Man vs. Machine: Smerdon vs. Komodo

Man vs. Machine: Smerdon vs. Komodo

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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102 | Chess Event Coverage

Resuming our Man vs. Machine series, this week Chess.com is hosting a match between Australian grandmaster David Smerdon and Komodo. The chess engine will be playing with knight odds.

The match, held in conjunction with a special anniversary issue of the "ICGA Journal" (International Computer Games Association), will consist of six games with a time control of 15 minutes and a 10-second increment per move.

Smerdon plays black in every game; Komodo will be missing a knight in the starting positions, alternating from removing it from b1 an g1. It will be the first formal match on record in which a grandmaster takes knight odds in rapid (as opposed to blitz) chess from any opponent and similar to the handicap games that were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Komodo is a computer chess engine developed by Don Dailey, GM Larry Kaufman, and Mark Lefler. It is the 2019 World Computer Chess Champion and was acquired by Chess.com in the spring of 2018. 

Komodo played many odds matches before on our site, most recently against super grandmasters. In June 2018, GM Hikaru Nakamura played all 20 levels of Komodo available on Chess.com followed by three odds-chess games and scored 20.5-2.5 in total. A few months later, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave did something similar, finishing with six games of rapid (15+2) odds chess against Komodo Monte Carlo.

Smerdon is a semi-retired grandmaster who lives in Brisbane, Australia, where he works as a lecturer at the University of Queensland. His areas of research are applied economics; economic development and growth; and experimental, behavioral, and evolutionary methods.

The Complete Chess Swindler Smerdon
Smerdon's latest book.

He is the author of the recently published book "The Complete Chess Swindler," in which he argues that swindling is a skill that can be trained. From the back cover of the book:

"David Smerdon shows how you can use tricks from psychology to marshal hidden resources and exploit your opponent's biases. In a lost position, your best practical chance often lies not in what the computer suggests, but in playing your opponent."

It remains to be seen whether this tactic will work if the opponent is actually also the computer—especially one rated around the 3400s! Smerdon's rating is currently 2508.

On his personal website, Smerdon notes that the traditional Elo formula estimates that Komodo would win 99.5 out of 100 games against him under normal conditions. He remains optimistic, though:

"Still, Komodo may be Komodo, but a knight is a knight (to paraphrase Mikhail Tal). A rapid game is nowhere near as long as a classical game, but neither is it the tactical lottery of a blitz match, so in theory I should be able to avoid outrageous blunders."

The Smerdon-Komodo will be played on Chess.com on April 10 and 11 at 5 p.m. Pacific time (8 p.m. Eastern) which is 2:00 a.m. CEST and 10 a.m. in Sydney on April 11 and 12. You can watch the games in Live Chess by clicking on the "events" tab (the binoculars symbol) and search for @smurfo.

How do you think Smerdon will score?

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