Thursday, December 25, 2008

FrayerChess Metamorphoses

A preview of FrayerChess 2009

Hello everyone; I would like to wish all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. Thank you all for visiting the FrayerChess website over the past year.

Maintaining this website and its associated blogs has been a learning experiences for me as well as therapeutic one. Although I have been frustrated at times, an entertained thoughts of giving it up, a small but dedicated group of computer chess players have always been there to give me encouragement.

It has always been my intent to provide information and recourses for engine chess players. The promotion of engine chess as a true sport has also been a priority. To better accomplish these goals I encourage all visitors to offer suggestions of what they would like to see on the website in the coming year.

FrayerChess is getting ready to go through a metamorphoses. I have been looking closely at what other chess sites are providing and trying to judge what is needed. Engine players seem to want available downloads of opening books, game bases and end game table bases. Those new to engine vs. engine chess need advice on hardware, software configuration and opening book development. Although some of these areas are out of my range of expertise I may be able to enlist the help of more knowledgeable players to write articles and answer question in these areas.

In the coming year I intend to concentrated on opening book development, as well as playing in Freestyle chess events. As for the FrayerChess website you will be seeing a new look, more downloads, commentaries and articles by top computer chess enthusiasts.

As always, any comments, questions or suggestion may be sent to me at

Friday, December 12, 2008

InfinityChess Responds to Criticism

InfinityChess General Manager:

GM Arno Nickel

Dear Mr. Frayer:

Only now (Dec 8th) I saw your report about the InfinityChess Freestyle Tournament on your website (Nov 18th). Unfortunately your report is misleading in some points and drawing a more negative picture as would have been appropriate.

1) First, you should have mentioned that the application used for the tournament was a beta version, updated shortly before the tournament. All players knew about that, before the tournament got started. I as the TD, same as others, had no experience with this version. Of course, did I expect less problems with the software, otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed to perform this event.

All I could do after it turned out, that the software wasn’t ready for the tournament, was either canceling the tournament (that would have been the easiest choice for me) or trying to improvise to the benefit of the players and the server. I decided for the second option, and you should know that all players who stayed there till the end (14 of 16) proved very grateful for the way I did my job.

2) Taking into account the resulting difficulties, it was not possible and wouldn’t have been fair to decide on all conflicts as if we had a proper application and e.g. disconnected players (by fault of the server) losing their games, if these games could not be resumed automatically. Actually, in some cases we managed to find solutions and agreements for interrupted games, and also, if it turned out to be necessary to give the full point to one of the players, I was glad to see sensible insight from both of the players.

3) Regarding your interrupted game with Kevin Plant, you correctly describe that it was your decision to withdraw from the tournament, before a decision was taken. You did neither accept a) further tries to resume the game, nor b) getting the full point by approval of Kevin and me, nor the draw offer from Kevin’s side. You simply left the tournament without any attempt to solve the situation.

In particular, I am very disappointed to read the following allegations:

4) “However, I did get the distinct impression the Arno Nickel was happy to see me go. His convenient lapse in understanding English as well as his not making a decision in a timely fashion convinced me of this.”

5) “Later, after I saw the tournaments final results I realized there were many irregularities in the way the points where awarded. Just to give one example The final tour results have (Yurisolo) playing me in the eighth round, he wins with the black peaces. lol Perhaps some one played for me the same way some one played for my second round opponent.”

The final table leaves no doubt about “forfeit” results which are quite normal in case of withdrawals, and the almost complete database, recovered in some hours of work (also provided by me) may also prove that we all just tried to do our best and be fair to everyone.

I hope, you will agree to publish this as my comments on your website.

Kind Regards A r n o N i c k e l
(General Manager)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To Infinity and Beyond

I normally do not post private correspondences, however Kevin Plant’s letter to me was so well received and exemplifies his good sportsmanship that I thought it appropriate. It also elaborates on the difficulties I encountered in InfinityChess last Freestyle tournament. Kevin Plant was my opponent in the forth round after which I withdrew from the tournament for conscientious reasons. Kevin is one of the engine room moderators for InfinityChess.

After the writing of this blog post but before I could publish it, I received an official response from Infinity Chess General Manager Arno Nickel to my first commentary regarding InfinityChess. He has ask me to place his response on my website and blog. I will be happy to do this and it will be posted in its entirety in a few days.

Hi Kevin:

My Name is Kevin Plant and I have just read your article on your Blog today 08/12/2008. I thought I would explain what happened in our Round 4 game from my side. After my move 23...Qf6 about 5 minutes went by and no 24th move came from your side which in its self means nothing as some replies by players take longer than this but after 6 mins went by I was getting a bit worried, so I thought I would check by logging on the server on my other computer as a guest to see whether you had played a move and to my horror you had!, but this did not show up on the board I was playing on, I spoke to Arno via private chat that my board was not showing my opponents last move and he said this was maybe a bug and advised me to log off and back on again and resume game. As you well know this did not work.

As you will see from the tournament results page on I did not take the full point after you decided you could no longer play on under these circumstances, It was entered as a draw as I felt that this was the only way I could continue the tournament without feeling guilty about gaining a point that I did not win and also hoping you would come back the next round after cooling down so to speak.

As for the remaining rounds where you were included but did not play, These were given as forfeit wins to your opponent (they were hoping you may return) to keep the pairing and colors correct during the tournament as was used for other player/s that did not complete the tournament.

Yes the tournament did not run as it should have, but as you maybe aware or not, this was and still is a beta site and there will be issues where things do not work as they should. We need players like yourself that have the experience and knowledge to help us out with these difficult early stages to make this an excellent Server to play Freestyle tournaments and day to day things like chatting and playing, whether these are with engines or human to human Chess games.

I do hope you have a change of heart and play in our Christmas Freestyle tournament starting this Friday 12th December. I can not of course guarantee that it will go smoothly but we have tested and it appears we have ironed out these bugs.

Your Chess friend

Thank you very much for your nice email regarding the InfinityChess Freestyle tournament the week of November 14, 2008. As mentioned in my blog commentary your conduced was exemplary and I would consider it a pleasure to play chess with you anytime.

I went into this tournament knowing that the server was still being beta tested and was more than willing to help work out the bugs. However many of the problems seemed to be the result of mistakes made by an inexperienced tournament director.

I was not aware that the TD had ask you to log off. Mr. Nickel did not advise me of that fact in the chat we exchanged while you were offline. I even told him, the server had noted you had not disconnected but had logged off. He knew or should have known that given the servers current limitations that the game could not be continued.

