Anti-Computer Strategies

There are some specific strategies to play well against computers. These strategies aim to take advantage of types of positions where computers play poorly, and avoid positions that computers handle well.

Play Your Usual Game: The first point to consider is to simply play normally. If you have a strong game, just play your normal game.

Play Positionally (Quietly): The general rule is that computers are great at analysing tactics, but poor at playing slower, positional chess. You can often do better against computers if you don’t give them an obvious tactical move to play. Usually they have lots of general rules about how to play positionally, but they don’t “understand” it all properly.

Play Endgames: Computers are generally weaker at endgames. So this strategy means playing endgames means ones where there’s still quite a lot of pawns on the board. Computers often don’t understand endgame positions very well. So to beat a computer, you can often swap pieces down to a simplified position.

The caveat to this strategy is that if there are only a few pieces left, and if the computer uses an “endgame database”, then it will play the endgame utterly perfectly for those positions! So that’s why you might avoid endgames with only 5 or 6 pieces left on the board!

Another caveat to the “play endgames” strategy is that some types of endgames are quite tactical, and the computer can often play them extremely well. This includes: Queen endings, double rook endgames, and semi-endings. Better to try single rook endings, or endgames with Bishops and Knights.

Direct King attacks: It may be surprising, but computers are often quite poor at defending against a longer, strategic attack, such as a pawn storm or a piece storm. If you have an attacking position built up over time, with a closed center, you can often successfully launch an attack against the computer. This works because computers can analyse 5 or so moves ahead, but they really cannot see 10 moves ahead. And they often do not recognize that you are building up an attack against their King, and don’t know what defensive setups to use against whichever style of attack you are preparing.

Amass Pieces Kingside: An interesting and fun strategy that can be effective against computers is to castle the same side as the computer, then amass pieces on that side for an attack. For example, you might setup with h3, g4, Ng3, Bg2, Kh1, Rg1. Or get both your Rooks in front of your King on g2 and h2. You can then do a pawn storm (on the same side as both kings) or do a “piece storm” of the pieces in front of your Kingside pawns. This can work particularly well if the computer’s Queen has been diverted by the bait of a pawn or two on the Queenside. Sometimes you can get quite amusing positions where the computer has total domination of the Queenside, total destruction of your Queenside pawns, and yet all your pieces are in one corner of the board (your King’s corner). Your pieces then launch out down the Kingside and crush the enemy’s King. The computer has no idea what’s happening.

Tactical Errors: The traditional view on computer is to avoid tactics, because they are good at tactics. But there are some types of tactics where they are woefully inadequate: smothered pieces, trapped pieces, and fortress positions. The reason that computers are poor at these tactics is that they involve many moves, not just a few, and may even involve concepts of “never” or “infinity”. Computers will often not recognize the risk that one of their pieces will become smothered or trapped forever. You can biff a Knight or Bishop with pawns until it’s in the back row, and then smother it by closing a pawn chain. Or you can offer the computer a free pawn whereby their Bishop or Knight will become trapped on your side, but the computer cannot see it because the trapped piece cannot be immediately captured. But take care with the trapped pieces trick, because computers are amazing at finding tactical tricks to extract their trapped piece once it comes under attack.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: