Hikaru Nakamura Crushes Computer In Blitz Chess - Top 10 of the 2000s - Rybka vs. Nakamura, 2008
Hikaru Nakamura unveils a gorgeous anti-computer strategy to

Hikaru Nakamura Crushes Computer In Blitz Chess - Top 10 of the 2000s - Rybka vs. Nakamura, 2008

NM SamCopeland

Hikaru Nakamura has long been one of the best blitz chess players online, but can he really defeat a chess engine in three-minute, no-increment chess?!

In 2008, he did exactly that as he used an incredible anti-computer strategy of closing the position and offering two exchange sacrifices to convince the top engine at the time, Rybka, to overpress in an effort to avoid a fifty-move rule draw.

I had the great pleasure of watching these anti-computer battles live on the ICC (Internet Chess Club). My memory is slightly shaky, but I remember seeing masters like Nakamura and Rustemov (AKA Goldmund) scrape draws by closing the position against the engine. With trial and error, they would find strategies to best the engine as it monotonously repeated the strategic errors of previous games. It had no ability to learn from its errors as a human would.

Watching this live, one was excited to see Nakamura securing a comfortable draw, but as the game progressed, it suddenly became clear he was after more as he revealed the engine's hubris and fallibly greedy programming.

Top 10 Games of the 2000s

The game opens with a Grob Defense, but Nakamura rejects any attempt to take advantage of the weak opening. Instead, he invites the engine to size space and close the position. Rybka does so repeatedly until the position is hopelessly blocked.

Then Nakamura reveals phase two of his plan. He "sacrifices" both rooks to convince the engine it is winning materially. It gleefully accepts, but it can still find no way through. Eventually, facing the prospect of a 50-move rule draw, Rybka tries a pawn break, the only way to avoid the draw. This is already a serious error, and when the engine in massive time trouble misses a fortress, Nakamura breaks through himself, ultimately "bishoping" most of his pawns and crafting a hilarious mate in only 271 moves!


  • It's easy to overvalue space.
  • In closed positions, what matters is pawn breaks.
  • Rooks have no value in closed positions.
  • Piece quality trumps piece value, a rough estimate of average quality.
  • The Grob sucks. 1...e5 and 2...h5.

My notes are below. Enjoy the game!

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