04 December 2017

Engine-to-engine, Head-to-head

Let's wrap up the series on Engine Trouble (September 2017; 'investigate what sort of engine setup I would need to improve my [chess960] result'), last seen in Improve Engine Software - Tablebases, and look at a couple of engine-to-engine tournaments -- a veteran and a newcomer -- that were taking place in parallel with the series. In the few months since I posted about the veteran, TCEC Season 10 Kickoff (September 2017; 'Top Chess Engine Championship'), the competition has reached the final stage.

2017-11-20: Komodo – Houdini is the Superfinal of TCEC Season 10 • 'Komodo and Houdini are the two finalists in this years edition of the premier event for computer chess. The two engines finished top of the table at the Candidates stage with equal score 18.5/28, half a point ahead of Stockfish.'

The engines are slugging it out as I write this and have finished 80 games out of the 100 scheduled for the event. Houdini leads with a score of +13-7=60, meaning that we can project a final score of something like +16-9=75. I'll come back to the event when it's over.

The newcomer was Chess.com's Computer Chess Championship. The announcement, preliminary results and, final results are all stuffed into a single article, which first appeared in September, but carries the date of its last update:-

2017-11-16: Chess.com Announces Computer Chess Championship, 'Updated With Results' (chess.com) • 'The world's strongest computer engines will compete in a first-of-its-kind speed chess tournament on Chess.com this November, the site announced today. As computer engines have claimed the undisputed title as the best chess-playing entities on earth, interest in the machines has risen among chess fans. The first annual Chess.com Computer Chess Championship (CCCC) will decide which engine is the best at the format of chess most played online: speed chess.'

Chess.com navigation has always been unusual. For this event, if you want to understand it chronologically, you first have to scroll to the bottom of the page then work your way back up, instead of reading the article from top to bottom.

The Computer Chess Championship is scheduled for Nov. 13-16, with all four days featuring full live coverage on Chess.com/TV with master commentary and high production values to promote computer chess as a fun viewing experience for the modern gaming audience. The top-two scoring engines in the round-robin will face each other in a thrilling super-final, where time controls will transition from rapid to blitz and finally to bullet chess as the match proceeds. Chess.com will provide four days of live coverage with master commentary, broadcasting all 90 games of the round-robin and all 20 games of the super-final.

According to Norm Schmidt, the author of the computer engine Fire and Chess.com's advisor for computer chess, the technical details for the tournament are below. The tournament will be run from an Amazon Web Services server farm located in Northern Virginia. Each engine will utilize its own dedicated AWS virtualized instance of a hyperthreaded Intel Xeon E5-2666 v3 2.90 GHz (two processors each with 18 cores) with 60.0 GB RAM running on Windows Server 2016 Data Center Edition.

That 'announcement' includes coverage of the event's two stages: Round Robin Crosstable & Final Standings, plus Superfinal Crosstable. Those results are also summarized in classic top to bottom reporting in a follow-up piece.

2017-11-18: Stockfish Wins Chess.com Computer Championship (chess.com) • 'The powerful, open-source chess engine Stockfish narrowly beat out two strong commercial engines to win the first Chess.com Computer Chess Championship this week. Stockfish placed clear first in the 10-engine round robin to reach the superfinal, and then edged the second-place Houdini in the rapid, blitz, and bullet finals to win the championship.'

The entire event is summarized in a series of live shows, now available on Chess.com's Youtube channel under the title 'Computer Chess Championship':-

One of these days I hope someone explains to me the difference between a superfinal and a final. In the meantime, I'll continue to admire the likes of Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish as they go head-to-head in the chess version of core wars.

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