Friday, October 8, 1999
Against Kasparov, the world survives
By Quah Seng Sun
GARY Kasparov is perhaps the only chess player who can truly proclaim: "been there, done that." He became the youngest world chess champion at 22 years old, broke with the World Chess Federation (Fide) over the running of the world championship series, yet - paradoxically still embracing certain Fide programmes like the Chess Olympiad - became the highest rated player in the annals of chess, and twice played with the world's strongest chess computer, IBM's Deep Blue.
Just when it seemed that there were no more mountains for Kasparov to climb, he embarked on a project in June to play a chess game on the Internet against the Rest Of The World.
On July 2, when commenting on this project, I wrote in this column that Kasparov was embarking yet again on another publicity stunt.
I had expected the game to last about two months with Kasparov scoring a quick knockout punch. I was very confident that Kasparov, with his vast experience, would not lose the game. And I said that The World, with its many cooks, diversions and opinions, would not be able to agree on the best moves and would eventually spoil the soup.
Today, almost four months later, the game is still going on. I am surprised that Kasparov has not managed to gain a clear upperhand. The revelation so far is that The World has maintained its strategy of defending resourcefully, even taking risks during early stages of the game, and will most probably draw it!
Recently, I received a very interesting e-mail from a reader, Soo Ching Pin, who chided me for my dismissive comments. Let me reproduce the salient points:
"I remember that after the game was started on the Internet, in your column you dismissed the whole thing as a publicity stunt by Kasparov. You thought that the game might be rather dull as you did not believe that The World team could put up a consistently good fight. From the tone of your writing I did not expect you to take an active part in the game, if at all.
"Having followed the game since it started, with the exception of a few moves which I could not participate in as I was outstation at the time, I find the game an entertaining and interesting one so far. I will give you the moves that have been played so far so that you can judge for yourself.
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.d4cxd4 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
"To find out Kasparov's 53rd move, as well as to vote on The World's reply, visit (http://www.zone.com/Kasparov/TodaysMove.asp).
"On voting days, votes will be accepted online between 3am and 9pm Malaysian time. On non-voting days, The World's response can be checked practically at any time. Only the percentages of votes received by the main candidate moves will be posted. So far, the closest approach to a unanimous vote (even for a forced move) has been 98+%. The narrowest vote so far was decided by a margin of less than half a percentage point. So these votes have not all been dull and predictable affairs.
"We are now in a complicated end-game, and the World Team can use all the help it can get. As a knowledgeable chess writer, if you are not already on the team, your contributions from this point onwards would certainly be welcome. There is a forum which you can access from the above webpage where The World team discusses strategy against Kasparov.
"Incidentally, at this point I think the best The World can hope for is a draw against the world champion, but let's at least give him a good fight while we're at it!
"Thank you for your time. Keep up the good work in your column."
Well, Soo, thank you for your feedback and opinion. For your information, although I had not written about the game since July, I have been following its progress occasionally. I have to concede that it has been very interesting. Let me make a few observations.
It is widely accepted that 10...Qe6 was a surprising move that took the game into uncharted territory. The former world champion accepted the challenge to win the exchange (rook for knight) but he also had to give up two pawns in the process. The World played vigorously to keep an even keel and, after the queens went off the board, much depended on how both sides could carry out ideas on the opposite sides of the board.
By the time the new queens appeared, Kasparov found himself down a pawn. Nevertheless, I still do not foresee him losing the game. He has an active king and a more dangerous pawn remaining on the board. Perhaps The World can find a quick way to force a draw by continually putting Kasparov's king in check.
I still maintain that the whole idea of this chess game is a publicity stunt. It is good publicity - there is no doubt about it - but the worldwide response to the game in the past four months remains unknown.
The official website does not mention the number of people who actually voted on each of The World's moves; only the voting percentages are given. Without such figures, it is open to speculation whether interest or participation in this project has waxed or waned.
But what a stunt it has been so far. I think The World has played admirably. No matter how the game ends eventually, everyone who takes part will be a winner.
The Kuala Beliat Chess Association and the Brunei Shell Recreation Club are jointly organising a one-day open chess tournament at the BSRC in Seria, Brunei.
This is a nine-round event which will be played using a 15-minute time control per player for each game. The first round on Oct 24 will start at 10am and the final round is expected to conclude by 5.30pm.
There are five cash prizes with B$300 (RM750) going to the winner; the second prize is B$200 (RM500) and the third prize B$100 (RM250), while the fourth and fifth prizes are B$75 (RM187) and B$50 (RM125) respectively. In addition, the top three winners shall receive trophies.
Entry fee is B$10 (RM25) per player. Registration closes on Oct 23. For more information on the event or accommodation, e-mail Leong Voon Choon of the BSRC at (firstname.lastname@example.org); or contact him at 673-3-373 612 (office hours) or 673-3-333 157 (after office hours).
(Seria is about one-and-a-half hours drive from Miri which has an active chess community of its own.)
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