Eighth PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament with $16,000 prize fund

by ChessBase
3/24/2008 – A "Freestyle tournament" is one in which computer assistance – or help in any conceivable form – during the game is allowed and encouraged. The Eighth PAL/CSS Freestyle tournament will take place on the Playchess server on two weekends, April 11-13 and April 25-27. The main sponsor, the PAL Group in Abu Dhabi (UAE), has provided a $16,000 dollar prize fund. Join the fun.

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Eighth PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament with $16,000 Prize Fund

The seventh edition of the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament will be played on the two weekends: 11th–13th April 2008 (Main Tournament) and 25th–27th April 2008 (Final).

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The tournament is open to everyone. 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.

Schedule of the Main Tournament (April 11-13)

Round 1

Friday, 11.04.2008

14:00 CEST

Round 2

Friday, 11.04.2008

17:00 CEST

Round 3

Friday, 11.04.2008

20:00 CEST

Round 4

Saturday, 12.04.2008

14:00 CEST

Round 5

Saturday, 12.04.2008

17:00 CEST

Round 6

Saturday, 12.04.2008

20:00 CEST

Round 7

Sunday, 13.04.2008

14:00 CEST

Round 8

Sunday, 13.04.2008

17:00 CEST

Round 9

Sunday, 13.04.2008

20:00 CEST

Freestyle tournament details

Mode: a) Main tournament: 9 rounds Swiss System (open for all); b) Round-robin tournament: 9 rounds (the top-10 from the ‘main’)
Rate of play: 60 min. per player and game, plus 15 sec. per move. 3 rounds per day, always 14.00h, 17.00h and 20.00h server time
Rules: Computer help and consultation are allowed. Special Freestyle Rules for online tournaments
Prizes: 1st prize: US $7,000
2nd prize: US $3,500
3rd prize: US $2,000
4th prize: US $1,000
5th prize: US $ 500
6th – 10th prizes: software and books
Main tournament: Six special prizes of software and books
Entry fee: 25 Euro / International titleholders free / CSS subscribers free
Organiser: PAL Computer Systems (UAE) and CSS (Computerschach & Spiele)
Registration: Computerschach & Spiele. Invitation, Freestyle Rules and FAQ will be provided for download on on the same site.
Contact: redaktion@computerschach.de (registration) or freestyle-nl@web.de (general questions)


FAQ on Freestyle Chess

1. What is Freestyle Chess?

Freestyle Chess is a competition between humans who are allowed to use any technical or human support for selecting their moves. The major difference to correspondence chess is the much faster speed of play. Freestyle Chess is very similar to "Advanced Chess", introduced by Garry Kasparov, in which use of computer however is limited and external human assistance excluded. The first big Freestyle Tournament with a number of well-known International titleholders among the participants was held in May/June 2005 on the Playchess server. The rate of play in the main tournament was 45 min. per game + 5 sec. per move. In the playoffs it was 60 min. + 15 sec., and this has become the standard of the PAL/CSS Freestyle tournaments. In the 7th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament a rate of play of 90 min. + 30 sec. was tried, and this likewise found many advocates, who expect a strengthening of the human factor by this.

2. Is really “anything allowed” in Freestyle Chess?

No, unsporting behavior to get an advantage towards competitors is not allowed. The PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament Rules contain important definitions to guarantee a fair course of action. From a practical point of view “anything goes” in Freestyle chess except unfair behavior.

3. Which technical equipment does one need for Freestyle Chess?

The minimum requirement is an Internet connection to the chess server and the chess software to take part in the tournament, i.e. to send and receive moves. Usually all this resides on a singel computer, which we will call your “Internet PC”. Theoretically you can use the same machine for your interactive chess analysis, but most of the Freestyle players use more than one PC for the task. The analysis will run on a second PC and sometimes even on a third or fourth. The number of PCs is not decisive, but their power. That’s why multi-processor systems and also engine versions that have been developed for such systems are favoured by Freestylers. Powerful chess engines with six or at least five-men tablebases (for endings) are just as important as efficient hardware.

4. Can I not simply let the computer play?

The experiences of the first six PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournaments have shown that under certain conditions pure engine play can be fairly successful. Nevertheless, the engines were not able to stand their ground and were outclassed by well prepared opponents. The combination man + machine has turned out to be considerably stronger than pure engines. Since the 7th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament automatic engine play has been technically outlawed. Participants are expected to execute their moves manually and remain in full control of the game. There were too many problems in fully automatic engine play (which also defeats the spirit of Freestyle Chess).

