Can AI Beat Humans At Chess?

Written by Adam Morris

Updated August 5, 2023
3D chess pieces standing on top of glowing blue and black chess board

Chess has been a game that has fascinated humans for centuries, with its complexity and strategic depth. But with the rise of artificial intelligence, can machines now outsmart humans at this game?

In 1997, IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue famously defeated world champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game match. As AI advances and develops, it begs the question: can this technology surpass even the most skilled human chess players?

Although chess is commonly regarded as a measure of intellectual ability and ingenuity, contemporary AI algorithms have been programmed to examine enormous amounts of data and execute almost flawless judgments at an extraordinary pace. This article will examine the abilities of AI in the game of chess and its potential to outperform human players at the most advanced level.

Also see: Can You Use AI To Write An Essay?

Chess Computer Programs

For the past fifteen years, chess computer engines have developed exponentially and can now prevail over even the most skilled of players. The questions of whether computers can be better than humans have finally been answered – most likely in a resounding “yes.”

Chess pieces with colorful lights

Playing against a computer engine is drastically different from playing against another human player; for one, the engine will not get tired or show any signs of boredom. As technology continues to improve, chess computer engines become increasingly stronger and will soon reach heights near unbeatable.

Just how difficult it is for humans to compete with chess computer engines? Even Magnus Carlsen, who is highly regarded as the strongest chess player in history, only scored 2875 ELO points when at his peak performance during tournaments. That’s a far cry from Stockfish 11 which boasts over 3500 rating points – more than 500 points more than Carlsen’s personal best.

Chess program on tablet on screen on brown table

With every new update, Stockfish gets closer and closer to its goal of becoming unbeatable by human players. Hopefully, as time passes there will be new methods invented or discovered which can help humans stand up against these intellectual giants – maybe then we can have a fair fight!

Chess Computers Until the 90s

The human vs. computer chess battle started in the middle of the 20th century, when Claude Shannon, usually considered to be the father of modern IT, released a research paper entitled “Programming a Computer For Playing Chess” in 1949. This was practically the first ever algorithm for computers specifically designed for playing chess.

While this algorithm led to the development of more sophisticated chess engines in later years, it was far from being as powerful as chess machines today and at that stage was easily beaten by experienced players.

Until the 70s, all attempts were made by humans to beat the machines were successful – computers could barely play against amateurs and had no chance whatsoever against the best players. Human chess players maintained their superiority over robots until approximately the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Hand holding chess piece toppling over another on light background

Finally, with increasingly advanced algorithms and better processing power, computer engines like Deep Blue were built – becoming strong enough to challenge even world champions such as Garry Kasparov and eventually win by using robust algorithms and creative techniques not used before by humans. However, we can still look back upon this period of time in which humans reigned over their robotic counterparts with admiration and nostalgia.

Computers now match up against humans at a far greater level than before – even the strongest grandmasters have been consistently outmatched by these machines – thus ending the era where humans could confidently declare themselves undisputed champions over chess computers worldwide.

World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov vs IBM’s Deep Blue

In 1996, Garry Kasparov played a historic game of chess against IBM’s Deep Blue. Being pitted against the reigning world champion at the time was an unprecedented feat for any machine. During the six-game match, Kasparov, the reigning world champion at the time, suffered a surprising loss in the first game.

This marked the first instance of a human being beaten by a computer using regular time controls. Kasparov achieved a successful comeback by winning three matches and tying two, ultimately leading to a 4-2 victory over Deep Blue after facing challenges.

It serves as a testament to Kasparov’s talent for adapting strategies on the fly that he was able to shift tactics mid-match and regain control so drastically. His signature gambit of defying conventional wisdom when reading his opponent made him one of the most formidable opponents of all time, even when up against machines like Deep Blue created specifically to win against him.

On each side of the board were two players from completely different realms – man vs machine – which imparted a heavy weight upon their confrontation due to its symbolization of equality between human thought and artificial intelligence.

1997 Rematch

In May 1997, a momentous event transpired in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence: Deep Blue – an IBM supercomputer – won against world chess champion Gary Kasparov for the first time ever with a score count of 3½–2½ in a six game match.

Human hand and AI hand on top of chess board

After beginning the match in triumph by winning the first game, Kasparov was unable to extend his lead as he ultimately lost the second. Despite tying all three of their subsequent matches, none of them resulted in a win for him; this streak culminated with a crushing defeat during their sixth and final showdown.

This marked the first time ever that a computer had taken down a world champion in head-to-head competition, thrusting Deep Blue into popular culture as its developer team had dreamed of doing.

AlphaZero vs Stockfish

In 1997, the chess world experienced the development of strong chess engines that could rival and even surpass human abilities in the game of chess. For quite some time now, Stockfish 11 has been considered to be the undisputed champion of this category – it boasts an approximate rating of 3500+, making it virtually unbeatable by human players.

Even grandmasters have failed to win against it – any decent chess engine installed on smartphone can easily beat most grandmasters at the table.

However, a new chess program has emerged in recent years, backed by revolutionary deep learning techniques – AlphaZero. This self-taught program, created by Deepmind, is able to take into account its own experience as well as maximize its chances for utter victory with strategic moves that are usually beyond human comprehension.

