Elsewhere on the Web : The Last Man - Machine Match?

Sunday December 10, 2006

The latest man - machine match, featuring World Champion Vladimir Kramnik against the chess playing computer Deep Fritz, ended the same way all similar matches have ended in recent years. The machine won a solid victory.

Grandmaster (GM) Kramnik almost held his own. He drew four of the first five games and would have drawn the fifth if he hadn't overlooked a mate in one. This is one of the problems with this form of competition: only the humans make tactical mistakes and they are inevitable. It's like a tennis match where the better player just keeps returning the ball until the other player makes an unforced error. Overlook mate in one, mate in ten, or the loss of a Pawn six moves into a complicated variation, and the result is the same: 1-0 for the machine. There is no partial credit for a heroic struggle.

The rules specified that Kramnik would earn 500.000 US$ for the match plus an extra 500.000 US$ should he win. His chance to win the match evaporated with a draw playing White in the fifth game of the six game match. Behind one point with one game to go, the only thing at stake was the GM's honor. Against Fritz's 1.e4, Kramnik answered with one of his second string defenses, the Najdorf Sicilian.

Commenting on the game, GM Yasser Seirawan mentioned around move 20 that Kramnik appeared to have 'lost the thread'. That is chess jargon for a situation where a player doesn't understand the essence of a position. Lost thread or not, Kramnik soon had to defend against a powerful Kingside attack on his castled King. Suddenly Fritz switched to the Queenside and grabbed a loose Pawn. The lost thread was now a lost Pawn and soon became a lost game. Kramnik resigned on his 47th move.

The match was professionally orchestrated by ChessBase, the German company behind the development and marketing of Fritz. One of their pre-match articles (for all articles see ChessBase reports on Kramnik - Deep Fritz) asked if this would be 'The last man vs machine match?' After watching Kramnik struggle to achieve no better than a draw in any game, we can only say, 'let's hope it was the last'. It offered as much sporting interest as a mouse battling a cat. At no point was Fritz in any real danger of losing a game.

For more about the match, see our ChessChrono: 2006 Kramnik vs. Deep Fritz, Man - Machine Match.

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