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Subject: Re: When to do a null move search - an experiment

Author: Bas Hamstra

Date: 00:33:26 04/27/04

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About double nullmove: I tested this in some pawnendgames to see if it could
handle zuzwang problems, but I don't see it perform any better than normal
nullmove. Can Vincent or you post a position where double null outperforms
normal null? I agree the idea is elegant, but I just don't see it work.

Bas.




On April 26, 2004 at 15:04:32, Robert Hyatt wrote:

>On April 26, 2004 at 14:05:14, Vincent Diepeveen wrote:
>
>>On April 26, 2004 at 13:51:03, Robert Hyatt wrote:
>>
>>>On April 26, 2004 at 11:50:18, Vincent Diepeveen wrote:
>>>
>>>>On April 26, 2004 at 06:31:58, Tord Romstad wrote:
>>>>
>>>>I wonder how you came to your conclusion.
>>>>
>>>>I did more experiments and concluded that always nullmoving saves most time.
>>>>Double nullmove is just performing slightly worse (less than a percent in search
>>>>time) and not missing zugzwangs, so i use it for that reason.
>>>
>>>
>>>This is one of those rare occasions where I agree with Vincent.
>>>
>>>Several years ago Bruce Moreland and I were talking, about this very subject.  I
>>>was explaining how I did it in Cray Blitz (and also in Crafty).  I classified a
>>>node as "ALL", "CUT" or "PV" according to Marsland/Schaeffer terminology, and if
>>>the node was classified as PV I avoided doing the null-search at all.
>>>
>>>Bruce did some testing and doing this restriction actually slowed him down a
>>>bit.  So we both set about testing this stuff extensively and we came to the
>>>conclusion that null-move is best used _everywhere_ because we don't have
>>>perfect ordering and node classification is not that accurate as a result.  The
>>>only reason for avoiding a null is:
>>>
>>>(1) you are in some sort of zugzwang position where a null-move will fail high
>>>for the wrong reason and wreck the search.  Classic examples here are positions
>>>with very few pieces.  IE pawns vs a knight where the knight can be zugged.
>>>Most require some minimal amount of material on the board to avoid this problem.
>>>
>>>(2) there is a tactical issue that is hidden with the R reduction.  IE the
>>>classic position with white pawns at f2, g3 and h2, black queen at h3 and black
>>>pawn or bishop at f3, threatening mate on the move.  If the R reduction prevents
>>>you from seeing the mate, you can have problems.
>>>
>>>(3) The hash table proves that the null-move search will not fail high, meaning
>>>that the search will be wasted effort.
>>>
>>>(4) Obvious positions such as when the side on move is in check.  Not moving
>>>can't fail high here as the king is lost.
>>>
>>>(5) I don't allow two consecutive nulls.  It is a potentially cute way of
>>>eliminating zugzwang problems, but it is only good for that, and it is not free
>>>in positions where no zugzwang is possible.  I choose to not deal with it
>>>although I have this on my "to do" list to test with (say) pawn-only endings.
>>
>>Not allowing 2 consecutive nulls will for sure not find zugzwang problems.
>>
>>Not allowing 3 consecutive nulls will however find many zugzwang problems. As
>>pointed out hashtable could do difficult, but that very seldom happens.
>>
>>Double nullmove does allow 2 consecutive nulls but not a 3d. So for a correct
>>implementation you just need 1 'if then else' to also not allow null in a
>>transposition table cutoff. This is very trivial to do.
>
>That is exactly what I was talking about.  More than 2 can't ever be good.  In
>middlegame positions, I believe that 2 in a row introduces unnecessary overhead.
> In endgame it might be worthwhile.
>
>
>>
>>>In short, try null everywhere.  But, as always, test, test, test.  Theory says
>>>that doing null on a PV node is a waste.  Practice says that not all PV nodes
>>>are really PV nodes after the search has started...  Go with practice. :)
>>
>>I'm using PVS in its pure implementation, so i start with window [-inf;inf]
>>i also disallow nullmove when beta == inf.
>>
>>That's trivial stuff however.
>>
>>All other 'pv nodes' doing a nullmove is very good for different reasons. Even
>>when it gets a nullmove. double nullmove has a bit of a IID effect.
>>
>>>>Your results give IMHO only the indication that your qsearch needs to be fixed
>>>>and/or that you did your experiments at a too fast time control where tactics
>>>>dominate.
>>>>
>>>>>Last week, there was an interesting discussion on this forum about which
>>>>>criterions should be used to decide whether or not to do a null move search.
>>>>>In an attempt to find out what works best for my engine, I played a self-play
>>>>>tournament between four slightly different versions of my engine.  The
>>>>>following pseudo-code explains the null-move criterions used by each of
>>>>>the four versions:
>>>>>
>>>>>/* Gothmog A: */
>>>>>int ok_to_do_nullmove() {
>>>>>  if(in_check(SideToMove)) return 0;
>>>>>  if(static_eval - value_of_biggest_hanging_piece(SideToMove) >= beta)
>>>>>    return 1;
>>>>>  return 0;
>>>>>}
>>>>>
>>>>>/* Gothmog B: */
>>>>>int ok_to_do_nullmove() {
>>>>>  if(in_check(SideToMove)) return 0;
>>>>>  if(static_eval - value_of_biggest_hanging_piece(SideToMove)
>>>>>                 + value_of_biggest_hanging_piece(Opponent) >= beta)
>>>>>    return 1;
>>>>>  return 0;
>>>>>}
>>>>>
>>>>>/* Gothmog C: */
>>>>>int ok_to_do_nullmove() {
>>>>>  if(in_check(SideToMove)) return 0;
>>>>>  else return 1;
>>>>>}
>>>>>
>>>>>Gothmog D is similar to Gothmog C, except that when the remaining depth
>>>>>is 4 plies or more, a null move search with the depth reduced to zero
>>>>>is done before the real null move search, and the real null move search
>>>>>is avoided if the zero-depth search fails low.
>>>>>
>>>>>The criterion in Gothmog A is the one I have always used in the public
>>>>>versions of Gothmog.  Our discussion last week seemed to indicate that
>>>>>most others use the simpler criterion in Gothmog C.
>>>>>
>>>>>In my tournament, I all four versions face each other 50 times.  The
>>>>>results:
>>>>>
>>>>>           Gothmog A   Gothmog B   Gothmog C   Gothmog D       Sum
>>>>>Gothmog A    XXXX        26.5        31.0        29.5         87.0/150
>>>>>Gothmog B    23.5        XXXX        30.5        26.0         80.0/150
>>>>>Gothmog C    19.0        19.5        XXXX        31.5         70.0/150
>>>>>Gothmog D    20.5        24.0        18.5        XXXX         63.0/150
>>>>>
>>>>>It is interesting that the version with the most restrictive criterion
>>>>>achieves the highest score.  This confirms my growing suspicion that
>>>>>recursive null move pruning doesn't work nearly as well as most people
>>>>>believe, and that it might be a good idea to make an effort to reduce
>>>>>its use as much as possible.  I will try to experiment with even more
>>>>>restrictive criterions (perhaps static_eval-biggest_hanging >= beta+margin)
>>>>>and see whether that improves the strength further.
>>>>>
>>>>>The number of games is of course still not sufficiently big to make any
>>>>>definitive conclusions.  If I find the time, I will add more games and
>>>>>more versions to the tournament.


>>>>>
>>>>>Tord



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