Today in History: World Chess Champion is Humbled by a Computer

Today in History: World Chess Champion is Humbled by a Computer

by M.C. Millman

On February 10, 1996, then-world chess champion Garry Kasparov lost the first game of a six-game chess match against Deep Blue, an IBM computer. 

While this may not seem surprising in today's world of artificial intelligence, in 1996, Deep Blue was the first computer capable of evaluating 200 million moves per second. 

The match in  Philadelphia was a monumental moment in chess history. It attracted massive media attention, with an estimated 6 million people following the action. According to, the match appealed to chess players, scientists, computer experts, and the general public. 

Even with the immense computing capabilities of Deep Blue, Kasparov was ultimately victorious over the machine, with three wins and two ties in the six-game match. Kasparov took home the $400,000 winning prize. 

A rematch was held in NYC in 1997 between an enhanced Deep Blue and Kasparov. Deep Blue was victorious this time over Kasparov, winning by 3½–2½. A record was set for the first computer program to defeat a world champion in a match under tournament regulations, inspiring the documentary "Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine."

According to IBM, these matches were more than just a game. IBM said, "Deep Blue had an impact on computing in many different industries." 

Because the machine was programmed to solve the complex, strategic game of chess, researchers could explore and understand the limits of massively parallel processing. The development of Deep Blue provided insight into the design of a computer to tackle problems in other fields. 

According to IBM, the architecture used in Deep Blue was significant for computer science, "pushing forward the ability of computers to handle the kinds of complex calculations needed to help discover new medical drugs; do the broad financial modeling needed to identify trends and do risk analysis; handle large database searches; and perform massive calculations needed in many fields of science."

IBM also said that the Deep Blue project inspired the even greater challenge of building the machine named Watson, which beat champions at the game Jeopardy!. Watson had software that could process and reason about natural language, demonstrating that a whole new generation of human-machine interactions would be possible. 

In 2003, Kasparov battled another computer called Deep Junior, which ended in a tie. Kasparov retired from professional chess in 2005, and Deep Blue was retired to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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