Scintillating chess in the PAL-CSS Freestyle tournament

by ChessBase
6/15/2005 – 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.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

Summary: the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament is being held on the server. It started on May 28 with a qualifier, in which about 50 teams from twenty different countries took part. Nine of them qualified for the main tournament. This was conducted on June 3rd-5th, with time controls of 60 minutes for the game plus 15 seconds increment per move. At this stage titled players – GMs, IMs and prominent computer teams – entered the competition. On Saturday June 11th the tiebreaks were held, so that in the end eight teams were qualified. On Sunday they played the quarterfinals and are now down to four. Here are the current standings:

This means that on Saturday, June 18 ZackS will face Tank1, and KonstantinLanda will play against V_Dobrov. The winners will face each other on Sunday, June 19, while the losers will play for the third place. Full schedules are given at the bottom of this page.

There are some conclusions to be drawn about Freestyle Chess and the course this tournament has taken:

  1. The assumption, expressed by some, that the vastly superior hardware employed by the Hydra programs would guarantee them a path to the finals was erroneous. Both machines, the 16-processor and the 32-processor versions, were stopped in the main tournament, and only the bigger machine, which had some form of human intervention, had any chance of qualifying.

  2. Of the eight teams that qualified for the quarter-finals six consisted of titled player working with computers, which means that this combination is in general much stronger than even vastly superior hardware that is not supported by human intervention.

  3. Of the remaining two teams Dieb Fritz was the only machine running without human intervention. It played well in the main event, qualifying where the Hydra machines had failed; but it was completely outclassed by a GM working with a lesser machine.

  4. The other untitled team, ZackS, is a dark horse. The identity of the people behind this team, and the method they are using, will be revealed after the tournament is over. Everybody assumes that there are one or more GMs working together with the team captain. The rumour was that Garry Kasparov was producing the extraordinary chess displayed by ZackS, but we can confirm that on the weekend of the quarter-finals Kasparov was most certainly otherwise engaged.

  5. The standard of play is very high, possibly the highest ever seen in chess at these time controls. One would scarcely expect a human player, even the best in the world, to be able to face the precision and the strategic depth of some of the participants in this event.

ZackS is definitely the star of this event. This program had to play in the qualifier and won it effortlessly with a score of 6/7 – a full point ahead of the nearest rival. In the main event it was once again ZackS that took first place with 6.5/8, again a full point ahead of the field. In our previous report we did a short and somewhat guarded interview with the operator, whose name is Zachary.

In the quarter-finals the going was tougher, with ZackS facing IM Jörg Blauert assisted by a computer. Although Rentner2 was clearly stronger than the opposition ZackS had faced in the qualifier and the main event, the American team was in great form. Here's an example of the kind of game we saw.

ZackS (1844) – Rentner2 (1864) [C11]
Freestyle qf, 12.06.2005 [Commentary: Dieter Steinwender]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Qb6 9.Qd2 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3 11.Bd3 Bb4 12.Rb3 Qa5 13.0-0 Nxd4 14.Bxd4 Bc5 15.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 16.Kh1 0-0 17.Qe2 Qe7.

This last move looks natural and perfectly sound. Would you suspect that there is a little surprise waiting for Black? 18.Bxh7+! Kxh7 19.Qh5+ Kg8 20.Nb5 f5 21.Rh3 Nf6. Black has not had a chance to enjoy his extra piece, which he must now return, because White is threatening 22.Qh7+ Kf7 23.Nd6+. 22.exf6 Qxf6 23.Nc7!

Very deep. The knight is on its way to pick up the pawn on g7 and tear open the black king's defences. 23...Rb8 24.Ne8 Qh6 25.Qf3 Qg6 26.Nxg7

26...Kf7. The knight is untouchable, since KxN or QxN both fail to Rg3. 27.Rg3 Qh6 28.Qc3 Bd7 29.Qc7 Rfd8.

All the spectators on the Playchess server agreed at this point that 30.Re1 was coming – their powerful engines told them that. But ZackS has a more convincing plan. 30.Rg5! Rbc8 31.Qxb7 Rc4 threatening 32...Rxf4 33.Rxf4 Qxg5.

32.Rg1! A very unusual way to defend the pawn on f4 – by removing the defending piece! 32...Ke7 After 32...Rxf4 comes 33.Nxe6 Qxe6 (33...Kxe6 34.Qa6+!) 34.Qc7! forking the two rooks!

