20 April 2015

What Ticks Off Engine Users? (Part I)

Before I get back to What Makes the Engines Tick?, I would like to share an email exchange sent to me by a frequent visitor to this blog. It seems he took a liking to Komodo after learning that the engine had won TCEC Season 7. It also seems that he is somewhat inexperienced in the world of chess engines and was struggling with the engine's software from the beginning.

[Used with permission of my correspondent, whom I'll call MacUser. The messages from the Komodo side are copied without the knowledge of Komodochess.com, although I can't imagine it's a problem if it spares them further discussions of this type.]

MacUser to Komodo Help: Can you walk me through this? I just spent $60 on something that doesn’t run without an engine. I was unable to download an engine from Arena, which says it is not available for Mac. I’m not good with computers. The help video did not run for me. I am very unhappy.

That's already a bad start. MacUser has confused the engine he bought from Komodo with the GUI he needs to operate the engine.

Komodo Help: I would be glad to help. SCID vs Mac is a free and good chess GUI and database that runs on the Mac: scid-vs-mac. If you have any other chess GUIs for your Mac, I can try and help you install Komodo in them. If not, try downloading the program at the link above, and then we can go over how to install the engine.
M: Failure. I accessed the Scid page but the download is not operating at this time, I get the "cannot connect to server" message. In the meantime I have been trying to upload it into the HIARCS GUI but there is no setting there for "Lmr", the threads cannot be adjusted, and your guidance for table base settings is inadequate on this GUI.
K: I know J. has the Hiarcs GUI on his Mac. I will let him respond, but I know Komodo 8 does work in the Mac. I unfortunately do not have a Mac, but I am sure J. can help you. It sounds like you at least got the Komodo engine installed in the Hiarcs interface. In the mean time, here is an online manual for Hiarcs Chess Explorer: Explorer.html. In the Engine Preferences section (Preferences - Engine Preferences - Configure engine), it shows a dialog box with a scroll bar on the right edge. Perhaps you have to scroll that down to see the remaining engine settings lke Lmr, Syzygy settings and Threads?
M: The Komodo on the HIARCS GUI is not running well, much slower and weaker than the HIARCS, it hasn’t got over 21 ply yet. Maybe I don’t have the settings right, I have the i7, 3.4GHz.
K: Here is a video showing how to change engine settings in Hiarcs: PC Chess Explorer - Managing engines.
M: [Message missing]
K: Ah, so you at least got it running. Good. With an i7, which has 4 "cores", you should set the number of "Threads", which is an engine setting, to 4. The default is "1", so you will want to increase that. Of course if you are running two engines at a time to do analysis, you should select 2 Thread for each, so they both have the same amount of hardware available. Are you trying to play games between the engines, or just analyzing games? • Note you cannot really directly compare search depth between programs, since some programs (like Stockfish) reduce the search a lot, while other like Komodo extend critical lines a lot. A better comparison is the length of the principal variation displayed. As for strength, on the same hardware, Komodo 8 is about 230 (or more) Elo stronger than Hiarcs 14. Several rating lists show this like CCRL and CEGT.
M: The click they make on the video to configure the engine has no effect on Komodo. It has no effect on the HIARCS programs either. I can make adjustments to the engines in "section preferences". "Got it running" but plys in the 20s are a joke, we live in a 40 ply world. I am convinced my installation is a failure.
M: I finally found the engine configuration tab. Komodo was default set at one thread. I have changed that to your recommended four. The HIARCS programs are set at eight threads. Komodo still seems to be slow. I don’t have this set right yet, do I?
K: In the TCEC (which many consider the [world] championship), Komodo was searching to depths of typically 27 or 28. Komodo won season 7 against the "higher depth" Stockfish. But as I said, compare PV length and you will see Komodo searches much deeper that its iteration depth.
K: I do not know why Hiarcs is using eight. There is something called hyperthreading which uses two threads per CPU core. We do not think this helps Komodo. Just match threads to actual cores for Komodo. If you have two i7 chips in your machine, then eight threads would be right. You can contact Mark Uniacke at Hiarcs.com to see what he recommends for Hiarcs.
K: I checked Wikipedia here: List of Intel Core i7 microprocessors. I see most i7 processors have 4 cores, but there are a few with 6 and one version with 8. I thought they all had 4, but I see I was wrong. What is the name and number of your cpu chip and we can look up the correct number of threads to use?
M: I have no idea where to find the name and number of the CPU chip. All it says on "about this Mac" is Intel core i7. There is a tab on the HIARCS interface that has configurations including the thread. If you go to the HIARCS "preferences" section and click "engines", you can set the hash table size there. Of course, I don’t know the correct setting for that either.

Will MacUser finally succeed in installing Komodo? Find out in Part II of What Ticks Off Engine Users? (coming soon to this blog!).

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