Russell Sherwood

Slayers

Russell Sherwood  Monday, September 24, 2018

One of the first dividends of working with Welshbase has been an examination of results against Grandmasters

First against we have 8 results - all draws! Almost all of these came in an India-Wales Friendly in 2015 where the general approach was to take easy draws for the rating points!

Moving onto ICCF-GM - we have 68 games with a combined record of 7 wins, 49 draws and 10 losses, so 48% in Total. However, this hides a number of other facts:

5 players have positive scores against Grandmasters, with a further 4 on 50%

3 players have more than 10 games against Grandmasters (when FIDE games are taken into account) 

From this the conclusion, the potential for a Welsh ICCF-GM at some point in the future looks positive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

SICALM #3

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, September 2, 2018

It has been an interesting month, ICCF Congress notwithstanding (For which I will produce a separate report with some of the interesting ideas I picked up there!).

7 Piece Tablebases.

These have now been completed for download! The only issue is that they are about 17 TB in size. This is about the size of 9 typical laptop hard drives! At the moment unless you have superfast fibre or a team effort takes place, these would be difficult to download (and not all chess engines will work with them yet) but you can pick selected ones which fit the positions you seek!

TCEC and CCCC

These engine v engine tournaments are interesting to the serious CC player. Whilst the addition of a human changes things significantly these give a good indication of the improvements and issues of the metal monsters. The two most interesting developments to date have been around Ethereal and Neural Network engines (LCZero and Deus X). Ethereal as it is a new kid on the block and may add something to our analysis. Deus X was also interesting as whereas LCZero "learned" chess from scratch, Dues X learned from Human games. From our perspective, two possible research avenues jump out: (1) A NN based on CC games and (2) a NN based on a certain type of position. I would expect to see both of these appear in coming months.

CorrChess.ru

Turn on your translator for this! Early days yet but some interesting thoughts from some very strong CC players

www.tccmb.com

Even earlier days yet but this revival of an old CC discussion board could be interesting!

ICCF Congress decisions 2018 for Welsh Players

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Milestones

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I was recently preparing Invitations for the next event in out International Title Tournament Series WCCF8, which led me to update the records on WCCF 1 - 7.

(for me) Many interesting statistics came from these events but the most telling of all was that to date our events have generated 51 Title Norms (CCE and CCM) for players from all around the world (to date players have represented 26 different federations).  The story is actually a bit better than it looks with completed events generating an average of 10 Norms!

All said, not a bad result for one of the smaller Federations!

I also updated the Website article records recently, With a few days left in August we have already posted more in 2018 than we did in 2017, which was a record in itself! The target for 2018 is to reach 200 posts.

So positive news and now the Congress is over we can turn our attention to focus on player development and team tournament planning (for starters)

 

ICCF Congress Llandudno: Simultaneous vs IGM Nigel Davies

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As a new event to the Congress Calendar, the WCCF arranged for a simultaneous display to be given by International Grandmaster Nigel Davies (Wales). GM Davies took white on all boards! Final Score GM Davies 15 Wins and 3 draws!

Board Number Player Nat Result
1 Peter Bevan  WLS Draw
2 Sam Davies  ENG Win for GM Davies
3 Catriona Coutts  WLS Win for GM Davies
4 Peter Coutts  WLS Win for GM Davies
5 Timothy Soar  WLS Win for GM Davies
6 Ehud Kisch  ISR Win for GM Davies
7 Adam Haunch  WLS Win for GM Davies
8 Jixin Yang  WLS Win for GM Davies
9 Jack Yang  WLS Win for GM Davies
10 Imogen Camp WLS Win for GM Davies
11 Ifan Rathbone-Jones  WLS Win for GM Davies
12 Martin Bennedik  GER Win for GM Davies
13 Artis Gaujens  LAT Draw
14 Stephen Buseman  GER Win for GM Davies
15 Maximus Pento  GRE Win for GM Davies
16 Nesto Pento  GRE Win for GM Davies
17 Yosua Sitorus INA Win for GM Davies
18 Josef Mrkvička  CZE Draw

 

ICCF Congress: ICCF Team vs Colwyn Bay

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, August 28, 2018

 An entertaining match was held between an ICCF scratch team and local talents Colwyn Bay, leading to a 7.5 - 4.5 win for ICCF. 

Many thanks to Syringa Camp for organising the event and Colwyn Bay for providing an interesting tussle!

Board Colwyn Bay Result ICCF
1 I Camp  0-1 S.Buseman
2 J.Shakespeare  0-5.-0.5 M Bennedik 
3 J Yang  1-0 P. Bevan 
4 M Vidler  1-0 I Jones 
5 J Yang  0.5-0.5 M Avotins 
6 T.Soar  0-1 A Guajens 
7 H Davies  1-0 S Ottosen 
8 P Coutts  0-1 E Kisch 
9 C.Coutts  0-5-0.5 G Gray 
10 S Camp  0-1 A Davies 
11 N Pento  0-1 E Warner 
12 M Pento  0-1 P Scott 

Final Score Colwyn Bay 4.5 - ICCF 7.5!! 

