Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoresen Chess Engines Competition

Thoresen Chess Engines Competition

The Thoresen Chess Engines Competition – better known as the TCEC – is perhaps the highest level computer chess competition in the world. Directed and hosted by Martin Thoresen on a volunteer basis, it is designed to determine the strongest computer chess engine in the world through a rigorous series of games, tournaments and matches played at long time controls that ultimately culminate in a long match between the top two programs. Chess players and fans from around the world can follow the progress of each TCEC tournament live, 24 hours a day online.

Tournament Structure

The TCEC is organized into seasons, in which several stages are played on an ongoing basis. One version of each chess engine is allowed to participate in the tournament, with changes only allowed for critical bugs in between stages. Each game is played at atime control of 120 minutes per side with a 30 second increment added after every move. The opening book for the tournament is determined based on recent Grandmaster play, and changes in each stage.

The following structure is the one that was used in the most recent season of the TCEC, known as nTCEC Season 2:

Stage 1: 36 engines took part in a seven-roundSwiss system tournament. Only the top 19 finishers qualified for Stage Two. In nTCEC Season 2, this stage was won by Bouquet, which scored 5.5/7 in the Swiss.

Stage 2: The remaining 19 engines played a round-robin tournament against each other, with the top ten making it to Stage 3. Komodo scored highest in this tournament, putting up a 14/18 score and losing just two games.

Stage 3: The remaining ten engines now played a double round-robin tournament, with only the top six making it to Stage 4. Komodo once again led the pack with an 11.5/18 score; the biggest surprise came from the elimination of Rybka, which scored just 8.5 points and tied for 6th with HIARCS and Naum, the latter of which took the final qualifying spot on tiebreaks.

Stage 4: The final six engines played a match-tournament, with each engine facing every opponent six times, and the top two making it to the Superfinal. There was a clear division in this stage, with Stockfish, Komodo and Houdini finishing far ahead of the bottom of the table (Bouquet, Naum and Gull). In the end, Stockfish finished first on a 20.5/30 score, while Houdini was eiminated in 3rdplace based largely on its poor performance against Stockfish (losing three games without a win).

Superfinal: The Superfinal consisted of 48 games between Stockfish and Komodo, with each pair of games featuring the same openings (with reversed colors) to ensure fairness. In a match that went down to the wire, Stockfish came back from a deficit to force a 48th and deciding game down only a single point to Komodo. However, Komodo had White in the final game, and won to take the match by a 25-23 score.


There have now been four completed seasons of the TCEC, with Houdini winning three times. The first two seasons are known as TCEC Seasons 1 and 2, while newer seasons are designated with the name nTCEC. The results of each final were as follows:

TCEC Season 1: Houdini 1.5a defeats Rybka 4.0 (23.5-16.5)
TCEC Season 2: Houdini 1.5a defeats Rybka 4.1 (22-18)
nTCEC Season 1: Houdini 3 defeats Stockfish 250413 (25-23)
nTCEC Season 2: Komodo 1142 defeats Stockfish 191113 (25-23)

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