The strongest Freestyle chess tournament since 2008

by on January 8, 2014 at 12:58 pm in Games | Permalink

InfinityChess is pleased to announce a super strong Freestyle Tournament starting on February 4, 2014.  It’s a round robin for 30 of the best freestyle and engine players from all over the world. The total prize money is $ 20,000 USD.

There is more information here, and note that these are likely to prove the best chess games played — ever — as well as a notable contribution to the science and data of man-machine interaction.

By the way, is there anyone who can donate temporary use of a leading edge server for remote use, 12-32 cores?  Please email me if you can, thanks in advance, and credit (or anonymity) for you can be arranged if desired.

Given the suddenly prominent role of Freestyle chess in economics, Big Data, and the social sciences (see also The Second Machine Age), I hope this event receives some of the media attention which it deserves.

1 prior_approval January 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

‘I hope this event receives some of the media attention which it deserves’

Well, first begging for hardware certainly makes this statement sound humble, in its way – being just a fancier form of having other people pitch in to support an apparent personal interest.

2 ummm January 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm

crowdfunded chess

3 Zachary Mayer January 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Amazon EC2 has some pretty heavy duty servers for rent at reasonable hourly rates:

If you’re up for it, there’s also a spot market, which is often incredibly cheap (but occasionally ridiculously expensive).

If you email customer service, they’ll often give you some credit on a new account to get you started with the service.

4 Zachary Mayer January 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm

You can rent a server with 32 cores and 244 GB of RAM for $3.50/hour.

5 andrew January 8, 2014 at 5:04 pm

That’s some serious power. I wish I had known how cheap it could get.

6 Zachary Mayer January 9, 2014 at 11:03 am

Spot prices can be under $0.50 an hour, but are much more volatile (and if the spot price exceeds you maximum bid, your server will be shut down).

7 Steven January 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Why not just rent time from Amazon? A c3.x8large instance should serve for your purpose, and will only cost $2.40/hour.

8 Ray Lopez January 8, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Why not? because how are you going to set this up on Amazon, without an IT professional? Do you care to walk me through how I can set up a chess engine, say the open source “Crafty”, which also can run on Linux OS (which I think Amazon favors), on Amazon’s rent-a-server site? I’m a programmer and from a brief 1 minute review of Amazon I cannot figure it out. Maybe some reader can do better?

9 Chris S January 9, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I’ve set up a few things on Amazon’s EC2 and it isn’t THAT hard. My Linux/unix skills are very but I managed to get a default PHP and Apache server up in under an hour.

A real simple way would be to surf on over to something like and post a job to have someone install it for you, or even call you up and talk you through it. Probably cost less than $50.

10 edeast January 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Digital ocean is far easier to set up then amazon, and they are all ssd based: fast.

11 Phill January 8, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Are chess engines IO bound? I wouldn’t think so, at first blush – so having ssds really wouldn’t help with anything.

12 edeast January 8, 2014 at 10:35 pm

I’m not sure. Tyler will have to benchmark. I know for some of my stuff DO was faster than AWS. They aren’t oversubscribed I know that much. So the vcpu does line up with a xeon thread.

13 Finch January 9, 2014 at 9:33 am

Generally not. Sometimes the use of endgame tablebases can be IO bound, but I think the best engines do not heavily rely on those.

14 Zachary Mayer January 9, 2014 at 11:04 am

Most amazon EC2 instances are also SSD based:

15 Joel January 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Is there a place on the internet where one can look at commented
freestyle chess games?

16 Ray Lopez January 8, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Same question here. I did find some threads on freestyle at (TalkChess) where one guy, on a modern PC, played one engine against another for 24 hours a move (or was it 12?) and the ‘weaker’ engine drew after exchanging queen for a couple of pieces and was down material but drew. But these threads are not in one convenient place.

17 Ray Lopez opines on Cloud Servers January 8, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Hi after a full two minutes of reviewing Amazon and Digital Ocean, and with my programming background, and the fact I run a remote server for my cloud-based apps on a GoDaddy type server (not GoDaddy but similar), I have this advice to offer TC:

1) do not use Amazon or Digital Ocean or any remote rent-a-server. These places require an IT professional to set up a remote program to run. I myself, using “web services” (a programming term of art), can do this, but I have to write a front end in Silverlight or Windows WPF or somesuch, then set up the web services, and long story short it takes about half a day to set it up. Not worth your time. If anybody knows of an easier way to set up a program in the cloud, such as the freeware chess engine Crafty (compiled to run on Linux as well as Windows) please let us know.

2) buy the latest copy of Deep Fritz, it’s Fritz 13, on Set it up so that you can share your PC with others on the net (it sounds risky, but it’s not that bad I think since the Chessbase people took reasonable precautions against somebody taking over your machine remotely–and I’ve not heard of any security breaches).

3) Then, after doing this, you can “rent” for “ducats” (a Chessbase ‘virtual’ currency that sells for 1 euro per ducat) anybody else’s PC. Online I notice (I have a pirate copy of Fritz13 but don’t use it for this purpose) many strong, multi-core PCs running the latest chess programs offering themselves for rent. What you would do, if you are playing freestyle, is play Fritz 13 and have, for every move, Fritz13 upload the latest position to one such strong machine. After it gives you the best answer you would then manually play your move, and repeat this process for every move of your opponent. I don’t know the cost but I suspect to play a 40 move game it would cost (my intuition, based on some informal data from the cost to rent) about 10 euro (100 ducats) for a “long” game (say 10 minutes a move? I don’t know the Freestyle rules)

18 Nelson Hernandez January 9, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Ray, thanks for the suggestion but this won’t do for Freestyle. (I’m one of the members of the team seeking proprietary hardware for this competition and am mentioned a few times in Tyler’s latest book.)

First of all, we need powerful servers–12 late-model cores minimum and as many as we can humanly manage in a real-time contest. Chessbase might have numerous computers available for rent, but very few will have the power we want and there would be no assurance that the hardware would be available at the start of a game and continuously through to the end. Generally the easiest, cheapest and most dependable way to get this kind of power is to hook up with a hardware specialist who is willing to let us gain remote control of his machine at specified dates and times. Usually said person is an avid chess enthusiast who is pleased to contribute to a team effort.

As for the cloud suggestions above, I’m not qualified to judge if this will work for us. Our team captain, Anson Williams, is the one familiar with the technical side of things and I will leave the feasibility study to him. If indeed we can rent 32 core servers for $3.50/hour that would be quite remarkable. (And startling, as others may get the same idea!)

19 edeast January 9, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hey since I plugged Digital Ocean, just know that their 24 vcpu offering is basically a dual hexacore xeon, so 12 cores with HyperThreading. They sell per thread. And then there is the debate of Xen vs kvm for virtualization. AWS uses Xen, DO uses kvm.

20 Sammler January 9, 2014 at 10:09 am

It is worth noting explicitly that the strong machines will not be running the Fritz engine, which is not particularly strong by today’s standards.

There would likely be some strength gain in farming out computation to multiple remote machines running different engines.

21 Chris S January 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Isn’t one of the premises of Freestyle Chess that the contestants have a degree of programming / IT skill, or skill tweaking a chess engine? Maybe my superior skill marshalling Amazon EC2 resources (or whatever) allows me to run deeper analyses in given time and beat you.

22 Nelson Hernandez January 9, 2014 at 7:18 pm

You’re absolutely right, Chris.

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