Hsu, Feng-Hsiung 1959-

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HSU, Feng-Hsiung 1959-

PERSONAL: Born 1959, in Taiwan; immigrated to United States, 1985. Education: Earned a degree in electrical engineering in Taiwan; Carnegie Mellon University, Ph.D., 1989.

ADDRESSES: Office—Hewlett-Packard, Western Research Laboratory, 1501 Page Mill Road, MS 1251, Bldg. 5U, Palo Alto, CA 94304.

CAREER: Computer scientist. T. J. Watson Research Center, International Business Machines (IBM), architect and chip designer; Hewlett-Packard Western Research Lab, Palo Alto, CA, Compaq research scientist.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fredkin Intermediate Prize, 1988; Mephisto Award, 1990; Grace M. Hopper Award, 1991, for contributions in architecture and algorithms for chess machines.


Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer ThatDefeated the World Chess Champion, Princeton University Press (Princeton, New Jersey), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Hsu Feng-Hsiung began a computer chess project as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in 1985. More than two decades later, his project settled the man versus machine debate. Deep Blue, the computer he refined during his time with International Business Machines (IBM), defeated chess master Garry Kasparov in 1997 in a six-game match. Kasparov had defeated Deep Blue in 1996, losing only one of six games. Hsu relates the history of the project from its beginnings in his Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer That Defeated the World Chess Champion. Library Journal's Joe J. Accardi called it "an intelligent, well-written account of a milestone in the history of computer science."

Hsu immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1982 to study at Carnegie Mellon University, where he began his development of the artificial intelligence system that would later be named Deep Blue. Hsu was asked by Dr. Hans Berliner to assist with his Hitech project, which had produced the most sophisticated chess-playing machine to date, but which still fell short of the mark. Computer User reviewer James Mathewson wrote that "by 1989, his solution—a computer chess program on a single chip—had eclipsed Berliner's life's work." Hsu was joined by team member Murray Campbell in 1986, and Joe Hoane in 1991, after Hsu and Campbell moved to IBM. The team later grew to include Jerry Brody and C. J. Tan.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Hsu "insists that this was not a case of John Henry versus the steam engine; instead, it was man-as-toolmaker defeating man-as-performer."

In the book Hsu admits that he is not a strong chess player, and, in fact, his favorite game is Go. In designing Deep Blue, he and his team were assisted by a number of grandmasters. During the match with Kasparov, Hsu made the physical moves indicated by Deep Blue, but when Kasparov asked him for Deep Blue's perspective of a game, he notes that he was unable to do so on the same level as Kasparov and the computer. In an open letter posted on Week in Chess online, Web site of the London Chess Center, Hsu noted that Kasparov publicly asked for a rematch on several occasions. Hsu "spent a small personal fortune to get the right to the chess chip." His real reason was to answer Kasparov's challenge, but it didn't happen, first because of hesitation by potential sponsors, then because Kasparov decided against playing the new computer in a title match.

Hsu wrote that "the computer chess world had treated us well, and the chess world had been kind to us. There was some apprehension in the chess world when we arrived on the scene. . . . I think I can say fairly that Deep Blue did not destroy chess. There was perhaps even a mini boom in chess popularity as a result of the Deep Blue matches." Hsu said, "We owed greatly our success to computer chess pioneers before us. Finally, I have to give my thanks to Kasparov himself....Thetwo Deep Blue matches were the most exciting experiences in my life, and Kasparov, our worthy opponent, played the central role in the experiences."

Elizabeth Armstrong reviewed Behind Deep Blue in Christian Science Monitor, saying that "although he is not a writer and English is not his first language, Hsu's enthusiasm and expertise allow him to ease into the role of storyteller, and his personal narrative is colored with details that make, surprisingly, for a thrilling page-turner."

John Derbyshire wrote in the New York Sun that Hsu "got my attention and kept it . . . bringing this strange story to life with a fluent, modest style, some side excursions into academic politics, a dash of wit, and riveting accounts of the games—and the gamesman-ship—that led up to the May 1997 victory....I finished Behind Deep Blue heartened and uplifted at the astonishing things the dedicated human mind can accomplish."



Booklist, October 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer That Defeated the World Chess Champion, p. 364.

Christian Science Monitor, November 14, 2002, Elizabeth Armstrong, review of Behind Deep Blue.

Computer, February, 2003, Michael J. Lutz, review of Behind Deep Blue, p. 82.

Computer User, February, 2003, James Mathewson, review of Behind Deep Blue, p. 22.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of BehindDeep Blue, p. 1282.

Library Journal, November 15, 2002, Joe J. Accardi, review of Behind Deep Blue, p. 93.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 20, 2002, Anthony Day, review of Behind Deep Blue, p. E-8.


IBM Research Web site,http://www.research.ibm.com/ (January 6, 2003), biographical information, interview.

New York Sun Online,http://olimu.com/ (October 16, 2002), John Derbyshire, review of Behind Deep Blue.

Week in Chess (London Chess Center), http://www.chesscenter.com/ (January 6, 2003), "Open Letter from Feng-Hsiung Hsu."*