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