Can A GM And Rybka Beat Stockfish?

  • GM DanielNaroditsky
  • | May 15, 2015

Around June, Rubik's Cube extraordinaire and chess aficionado Tyson Mao approached me with a fascinating proposal. Together with his friend Jesse Levinson, Tyson was exploring the current state of computer chess engines.

It is well established that the days of human-computer rivalry are long gone. In a four- or five-game match, even Magnus Carlsen will stand no chance against Houdini or Stockfish running on decent hardware. 

But Jesse and Tyson began to wonder if a powerful engine would find it as easy to vanquish a human and a weaker computer working in tandem.

In other words, will a human grandmaster be able to make up the difference between two engines of varying strength?

When Tyson wrote to me in May, he had the experiment planned out: I would play a four-game match against Stockfish 5 (currently rated 3290, 13 points above Houdini 4) using the 2008 version of Rybka (rated approximately 3050).

The time control would be 45 minutes for the entire game, with a 30-second increment from move one.

My interest was instantly piqued: I was quite pessimistic about my chances of winning the match, but I was practically sure that Rybka and I would be tough to crack. Furthermore, I've always wondered if there are certain types of positions in which humans can still outfox their silicon fiends.

Was my confidence misplaced? Could a GM working together with an old version of Rybka beat Stockfish 5? Read on to find out!


Man or Machine? by Nathan Rupert

Game 1: 

I chose White for the first game -- since Stockfish had no opening book installed, I figured that I would have a significant advantage in the opening. Furthermore, I had the option of analyzing the position on my computer (i.e. moving the pieces around) at any time during the game, which would (in theory) allow me to counterbalance the disparity in tactical vision and calculation speed.

However, by move 15, I began to understand just how mistaken I was on practically every count. 

A frustrating start to the match!

I was particularly amazed by Stockfish's positional understanding (13...Rc8, and 15...c4 were especially noteworthy), and rather chagrined at Rybka's tactical myopia -- it hugely underestimated 15...c4, entirely overlooked the kingside pawn storm (which I actually saw coming), and could not comprehend Stockfish's tactical wizardry at the end of the game.

Nevertheless, much of the blame fell on my shoulders -- after all, I was the one making the moves! 

Game 2: 

I learned my lesson the hard way: I had no chance of surviving in a tactically complex position, and sacrifices were simply out of the question. With that comforting thought in mind, I started the clock. 

And this, folks, is why computers are no longer playable! It was not any individual move, but rather Stockfish's endgame play as a whole, that made an indelible impression on me.

Even Bobby Fischer would have probably acquiesced to a draw by move 40, but the silicon monster truly made something out of nothing. 

Game 3:

After re-energizing with a burrito (I must confess that I barely resisted the temptation to hurl it at the computer), I sat back down at the board for the second half of the match. By now, I was firmly convinced of my opponent's total infallibility, but I was determined to at least die standing. 

When Stockfish blitzed out 15...f6, tearing open the center and the seizing the initiative, I realized that my days were numbered. Instead of calmly drying the position out with a London System or King's Indian Attack, I managed to choose an opening that played right into Stockfish's hands. Mea culpa, Rybka!

Game 4: 

Any thoughts of winning the game with Black were entirely out of the window at this point, but losing 4-0 was not something I was particularly keen on either. As it turns out, determination is a powerful force indeed.

Not a particularly eventful game, but at least it was a consolation goal of sorts. (Indeed, the Germany-Brazil thrashing in the World Cup bears quite a resemblance to this match.) Although I cannot say that I am fully satisfied with our play in the first three games, the match was an unforgettable experience and -- to put it simply -- I had a lot of fun! 

Finally, I would like to thank Tyson, Jesse, and Mr. Levinson for putting on a world-class event. The free sandwiches, the live broadcast on, and the flawless computer-and-board setup were all indications of the impeccable organization, and more than 30 people came to watch the games live.

And now, back to human chess! 



  • 12 months ago


    Stockfish 6 The Stongest Chess Engine in The World!


    Which just Happens to be FREE!


    Check out the Only 24/7 Testing Site below...



    Stockfish 6 Rating = 3276 ELO


    The Nearest Rival (After another (10) Stockfish Versions :) is Komodo 9.2 + = 3521


    Stockfish will be the first Chess Engine to Rate at (3500) ELO :)

  • 15 months ago


    I would like to see many of the elite grandmasters team up and battle the top computer with long time controls (week per move?).  I think That they should stand a chance.

  • 15 months ago


    Can a GM and Stockfish beat Stockfish?

  • 15 months ago


    Can a GM and Stockfish beat Stockfish?

  • 16 months ago


    Did you upload the wrong article? I remember this one from a year ago.

  • 16 months ago


    @PamirLeopard87 your absoluly right! for years chess freaks will develop engines that are very hard to beat by a human beings. not by a long shot!!!!

  • 16 months ago


    @MomirRadovic: In 1983 machines were pretty slow. 40 hours then can now be computed in seconds. With all intuition, Man vs. Machine is lost.

  • 16 months ago



  • 16 months ago


    can somebody ban all the carlsen's ass lickers from this site? It's unbelievable how stupid you are and how you claim that he could beat a 3400 engine. You must be either menthally retarded or completely devoted to kiss his butt. You idiots.

