Friday, November 05, 1999
Web game ends on sour note
By Quah Seng Sun
THE Internet chess game between Gary Kasparov and the World has ended after 124 days of play. On a positive note, it was claimed by Microsoft, which hosted the event on its MSN network, that the game attracted more than seven million visitors from 79 countries during the course of the four-month game.
It was a fascinating game which went much better than I had expected. On Oct 8, I wrote about how Kasparov had not managed to gain a clear upperhand, and how the World team had maintained its strategy of active defence, even taking risks during the early stages of the game (see http://http://www5.mol.com.my/qss/Chess/1999/99Oct08.html).
Soon afterwards, however, the event became deeply embroiled in controversy. There were charges that ballot stuffing, delayed move transmissions and computer hacking had denied the World team a draw.
Angry World players, furious at what they saw as the unwillingness of Microsoft to address the problems, then organised a cyber-mutiny by voting for a move that would have given their queen to Kasparov for free. This move had been voted by about 67% of the players but Microsoft refused to accept it and instead chose the next most popular move. Needless to say, this further enraged the World players.
The game, when it started on June 21, had been hyped by Kasparov as "perhaps the most important in the history of chess," but most people, myself included, had expected him to win easily against a disorganised team in which the votes of rank amateurs counted just as much as those of grandmasters.
But the World had an unexpected asset in 15-year-old Irina Krush who is the reigning US women's chess champion and one of four appointed Internet coaches for the game. Her job was to recommend moves for the World players and she had a lot of help from a team of grandmasters in St Petersburg, Russia, and other strong players around the world. As a result, the World put up an unexpectedly tough fight to lead the game into a near equal queen-and-pawn ending.
As an indication of her influence, Krush's recommendations were adopted by the World voters 48 times in the first 50 moves, including every instance after the sixth move.
But in a close vote in a crucial position on Sept 29, her suggestion for the 51st move was rejected in favour of a pawn move that was widely regarded as markedly inferior. The next day, someone calling himself Jose Unodos posted an e-mail saying he had rigged the vote in favour of the pawn move. Hours later, Microsoft officials posted a reply saying they had checked their security procedures and found no flaws.
Nevertheless, Unodos insisted that the 51st move was not the only time his vote stuffing had affected the choice of the World. He claimed he had also been successful in the 19th and 26th moves.
Five days after the vote stuffing claims surfaced, another participant, Martin Sims, revealed that he too had been able to rig the voting. His choice of a ridiculously weak move that would have given up the queen to Kasparov allegedly obtained 4.55% of the votes. Sims said he was not trying to sabotage the game, "but the fact that the move got into the top five choices proves that ballot-stuffing can and almost certainly does occur, and Microsoft's security reassurances are empty."
Things came to a boil on the 58th move when Krush's recommendation was posted late to the Microsoft site, causing the World to choose an inferior move that gave a decisive advantage to Kasparov. Disgruntled World voters rejected Microsoft's explanations for the delay and registered their protest by voting overwhelmingly on the 59th move to give up the black queen. This choice was not accepted by Microsoft which then proceeded to choose the next move from among the voters' choices.
According to Spanish chess journalist Leontxo Garcia writing in El Pais, the majority of the fans became even more upset when Microsoft "would not even let them lose the way they wanted."
However, it must be said that not everyone agreed with all the ruckus made by most of the World players. I, for one, am not impressed with these irresponsible players' plan to sabotage the game one way or another.
Granted that people like Unodos and Sims had a point to prove, but at least the game could continue without the World losing immediately. You just had to accept as a fact of life that there are always hackers on the Internet.
However, when you have a large group of people who plan a most deliberate attempt to throw the game, it becomes objectionable and a great disservice to chess. They may claim that it was their right to give up their queen in a nonsensical way as a sign of protest, but I would support Microsoft, as the host for the game, for rejecting the farcical move immediately. The company had a right to ensure that the game, despite all that happened, would not end so stupidly.
Another chess writer, Michael Greengard, was also critical of the World voters. He said the complexity of this game has been mind-boggling and even teams of grandmasters were unable to find the correct moves.
If anyone should be worried about vote rigging, he said, it would have been Kasparov himself. Three or four times during this game there were votes decided by fewer than 100 voters and all were in favour of the best move for the World.
He claimed that if there had been rigging, it would have been much earlier in the middlegame, and not during a hyper-complex queen's ending that few people understood.
"So now we have a lot of sore losers who do not even realise when the game was lost. Instead of the positive coverage this event deserves, this group of people are now even spamming the media centres to cry about how Microsoft had cheated them," he said.
