Who will be the next Freestyle Champion

by ChessBase
7/5/2006 – 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

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Who will be the next Freestyle Champion?

By Correspondence Chess GM Arno Nickel

Although the increased thinking time for the online event with 60 minutes per player and 15 seconds increment per move was much more human-like this time, only few of the Elo favourites gained the upper hand against the specialists of computer-assisted chess. The Berlin computerchess expert and Correspondence Chess Grandmaster Arno Nickel, himself a participant, took a closer look at the event. Here is his report.

The Finalists

Already in June 16-18, the first four places of the main tournament had qualified: 1.-2. Rajlich, the team of the well-known Rybka programer Vasik Rajlich, and Intagrand, an engine player from England, scoring each 6,5 out of 8, followed by 3.-4. Jazzled (USA) and Campolungo (Netherlands), each 6 points. Twelve players with 5,5 points had to enter the k.o.-tie-breaks on June 24-25, among them GM Tony Kosten (with Hiarcs) and Freestyle-Champion Zorchamp (with Hydra), but also three stand-alone Rybka engines. In the end none of these players stood on the winner’s list, though each one for different reasons. Instead the tie-breaks were won by: Poweronoff (Germany), EmilV (Czechia), Alansacount (USA) and Hedgehog (Switzerland).

Are the “no-names” taking over the lead?

That’s what it may look like, but this impression isn’t correct. In the team of Rajlich, who is an International Master himself, we find the Russian-Polish grandmaster Michal Krasenkow, as reported earlier. Also in other teams there are signs of chess master support, but we are not going to tell you all their secrets, as the Freestyle teams are not obliged to reveal their full identity – on the contrary: Freestyle means “anything goes”. However, it has become a good tradition, that the winners will report about their play and team afterwards.

The impression is wrong for a second reason. Tony Kosten, who played a good tournament and took the lead in the tie-breaks by 1-0 vs. Goldbar (Rybka 2.0, Bart Goldhorn), could not continue to play the whole match. He had to leave for a tournament in Switzerland, so that Harvey Williamson, Beta-Tester of Hiarcs, had to play the next two games on his own, and unfortunately failed to qualify. Of course we don’t deny Bart Goldhorn’s success, but the Final would be even more interesting with Hiarcs operated and advised by a grandmaster. Let us hope for the next time...

All those who were eagerly awaiting Hydra’s comeback in the tie-breaks, were disappointed when Zorchamp, who presents himself as a keen fan of Freestyling on his private website http://www/zorchamp.com, surprised everybody by not playing. We do not know whether lack of time or other reasons stood behind this – we hope to clear up the matter in a later report.

Hard times for stand-alone engines

On the other hand no stand-alone engine qualified for the final (as was the case in the previous tournament), only centaur players did. In view of about 30 automatically playing engines, mostly various Rybka versions (this time often running on dual processors and on 64bit systems) and only a few Shredders, Fritzes, Fruits and Gandalfs, this couldn’t be expected at the start of the tournament. Looking up the final table on playchess.com we find the name Campolungo, to which is attached “Rybka 2.0 beta 2 mp”. But Campolungo only played in first round as a pure engine, mainly because its operator was watching the soccer game Netherlands–Ivory Coast. In fact there is a strong correspondence chess player behind the nickname, and he will reveal himself after the Final.

Nevertheless, three stand-alone Rybka engines made it up to the tie-breaks, where the were stopped (see below). That means, Patrik Schoupal, who this time after a promising start missed the Final with his team Equidistance, was right when he predicted before the event that due to the new time controls not more than one stand-alone engine would qualify for the final. However, the decision wasn’t that clear, and a different outcome was equally possible.

The tie-breaks

Here are the results of the tie-breaks. The stand-alone Rybka engines are given in italics. Due to engine crashes in the main tournament these Rybkas did not play automatically in the tie-breaks, but their moves were executed by hand.

1. Round:
EL SHADDAI vs PAKman 2:0
Tony Kosten vs Goldbar 1:2
Hedgehog vs Ciron-Randori 1,5:0,5
Bychamp II vs Zor_champ +:-

2. Round
Poweronoff vs Bychamp II 1,5:0,5
Eve®est vs Hedgehog 0,5:1,5
EmilV vs Goldbar 1,5:0,5
Alansacount vs EL SHADDAI 2:1

A word to the tie-break modus. Two mini-matches had to be played. In the first round the four players of the places 5 to 8 of the main tournament had a bye. They entered the tie-breaks in the second round against the four match winners of place 9 to 16 (9 vs. 16, 10 vs. 15 etc.). Each mini-match consisted of two games with the same time controls as in the main tournament. In case of a 1:1 result only one further game had to be played. Now White had to win in order to qualify, while Black with only 45 minutes on the clock needed just a draw to proceed to the next stage. There were only two of these “sudden death” games, one won by White, the other one by Black. I think, this modus is much better than that one in this previous tournament, when games with much shorter thinking time had to be played, thus giving an advantage to the stand-alone engines. Of course it would be even better if we could avoid tie-break games all together, but if not such games are better than to decide who qualifies using Buchholz points.

