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September 30, 2013

Deep Blue Heads to Hollywood

Tiffany Trader

Over a decade-and-a-half before IBM Watson handily defeated opponents on the Jeopardy quiz show, an IBM computer called Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion, Garry Kasparov. The historic 1997 chess match between Deep Blue and chess grandmaster Kasparov – more than just a major accomplishment for computing and for IBM – was a source of pride for the entire country.

Now this celebrated event will be memorialized on the silver screen. As reported in Deadline, Disney has acquired screen rights to the Matthew Charman play, The Machine, an ambitious dramatization of that fateful match. Charman has been tapped to write the screenplay and Mandeville Films is slated to produce it.

The Machine chronicles the 1997 chess match with IBM’s Deep Blue and its designer Dr. Hsu on one side and Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov on the other. The play opened as part of the Manchester International Festival in July and had its first US showing earlier this month at New York’s Park Avenue Armory.

As with Watson’s Jeopardy appearance, the Deep Blue competition was televised. The play depicts this broadcast, interspersed with flashbacks that showcase the rise of both Kasparov and the Deep Blue project as led by Hsu.

Deep Blue actually lost its first match against Kasparov. The reigning chess champ beat Deep Blue with a score of 4–2 in February 1996. A little over a year later, in May 1997, a heavily upgraded “Deeper Blue” returned for a rematch. It was a close competition, but in the end, Deep Blue won the deciding game and the match. Final score: 3 1/2 to 2 1/2. Kasparov requested a rematch, but the request was not granted.

Although Deep Blue is long retired, IBM created a site to celebrate the historic accomplishment in honor of the supercomputer’s 15th anniversary on May 11, 2012.

“Deep Blue was a highly powerful computer that was programmed to solve the complex, strategic game of chess,” reads a message on the site. “But IBM’s goal behind Deep Blue was a much grander challenge – it enabled researchers to discover and understand the limits of massively parallel processing and high performance computing.”

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