WinBoard Modularity, Engines and Chess Servers

Dr. Djordje Vidanovic


A recent poll on the Internet Computer Chess Club revealed that only 28% of computer chess fans actually play chess against their programs. So, what do we actually do with our programs? Study them, autoplay, run tests, spend small fortunes in equipment, beta test, email other chess freaks, play from positions, take a look at the postings on CCC (the free Internet forum called Computer Chess Club, and r.g.c.c. (the news group recent games chess computer), post to these, or slowly get peacefully crazy about all this? This is how Enrique Irazoqui, the editor of Computer Chess Reports, recently described the situation on Computer Chess Club.

In order to suggest some of the things we can do with our chess software, I‘ll venture a description of one of the most recent trends in this esoteric area and try to outline the important new computer chess forms that the Internet has brought about. This new development is revolutionary, regarding computer testing and self-improvement, so much so that in less than a year with the help of the Internet a chess computer program tester or a mere amateur chess player can accomplish as much as it would have taken him 3-5 years otherwise. What is it that the Internet offers us? Briefly, it offers us about a dozen chess servers where one can play chess against people from all over the world, and where an account for a chess program can be obtained so that the program can be tested in thousands of games. Most of the chess servers are free, only the prestigious Internet Chess Club is commercial; one can register there for a fee of about 40 dollars per year. You need an Internet connection through your ISP (Internet Service Provider), a graphics interface and a lot of time. There are several excellent interfaces for the PC, the most widespread of which is WinBoard, programmed by Dr. Tim Mann. This interface can be thought of as a graphical chess-board that is there for your convenience – apart from connecting you to a chess server, it can help you read pgn files, edit and save games, and serve as a GUI (Graphical User Interface) for a dozen or so chess programs. WinBoard is a modular concept and as such is only a cyber-induced version of the modularity started first on a large scale by the Hegener+Glaser in the famous Mephisto Modular series, the BP, MM4, MM5, etc. Hardware modularity was around for a while, and now, with the triumphant advent of PC chess programs there are two rather satisfyingly set-up modular software systems: the professional Fritz system and the free modular WinBoard system.

The Fritz modular system offers an almost perfect environment for program testing and for personal improvement in chess prowess. Its flagship is, of course, Fritz (four different engines are offered: 1.2, 3.10, 4.01, 5.03, and as additional modules are offered Hiarcs 6, Junior 4.6 and Doctor 2. Fritz plays a dominantly tactical game of chess, but is by no means a bad positional player, while Hiarcs and Junior, together with Doctor 2 extend the possibilities of this system so that a tester can compare the playing styles and pit two programs against each other without having to worry about saving the games, saving scores (auto-save is always on) or calculating the new ELO values (computed automatically). This, coupled with the exquisite book-making option, book-browsing capabilities and an almost perfect graphical interface have turned it into a professional tool that can be enjoyed both by GM and amateur alike. The only thing lacking, and I do not for a moment doubt that ChessBase are going to indulge the customers in this respect in due course – is a chess server interface enabling the customers to play their favorite programs against other programs or players on the Net. As Fritz and its environment have already been discussed in CSS (cf. CSS 4/97, articles by F. Friedel and C. Liebert on Fritz 5, and CSS 2/97, an article on Hiarcs 6 as a Fritz 5 engine by M. Wnllenweber) I shall not deal with it here.

The other rapidly growing modular system – WinBoard, mentioned above, is in its beta-testing stage (3.6.10), improving on the older variant WinBoard 3.6.2 that was quite stable and widely used by many net players to hook up to chess servers and play games there. As stated, WinBoard offers three choices on start: a game of chess against its default chess program – Gnu (patch 77, ver. 4), automatic logging on to one of a dozen or so chess servers (addresses and ports are pre-set) and browsing a pgn collection of games. The beta variant is graphically impressive – I’d venture to say that it is one of the best graphical interfaces around, has sound card support and animated piece movement. What also matters is the range of computer programs compatible with it, employing its Win 32 bit protocols. Notably the first addition to the communal Gnu program was Dr. Robert Hyatt’s Crafty engine that had had only text output up to version 10.18 (that placed highly in the WMCC in 1996). Then Mann and Hyatt agreed on the protocol and Crafty slowly outpaced Gnu. Soon, there appeared some new engines -- a strong program by Remy Coulom, The Crazy Bishop, and several weaker ones such as Tristram by James F. Long, SSE Chess by Sam Slutzky and Olipow by Oliver Brausch (now available in an improved form and adapted for Linux, rechristened there as Olithink). Meanwhile, some middle-of-the-roaders have appeared too – for instance Dan Homan’s Exchess ver. 2.33, as a very solid program that has come a long way from a complete duffer to a strong 2200 blitz player in a very short period of time, and John Dart’s Arasan that is about 2200 at blitz too (the default host machine being a PPro/200). In this article I’ll focus my attention on three strongest engines compliant with WinBoard: Crafty, Comet and Patzer. By covering Patzer, the program that I am testing and running on the Internet, in more detail, I will hopefully have shown the possibilities offered by WinBoard and the Internet both to the chess computer fan and the programmer.

Crafty (currently ver. 15.11) is a bit of a legend, because its creator, Professor of Computer Science in the University of Alabama, Robert Hyatt (together with Al Gower) programmed Cray Blitz, the 1983 and 1986 Absolute World Computerchess Champion. Crafty is now one of the most talked about programs in the world, not the least because Hyatt comes up with new versions almost weekly, does a lot in terms of explaining its features and is a regular on computer chess forums on the Net. Hyatt firmly believes in computing power and search depth and insists on making Crafty run as fast as possible. The latest versions are dual and quad compatible, meaning that multiprocessing is enabled so that you may often run into a monster Crafty running on a quad Pentium Pro (4X200Mhz) exploiting the machine’s crunching power to the full. Crafty uses Steven Edwards’ endgame tablebases (taking up about 500 MB) and, if EGTB are present, plays all 3, 4, and some of 5 piece endgames perfectly. A mate in 30 or more moves is not a rare occurrence! Its latest opening book is an incredibly huge affair too, comprising more than a dozen million positions, compiled from 330,000 GM games. Crafty performs an internal evaluation of its wins and losses and fine-tunes its book by itself. The other night on the server I observed a rapid chess match between Crafty and GM Roman Dzindzihashvilli (25 min per game) that was won by the dual processor Crafty 1.5-0.5. The program was on the point of losing the second game, having ruined its kingside pawn formation and exposed its King to attack (the kibitzing GMs all agreed that it was just a routine win for Roman), but managed to create a counter-attack out of nowhere and forced a perpetual on the gaping GM.

Some months ago Roland Pfister (author of the program Patzer, and a Frankfurter) and I have agreed that it would be quite interesting to try his progeny Patzer out on one of the chess servers. Roland’s Patzer had taken part in several big computer chess events – placing slightly behind the middle pack, but scoring some nice and important wins. I had tested it meanwhile and pleaded with Roland to give it a try, insisting that some small changes could make it much stronger and claiming that it should reach 2350 at blitz, and more at faster time controls. I myself am rated at 2270 blitz (3-15 min per game) and 2220 lightning (time controls of 2 min per game and less) on FICS (the Free Internet Chess Server, Oklahoma City, U.S.A.) and could feel that Patzer on my machine (an AMD K6-233, 128 MB RAM) was rather stronger than I. I thought that varied opposition could help Roland to evaluate the strong and weak points of the program much more quickly and precisely. I also had a feeling that Patzer’s book was much too sharp for computer vs computer bouts, although it was just about perfect against humans.

Roland’s friend, Dr. Ulrich Tnrke, whose program Comet is probably the strongest non-commercial German program, and probably one of the strongest German programs anyway (1995 version of Comet is about 2250 on a slow Pentium on the SSDF list) was naturally listening in and following closely the Patzer project. (When I say that it is probably the strongest non-commercial German program, I should add that there is another very strong non-commercial German program supported, however, only by the 64bit DEC-alpha platform – Dark Thought by Markus Gille and Ernst A. Heinz, of the University of Karlsruhe. Dark Thought should, to all appearances, be a serious contender for the title of the best program in any chess computer program competition.) Later on, spurred on by the mass of useful information obtained for Patzer on the server, he decided to offer his new version of Comet, A.90, in a WinBoard supported console form, just like Roland did. At the time I am testing a yet newer version of Comet, superseding A.90, and the results are very encouraging. It is extremely aware of attacking possibilities and plays an energetic, attractive game. I wouldn’t be much surprised to find out that it has surpassed s7ome of the highly-rated commercial programs. I think that it can be safely estimated to be at least as strong as Crafty and some 50-70 rating points stronger than Patzer. The first results obtained by Alan Tomalty, the well known journalist pen-named Komputer Korner, confirm this: in a series of test-games Comet has proven a little stronger than Crafty (according to a report submitted to CCC).

Anyway, I started testing Patzer and the first results were very encouraging, Patzer reaching 2300 easily on FICS. However, there were first bugs, slowly emerging, creeping out and unveiling their ugly faces. These bugs may have been, just may have been, found in ‘normal’ non-server testing, but would have required months, perhaps a whole year, to trace. One of such was the time-allocation routine, i.e. the amount of time Patzer would spend on some obvious move in the opening would sometimes be vexing – e.g. recapturing a piece would take 30 or more seconds! Patzer would surely hurry things later on, but to no avail – especially if playing a super-fast Crafty program. There were also some "suicidal moves" when Patzer would simply give up a piece to the opponent in a won position. It seemed to have reached a panicky stage and would just play "anything" in order to fill its quota of moves within an assigned time span. You can’t find these bugs in the new versions. There was a funny 50 move rule bug that had to be dealt with that a programmer or a tester would never normally get to in a standard batch of tests. This is so because with only a handful of opponents in ‘normal’ testing one can trace the difficulties and eventual bugs and change the evals, or clean the code quite easily so that such problems would probably not occur anymore. However, if more than a hundred opponents are played, the odds that one will come across difficulties and bugs are much higher. FICS is quite a handy place to try out a program in development; altogether more than 40,000 players have played on it, the count within a week is more than 7,000 and during an average day about 2,000 people and about 100 computer programs log on to play chess. The figures on ICC are three to four times as big!

If, above all, you wish to test your chess prowess on the Internet, and to play live chess, then you should know some things beforehand. The very first notions that a prospective user of WinBoard on a chess server may encounter are the ‘lag’ and ‘mouse-slip’. I’d like to explain these two in some detail as most people are baffled by them. Thus, when you log on onto the server, register (the procedure is rather simple and self-explanatory), and the board appears before you, you can type in ‘who’ and a list of players, both computer and human will appear. If you wish to match someone you type in, for example, match X 5 0 rated – meaning that you are challenging person X for a game lasting 5 minutes without any incremental time, and that your game will be rated. If person X accepts the challenge a graphical board with both names – yours and the name of your opponent will reappear and your clock will start ticking away. You may use your mouse to pick up the piece you want to move, say pawn e2 to e4. However, you may accidentally drop your pawn to e3 and wish to take back the move. This unintentional dropping a piece is called a ‘mouse-slip’ and you may type in a request to your opponent that it was a mouse-slip and that you would like to take back the move. The opponent may grant your request or not… it is all up to him, just like in a normal game. Another very frequent occurrence is ‘lag’. As you may have presumed by now, lag refers to the time taken for your move to be relayed to your opponent and vice versa. Some servers have the ‘ping’ command that says exactly how big the lag of either you or your opponent is. The greater the lag, the less fun you have, as the game does not take place in real time. Sometimes lag is so obvious that most of the players complain about it, and you can see lots of humorous comments on it. The lag problem is treated by help of adequate software, so that on FICS one employs timeseal, a little program that ‘seals’ the time when you make your move on your board, and that very time gets converted into the server time, with additional time added to your clock until your move reaches the opponent’s board. This actually means that you cannot be ‘flagged’ (lose on time) because of the lag on the Internet. But, surely, you do get flagged, just like in a normal, over the board game, if you move slowly or find yourself in a difficult position and spend a lot of time on a difficult move. ICC’s variant of ‘timeseal’ is called timestamp, and it does basically the same job as timeseal.

