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Ralf Schäfer
Volker Böhm
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Mainz 2005 Report

World Championship of Chess960 at Mainz, a short report from the Spike-Team.

Mainz was the second presence tournament for us after IPCCC2005 in Paderborn, a german open tournament. We were looking forward to it because Spike performed pretty well in Paderborn and we have been able to improve Spike since then. Additionally we enjoy these events especially because of the very friendly flair, the excitement of competition and last but not least the very interesting discussions with other chess programmers.

The tournament itself was "Chess960", a variation of chess with 960 different starting positions selected by dices just before each game. Thus no chance to use opening books to help the engines at the first moves, here it is very important that the engine has the knowledge about the opening phase in a match. In our test tournaments Spike did already well in Chess960, but in Mainz registered some very strong opponents, many of them undoubtful improved, so we just hoped for a place among the top five.

Our first opponent was "XiniX" from Tony van Roon-Werten. Both sides had to manage some technical problems, which made us all a bit nervous, but finally we could both solve them by switching off pondering. Spike got an advantage in the late midgame which was enough to finally score our first point.

With one point from the first round Spike started to get some stronger opponents, beginning with "The Baron" from Richard Pijl. After an equal start Spike managed to destroy the pawn-shield of The Baron and started a king attack which was strong enough to win the game. With two points out of two games Spike had a very good start.

The disadvantage of the good start was the pairing against the next opponent - Shredder by Stefan Mayer-Kahlen, the clear favorite of this tournament. Shredder is currently the strongest PC-based program and played on a computer system with 4 CPU's. In this game we were quite relaxed because loosing would be pretty normal and winning would be a little sensation. Shredder saw a nice king attack and decided to move the queen very early, what the Author of Shredder, didn´t like. This enabled Spike to bond the queen to the border for quite a long time. Forcing against the opponent king with a stucked queen of Shredder, Spike could win the game. Three of three points for Spike, a win against Shredder, we were really happy.

The fourth game was then against "Pharaon" from Franck Zibi, one of the many strong amateurs of this tournament. After a good start of Spike, Pharaon managed step by step to reduce the positional and material disadvantages and went into a drawish-looking endgame. But Here Pharaon helped us and made a few unexact moves which allowed Spike finally to win.

Wow, four out of four points on the first day, leading by one point to the next engine. Really happy we started to fear a drop in the table at the next day.

Then on friday we started against "Jonny" by Johannes Zwanzger, an engine that was able to draw a game against Hydra at Paderborn. Hydra is a Chess Program running with a special hardware that enables it to search much much more positions than PC-Hardware based programs. In the game versus Jonny no side could get a clear advantage, but the game was always open and exciting. Finally it ended draw by three-fold repetition. Now Spike had four and a half point followed by Shredder with four points, Shredder started to catch up!

Ikarus by Muntsin and Munjong Kolls was the name of the engine Spike played against in the sixth round. Spike had lost against Ikarus in Paderborn thus this game could give Spike a revenge. This time Spike managed to get an advantage very fast and finally brought it to the fifth win for him in this tournament. But the best result was the game from The Baron versus Shredder. The Baron won the game! Now only one program - Jonny - had enough points to get the same score as Spike already had.

Really happy and wondering if a loss of Spike and a win of Jonny could push us back to the second place we started the seventh and last game against Glaurung. In this game Glaurung was revenging all the luck Spike had in the fist six rounds and attacked. After only some moves Spikes position was lost and Glaurung forced the game to a win quite easily. At the same time Jonny managed to win this last game giving him 5.5 points, as much as Spike had.

Now the game had to be decided by "Buchholz" a rating that counts all the points of the opponents of an engine. The more points the opponents had, the higher the Buchholz raiting. Luckily Spike had a better Buchholz than Jonny what made of him the first world champion in Chess960!

Spikes games as pgn
Last Change: 11.03.2007