25 Years Ago, Chess Changed Forever When Deep Blue Beat Garry Kasparov

February 2021

Hi ___,

Hope you’re doing okay.

I’m Ewan, a freelance writer and rather average chess player from Wales. I’d like to pitch Slate a story which examines how chess’s relationship with automation has changed since the famous Deep Blue vs Kasparov match of 1996.

Since then, automated chess computers (known as chess engines) have risen from the rank of peer to superior overlords, able to comfortably beat any human player alive. Despite initial uproar – and embarrassment – in the chess community, competitive human chess has retained its popularity (even surging recently) while engine tournaments remain unpopular – the Engine World Championship, for example, is virtually unheard of compared to its human counterpart. Engines are now primarily used to assist human players of all levels in their understanding, embedded into popular chess websites such as Lichess.org and chess.com.

There are few other competitive pursuits in which humans have been overtaken by computers in such a manner. I’d like to understand how this overtake affects those working in the industry – to this end I’d talk to Grandmasters, engine builders, and chess broadcasters.

I think this piece will raise (and answer) some interesting questions around the effect of automation on competitive psychology, how a modern industry adjusts to incorporate once-disliked technology, and what the future holds for chess and its (now beloved?) engines.

I’m thinking ~1500 words, landing on the 25th anniversary of the match’s final game (Feb 17th).

Let me know what you think – my writing has previously appeared in Scientific AmericanThe Washington Post, and elsewhere