The chess program Shredder, brainchild of programmer Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, has won the 2010 World Computer Software Championship.
The event, administered by the International Computer Games Association (ICGA), was held in Kanazawa, Japan from September 24 through October 2. It was hosted by the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The World Computer Software Championship (WCSC) was one of several events held as part of a larger group of computer gaming events. The WCSC was open only to PC software programs (not dedicated machines); the nine participating programs ran on identical hardware platforms.
The WCSC was announced a nine round Swiss system tournament, but with just nine programs participating it became in reality a single round-robin tournament. Meyer-Kahlen’s Shredder software won the event in convincing style, finishing with seven points and without a single loss:
(This crosstable was generated by ChessBase, which doesn’t included “byes” in the score calculation. This explains the apparent discrepancy between the crosstable above and Meyer-Kahlen’s official announcement, which claims eight points out of nine for Shredder.)
The time control was G/45 with a fifteen second “Fischer” increment per move. All standard tournament chess rules applied to the event. Computer monitors were placed so that each operator could see the monitor of the opponent. The operators’ only duties were to input moves, respond to computer requests for clock information, and synchronize the computer’s clock with the official clock time of the standard (shared) timepiece.
This will doubtless sound very odd coming as it does from a guy who makes his living from computer software, but I generally don’t find computer vs. computer chess games to be very interesting. Such games are often long, drawn out affairs in which one chess engine wins by “grinding out” a victory. As I was playing through Shredder’s games from this event, though, I found a really interesting game from Round 7. In this game Shredder plays White against the last-place finisher Hector for Chess. This game fascinates me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a very pretty trap laid by Hector — one which might have turned the tables and saved the game had Shredder fallen into it:
Shredder – Hector For Chess [E04]
WCSC 2010 Kanazawa (7), 01.10.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4
Now that White has “telegraphed” his intention to fianchetto the light-squared Bishop, Black takes the c4-pawn.
As for 5.e3, advancing the pawn with the intention of playing Bxc4 makes White’s fourth move meaningless and a waste of a tempo.
5…Nc6 6.Qa4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Nd5 8.Bxb4 Ndxb4 9.0-0 Bd7 10.a3 Nd5
A very strange move from Hector, one which returns the pawn. 10…b5 is the “book” move in this position.
11.Qxc4 Nb6 12.Qc2
12.Qd3 is another good idea, with the intention of overprotecting the d4-pawn.
12…f5 13.Nbd2 0-0 14.Nb3
This is another overprotection idea; either Knight can now swing into action even after the d4-pawn comes under attack.
There are two problems with this move. Black’s Rooks are still unconnected — he’s way behind in development. The other is that the Knight
becomes a target on d5.
15.Nc5 Rb8 16.Rfe1
Preparing the e-pawn’s advance.
Black’s Rooks are finally connected, but White’s already well into his own middlegame (as we’ll see) and is comfortably ahead positionally.
17.e4 fxe4 18.Rxe4 Nf6 19.Re2 Nd8
If Hector was a human player, I’d say he was anticipating the coming dogpile on the isolated e6-pawn (after Ra1-e1 and/or Nf3-g5) and was
seeking to prevent it by overprotecting the pawn. It’s a good idea, but it comes with strings attached: Black’s position is slowly being tied in knots.
20.Ng5 h6 21.Ngxe6 Bxe6 22.Bh3
It just keeps getting uglier for Hector. The Bishop is pinned to the Queen and is itself caught in a pretty serious crossfire.
22…Qf7 23.Nxe6 Re8
Not 23…Nxe6 because of 24.Bxe6 with a deadly pin. Black would have no choice but to play 24…Qxe6 25.Rxe6 and White’s up a Queen and
pawn for a Knight.
Shredder intensifies the pressure instead of settling for exchanges (which would still leave it a pawn ahead. Face it, Black’s just losing…). If 24.Nxd8
Rbxd8 White’s still winning here — he is a pawn ahead after all — but now has his own isolated d4-pawn to look after. There are a number of
options here, but 25.Rae1 is likely best, as it encourages exchanges which can only help White at this point. 25…Rxe2 26.Rxe2 Re8 (26…Rxd4
NO!!! 27.Be6 Qxe6 28.Rxe6 Kf7 29.Qb3 and White can now pretty much pick any path to victory.) 27.Re5+-
Attacking the d-pawn, but this is just a futile gesture on Black’s part. If this was a human player, I’d say he’s posturing here.
25.Bf5 Kh8 26.Bg6
This is just brutal. If this was a boxing match instead of a computer chess game, the referee would be stepping in to stop it.
26…Qd7 27.Bxe8 Rxe8 28.d5 Qxd5 29.Nxc7
Pinning the Queen and Rook and forcing a trade.
29…Rxe2 30.Rxe2+- Qd8
30…Qf7 would have been better; it still attacks the White Knight and doesn’t give up the initiative.
Attacking the Black Queen, forcing a response, and maintaining the initiative.
31…Qd5 32.b4 Qd6 33.Qg6
33…Qd7 34.b5 Nd4 35.Nxd4 Qxd4 36.Re7
And we again have the threat of Qxg7#.
The move 36…Ng8 was arguably better just for simplicity’s sake.
37.Kg2 Qd5+ 38.f3 Qa2+
This isn’t just a “spite” check and actually conceals a tactic. There’s a subtle drop of poison hidden in this move — driving the White King to h3
actually has a point.
39.Kh3 Qg8 40.g4
Now White can’t play 40.Rxb7 because of 40…Qc8+ forking the White King and Rook, and turning the tables. This was a really nice little trap. I’m impressed with Hector for finding it and with Shredder for not falling into it.
40…b6 41.Rxa7 h5 42.gxh5 Qe6+ 43.Kh4 Qe1+ 44.Qg3 Qxg3+
Black, unfortunately, really doesn’t have anything better here.
White’s pawns “are no longer deranged” (as they’d have worded it a century ago); the fat lady can start singing any time now. It would be interesting
to know what criteria Hector’s operators used to decide when to resign a game.
45…Kg8 46.Kg5 Nh7+ 47.Kg6 Nf8+ 48.Kf5 Nh7 49.g4
From this point on, mate is forced no matter what Black does.
49…Nf6 50.h6 Ne8 51.g5 gxh6 52.gxh6 Nd6+ 53.Kg6 Nc8 54.Rf7 1-0
The mating sequence goes like this: 54…Ne7+ 55.Rxe7 Kf8 56.Re2 Kg8 57.Re8#
Despite the fact that Black was behind for most of the contest, this was a very interesting little game; aspects of it are much more subtle than are normally seen in games contested between computer chess engines.
Congratulations to Stefan Meyer-Kahlen and Shredder for a fine accomplishment in winning the 2010 World Computer Software Championship!
ChessCentral, the leader in cutting-edge chess, offers multiple versions of Shredder:
Have fun! — Steve
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