Kasparov beats Blues

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CAN a machine sulk? When Deep Blue, the IBM super computer, lost the fifth game of its chess match against Garry Kasparov early yesterday morning, it looked almost as though artificial apathy was the cause. The problem began when Kasparov offered the machine a draw in a roughly level position after 23 moves. On the advice of Deep Blue's consultant, American grandmaster Joel Benjamin, it's operators declined the offer.

It soon became clear that the decision was unwise. Kasparov seemed to take the rejection of a draw as a personal insult. The world's strongest human chess player suddenly threw off the inhibitions that had restrained him since losing the opening game of the match, systematically building up a decisive attack. Deep Blue may have been making a billion calculations every second but, whatever it was thinking about, Kasparov's logical plan seemed not to be part of it. When a black pawn came charging down the centre of the board, it might, as far as Deep Blue was concerned, have flown in from another board. There was no satisfactory way to impede its progress and the computer soon found itself a bishop behind in a hopeless end-game.

Kasparov now leads 3-2, with the final game being played today. After the elation of their win in the opening game, Deep Blue's programmers must now go back to the drawing board. At the very least, they could give it the right to make up its own mind when a human world champion offers it a draw. After yesterday's game, both they and their machine must be feeling deeply blue.