What does the freestyle tournament mean to you?
VR: Itís been a while since Iíve had a chance to play a chess tournament, so this is quite a lot of fun. Itís also interesting for me to use Rybka (and to watch my teammates use Rybka) in the way that she is intended to be used, which is as an analysis tool.
What is so special about this tournament format?
VR: The freestyle format has three excellent properties in contrast to normal human chess:
† The games are free from the blunders and miscalculations which spoil most human games. It is possible to realize and prove your ideas, putting more emphasis on the artistic and scientific components of the game.
†Team play is possible. From my experience, team play is not only fun but also especially instructive, especially if you play on a team with strong players.
†It is possible to play over the Internet. Other forms of Internet play are plagued by suspicions of cheating.
The one main drawback of this format is that it is too easy for beginners to compete with experts by just letting a chess engine play their moves. Iím quite confident now that a human team with a very strong grandmaster is not less than 150 rating points stronger than Rybka running alone. Two questions for this format are:
†Is this difference enough to keep the format interesting?
†Can this difference be maintained as Rybka or another engine improves and as hardware improves?
Do you think it is ok if a game from the freestyle tournament would win the best games prize in CHESS INFORMANT?
VR: I see no reason why freestyle chess should interfere with human chess. Best game prizes for human vs human games should remain. If another such prize were added for freestyle play, I would be delighted.
Which game played in this format deserves to be published in Chess Newspapers and why?
VR: There are a number of games that our team played which would be impossible for an engine running alone to play and which would also be impossible for a human playing alone to play. Such games really show the power of a centaur team. The one that stands out the most for me is Rajlich - Intagrand from the final. Note especially the moves 22. g6 and 24. h5, the latter already winning by force.
How popular is the freestyle format?
VR: Itís extremely popular among the players who are have tried it. J But ok, in truth, it would be good to have more sponsors and more publicity.
What short advice would you give to a player who wants make it to the 4th freestyle final?
VR: There are a number of valid approaches. If you are an experienced chess player without much experience with computer chess, there is one main point which cannot be stressed enough: get yourself a good machine. If your machine has just one processor, you are already pushing your luck.
Is freestyle only for the guys who can afford multi processor computers? I would say these are still fancy and rare machines.
VR: Hardware is important. Chess is a concrete game, and a deeper search has a significant impact on engine performance. As a general rule of thumb, doubling your number of processors improves the engine Elo by 60 to 70 rating points.
Actually who is more helping who to improve the game level Ė computer (software & hardware) helps human or human helps computer?
VR: First of all, given that Kasparov already had his hands full with Junior 7 and Fritz 8 running on 4-processor machines from several years ago, I think we can safely say that engines running on normal desktop computers are now stronger than the top humans at tournament time controls. Obviously, even a very strong human player should listen to his engine and allow it to participate heavily in the analysis.
Still, the best freestyle teams do have a human in charge who makes all decisions and ignores his engine when he deems it appropriate. From this point of view, the human takes the higher and more intelligence-intensive role, and I think that it is still fair to say that it is the engine which helps the human rather than vice-versa.
You used to be a chess player yourself. You probably studied some chess. Do you think that by playing freestyle tournaments you can learn to play better chess?
VR: Yes, absolutely, especially if you can get yourself into a good team. You can watch a strong player think under pressure and with the bullets flying.
Curiously enough, I have found that in a fairly high percentage of cases where our captain, GM Michal Krasenkow, disagrees with Rybka, I am tempted to agree with Rybka. A few examples:
†† the endgame in Alansaccount - Rajlich, Freestyle Final #3, which Rybka thinks is equal
†† the pawn sacrifice 18. .. Ng6 in Zor_Champ - Rajlich, Freestyle Final #2, which Rybka doesnít like
†† the pawn sacrifice in Poweronoff- Rajlich, Freestyle Final #3
It seems that Rybka is carrying my biases. So, the even better answer is that by playing freestyle, I can teach Rybka to play better chess. J
This is quite a new kind of tournament, no rules are written yet, and sometimes it cause a little bit of argumentsÖ What would you propose?
VR: Obviously, written rules should exist to help the director handle the various scenarios which are specific to playing on the Internet, such as the server shutting down, participants losing their Internet connections, etc. As we gain experience with the format, the rules will become more complete.
Rybka and a strong GM can be an unbeatable couple. GM Alexander Morozewith has given his vote on Chess Oscar 2005. He named the top three places as follows 1. Rybka 2. Hydra 3.Silvio Danilov (Topalov manager). Could you comment on that?
VR: Well, I am glad that heís a Rybka fan. J
What is the future of freestyle chess?
VR:Of course, there are no guarantees, but I hope that new sponsors and more top players become attracted by the extremely high-level, near-blunder-free chess in a team setting, and that freestyle chess becomes a popular alternative to normal chess.