5. What is a “centaur” and how does one play as a centaur?

The name "centaur“ is used for the combination man + machine in the machine room of the Playchess server. There a centaur can load an engine and analyse the current position in the game. Many Freestylers use this "kibitzing" engine for control and as security in case they get into time pressure and have to make moves very quickly. The main analysis is performed on a second or multiple PCs.

6. How does one become a good Freestyle chess player?

Success in Freestyle chess can come about in rather different ways. It can be reached by teamwork or individually, it can be the result of powerful hardware or software, chess skills or knowledge, good competition tactics, or simply luck. Usually it is the sum of all these factors. Usually a strong chess player who has a weak computer and is inexperienced in the use of chess engines has no chance of a top rank. On the other hand a weak player with a very powerful machine and a good openings book can, with a bit of luck, win a prize. Of course the best chances are to be expected from an experienced team and powerful hardware.

7. What do I do if I lose the connection with the server?

Usually reconnection is automatic, and you can only see by the word “reconnect” inserted in the notation that there was a temporary problem. If the interruption of your game lasts two or three minutes it means you have possibly lost connection with the Internet (and not only to the chess server). If this is the case, try first – without closing the game window or the main window to the chess server – to restore your Internet connection.

If this does not work you can try to click “Extras – Reconnect” in the Playchess client. If you have to restarting your computer you can log into the chess server (remember to set "centaur" if that is how you are playing), go to the tournament room and consult the tournament director on how to proceed. You may be able to resume the game where you left off.

8. What do I do if my opponent is not on-line any more?

You must be patient and wait. In no case should you click “Claim win on disconnect” which in normal blitz games leads to the game being aborted by the chess server. In Freestyle tournaments this decision is made exclusively by the tournament director. You can communicate with him by chat or, if necessary, by email. If you cannot reach the tournament director in the Playchess chat window, for example because you are not connected with the chess server, send him an email.

9. How to use the “chat” of the chess server?

General announcements on the part of the tournament director are in blue, personal messages in green, while the messages of the remaining chat participants are in yellow. You can also filter the general chat, so that only messages of higher ranked players are shown. Another possibility of the individual chat configuration consists in selecting “channels” which are displayed in your chat window.

10. Must I stay on-line all the time during the entire tournament?

It is required that you should be present in the tournament room not later than five minutes before the round starts. If you are not round will begin without you. A new paring or late start of your game is not possible and you will lose by forfeit. At the start of the tournament it is necessary to be in the tournament room half an hour earlier in order to sign up for the tournament. Once you have received the confirmation from the tournament leader, you can temporarily leave the tournament room and the server.

11. Where and when do I find the standings and the pairings?

During a Freestyle tournament held according to the Swiss system (as it is usual with the main tournaments) you get to know the new pairings at the beginning of each round. Your game is started automatically. In the main window you can see the pairings of the other participants when you click on the “Games” tab . The “Info” tab will disply a results table generated by the chess server. This table is only updated when the new round starts. After completion of a tournament day and at the end of the tournament you will find the official tournament table on the CSS web site.

12. How are the pairings made in Swiss System tournaments?

All pairings in PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournaments are executed by the server software. There are as a rule no pairings “by hand”. In a round-robin tournament, like the Freestyle Final, the pairings are determined by the start numbers, which correspond to the rankings in the main tournament.

13. Are there any tiebreaks?

No. Past experiences with Freestyle playoffs have shown that these are too costly and it can be very difficult to find a satisfactory system that is fair to all. So the final rankings are determined by “progressive score”; if this is the same a second tiebreak system is applied by the tournament leader. The ranking order determines who qualifies for the next round, but the money prizes are split equally among the players with an equal score.

14. Is there a Freestyle ranking list and Freestyle Elo rating?

The games of the PAL/CSS Freestyle tournaments are rated in the official PAL/CSS Freestyle Elo List. A player must have 30 rated games to get a proper rating – before that the rating is "provisional". Note that the rating a players has on the Playchess server is not identical with his Freestyle rating, as he may be playing in other human or machine tournaments.

15. Must I register for Freestyle with my real name?

The registration for a Freestyle tournament requires that you identify yourself properly, with your name and your email address. You can choose your nickname freely. However it is advisable to use a proper name and provide personal information to facilitate communication during the long playing sessions.

