Computer Chess Tournaments
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Internet World Computer Chess Championship

6 The Internet World Computer Chess Championship will be contested over three(3) stages.

The first stage is a 9 round Swiss tournament where the top four(4) players will be selected as candidates.

Stage two(2) is a 10 Round Robin event with the four(4) Candidates selected from the Swiss Tournament (Total 60 games).

Stage 3 is the Internet World Computer Chess Championship, where the two(2) top programs from the Round Robin Event will face each other in a 24 game match. The winner of that match will be determined to be leading by .5 points after 24 games. If there is a tie situation, games will proceed until one player has a 1.5 point advantage.

The time control for all three(3) stages of the Internet World Computer Chess Championship will be 60 minutes with a 15 second increment.

Stage One(1) Details:

Site: H.G.M’s ICS Server
Tournament Director: Peter Skinner
Date: September 29-30, 2012
Registration Deadline: September 25, 2012

Time controls: 60 + 15
Rounds: 9 Round Swiss.
Round Times: 09:00 11:00 13:00 15:00 17:00* (*Saturday Only)
(Above times are EST – Eastern Standard Time)
Please be sure to check for time zone differences!

All games to be played in one weekend:
5 games on Saturday
4 games on Sunday

Entry Fees:

There will be a fee of $100 for each Professional/Commercial program and $50 for each Amateur/Non-Commercial program to register the Internet World Championship Event.

Rules:

Anyone may enter a program in this event. Under the following conditions:

  1. There will only be one instance of each program allowed, and will be based on a first come/first serve basis.
  2. If the original author wishes to participate, they will obviously be using a developement version, thus not impacting the above rule.
  3. It is preferred that your computer account name be the same as your engine name. The only exclusion to this rule is if the original author participates, they would get their prefered account name. If this is not possible, please contact the Tournament Director.

Clone/Derivatives Rules

  1. There will only be one allowed version of each named program and will be on a first come/first server basis.
  2. Any engine that is found to be “clone” of another program or close to it (e.g. engine output, pondering information, analysis of positions) will be declared void by the Tournament Director after seeking advice from notable sources. The notable sources will be individuals that have no active standing in other projects, and are respected within the computer chess community.
  3. If a participants registers with program a and is found to be using program b, they will be removed from the event and will forfeit their entry fee.

Disconnection/Forfeit Rules

  1. In the event of a disconnection, the party will be given 10 minutes to return to complete the game; and no more than 2 disconnections per game will be allowed. On the third time, the game will be a forfeit. This is absolute.
  2. The Tournament Director will keep track of disconnections, and responsibility is his alone to enforce this rule. The opponent will not have the ability to choose to continue or to claim the win. The Tournament Director’s decision will be final.
  3. In the event that a program can not continue a game due to interface or program issues, it will forfeit the game. Under no circumstances will a new game be formed or the game restarted.
  4. If a program is not open for matches or arrives late for a scheduled round, after 20 minutes the game will be considered a forfeit. This is common to all games such as these including in an online casino such as Dewapoker and is instituted in order to eliminate one game holding up the tournament..

Disputes

  1. As will all events I hold, disputes will be done in private. Under no circumstances are accusations to be made publicly. This is done to ensure no participant’s reputation is harmed in the event of a false accusation.
  2. Making false accusations will also be considered abuse and may cause for removal of the event.
  3. The proper way of handling a dispute is to message the TD on the server in private. From there it will be investigated.

Seeding Criteria

Seeding will be based on rating on the ICS server.

10 for 10 Interview

I love reading interviews of chess personalities no matter where they are published, as I gain a little insight each time in to the person behind the programs I love to play around with.

So I thought, why not have my own interview where I ask 10 chess people the same 10 questions to see how varying the answers would be? Great idea! Let’s begin I told myself.

My formula for picking the participants was to try and get as many Countries involved first. As chess is bigger in some parts of the world, it would be interesting to see some of the answers from someone in Spain compared to a person in the Netherlands or the United States. Next was to select the actual people. This was tricky due to my Countries criteria, but I think it came out pretty well. Enough of my babbling and let’s get to the good part.

First of all, I would like to thank every person who participated in the interview. It was great to interact with some people that I had never formally spoken to, and their answers were great.

1. If you had to pick one moment in the last 20 years of Computer Chess, which would be the most significant?

Robert Hyatt:

Most likely 1997 when DB beat Kasparov to signal the end of human GM supremacy. Had a negative impact on CC in general, since most of the world considered that chess was “solved” at that point, which was far from the truth.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

The last Deep Blue vs Kasparov match, which was the turning point in terms of attention and resources poured into computer chess.

Gerd Isenberg:

The early times from 94 to 97, IPCCs, WCCC’s and WMCCC’s and playing three Aegon tournaments with my old DOS-program and a lot emotions.

