Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Contest: Win a Free Copy of Gothic Vortex

I have decided that the ChessV versus Gothic Vortex game is so complex to analyze, that I am having a contest. Whoever anotates the game the best, as judged by me, will win a free copy of the same version of the program used in the 2007 Gothic Chess Computer World Championship.

Here is the link to the game: ChessV vs. Gothic Vortex

Grading system:

"Points" will be given for:

Tactical correctness of lines
Demonstrating relevant variations (keyword: relevant!)
Writing sytle
Strategic insights and summary of objectives

If you have never annotated a game before, read over some of the comments I have posted, and see if you can make similar remarks about the germane aspects of a given position. Since all posts will be recorded chronologically, the earliest poster will get credit for the lines/variations that might be "copied" in later posts. This should not discourage later posters since you might be able to find something wrong in their posts, or use it to build on more relevant descriptions.

You can start.... now! Good luck, and may the best annotator win!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Vortex 2.2.3 Destroys ChessV with a mate in 27

The Vortex vs. SMIRF mate in 28 was a "middlegame mate" -- SMIRF played the opening well and Vortex found a tactical strike to end the game abruptly. The Vortex vs. ChessV mate, while only mating one move faster, is much more impressive, and is appears to be tactically motivated right from the opening!

Here is a link to the complete game:

Gothic Vortex 2.2.3 vs. ChessV

1.d4 g6 2.Nh3 Nh6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Nc3 Af6? 5.Bg5! Axd4 6.Ni5! Kg8 7.Nxj7!!

At first glance, Nxj7 looks to be a blunder, since both Rxj7 and Nxj7 appear perfectly playable. But after 7...Rxj7?? white has 8. e3!! which strikes at the Archbishop with the pawn and it also reveals the Queen on d1 to strike at the Rook now on j7. With 7...Nxj7 the same type of tactic awaits, since Bxi7 will entice the Rook to move, e3 will prompt the Archbishop retreat, and as before, the Queen will have Qxj7 which will now threaten the Rook which will have moved to i8 most likely.

The game continuation was even more interesting...

7...Nxj7 8.e3 Ae6 9.Bxi7 Ac4+ 10.Cd3 Nc6 11.Bd5

ChessV is suffering from the "horizon effect" described by Dr. Hans Berliner decades ago. It cannot see how to get out of the mess, so by playing Ac4+ it will "postpone" the diaster two more plies, effectively pushing the danger out of its own principal variation. Vortex searches further and sees the danger is real.

11...Axd3+ 12.cxd3 Bxc3 13.Bxj8 Bxb2 14.Rb1 Cd6 15.Qxj7 Cxd5

You need a scorecard to try and figure out who has what...

It is now white to move, and you expect 16. Rxb2 next, having white pick up the hanging Bishop. But Vortex uncorks 16. h4!! which sets up an Archbishop mate with Aj4 and Ah6 if the threats are not dealt with immediately!

16.h4!! Bh8 17.Aj4 Cf5 18.e4 Ch5

From here the threats have finally culminated to the point of execution.


The point: Black can't recapture with the pawn or else Ah6 is checkmate!

19...Bg7 20.Bh6 Bc3 21.Qj5

Vortex had announced mate in 7 with its last move.

21...f5 22.Ai5 Kf7 23.Qxh7+ Ke6 24.Qxg6+ Bf6 25.Qxf5+ Kf7 26.Ag6+ Kg8 27.Qj5#

Another tremendous game from Gothic Vortex.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vortex vs. SMIRF, the final position

The final position: checkmate on move 28.

Vortex vs. SMIRF, black to move after Ad2!

With the white queen on d1 under attack by black's archbishop on c3, white plays Ad2! in this critical position. If black takes the white queen with the archbishop, a viscious attack begins with Bxh6+!

Vortex vs. SMIRF, view from the operator console

From lower left to upper right: The SMIRF program (on screen), Gothic Vortex (on screen), Richard Pariseau (top left) and his opponent, Vinko Rutar is crouching looking at something at the top towards the right, and Dan Heisman is turning towards the camera as the photo is being taken.

