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Up Topic The Rybka Lounge / Computer Chess / Centaur Chess, a quick portrait
- - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-03 09:31
Prehistoric Years

It all started back in June 1998, when a new tournament director, took the reins of an event, that had been running for ten years, in León. He wanted something different, and saw fit to achieve that, by materializing Kasparov's idea about Advanced Chess, so he brought him to play against the previous year's winner (Topalov), both of them having access to a 333 MHz Pentium II. It wasn't exactly what we'd consider "Centaur Chess" nowadays (help from a chess DB or an engine, not both), but it was a start. Over the course of five years, other players would add their names to this short-lived experiment: Anand, Karpov, Polgar, Leko, Shirov and Kramnik, who won the last one in 2002.

During this early years, there was a rift between the chess elite and amateurs. While the former had a place in León, the latter had to seek solace in online play. It was the Advanced Chess Organization (CCO), the one responsible to hold the Advanced Chess Tournaments, on the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS). There was a total of fifteen events, with the las one taking place on June 18, 2005. This was a time, when Anand was still considered to be the best player in the field, basically because groups of players were isolated, and there was no money incentive, for amateurs to really show their potential. This was about to change.
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The Golden Age

Approximately at the same time, that the CCO stopped its activity, a new entity would enter the scene, to change everything with the PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournaments. With aggregated prize funds, totaling $132,000, distributed between May 28, 2005 and April 27, 2008, eight tournaments would set the stage, for the transition in Centaur Chess, from Advanced to Freestyle Chess. Overnight, not only standalone supercomputers were made obsolete, but the established conception about the supremacy of a GM, with competitive HW, was shattered. Being offered an appropriate reward, the amateur chess player, rose to the challenge.

The change was so sudden, that when the 1st Advanced Chess Tournament (Benidorm, 2007) offered 7.500€ in prizes, they did it without actually realizing they were hosting a Freestyle Chess tournament. Both the name of the event, as well as the rules the arbiters were trying (hopelessly) to enforce, already represented an outdated anomaly.
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Latter Days

In the last seven years, only two tournaments worth mentioning have been sponsored:

- The 1st International Online Advanced Chess Tournament, organized by MundialChess in early 2010, with a total of nearly 48.000€ being offered.
- The InfinityChess Freestyle Battle, early 2014, with a prize fund of $20,000.

Neither of both, has been able to recapture the feel of the PAL/CSS times. Not only were they different in nature, but they also lacked continuity. One wasn't really a Freestyle Chess tournament, as the short time control made it impossible, for a team to finish a game. The other one was a League Competition, which span for several months, opposed to the Swiss format of old, which would be over in a couple of weekends.
Parent - - By Nelson Hernandez (Gold) [us] Date 2015-04-03 19:12
I agree with this about 99%.  My only quibble is with your slight exaggeration regarding the length of the 2014 Freestyle Battle.  It wasn't several months, it was three months, i.e. a few.  As for your general conclusions though, no question. 

What's been missing in the last ones?  Well, the Rajlich-dominated teams, for one thing.  Remember how threatening they were?  Also, it was fun to have over 100 competitors with a great variety of skill levels and approaches, resulting in chat room pandemonium whenever something went wrong.  Do you remember the nightly exhaustion after playing or getting ready to play 12 hours a day for three straight days? 

Indeed, it was a golden age for freestyle.  We'll never see it again, I don't think, though conceptually it is still feasible.  Engine strength and hardware have changed, book development is more advanced and EGTBs are now more prevalent.  But I don't see why you couldn't run a tournament all that different.  As before, the strong and well-connected would prevail and the weak would be swept off the board mercilessly.
Parent - - By David Evans (****) [gb] Date 2015-04-03 20:51
Rajlich dominated team's had a massive advantage at the time using the latest Rybka engine's to guide them.

It would be today like a team with the latest stockfish v teams that could only use Houdini I know where I would put my money.

Top teams today would prob have a very high draw rate v each other the winner would be the one who could pick off the most bottom feeder's.
Parent - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-03 21:51

>Top teams today would prob have a very high draw rate v each other the winner would be the one who could pick off the most bottom feeder's.


