• Dan Rattiner

Ludicrous Speed: IBM Computer Breakthrough, Sycamore vs. Google

What if chess master Garry Kasparov faced the computers of today?

First seen on Dan's Papers - November 8, 2019

Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Google announced a few weeks ago a huge breakthrough in computing. Their scientists have created a computer that can solve problems in just a few minutes that any other computer would take 10,000 years to accomplish. After the announcement, IBM said they had a computer named Sycamore that could do essentially the same thing. Anyway, Google sent out a picture with their announcement. Their computer is about five feet tall.

It put me in mind of the chess game played in 1997 between Russian chess master Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue, the supercomputer that IBM had created to beat Kasparov that year. Kasparov, at that time, was not only the reigning world chess champion, he also at that time had the highest rating ever for beating opponents. His rating was even higher than Bobby Fischer’s.

Also, Kasparov had beaten everything that IBM could throw against him before he faced Deep Blue. Over the years, IBM scientists created ever more powerful computers, and as time went by, he triumphed over every one of them, although, it must be said, by an ever-decreasing margin.

Then came the Big Blue challenge. This time IBM felt confident they had him. Kasparov and Deep Blue struggled through a series of games, the first won by Kasparov and the second won by Big Blue and the next three ending in a draw, but in the end Big Blue emerged victorious.

Kasparov’s reaction to this was unprecedented. Shaken and angry, he claimed IBM had cheated and asked for a rematch, which IBM declined and then dismantled Deep Blue.

Well, now IBM has this new computer. If this new computer, Sycamore, were to be placed in a chair to play a game of chess against Kasparov, here is what I think would happen.

Kasparov would sit down, begin contemplating his opening move and, at that point, even before Kasparov made his opening move, Sycamore would say “checkmate.”

That’s how fast Kasparov would be beaten.