Computer titans clash in Abu Dhabi

by ChessBase
8/14/2004 – This could be the highest level of computer chess ever played – and you can watch it unfold live on An eight-game match between multiple world champion Shredder, running on a superfast four-processor system, and Hydra, a Deep Blue style hardware program running on a 16-way Linux cluster. Here are all the details...

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14th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival

The 14th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival 2003 is being held from Saturday, August 14th until Tuesday, August 24, 2004. The venue is Abu Dhabi or Abu Zaby (Arabic language: أبوظبي) is the capital city of the emirate of the same name in north central United Arab Emirates. The population is about one million, with about 80% expatriate. It is also the capital of the UAE, and a seaport on the Persian Gulf. Abu Dhabi is just 120 km from Dubai, were the FIDE president is planning to build a $2.6 billion chess city.

The city skyline of Abu Dhabi

The beach front with the Abu Dhabi Intercontinental Hotel

The 14th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival is one of the most prestigious events in the Persian Gulf region. The venue is the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi (picture on the left), in the heart of the city. The organizers are the Cultural Foundation & Abu Dhabi Chess & Culture club with full technical and administrational supervision.

Festival events:

a) Master tournament: special invitation & rated players, 9 rounds Swiss system, 90 Minutes + 30 Seconds per move. Total Prizes: more than $16,000 (1st = $4000).

b) Open Tournament: men + under 16, 9 round Swiss system, 90 minutes for entire game. Total Prizes: More than 11,000 UAE Dhs.

c) Children Tournament: open for children under 12 years old, 7 rounds Swiss system, time limit is 60 minutes for each player with unlimited moves. Prizes 2,300 UAE Dhs

d) Blitz tournament: open for all rated and unrated players. Total prizes 3,500 UAE Dhs.

The official hotel is the Khalidia Palace Hotel, situated 35 kms from Abu Dhabi International Airport, and just 5 kms from the heart of the city. The hotel has 120 rooms, suites and private beach Chalets, fully equipped with all amenities that you expect from a five star hotel. Prices are $45 for a single and $70 for a double ($96 for triple occupancy). Contact: Tel: 00971-2-6662470, Fax: 00971-2-6660411, Email:

Clash of the Computer Titans

One of the most exciting events in the chess festival is the computer challenge, which pits two of the world's most powerful chess playing programs against each other. The many-times world champion Shredder will take on Hydra, a Deep Blue style hardware program which was originally developed by ChessBase and is now being maintained by the Pal Group of Companies in Abu Dhabi.



All games start at 18:00h local Abu Dhabi time, which translates to 16:00h Playchess server time (= GMT +2, equivalent to Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid). Other towns: Sydney: midnight, Tokyo: 23:00h, Bangkok: 21:00h, New Delhi: 19:30h, Moscow: 18:00h, London: 15:00h, New York: 10 a.m., Los Angeles: 7 a.m., Honolulu: 4 a.m., Pago Pago 3 a.m. Note that on day one, Saturday, August 14th, the game will start half an hour later.

Live coverage

There will be live coverage directly from the tournament hall on the server. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the games, or download a free trial client. The broadcast of the games will be available in the Broadcast room.

Who will win?

Any speculations regarding the chances of both sides in this titanic computer clash, and especially the question of who will won, are quickly answered.

Obviously Shredder will win. Just take a look at the world championship title this program has secured:

  • Jakarta 1996: World micro-computer chess champion
  • Paderborn 1999: Computer chess world champion!
  • London 2000: World micro-computer chess champion
  • Maastricht 2001: World micro-computer chess champion
  • Maastricht 2002: blitz world champion
  • Graz 2003: Computer Chess World Champion and blitz world champion.

We cannot even begin to count the successes in other computer tournaments. Apart from that the latest version of Shredder has been under development and improvement by author Stefan Meyer-Kahlen for over a year now, so that we will see a new, even stronger program playing in Abu Dhabi. And it will be running on the fastest hardware available for normal mortals at the current time. It is a Quad-Opteron server, with four processors at a speed of over 2 GHz apiece. The system has enough memory to satisfy any program. Shredder will be generating and evaluating almost two million positions per second (normally it runs at half a million positions on a 3.x GHz Pentium 4). And finally the openings book is developed by one of the most experienced authors in the business, the Italian computer chess expert Sandro Necci. How could any program reasonably expect to beat this team?

On the other hand...

Hydra is a hardware program, based on FPGA technology. It was developed by the Austrian mathematician Dr Christian ("Chrilly") Donninger, who worked with leading experts in the field to produce the Brutus program. In the match in Abu Dhabi a multi-processor version of Brutus, called Hydra, will be running on a 16-way Linux cluster, in which each node is a 3.06 Xeon processor. The host system holds 16 FPGA Virtex I cards. The cluster resides in the server room of Pal Group of companies in Abu Dhabi. Author Chrilly Donninger will access it from the tournament hall using an Internet connection.

In addition to the awesome hardware, the Hydra team is also very impressive. It consists of Donninger, the chess code programmer; Dr. Ulf Lorenz, a researcher at the University of Paderborn, Germany, who is in charge of testing and machine issues; Mohammed Nasir Ali, the Project Manager of Hydra, who has a background in computer science and parallel computing; and the two grandmasters Christopher Lutz, who was German Champion in 1995 and 2001, a member of the German national team for 12 years; and Talib Mousa, the first and only GM from UAE, who is known for his strong analytical and tactical approach to chess. Both GMs advise the programmers and test new versions in an effort to improve the chess understanding of Hydra; and they program the openings book with the latest chess theory, making sure that Hydra strives for positions it understands and plays well.

So the question arises: who can reasonably expect to beat the Hydra system? Shredder? It's an irresistible force meeting an irresistible force, with billions of deep calculations flying across the hall. Certainly a very interesting chess match, in our opinion far too close to call.

Frederic Friedel

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