opening ceremony with kasparov and x3d at the espnzone in times square

Nov. 7, 2003 – The match was officially opened and all the VIPs were in Times Square. ESPN, which will show over 17 hours of the match live, hosted the opening ceremony at the famous ESPNZone on Broadway. Kasparov expressed optimism and spoke at length about the new challenges presented by X3D Fritz.

It's all on Broadway, the most famous street in the world

X3D CEO Eliot Klein led things off after a short delay. The computer was there but the human star had underestimated midtown traffic! Klein welcomed all the participants and expressed how happy he was that X3D could display their amazing new technology in such a grandiose clash of man and machine.

He was followed by New York City Sports Commissioner Ken Podziba, whose office is sanctioning the match. He described the victory of the machines over man as inevitable, and within five to ten years, a span Kasparov called pessimistic in his view.

L to r: X3D Fritz operator John Fernandez, International Computer Games Association President David Levy, US Chess Federation President Beatriz Marinello, Garry Kasparov, NYC Sports Commissioner Ken Podziba, X3D CEO Eliot Klein

Kasparov, whose extensive comments we'll get to below, was followed by the new President of the United States Chess Federation, Beatriz Marinello. She said she was delighted to see the world's top player back in the USA and she thanked X3D for their tremendous support of chess.

In turn she was followed by computer-chess legend David Levy, who is the president of the International Computer Games Association and is also a chess International Master. The ICGA is officially sanctioning the match. Levy said he was happy Kasparov had taken up his mantle as the defender of human chessplayers against the computer.

Way back in 1968 Levy made a thousand-pound bet that no computer would be able to defeat him in a match in ten years time. He won that bet in 1978 (although he lost one of the five games) and wasn't defeated in a match until 1989.

Levy was followed by a short statement from John Fernandez, who is handling the setup and operation of X3D Fritz during the match. He highlighted how chess is only one of the many functions of X3D technology, alongside gaming, movies, medicine, and fashion.

Garry Kasparov has a great deal of experience both in playing against computers and talking about them. He is excited by the man-machine conflict and also by seeing chess at the cutting edge of technology with X3D. He admitted that playing on the computer's "home turf" of virtual reality, without a normal board and set, is a handicap, but that he was eager to find out just how it affected his play. "We're both going to find out next week!" was his answer to a question about how much his chess would be affected by the new environment.

Kasparov started out by reminiscing about his past matches in New York against computers. Below we bring you the complete transcript of his remarks. Later Kasparov answered some questions from reporters and you'll find those here.

"I played many matches against different computer programs, including one in 1989, a prototype of what became Deep Blue, called Deep Thought at the time. It was of two rapid games that I won handily. Then I did badly here in 1997 against Deep Blue. At the beginning of 2003 I faced another top computer program in New York, Deep Junior, and now I will face X3D Fritz.

As if I didn't have enough problems with computers, now I'm playing in virtual reality. At least the prizes aren't virtual! (Holds up trophy.)

My mind is now bubbling with two problems in one. I have to prepare for a very powerful computer, one of the most dominant software programs. I'll remind you that a year ago Fritz 7 drew in normal circumstances in a classical chess match against Vladimir Kramnik in an eight game match in Bahrain. [Kramnik is the world's #2 ranked player. Interview with him about his match here. –ed.]

Now I'm facing a tougher challenge, because Fritz has been upgraded and one year in computer technology is an eternity. It's more like 20 years by human standards. At the same time I have to get my mind adjusted to virtual reality.

So I'm rushing from normal preparation with a regular screen to a virtual picture X3D screen which has been set-up in my room at the hotel. I have to practice, find the best angle for the pieces, and to make sure that during the three-plus hours my mind will still be functioning, that I won't be losing the pieces!

Kasparov demonstrating the X3D screen with CEO Eliot Klein. There will be one big difference during the match: no mouse! Kasparov will make his moves by speaking and X3D Fritz will move the piece using voice recognition.

"It's a very different experience. I'm quite happy that I'm in this position. Man versus Machine was my dream long ago, to see this as a regular event. To match the best human player against the best computer and to treat this contest as the most important scientific and social experiment of our time. As you know, chess is the only field in which you can match human intuition and creativity against a machine's brute force of calculation, with a result.

Win, lose, or draw, at the end of the day we can compare something we thought was incompatible. The result is quite important, but it's not the top priority. In X3D I found a true partner that cares about the value of the experiment instead of the simple IBM approach of win or lose.

I don't share the very pessimistic prognosis of your Sports Commissioner. But I have to agree with Ken on some grounds. In a few years' time it will be virtually impossible for a human to beat a machine in long match, long match meaning at least four or six games. Anything more than one game for us is almost uncharted waters. No one on this planet can guarantee stable and consistent performance over four-six-eight games. We are all subject to outside interference, a headache, bad weather, family problems, stock-market crash, whatever, and your thoughts will be affected.

The machine doesn't even know if it's winning or losing, or how many games have been played; it plays consistently. So I envision in the future, maybe not the nearest future but in five years from now, that man-machine will be reduced to a simple formula. Can the best human player beat the best machine on his or her best day? That's enough. That's what we have to find out, on the best day, the peak of human performance. If we can win then, we are still prevailing, we are still in business.

Studying the machines I always find enough material to work with, weaknesses and soft spots in the machine's preparation, in the machine's protective shield. But it's getting more and more difficult for a human player to exploit these things. Even if you get an excellent position in the opening or drive the machine into territory where it doesn't feel comfortable, you still have to deliver. And delivery is a major problem, as in any business. But in chess as in any sport, it makes our task most complicated. Human nature isn't built to stay on course for a long time.

When you are on the winning side, one lapse, one tiny inaccuracy, could jeopardize a great performance. Analyzing human games, even the greatest games, the masterpieces, you always find these little inaccuracies. When you are on the winning side you start to lose concentration. On the losing side you start to lose confidence. The machine, whether on the winning side or losing side, doesn't care. It plays consistently. The consistency, delivery, the loss of concentration, those are the biggest enemies of the human player in these challenges.

But all this makes it more exciting. Each time we have to be more creative, each time I have to spend more time analyzing the machine's performance, the software engines that are delivered to us. Obviously in my preparation I'm using computers, trying to predict what will be the machine's reaction in certain situations.

I like to use a “Star Wars” analogy. In the first movie, the only way to destroy the Death Star was to find this one little spot, this weakness, and blow it up. With computers now we are also heading for the same type of exercise. You have to find this very little soft spot and hit it exactly there, not to the left or right. It puts a lot of pressure on my shoulders, on the shoulders of the human player. But at the same time it creates a more exciting competition.

Now that we are moving away from a traditional chess environment, normal sets, wooden boards, clocks, scoresheets, to virtual reality, it creates to some extent a pure contest. It's now man versus machine, with no one in between, no one moving the pieces for it. It's the purest form of this vicious struggle. There is a man and a machine and the machine is invisible and I'm not fooled by an operator who is pretending to be my opponent but really is just the messenger of the machine.

While this makes my thoughts more complicated, I hope this will really launch a new era in chess. Frankly, I'm more concerned about our children. In 10 or 20 years time, when they look at a wooden chess set will they say, “Daddy, on this, you played chess with this? How could you use these pieces, and having to write down the moves on scoresheets and press a clock?”

I think with this experiment we are entering a new world. Virtual reality will be touching our entire world very soon and I'm very proud to be part of this and working with X3D. I'm also proud that chess is again starring as a very important tool to improve our vision of the future."

[ Go to the press conference Q&A with Garry Kasparov ]


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