Return of the chess-playing supercomputer

Grand master Michael Adams is taking on the Hydra, a 64-computer cluster, across the 64 squares of the chess board

Nearly ten years after the first epic clash between Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue, man is again going head-to-head with a computer in a high-profile chess competition.

This time, mankind will be represented by Grand Master Michael Adams, who at 33 is the UK's top chess player. Facing him across the board — virtually, at any rate — will be Hydra, a supercomputer housed in Abu Dhabi.

Hydra is a clustered system made up of 64 PCs each powered by a 3.06GHz Intel Xeon processor running. According to the team that developed Hydra, it can calculate 200 million moves per second, and look up to 40 moves ahead.

The six-game contest between Adams and Hydra will run from June 21 to June 27. It will take place at London's Wembley Centre, although Hydra will remain in Abu Dhabi. At a press briefing in London on Tuesday, the clash was billed as 'the battle for supremacy' between man and machine. Some of the statistics being banded around suggested that the computer could have the upper hand, given that Adams can consider just 1.4 moves per second.

But Adams' twenty years of competitive experience should serve him well, and he said he was "really looking forward to matching wits with the ultimate opponent to prove that nothing can match the power of human creativity."

Adams became a grand master at 17 and was ranked third in the world in 2002 by FIDE, the world chess federation — although this ranking didn't include Kasparov himself, who broke away from the federation in 1993.

Kasparov defeated Deep Blue in their first contest, in 1996. But in a rematch the year later it was the computer that was victorious, winning 3.5 points to 2.5 points.

Hydra Promo Picture

Michael Adams contemplates his first move