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Kasparov versus the World

by Michael Nielsen on August 21, 2007

It is the greatest game in the history of chess. The sheer number of ideas, the complexity, and the contribution it has made to chess make it the most important game ever played.
-Garry Kasparov (World Chess Champion) in a Reuters interview conducted during his 1999 game against the World

In 1999, world chess champion Garry Kasparov, widely acknowledged as the greatest player in the history of the game, agreed to participate in a chess match sponsored by Microsoft, playing against “the World”. One move was to be made each 24 hours, with the World’s move being decided by a vote; anyone at all was allowed to vote on the World Team’s next move.

The game was staggering. After 62 moves of innovative chess, in which the balance of the game changed several times, the World Team finally resigned. Kasparov revealed that during the game he often couldn’t tell who was winning and who was losing, and that it wasn’t until after the 51st move that the balance swung decisively in his favour. After the game, Kasparov wrote an entire book about it. He claimed to have expended more energy on this one game than on any other in his career, including world championship games.

What is particularly amazing is that although the World Team had input from some very strong players, none were as strong as Kasparov himself, and the average quality was vastly below Kasparov’s level. Yet, collectively, the World Team produced a game far stronger than one might have expected from any of the individuals contributing, indeed, one of the strongest games ever played in history. Not only did they play Kasparov at his best, but much of the deliberation about World Team strategy and tactics was public, and so accessible to Kasparov, an advantage he used extensively. Imagine that not only are you playing Garry Kasparov at his best, but that you also have to explain in detail to Kasaparov all the thinking that goes into your moves!

How was this remarkable feat achieved?

It is worth noting that another “Grandmaster versus the world” game was played prior to this game, in which Grandmaster and former world champion Anatoly Karpov crushed the World Team. However, Kasparov versus the World used a very different system to co-ordinate the World Team’s efforts. Partially through design, and partially through good luck, this system enabled the World Team to co-ordinate their efforts far better than in the earlier game.

The basic idea used was that anyone in the world could register a vote for their preferred next move. The move taken was whichever garnered the most votes. Microsoft did not release detailed statistics, but claimed that on a typical move more than 5000 people voted. Furthermore, votes came from people at all levels of chess excellence, from chess grandmasters to rank amateurs. On one move, Microsoft reported that 2.4 percent of the votes were cast for moves that were not merely bad, but actually illegal! On other occasions moves regarded as obviously bad by experts obtained up to 10 percent of the vote. Over the course of the match, approximately 50,000 individuals from more than 75 countries participated in the voting.

Critical to the experiment were several co-ordinating devices that enabled the World Team to act more coherently.

An official game forum was set up by Microsoft so that people on the World Team could discuss and co-ordinate their ideas.

Microsoft appointed four official advisors to the World Team. These were outstanding teenage chess players, including two ranked as grandmasters, all amongst the best of their age in the world, although all were of substantially lower caliber than Kasparov. These four advisors agreed to provide advice to the World Team, and to make public recommendations on what move to take next.

In addition these formal avenues of advice, as the game progressed various groups around the world began to offer their own commentary and advice. Particuarly influential, although not always heeded, was the GM school, a strong Russian chess club containing several grandmasters.

Most of these experts ignored the discussion taking place on the game forum, and made no attempt to engage with the vast majority of people making up the World Team, i.e., the people whose votes would actually decide the World’s moves.

However, one of the World Team’s advisors did make an effort to engage the World Team. This was an extraordinary young chess player named Irina Krush. Fifteen years old, Krush had recently become the US Women’s chess champion. Although not as highly rated as two of the other World Team advisors, or as some of the grandmasters offering advice to the World Team, Krush was certainly in the international elite of junior chess players.

Unlike her expert peers, Krush focused considerable time and attention on the World Team’s game forum. Shrugging off flames and personal insults, she worked to extract the best ideas and analysis from the forum, as well as building up a network of strong chess-playing correspondents, including some of the grandmasters now offering advice.

