Hydra unbeatable in Abu Dhabi

by ChessBase
8/29/2004 – The super high-power match between a the multiple world champion chess program Shredder and a new 16-processor version of the hardware program Hydra ended in a 5.5:2.5 victory for the latter. Hydra also beat an Elo 2628 GM 3.5:0.5 in an informal match. Here is our final extensively illustrated report.

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14th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival

The 14th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival 2004 was held from August 14th till 24, 2004. The organizers were the Cultural Foundation & Abu Dhabi Chess & Culture club with full technical and administrational supervision. The PAL Group of Companies staged a special eight-game computer match, pitting two of the world's most powerful chess playing programs against each other. The many-times world champion Shredder played against Hydra, a Deep Blue style hardware program which was developed by Pal.

Rounds 7 + 8: Shredder ends match with 5.5:2.5

In the last two games of their match in Abu Dhabi the "local boy" Hydra was able to chalk up yet another win against the hitherto invincible German program Shredder. In game seven Hydra showed exceptional positional understanding – there were no decisive tactics in the game. Hydra author Chrilly Donninger explained it as follows: "There is a thing one could call 'positional tactics'. It is relatively easy to a selective search that is tactically sound. Shredder is very selective, which can be quite dangerous for positional reasons. You cut off variations because there are no tactical threats, but for positional reasons it would be important to go deeper in certain lines. Hydra is more cautious in this respect, because I want to avoid the positional horizon effect." On the other hand Donninger admits that Shredder is superior in the endgame: "Here the program is superb, Stefan has clearly done a better job than us."

Stefan Meyer-Kahlen playing 6...e5 for Shredder in game seven.

Hydra - Shredder [B92]
Abu Dhabi Computer Challenge Abu Dhabi (7), 23.08.2004
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Kh1 b6 10.Be3 Bb7 11.f3 b5 12.Qd2 Nbd7 This was the last book move for both programs 13.a3 Qc7 14.Rfd1 Rad8 15.Qe1 Nc5 16.Nxc5 dxc5 17.b3 Bc6 18.a4 b4 19.Na2 a5 20.c3 Nh5 21.Rac1.

21...Bxa4? This move came as a surprise to everybody – the spectators in Abu Dhabi, those on the Playchess.com server, Chrilly Donninger and Hydra. 22.bxa4 b3 23.Bc4 bxa2 24.Qe2 h6 25.Qxa2 Bg5 26.Bxg5 hxg5 27.h3 Qe7 28.Kg1 Nf4 29.Kh2 Nh5 30.Rb1 Nf6 31.Qb3 Nh5 32.Qb6 Rxd1 33.Rxd1 g4 34.fxg4 Qf6 35.Qxf6 Nxf6 36.g5 Nxe4 37.g6 Nxc3 38.Rc1 Nxa4 39.Rf1 Nc3 40.Bxf7+ Rxf7 41.Rxf7 a4 42.Rc7 Kf8 43.Rxc5 Nd1 44.Rxe5 a3 45.Rf5+ Ke8 46.Ra5 Nb2 47.Rxa3 1-0.

