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Subject: Ikarus at CCT7

Author: Kolss

Date: 09:44:51 02/14/05


Hello everyone,

As I have always enjoyed reading other people's reports on tournaments, here is
my own brief account of CCT7 as the operator of Ikarus...

First of all, I would like to thank everybody involved in the event, especially
Peter for organizing it, Andy (Zek) for his assistance in setting up accounts
etc., for IM Schroer for commenting throughout the whole tournament, for
everyone else who was involved and whom I don't know or may have forgotten.
Also, thanks a lot to all participants in helping to make this a great
experience, especially to our opponents for some quite elucidating games.

All in all, I think CCT7 went extraordinarily smoothly. There were only a few
small incidents, but that is of course unavoidable... Everything was perfectly
organized, the rounds could always start almost on the minute. That is to some
degree due to the time control, which at 50'+3'' was very well chosen and can
only be recommended for future CCT, but of course also due to Peter's incredible
speed at updating results and posting them as well as the new pairings on his
web site.

The next part will be a very subjective story - from the perspective of Ikarus
or rather one of its developers. If you are not interested, this is the point to
quit! :-)

Before the tournament, we had several goals, of course (not necessarily in order
of descending importance...):
1. Test our current version - there is no better way of getting new ideas and
insights than from intensely watching a real game.
2. Play against some new and interesting programs - this is sort of the same as
#1.
3. "Meet" other programmers and exchange some thoughts.
4. Have fun.
5. Make Ikarus known a bit more.
6. ?

#5 partially stems from the fact that Ikarus was only seeded at #21. We both
(i.e. Muntsin and myself = Munjong) thought that that was rather off, as we
would probably have seeded Ikarus in the top ten. But then again, people did not
seem to know much about Ikarus, and I had also failed to publish our hardware in
time (Centrino 2.0 GHz, 768 MB RAM, by the way). Besides, we did not care that
much about the seeding anyway - you have to win the games in the end, no matter
against whom. Of course, it also had the positive side that we were quite
certain we would overfulfill the expectations...

As for the goal in terms of final ranking, it was hard to predict. We thought
there were at least seven or eight programs that would seriously compete for the
victory, and about 20 to go for the top ten... :-) For us, top ten or something
like 6 to 6.5 points was sort of a minimum goal, though ending up worse would
not have been a catastrophe - in such a dense field, a bit of bad luck is enough
to catapult you down significantly.

I personally expected 7.5 points to be needed to at least jointly win the
tournament - I did not expect that one program would conduct such a rout
though...

So here goes the account round by round - don't worry: analysis not included!!

Day 1:

Round 1: Ikarus - SEE (1-0)
Being seeded 21st, we played 43rd seed, SEE. Not knowing much about SEE, we
chose to play something solid. Ikarus came out of a Nimzo-Indian with a minute
disadvantage, but that is normal for this opening (at least our program seems to
have difficulty judging it properly). After some moves, it gradually accumulated
a nice advantage and finally converted a passer into victory. That was a good
start!

Round 2: Pharaon - Ikarus (1-0)
As a reward, we were to play Pharaon on the black side. This would be a tough
task, as we considered Pharaon to be one of the serious contenders for the top
spot. Both programs being out of book rather quickly, a quite balanced position
emerged.

In this position

[D]3r2k1/pp1r1ppp/4b3/3N1n2/8/1B1R4/PP2KPPP/3R4 w - - 0 21

Ikarus missed the strong 21. g4! and ended up in a knight vs. bishop endgame
with a passive king, which turned out to be hopeless, as Ikarus realized way too
late. Pharaon played the ending very well and easily converted it into the
deserved victory.
So we were stuck with 1.0/2 and thinking that it could only become better... No,
that is a bit exaggerated - while we did not think that Ikarus is really much
weaker than Pharaon, we knew that it would be perfectly OK to lose to this
strong program.

An exclamation mark was set by DanChess by beating Yace, and also Matacz, seeded
way in the bottom half, ended up with a perfect score after this round.

Round 3: Ikarus - Petir (1-0)
We knew nothing about Petir, but were lucky to get a good opening. Petir came
out with a locked-away bishop, failed to set up counterplay on the queen side,
and Ikarus, effectively playing with a piece more, quickly won the game. It was
nice to see a #13 announced without tablebases...