Vortex vs. SMIRF at the Main Line Chess Club

Ed Trice operating the computer for Gothic Vortex vs. SMIRF, round 2.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

One of the coolest things about Tornado...

One of my favorite things about Tornado is the cool startup screen that flashes while you wait for the program to load. Tornado is named after the horse in The Legend of Zorro, and his programmer shows this cool looking screen at startup. One of the things I did not realize that was in Tornado I found out at Thanksgiving over my parents' house. I installed Tornado on my father's computer to test the new version. I don't have speakers on my computer, but my father's system does. Apparently whenever Tornado captures an enemy piece's knight, it lets a wild horse's whinnying sound rip through your speakers in an eerie echo. It reminded me more of Ichabod Crane's encounter with the Headless Horseman's steed from Sleepy Hollow.

It has a menu to turn this off, and I guarantee it would give anyone a jolt the first time they hear it!

This new version of Tornado got revenge over TSCP Gothic with a victory as Black. What was surprising was how TSCP "developed its Rook" to j3 after pushing a pawn from j4 to j5 to j6 on consecutive moves. I have noticed this beavior before from TSCP, and it is most unusual. Even more strange, TSCP was able to "predict" some moves by Black that I thought where unlikely, namely 17...Ab4, 18...Qa5 and 19...Ng6 back to back to back. (I just wasn't looking for a combination based on moves of this sort.) It amazes me that programs that are so different occasionaly agree on subsets of their principal variations, especially those that don't seem to be likely candidates to a human.

I will post the game later, as well as some pictures.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Round 2, Zillions 2 vs. fmax4, Draw in 9 moves!

With remarkable brevity, the new version of fmax4 and Zillions 2 concluded their game in only 9 moves with a 3-fold repetition draw!

Zillions 2 vs. fmax4

With the Vortex-SMIRF game ending rather quickly, and with a new copy of fmax freshly installed, I decided to see how it would fare against Zillions. The game began in the style of the Gothic Queenside Petroff that is somewhat popular with new Gothic Chess programs. Then, fmax allowed the d5 pawn to fall, but it could have won the d4 pawn in upcoming moves with gain of tempi.

With the search not being deep enough to see the regain of the pawn, it could only see the "0" score of the repetition draw by continuing to chase the white Archbishop. Zillions 2 did not risk placing it anywhere other than on f3 and d5, so the draw was achieved on move 9!

Round 2, Vortex vs. SMIRF, 1-0

Gothic Vortex vs. SMIRF, 1-0

Tonight's Gothic Chess game featured an interesting demonstration of the fully debugged version of Vortex, coupled with its new King Safety Heuristics and extended depth searching. Click the link above to replay the game.

The first six moves for White were in its opening book, and from the database of games I see this has been played a total of 14 times in the 7,214 games of Gothic Chess I have collected. Nothing extraordinary, just common moves in familiar territory.

Things get interesting in a hurry: After 11. Bg5!? Axc3 Gothic Vortex is down a pawn, as shown in the top diagram. However, white is already castled with all of its minor pieces developed with the Archbishop well positioned. Black is uncastled and would castle directly into a pending attack if it elected to do so with the likes of ....O-O Bxh6! ixh6 weakening the pawn structure irreversibly.

After 11...Axc3 black's Archbishop is threatening the white Queen on d1 and the Chancellor on e1. It appears white will go down this new Gothic Exchange (Chancellor for Archbishop once the Queen vacates d1) but Vortex uncorks 12. Ad2!!

The Queen is not en prise since 12...Axd1?? 13. Bxh6+ ix6 14. Axh6+! would be mate if the Chancellor could not intercede with 14...Cg7. White is presented with the luxury of not having to win back The Gothic Exchange right away since the Chancellor is now pinned by the Archbishop, so black's Archbishop is captured at once, with the Chancellor coming off on the next move.

The SMIRF program saw the threats after it searched ply 10, and it wisely avoided this whole line.

