Fifth Freestyle Tournament Final this weekend

by ChessBase
3/22/2007 – 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.

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Big Fight in the Freestyle Final on March 23rd-25th

Correspondence GM Arno Nickel

By Berlin correspondence chess GM Arno Nickel

The final will take place on the server from Friday to Sunday, March 23-25, 2007, with the first round starting at 14:00h server time each day. It will be a round robin tournament, with each participant playing one game against all other participants. Time controls are 60 minutes + 15 seconds increment per move.

Can Grandmasters play Freestyle?

 Two or three tournaments back it would have been a sensation, if grandmasters like Hikaru Nakamura (FIDE Elo 2651) failed to achieve more than 50 percent in the Freestyle Main Tournament. Nowadays any experienced Freestyle player or even kibitz is no longer surprised. Players like him will always play beautiful games, with lots of ideas, but they are vulnerable when it comes to deep tactics on the board, especially in a rapid game 60m + 15s. Although they have Fritz or other advisors at their disposal, they will always try to force their own moves and only realize that something went wrong with their plan when it’s already too late. Someone asked “Star Wars” (H. Nakamura) in the chat whether he uses Rybka, which is the most popular Freestyle engine running as UCI engine under the Fritz or ChessBase. His answer: “I use my brain, because its better than Rybka on 6/7 days of the week.”

Real Freestyle experts use about four computers with different engines, and unlike GM Nakamura will never trust their own play, if it is not accepted by at least one of their engines. That does not necessarily mean they are simply playing computer moves. They try to check the full information provided by the engines, and they recognise the weaknesses and the strengths of their analysis tools. They know when a king’s attack may come into consideration and when it’s a storm in a teacup. They know when a fortress can be built, even if the engines say they are losing. And they know when a pawn or the exchange can be sacrificed to seize the initiative or to achieve counterplay. But they will never decide such things without consulting their engines. That’s the main difference between real Freestyle experts and inexperienced grandmasters.

There are Freestyle teams consisting of computer experts and grandmasters. Experience has shown that strong correspondence chess players with much practice in computer analysis form a third group of experts. Maybe the computer expert of a team is a strong player himself, as is the case with International Master Vasik Rajlich, who is the Rybka programmer. What is his role when he is playing together with a high-class grandmaster? It doesn't make much sense to waste time discussing the general plan. It is much more important that he checks and analyses the computer lines. His main task should be to conduct and translate the dialogue between the engine and the grandmaster, keeping both from going wrong. Rajlich’s team, with GM Michal Krasenkov and IM Iweta Radziewicz, was the winner of the 3rd Freestyle Final, and keeps the lead in the Freestyle Elo list we published in our last article. Unfortunately the Rajlich team dropped out of the group of leading teams in the 5th Main Tournament, when they forgot to recapture a rook in the seventh round. Their opponent, “Ultra-d”, an engine-only player, was so confused and embarrassed about the situation that he did not know what to do: take the point or offer a draw (his position was a bit worse before the incident occurred). Unable to decide it by himself he consulted the Tournament Director, who felt Ultra-d should be protected against any pressure from the chat and from his opponent (who in fact remained very polite when asking for a way of accommodation). I believe that the TD should have left the decision to Ultra-d, but instead he forbade both players from agreeing to a draw. I don’t know if he regret this decision later on, but in order to keep the reputation of the Freestyle organisation I have to state that this has been his last decision as a Freestyle TD.

Sometimes grandmasters and other strong players enter a Freestyle Main Tournament and withdraw after an unpromising start. That is what Israeli GM Ronen Har-Zvi did, leaving the tournament after a loss in the first round. Some people would like to see such withdrawals punished, but that’s more complicated in practice than they think. Fortunately the number of withdrawals has not been a real problem in the our Freestyle series. There are also positive examples, like the Russian GM Vladimir Belov (Elo 2600), who also lost his first round game but stuck to the tournament until the very end, achieving 4.5 points out of eight games.

Before we come to the Final this weekend let’s take a look at the top standings of the Main Tournament (the complete list is given by a link at the bottom):

5th Freestyle Main Event 2007 (Time: 60m + 15s, 8 rounds)


Cato the Younger, Rybka 2.3 mp FSCD

5.5 / 8



Flying Saucers

5.5 / 8




5.5 / 8



Rodo,Rybka 2.2 mp

5.5 / 8



Pulse_exchange, Rybka 2.3.1 mp 32-b

5.5 / 8



Etaoin Shrdlu

5.5 / 8



The wizard of Os

5.5 / 8




5.5 / 8



Rainer Zufall

5.5 / 8




5.5 / 8



EL-SHADDAI, Rybka 2.3.1 mp x128

5.5 / 8



Hercules01, Rybka 2.1o mp

5.5 / 8



Ultra-d, Rybka 2.3.1 mp

5.5 / 8




5.5 / 8




5.5 / 8




5.5 / 8




5.5 / 7


These were the 17 teams/players, who made it up to the play-offs on March 10th. The ranking was established by “progressive score”, which means summing up each player’s points from round to round. The first three got free tickets for the Final and the following 14 had to play mini-matches.