Simultaneously, Krush built a publicly accessible analysis tree, showing possible moves and countermoves, and containing the best arguments and refutations for different lines of play, both from the game forum, and from her correspondence with others, including the GM school. This analysis tree enabled the World Team to focus its attention much more effectively, and served as a reference point for discussion, for further analysis, and for voting.

As the game went on, Krush’s role on the World Team gradually became more and more pivotal, despite the fact that according to their relative rankings, Kasparov would ordinarily have beaten Krush easily, unless he made a major blunder.

Part of the reason for this was the quality of Krush’s play. On move 10, Krush suggested a completely novel move that Kasparov called “A great move, an important contribution to chess”, and which all expert analysts agree blew the game wide open, taking it into uncharted chess territory. This raised her standing with the World Team, and helped her assume a coordinating role. Between moves 10 and 50 Krush’s recommended move was always played by the World Team, even when it disagreed with the recommendations of the other three advisors to the World Team, or with influential commentators such as the GM school.

As a result, some people have commented that the game was really Kasparov versus Krush, and Kasparov himself has claimed that he was really playing Smart Chess, Krush’s management team. Krush has repudiated this point of view, commenting on how important many other people’s input was to her recommendations. It seems likely that a more accurate picture is that Krush was at the center of the co-ordination effort for the World Team, and so had a better sense of the best overall recommendation made by the members of the World Team. Other, ostensibly stronger players weren’t as aware of all these different points of view, and so didn’t make as good decisions about what move to make next.

Krush’s coordinating role brought the best ideas of all contributors into a single coherent whole, weeding out bad moves from the good. As the game went on, much stronger players began to channel their ideas through her, including one of the strongest players from the GM school, Alexander Khalifman. The result was that the World Team emerged stronger than any individual player, indeed, arguably stronger than any player in history with the exception of Kasparov at his absolute peak, and with the advantage of being able to see the World “thinking” out loud as they deliberated the best course of action.

Kasparov versus the World is a fascinating case study in the power of collective collaboration. Most encouragingly for us, Kasparov versus the World provides convincing evidence that large groups of people acting in concert can solve creative problems well beyond the reach of any of them alone.

More practically, Kasparov versus the World suggests the value of providing centralized repositories of information which can serve as reference points for decision making and for the allocation of effort. Krush’s analysis tree was critical to the co-ordination of the World Team. It prevented duplication of effort on the part of the World Team, who didn’t have to chase down lines of play known to be poor, and acted as a reference point for discussion, for further analysis, and for voting.

Finally, Kasparov versus the World suggests the value of facilitators who act to channel community opinion. These people must have the respect of the community, but they need not be the strongest individual contributor. If such facilitators are flexible and responsive (without being submissive), they can co-ordinate and focus community opinion, and so build a whole stronger than any of its parts.

Further reading

This essay is an abridged extract from a book I’m writing about “The Future of Science”. If you’d like to be notified when the book is available, please send a blank email to
the.future.of.science@gmail.com with the subject “subscribe book”. I’ll email you to let you know in advance of publication. I will not use your email address for any other purpose, nor reshare it with anyone else!

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From → General

48 Comments
  1. Michael,

    I wasn’t aware of this game and I have enjoyed very much reading your analysis of it.

    Thanks!

  2. That was both really interesting and an excellent piece of writing an analysis. I look forward to future excerpts.

    Will this book be published?

  3. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Thanks, Juan and Jonathan!

    Jonathan: I haven’t look for a publisher, as yet. I’m still rewriting (and rewriting, and rewriting). I would eventually like to publish it.

    Are you at UQ? I was there until a few months back.

