Infinity Chess is not ready for prime time. I would love to say positive things about the 1st PAL Group sponsored Freestyle tournament held on the Infinity Chess server over the last two weeks. However in all good conscious, I can not. In my 30 years of playing in chess events I have never experienced anything quit like this tournament. Words like painful and shameful come to my mind. Along with detrimental to the concept of freestyle chess.
At the writing of this article no one knows who won, or how players finished. A few of the players that were in contention for the prize money went off on their own to play the final games in secret on other chess servers. The games played in this event disappeared every time the server crashed. Those responsible for this fiasco have promised to make all games available to the public. I seriously doubt this will be possible. But we will see. A more extensive assessment of who benefited form the unfair playing conditions and who suffered, will be possible after the games are in front of us.
The Infinity Chess server crashed over and over, helping to create a cascading series of bad decisions by the tournament director. By the 9th round the TD had lost control of his event. No longer listening to the consensus of the players and concerning himself only with a few players that had been manipulating the conditions to their own benefit, he chose the easy way out. Disregarding fairness for expediency.
I personally felt cheated by several of the decisions the TD made involving my games. I was present for the entire tournament and can honestly say that many other players did as well. Here are the kind of things I am talking about.
1. Forcing players to take draws with 22 pieces on the board. (I had twice the amount of time on the clock 8 min. to 4 min.)
2. Asking players to restart games after server crashes with ever decreasing time controls. (How can you have some games played at 75-15 and others played at 35-15 in the same tour.) Some of these games were restarted 3-4 times, totally negating opening preparation.
3. Giving 6 Blacks and 4 Whites to some players and 6 Whites and 4 Blacks to others. (This alone invalidates the results of this tour and was absolutely uncalled for.)
There was and is, this issue of collusion between players when money is at stake. While it is nearly imposable to confirm, even the suspicion of it should be addressed. Some players in open chat offered money to get a desired result. While it may have been done in jest it should not have been allowed. Other players offered to help opponents playing against those that they were in point contention with. All this may have just been in fun, however it created a aura of impropriety.
My old Grandfather once told me. “its not enough to be an honest man, one must remove the impression of impropriety.”
I suppose my favorite incident in the tournament was when one of the top players begin to make the claim that he was not making the moves being played by the GUI. Telling the TD that a hacker had invaded the server and was making moves in his game. I am not absolutely sure but from what I could gather from the chat, moves were allowed to be made over in this game.
It looked to me like, the TD was being played like a violin in this event. (maybe a Stradivarius) Perhaps a puppet master was pulling the strings.
December 22, 2008 the new Arena 2.0 graphical user interface for UCI and winboard engines was released. I have had a chance over the past few weeks to try it out and have found it to be extremely well done. Martin Blume has continued development over many years paying close attention to user feedback to create this programming masterpiece. Leaner and meaner than most commercial interfaces, it is not only the place many engine players started, but is where many are retuning. Using less hardware resources and having more up to date engine protocols makes Arena 2.0 very attractive for competitive engine chess purposes.
Arena has its own .abk opening book format which is straight forward and lends its self very well to hand tuning. The main install package went onto my Windows XP pro 64 system with out a problem and runs 64 bit multi processor engines nicely. In fact I get a few more Nodes per second out of Rybka 3 than I am accustom to. Engine vs. engine matches run flawlessly and the PGN files generated can easily be converted to CB data file format for use in .ctg book work. I now have two of my computers running Arena 24-7 using identical Rybka 3 engines do comparative book testing.
Included in the 2.0 main package is a variety of strong engines to get you started, SOS, Spike, Ruffian and even Rybka v2.2n2 mp.x64. Also included is a PGN database from Olivier Deville, a small opening book form master book maker Harry Schnapp and a mini book by some guy that I don’t know.
There is no better GUI to learn how to configure chess engines, utilize hash tables and system resources. Over 250 chess engines are compatible with Arena 2.0 and there is a vast number of downloadable add-ons, all free at playwitharena.com.