This is an embarrassing question to have to ask, but here goes. Recently I've gotten a new Mac laptop which has a chess program on it. I'm not a chess expert by any means: I can beat casual players most of the time, but I suspect I wouldn't stand a chance against anyone who was actually good at the game. But it's becoming humiliating being utterly crushed by my computer every time! I'm meant to be the boss of this relationship, but in our battle of wits I am utterly outclassed.

Obviously powerful modern computers have certain advantages over human beings when it comes to a game of pure analysis like chess; but I feel as though there must be some way I can up my game. Are there any strategies I could adopt that would give me a chance of escaping defeat, or at least securing a draw? Even if I can't win against my computer, I suspect that even attempting to get better at doing so will make me better aware of the weaknesses of my approach and thus a much less awful chess player. Any ideas?

Different computers play chess at different levels. How can I find out how well my computer plays, and then beat that level?

  • Hmm ... what difficulty level is the AI set to? Are there finer controls that you can set (number of moves to look ahead, that kind of thing)? Understanding your opponent might help us give you more specific advice. Sep 9, 2011 at 14:14
  • I haven't tampered with or even looked at the settings. I hope the default level isn't the easiest one! Was hoping for just some generic suggestions on facing off against AIs, but I agree, it would be interesting if I could get more information on its capabilities, I'll have a look tonight and let you know. One thing I am noticing is that if I take a move back and then replay it it often seemed to make a different move in response, which suggests that it's quite flexible in its idea of good moves... Sep 9, 2011 at 14:26
  • Some games, like Chessmaster, have different AI "personalities": they don't just look ahead more moves, but play different "styles" and have different built-in weaknesses. To make the question narrower in scope, it'll be good to find out what those default settings are ... otherwise you could just as well be asking "How do I get better at chess?"! Sep 9, 2011 at 14:39
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    This was my concern about the scope of the question: so far, answers are basically touching on how to win at chess. That's definitely a question that would require a book to answer, and thus too broad ... hopefully you'll be able to make it more specific so that we can provide targeted advice. Sep 9, 2011 at 19:43
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    Fair enough re the voting to close: at the level I'm at, the answer is just "get better at chess". I'm sure, at the Kasparov level, he adopts a different strategy to beat a computer, but obviously I'll never get there! I don't think I'm going to bother getting better at chess though, a computer is clearly too strong an opponent for me, and I'd always choose to play a more interesting game when I have the luxury of a human opponent! Sep 12, 2011 at 11:34

4 Answers 4


Basically, you have to find out what level your computer plays at. And then train to beat that level.

Computers are very good at looking deep into "branches" of moves. That's where they have an advantage over humans, and that's why the best ones can beat Gary Kasparov.

Computers aren't quite as good at certain "judgmental" aspects of chess, like when to sacrifice a pawn for a positional advantage. They tend not to do as well in a middle game as in either the opening (when there are few pieces out) or the endgame (when there are few pieces left).

Basically, you need to get to the point where your "branching" reading is almost (but not quite) as good as your computers. Then you have to steer for a complicated middle game, where the computer's branching algorithm may break down, while your better judgment prevails. (That's what Kasparov tried to do.) As good as they are, it's fun to see a computer get confused when you throw a "curve ball" at them, in any application.

That should happen to your computer at "some" level of play. Hopefully it won't be too much higher than yours.


There is no other option except to get better at chess, I believe. I have seen interviews with the grandmasters who have had experience playing against computers, and they have noticed certain patterns that differentiate a human from a computer player. One example I remember is that computers try to target uncovered valuable pieces, even if they are safely behind a line of pawns.

However, like in any activity, only the absolute top players can possibly benefit and exploit these differences, if at all. So until you are approaching grandmaster level, there is not much you can do except training, learn openings and their counters, training, and some more training.


Computers are really good at spotting getting material in a few moves.

Your best bet is to look into strategy and plan longer than the computer can see.


There are a few answers I can think of The easiest would be to run 2 simulators and plug the moves of one into the moves of the other.

The other is to get good at chess. I mean get sit in the park and beat the old russians playing for money good. Most good players will tell you that they recognize strategies and implement predetermined counters. Most of the game is about determining which strategy is being used and employing the proper counter. Get a few books on chess and read them to get a good base of knowledge to start from.

  • Pitting one program against another doesn't improve your game; even looking at the moves that program is considering, if that option is available, doesn't necessarily tell you anything about why that AI is considering them. Sep 9, 2011 at 18:28
  • The goal is to "Get Close To Beating My Computer At Chess?" not get better at the game. Getting better at the game can be a route to that goal but it does not have to be.
    – Chad
    Sep 9, 2011 at 18:45

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