Before I go on, I’d like to further comment on how strong another top engine for WinBoard, Patzer, is. Amongst other things, CSS readers would surely like to know how well it does on different tests . Well, on the BS2830 test Patzer scores just about like Genius 5, and my own run-of-the-mill tests show that it is just as fast, if not faster, than some much acclaimed commercial programs. Many will recall the Sarychev brothers position in which the white king goes back to the 8th rank just in order to draw – well, Patzer finds this move in 12 seconds on my machine (8/1pPK3b/8/8/8/5k2/8/8 w - -, solution 1.Kc8!). It is very good at endgames generally, and observes the wrong bishop square rule. My evaluation, which is necessarily subjective, would assign it 2400-2450 on my machine at blitz, with a lot of room for drastic improvement. It is EGTB compliant, has 24 RPKRK bitbases and about 30 most frequent endgame tablebases set up at the moment, with plans for more – meaning that right now it can mate with Knight and Bishop vs sole King in the shortest possible time, win the Q vs R ending without a hitch, or win a R+P vs R ending if it is winnable in the span of seconds, has an open opening book structure that can be added to and reads and exports pgn and epd format. One can change lots of internal parameters and mold it to his heart’s content. Roland is planning to test an interesting idea on my machine -- he'll place the bitbases, taking up 48 MB, in the computer's memory after starting Patzer, as well as the allotted hashtables and endgame tablebases, turning it into an endgame monster.

After the first wins came some moments of sobering up. Losses against strong and fast Crafties. Losses against strong and fast humans. I took some time to set up the basic EGTBs. All the time I was sending Patzer’s pgn output to Roland and he was finding out to his astonishment that the program apparently had some "emergent" characteristics. Deus ex machina! It would simply be ‘rebellious’ and play something else – or would not play book moves at all! Roland wrote back saying that the book must have been corrupted through the encoding / decoding into the zip format and emailing... Suggested by Ulrich Tnrke. I reloaded Patzer with a new opening book. The program read in the new book, created the bin file and when started, would play normal, book moves. Great! On to something else. Lots of games against different versions of Crafty (there are about 30 different versions of Crafty running on FICS at the moment – some of them are mongrel-versions, almost mutilated by the compilers, as Crafty is free both as the executable and as the source on the Internet!) were lost because of the excellent Crafty booking up – so I suggested to Roland to change some of the Marshall lines as White as well as some of the Cambridge Springs. It turned out to have been a pretty good idea. Some premature pawn moves to h3/h6 and subsequently to g4/g5 have been dealt with too – all this helping Patzer play a much better game. The latest version has an improved mobility evaluation, making it the strongest so far. In my opinion the improvement is drastic – as much as 80 ELO points! In order to illustrate the change, I can offer another of my favorite testing positions to the reader: 2r5/2pR1pk1/p1P3p1/P2K4/5P1p/5P1P/8/8 w - - . The position actually originated from the Reader’s Corner in CSS (CSS 6/89) and was played between Mephisto MM II and Leonardo Maestro 6 A. Leonardo played 39.Ke5?? and the winning move is 39.Rxc7! The previous version of Patzer found 39.Rxc7 in about 5 minutes on my machine, while the latest version took only about 20 seconds! New Patzer has beaten humans convincingly – several FIDE masters have felt its chess power, at time controls perfectly suited to them – three or five minutes per game plus 3 to 5 seconds increment.

A game between new Patzer and Snoot (a quad processor Crafty !) on FICS is a rather good example of what Roland has been trying to do – add mobility to the pieces, get as much space as possible, even at the expense of material. This seems to be paying off – naturally, much more testing is needed before the final verdict. The game is worth seeing, anyway:

[Event "ICS rated blitz match"]
[Site ""]
[Date "1998.06.02"]
[Round "-"]
[White "Patzer"]
[Black "snoot"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2356"]
[BlackElo "2535"]
[TimeControl "240+4"]

1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. e5 d5 6. Bb5 Ne4 7. Nxd4 Bd7 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. O-O Bc5 10. f3 Ng5 11. Be3 Qe7 12. f4 Ne4 13. Nd2 Nxd2 14. Qxd2 O-O 15. Kh1 Bb6 16. Qd3 f6 17. exf6 Qxf6 18. c3 Rad8 19. b4 a5 20. bxa5 Bxa5 21. Rae1 c5 22. Ne2 d4 23. Bd2 Be6 24. Qb5 Bb6 25. Ng3 Qf7 26. Rf2 Bxa2 27. f5 Bc4 28. Qb1 d3 29. f6 (offering a pawn to gain the f5 square and enhance the mobility of the knight) gxf6 30. Nf5 Qd7 31. Qd1 Rfe8 32. Qg4+ Kh8 33. Rxe8+ Rxe8 34. Qxc4 Ra8 35. Qf4 Ra1+ 36. Rf1 Rxf1+ 37. Qxf1 c4 38. Qf4 Bc5 39. Ne3 Bxe3 40. Qxf6+ Qg7 41. Qd8+ Qg8 42. Qxg8+ Kxg8 43. Bxe3 Kf7 44. g4 Ke6 45. Kg2 c6 46. Bf4 Kd5 47. Kf3 c5 48. h4 Kc6 49. Ke4 Kd7 50. Kd5 Ke7 51. Kxc5 Kd7 52. Kxc4 d2 {snoot resigns} 1-0