12...Axd2 13. Qxd2 Kg7 was played, and now black's king is not well defended.

Vortex deployed its Chancellor, having already completed a normal development with a king that is immune from threats, then it moves its pieces ever closer to the enemy king. It views white as being better, although down a pawn the entire time.

The shocker comes with 18. Nh5+!! giving up the Knight while still down a pawn, yet showing a score of +4.85 pawns. This is shown in the second diagram. SMIRF's score drops into the negative range, and the permanent damage is done.

Vortex announces mate in 8 with 22. Be4! after only 20 seconds elapsed for that move. A flawless game by the new Gothic Vortex.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

fmax4 replaces Martillo in Gothic Chess Computer Championship

Due to technical difficulties, fmax4 has replaced the Martillo program in the 2007 Gothic Chess Computer World Championship. The Martillo programmer cites an example we have all seen at one time or another: making too many changes to the only copy of the source code, then messing something up in a drastic fashion.

While Martillo has stepped down, fmax4, a "famous descendant" of the smallest chess program on the planet (named "Max" by H.G. Muller of The Netherlands) has moved in to take its place. Max is a chess program with fewer than 2000 characters in its source code, yet it plays respectable chess at the "expert" level of about 2000 elo. At first, H.G. Muller was uncertain how fmax4 (the version that plays Gothic Chess) would perform.

But, with its round 1 win over Zillions 2, H.G. is pleased and will be supplying an updated version for the event.

Here is a link to that game:

fmax4 vs. Zillions 2

He notes that fmax4 is more of a "benchmarking tool" than an actual program. Because it deliberately lacks sophistication, more robust programs should be able to score wins against it. But those that cannot, clearly need to go back to the drawing board!

We welcome fmax4 into the event, which will be the most competitive it has been so far.

Friday, November 16, 2007

2007 Gothic Chess Computer Championship, Round 1, Game 2

Tornado vs. TSCP Gothic 64, 0-1

We get our first glimpse of the new Tornado program in this game, battling with the "speed demon", TSCP Gothic 64, the first 64-bit Gothic Chess program. We see an odd trend with the Tornado progam: 6 of its first 10 moves are with its Knights! It seems to have an aversion to prefer Knights over Bishops, but later on it does not hesitate to involve them in combinations leading to trading of some heavy pieces.

After each side has castled and black gets in 15...e5 things settle down a bit, as shown in the diagram. White's bad Bishop on the queenside is devoid of prospects, and the pawn structure soon dictates stagnation. The Tornado program makes the misinformed decision to overactivate its Rook with 20. Rg5, but then it deploys it where it can be harrassed mercilessly. TSCP Gothic then wins the exchange after a bit of "razzle dazzle": 27...Bxi4 28.Ng5 Bg2 29.Rxg2 -- not the typical Exchange methods employed in the chess world!

After some further simplication, each side seemed to grope for what was unattainable: a wrest for more material. Tornado was vastly outsearching TSCG Gothic at one point, reporting phenomenal search depths with a score showing no signs of danger.

This had me wondering: Why the unusual play so early in the game when this "powerhouse" search was obviously at its core?

My prediction is that there is some sort of bug in Tornado and we all may get stunned by this program if it can correct its unusual early round behavior. Meanwhile TSCP Gothic 64 with its 1,000,000 node per second move generator is not too shabby either!

In the end, Tornado got "sucked up" in its own overuse of time, and TSCP Gothic pulled out the win. I am curious to see how these programs will do in later rounds, as I am not sure which is the better of the two after this performance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Games of the 2007 Gothic Chess Computer Championship


SMIRF 1.69e vs. Gothic Vortex 2.2.1, 0-1

The 2007 Gothic Chess Computer Championship starts off with a series of snafus; no power in the first outlet everything was connected to, the monitor is "out of synch" and we are missing a USB cable to connect the external drive housing most of the programs. Since the SMIRF program was installed on Ed Trice's C-drive, a last minute decision was to have the Round 14 pairings moved to Round 1, and the Round 13 pairings substituted for Round 2.

