Sun Herald, May 13
The much maligned firm Braingames Network must have thought it was on a winner when it announced a match between the BGN World Champion Vladimir Kramnik and the computer program Fritz to be held in Bahrain in October. There has not been a major man versus machine contest since 1997 when Garry Kasparov lost in bizarre fashion to IBM's Deep Blue computer, a match which ended IBM's interest in chess.
Kasparov's human conqueror Kramnik is clearly a worthy choice for a 2001 contest and will receive a $US600,000 fee plus a possible $US400,00 winner's prize.
However the selection of Fritz as Kramnik's opponent has caused enormous heartburn.
Instead of taking the World Computer Champion, Shredder, as Kramnik's challenger, last month BGN organised a qualifying tournament in Spain. Only four programs were invited excluding, amongst others, the powerful Rebel program. Worse still, as BGN might have predicted, two of the four, Deep Blue and Shredder, declined their invitations.
Deep Blue has been discontinued by IBM and its invitation was a token gesture, while Shredder was upset by the conditions which Braingames had set down for the qualifying contest and protested vigorously. Shredder made public many extraordinary contractual requirements which BGN demanded of Shredder but, like Anand's problems with BGN a year earlier, the publicity elicited sympathy but no change in BGN's position.
Eventually Fritz and Junior, both marketed by the German firm ChessBase, played a 24 game match and Fritz won after a tiebreaker.
Clearly sensitive about the commercial windfall which had fallen into their lap, ChessBase have announced that, if they beat Kramnik in the 8 game contest, their $400,000 prize will be used to create a foundation for junior players.
Yet such a gesture, however well intended, cannot overcome the suspicion that Kramnik may be playing the wrong program in October.
1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 Nd7 5.e4 e5 6.Be2 Ne7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Be3 h6
On the immediate 8...f5, 9.Ng5 is strong.
9.Qc2!? f5 10.dxe5 f4?
Norwood had tried a similar pawn sacrifice after 9.Re1 but here 10...dxe5 is necessary.
11.exd6 fxe3 12.dxe7 exf2+ 13.Rxf2 Qxe7 14.Nd5 Qd8
Now Black needs only time to play 15...c6 to enjoy good play. However...
15.e5! c6 16.Qxg6! cxd5 17.Bd3 Rf4 18.Qh7+ Kf8 19.Nd4! 1-0
"10...f4 was a nice idea," said a sheepish Norwood after the game, "but unfortunately it didn't work."