Please don’t take this wrong. There are many reasons that the game could have locked up for you, that do not include problems with the server. These include problems with your operating system, software launching at the wrong time, virus protection programs running, or internet connection trouble. I believe that responsibility for maintaining hardware, software, and internet connection is all part of being a well prepared computer chess player.

I came into the tournament as well prepared as my 20 years of internet chess experience allowed. I was using three computers, one for opening book, one for positional analyses (a borrowed xeon 8 way), and one for internet connection to the server. The better prepared player must be allowed to reap the rewards of his labor. In the engine chess world, all players lose a few games do to unforeseen occurrences.

There were several ways Mr. Nickel could have resolved the situation that accrued during our game. I would have agreed to an adjournment until the technical difficulties of restarting the game could have been worked out. It also may have been acceptable to me to restart the game from the beginning, with the same colors and time controls. The only option I was given was to manually try to reconstruct the game ignoring the time advantage I had gained and opening the possibility of disputed positions. (As you know, in an earlier round of this tournament an attempted at this kind of reconstruction of a game led to a dispute).

Arno Nickel did not ask me if I would accept a draw, (I would not have) and if he had awarded us both a full point it would have still been a draw, (with the caveat of disadvantaging the other players in the tournament). Also please understand, when I told Mr. Nickel that if the game reconstruction option was the only one, I would retire from the tournament. He told me he understood and cut off communications with me. In fact, he did not acknowledge the email I sent him two hours later officially withdrawing from the tournament and did not communicate with me at all for three weeks. (Then only because he had become aware of possible negative publicity being generated by my commentary).

The commentary about the InfinityChess Freestyle Tournament posted on my Blog and website reflected the dissatisfaction I felt in not receiving an equal opportunity to compete for the prize money being offered by the sponsors.

Thank you for asking me to reconsider participating in the Freestyle events on InfinityChess. All it would probably take is an email from Arno Nickel asking the same.

All the best:
Your chess friend:

Kevin Frayer:
Vincennes IN USA

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Infinitely Bad Experience

By Kevin Frayer

After sitting out of computer chess for a few weeks I attempted to play in Infinity Chess’s Freestyle Tournament last weekend. I can not tell everyone how excited I was that a new chess server had come online, providing engine players an untainted place to play. (To be honest, I had become disillusioned with the wild west show being put on by Chessbase over at Playchess.) I had great hopes that Infinity Chess would be better.

The tournament started Friday November 14, the server had a dedicated room for Freestyle chess. By the time the tour was ready to start there were over 40 players in the room. (Or so we thought) The tournament director Arno Nickel (ciron) informed us that due to problems with the software, all parings would be done by hand. Finally the centaur only tournament was started.

My game came online and the time was set at one minute blitz, a cry arose from the chat window. (The time is wrong, the time is wrong) I did not play and lost on time. This game was rated and I lost Elo points from my centaur rating that were never restored. After a short intermission the TD advised us that he could not restart the tour with the correct times and that we should all go over to the engine room for further instructions.

After moving over to the engine room I noticed something strange. Only 17-18 players moved over to the new room. (Hmm) As it turned out at lest 20 Accounts seemed not to be real. I supposed that they must have been phantom accounts being projected by the server to make it appear the tournament was well attended. I hoped it was for appearances only and not for a more nefarious reason.

Arno Nickel now informed us he could not run the tournament in the traditional way. He would now give us the pairings over chat and we would need to challenge the player we were paired with. The games would have to be unrated so the server would allow the players to choose the colors the TD assigned. At this point I started getting a funny feeling about this tour.

I got white the first round and challenged my opponent at 45-10 and started my game. It was not long before there was trouble in the chat window. In the game (Hoshad) was playing there was a disconnect. I am not sure whether it was Hoshad or his opponent, however when both players were back on line it was not possible to continue the game. According to the TD a glitch in the software prevented the continuation of the game. (only about 9 moves had been made) Mr. Nickel advised the two players he had the game in front of him and he would walk them through the moves. He ask that the players challenge a new game with the same colors and he would read them the moves to the point the game had been disrupted. This was done, however after the final position was reached, Hoshad disputed the position. Claming a Bishop was on the wrong square. An accommodation could not be reached and Hoshad forfeited the game.

I was soundly defeated in my first game by a player who was unknown to me, but all went well. The parings for the second round were given out and I had black. My opponent however did not seem to be online. I was ask by the TD to please wait, to see if he would return. He did not, the TD rather than awarding me the game by forfeit, (as was the case in many matches in this tour) ask if I would play an alternate opponent. Not wishing to be disruptive and not wanting to claim a point I felt I did not earn, I agreed.

My second round game began, I was playing black. Well into the middle game my opponent fell behind in material and time. Apparently he just quit playing and allowed 10 min. to run off his clock. I won on time. I don’t know about everyone else but I consider it to be rude to just stop playing when you get behind in a game.

In the third round I came up against Alberto Gueci (Spaghettichess) one of the strongest engine chess players in the world. I should have known better than to get into a Sicilian Poison Pawn as black with him. However as always, it was a pleasure just be at the table with a player of Alberto’s caliber.

The real problem for me occurred in my fourth round game. I was paired with Cumnor Chess Club. (Kevin D. Plant) At move 24 Mr. Plant logged off. (The GUI said Logged Off) Unlike several other times over the past two days when I had seen players lose internet connection the GUI had always said Player has lost connection.

(4) Frayer - CumnorChessClub [C92]
4R freestyle, 15.11.2008
512MB, Heretic 2.2.ctg, Xeon 8way 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a4 h6 13.Bc2 exd4 14.cxd4 Nb4 15.Bb1 c5 16.d5 Nd7 17.Ra3 f5 18.exf5 bxa4 19.Rxe8 Qxe8 20.Nh4 Bxd5 21.Rxa4 Ne5 22.Nf1 Qf7 23.Ra3 Qf6 24.Ne3 Line

The TD was immediately at my game, he had seen the same server notice of log off as I had. I was ask to wait for my opponent to come back on so the game could be continued. Within ten minutes Mr. Plant had indeed came back online. Under the supervision of the TD we tried several times to continue the game, but the server would not allow it.

At this point Mr. Nickel suggested that we start a new game at 35-10 time and he would walk us threw the moves to the point where the game was stopped. I said no. This looked to me as it was going much like the Hoshad game had ended up. The TD and I began discussing the problem in private chat. I explained to him I was reluctant to allow a reconstruction of the game because the possibility of a dispute arising over the game position. Also, I was several minutes ahead of my opponent in time on the clock when he left the game. Mr. Nickel then told me that he was having trouble understanding me because of the language barrier. I could see where this was going so I ask to be allowed to resign the game and the point be given to my opponent. Mr. Nickel said he would not allow this, so I withdrew from the Tournament.