Richard Pijl:

I’ve been active as a chess engine programmer in the last 10 years only. Before that I’ve been a chess player and a user of programs mainly. I’m picking two moments, one from the viewpoint of either role I’ve played in the last 20 years. I guess that the most significant moment for chess programmers must have been the defeat of Kasparov by Deep Blue. After this the attention that computer chess got from the general public decreased. As chess was considered ‘solved’ by the general public the funds that were made available for computer chess decreased.

As a user and chess player I think the release of Fruit would be a significant moment. After this the amount of strong and free engines increased significantly, ultimately followed by the new leader Rybka.

Larry Kaufman:

I would say the introduction of Null Move was the most significant advance, although I’m not sure if that dates back to before or after 1990. More recently the use of Late Move Reduction was the next really major advance.

Don Dailey:

There are several so this is a tough question. But I would probably have to say the release of Fruit, showing the computer chess community that it’s possible to build a world class chess program with simple and sound software engineering principles.

I also think the Deep Blue match was quite significant, as well as the release of Rybka 3. I think Fruit is more significant than Rybka 3 primary because it was open source, but in both cases it shows us that much more can be done that perhaps we believed previously.

Miguel Ballicora:

The famous 37. Be4 move by Deep Blue against Kasparov in the second game of the second match (1997). Strictly speaking, it was not a big deal, but sent a message to the chess world that computers were capable of coming up with strategic moves that only humans were capable to produce at that time.

H.G. Muller:

I would say the large-scale introduction of the internet, although technically that might be longer than 20 years ago. It changed computer Chess from a lonesome hobby done by weirdos locked up in their attic, to something that makes you wierdo friends (game poker88 😉 ) all over the World in a single day!

Charles Roberson:

Well, there are several ways to define significant. Possibly the creation of the chess servers like ICC, FICS, Playchess.com and so forth. They bridged a communications and testing problem.

Jon Dart:

I can’t really name just one thing. In the 90s, the publication of recursive null pruning gave a pretty big push to the performance of a lot of programs. Also at that time you started to have fairly strong open source programs available. When I started out, Gnuchess 4.x was one of the best available, but its code wasn’t exactly a model of clarity. Crafty was a big improvement in that respect and was a real milestone I think.

More recently, programs like Fruit, Scorpio, and Stockfish are substantial achievements and have popularized a number of now common algorithms such as LMR.

I have also benefited a lot from having my program play regularly on the chess servers. I think Winboard + zippy was a great idea – I still use it, and thank Tim Mann for that.

2. Technology is constantly evolving. Where and on what devices do you see your programs or the projects you are involved with entertaining people in the next 5 years? 10 years?

Robert Hyatt:

There is obviously going to be a steadily increasing market for portable devices like smartphones and such. However, the PC will continue to be a viable chess platform for many years due to the performance advantage.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

Embedded devices seem obvious at least for the next 5 years. 10 years is too far in the future.

For the “fanatics” crowd (as opposed to more casual players), the ability to use heterogenous massively multicore environments will probably be critical in the next 10 years.

Gerd Isenberg:

I am likely in the process of retirement/sabbatical from active computer chess development, but focus on the chess programming wiki.

Richard Pijl:

I’m not a professional programmer and are not really interested in making my program available for a broad range of devices. That is, if that would required a significant amount of time on my side. Having said that, the Baron was developed for both Linux and Windows initially. Because I wanted to be able to address large files for database (which is a building block for my book code) and bitbases I’ve concentrated on the windows version, but by stripping book and bitbase code from my engine it is in principle able to run on any platform that is based on or resembling linux.

Larry Kaufman:

I expect that chess programs together with opening analysis done with them will be so good that there will be little need for human involvement in opening theory. As a consequence I expect more complicated variants of chess to grow in popularity. My hope is that chess will change as little as possible consistent with the goals of reducing draws and minimizing the need to memorize computer-generated opening theory.

Don Dailey:

Technology is very difficult to predict. I could say phones and portable devices because that is one obvious answer, but in 10 years it could be something that surprises us.

Miguel Ballicora:

Mobiles devices will be very powerful, but the programs ported there will look pretty much what we have today. However, desktops will have numerous processors and programs who can take advantage of them will have an edge. Nobody talks about it, but there is a chance that in the future, GPUs may become useful for chess too. They are not today, but they are evolving. In other other of sciences they are becoming a breakthrough.

H.G. Muller:

Mostly smart phones and similar devices.

Charles Roberson:

The trends haven’t changed in the last 60 years: make it faster, hold more and smaller. I’ll develop software for any platform when it becomes reasonable to do so.

Jon Dart:

One of the biggest changes recently is the proliferation of non-PC devices such as iPads and smartphones. My program doesn’t run on those at present, but I might consider a port. On the other end of the hardware spectrum, cluster computing is becoming more mainstream – so I’m interested as well in running in a multi-node cluster environment. That certainly works well for Rybka.

3. Most of the readers of this article know who most of you are. For those that are being introduced to you for the first time, could you give them a small introduction as to who you are, and how you became involved in Computer Chess?

