I have had the pleasure of reading this seminal book by world chess champion Garry Kasparov. As the name makes it obvious, this book was mainly about Kasparov’s two matches with IBM Deep Blue supercomputer. As the reigning world champion at the time, Kasparov was the man to beat for intelligent machines to prove that they can in fact beat the best human brain. Kasparov, no stranger to Chess machines already, was more than happy to take on this challenge. The book was essentially a record of evolution of chess engines and artificial intelligence and Kasparov did a great job narrating the story both as an objective observer and as a participant in the experiment.
We have all read anecdotes about Kasparov being a rude and often combative man, and a very sore loser. In this book he admits to his unpleasant behavioral traits and also tries to explain why he was react very poorly to his losses. Having said that, the rest of his personality is a delightful study. He has a very curious mind and a worldly attitude unlike the many chess geniuses we know of. That is probably why he has excelled in many other avenues outside of chess and built a successful post-chess career in writing and speaking engagements. His curious nature has helped him explore the early chess machines and then collaborate with some of the cutting edge game software at the time, Fritz. He explained with great enthusiasm how he has always welcomed the idea of machines into the chess world, hoping that they will improve the chess standards around the world.
What I liked most about the book was that it was a surprisingly rich in details about the background of the chess world and the computer revolution of the last century. If the book was solely about Artificial intelligence, or Chess, it would have been a fairly boring affair. But what made this book work for me was how the advances in AI and Intelligent computers was narrated in the context of Chess. That made all the difference an made for a compelling read. This is what the ace movie director James Cameron did with The Titanic. If the movie was just about the great ship and its destined tragedy, it would have become a boring documentary. If it was solely about the love story of the imaginary couple, it would be just another love story. However, Cameron interspersed the two unrelated threads and weaved a spectacular story. He told the story of the Titanic using the unlikely love story of a young couple.
Kudos to Gary Kasparov for writing this compelling book. I do not want to give away much about the content of the book itself. I don’t want to spoil the joy of reading it firsthand. Kasparov’s honesty in admitting his flaws, and his explanation of how and why he lost to Deep Blue in their second match up was pretty extraordinary. To top it all off, the book rather eases our concerns about technology and intelligent machines become too big and powerful for mankind. Kasparov tries to make the case that in collaboration with intelligent machines, adding our human perspective,creativity and intuition to the computing power, we should be able to solve great many problems facing mankind. Coming from the mind that held the world chess championship for so long, those words sure are reassuring.
A very worthy book, definitely recommend reading. Can be found at Amazon in various formats.