33.Re1. Now the move the spectators were clamouring for is much stronger. 33...Kf8 34.Nxf5 Qf6 35.Qa6 and Black can do nothing against the threat Qd6+. Rentner2 resigned. 1-0.

Dieb Fritz

The name of this program is a German pun, turning Deep Fritz into "Thief Fritz". It is a four-way server that was put together by Djafar Baigi, who hails from Iran but now lives in Munich, Germany. Djafar said it cost him a lot of sleepless nights getting the machine to top speed, but now it runs Deep Fritz 8 at 5050 kN/s ("kilo-Nodes per second", i.e. 5050 thousand or just over five million positions per second) and Deep Shredder at 1800 to 2600 kN/s. You can compare that with your own computer – the value is displayed in the Fritz engine window.

The four-way server used by Dieb Fritz Djafar tells us that he normally uses this machine for CAD applications.

As we mentioned above Dieb Fritz played extremely well in the qualifier, but when it encountered titled players armed with chess engines it was a completely different story. Here's an example, in which the machine was running Deep Shredder and playing all by itself. The opponent is GM Vladimir Kosyrev, Elo 2542, working with a computer.

Dieb Fritz – Tank1 [B19]
Freestyle qf, 12.06.2005 [Commentary: Dieter Steinwender]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bf4 Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Bb4 13.c3 Be7 14.c4 Qc7 15.0-0-0 Ngf6 16.Bc3 b5 17.c5

Now the pawns on d4 and c5 are stuck on dark squares, which does nothing to improve the prospects of the bishop on c3. If Black is able to swap down to the ending White will be stuck with this "bad bishop". Black would have a great advantage.

17...a5 18.Bd2 a4 Tank1 offers a draw 19.Ne4 Rd8 20.Nxf6+ Nxf6 21.Qc2 Rd5 22.Kb1 Rxh5 23.Rxh5 Nxh5 24.Ne5 Nf6 25.f4 Nd5 26.Re1 Bf6 27.f5 0-0 28.fxe6 Bxe5 29.Rxe5 fxe6 30.Rxe6 Rf1+ 31.Be1 Qf4 32.Re8+ Kf7 33.Re4 Qf5 34.Re2 Qg4 35.Rf2+ Rxf2 36.Qxf2+ Ke6 37.Kc1 Qf4+ 38.Qd2 Kf5 39.Bf2 Qxd2+ 40.Kxd.2

Is it possible that Black envisioned this situation at move 17? If that is the case then it could only be ther result of human intervention. Computers cannot work with such long-term strategic plans. And it is the best way to confront them, when there is no way to wriggle out of the mess. 40...Ke4 41.Bg1 h5 42.Bf2 g5 43.g3 Nc7 44.Ke2 Ne6 45.d5 Kxd5 46.Be1 Nxc5 47.Kd2 Ke4 0-1.

Further schedule of the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

Semi-finals – knock-out system

Semi-finals (Saturday, June 18, 2005)
Start Saturday, 18.06.2005 12:00h CEST

The semi-finals consist of two four-game matches, played between the four winners of the quarter-finals. The time controls are 60 minutes for the game plus 15 seconds increment per move.

The games start on Saturday, June 18, 2005 at 12:00h CEST. At the end of each game there is a 15 minute break. The two winners proceed to the semi-finals, the losers play for place three. If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on the same day, after the regular games have finished. They will be games played at accelerated rates: 15 + 5 and if required 5 + 1.

Finals and play for third place

Finals (Sunday, June 19, 2005)
Start Sunday, 19.06.2005 12:00h CEST

The finals consist of two four-game matches, played between the two winners and two losers of the semi-finals. The time controls are 60 minutes for the game plus 15 seconds increment per move. The games start on Sunday, June 19, 2005 at 12:00h CEST. At the end of each game there is a 15 minute break.

If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on the same day, after the regular games have finished. There will be two games, played at accelerated rate of 15 + 5. After this, if required, there will be sudden death blitz games played at a rate of 5 + 1. The player who was higher in the main tournament gets White in the first blitz game.

The winner of the finals gets the first prize of US $10,000 and the title of "First PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Champion". The runner-up gets $5,000, the winner of the match for third place gets $3,000.

There will be special software prizes totalling US $2,700 for the places 4-8.


Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register