$16,000 up for grabs in computer-assisted play

5/11/2006 – The 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!

Freestyling – between Formula One and Advanced Chess

Before the 3rd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament on June 16-18

The only, but important change in the 3rd Freestyle Tournament concerns thinking time: instead of 45 minutes basic time and 5 seconds increment per move each or team, this time the participants get 60 minutes and 15 seconds. This change turned out necessary and useful in order to lessen the time pressure on the centaurs (that’s the term for the combination human/machine) in their duels with the standalone engines. We expect that the change will benefit the quality of the game.

As reported earlier, the main round of the 2nd Freestyle tournament in March was won by a pure engine player named Varkey, who sensationally took 7,5 out of 8 with his Rybka chess engine. Most of the 30 title holders, among them some prominent players, had failed to qualify for the finals. In the end it was the sponsor of the Hydra project, Zorchamp from the United Arab Emirates, who took the overall tournament victory.


CCGM Arno Nickel, alias Ciron [Foto; Hans-Walter Schmitt]

So, who or what stands behind the player handles? One of the participants, the Berlin Correspondence Grandmaster Arno Nickel alias Ciron, took a peek behind the curtains of secrecy that usually surrounds these events. Arno thinks Freestyling is a great new field for experiments, located somewhere between Advanced Chess on the one hand and some sort of Formula One chess sport on the other.

The kick of playing

Usually losers don’t show much enthusiasm after a tournament. But this is different in a Freestyle tournament. Apparently the biggest kick is got out of just playing in it! It is like a virus, affecting everyone, who ever throws himself into such a battle. “Please, do it again!” is the main message of participants after the event. “We did not have a chance, but we enjoyed it tremendously”. It is about being able to use a chess engine in a tournament game of chess, not worrying about making a fool of oneselves, putting up a fight against the strongest opponent. This is a new form of chess sport for the 21st century.


The brains behind Rybka: IMs Vasik Rajlich and Iweta Radzievicz

We are still in a stage of experimenting, looking for the right forms of tournaments, thinking times and playing rules. Perhaps it is this aspect – together with the high prize fund of course – the appeal of the pioneering spirit that attracts more and more players. Which direction Freestyling develops will depend on these present experiments. In the 1st PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament 2005 the pendulum swung in favour of the Advanced Chess players, and three Fide grandmasters made it to the semi-finals. In the second tournament this year we saw the engines dominating, with operators not intervening at all during the game (like the winner Vigi Varkey) or playing the role of a co-ordinator and a critical user of various engines according. That is what we must assume for this year’s Freestyle Champion Zorchamp, who did not rely completely on the massively parallel hardware configuration of Hydra, which is widely considered to be the world’s strongest chess computer. Zorchamp, who for many years now has been a well-known figure on playchess.com, and is well respected for his excellent knowledge and skills in computer chess (which includes creating his own opening books), played as a centaur.

Final standing of the 2nd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

Dual machines and 64 bit programs

This year, because of the faster rate of play, powerful hardware became even more important than in 2005. At least in the finals we may assume that the most players used one or more dual machines. The most successful engine of the 2nd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament, Rybka, has a 64 bit version, which on a 64-bit system is about 30-40 percent faster than the regular 32 bit version. Vigi Varkey won the main tournament using the 32 bit version, but “upgraded” his Rybka for the finals to a 64 bit version. In the end it did not help him, as his opponents was well prepared for the Indian programmer, who lives in London. Instead the two other Rybka engines, Relic and King Crusher, had the edge in the finals.

Behind Relic, who had to win the tie-breaks in order to qualify but then surprisingly took the third place in the finals, stands Darren DiAlfonso from New Jersey (USA), a programmer (but not for chess). Björn Osterman from Sweden, playing with the handle King Crusher, is an experienced chess engine expert with far more than 10,000 games on the chess server.


IM Vasik Rajlich, author of Rybka and part of the "Rajlich" team

A look into the “black box”

As the player’s handles on the server do not tell you very much about the configuration, people are curious to get some information about runner-up Rajlich. After 15 games the author of the Rybka program was the only participant who remained undefeated in the tournament. This was not because Rajlich used a special version of his program, but because it had the the strongest chess team: two International Masters, Vasik Rajlich and Iweta Radziewicz, and one top grandmaster, Michal Krasenkov. You need only read Krasenkov’s comments and analysis to the game Zorchamp-Rajlich in the download links below to understand that the Rajlich Team operated quite professionally and managed most successful to avoid excessively risky play. In the end just a few working victories helped the team to win second place and $4,000 dollars. Our comments in an earlier article, stating that not even one grandmaster made it up to the finals has to be corrected, after we get to know about Vasik Rajlich’s team: at least one under-cover grandmaster succeeded...