Movei beat Crafty, for us perhaps the biggest surprise of the round besides
DanChess' draw against Pharaon.

Round 4: CEng - Ikarus (1-0)
Again a completely unknown to us - please pardon our ignorance... CEng played
without opening book, something we did not know before. In a Sicilian, Ikarus
came out with a slight disadvantage, managed to keep the balance and gradually
equalized. Things started turning when CEng allowed Ikarus to enter a slightly
better bishops' ending (same colors). Ikarus increased its advantage, when
suddenly the following position came up:

[D]8/8/6B1/4p2P/1p1pp1k1/1P6/2PK1Pb1/8 b - - 0 55

Here I thought that it had blown its advantage, but after a bit of shuffling, it
came up with a nice sequence which led to the following:

[D]8/8/7k/7b/1p2B3/1P2p3/2P5/5K2 b - - 0 69

I suppose that this position is won for black and therefore the above one should
be as well, but deeper analysis would take too long, and I leave it to others...
The end was a tablebase mate with KBP-KB.
With 3.0/4, we were back in the game!

Round 5: Chepla - Ikarus (1/2-1/2)
In a sharp Sicilian, Ikarus emerged with what it considered a substantial
advantage. However, Chepla did a good job at keeping the position complicated,
not trading queens and thus sustaining some annoying counterplay against the
open black king. In the end, Ikarus traded off into an ending KRPP-KRN where it
thought it was still better, but had to aquiesce to the draw after all. I am not
sure if black had a win anywhere at all - that will also have to remain open to
more detailed analysis. Well defended by Chepla, although fighting for the draw
is not really what you hope for as white...

So we finished the first day with 3.5/5, which was OK, had some lousy moments
with the loss and the gross misevaluation in the last game - but hey, that is
where you learn most from!

Zappa had beaten SOS to maintain a perfect 5/5 score - the tournament victory
seemed to be booked, especially considering the hardware Zappa was running on.
The only way to catch it would be to score 4/4 on the second day while beating
Zappa itself and hoping for it to give up another half point somewhere else...
That of course seemed ridiculously out of reach.

Day 2:

Round 6: Ikarus - ChessThinker (1/2-1/2)
ChessThinker was still undefeated, so we knew it would be tough. Besides it was
playing on superior hardware as well. Ikarus was surprised in the opening by a
pawn sacrifice, which left it with a poor bishop. However, ChessThinker probably
did not treat the position optimally, as suddenly things turned, and it was
black that was stuck with the bad bishop! I found that very remarkable, but of
course did not mind. Ikarus played the next part very well and increased its
advantage to 2.5 pawns. But when ChessThinker was almost on the ropes, it fired
up some counterplay by sacrificing a second pawn, thus activating all its
pieces. Ikarus completely underestimated this counterplay. In the end, it did
not have the guts to continue in this position:

[D]4R3/kp2N3/p5r1/P7/7P/5rP1/P7/5bK1 w - - 0 65

With 65. Nxg6 (65. ... Bb5 66. Kg2 Bxe8 (Ra3!?) 67. Kxf3 Bxg6 68. g4 +-), it
might have played for the full point, but instead went for the perpetual with
65. Nc8+ Kb8 66. Ne7+ Ka7. Nice fight by ChessThinker after a maltreated opening
- another lost half point for Ikarus, although before the game, we thought that
a draw would be OK. I guess that is one of the big differences to the top
programs - they squeeze out full points out of these kinds of positions.

Zappa beat Pharaon in a dramatic game and must have started to feel lonely up
there with 6/6 and 1.5 points to the next neighbor...

Round 7: Amateur - Ikarus (0-1)
This was one of the games where I can only say: "Beyond the fourth ply..."! It
was simply way too complicated for me, but somehow Ikarus seemed to gather
centipawn by centipawn (which I actually missed completely, because I had a
couple of phone calls), finally trading into a good ending with the more active
pieces. In contrast to the game against Pharaon, this time Ikarus was on the
better side of the topical good bishop vs. not so great knight ending (although
there also was a pair of rooks left) and convincingly converted the advantage
into a full point. I particularly liked the move 63. ... Bh7! in the following
position, although it is not difficult for engines:

[D]4R1b1/6P1/8/2p5/p7/3k1P2/2r5/6K1 b - - 0 63

The point is 64. Rh8?? a3! 65. Rxh7?? a2 66. g8Q a1Q# checkmate!
Things seemed to go pretty well now with 5.0/7.

