- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

With lots of tension but little drama, the much-ballyhooed man-vs.-machine match pitting classical world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia against reigning computer champ Deep Fritz sputtered to a 4-4 draw in Manama, Bahrain, a week ago.

Two tame draws concluded the contest after Deep Fritz, a German-Dutch program, came back from a two-game deficit with wins against Kramnik in Games 5 and 6. Kramnik, who appeared to be emotionally spent by the successive losses, played cautiously in the final two games, drawing with Black in 28 moves and conceding a draw with White in the eighth and final game in just 21 moves.

A few observations:

• In certain positions, humans still have the capacity to make the machine look foolish. In both Games 2 and 3, Fritz appeared overmatched in games featuring queenless positional maneuvering. The machine managed to test the Russian in Game 3 with a tricky tactical flurry, but other than that, it badly underestimated its own position's long-term weaknesses in both losses.

• Even the strongest grandmasters can no longer keep up with computers in murky tactical slugfests. Kramnik never completely recovered from his ill-fated knight sacrifice in Game 6, which seemed to promise a crushing attack, but which Deep Fritz easily survived. Hoping to produce a game for the ages, Kramnik was unwisely tempted away from his pre-match strategy and paid the price.

• The computer has a distinct and growing psychological edge, perhaps because it has no psychology of its own. As former world champ Garry Kasparov did in his loss to IBM's Deep Blue in 1997, Kramnik in Game 6 in Bahrain resigned in a position in which he had real chances of saving the game. Both K's just assumed that the computer had seen its way through to a win and didn't bother to fight on.

Similarly, Kramnik's fatal blunder in Game 5 that lost a knight came just as the grandmaster faced a dreary, arduous defensive endgame. The realization that the machine wasn't about to tire, lose its focus or grow impatient may have contributed to Kramnik's overlooking a basic tactic.

Conclusion: Deep Fritz's programmers have a lot to be proud about, and the struggle to stay ahead of the machines gets tougher by the day.

Some optimists predicted (hoped) that humans would be able to adopt anti-computer strategies to take advantage of the machines' weak points, but Kramnik, as cool and disciplined a customer as there is, barely managed to hold his own.

One gets the feeling that had the match gone another eight games, Deep Fritz would have won in a walk.

Because the final games in Bahrain were nothing to write home about, we wander a bit farther afield in search of some action.

In Hyderabad, India, hometown hero GM Viswanathan Anand defended his FIDE World Cup title in a knockout event featuring 24 grandmasters. Anand defeated Uzbek GM Rustam Kasimzhdanov in the final 1½-½.

That was a great result for Anand, but the most interesting result of the event may have been his one loss, to fellow Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran. For many years, Anand was a lonely phenomenon, the only player from his country and continent among the world's elite.

Sasikiran, however, is just one of a number of Indian players to follow the trail Anand blazed, and here he simply outplays the master.

Anand as Black does reasonably well out of the opening, and play revolves around Black's center-opening 18…e5 19. g4 Bg6 20 dxe5 and Anand's efforts to recover his pawn with advantage.

Play sharpens with 27. Rd1 a4 28. e6! Bxd4 (fxe6 29. Bxc5 Nxc5 [Qxc5 30. Rxd7] 30. Ne5 Kh7 31. Nxc6 Qf8 32. Ne5 leaves Black in a bind) 29. Nxd4 32. Qxd4 Bh7 33. h4, but 33…Red8? (a3! keeps the dynamic balance) is an uncharacteristic oversight for Anand.

The Black bishop on h7 functions as a big pawn allowing a back-rank trick that costs Anand a pawn: 34. Rxa4! (Rxa4 35. Qxd8+ Qf8 36. Qxf8+ Kxf8 37. Rd8+ Ke7 38. Rh8 snares the bishop) Rab1 35. Qa1, and Black has lost his trump, the a-pawn.

