Monday, December 11, 2017

Season 10 LTC is over

Season 10 is over, at least the games with long time control. There is a rapid tournament playing now, and it will be followed by a blitz tournament. I may watch when I have time but I won't follow these games closely or post reports. There are just too many games and I need a break.

Season 10 was the first season under chessdom that felt well managed. The games ran smoothly, there were very few server breakdowns and those were due to the larger number of viewers. A replacement for Martin as director was found. Anton was able to persuade more websites to follow the games, and he also posted interesting interviews with engine creators. Martin visited the chat from time to time and I think he can be proud of this season, definitely after the problems of the last one.

This season the old Chatwing chat was replaced by a twitch channel and chat. The transition went smoothly and the new chat became popular. One of the consequences is that there is a lot less trolling, especially by him who shall not be named. The twitch channel also allows a replay of a game including the chat in real time, acting as a chat archive which was impossible before.

In stage one most of the attention was focused on the qualification race. In the final rounds there were 5 contenders for four spots, in the last round it was determined that Gull was the one left out. Stage 2 was a very close race between the top three engines, in the end it was Houdini and Komodo who went on to the superfinal. Stockfish was 0.5 point down with worse results against the lower ranked engines, not qualifying despite not losing a game and beating Komodo once. The superfinal initially looked like a one-sided match, Houdini with 5 wins in the first 24 games. From that point the match became much more balanced, Houdini won the match but the remaining games had a score of 10-9. With this win Houdini completes a comeback which started mid season 9: version 4 was dropping out of the top 3, version 5 reached the season 9 superfinal, and version 6 wins in season 10.

Looking back at the season there were three main issues discussed in the chat that come to mind. In stage 2 it was the 'c7f7' event. Andscacs, a well respected engine, did not perform well in stage 2. Its worse moment was when it threw away a game by making an illegal move (c7 goes to f7). In the beginning of the superfinal it was the suspected problem with Komodo. It was noticed that Komodo's node per second rate was lower than expected, and the Komodo team found out that the cause was a problem in the compilation (this was later given the name 'compiler-gate'). The TCEC decision was to not allow a mid-stage fix, submitting new versions can be risky. Closer to the end of the superfinal Google dropped the AlphaZero bomb. With its huge resources and a learning framework Google was able to give a program the rules of chess, and with only self play it managed to reach a very high level of play, beating Stockfish 8 in a 100 game match 28-0. There was a lot of discussion, mainly defensive arguments (match was not fair, can't really tell which engine is "better"). There is no question that this is a new approach to computer chess, and it would be exciting to see how it will affect the future of the field.

Season 11 will start soon, perhaps right after the blitz tournament. The format is going to change to 4 leagues of 8 engines each, ordered by engine strength. The league system will include relegations and promotions of two engines from league to league. In this system there will be less games between engines with extreme strength difference. The lower leagues will be played with shorter time controls, and the higher leagues will have more rounds. The top two engines in the top league will play a superfinal match as before.

This season I had a few live blogging sessions, where I could react to the game as it happens and not while looking at it in the archive. This was a lot of fun though time consuming, I will try to have more of these sessions in the future. Other blog news:
  • With the growing popularity of TCEC I had many more hits than the previous two seasons. There were over 3000 hits in November, almost 3 times the previous record for a month.
  • All-time number of hits above 15000.
  • The blog was mentioned and quoted in a post on chessdom
  • The blog continues to be read by people from all over the world, I'm very happy about that.
That's all folks! I will be back for next season, till then bye, and

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