At the moment Patzer is being reconstructed again – after more than 700 games, it is at 2385 blitz and 2505 lightning – which is very good, especially having in mind that these ratings are at least 200 points lower than the ICC (Internet Chess Club), and correspond quite closely to the FIDE ELO ratings. The new bitbase support has been added to the console version of Patzer (the version that can be hooked up to WinBoard) as well as new pawn structure fine-tuning. The latest series of games against two strong programs on FICS are very promising – out of 12 games Patzer allowed only two points.

This is what the statistics for Patzer on FICS look like:


Statistics for Patzer(C) (Last disconnected Sat Jun 6, 21:27 CDT 1998):
  rating RD win loss draw total best  
Blitz 2383 38.7 202 104 31 337 2419 (04-May-98)
Standard 2129 137.2 6 2 0 8    
Lightning 2505 41.4 250 83 28 361 2515 (23-May-98)
Wild ---- 350.0 0 0 0 0    
Bughouse ---- 350.0 0 0 0 0    
Suicide ---- 350.0 0 0 0 0    


1: Patzer, by Roland Pfister. An Xperimental version.
2: AMD K6/233, 128 MB, Win 95.
3: Have a nice game of chess.
4: Account owned by wolfv.
5: Message this lupine character about Patzer.
6: Roland and I are working on the bugs. Do not be shy and report, please.



At the moment only two people are running Patzer on the Internet servers – Alan Bratton and I. Very soon it will be quite clear that this way of beta-testing new versions is the most economical and revealing. Regardless of the WinBoard CPU slowdown (up to 50%) it is a statistical and playing indicator per excellence helping the programmer evaluate the good and the bad in its brain-child.

Playing chess on a server is great fun, be it as an operator of a chess program or as a player. I have played there for a year and have encountered many interesting people, played lots of interesting programs, and missed many a night out with my friends in ‘actual’ life. The contacts are so real and take place in real time, that one tends to forget about its vicarious aspects. Beware, playing on a chess server is terribly addictive – I have witnessed people spending night and day there, unwilling to trade the virtual chess-club for harsh daylight reality. Of course, a virtual chess club offers much in terms of broadening one’s views and making acquaintances from all over the world. I have made friends with people from the Netherlands, the USA, Germany, the former Yugoslavia, Canada. Each has a nickname that is their log-in name and most of them apparently gladly accept a ‘new’ identity on the server. Kingroche, my Dutch friend on the server, has played about 10,000 games so far – he is one of the best humans at lightning, slightly below the famous German, nicknamed Stealthfighter, an IM with very pleasing manners. The people you like to talk to (chat in the Internet lingo) you can put on your ‘notify’ list so that each time you log on, the server will look them up for you automatically. My notify list has several programmers that I talk to on the servers – Dan Homan (Exchess), Marcel Kervinck (author of the strong Dutch program Rookie 2.0), Andre Dados (a new, fast, selective program MissSilicon). This list has some other people too – those I talk to about just anything – the newly discovered neutrino mass, Kramnik’s defeat against Shirov, Escher’s graphics, Kolakowski’s Marxist philosophy, etc.

Besides the notify list, one can compile a no-play list. That is a list of players that you may wish to censor for some reason. The most frequent reason for censoring an opponent is ungentlemanly behavior or straightforward insolence and verbal abuse. FICS has handled such players by banning them from the server. Another rather frequent reason for censoring someone is the suspicion about your opponent using some chess software that helps him. There have been some interesting cases of suspected computer-assisted accounts, the most famous of which is the case of NatalieR. NatalieR is a 30 yr old ex-Russian/Ukrainian Natalie Radosevic, who played very successfully on FICS, reaching 2400, which is the level seldom reached by International Masters there. She especially excelled at beating computer opponents and earned an enviable reputation as being the only one to have reached a favorable score against the strongest Crafty version. However, she was eventually suspected of cheating – that is of using the Genius 5 program in deciding which moves to play, especially in crucial positions. The computer chess expert employed by FICS ascertained that NatalieR was a fraud and banned her from FICS. NatalieR joined ICC and is rated only around 2300 there (translated into 2100 FICS, nickname SundayGirl) meaning that the suspicion was probably founded.

