Today in History – May 11, 1997 – Garry Kasparov, reigning World Chess Champion, loses tournament to IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer. The event was the twentieth century version of John Henry’s “man against machine”. The triumph of human intelligence was not to happen, however, as in the shocking finale on May 11th World Champion Garry Kasparov resigned 19 moves into Game 6 and lost in little more than an hour. This was the first time a current world champion had lost a tournament match to a computer. Match commentator Yasser Seirawan was stunned: “What we just witnessed was a landmark achievement in chess . . . I absolutely didn’t expect this to happen.”
The event was viewed by millions of chess and computing fans who were able witness the competition live on this Web site, which now serves as the official archive.
Unlike earlier chess playing programs that relied on artificial intelligence (AI) as the primary technology, Deep Blue’s strength coupled AI with advanced storage and compute power. The massively parallel RS/6000 SP-based IBM computer system was designed to play chess at the grandmaster level in a way that could consistently store and analyze many more moves ahead than human players.
Check out the Engineering Pathway’s educational resources on the Kasparov and Deep Blue, artificial intelligence and history of computing. For more educational resources, see our electrical engineering education, computer science education and computer engineering education community pages. The Engineering Pathway also hosts Engineering Education communities in all ABET-accredited disciplines.