Computer Chess Program Shredder

From February 23 until February 27, 2005 the 14th International Computer Chess Championship (IPCCC) was held in Paderborn, Germany. The tournament is hosted by the University of Paderborn and is one of the strongest for computer chess programs; the best programs in the world come here to compete. Shredder has played in the annual IPCCC several times and has won the event three times already. The IPCCC is a computer only event, which means that the programs are playing each other to find out who is the best.

The event is open for all chess playing units, so not only PC based programs are allowed but anything that can play chess and is not a human. Shredder had very nice hardware this time. As usual transtec has sponsored Shredder with hardware for important tournaments, this time Shredder was playing on a Quad Opteron 852 system with 2.6 GHz and 4 GB RAM. The machine was not physically in Paderborn but was left in Tübingen in the transtec head quarter. The machine was connected to the Internet, so it is possible to access the machine from anywhere with Internet connection. This makes travelling to tournaments much easier: instead of carrying a huge and heavy computer, a small notebook is enough.

The IPCCC 2005 was just a few days after the release of Shredder 9, so instead of using a special tournament version of Shredder I was competing with the just released standard Deep Shredder 9 UCI. My strongest competitor this year was certainly Hydra from the UAE. Hydra is not what I would call a typical chess program. It is running on a cluster of currently 8 computers with two processors each. In every computer there are additionally two FPGA hardware cards which are specially built to execute the chess code extremely fast. So in total it has 16 cpus and 16 hardware cards to do its chess calculations. A very nice machine, and very big; for this reason the Hydra hardware was also not present in Paderborn but was left in Abu Dhabi and also accessed via the Internet. Here is a part of the Hydra team with Chrilly Donninger and GM Christopher Lutz. 16 programs where competing this year and nine rounds had to be played with two hours for each side for the whole game. In the first round Shredder was paired against Patzer form Germany. Patzer has made a tactical mistake right after the opening, so Shredder had a quick victory in the first round. The second round was against Gandalf from Denmark. Gandalf is a professional chess program and is competing in tournaments for many years. This is why Shredder and Gandalf have already played many games against each other in their tournament history. This time Gandalf with white was trying to attack very quickly in the opening. Shredder defended well and after Gandalf's attack was over he could start a strong counter attack leading to a nice win for Shredder.

After two rounds the only programs with two points where Shredder and Hydra, so the probably most important game of the tournament was already scheduled to be played in round three. With both computers not being on site it looked like two tiny notebooks were playing, hiding the power of the real machines in the back. Shredder played very actively and reached a very nice position. Hydra defended very well and found a nice way to counter attack when Shredder was pushing it a bit too much. Shredder was still dreaming of his attack and underestimated Hydra's chances which resulted in a win for Hydra. With six rounds to go Shredder was one point behind, so the strategy for the rest of the tournament was clear: Winning all remaining games and hoping for Hydra to stumble.

This goal was almost missed in the next round when Shredder was playing against the newcomer Spike from Germany. Spike played very well and Shredder only managed to win in the late endgame after 108 moves. Nexus from Germany was also giving Shredder a hard time in round 5, but finally Shredder won again in the endgame. Hydra was playing Gandalf in this round and only achieved a draw against the Danish program despite using its new photon gun to disturb the opponent's computer during the game. Shredder was only half a point behind Hydra after round 5. After the next round it was even better for Shredder: Shredder won against SOS after a long fight doing one of his famous deep thoughts in this position and Hydra surprisingly drew against Jonny. So Shredder has caught up and was leading together with Hydra with 5 points out of 6 rounds, third was Gandalf with 4 points. Round 7 was without surprises: Hydra has won its game and Shredder was winning against Anaconda from Germany.

In round 8 Shredder was paired against Diep from the Netherlands. Diep played a very sharp and risky line and got Shredder by surprise. The game was totally unclear and finally ended in a draw after chances for both sides. Hydra won its game and was leading with half a point in front of Shredder before the last round. Shredder won his game convincingly against Quark form Germany,

but Hydra did the same against Anaconda and kept the lead to win the tournament. The final result if the IPCCC 2005 is 1. Hydra with 8 points, 2. Shredder with 7.5 points 3. Gandalf and Spike with 5.5 points. Shredder was clearly the best program for personal computers and was only beaten by Hydra with its special and massive hardware.

The tournament was played in a very nice atmosphere at the University of Paderborn. It was a good opportunity to meet old friends and competitors to play chess on a very high level. Computer chess has evolved a lot in the last years. The programs got much better and the level of play in this tournament would have made it very hard for any human player to compete in this field. The progress was obvious as some tests were made with a Mephisto chess computer which was the computer chess world champion in 1987. Between the rounds Shredder has played some games with GM Talib Moussa of the Hydra team which were also pretty hard for the human player.

After all Shredder has played a very good tournament. The Hydra team is taking computer chess quite seriously by getting two human Grandmasters in their team and trying to make their machine faster and faster. However I am ready to accept the challenge and looking forward to the next encounter with Hydra.

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