Robert Hyatt:

My first chess program played its first move in 1968 while I was an undergraduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi. I became interested in computer chess because (a) I had been playing the game since I was 10-12, and (b) the 1965 Star Trek TV series often had Spock playing chess against the Enterprise’s computer. That seemed like an interesting challenge. I sort of muddled along using very selective algorithms (as did everyone during that period) and played in my first ACM CC tournament in 1976 at the annual ACM conference in Houston TX that year. Finished in 4th place and jumped right to the first WCCC event held in 1977 in Toronto where the original ICCA was formed. I hardly ever missed an ACM event until the event ended after the 1994 event, mainly because of the DB project and the ACM’s involvement with the Kasparov/DB matches. I still actively work on Crafty, which now covers a span of 42 years and growing.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

I started the first version of my program, that played chess variants, because I needed a class project and I wanted to transition to C (I had been programming in Pascal before). After some time improving it I decided to play in the Dutch Championship to compete against other programmers, so I made it play normal chess. I did fairly well there and kept improving the program.

In 2003 I then made the decision to not take a summer job but work fulltime on computer chess for 2 months. The end result was the first commercial version and a publishing deal.

Gerd Isenberg:

I started chess progamming in the early 90s when I was already 35, and took a break from being a professional programmer. After reading Levy’s Computer Chess Compendium and the Slate/Atkin paper about Chess 4.x I seriously started to write DOS-IsiChess using Borland C++ and TASM. Due to its features to play simultaneously, it happened I become professional chess programmer for a few years, after meeting a dealer during first Aegon tournament I played.

Richard Pijl:

I’m a chessplayer and a programmer and chess programming interested me for a long time. However, I considered it to be difficult to build my own program and as prices for chess programs were dropping a lot in the 90s I did not have the motivation for starting my own program. But in summer 2001 I wanted some tools for game analysis that I could not find in the existing programs. So I started looking at Crafty, hoping that I could extend it with the functionality I wanted. But as it would require changes in the engine itself and Crafty was (at least for a novice) quite complex I decided to take another approach instead. I started looking at TSCP and that was an engine I could understand. Soon I got hooked with modifying TSCP, read other sources (notably Beowulf, Exchess, Arasan, Crafty) and replaced the TSCP code by my own code piece by piece. In december 2001 I had something that only reminded of TSCP due to some of the used structures and commands, but all code, including interface, move generation search and evaluation, had been rewritten, modified and extended. Needless to say that I got hooked with it and learned a lot. The current Baron is the result from a rewrite from scratch that I started in 2004.

The analysis features I wanted initially were added several years later …

Larry Kaufman:

I am a chess Grandmaster as a result of winning the World Senior Chess Championship in 2008. Although not a programmer per se, I have the longest involvement with computer chess of anyone in the world (I believe), dating back to 1967 when I was the chess advisor/tester/opening book author for MacHack, the first chess program to compete in human tournaments. In the late ’80s I edited “Computer Chess Reports” and co-authored several chess programs with Don Dailey into the early ’90s (RexChess, Socrates, Kasparov’s Gambit). In recent years I worked with Vas Rajlich to make Rybka 3; my role was primarily to determine by testing the values of all the terms in the evaluation function and to propose new terms. In the last two years I have again teamed up with Don Dailey to make the program “Komodo”. I am involved with almost all aspects of the program, but I don’t write any actual code myself, unless setting parameter values is considered writing code.

Don Dailey:

I taught myself to program. When I was about 22 or 23 I bought a $600 TRS-80 from radio shack and tried to write a chess program in basic. With 4K of RAM I failed, but I kept trying. A few years later I decided to try again with Pascal and assembly language and had my first complete chess program with user interface. It was basically a very early version of Rex that did not play very strongly.

I met Sam Sloan at the local chess club who happened to live in the same city as I did and who knew a lot of people in the computer chess community and who also introduced me to Larry Kaufman and helped me get entered in the Cologne World Championship in 1986. I think Larry helped me in some minor way, I don’t remember the details. The program finished close to last place, but it was huge fun for me and I learned a LOT from talking to the other authors.

Shortly after this I began collaborating with Larry Kaufman and we made enormous progress in a short time and eventually released RexChess, one of the more popular programs of that time and very fast compared to most programs.

Miguel Ballicora:

I was a chess player who “retired” from intense competition and training at the age of 17, after I decided to pursue a scientific career and prepare my entrance to the University. So, biochemistry has always been my passion and my job, while I had two separate hobbies, chess and programming. Deep Blue sparked my interest in computer chess and pushed me to read about it in rec.games.chess.computer. Little by little, I was more and more curious until I started to write my own move generator. At that point, I realized that I could complete a full engine and I went for it. I released Gaviota in 2000.

