How does the Engine Cloud work?

by Nadja Wittmann
8/22/2019 – If you have ever had a chess engine analysing deeply on your notebook, you'll notice you soon hear the cooling fan rushing, the battery is sucked empty as your push the limits of the hardware. The ChessBase Engine Cloud solves this problem: Current chess engines, installed on high-performance hardware — your wish is their command! Use the cloud's computing power without burdening your notebook or upgrading to expensive hardware. Have top-notch processing power already. Then you can become a supplier! The Engine Cloud is also a marketplace where you can rent engines out to others. The latest edition is of course FAT FRITZ ChessBase's own AlphaZero-like AI chess engine running on 8-core CPUs and dual graphics cards.

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The advantages of the engine cloud

1. Optimize your analysis

Working with multiple engines simultaneously makes a lot of sense — cloud systems running in parallel can undertake the most challenging of calculation tasks without the slightest loss of performance. One example of the benefits of this would be running one cloud engine in the slower “multiple variation” mode to see just how sharp the positon is. Meanwhile, another engine could be focusing on just the main line, reaching very deep search depths.

2. Save system resources

Running a multiprocessor engine on a notebook or laptop is very energy intensive — a lot of battery power is used just to cool the system. And because chess engines makes the CPU run at full capacity your portable device will soon be switching into stand-by mode. Running an engine from the cloud, however, means that your device doesn’t need to perform the calculation locally – as all the computation is performed by a machine running from mains power.

3. Dispense with expensive hardware

Serious analysis requires very powerful computers. However, such systems are expensive, take up a lot of space, and suffer from a high rate of obsolescence, given that new processors are being developed all the time. If you just use the engine cloud whenever you need it, you stand to save a great deal!

4. Peak performance when you need it

If, for example, a correspondence game comes to a head and a critical position needs deep analysing, one might want to dramatically ramp up processing power. With the engine cloud even the tiniest of notebooks can be running a bank of strong engines on powerful machines – and all at the click of a mouse.

High-end for everybody! 

If you own a number of computers you can run all your engines on all of them and harness the full processing power on a single PC. Or you can rent your machines to other users via the “Cloud”. This is an especially exciting development for owners of high-performance computers or clusters. But the key point is: you can rent processing power from third parties and turn your little notebook or your “old faithful” into a tactical giant and strategic monster at the click of a button! 

"Let’s Check”

Join the community! “Let’s Check” is a revolutionary new feature of ChessBase that will change the chess world. With it Fritz users can join a world-wide community that is putting together a giant knowledge base for chess. Using Let’s Check while watching top games live on the Playchess server becomes an experience in itself. Not only do you have the very latest openings and statistics at your disposal, you can also see the results of the most powerful computers and engines that are logged into the server — all the info at your fingertips.

What does it cost?
  1. The provider determines a booking fee for the engine (it can even be zero ducats).
     
  2. The provider sets a base price per minute. Currently, the prices are 0.01 to 0.65 ducats (10 ducats = 1 euro), You might pay 39 cents for an hour working with one of the more expensive engines.
     
  3. If an engine is "busy" you can offer a higher price than the base price to book it with priority. You can also enter an upper, automatic limit for your own bid so that you can automatically bid up to a certain price level.
     
  4. Guaranteed Price Per Minute: The vendor can set a fixed price that will not allow you to be outbid and use the engine for as long as you want.
     
  5. You can end the analysis with the engine at any time, for example, if you are not satisfied with the results. In this way, you can try different engines quickly, without any risk.
What do the coloured buttons in front of the engines in the list mean?

The current status of each of the engines on offer is show with red, green and yellow buttons:

  • Green medal: The engine is available: Double-click to hire the engine.
     
  • Yellow medal: The engine is in use right now, but you can hire the engine with a higher bid. Note: Each bid costs an additional fee equal to the current rate per minute. The fee will also be charged if your bid is unsuccessful. This feature protects the current user from destructive bidding in this way. If your bid does not win, you can put yourself on the waiting list ("queue"). In this case, the engine would load immediately as soon as the previous user releases it. If at this moment a board window with a position is opened, then the engine will immediately begin automatically with the analysis of this position.
     
  • Red medal: The engine is in use and can not be rented by higher bids because the current user has paid the fixed max price. 

