Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chess Champ Is No Genius

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chess Champ Is No Genius

Article excerpt

It is said that the defeat of Garry Kasparov by IBM's RS/6000 SP, alias Deep Blue, proves that the machine is now as intelligent as man. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The collapse of Kasparov after 19 moves proves instead what anyone with any brains has always known about chess: You don't have to be really smart to play it well.

In fact, Kasparov - like all great chess players - is nothing more than a gussied up computer himself, a bit more versatile than Deep Blue but, world champion though he be, not as good at chess as a mere $2 million gizmo. He is much like most of my opponents when I played chess as a kid, good at the game and smart in a way that could only be applied to chess (or math) and, therefore, stunningly dull. Really smart people have a sense of humor. That is a fact. The brilliant chess players of my youth never impressed me as particularly intelligent in ways that matter. They could play chess well or brilliantly or so brilliantly that they became grandmasters, but what that had to do with genius or intelligence is something I could never figure out. All you needed, it seemed, to me was thick eyeglasses, a pencil case and no gumption for talking back to your mother. It was only a matter of time, I sensed even then, that a machine would do it better. More to the point, anything that can be done well by a child - and which now can be duplicated by a mere machine - cannot be considered the product of human genius. I admit right off that music, which I cherish, is an exception. Both Mozart and Mendelssohn composed good music at ridiculously young ages (Mozart wrote his first symphony at age 8). What's more, their music can be played - and played well - by mere children. The young Mozart and Mendelssohn created works that endure for their beauty, not as some sort of curiosity. Even so, the mature works of these men are far superior. I acknowledge that I cannot define intelligence. I see no real reason to think that a child who plays the piano brilliantly is somehow smarter than one gifted in basketball - although I feel that ought to be the case. Also, I am mostly bored by games - everything from chess to Monopoly - unless a player can use the phrase "I see you and raise you . …

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