The game was quick to reach an exciting position. After an unusual "Queenside Gothic Petroff" opening, we reach the first diagram with black to move:

The new version of Vortex elects to part with the Queen, 7...Qxc7!? 8. Bxc7 which begins a long sequence leading to a positional gain (the white king must capture to the second rank with no sheltering pawns) in exchange for a material loss (black loses the Queen but gains white's Archbishop for it.)

An interesting theoretical position results after 10...Cxc7 which is shown in the second position:

The question is, was the sacrifice worth it, or was it too early for such a sortie? There are still two supermajors on the board for each player (Queen + Chancellor vs. Chancellor + Archbishop) so there are plently of chances for each side to strike.

Black castles to safety, then migrates all of the forces to bear down on white's position. Then came the fireworks shown in the third position:

Black to move uncorks 24...Cxg3+!! 25. hxg3 Ai3+ 26. Ch2 Nxh2 27. Qxh2 and now has the time for the luxury of 27...Axj1, picking up the Rook before returning for the white Queen after 28. Rxd7 Rf1+!! 29. Kg2 Rf2+! 30. Kxf2 Axh2. An incredible sequence leading to a strategically won endgame that black plays to completion flawlessly.

A game well worth replaying!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Round 1 of the Gothic Chess Computer Chess Championship

Chaos Theory is a branch of mathematics that gained some popular exposure in 1993 when Michael Cricton's novel, Jurassic Park, became a summer blockbuster after its June 11 release (I was one of the few that got to see it the night before on June 10.)

I was thinking about this as item after item went wrong last night at the Main Line Chess Club in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.

1. I unpacked the computer, the monitor, the cables, the external hard drive with my 300 Gigabytes of tablebases, etc. I hooked up the monitor and computer first and.... no power! The outlet in the section of what usually is the Art Room in this Senior Center was not producing any voltage. Time to move!

2. I moved to another location in the room. Hooked the monitor and computer back up and..... "Out of Range" was displaying on the monitor. Did I mention how I hate MultiSynch monitors that lack analog controls so you can adjust them! All of this migration to solid state electronics with no external controls is becoming the trend. So now I was in "binary mode" -- the monitor was hit or miss, no middle ground.

3. It took 10 minuted to troubleshoot that one of the two videos cards in the box became unseated during the hour long drive to the club. Most likely some rough patches of road on I-95 during the construction project were to blame.

4. After having fixed this, I then realized I was missing a USB cable. I had no way to hook up my external drive, which contained all programs of the participants, plus my Gothic Chess tablebases! Ugh!

Time was running out. I had the latest copy of SMIRF installed on my C drive. It was either Vortex vs. SMIRF or the trip was wasted.

And so it was... SMIRF had the white pieces, Gothic Vortex with the black pieces...

And National Master Dan Heisman was onhand to watch an extremely interesting game.... Vortex allowing its Queen to be taken by SMIRF's Bishop on move 8!

Here is the link to the game:

SMIRF 1.69e vs. Vortex 2.2.1

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Current Releases of participating Programs

There is a new release MS-169d ready for download at http://www.10x8.net/down/SmirfEngine.dll for owners of a SMRF key set. It still has no opening library, but it should again be marginally improved.

It would be fine to know, which programs at which release stage are at the start now. And it would be nice to read some details on its authors ...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Correspondence Game, 1 Day Per Move

I think it makes sense to use the Discussion Board for correspondence games, not the blog. That way anyone can start a new game, and play whatever time control you want.

And, I'll pay anyone $20 cash that can beat me.

The 24 hours per move will be strictly enforced.

The discussion board link is below

Cartaphilus vs. Whoever

Good luck to whoever accepts the challenge.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Troll Alert - BlueHorseShoe = Moron

Everyone, please be mindful that the user "BlueHorseshoe" is not the Grandmaster who used to sign onto GothicChessLive.com and play Gothic Chess.

Do not reply to BlueHorseShoe's posts on here. Ignore him, and the moron will go away.