The other half of "Rajlich": IM Iweta Radzievicz of Poland

We have another annotated game, presented from International Master Dennis Breder alias Klosterfrau. Analysing his unlucky loss to Relic in the last round he describes how difficult it has been in this tournament for Advanced Chess players to proper convert advantages and avoid time trouble. This loss cost the first league player from the Godesberger SK $2,000, as he failed to make third place. Dennis Breder, too, did not play alone, but enjoyed support from Jana Samorukova. If you compare the openings of the Advanced Chess players and the pure engine players, you might come to the same conclusion, that there are many differences in the choice of the concrete lines. Just take a look to the original game Rajlich-Klosterfrau 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 c6 3.c4 e6 4.e3 f5 and - 5.g4!?).


IM Dennis Breder und Jana Samorukova

All records with respect to the size of a team were broken by the Czech team Equidistance. Four players and six computers stood behind this name: Patrik Schoupal, Miroslav Kvicala, Jan Macura and Frantisek Nepustil, all have international ratings (and two are active correspondence players). But it is hardly surprising that such a complicated co-ordination bears brings with it the great danger of permanent time trouble. That was not mitigated by a detailed opening book, containing many special variations, as e.g. in the Sicilian Morra Gambit. The team of Patrik Schoupal did already show its strength qualifying to the finals. Schoupal predicts that not more than one standalone engine will qualify for the finals in the 3rd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament, that due to the longer thinking time. If he should be right this would perfectly fit to the idea of freestyling, as it lives from human participation as opposed to pure computer events.

Last but not least, here is some information about my own team Ciron. I played together with a good friend who covers some areas and has some special skills. Silvo Lahtela is an excellent blitz and rapid player who under the handle Randori regularly plays on the Playchess server, with an Elo between 2400 und 2600. Until now he had nothing to do with computer chess or correspondence chess, which are my domains. During the period of preparation for the tournament we had a strict division of labour. Nevertheless we also did suffer from time trouble in some games, and we are still looking for the ideal form of co-operation.

Links

We bring you two databases for download:

  • All 587 games of the 2nd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament (in ChessBase/Fritz format)
  • 64 selected games from this event (five annotated games included). Readers should please suggest up to 3 Freestyle games for brilliancy prizes and send an e-mail to redaktion@computerschach.de until May 31. If you prefer one of the games, which are not in the smaller database, that is also okay. The results of the readers choice will be published some days before the start of the 3rd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament on June 16-18.

3rd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

What is Freestyle Chess?

In a normal chess tournament there are very strict rules about what you can do or not do during a game. Certainly enlisting outside help – from a human or a computer – is one of the more serious transgressions. In Freestyle Chess everything is allowed. The players are expected to work in teams or with computers. There are no restrictions. Use Fritz or Deep Shredder, consult openings books or chess Informants, call Anand or Karpov and ask for help, if you know them well enough.

When and where?

The third PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament will be played on the two weekends: June 16–18 and July 14–16, 2006. It consists of a main tournament, in which everyone can participate, and the final phase in which the eight top scorers play a round robin tournament for the title and their share of the US $16,000 prize fund. Full details of the schedule and prize fund are given below.

All games are played on the Internet, in a special room on the Playchess server. Participants need to have an account on the server, which is free for the duration of the tournament. If you are not already a member of this giant Internet community (with over 100,000 active members) you can download the software at Playchess.com and set up an account within minutes.

Prize fund

The total prize fund is US $16,000 and has been provided by the PAL Group in the United Arab Emirates, the company that is behind the Hydra chess project. The prize money is divided as follows:

1st prize: US $8,000 2nd prize: US $4,000 3rd prize: US $2,000 4th to 8th prize: Software and books 9th to 16th prize: Software and books

There are special bonus prizes (e.g. for the most beautiful games) that will be distributed during the tournament. Details will be provided when the number and make-up of the participants is known.

Registration

The entry fee for the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament is 10 Euro (= US $12.00). This is paid when you register for the tournament. Late entries can pay an increased fee of 30 Euro in Playchess "ducats" (electronic money) on the day of the main tournament.

There is no entry fee for GMs and IMs with bona fide Playchess accounts. These players need to provide proof of their identity before the tournament starts. A title account on Playchess (with a King or Queen symbol) is sufficient, since it has been validated by ChessBase. Otherwise you will be asked to fax a copy of your passport or ID card to the organisers.

To register for the Freestyle Tournament you need to fill out a registry form (the link is given below), giving your name, address and Playchess handle. Some days before the tournament starts you will receive an email with further details.

Schedule of PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

All times given in the following schedule are in Central European Summer Time (CEST), which is used in most European countries, e.g. Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, etc. CEST is GMT + two hours. For instance 14:00h (or 2 p.m.) CEST is 12:00h GMT and translates to 13:00h London, 8 a.m. New York and 4 p.m. Moscow. Click on the times given in the schedule below to convert to your local time.

