High noon for Kasparov, Deep Jr.


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[quoteurl=http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,57584,00.html]It's Terminator time for Garry Kasparov.

The final match in the six-game Man Versus Machine chess tournament, which pits Kasparov, the world's best human player, against Deep Junior, the world's best computerized chess program, will be played this afternoon in New York, and it's all come down to the last game.

After five fairly evenly matched games, the players are tied with 2.5 points each. Each has one win under his belt and three draws.

But while Kasparov is nearly worn out, Deep Junior just keeps on going. Like a homicidal robot, the computer absolutely will not stop. Ever.

"(The stress) is enormous," said Kasparov's manager, Owen Williams. "The machine doesn't know the time of day or the state of the match. Garry has become more and more exhausted as the tournament has gone on. He's exhausted. He's trying to stay calm and focused so he can upset the machine and not blunder."

Unfortunately for Kasparov, upsetting the machine is not an option. It doesn't rankle.

In the final game, Kasparov will be playing the black pieces, a slight disadvantage, and is expected to take few risks.

Deep Junior, on the other hand, will probably try to pressure Kasparov until he makes a mistake, and then stomp him ruthlessly if he does so, chess experts say.

The situation is exactly the same as the one Kasparov faced in 1997 when he lost to Deep Blue, IBM's computerized chess-playing behemoth.

Most commentators think a draw is the likely outcome, though Williams said, "Garry will be looking for a win, of course."

"The problem (for Kasparov) with black is playing to win without getting killed," said Mig Greengard, a chess writer and one of the tournament's commentators. "He can play the better chess, but one mistake, and 'whack,' he'll be punished immediately."

Kasparov will receive $500,000 whether he wins or loses. If he wins, he'll receive an extra $300,000. If the computer wins, the Deep Blue team will receive $200,000. If the match is tied, each contestant will receive $250,000.

Throughout the tournament, Deep Junior has proven a tough opponent.

The program has played a deadly blend of human-like and machine chess. Developed by a pair of Israelis, it is noted for its risky, human-style play.

Instead of preserving pieces or seeking moves that give short-term advantage, two characteristics of chess-playing programs, Deep Junior has pulled off some very surprising, forceful moves. At the same time, the machine has punished every mistake Kasparov has made, which is typical of a machine that can see all the potential moves far ahead.

The combination must be upsetting for Kasparov, the world's highest-ranked player who, ironically, opponents have said plays like a computer.

Early in the tournament, Kasparov looked like the stronger player. He handily won the first game and managed to draw the second, playing black, after a long, complex battle.

But in the third game, which Kasparov was expected to win, he made a mid-game blunder. Deep Junior mercilessly seized on it and went on to win the game.

Game four was a long, drawn-out ordeal. Kasparov, playing black, adopted a very cautious "hedgehog" defense, which is nearly impenetrable, and managed a draw.

In the fifth game, playing white, Kasparov was again expected to win. But on the 10th move, Deep Junior pulled a shocking bishop sacrifice, chased Kasparov's king all over the board, and forced him into a speedy draw after only 19 moves.

"It stunned him, certainly," said Greengard, the commentator. "It was clearly a bad day at the office for Garry."

The games have been drawing large, standing-room-only audiences to the New York Athletic Club.

Online, between 2 million and 3 million people have watched a real-time broadcast of the matches provided by X3D Technologies, which co-sponsored the event. The matches are also available for viewing here at Wired News, ChessBase, AOL, Der Spiegel and elsewhere.

Such is the interest in the match that even ESPN will be covering it live, though that may have more to do with a seasonal lull in the sporting calendar than interest among sports fans.[/quoteurl]