In this week's World Chess column I take a look at a couple of impressive victories by Stockfish 8 over Houdini 5 from the recently completed TCEC Season 9 Superfinal. They're beautiful games, well worth a look.
Entries in TCEC Season 9 (14)
Despite losing the last game, it was a dominant performance overall by Stockfish 8, going +17-8=75 to win season 9 of the Top Chess Engine Competition (TCEC). Congrats to the Stockfish team!
Six games remain in the 100-game superfinal between Stockfish 8 and Houdini 5, but since Stockfish already leads by a surprisingly healthy 52-42 score it has clinched overall victory in season 9 of the TCEC (Top Chess Engine Competition). Congratulations to their team, and thanks to them for keeping their program free to all of us in the chess world.
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.
The superfinal of the 9th seasons of the Top Chess Engine Competition (or TCEC, which was also the initialism for its original name, the Thoresen Chess Engines Competition) starts one hour after the beginning of the Carlsen-Karjakin match. It will run a wee bit longer though - it's a best-of-100 contest between the latest iterations of Stockfish and Houdini for computer chess supremacy...at least until season 10 starts sometime next year.
The website for all the action is, as usual, this one.
Also, as some of you know the TCEC crew ran a rapid event with all the season 9 engines after the penultimate stage fo the main event, and the big three - Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish all went undefeated and went 1-2-3, with Houdini the surprise winner with an enormous score of 56/62. Komodo took second with 53 points, and Stockfish finished a further half a point behind.
Komodo won the last two seasons (7 and 8) of the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC), but for this season's super-final it's on the outside looking in. Stockfish finished with 39/56 in stage 3, going undefeated, winning every mini-match against the other seven engines, and coming in first by a healthy three and a half points. It went 5-3 against a development version of Houdini, 4.5-3.5 against Komodo 10.1, 5.5-2.5 against Fire 5 and 6-2 against the four remaining engines: Andscacs 0.872b, Jonny 8, Gull 3, and the ancient Rybka 4.1.
Houdini lost to no other engine and also went +1 against Komodo, finishing with 35.5, a point ahead of Komodo, which also lost a game - surprisingly - to Andscacs, an engine which it otherwise thrashed. Fire came in a distant fourth with 28.5 points, and after that it was another 5 points down to the next engine.
Stockfish will thus take on Houdini in the super-final, but first - in what looks like a gigantic favor to Robert Houdart, Houdini's programmer - there will be a break for all 32 engines participating in season 9 to play a double round-robin rapid tournament, something which was only decided about a week ago. Only 992 games, and then we'll see if Houdart's for-purchase program will surpass the free, open-source Stockfish.
It's still early, but a mild upset may be brewing as Stockfish leads after the third of eight cycles in stage 3 of the 9th season of the TCEC. Stockfish is undefeated and has 14.5/21, Houdini - also undefeated - is in second with 13.5, and Komodo - which lost a game to Stockfish in the third cycle - is third with 13 points. In the last couple of seasons Komodo was starting to show a little dominance over its rivals, so it's good to see that the competition remains heated. All the engines are likely to improve - and faster - as a result.
At the start of stage 3 of this year's TCEC, something remarkable happened, until it didn't. After three years' hiatus, Robert Houdart has finally updated Houdini (a new commercial release is scheduled for this October or November), and in the first game of the new stage the revised Houdini defeated Komodo 10.1, the #1 program in the world and freshly updated as well. Here's the game.
Unfortunately and very strangely, it turned out that someone on the TCEC side of things had changed Komodo's default contempt and dynamism settings. It wasn't much of a change, but the rules are the rules and Komodo was given a second chance. In the sequel Houdini again put Komodo under pressure, but this time the champ escaped with a draw. Many spectators were rather unhappy about this, especially since other programs have in the past been subject to what seemed like unfair bits of bad luck that didn't result in any second chances. From what I understand, however, what happened was in keeping with the rules everyone had agreed to, so while it was a pity for Houdini's fans the reply wasn't really unfair.
In any case, it's nice to see that fresh work is being done with Houdini, and the dominance of Komodo and Stockfish will be challenged anew.
They're simply the best. Stage 2 of season 9 of the TCEC (Top Chess Engine Competition) was a double-round robin between the 16 qualifiers from the first stage. After the first cycle Komodo 10 led Stockfish 110616 (the June 11, 2016 release) by a point; after the second cycle, Stockfish caught up and they finished tied. Both engines were undefeated and scored 22.5/30, four points ahead of Jonny 7.30 and Gull 3.
Stage 3 starts on Saturday.
Stage 2 of season 9 of the TCEC (Top Chess Engine Competition) recently passed the halfway point; that is, the first cycle of the double round robin has concluded. Komodo 10 led at that moment with 11/15 (+7 =8 -0), a point clear of Stockfish110616 (i.e. the June 11, 2016 development build) and Fire 5. All three engines, and Jonny 7.30 as well, have gone undefeated so far.
One Komodo game that caught my eye was from the final round of the first cycle. It had black against nominal third seed Houdini 4, and came up with a staggering new idea in a Scotch sideline. Have a look here and shake your head in amazement.