TCEC 11: Premier Division starts

by Stephan Oliver Platz
2/14/2018 – The "Top Chess Engine Championship", TCEC for short, is considered a kind of unofficial computer world championship. Currently the 11th season is played, now in the form of a league with promotion and relegation. After the preliminaries, the "Premier League" started on Tuesday with the eight top programs. S.O. Platz gives an overview of the history of this unofficial chess computer world championship.

Fritz 16 - He just wants to play! Fritz 16 - He just wants to play!

Fritz 16 is looking forward to playing with you, and you're certain to have a great deal of fun with him too. Tense games and even well-fought victories await you with "Easy play" and "Assisted analysis" modes.

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Newcomer "Andscacs" scores first 

The eleventh season at TCEC has been running since Janurary 3rd, 2018, but on Tuesday, February 13th, 19:00 CET, the "Premier Division" kicked off with the eight best chess programs. The two first place finishers will contest a Super Final — a 100 game match like last season — later this year. In 2017, Houdini beat Komodo 53 : 47 in December.

TCEC 11 adopts a league format

For the first time, the competition of the world's best chess programs takes the form of a league system, with both promotion and relegation. The participating programs were divided into five groups: "Division" 1 to 4 and a "Premier Division". Games are played with powerful hardware (2 x Intel Xeon E5 2699 v4 @ 2.8 GHz, 44 CPU) — each program may use up to 43 processors — that means computer chess at the highest level.

Results so far

The time control for Division 4 and Division 3 was 30 minutes plus 10 seconds per move for the game.

TCEC Season 11, Division 4
  1. Defenchess 10 / 14
  2. Senpai 9 / 14
  3. Pedone 8 / 14
  4. Ethereal 7½ / 14
  5. ChessBrainVB 7½ / 14
  6. Toga 7 / 14
  7. The Baron 4 / 14
  8. Scorpio 3 / 14

In addition to the winner Defenchess, Senpai [which means "mentor" in Japanese -Ed.], Pedone, Ethereal and ChessBrain VB also qualified for the next higher league (Division 3).

 
TCEC Season 11, Division 3
  1. Fritz 16 18½ / 28
  2. Laser 17½
  3. Nemorino 14½
  4. Pedone 14
  5. Defenchess 14
  6. Senpai 12½
  7. ChessBrainVB 11
  8. Ethereal 10

Fritz 16 celebrated a successful debut in TCEC. The new program version of star programmer Vasik Rajlich won 10 games, lost only one and played 17 draws. This meant first in the final ranking with 18½ out of 28 in front of Laser (17½) and Nemorino (14½). Thus, Fritz 16 and Laser rose to the next higher league, while Ethereal and ChessBrainVB have to compete again in Division 4 next time.

 

Fritz 16 - He just wants to play!

Fritz 16 is looking forward to playing with you, and you're certain to have a great deal of fun with him too. Tense games and even well-fought victories await you with "Easy play" and "Assisted analysis" modes.

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TCEC Season 11, Division 2

The time control in Division 2 was 45 minutes plus 10 seconds per move for the game.

  1. Jonny 20 / 28
  2. Laser 17½
  3. Texel 16½
  4. Arasan 14
  5. Fritz 16 14
  6. Vajolet 13
  7. Bobcat 10
  8. Wasp 7

The Jonny program by the German developer Johannes Zwanzger won clearly (+12, -0, =16). In addition, Laser made the leap to the next higher league, while Bobcat and Wasp descended. Fritz 16 defended his place in Division 2 in shared 4th/5th place.

 
TCEC Season 11, Division 1

In this division programs had 60 minutes plus 10 seconds per move, and played 56 games.

  1. Andscacs 37 / 56
  2. Fizbo 31½
  3. Booot 31
  4. Jonny 30
  5. Gull 26½
  6. Laser 24½
  7. Hannibal 23
  8. Nirvana 20½

The leap into the "Premier Divison" was achieved by the top program Andscacs, developed by Daniel José Queraltó from Andorra, and Fizbo by Youri Matiounine (USA). Hannibal and Nirvana were relegated.