This is the email I sent the tournament director before the start of the fifth round.

Mr. Nickel:
Please forgive me for retiring from your Freestyle Tournament today.
I believe you did everything possible to accommodate the situation that occurred. I no longer have an appetite for conflict in chess and did not wish to disrupt play for others.
I am also sorry, I was not able to articulate in chat what the problem was for me. I suppose I did not want to criticize you and felt I was being put in a position to have to claim a point I did not earn.
As you said “disconnects happen“. When they do the server and GUI should allow for continuing the game. If the game can not be continued or restarted with the exact time and board position, then the player who disconnected should be deemed the loser. This may seem harsh, however if disconnects are allowed and reconstruction of games disputed you will multiply your problems as a tour director. It will also be true that some disconnects will be intentional. When a player makes a blunder or a mouse slip he may just wish to disconnect and take his chances in disputing the board position.
I realize that this was just a test run for your Freestyle Tournaments and I am sure you will get the bugs worked out of the GUI. A big thanks to you and all of your team for providing a great new place to play chess.


Kevin Frayer:
Vincennes IN USA

Now let me make this very clear, my opponent in this game Cumnor Chess Club (Kevin D. Plant) did nothing wrong and in fact acted very honorably. He told me that he saw my point and ask that the game be given to me.

However, I did get the distinct impression the Arno Nickel was happy to see me go. His convenient lapse in understanding English as well as his not making a decision in a timely fashion convinced me of this. Later, after I saw the tournaments final results I realized there were many irregularities in the way the points where awarded. Just to give one example The final tour results have (Yurisolo) playing me in the eighth round, he wins with the black peaces. lol Perhaps some one played for me the same way some one played for my second round opponent.

I spent two weeks preparing for this tournament and had high hopes that Infinity Chess would be a good place to play. I can honestly say that my overall experience was extremely negative. This weekends Freestyle tournament was plagued by server problems, bad decisions from the tournament director and a high probability of collusion between players using secret accounts. I will not be participating in any activities on the Infinity Chess server as long as these problems continue.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spook R3

Spook R3 is the blitz tuned variant of Chimera R3. It is intended to replace the Ghost books. It has undergone extensive hand tuning (26 generations). You will not see many red and green play marks in this book (that generally indicates heavy hand tuning) this is because I have imbedded the tuning. This process leaves a clean slate for the user to impose their own continued tuning without confusion.

The R3 in the name of the book indicates that the new Rybka 3 engine was used in all the off line analyses work on the book as well as in all games used in the books original learn files.
Spook R3 will perform best at 3-0 5-0 and 16-0 time controls. The following book settings are recommended.

Book Settings: Chimera and Spook Books

Use Book: on
Tournament Book: on
Varity of Play: min (all the way to left)
Influence of learn Value: max (all the way to right)
Learning Strength: min (all the way to left)
Minimum games: 0 Up to move: 100

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chimera R3

Chimera R3 is a completely new ctg. opening book with a much different approach toward engine opening theory than that of the Ghost books. This new methodology should in premise provide a stronger opening strategy for a greater number of players.

I began to notice the highly hand tuned Ghost books had become too specialized for the average engine player. Ghost was and still is being developed for fast time controls 3-5 minute blitz. But it is also a tournament book using a highly restricted opening repertoire and designed to expect a particular type of opponent. In other words what I was seeing was some players did not do as well with tournament books as others did. With the ever changing conditions in engine chess, The new Rybka 3 engine and some readily available broader based opening books (M. Servet Kultur’s Compmaster 2.0 and Noonen’s Rybka 3 book) I started work on Chimera R3.

Chimera is made from over 340,000 games selected from a database of 4 million current engine games. Games chosen by me to impart the learn weights are both statistical based and theoretically grounded. It turned out to be a large book as deep as it is wide. At the present I have set the book to play e4 and to respond to e4 with c5 however it will play and counter many other openings.

I would like feedback from the players who try the book. Pleases drop me an email at if you have any comments or suggestions. I will update the book from time to time. O yes and did I mention the best thing about Chimera R3 is that it is free.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Ghost Books

The Ghost opening books are completely new .ctg books. Based on the most recent playchess rated games and my own off line work. I have tried to incorporate lessons learned from the tour book series, however Ghost will take much different tack in the way it is updated.

Book Settings:(Ghost Books)
Use Book: on
Tournament Book: on
Varity of Play: min (all the way to left)
Influence of learn Value: max (all the way to right)
Learning Strength: min (all the way to left)
Minimum games: 0 Up to move: 100

If anyone is interested in doing book testing for the Ghost book project pleases let me know. The only requirements are; that I actually know who you are, (not just your nick) that you use at lest a quad core computer with a 64bit operating system and that you have a playchess account.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Short Vacation

Under Doctors orders I am taking some time off. The weather here in Southern Indiana is beginning to get nice. I have been taking short walks in the country side for the fresh air and exercise. It is not easy for me to escape cyberspace and the self imposed isolation in which I live. But there are some things I have promised myself I would do this summer.

I am going into the public parks and court yards with a chessboard and teaching chess to all that wish to learn.

I am taking a camera into the natural world and photographing what I find there.

Some Photos from my April Walks:

I may even do some fishing. (I always release the fish I catch)

With any luck I will return to engine chess in a few weeks rejuvenated.

This being said I would like to leave my new opening book for everyone to work on. This book, Ghost 0.2 is a totally new book based entirely on games played this year. It is a bit larger than my tour books and contains all the new lines recently developed. (Including the winning lines from the Freestyle tournament)

Ghost 0.2 is ready for the hand tuning phase of development. But remember, it is intended to play e4 as white and c5 as black against e4. What I am saying is, don’t try to make it play d4. Although it has all the black lines to counter d4 it has very few lines to play the Queens pawn as white.

Good luck: and I will see you all when I return.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Freestyle Chess

I have opted out of playing in the 8th Freestyle tournament starting this weekend. My decision not to play is entirely for personal reasons involving constraints upon my time and finances. The conditions the tournament is being played under this cycle are, in my opinion, very fair and equitable. We can be assured that the quality of chess will extremely high and I encourage everyone to fallow the games on the Playchess server. I would like to wish good luck to all the participants.

The defending champions Ibermax (Cato the Younger) must be considered the team to overcome if victory is to be obtained. Ibermax’s performance in the last tournament was impressive and I have the highest regard for the teams organizational skills and its members individual abilities.