16. Are you allowed to withdraw from the tournament?

All participants are expected to complete the tournament and not withdraw as soon as they feel they do not have a chance to win a prize or qualify for the next round. Withdrawing in such circumstances is unsporting and should only be done with the permission of the tournament director. The organizers and sponsors reserve the right to exclude a participant who resigns without permission from future participation in the PAL/CSS Freestyle tournaments, or to charge a higher fee for future participation.

17. Where do I find Freestyle game databases and tournament reports?

On the CSS web site, in the archives of the ChessBase news page as well as in various Internet forums and private homepages.

18. What do the names PAL and CSS stand for?

The PAL Group of Companies, the main sponsors of the Freestyle Chess tournaments, has its seat in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). The owner of the PAL Group is an ardent Freestyle chess player himself and appears with the nickname “Zorchamp”. He has taken part successfully in several Freestyle tournaments and won the Second Freestyle Champion in 2006. Since his company was involved in the development of the Hydra project, which is a parallel system running on 64 FPGA nodes, Zorchamp has a considerable hardware advantage. With regard to Freestyle chess PAL is represented by the Berlin correspondence chess grandmaster and chess publisher Arno Nickel, Internet name: “Ciron”, contact: freestyle-nl@web.de.

"CSS" is the abbreviation of the German magazine “Computerschach und Spiele”, which was published for two decades in a printed edition, but has now migrated to the Internet and is available as an on-line magazine since 2005. The web site is www.computerschach.de, and the email contact is redaktion (at) computerschach.de. The editor is Dieter Steinwender, who is resident in Hamburg and attends the Freestyle events under the name “Stoneturner”.

CCGM Arno Nickel

How to play in the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

The tournament takes place on the Playchess server on two weekends. It will be staged in a special tournament room (“Hydra Chess – CSS Freestyle Tournament”) of the Playchess server. Note that you should set your playing mode to “Centaur” when you are in the Freestyle room (this is done in the menu "Edit – Playing mode" or by pressing Ctrl-M). If you leave “Human” mode switched on you will not be able to start an analysis engine. “Computer” mode is for people who want their engines to play fully automatically, without human intervention. This is not permitted in the Seventh Freestyle Tournament.

Special rules

Due to the large number of participants it is necessary to enforce some additional rules for this event. In summary: all participants are responsible for understanding and being able to adequately operate the Playchess client software; they are responsible for establishing an adequate and stable Internet connection to the server; for finding the tournament room; for their punctual appearance on the server in time for the start of each round; for not attempting to use unfair methods to gain advantage over the opponent.

In particular we will be implementing the following rules.

1. All participants must be present in the tournament room of the server 30 minutes before the start of round one. Participants must stay connected until the tournament director has included them in the list of players ("invited" them). After a player has seen that he is on the participants' list he can leave the room or log out, but must be present in the room at least five minutes before the start of the game.

2. Each round starts on the hour. Players are required to be in the tournament room and ready to start their games at least five minutes before the hour (e.g. at 13:55h, 16:55h, 19:55h, etc.). The games will start punctually, and any player who is not present in the tournament room at the time of the start will automatically lose that game. It is not possible to start individual games at a later time and include them in the tournament results.

Caution: do not use this button!

3. VERY IMPORTANT: if at any stage of a game your opponent has technical problems, e.g. communication lag or disconnects, you MAY NOT claim a win by clicking on the “Claim win on disconnect" button on the top right of the board window. You can consult the tournament director (by chat), but may have to remain connected and at the board until your opponent's time runs out. Note that if anyone claims a win by using the "Claim win on disconnect" button, even if that player is awarded the win by the server, the tournament director will change the result to a loss for player who has manually claimed the win.

Please remember that due to the very large number of participants we have to rely on your cooperation to successfully stage this event. If you feel you have been unfairly treated you can write to the organisers, who may offer you a free place in the next Freestyle tournament to compensate for the injustice. As a rule it will be difficult to find satisfactory solutions while the event is under way. Remember: the decision of the tournament director is final.

One more request: please play the entire tournament, even if after some rounds you feel that you do not have a chance to win the main money prizes.