 

Tension guaranteed in the "Premier Division"

The participants in the "Premier Division" include several of the usual suspects: Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish, but also Fire, Ginkgo, Chiron, Andscacs and Fizbo.

The time control is a full 90 minutes plus 10 seconds per move for the game.

This competition is likely to be of particular interest, as Stockfish 9,  the latest version of this successful open source engine was released earlier this month. Last year, Stockfish missed out on the Super Final, but this time it could be different, because the programmers have especially improved the engine's "Contempt" attitude. This ensures that draws are avoided against weaker programs, even when the position is slightly worse. We look forward to seeing what this change will do in practice.

In addition to Stockfish, the other favorites are of course last year's winner Houdini and last year's finalist Komodo. The computer chess fans can look forward to an exciting tournament.

You can watch the games live at TCEC.chessdom.com. In the first round, there was one decisive game which saw the newcomers Andscacs and Fizbo face off.

 

Komodo Chess 11

The multiple computer chess world champion comes in a new and yet more powerful version. Thanks to co-author US Grandmaster Larry Kaufman, Komodo is the strategist among the top chess programs!

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Links



Stephan Oliver Platz (born 1963) is a passionate collector of chess books and for yours has been successfully playing as an amateur for his German club. The former musician and comedian works as a freelance journalist and author in Berlin and in the Franconian village Hiltpoltstein.
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ChessPizzas ChessPizzas 2/19/2018 06:28
Wow, so this is actually funny. I said tha I was a bit sarcastic in an effort to make things clear but that only served to do things more confusing.

Well, AlphaZero is not a public project so it is hard to say what misconfiguring would mean for them. Probably putting AlphaZero on suboptimal hardware could actually be considered misconfiguring. By suboptimal I mean not running in TPUs for AlphaZero.

It would actually be interesting, not the match itself, but the protests that could possibly come from AlphaZero fans. Suddenly AlphaZero would probably start losing game after game after game against every opponent because it would be running with its performance diminished by running on suboptimal hardware.

Then they will start to say: Oh, it is not fair, it should run on TPUs, not in normal hardware, that is why it is losing.
Then someone else would say: so what? it is running on equal conditions.
- But it was misconfigured!
- Let's call it even then. ;-)

Those guys on the AlphaZero camp usually try to dimiss configuration thing as if it was irrelevant.
They say: If you are talking about the hash size, you are missing the point.
I say, quite the contrary, we are pointing a critical detail, and an ugly one which they don't want to see. Simple and pure denial or ignorance.

Of course this hypothetical scenario is not going to happen because AlphaZero is not going to be executed in TCEC hardware. As I said before, it is technically unfeasible and also highly undesirable. Seriously, what would be the point?

However, even ignoring the technical imposibility of running AlphaZero on TCEC hardware, you should not expect a match like it to happen, simply because the Deepmind team is not interested. They just wanted to make a publicity stunt and that's it. To put it very clear, when the Deepmind team was questioned about the configuration issues of Stockfish (and also Elmo, let's remind ourselves), and the comments of criticism that came from the community, particularly the comments from Tord Romstadt, one of the Stockfish creators, correctly stating that under those circumstances those apparently astonishing results are actually meaningless, they declined to comment by saying that AlphaZero research was not complete. That actually tells a lot. Of course Romstadt was only one of many who pointed out this issue.

You should expect, if such a match ever happens (which, I insist, is very unlikey), to have AlphaZero running on TPU architecture and the rest of the engines in a normal but powerful hardware like the TCEC one. Then they should relay the moves to each other.

So actually a match is possible (again, extremely unlikely to happen) and requires, if it is going to be part of TCEC, a change in the tournament format.
celeje celeje 2/18/2018 04:44
@ChessPizzas:

I actually misunderstood you. Let me explain. My first reading of your first comment was closer to what you did mean. Your second comment, "I was being sarcastic", made me re-read your first comment. I then thought your sarcastic point was "It doesn't matter that DeepMind gave Stockfish small hash, no opening book, etc. It's okay if they were sloppy. Everyone who points those things out is making a fuss about nothing." But your latest comment shows that's not what you meant by "being sarcastic" at all.

