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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Kasparov’

The Grandmaster Hoax

March 28, 2012 | by

In September 2006, the World Chess Championship devolved into a debate about bathrooms. One champion, Veselin Topalov, accused the other, Vladimir Kramnik, of excessive urination, hinting that Kramnik was retreating to the unmonitored bathroom to receive smuggled computer assistance. (Kramnik responded that he merely drank a lot of water.) Kramnik was eventually declared the victor, but to many, the episode displayed the sad state that the grand game had fallen into since Garry Kasparov lost to IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997. Back then, Kasparov was bitter about the loss and accused IBM of cheating—with human intervention, saying that he saw uncanny human intelligence in the computer’s moves.

Even that incident, though, was not the first time the line between man and machine had been blurred in the game. The first machine to awe humanity with its chess mastery was the eighteenth-century life-size automaton known as the Turk. Constructed in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen to impress Empress Maria Theresa, the Turk appeared as a wooden Oriental sorcerer seated at a large cabinet. Before playing commenced, Kempelen would open the cabinet doors to reveal the clockwork machinery that controlled the Turk. The audience could see that there was nothing else inside. After the doors were closed and a challenger seated, the Turk would come eerily to life. He would move the pieces robotically, but shake his head or tap his hand in human displays of annoyance or pride. He also nearly always won.

The Turk became a spectacular attraction, thrilling, baffling, and terrifying viewers across Europe and America for decades. Read More »


Staff Picks: Literary Video Games, Return of ‘Spy’ Magazine

February 18, 2011 | by

The other evening at East Village Books I picked up a used copy of Dawn Powell’s 1936 novel, Turn, Magic Wheel, stopped at Second Avenue and Seventh, and settled in to the opening scene ... only to realize that I’d been walking in the footsteps of the writer-hero, Dennis Orphen—and that he, too, had just come to a halt at Second and Seventh. I half expected him to walk in the door. Powell has a way of collapsing the decades between one literary New York and another. Orphen’s sin, to have used a friend as material, is as old as his profession and feels as fresh as Thursday night. —Lorin Stein

I’ve been playing a lost Nintendo video game that was supposedly found at a yard sale and purchased for fifty cents. (In fact, it was recently created by San Francisco-based developer Charlie Hoey.) Why the mention? It’s modeled after The Great Gatsby. Says the Web site: “You’re not in the middle west anymore, son. Welcome to the Wild West Egg.” The Atlantic writes, “At least now we know why Gatsby couldn’t make it to the blinking green light: Sand Crabs.” —Sam Dolph

It seemed like a good idea at the time: the full publication archive of Spy magazine is now available via Google Books. —David Wallace-Wells

I’ve been thumbing through the pages of Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive, an illustrated biography about Marie and Pierre Curie. There’s a show of the book currently at the New York Public Library (where Redniss did much of her research as a Cullman fellow). Not long ago, Dwight Garner praised the book in the Times, saying, “Her people have elongated faces and pale forms; they’re etiolated Modiglianis. They populate a Paris that’s become a dream city.” Spooky and beautiful—Redniss’s work is worth taking a look. —Thessaly La Force

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