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.
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the name of the event, as well as the rules the arbiters were trying (hopelessly) to enforce, already represented an outdated anomaly.
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.
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.
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.
>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.
>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.
International Scholastic Freestyle Chess Tournament
Would be interesting to know more about that. Nice logo btw.
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