Black's odd 40g6?! ensures the entombment of his bishop, and there is no perpetual as Anand faces mate after 50. Qf8. My own computer says in the final position, the mate comes on 53Qd2+ 54. Kg3 Qe1+ 55. Kf4 Qf2+ 56. Ke5 Qb2+ 57. Kd6 Qd4+ 58. Kc7 Qe5+ 59. Kb7 Qb2+ 60. Kc8 Qxf6 61. gxf6 g5 62. Qg7 mate.

World junior champ Peter Acs of Hungary was the surprise winner of the four-GM double-round-robin Essent Crown Chess tournament in Hoogeveen, Holland. Acs did not play a single draw in going 4-2 in the event, a point better than Hungary's Judit Polgar and Russian Alexander Khalifman.

Tail-ender Loek Van Wely of the Netherlands lost twice to the 21-year-old Hungarian star, including a last-round 18-move debacle from the White side of a well-known Nimzo-Indian line.

Acs' 9. a3 Ng4! (Nbd7 has been played here) is a new and provocative move, and White doesn't prove up to the challenge: 10. h3 Nh2 11. Re1 Nf3+!? (breaking up the king's defenses and allowing Black's bishops to thrive) 12. gxf3 Qg5+ 13. Kh1 (Ng3 Bxg3 14. fxg3 Qxg3+ 15. Kh1 Qxh3+ 16. Kg1 Qg3+ 17. Kh1 Re6 is winning) Qh4.

Now 14. Kg1! (f4 Qxh3+ 15. Kg1 Bg4 16. Qa4 Bf3! 17. Qxe8+ Bf8 and Black mates) Bxh3 15. f4 Bg4 16. Qa4! makes it a fight, but White goes down in a blaze of glory on 14. Nf4? Bxh3 15. Ncxd5 (see diagram; if 15. Nb5, then 15Re6! 16. Nxd6 [Nxe6 Qxf2 17. Nf4 Bxf4 18. exf4 Qg2 mate) Rh6 wins) Re6! 16. Nxe6 Bf5+ 17. Kg1 Qh2+ 18. Kf1 Bg3!, when 19. Qd2 Bxd3+ 20. Qxd3 Qxf2 is mate. Van Wely resigned.

FIDE World Cup, Hyderabad, India,

October 2002


1. Nf3Nf628. e6Bxd4

2. g3d529. Nxd4Nf8

3. Bg2c630. f4Nxe6

4. 0-0Bg431. f5Nxd4

5. d3Nbd732. Qxd4Bh7

6. Nbd2e633. h4Red8

7. b3Bc534. Rxa4Rab8

8. Bb20-035. Qa1Rxd1+

9. a3a536. Qxd1Qe5

10. e4b537. Rb4Ra8

11. Qe1Ne838. Ra4Rb8

12. h3Bh539. Ra3Qf4

13. Kh1Nc740. Qe1g6

14. c4dxc441. f6Kh8

15. d4Be742. Qg3Qc1+

16. bxc4b443. Kh2Rb1

17. Qe3Na644. Qd6Bg8

18. Rfc1e545. Kh3Rb8

19. g4Bg646. Rg3Qb2

20. dxe5Re847. c5Rb3

21. Nb3Nac548. Rxb3Qxb3+

22. axb4Nxb349. Kh2Qe3

23. Qxb3Bxb450. Qf8Qf4+

24. Qe3h551. Kg1Qe3+

25. g5Bc552. Kf1Qd3+

26. Bd4Qe753. Kf2Black

27. Rd1a4resigns

Essent Crown Chess Tournament, Hoogeveen, Netherlands,

October 2002

Van WelyAcs

1. d4Nf610. h3Nh2

2. c4e611. Re1Nf3+

3. Nc3Bb412. gxf3Qg5+

4. e30-013. Kh1Qh4

5. Bd3d514. Nf4Bxh3

6. cxd5exd515. Ncxd5Re6

7. Nge2Re816. Nxe6Bf5+

8. 0-0Bd617. Kg1Qh2+

9. a3Ng418. Kf1Bg3

White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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