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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Houdini elbows past Rybka to win computer chess challenge

Chess blog for latest news and trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hi everybody,

Have you ever sat across an opponent before a chess game and wondered what machine he used at home to prepare against you? When someone mentions chips you think not of coffee and tea-time but a computer chess program?

Speak to any chess player and they would name top chess players like Vishy Anand, Magnus Carlsen, Vassily Ivanchuk, Rybka and Houdini in the same breath. Human or machine? It's the strong chess that counts in the end. No wonder then, we kept track of the recent-ly concluded Thoresen Computer Engines Competition. Houdini, a free program, managed to elbow past Rybka - the winner of four computer world chess championships.

The competition was a double round-robin, and it used the Bilbao Scoring System in which each win counts as 3 points and each draw as 1. Houdini finished with 24 points and Rybka with 23.

Stockfish, another free program, finished third, with 20 points, while Ivanhoe and Critter, yet another free program, tied for fourth and fifth, with 17 points each, though Ivanhoe was fourth on a tie-breaker. Rounding out the field were Shredder and Naum, which each scored 12 points, and Hiarcs, which ended with 11.

What makes the contest even more interesting for us flesh-and-blood chess players is that the chips-and-circuits players had different playing styles as well - depending upon how they have been designed and programmed. Definitely these 'guys' are better than humans but not perfect at chess. Chess has not been 'solved' yet. What a relief and we feel smug about it somewhat. You can find some interesting articles and comments at this link of the website that organized the tournament.

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  • At January 26, 2011 at 12:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


    I have two heroes in chess: Houdini and you.

  • At January 27, 2011 at 12:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Houdini is a Rybka clone. Rybka was reverse engineered and the code was put on the internet as Ippolit. Houdini has used that code and improved it a little but is considered a clone and is not allowed to participate in official events.

  • At January 27, 2011 at 10:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Nonsense! Houdini is NOT a Rybka clone. A clone is an identical [or almost identical] engine that make the same moves and this is NOT the case with Houdini. You can see that Houdini 1.5 is +54 elo stronger than Rybka 4 [NOT only a little improved as you mention, it's a lot stronger] in the IPON chess list, so please, DO NOT tell me that it's a clone.

    Look here:

  • At January 28, 2011 at 3:19 PM , Anonymous Graham Banks said...

    How can a "clone" be 50 Elo stronger than the program it is supposedly cloned from?

  • At January 28, 2011 at 9:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    There doesn't seem to be a common agreement about the definition of "clone" concerning chess engines. But certainly it goes beyond simple pirated 1:1 copies which of course NONE of the engines questioned currently, is (such primitive cases aren't even ignored). It is a complicated matter and the state of available relevant information is animal. :-) Anyway, I'd say we have a couple of very strong engines currently, which are not entirely independant from each other...

  • At January 29, 2011 at 6:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The TCEC continues with a 40-game Elite Match between Houdini 1.5 and Rybka 4.
    See .
    After 3 games Houdini has netted two wins and a draw, score is 2.5-0.5.

  • At January 29, 2011 at 6:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Maybe Toyota is clone of Mercedes-Benz!? I think this fact- Vasyk R. says and thats mean is it fact! And what is fact!?.....

  • At January 29, 2011 at 12:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Martin, TCEC is great!! Thanks for the great match between the two strongest programs of the planet!

  • At January 29, 2011 at 4:38 PM , Anonymous Martin Thoresen said...

    Thank you, anonymous! :)


  • At January 31, 2011 at 12:02 PM , Anonymous Square Theory said...

    It is well known that Ryubkais in fact the only clone...Or at least only became to be what it is due to stealing of code from other engine I.E. Fruit...
    Dont you keep up tpo date with the fatcs? Or do you only read mainstream crap information, manipulated by those who can do it, in order to suit their interests.
    New sites like this, from the realsources, are the only way to know the truth and reality.
    Bigup for publicizing this.

  • At February 1, 2011 at 6:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    These aren't facts but hearsay. These smart-alecs never saw any Rybka source code.


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