And in other news: ten is greater than five and Usain Bolt is faster than I am. Still, the story is more interesting and the match was closer than one might expect.
In fact, the match between the latest version of Stockfish and Hikaru Nakamura (currently #7 in the world; more precisely the #7 human chess player in the world*) was quite close, the 3-1 score notwithstanding. It wasn't an even fight, as Nakamura had help in the first two games while Stockfish had handicaps in all four, but it was a close battle all the same.
In the first two games Nakamura was helped by an older version of Rybka (rated approximately 200 points lower than the version of Stockfish he was facing), while Stockfish wasn't given access to either an opening book or tablebases. Nakamura drew game one with White, and in game two it seemed that he was headed for a draw by the 50-move rule before playing 83...Bh6. Stockfish ground that one out in 147 moves.
In the next two games Nakamura was on his own - no Rybka - but was given White and an extra pawn. In the first game Stockfish played without an h-pawn and the game was drawn, and in the second game the computer started without its b-pawn. Nakamura wasn't in any danger when they reached the endgame, but he'd need to win to tie the match, and once he opened the board he was gradually outplayed, losing in 97 moves.
Overall, Nakamura acquitted himself well. It's hard to remain vigilant and not miss anything when a game lasts 97 or especially 147 moves, and all four games were on the same day - there were more 10 hours of play in all. So while the computer played with a handicap, the human did too: computers don't suffer from fatigue (or at least not in the relevant sense)!
* Then again, as computers don't play chess (in part because they don't exist**, in part because there's nobody home "upstairs"), we can dispense with the qualifying adjective "human".
** In saying that they don't exist, I don't mean that they are illusions but that they aren't unities in their own right. Think of a cup sitting on a table. Is there a further entity we could call a tablecup, comprised of the table and the cup put together? Most people would say no, and I agree. The table and cup are not subsumed into a further whole. By contrast, an atom of hydrogen or a molecule of water is a genuine whole in its own right. Its parts are genuinely subsumed into the whole and are defined as parts of that whole. Those parts do not act independently, but in a behavior that's determined by their function within the hydrogen atom or water molecule.
So is a computer more like a tablecup or a water molecule? Both, really - but it depends on one's perspective. As a purely physical object, it's like the tablecup. Its parts interact with each other, but there is no intrinsic principle of unity to the computer's constituent parts. There is a unity to the computer, however, but it comes from us, from our purposes. What the computer does it does only if there are intelligent outside interpreters to understand its results. Otherwise, it is just an unnatural collection of heterogenous parts. It is not a thing in its own right, and thus doesn't exist per se.
(HT: Jason Childress, by way of Allen Becker.)