Who will be the next Freestyle Champion?
By Correspondence Chess GM Arno Nickel
Although the increased thinking time for the online event with 60 minutes
per player and 15 seconds increment per move was much more human-like this
time, only few of the Elo favourites gained the upper hand against the specialists
of computer-assisted chess. The Berlin computerchess expert and Correspondence
Chess Grandmaster Arno Nickel, himself a participant, took a closer
look at the event. Here is his report.
Already in June 16-18, the first four places of the main tournament had qualified:
1.-2. Rajlich, the team of the well-known Rybka programer Vasik
Rajlich, and Intagrand, an engine player from England, scoring each
6,5 out of 8, followed by 3.-4. Jazzled (USA) and Campolungo
(Netherlands), each 6 points. Twelve players with 5,5 points had to enter
the k.o.-tie-breaks on June 24-25, among them GM Tony Kosten (with Hiarcs)
and Freestyle-Champion Zorchamp (with Hydra), but also three stand-alone
Rybka engines. In the end none of these players stood on the winner’s
list, though each one for different reasons. Instead the tie-breaks were won
by: Poweronoff (Germany), EmilV (Czechia), Alansacount
(USA) and Hedgehog (Switzerland).
Are the “no-names” taking over the lead?
That’s what it may look like, but this impression isn’t correct. In the team
of Rajlich, who is an International Master himself, we find the Russian-Polish
grandmaster Michal Krasenkow, as reported earlier. Also in other teams
there are signs of chess master support, but we are not going to tell you all
their secrets, as the Freestyle teams are not obliged to reveal their full
identity – on the contrary: Freestyle means “anything goes”. However, it has
become a good tradition, that the winners will report about their play and
The impression is wrong for a second reason. Tony Kosten, who played
a good tournament and took the lead in the tie-breaks by 1-0 vs. Goldbar
(Rybka 2.0, Bart Goldhorn), could not continue to play the whole match.
He had to leave for a tournament in Switzerland, so that Harvey Williamson,
Beta-Tester of Hiarcs, had to play the next two games on his own, and unfortunately
failed to qualify. Of course we don’t deny Bart Goldhorn’s success,
but the Final would be even more interesting with Hiarcs operated and
advised by a grandmaster. Let us hope for the next time...
All those who were eagerly awaiting Hydra’s comeback in the tie-breaks,
were disappointed when Zorchamp, who presents himself as a keen fan
of Freestyling on his private website http://www/zorchamp.com, surprised
everybody by not playing. We do not know whether lack of time or other reasons
stood behind this – we hope to clear up the matter in a later report.
Hard times for stand-alone engines
On the other hand no stand-alone engine qualified for the final (as was the
case in the previous tournament), only centaur players did. In view of about
30 automatically playing engines, mostly various Rybka versions (this
time often running on dual processors and on 64bit systems) and only a few
Shredders, Fritzes, Fruits and Gandalfs, this couldn’t be expected at
the start of the tournament. Looking up the final table on playchess.com
we find the name Campolungo, to which is attached “Rybka 2.0 beta 2
mp”. But Campolungo only played in first round as a pure engine, mainly
because its operator was watching the soccer game Netherlands–Ivory Coast.
In fact there is a strong correspondence chess player behind the nickname,
and he will reveal himself after the Final.
Nevertheless, three stand-alone Rybka engines made it up to the tie-breaks,
where the were stopped (see below). That means, Patrik Schoupal, who
this time after a promising start missed the Final with his team Equidistance,
was right when he predicted before the event that due to the new time controls
not more than one stand-alone engine would qualify for the final. However,
the decision wasn’t that clear, and a different outcome was equally possible.
Here are the results of the tie-breaks. The stand-alone Rybka engines
are given in italics. Due to engine crashes in the main tournament these Rybkas
did not play automatically in the tie-breaks, but their moves were executed
EL SHADDAI vs PAKman 2:0
Tony Kosten vs Goldbar 1:2
Hedgehog vs Ciron-Randori 1,5:0,5
Bychamp II vs Zor_champ +:-
Poweronoff vs Bychamp II 1,5:0,5
Eve®est vs Hedgehog 0,5:1,5
EmilV vs Goldbar 1,5:0,5
Alansacount vs EL SHADDAI 2:1
A word to the tie-break modus. Two mini-matches had to be played. In the first
round the four players of the places 5 to 8 of the main tournament had a bye.