Shredder - Hydra [B49]
Abu Dhabi Computer Challenge Abu Dhabi (8), 24.08.2004
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be2 a6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Bb4 9.Na4 0-0 10.c4 Bd6 11.g3 Nxe4 12.Bf3 f5 13.c5 Be5 14.Nxc6 dxc6 15.Nb6 Rb8 16.Qc2 Nf6 17.Nc4 f4 18.Bd2 Bd4 19.Bxf4 e5 20.Be3 Be6 21.Bxd4 exd4 22.Qe2 Bf5 23.Rfe1 d3 24.Qd2 Qd8 25.Qc3 Nd7 26.b4 Qf6 27.Qxf6 Nxf6 28.a3 Rfd8 29.Nd6 Bg6 30.Re7 b6 31.Bxc6 bxc5 32.bxc5 Rb3 33.Ree1 d2 34.Re3 Bc2 35.Bf3 Rxe3 36.fxe3 g5 37.Bd1 Bd3 38.h3 Ne4 39.Nxe4 Bxe4 40.Kf2 Kg7 41.Ke2 h5 42.g4 h4 43.Ra2 Bd3+ 44.Kf2 Rf8+ 45.Kg2 Be4+ 46.Kg1 Rd8 47.Rb2 Kf6 48.Rb6+ Ke5 49.c6 Rc8 50.Rxa6 Bd3 51.Rb6 Ke4 52.Rb7 Rxc6 53.Re7+ Kd5 54.Bb3+ Kd6 55.Re6+ Kc5 56.Rxc6+ Kxc6 57.Kf2 Kc5 58.Kf3 Bf1 59.Kf2 Bb5 60.a4 Bd3 61.Bd1 Kc4 62.e4 Kd4 63.e5 Kxe5 64.Ke3 Bf1 65.Kxd2 Bxh3 66.Bf3 Bf1 67.Ke3 Bc4 68.a5 Ba6 69.Bg2 Bb5 70.Bb7 Kd6 71.Bg2 Kc5 72.Bh3 ½-½.

After the match Chrilly Donninger revealed a few secrets regarding the openings book preparation: "Our openings specialist GM Christopher Lutz was given instructions to unleash Hydra after move ten. He managed that perfectly, and Hydra could in most cases immediately go on the attack. Normally openings book authors play private matches against each other at the cost of the programs. Ulf Lorenz [the second Hydra programmer] and I were convinced that Hydra was better than these openings muddles. And we were right. Only in the eighth game we were in a spot of trouble after the opening.

Chrilly Donninger and Ulf Lorenz, authors of Hydra

Both programmers considered the match a valuable experience. Chrilly Donninger vowed to improve Hydra's endgame until it reaches the level of Shredder; and Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, the author of Shredder, is determined to improve his parallel search algorithms until they are as good as Hydra's. The sponsors are interested in experimenting with matches which will pit a combination of human being plus computer program against Hydra.

Final Standings


Hydra vs GM Evgeny Vladimirov

During the 14th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival another interesting match was held: a man vs machine, pitting Evgeny Vladimirov against Hydra. Vladimirov, 47, is a GM from Kazakhstan, rated 2628 and currently number 72 in the world. In the middle of the eighties he was a second to Garry Kasparov.

Grandmaster Evgeny Vladimirov faces the super-computer

Ulf Lorenz (right) operates Hydra, while project manager Ali Nasir Mohammed looks on.

Unfortunately the Kazakh grandmaster lost the first three games. The fourth, which was played after the main tournament (in which he participated) was over, ended in a draw.

Picture Gallery

A bird's eye-view of Hydra vs Shredder in Abu Dhabi

Players in the GM group of the 14th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival

Iranian WIM Shirin Navabi winning a very nice game in the Open

A young Iranian talent trying to win a R+P vs R (without tablebases!)

Chrilly Donning (playing unassisted) taking a whipping from young Iranian players

Who's afraid of the big bad Austrian chess programmer?

Arab boys taken a break in traditional setting

Others simply use the staircase to relax

On display: a beautiful amber chess set which we wish we owned

The closing ceremony, with dignitaries, sponsors and a cluster of photographers

The computer teams with their prizes (Chrilly, Ulf and Stefan, with Nasir in the background)

All the winners gather for a group photo on the stage

Women in black: Abu Dhabi mothers picking up their chess playing progeny

But progeny will be progeny, especially in the heat of this desert state

The temperature in Abu Dhabi at 11 pm. During the day it was usually 43.5°C (112°F)

Driving down the main streets of Abu Dhabi

The skyline of the city on the Persian Gulf

The yacht harbour, with the city in the background

Construction everywhere in the Gulf state

Next time this is where we stay: a seven-star hotel due for completion in 2005

Pictures and report by Frederic Friedel

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