When a beginner enters the game of chess for the first time, there is an urge to find the “secret strategy” that will absolutely win them every game. And I do not shame you for this, it is a natural instinct to try looking for an easy solution.
But does an unbeatable strategy exist? Is it possible to never lose a chess game?
It is not possible for both humans and computers to never lose a chess game. Games between super grandmasters and supercomputers usually end in a draw but there will be a decisive encounter every now and then.
Theoretically, there could be a way for chess to be solved in the near future with the rapid advancement of technology that we are witnessing today.
But there are definitely challenges to overcome if it is even possible (never losing a game), there are also implications for you as a player if it were to ever happen.
It is impossible to not lose by just drawing
There has been a grandmaster belief that it is possible to play a game for a draw without the possibility of losing, we know from top games that this is not true.
The idea being that chess masters usually “can draw at will” since one can play passively and exchange their pieces without making blunders that could lead to conversion.
Now it is true that grandmasters usually play so safe that they’re getting mostly involved in a draw, however, there are a lot of decisive encounters even at the top levels.
There wouldn’t be any rankings if it is impossible to get any decisive result from the game other than a draw, the game would be dead at that point.
The fact that a hierarchy exists and competitive chess is still thriving, means that there are enough decisive outcomes that not everything ends in a draw even on elite levels.
Because that is the problem with this question, in order to never lose one can also never win.
For a player to win in chess, another has to lose
That is the thing, if there were any unbeatable strategy to never lose a game then that means professionals would be all aware of it.
However, for one to be declared a winner one has to be declared a loser since chess is an individual competition.
This means that if both players implement the no-lose strategy (if it exists) then it should always end in a draw. However, that is not what we are seeing since both players and computers win every now and then.
For a player and a computer to win they must beat another player or a computer. It is safe to say that the fact that there is still a winner means an unbeatable strategy doesn’t exist yet.
Super grandmasters do not have an unbeatable strategy
Now let’s look at super grandmasters, which is the very top level of elite chess rankings. Because a grandmaster and a super grandmaster are quite different, you can check my other article for that (will open in a new tab).
When we are talking about super grandmasters we are seeing the exact same thing, there is nobody who can really implement a no-lose strategy.
Looking at the best players it is likely that their games will be a draw, but a player loses every now and then depending on the circumstances.
These are the very top players in the world. No matter how many passive players there are at the top, they can win a game and lose a game too.
This means that a strategy to never lose has still not been implemented since we are not seeing draws all the time even in the elites. If it does exist super grandmasters will definitely be using it.
The longest human games without any loss are 100+ only
Now, there have been players that are so hard to beat that they have set milestones in achieving a streaky no-lose status. But this usually didn’t last up to 200.
The longest game without any loss is around 100+ only, no human ever has had 200 games without losing once.
Playing 100 plus games without losing is incredible, but it does mean that losing comes naturally since these players still lose with the passing of time.
But there could still be hope, where humans fail, computers might have implemented a no-lose strategy that we have been looking for!
Chess supercomputers don’t have a 0% loss rate
Some of the strongest chess supercomputers are Stockfish, Komodo, Houdini, etc. as well as neural chess networks like Leela Chess Zero and Alpha zero. All of which have lost at some point unfortunately.
It is impossible to never lose a chess game with modern knowledge, even chess computers that are hailed as the best entity to ever play the game have never achieved a 0% losing rate.
When they are playing against another supercomputer it also ends mostly in a draw, however, we have witnessed that every one of them could lose depending on the difficulty of the position.
It is hard to say which is truly the strongest chess computer but we can verify that all of them have lost before. Even with their advanced hard calculation the games don’t always end in a draw.
This means that an unbeatable strategy has still not been figured out by these supercomputers (at the moment at least).
No-lose chess strategy in the future?
Theoretically it is possible with perfect play to never lose a chess game (going for a draw/win). But that is the thing, we do not know what perfect play looks like since we don’t have access to such power.
