Chess by Shelby Lyman
on May 7, 2016 – 12:01
I recall with almost a kind of dread a scene from the late ’60s: an early confrontation between man and machine. The human was John Curdo, a gifted and dominant New England chess master. His opponent, MacHack VI, one of the first computer chess-playing programs.
It was scary because Curdo seemed frightened and isolated in the company of his unusual opponent, apparently a new experience for him.
I don’t remember who won the game, but I do know that Bobby Fischer later beat MacHack with ease.
Fischer, always the supreme realist when evaluating chess play, was one of the first to predict that chess machines would outstrip humans.
He seemed to accept the notion matter-of-factly, although he was later to decry their influence on the game, concluding incorrectly that they had destroyed “classical” chess.
Garry Kasparov, who was terrified as a young world champion at the possibility of computer supremacy, sounded the death knell for his species when he was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, claiming afterward – a thesis taken seriously by few – that IBM had cheated during the match.
Today, their dramatic confrontation is no more than a moment in the modern prehistory of the game.
In a recent interview, Magnus Carlsen explains that computers are no longer adversaries but a useful adjunct to the modern game.
Would he play one?
Of course not, he admits. He would lose easily.
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– GM Susan Polgar