H.G. Muller:

It was my ambition to build a Chess-playing machine ever since I learned about the existence of digital electronics, when I was in high school (mostly TTL logic chips in those days). I got the opportunity to realize that dream in my days as a student (1978), when I helped a friend of mine build a computer (and in those days ‘building’ really meant using a soldering iron to wire the chips together, not just selecting which motherboard and hard drive you liked most!) to automate his model railway: when the computer was at my place for a week to be repaired, I poked 6800 machine code of my own design into its 2KB of RAM, which could make it play Chess. Some years later I could afford my own computer, and used it to participate in the first few Dutch Open Computer Chess championships with a follow-up version of my program. Then I left computer chess for about 25 years, (very busy pursuing a career as a research physicist), although I did appear on the 10th Dutch Open with a computer put together for the occasion from 5 chips in a matchbox, which could run my old program. In 2005 I returned to computer Chess, and for nostalgic reasons wrote an as-small-as-possible Chess program, source-code wise.This resulted in the 100-line Chess program micro-Max. I have always had a wider perspective on Chess, being intrigued by the fact that values could be assigned to Chess pieces, and wondering if and how such a value would follow from the allowed moves of the piece. So I started to experiment with un-orthodox pieces in my engines, and needed a GUI that would allow me to display such pieces amongst normal FIDE pieces. This brought me to work on WinBoard, as it was open source, and thus could be easily adapted to my unconventional needs. As it soon turned out I was the only remaining living person working on it, and that it could be much improved, this grew into an occupation in itself, and I have spent more time on WinBoard than on all my Chessengines together. Although I still could find some time in between my work on WinBoard to write engines for Chinese and Japanese Chess game bandarq.

Charles Roberson:

I became interested computers, computer games, computer game theory, and mathematical prediction modeling in the early 1979. I created a program to predict offensive football team plays for my college’s defensive team in the early 1980′s on the PDP-11/34 minicomputer before the PC was sold. Also, I created a spell checker for the same computer before Microsoft was founded.

In computer chess, I created the programs NoonianChess, Telepath and Ares. NoonianChess was the first and I personally entered it in the 2002 World Computer Chess Championships in Maastrict Netherlands. I must say I did enjoy being there. I posted some of my earliest posts in rec.games.chess and rec.games.computer-chess in the early 1990′s. Several years ago, I founded the America’s Computer Chess Association to stimulate research in the Americas.

Jon Dart:

I’ll spare you my full life story, but I’ve been in professional software development for going on 25 years now. I’ve done a variety of things, including programming, management, and architecture, for several prominent software companies. In the past 15 years, mostly I’ve worked on large scale Java based infrastructure and applications.

I was taught chess by my dad when I was about 10. I wrote my first chess program in the 90′s when I was learning C++ and Windows programming. It was useful for that, but I also got fascinated by the challenge of getting the computer to play a strong game. I’ve found it quite a fascinating hobby, although so far it’s always been a secondary activity to my day job in software.

4. The gap between commercial products and free products is closing quickly in strength and quality. If you were to design a completely new chess product, whether that be a chess engine or an interface, would you release it to the masses free of charge or would there be a fee attached to it? For the record, my project would have a fee attached to it.

Robert Hyatt:

I would not do a “for fee” chess program. I’ve been involved too long, had too much fun interacting with others (Slate, Thompson, Hsu, and most everyone in between). Computer Chess has given me so much enjoyment I would be hard-pressed to take it as a commercial challenge, for several reasons. The most important is that I am about the only long-term author that did not go commercial and then burn out due to the annual Christmas release drive everyone works toward. I go at my own pace, and don’t get involved in that angle. I prefer to try to give back to a branch of AI(CC) that has given me a ton of enjoyment over the years.

There is something to be said for not doing open-source, since we seem to be up to our armpits with people that have little moral/ethical behaviour ingrained into them, so that they believe that copying and claiming that as “own work” after making tiny changes, is somehow an OK approach to CC.

But clearly, open-source has advanced CC light-years from 1960′s to today, even though there is an associated clone issue that is quite significant.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

I don’t know of any free GUI that is remotely close to the commercial ones in quality, so I disagree on the base proposition here. For engines, the gap was suddenly closed this year, but it’s too early to tell if this is a permanent state because it wasn’t a very natural evolution (see 8) – but if the market was killed it could very well be.

If I were to create something better than the free stuff, I would ask a fee for it.

Gerd Isenberg:

I think with a reasonable strong program and user interface, a fee is appropriate. I am pro sharing ideas but not code, and don’t like open source in CC at all, except for some didactic but otherwise weak programs.

Richard Pijl:

I would not release it to the masses for two major reasons:
1. I’m not willing to make a career out of this
2. I don’t want to spoil the market for those that do

Larry Kaufman:

Since Don Dailey does this full-time now we will have to charge for new products, although our policy is to offer a limited version of our programs for free. Currently Komodo is free, but when we release a multiprocessor version of it that won’t be free. I like the idea that anyone can enjoy our program even if he cannot afford to buy it, but those who want maximum performance must pay for it. So while our programs will not all be free, we are not solely concerned with maximizing profits.

Don Dailey:

I do both. I give Komodo for free. I am planning to release an open source chess program (not Komodo) shortly and also to release an MP version of Komodo that I will charge for. In the past I have earned a living in computer chess but at other times I have given to computer chess without receiving financial compensation.

