Reports | September 22, 2008 19:41

Milov beats a truncated Rybka

Ever seen a fish without its fins trying to swim? Probably not, but one can imagine it's not that easy. In a match against an experienced grandmaster, a truncated Rybka was defeated - by a small margin, though. Vadim Milov-poor Rybka: 4?Ǭ?-3?Ǭ?.

You tend to come across those games only when you've just bought yourself a copy of Paul Morphy's best games collection - or something of that kind. You've just decided that studying the games of the best players of the 19th century should be part of your chess education and on the first pages of your latest acquisition you see a "game at odds" like this one:

You might not even have noticed immediately that White was playing this game without his queen's knight!

Games at odds were quite common in the old days. It was a way of making a chess game interesting again when the difference in strength between the players was just too big. Just as deformed or handicapped people had to make a living by "entertaining" spectators at fairs or market places, winning chess games at odds tended to generate lots of laughter and applause.

In the States, but also later in Europe, Morphy often showed his chess supremacy by starting the game without a knight, a rook or for example his f7-pawn (playing Black), and winning convincingly anyway.

Somewhere in chess history this habit of playing games at odds got out of fashion. Perhaps the weaker side started to feel a bit uncomfortable, embarrassed or simply humiliated? Very human feelings, and very understandable.

But... what if a chess player, who plays better chess than everyone else, can't feel those emotions? What if this player has no emotions at all, and is willing to undergo all kinds of guinea pig testing? Then why not try again?

Something similar as the above reasoning must have been the idea of the organizers of the recent Milov vs Rybka match. Grandmaster Vadim Milov, currently the world's number 28 with a FIDE rating of 2705, played an eight-game match against Rybka 3, from September 15 to September 18. The match was a mixture of normal chess games (2 games) and handicap games (6 games).

In games 2, 4 6 and 8 Milov started with an exchange up, and in games 5 and 7 Rybka had no f7 pawn. Games 1 and 3 were standard games. The final result was Milov - Rybka 4?Ǭ?-3?Ǭ?.

So what have we learnt? A very strong grandmaster has shown that it's still possible for humans to beat a Rybka playing at odds. Any grandmaster out there who wants to give it a try? One who wouldn't feel a bit uncomfortable, embarrassed or simply humiliated?


Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


arne's picture

Congratulations, Q, you've managed to construct an argument of which I literally don't understand a single proposition!

semipatz's picture

@Andre Gan:

No, there is nothing wrong with Rybka...she was giving a substantial material handicap to a 2700 player in 6 of the 8 games! Giving an exchange, or an f-pawn and a move, to a super-GM is no joke. Even a perfect player might have lost the match to Milov.

Andre Gan's picture

ERRATUM: In relation to my just posted comment, please insert the word "wrong" after the word "something" to make it correct grammer-wise. My apologies for that inadvertent omission. Thank you.

shane's picture

ERRATUM No 2: omit all uses of the word "said" and, oddly, what sense there is remains the same.

Q's picture

The player playing with odds is probably the one who feels embarrassed. Therefore, Rybka not having emotions has no relation to this "revival" in playing chess with odds. It still takes a player who will sell his embarrassment for an undoubtedly handsome paycheck to organise a tournament like this. Then of course, it takes a GM for this tournament to ever reach the public. As was probably always the case, money will make people do all sorts of embarrassing stuff.

Andre Gan's picture

"Grandmaster Milov beats Rybka 3" what a headline! Is there something with the said Chess Program? Unless this is remedied the earliest time possible by the software management, I don't think that the said company will have an appealing product to be sold to the population of chessplayers worldwide. This is not, on the other hand, to undermine the chess expertise and experience of GM Milov. Rather, this match result may be a destructive offshoot to the supposed proficiency of the said chess program! On the contrary, congratulations to Grandmaster Milov for a job well done as he had also proven that a chess software or program has its own downside. Thank you very much and more power to Chess Vibes!

Michel's picture

Didn?Ǭ¥t Ehlvest already play this kind of games against a computer? A pawn down if I remember correctly.

Felix's picture

Yes, he played against Rybka at pawn odds. You can find a list of all handicap games (also against Dzindzichashvili and Benjamin) here:

CAL|Daniel's picture

yes he did but as he stated after the fact the pawn down was actually an advanatage unless it was an fpawn.

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