What is Brutus?

3/20/2002 – At the computer chess tournament in Paderborn sharp-eyed program spotters discovered a new name in the list of participants. Brutus. Not the guy who did in the famous Roman emperor, but a spectacular new development in computer chess, a kind of new mini-Deep Blue, being developed by Dr Christian Donninger. Currently the program runs on an FPGA Virtex V405E board provided by Alpha Data Systems, Edinburgh. You find all the details here

Dr Christian Donninger

The acronym FPGA stands for Field Programmable Gate Arrays, and the V405E development system contains one of these. It is essentially a programmable chip. Dr Christian ("Chrilly") Donninger is currently writing chess playing code for FPGA use. The advantage is that anything programmed this way will run very much faster than on a general purpose chip like the Pentium or Athlon.

An additional benefit of using FPGAs is that it is not just the search routines that are speeded up dramatically. Due to the sturcture of the code you can add chess knowledge in any quantity without slowing down the process. In regular PC programs each new quantum of knowledge is expensive – it is bought at the price of search speed. The FPGA program does not slow down when you add new knowledge modules.

The FPGA development board used by Chrilly Donninger

The Brutus project has been running for over a year now. Chrilly Donninger has consulted all the leading experts in the field, and he is also cooperating with a strong Russian GM. The tournament in Paderborn was the first public experiment with the new system. The 50% score was quite satisfactory for a first experimental version. Some of the games, e.g. the win over Diep, clearly demonstrated the potential of the program.

Inserting the FPGA in a standard PC

The hardware in Paderborn was supplied by Alpha Data Parallel Systems Ltd., who are helping us in the development phase. Dr Donninger's project is being funded by ChessBase, who hope to some time in the future produce a commercial version of the FPGA program. Further details will be supplied here as the project develops.

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