Chess in 1997
The IBM computer Deep Blue, with a program whose evaluation function had been refined with the assistance of Grand Master Joel Benjamin, beat Professional Chess Association world champion Garry Kasparov 3½-2½ in the spring of 1997, thereby avenging its 4-2 loss in their 1996 match. Kasparov won a sparkling first game, but in the second game he was outplayed positionally and resigned in a position where he had excellent chances to achieve a draw. The next three games were drawn, with Deep Blue snatching a brilliant last-minute draw in the fifth game. This so discouraged Kasparov that he collapsed in the last game on the black side of an unfamiliar Caro-Kann defense and was crushed in 19 moves. Confronted by a tireless opponent whom he could neither intimidate nor out-combine, Kasparov psyched himself out of the match.
On the purely human scene, Kasparov remained preeminent. A unification match between perennial rivals Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov, both of Russia, was called off, and instead the preliminaries of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) World Championship took place in Groningen, the Netherlands, in December. Kasparov and Karpov, the current FIDE world champion, were originally seeded into the semifinals. However, Kasparov announced that he would not play, citing his belief that such short matches do not do justice to the world championship. Also declining to take part was the player who seemed most likely to succeed Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), who turned 22 in June. He continued to beat the champion in tournaments and moved up to second place in the world rankings. Meanwhile, Karpov was seeded into the FIDE final. The championship match, played in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January 1998, saw Karpov defeat Viswanathan Anand (India) on tiebreak.
In other 1997 tournaments, Kramnik and Anand tied for first in Dos Hermanas, Spain; Kramnik won in Dortmund, Germany; Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) won in Madrid, Spain. Kasparov was first in Novograd, Russia; Tal Shaked (United States) and Harriet Hunt (United Kingdom) won the men’s and women’s world junior titles. Victor Bologan (Moldavia) and Michael Krasnikow (Poland) tied for first in the New York Open; and Joel Benjamin, fresh from training Deep Blue, won the U.S. championship. England won the European team championship on tiebreak over Russia.
Fourteen-year-old Etienne Bacrot of France became the youngest grand master ever.