The first computer programs that could play chess emerged in the 1960s. Although the programs played according to the rules, they were easily defeated. However, as computers became more sophisticated, so too did the games they could be programmed to play. This rapid improvement allows today's computer chess programs to beat today's top players.
Human Versus Computer
In the 1970s, English international master David Levy made a bet with some computer programmers that no computer could defeat him in a chess match within ten years. He won the bet by defeating the best program they could throw at him and renewed the bet for another ten years. He won again. But then computers started to gain some real playing strength, and Levy wisely quit while he was ahead.
In the 1990s, IBM computer scientists developed a chess computer they named Deep Blue. Deep Blue was able to analyze millions of chess positions every second. In 1996, in a highly publicized match, world chess champion Garry Kasparov defeated the computer four games to two. Kasparov faced an improved version of Deep Blue called “Deeper Blue” the following year in a rematch.
In the event marked as the first-ever serious defeat of a world chess champion by a computer, Kasparov won the first game of the rematch, but drew Deeper Blue in games three, four, and five, and lost to Deeper Blue in games two and six. Kasparov, who it is said is capable of analyzing an amazing three positions per second, couldn't overcome Deeper Blue's ability to process 200 million positions per second.
Three positions per second works out to an amazing 180 positions per hour. That's the amount of positions Kasparov supposedly can process. But it isn't his speed so much as his ability to accurately assess each position that makes Kasparov, or any human champion, such a formidable foe of a computer that can look at millions of positions per second but cannot assess them very well.
Other Uses for Chess Computers
Playing chess is not the only thing chess computers can do. A computer is a very sophisticated instrument, and there are programs out there that can teach you how to play chess and coach you to play better chess. There are large databases that store millions of chess games and positions. There are CDs that do all of the above.
There is also the Internet, of course. Chess Web sites abound, and playing over the Internet and via e-mail has become a quite popular modern activity. Computers have made a big impact on the royal game.