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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Artists make giant chess pieces from ice for midtown exhibition

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hi everyone,

We just found this nice report on another 'cool' chess event! 

MIDTOWN — The plaza of Midtown's Grace Building has been transformed into a giant, frozen version of one of the most legendary chess games in history as artists from a New York ice sculpting studio carved solid hunks of ice into five-foot-tall pawns, knights and queens.

The legendary 1996 game which pitted the reigning World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov against the IBM supercomputer "Deep Blue" came alive to the sound of chainsaws and drills during the Okamoto Studio's live art installation, which took place on the plaza's black and white checkered ground early Monday evening.

Although he has created everything from giant reindeer to an imitation of Bobby Flay at parties and out of his Long Island City-based studio, company owner Shintaro Okamoto, 37, said he thought that a chess game was a great choice for a holiday art installation at this particular location.

"It's always been in my mind, wanting to bring an ice chess game piece to New York City," he said. "I was really inspired by the checkered space."

The game he chose, a Kasparov vs. IBM Deep Blue, was the first time in the history of the game that a chess-playing computer outmanouevered a human chess champ in a game under regular time controls.

The tension between Kasparov and IBM became a symbol of the potential of machine over man, even though the Russian player ultimately ended up beating the computer for the six-game match by a score of 4-2. The following year, an upgraded version of the IBM software beat Kasparov in a 1997 six-game rematch with a score of 3 1/2 to 2 1/2. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating — a claim that the company denies.

Like those historic games, Monday's installation was full of drama and unexpected surprises for an awed audience as the sculptors chipped and sanded away at four giant blocks of ice until they took the form of the chess pieces, complete with detailed molding and dramatically smooth curves.

Audiences watched on in wonder as ice flew and the fourteen-piece exhibit began to take place, racing against a seemingly doomed existence in the unusually balmy 49-degree weather for late December.

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