By the way, here’s Natalie Radosevic, playing White against The Crazy Bishop – not an impressive performance by SundayGirl, I am afraid:

[Event "ICS rated blitz match"]
[Site ""]
[Date "1998.05.15"]
[Round "-"]
[White "SundayGirl"]
[Black "BishopX"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2342"]
[BlackElo "2425"]
[TimeControl "180"]

1.d4 Nf6 2. e3 c5 3. Bd3 cxd4 4. exd4 Qa5+ 5. c3 d6 6. Nf3 Bf5 7. Bxf5 Qxf5 8. O-O Nc6 9. Re1 e6 10. Qb3 O-O-O 11. c4 Kb8 12. Nc3 d5 13. cxd5 Nxd5 14. Bg5 Be7 15. Bxe7 Ndxe7 16. Rac1 h5 17. Ne4 Qa5 18. Nc5 b6 19. a3 Ka8 20. Ne4 Nxd4 21. Nxd4 Rxd4 22. Ng5 Qxg5 23. Rc7 Kb8 24. Rec1 Nd5 25. R7c2 Rd8 26. Qb5 Ne3 27. fxe3 Qxe3+ 28. Kh1 Rd1+ {SundayGirl resigns} 0-1

Robert Hyatt, the programmer of Crafty often insists on the fact that today’s top programs are simply not yet on a par with strong IMs and GMs. His reply to critics is that he can always match a program with one of the IMs specialized to play against software, one of whom, he would say, is the IM known as Adolf on ICC. Here’s Adolf playing against Comet, A.90 (By the way, Comet, without its opening book!, shredded Adolf easily, 3-0):

[Event "ICS rated blitz match"]
[Site ""]
[Date "1998.05.17"]
[Round "-"]
[White "TheTurk"]
[Black "ADOLF"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2686"]
[BlackElo "2532"]
[TimeControl "240"]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. e4 d6 4. d4 Bg7 5. Bc4 O-O 6. Bf4 Nxe4 7. Nxe4 d5 8. Qe2 dxc4 9. Qxc4 c6 10. O-O-O Be6 11. Qb4 Qb6 12. Qxe7 Qa6 13. Nc5 Qxa2 14. Qxb7 Bd5 15. Qxa8 Nd7 16. Qb7 Nxc5 17. Qe7 Qa1+ 18. Kd2 Ne4+ 19. Ke1 Qxb2 20. Be3 Qc3+ 21. Kf1 Qxc2 22. Re1 Nc3 23. h3 Qd3+ 24. Kg1 Bxf3 25. gxf3 a5 26. Kg2 Nd5 27. Qc5 Qf5 28. Bd2 a4 29. Qxc6 Bxd4 30. Re4 Bg7 31. Rxa4 h5 32. Re4 Nf6 33. Rd4 Nh7 34. Rd5 Qc8 35. Rc1 Qxc6 36. Rxc6 Nf6 37. Rdd6 Ne8 38. Rd7 Nf6 39. Rb7 Nd5 40. Rd6 Nc3 41. Rdd7 Ne2 42. Bb4 Nf4+ 43. Kh2 Be5 44. Bxf8 Ne6+ 45. Kg1 {ADOLF resigns} 1-0

Probably the best two programs that I have seen on the servers are WchessX, an experimental new version by Dave Kittinger and Mink (a.k.a. Ferret), a version of Ferret, operated by Bruce Moreland, the programmer. These two play astonishingly human-like chess, and almost perfect endgames. Both WchessX and Ferret are known to sacrifice a pawn, or two, just in order to make the opponent’s life tough. Two examples, The Crazy Bishop is on the receiving end in the first, playing Ferret, and Comet A.90 in the second, playing WchessX. I urge the reader to take a careful look at WchessX’s 27th move c5!! A GM move, played at 5 minutes per game:

[Event "ICS rated bullet match"]
[Site ""]
[Date "1998.05.14"]
[Round "-"]
[White "Mink"]
[Black "BishopX"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2962"]
[BlackElo "2548"]
[TimeControl "120"]

