Chip Hall of Fame: IBM Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip

Deep Blue’s logic chip powered the first major victory of an AI over a human

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IBM Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip
Image: Feng-Hsiung Hsu

Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip

Manufacturer: IBM

Category: Logic

Year: 1997

On one side of the board, 1.5 kilograms of gray matter. On the other side, 480 chess chips. Humans finally fell to computers in 1997, when IBM’s chess-playing computer, Deep Blue, beat the reigning world champion, Garry Kasparov. Each of Deep Blue’s chips consisted of 1.5 million transistors arranged into specialized blocks—such as a move-generator logic array—as well as some RAM and ROM. Together, the chips could churn through 200 million chess positions per second. That brute-force power, combined with clever game-evaluation functions, gave Deep Blue decisive moves that Kasparov called “uncomputerlike.” These moves “exerted great psychological pressures,” recalls Deep Blue’s mastermind, Feng-hsiung Hsu, now at Microsoft.

Since Deep Blue’s victory, more and more games in which human intelligence seemed to have the upper hand have fallen to the machines: in 2016, Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s best Go player, Lee Sedol.

Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Kasporov opens a game against Deep Blue 2 in May 1997 by moving his knight. Opposite him is Feng-hsiung Hsu, moving on behalf of IBM because the company was clearly too cheap to build a cool/scary robot with an arm.

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