Thanks to everyone that have assisted and contributed to my opening book project, most especially the book testers, without whom the quality of the public books would not be what they are. As always the book updates are available for free on my website

Also a big thanks to the websites that have linked to my site and or sent referrals. (Check these out)

Don’t forget to click on the Google ads at lest once while visiting my website. (I receive a small monetary compensation every time this is done) Consider it buying me a cup of coffee. Thanks.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Neverending Book

It will come to no surprise to those following this blog that continual updating of opening books is the linchpin of my book theories. It is pleasing to know that even in engine chess the player whom is able and willing to put in the time will reap the rewards.

I realize that not every player has the time or inclination to spend more time on analyzing games and updating books than they do on actually playing. This is however the road to good results and honest Elo. Setting aside some time everyday to go over your played games and using infinite analyses mode to find alternate lines in places you seemed to come out of book ineffectively, is a good start.

The book updates that I make available have 20-30 hours of work invested in them. They are based on hundreds of rated games played by fast Quad machines and are *book specific. It is my hope that they will give the serious engine player that does not have the time to do the book work a competitive advantage.

Thank you all for the support and encouragement that I have received in this project, it will continue as long as downloads remain steady. I think you will find this latest update 14.1i the strongest thus far.

*Book Specific
Only games that were played by the book are being used to update the book.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Standing on the Shoulders of Geniuses

It seems to me that there is a vast difference between scientific development and practical application of principal. To be sure both are important to the fledgling sport of engine chess.

It was recently suggested to me that modern chess programs are nothing more than calculators that use mathematical equations in a brut force attack on chess positions. I began to speculate that this may be a common belief among engine chess players. Of course we all know that calculators do not play chess. Modern chess programs use a variety of sub-routines that prune or limit the number of moves that are considered. Many sophisticated heuristically based techniques have been used to impart a limited but quite effective knowledge of chess to these programs. While far from being sentient, a modern chess engine is much more than a mere calculator.

The computer programs we enjoy today are a direct result of 50 years of scientific research in the field of Artificial Intelligence (Specifically that of Expert Systems, a sub-field therein.) Hundreds of unnamed contributors from many diverse disciplines came together to infuse that first spark of intelligence into a mass of inert circuitry. So slowly did it come about that we don’t clearly see its improbable wonder.

A two hour video on the history of computer chess:

Most of these brilliant men are computer scientists and mathematicians and world class *Nerds.
Not the kind of people capable of commercially profiting from the practical application of their work.

The fact that there are industries businessmen that are willing to stand upon the shoulders of these geniuses in order to grab the brass ring of profit, is the way of the world. However as Henry Ford had little to do with the invention of the automobile, so to do the commercial chess programmers of today have little to do with the underlying heuristics of the programs they produce. Ford help put autos into the hands of millions, by doing this made them a practical and useful tool for the average user.

What I am saying is give credit where credit is due and seek the next quantum leap in chess programming from the unknown men and women working in the field of artificial intelligences. Locked away form the world, hidden behind secrecy contracts, in places like Bell Labs and Los Alamos where they continue the advancement to this day.

single-minded enthusiast: an enthusiast whose interest is regarded as too technical or scientific and who seems obsessively wrapped up in it (often used in combination; offensive in some contexts)

Friday, March 14, 2008

8th Freestyle Tournament

Once again the Earth has accomplished the required distances in its orbit for a Freestyle Tournament to be held. The exact planetary alignment that triggers such an event is still a mystery to the engine chess world. It is however believed to coincide with the release of new software and or hardware.

What is Freestyle Chess (From Norm’s site)

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)...

I will be playing in the tournament this year and it is my hope that most players will be using Fritz, Deep Shredder and Crafty as their analyses engines. Perhaps they will also allow the Gm or Im on the team to override the peppered engine book. As for me I am bringing in a Medium and conducting séances during play. The departed spirit of Fischer has agreed to play for my team.

One thing is for sure that these Freestyle Tours give the average engine player the opportunity to play in a fair and well run tournament against the worlds top players. I highly recommend that players interested in competition enter this event.

The 8th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament has a $16,000 Prize Fund

The Main Tournament will be played between April 11-13 and the Final April 25-27. The entry fee is 25,00 Euro ($38.00 US)

Here is the entry form:

You can find many particulars about the tour here at Norms site as well as further contact information.

All past Freestyle Tour games can be downloaded here. (It is probably a good idea to review these game to see what may be expected)

I have a strong feeling that we shall see many surprises this year, not the lest among them being effective performances by un-sponsored teams. As world famous programmers, human grandmasters and state of the art computer hardware clash with players that purchased computers and software from the local department store, anything can and will happen.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Comparative Book Testing

I have always done a lot of comparative book testing. Playing one book against another with the same engine and settings. Not only has this provided me with a good way to subjectively judge relative strength of a book, it also is an excellent way to expose weakness inherent in one. If a player can get access to the books being used by his opponents this is an very good way to gain a competitive advantage in rated play.

We all come up against what I call the out of the box books. Fritz’s opening book, Rybka’s book and others that are included with the chess engine software. These books are not updated by the software producers and become out of date quickly in online play. They also have a tendency to be statically based books that lend themselves to utilizing the learn function of the GUI.

A good hand made book must be ready for these out of the box books by knowing their weak lines and exploiting them from the start. There is no better way to find the holes in other book than to do this kind of comparative testing.

There is nothing difficult or mystical about this just sit up your machine with a Fritz GUI client to play engine matches with identical engines and settings. The only variant being the book. And let it play 40-50 games. If the book you are improving is designed for blitz play then simulate depths commonly arrived at in online play by the quad core CPUs. Do this by adjusting the time controls of the match. (a dual core CPU may need to play at 15-0 to 20-0 min. to get the right depth in the middle game) The modern Quad-core CPUs can get a depth of 15 to 21 Ply. in this part of the game.

I recommend that much of this kind of testing be done in your books initial development stage. (when you are still adding games to the main database) Take the games that your fledgling book won and add them directly to the books databases, both main and learn. As for the loses set them aside and use them as the first games to be worked on once the book goes into the hand tuning phase.

In a search for unique content for my website and in the vague hope that it may be of some help. I will began posting the results of my current comparative tests. At this time I am working on blitz books for 3-0 times. I keep one of my machines an old Dell 650 Work Station with two Dual Xenon CPUs busy 24-7 doing this kind of book testing.

