While the upstart Magnus Carlsen looks a phenomenal talent, in the world of chess few would dispute that the achievements of Garry Kasparov are second to none. In spite of Kasparov’s many great achievements he is perhaps unfairly best remembered as being the first world champion to lose a match against a computer - IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997. The news kicked up a media firestorm that challenged the superiority of the human mind over computers, leading to many asking the question - would the game of chess be solved as the lesser game checkers had been several years before? While such propositions are best left to the theorists, it is two lesser known games that Kasparov played against human opponents that are most instructive for the average investor. The question we are seeking to answer is whether ‘lesser’ investors can beat ‘master’ investors, solely by cultivating a better process.
Enter the cyborg…
In an article in the New York Review of Books Kasparov explained that having lost to Deep Blue in 1997 he became fascinated with ‘Moravec’s Paradox’ or the fact that what computers are good at, humans are weak at and vice versa. Computers are excellent at calculation and computation, but humans have far higher levels of strategic intuition, sacrificial awareness and pattern recognition. What if instead of pitting one against the other, the man and machine played in tandem - could it create the highest level of chess ever played?
In 1998 he and another Grandmaster Veselin Topalov played a match in this way armed with laptops loaded with software. While a month earlier Kasparov had beaten Topalov 4–0, in this instance the match ended a 3–3 draw. When both were armed with machines, Topalov had managed to draw level in skill with the usually superior Kasparov.
While such a result raised a few eyebrows, jaws didn’t drop until 2005 when Playchess.com took the ‘Advanced Chess’ idea even further by setting up a big prize-money tournament for all comers - grandmasters, amateurs, algorithms or any hybrid of each. The early rounds predictably showed the technologically enhanced grandmasters destroying all comers, but in the final rounds an astonishing result bore out, the tournament was won by a pair of amateur American chess players. As Kasparov noted:
“Their skill at manipulating and coaching their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess…