Computers in chess... Good or Evil? Part Two.

  • GM Gserper
  • | Feb 17, 2013

In last week's article, we looked at a very interesting phenomenon of computer chess - the "horizon effect." Basically it is a computer's inability in certain situations to see the future no matter how fast its processor is or how many plys it can calculate. In the following game our "human computer" Hikaru Nakamura takes full advantage of this phenomenon. This brilliant game shows why people are still smarter than computers, no matter how powerful the computers chips become. Let's examine this epic battle step by step.

Part 1: Fortress

The position is an obvious draw since neither side can open the position to his advantage.

Part 2 : Nakamura's First Trick

Nakamura sacrifices (or maybe just blunders, since it is just a 3 minute ICC blitz) an exchange.  But the resulting position is still a 'dead' draw because it is still the same fortress:

Part 3 : The devilish trick!

As the position is still a draw, both sides keep moving aimlessly back and forth and the game comes to the inevitable "50 moves" rule. As most of you know, if in the duration of 50 moves no capture was made and no pawn moved, one of the opponent's can claim a draw. The computer could see that the game is about to be drawn, but despite the positive evaluation of the position it couldn't do much as the only way to avoid the draw was to push and sacrifice a pawn which change the evaluation to about even.  So, Nakamura tries to avoid a draw by sacrificing an exchange one move before the "50 moves rule" takes effect!

And now we have another fortress, but the game continues!!

Part 4 : The Bait!

The opponents' aimlessly moves and even the trade of Queens on move 124 doesn't change anything. Another instance of the '50 moves rule' comes into play and on move 174 the computer must make a tough choice. Either it makes just about any move and allows the game to be drawn or it sacrifices a pawn just to avoid the draw.  Unlike the situation on move 60, computer's evaluation of the position is so positive that even after the pawn sacrifice it thinks it is winning.  So it sacrifices a pawn!


Part 5: Massacre

After White loses a very important pawn (really, the anchor of his position), he loses his whole queenside, pawn by pawn. After that, White's clumsy Rooks are no match for Black's minor pieces and the armada of passed pawns. So, the game reaches the next position:

Part 6 : Public Humiliation

The computer again 'forgets' to resign and just like in the game from the previous article, Nakamura humiliates the computer in front of cheering audience:

It is a pity that it's impossible to make a Hollywood movie based on this game. In my opinion this game is as exciting for a chess player as the classical movie "Sting" with Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

to be continued...


  • 4 years ago


    @kiros37100 Please define what you mean by "think" and "calculate". Come up with a quantitative way of measuring these and I will agree with you.


    @pfren Just because you are a GM in chess doesn't qualify you to talk about chess engines. Making claims that computers will never be able to solve this or that positions is plain wrong. Or that humans are "smarter" than computers is just igonorance.  

  • 4 years ago


    I would very much like to call Pfren a name fitting to his stupidity in this case but I will refrain.

    I don't think anyone has said computers play perfectly. I don't think anyone here is illiterate. I don't think anyone is claiming authority in this situation because they have an engine. I don't think anyone has questioned the abilities of the author.

    In fact, the only comments about his abilities are that he is probably better suited at playing and analyzing games than blathering on about computers. This is a credit to his chess strength.

    Pfren somehow managed to become an international master but has a serious lack in maturity. He uses several poor debate tactics and claims to have won. He won't try to support any of the three unfounded accusations with evidence or take back the insults he has made to everyone who disagrees (you won't look up "Ad Hominem" this time because you didn't do so the last two times I asked you either).

    Nobody hold your breaths on getting a response out of him, either. He will run and hide from people who call him out as he has before and will do again.

  • 4 years ago


    "Show me a robut that can play OTB, then we may debate intelligence!" A google for [chess playing robot] yields over 2 million results. Do that search and then select images.

  • 4 years ago


    "Challenging a modern chess engine is the same as challenging a crane in a weightlifting competition!" I can think of more differences than similarities between these 2 contests.

  • 4 years ago

    IM pfren

    Mr. Serper, you can see that most members disagree with you and believe that computers play "perfectly".

    Please don't dissapoint them, say "yes they are".

    Don't destroy our over-the-board client base... please? We do need people as illiterate as them to display our chess authority.

    Most of them tend to believe that they are masters of the known universe since they got a pirated Houdini 3.0 version at their hands, and it is your duty NOT changing their mind...

    Factly, they are dumb enough to believe that they are adequately smart to use an engine "perfectly", while a strong GM like you is simply impotent to do the same thing.

  • 4 years ago



    The author of this article is correct in saying humans are smarter than computers. Computers don't think, they only calculate. They follow a specific set of instructions. This game and the author do a great job in explaining how this limitation can be exploited. 

  • 4 years ago


    The computer plays the same line every time. Maybee it wasnt the first time Naka played the computer in this line!

  • 4 years ago


    Nakamura is a true troll.

  • 4 years ago


    Show me a robut that can play OTB, then we may debate intelligence!

  • 4 years ago


    money on my mine money money on my mind

  • 4 years ago


    i think beating the human brain is not just nearly impossible but also a bad idea. hasnt anyone watched terminator? also i think many of you are miswsing the poin. its that the computer no matter what couldnt see past a certain point in the game and nakamura exploited it. so go him and the author

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


        The author should stick to analyzing chess games (something I have no doubt he/she would be good at) instead of writing articles about a subject he/she clearly has no mastery over.

        Claims like "This brilliant game shows why people are still smarter than computers, no matter how powerful the computers chips become." are plain wrong on many levels. First and foremost, given enough resources a computer will be able to play the perfect game. Secondly, how exactly are we measuring how "smart" a computer or human is?

  • 4 years ago


    Cold as ice to promote to all bishops Sealed

  • 4 years ago


    that must be the most boring game i have ever seen....maybe tha computer fell asleep - i know i would have

  • 4 years ago


    Humans are not better at chess than computers... Nakamura is better at chess than most versions (all?) of computer chess engines. The difference is that Rybka is duplicable and Nakamura is not. 

  • 4 years ago


    Impressive win from Naka! For those of you questioning his speed, there are many videos online of him playing bullet/blitz and he is FAST! Judging by the ending he even had time to spare. The man literally wrote the book on bullet ('One minute to mate') and is currently the highest rated online bullet/blitz player in the world. 

  • 4 years ago


    Useless article. no human can beat the latest chess engines. It is so funny to see that the author uses a 3 minute blitz game to prove that computers are useless in chess ? Why didn't Kasparov think of that to win against Deep Blue in 1997 ?

  • 4 years ago


    Those of you wondering how so many moves were played in so little time, you can set premoves in internet blitz which are played automatically. Naka probably used that during the two 100 move sessions

  • 4 years ago


    271 moves in 180 seconds. Thats somewhere around 3 moves every 2 seconds.

    I am amazed. Even without the thought process involved, reacting to moves etc I just can't move my hand quick enough to move the pieces that quick. Let alone with any purpose.

    Sorry I think machines will ultimately be unbeatable. But then their strength is only provided by the humans who write the code/software so... each to their own. I love computer chess. Above all else its convenient.  But no it doesnt match sat having a social game with a friend and a wee nip.

    But then for me chess is just fun and something to keep the grey matter ticking over.

    But fair play. He beat the machine by quick hands, quicker wits and exploiting an old weakness in the system that surely now has been fixed.  But still. I could never have done it.  Could you?

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