How to Beat an 80s Chess Computer - Part 4

How to Beat an 80s Chess Computer - Part 4


Hello all!

In this final installment, the author will review all of the games in the match, and formulate some general guidelines on how to beat an 80s chess computer. Of course, simply being good at chess would be one way to win all the games, however if the discrepancy between your playing strength and that of the computer is small, then hopefully these tips will swing the balance in your favour!

Firstly, here are the final 3 games:

Game 10 - Dubious Development 

Game 11 - An Enigmatic Endgame

Game 12 - Endgames, Endgames, Endgames...

Final Match Score

Mark Waterfield - Chess Challenger

61/2 - 51/2

Summary of Tips 

  1.  Find a chink in the opening repertoire - In this match, we saw how my opening preparation with white (i.e. the Moscow Sicilian and the 4...Bc5 Scotch) allowed me to score multiple wins in the same variations (because the computer repeats its mistakes - something humans do, but to a lesser extent). Try out a few different openings, and the interesting part is immediately after the engine leaves book. This is because computers are actually quite bad at playing openings - This is why they have an openings book installed. For example, immediately after chess challenger left book in game 3, it played the wierd 7...Qe5?!. This is where the computer is most likely to make a mistake.
  2. Be Tactically vigilant - Engines of this sort, when given 5 seconds per move are not going to calculate very deeply, but they sure will calculate wide! Such engines are excellent at spotting 2 or 3 move tricks, which win a pawn or an exchange or more. Try not to have too many loose pieces if you can help it, and watch out for geometry.
  3. Play for the Swindle - Engines are extremely complacent. Unlike most humans, who would swap the queens off when two pawns up in a quiet position, they will keep them on and play for some convoluted checkmate. As I found out in game 2, chess challenger is very greedy, you would have thought that after muching off two pawns it would have indigestion, but no there goes a third one .... and a forth. Such greed can be punished by active piece play - going for checkmate - For an example check out game 2.
  4. Choose Strategy over Calculation  - In some endgames, there is a moment when you have to make a choice. Do I exchange pieces? or not. If you keep a pair of rooks on the board, then the position is more strategic, and the margin for error on both sides is larger. If you enter pure king and pawn endgames, it will be calculation down to the last tempo, where one mistake will cost you the game. So, I recommend entering the KP endgames only when you can see right to the end - otherwise, keep the rooks on. For an example on this, see game 11 (here, I got out calculated).
  5. Go for Checkmate - To play the technical game, one of subtle manoeuvring and slight advantages, against humans, it might work. However, the engine is, well...a machine, and playing in this way, though possible, will be extemely difficult to maintain. Normally such play is aimed at tiring the opponent out and grinding them down, but when your opponent is an engine, you will be the one ground down. Instead, play for the attack. Go for the initiative, and play for checkmate, and pray that the engine will get complacent and miss your threats.

This is the end of the series, I hope you enjoyed!  

By the way, if you are a beginner/novice player who wants to improve, then I do offer coaching (see my profile for more info).