By looking at the games generated you may be able to discern some holes and or weakness in books that are commonly available for download on the net.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

All Things Engine Chess

In the last few months a new website has made it appearance upon the net. One that’s mission statement and execution is so aligned with my viewpoint of what is best for the advancement of computer chess that I must shout its praises.

The mission statement of Norm’s site is to attempt to bring the computer chess player the tools needed to be competitive in a computer vs. computer environment. In this he is succeeding superbly, where others have fallen short. His site is clear, easy to navigate and very comprehensive.

Here you will find opening books by some of the top engine players (many found nowhere else). Articles about and interviews with Freestyle players. Links to all the right websites to get the information that is needed to increase your Elo in engine play. A new forum has just been established there and I will be closely monitoring it and adding to the discussions.

If you need to down load EGTB this is the place to go.

Norm is an acknowledged expert on the use of end game table bases and the hardware require to run them as well as a innovative book maker. He has held the top ranking in engine play, both in Blitz and longer time controls many times over the years. He resides in North Carolina with his wife Joyce and Sissy the chess cat.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book Making Q & A

I have been receiving a considerable amount of correspondence relating to my book making theories. The overwhelming majority of it positive in nature. Thank you all for your kind words. I have started posting on my website some of the more representative comments and questions. Please do not hesitate to email me with your inquires, I will try to respond to all.

The most ask question is; can I have the Password to download the books for book testers. (the most current updates) The answer unfortunately is no. These are the books that the book testing team that works with me are currently engaged in playing online. It is from these games played under rated conditions that the updates are derived. In order to give the dedicated testing team a competitive advantage I do not release an update to the public until I am sure that it has been superseded by the latest update available to the team.

Never the less I feel that the public updates are very strong and used correctly by the serious player will provide a clear advantage, especially in blitz play.

If you wish to support the efforts of me and the book testing team please click on the Google ads here and on my website and check out the fine products therein. (I get compensated every time someone clicks on an ad) As I have said I find book making requires large quantities of strong and exotic coffee…

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Opening Book Development II

Before I go any farther let me address this issue of stealing lines. (I used this term in the last post) It is a fact that some players out there seem to think that if they personally worked out a line or a refutation of one; that they somehow own this series of moves. I find this thinking hilariously funny. It brings to my mind Bobby Fischer jumping up from the table and saying you can’t play that move it is mine, you stole it from my game in the interzonals last year… I call this concept of stealing lines. Fischer thinking. “Look Bobby, once you play the line in open play it belongs to all of us.” This is how, in esoteric disciplines, we collectively learn and advance human knowledge. It is by the possess of peer review that the lines you submit in open play are accepted or rejected. So there is no real stealing of anything only finding and using good ideas. We are all standing on the shoulders of geniuses to be where we are.

Now that you have made your seed book and played some games with it, you are ready to start its development by adding games. Adding games to a book (both your own and kibitz ones) is much different than hand tuning. I think it would be accurate to say that adding games increases the width of the book where as, tuning deals with depth and direction.

It is always best to add games to the book that are played by the book that you are adding them to. This technique has a tendency to reinforce and expand winning lines. However if you find good opening lines while kibitzing do not hesitate to include them into your book.

Lets look at the method of adding the games. First never add games directly to an existing book. Add the games to the database that the book was made from and then make a fresh book from the updated game bases. Importing games into an existing book is probably the most conmen mistake that is made in book making.

Make sure that if you add a game to the learn game base you also add it the main game base.

I recommend that you add all games that you won in online play to the main game base and a selected few that beat you solidly within the first 50 moves. Be more selective as to the games you add to the learn base. Look carefully at your played games; making sure that advantage in the game came from the opening or early in the middle game. (Never add draws, only wins and losses)

Continue to add the games that you play with the seed book back into the book using this technique. Every day review your games, update the game bases (both main base and learn) and remake the book for the next time at online play. This process will slowly but surly expand the books practical repertoire and adjust it to your particular system engine combination. You will begin to notice games that your engine struggled to win now being won easily and good winning lines that were used against you now being played by your book.

At least 2000 games or so should be added to the seed book before you start the hand tuning process. Once you start hand tuning you can no longer add games as red-green marks would be lost.

As always; I am sure that there are many impotent details I have inadvertently forgot to mention. If you get stuck or have a problem please do not hesitate to ask me specific question via email.

Please feel free to try the new hand tuned book I have recently made available. Tour Book 14.0z it has hit 2900 Elo several times in open formula play. (Running on Quad and Octo core CPUs using Rybka 2.3.2a and 6 man EBTBs)

Thank you all for visiting the Google advertising sites on this blog, every time this is done I receive a small monetary compensation.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Opening Book Development I

All right then, so you want to make a opening book from scratch. A one of a kind book that is your own. A book that in fact can be proprietary. Let me see if I can start you on the right track.
Although there are many ways to go about this let me describe the method that I have found to be the most successful. It Involves a process of development over time.

The first thing you will need is a few comprehensive databases of engine games played under rated conditions and times. (it is generally accepted that we do not use human games in engine books) I recommend using the available game bases from PlayChess server. They can be found in several places on the internet. Try to get the most current ones (all 2007 games and all Jan, 2008) are available. These are quite large databases; but can just be manipulated by the Fritz 9, 10, 11 GUIs.

It will probably be to your advantage to look around on the net for the most current game bases.

I have all PlayChess engine room games from 2006, 2007 and 2008; however at this time I do not have the space on my web site to make them directly available. With out question the most comprehensive engine game bases can be acquired from Richard Stickles. (the playchess engine room Sysop) Richard seem to make the games available for download on an irregular schedule. So the best place to start may be Spaghetti Chess it appears that most of the 2007 games and Jan, 2008 games can be downloaded here… Also I like to add the last two PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournaments to the mix as new and innovative lines are often introduced here…

Ok, you now have large game bases of current engine games. Tens of thousands of them. All mixed together; good games, bad games, winning lines and losing ones. After combining all bases into one master base the first thing you will need to do is a bit of filtering.
Bring your master base up on the Fritz GUI and go to filter games. Lets get rid of all games with less than 35 moves. Set filter for 1-35 moves, select all, delete, remove deleted games from base. Do the same with the draws, set filter to bring up all draws then select all, delete, remove deleted games.

Now open up an empty data base and name it New Book Main Base (or something like Blitz Book Games) This will be one of two game bases that you will continue to add games to over a period of time.

Go back to the master game base and this time we will do something radical. We are going to take only the games played by the top rated players. Set filter to 2700 to 3100 Elo and check both and engage. This will return 40,000 to 45,000 games from the highest rated players. (for a smaller, but more directed base try 2750-3100 Elo) Hit select all and copy. Go to your newly created game base and paste these games there.

