Game Over


Reviewed by: David Stanners

In 1997 the chess world witnessed a monumental occasion. Gary Kasparov, undoubtedly the greatest chess player of all time, was defeated by an IBM computer.

Director Vikram Jayanti, in an incisive documentary, gives us Kasparov's view of the match that developed into psychological warfare, in which he was either shot down fairly in battle, or waved the white flag in disgust. Make up your own mind.

The story begins in Russia, where the young chess prodigy tore through distinguished grand master opposition like a sickle through soft grain. After his defeat of Karpov, the reigning champion and grand daddy of chess, it soon became obvious that Kasparov was no flash in the pan and would be incredibly hard to beat. A brilliant mind, with a seemingly unprecedented ability for strategies and calculations, it was decided by an elite team of IBM computer scientists, that this phenomenon needed to be be taken down a peg or two.

Making the trip from Russia to New York, Kasparov visits the hotel where it all happened. Behind the camera is Frederic Friedel, who does a great job of fixating, swerving and juxtaposing the lens over Kasparov's constant facial distortions, frowns and anxious tweaks. With deep dark eyes and a heavy frown, even his little sarky jokes and sharp wit, can't conceal the fact that he is one intense dude, who seems to carry the full brunt of the Russian soul on his shoulders. This is a guy who doesn't like losing.

When the audience is eventually introduced to the IBM team, which comprises nerds, geeks and anoraks, regardless of their achievement in creating the most sophisticated and powerful computer ever, all sympathy lies with the human element, Kasparov, as he faces an insurmountable task against a machine that can't feel emotion and will never give in until it is crushed - a peaceful version of the Terminator.

Not only is the champion up against a computer, which, on more than one occasion, he accuses of cheating, but also a group of researchers, who have liased with dozens of former grandmasters for data and strategy research. It was Kasparov against the whole chess world and, in the end, he got sick of the whole thing and threw in the towel. That's his story, anyway.

The press conferences after each game are particularly entertaining, as both sides exchange verbal blows and jockey for the psychological edge. Kasparov accuses the IBM team of unfair play, while they just laugh and, in so many words, say, "Bring it on...if you're the best, prove it."

Before the contest, Kasparov had said, "It's about the supremacy of human beings over machines in purely intellectual fields. It's about defending human superiority in an area that defines human beings."

With words like this, it's little surprise he took the fall very hard. He tells Friedel that he bumped into a famous Hollywood star in the elevator and shrugged off his defeat by saying, "I'll win next time," to which the anonymous star replied, "No, you won't. They won't let you play again."

This is something for chess fans and non-fans alike. It's about the power of one great man, pitted against a number of others, and it's a highly watchable account. Kasparov is an entertaining, if stuttery raconteur, and the rivalry between him and his nemesis is fascinating.

Check mate for Vikram Jayanti.

Reviewed on: 06 May 2004
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Game Over packshot
Documentary about Garry Kasparov’s chess match against IBM’s computer Deep Blue
Amazon link

Director: Vikram Jayanti

Starring: Gary Kasparov, IBM Research Team (Feng-hsiung Hsu, Murray Campbell), Joel Benjamin, Mig Greengard

Year: 2003

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Canada/UK


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