GARRY KASPAROV WAS FUMING. The world chess champion had just been beaten badly and was complaining that the match conditions were unfair. That was last October, and Kasparov, now 34, had just had his clock cleaned by three players—among them Natan Sharansky, Israel’s Minister of Industry and Trade, and a 14-year-old boy—whom he was playing as part of an exhibition pitting him against 25 simultaneous competitors.
That loss—and Kasparov’s sore-headed postmortem—barely made the newspapers. But when he lost to the IBM RS/6000 SP supercomputer Deep Blue in last week’s much-hyped match in Manhattan—again, alas, less than graciously—it threw some commentators into a tizzy. After all, if a computer can beat Garry Kasparov, they reasoned, how long can it be before one, say, launches all the missiles in the world or gets its own late-night talk show?
None of the five scientists on the IBM team that programmed the $2 million, 1.4-ton Deep Blue—giving it the power to analyze 200 million chess moves per second—seems worried. “The machine is just a machine to us,” says team leader C.J. Tan. “People give it more meaning than we do.”
And computer people aren’t to be confused with sports fans. After Kasparov resigned in the final game, the IBM-ers had a quiet dinner. No high fives. No dancing in the end zone. They didn’t need to. As Joel Benjamin, a chess grand master who helped the machine beat the man, said earlier, “It’s Dr. Deep Blue now.”