  4. This is certainly a particularly fascinating case study. I actually took part in the ‘World’ team back when this game was played. If I remember right, at every move we were presented with the advice of the panel of experts, and we could then either choose to follow one of their options, or do something more creative of our own. When the game started I was absolutely convinced that Kasparov would shred the World. My reasoning was that most people would follow the advice of one of the GM’s, who all had inferior chess abilities to Kasparov. The remainder who chose to do something of their own would likely be statistically insignificant. The result would be that at each move the World would stochastically choose to follow one GM or the other. So, I thought, if you randomly choose between moves suggested by different GM’s, how can you possibly end up with playing power superior to any of the GM’s? Even now this seems completely logical to me. Yet, the amount of time the World managed to hold on for suggests otherwise. What intrigues me even more is all of the players on the World team had far inferior abilities to any of the GM’s on the recommendation panel. So at each move the choice as to which GM’s advice to follow was essentially completely uninformed – effectively random. I really like your analysis Mike, but even having read it this case study baffles me.

  5. Steven permalink

    Hey Michael,

    Let me, as a chess player, say that I was much less surprised by the resistance the World put up against Kasparov:

    A) Kasparov is indeed considered the greatest player by most and the reason for his strength when playing ‘over the board’ (OTB, as it is termed) was threefold: 1) he prepared more and better than anyone else 2) his calculating powers OTB were quite magnificent and 3) his understanding of dynamic chess was ahead of his time. Now when using the format of the Kasparov vs the World game these advantages largely (not completely) disappear: 1) everyone can consult books (in particular about openings), 2) everyone can move the pieces around on the board instead of inside their heads 3) the game was not a messy game Kasparov used to excel in but quickly went into a middle game with endgame features.

    B) Kasparov may be “much better” than other GMs and than Krush in particular, but this difference in strength should be qualified. The difference between me and most tournament players in the US player is much larger than that between Kasparov and Krush! The median rating of US chess players [those who play tournaments and actually do have an official rating] is somewhere around 1000-1100, mine is more than 1100 points higher. Kasparov is “only” about 300-400 points above Krush (and like 150 points above Khalifman).

    C) There is a good comparison with correspondence chess here: this is where people play by email, for instance, (it used to be by snail mail). I just started playing this myself and the tempo in most games is about 1 move per day. Now I play several people whose OTB ratings are way below mine, indeed a 1000 points below mine. But I don’t have an easy time beating those players in correspondence chess. A difference of 1000 points implies I can beat them, when playing OTB, literally blindfolded (just seeing the board in my head). But in correspondence chess it’s much much harder. They can use opening books and look up how grandmasters have played in the position we happen to have on the board.

    Cheers mate!

    Steven

  6. Steven permalink

    Re: Peter Rhode

    In any position there are roughly 30 moves. If half of the participants decide to choose their own randomly selected stupid move, and the other half choose between the, say, two sensible choices proposed by GMs, which move will win? You should not be surprised the best move is chosen, unless the patzers of the world would unite and agree on a specific random move.

  7. Hi Michael,

    Yes, I’m at UQ – same lab as Duncan Mortimer (which is how I’m found this blog).

    Jonny

  8. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Hi Steven! That’s all really interesting. You say you’re not suprised; are you sure you’re not fooling yourself because you know what the outcome was? Kasparov himself said he was shocked by how well the World played.

  9. Steven permalink

    Hi Michael,

    Of course I’m fooling myself all the time, that’s true :-)

    But here I don’t think so: the reason is, I don’t really see it as “The World” against Kasparov, but “Krush plus team and the World following their advice” vs Kasparov.

    I actually would bet that Kasparov playing a game (one move per day) against 3 GMs with ratings of say 2500, so clearly below Kasparov, who analyse together would be the underdog, and against 2 GMs it would be about equal. Why do I think that? Simply because bouncing off ideas of someone else is so fruitful.

    I’m sure you have the experience too: discussing a physics problem in detail with someone else who thinks at a similar level but in a different way is so illuminating and leads to so much more insight than you could achieve on your own (“the whole is more than the sum of the parts”, that kind of nonsense!). [I apologize if I’m underestimating you here!]

    If you add my own experience playing CC against much weaker opponents but having way more problems than expected beating them, that explains my reaction.

