Next month, the World Chess Championship will be played in New York City between the reigning champ, 25-year-old Magnus Carlsen, and 26-year-old Sergey Karjakin, who still holds the record as the youngest person to become a grandmaster at the age of 12. At stake? A prize pool of over $2 million dollars.
Not bad for a game that’s over 1,500 years old.
It was nearly 20 years ago that Garry Kasparov, the then World Champion of Chess and by consensus the dominant player in the world at the time, resigned in game 6 of his famous match versus IBM’s Deep Blue. The “Man vs. Machine” contest had ended in victory for the machine. And since then, computers have only gotten better.
You might think computer dominance would be the beginning of the end of chess, but you’d be wrong. Chess is undergoing something of a renaissance, and that’s thanks to – not in spite of — the ability of computers to beat the toughest human opponents.
“Cars can outrace humans but humans still run against each other,” Chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley told me. “I think people are thrilled to watch humans play each other. Part of that thrill is the errors — it’s not about perfection. It’s about how to come back from mistakes.”
To avoid those mistakes, people are taking advantage of the power of computers to train them to play better chess.