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Chess legend Kasparov falls in computer-age upset Champion's blunder costs him match against IBM upstart


NEW YORK -- It was a stunning upset, but the plucky, young silicon upstart out of Yorktown, N.Y., showed no emotion. It only had to wait for its human opponent to break down.

Deep Blue, IBM's chess-playing computer, took 19 moves to shake the human race to its carbon foundations yesterday afternoon, crushing world chess champion Garry Kasparov to win their six-game series, 3 1/2 points to 2 1/2 points.

Kasparov retains his title, which he has held since 1985, but it was the first time Kasparov, a chess prodigy since he was a toddler, has ever lost a multigame match against an individual opponent.

The machine transmitted gambits from a tiny room on the 35th floor of the Equitable Building, pitting its 32 processors against Kasparov's 50 billion neurons, as chess experts and computer scientists around the world hailed the victory.

"I think it's a wonderful achievement for computer science," said Alan T. Sherman, a University of Maryland Baltimore County computer science professor who is the chess team's faculty adviser. "Chess is a game of strategy, tactics and psychology, and the computer won on all three fronts."

"This match has made me more humble, if nothing else," said Dr. Lewis Stiller, a California computer programmer who is rated as xTC an expert player in the chess world. "The next time I fire up my laser disc player and watch 'Terminator' I will watch it in a somewhat different frame of mind than before the surprising result of this match."

Deep Blue not only outperformed Kasparov but also seemed to destroy his spirit with unorthodox moves.

"I'm a human being," the 34-year-old Russian said by way of apology. "I'm scared when I see something beyond my understanding." He and the computer had split the first two games, then played to draws in three games.

Kasparov and several other grandmasters saw his defeat as less a triumph of technology and more of a personal failure by the champion, who lacked his usual aggressiveness and nerve. Despite the loss, Kasparov took home $400,000 for a week's effort; IBM's $700,000 winning share will be applied to company research.

Kasparov had insisted that no computer could beat the world's top chess players. But playing black, he fell quickly after losing his queen in a risky exchange and leaving his king badly exposed. "He blundered," said Yasser Seirawan, a grandmaster. "I'm shocked."

"He's made a disastrous move," said Maurice Ashley, a top American player who provided commentary on the match. "And the computer is playing beautiful chess strategy. You have to be in awe."

For several minutes, Kasparov kept his head in his hands, raising his eyes only to shoot desperate glances at his coach and his mother. He resigned after 64 minutes, by far the shortest game in a match where previous rounds had lasted at least four hours.

Kasparov, a notoriously high-strung and egotistical genius, was less than gracious at a post-match news conference. He pointedly refused to offer his congratulations to IBM or shake hands with C. J. Tan, manager of the chess project, seated next to him.

"I don't see major implications for this game," said Kasparov, adding about himself, "There was one man who cracked under the pressure."

He suggested, without offering any proof, that the computer was invincible because its IBM engineers had tampered with it during games. He also urged IBM to enter the computer in other tournaments where, Kasparov said, "I personally guarantee you I'll tear it to pieces."

Kasparov soundly defeated a weaker version of the same computer last year in Philadelphia.

Interest in the game was so high in New York yesterday that several scalpers skipped the Yankees game and headed to Seventh Avenue. Outside the Equitable Building, Stevenson Martin, a 27-year-old stock trader, haggled with a scalper, trying to buy a $25 seat in the first-floor auditorium for less than $60. "I wouldn't miss this for the world," Martin said.

Kasparov said after the match that he would honor his agreement to play eight members of the University Maryland Baltimore County chess team simultaneously Saturday. The chess champion will speak at noon, and the simultaneous match will begin at 12: 30 p.m. in the UMBC ballroom.

Kasparov agreed to come to Maryland on the condition that he not have to play UMBC's top player, Alexander Shabalov, a Latvian-born grandmaster who is considered one of the 10 best players in the United States.

"I expect he's going to be fired up," said Sherman. "I regret to say that most likely the outcome is an 8-0 loss. But we're studying his games, and, like the computer, we'll put up a fight."

The Moves

Deep Blue .. ... ..Kasparov

(White) .. .. .. ...(Black)

1. e4 .. .. .. .. .. ....c6

2. d4 .. .. .. .. .. .. .d5

3. Nc3 .. .. .. .. .. .dxe4

4. Nxe4 .. .. .. .. .. .Nd7

5. Ng5 .. .. .. .. .. ..Nf6

6. Bd3 .. .. .. .. .. ...e6

7. N1f3 .. .. .. .. .. ..h6

8. Nxe6 .. .. .. .. .. .Qe7

9. O-O .. .. .. .. .. .fxe6

10. Bg6+ .. .. .. .. .. Kd8

11. Bf4 .. .. .. .. .. ..b5

12. a4 .. .. .. .. .. ..Bb7

13. Re1 .. .. .. .. .. .Nd5

14. Bg3 .. .. .. .. .. .Kc8

15. axb5 .. .. .. .. ..cxb5

16. Qd3 .. .. .. .. .. .Bc6

17. Bf5 .. .. .. .. .. exf5

18. Rxe7 .. .. .. .. ..Bxe7

19. c4 .. .. .. .. .Resigns

Pub Date: 5/12/97

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