ChessBase Engine Cloud

Click or tap to enlarge

What do I have to consider when renting?

Double-click on a "green" engine to rent it. A dialogue box opens in which you can enter all the parameters regarding the price (maximum rate, budget, enter fixed price, if applicable). After pressing "OK", you can then use the engine. To stop using the engine, click on the "STOP" button in the same dialogue box (it will remain in the background during use). This will stop the use and process the payment immediately.

Bid for Fat Fritz

What is a "Private Cloud Engine"?

If you have a high-performance PC at home and are on the go with your notebook, you can connect to the notebook via the cloud and use your own home computing power on the go!

  • Specify on your PC the engine in the cloud via (e.g.) ChessBase 15, Fritz 16 or Komodo 13.
  • Connect with your ChessBase account username.
  • Click Engines → Open Engine Cloud.
  • Click "Offer Private Engine" and select the engine you would like to offer in the cloud.

That's it! You can use your own private engine from another computer. Just open the Cloud Engines window on another computer and connect to the same ChessBase account. Your private engine will now be highlighted in blue in the list. Double-click to start the engine (of course this is free!)

How do I offer an engine for public use?

It is very simple to offer other users your own engine, running on your own computer and offer it for rent in the ChessBase Engine Cloud:

  • Open ChessBase 15 and log in with your ChessBase Account
  • Cloud → Engine Cloud
  • In the window that appears now you will find a list with all engines that are being provided in the engine cloud at that moment

Click on "Offer Public Engine" to offer (one of) your own engine(s):

Offer public engine

Click or tap to enlarge

Select the engine you would like to offer (in our example, we see Fritz 16) and confirm the selection with OK. 

Load engine

In the dialogue box you can then set the prices for the rental: 

Revenue public engine

Tips for providers

At the beginning you generally should set a low booking fee (i.e. zero) if you want many people to try out your machine. Offer your engine for free to gain experience points. You will still earn Ducats because users might rent your box at the max fixed rate. People might try out your engine for only a minute or two, but this is OK — the point is to gain credibility.

Once your engine is well-known and respected, a higher booking fee and low minute rate encourages serious users who prefer long sessions.

Increase your chances by offering different engines than other people. Users might want to analyse with more than one engine at once. Modern engines play very similarly and tend to be optimized for computer chess strength. However, for analysis, users might prefer unusual engines like (e.g.) Deep Junior which suggest alternative moves.

The server will identify your engine by your name, the engine name and a hardware identification key. It will calculate average node speeds for you and sum up the "Likes" received from users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use engines without spending ducats?

Of course! You can provide private engines from your own machines for yourself. This is the main use of the Engine Cloud. You can also use free engines from others.

Can I bid lower than the current minute rate asked? Can I negotiate a price?

You can always queue a bid. The provider will be notified of your bid and might even lower the current rate. If he/she does so, the engine will load automatically. It is recommended to open a board window with your analysis position. If you gain the engine while being away from your computer, analysis will then start automatically.

Can I limit the time I am using an engine?

You can limit your ducats budget. As soon as the budget limit is reached, the engine will be unloaded and the current variation plus evaluation will be stored in the game notation.

Can I play engine matches?

Yes, the engine cloud is an interesting auto-play option. You could also run tactical test suites or play in the playchess.com engine room. Engine tournaments are not implemented yet. If you use engines for playing it is recommended to use the reliable rate which protects you from getting outbid by others. Losing control of the engine would resign the game.

Can I make my engine visible for a limited group of users only?

Yes! In your provider window (which opens when you offer an engine), call "Edit Engine Data" and add the users to the "private users" list.

What is the "provider experience"?

It is a function of total minutes over all engines, number of different users, "likes" received and Ducats earned.

At what price should I offer my machine?

Price is a function of supply and demand. Try offering for free to gain experience ranking and then benefit from auctions.

What is the meaning of "Max. time for fixed rate"?

The fixed rate protects a user from bidding. After a time limit set by the provider has been reached, the engine is open for auctions again, but the current user may continue working.

Can I offer more than one engine on one machine?

No, your engines are identified by a combination of your name, the engine name and a unique machine identifier. This combination has to be unique for every engine.

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