Chess: Gary Kasparov vs Deep Blue

On this Day:

On May 3, 1997 Garry Kasparov begins his chess match with IBM supercomputer Deep Blue.

Deep Blue was a chess-playing expert system run on a unique purpose-built IBM supercomputer. It was the first computer to win a game, and the first to win a match, against a reigning world champion under regular time controls. Development began in 1985 at Carnegie Mellon University under the name ChipTest. It then moved to IBM, where it was first renamed Deep Thought, then again in 1989 to Deep Blue. It first played world champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game match in 1996, where it lost two games to four. In 1997 it was upgraded and, in a six-game re-match, it defeated Kasparov by winning three games and drawing one. Deep Blue’s victory was considered a milestone in the history of artificial intelligence and has been the subject of several books and films.


A doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University, Feng-hsiung Hsu, began development of a chess-playing supercomputer under the name ChipTest. The machine won the North American Computer Chess Championship in 1987 and Hsu and his team followed up with a successor, Deep Thought, in 1988. After receiving his doctorate in 1989, Hsu and Murray Campbell joined IBM Research to continue their project to build a machine that could defeat a world chess champion. Their colleague Thomas Anantharaman briefly joined them at IBM before leaving for the finance industry and being replaced by programmer Arthur Joseph Hoane. Jerry Brody, a long-time employee of IBM Research, subsequently joined the team in 1990.

After Deep Thought’s two-game loss to Kasparov in 1989, IBM held a contest to rename the chess machine. The winning name “Deep Blue,” submitted by Peter Fitzhugh Brown, was a play on IBM’s nickname, “Big Blue.” After a scaled-down version of Deep Blue played Grandmaster Joel Benjamin, Hsu and Campbell decided that Benjamin was the expert they were looking for to help develop Deep Blue’s opening book. They hired him to assist with the preparations for Deep Blue’s matches against Garry Kasparov. In 1995, a Deep Blue prototype played in the eighth World Computer Chess Championship, playing chess to a draw before ultimately losing to Fritz in round five, despite playing as White.

In 1997, the Chicago Tribune mistakenly reported that Deep Blue had been sold to United Airlines, a confusion based upon its physical resemblance to IBM’s mainstream RS6000/SP2 systems.

Today, one of the two racks that made up Deep Blue is held by the National Museum of American History, having previously been displayed in an exhibit about the Information Age. The other rack was acquired by the Computer History Museum in 1997, and is displayed in the Revolution exhibit’s “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics” gallery. Several books were written about Deep Blue, among them “Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion” by Deep Blue developer Feng-hsiung Hsu.

Deep Blue versus Kasparov

Subsequent to its predecessor Deep Thought’s 1989 loss to Garry Kasparov, Deep Blue played Kasparov twice. In the first game of the first match, which took place from 10 to 17 February 1996, Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion under regular time controls. However, Kasparov won three and drew two of the following five games, beating Deep Blue by 4–2 at the close of the match.

Deep Blue’s hardware was subsequently upgraded, doubling its speed before it faced Kasparov again in May 1997, when it won the six-game rematch 3½–2½. Deep Blue won the deciding game after Kasparov failed to secure his position in the opening, thereby becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls.The version of Deep Blue that defeated Kasparov in 1997 typically searched to a depth of six to eight moves, and twenty or more moves in some situations. David Levy and Monty Newborn estimate that each additional ply (half-move) of forward insight increases the playing strength between 50 and 70 Elo points.

In the 44th move of the first game of their second match, unknown to Kasparov, a bug in Deep Blue’s code led it to enter an unintentional loop, which it exited by taking a randomly-selected valid move. Kasparov did not take this possibility into account, and misattributed the seemingly pointless move to “superior intelligence.” Subsequently, Kasparov experienced a decline in performance in the following game, though he denies this was due to anxiety in the wake of Deep Blue’s inscrutable move.

After his loss, Kasparov said that he sometimes saw unusual creativity in the machine’s moves, suggesting that during the second game, human chess players had intervened on behalf of the machine. IBM denied this, saying the only human intervention occurred between games. Kasparov demanded a rematch, but IBM had dismantled Deep Blue after its victory and refused the rematch. The rules allowed the developers to modify the program between games, an opportunity they said they used to shore up weaknesses in the computer’s play that were revealed during the course of the match. Kasparov requested printouts of the machine’s log files, but IBM refused, although the company later published the logs on the Internet.


Kasparov called Deep Blue an “alien opponent” but later belittled it stating that it was “as intelligent as your alarm clock”. According to Martin Amis, two grandmasters who played Deep Blue agreed that it was “like a wall coming at you”. Hsu had the rights to use the Deep Blue design independently of IBM, but also independently declined Kasparov’s rematch offer. In 2003 the documentary film Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine investigated Kasparov’s claims that IBM had cheated. In the film, some interviewees describe IBM’s investment in Deep Blue as an effort to boost its stock value (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Gary Kasparov was asked to tell a story to all the children before bedtime. He said, “Once a pawn a time…”

Second, a Video:


Thought for the Day:

“I learned that fighting on the chess board could also have an impact on the political climate in the country.” – Garry Kasparov

Subscribe: The Smile delivered to your Inbox:

Follow the Smile on Facebook:

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

Leave a Reply