Five a Day

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, August 11, 2018

This article is the summary of a few email conversations I have had recently on chess engines.

 

 

None of the main Chess Engines are written specifically for Correspondence Chess but some are more suitable than others! We can broadly divide engines into five categories; some engines fall into more than one but considering the different groups will allow the player to make the right choice to assist them in their analysis

 

 

Traditional A-B Engines

 

This includes almost all mainstream engines. In very simple terms, these engines work by considering the best move, then the best response , the best response to the response and so on.

 

This leads to a very narrow search, which gets to a good move quickly, which is essential for fast engine competition but sub-optimal for Correspondence Chess as the methods utilised to achieve greater depth can lead to even better moves being overlooked.

 

Wide Searchers

 

A number of derivatives of Stockfish exist which modify the search method to conduct a much wider search, with the consequence of a much more shallow search.  The approach is useful for very complicated positions with multiple reasonable moves or highly tactical positions.  Komodo is also able to wok in this manner via modification of certain parameters.

 

Interestingly Houdini also appears to have a wider search as it progresses to depth in a much slower manner than other engines.

 

Neural Networks

These (LC0 and Deus X) are the currently darlings of the engine world , following on the success of Alpha Zero. These engines are still tactically vulnerable but do provide very interesting input in quieter positions. The main benefit of these engines is in pattern recognition, which allows something much closer to strategic play to be generated by Chess Engines.  An interesting project currently under development is an engine being trained on Higher Level Correspondence Games, which should give very interesting results!

 

MCTS

Monte Carlos Tree Search is an alternative method to the A-B approach. It tends to be tactically weaker than the A-B approach but it allows Multiple Variations to be examined without loss of speed. Currently Komodo, Stockfish and Scorpio have MCTS versions. Cuttlefish also exists which allows any A-B engine to run a basic MCTS search.

 

Specials

A number of engines exist programmed not to play or analyse but to solve problems – some of these such as Sting can be useful!

 

So how do we utilise these different types of engine. For me, two criteria drive this choice: (a) The number of viable moves and (b) The tactical complexity of the position.

 

Low number of variations – High Tactical Complexity: Utilise a Wide Searcher, then a A-B Engine

Low number of variations – Low Tactical Complexity: Utilise a NN, then a A-B Engine

High number of variations – Low Tactical Complexity: Utilise a MCTS, then a NN, then a A-B Engine

High number of variations – High Tactical Complexity: Utilise a MCTS and NN to generate suggestions, then a Wide Searcher and finally an A-B Engine

Final Gen

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, August 11, 2018

Recently the availability of 7 piece tablebases was discussed. These are VERY large and probably beyond the capacity of typical users to download.

 

For specific positions an older piece of Software – “Final Gen” is still around. This allows the creation of tablebases for a specific position to be generated. Be aware this can take many days to complete but does allow a definitive view to be taken on a specific position. Another alternative, which could be found in some of the engines mentioned in Cutting Edge is a combination of brute force and wide (so called CC analysis ) mode. This allows the engine to be set to fully analyse a specific position. This is not 100% effective but may be a method for those who wish to examine this approach.

http://finalgenchess.ovh/home_ing.php

Cutting Edge

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 30, 2018

Despite what many uninformed people believe, Modern Correspondence Chess is not all about engine use. However at it’s higher level the use of the right engine in the right way (or otherwise) does represent a potential area for players to demonstrate an edge.

 

Most players will be well aware of the top 3 engines: Stockfish, Komodo and Houdini. In addition, many will be aware of the chasing pack of engines as well.  The purpose of this article is to look at some of the developments on the fringes of this group; the bleeding edge of engine development.

 

These engines have the advantage of additional features (often experimental). Some effort is required to master these and a mainstream engine should also be utilised as a 2nd opinion

 

The rise of LCZero cannot be ignored. The engine has gone through a few blind alleys recently but is now around the 3100 level (when compared to Stockfish and co being around the 3400 mark). Progress has slowed but a new, bigger net is promised, this should be stronger but will also be slower, although this is not really a concern to CC players.  Currently still in the “one to watch” category. DeusX is a new contender in a similar ilk, although at the moment very little is known about it.

 

SHashChess Pro is a Stockfish derivative based on the Sashin theories, meaning it plays very differently, based upon the type of position it is working on.  Its early days yet but it does play a number of moves that Stockfish does not.

 

Mcbrain – Another Stockfish derivative with advanced analysis features

 

Komodo MCTS. A sideline of the main Komodo engine, MCTS utilises a different search method to typical engines. Although weaker than the best standard engines it does provide a very interesting interpretation of positions not seen in a traditional AB search. Currently, the only freely  MCTS engine available is Scorpio.