  10. Michael Nielsen permalink

    That’s certainly the way Kasparov saw the game. But Krush said in an online article (which I can’t track down right now :-() that she was getting useful advice and feedback from a large number of people, and it certainly wasn’t just her and her immediate team.

    It may be that I’m misunderstanding your phrasing, though, and we’re just arguing over semantics. What I find really fascinating about all this is the question of what types of system can be used to enable effective mass collaboration.

    (Incidentally, Kasparov was playing with the advice of some other excellent players, and had a lot of support from very strong computer programs, including Deep Junior.)

  11. Steven permalink

    Hi Michael,

    I still think I make a different point than you did: you emphasized “mass” collaboration. And you wrote when arguing why the result was surprising that
    “the average quality was vastly below Kasparov’s level”

    I’d say the average quality is irrelevant. The average quality of Kasparov plus 20 morons may be much below my chess strength but if the 20 follow Kasparov’s advice I’d have no chance.

    Similarly, I’d say it’s not the mass collaboration that made the World play so well, but just Krush and Khalifman. Of course Microsoft played up the fact there were thousands of participants, but all that really counted was that they followed the advice of the GMs to some degree, and that the hundreds (or even thousands) who tried ideas of their own (including illegal moves) spread their votes among many different silly moves.

    (BTW a “strong” chess program from 1999 is not considered that strong anymore. Also, in correspondence chess a computer program loses much of its advantage in OTB play. Anyway, that’s another story, involving Hydra, Adams, and Nickel, for instance.)

  12. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Hi Steven:

    I’m not trying to argue that all 5000 (or however many it was) voters were equally influential. Just that a large number of people made small contributions, and a not-inconsiderable number of people made significant contributions. All of these were effectively being channeled through Krush.

    On your last point: in his book, Kasparov had some really interesting remarks on the uses and limitations of chess programs. He (and the World) both made extensive use of such programs. He says that at one point in the game the World was probably led astray by over-reliance on computers. He also praises at length one of his advisors, who he said was a great expert on when to use the computer, and when to ignore it.

  13. I look forward to the completion of your book. When published, be sure to give me an e-mail; I might be interested in a purchase. Cheers for analyzing the internet. My mind will now linger on thoughts of collective intelligence. I read an article in National Geographic how a hive of bees functions by the “democratic” nature of the decisions of each individual, simple-minded bee. When the collective population engages a task, how little that task has a chance of withstanding.

  14. Brian permalink

    I remember voting in this event as well. That was back when I myself was playing a fair amount of chess and had a rating a bit over 1800 (better than average, but not good enough to typically beat a 2050+ rated player except on rare occasion). I can tell you for certain that the experts advice were really influencing the World group as I know they were influencing my own vote. As time went on it became obvious who the “world” had chosen to follow and only that person’s advice was being followed (Krush). That was interesting as some of the other moves presented had real value, but by that time it no longer mattered.

    That being said, Kasparov really WAS battling Krush’s group. But think about this, they had a GREAT amount of time to think of each move and essentially evaluate each position on the board. With this much time and general excellence on both sides I’d throw out the theory that EITHER side could have won, just that Kasparov pulled this one out. Put me against a 2100 rated player with 24 hours to make each move and I’LL give him a nightmare game. It’s true I wouldn’t beat Kasparov with these rules, but I’m not rated as a Grandmaster (or have one/several advising me). I’d state any small group of grandmasters given these rules would have a good chance against Kasparov..they wouldn’t win every time, but they would have a fairly good chance.

    But to sum it up… this wasn’t the world against Kasparov as billed… it really was the one “group” of people with their group of followers running the show. I stopped even following the other people reviewing the game by move 18 because it no longer mattered, I KNEW who the world was going to vote with.

  15. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the comments. It’d be interesting to hear more about how it looked on the ground, so to speak, of the World Team. I’ve relied pretty heavily on Krush’s and Kasparov’s accounts for the simple reason that those are the most comprehensive accounts out there. It’d be interesting to know more about how it looked as a member of the World Team. I read one other (brief) account elsewhere, by a 2200+ player, and they claimed it was complete chaos, with lots of random arguments, etc.