I do feel that most free things go unappreciated and the world has a fair share of takers. I’m sure the really strong free programs have been downloaded thousands, or tens of thousands of times. I don’t know what the case is for Komodo, but the amount of thanks I get for it is nil by comparison. Once in a while you do get someone who tells you they like your program and appreciate it. But most people just grab and go. So it’s pretty stupid to do this if you are in it just for a pat on the back – you do it either for financial compensation or because you love doing it.

Miguel Ballicora:

This is a hobby for me, and my dedication to it is scattered. Therefore, I cannot imagine charging anything because it will convert it in a job and a burden.

H.G. Muller:

Always free. I don’t like the pressure commercial ties bring with them:
meeting dead-lines, providing service, and the like. I want to be able to do as I please, without responsibility. Accepting pay puts you on a leash. One should not let a hobby degenerate into a job…

Charles Roberson:

It would not be free or Open Source. I think that the misuse of Open Source has nearly ruined the software industry. Too many frauds getting paid passing off other peoples work and I am not just talking about the computer chess arena.

I met Ricard Stallman of FSF in the early 1990′s. He told me and others that the idea was to obtain the source code for a program and not to stop people from paying for it. He thought if you bought software you should get the source code for it.

Jon Dart:

I’ve been very well compensated for my professional work in the software industry – so I don’t need to have an income from chess programming. I don’t intend to start charging for my chess products.

5. Everyone including myself are wondering what you all have been doing lately? Anything new on the horizon that we can look forward to from your programs or test suites?

Robert Hyatt:

As always, we have ideas. We discard far more than we keep, which results in significant jumps at times, and in “no change” the rest of the time. I don’t think a “completed chess engine” can be done. There is always something additional that can be done.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

Nothing I can comment on.

Gerd Isenberg:

Nope, I have started a new quad-bitboard, color flipper design inside a perft-framework which still takes a lot of time, which is actually not compatible to my professional job as programmer and due to family commitments. May in some time, likely after job retirement, I’ll get new motivations. I actually prefer working on cpw, which is a much more relaxing diversification from my job.

Richard Pijl:

I have several projects going on. The one I’m working mostly on nowadays is a major rewrite of the Baron, once again to simplify the code and to remove all superfluous stuff from it. While doing that I already found quite a few improvements (efficiency, removal of small bugs).

Other chess related projects that I have are my database code, book utility, bitbases and remote UCI engine connection. Besides this I also have a Havannah program that I will be working on again.

Larry Kaufman:

Yes, the release of Komodo 1.3 is imminent. We plan to release a beta version first and shortly thereafter the final version. It is much improved over Komodo 1.2.

Don Dailey:

Actually as I already mentioned I will be releasing a new version of Komodo, and an open source chess program will also be released with some tools. To be followed up eventually with an MP version of Komodo that you will pay for.

Miguel Ballicora:

Gaviota will be improved little by little, and there will be more progress on tablebases. Hopefully, I can optimize the probing code, speed up the generator, and lay my hands on building 6-piece TBs.

H.G. Muller:

I have way too many computer-Chess related proects, and some of them seem to be pushed to the future all the time. Things that are lingering on my to-do list for quite some time already now are:
1) on-the-fly calculation of end-games by retrograde analysis in engines, allowing them to play by 8-or 9-men end-game tables.
2) write a fast generator for on-disk 7-men tablebases (just because it is challenging; I see no use for them…)
3) write a generator for Chinese-Chess tablebases (difficult, because of the perpetual repetition rules).
4) Develop an engine-installer tool, which would provide the user with a list of engines (downloaded from a maintainer site) that he can select from, and then automatically download the selected engines from the indicated source, and install them ready to run under WinBoard.

Charles Roberson:

Over the last 20 years, I’ve written numerous fun programs. I am porting them to other platforms for distribution. A new version of Ares will be released this year for some platforms and possibly a GUI that I am currently working on.

I am working on some games that I enjoy playing that I’ve never seen on a computer.

Jon Dart:

Recently I’ve done quite a bit of debugging. Bugs can include logic errors and also things like eval terms that are suboptimal in some situations. I am still finding cases of both of these, despite a long history of development and quite a lot of automated testing I do now.

I don’t have anything revolutionary on the immediate horizon. But I’ve got some ideas I may work on when I get more time. Some of the code I have dates back to the early 90′s and it is probably time to do a cleanup and revisit some design decisions made long ago. What I have could also stand some performance tuning, especially on multi-core processors. I continue to test some algorithmic improvements, and to collect test positions and publish test suites from time to time.

6. Chess enthusiasts are constantly comparing computer programs to a human Grandmaster. Which player do you think your program plays like? And was it by design?

Robert Hyatt:

Hard to say, but I would say that most computers play more like the Karpov type of player, where they play very solidly, if not very exciting, and just grind out win after win against humans, but without the Capablanca/Fischer/etc type of dramatic sacrifices that led to such incredible games.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

I don’t think my program resembles any one particular GrandMaster, particularly as the style is now configurable. Also, even the really good ones tend to play blunders regularly, and my program doesn’t 🙂

Gerd Isenberg:

A few different eval weight make huge differences. I personally prefer speculative play and wild tactics.

