Eleven qualify for main Freestyle Tournament

5/31/2005 – 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.

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PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

The PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament started last weekend with a qualifier which was held on the Playchess.com server. ChessBase tournament director Martin Fischer and two helpers were at hand to kick off the first four rounds, which was quite a complex process, since almost 50 participants had to be screened – had they registered, paid their starting fees, got their Playchess handles right, etc.? A few participants joined the tournament at the last minute, paying their starting fee in Playchess Ducats. And one or two were allowed to play on the promise that they had already paid, but the money had not yet arrived on the tournament account.

In the end there were 48 participants from twenty different countries: Germany, Austria, Holland, Hungary, Sweden, Poland, Italy, USA, Spain, Columbia, South Africa, India, England, Moldova, Pakistan, Ukraine, Morocco, Mexico, Argentine and Turkey. Everything went without a hitch, except for a few dialup lines breaking down. Normally if the player is able to reconnect within ten minutes he can rejoin the tournament, otherwise the game is forfeited. A couple of players had such bad lines that they had to abandon the tournament altogether.

We could tell that some of the participants were playing in a Playchess tournament for the first time. They were a bit nervous until they realised how really simple it is. About half an hour before the start the tournament director checks the names and invites those who are on his registry list to join the tournament. The participants simply receive a message saying "You are in". Periodically the TD sends a global message to all players telling them if they are participants or just kibitzers (spectators).

The participants do nothing until about ten minutes before the start of each round. They can go fetch refreshments, log out of the server, even reboot their computers. If they return to the tournament room in time they are automatically back in the event. A few minutes before the round starts the tournament director sends an announcement, and then he starts the round with a click of the mouse. Everything is done by the Playchess software. The pairings are executed according to the Swiss system (in this case), on each player's computer screen a board opens up and the game can begin.

A problem encountered by two players was that they were unable to start their engines during the first game. This was because they had failed to set the correct playing mode. This is done in the menu "Edit – Playing mode" (Ctrl-M).

Participants in the Freestyle tournament will normally use "'Centaur", which is the Playchess term for humans and machines working together. Some players were using only computers, without human intervention. In this case it is appropriate to set "Computer" (when in fact the machine can play the entire game automatically). Note that you can only set Computer and Centaur in rooms where machine play or assistance is allowed. In the main playing hall these settings are not available.

One of the participants, Mendheim, was struck by the above problem during the first two games. He wrote: "You are severely punished if you are too stupid to start your engine, or have no time to correct the mistake. I played two games without Fritz in the background, because I had not defined my playing mode and could not switch it on. My team mate ran around desperately trying to analyse the game on our eight computers – two or three would have been sufficient. But you waste a lot of time entering moves and lines. One engine running automatically in the background would have probably been better."

The final results of the qualifier were as follows. The first eleven qualify for the main event. Note that some participants dropped out of the tournament after it had begun, so that the games are not complete.

Zacks 6.0
Auryn, Dieb Fritz, Braincooler, MHoffpauir 5.0
Dr.Ex, Katzenmaier, Neverfail, WilGER, VoidChessICC, Relic 4.5
DerGebieter, Deddy, Spaghetti Chess, Comchess, Rumpelstilz 4.0
Rentner2, Rainer Zufall, Quasiquasimodo, Christian Gorals, Ciolcolta, Eidolon, Klaatu, Mendheim, AZ104 3.5
Thomas100, Wegerer, Sebi-chess, Xx_N_E_O_xx, T-Nolan, Cjlindgr, Rayiah 3.0
TRAKA, McGisel, Vukics, Mascu, SamuelBoden, SmockYaba 2.5
MJHD, Team Aldersbach 2.0
Feldi, VincentB, Cuby 1.5
Alexiz, Yavine 0.5
Wehrwolf1944, Serafin, Mzrahman_chess 0.0

The Lucky Win prizes (choice of ChessBase Training CD or DVD) go to 13 Spaghetti Chess, 17 AZ104, 21 Rentner2, 27 Wegerer, 33 TRAKA and 41 Cuby. The places were announced before the start of the tournament.