    One thing that comes across clearly in Krush’s commentary is that she was leading a spontaneously formed coalition, and she spent a lot of time thinking about other people’s ideas, often considering at length ideas from unexpected sources.

  16. Joseph permalink

    “One thing that comes across clearly in Krush’s commentary is that she was leading a spontaneously formed coalition, and she spent a lot of time thinking about other people’s ideas, often considering at length ideas from unexpected sources.”

    my friends, that was all that was needed in order to have the game that was played(which i havent seen it yet) in fact, the more ‘dumb’ or incorrect moves that Krush saw input from, the better it was for her to ‘eliminate’…

    that is all that its needed by a leader to make the ‘right’ decision…if those decisions were leading to ‘victory’, nobody knew so from the start of the game!…or even from the middle game, since everybody was receiving ‘outside’ STRONG advice…

    you could perhaps label this a Computer vs. Computer match, but because in one side(kasparov) we know that ‘naturally’ playes like a computer, we know(by expirience, kasparov’s expirience at that) it was gonna take a human to pull this game out…

    again, i havent gone over the game, but a 50+ move game is one that could had been decided by a ‘tempo’…

    now, to ‘pick up’ the advice of someone that had a ‘clear'(but this is SO difficult) understanding that in within that move resides an advantage, would have requiered to ‘follow’ that ‘line of play’ for some time to come(depending on kasparov’s response)…if the world was playing white, that had to be a necessity in order to beat kasparov playing blacks…

    but again, in the advice of the ‘council’ resides wisdom, and wisdom against kasparov will lead you to a draw…

    i’m afraid, that if the world played black, a draw was the most they could’ve had hope for…

    interesting all around, great job…

    if krush(and her team as well as other teams) spent alot of time studying the game as it went on, then we must agree the ‘combine’ potential of all the parts, gave us a game to remember…

    greetings,
    joseph

  17. Brian permalink

    First I wouldn’t call it “chaos”… but some of the arguments were thought/move processes that a high level player would never consider. LOTS of hypothetical “what would Kasparov do if “BD7?!?” were played, he’d have to do this…” which was all just silliness with certain individuals trying to get their odd move played.

    By move 15 it was clear who’s moves were being picked, by move 18 I rarely ever looked at the suggestions by anyone else. It wasn’t until somewhere in the mid-30’s where I began to read the moves suggested by the others again…and by then it was fairly obvious what the next play would be and mostly everyone generally agreed.

    Here is a move list from the game:
    http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1252350

    But WHY did the World choose to align with Krush? Honestly, I’m not certain. It wasn’t that Krush was playing BETTER chess, and moving the queen on the 10th move just seemed like..well, a weak move in the grand scheme of things to me. Regardless of its praise, I’m still not certain it should have been played and I know that I voted for a different move.

    Perhaps Krush did listen more to others? She did do a lot of discussing. I’d rather think it was more of an “American Idol” reaction… her chess was good and writing was easy to “connect” with. In the end her small group of followers pushed her moves to the front and everyone (like myself) jumped on the flood when it became obvious the other opinions just no longer mattered. At that point it WAS the World against Kasparov, unfortunately by then the game was less hypothetical and more just the “process” of determining the strongest move to continue the exchange…and both sides did it well.

  18. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Brian,

    Thanks for the comments. It’s very interesting to hear another perspective on the game.

    Something I found striking while reading Krush and Kasparov’s comments on the game is how different their perspectives were, not just on the moves, but on the process used to arrive at those moves. In many ways, it seemed like they were participating in completely different games – Kasparov views himself as in a match with a few people at Smart Chess (Krush’s management company), while Krush sees herself as the focal point for a much larger collaboration; at several points she comments that her analysis was influenced decisively by input from a source she was not expecting.

