Chess computer buyer's guide

by Albert Silver
11/18/2019 – So you decided you want to upgrade your computer but don’t know where to start? In the following article you will get precise choices for a variety of budgets to help guide you through the maze of choices with precise setups designed to help you get the best bang for your buck. With Black Friday looming around the corner, or even Christmas or Hanukkah to decide on some end-of-the year purchases, this is the one you want to bookmark!

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How can I build the best Fat Fritz computer?

In all cases I have tried to balance a setup that fits within a specific budget as well as fulfil modern usage for both a conventional engine such as Fritz 17 or Stockfish as well as a neural network such as Fat Fritz and Leela. (I do not include an exterior case as that will be very much up to the buyer.) Models and parts were researched for the most part, and a link to their page in NewEgg is given, not to promote the store so much as to make sure the exact suggested item is clear. By all means feel free to tweak as you see fit as this is merely a guide, not stone tablets of what must be chosen.

Please bear in mind that none of the configurations include tax as this can vary from place to place.

Configuration for $850

It is quite possible to put together an attractive machine with eight cores and a fast GPU to boot with very few compromises. The suggested machine will use a second generation AMD Ryzen processor with eight cores and 16 threads, which is found at nearly half the price of the newest third generation processor, paired with a very nice RTX 2070 for an all-round excellent computer. 

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 7 2700 8-Core 3.2 GHz
$170
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty B450 GAMING K4
$85
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200
$60
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
Graphics card GIGABYTE RTX 2070 WINDFORCE 8G (Rev 3.0)
$400
Power supply EVGA 500 BT 100-BT-0500-K1 500W
$49

Total: $864

If your budget can extend a bit more, consider first upgrading the GPU to an RTX 2070 Super, which is a good 15-20% faster, and if a tad beyond, then doubling that memory from 16GB to 32GB

Configuration for $1400

Option 1: All out Fat Fritz

At this price point you certainly have some more interesting choices, and a lot depends on your particular preference. One configuration would be to maintain the 8-core CPU in the first budget, and go all out for a maximum neural network experience, meaning you would be acquiring not one, but two good GPUs. This will give you top-notch results with either Fat Fritz or Leela, while still giving you a very capable processor able to push Stockfish at a good 13 million NPS.

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 7 2700 8-Core 3.2 GHz
$170
Motherboard MSI Performance Gaming X470 Pro Carbon
$170
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200
$60
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
1st Graphics card GIGABYTE RTX 2070 WINDFORCE 8G (Rev 3.0)
$400
2nd Graphics card GIGABYTE RTX 2070 WINDFORCE 8G (Rev 3.0)
$400
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G+, 80 Plus Gold 850W
$129

Total: $1429

To make this configuration work, the motherboard was upgraded to a better choice with good support (and space) for two good-sized GPUs, and a larger 850W power supply. You can upgrade the power supply if you wish, but a similar machine with two faster GPUs, and a more power-hungry CPU only uses 600W at full load, so this should be plenty for a less demanding system. 

As to performance, you can expect Fat Fritz to reach 40knps (benchmarked at start position) with this dual-GPU setup.

Option 2: Balanced build

However, one can also choose to go for a more balanced build with a far stronger processor, but sacrificing one GPU. There is no right or wrong here, and you will need to decide where your preference or priority lies.

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8 GHz
$529
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty B450 GAMING K4
$85
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 3200
$120
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
Graphics card MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER VENTUS OC 8GB
$490
Power supply CORSAIR CX-M Series CX550M
$70

Total: $1394

With this configuration you are looking at a less specialized machine, increasing your expected performance of SF to over 22-24 million NPS, but dropping the Fat Fritz performance to 25 knps.

If you want to build this machine with an option to add a second GPU in the future, you will need to spend an extra $150 to make that really viable (dropping the RAM from 32GB to 16GB can help absorb that): as in the first 'All out Fat Fritz' configuration above, you will want to change the motherboard for the X470 chipset suggested, and add a more powerful power supply that can handle that extra GPU, You can even consider opting for a full 1000W such as the EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G2 80+ GOLD.

Configuration for $2000

Finally, if you are looking at a more generous budget of up to $2000, there is very little to compromise, and you can choose a powerful 12-core processor while pushing the envelope with two top-notch GPUs. This new AMD Ryzen 12-core is so fast it performs similarly to the 16-core processors of a couple of years ago.

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8 GHz
$529
Motherboard MSI Performance Gaming X470 Pro Carbon
$170
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 3200
$120
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
1st Graphics card MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER VENTUS OC 8GB
$490
2nd Graphics card MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER VENTUS OC 8GB
$490
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G2 80+ GOLD
$149

Total: $2048

This is a computer that has no compromises really. You are getting an excellent very fast CPU to run Fritz 17, Stockfish, or whatever engine tickles your fancy, while getting nearly 50 thousand NPS for Fat Fritz for a stellar performance. If you are in the mood for splurging a bit more, then consider upgrading the GPUs to a 2080 or even a 2080 Super.