  • 16 months ago


    What a sad FIXATION of humans on machines!

    “The only real valuable thing is intuition,” –Albert Einstein.

    “I believe in intuitions and inspirations...I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.” -Albert Einstein

    Your Stockfish and Rybka DON'T possess intuition, inspiration, imagination, strategic insight, any of those the human abilities that have brought us here and made us superior of any other species.

    Machines are non-intelligent devices simply because they just follow instructions some HUMAN mind have written for them. Thus, the bundle of cheap-chips cannot be intelligent, in the same way I couldn't aspire for it if I just follow somebody's instructions as to what to do, how to behave, what to say, every second of my existence.

    Not only digital morons don't have intuition, they KILL it in humans. See what GM Ljubojevic (#3 on the 1983 ELO list) had to say about it (in an interview given to Evgeny Surov recently)

    Lj.Lj: “Intuition is all. I will tell you, computers kill it. Let us say you are young, intuitive, talented, you win most of your games. And at a certain moment your intuition tells you that you have to make that hunch move. But your computer corrects you, it is not a good move, you should play this move. And the young man loses confidence in themselves as the chess engine keeps showing different moves.”

    “But chess engines are not always right. I have experimented with it a number of times, in a position I would make a move using my intuitive judgment and then turn my last generation engine on to show me that my move wasn’t even the forth, or fifth line of calculation. But after forty hours of constant crunching the machine finally shows that my move was the first line of play. After forty hours, can you imagine that?!”

    E. S.: "If you need to spend forty hours on every move…”

    Lj.Lj: "And young chess players looking for a quick solution, or doing some analysis when preparing for the game, want to know in a minute or two what the best move in the position may be, thus killing their intuition! The computer is suppressing their judgment, forcing them to make moves that don’t match their intuition. Gradually, they are losing this blessed gift of nature. And it is very sad when we see the computer is killing intuition in them.”


    So who cares if machines can run faster than I can (say a car), or tell the time more precisely than I can (say a watch, or cell phone), they still don't THINK.

    So stop idolizing and wasting your time with stupid morons. THINK! Use them only as a tool, or a good servant. NOT as a replacement, or dominant partner to YOUR intellect.


    Who is winning Machines-Humans war?

    AI Ended Chess. Is Humankind to Follow?

  • 16 months ago


    To ralfindus:

    really? I think, no one from super GM can now beat Stockfish 6 & Komodo 9.

    How human players rated with 2800+ with inconsistent play can beat mashine with 3300+ & no human mistakes & blunders? Absolutly hopeless :)

  • 16 months ago


    GM Carlsen can defeat Stockfish 5 + Rybka;)

  • 16 months ago


    a question for you, GM Naroditsky.


    Don't you think that it is rather logical that Stockfish displays such a high positional strength? 

    Positional skills are a mean a human player can use in order to evaluate the board, make a plan and play strong moves without having to go deep into variations. I perceive a great positional ability as a sort of "shortcut" to victory without dwelling too much on calculations. Tactic calculation is also a mean to reach victory, just through another road. The difference is that a human can't possibly think to calculate every variation dozens of moves deep and therefore we all have to relie on some kind of positional understanding, rather than calculating.

    My conclusion, therefore, is that if a powerful engine as Stockfish can calculate hundreds of moves deep into every variation, it is pretty much the same as if it had a human understanding of the position, because it simply goes through every single possible move until the end. And it evaluates the position from there.

    There is a point where all the moves have been calculated and analised: that is the point where tactical vision and positional skills converge and are the same thing. A human can't do that, but an engine can. That's why we don't stand a chance.

  • 16 months ago


    I dont see the point of a human collaborating with a CPU playing against a CPU. Computerchess is different from human chess. So the human has to be better as the CPU he is working with otherwise he will only sabotage the outcome the CPU has in mind. The CPU has no tools to communicatie with his human counterpartner so its all in the eye of the human beholder.

    And with what future point in mind? Kasparov also played together with a CPU and it was boring. The fact Carlsen doesnt use a CPU to improve on his chess says it all.

  • 16 months ago


    Very interested expirience, Daniel! Thanks!

    Now, would you try to beat Stockfish 6 with help of Houdini 4 (seems we have no see Houdini 5 :)

    Best wishes.

  • 16 months ago


    What is stockfish?

  • 19 months ago

    NM nbi1

    Highly interesting and entertaining! Hope to see more matches like this with engines at the top of the CCRL list.

  • 21 months ago


    Man, I had drawn Stockfish 5 by threefold repeatation :p I could not help doing it... i had to end the game

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    I had the pleasure of watching this match in person on the beautiful Crystal Springs Uplands school campus in Hillsborough, CA. It was a very well administered event that included food and drink for the spectators. What I found most remarkable was Daniel's graciousness and care in answering all questions from the spectators after each game. Although mauled by Stockfish in the first three games, he showed absolutely no pique, anger or shame that the vast majority of GM's would have in the same circumstance. He did not blame Rybka's lack of tactical vision (compared to Stockfish). If I can be allowed to speculate, I believe Daniel's main reaction was admiration for how strong Stockfish played and that some of its moves were so deep they were beyond human GM comprehension (during the time the game was being played).

    ---Edward D.

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