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Kasparov - Deep Junior, New York, 2003
Once again, a computer ties a serious match with a 2800 player.

(February 2003) Many wondered if the six-game match between World No.1 Garry Kasparov and World Computer Champion Deep Junior would ever take place. It was first announced in August 2002, to be held in Jerusalem at the beginning of October. The timing was chosen to pre-empt the Kramnik - Deep Fritz Brains in Bahrain match, also scheduled for October.

In September, the Kasparov match was postponed until December. In November, it was postponed again until begin-January : two practice games would be played in Jerusalem, followed by the six match games in New York City. End-December, Kasparov's American attorney advised him not to travel to Israel because of legal complications surrounding the closing of KasparovChess.com. The match would begin in New York, the site of Kasparov's famous loss to IBM's Deep Blue, on 26 January 2003.

Kasparov had won the first Deep Blue match, February 1996 in Philadelphia, 4.0-2.0 (+3-1=2) by winning the last two games. Fifteen months later, he was whipped by a motivated IBM team 3.5-2.5 (+2-1=3), losing the last game in the most humiliating defeat of his career. Deep Blue followed the pattern of previous American champions Morphy & Fischer, disappearing from chess forever after reaching its summit.


The new match would see Kasparov's first public game against a computer in almost six years. This time his adversary was Deep Junior, a three-time World Computer Champion. Junior had won the 15th World Microcomputer Chess Championship (WMCCC), Paris 1997; the 18th WMCCC, Maastricht, Netherlands, 2001; and the 10th World Computer Chess Championship (WCCC), Maastricht, July 2002.

Junior's developers, Amir Ban and Shay (pronounced 'shy') Bushinsky, were both from Israel. According to Bushinsky, who had once served as Technical Director at KasparovChess, Junior's software ran on a machine with four 1.9 GHz Pentium 4 processors and 'an effective three gigabytes of memory'.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the Man vs. Machine Chess Championship would be the 'first World Chess Championship sanctioned by both FIDE and the ICGA'. The venue would be the prestigious New York Athletic Club. Live commentary would be provided by GM Yasser Seirawan and GM Maurice Ashley, the same team who performed the task for the 1997 Deep Blue match.

Kasparov was accompanied by his mother Klara, his trainer GM Yuri Dokhoian, and GM Mikhail Kobalya, a team member during the unsuccessful 2000 title match against Vladimir Kramnik in London. Junior's developers were assisted by GM Boris Alterman.

Game 1

The first move, made on the board by FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, saw Kasparov forego his habitual 1.e4. He opened with...

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 (Slav Defense) 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 (Semi-Slav Variation) Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4

...seeking tactical complications. A few moves later, the players reached the following position.

after 12...Qd8-c7

Kasparov thought for 30 minutes and played 13.d5!. Junior continued 13...b5 14.dxc6 bxc4 15.Nb5 Qxc6 16.Nxd6 Bb7 17.Qc3 Rae8, giving up the exchange in a bad position. The computer resigned on the 27th move. After the game Kasparov explained that he and his trainer had discovered the winning improvement, 13.d5, during their match preparations.

Kasparov 1.0 - Junior 0.0

Game 2

The second game, with Junior playing White, opened...

1.e4 c5 (Sicilian Defense) 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 (Paulsen Variation) 5.Bd3 Bc5 6.Nb3 Ba7 7.c4 Nc6

...On his 22nd move, Kasparov sacrificed the exchange for a strong attack. He reached this position a few moves later.

after 25.Rc1-c2(xP)

Here he played 25...Qa1+ 26.Nf1 f4 27.Ra8 e3 28.fxe3 fxe3, but Junior counter-sacrificed with 29.Qxf8+. After 29...Kxf8 30.Rxc8+ Kf7, the players agreed to a draw, faced with a repetition of moves.

Kasparov 1.5 - Junior 0.5

Game 3

The players repeated the opening from the first game (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Qc2) until Junior varied with 6...b6. This was followed by 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bd3 Be7 9.Bd2 O-O 10.g4, Kasparov again playing the g4 idea. His position was superior for most of the game, but he let his advantage slip.

after 31...Qd6-d7

Here he played 32.Rh5, intending 32...Nxd4 33.Ng6+ Kg8 34.Ne7+ Kf8 35.Rxh7. Too late, he saw that this loses to 35...Nb3+. He tried the hopeless 35.Nd5 Qg7 36.Qxd4 Rxd5, and then resigned.

Kasparov 1.5 - Junior 1.5 : Kasparov had outplayed Junior in each of the first three games, but the match was tied going into its second half.

Game 4

The game opened with another Sicilian Defense...

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nb5 d6 6.c4 Nf6 7.N1c3 a6

...This is the Hedgehog Variation, where both players must maneuver patiently for many moves.

after 23...Qb8-c7

In this position Junior sacrificed a Pawn with 24.a5 bxa5 25.b5 Bb7 26.b6. The idea is that the Pawn on b6 restricts Black's activity, creating tactical opportunities for White. Although Kasparov withstood considerable pressure to reach a draw, he admitted after the game that he was probably lost if Junior kept the light-squared Bishops.

Kasparov 2.0 - Junior 2.0

Game 5

Kasparov's last good chance to win the match was his last game with the White pieces. Junior's team switched to an Indian Defense.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 (Nimzo Indian) 4.e3 O-O (Rubinstein Variation) 5.Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Nge2 Re8

...On move 10 the computer produced a stunning piece sacrifice.

after 10.Qd1-c2

10...Bxh2+ 11.Kxh2 Ng4+ 12.Kg3 Qg5. Despite spending an hour thinking about his next moves, Kasparov agreed on move 19 that the game was drawn. The shortest game of the match, it was far from being a grandmaster draw.

Kasparov 2.5 - Junior 2.5

Game six would repeat the scenario of the 1997 match. The match was tied and the computer had White in the final game.

Game 6

The game started as a Sicilian Defense for the third time. In each game Kasparov played a different second move, 2...d6 this time...

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 (Najdorf Variation) 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.O-O O-O

...Unlike game 4, Kasparov kept an active position. He played a typical Sicilian sacrifice (23...Rxc3), overlooked a maneuver with which transferred a Bishop from e3 to a3, and offered a draw. Junior's team declined.

after 28.f2-f4

A few moves later, the Deep Junior team offered a draw, which Kasparov accepted. This ended the game just when the GM commentators were predicting winning chances for Kasparov. It was an unsatisfying finish to two weeks of first-class chess.

Kasparov 3.0 - Junior 3.0

During the post-game press conference Kasparov said, 'Of course I wanted to win, but the top priority on my agenda today was not to lose.' The players split the prize money and received $250.000 each.

Ban's annotations to the game on ChessBase.com make it clear that the computer had little say in decisions about draws. Bushinsky defended this practice in a post-match interview with Mig Greengard, a noted chess columnist and another ex-director of KasparovChess.

If you left it up to the machine there would be almost no reason to ever accept a draw. You would just have the computer refuse every draw offer, unless the eval was, say, -1.50 or worse. I don't think people want to see such matches and I don't think it's a good idea.

It's hard to argue with that.


Like the Kramnik - Deep Fritz match a few months earlier, one of the world's best chess-playing computers had drawn a serious match with a top player rated around 2800. Is this good for chess? The answer is a firm yes and no. Yes for the publicity; no for the image that chess is only a mechanical process.

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