Links



Topics: Fat Fritz

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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milenp milenp 12/3/2019 03:06
What you will suggets if I already have HP Z620 with 2x10 core Xeons E5-2680? Yes I know my Video card is bad, but should I simply upgrade it? RAM is 48MB currently
Reinderman Reinderman 11/29/2019 08:55
Why 4x8 instead of 2x16? Is it a conscious choice?
Stonker Stonker 11/21/2019 04:32
GPU GTX1660. Ryzen 1700. 32gigRAM. Using FF my GUI indicates 100% Hash use after about 7 mjns. Should I change one of the engine settings? Wondering if there is any point in upgrading to an RTX2070Super, if hash just gets filled so much faster...
OlivierEvan OlivierEvan 11/20/2019 07:13
Chess computer, config file FatFritz guide for blitz and long game by @AlbertSilver.
Stay connected <:o))
geraldsky geraldsky 11/19/2019 11:15
what's is your suggested processors for Intel?
Albert Silver Albert Silver 11/19/2019 05:34
@masquer - I left Intel out because none of their options can compete with AMD right now for the purposes of a chess machine. Intel costs more for less, it is as simple as that.

@schedulea - What parts are you referring to? As to software optimization, I am unclear how that would fit in an article on buying a new computer. I assume the Pentium 1 reference was hyperbole, but if you tell me what you really want, perhaps help might be forthcoming.

@chessmatt - No, a reconfiguration process would not be needed for your situation.
promatix promatix 11/19/2019 05:26
@Masquer intel is too expensive and too slow, now amd rules in processors. Only if someone likes intel because he has such habits but AMD will be more efficient
Masquer Masquer 11/19/2019 12:17
You left out a more reasonably-priced configuration featuring Intel processors. Some of us prefer Intel for computer chess, as it potentially gives better compatibility and performance (although some may debate that).
schedulea schedulea 11/18/2019 08:36
The article was just posted today 11/18/2019 and some parts are already out of stock making the configuration suggested especially for the cheapest one obsolete. The suggested ones here are build your own as opposed to buying ones that are being sold at brick and mortar stores that are ready to use from the time of purchase. Chess has evolved to the point of having higher spec software in terms of CPU, GPU, RAM, Hard drive, etc. making them hardware dependent in terms of performance. I wish the focus was on software optimization such that an old Pentium 1 machine can beat any multicore engine that is not software optimized or any human super world champion.
chessmatt chessmatt 11/18/2019 06:37
@Alber Silver - A question: I noted that the setup for LC0/Fat Fritz through Fritz 17 seems to have optimized for my graphic card better than manual installations previously did. I have "-rtx" options for both Fat Fritz and LC0 that are providing significantly better kN/S performance than I was getting with my manual install. If we update our graphics driver is there a need to redo that optimization - and if so how do we re-run the optimization? (PS - loving the probability output of Fat Fritz especially when there are multiple close candidate moves)

Thanks for the reply on the hash memory - I will need to experiment -maybe I am allocating more than necessary and can tweak this. ICCF correspondence players regularly use multiple engine instances - either to compare analysis from multiple engines or to parallel process many position evaluations. That is what I had in mind.
Albert Silver Albert Silver 11/18/2019 05:37
@chessmatt - I have never heard of anyone running 7 instances of engines, and I need to add that if you are using a single core, there is no reason to make a case of giving it 2GB of hash. Give it 1GB or even 1.5GB, problem resolved.
chessmatt chessmatt 11/18/2019 05:11
Speaking of memory, I think the first configuration with only 16 gb ram would have difficulty supporting analysis with multiple engine instances because it would run into issues with hash memory. As an example, with an 8 core machine you might want to run 7 instances (one per actual core with one core left free for the PC). Let's say you generally want to assign 2048 mb per instance, that would be not be leaving much memory left with just 16 gb. So if you want to do analysis with multiple engine instances simultaneously, invest in the additional memory.
chessmatt chessmatt 11/18/2019 04:36
@graand

The Alienware 51M "laptop" (more like a mobile desktop) has a desktop Intel i9-9900 CPU (8 cores, 16 threads), NVIDIA RTX 2080 (repackaged in alienware form factor - but it is a desktop quality card rather than a mobile version), and 64 gb ram. Amazing machine but also expensive.
EatMyShorts EatMyShorts 11/18/2019 02:43
@graand You can actually find some boutique models that offer dual 2080's...but you'll pay a small fortune for one.

Overall not a bad article, but it makes some assumptions regarding what a PC builder might already have on hand. For instance, off the top of my head, you'll need a case, fans, CPU cooler, thermal paste, a mouse, a keyboard, and a monitor. And believe me...if your're dumping the heat from the CPU and two graphics cards into your case, you better have a real good cooling solution.

Now one of the things I've been wondering is if Fat Fritz (or similar engines, such as Leela) can avail themselves of eGPU setups, and if so, if there is any nps performance hit. If eGPUs are an option, then perhaps a laptop with thunderbolt ports is an option, and as for a desktop setup, there are only a few AMD boards that incorporate thunderbolt ports at this time...so depending upon what's right for you, an Intel-based laptop or desktop solution might be the way to go.
Rusty Razor Rusty Razor 11/18/2019 02:13
Perhaps it might be useful to show some benchmarks with various configurations (i.e. Adjusting core count / (V)RAM / GPUs), to see the optimal price:performance ratio.
Loezjin Loezjin 11/18/2019 01:20
@graand
Fat Fritz uses the graphics card for calculations, so you need a high end gaming laptop
graand graand 11/18/2019 01:08
Thanks Albert. Could you do similar suggestions for 'chess laptops'?

And minimum requirements for Fat Fritz on laptop also?
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