Seventh PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament with $16,000 up for grabs

by ChessBase
9/5/2007 – 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.

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Seventh PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

The seventh edition of the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament will be played on the two weekends: 7th–9th September 2007 (Round 1-5) and 15th–16th September 2007 (Round 6-9).

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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 and set up an account within minutes.

What is Freestyle Chess?

In a normal chess tournament there are very strict rules about what you can do or not do during a game. Certainly enlisting outside help – from a human or a computer – is one of the more serious transgressions. In Freestyle Chess everything is allowed. The players are expected to work in teams or with computers. There are no restrictions. Use Fritz or Deep Shredder, consult openings books or chess Informants, call Anand or Kramnik and ask for help (if you know them well enough).

Playing mode in the tournament room

This time it is only possible to play as "Human“ or "Centaur“ – the operator mode "Computer“ won’t be available. This means that all moves have to be entered manually. We strongly recommend you to use the latest free chess client which can be downloaded under

Prize fund

The total prize fund is US $16,000 and has been provided by the PAL Group in the United Arab Emirates, the company that is behind the Hydra chess project. The prize money is divided as follows:

1st prize:   US $7000
2nd prize:   US $3500
3rd prize:   US $2000
4th prize:   US $1000
5th prize:   US $500
6th to 10th prize:   Software and/or books

Schedule of PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

All times given in the following schedule are in Central European Summer Time (CEST), which is used in most European countries, e.g. Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, etc. CEST is GMT + two hours. Click on the times given in the schedule below to convert to your local time.

Important note: you will need to log in with your correct handle not later than ten minutes before the start of each round. Anyone who is not present in the chess server room at this time can not be guarantied to participate in this round.

Freestyle Tournament – nine round Swiss (no finals this time!)

Time controls are 90 minutes for all the moves plus a 30 second increment per move. The event is a classical Swiss. The top five players will win the prize money. In case of a tie the ranking will be based on progressive score.

Seventh PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

Round 1

Friday 07.09.2007 19:00 CEST

Round 2

Saturday 08.09.2007 14:00 CEST

Round 3

Saturday 08.09.2007 19:00 CEST

Round 4

Sunday 09.09.2007 14:00 CEST

Round 5

Sunday 09.09.2007 19:00 CEST

Round 6

Saturday 15.09.2007 14:00 CEST

Round 7

Saturday 15.09.2007 19:00 CEST

Round 8

Sunday 16.09.2007 14:00 CEST

Round 9

Sunday 16.09.2007 19:00 CEST

Participants in the tournament must be in the playing hall ten minutes before the start of each round. The winner gets the first prize of US $7,000 and the title of "Seventh PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Champion".


The entry fee for the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament is 25 Euro (= US $34.25). The regular time of applications ends on 5th September 2007, 12 p.m. Late entries can pay an increased fee of 50 Euro in Playchess "ducats" (electronic money) on the day of the tournament (7th September).

There is no entry fee for GMs and IMs with bona fide Playchess accounts. These players need to provide proof of their identity before the tournament starts. A title account on Playchess (with a King or Queen symbol) is sufficient, since it has been validated by ChessBase. Otherwise you will be asked to fax a copy of your passport or ID card to the organisers.

To register for the Freestyle Tournament you (respectively the team leader) need to fill out a registry form (the link is given below), giving your name, address and Playchess handle. Some days before the tournament starts you will receive an email with further details.

About the new format

There are three major changes compared to previous Freestyle Tournaments:

  1. Longer time controls: 90min+30sec (instead of 60min+15sec)
  2. Only one swiss tournament (no final)
  3. No “engine-only” play allowed (all moves have to be entered manually)

The first two points are connected, as with the new time controls the tournament will take longer. So the organisers decided to abstain from the final, which had been played with the top ten players from the tournament.

The third point is due to technical issues, as in the past there has been some trouble with disconnections and engine crashes. If everyone enters the moves manually the tournament should run more smoothly. The organisers also spoke about Freestyle being an event for humans and not for computers. Is Freestyle really changing or are these just some words with not too much meaning?

Is Freestyle coming closer to traditional Advanced Chess? The differences are still enormous, as in Freestyle – theoretically speaking – you can use unlimited ressources. But let’s see, how humans and computers will perform in this thrilling events, where grandmasters always had their problems to get the top prizes, as some computer specialists and amateurs with excellent analytical skills and also excellent hard- and software usually give them a hard time. See you!

CCGM Arno Nickel

How to play in the PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament

The tournament takes place on the Playchess server on two weekends, Sept. 7th-9th and 15th-16th. Time controls are 90 min. + 30 sec. The starting time of the first game is Friday, September 7th, 2007, at 17:00h CEST, which is the time in Berlin, Paris, Rome and Madrid. That translates to 16:00h London, 11 a.m. New York, 19:00h Moscow. If you are uncertain about the time in your location you can check this by clicking on times given in the schedule above.

The event 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

Rajlich wins Sixth PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament
25.07.2007 – For the first time in Freestyle a team has succeeded in regaining the title. Vasik Rajlich won the third event in June 2006, and now, together with his wife and French Defence expert IM Iweta Rajlich, has staged a come-back, winning the $16,000 finals on the Playchess server exactly one year later. The 32-processor computer "Mission Control" came sixth. CCGM Arno Nickel reports.

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
25.05.2007 – A "Freestyle tournament" is one in which computer assistance – or help in any conceivable form – during the game is allowed and encouraged. The Sixth PAL/CSS Freestyle tournament takes place from June 1st-3rd, with the finals being held three weeks later. The main sponsor, the PAL Group in Abu Dhabi (UAE), has provided a $16,000 dollar prize fund. Join the fun.
Freestyle Chess –Teaching an Engine how to Fly
28.04.2007 – The 5th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament on 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 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
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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
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Eleven qualify for main Freestyle Tournament
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The $20,000 free-for-all chess tournament
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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.

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Freestyle Blitz Tournament August 7
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