Computer Chess Club Archives




Subject: Open letter from the ICCA

Author: Stefan Meyer-Kahlen

Date: 09:26:25 04/22/01

I have received from the ICCA President David Levy a copy of an open letter
concerning the Kramnik match. I agree with all the points of his proposal and I
agree to participate in a qualifying match for the right to play Kramnik
according to the terms of the ICCA. Below you will find a copy of this open

Best regards
   Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, author of Shredder

An Open Letter to Professor Enrique Irazoqui
[ The Cadaques tournament and the Bahrain match ]

Dear Professor Irazoqui,

Your forthcoming computer chess tournament in Cadaques is arousing widespread
controversy which cannot be good for the future of computer chess or for “man v
machine” chess. This is most certainly not what you intended and the ICCA has
now been asked to act as mediator in an attempt to help you bring order to the

When your tournament first came to the attention of the ICCA there were three
aspects in particular which concerned us. The first is that, so far as we were
told, the tournament was to take place in private surroundings, without the
programmers being present. Fortunately we now see that the event is scheduled to
take place in public with the programmers and the media welcome to attend. We
are very pleased that you have made this change.

Of much greater concern to us was that fact that your tournament used the phrase
“World Championship” in its name. In view of the fact that the ICCA has been the
recognized body for organizing all of the World Championships for chess programs
since our association was formed in 1977, we could in no way support any other
event claiming to be a Computer World Championship. Fortunately you have now
changed the name of your event and the phrase “World Championship” no longer
appears. We are very pleased that you have made this change.

The third aspect of your event which causes us concern is that it is designed to
be a qualifying competition in order to select the program that will play a
match with Kramnik in Bahrain, starting in mid-October. Given that we already
have a World Computer Chess Champion – the “SHREDDER” program – it would hardly
seem appropriate to denigrate SHREDDER’s title by inviting its programmer to
participate in a “qualifying tournament”.  Having said that, we recognize that
commercial organizations have the right to do as they wish when staging
competitive events for which they raise the sponsorship. It must be said,
however, that for the Bahrain match to have the credibility it deserves,
Kramnik’s opponent should, like Kramnik, be a current World Champion.

SHREDDER won the World Computer Chess Championship in Paderborn, Germany, in a
tournament held in 1999, and will have the opportunity to defend its title next
year. (Our main World Computer Championships usually take place every three
years.) The tournament in Paderborn was open to programs running on absolutely
any hardware, for example mainframe computers and multi-processor systems were
eligible to take part. In addition, SHREDDER is also the reigning World
Microcomputer Chess Champion, a title it won in that same Paderborn tournament
and retained last year in London.

You can understand that from the ICCA’s viewpoint, as well as from the viewpoint
of many chess and computer chess fans throughout the world, the natural choice
of opponent for Kramnik is SHREDDER, holder of both World Championship titles in
the computer chess world.

A sad situation has now arisen in which diverse commercial interests are
damaging the public’s perception of computer chess. Let us examine the situation
closely and see if we can resolve the arguments being conducted on the Internet
and through the news media.

Clearly every player involved in this situation, whether human World Champion or
computer programmer, has rights and opinions which should be respected. Right
now the person who feels that his rights and opinions are not being respected is
the programmer of SHREDDER, World Champion Stefan Meyer-Kahlen. Let us examine
the points he raises and let us try to find a way to satisfy everyone involved
in this matter.

Stefan has  written his own resumé of the situation and posted it on the
Internet. It is reproduced here with my own comments [in square brackets].

“Subject: Why Shredder is not playing in Cadaques

Posted by Stefan Meyer-Kahlen on April 18, 2001 at 06:11:04:

A lot of discussion is going on about the planned Kramnik machine match and I
think it is necessary to give you my point of view about the whole issue. I
refused to play in this event for various reasons which I will sum up below:

·	The final version of the program playing against Kramnik must be made
available to Kramnik end of July already. This makes an match with equal chances
impossible as it will be very easy for Mr. Kramnik to prepare and win a match
against any program under this circumstances. I would even say that it is
possible for human players of my strength to win a match against any program
with this conditions.  [Certainly it is unheard of to give an opponent such an
advantage as is being proposed for Kramnik. This does not happen when programs
take part in human tournaments. Nor did it happen when Kasparov played against
Deep Blue in 1996 and again in 1997. I find it surprising that Kramnik would
want such an advantage and even more surprising that some programmers are
willing to give it to him. - DL]
·	For a computer to play the match against Kramnik he must win a qualifier
against some other chess programs. This qualification tournament will be called
the BGN computer world chess championships and the winner will be called the BGN
computer chess world champion. I see no reasons to have another computer chess
world championship and another computer chess world champion besides the ICCA
tournaments and the ICCA champion so I will not play there. [This point is no
longer a problem. Since Stefan posted his document on April 18th the words
“World Championship” have been removed from the title of the Cadaques
tournament. – DL]

