The business of Gary Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player ever, is far from cinematic. Vikram Jayanti, one of the producers of the Muhammad Ali film When We Were Kings, wanted to make a feature documentary on the famous 1997 defeat of the Russian genius by IBM's 'Deep Blue' computer that 'would feel like a real fight movie'. If this film doesn't do that, it does, for chess enthusiasts and general cinemagoers alike, present an intriguing profile of an enigmatic man, seemingly bowed and bitter in defeat, while making evident his considerable reserve of intellect, charm and determination. Still, given access to the great man, the makers' decision to take a polemical, Michael Moore-like dramatic approach to the 'man vs machine'/'little guy vs corporate giant' aspect of the battle taints the film with an aura of conspiracy theorising and partial advocacy. Much is made rhetorically of IBM's refusal of Kasparov's demands to see the Deep Blue print-outs, his implied suggestion of human agency in the computer's programming, and IBM's dismantling of the machine. Regrettably, too, an implicit promise to discuss the implications of the possible supremacy of computer 'thinking' over human capabilities is quietly dropped. But with the loose energy of Maryse Alberti's 16mm and DV camerawork; the intercutting of a 'ghost in the machine' (the mechanical chess playing 'Turk' from Raymond Bernard's movie The Chess Player); and the use of Rob Lane's dread-filled music when we visit 'the terrible faceless monster', cinematically it constitutes a fascinating, if faltering step in the intriguing development of the documentary.
Game Over Kasparov and the Machine
Cast and crew
Dr Murray Campbell
Professor John Searle
Dr Feng-hsiung Hsi