Beating Magnus after a month of training?

by Frederic Friedel
11/18/2017 – Max Deutsch is an obsessive learner, a product builder, and guinea pig for a "Month to Master" project: the 24-year-old entrepreneur who lives in San Francisco has shown that he can train himself to memorize a deck of cards in two minutes, hold a 30-minutes conversation in Hebrew and develop perfect pitch, in each case after just 30 days of training. After eleven tasks he set himself for 2017 the twelfth was to beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a game of chess. The experiment, described in the Wall Street Journal, took place in Hamburg earlier this month. Tell us what you think.

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Starting on Nov 1st, 2016, Max decided to spend the a year trying to master twelve expert-level skills, devoting one month to each skill and writing daily about the process. He called the project Month to Master (M2M). The reason for this was to that he has, by his own admission, an obsessive personality and enjoys pushing the limits of his brain, body, and genetics.

So these were the challenges, all meticulously described in his Medium blog:

It is of course the last challenge that we are particularly interested in. Max only plays chess occasionally – a prototypical amateur. But he believed that with his one-month preparation regime he could actually beat Magnus. The original idea was to only beat the computerized simulation Play Magnus. But then the Wall Street Journal stumbled across his “Month to Master” and offered to put him in touch with the real-life version. After a month of training he travelled from San Francisco to Hamburg, Germany, to play a game against the reigning World Champion. As our readers probably know Magnus was there for a Play Magnus Challenge – we brought you Scenes from Magnus Carlsen's Hamburg swing last week.

It was undeniably a stunt, but it was also billed as a grand experiment in human performance. Can we hack our brains in a way that radically accelerates the traditional learning curve? So did Max have a chance? "I have agreed to this challenge because I am genuinely curious about what he is able to do in a month," Magnus said before the game. Did he think that Max might beat him? "No – but I have been surprised before."

Here's the massive description of the Wall Street Journal experiment

And here's a six-minute video report by George Downs for the Wall Street Journal:

And finally here is the game we have all been waiting for:

[Event "Wall Street Journal"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.10.08"] [Round "?"] [White "Deutsch, Max"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C60"] [PlyCount "78"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nge7 4. O-O g6 5. d4 exd4 6. Nxd4 Bg7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Nc3 d6 9. Nd5 {Magnus called Max's play up to this move “very, very good,” but called this knight move "questionable". It is not technically a mistake, but definitely "the move of a novice."} Nxd5 10. exd5 Ne5 11. Re1 Ng4 12. Qf3 $2 {The first serious error:} ({It was necessary to play} 12. c3 {to protect the knight on d4.}) 12... Qh4 13. h3 Nxe3 14. Qxe3 $4 {Capturing with the queen simply loses a piece (and a pawn). After this error the games is simply lost.} Bxd4 15. Qd2 Bxb2 16. Rab1 Be5 17. Rb4 Qf6 18. Bd3 Bc3 19. Qf4 Qxf4 20. Rxf4 Bxe1 21. c4 Bb4 22. g4 Bd7 23. Kg2 Rfe8 24. h4 Bd2 25. Rd4 c5 26. Re4 Rxe4 27. Bxe4 Bxg4 28. Kg3 Be2 29. f3 Bxc4 30. Kg4 f5+ 31. Bxf5 h5+ 32. Kg3 gxf5 33. Kf2 Bf4 34. Ke1 Re8+ 35. Kf2 Re2+ 36. Kf1 Rxa2+ 37. Ke1 Be3 38. Kd1 Bd3 39. Ke1 Ra1# 0-1

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.