Some feedback

Konstantin Orfenov [Handle: Neverfail]
I used a self-assembled PC, which is an AMD Athlon XP 3200+ CPU with 1.5 GB of PC3200 RAM attached to Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe motherboard. The CPU is not overclocked. For the tournament I have used a single-processor version of Shredder 9, with a self-generated openings book and non-compressed Nalimov Tablebases, which ChessBase sells under the name of "DVD Endgame Turbo 2". My machine played against strong opponents, scoring +3 =3 –1. This gave me 4.5 points, so I have qualified for the final round as "lucky 11th" participant.

lberto Gueci [Handle: Spaghetti Chess]
I'd like to say thanks to all persons who have contributed to organize this wonderful tournament. My hardware was: AMD 3000+ 1024 Mb RAM – not very fast! I played with the help of: Shredder 9 and Chessbase 9. I hope that the Freestyle Tournament will be repeated in future!

Peter Feldtmann [Handle: Feldi]
Hardware: Laptop, Pentium4, 3 GHz, 512 MB RAM; engines: Junior 9 und Fritz 8, 288 MB Hash, no TBs. I came in at place 43, but played all seven rounds. I used Junior as my main engine, but after losing the first three games I switched to Fritz and immediately got my first point in round four. I intervened mainly in the opening, playing two Blackmar-Diemers, which is my favourite gambit opening. But of course it is suicide against computers. In the middle or endgame I seldom interfered with the computer's play, only occasionally forcing it to play the second best move. I was a bit disappointed by the tournament, not because of my placing, but because it seemed to be purely an engine tournament, with the humans doing very little. But it was exciting to play and I would love to see a repetition. Maybe with longer time controls – two hours or even correspondence chess.

Georg Martin Neumann [Handle: McGisel]
I was running a HP Pavillon Pentium ® 4, CPU 2.4 GHz, 768 MB RAM with Shredder9 UCI, Book: Strong 2005, Hash 128 MB, Table Bases 5(6); and a Compaq Presario Notebook, CPU 497 MHz, 192 MB RAM, with Hiarcs 9, Hash 64 MB. I was trying out different methods. First I used Hiarcs as a kibitz, later it used it to analyse on the notebook, which brought better results.

Michael Drexel [Handle: Dr.Ex]
I used two computers in the qualifier: an Athlon XP 3200+ with Fritz 8 "kibitzing", and an A64 3200+ with Hiarcs 9 analysing. I have some experience with Freestyle and Advanced Chess, but there were some problems in spite of that. That started in the very first game. I was still configuring my analysis computer when the game started, and I unfortunately entered 1.h4?? instead of the intended 1.h3?! But still I was able to win my game convincingly, since my opponent was too passive and the h-pawn turned out to be useful in the mating attack. I wasted too much time in the opening phase, which probably cost me two half points. Also I had connection problems on the second day. I had switched off the sound on my main computer and did not notice that my connection was severed while I was analysing on the second computer. I think that people should not lose a game because of disconnects, maybe there should be a time penalty instead. Anyway I made sixth place and can play in the main tournament.

Christian Goralski [Handle: Christian Gorals]
Many thanks for staging this interesting tournament. Everything went very smoothly and I have no complaints – except for our disappointing result. We used Gandalf 6.X as a UCI engine with our own tournament book, on an A64 3500+ Winchester overclocked from 2.4 GHz to 2.6 GHz.

Djafar Baigi [Handle: Dieb Fritz]
In this tournament my computer is playing all by itself. It's a four-way Server with 12 GB of DDR 3400 – 4x AMD Opteron 850 – 4x Hotplag 36 GB 15k. The software is Deep Shredder 64 bit, Deep Fritz8 under Windows 2003 x64.

Eros Riccio [Handle: Auryn]
During the first round I was at work, and had to tell my father to play as centaur. I told him to just make the moves that Shredder9 suggested, as he is a weak player (and I still didn't know that the engine itself could be loaded to play on auto!). Anyway, my father did great, and to my big surprise won the first round! In the third round unfortunately I had to play Spaghetti Chess, who is an Italian friend of mine. He didn't qualify by only half a point ... maybe if we had done a draw. Anyway I beat him with black. The fourth game, I played someone who I consider to be the strongest player of the tournament, Dr.Ex. I saw a previous game of him where he beat an automated Shredder9 by answering 1.e4 with 1...h6! He impressed me by beating it with that opening in a few moves with a killer attack on the white king. As his human rating is close to 2300, he would have no big problems beating a machine running alone. So now it was my turn to face him! I was white, and was not satisfied with my opening. He played an accelerated Dragon, and his position was at least draw. In middlegame he played great, I tried an attack on kingside, but he defended well and I only finished weakening my position. At some point my engines evaluated the black position as clearly advantageous (+1), but fortunately he thought quite a lot, and that saved me! In fact near the end I managed to equalize again, and then I took advantage of his zeitnot. He couldn't find the best defensive moves in a probably draw position, and in the end he lost! This game was very exciting for me! For the first time I played someone who didn't blindly follow the comupter's suggestions. I could feel from how he moved that he was a human who was being helped by computers, not the opposite! And in the end it was a great satisfaction for me to have been able to beat him. So, with some luck, I did a great start, with 4 points out of 4 rounds! I really needed this advantageous start, as the next day I was away all day and had to rely on my automated Shredder9! When my father called me telling me that it had lost the first round, I was really starting to get worried. Fortunately in the last two rounds, he played two opponents that accepted draws immediately out of book, and with 5 points out of 7, I had the qualification guaranteed.

