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Garry Kasparov is arguably the greatest chess player who has ever lived. In 1997 he played a chess match against IBM's computer Deep Blue. Kasparov lost the match. This film shows the match and the events surrounding it from Kasparov's perspective. It delves into the psychological aspects of the game, paranoia surrounding it and suspicions that have arisen around IBM's true tactics. It consists of interviews with Kasparov, his manager, chess experts, and members of the IBM Deep Blue team, as well as original footage of the match itself. Written by
I was very much entertained by this film, which I saw at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. I was also disappointed; it lacked the objectivity I expect in a documentary. Overall it presented too much imagery, and not enough facts to satisfy my desire to know more about what "really happened" during May of 1997.
The film recounts the 1997 chess rematch between Gary Kasparov and IBM's "Deep Blue" computer. Much of the film describes and investigates the aftermath of one key event that occurred during the match. During the second game, the computer played a chess move that surprised the entire chess community, including Kasparov. Kasparov was in disbelief a computer would be capable of the style of play corresponding with the move, and lost the game. Afterwards he accused the IBM team of cheating (through human intervention). IBM denied the accusation.
While this film will be of particular interest to chess fans, I believe it is still accessible to those without chess knowledge (I know the rules and have played some games of chess so I could be mistaken). Any chess understanding necessary to understand the critical "move" is explained by various people in non-chess terms. In my option, the interesting stuff is not on the chess board anyway.
Kasparov really fills the screen. He is certainly very engaging. As too are most of the other people he shares the screen with.
Throughout the film, scenes are connected with images invoking an 18th century chess playing machine called "The Turk". This "machine" is now known to be an illusion; a human operator was making the decisions during games. Other scenes are connected with short haunting stills of hallways, presumably at the IBM research centre where "Deep Blue" was created.
I found these scenes to be tiresome after the third iteration. In the case of "The Turk", I don't know if they were intended to reflect the "mystery" of the cheating accusation, but as some of the images clearly show a human operating the machine, it left little room for doubt in my mind that these were intended to in some way support the cheating accusation. In the case of the "spooky hallways" images, again, they suggested to me that the filmmaker supports in some sense the accusation.
I wish more time was spent presenting the IBM side - especially more screen time with Joel Benjamin, the chess expert on the IBM team most qualified to defend IBM's assertion that the machine was capable of playing as it did during the second game of the match.
After the film's screening, the director, Mr. Vikram Jayanti answered some questions from the audience. During this session, he first made it clear he had no option if IBM "cheated" or not. In answering a subsequent question, while not directly stating it, his comments made it seem that he did in fact think IBM cheated. This pretty much reflected what I experienced during the movie. I wished if he really thought that IBM cheated, he would have been more clear, and more fully explored the facts.
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