We would be genuinely interested to hear your opinions on Max's chess challenge and the other Month to Master feats this very enterprising young man has performed.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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mominfayzan mominfayzan 11/1/2018 11:52
I can beat him. Blindfolded
elo101 elo101 8/12/2018 04:24
Complete chess newbie here. Why not play en passant as 26. move?
dysanfel dysanfel 5/13/2018 11:55
Dunning–Kruger effect is strong in Max.
Pieces in Motion Pieces in Motion 11/25/2017 12:13
(lol) I was expecting Deutsch to put up a better and tougher challenge. He played exactly like a patzer. Goes to show how deep and complex Chess is.
tom_70 tom_70 11/22/2017 12:01
So this guy trained really, really hard at chess for a month and then lost his position on move 12. LOL, he would have lost to an average club player, let alone the World Champion. Some people have no idea have far something is over their head.
HarryHaller HarryHaller 11/22/2017 06:15
"Max Deutsch is an obsessive learner, product builder, guinea pig for Month to Master, and founder at Openmind."
"Max Deutsch is a technologist, blogger, coach and extreme learner based in San Francisco"
Empty fake new age narcissistic entrepreneurial cretin - when did we start creating these fools? And rewarding them!?
omavein omavein 11/21/2017 09:04
+/- 1400 elos
wok wok 11/20/2017 10:22
Well, he got what he intendend: worldwide attention for a set of gimmicks ...
MintCondition MintCondition 11/20/2017 05:26
Im going to fight Mike Tyson in 1 month!
himalayanbear himalayanbear 11/20/2017 11:42
reality check... Capitalism is an abomination which inflates ego, not mind or spirit! Magnus should let them prove against a 10 year old first...
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/20/2017 07:07
@Notkramnik - agree
Utterly ridiculous. Give him 10 years of full-time work and he could not beat Magnus.
Notkramnik Notkramnik 11/20/2017 06:53
His (original) goal was "just.. to beat the Play Magnus computer game"... at level 26 !!!

Well, after reading the WSJ article, and the suspect's blog from day 364 onto 381, I can safely say that this obsessive buddy does not know what he is talking about! Just take a look at his "algorithms"... please.

But well, publicity is publicity, and this guy definitely has a future in marketing...
KevinHindom KevinHindom 11/20/2017 02:59
Lot of hate for this guy, makes me wonder if people even bothered to read the article. His goal after one month was just to beat the Play Magnus computer game, it was the Wall Street Times who told Magnus about the young man's goals and he invited him to play him. Of course he had no chance to win but after a year in which he learnt to solve the rubiks cube, draw portraits, learn a language, do a backflip, build a car and do 40 continuous pull ups amongst other things he rounded it off by playing the world champion in a chess game. What have you lot done this year??? Geez.
North to Infinity North to Infinity 11/20/2017 01:06
Being able to converse in Hebrew is far from outspeaking the best Hebrew orator. Having drawn your self-portrait doesn't make you a Picasso. He insulted all serious chess players who spend many years mastering the game by even thinking he could beat the world's best in a month. There's a thin line between dogged determination and idiotic ego, and it's clear which side of the line he's on.
chesspasky chesspasky 11/19/2017 11:59
thinking that with one month of training he can beat magnus is prove that he knows nothin about chess..I read somwhere that Donald trump ask sombody How long it would take him to become a grandmaster and the answer was ..." mister Trump there is nobody who has become a grand master starting to to learn chess at the age of 20 years old or older you have to start when you are a kid"
Timothy Chow Timothy Chow 11/19/2017 11:56
The commentators here who say that Deutsch failed to grasp that his final challenge was much harder than the rest are simply mistaken. Deutsch understood this, as you will see if you read his blog. Those who say he should have picked a more modest challenge are also wrong, IMO. Deutsch himself said, and I agree with him, that his mistake was making his other challenges too easy.
Darknight81 Darknight81 11/19/2017 11:52
Playing directly to a reigning world chess champion is preposterous! This should never had happen. A club player (class B) could have defeated him just the same.
chesspasky chesspasky 11/19/2017 11:46
he is a clown he just wanted to play magnus for free
libyantiger libyantiger 11/19/2017 08:29
when i was young i loved the game....but could find some one to play with...all people around me hate the

i beat whome ever beganr who dares play with me ....with time people get bored and never get one to play

game.with 2008 i bought my first computer i am 35 years old now that time i was 24 or some thing

i find chess games dvd and bought one...i was only aware of pieces movments ...not much ..real begnar
i battles against chess program called "majestic chess" ...based on the king engine

and it is for sure some thing above the 2000...grandmaster level was the hardest ...

