09 April 2018

Back to the Future with Chess Engines

I last looked at the TCEC Season 11 two weeks ago in Two Championship Qualifying Events, where I noted,'Stockfish and Houdini are headed for the final stage, barring a catastrophic breakdown of either engine.'

A few days later Chessdom.com announced, TCEC Superfinal Stockfish – Houdini starts at 17:30 CET. The announcement included the logo shown on the left, where the top left corner says, 'Chessdom - partner; Chess Arena - sponsor', and the small print at the bottom points to tcec.chessdom.com. The tournament can be followed on that subdomain at TCEC - Live Mode. The announcement confirmed,

Stockfish, the open source engine by Marco Costalba, Joona Kiiski, Gary Linscott and a huge community of contributors, has convincingly won TCEC Premier Division. Stockfish collected 61,0/84 points to secure the gold medal and the right to challenge the current champion Houdini for the TCEC Grand Champion title.

As I write this, the two engines have been slugging it out for a week and a half. A total of 63 of the 100 games have been played, with the current score in favor of Stockfish +14-1=48 (38.0/63 = 60.3%). Extrapolating this over the remaining games indicates that Stockfish will reach the requisite 50.5 points after 84 games, and that the final score will be +22-2=76 (60.0/100).

What happens after that? The TCEC announcement informs, 'As TCEC is now a continuous divisions system, Season 12 is going to start right after the Superfinal.' [NB: The trend in chess events these days is that the word 'Superfinal' is used in place of 'Final'. When did this trend start?]

As for this blog, I'm going to continue the series of posts last mentioned in:-

Since then I've looked at chess engines from a generation ago in:-

  • 2018-02-08: Kasparov vs. Hsu • 'Deep Blue (Computer) vs Garry Kasparov; IBM Man-Machine (1997), New York, NY USA'

and from the modern era in:-

  • 2018-03-08: Stockfish in a Straitjacket? • 'Houdini won TCEC Season 10 at the same time that AlphaZero appeared on the scene. [Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish] are the top three chess engines in the world, of roughly equal strength, but AlphaZero had apparently crushed [Stockfish] in a match.'

Are the AI chess engines like AlphaZero destined to overcome the traditional, hand-crafted engines like Stockfish? Or is it all a smoke-and-mirrors show?

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