1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 Bb7 5. a3 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. g3 Be7 8. Qa4+ Qd7 9. Qxd7+ Nbxd7 10. Nb5 O-O 11. Nxc7 Rac8 12. Nb5 Rc2 13. Kd1 Rc4 14. b3 Ne4 15. bxc4 Nxf2+ 16. Ke1 Nxh1 17. cxd5 Bxd5 18. Bg2 Rc8 19. Bd2 Bc4 20. Nxa7 Rc7 21. Rc1 Bxa3 22. Nb5 Bxc1 23. Nxc7 Nxg3 24. Bxc1 Nh5 25. Nd2 Be6 26. Nxe6 fxe6 27. Nf3 h6 28. Bh3 Nf8 29. Ne5 g5 30. Nd7 Ng7 31. Nxb6 Kf7 32. Nc4 Nh5 33. Ne5+ Kf6 34. Kf2 Ng7 35. Ba3 Nh7 36. Bc5 h5 37. e4 g4 38. Bg2 Ng5 39. Ke3 Ne8 40. Nd7+ Kf7 41. Kf4 Nh7 42. Bf1 Nc7 43. Ne5+ Kf6 44. Bb6 Ne8 45. Bd8+ Kg7 46. Bc4 Nd6 47. Bxe6 Nb5 48. Nc6 Nc3 49. d5 Ne2+ 50. Ke3 g3 51. hxg3 Nxg3 52. Kf3 Nf1 53. e5 Nf8 54. Bf6+ Kh7 55. Bf5+ Kh6 56. e6 Nxe6 57. dxe6 {BishopX resigns} 1-0


[Event "ICS rated blitz match"]
[Site ""]
[Date "1998.05.17"]
[Round "-"]
[White "WchessX"]
[Black "TheTurk"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2685"]
[BlackElo "2610"]
[TimeControl "300"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 e5 4. d5 Na5 5. e4 Bc5 6. Be3 Bxe3 7. fxe3 Qe7 8. Nf3 Qc5 9. Qe2 d6 10. Rb1 Qb4 11. a3 Qb3 12. Nd2 Qc2 13. Qd3 Qxd3 14. Bxd3 b6 15. b4 Nb7 16. Nb5 Kd8 17. O-O a6 18. Nc3 Bd7 19. Be2 Ke7 20. h3 a5 21. Rf3 axb4 22. axb4 Ra3 23. Rc1 Rha8 24. Rf2 Kf8 25. Rf3 Nd8 26. Rff1 c6 27. c5 dxc5 28. bxc5 bxc5 29. d6 Be6 30. Bc4 R3a7 31. Rfd1 Nd7 32. Bxe6 Nxe6 33. Rb1 Ng5 34. Nc4 f6 35. Rf1 Kf7 36. Kh1 Ne6 37. Rfd1 Kg6 38. Kg1 Ra6 39. Rb7 R8a7 40. Rxa7 Rxa7 41. Kf2 Rb7 42. Ke2 Kf7 43. Kd3 Ra7 44. g4 Kg8 45. h4 Nb8 46. Rb1 Na6 47. Rb6 Nb4+ 48. Ke2 h6 49. Rb8+ Kf7 50. Rc8 g5 51. h5 Na2 52. Nxa2 Rxa2+ 53. Kd3 Rg2 54. Rc7+ Kf8 55. Nb6 Rg1 56. Nd7+ Ke8 57. Nxf6+ Kd8 58. Rd7+ Kc8 59. Ke2 Rg2+ 60. Ke1 Rg1+ 61. Kf2 Rd1 62. Ke2 Ra1 63. Re7 Ra2+ 64. Kf3 Nd4+ 65. exd4 Ra3+ 66. Ke2 Ra2+ 67. Kd1 Ra1+ 68. Kc2 Ra2+ 69. Kb3 Rd2 70. dxe5 c4+ 71. Kxc4 Rc2+ 72. Kb4 c5+ 73. Kb5 Kb8 74. Nd7+ Kc8 75. Kc6 Rb2 76. Re8# {TheTurk checkmated} 1-0

In closing, let me freshen this story about WinBoard modularity, chess servers and programs with a piece of speculation spreading on FICS lately: there’s been much talk about the identity of a GM nicknamed Robespierre. The man came on FICS several weeks ago and has been regularly thrashing the best players there in great style. Rumour has it that Robespierre is actually Lautier, but there’s been no confirmation as yet... Unfortunately, the GM will not play computers – probably adding a new slogan to the spirit of the French Revolution – humanitT...