q&a with garry kasparov

Nov. 7, 2003 – After the opening ceremony Garry Kasparov took questions from reporters. A full transcript follows.

Q: Do you prefer to play humans or computers?

That's the most common question I hear. You have to split the two things into separate competitions, you can't mix them. To play a machine is more challenging. It takes much more energy and resilience to face a machine.

Q: You are up against perfection or near-perfection. Can you use this match to raise your own level of play?

A: Yes, I think this kind of game requires a level of perfection that is not required in the normal chess competition. That's why in playing these matches I'm improving my skills and I think that man versus machine contests in general keep me very much alive at age 40 when I'm often playing opponents half my age. It helps me keep my chess abilities intact.

Q: Does playing on a computerized board give X3D Fritz a home-field advantage?

A: I'm not here to complain about the disadvantages of the situation I'm in, but it's a huge advantage. Well, not an advantage for the machine but a disadvantage for the human player. It's very difficult to communicate this message to the outside world. For example, if I ask for 30 minutes extra time on my clock, which could be probably fair compensation, then it's obvious. “Oh, the human player has more time, it's a handicap.” But this is also a tremendous handicap.

No one knows how the human mind will react after three, four, or five hours if it's a long game. I'm practicing now but I don't spend more than an hour moving the pieces. After three or four hours my mind could be rebelling against this unusual situation with the board. Over the years, even decades, the 25 years of my professional chess career, I am used to moving the pieces, writing the moves on a scoresheet.

So it's all an environment, the framework of the game that my mind is used to working with. Suddenly it's totally different. I hope that I will adjust myself and be able to work with the voice-activated system, the screen, the different angles, the joystick, all these elements. There are too many elements of non-mind games going on while I'm still struggling with the most dominant chess program in the world.

Q: What lessons did you learn from the Deep Junior match?

A: That match was entertaining but it was a great learning exercise as well. It was the first time I could actually prepare for the match with the same seriousness and the same depth I normally have for human players. Unlike in the match against IBM's Deep Blue, which was an enigma, a mystery with no information and everything was guarded, with Deep Junior there was a history.

In preparing for the match I could track down all the games going back to the origin. I could analyze not only the recent performance of the computer but also go back what I call the genetic trail of the computer. Each program has its past, its decision-making past, and they are all quite different. Each has certain characteristics that do not change. By analyzing these games I could try to predict the machine's reaction in certain situation. I have to tell you that I was quite successful in doing this in the Deep Junior match. It was due to a very bad blunder in game three that I was not able to win the match. If you look at the games I had a strategic initiative, I had it against the ropes if I can use that expression.

I hope that I can use that same experience in preparing for X3D Fritz. I have access to hundreds and hundreds of games played by Fritz, older versions, against humans and other computers. It gives me enough information to create a picture, an image of my opponent. I have to tell you that a machine's chess style is more precise, more persistent in its habits than a human's. Every human player is flexible, trying to shift from one type of position to another. A machine's set of priorities is fixed. That's why if you understand this, its decision-making pattern, you can try to come up with a good prediction of what the machine will do in a new situation.

Q: How much of an effect will the virtual reality environment have on your play?

A: That's the sixty-four thousand dollar question! I don't know! I've been playing with a regular chess set all my life. I don't know how important it is to my mind. I hope the answer won't be a negative one. I think it's very important to be in the same environment as always, so this change is part of the competition. It doesn't affect our thinking process directly, but I have a suspicion that there is a certain psychological connection, and we'll find out. After four games, or even after one game, I can tell you how much negative pressure this new environment has on my performance.

Q: What relevance, interest do you have in using this X3D system in a match?

A: I think from the very beginning it was important to show that chess is on the cutting edge of new technologies. It's a natural development. We played with computers and now we are moving further. As much as I would like to see chess as the battlefield between silicon and humans, I'd like to see chess on the cutting edge again and building the bridge from the normal world to virtual reality.

It also carries enormous promotional value and I'm grateful to ESPN that all the games will be carried live on television. It will be a truly historic event for chess. I hope that these four shows on ESPN, especially on the one on Sunday, will mark a shift from “public oblivion” to the mainstream of public interest.

I believe chess has tremendous values and can be built into a great show, but we've never had a chance to prove it. But thanks to this X3D technology we have the opportunity to attract the leading sports television channel in the world and to start building this bridge to the millions of people who are playing chess but never had a chance to visualize it on the big screen.

Q: How many games are you going to win?

A: Well, in 1997 I wasn't successful and earlier this year it was a draw, so I hope it's ascendant, that this time I should do better!


other news

Opening ceremony
Meet the match commentators
About X3D technology
Experts and fans predict the result of the match
About Garry Kasparov
About X3D Fritz
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