You talk about it, as of something which hadn't happened yet. I leave the hypothetical talking, to the occurrence of the event itself, but once you had that, the rest would go as you say, for sure.
Parent - - By Chaotic Chess (****) Date 2015-04-08 15:10
A bit of OT. There is a poll at infinity chess server on which type of game you like to play (pure engine, freestyle or human). Lets see if freestyle players will show some numbers.
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-08 16:24
3-0-0 for Freestyle right now, come on guys, let's pile on.
Parent - - By Fulcrum2000 (****) [nl] Date 2015-04-08 19:59
Just voted.
5-1-1 now.
Parent - - By Mark Eldridge (****) [gb] Date 2015-04-08 21:35
Where is the poll? Cannot find it on the site.
Parent - By CumnorChessClub (***) [gb] Date 2015-04-08 22:42
Parent - - By Fulcrum2000 (****) [nl] Date 2015-04-09 12:23
I think you have to log-in to see the poll.
Parent - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-09 12:31
You only need to log in, for voting. Freestyle still wins by 10-5-3, but pure engine play, is gaining "territory".
Parent - - By Mark Eldridge (****) [gb] Date 2015-04-09 20:09
I did log in but no poll
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-09 20:14
It's in the main page, towards the middle of the page, at the right side. Maybe your flash player is acting up. 14-9-4 still for Freestyle.
Parent - - By Mark Eldridge (****) [gb] Date 2015-04-09 20:27
Just voted thank you all for your help.
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-15 19:37
More than 50 votes cast already! 25-19-10 for Freestyle.
Parent - By Mark Eldridge (****) [gb] Date 2015-04-15 20:01
Very good
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-03 21:37

>It wasn't several months, it was three months, i.e. a few.


Several: more than two but not many.

>Do you remember the nightly exhaustion after playing or getting ready to play 12 hours a day for three straight days?


I started towards the end of the Golden Age, at the time, my expectations for these kind of events was low. I played for fun, which means I didn't get really tired.
Parent - - By Nelson Hernandez (Gold) [us] Date 2015-04-05 22:49
I guess it is more tiring when you're playing to win.  :twisted:
Parent - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-06 00:16
Trying to get the best out of you, is always hard. When you have something at stake, the pressure to achieve that personal optimum, is bigger.
Parent - - By Ciron (**) Date 2015-04-20 12:49
Did anyone read or discuss the following article from December 2014:
International Scholastic Freestyle Chess Tournament
Would be interesting to know more about that. Nice logo btw.
Parent - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2015-04-20 13:38
Not that I know of. Seems like a curious initiative, I wonder what'll come out of it.
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2018-06-14 13:21
I can't edit the bottom of the post, after so long. I will, instead, write the last part again, updating it to the present:

Latter Days

In the last decade, only three tournaments worth mentioning have been sponsored:

- The 1st International Online Advanced Chess Tournament, organized by MundialChess in early 2010, with a total of nearly 48.000€ being offered.
- The InfinityChess Freestyle Battle, early 2014, with a prize fund of $20,000.
- The InfinityChess Ultimate Challenge 2017, with a prize fund of $20,000.

None has been able to recapture the feel of the PAL/CSS times. Not only were they different in nature, but they also lacked continuity. One wasn't really a Freestyle Chess tournament, as the short time control made it impossible, for a team to finish a game. The second one was a League Competition, which span for several months, opposed to the Swiss format of old, which would be over in a couple of weekends. The last one adhered to the Swiss format, but was (again) a very long tour and what's worse, it didn't fulfil the promise made earlier by Ciron (Arno).

With summer almost upon us, everything indicates that 2018 won't see any major tournament added to the list, which begs the question: have we already been witness to the Last Day of Freestyle? Because, even if a new competition were held in the coming years, what are the prospects regarding draw death and the absence of "real wins"?
Parent - - By leavenfish (***) [us] Date 2018-06-15 00:26
"Last days of Freestyle"....lets hope so. It puts the fine point on what those of us who laugh at it these days. It's for those who fool themselves into thinking they are actually doing something worthwhile.

If you want, go ahead, haters are gonna hate...
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2018-06-15 07:34

>haters are gonna hate...


Can't argue with that, after reading this post.