·	The first time I have heard about this qualification tournament was two weeks
before the scheduled start of this event. [It is almost unheard of in chess for
an event which purports to be of top calibre to be announced with such short
notice. The fact that some programmers are willing to take part under these
conditions does not mean that all programmers should be compelled to do so.
Giving programmers so little notice presents an advantage to any programmer who
has only recently finished the latest serious revision of his program. – DL]

·	The event will be played with the autoplayer and without any representative of
the programs on site. [Autoplayers have never been used in any of the ICCA’s
World Computer Chess Championships. For 24 years we have organized our
tournaments with one programmer sitting across the board from the other. In our
view autoplayers should be used in a game only if they are acceptable to both
programmers. As to the question of representation – this has fortunately been
solved since Stefan’s posting on the Internet. The programmers are now invited
to be present to watch in Cadaques. – DL]

·	The starting fee for each program will be $5000. [A tournament organizer is at
liberty to charge what he wishes for the entry fee.  – DL]

·	The prize fund in the human machine match will be divided quite uneven in the
case that Kramnik or the computer will win. In this respect the whole issue
seems to me like an event only for Kramnik and the organizers to make big money,
not to play a real match against a computer. [On this point I must again agree
with Stefan. In top class chess matches there has long been a tradition that the
prize fund is divided in proportions such as two-thirds : one-third or
five-eighths : three-eighths, in favour of the winner, with the money being
split 50 : 50 if the match is drawn. Of course there is nothing wrong with an
agreement between the players for a “winner take all” or other fair distribution
of the prize fund, but the proposal for the Kramnik match is very uneven. In my
opinion the only fair way to distribute  the prize fund gives a certain amount
to the winner and the balance to the loser, no matter who the winner might be. –

·	There are many more points like a clause that all the micro Deeps can be
kicked out anytime when IBM decides to join or severe restrictions in the
marketing of this event, but I think those given above should be sufficient to
understand my point of view.

So I have various reasons not to join this thing, each of those being enough not
to join. I hope that all the speculations, wild guesses and accusations
concerning my withdrawal will end, particularly of those guys who even haven’t
seen the contract, including one of my colleagues here.

Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, author of Shredder.”

So much for what is wrong with the situation. Now I would like to make some
concrete suggestions for putting it right, in a way that is not only fair but is
also seen to be fair. Would it not be so much better if the Bahrain match were
to take place in a good atmosphere, without the spectre of disputes which is
already threatening to engulf the event in bad publicity? If all the parties
involved can agree to the following proposal the whole matter could be amicably
settled in 24 hours. I represented the ICCA in negotiating the contract for the
first match between Kasparov and Deep Blue and can confirm from that experience
that it is not so difficult in the chess world to get reasonable people to reach
agreement about what is fair.


1	The ICCA will institute a new title – World Matchplay Computer Chess

2	The winner of the Cadaques tournament qualifies to play a match against World
Computer Chess Champion SHREDDER to determine the first holder of the World
Matchplay Computer Chess Championship title. The ICCA would be very pleased if
you, Professor Irazoqui, were to be the Chief Organiser of that event and, if
you wish, to organize it in Spain. In order to give all the strongest programs a
chance to qualify for the match against SHREDDER the tournament in Cadaques
should be open to all leading chess programs below the rank of World Champion.

3	This match takes place during July or August in order to give both programming
teams sufficient time to prepare for the event. The ICCA will supervise the
match which should be played, in accordance with previous practice, without

4	The winning programmer of the World Matchplay Computer Chess Championship
negotiates with the organizers of the Bahrain match and with Kramnik over the
detailed conditions for that match. [Conditions which are acceptable to one
programmer might not necessarily be acceptable to another and for a match to be
fair to both players it is necessary for both players to be in agreement over
the conditions.]

To conclude, Professor Irazoqui, I would like to say that it is the fervent wish
of the ICCA that this matter be settled in a way which is fair to all concerned
and which endows your tournament in Cadaques with the greatest possible
respectability. The Bahrain match is a truly wonderful idea and deserves to be
allowed to proceed in peace.

Best regards,

David Levy

[President – ICCA]

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