Zappa was closing in on victory by beating Movei for an incredible 7/7 and now a
two-point lead, which meant that it only needed one single draw from the
remaining two rounds to be sole winner.

Round 8: Ikarus - Yace (1-0)
Yes, I confess: I had been hoping that we would play Yace in this tournament.
Yace is a really strong program, although Dieter would never admit that.
Besides, Dieter is always an enrichment in any tournament - it is nice to chat
with him, and we had participated at some of the Paderborn tournaments without
ever getting to play each other, so it was about time... The game commenced
quietly, when Dieter surprised me with the comment: "This could go quickly - are
you going to play Bxh6 soon?" I replied: "No, Ikarus does not play such
moves..." Sure enough, two moves later it played 16. Bxh6, although it was not
really tactically inspired, but seemed rather positional. I seem to have the
incredible talent of missing out the interesting parts - this time, my body was
called to sustainment measures (aka dinner). When I came back, Ikarus showed +9
- it had converted more active piece placement in a way that is of course beyond
my modest capabilities.
Now things were definitely going well - 6.0/8, which meant we would get to play
"the monster", as Zappa had been tenderly called.

Zappa meanwhile had wrapped up his victory by drawing ChessThinker. 7.5/8 was of
course an unbelievable demonstration by Zappa. On the other hand, there was to
be noticed the clear downward trend - obviously Zappa had some serious problems
with motivating itself to keep concentrating... We hoped to exploit this fatigue
and at the same time make use of our own forward momentum. No, just kidding - of
course we would have been quite contented with a draw...

Round 9: Ikarus - Zappa (1-0)
Fortuna had an eye upon us, and because Zappa was seeded higher than Ikarus, it
(Zappa) had color change priority and therefore got black... Ikarus came out of
a rather short Scotch opening with maybe a minute advantage due to the better
pawn structure. Zappa had some counterplay against the king, but it turned out
to be easily driven off. Ikarus was daring enough to start pushing its own
kingside pawns (with opposite-side castles!), something which I naturally missed
again due to some other interruption I don't remember any more... It gained a
pawn, only to give it back in exchange for a passed pawn on the seventh rank.
After the score wobbled around a fair bit, this pawn proved decisive, as in this
position

[D]4r3/kpp1P3/2p3p1/p7/P3QPPp/2P4P/3qRK2/8 b - - 0 45

Zappa had to give the rook for the passer, as 45. ... Qxc3 would fail to 46.
Qe3+ Qxe3 47. Rxe3+-, followed by the push of the f-pawn. The last hurdles
(avoiding perpetual check) were mastered, and when the queens went off the
board, the game was over.

I feel we deserve some sort of charity price for this, as I do not think that
winning such an event without a single loss can be healthy! :-) Anyway, I guess
that Anthony was able to get over this easily - still an impressive tournament
victory for him with Zappa, so again congratulations to this marvelous
performance!

I would also like to point out the IMO most remarkable showings at CCT7: It is
most noteworthy that ChessThinker was the only program that went undefeated
through all nine rounds. The (for me) most surprising (positive) result was by
DanChess - I had not even known it really before, but obviously Dan must have
improved it quite a lot recently; it should be watched in future events! Also
Gosu, CEng, and Chompster (the latter written in Java, if I gathered correctly!)
did very well. And of course everyone deserves applause for the mere fact of
producing a program that is able to play and entering it in the tournament - you
are all winners, at the very least from a learning perspective!

To wrap up the tournament for Ikarus, it goes without saying that we were more
than pleased with the result. If someone had predicted 7.0/9 and a clear second
place for us, we would have said: "Well, yes, theoretically not entirely
impossible, but..." Apart from that, we were also very happy that the whole
tournament worked out perfectly from a technical point of view: not a single
crash, not a single disconnect - when we compare that to the pathetic failure
last year (router died, no internet connection, hastily set-up backup quit,
etc.), that was like ascending from Hades and flying up to the sun...

There is of course one downside to this result: realistically, it can only go
downhill from here on...!

Best regards - Munjong.



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