Komodo Defeats Perelshteyn In A Match Of Opening Blunders

Komodo Defeats Perelshteyn In A Match Of Opening Blunders

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Fireworks and a far-too-familiar sense of frustration were on display in the latest Man Vs. Machine match on April 19th and 20th. Scoring the full point in games one and three, Komodo bested GM Eugene Perelshteyn 3-1 in a hard-fought affair. Perelshtyen applied heavy pressure in game two but could not quite break through.

GM Perelshteyn is well-known to members for his excellent videos and his ChessTV show, Boston Blitz Brawl!

Perelshteyn was realistic about his chances before the match, considering himself a serious underdog. Of course, to give the human a fighting chance, all Man Vs. Machine matches offer the human some form of odds. Tackling Komodo mano a mano is simply no longer a realistic proposition.

Headline Photo Credit: Adhi Rachdian released under Creative Commons 

History fact: This stylish 1982 Cray-XMP supercomputer cost ~15 million USD and had 128 RAM. Today, GM Larry Kaufman runs the latest edition of Komodo on his personal machine with 32 GB or 250 times as much RAM! Additionally, the Cray line of supercomputers gives it's name to the Cray Blitz computer programs which won two World Computer Chess Championships in the 1980's.

This particular match featured a them of opening blunders. In games three, four, and five, Komodo was obligated to play a horrific blunder in a variety of common opening positions.

  1. Five Moves — Perelshteyn plays White. White has already received the moves e4, d4, c4, and Nf3.
  2. Opening King Walk — Perelshteyn plays White. The game begins 1.e4 e6 2.d4 Ke7?
  3. Opening Pawn Blunder — Perelshteyn plays White. The game begins 1.d4 g5?? 2. Bxg5
  4. Opening Piece Blunder — Perelshteyn plays Black. The game begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nxe5??

Game 1 (Five-Moves)

Despite the optical appeal of White's position, this particular form of odds has proven a great challenge for the humans. At four and five-move odds, no human has yet scored a draw. The previous human victims are GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Joel Benjamin.

This game was almost a replica of the game between Nakamura and Komodo. Once again, Komodo patiently lurked on the first three ranks in the opening. After completing a passive development, the engine pushed e5 and forced a King's Indian pawn structure.

After due preparation, the pawn break f5 appeared, and the game was all downhill after that. staff member roninreturns was watching and shared the following observation from Komodo creator, Don Dailey, "In positions that most engines would likely struggle or find it impossible to make progress, Komodo quietly prepares a break and ends up with the victory."

Don Dailey, Komodo's creator, passed away in November 2013. Photo:

Game 2 (1.e4 e6 2.d4 Ke7?)

With the unappealing taste of game one still plaguing his craw, Perelshteyn decided to flip the script on the computer and castle queenside to initiate an all-out assault.

His efforts were thoroughly rewarded as his advantage grew, and , this was certainly Perelshteyn's best chance for a win.

More importantly, he managed to show that grandmasters still know some things the computers do not. The piece sacrifice 14. Ne6! put the computer on the brink of defeat. Fearing Perelshteyn's growing attack, Komodo sacrificed a piece back with 21...Rae8.

At this point, Perelshteyn flinched slightly. Understandably wanting the queens off the board, he allowed a queen trade that significantly eased the pressure. After this, Perelshteyn was always better, but a win became unlikely, and the players soon repeated.

Game 3 (1.d4 g5?? 2. Bxg5)

Game three began flawlessly for Perelshteyn. He kept the position simple and developed naturally. With a pleasant advantage in his possession, Perelshteyn again sought a queen trade which unfortunately eased the pressure.

This time the consequences were more serious. After the misstep 26.Nd2, 26...f4! gave Komodo serious compensation for the pawn. There were no obvious opportunities for Perelshteyn at this point, and he began to drift. Meanwhile, Komodo froze Perelshteyn's weak pawn on a3 and began to menace it.

Komodo soon devoured the pawn as well as any drawing chances Perelshteyn retained. Komodo's prowess is unquestionable, but to see Komodo win a near symmetrical pawn-down endgame without an obvious tactical blunder from Perelshteyn is undeniably disheartening.

"The beatings will continue until morale improves!"- Komodo

Game 4 (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nxe5??)

In the final game, Perelshteyn retained a big advantage throughout the game with excellent play. However, with his time depleting, he found Komodo's defenses too solid and repeated moves to close the match 3-1 in favor of Komodo.

Final Match Standings

Participants 1 2 3 4 Final Score
Komodo 1 ½ 1 ½ 3
GM Eugene Perelshteyn 0 ½ 0 ½ 1

Post-Match Interview with GM Eugene Perelshteyn

GM Perelshteyn graciously shared his insights about the match and Man Vs. Machine matches in general. He also promised to publish further thoughts soon in his "Five Grandmaster Tips" series. Check out his previous articles here and here.

Q: Did you prepare any particular opening lines for the match?

A: Since it was a handicap match, I didn't do any specific opening prep. I briefly looked at a few initial positions but only about five moves deep or so.

Q: What was your best game in the match? What pleased you about the game?

A: Game two for sure! I played very aggressively and came up with a two-pawn sacrifice idea to lure his king in the center. Normally, I would play Ne6! and f5+! in an instant against any human player. But I was really doubting myself to do it vs the best defensive player of all time - Komodo! I am happy that I trusted my intuition and obtained a winning attack.

Q: Thus far, no human has achieved a draw at five-move odds. Do you have any thoughts about how humans might play the position differently to improve their chances?

A: I feel like I made a big mistake to close up the game with d5. After that it was a one-sided game with a typical KID pawn storm! In the future, I would play more sharply, like castling queenside similar to game two.

Q: You played three new types of odds (in games 2-4). Which did you feel was most advantageous and which was most difficult?

A: Game two felt similar to game one, but I liked my aggressive approach to castle long. Game three felt better than Game four since I was familiar with the London System/Torre Attack setup, and it is relatively safe versus computers. Game four is both the most advantageous handicap and the most difficult at the same time, since the position is wide open with White's powerful center pawns on e4 and d4. I spent too much time in the opening and obtained a good position but didn't see how to make progress. Thus, three-fold repetition.

Q: What strategies or preparations would you recommend to the next grandmaster to play Komodo?

A: Play aggressive chess and trust your intuition!

All games with commentary from Perelshteyn are available for replay at Here is Perelshteyn's commentary on the incredible second game which may provide a template for future anti-computer play.

Watch live video from Chess

We are suckers for punishment here at! In addition to our regular Man Vs. Machine matches, be sure to check out IM Daniel Rensch putting his fully human ego on the line in his #ChessMonday show Man vs Machine. Watch every other Monday at

A complete Man vs. Machine historical archive summarizing previous matches is available here.

NM Sam Copeland

I'm the VP of Chess and Community for I earned the National Master title in 2012, and in 2014, I returned to my home state of South Carolina to start Strategery: Chess and Games. In late 2014, I began working for and haven't looked back since.

You can find my personal content on Twitch , Twitter , and YouTube where I further indulge my love of chess.

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