I think the title asks it all.

Under match conditions, would the best chess engines routinely beat the best grandmasters?

If you say yes, have there been enough matches played under tournament conditions to offer credible evidence?

  • 3
    Take a look at Wikipedia's Chronology of computer chess. In short, yes, they routinely beat the top human players under normal conditions. I would be very curious to see similar data about correspondence chess, where humans have typically been very strong (simply put: if you double the speed / time allocated to a computer, you tend to improve its rating by around 70 points; humans tend to use the extra time in a better way).
    – Daniel B
    Feb 14, 2013 at 8:43
  • Good thoughts., am not sold on your reasonng yet , 've seen an I.M. studyng at home, he almost always beats the Computer eventually by usng takebacks, once he knows a position is wnning, then he struglles till he finds the right way thru the maze of variations, Once he has his position , thats it !! of course this I.M. is practically G.M. strentgh but never played enough tournaments to get his norm .
    – user3155
    May 22, 2014 at 1:22
  • Humans have no appreciable chance.
    – Tony Ennis
    May 24, 2014 at 2:16
  • The time control is quite important. According to this GM talk (I link the exact time stamp, please listen the first 30 seconds after start playing the time I linked) humans still have a say in some desitions in very long time controls: correspondence chess. Aug 23, 2017 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


The engine alone is just one factor; the number of CPU's used, memory, etc. makes the engine stronger. The same engine on an Intel 286 will not be nearly as strong as on the Cray Titan supercomputer, for example.

Also, the number of cores makes a difference too. For example, Houdini 3 can take advantage of 32 cores if available. But from the list below, which gives the PC configuration along with the Elo rating, it is clear that the best engine on these PC's is even much stronger than the best chess players.

  1. Houdini 3 64-bit 4CPU, 3254 Elo
  2. Critter 1.6a 64-bit 4CPU, 3177 Elo
  3. Rybka 4 64-bit 4CPU, 3168 Elo
  4. Stockfish 2.2.2 64-bit 4CPU, 3167 Elo


This is why you do not see GM's play against computers any more (no GM wants to end up with 12-0 match result, even if it is against a computer).

So, yes, we humans are no match to computers in chess any more, it is a lost case. But we still have the game GO where humans are much stronger than computers (still). So it is not all lost.


PS: I was sitting in the theater in London watching the game where Kasparov lost to the computer in the 25 minutes chess game, I think this was in 1996 or so. Kasparov was really upset after the game. He rushed out of the theater surrounded by 10 or so of his entourage, and he did not look happy at all. This was what, 15 years ago?, I took many pictures of the match, since this was the first time I saw Kasparov in person. Here are 2 pictures from my personal collection:

enter image description here enter image description here


I found 3 more pics that are better quality. Thought to post them. I think this event was the first time Kasparov lost to a computer in an official game. This was in 1994, not 1996. I found a newspaper reference to this event

"THE WRITING is on the board for human domination of chess after 
 the world champion, Garry Kasparov, was knocked out in the first round 
 of the Intel Grand Prix by Pentium Genius 2, a remarkable piece of software 
 enhanced by a new super- fast processor.

 With each player restricted to 25 minutes' thinking time, the computer won 
 the first game with 8 minutes to spare.....
 He stayed at the board this time, hitting his head and pulling at his hair...."

So these pics are from the above game !

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • 8
    The ratings about show that the best humans (Magnus) have about a 3% chance of winning a game.
    – Tony Ennis
    Feb 13, 2013 at 3:33
  • Although i believe that the engines will win more often than not, i don't expect a human to be routed 12-0. There are positions which the humans will play better than the engine still Feb 13, 2013 at 9:26
  • 1
    +1 for the Kasparov / Pentium Genius match and pictures. I hadn't heard of that match before. Here's a YouTube video about it: bit.ly/14u4rHd
    – lkessler
    Mar 29, 2013 at 22:03
  • Actually you should not compare computer's elo with humans. They have different rating pools, therefore, they are different. The same applies with different organizations. However, there is a high probability of having the engines in top of GMs.
    – rahpuser
    Mar 2, 2016 at 15:27
  • 4
    "But we still have the game GO where humans are much stronger than computers (still)" -> this is no longer true in the year 2017 now that we have seen alphago beat the worlds best go players. What a difference 4 years can make!
    – nak3c
    Jun 27, 2017 at 13:56

Engines just use brute force to find the best move. So better the hardware the better they will perform. In addition they use huge databases that contain the best games played by humans.

However the current hardware is not sufficient enough for any engine to build the entire game tree (and thus play perfect chess).

Therefore there is still a chance (albeit small and getting smaller) that the best human mind can beat an engine.

Of course the last major event that happened - Kramnik – Deep Fritz(2006) ended with Kramnik losing 2 games and drawing 4 (and winning 0).

I believe if the opening book is removed, then the GMs will have a good chance.

  • Good comment regarding the importance of the opening book. Feb 13, 2013 at 19:21
  • Another reason why computers are so much stronger, is that they think all the time. Even when it is your move and you are the one thinking, the computer is still doing search. They are doing search against the best possible moves you can play. With humans, most of us make a move, and get up from the board to get coffee or watch other games. Computers do not get tried! it is a machine, they do not leave the board. They just think and think all the time. So, they have a big time advantage this way.
    – Nasser
    Feb 14, 2013 at 1:40
  • @Nasser Any decent player is going to continue to think about moves during an opponents turn. You're not going to see a grandmaster surfing Reddit on their phone during a game. They're going to be constantly looking ahead.
    – Wipqozn
    Oct 20, 2017 at 17:11
  • Didn't AlphaZero start from scratch or thereabouts? (still without building the entire game tree, which is still far out of reach) Aug 29, 2022 at 21:55

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