Articles on Freestyle Chess

Seventh PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament with $16,000 up for grabs
05.09.2007 – A "Freestyle tournament" is one in which computer assistance – or help in any conceivable form – during the game is allowed and encouraged. The Seventh PAL/CSS Freestyle tournament will take place on the Playchess server on Sept. 7th-9th and 15th-16th. The main sponsor, the PAL Group in Abu Dhabi (UAE), has provided a $16,000 dollar prize fund. Join the fun.

Rajlich wins Sixth PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament
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Mission Control takes over in Freestyle Tournament
17.06.2007 – "A star is born" is becoming the normal headline for Freestyle tournaments, and the sixth edition of the PAL/CSS event, with 112 participants from 30 countries was no exception. A 32-processor machine playing on its own came first and, together with nine others, will take part in the $16,000 finals on the Playchess server, on June 22nd to 24th. Be there and watch the fun.

Sixth PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament with $16,000 prize
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Freestyle Chess –Teaching an Engine how to Fly
28.04.2007 – The 5th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament on Playchess.com is already history and the 6th issue is coming soon: Main event June 1-3, Final June 22-24. Freestyle Chess allows players to form a team and use any software and hardware they like. The main sponsor, the PAL Group in Abu Dhabi (UAE), has provided a $16,000 dollar prize fund for each online tournament. CC GM Arno Nickel reports.

Fifth Freestyle Tournament Final this weekend
22.03.2007 – The 5th PAL/CSS Freestyle Main Tournament, staged on the Playchess server, ended in a dead heat of 17 players. None of the 131 participants from 32 countries, including 20 titled players, managed to achieve six points in eight games, which is the magic barrier for qualification. The final, with ten players, will be held as a round robin tournament this weekend. Come and watch.

$16,000 Freestyle tournament starts on March 2nd
23.02.2007 – The Fifth PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament begins on March 2nd on the Playchess server. The main tournament is an eight-round Swiss, with time controls of 60 min + 15 sec per game. You probably know that in Freestyle any kind of assistance is allowed: computers, friends, books, anything. The starting fee is 10 Euro. GMs and IMs are free. You can still join the fun!

The Freestyle Champion is Xakru, dammit!
07.11.2006 That's what happens when you choose a flippant name on the chess server: you win a major event and wish you hadn't called yourself "Damn it" (in Czech). Jiri Dufek and Roman Chytilek won the first prize, $8,000, in the fourth computer assisted tournament on Playchess.com. Find out what transpired in the final of this Freestyle event in this report by Arno Nickel.

Fall of the Favourites in PAL/CSS Freestyle
19.10.2006 A "Freestyle tournament" is one in which computer assistance – or any other form of help – during the game is allowed and encouraged. The 4th PAL/CSS Freestyle tournament, which reaches its final this weekend on the the Playchess.com server, saw many of the favourites falter. Now the ten qualifiers will play a round robin for the US $16,000 prize money. Come and watch.

Rajlich Team won the third Freestyle tournament
31.08.2006 The third 3rd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament was held in the middle of July. With considerable delay we bring you a report by correspondence GM Arno Nickel on the results of this event, which had a prize fund of US $16,000 and was conducted on the Playchess.com server. Also a reminder that another $16,000 Freestyle tournament begins soon. Like to join the fun?

Freestyle Tournament final begins today
14.07.2006 Are you interested in seeing chess played at the very highest level? It involves grandmasters and experts selecting their moves with computer assistance. The final of the 3rd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament begins today at 17:00h CEST on the Playchess.com server, and ends on Sunday evening. The prize fund is $16,000. Come and watch the fun!

Who will be the next Freestyle Champion
05.07.2006 Neither the summer weather nor the Soccer World Cup stopped more than 100 players from all over the world from enter the 3rd PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament, which ended last weekend with the tie-breaks for the Final in July 14-16. About 20 titleholders were attracted by the opportunity to win one of the money prizes: $8,000, $4,000 or $2,000 dollars. Report by Arno Nickel

Brilliancy in computer assisted chess
16.06.2006 The 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 brilliant examples.

$16,000 Freestyle tournament begins on Friday
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$16,000 up for grabs in computer-assisted play
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Zor-Champ wins Freestyle Tournament
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Freestyle tournament: Finals this weekend
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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
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Dark horse ZackS wins Freestyle Chess Tournament
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Scintillating chess in the PAL-CSS Freestyle tournament
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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
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The $20,000 free-for-all chess tournament
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