, players realized they needed to learn from computers, not battle against them.

“(The computers the team practices against) are loaded with computer softwares,” Truong said. “We can’t even do anything without it. Things we don’t see, computers can see. Things we can’t calculate fast enough, computers can do in a millisecond. It’s becoming a part of what we do in chess. It’s not a challenge anymore because you can’t compete against a computer. There’s no chance.”

According to the IBM website, Deep Blue’s software is used to solving problems outside of the world of chess.

“The underlying RS/6000 technology is being used to tackle complex ‘real-world’ problems like cleaning up toxic waste sites, forecasting the weather, modeling financial data, designing cars, developing innovative drug therapies,” the IBM website states.

The senior faculty adviser and founder of Knight Raiders, associate professor of geosciences Hal Karlsson, said software is becoming an assistant of sorts to professionals.

“Today, what a lot of the so-called professional higher-level chess players do, they use the program to calculate variations,” Karlsson said. “So, if they’re interested in some particular variation, they feed it into a computer, and it comes up with things we don’t think of.”

Truong also said competitors’ success is determined by how they use the computers to train.

“(The top four chess schools) will be using (software) to prepare to compete against each other,” Truong said. “Those who can interpret the data better, who can use it better, that’s the one that’s going to win. That’s the different skills now.”

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