Komodo Devours Lenderman; Hikaru Match Slated Jan.

Komodo Devours Lenderman; Hikaru Match Slated Jan.

| 52 | Fun & Trivia

Humans long ago relinquished their claim as the world’s best chess players to the computer engines that now play the most accurate version of chess and who now exclusively probe the leading edge of game’s discoveries.

While playing the computer today in a fair match is something a human might do only for a morbid curiosity of how the engine might dismantle him, the outcome determined before the first pawn moved, there is a resurgence of a different kind of man-vs.-machine chess.

Popular in the days of romantic coffeehouse chess, material odds matches are making a comeback as a way to level the playing field for humanity to take on the software it created.

Recent odds matches between the leading chess engines and titled chess players have proven entertaining, popular, and educational for both the humans playing the game and the software developers behind the machines.

The developers of the world’s strongest computer engine, Komodo, arranged a series of material odds matches against human grandmasters this year. The third master to face the digital lizard was the American GM Alex Lenderman, rated by FIDE at 2623.

GM Alex Lenderman at the 2014 U.S. Championship.

Komodo, by contrast, is rated an astonishing 3365 in the CCRL “pure list,” which attempts to remove rating distortion by considering only games played by the best version of each competing engine.

The Komodo-Lenderman match was an appetizer for an upcoming showdown between the machine and GM Hikaru Nakamura, recently rated as high as the number-two human in the world.

Peter Doggers writes an excellent news preview of the upcoming Komodo-Nakamura match (now scheduled for January 2016), which also summarizes the previous Komodo-GM matches and provides a brief history of man vs. machine chess in general.

Less formal human-computer odds matches have been increasingly popular on, where IM Daniel Rensch’s Man vs. Machine show is consistently the most-viewed program of the #ChessMonday marathon each week. You can watch that show at noon Pacific time most Mondays on and Twitch. 

Here’s a preview of Rensch playing the world’s strongest open-source engine, Stockfish, in a recent Man vs. Machine broadcast replay. Rensch has also announced plans to play Komodo, and eventually open up the material odds challenge to other titled players on the show. Click here to watch the full video.

While the show is played entirely on IM Rensch’s ordinary PC, the Komodo-Lenderman match used a 24-core, custom-built monster machine, which cost $6,000 according to its operator, GM Larry Kaufman of the Komodo team.

Lenderman used a real board for the six games played at 45 minutes with a 15-second increment, and then switched to a computer workstation for the blitz session that followed.

You can watch video of the blitz setup used by Lenderman and Larry Kaufman below:

The main event was four games of f7 pawn and move odds for Lenderman, and two games where Lenderman had Black starting up a rook-for-knight exchange.

Lenderman drew the first and last games of the match, and lost the middle four. Both the drawn games were with f7-pawn and move odds. Komodo won the match five to one. 

You can download the full PGN of the match from Komodo chess here

Two illustrative games demonstrate the versatility and unrelenting will of the engine: it effortlessly worked around the predetermined weaknesses in its position and quickly turned the tables to unleash ferocious attacks.

In a round-two game where it started down a rook for a knight, the computer used its extra cavalry to make Black’s position look silly. After establishing two powerful knights on c6 and d7 — the broadcast commentators called them “unicorns” — Komodo liquidated to an endgame, slowly increasing its advantage until Lenderman retreated his bishop on the wrong diagonal. The game came to its brutal end two moves later.

In round three, with Lenderman receiving f7-pawn and move odds, Komodo buffeted the human grandmaster with tactical shot after tactical shot before calmly and almost mercifully walking its king up the board to supervise a forced checkmate.

The next confirmed material odds match for Komodo is against the super-GM Hikaru Nakamura in January 2016. is also arranging the final details of one or two intermediate matches between the Komodo engine and other well-known grandmasters to be played in November or December this year. Those matches might feature a “stream-of-consciousness” commentary from the humans as they play against the machine.

Keep an eye on for the forthcoming announcements.

What do you think about computers against humans in material odds chess? Let us know in the comments section below.

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