Exploring the Epic Chess Match of our Time


I LOVE CHESS... and so I love this short documentary from the archives on FiveThirtyEight

Nate Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight, describes chess as a “mental decathlon”.

In order to be good at it, you need an extraordinary combination of creativity, strategy, logic and raw intelligence. Since the advent of computers and artificial intelligence, chess has been seen as a barometer by which commuter intelligence can be gauged against human intelligence. Man had been able to play chess and complete other complicated actives that were unique to man alone for centuries…but computers were, without doubt, beginning to catch up.

In 1997, IBM brought together the greatest chess grandmaster of all time, Gary Kasparov, and the IBM supercomputer, Deep Blue. This was a rematch from a year earlier when Kasparov had beaten Deep Blue. Following a year’s worth of hard work and effort from the Deep Blue team to improve the computer’s chess playing ability, this rematch was now a huge global event. It interested people beyond the world of chess billed as the ultimate showdown of Man versus Machine. As FiveThirtyEight asks:

Who has primacy — a tangle of circuits and silicon, or a reasoning, feeling human being?

FiveThirtyEight Signals Series and ESPN Films follow the drama of the rematch in 1997. This fascinating short documentary, titled The Man vs The Machine, followed the nine-day, six game epic showdown to decide who was the greatest chess player on the planet and whether a man was still smarter than a machine.

Edward Playfair