Robot arm hovering on top of chess piece on board

As such, AlphaZero had recently come out on top against all computer-generated competition and secured its place as the new champion of all artificial intelligence programs playing chess.

Is The Game of Chess Solved?

Chess has always been a fascinating game to test the intellectual prowess of any individual. Despite the massive advancements made by chess engines and artificial intelligence, it is far from being solved completely. Scientists have compared the number of possible positions in chess to atoms in the universe to illustrate how vast the unsolved situation really is.

To solve it for good, one would need to be able to compute vast amounts of data and chess positions that current computers may never be able to process. Even if we can ultimately solve and record everything about chess, it might still remain a mystery for any human brain to memorize such a huge amount of information.

Although it may be impossible to solve chess completely, from a player’s perspective, this is an exciting time as some higher level moves can still be played on a board which will teach all aspiring players more than what they have known until now, enabling them to enhance their knowledge and grow better as players themselves.

This ultimately proves that no matter how strong machines get at playing Chess; there will always remain something grand for us passionate players out there waiting to be mastered.

Is It Possible To Beat AI At Chess?

Unbounded possibilities exist when it comes to chess and AI. Advancements in artificial intelligence have led to computers surpassing the best human players, creating a competitive environment for many. Especially in the case of cutting-edge AI chess bots, their sheer computing power far exceeds that of a single human player.

Of course, there are different levels of AI difficulty offered by these bots and many players can still enjoy a good match against an easier opponent.

Using logic and reason is also another way to beat computers at chess as well. This technique involves assessing rising positions or particular opening strategies to gain an advantage over computer-based algorithms. Although we have not seen an AI computer be entirely victorious at chess yet, it is only a matter of time.

Hand holding white chess piece on top of white and brown board on table

Despite this fact though, it remains difficult for even the most gifted chess grandmasters to overcome these powerful machines when presented with their optimal play. In summary, thanks to modern technologies such as AI-driven bots and logical/strategic attacking techniques there is still hope for aspiring masters who are looking for a challenge in the game of chess!

Why Can’t Humans Beat Computers At Chess

Ever since 1997, when Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in chess, humans have been unable to best their computer opponents. Computers easily outsmart humans due to their unmatched speed, precision, and extensive experience in the game. Chess is mainly based on intuition and the ability to predict what an opponent will do.

The computer can calculate a multitude of moves at once, which give it an incredible advantage over humans who struggle to make rapid calculations while playing against it. Additionally, computers don’t fall into emotional traps, as they possess no emotional attachments or biases when calculating the best move in chess – something that appears to be a disadvantage for humans when compared to machines.

Two men wearing red and blue shirts sitting and playing chess

In comparison, human players need to take a more thoughtful approach as they are much slower than computers and cannot recall every outcome for certain situations like their robotic opponents can. Furthermore, emotions often get the better of us during games and make us more likely to make irrational decisions that might otherwise be avoided if we stayed emotionally neutral.

Of course, a human’s higher level thinking skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will still be a necessary factor in any game like this that requires more than just accuracy alone. In fact these qualities have played an important role in strategies humans have used to beat strong AI players like AlphaGoZero and AlphaStar.

However even with these resources at hand, it would seem that while we may be able fight alongside computer algorithms rather than against them, beating them on our own might still be beyond our capabilities for the foreseeable future.

Are Chess Computers Unbeatable

Chess computers are often regarded as unbeatable opponents, and for good reason – they are equipped with algorithms that are programmed to beat their human counterparts. Computers can analyse a game far better than humans and make decisions based on the data they receive almost instantaneously. It makes sense why they can outperform a person most of the time in a game of chess.

Human hand holding white chess piece in front of AI hand holding black chess piece on blue background

However, computers are not unstoppable forces, there are some weaknesses that can be utilised by human players to gain an advantage over them. Computers tend to lack creativity and intellect as opposed to humans, they operate mechanically and solely based on data points presented to them.

Additionally, unlike humans, computers cannot focus on one thing for an extended amount of time so it’s quite possible for them to miss certain moves if the game is complex enough or requires different strategies from those known in advance. Furthermore, humans have the opportunity to outrun their mechanical rivals when it comes to risk-taking without any serious consequences which enables us to eventually come out ahead of the computer’s predetermined move set.

Also read: Can You Use AI To Predict Lottery?


In conclusion, the future of chess looks very positive with modern advances in artificial intelligence. AI advancements have provided us with invaluable insight into strategies that were unknown to us before, allowing for immense progress amongst chess players.

With further advancement, we may one day see an unbeatable computer opponent, which can still be looked at as a great contribution for learning and training new grandmasters or those honing their skills playing multiple people simultaneously.

Ultimately, the future of chess is an exciting prospect when considering the intelligent possibilities that come with AI advances. Every step in improving a computer’s ability to think like a human has yielded interesting results as well as teach more efficient tactics. Humans will no doubt continue to remain at the top of this noble game but it is also not unrealistic to imagine a point where machine power outshines our own capabilities and thoughts on it.

Adam is a crypto expert & AI enthusiast who has been researching and writing on the topics since 2017.

He’s spoken on numerous podcasts and has been featured in many prominent media publications such as Forbes, CNN & CNBC.