How can man expect to beat a powerful computer who makes flawless calculations? Embrace its failure.

That is the lesson from the historic match (16 years ago today) between neuron and number cruncher – Deep Blue v. Kasparov – as Devin Coldewey recounts in his NBC piece ‘Glitch may have helped supercomputer beat chess champ in historic match’

  • “Deep Blue won the deciding final match after three consecutive draws. But in Nate Silver’s new book ‘The Signal and the Noise,’ one of Deep Blue’s operators suggests that a glitch in the computer’s software might have been at the heart of at least one of the games. At the end of the first game, Kasparov had forced Deep Blue into an unsalvageable position after 43 moves, and Deep Blue’s response was to move its rook in a way that didn’t make any sense to its human opponent. This may have rattled Kasparov, who could not understand the move and may have decided the computer was playing at a higher level than him. As it turns out, the move really didn’t make any sense. According to an anecdote from the book, initially recounted by the Washington Post, a bug in the program, which the engineers thought had been fixed, made it so that when Deep Blue was cornered, it picked a move completely at random. Murray Campbell, who worked on Deep Blue and other supercomputers for years, told Silver: ‘A bug occurred in the game and it may have made Kasparov misunderstand the capabilities of Deep Blue. He didn’t come up with the theory that the move it played was a bug.’ Silver’s book is about how people and machines make predictions, and why some work and others don’t. In Kasparov’s case, his internal model of Deep Blue could have been thrown off by the bug, making him overestimate the computer’s cleverness.”

Perhaps my first introduction to the world of strategy was playing in my junior high school chess club. I really soaked up the game and studied it. In my reading, I was fascinated by the ‘sacrifice’ strategies where you surrender pieces in the short term for superior position in the long term. More novice players seem to approach chess as a race to capture as many pieces as possible and are easily drawn into such tactics where embracing the downfall of a noble piece leads to strategic advantage.