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News Briefs II

Chess Champion Goes Pawn To Pawn with Champion Computer

The Washington Post

Garry Kasparov, the world's greatest human chess player, has already lost one game to the world's most powerful chess-playing computer, in history's first regulation multi-game match between the human and machine champions.

Even if the machine wins - so far each has won a game - chess players and computer experts say, the outcome in the six-game match would still be a victory for Homo sapiens.

"The contest is not really man vs. machine," said Feng-hsiung Hsu, the IBM researcher who designed "Deep Blue," the cybernetic half of this clash of the titans. "It is actually man the tool maker versus man the chess player. Either way, the human wins."

Human primacy in the ancient game of chess has been gradually yielding to computers for years - largely because of the efforts of chess players themselves, who have long tried to program the deceptively simple rules of their game into a digital opponent.

Nowadays "a $40 piece of software can kick the pants off of 98 percent of tournament player," said Marc Rotenberg, a chess enthusiast and head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based computer policy organization.

It's quite a machine. "Deep Blue," developed by computing giant IBM's research division, is a departure from some of the traditional models of "artificial intelligence," which were attempts to get computers o think the way people do, emulating value judgments and learning from mistakes. Instead, the program does what computers do best: it examines the many possibilities that branch from each potential move and evaluates the result, consulting a vast database of games throughout history.

Drive to End Affirmative Action Moves Ahead

Los Angeles Times

With just more than a week to go before their Feb. 21 filing deadline, proponents of an initiative proposal to roll back affirmative action laws in California say they have far more than the 694,000 signatures needed to qualify the measure for this November's ballot.

Standing before hundreds of applauding delegates at the state Republican convention last weekend, Ward Connerly enjoyed a standing ovation - not because he is a victorious politician - but because of his apparently successful mission to rescue the once-struggling proposal.

"On a personal level, I thank you for allowing me to bask in the warm glow of your friendship and applause," Connerly, a University of California regent, told convention delegates. "We're going to do this in California so the people of this state can say once and for all, We favor equal opportunity for all and preferences for none."'

Connerly, one of about a half dozen blacks in a largely white convention audience of about 800, appealed to the delegates for help in the final days of the petition drive.

He said the campaign is looking to make a strong statement about the issue's popularity as well as to provide a comfortable cushion in case some signatures are invalidated.