Richard Pijl:

I really have no clue.

Larry Kaufman:

Well it probably plays more like myself than like any other Grandmaster, since the evaluation function reflects my own beliefs about how important different features are in chess. I suppose my own play is modelled more on Bobby Fischer than on any other great player, as his games were the dominant ones during my formative years.

Don Dailey:

I have heard people describe Komodo as playing like Karpov as it is conservative and solid. We have always wanted our program to play as correctly as possible, not wildly aggressive and we have tried to make the evaluation return values that a human Grandmaster would agree with. In open positions right out of common openings some programs return close to half pawn advantages or more, and these are in positions known to be very playable for black. Komodo tries not to do this 🙂

Miguel Ballicora:

Gaviota likes to make positional sacrifices and keep their pieces really active. When it has an advantage, it tries to dominate the whole board. This is the consequence of the eval parameter values and the emphasis on mobility. The style has not been designed, but it is a logical that went that way. Comparing it with a player is not really correct, but sometimes I could see some flashes of the positional sacrifices of Petrosian and the activity of Tal.

H.G. Muller:

I am not interested in Human Chess. My comparatively best engine is for Chinese Chess, and I would not even know the name of a single GM for that game, nor have I ever seen a Xiangqi game played between Humans in print (or on file).

Charles Roberson:

NoonianChess’ position evaluator was based on stategic positional chess knowledge I gleaned from quite a number of chess books. I purposely tried to make it and Telepath play as much like a human as possible. While the evals weren’t designed to play like any one master, I did read several books and used knowledge gleaned from the play and teaching of the great master Nimzovitch.

NoonianChess would often play the opening and early middlegame very well and then lose due to lack of speed which was a side effect of an over sized position evaluator. I reduced the knowledge used in NoonianChess to what seemed to be the most important when I started Telepath. Telepath plays much better, but still a bit more human like than many programs. During the last human World Chess Championships, Telepath was able to predict many of the moves.

I was following the games on ICC and posting predictions. It was rather neat when many programs missed the moved and some of the people watching said “Wow, a program saw that combo”.

A few years ago at dinner, Bob Hyatt, I and others (Brian Richardson, Pradu Kannan and Ted Summers) were discussing computer chess in detail. We started discussing position evaluators. Eventually, Bob told me that he thought Telepath’s eval was too elaborate from how I described it. I am currently rewriting it.

Jon Dart:

I don’t really think it plays like a human. Generally though I think maybe it has a more positional style vs. being a berserk attacker.

7. What role do you see tournaments like CCT or the ACCA events playing in the future of our sport?

Robert Hyatt:

I believe they will be the only thing left in another few years. The “on site” events have become too expensive, require too much time away from work, and are the antithesis of “computer chess”. The internet is the meeting place of today, not a hotel.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

About the same as before, I guess. Real life tournaments are becoming less popular, but this might also have a lot to do with the organisers burning out or being stuck to their ways. I do think there is a lot of benefit to face to face meeting, which an online event can’t provide.

For beginning programmers, tournaments are good as they present hard deadlines. They teach you to deliver and ship.

Gerd Isenberg:

I personally don’t like them and always liked over the board tournaments more, we have here in Europe, but it is the future of CC competitions.

Richard Pijl:

CCT and ACCA events a fun and easy to participate in. The main problem however is that due that it runs automatically there is a big chance that your opponent is not there, or is occupied with other things. I consider that a major drawback to the events where players are physically present at the same site, having to move the pieces by hand. Of course, it is not the fairest way of playing a tournament as the operator can make mistakes and influence the game by doing so, but it makes the most fun.

Larry Kaufman:

Tournaments are a great way to popularize computer chess, to exchange ideas, and to give incentive to keep improving programs. However the number of games played is normally too small to have any statistical significance, we have to rely on the computer chess rating agencies to tell us how strong the various programs are.

Don Dailey:

They are all positive and good for computer chess. On-line tournaments play an important role and so do tournaments where contestants must be there. Unfortunately our society is evolving more and more away from face to face social interactions and people prefer to sit in front of their computers.

Miguel Ballicora:

They will be almost the whole future. Face to face tournaments are becoming less and less popular.

H.G. Muller:

I don’t consider them very important. ACCA is not even open to me as a European, and CCT is not worth the time if I can only participate with a single engine. In general I am more interested in tournaments for engines (such as Chess War) than in tournaments for authors. I run my own on-line blitz tournament for Chess engines every month,on my own ICS, which is more convenient for me, and more frequent than once-a-year events. Usually it attracts between 10 and 25 participants.

Charles Roberson:

The CCT and ACCA events really allow people (researchers and others) to easily meet, compete and communicate with each other. Just as important is that these events allow us to be as imaginative as we like. We can try anything for any kind of hardware or combination of hardware that we like. While the “controlled environment” tournaments like Leo’s, Olivier’s and CCRL are
important, they don’t allow us to be as creative and imaginative. The ICGA events are good too, but expensive.

