Why Chess Engines Are Impossible to Beat

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

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Ever since Deep Blue won the second match against Kasparov in 1997, computers have been steadily increasing in strength. With engines topping ratings of 3400, they are impossible to beat by humans; even more so if equipped with the newest opening novelties.

World chess champion Garry Kasparov studies the board shortly before game two of the match against the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue (R), May 4

Below is the final game of the 1997 match.

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Analysis by Chess.com

Chess engines like Stockfish use "brute force" methods to determine which move it will play. The millions of positions it analyzes per second is obviously impossible for a human brain to handle, so one can never think to beat a computer tactically. 

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Though, computers do not have a sound positional foundation for their moves so someone who wants to draw or defeat a computer should opt for closed positions where calculation is not so important. Then, one must find some positional idea that the computer won't recognize, and capitalize on it. 

This is exactly what Hikaru Nakamura tried to do against the online Komodo chess engine on Chess.com. Unfortunately for Hikaru, or anyone who had some hope of beating a chess engine, Komodo "adopted" him with a crushing 10-0 victory

GM Hikaru Nakamura struggles to draw the Komodo chess engine after gxf3. Hikaru resigned quickly.

Despite Hikaru's multiple attempts to close the position with the hippopotamus opening, the engine still found a way to work around it and breakthrough. For example, the position above shows gxf3, leading to a change in pawn structure and potential for a f3-f4 pawn break, which would be enough to crack the Black position. Instead, a capture such as Rxf3 would have had a higher likelihood of leading to a draw.

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Below are a few games from Hikaru's attempt.

Drawing chess engines is becoming harder year after year and it may just be impossible, even if the position does become closed. In any case, your best chance of taking on a computer engine is to get a simple position and rely on slow maneuvering to defeat the silicon beast

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