He added that Microsoft had run this event for far beyond its expected life and budget, advertising it heavily all over the Internet. "It has done wonders for chess awareness and, from what I can tell, been great fun for thousands of people around the world."
Kasparov vs The World
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nc6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.0-0 g6 8.d4 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bg7 10.Nde2 Qe6 11.Nd5 Qxe4 12.Nc7+ Kd7 13.Nxa8 Qxc4 14.Nb6+ axb6 15.Nc3 Ra8 16.a4 Ne4 17.Nxe4 Qxe4 18.Qb3 f5 19.Bg5 Qb4 20.Qf7 Be5 21.h3 Rxa4 22.Rxa4 Qxa4 23.Qxh7 Bxb2 24.Qxg6 Qe4 25.Qf7 Bd4 26.Qb3 f4 27.Qf7 Be5 28.h4 b5 29.h5 Qc4 30.Qf5+ Qe6 31.Qxe6+ Kxe6 32.g3 fxg3 33.fxg3 b4 34.Bf4 Bd4+ 35.Kh1 b3 36.g4 Kd5 37.g5 e6 38.h6 Ne7 39.Rd1 e5 40.Be3 Kc4 41. Bxd4 exd4 42. Kg2 b2 43. Kf3 Kc3 44. h7 Ng6 45. Ke4 Kc2 46. Rh1 d3 47. Kf5 b1=Q 48.Rxb1 Kxb1 49. Kxg6 d2 50. h8=Q d1=Q 51. Qh7 b5 52. Kf6+ Kb2 53. Qh2+ Ka1 54. Qf4 b4 55. Qxb4 Qf3 56. Kg7 d5 57. Qd4+ Kb1 58. g6 Qe4 59. Qg1+ Kb2 60. Qf2+ Kc1 61. Kf6 d4 62. g7 (1-0)
Just for the record, Kasparov announced a forced mate in 25 moves after 62 ... Qc6+ 63. Kg5 Qd5+ 64.Qf5 Qg2+ 65.Qg4 Qd5+ 66.Kh4! Qg8 67.Qf4+ Kc2 68.Qf8 Qh7+ 69.Kg5 Qh2 70.g8(Q) Qg3+ 71.Kf5 Qf3+ 72.Ke6 Qb3+ 73.Kd6 Qb4+ 74.Ke5 Qe1+ 75.Kxd4 Qa1+ 76.Ke4 Qa4+ 77.Ke3 Qa7+ 78.Kf3 Qb7+ 79.Kg3 Qc7+ 80.Qf4 Qxf4+ 81.Kxf4 Kd3 82.Qb3+ Kd4 83.Qb5 Kc3 84.Ke3 Kc2 85.Qb4 Kc1 86.Kd3 Kd1 87.Qd2 mate.
If Black deviates from this line, then checkmate arrives even sooner.
* Kepong Junior Open (Sunday, Nov 7): The parent-teacher association of SJK(C) Kepong Dua, Kuala Lumpur, will hold the sixth Kepong junior open tournament at the school hall. The tournament is divided into the under-8, under-10, under-12 and under-16 categories. The top four winners in each age group will also receive cash prizes, while the next six winners will get consolation prizes. For enquiries, contact Mrs F.L. Wong ( 017-888 2216, 03-636 4197 between 3pm and 10pm).
* Perak Closed (Nov 13-21): The Perak International Chess Association (PICA) will organise the Perak closed championship at the Great World Centre, Jalan Kampar, Ipoh. This will be a nine-round Swiss event with a 1 1/2-hour time control per player for each game. All players residing, working, studying or born in Perak with a state rating of 1,700 and above are eligible to participate in the tournament. Entry fees are RM15 for PICA members and RM20 for non-members. There are 10 cash prizes totalling RM1,000 with the top prize being RM300. The tournament is sponsored by Super Highway Computer (Ipoh) Sdn Bhd. For enquiries, contact W.K. Wong ( 05-366 1692).
* JB Open (Nov 14): The sixth Johor Baru open tournament, jointly organised by the Johor Baru District Chess Club and Johor Land Bhd, will be at the Dewan Menara Komtar. There are three sections in this event: the open, under-16 and under-12. The open section features 10 cash prizes totalling RM1,710 with a first prize of RM500. The winner will also receive the Piala Mentri Besar Johor. The under-16 and the under-12 sections also have 10 cash prizes each. The top prizes for the two sections are RM100 and RM80 respectively. Entry fees are RM20 for the open section, RM7 for the under-16 section and RM5 for the under-12 section. Entries will close on Nov 12; only the first 300 entries will be accepted. For details, contact Narayanan Krishnan ( 07-333 8215 / e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org).
Copyright © 1999. Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd. (Co No. 10894-D)
All rights reserved.