Jon Dart:

I like the online format – it gives me the opportunity to participate, when otherwise I couldn’t. These events have not generally had the quite same publicity as onsite events such as the WCCC. They are basically amateur events. I find them quite enjoyable though, and very useful for engine testing.

8. You all knew this question was coming, so let’s get it out of the way. There is great debate over what the engines being released as a result of the Ippolit code actually are; do you believe them to be “derivatives” or “clones”?

Robert Hyatt:

I don’t make any distinction, for the most part. A “derivative” could be significantly different from the original, while a clone is generally very close with just minor tweaks. Both should not be allowed to compete anywhere and should be lumped into the same can.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

I don’t know what the definition of “clone” is, so talking about it is pointless.

“Derivative work” has an established meaning in copyright law. If your statement “released as a result of the Ippolit code” means they reuse code, they are derivative works.

Gerd Isenberg:

What I believe does not matter, I don’t know enough and have not investigated by myself.

Richard Pijl:

I like to compete in tournaments. I’m not interested to compete against anyone who is using 90-95% of the effort of others by means of the sources they improved upon. It’s like running a marathon where some only run the last mile just because they live close to the finish and don’t want to bother with going to the start first as that is a detour.

Larry Kaufman:

Of course they are “derivatives” of Rybka; I recognize my own evaluation function in all of them. I must admit that they have gone beyond the program they were based on.

Don Dailey:

What you call them is semantics, but it’s probably not quite accurate to call them “clones.” Almost all of these programs started out as exact clones, then they were modified either heavily or not so heavily.

One of the very hardest things in computer chess is building a really strong evaluation function, and it’s my view that these “derivatives” have almost completely bypassed the hardest part. They are all easily identified by their playing style, which is extremely rybka-like. Most of them try to hide the scoring by scaling it differently, making minor changes here and there and finding a few improvements that they can point to as proof they are not really derivatives.

My feeling on this is that it is not so important if you can actually demonstrate that you have a product that is significantly stronger than the program you are copying. Everybody takes ideas from from the public domain and some of these authors have been forthcoming about what they have done. I don’t have too much problem with that except when it comes to competing against them. I hate feeling like I am competing with 20 Rybka variants and it’s not fair to those who work so hard to produce something that is actually original and different.

Miguel Ballicora:

My hypothesis is that they are derivatives of a reverse engineered product.

H.G. Muller:

“as a result of” already implies they are derived from Ippolit in some way, so the answer by definition must be “yes”. The real question is in which sense the various new engines are derived from Ippolit, if at all. Do they share code, do they share data structures, have they taken (parts of) the algorithm, do they use the same eval parameters? I have no first-hand information on this, I did not even look at the Ippolit code, and the other engines I know only by name. The Mad-Queen variant of Chess is only in the margin of my sphere of interest, and I don’t keep much track of the latest and the newest. But of course you must be incredibly naive or in denial to assume that a large number of ‘authors’ that have never written a known Chess engine before are suddenly capable of producing 3000+ Elo engines on their first try. And, just by complete coincidence, all waited to release their own work until after Ippolit was published.

The sad fact of Computer-Chess life is that 99% of all ‘new’ Chess engines produced are hex-edit jobs on binaries of Crafty, or re-compiles of Stock fish. So you must be an absolute moron to believe someone is innocent of cloning until proven guilty. For me, they are all guilty until they can prove innocence. I’d like to add that the line between “cloning” and “acceptable derivative” is ill defined; Every Chess engine in existence is basically a derivative of the work of Shannon, and there is a large grey area between using code from other projects and just reading the Chess-programming wiki.

Charles Roberson:

Oh, most are clones of Ippo. Many of them have little changed. While taking code and changing usually implies derivative, many of them haven’t changed enough to even qualify as derivative. One of the entertaining things is all the guys that were cloning Toga and claiming that they had improved it greatly . When Ippo came out, they abandoned their “improved” code and went to the Ippo code. Now, some of them make the same claims about that.

Jon Dart:

I’m a little tired of all the heated discussion. I don’t know if these engines are illegal derivatives of a commercial product. Vas seems to think they are, but they are internally different even from each other, so any similarity can’t be all that deep, it would seem to me. On the other hand, the authors have put out very strong engines very quickly, so you have to wonder how that is possible.

More generally, I don’t think after 50 years or more of work on computer chess, much of which has been published, in source form or at least as algorithms, that you can expect every chess engine to be completely an original work. They are being treated like they are works of art, and anything that isn’t 100% original is suspect. But I don’t think they are art works. They are just globs of code. I don’t get very morally exercised if a new one comes along and is not all original work. I am not a big fan of GPL, which puts very tight limits on further usage of published code. But for myself, I do not knowingly violate any licenses in any stuff I put out.

Re Ippolit in particular I might add, it certainly does look like something disassembled, vs. authored from scratch, at least to me.

