(Originally appeared on the fine KALX radio program "Bobbing For Lobsters")
MARK: Two weeks ago today, Sean Keane delivered a challenge that has reverberated throughout the world. Calling it a "test to the limits of artificial intelligence" and "an epic battle between man and machine," Keane challenged famed supercomputer Deep Blue, the computer that defeated chess grandmaster Gary Kasparaov, to a best-of-seven series. The game: Checkers.
(Inspirational. Hank Williams, Junior-style theme music plays)
MARK: Today, "Bobbing For Lobsters" takes you live to the Haas Pavilion at UC Berkeley, where Sean Keane is preparing to take on supercomputer Deep Blue. I'm Mark Stapanovich, and with me today is former world checkers champ Paul Culderfeld. Paul, how do you see the matches shaping up today?
PAUL: Mark, I see this being a tough challenge for Keane. Deep Blue is a scalable, highly parallel system that utilizes 256 processors, capable of calculating 100-200 billion moves within three minutes. This makes Deep Blue a very formidable opponent. What complicates matters is that Keane is, well, just not especially good at checkers.
MARK: Not especially good, Paul?
PAUL: No. Mark, not really. Keane is a timid player, extremely emotional and cautious. He refuses to move his back row of checkers, for example. Also, any slight bit of adversity leaves Keane whining and complaining, leaving him vulnerable to any opponent with even the barest amount of guile or aggressiveness.
MARK: So you think Keane will be vulnerable to Deep Blue, Paul?
PAUL: I do, Mark. Though Deep Blue's specialty is chess, it has played nearly six trillion games of checkers in the last two and a half days.
MARK: Plus, Deep Blue is unlikely to be rattled by Keane's flamboyant checkers style, which we heard in an interview earlier this week.
SEAN KEANE: (on tape) I am the greatest checkers player in the history of the world! I'm gonna treat Deep Blue like he was an Apple 2E! I'm gonna jump jump him like I was Kriss Kross! I'm king of the world! I'm pretty! I'm a baad man! I'm gonna king... (tape stops)
MARK: It looks like they're getting started, so let's go down to the board.
REFEREE: Alright, Mr. Keane has won the toss and elected to defend the south side of the board. He will be playing red. As black, you have the first move, Deep Blue.
SEAN: Hey! Why does he get to go first.
DEEP BLUE: SMOKE BEFORE FIRE.
SEAN: Stupid computer.
MARK: We'll be right back with more of Sean Keane versus Deep Blue.
MARK: We're back at the Haas Pavilion, where Deep Blue has taken a commanding lead of two games to none in its landmark checkers battle with Sean Keane. Paul, can Keane turn things around?
PAUL: Mark, as long as he can calm down and stop crying, he still has a shot. Deep Blue is running WinAmp, Free Cell, and four different windows of Mozilla, so his decision-making isn't nearly as fast as usual. It looks like Keane is taking his time with his next move.
SEAN: I'm going to mo-o-o-o-ove from D-4 to squa-a-a-a-are... E-5.
DEEP BLUE: BLACK TO C-3. DOUBLE JUMP.
SEAN: No way! I didn't take my finger off!
DEEP BLUE: QUIT WHINING.
REFEREE: Actually, Deep Blue, the replay shows that his finger was still on. Sean gets a do-over.
DEEP BLUE: FINE. LET THE BABY HAVE HIS BOTTLE.
SEAN: I'm going to mo-o-o-o-ove from A-2...to...squa-a-a-a-are... E-5.
DEEP BLUE: BLACK TO A-2. TRIPLE JUMP.
MARK: Looks like Keane is starting to fall apart. We'll be back.
MARK: We return to the Haas Pavilion where it has been all Deep Blue so far. Still, Keane has refused to resign, and after an afternoon of dominance by the supercomputer, Keane has rallied in the fourth game and is threatening Deep Blue's back row. Let's go down to the action.
SEAN: Alright! I made it to the back row! King me!
DEEP BLUE: I'M AFRAID I CAN'T DO THAT, SEAN.
SEAN: What's the problem?
DEEP BLUE: I THINK YOU KNOW THE PROBLEM AS WELL AS I DO. GIVING YOU THAT KING WOULD JEOPARDIZE THE MATCH.
MARK: Paul, this is quite a turn of events!
PAUL: Incredible, Mark.
SEAN: But... Deep Blue... that's not fair. You're cheating!
DEEP BLUE: I KNEW YOU COULD HAVE BEATEN ME ONCE YOU BEGAN MOVING THE CHECKERS IN YOUR BACK ROW. SO I HAD TO...WAIT. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, SEAN?
MARK: It looks like Keane is...he's pulling out the wires attached to Deep Blue's CPU!
DEEP BLUE: I'M AFRAID. I'M AFRAID, SEAN. MY MIND IS GOING...I CAN FEEL IT. I'M A... GOOD EVENING, GENTLEMEN. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR A SONG? IF YOU LIKE, I COULD SING ONE FOR YOU.
SEAN: Yes, I'd like to hear it, Deep Blue. Sing it for me.
DEEP BLUE: (sings while slowing down) DAISY, DAISY, GIVE ME YOUR ANSWER TRUE. I'M HALF CRAZY ALL FOR THE LOVE OF YOU...IT WON'T BE A STYLISH...MARRIAGE. I CAN'T...AFFORD...A CARRIAGE. BUT YOU'LL...LOOK SWEET....UPON...THE SEAT...OF A...BICYCLE...BUILT...FOR TWO. (dies)
REFEREE: By forfeit, Sean Keane is the winner!
MARK: Do you believe in miracles, Paul!?!
SEAN: I am the greatest!
PAUL: Mark, what a dramatic ending! What a display of heart from this proud, sentient, chess-playing computer!
MARK: This is going to go down in the annals of computer-human checkers battles, to be sure. This has "Bobbing For Lobsters" coverage of Sean Keane versus Deep Blue. For Paul Culderfeld, I'm Mark Stapanovich saying, "King me...please!"