BTW, if you're going to quote, do it right. It was "Last Day", not "Last days".
Parent - By Antares (****) [de] Date 2018-06-15 07:44
Our leavenfish has already problems downloading engines, let alone using them (as tools)... :lol:
Parent - - By Antares (****) [de] Date 2018-06-15 07:45
Nice overview, wished we could turn back time a little.
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2018-06-15 08:05
My only hope for the future, is that lc0 may find new ways to maintain pressure on the black pieces. But first, it needs to get even with the top three.
Parent - - By Antares (****) [de] Date 2018-06-15 13:58
You have pretty much hope in Leela... while i agree that chess is theoretically drawn, for freestyle there should be practically still sidelines remaining to play for something (though most ponder out just the main-lines), but in the end (and already Capa knew this in the 40ies) we may need a new board/pieces/rules/opening-restrictions/computer|engine-restrictions...
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2018-06-15 14:52
Yes, but seeing how no progress has ben made in that direction, maybe a totally different top engine will suffice... for a while.
Parent - - By Antares (****) [de] Date 2018-06-15 15:21
What is even worse than chess being a drawn game: Computer- and/or book|database-assistance in chess was never generally accepted at all by most players and the audience. I mean, a formula one driver due to his superior car is an absolute hero, but when you create a chessgame-masterpiece with the help of all your resources, its basically just "engines did it". With that low acceptance, there is no real interest, not much participants&competition, just barely "sponsors"... and all that won't get better sadly.
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2018-06-15 15:31
The big difference between F1 and Freestyle, is that cars were made to run, so obviously everyone wants to see them do that, and no one sees those races as a substitute for human ones. Computers, on the other hand, are a multi-purpose tool, so it doesn't follow as naturally that you'll want to use them for any specific task; when that task is a game, most fans of the game will still want to see a human doing it. Only a few computer/chess fans, really appreciate the fact that computers supersede the human chess player in the majority of the positions and, therefore, should play instead.
Parent - - By gsgs (***) [de] Date 2018-06-16 08:04
I think the point is entertainment.
People ("fans") can follow F1 , can understand who goes better, where the
chances and risks are, who is leading and likely to win.

With computer chess you can just watch the evals, but hardly anyone -including the grandmasters -
of the fans can understand what's going on in that "sport" in life events.
Parent - - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2018-06-16 08:36
True, only the evals are an indication of where the game is going, most of the time, but that seems to be enough, for events like TCEC to be popular. I don't recall any Freestyle event ever having that many kibitzers.

The way I see it, there's a rather large group of chess fans, a subgroup of computer chess fans, and a fringe group of people who appreciates the mixture of engine and human input. This last group, isn't exactly a subgroup of the computer chess fans one, there's also a sizeable portion of correspondence players who understand that the only difference between Freestyle and corr, is time. Correspondence GMs like Arno himself, are a good example of this.
Parent - - By Antares (****) [de] Date 2018-06-16 08:45 Edited 2018-06-16 08:48

> [...] seems to be enough, for events like TCEC to be popular. I don't recall any Freestyle event ever having that many kibitzers.


Indeed interest in engines[-development&play] is there, but the general assumption is also that a freestyler or corr-player doesn't add anything/too much to engines play, hence only interest by active participants. Edit: Still freestyle on TCEC might be worth a try (but who plays without money on the table?!)... there seems to be more "community" than over at infinity. :smile:

Just read through the comments of DragonMist's Chessbase-article(1) (2), which was even titled "better than an engine" regarding his ICCF-WCwin... a felt 95% in the comments was "just engines!".
Parent - By Ozymandias (****) [es] Date 2018-06-16 09:43
Standalone engines, playing on big HW, have always been a part of Freestyle, and they've always performed worse. Even the last event, won by Zor, saw Roland as the best performer. You may say that differences are small, but when I see people going to great lengths (either trough deep pockets or dangerous OCs), in order to achieve a meagre 10% increase in performance, I wonder how they can justify the enterprise for the single digit Elo points they're scratching.

I don't know what percentage of moves are purely engine based, and I'm not even sure that matters. Take, for example, my game against EtaoinShrdlu back in 2014. I recall some people trying to explain the strange time management in that game, because of a server problem that forced my opponent to play apparently much slower; in fact, I spent the majority of the time for the very first moves (up to 8 more or less), and from that point forward, I was always way ahead in analysis, which allowed me to play faster. All of the moves were engine-based, but the game had a distinct Freestyle flavour. It's a question of aesthetics more than performance, nowadays, but that should be enough to entice the audience, it just must be a different one, than the currently targeted, though.
Up Topic The Rybka Lounge / Computer Chess / Centaur Chess, a quick portrait

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