Game Over: Kasparov And The Machine

on December 03, 2004 by Sheri Linden
The age-old battle of man vs. machine gets stylish treatment in this docu-thriller chronicle of a legendary chess match. You don't have to be an aficionado of the game to find the film engaging, but "Game Over" is likely to have more resonance for those who followed the 1997 face-off between grand master Garry Kasparov and an IBM computer named Deep Blue.

Director Vikram Jayanti, who chipped away at institutional illusion in "The Golden Globes: Hollywood's Dirty Little Secret," attempts to do the same here. He takes us into the controversial event, mainly from the point of view of Kasparov, who was traumatized by his defeat. Six years after the fact, Kasparov revisits the "scene of the crime"--the New York hotel suite where he believes he became a pawn in the hands of corporate engineers hellbent on winning. During the match, Kasparov, considered by many the greatest genius the game has ever known, accused IBM of cheating. Interviewed here, members of the Deep Blue team profess only a burning passion to meet the supreme programming challenge.

Footage from the match and its tense press conferences makes Kasparov's unraveling crystal-clear. Believing he was embarking on an adventure in the spirit of scientific inquiry, he found instead a cutthroat adversary. Journalists who covered the event, including one who was stripped of his credentials for reporting Kasparov's complaints, attest to the gulag mentality IBM brought to the venue as organizer and promoter.

Jayanti touches on the aspects of psychological warfare that are inherent to chess. Through the ages, countless players have believed their opponents used telepathic, magnetic and other forces to control the game; is Kasparov merely part of that tradition, or was something else going on? There's no denying the Wizard of Oz quality to Deep Blue, and, as the film presents it, there's something eerie about how soon after the match the supercomputer was whisked back behind the curtains to an early retirement. Propelled by the edge-of-nerves atmospherics of Robert Lane's music, this is as much a psychological thriller as a historical document. But "Game Over" finally asks more questions than it answers, suggesting that in a realm where paranoia is an occupational hazard, answers are elusive at best. Directed by Vikram Jayanti. Produced by Hal Vogel. A ThinkFilm release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 85 min.

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