Human Cluster versus Supercomputer Cluster
May 21, 2010 2:21 PM   Subscribe

In the recently concluded World Chess Championship, defending champion Viswanathan Anand successfully defended his title against Veselin Topalov. Now news has come out after the match that Topalov had prepared for the match with the help of an IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer capable of 1 petaFLOPS. Instead of a supercomputer cluster, Anand instead had the help of a human cluster in the form of two ex-World Chess Champions and one likely future World Chess Champion.

Former World Chess Champions Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik and the top ranked chess player in the world Magnus Carlsen all got in touch with Anand to offer their help in preparing Anand for the match, perhaps as payback for Topalov's bad behavior in his 2006 World Chess Championship match with Vladimir Kramnik.
posted by gyc (15 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I saw this and wish I understood. What do the clusters do? Analyze potential moves? Practice Top-gun style against what the opponent is likely to do?
posted by shothotbot at 2:34 PM on May 21, 2010

Human Cluster vs. Supercomputer Cluster
There can be only one.

Wait no never mind. You can have both.
posted by Babblesort at 3:06 PM on May 21, 2010

When Bobby Fischer publicly and repeatedly accused the Russians of cheating against him in his match with Boris Spassky, this was one angle of his accusation: That Spassky had a team of Russian grandmasters analysing the match in progress and presenting Spassky with their analyses each night (the other accusation was that Russian grandmasters threw their matches against Spassky so that he, the chosen Russian champion, could arrive at the final round relatively easily and fresh).
posted by fatbird at 3:25 PM on May 21, 2010

I saw this and wish I understood. What do the clusters do? Analyze potential moves? Practice Top-gun style against what the opponent is likely to do?

Column A and B.

All of Topalov's official games are on record, so you can study the openings he's used, what lines he's likely to play in what situation, and what lines you might bring out against them. If you're a bunch of humans who have played Topalov, you can talk about what he's like psychologically, what throws him, what puts him into time trouble. You make a set of stuff that is generally just referred to as your 'preparation' - your chosen opening, and your set of chosen lines from likely deviations from your main line (main course of moves), and your chosen responses to likely openings if you're black, etc. All world-class chess players have a team like this, and everyone makes preparations. It's just not usually the three best players in the world.

Fatbird, this is pre-game preparation, which is absolutely vital in top-level play. It's much different from what Fischer was accusing Spasski and the Russians of doing.
posted by voronoi at 3:49 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's probably a pretty interesting FPP waiting to be written about Carlsen
posted by p3on at 4:10 PM on May 21, 2010

If memory serves, there is a whole musical about chess players and their "seconds" (as the team which they train with are called).
posted by hippybear at 4:25 PM on May 21, 2010

I'm stuck doing aerodynamic design work on some piddly little cluster that was unimpressive five years ago, and these jokers have one of the fastest machines on the planet and are using it to... play chess? WTF, world?
posted by indubitable at 4:35 PM on May 21, 2010

payback for Topalov's bad behavior in his 2006 World Chess Championship match with Vladimir Kramnik

People unfamiliar with the personalities and talents in this match can think of it as Bjorn Borg beating John McEnroe.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:35 PM on May 21, 2010

So at this level, how much of the game is pre planned? First 10 moves?
posted by shothotbot at 6:48 PM on May 21, 2010

I would say at this level over 20 moves would be the norm.
posted by gyc at 6:50 PM on May 21, 2010

To help with a bit more of the back story, Topalov's (or maybe just his manager's) behavior against Kramnik during the 2006 World Championship made him chess public enemy number 1 (outside of his home, Bulgaria). Accusations of cheating, demanding that whenever Kramnik would go to the restroom during play that someone had to go with him, and so on. Pretty much the entire chess world rallied behind Kramnik rooting for him to win which he did.

In 2008 Kramnik attempted to defend his title (which he originally won from Kasparov) against Anand. Anand has been a great player for a long time but just never quite good enough to win the title (losing to Kasparov once in the '90s even). This time Anand succeeded.

Then we reach 2010 and it's Topalov, again, this time challenging Anand for the title. Chess fans didn't forget 2006 and were once again anti-Topalov (though it should be noted that Anand is popular player in his right). There was some pre-match controversy about delaying the start of the match because of the volcano and Anand's travel plans being borked but they managed to work it out (with Topalov's side threatening to sue, etc.).

So now we look at the people who helped Anand. Magnus Carlsen whom most people think will become the World Champion eventually (in fact I wouldn't be surprised if he is the next one to challenge Anand) called Anand and helped him with preparation. Kasparov also contacted Anand and helped him. Perhaps most surprising was that Kramnik, whom Anand defeated in the previous World Championship, was in daily contact with Anand during the match helping him as well.

Whether all this is because everyone hates Topalov or loves Anand isn't clear but probably some of both. And it was a terrific match with an exciting ending.

That both Kramnik and Anand defeated Topalov feels like good got one over on evil or that there is at least some justice in the world. Or something romanticized like that.
posted by bfootdav at 7:09 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

That interview is fantastic; I can't wait for part 2 to be posted.

And I hope to see a lot more in this thread too. Great stuff.
posted by intermod at 9:23 PM on May 21, 2010

Meatsacks win!

...for now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:20 PM on May 21, 2010

Well I'm no chess expert but Topalov clearly has an Evil Goatee so can't be all good.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:31 AM on May 22, 2010

It should be noted that of course Anand and his team made extensive use of computers during preparation. You can't be a serious competitor in the world of chess without doing so.
posted by bfootdav at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2010

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