Important note: you will need to log in with your correct handle not later than ten minutes before the start of each round. Anyone who is not present in the chess server room at this time can not be guarantied to participate in this round.

Main Tournament – eight round Swiss

Time controls are 60 minutes for all the moves plus a 15 second increment per move. The event is a classical Swiss. The top eight players will qualify for the finals. If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on Saturday, June 24, 2006, at 14:00h CEST.

Main Tournament (Friday-Sunday, June 16-18, 2006

Round 1

Friday, 16.06.2006

17:00h CEST

Round 2

Friday, 16.06.2006

20:00h CEST

Round 3

Saturday, 17.06.2006

14:00h CEST

Round 4

Saturday, 17.06.2006

17:00h CEST

Round 5

Saturday, 17.06.2006

20:00h CEST

Round 6

Sunday, 18.06.2006

14:00h CEST

Round 7

Sunday, 18.06.2006

17:00h CEST

Round 8

Sunday, 18.06.2006

20:00h CEST

Participants in the main tournament must be in the playing hall ten minutes before the start of each round.

Finale – 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.

Final (Friday-Sunday, July 14-16, 2006)

Round 1

Friday, 14.07.2006

17:00h CEST

Round 2

Friday, 14.07.2006

20:00h CEST

Round 3

Saturday, 15.07.2006

14:00h CEST

Round 4

Saturday, 15.07.2006

17:00h CEST

Round 5

Saturday, 15.07.2006

20:00h CEST

Round 6

Sunday, 16.07.2006

14:00h CEST

Round 7

Sunday, 16.07.2006

17:00h CEST

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. Registration for the tournament


Reports on previous Freestyle Tournaments

Zor-Champ wins Freestyle Tournament
16.04.2006 In 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 and games.

Freestyle tournament: Finals this weekend
03.04.2006 After 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.

Freestyle tournament: Vvarkey wins with 7.5/8
24.03.2006 The 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 tomorrow. Details.

Freestyle tournament: advice from an expert
16.03.2006 Are 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.

The $16,000 open-to-all chess tournament
28.02.2006 Would 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 details.

Dark horse ZackS wins Freestyle Chess Tournament
19.06.2005 The computer-assisted PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament, staged on Playchess.com, ended with a shock win by two amateurs: Steven Cramton, 1685 USCF and Zackary Stephen, 1398 USCF, using three computers for analysis, defeated teams of strong grandmasters all the way to victory in the finals. We bring you a first flash report with games and results.

Scintillating chess in the PAL-CSS Freestyle tournament
15.06.2005 This unusual event, in which players may use computer assistance during the games, is turning into a milestone experiment. After the main event and the quarter-finals (and with four players left) we can draw first tentative conclusions. One is that the most powerful chess playing entity on the planet is a GM armed with a computer.

Hydra misses the quarter-finals of Freestyle tournament
11.06.2005 It was the shocker of the event: the massive Hydra machines, running on 16 and 32 processors and special FPGA chess hardware were both knocked out in the main section of the Freestyle chess tournament. On the other hand a dark horse named ZackS qualified with consummate ease. Today there will be tie-breaks, tomorrow the quarter-finals. Come and watch...

Eleven qualify for main Freestyle Tournament
31.05.2005 48 players from 20 different countries got together on the Playchess server last weekend to play in the PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament. Using computer assistance, which is not forbidden in Freestyle, eleven qualified for the main tournament starting on Friday. There they will have to battle it out with scores of computer-assisted GMs.

The $20,000 free-for-all chess tournament
24.05.2005 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 first PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament, where anything goes. Where computer assistance is not forbidden, it is positively encouraged. Here are all the details.

Freestyle tournament for $20,000
09.05.2005 It's a new kind of chess tournament, with a substantial prize fund. $20,000 in all, $10,000 for the winner. Top grandmaster conditions. But with a difference. In the PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament on the Playchess.com server anyone can play. Even you. And anything goes. Anything! (In fact computer assistance is encouraged). Here are the details.

Anyone – or anything – can play!
07.08.2004 Anything goes in our freestyle tournament on the Playchess.com server this Saturday, August 7th. Participants can use computers, visiting grandmasters, slime beings from other planets – whatever they want. The games start at 15:00h server time (GMT +2), time controls are 7 min + 2 sec/move. Watch the fun...

Freestyle Blitz Tournament August 7
25.07.2004 Winning Internet chess games with the assistance of computers is quite despicable. People who are caught get stripped of rights and privileges. Not so in the August 7th "Freestyle Tournament" on Playchess.com. There you can use anything you want to win your games. Details...


Feedback and mail to our news service Please use this account if you want to contribute to or comment on our news page service



Discuss

Rules for reader comments

 
 

Not registered yet? Register