My computer is an Athlon AMD XP 3000+. I myself am 27 years old, work at MacDonalds, single, I live in Lucca, a little city on the center/north of Italy, near Florence, Viareggio and Pisa. I have a FIDE rating of 2175 and a correspondance rating of 2480. Having experience with correspondance play helped me a lot for this tournament, as the method is the same, only you have to be much faster.

Further schedule of the 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. It 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 no later than ten minutes before the start of each round. Anyone who is not present in the chess server room at this time automatically forfeits the game.

Main Tournament – eight round Swiss

In the main tournament the ten players from the qualifiers are joined by Grandmasters, IMs and VIP computer teams. The time controls are 60 minutes for the game plus 15 seconds increment per move.

Main Tournament (Friday-Sunday, June 3-5, 2005)
Round 1 Friday, 03.06.2005 17:00h CEST
Round 2 Friday, 03.06.2005 20:00h CEST
Round 3 Saturday, 04.06.2005 14:00h CEST
Round 4 Saturday, 04.06.2005 17:00h CEST
Round 5 Saturday, 04.06.2005 20:00h CEST
Round 6 Sunday, 05.06.2005 14:00h CEST
Round 7 Sunday, 05.06.2005 17:00h CEST
Round 8 Sunday, 05.06.2005 20:00h CEST

Participants in the main tournament must be in the playing hall ten minutes before the start of the first round. Pairings will be conducted on Friday, June 3, at 16:00h CEST. GMs with bona fide Playchess accounts (King symbol) can still register before 16:00h in the Freestyle tournament room on the server.

The top eight players will qualify for the final knock-out stage. If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on Saturday, June 11 at 12:00h CEST. They will be games played at accelerated rates: 15 + 5 and if required 5 + 1.

There will be six special Lucky Win prizes of $100 each for players who end up on certain spots in the final tournament tables. The places that receive Lucky Win prizes will be announced immediately prior to the start of the qualifier.

Quarter-finals – knock-out system

Quarter-finals (Sunday, June 12, 2005)
Start Sunday, 12.06.2005 12:00h CEST

The quarter-finals consist of four-game matches, played between the eight best players of the main tournament (paired 1-8, 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5). The time controls are 60 minutes for the game plus 15 seconds increment per move.

The games start on Sunday, June 12, 2005 at 12:00h CEST. At the end of each game there is a 15 minute break. The four winners proceed to the semi-finals. If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on the same day, after the regular games have finished and will be at accelerated rates: 15 + 5 and if required 5 + 1.

Semi-finals – knock-out system

Semi-finals (Saturday, June 18, 2005)
Start Saturday, 18.06.2005 12:00h CEST

The semi-finals consist of two four-game matches, played between the four winners of the quarter-finals. The time controls are 60 minutes for the game plus 15 seconds increment per move.

The games start on Saturday, June 18, 2005 at 12:00h CEST. At the end of each game there is a 15 minute break. The two winners proceed to the semi-finals, the losers play for place three. If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on the same day, after the regular games have finished. They will be games played at accelerated rates: 15 + 5 and if required 5 + 1.

Finals and play for third place

Finals (Sunday, June 19, 2005)
Start Sunday, 19.06.2005 12:00h CEST

The finals consist of two four-game matches, played between the two winners and two losers of the semi-finals. The time controls are 60 minutes for the game plus 15 seconds increment per move. The games start on Sunday, June 19, 2005 at 12:00h CEST. At the end of each game there is a 15 minute break.

If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on the same day, after the regular games have finished. There will be two games, played at accelerated rate of 15 + 5. After this, if required, there will be sudden death blitz games played at a rate of 5 + 1. The player who was higher in the main tournament gets White in the first blitz game.

The winner of the finals gets the first prize of US $10,000 and the title of "First PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Champion". The runner-up gets $5,000, the winner of the match for third place gets $3,000.

There will be special software prizes totalling US $2,700 for the places 4-8.

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