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Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion Hardcover – October 6, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1997, a computer developed by a team of researchers at IBM shocked the world by defeating world chess champion Gary Kasparov in a six-game match. Hsu began developing Deep Blue, the first computer to achieve such a feat, as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. Here he focuses on the events in his career that led to his involvement with the project. He tells the story of how the basic technical ideas took shape in the computer science department and describes the further evolution and culmination of the project at IBM. Not merely a rehashing of the engineering that was poured into creating the "mother of all chess machines," Hsu's account goes beyond the typical man vs. machine angle and attempts to capture the true essence of the contest between men in two distinct roles: Kasparov as performer and Hsu's team as toolmaker. The result is an intelligent, well-written account of a milestone in the history of computer science that stands out from the other books on Deep Blue. Recommended for general readers attracted to the history of chess and computing.
Joe J. Accardi, William Rainey Harper Coll. Lib., Palatine, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Scientific American

It was l949 when the eminent mathematician Claude E. Shannon suggested how to program a computer to play chess. "At that time, many renowned computer scientists believed that the Computer Chess Problem-- creating a chess computer that could beat the World Champion-- would be solved within a few years." It was, in fact, 48 years before the IBM computer Deep Blue-- capable of searching 200 million possible chess positions per second-- defeated world champion Garry Kasparov. Hsu, now a research scientist at the Western Research Lab of Compaq Computer, was the system architect for Deep Blue. He makes an exciting tale of computer chess evolution and the Kasparov match. Is Deep Blue intelligent? No, Hsu says: "It is only a finely-crafted tool that exhibits intelligent behavior in a limited domain."

Editors of Scientific American

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691090653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691090658
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Hsu tells a very fascinating story.
Tim B
Besides the interesting story behind the creation of the Deep Blue chess computer, this book tells the real story of the matches between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov.
Book Lover Bob
As the author points out, it is not a book on chess analysis and that seems obvious.
Randy Given

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you were around during the famous cold-war chess match between Fisher and Spassky in 1972, you will remember what a media event the match proved to be. It was not the most significant match of the century, though. That designation more fittingly belongs to the 1997 battle between Garry Kasparov and the computer Deep Blue. Now there is an engrossing history of how the match came to be, told by Feng-Hsiung Hsu, who founded the Deep Blue project, _Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion_ (Princeton University Press). We know the outcome of the final match, but even so, this is an exciting story. It would help to be at least slightly conversant with chess rules, in order to understand some of the drama of the final battle, but this is not essential any more than knowing about the design of silicon chips, which was Hsu's particular role. This is less a technical account than a recollection of a very human endeavor.
Hsu was a computer science graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, having emigrated from Taiwan in 1982. A member of the Artificial Intelligence faculty asked him in 1985 to help with the design of a chess machine. Hsu and his team, approached the task as an engineering challenge, not as an attempt at artificial intelligence. He took the project with him when he finished academia and moved to IBM. The engineering challenges spelled out here over a fifteen year period are enormously complicated. In the eventual machine, "...every single one of those 36,000 transistors for the chess move generator was drawn by hand on a computer. I also hand routed every single wire on the chip." The climax of the book, of course, is the 1997 six game rematch, played on a Deep Blue that could hunt out 200 million moves in a second.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tim B on December 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Deep Blue-Kasparov matches were what pushed me from being someone who knows how to play chess, into a serious tournament chess player 5 years ago. I found the matches to be fascinating, as did the media who put the results of the matches on the front pages of newspapers such as USA Today. I also happen to be a computer science major, who works full time as a software engineer. This book for me was the perfect blend of my two main interests in life - chess and computers.
Hsu tells a very fascinating story. It is not just about chess and computers however. It is the story of a young immigrant who comes to the US to study, and ends up doing something that is of a major historical significance in the minds of many people.
This book was a real page turner. I did not want to put it down. I thought the path leading Hsu to work on chess programs was fascinating. He made a suggestion to the leading computer chess professor who did not like it. This inspired him to implement the idea. It was a case of several things coming together, which ended up leading to the creation of a great computer project.
Hsu's story of hard work was very inspiring. I liked how he did not consider the match to be "man vs machine", but man as a toolmaker vs man as a performer. If you found the Deep Blue matches interesting, you will certainly enjoy this book.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Taiwanese-born Feng-Hsiung Hsu has written a most engaging and readable account of how Deep Blue came to be, and how it defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov in perhaps the greatest chess match of all time. I say "perhaps" because there are many who still consider the 1972 encounter at Reykjavik, Iceland between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky to be the greatest match ever. One thing both matches had in common, in addition to a worldwide audience, is two deeply suspicious and idiosyncratic geniuses, Kasparov and Fischer.

However, while Fischer's triumph rejuvenated interest in chess, especially in the US, Kasparov's defeat, many fear, may have rung the death knell for the ancient game. Before Deep Blue's victory, it was easy to imagine that the human mind was light-years ahead of any artificial intelligence. After Kasparov slunk off mumbling vague charges of human intervention ("cheating"), it became necessary to face the possibility that machine intelligence was on its way to exceeding that of humans.

But what did the match really prove? According to Hsu himself, the triumph of Deep Blue "might be the more important human achievement when all was said and done." (p. 256) By a "more important human achievement," he means, more important than the one that would have been Kasparov's had he won.

This I think is the crux of the matter. Deep Blue, an IBM computer of enormous power, is the product of human minds and human engineering. Look at it this way: as computers become more and more powerful and their algorithms become more and more sophisticated, there will be no thought at all that a human might compete with them at chess. It would be like expecting the world's fastest human to beat a motor car in a race.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sally on September 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Amazon says it is published in November, but I picked up a copy in September. Anyway, this is an excellent book. The story intrigued me but I was a litlle nervous that the computing and chess would be way over my head (I know little about either). However, the author does a great job of telling a story and the few more technical paragraphs can be skipped without losing anything. In addition to describing big leaps in technology, the book is full of tales of professional rivalries, backbiting, prima donna behaviour and lots of battling male egos. Great stuff. Couldn't put it down, particularly when the book got to the matches with Kasparov - although I knew the result the re-telling made it seem like you were there. The author won't win prizes for literature, but he certainly knows how to tell a good story. You'll love this book.
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