painpill
2/07/2003

22:41  
Well, Garry Kasparov came up with a draw today against Deep Junior, in what seemed (to me, at least) to be a very strange ending. In a position he's very familiar with - a variation of his favorite opening to play as black, the Najdorf Sicilian - he made a characteristic sacrifice that the grandmasters commentating the game were enthusiastic about. Then, a couple of moves later, he offered a draw, which was declined; and then a few moves after that he offered again, and the computer accepted.

At the press conference afterwards, he had this to say:

Against any human player, I would continue fighting in the final position. Black is definitely not worse. But to win it would take a long, long time, and there is the pressure of playing the computer. The longer the game goes, the chance to blunder increases, and the computer will never make a big mistake. And a draw was a good result. Before the game the main item on my agenda was not to lose.

I came into this match wanting to dominate, but there is a gap between our desires and our abilities. I knew I would get good positions, but finishing these off is the hard part. [...] In game two I had a winning position and missed it. In game three I missed winning chances and then even blundered the draw. So I feel I outplayed it. To win the game today requires more energy and creativity than ever, and Junior symbolizes these advances. But it's still vulnerable, we saw some shortcomings here in thi match. We saw its strengths and weaknesses both. The machine will never collapse, but a human can never be so sure.

I have to register my acute disappointment not just at the draw (which was to be expected), but at the way it came about. This is not the Garry Kasparov I knew, the cocky young outsider who demoralized the reigning Russian grandmaster by sweating him through an endless series of draws. After this matchup, he was so mentally exhausted that he didn't play out a position where he had the upper hand - even when the match was on the line! The bit about the gap between our desires and abilities is really striking, beause a few years ago he'd never have questioned his own ability. It's sad to see someone debilitated to the point of complete surrender, especially someone like him.



17:27  
I didn't intend to log on and watch the whole game, but I've had it on in the background for the past hour or so and it's really fascinating... no wonder ESPN2 is carrying it live. The online commentary comes from such chess luminaries as Susan Polgar and Lev Alburt, all held together (a la Best in Show) by someone named Greengard. Kasparov is at least making it interesting - he just gave up the exchange and got a roar from the crowd! Check out Chessbase.com to listen in.


14:34  
Well, the last game of the Garry Kasparov vs Deep Junior matchup is about to start. They're tied at 2.5 a piece, but with Kasparov playing black in this last round it doesn't look good. Before game 5, Kasparov thought he'd be able to seize the initiative with a win as white, but Deep Junior shocked everyone by sacrificing a bishop early... and Kasparov had to content himself with forcing a draw.

Obviously it won't be long before this kind of match is hopeless, and it's come about much faster than people expected. Everyone was shocked that he lost the match to Deep Blue, and of course IBM immediately disassembled the victor, ostensibly so that it could be put to good use modelling proteins, but more likely because they knew how lucky they'd been and didn't want to see a rematch. At the time he felt he'd been at an unfair disadvantage because he wasn't able to review other games involving his opponent, something chessmasters routinely do to prepare for a match. But returns to increased computing power aren't diminishing fast enough, and meanwhile programmers are finding new ways to introduce basic patterns to the equation, so that computers can start to recognize the positional nuances that people see.

I'll be disappointed if he loses this match, but not as disappointed as I was when I heard he'd lost his title to Kramnik a couple years back. I've always liked Kasparov. I remember clipping the games with Karpov from the New York Times and playing through them at home - he plays a flashy style that's as exciting as it is cerebral. And of course his political activism makes him more interesting than your typical chessmaster.


2/06/2003

16:35  
Gary Hart makes a serious showing in the latest LA Times poll - tied with John Edwards at 8%, and he hasn't even declared his candidacy. He's definitely my choice of the moment, I've been excited about him ever since the piece in TNR talking about the Rhodes Scholars flocking to him. He definitely has a chance to make a strong showing with young voters, although I can't put my finger on why.