The course of the tournament

The course of the tournament was characterized by a close and tenacious struggle of the teams which had the best start and strived to hold the lead throughout the eight round tournament. Thus, Rajlich (a czech-polish team) and Jazzled (USA) could be content with a draw in their last round meeting, while Poweronoff (Germany) lost his safe position, when he was defeated by Intagrand (England) at the same time, and had to prove himself in the tie-breaks vs. Bychamp II (Brazil).

A splendid start with a Hattrick was shown by Eve®est (Turkey), well-known from earlier tournaments, but his out came in the tie-breaks vs. Hedgehog (Switzerland). Disclosing the secret of who is behind the Swiss team will probably one of the most interesting questions of the Final. Also my own team Ciron-Randori suffered a tie-break defeat vs. the strong player with the handle Hedgehog. We learnt that playing as a team isn’t always more effective than playing on ones own. Only if you are very well organized, with a strict division of tasks, that you can succeed. But we didn’t manage to work like this in the tie-breaks, and had to pay. Next time you will probably see Ciron, that’s me, and Randori alias Silvo Lahtela, playing each on his own, though we will enjoy the event together at the same place, PC next to PC.

Grandmaster Tony Kosten had a splendid start with 3.5 out of 4, until round 5, when Rajlich demolished his b3-Sicilian. Otherwise he would have had very good chances to qualify directly without entering the tie-breaks.

Right from the beginning this was not the tournament of the Freestyle Champion Zorchamp, who had to suffer five draws after a first round win, before he succeeded to come close to the leading teams after two wins in round 7 and 8. A very solid and in effect successful tournament was played by EmilV, not to be read as “Emil the Fifth”, as the name of the player is Vlasak Emil. In his account you will find that he is a good at Blitz too. In any case he had quite good freestyle results before, but now came the real breakthrough, and he will represent the Czech colours in the Final instead of his friends from Equidistance.

The Mexican FIDE Master Abel Davalos, playing under the handle Abeljusto, once again missed the Final after a promising start. Close to him we find Noritano and Stabiloboss, two well-known German Correspondence IMs, Dieter Gutsche and Dr. Matthias Kribben. They are certainly not the only strong correspondence players in Freestyle, where we almost traditionally meet the former world champion and FIDE IM Michail Umanski, a bold Advanced Chess player, who evidently doesn’t much care too much about really strong hardware and thus had to pay his tribute once again. Another very strong CC Grandmaster entered the Freestyle Tournament for the first time, but before revealing his identity we will give him another chance to make it to the Final. His first try was more or less in order to gain experience.

Once again without hiding his identity the Czech Grandmaster Petr Hába tried his best. If he hadn’t lost to Alansacount in the 3rd round he would have had good chances to qualify. Doing better from tournament to tournament he also might be one of the candidates in the next Freestyle event.

For the first time we saw the Israeli Grandmaster Arthur Kogan, who showed a hard fight and had also good chances to qualify until his defeat vs. Zorchamp (Hydra) in round 6. Another highlight was once again the participation of the world class Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran (Elo 2692), who this time stayed in the tournament for six rounds, scoring 0, 0, 1, 1, 0.

There were more well-known names and title holders in the field, which may be interpreted as a sign of continuous interest and increasing popularity of Freestyle.

Engine Crashes

The new time controls have generally been greeted and accepted, so that we can keep it like this in the next phase and in the 4th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament in autumn (the exact dates aren’t fixed so far). A big problem for some teams are still engine crashes. If you are using the latest server software the game will normally restart automatically. But in case of older versions the tournament director or his assistants have to restart the game by hand, which usually costs time and nerves. This is why we like to advice everybody: please make sure you have the latest Playchess client installed in order to avoid such problems. At the end of the main tournament the organizers announced that they would no longer manually restart games which were disrupted by using an old Playchess client.

Final – Round robin tournament ("all play all")

Time controls are 60 minutes for all the moves plus a 15 second increment per move. Each player plays one game against every other player. If tie-breaks are needed these will be played on the same day, after the regular games have finished.

Final (Friday-Sunday, July 14-16, 2006)

Round 1

Friday, 14.07.2006

17:00h CEST

Round 2

Friday, 14.07.2006

20:00h CEST

Round 3

Saturday, 15.07.2006

14:00h CEST

Round 4

Saturday, 15.07.2006

17:00h CEST

Round 5

Saturday, 15.07.2006

20:00h CEST

Round 6

Sunday, 16.07.2006

14:00h CEST

Round 7

Sunday, 16.07.2006

17:00h CEST

Participants in the finale must be in the playing hall ten minutes before the start of each round.

The winner of the finals gets the first prize of US $8,000 and the title of "Third PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Champion". The runner-up gets $4,000, the third place gets $2,000. There will be special software prizes for the places 4-8.


Reports on previous Freestyle Tournaments

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
28.02.2006 Would you like to play in a grandmaster tournament? From your home and for a substantial prize fund? With a guarantee that you will not disgrace yourself? Then think about joining the second PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament, where anything goes. Where computer assistance is not forbidden, but is positively encouraged. Full details.

Dark horse ZackS wins Freestyle Chess Tournament
19.06.2005 The

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