TODAY: Nakamura To Play Komodo In Odds Match

TODAY: Nakamura To Play Komodo In Odds Match

| 157 | Chess Players

The strongest computer chess engine in history will face one of the strongest humans on earth next week in an odds chess match on

Komodo will play GM Hikaru Nakamura in a four-game match, January 6 and 7, live on and Two games will be played each day, starting at 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. Pacific time on day one, and 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Pacific time on day two. The time control for each game is 45 minutes plus a 15-second increment. 

Komodo, the reigning computer world champion, is rated 3366 on the CCRL "pure" list, and is unquestionably the strongest chess-playing entity ever created. 

Nakamura, a world championship candidate currently ranked number five in the world, will face the machine as the strongest human chess player to battle a computer in a formal match since Garry Kasparov lost to Deep Blue in 1997.

Let us know who you think will win Nakamura vs. Komodo in the comments or on Facebook

Nakamura has previous experience playing computers, most notably in last year's event pairing Nakamura and Rybka against Stockfish. Stockfish won that match by a score of 3-1.

Komodo is even stronger than Stockfish, winning a 100-game match between the two, 53.5-46.5, in the recent TCEC engine superfinal to claim the title of computer world champion.

In September, the journalist Peter Doggers wrote a news preview of Komodo-Nakamura, which takes a look at the history of man vs. machine chess matches.

The four-game match will use the following odds positions:

1. Pawn-and-move odds: Nakamura as White, Komodo as Black, f7 pawn removed, White to move -- January 6 at 8 a.m. Pacific on

2. Pawn odds: Komodo as White, Nakamura as Black, f2 pawn removed, White to move -- January 6 at 12 p.m. Pacific on

3. Exchange odds: Komodo as White, Nakamura as Black, a1 rook removed, b8 knight removed, Black rook on b8, White to move -- January 7 at 8 a.m. Pacific on

4. Four-move odds: Nakamura as White, Komodo as Black, White pawns on e4 and d4, White knight on f3, White to move -- January 7 at 1 p.m. Pacific on interviewed Nakamura by e-mail for his thoughts on the match. What is your predicted match score?

Nakamura: An even score is my goal. If I can get a plus score, then it will be a monumental victory! What's the hardest part of facing the computer?

Nakamura: The hardest part of facing a computer is knowing that literally any sort of mistake, it will doom you. At least against humans there is always the chance that they might blunder back! Do you as a world-championship-level human have any remaining advantages over the machine?

Nakamura: The only advantage that remains for humans is in relation to the depth horizon. For example, if there is a closed endgame position, a human has the ability to see a potential setup of pieces 20 moves down the road which might lead to a forced win. The same can be applied to some positions in the King's Indian where there are piece sacs leading to direct mating ideas.

One of my personal favorites way back in the day was playing the following position against Fritz 4 where because of using the b6+a5+Ba6 idea, the computer would go 15.b5? closing the queenside and giving me a free attack on the kingside. How did you prepare for the match?

Nakamura: I haven't done anything specific preparation-related to this match, but I have spent a little bit of time thinking about what sort of openings and structures I want.

GM Larry Kaufman of the Komodo team also sent in his thoughts on the match:

This match is very significant in several ways. Although we have already demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that we can give the classical "pawn and move" (f7) handicap or the exchange (rook for knight) to 2600+ grandmasters quite successfully, this is the first match on record in which a program has attempted to give such odds to a world champion candidate, and at a non-rapid time limit.

Although almost no one disputes that the top engine is stronger than any human, there is considerable debate on how wide the gap is, and whether the ratings of around 3350 shown for Komodo on the two major rating lists are realistic. This match should shed some light on those questions. We are working hard trying to improve Komodo before the match; the version that plays will be our latest developmental version, which I expect will be about 10 elo stronger than Komodo 9.3, the last official version.

I also hope that we will learn things in the match that will lead to further improvements. We will also have a small handicap book prepared for the match, to insure that we don't get in worse trouble in the opening than necessary, and will utiilize my 24-core (Intel) computer.

I chose the handicaps with an eye both to variety and to making a roughly fair match. With no experience against 2800-level players to go by, I could be wrong, but the last two matches with GMs have ended 2-to-2, which suggests that I'm getting pretty good at judging what is balanced.

I rate Hikaru as a favorite at f7 handicap and probably also at exchange handicap, while I rate the four-move game as a tossup, and I favor Komodo's chances in the f2 handicap game.

We have learned from these matches that it is pretty easy for the GM to make draws with these large handicaps, but quite difficult to win. I will be satisfied if Komodo manages a 2-2 tie, hopefully not with all four games drawn. A 2-to-2 result will be sufficient to show that the 3350 ratings are at least credible.

Nakamura will play from New York on day one and Florida on day two, both times via the live server.

GM Larry Kaufman will operate Komodo on his 24-core computer from his home office in Maryland, making the moves on

IM Danny Rensch, GM Robert Hess, and GM Simon Williams will host live video coverage of the match on starting at 8 am Pacific on Jan. 6. 

All three hosts have played Komodo before. Hess and Williams both scored 2-2 against Komodo in similar four-game odds matches (with greater odds than Nakamura will get), while Rensch faces Komodo each week in his flagship #ChessMonday show Man vs. Machine on

Let us know who you think will win Nakamura vs. Komodo in the comments. 

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