I actually contacted the campaign with the idea of putting in some hours for them, but to no avail (I may just be bad at wording my inquiries... those kinds of messages can come off really creepy depending on how you read them). I thought of offering a cash donation, but that seemed crass. Still, I was surprised not to get a response, and for the kind of volunteer oriented campaign he's apparently going to run, it seems like geting these kinds of details ironed out would be key. That, and maybe losing a certain quote on the website:

"My greatest fear is never having another opportunity to serve my country." - Gary Hart
Kind of shmaltzy and pompous, don't you think?



16:23  
I'm totally torn up over Iraq. I see Saddam as a seriously bad guy who should have been removed a long time ago - 12 years ago actually - for the sake of the Iraqi people. The problem now is that there's no immediate justification for taking him out. Yes, Powell was completely convincing in the sense that we see now that Saddam is hiding something; the problem is that what he's hiding - chemical weapons - isn't that big a deal. And the regional risks of invading are enormous: we're creating potential terrorists throughout the Muslim world, pushing a well-armed dictator to the wall, and (most importantly) setting a precedent for preemptive action whose consequences we haven't really considered (just look at today's paper, with the NK's threatening to whip up some preemption of their own). On top of that I have deep suspicions that the war will not be as easy as the public expects... after all, there's a reason we didn't invade Baghdad in '91.

It's not all that different if we do it under the aegis of the UN, but at least with international backing the US could share the negative consequences with the rest of the civilized world... and btw they could also share the costs of rebuilding Iraq, which along with the war costs haven't been figured into Bush's ailing budget. This whole flap at the UN was a gamble that didn't pan out, but now the Bush admin won't play fair... they blame other nations for blocking military action that was a foregone conclusion with processes that Bush himself called for. This line in the state of the union that everyone was so impressed with about wanting results, not processes - doesn't it strike a serious blow against any realistic notion of intl order?

The problem now though is so much bigger than squabbling about who will support a war, or how soon we can lay down the first punches. The problem is that everything we do now is a message to the Koreans - when we say, for instance, that we will respond to chemical attacks with nuclear force, what will it say to Kim Jong Il if we don't follow through? When we line up NK and Iraq as equal partners in the axis of evil and then we attack Iraq, what does that say? Or when Bush says that he loathes Kim Jong Il... how do you respond to that? By honoring a treaty?

So... in a perfect world I don't feel like we should be invading Iraq, but I also think we've locked ourselves into a course of action where it's not possible to simply change our mind and back out... if we back away, we end up with a cold war in the Pacific (in fact, we're probably already at this stage). If we invade and things don't go well, same problem.


10:07  
No time now for a statement of purpose/purpose of statement, but just a couple things to say. I'll come through soon with some other topics of interest, political and otherwise. I'm studying policy at the moment, so political concerns will probably dominate this blog, but my interests are pretty far-reaching, and I won't fail to represent that here. So... not just graf after lame opinion graf about Iraq and NK, but occasionally something of real interest, I hope.


09:57  
The Guardian has a great breakdown of the economics of war.


09:55  
A friend of mine called up yesterday, raving about how war is inevitable. He was clearly caught up in the whole event of Powell's speech - and I think he felt that the evidence presented therein was indisputable and irrefutable (I've since read this in a number of places). After all, the intercepted transmissions plainly show that the Iraqis are deceiving the weapons inspectors, and UN resolution 1441 was clear about what the consequences to that would be. But for me, the issue hasn't changed much. Did anyone seriously believe that Iraq didn't have chemical weapons before, or that they weren't working against the inspection process? Even the French aren't making that claim. But Powell failed to present any serious evidence of a nuclear program, and to my mind he didn't show that Iraq is a serious threat to the United States.

What amazes me about my friend is that we've argued time and time again over Iraq and whether or not we should go in. Generally i'm opposed to ill-considered action (!) but with him I always end up arguing the other side of the issue. And it's those conversations for me that have been most valuable in coming to grips with the issue. So I was amazed to hear him talk with such enthusiasm about the impending invasion - it looks like the Bush admin has staged another masterful PR coup.





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