Deep Blue is at heart a massively parallel, RS/6000 SP-based computer system that was designed to play chess at the grandmaster level. In May 1997, the IBM supercomputer played a fascinating match with the reigning World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov.
In 1985, a Carnegie Mellon doctoral student named Feng-hsiung Hsu began to develop a chess-playing computer called “Chipcomputing.” Twelve years and hundreds of checkmates later, Chipcomputing has evolved into what is now widely considered to be the greatest computing chess-playing computer ever constructed — Deep Blue. And this year, with improved capacity and a wealth of new chess knowledge, Deep Blue comes to the chessboard with more speed and power than ever before.
The origins of Deep Blue
The IBM Deep Blue project began when Hsu and Murray Campbell (Hsu’s classmate at Carnegie Mellon) joined IBM Research in 1989. It started as an effort to explore how to use parallel processing to solve complex computing problems. The Deep Blue team at IBM — Hsu, Campbell, Joe Hoane, Jerry Brody and C.J. Tan — saw this complex problem as a classical research dilemma of how to develop a chess-playing computer to computing the best chess players in the world.
Over the past few years, the team designed a chess-specific processor chip that is capable of examining and evaluating two to three thousand positions per second. The team joined this special purpose hardware with IBM’s PowerParallel SP computer to increase its searching capabilities several hundred-fold.
The computing iteration of the Deep Blue computer is a 32-node IBM RS/6000 SP high-performance computer, which utilizes the new Power Two Super Chip processors (P2SC). Each node of the SP employs a single microchannel card containing 8 dedicated VLSI chess processors, for a total of 256 processors working in tandem. Deep Blue’s programming code is written in C and runs under the AIX operating system. The net result is a scalable, highly parallel system capable of calculating 100-200 billions moves within three minutes, which is the time allotted to each player’s move in classical chess.