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Alphazero vs Stockfish

Alphazero vs Stockfish: the Chess Algorithms War

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In the realm of computer chess, two names stand tall above all others – AlphaZero, developed by DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., and Stockfish, an open-source engine renowned for its superior analytical capabilities. Their names are not merely synonymous with machine prowess in the world of chess; they symbolize two contrasting approaches to artificial intelligence and have shaped the narrative of the ongoing ‘Chess Algorithms War’: Alphazero vs Stockfish.

AlphaZero, using its groundbreaking self-learning techniques, represents a new era in the world of machine learning. It surpassed traditional chess engines’ capabilities by teaching itself chess, starting only with the basic rules. Instead of relying on pre-existing databases of game situations, AlphaZero became a trailblazer by generating its own knowledge, challenging preconceived notions of machine learning capabilities.

On the other side of the chessboard, we find Stockfish, the reigning champion among traditional chess engines. Stockfish, with its brute force searching technique combined with highly sophisticated evaluation functions, has long been a formidable opponent for any player, human or machine alike. Its open-source nature has allowed it to evolve continuously, harnessing the power of collective wisdom and collaborative development.

The showdown between AlphaZero and Stockfish has been much more than a series of games. It has become a spectacle of algorithmic warfare, marking a significant turning point in the development and understanding of artificial intelligence, particularly in the context of board games. This war of algorithms, however, goes beyond deciding the superior player. It fundamentally questions the best path to artificial intelligence: is it through self-learning, like AlphaZero, or through a cumulative and iterative process, like Stockfish?

1. AlphaZero vs Stockfish: Algorithm Comparison

Here’s a brief comparison between AlphaZero and Stockfish summarized in a table:

Type of AIReinforcement LearningClassical AI
Learning StyleSelf-taught through trial and errorPre-programmed with advanced chess knowledge
Decision MakingUses a Neural Network to evaluate board positions and predict movesUses a brute-force search with heuristics to evaluate millions of possible positions
Developed ByDeepMind (a Google subsidiary)Community of open-source developers
Processing PowerUses a large number of TPUs for trainingOptimized for CPU usage
DatabaseDoesn’t rely on existing databases, creates its own from self-playUses an extensive database of opening books and endgame tablebases
InnovationRepresents a leap in AI technology, demonstrating the potential of self-learning AIDemonstrates the power of optimized algorithms and massive computation
SpeedEvaluates fewer positions per second but does so more intelligentlyEvaluates millions of positions per second
StrengthHas defeated top engines like Stockfish after teaching itself chess in a short periodHas consistently been among the top-ranked chess engines for many years

Please note that this is a simplified comparison and each engine’s design and implementation is much more complex and nuanced than what can be captured in a single table. The actual performance of each engine can also depend on factors like computational resources, the time allowed for each move, and specific game scenarios

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2. AlphaZero vs Stockfish: who won in the past?

The historical matchup between AlphaZero and Stockfish was groundbreaking in the realm of computer chess. It pitted two distinct paradigms against each other: traditional brute-force computation versus modern machine learning and artificial intelligence.

In 2017, DeepMind surprised the chess community by announcing that their AI, AlphaZero, had defeated Stockfish, which was then the reigning computer chess champion. DeepMind published a peer-reviewed paper in the journal Science, detailing AlphaZero’s 100-game match against Stockfish. Over the course of these games, AlphaZero did not lose a single match, with 28 wins and 72 draws.

To ensure fairness, DeepMind ran Stockfish on powerful hardware (64 threads and 1GB hash), but some in the chess community pointed out that the settings might not have been perfectly optimal for Stockfish. Additionally, the use of opening books and endgame tablebases, which could potentially have benefited Stockfish, was not permitted in the match.

Since the historic matchup in 2017, there have not been any other officially reported matches between AlphaZero and Stockfish. AlphaZero’s development was stopped after its triumphant debut, while Stockfish has continued to improve as the leading open-source chess engine.

However, it’s important to note that both engines have had a profound impact on the world of computer chess. The clash between AlphaZero and Stockfish was not just a contest of who could win more games, but also a fascinating comparison of two very different approaches to chess and artificial intelligence.


The showdown between AlphaZero and Stockfish has been an unprecedented event in the realm of artificial intelligence and computer chess. The contrasting methodologies of these engines have instigated a thought-provoking discourse on the future of AI and the essence of the game of chess itself.

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AlphaZero’s groundbreaking self-learning approach has shattered preconceptions, showcasing that a machine can teach itself chess to a superhuman level starting only with the rules of the game. It’s a testament to the revolutionary potential of machine learning, creating a new paradigm where artificial intelligence can independently create knowledge, offering promising implications for various complex real-world problems.

Stockfish, on the other hand, represents the zenith of a classical approach to computer chess, using brute-force search optimized with advanced heuristics and informed by an extensive database of chess knowledge. Its continuous evolution and adaptability, thanks to its open-source nature, embodies the power of collective wisdom and iterative refinement.

The head-to-head confrontation of these titans was not just about determining the superior player; rather, it has been a platform for exploring the strengths and limitations of contrasting AI approaches. The results showcased that machine learning, as embodied by AlphaZero, can rival and even surpass the brute-force approach championed by Stockfish.

Despite the profound achievements of AlphaZero, it’s essential to remember that the AI world isn’t a zero-sum game. The continuous improvements in Stockfish post the AlphaZero match underline the enduring value of traditional AI methods. The future of AI and computer chess likely lies in the synergy of these two approaches, harnessing the self-learning capabilities of modern AI and the meticulous, cumulative wisdom of classical AI.

The AlphaZero vs. Stockfish saga serves as a milestone in the journey of artificial intelligence, redefining the boundaries of machine capabilities and setting the stage for the exciting future developments in AI.

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