So now I know your point was:
"What I was saying from the beginning is that I don't want to see AlphaZero opponents deliberately crippled or blinded by the sloppy configuration that the Deepmind team used for Stockfish and Elmo in their "matches"."

But you also don't want to see AZ not on TPUs because "it is not feasible unless you also want to see it severely diminished in its performance (just like the AlphaZero team misconfigured Stockfish to diminish its strength)."

Okay, I get you now. Thanks for clearing that up.

But there's a difference between weaker hardware and "sloppy configuration Deepmind used".
Putting AZ on the best normal hardware TCEC or normal people can get is not misconfiguring. AZ will perform worse just because normal hardware has much, much less computing power, not because AZ has the wrong settings. If you care about that, AZ can be given more time to make up.

Deepmind gave Stockfish 64 threads, so probably 32 cores, so probably a PC. Good one but still just regular single PC. That's weak, but maybe they say that's the best they had available for Stockfish, though it's much much less powerful than TPUs for AZ.

Misconfiguring Stockfish with little hash, no book, etc. is different. It's not a lack of computer power, but more like incompetence, like what the pointy haired boss from Dilbert would do.
ChessPizzas ChessPizzas 2/17/2018 06:30
Perhaps I should have added the "practically" adverb to my statement to make it entirely true to your satisfaction so let me rephrase it: AlphaZero and traditional engines cannot *practically* run on the same hardware.

Now don't tell me it is untrue now. You said it yourself, on traditional hardware it would run badly.

"You are entitled not to advocate or to advocate whatever you want. Doesn't mean others aren't also entitled to advocate whatever they want, which might be something different".

I am not saying otherwise.

"Some people might like to see what moves AZ makes on traditional hardware."

Like whom and for what purpose? At the time of writing this it is not feasible unless you also want to see it severely diminished in its performance (just like the AlphaZero team misconfigured Stockfish to diminish its strength). I want to see AlphaZero working at its best and that is not going to happen on traditional hardware right now. AlphaZero should run in its TPUs just like it was designed to work with.

What I was saying from the beginning is that I don't want to see AlphaZero opponents deliberately crippled or blinded by the sloppy configuration that the Deepmind team used for Stockfish and Elmo in their "matches".
celeje celeje 2/17/2018 05:37
@ChessPizzas:

I know your first comment was sarcastic because your second comment said so. Your second comment had an untrue statement in it. You can make your point without making untrue statements.

You are entitled not to advocate or to advocate whatever you want. Doesn't mean others aren't also entitled to advocate whatever they want, which might be something different. Some people might like to see what moves AZ makes on traditional hardware.
ChessPizzas ChessPizzas 2/17/2018 05:05
Again, it is not the point. Wether it can run or not, or if it does badly when run on normal hardware is not the point I was making. Also I am not advocating that AlphaZero should be run on traditional hardware just like the other engines.
celeje celeje 2/17/2018 06:46
@ChessPizzas:
Okay, it's hard to tell with these comments.
But that's not correct. AlphaZero could be run on normal hardware. It'd just do really badly.
ChessPizzas ChessPizzas 2/17/2018 06:31
celeje, I was being sarcastic. AlphaZero and traditional engines cannot run on the same hardware but that is not the point.
celeje celeje 2/17/2018 05:21
@ChessPizzas:
If it's played on exactly the same normal hardware, AZ would probably need opponents to have more like 1 second per move to AZ's 1 minute per move.
10s per move for opponents would probably be too much, based on AZ's hardware superiority.
ChessPizzas ChessPizzas 2/17/2018 03:53
AlphaZero will only accept matches if their opponents reduce their hashes to 1 Gb, and also get rid of endgame tablebases and play ten seconds per move. That way it can show it's "superiority" to the world!
celeje celeje 2/16/2018 02:59
I assume @ChessHulk's question is rhetorical & saying that on equal normal hardware Alpha Zero would do really badly. That's true. But it would be interesting to see if Alpha Zero can play okay moves on normal hardware even if it's beaten in every game.
ChessHulk ChessHulk 2/15/2018 02:28
I assume it's been mentioned somewhere, but where is Alpha Zero? This competition would seem to be the *real* place to show the AI self-learning capabilities?
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