Komodo Overwhelms Erenburg In Odds Rematch

Komodo Overwhelms Erenburg In Odds Rematch

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In the never-ending saga of Man vs Machine, GM Sergey Erenburg became the first grandmaster to return for a rematch against Komodo when he tackled the beast in a match of two-pawn odds on June 16-17.

Erenburg's willingness to continue the fight was particularly surprising as the previous match was a brutal victory for Komodo by the score of 3.5-0.5. That match was the first ever to be based primarily on time odds. Curtailing the engine's thinking time didn't affect its tactical awareness, and Erenburg had to play extremely accurately to achieve even one draw.

Erenburg evincing a handsome and naively optimistic smile. Photo

In the rematch, Komodo offered more tangible odds of two pawns.

The grandmasters have frequently managed to perform respectably against Komodo with material odds in positions they can understand.

Game one: Komodo plays without the c2- and e2-pawns.

The first game produced an early conflict as Erenburg's 11...b5? goaded Komodo into serious aggression. A few moves later, Komodo offered a sacrifice with 16.Bxh7+!

Ordinarily, sacrifices from the all-seeing engine turn humans to mush, but this sacrifice was an equalizing one. In fact, it prefaced a double-bishop sacrifice as 18.Bxg7! soon followed.

The sacrifices naturally recalled famous games such as Lasker vs Bauer, Nimzowitsch vs Tarrasch, and Kuzmin vs Sveshnikov.

Your reporter also has fond memories of double-bishop sacrifices. I was once able to play the following game against former U.S. junior champion IM Daniel Fernandez.

Returning to Komodo vs Erenburg, it was very natural to consider playing for a win, but there really was no alternative to repetition for Komodo. All winning attempts allowed Erenburg opportunities to flee with his king while retaining oodles of material. 

Game two: Komodo plays without the c2- and e2-pawns.

The second game was becoming quite scary for Erenburg as Komodo launched itself at Erenburg's king with all the grace of...something, but definitely not a Komodo dragon. Graceful they ain't.

14.g4 and 16.f5 created fearsome tension. Erenburg might have tried 17...e5!, but after the slightly safer choice 17...exf5!?, the game began to trend toward a draw.

The conclusion (after a trade of queens on move 23) was an opposite-colored bishops endgame where it seemed unlikely that Erenburg would be able to convert against Komodo. A draw was agreed soon.

Game three: Komodo plays without the d2- and e2-pawns.

Erenburg played nearly perfectly for 31 moves. Then on move 32, he made an all-too-human move. With pressure on the board and the clock increasing, he played 32...Bc6??, immediately lost a piece, and had to resign.

This was a tragic end in this particular game as Erenburg had maintained nearly his full opening advantage through move 30, but as they say, "to err is human." To not is Komodo.

The classic facepalm: a quintessentially human behavior.

Game four: Komodo plays without the e2- and f2-pawns.

Erenburg's demeanor after the blunder in game three left something to be desired. He did not seem quite as attentive and sharp as he did in games one and two.

His opening and early middlegame was still strong though and 17...f5! was a particularly strong, if obligatory move. Unfortunately, Erenburg immediately broke with the maxim that mistakes come in pairs and followed up f5 with the mistake 18...Qc6?

19.d5! was not long in coming and although Erenburg was still a little better, the trend against him was strong. Inaccuracy by tiny inaccuracy, Komodo took over and won when Erenburg played for mate threats on g2, missing 27.Qd8+! and Qxd5+!

The saga continues! So far, only GM Simon Williams has managed a victory against Komodo in the current system. When will a grandmaster take down the machine in one of these odds matches? It has to happen someday, right? Right!?

Final Match Standings

Participants 1 2 3 4 Final Score
Komodo ½ ½ 1 1 3.0
GM Sergey Erenburg ½ ½ 0 0 1.0

You can replay all games with commentary from Simon Williams at

In addition to these odds-based matches, check out IM Daniel Rensch on his #ChessMonday show Man vs Machine. Watch every other Monday at

A complete Man vs Machine historical archive is available here.

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