Magnus Carlsen against Chess Computers: Who would win?

Magnus Carlsen against Chess Computers: Who would win?

Written by: Emadeldin Teama

Magnus Carlsen against Chess Computers: Who would win?

No one can deny that computers have become very strong in chess. They calculate variations with great depth and never get tired like humans. Moreover, with the new technological revolution in AI, We currently see a new generation of chess computers who play extremely aggressive and creative as well. In this article we will discuss if Magnus Carlsen Can beat a top Computer chess engine?

First of all,Why are chess engines so strong?

There is a simple answer to this question. Computers have the ability to calculate a lot of variations with great depth. They don’t get tired or get emotional about any position. They also have a strong reliable algorithm to find the best move in all chess positions. So for any normal game where a top grandmaster is playing against a machine, any decision based on emotions would lead the grandmaster to a complete disaster. Also we should add that computers don’t get distracted in complicated positions.

Moreover, a new revolution in computer chess has started by using AI (artificial intelligence) technology. A new chess engine called Alpha zero played 100 game against the strongest chess engine Stockfish and it didn’t lose a single game. It either won or got a draw in all the chess games and it played extremely aggressive chess that reminded everyone with the 18th century grandmasters like Paul Morphy. It seems like with this new technology, humans don’t have a chance against the new generation of chess computers!

So, what is the strongest chess engine?

We will have here to make a distinction between normal chess engines and AI. Regarding normal chess engines that are accessible to the public, Stockfish 13 is the king of all engines having a chess rating of 3546 which is inhuman rating!, with this rating solo it is obvious it will crush the world champion Magnus Carlsen with his 2850+ rating!

There are other strong chess engines as well such as Fat Fritz 2 with 3526 rating, Komodo Dragon with 3495 rating , Igel 3.0.5 with 3418 rating followed by the good old Houdini 6 that has an Elo rating of 3398.

When we compare all these engines rating with human ratings. We get a clear picture of how any 10 games match would end up with any human vs any of these engines. The Legendary Garry Kasparov lately said that in a 10 round chess tournament where Top chess engine plays against a world champion, the world champion should feel proud and lucky if he could draw 1 game out of 10!

On the other hand, Engines based on AI like alpha zero are not fully accessible to normal players. They are much stronger than the above mentioned engines and it is obvious that a top grandmaster should try to defeat any of the above mentioned engines before thinking about challenging AI. Human vs AI is a battle we cannot usually win!

Why the Chess World Champion loses again chess computers?

There are so many reasons for a world champion to lose versus a chess engine.

First of all, there is the psychological factor which is a huge part of the chess game. Humans get driven by emotions sometimes and they either overestimate or underestimate their potentials. A chess engine cannot fear getting a passive position or getting attacked on his king. It will calculate calmly till it gets out of trouble no matter how complicated the position is. It will also give the maximum possible resistance in defending which would irritate an aggressive attacking human and could lead him into doing an error.

Another important side is that computers don’t get tired in long games. Usually grandmasters after a five hour game tend to make small mistakes that could prove to be fatal in an endgame. They tend to get distracted easier as they get tired. A chess engine won’t get that at all.

Magnus carlsen said in an interview he doesn’t play against chess engines as it makes him feel stupid!

There is a flip side to the challenge of humans vs the machine. Sometimes a human can detect an error in the engine algorithm in the endgame evaluation system which was exploited before by GM Hikaru Nakamura. The thing is, engines calculate move by move while in endgame, we humans know either through study or imagination the correct evaluation of a position and can imagine in our head the position where we would be winning without calculations.We would then aim for it even if it would take 100 move to reach it. They can force the engine to either accept a draw by repeating or play a move that would prove to be fatal in the endgame after many moves later.

These errors existed in old chess engines and they no longer exist now which reduces the chances of a world champion to win a single game against a modern computer engine down to almost 0!

Are there any grandmasters who won vs a chess computer?

In the last years, no one was able to defeat a chess computer in a fair match, the last major human vs computer match was held in 2019 where the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik played a match vs chess computer and lost. However there was some interesting matches that were played later.

In 2015, a chess engine Komodo played a series of handicap matches with GM Petr Neuman. Neuman won the match. a handicap match is a match where a human start the game with an advantage!

In 2020 chess engine Komodo played a series of handicap matches with Australian GM David Smerdon at knight odds. Smerdon won 5-1, in spite of most commentators who favored Komodo to win.

We would like to mention that these matches where the humans won, the human Grand master started the game having some sort of an advantage like an extra pawn or sometimes more. They kept their advantage with careful play till the win. In a fair game against a modern computer it would be extremely hard to even draw versus a chess engine.

How much does a chess computer cost?

Currently, chess engine don’t cost much. Some of them are just for few dollars. Others are actually free for the public to use on github. However, we would like to mention that having a chess engine is not enough to have it working on a great level.

The chess engine depends mainly on the strength of the machine it is installed on. The resources of the PC affect the engine performance greatly. Every engine has an ideal requirement to work well and it depends on how many resources you can dedicate solely for the chess engine! So before buying or getting a new chess engine. First check your pc/laptop and make sure you have it strong enough to run this machine on maximum performance!