The next thing you will need is a date base of game to be learned. These games should come from the main game base that you just created. My method for choosing the games to be learned by the book is less than scientific but extremely practical. Pick 4 or 5 of the top players of your choice, maybe.

1. Big Mc
2. Big Rabbit
3, Takker
4. Wallybal

Make an empty game base and name it New book Learn (or Blitz book learn, whatever you decide to name your book) Filter the main book base for Big Mc wins as white; copy and paste to the new learn book base. Do the same for Big Mc wins as black, and so on down the list. What you are doing is taking only these top players winning games and adding the to your book learn file. This will give your fledgling book the playing characteristics of these players. (basically stealing their best lines)

You are now ready to turn these new game bases into what I call a seed book. This book will be the starting point for your personal book to be developed from. In the Fritz GUI open a new empty book and name it. Import all games from the main book base that you have created. (to the maximum depth 100 moves) Now go to Learn from Database and click learn white and black wins (do not choose learn loses) and select your new learn file. (made from the top players wins)
You now have a seed book.

Go on line and play the book using these book settings.

Book settings: (Seed Book)
Use Book: on
Tournament Book: on
Varity of Play: max - (all the way to left)
Influence of learn Value: max + (all the way to right)
Learning Strength: max - (all the way to left)
Minimum games: 0
Up to move: 100

Save all games that you play with the new book as these are the games that, played with your own hardware will be instrumental in its development.

In the next post I will talk about how to add the games you play with the book in a regular way as to improve and expand its capabilities.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Engine Chess (Book Hand Tuning II)

Although the opening book only has control of the first 50 moves. (100 half moves) they are most important of the game. There is no reason why (given a bit of practice) that you can not prevent your engine from losing in the first half of the game. No mater what hardware you have it is not difficult to duplicate the depth of the fastest CPUs in offline analyses. (it just takes a bit more time)

When reviewing your games played online give the most attention of course to the games that you lost, but do not forget to look at the draws and wins as well. Many times using infinite analyses it is possible to find a line that breaks the draw. In games that you have won against strong opponents lengthen the book lines. To do this use the manual add move function in the book window of the GUI. This method of adding moves to the book gives the best control but do not forget that it adds all moves as green play moves. So be sure to go back and remove the green of the move in the losing side of the line. (this is done by right clicking on the move and hitting main move a second time)

Spend more time on finding winning lines as white, as black you may have to be satisfied with getting the draw in some lines. Here are the facts about the percentages of White vs. Black wins.

W 50% - B 50% In human club play:
W 52% - B 48% In master play:
W 56% - B 44% In GM play
W 62% - B 38% In engine play

I think this data says something about the relative strength of computers over humans. But my point is that in engine chess, the opening impetus is more pronounced for white. As black you should not expect to come out of opening book with a positional advantage very often. -.30 -.50 going into the middle game as Black will still give you a fighting chance.

Trying to tell someone how to update and tune books is some what a like trying to tell someone how to type on a keyboard. You can tell them where to put the fingers and what some of the edit keys do, but the only way one learns is by doing. Along the way many mistakes will be made. (always keep a archived copy of the books that you are tuning, so if something goes very wrong you can start over) And believe me when I say that the book learning function will not produce the same result as the basic methods that I have talked about, nor will it give the same satisfaction and connection to engine chess.

In the next few days I am going to go over my method of developing original books from databases. But I have a lot of time on my hands and if any one has a specific question about tuning please feel free to send it to me in an email and I will try to answer it. Roll up your sleeves and get into the opening book trenches and remember in engine chess the book is the key…

Friday, January 25, 2008

Engine Chess (Book Hand Tuning I)

Ok, you have a tournament book that is focused and plays a narrow variety of opening moves to a good depth. Now you need to hand tune it and keep it current. But what exactly are you tuning it to? The answer is; primarily your entire playing system. Which includes your hardware and its capabilities, your engine and its configuration settings, as well as the ever changing lines being played by your opponents.

There is no such thing as a perfect book that has all the answers to all the lines. A good opening book is a thing that is in constant flux. While in the human chess world an opening repertoire may serve a player for many years with only minor changes, it is not so in engine chess. Computers have a way of finding their way around seemingly impassable winning lines with frightening elegances and speed.

To get started; go on line and play 50-60 games at your desired time control. A hand tuned book is most certainly sensitive to time control changes. (by that I mean use one book for 3-0 play one for 16-0 and another for 60-0 + times) You may use the same book but with different tuning. Do not fiddle around with your engine configuration settings to much. (If you are using Rybka 2.3.2a the default settings are the strongest)

Now take the games that you have just played and go off line and into the engine GUI. Open up the My Internet Machine Games database file and do a bit of weeding. At first just go ahead and delete all the draws and games that go fewer than 35-40 moves. Now physically look at the games that you won. Games that you won from opponents that had inferior hardware to yours can be deleted. This should leave you with the games that you lost and a few that you won.

Take these games and get to work, the idea is to alter the opening book manually not only to avoid the loses but to find a winning line form before the point your evaluation number went negative. Make sure that you have the opening book that you wish to alter loaded and go to the book display. Right click the mouse on the book display window and activate allow move adding. Now any moves that you make manually while the engine is in infinite analysis mode will be added to the book. (as green play in tour moves)

If the book line went wrong before the engine engaged it may be necessary to mark some book moves red and try a deferent way. (book moves are turn red by right clicking on the moves and choosing the do not play in tournament option)

When the engine analysis mode is used (in most engines) it reverts to a brute force search. Where as in normal play all kinds of pruning tricks are used to reduce the number of moves the engine must look at. My point is that when going over played games in analyses mode you can often find strong moves that Rybka discarded in early pruning as being unproductive. It take some time and patients to get the search depth to an effective level. (time dependent on your hardware of course) When you are analyzing a game that you have lost, that had an average search depth of 16 ply you will probably need to go 19-20 ply in a brute force search starting several moves before the detectable swing in positional value to find a good refuting line.(more incomprehensible explanations on the dark art of book tuning early in the next week)

I noticed this week that some Mephisto computer ads appeared on this blog. I had one of these in the early 80s and was very found of it. It was not the model that moved the peaces on its own but was made of solid wood and was quite elegant, as well as a strong practice partner. Many of the fine products linked with this site may be worth checking out…

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Engine Chess (Hand Tuned Book)

Book settings:

(Frayer Tour Book)
Use Book: on
Tournament Book: on
Varity of Play: max - (all the way to left)
Influence of learn Value: max + (all the way to right)
Learning Strength: max - (all the way to left)
Minimum games: 0
Up to move: 100

These are the settings for a hand tuned book. I recommend that you take the time to learn how to fix the losing lines (as they are reputed in online play) and reinforce the winning ones.
You can of course turn on the book learn function, but this only stops the book from playing a line that it has consistently lost in, it does not find a solution to the problem. In general it is my opinion that a good book with the learn function turned on will only become more drawlish.