    Your perspective seems very different again from either Kasparov or Krush. In some ways, it’s an even more interesting perspective, because your experience may have been more typical of the World team, and at the end of the day it was the voting of the World team which really decided the game. Did you feel as though you or anyone you know had much influence on the course of the game, even if it was just one or two moves?

    In regard to move 10, Kasparov says a fair bit about this in his book, and seemed to regard it as a turning point in the game, putting the World in an excellent position, and himself in considerable difficulty. I’m not a chess player, and am not in a position to evaluate the importance, but that seems like a significant endorsement.

  19. Brian permalink

    Well… if I’m mentioned in the same breath as Kasparov I can’t say I’m a Chess Player either! But my own take on this is that Kasparov (who was my own Chess idol at the time) was the MASTER of the Sicilian Defense, the same Defense the World was using against him. I’d counter that he was excited because it was a variation he himself had never really explored and as a result this was either:

    a) A GREAT move that gave the World an advantage… or
    b) A move that simply put him on the defensive.

    It’s important to note that typically in Chess that White usually has a slightly better chance of winning as it can control the tempo of a game. Black has a slightly better chance at forcing a “draw” position. This move kind of “flipped” that and put the World in a slightly better position to attack and Kasparov in a more “black like” defensive posture. That doesn’t mean he was in any real danger of losing, just he was in a worse position to WIN. It meant that he would have to be creative to win and not just follow his thousands of hours of play and study of an “old friend” position that he knew so well that he was likely bored of it. In the end, even Kasparov had no idea if that play was the BEST move or not, he just knew that it wasn’t a BAD one and that he hadn’t analyzed it enough to know the best play for the course of a typical game or what would come 12 moves later (like he normally may have in a typical Sicilian variation). I’m not saying Kasparov and other Masters were not correct, just that at the time it was such a “Novelty” (as Kasparov put it) nobody knew what to do with it or how things would play out…even the greatest master.

    Have you seen this link?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasparov_versus_The_World

    But to answer your question directly: The “average” player on the World team were just voters… that’s it. I felt as if I had as much influence as you might in any election. I know 5 or 6 of my own votes didn’t get chosen (they were solid moves too, I tend to follow “old school” lines with complications in the middle game, historically proven… those were not always chosen) but the majority of the moves I wanted did get chosen. I didn’t personally influence a move.

  20. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for your additional comments on Kasparov’s perspective, and also on your personal level of influence on the game.

    As regards the Wikipedia article, it’s a great article, reads like a thriller. It was reading that article (which I found randomly, no idea how) which got me interested in the game, and which caused me to go off and read Kasparov’s book, and a whole bunch of other accounts.

  21. The game started with a boring opening, but soon it became one of the greatest and most complicated games I have ever seen. Kasparov won the battle after he astonished the world team with a beatiful and unexpected Kh1! move.

  22. I hadn’t heard about this previously – fascinating stuff and a great analysis! Thanks.

  23. Nukedoom permalink

    And he still won? Hmm, I wonder how a game of that caliber today would play out (considering how connected we are with the internet).

  24. Alexander permalink

    I think this text is great example of contribution Complexity theory to Sociology and it can be clue for further development of the chess game. It is also great response of human thought to the essential role that Computer science has in the stage of the art of chess game. Also, the fact that one idea (formed by the group of people) is essentialy better than sum of its parts (subideas) is an example that this kind of human-human interaction creates probably much better result than any other (like Brainstorming, for example). In that respect,if we take into the account complexity of chess game- we can find innovative ways to evolutionise the development of chess game. Until recently, the main scientific theory which elaborated the entity of chess was Information theory. Now we have the chance not only to develop the game of chess (in the respect of the role of Complexity theory), but also (feedback between human thought and chess) to make improvement in the level of social interactions. Not computer, but men have to find an adequate, filigree response to the threat of (from the Information processing point of view, which is also part of Complexity theory) simplifing the game of chess.