We don’t know if perfect play is even possible (though I said theoretically since some believe it). Chess is just too complicated, there are so many pieces that could make the game unpredictable.
We don’t know what we don’t know, so it is really hard to stipulate if a no-loss strategy even exists nor do we have the proper knowledge to figure it out.
Our knowledge will definitely play a role if this would be discovered. Computers that can figure it out still need programming from human developers, so we really have a contribution to play in this.
Looking for a never-lose strategy is a bad mindset
Most people who asked this question are looking for “a silver bullet” that would allow them to never lose, even if you are among the best players in the world this would not be possible.
If an unbeatable strategy exists, people would no longer teach openings that are faulty or some other lines that do not work. There would be a straightforward way of teaching chess.
This is not what we see however, people still teach situational patterns that are recurring in most positions since there isn’t just one line that works all the time.
Executing an unbeatable strategy for humans is too hard
Okay we now know that a no lose strategy doesn’t exist yet, however if it had been discovered would humans be able to execute it in the first place?
Let’s say that it is possible to never lose a game with perfect play, I personally don’t think that humans would be able to execute such a strategy even if it does exist. Chess is too complicated for that.
If there was perfect play, it is unlikely to be only one particular line and more of a series of moves that are not similar to each other at all. It is likely that only computers can play it.
Because if a particular line exists that can never be beaten, one of the players could just avoid the line by deviating using some other moves.
And if for some reason humans can do it, I even doubt further that non-professionals (which make up the majority of chess players) can do it. It is likely to be very extensive.
So no, for anyone who is reading this, you are unlikely to execute an unbeatable strategy (even if it does exist) since you don’t have the capability to do so.
Losing in chess can be minimized, but not avoided
I want to clarify something, I am not saying that it is impossible to minimize losing so much that it is an unlikely occurrence. I am saying any absolute unbeatable strategy to have a 0% losing rate is unlikely at the moment.
It is not possible to never lose a game, however, losing minimally is very likely as you upgrade your skills as a player.
Especially if you are going against players of inferior strength, a losing outcome is much easily avoided. Take note though that you can still lose even if you are playing against a weaker opponent.
No matter how strong you are there is still a slight chance that a slightly weaker opponent can beat you (unless the difference in strength is so high).
But since playing competitive chess requires you to play against opponents of equal or stronger level, it is impossible to never lose by just playing against super weak opponents.
A no-lose strategy in chess is still unlikely in the future
Solving the game of chess is still far from reach in the near future. Even if it is solved it is unlikely that it is just one strategy that can easily be implemented by anyone, it is likely to be very complicated.
Throughout this article you might have noticed that I keep using the term no-lose strategy, but it really isn’t likely to be just one strategy. Rather it is likely to be an entity so good that it just won’t lose.
I doubt that anyone could implement it nor teach it, it must be something that can only be applied to the one who can play perfect chess if it can exist in the future (likely to be a supercomputer).
To never lose in chess, you should never play
This is something that I want you to take away from this article, which is participating in any game that actually gives you winning chances requires you to risk losing.
As a wise person says, the only way to really never lose a game of chess is to never play it in the first place. This might be the unbeatable strategy that you are looking for.
And to be honest this is more feasible than waiting for a computer to figure out the game, you can implement it immediately.
Of course I am joking, you should not quit on something just because you have the possibility of losing. Defeats are part of everything, in life and in chess.
Instead of looking for an unbeatable strategy online you should do things the normal way since it will give you the best results. Actually study and implement the things that you learned, it will increase your winning chances.
This unbeatable strategy that I kept talking about may pop up in the future as we learn more about computers and how we can improve them. I doubt that it will happen or even near in our time though.
This is actually good for the game, if there is a no lose strategy then the value of competition would not be appreciated. Chess would pretty much be boring.
The fact that you can win and make someone else lose makes it much more interesting. So don’t be afraid! This is within our interest.
Lacking a no lose strategy is one of the ways to keep the game alive. I certainly hope that it will stay that way, sleep well and play chess.