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Chess grandmaster to battle supercomputer

Briton Michael Adams faces Hydra, a clustered system made up of 64 PCs--though it will only use 32 during the match. Photos: Computerized checkmate

The United Kingdom's top chess player is going head to "heads" with Hydra, a cluster PC in the United Arab Emirates.

The latest battle between man and machine is taking place at London's Wembley Centre, where Michael Adams is the latest player to take on a supercomputer.

In a contest that has echoes of Gary Kasparov's epic encounter with IBM's Deep Blue, Adams and the Hydra computer will play up to six games over the next week, for a prize fund of $150,000. While Adams will be seated at Wembley, his opponent is remaining at its Abu Dhabi base. According to the official tournament Web site, the Hydra project is financed by the Abu Dhabi-based PAL Group. Programming has been handled by a team including Chrilly Donninger, Ulf Lorenz, Christopher Lutz and Muhammad Nasir Ali.

Some experts are already predicting that Hydra will win the contest. But correspondence chess grandmaster Arno Nickel, who recently beat Hydra 2-0 in a correspondence chess match, has predicted that Adams could secure a 3-3 draw.

Hydra is a clustered system made up of 64 PCs, each powered by a 3.06GHz Intel Xeon processor--although it will just use 32 PCs during its battle with Adams. According to the team that developed Hydra, it can calculate 200 million moves per second and see up to 40 moves ahead.

Adams is the United Kingdom's strongest chess player. He reached the rank of third in the world in 2002.

Adams versus Hydra comes almost a decade after Garry Kasparov fought, and beat, IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer in 1996. But the Russian player lost a rematch a year later.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.