The Investor vs. the Machine
By Jack Uldrich
December 12, 2006

Although it received little mention in the popular press, Vladimir Kramnik, the world’s reigning chess champion, was defeated last week 4-2 by the computer Deep Fritz, in a best-of-six-game match.

Advantage computerThe defeat was not really that surprising to me. When Kramnik last met Deep Fritz four years ago, he battled the computer to a 4-4 tie. Since then, however, the computer has only gotten better.

In fact, since 2002, Kramnik’s “Elo” rating — which measures the strength of a chess player — has dropped, while Deep Fritz (an improvement from IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) famous Deep Blue program) increased the number of positions it could calculate per second from 2.7 million to 8 million.

What this meant in more practical terms is that Fritz could now look ahead a full nine moves. In spite of this advantage, Kramnik figured to be competitive because humans still excel at long-range planning. More specifically, he figured to minimize Fritz’s processing advantage by striving for “quiet” positions and exchanging queens early.

Kramnik employed this strategy beautifully in the first game. Alas, he lost his patience in the second game and suffered a humiliating defeat when be blundered into a checkmate, which many analysts immediately ranked as one of the most amateurish moves in the history of competitive chess.

The full article can be read here.

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