24 December 2018

Words Matter

After the 1985 event discussed in last week's post, 'I walked from one machine to the next', there is one more event from Kasparov vs. the Early Engines that I want to discuss. The reason for that is to correct an earlier statement I made on this blog.

In his book Deep Thinking, Kasparov mentioned the event twice. I've already given a full excerpt of the first mention in another post on a related subject, Null Moves, so I'll just repeat the first two sentences.

In 1992, I played a long casual blitz match against one of this new generation of PC programs, one that would go on to become nearly synonymous with PC chess engines. Fritz was published by ChessBase, which explains the sardonic German nickname.

The second mention was a little later in the book:-

I had played quite a few games against Fritz's predecessor in an informal blitz match in Cologne in December 1992. Frederic Friedel says I played thirty-seven games against his beloved pet, as I poked and prodded it like a lab animal, pointing out when it made a particularly good move or chose a weak plan. It was far from the savage beast it would become, but it wasn't tame either. I lost nine times with a couple of draws, winning around thirty of the games.

Calling this anecdote an 'event' is a stretch, but I can't think of another word. A wrong word led to an error in an earlier post, Searching for Fritz (June 2015), where I wrote,

Kasparov was routinely hired to promote important milestones in the evolution of Fritz.

A sharp-eyed visitor to the blog flagged the following reminiscence by Frederic Friedel in How I did not become a billionaire (medium.com; June 2018):-

There were other ideas in subsequent years, none of which worked out really. Well, one of them did: in 1985 I was visited in Hamburg by a young chess grandmaster who was on the path to World Championship. Garry Kasparov and I spent a number of evenings discussing computers and how they could help professional chess players study the game. We worked out the design for a “chess database” which he entreated me to build. I was not a programmer, but as fate would have it, a few months later I met a young physics student, Matthias, who had actually started implementing such a system.

We founded a company together and launched a chess database software company, ChessBase, which Garry, now a legendary World Champion, supported for more than ten years. He provided ideas and encouragement, but also promotion and endorsements, ads and PR events. Of course we paid him handsomely for these services: a total of $0.00. Garry doesn’t take money from members of his family, which I had nominally become. Today ChessBase has around thirty salaried employees (plus many free-lance contributors) and has completely cornered the market.

For a (partial?) list of those promotional events, see the 'Searching for Fritz' post. Along with the 'Billionaire' article, Frederic Friedel has written about many other subjects for Medium.com in a column titled 'The Friedel Chronicals'. Some of those writings also relate to chess history.

Long story short: 'Garry doesn’t take money from his family'. Got it!

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