 

CorChess continues to develop but more interest has been shown recently in Cifish (A double Stockfish and CorChess derivative). This has the advantage of being faster and having additional features.

 

Ethereal is an engine showing real ambition and improvement with aspirations to break into the Big 3. Worth keeping an eye on.

 

Sugar is one of the oldest Stockfish derivatives but current versions include a number of advanced features for CC

 

Raubfisch – this merger of Stockfish and Torpedo has a specialist and well thought of CC version

 

IMS is a little known Stockfish derivative with (I have on good authority) MCTS and learning functionality, advanced CC Functions and closed position tools. Few details exist of this engine with some people even believing it to be a hoax.

 

Turning the Table(base)s

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tablebases are one of those facets of knowledge of (correspondence) chess that are taken as granted as being understood by all but are often not!

In simple terms what are they?

Wikipedia defines them as “An endgame tablebase is a computerized database that contains precalculated exhaustive analysis of chess endgame positions. It is typically used by a computer chess engine during play, or by a human or computer that is retrospectively analysing a game that has already been played.”

Clear now? Maybe not! Let’s start at the beginning. If we have two pieces, the only outcome of the position is a draw.  Not a lot of help. If we have three pieces, it could be a draw or a Win/Loss – depending on the pieces and their positions. The Endgame tablebase has every possible combination and position on the board stored in its table(s). These are linked to together, so the table can provide a definitive answer to the theoretical outcome of the position.

Tablebase development has reached the point that 6 piece tablebases are widely available and 7 piece ones are available from limited sources. Limited 8 piece are in development but are not publicly available.

What is worth considering is that Tablebase development is a slow process – this is due to the staggering amount of computing power required to calculate them as the number of pieces increases, thus it is not expected to see rapid releases of larger tables on a rapid basis.

In addition to this, the storage requirements for Tablebases are significant. Currently, 7 piece tablebases are only available online and are not practical for the typical home user to install locally.

Why are Tablebases important to Chess Engines

Let us consider for a moment how an engine evaluates a position. Generally, most have very little specific, definitive knowledge but use a general approach which considers a number of factors – Material, Space, King Safety……to calculate a score for a specific position. The relative scores for possible choices are compared and the best line is built by following the “best” scores.

The problem with the approach for endgames is that the specifics of the position can have a massive influence on the correct move, which is general approach will not see. This is the reason why we see massive engine scores on drawn position or visa-versa.

With a tablebase this issue is avoided as the engine, knowing it has tablebases available, probes them when the analysis reaches that number of pieces on the board. It now has a definitive result – Win, Lose or Draw, which it can then use to “correct” its analysis of a position.

This means, in theory, at least that the engine is better able to navigate late middlegame and endgame positions.

For the CC player Tablebases should always be installed, where available as without them you will find promising looking positions turning to draws and draws turning to defeats!

So there are one set of definitive tablebases?

Er, no! There are a few different types available:

Thompson, Edwards, Nalimov, Scorpio, Gaviota, Lomonsov and Syzygy

 

The differences between these tend to cover the number of pieces available, Information provided and the size of the tables.

A good summary of this can be found at https://chessprogramming.wikispaces.com/Endgame+Tablebases#x7-man

In terms of information provided we have two main types:

Depth to Mate: This is, as you might guess, the number of moves from a position, with the best play by both sides, to mate.

Win, Draw, Loss: Here we have the simple outcome of a position.

 

For pure engine use, WDL is adequate as once the engine has a result it can modify its search accordingly, whereas DTM is of more interest to Human Analysts. Newer tables tend to come in the WDL format as it is much more compact, which is valuable as the number of pieces increases.

 

Which should I get?

For local set up its hard to get beyond Nalimov, Scorpio or Syzygy. In terms of functionality, most engines will directly link to Syzygy, whereas the other two tend to be linked via the GUI.

If we consider size Scorpio is the smallest, followed closely (in relative terms anyway) by Syzygy, with Nailimov being a distant third.

Probably the main factor is going to be your source – are you going to buy it on a Disk or Download it?

Taking these three factors into account the probable choice is 1) Syzygy 2) Scorpio 3) Nalimov.  OF course, on top of this, the really serious player will probably obtain links to Lomonsov’s 7 Piece table as well!

 

What Else?

This is not quite the end of the story. It is possible to create Tablebases from a specific position. There are some older pieces of software such as FinalGen or Freezer which will calculate from a specific position. These are very slow and take up a lot of storage but may be of interest to some players.

 

Postscript

Should there be sufficient interest I will write a run through on how to set up TB on the major Engine/GUI platforms.

Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationBritish Correspondence Chess AssociationSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationNational Correspondence Chess ClubWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association