Skip to main content
Search IBM Research
     Home  |  Products & services  |  Support & downloads  |  My account
 Select a country
 IBM Research Home
Deep Blue
The Match
The Players
 ·Gary Kasparov
 ·Deep Blue
 ·The Deep Blue Team
 ·The Comparison
The Technology
The Community

Related Links
 Press room
 Chess conference
 Site guide
 Search Research

Deep Blue game 6: May 11 @ 3:00PM EDT | 19:00PM GMT        kasparov 2.5 deep blue 3.5
How Deep Blue works

To date, Deep Blue is the most powerful chess-playing computer ever developed. But what makes Deep Blue so great at playing chess? How does it so accurately "choose" its next move from a list of thousands of possible options? And why is it so much better than other computer chess 'players'? The answer lies in its unique combination of innovate software engineering and massive parallel processing power.

At the heart of Deep Blue's ability to play chess is its evaluation function. The evaluation function is an algorithm that measures the "goodness" of a given chess position. Positions with positive values are good for White, and conversely, positions with negative values are good for Black. If the overall score is negative, for example, this means that Black has the advantage.

Deep Blue's evaluation function looks at four basic chess values: material, position, King safety and tempo. Material is based on the "worth" of particular chess pieces. For example, if a pawn is valued at 1, then the rook is worth 5 and the Queen is valued at 9. The King, of course, is beyond value because his loss means the loss of the game.

The simplest way to understand position is by looking at your pieces and counting the number of safe squares they can attack. King safety is a defensive aspect of position. It is determined by assigning a value to the safety of the King's position in order to know how to make a purely defensive move. Tempo is related to position but focuses on the race to develop control of the board. A player is said to "lose a tempo" if he dillydallies while the opponent is making more productive advances.

Deep Blue is not only the finest chess-playing computer in the world, it is also the fastest. This makes perfect sense, because history has proven that the fastest computers conduct the most extensive searches into possible positions. More searches gives the computer a wider array of moves to choose from and therefore a greater chance of choosing the optimum move.

Deep Blue employs a system called selective extensions to examine chessboard positions. Selective extensions allow the computer to more efficiently search deeply into critical board arrangements. Instead of attempting to conduct an exhaustive "brute force" search into every possible position, Deep Blue selectively chooses distinct paths to follow, eliminating irrelevant searches in the process.

Deep Blue uses "live" software that can actually generate up to 200,000,000 positions per second when searching for the optimum move. The software begins this process by taking a strategic look at the board. It then computes everything it knows about the current position, integrates the chess information pre-programmed by the development team, and then generates a multitude of new possible arrangements. From these, it then chooses its best possible next move.

Deep Blue's extensive searches make full use of the computer's massively parallel design. "At the search level, you're saying 'OK, here's the position. I need to search all the moves," says Joe Hoane, the Deep Blue development team member in charge of software. "And you go search all the moves, all at the same time, preferably on a bunch of different computers."

The software inside of Deep Blue is one all-inclusive program written in C, running under the AIX operating system. Deep Blue utilizes the IBM SP Parallel System called MPI. "It's a message-passing system," says Hoane. "So the search is just all control logic. You're passing control messages back and forth that say, well, what am I doing? Did you finish this? OK, here's your next job. That kind of thing at the SP level."

The latest iteration of the Deep Blue computer is a 32-node IBM RS/6000 SP high-performance computer, which utilizes the new Power Two Super Chip processors (P2SC). Each node of the SP employs a single microchannel card containing 8 dedicated VLSI chess processors, for a total of 256 processors working in tandem. The net result is a scalable, highly parallel system capable of calculating 60 billion moves within three minutes, which is the time allotted to each player's move in classical chess.

Related Information

      Deep Blue FAQ:The answers to the questions about this powerful chess-playing computer

      The making of Deep Blue:A timeline of Deep Blue's development

      How Deep Blue works:Under the hood of this powerful parallel processor

      All this power just for chess?:How Deep Blue technology is affecting the way we live

      meet the players:"You have to be on full guard every move of the game, which means it is more exhausting. I think Deep Blue is stronger than all but a handful of top human players." - Garry Kasparov

      Chess Pieces
no. 58

The first movie about chess was CHESS FEVER, made in Moscow in 1925 and starring Jose Capablanca.
  About IBM  |  Privacy  |  Legal  |  Contact