    The match didn’t have any influence on the sport aspect of chess game, but scientific. On the other hand, due to global mass phenomena, I think that chess is losing its artistic component- but that issue couldn’ be solved with this initial conditions (Kasparov-Other World). I think men should have found a proper measure between popularization of chess and keeping up the Complexity of chess game (including its artistic component, which is incorporated into the Complexity of the game).
    Mass media and mass communications couldn’t make breakthrough in this area of human heritage- the popularization of the game might make countra effect.
    I think that if the initial conditions of the game had been different (not to choose players from all chess levels, but a few adequately selected (of course, from the World top)), and with proper decision making criterion for a chess move (with measure of accuracy required in Quantum Cryptography decision making) , the whole strength of Kasparov’s opponent would have been much better expressive – probably he would have lost the game. It’s a great pitty that nowdays improvement of a young player (11-13) in the game of chess is not harmonized with the natural (given by human evolution) development of child’s mental abilities. The actual trends in the game of chess insist on short-term memory (fifteen years ago, when I was in that period of life, You must have hade high level of critical resoning and in some degree, the ability to estimate unknown position on Your own ,original way (this is an indication of chess talent).
    The enormous flow of information and dominant role of computers in modern society has created that kind of problem (there are also big ecological problems connected with this).
    The development of Quantum computers will resolve previous mentioned problems.

  25. Alexander permalink

    Just to apologise for not mentioning the great Michael Nielsen in the previous text and for not sending:

    With highest respect,
    Alexander

  26. Richard Bean permalink

    Nukedoom: this is what happens when such things are tried today:

    http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1531174

    Umansky won the 50WCJT tournament against the other world champions without losing, so has some claim to be the strongest correspondence player ever.

  27. Lee permalink

    When Krush put up that amazingly deep analysis tree there became no question about whose advice to follow. She used many sources, and she even replied individually to patzers like myself. I don’t remember if she ever recommended a move that did not have the highest ranking in her tree, but if she did she probably offered a very convincing reason.

    When the world finally went wrong and played against her advice, it was a decisive mistake. If I remember, her recommended move would obviously give up any chance of winning in order to keep drawing chances, while the chosen move kept a passed pawn but led to a position that Krush and other strong players knew to be losing. To the world’s average players, even with the analysis tree, it must have seemed better to retain apparent winning chances – even though there really were not any winning chances at all by that stage.

    So clearly even though a collaborative effort can produce excellent results, there exists a possibly of an irrational choice.

  28. Lee – Thanks for your comment. My understanding is that the decisive move was arguably move number 51, and that it was actually thrown when someone figured out how to hack the voting software. The person who hacked the voting system preferred a move that Krush already knew was losing. What a great pity!

  29. Hello Michael, I just happened to notice this after being curious about your stem page after visiting the wiki on Vinay Deolalikar’s paper so often. I got involved in the match during the endgame phase, and was exchanging analysis with Irina Krush (whose sponsor Ron Henley I knew from childhood) during the queen endgame. Exhaustive computation of 6-piece endgames finished in 2008, confirming a prior determination that the losing move was 54…b4?, which I must admit was originally my suggestion. I co-wrote some articles with Irina which can be found on my page on the game.

    Indeed I tried to co-ordinate the very collaborative effort which you highlight. I wrote a rather detailed primer as the Queen-endgame approached, “World Team Endgame Strategy Explained”, whose point (30) itemized how people could contribute. This worked well until the unfortunate Move-58 breakup; two amateurs had found tricks which could have changed the course of the game had play continued with 58…Qf5! My site needs to be overhauled—alas any time I’d have for that has been trumped by my involvement with the chess-cheating allegations of recent years, which at least yields real CS research.

  30. Thanks, Kenneth. This blog post was actually a draft for a more detailed analysis of the collaborative aspects of the game that I’ve prepared for a forthcoming book. I’ve found the articles on your webpage invaluable for that work!