Each pairing played a match of two games, with time controls of 60m+15s, with the lower ranked player having the white pieces in the first game. If the result was 1:1 then a third game had to be played. The lower ranked player got the white pieces and had to win in order to qualify. If this game ended in a draw, the higher ranked player was qualified for the final. (Further games with shorter time controls were considered, but ultimately discarded, as they would have favoured the engine-only players.)

Here are the results of the mini-matches, with the winners marked in bold type.

EL-SHADDAI Rodo 1.5:1.5
Hercules01 Pulse_exchange 2.0:1.0
Ultra-d Etaoin Shrdlu 0.5:1.5
PawnStriker1978 The wizard of Os 0.5:1.5
Dummkoller Ciron 1.5:1.5
Engineer  Rainer Zufall 2.0:1.0
Revelator Kaputtze 0.5:1.5

So the Final on March 23rd until 25th will be played by these ten players (the number of rated Freestyle games is given in brackets).

Flying Saucers DEN 2687 (33)
ZackS USA 2639 (49)
Engineer UKR 2635 (28)
Ciron GER 2618 (42)
Kaputtze GER 2492 (26)
Cato the Younger USA (11)
Rodo [Rybka] ITA (11)
Hercules01 [Rybka] USA (11)
Etaoin Shrdlu CZE (10)
The wizard of Os NED (10)

Some words about the finalists. Most of them are known to use very fast computer systems with up to eight processors (four duals).

  • Flying Saucers, operated by the Danish centaur Dagh Nielsen, was successful at the previous Final coming in Second.

  • ZackS is the legendary handle of the American Steven Zackary, who won the 1st PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament in 2005, together with his friend Steven Cramton. So this looks like a comeback after about two years.

  • Engineer is the only certified grandmaster in the field. He is the Ukrainian Yuri Solodovnichenko, who has an over-the-board GM title and is a very strong correspondence chess player as well. Does he play in a team or just only himself? The answer to such questions will be only known (hopefully) after the tournament. It’s his first qualification to a Final.

  • Ciron is me in my second qualification to a Freestyle final. I hope to do better than one year ago, when I only came seventh.

  • Kaputtze is the handle of Jochen Rindfleisch from Mannheim. So far his biggest success in Freestyle.

  • Cato the Younger was the surprise of the Main Tournament. We know that the owner of this handle, Nelson Hernandez from USA, already co-operated successfully with another player under the handle Intagrand. Cato played his first game with an automatic Rybka engine, but then switched to centaur modus.

  • The Italian Rodo played with an automatic Rybka engine. In his personal information he also gives the handle Auryn, which means he is co-operating with the Italian chess player Eros Riccio.

  • Hercules01 is the second (and last) automatic Rybka, completely unknown so far, but maybe also the second handle of a well-known Freestyler.

  • Etaoin Shrdlu is a Czech centaur team, probably consisting of players from the previous well-known handles Equidistance and Xakru. I wouldn’t be surprised, if a strong player like IM Roman Chytilek is in this team.

  • The Wizard of Os is the handle of a player named Hans van Mierlo, another Freestyle newbie, who may be wellknown in the Dutch chess computer scene.

As mentioned above the final will be held on Friday-Sunday, March 23-25, 2007, starting at 14:00h server time each day. It will be a round robin tournament, with each participant playing one game against all other participants. Time controls are 60 minutes + 15 seconds increment per move. The winner of the final receives the first prize of US $8,000 and the title of "5th PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Champion". The runner up gets $4,000, and the player coming in third $2,000.

Schedule of the Final

Round 1



14:00h CET

Round 2



17:00h CET

Round 3



20:00h CET

Round 4



14:00h CET

Round 5



17:00h CET

Round 6



20:00h CET

Round 7



14:00h CEST

Round 8



17:00h CEST

Round 9



20:00h CEST

Note that there is a change to daylight saving time on Saturday night in Europe.


Previous articles on Freestyle Chess

$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 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 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 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 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
14.06.2006 The Third PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament begins on Friday, June 16, on the Playchess server. In the previous edition, won by Zor_Champ of the UAE, there were a number of grandmasters participating. One was Tony Kosten of England, assisted by the program Hiarcs 10, who gives us his assessment of such computer-assisted tournaments. You can still join!

$16,000 up for grabs in computer-assisted play
11.05.2006 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!

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, 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 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 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 There you can use anything you want to win your games. Details...

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