This topic has been discussed before but I want to reopen this thread because of Stockfish vs Nakamura. I watched the series live on chess.com a few days ago

In Game 2, I was hoping to see if Stockfish would blunder on time. But Nakamura wanted to attack. Any titled player could reach the position that Nakamura reached, so it’s not too hard to do it. Here’s the list of the games

With less than a minute left, could Nakamura, in theory, beat Stockfish or any chess engine? Or can it make a stupid move to avoid threefold repetition or something like that? I ask this because I heard that an engine would make any move, no matter how stupid it is, just to avoid losing on time.


Nakamura played 3 games against Stockfish last week. In the first 2 games, Nakamura could use Rybka for assistance. Meanwhile, in the third game, he played on his own, but as white, and Stockfish didn't have its H pawn. Effectively, Nakamura was a pawn up.

Nakamura won the first game and lost the other two. The second game was close and he could’ve at least drawn it if he didn't blunder. That’s what the commentator said. I think it was IM Danny Rensch who was the commentator.

I hope that you watched the games.

My question is this: Can a GM defeat Stockfish by letting the engine blunder on time, draw by threefold repetition, or draw by the fifty-move rule?

If Nakamura was patient, I think that Stockfish would have been close enough for a draw by the fifty-move rule.

  • 1
    What exactly is the question? To my eyes, it's not clear if you're asking specifically/only about beating an engine on time, for instance.
    – ETD
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 0:41
  • @ETD yes i'm asking if an engine could lose on time or blunder because of time trouble
    – Lynob
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 8:36

5 Answers 5


There is no way a strong (2300+) engine will lose on time against a human. It simply does not happen. The human will most likely be the first to lose on the time. A good example of this is Computer4Impossible on chess.com in the bullet portions of the site, where the only way to defeat it is on the board as it never loses on time. Also, I do not think any decent engine would be in danger of losing on time anyways as the general speed and quality of its moves is far greater than a human's.

Is it possible for any titled player to beat chess engine?

Assumings it's the strongest engine in the world, on completely equal terms, no. Maybe a draw with careful play but a win against is impossible. We have already seen how the top players fared against the strongest engines with the Adams-Hydra and Kramnik-Deep Fritz matches, and those were in 2005 and 2006!

With the assistance of another engine, it is probably still not possible, even if the other engine is identical to the one you are playing against. Think about it. Even if Carlsen had his engine, it would not make any difference. He can not hope to outwit even his own assistant engine (assuming it is also strong, like Rybka.)

The only possible ways a titled player could hope to defeat an assumed strongest chess engine (like Stockfish) would be if they had a stronger engine or if they had some sufficient compensation (at least two pawns).

It would be nice if you could specify your question further, as there are many factors involving such a topic.

  • I edited my question
    – Lynob
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 8:50
  • 1
    I just realized that with the assistance of the same engine or one of comparable strength, of course the human-computer team can win, by virtue of simply playing the moves suggested by the engine with zero input from the human part! Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 21:52
  • -1 because this answer is incorrect in a few ways. One, engines can lose on time (see my answer). Second, you can of course beat the strongest chess engines in the world if you also had access to that engine. It's not likely (because chess from the starting position is almost surely a draw), but it's doable. See what happens in correspondence chess. Here is a recent game where it was achieved: iccf.com/game?id=1094063
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 16:50

In the PAL/CSS Freestyle chess tournaments, the teams of human/engine combos pretty consistently beat the engines which were playing alone, so humans can contribute to the process. If a human tried to play alone in one of those tournaments, he'd probably end up at the bottom of the table though. Human players even world champions tend to make small tactical errors which engines exploit, but if the human has access to an engine to blundercheck, his superior knowledge of strategy/endgames should held him overcome an engine by itself. The PAL/CSS games were at a time control of an hour per game. In blitz, it's hard for a human to take advantage of their positional knowledge though, so slower time controls would probably be better. Correspondence GM Arno Nickel beat Hydra in correspondence games in 2005, and I think the top correspondence GMs could probably still do that today.

From what I saw, Nakamura was pursuing a very specific strategy in those games, trying to clog up the centre with pawns, and then playing waiting moves to try to lure Stockfish into blundering. He did indeed have a draw in the second game, but kind of went overboard with all that maneuvering in the hopes of scoring a win, and it backfired.


I don't think Nakamura can beat Stockfish with time in any case. Stockfish can still play very strong chess even searching for just a second. As long as Stockfish detects it's low on time, it'll play faster and faster.


Yes it's possible but very unlikely. As strong as modern day engines are, they aren't perfect. I have seen a multitude of instances where the engine thinks for a while and suddenly changes its evaluation when reaching a certain depth. If it's forced to move quickly in time trouble it could make a blunder. Of course, then the GM would have to know it's a blunder and figure out how to exploit it (which could be difficult since the engine itself didn't know at whatever depth it got to).


Answering the question in the comments:

i'm asking if an engine could lose on time or blunder because of time trouble

Engines "can" lose on time. Inverted commas because it should not happen. If it does happen it means either the engine is not configured correctly, or there's a bug. Game 6 of MVL vs. Komodo featured such an error. To quote the article,

The Komodo team later stated (about this fairly historic event for computer chess) that it had to do with their server settings, and it would adjust certain parameters to account for Internet lag to prevent it from happening again.

As for whether engines can blunder in time trouble - they can, but engines can already blunder even outside of time trouble, so it shouldn't be surprising. When engines have less time they also search to lower depth, so they will blunder more often too.

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