it sloughter me with no mecry ....i play hunderes and hunders of game ....never win one single game

i serached on you tube stated watching some videos on bobby fisher garry a book called "understanding chess tactic" watchd kings crusher videos matos video ...see famous game

little by little and after 4 years or so i started beating it ...
now after 8 years all i get is that i am sure to achieve at least one draw and 1 win each 10 games

i could have reached more if i study opeinig and other book but one month is impossible to beat calrsen

you need at least 10 years of study and play you will reach level where you can "snatch " win from time to time

but again ...can you be sure that you woud have the chance to play him more than 3 or 4 games

that is story of chess novice...i a m 1700 now and here is one of my best games again majestic

chess program
jif jif 11/19/2017 07:57
Maybe my standards are too high, but this was quite a weak game, I don't think white played at a level above 1000 Elo. Seems like he practiced (or whatever) for a month and stayed at about the same level he started at.

Some of the other things he did are amazing though.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 11/19/2017 07:41
Deutsch fundamentally failed to grasp the difference in magnitude between the other challenges he set himself and the last one. The others required him to reach a decent amateur standard in the activity in question, the last was to beat the best in the world. Being able to hold a conversation in Hebrew after learning it from scratch in a month is impressive, but there are several million people in the world who can speak fluent Hebrew, so by doing that he was far from being the best in the world at it. Perhaps a closer parallel would have been to beat a professor of Hebrew in a test on the history of the language - pitting his one month of study against the professor's whole career in it. That would be comparable to attempting to beat the world champion (of chess or any other sport), and similarly doomed to failure. A more realistic target for a month's study of chess would be to make a decent result in the lowest category of amateur tournament, and judging by his play in the above game, even that would have been beyond him.
Jorge Shinozaki Jorge Shinozaki 11/19/2017 11:40
Max's idea of beating Carlsen looks too ambitious and unrealistic, but I admire his challenging spirit because I believe such desires are the mother of new inventions and technologies.
In the early 1990's, who would have imagined that today a chess program running on a home PC can play at GM level?
Rational Rational 11/19/2017 11:36
He was obviously never going to beat Magnus, but is a good self publicist.

What is good for us chess players is looking at the moves of the game one would estimate his strength as below a 1000 Elo which shows how hard reaching a decent level of chess is compared to Mr Deutsch's other fairly impressive achievements
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/19/2017 11:16
Wow, I find it difficult to believe that so much anger and frustration is thrown towards Deutsch. He has set some challenges to himself, which could be accomplished and ended the set of challenges with something he could not. Of course, he could have set a more modest challenge to himself, but that would have not drawn the same publicity as this one. So, the challenge was more directed to the marketing than to reality. If he would have set himself the challenge to solve ten chess puzzles of at least 5 depth in one sit, I am sure he had succeeded.
fons fons 11/19/2017 10:24
(edit) From the video:

Max: "The idea is that could I build an algorithm in my computer that looks at any given chess position and without having go any further, any deeper, could say whether that's a favorable position or not."

WSJ: "Max constructed an algorithm using data from thousand of documented chess matches. His plan was to memorize all of the favorable and unfavorable moves that his algorithm suggested."

Me: What a load of total hogwash. It does not even make sense (if you know anything about chess). But that's not all. The video continues:

Max: "I would ultimately turn my brain into a very slow and slightly less sophisticated chess computer"

WSJ: "He used cloud computing engines to speed up the process, but it wasn't fast enough."

Max: "One thing that I did not anticipate was how long it would take my computer to come up with this algorithm and so as we're speaking right now my computer is still chugging away. So right now as I'm sitting here I have nothing memorized. I think the game starts in the next three hours, so cutting it really close.

Me: Why am I not surprised that his "plan" did not work? Oh; maybe because it was totally absurd and the so called algorithm impossible. Even if it was possible he was going to do what? Memorize billions of chess positions in three hours?