9. Many chess programs now have teams of people involved in the process of creating, improving, and implementing new ideas. If you could choose 5 people as a team to be involved in a completely new chess project, who would they be?

Robert Hyatt:

Slate, Thompson, Campbell, Hsu, assuming you are asking for 4 people that I would like to work with to form a team of 5. If you mean to exclude me, I might include someone like Benjamin or Kaufman to get some significant chess skill involved.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

Remi Coulom, Vasik Rajlich, Anthony Cozzie, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Myself 🙂

Gerd Isenberg:

No idea, in CC I always liked to make my own stuff, and I am probably not a good team player in that area.

Richard Pijl:

There are teams of people working on most programs as there are testers, book authors etc. As far as programming an engine is concerned I like to be the only programmer in the team, but support in test is highly appreciated.

Larry Kaufman:

Vas Rajlich, Don Dailey, myself, Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, Bob Hyatt. That assumes they would all co-operate!

Don Dailey:

It’s much more about chemistry than skill, so it would be hard to say. I have very good chemistry with Larry Kaufman so it works well for me. I think I could work well with John Stanback and Mark Leffler. I don’t think I would work well with Bob Hyatt even though he is a giant in computer chess and an awesome engineer. A lot of chess program authors are very individualistic and may not have good chemistry, I may not be the ideal team member either for this reason. A lot of people I have not mentioned who might be great team members I just don’t know enough about. But I can say that I would definitely not pick the 5 strongest program authors.

It would probably be ideal to pick 5 people with separate strengths.

Miguel Ballicora:

I think you are asking for chess engine programmers. If that is the case, I might choose Dieter Buerssner (a pity he is not active right now), Aaron Becker, Zach Wegner, Ilari Pihlajisto, Sam Hamilton… and… and… but you said five. They are all better programmers than me, calm, rational, pragmatical, and somehow I feel they are compatible with my style. But if you are allowing in the group people who can play different roles from engine programming, I would say Carlos Pesce (Bookmaking) and possibly Dan Corbit for his database expertise. In that case I may need to remove a couple from the first five. The first one to remove would be myself 🙂

H.G. Muller:

I am no good as a team player, and I abhor the idea of teams.

Charles Roberson:

Myself, Bob Hyatt, Vasik Rajlich, Gian-Carlo Pascutto, Stefan Meyer-Kahlen and Alexander Naumov.

Jon Dart:

Not sure I can answer that one. There are lots of capable and talented people in the computer chess community. But I’ve been the lone developer for my program for a long time. If someone else wanted to contribute it to it in a meaningful way, I’d consider that. But in all the years it’s been open source, few people have shown an interest in the code. I get a few patches and bug reports, but the vast majority of people who visit my web site just download the executable. (I’m actually ok with that – most people into chess are not programmers, after all).

10. If you could take back all the time that you have invested in to Computer Chess, would you? If so, what do you think you would have done with that time?

Robert Hyatt:

Not a chance. I have enjoyed doing this immensely, for 42 years now.

Who, in their right mind, would give up something that has been so enjoyable? I might be willing to give up some of the nonsense from the past few years, with respect to the growing list of ethically-challenged cloners, of course.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto:

With the benefit of hindsight you can always improve. Looking back there were many things that look like bad calls now, but which formed todays skills and experience.

Gerd Isenberg:

I don’t regret anything. Of course with the knowledge of today I would write a World Champion Program back in 1991 😉

Richard Pijl:

It is a hobby that I still like, and am still investing a lot of time in (although not as much anymore as in the past). So no, I would not take the time back.

Larry Kaufman:

No, I could have played much more chess instead, but I enjoy working on computer chess and enjoy seeing the programs get stronger every year, which is not the case with humans!

Don Dailey:

Probably not. This has been my primary hobby all of my adult life and I enjoy it.

Miguel Ballicora:

No, I would not. It was a great learning experience. If I had that time to invest in something else, I would say that I should have probably played more real human chess.

H.G. Muller:

Most certainly not. Spending the time was fun in itself, and it is very gratifying toknow that your work actually benefits others. Like for instance the “WinBoard for JAWS” I helped creating, which is one of the very few accessible Chess programs for the visually impaired. Because of it, those people now also have easy access to engines like Stockfish, and can play Chess on FICS.
That really makes me feel I have done something in my life that mattered.

There seems to be a popular app for the i-Phone (HOXChess) that contains my Chinese Chess engine. And there is no kick in the World compared to seeing micro-Max defeat a nearly 100 times bigger program!

Charles Roberson:

Given the time line, I could have invented Fantasy Football. The only problem was who could afford to have a PDP-11/34 in their homes. FYI: After creating the football program, I correctly predicted the win of the Raiders over the Redskins in one of the following Super Bowls.

None of my friends believed me, but they were eating crow after the game poker online.

Jon Dart:

No, I don’t regret spending the time. It’s been a lot of time and I could have done something else with it. But people get obsessed about different things. Some are nuts about golfing, or about cars, or skiing, or whatever you spend your spare time doing. I’m just nuts about computer chess.