They entered the tie-breaks in the second round against the four match winners
of place 9 to 16 (9 vs. 16, 10 vs. 15 etc.). Each mini-match consisted of two
games with the same time controls as in the main tournament. In case of a 1:1
result only one further game had to be played. Now White had to win in order
to qualify, while Black with only 45 minutes on the clock needed just a draw
to proceed to the next stage. There were only two of these “sudden death” games,
one won by White, the other one by Black. I think, this modus is much better
than that one in this previous tournament, when games with much shorter thinking
time had to be played, thus giving an advantage to the stand-alone engines.
Of course it would be even better if we could avoid tie-break games all together,
but if not such games are better than to decide who qualifies using Buchholz
The course of the tournament
The course of the tournament was characterized by a close and tenacious struggle
of the teams which had the best start and strived to hold the lead throughout
the eight round tournament. Thus, Rajlich (a czech-polish team) and
Jazzled (USA) could be content with a draw in their last round meeting,
while Poweronoff (Germany) lost his safe position, when he was defeated
by Intagrand (England) at the same time, and had to prove himself in
the tie-breaks vs. Bychamp II (Brazil).
A splendid start with a Hattrick was shown by Eve®est (Turkey), well-known
from earlier tournaments, but his out came in the tie-breaks vs. Hedgehog
(Switzerland). Disclosing the secret of who is behind the Swiss team will probably
one of the most interesting questions of the Final. Also my own team Ciron-Randori
suffered a tie-break defeat vs. the strong player with the handle Hedgehog.
We learnt that playing as a team isn’t always more effective than playing on
ones own. Only if you are very well organized, with a strict division of tasks,
that you can succeed. But we didn’t manage to work like this in the tie-breaks,
and had to pay. Next time you will probably see Ciron, that’s me, and
Randori alias Silvo Lahtela, playing each on his own, though
we will enjoy the event together at the same place, PC next to PC.
Grandmaster Tony Kosten had a splendid start with 3.5 out of 4, until
round 5, when Rajlich demolished his b3-Sicilian. Otherwise he would
have had very good chances to qualify directly without entering the tie-breaks.
Right from the beginning this was not the tournament of the Freestyle Champion
Zorchamp, who had to suffer five draws after a first round win, before
he succeeded to come close to the leading teams after two wins in round 7 and
8. A very solid and in effect successful tournament was played by EmilV,
not to be read as “Emil the Fifth”, as the name of the player is Vlasak
Emil. In his account you will find that he is a good at Blitz too. In any
case he had quite good freestyle results before, but now came the real breakthrough,
and he will represent the Czech colours in the Final instead of his friends
The Mexican FIDE Master Abel Davalos, playing under the handle Abeljusto,
once again missed the Final after a promising start. Close to him we find Noritano
and Stabiloboss, two well-known German Correspondence IMs, Dieter
Gutsche and Dr. Matthias Kribben. They are certainly not the only
strong correspondence players in Freestyle, where we almost traditionally meet
the former world champion and FIDE IM Michail Umanski, a bold Advanced
Chess player, who evidently doesn’t much care too much about really strong
hardware and thus had to pay his tribute once again. Another very strong CC
Grandmaster entered the Freestyle Tournament for the first time, but before
revealing his identity we will give him another chance to make it to the Final.
His first try was more or less in order to gain experience.
Once again without hiding his identity the Czech Grandmaster Petr Hába
tried his best. If he hadn’t lost to Alansacount in the 3rd round he
would have had good chances to qualify. Doing better from tournament to tournament
he also might be one of the candidates in the next Freestyle event.
For the first time we saw the Israeli Grandmaster Arthur Kogan, who
showed a hard fight and had also good chances to qualify until his defeat vs.
