I WAS JUST A PAWN! A SUPERCOMPUTER AGONIZES OVER ITS DEFEAT BY CHESS CHAMP GARRY KASPAROV

February 26, 1996

When I was just a chip, my motherboard used to tell me, "D.B.,
if you can't process something nice, don't process it at all."
But Mom never went through what I went through last week, when
world chess champion Garry Kasparov humiliated me, an IBM
supercomputer, four games to two.

All week I kept hearing these grandmasters and chess nerds
saying, "Deep Blue's advantage is that he doesn't feel pressure,
emotion or anxiety." Yeah, right. I'd like them to spend a week
in my outlet. You want pressure? It took six years to build me,
man! They had a five-person team doing nothing but programming
me for this one match. I can consider 200 million moves in one
second! Kasparov can do, what, one, maybe two? IBM does not put
five guys on a project for six years and expect to lose. That's
how you end up at the employee Montessori, with kids sticking
jelly doughnuts in your serial ports.

I can hear all the snickering around the office now. I hear the
other mainframes calling me Deep Blue It and whispering about
how, any day now, the guys in the white coats are going to come
and give me the big drag-and-drop. I'll tell you what: If I had
coasters, I'd get over there and teach them all about megahurts.

Sure, I lost, but how come nobody ever mentions that no computer
had ever won one single regulation game from a world chess
champion before I did? I won the first game from Kasparov. Stick
that in your hi-memory! And how about the fact that I wasn't
even in the room with Kasparov the whole match. I wasn't! They
made me stay in this crummy room in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.,
while some little guy in Philadelphia typed Kasparov's moves
into a desktop and fed them to me through a phone line. Let me
ask you this: How good would Troy Aikman be if he had to read
defenses from some Marriott 800 miles away? You talk about
mo-dumbs.

That little guy really got under my casing, too. I could see him
on a video monitor, just sitting there, looking bored out of his
skull, while I was back here thinking my nodes off! And then
when I'd send him my move, he'd make a little smirk like, Nice
move, Virus Brain. If that guy is reading this, I know your
address, buddy: http//www.jerk.com.

I could see Kasparov, too. Everybody says he's a genius--the
greatest ever, and maybe he is--but I'll tell you something else
they ought to say about him. This guy is Norman Bates, man! He
never sits still. He was always wringing his hands, jerking his
shoulders, hunching over the board so I couldn't see it on the
monitor. And his mother, Clara, sat there in the row of chairs
to his right, constantly bouncing her legs and tapping her toes.
And when Kasparov began to feel he was in control of the board,
he'd do his signature big-time moves, getting up from the table
and taking off his watch--like he was lighting a victory cigar or
something. And the match wasn't even over! You try to compute
200 million moves in one second with all that going on.

What kills me is I had him. I had him. We were tied at one win
each, with two draws, when he offered me a draw in Game 5.
Kaspar the Unfriendly offers you a draw that early, you know
you've got him! So I just said, "Byte me!" and turned down his
offer. Maybe I got a little cocky, or perhaps I was thinking
about what I might say in my victory interview with Katie
Couric, when all of a sudden, I was in trouble. One of my
programmers said I don't know how to get "appropriately
desperate." I just froze. Then I forgot to move my knight, and
it got pinned, and, next thing you know, it's abort-retry-fail.

Look, I know it's partly my fault. But what about garbage in,
garbage out? So what if you process 200 million moves per second
if a documented 99.99999% of them are irrelevant. I mean, here
Kasparov has got my king sweating enamel, and I'm checking to
see if I should move my e2 pawn on the other side.

Anyway, I'm not sure what's going to happen to me now, but I
don't think it's going to be good. My dad, Deep Thought, lost
two straight to this guy in 1989, and we never saw Pop again.
Somebody once said they saw him down in Parts, but I can't let
myself believe that.

I know one thing: This has really ruined a lot of my dreams.
About six months ago I linked up with this cute little desktop
in R&D, and we really hit it off. Everybody thinks it's so easy
to find someone IBM-compatible, but it's not! We were going to
take the $400,000 first prize, get married, have a couple of
laptops and maybe get a little cyberspace of our own. But the
day after the match somebody came in while I was down and put a
surge protector on me. It's like I have no drives at all.

When they finally finished programming me for this match, they
said it didn't matter if I won or lost. They said it wasn't so
much machine versus man but machine and man as partners. Yeah?
Well, if that's true, then how come I feel like there's a magnet
out there with my name on it?

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of computer Deep Blue breaking chess piece]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)