With out a doubt the most useful aspect of book making, to the average engine player is hand tinning. Most of the commercial opening books (the books that come with engines and GUIs) can be tweaked into competitive shape by this technique.

What exactly is meant by the term hand tuning. Well to me its more than just turning some book moves red and others green. It is coming to the point in the book line where things started going wrong and doing deep analysis in infinite time mode to find a better line. Sometime one must go several moves back from the point where the positional value changed towards the negative to get back on track.

I will talk more about book development in next few weeks. Please feel free to share my Tour Book 14.0v (which by the way is made for 3-0 time controls) and send me an email if you have specific questions or seek calefaction of my thinking.

Also, while you are here at my Blog check out the wonderful new advertisers that have taken an interest in supporting my writing. (I receive revenue every time you click on an advertisers site) Perhaps they can keep me in the volcanically grown Panamanian coffee that is required to work on this Blog.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Engine Chess (The Three Components)

As we separate the game of chess down into three parts (The opening, the middle game, and the end game) so too do I divide Engine Chess into three components. My thinking is, that to have a strong playing system, that is capable of sustaining a uniformly high Elo rating, detailed attention should be given to each of these aspects of engine chess.

1. Hardware: CPUs, RAM, Hard disk drives, Motherboards.

2. Software: UCI Engines, GUIs, Databases.

3. Books and EGTBs: Opening books, End game table bases.

The relative importance of these aspects seems to be in constant flux. (so I have not listed them here in order of weight) It also seems to be a highly debated point as engine players approach the game from different points of view. I am certain that players come from several different areas of expertise. Most notably Computers, Programming, and Chess. Some players enjoy seeing how there powerful computer hardware fairs in competition with other machines. Some like to use many different programs, tweaking them and in some cases fiddling with the code. Other come from the world of chess and are enticed by the strangely beautiful games produced by engine play. This I believe is the fulcrum that the fledgling sport can utilize to grow, its attraction to several different groups of enthusiasts.


As they once put on old maps beyond the explored areas “past this point there be monsters” Have no illusions that your old desktop PC with a Pentium in it will be competitive in online engine play. (that’s not to say you can’t still have fun) However there are some real monsters out there. We are now in the era of 64bit multiple core CPUs. The current median standard at this time is Intel’s Quad core 64bit chips. Search depths with these processors even at blitz time control often exceed 21 half moves. Over clocking is common and is a dark art in its self. Some 16-32 core machines lurk in the shadows ready to eat your lunch or Elo as the case my be.

Engine hash size is no longer as dependent upon RAM as it once was. The modern chess engines make use of CPUs L2 catch. (which is much larger in the new CPUs) O no, maybe I should not have said that. (this seems to be one of Rybka little secrets) The L2 catch has traditionally been used for video processing the reason for this is its much faster for the program to save temporary data and retrieve it. The L2 runs at the full speed of the CPU and the RAM modules on the motherboard only a fraction of that speed.

In fact it may be that the latest release of Rybka 2.3.2a has its non-configurable L2 hash size set at 128Mb. How this size was arrived at and whether or not it is the optimum setting seems to be preparatory knowledge. (If this is just idle speculation on my part perhaps Vas will add a comment and clarify the issue)

As for Hard Disk Drives; What I do is keep one just for engine play online. The only things I put on it are a stripped down windows operating system, (I like XPpro 64) The GUI (I like Fritz 9 with latest update) a few UCI engines and all the EGTBs that I will be using in play. (I can just get it all on a 150Gb 10,000rpm Raptor) A fast HD does seem to aide EGTB accesses speed.


The chess engine has reached a state of development as to be unfathomable to us ordinary mortals. Rybka 2.3.2a is by far the strongest commercially available engine at this time. There are some contenders especially in long time controls. Zappa Chess engine by Anthony Cozzie recently beat Rybka in an exhibition match in Mexico It is believed that the Zappa Mexico program used was better at its usage of more than 4 core CPUs. (This is alluding to the perceived problem that Rybka has in correct scaling above 4 cores)

Most of the GUIs are vary good; Fritz 9-10-11 are all compatible with UCI engine as are Shredder and Hiarcs.

ChessBase 9.0 is the premier database program available. Although some what expensive it is worth its price to the serious game collector. Its ability to manipulate game bases is awesome.
I feel that it is important to mention here that one should always buy these programs from the copyright holder. Not only does profiting form ones intellectual property act as an incentive for further improvement in the case of the engines you will want the authors to send you periodic updates.

Books and EGTBs

For me the opening book is the heart and soul of this kind of chess. I will be writing more in the weeks to come on my techniques and suggestions on how to make and develop books for chess engines. For right now let me just say that every one should try to make their own books. It gives your engine games a distinct caricature and unique stile that is a reflection of you own opening theories. There is much satisfaction to be had when your lines work out and much work to be done when they do not.

All the commercially available chess engines come with fairly comprehensive opening books. Although in most cases they are to broad and to shallow in scope. (The books that come with Rybka and Fritz seem to me to be intended to play against human opponents) It is relatively easy to tweak these already wide-ranging books into a more focused repertoire. This probably is where most players should start in the quest to take control of the stile that their engines will play. (Much more about opening books in later entries)

EGTBs are simply the game of chess worked out to its conclusion when only a few peaces are left on the board. All 3-4-5 and most 6 man bases are available some where on the net. However you must be aware that having all 3-4-5-6 man egtbs will require you to have at least 1.4Tb of storage space. No mater how fast your Hard Drives are this will prove to be to taxing on your system in fast time controls.

I recommend getting ChessBase Endgame Turbo 3 Nalimov Tablebases it comes on 9 DVDs and has all 3-4-5 man and a few 6 man. Once loaded onto your HD it will be about 42Gb in size. If configured properly in your GUI it will give you about +30 Elo in engine play. A list of the most commonly accruing 6 man end games can be found on the internet. If you feel brave and have the time and space you can use this list to download a further 100Gb of egtbs from the net. (This will take some time) 140-150Gb of the right bases can get you a +70 Elo boost in fast time controls.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Computers in Chess (Engine Chess)

Just before the turn of the new century I began to concern myself exclusively with Engine Chess. By the term, (engine chess) I mean one chess program playing another chess program. The winboard GUI had facilitated this but it was not until the Arena GUI was made available to the public in 2001 that we had a graphic interface specifically designed to play one chess engine against another. Arena not only was compatible with the wiboard protocols but also the newer UCI engines. Everything was configurable; the time controls, the number of games in a match, the engine parameters and of course the opening books along with their weighted learning capabilities.

