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


    @TheProfessor, that is in 3|0 matches...

  • 4 years ago


    It's just a blitz game... we all know that stronger computer games need more time for deep analyses... Human has no chance against today's big computers in normal matches.

  • 4 years ago


    I don't believe the author reads any of the comments on his posts. Last week, the same thing happened. Author said" "This is what I say and I will it to be true therefore it's true and I am right therefore anything I write is true" or something along those lines.

    We then argued about it, and now this week he does the exact same thing: "Last week, I convinced the entire world without a fight that I am right about everything and I will continue along the lines of being right about everything"

    You've given us a game that is an exception among exceptions. Not only that but it is five years old. In five years, computing power goes up at LEAST four-fold (Quad-cores were brand new) and there will be a LOT of programming improvements too.

    Just because you're too old to change in five years doesn't mean computers won't change either.

    Maybe next week we will have "Computers in Chess Good or Evil Part Three: Repentence" where you show us a half dozen games of you getting smoked by Rybka and/or Houdini on a low-to-mid range computer like a typical laptop.

  • 4 years ago


    If this game was played by a human, it would probably be regarded as the greatest game ever played with best example of positional understanding.


    Rybka 4 vs Houdini 1.5a

  • 4 years ago


    I guess HAL 9000 (the red-eyed picture shown in the article title) was "evil" and also played chess in the movie!  That's the only evil I see in this article:  a fictional movie/book character!

    Then again, in the sequel it was revealed that humans had programmed the flaws into HAL, having taught "him" to lie, causing a logical paradox that drove him insane!

    I think there have been a lot more evil people so far than computers.  Look at history, no shortage. Also, has a computer ever deliberately cheated at chess, using a human???????

    (The Turk doesn't count!)

  • 4 years ago


    Interesting.......;). And amazing.

  • 4 years ago


    while there may be some programmers about with some egg on their faces, technically speaking, you can't humiliate a computer, not anymore than you could so do a common house brick.

    least not until someone invents an emotion chip; and that being the case, no Tamagotchi non-sense satisfies, authentic Hollywood style androids would be a minimum to even pass for a mild consideration of likeness, and still then, only maybe.

  • 4 years ago


    no way this is 271 moves in 3 minutes. no way! even for Nakamura !

  • 4 years ago


    What's more impressive, beating Rybka in 27 moves or in 271? I'm with Nakamura.

  • 4 years ago


    So Naka beat Rybka once in 2008.  That was 5 years ago.

    It's now 2013 and Houdini 3 would absolutely crush Naka in blitz 100/100 with amazing ease.

  • 4 years ago


    Yeah... The thing is... A computer could never actually be evil, let alone a computer created only to play chess.
    I think the author has been reading to much sci-fi.

  • 4 years ago


    I bet Nakamura must have done a lot of premoving in order to play 271 moves in just 3 minutes. For example, the times when he was shuffling his pieces back and forth between two squares, and also when he was pushing all of his passed pawns to end up beating the computer with 5 bishops.

  • 4 years ago


    what's this doing for me?

    give me something i can use on a 1400 player

    No what i mean?

  • 4 years ago


    Yeah, 271 moves in 3 minutes, nice!

  • 4 years ago


    271 moves in a 3 minute game? That is 0.66 secs each move.

  • 4 years ago


    Once again, computers can and do resign.  It's up to the configuration to decide when or if.  Even Deep Thought was programmed to resign against Kasparov (when down 7 points, I remember), and that was decades ago.

    As far as the horizon effect, there can be much knowledge built into a program that makes it "know" certain positions are good or bad (such as wrong color bishops) without searching deep.   Also, once again an example is given from years ago!  I'm disappointed that a more current game could not be given. Maybe in part 3 we can get an example that's not so out of date?

    As I said in part one, I'm not "pro computer", but facts are facts....People are "smarter" than computers, but as a group, computers win much more than people. That is their goal, not to be "smart". The entire trend trumps a game here or there. I also don't understand why this article is titled "Good or Evil" (???)  Why not "Good or Bad"?  The evil description shows a certain bias that would be the same as me being envious I could not run faster than my car!  Are cars evil too? (wait, many people did think automobiles were evil when they came on the scene, ironic!)

    We are not the center of the universe, an old bias to break even today.  Why skewer the facts, and not show some examples of GMs getting hammered by a computer?

  • 4 years ago

    NM papapizza


  • 4 years ago


    So nakamura can beat a 2008 computer and end up with 5 bishops but Kasparov can't beat a 1997 computer in a match? Seems legit.

  • 4 years ago


    How the heck do you play 271 moves in a 3 minute game??

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