Does Chess.Com Have Bots? (And Is It A Bad Thing?)

If you’ve been thinking about taking up internet chess, you’ve probably heard a lot of horror stories about chess bots on the web and how they can cheat you out of games. So, you may be wondering if sites like Chess.com use bots and if so, how that affects the games that you might play? Well, we’ve looked into it for you and we’ve got some good news about the use of bots.

Does Chess.com have bots? Yes, Chess.com does have bots and it’s not shy about sharing that information with its online players. Chess bots aren’t a bad thing because they don’t actually encourage cheating. The bots on Chess.com are meant to provide a better user experience for their members.

Let’s see why that is exactly.

Does Chess.com have bots? - ChessPulse.com
Does Chess.com have bots? – ChessPulse.com

What Is A Chess Bot Exactly?

A chess bot is a piece of code designed to simulate the moves of a chess player. It might be used to provide an opponent in a game when no real-life opponent is available to play such as you might find on your favorite chess computer program such as Chess Ultra.

Chess bots may also be used by the unscrupulous online chess player to evade having to play the game themselves and, instead, allow a computer to play for them.

This is the reason that, for now at least, that while FIDE does have online rankings for chess players, they are not considered the same as rankings gained in tournament play.


Why Do Chess Bots Win So Easily Against People?

In order to teach computers to play chess, you have to give them something to aim for and chess is, well, complicated to explain directly to a computer in a language that it understands because unlike human beings – computers don’t speak English, they speak mathematics.

Scoring Chess For Bots – The Material Points System

So, there are two ways to teach a computer what matters in chess (apart from the final outcome of checkmate, of course) and the first is the point score value of the pieces on the board. In general terms, the more points a player has when compared to their opponent, the better they are doing.

There is a standard scoring system in place for this which you are probably aware of pawns are worth a single point, knights and bishops are worth three points each, rooks are worth five and then the queen is worth nine.

In its own right, this is not enough data for a computer to play to win a game of chess. We can all think of scenarios where we’ve been behind on material but where we’ve won the game of chess with ease. So, points aren’t going to help the compute work out what it needs to do well enough to beat people.

Scoring Chess For Bots – Areas Of Control

So, we also teach computers a second idea and one that is not necessarily explicitly taught to human students of chess and that is the idea of control over squares. Each piece on your chess board has control over a certain number of squares – we define a square as controlled when an opposing piece can’t move there without being captured.

The more squares that a player controls, the more of the board they control, the easier it is for them to move without fear of losing pieces and the harder it is for their opponent to move without such fear.

The Big Problem – Taking Scoring And Projecting It Many Moves Into The Future

These two things are very easy to teach computers and, indeed, to teach to people. Where things become more complicated is that chess is not a static game, you don’t want to have a material and area advantage for one turn, you want those advantages in 10 moves time, in 20 moves time and so on.

This means that for every set of moves ahead you want to think, you have to calculate all possible permutations of the board and see which offers you the greatest advantages both now and when carried forward to the future.

Advantage To The Bots

This is very complicated and while it is possible to reduce these calculations somewhat, all chess players recognize a terrible move when given enough time to see it and can, thus, discount these moves and only focus their intentions on viable moves that are likely to produce good outcomes, there are huge numbers of calculations to be done to check out all those different permutations.

This is where computers have a huge advantage over their human opponents. While a highly skilled human chess player can do these calculations, there is a physical limit as to just how far into the future they can calculate.

Deep Blue And The Rise Of The World Championship Chess Bot

This was demonstrated conclusively in 1997. In 1996, Gary Kasparov the world chess champion was asked to play a supercomputer at chess. This computer was known as Deep Blue. He agreed and readily beat Deep Blue 4-2.

A year later, he was asked to return and take Deep Blue on again after its programmers had had a chance to implement what they had learned from the last match. Kasparov lost 3 ½ to 2 ½ and the world of chess has never been the same.

As Kasparov says now, you can find any old laptop today that is thousands of times more powerful than Deep Blue was back then.

The Controversy That Is No Longer Controversial With Chess Bots

Some argued at the time that Kasparov played particularly poorly in 1997 and that Deep Blue’s win was as much down to luck as it was skill. Nobody would argue that in 2020, as we go to press, that there is a human player anywhere in the world that could beat the highest performing chess computers over multiple matches.

In fact, the problem of designing chess bots is now very much considered “old hat” and you can grab the code off the internet to build your own without a problem and the artificial intelligence designers have turned their eyes to the much more complex game of “Go” from China.


So What About the Bots On Chess.com?

Chess.com is one of the first and most enduring internet chess servers online. It also hosts a chess-based social network and an internet forum for chess questions, tips, etc. it is the most frequently used board game website in the world. It offers players the chance to take part in games at all hours of the day or night and in a large number of different variants. Players may have to pay to access some services while others are available for free.

Chess.com doesn’t make any attempt at all to hide the fact that they have bots on the site. Without bots, players on the Chess.com website would be forced to wait for a human player whenever they wanted to play but with bots – they can play whenever they want to.

Better still, Chess.com’s official bots are rated which means that when a player beats the bots of a particular rating their own rating rises (just as if they lose against a rated bot, their rating falls). This is very much a selling point to Chess.com’s users.

Does This Mean Chess.Com Allows Cheating?

While Chess.com provides bots to provide opposition to players who want it, it does not encourage the use of bots to cheat at chess. In fact, like every serious chess site out there, it does its best to prevent cheating through the use of bots.

However, there is only so much that they can do, and it is likely that, at least, some players are using bots to give themselves an unfair advantage. If they are caught, and they usually are, they will then be banned from the platform.


Conclusion

Does Chess.com have bots? As you’ve seen Chess.com does use bots and not as some way of cheating players but rather to enhance their playing experience. The use of bots means that players don’t have to wait for other players to get a game when they arrive on the Chess.com website and, as importantly, they can still improve their rankings while playing against chess bots.

Of course, the rated bots have been “gimped” somewhat, so that they emulate a specific skill level and don’t play like the perfect computer ought to – after all if Gary Kasparov couldn’t beat Deep Blue in 1997, it seems unlikely that any modern player could beat a chess bot that was given absolute free reign in the way that they play. So, if you do use Chess.com, don’t worry the game may be hard but it will be fair against a bot.

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