  31. Wow, great! I may also be able to dig up some other material—maybe find someone who saved more of the BBS posts than I did. There’s some other material at my older page—the broken links there are fixed on the newer one. Kasparov felt attached enough to the game even after to publish a 13-page analysis to “prove” how he could have won the game even after the correct move 58…Qf5. However I refuted it over a long weekend, with no machine aid. Computers later held up my refutation 100% in all sub-lines, but they also found a way for White to win, which is what made it into Kasparov’s book. [There’s a second win—I was on the right track with my line with 80.Ka5″!!” on that older page.] Funny, that may be my best case of breaking a “proof”, but it wouldn’t make a good blog post with Dick—Kasparov and (Boris) Alterman simply left a gap, as my site shows also happened to me.

    I’ve mused on the idea of a book with a title like “One World, One Game” that would cover the collaborative aspect and integrate it with an analysis of the game. I even have some unpublished analysis that I could revisit and check: Black was fine with …Bh8! at move 35 or 36, and White’s win with 38.Rd1! ends in a fabulous mutual Zugzwang at 50.Rh1!—ah, I did type that up here. But this may be beyond the scope of what seems to be a book chapter in your intent.

  32. Ah—I thought “I’ve” meant just-now, but it can also mean previously—and since my stuff is indexed on the Wikipedia page and Googlable, probably does. Good luck with that!

    Just happened to spot a “cook” in the diagram at the end of my 38.Rd1! page: 57.Rg1! also wins for White, because there’s a Knight underpromotion with check that I (sans-machine) may have overlooked. (A “cook” is like an extra proof, in a chess endgame study where you want to assert there’s a unique proof.)

  33. Kenneth – Ah, yes, just to be clear: in writing about K vs. the World I have (past tense) found your notes and Irina Krush’s absolutely invaluable. Of course, my focus is on the collaborative aspects, much more than the chess itself. I’m only a chess novice, and much of the analysis is beyond me. Still, I found it absolutely fascinating to read, and spent hours working through many of the lines of play over a (computer) chessboard.

  34. Oleg permalink

    Comment written on August 10, 2011. Michael wrote: : “Kasparov versus the World is a fascinating case study in the power of collective collaboration. Most encouragingly for us, Kasparov versus the World provides convincing evidence that large groups of people acting in concert can solve creative problems well beyond the reach of any of them alone
    Of course, this is true, but if you consider that, let us say, to Kasparov (or people like him) employer have to pay something like $1,000,000 per year and for 5000 participants something like $40,000 x 5000 = $ 200,000,000 it is understandable that one Kasparov, from economic point of view, is much better than 5000 others.
    The conclusion from this might be: it would be better to have only one great scientist who can solve problems better than 5000 average. To attract solving problems even a group of 5000 average scientists will be much less profitable and they will be much less productive that one scientist of Kasparov’s level. In real life you can see this situation rather often.
    At present, when you try to design an optimal model of science organization and management in the Internet age, the main problem is not how to organize a collective of all competent scientists to solve a problem, but how to correctly, precisely rank and reward them as problems solvers. I.e. precisely and quickly find out who is “Kasparov” and next after him in all small and large fields of science. More over, for solving ill-structured and, more or less, well-structured problems it might be very different peoples.

  35. Bruce Arnold permalink

    This is a very interesting article, but what I find more interesting is how much one’s understanding of the episode is enhanced by the diverse and informative comments. This webpage effectively replicates the conditions of the game it describes, where (original post + comments) produces a deeper knowledge. Kudos to all.
    On a related issue, I haven’t yet done my research, but it’s curious what went wrong at move 51. Was it a hack / foul play? Was it that Ms. Krush’s advice had been so overwhelmingly accepted by that point that the voters simply endorsed her move without working quite as hard to help inform her recommendation (i.e., had group-think set in)? Fascinating.

  36. It appears to have been a hack, unfortunately, by someone acting alone. A real pity, although in its way this also carries lessons about the capacity of individuals to sabotage collective problem-solving.

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