FiveThirtyEight’s New Shorts Series ‘Signals’: ‘The Man vs. The Machine’


Seventeen years ago in New York City, brooding chess champion Garry Kasparov sat down to take on an opponent he had vanquished just a year earlier: the IBM computer, Deep Blue.

Like the earlier match, which Kasparov won four games to two, the rematch spoke to a fundamental question of the digital age: Who has primacy — a tangle of circuits and silicon, or a reasoning, feeling human being?

FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films follow the drama of those nine days in a short documentary film, “The Man vs. The Machine,” directed by Frank Marshall. The story — part of FiveThirtyEight’s new digital short series, “Signals” — hinges on a single move, the 44th move of the second game.

Fittingly, it involved the king.

For some reason, the internet’s cutting-edge site for data-backed narrative writing is still embedding their videos using Adobe Flash, so I can’t embed it here, but follow the link anyway. It’s a pretty interesting story. I especially loved the point made near the end about how quickly this became a pointless feat.