So basically what we got here is some casual chess player playing a game against Magnus and -very predictably- losing quickly and soundly. Except that he gave us some phony story first.
AgainAgain AgainAgain 11/19/2017 08:50
ex0 ex0 11/19/2017 08:27
And we call 'implementing AI tools into your brain'(like a computer) as cheating. lol. What would be the point of the exercise/challenge if it's just a computer chip implanted into your brain that is doing the 'playing'(calculations) etc?

Anyone can beat Carlsen if they had access to a computer aswell, it doesn't prove anything about the human brain or how fast human brain can learn.
ex0 ex0 11/19/2017 08:25
@Timothy Chow : Except he was not 'randomly given' such a task, he set it himself didn't he? Of course everyone should try, but if you are giving yourself challenges, it's better to be realistic and not set such an unrealistic challenge where you will just fail miserably. Even if he was given 1 year or even 10 years instead of a month, he would still not be able to do it.
Timothy Chow Timothy Chow 11/19/2017 04:19
My initial reaction was the same as everyone else's here, but after I actually read Deutsch's blog, I gained more respect for him. Let me put it this way: Suppose you were given one month to beat Carlsen. Would you just throw up your hands in despair at the "impossible" task, or would you try? If you were to try, then I think that Deutsch's approach is really the only one that has any chance of success. Namely, start with the players who can easily beat Carlsen, namely the computers, and take advantage of available AI tools to see if you can build a Carlsen-beating machine that is simple enough to implement in your brain. Well, AI certainly isn't at that point yet, but I applaud Deutsch for raising the question and spending some time trying to answer it.
AIekhine AIekhine 11/19/2017 02:56
His goal, which would have also not been attained, should have been Mikhail Osipov, the tactically-gifted toddler who played Anatoly Karpov on the TV show.
BonaFides BonaFides 11/19/2017 02:45
Chess is a different game that one person competes with another person, not like the things he did for the other months. He will not able to beat Magnus even if he studies chess for 10 years.
AIekhine AIekhine 11/19/2017 02:39
He should have spent an extra day memorizing when it's sportsmanlike to resign and another memorizing what tasks are laughably impossible. I'm not sure if I'm more annoyed by this ignorant pompous clown or by Magnus for wasting his time by participating in this pathetic charade.
vanhelsing vanhelsing 11/19/2017 02:07
@melante: Some people can train for decades and never amount to even the grandmaster level. What does that tell you?
LordC123 LordC123 11/18/2017 09:39
Let us remember, that GM Magnus himself was a prodigious child that could remember lots of positions, and one of the things that a novice player can't do is to calculate: complex positions ( but can be help by using pawn structure to remember some important positions. It is said that the soviet school had 1000+ position to remember ) , to grasp timing ( it is different to move for example: 1. Nf3 ..... 2. c3 vs 1. c3 ..... then 2.Nf3 ; timing could also be included: change of rhythm: when to use pincer movements, prophylaxis, counterattack, etc ). The other thing to learn is what GM Kramnik showed us: that sudden change of pawn structure into another ( from one opening into another ) and I think finally is the psychological part.
Aighearach Aighearach 11/18/2017 08:35
Naturally, memorization is good for the opening. Beyond that... being better at memorization would help him if he was a 2600 trying to get to 2700! He'd need a time machine to become young enough to alter the brain more deeply if he wants to get past 2300 or so! He could probably beat club players at least part of the time, because he'd find a lot of opening traps.
yiotta yiotta 11/18/2017 06:48
It took me a week to understand the word <hubris>.
victoriaolayemi victoriaolayemi 11/18/2017 06:31
I forgive Max for he knows not what he is saying. He does not understand the complexity and depth of the game. He thinks chess is purely calculation. The encounter will be a comic relief!
kramnikstudent kramnikstudent 11/18/2017 06:23
I wish he had spent one week learning forks, skewers , Pins, Double Attacks. Maybe he like many spent 30 days memorizing openings
Burlingtonberty Burlingtonberty 11/18/2017 06:19
You could probably train a monkey to remember the first few moves of the Ruy Lopez, but you couldn't give it the intelligence to beat the world champion.
Heron Santos 10 Heron Santos 10 11/18/2017 05:06
Grande Carlsen. Sou fã. Meu filho se chamará Heron Carlsen