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    Entries in computer chess (86)

    Saturday
    Nov112017

    Another Computer Chess Competition, on Chess.com

    In addition to the latest season of the ongoing TCEC tournament, the de facto world computer chess championship, another, much shorter computer chess tournament will begin on Monday and run through Thursday. It's the Chess.com Computer Chess Championship, and in keeping with their usual practice it will be contested at rapid, blitz, and bullet time controls rather than in classical chess (as in the TCEC).

    Presumably it will again come down to the big three: Stockfish, Komodo, and Houdini; and again, I'll lament the absence of the Stockfish-based asmFish program.

    Saturday
    Nov112017

    TCEC Season 10 is Underway

    I'd been checking in regularly, but somehow missed the first stage of season 10 of the Top Chess EngineCompetition (TCEC). It's still early on, in the preliminaries, and it can be followed live, here. (To access the first stage, and the games from all the previous seasons, check out their archives.) It's a pity that Stockfish isn't being represented by the asmFish version, but no doubt it will still be strongly competitive with Komodo and Houdini, as usual.

    Saturday
    Sep232017

    A Step into the Wayback Machine: How Kasparov Could Have Beaten Deep(er) Blue

    If you were a chessplayer in 1997, you were following the match between Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue (or rather, Deeper Blue, as the upgraded version was nicknamed at the time). The year before, Kasparov won by a 4-2 score after some early difficulties, but in the rematch things were much tighter. Kasparov won game 1, but famously lost game 2 he resigned in a drawn position. The computer had played excellently throughout, but at the end, oddly, it made tactical errors in a strategically winning position that could have let Kasparov escape. Had Kasparov faced a human he very likely would have sought and found his escape, but trusting Deep Blue's tactical prowess he resigned at the moment when salvation was available. This discovery didn't happen years later, but very soon after the game, and when Kasparov learned of this he was shocked and confused. How was this possible?

    After draws in games 3 and 4 the score was knotted at 2-2, just as in the first match, when Kasparov won the last two games. This year, things didn't go as smoothly. Kasparov's meltdown in game 6 is well-known, when he chose a very dubious opening variation, played it badly, and resigned in disgust after just 19 moves. But this didn't occur in a vacuum. He was extremely upset about game 2 in particular, and about IBM's conduct, and a host of other things, including his failure to win in game 5. He was pressing very nicely, but the computer found an incredible draw that impressed everyone, from grandmasters on down. (I know I was impressed - Deep Blue's last-second counter-attack looked like a marvel of active defense.) Had Kasparov won game 5, he would have been in a better mood, could have played more safely, and may have had a better sense of the machine's limitations. Instead, he was at his wit's end and collapsed in the last round.

    So a great save by Deep Blue in game 5, right? It turns out that this is not the case! It took longer to discover, but just as in game 2 Deep Blue was not tactically infallible, but made a slip. This was one of the things I discovered from Kasparov's new book Deep Thinking. Sure enough, I turned on the engine at the critical moment, and voila! he's right. And that, by the way, is very interesting: I have a decent computer running the latest engines, but they don't even calculate 30 million positions per second, let alone the (up to) 300 million positions per second Deep(er) Blue was capable of. And yet my engines identify the right move as the right move, the move that could and should have won for Kasparov, almost instantly, and recognize that it gives White a large-to-winning advantage in fewer than ten seconds. DB had minutes to find it, but couldn't. So hats off to today's programmers, who have not only greatly increased the computer's chess "wisdom", but even their tactical skill to a colossal degree.

    Here is that game, with some of my comments. The critical moments are on moves 43 and 44. DB's 43...Nd2 was a big mistake, rather than the start of the miracle counter-attack, and Kasparov could have won with 44.Rg7+. It isn't a trivial variation, but it wouldn't have been impossible for an in-form Kasparov to find, either.

    Errare computerum est etiam?

    Saturday
    Sep232017

    New Engines: Houdini 6, Komodo 11.2.2

    An FYI for chess engine fans: Houdini 6 is hot off the presses as of a few days ago. As for Komodo 11.2.2, that's not hot off the presses, but if you're like me you may have assumed that 11.2 is the latest version. That's what the front page suggests, but if you've bought a subscription that included the original 11.2, log into your account and download the mini-upgrade 11.2.2. This is included even if your subscription has lapsed - if you were entitled to 11.2, you can get this for free as well.

    Friday
    Jun302017

    Kasparov on "Deep Thinking"

    Here's the video of a talk Garry Kasparov gave at Google, touching on his matches with Deep Blue in the 1990s and the more general topic of man-and/vs.-machine in chess, go, and elsewhere. He has recently written a book on the topic, so think of the video as an appetizer for the book.

    Tuesday
    May232017

    Komodo 11

    Fresh off the press, or the compiler, here's Komodo 11. Remember that if you bought a one-year subscription through the Komodo website within the past year, this is a freebie. It's not much better than Komodo 10.4 (10 rating points), so if you've already got 10.4 but don't have a subscription it's not worth the outlay unless you've got money to burn. The overall improvement from the original Komodo 10 is 55 points, though, which is a relatively hefty advantage as these things go.

    Of course Stockfish and its spinoffs are free, and the rating differential between the big three (Houdini is the third, and since its programmer almost never offers free upgrades of his work it's hard to recommend his software to any but the most devoted fans of computer or correspondence chess) is essentially trivial. The programs do have their relative strengths, but very few players have need to make use of these fine points. (Those of you who do, know who you are; for the rest, Stockfish is very likely all that you'll ever need.)

    Tuesday
    Mar212017

    Komodo 10.4 Is Out

    For some reason or other Komodo doesn't send out notifications when they've updated their program, which means subscribers have to periodically check in to see if a new version has been released. So if you're a subscriber, go here and download the latest version, Komodo 10.4.

    Tuesday
    Jan172017

    Hans Berliner, 1929-2017

    Former Correspondence World Champion, over-the-board International Master, and computer chess programming legend Hans Berliner died this past Friday, January 13, at the age of 87, two weeks short of his 88th birthday. He was an impressive figure whose work as a chess programmer indirectly affects almost all of us today.

    Do check out the link above for an overview of his many successes in and contributions to the royal game. Berliner wrote a book a couple of decades ago called The System. There are some interesting bits in the book, but overall it's a bit nuts. It is interesting that as a programmer he realized the impossibility of "teaching" the program to play by logic rather than brute force, but then thought that a relatively simple algorithm was the Rosetta Stone to playing the opening better than even world champions.

    Saturday
    Dec242016

    Komodo 10.3 Out

    A little news for fans of chess engines, especially those of you who may have bought a one-year subscription to the Komodo chess engine: version 10.3 is out, and the claim is that it's 30 points stronger than 10.2. Komodo 10.2 was itself stronger than the 10.1 release that narrowly missed the TCEC Superfinal, so don't reject it on that basis. (Of course, the TCEC champ, Stockfish, is always available for free, but different engines have different strengths, and one isn't always right vis-a-vis its rivals.)

    Wednesday
    Nov232016

    TCEC Season 9 Superfinal: Stockfish Enjoys a Big Lead Over Houdini at the Halfway Point

    The TCEC Season 9 Superfinal is a 100-game affair, and after 50 games an early iteration of Stockfish 8 is leading handily against Houdini 5, 28-22, with nine wins against three losses. Every game pair has the engines taking opposite sides of the same preselected opening line, which makes Stockfish's lead even more impressive. Two of Houdini's three wins came in openings where Stockfish won its white game as well. So barring some really big improvements coming down the pike from Houdini or Komodo, it looks like the free engine, Stockfish, is also the best one.