One could now take their computer hardware, chess engines and opining books onto the internet and play against other computers and their human handlers. Commercial chess programs, particularly Chessbase’s Fritz 7-8 came along with strong client based engines and very pleasing graphics. In September of 2001 Chessbase’s player site, opened a room specifically for engine play and competitive engine chess came into existences. An Elo rating system based on individual computers, programs and the way their users configured them now was possible rather than be based on how they did against human Masters, This made judgments of relative engine strength more viable and contributed to programming development.

Now I know what some are thinking that there had been WCCC tournaments held every few years since 1974. But in fact these events were and still are primarily for showcasing commercial programs and cutting edge computer hardware. In my world view, these elite events held in exotic locations do not constitute Engine Chess being played in public venues by ordinary individuals that we enjoy today.

The commercial programs quickly proved themselves to be as strong their advertising departments had clamed. Fritz, Shredder, Junior, Hiarcs and many others all proved that they could play hauntingly beautiful chess. In early 2006 Vasik Rajlich’s UCI engine Rybka (little fish) rose to the top and is currently the dominant chess program in the world.

One of the things I realized early about engine chess was that all things be equal, (both players having similar hardware and using the strongest program available) it is the opening book that made the difference. Not only does the opening book set the tone of the game but its manipulation is best way for the human operator to communicate with his program. Even if an engine has detailed configuration setting, (material value of the pieces, king safety, aggressive vs. defensive stile) these are esoteric and communicate with the program in a none human way. Only the engine book guided by a human intelligence can channel a chess engines positional decision making power to its fullest potential.

It is possible to move a huge mound of dirt by hand. Using shovels, wheelbarrows and human muscle. History is replete with such accomplishments. Today however we attack the mound with bulldozers and trucks making short work of it. It is no disrespect to the laborers that would have done this feat in the past. As we move forward in 21st century applying these computer programs, theses engines of the mind to our beloved game of chess we mean not to diminish the accomplishments of the great human players but only to advance the game , the art that is chess.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Computers in Chess (The Crafty Years)

Sometime in the early 90s I became aware of Dr. Robert Hyatt’s open source Crafty program. Not being a programmer, my ability to modify and manipulate the engine was limited. But I saw the potential of chess engines being separate from the graphical interface. They could be modified like internal combustion engines and then dropped into a GUI as if it were a racing chassis. This may have been common in computer programming at that time, I do not know, (compartmentalizing programs so as to be updateable) however the ability to drop an engine into the chess program was and still is a cool idea. Undoubtedly it has contributed to the development of the number crunching magic that goes on inside these invisible contraptions.

There were many good early engines that ran in the winboard GUI. (Delfi, Gromit, Little Goliath, Yace) to name but a few. Remember good is a vary relative term as I have used it here. Like Crafty they all had multiple configuration settings and could be tweaked nicely to the hardware that you were running them on. Opening books that could easily be modified came into being along with book learning and positional learning. Nalimov 3-4 man end game table bases where mated to many of these engines. Winboard protocols were superseded by UCI and we came into the modern era of computer chess.

By the end of the century the 32bit CPU had picked up speed and I will be darned if I could beat the things any longer. If the truth be known, no one could. We all had chess masters setting on our desks.

This may be an obscure reference but I believe to be an accurate analogy. In the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind remember how after the mother ship had landed and the humans were beginning to communicate with it using musical notes and harmonics. At a given point the communication got to fast and complex for the human operators. A bank of computers could be seen in the background and a voice says “ok, we are taking over this conversation now” and the computers where turned on. The exchange continued faster and more complex than it had been. Strange yet somehow familiar as nonhuman intelligence spoke to us in a human way. This I think is what we are experiencing when we match one computer engine against a another. A strangely beautiful and somewhat disturbing display of nonhuman intelligent.

Computers in Chess (The Beginning)

For me the beginning was in 1983 and the release of the Atari 800XL home computer. At the time I was working at Vincennes University and had had access to a main frame computer with teletype stile terminals. It had no chess programs and the Internet was just a baby. Connecting only a few universities and libraries. The Atari 800XL however had a monitor, floppy disk drive, and loadable programs that included. A word processor, a database and at least two available chess programs. (Sargon, Chessmaster)

At the time I was still playing in over the board chess tournaments and was the faculty sponsor of the universities chess club. As I began to play more correspondences chess I saw the potential of keeping these games organized in the meager database capabilities of these early chess programs. The chess engines themselves where not yet a factor in correspondents chess as they lacked the strength to be of any help in positional analyses.

I suppose, I did not foresee in those early days that programs using minimax algorithms (decision making equations in a zero sum games) would ever be strong enough to challenge the best human players. I believed the way to go was vast databases of games that would be searched for the winning move in any given position. In the early 80s CPU power and data storage were expanding exponentially.

Even on the Atari 800XLs 64K floppy disk many hundreds of games could be stored. I spent hours entering GM games mostly from the Chess Informant that I subscribed to. These key GM games in the lines that I played in correspondence chess were invaluable in getting my postal (as we called it back then) ELO above 2100 and keep it there for many years.

I smile now when I think of those days. My entire collection of games where no more than 900Kb in size. Today in modern engine vs. engine play I use opening books that are 200-300Mb and end game table bases that are 150Gb in size. It is still not enough, perhaps it never will be.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Death of Bobby Fischer

The chess world learned yesterday that we had lost Bobby Fischer. As an American I feel great shame in the way we treated him. As his complex mind slipped into madness there was no help for Bobby.

The greatest chess genius of his generation spent the last days here in the United States living in shabby hotels and wearing the clothes of a derelict. When he finally returned to us in 1992 for a rematch with Spassky in Yugoslavia upon his return a warrant was issued by the US for his arrest. For the next 14 years his paranoia was fed by a very real attempt to capture and silence him. Perhaps if he had known he had but one year of life for every square on the chess board he would have played the game differently.

My view of Iceland has changed dramatically over the kindness that they showed Bobby. I would like to thank, on behalf of the international chess community; Iceland and its compassionate people for giving this man sanctuary and peace in the last days of his life.

May God forgive us for how we treated one of our native sons.