Smerdon Beats Komodo 5-1 With Knight Odds

Smerdon Beats Komodo 5-1 With Knight Odds

| 47 | Chess Event Coverage

GM David Smerdon (@smurfo) defeated chess engine Komodo (@PlayKomodo), playing with knight odds, 5-1. The Man vs. Machine rapid match was played on on April 10 and 11 and provided more insight into the effect of material imbalance in human vs engine play.  

A knight is a knight—even for Komodo.

While many experts, including grandmasters, predicted Smerdon to lose the match with big numbers, the Australian grandmaster was right when he noted on his website before the match:

"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."

Commentary was provided by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko and IM Andreas Toth.

Smerdon needed a game to warm up as he blundered terribly in the opening in the first game. However, after that, he played solid games, managed to trade pieces at the right moments and comfortably converted endgames with extra material.

Here is that first game:

GM Larry Kaufman of the Komodo team commented:

"David played very well except for the first game. In game five, it looked like he might have to settle for a draw playing a difficult endgame with only the 10-second increment, but he played it splendidly and won after more than a hundred moves. His other four wins were relatively easy. It looks like full knight odds is just too much for a grandmaster at the 15' + 10" time control. Perhaps next time we'll try knight for b7 or c7 pawn, or full knight odds at Chess960 vs. a GM."

Here's that fifth game mentioned by Kaufman, where Smerdon indeed shows strong determination to also win this endgame with an extra piece:

Smerdon on Facebook:

"My odds match against Komodo is over, with me prevailing by five wins to one. It turns out that "the knight is just too strong" (Evgenij Miroshnichenko), even though about 75 percent of the pre-game predictions were for a computer victory (including by many grandmasters, correspondence players, computer experts - and my wife). It turns out that the trade-off between chess strength and chess odds is really difficult to estimate. But others had a better sense (Peter Svidler)."

This Man vs. Machine match was held in conjunction with a special anniversary issue of the "ICGA Journal" (International Computer Games Association). It consisted of six games with a time control of 15 minutes and a 10-second increment per move.

Smerdon played Black in every game; Komodo was missing a knight in the starting positions, alternating from removing it from b1 and from g1. It was the first formal match on record in which a grandmaster takes knight odds in rapid (as opposed to blitz) chess from any opponent.

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 in the spring of 2018. 

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.

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