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What is Deep Blue's secret? Grand master Yasser Seirawan put it most succinctly: "The machine has no fear." He did not just mean the obvious, that silicon cannot quake. He meant something deeper: because of its fantastic capacity to see all possible combinations some distance into the future, the machine, once it determines that its own position is safe, can take the kind of attacking chances no human would. The omniscient have no fear.

In Game 1, Blue took what grand master Robert Byrne called "crazy chances." On-site expert commentators labeled one move "insane." It wasn't. It was exactly right.

Here's what happened. Late in the game, Blue's king was under savage attack by Kasparov. Any human player under such assault by a world champion would be staring at his own king trying to figure out how to get away. Instead, Blue ignored the threat and quite nonchalantly went hunting for lowly pawns at the other end of the board. In fact, at the point of maximum peril, Blue expended two moves--many have died giving Kasparov even one--to snap one pawn. It was as if, at Gettysburg, General Meade had sent his soldiers out for a bit of apple picking moments before Pickett's charge because he had calculated that they could get back to their positions with a half-second to spare.

In humans, that is called sangfroid. And if you don't have any sang, you can be very froid. But then again if Meade had known absolutely--by calculating the precise trajectories of all the bullets and all the bayonets and all the cannons in Pickett's division--the time of arrival of the enemy, he could indeed, without fear, have ordered his men to pick apples.

Which is exactly what Deep Blue did. It had calculated every possible combination of Kasparov's available moves and determined with absolute certainty that it could return from its pawn-picking expedition and destroy Kasparov exactly one move before Kasparov could destroy it. Which it did.

It takes more than nerves of steel to do that. It takes a silicon brain. No human can achieve absolute certainty because no human can be sure to have seen everything. Deep Blue can.

Now, it cannot see everything forever--just everything within its horizon, which for Deep Blue means everything that can happen within the next 10 or 15 moves or so. The very best human player could still beat it (as Kasparov did subsequently) because he can intuit--God knows how--what the general shape of things will be 20 moves from now.

BUT IT IS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME before, having acquired yet more sheer computing power, Blue will see farther than Garry can feel. And then it's curtains. Then he gets shut out, 6-0. Then we don't even bother to play the brutes again. The world championship will consist of one box playing another. Men stopped foot racing against automobiles long ago.

Blue's omniscience will make it omnipotent. It can play--fight--with the abandon of an immortal. Wilhelm Steinitz, a world chess champion who was even more eccentric than most, once claimed to have played chess with God, given him an extra pawn and won. Fine. But how would he have done against Blue?

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