In Game 4 over the
Labor Day weekend, with his lead having grown to 2�-� by virtue of another
victory, Levy decided to play the machine on its own terms—and got stung. He
chose a risky Latvian Gambit, stuck with it, and lost in 56 moves. For the
first time in hand-to-transistor combat, a computer had beaten an international
In the fifth game
Levy went back to his normal style and closed out the match 3�-1� to win the
bet. At 33 he is an anomaly—a player of less than grandmaster status who can
make both a living and a reputation from the game. Trained in math, statistics
and physics at St. Andrews University, Levy has written three books on computer
chess, owns two publishing houses and is working on a business deal that, he
asserts, will be a "tremendous worldwide success." Levy is an engaging
raconteur with a dry sense of humor, whose wide range of interests includes
both music and poker. "I enjoy playing poker more than chess," he
confesses. "It has as much content and more psychology."
But computer chess
remains his entree to celebrity. "In 10 years computers will beat
grandmasters," he says. Others disagree, pointing out that Bobby Fischer
has recently annihilated one of the world's best, the MIT Greenblatt program.
These critics assert that chess is too creative to be conquered by
chess-playing computers are here to stay. Small models now on the market can be
set to play beginners or intermediates up to the 1300 level (an expert is rated
at 2000 or above). Another machine teaches end games.
So far, humans
have withheld part of the game from the computer, the act of moving the pieces.
David Slate, one of 4.7's programmers, could change all that. He is working on
the ultimate chess computer—a human-sized robot that will move the pieces
itself. "Now that," says Levy, "would be unnerving."