Zorchamp (Hydra) in round 6. Another highlight was once again the participation
of the world class Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran (Elo 2692), who this
time stayed in the tournament for six rounds, scoring 0, 0, 1, 1, 0.
There were more well-known names and title holders in the field, which may
be interpreted as a sign of continuous interest and increasing popularity of
The new time controls have generally been greeted and accepted, so that we
can keep it like this in the next phase and in the 4th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament
in autumn (the exact dates aren’t fixed so far). A big problem for some teams
are still engine crashes. If you are using the latest server software the game
will normally restart automatically. But in case of older versions the tournament
director or his assistants have to restart the game by hand, which usually
costs time and nerves. This is why we like to advice everybody: please make
sure you have the latest Playchess client installed in order to avoid such
problems. At the end of the main tournament the organizers announced that they
would no longer manually restart games which were disrupted by using an old
Final – Round robin tournament
("all play all")
Time controls are 60 minutes
for all the moves plus a 15 second increment per move. Each player plays one
game against every other player. If tie-breaks are needed these will be played
on the same day, after the regular games have finished.
Participants in the finale
must be in the playing hall ten minutes before the start of each round.
The winner of the finals
gets the first prize of US $8,000 and the title of "Third PAL/CSS Freestyle
Chess Champion". The runner-up gets $4,000, the third place gets
$2,000. There will be special software prizes for the places 4-8.
Reports on previous Freestyle Tournaments
in computer assisted chess
Third PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament starts today. In this form
of chess, originally proposed by Garry Kasparov, the human players
may use computers – or any other assistance they can muster. It is
not OTB chess as we knew it, but it does produce a lot of very high-level
games. Here, from the Second Freestyle Tournament, are the three most
Freestyle tournament begins on Friday
Third PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament begins on Friday, June 16,
on the Playchess server.
In the previous edition, won by Zor_Champ of the UAE, there were a
number of grandmasters participating. One was Tony Kosten of England,
assisted by the program Hiarcs 10, who gives us his assessment of such
computer-assisted tournaments. You
can still join!
up for grabs in computer-assisted play
Third PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament on the Playchess
server is coming up in June, once again with a substantial
prize fund. This time the time controls for our Advanced Chess competition
have been increased to 60 min. + 15 sec., in order to give the human
component more opportunity for analysis. Like to play? It's
lots of fun!
wins Freestyle Tournament
a very exciting final the team of Zor-Champ, located in the United
Arab Emirates, took first place and the $8,000 prize money in the Second
PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament. The team was driven by the program Hydra,
which runs on multi-processor speical-purpose hardware. Second was
IM Vasik Rajlich, assisted by his own program Rybka. Report
tournament: Finals this weekend
tiebreak matches the eight qualifiers of the Second PAL/CSS Freestyle
Chess Tournament are ready to battle it out for the $16,000 prize fund.
At the faster time controls this time four pure engines made it to
the final round. You can come and watch the action at 14:00h CEST on
Saturday and Sunday, when the tournament director says: Gentlemen,
start your engines.
tournament: Vvarkey wins with 7.5/8
first leg of the second PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament, which carries
a prize fund of $16,000, was won by an unknown player with the Playchess
handle Vvarkey. He scored 7.5 points from 8 games (before the last
round his score was 7/7). Six other players qualified for the final
behind him. For the final, eighth place there will be a tiebreak tournament
tournament: advice from an expert
you one of the over 150 participants that have registered for the second
$16,000 PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament, starting this weekend? Do
you have your computer assistant or your GM advisor booted up and ready
to play? For novices in computer assisted play we have some tips and
tricks by correspondence
chess GM Arno Nickel.
$16,000 open-to-all chess tournament
you like to play in a grandmaster tournament? From your home and for
a substantial prize fund? With a guarantee that you will not disgrace
yourself? Then think about joining the second PAL/CSS Freestyle
Chess Tournament, where anything goes. Where computer assistance
is not forbidden, but is positively encouraged. Full
horse ZackS wins Freestyle Chess Tournament
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