World chess champion Vladimir Kramnik has taken the third game of man versus machine chess against the highly-touted Deep Fritz 7 machine to lead 2.5 to 0.5 in an eight-game competition being held in Bahrain, the competition Web site reported Wednesday.
Kramnik became world champion by defeating long-time champion Garry Kasparov in 2000, and is now in a good position to pocket the US$1 million prize for defeating the computer.
Kasparov lost in a similar man versus machine clash against IBM Corp.'s specialized Deep Blue chess computer in 1997, starting a round of predictions that machines would soon be able to out-think humans in many areas of endeavor.
Kramnik, who has won two and drawn one of the first three games of the match billed as "Brains in Bahrain", has made no secret of the difficulty of beating the best chess computers available now, describing Deep Fritz 7 as "a very serious opponent."
"Deep Fritz is simply a stronger program than Deep Blue," he said recently.
Kramnik needs to gain two more points in the final five games to win the match outright, with a win worth one point and a draw worth half a point.
The third match lasted five hours and was decided, experts said, by an unexpected 18th move from Kramnik which saw Deep Fritz immediately forced to weaken its position, after the computer had had the better of the opening exchanges.
Deep Fritz 7 is based on standard hardware and thus only scans about 3 million positions per second compared to the custom-built Deep Blue's 100 million positions. But Deep Blue used to waste a lot of that parallel processing computing power on duplicate positions, according to Deep Fritz's developer, German company ChessBase GmbH.
The Deep Fritz 7 program can be bought commercially for US$99 and run on PCs or machines with up to eight processors.
Ongoing information about the match can be found at http://www.brainsinbahrain.com.